Day 52 Tuesday, August 30 Middlegate Station to Fallon, NV 59 miles
I definitely am beginning to return to the world now.
I arrived in Fallon, NV in the early afternoon after a short, but hot ride from Middlegate Station. I think I probably used the term “barren” prematurely in the days prior to today. Until I neared Fallon, the landscape out of Middlegate Station became more and more barren until it felt almost as if I was riding through an oversized sandbox. I have stopped in days prior alongside the road to fill a water bottle, get a snack from my packs, or take a picture. I did the same today, but I realized that I had to force myself to stop. I just wanted to keep moving and not linger too long out in the suffocating heat.
I did, however, stop to linger a couple of times. This is sort of important as it has taken me this long to finally get this lesson. I discovered with the distance between Middlegate Station and Fallon being only 47 miles that I felt no pressure about the riding. In days past I wouldn’t have veered far off course for fear that adding 3 or 4 miles might just be the miles that put me over the top. I actually rode 59 miles today, but 12 of those were unplanned miles. I veered off course just about one mile to see the Sand Springs Recreation Area. Then after getting to town and having a refreshing shower I rode around the town of Fallon in my street clothes. Earlier in the day I even stopped for a few minutes to watch the Navy jets doing practice bombing runs. That was an eerie experience!
So…if I had to plan this trip over again I would have planned for about 50 miles a day between destinations so that there was more room for spontaneous side trips, stopping for 30 minutes by a creek and soaking my feet, or lingering a little longer over a good conversation. But, why wait until the next pilgrimage or trip? The fact of that matter is that this is a lesson I need to bring back home with me. It seems that I am brought back repeatedly to this Shorter Catechism answer, “The chief end of man is the glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” That mantra has nagged at me the whole trip and today I think I tasted a little of what that life feels like. Slowly and surely I will get it. My friends and family are counting on it. Enjoy, Brian, enjoy!
As I said I am now returning to the world. Nearing Fallon the terrain shifted fairly rapidly from barrenness to irrigated farmland. I am essentially at the end of the “Loneliest Road in America” and am emerging prepared for a new chapter in this pilgrimage. I would say that it is coincidental that as I emerge from the desert I also am reconnecting with my life and people. But, at this point I am convinced that none of this is coincidental. It’s as if the themes, pacing, and landscape of the pilgrimage and my life feed off of each other.
I was hoping and expecting to ride my way home depending on the support and connections from my extended Presbyterian family, longtime friends, and my new Warmshowers friends. As of tonight I have six churches who are trying to host me and/or schedule me to speak with their members. With two Warmshowers hosts I now have places to stay all the way to San Francisco and into the North Bay.
I am feeling both apprehensive and excited about sharing what I have learned and heard on this trip. Our mainline congregations have been on a steady decline for over 40 years. The good news is that the religious impulse is strong out here. People are asking and pondering the basic religious questions about who we are, the nature of our connections with each other, and our relationship with the natural world. People are talking, thinking and exploring. The bad news is that the trust put in the Church to be a safe, open and honest place to wrestle with those questions is very low.
It is time to return to my life, my people, and my community again. I did fear going into the desert afraid that it might mentally break me as I was yearning more and to return to the comfort of home (whatever that will mean). I am glad that I didn’t take the Greyhound bus. I am glad that I had this final test where I had to dig deep before coming back into my life and the world. I don’t think it would have been the same experience if I had leapfrogged over Nevada straight into the beauty of Lake Tahoe and California. It might have been easier, but it would not have been true to the rhythm of life as I know it. We all have times in our lives when we have to go through the wilderness before emerging stronger.
Now I can smile as I reach toward California. I have a history there. I have friends and family. I have a church community I helped charter. It feels like the beginning of another chapter.