Saturday, July 30, 2011

John and Romans

Carbondale to Elizabethtown, IL

Hot, slow ride to Elizabethtown today. Ended up at a darling bed and breakfast called the Rose River Inn. Stayed in the Rose Room itself. Looked like something out of romantic comedy. A room in which Sandra Bullock might refuse a marriage proposal. Even the lamplight was rose colored. The proprietors were quite something as well. She in a tank top and cotton shorts with cropped red hair. He in Elvis glasses and a Harley shirt. They showed us to their pool. It was all we could do to stand up. So, we skipped it and opted for fried catfish in a "restaurant" on the water. Basically it was a pontoon boat with a roof and a deep frier. It was delicious.

We retired early. We drank lemonade in the nubby blanketed bed and fell asleel watching The Big Chill. In the morning, we were served stuffed french toast, fresh fruit and coffee. (Five dollars!!!)

Met another cyclist named JeanPaul. He had come from the East and this was the morning he had decided he had enough and he was going home. An army man and ultramarathoner. He said it was too hard. He was getting a cab and a greyhound and going home.

I'm sorry, what? You came a thousand miles without a single mountain and you have decided this is just too tough for you? You have a tattoo of running shoes on your calves. I just can't wrap my head around this. Does that make you a pansy or me superhuman? Let's go with the latter.

Elizabethtown to Sebree, KY

Rode a ferry across the Ohio River which took out about a half mile from the ride. Woohoo! Thank god for small favors. And no, this doesn't count as cheating, there is no bridge. It was nice to be on a boat for all of five minutes.

Entered Sebree at a reasonable hour. Pulled into the First Baptist Church, where we had heard tell of a bike hostel in the basement, with air hockey.

We were met by Bob and Violet, the pastor and his wife. Both in their early seventies. Bob jn a perfectly pressed plaid short sleeved shirt and Violet in cute summer cottons. They look like the neighbors of Dennis the Menace.

Bob and his beautiful grandaughter gave us a tour of the spectacular combination youth ministry center and bike hostel. A brand new fifties diner themed kitchen, shower, laundry, couches and big screen tv. Before letting us partake of this luxury, Bob wanted to discuss the book of John and Romans. We glassed over. We had just finished a six hour bike ride in 99% humidity. I shifted from foot to foot. Ten mintues later, he was still going.

"And this number, ya the chapter number
..and that is how you read the bible."

"Mmmhmm. Oh. Yah." I smiled, a squinty smile. The one that says, I love you so much and everything about you, but please let me peel of spandex, for the love of John and Romans.

He let us alone. He told us dinner was at six thirty. Dinner? Oh, why didn't you say so. I LOVE John AND Romans! Showered and put on the least offensive clothes I could find. Which, right now, include a plain white tshirt that is brown in the belly and Northface hiking pants that have been whipped with chain grease. The only way of sprucing up my hair and face is combing it down and matting it against my head and maybe throwing on some chapstick. I feel pretty. Oh so pretty.

Bob and Violet had invited their neighbor Glen over for dinner. Violet's sister also joined us. Dinner was spectacular. Homemade cornbread in a cast iron pan, bacon and bean soup, chicken, corn salad, cantelope and cobbler. Boy, oh boy.

I must admit, Bob's rather dry opening speech was not an indication of the warm and lively tone that was to follow at dinner. Violet showed us pictures and log books of all the cyclists that had passed through in the previous years. People who set out to tour the U.S. on a unicycle, a two seater (not tandem), a parapalegic who had cycled using his hands, a woman who had worked on a farm in every state as she cycled. Unbelievable.

"You have had some truly extraordinary people come through here."

"You are extraordinary, too." She said.

Violet explained to us that Glen had just lost his wife to cancer in May. She told the whole story of the growth of her tumors in grizzy detail. She let Glen finish the story.

"62 yeara we were together. And now she's gone." He cried. I cried. We looked at each other, two strangers brought together in an intimate moment because of Violet's radical honesty. Maybe it was good. Maybe she's smart. Maybe this a good way for people to cope with trauma. I don't know. But now I had my hands on an old man I had never met and we were sniffling together, wiping big fat tears into cloth table napkins.

At the end of the meal, Violet had us stand in a circle to hold hands and pray. Typically this makes me itch. Tonight, it felt good. Felt like family. Her prayers were so ernest and so full of urgency and I had already been crying over Glen's wife, it was all I could do not to explode into hiccuping tears.

"Dear god, thank you for Bob. I love him SO much." Bob closed his eyes tighter, squeezed her hand tighter and mouthed all of the words Violet spoke. After the circle was broken, we all hugged big out of breath hugs.

These people made me feel so homey and happy. I cried all the way to my matress on the youth group floor.

1 comment:

  1. Ever read _Blue Highways_ by William Least Heat Moon? I think you have a good chance of turning this blog into a book of that genre. Such a book requires a willingness to brave both inner and outer travel. You have been an engaging native guide to the highways of the heart. Much as I look forward to seeing you again, I shall miss the (mostly) daily gift of insight you have given with this journey of yours.