Hi everyone and welcome to Matt's website! My name is Linda Muller and I am Matt's mom, and his Webmaster.
I'm writing this note not only to express my gratitude to all who have been so kind to Matt, but also to answer some of the questions I've received over the past few months. Hopefully, it will help you to understand the concept behind Matt's journey across the USA and give some suggestions on how to best maneuver through his website.
First, a Personal Note of Thanks
My son Matt, after completing four years in the Marine Corps and graduating this spring from the College of William and Mary, is taking a year-long bicycle trip across the USA. On June 2, 2002, he began his trip in Washington, DC at a park along the Potomac River named The Awakening. He is traveling alone, with a trailer attached to his bike loaded up with 70 pounds of camping gear, some clothes and food, and a few good books. This website is a record of Matt's American Adventure. In it, he writes about the people he meets and the places he visits on his journey from DC to Washington State, down to San Diego, and back again.
I have to say that this solitary bicycle trip made me more fearful than I ever was during Matt's deployment to Africa and South America as a Marine. At least in the Corps he always had the company of his fellow Marines!
Here in the states, everyday, all day long the media warns us to be careful, that evil lurks around every corner. We should be wary of our neighbors, and even our friends, and to report any suspicious activity to the authorities. We are reminded that strangers are dangerous and we will never know when one is just waiting to grab our kids, rob our homes, or kill us just for the sheer thrill of it. As Matt wrote back in mid-June:
"...So here I am in The Ideal Bakery in Gibsonburg, Ohio. The rain has stopped and sunrays are prying open the cloud cover. Fifteen days into the trip and I feel like a month has come and gone. The hills of Pennsylvania almost made me want to call it a summer. The Erie wind and freezing drizzle dampened my passion-and bike repairs make me worry about making ends meet. These three elements combine to demoralize me-make me want to get a desk job. Perhaps I will have better luck riding a swivel chair, and letting an elevator do the climbing for me. I could exchange the handlebars for a keyboard, and deck the walls of my office cubicle with posters of mountains and hills I never quite conquered.
But something always happens. Not a day goes by without something beautiful, amazing or astounding that I see or feel. It just happens. It materializes just when you least expect it and aren't quite looking...
Sometimes people think that I am either crazy or brave for riding alone and cross-country, especially in this post-9/11 age. I do know that if I listened to half the things on television I would never have left my living room. That to me is craziness. I could have stayed in my room, upon an armchair with hands folded over my chest, believing that this country is rife with sick, bad, people just lurking in the shadows of all hoods and woods... Instead, I left the TV dominated living room and found a more real living room just beyond the foyer door. It begins with a road and it goes any and everywhere. And on that road I am daily renewed by what I see and feel. I am more showered with hospitality and kindness along these roads than I am with summer rain...."
Friends, every single day Matt has something wonderful happen to him. It might be his first sighting of a bald eagle, or an invitation to dinner on an Amish farm, or an offer to let him camp in a suburban backyard. These are just simple, everyday things, not really anything important enough to write home about. Yet each time I receive the updates to his website I am inspired and encouraged.
In almost every town he visits, and along the roads he cycles, Matt comes across friendly and kind-hearted people. Here are just a few of the amazing encounters he has experienced thus far. On numerous occasions these "strangers" have:
- Offered him their homes to stay in
- Made him delicious home-cooked meals
- Gave the use of their computers so he can send me updates for his website
- Packed nutritious food for his journey
- Called and emailed me just to let me know they met Matt and he is OK
- Introduced him to their friends and family and taken him out to dinner
- After a foot injury, a Priest invited Matt to rest up in the church rectory. He stayed for several weeks, made many new friends, and was invited to spend a week in Toronto to see the Pope.
- Gave him rides to bike shops for repairs and then incredibly, the shop owner said, "No charge!"
- Surprised him on his birthday when an entire Baptist Church congregation gave him a party, including a cake and gifts.
These Americans, and countless others have given Matt (a complete "stranger") the friendship and hospitality that most of us believed was extinct in our country. Some of you reading this might think he is just lucky, or maybe he is blessed. If we believe the news reports, if we trust their continuous coverage on the wickedness in our fellow countrymen, then maybe he has, "just been lucky".
I hope that he is blessed, but Matt's stories are helping me to have faith that America is not really a country of "strangers" after all. We are sons and daughters, and moms and dads, and neighbors and friends - many we have yet to meet. We share a history, a culture, and a land -- and together we are still a great nation of good-hearted and generous people.
I want to thank everyone who open their hearts, their homes, or just wave a friendly greeting to my son as he passes through your town. May God bless all of you, and may He keep Matt healthy and safe as he continues on his American Adventure.
With my sincere gratitude,
Linda Muller - AKA, Matt's Mom!
PS - Please take a moment to send Matt an encouraging note and let him know you visited his website. I'll be adding more stories and photos about his journey as soon as he sends them - Stand by!
A Few Answers and Comments About
the Website and Matt's Journey
How to Best View This Website
This website is Matt's daily record of his trek across America. He writes about the places he visits, the people he meets, and his thoughts as he experiences our great country. If you are a new visitor to Matt's site, I encourage you to begin reading his Journal from the start of his adventure on Day 1, the Eve of Departure. Unlike other websites where you immediately read the most recent entry first, this site is best read like a book - from beginning to end. I have organized his Journal in chronological order so that it is easier to follow along on the journey.
Updates to the Site
Some might be wondering why there is such a long delay between updates, and then suddenly several Journal entries are added all at once. Matt is traveling with only his bike and camping gear. He does not have a laptop, a cell phone, or even a radio with him! So we must wait until he has an opportunity to access the Net, either at a library or someone's home, type up his notes on a computer and then send me the stories via email. Then I must find time between working on my other websites, to work on Matt's - which of course is my favorite one of all!
Spelling and Grammar!
I also want to mention that what you read on these pages are Matt's unedited and quickly written Journal notes. My worry was that the entire world has access to this website (including my friends and family who know he just graduated with a degree in English from William and Mary!) and some may wonder about the grammar and spelling errors. A few times, I changed a couple of the words to help clarify a sentence and Matt asked me to refrain from editing the text. He said I shouldn't worry, that he is "writing in the moment" and upon his return home will take the time to review and edit if necessary!
Experiencing the Essence of America
After telling an acquaintance about Matt's bike trip, he mentioned that he knew of others who have done it and implied that this was not so unique. That is true. Others have taken their bike and set out for a trip and some of them even have a website with a few notes about their travels. The key differences are that their trips are usually much shorter; they travel in pairs or with a group; they enjoy meals in restaurants; and every night they check into a hotel where they can soak away the road grime and awake to the latest news on CNN.
Unlike most of his fellow bikers, this is not a vacation. Matt has no desire to cram in all the tourist sites. His goal is to delve deep into what makes us Americans and to truly experience the essence of our land. He has a trailer on his bike packed with camping gear, a few good books, and some food. His camera and notebook are always nearby to document his travels. While he chooses to live frugally, his greatest worry and biggest expense are the constant repairs to his bike. He wrote that sometimes it seems that he is "touring the country, from bike shop to bike shop". The bike repairs are diminishing his meager bank account and other than an injury, will be the only reason he would have to cut his trip short and return home.
Winter on the Road
The winter is coming and Matt is hoping to find a place to stay where he can trade his skills for a bed and board. Ideally, it will be in the northwest - Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Oregon, Washington, or northern California - in a rural area, possibly on a farm or ranch. In addition, he plans to earn money to fund the second half of his trip by tutoring English, or working at just about any job for hire that is offered to him. In his spare time, he will write and send us more stories about the places he visits and the good people who live there.
Thank you again for visiting Matt's website and please remember to send him a note. The road gets lonely at times and he is always so grateful to hear from friends - old and new!