BY JOHN AIERSTUCK
When we C2C4Charlie friends set out on our cross country bicycle trip this summer, we knew
we would be entering into new territory in our relationships with one another, but we didn't know
exactly the shape our relationships would take. As it turns out, we have become rather like a
family, a development that has been both wonderful and challenging. Before our trip, all the time
we had spent time together, in one another's homes and going places, was a matter of polite
socializing. But when friends wake up together, every day, share all meals together, every day,
negotiate campsites, do chores, plan activities, every day, for weeks on end, they get to know
things about one another that, typically, only families know: one another's idiosyncrasies,
temperaments, preferences, needs, weaknesses, and other private things.
In some ways, that is ok, as we learn to "appreciate" our friends differently. In other ways, it's a
pain in the butt (figuratively speaking, in this case), because, let's face it, certain annoyances
with one another are inevitable. Starting with myself, I can be pretty insistent about the "only
right way" to pack the car. Clif can really crack the whip about leaving early each morning.
Bruce has been known to lose things on occasion. Arleen tells really bad jokes, repeatedly.
Mark, our go-to mechanic, gets grease on everything. It wouldn't be fair to cite Julie, since she's
left the group temporarily for work and is not here to defend herself. Finally, as for Sara, well,
I'm quite sure she is without any annoying traits whatsoever. She is also the one person I must
return to living with full time once we get back home!
Seriously, we've had to learn to overlook true annoyances when we can, and constructively
confront the ones we must, lest they fester and become problems. As in so many things in a life
shared with others, good communication is key. Personally, I spend some of my time on the
bike processing how to do this, though I don't always succeed in following my own advice. In the
end, fortunately, it is a mostly a matter of being clear and honest with one another. Other times,
it is a matter of forgiving others or asking to be forgiven by them. It's the kind of stuff good
families do all the time.
I wonder what it will be like after we return home, after this long, intimate time we friends have
spent together as family. Will we just return to old patterns of polite socializing? Or will our
relationships have changed forever? I'm pretty sure that, immediately upon getting back, all of
us will remove ourselves from the "Find My Friends" app that allows us to know one another's
whereabouts at all times; and I think all of us will enjoy the privacy of our homes more than ever;
but I also think we will regard one another in ways that entail a sense of renewed respect, even
though we will have become more "familiar." The root of the word familiar seems so apropos in
this reflection, as it points to the transformation we have undergone thus far and will
undoubtedly continue to undergo in the few weeks still ahead. We have moved from being
friends to something more: we are also family - bond by our love for Charlie, for one another, for
cycling, and for adventure - and we are better people for it.