Posts tagged biking

A Time to Rest and Regroup

ImageI decided to stay in Trinidad for a while longer.  It’s not that I was enthralled with what Trinidad has to offer, although it’s a very nice town, but I just felt the need to rest and regroup.  I’ve been on the road for such a long time, and my body needed a little rejuvenating along with my heart, my soul, and my mind.

I’ve taken great pride in what I’ve accomplished, but the fatigue from riding the road seems to have gotten the better of me.  I was no longer seeing the beauty around me.  Instead, I found myself cussing each driver that drove a bit too close to me, or counties that do very little on road improvements.

I knew that it was time for an extended rest so that I could get back to seeing all that God has placed around me.  My hotel was already providing me with a spectacular view of the ocean.  I spent several mornings sitting out on my deck watching the waves crash in.

I took joy in the seal families located on a rocky point just down from my hotel deck.  It amazed me how attentive the cows were with their young, and when I say “cows” I’m not referring to moo cows but to the female seals.  The male seals, called bulls, were quite aggressive at times.  I had to laugh at how similar humans are when courting the opposite sex.  The males strut their stuff while the females act somewhat unimpressed by their antics.

Now don’t start writing to me telling me how offensive my words are when I compare human behavior to animal behavior.  I only meant that as superior as we are to any other living group, we still show signs of similarities, even though those similarities are stretched some.  And it was still fun watching those bulls try to be the king of the colony.  It got my mind off of the hectic pace I had laid out for me, and got me back to a good spot in life.

I don’t know how long I’ll be staying here.  I’ve actually thought about looking for some sort of temp job just to add a little to my wallet, but for right now my finances are holding steady so I may just continue to rest and regroup.

And in my real world, Catholic Charities of Central Colorado big fundraiser event is over.  There’s still some work that needs to be done to finalize our numbers, but the stress of preparing for this huge event is now behind us.

We are all striving to regroup and get our lives back to normal.  Some will have more of an opportunity to rest, while others simply have to adjust their lives back to the normal range.  I am one of those adjusting my life back to a point where I can sit and visit with my elderly mother, do some cleaning, and I can get back to writing since writing is such a passion of mine.

And don’t go thinking that every hurdle in life is some sort of punishment from God.  Sure, He may be testing you, trying to teach you some sort of lesson, but sometimes stuff happens and it’s nothing more than that.

So as we go about our daily grind, take some time to rest, to regroup, so you can continue to enjoy all that God has placed before us.  And as always, let’s keep going the distance.

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Highs and Lows

Highs and lows

I can’t believe I just went 62 grueling miles getting from Crescent City, California to Trinidad, California.  When I say grueling, I don’t mean huge mountains I had to ride up and down, but more the fact that the road is quite busy, most of the ocean views are blocked by trees, and it rained on me for at least half the trip. 

I was feeling quite low, until I rode up to the Turtle Rocks Oceanfront Inn.  It’s a small hotel, but the views are breath-taking.  As I entered, I overheard a woman arguing with the hotel manager, or at least I presumed he was the hotel manager.  This woman had with her, a little shih tzu with a pink bow in its top notch.  It was a cute little thing who seemed very well behaved.  It wagged its tail as I approached, allowing me to pet it.

The woman screamed at the hotel manager, “YOU SEE, SHE’S A FRIENDLY DOG AND WOULDN’T HURT A FLEA!  YOUR AD SAYS THIS IS A PET FRIENDLY PLACE.”

The hotel manager was having nothing to do with the woman.  I could see that the woman was reaching her limit, so I decided to step in and tell the manager that she was right. 

“Sir,” I said, “if you go to the Trinidad California Chamber of Commerce website, it specifically says that the Turtle Rocks Oceanfront Inn is pet friendly.  May I suggest you log on and see for yourself?”

The manager was none too happy with me, but he did go to his office, shut the door, why? I’m not sure, maybe only to get himself calmed down.  I stood there with this lady who had picked up Muffin, as I quickly learned was the dog’s name, and thanked me for verifying that she was not insane.

The manager returned after a few minutes, apologized, and then told the front desk clerk to honor the woman’s reservation, but that she’d have to pay a $100 deposit.  The woman didn’t seem bothered by the extra expense.  It was obvious that Muffin was much more than just a dog to this woman.

My check-in experience was much less dramatic, and soon I found myself in my own little suite.  The deck looked out onto a sea lion colony.  I stood there for several minutes watching and listening.  I began to wonder how many people had stayed her who ended up complaining about the growling noises these creatures make.  I found it all so fascinating.  The crashing ocean waves were much louder than those sea lions, but I knew from past experience, that these sounds would lull me to sleep that night.

I get cleaned up fully expecting to want a nap from my long ride, but the low I was feeling riding into town had vanished and was replaced with an exceptional high.  I head into town and tour their museum, a couple of other local businesses, then ate lunch at the Larrupin Café.  Life couldn’t be better at that very moment.

But the moment would be brief when I heard some locals talking about a young couple who had recently gone off hiking along the beach area forgetting to keep track of when high tide happened that day.  They were trapped in a remote area of the beach as the waters continued to rise.  Unfortunately, they were both caught in a rip tide and drowned.  My heart went out to their families.  I said a quick prayer for the repose of their souls.  I wondered how God could allow such a thing happen to such a young couple at the beginning of their life.  Then I remembered that God gives us choices in life, and if we choose to live our life on the edge, sometimes bad things happen.

After a fabulous lunch, I headed back to the inn to get some rest.  I knew my stay in Trinidad would be short, and after such a long trip, I knew I’d need to get to bed early.  I was thrilled that this inn served a free full breakfast in the morning.  Saving some money always brings a bit of a high to me.  Life was good again.

And in my real world, I’m faced with highs and lows daily.  I think we all do, but I try to focus more on the highs.  It keeps my mind clearer, and allows me to keep God first in my life.  I know God is always there, especially when I’m at a low point.  I feel like He wants us to appreciate all that He has given to us, things that give us that Godly high. 

I know I have many things in my life that I appreciate, too many to record here in this blog, but I’m also aware of all the people out there that have so little in their lives; people like the clients Catholic Charities sees daily.  I wonder if they have anything in their lives they can appreciate, or if the harshness of a bad economy and maybe a few poor choices in life keep them from seeing the good that is around them.

I know many of them do thank those who help them with various life issues, so that’s probably something they are appreciative of.  But then I wonder how long their high from the help they receive from Catholic Charities lasts.  It would be easy for me to sit before my computer preaching to them how they need to let go and let God, but I don’t think that would be fair of me.  I don’t know what their lives are like and just how bad things might be.

I’m not here to judge them, but I do think I know what it’s like to hit rock bottom.  Back in the mid 80’s I reached a very low point in my life where I actually thought about ending it all.  It was the worst fifteen seconds of my life.  Yes, it only lasted fifteen seconds, but it changed my life forever.  It was then, at that lowest point, when I decided it was up to me to make something of myself, to pick myself up and get back to living, to let go and let God. 

I prayed hard that night for His guidance and support.  I shed the overpowering pressure of being broke and embraced it instead.  Soon I found my life was on an upswing again despite the fact that I was still broke.  I saw the beauty around me, I appreciated my friends and family, and I turned over my lack of income to God.  Shortly after that, job offers started coming in and life was good again.

About five years later, a co-worker commented how upbeat I always was and how she looked up to me.  Then she told me she thought of me one Sunday when her minister talked about letting go and letting God.  I was floored.  I couldn’t believe that I had made an impact in this woman’s life to the point where she thought of me in the context of her minister’s sermon.  How honored I felt just then.  It’s that feeling I think about when I get to feeling dumpy, fat, or inadequate. 

I know that I am exactly who God wants me to be, I’m doing exactly what God wants me doing even on days when things seem to be overwhelming, and that as long as I continue to accept the highs and lows in life, God is pleased with me. 

Have I ever come close to getting as low as I did that one fateful night?  No, because I know that I have been blessed by the Lord.  And I know that some of the lows we have are from God, too.  We need those lows to appreciate all that we have; to appreciate the highs.  And as I sum up this blog, I can’t help but hum the song from The Bryds “Turn, Turn, Turn” based off that ever popular bible passage Ecclesiastes 3:1-15.  How true those words are every day of our lives.  There is a time for everything, and it’s up to us to make the best of it.

So when you’re feeling a bit low think about the words from that song or bible passage, and know that God is right there beside you, waiting for you to embrace all that He’s given you.  And as always, let’s keep going the distance.

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A Ride Well Worth Taking

Image   Hello from Lincoln City, Oregon, a tourist and retirement community located on the Pacific coastline.  I finally made it to the west coast, and the views in this town are breathtaking and have made the miles I rode well worth it.  I can see why it’s a tourist attraction and why people choose to retire here.  And I must admit after taking more than 3 years to get here I thought about putting down some roots and just staying here, but once again the uncharted road is calling out to me.  So my stay here in Lincoln City will be brief.

After getting my tent set-up at the Devils Lake RV Park, I biked on over to the Pacific Ocean.  Yes, I know I was camped right by this lake, but I wanted to dip my toes into that awesome ocean.  It was an inspirational feeling.  At that very moment in my life had I not already believed in God, I would have to believe in Him now for there is nothing greater than feeling this mighty ocean crash against your legs bathing them in its cool refreshing water.  The salt smell in the air was euphoric.  No way could I say this mighty ocean was not a creation of God.

I sat on the beach for several hours thinking about my life, my journey, and my family.  I felt peace where peace hadn’t been for a while.  I knew that the fatigue of riding these past 2,190 miles had taken its toll on me, but now sitting here seeing the Pacific Ocean made all that fatigue melt away.  I had accomplished something I never had been able to do before.  So many diets I’d been on, so many attempts to make exercise a part of my life and yet each time I found that my lazy side would win.  But here I am, sitting on this beach knowing that I had just made it the first leg of this trip I started over 3 years ago, a trip that was supposed to help me lose the weight that doctor of mine had said made me a candidate for weight reduction surgery.

Okay, so I’m already delving into my real life as I talk about my doctor recommending me for lap band surgery.  I’m sure he meant well with his sage advice, but I know that most of those drastic weight surgeries give one a quick fix, but doesn’t allow the brain to recognize that the body has lost a bunch of weight.  At my age my mind is confused enough I didn’t need to add in quick weight loss to add to the confusion.  Besides I have still managed to shed over 30 pounds.

And I know that this ride has not only helped me lose weight, it’s helped me through a lot of other life issues.  I no longer argue with my mother about the number of beers she’d like to have each day, but rather I simply tell her “this is how many you get.”  It irritates her that I won’t raise my voice giving her the opportunity to argue back and blame me for starting a fight.  When one remains calm with someone who is angry, it’s hard for the angry person to stay angry.

I guess that’s why so many counselors are so calm when they are counseling someone, much like our wonderful Life Connections counselors at Catholic Charities.  These women are such calming forces not only with the clients they see, but with day to day work issues.  I’m blessed to know and be a part of each of their lives.

I’ve had people recently tell me how proud they are of me for staying dedicated to this ride, for caring for my mother, for taking on the whole process of writing a book about this journey I’m on all the while I’m working a full-time job.  And I thank them all for their compliments, but really, isn’t this all just a part of life?  Isn’t this what God wants us to be doing, to not take life for granted, to utilize the talents He’s given us, to be selfless with the way we live our lives?  I don’t see anything I’ve done now or in the past as being any greater or lesser than anyone else on this fine earth.  We all are just one big family of God and if my little blog stories help someone through a difficult time or if it can impart a smile on someone’s face then I feel I’ve accomplished a task given to me by God.  Thank you all so much for following me on my journey as it has all been well worth the effort and as always, let’s keep going the distance.

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Progress May Not Always Be Good

After my invigorating stay at the Bonneville Spa, my senses were refreshed and alert.  I was amazed at all the wildflowers although I should not have been amazed as I had been told Oregon is a haven for flower lovers.  My adrenaline was pumping as fast as my legs were pumping for it was my intent to get to Troutdale Oregon today. 

I had heard this town is rich in history as so many places have been on this journey of mine.  A destructive fire leveled most of the town in 1907 and then another fire in 1925 destroyed the business district.  What dedication these people must have had to rebuild parts of their town twice.  I can’t imagine ever having that much dedication. 

Tonight I’ll be staying at Tom Bodett’s place – Motel 6.  He said he’d leave the light on for me so that will give me plenty of time to do a little window shopping.  As much as I like supporting those Mom and Pop stores, I knew that I had to be careful with my finances so as not to end up like I did back in Umatilla Oregon.  Working in those fields was back breaking work and I really didn’t want to end up like that again.  So Troutdale will get my hotel fee and a meal fee and that’s about it. 

I checked into my hotel in the early afternoon so I knew I had plenty of time to do my window shopping.  I was so disheartened to learn that Mr. Bodett was not in that day, but he always recommends to his customers great places to go see.  Today was no different as the recommended restaurant for the day was Tad’s Chicken and Dumplings.  I love chicken and dumplings so I figured that would be a great place to eat. 

I wandered through the various shops in town and met several nice people.  All seemed to agree with Mr. Bodett that Tad’s was the place to eat.  All my walking around had given me quite the appetite so I decided to head to Tad’s early.  I knew I’d be eating with all the older people from this town, but I also knew that I’d probably get better stories from any of them then I would those young families whose focus would be on their children and life in general. 

As I waited to be seated – I guess I wasn’t the only one who came early for dinner – I noticed pictures of gladiola fields on the wall.  I asked the hostess where these photos were taken as I wanted to go see this spectacular place.  Her words were so disheartening to me I simply felt like crying.  She had told me that those were pictures taken years ago before the aluminum plant was built.  She said the plant was a boon to the economic survival of this town, but its emissions killed off the flowers and damaged other crops.  How sad that a business that was meant to be a good thing became the destroyer of such beauty.  And was this plant as great to this town as the people had hoped?  Maybe, but I just can’t believe that aluminum is better than gladiolas.  And when the hostess told me that the ground around the plant had been poisoned and the 50 acres were fenced off for years because of the toxic waste left behind I knew that those gladiolas would have been a much better money maker than aluminum.  

Now don’t go all ballistic on me telling me that the plant had provided a good job for 1000’s; I already know that.  But I keep thinking that if these fumes and the waste product had polluted the ground so severely that it had to be fenced off for years until it was finally dealt with, then I think there was a good chance that these workers were also affected by the fumes and toxic waste.  Progress, in this case, was not a good thing. 

But progress, when it came to how Tad’s had grown from Tad Johnson’s original 1920’s roadhouse to what it is now, was good progress.  The chicken and dumplings was superb, such a hearty meal on a cool fall day.  I knew that tonight I’d be sleeping soundly having a belly full of good food.  I’d be ready for my trip into Portland getting me just that much closer to the west coast. 

And progress in the real world brings back memories of my mom’s parent’s farm.  Their home was right outside the little town they were from.  It faced the road and had a wrap-around porch the length of the house.  There was a balcony off the hall on the second floor although we were never allowed to go out there as Grandma just knew we’d fall to our death.  The inside of this home was just as neat with rich mahogany trims and stair banisters, solid folding mahogany doors separating the living room from what Grandma called her parlor.  There were French doors with leaded glass panes separating the living room from the expansive dining room.  The huge yard was surrounded by a wrought iron fence and along the road side of that fence Grandma had planted peony bushes.  In May, when peonies bloom in Nebraska, the yard was breathtaking much as those Oregon gladiolas probably were.  On the back side of the house were these huge lilac bushes that when in bloom would fill Grandma’s parlor with their fragrant smell. 

My family spent many holidays and weekends at this home and thankfully I have a bevy of photos and memories that will forever be with me.  But once Grandma and Grandpa decided this home and the surrounding outbuildings that had been in their family for years was getting to be too much for them to handle, they decided to sell and move into a smaller home in town.  

The new homeowners had said they had planned on making some much needed improvement to the home such as inside access to the basement.  While my grandparents lived there one had to exit the kitchen to get to the basement stairs which were below a floor door on the front porch.  We all thought this would be great and much needed progress to bring the house up to the standards of the time.  They also wanted to put a bathroom in upstairs and again, we thought that was a great idea.  We were pleased that people who had the money and time to make these improvements were helping this previous century home become a part of the current century. 

Thirty years later my family had the opportunity to see just what progress had been done to the house.  The house had exchanged hands twice after my grandparents had sold it. Both families who lived in the home were well respected citizens of this town and the current owners had sunk a ton of money into fixing up the old barn, so we were all hopeful that they had made many improvements to the house.  We were sourly disappointed as the lilac bushes had been removed and some stupid porch that we were told leaked like a sieve was built blocking off the view from all the windows on that side.  Then they had removed the ornate fireplace in the dining room plus walled in 3 of the 4 huge windows to build a different more modern fireplace instead.  They had made this dining room that had served as our family’s hub where so many delicious meals had been served, games had been played, and conversations had been had, into a living room.  Little had been done to the original living room although it was now a dining room, and Grandma’s parlor was now a family room.  The upstairs was basically the same as when we stayed there other than the addition of that second bathroom. 

My family, up to this point, had decided that progress hadn’t been that bad to the home although we would not have taken out those lilac bushes nor would we have walled in those huge windows that made that room such a bright cheerful room.  And then we went out onto the front porch.  Again I have such fond memories of sitting there on the porch swing on a hot July evening hearing the corn rustle across the road and listening to tales my Grandmother was telling.  But that day, when we exited this home, we all felt the floorboards sink.  The railing that had once highlighted the wraparound porch was mostly gone and my only thought was to get off that porch before we fell through.  It was then that I noticed that the wrought iron fence was gone, all the peonies had been dug up and all the shade trees had been replaced with evergreen trees. 

It was quite apparent that the 2 families that had wanted to be so progressive with this homestead had only managed to destroy it.  We left that day feeling depressed, but figured the home had not been in our family for years so why dwell on it.  Well, last year we found out that the home had once again been sold and that owner had basically done nothing to maintain its aging roof and structural integrity.  He decided that he wanted to raze the house and build a spanking new home in its place and the quickest and cheapest way to raze the home was to get the volunteer fire department to come and burn it down.  My uncle, who still lives in this town, went to watch the final remains of the home he grew up in go up in smoke.  I was glad I wasn’t there to see such a sight as that would have simply broken my heart. 

I think we all too many times disregard aging things that may need a little extra TLC for the convenience of something new and all in the name of PROGRESS.  And what’s worse is I know there are many people who disregard aging relatives because those seniors require too much time and time is a hot commodity in this fast paced progressive world we live in.  What these younger people fail to think about in their busy lives is they, too, will be old someday and they may find themselves pushed aside for not being able to keep up with progress.  

I’m grateful that I’ve been given the task of caring for my elderly mother.  I’ve been able to garner such great stories from her that I’ll put into scrapbook pages for future generations to see.  Her knowledge of life is abounding and although she has moments when her thoughts don’t come together as quickly as they had in the past, the words she speaks are priceless.  I feel for those families who are so busy being soccer moms and CEO’s and whatever other things have taken you away from cherishing the time you could have with your older family members because it’s not just you who are missing out on the wealth of knowledge these seniors can give to you, but your kids are missing out too.  Take the time to listen to our seniors of today, you might learn that they too went through a lot of progress to get to where they are and maybe some of the knowledge they attained over the years can help you progress even farther in life. 

And as I progress my way, virtual though it is, towards the west coast of this fine country, I will keep you faithful readers in my prayers.  May God bless you always and as usual let’s keep going the distance.

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A New Beginning

It’s been several months since you last heard from me.  I had finally made it to Spokane Washington and was thrilled to be in a city with so many quilt shops.  As I weaved my way through this city, I kept getting these strange leg cramps and a feeling of instability in my legs.  Being one who doesn’t like going to doctors or taking meds for anything, I chose to ignore the pain and instability and figured my exercise would make it go away. 

After visiting every quilt store, every novelty store, and I think every restaurant in Spokane, I decided it was time to move on.  The Pacific Ocean was calling out to me so I was back on the road to Sprague and then Ritzville Washington.  As I cycled down the highway, those sharp pains in my knee continued as if someone had stuck me with a knife.  I figured it was a Charlie horse and rode on although there were days when I found I couldn’t go any farther than 2 miles.  

What should have taken me 8-10 days to ride ended up taking me almost a month.  When I got into Sprague I ended up staying at a hotel for a week trying to get my knees to quit hurting.  I’d do stretches, iced them, and actually rode around town a bit hoping to keep them from stiffening up.  It seemed to be helping some so back on my bike I got and headed towards Ritzville. 

Ritzville was only 25 miles away so I figured 2 days and I’d be there.  A week later I limped my way into town.  I found a little neighborhood diner where I ended up flopping into the booth.  The waitress asked if she could get me anything to drink.  “Water,” I said.  She returned with a large glass of iced water.  As I sucked it down she stood there looking at me.  I was a mess.  She finally asked if everything was okay.  I explained who I was, what I was doing, and that my knees were killing me.  She told me that it sounded like I had torn something in my knee.  My initial thought was “What makes you think you know anything about knees?  You’re a waitress for gosh sakes.”  But instead I asked why she would say that.  She said she had done a cross-country trip a few years ago and one of her team members had torn his ACL on the trip.  He was riding one day without pain, and the next day he could barely walk.  She then told me where their local hospital was, took my order and went about her business. 

After a delicious meal, I rode over to the hospital’s ER.  After a 2 hour wait I was finally seen by the doctor.  The news was not good.  I hadn’t torn my ACL, but I had what looked like a bad case of knee tendon bursitis.  I was ordered to rest and given anti-inflammatories.  I was to be seen again in a week to see if there was any improvement.  A week showed slight improvement, but the doctor ordered me to continue with my rest and inactivity for 3 more weeks.  The good news about this downtime was I was able to start using some of that fabric that I had just purchased in Spokane.  This downtime was just what I needed and I’m forever grateful to all the wonderful people who have helped me out along this journey.  It truly seems that there’s still a lot of people who care for others in a day and age where it seems we are only concerned about money and power. 

And in my real world some of this story is slightly true.  I recently found myself hobbling worse than my 82 year old mother.  Not knowing if I had actually torn something, I quit riding my bike until I was able to see a doctor.  Of course it took me 2 ½ months to make that appointment.  Thankfully I only have arthritic knees with bone spurs.  The bike riding I was doing is actually good for them so back on my bike I go.  It feels like I’m starting this trip all over again for I find myself having new found energy with some hope that this riding will again give me back my legs so that I don’t feel like I’m going to fall with every step I take. 

I know that God made us in His image and likeness.  He doesn’t want us to abuse our bodies the way so many of us do.  This latest health issue was my wake-up call that tells me to get off the couch, put down those chips, and get some good overall exercise.  I don’t want to end up like my mother who uses a walker and is so tottery that she can’t leave the house without supervision and she’s tethered to one of those “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” buttons.  I am feeling now like I felt back in the mid 80’s regarding not wanting to become like my parents.  

I come from a family of heavy drinkers.  It was nothing for any of us to crack open a beer at 9:00 in the morning and sometimes earlier I’m now ashamed to say.  Drinking came first in our lives.  If we were going on a vacation, the beer was the first thing we’d pack.  If we went to visit family who lived a mere 2 hours away, we’d have a 6 pack drank before we got to their house.  Imagine all the drinking and driving that went on back then.  It scares me to think about it now, but it scared me back then too.  Not because I was afraid of getting picked up for DUI, but because I had times where I’d remember getting into the car at my folk’s house and the next thing I’d consciously remember was getting out of the car at my house.  We are talking driving unconsciously for 8-10 blocks.  I’d sober up enough to circle the car to make sure I hadn’t hit anything.  My guardian angel must really love me because I kept him busy back then.  

By my late 20’s I started seeing just how bad my parent’s drinking had gotten and knew that I was drinking way more at my age than they had when they had been my age.  My mother always looked bedraggled and unkempt and my father was wasting away because all he did was drink, he never ate.  I finally told myself that if I didn’t quit drinking I would end up like them or worse, I’d end up in jail for killing someone because I was driving drunk. 

For probably a year every day I’d wake up and say “Today is the day that I quit drinking.”  I’d do great all day long simply because I was at work, but then I’d come home and the first thing I’d do was to look in the fridge for a beer.  So much will power I had.  Yeah, right!  But the notion of quitting remained with me. 

In 1986 I moved from my home town to Denver to work for my cousin’s company.  Her boyfriend and I would share the beer buying expenses since we were about the only ones in the house who drank beer.  It got to a point, though, where I was doing more of the buying.  I guess her boyfriend figured that was one way of getting some extra rent money out of me.  Well, one snowy Sunday my cousin and her boyfriend decided to go workout at a local gym.  They asked me to go along, but I said I preferred to stay at home and work on crafts.  I decided to have some beers.  I probably had 4 while the 2 of them were at the gym.  When they returned, the boyfriend made a big production over how many beers I had drank.  I chose to ignore him.  Then he started drinking his share.  

Later in the evening I decided to have one more beer.  I went to the refrigerator and noticed that there were 2 beers left.  I thought to myself “Thank God there are 2 beers left.  I’ll have one and that leaves one for him.”  When he came back upstairs for that final beer he opened the refrigerator and said “One beer left.  Well, were you being nice or did you finally decide you were a drunk.”  I said nothing, but I thought long and hard about what he said.  He called me a drunk.  He didn’t say “did you decide you were drunk” he said I was a drunk.  It bothered me because I never saw myself as being a drunk.  To me a drunk was one of those homeless people who panhandle for a little whiskey money.  I thought “I’m not one of them.”  Then I thought “Do others see me that way?  Is this how Mom and Dad got as bad as they are?”  I didn’t like the image in my head and the only way I knew how to change that image was to truly quit drinking.  So on February 22, 1987 I had taken my last drink. 

The boyfriend finally asked me after a month why I wasn’t buying any beer.  I told him I had quit.  He laughed and said “I bet my entire wealth that you’ll never make it to 2 months.”  I should have taken him up on that bet because I’ve been sober ever since.  I can’t imagine my life anymore being controlled by drinking.  And I’m forever grateful to my cousin’s ex-boyfriend for saying that one letter word that gave me the will power to quit drinking.  One little word changed my life – “a”.  Through the grace of God, He placed that one little word in that sentence that my cousin’s boyfriend said and I was given a new beginning on life.  I had broken that cycle of drinking that my parents had unconsciously shown me was the way to live. 

I think God is giving me another new beginning now.  I know I need to take advantage of this gift that God has disguised as arthritic knees.  I know at some point in the future these knees will have to be replaced, but if I can be in a lot better shape and weigh a lot less that should make my recovery time a lot easier.  And I know by maintaining a healthy diet and exercise program with this new beginning I’ve been given, I will NOT end up like my mother needing that walker by the time I’m 82.  So take advantage of those gifts that God gives us, the gifts of new beginnings.  Through God, all things are possible. 

May God bless you all and let’s keep going the distance.

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Rallying in the Hills

When last you heard from me I was in Custer, South Dakota. I have now traveled another 93 miles for a total of 690 miles. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d ever bike that far, but it’s been a fun and eventful trip.

After Custer I headed into Hill City, a quaint little town known as the “Heart of the Hills”. It’s the oldest city in Pennington County, South Dakota. It found it’s beginning with the mining rush in the 1800s, but is now a tourist hub in the Black Hills with a variety of tourist shops to browse through. Of course I had to do a little shopping in all those shops. And on my way out of town I stopped at the Mistletoe Ranch, a Christmasshop open year round. This place is so full of Christmas it can put a smile on the Grinch’s face.

From there I rode into Rapid City taking time out to go through Reptile Gardens. I know a lot of people are against confining any animal, reptile, etc into an enclosure, but I was truly amazed at the variety of reptiles this place holds. What’s even more fascinating is the number of flowers you see inside this building. When I was a little girl my folks took

me and my siblings there. At that time they sold tickets for rides on the giant turtles. I wanted so badly to ride a turtle, but my mom just knew one of those turtles would bite me so I was never able to ride one. And now, thankfully, they no longer do this, but those giant turtles are still there.

I did decide to bypass Bear Country since I was on a bike. I’ve gone through Bear Country on previous trips through the Black Hills. I think it is a place that is well worth a look see although the last time I was there this one ornery bear kept trying to attack the front tire of this one mini-van. Maybe it didn’t like the color of the van.

From Rapid City I found myself back on the Interstate heading toward Sturgis. It wasn’t the most exciting part of my trip for I’ve decided that Interstate travel can be quite boring, but it does give one a more direct route to their destinations.

Once in Sturgis I had to take in some of the sights. Luckily for me it was not August when they hold the big motorcycle rally. I was able to go through the Fort Meade Cavalry Museum, the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and ended my tour of Sturgis at Bear Butte State Park. There was so much history at each of these places that it was almost mind boggling. It would have been nice to be able to spend more time there, but the road was calling me.

So back on the Interstate I headed to Spearfish. This is a beautiful town nestled in the valley of Spearfish Creek and surrounded by 3 mountain peaks. Spearfish is known as the Queen City. I found a nice RV park to spend the night and get ready for my trip to Devils Tower and to ponder on all the grand people I’ve met on this bike trip.

And as I type this in my real life, I think not only about the distance I’ve traveled on my imaginary trip, but all the real places I’ve lived, jobs I’ve held, and people I’ve met. There’s such a diverse difference among all of these people, places, and things in my life much like the diversity of areas I’ve ridden on my virtual bike trip. It makes me know

that we have all been placed here on this earth for a purpose and that God has truly created us as individuals. We may not always agree with everything and everyone, but if we learn to let go and let God we can see the good in people and our lives seem so much easier to deal with. I think me learning to let go and let God has helped me conquer somany seemingly impossible hurdles.

And with each hurdle I’m able to overcome comes a serene feeling of knowing I am EXACTLY where I’m supposed to be. Whether it’s recovering from the holiday rush in my real life or rallying with new found friends in Sturgis. Life is good. And now that we have passed over into a new year I hope to start making faster progress getting from one virtual attraction to the next. May God bless you all and as always, let’s keep going the distance where one day we’ll all meet–in heaven.

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Custer, Not My Last Stand

by Betsy Finley

After spending the night in Pringle, I got an early start knowing there was a lot to see once I got to Custer South Dakota.  The air was crisp, the sky a crystal blue, and the trees were a lush deep green against the blue, blue sky.  Life was very good and my ride seemed to be speeding by.  I had every intention of going the distance to Custer in one day, but there were just too many distractions.  I know how important it is to continue to stop and smell the roses so I took each opportunity to see what this grand national park had to offer.

I rode into Custer the next day and quickly found a quilt shop to get some fabric to remind me of my time in South Dakota.  I knew Flintstone Village was right down the road, and when one is that close to Fred’s house, one must stop and visit.  It’s a delightful place to take young kids.  I truly enjoyed it myself so I guess I’m still a kid at heart.

As I browsed through the gift shop the cashier asked me if I was that lady riding across the country on a bike.  I told her I was indeed that person, that crazy lady.  She laughed and told me the whole town was abuzz about me.  My first thought was they must not have a lot to do in Custer, but I knew better for Custer is a bustling tourist town with lots and lots to do.  She went on to say the she and a bunch of her friends were going to start biking through the Black Hills and that the local school was using my trip as motivation for several sports programs.  

I was speechless for a moment, but finally found the words to thank her then to ask if there were any tour buses that could take one around to see the sights.  My fear was if I spent too much time sightseeing, I’d get myself so off track that I may have a hard time getting motivated to ride further.  And after what she just told me I knew that this was a ride I had to continue.  It was a very lucky day for me because the cashier told me about Golden Circle Tours of the Black Hills.  She gave me directions, I paid for my trinkets, and I was off to get signed up for a tour of the area.  

And what a tour it was.  This group takes you through the Needles, Iron Mountain Road, Mount Rushmore, Sylvan Lake, and Crazy Horse Memorial.  Best of all they tell you interesting facts about each place that one may never know about if you traveled these hills on your own.  I always knew the Black Hills was full of great places to see, but never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d ever take a trip that was so fulfilling.  

I believe the Black Hills is another great place God has given us to enjoy although my heart goes out to those native Indians of years ago when their home, their native land was taken away.  I’m not so sure God was so very happy with Lt. Col. George A. Custer who took this land away from the Indians.  Maybe that’s why he had his last stand 2 years later at the Battle of Little Big Horn in Montana, but that’s not for me to judge.  I’m just enjoying all that is available to me and thanking God each day for this wonderful life I have.  And the Black Hills will not be my last stand.  

I plan on continuing my journey through the Black Hills, then to Devil’s Tower, up to the Battle of Little Big Horn which seems fitting to see after my tour of Custer.  And having never seen Old Faithful, I’ll have to shoot back into Wyoming to catch a glimpse of this world renowned geyser.  

And as I sit pondering my real life I realize more and more each day how this imaginary bike trip has changed my life for the better.  I spent years hating myself because I wasn’t pretty enough or thin enough or smart enough.  I think it was that day standing on the corner in Aspen when the guy yelled out his car window for me to join Weight Watchers that I realized how shallow people can be.  Not only did I not want to be one of those people who judge people only from the outer shell of a person, but I knew that I was much more of a person than that guy gave me credit for.  It’s this attitude that keeps me biking because this imaginary trip has changed my whole attitude with my work life, personal life, and anything in between. 

My biking has also helped me deal with my mother’s grieving over my father’s death. She had gotten stuck at the depression stage of the grief cycle.  She began having anxiety attacks, lost interest in her favorite passion of cooking, didn’t care much about anything at all.  I was worried that I was beginning to lose her, but since I began this trip, her mood has changed along with mine.  She told me just the other day that she’s excited about Christmas this year, that she felt like a princess at her 80th birthday party, and she’s begun cooking again.  

Maybe my biking had nothing to do with her change, but she’s told me several times since I began biking that she’s happy that I’m happy.  And even though no town knows about some crazy lady riding a bike across the United States, what my imaginary cashier said about the town of Custer building upon my biking trip seems to be true in my life. 

I’m discovering the more positive I am with my own being seems to transfer to others.  It is with that thought that I say I hope this goofy, imaginary trip of mine has helped some readers realize that they are someone great and that this world would not be what it is today without the strength we get from each individual.  May God continue to bless us all, may we all keep our hearts open to God’s word, and let’s keep going the distance.

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Taking the Plunge

by Betsy Finley

My biking has slowed down some and I’d like to say it’s because the Black Hills are so beautiful to look at.  As I ride into Hot Springs, SD my mind wanders back to that trip my family took through the Black Hills years ago when I was about 10 years old.  We’d stopped at a gas station to fill up and I wondered what it would be like to live in a tourist town.  It would be many years later that I would experience that type of life when I moved to Aspen, CO.  But for today, I’m looking at the beauty of the red rocks and Fall River which runs through Hot Springs.  I can almost hear the voices of those people who settled here so very many years ago.  The Sioux and Cheyenne came here for the warm springs.  It wasn’t long before the European settlers discovered the benefits of these  warm spring waters.  Soon after arriving, these settlers made Hot Springs their new home renaming it in 1882 from Minnekahta to Hot Springs.  

It was from these warm spring waters that Evans Plunge was established.  The Sioux and Cheyenne fought fierce battles trying to lay claim to the ownership of these springs.  The Sioux emerged victorious, but in 1876, Colonel W.J. Thornby discovered the source of the warm creek.  He traded his spring to Joe Petty for a horse.  In 1890 Evans Plunge was built by Fred Evans.  Originally it was used as a health cure for many illnesses, but today it’s enjoyed by tourists from all over the world.  

After a quick breakfast at Fall River Bakery, I head down the street to take the plunge at Evans Plunge.  The water was refreshing and I did feel rejuvenated.  I also took in Mammoth Site, did some shopping at the numerous antique and art shops in town, and then decided to head to Wind Cave for a tour there.  

Wind Cave still fascinates me.  I can’t imagine the first people who explored these caves on their own.  Being slightly claustrophobic, I’m always grateful for the tour guide’s ability to get us into the cave and back out of the cave.  Years ago I thought it would have been fun to do a little spelunking, but now I’ll just take the open road on my bike as opposed to crawling around in a cave. Tomorrow I’ll plunge deeper into the Black Hills.  My next destination is Pringle, SD. 

I’ve been through Pringle several times in my life, but I honestly can’t say I know much about this town.  I had an uncle who lived there for some time and had a lumber business while there, but other than that Pringle will just be a rest stop on my way to Custer, SD.

And, as always, I end my blog about my imaginary trip with a bit of realism.  I had a wonderful Thanksgiving with family.  I didn’t get as much riding in as I had hoped, but I did manage to get a couple of riding days in.  My family was impressed with my trip and commented on the weight I’d taken off.  I think it’s more that I’m toning my body as opposed to dropping a lot of weight.  I do know that my biking helped me through the hectic Thanksgiving week and I’m happy to be on schedule again.  I hope to be in Spearfish, SD by Christmas.  So may the coming holidays bless you with the courage to go the distance and take a plunge into a new adventure, what ever that may be.  God bless you all.

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Back Where My Idea Started

Chadron State Park

by Betsy Finley

 This whole journey started this past June from an idea from a book while vacationing at Chadron State Park.  Well, I’ve biked back to that place and I must say the fall colors are spectacular.  I didn’t expect to find anyone other than a few employees in the park, but I guess there are still people out there who enjoy fall camping.  And they were all so friendly inviting me to dine with them.  As tempting as that was, I was too exhausted to accept the numerous invites.  

Instead, I rented one of the cabins so I could sleep in a real bed.  It was a nice break from the sleeping bag.  That night I sat out on the porch and listened to the wind blowing through the trees.  The peace and tranquility was like Heaven on earth.

As the evening’s chill settled in I went inside and planned the next leg of my journey in the comfort of a heated cabin.  Tomorrow I’ll be backtracking back into town to start my trip to the Black Hills.  I’m excited to be heading there.  I’ve gone through the Black Hills many times, but never on a bike.  I plan on stopping at Crazy Horse Memorial, Mount Rushmore, Reptile Gardens, and maybe Bear Country.  Well, maybe I won’t do Bear Country since I’m on a bike.  I don’t feel like becoming the bears’ lunch.

After spending about an hour on my trip ticket I ate supper then got ready for bed.  As I lay in my bed I thought about where I had started this trip, where I was headed, but mostly I thought about how thankful I was for all that God has given to me.  

I’ve ridden 506 miles since June 18th which works out to be about 3.56 miles per day.  I guess that’s not a lot of miles per day, but it is 3.56 miles more than I was doing when I started this imaginary journey.  Okay, it wasn’t up and down hills like I would have been doing on a real trip, but I’ve still ridden farther than I’ve ever ridden before.  It feels good to have biked back to where this whole idea was born.  And the memory of that night is still crystal clear in my memory.  I believe God touched upon me that night while lying in the bed in that cabin.  And the benefits of this journey continue to grow.  I can’t say enough how this biking trip has changed my attitude with so many things in my real life.  

My biking has also started influencing others to start some form of exercise.  My sister has begun biking in her own way and I’ve had a few co-workers say they are thinking about doing the same.  Now maybe I can’t take credit for them starting an exercise routine, but in my heart I feel I did touch upon them.  It’s a good feeling knowing that this imaginary ride of mine has influenced some to start exercising.  

I’m thankful I kept my heart open to God’s powerful word and allowed His blessings to touch upon my life.  I pray that we all continue to allow God into our hearts, our souls, and our minds each and every day.  May God bless you all and let’s keep “Going the Distance.”

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The Good Life

Nebraska

by Betsy Finley

Nebraska’s state line signs read “Nebraska, The Good Life”.  Well, I’m back in Nebraska and have just finished eating a portion of my 28 ounce Coffee hamburger at Sioux Sundries in Harrison, Nebraska and I must admit this is truly the good life.  I had the pleasure of talking with an elderly local while waiting for my burger. He shared some interesting stories of the Coffee Ranch and life as it is in Harrison.  His rugged face spoke volumes of the hard work he’d put in while living in this ranching community.  If you listen carefully to stories from the elderly locals and watch the lines on their faces, one  can get a feeling of what life must have been like when this area was first being settled.   It can be a harsh territory, but I truly felt close to God while staying here. 

After a good night’s sleep and a visit to Agate Fossil Beds National Monument which is 28 miles south of Harrison, my trip to Chadron State Park continues.  The next leg of my journey will take me through Fort Robinson State Park.  I’m quite sure I’ll need to spend at least a day there because of all the rich history that surrounds this former Cavalry fort  and then a German POW camp during WWII. And Fort Robinson delivered.  What a neat place Fort Robinson State Park is.  I took many tours through the various buildings that once housed the Cavalry.  I stood on the ground where Crazy Horse was killed.  I rode my bike out to where the WWII POW camp used to be and then out even farther where the Red Cloud Agency was headquartered.  There were times I could almost feel the presence of these soldiers and Indians.  It’s a truly fascinating place.

After spending a day and a half at the Fort, I took an easy 3-mile bike ride into Crawford, Nebraska.  This town, too, has a rich history and is named after a soldier stationed at the Fort.  But to my big delight I found a wonderful quilt store where I was able to buy another stash of fabric for my trip quilt.  The women at this store were very friendly and informative as were the other folks in town.  It made me want to set up home there, but that would mean ending my trip and I’m not nearly ready to do that.  

After a tour through the local winery in Crawford, I ate dinner at the local Dairy Keen which boasts of the best BBQ north of Texas.  I do believe they are correct as I had my fill and still have leftovers for tomorrow.  My time spent in Nebraska so far has truly depicted their state line road sign motto “The Good Life.”  It truly is a good life here and a place I’ll be coming back to.

And after spending the last couple of days in my real life at home due to inclement weather, I ponder on my imaginary biking travels and the time I have actually spent at Fort Robinson and in Crawford.  My biking has been instrumental in making my life more centered, healthier, and happier.  And my memories of actual time spent at Fort Bob and Crawford are fond memories of a quieter life, a life of simplicity where you can walk outside and enjoy what God gives to us each and every day.  I believe it is this same feeling of simplicity I get from riding; a feeling I try to keep in my life so that I, too, can enjoy “The Good Life.”  And, as usual, I hope that all you who are reading this can find “the good life” in your life whatever “the good life” may be to you.  It’s different for all of us, but then we are all different.  May God bless you all and thanks for your continued support.

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