Encounters

At 5 mph, time and the asphalt move very slowly. It gives me tremendous flexibility for many things. Thoughts about everything from childhood to my next flag, to food choices from my tray on the buggy, to drink choices (mainly gatorade and gatorade) and the views to the left and the views to the right. It is like being in a very slow car but with the heater on and blowing in your face some days. So today I focused on my encounters with people over the last few weeks and my encounters, however short-lived they may be, with the character of the towns I pass through.

Take Mendota, IL for example, it is the Sweet Corn Capital of the World. Ottawa, IL was the site of the first Lincoln/Douglas Debates. Streator, IL at one time was the countries largest producer of glass and birthplace of the scientist who discovered Pluto. Pontiac, IL is home to the Livingston County War Museum, an absolute must see display of mannequins and memorabilia. Pontiac is also famous for Route 66 which passes through town and 20 painted murals that adorn the walls of the older buildings. In Saunemin a cabin is being restored that was home to Albert D.J. Cashier a local civil war veteran who was born Jenny Hodger in Ireland. You see Jenny lived as a man and enlisted as a man and fought as a man. Her identity was not known for many years for the military never conducted physicals back in those days. Jenny marched thousands of miles and fought at Vicksburg and it was because of her service and the friends she made who rallied behind her, that she was able to keep her veteran pension the military tried to take because of identity fraud. Well then…..sleepy communities with secrets.

My encounters with people continue to climb. One day a few weeks ago I had just left Mechanicsville, IA when a car pulls up behind me. A couple walks up. The had lost their son, Army Staff Sergeant Donald Griffith Jr. in 2005. They had seen something on the news, followed flags, found me and just wanted to say thank you.

A couple stands along the road..I don’t recognize them at first then I see the smiles and hear the voices. They are old Army friends from Germany that I had not seen in 29 years. They had seen something on TV and followed the beacon and found me.

He stands at the corner of a gravel road, I think the sun is reflecting of a mailbox but is actually his head, now bald. I recognize the voice and when he runs the familiar gait I chased and passed many times 35 years ago. He was my old cross country nemesis from High School. With all due respects he did dust me a few times. Again, a chance newspaper article and he found me on the road.

This morning a truck pulls over. Approaching, I notice the Vet Plate. He is a small man and all smiles with a firm handshake. His shirt reads “Home of the Brave, Land of the Free”. He is from Ransom, IL. We chat a bit and then before he leaves he literally gives me the shirt off his back and drives away into the cool morning without it.

Thats what the days have become. Meetings with people continue to climb.

I never know who is reading. I never know who is watching. I never know who is around the corner. Thats what life is like on the road. The element of surprise. It is something that can’t be choreographed or planned. It happens. So between the towns I pass through and these encounters that lift me, my days are pretty exciting…..

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10 Responses to “Encounters”

  1. Lori Says:

    May you find many more interesting encounters.
    Sometimes I read your posts 2 or 3 times
    because there is so much to take in.

    May your encounters
    Be the wings upon your feet
    As those we lost watch
    And smile
    Knowing you are reminding the world
    They were, they are and
    They always will be important to us
    They maybe gone Mike but they are not forgotten.

  2. linda wright Says:

    Here’s to excitement. I love your post thank you for sharing. Your an amazing writer and your encounters just add to your ability. Continue to see the rainbows along the way. Think of you daily. What amazing journey you have embarked on for us all. Thank you.

    So many will remember and also never forget.

  3. meredith murphy Says:

    you are doing awesome things out there and touching so many people’s lives. thank you for sharing your journey with us.

  4. Jenny Says:

    It was a pleasure to meet you the other day when you passed thru Streator. What you are doing is an amazing thing!! I hope your travels are safe. And I wanted to thank you for what you are doing you are a true hero =)

  5. Bill Halberg Says:

    Here’s to chance encounters and a coincidence of seeing your adventure in the local paper. Lets make sure it doesnt take another 30+ years to meet again. Keep going strong.

  6. Bonnie Katubig Says:

    I was hoping to be one of your personal encounters today, but with a little luck perhaps I was. Your determination and grace – always some of my motivators when I am out on my own and feeling challenged on the road or trail. Even though, I could not be there in person, and I keeping my fingers crossed that you saw the little token of love I left you along your route today. Run. Mike. Heart. Bonnie.

  7. Bridget Says:

    Hey Mike! Hello from Camas Washington. I think of you often and hope that you’re doing great, and getting great massages every night!!
    Take care, and you are a hero too!

  8. Marisa! Says:

    You are amazing. It makes me smile everytime I read a post. Thank you!

  9. kath Says:

    That is totally remarkable what you have written on your encounters. Again & again, you leave me in awe what you are accomplishing & your determination.

    May God Bless you today. Tomorrow is a new day and again you will blessed. I admire you for seeing all the beauty in each and every day along your journey.

  10. marion dooley Says:

    Tears pour down my face as I read your blog and news. Our hearts are with you and your strong actions and memories of our children killed in action touch us deeply. We will miss you as you pass north of us but our thoughts and prayers are with you as you remember with us the lives of those gone all too soon. God bless you for your gift of thoughtfulness and remembrance. Lt. Mark Dooley’s gold star mom KIA 9-19-05

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