Jen Dragon and I made it to Chicago today to meet up with the other folks riding on the 12-day Route 66 road rally called the "Ride for the Relay". When I first received the invitation I really wanted to accept, but wrote if off because of our very busy catering business at Blue Mountain Bistro-to-Go. Then I stopped and really looked at it for myself. I'm turning 64 this year and I'm proud of it. At what point in my life am I going to say, "Hey girl, get your butt in gear and start doing the stuff you really want to do"? That was when I said yes to the rally. If not now, when? There comes a time in one's life when putting things off because of... whatever work-related challenges - just begins to seem less important? Burdensome?
I said "yes." I enrolled my husband Richard in saying "yes." He declined the adventure due to previous back injuries, but invited me to follow my dream of exploring Route 66. Why? Because over the 30+ years that I've been documenting the slow decline of our great American roadside, nothing in the world compares to The Mother Road, also dubbed "The Main Street of America." Here people have invested time and energy to save relics from the past, not destroy them. And many people flock to the road every year from around the globe to see a portrait of how America used to be. With my commitment to saving images from the past, why wouldn't I want to prioritize a trip like this more than anything in the world! So it was a done deal - I was going.
Then there was the challenge of finding a suitable teammate. I asked a few friends who were unable to commit. So who would it be? Then along came Jen. What I knew about Jen was that she was a lot of fun! I suppose you could say that was key. She is also an amazing artist and we've talked about collaborating on projects together but hadn't done so. So what the heck, I asked her and guess what, she said "yes"! And here we are now about to embark on an epic adventure: Jen just opened a gallery in Saugerties, New York called Cross Contemporary Art - and has left it in trusted hands to come on this trip - and I have left my business Bistro-to-Go to many competent hands to run in my absence (my husband Richard primarily). So we're off!
Here are my insights from our first encounters with our new group of teammates on this fabulous Route 66 adventure:
We arrived at the hotel around 2:00 and as we pulled up to the entrance we noticed a gaggle of amazing tricked out motorcycles in bright primary colors in a special parking area just for the rally participants with a big sign welcoming us! OK - this felt good! (In case I didn't mention it, there are 80 participants in this ride and we are only one of two cars!!!! So this is basically a motorcycle rally!)
After we all checked in and got settled, there was a big meeting to set out the agenda for the ride. These folks are very reverent. They have a blessing of the bikes and the road every morning before they take off, and most mornings the group leaves by 8:00 a.m. -- no slackers here! I was also deeply touched by the commitment of the group to finding a cure for cancer. That is the heart and soul of their mission. Their fundraising goal for the ride this year is to raise $30,000 for the American Cancer Society and from what I could tell at the meeting they are within $5,000 of making it - and will do so by the end of the ride. Everyone was invited to have someone in mind they are devoting the ride to. My dedication is to our dear Bistro Bubby, Claudia Ainsley who we are praying for each day.
Now to what I'm fascinated to learn - this will be a huge window for us into biker culture. The group we are traveling with are generally between the ages of 50-70, both men and women, with several women riding their own bikes. There were fascinating discussions about road kill ideas: how do you cook an armadillo? Really? Wow!!! Not something we have ever considered cooking up in the northeast! Next a huge round of applause for the Road Kill Cafe in Seligman, Arizona. Duly noted!
Next - if you're on this rally you better have a CB radio if you want to be connected to all the juicy stuff going on with the riders. They have conversations and share all kinds of tidbits about the route over the airwaves. Jeez - when was the last time I even heard the word "cb radio"? It's been a while! I guess we need to look into buying one if we want to be hip with the group!
So far here's what I've gleaned from conversations about the membership of this group: there are lots of vets, lots of folks with love and compassion for cancer survivors and those who have fallen, and lots of heart about how they are connected to Route 66. I'm not sure I really understand the connection at this moment but I'm looking forward to discovering that in the next few weeks.
So to end this evening - before we set off on this epic adventure, I'm deeply honored to be a part of this group of heartfelt folks that ride their motorcycles deep into the heart of America, for a cause they're deeply committed to. Jen and I are not bikers, but by the end of this ride, I know we will have a much deeper respect for the passion they all embrace. Who knows, maybe next year for the last year of this great ride, we will be on motorcycles too! What a funny thought!