Wednesday, July 7, 2010

"We can not have all the things that please us..."

One of the nights we spent far from what is called civilization , under a darkening sky I pulled out my iPod.  Listening to a few songs before I close my eyes is one of the only ways to escape the depression that come with the end of the day.  The other way to escape that we have found is to listen to Joe read from "The Wisdom of the Enneagram".  

It is stressful to ride down the road looking for a suitable place to sleep.  We reach a certain mileage and then begin "keeping an eye out".  We are looking for a spot that is secluded, comfortable, quiet, and legal.  They have been places like a church parking lot, a town park (semi-legal = more stressful), a patch of grass next to a remote airfield, and a highway rest area.  Our stress is enhanced by our fatigued bodies.  Our  emotions are magnified and our senses are put on edge.

This particular night found us in a Oregon Department of Transportation storage area,  These occur every 10 miles or so along Highway 20 in eastern Oregon and are used to store road making material and sand for keeping the highway safe in the winter.  As I lay in my sleeping bag, hidden from the road by a large pile of gravel, the song "Annabelle", by Gillian Welch and David Rawlings played on my iPod.  The chorus of this song goes:

"we can not have all things to please us
No matter how we try
Until we've all gone to Jesus
We can only wonder why"

This song took me back to a conversation we had with our hosts, Sacha and Michael, the night before.  We stayed up to one in the morning talking about many things including: why most films are poor quality, how we wish we had the time and skills to garden, how its hard to be handy if you grow up in Los Angeles, what its like to not "settle down" in one spot, why our generation does not have the same degree of righteous anger that previous generations had, how in this "post modern time" when corporations are more powerful than governments many our conversations and questions can be answered by Wendell Berry (or as Nate says wendellberry like strawberry).

Another thing we talked about was our experience touring thus far.  One thing we realized is how much thought, stress, and effort goes into our basic necessities like food, water, and shelter.  Being on tour has really brought us back to the basics of survival.   Never before have we not known where we will sleep that night.  Never has our food been limited in such a way (by money, weight, and nutrition), and never before have we not been able to just get water from a faucet when we are thirsty.  We can not have all the things that please us, no matter how hard we try.  This has been very humbling, can be incredibly stressful, and an entirely new and eye-opening experience.  

Even more than this, we have learned the importance of people.  Not just in a cheesy "people are so hospitable" way (people are connected to our other basic needs, food and shelter are located near people and are sometimes generously given to us by people), but also in a visceral desire for social interactions.  Riding through eastern Oregon where a town consists of a single store that is open three days a week and such towns can be 50 miles apart is accompanied by an anxiousness that is not present when riding through more populated areas.  If we have been camping for a couple nights in a row we begin to feel a sublime, but intense loneliness. We wish we could stay with people every night of our trip, but we can not have all the things that please us, no matter how hard we try (eastern Oregon).  We feel this unbelievably strong and deep desire to be with people.  Not because they give us food, but because we have an unmet need for relationship and interaction when we are on the road.

I drifted off to sleep to David singing harmony to Gillian's charming twang and awoke to the most beautiful night sky that I had ever seen.  It's beauty redeemed our seemingly pitiful camping situation.  This feeling did not last as the distant yelping coyotes made us very uneasy.

We are learning a lot about grace.  Grace that is something small and beautiful in the midst of a scary situation.  Grace that is not just the hospitality of a handful of specific people, but also grace that comes though the presence of and interactions with humanity.  

We are in Boise and enjoying the hospitality of some very specific people.  Thank you so much Paula and Ken.


  1. What a compelling reminder that a cross-country bike trip is more (and less) than the romantic visions of those of us who stay home and enjoy your pictures. Thanks for sharing so deeply about the day-to-day struggles of being out on the road. It reminds me of the stories I have heard of refugees: those who are forced to leave their homes... Keep the faith, Ben, Nate and Joe!

  2. Is that really you, Joe? I am praying for your safety every day. Sounds like you are learning some valuable lessons while having a memorable trip.