Archive for July, 2010

A Little Garden of Eden

It’s been over a year since I started this crazy trip. I thought I’d be further along, but I’ve realized just how big this country is. It seems like I’ve been in Montana forever with another 398 miles more to go before I get to Idaho, but the good thing is I have majestic mountains to look at to the west and south and a grand prairie to the north and east.

All in all this has been a good state to be in and riding into Big Timber Montana was no different.  My newly tricked out bike has been a true blessing. I didn’t realize how bad the old bike had gotten until I set out on the road with my new gear. And with the trailer on the back I knew that I’d have room to stop at the Little Timber Quilt shop. The staff was so friendly and helpful. I truly wanted to spend way more than I did, but knew this would become a problem with trailer room if I filled it up with tons of fabric.

One gal helping me with my selections made some great suggestions for making this traveling quilt and helped me buy the fabric needed to chart my course on this quilt. Then, in true small town hospitality, they gave me suggestions on the best places to stay and eat in town. Of course I ended up at the Grand Hotel where I enjoyed a fabulous dinner with locally grown produce and meat. The sleeping accommodations were more than I could ask for. And it was fun snooping around this fully restored 1890’s saloon. Feeling the need to get to know these people better, I chose to stay a few days longer.

I took a horseback ride from Gallatin National Forest through Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness Area. The serene feeling I got while plodding along the trail brought me closer to God than I have ever felt. The honesty and integrity of every person living in this area was right there in front of me. There were no airs put on by anyone I met. No one boasted about what they had and what others didn’t have. It was as if I rode into the Garden of Eden where everything was perfect.

But as we all know, nothing on earth is perfect. I knew that this town faced harsh winters and many were feeling the hard economic times that so many other small towns are facing. Those that weren’t hurting as bad didn’t have a whole lot, but it didn’t seem to matter to any of the residents of Big Timber. They seemed content with the lives they led. And it made me think that maybe that’s what America’s problem truly is. It’s not that the economy is so bad, but that we’ve all gotten so greedy about what we think we need to survive that it brings about discontentment.

Here was a town where the houses were nice, but none were the huge monstrosities that line the mountainsides of Aspen. Many had clothes hanging on clothes lines in back yards bringing back memories of those crisp fresh smelling sheets that my grandmother used to put on all her beds. Those were simpler times and this town was still living that way.

It is that simpler lifestyle that has brought me to this point in my trip. I realized that the feeling of closeness to God I had on that horse ride was merely that I had left behind all the things that I thought I needed to survive which ultimately became my burden. Now I’m not condemning those who have more, but what I’m saying is we need to be content with what we have and to live within our means.

And back in my real world I’ve experienced the pain of over-extending myself, but I thank God I had family who were able to help. It is that reason why I was so willing to help my sister and her husband recently when they found themselves without jobs and were unable to secure another job for months. I don’t know what Big Timber is really like, but I would hope that it has some semblance of what I envision it to be like. It would be nice if all of us were able to free ourselves of some of the material burdens we carry with us allowing us more time to spend with family and friends. It would be nice if there was not animosity between upper, middle, and lower classes of people. It would be nice if our government leaders would work together to make this the greatest nation on earth.

But this is reality and we will always have those who have and those who have not but want to have. We will always have disparity between races, religions, and politics. That’s what this earthly life is all about. We do not live in the Garden of Eden. But what we need to do is to ensure that we are not allowing our life to be a living hell. We need to be happy and content with what we have and if one wants more then we need to work for it. Riches and happiness is not a given just like respect is not a given. We get back what we give. So take some time to assess your life and ask yourself “Am I giving of myself enough? Could I be doing more to make my life a happier more fulfilling life?” And may the answers to those questions take you to a place similar to my idea of life in Big Timber Montana; to your own version of the Garden of Eden. And as always God’s love and peace to you all and let’s keep going the distance.

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Big Sky Country

(Photo courtesy of Big Sky Fishing.Com)  There’s a reason they call Montana “Big Sky Country”. There were miles and miles of sky above me along with some ominous looking clouds. I knew I needed to get to Billings as fast as I could to be in a place safer than the open road. And as it turned out those clouds did produce a tornado that day. It tore the roof off of some building. Fortunately I was beckoned into a café by the owner prior to the tornado touching down. After the storm passed and the skies cleared, the people of Billings came out of their homes and businesses to assess the damage. It was then that I saw how close knit this community is. The café owner fed me a fabulous dinner and offered to put me up in her home. I told her that I already had reservations at an RV park, thanked her for her kindness and was on my way. Or so I thought.

When I went outside to get back on my bike I noticed I had a flat tire. So back inside I went, asked if her offer was still available then asked where I could get my tire fixed. As luck would have it, her son had a friend who worked for a bike company. She gave him a quick call and before I could finish my glass of homemade lemonade her son was there with his truck and hauled my bike off to be fixed. When he returned with it I asked how much I owed for the repair. He smiled sheepishly and said “it’s free as long as you agree to something.” And as you can imagine I was hesitant to agree to an unknown. He directed me outside and to my astonishment there sat a new bike with a trailer on the back end with a big sign saying “Spoke Shop” on it. He said all I needed to do was take his new outfit on the road with their sign on it and it was mine. He went on to say that my other bike was no longer road worthy and that they could not send me out on the road in good conscience with that old bike. I graciously accepted this gift which also included a GPS and a small motor to help me get over some of those mountain passes that were still ahead of me.

I’ve met so many generous people on this trip, but none quite this generous. At this very moment Billings was my favorite town. How could it not be with the hospitality that these people have shown me. I spent the night at their home. The next day I was able to visit a few of the town’s main attractions, and tested out my newly outfitted bike. I soon found myself back on the road and heading to Laurel Montana. From Laurel you can enter Yellowstone National Park from 4 different cities. I was tempted to make a side trip through Yellowstone, but after checking my new GPS I decided to stay on my course.

I could feel the richness of the railroad history in Laurel along with its small town atmosphere. It took me back to when I was a little girl visiting my grandparents who lived in a small Nebraska farming town. I have fond memories from back then and am creating fond memories of the present. Life was good.

And in my real world as I read Jason Christensen’s blog of his actual Cycling for Change trip through some of the same country I’ve virtually ridden through, I’m convinced that my imaginary bike trip is not all that far off. For he writes about the wonderful people he and the other team members have met and the generosity of so many of them. Now we all know there probably isn’t a bike shop around that would give someone a tricked out bike outfit for nothing simply to advertise their store, but I do believe there are people out there that would show the hospitality that my imaginary café owner showed me. Jason’s blog is proof of that. And it’s proof that God’s power and word fills the hearts of many.

One can follow the C4C team’s actual trip by logging on to http://www.ccharitiescs.org , clicking on the Cycling for Change icon, then clicking on “follow Jason’s ride here”…You’ll be able to read Jason’s blog and to see some pictures of the scenery that this team is seeing for real. God is a true artist with the beauty that He has given to us.

Unfortunately many of us are harnessed with the trials and tribulations of our everyday lives so much so that we don’t take the time to see the beauty around us not only in the terrain, but in people too. Some are so bogged down with hurt and pain and loneliness that they can’t see the forest for the trees. It’s some of these very people that Catholic Charities tries to help the best we can. It’s through the generosity of our donors that allow Catholic Charities to continue our mission.

And it’s your dedication and enthusiasm that helps me to continue my virtual trip across this great nation. May God bless you all, keep the C4C bike team in your prayers, and let’s keep going the distance.

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