Sep 13

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Day two and three, what a contrast

With over 1,100 miles behind me, I am sitting at my campsite in Hillsborough State Park, in Florida. My arrival into St. Andrews yesterday was quite late, after a long, slow and partly disappoint ride. The morning did actually start out quite nicely, leaving the New Orleans area, and shortly afterwards leaving the interstate towards the coast. The white sands of the Mississippi gulf coast were quite a wonderful sight. I stopped a few times to take photos, touch the sand, and to get acquainted with the area. I even made a nice, and unexpected discovery, as I stumbled upon the Orr-O’Keefe museum, which, even though it was closed, with its architecture of steel beams, brick and brushed metal plating created a symphony of straight and curved lines.

It was after that, that things started going south. The road became a never ending sequence of casinos, shops and high dollar condominiums, which stretch all the way through the Alabama coast and into Florida. There was a welcome and interesting break in that pattern, as I took the ferry at Dauphin Isalnd. A number of characters boarded the vessel, including a gentleman called Jeff, who worked in off-shore drilling off the coast of Equatorial Guinea. Jeff soon struck a conversation with another biker who said: “You can call me Gator, or you can call me Michael”. I was floored by Gator’s resemblance to our realtor, who goes by the same name. This was Mike alright, dressed in leather and black t-shirt, black cap, chain-wallet, folding knife clipped to his belt, and an orange Harley, metal flake paint and all.

I saw hundreds of bikers, but very few motorcyclists. Most notable of all were the happy Buddha, just like the ones at your favorite Chinese or Vietnamese restaurant, full attire (or lack there of) and all. He was riding on another big cruiser, and I assume his girlfriend was on the passenger seat since besides the two hands on the handlebars, I saw another hand, slight and feminine, on his chest. The owner of the third hand though, I never saw.

The other notable one, was a scantily clad woman wearing a bikini, and riding another cruiser. Only, it turned out to be a mirage, or maybe my aging eyes, or maybe my brain, trying to avoid trauma, as it turned out to be an old, long haired man, sagging skin freely flopping in the wind.

But besides those moment, all I saw were extravagant displays of riches, translated into mile, after mile of villas, all perfectly shaped, pergolas and porches, walls of glossy paint. I was not but I had been looking for in a coastal ride. This though did make me ask the question: “How do people who live in this material paradise, so well maintained and isolated, understand of know the poor, and the oppressed?” But the question is not just about them, the Disneyland dwellers; it is about us all.

This question remained with me all day, until I finally arrived into St. Andrews State Park, near Panama City Florida, which is itself another island of isolation, at the end of the casino-tourist drive on the road.

After setting up camp, and quickly cooking my MRE dinner, I spent sometime in observation, and in prayer. My mediations started with asking God, what I should do with my life. Eventually they turned to asking what He wants to do with my life, closing with just opening myself to saying “Take my life and do, I am in full trust of Your work”.

The night ended with a king fisher flying across my camp, followed by a heron settling over my tent, as the full moon rose over the water.

What a contrast today was. This is the way I had envisioned it. The coast turned into mile, after mile, after mile of pines, and palmettos, rivers and birds. At some point I could have sworn I saw a brown eagle alight on a tree by the road. It is hard to know how many, but I know I have crossed a multitude of waterways, always marveling at the engineering behind these long stretches of concrete. I remember that many years ago, I heard someone saying that in all of Mongolia, the paved roads added up to a total of eight miles. I am pretty sure that in the last few days, and especially tomorrow, I will ride over more than eighty miles of tarmac raised over water.

Lunch time caught me in Old Town, Florida, and true to the rules of the road, I turned into a small restaurant that advertised Cuban sandwiches. To my surprise, there were no Cubans in sight, just a blond lady, and her husband, an friendly but rough-looking guy with a Harley cap. He asked me what the deal was with the Not For Sale sign on my motorcycle, and after explaining he exclaimed: “Indeed this should not happen, but sadly it happens every day”.

I did inquire with the blond lady what the deal was with the Cuban sandwiches, she did not look Cuban after all. Indeed she is not, but she told me she had learned how to make them from a previous employee, and that even the bread was made by Cubans, who brought it in three times a week. I must say that even with the Cuban hands missing at the assembly moment, these sandwiches were just great.

Mr. GPS chose an unusual route today for me, taking me through a back road of a town, just at the time when a school bus was dropping off children. Rather than annoying me, this was a wonderful surprise, as I observed fathers waiting at the bus stops to pick up their children. I saw little ones running joyfully to hug their fathers, and in some cases climbing onto ATVs for the final ride home. This is so good, so essential, as it reminds me of the countless cases where human trafficking, and slavery begins with a broken home and an unloved child.

Now, waiting for my MRE to cool down, Cajun Style and Chicken, I listen to he cicadas, the squirrels and the owls, all calling in the humid dusk of Florida.

And, just by chance, my campsite is #27 🙂

Permanent link to this article: http://www.jaderiderjourneys.com/2endslavery/2011/09/13/day-two-and-three-what-a-contrast/


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  1. Michelle Clinch

    Thank you for inspiring me in Australia. Went home to support family during surgery and while there friend of over twenty years had marital problems ascalate dramatically. Family surgery went well but I was finding it hard to make the time for my friend in need – this is not why I came home. Then I remembered your talk at COR about riding to see the sunset and finding a person in need there that changed your outlook. I drew inspiration from this and made the time to support both my family and my friend. Her journey includes finding a new church home, so knowing that friends on the other side of the world made time for her and are praying for her meant alot. Savour your journey and draw strength in knowing that you are not always aware of all of the good you bring to the lives of those you encounter.

  2. Sandra

    “In the face of someone who loves Jesus we can trace the geography of His kingdom: we need no other map.” Malcolm Muggeridge

    Thanks Leigh, for a great followup quote for my road warrior.

    Are you going to call me back or what, dude?

  3. Sandra

    My laughter out loud was imagining Mike the realtor as the Mike the biker dude! Herons and kingfishers, royal birds or a royal entourage for a prince in the kingdom.

  4. Ade

    “The other notable one, was a scantily clad woman wearing a bikini, and riding another cruiser. Only, it turned out to be a mirage, or maybe my aging eyes, or maybe my brain, trying to avoid trauma, as it turned out to be an old, long haired man, sagging skin freely flopping in the wind.”
    This had me laughing out loud.

    “Take my life and do, I am in full trust of Your work”.
    This is something I will keep with me, something I need to remember.

    Loved the writing in this post.

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