Open Road Press

A Dark Side of Bicycle Touring

You see some interesting sights on a bicycle tour. Most of them are positive and make a fantastic impression. Historic sites and gorgeous scenery line the route. Other sights, however, put you on guard. Conversations with locals substantiate your concerns. You’ve heard it said this country has a drug problem. My impression is that it’s true.

Debbie and I taste our country’s drug problem firsthand as Hope Coaches for TheHopeLine. We chat with youth in crisis, many of whom are afflicted because of drug abuse—by themselves, their parents, or their friends. We’ve also seen evidence on the road.

On our first tour in 2010, we traveled through an area where many people warned us to exercise caution. We noticed signs encouraging youth to avoid alcohol and meth. The local warriors against drug and alcohol abuse even went so far as to place a demolished car atop a roadside pedestal to demonstrate just how deadly substance abuse can be. Local accounts of tragic deaths and domestic turmoil served to bolster the argument that drugs were wreaking havoc.

On our Mom-to-Mom tour this summer, Debbie and I sensed the drug problem even more powerfully. In one troubled area, visuals communicated that all was not well. Conversations with a waitress and a police officer confirmed the worst. The waitress’ boyfriend was in prison again for dealing drugs. In her words, “He got in with the wrong crowd.” Her description of the rampant drug problem in their area suggested it was part of the culture. The police officer had worked a large metropolitan area on bicycle. He said, “Drugs are now what make the world go around.” He believes that law enforcement is fighting a never-ending battle that consumes the lion’s share of their resources. In his view, the drug epidemic leads to an overwhelming number of criminal and civil issues.

Weeks later, at the end of a long, hot day, Debbie and I came face to face with an incident that again suggested the evil of drugs on our cities’ streets. A repair stop at a bicycle shop in a metropolitan area had pulled us off course, so our GPS sent us through some heavily traveled city streets, during rush hour, in search of overnight accommodations. As we approached the motel with helmet cam rolling, take a look at what happened.

Perhaps you were unsure of what you saw. We were there in person and we weren’t sure either. But it sure seemed suspicious. Initially, I thought I was seeing a handoff of either drugs or money to pay for them. It was one of those “Did I just see what I thought I saw?” moments.

In the midst of an innocent recreational activity, if not a grand getaway, these incidents were reminders that we still live in a fallen world. Good and evil continue to wage war in and around us. And the battle ensues whether you are riding a bicycle through it or seeing, hearing, and reading it in the daily news. At least in the here and now, mankind cannot escape from this age-old struggle against the dark side–not even on the “great escape.”

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