Thank you for the send off dear friends!
A few notes from the road:
(Scroll down for the latest.)
My first stop was my hometown. Stewartsville (New Jersey) is now so tiny, like a little town on a train set; there’s even the train – a freight train; I remember hearing it at night from my bedroom window and thinking how cozy it was to be in bed and not out on those tracks. The old house on Main Street looked good a first glance as I rode up. It’s been for sale for several years and on closer look it was clear that no one is caring for the place. You could tell that someone, my cousin Kim and her husband, had fixed it up converting the back porch into a sun room and adding a deck. I rode through town, slowing to nod at the church, Lizzie Curtis’ house, Aunt Ann’s, and my friend Ozzie’s former family complex. I stayed in Nazareth, PA for a few days with my old high school buddy, Bob.
We used to sit on that porch and watch the cars go by, but we never saw anything like this go by!
I rode for a few days in the mountains of Pennsylvania, West Virginia and ended up with some good friends in Asheville. The Stokely’s are doing great! They took me in for an extra couple of days while I had a new clutch put in the bike. Of all the places to break down… God certainly does provide (so did Anne and Jim). They send their best to everyone.
What a view! That's the Blue Ridge Parkway on top of that mountain. Anne grew up on the other side and as a child rode her bike over that mountain.
After spending the night in Memphis, I really wanted to stop and see Graceland; not that I am some sort of Elvis fan, but it seemed like an interesting stop. It took a while to find it. When I finally got to Graceland it was kind of disappointing. It’s almost an amusement park. They have Elvis’ jet next to this huge parking lot, a museum, and shuttles running back and forth to the mansion. I rode the bike up on the sidewalk in front of the mansion and found a place to park. The gates were what I expected with the music notes, and the brick wall had names inscribed as if it were a shrine; I guess it is – sad. Elvis wasn’t a very good god. He was uniquely talented and swept up in a unique time, but his success was largely self-centered – gold-plated cars? I think of a musician like Bono, and his thoughtful philanthropy.
Then I crossed the Mississippi - on that bridge!
I had time for some reading in Arkansas; I almost finished Huston Smith's The Soul of Christianity. He makes a great case for faith and has a balanced perspective on Christianity. I’ve also been reading Dick Peace’s Noticing God. Both talk about the deep longing we all have within, a longing for God, for a connecting to the Transcendent. Smith describes the invisible existence of a spiritual domain that primitive people recognized and acknowledged. It’s the stuff that Teilhard de Chardin talked about in The Phenomenon of Man -great reading; I highly recommend them both (Huston & Peace)!
I rode through Oklahoma at night; it took all night, but it was cool rather than the 105-107 degree days we've been having. It finally cooled down around midnight. It was a beautiful night; the crescent moon followed me as I thundered down Highway 412. At one point the moon was on my left and the sun setting on my right. I remembered Psalm 121:6-8, the sun will not smite thee by day, not the moon at night, the Lord will keep thee from all evil; he will keep thy soul. I felt a sense of peace as I motored into the night. There have been nights when I was riding home late from a church meeting or some other event, and I had this urge to just keep riding all night – well, this is what it’s like. And this is how New Mexico greeted me in the morning:
Of course,I had to ride on the classic Route 66. I took a picture of this old bridge, but you can’t even ride over it anymore. There are a few stores and some neon lights, but not much. Most of the mother road with the exception of a few well-preserved sections is overgrown with clumps of grass, co-opted into other roads, or just plain gone. Sometimes the road will just end in a pile of dirt or other times you find a forlorn piece like the Rio Pruerco Bridge.
A great road, twisty and unbelievable mesas led me to a great little state campground. I rode around for a while looking for a good site; they were all good and mostly empty. There must be six people in this whole park. I met a guy named Francis. He was exactly the type you’d expect to meet here: straw cowboy hat rolled at the edges, green pack pants and a cane, no it was a tripod with a small camera attached. He caught up with me at the visitor’s center, which was deserted, and struck up a conversation. Turns out he was a guide here at one time; he said he’d been here for six months. He immediately launched into a spiritual conversation – is it me? Anyway he was interesting; he gave me a Hopi Blessing on a little piece of paper and told me that the canyon side was better than the “crappy” lake side. Man was he right. I got this site overlooking the sweetest little meandering canyon (not that I’ve seen that many) with a bubbling brook flowing in a parallel contour to the steep and raged canyon walls. I could see exactly how this had happened, how it had slowly formed over millions (?) of years. It was the perfect place to camp, just what I had hoped for. I made some lunch, read for a while, Huston Smith; jeez I love that guy. He’s so knowledgeable yet he has a heart for God and writes with a voice that is familiar and reassuring. I climbed down and meditated for as long as I wanted to - there was no place to go, and nothing to do.
When I got to the Grand Canyon the sign said the campground was full. I went ahead anyway and there were 2 sites left at Desert View. The Grand Canyon is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before; it’s so majestic. It’s a spiritual experience just looking at it. It is rare to see something so vast, so other-worldly that my mind is simply unable to take it in. It is as if another dimension had erupted into our mundane experience and expectation. It is one of the few places I’ve seen that is beyond human touch; there are mesas and buttes and all kinds of formations that are just out there, beyond reach. Only a bird can fly there. It reminds me of the prayer that begins:
Oh God, infinity beyond us, yet intimately with us; how unfathomable are your ways.
It was crazy watching the tourists come, camera in hand, shooting away as if to somehow capture it. I noticed how little they actually looked before they began snapping shots. I developed a practice of sitting and just looking for 15 or 20 minutes before taking out my camera and taking a picture. It’s amazing what I would notice as I sat. I spent the day just riding along the South Rim, stopping at each point, sitting and trying to take in the immensity. I loved Lipan Point, so I returned there to watch the sunset. I thought I had time to get a sandwich at the snack bar near the campsite, but it was closed when I got there. I only had one can of tuna at the campsite. As I walked toward my bike a family was eating at a picnic table. The dad said, “Sir, we’re finished with our pizza and we have a couple pieces left. We hate to throw it away; would you like it?” God does provide…
I woke up to this incredible sunrise!
I passed through a town called Kayenta and remembered that the church had made a mission trip there just before I came in 2006. I had lunch at the Blue Cup Dinner. The Blue Cup was a Navajo tradition of hospitality: each household would keep a blue cup to offer a drink whenever a stranger happened by. I enjoyed my Blue Cup, even though I paid for it.
As I left Kayenta I saw a guy on a bike I had passed in the desert a while ago, and when I gassed up after Monument Valley he was there gassing up as well. We got talking and I found that Rob was going the same direction I was, at least for a while. We both wanted to circle back to Four Corners after detouring through the valley. We rode together to Four Corners and took each other’s photo on the crazy marker. The Navajo’s charge an entry fee for this and all the sites of interest on their land. Rob commented about the fee, but I said I didn’t mind since our government treated them so badly. The irony is that our government thought the land was worthless at the time, and now it has all of these wonderful natural sites that have become tourist attractions.
Day 21 7/4:
I woke up in time to watch the sunrise on the Rockies. Our campsite was on a bluff overlooking Ridgewood Reservoir and with a perfect view of Million Dollar Highway and the Rocky Mountains Rob and I had traversed during the night.
I backtracked down 160 and then had the ride of my life on SR 95. Whoa, it was 5 hours of the most incredible scenery I’ve ever witnessed – like being inside of the Grand Canyon. That highway has everything: desert, red rock formations, mesas that look like fortresses, hundreds of feet high, all kinds of formations, gullies, slot canyons, sheer cliffs, sand dunes… everything. It runs through Glenn Canyon and into Capitol Reef.
I rode to Bryce National Park, and it was even more spectacular; the formations are right out of Lord of the Rings. They seem unreal and other-worldly, but then this is a whole other world out here. I did my Grand Canyon mindfulness exercise and attempted to take in as much as I could, which was a challenge. Once again there were the picture snappers here at Bryce, hmmm; what a way to live.
Zion was totally different than Bryce, yet equally as enthralling. Huge canyon walls and a road that takes you right through the middle of it. I had just come out of the first tunnel (right through the canyon wall) when heard a horn beep and Rachael yell, “Dad”.
We had a great night, a wonderful dinner, and some nice time for the three of us to catch up. The next day we hiked in the canyon.
We took off for the first leg of our long but separate rides to LA. By 5pm we were in Nevada. I rode all night to avoid the desert temperatures which were up to 115 degrees! In the morning I arrived in LA and joined a couple other members of the Duda clan.
Guten Tag, bon Jour, Helo' from Europe!
Joanna & I have had a great time touring Europe on a rented motorcycle. It's a great way to get around over here with mountain roads, narrow streets and never a worry about parking. We've seen so much beauty; we are simply in awe. There have been "angels" along the way pointing us to wonderful places and helping us when we are lost.
Every 10 years they have a world-famous Passion Play
Church in Male Levare, Slovakia
My grandfather's village
We leave Vienna on Saturday, 18th for Prague and then on to our retreat in Iona (off the coast of Scotland) center of Celtic Christianity.
Blessings to all!
Blessings from Iona! What an amazing place - one of those places known as a "thin place" where the boundary between the spiritual world and the physical world is very thin. It's a wonderful place for us to conclude our travels and prepare for the journey home.
Beannacht! We'll see you soon.