Day Twenty: Huntsville, Alabama to Rome, Georgia; 5708 Total Trip Miles; Concluding Thoughts.

My 2004 Harley Road King Classic now has over 118,000 miles on it and did beautifully on the trip. Fortunately, I didn’t drop her once. She weighs over 700 lbs, without baggage, and believe me, it ain’t fun trying to lift her. Though once, on a previous trip, I dropped her and a Russian named Igor in Deadwood, South Dakota lifted it and set it on its side stand by himself. There’s always someone around to help.

As with most riders I had to watch out for slippery gravel on the road and in parking areas. Parking on hot asphalt – the side stand can sink into it. You always have to think about how you’re going to get out of a parking space before you go in. Do you back in or is there a slope so you can roll out? My bike, like most, doesn’t have a reverse gear. You also have to watch out for road gators- bits of tires broken off on the road – some have steel in them, and tar snakes – tar patches on the road that get slippery when hot. Then there are grooves in the road, steel road plates, potholes, construction, debris that has fallen out of, or off of vehicles and animals. I wrote about the dust storm that permanently damaged my windscreen and the cold and snow I encountered. I mentioned the winds but not how you often have to lean your bike into them at 10-30 degrees just to stay upright. Passing trucks on a two lane can give you a slamming blast of wind in their wake. As I mentioned in a previous blog, I don’t listen to music and I don’t have a GPS device. This makes for lots of solitude and riding on unknown roads. It was scary at times leaving my destination up to chance (Divine Providence). At the same time, it made me aware of all the little expectations I had and letting go of them and trusting was so freeing and relaxing. If you don’t have to be anywhere, at any specific time, then you’re never lost or late. Despite the challenges, I always found myself smiling in the morning when I took off and thankful to Divine Providence for the chance to ride again.

We’re all on a journey, even if we never leave town.

And what about this attempt to abandon myself to Divine Providence?  A quote from Amazon partially summarizing the book Abandonment to Divine Providence, an 18th Century spiritual classic, says: “God is to be found in the simplest of our daily activities and especially through total surrender to whatever is His will for each of us. It encourages us to ‘Live in the present moment, accepting everyday obstacles with faith, humility and love’…” Sounds very Zen too.

If you want a more contemporary view the Reverend Barbara Brown Taylor says in a recent book:
“There is a sense in which if I will trust that what comes to me is for me (now that’s the hugest faith statement I can make to you), if I will trust that what comes to me in my life is for me and not against me… what I find is that it breaks my idols, that it breaks my isolation, that it challenges my sense of independence, it does all kinds of things for me that I would not willingly do, that are for me, that are for my health.” 

So – no great dramatic epiphanies for me– what I found out is that it’s all about trusting what comes to us in life and living in the present moment, accepting everyday obstacles with faith, humility and love. I can live with that answer. Well, at least, I can try. But that’s the best I can come up with for now.

Thanks for riding along with me and Big Red. Keep the shiny side up and the rubber side down. Ride safely.

By the way – if you want to read two of my novels that have motorcycle trips in them here are the links:

Hope Bats Last

https://www.amazon.com/Hope-Bats-Last-American-Irish-Philosophical-Romance-Murder-Mystery-ebook/dp/B00UNVATA2/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=Gene+Powers+Hope+Bats+Last&qid=1561135331&s=books&sr=1-1

Hope

https://www.amazon.com/Hope-Adventures-Buddhist-Ninja-Detective/dp/1090295529/ref=sr_1_4?keywords=Gene+Powers+Hope&qid=1561135267&s=books&sr=1-4

Day Eighteen: Springfield, Missouri to Hayti, Missouri – 253 Miles; Rain; The People You Meet; The Roads You Ride.

Things looked ominous when I finally dragged myself downstairs at the motel for breakfast today. It wasn’t the food choices I saw; it was the pouring rain. I ran into some bikers who were heading out toward St Louis. “Somehow, she got my bottoms [rain suit] and I got hers.” One woman biker was saying to the other. We wished each other a safe ride. They went out toward the bikes and I went for breakfast. Since the rain was falling, I had no other choice but to go up to my room and go back to sleep. Ha ha! Any excuse. When I woke up an hour later the rain had stopped.

Folks are always stopping to talk to me about my motorcycle. Some reminisce about their old bikes and experiences. I stopped at McDonalds yesterday and a 75-year-old man just came up and sat down and started talking about his days riding motorcycles. He asked me about my bike and my trips and believe me, you don’t want to get me started on that. He was surprised that I had ridden from Georgia to Alaska. (See this blog.) He always wanted to visit there – but with some buddies in a motor home. He had a friend up in Anchorage. We talked for a good half an hour. When he was leaving, he told me to ride safely. I said – see you in Alaska.

Another man today came up to me when I was sitting on my bike. He used to have a shovelhead (a Harley made from 1966-1983) and he loved it. Then, for some reason he started talking about his ex-wife who divorced him and “took everything”. “Came one day with a truck and took two of my motorcycles – brought the grandkids to make sure I wouldn’t act up. She met some guy on the internet. 28 years we were married, and I never saw it coming. I guess the cardboard boxes around the house should have tipped me off.”

“Yeah, I reckon.”

I took backroads again today. Highway 60 was my main road, but I was much happier when I was able to turn on a two lane – Hwy 53 -for the last part of my journey. The corn in the fields were the highest I had seen anywhere. “Knee high by the 4th of July” my old pappy used to say. These stalks were easily five feet high. Black-eyed Susan’s, Queen Anne’s lace and wild orange day lilies dotted the roadside. This was my kind of road: small towns – churches, convenience stores, signs for bail bonds.

I treated myself to a stay at Drury’s Hotel tonight and a phone call to my daughter and grandson. Goodnight. Ride safely.

Day Seventeen: Chillicothe, Missouri to Springfield, Missouri – 239 Miles Plus 89 Miles Trying to Get Over a Flooded River; The Whims of Divine Providence.

Yesterday, the Weather Channel showed a wall of rain and thunderstorms blocking my way east. No problem, I thought, I’ll just head south. Hwy 65 south looked good, so I headed out on it from Chillicothe. I managed about 20 miles before there was a barricade and a sign saying: road closed due to flooding. The Missouri River had overflowed its banks. I checked my map and figured there was another road across to the east. Took that road for 10 miles until I saw the road closed ahead sign. I checked my map. If I went back to where I had just been and headed west, I could catch another route across the river. I stopped at a McDonalds and took a break. When I was leaving an older woman offered suggestions as to how I could get across. It involved going to the town square and taking highway E, then to make a left on W and a right on K – she had already lost me. Then she added the fateful, dooming words: “You can’t miss it.” I’m guaranteed to not find something when anyone says those words to me. But I tried it anyway. This is what I ran into.

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Every time I started to get frustrated, I remembered that I had turned my route over to Divine Providence and so maybe I was supposed to go this way. True or not, it calmed me down and helped me just enjoy the journey without expectations.

Finally, I headed north and then west and found my road which I took across the swollen Missouri. I set my sights on Springfield, Missouri where I spent the evening catching up on the sports news and contemplating the whims of Divine Providence.

Day Seven: Flagstaff, Arizona to Kingman, AZ; 147 Miles; Snow, Sleet, Hail and Rain; Williams; French, German and Brazilian Visitors; Route 66; No Grandchild Yet; Monk.

Yesterday was a horrible ride. You know how some people say things like: Hey, a bad day fishing (or substitute an activity you enjoy – playing golf?) is better than a good day in the office? Well, I disagree. My ride was terrible. Besides, I like my office. I work with some great people. I would have far rather been in the office!

I had breakfast at a Route 66 favorite, the Galaxy Diner, then headed out toward Williams. Beautiful flakes of snow were falling, and I was freezing! Before, I reached Williams it started hailing. Williams is one of my favorite Route 66 towns. After coffee at a diner the weather decided to have fun keeping me guessing what it was going to throw at me. Regardless, it was underlined by the fact that it was freezing. I don’t have heated handlebar grips, and I had forgotten to recharge my batteries in my gloves, so I just took turns holding on to the bars with one hand, while I stuck the other one behind my knee to try and warm it up. I was wearing a tee shirt, two long sleeve shirts, a sweater, my leather jacket and a rain jacket on top of it. I had blue jeans on and over them my Joe Rocket Ballistic motorcycle trousers. Two pairs of socks. I cut my speed to 60-65 and I was still freezing.

More coffee at a restaurant in Seligman, which was where I saw the foreigners, mostly on Harleys. There was an attractive woman at the table next to mine. She wasn’t the gorgeous type, just a natural, wholesome beauty, with a cute smile. I wanted her to ditch the guy she was with and ride off with me. Why else did I bring another helmet? We could have bilingual children, enjoy bratwurst and grits, and go out often for kaffee and kuchen. You see what happens to you when you travel by yourself for a long time on a motorcycle.

The Route 66 road was in good shape. You can’t say that about everywhere along its path. I remember thumping along a few years back on a section that still had the 1920’s Portland concrete laid down. Every few feet you went air born. By the way, I have written about my previous journeys across country on this road where I actually did stop by minor things like the Grand Canyon, the Painted Desert and the Petrified Forest. There’s a search box on this page where you can find links to all sorts of things – like the Lamed Vav and beer caves. I figure you don’t want me simply repeating a view of the sites. I don’t write that descriptive stuff well. Plenty of others have. I write about what I’m feeling and thinking.

I had hoped to go another 60 miles to Needles, California but when I stopped for coffee, I knew I could not force myself to get back on that bike and out on the highway. I just sat in the McDonalds, stunned, eyes unfocused, and waited until I had thawed out. I treated myself to a room at a Best Western.

No sign of any grandbaby yet. I’ve already bought his Harley onesie and bib. At least my daughter and I have compromised on my grandparent name. I wanted the baby to use my biker name: Monk. She said: “There is no way that I am going to let that baby call you Monk!” We agreed on Pappy. Now, don’t tell her, but when she’s not around, I might just  whisper the occasional Monk to the new whippersnapper.