He just pulled into the driveway of this castle I’ve been sleeping in. If you don’t already know American Troubadour, Matt Hopper, you should. He has an amazing amount of talent; a huge catalog of songs he’s written. His sound; just magine if Tom Petty and Jeff Tweedy had a baby. I’m joining him, driving up to Prescott today, surprising one of his friends for their birthday. Shoeless Jo loves riding in the car, and he loves Matt too.
Before we leave my friend Tim’s place, we hop in his Shelby Cobra. It’s valued at over a million dollars and peaks out at around seven hundred horsepower. He doesn’t let me drive it, but as I sit in that black leather bucket seat, I imagine that I am.
The day prior, I had left my bike at Performance Bicycle in Chandler, replacing the busted rear spoke, correcting the wobble that I rode on for about two hundred miles. Aron, (I think that’s his name) spins wrenches, dialing it in. He makes a few more adjustments and sends me pedaling off a happy customer.
I’ve known Mardell for a few years through Facebook, though we’ve never met in person. Today we will. Her last name is Mitten. Ms Mitten is a flight attendant, making people happy in the sky. She’s landed in Phoenix today and offers to meet up with Matt and I at a Chipotle. We eat burritos the size of a football, talking in-between bites, getting to know each other.
On a few occasions I’ve given thought to how I’ll return home to Bend after reaching St Augustine. I haven’t developed a plan. I figured that if I can make it there on a bike with a dog, then I can make it back. Perhaps I’d hitchhike, take a bus, or ride-share across America via Craigslist? But Mardell has another idea. Willie Nelson would say, she’s “an angel flying close the ground”. She offers this Road Magic: a buddy pass, only $30 through her airline. Jo and I will fly home from the east-coast when it’s time!
Hopper locks his keys in his car. Ms Mitten triggers a call to AAA. After waiting for them to arrive and break in, Hopper realizes his keys were in his pocket the entire time. We get a good laugh out of it, then point the car towards Prescott.
It’s Adams surprise birthday. We meet fellow party goers at The Raven Cafe taking a seat on the roof top just before sundown. An eclectic group of artists gather; adults blowing paper horns and wearing silly hats.
This is wear I met Jen and her partner Tres. They are lovers of humanity, makers of music, and have hearts the size of…Arizona.
Often times when they perform, their talented friend, Paul, sits in on saxophone. Paul has no eye sight, he never has. He joins us at dinner. He’s a passionate person with a great sense of humor. We make a strong connection. He shares with us what it’s like to not be able to see, relying on his other senses. Upon entering a room, I gather a lot of information about a place in a few minutes, just looking around. He says it takes him much longer, listening closely, developing a mental picture of his surroundings. He ads that in public, nothing is ever private; not knowing who is watching.
Sharing the Operation Elf Box mission with Jen and Paul, they both express their desire to team up together and open a ‘free toy store’ in Prescott this coming Christmas season. They make a perfect elf team. There are others too who are passionate about this simple mission: to create a brighter Christmas for children. Soon we will see Elf Shoppe’s opening all over the country.
We make it back to Phoenix an hour before midnight. A couple of years ago, I had sold him two of my acoustic guitars. They’re both leaning up against the couch in this house. It’s nice to see them. It’s even better to strum them. Matt and I love expressing ourselves through music. Before our heads land on our pillows, we spend some time swapping songs back and forth. We harmonize when I sing a Fogerty tune; “oh Lord, I’m stuck in Lodi again”.
I won’t be stuck in Phoenix, this I know. Matt Hopper is dropping me off in a little while at the McDonald’s where my friend Tim had picked me.
These last two days of respite have been incredible. My body feels stronger, my mind is peaceful and my heart is open. So many blessings have come my way. Now it’s time to pedal east, merging back onto the highway of love.