Day four of my solo trip from Cincinnati, Ohio to Seattle, Washington

What day of the week is it?  I think today is Tuesday because I was supposed to arrive in Seattle on Monday.  I did arrive, by the way.  I suppose losing track of time could be the mark of a good vacation, one in which you lose the stress of your normal life and just enjoy the road trip, oblivious to time.

Have you ever had the opportunity to get lost from the rest of the world and lose track of time?  Not just hours, but days or weeks?

Day four (Monday) began by being awakened at 5:00 a.m. by a strange and distinctive sounding bird.  By the time I donned some clothes, crawled out of my tent and greeted the day, the make-shift rooster was gone and I didn’t hear it again.  The sky was already bright blue and cloudless.  It was the beginning of another beautiful day.  I camped at the Headwaters of the Missouri State Park.  This is the confluence point where the Madison, Jefferson and Gallatin Rivers become the Missouri River, the longest river in the U.S.  It is where, in 1805, Lewis and Clark and their Corp of Discovery had to stow their boats and take to hiking on their westward journey to the Pacific Ocean.  It must have been disheartening to look westward and see the imposing site of the Bitterroot Mountains ahead of you.  After breaking down camp I walked down a trail to the river.  At this point the Madison and Jefferson came together, slow and meandering.  They would join the Gallatin a few hundred yards downstream.  As I looked out across the water I had a vision of Meriwether Lewis looking at William Clark and asking, “Well, friend, what do you suggest we do now?”  I also had a vision of a sixteen inch Brown trout rising and taking my #18 Elk Hair Caddis fly.

Madison and Jefferson Rivers, MT

Madison and Jefferson Rivers, MT

My camp was about an hour east of Butte, Montana.  I was able to make it to Butte with fifteen minutes to spare before morning mass at St. Ann’s Parish Church.  St. Ann’s was a more modern church, at least it was probably very modern in the 1970’s when, according to my limited knowledge of architecture, it appeared to have been built.  The church building itself was cylindrical with tall white columns around the perimeter.  The interior was the familiar semi-circle with concentric pews radial to the altar.  The wall behind the altar was sculpted to appear like the Dove of Peace, the symbol of the Holy Spirit, and the outer walls exhibited very modern brass sculptures of the Stations of the Cross. 

St. Ann's Parish Church, Butte, Montana

St. Ann’s Parish Church, Butte, Montana

Arriving fifteen minutes early allowed me to catch the last couple decades of a Rosary service.  The cantor was an old woman, (emphasis on ‘old’), but with a loud, clear voice.  You could tell this wasn’t her first Rosary. After the first couple Hail Marys I couldn’t help but grin from ear to ear.  This was a special moment.  She had a practiced rhythm that modulated like a sine wave.  As she said, “and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus”, she spoke slower and slower and, keeping the same loudness, dropped about two octaves in tone.  It was beautiful and it made my day, bless her heart.  I think I will remember her for evermore as I pray the Rosary.

In my haste to get Sunday’s blog posted yesterday, I forgot to tell you about The Miracle!  So, I told you about stopping and taking the picture of the perfect and brilliant double rainbow with a backdrop of the black cloud that produced it.  And, I told you the previous day about how my cruise control on my car went out and caused all the other dashboard warning lights to go spastic.  After taking the photo of the rainbow I got back in my car, started it up and headed down the road.  When I looked down to see that I was up to the speed I wanted to be I noticed that none of the warning lights were flashing on the dash.  I turned the cruise control on and it worked!  I haven’t had a problem with it since.  I have no explanation for it.  I had stopped and restarted the car umpteen times up to this point and nothing changed.  But, after stopping to check out that rainbow of rainbows, it started working.  Coincidence?  I don’t think so!

After heading west out of Butte, the next large town was Missoula and it was time for a bio break and some lunch at a Wendy’s.  While there I got a phone call from my parents.  My mom and dad are also traveling to Seattle but taking about two weeks to get there, camping along the way.  I had not talked to them for a few days.  I learned they were only a few miles west of Missoula at a campground not two hundred yards from the interstate on the banks of the Clarks Fork River.  I hadn’t seen my folks since Easter so, when I pulled off the interstate into their campground, we had a nice but short thirty minute visit before I needed to get back on the road.  I would be seeing them again on Saturday.

The rest of the trip was uneventful but beautiful and inspiring.  The Bitterroot Mountains were sharp and majestic. I ran into a severe storm with marble sized hail in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. I marveled at the barrenness of the Columbia River Plateau west of Spokane and the enormity and depth of the Columbia River Gorge in central Washington. The lushness and unique ruggedness of the Cascade Mountains makes your jaw drop, and the view of the Seattle skyline, the Sound and islands in the distance, and the flowers – lavender, roses and dahlias, to name a few – are everywhere to be seen and enjoyed . This morning I realized that I never turned the radio on or listened to a music CD or a book on tape the whole day yesterday.  That would have been a distraction.

When was the last time you really paid attention to the beauty that lies outside your windshield?  Has it become so routine that you don’t notice the landscape anymore?

I arrived at my daughter’s at 7:57 p.m. local time, three minutes ahead of the eight o’clock arrival I had planned in my head before I left home Friday morning, another 660 miles for the day and 2,640 miles for the trip.

Visiting a new church every day and praying my way across America has been a unique, memorable, fun and spiritual experience.  It’s heartening to see there are many good and faithful Catholics out there in the world.  I feel more at peace than I have in weeks and I have a comfortable confidence that my prayers have been heard.

I want to challenge you to get out of your comfort zone and visit a new church, just for fun and for the experience.  You don’t have to go far, maybe just the next community over.  Or, purposely go to mass at your own church at a different time than normal so you can meet new people.  See how other people worship.  And, spread the Word.

Control of my own time is over.  From now until my daughter’s wedding this weekend I will be a gopher, expected to jump at anyone’s beck and call.  That’s okay, it was good while it lasted and gophering is what the father of the bride and husband of the bride’s mother is supposed to do prior to a wedding.

It may be a while until my next post.  Until then, God Bless you all.