Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Preparing for a Wild Goose Ride...

It's Wednesday, humpday!  Tomorrow Anna and I will gather with Justin, his girlfriend Kaitlin, her parents and Zack (when he gets home from work) and hopefully his girlfriend Trish to celebrate Justin's 20th birthday.

Its hard to believe.  Seems like just yesterday we were rushing to Calgary from Acme anxious for his birth, just yesterday that we brought him home to the Manse and opened the house to family and friends as we celebrated his arrival into the world.  And so on... and so on... Wow!  Lots of memories!

As the title notes, I am preparing to ride again.  Following Justin's actual birthday on Friday (and officiating at the funeral of a lady in Sackville) I depart for Hot Springs, NC where I will take part in the Wild Goose Festival.

“Wild Goose” is a Celtic spirituality metaphor that evokes unpredictability, beauty, and grace.  The Festival takes inspiration from this concept, as well as many events such as Greenbelt, Burning Man, the Iona Community and SXSW.

Its been a bit of a wild ride these past few months and I am looking forward to a different pace for a while.

 Just to recap: at the end of May, I and four colleagues formed and incorporated a new company: Kairos Pneuma Chaplaincy Inc.  Between then and June 19th we prepared a response to a Request for Proposals for the delivery of Chaplaincy services by a single contract holder (300+ pages).  In the third week of July we were informed that we were the successful bidder and were awarded the contract... and the email alert chime has been sounding constantly ever since!  Its exciting, worrying, daunting, invigorating, humbling, and in all an awesome opportunity and responsibility!!

One the first challenges we faced in forming the company was finding a name that somehow reflect the mission of our endeavour, was reflective of our interfaith orientation, and was not in conflict with one of the hundreds of thousands of other business names.  "Kairos Pneuma" Kairos, loosely translated from the Greek means opportune time.  Pneuma, again loosely translated from the Greek, is one of the many words for Spirit... hence, Kairos Pneuma: Opportune Time of the Spirit.

We believe that this time of transition in respect to the delivery of Chaplaincy services within CSC Institutions is an opportune time of the Spirit.  It is an opportune time to look again at the Canadian context and develop a service that better reflects the diversity of Canada's faith communities.  It is an opportune time to consider anew the focus of the work and how we can best assist individuals in embracing the transformative power of Spirit and connecting with them at the basic levels of human compassion.  It is an opportune time...!
"Compassion for the other comes out of our ability to accept ourselves. Until we realize both our own weaknesses and our own privileges, we can never tolerate lack of status and depth of weakness in the other."  ~ Joan Chittister
The next two weeks will be an opportune time for me... to catch my breath, to ride, reflect and renew my spirit in preparation for what will be a very busy fall.  So, if you are coming along for the ride here is what the schedule will look like:

I depart on Saturday August 2nd and will take until Wednesday to get to Hot Springs, NC.  On Thursday the Wild Goose Festival opens and I have identified the following presentations and workshops that I am definitely going to take part in:

On Thursday: Alexia Salvatierra, The Blessing of the Other: Creating Welcome for Immigrants and
Other Wanderers followed by a second gathering with James Alison, Undergoing God, undergoing a paradigm shift: Introducing "Jesus the Forgiving Victim"

On Friday morning I will be with Phiip Yancey followed by a workshop with Holly Roach -
Mutual Liberation: Building Transformative Social Movements and another workshop with River Jordan - Praying for Strangers.  Friday evening I plan to be with John Dear as he talks about Mahatma Gandhi's Life Lessons for Us Today followed by some time in the Darkwood Brew Unplugged - Hosted by Eric Elnes and Frank Schaeffer with Richard Cizik.

Saturday will see me spending most of the day at the Main Stage with the likes of Phyllis Tickle, Philip Yancey and James Allison and Brian McLaren and the Indigo Girls who after sharing in conversation for an hour then offer an hour long concert!

On Sunday morning Brian McLaren begins the day with a presentation: We Make the Road by Walking... (Somehow I really think I am going to connect with this!!!) and the even wraps up with closing ceremonies at 1:30PM...

But the fun doesn't end... I pack up, spend the night with new friends (retired clergy I met on the
internet) who will be storing my motorcycle for me while I am on the next leg of the Wild Goose Ride... one that actually involves flying!  But more about that tomorrow!!

On the Sabbath Road... almost!!
"We make the road by walking..."

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Ramadan Road Trip (Day 4)

Its 5:30AM and the coffee is dripping and gurgling as we start to pack up for the last leg home.  We'll try and be off by 6:30AM so we can beat the heat of the day... more later!

After a quick breakfast at the Comfort Inn breakfast bar (raisin bran with milk and a dish of blueberry
yogurt - and coffee of course) I loaded my bike while Al read yesterday's blog entry.  It was a joy to hear his laughter at my recounting of the days events!

Going... going...
We were on the way toward home at 6:15AM (so says the GPS log), and Al set a blistering pace as we rounded the south side of the Baie Des Chaleurs.  To protect the not so innocent I won't recount the speeds we touched... the pace slowed down significantly as we reached Bathurst, picked up again a little bit until we reached
Miramichi and stayed down for the rest of the way.  Good thing too!  We passed three police cars that I counted!!

As we rode I was listening to a folder of inspirational music on the GPS - mostly songs from More Voices and a pieces by a Catholic composer by the name of David Haas.  It seemed fitting as it was Sunday after all!  One of the songs that I have a deep connection to that I listened to this morning is We Are Called.  You can listen to it here.   The words go like this:

1. Come! live in the light!
Shine with the joy and the love of the Lord!
We are called to be light for the kingdom,
to live in the freedom of the city of God!

Refrain: We are called to act with justice.
We are called to love tenderly.
We are called to serve one another, to walk humbly with God.

2. Come! Open your heart!
Show your mercy to all those in fear!
We are called to be hope for the hopeless,
so all hatred and blindness will be no more!

3. Sing! Sing a new song!
Sing of that great day when all will be one!
God will reign and we'll walk with each other as sisters and brothers united in love!

As I listened to this song over and over again I began to take note of the names of towns and villages that we were passing and with each village or town we passed the name of an inmate I have come to know at Springhill entered into my mind... and I was reminded of Al and I's conversation last evening of the place of God in the midst of relationships and how in telling our stories we are made whole...

All too soon we were needing gas, and after a quick fill up at the Irving in Bouctouche we were on our way again.

As we came into the village of Meadow Bank (just off the #2 outside of Moncton) I was ready to start cursing a fellow backing up a trailer by the community mailboxes... a few minutes later I was thanking him... seeing him the distance had made me slow down considerably... such that I didn't attract any attention from the RCMP officer with his radar gun out just a little bit down the road!!

We jumped on the #2 for a brief time (I got tired of that quickly) and then exited onto Royal Road (didn't know it was called that until now) and took the back way home through Dorchester.  We pulled into my driveway at 9:39AM - having covered 356KM in just under 3 hours and 22 minutes.

2515 KM Around the Gaspé Bay
August 11 - 14, 2013
After a quick look at Al's rapidly deteriorating tire (cords are now showing) and with two promises from Al to: 1/ email me when he gets home; and 2/ to stop being such a cheap scotsman and buy new tire... he was off.

The rest of the day has been quiet.  I unpacked the bike, spent some time with the kids, picked up some strawberries, cleaned up some files and barbecued supper... and began to think about the next trip!

I leave again on August 3rd heading to Hot Springs North Carolina to attend the Wild Goose Festival.  Direct, according to Google Maps its 2300 KM.  Three days will get me there but I am giving myself five.  I am at the event from Thursday to Sunday.

On Monday August 12th I fly to Milwaukee Wisconsin to take part in a Courage to Lead event with Parker Palmer.  On Thursday August 15th I fly back to North Carolina, pick up the bike and on Friday morning head for home - aiming to be home by the evening of August 18th so as have the week of the 19th to celebrate with Anna our 25th Wedding Anniversary (August 20th, 1988).

Off the Sabbath Road until then...

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Ramadan Road Trip (Day 3)

If one had to name a theme for today it would be: In Awe of Vast Beauty!

The day began with breakfast in the motel... the old farts had slept in and we were both hungry and needed to eat before hitting the road.  The breakfast buffet was the easiest options... it was vast in selection: bacon or sausage, french toast or
pancakes, eggs scrambled or fried, home-fries, five different fruits, muffins, cheeses, sweetbreads and jams and croissants and pastries... I had bacon and scrambled eggs and one small pancake... and three cups of coffee (plus the one I spilled on the table)!

It was almost 8AM by the time the bikes were loaded and we were moving... only to need to stop and gas up for the days adventure!  At. $1.39 per litre I was sure glad I wasn't filling the pickup truck with the 40ft 5th wheel that I was parked beside!

Heading east out of Matane the sheer space before us was almost overwhelming: open ocean on the one side and mountains rising sharply on the other - one could not help but feel incredibly small in the midst of it all.

It was soon clear that sea levels are rising... four huge excavators were at work building a seawall out of blasted stone blocks - fitting the stones together as constructing a jigsaw puzzle.  The only things missing from the picture was a Canada's Economic Action Plan sign!!!!

Around 10:30AM we stopped for a break at a nicely constructed picnic area just outside Riviere-A-Claude.  It was turning out to be a glorious day!

Thirty minutes down the road with Al in the lead we turned right - off the coastal road.  "Wait!"  I said
to myself, this wasn't in the plan... He seemed to know where he was going so I tagged along - and am I ever glad I did!

RTE-198 while a little bumpy by times was a road, as Al said, "tests a rider's skill..."  Vigorous changes in elevation, scenery that seeks to distract the eye from the road, and turns upon turn, left and right, right and left... and on and on it went...  through the woods until we popped out - not a Grandma's house - but into the community of Gaspe Bay where we stopped in at the local McDonald's for a coffee and a blast of air conditioned air... it was hot out there in the woods!

After our break Al headed off to get gas and for the first time in his life Lloyd was propositioned... a young woman was hanging out around the bikes while we were in McCafe and she came back after Al had left to get gas.  She struck up a conversation asking where were were from, were we staying in town for the night... all innocent questions... and then she asked if we'd like some company... "No," I said, "I've got gas,... No I mean, I need to get gas... No we're not saying... sorry." And I put my helmet on... and she walked away.  Thankfully.

Back on the coastal road things cooled down somewhat - at least until we got stuck behind a moving motel units.... or even worse, a diesel pusher motorhome... thankfully there were adequate passing lanes and no police cars nearby!

From Barchois we enjoyed the view of Percé
Rock and then headed inland again on an unmarked road... Al told me later that he wondered what I was up too... I just shrugged and said, "The GPS made me do it..."   Through farmland and across a number of mountain ridges, past Val D'espoir we got back on RTE 132 just in time for the tourist rush!!  Traffic was slow.  Speed limits were down.  And it was hot.

At Carleton we stopped for a bit of a break and enjoyed the breeze off the Baie Des Chaleues.... and watched the porpoises frolic just off the beach... and I filled Al in on the invitation I had to frolic back in Gaspé!  He then told me that he'd been watching her hang out around the bike and wondered even then if that's what she was up to... the wisdom that comes with age!!!

It was shortly after this conversation that I saw something that will, I am sure, contribute to my wisdom over time... a woman vacuuming her driveway!  There is no way to make stuff like this up!!  She had the vacuum cleaner at the end of the driveway and she was sucking up all the little bits of gravel between the road and her driveway...  I kid you not!!!

Forty minutes later we were filling the bikes up with gas at Point-A-la-Croix and ten minutes after that we were checking in at the Comfort Inn in Campbelton, NB.  Upon arrival we had our first crisis of the trip.  The top of Al bottle of rum had become unscrewed while driving and the inside of his saddle bag was now smelling better than a freshly poured rum and coke... as did his spare clothes.  Of course, the first step in remedying the situation is for Lloyd to be sent off to pick up a pint of rum while Al rinses his clothes!

We had a drink before dinner then headed to the restaurant next door where we enjoyed our second meal of the day - and second meal of Chinese food of the trip.  It was not by choice... it was the only thing nearby... we shared some rice, chop suey and chicken balls... and the bill... not a bad meal - but I am sure the sodium content will meet my nutritional needs for a couple of days!!

Our evening has ended as these trips always seem to end: with some deep conversations about God, this universe, our place in it and our responsibility to each other.  And with all such good conversations, the sharing is more important than the answers - just as in most good motorcycle rides, the riding is more important than the destination!

Stats for the day: 8 hours and 32 minutes, 604KM travelled at an average speed of 71 km/h

On the Sabbath Road...
Trying to figure out this darn GoPro Camera...
Definitely not a "pro" at it yet!!

Ramadan Road Trip (Day 2)

We left New Hampshire with the sun!  We'd decided the night before to burn a tank of fuel before we stopped for breakfast... and so we did... as we travelled west through Dixville Notch to Third Lake where we crossed into Canada... and left some money (duty) to pay for our Canadian way of life!!

After a friendly chat with the Border Officials we set of toward Lac-Mégantic through Chartierville and stopping in La Patrie for a wonderful breakfast at a place called Exquisite Pizza!!  The breakfast was awesome... and saw us through until supper at 9PM on the boat to Matane!!

Scotstown was the next little Quebec village that we passed through.  This Bruce gave a thumbs up to the Wallace behind him the sign passed from our view - the last jovial thought for the next few miles...

After breakfast and a second cup of coffee we'd set off toward Lac-Mégantic.  Yes, we were going to see for ourselves, but we also went out of compassion for a community that was suffering.  Heading into town it was eerie following the railway tracks and seeing the idle rail cars backed up for mile - knowing what lie ahead.  There were detour and warning signs all around and it was clear that the town was being challenged by the level of interest in this situation.  Media vans littered the sides of the road and there was not a parking spot to be found at the local police station.

We followed the main street toward downtown and made a solemn loop around the block on which the large Catholic Church overlooked the wreck site.  It was devastating.  Such a tragedy for so many!

Passing even more media vans making their way into town we headed north and soon found ourselves at Beauceville on a divided highway pointed toward Quebec City.

The closer we got to the city the heavier the traffic got... and it soon became apparent as to the reason for the slow down... a poor fellow in a new car with dealer plates on it (out for a test drive?) rear ended another car in the stop and go traffic... and you thought you were having a bad day when the yolk on your egg broke!!!

 Heading east on the outskirts of Quebec City with the sun rising above us - it was turning out to be a fine day!!

The traffic picked up significantly as we arrived in Sainte-Anne-de Beaupre with a fair number of folk
gathering at the Bascillia (taking tours I imagine) as well as a number of cars in the parking lot of La CycloRama Mosque (likely for Juma Prayer - as it was about that time).

The further north-east we went the less congested the traffic was!

The views and elevation changes were a riders dream.  Lots of things to look at!  Hills and mountains on one side and a great river on the other with fresh sea air to fill your lungs!

The province of Quebec calls this road Route Balienes... and while
Senior On Mobility Scooters
watching the Boat Come In
we didn't see any whales we saw lots of outfits offering tours!!  And my mind got to wondering... "Am I nuts... driving 800+ KM just for something to do?  With no destination in mind but the present patch of road in front of me?"  Most people would say. "Yes, he is crazy... and the 71 year old with him is even crazier..."  But I beg to disagree.  I see what this trip and any other trip I've taken as part and parcel of living life to the full.  Those poor folk who died in the midst of their sleep at Lac-Mégantic that could well be me one day.  I could slip and fall on the ice at work and hit my head (as I did last winter) and life as I know it now could just as easily be all over for me...

Perhaps because I have sat beside so many hospital bedsides and buried so many people and walked beside so many people who long for  a life of freedom that I have come to this place of doing what I can when I can - as as much of it in as short a time as I may have available to me... (now that's a long complicated sentence and I don't have a clue how to fix it up... but it makes sense to me!)

One old fart and an even older fart...
living life to the full!
This evening after more than 12 hours in the saddle and 863 KM I watched as a group of seniors rode into town on their mobility scooters.  I started to laugh.  I took the picture of them because I wanted to tell Al that this is what most 71 years are riding - in packs - not Harley's!  But as I thought about it I realized a couple of things: 1/ I will be that age one day; and 2/ they we living life to the fullest extent possible for them... and I hope I can do that then too!

Supper was nothing to write home about - and not the healthiest meal I've had in a while - but the options were limited and I needed calories: a hot chicken sandwich (minus the bread) and some onion rings and two bottles of water and a chocolate bar for dessert (first one on more than four months)!

We passed most of the trip across waiting to get our food... and then spent the balance of it walking the deck and talking with some folk we had met in the line.  The day came to an end at the Belle plage where we'd made a reservation at while waiting for the ferry.

Today we plan to drive around the Gaspé Coast - the distance from here to home via the route we have chosen is a little ambitious (or foolish depending on your perspective) at just over 900 KM... we'll see where we get to... its a beautiful day!  Too nice of a day to pass up!

On the Sabbath Road

Friday, July 12, 2013

Ramadan Road Trip (Day 1 - Part II)

Its Friday morning and Al is still snoozing...  a few minutes to write.

Leaving yesterday we headed toward St. Stephen, NB under overcast an overcast sky.  An hour into Maine and it began to pour and did not look like it was going to ever clear... the raindrops were the size of golf balls and the toughs in the road were filling up... there was one pucker moment... and then we stopped at a little country store with an overhang on the porch and donned the rain gear - preparing for the worse!

We no sooner had the rain gear on and Al quipped "Look, its beginning to let up..."  Well, it did and it didn't... and then it did!

There are many beautiful moments on any given motorcycle trip: a vista on a mountain road, a sweeping left hand turn followed by a tight right hand cure... but one of the most beautiful is the experience of driving out of rain into a clear or clearing sky.  One moment, your glasses are fogged, your face-shield is coated in water-drops and your wind-screen may was well be a sheet of bug screen... and then... there is a brightness ahead.  The water-drops begin to disappear and you can see clearly again - you can almost feel yourself drying out!  And, you know its going to be ok...  It was just past Brewer when we had such a moment... its going to be ok!

US #2 is such an enjoyable ride.  There is always something new to see and the items for sale on the side of the road just keeps changing!  Motorcycles, motorhomes, boats, lawnmowers and so on and so on... seems like everyone in the USA has something for sale at the end of their driveway!  There also seems to be an ever growing number of second hand stores... not sure what this says about the state of the economy but it doesn't seem good.

We arrived last evening in Gorham, NH - a little short of our tentative destination - but we were hungry and tired and it was time to stop.  We settled into a little mom and pop motel room, had a drink and then headed over for supper.  It was my second meal of the day and I ate a little more Chinese food then I should have (and paid for it at bed time) but it sure tasted good going down!

We spent the early evening sitting on the balcony outside our room watching the sun settled into the cradle of the mountains surrounding us and reflected on the day as we connected with folk back home. I enjoyed a couple of local beers, Al had a drink of rum and soon it was time for bed.  Al was snoring before he hit the pillow at 10PM and slept right through to 6:30AM.

We have decided to head north today and follow the road that leads up toward Lac-Mégantic.  This will be new territory for each of us and as we realized last evening, there are not too many roads in this area that between us we have not travelled on!

Our destination for today is Matane, PQ.  We plan to catch the 10PM sailing from Baie Comeau, PQ... we'll see where we end up...

On the Sabbath Road,

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Ramadan Road Trip (Day 1)

You're leaving again... OR
Where is my supper...?
Well... another bike trip and another blog entry.  The two go hand in hand for me.  As I have said elsewhere when I am on a trip (or in the case getting ready to leave on a motorcycle trip) my mind seems freer to reflect and ponder life's questions through writing.

Later this morning Al Wallace and I will head toward Vermont.  We have no destination in mind - only to follow the road for a day and a half and then turn toward home.  Ideally we will find some twisty roads with scenic views and a good meal or two along the way.

As I prepare to depart I am mindful of Muslim colleagues and inmates who are fasting for the Holy month of Ramadan.  Yesterday I had planned to have all the Muslim inmates who are fasting over to the Chapel to distribute the food items they had purchased for Ramadan.  Unfortunately we were locked down as a result of work being done on the electrical system.  This no doubt made the day very long for inmates and staff.  As a result of the lock down I took three of the Student Chaplains and we went cell to cell delivering the items (trail mix, granola bars and a few other quick high calorie non perishable items).

As we shared the food items with the men there was much gratitude for such simple things... I was
A little ride to Johnston's Point last week... 
touched by the commitment and sincerity of those who are fasting and this morning my stomach grumbles in solidarity.

There were a couple of issues raised yesterday and hopefully these will be addressed.  Accommodating beliefs and practices that we do not understand is not always easy - and this is especially true when there is such a power differential and those in power are faced with limited resources - and in some cases diminishing resources with ever increasing needs.

At the end of the day we need to remember, as a service that we are individually public servants... tasked with the care and control of persons who while incarcerated still retain certain rights and privileges that we, as professionals have a duty to provide reasonable accommodation for.

With these thoughts out of my head and onto the screen I'm ready to do a last minute check of the bike, drive my nephew to Rock Camp in Dieppe and then head off with Al... somewhere toward Vermont...

On the Sabbath Road...