- Tuesday, 24 July 2018
- Written by JIM JONES
I just got back from a four-day trip. I wrote this while sitting at Panera Bread eating a bear claw, which has nothing to do with the title of this article, but they are really yummy, and the title of this article is about bears. A few weeks back, my friends Bob, Bill (Harley fellows) and myself met up in Blowing Rock for a week of travel.
In Blowing Rock, we stayed at the quaint Mountainaire Inn. As the evening rain pounded away, wine was the drink of choice to kill time before dinner.
The next morning, Bob was up early and had wiped the rain off the bikes. He is such a gentleman. We headed north on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
The Blue Ridge Parkway is the longest linear park in the U.S. and is 469 miles long. It was established in 1936, is one of the most scenic roads in America and is only four hours from Fayetteville.
Heading north, we decided to visit the Appomattox Court House in Virginia. We arrived that afternoon. Here, General Lee surrendered to General Grant, an event that is forever engraved in America’s history.
As we walked the grounds, dark clouds started to roll in, and we decided to head north. We headed to the Natural Bridge Inn at Natural Bridge, Virginia. The inn is across the street from the Natural Bridge rock formation, which is a 215-foot natural arch. The inn is a nice, cozy hotel with a nice bar and restaurant.
That afternoon, I got word that I was a brandnew grandfather. Mom and baby Jacob were fine. They were at Walter Reed Military Hospital in Washington, D.C. After breakfast the next morning, I decided to take off to the district to see the baby. For breakfast we went to the Pink Cadillac Diner, which is not far from Natural Bridge on I-81. This place has great food and a super cool vibe for a diner.
We agreed to meet up later that day in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. Bill and Bob headed back to the hotel, and I headed to Washington.
As I looked down, my tire pressure warning light was flashing. Sure enough, I had picked up a nail in my tire. I was able to plug it (you’ve got to love tubeless tires), and I was back on the road. The baby was so cute (I think I have to say that).
After a few hours of visiting, I headed out and got stuck in Washington traffic. After a minute in traffic, I said, “Wait a tick, I’m on a BMW, we don’t get stuck in traffic.” I set my bike to its off-road mode and set the GPS for curvy and unimproved roads. In less than half a mile, I was off the interstate and headed through some beautiful little town of western Maryland on my way back to Harpers Ferry.
The next morning, we spent several hours visiting historical Harpers Ferry. There is so much history there, from the western expansion to the armory attack in 1859. Prior to the Civil War, John Brown lead an attack on the armory to give guns to the slaves so they could fight for their own independence. A few days later, he was caught by General Lee and hung for his crime. By today’s definitions, he would be considered either a domestic terrorist or a civil rights leader.
Around noon, we headed to Front Royal, Virginia, to ride the Skyline Drive through Shenandoah National Park. The Skyline Drive is 105 miles long and ends at Waynesboro, Virginia, where the Blue Ridge Parkway starts.
Shenandoah National Park is home to a high concentration of black bears. There, we saw five bears on this single ride. I have ridden the Skyline over 50 times and have never seen a bear. Like deer, one jumped out in front of Bill, then a few miles later, one in front of Bob. I was volunteered to be the official photographer for this trip. While stopping to take pictures, as I was getting my camera out, I was mindful that I did not want to get laughed at on the 6 o’clock news nor for my last picture to be a close-up of a bear’s mouth.
The last stop for this trip was in Waynesboro, Virginia. We stumbled on a great restaurant called Green Leaf Grill, which was a super find.
This next morning, our trip would come to an end. I said goodbye to Bob before turning in. He was heading to Nashville and was planning to leave before I planned on getting up.
That morning, Bill and I headed back. In total, we rode 1,275 miles in five days. This was my third trip with Bill and Bob, and all have been memorable. I have been blessed to have such great friends as riding companions.
If there is a topic that you would like to discuss, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. RIDE SAFE!
- Tuesday, 24 July 2018
- Written by KARL MERRITT
Real conversation once graced the societal landscape of America. It has become a relic held onto by a few people who know the great value of real conversation. For me, it is the experience where people exchange ideas, provide information or seek to convince others of an issue position on which they disagree. It can even occur when talking about topics of no importance. What makes real conversation is that it is conducted with civility, thought and respect on the part of all participants.
We have come to a time in America when real conversation hardly ever shows its head. Look around. Turn on a television or radio and see the reports of protests and confrontations resulting from conditions that should be addressed through real conversation.
Before working on this column, I was watching Peter Strzok testifying in a joint hearing before the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees. Strzok is the FBI agent who exchanged texts with Lisa Page, an FBI attorney, that spoke harshly of then-presidential-candidate Trump and his supporters. Because both of them were involved with the Hillary Clinton and Russia collusion investigations, there is some concern that their actions in those investigations might have resulted from bias against Trump, the candidate.
In my estimation, the hearing was a horror show that did absolutely nothing by way of getting to the truth. There was pure partisanship, anger, grandstanding by committee members, arguments and so on. All of the elements were present that make real conversation impossible.
The “attack mode” of verbal exchange is pervasive. This is especially true in this age where many Americans apparently believe any grievance justifies a protest, even when doing so invades and disrespects the space of others. Consider what is happening to the president and to individuals who work in his administration. The following summaries of incidents are recorded in an article by William Cummings titled “The list of Trump White House officials who have been hassled over administration policy.”
The article states:
• “From spokeswoman Sarah Sanders’ expulsion from the Red Hen restaurant to a Senate intern shouting the “f-word” at the president, a number of Trump administration officials have been disrespected or hassled by political opponents in recent days.
• Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., urged activists to continue hounding Trump Cabinet members wherever and whenever they find them.
• Demonstrators converged on the home of White House adviser Stephen Miller in downtown Washington Monday to denounce Miller’s role as one of the architects of the administration’s ‘zero tolerance’ immigration policy.
• The Department of Homeland Security secretary was confronted with chants of ‘Shame!’ as she tried to dine at an upscale Mexican restaurant in Washington amid the uproar over the administration’s policy of separating migrant families accused of illegally crossing the southern border.
• Pence, who has never really been considered an ally of the LBGTQ community, was greeted by a display of rainbow flags by many of his new neighbors when he first moved to Washington as the vice president elect.
• The president’s adviser and eldest daughter was called a ‘feckless (expletive)’ by comedian Samantha Bee during a monologue on Bee’s TBS show ‘Full Frontal’ about the separation of migrant families.”
The quotes above refer to actions against Republicans. In an ongoing attempt to be balanced in my thinking and writing, I googled “conservative verbal attacks on liberals.” What came up were more articles talking about liberal attacks on conservatives. The resulting picture is one where it appears that most verbal attacks, and similar actions, are directed toward conservatives. However, the lack of real conversation is fed by all sides and by people of various affiliations and ideologies.
Maybe part of our reason for discarding real conversation is due to our having lost sight of how it looks and of the tremendous positive impact that is possible from it.
A sermon I heard in February 2018 has stuck with me because what was presented reminded me of the powerful possibilities in real conversation. The preacher was Rev. Stephanie Bohannon. Until June 2018, she was the associate pastor at First Baptist Church (Anderson Street) in Fayetteville. The sermon title was “Grace is Found at the Well.” The Scripture basis is John 4:4-26, 39. This is the account of Jesus, in Samaria, talking with a woman at Jacob’s well.
Much of what Bohannon shared from this account can help us reclaim real conversation. Jesus is resting beside this well in Samaria. Being Jewish, it was unexpected that he would be in Samaria, because Jews did not associate with Samaritans. Productive conversation sometimes requires that we go to places and engage in circumstances that might be uncomfortable.
A Samaritan woman comes to the well to draw water. Jesus asks her to draw a drink for him. She expresses surprise that a Jew would ask a Samaritan for water. This is where Jesus says, in verse 10, “If you knew the gift of God, and who is saying to you, ‘give me a drink,’ you would ask him, and he would give you living water” (HCSB).
In response, the woman wants to know how he would draw water, given that Jesus does not have a bucket. Her question not only reflects thought, but shows her willingness to respectfully probe this comment by Jesus. Notice the respectful tone of this exchange. This condition of thoughtfulness, reasonable questioning and respectful tone are almost always absent from conversations addressing difficult issues of our time. These elements are essential to real conversation.
Then Jesus tells the woman to call her husband. She responds that she has no husband. Jesus says (verse 17), “You have correctly said, ‘I don’t have a husband. For you’ve had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband.’” Some contend that Jesus was condemning the woman’s relationship. However, another likely explanation is that he was establishing his position in the thinking of this woman. Apparently, when Jesus, without knowing her, spoke accurately to the woman’s marital situation, she was able to recognize something special in him. She sees him as a prophet and goes on to question Jesus regarding places of worship. Real conversation requires conducting oneself in a fashion that invites respect and the expectation of productive discourse.
Verses 28-30 give the result of this real conversation: “Then the woman left her water jar, went into town and told the men, ‘Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did! Could this be the Messiah?’ They left the town and made their way to him.” This was the very positive result of real conversation.
Bohannon closed by saying that, despite her story, Jesus offered that woman grace, love and acceptance. Even when we disagree, if we can, in our conversations, employ the elements exhibited by Jesus and this woman, while adding grace, love and acceptance, amazing results are possible.
PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash