Friday, November 19, 2010
Isaac and Lacey left for work the next morning after coffee, and I hit the road for the last time. I was blessed with a beautiful day to end on: sun shining, light breeze, and more blazing hills to gaze at (kinda dangerous at times though, because you don't want to watch the road..... minor issue). I rode around some small mountains, through shedding forests on a back country road. I was singing “Country Roads” by John Denver as I wound through the countryside. It was all new landscape to me until I hit Dardanelle, and it was almost just like any other day on the trip, except I knew I was almost home. I took my time, and tried not to count the miles, just keeping my head in the clouds and scaring cows as I rode by.
When I hit Dardanelle, I was overwhelmed with a feeling of surreality. I had thought of this day since I had started the trip, the day I would make it home, if that day came. And here it was. I had a handful of miles left till the trek was complete, was over, and I knew those miles like I know the feel of a soccer ball beneath my feet. Just instinct, just natural. A sequence of roads and turns that I had made a hundred times, probably more, except now it was extraordinary, to me at least. The commonplace colliding with the momentous. It felt so weird, an unusual homecoming, that I had awaited for over 3 thousand miles. I had made it. It was hard to swallow.
I ended by going up Sheppard Drive, which made a great final hill to end the trip on. I'll just say it's steep, and mildly long. It was an apt consummation of the trip – one final push to the finish; I felt like I earned the respite of home. I rolled into my driveway (another weird feeling), greeted by my parents, and my brother and sister-in-law. My brother turned on the car stereo to blast the Rocky Theme Song, which still makes me laugh, thinking about. I had made it, and made it in time – by Thanksgiving, to see my family. I was home, by the grace of God.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
In the morning, I crawled out of my tent and the dugout to find a handful of pickup trucks parked around the baseball fields. My first thought: “Those definitely weren't there last night. Nope.” But for some reason, I couldn't see or hear a single person. Strange, I thought. A little creepy too. As I was packing up, and trying to not be seen. A man walked around the corner, and jumped a little when he saw me. He invited me into the concession stand to get warm, to my surprise. After I packed up, I took him up on the offer. There were just four guys hanging out inside. They were the groundskeepers, and apparently none of them saw my tent when they drove up. Go figure.
Anyway, I just chatted with them about the weather, sports, faith, and life in general for several hours. They were so generous. They even convinced me to take some of their candy bars, and bought me some biscuits and gravy for breakfast. One of the guys even offered to drive me to Booneville, my next stop on my trip, but I declined. Before I left, we prayed together, which was encouraging and uplifting. Towards the end of the trip, I began to realize that even though I had little to give anyone, especially the people that helped me out, I could always pray with them and for them. I have found that, somehow, you can connect with a person on another level when you pray together. It's a small, yet powerful way to love someone, and simultaneously you are uplifted yourself in the process. I don't why it has taken me so long to realize this, but now, whenever I remember and have the opportunity, I love praying with whoever I meet on the road. It's the least, and at the same time the most, that I can do for someone.
I rode on, under gray skies, into Arkansas. Crossing the state line energized me to press on, being so close to home and the finish of the trip. The route to Booneville was incredible! There were plenty of tough hills, but I loved the challenge of them. And the view at the top of each crest was impeccable! Cows dotting the sloping valleys, surrounded by strings of auburn hills. Ahh! Beautiful countryside, and I knew I was getting closer to home! I arrived in Booneville after dark, and started asking around for places to camp. Randomly, as I was stopped at a traffic light downtown, a guy and his friends walked up and asked where I was going. So, I asked him for a place to stay. He told me about the city lake a few miles north where I could camp. I thanked him, and hoped I could find something closer. As I was about to leave, his friend came back and asked me my name again. He offered to let me camp out at his house, just a few blocks away! I wouldn't have to ride a couple miles through the hills, and I might get to hang out with these guys. I quickly took him up on the offer.
I end up hanging out with him (his name's Isaac), his wife, and their friends. They even built me a bonfire by my tent in the backyard – my first bonfire of the trip, on my last night! It was great! I hung out with them, and heard part of their stories. They're both from Booneville, and he works with a company that employs workers with disabilities doing manufacturing jobs. Random (or maybe not), because that has been an interest of mine for the past year. I don't know how much to read into it, but it was insightful at the very least to talk to him.
I slept in the backyard with their two German Shepherds and an electric blanket they let me borrow. Ironic, camping with an electric blanket and an extension cord running inside, but it kept me warm! Thanks a bunch Isaac and Lacey!
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
The next morning, at the park next to the rodeo grounds, I met a couple who lived in Wilburton. They just walked up and asked where I was going. So, we started chatting about life, and why the heck I was doing what I was doing. We talked a little about guidance, and how God directs our lives, which I am still trying to figure out. They encouraged me and gave me some advice – to pray for God to close doors, to shut opportunities that aren't His will. I'm still chewing on it, and how God hasn't closed doors in the past even upon my asking. At any rate, I prayed with them, and was encouraged by their faith and their spirit. They also told me of the fairgrounds in Poteau where I could camp the next night.
I rode on to Poteau that night, taking the afternoon to do some fishing. I was unsuccessful, again, but I got to see Lake Wister, take a sweet ride through the hills, and enjoy nature. I'm telling you guys, the world's beautiful out there. It's been so nice to slow down, and see it, and really try to just observe it without any clutter going through my mind. And it's lovely, the small things that we overlook everyday. Since coming back to Russellville, I notice the scenery so much more than before. And they say that the movie Avatar makes the real earth look bad. C'mon!
I found a church in the town of Wister that was still open, since it was Wednesday night after all. I asked the pastor if I could camp out on their lawn for the night, and I was very optimistic about it, since churches had been real helpful in the past. But, he politely turned me away, to my surprise, so I rode on. I found the fairgrounds in Poteau, and threw up my tent in a baseball dugout for the night to escape the wind. I figured no one would care, since baseball season was over. The dugout proved to be amazing, and the perfect size for all of my stuff, as the wind picked up throughout the night.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
The next day I rode to McAlester under beautiful skies. As I went through Oklahoma, I saw some amazing fall colors in the rolling hills. It was starting to feel more and more like home, like Arkansas, with little hills that were starting to get steeper, and trees everywhere. I had expected that the colors would be all gone by the time I rode through, but I went through at the tail end of the change in colors. The hills were dazzling in the collection of colors: greens, blazing oranges and yellows, and many hills covered in a warm auburn red. It was definitely starting to feel like home.
I made it to McAlester early, and I decided to waste time for a while. When I started trying to find a place to stay, the cops in McAlester told me that there was nowhere in town to stay. I decided to go to next town over, Krebs, only a couple miles away. It was a small town, so I thought my chances of them letting me stay there were good. When I asked the guy at the gas station, though, he called up dispatch, who told him that I couldn't camp in Krebs either. I was thinking about just throwing up my tent anyway, and being discreet. However, a lady, named Angel, overheard my small plight, and she said she could drive me to a state park. Before she did though, she asked me if I was going to murder her or not. Valid question, I suppose, all things considered. I guess my reassuring was convincing, because she did give me a lift to Wilburton, 20 miles away, and actually told me to camp at the rodeo grounds, and make sure I wasn't seen by the cops. So, I hopped a fence, found some cover, and hoped that the coyotes I heard wouldn't find me, or the cops. And I woke up the next morning, and no one gave me any grief. That night, though, her name struck me, and it got me wondering.... Who knows, huh?
Monday, November 15, 2010
Monday, I left Whitesboro, TX, where the Carpenters live, and headed on. I realized that morning that I would make it home by Friday, and that I didn't have any long, tough rides to endure before getting there. So, I ended up leaving around 1 PM, mostly out of laziness and overconfidence. Maybe not the greatest idea, since I still had 60 miles to go that day......
I fought the wind through Sherman, up into Oklahoma all the way to the town of Caddo. Not much to say, except that once the sun set, raindrops started coming down, and they were a little cold. I was just hoping to make it to Caddo before I got soaked in freezing rain. I got to Caddo. It never rained.
I slept in the park there, after the lady at the gas station called and made sure it was okay. I fell asleep reading in my tent, and a little later a loud thumping and a flashlight on my tent woke me up. I heard, “Caddo police” and starting freaking out. I crawled out, and two officers were standing there. As I just woke up, and I was still trying to figure out what was going on, I was freaking out. My heart was racing, and I was nervously stumbling over my words. They actually just wanted to see if I was okay. The younger one looked at me and asked me why I was doing this, as if I were crazy. I laughed and stumbled through an answer. After they left, I thought it funny when I realized my pulse was through the roof, over nothing. After that I went back to sleep.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Well, the next day was Sunday, which had been my day off during the trip, the one day a week to chill and kick it, and after the previous night, I was rather ready for it. Maybe more than a little bit. Unfortunately, though, because I had gotten to my campsite so late the night before (around 1 AM ish) and because I had to bike back into town to get to church, I ended up waking up early, and not getting a whole lot of sleep. Whatever. It is what it is.
So, I went by a church that I had seen the night before in Gainesville, a church called Grand Avenue Baptist Church. And thankfully, I got there before the service started. So, I chilled for a little bit outside, and then joined them for the service. It was definitely more traditional than I'm used to, and smaller than I expected, but there was a definite sense of life and sincerity there, which I think is much more important in a congregation than immaculate presentation or impressive numbers.
Afterward, I had a chance to meet a number of people from the church. The pastor bought me lunch at his restaurant – sweet, yeah? A pastor, AND a restauranteur, among other things. I was impressed. Even more impressive, he spoke truth from pulpit, which can sometimes be amiss in church. Anyway, great guy, Bill Black.
That afternoon, I hung out with their youth pastor, Josh Carpenter, a man who is several years younger than me, and yet a youth pastor. I was again impressed, especially with his maturity. We got to talking about our adventures, our plans for life, and so on. We talked about our travels to various places, and I was pumped to find another guy who has a passion to see new things, to adventure. I also tried to convince him to take a bike trip (you should do it, Josh!).
His folks let me stay with them that night, and I was able to connect with them – John and Suzanne. Their whole family loves adventure! John and I talked for hours about how enamored we are with John Eldredge and with pursuing adventure. It's easy to converse with someone for hours when you agree on a lot of things. They encouraged me significantly in my bike trip and my plans for life. And they blessed me with a place to stay that night. Thanks so much, you guys!
Saturday, November 13, 2010
On Saturday, I left Wichita Falls early in the morning. They kick everyone out of the homeless shelter at 5:30 in the morning. Man! That was easily the earliest that I had woken up on the trip. But, I guess it was good to get an early start to the day. I hit the road at around dawn, although I stopped on the outside of the city to get some food.
The day was beautiful, but it felt long. Very long. I made it about halfway, and I just wanted to sleep. No more biking. And I caved. I found a park and passed out on a bench for an hour. It felt heavenly, like everything was all right. But then I had to keep riding....
I rolled into Gainesville, TX well after dark that night, and started asking around for a place to camp out. I ended up going to the McDonald's in town to get warm for a while, and I ran into a few policemen. I started chatting with one of them, who actually worked in a neighboring town. He was super helpful. He asked the police from Gainesville where I could stay, and they flat out denied permission to camp out anywhere in town, effectively saying that I'd have to go to another town to find a place to stay. Not very comforting when you have to bike to the next town. Kinda irritating, to be honest. There has to be somewhere in town where I can put up a tent. But the first cop was at least sympathetic, and bought me dinner at McDonald's! Another act of kindness that I in no way deserved, from a complete stranger. My irritation abated.
He told me that the best place to stay would be a rest area off of the interstate a few miles up the road. I was kind of irked that the only option for me was miles out of town, but when that's all you have..... I started riding up the interstate, looking for a rest area, and I kept riding and riding. I was so tired, but the 5 miles I rode felt like 20, and I lost my patience real quick. But I found it, and then I realized that I had to walk my bike across the four lanes of interstate to get there – another little thing making my night just that much longer.
When I finally get to the rest area, I find a spot to camp out, and have dinner (it's midnight by this point). As I'm unpacking, a security guard walks up and asks what I'm doing. I explain my situation, and in a very matter-of-fact voice tells me that I can't pitch a tent there. What?! I was getting right out angry. The police had sent me there, who I'm sure meant well, and I now I can't even stay there? The security guard told me that I could lay out my sleeping back and sleep outside, just without a tent. State law, apparently. So, all the truckers could park there and sleep for the night, but a person on a bike couldn't put up his tent? He apologized, and I could tell he was just doing his job, no personal animosity towards me. Still, I was ticked off.
After eating dinner and stewing in my anger, I took my tent and gear to the other side of the frontage road, hoping I was out of sight, and camped by the road. Honestly, I slightly hoped that the security guard would give me trouble, just so I could give him a piece of my mind. Which I know isn't right, but I was tired and fed up. But I slept well, thankfully.
Friday, November 12, 2010
I knew that night, in Wichita Falls, that the weather was going to get cold. Fortunately, Shawn, whom I met earlier that day, told me about a place called Faith Mission that would let me stay the night. When I arrived into the city and talked with some people, I realized that it was a homeless shelter. So, I braced my mind for sleeping the night in a homeless shelter, which I had never done before. I get to the mission 10 minutes before they lock the outside gate (such a relief!), and after 5 bowls of their bean soup, I join the other men in the dorm. I tried to blend in as much as possible, and I didn't let on that, financially, I was fine. But, I looked the part pretty well, and they didn't seem to have any standards for admittance. So, I joined all these other men in this shelter, in a dorm like setting, and was homeless for a night. As I lay in bed, I was laughing to myself at the irony, how I had chosen to put myself in this position, and out of desire to be warm, made myself homeless. I am so grateful that the Mission was far from being a permanent residence for me. Even so, I thought it funny how I had ended up in that situation, and how no one questioned my presence there.
I had a chance to briefly talk to one of the men there in the morning. He seemed much more put together than me, certainly better dressed. We didn't have much time to chat, but when I asked how he got there, he said he had just lost his job, and all of his resources had run out, and he was just doing what he needed to get by for the time being. Seemed like he should have had a family, a 9 to 5 job, and a house in the burbs. But I guess hard times can fall on anyone.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
So, the next morning, when I slept through my alarm, got a late start, and realized that I needed to ride 100 miles that day, I got a little anxious, and stressed about making time, especially against the wind. But, I took time out, throughout the day, to sit, and chill, and pray, and read. And I stopped stressing about it. I relaxed, and enjoyed the ride, much more so than the day before. Not only that, but I made it to where I wanted to get to – Seymour, TX - and wasn't even up real late. I was so much more at peace, and enjoyed the trip, as opposed to stressing about getting home. And I don't want to miss out on enjoying these last few weeks, even though I do want to get home. I want to enjoy and experience it as much as I can, and not miss a heartbeat. It was refreshing to refocus.
The next day, the rain came in, and I wasn't about to ride in it this time. At all. It was a cold, windy, overcast, British weather day, the kind I cannot abide, the kind that can make you sick in an instant. So, I rode to a small feed shop in Seymour, the Feed and Seed Barn, to wait out the storm. I had been told that a man worked there that loved to cycle. And I ended up hanging out there all morning, talking with James and Shawn, who both worked there. So cool! I just chatted with them about their families and their experiences, and how they like living in a town of a couple thousand. James and I talked cycling over lunch that day, and introduced me to everyone we saw. It was funny – I felt kinda like a celebrity.
I'm glad that I didn't miss that opportunity to meet such cool people, full of character and life, and hear their stories. I love getting to hear the stories of people in all walks of life, and I feel that God has wanted to use this trip for that purpose - to connect with people. Blessings to you guys!
I then headed on to Wichita Falls that afternoon, after the rain stopped, and even though it was miserable weather – overcast and windy – I enjoyed the ride. Just getting to hand out with cool people made it all worth it.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
So, Wednesday I headed out from Lubbock for the second time, biking 4 miles out of my way to a bike shop that was supposed to be open, and wasn't. And then I flatted another 2 tubes that day, fighting tube patches, and having to carry my bike at times. It was really starting to get to me, all the problems my bike was having, and I was starting to get discouraged about my bike even making it home. I realize now that spokes and tubes are minor issues, but even so, it gets to you when you're on the road. I was really feeling like I was fighting God, trying to get home. I mean, that was my motivation and focus – push home, so I can get to see my family, which hasn't been together like that for a couple years. So, I was so focused on pushing on, making lots of miles, and making it on time. And I felt like God was resisting me. I thought of the Bible verse that said that God resists the proud – was I being proud about this?
Later that night, when I was setting up camp in Dickens, TX, and eating dinner, I realized that I was losing focus of the point of the trip, and I really wasn't focusing pursuing the Lord. I had been slacking on spending time in the Word, meditating, and praying. The phrase “you've lost you're first love” came to mind. Convicting. So, I resolved to take time to pray and read, no matter if I had a lot of miles to ride, if I was behind schedule, or what. It was a priority, and I needed to maintain that. Even so, I felt pretty miserable and lonely that night. I was kind of tired of being on the road.
Monday, November 8, 2010
The next day, I rode on to Lubbock, TX, which just ended up being a long, tiring day. I knew before I started that it was going to be end up being over 100 miles that day, which didn't really excite me. That, and I had a decent cross-wind hitting me all day, which makes life a little more difficult, and slow. So, it ended up becoming just a long day, spending a lot of time in the saddle. Not much to say there, except that when I say the Lubbock City Limit sign, I was kinda ecstatic. And then I had another 15 miles to go before the day was done.
But, again, the Lord provides. A lady that I met in Texico, NM, named Jo Igo, got me in contact with her son, Chris, who goes to Texas Tech. He lives with several other guys on the south side of town, and they let me crash at their place. It was great hanging with those guys, all of whom are solid guys, and really fun to be around. It reminded me a lot of the house I lived in my senior year of college, and the camaraderie we had there – a bunch of solid Christian guys growing and encouraging each other. What a huge blessing, especially after a completely draining day!
The next day, I was super determined to make some headway getting home, since I had been eager to get home by Thanksgiving. But, I'm guessing God had other plans. After breaking and replacing a broken spoke that morning, I hit the road, and quickly hit more problems. About ten blocks down the road, I ran over something and flatted my tire. No big deal – fixed it and went on. About a mile from the city limits, I broke a spoke, and really started questioning how far I was going to make it. And, get this, as I was fixing my spoke, another spoke broke. I don't know why. I guess it's one of those things. So, I spent an hour or two fixing my wheel, and decided to head back to stay with Chris and the guys. And I flatted another tire. At that point, I gave up, pretty much. Some days, you just can't win, and this was one of those days, I suppose. Maybe it was God telling me to stick around for another day. I don't know. Chris picked me up, and I stayed another night with the guys, which, again, was a huge blessing to even have that option. Thanks so much guys!
Sunday, November 7, 2010
Recently, I've been the recipient of grace, in various forms, I suppose. Maybe charity is a better word for it. And, it's been a struggle to know how to deal with it. I think that a lot of it has to do with my personality, how I'm wired if you will. Take for instance a guy in Belen, NM, that gave me a few bucks out of nowhere, just walked up and gave it to me. Another guy, in Fort Sumner, NM, when I asked to fill up my water bottles, he started giving me a bunch of candy.
In Texico, last night (11/7), I was sitting in the gas station reading my Bible, solely because it was warm there, and I wanted to chill. I promise, I wasn't looking for handouts. A guy, with some coworkers, sits down near me, and shortly asks me if I'm hungry. I guess I look homeless – oh well. I said I'm fine, and we proceed to swap stories. He's from Cuidad Juarez – crazy, right? - and he travels back and forth to Oklahoma every week with a load of used cars. Anyway, he presses if I want anything, and I let him buy me a candy bar, since I have the worst sweet-tooth ever. He pays for it, and I see a disgusted look on the face of the lady behind the counter. Now, maybe I was imagining the look, but I started questioning myself – was it right to let him buy me a candy bar, potentially under the pretense of me being a legitimate hobo? I mean, I have food, I'm okay on money, I have a place to sleep at night (although it's sometimes cold). I'm not homeless or poor – so is it wrong to accept his charity?
So, today I get blown away, for the millionth time on this trip. I go to church at First Baptist in Texico, New Mexico. I'll admit, that I did want to, while I was at church, ask somebody about a place to do a load of laundry – my clothes reeked from desert sweat. So, when I'm chatting with the pastor, and he asks me if I need a place to stay, I decline, saying that I'm camping in the park. However, I did say that I'm looking for a place to do laundry, even a laundromat or something. After the service, he drives me and all my gear to Clovis, pays for a hotel room, pays for breakfast, and gives me a bunch of money for laundry. A hotel room. That's kind of a big expense, you know? I think he got tired of me saying “Thank You.” I feel like I should give him something in return, like I should somehow earn this gift, maybe clean his house from top to bottom or something. But, all that was right to do was receive. And that's really hard for me to do, all along this trip, is receive that which is freely given. I try to make sure that I don't beg, and that I'm honest about my need situation. But, even so, I feel like I need to earn it, to be independent. And that part of me is such an American, individualistic thing, and I think it makes it so hard to accept God's grace that He gives us, that we could never earn anyway. And yet we try. Or I try at least. The least, I can do, I think, is be grateful. Thank you so much, Rob Hollis, for a shower, and clean clothes, and being a conduit of grace. And to everyone who has given, I can't say thank you enough. May you be blessed even more than I.
Saturday, November 6, 2010
I left Fort Sumner early on Saturday, again trying to make it to the Texas border by that night. I met a cool guy that morning whom, when I saw him walking around outside, I asked for water. His name was Alberto, and he brought me into his place. We chatted for a little bit, and he ended up giving me a bag full of candy, and couple bananas. I thought it was rather funny, in an encouraging way – this stranger that I just met helping me out by giving what looked like leftover Halloween candy. Which I gladly accepted. I mean, it's candy. Don't have to ask tell me twice.
That day, I was feeling slightly under the weather, but that might have had something to do with the night spent in the desert. Maybe. But I made it to Texico, NM, found a place to camp, and crashed hard. Thank God for warm Kelty sleeping bags! I hid myself in the town park, with the police station right next to it, and hoping not to be seen by them. I was so ready to take a day off and let my legs relax, trying to get some decent sleep.
Friday, November 5, 2010
After waking up in the middle of nowhere, and realizing in the daylight that there really wasn't anything around, I started heading to the next town – Encino, NM. I had been really struggling mentally after Belen, since making a fairly big decision regarding my future and what I was going to be doing for the next year. I guess it was a big decision, and being me, I always second-guess myself. I wasn't very certain of the decision that I had made, and I started worrying. And when you have hours to yourself on a bike, it can tend to snowball. There were a lot of moments that day when I really didn't want to keep biking. So, I did a lot of praying that day, praying for God's will to be done, and just kept going.
Fortunately, there was some relief that afternoon, a little encouragement from the tailwind that I got. Since, in the desert, there might not be anything for, say, 60 miles, that day I had the choice of riding 40 miles, or 100 miles. So, being stubborn, I decided to ride 100, going to Fort Sumner. And I made it by sundown, due to the merciful western wind. It was exciting to feel fast, even if it had nothing to do with me. It gave my spirits a little lift, at the least. It was one of those rides when I couldn't see my destination until I was on top of it. Just little hill after little hill in the desert, with nothing around but the occasional train. Then, I crested a hill, and down in the valley sat Fort Sumner, out of nowhere. The day ended well.
Thursday, November 4, 2010
After leaving Albuquerque, I was starting to take on a very driven mentality. I had lost some time in the Denver area, and if I wanted to making it back home by Thanksgiving, I needed to book it. My brother and sister-in-law were coming back home, and I hadn't seen them in a couple years. Since Thanksgiving is a pretty big deal with my family, I made it a priority to get home by then. I don't regret taking extra time in the Denver area; it just made the return trip a little tight on time. So, once I got out of high elevation where I needed to find homes to stay in, and thus could camp out in the lower desert, I decided to hold a pretty strong pace.
After I went over the mountains in New Mexico, I was dead focused on making it to Texas by the end of the week. So the next day, I was racing to make distance. However, I quickly realized that, in the desert, there aren't many little towns to stop in, for water or to camp for the night. This kind of presents a problem, especially in the desert. I didn't realize how cold the desert gets at night. I mean, it's the desert, right? Heh.
So, I leave Mountainair, NM, trying to head to the next town, forty miles away. And then the sun sets, and the temperature drops, and my legs start getting tired. And on this road in the desert, there is no sign of human dwelling, only the trucks passing me on the road and the trains passing on the rails. So, what do I do? I find a random pull-off on the highway that's used by railroad workers, where there are some electrical boxes and propane tanks right next to the railroad. (The tracks are only about 50 feet from the road). And I make camp behind these big propane tanks, between the highway and the railroad, and try to stay warm. I think I was pretty well hidden, since no one came by and gave me any trouble in the middle of the night. I did hear some coyotes come by late in the night though...... It turns out that on this section of railroad, a train comes by about every 15 minutes, rumbling right by my tent. All in all, I didn't get the most sleep that night. But, it's all good, because I made pancakes in the morning. Heck, yes!
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
On Wednesday, I headed out from Rio Rancho, NM, only to have to turn around a mile down the road. My bike was giving me troubles, out of nowhere. For those that know bikes, the derailleur hanger was bent inwards, throwing off the real axle, the derailleur, and the brake rotor. Things I couldn't fix. But Cris is kinda my hero, and he gave me a life to a bike shop, which fixed it for free. Sweet!
After that, I left for good, and rode through Albuquerque, down south to Belen. It was an odd type of beauty that New Mexico has. The mountains run in a line from north to south, and Albuquerque is nestled at the foot of Sandia's Peak. Sandia's is some kind of desert mountain I suppose, with impressive height in the midst of arid plains, but unlike the Colorado mountains, there's little greenery or snow on it. It's a red-brown protrusion in the ground, like someone took a chisel and punched a dent in the earth from the other side. And the string of mountains continued down all the way along my route. A beautiful accompaniment under the desert sun.
Thursday night and Friday morning were full of weird experiences, mainly just interactions with people. I was asking around town about a place to camp out, and I met a guy named Mike who was super sympathetic and helpful. As it turns out, he's with the Army, and does black ops in Afghanistan, most of it he can't even tell me about. I was totally taken off guard, since he's such a chill guy, not giving off any stereotypical rough-and-tumble feel. But he drove me to the fire department, let me use his sleeping bag, and promised me some MRE's for the ride the next day (freaking sweet!).
The guys at the fire department were cool that night, and let me use a side lot to camp out in. I got to chat with some of the guys there - all in all a good night.
Next morning, though, things changed, I suppose. I was relaxing, eating breakfast at the fire station, taking my time, when one of the firemen, off-duty I think (maybe the chief?), drove up to me, and told me to get off the property. I was still waking up, not completely coherent but completely taken off-guard, and I just said, “huh?” He said something along the lines of “We can't have you all sprawled out like that.” Apparently, I was sprawled out too much. Whatever. So, I started packing things up, which took another 30 minutes, and he watched me from the other side of the parking lot.
Not only that, but Mike, who said he would call me the next morning, never called me or came by, which was totally weird since he kept saying he would at least come by. He's left a message on my phone since then, so I'm assuming something came up. Weird though.
I stuck around for a while, as I also had to make a decision about what I was going to be doing come January. I sat outside the Belen library for over an hour, mentally debating, weighing my options, going back and forth, trying to figure out God's voice. After I finally made a decision, which I didn't feel completely confident about, I left and headed south.
I cut through the New Mexican mountains, and headed across the desert for home, finally heading back east. Fleeing the sunset, I suppose.
Monday, November 1, 2010
I left Santa Fe, and rode on to Rio Rancho, NM, after resting on Sunday. It was a sweet ride, as it was only 50 miles, and pretty much all downhill – soooo nice to be reaping the rewards of altitude. It started out rather rough, with a flat tire, a broken spoke, and a derailleur gone crazy in the span of about 5 miles. But, I didn't get super frustrated this time. I just fixed them and went on, for the most part, since I was equipped to do so. I felt confident for once, that I could make it home, that God would work things out and help me deal with the random contingencies that arise. And I made it to Rio Rancho.
I hung out with good friend Cristobal Duran, and stayed with his family, which was a blast! His mom makes amazing Mexican food, and I'm pretty sure I was spoiled for the several days I was there. She has inspired me to make chilaquiles when I get home. More than the food, it was cool to hang out with their family for a couple days, to kick it with Cris and his siblings. I was very impressed at the cohesion of their family; they were all so close, so very close, and there was nothing melodramatic or disingenuous about it. They were just tight. And their parents seemed like very down to earth leaders. Mr. Duran had a very impressive nature about him, a quiet, soft-spoken kind of strength and a strong devotion to God, and he led his family in that way. It was cool to be a part of that for a couple days. Big thanks to them for letting me stay there and hang out!
While I was in the Albuquerque area, I also had the chance to hang out with a guy named Tom Seamon, a NYC native transplanted to New Mexico. I happened to meet him on the side of the road coming from Alamosa, and we ended up having lunch in Albuquerque. We checked out the Old Town, historic district of the city, and I got to hear his story, including some sweet stories about driving a nuclear submarine during the Cold War, and almost being a part of the start of nuclear war. Good thing it was almost.
I also had a chance to hear about his life-long journey with his homosexuality, and hear about how he dealt with it over the years. Even more interesting, he shared how he blended his Christian beliefs with his homosexuality, which he now openly admits to. As I listened, it was incredibly eye-opening to hear the story from his vantage point, from someone who been through struggles with his sexuality for years, and has been in the church during the whole time. His experiences carry a weight far more powerful than any logical argument or rationale, and will definitely give me something to think about. Thanks so much for hanging out and sharing, Tom! You'll be in my thoughts and prayers.