Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Un-organized Religion

I have a patch on my motorcycle jacket that says, "Sure I love Jesus. It's his fan club that bothers me."

I'm often surprised at the comments it generates. There were several toll booth operators that commented about it when I was on my trip -- all believers, btw.
Just recently, a young man at a fast food restaurant asked me about it. I think he was a young believer and was ready to defend his belief. I included myself in my answer saying something like -- I think that we, as believers, often give Jesus a bad name by the way behave. He just nodded his head as he walked away and said, "Yeah, I get that."

Lately, I have become more and more concerned with the way that Evangelical Christians have become more of a cultural (or anti-cultural) organization with a political agenda than a group of people dedicated to sharing the Gospel of salvation by the grace of God.

I often feel like an outsider when with other Christians. I differ from many of them on politics and on many cultural issues. I despise that we have allowed religion to become a political tool.
Understand that I have nothing against Christians being politically active (I'm actually in favor of that), but to leverage religion as a tool or to wave it about like a club and then to back someone that stands in direct opposition to those beliefs is a detriment to those beliefs and to Jesus, himself.

It is my personal opinion that the church (little c intentional) in the US is nothing like the Church that Jesus leads. In my years as an evangelist, I can't begin to recount the number of times that I've been told that someone believes in God but is opposed to organized religion.
I believe I have mentioned that I'm a slow learner. I am beginning to understand their perspective.

I know that the readers of this blog come from a variety of religious beliefs and backgrounds. At one time there were a few atheists. I'm not sure if that's still true or not. I do know that many have stopped following me for a wide variety of reasons. If I haven't ye offended you, consider yourself fortunate. If I have and you're still here, thanks.

I'm thinking about adding a weekly post that shares something of my personal beliefs -- a sermon like message about what I believe and why.
I'm not looking at starting an online church or anything like that.
I'm not looking for debate about my beliefs (although, I do expect some).
I'm not sure that I'm even looking to make converts to my way of thinking or to my beliefs.
I'm just thinking of sharing my faith on a regular basis through this forum -- a kind of un-organized religion.
It might help me to keep what remains of my sanity.

John <><

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Wonderful weekend

Last Wednesday was Chris' birthday.
A couple of weeks ago, Aaron called and wanted to meet this weekend in St Louis to celebrate her birthday.

We arrived at the hotel downtown St Louis on Friday night. The kids didn't get in from Chicago until late. We went out to get a little late night snack when they arrived and then called it a day.
I was up before everyone else on Saturday and walked a couple of blocks to a nearby Starbucks where I enjoyed a little coffee and managed a quick post.

By the time I made it back to the hotel, Aaron was up and wanted to make a run to Blueprint Coffee Roasters in U-City. We went back to pick up our girls and began our Saturday birthday celebration. We started with a trip to The Hill for lunch at Zia's.

Oh my! It was so good and reasonably priced. We sat outside and didn't let the few sprinkles bother us. We were mostly under cover of the awning and I think I was the only one catching a few drops on my arm.

After lunch, we went to the St Louis Art Museum at Forest Park. We spent most of the rainy afternoon inside the Museum and enjoyed walking through the many exhibits. By the time we decided to leave, the rain had moved on and the sun was shining. There was a wedding in the park and they had set up for the reception dinner in the main entrance of the Art Museum.

(Thanks to Jenny for the artfully done pics. See what I did, there?)

We had already decided on Iron Barley for dinner and journeyed out to High Ridge to their new location. I don't know why they moved from their south city location to a place out in the boonies, but it was certainly worth the drive. It was only the third night at the new place and it was a little chaotic, but I have to say it was well worth the wait.
My ribs were superb!
Aaron called them contest ribs. Well done, but not the falling off the bone ribs you often find at restaurants. They had a great crusty sear on the outside and a subtle smoked flavor throughout. The meat separated from the bone easily enough, but you had to do it. It wasn't like picking up the bone and the meat falling away. Easily the best restaurant ribs I've ever had.

We finished the day at an oyster bar downtown, listening to some live music.
All-in-all, it's been a pretty wonderful weekend. We'll have a late breakfast or lunch with the kids before we separate and each travel to our homes. It's really satisfying knowing that your kids have grown into some pretty decent adults, chosen great spouses, and are the kinds of people that are great to do life with.

Life is pretty grand!

John <><

Saturday, October 07, 2017

Adding value to your beliefs by giving value to other's beliefs

This past week I got into a Twitter exchange with a person over a thread that began with a statement about gun rights and the taking of innocent lives in gun violence. The post had the video of Congressman Joe Kennedy III addressing the need for restrictions on gun ownership to prevent further taking of innocent lives.
The comment attached to the tweet said that you can't be against the taking of innocent lives and be pro-choice and pretty much dismissed his pleas for any new restrictions by labeling him as a hypocrite.

My comment was that it is these kinds of arguments that make anti-abortionists sound stupid.
I later said that this tactic to make every argument about abortion, diminishes the value of both issues (whatever the other issue may be at the time).

It's not the only bad argument that pro-lifers use.
If you want people to listen to what you have to say, it is also important to listen to what they have to say. Often times, the arguments we use make no sense to others because we are coming from such different perspectives. We need to find a common ground from which to base our views.

For example:
Not long ago I heard a pro-lifer state that liberals (you know all pro-choice people are liberals, right?) say that scientists have found evidence of life on Mars in the form of simple fossilized cells. How can they find a single cell on a distant planet and call it life but say that an unborn child isn't life?
The problem with this argument is that the person ascribed a belief to pro-choice people that doesn't exist. No one believes that an unborn fetus is a mass of dead cells that miraculously comes to life at birth. The argument has always been -- At what point does the unborn have individual human rights that need to be considered?

Changing the grounds of the debate to something that it isn't doesn't help your cause, nor does it give you credibility. As a matter of fact, it often leads to the belief that you have no valid point because you feel you need to cloud the discussion with statements that have nothing to do with issue at hand.

In the twitter exchange, I asked the question, "If I'm opposed to abortion, does that mean I have to be for stricter gun laws?"
It seemed like that was the logical conclusion from the you can't favor gun restrictions and be pro-choice. Funny, but my question was called non-sequitur.
I'm not sure how that works -- Rep. Kennedy can't favor stricter gun laws and be pro-choice, but I can be pro-life and want unrestricted gun laws.
Like I said -- it sounds stupid.

If you want people to listen to you, you have to speak their language and you have to listen to them, as well.

John <><

Friday, October 06, 2017

Living life ... a day at a time

I have managed to curb my internet time over the past couple of  days.

My Facebook fast has turned out to be more of a Facebook diet rather than a fast. The truth is, that's what I expected it to be. Not getting notifications on my phone has helped, but I'm finding that I have quite a strong habit of checking Facebook on my phone. I'm considering removing the Facebook app from my phone which would restrict my Facebook exposure to when I have access via my computer.

It's been nice not being on it as often. It does give me more time for living life rather than being drawn into the time suck that Facebook generally becomes.

I've also managed a to reach out and make a few contacts this week. I hope to continue to do that, but it does require more of an effort than you might imagine.

It might sound weird to say that I also have to be purposeful about establishing a quiet time or relaxing meditative time. I would consider an hour smoking a cigar on the deck such a relaxing time. I should plan that as a daily activity!

Even as a retired guy, I usually find that I am being carried along life's flow rather than purposely deciding what I want to do.
And life is easy that way.

Life in the Ozarks is pretty easy, anyway.
There is no daily crisis in my world. I see the destruction of storms that have hit in the southern US and Puerto Rico. I watch the news casts of earthquakes in Mexico and see refugees seeking safety from horrendous life situations in far away parts of  the Earth. Even Las Vegas seems to be an unreal event that happened to people in a far away place.

In many ways, it is too easy to detach ourselves from the problems of others.
I have enough difficulty connecting with those that are in my geographically close community. Connecting to people that are not close to me is nearly impossible. I know that I'm not expected to actually contact those people, but it is difficult to even empathize with them because our worlds are so different.
Somehow, they have to become more real -- more human -- to me. They are a part of my world community. They are a part of my human-ness. How do I begin to see them as more than a sad story on the news?

I ask, because I really don't have the answer.

I think our typical day is:
read a sad story
post a link to a sad story
express outrage about a sad story
maybe send money to a program for the victims of a sad story
have another cup of coffee and go about our day until the next sad story comes our way.

The disconnect is real.
But I'm working on it.

John <><

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Facebook Fast

I've decided to take a Facebook fast.
I don't know how long it will last, but for the next few days I will be absent from Facebook.

Part of the decision is to try to actually engage with people on a more personal level.
Part is a realization that the communities we develop on Facebook are communities of people that are like us. While I do have plenty of people that have differing opinions on various topics, the truth is that I rarely read their posts and I doubt that they read mine. The limited dialog that happens between us is often hijacked by others that don't know me and are usually unreasonable in their comments.

I will continue on Twitter and Instagram.
I get the majority of my news from various links on Twitter and enjoy the photographs and links on the much less political Instagram. Another benefit of those two sites is that you can follow me and I don't have to follow you.

Because those two sites are linked to Facebook, my tweets and pics will still appear on my Facebook page. That doesn't mean that I'll be there to see your likes, reactions, or comments.

And that's another reason for staying off of Facebook -- I think that Facebook has become too many people's source of self-esteem. Far too many (teens, especially) are tied to the number of likes and internet strokes they get in order to feel validated as a person of some importance.

In the end, I may drop in on Facebook for a few minutes after a day or so.
I may end up just giving myself a few minutes daily on Facebook.
But for today I'm taking a break.

I'll probably miss a few birthdays. If I miss yours, I'm sorry.
I'll miss a few humorous memes.
I'll miss a few pet videos.
And I will miss some personal posts, but I doubt that I'll miss anything of great consequence.

I'll continue to blog and to occasionally post on Twitter or Instagram. You can find me as @magicianary on either of those social media forums.

John <><

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Happy October!

It is Sunday morning and I find myself at the dining table of a hotel suite in St Charles MO.
We are in this nice suite due a mix up in our hotel reservations that took Expedia over an hour to straighten out at the end of a long (but enjoyable) day.

We were blessed and honored to be invited to the wedding and reception of an old friend. We came into the FAA about the same time (he was already a trainee when I arrived at the facility) and have worked together in two different facilities  during our careers. Since he came in as a young guy and I came in as an old guy, he is still working in his career.

At some point, I will probably decide to write about marriage struggles, failed marriages and second marriages, but for today I'll stick with wishing this new family the very best as they venture into the blending of their two families. My buddy is going to need some counseling (and occasional testosterone outings) -- he'll be living with his wife and four girls (2 his, 2 hers), three of them teenagers!

It was pretty great getting to reconnect with some old air traffic friends. We ended up in a corner away from family and other friends of the wedding party. (I'm not sure if that was by design or just a coincidence.) These were guys (and their wives) that the groom had worked with and I had come to know over the years. I had also worked with a couple of them.

I also got to meet some of the groom's non-air traffic friends. He always introduced me with the additional "John does magic and uses it to share the gospel" bit, so transition into a conversation about the gospel was pretty easy.
And that was a good thing since the week was coming to an end and I still had not completed my part in the one week challenge of sharing "God loves you" and "Jesus died for you."
I did get to have a couple of conversations talking about what I do in sharing the gospel, both through camps and magic shows, as well as through preaching from the pulpit. It does make it easier to share the simple message that "God loves you and Jesus died for you."

Later this morning we'll meet with some other friends and catch up on their lives.
In the day-to-day grind, I often forget about the many people that have touched my life in some way and then moved on. We have such technology available that we shouldn't lose touch with those dear friends and yet, we often do. I really need to make an effort to move beyond the impersonal social media contacts that have taken the place of true friendships today. It is sad that I've fallen into the trap of placing dear friends into the group of Facebook friends or Twitter followers rather than actually talking to them and being with them from time to time.

It's no wonder we have such a difficult time communicating with one another when most messages come in the form of 140 character tweets or cleverly constructed memes.
As much as it pains me to actually talk to people, I think I'm going to challenge myself to have at least one genuinely meaningful conversation with someone (other than Chris) everyday. That probably sounds too simple for most of you, but there are many days that Chris is the only person I see (and I'm okay with that!).

I'm not a list maker, but I guess I'll need to become one.
At the top of every daily to do list:
Talk to someone other than Chris
It may be more than I can accomplish!

Maybe you have an old friend that would be blessed by a call.
Why not do it today?

John <><

Friday, September 29, 2017

Is it too early to be thinking about spring rides?

I know that it's barely fall, but I've started to think about spring rides already.
I'm thinking along the lines of riding to baseball games. The Springfield Cardinals play in the Texas League, a AA minor league organization. The northern division consists of the Cardinals, two Arkansas teams -- one in Little Rock, one in Fayetteville, and a team in Tulsa.

All of those are easy day trips. Tulsa and Little Rock are about 200 miles (one way) and Fayetteville is around 125. A midweek day game would be a perfect outing -- nice ride out, Springfield Cardinal baseball game, nice ride home!

The four teams in the southern division would pose more of a challenge. The Frisco team isn't too bad at around 400 miles (one way), but Midland and San Antonio come in at over 700 miles and Corpus Christi at around 850, making all of those overnight trips and long rides each day of travel.

However, I could add the Dodger's AAA team in Oklahoma City into the mix and pair that with a game in Midland TX. I'd have to count on my big sis taking me in for an overnight stay and I would still have an overnight in Midland and one day of 700+ miles.
The Cardinals pair the Corpus Christi team with San Antonio for a May road trip meaning I could see a game in CC on a Thursday and SA on Friday. It would still be two overnights and two long rides, but just one long trip instead of two.

For now it's just thinking about baseball and riding.
I did ride to St. Louis and back for a day game this season, but missed a trip to Kansas City.
Maybe next year.

There is still plenty of riding to do in 2017, just not much more in the way of baseball.

John <><

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Can We Talk?

The internet is full of opinions on the peaceful demonstrations of black athletes during our National Anthem. Coaches, owners, fellow athletes, broadcasters, and of course -- politicians are weighing in on the means of the demonstration.

Unfortunately, I'm seeing very little actual  talk about the purpose of the demonstrations -- the unjust treatment of African-Americans by our police forces and justice systems.

Even though I am Asian-American by birth, I have spent my life within the white privileged society and wouldn't be considered anything else except by the strictest white nationalist sects of our society. I think that I am the least Asian looking of my siblings and many people are surprised to hear that I have an Asian mother.
I have no idea of what it is like to be a black man in the United States  (or any other minority, for that matter). For all practical purposes, I am a white, Christian male and have the privileges associated with that standing. I can live were I want (and can afford). I can go where I want without fear of being stopped due to racial profiling. I can shop where I want without raising great suspicion that I'm going to steal something. I'm not suspected of being lazy or of slopping at the government trough (although I am on a government pension). I live in a part of the country that is nearly uninhabited by minorities.

I say all of that to say that I recognize that I am a part of the problem -- at least up to the point that I allow the problem to continue without some sort of dialog and change.

We, as a society, have responded in a typical way. The instinctual response of any accused is to justify our actions or redirect the blame for our actions on the accuser. It takes great character to admit that we may have been wrong; that our action (or inaction) has caused someone harm. Such an admission means that we have to be the ones to change.
As long as we make the demonstration about something other than its initial purpose, we can insist that the victims of this injustice change their method of demonstration while we continue to allow the racially motivated injustices to continue.

There will have to come a time when law enforcement agencies and criminal justice systems have to acknowledge that the statistics are damning and a change is needed. We (the privileged) can be the motivating segment of society to get our elected government officials to listen to the complaints rather than to dismiss them or deflect them so that they go unaddressed.

Kneeling during the Anthem has never been about disrespecting the Flag, our nation, nor anyone that serves our society. It's time we stopped treating it as such and address the real issue.

John <><

Monday, September 25, 2017

Another Monday Morning...

Somewhere in northern Missouri, someone is asking a co-worker, "How was your weekend?"
And that co-worker is responding with, "I'm glad you asked that. You see we had a guest preacher at our church and he challenged us ... "

Yes, another pulpit challenge to tell people the simple message -- "God loves you. Jesus died for you."

I always put myself into the challenge, although I doubt that anyone will ask me how my weekend was. It's not because nobody cares (nobody really does), but because I probably won't have much contact with anyone during the day.
I also always invite churches to hold me as accountable as they hold each other, but they rarely do.
Somehow I suspect that I'll be getting a tweet or two asking for my story of sharing this simple message.

My ride to Chillicothe MO (The Home of Sliced Bread) was warm and uneventful. (My last ride to Chillicothe was when I lost all my stuff.) I arrived in town shortly after 3 PM with all of my gear intact. I unloaded the things for my magic show at the church and then went to the home of Steve and Pam Miller. The Millers were my host family for the weekend. They live in a grand old house, built in the 1880s. They are doing a lot of work to renovate and keep (and restore) the original character of the house. Perhaps it will be a bed and breakfast place in the future.
Oh! And speaking of breakfast, it looked like a magazine or TV show breakfast.
Coffee, OJ, stuffed French toast topped with blueberries, strawberries and whipped cream, and a side of patty sausage. Beautiful and delicious!

The Saturday evening magic show went well and I believe that a good time was had by all. The church put on a nice event for the neighborhood and community. The program began with a very good puppet show that was put on by a troupe from another local church. While being entertained, the kids (parents, too) enjoyed popcorn, nachos, cotton candy, and lemonade. There was a brief intermission and then the magic show.

I should mention that I believe many churches would pass on such an event simply due to the number of workers necessary to pull it off. The fellowship hall was very well decorated. There were lots of kitchen workers to prepare and distribute snacks. There were greeters and there were plenty of people to clean up and reset the hall for Sunday morning.
Just looking at (or anticipating) all of the popcorn and chips scattered on the floor would prevent many churches from doing this. But the clean up was fast and fun -- yes, I said fun -- as it looked like the people were genuinely enjoying their service to others!

Sunday morning was more of the same hospitality and joy. Pastor Rob is truly blessed to be serving a people that show their love for one another and the community around them. The young staff is energetic and tends to infuse their enthusiasm into the rest of the congregation. It is so much easier to preach to a church full of folks that are happy about serving and worshiping our God and Savior.

After church I changed into my riding gear, loaded up the bike, had lunch with the pastor and headed home. The day was warm (low 90s, 33-34c) and traffic was light. As I neared Springfield, the wind started to pick up and I could see rain ahead. I stopped to check the weather radar for the route and decided to push on. Later, I stopped again to put on my rain gear and did run into some rain before making it home. However, I was treated to a bright and magnificent rainbow as compensation for my short ride in the rain.

I doubt that I'll get much riding in for the remainder of September. I've a lawn to mow, groceries to buy, and other household chores to tend to. On Saturday, I get to celebrate with a friend as he gets married.

It has been a grand month.
I hope that yours has also been a fun adventure.
Finish it well.
Tell somebody -- God loves you. Jesus died for you.

John <><

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Road Trip; the little guy

I was blessed to be able to be the first member of the Hill side of the family to greet our newest member.

I left my lunch meeting in Virginia and headed westward toward Fletcher NC, adding NC as the 15th state to enter on my journey. Jessica missed our family reunion this summer since she was late in her pregnancy and leave management for a young family can be an issue. Originally, I wasn't sure if a stop to see them would work out and I really was concerned about adding to an already overwhelming situation.

When I arrived late in the evening, Jason was out picking up some things for dinner. Jess came out to greet me and introduce me to the dogs. Bella was not a happy dog.
Before making my way to the back gate, Jess had me remove my jacket, gloves and cap. Apparently, Bella already has issues with strange men and those things don't help.

I was the first unfamiliar person to come to the house since baby Jacob arrived and Bella was going to do her best to make sure that I was okay. It took her quite a while to relax. Jason's arrival helped, but even then she positioned herself on the floor between me and who ever was holding the baby.

I got the home tour, enjoyed dinner and our visit, but also worried about being an intrusion as they make adjustments in their new world of life with an infant.

Although they offered their couch, I knew that a less than a week old baby was enough and opted for a nearby motel. Jess' mom was there and using the guest room, so one more person and a nervous dog was an unnecessary burden.

I enjoyed our visit but also wanted to leave when Jacob started his post dinner nap. I know that sleep time can be a precious thing for new parents and wanted them to be able to take advantage of his sleep time to get some of their own.

It had been a good day.
And the next day was the ride to the Dragon!

John <><

Here's a pic of me with Jason, Jessica and Jacob.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Road Trip; more people

After meeting with Bill in the DC area of NoVa, I traveled south until Fredricksburg where I overnighted at a cheap motel. I was able to sleep in a bit before traveling to meet an old friend from my days of being active with our controllers' union.

For my entire career, Adell Humphreys was the lady that kept NATCA running smoothly. Even while the officers of the organization changed, Adell was always there to maintain the office and acclimate new officers to their posts. It's true that she worked for NATCA and she has recently referred to me as one of her 15,000 bosses. But her leadership in guiding the office staff never went unnoticed by those of us that were privileged to work with her.

I have to admit that I always felt that my role in NATCA was pretty small and insignificant and am somewhat surprised that I have Adell and a few past officers as social media contacts. In any case, it has been more than a decade since I have been to any NATCA events so I was looking forward to this meeting.
I think Adell retired from her service to NATCA a little before I retired as a controller. Retirement is looking good on her. Like me, she has taken to motorcycle riding in retirement and is learning to enjoy the road on two wheels. She is engaged to be married and her guy, Stan, seems like a great guy. I was so pleased to get to meet him. I always enjoy talking cigars with someone that enjoys a good smoke and we exchanged a few cigars over lunch.

We met at a truck stop just off the highway and then rode our bikes to lunch.
Stan said, "John, we're taking to to lunch at a gas station!"

Some of the best places to eat are local dives.
This little BBQ place was busy for the lunch hour. Four state police cars were in the parking lot and several construction workers were there as well as a few local couples. I figured that they were taking me to one of their favorite places for a reason. I had a pulled pork sandwich with slaw and a little spicy sauce and was not disappointed! I don't remember the name of the place, but I'm sure one of them can help me by leaving it in the comments.
Once again, the conversation was easy and I think Stan and I did most of the talking with Adell just listening. I doubt an observer would have guessed that we just met.

I still had several hours of highway ahead of me, so they guided me back to the highway and we said our goodbyes. Stan gave me a good route to follow (was one of google's alternate routes) and I figured to take advantage of his experience over google (remember the ferry in Detroit?).

It was great to hit the road with a full belly and a light heart.

John <><

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Road Trip, a few of the people I met

Several years ago, I was looking at some random blogs (something I haven't done in a long time) and ran across one that was written by a fellow air traffic controller. I started following his blog and found out that he is also a minister!

He was active in his NATCA (our controller's union) local (Boston Tower) and I had also been pretty active in NATCA. It turns out that Tom (TC) and I have been to several NATCA events, but never met each other. After retiring, Tom returned to full time ministry and now pastors the oldest Congregational church in the US. It was founded in 1623!
We have been friends on Faecbook and he has been one of several NATCA people that I was looking forward to meeting.

We did!
I managed to make it to Boston in time to experience the afternoon rush hour.
When I left Steve's place in Vermont it was 56 degrees (13.3C) so I opted for a light shirt and left the lining in my jacket. By the time I reached Boston, the temp was mid 80s (30C) and I was regretting the lining -- especially with traffic moving slowly or not at all.

Imagine for yourself:
It's almost 90 degrees (32C)
You're in a long tunnel filled with cars and trucks adding engine exhaust to the heat of the day
You're wearing a lined motorcycle jacket, heavy denim jeans, and a helmet
You're sitting on a hot running engine

It was pretty brutal.

But I made my way to Weymouth on Boston's south side and met up with TC at his church office.
He took me out for a wonderful dinner of pan seared scallops and lobster risotto. We visited like old friends and it didn't feel at all like this was our first time to sit down and visit over a meal. He took me back to the church where I reloaded the bike and made my way on down the road another hour or so before stopping for the night.

The following day I was on the road to meet with yet another long time blogging friend in the DC area of northern Virginia. Bill has met a number of his blogging friends and added me to his growing list. I don't have as many followers and have cut down on the number of blogs I follow, but I have managed to meet a few of you and would love to meet more.
I met Bill at a little diner at the Springfield Mall -- Springfield VA, that is.

One might think that two guys that met for the first time would have a difficult time with conversation, but that just wasn't the case. It was an enjoyable respite from the road, especially when you consider that I also managed to hit DC for the evening traffic!

We managed to get our waiter to take the picture and it turned out much better than if I would have attempted another selfie shot.

Then it was back into traffic for another hour or so to move a little further down the road.

I'll post more from the road trip tomorrow. If you're a reader and want to meet, let me know. I'm sure that there is a highway that connects us and a future road trip to be planned.
(And if there is a major or minor league baseball team nearby the odds of a visit increase dramatically!)

John <><

Monday, September 18, 2017

Road Trip, Home

It's Monday morning and I am sitting in my home, drinking coffee from one of my favorite mugs.

I've been perusing Facebook and thinking that I should start writing about the adventures of my journey.
The thoughts that come to me this morning are that I am so blessed to be able to do such a ride. Even though Chris has no desire to ride, she is very supportive of my doing so and is willing to stay home while I take to the road.

The early retirement (and good retirement package) that I enjoy from my service as an air traffic controller is not lost on me. I know that few people find themselves in my position at this age. We are not wealthy by any means, but we are doing quite well as middle class Americans.

Because I was traveling alone, I didn't do much sight seeing that couldn't be done from the road and on the seat of my motorcycle. I'm not disappointed about that, but it seems necessary to mention that this trip was more about the ride ... and the personal visits.

In the end, if I had to pick a favorite part of the journey, it would be the one thing that started the whole process -- visiting with my brother in Vermont.
Steve lives in a small, seasonal cabin on Lake Champlain. He lives where other people vacation or go to get away from their normal lives. He hikes and camps in the Adirondack Mountains, kayaks on the lake or on any of the mountain rivers and streams. He'll have to vacate his cabin in the winter (lake living is seasonal and some services like water and septic are off during the winter) and find another place to live for a few months. Last year, he wintered in a house on nearby Mt Philo.

As I was preparing to leave, Steve picked up a voice mail from a friend asking if he was going camping on the weekend and if they could tag along.
Yep -- when others are starting to think that it's getting a little chilly to escape to the lake, he's packing up for a primitive camp in the mountains!

I really enjoyed our visit. We talked about our kids and what great adults they've turned out to be. We talked about life, family, work, and whatever came to mind. We ate a pizza by the lake as the sun set over the mountains, hiked up Mt Philo, toured the Shelburne Museum, walked the lake walk in Burlington and visited some of the shops, and we took the kayaks out for a paddle on the lake. (I kind of got my fat ass stuck in the kayak!)  I ate Steve's vegan diet at his place and indulged in a burger at the Vermont Pub and Brewery in Burlington, and a roast beef sandwich at his friend's after our hike.
In spite of the activity, it was a relaxing couple of days.
Did I mention that it was my favorite part of the journey?

Because I'm not much of a selfie picture taking guy, I regret that I didn't snag a pic of the two of us. I didn't think of that until I was riding through the Green Mountains on my way out of Vermont. I also missed the early photo ops with Mom and Dad, Aaron and Jenny, and Jo and Gord.
At least I was able to get a few pics with people after that.

I'll have more on the people, places and food in future posts.
Today, I'm going to enjoy being home.

John <><

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Road Trip, Riding the Dragon

Today was a short mileage day, but a fun mileage day.
I checked off a motorcycle bucket list item and rode the Dragon.
Along the way I had some great conversations with shop owners and other riders.

As with the rest of the trip, I'll work on posting more about the ride when I get back home and have time to sort it out in my head. Until then, here are a few pics from the day.

John <><

Road Trip, Day 11 Changing plans

So one of the freedoms of no schedule is being able to change plans mid-trip.

I'm to the place that I can ride two pretty moderate days or three pretty easy days to wrap things up. I'll be honest -- I'm looking forward to being home. Living out of a suitcase when you're staying in one place for a week or so is one thing; changing locations everyday is a figurative pain in the butt.

I'm thinking of going two days and I think I'll stretch them a bit and swing to the south and add a few more states to the list. If I head south to Huntsville AL, I'll drive the eastern part of Tennessee, cut the corner of Georgia and then pick up Mississippi and Arkansas on the way home. I'll miss Kentucky (which was on my planned route), but gain the four other states.

So far I've managed to touch MO, IL, IN, MI, VT, NH, ME, MA, RI, CT, NY, NJ, DE, MD,VA and NC. I also managed DC in rush hour and traveled two Canadian provinces.

I guess if I'm going to do that, I should get going! I'll write about the journey when I'm sitting comfortably on my own sofa and sipping a cup of coffee.
Until then, here are a couple of pics from the people I visited with yesterday.

The lady that kept NATCA together for my entire career and her soon-to-be husband

My new great nephew

...oh yeah, and his parents!

More later.
Be safe and keep an eye out for old guys on motorcycles.

John <><

Friday, September 15, 2017

Road Trip, not an update

I know I should be keeping up with the daily reports, but freedom is a wonderful thing and I just haven't.
I had planned to over coffee this morning, but find that my laptop is dead and it's too nice to have coffee inside. I'm going to continue sitting outside and will have to update you when I have my laptop charged and am not thumb tapping on my phone.

Let's just say that I am enjoying the ride!
I've visited with family and friends. I've met some new people and seen some of the beauty of the land.

I'm sure today will be another grand day!
Be safe!

John <><

Monday, September 11, 2017

Road Trip, Day 6

Yesterday afternoon I arrived at my brother's place in Charlotte VT.
The ride from Cornwall, Ontario was just beautiful. I probably should have stopped and taken a few pictures when crossing over the St Lawrence Seaway, but that isn't really my thing and I'm sure that the pictures wouldn't be an accurate representation of the beauty of the waterway.

I crossed the border into the US along with a couple of Canadian riders out for a Sunday ride. It was a husband and wife team, each riding their own Harleys and each in their upper 60s to around 70. We chatted briefly while waiting in line and then after crossing. They noticed my Missouri plate and were just asking about my ride. Earlier, I had met a man on his way home to Connecticut from visiting his girlfriend in Chicago. We had both stopped for fuel. I was leaving when he was going to get something to eat.

Last night I really enjoyed visiting with Steve. We picked up a pizza for dinner and found a place by the lake to eat and watch the sunset.

This is really a beautiful place. We watched the sun set, enjoyed dinner and marveled at peace and serenity of the lake.

This morning we had some tasty pancakes for breakfast -- banana, nuts, blueberries! Yum.

We picked up a neighbor's dog on our way to Mt Philo for a nice hike.
The dog was along to help us find our way down the trails since Steve admits to getting lost on occasion. Yeah, Daisy saved the day -- twice!

We made it back to Daisy's place and had a nice lunch while talking about Vermont and my travels when I leave here on Wednesday.

Here are some pics from our hike.

We also visited the Shelburne Museum this afternoon.
It's dinner time. I don't know what Steve is preparing, but it smells delicious.

John <><

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Road Trip, Sunday morning, Day 5

I know.
I haven't been very faithful in posting updates, but it's mostly because I've either been visiting or riding.
Or sleeping.

I'm using the wifi at Starbucks in Cornwall, Ontario this morning while munching on an Oatmega protein bar and sipping the usual Venti 5 shot Americano.

So let's back up and begin with Day 3.
I arrived in Chicago Thursday afternoon after having breakfast and lunch at Mom and Dad's place in Metamora. Traffic going into the city was a little heavier than I expected, but not too bad. Aaron and I met Jenny as she was walking to the condo and then went to Lagunita's for dinner. I had a spicy curried pork bowl that was very good and probably more healthy than my normal Lagunita's Hogunitas sandwich!
Our visit was pretty short since the kids have that adulting thing to do in the morning. I decided to just get up and leave when Aaron left for work, getting an early start to the day. It's a good thing I did because I forgot about the time zone change as I was heading east.

I rode the morning traffic out of Chicago and was in northwest Indiana before I stopped for coffee and a breakfast sandwich at Starbucks. I expected to be able to ride for a while before stopping for gas, but that all changed when it started to rain. I pulled over, filled up early and donned the rain gear. It was a light manageable rain and lasted for about 30 minutes. Since the day was cool anyway, I just rode with the added layer and was comfortable.
I had selected a route on Google maps that showed a ferry crossing from Detroit into Canada. I began to have my doubts as the road to the ferry went through a rather industrial area and then turned to a gravel road for about 1/4 mile or so. It ended in a quaint little yacht club with some nice boats -- but no ferry dock!
There was I nice guy working in the club house that informed me that Google had lied to me. There was no ferry. He directed me to the Bridge to Canada and I wound my way back through the industrial area and Detroit city streets and eventually made my way into Canada. At the border, the Canadian crossing guard asked me what I was doing in Canada and I told him I was visiting friends north of Toronto on my way to Vermont. He also asked if this was my first visit to Canada. I told him no and he asked when I why I had come in the past. I told him last September to visit the same friends. He said, "So this is an annual thing?"
I said, "No, but I like the way you're thinking!"

The drive across Ontario to Toronto was pretty uneventful -- other than the occasional rain showers and miles (or kilometers) of construction and single file traffic. About the time I reached Toronto and needed the navigation, my phone died. Through it all, I ended up at the campground much later than expected. Dinner was ready -- smoked ribs! -- and it was delicious!
It was grand to visit with Jo and Gord. Jo insisted on sending pictures to Chris, guaranteeing my banishment to the proverbial doghouse. We sat out and visited until late. It is really amazing the connection we made with these friends that we met on a Mexican vacation several years ago.
It was well past 1AM when we turned in for the night. Gord had to work Saturday morning, but I got up early to have coffee with them and then spent the morning visiting with Jo before getting on the road and heading eastward again.

I spent the night in Cornwall, Ontario, bringing the trip mileage to 1400 so far.
The scenery across lower Ontario is beautiful! As I moved further northeast along the seaway, the leaves on the trees began showing their colors. Ugh! I'm not a fan of fall.
There is a border crossing here in Cornwall, but I'm going to travel a little farther east to check off another Canadian province. I'll turn south after crossing into Quebec.

I'll write more later. For now it is past time for me to get on the road.

John <><

Friday, September 08, 2017

Road Trip, early Day 3

I'm just taking a morning coffee break at a Starbucks, somewhere in NW Indiana.
I left when Aaron left for work and rode the early morning Chicago traffic until clear of it and now I'll enjoy a leisurely cup of coffee or two. The downside is that I'll have to make another stop relatively soon after starting again, but that's the price one pays for indulging in the very nectar of life.

I zipped the liner into my riding jacket this morning and went with just a t-shirt underneath. I was thinking I might be a little warm while I was loading up the bike, but feel pretty comfortable on the road.

I'll be back later with a full day's update from the highway.

John <><

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Road Trip, Day 2

Today was an easy day.
I slept in and then we went out to breakfast.

Last night Dad told me that when Mary (my sister) was home last week, they took her out to dinner and a movie. He said that's why we had dinner at home. I kidded them about needing to be the first kid to visit. Maybe that's why they took me out to breakfast!

We went back to the house and visited until after lunch when I loaded up the bike and started out to Chicago. I encountered a little more traffic than expected, but made it to Aaron and Jenny's without any problems. We walked to Lagunita's for dinner and are back at the kids' place to visit and watch a little Cardinal baseball.

Tomorrow will be the first long day -- 560 miles.
I'll get an early start and take my time along the way. I imagine I'll stop for coffee and breakfast once I clear most of the Chicago traffic. I really don't know what the day will hold or where or how often I'll stop. I'm hoping to make it to the Canadian camp ground in the early evening.

Today's ride wasn't as windy as yesterday, or it didn't feel as windy with some of it being at my back. That may be the case again tomorrow. I might use my helmet radio for a little while tomorrow. Maybe not. I enjoy riding with nothing but the sound of the wind and the bike.
Not much in the way of adventure today, just some relaxing visiting with family.

John <><

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Road Trip, Day 1 (and a bonus story)

Back when I was still working for a living, most of the conversation as an air traffic controller at SGF was either about air traffic stuff, complaining about management, or deciding where we going for the shift's chow run.
Since the one thing that we all had in common outside of ATC was that we all liked to eat (every day as it turned out), food was a common topic. We talked about places we had been, places we'd like to try, food we created at home, etc. I'm not sure if it was that way with everyone because I heard (more than once), "How come we always end up talking about food when I work with you?"

And it wasn't just controllers.
Once we had a private plane that flew in from LOT, which is close to where we used to live. After asking the pilot if Romeoville/Lockport was his home base (it was), I asked him if the Pagoda House was still there. His response was, "Oh man! That's our favorite restaurant!"
My trainee was like, "So do you know a restaurant in every city?"

During another food conversation with the same trainee, he was telling me about a place that had the best fried chicken gizzards in a little gas station near where he went to school. I stopped him and asked, "Is that the gas station at Buckhorn?"

He just looked at me with his mouth hanging open.
When he finally got it working again, he said, "How could you possibly know that?"
I told him that I stop there all the time and even though I don't get the gizzards, I do get other things like the fried catfish filets, chicken tenders or fried mushrooms!

Anyway, this little place isn't too far from home but just the right distance if you've put away a pot of coffee before hitting the road (about 85 miles).
I stopped for lunch at Lion's Choice in Sullivan since I was going to need gas soon anyway. Two roast beef sandwiches, a diet Dr Pepper and a full tank of gas lasted me until Springfield IL.
I took a little time to re-hydrate, walked a bit, talked to another guy that pulled in to fill up his bike and then finished my ride at bit over 400 miles for the day.

Mom had dinner ready when I arrived.
Chicken and pork adobo, rice, garden fresh green beans, sliced tomatoes (also garden fresh) and deviled eggs. YUM!
We had a nice visit, watched a couple of ballgames and made a call to my nephew and his wife in North Carolina. They are expecting the birth of their son any day now! Once again I will be officially declared a GREAT Uncle. If Irma will cooperate by keeping her rain to the coast or back out to the North Atlantic, I may get to see the little guy on my return trip. We shall see.

All in all, I am declaring the day a good day. It was cool and a bit windy, but a fine day to ride. Traffic was easy and my pack provided a nice back rest. Tomorrow's ride (Thursday) will be short -- just 125 miles or so to Chicago to see Aaron and Jenny.

John <><

Just a thought...

Megachurch pastor Joel Osteen has recently come under fire for his response to Hurricane Harvey. I haven't said anything nor responded to posts about him because I really don't feel I know enough about his situation to weigh in on the issue.
What I will say is there is a definite (and expected) disconnect from the reality that the majority of Americans deal with and the life of those that are privileged beyond what we can imagine.

Not long ago, I checked on the contract of a major league relief pitcher -- not a star, just a guy in the bullpen that sees some action once in a while. Even though I was amazed by this 20-something's salary, it was far below the league average of over 4 million dollars/year plus a $100/day meal allowance.
And that is nothing compared to Osteen wealth or Trump wealth or any number of celebrities that get the money and the platform to speak out and be heard. There are a number of celebrities that I follow on Twitter or Instagram. On one hand they often seem to be very genuine and the kind of person I might like. On the other hand, they have no idea what it is like to live in my simple world and would doubtfully take the time to say a few words to a random fan if I were to encounter them somewhere (I can't imagine where) along my life's journey.

St. Louis Cardinal Matt Carpenter said he would donate $10,000 to Harvey relief for every home run he hits for the rest of the season. Pitcher Adam Wainwright and the St. Louis Cardinals said they would match it. That's great and I'm glad they're doing that. Matt's 2017 contract is for $10 million and Adam's is for $19.5 million! These guys make more in a 3 hour ballgame than most people make in a year!

Don't get me wrong -- I'm not begrudging them their wealth. I'm just pointing out that their world is far different from the majority of us. Their kids will never be among the millions of kids that look forward to school simply because they know they'll get a good meal (or two) each and every school day. A car breakdown or bad appliance isn't going to stress the budget or mean no vacation to the campground this weekend.
The truth is -- even in my middle class life in the Ozarks, I live in a far different world than many of the people of my community.

And I often feel like I have no voice and no platform from which to speak.
How helpless and hopeless other must feel. Even with a disaster, they are not much more than a temporary news item. Their personal life disruption will go on long after the media attention and the money go away.

I don't really know if this little rant has a point or not.
Maybe I'm just realizing that some people may not seem to care -- not because they are uncaring, but simply because they have no idea of the struggles going on in the lives of the people around them.

John <><

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

It's Time! (well almost)

It is the eve of The Road Trip!

I am pretty much packed (with the exception of a few things like my C-pap machine, computer, etc.) and ready to go. I gave the bike the once over today, cleaning it up and checking the fluid levels, lights and such. Even though I did pack a couple of sweaters, I almost forgot to pack the inner lining to my motorcycle jacket. I have my rain gear packed and expect that I may be needing it somewhere along the way.
I'll be keeping a watch on Hurricane Irma and where the rain tracks once she makes land fall. I may skip the southern return route and end up at UFC Pittsburgh after all.

Be safe.
Watch out for old guys on motorcycles. I'm one of 'em.

John <><

Sunday, September 03, 2017


With the calendar advancing to September and Labor Day weekend upon us, it is the unofficial end to summer in the US. Chris and I spent yesterday at the lake with friends which is a fine way to spend a day.

Late summer/early fall is hurricane season for the coastal states, and as the Texas and Louisiana states recover from the effects of Harvey, Florida and the east coast states are keeping an eye on Irma.
I am also keeping an eye on Irma as she has the potential to change my ride plans in the coming weeks.
I suppose that sounds pretty trivial and insensitive to those that may experience great damage compared to my inconvenience, but that is just how the storm track may affect my plans.

September also brings the beginning of football season in the US (that's American football, for my international friends), or so I'm told. As I have mentioned before, I do occasionally watch football...
...after baseball season is over (which it pretty much is for the Cardinals)
...and if there isn't a hockey game on.
Fortunately, MMA has no season and it is pretty easy to find a fight to watch on any given weekend.

Tuesday, Sept 5, is our 36th anniversary. We're taking advantage of the weekend and will be out later today for an early celebration. It has been an incredible journey to this point and I am looking forward to what the future has in store for us as we continue this road together. I am especially looking forward to when Chris retires and the schedule no longer includes work days!

Perhaps it's a good thing that Chris has to work Monday and Tuesday of this week because I have plenty to do to get ready for my trip. September is also grass growing season and I'll need to mow the lawn before I hit the road. I also need to do laundry and pack in a way to carry on the motorcycle. The bike is ready, but needs a good pre-trip cleaning, as well as a final check of everything. Wednesday morning is travel day #1!
I am looking forward to the solace of the road and the sound of the wind. Although I have intentions to write as I travel, I also hope to disconnect a bit from the pull of the internet and social media. We'll see how that goes.

Enjoy the weekend!

John <><

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Sons and Daughters

As a parent, there is nothing quite like seeing your kids become adults that you admire and like to be around.

This past week, mother and daughter (Chris and Hannah) joined with a few thousand other Southwest Missourians in a peaceful demonstration as POTUS #45 made a brief stop in Springfield. This was their second joint demonstration. Perhaps, one day I'll be bailing them out of jail.

I'm happy that Hannah has found her political voice and is willing to exercise it in the public arena. She is articulate (like you'd expect of an English major) and can clearly state her position and her objections to the position of others. She is not hateful, but she can be a bit fierce at times. If you are an underprivileged or disadvantaged person, she is on your side and will fight for your rights and benefit.

Aaron is also someone that I am quite proud of and I am looking forward to seeing him next week as I begin my long motorcycle trek. The following is his response to the Nashville Statement that you may have heard about. If you haven't read it -- you can do so, here: https://cbmw.org/nashville-statement/

This is put together from his response on twitter, his social media network of choice.

 Via Twitter @aaronbaronhill: "Ok. Here goes. My thoughts on the Nashville Statement. It's lazy theology. It does not include a single explicit scripture reference outside of the portion of Ps. 100:3 before the preamble. It does implicitly reference many times the practical theology of the charter signers. I argue that by not explicitly referencing scripture throughout the charter signers elevate their held beliefs, and this statement above the Word of God which is exactly what the Statement accuses the LGBTQ+ targets of doing: putting their own desires above God's.This is to say nothing of whether I am in agreement or disagreement with the content, but EVEN IF they are 100% in line with God on this they have still idolized their own wisdom and knowledge above the very Word of God by not citing where the biblical basis is for this. I'm not going to go into great detail how I feel about the content here, but I'll say there are parts I affirm and parts I deny. But all of it is lazy theology, and even lazy theology that is grounded in fact destroys more than it helps. God has strong feelings about when his people attempt to do a good thing the wrong way. In 2 Sam 6, David commissions a team of men and oxen to bring the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem. Rather than having it carried by Levites, he had it pulled by a team of oxen. The cart it is pulled on breaks and Uzzah tries to save it by catching it. God killed him immediately. It was good for David to bring the Ark to Jerusalem, but he did it the wrong way & 1 of his men was punished. Maybe if David had consulted the scriptures before authorizing a movement like this Uzzah wouldn't have died. It is not easy to tell from the Nashville Statement whether or not the charter signers consulted scripture. I hope for their sake and the Church's that the punishment is not as severe as in the case of Uzzah. Finally, I pray for my friends who are feeling less human today because of this statement. I love you and so does the God of the universe."

I like his response in that it address the theology of the statement (by theologians) rather than attacking the statement directly. It is well thought out and distilled into several 140 characters or less statements -- brief and to the point. (I should mention that the story of David returning the Ark to Jerusalem is one of my favorites!)

Anyway -- I have things to do this morning (like go to the lake for the day).
I just wanted to take a moment to brag on my kids.

Proud dad,
John <><

PS -- If you are enjoying this Labor Day weekend or the benefits provided by organized labor (and you are), thank a Union member!

Monday, August 28, 2017

Miscellaneous Monday

Just some random thoughts on a Monday afternoon --

This morning was our semi-annual dentist visit. Chris found a new dentist since we were not happy with our former dentist. As first impressions go, this one is much better. Chris took the earlier appointment and by the time I got there, I didn't need to worry about any of the first visit insurance stuff -- I just told them it was the same as hers.
Visits were okay, as dentist visits go. She finished first and went home to wait on me.

We went to Springfield for a light lunch and a couple of errands. She just dropped me off at a Starbucks where I'll kill some time while she takes care of some other things.

This past weekend, we went to a memorial service/family reunion for one of Chris' cousins. Her cousin had been living in Florida and the funeral service for her there was several weeks ago when she died. The get together on Saturday was for family and friends in the St Louis area that were unable to make it to Florida. The memorial service was simple and pleasant and was followed by lunch in the park and visiting with family and friends.
Over the years, we have had very little interaction with Chris' cousins, so I didn't really know anyone other than her sister and brother in law. I did know her cousins and aunt, but wasn't positive of their names and didn't really know which kids or spouses went with which cousins.
I think Chris has had a little more exposure to my cousins, but it is also pretty limited. Our mobile society has dispersed many families.

Since Chris is more social than I am (and also more likable), she has connected with many of my cousins through Facebook and I have connected with none of her cousins.
Just an observation.

Again, there are certainly many benefits to social media and its connectivity. I have to admit that I have purposely chosen to keep my Facebook group relatively small. I guess that is also true of my actual friends, too.

It's a little ironic that we have access to so much information and yet choose to remain ignorant of many of the issues that affect the people that live around us. We seem to be pretty keen on checking out that which affects us directly, but even so, we remain largely misinformed because we choose to believe what we want to believe rather than checking things out for ourselves. Most information that we read on the internet can be easily verified or shown to be false.
We should probably do a better job of checking things out.

Just as social gatherings have me thinking about social interactions, memorial services and news of friends or relatives dying gets me to thinking about how temporary and fragile human life is.
Whether we run the distance and live life to an old age or cash in our chips with many fewer years, this is but a temporary dwelling. I wonder if death is easier to deal with if you have no belief in an afterlife. Does believing that the end is the end make it more or less final than believing in the hope of heaven?

I wonder if that changes if you are the person that is dying or one of the persons that is left living.
My own beliefs are that there is a God and a final judgment. There is a heaven to be gained and a hell to be shunned. I believe that Jesus was serious and truthful when He said, "I am the way and the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father  except by me."

I know that there are people from around the globe that read this simple blog from time to time. I can only imagine that there are many different beliefs about life, death, and eternity. While I have listened as others remember loved ones, I can't imagine that my own passing will leave much of a void. Sure, there will be a few that will miss me, but life goes on and the day to day grind quickly fills the void for all but those that are the closest.
After all, death is just a part of life.

It could be that we won't make a grand difference to a large group of people in life, but perhaps we can make a small difference for one person for today. Maybe changing a life is too great of a challenge for most of us; changing a moment for someone should be doable.
A call.
A text.
A word of encouragement.
A smile.
I know it's not a big difference, but it is a difference.

John <><

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Long Ride

It's getting closer to my long ride and I am starting to get excited about it. I spoke with my brother yesterday and I have been looking at possible routes and points of interest along the way.

I have to admit that I am more focused on the journey itself and am having to force myself to think about stopping and enjoying more than just the ride. Some of the days will cover quite a few miles, so there won't be a lot of time for sight seeing. Other days will find me in cities with all of my gear strapped to the bike and no way to really secure it from being stolen.

There are a few people I would like to see on my journey and I still need to coordinate with them. It is difficult to know what my daily plans will be since I'm wanting to keep it pretty loose and make some allowances for weather or unforeseen problems.
I think the outbound ride to my brother's place in Vermont will be pretty straight forward.

Right now I'm planning a relatively short Day 1 with a 400+ mile day and an overnight at my parents' home in Metamora IL. I hope to visit with them through most of the following day before making the short ride (125 miles) to Chicago to see Aaron and Jenny.
Leaving Chicago will be a long day as I clip the northwest corner of Indiana and then cross southern Michigan on the way to visit my Canadian friends north of Toronto.
From there, I'll ride to Montreal and then drop down to Vermont for a few days with my brother.

It's after Vermont that things are less clear.
Initially, I plan to make my way to Kittery Point ME. Mostly, it's just to add a couple of more states to the journey. I'll skirt the Boston metropolitan area, pass through Rhode Island and Connecticut and plan on making my way through the NYC area past the Statue of Liberty. As much as I'd like to spend some time in NYC, I probably won't. I'd rather see it with Chris (although she has been there many years ago) and I'd need a place to stash my stuff while I sight see.
I suppose I could find a hotel and use public transport or cabs ... we'll see.

Mileage wise, that's about the halfway point.
From there I'll ride into New Jersey, clip Pennsylvania at Philadelphia, cut through the northern tip of Delaware into Maryland, go around DC and into Virginia. There are a couple of friend stops in Virginia before heading through North Carolina (maybe a stop to see my nephew and his wife and new baby) to the Tail of the Dragon.
Then it will be westward through Tennessee until Nashville, then north to Kentucky and home across southern Missouri.

If that route holds, I'll touch 18 states and 2 Canadian provinces in the 4,000 mile trek over nearly two weeks.

If you know of a must see place along the way or a dive restaurant that is a can't miss establishment, let me know. If you're close to my route and want to meet for coffee or a snack, let me know that, too.
I should be hitting the road around the 6th or 7th of September and back home around the 19th.

Watch out for old guys on motorcycles!

John <><

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Eclipse 2017 ... and 2024

I'll give you my take on the eclipse.

Before I do that, I should tell you that I am an admirer of the celestial realm and generally keep track of upcoming events. I have been known to be up at 3 AM for meteor showers or lunar eclipses. We packed the kids to venture into the path of total annularity (May 10, 1994) for an annular eclipse when they were young and  I have called home from working a mid shift to make Chris wake them up for a spectacular meteor shower.

It still isn't that unusual for someone to call me with a question about a star, comet, event -- even when the information is available to them on the same device they are using to call me. Sometimes I think they're just testing me.

This event has been on my radar for some time and traveling a few miles to advance from 96% to the total eclipse wasn't even a question. It will come as no surprise that the 2 minutes and 31 seconds of total eclipse was an event well worth setting the day aside. The difference between 99.9 percent coverage and total eclipse is too significant not to mention.

In the hour leading up to the full eclipse, there were many interesting things that I observed.
The crowd that had gathered in the park was a mix of people from all ages. Several had telescopes with cameras attached. Most had lawn chairs. Some had blankets. I even saw a couple of air mattresses. People were talking to strangers and enjoying the day. Even the little fast food restaurant across the street from the park had a sign that notified patrons they would be closed from 1:10 to 1:25. Totality began at 1:15.

Even though it was midday and the sky was still relatively bright, the diminished daylight was enough to cue the night sounds and the birds and bugs became active. The light sensitive street lights came on. The feel of the air cooled as if you had just stepped into the shade of a large tree.

At that moment -- when everybody removed their eclipse glasses and looked at the total eclipse -- a spontaneous cheer and applause happened. Then the sounds of the crowd became more muted as people looked on in wonder and amazement. It makes me a little sad that we have overused the word awesome because this event was truly an awe inspiring event.

I don't have any pictures to post -- and I'm not sure if I would post any pics, even if I had them. I've seen pictures of an eclipse and there is no way to convey the raw feeling of experience. The difference between this and the annular eclipse was ... well, astronomical!
If you were indifferent about the eclipse or unable to get into the belt of totality, I would encourage you make every effort to see a total eclipse the next time you have the opportunity.

As most of you are already aware, the next total eclipse to pass over the US is April 8, 2024. Even though it will pass through Southeast Missouri, I'm thinking that the beach in Mazatlan on Mexico's Pacific coast will offer a more enjoyable view. Is it too early to start planning a trip to the beach for the spring of 2024?
Whether you watch it from Toronto, Ontario in Canada, Poplar Bluff, MO in the US or Mazatlan, Sinaloa in Mexico, you owe it to yourself to see it.

The next total eclipse will only be visible in South America.
July 2, 2019 might be a good time to visit Argentina!

John <><

Friday, August 18, 2017

Black Lives Matter

I struggle to write this post.
My thoughts are such a jumble as the emotions of anger and frustration overwhelm the desire to be orderly and eloquent. Parts of my brain are screaming while other parts are silent and without words. I don't want to ramble from one random topic to another, but I fear that if I don't start somewhere, I will wait too long to capture the moment and appeal to the indignation of others that feel the same types of emotions.

I have been surprised and disgusted by some of the posts and comments that are on social media. I get that most white people don't have any understanding of their own privilege, but that is not an excuse to turn deaf ears to those that are oppressed. Their oppression is not a figment of their imagination. It is real.

Maybe that's a good place to begin.
Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter is not a hate group or a movement that discriminates against whites or any other race or ethnic group. It is a movement to create an awareness (among whites) that blacks are disproportionately targeted and killed by law enforcement and that black deaths are not pursued and prosecuted at the same rate as white deaths. It does not mean that cop lives or white lives matter less. It calls attention to black lives that are largely ignored by others.

The response of "All lives matter" or "Blue lives matter" ignores the reality of the disparate treatment of black lives. I know that is difficult for white people to understand so let me give you an example.

We get group tickets to a baseball game. Twenty of us go to the game and sit together. Our tickets include a hotdog and soda. Everybody gets a dog and a large drink in one of those large plastic souvenir cups, but your drink comes in a large disposable paper cup.
You say, "I want a plastic cup."
The response is, "We all want a plastic cup."

Do you see how that tells the truth but does nothing to address the inequality?
It completely ignores your issue.
As a matter of fact, it kind of puts you down for asking for fair treatment.
That is exactly what "All lives matter" says to those that are trying to bring awareness to an injustice. It says that your injustice doesn't matter to anybody but you.

Listening to others -- actually listening to them -- is the beginning of understanding. We need to put ourselves in their place and hear with their ears, see with their eyes, feel with their heart. When we get to that place, listen to what we have said and know the frustration they know. Even though we mean no harm, our indifference does contribute to the continuing injustice.

If you can get to that place of understanding, it will give you a different perspective on a lot of things -- including the Confederate flag and Confederate statues.
But that's a rant for another day...

John <><

Monday, August 14, 2017

We could all use some Good News!

I was blessed yesterday to be able to teach the Bible study for Hopedale's Youth group last night.
The opportunity came due to our Youth Pastor needing to be out of town for some personal family business.

Since my current Bible reading is in the Old Testament Book of Genesis, it seemed natural to go there for my study. I find it interesting that many feel the Old Testament isn't really relevant to our lives today. In a way, it's not. For instructions on how to live as a follower of Jesus, the New Testament is where to look. But the story of salvation is several millennia in the making and is found in the Old Book.

Story Time with Pastor John came from the old covenant that God made with Abram in Genesis 15, in hopes to convey the need for our salvation through a Savior and the difference in the covenant of the Old Testament and the New Covenant found in Jesus.

As is often the case, I don't really know how well the lesson was received and will (hopefully) get some feedback in the coming days. I was getting such feedback about last weeks evening message yesterday.

The opportunity to share was a good way to end a weekend filled with not such great news.
It makes me want to start the week by sharing some Good News --

(Yep, you guess it...)
God loves you!
Jesus died for you!

Have a Good News kind of week!

John <><

Saturday, August 12, 2017

First sadness; then anger.

I had a good day today.
We spent most of the day with friends at the Route 66 Festival in Springfield MO -- The Birthplace of US 66. There were a great number of old cars and trucks and a large area dedicated to motorcycles. There were several music venues and many food and drink vendors.

Although I was aware of the events that were taking place in Charlottesville and the potential for violence, It was pretty much out of my thoughts throughout the day. After we left the festival, Chris and I had a nice dinner out. By the time we got home, the Cardinals were in the 2nd inning. I grabbed my computer and a good cigar and headed out to the deck to watch the game and enjoy my smoke.

While watching the game on the laptop, I began to scroll through my news feed on my phone.
As saddened as I was to hear of what took place in Charlottesville, I was even more saddened by the response and non-response by many politicians and religious leaders. Some comments on posts that did speak out against the hatred and violence were downright disgusting.

Every political leader
No, make that every citizen of this country needs to stand up and condemn the racist, white nationalist bullsh*t that is being spread by this movement. There is no alt-right. It's time to quit giving it a name that sounds like they are sane people of a different political belief. They are racists. They hate anything and anyone that is different from them. They want to take this country by force. They spew hatred, bring violence and blame others for their lack of ingenuity and intelligence.
Their leaders know what to say (and what not to say) to inspire hatred and followship; all the while acting as if they, themselves are innocent.

There is no place for such racist thinking in our society.
There is no defense for anyone that does not stand against such hatred.
There can be no neutrality on this issue.
Not from politicians.
Not from clergy.
Not from responsible citizens.

There will be no more silence from Out of My Hat.
While I don't plan on daily political rants; neither will I avoid them as I have in the past. If that's too much for you, I would suggest moving on.
Yes, I am angry! Most of you that read this are not the objects of my anger, but there are a few ...

I will call out racism, hatred and stupidity when I see it.
You should, too.

John <><

Self Esteem Boost for #45

It's been reported that President Trump has a folder delivered to him (twice each day) with pages of positive things the news media has said about him.

You wouldn't expect the guy sitting in the White House to need a self esteem boost. Maybe that's why I'm sitting here in my simple home in Ozark MO, typing a silly blog on my laptop -- I've never hired anyone to look for positive comments about me!

I suppose that would be a full-time job! I'm content to not have anybody know about me, much less write or publish something good about me. How is it that a guy that was elected President of the United States of America has to be told how great he is?

Maybe we need to recruit Hans and Franz from the old SNL shows to come by twice a day and

Or Senator Franken of MN could send him some Stuart Smalley clips -- "You're good enough. You're smart enough. And doggone it, people like you!"

Would that help him feel better about himself?

Even though it's reported that White House staffers have dubbed the folder the propaganda folder, Stephen Colbert is quick to point out that propaganda is supposed to convince the masses to love the leader, not convince the leader to love himself!

Sheesh ... when can we get a grown up in the White House?

Sorry for the rant.
John <><

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Making God Look Bad Makes Us Look Bad

A Southern Baptist Pastor that delivered a message on the morning of President Trump's inauguration has said that God wants President Trump to "take out" Kim Jong Un of North Korea.

Geez! I'm not sure who looks worse after a statement like that -- God or the loud mouth jerk that claims to speak for him. I've really had enough of self serving, self-righteous, self-proclaimed Christians spewing false teachings in the name of little g - god!

Those that know me understand that I mean no irreverence to the God of the universe, but rather make the claim that the self-serving god of these false teachers is not the God of the Bible.
While I do believe that God calls on us to expound on the scriptures, I also believe that he calls on us to do so in a way that can be verified by the scriptures. I don't say that Jeffress isn't speaking for God because I disagree with him. I say it because his words disagree with the Bible.

I will give him the leeway to say that the Bible does say that all authority on earth is given by God and that the President has limited authority when it comes to war and putting our nation at risk (Congress has the ultimate say so in declaring war), but I don't think that God has confided in Pastor Jeffress that it is a part of His plan to have President Trump take out North Korea and put us at war.
And I don't think that most Christians or most Southern Baptists feel that way, either.

A clear example of the old saying -- Better to remain silent and thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.

John <><

Monday, August 07, 2017

Monday, Monday ... no big deal

That's right, folks. It 's just another day in the life of a retired guy.
But this particular day is a little bit different and it is fitting that it falls on a Monday.

Typically, Sundays are good days. I spend many Sundays away from my home church of Hopedale and am often found preaching at one of the many rural churches of Southwest Missouri or traveling home from a weekend event somewhere.
Yesterday, I was home.

Sunday mornings at home mean I get to sit in with the Hopedale Youth group and be a part of their Sunday morning Bible study. It also means that I get to worship with great friends and hear one of the best preachers I know deliver his weekly sermon. By noon, I have to say that I was having a very good Sunday. God spoke to me through His people, His pastor, and His Word.

Yesterday afternoon was not a typical Sunday afternoon of napping and watching baseball. Yesterday afternoon was a day to celebrate the life of one of our church members and to offer condolences to his family.
Any Sunday with two morning service and an evening service can be physically taxing for a pastor that takes such responsibilities seriously. Add in a memorial/funeral service and some personal physical issues and it can quickly become too much.
I sensed that this might be one of those days for my pastor and asked if there was anything I could do to help. He asked if I might have a sermon in my pocket that I could use to fill in for him for the evening service.
What kind of preacher would I be if I couldn't talk about our Lord and Savior on short notice? I ended up preaching last night's service.

There are days or weeks that make you pause to think about just how fleeting life can be. In the past week, two men of our church (both much younger than me) lost their fathers (both younger than my dad). The second funeral will be this afternoon, but due to the distance (only an hour away) and our schedule we will be unable to make it.
Oddly enough, as people talked about Bill (yesterday's service) -- the life he lived as a father, husband, friend, child of God -- it wasn't my own dad I was thinking of. I was wondering what people will say of me at my funeral. I was even wondering who might show up for my funeral!

I imagine that most of the people that will be there, will be there as friends of Chris and the kids to give comfort and support to them. I somehow doubt that I will have had the impact on as many lives as Bill had. I don't expect that people will say bad things about me -- that would be in pretty poor taste. But what if people were free to say what they really thought and felt?
What would they say about me?
What would they say about you?

We are blessed with today. We should make it a day that makes a difference for somebody. I know that I will not be the out-going-talk-to-anyone-and-everyone kind of guy that Bill was. But that doesn't mean that I can't do something to encourage or strengthen someone ... today!

If you could prepare your funeral service ... for next week:
Whom would you invite?
What would they say about you?
How will you be remembered?
And by whom?

Hopefully, I'll have lots more time and can work on changing some of those answers.

John <><

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Road Trip (Going solo)!

I'm just beginning to make plans for a late summer road trip on the motorcycle. The outbound destination is to visit my brother in Vermont, but truthfully,  it's as much about the long ride as it is about the destination.
I have yet to get into the habit of making stops along the way. I'm usually happy to be on the road. For this 3,500 mile trip, I'll need to be more aware of places to stop and things to experience.

I have a few ideas of places I'd like to travel through along the way, but still need to work out a suitable plan. A few things on my list of potential stops:

Chicago (to see the kids)
Cleveland Indians baseball (they're in Cleveland on my outbound journey)
Pittsburgh for UFC Fight Night (this would be on the homeward journey)
A wide swing through Portland ME and Providence RI just to add a few more states to the trip.
Springfield VA for lunch with blogging friend
Deals Gap NC to ride the Tail of the Dragon (318 curves in 11 miles)
Return route through Louisville KY (again to add another state)
Cicero IN for an overnight visit at my sister's home.

Obviously, I am not going to be able to make all of the stops or detours for the sake of checking states off my traveled through list. Although Cleveland works well for being on the way, it isn't really where I want to stop for the night (it would be a pretty short travel day) and so I need to figure out how to secure my travel pack while I watch a ballgame.
A detour through Louisville would mean skipping the overnight at my sister's place near Indianapolis. Actually, Louisville isn't a detour if I make the run to ride the dragon.

For now, everything is just an idea or thought of what might be. I wouldn't mind stopping in NYC but since I know I won't have much time and I'll be on the motorcycle I think I'll pass this trip. The UFC Fight Night isn't a great card so even though I'd love to see it, it isn't a really big deal. I've also considered bypassing Cleveland to travel on the Canadian side of the lake and visit our friends near Toronto.

A few days visiting with my brother at his lake cabin will be a nice break to the motorcycle travels. I'm looking forward to a little kayaking, a good visit and the serenity of the lake setting.

If anyone has thoughts or suggestions, feel free to comment. I expect to be on the road beginning around the 6th or 7th of September and back around the 19th or so. I am enjoying checking out the possibilities and looking at the map to see where the road might take me.

John <><

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Thoughts on UFC 214

I didn't get to watch most of UFC 214 because of our family reunion. I did see the main event, the decision of the co-main event and video of the other fights.
As far as the actual fights go, I guess I don't have much to say.

There has been some pretty strong criticism of Tyron Woodley, the winner and still champion of the welterweight division. The UFC President feels strongly that it is the job of the fighters to bring exciting fights that put butts in the seats and sell PPV subscriptions. The Chosen One (T Woodley) figures it's his job to do whatever is necessary to win. I know that Saturday night's fight was a slow moving, 25 minute event, but the champ retained his title. I'm hoping that the champ will continue to remain classy in spite of the derogatory comments by the UFC.
If the UFC doesn't want to promote the champ, perhaps they can do just as well (financially) by promoting the fight or the challenger. After all, if making money is the object, does it really matter which fighter is the draw in a fight?
I think letting Woodley defend his belt in his hometown of St. Louis would be a good draw and he can defend it against the guy that he defeated to win it! I believe that he would show that he is capable of doing whatever it takes to win.

In the main event, the challenger Jon Jones regained his title by defeating Daniel Cormier (DC).
The two have had quite the rivalry over the years that has done damage to each of their reputations in my opinion. Jones has not been the kind of champion or athlete that you would want for a role model for your own kids. Whether DC's smack talk and out of the octagon interviews were a part of the pre-fight hype or not, I feel they have diminished his reputation as a person, as well.
In the end, Jones had some very good things to say about his opponent and DC acknowledged Jones' talent as a fighter (he always has).

I know that much of the pre-fight garbage is to get people to buy tickets or increase the viewing audience size, but the UFC has become like the WWE in that regard. I enjoy watching a good fight for the fight, and good fighters for their skill in the octagon rather than for their loud mouths and trash talking. I actually prefer fighters that show respect for their opponents and exhibit the kind of sportsmanship that we were taught when I was growing up. Maybe that's just a part of being old and a curmudgeon-in-training...

In any case, it is now time for the post fight evaluations. Perhaps DC will decide it's time to retire and continue with his career as a fight analyst with Fox. Jones is calling out Brock Lesnar in hopes of a big payday super fight.
UFC President Dana White has changed his mind about giving the winner of the Woodley/Maia fight a bout with returning superstar GSP and said that GSP will fight middleweight champ Micheal Bisping at a future date. The Bisping/GSP fight is another one of those fights that is about making money for the organization rather than letting the top contenders fight for the belt. Bisping has yet to defend his belt against a real contender -- but at least he has the mouth to talk a good fight. He is a veteran of the octagon and a good fighter but he'd rather tell you about it than demonstrate it and the UFC knows he's more valuable to keep as champ than to have him lose the belt to a less outspoken champion.

And yet, I still watch and enjoy the fights.
Just thinking out loud, so to speak...

John <><