Shortly after a meeting with a representative of KQRS, 93X and Love 105 about marketing, I met Nando Padros. He was taking a picture, as many do, of the Uptown mural outside our building at 2112 Hennepin, the old Hollywood Video building. Nando was on his bicycle, coming from Spain, via Africa, New York City and Canada, on his way to South America. 60,000 miles, in six and a half years.
"What made you decide to tour the world on a bicycle?"
"I was sick of all this," he said, as he gestured toward the chaos of traffic on Hennepin Ave.
"So are a lot of people."
He nods. "Life is a matter of feelings. Sometimes we only need the strength to make something happen no matter what. In my case it was to try to help, while finding some personal freedom from this bloody society."
He is smiling, friendly. The traffic next to us is relentless. Heat is radiating off the tar parking lot we are standing on. The sun is reflecting off his sunglasses.
"Four years on my bike in Africa. There are problems of course. You get sick, people point guns at you. But I'm a better man for it. I'm a better person than I was before I left. It was the best thing I ever did."
He leaned one way and the bike started to tip, loaded as it was with panniers front and back, bags of gear piled on a rack above the back tire, a bag hanging on the steering wheel. He has twice as much gear as I did on my ill-organized attempt to bike across the Northwest quarter of the United States two years ago. He's riding the same bike, "Halima", he started with in Spain. He continued...
"It gets lonely sometimes. But never so much as here in America. Africa, Asia, the Middle East, you don't have that, people are not so lonely. It is only in America, Canada and Europe where so many people are lonely. The richer the country, the more lonely the people."
He's off to Excelsior today. Four days in the Minneapolis/St Paul metro area, then west, toward Colorado. After that it's Central and South America. His progress can be tracked at Project Gambada, gambada.com, where he is taking donations. As I understand it, part of his mission is to provide services to the world's poor. Make your own judgement as to whether he is worthy of your support.
"It is not easy, giving up the comfort to head into the unknown. But how interesting is sometimes getting lost, or not knowing what will happen next. I will tell you if you allow me, do not fear any dream. Dreams are made to make them happen, otherwise it doesn't make sense to dream. Just keep living like today will be the last day. Life is so short to have time to look back."
All smiles, handsome, tan and alive, is Nando Padros. Blessings, Brother.
And who knows. Maybe I'll meet you in my canoe somewhere near Tierra del Fuego.