Peggy is a Psychology Instructor and administrator at Chemeketa Community College. Except that sometimes she is a motorcycling Quaker minister and Explorer.
Number 7 - Fresh Roads
So There I was...
Looking for Fresh Road.
I have to get pretty far from home to get any fresh road these days.
When I got my first motorcycle, one of the things I did was go down to the State Department of Transportation and buy the big map of the county that I live in. It was several feet to a side and showed every road and alley within about 30 miles of my house. I started marking off each road as I covered it. Soon I had to purchase the maps for the five counties around my county. At that point my map took up a whole wall of my house and I had fresh road in every direction of me. After ten years and two bikes, it became harder to find fresh road in the State of Oregon; and Oregon is about 300 miles tall by 500 miles wide.
So around the turn of the century I was offered a preaching gig in Idaho and decided to take the opportunity to knock off some out-of-the-way roads in very far northeastern corner of Oregon.
Perhaps you do not fully understand why fresh road is so important. There is nothing that prevents the miracle in your back yard. There is nothing that even slows down sister Serendipity from meeting you at the corner grocery store if she is looking for you. The kingdom is Heaven is within you and can erupt at any time. However, the major inhibitor of that eruption is your own soul sleepiness. It is way too easy to get stuck on spiritual cruise control. Common intimacy encourages entropy.
The best way I know to break out of this is to find fresh road. I do it quite literally. Riding a road where I do not know what is around the next corner requires a level of awareness that makes me feel very lively. I have to pay attention. I cannot daydream.
I know people who can find fresh road in a laboratory that they walk into every day for years. I know people who find fresh road on a blank piece of paper, or on the well-known strings of their favorite guitar.
Still, I like the wind. The unpredictability of the weather. So I was up in the country of Chief Joseph. His precious blue lake is still there. The Appaloosa descendents of his favorite ride live and eat this year’s grass. His Spirit and the Spirit of his people flow down off those mountains towards the Snake River.
I reached the edge of the Snake after a long descent down the backside of the Wallowa Mountains on an unpaved road. I had been counting on a bridge over a dam on the map. The dam was there but it was no bridge. So like Joseph, I turned north towards Canada and several hundred miles out of my way. Unlike Joseph, my steed could not eat grass. At least there was no cavalry at my back. My limits were the limits of a gas tank, not how far you could push the elders carrying the babies on their backs. I wasn’t worried, because although the ranch houses were few and far between at that point, I knew that the ranch people kept a fill of gas cans and kindness, and the worst I could face was a walk or a wait. I talked to God and to Joseph and to the Appies in the fields.
And just after I had switched my fuel valve over to ‘reserve’ meaning that I had less than a quart left of petrol, I saw a boy. About twelve. Walking.
“Hi Lady” blonde hair, freckles, big tooth smile, Huck Finn.
“Son, I need some gasoline and I need it pretty soon.
How much trouble am I in?”
“Well, I wouldn’t know about trouble, but if you take that next gravel road up there, you can cut through to the road that goes to the place where my dad drinks his coffee and Mrs. Wright, she has a pump in the back – you might have to ask.”
“Thanks. Really, I mean it. Do you need a ride son?”
“No, m’am, my Ma would switch my butt if I got caught takin’ a ride with no helmet. Ma’s pretty strict about the helmets. I don’t have far to go.”
“Sorry I don’t have a spare, son. You take care.”
“Bye Lady – oh, and the pie’s really good – have the peach if she has any left.”
The peach pie was fabulous. The shortcut got me there in less than ten miles. Mrs. Wright did indeed have a small reserve of gasoline. I described the boy to Mrs. Wright and the ranchers taking their coffee. I was hoping to speak a good word about him and his manners to someone who knew him. Maybe leave him a small reward – though I doubted any adult would convey a reward to a boy for just being neighborly – they would expect such.
Mrs. Wright and all the ranchers were of one mind that there was no such boy of that description or even of that age, living on any ranch within 40 miles of that diner. They said they knew by name, every child within that distance. I believed them.
I did another hundred miles of fresh road that day. Wide awake.