Back in February our church held it’s yearly grand fund-raiser – a silent auction. The organizing committee really pulled out all the stops and created an incredible evening of fun and entertainment. Our Fellowship Hall was transformed into something that resembled a New Orleans night club/café. Sparkling gold, green and purple beads and baubles decorated tall round café tables and stools, and similar colors decorated the walls and the many tables cram-packed with items for the silent auction.
One side classroom held some very yummy food – and plenty of it! I went back a couple of times because there was just so much to choose from and it was all very appetizing. (Church ladies sure know how to cook!) The other side classroom was a fun “ticket auction” area. You bought a sheet of tickets that all had the same number on and you went round the room looking at the various items displayed and each one had a plastic cup in front of it. If you liked an item, you tore off a ticket (or more than one) and popped into the cup. You maintained the stub which carried the same number as the tickets.
Both the silent auction and the ticket auction were closed at the same time. We had made bids on a few items and were happy to win a couple, especially tickets for a showing of the Peking Acrobats which were dated for our wedding anniversary. When the results were displayed for the numbers pulled from the ticket auction, we were even more happy to discover that we had won several items including a “Bird/Garden Basket”. The basket contained several different items including a fun, round, hanging bird house painted bright blue with a straw thatched roof which we hung from a small tree at the back of our yard.
About the same time that I first noticed my Baltimore Oriole, I also noticed a small bird “checking out” the blue bird house. After observing him a couple of times I identified him as a Carolina Chickadee. He would sit on the branch that the house hung from and then he’d sit on the peg just below the opening into the house and kind of look in. Then he’d hop back on the branch. He did this several times and then he actually put his head inside the opening before hopping back onto the branch.
This “checking out” continued for several days until one day he brought his mate to check it out too. They would both pop their heads in and out, then fly back on the branch, then after a while they would fly off. About a week ago only one of them came but this time he actually went inside the house. He stayed a few moments then flew off. This continued for a couple of days and then, as I was sunbathing, I heard this rhythmic tapping coming from inside the bird house. It went on for a few minutes, then the Chickadee flew out. He returned another day to do some more tapping.
Finally, two days ago as I was in my early morning quiet time with God, I noticed the Chickadee making repeated fly offs back and forth to the house. He was most definitely on a mission, flying off then returning about a minute later and going right into the bird house; out again and back a minute later. So I grabbed the binoculars, watched closely, and realized he was carrying tufts of stuff into the house. Bingo! He was nest making. Since then they have both been back and forth carrying more stuff in to create a soft nest.
Yesterday, while I was out of the house, Richard said he saw an amazing sight. He had glanced over at the bird house and noticed a squirrel on the branch sniffing out the house. All of a sudden the two Chickadees appeared and started puffing themselves up, hunching their wings forward and beating them back and forth making a loud whirring noise as they hovered in front of the squirrel. When that didn’t budge him, they “dive-bombed” him, actually hitting him with their wings, and he finally ran off.
This truly confirmed that we have “guests” in the garden and that they had set up home and were protecting their territory. We are now looking forward to watching the family form and hopefully we will see the little ones when they begin emerging. What an amazing creation God has made.
When Rich and I left Rod and Trish, we headed east out of Missouri towards St. Louis. Rich wanted us to see the “Archway to the West” and as we rode I-64 I was able to get some decent shots of the archway and the St. Louis skyline. Then we crossed the state border into Illinois going almost halfway across to spend the night in Mount Vernon. We attended Mass in the lovely church of St. Mary’s on Saturday 27 August which left us free to have a small lie-in on the Sunday before making tracks for Louisville, KY and Richard’s family.
Like most of the days on this trip, God blessed us with perfect weather for riding as we finished crossing the state of Illinois, clipped the bottom of Indiana, and rode into the blue grass state of Kentucky. I could feel Richard’s excitement mounting as we rode closer to “home”. The plan was to head to his sister Rose’s home, unpack the bike, then head over to the Kentucky State Fair with Rose, her husband Ronnie, and their kids, Megan and Kalin, to meet up with another sister, Robin, and her daughter, Brittany, and his brother, Robert and his wife, Sylvie, and their son, Patrick. Wow, what a reunion!! I had not seen some of these folks since Thanksgiving 2004!
We spent several fun hours at the fair. I found some great HOT dip mixes and some wonderfully decadent fudge, while Richard ate a Krispy Kreme hamburger?????? (yes, that was a hamburger between two doughnuts!!), and later he could not resist trying some “fried Koolaid”. While some of the others went to a concert they had booked to see, Rich and I strolled around the rides for a while. We had fun tempting the “guess your age” guy who made my day and gave me a “prize” after guessing me to be 15 years younger than I am. Whether he was being truthful or gallant in his guessing I’m not sure, but I was happy. Then the tiredness of the ride hit in and we headed home to get a good night’s rest. We needed to get our beauty sleep because the next day we were putting on a Bar-b-q for the family and even more people were coming.
So on Monday we went shopping then got busy cooking and preparing food. By 4pm yet another sister, Rhonda, arrived with her daughter, Ginny, followed shortly afterward by Rich’s step-Mom Ruth, his step-brother Ryan and his step-sister Rachel and her husband Michael with his son in tow. The crowd was rounded out when Robin got there with her son Dustin, and finally we were able to tuck into all that good food. A little later, as we rested full tummies, Kalin took Dustin and they went to pick up Brittany and her girlfriend who had been attending a school sport meet-up. By that time we were ready for some dessert and enjoyed some wonderful concoction that Sylvie had made.
Our final day in Louisville, Rich went to get his (final?? who knows) tattoo in honor of his retirement. Of his eight tattoos, Lucky in Louisville has created 5 of them. This one he actually created around a small existing one of a dolphin that Rich had done in Washington, DC some years ago. Lucky extended the water/wave line under the dolphin , then added the letters USN over the top of everything with a sunrise and the year Rich entered the Navy at one end, and a sunset with his retirement year at the other. It’s really beautiful.
That evening we hooked up with Rose and Ronnie and the kids, Robin, and Richard’s old school friend and partner-in-crime, Fonda with his wife Sherry. We had a great meal and wonderful socializing at a very good Mexican restaurant, where we all ate a bit too much because the food was great!.
Next day, Wednesday 31 August, it was time to load up our faithful Harley, say our farewells, and hit the road again as we headed towards North Carolina. It had been a good visit with family and hopefully it won’t be so long before we see each other again.
After our four enjoyable days with our friends Sherry and Greg in Minnesota, Rich and I loaded up the Harley and set off on the next leg of our adventure. We headed west from Brainerd toward North Dakota. The scenery started changing as we approached the border between the two states, becoming flatter and less green.
As was our norm, we stopped for a break and a tank up after about an hour and a half of riding. Then we continued for about the same amount of time until our tummies told us it was time to get some lunch. We had noticed that the exits had grown further apart and offered very few food options, so as soon as we saw an Arby’s we decided to pull off. We are not big “fast-food” eaters, but Arby’s passes muster for a quick lunch.
Once inside, I made my food choices and left Rich to pick up the order while I went to choose a table from which we could keep an eye on the bike. There was only one other couple in the restaurant, and they were seated about three tables away from our window table. They were an older couple and the husband was in a wheelchair, and I could hear them talking quietly from time to time.
Rich bought our order to the table and we quickly got organized and ready to eat. Then, as always, we held hands and thanked God for a safe trip so far, asked him to continue to bless and protect us, to bless the food and continue to feed us spiritually. Then it was time to dig in and eat up.
I guess we were about half way through our meal when I became aware that the woman from the other couple was clearing away their things. Suddenly she was standing beside us and, leaning in toward us, she apologized for interrupting us. We said, no problem, and she carried on talking to let us know why she had come over.
She explained that she was “one of us” and that it had really warmed her heart to see us praying over our food before we began eating. She said that sometimes it was very hard to be a Christian because she felt we were in a minority. She also said that not many people were willing to be public about their belief in God and that as we prayed we had allowed her to feel as though she were “not alone”. It was a very warm moment of fellowship and my heart went out to her.
Rich agreed with her and told her that just a week or so ago we had done the same thing as she had. We had been having a meal at one of our favorite salad bars, “Sweet Tomatoes”, when a woman and her two daughters came and sat at the table across the aisle to us. Once they had settled into the booth, they all bowed their heads and said a prayer of blessing over their food. I remember how heart-warming it felt for us to see that, and as we left the restaurant Rich had paused briefly at their table to let them know how great it had been to witness that.
We exchanged farewells with the woman, and as she pushed her husband out of Arby’s I wondered what their story was. We feel very blessed to have met certain people, complete strangers, on our ride who have uplifted us and shared a God-moment with us. And I remembered that other couple in the rest stop parking lot in Tennessee who had cared enough about us to pray for our safety as we began our long trip.