Who’s Driving the Bus?

busAs my new biking partners and I leave the rv park, my mind is full of thoughts of family. I knew these six new friends would never take the place of my family, but I felt close to them anyway. They had welcomed me into their lives. It was my turn to return the favor, and welcome them into mine.

We’d spent last night sharing tales of growing up, childhood goals and how many of those goals we actually achieved as adults, and where we saw our lives going. I guess that’s why I’m thinking so much of my family now.

I no longer had the chore, or maybe I should say privilege of caring for my parents. Both were now with their Maker, but their love still inspires me. And my siblings were busy with their own lives, yet I could feel their presence as I pushed my way up the highway. They are near me through the places I’ve been and things I’ve seen on this journey. My sister and her husband would love many of the places I’ve been, but their lives were pulled in a different direction unlike my new riding partners.

They all decided to steer their lives in alignment with mine. It does make me wonder who’s driving their bus in life. I used to drive my life’s bus, but found too many times that I had no idea where I was going. One day, I decided to stop driving and allowed God to drive. I’ve been a lot happier since then. Sometimes I find myself wondering where God is taking me, but I know, without a doubt, that it will be some place fabulous and fun.

My crew and I ride into Carson City, Nevada, and find the Comstock Country RV Resort. Carol and Mac have graciously invited me to stay in their rig with them. Mac’s comment was, “Why would anyone choose to sleep on the ground when there’s a nice comfortable bed in our rig?” I knew then, God had steered them into my life. How blessed I felt.

Bart drove us all to a grocery store where we bought that night’s supper. I tried to pay for my share of the groceries, but none of them would hear of it. My, how God’s plan certainly works out in our lives when we let go and let God.

On the way back, I spy a railroad museum. Faith, Peter’s wife, notices me looking and suggests we go there before heading to the casinos. All were in favor, so after unloading groceries, we truck off to the Nevada State Railroad Museum.

Inside, I relive my grandfather’s life rich in railroad history. Dada, the name bestowed on my grandfather by his first grandchild, always spoke highly of the railroad. He worked hard all of his life to provide a decent life for his family. His job afforded him and my grandmother the opportunity to take in other family members who had lost their way in life. Too bad those people hadn’t let God drive that bus, but then maybe God had driven it straight to my grandparent’s front door. They were truly giving people, and they passed this along to their children. How blessed I am to come from such fine people.

On the way back to the truck, Martha sees a fabric store. She and I had fun looking through all the materials. I was able to buy another fat quarter to represent my time spent in Nevada. Oh what fun it will be to make this memory quilt when this trip is over.

Back at the campground, we women get supper started while the men decide which casinos to go to. I’m thinking about bowing out and staying back to do some reading, but Carol will hear none of my reasons for not going with them.

She says, “Betsy, no one says you have to gamble. I don’t, but I like to go and people watch. Please come and people watch with me.”

I can almost feel God’s gentle hand coaxing me to go. How can I say no? I don’t, and I end up having a blast. I decide to try my hand at one of the slot machines that cost a whole quarter. Lo and behold, I won $50.00. My trip to the casino was well worth my time. Thank you God, for prodding me to go.

That night, as I lay on the comfortable sofa sleeper, I thank God for all my wonderful blessings and I tell Him I still want Him driving my bus, or should I say bike.

And in my real world, I’m busy with the rest of the Catholic Charities of Central Colorado staff preparing for our big St. Patrick’s Day Gala. God definitely drives the bus each year for this event. He gives each of us the energy, help, and thought process to make this event a huge success. Many of our clients will be able to receive help from us, because of this one event.
I’m also busy trying to get my books published. It’s looking like maybe I’ll need to go self-published, but once again, God is directing me on what to do and when. I worry very little about those days when I don’t accomplish everything I thought I needed to tend to. I know that God is right there guiding me. How can one worry when the King of kings is in charge? And why would anyone want to still be driving their life’s bus when God does it so much better?

And as we all learn to let go and let God, let’s all keep going the distance. God bless.

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The Lives We Touch Upon

change the worldIt’s been an uphill battle getting from Pollock Pines to South Lake Tahoe, but it was worth the effort. South Lake Tahoe’s Campground by the Lake provides me all the amenities that wash away my road fatigue. Knowing the water of Lake Tahoe would be too cold to swim in I set my sights on the community pool. I almost can’t wait to get my tent set-up before taking a dip, but I resist the urge knowing that chores always come first.

I don’t waste any time setting up camp, but before I head to the pool, I do my grocery shopping for the night. I will soon find out I could have eliminated this chore, but I don’t find that out until after my refreshing swim.

Back at my campsite and feeling refreshed, I find a comfortable spot to eat my pb&j sandwich and read a good book. I do more people watching than I do reading. It’s fun to watch how different couples work together when backing in some of the monster RVs people have nowadays. It makes me think back to my early camping days.

Back then, it was a large tent, sleeping bags, coolers, and a lot of family and friends. Our camping gear was stored in a two-wheeled trailer towed behind my family’s station wagon. Back in the day before seat-belt laws, we’d fold down the seats and lay our sleeping bags down for some padding. Our trips to our destination were filled with comic book reading, playing car games, and probably driving my dad nuts. But the man was a saint and never said a word. He simply drove in silence towards those sacred campgrounds, sacred in a kid’s mind since there was always swimming, horseback riding, hiking, and a whole lot of other fun. What fond memories I have of those family vacations.

But today, it’s just me and my little pup-tent and bike trailer. I have the cooler, but it’s nowhere near as large as the ones we used so many years ago. As I sit acting like I’m reading, I see a toy-hauler RV approach the site next to mine. The RV is massive looking. Inside the crew-cab truck are six people. They look to be in their 40’s and appear to be 3 couples.

They waste no time getting their coach backed in and set-up. And it’s not long before the three women come over to introduce themselves to me. Being somewhat of a loner, I am hesitant to be too friendly until I hear them say, “OMG, you ARE the woman we’ve been hoping to connect with!”

These three couples have been tracking my progress from day one. They decided, early on, I was someone they needed to meet.

Carol, the more-outspoken of the three women, says, “You have been an inspiration to me and my husband, Mac. We were so focused on having a healthy bank account we forgot we needed to keep our bodies healthy to enjoy our riches. So he and I and our friends decided to buy this rig, some bikes, and follow your path.”

Carol goes on to tell me they have not ridden every mile as I have, but now that they’ve met up with me, they would like to give it a try. It’s then that I see their husbands unloading six bikes from the rear of the toy hauler. Carol tells the men I was the woman they’d been following.

My mother’s negative thinking rears its ugly head as I think, “Are these people stalkers? Should I run, run like the wind away from them?” But I know deep down, they mean every word they’ve said. For some reason, I have changed their lives, and now I must find out exactly how I’ve changed their lives.

I’m invited to their site for dinner, as we all get to know each other. I tell them how I got started on this trip, and how it’s changed my life for the better. I tell them about the weight I lost, one of the goals I had for taking this trip, how I have come to know the real me, and how many people have touched on my life in such a positive way.

I say, “I just don’t think you get to know people when you are jetting here and there, staying in hotels, and eating in restaurants. This,” I extend my hands out to encompass everything around us, “is the way to meet people and see this country for what it stands for.”

Carol is brought to tears saying, “You are so right. Mac and I used to live that life thinking we needed to see all the wonders of the world. We would have missed out on so many places, towns, and people had we kept going down that path.”

All of them talked about health issues they had all been having from serious things like high blood pressure and heart palpitations, to lesser ones of food allergies and anxieties along with a failing marriage. Once they all decided to spend some time on the road, like I was doing, all of these issues disappeared. Mac’s blood pressure was back to normal and Carol was able to wean herself off of all anxiety medications.

Mac looks me head-on and says, “You saved our lives, you saved their marriage,” pointing to Bart and Martha O’Brien. Bart and Mac have been friends since grade school. Everyone knew Bart loved Martha, but the grind of feeling like they needed to succeed bigger and better every day had begun to make cracks in their once happy marriage.

Bart says, “And today, right now, I see the beautiful woman I married 25 years ago, and it’s all because you showed us a better way to live.”

During our scrumptious scout-pack dinner, they asked me all sorts of questions about the route I was taking. I explained I wasn’t sure if I should head across Nevada and down through Utah to get to those southern states, or if I should head south into Vegas and then across the south. After some careful deliberations and a whole lot of research, my new riding partners and I decided to head south to Vegas.

I went to bed that night with excitement of knowing I would no longer be traveling alone, at least until we got to Las Vegas. For some reason, this part of my trip had been a concern of mine. Both Nevada and Utah have a lot of desolate terrain that probably wasn’t good for a single, middle-aged woman to be traveling alone on.

The next morning, only one bike was put back in the toy hauler. Bart would be pulling the rig and my bike trailer, and the rest of us would be riding those US highways and bi-ways. I say a silent prayer, thanking God for my newest friends, for this great country we live in, and for all those wonderful blessings we don’t even realize come from Him.

And in my real world, I’m reminded of the many times people have told me, “You just don’t know what an impact you’ve made on my life.” It’s a humbling experience and one that leaves you speechless. None of us truly knows how our words and actions affect those we come in contact with on a daily basis. What we see as a friendly nod may be the very thing that keeps a teen from committing suicide. And then there’s those people who are prone to paying it forward. They’ll pay for their coffee and the next three people in line. Maybe one of those three is so moved that they head to work and give their secretary a raise she’d been promised for months. And now that secretary knows she’ll be able to pay her rent and won’t be evicted. She’s so thankful that she decides to help out at the local soup kitchen where she meets her husband-to-be.

I know this is all silly sounding and a bit too clichéd, but it’s just an example of how small actions are like a trickle of a creek. That creek becomes a stream which becomes a river which becomes a mighty ocean. So don’t think that your small actions are meaningless. We all have a purpose here, and we are all children of God. Don’t allow the harshness of the world to keep you from touching on someone’s life. You might just find yourself being told, “You just don’t know what your actions meant to me.”

For me, those special people, who influenced me enough to get off my couch and get on my recumbent bike, so I could lose over 40 pounds and counting will be told today in this blog how they helped me. The first person was Stephen King, yes the author, whose short-story reignited the notion of going somewhere in my mind as I ride endless miles on my recumbent bike. Thank you, Mr. King, for your great story abilities. Then there’s Fr. Michael O’Donnell, my mentor and friend, who encouraged me to start writing this blog. Without you fans of my blog, I would have stopped riding a long time ago, but I just couldn’t disappoint you all. Then there’s my sister-in-law, Cele Finley. She helped me understand why I had been fighting losing the same five pounds for a year and a half. Her knowledge of physical education provided the fuel to get me off that plateau. And finally, after watching the movie “Thor” and Googling what the next “Thor” movie was about, I discovered the “Thor Workout”. Now I knew I was not going to do all that body building because I didn’t want to gain weight, but what ignited the fuel my sister-in-law provided was Chris Hemsworth’s determination to look the part for roles he’s in. I thought, “I’m a determined woman, I can do this, too.” It was the thing that pushed that button in my head to want to try harder, and I’ve lost those nagging five pounds plus another five pounds. Thanks to all of you who unknowingly helped me along my path in life.

God bless, and let’s keep going the distance.

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The Painter of Life

placervilleAfter spending a brief night in Sacramento, California, a town worthy of more of my attention but didn’t get, I ride east to Placerville, California. Placerville is the town where Thomas Kinkade grew up, and since I love his work, I knew I needed to spend some time there.
As with any old, quaint, mountain town, Placerville seems to have had some growing pains. There’s the usual big-box stores on the outskirts of town, but once I get to the heart of town, I find the inspiration that made Mr. Kinkade the “Painter of Light”.

For me, though, this town is the painter of life. My first stop is Hog Wild BBQ. What a fun place this is. It almost looks like a biker place, and I’m not talking biker like I am. But inside, you find a friendly staff and a casual atmosphere that screams “down home cooking.” After a fine meal of pulled-pork, cole slaw, and homemade biscuits, I ride on to the Thomas Kinkade Gallery. OMG, so many beautiful prints. They even have a few original paintings, but, of course, I could not afford those. I buy one small canvas-wrapped print of a cabin by a lake. It so reminded me of those family vacations from years ago.

As I look at each of the paintings, I am instantly drawn into the scene. It doesn’t matter if it is a babbling brook in the mountain or a Christmas party at someone’s home; I am there in my mind. What a talent Mr. Kinkade had, and what a pity he is no longer with us. But his works will continue to bring joy to those of us who saw the value in what he painted – paintings about life, paintings about hope, paintings that bring a smile to your face.

Before leaving the gallery, I overhear another shopper mention something about a quilt store. Well, I just have to know more, so being the quilting nut I am, I interrupt her conversation with the sales clerk and ask where I might find this quilt store. And in true Placerville hospitality, the woman gives me detailed directions. She even tells me to tell the store owner she sent me there, and that I should receive her 10% discount. Of course, I figure the store owner would simply ignore this tidbit of information, but much to my surprise, she offers it to me before I can even think about mentioning it. I find a couple of nice fat quarters that will add some spice to this fine quilt I’ll be making some day, then I’m off to do some window shopping.

After my day of shopping, I make my way to the Eden Vale Inn B&B. It got a 5-star rating from several reviewers, and it so well deserves it. I get a spa treatment my first night, and the next day they help me schedule a wine tour. WOW! What service! It almost makes me want to stay, but I must move on. But know that Placerville painted such a fine picture in my head that I will always remember my stay here. Thank you Mr. Kinkade, for the brilliant paintings you shared with us, and thank you Placerville, for being such friendly and upstanding people. I will remember you always.

And in my real world, I’ve lived in or visited places similar to Placerville. Aspen, Colorado, comes to mind. As polarized as this city can be, it can’t take away the beauty that surrounds this old mining town turned Hollywood hangout. One morning when I was walking to work, I couldn’t help but stand in awe at the sight before me. The sun’s rays were shining on the mountain before me with shades of pinks and oranges blazing. I’d seen this mountainside every morning, but that day it took my breath away. I can only imagine Mr. Kinkade sitting on the edge of the Roaring Fork River and capturing the essence of what God has given to us. It sends a chill down my spine just thinking about all that God has done for us.

And in Colorado Springs, we are graced with Pikes Peak, a magnificent display of God’s artistic side. I wonder how many people ignore this mountain peak even on those mornings when it screams “HEY, LOOK AT ME!” I feel bad for those people who can ignore such paintings of life, for they are missing so much.

So do yourself a favor. Tomorrow morning, when you’re grouchy because the weekend is over and it’s time to go back to work, look around and find one thing that says, “Good morning to you, my precious child. I give you this gift of (fill in the blank).” God’s gifts are everywhere. We just need to take the time to look for them. And as always, let’s keep going the distance as we look for those paintings of life. God bless.

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Family Ties

family tiesMy adrenaline heightened as I approached Novato, California. It had been years since I had been here, but I have such fond memories from that last visit.

It was twelve years ago when my sister and her husband and I drove here from Colorado Springs. Both my parents were still alive along with my uncle who lived in San Rafael, California. My heart grows heavy as I miss both my dad and my uncle. Dad passed away in 2004, but the pain of losing my uncle is still fresh. He moved on to be with God in March of this year, but both left their mark on this earth.

My father was a story-teller and family man. His love of people was his strongest attribute. And he was loved by all, in return. Dad instilled in each of his kids to be leaders, to reach for the sky, and to take those chances. Mom softened us, keeping us centered, but there have been times where I felt held back by my mom’s inhibitions. She’s often told me how stupid she thinks this ride, that I’m on, is. Luckily, I’ve chosen to focus more on my dad’s teachings, choosing to ignore Mom’s the-glass-is-half-empty outlook on life.

If Dad were alive today, he’d be cheering me on. In fact, he would have figured out a way to tag along. He so loved traveling, something Mom hates. It’s amazing they got along like they did. Those two had a love that was never-ending. Their marriage wasn’t without disagreements, but their love carried them through. It provided my siblings and me the best foundation in life.

And then there was my uncle. He was a world traveler, seeing almost every country that was safe to travel to. As a child, I found it difficult to connect with him. I found him to be a wee bit too persnickety, but as I matured, I grew to appreciate him. He taught me, indirectly, how to buy quality and take care of it so it would last a lifetime. He also showed me how to entertain. This man could cook, and he knew how to make food look good.

That year my sister, brother-in-law, and I came out here, my uncle showed us what northern California has to offer. We went to Muir Woods, took a trip up towards Bodega Bay and saw a cool lighthouse. There was wine country, Monterey Bay, and Carmel. We took the ferry across the bay and toured San Francisco, taking a cable car ride and eating lunch on Fisherman’s Warf. So many memories my uncle gave us that year.
And now both my dad and my uncle have left us to be with our Maker. They are missed by many, but we all know they are happy to be with our Lord. They will continue to influence me on my trip across the country.

As I pull into the RV park we stayed at twelve years ago, I say a quick prayer of thanks for having such a great dad and uncle. They taught me the importance of family ties. I would not be who I am today, had it not been for both of them.

My stay here will be short, though. When I started this journey, my uncle was still alive, and I had hoped to spend some quality time with him. Now I’ll simply rest up so I can start heading east into Nevada. Next big stop, Sacramento, California.

And in my real world, my father and uncle were important entities in my life. I would not be here blogging had they not inspired me to be the very best I can be. The things I wrote above are all true, although some of the timing is altered.

And although I’m only on this ride in the virtual sense, my mother still finds it silly along with me being a blogger and author of a series of books about this virtual ride I’m on. I don’t think ill of her, though, she was raised to always take the sure thing and not think you could be something more than a simple person. Like I said above, I think her attitude and my father’s shoot-for-the-stars attitude complimented each other. It’s what rounded out each of their four kids.

None of my siblings is exactly like the other. We all have different dreams and aspirations, but we are all passionate about life. Family is most important to all four of us. We have rallied around our aging mother; ensuring she has the best of care to extend her life, hopefully well into her 90s. We have helped each other out in hard times. We defend and protect as needed.

Our family ties have created a bond that is unbreakable. And we, in turn, are passing on these great qualities to our children who are passing them along to their children. It truly is the circle of life. I’m forever blessed to be a part of this great family. It’s what keeps me moving forward not only on my virtual trip, but with my pursuit of getting my books published.

It’s also what keeps me focused on the works Catholic Charities of Central Colorado does. Our goal is to help each family keep their family ties together. I know Catholic Charities isn’t able to help each and every client build a life like I have, but we do as much for each family as our funding allows. And as long as we continue to have great donors and a faith that’s unwavering, we’ll all be able to continue to go the distance. God bless.

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Night and Day

Day-And-Night-I woke up to the sounds of the tent being zipped or unzipped. As it turned out, it was being unzipped. Sarah and Alan had big news and wanted to get back to Garberville as soon as they could. Alan had proposed to Sarah some time yesterday, and Sarah had accepted. They wanted to get a rental car, so they could get back to Eureka and catch a flight back to Colorado.

The transformation in Sarah was like night and day. She had her bags packed, the campsite was spotless, and even my stuff was ready for the road. I congratulated both of them, wished them well, and explained I just couldn’t stop this ride to head backwards. Even though Sarah was being called home, the open road continued to call to me.

Good-byes were said, and we parted ways. It was nice having the company for a while, but I found the freedom of riding alone invigorating. I no longer needed to think about where I was going to stay or eat based off of what I thought my niece and her fiancé would like. And God, in His infamous ways, blessed us with perfect riding weather to both of our destinations.

My trip to Laytonville, California, was a short 26 miles, although my legs were killing me. But once I found out that Laytonville is considered the highest town on Highway 101, I knew why my legs where barking at me. Those deceptive inclines in the roads can be muscle bashers.

After picking up some fresh produce at a local farmer’s market, I found a nice RV park where I set-up camp. It felt good fixing my fresh veggies for just me, and reading a good book on my Kindle without feeling the need to visit with anyone. I am truly a loner-type of person, who finds happiness in my alone time. Don’t get me wrong, I do love being around family and friends, but I also enjoy the peace and tranquility that God is giving me on this trip.

The next day, I rode on to Willits, California, opting to stay at the Baechtel Creek Inn and Spa. It has a lovely swimming pool, which was tempting, but since I don’t own a swimsuit, I decided to check out the Mendocino County Museum. This place was just what I needed. I got to look at pieces and artifacts from several different centuries. It really made me ponder how different things were way back when; yet, some things haven’t changed at all.

I ate dinner at Busters Burgers and Brew. It was here that I eavesdropped on a conversation about the lawsuits the Whitman Corporation encountered with the pollution they allegedly inflicted on the locals here. I wondered if this company had really been at fault, giving some of these locals’ health issues as a result of the pollution, or if these people got those health issues for other reasons. Not knowing the details of the case, I wasn’t about to get involved in the conversation, but it did bring back memories of some of the other towns I’ve been through where big corporations acted irresponsibly.

After a good night’s sleep, I pushed on to Ukiah, California, childhood home of Aaron Rodgers, the Green Bay Packer’s quarterback. Of course, the real celebrity of Ukiah is the town itself. It was voted the best California small town to live in back in 1996. I could instantly see why.

There were these rolling fields of grapes just waiting to be harvested into succulent bottles of wine. And the older homes with their classy front porches, architectural design elements, and welcoming yards brought me back to my childhood days living in the older sections of Omaha, Nebraska. I just love the charm and individuality of older homes. I just don’t like the maintenance that goes along with them, like old wiring, leaking pipes, and deteriorating wood frames.

But if you are lucky enough to find one of those gems, whose faithful owners took care of everything, updating those hidden hazards, then consider it a gift from God. And Ukiah had several of those gems from the way they looked from the outside. Seeing these homes is the difference between night and day with the homes in Colorado Springs; so many of the homes there are cookie-cutter homes. But despite the fact that your home looks exactly like your neighbor’s on the outside, know that the insides are different to reflect our individual personalities. That’s what makes each and every one of us different; like night and day.

That night, as I lay in my hotel bed thinking about what a great week I was having, I thanked God for all the different things He’s allowed me to encounter. Life was good.

And in my real world, I’m coming off a busy time coping with my aging mother’s health. But all is not bad. Mom is doing much better, especially with the help of my brother, who tends to her needs during the day while I’m at work. He’s between jobs right now, so he has the time to help my mother with her exercises, housework, and every day activities.

Taking on this care giving role is night and day from my brother’s accounting world, yet he filled those shoes without even one hiccup. And the change in my mother is dramatic. I’ve talked before, about the needs our seniors require, and how it is our responsibility to ensure their health and safety. And as much as I know my brother would like to be working in his field again, this sister is grateful for the loving and gentle way he’s caring for our mother. He has added years to her life, and God will be gracing him for his kind and caring ways. Kudos to you, Dan, for stepping up to that plate.

All of what I’ve been going through the past couple of months has made me think about just how different we are. Just in my family alone, each sibling reacted to Mom’s health issues differently. Even though the four of us have the same parents, we are different in so many ways, just as every human being is different. I think that’s why God asked us not to judge people. Our elected officials could learn a thing or two about not judging, and not demanding their way as being the only right way.

So as I continue my virtual trip across the United States, as I continue to write my fictional novels and care for my mother, my family, and my pets, I’ll be praying that each of us appreciates both the night and the day in each of us. God bless, and let’s keep going the distance.

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The Cutting Edge

missionAlan and I were up early and were ready to go before Sarah even started moving. Oh, the challenges this aunt is having dealing with her niece’s living habits. “Give me patience, Lord.” But we were all on the road in plenty of time to get to Garberville, California, for a nice lunch.

Garberville is known as the marijuana heartland of the United States. They even have a Cannabis College there. I’ll assume this college is on the up and up side of medical marijuana crops, but since I’ve never smoked a regular cigarette much less a “joint”, I had no interest in a crop that seems to have kept this small community alive.

Let’s just say, this town seemed to be living on the cutting edge for most of its existence. I say that because for a town that looks like it hasn’t progressed much since its inception, the people are well versed with current events and hold a much looser view of how to live your life. I think I could learn a thing or two from these people. Not like I’m going to light up a joint and chill for a while, but I did see where a bit more tolerance, on my part, could help my ride across the country be more enjoyable.

My irritation with my niece this morning is proof that I’m pretty tightly wound at times. Now I never said anything to Sarah about sleeping in an extra thirty minutes, but she could tell I was not pleased. And now that we are here in this lovely town of Garberville, eating a great lunch at a local restaurant, I think, “Why, Betsy, why were you so crabby this morning? Did that thirty minutes matter in the whole scheme of things?” It did not, and I will make a better effort to try to understand the actions of my niece. She’s a wonderful woman, and I’ve never given her a chance to grow in my life. Shame on me.

Alan and Sarah continue to connect. It’s cute watching Alan work his ways with Sarah. Of course, he doesn’t have to work too hard most of the time, but Sarah’s staunch aunt will still not allow her to spend her nights in Alan’s tent. I draw the line there, not wanting any repercussions from her parents. I mean, she is an adult and can do as she pleases, but not on my watch. And it’s not as if Sarah has mentioned this topic, but the handwriting is on the wall. I figure my two riding partners will only make it as far as San Francisco before they take off on their own. Until then, I’ll enjoy their company, and will work at getting to know both of them better.

Alan was kind enough to pay for our lunches, and we were on our way again, but not before we checked out the local farmers market. Lo and behold, Garberville grows much more than marijuana. Next stop, Smithe Redwoods State Reserve, a mere nineteen miles from Garberville. The scenery was often times mind blowing. This is a lush, treed stretch of Highway 101, with spectacular views of the valleys below. So much of this was reminiscent of my journey through the Black Hills of South Dakota.

The three of us get to the campground with plenty of daylight to allow Sarah and Allan to hike around. I should have gone, but this old lady didn’t care to get any closer to the edge of total body shut-down, so I chose to read and figure out what I was going to make for our supper that night. I opted to try my hand at dutch oven lasagna and garlic bread. Sarah and Alan worked on a nice fresh salad from the produce we purchased in Garberville, and the meal was a big hit with everyone.

That night, Alan made a nice campfire, and we sat around telling stories. I learned a few more things about both Sarah and Alan. The one thing they weren’t admitting to was how much in love they were becoming, but it was a plain as the moon in the sky that night. I dropped my over-protective attitude, and allowed the two of them to wander off into the moonlit night. It was quite romantic watching them walk away arm in arm.

As I waited for the two of them to return, I thought about Sarah’s mission work. Was she really doing what was asked of her, or was she simply taking a paid vacation? It wasn’t long before I got my answer. I heard both Sarah and Alan chatting with another young couple camped not too far from us. Sarah and Alan were sharing tales of their life and this ride we are all on. Sarah explained how she was able to be here as a representative for the organization she worked for. The woman was enthralled with the mission Sarah was on, but was more enraptured with why I chose to attempt such a feat.

Sarah says, “Well, Aunt Betsy doesn’t know it, but that’s exactly why my boss sent me here. He wants to see how a ride like this can change a person, how it can bring you closer to God living this simple life. I can tell you this; my aunt is a totally different person than she was when she first started out. She’s living God’s word, and she’s touched on so many people’s lives; lives she doesn’t even realize she’s touched upon. It’s quite remarkable.”

My eyes welled up with tears as I heard her words. I’d never thought of myself as a steward of God’s word. I was simply living my life, but I guess I was living more on that cutting edge than I had ever imagined. It made me realize that this wasn’t just a trip to lose weight, a trip to escape the pressures of life, or even a trip to say, “Hey! I rode through all 48 states.” This was God driven, and I knew I needed to be letting go more and letting God. He had me on a mission, just as Sarah’s boss had her on a one.

I knew, from what Sarah had just said that neither she nor Alan would be ditching me in San Francisco. I also knew I needed to be less critical of how people lived their lives, like those pot farmers in Garberville. I began to wonder what other things I would see along my way that would alter my way of thinking. I never thought of God’s way as being on the cutting edge of life, but now, I think it is. Jesus and his disciples were always stirring up the crowds, making them think, and showing them that ALL people are God’s children.

I fell asleep that night, knowing that Sarah, Alan, and I were truly on a mission from God. I had the best night sleep of my life.

And in my real world, letting go and letting God is a constant struggle, but one I continue to work at each day. I’ve had many “come to Jesus” meetings with myself. The small world I lived in years ago, where everything was definitely black and white, no longer exists. I’ve had to change my ways and my opinions over the years to stay in line with what Jesus teaches us, love your neighbor as yourself. None of us are the same, but we are all God’s children. Some manage to wander off God’s path, but God didn’t put us here to place judgment on anyone. He is the judge that matters. As long as we are living a Godly life, even if that life is on the cutting edge, we should have nothing to fear when we meet our Maker.

Recently, I’ve struggled with the issues of my aging mother and her desire to not spend money on things that could give her a better quality of life, like getting dentures that fit. I’d find myself wanting to scream at her because she wouldn’t wear her upper plate, and the rotting teeth on the bottom made my stomach turn. I got to the point where I almost couldn’t talk to her. I judged her on how I thought she should be living her life, that is until a couple of weeks ago when we almost lost her. What an eye opener that was. Who cares if she doesn’t wear her teeth? If she can eat, isn’t that all that matters? Yes, I realize those rotting teeth should come out for health reasons, but when she is so afraid of dentists that it affects her health because of the stress, isn’t it better to just let her live out her final years the way that makes her happiest? That’s what I’ve decided to do, and if you don’t agree, well, I just don’t care. I know in my heart that God has inspired me to let go of this issue and hand it over to Him. If He wants those teeth to come out, He’ll do something about it.

So for those of you who are a little stuffy like I was, let go for just a day, try out that cutting edge stuff, and see how much closer to God you become. And as always, let’s keep going the distance.

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Fire and Ice

fire and iceI woke up before Sarah. Knowing how much she loves to sleep, I left her sleep while I cleaned up. That way, I could tear down our tent while she was showering, saving us some time. My mind was on today’s ride; a 39 mile trip to Humboldt Redwoods State Park. It had been a while since I’d done much more than 20 miles in one day. I knew I was in good shape, as was Sarah, so I told myself to stop being my mother and stop worrying.

On my way back from the bathhouse, my attention was focused on our campsite and nothing surrounding it. Sarah was still asleep, but my warped mind said the best way to wake her up was to shake the tent. It worked. Sarah came bounding out of the tent, fearing we were having an earthquake. Her hair was a mess, and her mascara from the night before, made her eyes look like a raccoon. I couldn’t help but laugh which irritated my usually sweet niece.

“I’m sorry Sarah, but I couldn’t help myself.”

She grabbed her duffle bag and left to clean-up. I rolled up the sleeping bags, tore down the tent, then packed my bike trailer. I thought some about the farmer I had met last night. He was such a sweet man; I hoped he’d find love again, because he deserved more than the lonely life he was currently living.

Sarah surprised me by returning to our site in less than 20 minutes. She looked a whole lot better, back to the natural beauty she always displayed. I had placed some granola and juice on the table for her, which she devoured quickly.

I heard someone stirring from a campsite not too far from us, but not being one to be too nosey, I ignored the disruption to our quiet morning. Sarah sat at the picnic table looking a bit out of it.

I said, “So, are you having second thoughts about riding with me?”

“No, Aunt Betsy, I was just thinking about some of those guys I danced with last night. One was really cute.”

“And who was this cute guy?”

“I think his name was Alan. He just got out of the service, but there was something about him that sent my heart soaring.”

“Hmm, sounds like a good case of physical attraction. Did he feel the same way?”

“I don’t know; that’s what’s bothering me. He was like fire and ice last night. One minute we were heating it up on the dance floor, and the next minute he’d be buried in his drink not saying a word.”

“Well Sarah, it sounds like maybe he’s just a bit shy, and we got to get a move on it because we have 39 miles ahead of us.”

Sarah gets up and starts putting on her bike gear on. It’s then that both of us notice a young man sitting on a bike with saddle bags and his own trailer, looking and smiling at us. I waved, not recognizing him, and hoped he’d just go away and leave us along, but Sarah screams. I look around hoping she hadn’t wakened the dead. She rushes over to our smiling biker and wraps her arms around his neck. They kiss, and it’s then that this somewhat disengaged aunt realized that this kid must be Alan.

Introductions are made. Alan explains that he just couldn’t allow two women to ride around this country alone without any male protection. I was thinking, “Yeah, but will you really be protecting us, or should I be protecting my niece from you?” I could sense that Alan was trustworthy and meant every word he said. I could also see that there was truly chemistry between the two of them. No longer were they like fire and ice, now they were more like peanut butter and jelly.

Alan became an invaluable companion on our ride to the redwood campgrounds. He helped lessen the load of my trailer, was able to do some quick adjustments to my gears, and even kept a pesky fox from sabotaging our ride.

Our trip went by much faster than I had expected. It was amazing how time flies when you have good company and good conversation. Alan set both tents up then he and Sarah went for a walk. If only I could have a bit more of their energy, but I knew I wasn’t doing bad for a 57 year old woman. I got lunch ready then sat and read.

The campground was cool even though the temps were in the 90’s that day. The giant redwoods looked like they were touching the heavens above us. I felt close to God knowing that it was He who had put all these great things here on earth for us to enjoy. Several campsites had fires going in their fire pits. I said a quick pray that each person who lives on this earth respects the things that God has given to us. I couldn’t imagine such a great forest being destroyed by fire.

After returning from their walk and eating the lunch I had prepared, we sat around our campfire, thanks to Alan, and got to know each other better. I found out that Alan came from a close-knit family, and that his mother enjoyed scrapbooking as much as I did. He found out why I chose to go on such a long, and sometimes dangerous ride. And he found out that Sarah had eyes for him.

Before retiring to bed that night, Alan made sure our fire was out as did all the other campers around us. It felt good that we were not only surrounded by God’s beauty, but by people who respected His gift.

And in my real life, I’ve just returned from my annual trip to Chadron State Park, which explains why I haven’t blogged in such a long time. Chadron is a place I hold near and dear to my heart, but after my trip there last year, the park had a forest fire caused by lightning. It took out 40% of the Ponderosa pines, and came perilously close to the cabins we stay in. It took out several of the pines in the campground area that provided so much shade to many of the campsites. It was so disheartening to see this once lush and green park freckled with blackened trees.

This park has started its renewal process of taking out dead trees and allowing the prairie grasses to grow tall. I told myself that it was maybe God’s way of renewing the vegetation in this almost century-old park. After all, the fire had been set by lightning.

Such is not the same with the fires my mother and I left in Colorado Springs before our trip. Our beloved Black Forest, dry from too many years of drought, went up in flames. Officials are stating, unequivocally, that this fire and last year’s Waldo Canyon fire were not started by Mother Nature. That means someone, who does not respect the gifts God has given us, acted irresponsibly. Their negligent behavior took out 511 homes this year and 346 homes last year. Four lives have been lost along with several pets and animals, not to mention the thousands of acres of pine trees that were destroyed.

This, too, may be God’s way of renewing our aging trees, but it’s a hard pill to swallow when you see the destruction that fire can cause. Fire and ice can complement each other, one keeping the other from being too destructive, but many areas of this great country are lacking one or the other. The west is scorched while the Midwest had flooding.

I’m not schooled enough to be able to analyze why this is happening. I’m not sure those who are more educated have any better answers. My take is, everything here on earth is a gift from God, given to us to respect and enjoy. We cannot control the weather, no more than we can control what God does. We need to live life to the fullest, we need to respect our neighbors as we respect ourselves, and we need to know that God walks with us each and every day. He has not abandoned us; He was there helping the firefighters control the fire, moving His animals to safer areas, and helping all who inhabit these forested areas recover from a devastating event.

Colorado will eventually get the ice side of fire. Winter will come and hopefully bring some much needed snow. Our mountains and hills will turn green in the spring, much like the hills of Chadron State Park. Life goes on; it survives even when fire and ice tries to destroy it.

God bless you all. Please keep those affected by our devastating fires in your prayers, and as always, let’s keep going the distance.

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