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Monday, July 18, 2016

A Path to the Light

"There is light, and beauty up there, that no Shadow can touch."
Samwise Gamgee
Lord of the Rings:  The Return of the King

My heart longs to ride to a remote, primitive campsite to join fellow bike packing enthusiasts for a short get-away on Saturday evening. But the world seems to conspire against me.

First, I misread the announcement for the gathering and actually ride out there last week. It's a nice ride and campout, but not the intended social event. Then, family happenings this week, some predictable and some not, detract me from organizing all the food, gear and clothing details. As the load on the week builds, work demands a string of 12 hour shifts, including a 3:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. shift on Saturday itself. It doesn't look good.

Limping home from work on Saturday at about 3:30 p.m., I drop everything to the floor and plop onto a couch. Dozing off, I jolt awake to find it now after 4:00 p.m. In addition to my bike being nowhere near ready to go, I'm tired, sleepy, hungry, thirsty and all around worn down. Decision time. The world hasn't won yet, but it's late in the game and I'm behind. I know that's exactly when it's time to go.

After a quick, last minute stuff check, I'm out the door by about 4:30 p.m. Of course, I know neither the weather nor the forecast. It doesn't matter. Tonight, I'm riding 42 miles on primarily gravel roads, mostly uphill, to eat a cold dinner, pitch a tent in the dark, and sleep on the ground. There's nothing else I'd rather be doing.

There is a light that no darkness can touch.

Spinning out of Rapid City on Nemo Road, I'm almost four miles up the initial five mile climb before noticing the dark clouds directly above, to the right and to the left. Those clouds are really dark. Behind me, the rumblings of thunder start and the wind arrives in force. I slow, then stop, and look up again. Reflexively, I cross the road and turn downhill toward home. The world wins.

But something stops me a second time. I turn around and look up, again. There. There to the West, and a little to the North. There's a break in the clouds. Yes, it's small, not much at all compared to the darkness surrounding me. But, it's there. A thought penetrates my heart. There lies your path. Ahead lies your destination. Follow this path to the light.

A big smile breaks out. Let's go. I restart my climb with hopes of reaching the light before the world crashes down around me. The darkness deepens and the winds howl, but it doesn't matter. I'm moving toward the light.

Moments later, a man driving a public utility truck pulls alongside, motioning me over. He's concerned for my safety, as he's en route to fix some downed power lines already knocked out by heavy rains and thunderstorms just a few miles to the north. I thank him and tell him that I am doing great. I say that my journey lies there, to that small patch of light poking through the mass of angry clouds. And I'll make it to that light, whether or not this nasty weather descends on me first. He looks at me a bit sideways, but leaves knowing that he at least tried to steer me home.

Over the next six miles on Nemo Road, the fast moving clouds and shifting winds confound any prediction of where or when all this violence will strike. But it certainly will, both near and soon. Throughout all this activity, the small patch of clear sky to the West remains. Promising. Unchanging. My hope lies with the light.

As I turn left onto Norris Peak Road, the first dollops of rain strike. Big, fat drops of cold water, leaving splotches on the pavement the size of silver dollars. I reach for my rain jacket, at the ready in my left rear jersey pocket. It stays there. The rains hold.

Just two miles later, I pedal west onto Bogus Jim Road, finally on gravel and more uphill. I'm right at the razor's edge of a major thunderstorm just to the north and another just to the south. I'm now riding pretty much due West, between the darkest of the clouds and directly toward that small patch of clear sky. I hope.

The miles pass slowly, with my weary body hauling a laden bike up a series of long hills. About six miles later, just as I finally crest the last of the climbs on this stretch of gravel, the sun in all its glory breaks out. I made it to the light. The darkness is decidedly behind me now. I made it to the light.

Peaceful evening ride once I found my way to the light.

Joyfully coasting down a short descent, I know that I'll make it to Black Fox Campground tonight. Oh, there's still 20 miles of mostly uphill pedaling on gravel, and it's going to be dark. But I'm going to make it. My path to the light leads me to my destination.

I believe there's a bigger story here. The path is the Bible. The light is Jesus. The destination is God. Follow the Bible to Jesus to experience God. Even then, while here on this earth, there still will be storms to weather and work to do, but your destination is secure. Be at peace.

2016 Pedal Power Camp Out, several hours before I arrived.  (photo by Jason Thorman) 

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