Posts tagged Nevada

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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Total Strangers

total strangers
I’d love to tell you all that my ride was easy since leaving Hawthorne, Nevada, but that would be a lie. The temperatures feel like 150 degrees. My friends and I have been stopping a lot to hydrate and just trying to keep from getting heat stroke.

At one point, none of us was okay to ride on, but we were lucky enough to find a nice farmer who allowed us to stay on his property. His wife fried up a bunch of chicken and served it with mashed potatoes, gravy, and fresh out-of-the-garden green beans. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. They even allowed us to use their bathroom to shower. It amazes me that total strangers could be that hospitable. I know I’m not that way. I was raised to be cautious of strangers, almost to the point of ignoring strangers. And growing up in the city, that was sound advice coming from my parents, but I doubt it’s truly the way our Lord wants us to live our lives.

I’m not saying “throw caution to the wind”, but I do think we’ve all become too self-absorbed in our own lives to even notice the needs of others. Luckily, this bike trip was teaching me to be more open to strangers. Not just those who could help me, but also those I could help.

The next day, after Bart tries to pay the farmer and his wife for their hospitality, we head back out on the road. The weather is on our side with overcast skies and cooler temperatures. We make our way to Tonopah, Nevada. We find the Tonopah Station RV Park, a small rv park that looks more like an extension to the parking lot of the casino it’s attached to, and get checked in for the evening.

That evening, a couple of the young local kids are having fun tearing through the parking lot in their souped-up cars. Carol insists Mac call the cops. He doesn’t. Instead, he, Pete, and Bart walk down to them and start talking “shop.” One can see there is an instant connection with the young men. The young men’s arms are waving as they describe all the things they had done to their cars. Hoods are popped open as each car owner points out how great their engines are. Mac, Pete, and Bart absorb it all, and then invite them to have dinner with us.

Carol and Martha are about to protest when Faith quietly says, “You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.”

Carol and Martha are not pleased with their friend’s astute observation, but they accept it. We all head into the rig to make up the salads and other side dishes we’d be sharing with our dinner guests. And, as it so happens, these boys, or should I say young men, were practicing for a race they’d be in in a few weeks. The owner of the RV park knew the boys, and had agreed they could practice in his lot. My only thought about all of this was it would have been nice if the owner had let us know about this when we checked in. That way, we wouldn’t have assumed they were simply being an annoyance to weary travelers.

As the evening wears on, I am surprised at the stories these two young men have. One of them, I think he said his name was Derek, is 24 and is taking a break from college before entering med school. To look at him, you would never guess he had the desire to heal people. And to watch him drive that car, one would think he was on a death mission. But Derek was passionate about healing people. We shared our story about the man who died in Hawthorne, Nevada. This story had Derek’s undivided attention. I could tell he was going to make a great doctor with a great bedside manner. The other lad, Mike, (I remember his name because it’s the same as my nephew’s), just turned 23. His father had been killed in Viet Nam. Mike is the youngest of six kids.

He laughs and says, “Yeah, I was sort of an oops, but my mom is sure glad she had me since I’m the only one who hung around here. She depends on me a lot.”

I silently think, “Yeah, I know how that feels.”

My mind wanders off to the moment in my life when my mother had told me I was her oops. I’m not the youngest, but I was unexpected. Yet I was the one who was there for her and Dad for many years. I got some help caring for them from siblings, but there were many times that dealing with their elder years was left totally up to me. I wonder if Mike realizes what he faces in the future since his mother is a year older than me. She’s not exactly a senior yet, but she’s knocking on that door. Will their relationship remain solid or will they become strangers to each other as age pulls seniors into a sometimes silent world?

After dinner, our two young friends thanked us for our hospitality and went on their way. All of us were happy we had not remained total strangers with these two fine young men.

And as I lie in bed that night thinking about Derek and Mike, I thought, “I really have to be better about putting myself out there like Bart, Mac, and Pete did. Had they not gone over to talk friendly with Derek and Mike, we would have never met them. In fact, we probably would have spent the night worrying that they were just a couple of punks who were out to rob us blind.”

And in my real life, I don’t often have to go over to the Marian House Soup Kitchen while their guests are waiting in line, but when I do, I try to treat those I come in contact with, with the respect they deserve. Some are so introverted that you couldn’t get them to look at you if you tried, but others will smile and say “hi.” I will always acknowledge them and give them a smile back. I don’t always succeed at not assuming a total stranger could be dangerous. There are still times I find myself pulling my purse in closer to me, crossing a street to avoid a possible confrontation, or simply being like some of those introverted soup kitchen guests. But I am working at not being this way because I don’t want to meet my Maker some day and have Him say, “Betsy, do you remember the time when I was down and out and you ignored me?”

So as we go through life, try not to keep everyone we come in contact with a total stranger. Some of those strangers may play a big role in your life, an unexpected life-changing role. God bless and let’s keep going the distance.

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Choices in Life – How Many Do We Really Need?

life choicesThe weather in Nevada is starting to heat up, so it’s decided we shouldn’t push ourselves too hard. Hawthorne, Nevada, is the next town, but I fear there will be little there for us to choose from. I find that to be somewhat true once we arrive in Hawthorne, but I also discover that life doesn’t really require a lot of choices. We humans think we do, but when you stop and allow God to show you the way, the playing field becomes very small. And you discover your life is easier to handle; less decisions that need to be made.

Finding an RV park was the first easy choice for the day. After checking the ratings of the various campgrounds, it was decided the Whiskey Flats RV Park was the place for us. It rated high in reviews, had decent size pads, and the bathhouse was highly rated by previous visitors. AND they were close enough for pizza deliver, which we all decided sounded like a good P L A N, another good choice for the day. Plus it was located right off the highway we were on. One really couldn’t ask for more.

But then God must have decided that we all needed to make a few more choices in life for He gave us a big one to make. Once the fifth wheel was setup, Bart did his usual visiting with the neighbors. The ones right next to us was a young couple with two young kids. The kids were fascinated with Dolly, and took her for many walks. The poor dog probably just wanted to rest, but Faith was good about letting the kids take Dolly around the park as long as they promised to pick up after her.

The neighbors next to this couple were an elderly couple who didn’t seem to be all that friendly, but Bart managed to get both of them to come out of their rig and sit a spell with him. Oh, how Bart reminded me of my father, who was always called the camp diplomat. I have such fond memories of that man. He truly had a heart of gold.

Well, we discover that the husband had emphysema and a bad heart. I wondered why they were still full-time rving but figured that was none of my business. Bart, on the other hand, simply asked, “So why are you here? Doesn’t the dry heat exasperate your condition?”

The man’s wife said, “My husband grew up here. He wants to die here.”

I stood there in disbelief. Why would they choose to live in an RV when the man was dying? I understood him wanting to die here, but why not rent or buy a place. Then I hear her say, “This isn’t where I want to be, but I’ve chosen to give my husband his last wish. When he passes, I can simply walk away from this rig and head back to Ohio where our children live.”

Little did I know that night would be our neighbor’s last night on earth. We are awakened to sirens. The EMTs are putting our neighbor into the ambulance as we walk over to see if his wife needs any assistance.

She meekly says, “If you would be so kind as to drive me to the hospital. I’m not sure I’m up to driving right now.”

Of course, Bart’s decision to drive this woman is an easy decision to make. Martha and I tag along, just in case the woman needs a woman’s shoulder to cry on. I couldn’t believe how stoic the woman was as she watches her husband take his last breath. It almost seems like she’s happy to be rid of the burden of caring for her husband, but then she chooses to change my mind. Okay, so maybe God chose to change my mind, for what I see next is the woman gently kissing her dead husband’s forehead and whispering, “You are at peace now, Bear. No more treatments, no more surgeries, no more pain and suffering. I’ll love you forever, and I’ll see you someday down the road. Count on that.”

I thought, “This woman was living a living hell, watching her husband die a slow death. I had no right judging what was going on in her heart when she stood there watching him die. Her love for him far exceeds any love I’ve probably had for anyone, for she chose to give him his last wish.”

Then I think about how Jesus chose to honor His Father’s wishes by dying on the cross to save all of us. Would I ever have the courage to make such noble choices in life? I doubt it until we all got back to the RV park.

I give the woman a big hug and say, “If I could only learn to love just a fraction of how much you loved your husband. I’ve pretty much lead a selfish life, only thinking of me.”

The woman says, “Honey, that is an out and out lie. You have given of yourself over and over. I’ve read it in your blogs. You are giving of yourself with each person you’ve come in contact with on this noble ride you’ve chosen to take. You are doing God’s will.”

I stood there in awe of the words she spoke about me. I’d never thought of my trip as being noble, and I especially didn’t think I was doing God’s will. But when I thought about all the people I’ve met along the way, I thought that maybe God was working through me somehow.

It became obvious that we were all tired, so we headed back to catch a little more sleep before morning. And even though we were up early, our widowed neighbor was already gone. I wondered about her husband’s funeral. Had it been his choice for her to leave before he was buried? Or maybe he was to be cremated and his remains sent back to Ohio. I would never know the answers to those questions, and I knew it basically didn’t matter because those were their choices.

After a hearty breakfast, we left Hawthorne behind. I could feel God surrounding us with His loving hands. God was still directing us, guiding us, making our choices in life easier to make. Life was good.

And in my real world, me and my siblings have had to make some hard choices the past couple of weeks. My mother is suffering and dying from COPD. Because she is in the end-stages, we had to choose to put her in a nursing home where she would get better care and would be safer than living at home. This was not a choice my mother would have made for she wanted to die at home, but unfortunately, it was a choice God made for us. For whatever reason, God did not want my mother dying at home.

It has been a difficult time for my brother and his family. They are still in quite a bit of denial. My sister’s heart is heavy, knowing Mom’s time is drawing near. Me, well I’m pretty much like the woman in the above story that lost her husband. I’ve watched Mom try to recover from the loss of the only man in her life, my father, who died ten years ago. I watched as she mourned the loss of her younger brother last year. I’ve watched as her body continued to fail with each passing year.

She had made choices in life to not exercise and to rely a little too much on prescription drugs to make her aches and pains go away. Did these choices cause her to fail enough where she’ll be dying in a nursing home? I don’t know, but I do know that when she takes her last breath on earth, she will be reunited with her soul mate. No longer will she be struggling to breathe; no longer will she have to worry about money, or what her kids are up to. Her body will be healthy and vibrant again.

All of this makes me wonder what we’ll look like to our other family members should we be lucky enough to make it to heaven. Makes me think that I need to be wise about the future choices I make, so that someday I, too, will be reunited with the rest of my family.

So as we continue down life’s path, make the best choices possible for everyone, not just yourself. And let’s keep going the distance. God Bless.

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