Sunday, June 28, 2009

Where in North America is Uncle Rod? Day 15

June 28, 2009
11:00 pm
Danville, NH
ca 338 miles (3,790)

When I checked out of the motel this morning, I asked the girl at the desk, if Acadia National Park was worth a ride in the pouring rain. She hesitated for only a moment and pointed out that I was going to be riding in the rain anyway. “It’s really beautiful,” she said.
I decided to go ahead with it, and turned south in the rain and traffic toward the park.
It was definitely a misfire. 65 extra miles of heavy rain and dense fog. I couldn’t see anything but the taillights of the car in front of me, and the occasional tree on the side of the road. The occasional tree indicated that what I was not seeing was extremely beautiful, but it was shrouded in fog. The 65 miles represents nearly three hours, and by then, I was back to where I started on highway 1.
Another 60 miles and I stopped, soaked and cold, at a McDonalds and looked at the time. It had been nearly another 3 hours. During those miles, I’d stopped at a tiny gas station for fuel and coffee, and a man struck up a conversation with me. He really like my bike. “The Antique White and Forest Green are magnificent.” Somehow, I didn’t expect that phrase from the guy who rode up beside me in pickup truck filled with tree branches, chainsaws and weedeaters. I so appreciate a guy who is deeper than his surface. While we were talking, a huge explosion nearly caused me to spill my coffee. I noticed that the man didn’t flinch. Without the slightest change of expression, he said, “that’s the canon firing across the river at Fort Knox. They Fire it every hour. The fort is completely decommissioned, and is now a State Park. You should probably visit there when you cross the river.”
We said our goodbyes, I rode the amazing bridge across the Penobscot Narrows, and veered left at the entrance to Fort Knox. Too much time lost already, and rain too heavy to stop and pretend that any experience today would live up to what it surely would be in dryer conditions.
I made another stop in Brunswick, just before I took the 4-lane, got fuel, warmed up, and changed clothes. I was wet to the skin by then from rain wicking down from my collar. I put on all the dry shirts I had left, and set out for the final leg of the trip.
Once I hit the 4 lane, I booked it down to the New Hampshire line and stopped to warm up just when the toll road ended, just before entering New Hampshire. The entirety of those 70 miles was in thick traffic with trucks who threw their spray on me. The lanes were shifted so that the left lane was closed, and the shoulder was being used as a lane. The surface was removed for re-paving, so what was left, was grooved and bumpy.
When I left the gas station, I missed a turn and started back North on 95 and did another 10 extra miles and barely avoided having to pay toll twice more to get headed back in the right direction.
Finally back on I-95 South, I entered NH, and paid another 75 cents exiting to hwy 101. I found the next road easily, but turned the wrong way and drove exactly 6 miles north when I should have been headed south. Back to where I started I had a short jaunt of 8 miles to my place of rest, but alas, I got lost and those 8 miles took me 2 hours.
I arrived safe, but frustrated, dizzy from turning the bike around and shivered through.
This was a frustrating day. It is quite frustrating to stop the bike at a toll booth in the pouring rain, remove soaked gloves, dig through my inner jacket liner for my wallet, replace said wallet, re-zip and fasten 3 layers, and finally, to unsuccessfully attempt to put wet gloves back onto wet hands. All with a line of impatient drivers behind. All four times I paid toll, I had to pull off the Interstate beyond the toll booths and get dressed again before going on. Slightly wetter and slightly colder than before. Actually, the same thing happened in Saint John, New Brunswick and I had to exit to get dressed. After exiting, I returned to the highway headed in the wrong direction and nearly had to pay toll 2 more times to head east again.
Tonight, I’ve finally found the dry, warm home of my former student, Aubrey, who with her parents has offered to keep for the night. We’ve had a nice long visit, and I’m basking in the kindness of friends, known and unknown.

Many times after last year’s trip, I mentioned that there were several times when I realized that I hadn’t spoken to anyone all day, or for several days even. I could go through stretches where I was only near people at gas stops, and then, use a card at the pump and keep moving silently.

That was a trip about solitude.

Whatever I thought this trip was going to be about, it has been a trip about people.

Old friends and strangers.

I have learned a lot about myself this trip. Solitude may be like a mountaintop experience, but honestly, nothing grows on mountaintops. The view is beautiful up there, but as my friend Cong, points out, the lifeblood is in the valley. (he also said, “don’t forget to check the oil.)
I have learned that though I may find myself in desperate need of alone time, I can’t possibly live without people.

Old friends and strangers.

I have depended on the kindness of Allison’s Aunt Brenda and Uncle Joe, a former student and her father (for 2 night’s lodging and a day of wonderful entertainment), a dear old friend and his lovely wife and kids, and now another former student, Aubs and her parents.
Who knows whom else I may find myself grateful for during the rest of this trip? I’m actually finding myself shifting the mindset from getting away, to looking up folks to drop in on. I’m even seeing the folks that work at the State and Provincial Park campgrounds as people I’ve depended on, rather than people simply carrying out their duties.
I’m made to think about my ramblings about the disciples going out depending on the hospitality of others – about them providing a means for others to serve, to take part in the Kingdom of God. Take nothing but the clothes on your back.

Last year’s trip was for the most part, about the riding. Riding through gorgeous, exotic landscapes, and American, or even pre-american subcultures. I saw some very cool places, but they were usually on my way, and considered part of the ride. The destinations weren’t destinations at all, but merely randomly chosen places to stop and rest that represented roughly, about as far as a guy can comfortably ride on a good day. I had lots of good days. And when I didn’t, I could always pull up short, because the destinations weren’t the point in any way other than it represented a bar line in a measured distance that told me I was headed toward home and that I would get there when I was supposed to be there. In that way, if I fell short on a given day, I would have to make it up, because the final resting place WAS important, but the points along the way were simply to be enjoyed for what they were. After falling behind, I didn’t have to make up the distance all in one day, I could spread it out over several, thereby, proving that no point of destination was anymore important than the one I’d fell short of.
This year, the biggest part of my trip has been about making pre-chosen destinations where I can get warm and dry. And often, these destinations represent people who have offered to take care of me, dry my clothes and provide a warm shower and a bed. The soaked, cold riding has served to get me there, and has been what I’ve had to recover from. Quite the opposite experience, this ride. A complete shift of focus. Honestly, it’s a challenge to my personality – a short in my wiring. A guy can ride off on his own, all confident and brave, but he can never survive alone. Even if he doesn’t realize his company.
And the angels attended him.