Hear from our guide, Max Ackermann, as he reflects on his experiences guiding and how he found home while on the road.
It’s the first night of our 42-day trip. We’ve finished our first ride, a few guests have knocked out an afternoon nap, and the first sips of Santa Ynez chardonnay go down smooth. It’s time to enjoy dinner and get to know our group as we settle in for the trip ahead.
The question “where’s home for you?” is tossed around the table. It’s a starter for small talk, quickly left behind as the conversation deepens. When it’s my turn to answer, I catch myself in a double take.
For a long time, the answer had been simple, even automatic. Now, after moving out, packing my life into two duffel bags, and saying a series of goodbyes, the question seems complex. Do they mean where I grew up? Or where I go when I’m not guiding? Where do I consider home?
Is home where we live or work? Where we find our sense of community? Is it where we go grocery shopping, enjoy a night out with friends, or wake up with our morning routine?
I glance across the table to my co-guides. One I met three months ago. Another I met three weeks ago, just before the three of us crossed the country in a minivan finalizing the trip. The last one I met three days ago. I think back to the evening when the four of us toasted to the start of what would surely be an unforgettable adventure, biking across America.
Just imagining my days guiding that lay ahead excited me. Wake up before the sun and immediately put on a kit. Pack everything neat and tight. Don’t forget to check under the bed. Greet the guests, then fill up all the coolers with ice. Squeeze in some breakfast and coffee. Pack the luggage and double check the lobby. Ride all day. Arrive at the rest stop to set up snacks. Collect mail and packages at the next hotel. Shower, make a grocery run, and eat dinner. Moonlight bike wrenching and laughs with co-guides. Sleep.
For the next six weeks, life would be simple. Thirty-five people, all from different and distant walks of life, would embark on the same crazy adventure together.
My mind returns to the table. I look at the people seated with me who were strangers not long ago but will be coworkers, best friends, and family by the time we cross from California to South Carolina. And after far too long a pause to maintain the coolness with which the question was initially asked, I can’t hide an emerging grin. “Here,” I answer, as if I hadn’t just figured it out right then and there.