Wednesday, August 17, 2011

(Day 66) On arriving home... 18,647 KM later!

We awoke to blue skies this morning and what appeared to be frost on the windshields of the bikes... may not have been but it felt cool enough!

After loading the bikes we made our way to the Breakfast Room in the Comfort Inn and chowed down on their sausage and egg muffins and some yogurt and juice and coffee - enough to see us home!

In the midst of eating Al proposed a toast: to our last meal together.  It was meant to be jovial - but brought about a tone of solemnity for me.  The journey was coming to an end.  This time with Al was coming to an end.  My sabbath was nearing its end - less then four weeks and I was back to work...

Filling the gas tank for the second last time of the trip took on new meaning...  passing through the traffic lights held deeper significane.  Merging onto the Interstate brought me closer to home and further away from this experience that has nurtured my soul and stirred my spirit...

We took I-95 to exit 217 where we dropped onto Hwy #6 which took us through Howland and into Lincoln where I stopped at the local Suzuki dealer and picked up a can of chain lube and lubed the chain.

Leaving Lincoln we began to climb a long hill and I had to stop for a photograph (the one above to the left).  Somehow climbing this long hill and looking backwards into the distance captured some of what this sabbath experience has been for me.  A journey to a new place.  Deeper appreciation for all that I have.  Broader perspective on the world.  Renewed commitment to the ministry that I am called to, and a rested spirit...

Of course, the next few days will provide further time for reflection and integration of learning and as I am able I will share them here for those of you who are interested.

Crossing the border was a non-event... except I had left my wallet back at the Duty-Free store and they had called the Border Post to advise the staff there.  After being processed into Canada and being advised when I came through the second time to stop... I pulled a u-turn, went back to the US Border, explained the situation and was allowed to go and get my wallet!  After having my pass-port scanned yet again.  I retrieved my wallet from the clerk and hightailed it for Canada... stopped at the Canadian Border assured the Officer I had purchased nothing else... and was allowed to enter Canada for the second time in less then five minutes!!

Just before Harvey I pulled over to adjust my load and put on some music for the road home.  Al stopped and took that opportunity to say good-bye.  We said our farewells, share a hug and made plans to see each other in September when he returns from Calgary... with that Al was gone and I was on my own.

I adjusted my load.  Put in my ear bud and turned on the music.  Irony of Ironies...   CCR is singing Have You Ever Seen the Rain!  I don't know wether it was the song that had me moving quicker then normal or Al was going slower than usual... whatever the case, within fifteen minutes I had caught up to him and settled in beside him.

Al led the way into Sackville and as we sat at the light, just before he turned into the Irving for gas to get him home to Enfield, NS we shared a final handshake, trusting we would see each other in a few weeks at the prison, our friendship strengthened that much more as a result of the merging of our stories in the creation of shared memories of the journey together.

Coming into Sackville I made a detour to Marshalands Inn to see Zack and caught him just as he was breaking for lunch.  He'd grown taller and looked and sounded so much more mature - very much a young man!  But he still gave me a hug!  Made my day!  I tried to give him some of the candy I brought for him and Justin and he told me to take it home..  So much for letting him get first crack at it!

Turning up Fairfield I saw Anna getting in the car.  As I was pulling in the lane way Anna was driving out: taking the cat to the vet.  Back into the midst of the business of life!  A quick hello and she was off - and I set about setting up the tent and putting stuff about to dry, with a pile to take to the laundry mat tomorrow... and then I remembered Sandy.  I opened the door and she barrelled out and wagged her tail til I thought it was gonna wag off.  She yipped and whined and couldn't get close enough to me.  What a welcome home!

Justin came out shortly thereafter and gave me a hug and welcomed me home.  Made my day a second time!  I feel small.  Well... short.  They have both grown and matured and are young men.  Handsome young men that a dad can't help but be proud of!

Anna returned and over the course of the afternoon she caught me up on some of the goings on while I was away: breakfast parties, day trips, concerts and family events and then I did what needs to be done every month wherever one is... I paid the bills and did some banking.  At the bank I ran into a few friends and stopped to see another as I passed by and shared some of the journey with them... as they too welcomed me home.

Home.  Still on sabbath but no longer on the road I am so thankful for all that has been, for all those who have had a part in making this experience all that it has been: Anna - for your never failing support and encouragement; Justin and Zack - for your patience and love and support; Helen, Aunt Irene, Tom and Norma, Hank, Linda, Dawn, Barb & Jerry, Dwight and Faith, Paul and Jan and all the CouchSurfing folk - for your hospitality and graciousness as you welcomed me into your homes; the Chaplains and inmates I visited in Canada, the Religious Services Department of the Oregon Department of Correction, administrators, chaplains and inmates and Dr. Tom O'Connor - for your willingness to share of your wisdom and learn with me in conversation as we spoke of the ministry we share; the Sisters at Shalom Prayer Centre and the staff at Alton Collins Retreat Cenre - for you willingness to listen and enter into discernment with me; and Al - for taking time to meet me in North Carolina and share the final leg of the journey in an experience of true friendship.  Thank you.

(Day 65) Another east coast summer day...

Below are a couple of pictures from Monday evening as we hung gear around the room in an attempt to get it dry!  The owner of the motel was so helpful in allowing us to put some of our inner clothes in his dryer... but... leather riding coats and armoured ballistic nylon do not go in the dryer!  Nor do boots!  So... we hung it up, spread it around, stuffed them with news papers and hoped for the best!!

Tuesday morning came, wet and cold as I understand many Tuesdays have come on the east coast this year.  Looking briefly out the window, I climbed back into bed and put in my hearing aid as I saw Al stirring next door.  I lay there thinking, maybe we should just stay put today... nice room... good food next door... and its dry!

Al, ever the Wallace strategist seemed to be having similar thoughts.  "Not a good day eh, Lloyd... Maybe we better make it a short day...?"  "How short?" I asked.

Al then laid out a plan to get us to Bangor where we would hole up if it was still raining and I could do a little shopping...  Hmmm... made sense to me.

By 7:30 we were driving off into a steady drizzle that soon turned into a downpour and it stayed that way for the whole morning.  Not much else to say.  Rain.  rain.  Rain and more rain!  By about noon we pulled into the tourist information building just outside Bangor where we inquired about a room recommendation next to the mall.  The helpful person there directed us to a couple of options.  The first one was full and the second, a Comfort Inn had a room and we were in it in fifteen minutes and had our gear spread around the room to dry.  I went so far as to haul out my sleeping bag that had not been dried since we were flooded out and Al almost left the room.  It was rank!  I guess it will be the first thing in the laundry when I get home!

Al lazed around the room for the day and had three or four naps.  About two I headed over to the mall and did a little shopping.  With some gifts bought (that would fit in the limited room I had) I returned to the room and had a little nap...  the temperature of the room (very hot so as to dry clothes) was conducive to sleep!!

Next door was an Apple-bee's Restaurant and we headed over there about 6PM and had supper - sirloin steak and shrimp with parmesan cheese with baked potato and veggies.  We both ate for $20 plus a tip to a very attentive waitress!

Returning to the room we flipped on the tv and watched two hours of Swamp People one and half hours in Al fell asleep and I was left to watch Bruce wrestle a gator all by myself.  When the excitement died down I turned of the tv and promptly fell asleep - dreaming of blue skies for tomorrow... on the Sabbath Road...

Monday, August 15, 2011

(Day 64) On spiders and rain and more rain...

I knew I shouldn't have killed that spider that I found in the hotel laundry room last night!  My dad told me that Bruce's never kill spiders as legend has it that a spider was inspiration for Robert the Bruce to go into battle one last time against the English... and in that one last batte he persevered and the English were defeated and Scotland was recognized as an independent country...

Well, I killed the spider and Clan Bruce and Clan Wallace persevered through the clouds in Pennsylvania, showers in New Jersey, the showers, and heavy rain in New York, the rain in Vermont and the rain in New Hampshire.

We were on the road about 7AM and while the ceiling was low, the roads were dry and being optimists we hoped for the best...  we were dry until we hit the New York border.  It started with a light mist then turned into a shower and just before Albany we were driving in a downpour.

We stopped for gas just before  Albany - saw it wasn't going to get any better so we set out again.  Al was still able to notice the beautiful architecture of the state capital buildings!  Seems like the government buildings are the ones that are kept in better repair!

We made it through Albany on Interstate 287 and then jumped on Hwy #7 going east.  On a dry day this would have been a wonderful trip.  Heading toward the Green Mountains passing through small New England villages... wonderful!

Through Hoosick, Old Bennington and in Bennington (new Bennington I guess) we stopped for coffee at a little restaurant just to get out of the rain!  The place was so full we simply stood in middle of the entrance and left a puddle as we sipped our coffee... luke warm coffee - but coffee nonetheless!

Back on the road the rain had eased some... and that lasted for about 10 minutes!  The scenery was beautiful - what you could see of it through the raindrops on the windscreen!

Just outside of Brattleboro we had to stop again.  It was really coming down!!  We stopped at a little chainsaw shop and had a great little chat with the owner who offered us coffee (Green Mountain Coffee - is it ever good!) and as chatted and he learned where we were headed he informed us that he lived in Halifax - West Halifax, NH just southwest of Brattleboro.  We had a good laugh over that and then we headed back out into the rain.

Through Brattleboro and on into Concord... again, quaint New England towns that really do invite one to stop and browse through the shops and wander the streets!  Sounds like a nice fall getaway!!

Through Concord and onto I-93.  I-93.  This was Al's idea.  He said the views were spectacular.  The road passing through valley after valley and slowly rising into the While Mountains... what I saw through the rain and mist from the passing cars makes me want to come again!

For the first time in my motorcycling life I was counting down miles to a destination.  We had planned to stop in Twin Mountains as Al had stayed here before and it seemed a reasonable distance from Allentown and home... reasonable and quite doable when it is fine!  The last 20 miles were the hardest miles I have ever driven on a bike.  I was wet to the core and cold.

Must come back when the weather is like this!!
(Internet Picture)
The first motel we came to... wouldn't you know it... they had rooms... but there was only one bed in each room.  I was cold but not so cold that I wanted to share a bed!  The owner recommended the next place the road: The Profile Deluxe Motel.  It's a mom and pop establishment that is a little dated but the service more than makes up for it!!  The owner took our wet clothes and dried them in his dryer and gave us two big umbrellas to use so we could walk up to the restaurant for supper and not have to get on the bikes again!  Thanks so much.

We walked back to the restaurant and had a great meal - seafood - we are getting close to the east coast!

We will be on the road early in the morning and its looking like that spider will be haunting the rest of the way through New Hampshire, Maine and into New Brunswick!

...on the Sabbath Road...

Sunday, August 14, 2011

(Day 63) Chasing the rain... And being chased inside!!

Al awoke at 6AM and according to him, lay there until 7AM when I stirred.  I was rested.  Much more rested then I had been spending the night sitting in a smoker's lean-to... but not as rested had I had a full nights sleep in a dry tent!  Too much excitement for this old man!

We started to get our gear together and the sun WAS poking through the clouds.  We were hopeful that it would be a good riding day.  We were headed to Long Island to visit some friends.  I made coffee - that little stove has earned its keep - and as we drank our coffee we agreed that we would burn through a tank of gas and then stop for breakfast.

The tank of gas took us to a place off the Interstate just before Hagerstown and when Al turned into McDonald's I suggested that we would get a better meal at the Waffle House.  And indeed we did.  $7 for a large waffle, home fries, two eggs, toast and sausage patties.  Coffee was extra but it was well worth it.  The wait staff were excellent but the kitchen line staff seemed to be struggling.  Confused would best decribe the scene.  Waitresses didn't know which orders were theirs and late comers were getting served before those who had been waiting... as I said, it was worth the wait.  Yum!  Best part of the day... because unfortunately after that late breakfast we caught up to that system that flooded us out last night!

It started out as a bit of a drizzle... and Al thought that by putting on his rain-gear that he could make it all go away.  It was not to be.  It kept getting heavier and heavier and the traffic started to increase and with the humidity eye glasses started to fog up... it was time to stop.

Just past Grantville WV, we parked ourselves under an over pass and tried to wait it out for a while.  Climbing up behind the concrete barrier because standing that closes to that much traffic on a rainy day just isn't safe... It's amazing how much faster and how much more volume of traffic there appears to be from that perspective - so different then when you are in the midst of it.

After a fifteen minute break it looked to be easing off so we started out again...  but it was not to be.  The rain kept getting worse and worse and it just wasn't safe.  Just before Allentown we got off the Interstate, filled up with gas and then went looking for a motel.  We ended up sitting under the canopy at the Hampton Inn trying to decide whether to leave there and go look for another place with a drive up room... or just stay here.  We ended up going in to check on the price and decided that this would be home for the night.  It was 3:15 and we had only made 494 KM.  Not a day for the record books - but we will live to ride another day!

After getting our stuff squared away - and with the rain having abated for the time being - we set off to find some supplies for the evening, had a litte tour of Allentown, and learned yet another lesson about the liquor laws of the Confused States of America.  It Pennsylvania a beer store does not and cannot sell six pack cases.  Six pack cases can only be sold by bars and they can only sell two at a time and they charge and arm and a leg for them...  As Al said, perhaps a round-about way to curb drinking and driving!?!?!

Anyways - we are where we need to be this evening.  Safe.  Off the road.  Dry.  And enjoying each others company... on the Sabbath Road...

(Day 62) Part II... A River Runs Through It...

By 8PM we had the fire going, the blog was done, the beer cold and the rum... well... was rum and we were having a great time!  Talking about the day, all that we had seen, what our favourite parts were: being above the clouds, the Model T on the Parkway, watching the clouds roll up the mountain and spill over onto the road... and then it started to rain...

In traditional scottish optimism we stood under a tree and had another drink thinking... "This too will pass..."  Forty minutes later Al suggested that we go and wait it out in our tents for a while.  Good advice. It started to pour!  Twenty minutes later I said to Al, "I'm just gonna go to sleep."  And I did.  Soundly.

Al says he got up at 11PM to water the trees and all was well.  I woke for some reason at 11:30PM and felt water under my tent and at my feet.  We were flooded.  The little creek that looked so harmless had swollen its banks and our tents were islands.

I scrambled to get up and out of the tent.  It was still pouring!  I yelled for Al and started pulling up tent pegs and then I realized there was still a live extension cord going into my tent... I went to the post and pulled the cord out and resumed trying to pull stuff to higher ground.  I was standing in 8 - 10 inches of water.  Still no Al.

I yelled again.

This time he responded.  And as did our ancient ancestors, William Wallace and Robert Bruce we worked together to overcome the water as they had worked to overcome the English... but first we had to sit and think about the situation.

We headed over to the administration building and found cover under the smoker's lean-to.  On the way we saw a nice white GMC Yukon nose first in the creek... and we thought we were having a bad night.  We sat under the shelter and did all we could do... watch the rain come down, laugh, and wonder what we were going to do next!?

I was all for rushing here and there and doing this and that and Al, ever the strategic Wallace encouraged me to wait... and we did.  Eventually it eased off a bit and we went over to our site and started salvaging our gear.

First we went and got the bikes and brought them over and put them under the shelter.  And then we sat and waited a little bit.  While we were sitting one of the campground employees came around and asked if we were ok... Yeah, no thanks to you!  One would think that when staff knew the creek was rising that they would have went and warned campers who may have been at risk?!?!  Anyways...  we asked about the Yukon in the creek... he explained that some guy came in looking for his girlfriend, didn't check-in and them promptly drove into the creek because he couldn't see the road.

We asked about shelter for the night and he told us we could go to the building where the wedding had been held earlier - but - we would have to out by 9AM so they could have church... hmmm... church is more important then the well-being of a couple of folk who had almost been drowned and/or electrocuted in their tents...  don't think so...   Matter of fact, I don't think many people made it to Church there this morning...

Except for the odd drip through a missed nail hole in the tin roof we were safe and somewhat dry... but there wasn't any chance that we were sleeping here.  By this time we had lugged all our gear back.  I had taken down my tent while trying to rise Al so all I had to do was stuff my gear in sacks and haul it over.  Al in his calm Wallace attitude simply left everything in his tent and co-opted the Bruce into assisting him in carrying the tent with all his stuff inside of of it to the shelter... this sound reasoning behaviour explains why there was a movie made about William Wallace (Braveheart) and not Robert the Bruce!!

Eventually we had all our gear under the shelter... much to the chagrin of the ducks!  I think they were enjoying the company in their stream... quacking away as we splashed around and lugged stuff to the shelter.  All I could do was laugh!

Our sleeping bags were soaked.  The tents were useless... what to do... we took a walk over to the building the campground employee had mentioned and we stood there and watched the rain come down... it didn't look anymore hopeful from there!  Back to the smoker's lean-to Al had a cigar and I did what any good Scots will do when stressed... boil water!  Al had coffee and I had a hot chocolate and as we sipped our drinks we watched the salvage truck pull the Yukon out of the creek!

When the show was over we still had to decide what we were going to do.  We started packing stuff away thinking that by doing something a decision would come clear... Al said, "Gee, I wish we had asked one of those folks about a nearby motel..."  And I replied, "We can google that..."  With that I pulled out the computer and had a couple of choices for us that were less then 10 miles away.  We suited up and I was off...

Halfway down the drive-way there was no Al behind me.  I pulled a u-turn and found him still at the shelter with his bike buried to the axel in gravel.  He thought he flat tire and was relieved to find out he was "only" stuck.  It took two of us pushing for all we worth to get it out of the hole it was in.

At the end of Hwy 340 near the I-64 on-ramp there was a mom and pop motel as I had remembered there was... the Budget Host Hessian House... and they had a room!  A ground floor walk up for $40.  She could have asked a $100 for it and we would paid!

We unloaded the essentials from the bikes, spread stuff around the room to dry, had showers and then we sat and laughed as I finished my last beer and the two of us finished off the bottle of rum... and between fits of laughter we shared in a profound theological discussion about the nature of human community and the mystery that is the Divine that moves among us and within us reminding us of our goodness and connection to all other living things...

At 2AM we turned out the light... I remember my last act as I fell asleep was to laugh, as I remembered the duck swimming by Al's tent as I tried to wake him the first time...

...on the Sabbath Road...   Day 63 will follow... as did we follow the rain...

Saturday, August 13, 2011

(Day 62) On the Blue Ridge Mountains into Virginia...

We were both  up early this morning eager to be on the Blue Ridge Parkway... with breakfast eaten - the same awesome buffet at the hotel - we loaded the bikes amidst an overcast sky that had us wondering if we would be running into fog...

Down I-40 for a few miles until we got gas and then merged onto the parkway.  Words cannot describe the beauty and the sensation of turn after turn riding under a canopy of leaves through which the sun filters through, serving as a reminder how blessed you are.

There was no traffic up until we reached Blowing Rock visitor centre and then as the traffic picked up our desire to ride the parkway decreased.  At the same time we agreed to jump on the Interstate and make some time... except getting to the Interstate required some twisty back roads.  They were awful.  Sweeping left handers, over little rises with views of horse ranches and mile up mile of split rail fences...   Eventually Hwy 58 dropped us onto I-77 and on I-77 we ran into a five mile traffic snarl.  There had been a bad accident - a rear ender it looked like.

Once on I-81 we were north east bound at a good rate of speed... the only decision now was when to stop. At a rest stop we decided it would be a camp ground tonight and just past Greenville Virginia we found a likely place - a KOA called Walnutgrove... and hear we sit.

After supper at a German restaurant up the road, Al bought a bag of ice - a few cubes for his rum and the rest to cool my beer.

Its looking like rain so I am going to finish this up in case I have to run to the tent... on the Sabbath Road!

Friday, August 12, 2011

(Day 61) On skyways, byways, parkways and friendships...

The day began early for me, as seems to be the norm when I am moving.  I was awake at 4:30 and managed to stay in bed until 5AM when my internal clock kept telling me it was time to get up.  I listened and found my way to the breakfast area near the lobby where I got some hot water and made myself some instant Starbucks.  Al was still snoring away!

I used the time to write a blog entry for yesterday and straighen out some issues with my bank card yet again - seems they had frozen it again yesterday.  The folk at RBC were most helpful after I worked my way through all of the security questions.  I also managed to have a little chat with my mother... who in true motherly fashion was worried about my well-being and reminded me to wear sunscreen!  I did Mom. Al will testify to it!!

About 7:30, Al came and found me and we had the buffet breakfast.  Couldn't beat it for $7!  Sausage, bacon, eggs, pancakes, home fries, pastries, fruit, cereal... and this list goes on.  Let's just say we didn't leave the table hungry!

We left the hotel at about 9AM - a late start for us!  We had a plan, but, as you know, plans change!  We headed southwest toward Tellico Plains, TN.  Inititally we were going to take 19/64 right around to 68 and then up to Tellico Plains... but, lets just say that we got a little tired of the four lane stuff... so, instead we turned off on 28 and headed directly to Robbinsville.  This meant that we would get to ride the Cherohola Skyway from east to west - something neither of us had done before.

It was a blast.  I think you can see the excitement in Al's face!  Two men sharing their passion for the open road, beautiful scenery and enjoying a companionship that comes in following each others signals and leads around the turns, into passing lanes and braking for the ever present troopers.

Eventually we reached Tellico Plains and our first stop was the Down Town Creamery, owned and run by Mike's wife (sorry I didn't get your name).  Mike owns and runs  Tellico Motorcycle Outfitter shop.  We ate our ice cream and browsed around Mike's shop and then as we asked Mike for suggestions of a route back toward Asheville - he remembered me from my visit three years ago... probably helps that I was wearing a piece of gear that I had bought from him - but what a guy!  He took time to draw us out a map... and then another customer, a local who lived on the route that Mike had suggested offered to lead us part way.  It was a great ride... nice safe speed enjoying the scenery...   when all of a sudden I just about jumped out the saddle when a JERK on a LOUD harley blew past us all on a double line leading into a blind right hand corner.  Asshole!  Guys like him give the rest of us bad names!

Along the way we stopped at the Sequoyah Birthplace Museum.  Mike recommeded it as it was a nice air-conditioned break from the road... and it was free (he said).  It wasn't.  With Al getting the senior rate it cost us a total $5.50 and we spent about 40 minutes wondering around and looking at some of the displays.  We were both moved by the story of the Trail of Tears - the movement and relocation of Native American peoples from the land of the appalachians to the mid-west... and get this... the native peoples were paid 6 million dollars for the land... and... $600.000.00 was held back to cover the cost of the relocation - during which thousands died on the Trail of Tears... so sad...  I can't imagine what it felt like for a first nations person who grew up in the mountains of this area to be forced to relocate to the flat lands of the mid-west...

From the museum we followed Mike's directions, going along the Foothills Parkway and then through part of the Great Smokey Mountain National Park.  This was a slow journey.  The speed limit was 25 and 30 MPH and the only saving grace was the beauty!  The road follows Little River much of the way and the views are just incredible - little water falls, still pools, quiet pathways through the woods and twist and turns that went on and on!

We eventually exited the park and got on 321 and hooked up with the Foothills Parkway again which dropped us onto I-40.  This meant that Al got to experience those hair raising curves on the way into Asheville that gave me such a wonderful ending to my day yesterday!

We jumped off I-40 at Canton and picked up some supplies.  Back in the room after a drink and debrief on the day I had a swim in the pool and got to educate a couple of kids about hearing aids and how they come out and why they can't get wet... and then we went to Shorney's for supper.  $11 for the buffet.  Al mentioned on the way down he wanted to shrimp... it was all you could eat seafood night.  We had a good meal and then ambled back to the room like to old farts who had lost their horses!

There is a synchronicity that is required for two or more people to ride together.  Somehow I think Al and I have it.  We each ride our own ride and yet trust the other when the other takes the lead.  It's kind of like dancing with somewhere between 65 and 150 horsepower between your legs!

At the end of the day, Al said, this was a "best buddy day".  I most heartily agree!

...on the Sabbath Road...

PS: Sorry there are not more pictures.  I had my camera but had left the memory card in the computer... and well... the riding was just too good to stop and take pictures!!

(Day 60) Connecting with friends on the road...

Cherohola Skyway
Destination for Today!!
Well, the day didn't exactly start as planned.  Somehow I got my time all mixed up.  I was on the road at 6AM (thinking it was 7AM) planning to have a leisurely breakfast before I took the bike to Shooter's Cycle... well, let's just say I was going to have a REALLY leisurely breakfast - once I figured out just how early it really was... there was no going back to the room as I had locked the key in the room... so I headed into Poplar Bluff and found the Perkin's Restaurant.  It was next to a hotel so along with breakfast came free WiFi.

In the midst of all the confusion of those first few hours of the day, despite seeing an awesome sunrise, I was feeling pretty anxious.  I think the time on the road was catching up with me.  By now I had been away from home for just over six weeks and hadn't been in a truly familiar place or seen a familiar face since I left AB after my visit with Barb and Jerry.  Add to this the vulnerability of being solely on your own and it was all adding up.

While eating breakfast I sent Anna an email and was glad she answered via Skype shortly thereafter.  We had a text conversation (didn't want to talk via speaker phone in a restaurant) and she in encouraged me to breathe and enjoy the place I was at... that soon I would be home... and in the meantime enjoy the open road.  Thanks Anna, I needed that.  You have been there for me in so many ways over the past 23 years.  Love you.

With my spirit restored and my belly full I headed out to Shooter's Cycle and was there before he opened.  There were no guarantees that he would fit me in first thing.  All he could promise was sometime today... so I went prepared to wait.

Ten minutes after I arrived, the owner Kevin pulled in and 20 minutes later he had my bike in the back working on it.  While he worked I talked to his receptionist.  It was only then that I realized how busy he was!

Two if his mechanics had called in sick yesterday and neither of them had shown up this morning.  Yet... he still fit my bike in - first thing!  I had a great conversation with the receptionist and am embarrassed to say I don't remember her name.  She recently separated from her husband, left Arkansas and was now a single mom.  It was a privilege to hear some of her story and the strength that she found within herself to make a better life for herself and her children.

During the wait for the bike I checked my phone and there was a message from Al Wallace.  He was going to be in Asheville tonight.  I now knew where I was heading.  Rather then Tellico Plains, TN where I was going to camp for a couple of nights - and then meet up with all on Saturday - I was going to Asheville!  I was so excited to be meeting up with Al.  Not only because I was lonely for a familiar face, but because he is a great friend and we share so many similar interest and planning and riding patterns!  We get along great and this was going to be an awesome way to end the trip!

By 9:45 Kevin was done with the Bike and when I went to pay I was told they didn't take credit cards...

I had to find an ATM.  Kevin had to let me leave with my bike with no assurance that I would return.  As I was putting on my coat, I assured him I'd be back and he replied, "I hope so..."  I quipped, "I'm Canadian - we're nothing if were not trustworthy..."  He laughed!

Within 15 minutes I made it into Poplar Bluff, got some money from the ATM and was back to settled up.  I can't say enough good things about Kevin at Shooter's Cycle.  If you are ever in the area stop in and say hello and tell him Lloyd sent you.  And yes Kevin... one day I will ride a Harley....!!!

I was on the road heading east at 10:30 AMd with Asheville, NC as my destination.  According to the GPS I would arrive at 7:30 PM.

Cairo, IL
From Poplar Bluff I took Hwy 60 through Illinois to I-57 where I crossed the Missippi and the Ohio rivers (the bridge on Hwy 60 over the Missippi was closed).

As I crossed the Ohio I saw barges making their way down the river - an awe inspiring sight as I remembered the images of the flooding from this spring.

In Illinois I travelled for a time down a spit of land at the end of which the Missippi and Ohio rivers converge.  The name of the town is Cairo Illinois.  I was so struck by the decay and sense of hopelessness that I had to stop and take a picture.  Scences like this in America are not uncommon.  It is so sad.  There is this reality of fraying community and yet there is a pervasive consumerism that still abounds.  A Wal-Mart in every town, all you can eat in most restaurants, complaints about gas at plus $3 a gallon, and the conviction among many that, "Obama is changing this country in ways that our children will not recognize the good ole United States of America".

Cairo, IL
Following Hwy 60 eventually brought me into Kentucky of which I saw nothing but a gas station off of the Interstate.  I-24 continued southeast  into Tennesse where I looped around Nashville (I saw the exit for Graceland and thought of my mother-in-law and her Elvis towel) and hooked up with I-40.  Eastbound!

Of course I hit Knoxville at rush hour and the traffic slowed me down a bit...

The last 70 miles on I-40 were the highlight of the day.  Look at the turns on the picture below and imagine travelling through valley's so deep that the sound of the semi's echo and echo without end...  I was enjoying the curves and passing carefully when conditions allowed (tucked in behind pickup truck where North Carolina tags) and people were passing us... only to be met by the six state troopers that were just at the end of the curvy section!!  I guess North Carolina has found a way to deal with its budget deficit!!!

At 7:26 PM I pulled into the Holiday Inn.  Al was standing out front and waved me to the parking area!  I stopped and got the biggest hug... the first one I'd received since I left BC... I felt safe and connected again.

With a drink and a shower and a call home to Anna to let her know I was off the road, Al and I headed to supper and celebrated with a great meal at the in-house restaurant: New York Strip with mushrooms and onions, baked potato and veggies.  Really really good!  Even better was the conversation.  It was so life giving to talk again with someone with whom I share theological, political and world-views and who knows me and trusts me as I do him.  Thanks Al.  Your friendship means a lot to me and I couldn't think of a better way to end this trip of a lifetime!!

Back in room we had another drink, I called Anna and got "bugged" by the boys and then Al and I swapped stories of the road and made plans for tomorrow - a loop down to the Cherohola Skyway after which we will return to the Holiday Inn here before heading northeast on the Blue Ridge Parkway toward home.

Unfortunately this will mean that I will not get over to Chapel Hill to see Whitney and Taylor.  As I said in my note to them... I'm sorry.  I just need to head toward home and slow down for these last few days and not add any extra miles.

I still can't get the image of Cairo, IL out of my mind - or the contradictions that I saw in Missouri.  More churches then you can count and at almost every junction with the Interstate an adult movie store or as one creative entrepreneur(?) coined it, "Male Spa" offerring "Movies and Massages".  It was such a contrast.  Billboards stating: Jesus is Real across the highway from "Largest Adult Film Selection".  And I wonder, what is it about our faith that has led to the compartmentalization of our lives?  As Al and I talked over supper last night and later into the evening, enjoying a drink of the "mysterious divine" in whom we "live and move and have our being" - all of life is sacred - this is what Jesus sought to remind us.  And rather than embrace the fullness of life, the Church compartmentalized Jesus - make him into God and continued about the work do dividing the universe and the human experience into dualisms.

I now see Jesus, even more clearly in a new light.  Fully human.  A man who sought to bring together all that which we, because of shame and feelings of unworthiness, would see divided.  In the bringing together is love.  In the love is God - the divine in whom we live and move and have our being.

Needless to say, there is lots to be explored and articulated more fully in the statement above - but it has been and is a continually growing conviction that feels so right - made all the more convincing as a result of the beauty I have seen in the past six weeks and the goodness I have experienced at the hands of complete strangers.

Total stats for the day:
  Five states: Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina (Yes, I know Kendall - that's five more beers I owe you!!)
  889 KM with an average speed of 110 KM/H

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

(Day 59) A short day... things don't go as planned...

It was supposed to be a short morning, get the bike serviced then be on the road in the morning.  But as things sometimes go... not according to plan...

I had a lovely morning on some of the back roads of Missouri as I went from Ozark to West Plains and onto Poplar Bluff.  At one point there was a detour as a result of a bridge that was out because of flooding this spring and I got to ride a road I otherwise wouldn't have.

In West Plains the local Suzuki dealer was unable to fit me in and suggested that I head over to Poplar Bluff (my intended destination in the first place).  So, off I went - however by the time I arrived it was too late for them to fit me in so I have to wait until tomorrow morning... then its on to Tellico Plains area where I hope to meet Al Wallace on Friday or Saturday.  That will be about 700 KM.  A longer day then today... shorter then yesterday!

I am really looking forward to connecting with Al and riding home with him.  We keep similar schedules and have ridden together in the past.

I got some wash done today and met some local folks.  One chap I met works on a barge that goes up and down the Mississipi.  He is quite a character.  Full of stories of life on the river!  And the accent!  I have to work really hard to understand it!!

At the little restaurant where I had supper the waitress had a pretty thick accent too!  She was telling me all about the flood this spring.  Lake Wappapello flood it banks and washed out a significant road linking the village.  Here are a couple of pictures that the directed me to:

As I ate my supper she told me some "good news" stories of how neighbours helped each other out.  I will be off to bed early this evening.  Last night I stayed up way too late to finish a book that Tom O'Connor had given me, The Crying Tree by an author in Salem, OR.  It is a powerful book about the power of vengeance to destroy life and the power of forgiveness to restore life.  If you get a chance give it a read!!

...on the Sabbath Road...

(Day 58) On long lonely roads and being remembered by family and friends...

I said last night that my gift to myself was going to be skipping todays blog post... well, it has become such a habit to reflect on the day... and well... today there was a lot of straight road that left a lot of time to think!  And be reminded that I am closer to fifty now then was was yesterday!

At some point within the few minutes of leaving the hospitality of my CouchSurfing hosts and snapping the pictures of the sun rising over the interstate that would be my home for the next number of hours the following scene from the Wizard of Oz came to mind...

Dorothy: [has just arrived in Oz, looking around and awed at the beauty and splendor] Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas any more.
Dorothy: [after a pause] We must be over the rainbow!
[a bubble appears in the sky and gets closer and closer. It finally lands, then turns into Glinda the Good Witch wearing a spectacular white dress and crown, holding a wand]
Dorothy: [to Toto] Now I... I know we're not in Kansas! 
And... I knew I wasn't going to stop today until I could say, "I know we're not in Kanasa!"

In Oakley, KS I stopped for breakfast.  Not a Denny's to be found.  The Buckhorn Family Restaurant would have to do.  When in Kansas one must eat like the locals.  I sat beside a guy wearing the biggest cowboy hat I have ever seen and asked, "What's good?"  Through a mouthful of toast he replied, "The chicken steak and eggs!"  Hmmm.  I had that the other night in Utah and quite enjoyed it.  Not the healthiest think for an almost 50 year old man to be eating... ah what the heck!!  So, my birthday breakfast was Chicken Fried Steak and eggs and those shredded potatoes I just love... with toast and coffee.  It was good.  The conversation with Peter Hoar was not so good.

There was something wrong with one of the websites I manage and it needed to be fixed now!  So, through mouthfuls of egg and white gravy I got the registration page for the conference working and I was good to go again.

Straight roads leave a mind with lots of space to think... and so I thought about all the people that had posted birthday greetings to me on Facebook by that time.  42 of you... you know who you are.  I thought about how blessed I have been to have been gifted with time with each of you in so many different ways: weddings, funerals, family fun times, community gatherings, work related events and so on and so on... and then this evening when I stopped there were another 30 or so... people from as far away as Sweden and a close as the house I so look forward to returning to!

Thank you to each one of you for the birthday greetings - knowing how cared for those greetings made me feel I will be more intentional in sending a notes to others whose birthdays are coming up!

There really is not much to say about Kansas.  It is beautiful.  And flat.  And straight.  And windy.

Hence the wind farms.

Below is one of the few hills in eastern Kansas.

That was all the pictures I took in Kansas.

At about 8PM I stopped in Ozark, MO.  I had travelled 1148 KM at an average speed of 88 KM/H.

 It was a long day... but a good one.  The praires are behind me as are the memories of 46 years of doing my best to live as fully and as faithfully as possible... and tomorrow the sun will rise again and it will be another day filled with wonder and awe and possibility... on the Sabbath Road...

I finished off my day with supper at the Rib Crib - a US Chain that serves... RIBS... yup... you guessed it!  And as luck would have it, Tuesday night was all-you-can-eat ribs...  The guy who waited on me was a great individual.  He will go far in life.  He all but sat down at the table and asked me about my day and was so attentive.  Sorry I didn't get your name... but keep up the good work.  You make people feel good - and more of that is needed in the world!  Thanks for a great experience!
Awesome!!  The salad was really good!!!

More Ribs... I left two... I was stuffed!!

And because it was my birthday I got a free raspberry cheesecake.
I took it "to go" and am enjoying it as I type this update!
The only thing that would have made my birthday better would have been to have had all my friends and family around the table for ribs this evening.  It was kind of lonely eating alone... but there were lots of good memories and good energy... and, I am 1148 KM closer to Sackville, NB!!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

(Day 57) On curves and distance and climbing passes...

Last night (Sunday) I stayed up too late reading a book that was given to me by Tom O'Connor, The Crying Tree.  A powerful book about grief, loss, relationships and restoration.  I will finish it tonight.  I read as I watched the light change on the mountains to the east as the sun set in the west - out of sight, but still affecting all of what filled my eyes, as Mia slept at my feet.  Unfortunately my CouchSurfing host had to work so I was on my own.  I confess, I missed the company.  I have enjoyed conversing with people at the end of the day.

I was up far too early - but being up I sat and drank my coffee as I watched the sun rise over those same mountains in the east.  Today I would pass through them and go over them and be truly eastward bound - but not before I rode the "Million Dolalr Highway", Highway 50 which runs from Durango through Silverton to Ouray and onto Montrose.

As I set out east of Cortez finally I began to see the Colorado that I imagined I would see.  Mountains and trees began to form the landscape.

At Durango I stopped at McDonalds and had a McMuffin and coffee and used their WiFi and got to chat with Zack for  a bit.  He had the day off because it was raining.  I hated to tell him what a nice day it was here...

The ride from Durango to Ouray was everything I had hoped it would be.  Lots to look at.  Technical turns.  Mountain passes.  Roads hanging on the sides of sheer cliffs!  Wow!!

At Molas Pass the elevation was 10,899 ft.  Awesome!  Even more awesome were the folk on bicycles peddling up the same incline I had just come!!

Through the historic town of Silverton, CO.  It would have been a neat place to hang out... rent a jeep or a 4 Wheeler and go exploring off road... but the twisties were calling my name!

Onward and upward.

It just kept getting better and better.  Through canyons.  Around knolls of rock.  Across rivers and through arches!  Unfortunately the roads were so narrow there were very few places to stop and take pictures.  Besides... I was having too much fun to stop!!

And then it seemed as if it was over.  Entering the valley past Dallas Creek I entered farm land and the fun was over.  I stopped for gas in Montrose and an older man at the gas station asked me where New Brunswick was.  I tried to explain but he just didn't get it.  Finally I said, "North of Maine..."  He nodded and said solemnly... "You's a long way from home..."

So I was, but I was getting closer!

Valley conditions continued as I turned east on Hwy #50.  The road, for the most part followed the valley floor and found it was to Blue Mesa.  I must confess, I was disappointed with the Rockies at this point.  There was little vegetation and I was beginning to feel like I was back in desert conditions.  I missed trees!!

Blue Mesa is a recreational paradise.  Camp grounds and lake that just keeps on going and going - as did the road, rather straight and boring...

And then things changed again!  There were more mountains ahead.  The Continental Divide - Monarch Pass was yet to come!

.Driving to the top of Monarch Pass was exhilarating.  The excitement was added to by the work crews that were busy clearing off a recent slide and opposing traffic that did not know which land to be in.  Sorry there are not more pictures... of a better quality... but I hope you get the idea.

Eventually after a 7 mile climb I was at the Continental Divide.

Here at the summit I met Susan - riding a Kawasaki Concours she has been on the road for five weeks.

We had a great chat about the joys of travelling and she confessed that she gets the old farts' discount for the National Park pass so it only cost her $10 to camp each night.   She was travelling with her Sax and had spent a week at a Jazz camp someplace in California.  She was now on her way home to Harper's Ferry, VA.  Have a safe ride Susan!  Nice to meet you.

All things flow down from the Continental Divide... and the same was true with the spirit of my ride.  I missed the grandeur of the rockies.  There was no majesty here.  I now understood why so many of my american rider friends were so enthralled with the Canadian Rockies... they are glorious compared to Colorado... sorry John Dever... no Colorado Rocky Mountain High for me!

From Monarch Pass the road falls into the Gunninson River Valley and follows the winding bank of the  Arkansas River where at every turn there is either a company offering river rafting or a bus load of tourist on their way to rafting trip.

The riding was quite enjoyable as the road was winding and twisting as it followed the river bank... but again I was missing trees and flora and fona...

At Canon City the heat had done me in and I needed a break.  I stopped at McDonalds for one of the $1 drinks and made use of the WiFi as I rested in air conditioned comfort.  Two hours to go and I would be in Limon.

I drug my tired butt out to the bike realizing that the twists and turns, distance and heat had taken its toll on me.  I was anxious to be somewhere off the bike.

As I turned northward off of Hwy #50 I looked back in the direction from whence I had come.  I was still not impressed.

While I enjoyed the twists on the 550 from Durango to Ouray and the various passes I had come over... give me Kananaskis any day!  Banff, Jasper, Lake Louise... bring it on!

Sorry Colorado, no disrespect intended - I guess sometimes you just have to see what is on the other side in order to appreciate what you have at home...

For the next day and a half I will enjoy the grasslands of the mid-west.  Hopefully there are a few horses around to give me something to look at.

Stats for the day:
735 KM  at an average speed of 68 KM/H

Hoping to finish my book now... not likely... but I'll try.  Tomorrow my birthday gift to myself is no blog post...

...on the Sabbath Road...