My room is originally designed to be an office space that connects to a weathered wood porch. Of all my housemates, I spend the most time lounging and maintaining the outdoor area in the back. The porch isn’t anything special; it’s a quaint space that allows me to escape from my cave and enter a slice of green from the grasp of the confined concrete neighborhood. The walnut tree, cozied along the back porch, causes quite a muck; there is rotten leaves between the spaces of wood, years of accumulated car dust collected in the corner crannies, and you have to tip-toe around parts of the decaying wood that bends like an elastic band when stepped on. It creeks (and sometimes creeps with bugs and squirrels) but when the string lights my roomies and I hung up are plugged in, the porch twinkles with character. It’s also a perfect nook to store all of our pedal bikes. It’s a simple, college kid porch… but it’s our simple porch.
On a crisp winter morning, two old-school road bikes were acquainted with our cheap, hand-me down bikes. I’ve never seen these two mystery bikes around town before and definitely never stationed on our back porch… I thought it peculiar but I wasn’t curious enough to ask my roommates about them. I figured it was our friends, who lived one house down from us, storing their bikes. These two bikes were in rough shape: the front brake, on the black bike, was detached and dangling from the handlebars. The rear wheel frame, on the green bike, was feebly bent out of shape. Although, those two bikes both stood proud even with their blemishes and shelf display of rust. If only they could talk, the stories they could tell. Each time I would walk by those bikes, I was hypnotized by their whispering melodies of speed and style. I now went searching for the owners. My detective work began with my roommates; they had no idea what I was talking about, “What bikes? No, those bikes aren’t ours.” I then moved onto our neighbor friends; their response was similar, “Nope, not ours.” I asked around the community if anyone was missing a pair of recluse bikes; there was no evidence of any owner! How odd? I was forced to my last resort; I would let time take its course and see if the someone/something who left the bikes would eventually pick them up. One month after the other were ripped away from my calendar. It was now the beginning of spring where the hope of new life was eminent. I had waited three months for the orphans to be rediscovered with no luck. Now, the only thing left to do was to take it upon myself and adopt “bike 1” and “bike 2”. Who would’ve thought that spring could bring two, new-to-me, bikes to my back porch?
Between “bike 1” and “bike 2”, the vintage green Raleigh roadster was calling my name. I carried the fragile piece of machinery to my 1996 Honda Accord. I put as much of the ol’ girl in the trunk that could fit, lightly closed the truck door (because the whole front tire was poking out), and drove to the local bike hospital. They treated Miss Rally like she was Cinderella; she was hoisted up onto a pedestal and fitted with a new rear tire frame, a new tire for that new frame, and fresh oil on the chain and brakes. Bipitee-bopitee-boo; she was ready to rip the roads once again! It costed me a grand total of $23 for the work and the additions (dirt cheap in my books) and I rode her around all day and everyday since. This modest and classical bike brought me so much happiness. It sounds silly but it’s true! I felt like it was a gift left by an anonymous someone just for me (God maybe?). On an average day, a wild idea struck my senses: I’m going to ride from Moscow, Idaho back to home in Oregon. I Google mapped the intended journey and it totaled to 374 miles and I figured I could accomplish the distance in four to five days. Now you must know, I am no skilled or expert bicycle rider and I’d only been consistently ridding since adopting Miss Rally, which wasn’t long…maybe a week or two. I know hardly anything about bike mechanics, proper positioning, the best gear to wear and carry, or the most efficient strategy to tackle a long excursion like this. That being said, I’m a rookie in the bike world. However, I was in great shape and I watched a Netflix documentary about a group of individuals who road across the United States coast to coast on their cycles. I learned by watching those featured athletes and I was hooked; driven by passion and excitement. I thoroughly considered the varieties of alternatives and consequences that could occur along the expedition but nothing could deter me from giving this outing my best shot. My insides were smiling and my outside shell was glowing from the idea. This is an ADVENTURE.
My sophomore year of college was coming to a close, the weather had been increasingly getting warmer, and I was prepared for the journey ahead: I memorized my route, practiced riding with additional weight, accumulated all the food and water I’d need to sustain myself, and packed other essentials such as spare clothes, a bivy sac, the pink tazer my dad bought me, and a portable phone charger. I counted down the days until lift off. It was finally the night before the big adventure began. I put all my necessities on the bike, carb loaded by eating an entire pizza, and studied for my final exam at 9:30 the following morning. I lay in bed that night dreaming of the uncertainty to come without any jitters. I WAS READY and would hit the pavement directly after my exam.
The sun broken the horizon and streamed through the gaps in my blinds, searching for me. I whipped the covers off like a matador in the ring and pounced out of bed. I put my hair in two tight pigtail braids, caked on SPF 50 sunscreen, snagged a bite to eat, and walked to school for the final exam. I forced myself to shift my brain from the ride to statistical methods. I whirled through the questions finishing it with an hour available to spare (I later found out that I passed the class!). I waved goodbye to University of Idaho and strolled home with pep in my step and a smirk on my face. When I got home, I stared at Miss Rally… “Am I really doing this?” I said in a chuckle. “Well…here we go!” I was squirming with anticipation. With that, I went away from my room onto the back porch, where the relationship started, and locked my room door behind me. I took my haul to the road: clink, clink, clink went my bike…I wasn’t the only one ready to rock-n-roll. The green grass faded into the promise of pavement. I swung my leg over the bike to its place on the pedal, hopped on the saddle, and was off at 10:30.
My muscles were stiff with the freshness of morning but my bike felt steady. I was cookin’ with bacon grease on that pavement, though: I’m doing this thing that I had been planning with an adopted bike from God… crazy! I began settling into my comfortable groove when I had a handful of miles under my fanny-pack (heck yes I wore a fanny-pack). I could feel the tension in my quads melt away and transfer into raw muscle memory. I shifted gears, laid my forearms on the butterfly pads, and unearthed a rhythm; Miss Rally was swaying side to side while I zoomed through the wind like a fired bullet. The destination for “day one” was 80 miles from Moscow in a peewee town called Washtucna: population of 207 in an areas the size of a football field. With 15 miles checked off, I cruised by the last major town I would see for awhile. I was relieved to be out of the furry, claustrophobia, and deafening WHOOSH of speeding vehicles that the main road brought and thrilled to gaze on the rolling countryside.
The serenity of the blue sky pairing with trimmed fields, from harvest, made time an imaginary boundary. The sun climbed the mornings’ steps to be rewarded a crown of afternoon glory. I had a personal supply of breeze from my pace that cooled the sweat sliding down my shins, my stomach and chest, and my head through the ventilation holes in my helmet. The crickets hummed a continuous chirp, the birds added a tweetly-dee and tweedle-doo, and the irrigation sprinkles sang a smooth jazz of chichhh-chichhh with a rainbow of mist to follow it. I was tickled by the splendor of the landscape. The things I felt from the features I saw couldn’t be produce by man. I was succumbed by the power of it all and ignited with a newfound motivation. It was lovely.
While riding along I nibbled on bread, took shots of honey, and sipped on crisp water. I took a break from Miss Rally and walked along the road when I passed a sign reading “Washtucna 40 miles”. I had biked a total of 40 miles in a little over three hours, halfway to the checkered line. It was now around 12:30 and I was right on schedule. Walking felt foreign - I wobbled around like a newborn foal but working my muscles in a different way started loosening the salicylic acid forming in my legs. I shoveled down a couple handfuls of trail mix, swung my leg back over to its place on the pedal (more laboriously than when starting my ride) and carried on. I was about 10 miles into riding, from my walking break, when I saw a heard of grazing heifers over my right shoulder. It was a pleasing change in scenery from the plunging dunes of wheat fields. I stared at the cows then glanced back on the road (to make sure I wasn’t swerving) then back to the cute cows. This time when I looked at the cows, I saw a dirty tan blob running and hopping around. “What the heck is that?” I said to myself. I focus in on the bounding creature, taking note of its figure and behavior, and realized it was a coyote. “Huh, that’s interesting!” I was looking at the coyote and the coyote was looking at me; we had a stare off for a solid five minutes. I was so enthralled with this coyote that I forgot I was even pedaling. However, the enchantment between the two of us turned sour when I realized the coyote was bounding after me.
Yotee the coyote was 50 yards to the right of me but was indifferently springing past the cows, which are much easier targets than me, with feverish speed, tenacity, and curiosity. I impatiently shifted gears to increase my speed. Skipping over gear levels made the chain scrape and squeal against the dials. I was in disbelief and felt my skin creep with fear. I swear Yotee was using the cows as a parkour warm-up course and solely consumed on pursuing this interesting figure… me. I was in the middle of nowhere, I hadn’t seen or heard a vehicle for miles, and I was starting to get seriously concerned. “Coyotes are afraid of people, right?” Mile after mile went by and this animal kept stalking its prey. It got closer and closer, too: 50 yards, 40 yards, and 30 yards…. My adrenaline was coursing through my body and I was pedaling as fast as my legs could pump. Whirl-whirl-whirl…I thought I was flying I was going so fast and yet, the coyote still lingered. I began to yip and holler at Yotee until my lungs were desperate for air and my vocal cords were violently screeching; it didn’t even phase him…“MOTHER F*#@%R!” I thought to myself, “This creature is possessed!!” I was quickly running out of steam. I thought about if Yotee got any closer the only thing left to do is to try and shock this Tasmanian with my pink tazer. Yeah that sounds like a good idea I guess…. I took one final look at the coyote; my head was pounding and my quads were barking but in an instant, the intense fixation of the coyote on me made it forget to look ahead of itself. CRASH! Yotee slammed into the end of the pastureland fence, which kept the heifers in, and screeched from unexpected pain. I made sure to keep the pace I was at and frequently looked over my shoulder but the fence seemed to halt Yotee’s desire of hunting me. The coyote had been out of site for miles now so I got off my bike and caught my breath. What they heck just happened to me?...
I was painfully panting, dripping in sweat, and exhausted. I sat on the blacktop scrambling in the mirage of heat waves. At this point, I was sick of being on Miss Rally and felt my eyes swelling up with tears. It was now around 2:45 and I had ridden on switchback mountain terrain for four hours and was chased by a ferocious wild dog for 20 of those… and I still had around 15 miles to go. I was mentally disheveled and physical wilting. I frequently had to stop and get off my bike because… well…because my crotch hurt so darn bad. I kid you not when I say it felt like I was getting an Indian burn on my vah-jay-jay every time I sat on my seat trying to continue pedaling. The vibrant purple volleyball spandex I wore were now a deep violet soaked in sweat. They were so tight, short, and drenched that it shredded my skin raw so sitting on my chaffed flesh sent a burn that ached my entire body. I winced with discomfort. I wore the purple spandex as a cheap way to mimic the fancy tights with built in butt/crotch pads that the experts wore. That was a lethal mistake. The rest of my body molded a new layer of filth that consisted of dried salt and flakey sunscreen. This was going to be a long 15 miles.
Behind every turn or hill I conquered was continual blacktop. No matter my pace, duck walking or awkwardly attempting to pedal, it didn’t seem like I was getting any closer to my destination. Then, like seeing a glistening pond in a vast desert, there it was: WASHTUCNA. The quest of the Holy Grail had been discovered! I had one last slope to climb and damn-it I was determined to ride it. Proverbs 13:4, “A sluggard’s appetite is never filled, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied.” Through several grunts, curse words, and squishing my face in pure agony, I made it to the top. The slope began to level out then descend. I stopped pedaling, whipped my fist in the air and whirled it around in triumph, then hunkered down as aerodynamically as I could and let gravity take me. I cut through the air like a released arrow lit on fire. Tears flew from my eyes, skipping along my cheeks, and swept off into infinity. I had arrived.
It was around 6 o’clock, I had been riding/walking (crawling) for eight hours, and I was ready to sit in a normal chair bigger than the floss I’d been straddling. I locked my bike up against a pole, waddled towards the closest market, climbed the three stairs to the porch, and sat for a comfortable time. I was numb looking into the distance. I treated myself to a peanut butter milkshake, cheeseburger with all the works, and waffle fries. I can only imagine what the cashier lady thought of me when I went to the register: my pigtail braids were frizzed out like I had been electrocuted, my face looked like salted sandpaper, and I was walking around like I had a stick up my butt. She was obviously puzzled and asked, “What in the world have you been up too and do you need to use the ladies room?” At this, all I could do was laugh at myself; I was a pleasant mix of delusional and delight. I told her what I had just done, and what I was planning on doing, and she said I was crazy. She must’ve felt some sort of sympathy towards me because she included a free Snickers bar with my meal. “I didn’t pay for that?” I said. She replied with a motherly grin and a sly wink, “Get out’a here and good luck with the rest of your trip.”
Miss Rally and I strolled to the city park about 20 yards down the road. I sat down at a picnic table and laid all my goodies out on the table. I clasped my hands together, bowed my head, and thanked God for the safety and success of the day’s journey. I slowly savored every drop of food that was before me and watched the sun descend from its reign in the sky. Shadows fell on the local farms while the hills were ignited with vibrant hues of orange, purple, and maroon. What a beautiful life. I called my parents letting them know where I was and that I was safe. I changed into fresh clothes, washed my face, brushed my teeth, and took a deodorant shower. The locals entertained me with their quirky personalities and life stories as the beautiful afternoon turned into night. The moon shone proud against the carpet of black and I was easily able to see without a light.
I scoped out a perfect place to sleep for the night: historical equipment was on display in the middle of town and within that variety was a raggedy wood wagon from colonial days. I peeked inside the hold of the wagon and noticed small holes of missing or crumbling wood from age and weather exposure. However sketchy it looked, it was the safest place for me to stay hidden and protected from the town people and their free roaming pets. I locked my bike against an adjacent fence and unraveled by bivy sac inside the wagon. I slowly maneuvered into the bivy as not to tear the fragile lining or fall through the wagon floor. One foot in at a time… crunch-crunch-creeek, I paused and let the wood settle down from its tantrum. I squirmed into a cozy cranny and settle in. What a thrill. Even though the moon was bright, I could still see the fade of glimmering stars desiring to be the center of attention in the sky. I was toasty warm in my cocoon, the night wasn’t as intimidating as I had dreaded, and my physical and mental strength had been recovered to its original enthusiasm. The only downfall was...my crotch.
I was still in excruciating pain and there was no chance in recouping for the next day’s ride. As much as I wanted to go on, I had to be reasonable and admit defeat as I waved my white flag. I called my parents and they were more than happy to come and get me (they had their concerns about the ride in the first place). After we talked, they hit the road within the next 30 minutes so I had approximately five hours until they would get to me in Washtucna. I set my alarm for 3:30 in the morning, thought how awesome my parents were and how gladly they sacrifice their life for me, and softly faded to sleep in a shabby wagon under the cratered moon. I was so grateful to see the florescent headlights of my dad’s truck and to embrace my mama and papa.
For Christmas 2016, I’m asking for fancy riding tights with EXTRA padding. Will I give the adventure another go? I guess you’ll just have to find out.
This experience taught me to live-out my “crazy”, “out of place”, and “rash” dreams and it fueled my spirit with a thirst for uncertainty. I discovered a sense of peace from looking around and truly acknowledging the brilliant creations for their modesty. When I turned myself from the inside (self-centered) to the outside scenery, I was humbly overwhelmed by its simplicity and grand design. I might have been in pain for the last bit of the ride but I still felt completely whole and satisfied because I was in the process of seeking the adventure the Lord had planted in my heart and mind. God brought me a feeling of limitless hope and passion along my trip and I refuse to believe that it was random. I don’t believe that the bikes coincidently arrived on my back porch or that a coyote wanted to eat me or that I had to end my journey because of my crotch. God is always for the good. Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” With all the unexpected “bad” things that came along my ride, so did the overarching good; I met so many wonderful people and encountered so many new experiences that never would’ve occurred if it weren’t for this excursion. Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance….” Life is truly incredible when it is lived and pursued for God. What seeds has God planted in you that are waiting to be revealed? Proverbs 16:9, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”
I have a theory about the times when I question the Lord and it usually goes like this: I’m in a rough patch in life, things don’t seem to be getting better anytime soon, and I’m quickly becoming frustrated. I think to myself, ‘why would God do this to me, do this to them?’ ‘Why don’t I feel God’s presence and peace in my life?’ ‘Why does God let this happen?’ ‘Why isn’t God helping me for crying out loud!’ With the wise words from my spunky Grandma, I recognized to start knowing God a little better; I need to know the devil and how the devil works in the world. Yes, the devil... I said it. That creature lives on pleasuring himself through the destruction of pain, by placing a person in devised situations where they’ll be most tempted, and mentally devouring an individual by misperceptions, judgments, and personal insecurities. 1 Peter 5:8: “Be self-controlled and alert, your enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion seeking whom he will devour.” Do you think the devil doesn’t know you? Do you think he hasn’t done his research on what’ll catch you off guard? He has. He thrives on conniving schemes to crush you when you’re at your best. Oftentimes, the things you admire most about yourself are mirrored by the worst of yourself.
For me, I love freedom. I yearn to be freed from the control of school, the order of meaningless projects, and the forced demands of corrupt figures. To me, freedom painted in a picture is working the land in my Dickies overalls and hanging out with heifers in a patchy meadow with sweat dripping down by boobs and butt crack like the pudding river and the crisp taste of GT’s Ginger Kombucha on my lips. Hot diggity! I get so fired up and passionate talking about it! However, with my thirst for freedom, come activities that I ask forgiveness for: rebellion. I have many faults but I have the most difficulty with stealing and trickery. I have been a thief; I’ve used my smarts to plan out how I can deceive stores and markets in pure daylight, used my tongue to lie to people closest to me to protect my secrecy, and I have wiggled away from capture with a dramatic portrayal of false innocence. The worst part, besides accomplishing the shameful actions, is before I even act; I can sense the beginning of my tempted desires. Deep within me, I change; I completely transform who I am and what I stand for. It is a toxic, twisted, and overpowering force that I hate but is difficult to stop. My mind begins to race with different options, alternatives, consequences, and outcomes that can occur from my lustful hand. I’ve come to realize that the activities that I thought were a “thrill” are just a tainted sense of adventure and pride that the devil formulates. Romans 3:10-18, “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away (sought their own independence), they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one. Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit. The poison of vipers is on their lips; their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways and the way of peace they do not know, there is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Oh does the devil smile when I give into such temptations. I’m learning that by ignoring the fact that the devil is in our daily lives is hurting my relationship with the Lord. My Grandma told me a story while we were sitting on her back porch that sent fear coursing through my body. She said to me, “I went to my friends house at 11p.m. to giving her my love and support while she was distraught over the unknown whereabouts of her daughter. When I got there she was sobbing and shaking; so afraid that something horrible had happened to her. She was on the couch and I sat on the floor rug below her praying out loud that the Lord would comfort my friend, my mentor, and prayer partner that their daughter would be safe. It was now around 2:30 a.m. I was pleading with God for the protection of their daughter, when I heard it… I heard the devil laugh. It started like a low growl, I wasn't sure that I had actually heard it, then I heard it again, only this time it rose in intensity until it was a continuous cackle. I had never heard anything like it before… it was dripping, soaking evil...swirling around the floor where I was then around the couch where my friend lay asleep, exhausted from emotions of the day. It wasn't just what I heard, though, it was what I could feel in the presence of the moment: it was oppressive, controlling, almost choking. I remember thinking, ‘what should I do?’ Then I just said (and I don't know if I said it out loud or in my mind), ‘Jesus help me!’ Just as quickly as it had come… it was gone and I felt a peace coming over me. I had then gone home after Jesus had covered the room with His peace, and asked my friend to call me as soon as she heard anything. In the end, her daughter was safe and sound staying at a friend’s house.”
“Honestly, Chloe,” said my Grandma as she continued, “I questioned whether I had heard what I thought I heard. I realized it was not what I heard but whom I heard. Whether it was actually Satan or just one of his minions, I’m not sure…but it gave me a real tangible knowledge of what the devil is like. He doesn’t care about humans, about their feelings, or what happens to them. The One he really hates is God. God threw him, and his followers, out of heaven. He was the mighty Lucifer - the beautiful angel, but that wasn’t enough for him; he wanted to be God himself. The joke is on him…he is a defeated foe. Satan is so good at deception that he has even deceived himself: he thought he had won when Jesus died on the cross and cannot understand, even to this day, that the one who lost was he himself. He couldn’t hold Jesus in his grip of death. With Jesus’ resurrection, all mankind has a way of redemption and forgiveness. My friend never heard him laughing, only I did…but it was real and it taught me about Satan’s true intentions - always for himself and for the evil, never for good.”
My goodness… I couldn’t speak, I was uneasy, and even now I have the chills. Before that conversation with my Grandma, I always imagined the devil in a little red suit with knobby horns on his head and flicking his tail back and forth as he lounges in his chair. I was very mistaken, that is not who/what the devil is. He is not a cute Halloween costume that I made him out to be; I should have never given him the pleasure of such an appealing image. He is everything evil. No matter how much I want the world to be good and dandy, in total balance and equilibrium, it will never be the case because of him, Satan.
My Grandma recently repeated this story to me after telling her my struggles with negative assumptions towards another person; I think I heard them say something about me but I’m not sure if they actually were talking behind my back or if the content of the conversation was true (my mind was racing with angry scenarios full of attitude of what I thought I overheard). It wasn’t a huge issue but it kept eating at me, making my thoughts warped and bitter. Grandma said, “That’s the devil talking to you! Stomp your foot and tell him to get out of there!” James 4:7, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” I hung up the phone; I closed me eyes and pictured there being something bad in front of me and within me: I stood up and stomped my foot, shook my fists, and stuck it to the devil, “You get out of here Satan! You nasty thing! This is no place for you; both you and I know the power of Jesus! God is going to get you!” John 4:4, “Greater is He that is within you, than he that is in the world.” To think that the devil was trying to trick me in the simplest of ways is eye opening. Without the advice from my Grandma, I would’ve questioned and blamed God. I read a book called “The Shack”, by William Young, and the main character is speaking to the Holy Spirit regarding the loss of someone close to his heart: “Did God use her to punish me for what I did to my father? That isn’t fair. She didn’t deserve this.” The Holy Spirit replies, “Is that who your God is? It is no wonder you are drowning in your own sorrow. [God] isn’t like that…that was not his doing.” God is not to be frowned upon; the creature to blame is the devil. What other things in my life have I been wrongly crucial towards God...?
After giving the devil the finger and telling him to buzz off because I stand with God, my arms got goose bumps all over and I immediately felt the power of Jesus surround me. I felt God standing behind me with this unexplainable force glaring the devil straight in the face. Knowing that God was standing with me and protecting me with dominance and grace will stick with me forever. God had my back that day like he always does. There is power in simply saying God’s name and believing as tiny as a mustered seed. Colossians 3:17, “…and whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the NAME of Jesus.” Sometimes the “bad” in life is not God’s doing: Ephesians 4:27, “Do not give the devil a foothold.” Also, I’m trying not to be so dang hard on myself when I make a mistake. I can’t avoid problems, I’m not perfect, and sin has long been in the world! What I can do is this: realize the moments when I’m tempted most, where am I most tempted, and with whom do I tend to be most tempted (these variables tend to show a pattern of the devils work). By knowing these triggers I can be better prepared for when temptation is knocking and instead of falling into its trap, I can defeat it with the help of God. When I do fall into the temptation trap; I need to take ownership of my wrong, apologize to the Lord, ask for His forgiveness, learn from what I did, and do better afterward. Separate yourself from the rest of the bunch: 2 Corinthians 6:17 “Therefore, come out from among them and be separated’ says the Lord.” God doesn’t want us to suffer. He has nothing but the best for us in mind all day, everyday, all the time. I will not be afraid of the evils that exist for the Lord stands with me and I with Him. By knowing the devil, the light of the Lord is ever brighter.
Thank you Father, Amen!