Thanks

My cross-country trip is ending in a way that I did not expect.

Last night I had the honor of spending time with a friend and his family. He just had some great news from a doctor. It was one of those trips to the doctor that could have gone either way. He gathered his sons and wife close to him to have dinner and talk about what had just happened. It had gone well. Very well. They celebrated together. They celebrated with each other. They celebrated because their lives had each experienced a rattle that shook them up enough to appreciate what they had.  They saw the miracle of what they take for granted each and every day.

I think, the time spent on the road didn’t open up any windows where I could peer into heaven. It didn’t give me insight into who I really, Really, REALLY am. No angel appeared with a sword in hand advising me to not go down a certain road.

As I was riding through the Black Hills of South Dakota I took a scenic diversion route (Some may call it a wrong turn but I was on my motorcycle so it doesn’t count). I went up through a shaded valley floor lined with occasional houses with their backs up against the hills. Every time someone came out the front door of their house, they had a view of a gorgeous creek meandering down through the center of a perfect green valley pasture, and trees reaching up toward the sky, and rocky gray cliffs serving as home to deer, elk, and bear. As I rode up through this community I wondered if they ever stepped out and didn’t notice how incredibly blessed they were. The thought of being surrounded by so much… and yet allowing the urgency of daily moments to cloud it over …it rolled around in my brain for the rest of the trip. I wondered how many times I’ve missed a moment of beauty, grace, love, or compassion because I’ve been focused on being on time, making sure I got my fair share, or simply missing the fact that I’ve always had so much more than I could ever deserve.

Last night I thought about it again. When I was around the table with my friends laughing with relief and joy, relishing the moment given to them.

As I stepped out onto the sand of the Oregon coast, I took the bottle of water I had been carrying since leaving Tybee Island and poured it into the Pacific. It was a marker. Another year and another milestone accomplished from the bucket list. I’m tired. I’m relieved. I’m a bit giddy at times thinking that it’s over, and remembering a few of the roads I’ve travelled.

Maybe the loudest concept speaking in my soul right now is to not take any ordinary moment for granted. There are none. Outside my door is a world of miracle after miracle after miracle. Inside my house is an opportunity to thoughtfully and humbly be grateful for each friend, each rare-precious-beautiful loved one. I have been given the ability to be aware of each conscious breath I take inside a living machine I did not build and do not have a long-term lease to operate.

Thank you, God, for letting a fool like me see a few of the things you have made and love. It’s been a great ride. So far.IMG_5043

90 minutes from the west coast

Okay, first things first. I’m having mechanical trouble. Yesterday the bike started to have trouble downshifting into first. Then later in the day I lost the ability to get into first at all. Tricky. Fortunately, I limped it to my friend’s house. Last night ended with Dana, and Ken, and Zeke dining on whiskey glazed smoked salmon on their beautiful deck with a perfect gentle breeze. They are the definition of hospitality. IMG_5023I healed up last night. Hopefully, I can get the bike some healing today.

A few years ago I had an ongoing discussion with some friends about the concept of beauty. Now before you think you’ve stumbled on the wrong blog, give me a couple more paragraphs. Every now and again, we all stumble across something that impacts our senses in a way that makes us catch our breath. Beauty doesn’t GIVE us anything practical. We don’t need it in the same way we need food, shelter, water, …working motorcycles. And often the idea of beauty is attached to wildly different ideas of poetry, prose, music, paintings, clothing, architecture, dance, theatre, food, make up, sculpture, pottery… pick your art form. There’s an old Latin saying, “In matters of taste there can be no disputes.” The idea is that we all have our preferences and they cannot be argued away.

However, there does seem to be one universal acknowledgement of beauty that transcends history, culture, and ever changing taste. It’s crossed boundaries and lifetimes. Nature. In it’s limitless forms and colors and contexts, nature has always represented the idea of beauty. It’s inspires people to make other forms, maybe in some way trying to create something as complete, as fulfilling, as soul feeding as what we see in the natural world around us. My ride yesterday let me go through God’s handiwork.

It was a beauty.

Just a little further…

I came out of the Dreamer’s Lodge Motel in John Day Oregon at first light. 12 motorcycles were in the parking lot and I was the first one out. This may not have been a great idea for two reasons.

First, It was cold! After two days of nearly melting from the heat (Why didn’t someone tell me about that Idaho Desert?), I nearly got frostbite. I had all three layers of my jacket on, and that worked, but my gloves couldn’t keep up. I had to stop and warm them by the engine before continuing up the road. Oh, but the road was grand. US route 395 North was all twisty’s, sweepers, up and down hills, sun at the top, and cold, cold shade at the bottom.

The second tricky part? Deer. Lots of deer are apparently attracted to the sound of a motorcycle. I will remember this the next time I go hunting. Fortunately, Bambi and I did not get too closely acquainted.

I stopped for breakfast at the edge of Pendleton at a place called Roosters. Michael Haun, you were there in spirit. I guess I was having so much fun on the highway I didn’t realize how cold my body was. It took a couple of cups of coffee for my hands to stop shaking.

The interstate was closed for eastbound traffic due to the Pioneer fire. I went north into Washington state. More high desert didn’t not turn me on, so after stopping for church, I turned around to get back to Oregon.

Now, the first time I went into Oregon, I was thrilled. Something about crossing that state line of the place I was going to finally hit the coast and the end of my ride, well, that put this whole idea within reach. I was even greeted enthusiastically by these two professional “Welcome to Oregon” ladies. IMG_4953They even gave me a motorcycle map marking the scenic roads. Go Oregon! If you enter Oregon on I-84 in Ontario, tell them I said “Hi.”

The second time into Oregon…nothing. Ah well. At least I still had my map. IMG_4970So I started to hit the roads marked as Scenic Byways and motorcycle routes. I had the roads nearly to myself! At first the scenery wasn’t spectacular, but the riding was incredible. Then the reverse happened. The scenery got better, and the road surface was horrible for 18 miles. Random loose gravel makes for a slow and scary ride. I started fondly remembering the deer and the cold.

Then Mt. Saint Helens and Mt. Hood started peaking their glacier capped heads over the hills at me. As I went into every canyon they hid, then inched closer as I wound back up and out. This beautiful game of hide and seek went on for miles. It seems that there is so much desert in the northwest they actually put up a sign asking for help. Fortunately, as a West Virginia native I could easily assist them.IMG_4965

Last night I camped in The Dalles at the Oregon Motor Motel.  It’s been here since 1948.  It doesn’t look like this now.  Chronicle-Motel_t670Three years ago my wonderful wife surprised me with a trip to Portland. We borrowed a car from our friends Ken and Dana, and drove up the Columbia river gorge. The whole time I was thinking this is the perfect road for a motorcycle. Right now I’m headed out the door to make that ride.

Day 9?!!!!

Saturday? Day 9?!!! It seems like a lot of miles passed very quickly.

I got off to a good start, but Google girl steered me 10 miles out in the desert then tried to take me down some dirt roads. When I changed the settings from Avoid highways/people/civilization to JUST GET ME THERE! She found a route leading to the World Center for Birds of Prey.

On the way I saw smoke, smelled smoke, then drove through some smoke. The fire north of Boise has jumped the interstate and is apparently being overly destructive.

I rode through a single cloud that was my rain friend for a mile, then it stopped. Weird Idaho. Just weird.

I arrived at the Center for Birds of Prey at 9. IMG_4915It opens at 10. I can’t keep track of time zones. So I used the time to watch the smoke roll through the valley, and check my bike. The oil looked pretty crispy so I searched a place nearby to get it changed. Technology is my friend on the road.

The Peregrine Fund is an amazing foundation. They probably wouldn’t claim full responsibility for saving species, but they should. This place is full of passionate people doing work to protect and preserve some of the most endangered species of birds on the planet.

Sure, the birds may be ugly, but they should be around for future generations, right? Everyone there is in love with birds. I skipped some of the tour, but if I would have had time before my oil change it would have been well worth it.  Oh, and I know this guy is in the dark, but he’s a California Condor and he has a 9 foot wingspan.  If you were standing there you would give him respect.

Carl’s Cycle Sales in Boise has a great sales team, gear selection, and service department. They work on snowmobiles, ATV’s, motorcycles, and combinations of all of the above.IMG_4949

I ended up in a town called John Day. This is a town of a single stoplight, 5 restaurants, 4 motels, and coffee shop. Perfect! My first choice of hotel was full up, but the second was cheaper, and closer to the brew pup I wanted to visit. The only drawback – No internet. But that wasn’t my hotel’s fault. Apparently it was out all over town.

I’m behind in my writing, and as soon as I get a few calories in me, I’ll post some more. Thanks for riding along!

My Own Public Idaho

I left the hotel about 8, leaving Pocatello, Idaho and heading toward Mountain Home, Idaho. A short ride, but after meandering around Twin Falls for an interesting few hours, I got caught in some really hot weather crossing the state. So I decided to make it an early day and use the time to do my laundry.IMG_4907

Most of the day paralleled the Oregon Trail. Type <pow> (You either laughed at that, or it’s not worth explaining. Anyway, I did not die of dysentery.

My original TENTATIVE plan was to visit Craters of the Moon National Monument, but the weather, and the effects of a forest fire burning 16,000 acres made me rethink that plan.

Twin Falls has a little something for everyone; Shoshone Falls,

the Perrine Bridge (where BASE jumping is allowed without a permit all year long),IMG_4891

and of course…IMG_4910 (1)

He jumped buses at Kings Island amusement park. I went to Kings Island amusement park. He jumped fountains on his motorcycle. I jumped paint cans on my bicycle. He attempted to jump the Snake River Canyon in a rocket. I attempted to jump the ditch at the end of the subdivision. He broke nearly every bone in his body. I was carried home by neighborhood kids when I crashed.

I remember September 8, 1974, glued to the TV as Evel did a speech before climbing into his Sky Cycle. Evel survived, but he didn’t make the jump successfully due to a parachute malfunction (the subject of a fierce debate in the 6th grade lunch room). It’s good to be here 42 years later paying homage to an important part of my childhood.

The Perrine Bridge is named for Ira Burton Perrine, a rancher and developer at the turn of the 20th century, who convinced people that irrigation could transform the area. He opened a hotel, served as a bank president, and convinced backers to finance a dam on the Snake River to help with irrigation. What they don’t tell you in the visitor’s center is that he was a terrible practical joker.IMG_4905

Oh, if you look very closely at this picture of the Perrine Bridge…IMG_4901

you can see a base jumper getting ready to leap. No joke.

BASE capture

Top Ten

When you are traveling in a vehicle without a roof, the vastness of your environment is constantly present. This trip is getting too much for my small brain to handle. I can’t yet find the words to even attempt to describe riding through the Tetons, Yellowstone, and crossing the continental divide. Soooo tonight, it’s a top ten list of random thoughts from the trip so far.

  1. Pro-tip: On hot days take advantage of the free helmet storage units furnished by many gas stations. Just place your lid in the container as you pump gas and have a bottle of water. It helps give a refreshing boost to your next 10-15 minutes.

2. Missouri lacks the imagination to actually name some of their roads. Instead they use letters. Missouri, please correct this tremendous lack of “Oak Street”, “Jefferson Avenue”, and “Mockingbird Road.” We live in the age of text speak. Imagine the trouble with GPS interface when we have “Right lane ‘P’”, or “MM BB”.

3. 80 MPH speed limit interstates! Where have you been all my life?

4.  When you have the ability to go wherever you want, whenever you want, and do whatever you want, … it’s not as easy as you thought it would be.IMG_47465. If you leave Buffalo Wyoming and you forget to fill up, and you buy fuel at a small place with above ground tanks you will get BAD GAS!

6. If you have BAD GAS and it makes your machine run like someone is choking it, do not let it take your brain away from enjoying the trip. Even when it’s really, really hard.

7. Because there’s a difference.IMG_48788. For a few minutes I owned the dirtiest bike in Sturgis.  No, there’s no pictures.

9. If you enter Yellowstone park and you ride for 10 minutes and see a buffalo and think “This is such a rare thing! I’m experiencing a miracle!” Keep riding. Right around the corner there are 500 just like it.

10. Dear Yellowstone National Park,

Please raise your admission rates. The gate fee is obviously not high enough to dissuade thousands of mindless tourists from overwhelming the park. Use the extra money to design better ways to disperse people instead of putting them all in the same place at the same time.IMG_4861

Love, Greg.

 

The Right Road

I got up to leave Sturgis before breakfast, but …IMG_4719

It began to thunderstorm for an hour while all the bikers at the same hotel ate, drank coffee, and exchanged stories. All the bikes fired up and went in different directions. I was one of the first out, braving some of the rain for about 20 minutes.

Stopped by Sundance. The kid says “hi.”

Went to Devil’s Tower. Pictures absolutely cannot show you what this really is. You see it from the road 12 miles away, and you nod and think – “That is one big rock sticking up there.” At 5 miles away, you think “That is a huge rock!” Then you get to base of it and stand among granite boulders that are as large as a bus and you look up and you think, “That is … wow.”

My ride across the rolling hills was dry, and that was good.   I could see the horizon forming blue mountain peaks from 50 miles away. There are certain landscapes that capture people’s heart. I’ve heard Melville talk about the sea. I’ve heard people talk about the beauty in the desert. Individuals change their entire lives around specific landscapes that feed their soul. They become inspired with some divine spark that is connected with a certain landscape and it drives them to a place of perspective for their existence. For me, mountains, always.

I know mountains may not be your thing. But whatever makes your heart beat faster, I hope it lifts you like mountains move my spirit. The last two days have had their challenges, but when the kickstand goes down for the night, the images feeding my dreams are the limitless scale and imagination evident in such grand elemental statements. Somehow my smallness combines with a personal peace and significance.

I think I’m on the right road.

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