Day 1: Hitchhikers, Mass Murderers, Des Moines

I spent the last eight days on tour in our 86 Weekender, affectionately known in our family as ‘Our Lady of Disrepair.’ She did just fine for the first half of the tour, and indeed she got me home with only one cancelled house concert in her wake.

Day 1: Hitchhiker, Mass Murderer, Des Moines.

I took off at noon from sunny St. Paul and headed south on 35 for Des Moines IA. No gauges were flashing, my new upper control arm bushings weren’t squeaking, and the radio was loud enough for me to hear. I was thinking about an NPR story I heard a few days prior on the lost art of hitchhiking and thought to myself how long it had been since I had seen a hitchhiker in Minnesota. I decided that if I saw any I’d give them a ride. It seemed like the Vanagon thing to do.

Ten minutes later I did.

His name was Pat. I saw him with his backpack and thumbout and immediately slammed on the brakes. A squeaky quarter mile later I had come to a full stop and he was running the distance to me. Pat was great. We talked all the way to Des Moines about cars and scooters and life.

He had once driven a 50cc scooter from Louisville, Kentucky to Southern California. I can’t imagine hitchhiking was much slower.

I learned that if you’re on the road with no place to stay that the storage sheds in the Lowe’s and Home Depot parking lots make for decent housing and that employess are used to it and will sometimes bring you donuts and coffee. I’ll tuck that info away for future tours.

About an hour into our conversation there was a lull and I relfected on how Pat was proof that hitchhikers are normal people just like you and me. That’s when he broke the silence with, “How’s it feel to be a mass murderer?” Talk about a conversation killer. I wasn’t sure what the proper response was at this point. Was he accusing me? I could reply, ‘I don’t know. You tell me.’ But I could only see that taking things to the next degree of awkward. In my hesitation he clarified, “Look at your windshield. How many bugs ya gonna kill like this?” Note to self: Don’t pick up hitchhikers for their sense of humor.

We talked about hitchhiking. He told me bits of his life story. Divorce, sobriety, adult daughters and how they worry about him. He has a smart phone to keep in touch. He’s on facebook. He gave me his e-mail address. He used to have a big house, cars, atv’s, boats, and a job to pay for it all. And the more he got the more he had to work and the more he had to work the more he had to maintain and eventually he had a heart attack. He got rid of it all. He travels at his own speed. On his own time. He told me he’s never felt more free. All that stuff just holds you down.

I dropped Pat off at the edge of town and made my way to St. Johns where my friend Bob Speirs is a pastor. St. Johns is a beautiful old downtown church. On Wednesday’s they have a community meal. We’re not talking hot dish. This week was pork tenderloin with garlic broccoli and peach cobbler. It was fantastic! I played a few songs for the large group after dinner then lead the singing for a short worship service that followed. After that I vistited different small groups and we chatted and sang songs. I had a great time with the preschoolers, then off to middle school, and finally to the high school group. One of the high schoolers played guitar and so he played mine and I played acoustic lap steel and we lead songs from Becoming Liturgy. It was great!

On the way out that evening, Bob was helping me carry stuff to the van and there was a homeless man in the courtyard of the church. He was apologetic and started to get up but Bob made it clear that he was welcome to stay there in the shelter and security that the courtyard provided. Bob told me that sometimes there are up to a dozen folks who make their home there during the summer. If you’ve got the space share it.

I got a headstart on the next days drive and made my way south. I camped out in a Walmart parking lot in Cameron MO. Parked by the RV’s and Semi’s Our Lady of Disrepair fit right in. In a pesky little sibling sort of way.  I slept great. What a beautful start to the tour.

Posted: October 6th, 2011
Categories: Uncategorized
Comments: 1 Comment.

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