We do not take a trip; a trip takes us.

If someone asked you “can you tell me where you were and what you were doing at 10 am last Friday,” would you have a good answer? I find it hard to remember what I did yesterday morning, let alone a week ago. However, I can tell you exactly what I was doing on June 19, 2008.

Ten years ago my wife, our two kids (then ages 10 and 11), and I took an epic adventure: we rode our tandem bicycles from Lincoln City, Oregon to Portland, Maine. Along the way, we kept a blog. The other day I was thinking about that trip, since it is the 10th anniversary, and decided to look at the blog (which I hadn’t done in a couple of years).


So, exactly ten years ago we were in Havre, Montana, 950 miles from our starting point in Lincoln City. That day of riding was long and hot. We rode a stretch of road that had a grass fire next to it, had to navigate a torn up section of the highway due to construction, and finally ended up at Montana State University where we stayed for the night (at the time they rented dorm rooms to cyclists during the summer).  The quote of the day was from my daughter Sonia. Remarking on the landscape, she said: "I thought where we were riding yesterday had nothing. This has even more than nothing!"

So, what does this trip have to do with Willow Public School? I sometimes think about how similar the two experiences are.

First, there is a lot of planning involved. Willow has been in the planning stages for over four years. The bike trip planning took about a year and a half. Second, The best plan does not survive the test of reality. On the “bike trip” (as it is referred to in our house), we had flat tires, mechanical issues, bad weather, and the occasional wrong turn. With the school, there have been two supreme court cases, building issues which have caused delays, and unexpected construction projects. Third, the day-to-day can be a grind. On the bike trip, we averaged 60 miles of riding a day for 80 days (at 11 miles per hour!). Some days we did 75 or more miles. At least once we did a 100-mile day. For the school, the start-up phase has consisted of all the detail work, from building our school plan, to writing grants, to filling out what seems like endless paperwork. Finally, with the bike trip, there was a huge pay-off the day we reached the Atlantic Ocean and dipped our front tires in the salty brine. For the school, the reward will be the day the doors open to our scholars and their families this August. And really, that is the day the journey will really begin.

The last blog post from the bike trip ended with this quote from author John Steinbeck. I believe it applies not only to our 3,500-mile bicycle odyssey but also to the journey we are taking with Willow Public School:

A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find that after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.