Concluding Thoughts About My Journey

Reflections on My Journey
I spent 24 days on the road, covered over 6700 miles and crossed 18 states. A personal accomplishment for me but many people have ridden much longer and farther than I have. The record apparently goes to Emilio Scotto from Argentina. He holds the Guinness record for the world’s longest motorcycle ride: 10 years, 279 countries and a total distance of 457,000 miles (735,000 km).

So what did I learn?
I don’t know about you but I can easily get lost in ruminations about the past or worries about the future. I have some great memories and some tragic ones. But these worries and memories often rob me of enjoying the present moment. What has helped me over the years has been to try and develop “mindfulness” which is a practice anyone can do. It’s not owned by any particular religion and is no more ‘new age’ than sliced bread. My sister uses it with a cancer group that she runs. It helps the patients let go of their worries and embrace the holiness of their remaining moments.
I have tried to practice the concept of mindfulness when I ride.

Mindfulness – The Chinese character 念 is composed of two parts, the top 今 meaning “now; this” and the bottom 心 signifying “heart; mind”. Beautiful! I’ve included a good quote about mindfulness, and how to practice it, at the bottom of this entry.

So here are some things I discovered, or rediscovered.
1. That silence can be holy and healing. It’s strange to call it silence when you’re riding a 1400 cc bike with a thunderous V twin engine and you can hear its constant staccato hum. But after a while the hum sounds more like a hymn, your holy hymn and you settle into it. There’s a sense of peacefulness and patience. You’re riding through different states but mainly traveling in the state of gratitude.

2. That you have to trust the journey. Whether you believe in God, Mohammed, Taoism or whatever, most of us have a belief that there is some meaning in our lives, that things happen, good and bad, for a reason, which we may never understand. We’re on a journey and our lives have some purpose. But we also have to let go of the illusion that we have power and control over the most important things. It was hard to resist the temptation of planning how many miles I would do each day, where I would stay, what roads I would take. Hard not to use the GPS. As much as I could I tried to “abandon myself to Divine providence” (Similar to that recommended in the book by the great Christian mystic Caussade, Abandonment to Divine Providence). Of course this resulted in me getting lost a lot, like crossing the Mississippi five times when one would have been sufficient! But If I hadn’t gotten lost then I wouldn’t have taken the ferry ride across the river with the kind and generous, young river boat captain (who gave me half a tank of gas as I was about to run out) who told me about his life. Which leads me to the next realization.

3. Getting lost is good for you. I love what Barbara Brown Taylor says: “If you do not start choosing to get lost in some fairly low-risk ways, then how will you ever manage when one of life’s big winds knocks you clean off your course? I am not speaking literally here, although literal lostness is a good place to begin since the skills are the same: managing your panic, marshaling your resources, taking a good look around to see where you are and what this unexpected development might have to offer you.” Lost is the new found.

4. Riding solo was not as bad as I had imagined. I’ll confess to some fear before I left thinking about heading out on my own. What if the bike broke down in the middle of nowhere? I am almost completely incompetent when it comes to doing any mechanical repairs. If it involves anything more than spit, juicy fruit, and the Lord’s Prayer then I am out of luck. What if I had an accident? What if I got lonely? I certainly missed my riding buddy Jeff, and phoned him a few times, but being on my own was actually exhilarating. I could chat as long as I wanted with folks. No destination, no hurry. And I managed to survive without any major mishaps. The trip built up my confidence and sense of self-reliance. Still, in the back of my mind I knew that if I broke down some kind-hearted soul would stop to help me.

5. The people you meet. I went through some amazing landscapes, crossing the Mississippi, the Continental Divide, visiting the Devil’s Tower, slaloming along river hugging roads in South Dakota and Colorado, the seemingly endless holy, sacred deserts of Arizona and Texas; it was all incredible. I thought a lot about God, faith, my mortality and the capriciousness of nature. But the profoundest impact on me came from the people I met and the stories they shared. I’ve recounted most of these in the blog. It is amazing what people will share with strangers, the winsome stories of their hopes, heartaches and struggles; and the strange coincidences that have occurred in their lives, as have in ours, which brought us all to where we are now. (And, of course, as someone said, coincidence is just God’s way of remaining anonymous.) But to hear new stories we have to take the risk of treading down new paths.

6. The thoughts you have. The trip provided me with a great opportunity to practice mindfulness. Through deep breathing, especially after I almost hit the buck, (“Breathing in I calm myself, breathing out I smile”) I was able to stay calm and not overreact to events or bothersome thoughts. I was able to practice letting go of the past and worries about the future and to concentrate on the present. I don’t have this problem conquered yet, but I know what to do about it. God, the universe, can only reach us in the present.

7. Lean into the curves that life throws at you. Don’t overreact, or over control, run away from or pull back from them. You have to go through them, experience them, understand their message to you as best you can and trust that you will make it safely through them. And you will.

8. Try out new roads. We need to experiment with new roads, new paths that take us out of our comfort zone. There’s an old saying that some people prefer the security of misery to the misery of insecurity. We need to abandon the old roads and paths that aren’t working for us and have the courage, and trust, to blaze new ones. Sure, we’ll be insecure for a while but new destinations and treasures are just up the road. Relax and enjoy the ride.

9. Look where you want to go. Some of the best motorcycle advice I ever read is encapsulated in these words. Don’t focus so much on the problem at hand, focus on the solution. If you keep staring at a ditch you’re heading towards you’re likely end up in it. Instead, look where you want to go. Bikers are advised to look at where they want the bike to go, the clear, safe space up ahead, and the bike will go there. It has always worked for me, when I remember it. Have a vision of where you want to go, instead of dwelling on all the obstacles.

10. Don’t forget to gas up. Just because you’re on a journey doesn’t mean you stop thinking and planning. Rest stops on the highway and in life can be few and far between, with the amenities being abundant or sparse. And there are a lot of deserts out there. A whole lot of deserts. Trust your journey but make sure to take care of yourself and your ride.

11. Gratitude on your journey is your best companion. Within a few moments after heading off on any ride I begin to become overwhelmed by a sense of gratitude: To be alive, to have the friends and family that I do, to be on this incredible motorcycle, to feel the wind in my face, the smells, the sounds. I’m not special or unique. All of us have a tremendous amount to be grateful for. I’ve heard it said that at every moment we have everything we need to be happy. It’s our illusions that tell us that we can only be happy when we have ”this” happen, whatever “this” is –money, new job, new town, new relationship. Mindfulness and gratitude help bring us into an appreciation of the sacred moments our journey is taking us through.

What are you grateful for in your life?

Thanks for riding along. Hope you enjoyed it.

“Mindfulness is the quality and power of mind that is aware of what’s happening — without judgment and without interference. It is like a mirror that simply reflects whatever comes before it. It serves us in the humblest ways, keeping us connected to brushing our teeth or having a cup of tea. It keeps us connected to the people around us, so that we’re not simply rushing by them in the busyness of our lives.
We can start the practice of mindfulness meditation with the simple observation and feeling of each breath. Breathing in, we know we’re breathing in; breathing out, we know we’re breathing out. It’s very simple, although not easy. After just a few breaths, we hop on trains of association, getting lost in plans, memories, judgments and fantasies.
This habit of wandering mind is very strong, even though our reveries are often not pleasant and sometimes not even true. As Mark Twain so aptly put it, “Some of the worst things in my life never happened.” So we need to train our minds, coming back again and again to the breath, simply beginning again.
Slowly, though, our minds steady and we begin to experience some space of inner calm and peace. This environment of inner stillness makes possible a deeper investigation of our thoughts and emotions. What is a thought— that strange, ephemeral phenomenon that can so dominate our lives? When we look directly at a thought, we see that it is little more than nothing. Yet when it is unnoticed, it wields tremendous power.
Notice the difference between being lost in a thought and being mindful that we’re thinking. Becoming aware of the thought is like waking up from a dream or coming out of a movie theater after being absorbed in the story. Through mindfulness, we gradually awaken from the movies of our minds.”
~ Joseph Goldstein ~

We’re Big in Brazil! Who’d a Thunk It? Stats from our Blog. Thanks Brazil! Big Red Rejuvenated!

Big Red all shined up again!

One great thing about our blog is that we can see where people are viewing us from. Since we started this blog, some 16 months ago we’ve had:
3561 views by folks all over the world from
46 countries.
And the top three are!
1. USA
2. United Kingdom (includes Northern Ireland)
3. Brazil

Followed by:
4. Tied: Canada and Ireland
5. Germany
6. Australia
7. Italy
8. South Africa
9. Tied: Argentina, Chile and Spain
10. Tied: France and Mexico

While I want to thank all the folks from around the world for viewing our site a special shout goes out to Brazil!
Thanks Brazil!

Shameless Self-Promotion! Novels I’ve Written: Amazon eBooks

Leap of hopetry againThe Path to cold mountainKnights of faith

Excuse me for a bit of shameless self promotion but if you like my writings here you might like the novels I’ve written. They are available on Amazon as eBooks and if you don’t have a Kindle you can download a free app from them. Go to Amazon eBooks and just type my name in: Gene Powers
There’s murder, mystery and mayhem in them, romance and a little philosophy, humor, adventure and calamities, in locations like Ireland, China and the USA
Try them out. Thanks!

Home: People Bless You through the Sharing of Their Stories

I thought I’d add some brief pictures of other folks I met on my journey. Names are changed.
Johnny from Iran who had been living in the USA for 40 years. A skinny guy, light as a feathery dandelion, friendly, happy, and very excited as we watched the NBA playoffs. He was in his 60’s, I’d guess, worked as an office manager. He loved American sports and got literally giddy when the Spurs scored. I could tell he didn’t want me to ask questions about his past. So I respected that.
Jose from Boise, Idaho who was working as an actor in Los Angeles. Young kid, probably in his early 20’s. Energetic, excited, hoping to make it big. He couldn’t believe I had ridden across country on the bike. He talked about the different performances he had been in. He was with his friend, also from Boise…
…Zane a striking red haired, red bearded guy, barrel chested, who was confident and friendly and told me about his time in the army in Afghanistan. Retired military and said he suffered from PTSD. But now he was doing what he had always wanted to do: Act. He invited me to a play that he was performing in. He was going through a divorce with an Irish woman. It had been difficult. He had changed so much for her he said, glancing down. Jose emphatically echoed the sentiment: “You wouldn’t believe the difference. He’s almost back to his old self.” Zane smiled “I’m feeling good.”
Tim was another man I met who worked in the film industry. He was an assistant director and had worked on a film in Conyers, Georgia. It happened to be the same film my actor friend Jesse Kindred had worked on. Tim was off work early because he was going to his daughter’s graduation. He had felt bad because he had been away from home months at a time so often over the years while she was growing up. He wasn’t going to miss this event. His daughter had been suffering with anorexia but was doing well now. They have to be vigilant about watching her at meal time though. I got to see pictures of his beautiful family. His wife was from Eastern Europe and he told me how they had met.
Lucy walks dogs and is house sitting. I could smell the dogs on her. She’s reading a book about living in the “now”. “Do you know about that?” I nod, check the book and see it’s one I’ve read. We talk a little about it and before long I’m hearing bits and pieces of her history, selected , it seems, to emphasize moments in her life when people she trusted, especially men, failed her. “They all want something.” She says, eyeing me suspiciously. “I don’t”, I reply, “Except to talk.” “How do I know that?” “You don’t,” I say. 
We keep talking for another 45 minutes until she sees some man she knows. She clasps her hands on my arm, says “I’ll be back” and runs off to talk with him.
Then there was Maria, a beautiful Latino bartender I met. I came in, adjusted my eyes to the dim light and the din, and sat down at the bar. I order a Modelo, a Mexican beer and watched a bit of a World Cup match. This guy comes in, sits beside me and she starts talking to him. He gives her some presents he’s gotten her. She’s appreciative but shy. They talk, he flirts, she kisses him goodbye. Later, when she’s standing in front of me, I say: he seems like a nice guy. She leaves and I start thinking maybe that was stupid for me to say, that maybe she thinks I’m too nosey. 10 minutes later she comes back and says: “Yes, he seems like a nice guy, I’m not so sure.” Then she tells me her story. Married seven years, has a daughter who is six, going through a divorce. She’s been out with him a few times and they have a good time but now and again he does some weird things: he can’t see her at certain times, breaks dates, makes excuses; she worries he may have another girl. She says she feels, what is it? I say “vulnerable”. “Yes that’s it.” We talk. She stares straight through me. “You’re a man.” She surprised me so much by blurting this out that I almost looked down to check. “You’ve been married.” She continues. “Why would he act this way?”
I don’t have any answers, obviously. “Do you feel safe?” I ask. She nods. “Yes”. “Are you happy?” Her shoulders dip and roll in that “well, kinda” way. I say: “You have to trust your gut.” She cocks her head back at an angle. I don’t think she understands. “Does he treat you well?” “Yes” she says, more confidently. Then she leaves to go serve someone and it’s time for me to go. Before I head out I do a quick internet search on my phone because my Spanish isn’t what it used to be, if it ever was. As I get up to leave I show her what I’ve found:
Sígue tu corazón and the translation: Trust your heart.
She smiles a tight smile, nods and we say goodbye.

Day 24: Home! Total Trip Miles: 6794 Miles, Sleep, Journeys, Angels, Hospitality

It’s been about 36 hours since I returned from my trip and I’ve slept about 24 of them. The last day of the trip I just kept going and ended up doing around 660 miles in 12 hours. And yes, that part of my body was sore. But there are folks who belong to the Iron Butt Club which requires that they do over 1000 in a day. Compared to those iron amazons I’m more like aluminum.
I left before 7am on my last day, July 4th, and knew the roads would be comparatively empty due to the holiday. They were. Peeled through towns: Abilene, Ft Worth/Dallas, Shreveport, Tuscaloosa, Birmingham, and Gadsen. Saw folks gathered in parks festooned with red, white and blue bunting. Others, on the road like me, were traveling somewhere.
Tolstoy said that “all great literature is one of two stories; a man goes on a journey or a stranger comes to town.” Well, needless to say, this ain’t great literature but on the trip I did both; I was the man going on the journey and the stranger riding into town. And I met a whole slew of amazing people; some celebrating a marriage and others coping with tremendous loss. I was enriched by getting to know them and their stories, however brief. And there were many more stories I never got to tell, but I hope to add them here someday. The trip reaffirmed for me that whether we are physically moving anywhere, or merely staying put, we’re all on a journey somewhere. And our journey intersects and influences the lives of so many people, for good or ill, whether we know it or not.
A few days before the end of the trip I came upon this quote which I think applies to all of us.
“Your journey has molded you for your greater good, and it was exactly what it needed to be. Don’t think you’ve lost time. There is no short-cutting to life. It took each and every situation you have encountered to bring you to the now. And now is right on time.”
― Asha Tyson
Good and bad experiences brought us to where we are today. Let’s cherish the now.
The Bible says: “Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!”
I’m certainly no angel. Maybe the people, the strangers we meet every day are angels and maybe they’re not. I find it hard to judge. It’s a safer bet to try and see angels in everyone we meet. That’s what I want to remember from this trip. We’re all on a journey. At the very least let’s be kind to our fellow travelers, some of which most certainly are angels.
So thanks for riding with me. Best wishes on your journey. Ride safe!

Day 23: Longview Texas: 438 miles: Lowest Rate on Trip-$39.32: Dangerous Road Gators: Bad Motorcycle Driving: Highway 80: Journey Almost Over.

Long day in the saddle. I’m exhausted. Found a really nice Motel 6, $39.32, the lowest rate I paid on the whole trip. Had a few close calls today. There were loads of road gators (bits of tires thrown out onto the road) lurking on the highway. You have to give yourself plenty of distance so that you can spot em and react in time. I dodged almost all of them until a truck in front of me started peeling off the rubber shrapnel and I hit a small piece in the road. Thankfully, nothing happened. Later, the rain began falling lightly. I remember saying: “Wee! as I enjoyed the coolness in the changing air. The rain started falling harder so I turned off the interstate to seek refuge in a truck stop.
Braking as I got to the frontage road the rear wheel of the bike started sliding, the front wobbled and I thought I was going to crash but somehow, I won’t take credit for it, the bike stabilized. Thank you God. And be more careful Gene!
I waited for a while under a shelter until the rain slackened, put on my rain jacket and headed back out. After about 30 minutes the sky cleared and the rain stopped.
Later, a bike passed me going about 85-90 mph, the engine sounded as if it was at full throttle, the driver leaning over the tank, cutting in and out of lanes, juked left just as an 18 wheeler moved into that lane. Somehow, he survived it.
I managed to make it to my goal: Highway 80. Growing up in Savannah, Georgia, Highway 80 was sort of a mythical road for me. I learned early that it went all the way from Tybee Beach near Savannah to San Diego. As a child I remember stopping at a traffic light on Victory Drive in Savannah with my dad and him pointing with his pipe and saying: “Turn left there and keep going and you’ll end up in California.”
Highway 80 became for me an alchemical road. It promised all the things I wanted: distance, freedom, change, transformation through transit. Highway 17, which also went through Savannah, only promised Hardeeville, South Carolina or Darien, Georgia. Nice places, but not for a youth with dreams.
Today, I made it to the western terminus of Highway 80 today and hopped on it. Tomorrow, the 4th of July, I’ll take it toward “home”, and maybe end this journey.

Day 22: Motorcycles and Mindfulness Again: The Largest Harley Dealer in the World: 405 miles: Big Springs, Texas: 4th of July: Amor Fati.

There are a lot of different ways people ride motorcycles. Some folks listen to music, on speakers or through headphones. Others have phone conversations with friends or intercom conversations with their riding partners. I like to ride in silence. And think. And sometimes not think.  Regardless of whether you are on a bike or in a car how do you ride? Consider this quote:
“When we are driving, we tend to think of arriving, and we sacrifice the journey for the sake of the arrival. But life is to be found in the present moment, not in the future. In fact, we may suffer more and more after we arrive at our destination. If we have to talk of a destination, what about our final destination, the graveyard? We do not want to go in the direction of death; we want to go in the direction of life. But where is life? Life can only be found in the present moment. Therefore, each mile we drive, each step we take, has to bring us into the present moment. This is the practice of mindfulness.”
~Thich Nhat Hanh
Who can argue with that? I can! It’s easy to drift away from the present when you’re riding. You can slip into thinking about past events, hurtful things that happened, mistakes that were made, things you wish you had said, or hadn’t. Or you can slip into the future, dreaming or worrying. I have to keep reminding myself that the present moment is all that matters. Sometimes I repeat an anthem:
What do we want?
When do we want it?
God, (if you believe in Him/Her) can only reach us in the present.
And, my favorite line: you have to be present to win!
So when I ride I try to let go of thinking about my destination, my past or my future. I forget about time. (My clock flew off the bike last year on another cross country trip- see the blog about tempus fugit -time flies!) I try to sink into the present: the smells, the sights, the sounds and the soul’s sense of gratitude. Lots of healing in that mood, I tell you.

So why not stop at Barnett’s Harley Davidson in El Paso, Texas, the “alleged” largest Harley dealer in the world? I did and it was. Thousands of parts, accessories, tee shirts, hundreds of Harleys and a whole other building with other motorcycle brands. Amazing place. For a while, I got lost in the place.

I finally made it to Big Springs, Texas. Over 400 miles. The motels were expensive but I found a cheap Motel 6 room, got a couple of Corona’s, checked that the Atlanta Braves had won their match (they did) and the rest is, as they say in Ireland, “Bob’s your uncle.”

I want to head out early tomorrow but we’ll see. I keep wondering where I will be on the 4th of July. I trust that I will, somehow, be in the right place. There’s a Latin expression, Amor Fati, meaning, the love of one’s fate. I’ll end up where I will end up, and the place will be right.


My travel map!

<div id=’travellerspoint-map677503_665120′><script src=’;badgeid=travellerspoint-map677503_665120&amp;height=300&amp;width=450′></script><p class=’travellerspoint-map-link’>View Full Size <a href=’′>Travel Map</a> at <a href=’’>Travellerspoint</a></p></div&gt;


Day 21: Dust Storm, Zero Visibility, Gusting Winds = Dangerous Riding, Tumbling Tumbleweeds, World Cup, Watercolor Sky: 367 Miles Traveled.

All day long I was thinking that this was going to be a rather boring blog entry. The heat index today had fallen into the 90’s and the ride was reasonably comfortable, especially compared with yesterday. And the scenery of I-10 was still the same: Cacti, willow trees, rough grass, huge stones, mountain ranges in the distance, long stretches between towns, filling stations with Tee Shirts, Mexican and Native American crafts.
I hunkered down in Wilcox, Arizona at a McDonalds and watched the second half of the USA match on my laptop, in Spanish.
Then I headed back out on the road and finished my trip in Arizona and entered New Mexico. There were signs warning of dust storms, zero visibility, and asking drivers to not stop in the travel lanes. I looked to the north and south and could see dust devils spinning in the distance. No problem here, I thought.
I stopped at Deming, and for some reason, found myself just driving around the town, looking at the old buildings and shops. Cops were frisking some guy outside an auto parts store. Farther down the road another cop was taking witness statements by the side of the road. Time to leave. Gassed up and saw a huge dust storm coming out of the north. This storm stretch for miles, just a golden cloud heading my way. I took off and headed towards Las Cruces. It looked like I was going to outrun it and I did. I watched in the rear view mirror as the sand colored and black clouds swept the landscape behind me. But 10 miles down the road, the wind suddenly picked up and a huge dust storm closed in. I flipped my helmet visor down, rode for about 5 miles through the dust and battering winds until I reached a spot where I couldn’t see more than 10 feet in front of me.
I had to pull over on the interstate shoulder. I leaned over the gas tank of the bike and steadied it as the wind kept trying to blow the bike over. This lasted for about 15 minutes until the rocking winds died down. I cranked Big Red back up and she ran sluggishly through the remnants of the dust storm. (Air filter?). I stopped at a service area, got an orange juice, calmed my nerves and checked on my phone, the weather at my next destination: Las Cruces. Severe thunderstorm warnings. I could either go back about 15 miles to Deming or try and get to Las Cruces, 40 miles away, before the storm got me.
I took off toward Las Cruces. I could smell rain in the air, petrichor, (Wikipedia: “Petrichor (/ˈpɛtrɨkɔər/) is the scent of rain on dry earth, or the scent of dust after rain. The word is constructed from Greek, petros, meaning ‘stone’ + ichor, the fluid that flows in the veins of the gods in Greek mythology.”) Love that word! It’s alchemical.
The rain fell intermittently but the sky, the sky was amazing. Behind me, to the west, the sky was a golden ochre color. To the north there was a swath of blue, with gunmetal grey clouds. The south looked like a Chinese watercolor with a wash of grey on the horizon, and above, indigo clouds descending. Then I topped a hill and headed down into the city of Las Cruces, the city of the crosses. Looming high behind the city are the Organ Mountains and at this moment the setting sun from behind me was illuminating the foothills of the mountains, painting them an electric golden color. It was majestic. Holy. Wow.
Then I headed back to the mundane and secular and got a room at a Super 8

Day 20 Continued: Most Miles on This Trip – 521. 106 Degrees in Yuma, Blow Dryer Weather, Incredible Desert Colors, Prayer..

I am in my Motel 6 room in Casa Grande, Arizona drinking a Corona Beer and watching the news about USA soccer. And I got the room for $40! Cheapest room on the trip.
I am absolutely shattered from the ride today. Started well, early trip down the Pacific Coast Highway to San Diego. Beautiful views of the sea, temperature in the low 80’s. Sophisticated, respectable drive. Then heading over on the 805 to Interstate 8 and things begin to change. The temperature climbs and the road rises to 4000 feet. Then there was desert, and more desert. Hundreds of miles of desert and the heat rising. The max I saw today was 106. How does that feel? It feels as if someone has a huge blow drier and it’s turned to the highest setting on you. Lord, have mercy. About every hour or so I drank about 2 liters of water. Driving through the desert was amazing in that the scene changed so little: Mountains made of huge stones, ridges of sand and shadows, unpopulated farmland, sometimes 50 miles or more between gas stations. Then there would be wind farms, miles of windmills moving like synchronized swimmers.
The sun begins to set behind me and I can watch the dusty orange glow go down in my rear view mirror. The sky begins to change from mango to apricot to honey. Ahead to the east the sky is pink and gunmetal blue, the temperature drops and I feel as if I could ride on forever, but it starts to get dark so I settle instead of Casa Grande, instead of Tucson.
So here I am.
Anne Lamott says that the only prayers we need are these three: Help, Thanks, and Wow. Today was a very prayerful day.