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Introduction I’m 67 years old. I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis 22 years ago. Why would I commit myself to ride my bicycle 10,000 miles this year? Before I attempt to answer that question, I should tell you that Man of LaMancha is my favorite play, and Don Quixote is my favorite fictional character. I should also tell you that since I was 14, I have been waging my one-man war against racism and religious intolerance. I had just heard my pastor preach a beautiful sermon about loving all people that Sunday morning when I was 14. As I left the church I overhead two older men. One said, “If them niggers ever try to come in this church, I’ll beat ‘em back with a baseball bat.” The other said, “Me, too.” How love and hate could live together in the minds and hearts of church-going people was a mystery to me. To help it not be so became the mission of my life. So in a Baptist college for 30 years I taught Race Relations. My church appointed me Ambassador to Other Communities of Faith. One fateful morning when I was 45, my doctor delivered his devastating diagnosis. “You have Multiple Sclerosis. It’s a Damnable disease, and you can’t be active.” I quit everything except teaching my class and going to church. Depression and thoughts of suicide lived with me. Then one day three years into my diagnosis, I saw my son’s old bicycle in a corner of the garage. “Get on that bike and ride.” That thought was so clear and urgent, I thought it was audible. And I discovered my doctor was wrong. My MS means I must be active. I began to ride that bike to class and to church. Then came another audible thought: “Ride your bicycle across America.” Three more years passed. Then I rode from Orlando to Seattle to LA: 5,126 miles in 105 days. Alone and without money. Asking for a sandwich, a drink of water, a bed for the night. When I was back, a Klansman got elected to the Louisiana Legislature. My students and I started HateBusters and the Governor of Louisiana invited us to come help the state redeem itself. We lead the city of Baton Rouge on a hundred-mile bike ride. We began to be invited all across the country to help people learn to like each other and to organize bike rides. I left the college to give HateBusters all my time. I discovered that if I ride, I can run; if I don’t, I can’t walk. The more I ride, the better my health. Being healthy, though, is not sufficient reason for living. Good health is good only in that it makes possible some larger purpose. That purpose, for me, is HateBusters. Bike riding is the only medicine I take for my MS. So in the year 2003, I have super-sized my prescription for what ails me. I want to ride 10,000 miles. I want to do the bulk of my riding around my town of Liberty, Missouri. I can ride about 125 miles on a good day. So from my home in Liberty, I plan this year to ride 125 miles in all directions, taking me to the outer limits of what I call Greater Liberty. North to Creston, Iowa; south to Carthage, Missouri; west to Manhattan, Kansas; east to Columbia, Missouri. Stopping in these places and other towns I pass through to visit with folks, teach bike safety to the children and teach my book, How To Like People Who Are not Like You. Don Quixote says, “Too much sanity may be madness, and the greatest madness of all may be to see the world as it is, and not as it should be.” The world should be a place where people can go anywhere at anytime and talk to anyone about anything and feel safe. Who’s right is the wrong question until we get to know one another. That’s the way I see the world. I want to ride my bike into the 114 counties in parts of four states in the place I call Greater Liberty, and I want to share my vision of the world with all who want to hear. I long to inspire and encourage people. I also hope by my riding to raise $100,000 for the MS Society of Mid-America and $10,000 for HateBusters Ed Chasteen December 16, 2003 2 Greater Liberty From Physical and Spiritual Restraints Table of Contents Introduction .................................................................................................................................... 1 The Rose Parade Miles 0-10 January 1 ...................................................................................................... 5 The Mill Inn Miles 10-50 January 4 ........................................................................................................ 5 Behind Already Miles 85-145 January 8 .................................................................................................. 6 Fourth of July Pass Miles 270-320 January 15 ........................................................................................... 7 No Ordinary Year Miles 465-515 January 21 ............................................................................................. 7 The Smallest School Miles 710-760 January 28 ......................................................................................... 8 Dorothy Comes to Mind Miles 900-950 February 2 ................................................................................... 9 Dad’s Favorite Meal Miles 950-1000 February 3 ....................................................................................... 9 Raymond’s Gift Miles 1555-1655 February 27.......................................................................................10 In Praise of James Milliff Miles 1655-1725 February 28 .........................................................................11 Brother Dominic Miles 1755-1785 March 4.............................................................................................12 Rayville Baking Company Miles 2230-2260- March 22 ..........................................................................12 Laura Has Me Going in Circles Miles 2260-2270 March 23...................................................................13 A Cookie for the Hound Miles 2470-2535 March 31 ...............................................................................14 The DQ Award April 26 .........................................................................................................................15 Tornado in Our Town May 4 .....................................................................................................................16 Can’t Circle the Square Today Miles 3370-3390 May 9 ..........................................................................17 A Ride By Greeting Miles 3390-3410 May 11 ..........................................................................................18 Catricks..........................................................................................................................................................20 Flats and the Law of Short Intervals Miles 3530-3655 May 16-18 ..........................................................21 Mormon Missionaries Miles 3705-3775 May 22 .....................................................................................22 Bike Safety May 28 ...................................................................................................................................23 A Century One Day Miles 3980-4080 May 31 .........................................................................................24 20 miles to Orrick ..................................................................................................................................25 13 Miles to Richmond ...........................................................................................................................25 10 Miles to Rayville ..............................................................................................................................26 12 Miles to Lawson ...............................................................................................................................26 15 Miles to Watkin’s Mill .....................................................................................................................27 15 Miles to Kearney ..............................................................................................................................28 15 Miles to Liberty ................................................................................................................................28 A Reason to Live ...........................................................................................................................................30 My Letter to Marvin Miles 4420-4500 June 17 ........................................................................................31 If Not Coincidence Miles 4535-4545 June 20 ..........................................................................................32 Buy a Mile Miles 4545-4615 June 21......................................................................................................32 The Bridge Is Out Miles 4760-4840 June 26 ............................................................................................33 Oma’s Kitchen Miles 5115-5180 July 2 ................................................................................................35 Sarah’s Table Miles 5256-5275 July 4 ....................................................................................................35 The Churchyard Dog Miles 5335-5420 July 7..........................................................................................36 Tenderloin Sandwich as Art Miles 5420-5480 July 8 ...............................................................................37 Sweet Tea Miles 5500—5555 July 10.....................................................................................................37 Margaret Won’t Go Home Miles 5555-5605 July 12 ...............................................................................37 Tom’s Funeral Miles 5605-5635 July 13 ..............................................................................................38 That Question Again Miles 5635-5710 July 14 ........................................................................................39 Matching Treks Miles 5710-5775 July 15 ..............................................................................................39 The Little School That Did Miles 5775-5830 July 16 ..............................................................................39 A Blessing Missed Miles 5830-5915 July 18 ...........................................................................................40 3 JJ’s Miles 5915-5955 July 19 ..................................................................................................................41 Princess Laura and Papa July 20...............................................................................................................41 The Chocolate Enchilada Miles 6100-6200 July 25 ................................................................................42 Brother John Miles 6200-6220 July 26 ..................................................................................................42 Way to Go Jack July 28 ...........................................................................................................................43 When I Come to Gravel Miles 6220-6290 July 29 ...................................................................................43 Mother’s 90th Birthday Miles 6290-6295 July 30-August 6 .....................................................................43 When Laura Remembers Harry Potter August 4 .......................................................................................44 Queen of Angles Miles 6365-6405 August 10 ........................................................................................45 The Plattsburg Rotary Club Miles 6405-6495 -August 11 ........................................................................45 The Green Is Gone Miles 6520-6600 August 13 ..................................................................................46 Is Your Society Content? Miles 6605-6665 August 16 ............................................................................46 A Horse in the Cafeteria Miles 6665-6710 August 18 ..............................................................................47 Patrick Bought A Bike Miles 6710-6755 August 19 ................................................................................47 Dave Biscari to the Rescue Miles 6755-6770 August 20 .........................................................................48 Where the Sidewalk Ends Miles 6770-6810 August 21 ...........................................................................49 St. Francis of Assisi Miles 6810-6870 August 22 ....................................................................................49 JD Rides with Me Miles 6870-6880 August 23 ........................................................................................50 Peckerwood August 23rd .......................................................................................................................50 Camelot-Brigadoon Miles 6880-6930 August 25 ....................................................................................51 Drought Miles 6930-7030 August 27 .....................................................................................................51 Four Ears of Corn Miles 7030-7115 August 28 ........................................................................................52 The North Kansas City Rotary Club Miles 7115-7145 August 29 ...........................................................52 A Grilled Cheese Sandwich for Laura Miles 7145-7175 August 30 ........................................................54 Labor Day at Mill Inn September 1 ...........................................................................................................54 I Want to Want to Ride Miles 7175-7185 September 2 ............................................................................55 Pandolfi’s Deli Miles 7185-7195 September 3 ......................................................................................55 To Fubbler’s with Patrick Miles 7195-7270 September 4 ........................................................................55 The MS-150 Miles 7270-7420 September 6-7.......................................................................................56 The Human Family Reunion September 10...............................................................................................58 Scenery on a Detour Miles 7500-7515 September 11-20 .........................................................................59 Write as I Ride Miles 7665-7740 September 25 ....................................................................................60 Inspired by Robert Frost Miles 7740-7795 September 26 ........................................................................60 Church of the Open Road Miles 7795-7825 September 28 ......................................................................61 Ansare and Yahya Miles 7825-7855 September 29..................................................................................62 JJ’s and Sarah’s Table Miles 7855-7930 October 1..................................................................................63 Holly Springs, Mississippi Miles 7945-7985 October 3-5........................................................................63 Arson at the Lumber Company Miles 8060-8120 October 8 ....................................................................64 A Clem’s Connection Miles 8120-8170 October 9 ..................................................................................65 Alaska and Texas Miles 8170-8200 October 10 .......................................................................................65 Rich Is out of Town Miles 8200-8260 October 11 ...................................................................................66 When Frank Was a Boy Miles 8470-8520 October 17 .............................................................................66 Breakfast with Dale and Emma Miles 8520-8570 October 18 .................................................................66 A Perfect French Fry Miles 8570-8750 October 19-21 ............................................................................67 Nature’s Vault of Precious Colors Miles 8750-8825 October 22 .............................................................67 Floating Uphill Miles 8825-8910 October 23 ........................................................................................68 If a Customer Drops a Coin Miles 8910-9105 October 29-31 ..................................................................69 Our First Saturday Miles 9105-9150 November 1....................................................................................69 My Heart in My Throat Miles 9150-9250 November 3 ............................................................................70 I Hope You Win the Lottery Miles 9250-9360 November 4 ....................................................................71 Beethoven’s Ode to Joy Miles 9360-9420 November 6 ..........................................................................72 Our Second Saturday Miles 9420-9460 November 8 ...............................................................................72 Coach Said I Had Heart Miles 9460-9505 November 10 .........................................................................74 Ridin’ in the Rain Miles 9505-9555 November 11...................................................................................74 A Few Rounds with Mike Tyson Miles 9555-9630 November 12 ...........................................................74 Carol Miller to the Rescue November 13 ..................................................................................................75 4 A Mack Truck on My Tail Miles 9630-9660 November 14 .....................................................................75 Our Third Saturday Miles 9660-9685 November 15 ................................................................................76 Laura’s Donation November 16 ................................................................................................................77 My Back Tire Comes off Miles 9685-9715 November 17 .......................................................................77 Called a Tow Truck Lately? Miles 9715-9725 November 18 .................................................................78 Jesse James and Sugar Plum Miles 9725-9810 November 19 ..................................................................79 The Round Table Miles 9810-9940 November 20-21 ..............................................................................80 Our Fourth Saturday Miles 9940-9970 November 22 ..............................................................................81 With One Week To Go ..................................................................................................................................81 The Chili Dinner Sunday, November 23 ...................................................................................................82 Ring Those Bells Miles 9970-9985 November 25...................................................................................82 Our Fifth Saturday Miles 9985-10,000 November 29 ...............................................................................83 A Ride in Retrospect .....................................................................................................................................85 Jack Miles Sums It Up ...................................................................................................................................85 5 Greater Liberty From Physical and Spiritual Restraints The Rose Parade Miles 0-10 January 1 Bobbie and I have bleacher seats at about the halfway point of the two-hour parade. Sweeping into view from our right at about 9:30 come the grand marshals of the Rose Parade, Bill Cosby and Art Linkletter. The floats are breathtaking. Thousands of live flowers, in colors and shapes that would amaze and delight even Ebenezer Scrooge. For years Bobbie has watched the Rose Parade on TV and longed to see it in person. We can’t quite believe that at last we are really here. We went yesterday to the big barn where several floats were being assembled and were awed by the flowers and the ingenuity that filled the place. When the parade is over, we grab one of the many free buses and get off at the beach. The two of us rent a bicycle surrey, and sitting side by side on a metal couch beneath a metal awning, we pedal along the bike path that runs the length of the beach. To come from Missouri in January and ride along a California beach is not something two little kids growing up in little Texas towns ever expected to do. Our time in paradise is too short. A superb seafood lunch at a restaurant along the beach. Wandering through enticing little shops, a harbor cruise, a walk though a gigantic, awe inspiring aquarium and stopping the bicycle to linger longer at a picturesque spot. Then we must be back at our hotel to join those we have come with. The longest journey begins with the smallest step. That this proverb has been attributed to people from different cultures testifies to the universal recognition that even the tiniest movement in the desired direction is to be celebrated. Only 10 of the 10,000 miles I have pledged to ride my bicycle do I accomplish here along this California beach. But I think no journey ever had a more auspicious launch. This morning the Rose Parade. Tomorrow Adventure Land, the new section of Disneyland. And between the two, 10 miles of bicycle heaven. The Mill Inn Miles 10-50 January 4 Breakfast at the Mill Inn. One of the great joys of coming quietly into small towns on my bicycle is the discovery of these outposts of rural ambrosia: biscuits and gravy, short stacks with sausage, home- made pie with mountains of meringue, warm cinnamon rolls with melted butter. Hardly the fare of world- class bikers, but certainly the comfort food of choice for those who remember their mother’s kitchen. My great sadness after years of riding is the long list of obituaries: Mary’s Kitchen in Richmond, The Northside Café in Lathrop, Rosie’s in Holt, The Country Crockery Inn in Mosby. And the list goes on. Now Kay Stewart tells me that Mill Inn is on life support. “If we charge more, people won’t come. If we don’t, we can’t pay to get help.” For 10 years Kay waited tables at the truck stop in Kearney. When her husband, Charlie, got sick, Kay needed to be nearer, so she took a job at Mill Inn in Excelsior Springs. She would come in early, work hard, go home to check on Charlie, come back, work hard, go again to see about Charlie, then come back to close up. Charlie died. Kay had a heart by-pass. Three weeks she was off work. Customers called to see about her. Some sent money. Back at work, Kay couldn’t lift. The walking helped. Being here helped more. The widow who owns Mill Inn fell ill. Kay became manager. Seven days a week now she is here. Only on Christmas Eve can she get off to go to the church near her home. So the pastor and some of the members drop by the restaurant to see how she is. Some 30 people work here. “They all know we won’t fire them,” Kay says. “We need them more than they need us. They know we know they can make more money at McDonald’s or up the street at The Elms. This is the only place I ever worked where you won’t get fired if you don’t show up. We don’t fire anybody.” If one of the regular customers doesn’t come in for three or four days, someone from Mill Inn will call to see about them. The local funeral home sometimes calls to report that a customer has died. Waitresses give money to down-and-out regulars. 6 The demise of small town cafes doesn’t seem an urgent problem. No candidate for national office has a platform plank to address the issue. But something precious lives in these places where people come for home cooking and the feeling of home. With their passing, things simple and decent recede. Our communities and our country are in no ways better when their numbers are fewer. Were any leader to emerge with a plan to rescue small town cafes, they might have turned a key to keep our national character as we picture it in Fourth of July speeches and Norman Rockwell paintings Behind Already Miles 85-145 January 8 Only a week into the new year, and I’m behind already. Two hundred miles every week I need to ride if I’m to make my 10,000 by year’s end. Here it is January 8 and I’ve put in 145. The weather’s been like spring. Today’s high is a forecast 68. It’s in the 30s when I leave home and I’m wearing four layers. I pedal out to Chandler Baptist Church where Rich Groves is waiting. By a circuitous country route we arrive at the Mill Inn about 9:15 for biscuits and gravy. Manager Kay Stewart pours our coffee. I reach for a menu and knock Rich’s coffee in his lap. Lucky he’s wearing his water proof suit against the morning chill. Offers protection also against hot coffee. We’re due in Lawson at Catrick’s Café at 11 to meet Marvin Wright. So we forgo our usual short stack which customarily follows the biscuits and gravy. Out of Excelsior along Salem Road we turn right just past Salem Church. Rich had seen on a map that Ray County Line Road runs parallel to Salem. We’re always looking for new roads. But we wind up on Ash and Oak and other roads that are aesthetically pleasing but cannot bring us to Lawson. Back to Salem road just beside the church we come after half an hour. And I place my third call of the morning to Marvin to rearrange our meeting time. As we dismount our bikes in front of Catrick’s about 11:20, Marvin comes from across the street where he has been to visit another banker. Since retiring as a teacher, Marvin had tried his hand at a variety of jobs. For the past year he has been helping a new bank establish itself. I’ve been anxious for Marvin and Rich to meet. I’ve been telling each of them about the other for some time. I tell Rich that Marvin was the first person I told about my plans to ride across the county back in 1987. I tell Marvin that Rich is my bike riding buddy. Now they will know each other. All’s right this day with my world. Back at the Mill Inn over breakfast I had shown the Mickey Card to Rich. Now over lunch at Catrick’s, I show it to Marvin. I just had 2000 of the cards printed at RC Printing in Liberty. The front of the card is a full color picture of the Mickey Mouse Trophy Disneyland gave me when I arrived there after my cross-country ride. The back of the card explains the audacious plan I have devised for the year 2003. This is what it says: I’m an old man. I was diagnosed years ago with Multiple Sclerosis. Since 1986, I have ridden the MS-150, a 150-mile, two-day bicycle ride to raise money for MS. Since 1988, I have taken HateBusters to places across America. I have convinced myself that bike riding is the only medicine I need to hold off the ravages of MS. I have also convinced myself that connecting people across racial and religious lines is the purpose for my life. Therefore I have dreamed up an impossible project that combines bike riding and busting hate. I will ride the MS-HB-10,000. Ten thousand miles on my bike. My goal is to raise $100,000 in pledges to the MS Society and $10,000 for HateBusters. To contribute to MS, make checks to MS-10,000, Box 442, Liberty, MO 64069. To contribute to HateBusters, make checks to HB-10,000 : Box 442, Liberty, MO 64069. All gifts are tax deductible. I gave 10 Mickey cards to Rich. Now I give 10 to Marvin. I ask them to put them on their desks at work and to give one to every person who sees Mickey’s picture and asks about it. I plan to carry the cards with me all the time as I ride and to ask everyone I meet if they will take ten cards and pass them around to people who see them and express an interest. I don’t really know how many miles I will have ridden by year’s end or how much money I will have raised for Multiple Sclerosis and HateBusters. I may fall short of all my goals. But it won’t be for lack of trying. From Lawson, Rich and I pedal to Watkins Mill and round the lake on the bike path. Then back by little used roads past farms and cows and ponds. One road has been recently graveled on the side we need to ride. Loose gravel and skinny tires make steering impossible and falls likely, so I ride the wrong side, staining to hear cars approaching over every hill. None come. Life is good. 7 At different times through out the day, I have stripped off layers of clothes. By 1:30, somewhere on a country road, I am down to T-shirt and shorts. In January! In Missouri! By 3 PM I am home. Sixty miles today on my bike. Another wonderful day in Greater Liberty. Fourth of July Pass Miles 270-320 January 15 Even with the temperature hovering near zero, I prefer to be on the road. But muscles and gears do not welcome arctic conditions and find annoying ways to make their displeasure known. If I am to ride the 10,000 miles I dream of riding this year, I’ll have to average 30 miles a day. I can average 15 miles per hour on the road in the summer. Winter weather slows me to ten, but the warmth and the lack of hills in the Mabee Center raise me to 20. So at the Mabee Center I can do twice the miles in half the time. The downside? The scenery! Rows of stationary bikes and weight machines of every size and shape. Users of all ages and both sexes coming and going and working their bodies. An aesthetically pleasing environment for a short time. But driven here day-after-day by cold and snow the sameness of it all brings on boredom. Unless! Unless I shut my eyes and let my mind escape to other places. If riding a stationary bike has any advantage over a road bike it is that on the one that doesn’t go anywhere, I can shut by eyes. With my eyes shut, the Mabee Center has my body but not my mind. If I don’t actually see anything I can imagine everything. I can even choose not to hear the radio music that wafts through the place, instead remembering the sounds of 18-wheelers coming up behind me or the high-pierced shrill of red-tail hawks soaring overhead. One minute I can be riding across the high plains desert of Wyoming and Idaho and remembering Red Cloud who led his people here. Or I can be dodging potholes and other bikers as I ride the streets of Lanzhou with Tao Jianling, my Chinese student. I can be approaching Bert and Ernie’s in Plattsburg or Clem’s in Kearney or the Old Country Crockery Café in the Mosby flats across from Pour Boy. In my mind these outposts of rural ambrosia still can live, though in real life they no longer exist. One moment the Grand Teton looms over me. The next, I’m riding the Mississippi Trace. Rain starts to fall as I leave Kellogg for the 37-mile ride to Couer d'Alene. As I ride, the rain comes down harder. And colder. Fourth of July Pass lies between Kellogg and Couer d'Alene, and the ascent is so deceptively simple that I am shocked when I am at the top and about to go down. Sitting at the summit and looking down the mountain through the drizzling rain, my heart is in my throat and a knot in my stomach. I don't want any part of what I see, but I have no choice Just over the summit, the highway is torn to pieces. Under Construction: that's what the sign says. Obstacle Course: that's how I read it. Traffic is narrowed to two lanes rather than four. No shoulder. Hard rain. Slick pavement. Logging trucks, semis, motor homes and countless cars lurching by as I fight to hold my bike to the foot-wide strip of road available to me while braking hard to keep from plummeting out of control down the mountain. To my right, just inches from me: debris, rocks, sand, a guard rail, all of it ready to spill my bike and me onto the road if I make a single mistake. To my left, inches away, that caravan of 18 wheelers and vacationers rumbles by. Should I veer a few inches off course to the left, I'm a dead man. Down that mountain for half-a-mile or so I follow that ribbon-wide path, disaster to either side. Then comes the four-mile obstacle course. Marker cones, long concrete barriers set up to channel traffic away from the construction and into two narrow lanes, and all the while the road is twisting to follow the natural contours of the land. Wow! Riding at the Mabee Center can be nerve-wracking. No Ordinary Year Miles 465-515 January 21 I’m 115 miles behind. I’m hoping to average 30 miles a day, every day this year. So as I write these words on January 21, I should have ridden 630 miles, when, in fact, I’ve ridden 515. I can still make 1000 by the 36th day of the year, however. That day will be February 5, and if I make that date, I will have ridden one-tenth of the distance in one-tenth of the year. If I ride 10 out of the next 15 days and average 50 miles per day, I will be back on schedule. 8 Actually, I expect to behind schedule coming into April. The black ice that lurks about on the road in the Missouri winter has taken me down before. With no warning I’ve lost all traction and steering and have fallen hard on my hip and elbow. Nothing ever has broken, but weeks have passed before the pain and soreness left and I could again pedal freely. The stationary bicycle in my basement numbs my mind. Even in the dead of winter, I prefer the open road, and in an ordinary year, that’s where I would be. But this is no ordinary year. I have publicly committed myself to ride 10,000 miles. I can come out of winter a little behind schedule and make up the distance when the weather is warmer and the days longer. But if I injure myself on a winter road and cannot ride for weeks, I will have no chance. So every winter morning early I drive to the Mabee Center and climb aboard one of their many stationary bikes. With friends and former students coming and going, riding bikes and lifting weights, with music and mirrors and people talking, the place has little of the feel of my basement bike and more the ambiance of the small town cafes to which my road bike always brings me. I don’t want to be too far behind when April comes. With long hours of daylight and warm to hot weather, I can put in 75 to 100 mile days. Three-tenths of this year will have passed on April 18, Good Friday. To be on schedule, I should have ridden 3,000 miles by that day. If I am no more than a few hundred miles behind, I can make those up in spring and summer. I’m hoping to come out of September a few hundred miles ahead of schedule. October and November are pleasant times to be on the road, and 50-mile days bring me to small town cafes and conversations with local farmers about this year’s weather and crops. If I can make it to Thanksgiving just a little ahead of schedule, I think I can maintain my 30-mile average through Christmas and the end of the year. I expect that bike riding and Salvation Army bell ringing will occupy me full time from Thanksgiving on. Everywhere I ride I will be handing out my Mickey Cards. The Smallest School Miles 710-760 January 28 “The Smallest AAA School in Missouri” That’s what the sign says in front of the Missouri City School. The handsome white limestone building sits at the intersection of old 210 Highway and Route J on the eastern edge of Missouri City. Highway 210 climbed a long and winding hill and came through the town until a couple of years ago. New 210 by passes the town. The only east-west road through Missouri City is now traveled only now and then by the couple of hundred people who live here. The businesses along side 210 were shuttered years ago. The school, a post office and two churches are the only signs of community life remaining. But that school is a magnet. With the guidance of Jay Jackson, Missouri City School was featured in Reader’s Digest a few years ago as a shining example of all that could be right and good in small town education. That good publicity enticed a big city school to lure Jay away. But his heart didn’t go with him, and soon he was back. “Is Jay in?” I ask the young woman in the office as I step inside from the cold. “He’s gone to drive the bus,” she says. Glancing at the clock on the wall, she adds, “He’ll be back about 3:30. Would you like to wait?” I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep. It’s 13 miles here by bike from my house. I need to pedal on toward Orrick before I turn back toward home today. It’s three o’clock now, and dark will come shortly after five. “No, I must head on down the road. Would you give this Mickey Card to Jay? He’s a friend. He will understand.” “Yes, I will.” She reaches for the card. And smiles as she sees it. Huge flocks of Canada Geese wing through the gray sky as I pedal east. Wave after wave of V- formations come from the south and disappear into the low sky way off to the north, my left. The stubble of corn stalks and the bare branches of trees against a leaden sky expose the gothic beauty of winter and make me glad that I have ventured this day from the comfort of my basement study. Dressed in thermal layers and wearing insulated mittens, only my toes are cold. I can ball up my hands inside my mittens and restore warmth to my fingers. And I have tried various shoe and pedal covers to keep my toes warm. None work as well as I would like, and for a while when I dismount the bike, my feet feel like ice and I clomp around like Frankenstein. I am strangely grateful for these physical sensations that come from biking in all kinds of weather. Heat, cold, burning sun, rain, snow, fierce head wind, buffeting cross wind, welcome tail wind, life-sucking humidity, parching dryness: I love them all. They prove I can feel. That I am sensitive to what’s around me. That I’m alive. 9 Ice! The only condition that can keep me off the road. On winter mornings vigilance is required. And prudence. If there is a chance of black ice, I don’t venture out. I’ve been laid low too many times and put out of commission for too long. I choose not to challenge ice on a bicycle. Balance and traction are the basic requirements for biking. Neither is possible on ice. And black ice comes with no warning. Shortly before dark I am home. The aroma of supper greets me in the kitchen. After we eat, Bobbie and I make our way to the downstairs family room. I put an old 1940’s movie checked out from Mid-Continent Library into our VCR. I take my usual place on the floor with my legs drawn up under me. Bobbie sits in her chair with the remote control. Why is there not great literature that has as its theme the comfort and satisfaction that come late in life? For me, Robert Browning’s Rabbi Ben Ezra had it right when he said: “Grow old along with me, the best is yet to be; the last of life for which the first was made.” Dorothy Comes to Mind Miles 900-950 February 2 Dorothy McClain died several years ago, but I have reason almost daily to remember her. Today was such a day. A 60-degree February day in Missouri seldom comes in a human lifetime. I have just biked from my house in Liberty to Trinity Lutheran Church in Kearney to drop in on the Kueck’s 50 th wedding Anniversary celebration. Charlie Kueck is a biking buddy. Leaving the church, I turn north on 33 Hwy, intending to ride through Kearney and out 33 about a mile, where a left turn and several miles of hills will bring me to Plattsburg Road; another left turn and more miles of hills will bring me back to Liberty. But a few hundred yards from the church, I spot a road to my right. I’ve taken this road many times on other days but had not planned to do so today. But I do! Suddenly. Without thinking. Why? I spot two bicycles far up the road, coming in my direction. I swing left at the first corner, heading me back in the direction I had intended to go. I’ve ridden a long block when a biker pulls alongside. I turn. “Bill, I need to talk to you.” I shout! It’s Bill Kiely, a former student of mine at William Jewell. He was a member of our HateBusters team to Florida in 1991. We are planning our 15th anniversary reunion for this April, and I had been intending to call Bill and ask him to be in charge. His name and number had been on my desk for weeks, and I had not made the call. Now here he is. And Dorothy comes to mind. Dorothy told me more than once: “Nothing is ever just coincidence.” She also said, “Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.” Before I knew Dorothy I would routinely dismiss the mysterious coming together of good things in my life as simply coincidence. Now I do not. I’ve decided never to describe a thing as coincidence, forcing me always to search for some more profound explanation. Bill asks, “Will you turn around and come back with me? My daughter is waiting at the corner.” Nine-year-old Lauren is waiting when we return. Three-year-old Brice is strapped into seat behind his dad. “I spotted you from up the road. I knew that had to be you,” Bill says. “I told Lauren to wait while I caught up with you.” Bill and Lauren had been pedaling those two bikes I spied in the distance when I veered right without thinking off 33. Bill had spotted me before I quickly turned left again to resume my planned route. But that was enough to bring us together. What’s up, Dorothy? Bill invites me home with him for a drink of water and some quick planning. He said yes when I asked him to be in charge. His wife, Michelle, also a former student, has flown to California on business and will return in a couple of days. Bill’s mother, Connie, is on staff at William Jewell, and had given me Bill’s phone number. Before I leave, Bill gives me his email address. I will email him the names and addresses of all HateBusters alums. I give Bill, Lauren and Brice Mickey Cards and tell them about my Greater Liberty dream ride. All the way home along the route I had planned my mind is on that one block impromptu detour I had taken that brought to this day’s ride a magical and mysterious dimension that will occupy my thoughts for some days to come. I’ve now ridden 950 miles since January 1st as I arrive home on February 2. Another 50 before February 5th and I will be on schedule to ride 1,000 miles every 36 days this year. Dad’s Favorite Meal Miles 950-1000 February 3 I didn’t realize until after I had left the restaurant what I had done. I had just eaten one of my dad’s favorite meals. Lettuce-salad. Pinto beans and ham, with chopped onions. And cornbread. Coffee and a 10 piece of coconut meringue pie. We had that often for the meal coming at the close of day and called supper in 1950’s East Texas. But it’s more than I usually eat for lunch in 2003. Coming to the Mill Inn after pedaling 20 miles in a cold rain has revved my appetite into overdrive. Everything on the menu looks good, but Today’s Special jumps out at me and calls its name when the waitress comes. Each time the waitress comes to fill my cup, I tell her how good this all is. Then one last time to the cashier as I pay my bill I praise my meal. “How far you rode?” The young woman asks. “Twenty miles to get here just now. But I’m at a thousand since January 1st. I’ve promised to ride 10,000 this year. That’s 1,000 miles every 36 days. I’ve made my first thousand with three days to spare. And I’m here to celebrate with a piece of pie.” It’s gotten colder and it’s raining harder as I leave. I need to put on the sweatshirt I’m carrying in the bag behind my seat. Before I do, I rush back inside to hold it beneath the dryer in the men’s room. I’m a mile or two north of Excelsior on my way toward the Pasta Plant when I think of Dad. He’s been dead for 16 years, and memories of him do not come regularly. Why at this moment? That meal! His favorite. Maybe that’s why it jumped out at me. Thanks, Dad. Rain becomes sleet and stings my face. Not enough to cause me pain. But enough to keep me focused. Then to snow. Temperature in the 60s the last two days has warmed up the ground, and the snow vanishes as it hits. The wind is in my face. Cotton-ball snow puffs melt on my glasses. I’m on B Highway nearing Glen Ridge Cemetery when an irate driver in a red pickup leans on his horn and comes screaming up behind me. He gives way just enough to pass me, and with his free hand as he roars past, he makes threatening motions. If, by chance, dear driver, you are reading these words, please forgive me for riding on your private road. And I beg your forgiveness in advance for the next time I do it. Raymond’s Gift Miles 1555-1655 February 27 “Are you riding the bike?” The man asking me is thirty-something, about my height and powerfully built. His close cropped blonde hair, his sky-blue eyes and the faint upward turn at the corners of his mouth give him an angelic presence. His soft voice endorses my instant comfort with him. “Yes,” I reply. I am riding back from Old Ocean, Texas where Bobbie and I are spending the night with her Aunt Weezie. Two convenience stores stand side by side on the left side of Texas Highway 35 in Van Vleck. I glance at both to see which seems more promising. I spot the name on the one nearest to me: “Ed’s Country Store.” I park my bike beside the front door and step inside. I’m waiting to pay for my pint of chocolate milk when the question comes. “How far you ridin’?” He asks. “Sixty miles today but ten thousand miles this year. Raising money for charity. Fifteen hundred miles so far.” “That’s wonderful,” he says. He shakes my hand. “Thanks for asking,” I say. Back at my bike I gulp my milk and devour a granola bar. Then I grab a Mickey Card from the bag behind my seat and step back inside to find my questioner. “You asked about my ride. This card shows the trophy Disney gave me when I rode across the country some time ago. The back of the card tells about my ride this year.” I have just put on my helmet and gloves and am about to wheel my bike off the porch when he comes from the store and passes me. He has a $20.00 bill in his hand. “Please take this as my contribution to your ride.” “Thank you!” I’m stunned. I can’t think of more to say. I fumble for my wallet to safe keep his gift. He is in his blue pickup, motor running, when I recover my wits and hurry to his window. “I’m writing stories about my ride. My editor tells me I must get names.” “My name is Raymond.” “Could I get your last name and address?” “I don’t have an address. I move around. I’m from Tennessee. I’m layin’ pipe right now. Livin’ in a hotel in Bay City. Job’ll be over in about a month, and I’ll move on.” Raymond tells me he has an eight-year old daughter back in Tennessee. He wants to take her to Disney World this summer. I show Raymond my e-mail address and my web page on the back of the Mickey Card. I tell him he can keep up with my ride by checking my web page. He can send me e-mail. “I don’t have e-mail.” He says. He has put the Mickey Card in his right shirt pocket. It also shows my snail mail address. If we are ever to have contact again, he must not loose that card. And he must initiate the contact. He did it today. His spontaneous generosity has touched me deeply. I ride for many reasons. But none the equal of moments like this when a sudden encounter with a total stranger makes vividly real all the noble sentiments that have come to me from learning of saints and heroes. 11 Raymond has not told me his last name. Some small voice deep within me tells me not to ask again. Grace! That’s what I want his last name to be. Theologians define grace as “unmerited good favor”. A perfect illustration of what Raymond has bestowed on me today on the porch of Ed’s Country Store beside the road in a little Texas town. I will post this story on my web page in the hope that Raymond will see it. And that he will send me an e-mail to tell me so. In Praise of James Milliff Miles 1655-1725 February 28 South out of Bay City Avenue F passes First Baptist Church and then through town before it acquires a wide shoulder and becomes Texas Highway 60 and runs another 25 miles to Matagorda on the bay. I have pedaled here on this last day of February and taken a hard left onto a side road and over the drawbridge to the beach. Now on my way back to Bay City I’m expecting a tail wind off the water to give me a push. But a norther (what Texans call a sudden cold spell) has blown up and lowered the temperature, and I’m pedaling into the teeth of a mini-gale. Oh well, this road somewhat makes up for the head wind. It’s wide and smooth and flat, with shoulders on both sides as wide and smooth as either traffic lane. Wadsworth sits alongside Highway 60 about midway between Bay City and Matagorda. I’m about halfway back to Wadsworth when I see a hand cycle coming toward me on the other side of the road. I cross the road to meet its rider. “Where you headin’?” I ask. “Matagorda,” he answers. ”Where from?” “Wadsworth.” A man about my age sits aboard this adult size tricycle, his legs out in front of him, supported in metal cradles. The chain ring and pedals are at shoulder level. He pedals with his hands. “My name is James Milliff. I live in Wadsworth. Been there most of my life. I got this machine seven months ago. Ever hear of Turning Point? They give these to paraplegics and handicapped. I ride from Wadsworth to Matagorda. My wife drives my van over to pick me up. Can’t ride every day. But last month I rode 180 miles.” James Milliff is a Korean War Veteran. He says the VA Hospital in Houston is the best hospital in the world. “There’s not enough money in the world to fix all that’s wrong with me,” he says. He has had multiple operations on both arms and legs and has had tumors removed. “I’m 71 years old,” he says. “I’m just maintainin’.” “Where you from?” He asks. “I live in Liberty, Missouri. Been there for years. But I grew up in Huntsville, Texas.” “Huntsville? I know Huntsville,” James says. “I went to Sam Houston.” “I went to Sam Houston,” I shout. “I graduated in ’56, after I got out of the service.” James says. “I graduated in ’57,” I respond. Sam Houston was a small teacher’s college in the 1950s. James and I surely saw each other about on campus back then and never knew it. And here we meet on a winter day going in opposite directions as old men on our childish machines. “Some of my friends get depressed in the winter,” James says. “I tell ‘em you can’t be depressed pedalin’ this cycle.” James can’t ride every day. Some days his legs are cold and he can’t manage to get out. But nothing about him invites pity or pictures defeat. “I’m still here after all these years. And still fightin’. Still feelin’ victorious.” James does not say these words to me. But as I see the jaunty way he commands his machine and his caviler dismissal of his catalogue of ailments, an ocean of respect floods my soul and those words ring in my ears. “You have a hard ride back to Bay City in this wind,” James tells me. “When you pass through Wadsworth you might see my house. It’s 107 years old. My fireworks and snow cones signs are in the yard. Don’t make much money at ‘em. But it keeps me busy.” When people ask me why I ride, I always stop short of telling them all the reasons. Maybe if I am brief, I will not wear out my welcome and they will ask again at another time. “If I don’t ride, I can’t walk. If I ride, I can run.” I always say this. “To visit small town cafes and visit folks.” I usually say this. “To be inspired and awed.” I seldom say this. “To meet Raymond Graces and James Milliffs.” I have not until now said this.” Along two Texas roads just days apart I’ve been reminded of the most profound reason I ride. I’ve been carrying Zorba the Greek with me for weeks, reading snatches of it here and there when I can. On the day after I met James, I’m 150 miles away in The Woodlands, Texas, staying with Bobbie’s sister and brother-in-law. After an early morning ride through this planned community of shops and homes and high-tech futurism, I’m back at the house, reading Zorba. I’ve almost finished the book and come to a page where Zorba demands that boss tell him why people die. 12 “I don’t know,” Boss says. Then he says, “… the highest point a man can attain is not knowledge, or Virtue, or Goodness, or Victory, but something even greater, more heroic and more despairing: Sacred Awe!” That is exactly what I find in my encounter with folks I meet along the road when I come into their lives for a few minutes aboard my bicycle. Brother Dominic Miles 1755-1785 March 4 Riding from down town on Grand Avenue in Carthage as the street numbers get bigger, I glimpse a sign to my left as I pass an intersection. In English and a language I don’t recognize, the sign identifies the occupants of the block-long collage of beautiful buildings and grounds I am passing. When the light turns green at the next intersection, I turn left. And then left again after half a block into the grounds. Past dozens of parked bicycles behind what looks like a school, I come after another left turn into an open circular plaza between white limestone buildings. A statue of a woman rises high into the sky in the middle of the plaza. I stop and dismount my bike directly in the path of an approaching man. I stick out my hand. “Hello, my name is Ed Chasteen. I’m riding ten thousand miles for charity. Today I’m here in Carthage. I’m intrigued. Can you tell me what this place is?” “I’m Brother Dominic. This is CMC, short for Congregation of the Mother Coredemptrix. We are a community of Vietnamese Brothers and priests.” Brother Dominic has lived here since 1989. He is preparing to become a priest. He has completed his four years of philosophy and is beginning his four years of theology. “My job at this time is to care for the retired priests who live here,” he tells me. I tell Brother Dominic about the Human Family Reunion we are planning to hold at William Jewell College April 26 and invite him to come and bring others. I see other men dressed in brown coming from buildings and crossing the plaza as we talk. I ask him if only men live here. “Yes, we are a monastery. And we do not go out. We serve one another here.” I would like to talk further with Brother Dominic. But he and I have duties to perform. I pedal around the grounds after I leave him. I see the Vietnamese Martyrs Auditorium and the Garden of Peace where hundreds of names are inscribed on small metal tablets. Then I wheel back to the sign at the corner of 19th and Grand to see the name that first alerted me to the hidden human treasure tucked into this one block of a small Missouri town. In English and Vietnamese the sign identifies this place as Brother Dominic had told me. “I have a story for you,” I say to the young woman at the desk when I walk inside The Carthage Press on South Main Street. She leads me to another room and introduces me to Glenita Browning. Glenita listens to me and comes outside to take my picture on the bike. I told her that I hoped to return to Carthage and teach bike safety in an elementary school and my book, How to Like People, in the high school. She suggested I go see Lynn Williams at the police station. “He’s in charge of bike safety in the schools.” Detective Williams is helpful. He makes a phone call to Dr. Glen Coltharp, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum for the Carthage School District. Dr. Coltharp is in a meeting, but Kelly Campbell, his secretary, invites me to come by his office. I’m soon there. I give Kelly a Mickey Card and a map of Greater Liberty, showing the city of Carthage on its southern boundary. Then I bike back to the Econo Lodge where Bobbie and I slept last night and where she still sleeps. Shortly before check out time at 11, we leave. I drive her past the square, where sits the magnificent Jasper County Court House. Then past the monastery where I just talked with Brother Dominic. From 11:30 until one o’clock, Bobbie looks through the chapel at Precious Moments while I explore the nearby roads and hills on my bike. Barbecue sandwiches at The Ranch House, home of “Serious Barbecue” bring a pleasant conclusion to my 30 miles of biking on this southern edge of greater Liberty. I hope to ride more of my 10,000 miles this year in this good place. If someone invites me, I will come. Rayville Baking Company Miles 2230-2260- March 22 I spot a small hand-lettered sign as I ride C Highway through Rayville, headed for Lawson. I've ridden more than 40 miles by a circuitous route from Liberty when I see the sign. Rayville is a tiny town of 204. I'm not expecting a place to eat. The sign sits at ground level. Black, hand-lettered script on a white board: "Bakery Open, Cinnamon Rolls, Breads, Pies". With an arrow pointing up the street to my left. 13 I wheel to the left. Next door to the Calvary Baptist Church in a small frame building, I find the Rayville Baking Company. Jason Van Till welcomes me inside. He and the fritters and doughnuts and scones and other goodies spread in the glass case draw me in and make me want to stay. I explain to Jason that we plan to route our bike ride for 100 riders through Rayville the Saturday after Memorial Day and I am looking for a rest stop. "I fell in love with your place the moment I stepped through the door. Our riders will need a bite to eat and a rest room." Jason gets his dad on the phone as I read their brochure: "We have resisted the temptation to use the cheapest inputs and sacrifice the flavor, nutrition and satisfaction which comes when you've tasted the best." When Cliff Van Till comes on the phone we quickly decide that his place needs to be on our route. Cliff recently moved his family here from California. Cliff is a native Californian and has been growing vegetables, grains and nuts for over 25 years. His family has developed a line of specialty foods, including farm products, artisan breads, pies, and pastries from their own freshly ground whole wheat and unbleached organic flours. Missouri lured the Van Till family. A friend was pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Rayville. Good farmland was available. Now the Van Till's own 200 acres. They will grow fruits and vegetables. They have free-range chickens and will have hogs. Rather than the San Francisco Farmer's Market where they used to sell their goods, they have a bakery. When word gets out that this California treasure now resides in a tiny Missouri town, they will come. Those legions of folks who remember good taste and fresh air and open spaces. They will come. Jamie, Jason and Brian Van Till do not leave home for their schooling. "Missouri is home-school friendly," Cliff tells me. "We have always home schooled our children." And a fine job they have done with them, judging from my brief meetings with them over the next few days. In my years of riding all the country roads I can find, I somehow never have come to Rayville. I would not be here now, except that Rich has routed our ride through here. Even then I expected that we would pass through the town with hardly a notice. That ground-level sign beside the road spoke to me. Now in the space of a week I have been three times to Rayville. I have not yet met Mrs. Van Till. But I will come again. I now know that I want all our riders on May 31st to stop by the Rayville Baking Company to meet the Van Tills. We have placed a brochure describing the bakery in each rider's packet. I'm asking riders to spend a little money at the bakery. Then go and tell all your friends about this good place. May our bike ride through Rayville and to its bakery begin the magic in that line from Field of Dreams: "Build it and they will come." Laura Has Me Going in Circles Miles 2260-2270 March 23 Laura has me going in circles. She called me yesterday on the phone. In her soft little voice she said, “Papa, I learned to ride a bike today. Can we go for a ride?” We were sitting on the living room floor when she was three. We had been building with Legos for a while. Laura looked up at me. “I love you, Papa. You’re so precious.” The whole family heard her say it. I remind them. Often! Now Laura is seven. I’m 2200 miles into a promised 10,000 miles on my bike this year. Thirty miles a day I need to average. I had planned to do that today, this first Sunday of spring. “You bet. After church, bring your bike over and we can ride. At two she comes. We take her bike out of the trunk. Her mother, my daughter, has dressed her in knee and elbow pads. Laura straps on her helmet. We pedal down the long block to the church parking lot, Laura’s mother right behind. Wow! I’m amazed. Off she goes. Round and round in ever-larger circles. Pedaling strong and steady. Weaving fearlessly. More than two hours we ride. Playing follow the leader. First she leads; then I do. “Way to go, Laura.” “Lookin’ good Laura.” “Good job Laura.” She beams. And pedals faster. “What will the winner get?” Laura asks. She has just proposed a race. “How about a bowl of ice cream?” She agrees. “How many times around?” She asks. “Three.” I say. And she wins. She always wins when we play. I let her make the rules. We’re sitting in the patio swing eating chocolate ice cream back at home. “How far did you ride?” Laura’s mother asks. “Oh, three or four miles I guess,” I say. “More than that,” my wife says. You rode more than two hours. You ride 10 to 15 miles per hour on the road.” “Well, let’s say 10 miles. Laura and I rode 10 miles.” 14 “What can we do now?” Laura asks. “We could play basketball. “No,” she says. Croquoet?” “No.” “Draw on paper in my office?” “No.” “Watch TV?” “No. What else?” “I don’t know. What do you want to do?” “Let’s ride bikes, “ she says. And we do I must have met thousands of people in hundreds of places on my bike. I’ve always said that people and places are not to be compared. Each stands alone as its own standard. Each is precious in its own right. But riding in circles in a church parking lot with little Laura will stand out like neon in the night when I write the story of my 10,000 miles this year on a bike. Way to go, Laura. A Cookie for the Hound Miles 2470-2535 March 31 When I see a railroad off to one side as I ride, I’m either passing through a river valley or across a plain. The road is flat and smooth and stretches out before me. When I hear that lonesome whistle sound far up the track and coming in my direction, I get ready to wave when the engine comes in sight. On those days when the engineer acknowledges my wave by sounding his horn, I feel confirmed and right with the world. That just happened. Box Car Willie comes to mind. Before he died a year or so back, he was one of my favorites in Branson. His gravelly voice served up near perfect imitations of Hank Williams songs. Then would come his full-throated rendition of a train whistle. He grew up along the railroad tracks of north central Texas and used to ride the rails. His intimate acquaintance with trains prompted his stage name and gave him that rugged haunting quality that drew people to his show. As I sit writing these words at the intersection of 210 Highway and Edwards Road, a mile or so east of Missouri City, a blue van pulls up and stops. “Need any help?” The driver asks. “Just making some notes of what I see and what it makes me think of,” I say. “You write for a biking magazine?” “For the Liberty Sun. Do you get it?” “No,’ he answers. His friendly manner draws me to his window. He points to a house up Edwards Road about 250 yards. “That’s where I live. I was there in ’93 when the floods came. I left for several years. Now I’m back.” I tell him I live in Liberty and ride this way often to Orrick and Richmond. “You ride this road? These drivers even run other cars off the road. My name is Jeffrey Hamrick. If you ever need anything, you know where I live.” “I’ll write about you in my story. When it’s published, I’ll bring you a copy.” I tell him. Jeffrey drives off and I sit to write again. From nowhere a little hound dog bounds into my lap. Wiggling like a sack of worms, he simultaneously licks my face and whips my leg with his tail. If he wagged it any faster, he would lift off the ground like a mini-helicopter. His energy and enthusiasm make me laugh. I jump up to find something to give him. A chocolate chip cookie is all I have. He takes it gingerly between his teeth and prances across the highway. He turns to look back at me. His mouth is wide open. He’s holding that round cookie like a small moon, upright between upper and lower teeth. Dodging a passing car and truck, he comes back to me and places the unmarked cookie at my feet. He looks up at me, tail wagging. "Sorry, no bones.” I hope he has a home nearby. With small children to love. I bid him a reluctant farewell. Out 210 past Missouri City to N, a left turn brings me seven miles later to Excelsior Springs. A quick stop at The Mill Inn for ice tea and a grilled cheese sandwich, then out H through Mosby and back to 69 to B and back through Jewell’s campus and around the square and out 291 to Southview and home. I can’t ride further today. Missouri plays Kansas at one o’clock. To attend grad school at MU is what brought me to Missouri from Texas back in 1963. Now MU is playing KU today in Texas, not far from my hometown. They’ve played twice this year. KU won both. I’m hoping for a nail-biter that MU wins at the buzzer. I told you all’s right with my world when the engineer sounds his horn. MU is behind by eight at halftime and trails until almost the end. Then they go ahead by one. Drop behind by one. Then ahead. And win by five. Fog Miles 3060-3095 April 26 The early morning fog closes in around us so thick it runs down our glasses. Rich Groves and Michael Calabria ride only a few yards ahead, but the fog swallows them up. All sound is mute. Nothing to either side of the road is visible. 15 In all the years we’ve been riding, Rich has never had a flat. This morning he does. We have finally come out of the fog and are about five miles east of Excelsior Springs on H Highway when it happens. And the tube he’s carrying is the wrong size. He calls his dad at home in Liberty to come in his pickup and get him. “You two go on ahead to the Mill Inn. Dad and I will join you.” The fog comes back. Michael and I get separated, and we arrive at Mill Inn a half-hour later by different routes. We have just taken our seats when Rich and his dad come through the door. As we eat, we relive the morning’s excitement of riding blind and the 75 miles we rode on Rich’s dad’s 75 th birthday. Our waitress is attentive and efficient. Not until we are leaving does she say to me, “So your grand daughter thinks your precious.” I know she has read the paper. “Then she says, “I loved your story in the paper this week about riding with your grand daughter. And I liked the one some time back about your mother.” The half order of biscuits and gravy and the short stack I’ve just inhaled are reason enough to bring me repeatedly to this place. But the real soul food I find here is in their affirmation of my world. The most generous tip I could possibly leave would not fully express my gratitude. The fog has lifted by 10 o’clock when we leave. Rich and his dad in the pickup. Michael and I on our bikes. The DQ Award April 26 Queen Mother she is called by most everyone. I call her Mom. Her birth name is Maxine, though I have never called her by that name or heard anyone call her by that name.. She lives in Raytown, though most often she can be found at her church, Barker Memorial Cathedral of Praise. She has 12 grown children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. She runs a food pantry and a social action committee. Mom has gone with HateBusters to places across America. She is a people magnet wherever we go. Soon those around are singing and smiling and rejoicing in her presence. Mom was born in Mississippi when times were hard. But the times did not make her hard. They made her strong. And her strength has been freely and widely shared. From Jamaica, where her husband was born, to Minnesota, where his work took the family for years, Mom has organized and encouraged and inspired everybody and everything she touched. Mom, Queen Mother, Maxine McFarlane has dedicated her considerable talent to raising the consciousness of her community to issues of fairness and justice. Wherever she goes she leaves in her wake a heightened awareness of how fragile and precious is the life we share together as community. From her life as an activist, Mom understands with Don Quixote that wickedness wears thick armor. And Mom also responds as Don Quixote: “And for that you would have me surrender? Nay, the enchanter may confuse the outcome ten thousand times. Still must a man arise and again do battle, for the effort is sublime.” HateBusters takes great pleasure in bestowing upon Mom McFarlane our highest honor, the DQ Award, named for Don Quixote, that fictional hero that inspires and fascinates all who read his story or see him on stage. Given at the Human Family Reunion held on the 26th day of April in the year 2003 and meeting on the campus of William Jewell College, Time Magazine’s Liberal Arts College of the Year. He is known as Brother John across Greater Kansas City and beyond. Young children and senior citizens and all folks between have been mesmerized and inspired by his high-energy scene-stealing performances as historical figures with soul-stirring messages. At HateBusters annual Human Family Reunions and all our impromptu gatherings, Brother John leads us in a rousing rendition of our theme song. Brother John has dedicated his considerable talent to raising the consciousness of his audience to issues of fairness and justice. Wherever he goes he leaves in his wake a heightened awareness of how fragile and precious is the life we share together as community. From his voracious reading and his careful thinking, Brother John understands with Don Quixote that wickedness wears thick armor. And Brother John also responds as Don Quixote: “And for that you would have me surrender? Nay, the enchanter may confuse the outcome ten thousand times. Still must a man arise and again do battle, for the effort is sublime.” HateBusters takes great pleasure in bestowing upon John Anderson our highest honor, the DQ Award, named for Don Quixote, that fictional hero that inspires and fascinates all who read his story or see him on stage. 16 Is This Heaven? Miles 3235-3300 April 30-May 3 When the black high school and the white high school merged in a small Tennessee town to comply with the desegregation ruling, the black coach was made head coach. When the team won the state championship, the coach, the team and the town inspired the nation. Denzel Washington played the coach in the movie, Remember the Titans. Now on the night of April 30, Herman Boone, the real coach, is speaking in Gano Chapel at William Jewell. I saw the movie. I have to hear the coach. It’s a dark and stormy night as we gather in the chapel named for John Gano, the Revolutionary War chaplain to General George Washington. Streak lightning and booming thunder have kept some away but do not dim the high voltage delivery of Coach Boone. Before the evening is over, we all understand fully how he carried his team to realms of glory. Some 30 years have passed since Bobbie and I took Debbie, Dave and Brian to the Pella Tulip Festival. They have all since graduated from William Jewell, and Debbie is now a member of the faculty. For weeks Bobbie and I have been planning our second visit to the Tulip Festival. We had planned to be there on the last day of April, but when I heard Coach Boone was coming to Jewell, I talked Bobbie into staying to hear him. We would rush out the minute he finished and drive to Pella that night. We have hardly reached I-35 when the rain starts. By the time we get to Bethany, windshield wipers are useless against the deluge. Lightning bolts and rumbling thunder and threatening 18-wheelers drive us off the highway and to shelter at a service station for half-an-hour. The rain relents somewhat and we take to the road. We make it to Leon. Just across the Missouri line, Leon is the first Iowa town we come to. A room in a small motel is our home for the night. The next morning I’m up early to unstrap my bike from the back of my car for a ride around town and biscuits and gravy at a little café near the town square. The motel owner gives us directions by back roads for the two-hour drive on to Pella. Sonja had emailed to say she and Arlan wouldn’t be home when we arrived. “The door is never locked. Make yourselves at home until we come,” she said. I stayed with the Van Dusesseldorps a few years back when I rode my bike from Kansas City to Pella to speak at their church. “Your room is ready anytime,” they told me then. I’m back. With Bobbie. Their house is just a few blocks from town. A nice walk for Bobbie. A pleasant ride for me. Pella has majored on its Dutch heritage. A visitor here goes back in time to Holland as it was when the Pella settlers came. A full-size corn-grinding windmill has recently risen near the center of town, its huge rotating blades the talk of all who see it. Smaller windmills dot the town. Picture-perfect red and white and yellow tulips fill gardens and line walks wherever one may look. Facades of all buildings around the square call to mind a village in Holland more than a century ago. Before time comes for the parade and I am to meet Bobbie, my bicycle takes me quietly about town to take in all the sights and relish the ambiance. Shoeless Joe Jackson’s question from Field of Dreams comes to mind when he asks Ray Kinsela, “Is this heaven.” “This is Iowa,” says Ray. Is there a difference, I’m wondering as I ride. My Sunday School class from Second Baptist has scheduled a retreat at Conception Abbey this weekend. This place has been on my list of places to visit since I first heard of it more than 30 years ago. It’s little more than a two-hour drive from Liberty, but for some reason, I have never made it here. As best as I can make it out, Conception Abbey sits not more than 50 or 60 miles off I-35, after we pick it up on our drive back to Liberty from Pella. I’ll never be this close again. Camelot comes to mind when I first spot the Abbey. Surrounded for miles in all directions by farmland, the red brick walls rise majestically and appear rich against the emerging green of early spring. A cathedral quiet pervades the place. My bicycle seems a natural fit. Highways VV an AH carry me over undulating hills for miles. Few cars pass. Houses are few and far from the road. No dogs bark. All is quiet. And serene. And peaceful beyond description. Tornado in Our Town May 4 The sky grows dark and angry this Sunday afternoon. Sirens wail and everyone takes shelter. A tornado touches down and hurts our town. Roofs take flight. Walls fall down. Trees twist and uproot. Our 17 town square and our college are hit. The square is cordoned off with police tape. Finals are cancelled at the college. But not a single person is killed, no one even seriously injured. Exits from all highways into our town are temporarily closed by the police. Power lines are down. Streets are littered with debris. Gawkers come. Then legions of good samaritans descend with chain saws and trucks and the full armament of disaster relief. Hardly has the funnel disappeared before residents of our town rally round each other. Those the tornado missed help their unfortunate neighbors. This terrible thing that came so brazenly upon us has grabbed our full attention. The path the tornado took through our town is a wasteland of scattered possessions, violated homes and splintered trees. Giant trees centuries old will grow no older. The space they occupied is wrenchingly vacant. The shade they gave is forever gone. Now, though, is not the time to count our loses. Now is the time we attack the ruin about us. When that is done and all is as much like before as we can make it, then we can tell each other stories of the hellish storm that came over us and the Herculean response that made everything right again. When all the buildings have been restored and a first time visitor comes to our town, he or she might never know what we have just been through. Majestic trees when they are missing make no impression until their absence forces itself upon our unconscious mind as a queer sensation that something we can’t name is wrong. The May 4, 2003 tornado that struck Liberty will morph in time from a terrible fright into a benchmark by which we measure our life as a community. A storm that claims no life is a storm we will always conquer. We will be stronger for having come through the storm. If all a storm can do is destroy things we have made, we can make more. And we always will. Books will be written, movies will be made. And the story will not be the storm. The story will be our response. It will not be a tragic story. It will be a story to inspire those of us who lived through it and those who come to live here in the future. It will be a story of victory. A story of heroes. It will be our story. Part of that story is already circulating in our town and drawing praise. Our college has long had a plan in place for when the sirens go off. Just as the sirens sounded, dorm leaders at our college hurried to every door to pound on it and shepherd those inside to prearranged places of safety. And when it was safe, all students were gathered in one place to plan for the night and the days ahead. Can’t Circle the Square Today Miles 3370-3390 May 9 “How many miles so far?” I am pedaling south on Moss and passing the Mathis’s house when the question comes. I glance to my left. Amy Mathis is sitting beneath a tree in her front yard on this warm May afternoon. “Thirty-three hundred.” I yell. “Way to go,” she says. Last week in Lawson, the other day in Excelsior Springs, recently in Leon and Pella, Iowa and two days ago in Conception, Missouri—in all these places people have heard about my Greater Liberty Ride and have asked me about it when I was there. Now today in my hometown a long-time friend tells me she knows and is pulling for me. When everywhere you go people call you by the name friends use, can life possibly get better or can the reason for your living ever be more affirmed? I think not. Certainly not for me. For years my daily practice has been to end my ride with a lazy loop around our town square, pedaling only fast enough to remain upright, giving me ample time to check out our town, making sure everything and everybody is in place for another day. I want to rest easy each night, knowing that all is right in our town. I also want to be seen. Every day. In all seasons and weather. Our small town has been good to me and to those I love. By appearing regularly on my bike around our square, I long to become part of the ambiance of our town, a piece of the security blanket we pull around our hearts and minds when we reflect on this little piece of God’s good earth we call home. Today my entry to our square is blocked. I have turned off Mill and toward the square on the street between our county jail and our city hall and have pulled to a stop opposite the fountains on my right and the Commerce Bank on my left. Directly in front of me is a barricade and long stretches of yellow tape with bold black letters: POLICE LINE—DO NOT CROSS. That tape is everywhere. Blocking every street I try. I get as close on every street as I can. I see nothing amiss. But I can’t go there. Police cars are everywhere. I think briefly of pushing my bike under the tape and circling the square. I want to. But I promised myself when I first began to ride that I would always observe every traffic regulation. As a biker I 18 want to be a good citizen. If I am to expect drivers to respect my right to the road, I must never be seen to disobey the laws they must observe. And when I teach bike safety in our public schools, I need a clear conscience when I urge students to obey all rules of the road. So I turn toward home. No one will see me on the square today. I will go to sleep with a heavy heart. All is not right in our town. That Sunday afternoon tornado came down and hurt our town. Amy’s cheerful question to me as I ride past her house lifts my spirits. We are all sad today. But the sun will come up tomorrow. Our town will be right again. We care about and for each other. Thanks, Amy, for reminding me. A Ride By Greeting Miles 3390-3410 May 11 Our college is being repaired, and we have moved graduation off campus to a nearby church. While on campus yesterday I heard that Fred Phelps was threatening to picket our graduation ceremonies. He has threatened before. Sometimes he has come. Fred is a disbarred Topeka lawyer who fancies himself an Old Testament prophet. He is pastor of Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, a church with no standing with any association of churches. Fred started the church. They are small in number. Their sole ministry is picketing. They picket anyplace and anybody they can in anyway tie to the issue of homosexuality. And following a logic only they can understand, they can tie most anybody to this theme. I have encountered Fred before. He carries a bullhorn. He uses strong language. Lately, though, he has not come in person. He sent his pickets to Central Baptist Seminary several years ago at graduation time. He sent them a few months ago to Second Baptist Church in Liberty. This morning I’ve ridden my bike from home to Pleasant Valley Baptist Church to see if Fred keeps his promise. William Jewell’s graduation is scheduled for 11:30. I arrive at 9:30 and ride big circles around the church. Police officers stand watch nearby. A red van pulls up about 10:30. Fred didn’t come. He sent the kids. Dressed in shorts and T-shirts, they could have been holding car wash signs. That’s what their peers are doing in small towns like ours across America on this May morning. The tornado that blasted through our town and our college just six days ago did great damage to our homes and our buildings. But today is graduation day for our college seniors. We have put aside our pain and sadness for the day while we celebrate. Now the red van discharges its passengers and their signs. The police escort them up the hill and across the street where they take up their posts and hold up their signs. They are standing at the place where cars coming to graduation make a left turn off 291 and onto church property. Everyone coming to see a child or a friend graduate passes directly in front of each sign: GOD HATES AMERICA, GOD BLEW UP THE SHUTTLE, FAGS DOOM AMERICA, IT’S THE FAGS STUPID, THANK GOD FOR SEPT. 11, MATT 4 YRS IN HELL, WM JEWELL FAGS. Some drivers slow to offer blunt response to these provocative signs. Some look away. I ride from the church and up the hill, coming almost within arms length of the picketers who stand between the curb and the sidewalk on the strip of grass that is public property. As I pass each picketer, I make eye contact and call a greeting in a friendly voice. “Good morning, welcome to Liberty.” The half-dozen picketers stretch in a line about 30 yards long around the corner onto 291 Highway. Some of them return my greeting on my first pass. I ride to the light at 291 and Church Road and make a right. Then several hundred yards to the long winding drive back to the church, where a right turn brings me down the hill and up again through the parking lot and out the main entrance past the picketers again. Four times around I go, calling greetings each time to every picketer. More respond each time. None are unkind. Chances are they have never received a ride by greeting. I dismount my bike across the road from the picketers, lay my bike on its side and sit on the curb to write. A policeman approaches. “Ed, if I let you sit on the curb with your feet in the street, they will demand to be in the street. I know you have to write, but would you move down the hill and around the corner?” “You bet. No problem.” The location is not far away. But now I’m on private property, a place where the picketers are not welcome and have no right. I’m sitting there at 11:30 when the picketers leave their posts and come back down the hill toward their van. Two police officers lead the way. One comes behind. As the picketers pass me, their signs have been lowered to their sides. “You be careful, now.” So long.” “Goodbye.” “Come back to see us.” I greet them all. I’m wearing my bright yellow HateBusters T-shirt. They have all read what it says on the back when I rode past them: BUSTIN’ HATE SURE FEELS GREAT. 19 As they pass me on their way to their van I’m sitting beside my bike. They smile and return my greeting. When the policeman trailing them comes abreast of me, he says softly, “These are two hours I will never get back.” I understand precisely what he means, but I hope desperately that few of those who came here today leave this place with that feeling. I want us to be jubilant and joyous today. We survived a tornado. We picked ourselves up and put ourselves together again. Not fully yet, but past what anyone could reasonably have expected so quickly. We are marking a milestone in the passage of young lives with us. We vanquished the dark cloud that came from last Sunday. We didn’t deserve rude treatment from our Topeka visitors today. On the other hand, it’s good to know that even though we have been physically assaulted by impersonal natural forces and are at this moment at less than full strength, we still arouse the ire of those who close minds and harden hearts. We never want to be on the side of those who came today. We are glad they see us as a threat to the world as they would have it. We promise never to be unkind or impolite to them when they come among us. We promise also to oppose what they stand for at every opportunity they give us. We had rather they had not chosen this day. But they did. And we were ready. We will always be ready. So those who graduate today have even more reason to rejoice. Four years they have spent with us, allowing us to teach them and to mold them into competent, compassionate, committed persons, equipped with cutting edge intellectual skills and the spiritual strength to stride forth into a contentious world assured of their ability to be a good neighbor to everyone while turning their back on no one. Thank you, Fred. Even though you could not be personally present when your folks helped us see this truth, we thank you for sending them to help us understand our own strengths. Though that was probably not the intended outcome you envisioned, we all know how God uses things to good purpose . Our Town Miles 3490-3530 May 15 Little things mean a lot. That was the title of Kitty Kallen’s hit song back in the 1950s. It came to mind today when I was riding out on Old 210 and saw Irvin on his bike. Irvin Williams and his wife, Alice, live at the top of the hill on the eastside of State Road EE. From 210 on a bike it’s a long and twisting uphill climb to their house. In the pasture off to my right just before I come to the house I see and hear the sheep Irvin raises. Just past the house Irvin plants a garden every year, adorned with a scarecrow and noisemakers to keep the birds away. Today Irvin is on his bike collecting aluminum cans. He has a basket mounted on the back of his bike. He rides up and down Old 210 on a schedule of his own design and keeps the roadside clean. Sometimes we pause to exchange a few words when we encounter each other. I come upon him from behind today. As I draw near, Irvin is dismounting to reclaim a can. He turns and sees me and says hello. I return his greeting and keep on pedaling. We each are on a mission. We go to church together. We had a Sunday School party in the barn beside his house several years ago, not long before a light plane crashed into it and destroyed it. I like to think that Irvin gets the same warm feeling when we chance to come upon another on our bikes as I do. The chances are not good that on any given day we will meet, but it’s an absolute certainty that sometime somewhere on the road we will. Today is such a day. And on such days the simple pleasures of small town life come abundantly clear to me. Thorton Wilder’s Our Town is without a doubt the simplest play ever performed. The only stage prop is a step ladder. This story of everyday life of one family in a little town took up lodging deep in my soul long ago when I first saw it. Together with Brigadoon, Camelot, Man of LaMancha and Les Miserables, Our Town has taken up permanent residence as the five-play repertoire from which I constantly quote and daily draw inspiration and direction for my life. As I come upon Irvin today, Emily’s question from Our Town comes to mind, “Does anyone ever realize life as they live it, every single minute?” The simple rhythms of everyday small town life carry no high drama and no great tensions. These things we need at times in our lives. Magical places that appear every hundred years, places where rain comes only after sundown, impossible dreams and knights in armor, amazing grace never explained and life changing—these we crave with a soul-thirst never quenched. But the bulk of everybody’s life is lived between these dramatic moments, in the downtime best found in the repetitive and usually unrecorded little things that take place on back roads and small towns. 20 For example, I was biking back from Orrick on Old 210 the other day when I spotted a pickup stopped in the road ahead, blinkers flashing. As I rode by, I heard the motor running. The truck was empty. .Or was it? Maybe the driver had passed out and slumped over. I wheeled around to take a look. Then I saw him, climbing up out of the ditch and through the weeds just in front of the truck, cradling a rabbit on his left arm and stroking its back with his right hand. “I hit this little fella, and I went to find him. Would you get that grey jacket out of the front seat of my truck?” When I am back with it, he says, “Put the grey side up. When I have his confidence, I’ll wrap him in my jacket and take him home to see what I can do for him.” He tells me his name is Jerry Sharp. He lives in the red brick house at the west end of the ultra- light airport just up the road from where we stand. His tending to the hurt of a wounded rabbit did not make the evening news. But it made my day. When Irvin and I will come upon each other again I do not know. I do know that he will be out on his bike again looking for cans. I will be out again to see our town and to tease the MS that my doctor said would make me inactive. Our town in some mysterious and magical way draws hope and pleasure from noticing the two of us out on our bikes. Little things mean a lot. Catricks People and places take up easy residence in my mind. Numbers are temporary visitors. So when I estimate the number of times I have come to Catrick’s for breakfast or lunch, I’m a child guessing the number of candies in a Christmas stocking. For years I have come, even before Catherine and Rick Holcomb bought the place and Penn Street Café morphed into Catrick’s. When Bush I was in the White House, I was coming. Once or twice a month for years. From my home in Liberty. By different routes to Excelsior Springs. Sometimes through the town and out Main Street to Salem Road. Sometimes up 69 Highway to Italian Way and past the pasta plant to Salem Road. But always from Excelsior Springs on Salem Road. Past Salem Church. Over the railroad track. Up hill and down. Never a threatening driver. In every season a pleasant scene. Then a long rightward bend of the road as it comes to Lawson and then bends again left into a straightaway before ending at Moss Street. A right turn and over the railroad tracks past the school to Pennsylvania, where a left brings me past Lawson Grocery and Farmer’s Market to Catrick’s on my right, opposite Lawson Bank on the left. Always on my bicycle I have come. More than a hundred times I’m guessing. Maybe many more. Coming and going by the most direct route, I pedal 50 miles. And I seldom travel a direct route. I take whichever road calls my name as I come to it. So 60 to 70 miles I’m guessing I travel each time I come to Catrick’s. Taking the most conservative estimates of 100 visits at 60 miles per visit, I have pedaled 6,000 miles to come to Catrick’s. Visiting small town cafes now for years on my bike, I have worked out a personal formula for ranking them. Biscuits and gravy is not on the training diet for speed racers, but I ride to meet folks and revel in the ambiance of places and people on roads less traveled. Tenderloin sandwiches and homemade pie never got anyone into the Olympics. Neither would the 10-15 miles per hour I ride. But this speed suits my purposes just fine. Long hours by myself grinding out the miles set my mind at liberty and stoke a fierce hunger. My mind wanders the world as I pedal Salem Road or one of its tributaries. And when I come to Catrick’s or its kin in other little places, I am ready for their rural ambrosia. Marvin Wright often joins me when I lunch at Catrick’s. I first met Marvin in the fall of 1986. I was riding Highway 69 not far from here and had stopped at a service station to rest. Marvin came for gas. We began to talk. We’ve been friends ever since. Biking compliments good food with new friends. Both in abundance I find at Catrick’s. Now in 2003 I made a rash promise to ride my bike 10,000 miles. I said I would do almost all my riding near home, in this place I call Greater Liberty. On my very best days, I can ride 125 miles. So I drew a map showing all places within 125 miles of Liberty, an area that goes north to Creston, Iowa and south to Carthage, Missouri; west to Manhattan, Kansas and east to Columbia, Missouri: 114 counties in parts of four states. I said I would do this to raise $100,000 for Multiple Sclerosis and $10,000 for HateBusters. I have MS. If I ride, I can run; if I don’t, I can’t walk. I started HateBusters years ago to help people who have been hurt because someone hates them and to bring people together across racial and religious lines. 21 I hope to ride my bike to all the 114 county seat towns in Greater Liberty. I want to find their Catrick’s. I want to taste their biscuits and gravy, their tenderloin sandwiches and their homemade pie. I want to ask them to help me raise money for these two causes dear to my heart. On May 31, friends of mine here in Liberty have planned a 100-mile bike ride that could raise $10,000. “Ed’s Elite 100”. That’s the name my friends gave the ride. If we get the 100 riders we hope for and each of them contributes the $100.00 we ask, then we will have $10,000, and my Greater Liberty Campaign will jump-start. We are riding through Lawson that day. Catrick’s is providing lunch. Catherine and Rick have become friends. They are donating their time and their food to help me reach this impossible goal I have set. Thank you my friends. Whether or not I can ride the miles or raise the money I dream of, we together will have a grand adventure. Through our combined struggle to reach the goal, our lives will reach a place beyond ourselves, a dimension of life we glimpse in great literature and theater and in our faith. Flats and the Law of Short Intervals Miles 3530-3655 May 16-18 Yesterday on the way to Orrick. Today coming from Camden Point. Flats! First on the front; then on the rear. Julie to the rescue yesterday. Rich today. Rich Groves, Dale Ahle and I met in front of Biscari Brothers Bicycles yesterday at 7 AM. We wanted to try out an alternate departure route from Liberty in case the tornado damage along H Highway is not cleared in time for our planned Century ride two weeks from today. Across the shopping center parking lot to Brown Street. Right on Brown to Progress. Right on Progress past the post office to Withers Road. Left on Withers to Holt Drive. Left on Holt to Birmingham Road. Right on Birmingham to Ruth Ewing Road. Left on Ruth Ewing across 291 Highway to Liberty Landing Road. Right on Liberty Landing to Old 210 Highway. Left on Old 210. Then straight ahead for five level miles of river valley road before coming to New 210 and a long gradual climb up past Missouri City. Dale is riding my blue bike, my back-up bike, the one I ride when my red Trek is in the shop for some quick repair. Both have drop bars and narrow leather seats, with bar-end gear shifts. Today is Dale’s second day on the road. Yesterday Dave Biscari loaned him a hybrid Trek with shocks on the fork and on the seat post, a wider seat, wider tires and straight up-right handlebars. That bike was more Dale’s style, a fact he discovered after just a few miles sitting on that seat and leaning too far forward to work the brakes. But he’s a good sport. He has done well for the ten miles before we come to the hill. “My first time out I fell twice and hit a pole. It’s okay to walk up. The only wimps are those who stay at home.” Dale wants to do this. And I want to encourage him. His legs begin to cramp, and Dale calls Julie, his wife, to come pick him up. “You and Rich ride on to Orrick. Julie and Emma and I will meet you at Fubbler’s.” Rich and I have gone another mile or two when it happens. My front wheel begins to bob and weave. I can’t hold it steady. Without a sound all the air has escaped and my tire is limp and shapeless. I pull off the road and release the front wheel. I’ve gotten the new tube in and remounted the wheel when Dale rides up. “I kept pedalin’ after I called Julie. Then I saw you up ahead and thought you might be having problems.” The tiny pump I carry requires maximum effort for minimum effect. After much exertion the tire is inflated. But just barely. “Why don’t you take my bike and ride on? I’ll put yours in the van.” I exchange bikes with Dale. Rich and I pedal on. Level except for the railroad overpass and with a wide paved shoulder, the five miles into Orrick on 210 are pure delight. Until!! Until we pass over the Fishing River Bridge for the last mile and a-half. The shoulder here has been ripped apart by giant farm machines. It’s a maze of rough and jagged asphalt. Mortal enemy of skinny tired road bikes. I abandon the shoulder to take my rightful place as a vehicle on the road in company with cars and pickups and 18-wheelers. I feel safer. Then we are there. Dale is standing outside as we pull up. His blue van is parked in front. Julie and nine-year old daughter, Emma, are seated inside. The biscuits and gravy are superb. But more time has passed than I had planned. I’ll be late getting home in time for LaVonna McKinney’s surprise birthday party at Tryst Falls Baptist Church. Dale has a plan. “You and Rich start riding back. I’ll take your bike home. Then take Julie and Emma home and come back to get you.” We have made it back to Missouri City and are just about to attack that long hill when Dale arrives. This Sunday afternoon Rich and I have driven to Ferrelview and parked my car at the Christian Church. The ride up Interurban Road to Camden Point is scenic and pure pleasure. Interurban and Old 210 22 are the only two level roads of significant length anywhere in these parts. Our mission today is to check out the bridge over the Little Platte River, a few miles this side of Camden Point. The old wooden bridge that we’ve ridden several times was closed over a year ago and slated for replacement. We want to see if it has been done, and, if so, what the new bridge looks like. Before we come to the bridge, we come to the pavement’s end and a sign: ROUGH ROAD. My skinny tires are not gravel-friendly, but if I ride where cars have gone most of the rocks have been kicked aside. I ride slowly and straight ahead. And there’s the bridge. The old wooden bridge had a metal superstructure to either side and high over head. The new concrete bridge has a shiny metal guard-rail along both sides. Efficient. But not aesthetic. At the softball diamond in Camden Point a woman and a young girl about nine are playing as we ride up. The woman is pitching to the girl. They stop momentarily and come over. The woman is impressed that we have ridden 13 miles and will ride 13 back. “Do you ride the MS-150?’ She asks. “He does,” says Rich, pointing to me “Actually, this year I’m riding 10,000 miles to raise $100,000 for MS.” I say. “My mother had MS. It’s a horrible disease.” She says. “Well, it’s the only one I’ve got. I don’t know how it compares to others.” I say.“Good luck,” she says, “I know you’ll make it.” We have not ridden twenty yards on our way back when I feel that bump in the back. I’ve felt it before. My rear tire is losing air. Rich is up ahead. No need to call out yet. Several miles later, I must. “Rich, hold up.” When I pull abreast, I say, “I’ve got a flat. Take my keys and ride on. I’ll ride as long as I can. You come back and get me. “ I get to the bridge and find a good spot where Rich can park the car while I mount my bike on the carrier. I sit to write until he comes. Actually, this is three flats in three days. Friday was Dale’s birthday. We met at 11 when Dave opened his bike shop. Dale picked a bike he thought Dale would like. We loaded it in Dale’s van and drove to Liberty’s Animal Shelter on Old 210. We set off from there on our bikes. Past the Fountain Bluff Sports Complex. We stopped beneath the underpass where New 210 crosses Old 210. Then past the intersection with Raines Road. We had gone two miles. And the rear tire on Dale’s brand new bike went flat. I rode back. Put my bike on the car. And drove to pick up Dale. I took my bike off, put Dale’s bike on. “Meet me at Liberty Bend Fish Market, just up the road from the Animal shelter. I’m buying your lunch for your birthday.” We get a barbecue and a fish sandwich and each eat half of both. Then we drive back to Biscari Brothers. Dave puts in a new tire, and we drive back to the Animal Shelter. We make it to the end of Old 210 and back. Ten mile round trip. Plus the two before the flat. A good first Day for Dale. He falls in love with that bike. “I’ll see if Biscari Brothers and I can make a deal. I create a website to sell their bikes in exchange for this bike.” Don Gielker’s Law of Short Intervals has certainly operated these three days. Don teaches physics at William Jewell. He tells me that the most likely time for a rare thing to happen is immediately after it just happened. I go for months and for thousands of miles without a flat. Now in three days and less than a hundred miles: three flats. I hope the law is not in effect tomorrow. Mormon Missionaries Miles 3705-3775 May 22 Wednesday night at church someone asked me if I knew what city has the most bicycles per capita. “Eugene, Oregon,” I said. I’m often wrong. But never uncertain. “Seattle,” he said. As I ride up to the Mill Inn in Excelsior Springs Thursday morning, a man and a woman about my age are just coming out the door. They are dressed in biker garb and pulling on their gloves as they step toward their bikes leaning against the wall. Road bikes! With front and rear panniers. Bed rolls lashed to the rack behind their seats. A tent. Camping gear. Maybe a kitchen sink in there somewhere. “Wow! You’re loaded. Where you from?” “Eugene, Oregon,” the woman says. Her name is Sally Quiglen; his is Andy Brtis. They flew from Eugene to Kansas City. A bike shop in Eugene boxed up their bikes and shipped them to Smithville. They camped last night in Watkins Mill State Park. They have come to ride the Katy Trail to its termination in St. Charles, Missouri. Then to southern Wisconsin and Minnesota. They’re headed up Highway 10 to Wood Heights, where they will turn south and make their way over to Highway 210 and then 13. “We stay on back roads as much as possible,” she says. Andy tells me he doesn’t hear well. Sally and I do most of the talking. I tell them about the long steep hill as 10 leaves Excelsior Springs. “But you will have a paved shoulder most of the way to Wood Heights.” 23 “Are you ridin’ that bike out front?” He asks. It’s about an hour later. I’m having a tenderloin sandwich at Catrick’s in Lawson. “Yes,” I say. “How far you ridin’? “I came from Liberty. A week from Saturday a hundred of us will ride a hundred miles and Catrick’s is preparing lunch for us. We’ll raise $10,000 for MS that day.” “My name is Ken Morse,” he says. “I ride the MS-150. A friend asked me to ride the BAK--Bike across Kansas-- with him this year. From June 7-14, we’ll ride over 400 miles.” “Our 100 miles ride on May 31st is part of my plan to ride 10,000 miles this year and raise $100,000 for MS and $10,000 for HateBusters.” I say. Ken and his friend, Jerry Hubberd, go with me to my bike. I give each of them a Mickey Card. We wish each other well. I’m a block past the railroad underpass, headed south on Missouri when I spot them riding toward me. Young men in white shirts, black pants, and wearing ties. Mormon missionaries. We stop for quick introductions. Elder Barnes is from Canada. The other young man is from Sandy, Utah. I don’t catch his name and in the excitement, I forget to ask. “I admire you guys, giving two years and paying your own expenses to advance your beliefs. I visited Salt Lake City not long ago and toured the Temple complex.” “Do you have a copy of the book of Mormon?” They ask. “I have several.” “What do you think of it?” I’m wearing my yellow HateBusters shirt. “My job,” I say, “is to help people be friendly to each other across religious lines. I go to the Baptist church. I take people of all faiths to visit one another. We have two understandings when we go: we don’t try to change the people we visit; and, we don’t plan to join them. We know who we are. We want to know them and build bridges between us.” I ask them their plans. They have only recently met each other when they were sent here from different places. One has completed 14 months of his two-year commitment; the other, four months. They may be reassigned anytime to any place. I ask who decides where they go. “We have a supervisor. He prays about where to send us.” My admiration for those who can so order their lives is profound. “When we finish our missionary duties we will go back to school, get married and live our lives,” they say. I wish them God’s speed as we part. The Church of the Open Road Miles 3775-3795 May 23 Known for years as Richfield Road and Missouri City Road, this seven-mile stretch of pavement climbs hills and plummets down and winds around curves until it comes to EE. Also known as NE 84 th Street since the advent of 911 as the emergency number, this roller coaster road has a permanent place in my bicycle memory bank. In the spring of 1987 as I was planning my ride across America, Phil Maslin, a Jewell alum and a cameraman for Channel 4 TV, wanted to shoot a short sports video. We drove around Liberty, looking for the perfect spot. Richfield! Phil filmed me plummeting down the long hill the home of Rex and Marilyn Rhoades sits atop. We stopped at their mailbox for conversation with David Johnson, Phil’s photography teacher at William Jewell. Phil’s film won an award. Disney incorporated it into a video they made when I got to Disneyland. Today is May 23, 2003. I have just labored up the hill to sit in the shade of a tree beside the Rhoades’ mailbox. Back to the west toward Liberty I can see much of the Jewell campus: White Science Center, Jewell Hall, Curry Library, Gano Chapel, Brown Hall and the dorm with the red tile roof. A magnificent sight on a spring day. To the east other hills rise and fall. Nebo and Lancaster Roads intersect. Art Still when he was a Kansas City Chief lived off to the left at the bottom of a hill. Barking dogs come out most days as the road begins its rapid decent down the winding hill that passes beneath the railroad bridge. If I’m not in granny gear as I come under the bridge, the abrupt climb takes a terrible toll. With grades that rival the Rockies and scenery reminiscent of the Smokies, this road of many names lures me at every season of the year. I seldom stop to ponder the vistas I see. I made myself a rule when I first began to ride that no matter how spectacular or awesome the scene, I would not stop to take it in. Knowing that I cannot stop makes the moment more precious to me. And, also, I live with this prodding sensation that down the road something else is waiting that may be gone if I do not arrive in time. The Church of the Open Road—this is another name I have given to this ribbon of asphalt wending its way through these Missouri hills. Bike Safety May 28 24 Bike safety and HateBusters at Alexander Doniphan. For years now Carol Rogers has been inviting me to come during the last week of school to teach every child in school about bike safety and HateBusters. Wearing my yellow HateBusters T-shirt, I ride up to the school-house door and roll my bike down the hall to my assigned room. In nine half-hour sessions, every child from first through fifth grade takes a seat on the floor in front of me. And we begin. “My, you look good,” I say. “I’m glad to see you. How many of you have a bike?” Most hands go up. “I’m here to teach you the three most important rules for riding your bikes. The first rule is the most important. ALWAYS WEAR A HELMET “And how you wear it is important,” I say. As I’m talking, I’m putting my helmet on my head and pulling the front of it down over my forehead until it’s just above my eyes. “This is the way to wear it. If you fall, you almost always fall forward. I see some riders who wear their helmet back on their head. Like this.” And I shove my helmet up until it covers the back of my head. “This does no good. And you must be sure your helmet is snapped under your chin. If it comes off, it does no good. “The second rule is RIDE WITH THE TRAFFIC. Your bicycle is a vehicle. You’re the driver. You must obey all the laws a car obeys. Sometimes I see riders who ride on the wrong side of the road. I know why they do it. They want to see the cars coming at them. But that’s illegal and dangerous. If an accident happens, it is your fault. Car drivers don’t know what to do if they see you coming at them in their lane. You’re not supposed to be there. Neither of you know what to do. Bad things are likely to happen. “Rule number three: ALWAYS RIDE SINGLE FILE. The only time cars ride side by side is when they are passing each other. Bikers should do the same. If you ride beside a friend on the road, cars may not be able to get around you. You may get to talking and not pay attention. You need to always be aware of where you are and what you’re doing and where the cars are. “Now, another word about helmets. If you don’t have one and can’t get one, call me. I will get you one. If I see you out riding around our town without a helmet, I will be sad. And if you see me, call out to me, ‘Hey, Ed, you came to my school. See, I’m wearing my helmet.’ And you will make me happy.” We then talk for a few minutes about their bikes and where they ride. Then I say, “See my shirt. It says HateBusters. My students at William Jewell started HateBusters. Just across town we started. We help people who have been hurt because someone hates them. Hate is a bad thing. We want to help people like each other. I’m going to give you a card to take home to your parents. It’s a HateBusters membership card. It tells who we are and what we do and how to get in touch with us.” If all my audiences were as attentive and enthused, I would be transported straight to heaven each time I stand to speak. A Century One Day Miles 3980-4080 May 31 The weekend after Memorial Day. Almost perfect. Partly sunny. A high of 73. No rain. A nagging headwind the only problem. A day on our bicycles awaits, 12 rest stops in our 100-mile loop out from Liberty and back, past fields of newly planted corn and through small Missouri towns. Dave and Bob Biscari have set the tent up in front of their bike shop when the first of us arrive just before 6 AM. David Hamerle and Don Alsin help throughout the day. Helen Ford is here to register riders. Sandy Hader and Wanda Harmon assist. Forty-nine riders from near and far—one from New York—have gathered for the 7 o’clock start. Richard Mark is here with several of his United We Ride team members. They are wearing their team jerseys. The HateBusters team is here in our bright yellow T-shirts. All day motorists coming from behind will read on our backs: BUSTIN’ HATE SURE FEELS GREAT. John Anderson is here. Brother John, we call him at our Human Family Reunions every year. A professional storyteller, Brother John is our song leader for our HateBusters theme song. Mark Turner is here. Mark and I ride the MS-150 together every year. Susan Assel from the Johnson County Bicycle Club is here. Susan was the first rider to sign up for this ride. Rick Winslow’s brother has MS. Rick is riding. This ride has been months in the planning. Michael first had the idea. Rich planned the route. Rich Groves, Michael Calabria and I venture out early many Saturday mornings on our bikes, winding up most every time in a small town café for breakfast and to meet folks. When Rich and Michael heard about my plans to ride 10,000 miles this year and raise $100,000 for MS and $10,000 for HateBusters, they dreamed up Ed’s Elite 100. To jump start what I am calling THE GREATER LIBERTY RIDE FOR MS AND HATEBUSTERS, we would have a ride of 100 miles with 100 riders, each contributing $100.00 to MS. In one day we would raise $10,000. 25 When to have it? We needed months of planning time. We didn’t want to conflict with already scheduled rides in the area. We picked the weekend after Memorial Day—Saturday, May 31. Rich had planned the very successful 1999 bike ride from Liberty to Columbia to celebrate William Jewell’s 150 th Anniversary. Michael had worked as marketing director for a national sporting goods company. They attracted equally competent and committed people to help. Dave and Bob Biscari own Biscari Brothers Bicycles, with a store in Liberty and one in Kansas City. Dale Ahle owns a website design company. He designed and maintains our HateBusters website. Helen Ford handled registration for the Jewell ride in 1999. 20 miles to Orrick “Whatever happens is exactly what we needed to happen.” This is our guiding philosophy through the four months we work to make this happen. We’re confident that the tornadoes and violent thunderstorms will have spent themselves and our riding day will be cool and dry. Our glass is half full rather than half empty when 49 riders appear. Promptly at 7 AM, John and I break the tape and lead the pack across the parking lot and over to Brown Street. A left turn and though the light at Highway 291, we make our way over to Mill Street out to H Highway. Then John and most everyone else passes me by. I may be the only one of us who rides today to stop at each of the 12 rest stops. The first one comes 10 miles out and is one of the four along the 100 mile route that has no toilets. East from Liberty we ride along scenic H Highway, past nice homes heavily damaged by the recent tornado. We pass Liberty Hills Country Club to Stillhouse Road, where a right turn at the water tower brings us over gentle hills to Highway 210. Laura Webb and Dianne Bollman give us snacks and water and encouraging words at our first rest stop where Stillhouse Road and Highway 210 intersect. Dave Rich is a Jewell alum, a dentist in Lexington and a regular MS-150 rider. I didn’t see him at the starting line, but just as I have turned off H onto Stillhouse Road, Dave pulls alongside. We exchange news of family and friends enroute to the first rest stop. Dave is a strong rider and does not stop. I don’t see him again all day. Charlie Hughes rides up as I stand talking to Laura and Dianne. Charlie was a student in the first class I ever taught at Jewell back in 1965. We have been friends ever since. And biking buddies for years. Charlie is Director of Social Services at Liberty Hospital and has arranged medical support for our ride. Our route turns left (east) and follows 210 along a flat ribbon of road through the Missouri River Valley. Recently built and with a wide paved shoulder, 210 brings us in 10 miles to Orrick, where later each year the annual Potato Festival is held. As we cross over Fishing River about a mile east of Orrick, the shoulder has been torn into jagged pieces of treacherous asphalt. The fertile fields that lie to either side of the road are easy on the eye, but the farm implements that coax crops from this river bottom land play havoc with new shoulders. Traffic is normally light on a Saturday morning; we leave the shoulder and take to the road. We come now to the two service station rest stops on the left-hand side of the road. Snappy Amoco and Crossroad’s Conoco sit by side. They each have one uni-sex rest room and both have made them available to us. Our rest stop has been set up so riders have easy access to both. As we go into the stores to use their rest rooms and look around, we all say words of praise for their assistance. And they feel good about their offer to help. Helen Ford is here to manage our rest stop. Pam Mansel is a parish nurse from Orrick and is driving the southern area of our ride. When Pam stops at the Orrick rest stop and discovers we need bananas, she buys some. 13 Miles to Richmond The wounded shoulder continues for a hundred yards or so past our rest stop. Then we turn right onto T, where we enter our 13-mile Brigadoon-Camelot traverse of rolling hills. Off to our right lie vast farms with intricate geometries scratched in the earth by giant machines, awaiting that near time when they will burst forth with crops for the world. Long trains crawl across these fields at too great a distance to be heard. Other trains pass to our right near enough for the engineer to return our wave with the sound of his whistle. Thus we come after eight miles to the intersection of T and H and rest stop number three, our second with no toilets. Laura and Dianne have come in their van from rest stop #1 and set up here. The next five miles into Richmond give us more hills and get us ready for our major rest stop on the courthouse 26 square that the Richmond Chamber of Commerce and Richmond businesses have prepared for us. Some of us spot the small herd of buffalo in a corral off to our right a few miles before we come to Richmond. Near a bronze statue of Colonel Alexander Doniphan on the Ray County Courthouse lawn, we come to the first of our major rest stops. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, fruit, cookies, water and sports drink—all provided to us by the City of Richmond, thanks to the enthusiastic support of Jerry McCarter, Director of the Richmond Chamber of Commerce. Jerry takes our picture in front of the Doniphan statue. Any of us would be pleased to have said of us what his friends and admirers inscribed on his statue. “Colonel Alexander William Doniphan was of immense stature, noble appearance, brilliant parts, fearless, of great moral courage, sanguine, faithful, just, poetic in temperament, the champion of the down- trodden, eloquent beyond description and without doubt entitled to be classed among the greatest orators and lawyers that ever lived. On the roster of the great soldiers of the earth must always stand in a halo of glory the name of Colonel Alexander W. Doniphan of Missouri. 1808-1887.” Ray Gill is here to meet us. Ray is Christie White’s father, a longtime resident of Richmond and a former trustee of William Jewell College. Christie is a Jewell alum, and with her husband, Jerry, a member of Second Baptist Church, where over the years she has served as interim music director, as she is currently doing. Christie was the first person who told us about Jerry McCarter and how helpful he would be. Ardis Driskill, another Second Baptist member and former Richmond resident and teacher colleague of Jerry‘s, spoke enthusiastically about him. In the spring of every year on the campus of William Jewell College, students select the male student most likely to succeed and give him the title—Colonel Alexander Doniphan. I taught for 30 years at William Jewell. Alexander Doniphan was instrumental in the founding of William Jewell. So as we gather in Richmond today in sight of Colonel Doniphan’s statue, we bring full circle the intertwined lives of several people over many generations. Sponsors of our stop in Richmond include Jackson’s Hardware, Orschlen Farm and Home, Harold’s Super, Community Bank of Missouri, Bank of America, US Bank, Wolfe Jewelry and Pointers Jewelry. Ambassadors from the Chamber of Commerce who came to greet us included Joan Shank, Joan Lewis, Alice Jones and Gene Haun. 10 Miles to Rayville Out Business 10 for a couple of miles we come to the main highway, where we make a right and come shortly to C Highway, where we make another right, just beside a convenience store that sits along 10 Highway. Just before I leave 10 Highway, Rob Larocco pulls up beside me in his pickup. Rob came recently as custodian at Second Baptist Church, and when he heard about our ride, he volunteered to help. He is driving SAG today. We yell greetings to one another. Then proceed at very different speeds. We meet several times along the way. C Highway brings us five miles later to the tiny town of Rayville (pop. 204). We watch for a small sign at ground level as we approach the post office on our right. The sign is on our left and announces: Bakery Open. An arrow points to the left. We turn left. A short block brings us to Rayville Baking Company. Only a few months old and operated by the Van Till family, recent emigrants from California, this place and these people need to be known. Cliff, the father, has said we can use their rest room. Jamie and Brian Van Till welcome us. Their mother, Debbie, comes to greet us. Their pastries and homemade sandwiches fuel us far our further journey. Helen’s truck is parked in front as I ride up. She has come with whatever riders might need. John’s bicycle is on the porch when I arrive. This modest little building in this tiny town is home to three businesses. Jeff Klute and Tom McConnell recently built the building to house Vision Data Systems, a computer repair business. When the Van Tills bought a Rayville farm, they wanted to grow vegetables, grains and nuts and further develop the line of specialty foods and pastries they had made and sold in California. The Rayville Baking Company opened in the front part of the Vision Data Systems building. The bakery ovens were not used at night, so Jeff and Tom launched Hallard Station Pizza, a gourmet carry-out pizza place. Jeff and Tom repair computers by day and make pizzas by night. The Van Till family farms 200 acres, raises free-range chickens, operates the bakery and travels to farmer’s markets for miles around to sell their goods. 12 Miles to Lawson 27 John and I leave together. Up the street, we turn left at the first intersection and then right and right again, bringing us to Highway U. We turn left onto U. Past farms and fields and a few new homes we ride five miles to M. Just before we come to M, we pass on our left the farm home of Edgar Tate. We recognize his place by the big sign erected to encourage our ride. Most every Sunday, Edgar and his daughter, Betty, sit on the back row of Liberty’s Second Baptist Church, where Rich and I greet them. We turn right onto M. A hilly mile brings us to Vibbard (pop. 89). Past Vibbard about two miles we come to the intersection of OO and M. OO comes to M from our left and ends as it reaches M. At this very spot and high on a hill visible to us for half a mile or so as we approach on M, stands a flagpole with an American flag waving in the breeze. Beneath a tree beside the pole, we have a rest stop. Beverly and Gene Benedict gave us permission to stop here at the Benedict Farm. No rest room available. I didn’t have the heart to ask Beverly to let strangers into her house. I’m grateful that those of us who might need to stop can gather in her yard. She comes out to greet us and slips money into my hand as a donation to MS. We continue on M as it merges with C just past the Benedict farm. Under two miles brings us to the intersection with D. We turn left onto D for a flat three miles into Lawson. We spot the Lawson water tower at about 11 o’clock as we near town. We pass the high school on our right and the fire station on our left. We continue on D to Pennsylvania Avenue, where we turn left and come into the main business district. Catrick’s Restaurant is on our left, across from Lawson Bank. We have our lunch in Lawson. Furnished by Catrick’s Restaurant, one of my favorite places. It’s a delightful 50-mile round trip on my bike from my home in Liberty, and I come here many times during the year, often to eat with Marvin Wright, who helped in major ways to make possible my ride across America years ago. Owners, Catherine and Rick Holcomb, have prepared a sack lunch for us. We may eat our lunch inside the restaurant or across and just up the street at the Lawson Farmer’s Market. As John and I ride up, Kevin Gibson and Ron Witzker have just had their lunch and are ready to ride. We stand for a few minutes and talk. Kevin is Music Minister at First Baptist Church of North Kansas City and lives in Gladstone. Ron is a professor of music at William Jewell and lives in Liberty. John and I are joined shortly by Pete Gardner, one of our two motorcycle escorts and our official photographer. Then Mark comes. And Michael Long, our other motorcycle escort. We all relive the morning as we devour the lunch Rick has made for us. 15 Miles to Watkin’s Mill From Catrick’s we continue up Pennsylvania to Moss, where we turn right. We pass Lawson Elementary School on our left and then cross the railroad tracks. We turn left at the first opportunity. We are now on Salem Road, a delightful and lightly traveled rolling farm road, taking us past eight miles of scenic pasturelands where horses and cows graze. Just before we would come to Excelsior Springs, we turn right onto Italian Way, bringing us up a steep hill and over a railroad track to the American-Italian Pasta Plant on our right. Just past the plant, we come to a traffic light at Highway 69. A left turn here brings us quickly to the next light and a right turn into the Excelsior Springs Hospital parking lot and the completion of our Metric Century. Darren Hennen, City Manager of Excelsior Springs, asked for the hospital to serve as our rest stop, and Sally Nance, Hospital Administrator, made it possible. For the forth time today, Helen is on hand with the assistance riders need. Some of our riders will complete their ride here and will be sagged back to Liberty. Tana Clement, Pastoral Administrator at Second Baptist Church, helped us secure the church van for our use today. Gary Smith is here with the church van and trailer. Gary has taken the safety course required to drive the van and is here to take those riding the Metric Century back to Liberty. Gary agreed without a moment’s hesitation when asked to help. He makes two round trips with victorious riders. A recently built bike trail leaves the hospital to our left. The sign Rich and I put up last night to mark the route is missing today. My heart sinks. If the missing sign causes riders to miss the turn on Tracy, they will be lost. Sixteen miles straight ahead lies Liberty and the bike shop where we started, but they will miss the last four rest stops, Watkins Mill State Park and the inviting town of Kearney. John and I follow the bike trail for about a mile to Tracy Street, where we turn right. We follow Tracy for just under a mile until it brings us to Old Quarry Road. A mile on this roller coaster brings us to Highway 92. We cross 92. And Old Quarry has become RA, leading us up and down for less than a mile to the entrance to Watkins Mill State Park. We enter the park to find our next rest stop, staffed today by Bobbie, my wife, Debbie, my daughter, and Laura, my grand daughter. 28 Then through the park, beautiful on this last day of May. Off to our right winds a four-mile bike path around the lake. Though not part of our 100-mile route today, we want everyone to know it’s here. And it’s nice. Worth a return sometime. We follow the signs out of the park and exit the park on MM. We turn left. To the right the bridge is out and only local traffic is allowed. We follow MM over rolling hills to Old BB. We turn left onto BB. After a couple of miles BB intersects with Jesse James Farm Road. 15 Miles to Kearney We turn right onto Jesse James. We pass the James Farm on our right and Claybrook Historic Home (recently burned) on our left. Where Jesse James bends left, we continue straight ahead, bringing us in little over a mile into Kearney. We pass several intersections before we come to Washington Street, the major business route through downtown Kearney. John and I continue across Washington Street another block to the new shopping mall. This is Old Church Plaza and our rest stop. Mavis Groves is in charge at this rest stop. Charles Small, owner of the shopping center, is here to welcome us. We come out of Old Church Plaza on Highway 33 and turn right (north) We continue on 33 about a mile, under the highway bridge, past the Catholic Church on our right and the Assembly of God Church on our left to the first road where we can turn left. Past newly plowed field on our right and some new houses to either side. Up and down a few moderate hills, we see looming in the near distance what looks like a space ship landing. This huge and low-lying water tower recently appeared here and sits just beside the road. We do not pass it today, as we turn left onto Nation Road, a hundred yards or so before we would have come to it. Nation road is almost flat after the first long assent. We see farmland about to become subdivisions as we come to Highway 92. We cross 92 and continue on Nation Road, passing Turning Leaves Nursery and then Curt Stalling’s farm, both on our right. Nation Road has a few gravel spots as it bends right and crosses a little creek. It changes names and takes a number as it climbs a few hills over to Highview Road, where we turn left and take a shortcut through the neighborhood before coming to Plattsburg Road. Here at the intersection is rest stop #11, where Phyllis and Carl Johnson greet riders and offer refreshment. Several motorists stop to ask what they are doing and wind up giving them money. My son-in-law, Ed Haskell, just this week bought a pickup. When Rich calls to ask him to SAG, he jumps at the chance and is assigned the route from rest stop #10 back to Liberty. He drives back and forth encouraging riders, doing so well that none require any assistance other than his supporting words. 15 Miles to Liberty John and I turn left onto Plattsburg Road, passing over a couple of creeks and climbing a hill to Timber Trails on our right. Then a roller coaster couple of miles, past Prairie Home Baptist Church on our left and a natural stone entrance to a country home on our right. Up a modest hill and under a highway bridge and around a bend, we come to the intersection of Plattsburg Road and Highway 69. When the light changes, we cross to the Blue Light Station and our final rest stop. A small natural stone building, Blue Light closed up about a year ago and has fallen into disrepair. The restrooms are locked. Dale and Julie Ahle staff rest stop #12 and offer water and snacks. Then we descend the hill behind Blue Light and turn left at the foot of the hill. Up a gentle hill, we pass pastureland to our right and the Hallmark Distribution Plant visible in the distance. To our left is the Ernest Shepherd Youth Center and then the backside of Heartland Meadows, Liberty’s well designed and flourishing industrial park. As we pass an intersecting road coming in from our left, the road becomes loose gravel for about 20 yards. Then paved. Then gravel again for a hundred yards, coming then to a poorly kept railroad crossing. Near the end of our hundred-mile day, our reflexes are not as quick and our patience is running out. Just over the railroad track we climb a steep hill. A couple of barking dogs live at the top. As the road levels out, we pass a cemetery on our left and we come to B Highway. No shoulder. Light traffic. We turn right onto B. Less than two miles and an exhilarating downhill just before B brings us back to H Highway, which we used hours ago to leave Liberty. Now we turn right onto H and come past a go cart track and a construction company on our right, now both in ruins since the tornado. We pass under a railroad bridge and then come to a road just past the bridge going to the right. We turn right. This is Spring Street, though we won’t know it until we come up the street and around a bend to the left and see the sign. 29 Several houses along this street were blown away in the tornado just 27 days ago. Others suffered severely. Devastation is everywhere. Spring Street intersects Doniphan (Remember that name?) We turn right onto Doniphan and climb a short hill to the first cross street. We turn left here onto Bowles Drive, named for the legendary coach at William Jewell College. We come up the hill onto Jewell’s campus. The backside of the Mabee Center (college gym) is on our left. The recently installed ropes course and climbing tower is to our right. As we top the hill we see Jewell’s football stadium and track. Across from the entrance to the stadium we see a sign pointing up a steep hill and announcing Main Campus. John and I are together as we approach the hill. Then at the top, we wheel to the left just past Pillsbury Music Building and ride up onto the quad, the football field sized open space around which our campus lives. Once around the quad on our bikes. For 30 years I walked this quad. Good memories abound here. A victory lap around the quad brings a fitting close the Greater Liberty Bike Ride. The tornado took out the clock tower and the roof off our student union, but repairs are progressing. The quad will soon be its old self. Then off the quad the way we entered, John and I turn left and pass behind Gano Chapel. As we descend the hill, the president’s home sits to our right. As we pass the president’s home, we come to a stop sign. Here we turn left onto Jewell Street. One block brings us to Franklin. We look to the left and see Jewell Hall, built in 1849 as the first building on campus. We turn right onto Franklin, bringing us past Second Baptist Church on our left (my church). Another block and we are on the Liberty square. I have made it a practice for years to ride once around our town square every time I am out and about on my bike. I do it to check out our town. To be assured that all is well with us. I do it also so people will see me. In all kinds of weather at every time of year, I somehow think if they see me they will be comforted. Small town life can offer those little regularities that hardly ever register on our conscious minds but which at some basic level seem to give life that regularity and dependability we all need. So once around the square today John and I ride. Then back by the way we came this morning from Biscari Brothers, we return, ending a signature day in my life made possible by the good folks with whom I share time and place. Though I love to write as much as I love to ride, I could never find the words to fully express my love for these people and this place I see and hear each day. John and I turn right off Brown Street into the parking lot and ride together the final hundred yards back to the tent where we started this morning at 7. It’s near 6 o’clock. We are the last to come in. a festive crowd is gathered. Dave has the hotdogs and hamburgers ready. We have a good time reliving the day and taking pictures. I have ridden near last all the day. Meandering and wandering come naturally to me. So I have not seen most of our riders since they passed me coming out of Liberty this morning. I am grateful beyond words to each and every one of them. I will send each of them a copy of this story. I hope their day was as glorious as mine. We did not do everything as perfectly as I had hoped. Some riders missed lunch because I failed to mark it clearly. I apologize. If those who made this ride happen can muster the energy to try again next year, we will correct that mistake. And other little ones we now see. The weekend after Memorial Day next year may see the SECOND GREATER LIBERTY RIDE FOR MS AND HATEBUSTERS Planning a Century The route for this year’s ride went through several versions. Rich, Mike and I rode portions of the route several times and made many changes. We abandoned the idea of riding Highway D from Highway 13 near Polo over to Lawson after we all gave up on the unending set of rugged hills that exhausted us. This early in the year, these hills would win us no friends and entice no one back for an encore ride. Our plan to ride MM from Lawson to Watkins Mill State Park had to be scuttled when the Highway Department took out the bridge and began its replacement. Of the three of us, I am the only one who rode the entire 100 miles today. Rich drove his dad’s pickup and pulled the trailer from Liberty Manor Baptist Church. Early this morning he finished marking the route. He and I worked yesterday from 2:30 until 9:30 last night and did not finish. All day today he drove the route, picking up riders and their bikes, giving them a rest, and putting them back on the road. Rich would like to have ridden. But he is in charge and not willing to assign his duties to someone else. Michael was late in leaving this morning, held up by administrative matters that other riders require and that only he could handle. Michael is a strong rider. But he rode sweep today, hanging back to encourage others and help them make it further than they thought they could go. Michael came a little late 30 to the Metric Century stop and rode Highway 69 directly back to Liberty. He helped Dave and Bob and Alex, the third Biscari brother, welcome and feed and entertain returning riders for the rest of the day. We live all experiences three times. First in anticipation, second in doing it, and third in memory. This day has now entered stage three, where it will serve us all well for years to come. And two riders not here today will be part of my memory of this day. Graham Houston is a HateBusters supporter and an avid cyclist, raising big bucks by his riding for Habitat for Humanity. He signed up to ride today, but his daughter was running in the state track meet. Ken McFarland rode with me from Orlando to Atlanta the year I rode across the country. I had hoped he could ride with me today. Rich, Michael and I want to thank our wives, Mavis, Eileen and Bobbie. We were gone from home many hours in planning all that took place today. They were good sports. To all those who rode, all those who helped and all those who contributed to our fund raising, we offer our profound thanks. Our lives have been forever intertwined and lifted up. In the words of Tiny Tim from Dicken’s Christmas Carol, “God bless us everyone.” A Reason to Live A reason to live! That’s the best medicine anyone ever has. I live to bust hate. It all started, I now see, when I was three and four and five years old. Week after week I would sit in Sunday School and listen to my teachers tell the stories of Moses and David and Samson and the awesome things they did to save their people. Then one Sunday morning in 1949 when I was 14, I heard a sermon and an offhand comment that would blaze forever in my mind like neon in the night. Gordon Clinard was a gentle and humble human being. When I was a teenager, he was my pastor. He had just preached another of his always elegant and eloquent sermons about loving all people. I was transported to heaven on the wings of his words. I just knew that when Monday morning came and all of us went back to school and to work, our town would be a new and better place where we all loved one another. The feeling I had at that moment—that all was now right with the world—would last no longer than it took me to walk up the aisle and out the front door of the church. But to feel that way again would motivate most everything I would do from that time forward. Mr. Singletary and Mr. Bratcher, two of our church deacons, stood talking in the doorway as I walked past. I overheard a single sentence from each man. Said Mr. Singletary, “If them niggers try to come in this church, I’ll beat ‘em back with a baseball bat.” Said Mr. Batcher, “Me, too.” That was more than 50 years ago. Few days in all that time have passed without the picture of my pastor and the two deacons flashing through my mind. How anyone could express such hate after having just been called to love was a mystery to my young mind. “You have Multiple Sclerosis. It’s a damnable disease. You won’t be able to be active.” That’s what my doctor told me one Thursday May morning in 1981 as I lay in a hospital bed. Three years of deep depression came upon me. My doctor gave me shots and pills and said to rest and not get hot. I was miserably unhappy. Thoughts of suicide were not strangers to me. I quit everything except teaching my classes and going to church. I was sitting one day in 1983 in a corner of the garage, desperate and depressed and home alone. I glimpsed by son’s old bicycle in another corner. “Ride that bike.” The thought was so real it was audible I resisted. The doctor had said not to get hot. But finally I did. I made it down the block. To the church on the corner. I was exhausted. I had to rest. I made it back. And went to bed. Three weeks passed before I got on the bike again. One overcast October Sunday in 1986, I set off from home to attempt my first century. Forty miles into the ride came another audible thought, “Ride your bike across America.” On May 17, 1987, I set off from Disney World, bound for Disneyland, by way of Seattle. I was riding alone and without money. From the church when I was young I had learned that we are all created in God’s image. I thought that must surely mean that all of us have at least a spark of goodness and genius in us. I wanted to find that spark of goodness by asking people I would meet for a sandwich, a glass of water, a bed for the night. If people everywhere helped me, I would have found that spark. I took no map with me. I would ask people in one town the best way to get to the next town. If they told me, I would have found that spark of genius. There was another reason for the ride. If I made it across the country, I somehow knew that MS would have to live on my terms. If I couldn’t make it, I would be at the mercy of my illness. I made it. More than 500 people I asked for help. Except for five early morning waitresses who could not give me a bowl of oatmeal because they didn’t have authority, no one ever said no. To these five I said, “No problem. I’ll be okay.” And down the block or around the corner, another waitress said yes. 31 Ed’s Bike America: The Two Penny Odyssey. That’s the name I gave to my ride. A penny a mile for MS and a Penny a mile for the Human Family Reunion. The HFR is a big party my students and I started in 1976 in Kansas City. We would invite people of all colors, cultures and creeds to bring a dish of their favorite food. We would put it all together for a giant smorgasbord. Who’s right is the wrong question until we get to know each other—this was our number one rule. Rule number two: Eat first, ask later. If we ask, we may not be able to eat, and if we can’t eat, the people who brought the food will think we don’t like them. As I rode across the country I would call at all the newspapers and TV stations. I would tell them about our Human Family Reunions and ask them to alert their readers and viewers. When I got to California Mickey Mouse gave me a trophy. So did the Orange County Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. I rode 5,126 miles in 105 days and raised almost $10,000.00. My MS, I discovered, meant I must be active. My MS would live on my terms. Just about the time I finished writing my book about my ride, a bad thing happened in Louisiana that galvanized my students and me into action. I had come to teach at William Jewell fresh from grad school in 1965, having spent the previous year in Kansas City on a fellowship to study local race relations. I was teaching Race Relations at William Jewell College. I always told my students that it never is enough just to know why people hate. We must be ready and willing to act when hate appears and we can help. So in 1988 when a member of the Ku Klux Klan was elected to the Louisiana Legislature, my students and I started HateBusters. The governor invited us to come and help the state redeem itself. We went. Three of us elected by the class. Eastern Airlines gave us free tickets. We organized an all-day bike ride to towns along the Mississippi. We invited everyone we met to come that night to our Human Family Reunion to be held at Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church. The governor declared HATEBUSTERS AND HUMAN FAMILY REUNION DAY IN LOUISIANA. Because I have MS, I think I spend more time bustin’ hate. A laser-like focus on bustin’ hate, leaves me little time to think about MS. And I’ve told myself that if I don’t think about MS, it has no power over me. I’ve told myself that bike riding is the only medicine I need to hold MS at bay. So the long hours I spend on a bike are in lieu of time spent in doctors’ offices. Bike riding is more fun and much cheaper. If I’m to keep MS from taking over my mind, I need projects to plan and make happen. Ed’s Elite 100 took months of planning and a day to make happen. Now that it’s over, the year-long Greater Liberty Ride for MS and HateBusters has moved to center stage. My Letter to Marvin Miles 4420-4500 June 17 Marvin, Neither of us anticipated our mutual adventure that began with your question that Sunday afternoon in October 1986. “Where you going?” You asked. “Across America,” was my answer then. “To Greater Liberty,” is my answer now. You helped me then. And I need you now. I have promised to ride my bike 10,000 miles this year to raise $100,000 for Multiple Sclerosis and $10,000 for HateBusters. I can ride my bike 125 miles on a good day. So I drew a map showing all the places within 125 radius of Liberty.I hope to visit all the county seat towns in the 114 counties that make up Greater Liberty. I hope to teach bike safety to the children in the town and my book, How To Like People Who Are not Like You, in the schools. Marvin, I’m reasonably confident that I can ride the miles. I’m not so sure I can raise the money. To meet my fund raising goal I need help; thus comes my letter to you. The McClelland Law Firm here in Liberty has issued The Greater Liberty Challenge. The firm contributed $1000.00 to my Greater Liberty Campaign and has challenged other towns in Greater Liberty to contribute $1000.00. This is where I need your help, Marvin. Would you take on the task of getting the Lawson community to contribute $1000.00 to the Greater Liberty Campaign? I would be delighted to come speak at anytime to anyone if my coming could be helpful to the community and could help me reach my goal. The money I raise for MS will provide help and hope to those who suffer from MS. I must give some meaning to my own struggle with MS by becoming a champion of those to whom MS has been even more unkind. And I must do what I can to rid our world of racial and religious hate. HateBusters is my effort to do that. We never say no when asked to help where hate has come. And we never charge fees for our services. HateBusters is a 501 C-3 non-profit. We are supported entirely by gifts and contributions from those who like what we do. 32 I won’t feel bad for long, Marvin, if you need to say no to my request. I would have felt bad for a long time if I hadn’t asked. Life is a grand adventure, and I can’t wait to see what happens next. Please give me a call or drop me a line when you decide what to do with my audacious asking. I park my bike near the side door of Lawson’s United Methodist Church. At noon today the Lawson Rotary Cub meets here. Marvin has arranged for me to speak. If Not Coincidence Miles 4535-4545 June 20 Okay, Dorothy, I’m convinced. If you hadn’t died without giving us warning, I could tell you in person. Now I’ll just write you a note and make it public. Since you convinced me that nothing is ever just coincidence and coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous, I can now entertain the possibility that somehow you might be aware of these words I write to you and send to the newspaper. One of the reasons I ride is that I prefer a ravenous hunger to a timid appetite. So usually I plan to pedal 20 to 30 miles before I find a small town café and sit down to eat. That was my plan today when I awoke at 5 AM. Storms in the night ordinarily have spent themselves by dawn. Not so today. Thunder and lightening and heavy rain are with us ‘til mid-morning. Then after I have pedaled around town to Pony Express Bank and the post office and RC Printing to pay a bill, the bowl of cereal I ate before dawn is long gone, and my appetite already is fierce. Watkins Mill State Park! That’s where I decide to go as the sun comes out and I’m pedaling past our town square. I spot Pandolfi’s Dehli to my left as I pass the Corner Tavern. On impulse I circle the block and prop my bike beside the door and step inside. I order #3 and a Coke and take a seat. The door opens. In steps Carl. And I think of Dorothy. Carl has been a pastor and a seminary professor. He joined the staff at William Jewell several years ago. He is my Sunday School teacher. We have no prescribed curriculum. Individual members of the class suggest books we might want to study. Right now, we’re studying a book that Anton Jacobs wrote. Anton joined the Jewell faculty in 1988, replacing my colleague of 23 years, Earl Whaley. For the next seven years, Anton and I were the Sociology Department. He left in 1995 to re-enter the ministry. I left to make HateBusters a 501 C-3 non-profit and devote my full time to it. Religion and the Critical Mind: A Journey for Seekers, Doubters, And Curious Believers. That’s the title Anton gave his book. At my suggestion, our class voted to study it. Yesterday in Sunday School, Carl and I agreed that we should meet sometime soon to work out assignments and the approach we would take to the book. But we didn’t choose a meeting time or place. Now at noon on Monday here we are together. It was not conscious plan that brought us here. And Dorothy has persuaded me never to dismiss a thing as simply coincidence. What then is it? Buy a Mile Miles 4545-4615 June 21 Before the sun is up and I’m on the road, I send an email appeal to Dale. He will post it on our greaterliberty.org web site. This is what it said. I promised to raise $100,000 for Multiple Sclerosis and $10,000 for HateBusters. So far I have raised $7100.00 for MS and $2800.00 for HB. If I am to meet my goal, I need your help. Please buy one of my last 5000 miles. By the end of June, I will have ridden 5000 of the 10,000 miles I promised to ride. I have raised just under $10,000 of the $110,000 I promised to raise. If I ride the miles but don't raise the money, I will be disappointed, and all the good things that would have come from the money won't come. Here's what I'm asking you to do. Pick any mile from #5000 to #10,000. Look to see if it has been bought. If it has, pick another. If not, purchase it on line by using your credit card. Specify if you are buying a MS-mile or a HB-mile. When you have made your purchase, your name will then appear beside the mile you bought. The amount you paid will not be listed. If someone buys every one of the last 5000 miles, we will have raised a major portion of the goal I set myself. You may buy a mile in memory or honor of someone special to you. As I ride each mile, I will post it on www.greaterliberty.org. I will tell you the total miles I have ridden and the amount of money that together we have raised. To those who see only with their eyes, I will appear as a solitary rider as I ride these last 5000 miles. But to those unhindered by physical sight-those who see with their soul-the spirit team that accompanies me will be readily apparent. With me as I ride, I will carry the names of those who bought the miles I am riding. My body will be on the bike. My mind and heart will be with you. 33 South out of Orrick Z Highway runs straight and flat across river bottomland until about two miles out it crosses a dual set of railroad tracks and makes a hard left. Red brick farm houses and canyons of corn rise on either side of the road. On this late June morning the corn is higher than my head. The road curves gracefully back and forth from left to right through growing green walls of corn for miles before giving way to fields of wheat and soybeans, giving my ride a meandering character and a fairy tale ambiance. A single car passes me. A giant mechanical praying mantis roams the field of beans off to my right. Sweat Miles 4645-4760 June 24 “It’s too hot to be ridin’ that bike.” I am over 80 miles into what will end up as a 115-mile day. Through Plattsburg, Stewartsville, and Cameron I have come and am just a few miles north of Lawson on Highway 69 when I pull up under a tree and onto his driveway. Dressed in shorts and on a riding mower, he is tending his lawn. “And it’s too hot to be mowin’, he says. “Would you like a drink?” “Yes, I would.” I say. Scott hands me his insulated mug. “It’s cranberry juice and water.” I take long drags. I’m carrying three water bottles in the insulated bag behind my seat. When I left home they were filled with ice and water. I’ve drunk them dry several times already and replenished the ice at several Casey’s. I cannot ride and drink at the same time, as almost all bikers do. So I have made repeated stops beside the road to gulp ice water and devour cookies and candy and power bars. But I never get enough to drink. This Good Samaritan tells me his name is Scott. I think he told me his last name. My friends think I’m crazy for loving the heat, wind and sun. I actually prefer these riding days to those in the 60s and 70s. I love to sweat and guzzle ice water. My body seems to work better when the sweat pours like Niagara. Physical exhaustion is exhilarating, a whole different species of tired from that brought on by mental work. But not all that Scott says to me sticks with me as it would if I were fresh. Scott, my friend, I apologize for not remembering your last name. “I used to ride this highway on my bike to Lawson and back,” says Scott. But not anymore. Too many big trucks. They don't care that you’re on a bike. They’ll run you off the road.” Just a few miles back up the road an 18-wheeler blew by me with a long blast on his air horn. I shot bolt upright. A fierce anger surged up from my gut. Long practice, though, prevented me from shaking my fist or responding in some other provocative way. In neither speed nor size are bikes equal competitors with trucks. In over 100,000 miles on my bike, I’ve been passed by many thousands of trucks. None have ever hit me. Very few have cursed me with their horn. Almost all have given me wide berth and have passed as inconspicuously as any herd of elephants possibly can. When I see a big truck coming up behind and an on- coming car, I know the road belongs to the strongest and fastest. The truck cannot pull around me into the path of the car. So I pull off the road. And live to ride another day. I sit hollow eyed and mute some two hours later at The Dish in Liberty. I’m a half-hour late. Rich, Mavis and Jordan Groves, Ron and Helen Ford and Michael Calabria are already here and have ordered. We are here to wrap up final details of our May 31st Greater Liberty Ride for MS and HateBusters. I’m too tired to be of much help. After several cherry cokes and a giant hamburger, I’ve come part way back from zombie land, enough so that as Rich, Michael and I linger at the table when the others have gone, the three of us make plans for a smaller Autumn ride and a much bigger Greater Liberty ride the weekend after Memorial Day next year. The Bridge Is Out Miles 4760-4840 June 26 The MM bridge just off Hwy. 69 east of Lawson is still out. Advise from a breakfast friend at Catrick’s brings me back on Salem Road to 174 th Street. This winding and hilly road brings me across 69 to Baxter Road and then to Endsley Road running off to my left. I know that name. I’ve been on that road before, though not here. I stay on Baxter. Over some steep hills to a single railroad track. A long train passing gives me time to admire the green fields of thistles and small trees. No crops grow here. When the train has passed, a few more hills. And I’m back at MM. Just a few hundred yards past the missing bridge. I can see traffic on 69. I’ve ridden 10 miles. And I’m 1000 yards from where I started. What am I to think about that sign I saw as 174th Street crossed 69: NO ACCESS TO MM? Have I entered the Twilight Zone? No matter. My goal is to ride many miles. 34 Riding through Watkins Mill State Park is always delightful. I take NE 161 st Street to the right as I come from the park. Just over the first hill the road becomes hard packed gravel. The old wooden railroad bridge on this road was replaced with a concrete bridge a few years back. I wouldn’t want to have to call 911 from the intersection I come to. There’s no marker. At the bottom of a hill a road merges from my right with the road I’m riding. I remember riding it before. I think it’s Endsley. If so, I’ve come a long way to get here. I could have taken Endsley off Baxter. The Lay and Wedge wedding? Directions to a golf meet? I’m intrigued. For a mile or so along B Hwy between 69 and H, I pass reddish orange arrows spray painted on the road. Some say Lay. Some say Wedge. Then they stop. And I think maybe they’re instructions for road repair. With today’s ride, I’m at 4860. Almost halfway to my 10,000. Map Maker in My Head Miles 4840-4905 June 27 96th to Reinking Road. Right to Cookingham (Hwy. 291). Left on 291. This recently paved five- foot wide shoulder could have been a biker’s dream on this main drag to KCI. But the rumble strip down the middle makes it a bone jarring hazard instead. Missouri’s reputation as biker unfriendly lives on. I leave 291 at the first opportunity and turn right into Northland, a trailer home community carved from a corn field. A circular tour of the place brings me to Agnes St. and over I-435. A few miles later without turning I come to the intersection of N. Prospect and NE 132 nd St. I’m sure the one who laid out these streets could explain to me how this happened. The unseen and unconscious map-maker in my head leads me to the right on 132nd. We’ll soon see what he has in mind. Viola! I come soon to Mt. Olivet Christian Church. Since 1878 it’s been here. Now I’m on familiar ground. I’ve stopped here on hot days to rest. I remember that 132 nd will bring me eventually to Hwy. A, together with Hwy. 92, the only roads around here that I will not ride. With no shoulder, steep hills that belch cars and pickup trucks over every crest, bound for Smithville Lake, boats in tow, biker danger lurks on every hand. My son Brian was hit years ago on 92. He’s okay. But we got the message. Maybe I misunderstood the map-maker in my head. Over several hills Mt. Olivet becomes Sherman and dumps me back on 291. Then I see that the southbound shoulder is about a foot wider than the northbound. The rumble strip is farther from the roadway now, making it easier to ride the shoulder. Still, 291 is noisy and busy. I exit at my first opportunity on NE 112 th. But it’s only an entrance into one of the many housing developments that sprout overnight along all roads with any traffic. NE 112 th has chewed up only a few hundred yards of farmland so far. I come quickly to its end and three left turns and then a right put me quickly back on 291, having passed dozens of young men working on their tan and putting up houses. The shoulder narrows again at NE 108th. I turn right. Over hills and I-435 to Hardesty and a left turn at this last street before 108th dead ends. Hardesty brings me circuitously past farmland and an emerging planned community to Topping, running parallel to 435. Topping brings me back to 96 th. I’m back where I started. My unseen map-maker has done it again. How it happens is a mystery to me. But that it will happen every time I’m out on my bike is a thing I count on as surely as any in my life. I’m still eight or nine miles from home. In the insulated bag behind my seat, my three water bottles have stayed icy cold all day. But I’ve drunk them dry. Three weeks ago at the north edge of Liberty on 291, Sonic, America’s Drive In, opened. I guzzle giant cherry limeade. Then pour the rest in my bottle. I stop on Liberty’s courthouse square. Park my bike. Take a seat on a bench across from Bradford’s Antiques. Pull out my bottled cherry limeade. Stretch out my legs. And survey my town as I finish my drink. I’m at 4905 miles now on this Friday. I’ll be at 5000 on Monday Richmond Accepts June 30 Miles 4950-5030 Jerry McCarter isn’t in when I arrive. I’ve come to ask him to lunch at the Old Towne Restaurant. Jerry’s Chamber of Commerce office is on the east side of Richmond’s town square. Old Towne is on the north side. Jerry comes momentarily. Just before noon we are seated and ready to order. “Jerry, I need your advice. I want to ask someone in Richmond to accept the Greater Liberty Challenge. I have someone in mind. He used to be a member of the board for William Jewell. His daughter goes to my church. He’s a businessman and farmer here in Richmond. His name is Ray Gill.” 35 “Ray would be my choice. Let’s call him and invite him to lunch,” Jerry says. Jerry takes out his cell phone and has Ray on the line in seconds. “I’ll be there in five minutes,” Ray says. Ray has hardly seated himself when I begin. “Ray, I’m riding my bike 10,000 miles this year to raise $110,000 for MS and HateBusters. A Liberty businessman donated one thousand dollars and challenged other business leaders in other towns to match his gift. I’m here to ask you for a thousand dollars.” With no hesitation at all, Ray says, “Come by my office after lunch and pick up the check.” Oma’s Kitchen Miles 5115-5180 July 2 Richfield Road to Lancaster Road to Hwy 69 to Rhodus Road to 140 th to Cameron Road to 144th, which quickly becomes Schoolfield and crosses a wooden bridge. Schoolfield becomes 150 th and leads to Old Quarry Road. Old Quarry to RA to 162nd, which becomes Clevenger and then Endsley and brings me to Baxter, in front of the same house where I sat to drink and rest just a few days ago. Baxter brings me to MM and Old BB. Just before BB comes Adrenaline Hill, smooth, straight and steep. I let ‘er go. Oma’s Kitchen in Kearney is not on my short list. I’ve tried it three times and wasn’t impressed. Rich Groves told me I should try it again. He liked it. I order Ruth’s Club Sandwich. Superb! The tomatoes are red and juicy. And taste like tomatoes. I’ll be back. Something has changed. I have to find out what. Missouri City Air Hose Miles 5180-5255 j July 3 I’m riding my blue bike this morning. It’s my backup bike. If my red one is working, the blue one hangs from my garage ceiling. For the past few days, I’ve nursed a slow leak in the front tire. This morning it’s flat. So when Rich and I rendezvous at the corner of Natchez and Southview Drive, I’m riding blue. Across 291 Highway and onto Liberty Landing Road toward Liberty Bend Fish Market. Something’s wrong! The rear wheel rides rough, jarring at every bump. I pinch the tire. Seems OK. Rich is riding ahead when we pass Missouri City School. He can’t hear when I yell, “Hey, Rich, I’ve got a flat.” I’m fumbling in my panniers for a spare tube and a tire tool when he returns. I’m sweating buckets when I get the tire changed and force a little air inside with the tiny pump I carry. The tire’s not flat now, But it’s far from the 120 lbs. I need to roll the way I should. Orrick, eight miles up the road, has two service stations. My best bet. Then I remember the single gas pump back on the eastern edge of Missouri City. It usually has had an OPEN sign when I’ve ridden past, though I seldom see any people about. Most of the time the building seems deserted. “Let’s ride back and check out that service station, Rich.” It’s closed. No sign of life. But Rich spots an air hose. It’s live! Some Good Samaritan has left it hooked up to an unseen generator. Rich has a gauge. Bikers are advised never to use air hoses. The tiny tires we run fill instantly under high pressure and the tire can blow. I apply the hose in qucik bursts, checking the pressure each time. I stop at 100. Rich is due back home. I’m bound for Richmond. Another 75 mile today, taking me to 10,000. Al Plummer bought miles 5200-5204. He rode in spirit with me out of Orrick toward Fleming. Sarah’s Table Miles 5256-5275 July 4 Oma’s Kitchen is about to become Sarah’s Table. And Kearney will reacquire the culinary crown it surrendered when Clem’s closed. Hundreds of times over more than a decade I biked the 25-mile round trip to Clem’s on a Saturday morning for breakfast. A half-order of biscuits and gravy. Every time superb! I made friends I never saw except at Clem’s. The Lutheran Bunch always sat at the table for eight in the no- smoking section. Sometimes they asked me to join them. Then one day Clem’s closed. No warning. No good byes. And I biked to other towns for breakfast. Excelsior Spring’s Mill Inn, Lawson’s Catrick’s Restaurant. When Oma’s Kitchen opened in Kearney, I tried it. They didn’t do biscuits and gravy right. Rather than rustic, the old house looked unkept. I told my biking buddies I didn’t like it. One recent day, Rich said I should try it again. He had been there. And liked it. Then I found myself right at noon in Kearney, 60 miles into a ride on a sweltering July day. None of the recently opened chain eateries beaconed me. OK Rich. Oma’s one more time. 36 Ruth’s Club Sandwich! Red juicy tomatoes. Sourdough bread. Crisp bacon. Turkey and ham piled so high I can’t get my mouth around it. Maybe Rich is onto something. Today’s the Fourth of July. I’m back. Rich, Dale Ahle and I left our cars at the now closed Blue Light Station at 69 and 33 highways in Liberty. East on 69 to Rhodus Road to 140 th. Left to Jesse James Road to downtown Kearney and Oma’s. The biscuits and gravy today are world class. “I’m sorry, Rich. I seriously misjudged this place.” Then I’m at the counter to pay the bill. “I’m the mother of the new owner,” says the friendly cashier. “New owner? When?” “This May. And soon we’ll be Sarah’s Table.” Mystery solved, Rich. You and I came to a different Oma’s Kitchen. We’ll be coming often to Sarah’s Table. If only the Lutheran Bunch would stake out a table. I’ll email Charlie Kueck and suggest it . We Have Great Help Miles 5275-5315 July 5 Back to Oma’s Kitchen. Sarah is here. The Sarah. Sarah Moore! The new owner. “In a month or so we’ll change the name to Sarah’s Table.” That’s what Sarah tells me when her sister, Tammy Grosserode, brings her to my table and introduces her. I met Tammy yesterday as I was leaving. She lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma and is here for a few days to help out. Both sisters grew up in Liberty. Tammy graduated in 1975, the year before my daughter, Debbie. Sarah is a full-time cataloger for the Mid-Continent Library system. Husband Carl is a meat cutter for an area grocery. They’ve never owned a restaurant, but when they heard Oma’s Kitchen was for sale they fulfilled a long-time dream. Tammy, Sarah and Carl are now equal owners. “We have great help. Carl and I will keep our other jobs for now. I’ll be here on weekends. Later, we’ll see.” Sarah tells me this when I ask how she can maintain the hours posted on the door: Monday thru Wednesday, 5:30 AM to 4 PM Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 5:30 to 8 PM and 5:30 to 3 PM on .Sunday. The Churchyard Dog Miles 5335-5420 July 7 I won’t be going to that church again anytime soon. It was before 10 in the morning and already I was looking for shade. The marquee in front of the Methodist Church in Camden welcomed me and the shade by the door invited me. Two dogs stood in front of the house next door. My feet touched the ground. The big black dog hurtled toward me with teeth bared. I jerked me leg back just in time. His teeth left a long red mark across the back of my calf. I twirled the bicycle in a frantic circle to keep him off me .I grabbed a rock. About the size of the one David used on Goliath I imagined. I hoped for similar results. I missed. That dog chased me as I flew down the hill. The day began better. I saw Louie in Missouri City. Louie Wohletz rides Old 210 regularly. I see him often. “Ed, you got a haircut,” he says. “Yesterday. Bobbie cut it. Brian’s new family has come to town. I didn’t want to embarrass him.” Coming toward me before I come to Orrick I spot a biker, panniers front and rear. I cross the road to wait. Dick Nye is about my age. He left Yorktown, Virginia 1700 miles ago to follow the Lewis and Clark Trail. “This heat beat me. I’m hangin’ it up. I’ll get to Smithville today. My wife’s on the internet trying to find me a ticket.” South Point Cemetery stretches up the hill to my left as I roll past on Highway T. My eyes are drawn right, to the fields of seven foot corn that stretch far down the road and far into the distance. The soft brown tassels atop every stalk wave gently in the breeze. The stalks are arrow straight and brilliant green. “Would you like a bottle of cold water?” The question comes from a young man walking toward me in the street. “I saw you lying down on the porch at the bakery.” Lewis Long will be a senior at Richmond High School this fall. He lives in Rayville, in the house I have just passed. He introduces me to his dad. Vane Long lived on 23rd Street in Kansas City. Lewis was born in Oregon. Vane moved to Rayville 17 years ago so his son and daughter could grow up around family. He drives the 28 miles to work at Ford in Claycomo. Thanks to all of you who buy the miles. Thinking about you makes the time pass faster and better. And cooler. Glad that dog didn’t see you. 37 Tenderloin Sandwich as Art Miles 5420-5480 July 8 A Navajo sand painting’s demise is intended from the moment of its inception, and the final act of its creation is its intentional destruction. To attempt its preservation is to deny the inherent dignity and worth of its essential transient nature. Strange thoughts perhaps as a pleasant waitress places a tenderloin sandwich in front of me at Oma’s Kitchen. Then, again, not so strange. “We’ve been talking about you.” So said Janis Ballard as I entered just a few minutes ago. Then she retired to the kitchen to prepare my sandwich. Tripod pillars support all the small town cafes I bike to more than once—biscuits & gravy, tenderloin sandwich and homemade pie. Oma’s b&g passsed the first test last Saturday. Now for #2. Presentation is picture perfect. The sandwich comes open-faced. The tenderloin overflows the half bun beneath on the right side of the plate. The left bun supports a red juicy tomato, a purple ringed slice of quarter-inch thick onion, pickles and lettuce of complimenting greens. The small plastic cup of creamy white salad dressing is neatly filled. The bun is fresh and soft to the touch. The surface that receives the dressing has been lightly toasted and looks to have been lightly buttered. When fully assembled, I have to hold it in both hands and can hardly get my mouth around it. The meat is uniformly tender, its fried batter a pleasing kaki color, light and airy, but with just the right crunch. My ears give it two thumbs up. Too soon I have devoured this work of art, to which I have come, thanks to biking, with a ravenous appetite. Not to have eaten the tenderloin would have taken all meaning from its creation. Even to delay would lessen its gustatory excellence, as the meat cooled, the tomato grew warm and the lettuce lost its crisp. Sweet Tea Miles 5500—5555 July 10 Eighty years ago a train ran here. But interurbans went the way of the dinosaur. Now this level and lightly traveled country road lures bikers. The first few miles from Ferellview are lined to either side with mature trees. Riders pass beneath overarching canopies of green, giving welcome relief from a fierce July sun. A few new homes have sprouted in the corn and soybean fields. But the 17 miles of Interurban Road to Dearborn belie the nearness of KCI, I-29 and I-435. The rapid fading of rural America seems but a bad dream, ensconced as we are in this linear time capsule. Half-a-dozen older women sit at a long table along the back wall at Lil Depot Café. Rich and I take a seat at a nearby table. “I’ll have a half-order of biscuits and gravy and a glass of ice tea.” I say. “Sweet tea or plain?” The waitress asks. “You have sweet tea? I’ve gone to heaven.” Rich gets a half-order of biscuits and gravy and coffee. We need more. And we go straight for test #3. I get chocolate meringue; Rich has apple. B&G gets an A; pie, a C-. It’s cold. Left over from yesterday. Or earlier. Dearborn is mostly a ghost. Antiques. And Moore Antiques. The Lickskillet Mall sounds exciting but looks abandoned. The building across from Lil Depot has HOTEL carved in stone above a door marked LADIES ENTRANCE. Leaving Lil Depot, we take H Highway and pass over I-29 enroute to 371. A left turn brings us quickly to New Market. Another five miles brings us to the Guy B. Park Conservation Area off to our right and a field of sunflowers, stretching their lemon pie faces to the sun. Two cars come up behind us on our ten-mile ride into Platte City. No trucks! When you’re riding south on a state highway and all 18-wheelers are northward bound, your day on a bike could never be better. Four spirit riders bought miles and ride with me today: John Glenski, Chris Bennet (and Margie), Eleanor Cuthbertson and Randy Jefferies. Thank you, dear friends. Margaret Won’t Go Home Miles 5555-5605 July 12 Courage comes in many guises and is found in unexpected places. I’m here this morning at the Mill Inn for my usual biscuits and gravy. The place is packed this morning, and Margaret is busy at the grill. Last week I came later in the morning and she was working the cash register and waiting on customers at the counter. A customer commented on her versatility. “After 22 years here, I can do it all,” she said. 38 Her good cheer and easy manner drew us into conversation. Her husband had been sick and had several operations. They had breakfast one morning two years ago. She returned a little later and found him dead. “You never get over a shock like that,” she said. When her shift at the Mill Inn is over, Margaret won’t go home. She works six hours at Wal-Mart. “Oh, that’s nothing. I used to have four jobs. I’ve got my health and I like people. And when your husband dies and there’s lots of bills, you have to work.” None of this is said with even a hint of complaint or self pity. More like the commander of an army still engaged in battle, expecting at any moment to see the white flag of surrender run up by the enemy. Here’s to you Margaret Mollenbrink. I salute you. I admire you. We treasure your presence among us. You encourage and inspire us. Tom’s Funeral Miles 5605-5635 July 13 I didn’t go to Tom’s funeral. At the appointed time for his service to begin I got on my bicycle for a solitary ride through open country. I surrendered my dream of being a minister years ago when as a college student I pastored a small church and would cry more than the bereaved when death came. Funerals leave me sad beyond redemption for days afterward. I admired and respected Tom Bray. The exotic flowers and birds and animals he cared for set him apart from other people I know. But the way he drew people to him was breath taking to behold. Today as I ride I think of Tom. I think of another summer Sunday, June 21, 1987. I was riding my bicycle that day, enroute from Orlando to Seattle to Anaheim, when I came to Tom and Barbara’s house. Here is what I wrote about that day. Highway 50 is crowded with Sunday afternoon lake traffic and impatient drivers as we ride from Syracuse to Knob Noster. When we arrive about five o'clock in Knob Noster, John says this has been his least pleasant day. The traffic congestion and noise took away the fun. Tom and Barbara Bray are standing in front of the church as we pull into Knob Noster. Quick as a flash, we're at the parsonage downing iced tea and cokes, followed by a hot shower. All the Bray's bedrooms are spoken for tonight and probably for many nights to come. Tom and Barbara run Grand Central Station; people are coming and going, reveling in one another's company for the two hours we are here before we all go to the evening service. To church at seven, Tom tells his people what I'm doing, then turns the service over to me to tell my story. From the moment I stand, I can sense the congregation with me. Knowing that causes my story to dance out of my mouth and into their hearts: I see it in their eyes and in the rapt expression on their faces. When I ask them at the end to help me figure out what is happening, they are quick to respond. "You are being used by God," says a man near the back. Others murmur agreement. "Do you know how uncomfortable I am with that notion?" I ask. "Who am I that God would want to use me? I could never say about myself the thing you just said. The very thought of it scares me to death. I'm deeply grateful that some see such meaning in what I'm doing. "But I can't give it a name. Something deep inside resists. What I can tell you, what I must tell you, is that I have to ride this bicycle across the country; I have to visit with people and share with them my dream of a world where people like each other, and everyone expects good from everyone else. "And because I expect good, I can trust people to draw their own conclusions about the meaning of what I do and why I do it. I'm trusting people to meet my needs for food and shelter. I must trust them, too, to make up their own minds about my motivation. "Even as I ride, newspapers in every town I pass through carry stories about one television preacher laid low by a sex scandal, while another is up in a tower saying God will kill him if people don't send him eight million dollars. The ease with these two and their legions of counterparts invoke God prompts in me a reluctance I can't overcome. Not from action do I shrink, but from explaining it, from describing it in the stained glass voice so loud in our land." After church, many people come to say kind and encouraging things to me. And it is this brief one-on-one conversation that most energizes me. To take their hand and stand close and speak quietly of things that matter deeply to us, things we can't often bring ourselves to mention, is to stand with one foot in heaven. And it is in moments like this that I find my voice for the things I cannot say to an audience. Or in a book. 39 Then back to the Brays for dinner. A big group is present, and as we eat and talk I feel good all over. I can feel the love. See it in faces, hear its voices. This is not a feeling I've had often in my life. But occasionally at church it happens. And the hope of it happening again is enough to keep me coming back. Marian and Ann Morgan had arrived at the Bray's shortly after we did. They had been members of the Bray's church in Madisonville, Kentucky. "Wherever you find the Brays, you find people who love them and each other." Marian says to us all several times during the evening. Ann mentions the Emmaus Movement and tells me I would find a ready audience for my message among them. Explaining the movement, Ann uses the word crilliso. A bell rings. Lynn! Atlanta! The four day weekend!. So long, Tom. I’ll catch up with you somewhere down the road. That Question Again Miles 5635-5710 July 14 That most welcome question comes again today. “How many miles ya got?” I’m laboring up a hill on Glenn Hendren Drive, approaching Liberty Hospital. A red pickup coming toward me pulls to a brief stop as we both top the hill. Steve Smith is Chaplain at the hospital, a friend and long-time HateBusters supporter. “Fifty-seven hundred,” I say. “Go for it,” Steve yells. Bob Pence isn’t in when I stop by his office in Kearney to leave the packet of materials for him, asking him to accept the McClelland Law Firm’s Greater Liberty Challenge and get his business listed in Ed’s Elite 100. Over Ruth’s Club Sandwich at Oma’s (aka Sarah’s Table), I meet Jim Johnson and J.D. Garton. I invite J.D. to get the brakes fixed on his bike and join me for a ride. Waitresses and customers are talking about The Breakfast Club, a new restaurant soon to open in downtown Kearney. “They don’t want Farmers.” “Don’t they know this is Kearney?” “They want to be upscale.” “No coffee drinkers. They must want the women before they go to work.” A while later, I’m nearing the entrance to Watkins Mill State Park and spot an oasis. The language is blue and their hearts are gold inside The Greenville General Store. As I stumble in from the heat, empty water bottle in hand, all eyes turn in my direction. They’re all drinking beer. “Your color’s not good. Grab a Gatorade and get some fluids in you.” The clerk fills my bottle with ice and water. A customer pulls out a chair at his table and tells me to sit. “I’m dirty and don’t smell very good,” I say. “You smell better than him,” he laughs. And points to the guy at the bar doing most of the talking. Matching Treks Miles 5710-5775 July 15 Matching Treks stand outside against the wall as I ride up. Bob and Jan Black sit inside in a booth against the back wall. I join them. And slide in beside Wayne Hurd. “Those your bikes out front?” I ask. “Yes.” “And mine’s round back by the air conditioner,” says Wayne. “Mine’s a Trek, too.” “So’s mine,” I say. “We could start a club.” The Blacks live on Easy Street in Liberty. Wayne lives in the red brick house at the corner of Hillview and LaFrenz Road where the flaming maple trees erupt every fall. We’ve all ridden to the Mill Inn today on H Highway. “Isn’t it great,” says Bob Black. “Just resurfaced. No cracks or potholes now.” ALWAYS PLUMBING Splashed in big blue letters across the side of that white van sitting in a field to my right off B Highway. I’ve just come from Highway 69. I’m plummeting down a hill as fast as gravity and the incline can take me. I catch a glimpse of someone in blue jeans and a baseball cap standing beside the van. “Hi, Ed!” I hear as I pass. “Hey,” I yell. To have people call me by my first name is the major reason I never left this town I came to fresh from grad school. To give it a chance to happen gets me on my bike in all kinds of weather in every season of the year. The Little School That Did Miles 5775-5830 July 16 The Little School That Did. So announces the green and white marquee that sits in front of Missouri City School. Some years ago this little school in this tiny town was praised in Reader’s Digest for assisting the Kansas City schools with their desegregation plans. 40 I sit here now beneath a shade tree in the schoolyard. The turkey and cheese sandwich I brought from home couldn’t have tasted better in any other setting. Washed down with the ice cold almond tea left from supper last night, no meal was ever more appreciated. Ten hot miles pedaled from home stoked a fierce appetite. I sit mesmerized, watching a fuzzy yellow-green caterpillar with a black boxed head and a matching caboose slink its way through the grass. Like an expertly driven 18 wheeler navigating a Giant Sequoia forest, this little creature twists and turns and inches along over twigs and between blades of grass taller than its body. It makes a perfect half-circle around me, then disappears beneath an underpass of big leaf weeds that grow uninvited here. The land stretches out flat and green to either side of the road as I make my way on 210 back toward Liberty from Orrick. Bursting with soybeans and pasture grasses and eight-foot corn with bulging ears, this river bottom land is ringed in the distance by low hills crowned with trees. Everything! Everywhere! GREEN. A Blessing Missed Miles 5830-5915 July 18 Orthopedic surgeons must work long hours for the Missouri Department of Transportation. How else to explain the total recovery of the broken shoulder to either side of 210 highway as it runs past Orrick? For the past few years the shoulder had deteriorated almost daily, until it was hazardous for cars that might need to pull off the road and life threatening for bicycles trying to give way to 18 wheelers on the road. Now completely recovered and inviting, the shoulder is a reason to bike this way. I suppose it would get old and taken for granted. But the panoramic view from the front porch of this red brick house at 7865 Southpoint Drive rivals in beauty and grandeur any I have seen anywhere in the world. A series of ever rising rolling hills mounts to the horizon. Farm houses and show homes and well-kept barns sprinkled here and there. One red barn. Silos. A water tower. Cars scurry along a ribbon of road that cuts at an angle across the valley floor. Trees everywhere. Dan Allen was born in Pennsylvania, considers himself a native Californian and has lived for the past four years alongside C Highway just east of Rayville. “The post office says we live in Richmond. Don’t believe it.” Dan is mowing the ditch in front of his house. I spot him a hill away. As I ride up, he kills the motor. “Where you ridin’ from?” He asks. “Liberty,” I say. Dan used to ride with a California bicycle club. They would meet on a certain corner, get a map and be off for routes up to 200 miles. Dan married a woman with grandchildren in Missouri. “I don’t have a bike anymore. Haven’t ridden in years.” He says. Dan points to the garage some distance from the house. “Anytime you see those doors open, stop in.” Judy Allen, Dan’s wife gives me their email address. I’ll send them this story. And all those that come after. Why did I say no? I made myself a promise never to refuse an offer of help. But I just did. Coming out of Lawson on Salem Road, my rear derallier cable broke, leaving the chain on the smallest sprocket. Logging more than 100,000 miles on this bicycle has not made me an expert on bicycle mechanics, repair or operation. Gear ratios and number of teeth mean nothing to me. I know that the smallest rear sprocket is for speed on flat land; the biggest sprocket is for hill climbing. But of my three front sprockets, the biggest is for speed while the smallest is for hill climbing. Now I’m 25 miles from home and stuck in the speed gear. Luckily, the rugged hills are behind me. Except for the final one before I get to 69 highway. Coming off Salem Road onto Italian Way at the American-Italian Pasta Plant I always have to gear down to granny. Today I have to walk up that monster. That’s what I’m doing when that would be Good Samaritan pulls up in his car beside me. A woman sits next to him, children in the back seat. “You need some water?” He asks. The bottle cages on my bike are empty. I’m carrying three bottles of ice water in the insulated bag behind my seat. I learned as a boy at my maternal grandmother’s house to prize ice. Her house in the 1940s was sweltering in the summertime. When the iceman came and pulled back the burlap cover at the rear of his truck, I could see all those big blocks of ice, and the cold air would wash over me, raising goose bumps. With his pick, he would chisel off a slab of ice and put it in my hand. Then with his tongs he would carry a chunk into the house, pull back the top of the icebox and place that magic cube inside. “I have some water. The cable broke. I have just one gear.” “I have some water.” He motions toward the back seat. “I’m okay.” I say. He pulls a short distance up the hill and turns around in a driveway 41 and drives back the way he had come. Then I realize that he must have seen me struggling up the hill and come this way just to help me. And I wouldn’t let him. The Bible says it’s more blessed to give than to receive, a clear recognition that there is a blessing in both. He was trying to give. He was looking for a blessing. If I received his offer, he would be blessed. But I did not. I denied his blessing. And in doing so, I denied myself the lesser blessing that comes by receiving. I could excuse myself by saying I was hot and tired and not thinking clearly. But that is precisely why he made the offer. I failed us both. If I had accepted his offer of water, I would have learned his name. His wife’s name. His children’s names. I would have learned who he was and why he was so kind. But I missed all that. He will never know how sorry I am. He may not be anxious to offer help to the next needy person he sees. I can never make it up to him. The best I can do is to remember my pledge never to say no to an offer of help. JJ’s Miles 5915-5955 July 19 Alex Moore takes a seat opposite me. I’ve just polished off their tenderloin sandwich and downed two glasses of iced tea. Alex moved to Plattsburg eight years ago. He and his wife, Julie, and her sister, Jennifer Turley, opened JJ’s Restaurant two years ago. I have brought a canister bank with me. It sits on the table between us. “We will be happy to put it on our counter.” Alex says. Then he is called away. He soon returns. "Ed, meet Jennifer, my wife’s sister.” Jennifer says, “My sister showed me the card you left when you were here before. We plan to have a charity event this fall. We would like the money to go to your cause.” “Wow! You’re wonderful! Thank you.” I get their snail mail and Email address and promise to send them more materials. Prairie Home Baptist Church sits just off Plattsburg Road to my left when movement to my right catches my eye. A deer being chased by a bulldozer! The deer is running across open pasture toward a stand of trees. The dozer is scraping away grasses and plants to make roadway and places for homes. Where will wildlife make their homes when homes for people have spread across the land? Toward what end are we moving? Is this what we really want? What grand design prompts it all? If we ask these questions and nobody cares, have they really been asked at all? Princess Laura and Papa July 20 She’s seven years old. I’m 67. She was born in China. I was born in Texas. Her government’s population policy made her an orphan. My daughter and son-in-law went to China when she was four months old and brought her home. They named her Laura. I call her Princess. The three of them lived together in Macon, Georgia for five years while Laura’s mother, my daughter, Debbie, taught at Mercer University. Then two years ago Debbie joined the faculty at William Jewell College, and they all moved to Liberty, less than three miles from my house. The house where Bobbie and I have lived for 37 years. The only house we’ve ever owned. The house where Debbie and Dave and Brian, her brothers, grew up. At Christmas time when Laura was three, she and I were building with Legos on the living room floor. The family sat watching. Laura looked up at me. “I love you, Papa. You’re so precious.” Everybody heard her say it. I remind them often. Today Laura has come over after church to help me with a project. The MS Society found 37 canister banks in a storeroom. RC Printing here in Liberty made some peel and stick labels in the same bright yellow as the HateBusters T-shirt I always wear when I ride. The labels explain my Greater Liberty Bike Ride. I picked up the labels two days ago and tried my hand at putting them on. The first one went well. I ruined the next two. Last week Laura showed our senior neighbor how to work her VCR. Even wrote down the instructions for her. She’s always drawing pictures and doing crafts. She could do these labels. She would want to help Papa. I was right. Laura has them covered in no time. She works fast. And well. I praise her profusely. “What are these for, Papa?” Laura asks. “I’m gonna take them to places I ride so people can give money to help me help people.” I say. “Can I go with you?” She asks. I never say no to Laura. And who could tell me no if Laura is with me? 42 “What can we do when we finish?” Laura asks. “What would you like to do?” “Play with you.” Hours later we have played hide and seek in the basement. We’re building a fort under the table when her dad tells Laura they need to go home for supper. "I don't want to go,” says Laura. “Papa has other things to do,” her dad says. “No, he doesn’t!” Laura says. When Debbie, Dave and Brian were home, they thought the same thing. I worked hard to make it so. Laura is starting the cycle anew. The Chocolate Enchilada Miles 6100-6200 July 25 Julie Moore bubbles with enthusiasm, ideas and personality. She and Alex and Jennifer and all their staff at JJ’s regularly plan benefits for worthy causes at their restaurant. They’re erupting with intriguing and novel ideas to help raise money for my bike ride. Alex is home this morning with his and Julie’s seven-month old son. It’s early and I’m having biscuits and gravy as Julie and I make plans. I’ve brought her a copy of my weekly Greater Liberty column from the Sun. The story is about my first visit to JJ’s that came just two weeks ago. “I’m gonna ride on to Stewartsville. Then come back for a chocolate enchilada.” The place is packed when I return at exactly 12 o’clock. The chocolate enchilada is all I hoped it would be. A tortilla folded over milk chocolate and deep-fried. Piled high with vanilla ice cream drizzled with chocolate syrup and sprinkled with powdered sugar. Topped with whipped cream and a right red cherry. Sixty miles on a bike is perfect prelude to welcome indulgence. Since breakfast, Julie has put my story and Jack’s editorial up on the bulletin board just inside the front door. Jack “Miles” Ventimiglia is Editor of the Liberty Sun. He has written in this week’s paper an endorsement of my ride and my life so glowing that even my mother would be embarrassed. The canister bank I brought earlier this week sits on the counter where customers come to pay their bill. “Do you sell those shirts?” Julie asks, pointing to my bright yellow HateBusters shirt. “I don’t sell them. I give them away for a donation to HateBusters. That’s one way we support our work. We also have a book, How To Like People Who Are not Like You. We give that away for a donation. I’ll come in the car and bring you some to have here at the restaurant.” Brother John Miles 6200-6220 July 26 Brother John asked me to come today. John Anderson is his name. He’s a professional storyteller. And our song leader at all Human Family Reunions. This is to be the First Annual Bike-Feed, designed to call attention and raise money for the food pantry that Mom runs for her church. I call her Mom. Most people call her Queen Mother. Hardly anyone calls her Maxine McFarlane. She’s a force. In her family. Her church. In the community. We meet in front of the Bernard Powell statue that stands at the corner of 28th and Brooklyn, at the entrance to Spring Valley Park. Bernard was a community activist in the 1960s. With his charismatic personality and his trademark slogan—Ghetto to Goldmine—Bernard was making a difference. When he was shot and killed, his life became a catalyst for Mom’s Social Action Committee. Her work through SAC produced the statue of Bernard Powell and brought together a wide cross section of Kansas City leaders to address inner city problems. We are here today for a 10-mile bike ride through the heart of Kansas City. On this Saturday morning traffic is light. We ride for a few miles in the shadow of the recently completed Bruce R. Watkins Expressway. Bruce Watkins was a popular and effective political leader in the 1960s and 70s. He almost became Kansas City’s first black mayor. Bruce died about a year after he lost the election. Cancer, they said. A broken heart, I think. The road that bears his name was more than 20 years in the making. It’s beautiful and efficient. The scars it left will be visible for a long time. The view of the Kansas City skyline as we come upon it from Hospital Hill on this bight morning is awesome. Then onto 18th Street past the Jazz Museum and the Negro Baseball Museum and to Mom’s Church, Barker Temple, at 17th and Highland. The church moved to Raytown two years ago when high rise apartments were built next door. Then we are back at the Bernard Powell statue. A crowd has gathered. Prayers and preaching and singing and a few words from those who rode bring to a close an inspiring morning together. The spiritual presence of Dr. King is felt among us and given voice by several who address us. We go to our scattered 43 homes in Greater Kansas City thankful for our time together, promising to come again next year for the Second Annual Bike-Feed. And in the intervening year to live higher and more nobly. Way to Go Jack July 28 Way to go, Jack. Jack “Miles” Ventimiglia is Editor of the Liberty Sun. I email him all the stories I write about my ride. He chooses the one to run in my Greater Liberty column each week. In the paper that came out last Thursday, Jack also wrote a glowing endorsement of my mission and my life. He urged readers to support me. Today in the mail I received a hundred-dollar check wrapped in his column. Several other checks came in other envelopes. One letter carried foreign stamps and was addressed by hand in a beautiful script with fine flowing lines. But the envelope was empty. The clerk at the counter said they had not noticed it was empty when they put it in my post office box. She offered to trace the letter if I could identify the sender. The return address was wondrously written, but neither of us could make out what it said. I thumbtacked it to my office bulletin board. I’ll admire it as a work of art and wonder what might have been inside and what unintended destination it reached. Visions of a hospital bed come as I stop to drink out on 210 just a few miles from home. I’m riding on dead legs today. It’s not fun. An ambulance picked me up off the street and took me to the emergency room the last time I ignored the signals my body was sending. It’s only two o’clock in the afternoon. Good dark won’t come for seven hours, giving me time for 70 miles or more. Instead, I turn and ride home. Being out on the road today just doesn’t feel right. When I Come to Gravel Miles 6220-6290 July 29 Without warning Orrick Road coming out of Excelsior Springs turns suddenly to gravel. Small, deep, loose rocks grab at skinny tires. The bike lurches this way and that. Steering or stopping up and down these hills would challenge Evil Knievel. When finally I can manage to stop without falling over, I turn my bike around and walk it back over several hills to the pavement. I had come to Orrick Road off Seybold Road. Leaving Mill Inn either east or west brings a rider immediately to a monster hill, the reason I almost always depart north or south. This morning, though, the route planner in my head is fixed on Orrick, and I turn left (east) off Cresent Street onto Seybold Road. My intention is then to turn right (north) on N Highway and make my way over to Highway 210, where a left turn will bring me in five miles to Orrick and Fubbler’s Cove. Before I can turn on N, I notice that Seybold continues across N. I’ve never taken that road. The day is young. I can’t resist. A scenic mile or so later, Seybold ends at Orrick Road. I can’t believe my luck. I turn right, wondering where in Orrick this road comes out. But my road bike is designed for paved roads, and when I come to gravel, I turn back. And follow my original plan. A lifeless brown is stealing the green from the nine-foot corn stalks I’m passing. Soon giant machines will invade the fields and rob each stalk of its single ear. Then another machine will lay low the stalks to begin again the yearly cycle. Mother’s 90th Birthday Miles 6290-6295 July 30-August 6 Such a beautiful spirit they all have. Pat is my sister. She and Dennis Klump got married while they both were in college. Dennis recently retired from the job he took just after they married. They have lived nearly all their married life in the house Dennis built on an acreage they bought in Beaumont, Texas. Their three children were born there. Now grown and with children of their own, all have lived off and on in the house Dennis built. And the house has grown to accommodate them. The lives of all have been built around their church. Dennis is a deacon and sings in the choir. Pat for years kept the nursery. Dennis raises a big garden every year and Pat canned until her knees gave out. Dennis built a house on their property for his widowed mother. Four generations of the family now live together. Bobbie and I had no idea when we left Texas in 1961 that we never again would live there. We came to Liberty in 1965 with the intention of staying a year or so and then returning to Texas to make our home among family. But Liberty worked its magic on us. And here we have stayed. Here in Greater Liberty our grown children now make their home. Life for us all is grand. Except that we seldom see our Texas kin. 44 We all gather on the beach in Corpus Christi. Bobbie and I have driven from Liberty with our daughter, Debbie, and her daughter, Laura. Our sons, Dave and Brian, and Brian’s fiancée, LeAnne, flew here from KCI. Pat is here with her son Bruce, his wife Lynette, and their son Matthew. Pat’s daughter Denise, her husband Shannon, and their children, Courtney, Nicki and Amber. Dennis comes in the morning with son, Mike. And Mike’s son, Chris. We are all here to celebrate Mother’s 90th birthday. And what a celebration! We have rented the lodge hall where mother is a member and has a hand in most every activity that ever takes place. Some 200 people show up, drawn from all over south Texas, where Mother’s elected duties in her various lodges regularly take her. As family members greet them, Mother’s friends regale us with tales of Mother’s energy and enthusiasm and keen-minded commitment to a myriad of diverse activities and projects. Our weekend gathering begins with dinner at Catfish Charlie’s. Then to the beach. Saturday morning we decorate the hall. Then come guests in the afternoon. And back to the beach. In church on Sunday we all sit together. Mother’s name is in the bulletin and she is recognized from the pulpit. The flowers today are in her honor. Then to Pancho’s Mexican Restaurant for lunch together in a private room. When we have eaten, we all have opportunity to say a few words to each other before we scatter. Birthdays and anniversaries and funerals serve as family magnets drawing back together for a moment in time those who share a common tie. I brought my bicycle. Mounted on a carrier that stuck out behind the car. In the week we were gone, I rode once. For a total of five miles. I planned to ride more. But biking is a solitary activity. And this is a week for family. When Laura Remembers Harry Potter August 4 When Laura tells her children years from now the story of Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix, she will remember where and when she first heard the story. On the way to her great- grandmother’s 90th birthday party on the beach at Corpus Christi. Four long days from her home in Liberty and back, strapped in the rear seat of Papa and Nana’s big car, stopping every couple of hours at Burger King or McDonald’s for chicken nuggets and a toy. Listening every minute on the road to the 17 tapes telling the story of Harry’s struggle with Lord Voldemort. His friendship with Hermione and Ron. His love of Sirius Black. His suspicion of Snape. His awe and admiration of Dumbledore. Laura may not remember the blowout we had at 70 miles an hour on I-35 just out of Temple. The noise was that of a giant semi bearing down on us from the rear. We pulled to the shoulder and scrambled out of the car. I-35’s reputation as trucker’s alley from south Texas to Canada is well earned. Giant 18- wheelers two abreast roar by just inches from our stalled car. We run from the car across a grassy area and an access road to stand beneath a scraggly tree. I call AAA on my cell phone. Forty-five minutes later a Temple Tow truck drives up behind our car. A few minutes later, the driver has replaced our blown tire with the baby version that all recent model cars now carry. Gary Crossley Ford in Liberty had put four new Goodyear tires on our 99 Crown Vic just days before we left for Texas. “About 10 miles,” the tow driver said when I asked for the nearest Goodyear dealer. “Ask for Roy or Nathan.” “I’m Nathan,” said the man behind the desk a short time later. A few minutes later he showed us a tire filled with ground rubber. He had drawn a small circle on the tire wall. “See this hole?’ He asked. “That’s what caused the blowout.” He said we would have to buy a new tire. “But it’s a new tire. What about the guarantee?” “ Something punctured the tire. It’s not guaranteed against road hazard.” Our conversation is beginning to heat up. “Let me call my dealer back home,” I say. When Todd Crossley comes on the phone and I explain everything to him, he says, “Tell them to put on a new tire. Bring me the bill. We will reimburse you.” My love of my hometown and my faith in its local business people is again affirmed. “Haven’t we stopped here before?” Laura asks as we pull up in front of Osceola Cheese near seven o’clock in the evening on our last day out. We had just spent the day at Silver Dollar City. We had gotten soaked on water rides first thing that morning and walked around wet all day, giving us relief from the 100 degree heat. “Yes, we stopped here another time on our way home,” we say to Laura. “It’s tradition,” Laura exclaims as she jumps from the car. The last Harry Potter tape plays out near Clinton. Laura asks to hear tape number two again, the one where Harry visits Sirius. It ends on the outskirts of Liberty. “I’m anxious to see Daddy,” says Laura. “Can I run up to the door as soon as we stop?” 45 Time with family we seldom see. Playing in the waves at the beach. Pizza at the pool. A giant birthday party. A day at Silver Dollar City. Staying enroute with artist friends and viewing their work. Dinner at a Czeck Restaurant in West, Texas. The bucking inflated rubber horse at the pool in Kimberling City, Missouri. Eight days and 2300 miles on the road. All the time hoping that Dolores Umbridge will be deposed as Hogwart’s Grand Inquisitor and Dumbledore will regain his position. Queen of Angles Miles 6365-6405 August 10 I’ve stopped several times on hot days at Queen of Angels Monastery to fill my water bottles. But I can’t remember the sister’s name when she comes to greet me today. “Imelda. Like in shoes,” she says. Bingo! Next time I come, I’ll think of Imelda Marcos and her thousands of shoes. And I’ll call Sister Imelda by name. I watched this tranquil place rise in a cow pasture along side a country road east of Liberty over several months. They opened their doors in 2000. Nine sisters of the Benedictine Order currently live here. This week they are holding Vacation Bible School in Excelsior Springs. Sister Imelda grew up in a family of nine children in Nebraska. Her parents both considered religious life “until they met in the watermelon patch”. Her parents were always helping the priests. Two of Sister Imelda’s sisters became sisters. Sister Imelda took her vows when she was 21. “I love to talk. I just had to help tell everybody about God’s love. More than 50 years now, Sister Imelda has lived the simple community life of prayer and work. She is radiant as she hands me a written prayer to take with me. “Please pray this prayer that we will have more women come to us to live and work among us.” Time comes for evening prayers as we sit talking in the living room and Sister Imelda must go. As prioress at Queen of Angels, she has obligations. I let myself out and stand for a while by my bike, watching cows in the field across the road, hearing the cicadas and the birds, feeling the gentle breeze. I ride this road in front of this place more often than I stop, but each time I pass I feel the peace and purpose that reside here. The Plattsburg Rotary Club Miles 6405-6495 -August 11 The Plattsburg Rotary Club has gathered for their weekly Monday noon meeting in a basement room of the Clinton County Courthouse. Jennifer Turley has invited me to come and tell about my Greater Liberty Bike Ride. Jennifer is part owner of JJ’s Restaurant just across the street and is catering today’s lunch. “From Liberty to Plattsburg to Stewartsville to Cameron to Lawson to Excelsior and back to Liberty—the first Century I ever rode. I call it the Plattsburg Century. I used to come here a lot when Bert & Ernie’s were serving their Kay-loin Sandwich. Then they closed and I quit coming. Now JJ’s is here. And I’m back.” “I named my ride Greater Liberty because it is greater liberty I seek for those who think they must limit their lives because they have MS. I also seek greater liberty for those who have been hurt because someone hates them for religious or racial reasons. I seek more publicity for the good guys than the bad guys get.” The hour from high noon to 1 PM is packed. We are called to order. We face the flag and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. We go through the line and get our food. The business session begins at 12:25. They are buying shoes for children in Honduras. “How much time do you need?” Club President Randy Broyles, asks me before we begin. “I can fit my remarks to whatever time we have,” I say. “We begin to lose people after one o’clock,” he says. Jennifer rises to introduce me. “One of the good things about owning a restaurant is all the interesting people you meet. Ed came in about three weeks ago. We were fascinated by his story. Ed, it’s all yours.” In 10 minutes I tell them about MS and HateBusters and bike riding and answer several questions. They are with me. I can tell. I finish at five minutes to one. Several come to talk to me. We go outside for a picture. 46 The Green Is Gone Miles 6520-6600 August 13 I know I shouldn’t. but when my waitress says the cinnamon rolls are homemade, I do. I have already eaten a half-order of biscuits and gravy. And I know that monster hill is waiting. “Bring it on,” I say to the waitress “J.D. got his brakes fixed. He wants to ride with you. But school starts next week.” My waitress is J.D’s mother. J.D. Garton is 13 and in the eighth grade at Kearney Jr. High. As I’m leaving, he appears from the kitchen and we agree to ride six miles together a week from Saturday. “Are you Ed? I’m Carl Moore. Sarah’s husband. Thanks for all the good things you’ve been saying about our restaurant.” “My pleasure,” I say. “It’s true.” Carl comes to see my bike, propped by the porch, right behind the new bench. “I thought you had a motorcycle,” Carl says. Mid-August has come and the green is gone. Ponds are dry. A lifeless brown has overtaken the corn. Stalks still stand but will soon surrender their ears and be cut off at the knees, their stubble staying as erosion protection until next planting season. I leave Old BB Road and turn right onto MM. I top the first hill. And I see it! The monster looms ahead. A series of undulating hills rises ever higher in front of me, ascending as a gray ribbon of asphalt through a forest of trees, appearing on the far horizon as a vertical wall that looks impossible to climb. I’m wishing now for that motor Carl thought I had. I drop to granny and grab the low bars. I keep my eyes on the road right in front of my wheel. I know better than to look up the hill. Looking down I can’t see the rising road. Everything looks flat if I don’t look up. Looking up will not help my confidence. Lungs heaving and legs burning I make the summit and come to an unsteady stop. I bend low over the bars and gasp for air. Minutes pass. I made it! I dismount and gulp the ice water I carry in the insulated bag behind my seat. A cinnamon roll too much! That hill would be easier on a stomach less full. I knew that when I did it. I’ll know next time. But I doubt I can resist. Could a day be better? Biscuits and gravy (and that cinnamon roll) at Sarah’s Table in Kearney. A grilled cheese sandwich and chips at Catrick’s in Lawson. Coconut meringue pie at Mill Inn in Excelsior Springs. And tonight? Tonight, by son Dave’s invitation, we go to watch the Royals play the Yankees at the K. And for dinner? Polish sausage and sauerkraut. By back roads to small town cafes all day I have come for the rural ambrosia I can’t resist. Now to see our small-market team pound on the Goliath from the mega-city while downing a hotdog or two. And pound they do. More than 12 hits the Royals get, winning the game and entitling every ticket holder to a dozen Krispy Kreme donuts. Is Your Society Content? Miles 6605-6665 August 16 He might have told me his name. He answered all my other questions. But I was afraid to ask. Afraid that if I asked, he would tell me. And then when I wrote this story and gave his name people would know who he is. He would have drawn attention to himself. He doesn’t want to do that. It might seem otherwise. He rides in a horse-drawn buggy. He wears a wide-brim hat. His wife and daughter cover their heads and wear ankle-length skirts. He and his son wear black trousers, held up with suspenders. He is Amish. I have stopped at the little canvas and metal stand in front of his farm. I am in Iowa for the annual Villages of Van Buren Bicycle Tour. I’ve ridden about 50 miles on this hot August Saturday when I meet him. I had seen a sign back a mile or so when I turned left onto this road--BAKE SALE. I had not long before in the Village of Milton eaten a “Walking Taco.” The good citizens of this tiny town had set up shop for the day in the town’s long abandoned railroad station. I see Walking Taco on the chalk lettered menu board. The young girl who takes my order describes it for me: “Chips and hamburger meat covered with lettuce and tomatoes and cheese and sour cream and served in a bag.” So when I spot the BAKE SALE sign, I’m not famished, as when I came to Milton. Just subliminally hungry, as I always am on my bike. “Is your society content?” This he asks in response to my question, “How do you keep your young people?” 47 “There’s little contentment in my society,” I say. “Most everybody wants a bigger house and more money.” “We teach our young to be content,” he says. “We have no phones or TV to distract them. They read a lot and play games with each other. They have chores here on the farm and not a lot of free time.” His daughter of about 12 and his son about eight stand near as we talk. But they don’t seem to be listening. They make no sound and do not look at us. This man came here with his parents when he was seven. He lives on this 60-acre farm with his wife and children. He raises corn and soybeans. He milks his cows, nine at present, two currently dry. “We stay on standard time,” he says.” We milk every morning at 6:30, your time, and in the evening at the same time. Cows have to be milked every 12 hours. We milk by hand.” “You talk about “your society”. “Are we two different societies?” I ask. “We are our faith,” he says. “We don’t vote. We don’t take part in war. We don’t believe in resisting. Our faith comes from the Anabaptists.” “I’m a Baptist,” I say. “There is a Baptist Church in my town that surrounds itself every Fourth of July with hundreds of American Flags. I know other Baptists who call themselves Peacemakers and pacifists. Is there that wide a difference among Amish?” “No,” he says. He tells me they have two Amish schools nearby. But one is closed now because they have no scholar (teacher). They have just hired one from Michigan. “We don’t like to go outside the community for a scholar. “But this one has a sister living here.” “We like for a scholar to have 15 to 18 children to teach. They learn better.” He tells me that he does not go into town to sell his goods. The road in front of his house brings a good number of people past his stand. “What we don’t sell, we eat,” he says. “You are the only bike rider who has stopped today.” Our conversation is open and easy. I’m not wanting to leave. When a blue pickup pulls into the gravel driveway and a customer steps out, I know I should go. “Bless you, my friend,” I say as I pedal away. My mind and my heart stay much longer with them. A Horse in the Cafeteria Miles 6665-6710 August 18 I never met Walter Pope Binns. Guy Moore was President of William Jewell College when I joined the faculty. By the time I came, Dr. Binns was a legend, various stories about him told to newly hired faculty to impress us with the high standards, iron discipline and bold character of this good place. But I had never heard the Dr. Binns story I heard today. It’s a little before nine in the morning when I get to Sarah’s Table. I take the table in the far corner of the main room. From here I can see and greet anyone who comes. Mel Phillips is here, having his usual bowl of oatmeal. Then comes a man I haven’t seen before. He stops to talk to Mel and another man with him. The new arrival mentions William Jewell. My ears perk up. Then he sees my HateBusters shirt. “Are you the one who started HateBusters? Do you teach at William Jewell? I answer yes to both. He takes a seat at the adjoining table where he can talk to Mel and to me. “Your son and my son, Gary, were friends in high school,” he says. Gary’s been in the Navy for years and stationed in San Diego.” Then we get to swapping stories about William Jewell. Garret tells me that Dr. Binns had a horse. He never rode him. He kept him in a pasture on campus, near the football field. Dr. Binns warned all students to stay away from the horse. Then Garret names a classmate from the 1950s, a good friend of his. This friend took that horse and put him in the student cafeteria overnight. The horse made a considerable mess, and Dr. Binns vowed to find the one responsible. His friend then started a rumor that Garret had put the horse in the cafeteria. “Dr. Binns was not cut out to be a detective. He never found the one who did it,” says Garret. A prank nearing 50 years old is hardly headline news, but on a hot August day in a small town these stories and ones like them remind us that our lives are made rich and full by silly and stupid little things that we share while getting on with our lives. Patrick Bought A Bike Miles 6710-6755 August 19 Patrick Hill bought a new Trek from Biscari Brothers about three weeks ago. He called last night and wanted to join me for a ride to Kearney. Patrick and I both attend Second Baptist Church. We meet this 48 morning at 6:30 at the church. West on Franklin to Gallitan we go. Turn right on Gallitan, which becomes Nashua as it curves to the left. Then right at the Northpoint sign and down the hill to Telford, where a left brings us past Laura, Debbie and Ed’s house. Another left, two quick rights, another left and right And we are climbing the hill on Glen Hendren Drive toward Liberty Hospital. Past the hospital to Lightburne. Right on Lightburne to the next corner, then left, past Ernest Shepherd Center. Left at the next corner and around the bend to the left. Right at the stop sign to 69 Highway. Right on 69. Traffic on 69 is heavy and noisy this early in the morning. But the shoulder is wide and paved. Over modest hills we make our way to Summerset Road. We turn left onto this newly resurfaced and lightly traveled country road. Where Summerset bends hard left, we bend gently right and now have come to Jesse James Farm Road. Past homes on acreages where not long ago crops grew, we come over several modest hills to . . . . Street, where a left turn brings us past a recent crop of look-alike houses tightly packed in a field. Then opposite Kearney High School we turn right onto Stonecrest and make our way over to . . . .. A left turn brings us several blocks later to Ada. We turn right and go to 12 th St. Left to Prospect. Turn right. Cross 92 Highway to Street. Left on . . . to Sarah’s Table. Patrick and I take the table in the far corner of the main room from whence we can see all who enter and leave. We each have a half-order of biscuits and gravy. Betty and JD were both gone yesterday to visit the Omaha Zoo. They are back. Betty waits on us. JD comes to our table with the wooden model of a shark’s jaw and teeth that he has put together. He begins his eighth grade year tomorrow. He and I have a bike ride around Kearney planned for this coming Saturday after breakfast. JD and his mother, Betty, live in Holt, but JD will bring his bike with them when his mother comes to work early Saturday morning. “You makin’ tenderloin sandwiches for lunch?” I ask Janis as she comes through the dining room on her way to the kitchen. “Yeah, you comin’ back for lunch?” She asks. “Not today. But soon.” I say. “Today’s my first day back,” she says as she disappears into the kitchen. Norma had been out front as Patrick and I rode up. She was lettering the new sign, transforming this house from Oma’s Kitchen to Sarah’s Table. She is still at it as we leave. “Did Janis tell you she’s been sick? Had an operation on her jaw and may have to have more. She was out three weeks.” “No, she didn’t. She said today was her first day back. I thought she had been on vacation. Just a minute, Patrick, I going back inside to see Janis.” “She’s out back taking a break,” Betty says when I ask for Janis. “My dentist pulled the wrong teeth,” Janis says. “He left the bad one in, and the infection got into my jaw. I’m still on antibiotics, and I may have to have another operation.” She shows me the scar on her neck. I hear no self-pity in her voice. No anger at medical malfeasance. Only steely determination to get on with her life and recover her joy in living. Making tenderloin sandwiches is only one of Janis’s minor talents. Dave Biscari to the Rescue Miles 6755-6770 August 20 The driest July on record in our town and for miles around. Now comes the hot-box sauna named August. Five consecutive days of triple digit heat have sucked the last drop of moisture from every living thing. What breeze there is comes from a blast furnace. I can’t drink enough or rest enough to find pleasure on the road. Early in the day just as dawn breaks, the breeze I make as I pedal is not yet the dragon’s breath it becomes by the hour, until by four o’clock no sane person is voluntarily on the road. Before the sun is up on summer mornings, light enough to see and be seen has spread across the sky. No cooler time will come this day. So from my house while my wife and most neighbors still sleep, I slip from the garage on my bike and pedal up the block-long hill to Southview Drive, where a turn either north or south brings me shortly to an array of roads going in all directions and taking me to the irresistible ambiance of small town cafes. This morning is different. I have promised Liz that I will be at the MS Society when she comes at nine. The printer has finished the pages for our Ed’s Elite 100 book, telling the story of our May 31 st century ride. I had hoped to have the book out sooner so I could get one to every rider and every helper. I will pick them up and bring them to Ramona at RC Printing here in Liberty. RC printed the cover for our book, and as soon as I bring the pages, Ramona will staple them inside the covers. When I am finished and all parts of the book are in one place and ready for completion, it’s nearing four o’clock. I remind myself that I am still a long way from 10,000 miles and cannot afford to let the day pass with zero miles. So with three bottles of ice water in the bag behind my seat, I set off out Old 210. By the time I come to its intersection with New 210, just over seven miles from my home, I have 49 drained one bottle and stopped to rest more than once. Hot air does not refresh and brings no joy. Fourteen more miles I must go until I come to the service station oasis in Orrick. I turn back toward home. I have come up Liberty Landing Road to its intersection with Highway 291. I am waiting at the stop sign for the two lanes of northbound traffic to clear so I can cross. When it does, I make it to the yield sign at the median between the northbound and southbound lanes. Just as I stop to wait on southbound traffic to pass, I hear a loud POW! I jump. Did a passing car backfire? I pinch my rear tire. No problem. As I bend forward to pinch my front tire, I see a frayed bulge where tire meets rim. My brand new tire has blown out. I just bought a new set of tires less than a week ago. Rich and I were going to Iowa for our annual gerVillages of Van Buren Bike Ride. Getting my bike ready the day before we were to leave, I noticed some long brown patches on the bottom of my rear tire. “What does that mean, Dave?’ I asked when I wheeled my bike into Biscari Brother’s Bicycles. Dave Biscari has kept me on the road in all kinds of weather at all times of the year. “It means you need new tires,” Dave said. When traffic clears, I walk my bike across 291 and across Southview Drive and across South Liberty Baptist Church grounds and up Magnolia one block to my house. Any day on my bike is a good day. But some days are better than others. Where the Sidewalk Ends Miles 6770-6810 August 21 A first time visitor might wonder why the sidewalk ends in an open field. This guest to our town might have heard about the unwelcome visitor who came that May Sunday afternoon little more than three months ago. Staying only a few seconds, our visitor roared off, leaving devastation in its path. A student housing complex of three buildings stood then where the sidewalk ends. All is quiet and still today as I ride by. Out H Highway I pedal. Several of the houses that disappeared in the tornado that day have emerged new and complete. Some are nearing completion. Some are still shuttered and wrapped in blue plastic. Some are foundations yet. The chewed up trees and housing debris have been hauled away. The line of trees then along the road is mutely missing. St. Francis of Assisi Miles 6810-6870 August 22 St. Francis of Assisi visited a small college in upstate New York disguised as a freshman named Brian Palmeri. Last year this same person bicycled through Kansas City on his way from San Francisco to Washington, DC. This morning before sunrise he is with me as we board our bikes and set off for Kearney and biscuits and gravy at Sarah’s Table. Brian graduated from St. Bonaventure with a major in religion and philosophy and took a job in financial services. He did well but wasn’t content. He signed on with Bike-Aid for their cross-country ride. Then he became a cook for an Applebees. Now he is driving from his home in Buffalo, New York to Denver, Colorado, where he will join Ameri-Corps for a year and work in a food-pantry, soup-kitchen. Brian and his 20 Bike-Aid mates were our guests in Kansas City last July 23-24. Bike-Aid headquarters asked that we house the riders by ones and twos with families of other races and religions. As they arrived in KC, we all came together on the campus of Central Baptist Seminary. Hosts and riders were introduced. Brian went home with Mom McFarlane and Brother John. The next evening we all came together at William Jewell College for a Human Family Reunion, where who’s right is the wrong question and our sole (soul) agenda is to learn to like one another. When the Bike-Aid team rode out of Kansas City the next morning, I rode with them. To Warrensburg the first night, Sedalia the second, Jeff City the third, Marthasville the fourth and into St. Louis the fifth. Brian and I talked often in route. By email a week or so back, Brian told me about volunteering for Ameri-Corps. He would be driving through Liberty and asked to spend the night. When he comes, he has his bicycle strapped to the back of his car. He has time enough for a morning ride before he must go. In a more perfect world, Brian could tarry with me long enough to visit all the small town cafes in biking distance of my house. I introduce him to Betty as she waits on us at Sarah’s Table. She is by herself and busy. We hurry on. Out Jesse James Road to the James farm. We wheel in for a quick look at the outside of the museum and the old home place just visible through the trees. 50 Then from the farm in the direction of Watkins Mill State Park. Over several imposing hills we hang a right and cross within a mile or so over 92 Highway and make our way south across 69 Highway to Mosby. A left turn brings us soon to H Highway and another left turn. Coming into Excelsior Springs, we plummet down a long and winding hill. At Cresent Lake B&B we turn right and make our way past Mauer Lake Assemblies of God Camp to the Mill Inn. Brian and I take a seat at the counter. “They have great pie here,” I say. “With real meringue.” Brian has cherry cream. I have coconut. All the waitresses express concern for us in this heat. We assure them we will be home by noon, before the worst of it comes. “I heard you on the radio,” Kay says. Kay Stewart is manager here at Mill Inn. She hasn’t let the leg she broke weeks ago keep her from her duties. The cast is due off sometime soon. “I told my husband that was you as soon as I tuned in. You sound just like that guy on Prairie Home Companion.” At all the small town cafes I regularly visit, I have placed canister banks so that folks might donate to my ride. Back at Sarah’s Table I had lifted the bank to see how we were doing. I do so again here at Mill Inn. As I lift the bank and give it a gentle shake, the woman working the cash register says, “You’d be surprised who gives. Some you think would, don’t. Some you think wouldn’t, do.” Out of Excelsior Springs, we climb one long, steep and winding hill over to N Highway and make our way to 210 Highway. With the Missouri River off to our left and unseen behind trees and crops, we make our way back home along a one of the very few flat roads anywhere about. As I stand by his car watching Brian load his car. I see a giant picture of St. Mark’s Cathedral in Venice, Italy. When I ask about the picture, Brian says, “I made a pilgrimage there when I was a college freshman. I went with a group to learn about St. Francis of Assisi. Our assignment was to come back and create the spirit of St. Francis on campus. JD Rides with Me Miles 6870-6880 August 23 I forgot to ask JD if he had a helmet. I think of this as I’m about to get on my bike and ride to Kearney. So I strap my bike to my car and put three helmets in the trunk. Good thing. JD doesn’t have a helmet. The very first thing I always say to grade school students when I teach bike safety is, “Always wear a helmet.” I spot JD’s bike out front as I drive up. Good looking bike. Three chain rings up front. Five rear sprockets. I take a close look to see the device that allows the bike to be folded wheel to wheel. I’ve never seen one before. Sure would make it easy to carry in a car trunk. JD has eaten when I arrive. He sits down across from me. “I had number three,” he says. Looks good: half-order of biscuits and gravy, hash browns and bacon or sausage. I order it with bacon. JD just started his eighth grade year three days ago. He tells me about his classes as I eat. I tell JD’s mother we will be back in an hour and a-half. JD picks the yellow helmet. I adjust the straps several times until we have it right. Then away we go, bound for the four mile bicycle loop trail that Kearney was far-sighted enough to build as houses began to spring up in farm fields. We stop once to raise the seat so JD has a more efficient pedal stroke. Then another time to tighten his handlebars with the Allen wrench I always carry. JD is a strong rider. Several times we stop so I can tell him things about his bike and about rider etiquette. He is attentive. And always polite. When we have ridden the trail we make our way along Washington Street and cross the railroad tracks near the old depot. We stop for another lesson. “JD, tracks can be dangerous. These run straight across the street, but some cross roads at an angle. When that happens, a biker must be sure to turn his bike so he crosses the tracks straight on. If your tire hits the track at an angle, your wheel will run along the track, and you will be down in an instant.” I’ve had many students. I know when they are attentive. JD is. “When we get back, you can meet my grandmother,” JD says. “She lives in Lathrop.” She is working the cash register when we return. JD introduces us. I give JD some last minute instruction on the care and maintenance of his chain and how to strap his helmet through his spokes to discourage impromptu thieves. “Can we do this again?’ He asks. “You bet. Just let me know when you can,” I say. Peckerwood August 23rd Back at the traffic light in front of Pour Boy’s Conoco a car had passed me. The horn sounded. A fist shot from the passenger side. And a loud word I couldn’t make out. Now in the parking lot behind the 51 new McDonald’s, I’ve just left my car and am running to my bike shop. I just called, and Dave has replaced my blown tire. It’s already a little past Biscari Brothers 4PM closing time. A car pulls up behind me. “Sir, what does your license plate mean?” I turn. It’s the same car. I run to the driver’s window and kneel beside the car, my hands resting on the open window. “My license plate is H8BSTR. Stands for HateBusters. It means we help people who have been hurt because someone hates them.” “Hate Crimes?” He asks. All crimes are hate crimes.” The large man sitting in the passenger’s seat is speaking. He raises his left arm so I can read the tattoo in large letters on his forearm, running from elbow to wrist. PECKERWOOD. “What does your sign mean?” I ask “It means I’m a skin head. It means I fight. Why don’t you go live on 23rd street? A bunch of niggers beat up my uncle down there You go live with them. You nigger lover..” “I’m sorry,” I say. “My name is Ed Chasteen. What’s your name?” I stick out my hand to shake his. “I won’t shake your hand.” He says. “Get your hands off my car. I fight.” “I’m sorry, my friend. We don’t have to fight. I wish you well. If you’re ever in trouble, I’ll help you” A woman is driving. But my attention is on the man. He has close-cropped black hair and a trim mustache. He’s wearing a tank top. He doesn’t give me his name. I feel great sorrow that he is angry with the world. I feel bad to think what lies in store for him and those whose lives he touches. Camelot-Brigadoon Miles 6880-6930 August 25 As I approach Liberty Hills Country club on my way to Excelsior Springs along H Highway and glance off to the southeast across rolling pasturelands, all the world’s problems and all my own personal cares do not prevent a smile and a spontaneous WOW! The morning mist that still lingers softens everything. The jagged line of trees on the horizon seems to wall off this little piece of God’s good earth and give it all a Camelot-Brigadoon ambiance. I do not stop. The moment is made more precious by two rules I set myself years ago: never take a camera; never stop. Pictures in my mind I prefer to those in a box somewhere in a closet. And knowing I cannot stop primes my mind instantly to take it all in. I have this sense that should I stop, I might miss something down the road, something that depends on my moving steadily toward it. Where H bends left just past the water tower, I go straight ahead onto 100th Street and come soon to Queen of Angels Monastery off in a field to my right. Highway Department trucks are everywhere about this morning and signs are up announcing ROAD WORK. A left turn down the hill from the Monastery brings me to 102nd Street and a bend to the right over to JJ Highway. I turn left and make my way up and down over hills until I come to a last long downhill. I cannot quite muster the carefree abandon with which I’ve hurtled down this hill in the past. I keep seeing Ron and Helen on their tandem last week in Iowa. Their front tire blew as they rushed down a hill, spilling them across the road and across gravel that put them in bandages and in pain. But I let ‘er rip. The adrenaline rush that comes is all the greater. It hurts to watch those trapeze daredevils who work without a net. But knowing they are there draws me to the circus, the way these hills draw me to my bike. Drought Miles 6930-7030 August 27 A cowboy on an ATV, rounding up cows to get them to breakfast. The north side of H Highway is home to Liberty Hill Country Club and nice homes. The south side is home to cows and ponds and rolling pasture. Rain came last night. Not much. And not in time for the parched corn. The two-month drought caused the governor to declare 39 counties as disaster areas. But the rain has cooled the morning air. Maybe the string of 100 degree days will end today. Catherine is in the kitchen at Catricks this morning when I stop to deliver her gift. Rick isn’t here, so I leave both copies of the book with Catherine. Just yesterday I mailed a copy to each rider who rode in Ed’s Elite 100. Now I’m delivering a copy to all those who helped with the ride. I have included their names in the book and want each of them to have a copy so they will know how much I appreciate all they did. Catherine and Rick furnished sack lunches for riders .”Let us know how we can help next year,” Catherine says. 52 Goats graze in the fields to either side of M Highway on the eastern edge of Vibbard. They pay me little notice, unlike the cattle that sometime turn and run as I ride by. What promised in May and June to be one of the best corn crops ever has by the end of August burned to a crisp. It stands brown and brittle in thirsty fields of cracked earth as stark testimony to the vagaries of nature and the fortitude of farmers who plant without ceasing in the face of continually capricious circumstance. Sypliss rolling the stone always uphill must have been an early ancestor of these who now dare nature to do its worst. And when it does, these anonymous optimists by the tens of thousands come back for more. They do not loose because they never recognize defeat. This farmer decided to cut his loses. Coming out of Richmond on T Highway, I spot a field of corn stubble off to my left, the first I’ve seen this season. A few miles farther, just past Fleming, I see it again. Not just a few acres this time. Hundreds! Stretching far off to the tree line in the distance, the corn here looked like it could feed the world. That was in early summer. Now as August winds down it has all been scorched by relentless sun and hot dry winds. I can imagine the grim satisfaction that farmer took as he cut, thinking to himself that these stalks would no longer stand sentinel to the disaster that took place here. Four Ears of Corn Miles 7030-7115 August 28 Four ears of corn lay on Ray Gill’s desk. All different sizes. None large. The kernels are rock hard. “Just right,” Ray says. Ray is a long-time and big-time farmer. He has planted lots of corn and soybeans. Some of his corn is irrigated, so the drought hasn’t wiped out everything. “If we get rain in the next four or five days,” he says, “the beans will be okay. If not. . . “ His voice trails off. For some reason I can’t explain that notion that a stalk of corn has only one ear keeps running through my mind. Ever since Otis Miller told me, I’ve been wondering why. Or if it’s true. I’m from Missouri after all. You have to show me. So I ask Ray. “That’s right,” he says. “They breed field corn to have only one ear. And not the biggest ear.” He holds up his hand with finger and thumb stretched about as far as possible. “About this size,” he says. He tells me how many ounces of corn they prefer to an ear. It’s not a big number he says, though I didn’t write it down and don’t remember exactly. I’ll ask him next time I come to Richmond. I’m early getting to Jerry McCarter’s office. I told him yesterday that I would be back today about 11. It’s 10 when I arrive. I’ve brought books for all the Richmond people who helped with our Century ride back on May 31st. I will leave them with Jerry. He will get them to everyone. I wonder if it’s a test. To see if anyone will notice. If so, is there a prize? Where do you go to claim it? Coming into Rayville on C Highway from either direction, signs say the town’s population is 204. But U Highway announces that 197 people make this place their home. Reminds me of the signs in Stewartsville and Prathersville. Coming into town from one direction, the town name is missing a “s”: Stewartville and Pratherville. The little things you notice on a bike. Brings to mind a song that was popular when I was a kid: “Little Things Mean a Lot.” The North Kansas City Rotary Club Miles 7115-7145 August 29 Being small and quiet and slow seems perfect on country roads with cows and crops all around. But with 18-wheelers and delivery trucks and cars of all descriptions hurtling by on major highways, I’m suddenly intimidated and feeling inferior. The wide paved shoulder I’m riding keeps me from impeding traffic or being run over. The noise is deafening; the smell is of exhaust fumes. Along Highway 291 from its intersection with Ruth Ewing Road, I pedal two miles to Highway 210 and turn right. Some years back this was a rural road used mostly by farmers and those who live in little places. Now a casino, a rail terminal, a distribution plant and office buildings have brought high volume traffic. To small town cafes on my bike I can find back roads routes redolent with farm and nature aromas. Today, however, I bike with a more urgent mission. I have been invited to speak at the North Kansas City Rotary Club. Having promised to be there by noon, I take the most direct route. No other bikers enroute do I see. When I make it to North Kansas City by 11, I make a stop at First Baptist Church. Kevin Gibson is Music Director and a bike rider. He rode in our May 31 st Century. And Pastor Brad Dixon is a good friend. Brad recently filmed an interview with me talking about my MS and HateBusters. He used 53 part of the video in a sermon. Brad e-mailed me about a woman in his church who came to him after his sermon to tell him about her daughter who has MS. Kevin and I have a quick and lively conversation and plan soon to ride together. Brad has gone to the dentist. As I turn to leave, the woman sitting at a desk in the hallway say, “I’m Hansina Piburn. Did Brad tell you about me?” “Yes,” he did. “Your daughter has MS.” I say. “How can I get your book about your MS? I want to send it to my daughter.” We talk for a few minutes and I promise to mail a book to her. Then I must leave to ride the few blocks to my rotary Club appointment. I liked to take part in plays in high school. When I graduated, our school paper, The Huntsville Hornet, printed a prediction for me, as it did for the other 93 graduates. “In the race between the hare and the tortoise, Edgar Chasteen would play the part of the tortoise.” My nickname was “Speedy.” Being fast has never been my strength. You would think then that speaking to Rotary Club luncheon meetings would not be an environment where I would flourish. Promptly at noon the club is called to order. A prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance. When members have eaten and club business has been conducted and the visiting speaker has been introduced, it’s closer to one o’clock than to noon. And the speaker has been told in direct and subtle ways that members expect to be on their way by one. This is what I said. “I had always said I believe there is a spark of goodness and genius inside every person. Now I had to find out if I could find it. So I got on a bicycle in Orlando, Florida, intending to pedal to Seattle and then down to Los Angeles. By myself and without money, asking for a sandwich, a glass of water, a bed for the night. If people were good, they would help me and I would make it. I carried no map. I would ask people in one town how to get to the next. If they could tell me, I would have found their genius, and I would make it. “I made it. But that’s not the story I came to tell you. I’ve done another dumb thing. I promised to ride my bicycle 10,000 miles this year and to raise $100,000 for Multiple Sclerosis and $10,000 for HateBusters. So far I’ve ridden almost 7200 miles. I’ve raised not quite $15,000. I think I’ll make the miles. I’m wondering if I will raise the money. “Oh, I didn’t mention another reason I rode alone and without money across America. I have MS. The doctor told me to sit and not get hot and not be active. Living that way was killing me. I told myself that if I could make it across the country on my bike that MS would have to live on my terms. I thought that doctor made the right diagnosis but the wrong prescription. If I made it, I would prove it. “If I ride my bike, I can run. If I don’t, I can’t walk. But even though bike riding is good for my health, I know I couldn’t motivate myself day after day to get on my bike if it were only good for my physical well being. I have to have some purpose for being healthy, some mission I cannot do if I am sick. My mission is HateBusters. Helping people who have been hurt because someone hates them. Teaching children and students how to like each other and not get in fights. We have a book called How To Like People Who Are not Like You. We teach it where we are invited. “We charge no fee for anything. We never say no when asked to help. I have discovered that money is never the problem. Ideas and ideals always attract the money they need to give them life. HateBusters started in 1988 when a Klansman won election to the Louisiana Legislature and the governor invited my students and me to come help the state redeem itself. We went. We have since been invited by other governors and ministers and rabbis and imams and mayors and citizens. “I’ve come today to ask your help. We need your money.” I’m too excited ever to speak from notes. This is not verbatim what I said. But it’s mighty close. And takes me maybe five minutes. Three or four good questions come. “I’m through.” I say. And sit down. Little over 10 minutes in all. The Club President makes closing remarks and strikes the bell to end our meeting. Still a few minutes short of one o’clock. Several members rush up to say kind and encouraging things to me. Bob DeGeorge is sitting next to me. He’s the program chairman and had introduced me, though we had never met until today. “The Club has given me money to distribute to worthwhile organizations who need help in raising money,” Bob says. ”Our Rotary club will make a $500.00 contribution to your work.” Wow! Slow as I am, we hit it off. “Life’s a game of ping pong,” I had said to them. “I’ve just served to you. Now I wait to see what comes back across the net.” And even before I leave the chair where I’ve been sitting, back comes a major contribution. Another member presses money into my hand. Another member asks for a book and writes a check for a contribution. 54 I can’t wait to see where this all will lead and what Olympian-like game of ping-pong we might play. A Grilled Cheese Sandwich for Laura Miles 7145-7175 August 30 Graham Houston meets Rich and me at the Blue Light Station. Light has been receding for better than two months now, and 6:30 in the morning does not furnish adequate light for us to feel safe on our bikes. And for the first time in a long time, the sun has not come up like thunder, prelude to oppressive heat and stifling humidity. Low-lying clouds hold the promise of imminent rain. None of the three of us dare to wish that it not come or even that it delay. We have made it up Highway 69 and onto Summersette Road when Graham has a flat. He not long ago had a flat when riding 500 miles across Minnesota to raise money for Habitat for Humanity, and he has no spare tube with him. Though he never before has repaired a tube, he does so today in record time. We arrive in Kearney nearly at the time we had planned. A half-order of biscuits and gravy at Sarah’s Table fuel us for the final seven hilly miles to Watkins Mill State Park. Laura’s birthday was two days ago. Her dad will bring her to our house this morning at nine. He will put her bike into our car, and Bobbie will drive the two of them to Watkins Mill, where they will rendezvous with me at 10. The three of us will then ride the four-mile bike trail around the lake. The word rendezvous is not yet part of eight-year old Laura’s vocabulary. Bobbie will teach her the word as they drive to meet me. Then we will ride and have a picnic. Graham, Rich and I have ridden once around the lake when I stop to call on my cell phone to see where Bobbie and Laura are. Just as I am about to dial, a woman rider passes me from behind. “Ed,” she yells. “It’s Jansen. This is my husband, John.” Jansen is a Jewell alum. A HateBuster. She went with our team to California and to Colorado. She is one of those students a teacher never forgets. Bright, gregarious, bold, teachable, compassionate, dependable—Jansen is the ideal student. She, and those like her, bring joy to my life. We are still talking when Bobbie and Laura come. Laura makes it around the lake in fine form. Once or twice she gets off to walk her bike down a hill and onto a wooden bridge. Stopping her bike on this trail littered with dead leaves from thirsty trees is a little tricky for her, but pedaling up the hills is no problem. Bobbie and I ride behind and call encouragement constantly. We are two-thirds round the lake when the rain comes. A sprinkle. Then a gentle rain. Then harder. The picnic is out. Back to Sarah’s Table for lunch. A tenderloin sandwich for me. Half a chef salad for Bobbie. A grilled cheese sandwich for Laura. Laura has Oreo Pie. I have peanut butter. A downpour when we get back to Liberty. We have a canister bank for SRO, to replace the full one I picked up last night. Laura grabs the umbrella. “I don’t need one,” I say. Laura delights as I get soaked. “Papa got wet,” she keeps repeating all the way home. And squealing with delight. Then we play in the rain when I have the bikes off the car. Labor Day at Mill Inn September 1 I’m sitting in the dark on the stairway on the opposite end of the house from our bedrooms when my cell phone rings. Rich said he would call at 6:30. He’s never late. I answer on first ring, hoping Bobbie hasn’t heard it and waked up. “I’ve been up since two, writing letters to our September 10 Human Family Reunion honorees. “I tried to pretend it wasn’t raining. But I don’t think I want to get out in this,” Rich says. Rich got wet riding home from Watkins Mill yesterday. “Let’s drive over to the Mill Inn and have breakfast,” I say. “I’ll be over shortly to pick you up.” We had planned to come here on our bikes. Over the years, we have found half-a-dozen scenic routes we like. The Mill Inn is the only home-owned restaurant open on holidays, and we have been here on most of them. Only on Christmas Day is this place closed. But one time we came after two in the afternoon on the Fourth of July. Then we remembered the hand written note we always see taped to the front door on holidays: “We will close at two o’clock today.” Coming as we almost always do for breakfast, that sign had not registered on us. Scores of times we’ve been here. Only two or three times by car. “You ride your bike today?” The waitress who asks has served us many times. “The rain scared us off,” I say. Maybe it’s my imagination, 55 but I think she’s disappointed. Rich and I are. We’re not nearly so hungry. And don’t seem to have as much to talk about. I Want to Want to Ride Miles 7175-7185 September 2 I want to want to ride today. But I don’t. I manage to get myself to the post office on my bike and round town for a while. From past experience I know that if I can ride for an hour, I will have gotten myself in the mood. But I keep thinking of all the work I need to do. Our Human Family Reunion is coming on September 10. It needs work. I’m behind in writing up my daily rides. My fund raising is lagging. The MS- 150 is this weekend. I talk myself into going back to my word processor in my basement study. Pandolfi’s Deli Miles 7185-7195 September 3 JJ’s is where I want to go today. But try as I might, the road to Plattsburg does not call my name. I had intended when I got up at 4:30, to be on the road at first light. It’s 11 o’clock when I finally pedal up the hill from my house and turn toward town on Southview Drive. Once around the square. Still, no enthusiasm for distance biking has come. Off the square on Kansas toward the college I go. Out of the corner of my eye off to my left just behind the Corner Tavern, I spot the place that beacons. The only reason I don’t come more often to Pandolfi’s Deli is that it’s too close to my house. Even on the hottest day, the two miles between us is hardly enough to break a sweat. By no means sufficient to stoke the fierce hunger I crave. From years of riding, I’ve found that the allure of the food I find when I stop rises and falls in direct proportion to the number of miles I have pedaled to get it. So Pandolfi’s operates at a disadvantage not of its making—the direct distance between us being so short. Why not come here by a more circuitous route? I’ve tried that. Doesn’t work. Invariably I come upon another outpost of rural ambrosia. And I succumb to irresistible temptation. But today for some unknown reason that unseen map maker who lives in my head has not come up with a plan, and I’m not feeling good about venturing very far from home. I pull my bike onto the sidewalk and lean it against the wall in front of Pandolfi’s windows. I strap my helmet through the spokes of my front wheel and pull off my gloves. I’m rummaging through my panniers for my billfold and writing pad when the door open and someone says, “Hey, Ed, come on in. You’re just in time to pick up the check.” It’s Lee Minor, a long time friend. We taught together at William Jewell. We’ve been camping, canoeing, running, biking and visiting together for years. Lee lives even closer to Pandolfi’s than I do, just a couple of blocks away. He’s here today with Bob. They went to William Chrisman High School together. They invite me to join them. “The women in Judy’s water aerobics class use your column to decide where to eat,” Lee says. Then he names a place where they went for biscuits and gravy. “They didn’t like it,” he says. Suddenly I realize I may have been misleading those who read what I write. To taste the food as I do it may be necessary to pedal for an hour or more over hills and in the heat. Since the only time I write about what I eat is after I have come to it in this way, I cannot attest to its taste under other conditions. Forgive me, dear reader, for not realizing this limitation until now. And thank you, Lee, for causing me to realize it now. Fitting that Lee should be the one. But for Lee I might not be riding at all. Lee and I had been jogging buddies. Then MS came and stole my running from me. I was depressed. For years. Then I had discovered my son’s old bicycle. I rode around the neighborhood. Then to my classes at Jewell. Not far. Then one day Lee called. “I’m riding to Kearney for breakfast at Clem’s. Come with me.” “I can’t. I’ve never ridden that far,” I said. “You can do it,” Lee said. I wasn’t feeling confident, but Lee talked me into it. I fell twice. I ran into a post. But I made it. And became an addict. To Fubbler’s with Patrick Miles 7195-7270 September 4 Patrick and I meet at the church. “New plan,” I say. “Let’s go to Fubbler’s in Orrick. Have you been there?” “I’ve never been to Orrick,” Patrick says. South on Missouri Street, out 291 to Southview Drive. “I’ll show you where I live,” I say to Patrick. We make a right on Natchez and down the hill to my house. Then back up the hill and across 291 to Liberty Landing Road out to Old 210. Five miles out, Old 210 bends to the left and joins new 210. A 56 long gentle grade and a wide paved shoulder on new 210 replaced the steep, twisting and narrow monster hill leading into Missouri City. More than once I was forced off the old road by 18-wheelers. We exit new 210 to detour through Missouri City, past boarded up businesses, the post office, River Park, several homes, Missouri City School—“The Smallest AAA School in Missouri”, and out Old 210 for a couple of miles until it brings us back to new 210. The old road meanders and carries little traffic. It’s almost cathedral quiet. New 210 rumbles with the sound of commerce in transit. Riding on the shoulder, though, we are no hindrance to the prompt arrival of goods in the towns along this road. Then we come to OZ. O goes left and 10 mountainous miles later comes to Highway 10, three miles north of Excelsior Springs. Z goes right and runs through Orrick and out across river bottom farm land to the Lexington Bridge across the Missouri River. Patrick and I turn right onto O and come in less than a mile to Orrick. As we cross the railroad track, we bend left onto the main street and come in a couple of blocks to Fubblers on our right. “How many biscuits on their half order of biscuits and gravy?” Patrick asks me. “I’m not sure. Some places have one. Others have one and a half.” We each ask for a half order. “Just one biscuit,” I say when they come. “But they’re big,” Patrick says. And the gravy is delicious. Perfect texture. Made with sausage. And with enough sausage grease to give it flavor. We both give it thumbs up. “How far you guys ridin’?” It’s the man at a nearby table asking. “We left from Second Baptist Church in Liberty. We’re going to Excelsior Springs on O.” I say. “Have you ridden O. It’s hilly. Like being in Germany.” “I have,” I say. By the time we make it to Wood Heights about an hour later, my legs are on fire. I’d forgotten how steep and how many the hills. We’ve stopped several times to gulp water and gasp for air. But Patrick never complained and never lagged. A left turn on Highway 10 points us toward Excelsior Springs. Until we make it over the first hill there is no shoulder. Traffic stacks up behind us. But no horns sound. Then comes the paved shoulder. All the way into town and the Mill Inn. Manager Kay Stewart fills our water bottles and brings us grilled cheese sandwiches. “That chocolate meringue pie is calling my name. Would you like some?” I say to Patrick. “Chocolate’s not my favorite. I’ll have pecan,” he tells the waitress. “I don’t know your name,” I say to the waitress when she brings our pie. She was working the cash register when we entered. I hadn’t seen her before. “My name is Evelyn. I own this place.” As we’re paying our bill, Evelyn says, “When my husband died, Kay was managing this place. I told her to keep it open or shut it down. It didn’t matter to me. I’m not here often. I should be retired. All of my classmates are retired.” Out of Excelsior Springs on H Highway, we make our way back to Liberty, with a detour through Mosby and then onto a quiet road behind Liberty Hills Country Club. The MS-150 Miles 7270-7420 September 6-7 Every MS-150 stands apart from the others. One year it was Hungry Mother Creek. We crossed it in seconds, but I’ve wondered ever since how it came to be named. The images it conjures tease my mind every time I’m on a bike and come to a bridge. Then there was that bridge four years ago where Brian went down in a tangle of bikes. He was so white from shock that I didn’t know it was him when I flew down the hill. I caught sight of his bike and braked hard. He was bleeding and his bike was bent. The German restaurant in Cole Camp two years in a row lured me to Sunday dinner when we wrapped up our ride in their town. Heavy rain all morning had me dripping wet the second time. I was a misfit with the after-church crowd, but they welcomed me and spread a feast before me. My handlebars split in two pieces just as I entered a rest stop one year. I borrowed a bike to finish the ride. I’ve shuddered ever since to think what would have happened if the handlebars had split as I plummeted down a hill. Another time when Bilial rode with me, the pedal broke off his bike and he had to sag the rest of the way. The weekend after Labor Day every year belongs to the MS-150. I write it in ink on my calendar and haven’t missed one in 17 years. I’m just back from the latest, and this is my story. Flat Creek Restaurant didn’t make it. Joshua did. Last year’s MS-150 came through Windsor. Flat Stanley was with me. So I took him to Flat Creek Restaurant. I laid him on the table and told the waitress 57 about him. “My niece, Katie Carlton, a third-grader in Humble, Texas, sent him to me and asked me to take him places and write to her about the places we went. So here we are. And I will tell Katie.” Flat Creek wasn’t here two years ago when we came through this town of 3087 people. Then last year it was. Now it’s gone. Flat Creek Restaurant is closed and for sale. Flat Stanley I put in an envelope and mailed back to Katie. Joshua is with me this year. Understand me now! Joshua is not with me in person as I ride into Windsor. Neither is Joshua a zeroxed figure on a piece of paper that I carry in my billfold, as Flat Stanley was. No, Joshua is a real, live, 11 year old boy. I met him just this morning at the check in table where we started our ride. I first knew about him a couple of weeks ago when Mark sent me an email asking if I knew a place where he could rent a bike for his grandson. I didn’t. This morning when Mark comes, he has Joshua with him. He couldn’t find a bike to rent. He bought Joshua a bike just yesterday. Christie, Mark’s wife, has told Mark to be easy with Joshua. If he can’t make the hills, let him sag, she tells Mark. Joshua is a good looking little guy. I like him on sight, but I’m thinking that he’s so little he will never make it. I don’t see Mark or Joshua all morning. By the time I spy the now abandoned Flat Creek Restaurant, I can’t imagine how far behind they must be. . South through Belton to Hwy 58, we have come. Then East on 58 through Raymore, Pleasant Hill, Strasburg, Kingsville and Holden, I see first-hand the new cash crops of Missouri fields: Caseys, QT’s, McDonalds, banks, churches and homes by the hundreds. In Holden we turn south on Hwy 131 to Hwy 2, then east on 2, we come soon to Chilhowee, a tiny town whose name conjures visions of Native-Americans in my head. Gentle hills and winding roads have marked the 50 miles we’ve ridden when we come to Chilhowee. From Chilhowee to Leeton is not quite 10 miles, and as I mount my bike in Chilhowee and look ahead, the road stretches straight in front of me for miles. No curves now in the road. No hills to go around. I see the road on distant hilltops as far as my eye can see. Rather than around, we’re now going over. For the five miles from Chilhowee to Hwy 13 the hills are magnificent. The road is smooth. Plummeting down the backside of one hill ordinarily carries me a good distance up the front side of the next. The hills of Chilhowee are close and steep. Labor up the front! Fly down the back! Biking the Outer Bank in North Carolina was fun. Biking the hills of Chilhowee gives an adrenaline rush. From Hwy 13 for the five miles to Leeton, the hills again are gentle. A hundred and fifty miles of Chilhowee hills would likely do me in. Many of the 1600 of us on the road today might decide not to come. Still, the thought of such a ride does not willingly desert me. As I pull up to Leeton High School where lunch is ready, the line of riders waiting to eat is long. I spot John Anderson. John is riding with Mark, Joshua and me. Brother John, the professional storyteller and our HateBusters song leader, has eaten and is preparing to leave. I’m anxious to get back on the road. So I jump on my bike and hurry over to Casey’s to grab a slice of pizza and a cherry coke. Bob Atkinson didn’t want to wait in line, either. He gets chicken nuggets at Casey’s and we talk for the time it takes us to eat. Since I saw him last, Bob has left the church he pastored in Lexington and is now a conference minister and lives in Independence. When I come to Widsor around three o’clock, I haven’t seen John since noon and haven’t seen Mark and Joshua since we left this morning. They must be hours behind. The Amish who live and farm around Windsor sometimes have set up shop beneath a tree when we come and we can buy cookies and cakes and jellies from them. A year or so ago, I bought a jar of strawberry preserves to take as a gift to Bill and Beverly in Sedalia. Bill is a former student of mine at William Jewell and has been for years a prosecuting attorney in Pettis County. His sister, Ann, is my eye doctor, having taken the place of her father when he retired. For years I have stayed with Bill and Beverly on Saturday night after we have ridden to Sedalia. It’s almost 5:30 when I make it to the fairgrounds in Sedalia and check in. I ask about John. He’s not in yet. I don’t ask about Mark. I know he and Joshua aren’t here yet. Then I ride over to Bill and Beverly’s to bring them back for dinner. We leave a note on the door for John and Mark so they will know where we have gone. Bill loves to cook and always prepares a gourmet dinner for us. This year, though, Leigh Reynolds and Liz Gaume have asked me to say a few words at the evening rally they have planned at the fairgrounds where most riders overnight. So I have asked Bill and Beverly to be guests of the MS Society and join us for dinner. 58 As we are having dinner we keeping scanning the crowd to spot John, Mark and Joshua. Half an hour goes by. We think we see John way up in the crowd. We get Leigh to call his name over the PA system. He waves. And comes to join us. John tells me he got in at five o’clock. He has eaten. Fifteen minutes later my cell phone rings. Mark and Joshua are at Bill and Beverly’s and wondering just where we are. A few minutes later they join us. Leigh gives me a generous introduction. She tells that I plan to ride 10,000 miles and hope to raise $100,00 for MS and $10,000 for HateBusters. “And what he would like most is if 100,000 people each gave him one dollar.” Our meeting place is cavernous. The acoustics are terrible. And everybody is tired. A short speech is in order. “Don Quixote says, too much sanity may be madness, and the greatest madness of all may be to see the world as it is and not as it should be. None of us suffer from that greatest madness. We all see the world as it should be—a place where people care about one another and work hard to help each other. That’s why we are riding 150 miles this weekend. That’s why we beg for money. Though I have MS, I can’t presume to speak for others who do. I ride my bike all year long so I can ride with all of you every September. You inspire me. Speaking just for myself, I must say that I admire you. I respect you. I love you. Bless you.” A little over a minute it takes me to say these words. Leigh gives me a hug. Several people give me dollar bills as I make my way to my seat. As we leave the building I introduce Bill and Beverly to every MS staff person I can find. Turns out that Mark and Joshua got to Sedalia before I did. Joshua rode all the hills. He became the topic of conversation among all those who saw him. “Did you see that little kid go?” They marveled. And when they got to the fairgrounds, Joshua was riding around in the parking lot, saying, “Let’s go further, Grandpa, I’m not tired.” Yesterday a hundred miles! Today, 50. From the fairgrounds this Sunday morning we head west on Hwy Y to Hwy 127 and turn south to Green Ridge. In Green Ridge we take Hwy B to Windsor, then Hwy WW north to Hwy 23. Follow 23 to Business 50 where we turn east to Washington Street in Knob Noster, then south to the high school. As we cross the finish line, crowds are cheering and all riders get a medal to hang around our necks. When I turn onto my street and head down the hill to my house, I see the driveway and street lined with cars. Cars I know. My two sons, my daughter and son-in-law and grand daughter have come. The croquet set is up in the front yard. There’s gonna be a party! The Human Family Reunion September 10 It’s 9-11 Eve and the antidote to terrorism is gathered in this room. Christian, Jew and Muslim. Black, brown and white. Inner city and suburb. Bronia Roslawowski survived the Holocaust and lives now to teach all who will hear that she loves everybody and hates no one, not even the Nazis who killed all her family. Yahya Furqan survived combat in Vietnam and carries in his body graphic evidence of his near fatal wounds. As a Muslim Imam he teaches from the Quran the ways of peace and love for all mankind. Richard Maraj is here in spirit and in word brought by a friend. Richard is a warm and magnetic soul, born in Trinidad, now a Canadian citizen and pastor of Christ Church Unity where we meet tonight. Because his ancestry goes back to the Middle East, our government has told him he must leave the country while his loyalties are determined. Walt Bodine wanted to be here. He called shortly before we gathered to say he was ill and could not come. Stretching back decades Walt has over radio and TV reminded us all that there is good among us and has sent us in pursuit. Jewel and Mattie Cornelius had planned to come until Mattie’s beloved sister died and Mattie for a time is overcome with grief. The others of us have come tonight to celebrate the life and work of these dear people. Brother John and Mom McFarlane are here to lead us in song. All of us have brought our favorite foods to share. Members of the church have decorated the room and make us welcome and wait on our every need. For two hours on this night before the second anniversary of 9-11, the 150 of us gathered here exude such love and acceptance that were it bottled and distributed around the world we all would instantly become World Class Persons, able to go anywhere at any time and talk to anyone about anything and feel safe. 59 If only some of the media we invited had come perhaps the process of becoming World Class might have been helped along. But nothing can discourage us. Scenery on a Detour Miles 7500-7515 September 11-20 If the really happy man is the one who enjoys the scenery on a detour, it must be because he knows that people and places are not to be compared. Each is its own standard. Each contains beauty if seen without comparison to another. Any road he travels thus becomes the right road for him at that moment and each person he meets becomes the most important person in his life for the duration of their short time together. Our California trip is a detour. Greater Liberty on my bicycle has been my goal this year. Through our cold winter and hot summer I have managed 7500 miles. Now cool fall weather has come with an ideal riding environment. But I am mentally and physically spent. Our Human Family Reunion last night exceeded even my own lofty expectations. I love these evenings when people of all colors, cultures and creeds come to eat together and relax in one another’s presence. As much as I love them, they leave me exhausted. Months of planning and preparation and the building of great expectations. Then we all come. And for two and a half hours a bubble descends and shuts us off from the world. We are Brigadoon and Camelot. Don Quixote, King Arthur and Jean Val Jean sit at table with us. Then the bubble lifts and we go our separate ways. And I am exhausted. When I make it to mile 7500 by early September, I am reasonably certain that I can ride the promised 10,000 before December 31 st comes. I’m less certain by the day, though, that I will raise the combined $110,000 I set as my goal. Slightly less than $15,000 has come in so far. Whether it’s the physical exhaustion of riding or the mental exhaustion of failing my fund, I am by September so tired that I must forget it all and get away. So early on the morning following our Human Family Reunion, Bobbie and I board a plane bound for California and time with friends and trips to Yosemite National Park and beautiful Monterrey Bay and a drive down Highway 1. What better way to simultaneously negate terrorism and commemorate 9-11 victims than to book a flight every anniversary date. Even if you have no place to go. If ever that hackneyed philosophical phrase—the journey is the destination—were true, it could never be more so than on the day terrorists chose to make us fear flying. If suddenly flying were to spike every year on 9-11, terrorists everywhere would know that their plan had boomeranged and they had produced exactly the opposite response and mind set to that which they intended. So on this second anniversary of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks, Bobbie and I are at KCI early to catch a flight to San Francisco. Over the PA system at 7:46 comes an announcement: “Ladies and gentlemen, not only here in the U.S. but world-wide, people are standing for one minute of silence to honor those who died on 9-11. Would all of those who wish to participate, please stand for one minute of silence?” When the minute has passed: “Thank you. And God bless everyone.” Bobbie and I rent bikes and ride five miles along the valley floor in Yosemite National Park. Chris Henson joined the Jewell faculty after I had left. She and I now hold our Human Family Reunions every April on campus. Chris bought miles 7500-7505 and rides with us in spirit today. Wow! Chris, you know how to pick ‘em. Could any place on earth be more beautiful or any weather more comfortable? Doc, Mack and the boys never lived. The Western Biological Laboratories and the Palace Flophouse were not real. But Cannery Row came alive through them and made John Steinbeck famous. No fish are canned here now. The harvest now is tourists. By the millions we come to find the vacant lot, Dora’s Red Bear Restaurant, Lee Chong’s Grocery and the other places we know from reading Steinbeck’s Cannery Row. At a place called Adventures by the Sea Bobbie and I acquire bicycles and helmets for an hour or so on two occasions for leisurely excursions along magnificent bike paths by the sea. Cannery Row, Of Mice and Men, Tortilla Flat and a collection of Steinbeck’s short stories we have read and brought with us on this trip. The power of Steinbeck’s stories of Monterrey Bay, the Salinas Valley and Cannery Row have drawn us here and direct our coming and going for the duration of our visit. Steinbeck’s unadorned and sympathetic treatment of the down-and-out won for him the Nobel Prize for Literature and won for this place an undying affection in the hearts of those who read in all corners of the world. On our bikes Bobbie and I come in a town called Pacific Grove to a place called Lover’s Point. Out on the beach we spot a bench covered in flowers. When we go to look we find this name and these 60 dates carved into the back: Suzzane Marie Calley 9-17-57 9-11-01. Notes from Suzzane’s students and parents are taped to the bench. She was at the World Trade Center that day. Write as I Ride Miles 7665-7740 September 25 I write in my head as I ride on the road and when I stop I put on paper what I have composed enroute. Riding is as necessary to my writing as it is to my walking. If I don’t ride, I can’t walk. If I don’t ride, I can’t write. Oh, I could put words to paper without riding. But not these words. The ideas and inspiration that come as I pedal never visit me as I sit in my basement study at home. So my daily routine is to ride my bike to some small town café miles from home and write in the tablet I carry the thoughts that fill my head as I make my way here. Friends sometimes ask if I get lonely out on a bike for hours by myself. I don’t. They have suggested that I get a headset and carry a radio. That would be dangerous. I might not hear traffic coming up behind. And the sound of the radio would drive away the sound of silence, the sound I find most congenial and productive. So for the third day in a row I have come to Catrick’s for lunch. Jenny Corns is again my waitress. “I’ll have a baked potato with shredded cheese and onions, a grilled cheese sandwich and ice tea.” “Same as yesterday,” Jenny says. She brings a pitcher of tea. As I’m eating, a man comes to my table. “Your last name Chasteen?” “Yes.” “The one who rides bikes and fights hate?” “Yes.” “God bless you,” he says. Then he’s gone. I take out my pen to write. A feeling is percolating upward from deep inside me, persuading me that I have misunderstood my mission. The miles I ride and the money I raise are not ends in themselves but the means to a far more satisfying and more difficult objective: to wit, the spontaneous and complimentary striking of that spark of goodness and genius that flickers inside every person on the planet. A bicycle is not designed to bring me into the presence of great numbers of these people, but no means of transportation ever invented is better suited to bring us together with the eagerness of children to get acquainted. And in our eagerness we completely forget the acquired inhibitions that fence in all adults. An old and chronically ill man riding a child’s toy around the countryside and asking everyone to like each other does not compute. Someone tilted the pinball machine. Don Quixote lives. That spark of goodness and genius that flickers inside each of us almost has gone out. The barrage of mass media messages have shunted us onto a cul de sac where we go round and round in pursuit of the biggest and fastest and latest. Then an old sick man comes on a bicycle and that spark flickers. And catches hold. It lights our way. It warms us when cold thoughts come. And while it lasts we understand what Don Quixote knew: “Too much sanity may be madness. And the greatest madness of all may be to see life as it is and not as it should be.” To see the world as it should be, and to live every day in that world. That’s the real intent of my mission. And I live there in the company of the people I meet, people whose spark joins with mine to cast a light that shows us all our way to life beyond and above what ordinary daily living tells us is possible. The particular project I undertake for this year matters hardly at all. So long as it is meant to inspire and encourage and help us live together as friends, it will inevitably draw people to it and produce in them an ardor and an intellect that gives it wings and makes it invincible. So even though less than 15 percent of the money I hope to raise has come, I know in my heart that it’s in the bag. So long as I don’t give in, give up or give out, there is no way that all of us can fail. Inspired by Robert Frost Miles 7740-7795 September 26 With Robert Frost as my inspiration, I stop this morning at River Park in Missouri City to jot down this tribute. I call it Stopping by Small Town Cafes on Glorious Bike Riding Days. It goes like this. Small town cafes are lively, light and cheap And I have promises to keep And people to meet before I sleep Orrick’s Fubbler’s Cove is my destination. When I arrive just minutes before noon, every table in the place is occupied and more people are coming. Today is Friday. Orrick High may be playing a home football game tonight. Or maybe Fubbler’s is this busy every noontime. I hope so. Several of my favorite small town cafes have turned out the lights and closed their doors, setting us regulars adrift and ending our 61 association with each other. Fubbler’s wasn’t here a few years back, but with business like this, looks like I’ll be coming here for years to come. A quick walk-through today and I’m out the door. I might stay and wait for a table. But I promised Bobbie I’d be home by three o’clock so we can go see Robert Duval’s new movie, Secondhand Lions. So I hurry over to Snappy’s Convenience Store to grab a sandwich and a drink. I’m standing in line to pay when I hear a voice behind me. “I carry your card with me all the time. I consider it an honor.” The young man speaking works here, through not on duty today. From his wallet he has taken the Mickey Card I gave him weeks ago when I stopped one day for a drink and a restroom. He reads the card to me in a delightfully accented English. We sit down together at the counter so I can eat and we can talk. His name is Danny. He is from Lebanon. He lives now in Richmond. His sister is in Australia, brothers in Brazil and France. Only his parents remain in Lebanon. “Lebanon was a beautiful and peaceful country. Then the Israelis and Palestinians came. The Israelis are gone. The Palestinians are still there. They don’t listen to our government. We are not safe,” Danny says. What do you like best about America?” I ask. Danny’s eyes light up. A smile comes. “Here you can fight with one another and walk away. There you must kill or be killed.” In the movie Duval is an old man who has lived a swashbuckling life straight from The Arabian Knights. He and his brother now live as recluses on a ranch in Texas. A small boy, a distant relative, comes unannounced to live with them. Near the movie’s end, the boy begs Duval to give him the speech he gives to young boys about to become men. The boy wants to know if the awesome tales he has heard about the old man’s life are really true. “Son, there are some things you need to believe. Whether they are true is not really important. You need to believe them because they are good to believe. Things like good always wins. Money and power are not important. True love is. ” There was more to Duval’s speech and I have not quoted it verbatim. When you’re laughing and crying you miss some things. Church of the Open Road Miles 7795-7825 September 28 Today is Sunday. I’ve missed church several Sundays in a row. That’s not like me. I grew up in the church. Preachers and Sunday School teachers made me the person I am. My life orbits around Sundays and church. But I can’t bring myself to go today. I want to go. But I need to ride. So it’s the Church of the Open Road I visit today. First to the post office to drop off 30 more of the 600 letters I’m sending to members of the Liberty Area Chamber of Commerce asking them to accept the Greater Liberty Challenge. There’s a chill in the air this morning. For the first time since early April, I’m wearing my yellow GoreTex windbreaker over my yellow HateBusters T-shirt. From the post office out Withers Road past the community center, through Glenaire and across I-35 into Pleasant Valley. I turn right up the hill just past the big QT truck stop and ride through a residential area over to 76th Street where I turn left. Up and down hills for several miles, across Shoal Creek Parkway and over I-435, I come to Highway 152. A right turn brings me back toward Liberty. Traffic is picking up as noon time nears but is lighter than at any other time of the week. Ordinarily I would avoid the 152 bridge over I-35, going either north on Church Road to Highway 291 or south to Pleasant Valley. Today, though, I want to ride up Kansas Street onto our town square and check out the final hours of Liberty’s Fall Festival. Everything was perfect yesterday. Temperature in the 60s and not a cloud in the sky as the parade came up Kansas past the square and back to the junior high on Franklin. Laura marched with her dance team, and when the parade was over, her parents and Bobbie and I joined the crowds at the carnival. We visited all the booths around the square. We had hot dogs and funnel cakes and watched the older girls from Laura’s dance team perform. I couldn’t have made it around the square on my bike yesterday. The streets were filled with people. The crowds have gone now. Soon the booths will steal away to back yards and parking lots to await other festive days. I’m home in time for all the family to gather. Dave comes from Kansas City, Brian from Lee’s Summit, Debbie, Ed and Laura from across town. We watch Dante Hall perform his football magic before we gather around the table for a marvelous dinner. “Papa, can you play with me?” Laura asks as we finish. We retire to the basement while others clean up the kitchen. 62 Ansare and Yahya Miles 7825-7855 September 29 That email from Al Ansare at 5 AM changed my plans. A 75-mile day and a late breakfast at JJ’s in Plattsburg gave way to lunch with Al and Yahya. Breakfast at Denny’s at 15 th and Broadway more than five years ago was the last time the three of us were together. We are to meet at Baptist Lutheran Medical Center where Al is a chaplain and go to the New York Deli for lunch. Al can’t get away, so Yahya and I drive to a nearby Captain D’s and get three #1 Fish Dinners. Yahya and I have been close friends since that day more than 20 years ago when I took my students from Jewell to serve as tutors at the masjid where he was imam. We liked each other at first sight. In the years since we have traveled the country together, visiting schools, prisons, churches and other places where people would listen to us talk about the Human Family Reunion and How to Like People. Yahya planned to come to Disneyland to meet me when my cross-country ride ended. But Zakia, his wife, was expecting their eleventh child, and he stayed home to be with her. When I had ridden from Orlando to Kansas City on my way to Anaheim, Yahya planned a reception for me. At two o'clock in the afternoon on a hot June day in 1987, I met Yahya at the Gregg Community Center for a ride through the black community to the Freedom Fountain a few miles east. Al Brooks was there. And Larry Schumake. And Lucile Bluford. And Shah Waliallah. All long time friends; all prominent community builders in the Kansas City area. Al is Director of the Human Relations Department for Kansas City, Larry is Director of the Black Economic Union, Lucile is Editor of the Kansas City Call, and Shah is Imam at Masjid (Mosque) Ahmed. All this has been arranged by Yahya Furqan, Imam at Masjid Omar, a dear friend and Chariman of the Faith Committee that planned my ride. None of those asked to serve on this committee refused, and membership included major religious communities and races: Father Milan Bajich, Pastor of St. George Serbian Orthodox Church; Rev. Vern Barnett, Director of the Center for Religious Experience and Study; Rev. Bob Brumet, Pastor of Overland Park Unity; Dennis Jenkins, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints; Rabbi Mark Levin, Temple B'nai Jehudah; Jim McKinney, Heart of America Indian Center; Rev. George Steincross, Pastor, Second Baptist Church, Liberty; Rev. Webster West, Pastor, King Solomon Baptist Church, Kansas City, Kansas. In the world as I would have it, these religious communities and races would regularly work together on projects to benefit them all. To my knowledge, though, BikeAmerica was the only project being worked on jointly in Kansas City that summer. At William Jewell, at AT&T, at the Gregg Community Center and at the Freedom Fountain, The Human Family Reunion came alive. From the hearts and minds and souls of The Faith Committee sprang this gathering of young and old, black and white Christian, Jew, and Muslim. As we stood in the shade of the mobile stage brought to the lawn of the Gregg Center for this occasion, we felt warm and safe and secure. To know that we were there to celebrate our family ties, that it had taken us all of our lives to come to this place for this purpose, that after today we may never again come together: all of this gives to each second of our sharing today an eternal significance that we all intuitively recognize. And as each of those who address the assemblage steps to the mike, we embrace. And without embarrassment or reservation or planning, each of us says almost in unison, "I love you, my friend." Bob and Jean are with me again. And on their tandem, they ride across the city like the pied piper, an entourage of children in their wake. Before we leave the Gregg Center and again when we get to the Freedom Fountain, Bob breaks out his tools for emergency repairs to a child's bike; his payment, a smile and an energetic pedaling away. Shah is near my age, and he pedals to the Fountain and back to the Center on his young son's bike with its banana seat, handlebars above his head and frame so small that he cannot extend his legs to pedal. Yahya's bicycle is borrowed from a friend who must be a giant; it's the biggest bike I've ever seen, a frame so large that mounting and dismounting is the trickiest part of the ride. Biking the tree-lined streets through the black community as integrated riders, calling and waving to everyone I see, being responded to in kind, kindles in me a feeling I haven't felt since high school when I strode the halls of Huntsville High yelling out greetings to students, teachers, administrators, and anybody else who chanced to be about. 63 JJ’s and Sarah’s Table Miles 7855-7930 October 1 “We’ve been missing you.” Jennifer says. “Have you been riding?” I’ve just ordered a bowl of chili and a grilled cheese sandwich when she joins me at my table. Better than a month its been since I came through Plattsburg and stopped at JJ’s. “I took a little trip to California. But now I’m back. Last time I was here we talked about a Halloween Benefit for my bike ride.” “We did,” Jennifer says. “Since we talked we’ve got a catering job for 800 people in October. We’re trying to figure out how to do both.” “How about Thanksgiving?” I ask. “Hey, that’s good. November 14 is the anniversary of our opening,” Jennifer says. “And November 16 is my birthday,” I say. “Perfect,” she says. “November it is.” Jennifer’s husband is a medical doctor. He just diagnosed a friend of theirs with MS. “He’s 35 years old and works for the city. He works outside and works hard. He has children. Right now he’s feeling down. I would like for him to meet you.” “I know he’s depressed. I was depressed for years when I was told. I wrote a book about my own struggle to get my life back together. I could get you a copy. You could decide if you thought it might help.” Rain fell all day yesterday. Together with the autumn chill, it was enough to keep me off the road. Otherwise I would have come to JJ’s a day earlier. I had hoped to be at 8200 miles by the end of September. Well I’m closer to my mileage goal than to my money goal. “There you are. Where have you been?” Janis asks when I make it to Kearney and get to Sarah’s Table. “He’s been to California,” Betty says. “He called a friend. That friend stopped by and told me where he was.” “Was it Rich? Maybe Dale?” I ask. “I’m not sure,” Betty says. I take a seat at the table with Janis, Betty and her daughter, Tracy. Betty and Janis both come to work 5:00 in the morning. “Customers are here by 5:15,” Betty says. I order a piece of peanut butter pie and ice tea. Today is Wednesday. Sarah’s husband is here. He’s off today from his job at a Raytown grocery and has come to help his and Sarah’s dream place run smoothly. Sarah is away at the Independence library where she works. As I’m leaving Janis says, “You be careful out there. And come back soon so we don’t worry about you.” “Thanks. I’ll be careful. And I will be back.” I say. Holly Springs, Mississippi Miles 7945-7985 October 3-5 Brian, Bobbie and I have driven to Holly Springs, Mississippi so Bobbie and I can meet Leanne’s parents. Leanne and her three children came to Liberty a few months ago to meet us. We all fell in love. Brian and Leann plan to get married this coming June and move to Missouri. Bobbie and I can’t believe our good fortune. We will have all three of our children living nearby. Already we have son-in-law, Ed, and granddaughter, Laura. Soon we will have daughter-in-law, Leanne, and grandchildren, Jennifer, John and Anne. Now Bobbie and I have come to Holly Springs to meet Ed and Joanne Bounds, Leanne’s parents. We want to be sure that they are comfortable with their daughter and grand children moving away. Holly Springs is the county seat of Marshall County, Mississippi. Buford Furniture Store is in the middle of the block on the east side of the town square and looks out at the clock tower atop the courthouse. Buford Furniture was started by Joanne’s grandfather. Joanne and Ed (Joanne calls him Sonny.) met when they both were students at Ole Miss in Oxford, Ed’s hometown, just 30 miles east of Holly Springs. They have owned and operated the store now for years. A comfortable and welcoming spot is the store. Townspeople come in to sit and talk. The grandkids come and go many times a day and see their grandparents regularly. In our three days in Holly Springs, Bobbie, Brian and I adopt the same routine and feel right at home. City Café sits on the southeast corner of the town square at South Market and Vandorn streets. Vandorn runs in front of City Café. A sign on the front door reads: The Only Two Places to Eat THE CITY CAFÉ and Home. I take the first booth just inside the door and sit facing the street. Ed told me I should order biscuits and gravy, with ham and grits. As I’m eating, someone in the booth behind me asks, “Where you ridin’ today?” I have propped my bike on the sidewalk by the front door. I turn and meet Patrick Casey and four year old Zachary. “Not far. We’re here visiting for a few days.” 64 We get to talking. Patrick’s father-in-law rode the MS-150 in Tupelo recently. Patrick’s wife is expecting a little sister for Zachary. “She may be here this weekend,” Patrick says. Zachary says, “Her name is Autumn.” A granite monument stands on the courthouse lawn across the street, an American flag on a pole just behind the monument. South Market Street is wide as a football field where it runs between the courthouse and the businesses that line the street east of the square, Buford Furniture being one of them. Cars park diagonally on both sides of the street and also in the middle. A horizontal line of cars also park in the middle of the street. The Buford Furniture delivery truck is parked here. Booker Hardware is a couple of doors down from Buford Furniture. Booker’s window is filled with assorted ancient implements and antiquated devices that draw attention and invite inspection but find little modern use. The window works its magic on Bobbie and me, and we step inside. Boggess Hardware lives. It has been transplanted from Liberty to Holly Springs. The long shotgun building has the same wooden floor and tin ceiling. The same cluttered counters. The same wooden drawers along the wall. The same eclectic assortment of all imaginable devices and dodads. And you can buy just one of anything. And staffed by two or three people who know where everything is and how everything works. This town of 10,000 is about 30 miles east of Memphis, Tennessee. Many of the buildings facing the square are painted in yellows and blues and browns. In front of every building American flags on metal poles hang at about a 20-degree angle toward the street, interspersed here and there with a Mississippi flag. Every morning when he opens at eight o’clock, Ed Bounds puts a rocking chair on the red brick sidewalk to either side of his store’s front door. Passers by can sit and rock for a spell. More gracious people than Ed and Joanne are hard to find. The whole town is this way. Everywhere we go people speak to us. Eyes meet. Smiles come easily. Body language is relaxed. Comfort and ease abound. The wide brick sidewalk passes in front of all businesses on all four sides of the town square. The sidewalk is covered and the cover supported about every 10 feet by black metal beams some 12 feet tall with wrought iron lattice work running along the top. From each beam hangs an American flag. Big flower pots filled with beautiful flowers sit at the base of each support beam. Catfish and frog legs are the specialty at the restaurant in Red Bank, a few miles from Holly Springs, where Ed and Joanne take us all to dinner Saturday night. Then for Sunday lunch, Leanne drives us to a soul food oasis just off the town square. A two-hour stop at Graceland Too is followed by a lasagna dinner Leanne cooks for us at her parent’s house. Over dinner we have ample opportunity to regale those who missed Graceland Too with tales of a man possessed and a house that defies description. Blue Christmas trees and gold lions sit in front of the house. Open 24-7, any number of people may appear at any hour for a tour. We ring the bell. The door opens. Elvis is everywhere. Floors, walls and ceilings. Up the stairs. Overhead. Under foot. And our guide, the man who built this Elvis shrine, mumbles nonstop about millions and billions of dollars and famous people who have come and are on their way. “I gave my wife a million dollars to leave so I could be alone with Elvis. I named my son Elvis Aaron Presley McCloud. I was alone with Elvis in his crypt.” Interspersed with these are other outrageous comments. Applying a mutant model of the five degrees of separation paradigm, McCloud tells us, “Elvis is connected to everybody and everything.” He then invites us to name a person, place or thing so he can demonstrate the Elvis connection. None of us chooses to participate in his delirium. We cut him short after two hours and hurry to the car and erupt in spasms of uncontrollable laughter. I ride a little each day. Not much, though. I want to spend as much time as possible with these dear people. Leanne drives us to Oxford for a look around Ole Miss Saturday afternoon. Before leaving Holly Springs we stop by Phillip’s Grocery to sample their famous hamburgers. Friday afternoon we go to the pep rally at Marshall Academy, the school Jennifer, John and Anne attend. Friday night we all go to Marshall Academy’s football game with West Memphis Christian so we can see John play. We rendezvous at the store in our coming and going to all these places. We leave for home Monday morning. Reluctant to leave. Glad we came. Anxious to be home. Wanting to come again. “Dear hearts and gentle people.” I can’t remember the rest of that song, but these words come to mind as I’m thinking about our visit to Holly Springs and Buford’s Furniture Store. Arson at the Lumber Company Miles 8060-8120 October 8 Someone torched Porter Lumber Company last night. At two locations miles apart. One in Kearney along 92 Highway. The other in Mosby, along Highway 69. Not having a death wish, I never ride 65 92 Highway, known to bikers as Suicide Alley. I’ve seen that Porter’s location only from my car. But I ride by the Highway 69 location dozens of times every year. A pile of smoldering rubble and a mobile crime lab are all I see this morning. The smell of smoke is strong in the air. The morning is otherwise crisp, cool and bright. My intention when I leave home is to ride by Porter’s to check the damage and then head for Catrick’s in Lawson. Jenny Corn waited on me when I was there last week. She said they would have chili for their baked potatoes on Monday. Today is Wednesday, and I can taste that potato—bigger than any I find anywhere else—with grated cheese and onions covered with chili. I’ve pedaled for an hour by the time I come to Porter’s. Some mornings riding is not fun until I’ve been at it for an hour. Other mornings are magnificent from the moment I don my gloves and helmet and throw my leg over and put my foot in the toe clips. Almost always after an hour, time on my bike is heavenly and I’m feeling great. Not today! It’s all mechanical. No joy. I had planned to ride on by Mill Inn and through Excelsior Springs. As much as I love this place and as often as I have come for breakfast or lunch, I wanted today to ride further. With 2000 miles still to go and unpredictable weather coming, I want to get in 60 to 70 miles a day. But I stop. I haven’t been here in a while. I open the door. All the staff turns and calls a cheerful greeting. I feel better. I linger over a grilled cheese sandwich and a cup of tomato soup. I’m reluctant to leave. Finally I do and pedal slowly away. I ride out Salem Road to the pasta plant and then back on 69. I spot a bench on the porch in front of Annie’s Furniture Store and wheel off the road to sit for a while. I stop several more times to rest before I finally get home. Fifty-five plodding miles closer to my 10,000. As tired as I am, I would have felt worse if I had ended this day no closer to my goal. A Clem’s Connection Miles 8120-8170 October 9 A Clem’s connection! I found it today at Sarah’s Table. Naomi Hampton waited tables at Clem’s for 20 years. Now for two months she has been at Sarah’s Table. She works from 11-4. I usually come for breakfast and haven’t seen her. Today, though, it’s two o’clock when I come. “These are nice people to work for,” Naomi says. Today’s Liberty Sun carries one of my stories about one of my visits to Sarah’s Table. It mentions JD and Carl, and I’ve come to give them each a copy. JD is in school and Carl is at work at his other job. “Could you give these stories to Betty (JD’s mother) and Carl?” Naomi says she will. “How do I get that paper?” Sharon Allen is the afternoon cook. She lives in Holt. “I’ve heard about your stories of this place. But I don’t get the paper.” “I’ll ask Jack back at the Sun. See if we can get some papers up here.” I say. I have brought three copies of the paper with me today. I give one to Sharon. Today is a quintessential October afternoon in Missouri. I head toward the James Farm. But take Ragsdale Road before I get there. Over to 172 nd Street. Then right to Old BB. Another right back to Jesse James Road. Another right would bring me back past the James Farm. Instead I turn left and drop to granny to pull the long hill. Rather than Jessee James the road is now called NE 164 th and leads to Watkin’s Mill State Park. I take a right at the first intersection I come to and follow Cameron Road across Highway 92 to NE 140th St, where I turn right. Flaming red, burnt orange and burnished gold adorn all the trees. Ghosts, goblins and ghouls hover in yards and above porches. A season of magic to be remembered when darkness comes. Rhodus Road is the first cross street I come to. Rhodus Road is named for the farm that occupies the land hereabout and runs from Highway 69 along the eastern boundary of Clay County Regional Airport over to NE 140th where it ends. I watch a small plane practice touchdowns and take offs as I pedal toward 69 Highway. A tractor pulling a road-wide set of plows pulls left to pass me and turns into the farm yard just to my left. The new longer runway has just been completed and runs for hundreds of yards to my right. Newly plowed farmland and newly laid runway side by side speak mute messages of the traditional and emerging character of Clay County. Alaska and Texas Miles 8170-8200 October 10 Sitting side by side in front of City Hall this morning is a van from Alaska and a car from Texas. From far north and far south they have come to our town. Have they heard? Did they come to find out how we do it? Its not a secret. Signs have been posted at our town limit on most roads coming into town announcing: Liberty--Dedicated to Community Excellence. 66 We have a good thing going here. The tendency of home folks everywhere is to take their little place on the planet for granted. Not to be impressed. Outsiders are sometimes better judges. Our town square is a magnet. All the buildings are occupied and inviting. Build it and they will come. That was the plan. All plans should work so well. Out of all the places in America where they could be on this day, the occupants of these two vehicles chose our town. They chose well. The momentary sighting of their license plates as I pedal past on my bike makes me smile. They will never know I saw their vehicles. They will not know the speculations that paraded through my mind as I contemplated their mission here. They will not know that I rode an extra time around the square, imagining that I was seeing it for the very fist time, as I think they must be. Rich Is out of Town Miles 8200-8260 October 11 Rich is out of town on this Saturday morning and 33 Highway beacons. Chandler Baptist’s new church is coming along nicely. Soon congregants will replace cows as pastureland becomes parking lot. Looks odd to see a For Sale sign in a church yard, but Chandler Baptist is selling their old building. Soon this will all be former farms and those who live in the new housing will need a new church. Sarah’s Table has drawn a crowd when I arrive just after eight. Pickup trucks occupy most every parking spot. Only one table is vacant. I seldom drink coffee. But this morning I order a cup with my biscuits and gravy. There’s just enough chill in the air to make coffee sound good. Lot’s of sugar and a full packet of Coffee Mate. I decline a second cup when my waitress comes by. I’m on the road again by nine, with no clear notion of where I want to head. The weatherman last night predicted rain starting at noon. I need somewhere to ride until then. Then the idea comes. A Progressive Breakfast by Bike. So I head for Excelsior Springs and Mill Inn. If I can get there before 10:30, they will still be serving breakfast and should have biscuits and gravy, though they sometimes run out before breakfast time is over. Even though I’m in a hurry, I don’t take the most direct route. It’s 10:15 when I arrive. I rush inside. “Do you still have biscuits and gravy?” I ask. “We do,” say several staff in unison. “I’ll have a half- order.” Then I hurry back to my bike to get my belongings. And my money. Sprinkles start to fall as I leave H Highway and turn onto Spring Street and head toward Jewell’s campus. I pull up in my driveway at 11:59. As I press the buttons to open my garage, the rains come. Precisely as predicted. We don’t often remember when the weather forecast is correct. But I try to give credit where credit is due. Thank you Bryan Busby. When Frank Was a Boy Miles 8470-8520 October 17 Frank Burnham has never drunk coffee. Amanda has just set a cup of hot chocolate in front of him as I enter. Fubbler's Cove is a welcome sight this morning. I pedaled out of my garage and headed due east up the hill from my house at 7:30, just as the sun was coming up. By the time I make it to the Liberty Animal Shelter on Old 210 the sun is a big orange ball directly in front of me, and I stop to change my glasses. It's 9-11 on the Bank of Orrick sign as I turn right off Highway 210 onto Highway Z and ride over the railroad tracks into town. “Ed, pull up a chair.” Frank is sitting alone at a table and talking to three guys at an adjoining table. I join him. I sometimes drink coffee on cool morning rides. With lots of cream and sugar, the coffee taste is not so noticeable. And the waitress keeps pouring, at no further cost, whereas hot chocolate comes at a charge per cup. But Frank's hot chocolate prompts me to ask for one. “When I was a kid, they gave me either when they took my appendix out. The smell of coffee always reminded me of either.” Thus Frank explains his drink of choice. There once was a store out on Z a few miles from Orrick and a town called Foley. Back when Frank was a boy. The store is gone. No sign of the town. A big grain elevator sits alongside the railroad track where the town used to be. Frank’s children went to William Jewell and live now in nearby towns. Frank had a heart bypass some time back. “No big deal,” he says. Dick Bowles was his doctor. Mine too. Dan Roney is now. Mine too. Small world. Over biscuits and gravy you can learn a lot. Breakfast with Dale and Emma Miles 8520-8570 October 18 67 Dale took me to get our new computer yesterday afternoon and came last night to set it up. Dale Ahle is founder and president of 21st Century Solutions. He has created a novel method of designing web sites for businesses. He designed and maintains our HateBusters and Greater Liberty sites. His eight-year old daughter, Emma, came with him last night. She and Bobbie played games upstairs while Dale set up the computer. I watched. In awe. “Where you gonna ride tomorrow?” Dale asks. “To Catrick’s for breakfast. Be there about 9.” I say. “Emma and I may drive up and join you,” he says. I have just pedaled past a road that runs from Highway 69 and intersects with Salem Road about a mile east of Lawson when a red car pulls up behind me. Dale follows me into town. Catherine is here this morning. She joins us for a moment to meet Dale and Emma. I tell her we’re coming here on Saturday, November 8 for breakfast as the second stop on our celebration tour. I give her a questionnaire to fill out for the book I’m writing for bikers, In Praise of Small town Cafes. A Perfect French Fry Miles 8570-8750 October 19-21 A hot day for October. Bright and sunny. Doyle Sager, Pastor of First Baptist Church in Jefferson City came today to teach a stewardship lesson and to preach. .Among the many gems he said, “Happy people are generous, and I tell my people I want them to be happy.” He quoted C.S. Lewis as saying that money is its possessor’s liquid personality. Summer before last when our combined Bike-Aid and HateBusters team rode through Jeff City on our way from Kansas City to St. Louis, Doyle came to the Jefferson City YWCA to deliver an encouraging word to us. I’m on the road by 12:30, bound for Kearney, hoping that Sarah’s Table is still open when I get there. I know Mill Inn closes at two o’clock on Sundays. I’m riding the long way to get in as many miles as I can. It’s two o’clock on the dot when I arrive. The newly painted sign says they’re open until 3:00 on Sunday. The fish and chips with cole slaw is as good as any I had in England, the home of fish and chips. To Plattsburg on C. Breakfast at JJ’s. Out Y toward Stewartsville to NN intersection. Along Y shortly before NN, I see a giant green John Deere mowing down huge swaths of soybeans and expelling the excess out the back. A couple of corn fields still stand. Back to JJ’s for lunch. “How do you want that cooked?” A seldom-asked question when a burger is ordered. Tim Heady is the owner and chief cook at Fubbler’s. I met him last time I was here and gave him a letter about our plans for the last 1000 miles of our ride. We’re coming here on the first Saturday in November. I’ve invited all bike riders to join me at Biscari Brothers Bicycles in Liberty for the 22-mile ride to Orrick. Now I’m back to bring Tim the signs he said he would put up. The signs announce the day and time we will be here and invites all his customers to come meet us. I’ve also brought some Mickey Cards and a canister bank. Tim lets me put the cards out, with a “Please Take One” sign. The canister sits beside the cards. Today’s lunch special is a fried chicken breast sandwich with fries. The sandwich is delicious. And the fries!! To die for!! A crunch with perfect sound. White and moist inside. Worth coming from afar to find. Nature’s Vault of Precious Colors Miles 8750-8825 October 22 To be on a bike on the road in October in Missouri is to be set loose in nature’s vault of precious colors. Banks of trees up all the hills are alive with dazzling golds and crimsons. Leaves of lesser hue provide perfect backdrop to display and magnify their brilliance. An altogether awesome spectacle beyond any possible verbal description. But to be here for this moment in time is to catch a glimpse of a beauty that was here before this road and will be here when it’s gone. Henrietta is a town of 457 people on Highway 13, not far from the Lexington Bridge over the Missouri River. The town is surrounded by river bottom farmland recently shorn of corn and soybeans and now being readied for next season’s planting. Bountiful crops from beautiful farms. Bounded on one side by the Missouri River and far on the other side by rising hills banked with trees now resplendent in their fall foliage. I’ve left Richmond a few miles behind, headed back to Liberty on Highway 210, when I spot a rider in my rear view mirror. He’s coming up fast. “These will shake you up,” he says, as he pulls abreast and slows. He’s referring to the rumble strips carved into the shoulder. 68 “I’m Ed Chasteen,” I say. “I thought so. I read your column. My name is Don Howard. I live in Liberty.” Turns out Don lives in Claywoods, just across 291 Highway from where I live in Southland Estates. Don works in Richmond and takes his bike to work so he can ride at noon to Orrick and back over his lunch hour. “You know Sonny Allen?” The question comes as I’m dismounting my bike, about to enter Fubbler’s for lunch. The questioner is emerging from the restaurant. “Yes, I do,” I say. “What did you have?” I ask. “I had chicken salad. My wife likes the Reuben Sandwich. We live in Independence, but we like to come here for lunch. Tell Sonny, Gene to you, that Al and Gibby say hello.” Before he leaves, Al relates to me the story of the biker who came through Liberty this summer following the Lewis and Clark Trail. I had met the rider out on the road and took him home with me for the night. Gene was in his yard when we got home, and I introduced them. Later in the summer Gene’s brother was camping out west and got to talking to the man at the adjoining campsite. Somehow they discovered that he was the same person who biked through Liberty and met Gene. Floating Uphill Miles 8825-8910 October 23 Patrick and I meet at the church at 7:30 and ride Plattsburg Road to 120 th and follow a hilly and meandering route to Kearney. Sarah’s Table has their new menu. We both order Breakfast #3: ½ order of biscuits and gravy, hashbrowns—all covered in cream sausage gravy, and bacon. Patrick has to be back by 11:30 to keep his weekly appointment at Manor Hill Elementary School where he tutors a fifth grade boy in math. We take a different route back to Liberty. We part company at the Blue Light Station. I head up 69 Highway and jog over to Salem Road at Excelsior Springs enroute to Lawson and a tenderloin sandwich at Catrick’s. Out of Lawson I take MM and pass over the new bridge on my way to Watkins Mill. The park is gorgeous on this warm sunny day and practically deserted. Out the front gate of the park I turn right toward the James Farm and Kearney. The new tires Dave Biscari put on my bike yesterday are a little more narrow and hold more air. It may be all in my head, but the bike today seems almost to float up and down these hills and respond more quickly and surely to my steering. John Wayne of the Soul October 24-28 Pete Thielen hasn’t walked in years. He can’t hold a pen to write. He can’t talk. He sees and hears everything. His mind is quick and agile. The way his body used to be. He had to be here tonight. His wife and son-in-law got him ready. He doesn’t get out much anymore. He wants to. His body won’t cooperate. He watches movies on the big screen TV they bought for him. John Wayne is his favorite. More than 150 miles each way they had to come. They unloaded his chair in the parking lot and brought him inside. His teammates of 50 years ago surrounded him. He was our center on the 1953 football team that went undefeated and won the championship of Texas. Tonight he is again our center. We have followed the progress of his disease as it steals his life. We have been awed with his fierce defiance wedded to a radiance that comes from within and somehow is made known to all who come into his presence. I do not know the medical term to describe the genetic disorder that takes him in stages from us. Even in high school its presence was known to us. Its insidious and persistent progression has proved unstoppable. All of us who gather tonight to remember what we did when we were young have in the years since fought personal battles. The ravages of age have paid their usual visits. There were 27 of us back then when we were the toast of Texas. Three have died. One is too sick to come. One has been a recluse for years. The other 22 are here. All wanting to see Pete. Even if I knew the name of Pete’s time-release assassin, I could not bring myself to speak it or to write it. To call the name of something implies some degree of acceptance or familiarity. I will not grant Pete’s adversary that status. It is a cold, impersonal and malevolent presence that robs Pete in silence of one capacity after another. More than half a century at work on his body, this monster has reduced Pete to physical immobility and an undignified dependence on others. It is a law of physics that for every action there is an opposite and equal reaction. The spiritual corollary of that law I see in what Pete’s physical condition has done to his soul. As Pete has wasted 69 physically away, his soul has burst all human bounds. People are drawn to him. He can neither speak nor write. But being in his presence is not depressing. He has not grown bitter. He loves. And is loved. Physical invalidity has not made Pete a social or spiritual invalid. He is welcome company. Pete Thielen is living proof that life is more than we know on ordinary days in ordinary bodies. Together we were champions of Texas years ago. Pete’s championship season has continued over all this time. He leads us by example as we all walk through the valley of the shadow. Our championship season was but prelude to Pete’s championship soul. Memories of our gridiron feats prepared us for the battles that eventually come to each of us. To have Pete at the center of our memories gives a grace to our lives greater than all our fears. We were a bunch of scrawny over achievers back then. We’re not so scrawny now. But with Pete to inspire us, over achievement is the order of the day. If a Customer Drops a Coin Miles 8910-9105 October 29-31 Took signs to Mill Inn, Catrick’s and Sarah’s Table announcing what Saturday in November we would come for breakfast. Kay Stewart, Manager at Mill Inn, waited on me. When I go to pay, cashier says, “Your meal’s been paid for.” “Who did it?” I ask. “Kay,” she says. “Your bank is pretty full. I weigh it. If a customer drops a coin, I make him put it in your bank.” She says. “Wow! Way to go. I’ll bring a new bank tomorrow.” On the way home I stop by the post office. A $500.00 check from the North Kansas City Rotary Club is waiting. Not a bad day! In the home stretch. Past 9000 miles now, less then 1000 to go. Barring injury or the onslaught of freezing rain, I will hit 10,000 on November 29. By my 68th birthday on the 16th of this month I should be within 300 miles of my goal. Then I will know I’ve got it made. Breakfast at Catricks—short stack with two eggs on top, sunny side up. Four pieces of bacon. Large glass of milk. Coffee. Cool, overcast day works up huge appetite. Our First Saturday Miles 9105-9150 November 1 The Magnificent Seven. That’s us. We rendezvous in front of Biscari Brothers Bicycles. Temperature in the low forties. Spitting rain! We cover our heads and pull on our long-fingered riding gloves. And hit the road. Promptly at 7:30. As advertised. Bound for Orrick and breakfast at Fubbler’s Cove. Al Plummer has come from Columbia to ride with us. Al came last night and stayed at my house. Richard Mark is here from Independence. Rodger Suchman from Lee’s Summit. Rich Groves and Seth McMenemy and Ed Chasteen from Liberty Okay, so anyone watching us would see only six riders. The seventh rider with us is present in spirit and represents those hundreds of people who have bought miles and dropped coins in the canister banks sitting on the counters in all the cafes I regularly visit. Our in-house map-maker, Rich Groves, has prepared a two-sided map that shows the way. Across the parking lot, passing in front of Price Chopper and Sutherland’s, we turn right onto Brown Street and make our way over to Progress Street. Another right turn brings us past the Liberty Post Office over to Withers Road. Here we turn left and make our way toward Liberty Community Center. We turn left on Holt Drive. Then right on Birmingham Road and over a couple of hills to Ruth Ewing Road. A left turn takes us past the entrance to Cedars of Liberty and South Liberty Baptist Church and to 291 Highway. We cross 291 and turn right onto Liberty Landing Road. We wind our way past homes and fields and a repair shop for big trucks over to Old 210 Highway. We turn left and pass Liberty Bend Fish Market, Harmony Printing, Liberty Animal Shelter, ACT Trucking, Fountain Bluff Sports Complex and fields of recently harvested corn and soybeans awaiting harvest. The few drops of rain as we left Biscari Brothers made us think the forecast of afternoon showers missed the mark. Now seven miles out on 210 the rain comes harder. Twenty-two miles to breakfast in the rain will chill me enough that coffee will taste good. The smell of coffee is really the only thing I like. But on cold, damp days, and with lots of cream and sugar, I love a cup or two. Straight, smooth and flat and with a wide shoulder, new 210 from Liberty all the way to Richmond and beyond is a biker’s dream. It’s a little noisy from the big trucks and giant farm machines sometimes compete for the shoulder, but 210 runs through river bottom land and has almost no hills. 70 Coming past Missouri City there is a steady but moderate climb past the place where Old 210 climbed steep and winding hills that over looked the Missouri River. Cresting this modest rise, new 210 stretches out flat and straight for miles, the only incline leading to the bridge built over the railroad about two miles west of Orrick. Tim Heady is expecting us at 9:30. He will be in the kitchen, preparing our breakfast. The place is crowded when we arrive. Orrick played Lone Jack last night. They were both 7-1 coming into the game. Lone Jack won last year at Lone Jack. The winner this year is picked to make the state playoffs The all male crowd this morning is in a good mood. Orrick won. We seat ourselves among the other patrons and strike up conversations. Deer hunting season just opened. A couple of guys are dressed in camouflage and have just come from an early morning hunt. Steaming cups of coffee, plates of biscuits and gravy, pancakes, eggs, hashbrowns and big glasses of milk—all delivered pleasantly to our tables. A Norman Rockwell scene. Good food, good company and good talk are not easily parted with. Reluctantly we pry ourselves away and back to our bikes propped in a line against the front of the building that houses this good place and these good people. Fighting wind and rain on our way here stoked fierce appetites. The wind is at our backs now. Wind at a rider’s back is hardly ever noticed. The aid and comfort it gives a rider is seldom credited. But bikers can never quit complaining about a headwind. I suppose it’s like life itself. We seldom recognize the advantages we are born with or have acquired with little effort, but we complain forever about the obstacles we face and the problems we have. Good food and good company have put us in a good mood as we leave Fubbler’s. Homeward bound is a different species of riding. Leaving home, muscles are cold and reluctant. Riding rhythm has not come. We are pointed away from what we know best and love most. Turn us toward home, though, and everything changes. Every stroke of the pedals brings us that much nearer the center of our personal universe. Having returned from the mountain is not the same thing as never having been there. So with biking. When we are home just after noon today and with the people we love, we will be different people. Pedaling together to Fubbler’s, breakfasting with each other and with other patrons, riding back. These little things of seeming insignificance are like the wind at our backs, giving aid and comfort in ways we not usually astute enough to recognize. This ride to Fubbler’s in Orrick was but the first of five Saturday rides planned for the month of November. Here is the schedule for the remaining four. Please join us. Meet us in front of Biscari Brothers Bicycles at 7:30 AM. Catrick’s Café in Lawson Saturday, November 8 50 mile round trip Sarah’s Table in Kearney Saturday, Novermber 15 30 mile round trip JJ’s Restaurant in Plattsburg Saturday, November 22 50 mile round trip Mill Inn in Excelsior Springs Saturday, November 29 30 mile round trip My Heart in My Throat Miles 9150-9250 November 3 If I turn right off Highway 69 when I come to the Mosby exit, I will come in half a mile to this tiny town tucked along the banks of Fishing River. I have done so many times before. But today I turn left off 69 onto Cameron Road. For a hundred yards or so the road is pock marked with jagged holes and crudely filled holes, making biking hazardous and challenging. Then a small white sign on the left side of the road announces: Clay County Maintenance Begins. Beginning at this spot the road is smooth and freshly paved. Bright yellow stripes divide the lanes, a convenience to drivers not given where the road is holey. About half a mile beyond, Cameron Road sweeps left in a gentle curve. The pavement and the yellow line disappear. No holes. Small loose gravel. The road runs straight for a short distance and comes under a railroad bridge, making an abrupt right turn as it does so. Straight and fairly flat for the next mile, Cameron crosses Highway 92 and again acquires a fresh smooth surface and yellow center lines. Cameron ends a mile or so later at 164 th Street. A right turn would take me to Watkins Mill; a left, to the James Farm. I turn left. Then right on Old BB and snake my way over hills and around curves, past New Hope Baptist Camp, to Holt. A quick stop at the Busy Bee for a muffin and milk. Then out 33 Highway to CC to C. Turn right and head for Plattsburg, eight miles ahead. 71 I didn’t realize I had never come to Plattsburg at noon on a weekday. As I pull to a stop at the intersection of C and 116 on the east edge of the town, I hear the siren. I remember the town in Texas where I lived as a boy. At noon everyday the siren sounded to announce lunchtime (called dinnertime back then. We ate supper at night). I look at my watch: 12 o’clock—High Noon. I head for JJ’s. My heart is in my throat for a few seconds as I come into Kearney on 33 Highway from the north. I routinely give cars and trucks a wide berth as they come from behind and pass me. I hug the far right side of the road. Passing traffic does not come as close to me this way, but riding the edge of the road requires that I hold steady, lest I veer off into the rough. Ordinarily I can do this. Not this time. Suddenly I am off the road. The narrow shoulder is rocky and rutted. I fight to hold the wheel straight. If it turns, the bike will up-end and throw me head first over the handlebars. The downhill momentum is working against me. I’m afraid to reposition my hands on the bars in order to reach the brakes. It’s all I can do to hold on. Steering is impossible. Hold it steady and hope. And ride it out. When the bike comes to a stop I’m amazed to be still upright. But thankful beyond words. I stand for a few minutes to collect myself. A cinnamon roll at Sarah’s Table completes the process. As I circle our town square to end my ride, I spot TV news vans form channels 4, 5 and 9, their remote antennas rising high in the sky. It’s 4:15. I hurry home to catch the 5 o’clock news and discover what has made out town newsworthy. Good news seldom generates such interest. So though Halloween is just past, a sense of foreboding overtakes me. I was right. The news is of a convicted rapist released from prison now on trial in our town for another rape and murder. I Hope You Win the Lottery Miles 9250-9360 November 4 If it had not been raining, I would have stopped. I almost never bypass Mill Inn. It started raining on me a few miles back. The temperature is in the low forties. My rain suit is keeping the rain off me. It’s dripping off my helmet and spotting my glasses. I would like to be warm and dry. I cast a longing eye toward the light in the window as I come to Mill Inn. But should I go in, I know from experience how hard it will be to make myself leave and step back into the rain and climb aboard my bike. Better to stay wet and cold than to dry off and do it all over again. I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep. I keep on pedalin’. The rain has stopped by the time I get to Catrick’s. So do I. I tell Jenny I need something sweet. “We have pie, if it’s not too early.” She says. “Any with meringue?” I ask. She goes to look. She recites a long list of cream and berry pies. But no meringue today. I ask for a baby cake with an egg on top, sunny side up. I pedal out of Lawson on D and turn right on M three miles out. I spot a man standing off the left side of the road, his car parked behind him. He’s looking my way. “Marvin!” I shout when I’m near enough to make out who it is. “I saw you back on Salem Road. I went to Catrick’s to wait for you. But you didn’t come. Then I saw you on D.” Marvin says. “I had to go by Dollar General to get a notebook. And I rode around Lawson before stopping at Catrick’s.” I say. Marvin Wright and I have been friends since that October Sunday afternoon in 1986 when he stopped for gas at a service station on Highway 69 between Lawson and Excelsior Springs. I was riding my very first century that day and had just stopped to get a drink and rest for a minute. Marvin saw my bike and asked, “Where you going?” Back between Plattsburg and Stewartsville, an impossible idea had come to me. An idea so insistent it was almost audible. “Ride your bike across America.” That was too crazy even to consider. I forgot it. Then Marvin asks, “Where you going?’ And before I can stop myself, I blurt out, “I’m gonna ride across the country.” He will think I’m nuts. He will jump in his pickup and hurry away. I’ll know I’m crazy. Instead, Marvin’s face lights up. “That’s marvelous!” he says. “I’ll help you.” He pulls his pickup off the driveway and we stand for a long time to discuss my ride. Seven months later on a Monday morning I pedal away from Disney World in Florida bound for Disneyland in California, by way of Seattle. Marvin helped. Big time. He has been a dear friend ever since. 72 Marvin and Sharon live a few miles up M, near the left turn onto U that I will make to get to Rayville. “I’ll call one day soon so we can have breakfast or lunch at Catrick’s.” I say. “Call me anytime. I’ll meet you anywhere.” Marvin says. Jamie sells me a cheddar cheese and pastrami sandwich when I get to the Rayville Baking Company. In warmer weather I sit to eat on their porch and greet passersby. Today I put the sandwich in the bag behind my seat and head for Richmond. Through town on Business 10, I come to Highway 13 and turn right toward Henrietta. I get lemonade at McDonald’s on the edge of town, just across the street from the new high school. I eat my sandwich. The young girl cleaning tables asks me if I get cold riding. I tell her I’m riding for charity. She says she would like to run for charity. “If I had a bunch of money I would take care of my family. Then myself. Put some in the bank. Then buy a bunch of food to give to people.” “I hope you win the lottery,” I say. A man about my age has driven down with his wife from North Dakota. “It’s snowing there. We thought it would be warmer here.” He says. They are headed for Branson. “Our eighth time,” he says. Beethoven’s Ode to Joy Miles 9360-9420 November 6 Marie comes in at 2:30 in the morning to bake pies, make cinnamon rolls and put the coffee on. While the lights are still off guys start coming. “A bunch of them played high school football together. They walked all over each other back then. And they still walk all over each other.” Vickie Kohler has been a waitress here at the Mill Inn more than 20 years. “They’re great guys,” she says. “They get their own coffee and sit in the dark until the place opens at five o’clock. Some come in three times a day.” “How long you been coming here, Joanna?” I ask. “I heard Vickie call you by name.” “Since I was a young and pretty thing.” She says. I make it a point never to ask a lady’s age. And if I should somehow learn it, I don’t tell. But Joanna’s father was a preacher boy at William Jewell College in 1916. She points to the picture of a train on the wall and says, “They used to put him on that train and send him out to preach.” Joanna took some music classes at William Jewell and played for weddings and funerals. As a preacher’s kid she lived in nine towns.” Dad didn’t care if he got paid. He just loved to preach.” Joanna was a hairdresser in Excelsior Springs during the city’s good times as a Mecca for mineral water devotees. She saw all the gentlemen looking for ladies. She heard the ladies talk as she did their hair. Her church has a new young pastor. The woman he was to marry was killed just before their coming marriage. “He’s all torn up. I told him he should come to the Mill Inn to meet everybody and to talk to people.” As I’m riding back from Excelsior Springs on 69 Highway and come to a spot directly between the recently built Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witness on my left and the under construction Chandler Baptist Church on my right, I’m wondering if this spot might have some special spiritual significance. In the world as it should be, it would. Many trees have dropped their leaves. But more tenacious trees scattered among their bare branched brethren make bike riding on a sunny morning a journey to Oz. Wow! The word springs to my lips more than once on this magical morning. Coming into Liberty on Nashua Road I’m startled to see a flaming red tree at the corner of Nashua and Morse at house number 119. The morning sun gives the leaves a fiery glow and takes my breath away. To be alive in this place on such a morning!! Morning Has Broken. A song we sing in church just naturally comes to mind at this moment. As I make my way through our town to the post office another magnificent tree heaves into view in front of a house at 623 Hurt. Then on Ruth Ewing Road in front of Cedars of Liberty a bank of trees a riot of fall colors. Not cedar! Maple and oak. When I stop and the wind does not whistle in my ears, I can almost hear Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. Our Second Saturday Miles 9420-9460 November 8 Rich Groves and Rodger Suchman are back. They were two of the six who gathered in spitting rain last Saturday for our ride to Orrick and breakfast at Fubbler’s Cove. They are two of the eight who gather this morning in the freezing cold for our ride to Lawson and breakfast at Catrick’s Café. First when it’s raining, then when it’s freezing. Not ideal bike riding weather. But so long as these two weather conditions do not pay us a simultaneous visit, we will ride. 73 Tom Strongman is here from Leawood, Nancy Culbertson and Sandy Hamilton from Overland Park. Kevin Brasfield from Gladstone. Michael Calabria from Blue Springs. Roger lives in Independence and Rich here in Liberty. We rendezvous in front of Biscari Brothers Bicycles. We reluctantly step from our heated cars and mumble to each other about how stupid we are as we pull on our cold-weather gear. Promptly at 7:30 we mount our bikes and pedal in front of Price Chopper and Sutherlands over to Brown Street, where a left turn takes us across 291 Highway to Hurt Street. We turn right and make our way over to Mill Street and out past William Jewell College to B Highway and then Highway 69. We follow 69 to the far side of Excelsior Springs, where we turn right on Italian Way and come past American- Italian Pasta over to Salem Road. A left turn on Salem. Another eight miles brings us to Lawson. The first of us arrive at 9:40; the last at 10:05. Catherine greets us. She pulls two long tables together so we can sit and talk. She brings pitchers of hot chocolate. Pancakes and eggs and biscuits and gravy pay welcome visits to our table. A non-rider comes to sit beside me. “Hey, everybody, let me introduce Marvin Wright to you. I first met Marvin on an October Sunday afternoon in 1986, not far from here out on 69 Highway. I was riding my very first century that day. I had stopped at a service station to rest and get a drink. Marvin pulled in to get gas. He saw my bike. ‘Where you going,’ he asked. “About 40 miles earlier a crazy idea had come to me. I decided to try it out on Marvin. I thought he would look shocked or amused, and I would know the idea was dumb and I could forget it. ‘I’m gonna ride across America,’ I said. “His face lit up. ‘That’s marvelous,’ he said. ‘I’ll help you.’ And he pulled his truck off the driveway and we stood and talked until I had to leave. He did help. In major ways. And we have been friends ever since.” Marvin had said he couldn’t stay long. But he does. He doesn’t leave until we all do. For an hour we linger at the table. Partly, I think we are in no hurry to step back into the cold. Mostly, though, we relish one another’s company. We know each other hardly at all. Rich, Michael and I are long-time biking buddies. But this group of eight has never ridden together and most had never met each other before this morning. Rodger and Rich sit across the table from one another and discover they were recently at a wedding together, though they did not meet. I discover that Nancy and Sandy both work in Applebee’s corporate offices and know Bob Steinkamp. Bob and his wife, Cheryl, were students at Jewell in the late 1960’s. Bob has been in charge of Applebee’s legal department for years. “We love Bob. Do you know he’s retiring this year?” They ask. Tom Strongman has brought his digital camera and takes lots of pictures. Kevin started riding just in April. He loves it. He rode the MS-150 in September. So did Nancy, Sandy and Tom. The time comes for parting. “We will all ride our own pace going back,” I say “We may not see each other again. Thanks for coming. Please come next Saturday. We will ride to Sarah’s Table in Kearney.” A three-inch nail embeds itself in Rich’s rear tire as we come near the Wal-Mart put up a few years back on the eastern edge of Excelsior Springs alongside 69 Highway. He calls his son, Jordan, on his cell phone and retires to Wal-Mart to await his arrival. Kevin has a flat and stops at the Pour Boy Station in the Mosby flats to repair it. Nancy and Sandy follow a misleading sign and ride an extra six miles. I have just turned off 69 Highway onto B when Jordan passes me, Rich’s bike strapped to the back. The car pulls off the road and stops. Rich steps out. “Want a ride?” He asks. “Why not?” I respond. “It’s not like you’ll need the miles to make your 10,000.” Rich say. Michael is the first one back. He waits at the bike shop for the rest of us. Dave Biscari won’t have his shop open next Saturday. That’s the first day of deer season. Dave and brothers, Bob and Alex will be out in the woods. Dave has sprouted a beard. “I always let it grow for deer season.” He says. Tom and Rodger are at their cars when I get back. Last week and again today Rodger supplied head and foot warmers for bikers who needed them. “Thanks for being our supply master, Rodger,” I say. “No problem,” he says. Tom tells me about having polio when he was young. Biking helps. We talk for a while about what we each have learned from our illness and how biking has come to the rescue. Then Nancy and Sandy ride up, exuberant and proclaiming, “We saw Liberty.” We all load up. And by a little after one o’clock we are headed for the places we call home. 74 Coach Said I Had Heart Miles 9460-9505 November 10 I go downstairs to check my email just before I plan to leave for Orrick. The phone rings. “Edgar, this is Bobby Grisham. That story you wrote about Pete was awesome. You’re a wordsmith. I made copies to end to the guys.” Bobby was the star halfback on the Huntsville High School football team that won 15 straight and the Class AA State Championship of Texas in 1953. I was on the team. The coach said I had heart. I played on kickoffs. We scored 615 points that year. That’s a lot of kickoffs. Bobby and I ran together for President and Vice-President of the student council. We won. High school was good to both of us. He and I both went to Sam Houston State Teacher’s College, just across town from our high school. He starred for the Sam Houston Bearcats. They went undefeated in 1956. I was active in the Baptist Student Union on campus. Working for the BSU I met Bobbie the first day she came to campus as a freshman. We had a date to the first football game a week later. We saw Bobby play. Bobbie and I have been married for 46 years. Just two weeks ago we both saw Bobby for the first time in more than 20 years. We all had come to the 50th Anniversary of our team’s state championship. Now Bobby is calling to make sure that he gave me a copy of the video of that game. None of us knew until recently that a film of that game existed. Bobby called the widow of Mance Park, our head coach. She remembered that a film had been made. But there had been a fire. She thought the film had been destroyed. Then she called back. She had found the film. It was on a big reel, the kind home-movie projectors used in the 1950s. Bobby took it to a video place and they made a video of it. Bobby had it set to music—Chariots of Fire. Bobbie and I had been living and teaching in England in the spring of 1982. Our little town had no movie theatre. We drove to a nearby town one night to see a movie. We didn’t know what was playing. It was Chariots of Fire. It won the best picture Oscar. I’m wearing my Gore-Tex rain suit as I set out for Orrick and breakfast at Fubbler’s Cove. The regulars are gathered. I join them for some good-natured kidding. We all talk about the effect the rain will have on our day. Light rain falls all the way back. Water gets inside my shoes. My feet are soaked by the time I get home. Ridin’ in the Rain Miles 9505-9555 November 11 November mornings can test your mettle. Gray and overcast with a light mist and poor visibility, this morning is a ready-made excuse for keeping to the house and staying off the road. But giving in comes hard to me. Rain comes harder as I leave 210 and turn downhill into Missouri City. To plummet down this steep and winding hill on a dry day brings a natural high. But when wet, the surface is slick and treacherous. Applying brakes to wet wheels is dicey. They can grab and stop too fast, sending the bike out of control. They can fail to work at all. I apply them softly. A car comes around the bend toward me. And pulls left. We make it past each other. By the time I’ve come through Missouri City on old 210 and back to new 210, raindrops on my glasses distort everything I see. I turn back toward home and ride a mile with a civil war raging in my head. “You need the miles. Go the distance,” says the bolder voice. “You can make it up on a better day,” says the sensible one. “This is November. There may not be a better one,” says the first. “It’s early in the month. There will be many better,” says the second. The bolder voice wins. I reverse and head for Orrick: 55 at 8:55—so announces the blinking sign at the bank of Orrick as I leave 210 and turn right onto Z for the last mile to Fubbler’s Cove. I take a seat at the round table in the front window and take out my writing tablet. Over biscuits and gravy and hot chocolate, Fubbler’s morphs into HateBuster’s satellite office. I spend the next half-hour putting down on paper the words I’ll transfer to my word processor when I get home. A Few Rounds with Mike Tyson Miles 9555-9630 November 12 Two days after JD severed a tendon in his finger with a saw his sister gave birth to a son. JD’s finger was treated and his nephew was born at Liberty Hospital. Today in the Kearney paper JD’s picture 75 appears, announcing his status as uncle to Alexander Dean. JD’s mother, Betty, waits on me this morning at Sarah’s Table and shows me a picture of her new grandson, with his full head of black hair. .Mel Phillips is seated at his usual table. He orders biscuits and gravy and tells me about biking up Cliff Drive over by the Kansas City Museum as a young teen with a one-speed bicycle. Janis asks if she needs to make more gravy for Saturday when we all come here for breakfast on our bikes. “I’ll call you when we leave Biscari Brothers to tell you how many are coming,” I say. I break from my usual routine this morning and order a bowl of oatmeal and a cinnamon roll. Then out Old BB to MM and Lawson. I’m planning to pick up the canister bank that’s been sitting on the counter at Catrick’s for months. As I walk in two regulars have just arrived. “Care for company?” I ask. We sit together. And when Kenny orders Special #2—grilled tenderloin sandwich, tater tots and ice tea, so do I. Catherine comes to cashier as I leave. “Won’t be long till you have to hang it up,” she says as she takes my money. Her mind is obviously set on the coming cold weather. My mind is seized in that instant by the Apostle James’s description of life’s impermanence. “Life is like a mist that comes in the morning and burns away by noon,” he says. “Won’t be long,” I say to Catherine. Gusts of gale-like winds buffet my bike all the way from Lawson to Liberty. Bulging rear panniers make my back wheel a fat target, and those winds coming at me from the right now and then suddenly shove me to the left, into the path of on-coming cars. Luckily Salem Road is lightly traveled and Highway 69 has a wide shoulder. So even though the wind almost blows me over a time or two, it does not threaten my life. Hewing to a straight line has never been my long suit. But this is ridiculous. I’m all over the road. The howling north wind came up about noon, bringing with it the 30 degree temperature plunge predicted last night on TV. By the time I get home, I’ve gone a few rounds with Mike Tyson. He bit my ear. And hit below the belt. But I survived to ride another day. Carol Miller to the Rescue November 13 The phone rings. “Ed, this is Carol Miller. I read the story in the Sun. It said you hoped to raise$110,000, and you’ve raised only $16,000. I want to help. Would Sunday, November 23 be a good time for our church to have a celebration dinner to raise money for you?” “Wow! Thank you, Carol. That would be a fine day.” I’m addicted to bold and audacious projects. Even as I’m doing one, I’m dreaming of others. I don’t really know why. I can never adequately explain myself to my wife. But this one thing I do know. While I’m attempting something grand, like riding 10,000 miles or raising $110,000, I live in a state of great expectations. I expect every time the phone rings, the mail comes or an email arrives to be awed and humbled by the message that comes. I want to laugh and cry all at the same time when I hang up the phone and explain to Bobbie what Carol has just said. “Carol asked if we could meet her at nine o’clock in the morning at Hy-Vee, so we can make plans.” I say to Bobbie The three of us are members of Second Baptist Church. Carol took her idea to the church staff and they approved it. Now we need to find ways to get the word around. With only 10 days from now until the 23rd, we must work fast and smart. Carol hopes 400 people will come to the chili dinner she’s planning. Each will pay $10.00 for their meal. We will conduct a silent auction of donated items. And all the money will go to my two causes: Multiple Sclerosis and HateBusters. A Mack Truck on My Tail Miles 9630-9660 November 14 The most direct route from my house to the Fork N’Spoon is just at two miles, not a sufficient distance to stoke a fierce hunger and put me in the perfect state to do justice to good food. So up the hill from my house I turn left, toward Independence, rather than right, toward Liberty, and the Fork N’Spoon. I cross 291 over to Liberty Landing Road out to Old 210 to EE and over to H, at Liberty Hills Country Club. A left turn toward Liberty to Spring Street and onto the Jewell campus. I turn right off Bowles Drive to climb the steep hill up behind Greene Hall. And at the top swing right and pass in front of Pillsbury Music Building. 76 Many times over many years I’ve climbed this hill. But today as I approach it from the Mabee Center, a giant Mack Truck pulling a long trailer approaches from the Mill Street entrance. We arrive at the base of the hill at the same moment and face each other across the width of the street. I have a right turn up the hill. The truck has a left. I go first. Up a steep hill with a Mack Truck on my tail is an adrenaline rush. I kid you not. As we crest the hill and both turn right, the truck pulls around me. We both then go left behind the chapel, and I see in big, black letters the words BANTA FOODS on the back of the truck. As it comes just past Yates College Union, the truck stops. So do I. Well in back of the truck. From having been here on similar occasions before, I know the truck is preparing to back up into the unloading dock for the cafeteria. I watch in awe as the driver backs that monster truck with ballet grace into a space big enough to comfortably accommodate a compact car. When he has finished, I go to him. “I appreciate work well done. That was a masterful job,” I say to the driver. “Thanks,” he says. “I’ve done it a time or two.” Owner Jim Forney greets me as I enter the Fork N’Spoon. The canister bank I left here weeks ago is full. He hands it to me. He agrees to donate two complimentary dinners for our silent auction. When I go to pay my check, Jim says, “Let me get this. And you put what it would have cost in that canister.” Chris Todd at By the Book donates a $20.00 gift certificate for our silent auction. I pick up his canister bank. Mark Midkiff is busy in the kitchen when I stop by the Hardware Café. I leave an invitation to our chili dinner and promise to call. Mike and Linda Hendershot at Pandolfi’s Deli donate dinner for two. Corbin Theatre donates two tickets for the Christmas Carole. Does anyone ever realize life as they live it, every single minute? This was Emily’s question in Thornton Wilder’s Our Town. With friends like these, I come mighty close. Our Third Saturday Miles 9660-9685 November 15 Six the first Saturday. Eight the second. This Saturday ten. We rendezvous at the appointed early morning hour in front of Biscari Brothers Bicycles. We began our two previous rides here. Today we drive our cars to the Blue Light Station at the intersection of I-35 and Highway 69, giving us easy access to open country on Plattsburg Road. A series of undulating hills and little traffic await us on Plattsburg Road. With several gentle curves and hills for the first few miles, Plattsburg sweeps to the right and 200 yards later makes a more abrupt leftward sweep, passing a while later over 92 Highway. Some earlier bike rider has chalked a message in the road just ahead of the intersection with Highway 92: DANGER. Long before we come to the intersection, the ten of us are strung out along the road. Rich Groves and I are in our customary place at the back of the pack. Richard Mark holds up and waits for us a couple of times. Mt Gilead Church and School functioned as their names indicate a century ago. Now they are historic sites, visited now and then by school children studying the old days. As we pass them off the road to our left, we notice markings in the road of another bike ride: 25, 50, 62, 100, indicating the four mileage options available on that ride. Just over the next little hill, Plattsburg Road T’s, and we must turn either to the left, as we will next week when Plattsburg is our destination, or to the right, as we do today. A mile or so of rather abrupt hills brings us to Highway 33, about a mile north of Kearney. We turn right. Toward Kearney. And breakfast at Sarah’s Table Betty pulls three tables together so the 10 of us can sit together. Michael Calabria, Rodger Suchman, Rich Groves, Richard Mark, Seth McMenemy , Steve Hanson, Kevin Brasfield, Keith Brandt, Scott Reiter and me. I’ve talked so much about the biscuits and gravy that everyone expects me to order that. I do. So does Rich. We also split a short stack. Blueberry pancakes, eggs prepared in various ways, toast, bacon and other breakfast staples Betty brings to our table. Janis has been busy in the kitchen preparing our breakfast. Before we leave, I step to the kitchen window to thank her. Rich and I over the years have discovered several good ways to get by bike from Liberty to Kearney. We decide this morning to lead our crew back through Kearney neighborhoods to the bike trail. Kearney has grown like gangbusters lately and had the foresight to lay out a four-mile loop trail for bicycles and walkers. We ride about a mile of the trail. Opposite the new Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, we leave the trail and cross a railroad track to turn left onto Petty Road. Over hills and around curves for a couple of miles we come to the intersection with 128 th Street. A right turn brings us over I-35. The road bends left and becomes Vines. The name changes several more times as we round curves, but the next intersection is with Plattsburg Road. A left turn brings us back past 77 Prairie Home Baptist Church on our left and the under-construction Private Gardens up-scale subdivision opposite the church on our right. Some of us have long since shed some of the layers of clothes we donned early this morning when rain seemed imminent. That threat quickly disappeared and the temperature climbed, leaving us a little too warm. We had kidded Keith earlier for wearing shorts and a light windbreaker. Now I’m thinking he knew something the rest of us didn’t. By 11 o’clock we are all back at the Blue Light Station and making plans for next Saturday. Rodger will be in Williamsburg, Virginia with his family for Thanksgiving. Scott will be in Los Angeles with his. “Thank all of you for coming today. Please come next week if you can. I would love to see you,” I say. Then we are into our cars and gone in all directions. Laura’s Donation November 16 “Dear Papa, Happy birthday. This is a donation for your bike ride and for MS and HateBusters. Love, Laura.” A hand-made card showing hearts and balloons and lettered in bold blue script. A little pocket labeled “Money” taped to one side, with her whole week’s allowance inside. Another card comes from Holly Springs. From Leanne, Jennifer, John and Anne. It shows an amazed bear on its cover. “You’re HOW old?!” It says inside. We gather at noon. Dave, Brian, Ed and I huddle around the TV see the Chiefs notch their tenth victory against no losses. Debbie and Bobbie are busy upstairs. Laura is playing games on my computer. The ball game is tied 3-3 at half-time when we go up for lunch. Bobbie had told me earlier in the week that Debbie was making dinner. “Something ethnic,” she said. “You’ll love it.” “Sauerbraten! It looks marvelous and smells divine.” I say. Wow! And the taste is heavenly. Red cabbage with apples. Meat so tender you can cut it with a fork. Gravy with the aroma and the tongue- pleasing tang of ginger. German potatoes. Green beans. I eat way past need. It’s too good to quit. But the second half lures us back downstairs. The Bengals have lost five and the Chiefs none before today. We take the opening kickoff and drive for a touchdown. We lead by seven. Looking good. But three big plays by the Bengals have us behind 24-19 with two minutes to play. If we hold them on third down and get the ball back, we can rally. Doesn’t happen. They get a first down. We’re out of timeouts. Game over. Our first loss! Not a welcome birthday present. Upstairs Dorothy’s carrot cake waits. She called on Friday. “I made you a birthday cake. I’ll bring it right over.” Dorothy Edwards is one of the best cooks in Greater Liberty. I’ve eaten her pies and cakes many times and never been disappointed. Two pieces with Bryer’s Vanilla Ice Cream help ease my Chief’s pain. Then back downstairs for marathon games of 42, the domino game played by everyone in Texas when Bobbie and I lived there. “Grow old along with me, the best is yet to be,” so says Rabbi Ben Ezra in Robert Browning’s poem by that name. A day such as this he could have had in mind. My Back Tire Comes off Miles 9685-9715 November 17 Storm today! That’s what I see predicted in the paper as I’m sitting at my kitchen table for breakfast. I’m planning on a fast 40 miles this morning, with no time to drop into one of my small town cafes. Need to get back and get on the phone to find items for our silent auction. So even though the sky looks ominous, I leave at first light, bound for Orrick. Out Old 210 everything around me is wrapped in a gray gauze, rendering all objects indistinct and making lines soft. A dome has settled around me, shutting out the sun, turning down the lights and muffling sound. A strangely pleasant sensation comes over me, as if I‘ve entered the twilight zone and Rod Serling may appear somewhere out of the mist. I’ve come through Missouri City and out to where N intersects 210, five more miles to Orrick. Now the rain comes. Hard. And lightning. I turn back toward home. I’m soon soaked. And pedaling as fast as I can. I climb the hill past Missouri City. Now I can coast down the homeward side. With rain in my face and a wet road, I don’t let it all out, as I usually do. I feather the brakes to slow my descent. I’m almost down when I misjudge and run off the road. I manage to stop. I dismount and walk the bike back to the road. 78 Now I hear a grinding sound when I apply the rear brakes. Then I feel a bumping in the back. And I know. The rear tire is going flat. I keep pedaling. The bump gets worse. And worse. Then I hear a new sound. I stop. The rim strip has come loose and is wrapped around the spokes and the gears. I pull it loose. Now the rim rubs the road. I must walk the bike. Still raining. I pull out my cell phone, trying to keep it dry. I call Bobbie. The line is busy. I walk further. And call again. Still busy. I make it to the Liberty Animal Shelter and call again. Bobbie answers. “Come get me,” I say. “I’ve been trying to call you,” she says “You didn’t answer. It’s raining hard here. I thought you might need a ride” “I could manage the rain,” I say. “But now I have a flat.” A few minutes later she pulls up in my little red Toyota with its H8BSTR license plates. I unlock the trunk and pull out the bike rack. Attaching it in the rain is not high on my list of favorite things to do, but it’s way better than walking in the rain and pushing a bicycle with a flat tire. Called a Tow Truck Lately? Miles 9715-9725 November 18 “Ed, are you busy tomorrow at 10:45? I know this is short notice, but I would like you to come in and talk with my Gen. 102 class about the situation with hate and prejudice among the races today and your organization HateBusters. Many of these young people think that segregation and prejudice is a thing of the past. I am in room # 327 Jewell Hall. Cecelia” One of my rules is that I never say no when asked to help bust hate. I had been planning a ride to Richmond. New plan. No problem. Directly from my house to campus is two and a half miles. But I have other routes. Up the Ruth Ewing hills over to LaFrenz Road to Richfield Road and onto campus. Adds about three miles. I’ll go that way and come back out H to the country club and over EE to 210 and home. New plan! Down the backside of the first hill I spot a white pickup that has just pulled onto a side street and stopped. A man gets out and walks toward me. “Called any tow trucks lately?” He asks. Roy Jones! Nobody else would ask me that question. It was several years ago on another bike ride over on N near Excelsior Springs. Roy and his wife, Pat, and several other riders. Pat worked at the college. I had known her for years. She and Roy had just gotten married. I was meeting him for the first time. “Did I tell you about the ambulance that passed me the other day when I was out for a ride?” Roy asked. “As it passed, the back door flew open and a small box came out and skidded into the ditch. I raced to get it. When I opened it, there was a human toe on dry ice. The ambulance was gone. I took that box and raced to the nearest exit. I found a service station and asked to use their phone. But I couldn’t figure out who to call. Then it hit me. I called a toe truck.” I’ve told that story many times since. I look hard for openings I can use. “Roy, I told that story just the other day.” “I’ve got something for you,” he says. He reaches in his pocket and takes out folded money. He peels off one and hands it to me. “Wow! Do you carry hundred dollar bills with you all the time?” I ask. “Only for emergencies. This is for Pat and me and 98 other people.” Roy has obviously heard about my dream of getting one dollar from 110,000 people. He has just paid for 100 of them. “I’m glad I came this way this morning. I started to go another.” I say. “If I tell Pat you gave me a hundred dollars will she kill you?” “No. I will tell her myself,” Roy says. I walk into Cecelia’s class just on time. “I would have been here a little earlier, but someone stopped me on the road to give me a hundred dollars. Such things happen often to me. They aren’t giving to me. But to my two causes—MS and bustin’ hate. I ride a bicycle all the time. Everywhere. Anytime. If I ride I can run. If I don’t, I can’t walk. “We started HateBusters right here on campus. I read in the Kansas City Star one morning that a member of the Ku Klux Klan had been elected to the Louisiana Legislature. I got mad. I had always told my student it’s never enough just to know. You must be willing to act on what you know. We need to help these people. “Why do we need to help them? Because it’s the right thing to do. And because we know they need help. Because we know, we are now their neighbor. And our faith commands that we love our neighbor.” For an hour we talk. They are attentive and responsive. I give them their HateBusters Membership card. “We have no dues and no meetings,” I say. “Only a mission. “Hate is real. It’s out there. Sometime in your life you will come up against it. And you will have to respond instantly to it. By drawing on all you 79 have learned from all the people you have known, all the places you have been and all the situations you have been in. Then you will know who you are.” Another new plan! I’m too excited from my encounter with Roy and Cecelia’s students to ride out to the country club. The most direct route home will get me to my word processor faster, while I’m still on high. As I always do, I emailed this story to the more than 800 people in my address book. I got this return message immediately from Eleanor Cuthbertson, a good friend and a member with me of Second Baptist Church. “Great message. I talk to Cecilia's class in the spring about what it was like to live in the country back when I was a kid, with no electricity, outhouses, etc. “Did I ever tell you I was kicked off a public bus in Daytona, FL when I was 21 and gave young black mother carrying a sleeping baby my seat--alllllmooosssttt in the middle of the bus? The girlfriends I was vacationing with thought I had been in the sun too long, and they stayed on the bus while I walked 5 miles back to the motel. Rosa Parks had a cold rainy night to walk home, with a sympathetic family. I had a warm spring FL afternoon,, with friends who thought I was nuts, so my only satisfaction was telling off the bus driver in front of a full load of passengers what I thought about them and their Jim Crow laws I'm proud to be your friend.” Jesse James and Sugar Plum Miles 9725-9810 November 19 Oh what a wonderful morning, Oh, what a wonderful day. I have a wonderful feeling, everything’s going my way. These lines from Oklahoma pop out of my head as I pedal into Orrick. I haven’t thought of them in years. Didn’t even realize they were salted away in my memory bank. But I do know why they pop out just now. Soft blue skies. Bright early morning sun. Temperature in the low 40s, predicted by last night’s TV weather to reach the mid-60s by afternoon. Crystal clear air. Amanda Cauthen brings my biscuits and gravy and a cup of hot chocolate and a Fubbler’s gift certificate for our silent auction on Sunday. I’m back at my bike and preparing to leave when another satisfied customer steps out the door onto the sidewalk. “Are you Dr. Chasteen?” He asks. “Yes,” I say. “My name is George Gowing. My daughter Melissa had you at Jewell. She loved that class.” George has lived in Orrick all his life. His three grown daughters live nearby; his son, in Los Angeles. In the film business. George and his wife started Fubbler’s. Business was good. But tiring and confining. Tim Heady came to work for them. He had worked in restaurants since he was 13. Wanted to buy one. Offered to buy Fubbler’s. “I didn’t want to lose him. If I didn’t sell to him, he would have left to find another.” I turn back toward Liberty on 210 but leave it when I come to N. I head toward Excelsior Springs. And pass about a half-mile down on my left the big two story farm house where Melissa, George’s daughter, now lives with her husband. I could have taken O directly out of Orrick to Excelsior Springs, but O is like a road in Bavaria, with some of the most challenging hills around. N is more like the coastal plains near Corpus Christi, where my mother lives. And today I want to make some miles while the sun shines. The guys back at Fubbler’s were talking about snow. Maybe by Sunday when the Chief’s play. And for sure by Monday. As I draw near Excelsior Springs, the road does begin to rise and fall as I leave the plowed lands all around to either side and enter rolling pasture lands. The trees have lost their leaves. Among their bare branched brethren, the pin oaks stand somber and proud in their rust colored suits, boasting the beauty of tenacity. They will hold their leaves through the winter, surrendering them near that time in spring when new buds begin. Weather is on everybody’s mind at Sarah’s Table when I stop to see owner Carl Moore about donating to our silent auction. “Glad to,” he says. “And we hope to come. We read about it in the paper today.” “Suppose to get up to 75 tomorrow. Can you believe this weather.” This I hear at a nearby table. I see red and orange and red-orange Maple trees in people’s yards and at the Mosby Tree Nursery, but I can’t make out any among the forest of trees that crown the hills and ring the fields along the roads I ride. Are they too fragile? Can they not compete when left alone? By being bred for beauty, have they lost that edge that allowed their ancestors to thrive? Is there a lesson in here somewhere? Maybe a parallel with us, the people. I hope not. Even as I think so. 80 The images conjured I my head by the intersection of Jesse James and Sugar Plum roads dance in my head for miles after I have passed that point. Was it a sense of opposites that prompted it? A search for a sure-fire conversation starter? An effort to prompt a quick smile? Whoever named it was not your stereotypical transportation department bureaucrat. The Round Table Miles 9810-9940 November 20-21 I take a seat at the Mill Inn counter. All four chairs are momentarily vacant. I pull out my notebook, ask for a half-order of biscuits and gravy and a glass of milk. And begin to write. All my first drafts of these stories I send to you have been first set to paper at one of my satellite offices disguised as small town cafes. The words always form in my head as I ride. I’m always conscious of the terrain I’m passing through and aware of road conditions, but my mind is always composing what I will write when I come to breakfast. Or lunch. I was thinking about our chili dinner on Sunday as I rode here. This is what I wrote. Every single cost involved in having our chili dinner has been covered by a friend. There is absolutely no overhead cost. So every penny you spend for food and silent auction items goes to my two causes: 90% to MS and 10% to HateBusters. Not often can you give all your money directly to a cause while getting food, fun and fellowship as a bonus. Another guy comes in and takes a counter seat. “Is that you, David? You shaved. You look better,” say Dorothy, from behind the cash register. “I found my razor,” says David. “We started to buy you one,” my waitress says. Then she goes in search of the peach jelly David wants on his toast. A round table sits in the middle of the room, occupied this morning, as it almost always is, by guys. Seven of them this morning: Jimmie Offield, Charles O’Dell, Bill Norris, Gill Head, Bob Wilson and Carl Wilson. Gil is everywhere. I saw him at church last night with his wife, Dorothy, for our Thanksgiving dinner. I saw him at Sarah’s Table yesterday afternoon. I see him here at Mill Inn this morning. Gil invites me to their table. “Tell these guys how many miles you’re riding.” He says. When I have done that, he asks me to tell them about HateBusters. Gil hands me a twenty-dollar bill as a donation. One of the guys chides him. “He said he wanted $100,000.” A guy at the next table hands me a dollar. I invite them all to our chili dinner. As I go to pay my bill, Dorothy says, “Don’t leave. Evelyn is here. She needs to talk to you. Evelyn comes momentarily. “Now what did you and Kay talk about yesterday?” She asks. “About donating two Sunday buffet dinners for our silent auction.” I say. “We will do that,” Evelyn says. “And Mill Inn has a check for you. But I forgot my purse. Don’t take your canister till I put it in there.” Then Evelyn says, “I was planning to go to California for Thanksgiving. Then I remembered the riders are coming here on the 29th. I want to be here to meet them. So I didn’t go.” The Lawson and Kearney high school football teams both made the state playoffs. The towns are similar in size and may at some point play each other. I hope not. I would like them both to be state champs, as Catrick’s and Sarah’s Table already are. A question comes to mind today as I ride. What happens to community for those who live in a castle in a corn field? Not long ago they were not here. They have sprung up like dandelions after a spring rain. Seas of newly planted grass have replaced the cash crop that grew here and helped feed the world. The grass needs constant care and returns no economic benefit. Milton Taylor was an American soldier in the Korean War. He was wounded. It took 50 years and the intervention of congressional leaders to secure the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart and the veteran’s disability to which his service and sacrifice entitled him. “The government fought like hell to deny me,” Milton said. “I attribute it to racism.” Milton is black. Milton is a Mill Inn regular, often sitting with the guys at the round table. This morning he takes one of the four seats at the counter beside me. He has just completed his morning school bus duties. He’s a bus monitor, making sure that the challenged children on the bus are buckled up on their way to school. Some of the guys from yesterday are seated at the round table. I didn’t have my Mickey Cards yesterday. The ones I always carry got soaked in that driving rain the other day, and I hadn’t replaced them. I got new ones before I left this morning. I stop by the table and give them all one. They pass me $10s and $20s. “Hey guys, a week from this coming Saturday, all my riders are coming to Mill Inn for breakfast. We’ll be here at this same time that day. Please come meet everybody.” 81 Our Fourth Saturday Miles 9940-9970 November 22 My car radio is tuned to 89.3. NPR is always on Saturday mornings early when I go to meet Rich for a ride to breakfast. Before I can turn it off, I hear the unwelcome reminder that 40 years ago on this date President Kennedy was shot. And the flashbacks come. It’s around noontime in 1963. I’m a graduate assistant at the University of Missouri in Columbia. I’m teaching a class on Social Problems. Our topic for today is the possibility of violence in America. Suddenly a graduate student friend bursts into the room. “The President has been shot,” he yells. Considering our topic, I think it’s a set up. He says it three times before I believe he is serious. We dismiss and go downstairs to huddle around a radio. They say the same thing. We sit in shock for four days, not wanting to see what our TV shows but unable to pull ourselves away. For Christmas of 1963, Bobbie and I were planning to go home to Texas so our children could see their grandparents. We would stop enroute in another town close to Dallas so they could meet their great- grandparents. Now I didn’t want to go. But we did. I walked in the door. Someone mentioned “Kennedy’s death”. My grandfather said, “He was told not to come.” End of subject. In all these years I have not been able to read about that day. I have not gone to any movies about his death. I have a humorous record making good-natured fun of the Kennedys. I played it often before that day. Not once since. I have William Manchester’s book about President Kennedy in Camelot. I haven’t opened it in 40 years. I did not want to recall that time on this day. Now I want to forget. If I can’t do that on a bike in the cold, I doubt I can do it at all. From various places in Greater Liberty, we rendezvous at Mt. Gilead Church about 10 miles out on Plattsburg Road. Our fourth November Saturday ride is underway. Michael and Eileen Calabria, Richard Mark, Steve Hanson, Kevin Brasfield, Krysia Gorniki and Rich Groves have come. Originally I planned for us to ride from Biscari Brothers. But with 25 miles of hills separating us from breakfast and two hours to get there, Rich and I decided we should shorten our ride. Riding sweep comes easy for me. I may have ridden further this year than anyone else on the ride, but everyone here is a faster rider. Even so, I would hang back on days like these to make certain that no rider got left behind. Everyone here today has answered my call to come ride. I owe it to them to look out for them. I could not repair their bike if it broke down. But I could summon help with my cell phone and wait with them until it arrived. Today is our hilliest ride. And it’s colder than I first thought. I stop to exchange my gloves for a pair of mittens. I’m the last to arrive at JJ’s. On the sidewalk by the front door, they have chalked a message on a portable blackboard: “Welcome Bikers and the Red Hat Society.” We pull two tables together and take a seat. Dale comes a few minutes later in his car. We add a third table.” Is this Iowa?” Dale asks. He took a couple of wrong turns coming here and thinks we’re further from home than we are. Jennifer comes to greet us. “We want to make a donation,” she says. She hands me a check. “Next time you come for breakfast, we have to plan our benefit for your ride,” she says. With One Week To Go November weather can turn suddenly brutal. I did not dare come to the last days of the month with many miles to go. But I did not expect to have only 30 miles to ride with a week still to go. I must ride. If not everyday, at least most days. I can’t walk if I don’t. But I must not ride these last 30 miles until next Saturday. The good folks at Mill Inn are expecting us. I’ve been looking forward for months to the last quarter-mile of my 10,000—once around the Jewell quad in memory of the 30 years I taught here, then down Franklin Street past Second Baptist Church where I am a member, to our town square. Once around the square in salute of all the businesses that supported my ride. Then another block out Franklin to Rotary Park, in recognition of the Greater Liberty Challenge issued by their president, Kelly McClelland. So the miles I ride this week will be off the books. Maintenance miles I will call them, keeping the bike and my body in working order. Then on November 29, all bikers are invited to join me at Biscari Brothers Bicycles at 7:30 in the morning for our 30 mile round trip to Excelsior Springs and the Mill Inn. Ride with me back to Liberty and around the quad and our town square and past Rotary Park back to Biscari Brothers for the celebration. 82 HIGH NOON!! That’s when we celebrate. Please come. Come on your bikes. Come in your cars. Come let me thank you for your support and encouragement. The Chili Dinner Sunday, November 23 Announce it and they will come. That’s what Carol, Bobbie and I are thinking as we sit at Hy-Vee early on a Thursday morning and plan our chili dinner fund-raiser for a week from Sunday. The 600 names in my email address book later that day receive an invitation. The Liberty Sun on the following Wednesday carries a front-page story and invites everyone to come. The chili is on and the aroma welcomes us in when our crew comes Sunday morning before 9 o’clock to the church. Betty Boutcher cooks our church dinner every Wednesday evening and is here to work her culinary magic again today. We quietly assemble all we need for the day as Sunday School takes place. When it ends we move into the fellowship hall to set up tables and the silent auction. We are ready as church ends at noon to receive those who come. Come they do. From other churches. Other towns. Other states. From the MS Society. People I haven’t seen in years and have sorely missed. People I have only just met. Bikers come. Bridge partners come. Family come. Colleagues from the college come. From the newspaper and TV they come. Food, fun, fellowship and funds for two good causes—all of these in great abundance we have. How fitting that we are seated at round tables, for the setting has an air of Camelot. “Let it never be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment, known as Camelot.” Before three o’clock has come we have departed this place, back into the raw cold of late November, warmed for days to come by memories of our brief shining moment. More than $2500.00 the good folks who come contribute to my two causes. A few hours later the Chiefs beat the Raiders on a last second field goal. Then in our family room, my wife and sons and daughter and son-in-law and daughter-in-law and granddaughter play a spirited and hilarious game of charades. A fitting end to a most perfect day. Channel 41 News at 5 o’clock reports to all of Greater Kansas City the good time we have had. Ring Those Bells Miles 9970-9985 November 25 “It’s easier to build a road than do what the country really needs.” This line from Aldo Leopold’s Sand County Almanac has been stuck in my mind since I first saw the book on a shelf at Glacier National Park Visitor’s Center. I haven’t ridden this particular road since I came this way last fall on my way to ring bells at Wal-Mart. It was still a country road then. Now it’s a four-lane boulevard nearing completion. Of the four sites in Liberty where we ring our bells, Wal-Mart is my favorite. At Hy-Vee, Price Chopper and K-Mart, we can ring inside, out of the cold. Not so at Wal-Mart. No matter the weather, we are not allowed inside. Maybe it reminds me of being on my bike, but I prefer outside to inside. I like to shiver and stamp my feet and feel my toes and fingers tingle. And I’m convinced we take in more money. I think the folks who see us shivering feel sorry for us and give us more. They drop more coins and stuff bigger bills into our kettles. We have to call more often for another kettle because the one we have is full. I love standing in the cold, wearing the warmest clothes I can find. When I don that red Salvation Army apron and take up that bell and begin to call greetings to everyone who enters and departs, I have become resident for my two-hour tour of duty of the world as it should be, a place where we all speak kind words to one another and we all have generous hearts. Last year at all locations we took in $59,000.00, all of which stays right here in Liberty to fund InAsMuch Ministry and its work to care for the needy among us. Loreta Moore and her helpers begin early every fall to line up hundreds of volunteer ringers. Though my wife, Bobbie, assists Loreta, I do not sign up for any of the slots. I tell them both to use me as a sub for any times they can’t fill and for those times when other volunteers suddenly can’t come to an assignment. Last year I rang for 40 hours. When Christmas Day came and it was all over, I felt sad. Today I spend my first two hours this Christmas season in this frigid paradise. It’s not yet Thanksgiving. I don’t have it in me yet to call out “Merry Christmas.” I could say “Happy Thanksgiving.” And I do say it a few times. Mostly, through, I say “Hi, there, good to see you,” to those entering the store. To those departing, I call out, “You be careful now.” I make eye contact with every person. And let no one by without a greeting. 83 The thing I want most for Christmas is to ring those bells. Our Fifth Saturday Miles 9985-10,000 November 29 Free at last! I made it. No more counting miles. No more promises to do so. I ride hereafter with no record of distance. Only of people and places. Greater Liberty now is bigger than the distance I can ride in a day on my bike. Bobbie and I are off to see the world. New Orleans, Orlando, Prague, Alaska, Moscow, Budapest, Warsaw. These appear in the road I see ahead. Who knows, though, what detours may come up along the way? Before I give myself to thoughts of the year ahead, I must recount for you the events of this morning, the last five hours of my 1000 hours on my bicycle this year. I’m standing in front of Biscari Brothers Bicycles just after seven o’clock. I’m taping two signs to the window. One about HateBusters that Lara drew for me at our chili dinner last Sunday. The other I got from the MS Society. Sarah Cool comes to help. Sarah graduated from William Jewell in 1987. She lives in Liberty and is a constant and dependable supporter. She and her sister, Gretchen, came with their small children and their mother to our chili dinner. They contributed valuable items to our silent auction. Sarah has put up signs today for our ride around the Jewell quad and our town square. She will drive in her car to breakfast with us at Mill Inn. Richard Mark is here with Sean, his son. Sean will ride with his dad on their tandem. At 11 years of age, Sean is our youngest rider. At 68, I am the oldest. Richard is captain of our Together We Ride MS- 150 team, 161 members strong we were for this year’s ride. We raised a ton of money for MS. Charlie Hughes was in the first class I taught at William Jewell in the fall of 1965. Charlie has ridden with me many times over the years. He rode in our Ed’s Elite 100 on the Saturday after Memorial Day this year. He is here to ride today. Rich Groves and John Anderson are here. Rich has made all the maps for our Saturday rides. He is my regular biking buddy on Saturday mornings throughout the year. John rode with me from Kansas City to St. Louis two years ago when we joined the Bike-Aid team from San Francisco on their way to Washington DC as they rode through Missouri. John is our HateBusters song leader at all of our Human Family Reunions. Sandy Hamilton rode with us to Catrick’s on November 8. She is with us again today. She brought her bike, but she drives to and from Excelsior Springs instead. On the way over she transports Tom so he can take pictures of our ride. Tom Strongman is here. He has brought his bike. Also his camera. He loves to ride. He also loves to take pictures. He rides to Mill Inn with Sandy, stopping several times to take our pictures. He rides back. Into the wind, it turns out. Seth McMenemy is here, the only one of us who has come by bike. Seth lives just a few blocks away. Except for one Saturday when he helped his grandmother move, Seth has been here. “I have something to give you,” he says as we ride. Over breakfast at Mill Inn Seth gives me two checks. Graham Houston is here. Graham is a Jewell alum and an avid bike rider. He rides hundreds of miles every year to raise money for Habitat for Humanity. He’s also a HateBusters supporter. This is the first of our November Saturday rides he has been able to make. But he has been a supporter of my year- long ride. Steve Hanson is here. Steve lives out on Plattsburg Road a few miles from Liberty and has joined three of our Saturday rides. Mike Winburn is here. Mike lives in Independence and is with us for the first time today. Kevin Brasfield was not with us for our November 1 st ride, but he has been here for the next four. He samples ample portions of the rural ambrosia served up at our breakfast stops. H Highway is a magnificent road to ride. For the first five miles out to Liberty Hills Country Club traffic sometimes is a minor distraction for a biker. With the weather too cold for golf, though, the road is almost deserted. Two or three cars pass us. None come for the last 10 miles to Mill Inn. By the time we all arrive by bike and car there are three tables of us, 17 in all. Kelly McClelland and Jack Miles came together. Kelly was the very first contributor to my ride. He gave $1000.00 and issued the Greater Liberty Challenge, asking other business leaders and communities to match his gift. Jack Miles is Editor of the Liberty Sun. He wrote glowing editorials and front-page news stories about my ride. Stories more complimentary than even my mother would write. 84 Bob and Jean Watts drove here. They would have come on their tandem, as they did to Atlanta and Missoula when I rode across the country. But Bob is not fully back from his bout with cancer. Bob built the bike I rode across America, the bike I still ride. The bike I have as of today ridden 10,000 miles this year. Over 100,000 miles in the 18 years I’ve had it. Bob said the bike would stand up to a Mack Truck and climb a tree. Bobbie has come to breakfast. She will drive me back to Liberty so I will be certain to be at the college by 11:30. Chances are I could make it back on time if I rode, but I’m so excited right here at the end that I’m afraid I can’t keep my mind on what I’m doing. And if I should have another of the many flats I’ve had this year, I could disrupt the plans we have for the final half-mile from the campus back to the bike shop. Don Post is here. Don is one of my heroes. He used to ride a Harley before he was attacked by some degenerative monster that has him now in a wheelchair and makes everything an uphill battle. But Don is a full time volunteer for the MS Society and for a whole directory of other good causes. He jokes about his condition and takes life head on, asking no sympathy or special consideration. Don rides sag for us this morning. He parks out front at the Mill Inn. The two side doors of his van open. Don maneuvers himself into his chair and rolls out the door on a platform. It lowers to the ground, and with levers he operates from his chair, Don makes the lift retract and the doors close. Then he rolls inside and to the table where Graham, Charlie, Rich and Bobbie sit. Over breakfast Bobbie signs Don up to ring bells for the Salvation Army at the Liberty Wal-Mart. Our plan is to arrive at Mill Inn at 9:30. Thanks to a tailwind and an adrenaline rush caused by great expectations, the first of us come 45 minutes early. All are here by the appointed time. I introduce all our servers to everybody, and we all say hello in unison. Evelyn Cowsert, the owner of Mill Inn had been planning a trip to California for Thanksgiving. But she stayed here to welcome us and to make a contribution to our causes. More than an hour some of us linger “We will rendezvous in front of the Music Building at 11:30,” I tell them at breakfast. Rich and Charlie decide to ride back with Bobbie and me. When we get back to the Spring Street exit off H, we decide to park and wait for them to come. If they should pass this exit, they might not find their way to campus on time. This last half-hour has been carefully timed. We assemble in front of the Music Building. We ride up onto the quad and ride once clock-wise around it. WAY TO GO, YOU MADE IT. WE’RE PROUD OF YOU. And other signs have been put up around the quad, this place I walked for 30 years as a member of the faculty. Then behind the chapel and past the president’s home to Jewell Street. We turn left and over one block to Franklin. A right turn takes us past Second Baptist Church, where last Sunday we had our chili dinner fund-raiser. Then another two blocks to our town square and the traditional lap around it, a ceremonial ending to all my rides going years back. Today in shop windows on all sides of the square we spot bright yellow signs announcing in bold black letter—10,000 miles. Then one block past the square on Franklin to Rotary Park, where Kelly McClelland, President of Rotary, is waiting to congratulate us and Jack Miles is waiting to take our picture. We ride past McDonald’s and across the parking lot in front of Sutherlands and Price Chopper and arrive back at Biscari Brothers precisely on time—HIGH NOON. Ever since I saw that 1950’s black and white western with Grace Kelly and Gary Cooper and Tex Ritter’s theme song, the dramatic image of HIGH NOON has never been far from my mind. For years on end when they were small and we were on one of our family summer sojourns by car and camper across America, my children heard me sing in my off-key monotone: “I do not know what fate awaits me. I only know I must be brave, or lie a coward, a craven coward, or lie a coward in my grave.” A small crowd waits for us in front of the bike shop. Kay Julian, Executive Director of the MS Society of Mid-America, thanks me for the awareness my ride has brought to MS and for the money I’ve raised. Ray Gill accepted the Greater Liberty Challenge on behalf of the city of Richmond by contributing $1000.00. Ray is here. We are too many in number to fit inside the bike shop. The temperature has risen from the mid-twenties when we started to the mid-forties now. We brave the chill for my short speech. “I rode the miles. I didn’t raise the money. So far $20,000 has come in. I was hoping for $110,000. My dream is that 110,000 people will mail a letter to Box 442, Liberty, MO 64069. Inside each letter will be a one-dollar bill. We will be written up in the Guinness Book of World Records as THE GREATEST NUMBER OF ONE-DOLLAR BILLS EVER MAILED TO A SINGLE POST OFFICE BOX. I will have reached my fund-raising goal and thousands of people will have participated in my grand adventure. The 85 money we raise will help those who suffer physically from MS and those who suffer spiritually from hate. And together we will have found part of our purpose in being alive at this time in this place. “I promised Bobbie that we would see the world in this coming year. I may not be here when all the letters come. But the MS Society will pick them up. And when mountains of mail come to my little post office box the media will notice. MS and HateBusters will become topics of conversation across the country. Their work will be supported. “In Man of LaMancha, Don Quixote says, ‘Too much sanity may be madness, and the greatest madness of all may be to see the world as it is, and not as it should be.’ The world should be a place where we all know about and care about each other. That’s the world I want to live in. The world I want to lead others to. “In the words of Tiny Tim in Dickens’ Christmas Carol, “God bless us everyone.” A Ride in Retrospect A 10 mile ride along the beach in the shadow of the Rose Bowl on January 1 st began my 10,000 mile Greater Liberty Bicycle Ride for Multiple Sclerosis and HateBusters. A 30-mile ride from Liberty to Excelsior Springs on November 29th brought my ride to an end. I rode a few of the miles in California, Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi and Iowa. Mostly, though, I rode to places I could pedal to and from in a day from my home. Those who know me well are accustomed to my normal method of operation. An idea comes to me. Something big and bold and daring. Crazy, sometimes they say. And I plunge ahead with some vague idea of how it might all play out. But with no specific plans for the day-by-day operation. Somehow I carry with me the certain knowledge that everything will work out and amazing things will unfold if I just get up every morning and do what seems needed at that moment to move me further in the desired direction. I didn’t plan for five small town cafes to become satellite centers where I would meet people and entertain ideas that never would have come to me in other places. It just happened. I didn’t even realize it had happened until I was nearing the end of my ride and looked back. Then I saw how central they had become. In the kind of unplanned but totally expected symmetry that seems somehow to mark my life, the month of November worked out to be the month I would finish. I was born in November. And this November had five Saturdays, making it possible to devote one Saturday to each café. Fubbler’s Cove in Orrick on the 1st. Catrick’s in Lawson on the 8th. Sarah’s Table in Kearney on th the 15 . JJ’s in Plattsburg on the 22nd. Mill Inn in Excelsior Springs on the 29th. Most of my 10,000 miles I had ridden alone. Most everybody has more important things to do than spend hundreds of hours on a bicycle. But on these five November Saturdays I wanted to invite everyone to go with me to these good places. On our bikes or in our cars, I wanted us all to meet each other and share the excitement and the contentment I find here. I make it a practice not to compare people or places. Each person and each place in my book is his or her or its own standard. I look for the goodness and genius in every person and place. On these five Saturdays I wanted my friends to come with me so they too could experience it. The order in which I chose for us to visit these five places has no meaning other than that we could not go to all at the same time. I didn’t plan this or realize it had happened until my ride was finished and I looked back over the record I kept of my daily rides. The Mill Inn was the first of the five I visited this year, back on January 4. and it was the last one on November 29. Also the most frequent one. It’s the oldest of the five. And the closest to my home. Jack Miles Sums It Up 10,000 Mile Bicycle Odyssey Ends in Liberty Jack "Miles" Ventimiglia Editor, Liberty Sun-News December 4, 2003 86 While dining on home-style pancakes topped by a sunny-side-up egg, a couple slices of bacon and a glass of milk, Dr. Ed Chasteen accepts early congratulations from friends at the Mill Inn, Excelsior Springs, Saturday. Only a few miles remain on 68-year-old Chasteen’s 10,000-mile, yearlong quest to raise funds for the Multiple Sclerosis Society and HateBusters, a group that combats religious and racial intolerance in the Kansas City metropolitan area. In the small-town restaurant, beneath photographs of area sites and characters, including outlaw Frank James, Chasteen chats with Bob and Jean Watts at one of several tables occupied by a dozen friends who came along for the ride. Ed thanks Bob, a retired airline mechanic and bicycle shop owner, for creating the reinforced bike that has been ridden for the last 10,000 miles, and about 90,000 more over the past two decades. “I put Swiss-made spokes in it — the best spokes in the world. They’re stainless steel. We put 48 spokes in per wheel, instead of 36, to make it a lot tougher wheel,” Bob says. “We increased the gear capacity, too. We put in a triple- instead of a dual-chain ring up front, because the triple gives you so much advantage for lower gears.” Looking up from his pancakes, Ed attests to the bike’s durability, saying, “I’ve had it painted three times.” An hour later, in Liberty, Chasteen and friends circle the quadrangle at William Jewell College, where Chasteen spent his career teaching. They then ride down the hill along Franklin Street, climb the slope to Liberty Square, circle the courthouse and Freedom Fountain, and pause at the bottom of Franklin to accept more early congratulations at Rotary Plaza. Under a new American flag waving in a smart autumn breeze, Rotary President Kelly McClelland shakes Chasteen’s hand. During the early weeks of the ride, McClelland, an attorney and former Jewell student, donated $1,000 for the effort and issued the Liberty Challenge to encourage others to donate, too. Scores of people throughout the year did donate, partly because they believe in the charities Chasteen supports, and partly because they believe in Chasteen, a retired professor who taught them to dream of the world as a better place, a 1996 Olympics torch bearer, an MS-sufferer who has refused to give into the disease, and the founder of HateBusters. Among those who believe in Chasteen and his causes is Carol Miller, who organized a chili luncheon on his behalf last week at Second Baptist Church, Liberty. The event, including an auction, drew about 150 guests and raised more than $2,000. Miller recalls that Chasteen once told her about how he felt after being diagnosed with MS in 1983. The disease erodes control over nerves and muscles, eyes and speech, and 87 can kill victims. He had been told to avoid exercise and, in essence, to await the affects of the disease passively. “When his diagnosis was originally confirmed, he just sat down in the corner of the garage and started crying. He said he then saw his son’s bicycle was in the corner and thought if he could not walk, then maybe he could ride the bike, and then he got on the bike,” Miller says. In the 20 years since that time, Chasteen has done far more exercise than his doctor suggested, including riding the bicycle Bob made for him from Disney World on the East Coast to Disneyland on the West Coast in 1987. “He went with no money,” Miller says. “He would go to a church, and the church would give him money, and he would ride to his next location.” Upon arriving at Disneyland 5,126 miles and 105 days later, Chasteen rode as a dignitary in the parade and met Mickey Mouse. “It is an amazing story,” Miller says. Now at the Rotary Plaza, as Chasteen buckles on his helmet to set out on the final mile to the finish line, McClelland jokes, “What’s the goal next year?” Chasteen’s friends laugh, but only a little; they know their friend and his desire to help others. After the moment passes, they push off for Biscari Brothers, a bicycle shop on Missouri Route 291. A few minutes later, pedaling and grinning in the noon sunlight, Chasteen raises his right hand in salute while his bicycle glides across the asphalt parking lot to the shop where a crowd of a couple of dozen supporters has gathered. Chasteen brakes to a stop, announcing, “It’s over!” The ride raised more than $20,000 and, just as importantly, increased awareness about a debilitating disease, the crowd learns from Kay Julian, president of the Multiple Sclerosis Society, Mid-America Chapter. Later, Julian says privately she knows of no one else who has ever ridden so far for MS. “Ed is a unique individual and that’s part of his charm,” Julian says. “He sets the bar high.” Chasteen had hoped to raise $100,000 to combat MS and $10,000 for HateBusters. He does not sound disappointed about falling short after a grueling effort, only hopeful. He urges the friends gathered around him to e-mail their friends, asking each to send a dollar to finish the fund drive. He says he would like to get a truckload of envelopes, each containing a dollar. “I’m as excited about getting the letters as the money,” he says. 88 Chasteen admits to the crowd that his goals are ambitious. “I don’t now why I keep thinking of crazy ideas,” Chasteen says, but part of it may be that his favorite character is Don Quixote, who wished to see life as it could be rather than as it is. Again the idea arises about what he plans for an encore. Chasteen says he is not sure what might come next, but if he were to say he would ride his bicycle to the moon, odds are he would do it. “Life is a grand adventure,” he says.
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