By ROY W. HARRISON
“O beautiful for spacious skies for amber waves of grain, for purple mountain majesties above the fruited plain! America! America! God shed his grace on thee; and crowned thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea.”
The opening verse to a beautiful song, America The Beautiful fittingly describes a great American adventure.
It was 6:30 a.m. The hum of eight motorized chariots, manned by seven ministers and one soundman from four states, saw eight men on a mission to discover America. They would do it from the saddles of four Harley Davidsons, two Triumphs and one Yamaha motorcycle. Before this trip of a lifetime was over, 3,900 miles would be ridden and 11 states visited in only 9 days.
The starting gun (revving of the motorcycles) sounded and we were off. We cleared the Tennessee line passing through western Kentucky and southern Illinois. We continued west and the St. Louis Arch, AKA “The Gateway To The West” rose on the horizon. I was reminded anew how St. Louis had truly been the springboard for the settlement of the west.
Early next morning, we “saddled um up” and “moved um out.” We traveled north through Iowa with corn and soybean fields as far as the eye could see. Truly fruited plains with waves of grain gently pushed across the open plain. One sharp left turn west into South Dakota and the landscape begin to change. Far off in the distance, there they were, the Black Hills! Thoughts of Custer, Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull and herds of Buffalo came to mind. As we traveled the last mile of the day we saw one of the most memorable images of the trip. A huge lake with a small town nestled warmly beside it, framed by black hills. It was as though God himself had unveiled a portrait just for us.
It was Sunday morning. 7 preachers….. You know church was bound to happen. We took time to reflect on God’s goodness and thanked Him for the honor of being part of this “trip of a lifetime.” Hey, eight men singing hymns of worship and praise didn’t sound that bad. With a final prayer for God’s protection, we were off.
We rode through “Badlands National Park,” a maze of tan dunes rising like small glaciers, conjuring up pictures of outlaws and old western movies.
On to Mount Rushmore! We rounded a curve and ascended the mountain and there they were; Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt. What a marvelous sight of four great men whose courage, fortitude and character had helped build a great nation.
Rain and thirty mile an hour winds greeted us the next morning. Passing through Sturgis, SD, we visited the National Motorcycle Museum. We ate lunch in Deadwood, SD near the spot where Wild Bill Hickok was shot.
After spending the night in Cody, WY we anxiously made our way into Yellowstone National Park. Deer, Elk, Moose and Buffalo were in abundance. “Old Faithful” the famous geyser erupted right on schedule. Wave after wave of what we’d seen flooded our minds as we spent the night in West Yellowstone, Montana. Rising early, we rode south through “The Grand Teton National Park.” I think I’ll always remember those granite Rockies standing tall crowned with bright white caps of snow.
Our “trip of a lifetime” was drawing to a close as we entered Colorado and spent the night in just east of Denver at Byers. Crossing Kansas, we finished our trip the next in Wilson County.
As we rode across America, I was reminded how America is like no other nation in the world. Its mix of majestic mountains, fertile farmlands, lush green hills, sparkling lakes, crystal flowing rivers, multitudes of wildlife and numerous state and national parks make it the most unique and beautiful country in the world. Its history of opportunity is unparalleled in human history. We enjoy one of the highest standards of living in the world. As we gather around our tables on Thanksgiving Day and open our gifts during the holiday season, let’s give credit where credit is due. We should take a moment to thank the good Lord for his all-wonderful blessings.
Remember: “America! America! God shed his grace on thee; and crowned thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea.” We should pray: “God Bless America, land that I love. Stand beside her and guide her, thru the night with a light from above. From the mountains, to the prairies, to the oceans white with foam, God Bless America, my home sweet home.”
What a joy it was to be the Leader of a great pack on the trip of a lifetime.