Archive for July, 2008

A Perfect Day in Greater Liberty

July 21, 2008

By Ed Chasteen

            Tents and tables are being set up as riders come in the first light of dawn. SAG drivers load their vehicles and drive off, bound for their rest-stop appointments with supplies for the riders who will come later in the morning. McDonald’s in Liberty supplies bottled water, PowerAide, apple slices and cookies for all our rest stops.

By 7 AM, check in is complete and riders depart. Some 40 minutes later the fastest riders reach Kearney and rest stop number one, where Julie Ahle’s girl scouts and members of the Kearney Business Group welcome them.

            From Kearney the 35-mile riders come back across the just completed new bridge on Summerset to Hwy 69. They turn toward Liberty, where soon a left on Stockdale Road brings them to H Hwy at Liberty Hills Country Club and rest stop #2. Then back to Biscari Brothers Bicycles, where Dale Ahle has hamburgers and hot dogs fresh off the grill. Liberty Price Chopper, just next door to Biscari Brothers, has supplied all our food for pre and post ride activities for our previous five Greater Liberty Bike Rides for MS and again this year.

            Our third route for today’s ride is a Family Fun Ride out to Our Lady of Mercy Country Home, an eight-mile circle that brings us back to Biscari’s. This ride begins at 8 o’clock. Parents with young children like this ride. A father and son ride their tandem today. A Mother and daughter have brought their bikes from Pleasant Hill to ride.

            The 70-mile riders head north from Kearney to MM Hwy and its intersection with Hwy. 69 and rest stop #3 at Lathrop Bank at Lawson. Marvin Wright has opened the bank so we can use their restrooms. He and Noel Ferguson have made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to augment other biker food supplied by McDonald’s.

            Back toward Liberty on Salem Road, riders make their way to rest stop #3 at the Hall of Waters in Excelsior Springs. Daphne Bowman, owner of Willow Spring Mercantile has gathered other downtown merchants to welcome us. They also have made sandwiches and cookies and brought fruit.

            North from Excelsior Springs on Hwy 10, riders make their way to Route 0, and 11 miles of hills and curves that bring the Alps to mind. Once up and over the final hill, O dumps us out at its intersection with Hwy 210, a ribbon that runs flat east to west through the Missouri River bottom from Liberty to Orrick.

            At this intersection, O becomes Z and comes into Orrick, a town of 889, where we come on our bikes several times a year on Saturdays for breakfast, and where today the Orrick Fire Department has set up rest stop #4 in their brand new building.

            By 2 PM all riders are back at Biscari Brother. It’s time for our drawing. A $1,259.00 bicycle, two six-month memberships in a health club and dinners for two at small town cafes where we ride on other Saturdays. A $20.00 raffle ticket bought the purchaser a chance at these prizes.

            Every other Monday evening at Cupini’s on Liberty square since early February we had met to plan this 6th Annual Greater Liberty Ride for MS. The planning of it was a joy. As was the riding of it. To all those who planned and rode and helped and encouraged, I say Bless you. And as I write these words, my mind is drawn to one of my favorite plays, Thornton Wilder’s Our Town. In  the play, Emily has died. She is allowed to come from the grave on last time for a farewell look at Grover’s Corner, her home town. But she must come on a typical day. After her visit, she asks a question that’s always on my mind. “Does anyone ever realize life as they live it, every single minute?”

            To my mind, the magic I feel around us at every bike ride is typical of the world as I would have it. In these time I could answer YES to Emily’s question.

HateBusters
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Liberty, MO 64069
Phone: 816-803-8371
e-mail: hatebuster@aol.com

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Build It and They Will Come

July 21, 2008

The Rayville Baking Company

By Ed Chasteen

Twenty of us gather for breakfast at Fubbler’s. Another dozen had been with us as we left Biscari’s at 7:30 this morning, but they don’t linger in Orrick for breakfast. I’ve delivered Meals on Wheels every noon this week for our church and haven’t ridden much. So I plan to ride on to Fleming, Camden, Henrietta and points beyond. Rachel has similar plans.

We get to Casey’s in Henrietta and down an A&W ice cream root beer. Brand New the bottle says. We’ve never had one. Not bad “When you left home this morning, how long did you expect to be gone?” I ask. Rachel says, “I just wanted to see what might develop. How ever long it takes.” So I call Bobbie. “It’s a beautiful day and I’m feelin’ great. I may not be home before four or five.” “No problem,” she says.

We get to the edge of Richmond. “We have a decision to make,” I say. “We can ride on into Richmond and take Business 10 for three miles out to 10. There’s no shoulder, lots of hills and some traffic. Or we can take 210 here back to 10 and over to Rayville. Rayville Baking Company has great sandwiches.”

Last time Rachel rode to Rayville was six years ago when our first Greater Liberty Ride for MS came through here and Rayville Baking Company gave us homemade cinnamon rolls. Since then Cliff and Debbie Van Till have closed the little place they had in town. Now off to the left as we come to the sweeping curve to the right just on the edge of town, in a pasture where cattle grazed not long ago, stands RAYVILLE BAKING COMPANY. A magnet that draws passers by with its rustic façade, soothing/energizing music, great pastries, sandwiches, cheeses, meats and at-home welcome from Debbie and Cliff. Samantha is on duty today and makes our sandwiches.

As we enter, Cliff and Debbie come to usher us to the patio just built at the end of the building nearest the road. Brand new tables and chairs have just arrived today, price tags still on them. “We can have groups here.” They say. As Rachel and I eat our sandwiches, Cliff sits to talk with us. He makes his own cheeses and meats and grows the vegetables and herbs they use. He and his daughter have just returned from City Market in Kansas City where they sold their products. Cliff explains to us the difference between grain fed and grass fed beef and why he grass feeds his.

Field of Dreams is one of my all-time favorite movies. Rayville Baking Company is a dream built in a field. Cliff and Debbie moved their family here from California about six years ago. As word spreads, they are coming, those drawn by a BIG dream in a tiny town off the beaten path, those looking for small town values and old time distinctives in food, architecture and ambiance, those somehow and for some reason not quite at home with modernity. They will come, as Rachel and I have come today.

“We have a Saturday morning ride scheduled to come here, Cliff. I’m not sure of the date. I’ll have to look when I get home.” I say. Rachel suggests we ride here for dinner some day. I like the idea. From Liberty east on 210 to the 10 intersection and on 10 to C, then C to Rayville is 40 miles. Spouses and friends in cars could drive to joins us and bring us back. Sounds good to me.

Cliff has a website for Rayville Baking Company, but he recently lost his webmaster. He’s interviewing a possible new one next week. I tell him that I’ll have Dale Ahle, webmaster for http://www.hatebusters.com and http://www.greaterliberty.org get in touch with him. The idea of one webmaster for all three appeals to me. I plan on coming often to Rayville Baking Company and inviting others to come. It’s my kind of place. They built it and I will come.

HateBusters
Box 442
Liberty, MO 64069
Phone: 816-803-8371
e-mail: hatebuster@aol.com

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My Response to the Verdict

July 18, 2008

By Ed Chasteen

I got the email below from one of our Greater Liberty Riders this morning about the not guilty verdict for the motorist who hit and killed two bicycle riders, a grandfather and his grand daughter.

“Ed, while I believe that there is way too much hate in the world and I do my best not to add anymore, the truly personal nature of the Gaunt’s case and the seemingly obvious fault on the drivers behalf leaves me stunned with a verdict such as this. I know that Mr. Johnson has probably suffered plenty and is probably a good person. But I’m left feeling angry and yes a little hateful toward the jury members and court system. I guess this too will pass but in the mean time my thoughts turn toward you and I wonder if you could help me understand how to turn the other cheek.”

My Response

I was angry and sad at the verdict. How the jury could render a not guilty verdict baffles me. I feel less safe out on my bike now. I ask myself what I should do. The one thing I cannot do is quit riding. Another thing I cannot do is let myself become bitter and hateful. One of my dear friends, Bronia Roslowowski, survived the Holocaust. She was beaten and starved and almost killed. All in her family were killed. For years I have taken my students to visit her. We always ask, “Bronia, do you hate anyone?” “No.” She says. “Not even Nazis?” We ask. “No.” She says. “Why not?” We ask. “Hate kills you first,” she says.

Victor Frankl survived the Holocaust and felt guilty. Why had he survived when his friends and family had not? Out of his struggle to understand this, he wrote a book, Man’s Search for Meaning. Frankl was a psychiatrist. Because of his experiences in the Holocaust, he contends that the purpose of life is to make it have meaning. Meaning is not out there somewhere waiting to be discovered. Meaning comes from within us. We live in an unjust and capricious world over which we have little control. The only control we have is how we respond. The world that lies behind our eyes, beneath our skull, above our chin and between our ears is really the only world there is. How we let the outside world inside and what we make of that raw material determines what kind of life we lead and how others respond to us.

Gandhi is one of my life models. In his book, My Experiments with Truth, he says, “In so far as possible, I try to agree with my adversaries.” As I read the morning paper about the not guilty verdict, I thought of Gandhi and found myself trying to imagine how those jurors could find the driver who killed two people not guilty. These were12 ordinary people, struggling to do what was right as they understood the law. They must have been conflicted and confused. But our system of justice demanded that that make a decision. How will that decision impact the rest of their lives? They will be questioned by friends and family, the curious and the angry. I feel sympathy for them. And I wonder what I would have decided had I heard what they heard inside that courtroom.

I feel sympathy for the family of those who were killed. I can understand their anger. What meaning can be made out of two senseless deaths, I do not know. How long it will take I do not know. As I’m writing these words, my mind turns to Nelson Mandela. For 27 years he was a political prisoner in South Africa. When he was finally released, he was elected President of South Africa. He then selected some of those who had imprisoned him to help him govern the country. Long Road To Freedom is the title of Mandela’s book. No one thought Mandela could forgive his jailers and give them a place in his government. But because he did, he avoided civil war and brought to himself a moral authority greater than any living person in our world.

All of us who love biking and want to be taken seriously and treated fairly have a long road ahead as we try to help our fellow citizens understand us and accept us as equals on the road and in a court of law. Knowing Bronia, Frankl, Mandela and Gandhi help me find my way. Perhaps they might help you. I hope so.

Only when terrible things happen to us and around us do we have opportunity to discover what kinds of persons we truly are. Now is such a time. Who will we be? What meaning can we make? Will we draw people to us and our cause by the way we respond?

HateBusters
Box 442
Liberty, MO 64069
Phone: 816-803-8371
e-mail: hatebuster@aol.com

No Boundaries On Our Soul!

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Bike Van Buren

July 14, 2008

By Ed Chasteen

Stockport has two Pepsi machines. They are a block apart in a line of sight on the road we ride in on. No other sustenance is available for purchase by hot and hungry riders. We’ve drunk our bottles dry riding from Bentonsport. We’re looking for water. Only the post office is open when we pedal into town about four o’clock.

The lady clerk says no water is available anywhere in town. We thank her and leave. While we had been talking to the clerk, a woman had come in to check her mailbox. Now on the sidewalk, she addresses us. “You won’t find water in Stockport unless some good person offers you some. If you’ll follow me home, I’ll give you water.” We follow. Soon we have full water bottles. With ice!

And we have two new friends: Lela and Charles Heisel. Lela used to be a waitress at a Stockport café back when Stockport had a café. Charles had a meat locker. Now gone. Two of their six children live nearby. They buy groceries in Fairfield, about nine miles away.

Brian and I have ridden since breakfast past Amish (and English as Amish know them) farms and fields of stunted corn. Weeks of unrelenting rain and rivers run wild have savaged Iowa corn and farmers. We have sweated through our water bottles several times and stoked a fierce hunger when we spot the little country café. The 15 at the table are the only ones in the place. We take a nearby booth and strike up a conversation. They soon know who we are, where we’re from and what we’re about. And we know the same of them.

From an island off the coast of Kenya, she sits now as one of 15 at a long table in a little café at the intersection of two rural roads in the poorest county in Iowa. Two sons and a daughter of the matriarch of the family have gathered for reunion from around the world, bringing spouses and children. The island native is the wife of one son. The two of them now live in Romania, where he is a high-tech employee. The matriarch and her now deceased husband years ago farmed here. What started in that distant time is reflected here today at this table.

This morning we stopped at Misty’s Malt Shop in Keosauqua, Van Buren County’s biggest town (called village by locals) a place of roughly a thousand folks. We fell into conversation with a couple who just bought a log cabin and some acreage near here as a place to get away. A man sitting at our table says his family came here in 1838 and bought a farm. A county park down a gravel road a few miles from town is named for his family.

Nearing four o’clock Brian is riding ahead of me when his front tire goes flat and he goes down. The front wheel is bent. No more riding for him today. We’re still discussing how to proceed when a van pulls up. The driver opens the sliding side door, Brian puts his bicycle inside and off they go. Just as they depart, Brian and I agree to meet at Misty’s Malt Shop after I ride on to our B&B in Bentonsport, get the car and come back to get him. About two hours we figure this will take.

He tells Brian his name is Will. He emigrated from Holland more than 50 years ago. “For prosperity,” he says when Brian asks why he came. He now lives in Iowa’s poorest county. His van is filled with potted plants he bought cheap because they’re sick. He will nurse them back to health. Will apologizes to Brian because he must hold one of the plants displaced by Brian’s sick bike. I’m about three miles from our B&B when my bike-phone rings. It’s Brian. Will has driven out of his way to take him to our B&B.

AJ’s Bicycle Shop in Fairfield is open from 10-12 and 1-5. We’re the first ones in this morning for repairs. I don’t think the wheel can be trued, but Mark, AJ’s mechanic, lays his hands on it in the back room and performs a miracle. While we wait, we talk to AJ. When he hears that I’m a retired sociology professor, he says, “My sociology professors had more influence on my life than anyone. They showed me who I am and why.”

AJ’s draws an eclectic assortment of folks in the hour we’re here. One man about my age has brought his biking shoes for an adjustment. He’s from Iran, an oilman who spent most of his career in Texas. Here now for 18 years where his wife is from, he travels to oilfields in far places to give advice. Several little boys are here with their bikes for minor repairs. One breathless man bigger than the average biker says he’s a filmmaker and writer and here to redeem his green bike he found in a dumpster and spent $250.00 on to put in shape. It’s a racing bike he could sell for $800.00, but he wants to ride it to Florida just to prove it can be done and make a documentary of it to sell to public television. He offers to film Brian and me and writes his name on a slip of paper and says he will be in touch and hasn’t made a dime yet from screen writing but when he goes into syndication he’ll be set for life and when people learn he was an infantryman in the army they know he’s up to the job.

Another breathless man appears. “I need a new bike.” He says to AJ. “You know me. Tell me what I need. You know I helped you out with the shop here. Tell me what I need.” AJ says he’s busy. Has a small boy waiting for the bike he’s been working on as the man talked.

I was sad when Parson’s College closed in the 1970’s. I was teaching at a small college and hated to see one of us go under. A few years later the college was bought by the Transcendental Movement, TMers, as locals know them, and Maharishi University was born. Fairfield is the county seat of Jefferson County, and the town square is home to three Indian restaurants. There is an Eco Village on the edge of town that’s “off the grid,” as AJ explains it. They supply their own electricity, water and sewage. Many TMers live here. When I ask AJ how the community feels about their presence, he says, “You can’t talk about one community. More like three. One is ambivalent. One is welcoming. One is opposed.”

The 22nd annual Bike Van Buren will take place August 16-17 this year. For some six years running, Rich Groves and I drove the 223 miles from Liberty to take part. The county is home to a dozen little villages, some Amish (and English) farms and NO fast food places or chain stores. It’s like going back in time. On day one of Bike Van Buren, we make a loop of some 50 miles through some of the villages. On day two, we make a loop in the other direction through other villages. Each village has treats waiting. Home made ice cream, cookies, sandwiches, watermelon, cold water, snacks.

Brigadoon, a mythical village in the Scottish Highlands, comes to life for a day once every hundred years. On a visit from America, Tommy happens to be in the Scottish Highlands one morning when Brigadoon appears. He falls in love with a village girl and must decide before nightfall whether to go or stay. I fell in love with the Villages of Van Buren. I cannot stay. There are things I love in other places. The yearly Ethnic Festival in Kansas City is one, and it now takes place on the same weekend in August as Bike Van Buren. Two years ago, Brian and I came in July to ride by our selves the route Bike Van Buren would ride. He loved it as much as I. Now we are back.

Ritzanna Seaton and I met in the 1990s in one of the Van Buren villages when we arrived on our bikes at the same time. Ritzanna lives with her husband, Duane, on their farm near the tiny village of Selma. We became friends. Ritzanna and Russell, her son, came to Liberty in 1999 to ride with about 100 of us to Columbia to visit the grave of Dr. William Jewell, founder of William Jewell College, in celebration of the college’s 150th Anniversary.

Ritzanna rode with Brian and me on three of the five days we rode when we came two years ago. She planned to do so again. But when I call her on Wednesday from Misty’s Malt Shop to tell her we’re here, she says she’s not feeling well and has to go to the doctor. Ritzanna is a nurse. She has ridden RAGBRAI several times and is planning to ride this year. She does not willingly abandon a ride. She says to call her tomorrow.

Now on Saturday she has not been able to ride. She asks the route we plan to ride and tells me to call her from Birmingham, the village where Brian and I plan to have lunch. From there we will ride the 13.8 miles to Douds, where Ritzanna will drive to meet us. She’s still not up to biking but wants to see us.

As we mount our bikes to leave Birmingham, a man just arrived in his pickup spots us and announces in a loud voice, “It’s rainin’ like hell north of here.” I have no idea what direction we’re headed. But a few miles out, it begins to rain. Not much. And it cools down. As we labor up a hill, my bike phone rings. When I reach the top, I listen to my voice mail. It’s Ritzanna. She wants to know if we want her to come pick us up.

Then rain comes harder. A car tops the hill in front of us and pulls to a stop on the shoulder opposite us. A woman gets out and stands beside the car. Brian is the first to her. “Need a ride?” She asks. “No thanks,” Brian says. Then he brakes. “Ritzanna! I didn’t recognize you.”

While we get the bike rack out of her back seat, the rain comes harder. We mount it backwards. We start over. We get wet. Back at Misty’s Malt Shop the three of us sit for an hour, nursing malts and telling stories

The Bonaparte Inn, the Mason House, the Grand View—our three B&Bs. By themselves they would be reason enough for coming, the ambiance of each a touch of heaven, more like visiting old friends than doing business. How it might be improved I can’t imagine. When coming by bicycle to Misty’s Malt Shop, Bonaparte’s Retreat, the Bridge Café and the Dutchman, hunger and thirst have revved into overdrive, giving each place an irresistible attraction not felt by those arriving by more conventional means.

When we will come again to ride quietly into these little villages, we do not know. That we will want to come we do know. In our hearts and minds we really will never have left. Bodies, though, are more limited and time is precious. Other places and people draw us. If we never make it back, still we are blessed by having come.

HateBusters
Box 442
Liberty, MO 64069
Phone: 816-803-8371
e-mail: hatebuster@aol.com

No Boundaries On Our Soul!

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Paola – County Seat of Miami County, Kansas

July 14, 2008

By Ed Chasteen

The highway sign says Paola. But the menu at the BBQ Shack says Mayberry. Andy and all his North Carolina kin and friends adorn the walls. Goober Beans, Aunt Bee’s Brownies, Opie’s Fixins, Mr. Foley’s Ribs, Otis Campbell Onion Rings, Leon’s Combo Sandwich, Barney’s Cock-a-Doodle-Doo Chicken Tenders grace the menu. A near life size picture of Deputy Fife stands guard.

Paola is a county seat town, one of 104 such places in Greater Liberty. I’ve driven 65 miles from my home in Liberty today to have my car’s air conditioner fixed at the dealership where I bought it. For the three hours it takes I ride my bike around town, looking for a locally owned place to have lunch. Several times I wheel by Emery’s Steak House on the town square but don’t find it open. I’m still lookin’ when my bike phone rings. It’s Dale from the dealership. My car is ready.

As I pay my bill to the nice lady and redeem my car, I ask her to recommend a local place to eat. She mentions the BBQ Shark and points to a salesman across the room. “Ask him. He loves the place. And they have a Tuesday special.” He raves about it. And here I now sit.

Leon’s Combo Sandwich, with brisket and sausage; Goober Baked Beans, Moody Gypsy Spicy Chuckwagon Beans and iced tea almost fill the empty spot three hours on my bike created. Aunt Bee’s Brownies, deep fried bites served with vanilla ice cream topped with chocolate syrup finish the job. And I drive home a happy man.

HateBusters
Box 442
Liberty, MO 64069
Phone: 816-803-8371
e-mail: hatebuster@aol.com

No Boundaries On Our Soul!

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