Day Sixteen: Beatrice, Nebraska to Chillicothe, Missouri – 200 miles; Happy Father’s Day to all Fathers, and to the Mentors of Young Men; Nebraska – Missouri Backroads; Divine Providence; Traveling Mercies.

Yesterday, the Harley and I road lonely Highway 36 as it made its ways through the Midwest. Little towns, some under 100 population, where people have tried to make them look pretty and inviting, despite the difficulties of dwindling populations and closed businesses. God bless them. From a distance, a water tower usually signals you’re coming up to one. When you get to the prettified town you have the grain silos and elevators, seed and feed stores, maybe a gas station, along with a few churches competing for your attention. The fields were rich and verdant, but the roads were empty. I love it.

I started late yesterday morning, having stayed up a little too late watching the England women win a world cup match. I was at a sports bar connected to the motel and the excitement was palpable! (That’s just a joke because I was the only one watching.) But folks were friendly, and a few came up and told me their life stories. As today wore on, I found myself growing wearier and finally set my sights on Chillicothe. I wasn’t getting any nudges from Divine Providence (DP) otherwise.

Shortly after I arrived, the heavens let loose and the storm I had been trying to outrun finally struck. The winds started gusting and old Zeus was throwing his lightning bolts.

Today, Big Red and I plan to continue heading east, since I’ve had no course change suggestions from DP. Unfortunately, there’s a whole wall of bad weather ahead of me.

But it being Father’s Day, I want to give a shout out to all the dad’s out there. Love your children. Don’t hurt them. Teach them to respect women. The shout out also goes out to the many men who are not fathers but who serve as role models or mentors. Men like these unselfishly played a huge role in my upbringing.

So Big Red and I are heading out now. Wish us luck. Traveling mercies to us all.

Cross Country Motorcycle Novel Continues: Chapters 13 and 14. Monk’s working and maybe romance is building.

Chapter Thirteen

Sometimes I wondered if it even mattered whether our communion cups were filled with consecrated wine or draft beer, as long as we bent over them long enough to recognize each other as kin.

Taylor, Barbara Brown

When I came outside of the bar it felt like leaving a movie theatre in the afternoon. I was disoriented. I looked around and saw fast food places and three motels. I couldn’t for the life of me remember where I was staying. I saw a Super 8 motel and started walking toward it.

“Hey, Monk!” I heard a voice yell from a car that had Lancelot Diner written on the side of it. I stopped while the person rolled the window down further.

It was a woman I recognized from somewhere. She shielded her eyes from the sun and said: “I’m heading over to Larry’s to deliver some food. Want a ride?”

That was it. Larry’s. I looked around and spotted it behind me.

“That’s okay. Thanks. I need a bit of a walk.”

“Okay, see you soon!”

I went back to the motel, found my room and collapsed on the bed. About an hour later I heard a knock.

“Ready to go Monk?” A voice shouted through the door. It was Catherine.

“Hold on a minute?” I walked to the bathroom and splashed water on my face but most of it dripped down onto my trousers. I rubbed them with a towel but that didn’t help. I pulled my shirt tail out to try and cover the spots.

I opened the door. Catherine sized me up. “A little accident?”

“Yep, I spilled water all over myself.”

“It’ll dry. Look, I’ve got the address of the babysitter and she’s agreed to talk with us. Ready?”

I nodded.

The babysitter wasn’t much help, or maybe she was. It was clear that she was too distracted by the allures of high school and boyfriends to have done the injuries. Allures like these tend if at all, to result in neglect, not abuse. Also, the picture she painted of the family was of two parents who absolutely loved their child.

“So what do you think?” Catherine asked as we were sitting in her car afterwards.

“I think you have to keep the doctors running tests. There are conditions other than brittle bone disease that can cause these injuries.”

“Like what?”

“Like I forget! Give me some time and it’ll come to me. It’s been a while. The doctor should be ruling out all possibilities. They should know this stuff. They don’t need me. Anyway, there’s no great hurry. The infant will be in the hospital for a while.”

She looked away. “I know but I’m worried. My director has been putting pressure on me to file an ex parte petition and get the child into state custody.”

“Why? She’s not going anywhere. You said the family agreed to not take her out of the hospital. What’s the rush?”

“It’s political. He doesn’t want it to look bad, like we’re not doing our job.”

“Idiot.” Then I thought about that. “Sorry, that wasn’t very compassionate of me. Idiotic. That’s better.”

“You are a strange monk!” She laughed and shook her head. Then she turned toward me and put her hand on my shoulder. “But hey, thanks. I really appreciate all your help today.” She pushed her hair off her forehead.

Was that another preening gesture? I thought I’d seen her make one before. Naw, sure it was just the dreams of an old man. Regardless, I still felt the tug of the old machinery cranking inside, those magical, wonderful, torque full urges that God gave us. She looked at me with a smile that was tired but full of warmth. I let out a sigh as long as Africa.

She dropped me off back at Larry’s Hide a While and after we made plans to meet the next morning I walked down to the 7-11 shop and bought a bottle of Corona and went next door for a Chinese takeout. I went back to the room and tuned into a baseball game, the Braves were playing against the Phillies. I ate the chicken and cashew nuts, sipped the cerveza, watched the Braves and fell asleep, dreaming of late-inning rallies.


Chapter Fourteen

Day 7 – Osceola, Iowa

Life is a series of
natural and spontaneous changes.
Don’t resist them –
that only creates sorrow.
Let reality be reality.
Let things flow naturally forward
in whatever way they like.


Next morning, after a few text messages to arrange it, Catherine picked me up and we headed for that restaurant named after the knight, Sir Lancelot. Polly was there all smiling and welcoming and I could see Shorty in the kitchen slinging hash. I heard him shout at a waitress: “If you got time to lean, you got time to clean”, followed by “order up”.

Polly had her back to Catherine and said to me: “How are you doing this fine morning Monk?”

Catherine cleared her throat loudly and Polly turned slightly in her direction. “We’re just fine dear. Thank you so much for asking.”

She put two menus down on the table. “What would you like to drink?”



“Okay, I’ll be right back with them.”

After she left I looked at Catherine. “So are you originally from around here?’

She smiled. “No, I’m originally from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.”

“Really? You have a bit of an accent.”

“My parents were from Hong Kong. They mainly spoke Mandarin while I was growing up.”

“How’d you get here, Osceola?”

“Met a guy from here in college in Fond du Lac, fell in love and well…”

“Bob’s your uncle.”

“What? Bob? I don’t have an uncle…”

“Sorry,” I laughed, “It’s an Irish expression. It means sort of …one thing led to another and now I’m here.”

“Ireland again? You’ll have to tell me more about that.”

“Not much to tell.”

“Did you live there long?”

“For a few years.”

Polly suddenly appeared with Victor mugs and a carafe. “Here you go.” She said as she poured the coffee into the mugs.

I smelt the aroma and watched the steam rise from the cups. The beauty and holiness of the smallest acts which we so take for granted.

“You guys ready to order?”

We ordered up a mess of scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, and buttermilk biscuits.

I stared at Catherine who was busy glancing around the place. “So what happened to this boy you fell in love with?”

“Oh!” She folded her hands in front of her on the table. “We were married for about ten years. The first few were happy and then he lost his job, started drinking too much, became abusive and then, well,” she searched for the right words, “Bob’s your uncle.”

I laughed.

“Handy expression for when you don’t want to say anymore, isn’t it?”

“I reckon.”

“Better than ‘yada, yada, yada’.”

“I reckon.”

“Have you ever been married?”

How to answer that without complicating things any more than I have to, or want to?

“I was married twice. My first wife, I met in Ireland. I met my second wife there too.”


I took a deep sigh and prayed my tears would stay on some island far off tonight’s coast.

“Actually, they’ve both passed.”

She folded her lips inward. “I’m sorry.”

“Me too.” I managed a smile that reneged as soon as it flashed.

“How long has it been since the last wife passed?”

“About three years now. She had cancer.”

“Any kids?”

“Two, Colin in Savannah and Hannah in LA. I’m on my way to see her.”

She looked away and tilted her head at an angle. “By way of Iowa?”

“Seems so. I’m letting the road tell me which way to go.”

“Hate to break it to you Monk,” she replied and then whispered, “but I think the road’s been lying to you.”

I laughed.

“That’s good. When you laugh I can see your dimples.”

I was starting to like this woman. “What about you? Any kids?”

“Hundreds of them. But they’re either in foster care or been adopted.”

I smiled. “Hard not to love these kids, what with all they’ve been through.”

“Do you mind if I ask a personal question?”

I stared at her. “No, as long as I get to ask one back.”

“How old are you?”

“Whew, I thought it was going to be more personal than that! I’m 65. How about you?”

“48, and go ahead and tell me I don’t look it.” She twirled a lock of her shiny black hair.

I leaned back and studied her from different angles. “Nah, you look it, actually maybe 49.”

She slapped my arm. “Smart ass.”

“I get that a lot.”

“I bet you do.”

“Seriously though, you’re in great shape for being 48.”

“Thanks, and you’re in great shape for, what was it? 70?”

“That’s right.”

She put her arms on the table but kept them close to herself. She opened her hands, flipping her palms up. “So Monk, why are you on this motorcycle trip?”

I shook my head. “I’m not sure. It’s just something I have to do one last time.”

“Why one last time? You’re not dying are you?”

“No.” I smiled. “Not yet.”

“So why the trip?”

“There’s something about being on the road. You get to leave your past behind you. Don’t need to remember things anymore. Show up anywhere, anytime. You have no history with anyone you meet. No expectations. No attachments. You can be anyone you want to be.”

“But you can do this in a car too.”

“Yeah, but it’s harder. You’ve got too many distractions: radio, music, phone calls, drinks, snacks. You can go through a drive-through. You don’t have to put your foot down at a traffic light, balance the bike as you do. Instead, you’re in a nice temperature controlled cage that you can hide in. Sealed up, moving through places, protected from them, from chance encounters with people.  On a motorcycle you’re in those places, can’t escape from them, and somehow those places are in you. Moment by moment. Everywhere you go, there you are. You’re protected from nothing. It’s easier for God or the Universe to reach you when you’re protected by nothing.”

She shook her head. “Are you trying to escape the past? Some bad memories?”

My head sort of wobbled. “Not really. You can’t outrun or outride bad memories. They’ll go with you anywhere. The only solution is to find a way to make peace with them. Own them. I figure that if I hadn’t had those bad experiences I wouldn’t be here, now, this moment in time and place.”

She reached over and put her hand on mine. “I’m glad you’re in this moment in time and place.”

“Me too. Thanks.” I smiled at her and I swear I didn’t know my wink was coming.

“Monk! Are you flirting with me? Oops, now you’re going all red.”

I cranked up a smile on the left side of my face. “So what if I am? Sorry, I’m just an old man having breakfast with a beautiful woman.”

She pushed some hair off her forehead and looked around. “Thanks. It’s okay. I like it. I like you.”

I shuddered a little and deep inside felt the stirring of the old hydraulics again. Maybe Elvis hadn’t left the building after all.

Day 25 Home; 7290 Trip Miles. Total miles on the Bike – 99,624; Wrapping Things Up.

I’m home back in Rome, Georgia now. This completes the record of my fourth trip across the USA and Canada. (On this blog there are the three other records of my trips). Every year I think: That’s enough, I’m too old for this auld rigmarole. But something always compels me to put the kickstand up and take off. This year was different in that I tried to let Divine Providence, God, Fate -whatever you want to call it (him, her) – guide me in where to go and when to stop. Consequently, I went to some strange places and met some unusual people. The problem with trusting Divine Providence (as with most religious interpretations) is discernment. How do I know for sure that what I’m thinking or experiencing is a message, an omen, a sign, or simply something I’m imagining? I have no earthly idea. All I can figure out is that we try and cultivate an attitude of loving-kindness and good intentions, open ourselves to every situation, trust what happens, put our kickstands up and head out. And then, hold on to your hat!
I am very grateful for the places that I went and especially for the people I met. People like Dwaine, Nancy and Dale. The writer Emerson said: “… the highest compliment, man ever receives from heaven, is the sending to him its disguised and discredited angels.” I met a lot of disguised angels on this trip and I’m a better man for it.
The writer Novalis said that “philosophy is, strictly speaking a homesickness.” It is the wish to feel at home in whatever environment you are in. That seems to be what drives me. It’s to try and understand the world, other people, and consequently myself, as I ride through it. There are other ways of doing this, other paths, but this seems to be mine.
Thanks for riding along! I hope you enjoyed it. I’ll probably take a few short trips this summer so stay tuned. Until then, ride safely and gratefully, on whatever road you are on.

Day 24 Continued; Maggie Valley, North Carolina; Nearly Dropped the Bike; Boojum Brewery; Gratitude

I checked into a nice motel in Maggie Valley, with screen doors and rocking chairs out front. The owners were busy with other tasks and the interaction was brief and all business. Not like my earlier reaction with Dale that I wrote about in part one. I couldn’t get him out of my mind especially the gratitude he expressed for simply being alive. Despite being troubled by the relentless ghosts of his PTSD, the loss of his friends and marriage, he was still thankful, still felt blessed. He reminded me of the woman Nancy I wrote about in my Day 15 blog from Deadwood from South Dakota. 80 years old and homeless, trusting God and feeling blessed.
So anyway, it got me thinking a lot about gratitude. I decided to go get a drink a Boojum Brewery in Waynesville, North Carolina and explore this idea of gratitude. On the way there I nearly dropped the bike. It was my stupid mistake in mishandling the controls on a hill, while holding my phone in my right hand and being in neutral. The bike kept slipping back and I struggled to keep her upright. I finally got her in gear and headed out. I kept thinking: Don’t relax your guard when you’re on the home stretch. One of my best buddies had a terrible accident after a long ride when he was just pulling into the driveway of where he was staying. You have to be vigilant on a motorcycle.
Fortunately, the beer at Boojum was terrific. I decided to do an experiment on gratitude. While sitting at the bar I got to talking with some of the others there. After sharing and joking around I began to ask each one what they were grateful for. The bartender had moved here from Statesboro, Georgia to work on a graduate degree in sustainability. He was grateful for the program, his girlfriend and that he got to look at that mountain behind us as he worked. (We were on the outside deck). Another guy, from Texas, who told me he had recently turned 60 years old, tinted windows for a living. He was grateful for the drumming circles he played in and the good women he had known. An attractive middle-age nurse beside me told me that she was grateful that she can make everyone feel better. I bet she was probably a very good nurse but she didn’t seem too interested in me and that wasn’t making me feel better! Her mother, on the other side of her, added that her daughter had been nurse of the year. She was thankful for her children. She and her daughter were thinking of heading to the Elk Club that evening for karaoke. They didn’t invite me to come and, of course, that didn’t make me feel better either. Someone surprised me and asked me what I was thankful for. I said the first thing that came into my mind, which was “my children”. But I have so much more. I try and give thanks for things each day. It puts me in a better mood. What are you thankful for?
I didn’t stay long at Boojum and rode back to the motel where I sat and rocked in one of the rocking chairs, smoked a cigar and did a lot of thinking.

Day 24 Part One: Knoxville to Maggie Valley, N.C.; It Should Have Been an Easy Ride; Dale; Gratitude; Angels.

Technically, it was an easy ride. The route was clear, the sky was Carolina blue and Big Red was doing her happy thing. Then I got hungry and decided to stop at a Wendy’s this time. I pulled off the exit and saw a man walking with a sign beside the road. I passed him and went up to the restaurant. The place was crowded so it took a while before I got my food. Because Big Red’s carries my luggage bag and laptop I always sit so I can keep an eye on her. After I had just gotten my food I watched as the man with the sign sat down a short distance away from my bike. I kept glancing at him. It didn’t look like he was going to mess with the bike. When I finished I walked over to him and asked him how he was doing.
He sat there and told me a long story about his life, how he’d just gotten out of the military, had come home and his wife of 20 years had filed for divorce and wouldn’t let him in the house because she was afraid of him, because he had PTSD. He suddenly didn’t have anywhere to go. The VA (Veteran’s Hospital) would take him but all they wanted to do was put him in a bed and drug him. He was trying to get back to where he grew up in Montana. He said he had stopped at a nearby church. When the pastor came to the door he asked if there was any work he could do for a peanut butter sandwich. He claimed the pastor asked him if he was on drugs or had been drinking. He asked the pastor to show him in the Bible where Jesus had asked that question, or any question like that had been asked before help was given. He just wanted to know could he do some work for a peanut butter sandwich. The minister closed the door on him. Later, while he was walking down the road, probably just before I had seen him, the police showed up and asked him had he been at the church. He explained that he had been, that he was just trying to do some work for some food. He said a police man threw a napkin down on the ground and said: Pick that up. He did and the policeman said: Here’s a dollar. Go get yourself something and then get out of town.
So he walked over here and bought himself a can of iced tea. He said the people in the store didn’t want him panhandling so he sat way over here. (in the hot sun). Come the first of the month he’d get some money put into his account. (It was June 1oth.)
He told me that some people come up to him and say: Thanks for your service. He said why do they thank me. I’m just doing a regular 9-5 job and getting paid for it like everyone else. The people that should get thanked are the ones that died over there. And he started to cry. They were the friends I had and they’re not coming back. He mentioned the various places that he had been stationed and started to choke up. Then he showed me where he had had surgery on both of his ankles because of an explosion. He said he had been born again, quoted a Bible verse and took a card out of his wallet that had reminders of important verses. He said he took it out and looked at it often when he needed it. He said he was thankful; that he felt blessed. It could be worse. I could be lying in a ditch or been killed like those boys who are never coming back. Then he started to stutter. I don’t like talking about it. I’ve been lucky. I’m very thankful.
We talked a bit more and then it was time to leave. Though he never once asked, I gave him some money. He looked at it. Are you sure? I nodded. Thanks man. He hugged me. We shook hands and I introduced myself.
He said: “I’m Dale. Bless you. I’ll pray for you and your family.”
“Thanks, I need every prayer I can get. I’ll pray for you too.”
So, what do you think? Was he genuine or did he con me? Who knows? I don’t know and frankly I don’t care. Maybe he was one of the Lamed Vav; one of the 36 hidden and humble saints the very continuation of the world rests upon? (You can search my blog for more references I’ve made to them). Maybe he was Elijah the prophet? According to an old Hasidic story Elijah often comes to us in disguise: someone ill mannered, a poor person, a beggar. And woe to us if we judge this person harshly and withhold assistance!
Maybe he was an angel? Hebrews says: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” (Heb. 13:4).
To be honest, I don’t know. I’m quick to judge others at times on very superficial things and I have to catch myself. Mother Teresa said that if we’re busy judging people we can’t be busy loving them. Which is more important?
All I know for sure is that I cried the rest of the way to Maggie Valley.

Day 18: Sioux Falls to La Crosse, Wisconsin; Old Man; Kids; Memories; New Glarus Beer; Beers- Deers?; Looking for Love; 310 miles.

I stopped at McDonalds to get a drink. Only a dollar and you get free internet access. Two kids were sitting outside; one was jumping around excitedly. While I was taking my helmet off I watched as he threw some stones at a store window. He was about four years old. I walked over to him and he said: “When I called you old did that hurt your feelings?”
I laughed and said ‘no’ and added ‘don’t throw the stones’.
His sister, who looked around nine said: “I told him that people don’t like to be called ‘old’.”
I said I didn’t mind. “Where are your parents?”
“Inside. It was too cold for me.” Then she smiled: “We’re going camping in 3 days and we get to take our two dogs and they’re wild!”
I went inside thinking: Great place to leave your kids. At the exit from the drive through.
The roads entering Minnesota were bumpy for miles. It reminded me of the time I was riding on Route 66 near El Reno and was bounced around on the old Portland cement concrete from the 1930’s. Neither were much fun.
Minnesota and Wisconsin were filled with green agricultural fields, wind farms and sadly, dead deer by the side of the road. In South Dakota and Montana I had seen hundreds of them in fields but none on the road.
Memories of Minnesota and Wisconsin came flooding back. I had lived for two years in Fargo/Moorhead while teaching at Concordia College. Then I spent another four years in Fond du Lac, teaching at another College, Marian. Good times, the best being when my daughter Hannah was born.
I stayed at Welch’s motel in La Crosse, Wisconsin for 39$ plus tax. The reception area had a sculpture and a poem about guardian angels. A few days back I had ridden past a Guardian Angel Catholic Church in Power, Montana. I hope and pray they’re riding with me.
In La Crosse I went to Del’s Bar and the bartender, a woman named Sammy, told me to try a New Glarus Spotted Cow beer. I did and it was delicious. Then I found out that all the New Glarus beers are only available in Wisconsin. Which reminds me, why is it okay for the plural of beer to be beers when the plural of deer isn’t allowed to be deers?
I spent most of the evening listening to a poor young man’s story of trying to find love. He had been living with a woman for years, helped raise her children and the woman suddenly had an aneurysm and died. He was nearly crying as he told me how he had to fight for custody for the children from the father who had abandoned them and how hard it was being a single parent. Then his face transformed and he was smiling as he told me about how, through the internet, he had met a woman from Columbia. They had seen each other a number of times and he had traveled to her country and met her family. And now they were to be married! He was so excited.
Who knows where love is hiding? Whether you have to go looking for it or whether it just shows up at your door. I met my ex-wife, who was from Ireland, while I was walking down the street in Hong Kong, where I was teaching one summer. Love at first sight for me but she took a lot of convincing.
Love comes and goes. It’s a long ride. Ride it safely,

Day 10, Part One: Total Trip Miles – 3697; Bike Mileage – 96,158 Miles; Elko to Pocatello, Idaho – 275 miles; Oil Change at Gold Dust Harley; Beautiful Blue Skies; Gratitude.

I started the morning grabbing a McDonalds takeaway and hurrying down to the Harley Davidson (HD) dealer to get an oil change. I try and change the oil about every 3-5,000 miles. The folks there were very friendly, had no one waiting, and I was out within an hour. 96 Bucks ($)! But that’s typical. Everyone knows that HD stands for ‘hundred dollars’ because you’ll spend at least that every time you walk into a Harley shop.
I continued on I-80 until I reached the town of Wells and decided to head north on Highway 93 toward Idaho. Last time I was in Idaho was in 1981. I had been staying with friends in Seattle and decided to hop a train and hitchhike home. I remember going through Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Colorado. But that’s a story for another time.
Today, I had beautiful blue skies and more of the same terrain all the way to Wells. When I made it to Idaho the first thing I noticed was how flat it was. Almost like Kansas. Next, I noticed a succession of folks being stopped by Idaho state police. Then the land grew more fertile and verdant, with the long arm irrigation systems spraying water into the air. Then there were waterways and rivers, canyons.
I don’t try and conjure it up (that would be cheating) but always within a few short miles on the bike out in the country, a feeling of thankfulness and gratitude overcomes me. I thank God that I am alive, that I have this motorcycle, time and money and that I’m healthy enough for the ride. Then I thank God for family and friends, and pray for them, and their individual struggles. The list gets long, but hey, I’ve got a lot of time. Then I return to just looking out at the scenery as it goes past, and I find myself smiling. Even when times are tough, there is so much to be thankful for. And thank you for reading this and following along on my journey.

Day 6: El Segundo! 2318 miles, trip total. Reunion.

I’ll keep this short and sweet. Leaving yesterday from Barstow, I started out by having to fix the bike’s windscreen which had blown loose in the heavy winds. Riding, the winds were rough but manageable. I did about 35 miles before stopping at Victorville, California. It was in this city four years ago that the bike broke down, beginning the saga of the stuck shifter shaft and the leaking shifter shaft seal. (I kid you not! Try and say that 3 times really fast.) El Jefe and I had to put up overnight to have the bike repaired.
This time I stopped to get coffee at Starbucks and then did a quick walk through of the Harley shop.
Leaving, the sky was cerulean and I could see the San Bernardino mountains with low lying wispy clouds at its base, and snow at its crest. About 5 minutes later the temperature had dropped, it was cold, and I was riding through the clouds going over the summit at around 5000 feet. I could hardly see anything, it was so thick.
Then I hit the labyrinth of interstates and freeways that is LA. Nightmare. Not much sense using the heavy occupancy lane if a guy gets on your tail doing 80 mph. I kept consulting my hand- written notes (attached to a small see through bag on my gas tank) and somehow managed to find the routes to my son’s apartment in El Segundo. Wow, was I happy to see him, and my daughter who stopped by later! I needed those hugs! Thank God.
Now, I’ll be here in California for a while and will probably take a break from writing in the blog until I have a few more adventures to retell. Thanks for riding along with me. Stay tuned.