Open road cycling for people past 70

December 27, 2014

First in a series on bicycling my way through 2014

On the River Road South of Corvallis, Oregon

On the River Road South of Corvallis, Oregon

“Your cycling journals are different!” This was Susan Notorangelo’s response to my 20-page essay on a week’s ride with PAC Tour, the travel company that she and her husband Lon Haldeman have conducted for about 30 years. I’m not sure what she meant, but think that she was surprised by the way description, historical background, and personal interpretation are intertwined in my travel narratives.

During the 40 years of my aggressive adult cycling, I’ve written 15 to 20 of these accounts, some only a few pages in length and others as long as 40 pages. Two of them describe the solo cross country trip that I did in the spring before I turned 70, and several describe rides that I’ve done with PAC Tour, including the 1,100 mile Albuquerque—Grand Canyon and Return ride in 2010.

At the beginning of 2014, one of my writing goals was to revise 8 to 10 of these later travel narratives and meld them into a book with the working title Open Road Cycling for People Past 70.

During the early months of 2014 I was in the final stages of completing a book on religion in America (published in November; click here for more information). As soon as that manuscript was approved by the publisher, I began serious work on the cycling book. At the same time, my wife’s 8 years of living with cancer entered a new phase that imposed a different plan for the second half of the year. For several months the bicycling book has languished, but early in 2015 I plan to resume my work on this project.

In its current form, the book has an Introduction and 9 chapters: Dry Lands on the Southern Tour, Wet Lands on the Southern Tour, *Bicycling through Time on the Wilderness Road, Columbia Gorge Explorers, Reengineering the Engineered World, *Bicycling Along George Washington’s Rivers, *Sky Island Soliloquy, *Traveling through the Open Windows of Time, and Learning to Ride at a Gentler Pace. An appendix contains my counsel about bikes, equipment, and cycling strategies for cyclists in their 70s and 80s.

Earlier versions of the above titles marked with * are posted on the Bicycle Diaries page of this blog.

The last two or three chapters need more work in order for this first phase of editing to be completed. Then will come a second editorial phase which will help determine whether these chapters can be melded into a book with a coherent thesis that ties them together or if they remain a set of individual travel narratives.

I intend to write the first draft of a publishing proposal by mid February when I am registered for week one of PAC Tour’s Desert Training Camp 2015. There are 27 registered riders, plus a crew of 9, and we’ll be cycling 50 to 60 miles a day on a tour of historic hotels in southern Arizona.

The proposal, which will consist of 100-word summaries of the book’s thesis and each of the chapters, will serve as (1) a guide for revising the manuscript; (2) a way of soliciting evaluations and suggestions from representative cyclists in target audiences, especially from my PAC Tour companions, and (3) the first step in looking for editorial counsel and a publisher.

In all probability, I’ll post the revised proposal on this blog so that a wider circle of readers can comment on the shape the book is taking.

Happy cycling in 2015.


Jesus on a bicycle

December 23, 2014

Keith Watkins Historian

“Flight” . . . design by Yusuf Grillo of Nigeria, contributed to benefit UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund

The scripture text and sermon in church this morning (December 29, 2013) told about Mary, Joseph, and Jesus fleeing for their lives because King Herod was determined to destroy this baby whom he perceived to be a potential rival to his political power. It reminded me of the column I posted three years ago, which shows the Holy Family’s “flight into Egypt” on a bicycle. The story is eternal, the image is haunting, and its timeliness is always with us.   

I bought the UNICEF Christmas card with Grillo’s painting more than thirty years ago, and it continues to be one of my most cherished depictions of Jesus. As a work of art, it is striking in its composition, color, and emotional impact. As a theological statement, it surpasses most sermons…

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A Proposal Toward the Reunion of Christ’s Church

December 4, 2014
James A. Pike and Eugene Carson Blake in 1960

James A. Pike and Eugene Carson Blake in 1960

On Sunday, December 4, 1960, the National Council of Churches convened its triennial assembly in San Francisco. Leaders of the nation’s major Protestant churches, as well as representatives of other churches and councils of churches from around the world had gathered for this multi-day conference.

On his way to the assembly the most prominent Presbyterian leader in the nation, Eugene Carson Blake, was interviewed by a reporter from the New York Times and announced that he was preparing to make a major proposal about Christian unity just as the assembly was about to meet.

Word leaked out to the nation’s news media and to many of the denominational officials as they were making their own journeys to San Francisco.

Blake made his bold proposal in a long sermon at the Sunday Eucharist in one of the nation’s most storied churches, Grace Episcopal Cathedral, where another nationally known church leader, James A. Pike, was diocesan bishop. The sermon made national headlines and generated widespread interest. Church leaders around the nation were divided in their response, but those in favor of the idea were clearly in the majority. The opening paragraphs of the sermon announce what Blake would say:

Text: Romans 15:5-7

“Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be like-minded one toward another according to Christ Jesus! That ye may with one mind and with one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Wherefore receive ye one another as Christ also received us to the glory of God.”

This is a significant occasion. When I received the gracious invitation from your Dean and Bishop to preach in this pulpit, on this particular morning, it became clear to me at once that the occasion demanded not only as good a sermon as God might enable me to prepare and preach, but also a sermon that would deal with the unity of the Church of Jesus Christ realistically—neither glossing over divisions with politeness nor covering them with optimistic generalities.

Led, I pray, by the Holy Spirit, I propose to the Protestant Episcopal Church that it together with The United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America invite The Methodist Church and the United Church of Christ to form with us a plan of church union both catholic and reformed on the basis of the principles I shall later in this sermon suggest. Any other Churches which find that they can accept both the principles and plan would also be warmly invited to unite with us.

I hasten to make it clear that at this stage this is not an official proposa1. My position as Stated Clerk of my Church’s General Assemb1y gives me no authority to make such a proposal officially on behalf of my Church. I speak this morning as one of the ministers of my Church privileged and required to preach under the Word of God. I speak as a minister especially privileged—and therefore under a special requirement—especially privileged to have represented my communion for the past nine years in many formal and informal relationships with other communions both inside and outside the ecumenical movement. I speak as one minister of Jesus Christ who believes that God requires us to break through the barriers of nearly 500 years of history, to attempt under God to transcend the separate traditions of our Churches, and to find a way together to unite them so that manifesting the unity given us by our Lord Jesus Christ, His Church may be renewed for its mission to our nation and to the world “that the world may believe.”

Before setting forth the basic principles of the union propose, it is, I think, important to make clear the compelling considerations that have moved me to believe that union ought now to be sought by us and to clear away some possible misunderstandings of reasons and motives for seeking it.

To read the entire sermon and response click A Proposal Toward the Reunion of Christ’s Church.

My new book, The American Church that Might Have Been tells the 40-year story of this serious effort to create a new and better church to serve Christ and the needs of people across the nation. It can be purchased from the publisher Wipf and Stock or from Amazon.