A Kindred Spirit

Travelin'Ben-PaneraWhat an interesting morning.  I love getting into the distillery in the peacefulness of the early morning and it's always better to have a little bite to eat and some cold brew coffee to jumpstart my ass-kicking for the day.

But at Bread Co. there was a guy with a bicycle that greatly intrigued me.  He had a WSU insignia on his bike shirt and a US map on his bike loaded with cross-country-type gear.  That's when I met a kindred soul: Ben Kincaid.

When I came out, I couldn't pass up this opportunity, so I sat down and talked with Ben for awhile, more like assaulted him with questions, and enjoyed one of the most fascinating conversations I've ever had.

Having left Portland, OR June 2nd, Ben is currently a mere 4,000 miles into his meandering journey to Portland, ME.  Yeah, he's riding his bike coast-to-coast, Portland-to-Portland, across this great continent.  He talked lovingly about the Tetons; Yellowstone  was unfortunately plagued with 4th of July traffic; and Missoula, MT is one of his favorite towns.  But he kept raving about the Katy Trail (calling it an incredible treasure we have here and he only learned of it in CO) and our great city of St. Louis.  As a proud St. Louisan, it was great to hear my city described by such passionate fresh eyes.

His flexibility and openness to whatever the road has in store seem to keep rewarding him and I think that's the right way to do it.  Have a rough plan and then take advantage of whatever unforeseen opportunities present themselves.  Like the midnight ramble bike ride he stumbled across and wearily joined in on even though he'd ridden hard that day.

We talked about so much, but the main themes he expressed seemed to be founded upon a boundless love of life and an unquenchable desire for new experiences.  He is truly a wanderer at heart.  And the unmistakable serendipity of our lives was incredible.  He is originally from Wichita, KS, like my mom.  Had a bike shirt from there with the WSU logo on it, where my dad played football and met my mother.  He loved Missoula, MT and I just happened to be wearing my Moose Drool hat from the Big Sky Brewing Co in Missoula.  He is out seizing his life and living his dreams, just like how I envision myself.  His days of hopping freight trains were similar in take-away life lessons to mine as a raft guide.  An old rider he met, upon Ben's questioning, shared this nugget of wisdom: "To get to be old and wise, you gotta be young and dumb first".  We learn from our experiences.  The more and varied, the greater the potential wisdom gained.

Ben started with $400 and has been "just blown away by the kindest and generosity of humanity".  He's followed his passions in life and has a fantastic knack of seeing the positive side of everything.  He mentioned that some people are amazed he doesn't carry a gun or weapon for self-defense.  He says that he "doesn't carry a gun, he carries a smile."  And that led into a lengthy treatise on positive vibrations and the universe returning whatever vibrations you put out into it.  There are precious few wandering souls in our settled society, far too many of us feel shackled by jobs and responsibilities.  And here's Ben, who's been invited into countless homes of total strangers showing this rogue wanderer unusual kindness.  Or maybe the message of his ride is that he's revealing a shared, universal human kindness, which is found in all people, not just these great mid-Westerners around here.  He claims he's on his soul-searching journey, but he projects a harmony and comfort with his own self that is magnetic.

He's only been mugged once, as he slept under a bridge, but it eventually led him to seek help which led him to a group of people he'd never have met if he hadn't, and they in turn helped redirect his life so that he discovered an unknown, but intense passion for agriculture.  He had several stories like this, events that would discourage or destroy others, yet he recalls them as some of the best things that ever happened to him.

For example, he started on this trip before.  In fact, he made it 500 miles before a car smashed into him, destroying his bike and breaking his back in two places.  (spinal injuries, another shared experience between us).  His rehabilitative doctor laughed at him when Ben spoke of his cross-country biking dreams.  Now Ben sends him an email every thousand miles in the hopes that it'll inspire the doctor to give more hope to other patients.  Which seems to be the essence of Ben Kincaid.  Passionately, intensely, living his life.  Trusting in the positive vibrations of the universe and inspiring others as he follows his own path.

Annie P. (recent distillery tourer) happened by and joined in our conversation for a while, which was very nice.  Ben explained that he's planning on riding across europe and asia, from the atlantic to the pacific after he finishes this American Odyssey.  And he's trying to gain followers via Facebook so that hopefully he can get sponsored for the next ride.  I wanted to do anything I can for this guy, it's so inspirational to meet someone so in tune with their life and operating on a high plane.  He didn't seem concerned with material possessions or promotions, he hungers to experience all life has to offer; and I find that very refreshing in our reality-tv, superficial society.

Call him a hippy-soul or eternal optimist, he resonated a genuinely good-feeling.  This is the kind of guy I want my sons to dream about being... tackling enormous challenges and embarking on great adventures; all the while learning from others and gathering pearls of wisdom wherever they are to be found.  And, personally, I absolutely love meeting people who are actively living their dreams.  My life has been enriched by this fateful encounter.  And it brings to mind the suspicious events that led to me following along as S/V Pura Vida circumnavigated the globe.  Today I met a man in the process of doing the same thing via bicycle.

So cheers to you, Benjamin James Kincaid, on this incredible, life-affirming journey.  God Speed, and may the road be ever downhill.

Please check out his Facebook page (Benjamin James Kincaid) and follow along on Travelin' Ben's amazing American Odyssey.

If you're impressed and inspired by his story, please chip in a couple bucks (Travelin' Ben's Travelin' Fund) and help him make necessary bike repairs or grab a bite to eat along the way.  Or if you happen across him playing his saxophone on the street, his music is worth stopping to listen.

(UPDATE: Ben just stopped by the distillery and we talked more, what a great guy!  I conned him into taking this pic:)

Travelin'Ben

It's encouraging to know that there are people out there daring great things.  Here's to you, Benjamin James Kincaid, a true Indomitable Spirit.