More than what meets the eye!
Trip Start May 15, 2007
24Trip End Jul 2007
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Traveling across the United States on a bike really wakes you up to what home is for some people. Places where the population is less than 500 made me wonder what life was like in these quiet unobtrusive places. I think some of these places were where the people really knew what home was like; if they forgot what they were suppose to do down at the market, usually, anyone in town knew their business and could remind them that it was sugar that they were suppose to pick up. And people in these places loved the simplicity of living there. Even one young lady, from Sierra Blanca TX with 544 people (who, coincidently enough, now attends Cornell, talk about small world.) said she loved growing up with a class size of 9. She listed coon hunting with her dad, making burritos for their day hikes and "real dancing" as the things she enjoyed doing when she was growing up. Not exactly, the average day around the Mohawk Valley, and I'm not exactly sure how many teenagers would sign up for these types of activities in other parts of the world either. I asked her if she thinks she missed out on anything by growing up 90 miles from the nearest Walmart, for example. "Absolutely not." Her exact words as well as "Ignorance is bliss." So I started really pondering what it would be like living in a place where the action on Main street consisted of a General Store that had everything from hardware to underwear to popsicles to antique furniture and yet was no bigger than a large convenient store. And the other facilities on the main stretch were little more than falling apart dilapidated reminders of what their lives were like before the interstate came through. And remember the interstate was developed in the late 50's, some 45 to 50 years ago.
But let's go back even further. As dad and I biked across the rugged terrain of mountain ranges consisting of 4500-8200 feet, the thoughts that invaded my thinking constantly reminded me of those early explorers who took us over to CA 100's of years ago and what it was like for them. If you've never had the opportunity to travel west I would highly suggest it. And if you really want to gain some insights into the heart of the early wanderers I suggest wooden wheels. I remember one day, in particular, as we were biking over some elevated terrain and looking off in the distance and seeing mountain after mountain after mountain. Though the settlers are long gone, my heart felt for them. They had no idea what the ascent to the top of one mountain would mean and the likely sinking feeling as they saw the many more mountains that their weak frail bodies, wooden canvas carts and failing horses had to mount to reach the "gold" of their desires.
What faith these folks had to have. Faith in something better on the other side of those mountain peaks, faith in the ones who were leading them across these unknown paths, faith in themselves, and most likely faith in the One who created all of it. Faith like that would be very exciting yet not for the faint of heart. I don't know if I could have handled that life. When things got tough for me on my 2 inflated rubber wheels I would call my mom and she would swoop in on her 4 wheel drive, rugged, air-conditioned Explorer. Wouldn't those settlers have coveted either one of those means of transportation? It's such a different day but I do wonder how many of you would have been one of those early settlers? I can think of a few of you who would go out there and tramp down trails, wrestle with buffaloes, and sleep under the stars but we've come so far from that necessity or even opportunity.
But are things really all that much better? Just like the young lady who didn't know what she was missing (or not missing) by growing up with her 8 closest friends being the whole class, I wonder what we're missing b/c our 8 closest friends live in 8 different parts of the county and the communication consists of an e-mail from time to time.
It was an interesting trip b/c it really made me yearn for the simplicity of life. But can we go back? Now that I have a digital camera that is so convenient will I use my SLR camera that is so much more time consuming but also requires a real eye for pictures? Could I get rid of this computer that allows me to cut and paste and jump around within the article for a better flow and instead resort to a pencil? (Think of the day when kids will ask what a pencil is.)
As we traveled through towns that were little more than die hard individuals unwilling to believe there was something better on the other side of the interstate it contrasted so dramatically with those early explorers who believed there was something worth fighting, even dying for. But our world requires both types of people. To respect the folks who were willing to take a chance to go and find something better. And still respect the person who refused to give up on what he calls home. And we can live out our faith in both ways. God has put people in our lives that require us to cross some "rugged terrain" to share Jesus with, some desires that seem as far away as NY to CA, and some healing that feels like we're riding on wooded wheels. But God also gives us other individuals that need us to refuse to give up on them, goals that look less than appealing, and sometimes just simple lives of consistency.
God has put us in places where we can make a difference, if we're focused on Him. Whether we're in podunk nowhere, and that's a matter of opinion or glamorous somewhere, again opinion, we learn to make life something that matters. I took a bike ride and saw so many new and various sides of Our Amazing Father. You can do the same thing, and it doesn't require a bike ride. I pray you all will find new ways to experience are Great Big Wonderful God.
I wrote this for the Herkimer Reformed church newsletter. I thought of many of my travelpod readers as I wrote these words so I wanted you to get the opportunity to read it also.