Saturday on my way to work as I exited the frontage road for my 3 mile use of the interstate, I noticed a bicyclist pulling a trailer I would have passed had I stayed on the frontage road. I pulled off the interstate and waited for him to reach me, expecting once more to talk to a touring biker.
"Steve" stopped and we talked a few minutes. I didn't ask his age but I would guess him to be at or near retirement (62years) age. He was riding an older mountain bike (its make hidden by what appeared to be several repaints) and pulling a modified child type two wheel trailer. I had a hard time reading him and his setup. Either he had been doing this for some time or had bought a used mountain bike with a few added features. All the extras were as used as the bike and I can only assume they were added when the bike was new.
The weather was just above freezing and Steve was wrapped up for it. He said he had spent Thursday night in a homeless shelter in Little Rock and headed south and spent Friday night in a church in Benton (20 miles southwest). The Benton police had told him that rain (maybe sleet) was forecast for the next 2 days so he had decided to head back to Little Rock.
I usually ask more questions but Steve seemed "homeless" and just had a bike to carry his possessions. The last thing I wanted to do was embarrass him. He could have been a traveling homeless person or from Little Rock, either way he was doing the best he could do. Several things did point to him as being a roadie. He was wearing a helmet and his trailer had a "caution, slow moving vehicle triangle" on it.
I wished I could have invited him into the nearby convenient store for a hot coffee and more conversation but I was running late (as usual). He said he was wanting to head south after the rains and I explained the best way out of town.
If indeed he were homeless and traveling, then he was rather ingenious because most police will not bother a touring bicyclist that is camping out except to tell them that camping is not permitted in their jurisdiction and ask them to move on. The public will offer to help where they would turn up their noses at a homeless person.
When I gave Steve some money I did not want it to look like a handout so I said, "Steve, I ride a bike and would someday like to hit the road for a trip, so please let me buy you a warm meal". He thanks me and we parted ways.
Homelessness in America is a big problem and just to get by on SS takes more creativeness, but I am not so naive as to think when I help someone it is about "them", helping strokes ones own ego and we all like be feel better about ourselves. I pick and choice and it does feel good to think you have helped someone that needs it as opposed to someone only there for a handout.