Friday, July 26, 2002

Jim and George Find Religion

It happened just a few miles north of Diamond Bluff, as we were climbing a steep hill.

These uphills provide ample opportunity to scan the shoulder for discarded items, most, presumably enhancements to the landscape from passing motorists. In fact, wherever cross-country bikers are gathered together, the subject of found roadside treasures is bound to come up. For example, Andrew Morton, who rides all over the place and maintains a great website of his travels, seems to find an unusual number of bottles of discarded urine, and is particularly distressed with the frequency of mutilated American flags apparently blown from patriotic SUV drivers. I myself have never once encountered either of these artifacts. My traveling companion, George, is drawn to bandanas, and can tell you how many of each color he has found in his 75,000 miles of roadside scanning. In fact, just yesterday he found a perfectly good red one which I am now wearing around my neck.

Riders have found a lot of things along the road, but as far as I know no one has found religion.

It came, actually, in the form of a copy of the New Testament, perhaps thrown from the car of someone who was not currently being blessed by our Lord. Soggy, with a red leather-look-alike cover, it was open to the book of Galatians. Even George was awe-struck by this holy roadside find. Bikers on long, lonely trips are prone to attribute mystical properties to the most mundane roadside items. So what would they think about a copy of the New Testament? After I digitized it "in situ" as it were, George picked it up, reverently, of course, and we began reading it for some symbolic message to guide us on the rest of our journey. Paul was speaking, I think, and he was apparently spreading the Word of some significant event to the citizens of Galatia. George and I interpreted this to mean that we likewise must spread the Word, urging the multitudes to give up their oil-burning Chariots of Satan and embrace the Holy Bike henceforth.

Thus inspired, we ascended the hill effortlessly and enjoyed a God-given freewheel down to the town of Diamond Bluff, where, I kid you not, the first thing we saw was a homemade sign on poster paper that said, "Ice Cream social today," out front of the Diamond Bluff Methodist Church.

Now, I think I can speak for George as well when I say a church ice cream social, under ordinary circumstances, would not attract our attention. But in this case, given out state of mind from our recent find, it seemed fore-ordained, even predestined, that we would stop.

We were welcomed warmly at the door of the small church by a member of the congregation whose name we later found out was Dallas. The room was full of friendly church folks enjoying not only ice cream, we were surprised to discover, but an array of homemade pies, cakes, cookies, and assorted sandwiches. I chose the double-dip apple pie a-la-mode for $1.50 and George selected a sloppy joe at $2.00, and we made our way to a table beneath a picture of Our Lord, presumably just before his ascension, with a table of his closest associates.

We found another table, next to a woman who also had ordered a sloppy joe. Our strangerhood attracted her attention, and she made a point of welcoming us. Then Dallas came to our table and welcomed us again. In fact, I can't remember being welcomed so many times in one place. Dallas told us this was an annual event, and we were lucky to come along the right day. We didn't tell him it all seemed divinely prearranged. He ended up by inviting us to spend the night in the church, if we so desired. We graciously declined.

It turns out the lady with the sloppy joe lived in Red Wing, across the river, and her husband worked at the nuclear power plant ("It's just a small one," she apologized), plainly visible from the church window. She said he was a nuclear engineer, and was the "only environmentalist working there." This led to an animated conversation with this Methodist lady, as you might imagine. On a side note, her husband had in the past been stationed on a nuclear submarine in Charleston, S.C., as was I myself. We talked about this, too, while her sloppy joe got cold and my ice cream melted.

I suppose the climax to this whole story was when I again directed my gaze to the picture of Jesus and friends on the wall. What I had previously assumed was a halo around His head, and His eyes back lit with an eerie glow in anticipation of His eminent ascension, took on a whole new meaning in view of the nuclear plant plainly visible in the adjacent window.

Holy Nuclear Power, Batman!


Cecil's Landing on the Great River Road somewhere between Stoddard and Prairie du Chien

later: crows attack camp food!

No comments: