Tuesday, September 7, 2010

There's Peace at The Cross

With Labor Day weekend being summer's last hurrah, there was no way I was going to pass up a chance to ride. Our Christian Motorcyclists Association chapter had two rides scheduled, on Sunday and Monday. Anna and I chose Monday's ride, since it was preceded by breakfast.

Our rendezvous point was a place called Jumbo Donuts in Whitinsville, Mass. I was unfamiliar with the area, and so was Cathilee DeLorto, the only other Romans 8 rider from our area who was going on the ride, so I took on the responsibility of going on Google and Mapquest to get directions. I copied directions by hand, since no printer was available. Anna and I arrived at Cathilee's house around 7:30 a.m., an hour before we were due at Jumbo Donuts, which I figured would give us plenty of time. Things went smoothly until we got off the highway; then I had to pull over to do a map check.

I've often grumbled about Mapquest, yet, I continue to use it. Many modern motorcyclists use GPS navigators, but, until now, I've resisted them. This trip, however, had me wishing for one. The streets I was looking for eluded me, so I swallowed my pride and pulled over to ask a couple of joggers for directions. Less than a mile later, I was still lost, so I thought I'd have better luck at a gas station ... turned out no luck actually. The attendant was of Middle Eastern descent and spoke in broken English. When we asked if he knew where Jumbo Donuts was, he asked, "You want breakfast?" We backtracked, and then Cathilee, who was riding behind us, spotted the street we were looking for and frantically waved for us to turn. I have to admit the reason we missed the street was because I wrote it was a right-hand turn, when it was actually a left turn. No wonder I rode right by it. We reached the intersection with Route 122 where Jumbo Donuts was supposed to be, but we saw no sign of it, so we stopped for gas. I was just about to go inside to ask for help again, but I spotted the Jumbo Donuts sign across the way, tucked behind another gas station. Our excitement was short-lived, though. A woman behind the counter said we missed our fellow bikers by five minutes.

So now we were in the same boat, having to find our way to the next stop without anyone to follow. I had enough foresight to write down directions to the church where the breakfast was being served, but my writing was chicken scratch (Anna works with doctors who she says have better handwriting), so one of us asked a guy at the donut shop for directions. Even though he was a local, he actually made me more confused the more he repeated himself. Cathilee did not look happy at this point. We decided to just start riding in the direction the donut shop employee had seen the other bikes go, and then I saw a police car parked on the side of the road, so I stopped to ask him for directions. I think he sent us the same way the donut shop guy did, but I was able to follow the officer's directions much more easily. In about 10 minutes, we found our pre-ride desination, the First Congregational Church in Sutton Center. My fears of our of fellow CMA riders finishing their breakfast and heading down the road before we could even find the church disappeared as we rode up to the church, which had a crowd of people outdoors lined up for an all-you-can-eat breakfast for $8 (the church has been hosting this breakfast fundraiser for more than 50 years).

We saw CMA riders from other chapters, as well as Roland and Sue Caron from our chapter. Roland's brother, Mike, arrived several minutes after us, since he had gotten lost too. I had pancakes, ham, eggs, home fries, juice and, of course, coffee. After breakfast, a family was admiring our bikes. One boy who looked about 10 years old said he didn't want a motorcycle when he got older. "They look dangerous," he said. There were about 20 CMA-ers from
various chapters, but they decided to split up after breakfast. One group was riding to New Hampshire and another contingent was riding to Connecticut. Anna and I decided to ride with a third group on a shorter ride to Barre, Mass. to a place called "The Cross."

Our road captain for this leg of the ride was Kathy Hubbard from the Victorious Riders chapter. Anna remarked, "A woman is finally the leader." Kathy rode hard and I was a bit out of my comfort zone keeping up. We rode north on Route 146, and as we approached Worcester, Mass., we had to jam on the brakes due to an accident on the highway involving at least two vehicles; the mishap had probably happened just moments before. Shards of debris covered every lane as we rode by very slowly (a decision was made not to stop, since all the people were out of their vehicles and did not appear to be seriously injured, plus we deducted from the sirens that help was on the way).

Downtown Worcester, especially Chandler Street (Route 122), was not much more hospitable. Road construction in progress left several raised manhole and water curb stop covers that could ruin a motorcyclist's day. Pedestrians seemed to come at us from every direction. "Welcome to the jungle, baby!" Anna said.

We stayed on Route 122 for several miles, eventually leaving the city for more rural, scenic environs in the towns of Paxton, Rutland, Oakham and Barre, where we ended our ride at John P. Harty Sr.'s farm, also known as "The Cross," so named for its asphalt cross 200 feet long and 25 feet wide, with the Ten Commandments neatly painted on the asphalt in block letters three feet high. Harty began the project in 1989, when, while he was praying the Lord's prayer, he heard a "loud, firm and clear"
voice instruct him to clear some land and build a cross to those specifications. As of 1992, Harty had spent about $100,000 on the project, according to an interview with the Worcester Telegram & Gazette. Since then, additions to the site have included a stone wall and shrubs planted to spell out "God's wisdom."

As our group walked around the site, which includes a pond and benches, I felt an incredible sense of peace. Anna and I got to meet Harty, a hospitable man now in his mid-80s, who passed out ice cream sandwiches. Anna asked if he had to maintain the property himself, but Harty said a man who lives about 45 minutes away has faithfully volunteered to mow the rather substantial amount of grass. Another man provides his services building the stone wall.

Romans 8 Riders Vice President Roland Caron said Harty often feeds visitors to his site on holiday weekends, and this weekend was no exception, as we got to enjoy hot dogs, hamburgers and numerous side dishes plus desert. I would have loved to stay longer, but others in our group had to be home by a certain time, so Roland led the ride back to Rhode Island. At a gas stop, I noticed what appeared to be a Buddhist monk across the street, sitting on some steps, staring at our group. I stared back because I could not tell if it was a person or a statue. Anna, however, said she saw him move his hand.

"I thought he was jinxing us," Anna said. "I had to put voodoo on him," she joked.

We made our way back through downtown Worcester (where I think the exhaust system on my bike set off a car alarm - and that's with the Vance & Hines 'quiet baffles') and the rest of the ride was smooth sailing in perfect riding weather. And yes, the peaceful feeling lasted the rest of the day.

The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds s in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)


  1. Great post Ken.
    Sounds like a rough start. Glad that the day turned around for you.

  2. Good to see the day turned out good. God is good.