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Where in North America is Uncle Rod? Day 19

Bloged in worship by rod Thursday July 2, 2009

July 2, 2009
0 miles (4,590)

Still raining. After a leisurely, lazy morning, Jodi took me sightseeing. She took me to see Parsons’ swinging bridge, and then up to Olsen’s tower, an old fire tower, high up the mountain toward Thomas. We climbed to the top and shivered from cold winds and rain, and dizzying heights. Despite the heavy fog, we could see forever.

While we were exploring the area near the tower, Jodi saw goofy tree that she wanted to check out. We walked back in the woods through a complete undergrowth cover of ferns to check out the tree. I was taking pictures of various and sundry beauty when I very nearly stepped on a tiny fawn whose mother had hid her among the ferns under a fallen tree. She was doing as she was told and lying completely still until I nearly put my foot down on her, at which point she jumped and ran. I know she would have been obedient and laid there among the ferns for photos had I been clever enough to see a deer within 4 inches of my leg.

I showed her some tricks with the settings on her camera, so we drove over to Blackwater Falls so she could try them out. Ironically, the falls were quite different than they were last night. Apparently, I’d brought the rain with me, as I tend to do, so it had not been raining long when I arrived. Today though, there was a lot more water. Water was spilling over places on the ledge that had been dry last night. A different presentation.

Back at the house, we discussed religion and politics and weather, and the relationship of all three. Originally, the thought that ran as a thread through our conversation, regardless of what we were talking about, was inspired by my commentary on riding in the rain for 3 weeks. I’d followed up a comment with, “well you know what the Norwegians say – ‘there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.’” The more I thought about that statement, the more I realized how selfish I am in my expectations, even my prayers. I don’t often pray to be prepared for what challenges might come along, but rather, that challenges won’t come along. On this trip, nothing has turned out the way I expected. I’ve been mostly physically prepared for what I’ve experienced, but not at all emotionally prepared. Not at all.
It took me a lot of rainy riding days to realize that I was the one who was going to have to give. I could find a dry place and wait it out, but for how long? It has been raining for 3 weeks. Or I could change my expectations to match with reality, and accept that I’m going to keep experiencing something completely different than I’d planned. I realized that in the back of my mind, what I’d been praying for was not weather through which one could ride when properly prepared. I didn’t want to prepare. What I wanted was weather through which I could ride with a single pair of pants and a T-shirt. I wanted the weather to match my choice of clothing. I had no desire to match the weather with raingear.
“Here’s what I want to wear, God. Provide me with weather to make my choice of apparel appropriate.”
I think I’ll spare you the connection that this realization about myself made with the economy and politics. But it occurs to me that there may be much contentment to be found in what is, rather than constantly longing for what is not, or what is not yet. There will definitely be a sunny day – some day.

Where in North America is Uncle Rod? Day 18

Bloged in worship by rod Wednesday July 1, 2009

July 1, 2009
Parsons WV
180 miles (4,590)

From Greencastle I headed west into the mountains, and then south through the country and some of the most beautiful riding so far.
Cloud showers all along the way until the last 60 miles or so during which I rode, once again, through relentless terrible rain and thick fog.
The rain did relent within an hour after my arrival, and then just drizzled and misted. I borrowed Jodi’s car and drove back over the mountain to Black Water Falls to try to get some good photos of the falls in the misty evening.

I was convinced while riding across Rt. 9 that West Virginia truly is the most beautiful state. I was astounded by the beauty of Cape Breton, but honestly, it does not go on forever. West Virginia’s beauty just seems so much more unending, and natural. Last year, when I returned from 9,000 miles through 23 states, Allison asked me which state was most beautiful. Gee, I’ve got to say that I’ve still not seen one more beautiful than West Virginia. I realized that I could assign an awesome adjective to every state, and that adjective could probably translate to “beautiful,” but biased, or not, West Virginia is most beautiful. I decided that California was the most astounding. A completely different beauty around every turn. I also thought California had some areas that would certainly compete for most beautiful, but as far as entirety, and uninterrupted mile after mile of awesome landscape, well, you know…
One forgets though. I can say that, and still be taken aback every time I ride through the mountains of West Virginia. Rugged, steep, secluded, high. I also remembered a statement that a lady made to Molly last November when we were in Arizona. Molly told her that she was used to mountains because her family was from West Virginia, the lady smiled and said, “In Arizona, we call West Virginia “hilly.” Hilly indeed. But not much of Arizona knows the altitude differential that West Virginia is made of. It’s one thing to drive 100 miles on flat ground at 7,000ft, but quite another to go from 4,000 feet to 600 feet and back to 4,500 feet in only a couple miles – over and over and over again all afternoon. Much of this state has only been made passable by dynamite and special trains with top speeds of 4 mph, and tons and tons of torque.
The perfect heaven for a motorbiker.

Though it seemed like late evening because of the rain and thick clouds, after drying and sitting for a moment, I realized how beautiful all the misty goodness is I’d just passed within a mile of Blackwater Falls on my way in, but was unwilling to stop in the pouring rain, while already soaking wet. So I rode on down the mountain in thick fog.
By now, the rain was light, the air cool, and the foggy mist was moving around a bit.
The truck felt extremely odd to me. I’d not driven on four wheels for 3 weeks. When I climbed out of the truck there was man climbing the path down to the river. He said, “it’s worth it.” Of course I knew that, and the climb in both directions is rather easy, but I smiled and agreed, and started down.
I’ve pondered before about how our understanding of time and durability change as we age. It’s odd really. If we live to be 100, we still can only understand a tiny slice of a tiny slice of history. And yet, our ability to believe, and trust is greatly strengthened by watching faithfulness over only a short lifetime. When I was a kid, Dad used to bring us to these Falls. I say “used to bring us” as if it was a regular occurrence, which it very well may not have been. We tend to remember certain occasions as if they were regular occurrences, and sometimes remember a single instance of a regular occurrence as if it only happened once. Who knows what causes memories to be engraved in specific ways upon our psyches?
At any rate, when I was in college, I used to visit these falls often. I patrolled these hills in a little green car, armed with a tent and a fishing pole. When I visited the falls, I always remembered coming here as a kid. I was always surprised that the visitor center/tourist trap at the top of the hill was not as I remembered it, that the path and wooden stairs were more worn, or completely new, but the falls are always there, despite noticeable seasonal differences. For that matter, the rocks, by which I fished, were always there and always the same. When Allison and I were married, we drove there and spent the night in the lodge. When we walked down to view the falls, I noticed that a Hemlock tree that had always been there was gone. When we got home, I looked at photos I had taken earlier, and sure enough, there was the missing hemlock tree. The falls, though, are always there.
Things do change though. A portrait of me beside these falls does not show the same guy that scrambled around on these rocks 40 years ago. That’s why the faithfulness of the falls is so important. Most of life is about learning to deal with change. Constancy is a balm.

But even nature changes. There are other sites among my beloved locations that are not at all like they were years ago. When I was a senior in college, West Virginia experienced a serious flood. River towns all over the state were devastated, including the one where I went to school. A few months after the flood, I drove to Seneca Rocks, planning to fish in what I considered one of the most amazing trout streams in the known world. But it was no more. This stretch of the North Fork of South Branch of the Potomac, was forever changed. What had been wildly running, deep whitewater, was no longer even fishable.
Only a few years later, 1000 feet above this very same spot, the legendary rock pinnacle, known as “The Gendarme” fell during a rare quiet moment when it was not being climbed, and shattered into indistinguishable pieces below.
So, a waterfall, that accepts visitors, and their changing access; that watches trees grow and fall; that stands under the spring melt of surging, frigid water, and then trickles a slow stream under the colored spectrum of fall foliage, is a much needed symbol of constancy.
I’m not foolish enough to think that nothing is changing, that a thousand years ago, these rocks jutted out another 5 feet from where they stand now. I understand that the rocks lying in the deep water below the falls at one time provided the path over which the water ran before it plunged 57 feet. I understand that at one time the water fell further before wearing those rocks down and taking a lower path.
But these changes take place over such a long period of time that no lifetime can register them. They go on behind the scenes, until enough has changed to cause a weakened structure. Rocks topple, sands shift, and stone that has withstood flood and earthquake, crumbles under the sonic waves of an airplane 5 miles up, or a gunshot from across the gorge.
I’m reminded of my own strength and fragility. I think of the slow breaking down and weakening that don’t register in my day to day, until enough accumulation has occurred that I break down in a moment and am changed in the twinkling of an eye.

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.

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