A Lucky Stop

The ride out of Louisville was cold and blustery. As I pedaled up and out of the beautiful and protective hills that bank the Ohio river on the western side of the city, I entered flatter, more open farmland. Without tree cover, the wind intensified and cut through my gloves and shoes. Even the plastic bags and extra socks that I had pulled over my bike cleats weren’t enough to persuade the warmth to stay where I wanted it.
I stopped briefly for a snack, enjoying the relative warmth that came with avoiding the extra 15mph windchill. Looking at the map on my phone, Corydon, IN lay ahead of me only about ten miles. I decided to make a warming stop in the town, and rode on contemplating the cheapest way to warm up. Snow blanketed the gently rolling fields around me, which helped to distract me from the singing in my extremities.
I began to see more signs of civilization as I approached the small
town. First a golf course, and then some small one story shops that lined a classic main drag. I scanned the mom and pop shops, passing hardware, used books, and other window displays while I eagerly searched for a warm diner.
I rounded the corner and in front of me stood a newer building with a sign in front that read “Corydon Public Library”. I slammed to a screeching halt and parked my bike as close to the front doors as I thought acceptable. Somewhat eager to go inside, I made a quick decision to risk having my bike and all of my gear stolen in order to not have to spend time sifting through my bag in the cold for my lock. I clip clopped my way across the sidewalk and into the library, beard iced up something special, and plopped down in a padded chair. Life had rarely felt so good as I melted, both literally and figuratively, into the chair. A constant drip drip of water rolled off my beard and on to my bright yellow construction vest. While I obviously wasn’t there to check out a book, the librarians never seemed to even notice me.

I spent longer than expected in the comforting warmth, and though I knew I wasn’t going to make much progress in terms of mileage that day as dark was fast approaching, I couldn’t get myself to go. As I began to feel my spirits sink due to the rather unproductive day, and the looming freezing cold snow-camping night, a middle aged man with three children following close behind approached me in my wonderful armchair. “Is that your bike out there?” The man asked. And so began the conversation that would lead eventually to an invitation to go home with the Robertson family.


Onward (and back into Indiana)

We got back to Jim’s apartment that afternoon and he laid down to relax after having a cigarette.  Golf played on the TV and, in combination with the sedative effect of his large Coca-Cola, lulled him right to sleep.  I used Jim’s bathroom hot plate to steam the Kale and Potatoes that I had gotten from the Root Cellar the day before.

I was just finishing my meal when there was a knock upon Jim’s door. Not totally trusting the neighborhood yet, I felt myself tense up as the door swung slowly opened. Jim was aroused from his nap and greeted the friend. A young man of about my age, tall, light skinned, and a full brown beard came in and calmly greeted us. He looked a bit suspicious of me, but became relaxed as the conversation moved about and I was able to explain how I had come to be with Jim.

We all spoke for a while, Robbie describing his chance encounter with Jim on a walk to church with his wife one morning, and the subsequent effort by them and their weeknight spiritual group in aiding Jim in any way they could over the past few weeks.

After trekking over the railroad tracks to the grocery store to grant Jim’s request for some 2-liters of cola to have on hand at his apartment, Robbie and I gathered up Jim’s soiled laundry and walked it across the street to the house that Robbie shared with his wife Stephanie.

Despite my being saturated with the smell of smoke and more from Jim’s apartment, the couple was generous and loving enough to invite me in, consciously contaminating their home with whatever germs and parasites I might have been harboring. I welcomed the reprieve from Jim’s place, and was excited to have the opportunity to get to know the young couple that were obviously very generous and caring.

We spent time chatting about all parts of our lives as Stephanie sautéed vegetables for a dinner that they would eventually invite me to join them for. They were both very active in the church and the community, and lived their lives according to strong Christian values. They were proud and strong in their belief in the bible as truth, and that steadfastness and confidence in their beliefs came through in their demeanor, which was perpetually calm, mature, calculated, and loving above all.

Since our meeting I have kept in touch a bit through email and text. They spent a portion of early 2014 traveling to the Horn of Africa on a mission trip, hiking around and spreading the word of their church. Robbie is moving forward in seminary school, and they are both still in touch with Jim as he continues to situate his life with their help.

I woke up the next morning and had breakfast with Jim as he tried to convince me to stay with him. It broke my heart to hear of his loneliness. Though I knew there were people to take care of some of his essential needs, I could still sense the void that was his longing for steady companionship. I was happy to hear later from conversations with Robbie that Jim had found his way into a nursing home, which I can only believe was a positive development for him.

I rode away into the cold Kentucky morning. The snow had melted off the roads, making for the first day in almost a week that would allow an efficient and safe passage out of the city. The wind blew hard into my face as I crossed the pedestrian bridge back north into Indiana in order to circumvent the busy suburbia that sprawled south of the city. I was soon into the country hills of southern Indiana, west of Louisville, enjoying the crisp air and the frozen cascades of water flowing out of the brown and black roadside cliffs.