Riding Through Port-au-Prince

haiti-2011-125-2-1He was waiting there, like he always does.  Just standing…and…waiting…

I have been cycling (this sounds more manly and adult than saying “riding my bike”) for about three years now. This is because my almost sixty-year-old knees remind me every day they are almost sixty years old. Riding a bike doesn’t make them feel almost sixty years old.

I love riding through the eastern Kentucky countryside,  riding through woods and past streams, riding past newly cut hay fields, and fields of cattle and horses. We ride past tobacco in the fields and in the barns, a wonderful smell that brings back memories of fall in Kentucky. We ride past fields of wildflowers.

What an idyllic experience to cycle through eastern Kentucky.

Until…

Many times we are snapped out of this pastoral bliss by the canine consternation, when your body goes from producing hot sweat to cold sweat.

Many people have dogs that protect their property from dangerous, middle-aged bicyclers that roam the rural routes, usually in packs, looking for free air to feed their flat tires.  Most of these mutts are not a threat. However,there are those who are threatening and we get to know those very quickly.  We ride many of the same routes and we know where the dogs come a-runnin’.

One particular mongrel stakes out his spot in the middle of the road when he sees us coming.  We lovingly refer to him as “Cujo”.   He has mastered the game of “chicken”, because he will not move.  He makes us decide the path we will ride, then the chase begins.  He is big, about mid-tire high, and muscular, a bad combination for possible contact with your high velocity velocipede.

Last week the aforementioned happened.  Cujo decided he wasn’t going to chase me, so he decided to stop me. He blocked my path like Dick Butkus plugging a hole.

My helmet now has a dent in the side after hitting the pavement with my head inside.  There was various scrapes and blood. There was groaning, but I didn’t cry.  Even now my insides feel like that side of beef looked after Rocky pounded on it in the meat locker

I took this photo of a man calmly riding his bike through the streets of Port-au-Prince, Haiti.  There can’t be a calm ride through these streets.  It is ultimate chaos.  He has to dodge cars and trucks and motorcycles and buses and other bicycles navigating without lanes, carts pulled by animals, and  tap-taps (Haitian taxi’s) loaded with people and their belongings.  He also has to avoid goats, pigs, chickens, oxen, and “lions, and tigers, and bears”.  Oh MY.

Every day he is playing a real-life Frogger navigating the streets of Port-au-Prince.

I just had to miss one dog in the middle of the road in peaceful Stacy Fork.

If you like this photo, you can see more of my pictures here.

 

 

 

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Reconstruction of the West Liberty Christian Church

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We won another victory over the tornado of 2012.

Almost four years after a horrible tornado took our 102-year old building from us, we moved into our new church building.

Previous to this, we worshiped at another church.  I know it was a great sacrifice on their part but they  graciously provided their building to us for about a year.   This was a wonderful act of kindness to a reeling church body after taking a devastating blow.  Luckily we were able to stagger back to our corner and get our wits about us.

We were at this time able to go through the difficult stages of shock and grief over our building.  Also the healing started as we dealt with the emotional attachment to a building that was so meaningful to many of us.  Seeing our children coming to accept the Lord Jesus and go through the act of baptism, walking some of those same children down the sloped aisle to their awaiting spouse, saying good-bye to those who meant so much to us at their funerals was on all  our minds as we started planning for a new building.  We all knew how hard it would be, for we had not planned on bidding adieu to our old friend on the corner of Prestonsburg and Broadway.

We then worshiped in a mobile unit for another eighteen months or so back on our lot.  As we stared at a vacant lot where the old building stood, a constant reminder of what was taken and how much work lay ahead of us as we tried to fill that same lot.

We then built a metal building on the back of our property and praised God there.  We shared this building with the food pantry.  On some Sundays we could smell rotten potatoes or onions or other produce.

Eventually God’s grace and mercy brought us through the storm as He promised.  We had our first service on the first Sunday of 2016.  We were so excited. We moved in before the building would be finished and we are still waiting for the downstairs and kitchen to be completed.

I am very grateful to our congregation for their perseverance and their faith in the one and only Creator.

I took this photo during the construction of our new church building and loved the shadows on a late afternoon.  You can see the domes of two buildings in the background, the dome on the right is atop our old, 109-year old court house.  The tornado weakened the roof and the dome collapsed into the courtroom.  The dome on the left is our new judicial building that was close to completion when the tornado hit.  It had to have major reconstruction.

Through it all, when our faith was struggling and our strength seemed to be fading, God answered our prayers and reminded us that His Grace is sufficient for us.

As I write this, I am listening to a song by Jeremy Camp called “Same Power”.  He sings about “the same power that rose Jesus from the grave, the same power that commands the dead to wake, the same power that moves mountains when He speaks, the same power that can calm a raging sea, lives in us.  He lives in us.”

I know we have a long way to go.  We still have to pay for this building.   But we have already had one to commit her life to the Lord Jesus and was baptized.  There will be more.  There will be weddings and funerals and memories for the next generations of God’s people, if He permits.  He has blessed His people since the beginning of time and will continue till the end of time.  Then Jesus will usher in His Kingdom and I will see some of those I said good-bye to in that old building.

After the tornado,  I was interviewed by CBS reporter Anna Werner as we looked at the pile of rubble that was the old building and she asked me what it would mean to see a new building standing here.  I replied, “God always wins.”

He has won another victory for our small town.

If you like this photo, you can see more of my pictures here.

Cascades

Waterfalls, Morgan County 2011 061 2Water, water everywhere…

My apologies to Samuel Taylor Coleridge.  I hope the need for royalty payments  for The Rime of the Ancient Mariner have passed.

This is a sentiment that many of us in eastern Kentucky have expressed over the past few months.  Some were duped by The Farmer’s Almanac website which I will quote, “Summer will be hotter and drier than normal, with the hottest periods in mid to late June, mid to late July, and early to mid-August.”

OK, maybe the “powers that be” changed the season of summer to be from July 24- July 28, because those days were hot and dry, except for the steam that rose out of the swampy goo.

Trying to mow my three acres in this saturated state has become my Waterloo…I’ll let you think about that for a minute.

This summer my grass has been growing at a faster rate than the seemingly, steroid infused mildew that was in the bathtub of my college fraternity house.

Mowing has become necessary again, however I cannot mow.  “Why can’t I mow”, you ask, quizzically.  Because IT’S RAINING!!!  I know you people living in California can’t grasp this concept of rain.  Maybe some pimply faced  intern at The Farmer’s Almanac confused California with Kentucky in the compiling of this year’s almanac.  Somewhere a California farmer is looking for blue mold.

I took this picture of cascades of a creek in the Yocum and Pleasant Run area of Morgan County, KY.  It resembles the water running through my side yard during the last storm.  Shortly afterward, I saw a small Asian boy leading a yak down my street.

My mower has been stuck in mud…stuck in mud…stuck in mud… three times this summer, because you can’t see the water standing in the yard because the grass is so high.  I went to the local hardware store to see if my old Snapper could be fitted with floats like a seaplane.  The amazing thing is I was not the first one to request this.  Since Snapper does not make a hover riding mower yet, I will have to wait for the rain to stop and then send out a dove.

While waiting on my yard to dry, I can always weedeat my gutters.

If you like this photo, you can see more of my pictures here.

War Creek Road

County Road Curve, Morgan County, KY spring 2005

I was explaining how marvelous my diminutive, relatively new sports car was handling through the curves on Route 519 in northern Morgan County.  My passenger seemed distracted.  It could have been because he was thinking “uh-oh”.

We were driving to school on a Sunday afternoon on our way back to Morehead State University in 1977.  My passenger was a good friend and he was in the right seat of my 1970 MG Midget.  It was his maiden voyage in my British Racing Green classic two-seater.  His mother told him earlier, “I’m glad you are riding back to school with someone respectable.”  These words were spinning around in my thoughts as we were spinning around on the narrow two lane road.

Figure skaters and dancers are taught to keep their eyes moving ahead of the spin so as not to get the “swimmy head”.  As we were pirouetting across the pavement, my eyes saw trees…fence…trees…fence…trees…fence.

Inertia was finally overpowered with the help of the barbed-wire fence we broke through and  the fence post  we nestled up to.

We extracted ourselves from this small capsule, staggering like survivors at Roswell.  The swimmy head trick didn’t work.  We retraced the crash path and saw that we narrowly missed a large crevice that would have completely swallowed up the tiny car and left us on missing persons lists to this day.

This is a photo of War Creek Road taken in the spring.  This small winding road is in the southeastern region of Morgan County in eastern Kentucky.  It is similar to the way Route 519 looked at the time of this story before it was rebuilt. It is typical of the many scenic drives along small country roads  in Morgan County. The views can be memorable… when you are in control of your automobile.

Incidentally, the British Motor Corporation stopped production of the MG Midget in 1979 due to the age of political correctness.  They tried to change the name to MG “Little Automobile” but the body wasn’t big enough to display that many letters.

If you like this photo, you can see more of my pictures here.

Ezel Presbyterian Church

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I was in a testosterone fog.

Like the tops of the eastern Kentucky hills hidden by the fog of this particular winter, rainy, day, my judgement was clouded by the current state of my machismo.  My bravado gauge seemed to be in sync with the RPM gauge on my Fiat X 1/9, both maintaining a level above what could be considered safe at the time.  You get the picture.

I had my new girlfriend, now my lovely wife of 29-plus years, sitting in the orange leather passenger seat of this Italian classic sports car (description may be an embellishment).  Our destination was Ezel, Ky.

I had invited her to come with me for her first trip to Morgan County, my home, to witness her new boyfriend perform the most manly of courtship rituals.  Amid all of the Animal Planet and Nature Channel shows that focus on the singing, dancing, spreading plumage, and so forth found in nature, there is one facet of the male-to-female attraction ritual that never seems to be shown…the male’s invitation to the female to travel a long distance to watch him play in a basketball tournament in a small rural gymnasium.

As if her femaleness wasn’t clicking on all cylinders in the anticipation of watching me display my prowess on the court of the old Ezel High School gym, added to her delight was riding in a car that barely had the weight to stay within the gravitational pull of the planet at 70 mph.  Not only that, but throw into her experience a driving rain and road spray coming onto a vehicle that wasn’t as tall as the semi trucks’ tires I kept passing.  The six-inch Italian wiperblades could not keep the amount of water cleared off the windshield long enough to see the small ponds formed on the rain-soaked Mountain Parkway.  I assumed each episode of hydroplaning that showcased my daring-do car handling ability would further add to her confidence in opting for my affections.

I was thinking none of her past beaus would have been able to deliver an unprecedented afternoon such as this.

Ezel is a beautiful section of rolling hills and farmland in western Morgan County.  Sitting atop one of these rolling hills is the Ezel Presbyterian Church.  It is one of my favorite sights in all of Morgan County.  This church building was built about ninety years ago.

Remarkably, my wife still continued to date me after this inglorious day.  Although since this day,  when we travel there is a constant update on weather changes and road conditions and speed monitoring coming from the passenger seat.

Also my team made it to the finals of the basketball tournament that day so my lucky new girlfriend was able to be impressed by my manliness for a whole day in that gym at Ezel.  We lost in that game, but not before I was able to keep my man from missing a shot and holding him to about thirty points.

I am happily married today because my wife never understood the fundamentals of a man-to-man defense.

 

If you like this photo, you can see more of my pictures here.

Washington Monument

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For the first time in a month of Sundays, we were going to a high falutin’ French restaurant and I was excited.

My wife and I were in the “city that never sleeps”.    That’s right, Washington, DC.  Because, “how could they sleep at night?”

My cousin and his lovely bride of a few years were treating my wife and I to a very enjoyable weekend in this exciting city.  The last time we were in DC was in 2010 and they were getting married.

Reservations had been made at Bernaise, a classy little French* restaurant near the Capital.  The interesting thing about this French restaurant was their specialty…French Fries.  Really, no joke French Fries at a French restaurant…go figure.  Well they just call them fries,  the French is implied.  The award-winning chef likes to serve his fries, or frites, with steak.

Now I like a good steak and spud as well as the next redneck Irishman** that settled in them eastern Kentucky hills, but come on, at a French restaurant?  I want something French, like snails in fancy sauces.  I compromised and ordered some frites as an appetizer.  I must say, those were the best fries I had ever eaten.  I knew they would be good since packs of ketchup did not accompany them.  Now I wish McDonald’s would give out packets of terragon with their fries.

We also had a memorable meal at Menomale in the Brookland neighborhood.  We ingested some very tasty Napolese pizza.  This was way beyond Papa John’s “better ingredients”.  I never realized that there is a certification that pizzerias have to abide by to serve Napolese pizza.  I will supply this educational information for you at this time so I may qualify to apply for some type of grant to purchase plane tickets to try more pizza in the birthplace of modern pizza, Naples… Italy not Florida.

From http://pizza.about.com/od/Neapolitan/a/Neapolitan-Pizza.htm

An authentic Neapolitan pizza has a crust made from a dough that is made with highly-refined Italian type 0 or 00 wheat flour (read more about flour types), Neapolitan or fresh brewer’s yeast (not dry yeast), water, and salt. The dough must be kneaded by hand or with a low-speed mixer and formed by hand, without the help of a rolling pin. The dough is topped with raw, pureed San Marzano tomatoes from Italy; fior di latte, which is mozzarella cheese made from cow’s milk, or mozzarella di Bufala, which is mozzarella cheese made from the milk of water buffalos, usually raised in the Campania and Lazio marshlands in Italy; fresh basil, and extra-virgin olive oil. The ingredients must be all-natural and fresh. The pizza is baked for 60–90 seconds (baking time cannot exceed 90 seconds) in a minimum 800°F stone oven with a wood fire.

 

I took this photo of the Washington Monument on a day my wife and I were rambling about.   There was a caretaker mowing in the shadow.  He kept mowing and would not leave, probably a junior congressman from some insignificant midwestern state, supplementing his income because he hasn’t figured out how to “not sleep at night.”  I waited as long as I could because I knew my internal wife-is-getting-impatient meter was expiring and I was out of excuse coins.

I darkened the shadows during processing to hide this dedicated servant in the black obscurity, ala “Deepthroat”.

Incidentally, the most excited I saw my wife the entire weekend…when we emerged from the subway station at Dupont Circle,  looking for a nice breakfast bistro,  and we spotted Le Kreme d’Krispe .  Oooh La  La.

 

Footnotes were added to give this a look of educational material to further add to my ruse of getting grant money.

 

*In my neck of the woods, we say “Franch”, which explains why I always get Ranch dressing when I order French dressing.

**I feel that this term is politically insensitive, therefore I am leading a charge to keep Notre Dame from opening a community college branch on the banks of the Licking River. So far it is working.

If you like this photo, you can see more of my pictures here.

 

 

Kellacey Falls

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I went to ask my dad for directions to Kellacey Falls in northern Morgan County, KY.   I hadn’t been there in a little while and I knew there was an intersection where I either had to go straight or turn right.  Given my past results on taking true and false tests in school, I did not want to leave that decision at fifty percent.  It always seemed like I gave (or guessed) the wrong answer much more than half of the time on those tests.  I am a statistical marvel, or as my wife says, “It is a marvel at how bad your sense of direction can be.”

My 86-year old father was a rural letter carrier in Morgan County for close to thirty years.   He went past Kellacey Falls every day he delivered the mail.  After getting directions from him, I turned to leave and hurried to the door for I knew what was to come…

“Don’t you dare go by yourself.  Call your brother!”

I did not get to the door in time.

With my 58-year old head hung low, I left that same house feeling as if I was ten years old again.  I knew I had to call my 62-year old brother for security.  Sometimes things get pretty rough going through Tom’s Branch and Dehart.

On the drive out to Kellacey Falls, I was glad to have my brother in the car with me.  It had been too long since we had been together, just the two of us.

My dad called me on my cell phone, which is a marvel in itself, to see how we were. It had suddenly occurred to him that  he had sent both of his sons out into the wilds of Kellacey.  He shuddered to think that not just one of his sons could fall over the edge of the falls, but he could lose both of us.  Our foray into adulthood and past midlife still did not give him the confidence in our ability not to fall off a cliff.  Little did he know that I fell just a few short minutes previous to this adventure, trying to navigate a one-foot step at my house, falling gracefully to the gentle clutches of Mother Earth.  Also little did he know that my protector was at one time on his belly, in the mud, peering over the 200-foot rock ledge proclaiming how high we were.  Some passers-by may have thought “high” had a different connotation.

A picture like this took some planning.

I ordered a remote control device for my camera just for this photo.  I put my camera on my tripod and fully extended it.  I used a 7 mm fish-eye lens.  I set up a step ladder on the edge of the falls and wedged my tripod between the step and the pail shelf (yes that is what it is called, I looked it up).  The tripod with the camera is now extended out over the cliff, so I put a concrete block on the lower step of the ladder to weigh the ladder down so the weight of the extended tripod would not cause this setup to tumble over the edge of the cliff.

At one point, when I was close to the edge, I felt a little tug and looked down. My older brother was holding on to my belt loop…my protector.   Dad knew what he was doing after all.

Of course my protector wasn’t holding on to anything else.

If you like this picture, you can see more of my photos here.