Jeanie is ninety seven years young. I caught up with her as she sped down the main strip in Wickenburg, headed to breakfast with friends. We visited for a few moments in front of my three star accommodations. Draped in dazzling western wear, she told me how she had just finished the 5k in Chandler Arizona in one hour and three minutes. And that’s ten minutes faster than the last 5k she completed!
Leaving Wickenburg, I circle the round-about, merging back out onto highway sixty. I’m going to Phoenix.
A few miles south of town I stop at the Cactus Ranch, meeting Waco and his family who are visiting. We chat about the area, my long bike ride, and I enthusiastically describe the vision of Operation Elf Box.
Gilbert greets me inside this prickly haven he’s created. I wander around, looking at over three acres of the thorny desert pear. It’s known that here you’ll find some of the most exotic cacti in the land.
Further up the highway I lean my bike against a wall and head into a sandwich shop, ordering a footlong, devouring it as if I was being featured on Man vs Food.
I have a couple of friends in the Phoenix area. One of them is an American Troubadour, Matt Hopper. He’s offered to pick me up in town and put me in a bed for a few nights. Another friend, Tim, he offers the same kindness.
As I approach the city, I hear a thud behind me. My #OutdoorUkulele came bouncing out of the #Burley Tail Wagon, landing in the road unscathed.
My map leads me off the main drag, detouring along a ten mile stretch of the city canal. There are joggers, walkers, and bike riders going in all directions. We stop and watch some youngsters playing rugby. I’m just cruising along slowly, taking in the sites, and high five-ing those going in the opposite direction. They smile.
Everyone is fascinated with Shoeless Jo. While meandering through the suburb, a few comments are made. I tween-age boy shouts, “I love your dog” as we roll by. A overheard a young girl, maybe six years old, say in a sweet voice, “now isn’t that interesting?” I giggled a bit. She looked rather perplexed.
I took a break near sundown in a city park, checking messages. From Mike Hargous, I receive this exciting and encouraging news. He has been with McDonalds for a million years, working for our locally owned restaurants; Central Oregon. Two years ago, he offered to help create a brighter Christmas for children by placing our Operation Elf Box’s in all of their locations.
Mike’s been following my Long Bike Ride, reaching out to the owners and the regional office, surprising me with this…a sponsorship from McDonalds, a $350 gift card! I’ll be eating my way cross-country, making Ronald McDonald proud as I explore the back roads of America on a bike in this fine outfit they’ve supplied.
Right now I’m sitting on the patio, high on a hill overlooking the Phoenix suburb of Ahwutukee. My friends, Tim and Shawna have a house here and they’ve offered to accommodate me while I’m passing through. It’s a sprawling 8000 square foot abode. They also own a bar and bistro in Twin Falls, Idaho. That’s where we met a few years ago. Often times when I’m traveling by car, making music, their venue is one that I stop into, entertaining their patrons with my folk songs and stories.
Tim and I sat out on the patio until midnight last night, discussing these topics; lack of jobs, how to create them, health insurance, crooked politicians, successes, failures, family, and my favorites, philanthropy, empowering individuals, and loving people.
Despite our lavish setting, we both acknowledge that there’s no amount of money that can buy ones happiness. And that all of these material things are not important; what’s important is loving ourselves sufficiently so that we are able to love others.
Today I choose to be happy by doing the things in life that create happiness. I do not take for granted for one minute how fortunate I am. There are so many blessing being bestowed upon me.
In this moment, I am the luckiest, because I believe that I am. And I’m so grateful.