Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Originally uploaded by rod lewis
When I left Farmington on Sunday morning, I was already ahead of schedule, because I’d forgone about 100 miles in Utah, and had driven straight down from Durango with only the detour of the Four Corners loop of hwys160 and 64. Finding no place to stay in Shiprock, I’d come another 30 miles of what would have been my Sunday ride.
I took a little extra time Sunday morning before climbing on the bike, and decided to have Rod church. For Rod church, I read some Psalms and scribbled some thoughts. The last Psalm I read was number 126. “He has done great things…”
There are very few roads to take one from Farmington, southeast to Santa Fe, so the ride consisted of four lane divided highway 550 until it meets with I-25 just north of Albuquerque. I hated the concept of driving all the way south of Santa Fe, just to ride back north again, so I looked for a little road to cut through the mountains. There were only two roads, both departed from Cuba, NM. The more direct route is 126, and I thought it apt to take the road named after the Psalm I’d read this morning. What’s more, Psalm 126 is a Psalm of Ascent, so it seemed quite appropriate to use that road to cross the mountains and make my own ascent into the town that has come to have deeply spiritual meaning for me.
I stopped, gassed up, and took a biological break in Cuba, and then headed out of the tiny village on 126. About a mile out of town, I passed a sign that read, “caution, mountainous, unimproved road 8 miles ahead, may be impassable in winter conditions. “ The scenery was spectacular, the road, winding and 3 dimensional. After 8 miles of sheer motorcyclist bliss, I came upon the sign that read the same as the first but without the 8 miles ahead part. The sign was perched beside the road upon a gate that could be closed across the road if it had become impassable. The winding, climbing, falling bliss continued for nearly 12 more miles until the road turned to washboard surface dirt. Figuring that this was temporary, I continued slowly for a few more miles until the road turned muddy and rutty and slippery, and I nearly fell off my bike a few times. I pulled over to the side of the road path to contemplate my options. At this tempo, I’d miss the first couple days of the workshop in Santa Fe. As I sat there on the bike, I began to hear cows mooing, and glanced up the road to see a herd of cattle being driven down the road by 4 guys on horses.
As the herd came closer, I realized how understated road condition is in New Mexico, and decided to follow C.S. Lewis’ advice and do an about face and go back to where I’d veered from the right path. By now I’d spent nearly two hours wandering in the wilderness, and was due for another biological break, so I stopped in Cuba again, at a different gas station to avoid having to explain to the attendant why I was back so soon.
Unable to contain the joy of having ventured to the road less traveled and been turned back by a herd of cattle, I called my dad to tell him the story, and climbed back in the saddle and made my way to Santa Fe by the more common means of four lane highway.
It should also be know, I suppose, that this is not the first time I was turned back on this trip. I was also rejected by a road in Colorado that didn’t lead me on nearly as long as this one did. In fact, it told me right away that I wasn’t welcome, but in my stubbornness, I pressed on until the road had to be more forthright. I descended the steep hill and switchbacks on washboards with my tail tucked between my legs.
I’m taking donations for a R1200GS. Allison won’t let me sell the kids.


Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Originally uploaded by rod lewis
Sun rising in my rearview,
darker sky ahead.

If I could ride hard enough,
could I make the sun set behind me –
not yet risen as it just did?
Make time stand still,
or even grow younger as I strain the
muscle of my V-twin.

But I know I can’t outrun the sun,
and so, I’ll ride into the sunset with
darker skies behind.

Will pointed out to me the other day,
that all the cars’ shadows were directly beneath them,
the midsummer sun so high in the sky.
Hours later, the shadows had hardly moved.

One must get up early to cast a shadow
before or behind.
And so I’m riding off at daybreak to see where
my shadow leads.

For I am but a shadow of the man
I will become.

I am a poem
and its reader,
reading up the page,
following each short white line
as it passes before my eyes and
beneath and behind me to become
a moment ago, this morning,


Monday, July 28, 2008


Originally uploaded by rod lewis
Yesterday, after an unexpected detour (actually, a turn-and-go-back!) I stopped at the same place I had early and took a biological break. When I was ready to get back on the bike, I glanced at my helmet and saw myself. You may not believe this, but I'm pretty sure this was the first time I'd seen myself in nearly a week. Now, be sure, out here all alone, long rides through nowhere, lying awake under the vast sky at night, I've seen myself alright - just not my outside self, not the visible part. (and as narly as that part may be, other parts I've seen this week are much less pleasant to contend with).
So here I was gazing in the shiny black, convex surface of my helmet and saw the outside, slightly distorted version of myself. I think probably my vision of myself is always a bit distorted- always as if I’m seeing myself reflected in a shiny black concave helmet.
We’ve all got protectors, we all wear armor, build walls, position ourselves safely behind, beneath, or within something that keeps us from seeing or knowing us, or keeps us from having to meet whom we know is there, or whom we are afraid we’ll find.
I don’t know, it just felt odd looking at my distorted self against the gorgeous sky reflected in my own protector – from the outside.
Ironically, a few hours later, while I was in an informational meeting for the workshop at St. John’s College, my helmet was stolen from my bike. Poof. Gone. Nothing between skull and the road, should I fail to keep rubber side down. Nothing to keep the rain off the top, or the bugs out of my face and eyes. Nothing to keep me out of jail should I not replace it before I ride into Nevada next week.
Truth is, I don’t feel comfortable riding out here in wonderful strange-land without it. I’ve spent a lot of the night thinking about protectors, vulnerability, openness, authenticity, etc. I’m here for a writers’ workshop, and as I’m mingling for the first time with total strangers, feeling self-conscious, wondering at who they are, who they think I am, out in the parking lot and protective tool is being stolen from me.
For five days I’ve been alone. Sometimes, in traffic, or among myriad people, and sometimes in actual solitude where no other human could be found for a hundred miles.
Last night, I was forced to mingle with a few hundred people with whom I actually do have to interact, have conversation, engage.
Wonder what other barriers, armor, and protectors will be taken from me as this week progresses?


Saturday, July 26, 2008

rocky mountain high

rocky mountain high
Originally uploaded by rod lewis
This morning, I’d revised my goals, and upon arrival in Walsenburg, had met them. But it was still only 4:00pm mountain time, so I decided to press on. It was only 72 miles to my original goal of Alamosa, and that would give me extra time tomorrow. Perhaps even a visit to Great Sand Dunes National Park.
I was cold and wet, but the rain had stopped for the moment, and the gas station attendant said, “I wish those clouds would come over here, we never get any rain!” So I figured I’d stay dry for the next 72 miles at between 7,000 and 10,000 feet elevations. I was wrong. Not only was much colder than I’d expected, but it also continued to rain all the way through the ride. Of course, it didn’t diminish the beauty of these early glimpses of the Rockies – if anything, it enhanced it. But I had to stop half-way there to warm my Raynaud’s hands on my hot pipes, and take out an extra shirt to keep the wind from entering my sleeves.
I arrived in Alamosa, wet, cold, hungry, and sore. The thought of setting up the tent in the dark, in the rain, and shivering from cold, made my heart ache, so I set out looking for a cheap motel. After 5 stops to fully booked establishments, that campground starting sounding more and more pleasing. Finally, I found a place that had a DNR (do not rent) because the air conditioner was out. AIR CONDITIONER? I’m freezing! So I got the room for half price and set about, unsuccessfully, looking for food.


riders on the storm

riders on the storm
Originally uploaded by rod lewis
July 25, 2008
11:32 pm
Alamosa, CO

Today when I got the heck out of Dodge, I continued west across Kansas and entered Colorful Colorado.
I believe the miles are shorter in Colorful Colorado. In no time, I was in La Junta gazing west into dark clouds. Nevertheless, I set out across highway 10 toward Walsenburg. I saw absolutely no sign of humanity for the next 50 miles. At some point during that glorious trek, I realized it was time to pull over and dress out for the foreboding atmosphere that lie ahead. Lightning zigzagged across every inch of sky, and it didn't seem to be moving.
As I got closer, the air got cooler so that by the time I entered the rain, it was quite cold and windy.
By now, I could see the actual ground that was being struck by the bolts, some of them less than a hundred yards away. I'd never experienced lightning in 3D before - it's always been set against a black background in 2 dimensions. Seeing it strike specific spots close by was bone chilling.
I arrived in Walsenburg safe but shaken and cold.


a quicker way to travel

a quicker way to travel
Originally uploaded by rod lewis
July 23, 2008
Tulsa, Oklahoma
(474 miles) (1165 miles)

Apparently, I slept through an awesome thunderstorm last night. I didn’t know that at the time of my last scribbled entry. As I was packing my bike this morning, a man from Holland came by and struck up a conversation. He asked me if I’d gotten wet last night. I said, I didn’t think it rained much. He replied, “not equal to the unbelievable thunder and lightning.” So there you have it. Rod slept hard.
After I’d waited out the rain and let the tent dry, I decided I had enough time to visit downtown Memphis. I drove down I-55 looking for Graceland, Graceland, in Memphis Tennessee, but alas, I didn’t find it. After the first time crossing back over the Mississippi into Arkansas again, I decided to cross back and forth a few times. No, really. This is a habit I picked up in Budapest a bunch of years ago when I crossed the Danube, walked down to the next bridge and walked back across. And so on…
Finally, I exited to downtown and rode down the riverside drive until I came to Union Avenue. Expecting to see the Ghost of Elvis, I parked my bike, fed the meter and set off walking. I walked up to Main Street, and then down to Beale. Besides the legendary Beale Street Buzz playing in my imagination, downtown Memphis was the quietest experience I’d had since I left my driveway 24 hours before. There were a few people walking about, and a few quiet trolleys ringing quaint bells as they stopped for the few people walking about.

I decided to do everything within my power to avoid interstate today, so I hopped Arkansas 64 to avoid driving south and then north again and to completely miss Little Rock. I’d pick up I-40 west of Little Rock and follow it to Oklahoma and then up to Tulsa. But about halfway across, I began to think I’d rather stay in the country and maybe begin my trek Northward before I reached Oklahoma. I spoke with a man at a gas station who suggested US-412 across the top of Arkansas. So I plotted a path to get me there.
Once again, it is proven true that the journey matters more than the destination. The hundred mile ride northward through the uninhabited mountains proved much more spectacular than the traffic-ridden, town-bespeckled, thunderstorm-laden 412.
As it turns out, 412 comes straight into Tulsa via the Cherokee Turnpike, and become I-44. I stopped at the first exit, and here I am, debating whether to set up the tent or sleep under the first clear skies I’ve seen since I left this morning.


look at me!!!!!

look at me!!!!!
Originally uploaded by rod lewis
July 23, 2008
West Memphis, Arkansas
(691 miles) (691 miles)

It is really quite difficult not to develop a destination – to begin living in the future. I woke up so early this morning that it was still dark for quite a while. I began to think of how early I could get to Tulsa if I got moving right away. But of course, I thought of how much I wanted to go back into Memphis and have a walk about. I truly began to consider skipping Memphis and all it’s musical magic to rush myself off to Tulsa where I have no plans whatsoever. I merely plan to sleep in Tulsa. I’d plan to feel Memphis.
I even thought, that if I got out early, I may keep moving past Tulsa, and get ahead of my schedule. Why is it that we have such a tendency to get ahead of ourselves? We are so product driven and destination-minded that we often miss the importance of the process and journey. Truth is, there are products whose only purpose is the process that produced them. Surely destinations are among them.
The point of the journey is not to arrive.



Originally uploaded by rod lewis
Last night at sunset, I rode through Memphis and across the Mississippi River into Arkansas. Fifteen minutes later, I set up the tent and crashed. Seven hundred miles and 14 hours astride the Windhorse had taken its toll. That’s about 5 hours before bedtime for me. In fact, I woke up fully dressed in my nasty road clothes at 5:30 this morning, climbed out of the tent in a slight drizzle, and headed for the shower. Yes, I’m really roughing it!
When I returned from the shower, the sun was beginning to come up in the clear eastern sky, but it was still raining. Another degree above the horizon and the soft sun cast its rays through the rain around me and projected a rainbow above my head in the still-dark sky.

Somehow, a rainbow signifies that everything is as it should be. It doesn’t mean that everything is peachy, but as it should be. Trust is a very difficult skill to master. We begin each year, start each week, wake each day, and pour each morning cup with expectations, goals and destinations. When the unexpected arises, or obstacles block our paths, we become discouraged. But it’s like my (imaginary) friend Neil Peart says, “it’s not as if that barricade blocks the only road.” That’s what a rainbow says.
So when I arrived in Arkansas last night, road-beaten, sticky, and sore, got beat up more by the freshly eroded Arkansas exit ramps and service roads, set up the tent in the worst mosquito infestation I’ve EVER seen, and woke to rain, you can imagine how welcome a reminder was the rainbow that framed my tent as the sun began to rise.
So as the rain drizzled its last, I sat down to scribble at the laptop and wait for the tent to dry, content that regardless of obstacles, change of plans, bad weather, or rude people, I will accept the journey and realize that having never been there before, my expectations weren’t quite in line with reality.
In a perfect world, we would trust.

Sorry I missed:
Loretta Lynn’s Coalminer’s Daughter Kitchen Museum
Hi’s Berkenstock and Cigar Superstore


Friday, July 11, 2008


Originally uploaded by rod lewis

I started grad school just as the digital age of interactivity was beginning. Seven years after sound could be captured digitally, but not played back. Six years after digital playback became available, and just as interactivity became possible. I existed in an interactive academic world just when the digital revolution put one-way communication theory into a half-nelson and turned it on its ear.
Immediately I got a computer login account, an email address, and a gopher browser and dialed, from home, into the internet where I could search the music library at Indiana University, look for microfilms at Cambridge, or browse titles and copyrights at the Library of Congress. All, from my 1meg RAM, 8mghz, Mac Plus through a 1200k phone modem.
Keep in mind that this was 4 years before Al Gore verbally fantasized about the information superhighway, and 6 years before the World Wide Web. My professors were issuing hand-written and typed exams with whiteout smudges, and we were submitting homework of laser-printed music scores.
We could converse with our more savvy profs about assignments via email at all hours, and we joined huge global listserv groups for the discussion of many apt academic topics. One of the things I remember most vividly, was typing into that computer with a dictionary on my desk. I was TERRIFIED of sending off misspellings, inappropriate word use, or other evidence of my humanity to these Doctors and Academic Titans. Suddenly, the comfort of home felt as formal as the classroom, or a submitted research paper. I felt as if my ability to think, write, and spell were being evaluated via my digital correspondence the same as my formal academic writing. No doubt, impressions were being formed.
So I re-read everything many times before pressing the hyperlinked “send” text, I looked up words in the dictionary even if I’d typed them hundreds of times before. I agonized over number vs. possession, whose and who’s, homonyms, farther, further, ie and ei, after c, and capitalization (or is that Capitolization?) Ha.
Ah, the handy-dandy hard-copy dictionary/thesaurus and, of course, MLA, or Kate Turabian for emergencies.

I have that issue still today, and like the old geezers who just couldn’t grasp the concept of interactive communication theory after a lifetime of reading published books, and gathering info from broadcasts, I now cringe 148 times a day, when I read consistent misspellings and improper uses of extremely common words. I definately can’t seperate teh edgicated from the nonedgicated. And THIS, in the age of spellcheck, grammarcheck, autocorrect, and automatic format. In fact, I had to figure out how to overpower the word processor lest Microsoft correct all of my cleverivity in that wonderful sentence back there. (cleverivity did not pass the test)

But of course, none of that is the point of my scribbling this morning. My thoughts were sent in this direction because I quickly typed a post reply on facebook this morning and as soon as I’d hit “post,” I saw that I’d used “there” instead of “their,” or some such display of stupidity. So I clicked the “edit your post” button and got a blank screen. Two hours later, when facebook came back online, the “edit your post” button was gone, and I was stuck for all eternity exposed to world for the fool that I am. This hurts folks.


So, I thought, indeed, correction and second chances seem quite easy in our world. Ctrl-alt-del. Undo. (Mac users just hit a button, Windows requires a key combo – different theologies for different folks, I guess) Redo, step backward.

These technological blessings haven’t always been available. A mulligan hasn’t always been as easy to secure. But through experiences like this morning, I’ve come to realize that though we seem always to get a second chance, we can’t always undo.
So, I think it’s imperative to accept that it is much less important to keep our failures secret than it is to know that they have no bearing on our being loved, respected, and cared for.

Of coarse, that definately meens that I’ve got to show a lot of grace two, lest their be les shone to me.


Wednesday, July 02, 2008


Originally uploaded by rod lewis
I'm just not convinced, still, that where one is supposed to be is actually a place. There are exceptions, appointments, if you will, but these rarely have anything to do with permanence. I think we find our "place" by faithfulness where we are at any given moment.
Our Christian lives are so filled with preparation language, strategy, positioning, location location location, that we begin to think we are enlisted, boot camp grads awaiting deployment orders. Is it not such an irony that SO many College folk believe their call is to be "there", but an inordinate number hang around town for so long? I don't think there is anything wrong with the hanging around.

I truly believe that "there" is the air that touches our skin. I believe that God has infused us with tremendous amounts of God stuff that he expects us to breathe out into the atmosphere for others to absorb. Not only exhaled through our noses and mouths as sighs and songs and sermons, but also through our pores and being as perspiration of pungent Jesus fragrance. The kind that fogs up the windows in the driveway when goodnights linger a little too long.

So if the “there” is “here,” what are we supposed to be about?

The problem with strategizing and training is that we don’t get our gift skills honed, we set about learning new skills. Sometimes, but not always, these new skills are not even the gift skills of those teaching us. They, too, seem to have abandoned their being to be replaced with new strategic skill sets and methodologies.

I wonder if we all don’t innately understand how to emanate what is inside us, and that understanding becomes less and less trusted until we simply ignore it. I wonder if we were to take the word “training” off the end of the word pair, “discipleship training,” we’d find that we are less confused about doing and being and would allow ourselves to do based on how we’re made, and to be based on how we’re being made. What if discipleship were about relationship, and that relationship taught and caused us to express it?

I am saddened that so many of us have been given melody bits from the chanson de Dieu, but relegate singing them to our spare time creative outlet.
I have seen what makes your heart sing. I have smelled the fragrance of Jesus perspiration strengthen as the song grows louder. I have longed to hear it continue.

If you’re given a picture to paint, but anything else foregoes the painting; no matter where you are, the paint will just dry in the tube while the painting burns on your heart.
We have to do what we have to do, but we’ve got to sing the song, paint the picture, write the story, bake the bread, serve the wine.