Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Bearing John's Burdens

It's been a while since my wife and I rode with a large group of motorcycles, so when the pastor at my church announced a motorcycle run to benefit a fellow pastor who was badly injured after a fall, we made a commitment to ride.
My Dyna Wide Glide, a/k/a Annabelle, was among the 110 motorcycles that converged at Glad Tidings Community Church in Chepachet, R.I. on Saturday, Sept. 14 for "Bearing John's Burdens," a motorcycle run and concert which benefited that church's Pastor John Teeter, who was paralyzed from mid-torso down after he fell 30 feet while painting a house.

Anna and I arrived at the church and were warmly welcomed by an army of appreciative church members, who were dressed in bright orange shirts.  I saw some members of the Christian Motorcyclists Association, including members from other chapters I had not seen in a while.  Our pastor, Joseph Campbell, was there, as was Romans 8 Riders chapter member Keith McGee, who bear-hugged my wife as he asked, "How's my favorite hillbilly redneck?"

The day was partly to mostly cloudy.  It was a bit cool while riding, but not uncomfortably so.  Beginning at noon, we rode about 75 miles through northwestern Rhode Island and into Massachusetts, with a mix of highway and back roads riding.  I was glad that I fueled up right after I left home in the morning, because some riders had to leave the group and stop for gas.  The organizers had given us a printed ride plan, but I lost it.  Since I didn't know the area that well, I was going to do everything I could to stick with the group  On the highway, some cars waited on the on-ramps until our whole group rode by, but a few cut in front of us.  Overall, though, our encounters with four-wheel traffic were pretty smooth.  Some of the busier intersections had police blockers, and other intersections relied on riders blocking traffic.

Large group rides are known for the 'slingshot effect,' where you have to continually speed up and slow down to try to maintain a consistent gap between riders.  It's kind of like negotiating an asteroid field (not that I've ever negotiated an asteroid field, mind you - it's just how I imagine it).  I tried to stay off the brakes as much as possible, but I sure shifted between third and fourth gear a lot.  We passed a couple other large groups of riders in our travels.

Among the highlights of our ride was a trip through Purgatory Chasm State Park in Sutton, Mass., which is a scenic spot and popular with hikers.  My wife liked one of the small New England villages we rode through, although she couldn't remember the name of said village, only that it began with the letter O (I'm thinking it might have been Oxford, Mass.).  I also recall pleasant riding near Lake Chaubunagungamaug in Webster, Mass.  The latter part of the ride was very pleasant; the slingshot effect evolved into a nice, steady flow.

We returned to the church two and a half hours later, stiff and hungry.  I had to keep bending my knees after I dismounted my bike.  A line formed for the food, all of which was generously donated, a church member said.  I am not exaggerating in the least when I say that the sausage and peppers sandwiches were the best I've ever had.  In addition to hamburgers, pizza, pasta and salad, there were also clam cakes and chowder.  Anna said the clam cakes were just as good as the ones she has had from Iggy's, a popular seafood take-out restaurant.

"God was definitely in this," Anna said of the abundance and quality of food, which was originally going to be just hamburgers and hot dogs. "He blessed the food - it was delicious."

She then went looking for our pastor, who was among the riders who split off from the group to stop for gas.  We found him, along with two members from our church who also ride.  They had gotten some wrong information on where the ride began, but caught up with us partway through the ride.  After food was served, we were treated to music from Collington and Jonas Woods.

Another thing that impressed Anna, who is a smoker, was a container for cigarette butts on a walkway in back of the church.  Earlier that day, she saw a marquee at another church that read, "Everyone's welcome - especially you!" That this church was accommodating to smokers, rather than judgmental of them, impressed Anna, along with the politeness and maturity of a 15-year-old youth group member she spoke with.

Pastor Teeter, who is in a wheelchair, made a brief appearance.  "He's in good spirits," our pastor said of him.