(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


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