Cross Country Motorcycle Trip Four! Abandonment to Divine Providence.

On May 12, the Lord willing and the Creek don’t rise, Big Red, my 2004 Harley Road King Classic, and I’ll be heading out on another cross country trip. My first primary destination will be Los Angeles where I’ll be attending my daughter’s college graduation. After that, all bets are off.

In my motorcycle novel, Hope Bats Last, the protagonist talks about abandoning himself to fate, to divine providence and seeing where he ends up. So when I leave LA, instead of having a route planned I’m going to try and listen to the signs and portents and discern my direction. Signs might come through a suggestion of a passerby at a convenience store, a dream, a detour, maybe just a feeling that I should take that road. No, not that road, that road.

You can put whatever name you want on where that mysterious guidance comes from. Is it Fate? Destiny? The Universe speaking? Is it the Tao? Wu wei? Is it the Zen Buddhist idea of living in the present? Is it Hegel’s the infinite unfolding of itself? Or is it God (as you may believe)?

The best description I ever heard of this process comes from Jean-Pierre de Caussade’s, an eighteenth century French Jesuit priest and writer, who folks believe wrote the book, Abandonment to Divine Providence.

“In the state of abandonment the only rule is the duty of the present moment. In this the soul is light as a feather, liquid as water, simple as a child, active as a ball in receiving and following all the inspirations of grace. Such souls have no more consistence and rigidity than molten metal. As this takes any form according to the mould into which it is poured, so these souls are pliant and easily receptive of any form that God chooses to give them. In a word, their disposition resembles the atmosphere, which is affected by every breeze; or water, which flows into any shaped vessel exactly filling every crevice. They are before God like a perfectly woven fabric with a clear surface; and neither think, nor seek to know what God will be pleased to trace thereon, because they have confidence in Him, they abandon themselves to Him, and, entirely absorbed by their duty, they think not of themselves, nor of what may be necessary for them, nor of how to obtain it.”

It’s kind of a mixture of Kerouac’s Dharma Bums and mystical Christianity, but on a motorcycle.

I’ll keep you posted.

Angels, Saints, Elijah the Prophet, the Lamed Vav, and Big Red, the Harley Road King.

Saw this blog I did from a few years ago and thought it might be relevant now.

It’s been hot in Georgia (USA) the past month with temperatures up into the high 90’s (35C). It was so hot at times that chickens were laying boiled eggs. So hot that when I went outside to smoke my pipe the tobacco lit itself. So hot that men have been spotted marrying tall women just for the shade. That kind of hot. So it was a relief for most of us these last few days when the temperatures dropped overnight into the 40’s (7C). I almost went out last night to throw a blanket onto Big Red, my 2004 Harley Road King. By the way, I added her mileage up and we’ve ridden over 38,000 miles in the last three years. She deserves some tender loving care. I was thinking about this while I was watching a woman I know from a nearby community who was handing out blankets to…

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In Search of Hula Girl, Adventures in Motorcycling.


Hula Girl with baby Jesus behind her.

In my last blog I wrote about one of the staff at the Harley dealership accidentally breaking my hula girl which I keep on the fork cover in front of me as I ride. Two days ago I secured a replacement hula girl and attached her to the same spot. I think this is the sixth one I’ve owned. Today, on one of those rare winter days when the weather was good enough to ride, I headed the bike in the direction of Dalton, Georgia where I work. Roughly 50 miles. A short distance down the road I noticed hula girl was missing! I hadn’t remembered seeing her when I left. I imagined she’d fallen off somewhere. After work I headed home. The roads were slippery because it had rained and because there was a lot of gravel on the roads, I guess because of the recent snow. We southerners are a mess when it snows. Since were not used to it we get all flustered and throw anything on the ground for traction. I think I saw some fruitcakes on the road the other day. Anyway, taking the exit into Calhoun I hit a big bump and then heard the sound of something falling from the bike. I looked behind me and saw a figure in the road and realized that it was probably my hula girl. She must have fallen into some spot on the bike where I couldn’t see her and had now become dislodged. By the time I realized this I was too far up the exit to stop and walk back so I decided I would go back on the interstate to the previous exit, do a U turn and come back to the exit where she’d fallen off. At this point you might be thinking: He’s going to a lot of trouble just to pick up a $4 hula girl? But I want to assure you that I would act the same regardless of what kind of girl had fallen off my bike. I don’t discriminate and besides, there’s such a thing as loyalty. Alas, when I returned I scoured the road and couldn’t find hula girl anywhere. I like to think that some kind driver saw her stranded there and picked her up. That they will tend to her wounds and provide her with a good home. I believe there are still good people like that in this world.

As for me, fortunately, I have another hula girl at home. I try to stay prepared for such emergencies. Hula girls always remind me to not take things too seriously, especially myself.

Your Compensator Nut Might be Loose, Broken Hula Girl, Back on the Road

In my last blog I was down at Tybee Island for Thanksgiving. I had a great time there but a rough ride home. The traffic was “stop and go” south of Atlanta, it was colder than I expected and the bike started making a bad noise. It was a grinding sound that seemed to come from the engine. I pulled over and checked the bike to see if anything was loose – heat shields, engine mount, exhaust, brackets – they were fine. So I continued on and the sound continued too. As I listened the sound became more familiar to me and I finally figured out that it was a loose compensator nut. The only reason I guessed this was I had had the misfortune of having the nut come loose twice in the past. What is the compensator nut? It keeps the compensator on tight. And the compensator absorbs the shock of the chain going tight and slack.

Personally, I think I have problems with my own internal compensator nut. I struggle when life is accelerating too fast and then suddenly, when it moves into the slack times. My compensator nut comes loose and I need some psychic tools to tighten her up.

Anyway, I managed to get the bike home on that trip and then tucked her in the garage until I could find time to get her down to the Harley shop. That time was today. As I rode her up to the service door two of the mechanics were outside and staring at me because of the grinding, crunching sound the bike was making.

“You guessed right.” The mechanic said twenty minutes later. “It’s the compensator nut. Want a job?”

“I’m an idiot.” I told him. “I’m the last person you would want repairing a motorcycle.”

Within an hour the bike was fixed and washed, the only casualty being a broken hula girl. In the four years since I’ve owned Big Red I’ve had a hula girl, on the steering stem cover, to remind me to enjoy the ride and not take things, including myself, too seriously.

Now that the Harley’s fixed I need to find a new hula girl. And as for my internal compensator nut? I think I need to let go of some expectations, take a few more walks, enjoy the present moment, recognize that what I do have in my life more than compensates for what I don’t have, what I’ve lost. If I can just torque that thought tighter into my head and my heart I’ll get a few more miles out of me.

How’s your compensator nut?

Thanksgiving: Tybee Island; Doc’s Bar; Head Showered, and Kindness.

With my kids in LA. (not Lower Alabama!) and London, I decided to skip the local family reunion and head to Tybee Island, Georgia on Big Red, my Harley Road King. I needed to clear my mind (get my “head showered” as they say in Northern Ireland), think and work on my latest novel. My last novel: “I Should Have Seen it Coming” is out now on Amazon.

So I took off Wednesday and, despite a bit of traffic, after 340 miles I made it safely to Tybee. It has been beautiful here! Highs in the mid 70’s, clear blue skies and the ocean as welcoming as ever. So I’ve been walking the beach, soaking up the sun, writing some and enjoying the comfort of a few friends. Doc’s Bar helps too. When inspiration isn’t flowing you can be sure the beer there is. I took Big Red on a tour of the island, including where I used to spend my summers, and we also caught the golden rays of the setting sun as they languished in the reeds and grass of the salt marsh. Why would the rays want to leave? So beautiful.

So tomorrow I plan to do much of the same. I have a lady friend who’s coming later to meet me and we’ll walk the beach and grab some dinner. Why she would want to spend time with me is beyond my comprehension but we have to be thankful for such gifts, as unearned as they may be.

And Saturday, head showered or not, Big Red and I’ll have to head back to Rome, Georgia. Thanksgiving is never about a day plucked out of the calendar. It’s about stopping wherever you are, and whenever, and giving thanks for the unearned graces you have received; that we all have received. And it’s about somehow transmuting this thankfulness into kindness towards others.

At least that’s how Big Red and I see it. Kickstands up.Ride safely.



Patron Saint of Motorcyclists -St. Columbanus of Bobbio’s Feast Day! November 23rd.

I’m packing up Big Red, my 2004 Harley Road King Classic, and heading out on a trip tomorrow. Here in Georgia USA the weather’s supposed to be in the low 70’s. I’ve got hula girl standing and swaying on the bike where my clock used to be- she’s there to remind me to have fun and not take things, myself included, too seriously. In my windshield bag I’ve got a cross and some prayer beads – to keep me reverent, and I’ve got a medal celebrating the patron saint of motorcyclists – St. Columbanus. Tomorrow is his feast day which should augur well for a safe trip. But who decided he was the one who would be the patron saint? Apparently, the Vatican and the Harley Davidson company who made a medal promoting him. And just who was this St Columbanus of Bobbio?

Despite the Italian ‘Bobbio’, this guy was an Irish dude! What a surprise! During the dark ages in the sixth and seventh centuries when the Irish were saving civilization and Christianity, he ventured away from Ireland wandering up and down Europe starting monasteries and spreading the word about Christ.
How do we know he was Irish? Apparently what cinches it is that that we know he lived at home with his mother into his 30’s, he wasn’t married, and he didn’t have a job. Ha ha! (Old Irish joke).
Seriously though, the story goes that he was tall and good looking and the girls chased him (I can relate to that except for the tall bit, and the good looking part and, well…). He was also a bit of a wild guy with the ladies, who chased after him -okay, okay so there’s no resemblance between us at all! Gimme a break. Anyway, a holy woman put the fear of God in him and he decided to change his wild ways and become a priest. When his mother found out she tried to block the door physically with her body, but he just stepped over her, signed up and got his traveling orders. He traveled throughout Europe, to Germany and Switzerland and ended up living in decadent France for 20 years, establishing three monasteries there before he moved to Italy. He carried his Celtic Christian ideas and practices with him.
He lived in a cave for years, was very pious and is said to have wrestled a bear. But unlike Davy Crockett he didn’t kill it; instead he tamed it and yoked it to a plow.
He is quoted as having said, “Love is not orderly.” You gotta love this guy!
Miracles credited to Columbanus include:
Once after being surrounded by wolves, he simply walked through them
When he needed a cave for his solitary prayers and a bear lived there he asked politely for the bear to skedaddle and he did.
When the Luxeuil Abbey granary ran empty, Columbanus prayed over it and it refilled.
He cured several sick monks and gave sight to a blind man at Orleans
But my favorite is that he multiplied bread and beer for his community. We’re talking about craft, micro-brewed beer here! Bikers love their fresh beer!
If Columbanus were alive today I imagine him riding a Road King like mine. If not, maybe a Harley Fat Boy. The Fat Boy is a living legend. Arnold Schwarzenegger rode one in “Terminator 2”. Its got a 1,584cc pushrod V-twin engine, six gears, massive torque and you’ve got to love those shotgun-style tailpipes. It’s nimble, has no saddlebags and is perfect for itinerant monks flying around on those twisty heathen roads in Europe. Combine all this with Christianity and you can’t be beat! Love and a Fat Boy can conquer all!
I like what the Monk Jonas wrote in the seventh century about one of the miracles of Columbanus.
A while after, Columbanus went to the monastery of Fontaines and found sixty brethren hoeing the ground and preparing the fields for the future crop. When he saw them breaking up the clods with great labor, he said, “May the Lord prepare for you a feast, my brethren.” Hearing this the attendant said, “Father, believe me, we have only two loaves and a very little beer.” Columbanus answered, “Go and bring those.” The attendant went quickly and brought the two loaves and a little beer. Columbanus, raising his eyes to heaven, said, “Christ Jesus, only hope of the world, do Thou, who from five loaves satisfied five thousand men in the wilderness, multiply these loaves and this drink.” Wonderful faith! All were satisfied and each one drank as much as he wished. The servant carried back twice as much in fragments and twice the amount of drink.

So I hope you will celebrate his feast day on November 23rd in some appropriate fashion. I’ll be hitting the highway.

May he always help us keep the shiny side up and the rubber side down.

(Some of this is taken from one of my previous blog entries.)

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Leaning into the Curves Life Throws You

Leaning into the curves of an autumn tree lined highway can help you believe that all is right with the world. That your anxieties over politics and love are things , in different disguises, that the world has always known, and the world has always survived. And that problems, like curves on ancient roads, must be embraced, leaned into, if you’re ever going to come out safely on the other side. Trusting, letting go, embracing the unknown, getting lost, experiencing the dizziness of freedom are the only sure routes to new horizons. Otherwise, we remain where we are, as Yeats says, in that rag and bone place of our heart.

What’s Your Dream? Part 2: Cultivating Loving Kindness; Kierkegaard, Unicorns and Olaf from Frozen.

In my last blog I mentioned being asked by an eight year girl what my dream was. On my 800 mile roundtrip to Destin, Florida recently I had a lot of time to think about that. I already have everything I want and I don’t need any more possessions. There’s no specific place I’m dying to go to. I’m content to just ride and discover. I’m happy with my job and they seem reasonably happy with me. I’d like to spend more time with my family, but they’re so far away right now. So what’s my dream?

The only dream I could come up with had to do with the kind of person I want to be. Most of the time I have a hard time living out my spiritual beliefs. Isn’t that what life should really be about? Kierkegaard says that our problem is that we live backwards. We see relative things (cars, houses, jobs, vacations, money, the sports teams we support, the political candidates we vote for, etc.) as being of absolute importance to us and we see and act like things that are of absolute importance (God, our moral values, our spirituality, love and compassion for others, the meaning of life etc.) as only of relative importance. He says that we need to reverse this: we need to relate absolutely to the absolute and only relatively to the relative. To me, this means that my dream centers around being a less judgmental and a more loving and compassionate person to absolutely everyone (without exception) that I meet. Trust me, I’m not giving up my enjoyment of the relative: a great motorcycle, Georgia football, friends, drinks and kisses, but I need to keep them in perspective – they’re only of relative importance.

This week I managed to run into my little Latino friend who’s about 8 years old and who goes to the same free meal program I go to. After we had talked awhile I asked her what her dreams were. She told me that she loved unicorns because they were so beautiful and magical. She also said that she wanted to be  Olaf from Frozen. I had to look him up. Olaf is apparently a friendly snowman who loves hugs and who’s innocent, outgoing and kindhearted. Olaf actually seemed a lot like the young girl before me who just bubbled with happiness and warmth.

So my dream is to be more compassionate and loving, and hers is to be Olaf, the kindhearted snowman. In a wacky way maybe our dreams are not that much different?

Anyway, what are your dreams?

What’s Your Dream? Green Eggs and Ham.

Last Thursday, at dinner time, I sat down with the beautiful Latino kids I sit with each week. The sweet 8 year old girl beside me suddenly said: “What’s your dream?”

“Good question.” I replied, partially so I’d have more time to think.

“Don’t say it.” Her brother chimed in. “Or it won’t come true.”

“No, that’s wishes.” I said. “You don’t tell people your wishes. You have to tell people your dreams so they can help you make them come true.”

The little girl surprised me with a hug. “I love how you sit with us and let us read to you and you make us airplanes.”

“I love being with y’all.” Sometimes dreams begin by just putting yourself in new places, challenging places. I was going to ask her what her dreams were when she flipped open the book Green Eggs and Ham and, well, it’s one of my favorite books and I wanted to hear it again. When she finished reading, which she did with only a little help, I was going to ask her what her dreams were but then dinner came and, well, I was hungry. I’ll sit with her and her friends next week and I’ll ask her then.

There’s a credit card advertisement here in the USA which concludes with: “What’s in your wallet?” My spontaneous answer to that is immediately: “Not a whole heck of a lot.”

But when you think about it, what’s in your wallet doesn’t really matter that much. What matters is what’s in your heart, for that’s where dreams come from. What are your dreams? Where are they beckoning you to go? How do you discover them and start your journey?

If you’re not sure where to start then ask a child. If you’re lucky she’ll read you Green Eggs and Ham.