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.

Searching for Angels: A Field Experiment Via Harley Road King. Part One.

Okay, I want to warn you that this entry is going to be a bit unusual.
In my last blog I talked about that passage from Hebrews 13:2 where we are admonished: “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” It got me thinking about a psychological experiment that was conducted over forty years ago. A professor knew that the psychiatric profession was pretty good at labeling people with a mental illness diagnosis, but he wondered how good were they at detecting “sanity”. Yeah, sanity. How do you tell the difference between sane and insane people? And if a person is ever given a mental health diagnosis, can they ever recover? Not have to carry that diagnosis with them their entire lives? Bear with me for a minute because this does relate to the blog’s topic of “searching for angels”. Anyway, this professor (See: Being Sane in Insane Places) decided to conduct an experiment. He sent eight people (including himself) to twelve psychiatric hospitals in five states in the USA. They were to tell the same story to the admissions officers about hearing voices (auditory hallucinations). They were all admitted. Once in the hospital they told the staff that they felt fine and were no longer hearing voices. So how long would it take for the hospitals to decide that these people were now sane? Well, the fact is that none of them were ever identified as being sane, healthy. Their stays were from 7-52 days with an average stay of 19 days. That’s with them acting entirely normal once they were admitted. In fact, in order for all of them to get out they had to admit to having a mental illness and agree to take anti-psychotic drugs. Before they were released all but one were diagnosed as having schizophrenia “in remission”. Nice label to take with you the rest of your life, huh? When the professor published his findings the hospitals “flipped out”! They complained that his experiment wasn’t fair. That he should have informed them that he was sending fake patients to the hospitals to give them a fair chance at catching them. Fair enough, he replied and he agreed to redo the experiment with one particularly aggrieved hospital. He would send patients to them over the next few months and see if they could identify the fake ones. Over that period of time that hospital had 193 admissions and they reported that they believed that 41 of the patients were fakes. That’s when the professor informed them that he actually hadn’t sent anyone into the hospitals!
Can you see where I’m going with this? If the professionals couldn’t detect sane people then how good are we at detecting angels among the strangers we meet? That quote from Hebrews gives us a warning that we might not spot them! Emerson said that they might be “disguised and discredited” folks. I know that the story in Hebrews was a long time ago but there’s no reason at all to think that God has stopped sending angels in disguise to us. Maybe God is running the same kind of experiment. “I’m going to send angels to you disguised as strangers and I want you to treat them with hospitality. I’m watching. I want to see if you can identify them.” Well we were kind of warned in Hebrews. And this idea of showing hospitality to strangers is highly recommended in both the Hebrew and Christian Bibles and the Koran.
So, I have decided to do an experiment. Over the next week or so I’m going to see if I can identify angels in the strangers I meet and I’m going to treat them hospitably. Should be a “piece of cake” as we say in the USA or “wee buns” as they say in Ireland (I have no idea as to where these expressions came from!) Wherever I go I’m going to be scouting them out. I’m going to be eagle-eyed so I can catch these rascals. Think they can pull one over on me and Big Red, do they? We’ll see about that. I’ll report back to you in due course. And, I’ve got an “insane” idea, or is it “sane”? Why don’t you try doing it too and see how many angels you can find? We can compare notes.

To be continued…

Charity Motorcycle Ride and Entertaining Strangers

About a week ago when I was walking across the parking lot at Hardees restaurant in Adairsville, Georgia a man stopped in his pickup truck and told me about a charity motorcycle ride on August 22nd. Well, that’s today. I showed up on Big Red at the 9 am registration time and I was the second rider there. They welcomed me like a lost son.They were getting nervous. It was the first benefit ride they had done for the North Bartow Community Services and they were hoping riders would show up. They were worried they hadn’t done enough publicity, or the right kind. One organizer told me she hadn’t slept the night before anxious that no one would come. She was standing next to a table filled registration forms and tee shirts they had printed to commemorate the ride. Under the covered picnic area I could see raffle prizes, a coffee stand, some coolers and three tables full of food. Scattered around them were various men and women who had shown up to help. I decided at that moment that I was gonna ride regardless of whether anyone showed up. I conjured a scene up in my mind of me and the other rider being escorted by the three motorcycle cops that showed up, along with a police car from one of Adairsville’s finest, through the back roads of northwest Georgia. Yeah, that would be fun!
After thanking me profusely for coming the woman told me about the services her nonprofit provided to the community. There was a whole string of them and the ones that stuck in my head were a food pantry, help with the cost of medical prescriptions, clothing, baby products like diapers and formula, emergency assistance, and some free meal programs. They also ran classes in jewelry making, basket weaving and line dancing. I love to support programs such as these where they show compassion, help, and “entertain” strangers. Somewhere in the Good Book, probably every religion’s good book, it talks about showing hospitality to strangers, that you might not know it but that you could be entertaining angels. Emerson called them: “Disguised and discredited angels”.
I grabbed some coffee and began talking to the only other rider there. As the minutes ticked on it looked like we were going to become close friends. He was taking his fourteen year old grandson along for the ride. Then another rider strutted in, disappointed with the turnout and said he might leave if no one else showed up. (Wrong thing to say!) Then a few others trickled in. Over coffee, sitting at various angles on the picnic tables we swopped stories about favorite rides we’d been on – up in the Smokey Mountains, the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Tail of the Dragon, animals and other objects we had hit, or nearly while riding, other bikes we had owned. Then we switched to talking about weather conditions and I was about to tell my story about the time when Big Red and I were caught up late one night on a snowy pass in the Rockies, must have been zero degrees, no, make that 20 below and if it hadn’t been for my heroic “Nanook of the North” courage and abilities, well, I shudder to think what would have happened. Somehow, I managed to save myself, Big Red and some stranded, pioneer Quaker women, including one who was eight months pregnant. I heard tell later that a red haired child born to the woman was named in honor of me and my motorcycle. He was called Big Red.
A few other riders trickled in and we were up to about eight now. I wandered around and glanced at the raffle items which included: The Patsy Cline Collection (in cassette tapes), a floral candle set, an authentic (?) Jesse James pocket watch, a handsaw, a million candlepower hand held flashlight (“torch”) powerful enough to illuminate pretty much everything that the Dali Lama hasn’t. Also good for signaling UFO’s and changing tires at night, which was handy because there also was a Slime Standard Digital Tire Inflater right next to it. There were also a couple of embroidered leather vests and other items.
Finally, as the time for “kickstands up” rolled around we had about 14 riders, many with passengers. The organizers were happy and soon we headed off in our police escorted cavalcade. We rode about 60 miles through the beautiful countryside of northwest Georgia, past yard sales, car washes, fruit and vegetable stands, places selling boiled peanuts where you could see the steaming pots hanging on tripods, past log cabins, mansions, double wide trailers with porches, ramshackle leaning barns, buildings with weathered grey tin roofs that looked like they had been crying rusty tears. At almost every intersection we had a choice of any kind of Baptist Church one could imagine, like Abundant Holiness Baptist Church (As opposed to what? Churches without abundant holiness? Meager holiness?) Signs proclaimed that “Jesus Loves Us”, that “Son Screen Prevents Sin Burn”, and that “A Lot of Money is Tainted, Taint Yours and it Taint Mine”. (Okay, I admit the last two I’d seen somewhere else.) There were fields splayed with buttercups, cows and trotting horses, blooming mimosas and small towns with flowering  crate myrtles. The sky was hazy blue with wispy clouds.
After the ride we had some barbecue, cole slaw, potato chips and some Little Debbies cakes. The raffle started and folks were eager. A woman won the hand held flashlight and shouted: “We’re going frog gigging tonight!” Another one, a healthy sized woman, won one of the vests and somebody shouted: “Your boobs won’t fit in that!” Folks laughed and she held it up and acknowledged that it might be a challenge. As the auction continued I slipped out.
As I rode home I realized three things that I knew for certain: first, that Jesus clearly loves me, that there’s nothing more beautiful than a speckled brown horse romping in a green field filled with buttercups and that people can be amazingly kind and loving to strangers, or angels, whichever they may be. Who knows?