What’s That Long Line of Motorcycles? A Charity Ride for Cancer Navigators.

About 80 bikers gathered at the American Legion in Rockmart, Georgia yesterday, to raise money for Cancer Navigators of Rome, a great organization that helps, at no cost, cancer patients and their families steer through the nightmare of treatment, resources, adjustment and survival.

I went by myself. A friend had to cancel at the last minute. But I didn’t mind. Bikers are a friendly lot. We salute each other while riding, stop and check on others sitting on our bikes on the side of the road, and chew the fat wherever we stop – gas stations, fast food places, sketchy looking bars. I remember one memorable conversation with another biker while waiting in line for the mermaid show at Weeki Wachee Springs in Florida. Admiration of mermaids can bring together folks from all walks of life.

Motorcycling has been used as a metaphor for life. You’re on a long journey and you load up on supplies for the trip, usually more than you really need. You might plan your route out, but you inevitably get lost, often ending up somewhere you had never dreamed of. Of course, you need to stop and refuel along the way and you have layovers in certain towns with haunting names, like Last Chance, Colorado. You often pick up and drop off passengers for the trip. Some might ride with you for the whole journey; others you might have to leave at a crossroad so they can catch the next stage west. We are all sovereign wayfarers with our own highways to traverse.

After the salute to the lost POW’s, a rendition of the national anthem and a blessing of the bikes it was KSU – kick stands up. With the local police leading and backing up the pack (Ha, I thought. If the cops were looking for me they’d never find me here!), I just mellowed out and enjoyed the view. Eventually, we got out into the country and down some twisty roads, past pine trees, maples, willows, pecan trees, cedars, blooming honeysuckle, and Chinese privit with its cloying scent. In staggered formation we flew among modern brick homes, doublewides with built on decks, shotgun cottages and rickety barns with rusting tin roofs. There were cows grazing and brown horses romping in fields of brilliant buttercups. The trees cast long secret shadows across the roads and innocent children waved from porches.

After returning to the hall it was time for chicken dinners, a raffle, an auction and some music. A lot of money by some good-hearted people was raised for Cancer Navigators that day.

Whatever our mode of transportation we are all sojourners on the short time we have on this earth and some lives are briefer than others, because of the devastation of cancer and other diseases. Diseases that are hard on both riders, and their passengers who eventually must disembark, usually too soon.

We all need some kindness and support on our journeys and it’s great that there are fellow riders and organizations like Cancer Navigators out there to provide it.  And even if you don’t ride, I can assure you that there’s someone out there who needs your compassion, or maybe, just maybe, you might need theirs.  

Autumn is Coming, Pirates, Hungry kids, Random Acts of Kindness

Autumn is coming. Trees on the hills are gossiping about their changing colors.

Despite having put 10, 000 miles on the bike this summer I can’t stop riding Big Red, my 2004 Harley Road King Classic. I enjoy it so much. We’ve been having a drought here in Georgia so every day’s been dry. And hot too. So hot that chickens have been laying boiled eggs; men have been proposing to tall women just for the shade. You get the idea.

Yesterday, as I headed home from work the rain started falling. It wasn’t too bad at first but then it became heavier. At this point bikers usually look for an overpass they can park under to either wait it out or put on their rain gear. Or maybe they start looking for a gasoline/petrol station where they can hunker down for a while until it lets up. That’s what I did. I knew there was a station just a few miles down the road so I kept going. While riding there, rainbows started to almost crowd the sky. It was like they had been waiting for the damn drought to be over so they could show off their beautiful colors. Rainbows to me are always harbingers of hope, reminding me that we all can learn to be at home with insecurity. Leaving the gas station a drizzle continued and I watched the mist, rising off the hot asphalt and the fields near the road, and watched it kissing the low lying clouds. Romance is everywhere.

Rode Big Red up to work to teach my class, and since it was International Talk Like a Pirate Day I dressed up. Hopefully, I can get a picture attached.

I also rode it up to the free meal program I volunteer at and enjoyed the excitement of the little kids who climbed up on it and tried on my helmet. I don’t do much at that program other than read books, make paper airplanes, talk to folks and mop up. I can swing a mean mop. I offer my students extra credit if they’ll go to the program, not tell folks they’re students or what they’re doing, mingle a little, have a meal and write a paper about it. I usually only get a few students who’ll do it but they always find it a profound and humbling experience. It’s one thing to read about poverty and see it and another to feel what it’s like. No one wants to ask for help, or be seen receiving it.

Big Red brought me over to the river the other day so I could walk on the tree lined path that accompanies it. It was hot and I got pretty sweaty. I had a Harley shirt on and some jeans but I must have looked a little rough when I stumbled into a barbecue joint to get some ice water. After sitting there munching on ice for a while a man walked up to me and said in a low, gentle voice: “Excuse me sir. My family and I are were talking and we wondered if we could buy you a meal?” I was surprised, smiled and told him thanks, that I was alright. What would you have said?

They must have thought I was homeless. That’s fine with me. But heartfelt, courageous, random acts of kindness are so beautiful they fill me with hope, just like rainbows.     wp_20160919_15_08_51_pro

Switching from Two Wheels to Two Feet; Venice Beach

Switching from Two Wheels to Two Feet; Venice Beach

A few days ago I went with my son and daughter to Venice Beach.

The boardwalk was filled with people walking, riding bikes, skateboarding, roller skating and using Segways. There were street musicians playing guitars and pianos, singing, folks selling art, henna tattoos, massages, t shirts, cds, Harley merchandise, and every kind of food or drink you could imagine.  Sweating people were playing basketball, paddle tennis, handball and lifting weights. The sand was the color of oyster shells and the sea so blue it must have borrowed some from the sky. The sun beat down but a cooling zephyr of a breeze blew across the boardwalk. The air was fresh and heartwarming.

Judging by the accents there were people from all over the world traversing the wide path. So much beauty, eccentricity and energy! When we were having lunch at an open café, I watched the stream of consciousness pass by, sipped my Firestone 805 beer, glanced at my kids and was overwhelmed by a sense of gratitude.

But it was bittersweet, because we also passed folks searching through trash cans and plenty of people who were homeless and/or had mental health problems. A woman sitting on a bench arguing with an imaginary person, a man coming over and speaking a string of sentences that didn’t make sense to me and then abruptly turning and walking off. When you meet one person at a time like this sometimes you can do something about it, even if it’s only a kind word, a few bucks to ease today’s pain. When you see so many people in this condition it’s overwhelming. It doesn’t really matter what religion you are or aren’t, which politician you support, whether you’re a Harley or a BMW rider I figure we all want to see suffering reduced. For them and for us. Yes, it’s not only for the good of the person needing help – we have to get past that narrow notion – it is for ourselves, our own sanity, our own sanctity. I know I need it. The Dalai Lama nailed it:

Experience has shown me that the greatest inner tranquility comes from developing love and compassion. The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater is our own sense of well-being. Cultivating a close, warm-hearted feeling for others automatically puts the mind at ease. It helps remove our fears and insecurities and gives us strength to face obstacles – it is the ultimate source of success in life.

What’s in it for me? Missing the Harley. Compassion.

Yesterday I rode the bike for the first time in over two weeks. It felt great. Here in Georgia, it has been unseasonably warm as it has been in so many places. I ride my Harley all year ‘round, so if the weather is half decent, I’m out on Big Red. I rode a lot in December, back and forth from college, took roads I hadn’t been on in a while and visited that free meal program where I volunteer. These last two weeks I had been in LA (no, not Lower Alabama!) visiting my daughter, son in law and son for Christmas. My other son was stuck in poor old London. Cheap LA flights on no thrill airlines where the seats won’t even go back was too hard for me to resist. A five hour flight, but you know, if I’d had the time, I would have preferred the five day motorcycle ride.
I had a great time in LA. Watching the new Star Wars movie in IMAX 3-D at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, having a drink at Timmy Nolan’s pub, watching football with my kids at the Starlite Cantina, visiting a pirate themed bar, playing cards, a day trip out with my daughter to Venice beach, walking all over the place, and just being with family were some of my favorite things.
Still, I was missing Big Red. I even Googled how much it would cost to rent one of those new Indian motorcycles while I was there. It seemed too wasteful to me so I passed on it, but of course the ad now follows me everywhere I go on the internet. I drank a lot of coffee, did a lot of writing on my new novel and walked every chance I could.
It was a challenge for me walking the streets, because the only people who would make eye contact with me were homeless people. To native Georgians, a man is considered rude if he won’t smile and make eye contact with you. My daughter told me that so many people in LA, not just the homeless, want something from the people they meet, that folks are suspicious of random contacts. My daughter and I talked about how this was like the line in White Christmas where Bing Crosby says that everyone has a little larceny in their heart, that everyone has an angle they’re playing, a what’s in it mentality. This seemed to be true as I overheard a number of conversations (a writer’s obligation) at coffee shops where people were selling something, sometimes selling themselves (for a job), and negotiating deals. It took me bumping into someone in a grocery store or picking up something someone had dropped to start a real conversation. But then the ice was broken and folks were nice.
What’s in it for me? Is that the motive behind a lot of our actions? I had been thinking about this a lot when I was working at the free meal program a few weeks ago. So what was I getting out of it? Then I accidentally (yeah, more like karma) stumbled upon a passage in a book that I was reading that sent the message right to my heart. From Nadia Bolz-Weber’s “Accidental Saints”.
While we as people of God are certainly called to feed the hungry and clothe the naked, that whole, “we’re blessed to be a blessing thing” can still be kind of dangerous. It can be dangerous when we self-importantly place ourselves above the world, waiting to descend on those below so we can be the “blessing” they’ve been waiting for, like it or not. Plus, seeing myself as the blessing can pretty easily obscure the way in which I am actually part of the problem and can hide the ways in which I, too, am poor and needing care. Seeing myself or my church or my denomination as “the blessing” –like so many mission trips to help “those less fortunate than ourselves” can easily descend into a blend of benevolence and paternalism. We can start seeing the “poor” as supporting characters in a big story about how noble, selfless, and helpful we are.
Wow. Don’t get me wrong, acts of kindness when and wherever they happen are great things. We’ve all got to keep them up! But I’ve got some thinking and reflecting to do. Which is okay because the spiritual journey lasts a lifetime (hey, if you’re into reincarnation you might even get a few lives out of it!).
As with motorcycle journeys, spiritual discoveries and journeys are always waiting for us. We just have to open our eyes, trust and keep riding.

Have a happy, compassionate and safe new year.

Falling in Love with Hate. Motorcycling Meditations.

It’s December, and cold, but I’m still getting a ride on my bike every chance I get. Heated gloves help and so does layering up. We year round bikers are forever optimistic and try and make the best of things. So I’m still riding, reflecting and meditating. I’ve been going to the free meal program I help out at and talking with the poor and homeless I meet there. I make paper airplanes for the kids that read books to me and for the younger ones who will let me read to them. I mop floors and I’ll tell you right now: I swing a mean mop. Last night at the program the troubles and violence of recent events in the world were very far away from the normal trouble and violence experienced there by the poor and homeless every day. There were people sleeping in tents in nearby woods, others trying to get enough money to stay the night at a Motel 6, a man worrying about traffic fines and the jail time he’d get if he couldn’t pay them, and he knew he couldn’t. What was going to happen to the grandkids he was taking care of? Foster care? I spoke with a couple who used to ride Harleys but had to sell them to cover medical expenses. One man told me he wants to give me his old Harley gloves because, he says, “I’ll never get to ride again.” Some folks talked about last week’s football games, upcoming games, and coaches hired or fired. I watched laughing kids run past me to the playground and listened to their happy, screaming voices. And I witnessed small kindnesses – a man who has a car will give someone a ride to visit a loved one in the hospital; when the donated milk runs out a man gives his to a woman who didn’t get any; folks help with sweeping the floors, cleaning tables and taking the garbage out. And I have to say that the beauty of the children, their smiles and high fives, always melts this biker’s heart.
What with all the shootings around the world recently it’s easy and understandable to feel anger, even hatred at the individuals and organizations that have committed these horrific crimes. Beyond the compassion we feel for others, we worry about our own family and friends. Rippling out from these feelings can be a sense of helplessness, vulnerability and an angry determination not to have these events ever happen again on our watch. So we look for quick solutions. Gun control advocates hurl their angry comments. Gun possession advocates fire back with their claims of defense. Some people get angry at all Muslims. Others get angry at the people who stereotype all Muslims as killers, all refugees as evil. Regardless of the “side” we take in our words and writings (postings etc.) we can all too easily move beyond any sincere questioning of our own views, any honest searching for the truth, any engaging in rational analysis and argument. We can come to take pleasure in making fun of others, ridiculing them and their beliefs. Sometimes it seems like we have reached the point where we have fallen in love with hate.

I know a lot of folks’ mommas, like mine, used to tell us that if you can’t say anything good about anyone, then keep your mouth closed. The opposite now seems to be true. Don’t say anything good about others, just share your anger and ridicule for them. Falling in love with hate is a terrible path to head down. It’s not going to take you to any good place, to where your religion or beliefs want you to go.

I think of the children smiling and playing at the free meal program and it gives me hope. On all of our parts it’s going to take some deep soul searching, compassion, compromise and cooperation to solve the problems our world faces, both in the random suffering and violence we hear about in the shootings and in the ongoing suffering and violence of the poor and homeless, who are constantly in our midst. Compassion, mine and yours, and the spiritual and practical beauty it can create when it’s combined, is our only way out. Otherwise, our only choice is to fall in love with hate.

Ride safely. Ride with compassion.

A Motorcycle Ride Against Cancer; Because No One Should Journey Alone.

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Yesterday, along with around 60 other bikers, I took part in a motorcycle ride in memory of Darlene Bagley, with all the proceeds going to Cancer Navigators of Rome, Georgia.
Big Red and I had to leave early in the morning to get to Adairsville in time, especially, since it included a stop at Hardees first for a biscuit and coffee. It was only 74 degrees when I left (It would reach 96 later) and patches of mist were still ghost hovering over the Oostanaula River. The farmer’s market at Ridge Ferry was open, walkers were sauntering down the path along the river and folks were already trickling into yard sales. A veil of blue grey mist hung on the hillsides in the trees. A breeze rippled across their tops making it look like the trees were still rubbing the sleep out of their eyes.
After fueling up on coffee and a biscuit I headed to the park in Adairsville and found bikes, cars and police escorts in a lot near a large covered area.
I went in and registered, bought a tee shirt and took stock of the gathering. Men, women, children, a St Bernard and a black kitten meowing in a travel box. Most of the riders were men though I saw at least two women bikers. Folks wore Harley shirts, some sleeveless so you could see their upper arm tattoos. Others wore black and pink Cancer Navigator shirts and other tee shirts. Heads were adorned with Harley and American flag skull caps. A number of men had leather vests stitched with the names of their organizations: Missionaries on Bikes, Cruisers for Christ, Biker’s against Child Abuse and OBK – which I found out later, stood for Outrageous Beardsmen Koalition. I kid you not. Since my biker name is Monk (Long story –not that exciting) I thought about creating a group called Monks on Motorcycles. The logo could be a hooded monk on a Harley Road King and above it M.O. M. Okay, maybe not.
After a brief speech on the amazing supportive work of the non-profit Cancer Navigators, and a few testimonials and a prayer it was almost time for “kickstands up.” I ran into a friend Carol, herself a cancer survivor, who said she would love to go on the ride with someone. I usually ride without a sissy bar and an extra helmet but before leaving that morning “something” told me to put one on the bike, so I did. She hopped on and the big procession began rolling slowly over the speed bumps out of the park. I love these police escorted and intersection-blocked rides. We zoomed down the highways enjoying the thrill of running red lights! We cascaded over the shadowed, narrow back roads and the wind created from our bikes caused the trees to shake in support. Almost looked like they were waving at us. Okay, not the whole tree waving in support, maybe just a few branches. Carol did her fair share of waving to folks who had parked their cars on the sides of the roads as a sign of respect. We did about 85 miles through the foothills and forests of Northwest Georgia, passed farms, ranches, fields, wet bottomlands, lakes and thick forests of pine, oak and maple. Pink flowers from Crape Myrtles, yellow dandelions, blooming Mimosas and purple flowers dotted the countryside. The sky was blue with wispy white clouds. It was beautiful. After about 1 ½ hours of riding we were back, hearts soaring even though many butts were sore-ing. A great ride.
Afterwards there were soft drinks, burgers and hot dogs and the fixings. Camaraderie, hugging, back slapping, jokes and folks telling stories ensued until the auction for donated cakes and baked goods began. (An Italian Crème Cake went for 80 bucks!). Then the raffle began. I watched for a while and then skedaddled with a lot on my mind.
For me this wasn’t just a charity ride. It was a big reminder about some important things.It reminded me about how a small group of people can change things. How a group of professionals gave up large salaries and started a non -profit for the sole purpose of supporting cancer victims and their families, folks usually abandoned to find their own ways after the diagnosis has been given. How one man started a benefit ride for his wife and kept it running every year to raise money. How folks and businesses contributed their cakes and their prizes to help raise even a bit more money for the cause. How families were brought together, families of friends, supporters and bikers. It was more than just a charity ride. All these people felt good about having an opportunity to show their compassion, to be a part of larger cause, to contribute in their own way. It was a beautiful thing!
I rode home overwhelmed by the heat and the gratitude in my heart. I can’t contribute much, but I can ride.

Next Big Ride: “People Shouldn’t Have to Journey Alone”

July 11th – 6th Annual Motorcycle Ride in Memory of Darlene Bagley to benefit Cancer Navigators

Adairsville, Georgia

“People Shouldn’t Have to Journey Alone”

This is the motto of Cancer Navigators of Rome, Georgia, a nonprofit organization funded entirely by donations, which supports cancer patients and their families as they navigate the medical, social, financial and emotional maze that accompanies a diagnosis of cancer. Nurses, social workers and service navigators support cancer patients from the first medical appointment, throughout their treatment and beyond by providing an amazing array of services.

Their service area primarily encompasses Floyd, Chattooga and Polk counties of Northwest Georgia and last year they helped 689 newly diagnosed cancer patients and their loved ones.
Find out more about their services about their informational, supportive, practical and educational services at their website: http://cancernavigatorsga.org/

I’ve been so impressed with them I dedicated one of my Amazon eBooks (Nights at the Round Table – Gene Powers; there’s a link on this blog) to them and all the proceeds from the sale of that book go directly to the organization.

If you live nearby, come ride with me that day. If you don’t, then buy a book to support them, give one as a gift, or make a donation directly to them via information on their website.

Safe riding. And remember: “People Shouldn’t Have to Journey Alone”

Here’s information about the ride:
This will be our 6th annual ride. All money raised will go to Cancer Navigators in Rome, GA. It will be at Manning Mill Park on July 11, 2015. Registration starts at 9:00 and the ride will start at 10:00. $20.00 per bike, $10.00 for passengers and that includes food and drinks. We will be selling t-shirts for $15.00 and we will have hamburgers & hotdogs. Even if you don’t ride please come out and support us!! You can pre-register by e-mail or phone so we will know how many bikes will be attending.
Buddy Bagley – abtransport2003@yahoo.com or (770-313-8190)
Thank you and we hope to see you there. This is for a great cause!

My Book is Published! Hope Bats Last. Cross Country Motorcycle Trip.

I finally have my latest book, Hope Bats Last, published on Amazon, available as an eBook. You don’t need a Kindle to read it! On the website you can download a Kindle app for free, enabling you to read it on a variety of devices from PCs to phones to tablets. It is a stand-alone book, meaning that you haven’t had to read the previous novels to know what’s going on in this one! Please support struggling independent artists! Hope you enjoy. Here’s the blurb.

Twice widowed, recently retired, and now an official senior citizen after turning 65, Rory Conner wants to take one last motorcycle journey across the USA. The former detective and child protection social worker wants to ride Big Red – his old Harley Davidson Road King – from Georgia to California. His plan is to take only the blue highways, the back roads, and leave all of the other decisions to chance, fate, and Divine Providence.
His son and daughter aren’t happy about his trip. He’s been forgetting things lately, won’t use a GPS system, nor will he plan his route. His son worries about his dad getting lost. Rory replies. “It’s California son, a big state. Even I can’t miss it.” What could possibly go wrong?
Rory’s sojourn takes him across the Mississippi River a few more times than necessary and he encounters murder, mayhem, mechanical problems, and romance along the way. He finds himself calling on his detective and child protection skills one last time to try and save a child’s life.
Will he make it to California? Is this his last ride? And what does it mean that “Hope Bats last”?

Some Concluding Thoughts, for Now. What I learned from the Ride.

Some Concluding Thoughts, for Now. What I learned from the Ride.

“The real cycle you’re working on is a cycle called yourself.”

Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values

 In Tao of the Ride, Garri Garripoli writes: The Ride is the metaphor I use in this book for how we move through our life…For me, the Ride is best played out on a motorcycle. It speaks to every aspect of how I see life in that poetic way – the need for balance, confronting your mortality, accelerating, breaking, refueling, tune-ups, repairs, accidents, accepting passengers and so forth. The bike becomes a mirror that reflects the whole of my life.

I like Garripoli’s quote (and his book). Here are some  of my conclusions about my ride.

Look where you want to go. When you’re are on a motorcycle you need to be focusing not immediately in front of you, but instead looking in the direction you want the bike to go. The bike will go where you’re looking. If you get fixated on some hazard in the road, or that your bike is heading off the road and you are worried about a wall or a ditch and you stare at them, that’s called object fixation. Staring at them you’re more likely to hit them. As in life, you have to not get too hung up on difficulties in your path, but instead, have a vision of where you want to go. Proverbs says: “Where there is no vision the people perish.” Lots of times in life we get stuck focusing on the problem that is making us unhappy and forget about the things that do make us happy. Let’s head toward them.

Don’t worry about what you’ve already driven through, or become preoccupied with what’s coming up that you can’t yet see. This is part of staying in the present. Having an awareness and mindfulness of what’s happening around you, what your senses are telling you. If we focus too much on the past, which we can’t change, we’re daydreaming and not paying attention. Similarly, if we worry about the future too much we can miss important things that are happening in this moment. And this moment, this day, is the only one we have. We have to present to win. This links in with the Zen concept of mushin no shin which means “the mind without mind”. Jeff said a similar thing to me when he mentioned that when he was riding it was like he had no mind. Mushin happens when the mind is not preoccupied with thoughts or emotions and thus is open to the present, to what is happening now. It’s similar to the flow that artists experience in very creative moments. You don’t rely on your thinking but on your training and intuition.

Stay calm and breathe. It’s so important not to over-anticipate and overreact to things. I’m still working on this as I tend to tense up a lot, with a rough road or wild winds. If I see a bump ahead, or debris in the road I would often tense up in anticipation. Instead, I need to look and see what my options are. This illustrates the constant lane awareness you have to have. If I can shift in my lane or change lanes to miss the obstacle then I need to stay calm, look where I want to go and make the subtle movements to go there.  The last two days of my ride I felt this happening more with me. I wasn’t always trying to plan my lane position for curves, I would catch myself tensing up and I’d relax. Toward the end of the ride I was feeling more and more the flow and energy of the bike and the Ride.

The Taoists have a useful concept called wu wei. Essentially it translates as effortless action. It means to flow with the situation rather than trying to force things. Resistance is futile! Find the energy and go with it. This works effectively with difficult Harley Davidson service managers or challenging folks at work. And the principle can be seen in the actions of dancers, artists, musicians who have relaxed into their artistry, trust it and follow it. You can also see this with motorcyclists in how they manage a curve in the road. They might manhandle the bike, bank it with force, grip the handlebars extremely tightly (like I have so often done) or they relax into the curve, sense the bike and the road, look where they want to go, feel the flow and balance, and manage it all gracefully with wu wei, effortless effort.

This leads into the next bit of knowledge I gleaned: Lean into the Curve. I’ve written about this already. I even bought a Harley shirt in Victorville, California, where I was getting my Harley repaired, and the shirt says: “When Life Throws you a Curve, Lean into it.” Don’t fight it, or become fixated on it, or try to overpower it; just trust that you can go into it, through it and survive. You will make it through it and come out safely the other side.

Silence is healing and holy. We are bombarded with noise all the time. The radio, the television, music we listen to. When do we actively engage with silence? Elijah, Jesus and Mohammed journeyed into the desert so they could more clearly hear the voice of God. Buddhist, Christians and others meditate in silence.  Quakers worship in silence. Psalm 46 says: Be still and know that I am God. When are we ever “still”?

Even with the loud hum of the V-Twin Harley engine on my Road King, most of the time I felt as if I was in silence. The sound was a hymn that was being written as I rode.

Love the Ride. Be grateful. This was my ride but we’re all on the Ride, our life’s journey.

The eighteenth-century Christian writer Jean-Pierre De Caussade wrote “The present moment holds infinite riches beyond your wildest dreams …The will of God is manifest in each moment, an immense ocean which only the heart fathoms insofar as it overflows with faith, trust and love.”

I know my life works better when I express gratitude for what I have and show loving kindness and compassion towards others, beginning with myself. I tried to do this as much as possible on the the ride.

I hope you enjoyed riding along. Thanks for reading and following us.

I’ll conclude with a quote from one of my favorite writers.

Homecoming is the goal, but our home is not out there, a geographic place, the protective other, or a comforting theology or psychology. Homecoming means returning to a relationship with the Self, a relationship that was there in the beginning, but from which we necessarily strayed in our obligatory adaptations to the explicit and implicit demands of family, tribe and culture. Homecoming means healing, means integration of the split off parts of the soul, means redeeming the dignity and high purpose of our soul’s journey. When we are here to live our soul’s journey, we can spontaneously be generous to others, for we have much to give from our inner abundance; we can draw and maintain boundaries, for we have learned the difference between their journey and ours; and we can sort through different value clashes because we have found a personal authority that helps us discern what is authentic for us. In short, we have recovered a relationship to the soul (psyche) from which we lost contact, but that nonetheless continues to hum beneath the surface of our lives and never, ever loses contact with us.”

James Hollis, What Matters Most

Day Four: El Reno Oklahoma to Tucumcari New Mexico. Namaste!

Back in Georgia the time is now 8:50 pm Monday, in Ireland it’s 1:50 am Tuesday and here in Tucumcari, New Mexico I’d say it’s about 1950. That’s because the town still holds onto much of the grandeur of the 1930’s and 50’s when Route 66 was the only road in town; almost literally.  Once the interstate was built much of old Route 66 was abandoned. But some old diners and motels persist! Beautiful relics to a time long ago.

Today was a long biking day. Over 400 miles. Right now I’m sitting in the Desert Inn motel drinking a Tecate beer with the air conditioner on and feeling like I’m in somewhat of a stupor. Despite a couple of rounds of factor 50 sunscreen I’m toasted.  I hope I can write more intelligibly later but for now just a brief update.

Jeff took his bike to the Harley shop first thing and they managed to sort the problem out. By 10am we were on the road. Due to our different styles of riding with Jeff being a man with a mission, and me being a bit of a dawdler (“Hey, let’s see what’s down here!) we decided to again meet up somewhere later and ride at our own paces. We kept in touch a few times by texts during the day but otherwise we just met up an hour ago. He took off on Interstate 40 where the speed limit soars to 75mph. His story, which he can tell better than I, is that once we split up his handlebars starting going a bit wonky; too loose. He got to Amarillo, visited another Harley shop then drove on to Tucumcari.

He later admitted that the problem had been his own fault. Last night I had given him a small Route 66 gremlin bell and he had failed to attach it to his bike.  Motorcycle gremlins love to hitch rides on motorcycles. They are mischievous rascals who cause all sorts of mayhem. A minivan cuts in front of you; your battery goes dead, road gators charge after you, or as in some reported cases, your handlebars come loose. Apparently, if you get a bell on your bike (it has to be given to you-you can’t buy it yourself) the gremlins get trapped in the bell, the ringing drives them nuts and they lose their grip and fall onto the road. Jeff has promised me he will put the bell on tomorrow.

I decided to go Route 66 for awhile, back through Bethany and Yukon and El Reno where legal speeds can gust up to 55mph. I managed to take the wrong roads twice (not the same road-two different ones) but I also stopped and took pictures of an old bridge, of the great bar Jeff and I went to last night and then tried to go a bit further on Route 66  but I ended up on a section of pre-1937 route which was built with poured Portland concrete. I began to realize why they don’t drive much of the old-old route anymore: bounce, smooth, bounce, smooth-every 10 yards!

So I went back onto I-40 and settled into the 75 mph mantra. I crossed the rest of Oklahoma, then went across the top of Texas and slithered into New Mexico. I had to stop every hour or so to gas up,  rehydrate and to administer to myself a mental status exam to ensure I could still ride safely. I know there is a population crisis and that we should take this very seriously but really, has anybody been to the top of Texas and ridden across I-40? Miles and miles of deserted land. I know I went more than once about 40 miles without seeing a gas station. Consequently, I almost ran out of gas.

Amarillo was a bit dicey when I came upon a rolled up carpet and small pieces of wood blocking my lane. I braked, down shifted, looked left to change lanes but a car was there, to the right was another car so I somehow managed to slalom the bike and thread my way around the debris. I also dodged a metal bar in the road and avoided attacks by those pesky road gators, bits of tires lying in wait to pounce.

I decided not to take a chance on running out of gas again and so stopped about 20 miles east of Tucumcari. The filling station it turned out was run by Indians-no, not native Americans but real Indians. I stopped at the pump and it said: sold out. So I rolled the bike back to a pump that didn’t have a notice. Engine off, kickstand down, glasses off, helmet off, fingerless gloves off and I start filling. Turns out this one is out of gas too. I roll the bike over to another pump and try again and I get 20 cents worth. I stop and go inside and explain my problem to the Indian cashier. He says that they are out of premium gas. I ask whether I can have $5 of regular gas and give him $10. For some reason the cash register jams and I hear him discussing and arguing in some Indian language with a man standing by. This takes about 5 minutes.  I’m exhausted, frustrated and I’m thinking: I need to show love and compassion for all beings! Finally, the man says “You can do it now”. I ask for my $5 back from the $10 I gave him and he says: “Oh I thought you wanted $10 dollars on pump 5!”

I say: “That’s fine.” and “Namaste” which essentially means: “The Spirit within me salutes the Spirit in you”. I go back to the pump and the tank will only hold $9 worth. “Namaste” and I ride off.

Later I make it to our motel  and the receptionist is another Indian man (not native American) who is delightful, charming and helpful. I kind of mutter but he is patient and suggests places to eat and drink.

And drink I do! I’m on my second can of Tecate right now and ready for bed.

Nameste to you and good night!