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 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 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.

Winter into Spring: Transitions and Preparations; Divine Providence; Road Whispering.

I think we’ve reached the last of the cold mornings. When I took off to ride to my job the other day at 7 am it was 42 degrees (5 degrees Celsius) and when I returned it was 80 degrees (26 Celsius). It’s as if winter hasn’t wanted to let go, that it’s shouting “put up your dukes” to Spring. They fight it out with rain and tornadoes, swollen rivers, blustery winds, and thunderstorms. It’s as if winter has no memory of all the seasons before, despite the shouting blooming all around trying to get its attention. There are the dogwood trees, and red buds, cherry trees, magnolias, and azaleas. How can winter not notice the garlands of purple wisteria draped among the trees? The yellow buttercups in the field with the romping chestnut roan and the leaning shack with the bright red door?

Winter is a slow learner, like me. I ride the same stretch of Interstate 75 for twenty miles to work and keep forgetting the pothole in the right of the middle lane near Resaca. Bam! I always think I’ve probably blown a tire or damaged my rim. Other times, I forget to charge my heated gloves for the morning ride.

I’m excited now and counting down the days (May 12th) until I head off on my cross-country trip to LA. Researching possible places to stop along the way, where I might stay in LA, has my head spinning. I think Big Red (my 2004 Harley Road King), and I will just leave it up to Divine Providence – The Tao. I’ll do some road whispering while I ride. And, thinking of the hot days ahead of me, the heat lines rising off the baking roads in Texas, I’ll probably miss winter.

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 19: 6095 Trip Miles; La Crosse, Wisconsin to Janesville; Interstate Induced Anomie; Fatigue; Where is Divine Providence/the Tao Hiding?; Chicago Road Phobia; Trusting the Ride.

I felt really fatigued when I left La Crosse yesterday. Was it the late, last night talking with the man who was marrying the woman from Columbia he met on the Internet? Was it the fact that I had been on the road for 19 days? Was it a sense of interstate induced alienation that I was feeling? Had Divine Providence/ the Tao abandoned me? Regardless, I wasn’t sure which way to go. No inclinations – no funny feelings – no strange notions – no omens. I just felt sure I didn’t want to ride the roads around Chicago. Too bumpy and too chaotic. But where to head? East? South? I rode south just to get away from routes that would lead to Chicago, but I stopped a lot. About every 50 miles. Doughnut. Slice of Pizza. Ice cream. (That ice cream was really good!) When I stopped the last time, I was toying with just heading farther south and trying to get maybe another 100 miles under my belt. But as I relaxed (with that really excellent ice cream!) I realized that my problem was that I was not trusting the ride, the road, Divine Providence. And I needed to relax, let go and just trust. To not push the river. I booked a room at a nearby motel. And like other divinely inspired travelers I washed clothes, watched TV and went to sleep.

Day 14 Continued; Valier, Montana; Thanks for the 74 views that I got yesterday on my blog; If You Don’t Know Where You’re Going, How Can You Ever be Lost? Divine Providence Comes to me on the Road.

I left off writing yesterday after some man I met at a McDonalds suggested I go to Valier, Montana. It was only 25 minutes away (from the direction I was heading.). I had to go.
I got to the one gas station in town and asked the bubbly man behind the counter what there was to see in Valier.
“Depends what you’re looking for.”
“I heard there’s a nice lake.” And so he gave me directions to Lake Frances. I went to the lake, partly down a gravel road with a sign announcing: Bear Country. I parked at the point and watched a woman backing a trailer with a boat in it into the water. On another small boat a man with a hat kept yanking the rope on an engine trying to start it. Then it would die out and he’d start again. A cacophony of bird cries came from a small island. That was about it. No bears. So much for that sign.
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I got back on the bike and rode to Great Falls and stopped at a Harley dealer to buy a T shirt. Then down the road a ways to Starbucks. A woman sat down and a table across from mine. She was a chubby woman with short hair, flat comfortable shoes and rumpled clothes. I could see she had legal papers that looked like a court order. Yellow sticky notes fell out of a file and she had a yellow legal pad with writing on it. She was mumbling occasionally to herself. Had to be a social worker. If I could see her car I could confirm it.
The thing about having no destination makes certain words irrelevant. How can you make a wrong turn? How can you be lost? How can you be late? Why rush? There’s no such thing as making up for lost time. How can you really make a detour? Makes you think about the expectations and demands we put on ourselves. I mean, I know we have to work, have family obligations and all that but what about the other times when we feel we have to be so busy? Setting goals, racing around. Why do we devalue certain moments? Hurrying down the road to what we think will be a better moment and feeling that we just have to quickly get through this one. Like the desert is boring? All moments are precious. Turn off the radio, the TV and cd’s, put down the phone, find and invest yourself in the beauty of each moment. It’s not coming back.
Thanks to all of you that are reading this blog! I had 74 views yesterday.
By the way, Divine Providence, in my humble understanding, is only allowed to come to me in the moment, on the road. Thank you for the suggestions to go here and there. If I did all of them I wouldn’t get anywhere. But maybe that’s the point.

Some photos from Glacier National.

Day 14: Billings, Montana; Tried to Give Divine Providence the Day off; You Know Where You Ought to Go?

I planned a route towards Billings. I wrote the highway numbers on a yellow sticky sheet that I keep in the see-through bag on my gas tank. This time I would follow directions. Maybe give Divine Providence the day off. Well, I went about 20 miles and saw a road to the left and instead of going the way I had planned, I thought: That road looks interesting and so I went that way.
It turned out to be a great choice and I got to see the huge landscape of the snowy mountains in my side mirrors.
I stopped at McDonald’s in Cutbank, “Where the Rockies meet the Plains”. Going inside I found the usual group of retired people who always seem to congregate at this fast food places. Cheap food, senior coffee and conversations with people your age. It’s great. I’m looking forward to it. It cuts down on the feelings of social isolation. I overhear them talking about their medical problems – strokes and heart attacks, and laughing and joking. One calls me aside and talks to me about his years racing motocross all over the country and Canada. He talked about his wrecks and his injuries – how he broke his back twice, has had surgery on his shoulders -and can’t hold his bike up anymore. (It weighs 700 lbs, like mine.) He told me about his victories. We chatted for a while and my food came and I went to sit in the back.
A few minutes later a man came in, dark tanned skin, black hair, carrying a bag. I smiled and said hello and he asked me for a few bucks to get a hamburger. One of the principles of this trip is to give money to anyone who asks so I gave him some cash. He said “thanks’ and asked if he could sit down. I welcomed him to. And then I heard his story and here are the bits I can remember…
His wife of 22 years had a stroke and was put into the hospital. His son told him he had to pull the plug on her. He did, but he felt like he had killed her. He went and talked to his priest who told him that he had released her from suffering, but he still felt guilty sometimes and had dreams about her. He said he owned a cabin, next to a stream with trout. His grandfather told him that the end of the world was coming and technology would fail and people would try and take things from him. He said he was not worried. He had been in the Army and had lots of weapons, rifles, ammunition, grenades, C4. Besides, he said, he believed that if you treat people with respect they will respond that way. I treat people with respect.He said. You do too. I asked you and you gave to me. You will be rewarded 10 times. Then he talked about being on Highway 66 and sleeping out and that it was a ghost town. When he left he said he spread tobacco on the ground. He explained that Indians believed that if you spread tobacco on the ground it will keep the devil from the restless spirits. Where are you heading? He asked.
I said Billings and then I thought to myself: Please, please don’t suggest I go somewhere!
“You know where you ought to go?” He said.
I rubbed my head. “No.”
“Valier, it’s just down the road past the airport. Gotta nice lake. Lot’s of bikers go there.”
We talked longer and then he thanked me, wished me a safe ride and left.
What could I do but turn around and drive to Valier, Montana?
Divine Providence never takes a day off.
That trip, and the rest of the day, I’ll have to report on tomorrow. I’m too tired.
Good night.

Day 13: Took it Easy; Rough Roads; Glaciers and Snow Covered Mountains; Divine Providence.

Slept late. It was great not having to pack up and leave, as I did most mornings. I walked into town and had breakfast at the Two Medicine Grill. Then I walked back and took a nap. Before noon I headed toward St Mary’s and Glacier National Park, and the “Going – to – the – Sun Road” which cuts across the park. On the way there were signs saying: Road construction: motorcycles should take alternate route. I slowed the bike, looked around and said: what alternate route? So I went ahead. There were about 5 sections where the road had eroded or was being repaired. Loose rocks and gravel. It wasn’t too bad. Then there were some nice twisty roads which were enjoyable being able to lean into the curves. I was about 30 miles from the Canadian border. Finally, I made it into the park and rode along St Mary’s lake. The mountains loomed high behind them and were riddled with snow. I’ll try and attach a photo. The scent of the fir trees was amazing. The road was only open for about 15 miles because they were still plowing the snow from the road. So, I probably missed the best of the park. And while it was spectacular I thought about places that I had ridden through that were even more so: parts of Yosemite with my buddy El Jefe and the road from Canmore, Alberta to Banff to the Saskatchewan River Crossing with my friend Kevin.
According to a recent USA Today article: “The park’s glaciers are estimated at 7,000 years old and “peaked,” the USGS (United States Geological Survey) said, in the mid-1800s during the “Little Ice Age.” In 1850, the park had an estimated 150 glaciers. Since that time, its lost about 85% of its ice area and now has less than 30 glaciers.” It’s predicted that by the year 2030 there will be no more glaciers in the park. I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether you believe in climate change or not.
I gassed up Big Red and packed before I went to bed. As I fell asleep I kept thinking: Where in the hell will Divine Providence take me tomorrow? Come to think of it: Where will It take you?

Day 12: Butte, Montana to Glacier National Park, Montana -245 miles; Exhausted; Divine Providence; Wanna Hear a Strange Story?

I can’t ride anymore. I need a break. But first I have a strange story to tell you. Got a minute or two?
On Day 7, in my quest for opening myself to guidance from Divine Providence on this trip I wrote in this blog: “If someone mentions a place I should visit, I must go there.” As soon as I wrote that I thought, well, maybe not “must”, maybe I just consider going there. But then I got to Bishop, California and Rusty’s Saloon and an old codger, when he heard my story, said: “What you need to do is go to Glacier Park. It’s beautiful man. Way better than Yellowstone.” I thought to myself: Okay, here may be an omen, a sign – I should go to Glacier Park!
When I got back to my motel I Googled how far it was to Glacier Park. 1100 miles! It wasn’t on the way to anywhere! No way was I going there! Not to mention that the guy in the bar told me he was known by his initials: EZ. Divine Providence would not speak to me through a guy named EZ!
Well, we’ll see. Maybe Providence just wants me to head in that direction and then he/she will send me somewhere else? So I headed toward Glacier and hoped I’d be directed somewhere else along the way.
Well, I wasn’t and here I am. Glacier National Park. And I have no clue as to why I’m here.
I felt really fatigued this morning when I headed out and when I got here and saw this beautiful cabin I knew I’d spend another night here. So that’s how things stand. I’m here.
Tomorrow, I hope to take it easy and go on the “Going – to – the – Sun Road” which cuts across the park. Safe riding to you.