Saturday, September 27, 2008

strength and beauty

strength and beauty
Originally uploaded by rod lewis

Perhaps I am not too simplistic or presumptuous to scrunch the perseverance of a marriage to two key ingredients. I would not dare say that these are the key ingredients of all marriages, or even most marriages, but I’m ready to contemplate their importance in ours.
Strength and Beauty. And not necessarily in that order.
Also, contrary to what might be expected here, gender roles have not necessarily dictated the shifting distribution of those two ingredients. Perhaps at any given time, one of us has corrected the imbalance created by bringing the neglected ingredient into a moment that was heavily flavored with the other. But over time, we’ve shared these two ingredients between us until each of us strive to bring both to our union. Lest you think that my strength and Allison’s beauty have combined to create what we have, you may have a very simplistic, superficial view of beauty and strength.
Perhaps even, her obvious beauty and my obvious strength have had to be struggled through to overcome buried ugliness and hidden weakness. Eventually, we both bring a bit of strength and beauty, but neither is quite enough without the other’s strength and beauty. Together, we are quite beautiful and strong!
Truly, at any given shared moment, one of us can perceive the moment as sheer beauty, while the other feels only sheer strength. This is a phenomenon that we can become only merely aware of through continued growth toward intimacy. I wonder if one of the greatest achievements in a marriage, is to realize the beauty of strength and the strength of beauty. I’m guessing that it is possible that this realization is what stops two people from living as though each bring the missing piece of the relationship, and find that the division between the two pieces has disappeared.
Is this what it means to become one?
What an incredible mystery that two individuals can become more complete, individual, self-aware, and real when melded together with another.


Thursday, September 18, 2008


Originally uploaded by rod lewis
Yesterday when I woke, I had thoughts. So many thoughts pouring indiscriminately from my half-awake mind that I couldn’t get to my computer fast enough to catch them all. When I did get to my computer, I couldn’t type fast enough to turn them all concrete. When I looked back from my seat at the computer, there were thoughts strewn all about in a trail leading back to the bed from whence I’d sprung. Some of them lay there still recognizable and recapture-able – pick them up and blow three times on them and all is well. Some of them though, had already begun to melt. Little puddles of melted thoughts with soft, shrinking mounds in the middle like pats of butter in the omelet skillet.
Even so, there were still plenty left unspilt, or at least recovered to keep my fingers flying and my brain confused for a good while as I tried to sort them out and place them neatly in paragraphs that would make sense to me later.
I tried opening several blank documents and sorting them as they spewed forth, but I couldn’t shift between windows fast enough. Instead, I used the “cork board” in Scrivener and just tacked them up as fragments to be sifted later.
Everything came to a screeching halt when I typed the word “rivine,” and had to deal with the squiggly line beneath it. “hmmm,” I thought. I’ve used that word all my life. I dug around in my dictionary widget. Nothing. I googled, yahood,’d, you name it. I couldn’t find that word. Surely I’ve not used a word that doesn’t exist. Everyone has always known what I meant by it. I gorge, canyon, hollow, deep and steep. Come on dictionary, it’s a bit of land that has been riven by a stream, rent by an earthquake, or some other such earth-shaping action.
I ceased to think my thoughts and instead, obsessed on the word that had riven my flow of verbiage, had rent the very fabric of my stream of consciousness. Eventually, it occurred to me that since my correct etymology and spelling were unrecognized by the dictionary, perhaps I’d do well to misspell it purposely and trick the dictionary into finding it for me. So, I typed in “ravine.” Ha! I did it. I tricked the dictionary. I tricked google, and yahoo, and All of them said, “canyon, valley, a deep narrow gorge with steep sides.” See? Why would it be spelled that way? Allison said, “maybe it comes from the word, “ravish” instead of “riven.” No way! Way!

Ravine – from 18th c. French, Ravine – from Latin, rapina, to pillage, or rape.

Go figure.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

gentle filling

gentle filling
Originally uploaded by rod lewis
It is impossible this morning merely to sit at the kitchen table and watch the gentle play of low morning light spotlighting the ballet of breeze and green in the backyard. In fact, the play of light is not readily apparent. It is diffuse through thick, stationary rain clouds. One has actually to sit still in the midst of the morning for quite some time to acquaint his skin with the temperature and humidity even to perceive the ever-so-gentle stir of the air. He must become acclimated to the stillness to detect the stir.
The rain is falling steadily, but so gently that it can’t be seen by looking through the air at the deep, damp green canopy and walls of the yard. It can be heard though, and of course felt. Heard to play its under melody, not a counterpoint exactly, but more like the chant tune above which the birds and tree frogs have added their vernacular text in florid lines to create this morning motet of supported stillness. The stir of atmosphere against my skin is so slight that it doesn’t move the leaves – they only jitter at the gentle drops dropping from the higher leaves.

I think it is profound that midst a barrage of beauty, it is easy to completely miss it, or at least miss most of it. Storms are quite common here this time of year. One moment, the sky is blue and suddenly, over the trees roll dark, strangely lit greys that roar and shoot bolts of bright white among themselves and toward the earth. They don’t open valves, but rather burst a main and pummel trees, break branches, and wash lawns and gardens into the streets to overflow the storm gutters and leave patterned lines of debris scattered on pavement.
Just as suddenly, this outburst of emotion seems to abate, and for a moment the sky seems to go about the process of pulling itself together, sobbing and wiping away the final tears. It’s as if the blue has come to calm the grey and wraps its arms around the angered clouds and presently around us all.
It is difficult to see the beauty in the purging of meteorological emotion. Perhaps it is as difficult as it is to see the beauty in the deep blue of joyful skies. It all comes so fast and furious that one can’t perceive it. It is almost as if the elements must be separated and experienced one at a time in order to appreciate truly their beauty and power.
This summer, while riding across utterly flat, vast Colorado wilderness, I saw a storm an hour ahead of me. During that hour, I rode in still, dry desert air while watching black clouds hang wispy sheets of smoky mist against the ground. I watched bright, undefined flashes illuminate the blackness from the inside, I saw sharply defined, jagged bolts of brilliant neon white reach across the sky, flashing. I saw thick, heavy electric spears flung to the ground as if they would stab the earth and stand there lighted, smoking, and consuming the desert sage and blackening the loose, rocky soil.
As I approached the blackness, the air cooled by 20 degrees, and the wind pushed my bike sideways. Huge drops of water pelted my faceshield and pricked my arms and legs. The bolts were landed in the soil so close to me that I imagined I could feel their heat. I saw space behind the bolts and experienced the storm in three dimensions rather than against a two-dimensional backdrop of dark, cloudy sky. Unfathomable power unleashed at once in a display of overwhelmingly terrible beauty.
I rode another hour in the midst of this awesome anger before reaching the breaks of dusky blue on the other side at the edge of the Rocky Mountains. I stopped my bike to breathe and realized that the storm hadn’t stopped, or moved on, I’d simply come through it and out of it and left it there, still kicking and screaming and pouring out its wrath on the desert landscape. Days passed before that storm ceased to be a part of my current experience, and became instead a powerful memory of fear, power, respect and submission.

Rarer though, are these slow, long lasting drizzles. A couple weeks after the Colorado storm, I rode nearly 700 miles northward along the Pacific ocean in a three-day, chilly, foggy drizzle. A slow ride in slow rain allowed the beauty to be slowly absorbed through my layers and trapped inside where my capacity for beauty was stretched.
Such is the rain of this rare morning. Evening’s gentle thunder and occasional flashings subsided, but without the blue to come from behind and hug away the anger, the sky remained melancholy through the night. I woke at intervals to hear the gentle, constant patter of rain in the leaves outside the window, and at first light, I was past being satisfied with only sound. I made my way to the covered front porch and stepped out into the drizzle, just long enough to prime my skin to feel the practically imperceptible stir of rain-breath, and perched myself in a rocking chair to watch, feel, listen and absorb.

These are the gentle, washing mercies, new this morning. They are slow, constant, and faithful - gentle, so as to be absorbed. The whelming storm is awesome, powerful, terrible, and cleansing, washing away accumulation and dispersing it in the runoff. But this welcome morning is experienced, absorbed and cherished.

I suppose it is difficult for me to accept that mercies come in many -often contradictory -forms. But of course, sometimes one needs to be washed, and sometimes he needs to be filled.


Saturday, September 06, 2008

future past

future past
Originally uploaded by rod lewis
So I’m sitting alone at the kitchen table past any sane person’s bedtime, staring at my son’s canvas wallet. It is much too thick and stuffed for a kid who is unemployed and dependent. I lift it, hold it, weigh it in my hand. I’m surprised to find that it is filled with coinage. Bulky, and heavy with coins. It is also a bit soiled with light dirt, from serving as an inadvertent hand rag for the hands of a teenage boy.
Will was right, this bit of pocket organization will probably go on forever. Never wear out.

A couple weeks ago, Allison presented me with a new wallet. I’m not sure why, except that I actually needed one. But that doesn’t really seem like an adequate reason. I’ve used the same wallet for all the years we’ve been married, which in 16 days will be 22 years. That wallet has held up quite well over the years, but of course 22 are a great many. The edges are worn, torn, and the seams are opening,. When I reach in to pull out a bill, if there are any, I also always pull out a thread as well, and of course this furthers the deterioration process. The once textured leather, alligator-like, is worn smooth and flat and polished to an unnatural sheen.
Upon receiving the new one, I sat at this very table and emptied its contents into sorted little piles and rid myself of the bulk of bits of paper and notes that had long since lost meaning, of receipts for possible returns that showed no signs of ever having contained any written information. Several years of expired car and motorcycle registrations found their way to the trash. I carefully folded and stowed bits that would of course, always be needed – like the yellow legal pad corner that contained, in the blue ink, all-caps, block printing style of my father, the fuel/oil mixture ratio of gasoline and 30-weight detergent motor oil on which the boys’ Maytag engine runs.
When finished, the new wallet made its way to my pocket and the old, no doubt feeling suddenly cold and deserted, lay where it was emptied.
The next day, Will asked me what I would do with the old wallet. “I have no idea,” I told him, “I suppose it will lie around until mom gets frustrated and throws it away.” Will asked if he could have it. I told him of course he could, but asked why he’d want a falling-apart, worn-out billfold. He answered that he thought he’d like a wallet that could be worn out. He didn’t think his wallet could be worn out, and that there was something friendly about a wallet that would grow old and worn.
My heart smiled and wondered at the depth of his contemplations. I wondered if he was feeling vibrations of my years in the emptied, frayed folds. Perhaps he was picturing me in younger, more textured, less worn and thinned days. Maybe he was reaching into a past that he could only trust existed but of which there is no evidence, save bits of weathered and worn leather, textile, and saggy skin. It is possible that he could be merely fantasizing that he, too, as apparently his dad had, could grow older, and richer, and have a deeper past on which to ponder, for at the moment there was no evidence that he was any different than his canvas wallet. In fact, they seem quite the same – rough, indestructible, sturdy construction, and slightly soiled.

There is a moment, maybe a long one, between the invulnerable, immortal, forever-young freedom of adolescence and the growing responsibilities and reality of growing up, during which a boy’s thoughts begin to morph. He begins to contemplate if maybe this slow becoming never actually comes. Suddenly his short past life and shallow experience whisper to his untrusting heart that he’s had all there is. His short past grows longer in his mind and he feels as if he’s lived forever with nothing to show for it. He begins to look for himself before he existed. He searches through the past of his father for glimpses of his becoming, and perhaps sees his reflection, but as of now, he feels no gathered wisdom, no garnered confidence, no assurity of future success based on past work. He glances at himself in the now and sees smooth skin, peach fuzz, lean muscle, tender feet, and green behind his ears. These observations provide little confidence for the young man who has only begun to imagine the road that lies ahead, has measure himself against, and found that his whole being is out of balance.
It may seem like a strange request, the owning of a discarded, worn out leather wallet to replace a newer, indestructible, hip, canvas one. But there is great solace in knowing that hard work makes a mark and assures us that we’ve done well. Reminds us that we work toward an end, and that the infinite vanity we feel in our seemingly pointless pursuits and preparations actually moves us slowly forward toward a goal that brings with it the trophies of physical erosion and the marks of the passage of time as evidence of work well done.
Indeed, many of us carry the previously discarded, the finished-with, the no longer needed. I carry, and use a pair of 60 year-old pliers, and wire clippers in my guitar case as I live out my routine and search through my pre-existence for images of me as assurance of purpose, and meaning, and perhaps even immortality in the post-Rod era.
Until now, I’ve had only the past for promise. I’ve had only the bits that I carry. But I guess I’ve reached a stage where I begin replacing the used-up and the used-up is used for future promise.
It is profound what promise is held in the empty folds of worn out leather, what image is reflected in the polished shine of the tired surface of an old wallet.

Promise and reflection, these are elements of wealth, and one should always carry them.


Friday, September 05, 2008


Originally uploaded by rod lewis
So here I am tonight, alone in my own bed. Only the fifth time I’ve been in a bed in a month. The windhorse is resting in the garage. The first time he’s been in a garage in a month. The barely waning sturgeon moon has risen above the house at exactly the same phase as the thunder moon when I left 28 days ago.
I looked at my total mileage for the trip and noticed that it’s one of those numbers that reads the same flipped and turned. How appropriate. Coming or going, forward or back. I’m back where I started, and hopefully, as T.S. Eliot says, “to know the place for the first time. “


winding road coffee

winding road coffee
Originally uploaded by rod lewis
August 17, 2008
To Home
429 miles (9,006)

When I woke up this morning, the dew was so heavy that everything was soaked. The insides of the tent were soaked with condensation, and it was cold. I certainly didn’t expect it. I’d chosen the route south through Chattanooga, and Atlanta because I’d miss most of the mountains, and I was seriously contemplating riding late into the night for an early arrival home. I knew I’d freeze out across the smokies. By the time I was 50 miles south of Nashville, it felt like I was back in Wyoming. So I found a campsite and gave up for the night.

This morning’s coffee cup shocked me. As I sat beneath the tree at my site, I looked at the cup, which read, “Winding Road Coffee – The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, but isn’t the meandering road more fascinating?” You can laugh at me, but I feel those kinds of things as blessings of affirmation.

An hour’s ride this morning, put me in Chattanooga, where I pulled off for gas at apparently a pre-appointed place. Before I could finish pumping 2.5 gallons into my tank, I’d been approached by a homeless man. Actually, before I climbed back on my bike, I’d had conversations with 3 homeless men. All had different stories, but the most interesting, and the one that grabbed me most deeply, was a man who was released from prison 5 days ago. He’d served 7 years for stealing cars. We were headed to the same destination, but I hadn’t room on my bike for him. I gave him shuttle fare to Atlanta, and bid him godspeed and quick work. The other stories were only slightly less interesting.
I don’t think I’m exaggerating to say that I spent an hour at the Exxon station talking to homeless guys. The most amazing thing to me though, was that each one told me, “thanks for your time and for talking to me. I’m glad you didn’t run from me.” Honestly, each of their departing statements were barely paraphrases of that very sentiment. I got back on my bike with “Message in a Bottle” playing in my head.

“A hundred billion castaways, looking for a home.”

All this loneliness only strengthened my need to be home already. I rode south with a growing loneliness. I thought of nothing else, and a few miles into Georgia, I began to calculate miles, speed, and ETA. I determined to see Allison before she went to work, and was positive I could do it. When I stopped for gas just north of Atlanta, I realized that I’d crossed into the eastern time zone. I thought I’d done it last night, and that I wouldn’t lose an hour today. My hopes were dashed.
Further on, the hope returned as I started devising plans to see her. Finally, I realized I could redeem 20 minutes if I intercepted her on her way to work rather than getting home before she left. So in the end, I rode the 331 miles from Chattanooga with only short gas stops without even removing my helmet. It began to rain as I came into South Carolina, and I rode the 65 miles from the Savanna river to Columbia watching the rainbow I’d become so familiar with welcoming me home.
I actually got to downtown Columbia a full 15 minutes before she did and was waiting beside the street when she came by. During those 15 minutes of course, I met 3 more homeless guys. One guy from Miami, a guy from Columbia, and a fellow who had JUST gotten off a freight train from Illinois and was looking for the Salvation Army. I told him I was in Illinois yesterday, and gave him directions to Oliver Gospel Mission where he could get a change of clothes and a bed.

“Seems I’m not alone in being alone…”
“I’ll send an SOS to the world…”

When Allison came by she stopped for a kiss, and we lingered too long. I’m sure I made her late for work. I rode home, got the same from the kids, complete with welcome signs, Will making supper, and the whole enchilada, so to speak.



Originally uploaded by rod lewis
August 16, 2008
To Almost Chattanooga, Tennessee
590 miles (8,577)

No sleeping in today. No No No. I set my alarm for 5:30 and yeehawed when I woke. Then yeehawed again when I awoke a second time 90 minutes later. Yeehaw.
Still early enough though to get a good start I thought. So I packed up, and headed on east to Hannibal, MO, birthplace and forever in the moment, of Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain.

Actually, Hannibal is a cool little town in which every single building, street, business, or idea, is named after Mark Twain. I remembered mentioning the quote about San Francisco’s weather that is attributed to Mark Twain, though he never said it. Apparently, Hannibal isn’t the only place who capitalizes on Clemens’ wit and fame.
I headed south from Hannibal to St. Louis. There, I experiences the usual “rod is not a city boy” assurance. There was a lot of road construction going on, so there were signs directing me to roads and exits that were closed, signs that had fallen over, and signs that were just plain wrong. Without any “tour turns” I made it downtown to the Gateway Arch, but I am sure it took me an hour longer than it should have. I had traveled over 20 miles in town traffic, rather than found my way through the intricate freeway maze that could have taken me there in minutes. Not to be beaten, I kept to my plan to have a walk on the riverfront, and beneath the arch, which I did.

From the Arch, I had no problem finding my way across the river and into Illinois, but by now, it was certainly getting late. I spent the rest of the day trying to imagine an accomplishable destination goal that would still allow me to arrive home at a reasonable hour tomorrow. My original goal had been Chattanooga, so I decided to stick to it.
Tonight, after I passed through Nashville, avoided the temptation to just call it a day and stay there, the moon rose bright and beautiful, and suddenly I decided to ride under the moon for the next 8 hours, and arrive at home before Allison made it home from work.
That would still take me to Chattanooga, so I set out, energized for an all-night trip that would accumulate well over 900 miles for the day.
Yeah right.
Though my body felt fine, my thermostat gave out about half way to Chattanooga. This, I didn’t realize until I saw a campground sign along the I-state, and I realized it was time to stop and warm up.
Here I sit then, all cold and tired, shy of Chattanooga, but well beyond Nashville. Tomorrow I’ll be home for sure.
For sure.


tom's fence

tom's fence
Originally uploaded by rod lewis
August 15, 2008
To Macon, Missouri
469 miles (7,987)

Determined to make up the miles I’d lost to the storm, I set my alarm for early and promised myself I’d make it to St. Louis and be back on track. Apparently, in my morning stupor, things weren’t all that important to me, so I turned off my alarm and slept myself out. When I finally did become coherent, I had a moment of panic and then decided I would still be ok. I was determined not to get on the freeway until I absolutely had to, so I decided to go directly east when I hit Norfolk, NE, and catch the I-29. When I got to Norfolk, I was having so much fun on the back roads that I decided just to stay there and ride them all the way in to Omaha. This decision cost quite a few temporal bucks, as I drove through intense traffic and stop and go signal lights finally to reach the interstate.
My own boss used to work in Omaha, so I decided to look up his old school and play a little joke on him. His school, of course, was registering new students, so I dropped in, took a photo and played like I was interviewing for a job there. This little side trip didn’t take long, but I was already behind.
From Omaha, I headed down the river in Iowa with all hopes of removing myself from the freeway as soon as possible. The Midwestern wind can be really hard on a windjockey such as myself, and I felt that I was hanging on to the bike for all I worth. I took the first opportunity afforded me, and hopped an only slightly more accommodating rt. 36 directly east across Missouri.
I’d given up hope of making it to St. Louis, but I thought maybe I could drop down and make it to Columbia, MO. Eventually, I realized that there was no reason to head due south toward Columbia, when I could ease my way east toward St. Louis if I rode all the way to Hannibal.
Darkness and chill befell me before such a goal could be accomplished, so I stopped at a State Park in Macon, just as the sun was setting and the nearly full moon began to rise over the lake. I found an ultra-dark, secluded campsite beneath a heavy tree canopy, and watched the moon rise over the lake. In fact, that’s where I am now, typing these words in the moonlight by the fire.



Originally uploaded by rod lewis
August, 14, 2008
To Omaha, Nebraska Norfolk, Nebraska Oneill, Nebraska
399 miles (7,518)

As I sit down tonight to type the tale, at the tail of today, my mind is whirling. I’ve had no time or chance these past two days to catch up on my trip log, and so I’m two days behind, but with SO many thoughts,
So tonight, I have not only to type the tale of today, but finish my started tales of the past two days as well.
Today, I had planned nearly 550 miles to Omaha. Never mind that I also planned to visit Mount Rushmore and take my time through the Badlands. I got up fairly early, showered and broke camp and visited the all-you-can-eat pancake, and bottomless-cup-o-coffee deal. As I finished my coffee, a nasty, all-you-can-stand wind blew in dark clouds and harassed all the tents in the campground. Stakes were being pulled up, picnic tables cleared, and folks were scurrying about to batten down the hatches. I took it as a sign to mount the windhorse and get out of Dodge. I headed south to Mount Rushmore, less dressed than I should have been, but more dressed than was comfortable hiking around at the feet of the presidents.

I have to say that as I drove around the bend and got a glimpse of the carvings, I was less than impressed. This, I thought, was one of those rare things that are more impressive in photographs. Honestly, even after I arrived, parked and milled about the observation area, I kept thinking that it was less hulking and large than I’d thought it would be. I knew, intellectually, the dimensions, but visually, it just wasn’t happening. As I walked about the trail, I noticed some workers standing on top of Thomas Jefferson’s head, and soon they began to rappel down to his nose.

This was the perspective I needed. From that point on, the whole thing took on a new meaning. I’d have to say that my preceding itinerary had its affect on Mount Rushmore. The enormous, cliffs and rock faces that I’d ridden between, and under in the Big Horn forest had definitely eclipsed the size of the Black Hills. One should see Rushmore first, before riding from Cody to Sheridan along scenic, seasonal, route 14.

There was another factor eclipsing my experience of Rushmore though, and that was the juxtaposition of natural beauty and human accomplishment. I stood there and wondered at how someone could carve such incredible likeness from stone stories high. I wondered at the fact that most who worked on the project were merely laborers, hired by the artisan and told what to do and how to do it. That the ordinary finesse of bringing out the art in a hunk of stone was rendered by dynamite and pneumatic hammers powered by huge air compressors hundreds of yards away from the work being done. All this was wonder worth pondering.
Meanwhile, back at Yosemite and Yellowstone, rain, wind and rivers whittled formations in granite and earth. Wildfires burned away vegetation that had held topsoil in place and exposed the ground to those same elements. Nature formed its abstract patterns, structures and ever-changing landscapes. The hand of God rendered never before seen, or dreamed of wonders. Nature constantly awes us in its ex nihilo art, while humans merely imitate it.
In fact, as I gazed upon Mount Rushmore, all this took on two dimensions.
The first was that the “art” that was created here was a perfect illustration of man’s imitation of the creativity of the creator. God crafted humans, and in we are so completely bent on exact imitation. Here is art in which the likenesses of men are carved in stone, hundreds of times larger-than-life. Also, the likenesses carved there are not really the point, but are to commemorate human accomplishment. The irony in that moment was profound, though I cannot properly verbalize my thoughts.
Yes, Rushmore is really cool. Yosemite,Yellowstone, and all the paths to get there -breathtaking. In the commonplace of nature, we forget that it, in its inception is abstract, innovative and so creatively created.
But, I digress…

After I visited Rushmore, I made my way to East route 44 to take the scenic route through the badlands, and to make an appearance at the National Park. This, my friends, despite the chill, and winds, I’d experienced in the Black Hills, and the threatening storm clouds that remained above the desolate landscape, was a string of magic motorcycle miles. Back here, in no-man’s-land, the airl was calm, the windhorse purred, and the rolling, gently winding landscaped smiled on me as I barreled through. I rode at 75 mph, and seemed to sit still while I felt the silence and stillness of the badlands simultaneously with the three-dimensional forces of the bike. I felt as if I could be moving and experiences stillness at once. I experienced a moment, and a span of time, simultaneously. It was a tremendous 60 miles.
From the badlands loop, I decided to head down into Nebraska and make my way to Omaha on the back roads to avoid the wind-pummeling from the elevated freeway stirred by tractor-trailers enjoying a respite to the high fuel costs. At first, I was turned back, yet again, by an unexpected gravel road, but finally I found a paved two-lane to take me south through the Rosebud reservation, into Nebraska.
Frankly, though I notice, I try not to comment on the physical beauty of people, except to them. But I gotta say, “Rosebud” is an understatement. I stopped for fuel in the tiny town of Mission, and everywhere were beautiful people.
Also, at Mission, I thought I’d successfully dodged a storm that I’d been following for quite some time, but shortly after I left the town, I caught it and we fought for the rest of the evening.

Eventually, the storm won, and I stopped 150 miles short of Omaha, beaten. I’d stopped once and waited out what I thought was the worst of it when it was getting too painful to my legs. When I started out again, the rain was manageable, but as darkness joined the dark of the storm, I began to have intense knowledge of wildlife waiting in the alfalfa at the edge of the road to cross in front of my bike. After 60 more miles, I came to rest in O’neill, Nebraska, where the store clerk told me I’d chosen wisely. Two men had been killed this week by collisions with deer while riding motorcycles.
I prayed the prayer of gratitude, and drifted off to sleep.


find me in the river

find me in the river
Originally uploaded by rod lewis
August 13, 2008
To Rapid City, South Dakota
410 miles (7,119)

Today’s ride was an unexpected gift. I had no idea what would await me from Cody, to Sheridan, except that route 14 on the map says, “closed in winter.” The 140 miles through the Big Horn National Forest was breathtaking. Frankly, more breathtaking than Yellowstone itself, though that could be due to my state of mind and circumstance in the park.
I woke very early and showered, did my laundry, wrote some thoughts, and stuffed myself with all you can eat pancakes. During my walk-around, I saw that I was dripping fluid. It was dripping from the side-stand bolt. The only fluids are oil, gasoline, and coolant, and this was too clear to be the fresh oil I had just changed. I guessed that it was coolant and worried myself all the way to a fuel stop, keeping an eye on the temperature. At the fuel stop, it was no longer dripping, and didn’t for the rest of the day. Apparently, it was just condensation from the cool night whose path of least resistance flowed over the side-stand bolt.

After a short jaunt on fairly straight, valley road, I turned off to the closed-in-winter road. This road wound, and banked on wide, high-speed fun up to 9,500 feet where I had to stop and put on more clothes.
When I reached the junction with I-90, I couldn’t bear to think about interstate, so I caught route 14 and stayed in the backwoods for another 108 miles, before a storm rumbled in, and I dressed and took to the I-state.
This storm and I raced for the rest of the evening. All the way to Rapid City, I would catch up with the storm, stop and wait awhile and take off again until I caught up. Also, because I was riding east, and the sun was setting in the west, between the storm and me, for the entirety of the ride was a glorious rainbow, stretched end to end across the road in front of me. As the road twisted and turned, the rainbow perspective changed, and it seemed as if I was starting to ride through it. Then, as suddenly, the other end would move and I chased that rainbow until it finally disappeared into the strange, sunset/storm riddled sky of twilight.

When I arrived in Rapid City, just behind the storm, the sky was tremendous. I texted to Allison that it was the strangest, scariest, most beautiful storm sky I’d ever seen.
I set up the tent, built a fire and settled into a short mental moment before drifting off to sleep.
I’ve been thinking of the fact that I considered the ride through the Big Horn National Forest to be more beautiful than Yellowstone. It strikes me that there is really too much beauty to be understood. We tend to take for granted, the beauty that is around us, so that we have to look elsewhere to find it. It only makes sense that beauty would be found in a designated beautiful place. A place to which you travel in order to see it. A place to which you could fly, and there would be the promised beauty. A place, set aside, to be beautiful. A place quarantined from the ugly world, preserved as an oasis midst a dry and thirsty land.

But beautiful places don’t tend to exist like that. Actually, beauty tends to exist in the midst of beauty. We tend to notice a particular because the beauty around it increased right up to its edge. The increasing beauty began at the edge of another beauty.
I traveled from the beautiful Mojave Desert, northward into the Eastern Sierras. I was awestruck that there were no beauty boundaries. What I saw was a brilliant morphing of beauty to beauty. There was not gate-to-beauty that one passed through to view the wonders of Yosemite. I traveled from Oregon desert into Hell’s Canyon and across the Idaho lava fields into the Tetons and each beauty morphed into the other.
If one decides to travel the country, he finds that he merely travels from one beauty to another, via beauty. If he meets people along the way, he finds the same to be true. Beauty to beauty. One beautiful person to another. One is wearing a cowboy hat, another, a John Deere cap. One holds a Stop sign while you wait on construction traffic, another works at the feed yard and a short conversation teaches you that we’re all the same. One worries about deadlines, and the other about hailstorms. One celebrates seeds planted and one celebrates seeds harvested.


evening thunder

evening thunder
Originally uploaded by rod lewis
August 12, 2008
To Cody, Wyoming
289 miles (6,709)

I awoke this morning about to pop (sorry for TMI) and shivering, so I fumbled around, found some pants and sprinted to the bathroom. On the way back, the light coming over the mountain across the river behind me caused everything to glisten. How odd and beautiful, I thought, and when I got back to my campsite, I noticed that my motorcycle was glistening. I scraped my fingernail across the saddle and scratched up an ice-cube sized chunk of, uh, ice. Very hard freeze.
Once the sun reached over the hill, it didn’t take long for things to warm up, and it was already nearly 70 degrees when I came through Jackson again on my way to Yellowstone. I
was glad for the warmth, but made a mental note to be aware of time all day because, obviously when the sun goes down it get very cold, very quickly.
Almost immediately north of Jackson, I entered the Grand Teton National Park. These glacier-cut ridges are tremendous with sharp, jagged edges, and glaciers flowing down around the summits. I stopped at the visitor center to get my passport canceled, and the first of a series of unfortunate events began, though I didn’t realize it at the time. I put the Grand Teton Stamp in the Pacific Northwest Region rather than the Rocky Mountain Region. No big deal? Of course not, except that it bothered me a little bit, but only a little bit until other things began to go wrong. Then I began to dwell on every little thing, being distracted from all the beauty around me.
So I paid my half-price motorcycle fee, and entered the Grand Teton Pay area, and moved on toward Yellowstone. I was cold for a good long time through the long loop of the park. But managed by frequent photo stops. I successfully made it to Old Faithful only minutes before it erupted to throngs of people cheering, and screaming, and applauding. Within 5 minutes of the eruption, the entire area was empty save a faithful few. Everyone had moved on, having seen the climax of their visit to Yellowstone. I was unsure how long between the faithful eruptions, so I sat down beside a couple to contemplate the whole ordeal. The man was David Eveningthunder, and he sat quetly playing a wooden flute while his wife stared off at the rising steam from the geyser.
When I sat down, David immediately quit playing and struck up a conversation that eventually led to his giving me his address and asking for a postcard to announce my safe return home. I also heard the short version of his life story, past experiences in this very spot as the big dipper slowly circled Polaris, and brief theology of his spirituality.
David Eveningthunder was definitely the highlight of my visit to Yellowstone, and as it turned out, I could have met him a year ago when I passed through Livingston, Texas on my way east to the Natchez Trace Parkway.
Soon after I left Old Faithful, I saw an Elk that I thought might be a Moose grazing about 100 yards from the road. I stopped suddenly to get a photo. I was in a hurry, so I pulled off, carefully steady the bike, and climbed off. Not carefully enough though, because when I relieved the bike of my weight, the front wheel slipped in gravel and awesome and strong, and tough as I may think I am, I was not strong enough to keep the 600 pound bike from toppling into the ditch beside the road. I stood and stared, terrified that it would be un-ridable. Momentarily, 5 Mennonite boys sprinted across the road to help me right the bike. I told them to be careful of the hot pipes, which they did, while I burned my shin. I gave the bike a careful inspection a number of times, and the only damage I could find was that my brake lever and master cylinder had been turned (not bent) on the handlebar. The handlebar was not bent, there were no scratches, and the bike fired only a little bit reluctantly. My prayer of thanksgiving was whispered even more earnestly as I engaged the clutch and returned the bike to the road.
As evening wore on, and chill began to permeate, I realized the long, slow miles to Cody would also be cold and dark if I didn’t start a purposeful trek toward camp. After this realization, the first thing I did was to miss a turn east and head north toward Mammoth Springs. In all honesty, I have no idea, why I realized what I had done. I didn’t even remember the junction. But it occurred to me that I was going the wrong direction amidst those hills, and creeks, and rivers and waterfalls, so I turned back and within 8 miles, came upon the road I should have taken.
Whew, only 16 miles, and 30 minutes wasted.
A brief stop at Artist’s Point, and I was on my way out.
No sooner than I’d set my destination beyond the park, I found myself sitting still in the middle of the road in a long, long line of traffic. After 2 hours (I am not exaggerating) I learned that we were stopped for a herd of bison that were just being stubborn a couple of miles up the road. After the 2 hour wait, and another hour of weaving between loud, huge buffalos, I reached a much needed gas station, long after I’d expected to have arrived in Cody and fallen asleep. I put on all the clothes I had, installed a T-shirt as a scarf, and headed off into the desolation and wilderness that doesn’t lie within the 90 miles between my present location and Cody, Wyoming.
The road between was long, dark and winding, with, as promised, absolutely nothing. There were several wildfires along the way, strangely lighting hillsides and sending off a haunting glow. I could actually feel the heat at times – probably why I didn’t freeze during the ride. Though there were many signs warning me to prepare to stop for fire activity, I never had to even slow beyond the careful, intentional speed at which I was already traveling. (I was later to find out, in Cody, that the fires were such big news that many folk at the campsite heading west, had decided not to move on to Yellowstone because of them. Maybe they’d been over-told in the news, at least as far as their danger to travelers.)
I did make it to Cody, though, and strangely less than frozen. Stiff and chilled, mind you, but still alive. I hadn’t eaten since the night before, so found a Wendy’s drive through open til 11, and walked through, at 10:55. I had to get the teenager in the SUV behind me to pull up beside me so the drive-through kids would see that I was there.
I found the campsite with no problem, and unlike the other sites, where everyone was fast asleep when I arrived at 8:30pm, this site was alive with nocturnal camping pleasures, with golden, dancing flames all around and quiet voices and occasional outbreaks of quiet laughter. I began setting up my tent, and a girl about the age and demeanor of my adopted college daughters asked if I’d like to come share their fire when I finished setting up. I, of course, obliged.
She, her brother and his wife and 2 wee ones occupied the site next to mine. I laid in the grass looking up, warmed by the fire, watched countless meteors until I woke, realizing it was time to climb into the tent and warmth of my sleeping bag.
Good night moon, good night bears, good night new friends everywhere.


I feel like a man on the moon

I feel like a man on the moon
Originally uploaded by rod lewis
August 11, 2008
To Jackson, Wyoming
445 miles (6,390)

I’m sitting by the fire on the bank of the Snake River, staring up at the sky, watching for the Perseid shower, while the moon rises over the Tetons. The river is singing a lullaby. Actually to my left is the Snake River, and to my right is a creek - literal flowing surround sound of my favorite noisemaker in the world. The moon is rising over the mountaintops. It is a slow process. I watched it rise 3 hours ago as I fought my way through the less traveled passes on my way to Jackson, but here, by the river, it is just beginning to show its face over the hills.

Yes, it is cold. There is snow on the mountaintops. But the fire is warm and crackling and the occasional meteor shoots across the sky, and you tell me you don’t wish you were me right now!
I set the tent up in the complete dark, with only the glow of the baby fire, but I doubt I’ll get in it. The sky is crystal clear, and there’s a show up there. It’s the fireworks display at the end of a day of spectacular scenery.
In fact, the day started out well. I awoke early, and was actually awake when I woke. So I rolled out and got started. I showered the sleep from my eyes, sipped a cup, and packed the windhorse. Today, as expected, was the day that the horse hit 6,000 miles for this trip. That, of course, means 6,000 miles on this oil, so I set about looking for some accommodations for an oil change. I first tried a quick lube place and was refused, as I expected. Eventually, I came across a guy in a mechanic’s outfit, and asked him for assistance. Turns out that he services power company trucks and would be more than happy for the company provided my presence in his shop. So we made our way there and talked about marriage, bikes, trade-school, professoring, wives who make more money than we do, Three Dog Night, Oklahoma, friends who’ve laid their bikes down and suffered the consequences, heaven, heaven-oklahoma-and three dog night, college, air filters, and the weather, while he worked on a diesel engine, and I changed my oil and air filter. I’d been carrying around my air filter since I bought it in Albuquerque and subsequently rounded off a bolt head with my cheap, Honda-issued kit wrench and was unable to finish the job. A fine Craftsmen wrench was all it took to remove the rounded bolt, and all’s well that ends well.
I bid my new friend goodbye, wished upon him the peace of Christ, and made my way Eastward, toward the glorious US route 20 across Nowhere Idaho. Back here, on US 20, there is nothing, and no one. One can really peel away the miles on US20. Which I did.
In no time, I was upon the Craters of the Moon National Monument, which I expected to merely roll through, be amazed, and move on. Wrong.

I stopped at the Visitor Center to get my National Park Passport cancelled, and learned that there was a 7 mile loop along which one could climb craters, walk through underground lava tunnels and be otherwise amazed at this amazing wonder of a lava field. So I spent a couple hours being otherwise amazed.
Back on the road, I arrived in Jackson, Wyoming at sunset, and began looking for a campsite. I thought Jackson was an actual town, but it turns out that it is a fake town used to bilk bucks out of unsuspecting city slickers out to spend a week in the wilds of the Tetons.. Everything but McDonald’s Chipotle Chicken Snack Wrap is price-gouged. So a quick phone call home, and Allison googles me a price-gouged KOA just south of Jackson, smack on the Snake River.
That, folks, is where you find me tonight. sitting by the fire on the bank of the Snake River, staring up at the sky, watching for the Perseid shower, while the moon rises over the Tetons.
Good night moon. Good night bears. Good night people, everywhere.


evel kneivel land

evel kneivel land
Originally uploaded by rod lewis
To Boise, Idaho
405 miles (5,975)

Before the flat tire set me back three-quarters of a day, I was to have stayed with another friend of a friend in Halfway, Oregon. I knew that I’d have no fun trying to make up the miles I’d lost, so I decided to do it over a few days. That meant that I couldn’t make it to Halfway as planned. I still wanted to meet them though, so I rode to Halfway today on my way to Hell’s Canyon, used a public phone to contact the Bryans, and drove to their house in the foothills for a wonderful 90 minute, relaxing visit with friends I’d never met.
Then it was on toward Hell’s Canyon. Once I crossed into Idaho, I followed the Snake River downstream (North) to the Dam through outrageously beautiful scenery in the deepest canyon in North America. Along the way, I saw a log floating near the bank of the river and fantasized that it was a huge fish. As I got closer, I saw that it WAS a catfish, belly-up, and walked down to the edge to see that it was at least 8 feet long. All my life, I’ve heard of these monster catfish in rivers like this, but I had no idea if it was just Rural Legend, or if there was truth. Now I know. But of course, you still don’t.
The winding, once again “magic motorcycle miles” to the dam, is not a loop, and I think it was the only road I’ve traveled so far, that I had to return by the same road I took. That is, if you don’t count my rejections by the back roads in Colorado, and New Mexico.
Returning from the dam, I crossed back into Oregon for a few miles on rt. 71, and then back over to Idaho through another 29 (yes, it was really 29!) magic motorcycle miles to catch rt. 95 South to I-84 and on to Boise.


bikes and guitars

bikes and guitars
Originally uploaded by rod lewis
To Hemiston, Or
430 miles (5,570)

I set my alarm last night for very early, so that I could hopefully make up time that I lost on the flat tire. It didn’t matter, I overslept anyway, and pressed out into the cold, damp, foggy, coastal morning and headed north. In about an hour, I came into Florence, Oregon, again frozen solid, and saw a shop with a huge sign, “Bikes and Guitars.” Perfect photo op, and chance to thaw, so I stopped. I noticed that I was right beside a coffee shop, so I stepped inside, grabbed a cup and waited out my circulation return. Once thawed, I pressed on another hundred miles or so, and turned inland toward Portland.
Poco a poco, the air warmed until I turned along the Columbia River Gorge and enjoyed the warm air and clearing sky. Under the first clear sky in days, I realized that it wasn’t as late as I thought it was, so I turned off the freeway onto the last remaining stretch of historic Rt. 30 toward Multnomah Falls.
When I returned to the I-state, I rode to Biggs, and crossed over to Washington hoping to camp on the river at Maryhill State Park. I rode up the mountain to see the Maryhill Museum and was astounded at the temperature difference. Once again frozen, and wind-blown, I came back down to the river and found several campgrounds full. This kept up – all campgrounds full. Defeated, I got back on the freeway and rode another hour to Hermiston and checked into a Motel 6, once again frozen, but still basking in the unbelievable beauty I’d seen ALL day.

For many reasons, the bikes and guitars photo op turned into a great thing. I thawed, I got the shot, I got a totally good cup of joe and a muffin, I got wifi and updated you, I listened to the banter of local folk in the shop, and...
I saw a guy wearing this awesome shirt.
See? I'm still with you Allison.
Orange for you Babe.


stuff happens

Originally uploaded by rod lewis
August 8, 2008
To Lincoln City, Oregon
52, 198
238 miles (5,140)

But still in Eureka, CA.
I awoke this morning to rain, and chill, and worried about what to do. I had to wait for the tent to dry before packing it away, lest the mold and mildew gremlins invade the rest of the trip. I packed everything else up, shivering, and did the “walk around” on my bike. Lo and behold, a flat tire. I aired the tire up and found a tiny finishing nail buried to the head. After waiting to see what it would do, it appeared not to be losing air very quickly so I slowly made my way back south 4 miles to Eureka.
And now the most dreaded of nightmares… I am sitting in a Harley Store while the kind-hearted service people are replacing my tube. Aargh. This is not good, folks. Harley people fixing a Honda! Can you imagine the shame I feel? I just keep giving thanks that it was an external, outside, unavoidable, unseen road hazard (actually campground hazard) that caused the problem, rather than a mechanical failure, or part falling off, which, of course is what Harley service people are intimately familiar with. I’m also VERY thankful that despite the fact that Harleys don’t use 15 inch tires, for some unknown, unexplainable reason, they had a 15 inch tube in stock. The parts person was shocked.
And so, I’m waiting it out. More later, if I cover any ground today.

So I got my bike back on the road and headed down the highway to Target looking for some thermal underwear. Allison said, “would that have thermals in August?” Are you kidding?!? It’s freezing here. She was right. So I headed north along the coast, at mid-afternoon, frozen as I began.

With half the day shot, I knew I wouldn’t make it all the way to Lincoln City, but fortunately, the roads were straighter than Northern California, but no less beautiful. I made good time with stops at Redwoods National Park, to view Elk grazing in a field, and to take several shots of incredible vistas above the ocean.
Soon after I crossed into Oregon, the mist got heavier, and quickly turned to rain, so that my last 100 miles was colder, wetter, and less all-around-less-comfortable than before. I pressed on to Coos Bay, where, upon my arrival, even my feet were numb, white, and swollen. I used all the water I conserved while in the desert for 10 days, and took a long hot shower, before finding someplace to fill my belly.


chilled beauty

chilled beauty
Originally uploaded by rod lewis
August 7, 2008
To Eureka, CA
304 miles (4902)
While I woke up and rushed off from Bartow Monday morning, successfully beating the 108F day. This morning I loitered in Novato, waiting for the 50F to warm a little. Overnight, it began raining at my destination, Eureka, and the high for today has been dropped to 60F. No doubt this will be a beautiful ride, but I’m wearing layers…

I arrived in Eureka at 8:00pm in a cloud of wet fog that even soaked the padding inside my helmet. I was actually warm and dry for half an hour when hwy 1 took me inland to Legget to join with 101. From the coast, to the hwy junction was 43 miles of twisting, turning, rolling, rising, falling Redwood Forest. I’ve now ruled that this road overtakes previous wonders for the best road yet. It is nearly as awesome as the Tail of the Dragon, but 4 times longer and not nearly as dangerous. No traffic.
At the end of hwy 1 is the “world famous” drive-through tree, known locally as “Chandelier Tree.” In fact, I’ve known of this tree all my life. I saw photos in textbooks in elementary school. So I paid my half-price motorcycle fee and parked my bike inside the tree for a photo op. Honestly, in my memory, the tree is MUCH larger, but it certainly was large. However, all the SUV drivers had to back in to avoid losing their side mirrors, and a few had only to park in front and pretend because there was not enough clearance.
Oh well. The tree is over 100 yards tall and 2,400 years old. That’s impressive. And it’s still pretty! More than I can say for myself after only 44 years.
But I digress…

After the tree, I remained warm for 30 miles until hwy 101 brought me back out to the coast. There I hunkered into the chill for the final 60 miles to Eureka. The campground had dry firewood, so I set up the tent, built a fire. Now I’m sitting, warm, in the misty fog beside the dancing flames on the chilly banks of the Pacific Ocean reliving the unbelievable ocean vistas I experienced today.
Don’t think that those 43 Redwood miles were all the biker dream miles. Truly, the whole 230 miles before hwy 101 were this way. It’s just that I was warm through the Redwoods.
So imagine 230 miles of 30 mph turns and switchbacks, ocean cliffs and vistas and thick-thick foggy mist filtering sunlight on the narrow beaches and enormous rock formations that lie in the water and on the sand. Every turn was a photo op, but I was dressed out and gloved and shivering, so I rationed my stops. Many of the vistas provided no view because the fog was so thick, but some were chanced upon as a break in the mist betrayed blue sky hidden above the green trees and the convergence of ocean and rock.
As I shivered my way along, I was in awe of the surfers who will not miss a great wave in ANY weather.
Despite the cold and damp, this was truly a spectacular day for scenery and fun riding.



Originally uploaded by rod lewis
August 6, 2008
To San Francisco/Novato, CA
247 miles (4,598)

Some lands just can’t be tamed. Earthquakes, wildfires, and rockslides. Ironically, while I was waiting for my tires to be mounted and balanced before I left, I passed the unexpected hours “riding” a motorcycling simulator at the Honda shop. I chose the mountain route, of course, and I’d swear that they used the very route I took today.

I left Mariposa via 49 North. I was warned by the Convenience Store Clerk, “oh, you don’t want to take THAT route, it just winds, and climbs, and falls, and turns…”
Some people just don’t get it!
Besides the tail of the dragon, this was the best bike road I’ve ever been on, complete with switchbacks that actually pass beneath themselves. At one point, I actually thought I was on one of those figure-eight, electric race tracks I had as a kid. More than fifty miles of biker bliss.

I also noticed today, that Californians back, in the day, had a warm spot in their hearts for the number twenty-nine. There is a very cool place 50 miles south of Amboy called Twentynine Palms, and everything east of the Sierras seems to be 29 miles apart. Mariposa to Sonora – 29 miles, Sonora to Oakdale, 29 miles.



Originally uploaded by rod lewis
I have to confess that midst all the hype and hoopla surrounding the fantastical Yosemite since I was a kid, I’ve often wondered if I’d be disappointed if I ever got to go. Honestly, nothing could have prepared me for what I saw there. Well that is, if you don’t count the hundred miles of Sierra skirting I did to reach the park.
The exit to Mariposa was equally beautiful and exciting. Thirty miles of twisting turns, descents and climbs. I was stopped once for a ten-minute wait while east bound traffic crossed the two one-way bridges built to temporarily move traffic across the river and back after a rock slide completely obliterated the existing road.
(This event took it’s toll on the nearby town of Mariposa, whose sustenance depends on tourists exiting Yosemite, or holing up there during their Yosemite area vacations.)

Last week’s fires also changed the face of Yosemite a bit. Though I didn’t notice much on the main road through the park, once I dropped down toward Yosemite Valley, trees were scorched in large areas. Yosemite valley is perhaps one of the most spectacular places to visit. Towering monoliths rising straight up thousands of feet from the river, gorgeous meadows, and the evening sun cast a beautiful luminance on the rock faces. I timed my descent perfectly.

I tend to forget to eat. I’m not out here to eat, after all. I realized today, about halfway through the park, that I had not eaten since Saturday, save a half sandwich at brunch on Sunday. So when I arrived at my destination, the fine supper and conversation was most welcome. I was treated like a king by my friend, Michelle’s parents. I was sent away with another meal (an absolute first for the trip) and rode off into biker heaven of central California.


mojave rest stop

mojave rest stop
Originally uploaded by rod lewis
Monday, August 4, 2008
Barstow, CA
432 miles (3,932)

And at the end of a long, beautiful day of riding, there’s the baby Sturgeon moon setting as I sit at a picnic table and relive the moments of the day. When I started this morning, everyone in Flagstaff was saying how strange that the clouds were hovering all day, but they never got rain. How strange that I rode in rain all the way to the exit. What’s more, I didn’t get more than a mile away from my campsite before I was pelted by huge, painful raindrops. They seemed to be framing the mountains in a gorgeous moisturized luminance. For several miles, the crisp, chilled air was invigorating. By the time I reached Williams, I was thoroughly cold.
The temperature stayed cool and refreshing though, until I began to descend toward the Colorado river. There, I could feel the heat rising.
I clipped the corner of Utah, for about half an hour before entering California and following the river to Needles. All the while, the heat was so intense I had trouble catching my breath.
I gassed up in Needles for $1.13 more per gallon than my last tank in Arizona, and started out across route 66. Within a couple miles into the California desert, storm clouds gathered and I could once again feel the familiar storm-brought chill. I rode in comfortable temps along route 66 through Essex, Amboy, Ludlow and finally into Barstow, where I pitched my tent.
Listen kids, this was all new territory for me, and I don’t know if I’ve ever been in such continuous awe for so long in my life. This is a scenic wonder. In next to no time, I descended from 7,000 feet to 1,500 feet and the heat was stifling, but the scenery was mind boggling. My apologies to those who’ve witnessed this, but I ask, have you ever done on a bike?

Despite the breathtaking views of the desert, perhaps the most exciting thing was chasing trains for dozens of miles. As soon as I got back on route 66, I raced a train in the typical, “who crosses first” scenario, but I had an overpass, so there was no worry about winning. We passed, nose to nose at the overpass and I felt exhilarated. Fifty miles later, I crossed with that train again just before entering Ludlow.

I honestly thought that Route 66 through the California desert would be cool because of the exciting history, but I didn’t expect it to be much more than I-40 otherwise. So perhaps I can’t quite put my finger on the thrill that I experienced for many, many miles. Most of my trip today was off I-40 and on old Route 66. After I entered California, I followed I-40 for a few miles, and then when I started on 66, I encountered a bunch of bikers resting beside the road. They flagged me down, so I stopped and met about 20 fellow travelers from France. They had 9 bikes and three cars.

I stopped at Roy’s expecting an abandoned Motel and gas station, but it was open, although the power was out and thus, the pumps wouldn’t work. Fortunately I hadn’t depended on Roy’s for fuel at $5.29 per gallon.
After a stop to visit the Amboy volcano crater, I rode on to Ludlow, where I did find fuel, and had only a 60-mile jaunt to reach my campsite.



Originally uploaded by rod lewis
August 4, 2008
Flagstaff, Arizona
400 miles (3,500)

On the move again. I just spent seven days in one general location, and I gotta say, it didn’t take seven days to make me antsy. Nevertheless, I had a hard time to pulling away from Santa Fe – both physically and emotionally. There were people still around Sunday morning with whom I’d forged fledgling relationships. Having stayed put for so long, I’d accumulated paper, and info, etc, and scattered my life about the room. So after a nice long organizational and packing period, and then a leisurely goodbye brunch, I didn’t move toward the road until after 1:00pm.
As I was flitting about, showering, packing, and getting in order, I noticed a field about 20 yards from my campsite. It was contained by a split-rail fence, filled with that rare covering of grass and decorated with horseshoe pegs, bike ramps and other sundry recreation happiness. I had not noticed that field in the seven days I’d been around. Granted, I’d come in very late every night, and left quite early. I had not explored the campground, but I do tend to notice things. Beyond my normal ability to see things, I had also been in a sort of training for taking it all in and pondering my surroundings. So I realized that I’d come to the site each night without regard for it’s delights. That is, beyond the outrageous night sky with its backlit milkyway swath spanning the entire sky, it’s Jupiter shining brightly as the moon, its dependable consistency of shooting stars, and its nocturnal constant call of coyotes.
I set about taking in everything I encountered as I rode off toward Albuquerque, where I’d turn West and follow the legendary Route 66 to Flagstaff. The Sandias shone their normal brilliance as I neared Albuquerque, and when my attention turned right, I was confronted with ominous cloudage. Nothing new, I’ve been dealing with this eastern normality everyday since I’ve left home, but I seem to have brought it with me to the normal arid southwest, where I’ve given much appreciated drinks to the landscape, even as I feel the water being sucked out of my body.
When I entered Arizona again, seven days after I’d skirted its northwest corner for a half hour, I was confused when I stopped at the welcome center to dry out and armor myself against the increasingly foreboding storm clouds, and found it to be an hour earlier than I thought it was, though the sky and dim cloud covered light seemed to indicate I was correct. It took me several hours to remember that Arizona does not appreciate daylight savings time. So I’d gained an hour, but only in theory. No extra daylight.
The extra hour did forgive my late departure, and afforded me a long, slow ride through the Painted Desert and Petrified forest, where frankly I was quite surprised. As the park ranger had promised, the dampness I was encountering was a small price for the extra beauty it bestowed on the landscape. Extremely dark eastern skies framed the badlands with colorful desert foliage, all dimly spotlit from a beautiful, if struggling, sunset. Lightning accented the background, and the rain on the formations sent out a glow of gorgeosity.
I must admit, that when I entered the park at the last possible moment, I realized that I was definitely low on fuel due to the beating high winds and but irresponsibly opted to chance the ride with my remaining gasoline fumes. Through the gate, my odometer read 100 miles, and I had 47 miles to the next fuel stop. I went on reserve at 106 miles and was sure I’d never make it out on my bike. I was careful to do the 28 park miles at 35 mph, and the 19 wilderness miles at 50, despite the 65mph speed limit.
I rolled into Holbrook and added 3 more miles before I found fuel. I filled my tank with 3.98 gallons, the most I’ve ever used. I guessed that .02 gallon must be equivalent to a teaspoon. I literally could not have made it to the next street corner. I sighed, sat quietly behind the station and thanked God for bringing back to civilization via motorized propulsion rather than by foot, through the desert, through the chilly rain, in the dark.
When I climbed back on in Holbrook, I had 90 miles to travel to Flagstaff, in the dark. The storms became more fierce for this last leg, and pelted me the entire way. I reached my campsite chilled to the bone and quite tired. I set up the tent, crawled in and lay there in the Arizona gravel listening to the rain hit the tent and pondered the beauty of decay.

Perhaps it is only in ourselves that we see decay as ugly. No one could possibly deny the exquisite beauty of the mesas of New Mexico, whose edges seem to crumble before your very eyes. The Piñon snags against the blue sky call out to a hidden part of the soul and expose dying places into which new life needs to be invited. The palpability of the fragile ecosystem here makes it easier to see how pain and struggle, is the very sustenance of health, and thriving. When immersed in this world, one ceases to see the strong and thriving preying on the weak and struggling. One begins to realize that the strong sacrifice that others may thrive and survive.
The strength of the dying and decaying can only be visible in the surviving and thriving. But for any to thrive, death is required – the sacrificial death that feeds us, and the denying of ourselves in return.
I am an ecosystem. Death and sacrifice are commonplace in parts of my being, but the decay of my parts fertilizing and nourishes and brings strength and vitality to my other parts. With this intellectual knowledge, it is embarrassing to confess the oft contemplated mourning, and dwelling on the decay rather than the emergent, growing life that is nourished by it.

ALMIGHTY and everliving God, we most heartily thank thee, for that thou dost vouchsafe to feed us who have duly received these holy mysteries, with the spiritual food of the most precious Body and Blood of thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ.