Consecutive Days Riding: 10 Consecutive Days Blogging: 11
Today’s Mileage: 10 Total Trip Mileage: 107
As I ride my bike today there is a growing sense of excitement and the type of anticipation that comes with doing something the first time. For tomorrow we will arrive at the first of the many pilgrimage sites we will visit. As I stated in my first Blog, we started at the tips of the Florida Keys to give the journey time to unfold, for me to learn the mechanics of Blogging, and for us to begin to identify possible Pilgrimage Sites. You will have to visit tomorrows Blog to read about the location, too see numerous pictures of its beauty, and understand why it has become a Christian shrine.
We are within days of leaving the Florida Keys, turning inland and heading for the city of Miami. Before I leave these long stretches of highway connecting palm dotted coral islands. Beaches forever immortalized by Jimmy Buffet as the land of blownout flip flops, cheeseburgers, and margaritas. I want to comment on the phenomena you find anywhere that you have a steady stream of tourists, sometimes called a tourist trap or a roadside attraction. They are often colorful and gaudy, advertising genuine “beach experiences” like diving, snorkeling, parasailing, and baubles and trinkets for and/or from the beach like shells, sand dollars, treasure maps, sunscreen, cheap sunglasses, t-shirts.
Such places are not ubiquitous to the beach and coast line. In the small South Dakota town where I grew up there were three businesses along the highway that headed west towards the Indian reservation and the Black Hills. One was a small hotel that my parents managed for two years, another was the Tepee Café, and the third was Hungry Jim’s Gas Station. Hungry Jim’s sold beer, wine, bread, assorted Indian tourist gifts and candy. He also sold something he called “reservation tires,” they were cheap, worn, with little tread. Rumor had it that he traded cheap wine to the Indians for government issued cheese, I only knew of the candy and sodas he sold to us kids. However, most of the tourists bypassed our small town, preferring the interstate which ran a hundred miles to the north.
But I digress from the point I wanted to make and that was that road side attractions are part of any journey, including spiritual ones! They may come in the form of a church, a spiritual site, a growth group, a guru or guide to name only a few. At times they are dressed up in fine buildings, other times they are loud and gaudy. They may even hide their true nature under trappings of acceptability (like some cults). You must be cautious!
For sometimes they may act as a simple distraction, a break after a long ride. Other times they may provide us with valuable new experiences, like diving and parasailing, that open up new perspectives on life under the sea or from on high. I still vividly remember snorkeling in the Bahamas, for several hours I entered the most fantastic world. Kaleidoscope creatures swam and drifted past. It felt like this was both the most foreign and most comfortable place to exist. I felt marvelously relaxed and mellow afterwards, of course the rum spiked punch they fed us on the boat back to the island probably accounted for some of my “glow.”
But we must be on guard, for some of these attractions, like bars and strip joints, intend to draw our focus away from the journey to enthrall us with their experiences. Their distractions and pleasures may morph into a web and then a trap, a trap where alcohol, drugs and cheap baubles are substituted for true spiritual experiences and treasures. If the traveler is lucky enough to awaken from this stupor they will most often ask: How did I get here?
So be cautious where you stop, be cautious when the gaudy signs screams too loudly, when the offers seem too good to be true. Especially if you find yourself saying, no one needs to know! You may be on the path followed by far too many fallen travelers, away from the pilgrimage and into the wilderness.
A special thanks to the photographers associated with Panramio for the beautiful scenes from along the roadside.