Burnt and Dirty

Today was the leg of the trip that has been making me grit my teeth for months. Any way I mapped it, I still had to get across some square states, and the best way to do that seemed fast. No offense to the fine people who populate the great states of Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, and Nebraska, but there’s only so much farmland this hillbilly can take. You’re fine people, I’m sure, but flatland makes as much sense to me as a pop-tart with no icing. (And if you still think I have something against farmers you’ll have to take it up with my Southern Illinois wife – the finest crop her daddy ever raised!)

Anyway, after yesterday’s ride through the flames of Hades, I landed in a half-star hotel, and arranged to meet my cousin and his wife for dinner in downtown Eureka Springs, Arkansas. The tight valley filled with historic stone buildings provided a great setting for us to all to get to know each other. Thanks Terry and Lynn! You guys helped me recover and have a new start this morning.

A pre-dawn roll through the darkness of the Ozark valleys kept fogging my windshield as I dipped down, then clearing it as I climbed the next hilltop.  The first bit was exactly what I had hoped to find in Arkansas.

And, even though after I left the hills I could steer by compass points, the day was a fun ride. Apparently, people in the straight road states have a very liberal attitude about posted speed limits. I followed some trucks, some Harley riders, and even thought about falling in with a pack of 12 motorcycle police riding in formation (I didn’t, but I thought about it …Oooh, I thought about it).

But, other than the zippy progress of 600 miles rolling by today, the highlight was a stop at Joe’s Kansas City BBQ. Thank you Pat for suggesting this stop! I got there early for lunch, and that was a good thing.

The next good thing was the lunch special of burnt ends with a side of dirty rice, or as the guy at the counter yelled it, “One burnt and dirty!” I thought for a second he was talking about me.

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I left feeling full, and slightly envious of the experience these people were about to have.IMG_4582

Today wasn’t nearly the challenge I thought it would be. The straight-line miles gave me a lot of time to think about how grateful I am for this opportunity, how grateful I am for my family, and how grateful I am to God for giving me a life with purpose and meaning I could never have imagined.

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On your mark, get set, get set…

I have created some confusion about my cross-country trip. I am not a stranger to confusion, in fact, usually all it takes is something shiny at the corner of my eye and I’m already there.

This post is an effort to clear up what I have muddied.

Yes I have begun my cross country ride. (see start your engines and a tale of two rides)

No, I haven’t really started the solo ride from my house to the west coast. Since I live north of Atlanta and only about 250 miles from the Atlantic coast I did a quick trip down to Tybee Island and back.

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Hey, it wouldn’t be a legitimate coast to coast trip without actually seeing the ocean. I’m even taking some Atlantic ocean water with me on the ride to deliver to the pacific.

I will leave my home and begin my trek west on July 21. The first day is going to be going over territory that I’ve hit before, so mileage is going to be prioritized over sightseeing. I hope to arrive somewhere close to Memphis by the first night.

Route Leg 2

It’s a ride of about 350 miles. I have one landmark I’d like to see on the way and I’ll tell you more about that later.

So – to my friend Rufus – it’s not too late to join me, and you have a clean bike!

To my friend Mark – let’s ride again!

To my friend Don – put down the pencil and hammer and get a bike!

To my cousin Fred – Leave the trailer at home and ride with me.

Part 2 of 2 – COUNTRY ROADS…

CONTINUED FROM THE PREVIOUS ENTRY

The journey through my home state started … well, feeling like home, but immediately after the last turn it felt more like a playground slide with broken glass at the bottom.

I was blessed to be within a mile of Rainelle, a town where my cousin Joe made quite a name for himself playing football. Coasting into town, I took the first turn into a grocery store parking lot. Putting down the kickstand, sliding off the saddle that had carried me over Route 60, I heard the fearful hiss of my wonderful two-wheeled freedom machine becoming a very immobile unicycle. I leaned down to touch the hole in the back tire that leaking all my positive thoughts into space.

It was Friday at 4:50 pm. I was immediately on my cell phone to my extremely unhelpful insurance company trying to get some ray of hope. It turned out that my premiums went to fund their employee parking garage, and wouldn’t apply to a motorcycle tire, or towing, or anything else I wanted unless it was a covered parking space in Mayfield, Ohio.

I knew the odds were long that I would find my huge and rare back tire anywhere close. It’s tough during business hours, but now, as everyone was trying to leave for a summer weekend it would be nearly impossible. Things couldn’t get worse.

Then it started to rain.

When the state police cruiser pulled up I wondered if my day would get better or take another turn to the worse.   The two officers asked me if they could help. They weren’t on duty yet, but out to get a cup of coffee before starting their shift. They gave me a ride to the only motel in town. They introduced me to THE auto parts store owner who was one of the most helpful people to know if you needed a difficult to find part for your vehicle. They even checked in with me the next day to see if I had received the help I needed.

The next day, it was raining again. After spending some time at the auto parts store getting numbers for every tire store in the state, I walked the mile it took to get me back to my immobile bike. A second cousin picked me up, put my bike on a trailer, and took it to a shop 30 miles away. The shop promised a tire that the parts man found in South Carolina would be there in three days. My Aunt and another cousin picked me up and took me to the family reunion at my Great Grandfather’s house.

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The three days I intended to spend riding, were now spent with people that share history with me. The days were not wasted. After the reunion, my family took me back to the shop, and I was on my way once again.

The hills of West Virginia had proven my suspicion. Every hollow, creek, and town has people willing to reach out to family. They are my family. It will always be my home.

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Cue John Denver…

Take Me Home Country Roads

 

Part 1 of 2 – TAKE ME HOME…

One summer I was headed to a family reunion in West Virginia. Family and the state of West Virginia have almost been the same thought for me for all of my life. The mountains are far more than a collection of rock, dirt, and trees. These mountains have witnessed my history. Not only my lifetime but the lifetimes of the people from whom I trace my life, my core beliefs, and my thrill of traveling this land.

Maybe it’s my imagination working overtime at the thrill of the ride, but I feel like I can depend on the people who populate these hills as if they are my family. A lot of them are. My family gladly traces its lineage to second, or third cousins. We include many of our close friends as “family.” We know that wherever we are in the world, if we knock on a door of a family member, we will be taken in. We will be received with hospitality and care that comes from the duty and respect of our common but sometimes distant history in these mountains.

(Please forgive the philosophy but riding US Route 60 is a motorcycling dream that encourages large thoughts.)

As I began my descent toward Rainelle, I heard my rear tire make a “pow” as if it just spit a large rock. This wasn’t unheard of, but I was surprised I hadn’t noticed a piece of gravel in my path that would have made a sound as pronounced as it did. Then, in the next turn, I leaned the cruiser over, and it felt …heavy.

Now my bike pushes 800 pounds with a full tank of gas, but ordinarily it handles like a crotch rocket in the twistys. I like to imagine it’s a football player body that can still dance ballet. This balance and feel is a careful arrangement of geometry, mechanical design, and great tires.   The next turn and the next told me that the football player was pirouetting like he’d had a few beers.

Suddenly the road didn’t seem as friendly as before.

…TO BE CONTINUEDRoad Trip  5252006 115