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Where in North America is Uncle Rod? Day 17

Bloged in worship by rod Tuesday June 30, 2009

June 30, 2009
Greencastle, PA
62800 Miles
386 (4,410)

Last night, when I was ranting about the unfriendly people in Mass and Conn, I mentioned the exception of the guy camped next to me. After I’d written and closed my laptop, I heard him playing guitar by his fire. He was quite good, so I walked over in the dark and asked if I could sit and listen. What ensued was a 4-hour conversation and sharing of music. This was not just a normal, two strangers passing the time with small talk. It was a deep conversation about weighty things that old friends talk about.
The day started off really well as the fog and overcast burned off early to reveal blue. I rode through the rolling country of Western Connecticut and into New York. I’ve said before that my atlas did fine last year in the West where there are only a few roads, but in the Northeast, it is entirely insufficient. Add to that, the fact that New York does a poor job of labeling roads and using arrows to help get travelers to their chosen destination. As soon as I crossed into New York, the roads changed their numbers and began to be labeled with county road signs. No east, west, north, south, no Podunk, 5 miles this way. No nothing. I rode through farms (actually through farms – I thought I might be in folks’ driveways a few times) until I finally found a road with a route number and then directed myself back to the Atlas. I didn’t make it far once I’d found the road I wanted, before I rode up to a very large tree that had just fallen across the road. There was no way around on the left, and the shoulder was so steep and wet on the right that I knew I’d never get my bike through it. I turned back, found a northbound country road, then a westbound dirt road, and finally popped back out on my road about 5 miles west of the tree.
It was my desire, to find route 209 at Port Jervis, and follow that until it reached I-81 to take me down to Allison’s parents’ for the night. Before I made it to Port Jervis, a terrible storm blew in, so I stopped beside the road and suited up and applied RainX to my face shield. From there, it was a short ride in a really bad storm to Port Jervis, where I found a McDonalds to log on to the intertubes and check the weather. I looked at the satellite images, chose a new route north to try to ride around the storm, and got back on the bike. The next 30 miles were horrendous, but just as the satellite image showed, I rode out of it, and by the time I reached Scranton, the roads were dry again, despite the threatening skies.
I continued south on I-81 for a few miles, and traffic was getting thick as it inched its way through construction. When I saw a sign that warned of extreme delays at mile 261, I took the sign’s advice and chose an alternate route. I realized that I could work my way back to the 209 I’d originally planned, and set out to do so. When I reached I-81 again, a terrible storm struck, and I sought shelter again. The storm moved north rather quickly, and I climbed back on, and headed South toward Harrisburg.
When the weather looked stable and promising, and I felt I could make it all the way to Allison’s parents’, I pulled off the road just as the sun was setting and called them.
An hour later, I pulled into the driveway, unpacked the bike and settled in for another nice, warm visit. While we were visiting, Mom called and told me that Jodi was in the mountains for the week and maybe if I rode close by, I could stop in for a visit. At that point, I knew where tomorrow’s destination would be.

Where In North America is Uncle Rod? Day 16

Bloged in worship by rod Monday June 29, 2009

June 29, 2009
New Preston Connecticut
234 miles (4,024)
surprise stop
I left Danville, NH late this morning in pouring rain. I had to wear my jacket to pack the bike to keep from soaking my shirt. I headed west on four-lane 101 through Manchester, fast-moving, spray-spraying traffic. I traveled in fairly hard rain to Peterboro, and took 202 south into Massachusetts. Aubrey had checked the weather online before I left and told me the rain was supposed to become more intermittent toward the west. So I headed due west looking for a break.
About the time I crossed the state line, the sky began to lighten and a spot of blue appeared. For the next hour or so, blue turned to rain, turned to blue, until finally the blue sky and cumulus clouds won the battle, and the rest of the day saw only occasional showers. By then I’d rid myself of the jacket to let my shirt dry out, and the rain wasn’t enough to put the jacket back on.
I have to say that I cried when the sky cleared enough to show blue. Actual tears. Truth is, I rode the entirety of Friday with no rain, but not with blue skies. Honestly, I did have a night of flawless clearness and myriad stars, but daytimes have all been cloud and fog covered, whether or not there was rain. Today, I saw actual blue daytime sky, and it was more than my weary heart could take. First time in 12 days. Twelve days!!!

I entered Connecticut on the 202 and had no idea that Connecticut is just one huge small town. I carefully avoided four-lanes and tolls, but didn’t realize that I’d be riding down Main Street, Connecticut for hours. Truly, I came about 100 miles at 35 miles per hour. Once I got south as far as Hartford, I realized that all this was probably suburb world, once I turned east it began to wane the closer I got to New York. But you probably already know all that. I didn’t.
I felt confident enough about the weather to begin looking for a campsite, and after two tries found a State Park on a lake, that is quite beautiful. I have no firewood, but I’m sitting comfortably at a picnic table with my laptop wired into the bike battery while the western sky looks less and less promising. Actually, the clouds are rolling right overhead, and I think I’m probably going to get wet. So much for a change in the weather. Call it a respite afternoon.

Today, I remembered someone remarking before my trip to Canada, that I should be prepared for cold northerners. “It’s always a shock for us warm southerners,” they said. But, in fact, when I came into Maine, in the rain, last week, I thought to myself, “hey I think Maine gets put on the short list of friendliest states. My first stop in Maine consisted of two guys grilling hotdogs under a tent and giving them away free with a free cup of coffee. All during my long Maine stay, everyone I met was extremely friendly. When I left and entered New Brunswick, my first encounter was a teenage convenience store clerk, who was as friendly a girl as I’ve ever met. I walked into a restaurant in PEI, and the owner already knew my name, and why I was there. I had long, friendly conversations with countless people in Nova Scotia, ranging from a guy at Wendy’s, to the boat captain that couldn’t take me out to see whales. Instead of a whale excursion, we talked for an hour. When I came back into Maine, at both stops heading to Bar Harbor, I had wonderful conversations with complete strangers that struck up conversations.
All that came to an end when I entered Massachusetts and Connecticut. Store clerks, policemen, state park employees, all just cold business. Even when asked for help, they’ve offered as little as possible, in as few words as possible, hurriedly, with little eye contact.
The exception is the guy camped next to me. He and his family are very friendly, offering me help, stuff, and conversation. Perhaps it’s a work thing. Perhaps there’s a stark delineation between the work world and the personal world. I’ve thought today about how ironic that I finally got blue skies and warm air, and the people have turned cold. Thank God for warm people when the weather has been cold and wet. The friendly kindness of my camping neighbor is duly noted and appreciated.
It occurs to me. Hey, Canadians aren’t Yankees, they’re southerners. I read somewhere that X% of Canadians live within 50 miles of the U.S. border. Hey, for Canadians, that’s southern. I have no idea if you go far enough north in Canada, would you encounter cold, inhospitable Yankees?
Tomorrow I’m heading back into PA. Pennsylvanians are a strange lot. When I stopped along Rt. 30 on my third day, I met a guy from Sumter, SC. He’d been in PA 20 years. He said, “all the cities in the south are modern, but these cities up here think they’re living in George Washington times.” That roughly translates to, “we don’t care how you do it, our way works just fine.” Ironically, that’s exactly the way the folks in the South are. Probably, the civil war boils down to that.
I mentioned that statement to Jim while I was on PEI. I thought of a quote from (I think) Aaron Copeland. “The United States is the oldest country in the world because it was the first to enter the 20th century.” I love that quote. It is true that those who have lived in this reality longest are the oldest. When that quote was stated, that was entirely true. The United States seems to be the last country to enter the 21st century post-modern era, and as such, are green behind the ears. Ironically, those who have hung on to their previously cutting-edge ways, are not only last to take on new ways, but linger beyond the last. It’s a pride issue. And the result is getting left behind.
On the other hand, those who were slow to incorporate previously cutting edge ways, are often first to jump to the new. They skip a cultural generation.
The New South is this precisely. Perhaps they were slow to change from an agrarian economy to an industrial economy, but they were quick to jump into the informational economy. There’s a belt in the north, who still, despite waning opportunity, are proud to have jumped on the industrial bandwagon, and are terribly slow to move on. It’s a pride issue, and they still live in George Washington times, as my new friend stated.
Last year, I met cultures and people who are neither – who live completely in their own cultural world and are completely unaffected by all the worlds that turn in the United States. It’s not a pride issue. They just existed alongside everything else.

Anyway, that’s the kind of stuff I’m thinking about at my picnic table without a fire, and the cooling air as the waxing, half thunder moon, sets partially obscured by clouds. I can hear the water spilling out of the lake behind me as I watch the moon and clouds grow yellow through the trees.

Where in North America is Uncle Rod? Day 15

Bloged in worship by rod Sunday June 28, 2009

June 28, 2009
11:00 pm
Danville, NH
ca 338 miles (3,790)

When I checked out of the motel this morning, I asked the girl at the desk, if Acadia National Park was worth a ride in the pouring rain. She hesitated for only a moment and pointed out that I was going to be riding in the rain anyway. “It’s really beautiful,” she said.
I decided to go ahead with it, and turned south in the rain and traffic toward the park.
It was definitely a misfire. 65 extra miles of heavy rain and dense fog. I couldn’t see anything but the taillights of the car in front of me, and the occasional tree on the side of the road. The occasional tree indicated that what I was not seeing was extremely beautiful, but it was shrouded in fog. The 65 miles represents nearly three hours, and by then, I was back to where I started on highway 1.
Another 60 miles and I stopped, soaked and cold, at a McDonalds and looked at the time. It had been nearly another 3 hours. During those miles, I’d stopped at a tiny gas station for fuel and coffee, and a man struck up a conversation with me. He really like my bike. “The Antique White and Forest Green are magnificent.” Somehow, I didn’t expect that phrase from the guy who rode up beside me in pickup truck filled with tree branches, chainsaws and weedeaters. I so appreciate a guy who is deeper than his surface. While we were talking, a huge explosion nearly caused me to spill my coffee. I noticed that the man didn’t flinch. Without the slightest change of expression, he said, “that’s the canon firing across the river at Fort Knox. They Fire it every hour. The fort is completely decommissioned, and is now a State Park. You should probably visit there when you cross the river.”
We said our goodbyes, I rode the amazing bridge across the Penobscot Narrows, and veered left at the entrance to Fort Knox. Too much time lost already, and rain too heavy to stop and pretend that any experience today would live up to what it surely would be in dryer conditions.
I made another stop in Brunswick, just before I took the 4-lane, got fuel, warmed up, and changed clothes. I was wet to the skin by then from rain wicking down from my collar. I put on all the dry shirts I had left, and set out for the final leg of the trip.
Once I hit the 4 lane, I booked it down to the New Hampshire line and stopped to warm up just when the toll road ended, just before entering New Hampshire. The entirety of those 70 miles was in thick traffic with trucks who threw their spray on me. The lanes were shifted so that the left lane was closed, and the shoulder was being used as a lane. The surface was removed for re-paving, so what was left, was grooved and bumpy.
When I left the gas station, I missed a turn and started back North on 95 and did another 10 extra miles and barely avoided having to pay toll twice more to get headed back in the right direction.
Finally back on I-95 South, I entered NH, and paid another 75 cents exiting to hwy 101. I found the next road easily, but turned the wrong way and drove exactly 6 miles north when I should have been headed south. Back to where I started I had a short jaunt of 8 miles to my place of rest, but alas, I got lost and those 8 miles took me 2 hours.
I arrived safe, but frustrated, dizzy from turning the bike around and shivered through.
This was a frustrating day. It is quite frustrating to stop the bike at a toll booth in the pouring rain, remove soaked gloves, dig through my inner jacket liner for my wallet, replace said wallet, re-zip and fasten 3 layers, and finally, to unsuccessfully attempt to put wet gloves back onto wet hands. All with a line of impatient drivers behind. All four times I paid toll, I had to pull off the Interstate beyond the toll booths and get dressed again before going on. Slightly wetter and slightly colder than before. Actually, the same thing happened in Saint John, New Brunswick and I had to exit to get dressed. After exiting, I returned to the highway headed in the wrong direction and nearly had to pay toll 2 more times to head east again.
Tonight, I’ve finally found the dry, warm home of my former student, Aubrey, who with her parents has offered to keep for the night. We’ve had a nice long visit, and I’m basking in the kindness of friends, known and unknown.

Many times after last year’s trip, I mentioned that there were several times when I realized that I hadn’t spoken to anyone all day, or for several days even. I could go through stretches where I was only near people at gas stops, and then, use a card at the pump and keep moving silently.

That was a trip about solitude.

Whatever I thought this trip was going to be about, it has been a trip about people.

Old friends and strangers.

I have learned a lot about myself this trip. Solitude may be like a mountaintop experience, but honestly, nothing grows on mountaintops. The view is beautiful up there, but as my friend Cong, points out, the lifeblood is in the valley. (he also said, “don’t forget to check the oil.)
I have learned that though I may find myself in desperate need of alone time, I can’t possibly live without people.

Old friends and strangers.

I have depended on the kindness of Allison’s Aunt Brenda and Uncle Joe, a former student and her father (for 2 night’s lodging and a day of wonderful entertainment), a dear old friend and his lovely wife and kids, and now another former student, Aubs and her parents.
Who knows whom else I may find myself grateful for during the rest of this trip? I’m actually finding myself shifting the mindset from getting away, to looking up folks to drop in on. I’m even seeing the folks that work at the State and Provincial Park campgrounds as people I’ve depended on, rather than people simply carrying out their duties.
I’m made to think about my ramblings about the disciples going out depending on the hospitality of others – about them providing a means for others to serve, to take part in the Kingdom of God. Take nothing but the clothes on your back.

Last year’s trip was for the most part, about the riding. Riding through gorgeous, exotic landscapes, and American, or even pre-american subcultures. I saw some very cool places, but they were usually on my way, and considered part of the ride. The destinations weren’t destinations at all, but merely randomly chosen places to stop and rest that represented roughly, about as far as a guy can comfortably ride on a good day. I had lots of good days. And when I didn’t, I could always pull up short, because the destinations weren’t the point in any way other than it represented a bar line in a measured distance that told me I was headed toward home and that I would get there when I was supposed to be there. In that way, if I fell short on a given day, I would have to make it up, because the final resting place WAS important, but the points along the way were simply to be enjoyed for what they were. After falling behind, I didn’t have to make up the distance all in one day, I could spread it out over several, thereby, proving that no point of destination was anymore important than the one I’d fell short of.
This year, the biggest part of my trip has been about making pre-chosen destinations where I can get warm and dry. And often, these destinations represent people who have offered to take care of me, dry my clothes and provide a warm shower and a bed. The soaked, cold riding has served to get me there, and has been what I’ve had to recover from. Quite the opposite experience, this ride. A complete shift of focus. Honestly, it’s a challenge to my personality – a short in my wiring. A guy can ride off on his own, all confident and brave, but he can never survive alone. Even if he doesn’t realize his company.
And the angels attended him.

Where in North America is Uncle Rod? Day 14

Bloged in worship by rod Saturday June 27, 2009

June 27, 2009
Bar Harbor, Maine
401 miles (3,452)

I rode today without a destination, but only a direction. I felt it was time to come back to the states. I thought I’d hit Maine and stop. But, though it felt like I’d ridden for a long, long time, when I reached the US/Canada border, it was only 3:00pm. That’s 2:00 eastern time, and so I kept riding.
The day started out drizzly and with heavy fog as I rode along Fundy Bay toward Parrsboro. Once I turned North and made my way inland a bit, the fog lifted and the day was nice. By the time I reached Moncton, the sky once again became foreboding, and I rode in and out of rain for the next 150 miles. When I reached Saint John, the temperature had dropped considerably, and continued to get colder and wetter the closer I got to Maine. In all, there was about a 20 degree difference between Nova Scotia and Maine.
Every time I passed a Mom and Pop Motel along Coastal Hwy 1, I thought of stopping for the night, but I thought of the probable price of these little motels along the coast in tourist land, and realized it was still somewhat early, and so I rode on.
The rain makes a luggage-laden bike more conspicuous, so I responded to queries and participated in conversations each time I stopped.
Really unconcerned with how far I got today, and more or less numbed by the weather, I took every long cut off highway one that dipped down into villages and coastal towns. Eventually, I began to see signs for Bar Harbor and Acadia Park, and knowing there was campground near Bar Harbor, decided to make that my goal. When I arrived in Ellsworth, it raining pretty hard again, so I turned down Rt 3 toward Bar Harbor, ready to find some shelter. Almost immediately, I saw another Mom and Pop motel, and this time decided to take the chance and inquire as to price. When I pulled into the parking lot, I noticed the price on a sign. It was less expensive than the campsites at some of the tourist destinations, and actually had showers in the rooms! Now I’m no novice traveling fool, I know that the chances of a room actually being the price quoted on the sign is next to nil, so I was sure to quote that price when I asked if they had any available. The price was exactly what I asked, including, tax and everything.
So I’ve spread all my gear around to dry, and am lying on my back listening to the rain out the window contemplating tomorrow’s weather. The weather is supposed to get worse tomorrow. I’m going to continue down the Coastal 1, and deal with it.

Where in North America is Uncle Rod? Day 13

Bloged in worship by rod Friday June 26, 2009

June 26, 2009
5 Islands, Nova Scotia
275 miles (3,051)

Fuel: 24 dollars CDN
Garlic Pizza: 6 dollars CDN
Husband/Wife duo: 2 dollars CDN
Tent site: 21 dollars CDN
Campfire: 4 dollars CDN
Fireflies more numerous than mosquitoes: free
Clear sky sunset/crescent moon over the Bay of Fundy: Priceless

I arrived at my destination at about 6 pm. I was told by a police woman at my last fuel stop that there were a few really nice restaurants down the “mountain” from my campsite, so when I got here, I went into town to scope out the environment before I set up camp. Aha! I found Mo’s Café in “downtown 5 Islands,” so after I set up camp, I set off for a bite and some internet. I unloaded my bike when I set up camp, and showed up at Mo’s without my computer charger. I texted Allison via the internet, and posted a couple of yesterday’s photos before my battery went dead and packed up my tank bag to leave. When I bussed my table and went inside the café, the music was beginning. I couldn’t leave. My friend, Beth, an avid Celtic music fan and gifted musician, upon hearing I was headed to Cape Breton implored me to find some music. I thought that might be nearly impossible on a bike, camping, in this weather. But it looked like it was to come to pass.
There was a husband/wife duo just starting. Lots of folks were milling around, and everyone was interested in everyone else. Conversation was easy, and the music was so good that conversation waned and listening commenced.
I learned that this café had just opened last week. It is owned by a man from California (sitting in the corner) who had bought one of the 5 islands on a whim, site unseen, and after coming to see his purchase, had also bought and renovated this building and opened this amazing café. This was the second night of music he’d had.
As I listened to the music and watched two little toddlers constantly getting into trouble, I shed a tear, and then another, and soon they wouldn’t stop. The music was amazing. It ripped straight through to the soul and touched the deep places. I stood against a beam and sipped several cups of coffee, and quietly listened. My iPod hasn’t been turned on, or even taken out of the bag during the whole trip. There is always music playing in my head, and I’ve heard some fairly melodic feathered friends’ serenades, but tonight is the only music I’ve heard outside of Jim’s and Catherine’s living room since I drifted off to the strains of Federico Moreno Torroba under the stars in Ithaca. I stand there thinking about a time when real live people presented the only music available, and marveled at the community made easy by these deep songs sung from deep places. I hope I happen upon more people sharing their songs before I make it home again.
When the sun started setting, I realized it was time to make it back to camp, and so I rode up the “mountain,” started a fire and settled into a mood of gratitude.
Today was a good day. I can almost say, it was my first day in 13 without rain, but alas, I got rained on a little bit, so make that 13 days with rain. But this was not like the other rain days. This rain was just intermittent when the clouds became too thick to contain themselves. Then I would ride out of it, into lighter clouds. The sky is cloudy tonight, but oddly enough, the baby moon is shining hazily through a foggy break in the clouds.
It is 10:46 pm, and the sunset colors have not completely faded. That is strange for me. Sunset colors at nearly 11:00pm?
This morning, I couldn’t bear to ride back from Cape Breton Island exactly the way I’d come, so I headed east to Sydney, and rode west from there along the other side of Bras d’Or. Once I reached the Canso Causeway, I had no choice but to backtrack, but only for about 50 miles. The last 50 miles of the day were along, and in sight of, the Bay of Fundy, to this Provincial Park.
The ride was a good mixture of back roads and highway to make up time, so I arrived in early evening and had time to think, have some coffee, and listen to music.
So, at this moment, I’m sitting by my fire, watching the lingering sunset colors, and the moon, reluctant to set, reflecting in the Bay Fundy.
My heart is grateful.

Were in North America is Uncle Rod? Day 12

Bloged in worship by rod Thursday June 25, 2009

Thursday, June 25, 2009
Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
239 miles (2,776)
drift tree
I think it was the rain that caused it, but nevertheless, when I entered Canada, I felt extremely lonely. As if I had left everything that belonged to me, and everything to which I belonged. The money was odd – I couldn’t get used to dollar coins and two dollar coins. Gas is sold in litres and costs almost twice as much as it does at home.
I gassed up just before I crossed the border, but of course I only carry 4 gallons. At highway speeds, in the rain and extreme Bay of Fundy winds, I got poor mileage, and went on reserve at only 120 miles. I stopped to get gas, and my credit card was declined. I had been waiting for that, since I’d been zipping across the country and using the card every 100 miles. But it was a blow to have it happen first thing when I came into Canada in the cold rain. I used my backup card, and though I only got 3 gallons, and the pump charged me twelve dollars and some odd cents, the credit card was charged $88. I stopped sooner next time, worried about running out of gas, and got another 2 gallons. This time, the credit card was charged $115, and Allison got an alert that a hold had been put on that card as well. Fortunately, I’d stopped at an ATM and got some Canadian cash.
I called the card company next day, but they certainly did nothing to ease my mind. They did, however, remove the hold. The very next time I used the card, they called Allison again. I sure do appreciate how alert they are to irregular purchases and locations, but having a credit card does me no good if I can’t use it.
Anyway, this was my welcome to Canada.

Tonight though, when I arrived back at my campsite cold and wet, and built a fire, and watched the clouds and fog clear out, exposing myriad stars, the milkyway, and the brand new crescent moon, I finally felt at home. This is the same sky I have at home. This is a sky I share with the people on Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. This is the same sky I sat under in New Mexico, and Wyoming, and California last summer.
I’m thinking of Will, who is enthralled with the concept of seeing the milkyway, though he has never seen it. He has not yet spent these waking, late, dark moments beneath the clear sky. I’m looking up and seeing the occasional shooting star pierce through the hazy strip that is the reaches of our own galaxy. It is dark as dark out here. I’m thinking of Abraham, how one star he saw, had been lit for me – I am a stranger in this land, I am that, no less than he- and on this road to righteousness, sometimes the climb can be so steep – I may falter in my steps, but never behind Your reach…

Today, once again, I when I looked at the time, and realized that the miles traveled didn’t match, I was thinking of the difference in the perception of time when riding. On the bike, time doesn’t pass. That is, the perception of time doesn’t register. I feel the passage of miles, but am completely unaware of the passage of time. I was thinking today, as I rode, completely unaware of what the clock might say, that is not time passed that matters – it is time spent that counts. I’ve always been perplexed by the term “pastime.” As if we had nothing to do and were looking for something to pass the time. That is a foreign concept to me. Time passes in busyness, and I wonder where it went. I can’t remember ever wondering what to do with my time.
Leisure is not a luxury, but a decision, a discipline – a sacrifice even. I sacrifice, my family sacrifices. But it’s something that needs to be done. Time spent in Sabbath. Time spent in intentional space. Time spent beneath the milky way, far from the lights of industry, of busyness, of day-to-day.

And so, tonight, I sit beneath that hazy swath of light, stretching across the darkest sky, and realize that this is not a familiar sight to the busy person. This is not something that a healthy, wealthy and wise person can experience. Perhaps we’ve mis-defined healthy, wealthy and wise. Early to bed and early to rise. Space is healthy. The Milkyway is healthy. There is nothing more healthy than an easy soul, and that is accomplished only in Sabbath. -withdrawal from the day to day.

Today may have very well been the first day that my soul became easy. I’ve had a wonderful time visiting while hiding from the rain. I’ve felt loved and accepted, but I’ve been stressed about the unrelenting weather, even when shielded from it. Today, though, I rode off into a clear morning along an extremely gorgeous scenic route. About 50 miles in, I entered the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. I took a scenic detour at the northernmost point in the park and dealt with heavy rain for about half an hour. During the rain, I missed a poorly marked turn and followed a back road toward Bay St. Lawrence. I realized I was on the wrong road about 5 miles in, but it was so beautiful that I couldn’t bring myself to turn around.
Eventually, remembering that I wanted to catch a boat for whale watching, I turned around in the rain and headed back south to make the turn I’d missed earlier. There was road construction all along the way, and all the flagmen smiled knowingly at me as I passed on my way back to the right road.
Tell me a TailWhen I arrived at Lake Pleasant Harbor, just as the rain subsided, I was told by Captain Mark’s crew, that the whale trip was iffy. There were no other passengers booked for the ride. They postponed the departure by 30 minutes and eventually closed shop and went home. The competition next door had gone many miles further out to sea because of the heavy fog, and were late by 2 hours and a half. I waited, however, and had a lobster roll and got on the boat at about the time I’d planned to be back to my campsite.
The wait was well worth it. We immediately came upon dozens of Pilot Whales and spent the next hour watching them surface, arch, blow and swim alongside and under the boat.

When we returned to shore, I mounted the bike, thinking I had seen everything the Cabot Trail had to offer. I’d just twist the throttle and head toward camp. Little did I know that the best of the Cabot Trail, and Cape Breton lie ahead. The next hour held the greatest frequency of “look offs” and photo stops. At Cheticamp, I stopped for gas, and another local biker struck up a conversation. I’d thought that distant travelers would be an everyday occurrence in a place like this, but apparently South Carolina is more distant than the average biker attempts. So I was met with awe, and an extra meaningful “welcome to Canada.”
During the last darkening hour before I reached my camp again, I road through swarms of bugs that completely blackened my face shield and blotted out my headlamp. The roads were wet, but I’d come through just as the storms subsided.
I reached camp beneath a clearing sky, and now as I sit beside the fire, the milkyway stretches brightly overhead.

Where in North America is Uncle Rod? Day 11

Bloged in worship by rod Wednesday June 24, 2009

Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
320 miles (2,537)
Baddeck, Nova Scotia
I left PEI this morning at about 11:00 in very heavy fog. I arrived at my campsite at about 7, under momentarily clearing skies. It’s 10:00pm now and the sun as finally ceased to show its colors on the clouds over the hills. Once I experienced the “four-lane” again, 55 miles from Summerside, I realized I wanted to find a back way until the “four-lane” disappeared. I took NS hwy 6 all the way to New Glasgow. It was about 90 miles, all in driving, beating rain. Just as I entered New Glasgow, the rain stopped, the road was dry, and the temperature was 10 degrees warmer. I stopped at a Tim Horton’s to stretch my legs and struck up a conversation with a guy at a picnic table beside his Goldwing.
He was a talker, he was, eh? We talked for a long time about bike trips, pretty places, rain, hills, and National Parks.
Back on the road, I made it 1 mile before a detour took me back through the country again, and into the rain. The rest of the trip was intermittent with the showers, and I arrived with only residual soak. That 90 miles presented the hardest rain I’ve experienced so far. Actually it was the first “cloud shower” (as they call them here). For a week I’ve been riding through this gargantuan weather system that just pours a consistent rain on all the earth. Today, I rode through a little of that, but mostly just thunder storms that popped up and went away. But when they popped up they obscured the road, soaked me all the way through, and chilled me.
I stopped in Baddeck, the last town before my campsite, to gas up and get a snack before settling in. Baddeck sits on the water and has a charm between small town and tourist destination. Perhaps tourists are recognized and accommodated, but not pampered or catered to. I enjoyed passing through here.
Tonight I’m sitting by a fire beside the Great Bras d’Or, hoping that the rain holds off tonight and tomorrow. As I settled into the campground at sunset, the clouds broke a bit and beautiful colors and formations occurred over the mountains behind my campsite. I’m tucked down into between high hills on either side facing the ocean water that flows between and splits the island with the Bras d’Or.
Tomorrow, I plan to ride the 186 miles of the Cabot Trail around Cape Breton Island, and through the Highlands National Park.
Tomorrow’s riding will be solely for sightseeing, and I will arrive right back here where I started, beside the Bras, d’Or, lighting a fire if it is not raining, and lying on my back thinking if it is.

Where in North America is Uncle Rod? Days 9 & 10

Bloged in worship by rod Tuesday June 23, 2009

Monday, June 22, 2009
Summerside, Prince Edward Island
0 miles (2,217)
Today, Jim and I went to a restaurant owned and operated by a lady from Texas and her British husband. The restaurant was quite a way out in the country. When we walked in, the proprietor said, “Hi Jim! Be right with you.” And, “oh! And YOU rode all the way from South Carolina on your motorcycle!!!!” I had a vision of the old movies when the whole town knew when a visitor was coming and everyone was excited. I felt like the talk of the island.
In the evening, Catherine prepared a feast for dinner. After Jim’s kids were sort of put to bed, he broke out the guitars and played a suite he’d written, and sundry other items. When Catherine came downstairs, they sang and played for me, and we exchanged songs, and solos. It was a wonderful evening.
It was wonderful to actually spend some time with Jim and Catherine together. What a wonderful woman Jim is blessed with. And put a song in her mouth and you find even more of her. Though we’d never met, I felt as if I knew Catherine from Facebook. I was not wrong, but she is more wonderful than I’d imagined. Good job Jim. You’re a blessed man.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Summerside, Prince Edward Island
0 miles (2,217)
beauty that stops you in your tracks
What a fun day! Jim took me sightseeing on the island. His son, Leam, accompanied/entertained us. When we got home, I decided to spend another night there because I couldn’t make it to Cape Breton before dark. Jim and Catherine had a rehearsal to go to, so I stayed home and tried to figure out where to go next. I realized some things about myself tonight, and tweaked my plans accordingly.
Jim and Catherine came home while I was editing and uploading the pics of the day, so we gathered in the living room for some viewing and more wonderful visiting. We were up quite late, though my eyes popped open early just as if I’d gotten plenty of sleep.

Where in North America is Uncle Rod? Day 8

Bloged in worship by rod Sunday June 21, 2009

Sunday, June 21, 2009
Summerside, Prince Edward Island
421 miles (2,217)
confederation bridge
It’s Fathers’ Day and I’m not home. I miss my family badly today. I’ve thought about Dad all day today, but hadn’t a chance to call him. He was at church when I left this morning, and I’ve been riding all day long. Now I’m in Canada and can’t call even though I have time.

I lost hours today. Actually, the trip felt relatively short, but the clock says it took 11 hours. The rain and cold really slow things down, but I’m really not sure why. Last year I rode the first 700 miles of my trip in 13 hours. It just doesn’t add up.

I’ve said before, that time doesn’t pass when you’re on a motorcycle. This, for me, is the most solid proof of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. Interestingly, once you stop riding, time rushes forward to the point where it would have been had it been passing all along, like some kind of compensatory rubato that Christopher was talking about last Wednesday. The catch here though, is that it is not always accurate, or punctual even. Often, there is lag between when you stop and the time it takes for time to catch up. It feels like the time keeper has been in sleep mode, and when it’s awakened, it has to recalculate, and now and then you can get a read out, while it still displays the time it was when you left hours ago. There have been times when I have stopped for such a short rest, that time really didn’t have time to catch up. I’ve looked at the time when I stopped and was shocked that no time had passed. But then on my next trip, upon stopping, twice as much time caught up so that it seemed I’d ridden twice as long that time.

Though still extremely wet and windy, today was the warmest day I’ve ridden since I crossed the Mason-Dixon line. Apparently, that is peculiar to the Maritimes. As I’ve read about this area, several locations have boasted “mild winters and balmy summers.” Of course, that, too, is relative. For me, a mild winter is 60 degrees and a balmy summer is 100. I can’t really know what they mean by that, except that as I rolled across New Brunswick toward PEI, despite the wind and rain, the air seemed to be much warmer than it’s been in New Hampshire and Maine.

It was a long, slow line to get through customs today. Fortunately, most of the sitting in line was pointing downhill, so I shut my engine off and coasted most of the way. Almost the entire ride from Parkman to Calais was in a cold, misty rain. The rain, wind and fog really picked up after I entered Canada. I attributed it to the fact that I was riding along the bay of fundy, but I don’t know if that had anything to do with it. My first couple miles in Canada was on slippery, pot-holed, wet clay, as road construction had removed the pavement, and water was standing in the clay holes. I honestly had trouble keeping my bike upright as I slowly rolled through Saint Stephen, NB. I stopped and hit an ATM machine about 30 minutes into New Brunswick because I feared the further I went, the less likely I was to find someone willing to take US dollars in case of emergency.
I’d gassed up in Calais to take advantage of the last chance for moderately priced gasoline, but I was running at highway speeds against an extreme headwind, and knew I’d drain the gas tank quickly. That happened as I went on reserve about half way between St. John and Sussex and slowed down, hoping there would be gas available soon. When I finally found some, it was a dollar and four cents per litre, and I used 13 litres. My credit card was charged $118 dollars for it and they put a hold on my card. This card was my backup card because my primary card had already been stopped due to suspicious activity – namely, me traveling on a motorcycle and spending 8 bucks every 100 miles.
I stopped to warm my hands in Moncton, and the cashier at the store told me, “it could be interesting crossing the bridge to PEI.” That was the second time I’d heard that in the last couple hours, so I asked her to explain. She said that the bridge is often closed to trucks because of wind, but added that there were rails and that I’d probably be low enough that they would shield me from the wind and blowing rain. I had thoughts of the cold, windy, rainy ride across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel, and began to worry/wonder at what I was going to face on this nasty night in the dark across the Confederation Bridge.
The rain and wind on the main road began to pick up as it got dark, and I rode hard to the PEI exit on the freeway. I stopped to gas up, not knowing how much further it was, and turned off into the unknown.
Immediately off the freeway, I began to get worried. The road was extremely bumpy, unmarked, or the marks were extremely worn, oncoming traffic, though sparse, blinded me with headlights refracting through the rain and reflecting off the wet pavement and the spray they kicked up off the road. Each time I saw the glow of headlights in the distance I took note of the direction the road took and slowed nearly to a stop to avoid running off the road while blinded. Also, about every mile there were signs that warned me of the moose population and asked me to use extreme caution. Having seen dozens of moose by now, and now being mostly weather blind and on a motorcycle, I began to get the willies.
I thought of Neil Peart’s words about the intense concentration that was required of him to ride his motorcycle on his Ghost Rider trip. He spoke of how it kept the grief from coming in and crushing him because the riding required every thought. Honestly, though constantly scanning the landscape, looking for tricky turns, low shoulders, uneven pavement, erratic drivers, gravel in the road, possible escape routes, I’ve never had to think that hard to ride. Now, though, I was using every brain cell to concentrate on staying right of an unmarked center, left of an unmarked shoulder, and rubber-side down, while scanning the invisible roadside for Moose. As I rode on, nervously, I kept hearing that warning, “it could be interesting crossing the bridge.”
When I finally arrived at the bridge, alive, I was elated to see that it was well lit, well marked and well paved. To make matters better, the rain almost completely stopped, and there was very little wind. The rest of the ride to Summerside was uneventful, if a bit chilly.
Jim was waiting at the door when I arrived, and there were leftovers waiting to be eaten for a late supper. Warmth, food and old friendship. The 421 miles of rain were worth it.

Where in North America is Uncle Rod? Day 7

Bloged in worship by rod Saturday June 20, 2009

Saturday, June 20, 2009
Parkman, ME
0 (1,797)

Maine MooseSo I’m sitting still in Parkman, Maine, feeling really strange about not moving. Not making geographic progress. I have to remind myself that progress is not so small a concept that it can’t be happening while you’re not moving. I’m doing what I came on this trip to do. How easily I confuse my purpose with my methodology. How easily the riding of the bike from one point to the next supersedes the purpose of riding the bike from one point to the next. I’m at a point, and stuck there for longer than normal. But unless I realize that this doesn’t stop progress, I can’t make progress without moving. I feel like a cowboy that is stopped in his tracks for some dust storm, or washed out pass or something. Holed up and waiting it out.
This afternoon, I rode with the Johnstons in a van to see a bit of the North Woods and to look for Moose. We saw 10! And I saw some very beautiful country. The rain continued all day, but there was a moment, at the Canada border when the sun broke through a thin spot in a cloud and momentarily shown light. A few miles back down, we looked back over a lake and saw Canada’s sunlight spilling onto the water and the side of a mountain. All the while, it was raining. It was raining when I took a picture of the sunshine.
But it was nice to relax and take a respite from worrying about everything being wet.

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