God’s Canvas

CoalMy riding group is a bit confused when Bart pulls into the Quality Inn Hotel parking lot.  Carol looks at Mac who only shrugs his shoulders.  Faith is asking Pete if we are staying at the hotel.  Martha finally clears up our confusion and says, “Guys, there wasn’t much to pick from here with regards to RV parks.  There’s one behind this hotel.”

And, indeed, there is.  It doesn’t have any WiFi or TV reception, but we are finding that we look at TV less and less.  And as far as internet service, we all know we can do with a little less on-line socializing and web surfing.

Of course, my thought is, “What is my French friend, Lucas, going to think if I don’t get in touch with him on our social media site?”  Well, Lucas is going to have to wait a day.  I know he will understand.

We help Bart get the trailer setup then we head to the grocery store to pick up tonight’s supper ingredients.  We decided to keep it simple with hot dogs, hamburgers, and chips.  Faith throws in a can of baked beans.  I think that isn’t her wisest move, but I say nothing.

Once shopping is done, we head to the Navajo Interactive Museum.  I am in awe of the history of the Navajo nation.  This is a place I want to come back to when I’m done with this trip of mine.

Next, we drive out to Coal Mine Canyon where I meet a nice photographer named Matt.  He’s already taken some wonderful shots of this breathtaking canyon, so I wonder why he’s hanging around.  Of course, my suspicious side kicks in, and I think he’s really not a photographer but someone who is up to no good.  I go so far as to assume he stole the camera and never took any of those pictures.  Faith is as guarded as I am, but, once again, Bart starts talking to Matt as if they were old friends.

Turns out, Matt is waiting for sunset to get his final shots.  And within fifteen minutes, we begin to see what he’s waiting for.  Matt smiles and says, “Now that’s the ‘God’s Canvas’ I’ve been waiting for.”  We all start snapping pictures of this majestic place.  Words cannot describe the feeling you get while standing on this ridge looking out over the rugged canyon.

And Matt describing it as God’s Canvas is spot-on.  There are pinks, oranges, purples, along with some light yellows and dark blues.  And all of my suspicions about Matt wash away when he helps me understand how to get the most out of the camera I’ve owned for years.  He shows me just exactly how to get that professional look.  How can I ever pay Matt back for his kindness?

I decide to invite him to dinner, something I shouldn’t have done since I have not been allowed to buy any food on this trip since meeting up with my friends.  But they all agree that’s the least we could do for Matt’s professional help and knowledge.

That night, as we sit around a campfire talking about today’s events, I wonder where Matt’s travels will take him next?  It’s not long before I find out.  Matt will be headed to the Grand Canyon, our next stop.  We ask if he would like to tag along.

Matt eyes our bikes and says, “I’d love to, but is there any way I could use one of those bikes?”

Pete is quick to say, “Use mine.  I’ll drive your car.”

We settle in for the night, happy that we’ve added one more person to this growing party of mine.  I can hardly wait to see what Matt will be seeing along the road.  I bet he takes a bunch of pictures before we even get to the Grand Canyon.

My final thoughts before falling asleep are, “Thank you, God, for showing me Your canvas of life.  You’ve painted in another person I’ll never forget.  Matt, thanks for showing me God’s Canvas.”

And in my real world, there have been many times I’ve gotten a glimpse of God’s Canvas.  Sometimes it’s a brilliant sunrise on Pikes Peak, or a crystal clear stream.  But often times, God’s canvas shows the harshness of life, like a homeless man in a tattered coat waiting in a soup kitchen line, a child longingly looking in a bakery window only to find out those delicacies aren’t in their parent’s budget.  But if one truly looks at this canvas even when the bleakness is showing, they’ll see God’s love.  God is everywhere we look, in everything we do, and in every person we see.  We just need to be aware of the beauty that surrounds us daily.

Much like Martha and Jake are finding out on their own state-by-state bike trip in my first novel, Going the Distance.  You can read more about this book by clicking on this link – www.amazon.com/dp/1500552607 And as always, let’s keep going the distance.

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A Lousy Passenger

daydreamingWhen one decides to set out seeing the country on a bike, they are in for a huge treat. Not only are you able to stop and truly see your surroundings, but you can smell all the smells and feel one with nature. That is, if you are not me.

I found myself wondering how many days it was going to take us to get to Tuba City, Arizona. I wondered how Bart was going to find a place to park the fifth-wheel. I wondered if we’d find stores to buy food, if the generator would last, if we’d be safe parked in some obscure place.

I heard my riding partners talking about the beauty of this area, how pretty the wild flowers are, and the animals they saw off in the distance, the changing terrain, how nice some of the people on the roads are. I saw none of this. I was too busy seeing my life as a half-empty glass. How could I have allowed myself to get into such a funk?

As Bart pulled into another rancher’s yard asking for permission to stay on his property overnight, the realization of what I’d been doing became clear to me. Carol and Faith were describing all those wild flowers, asking me if I had noticed how pretty they were. Pete and Mac were talking about how Bart has this uncanny way of knowing which ranch or farm to stay at. Martha stood back taking this all in, noticing how out of sync I was with the others.

She says to me, “Penny for your thoughts.”

Startled, I say, “I’m feeling a bit guilty right now. I didn’t see any of those flowers. I didn’t notice any ranches or farms. I rode all those miles that God had placed before me, and I missed it all, because I was busy worrying about everything that didn’t happen.”

Martha smiles and says, “But you did get a nice visit from God.”

She walks toward Bart who is busy talking with the rancher. The rancher is pointing exactly where Bart can park the fifth-wheel. I stand there taking in the entire scene and pondering Martha’s last words to me. I feel a lightness overcome me. Martha was right. God had come to visit me. I bet He was riding alongside me all those miles. And I missed that, too. Or had I?
God found the right way to open my eyes to all that was around me. He gave me the comfort and protection of my friends who help me see my path in life. How very blessed I felt at that moment. I say a quick prayer that this newly found awareness does not leave me. I pray that I see all that God wants me to see. Live was very good again.

And in my real world, both my sister and I have been feeling like we are on the cusp of a major change in our lives. My sister and her husband know where they want to end up, but I do not. I have been feeling like they are more in control of their destiny, where my destiny is so unclear. I felt myself being slightly jealous that my sister had a P L A N. All I had was some idle thoughts and a little faith.

I say “little” because if I had a lot of faith, I would not be here telling you what a lousy passenger I’ve been. Through the little bit of faith I have, I learned to let God drive my bus. But while I allowed God to drive my bus, I was not looking at all that was going on around me. I sat on that bus staring at a blank scene in my head, wondering where God was taking me, when we were going to get there, and what my life would be like after I got there.

I didn’t see one thing that went by. Until now. Last night, God pointed out to me how perfect a fit my dog, Vanna, was when I got her to replace the passing of my previous Irish setter. I realized, immediately, just how much I had been missing while God drives me to my next destination.

I know that He does not want us to miss a thing because we are worried about where we are going, when we’ll get there, what will happen once we get there. He wants us to see everything that lies between here and there.

I made a vow last night, that I would stop being a lousy passenger, and that I’d start seeing this world the way God wants me to see it. So don’t be a lousy passenger on God’s bus. Look at what He wants you to see, enjoy everything while He takes us to our next destination. For what we see on the way may play a big part in what we do once we get there.
I also discovered my sister was being a lousy passenger. She, too, was busy thinking about where she knew God was taking them, but didn’t know how long it would take to get there. He made a little visit to her, too, and now she’s working at being a better passenger knowing God’s timing is perfect. Praise the Lord.

And as always, let’s keep going the distance. God bless.

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Good Food, Good Friends, Good Fun

familyWe have a long trip ahead of us to get to Tuba City, Arizona. I find myself thinking about how blessed I am to have come across my riding partners. They are all so generous of the various talents they have.

Bart and Martha supply all the comforts of home with their upscale fifth-wheel RV. And each night, before he retires to bed, Bart makes sure I have enough blankets, he puts the remote on the end table nearest me, and asks if I need anything else. I always respond by saying, “You are so kind, and yes, I have everything I need.” Yet every night, Bart will head to the refrigerator and grab a cold bottle of water for me. He hands it to me with a smile, saying, “You might need this tonight.”

Martha always makes sure I get my bathroom time uninterrupted. What a gentle soul she is. So kind, so giving, so much like I remember my paternal grandmother. She even has Nana’s Irish smiling eyes.

Bart and Martha are definitely the parent-figures in this group. And even though I’m sure I’m older than Martha, not by much, she seems to be my “mother” figure.

Carol and Mac are my free-spirits. They keep me young and eager to try new things. I quickly think back to my skydiving excursion. WOW! I still can’t believe I did it. They are just fun, fun people to be around. They love to tease, something I’m accustomed to doing myself. And they don’t mind being teased. I’ve developed a close bond with them. They are my “cohorts in crime”, my friends, my bosom buddies.

And then there’s Pete and Faith. How can I not like Pete and Faith? Faith is the dog whisperer. She has a stronger passion for animals than I could ever hope to have. And Pete has a passion for Faith that goes beyond respect, beyond love, beyond commitment. It’s almost as if Pete can read Faith’s every thought. Maybe he can.

By late afternoon, Bart manages to earn the trust of a farmer who allows us to park the fifth wheel near the barn. That night, as we get ready for dinner, I’m asked to say the blessing.
“Dear Lord,” I start, “Thank You for this good food, thank You for good friends, and thank You for the fun we are having. Amen.”

I see Martha wipe an errant tear from her cheek. She grabs my hand, giving it a squeeze and says, “We are blessed to have you with us.”
We all chime in, “Amen.”

And in my real world, I’ve recovered almost from the loss of my dog, but I’m now facing a new family crisis. A dear aunt of mine has been told she has cancer. We don’t know how long she’ll be with us since her form of cancer is an aggressive one, but we will always have the memories of the good food we’d have at her house, the good friends we met through her, and all the fun we’d have when all the relatives converged on Aunt Pat and Uncle Tom’s house. Fond, fond memories. I’m blessed to have such a great family.

So take a moment to think about those people who you associate with good food, good friends, and good fun. If you haven’t talked to one of them in a while, pick up the phone and say “hi.” You don’t want to wait until you get that call that this person has passed away. And as always, let’s keep going the distance.

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Life’s Ups and Downs

Ups and DownsGosh, it seems like my biking friends and I are making good progress getting, but I feel an emptiness. I don’t know if it’s because I was outvoted about not staying in Hurricane and Apple Valley, Utah, or if I’m just feeling road fatigue. My mind thinks back when it was just me. I went as far as I felt like going, stopping where my heart felt content.

Now, I have these great people helping me achieve my goal, but as with anything when more than one is involved you have a difference of opinion. I didn’t feel like I’d expressed my discontent with traveling the forty-three miles to Colorado City, Arizona, but they all seem to be leaving me alone. And as with any bad day one has, I’ve put them in a lose/lose situation. If they rode close to me and tried to have a conversation, I’d probably tell them I needed my space. But they’ve already figured that out and have given me my space. I don’t like it.

Could I grow up some and simply ride up with them and start a conversation? Yes. Will I do that? Probably not today. I need the time to get in touch with myself, with God, and with all that surrounds me. I need to make sure I know how lucky I am to have these fine people watching over me, giving me a place to sleep, never asking for money for room and board, but just being good-hearted people. I need to look at the beauty that surrounds me and thank God for all He’s given me. And I need to give myself a quick kick in the behind and tell myself to get out of my funk. Life is too good to waste on such petty occurrences.

As we approach Colorado City, Arizona, my heart lightens. Carol slows up enough to say, “Hey, I know you were wanting to stay at those towns. I’m sorry we didn’t, but I’m glad to have those miles behind us.”

“I’m OK, Carol. I’m glad to be here in Arizona. I’ve spent way too much time on this trip already. It’s time to get some serious mileage behind me.”

“Well, we’ve decided that you get to pick the next town we’ll be staying in.”

I laugh, knowing Tuba City, Arizona is the next town, and that was 190 miles from here with not much in between. It was then I realized how important it was for me to be with my blessed friends. At least we’d have the fifth-wheel to stay in even if it were on some country road in the middle of nowhere. My heart lightened, and I gave Carol a hug and said, “We are a team. I choose to do what’s best for the team.”

That evening, after thanking my friends for taking such good care of me, I crawled into bed and thanked my Lord for ALL He has given me.

And in my real world, my ups and down came yesterday when I had to have my fifteen-year old sheltie euthanized. It wasn’t a hard decision for me, for I knew he was sick beyond repair. And that became evident when the first shot that simply relaxes them almost took him out. He was not only sick, but he was tired and old. His life had come to an end.

I mourned my dear friend, but awoke this morning knowing his misery was gone. He’s probably going around heaven right now telling all the other dogs that there are rules to rules to be followed. His cousin, Zu, is probably creating the rules as any good German shepherd does, but Sparky is ensuring that all the other dogs are obeying those rules.

And I know I’ll now have the time to focus on my needy Irish setter, Vanna. She loved her “mommy time” last night. She’ll be having her ups and downs, too, as she morphs into being the one and only, but once she figures out she is the queen bee, she’ll have a perfect life.

So when you are facing the ups and downs of everyday life, know that you aren’t the lonesome stranger. We have to have those down times to appreciate the good things we have that we’ve ignored. And I find it’s best to give someone you love a big hug. They’ll help you through those down times.

Peace to all of you and let’s keep going the distance.

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What Kind of Tea is This?

teaI am still soaring from my recent jump out of a plane. Never did I ever think I’d be brave enough to do something like that. But when Mac reminded me that I was brave enough to start this trip ALONE, I knew jumping out of that plane was a whole lot safer.

Now, as my biking friends and I pedal our way to St. George, Utah, I think about other things I’ve been afraid to try. I know instantly what my next adventure will be.

I ride up alongside Martha and say, “Will you and Bart be playing golf in St. George?”

“Why yes we will. We golf wherever there’s a course and whenever we can. Will you join us this time?”

“I think I will.”

“Good. Like I said, I think you’ll be great at it.”

I think to myself, “I wouldn’t count on that, but I at least want to give it a try.”

We get into St. George around 1:00 p.m. With all of us helping to get our camp site setup, we head to the grocery store to buy tonight’s meal. I buy the ingredients for a mock crab pasta salad, a nice accompaniment for burgers.

While I make my salad in the fifth-wheel, Carol offers me an iced tea. I’m ready to tell her I’m not much of a tea drinker, but decide this might be another thing I could learn to enjoy. I accept her offer and take a sip. It is unbelievably good, no bitter taste yet not overly sweet.

“OK Carol, what’s your secret. I don’t usually like tea, but this is really good,” I say.

She smiles and says, “I infuse fresh citrus while I’m steeping it. It adds the sugar and somehow cuts the bitterness. It’s an old family tradition.”

“Well,” I say, “it’s a keeper.”

My salad is a hit that night, but my mind continues to wonder how well I’ll do on the links tomorrow. I doze off, dreaming about that hole in one.

The next day, all of us head to the golf course. Bart gets me setup with clubs that fit my height. Then he gives me a quick lesson on what clubs to use and why.

I think, “This isn’t so hard. Why did I fear playing golf so much?”

I tee up my first shot. Using the information Bart gave me, I pick a 5 wood and set my stance for my first swing. I raise my club behind me with the confidence of Tiger Woods. My arm comes down, my eyes look towards where I want the ball to go and BAM! A big chunk of sod goes flying leaving my lonely ball sitting on the tee.

Bart says, “You do know what you did wrong?”

I think back to what he had told me earlier. I chose the right wood, I stood with my feet apart, I swung the club back behind my head bringing it back around at the same arc and…

“Um, I took my eyes off the ball.”

Smiling, Bart says, “Correct. Now let’s try it again so we can finish this game and get back to camp for more of Carol’s fine tea.”

I wonder if he truly means iced tea or if he’s referring to the iced tea we used to drink on vacations years ago. That tea was a little more adult-beverage than Carol’s tea.

I set my feet again, swing the club back, and bring it back around while keeping my eye on the ball. WHACK! The ball goes soaring. I lose track of it, but Bart doesn’t.

“Good golly, woman. I think you’re going to get a hole in one!”

He was right. There was my ball landing on the green just past the hole. It started rolling back towards the hole as we stood there watching it roll ever so slowly. PLUMP! I’d done it. My first hole in one. Of course, it was my last hole in one and the rest of the round was pretty sorrowful. I ended up scoring a 110. Bart tried to tell me that was a good beginner’s score. I knew differently, but I didn’t care. I had tried another thing that I had avoided for years.

Much to Martha’s surprise, I didn’t enjoy golfing as much as she did. “I like walking the course with you guys, but I just don’t think gold is my forte.”

That evening, Bart answered my silent question about what sort of tea he was referring to. His drink of choice that night was Long Island Ice Tea. I went to bed knowing that God had given me these fine friends to help me come out of my shell even more than I already had.

And in my real life, like skydiving, golf has intrigued me, but I doubt I’d ever get that hole in one. And to end with a score of 110 would seem fabulous to me. I’m quite sure golfers behind us would be wishing I’d just leave the course. So I don’t see myself taking up golf any time soon.

I do remember my mom learning to golf with my dad. They went to the local golf course and my mom did get a hole in one on her first swing. They enjoyed the time together, got to know some of the other golfers, but eventually the golf green fees became too much on Dad’s meager salary. They found other hobbies to do together, like fishing, that not only was cheaper but could provide food for their family.

More importantly, my parents realized the importance of doing things as a couple. I’ve known a lot of married women over the years who complain about their husbands being football junkies. Many a Monday morning at work was filled with complaints from these women that their husbands sat in front of the TV all weekend watching football. I asked one of them why that angered her so much. Her comment was, “Because he wasted the whole weekend when he should have been with me.”

“Did he not allow you to be in the room with him?” I asked.

“No, he actually did ask me to sit with him, but I hate football.”

“So did he force you to sit with him then?”

“No, I went in my sewing room and made curtains for the house.”

“So you were doing what you wanted and he did what he wanted, correct?”

“Yes, but that’s not the point.”

“So what is the point, that he needs to do everything your way?”

She had no answer for me. I do realize that guys can sometimes spend a little too much time watching their favorite sport on TV, but if a woman would realize this is their chance to be with their guy for hours, she’d be rewarded in ways she probably couldn’t even imagine.

I’ve learned to love baseball, a sport I despised for most of my life. Now I can’t wait for baseball season to start. It’s no longer a dreaded season that lasts way too long. Now it’s not long enough for me.

How you look at something determines whether you’re going to enjoy it. If you look at being with your guy all weekend watching sports and eating good food a waste of your time, then it will be. But don’t condemn him for doing what comes natural to a man. Go off and do what you want to do like my co-worker sewing those curtains. Granted, she was mad at her husband, but when I pointed out that he allowed her to do exactly what she wanted to do while he watched football, she softened. She lives in Texas now. I can’t imagine her not being a Cowboy fan.

So try looking at all the different ways one can view a situation. You can see a glass of tea as something bitter, you can see it as something refreshing, or you can see it as that drink that could put you under the table if you drink too many of them. Life is what you want to make it. The choice is yours. God bless, and let’s keep going the distance.

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Soaring With the Birds

eagleWith eighty-six miles ahead of us, I say a quick prayer that we have good weather and good roads. God, being the loving person He is, answers my prayers in ways I could never imagine. The sky is cloudless and a perfect sky-blue. Of course it’s perfect, it’s from God.

I see an eagle flying to places unknown. I imagine what it would be like to soar with the birds. The beauty of those outstretched wings that look like they could be four to five feet across from tip to tip, mesmerizes me so much that I almost run into Carol’s bike.

“Hey, where exactly have you been?” Carol says with a smile.

“Um, I guess I was thinking about what it would be like to soar with that eagle. Then I wondered where it was flying to.”

“Well, you may get that wish. Mac and I were just saying we’d like to go skydiving when we get to Mesquite. Do you want to go with us?”

Panic overtakes me. My mouth drops open as I say, “Are you nuts? Jumping out of a plane and hoping the chute opens is not something I care to do.”

Mac laughs heartily and says, “C’mon Wonder Woman. You set out of a trip like this ALONE, but doing a little tandem jump out of a plane scares you?”

“Wonder Woman?” I ask.

Carol laughs and says, “That’s what Mac’s been calling you for the last one hundred miles.”

Mac says, “What do you say, Wonder Woman. Are you going to let a little jump get the better of you?”

Mac seems to know just how to get me over my fears. I succumb to his enthusiasm and agree to at least go with them. My thought was, “If it sounds too iffy, I can back out then.”

It takes us two days of biking to get to Mesquite. Bart, Martha, Pete, and Faith all want to do some golfing. Bart is a huge golfing fanatic. Martha shares she used to be a golf-widow.

“Then I decided to quit complaining and join my husband. I immediately fell in love with the game. You should try it, Betsy. I think you’d be good at it.”

Shaking my head, I say, “Ah, but Carol and Mac have other plans for me today.”

“Oh?” Martha asks quizzically.

Proudly, I say, “Yes, we’re going skydiving.”

“WHAT!” they all chime in.

“Yes,” Carol says, “Mac and I have always wanted to try it. At one of our stops, Betsy talked about what it would be like to soar with the birds, and now the three of us will see what that’s like.”

Bart says, “I doubt it will be anything like soaring with the birds. Birds don’t drop like rocks from the sky.”

Martha rolls her eyes and grabs her clubs from the garage of the fifth-wheel. “C’mon Tiger, let’s get moving.”

The golfers gather their gear and head off to the various golf courses in the area. Carol, Mac and I walk Dolly before heading to Skydive Mesquite. Mac had pre-paid for Carol and him. I was ready to say I couldn’t afford it when I see Mac paying for me. I knew it was time I face this fear of heights.

We are given jumpsuits to get into. Then we are hooked up with the tandem gear needed for the jump. After an informative instructional brief by a tandem master, we head to the plane. My tandem master assures me that everything will be fine.

My breathing becomes labored. I fear I’ll faint, or worse, puke. I think, “If I puke, won’t it fly up before it falls?”

My tandem master must read minds fore he says, “Don’t worry, I’ve only been puked on once.”

We are at 13,000 feet. It’s time for the jump. Mac and his tandem master go first. I’m amazed that he has such courage to jump without fear. Carol is next. I can tell she’s a little nervous for she hesitates briefly until her tandem master says, “It’s now or never.”

Carol gives him a thumbs up and out the plane they go. I look at my tandem master who gives me the warmest smile.

“Hey, if you really don’t want to do this, no prob. You wouldn’t be my first to back out at this height. But I have to say, you’ll experience nothing like it the rest of your life.”

I think about that eagle again and decide I want to see the world from his perspective. We hook up and before I can change my mind we are free-falling. I don’t remember much about the free-fall. It all went so fast. I couldn’t see anything because it was all just a blur. And then the chute opens up. We are initially pulled up as the wind catches the chute.

I think, “Dear God, please don’t let these straps break.”

And then we begin our descent back to earth. My tandem master points out various things. I’m in awe of the beauty surrounding me. I, again, think of that eagle and smile knowing that God has allowed me to have a quick glimpse of what our winged creatures see every day.

Our landing is a bit rough, but I’m still in one piece. My tandem master unhooks us and asks, “So how was it for you?”

I give him a big hug and say, “Thank you so much. I felt like an eagle soaring through the sky.”

He smiles then begins to gather the chute. A jeep picks us up and takes us back to the building. Mac talks non-stop how he’d like to do a solo jump.

Carol informs him that will NOT be happening ending the conversation with, “We did it. It was fun, but we must get back to our middle-age life.”

That night, we all share tales of what we did in Mesquite. I knew Mesquite would now hold a special place in my life, for it was here where I soared with the birds.

And in my real life, I must admit skydiving has never been something I ever thought about doing. I don’t think there is a soul on earth who could convince me to try it. I’ve heard it’s exhilarating and freeing, but I’m not about to find out. I’ll simply take your word and will continue believing that if God wanted me to jump out of a plane, He would have given me wings.
To all of you out there who have been brave enough to try skydiving, I applaud you. You’re a braver person then I’ll ever be. I can’t even be as brave as my alter ego by taking a state-by-state bike trip. I prefer to ride my miles in the comfort of my home. Thank you very much.

So as we go through life soaring like an eagle or sitting on a stationary bike, let’s continue to go the distance. God bless you all.

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Some Things Will Not Stay in Vegas

VegasMy heart is racing as we near Las Vegas. Traffic increases and it becomes evident that bicyclers are not a welcome sight on these highways. Bart pulls over to the side of the highway and puts his flashers on. I think, “What’s going on?” I soon discover the answer to my question.

A state patrol car siren blares right behind us. The officer asks us to pull over. We ride up behind Bart’s truck. Bart is already standing outside with his driver’s license, insurance card, and vehicle registration in hand. The officer gets out of his vehicle and approaches.

He says, “You can’t ride your bikes on this road. It’s illegal.”

We look at each other in total amazement that we had not thought about this before now.

Pete quickly says, “We are so sorry, officer. We didn’t know.”

“Well, you’ll need to get off this road now.”

Bart walks over and says, “We’ll load the bikes into my rig. These guys can ride in the truck with me.”

The officer looks at Bart’s truck then back at us. I can see he’s counting bodies and available seats in Bart’s truck. “You realize you have too many people for the number of seats in that truck.”

“Yes,” Bart says, “One rider will need to ride in the fifth wheel.” The officer is ready to challenge this notion as Bart continues. “If you want to check, it’s legal for passengers to ride in a fifth wheel because of the way it’s attached to the truck.”

The officer is not buying it. He says, “I will not allow you to do that, legal or not. One of you will have to ride with me.”

Since I am sort of the outsider, I volunteer. Carol wants Mac to take my place, but I insist. She pulls me aside and says, “Bets, let Mac ride with the officer. You shouldn’t be alone with this stranger.”

I laughed and said, “Carol, he’s a cop. He’s supposed to protect us.”

She gives me her best “mom” look, which tells me I need to concede.

After the bikes are put in the garage area of Bart’s fifth wheel, Mac heads to the patrol car, and the rest of us climb into Bart’s truck. Dolly is none too happy having to lay on the floor by our feet. How dare us for taking her comfortable seat. Dolly gives a huff making sure we knew she was disgusted.

Faith tells Dolly, “Oh hush, Dolly. You are not the princess you think you are.”

Dolly obediently lays her head down.

We make it to the Desert Eagle RV Park and help Bart and Martha get their rig setup. The officer hangs out with us for a few minutes, asking each of us where we came from. He was amazed that I had managed to ride from Aspen, Colorado, to Las Vegas taking that northern route out of Colorado.

“Young lady,” the officer says, “You are doing this ride alone?”

Before answering his question, I have to laugh at the absurdity of him calling me a young lady. I am probably older than his own mother, but I politely answer, “Yes. I know the perils of riding alone, but I’m not really alone. I have God with me.”

I can tell the officer is not pleased with me. I think, “Lighten up, mister. You are way too young to be so negative.” But I guess being a cop probably quickly ages a person. He says, “Will you be traveling with these fine people from now on?”

I look at my friends and say, “I’m not sure.”

Carol pipes up, saying, “We’ll make sure she gets to her destination, sir.”

That seems to please the officer, and he leaves. Once he’s gone, I ask, “I know you all want to stay here a while and do some gambling. I’m sort of wanting to get moving on, so maybe this is where we need to part ways.”

Carol, emphatically says, “We will NOT be allowing you to travel alone anymore. Sorry, but you are stuck with us.”

I want to protest but realize I have no backers. All of them are shaking their heads and saying, “You left time clocks back in Aspen.” They were right. Besides, I already knew how dangerous it is for a single person to travel via bicycle alone. I accepted the gift God gave me, knowing He was telling me to stay with them. Besides, I liked sleeping on their couch instead of the hard ground, and meals were a lot better when a group of us were preparing them.

We head off to the casinos. I’m not much of a gambler, but I certainly had fun people-watching. Martha and Bart weren’t much into gambling either, at least not this day. We positioned ourselves in comfy chairs by the entrance and watched the array of people walk by. There were businessmen, families, newlyweds (I won’t tell you how I know they were newlyweds. Some things do need to stay in Vegas), and a lot of people simply looking for a good time. It pains me to watch this married man take his wedding ring off and slip it into his shirt pocket. He is trolling now, looking for a good time. I say a silent prayer that he realizes his good time is back at home where his family is. God must be close by today, because the man gets a cell call just as a scantily clad woman approaches him. A smile comes on his face and I see him mouth, “Hi, sweetie. How’s Daddy’s little girl?” The woman does an about-face leaving the man alone with his daughter’s sweet voice. I said a quick “thank you” to God for being so timely with His ever-present help and guidance.

My gambling friends don’t fare as well. Mac loses five hundred dollars in blackjack, Carol loses fifty dollars at the slots, and Pete and Faith break even. I believe the man and his daughter are the big winners in Vegas today. As we leave the casino, I overhear him talking to his wife, at least I’m assuming it’s his wife, as he says he’s on his way home, that he loves her very much, and that he’d never miss a play his daughter was in. I wonder what prompted this man to get that close to the edge of infidelity, but I’m over-joyed he chooses to not stay in Vegas.
We head back to the RV park after Bart treats us all to a fabulous dinner at Emeril’s at the MGM Grand. What a treat that was. Mac states he’s in no mood to lose any more money in Vegas. He suggests we all head out on the road tomorrow morning stating, “Some things just don’t need to stay in Vegas.”

Carol says, “Yeah, like our money.”

I’m glad to be able to move on. Vegas is nice, but certainly not a place I want to spend a great deal of time. And the road was calling out to me. I fall asleep that night grateful of all of God’s blessings. He certainly knows how to keep us moving down His straight and narrow path. Thank you, God.

And in my real world, my only experience in a gambling town was when my sister, brother-in-law, and I drove out to California and stayed in Reno, Nevada, for a night. I was shocked at how many elderly people sat at slots, plunking in their coins, hoping for the big payoff. Some were in tattered pajamas, others had unkempt hair that looked like it hadn’t seen a brush or even shampoo in years, and a few actually looked lost. I felt so bad for them for they were sucked into the notion that one could get rich quick. For most of us, that just doesn’t happen. Most of us, when gambling, are simply handing over are hard-earned money to the person with all the false promises.

If you gamble for the fun of it, and I mean taking a set amount of money you are willing to part with, to go have fun with friends and family then there’s nothing wrong with gambling. But if you go with the rent money, grocery money, or even your kid’s lunch money, then you need help. Do some spiritual soul-searching for better answers on how to stretch your income.
The very definition of gambling is taking a risky action in hopes of a desired result. If you want to do something risky, try having faith. So as we continue on our path in life, leave behind the transgressions you have had and move forward with God. And as always, let’s keep going the distance. Peace, my friends.

Just a side note here: My first novel, “Going the Distance” has now been published. The book follows the same path I’m following on this blog, but the story is much different. Follow Martha and Jake as they travel from Aspen, Colorado, to Lincoln City, Oregon. Feel their emotions as they learn about each other and life along the way. You can purchase it from Amazon at this link http://www.amazon.com/dp/1500552607. Thanks, and let’s keep going the distance.

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