Good Friday 2014

A couple of days ago our back-fence neighbors invited us to a Maundy Thursday contemplative Way-of-the-Cross activity their congregation had planned.  My wife and I had been members of this congregation back when it was meeting in a storefront next to the bowling alley, but we’d left because our commitment to Christ was greater than our commitment to that congregation’s ideals.  Still, besides a strong dislike for the group’s first pastor (now long gone), I harbor no bad feelings toward the group.

So, yesterday evening, after my young son and I got through washing the Green Car, and after he’d had supper, we drove out there to do the walk through.   My boy was probably a year or two too young to “get it,” and was bored but asked me some good questions.  We didn’t stay long, and I took him to play on an unusual swingset on the property.  Personally, I experienced no revelation nor anything spiritual or even emotional.  I didn’t go seeking experience, anyway, but thought my son might find it interesting.

This morning, Friday 18 April, while my wife and son had gone to The Donut Palace for a special treat-breakfast, I was installing a Velociraptor tire onto the rear wheel of my recently acquired Bridgestone MB-4, and listening to a Derek Webb album (I’d got as a free download) on my Iphone when this song, Lover, came up.  Stupid term, lover, and I’ve never liked it no matter the context in which used.  But this song, as I listened to it, was like hearing from Christ, himself.  I got to this part, here –

…I’ll still be your defender, you’ll be my missing son

And I’ll send out an army, just to bring you back to me,

Because regardless of your brother’s lies, you will be set free

Oh, you will be set free

And I said, “Shit,” then wept a bit, leaning on that wheel.

1989 Bridgestone MB-4 with Velociraptor tires

1989 Bridgestone MB-4 with Velociraptor tires

I go on and take my picture, go on and make me up
Oh, I’ll still be your defender, you’ll be my missing son
Oh and I’ll send out an army just to bring you back to me
â€~Cause regardless of your brothers’ lies, oh, you will be set free
Read more at http://www.songlyrics.com/derek-webb/lover-lyrics/#9tHTsh5ooJ1vT659.99
I go on and take my picture, go on and make me up
Oh, I’ll still be your defender, you’ll be my missing son
Oh and I’ll send out an army just to bring you back to me
â€~Cause regardless of your brothers’ lies, oh, you will be set free
Read more at http://www.songlyrics.com/derek-webb/lover-lyrics/#9tHTsh5ooJ1vT659.99
I go on and take my picture, go on and make me up
Oh, I’ll still be your defender, you’ll be my missing son
Oh and I’ll send out an army just to bring you back to me
â€~Cause regardless of your brothers’ lies, oh, you will be set free
Read more at http://www.songlyrics.com/derek-webb/lover-lyrics/#9tHTsh5ooJ1vT659.99

Good Friday Ride

In conjunction with much reflection on the eternal verities, a good night’s sleep, as I knew it would, resolved the melancholy that every time assails the one who observes the passage of time and the odd juxtapositions of time, circumstance, person, and place recorded by various means and lending themselves to ideas of meta-reference.  That way, of course, lies madness or despair.  So much better to engage in vigorous outdoor exercise activities that free the mind and body of the foolishness begotten by the imagination fixed upon the past.

This morning I packed five generic fig newton cookies in a ziplock bag, put air in the Miyata’s tires, then bunged keys, cookies, and a cargo net in the seatbag and set out to explore Old Stepford on the other side of the tracks. This was the first time I’ve ridden the Miyata with a rack – a many years old Cannondale. Installed, the rack doesn’t leave much clearance between it and the tire. Rubber protects the frame where the rack attaches at the seat-stays. Installation did not require the removal of the back reflector.

Miyata-with-RackCannondale-RackFrame-Protective-MountingNot-Much-Clearance

My route zig-zagged through neighborhoods on the way and looped back on itself more than once before I reached the alleys on the mansion-side near the tracks. Then through the Walgreens parking lot crossed the Stonewall Street and pedaled around odd industrial area adjacent Stepford High School, then crossed Sporting Goods Avenue and explored the neighborhood and alleys leading up to the bluff overlooking the currently run-down commercial strip on West Abraham Street.

Old-Stepford-Side-2Nicely-Paved-AlleyClosed-Sporting-Good-Factory

While over there, I rode through the parking lots at a Catholic school. In back, across from the school’s athletic fields, a pieta against a wall attracted my attention. The carved figure of the Christ’s mother looked many years younger and less careworn than I imagine the woman described in the Gospel accounts would have been. From most angles, the face looked almost serenely happy. From one only, the mother figure’s face looked as if a moment away from crumpling in bitter grief. The face of the Christ looked noble in death, eyes closed, visage unmarred. No ragged hole gaped in the figure’s side; no puncture wounds pierced wrists or ankles, stressed by having been used repeatedly to leverage the body against spikes attaching it to the cross so the condemned could breathe, swallow, cough, defecate, and otherwise struggle to function. I don’t think anyone looks noble in death, but far less the individual sculptured.

Pieta-HandsPieta-DetailPieta-ChristHorse

I rode down the hill behind the police station and eventually turned left to reach Abraham Street, and it was there that my want of planning caught up with me. I rode over what sounded like metallic junk on the pavement as I approached the intersection of Pine Lane and Abraham. The Miyata’s got 27” wheels and tubes with schrader valves; I never did bother to get spare tubes for the bike. And I remember thinking about a spare tube when I stashed my fig newton’s in the seatbag. D’oh! About a half mile later I heard/felt the back tire making an odd sound with every pedal stroke. Looking down, I saw the tire bulging out more around the rim at the bottom than it ought to. I got off and squeezed the tire, but I already knew it was flat. About eight and a half miles into my ride without a spare tube or a pump. Bummer.

Flatted-No-Spare

Since I’d been riding over to my mom’s house to say “Hi” and get a glass of water (another forgotten thing – a water bottle – well, duh), and was close enough to justify it, I called her to see if she could give me a lift back to my own house. I felt ridiculous, pushing fifty, sitting on the steps of the Great Hope Baptist Church storefront waiting for my mom to come get me because my bike had a flat tire. It beat walking and I was glad to see her.

Elk River Upstream: Dabbs Ford Bridge to Rutledge (not Patterson) Ford Bridge

NOTE:  If you are offended by religious reflection, quit reading after you get the word “pretty” a few paragraphs down.  I offer no apology.  Not any thing that I can think of to write about is all about one thing and nothing else.  I’ve also included a little political commentary.  It would be a mistake to think of this space as primarily a paddling blog.

(4/25/11) Also, this is the second of these “NOTEs” in as many blog posts, which strikes me as annoying. 

Finally, after looking at a satellite image of Patterson Ford Bridge, I realized it could not have been the bridge up to which I paddled on Friday because the bridge at Patterson Ford is really two bridges for four-lanes of traffic, and the bridge I recall seeing was only a narrow concrete two-lane.  A closer look at Tennessee Landforms showed me a couple of things:  a) I paddled as far as Rutledge Falls Ford Bridge, only about 4.5 miles upstream from my put-in; b) I never did make it as far as Bluebell Island and so my two previous blog posts about paddling this section of the Elk River above Woods Reservoir contain mistakes of fact that I’ll have to get around to correcting.  Until I can get around to making those corrections (lack of time), this extended editorial note will have to do. 

Rutledge Ford Bridge

I’ll try to get a topo-map image of the bridge at Rutledge Ford (satellite image, instead, above).  In the mean time disregard the image of Patterson Ford Bridge below. 

I hadn’t paddled since November 2010 when a friend and I put in at Normandy Lake.  This year my free time has been occupied in parenting, yardwork, and school work.  I’ve spent weekends plug-aerating, liming, fertilizing, hoeing, seeding, mowing, as well as playing outside with my son.  I have been strength training again, mostly pushups, chin-ups, pull-ups, dips using an Iron Gym I got  for Christmas, as well as dumbbells for biceps (shoulder’s still a bit weak for overhead shoulder and triceps work), and medicine ball for abs.  Also a lot of walking.

Thursday evening I sorted out my paddling gear and got it ready for Friday morning.  I wasn’t able to find my blue hat or my small yellow drybag with spare car-key, but everything else I got ready.  I even had a lunch handy because Thursday afternoon I’d had lunch with a friend from work, so I was able to repurpose my sandwich and generic fig-newton cookies.  Friday morning I got up early and dressed for paddling, sprayed down with Deep Woods Off, loaded the gear bag in the trunk, Campsis Radicans on Thursday’s roof, and forgetting my camera and wallet, took off.  My put in was the bridge where Prairie Plains Road crosses the Elk River above or upstream the confusing maze of islands that end of Woods Reservoir – Dabbs Ford Bridge, according to the topo map easily accessed at the Tennessee Landforms website (name not shown below, but near top-left of that image).

Starting Point

The road is roughly paved leading down to the put-in, but I was able to keep the 850 from bottoming-out carefully avoiding some ruts and potholes.  A gold 1990s model Nissan Sentra sedan was already parked below, but no other vehicles.  I nodded and waved at the thin-faced man who was smoking a cigarette behind the car’s wheel, pulled up to the packed-dirt ramp and unloaded boat and gear.  As I backed my car out of the way and parked it, the man in the Sentra drove off.  I figured he’d been up to no good.

It took me a couple of minutes to get the rudder rigged because I’d forgotten how I’d left things back in November.  Inflated bow and stern floatation, put my keys and cell-phone in my larger emergency drybag (stuff in there like towel, light anorak, extra gatorade-type drinks, etc.) in the stern, sealed the stern, arranged junk on the decks making the boat look like something paddled by a hobo, and got into the water.  Cold, surprisingly cold with a perceptible current right away there below the bridge.  Usually don’t encounter a current until much further upstream.  We’ve had a lot of rain lately, but I don’t think we get snow melt – our so-called mountains around here are hardly Alpine. 

I was happy about the current but annoyed because I’d forgotten my camera.  The current made me happy because I knew it would make for a good workout, and I thought with that much water flowing, the water level would be higher and I might get farther upstream without having having to get out and tow the kayak through shallows.  A couple of years ago, I paddled this stretch and had to drag the kayak over deadfallen trees blocking the river.  I had no real idea what to expect this time.

While paddling, I thought about fitness, and that one of the best reasons for maintaining fitness is so that I can do things few other people do and have experiences few other people have.  I thought about the President of the United States of America and that he is incapable of doing the things that I can do, although I could probably manage the work of presiding over this nation’s executive branch tolerably well.  I thought about that film, Chariots of Fire, and thought that my Creator may be indifferent to my aquatic activities.  But as I had that thought I heard the wind moving through a hundred treetops like the voice of God declaring that not even the thought of a man on a boat in a largely unknown river in Middle Tennessee goes unnoticed by him even though he doubtless has other interests.

As it happened, the river was clear as far as I was able to paddle.  The current was constant and swift enough in places that I was happy I’d read books by canoe guys explaining hydraulics (I think is the word) and why it’s better to paddle upstream in zig-zag patter and how to use eddies to make better progress and to rest.  A lot of people think of longer kayaks with no rocker as useless for paddling rivers, but I think they are mistaken.  My Pouch E-68 is 16.5’ in length and did just fine.  I wouldn’t have made much progress at all in a stubby rec-boat or the average, short wooden-shoe-looking kayak designed for river or creek paddling.  In places the current was not too strong at all, and in others I had great difficulty making headway.  By the time I reached Patterson Ford Bridge, I was tired.  The river there was narrow and water moving very quickly downstream had a gnarled, ropey-looking uneven surface.  Possibly what is meant by ‘swiftwater.’

Turnaround

I wished I’d had a laundry marking pen or a can of spray-paint to make my mark upon one of the generally unseen concrete pylons that support the bridge as a means of proving that I’d reached that point in my journey.  This because I’d forgotten the camera.  I settled instead for picking a sprig of purplish wildflowers growing on a muddy bank near where I’d dragged Campsis Radicans out of the water.  They were a bit wilted by the time I gave them to my wife, but still pretty.

Paddling back downstream was easy until God sent pollen from those hundred trees and a thousand others to humble me.  Still, I was grateful for a hyperactive immune system and the fact that germs, pollen, and sundry bits of crud don’t stand a chance against the biology with which God endowed me.  Clearly, I have failed to learn the lessons of humility.  Paddling a wood-framed kayak with wooden paddle at cross-ways is the most Christlike I will ever be, but in my pride and the pleasure I took and generally take in the roughly cruciform activity, I fall far short in Good Friday remembrance. 

Michael Willis on Facebook today (Saturday) wrote that today we commemorate probably the most frightening and disorienting day in history – the day after the Christ suffered unparalleled humiliation and total failure achieve this-worldly aim of restoring the nation of Israel to rule by YHWH through judges and to change the governance of the inhabited world by instituting the governance of God in Israel and through Israel the nations.  Sunday will be here before you know it; the life, death, and resurrection of the Christ changed the world and instituted the governance of God in ways that continue to defy the expectations of his elect.

Sprig