Monday October 21st to Sunday October 27th
Monday October 21st
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. I was staying with a wonderful family: Laurie, Ellie, Terri, Tom, Julie and Josh. They kindly took me to the Gettysburg Visitor’s Center to see the multiple exhibits they have there. And then toured me around the area, taking in all of the battlefields which cover a large area.
At the Visitor’s Center they show an excellently produced movie about the Civil War & Gettysburg’s role in it. They also have a Cyclorama room– a 360° painting of the battlefield which lights up in sections when the story is recounted over the speaker system. The first version of the painting by Paul Philippoteaux was completed exhibited in 1883. It was then lost and rediscovered in 1965. To think that one man painted this massive 360° extremely detailed painting is incredible.
The Gettysburg battlefields, the movie, the cyclorama– it all saddened me. Men and women killing each other, the pain, the lost limbs, the destruction of families, towns and cities. How can we do this to each other? How can we stand on a battlefield and shoot someone, bomb them, tear them apart and possibly leave them mangled for the rest of their lives? I watched the scenes and thought of these young soldiers– terrified, standing courageously under orders, fighting for what they believe in. I understand that sometimes war is necessary– to prevent a holocaust, torture and slavery– the extremely honorable sacrifice of lives for the benefit of humankind. That is amazing! What courage! But I wish war and armies weren’t necessary and I wish that we only went to battle when absolutely necessary. There are too many wars fought for causes that aren’t absolutely necessary. And I realized that I’ve led a very blessed life not to have ever faced war firsthand.
A bright, sunny day with good company. I felt a part of the family I was staying with. They all made me feel so welcome. But I have to keep going. I left Gettysburg and headed to Washington, DC, where Phill and Britt were waiting for me.
In the evening Phill, Britt and myself went for dinner and then a very amusing and wonderful tour of Washington, DC in Phill’s Jeep Wrangler, with the top off. Britt and I would jump out at various sights– The Jefferson Memorial, The Washington Monument, The Lincoln Memorial, The White House, the World War II Memorial– and Phill would drive around until we were ready to jump back in again. It all felt very SWAT team… Go! Go! Go!… Jump out, tour… “Pick you up on the corner”… Jump back in… Go! Go!Go! It was a great tour, lot’s of fun and all of the monuments were so beautiful at night. Added to that: an almost-full moon, bright white, shining mistily through the clouds above. Surreal.
Tuesday October 22nd
A sightseeing day in Washington DC. I rode the motorcycle to see the White House– amazing to think I got here! I wasn’t sure that I would. I never am sure that I’ll get anywhere. Every day is a present to be opened and to see what’s inside.
Meanwhile, the embers of my relationship back at home were slowly dying out. It didn’t look like our relationship would survive the journey. It’s been a struggle with me being gone.
After the White House I headed to the Newseum– a museum focused on news and media. I enjoyed the Pullitzer Prize Winning photo exhibit, Ethics in Media exhibit, and the 4D movie with my chair moving and wind blowing. I spent some time in the museum as I wanted to understand how stories are told. I have ideas. Throughout the museum I wondered why we focus on the bad news and misery. What about the good news? News and media has to be truthful, unbiased, and report hapeenings in the world, but must it focus on the deadly, the sadness, and the shocking? Couldn’t it focus on the heroic for example?
Then I went to the Old Post Office Tower and made the climb to the top to see the view over Washington DC, and to see the bells given to the USA by Britain to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the cessation of hostilities.
In the evening Phill, Britt and I decided to go Geocaching– something that my host Gail in Kenora had told me about. It’s a scavenger hunt via an App on your phone. “Caches” are placed around your city and you hunt for them via the App which provides GPS coordinates, mapping, a description of the location, hints and clues. We found two Goecaches that night and had fun reading the clues and hunting for the small packages left behind by others.
Wednesday October 23rd
I headed out to see the Arlington National Cemetery. Thousands of grave sites. I wondered around for about an hour taking it all in, then headed towards Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.
On the way I was riding along country roads and came across Bull Run, or First Manassas as it’s also known. This was the site of the first major conflict in the Civil War. Much like Gettysburg there is a large area of fields preserved from the battle site. I toured the visitor’s center and wondered why I am visiting so many sites of war recently.
I headed for Luray, Virginia. It was cold, in the 30’s with a severe weather alert: a freeze warning for the night.
I stayed in a nice B&B overlooking the mountains of Shenandoah. Such a beautiful view– whole mountainsides covered in multi-colored trees.
My relationship back home comes to an end. It is sad. We’ve been best friends for two years.
Thursday October 24th
Now that the journey’s end is a little over a week away and my relationship has dissolved my thoughts are turning more towards how I would like the future to look. Certainly a journey like this makes you not want to return to life as it was. A journey like this shows you other opportunities and possibilities. It makes you realize we are all human and each on our own adventure– no better or worse than any other, just different and unique. It gives you a sense of community.
I headed out to Luray Caverns to hunt down the organ and hope that it would be playing as I went through the caverns. Arty had challenged me to post a video of the organ playing in return for a donation to charity. I’ve been in a few cave systems and I would say that Luray is one of the most beautiful, with thousands of stalagtites and stalagmites. I recommend a visit. The organ was playing (it plays for every tour group that goes through). They hold several weddings here each year in The Cathedral– the cavern that contains the organ. It’s quite a unique place to get married. I threw coins into the wishing well and made a wish.
My only goal today was to make it to West Virginia, only a few miles away from Luray. I had figured out that West Virginia was the last US state remaining in which to ride the Triumph on the North American continent– a goal I now wanted very much to achieve. Little did I know it would take me right into the cold weather system that was coming through.
Driving over the Shenandoah Mountains and through George Washington National Forest was a dramatic experience in the Fall. Stunning tree-lined roads, mountains roads that climbed and fell steeply with sharp curves. Long straight roads in the valleys with trees that formed multi-colored, natural road tunnels. Beautiful! I made it to the top of the mountains. It was so cold. I kept putting my gloved hands on the engine to warm up my fingers and letting the warmth flow through the rest of my body. It was there that I crossed into West Virginia. Goal achieved! Every single state– me and the Triumph Bonneville.
I had looked at Google Maps and really couldn’t see any town to stop in. I had no plan. It was the afternoon. The plan became: ride through West Virginia until I found a place to stop for the night. I rode through Franklin. The weather was getting colder and colder. The next town was Monterey (back in Virginia), then Hot Springs and Warm Springs. One of these towns should have a place to stay hopefully. 21 miles to Monterey. It was dramatically colder on this side of the mountains and getting colder. I guessed the temperature was in the 40’s and dropping beyond 4pm. By the time I reached Monterey I had been riding through a snow shower for half an hour. Finally snow had caught up with me.
I pulled into Monterey and asked a lady walking across the gas station lot where the next town was, if there was anywhere to stay and eat in Monterey. She advised it would be best to stay in Monterey– not much of anything further on. I realized I was standing there with my teeth chattering. Ok, I was done for the day.
I headed to the motel a block away and booked myself a room. Turn up the thermostat and keep all the layers on. I stepped outside– still snowing. More snow predicted through the night. Temperatures below freezing predicted and into the morning.
I was concerned about the cold the next day and riding in it. I had two days to ride 270 miles to Raleigh, North Carolina where my friends Todd and Meredith were expecting me. The plan for the next day: bundle up as much as possible, get out of Monterey and try to ride at least 50 miles to the east where temperatures promised to be around 15 degrees warmer. If I was lucky I could perhaps make it 135 miles– half way to Raleigh.
Friday October 25th
29°s in the morning, with a high forecast in the 30’s. Six layers of clothes on the top, four layers on the bottom, balaclava, two pairs of gloves, and two pairs of socks. I’d stay as warm as I could. I just had to make it 50 miles over the mountains to the other side. It was the coldest day of the journey so far.
No snow this morning. I half expected the bike to be covered in snow when I woke up but it wasn’t. Blue skies and the sun is shining. Thank you!
I made it over the mountains and I felt relieved. I had stayed warm. I could keep going. The only cold parts of me were my fingertips and my nose. Everything else was A-ok. The journey was beautiful along Route 250 east towards Staunton– a drive I would rate very highly. If you’re ever in the area take Route 250.
I kept going. My thinking was ‘get as far south as you can today and maybe head into warmer weather.’ 135 miles, half way to Raleigh and I still kept going, just in case tomorrow was also a frigid day.
The roads I took through Shenandoah were amazing. Tight mountain switch back turns, 15ph stuff at points. Gorgeous tree lined roads. Then through farmlands. Virginia is gorgeous. I was heading east and then south. Got to keep riding and get as far as I can.
I kept sneezing. I hoped I wasn’t coming down with something. Orange juice. Vitamin C. If I kept going I would also make the 21,000-mile mark. I kept going. 21,000 miles! Made it! And Raleigh– I made it the whole way! 270 miles today. How on earth did I do that?
I found a room at La Quinta because I was now a day ahead of schedule and Todd & Meredith hadn’t received my message in time that I had made it to Raleigh. I didn’t want to inconvenience them at the last minute. I was feeling more ill. I headed to Walgreens to buy cold medicine and then went to bed hoping I would sleep the symptoms off.
Saturday October 26th
I woke up with a full blown cold and feeling run down. I didn’t want to get Todd & Meredith sick so I booked another night at La Quinta, stayed in my room, slept, watched a movie (“Craigslist Joe”), blogged a little, ate, rested and rested more– as much as possible. Tomorrow I had to be back on the road to keep on schedule for the finish line in Miami. My hope was that I would wake up feeling well enough to ride 250 miles as planned.
Watching “Craigslist Joe” I felt some affinity with his journey. We had very different journeys and I would say his was harder than mine since I never had to sleep in such rough conditions or stay up until 4am with nowhere to lay my head. I’ve been very blessed with comfortable rooms in people’s houses and motels. But there are certain commonalities– the sense of community, the not knowing where you are going to stay, listening to people’s stories, the generosity of people, inspiring people and being inspired, touching moments, gifts, feeling you’d been with someone for a month when it had only been two days, the sadness of poverty, having to leave people behind– all this is the same.
Sunday October 27th
My plan was to go to church. However, because my cold had prevented me from seeing Todd & Meredith yesterday as planned I made them the priority and headed to their place for breakfast with them before setting out on the road. We caught up and spent a few hours together, after 6 or so years of not seeing each other. I was wonderful to see them.
Day #3 of my cold. Not feeling great on the road isn’t very much fun. I managed to ride 150 miles or so before the light of the day set behind the horizon and I quickly found a place to stay. The temperatures were up in the 60’s today and I can’t tell you how good that felt after the recent cold weather. There’ll be no more cold weather from here on out. It’ll just get hotter and hotter. And I am looking forward to it!
Exactly one week until I cross the finish line. It’s beginning to feel very close and very far away. Right around the corner but a world away from mine for the last four months. It’s going to be very strange, very different, and it’s going to take some getting used to. I arrive in South Carolina. This is the final stretch towards home.
Monday October 14th to Sunday October 20th
Monday October 14th
I was staying in Montauk with Courtney and Tim. We had an affinity and shared plenty of laughs. I would ride around The Hamptons today, see what they are all about and return to stay a second night. Tim kindly mapped out a list of things to see and I set out for the day.
First order of business: visit the Montauk Lighthouse at the end of the island. The lighthouse sits on a bluff overlooking the Atlantic. Slowly the bluff is being eroded. The lighthouse was authorized to be built by Congress under George Washington in 1792. It’s the fourth oldest active lighthouse in the USA. I climbed the tower to the top on a clear-sky day and could see far off across the ocean, along the sandy beaches, and across the State Park inland. A gorgeous view.
I drove back to Sag Harbor to see the super yachts. There were only a couple left in the harbor. Perhaps all the others had already gone south. They weren’t particularly “super” either. I think in October I’d already missed seeing the best of the best.
I headed to Shelter Island but didn’t take the ferry across due to time. Next, Tim had told me that the biggest house in the USA was along Peter’s Pond Lane to the south. I found it and to get view I took a sandy side road towards the beach. It was a big house for sure. Who needs that much space I wondered.
I then headed towards Southampton but weekend traffic exiting The Hamptons, going back to New York City etc was very heavy. I ended up on Dune Road along the coast instead and found all of the big, modern homes Tim had recommended I see. They are something to behold and the sit right on the beach, which I decided to walk along for an hour or so.
Everywhere I went in The Hamptons I was taken by how many homes were for sale. They were everywhere. I don’t know why. Perhaps hard times have hit The Hamptons. There are many, many homes on the market.
Tuesday October 15th
A grueling day. A rushed day. A long day. Probably the longest and most jam-packed day of the whole journey so far.
I started in Montauk, leaving Courtney and Tim behind and headed for a lunch appointment with a friend at Trump Tower on 5th Avenue in New York City. Lunch had been arranged for noon. It took about 2.5 hours to ride there. I think I was about 10 minutes late. Sadly, my lunch with Amanda was rushed and cut short as I had to be back on the road at 1pm to keep my schedule. But it was good to see her and we had enough time to catch up a decent amount, so I’m very glad we made the effort to make it happen.
I left the heart of Manhattan at just after 1pm with the thought in mind that I had arranged to meet all of the UrbanPromise children in Wilmington, Delware at 4pm. It would be a close call. I was thrilled to be riding in the madness of Manhattan. It gave me a sense of accomplishment and I laughed with unbelief that I was riding my motorcycle down Madison Avenue, Avenue of the Americas, W 56th Street and 5th Avenue.
I rode like the wind and arrived at UrbanPromise Wilmington at 3 minutes to 4pm. Thank goodness for answered prayers! I made it. The children were ready for me and we all gathered in a large room with a projection screen on the stage showing my route. As always we talked about my journey, why I’m doing it (to support the children I was talking to because I believe in them), what I’ve seen along the way, and asked them what their dreams were. We went out to see the motorcycle and they asked enthusiastic questions. I get such joy out of meeting the UrbanPromise children. It’s always a high.
Then I had to ride back up into New Jersey, to Deptford Township where I was going to be staying for the next few nights. Deptford Township was perfectly located for my upcoming schedule.
Wednesday October 16th
I was scheduled to meet and talk to the UrbanPromise Trenton, New Jersey children today, at 4pm. That gave me enough time to head into Philadelphia first to do some sightseeing.
I drove around the historic city for a short while and then parked the bike so I could visit The Liberty Bell. Philly didn’t feel safe to be leaving the bike at all. I left it in a supervised lot and walked to The Liberty Bell. I was confused when I got to the bell– it’s just behind glass? You can’t go in and see it? Only see it from the outside? That’s odd. And then it dawned on me that we were still under a ‘Government Shutdown’. Well, I was able to see it through the window thankfully.
I walked the cobblestoned streets for a while, taking photos and then decided I’d like to drive up to Princeton and see it’s Theological Seminary. So I did. It wasn’t that far. The campus is quaint houses, historic churches and buildings, intermingled with trees turning all colors. Beautiful! It was quiet and peaceful and brought a smile after the unsafe feeling of being in Philly with the bike.
I arrived at UrbanPromise Trenton on time. I was surprised by Trenton. Some of it is beautiful historic stone buildings, like the State Capitol building with it’s dome. Other parts of Trenton were old houses that could have been beautiful if they’d been kept up. But they were located in poor neighborhoods, which seemed to cover large sections of the city.
My time with the UP Trenton children was rewarding as always and followed the same format, except this time the children got the additional thrill of me riding around the parking lot for them. They chanted, “wheelie! wheelie! wheelie!” but I can’t do a wheelie on the Bonneville. Instead I rode it through cones for them, hoping that would satisfy them instead.
Antonio, who works at UrbanPromise Trenton, told me that it was so good that we focused on the children’s dreams. He said many have lost hope or didn’t have dreams (what’s the point of having a dream if it’s never, ever going to be fulfilled?)
And I left Trenton after meeting an elderly lady, Edna, with HIV who was in tears. We sat and talked. She cried. She was glad to have someone to listen to her. But I left Trenton quite depressed. I couldn’t shake the feeling of a black cloud hanging over me. The poverty, the rundown houses, Edna, the UrbanPromise kids who are scared to dream– all left me with a heavy feeling.
I felt like Trenton was a prison for most there. Invisible bars of economic hardship and no way out. Horrible. And I only sensed the despair as I drove through. I can’t imagine what it’s like to live there. We must help our own people!
Thursday October 17th
One thing on the agenda today– ride to UrbanPromise Camden, New Jersey, get there at 2pm to speak with the children at first UrbanPromise center, opened 25 years ago.
Camden, New Jersey– billed as the most dangerous and poor city in the United States.
Joan, my host for the last couple of days warned me to be careful in certain sections of Camden. I’d also recalled the account of my Pastor, Hallie visiting this very center and being stopped in her car on the way into Camden and asked, “where are you going?” They let her and her friends go on when they mentioned UrbanPromise. So it was with some trepidation that I entered Camden on my motorcycle. Perhaps it was the route I took but I didn’t feel threatened or in harm’s way. In fact I thought Trenton was perhaps in worse condition than Camden from the standpoint of poverty. Camden has come along in the last few years. There are efforts to help.
UrbanPromise Camden is a unique center because it has a school that serves 600 children (out of 30,000 children in Camden). The school serves elementary through high school ages. I met with Jodina, the Executive Director, and then went into a full assembly room of children. All of the school children were there. As always, so friendly, all smiling, all wanted to say hello. They had made a big poster with their dreams on streamers taped across it. They had made a mobile out of a stick, string and pine cones which they had painted (it looked really good!). And after my presentation and talking about their dreams they sang two songs and also performed a drum piece. It was all quite spectacular.
I sat afterwards with Dr. Bruce Main, President and Founder of UrbanPromise. We chatted for a while about my journey and then he gave me a tour of the school. Wow, what a school! The children are in excellent hands. I would say much better than your average school. The children here are always affirmed, built up, they feel good to be at school, they go through an amazing ‘rite of passage’ camping and hiking trip before high school graduation, they are loved, they are given attention, they are given what they need to succeed in this world. To be honest I was quite envious– I wish I had gone to a school like this! I think most of us would feel the same if you saw the school too. It is a place where children blossom to their full potential. Yes, there should be an UrbanPromise center in every city in the USA, and beyond.
Friday October 18th
Dr. Main had invited me back for an unscheduled additional meeting with the UP Camden high school students– at the weekly Friday Lunch Club. At the Lunch Club local business people (mentors) from the surrounding cities come in and have lunch with the high school students.
On this particular Friday Dr. Main had me push the motorcycle into the lunch room. I was quite amused by this. I thought it was great! So did everyone else (who had no idea why it was there).
We all grabbed lunch, had an ice-breaking few minutes where we all met someone new, and then Dr. Main invited me up to the front for a Q&A session. Following on from me was the two Directors of UrbanPromise Malawi who had flown in to provide an update to everyone on how things were going there and to describe what school was like at UP Malawi. The whole lunch was extremely inspiring for everyone in attendance.
Then off to Lancaster, PA. I had promised Joan, my host, that we would take a ride together through the farmlands and Amish country for a nice afternoon trip. It was a long ride and Joan was surprised to find Lancaster not as she remembered it. But the rolling hills and woods of the farmlands was totally worth the journey. It was a good day!
Later I wrote a text to an MSPC member: “Coming to the fore now are thoughts of the journey ending. It both seems far off (something that doesn’t seem real) and something very close (two weeks away). I wonder what on earth God has in store for me next. I don’t want to go back to doing what I was before, I want to keep doing some kind of missionary work like this, whether it’s in Miami or beyond. What shape it might take, if it happens, I just don’t know. I cannot wait to get back to Miami to see all the dreams on Miami Shores Presbyterian Church. I sincerely feel that I have been doing one of the most important things of my life. I have new hopes and dreams that have risen in my heart because of this journey. I’m looking forward to heeding my own advice… “Just take the next step and leave the rest to God”… And starting on the next adventure. The next adventure won’t look like this one but I hope it’s just as important.”
Saturday October 19th
I had thought that perhaps I could make it to both Washington DC and then to Annapolis, Maryland. It became apparent that I couldn’t do both and so I decided just to head to Annapolis.
Annapolis was such a shock to my system after four days in Wilmington, Trenton and Camden. Annapolis was a pleasant shock. It was the opposite of everything I had seen in the last few days. All of a sudden I had gone from desperate poverty to idyllic quaintness and prosperity. My system had somehow adjusted to scenes of difficulties. To now be in a world of marinas, boats, farmer’s markets, coffee shops, men and women in sharp-dressed uniforms, cobbled streets and 1800’s storefronts, so close to all the poverty was a welcome relief to be honest.
Sunday October 20th
Into town with my hosts Laurie and her daughter Ellie, and two other couch surfers Phill and Britt who were also staying at Brian, Laurie, and Ellie’s house. Grabbed some breakfast and I split off from the group to attend church at First Presbyterian of Annapolis. I found out later that the church was one of our MSPC member’s home church, and where her parents are buried. Small world, all the time.
The message for me today: persistence and stewardship. Interesting. Very. I can’t really explain at this time other than to say that I wonder if stewardship will play a role in my future somehow. The word had came up weeks and weeks prior to this and it’s been rolling around my brain ever since. We’ll see. I think stewardship fits quite nicely with one of the things I sing to myself in my helmet sometimes (and when walking through woods when no one is around)… “Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow; Praise Him, all creatures here below; Praise Him above, ye heavenly host; Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.” I love singing those lines and it makes me recall where everything in this world originates from, and that we must look after it all properly and to the best of our ability.
Phill and Brittany packed up and left for Washington DC. I packed up to head to Gettysburg, PA– a place I had wanted to visit. Before Phill and Britt left they offered me a place to stay in Washington DC, which I gratefully accepted! Then I rode out along the expressway and along route 140 towards Gettysburg where I was spotted on the road by a couple who photographed me riding along from their car, and then later sent me the photo via Facebook. Pretty cool!
I arrived in Gettysburg. I had been told there’s not much there. It isn’t true! There’s lots to see and do in Gettysburg. It’s a small town, very historic, well-maintained, plenty on offer for the tourist, and it is surrounded by well-preserved historic sites from the Civil War. It’s well worth a visit.
Journey’s end creeps closer. Today is exactly two weeks away from crossing the finish line. Real life back home seems like a million miles and hours away from today. Completely unreal. I can’t grasp the reality of it.
Monday October 7th to Sunday October 13th
Monday October 7th
Feeling miserable in a cell of a motel room on the outskirts of Boston. I felt unsafe in the area. I’m increasingly disliking the feeling of being in cities whilst on the journey. The motel has was fenced in. I wonder, is it time to move out of the big city I live in and move to a simpler place? There’s a certain fear and standoffishness that pervades a city. In a city I need to keep on eye on the motorbike.
I was headed for Hyannis on Cape Cod, not knowing that it is the home of the Kennedy family. I randomly chose a town half way up the island for convenience. It has often happened on this journey that I find myself in the perfect location without putting any great planning into it. Prayer is often all the planning you need.
Boston’s rain was still hanging around in the early part of the morning and then changed to a mix of sunny and overcast. The rain has been the worst to deal with. The rain makes the days colder and stops you from doing so many things, like jumping off the bike for that quick photo op. It’s even difficult to put gloves back on when your hands are wet.
I set the GPS to take me along the back road of Massachusetts, heading through small towns such as Plymouth. Plymouth, a lovely little town. I noticed lots of signs about pilgrims. I was about to leave town when I saw a sign for Plymouth Rock. Ohhh, really? That’s where I am? Wow. That changed everything. I parked the bike and took a wander around. I went to see Plymouth Rock and the Mayflower from across the water.
I arrived on Cape Cod and loved how pretty it was. “I could live here,” I thought.
Tuesday October 8th
Mia, my couch surfing host very nicely toured me around Hyannis, showing me all the sights, telling me all the history, showing me where the Kennedy’s live. Then I set off for Provincetown on the end of Cape Cod, and then back towards Rhode Island. A beautiful sunny day. At last.
I stopped along the northern shore of Cape Cod and watched the seals playing in the ocean. There was a sign advising swimmers that Great White Sharks inhabit the waters.
Provincetown turned out to be Cape Cod’s answer to Key West in Florida. Quaint old homes and streets with a main promenade of boutique shops. The Pilgrim Tower is here, celebrating the probable site of the pilgrim’s first landing (not Plymouth Rock). I didn’t find the town to be motorcycle friendly, i.e. the parking lots nearly all said “No motorcycles”, so I rode around and left. The town was full of tourists. The roads leading into town lined with old seaside motels. I imagine in the summer it’s difficult to get around due to traffic congestion.
I stopped outside of Provincetown to see where the pilgrims first found, fresh water. I took a walk through the woods amazed that I was walking where the pilgrims first walked in this strange new land. There was a sign warning of the presence of poison ivy. I’ve never really seen poison ivy or felt it. Part of me wanted to brush up against some to see what the reaction would feel like. But I didn’t. The woods were much like those in England and I wondered what the pilgrims thought of coming thousands of miles to find landscapes with such a familiar feel to them. I love the peace of being out in the countryside alone.
That evening I arrived in Warren, Rhode Island. My hosts cooked loin and roasted vegetables. I was staying with Artemis, Alan and Katerina. Artemis had found out about my journey from a blast sent out on Facebook by Triumph, and had followed my journey for a while on Facebook and then kindly extended an invitation to come and stay with them.
Wednesday October 9th
Ran a few errands with Artemis and then to the mansions of Newport and a walk along the cliffs. It’s amazing to think that some people can amass such wealth to build homes like the mansions of Newport. And they are just the summer homes! They are huge with beautiful grounds, all lining the cliff’s edge, looking out over the ocean.
We took a walk around Warren to look at some of the churches. We stopped by St. Michael’s. The church was closed but there were two ladies standing outside. Artemis knew one of them and asked if they were waiting for the church to open. Yes, they were– for a yoga session. The church provides free yoga sessions. The sanctuary inside is stunning. I can only imagine how moving yoga in that sanctuary could be.
Thursday October 10th
I headed from Rhode Island towards Torrington, Connecticut. There was a couple of National Geographic “Drives of a Lifetime” that I wanted to do in Connecticut.
I rode along Route 169 in eastern Connecticut, through autumnal trees and woods, and New England wood-paneled homes. It was beautiful and cold. I was feeling fed up of feeling chilled to the bone. But the drive along perfect roads, that bent and rose leaving you feeling like you were riding a roller coaster made up for the chill factor.
I stopped at a Dunkin Donuts and someone left $10 on my bike for me. I think it was the guy who walked passed and asked what I was doing and where I was going. I went inside and when I came back out he had departed and $10 was sitting strapped to my bike. The generosity of people sometimes is really heartwarming. It’s not all bad. In fact people are mostly good.
Friday October 11th
A cold night but thankfully a warm day. No chills to the bone on the bike today, thankfully, at last. I breathed a sigh of relief.
I took a National Geographic “Drive of a Lifetime” in a circuitous route from Torrington in western Connecticut, down to New Milford and back up to Canaan, via Routes 202, 109 and 7. The road was truly like a roller coaster taking my stomach with it. Perfect roads and sharp bends through woods. There were times that I felt slightly out of control, just like on a roller coaster. But still, I knew it was going to be ok. “Whooaaaaaa!,” I said sometimes and laughed. I hit 19,000 miles today (or 30,500 km).
I rode into Liberty, New York. Liberty and the nearby towns all looked like they had seen better days. It seemed that businesses had been moving out. Buildings looked dishevelled and run down. The day was wearing on. No time to go anywhere else. Liberty it was for the night. I searched Yelp for a place to stay and found the Lazy Pond B&B. I decided to head there and was delighted by what I found– 12 acres of wooded lands, three wood-paneled buildings and rooms that made you feel like you were sleeping in your own house.
That evening I watched a Diane Sawyer 20/20 Special with Malala. Malala said, “Girls should be able to realize their dreams too.” Malala’s dream is to become a politician.
Saturday October 12th
I was very thankful to be staying at Lazy Pond B&B. Two nights somewhere is always good because you can settle in and leave your belongings and explore without them for once.
I readied for the day with the plan to head to the site of the Woodstock concert. I went out to the bike, looked at the chain and… Oh my word! Droopy! I had planned on a day riding around the Catskill mountains after going to Woodstock. Well, that ride wasn’t going to happen.
I found Rockwell Cycles on the Internet, about 60 miles away. I called and spoke to Nick. He said he could fit me in if I got there between 3 and 4 pm. I looked at my watch. This was now going to be a rushed day with no riding through the Catskills. Technically I was staying in the Catskills so I guess I’d have to be satisfied with that.
I headed to Yasgurs Farm in Bethel about 20 mins away, the original site of the Woodstock concert. I met three ladies there and they told me their dreams of finding that one special relationship, and health and success for one of their daughters. They said my journey was inspiring and that it made them want to do something for charity.
I looked at the fields and tried to imagine 450,000 people in this small place. It was a 600 acre farm but where I stood it looked just like a big field, not nearly enough room to fit that many people. The surrounding roads are small country lanes, bendy, hilly, and narrow. How on earth did they get all those people, the bands, the trucks, everything here? It seems physically impossible. No wonder surrounding houses became islands in a sea of people.
I had about an hour remaining, enough time to visit the museum before I had to leave for Rockwell Cycles in Fort Montgomery, close to West Point. I met two big, burly guys on the way to the parking lot who said “that takes guts” when they heard about my journey. I hope it inspires them to dream big.
The ride to Fort Montgomery was very windy, like struggling through glue. Traffic was horrendous by Bear Mountain. Traffic was backed up for miles– Octoberfest plus a football game. After sitting in traffic for some time it became obvious I wasn’t going to make the appointment and I’d have to wait two days until they re-opened on Tuesday. A group of four motorcycles cut down the center of the two lanes of cars. I decided to follow, using them in front as a shield for any motorists that took exception and tried to cut us off. There were a few of those motorists trying to squeeze us against cars in the other lane thereby stopping us from proceeding. Their plan didn’t work and thankfully our motorcycles were able to make it through safely.
I made it to the appointment late but Rockwell Cycles were still able to do the work I needed before they closed. It was a relief to get there. The dealership informed me that I wouldn’t have been able to go too much further with the existing chain without breaking it. Two more days riding to another dealership could have meant a breakdown on the way. I was very thankful that a new chain was installed just in time. I also bought a new, brighter headlight. The headlight I had supplied very poor visibility at night, dangerously so I thought. I was also able to purchase a new right hand mirror to replace the one that had been precariously glued on and lasted since Anchorage (with some re-gluing and falling off along the way).
Sunday October 13th
I was still in Liberty, NY and had arranged with the B&B to go to church and then come back and collect all my gear. I had chosen First Presbyterian Church of Liberty because it was the first church I saw coming into town, because it was Presbyterian, and because they had a sign outside announcing a fish ‘n chip dinner in a couple of weeks. Sounded like the perfect place for a Brit to go to church!
In the pews was a single blue welcome card for visitors, right next to where I chose to sit. I couldn’t see any more of them around me in other pews. The card announced on the front “I Wish…” and inside “”We want to make your wishes comes true.” It was a nice welcome. I felt at home. It was a message very similar to that of this journey– dreams.
I had come to yet another church with an interim or guest pastor. I’ve visited so many of them on this trip. I wonder why. The Rev. John H Jenner was the itinerant pastor for this week. I learnt later in speaking to him that he was homeless for some time. I wished I’d had time to spend with him and hear his story. Again it was another service full of the word “endure” and a theme of endurance. I felt for the third time that I was getting confirmation that the journey must go on. “Keep going!” is the message I received. If God keeps telling me to keep going then it must be an important journey to Him.
I collected some of the dreams of the congregation. One person’s dream focused on the revitalization of the area and Liberty itself. He said that Liberty was a poor town with very few job opportunities. He seemed to be suffering from the lack of opportunities.
I left Liberty and headed down the beautiful tree-lined Pallisades Highway through New York City, along a very long Long Island, all the way to Montauk at the end of the island. I arrived after dark on a cold night and was thankful for my new headlight.
I would be staying with Courtney and Tim in Montauk for a couple of nights before heading back west towards New York City. A young couple. Courtney wise beyond her years and Tim a light-hearted soul who’s mission it was to catch his first fish. It was a house full of laughter and happiness. They were always giggling. It made me smile. It’s so wonderful to see a happy couple enjoying each other so much.
An interview with Russell Gragg, National Managing Editor and Host of “Morning Edition” on Canada’s Accessible Media. This interview was recorded in Halifax, Nova Scotia on Sept 21st, 2013 and was broadcast on Wednesday September 25th, 2013.
Day 56 – Monday August 26th
I’d stayed the night in Dawson Creek, on the edge of the British Columbia and Alberta border. I aimed to make it to Hinton, Alberta just outside of Jasper National Park. I thought I was only going to make it only to Grand Cache, but when I got there I learned that Hinton was a bigger town with more chances of a room somewhere. I pressed on to Hinton. The drive from Grand Prairie, through Grand Cache, onto Hinton is noted as a very scenic drive, and it is. I love the place names in Canada. The weather was sunny most of the way which I was much relieved about.
Day 57 – Tuesday August 27th
I decided to stay another night in Hinton because hotels inside Jasper National Park can be up to $300 a night. I rode into the park, up the Edith Cavell mountain road, to the big mountains, glaciers, Angel Lake at the bottom along with Angel Glacier above it. A chipmunk led me back down the path. I learnt later that people feed them, hence the reason that they follow or lead you.
I drove 7 km down a dirt road and then a short half mile hike and tried to swim in Moab Lake. Again, too rocky to jump in and I feared breaking an ankle on the slimy rocks. Then onto to Athabasca Falls which were beautiful and powerful. While at the Falls, having just got a snippet of cell service back again, I got a load of texts about the house at home, and other issues. I dealt with it all at the Falls (plus before and beyond, it’s ongoing), as other tourists gave me odd looks. I looked serious, pacing up and down, trying to deal with things thousands of miles away.
I was almost in tears on the bike because I thought the trip was over, that I really had no choice about returning home. Maybe I had failed God and everyone back at home, everyone following me, the 5 remaining UrbanPromise centers still to visit and all the children there. Perhaps God’s changing directions. Perhaps the journey has been a failure. Perhaps I have failed. It was quite upsetting and showed me how important this journey is to me. The dream part, the UrbanPromise part, the inspiring part. It’s all really important to me.
Day 58 – Wednesday August 28th
A day of riding from Hinton, just on the northern side of Jasper National Park in Alberta, to Calgary Alberta, via the incredible Icefields Parkway. The road took me through Lake Louise, and then through Banff.
The day began cold and ended hot, in the 80°F’s. The layers of clothing were removed gradually as I headed south. Jasper, Banff and the Icefields Parkway are all places that I would like to go back to and take more time in. It is the most scenic drive I have ever done I think– 220km of glaciers, lakes, Rocky Mountains, granite sliced at angles, in fact whole mountains sliced and sheered off. There are many glaciers, emerald lakes and rivers.
I couch surfed in the evening with Laura in Calgary. It was a full house– Laura, myself, and three other guests: Brad from Australia, ZenZen from Germany, and Nathan from Australia. It was a warm welcome. Everyone was celebrating being together and telling each other travelers tales.
The place I am renting back at home is foreclosing and must be sold within 90 days. Does this end the journey at some point? Miami Shores Presbyterian cheered me on– “keep going, the journey does not end!” I felt exactly the same way. But there is a part of me today that feels defeated. I’m too far from home to get back quickly. There’s no point. Along with an encouraging email from MSPC and a note in the MSPC newsletter which quoted the Shackleton family motto: “By Endurance We Conquer”, I was refocused and determined. At this present time, with numerous ongoing issues on the home front in Miami, this is not currently an enjoyable journey.
Day 59 – Thursday August 29th
I had planned to stay two days in Calgary and Laura’s house proved to be the perfect place to recuperate, collect my thoughts, try and sort things out at home, and re-pack all my luggage for warmer temperatures (now that I had reached Calgary’s latitude I felt I was no longer outrunning winter, I was back into summer). It was a day of relaxation and doing nothing.
Laura and I went to the local pool and did laps for perhaps an hour. The rest of the afternoon was spent lounging around– recuperation of mind, body and soul. Nathan had arrived from Australia, about an hour after me yesterday, and proceeded to head out to get a SIM card for his phone and check out the university he would be studying at. Brad and ZenZen rented a car and headed out to Jasper National Park. I gave them tips and must-see’s and do’s for the Icefield Parkway.
I spent quite some time working on fixing issues with my place back in Miami. I was glad that I had a day of nothing to work on it as much as possible.
Day 60 – Friday August 30th
I woke up in Calgary. Still at Laura’s place. It has been a big boon to be here. She’s been such a great host: you want to do nothing and chill, no problem.
I got up at 7:30am to go to Blackfoot Motorsports in Calgary. I had an appointment to check over the bike from top to tail, get an oil change and new air filter. After all the pounding and covering in mud the Bonnie had taken in Alaska, the Yukon and British Columbia I wanted to make sure she was all ok and in tip-top condition for the last stretch home. It should be the last service before I return to Miami.
Blackfoot Motorsports were very kind and moved the schedule around to fit me in. Bike dealerships often make exceptions and allowances for people traveling through on long journeys. They know that you’ve got limited time and the next dealer might be too far away. Blackfoot were done with Bonnie by 11am and I headed back to Laura’s to pack up.
I rearranged all my belongings. I changed to summer gear from winter gear. Temperatures are now back to consistently being in the 80’s and good roads. This is easy going now!
I left Calgary and rode across the flat badlands of Canada. It’s oil country again, like it was in North Dakota and Montana on the way out. Those states are just over the border, not far to the south. Again, it’s windy across the plains, and hot slightly. I’m feeling sweat again for the first time in a month or so. The winds normally travel from west to east. On the outbound journey I battled through the winds across North Dakota and Montana. Now the winds are at my back, helping me along eastward. If I turn south or north I feel just how strong the winds are, blowing the bike so I have to ride it at a slight angle.
I headed for Medicine Hat. I took it slow. I blew past the Dinosaur Provincial Park– a UNESCO site– as I’d seen the one in Colorado already. I would rather ride the Trans Canada Highway.
Things at home were going from bad to worse, although some things were getting taken care of. It’s been draining. It’s been a barrage over a lot of the journey, not just now, but also in the previous two months. By endurance we conquer. Following your dreams does not guarantee an easy ride. Conquering your dreams means that you may well face all sorts of adversities. They make you realize how important your dream is to you, you learn, you grow, you change, you battle on, and it makes the dream all the more sweet when you get there. As they say, it’s often about the journey, not the destination.
I stopped at a rest stop on the side of the highway in the badlands. I like them. They are peaceful. There’s no one else here. It’s good thinking time. I can look out over the rolling plains and prairies and easily imagine the First Nation people’s cantering their horses across these lands. It’s like being in a time warp. You are there, with them.
I made it to Medicine Hat, an historic small town, to stay the night. The houses were big, quite impressive brown stones and wood panel gable peaked houses.
Day 61 – Saturday August 31st
Leaving Medicine Hat and heading towards Swift Current and Regina. Aren’t the place names wonderful here? They are so descriptive.
It took all of 3 km to enter Saskatchewan. An overcast day, and cooler than yesterday. Again, I am going through the Canadian Badlands. Rolling prairie with buttes and small canyons. I can imagine the First Nation people’s hunting buffalo. Yesterday I passed a place called Head-Smashed-In jump. For 5,500 years the native people would drive buffalo over the edge of the cliff there. Maybe 100 or 200 buffalo would be killed. They’d store the meat for the winter. Normally they would use a different “jump” each year. I guess the buffalo would learn or remember.
It’s beautiful out here with the wind rolling across the plains. I’m transported back in time, to another way of life, a life living off the plains. It’s great just standing and taking it in. It’s easy to see how North America once was out here. Plains, nothing, horses, tents, trails. A simpler way of life. A land that time has forgotten. Time has moved on around it but left this where it was for centuries.
It’s an overcast and now cold day without the thermals. I’m layering up on the way to Swift Current. My goal was Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. I arrived and stayed at at Capone’s Hideaway. There are some places where get you depressed. They are unclean, overpriced, bad service, you feel like you may be being taken advantage of. This was one of them. And things at home were coming to a head, to make things extra depressing. But God is ever present, ever-supportive with encouraging words, and so are friends… again, I thank everyone that reached out to me that evening and the next day. You all make a difference and keep me going sometimes.
There’s a passage in the Bible that came up today. I posted it to Facebook because it felt so appropriate at that moment: James 1:2-8 – “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
Day 62 – Sunday September 1st
Today was sunny with a chill in the air. I missed seeing the Tunnels of Moose Jaw because I was dealing with things in Miami. There’d be no sight-seeing in Moose Jaw. I wrote in my journal, “from horrible Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan to Brandon, Manitoba.” That’s unfair to Moose Jaw. I didn’t really see too much of it. I was focused on other things at home. It’s not right for “the other things” to sully the impression of a town.
But it was Sunday– time to spend some time with my brothers and sisters at church. I went to St. Mark’s Presbyterian Church, it was two short blocks from my motel. I arrived late, or should I say: I arrived at the perfect moment.
As I walk in the pastor is talking of our stories. It was based on the passage, Hebrews 13:1-8. It felt like the whole sermon and morning, was designed for me, from top to bottom. I was in tears more than once. It was an emotional and uplifting morning. “Such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” We bless God when we follow Him, keep going, believe in Him and struggle through the hard times. By endurance we conquer. “What we do matters.” That was the title of the sermon. There was so many consistent messages throughout the morning (I cannot write them all here) that I left uplifted, filled up, strengthened, determined, encouraged, believing in the journey again, convinced I am doing the right thing. And I cried in thanks.
I headed off, out of town, along the Trans Canada Highway, took Route 39 southeast to Weyburn, and then east on Route 13 towards Manitoba. Farmlands and lots of bugs! Covered in splattered bigs. A visor full of them. A beautiful blue sky day. I was back in the saddle with determination. I realize after the sermon how important this trip is to God, I gotta keep going. I feel like its big. I don’t know how. I will never know. But that’s not important. It’s not for me to know. Just do it. Love does.
Time zone change! One hour forward as I cross into Manitoba. That’s another donation secured to Miami Shores Presbyterian Church!
I arrived at my couch surfing hosts’ house in Brandon around 7:45pm. I was going to stay with Wes and Bridget in their 1902 house. Three daughters Kaile and Tessa and Miranda, and a grandchild, Luka. There were also two Ukranians staying: Dmitri and Eugenia. They arrived two days ago from the Ukraine. Dmitri is here to study at the college for one semester. We sat around the fire in the back garden, ate dinner and talked about marketing ideas for Lady of the Lake, Bridget’s gift shop, pub, café. Bridget’s all-time dream is to have a little traveling circus and be one of the performers.
The weather is easier now. Summer and smooth roads. I’m more determined and more convinced than ever that I’m supposed to be on this journey. I’m very much looking forward to the remaining two months on the road…