Archive for October, 2008

Golden Arches in County Seats

October 27, 2008

By Ed Chasteen

Disney named me “The Pedalin’ Prof from William Jewell College” that summer I rode alone and without money from Disney World to Disneyland. One week this October I want to be that Pedalin’ Prof again in this place I call Greater Liberty. I drew a circle around Liberty, my hometown, going out 125 miles in all directions. That’s about how far I can ride on my best days. I hope to visit all 105 counties in parts of four states over the next few years. I want to meet local folks at the McDonald’s in their town. Together we’ll ride a 50-mile loop through nearby towns and come back to McDonald’s, where we’ll all buy ourselves something to eat and sit down together to talk.

We begin and end our ride at McDonald’s for three reasons. First, McDonald’s in Liberty is a longtime supporter of our Greater Liberty Riders, and the owner wrote to McDonald’s in Greater Liberty county seat towns asking them to welcome us. The second reason is that most every town has a McDonald’s, and many folks who live there drop in often. The third reason is that more than any other fast food restaurant, McDonald’s has expanded its menu to offer foods attractive to folks of varied lifestyles and interests.

So to McDonald’s in these Missouri towns we go on these days.

Lexington Sunday, October 5

Marshall Monday, October 6

Fayette Tuesday, October 7

Columbia Wednesday, October 8

Boonville Thursday, October 9

Sedalia Friday, October 10

Warrensburg Saturday, October 11

Harrisonville Sunday, October 12

Sunday, October 5, 2008
Lexington McDonald’s Deluxe Breakfast $3.99

Brian and I turn left out of McDonald’s Parking lot onto 3rd St. Through town, down a long winding road and out a road running alongside the Missouri River. Flat and smooth for several miles, river visible just to our right. Then into the hills, trees now between us and the river. Seven miles out we come to Wellington, population 784; then through Waterloo, only a few houses; then Napoleon, 204 folks and a few public buildings. Few cars, other bikers, motorcyclists, a mother and daughter on horseback.

“That’s a great school. I dream of going there.” The girl who takes my order is speaking and pointing to my shirt. The Pedalin’ Prof from William Jewell College, it says. “I’m a sophomore at Lexington High. I dream of going there.” I hadn’t thought to get her name at breakfast. I plan to do so when we have finished our ride and return. But she’s not here. I did give her a letter addressed to Lexington McDonald’s when I first came in. I saw her pass it along to another young woman pouring orange juice. Maybe I can get her name and pass it to our admissions folks at Jewell. Today was the first of the eight county seat McDonald’s I will visit in the next eight days, and the 104 I hope to visit over the next year or two. I’ll get better at getting information that might help me help students get to Jewell.

Monday, October 6
Marshall McDonald’s 816 W. College Big Breakfast $2.99

I give the cashier my letter and sit from 7:30-9. No one comes. I ride through town, by the Saline County Courthouse and First Baptist Church, figuring the road leads somewhere. I come to the end of the road at a T and turn right. This road becomes WW as it leaves town, but no sign tells where it leads. A few miles later, I think I know why. A big cloud of dust billows behind a pickup coming toward me. I come a short time later to a STATE MAINTENANCE ENDS sign where the road Y’s and turns to gravel.

I backtrack to the edge of town where WW makes a sharp left. Marshall has 12,711 people, is the home of Missouri Valley College and an airport. But no bike shop, as I learn when my mirror breaks and I go looking for another. WW AKA Butterfield Ranch Road passes on the edge of town between the college’s football stadium—home of the Vikings—and their gymnasium.

I ride a few miles from town in various directions, coming back to McDonald’s for lunch, Southwest Salad with grilled chicken and sweet tea, and back again in the afternoon for a bag of three oatmeal cookies and a senior coke. The bag pictures two children and an adult male on bicycles.

I mailed a letter weeks ago to the Marshall paper telling them I was coming and why and asking them to spread the word. I didn’t hear from the paper or from anyone who might have read what they wrote. My letter aroused no interest, so I don’t have the heart to go to the paper and tell them I’m here.

The promised rain begins to fall as I load my bike into my car about 2 o’clock and head for Columbia. I’m staying the next three nights with Greg Allen. He grew up next door and has lived and worked in Columbia for years. Tomorrow I ride in Fayette. Next day in Columbia. Third day in Boonville. Columbia is central to all.

By a little after 3, I’m sitting in the Columbia McDonald’s on Stadium Blvd, one of half-a-dozen in town and the first seen when coming on I-70 from Kansas City. Wednesday morning we ride from here.

Bus loads of old folks come and go as I sit here next to the indoor playground where three to 12 years olds play. A symphony of young staff moves seamlessly behind the counter, carrying out orders precisely and quickly, maintaining good humor and a pleasing countenance all the while. I sit undisturbed among the ebb and flow of diners, marveling at the human ingenuity that causes it all to work and the differing payoffs that accrue to the various participants.

Since first coming 45 years ago to Columbia and finding my fortune, I look for reason to return. The University here made my dream come true. I wanted to be a college professor, to spend my life among people and in a place where ideas and ideals work their magic. By awarding my PhD after a short time here, the University of Missouri opened the door to my becoming what the T-shirt I’m wearing proclaims: The Pedalin’ Prof from William Jewell College. I came to this job straight from grad school and never left. But I never thought of it as a job. I told everyone for years: “I don’t have a job. I just do what I love. And they pay me!”

Tuesday, October 7
Fayette McDonald’s

This morning’s cashier is an older woman. She takes my letter and passes it to her supervisor. She sees the golden arches on the sleeves of my T-shirt. “He’s wearing a McDonald’s T-shirt,” she says to all who may be in earshot. “I’m meeting folks here at 9 for a ride. We’ll be back later today to eat and talk. Right now I’ll have a Big Breakfast and a large orange juice.”

This McDonald’s is smoke free. So says the sign on the door. The Marshall McDonald’s had complimentary USA Today. This McDonald’s has been here 13 years, across the street from Fayette High School. “The school burned to the ground some years back when someone left a heater one near some papers,” the cashier tells me. Maybe that accounts for the new and up-to-date look of the school I see. This place is packed with older folks, the men and women sitting separately.

She has called me Mr. Chasteen several times in the few minutes since we met. We’re standing in the McDonald’s parking lot. It’s just after 9 AM. I’ve been here since 7:30, waiting for the 9 o’clock time someone may come. She is the only one who does. She’s a reporter for the local paper. She wrote a story a couple of weeks ago about my coming, inviting local folks to join me here at McDonald’s at 9.

“Call me Ed,” I say. “Your students call you Mr. Chasteen, don’t they?” “No, they call me Ed.” “You have a doctorate, don’t you?” “I do. From MU. My name’s still Ed.”

“What’s the purpose of your ride?” She asks. “To show everyone we can live beyond our limitations. I come to town not knowing who will show up or what will happen. The more uncomfortable I find something, the more I need to do it. Comfort is a poor teacher.”

She is rapidly scrawling everything I say in big letters in a tiny notebook while juggling a camera. “Can I get your picture? With your bike? With the McDonald’s sign and our high school in the background? She snaps several, rearranging me between each. “We go to press this afternoon. The paper says Wednesday, but it’ll be out today. “ I was feeling a little down before she showed up, but her high energy presence and obvious enthusiasm for what I do, makes the absence of everybody else seem not so important.

She hurriedly tells me how to get to some nearby towns. I ride by the Howard County Courthouse, the town-square and Central Methodist College, whose main entrance is one long block off the square. Reading the bronze tablet at the entrance, I learn that early on, a predecessor of this place was known as Howard Payne. And I remember that my favorite college professor from my undergrad days graduated from Howard Payne College in West Texas. And here I am in Howard County. Here’s a historical connection that piques my interest.

As I bike around Fayette, I’m trying to muster up energy and enthusiasm for a solo ride to another town. That angry sky is not lightening my mood. Rain is imminent. So back to McDonald’s I go, load my bike and head for Columbia. Hard rain begins to fall.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Columbia McDonald’s Biscuits and gravy and orange juice for breakfast

Early in his quest to right all wrongs, Don Quixote comes upon a place he thinks is a castle. In truth it’s a place where working men come to be fed. As I make my way from Greg’s in the early morning dark, the golden arches light up the sky and bring Don Quixote to mind. For my rides in all Greater Liberty county seat towns, the golden arches will be my beacon, drawing me to a place where food and friends await and turning my mind to Don Quixote, my fictional hero. “Too much sanity may be madness, and the greatest madness of all may be to see the world as it is and not as it should be.” So said Don Quixote. And so he is quoted on the back of the T-shirt I wear as I ride. On both sleeves: Golden Arches.

The place is filed this morning with men dressed for work. One asks another where he’s from. “Grand Junction,” he says. Will anyone come to ride with me? I’m here before 7. By 9 I’ll know. Greg told me how to ride to Hallsville. That’s where I’ll go if no one shows up with a route.

My bike phone rings. Al Plummer is calling. Al lives here in Columbia. He’s a HateBusters board member. He asks me to call him after our ride. Maybe we can get together before his out of town company arrives. Nine o’clock comes. No one comes.

I go the wrong way on the road Greg advised and wind up back at McDonald’s after an hour. I call Al. He comes. Over sweet tea and coffee we catch up on one another’s family, race relations, the coming election and the recent Missouri City hate crime.

Today is the fourth of my eight McDonald’s rides I’ve planned. Bobbie has gone on a cruise and will be gone for these days. So I can ride without leaving her at home by herself. I’ve planned these rides for months. I wrote letters to newspapers in every town asking them to announce my coming. The Fayette paper sent me a copy of the story they carried. A reporter for the Sedalia paper called for an interview. I then got phone calls, emails and letters from townsfolk who had read the story. They offered assistance.

But no one has yet come to ride with me. Brian went with me to Lexington, and the two of us rode. He has to work all week, but he will join me again on Saturday and Sunday in Warrensburg and Harrisonville. I’m feeling discouraged this morning when no one comes. Then I remember! I have violated the cardinal rule I made for myself when I began to ride bikes and bust hate. Never go where I’m not invited!! I was so anxious to fit these rides into the time I had available that I forced the issue. I omitted that crucial step. I came before I was asked. That’s not polite. Neither is it effective. I just announced I was coming. And I came. Big mistake. Won’t happen again.

Thursday, October 9
Boonville McDonald’s

This was my plan. Instead I am home. Drove home yesterday after Al and I talked for better than an hour. I stopped by Greg’s to leave the key to his front door he had given me. I was to stay tonight. I leave him a copy of my How To Like People Who Are Not Like You and a bunch of HateBusters membership cards he can give to his friends.

I will rest today and drive this afternoon to Sedalia. I’m to have dinner with Rev. Morris and spend the night with the family of a former Jewell student. Melvin Kerr is planning a bike route and recruiting riders. Robert Bond read about my coming in the paper. He called, wrote and emailed and plans to meet me at McDonald’s.

Debbie Gillespie graduated from William Jewell in 1975. Met Max Mitchell in law school. They got married and moved to Sedalia. Their daughter, Emily, is a sophomore at Hendrix College in Arkansas. Debbie is a judge, teaches at State Fair Community College and practices law, mostly bankruptcy, trying to help folks recover from economic ruin. Max is in general practice, with a heart for the down and out. Debbie and Max read about my coming to Sedalia and offered to put me up for the night.

I drive into Sedalia on Highway 50 and spot the golden arches. Inside I meet Rusty Rice, the owner. “Howe many riders do you expect?” He asks after I tell him why I’m here. I don’t have the heart to tell him this is our 6th ride and so far no riders have come. “I don’t know,” I say, “some local folks are planning the ride.” “Well, I’ll alert my staff to expect you in the morning.”

Melvin Kerr lives in Sedalia. We met years ago when he hosted a group of cross-country bikers I was with. I called to enlist Melvin’s help with this ride. He put me in touch with Reverend Morris, said I should meet him and learn about the program he runs to help kids. I had talked to Rev. Morris on the phone, and we planned to have dinner tonight. But he’s not feeling well. I had told Debbie I would call her after our dinner and get directions to her house. “Debbie, how about I take you and Max to dinner,” I say when I get her on the phone. “My dinner date had to cancel. “I love to cook,” she says, “I will make dinner for the three of us.” And a marvelous dinner it is. Even more marvelous is the conversation about times past and the coming election.

Friday, October 10
Sedalia McDonald’s

Robert Bond comes a little after 8. He grew up on a farm near Windsor, about 30 miles away, served in Vietnam, sells cars for the local Chevy dealer, belongs to four civic clubs, sings the praises of the Sunrise Optimists. We talk to near nine. Robert introduces me to three guys sitting nearby. When no bikers come, Robert tells me to ride up 50 just under the underpass and turn right on Ingram. As it leaves town this road becomes U and goes to Cole Camp, about 25 miles, he says.

Miles out I come to Mora, a few houses, a big bright red beautiful barn and Mora Lumber Company, where I stop to fill my water bottles and ask how far to Cole Camp. I haven’t seen any sign saying this is the road to Cole Camp or how far it might be. “Eight miles,” says the young man airing up his tractor tire. “Five miles,” says the man in the office. But both agree this is the road to Cole Camp.

A while later I’m stopped atop a hill gulping water when a silver pickup comes up the hill in front of me and stops. “You okay?” The driver asks. “I’m tired. But I’ll make it. How far to Cole Camp?” “Bout a mile and a half.” “Thanks for stopping. I’ll be okay.”

Robert Bond brought me a cap when he came to McDonald’s this morning: WK Cole Camp Sedalia, it says, identifying the dealership he works for and their two locations. First thing I spot in Cole Camp is the WK sign. I wheel in, tell them Robert sent me and ask for places to eat, with only 1,028 people, there is no McDonald’s. They recommend three. I pick the Platz, the German Restaurant. I head for a table in the back. “You made it,” he says as I pass his table. “Was that you in the pickup?” “That was me.” “Did you pass me and come back?” “I thought you might have had a flat.” “I’ve had lots of them. Thanks for stopping.” I give him one of the Pedalin’ Prof brochures I carry. Before he leaves, he comes to my table. He says, “May I keep this? He tells me his name is Dave Bartell. He lives in Warsaw, has a business in Cole Camp.

One of my reasons for choosing this German restaurant was to have an apple strudel for desert. But the waitress tells me their desserts won’t arrive until 2:30. “An Amish woman makes them and bring them.” I have the German Burger, a combination lamb-beef patty with grilled onions and cheese on a specialty bun. The tearoom across the street promises dessert in big black letters and almost drew me in to begin with. Now I head there. The Strawberry Cobbler with ice cream puts me in a blissful state.

Cole Camp draws travelers headed for any of the nearby lakes. Norman Rockwell inspiration lives here. A Brigadoon out-of-the-mist ambiance envelopes the place and lends a magical nostalgia that me makes want to linger. But I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep. The wind is at my back and the road seems more downhill as U takes me back to Sedalia 45 minutes faster than it brought me to Cole Camp.

Brian is planning to ride with me tomorrow in Warrensburg. I call him from Sedalia. We make plans to have dinner when I get to his house in Lee’s Summit. My two sons, Dave and Brian, live together. The three of us go to dinner. Then to see the just released The Express, the Ernie Davis Story. Inspiration on steroids! I wish I hadn’t seen it so I could see it again for the first time.

Saturday, October 11
Warrensburg McDonald’s

Brian and I drive to Warrensburg on Highway 50 and take Business 50 into town. We spot the golden arches from several hills away. We pull off 50 to the left just past a major intersection. The place is packed. We each order an Egg Mcmuffin and find a table. We will wait till nine. If riders come, we go with them. If not, we drive back to Brian’s and ride from there. No one comes.

By back roads from Lee’s Summit to Rich Hill is just over 15 miles. We’ve done it several times. To Neighbor’s Café a couple of times. To Café 113 the last time. It’s here we head today. Their French Dip Sandwich provides just the right energy without sitting heavy on the hills. Fall foliage is not yet at its prime, but the promise is evident on this bright October day.

Yesterday was my son-in-law’s birthday. His name is also Ed. “Two Ed’s are better than one,” we tell everybody. So last night after the movie, we called him and made plans for him, my daughter, Debbie, and granddaughter, Laura, to come over tonight at 6. “We’ll have your birthday party and watch the Missouri-Oklahoma State football game. Maura and Sarah will be here.”

So after Brian and I get back to his house, I drive home. “I’ll get a cake. You guys bring the pizza,” I say as I leave. Except for the game, the party goes well.

Sunday, October 12
Harrisonville McDonald’s

We were to have met here to begin today’s ride, our eighth county seat McDonald’s. But not a single rider has appeared for the first seven, and I don’t have the heart to try again. So Brian stays the night at my house after the party. We will do a local ride.

Loyalty is the number one virtue in my book. For years now I’ve been riding to breakfast in five towns some 15 to 30 miles from Liberty: Excelsior Springs, Kearney, Orrick, Lawson and Plattsburg. I’ve become a regular at Mill Inn, Sarah’s Table, Fubbler’s Cove, Catrick’s and JJ’s. Collectively I’ve eaten hundreds of meals in these five places over some 20 years. I will keep coming here as long as I can pedal.

“Where to?” Brian asks, as we leave the house about eight. “Sarah’s Table.” I say. By a roundabout route we make our way to Kearney and the old house on Jefferson Street where Betty, Tiffany and Janis greet us. “Is that your son?” Janis asks. “He sounds just like you.” Betty tells me that JD, her son, and once my biking buddy, has signed up to go to Iraq as a civilian fire fighter and bought a motorcycle, both of which worry her. Tiffany, Betty’s daughter, takes our money as we leave and wishes us a good day.

The Golden Arches
To explain my attraction to the golden arches, I must tell you that I love the theater. Brigadoon, Camelot, Fiddler on the Roof, Les Miserables, Man of LaMancha, Sound of Music—my favorites.

As Man of LaMancha opens, Don Quixote is an old man. His brains have dried up from reading too much about man’s inhumanity to man. I’m now an old man. I’ve spent my life trying to understand why racism and religious bigotry plague us and doing what I can to heal us of these twin afflictions. Instead of surrender after years of futile effort, Don Quixote mounts a crusade to right all wrongs. Saying “Too much sanity may be madness, and the greatest madness of all may be to see the world as it is and not as it should be,” Don Quixote dreams an impossible dream and sets out to make it come true.

Early in his quest, he comes to a place he thinks is a castle. Inside he meets the most beautiful woman he has ever seen. He falls to his knees. “My lady, what is your name?” “Off your knees, you fool, I’m no lady. My name is Aldonza. “No, my lady, your name is not Aldonza. Your name is Dulcinea.” She curses him and chases him away. This is not a castle, Don Quixote has found, but a roadside inn where mule drivers come for a meal and rest.

Several times in the story Don Quixote comes again to this place, each time calling her Dulinea and treating her as a lady, the only one who does. Near the end of the story, this woman hears that Don Quixote is dying. She finds him and forces her way in. “My Lord,” she says. “Who is it?” He asks. “You know my name,” she says. “No, my lady, who is it?” She begins to cry. “You called me by name and changed my life. My name is Dulcinea.”

That’s what I seek. I see goodness in everyone I meet. As a small boy on Saturday mornings I would listen to Let’s Pretend on the radio. Fairy tales came alive in my mind. More than anything I see in my adult world, golden arches remind me of that time and cause me to want to meet every person I can and like every person I meet. So I come to McDonald’s to meet Dulcineas.

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Talking to My Bicycle

October 27, 2008

By Ed Chasteen

You were forced on me. Gus Bonders did it. He said I would learn to love you. Three years into my diagnosis I was barely afloat on my self-made sea of desperation. I was searching for a harbor with out much hope of finding one. Then I found myself that day in 1984 standing in Gus’s bike shop there on Mill Street. I don’t know what made me think I would find salvation there, but that insane and insistent voice in my head would not let me alone. Every time I passed the place, it demanded that I go inside. That building was torn down years ago. Gus and his wife have moved back to their native Holland. But that day. Praise God for that day!

You saved my life. That doctor said I had a damnable disease. Said not to get hot. “You can’t be active,” he said. I cried a lot. That diagnosis put me in a panic. How could I take care of my family as an invalid? I quit doing most everything that brought me joy. I still taught my classes. I still went to church. But I was hurting. And hollow inside.

You were not what I told Gus I needed. I had found my son’s neglected old bicycle in a corner of the garage one day about a year back. That diagnosis lived in my mind like neon in the night, overpowering most every other thought that ventured there. Then one day came a timid little thought that burrowed itself into a dark corner and would not let go. “Get on that bike and ride to the church.” I fought the idea. That doctor said not to get hot, I screamed. Long sad days that timid little thought came. Until it wore away my resistance by its simple refusal to go away.

I got on the bike. And wobbled the one block down to the church on the corner. Bobbie and I had bought this house in part because it was near the church. Debbie, Dave and Brian could run out on Sunday mornings soon as the preacher finished. Their dog, Casper, would be waiting at the door, and the four of them could be playing in the yard by the time Bobbie and I walked home. I made it to the church. And back. I was exhausted.

But that voice in my head was encouraged. Not every day, but now and then, a little farther, until one day I made it all the way to Jewell on that bike. I will always wonder if the class I taught that day could feel the difference. I had navigated those two and one-half miles from my house to my office pumping those pedals with those legs that doctor had called useless.

All this was preamble to my standing that day in Gus’s shop and telling him I wanted to buy a bicycle. I had no idea what I needed. Gus did. He picked you out of the many he had. He explained all your features. It all went right over my head. You were blue and you had toe clips. Anything else he said might as well have been spoken in his native language. I protested that I did not want toe clips. Gus insisted I have them. I got you home. I could not get my feet in those toe clips. We fell. Several times. I said some bad words about you. And about Gus.

I got the hang of it after awhile. We found longer and hillier routes from home to campus. Then came that overcast October Sunday in 1986. That voice was back with another insane idea. A century! That’s what bikers call it when they ride 100 miles in a single day. I resisted as long as I could. But that Sunday I skipped church.

You and I headed for Plattsburg. We made that 25 miles. Then to Stewartsville, Cameron, Lawson, Excelsior Springs and back to Liberty. That was the plan. Halfway between Plattsburg and Stewartsville, that voice in my head came again. “Ride your bicycle across America.” WHAT??? Only once did I hear that voice. I protested. But I began to tell people what I heard.

You and I set off from Disney World in Orlando early on a May Monday morning in 1987. We were all by ourselves, just you and me. I had not one penny in my pocket. No credit cards. I was counting on the goodness and generosity of everyone we would meet to take care of us. I had heard in church that we are all created in the image of God. Surely that must mean there is goodness in all of us. I wanted to find it. I also wanted to find out if that doctor had been right. If I could make it across the country, I somehow understood that Multiple Sclerosis would have to live on my terms rather than the other way around.

You should be red, white and blue, I thought. America was celebrating the bicentennial of our constitution in 1987. So I had you painted red, lettered in white and wrapped your handlebars in blue. Bright red panniers front and rear carried all we would need for three and a half-months on the road: clothes for me, inner tubes and tools for you.

You remember your blowout that dark morning in Thomasville, Georgia? We had left the room the church provided while the night was black. We wanted to get to Americus in time to meet Millard Fuller at Habitat for Humanity and keep our appointment the next day with President Carter in Plains. I thought I had been shot. That noise was so loud. Then I found that huge nail rammed clean though your rear tire. When the bike shop opened, Ken McFarland bought us a new tube. Then you had a flat in Portland, Oregon and your chain broke in Gresham. I put in one of the tubes I had carried across the country and fixed the flat. Linda Lerwick paid for a new chain.

You were rebuilt before we left Liberty. Bob Watts did it. He used to build bikes for the pros. He said you would stand up to a Mack Truck and climb a tree. Across the northern Rockies and the High Plains Desert, with a hundred miles between towns and seldom a passing car, I was grateful for your dependability. Only when we were back and your spokes and cables would break did it ever dawn on me that my life would have been in danger if those things had happened on our long lonesome road that summer of ’87.

You remember the red carpet up Main Street at Disneyland they laid down for us? Just the two of us! Remember Mickey and Donald and Goofy and all the Disney characters that came to welcome us? Remember the trophy they gave us and the video they made of our ride? Remember the sea of shining faces in all the people colors? Remember how like a fairytale it seemed?

You helped me prove that doctor wrong. Not about the diagnosis. The prognosis! That’s where he got it wrong. Those 105 days you and I rode together, from Orlando to Seattle to Los Angeles, 5126 miles over mountains and deserts, through stifling heat and freezing rain, relying on the goodness of strangers—these days and these miles and the welcome reception of these people made me know that my MS means not that I can’t be active but that I must. The hotter I get and the more I sweat, I learned, the better I feel. When none of the more than 500 people I asked for help said no, I learned the power of total dependence on the goodness of people.

You made me know that my illness expands my world rather than limits it. Where before that doctor pronounced my doom I was sometimes hesitant to attempt a demonstration of the world as it should be, now I was audacious. Where before I believed that people are good and life is grand, now I knew it. You and I became inseparable that summer, and I will always love you for the incredible journey across America and into myself that you made possible.

You, however, are not enough, good buddy. It’s not enough that I ride you most everyday. If I don’t, I can’t walk. If I do, I can run. That’s true. But that’s not enough. My physical health is not my primary concern. If it were, you would be my savior. But there is more. I must do what I can, where I am and in the time I have to shape the world as I see it when I read the great books of faith and heroism. In these pages I hear a call to life above and beyond what comes on TV talk shows and newspaper headlines.

You are not enough. But you are essential. Without you I grow physically weak and spiritually fearful. So I must build whatever life I lead around you. You are a means to an end, a way of getting to the life I long for, the life of a world class person, one who is able to go anyplace at anytime and talk to anyone about anything and feel safe. I am not there yet. If I am ever to get there, you must deliver me. Not all by yourself. You will need help. Most people think of you as a child’s toy, and when I come into their lives aboard you, they relax and take me in. You are the key that unlocks the door and ushers me into the lives of people everywhere. Red and yellow, black, brown and white; Christian, Buddhist and Jew; Hindu, Baha’i and Muslim too; all are precious in our sight. All open their doors to a pedalin’ pilgrim.

You and I weren’t back long when that Klansman got elected to the Louisiana Legislature and my mind flashed back to that morning when I was 14. Brother Clinard had just preached another eloquent and powerful sermon about loving our neighbor as we love ourselves. I knew that come Monday morning everybody in our town would love everybody. Two deacons stood in the church door as I left. Said Mr. Singletary to Mr. Batcher, “If them niggers try to come in this church, I’ll beat ’em back with a baseball bat.” Said Mr. Batcher to Mr. Singletary, “Me, too.” I wanted to cry. I swore I would never live in their world.

You carried me to class that morning with the newspaper announcing the Klansman’s election. I stood before my Race Relations students with that paper and announced to the class that we had to do something to help the state redeem itself. We named ourselves HateBusters. The class elected a black student, a white student and me to go. We asked an airline for free tickets. The governor of Louisiana invited us to come.

You had to go in a box. I’m sorry. I know how I panicked when they put me in that steel cylinder for a CAT scan. But they wouldn’t take you on the plane without the box. And we had to get to Baton Rouge. I tried to make it up to you with that 100-mile ride from the state house out along the Mississippi. More than 100 of us: black and white, young and old, male and female. Then that night back at the church for our Human Family Reunion you were on display up front for everyone to see, HATEBUSTERS written large across your top tube.

You went with me soon after to California, Texas, Florida, Mississippi and Arizona as word got out and we began to be invited by governors, mayors, rabbis, imams, ministers, students and townspeople to come help people learn to like each other, not simply endure but actively endorse one another. In 1995 we left the campus where you were a familiar sight and I had become an institution. We took HateBusters nationwide as a 501 C-3 non-profit, never saying no when asked to help and never charging a fee, building everything around you. Two reasons: (1) if I do not ride many miles most every day I can not walk, and if I can not walk, no way on earth I can bust hate; (2) bicycles draw a crowd asking questions, and we can turn the conversation to race relations.

You and I have traveled more than 100,000 miles together. You wore out three odometers. By then, though, I knew that our natural speed was a leisurely 10 miles per hour, so for the past few years I’ve multiplied the time we’re gone by 10 to estimate our mileage. Months you used to go between flats. And hardly ever a blowout. But they came in bunches this past year. Sometime a bump drove a spoke through your tube. Sometime a weakness in a tire wall made it blow. A few years ago on an MS-150 ride, your handlebar broke, luckily just as we came to a stop at the bottom of a long hill.

You have taken me to grand places to meet good people. I thank you. It was an awesome ride we had. I love you as much as any person can love a piece of machinery. But as I have, you have grown old. Wind, rain, sun, hills and road hazards have taken a toll. Neither of us is what we were. With a new me not available, you become the replaceable one.

Your retirement has been urged on me for years by friends. I resisted and told them stories of our adventures. But a few months back something in my mind turned a corner, bringing me upon a road I had not traveled. And I knew you could not come with me. As much as we ride together you might think I know a lot about you. You would be wrong. I love to ride you. That one thing I know. The only other thing I know is that I need a friend who owns a bike shop where I can take you when you’re ailing. Once it was Gus Bonders. Then Bob Watts. Then Frank Biscari. Now it’s Dave Biscari. Dave and his brothers, Bob, and Alex own Biscari Brothers Bicycles, with shops in Kansas City, Independence and one here in Liberty.

“Dave, I’m ready for another TREK, a touring model,” I said a few months ago when you had a flat and I took you to Dave for repair. “And it has to be red.” Turns out TREK makes only one model of the touring bike these days. In green. It’s hard enough for me to think about replacing you. The only way I can do it is if your replacement looks and feels as much like you as bike makers can manage. I was feeling blue wanting red and offered green.

You had another blowout and we were back to see Dave. “Good news,” he said. “The factory will paint a bicycle red just for you.” In the weeks it took to come, you and I were in and out of the shop with a rash of flats and blowouts. Each time Dave and I talked about the impending arrival. If you had been my wife, I would have thought you were jealous and trying to make me suffer for my unfaithfulness.

My new red TREK touring bike sits now in Dave’s window for all to see. Just yesterday Dave put the letters on: HATEBUSTERS on either side of the top tube and my name on the seat tube. The panniers he expects next Tuesday. On Wednesday next it will be mine. Everything brand spanking new. Friction shifting and bar end shifters, toe clips and silver half-fenders. Drop bars tilted at the same degree. CORRECTION! Not everything is new. Dave has put your Brooks Saddle on your replacement. Part of you will go with me for years to come. This Lazy Boy of saddles only gets better with age, as it configures itself to my anatomy and takes on the guise of easy chair, as near, at least, as anything atop a bicycle ever could.

Your Brooks saddle has for years been my office. The cathedral quiet of hours on the road, legs as pistons, lungs as bellows carries my mind to places beyond any dimension of thought available at my sedentary office. A Niagara of sweat produces a Vesuvius of words! Mind, heart and soul at warp speed and perfect calm, taking me to places I otherwise could never go. That day in Macon, Georgia for example. The following words came to me as we rode. That’s why I dismounted all those times. I had to get the words on paper before others came. We ride so slow because I’m composing all the time. You’re carrying my body. But my mind is in other places. I’m not inattentive. I’m focused. The world as it should be is ever gentle on my mind.

As I ride, I see burned and boarded and abandoned houses where not long ago people lived. Sandwiched among these derelict structures, I see barely habitable homes, if home it be when no future lives within. From these lonely places on this May Monday morning have come their unoccupied occupants. They sit now on their porches and stand about in their yards.

“Good morning,” I call, as loud and as cheerfully as I can as I pedal past. Most respond. What must they think, I wonder, to see an old white man riding a bicycle down their street? Many times before I have come to this town where my daughter and her family live and work. Only a few blocks from the heart of the city, this is not a road tourists travel when they visit. These people and the places where they live are not pointed out when the town explains itself. Parallel roads just a few blocks away carry all the traffic. These lonely by-ways sing a siren song to a pedalin’ pilgrim. Overpowering sadness and a broken heart are my melancholy companions this day. They have journeyed with me before in other towns and in other seasons. I ride to lose them, to find a place and a people where they are not at home.

“Dead End.” I keep seeing this sign this morning. The freeway that 18 wheelers roam cut neighbor off from neighbor years ago in this place, and the sign erected to mark the interruption of neighborhood streets seems now a fitting commentary on life in this place.

On one street I find a bridge has been built to carry neighbors over the interstate. My good feeling at seeing a through street is swept away by the cross. Underneath the cross is a picture of a young black man. And the words, “Someone I love was murdered here.” Taped to many of the stop signs on these streets is a plea: “Stop The Killing”.

My journeys with you, good buddy, through the mean streets of America leave me broken hearted. These dear people to whom I call greetings need someone to give voice to the stories of their lives. Hoping somehow to do that, to do it in a way that fully captures their dignity, their fierce pride and their desperate need, a way winsome enough to find favor on fairer streets—this longing to reconcile all our people to each other gets me out of my bed and out with you in every month of the year and every state of the union.

I may never find the words to reconcile all of us, but every day in your company I do find the words to greet every person I see. Who can know what ripple effect these random greetings may have? A kind word from an unexpected source to begin their day might echo through these hollow streets and come back again in a higher key. A man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?

If we could all walk down any street,

And stop to talk to all the people we meet,

Maybe the world would seem more our home,

And we could feel secure wherever we might roam.

You will now become my back up bike. So long, good buddy. I will hang you from the ceiling in my garage, where your back up has always hung. Son, Dave, will take that bike. You will come down now only when my new TREK is laid up and must come to Biscari Brothers. You have earned your rest. But I hope you are better at accepting inactivity than I was. You, though, have no choice in the matter.

I do.

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

No Boundaries On Our Soul!

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Copyright (c) 2000-2008 http://www.hatebusters.com and TakeCareOfMyWebSite.com.
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The Lickskillit Mall

October 6, 2008

By Ed Chasteen

The nearly 12 miles of Interurban Road from Ferellview to Camden Point are newly paved. And new bridges. Hardly any cars pass Rich and me as we pedal. We’ve ridden this road many times and never seen it in such good shape, as we remark to one another as we ride. But about two miles past Camden Point the road abruptly turns to fine gravel. My narrow tires don’t take kindly to such a surface. Changing lanes becomes treacherous. Several big trucks appear from nowhere and send clouds of dust that choke and blind. Caution takes over the last few miles to Dearborn

Logan’s Bar and Grill has been flashing off and on in our heads the last few miles. Their biscuits and gravy have lured us here before. This morning’s October chill adds to their allure. Rich is the first to arrive, his wide tires more at home on this unfriendly surface. “They’re closed,” he announces as I ride up.

Little Toot just up the street had been our breakfast place until it burned some five years ago. After a few months Logan’s Bar and Grill appeared. Our Greater Liberty Riders had come here once, more than 20 of us. Rich and I had come several times. Now it’s closed. If there is no new incarnation of country cooking in this tiny town of boarded up facades, the nearest eating places are in Edgerton, some eight miles ahead or in Platte City, some 13 miles away, but back in the general direction we came from.

Halleluiah! Kitty-corner across the street from the still standing and still burned out Little Toot, we spot an inviting place – Cook’s Corner Cafe. We prop our bikes in front and step inside. A Norman Rockwell ambiance permeates the place. Two older men are the only customers. We’ve arrived just past prime breakfast time and before lunchtime. One of the men has lived here all his life. We discover we know some folks in common.

A year now this place has been here, says our waitress, owned and operated by sisters Charlene Cook and Darla Dubois and “Home of Darla’s Blue Ribbon Pies.” Coffee and a half order of biscuits and gravy we both order, then split a short stack. The meringue stands tall and proud atop the coconut pie. Rich and I split a piece. This place deserves an encore we conclude.

As we mount our bikes and prepare to leave, a car pulls up. The window rolls down. “Where’s the museum?” He asks. Scrawled across the side of the building just behind us in giant letters – LICKSKILLIT MALL. Cook’s Cafe is housed the other side of this wall. “Couldn’t beat this place for a living museum,” I say.

We choose another route back. Highway 371 was known before I-29 stole its traffic simply as 71. Now its meandering over hill and dale carries an occasional big truck and local cars. It brings us to Platte City for a sandwich stop at Country Cookin’. Then through the hills on an assortment of alphabet roads to Ferrelview.

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

No Boundaries On Our Soul!

Web Site Development and Service provided by TakeCareOfMyWebSite.com.
Copyright (c) 2000-2008 http://www.hatebusters.com and TakeCareOfMyWebSite.com.
All rights reserved.