Adventure Archive

If I Can Just Make Cheyenne

Posted June 12, 2017 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

On Wednesday I will turn 60. To celebrate, over the next few days, I’ll have a series of posts that will give you a rare look into the private life and heart of Reba. I hope you’ll stop by and celebrate with me.

I rounded the corner and ran north, excitement bubbling in my soul. Today I would see downtown Cheyenne. I passed underneath one of the two major interstate highways that intersect here and wasn’t surprised that it looked like most any interstate exit. Restaurants and hotels lined the road, begging for customers to drop some cash.

Within a mile I was taken back in time, although NOT to the days of the old west. Instead, I found myself squarely in the middle of the 1950’s. It looked as though someone discarded an entire town from decades ago and Cheyenne bought it. Old diners with spinning stools and red/white checkered table cloths. Cheap strip motels from a time when people stayed in them just to sleep, not to be pampered. Old “filling” stations that offered fuel and little else.

I continued running, hoping against hope that this was not all there is. I passed a biker bar and gazed in wonder as hundreds of grizzly characters showed off their black leather, drank beer and ate greasy hamburgers. But they did seem like a happy lot.

I climbed a small hill and downtown came into view. I passed homeless people who seemed devoid of any ambition. One of them sat on a bench reaching into a bag of edible goodies, no doubt deposited there by some do-gooder. I ran past dozens smelly young drifters with backpacks. I figured they’d come to Cheyenne for the same reason I had.

I finally reached the center of the town and down one street, I saw the gold dome of the state capitol. What I didn’t see was anything western. There were no gun slinging cowboys. No hitching posts or horses. No wagons or saloons. No old timey hotels. There were old buildings for sure but nothing resembling the wild, wild west. Some buildings had been refurbished into bars and restaurants, some into parking garages. Many stood empty, a memory of a time long ago, although not distant enough into the past to satisfy my craving for cowboys and Indians.

I turned around and began my trek back. Already I’d seen African American young ladies walking to work at the local steakhouse. I’d seen Chinese women making large wok-full’s of fried rice for the busy take-out dinner hours. I’d seen Mexican men riding bicycles, presumably to or from work. But no cowboys.

I gazed toward the intersection and saw a young woman in a very fancy dinner dress being escorted by a man in an expensive monochrome suit. They walked across the street and he opened the passenger door of the $70,000 SUV for her. She entered but not before casting me a wary look, as if this penguin of a grandma runner wanted to steal anything she had.

I ran back past the homeless man sitting on the bench. He’d been eating some of the things in his bag and had thrown the wrappers onto the sidewalk. I bent down, picked them up and ran to the trash can to toss them in.

As I ran back toward the truck stop on the outskirts of town, I marveled that Cheyenne is as diverse as Times Square. Rich, poor, multi-ethnic, those just passing through all came to this place. Some searching. I wondered if they found what they were looking for. I fought a twinge of disappointment that I did not find my western town. I’d painted a much more appealing one onto the canvas of my mind.

The anticipation long since faded, I forced myself through the last mile back to the truck stop. As I rounded the corner and Dillon came into view, I was grateful that I’d named my truck (and all my trucks) a name from the old west. Cheyenne may have not been what I expected, but it was quite an adventure and well worth the three-hour run.

I know that in the days and weeks to come and I remember Cheyenne, I’ll choose to remember the one I built, not the one I saw on my run. In my town, horses and wagons still clop up and down the streets. Long-legged cowboys wear guns on their hips and aren’t afraid of anything.

My journey started with me thinking with great anticipation, “If I can just make Cheyenne”. It ended with gratitude that I created a town in my mind that no one can take away. I thanked God for my wonderful imaginary town created by the amazing imagination He saw fit to give me. I DID make Cheyenne… just the way I wanted to remember it!

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Moment of Terror

Posted May 1, 2017 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

The darkness engulfed me as I climbed the steps into Dillon. I’d just completed my pretrip inspection by flashlight and needed to drive four hours into Mississippi to pick up my next load. This one would take me into our terminal in Missouri. My trailer was having problems with the refrigerated unit and the mechanics wanted to make sure they got it inhouse to repair it.

I wheeled off the farm onto a major US highway. Suddenly, the second my automated transmission tried to shift, my truck stopped! Right in the MIDDLE of a major highway! I was completely blocking both southbound lanes and the shoulder.

Terror gripped my heart. In the darkness, a southbound vehicle may not see me. I flipped on my emergency flashers and switched into neutral then back to drive. My truck started up again. My overwhelming sense of relief only lasted until my truck began to shift. Then it stopped. Again.

It took ten long, horrifying minutes to coax my 73 foot vehicle to the nearest place out of traffic: the center turn lane. I sat for a few moments until my heart stopped pounding and the blood stopped swishing in my ears. Two trucks roared by southbound and I knew I desperately needed to somehow get to the shoulder.

Surely I could make it.

I switched into drive again and tried to let the truck roll at idle speed across the two southbound lanes. Shifting seemed to be the issue. If I could keep the truck rolling slow enough that it stayed in first gear, maybe I could get it safely to the other shoulder before the next trucks barreled in my direction.

Despite my best efforts, the truck gained speed, tried to shift and stopped. Again I was blocking both southbound lanes. I repeated the switch to neutral-switch back to drive scenario ten times before I finally getting the truck safely out of harm’s way. The shoulder isn’t the safest place but it would have to do.

I immediately put out my emergency triangles, trying desperately to stop shaking as I walked. I needed to determine if the problem was coming from the truck or trailer so I disconnected. I pulled up with my truck and it shifted fine. The process of elimination told the story. The refrigeration unit was not the only malfunctioning piece of equipment on my trailer.

I reattached to my trailer and tried to pull up. Just like before, the moment I my automated transmission pushed in its clutch to shift, the truck and trailer stopped. It had to be the trailer brakes sticking.

I pushed and pulled, knocked on things with a hammer. I inspected everything I possibly could. I yanked. I cursed. Ok, I didn’t curse but only because those words just aren’t in my vocabulary. But I did pray.

Somehow, something that I did released the brakes and I continued on my way. Each time I stopped or turned into an intersection, I held my breath, praying the brakes would not jam.

I made it to my shipper and to our terminal without any further incident. My best pretrip inspection failed to reveal any problems with the brakes and yet, I was placed in a precarious situation.

My company’s equipment is the best in the business. My truck has dozens of safety devices and our trailers cannot be beat. But the fact remains they are mechanical devices and as such, can break down without notice despite our best efforts.

I have hundreds of friends who cover my travels with prayer. For that I am grateful. I have been spared many disasters because of them. It had just never occurred to me that I’d need those prayers pulling out of my own driveway in the middle of a very dark night.

Thank you all for following me on this incredible journey that sometimes produces a moment of terror. Fortunately, those are few and far between.

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Sweet Vidalia

Posted April 28, 2017 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

Deep in the heart of rural Georgia, a forty year old woman is about to graduate college. That’s truly an amazing accomplishment at any age. But if you peal back the layers of Sweet Vidalia, you’ll learn this is no ordinary woman.

Born on a farm to alcoholic parents, Vidalia was raised in a tumultuous environment. At the age of fifteen, the courts granted her petition to become an emancipated minor. She worked several jobs and rented a home from the parents of a friend.

Vidalia stayed in school and despite her very challenging life, she managed to graduate at the top of her class, earning her an academic scholarship to a major university. Life was really turning around for her.

Two weeks before she was to leave for college, her parents died in an alcohol caused car crash, leaving her younger brother and sister orphaned. Vidalia rode the bus to the college she was to attend and explained what happened. She told them she wanted to attend college more than anything but she could not leave them.

Vidalia once again went to court, this time on behalf of her siblings. And despite overwhelming odds, because she was so self-reliant, This now eighteen year old was granted custody of her two younger siblings.

Working tirelessly, Vidalia not only cared for them, she saved everything she could and sent both of them to college. Her brother is a computer programmer and her sister is in her residency as a physician.

Vidalia unselfishly gave up her plans, her hopes and dreams to provide a home for children. She did not stop until they graduated college. Once that happened, they insisted she go back to get her own degree. So she did.

In Sweet Vidalia fashion, she continued to work several jobs and took courses online. She’s finally completed all the requirements to matriculate and will graduate Magna Cum Laude. With degree in Social Work in hand, she intends to open a home for troubled children. It’s the same home she eventually bought from the parents of a friend when she left home. The same place that provided a roof over her orphaned siblings.

I am honored to have met such an amazing woman. Had she not told me her story, I would never have known. She so completely recovered, and excelled in life, despite a very rough start.

Sweet Vidalia is an example of the many layers we all possess. Sometimes the surface looks rough, dirty. Other times it shines but it’s always what’s underneath that tastes the sweetest.

Thank you, Vidalia, for your unselfish sacrifice to save two lives. May God grant you the wisdom to continue to carry the torch and fight the good fight. Because of you, the heartbeat of America is alive and well.

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The Apocalypse, Day One

Posted January 11, 2017 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

Day One

Cherokee, Oklahoma to Moriarty, New Mexico

(This is part one of a ten-day trucking trip through the worst winter conditions I’d ever faced. Be sure to come back for the other nine days!)

It was supposed to be an easy trip. Pick up a preloaded trailer of chicken and run it up to Grandview, Washington. Between storms. I’d be in and out before the next one hit with thousands in my pocket and several days with 2016 disappearing further into my rearview mirror.

All hopes of the new year exploding on my scene were dashed at 2am. No fireworks. No Aud Lang Syne. Instead, the new year crepted in as freezing fog, its long fingers entangling me while it engulfed my truck like tomb. Little did I know it was only a prelude of things to come.

I inched along and made my way west. After all, I did have a delivery appointment, not to mention a very short window to grab a load and escape the storm. The fog turned to rain… then sleet. I had to assume the icy mix was covering the road the same way it was slathering my windshield.

I passed car after car that had spun out into the median or onto the side of the road. Some had overturned. Trucks were rolled over onto their sides or tops, their trailers oozing precious cargo.

It’s unnerving to drive through was resembles a war zone, especially under the cover of darkness.  I couldn’t help but wonder about those drivers, their families and whether they made it home to them in one piece, despite the metal carnage that sculpted the story on the highway.

The sun finally rose. The fog lifted. Oklahoma disappeared into Texas and the Lonestar State eventually yielded to the painted desert of New Mexico. I puttered along barely making it up hills. I was within a few pounds of being overweight. If I took on more than twenty five gallons of fuel at a time, I could not legally drive on any road in America. So I stopped often to get my little bit of petro, a very time consuming task.

By the time I stopped for the day in Moriarty, New Mexico, I was already exhausted and behind schedule. Tomorrow I would start up into the lower Rockies and I knew I would not make good time at all. There was nothing I could do, so I got ready for bed and settled down for the night.

Suddenly, I received an alarm. My refrigerated unit (Reefer) on my trailer had shut down. The chicken was going to melt. I got dressed and jammed my bare feet into my boots. Quickly lacing them, I grabbed a flashlight and bolted out of the truck, hardly noticing that it had begun to snow. For the next thirty minutes, I troubleshot. I ran through scenario after scenario. My heart sank when I finally discovered the cause of the problem. When the chicken plant loaded and sealed the trailer, they had not hooked one of the doors. It was my responsibility to check that and I had just missed it during my inspection.

Fortunately, the alarm was overridden remotely by computer and we got the refrigerator running again. My company decided to not unseal the trailer in order to close the door because the load was intact even with the door slightly ajar at the top. But, I would be paying about $30 a day in fuel just to keep it running this way. It was a very costly mistake on my part. One doesn’t make that mistake very often. 

Two hours later, my head hit the pillow again, though rest would not come. My mind vacillated between the open door I’d bundled, and the fact that I was behind schedule, and closer to not being able to get back out of Washington.

I prayed and somewhere in the darkness my troubled soul yielded to the Sandman.

(Be sure to  come back to see part 2 of the Apocalypse.)

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The Road Less Traveled

Posted December 29, 2016 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

You have followed me for the last three years that I’ve taken the road less traveled, first on the Road to Freedom bicycle tour, then from behind the wheel of a BIG rig. Many of you have wondered how I can do it. Most of you ask why I do what I do. So, as we get ready to put the period at the end of 2016 and open a new chapter, I thought it would be a good time to tell you.

I’m not normal. Never have been. I’m a tomboy, don’t like girly things and conformity makes me feel like I’m in prison. I worked for decades in Corporate America with big companies like Merrill Lynch and AT&T. I had the house, the sports car and—at least according to most people—I was very successful.

There was just one problem. I was horribly unhappy. Depressed even. I felt I had no purpose and generally hated life. I also felt like I was terminally ill. Each and every day I literally felt like I was dying.

As it turns out, I’m not cut out to be like most people. Putting me in a business suit and sitting me in an office all day is like putting a hamster on a wheel. Know what’s funny? I was good at it. Really good! But I learned the hard way you can be good at a lot of things you are never meant to do.

I have a doctorate degree in clinical counseling. I have been very well respected in my field on a national level and yet, I drive a truck. Sounds like a horrible lack of ambition and a waste of talent, right? At least that’s what former friends and colleagues told me.

But I came to realize my lot in life is to take the road less traveled. Not have a home with kids, two dogs and a white picket fence. No, I’m destined to experience hooking to a trailer in  negative 23 degree weather and 40 mph winds at 2am in Nebraska. I feel it in every ounce of my being. The piercing, cutting blade of cold that slices through you. And my job is to tell you about it so you can experience it without getting frostbite.

My place in this world is on that road less traveled and bring the stories back to you. My purpose is to experience the sunset in the painted desert in New Mexico and tell you it really does exist by painting the portrait for you with words. It is to tell you about a lone wolf on the Navajo Nation that felt it needed to protect me from wild animals and to bring the Nation’s wild ponies to your back yard.

For many of you, the only way you will experience the Mojave Desert is through my words. You will only meet Kevin the war veteran by reading my blog. You wouldn’t know December 22nd was two minutes longer than the day before. You would have no idea that our country is filled with great Americans who are the fabric upon which our nation is built.

No, I won’t be attending any fancy parties all gussied up or spending the day at the mall. You won’t find me in a cubicle or mahogany office in a high-rise business complex. If you’re looking for me, you’ll have to come down the road less traveled. It’s where I belong. That’s my white picket fence. 

I took some time off from blogging for several reasons. All the while, the Heartbeat of America has continued to beat and I have many, many stories to tell you. I will resume the blog in the new year.

Thank you for following my journey and for appreciating that I have taken the road less traveled.

From my road to your house, I wish you a very happy new year. May you be exactly where you were destined to be, doing what God created you to do.

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Out There…Somewhere

Posted May 25, 2016 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

On Saturday, April 9th, I turned in Dusty (my Freightliner Cascadia truck) and walked away to start my new adventure, whatever that would turn out to be. I spent two nights in Memphis and my good friend, Mary, posed this question, “If you could do anything you wanted, what would that be?”

My answer was immediate and laser focused. “I’d drive around the country in an RV, meet wonderful Americans and write their stories.”

That night I continued to ponder how I could make that come to fruition. I figured that over the next two to three years, I had two choices. I could try to write a grant to pay for the adventure. That could be tricky. Not every organization would consider my adventure research worth pursuing. I could try to get sponsors but then I would be on their agenda, not mine.

On Sunday afternoon while shopping for a new pair of running shoes, I told Mary I felt I needed to become an independent contractor with a trucking company I’d already been talking to for several months. At first she looked at me strangely, like perhaps I’d had a brain bleed. After all, I’d insisted the night before my trucking adventure had drawn to a close. But then I explained to her that in two to three years, I would have enough disposable funds to pay cash for a brand new small RV. That way, I could do what I want on my own time with my own agenda.

I went on to explain that as an independent contractor for this new company, I would be wholly autonomous. I would not have a dispatcher. Instead, I’d log right onto the load board and get whatever loads I wanted to book myself for. I’d be able to go where I like to travel, and avoid those places I don’t think I should be.

I would be completely in charge of my own schedule. I can travel, meet people and be more available to write about them than before because I will no longer have pickup and delivery appointments at 2am.

So, after a great deal of prayer and counsel from my mentors, I joined this new company as an independent contractor. I report on Monday and will have a 2017 Freightliner Cascadia by Friday. I will give them 1095 days. During that time, I will travel around, meet wonderful people and tell you—my loyal readers—their stories. Once those days have ended, I will set into motion the next step.

When I was on the Road to Freedom bicycle tour in 2013, I discovered that contrary to what we hear on the news, the heartbeat of America is alive and well. There has never been a time in the history of our nation when we’ve needed to hear this message more. I feel it is my purpose to get this message out to you. This is the way I can make this happen.

Thank you all for being such faithful followers. I appreciate all the cards, emails, texts and phone calls of concern as I’ve taken a couple of months off to pray and hear God’s plan for me.

As I start this new part of my journey, I commit to seeking out wonderful Americans and bringing their stories to your email or social media accounts. I would also solicit your prayers as I release the brakes thunder down the road heading out there… somewhere.

God bless you, friends!

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Life is Fatal

Posted January 26, 2016 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

I placed the phone back in its cradle and stared at it, not believing what had just come from it. Just five days before, the surgeon had assured the tumor they removed from my throat was a Hurthle cell lesion. The tumor was benign. Those types of tumors were always non-cancerous. So how could I have gone from that to incurable in one phone call?

I was only thirty-five.

The next few days rushed by in a blur. With every pain or unusual feeling in my body, I imagined the cancer raging through, devouring healthy tissue and sealing my fate. I met with who was reportedly the best oncologist in that part of the country. He confirmed that Hurthle Cell Carcinoma does not respond to any known treatment. It is slow growing but extremely aggressive. No one had ever survived it.

He suggested invasive treatments hoping against hope I would be the first to respond to what they already knew was of no effect. So I refused the treatment.

“I’d rather watch and wait,” I’d told him. He was as comfortable with that as anything else.

I walked back out to my car and just sat, looking up the cobalt blue sky and snow white clouds of the Florida winter. My heart drew toward Heaven and I prayed, “Well, Lord, once again I’ve been placed in a position where I have to trust You. The doctors give me no hope. No treatment. No cure. So I have no choice but to trust you.”

God’s rebuke was gentle but a rebuke nonetheless. In what was almost an audible response, He said, “Let me remind you, my child, that’s no consolation prize.”

That diagnosis of Hurthle Cell Carcinoma came twenty-three years ago today. I had a second surgery sixteen days later to remove the other half of my thyroid just to make sure no cancer cells had migrated to the other side. That was my decision and the surgeon felt it was a good option.

In the days that followed, my mother’s words burned in my soul. She’d written me a letter before she herself died of cancer. I’d watched her last few months as she struggled desperately to live the life she’d only existed through for decades. In that letter she said, “You must live while life is with you.” I determined that whether it was a day, week, year, decade or a millennium, I would live whatever life I had left to its fullest. I would experience the most that life had to offer so that when I drew my last breath, I would have no regrets.

That is why I went to foreign soil to minister to others. It’s why I worked in corporate America and had my own radio show. It’s why I play the guitar and listen for hours to the distant sound of a lonesome train whistle as it winds through mountains.

This is why, at the age of 56, I sold all my possessions, packed gear on a bicycle and headed off across the country to help women who were victims of violent assault. And it’s why today, Dr. Reba Hoffman drives an eighteen wheeler across our great nation.

It doesn’t make sense to most people. I’ve learned to accept that because thankfully, most of them never got the phone call that shattered their world. They never stared in the face of the truth we all live with that none of us are guaranteed tomorrow.

It may sound bizarre but I am eternally grateful for cancer. I’ve lived more in the last 23 years since that phone call than most people do in a lifetime. I’ve had great adventures, seen so many places and met the most amazing people.

I have all of you who live my adventures with me. You encourage me to keep going, even though sixty is only a year away. I’ve never been this old but I’ve also never felt so alive.

Every day is a gift. If you woke up alive this morning, you are blessed. Live life to its fullest TODAY. Dream dreams. Pursue them with passion. Grab all the gusto you can. Live your life with no regrets.

Let your heartbeat be the part of America that is alive and well.

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Henry the Liar

Posted January 12, 2016 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

I walked across a deserted parking lot to an old country store. I couldn’t miss the old man sitting on a bench in front. His dog-a gangly mutt that looked older than his master—slept lazily at his feet.


Coffee. I needed coffee.


I mixed my concoction of go-juice and made my way through the maze of stacked boxes to the cash register just as the middle aged cashier glanced out the door. I followed her gaze.


“Do you know that man?” I asked, thinking perhaps he was homeless. I wanted to help.


“Oh him?” She asked, waving her hand dismissively. “That’s just Henry the liar.”


Satisfied that he was a harmless local, I asked, “Does he drink coffee?”


She confirmed his habit was the same as mine and I grabbed him a cup of java and, exited the store, and offered it to him as I sat on the bench beside him.


He looked up in amazement. Apparently not many folks paid much attention to him, let alone buy him coffee. I’m not very good at small talk so I climbed right to the pinnacle of my curiosity and jumped off.


“So why do they call you ‘Henry the liar’”?


“It’s a long story about a long time ago.”


“Well, I love history and I’ve got time.”


He smiled and gazed out in the distance, as if trying to locate a place in his past. Then he took a deep breath and words began to spill out.


It was the Great Depression and he was just a teenager when their small town was hit so hard, it was about to disappear. Folks were leaving in droves, having no choice but to follow the bread. Henry grew up in this town and it broke his heart, particularly when his girlfriend’s family fell among those who left.


As he walked through the woods one day feeling completely helpless, he imagined how things would look in a profitable town where everyone had work. Life would be righted again. He went home and told his parents he heard a big company was coming to town to open up a new factory. He went on to say he met the men in charge of bringing the factory to their town. They were astounded.


The news spread quickly and the story took on a life of its own. Henry suddenly found himself headlong in a whopper of a lie. Many times he thought about owning up to his fantasy but the positive impact on his little town was unmistakable.


So, he kept it going. In fact, he became the liaison between this company and the town. He’d go on trips to meet with the company to “iron out the particulars”. While the mayor and other city officials prodded for information and coached him on what the town needed, Henry the Liar would camp out in the woods until the day he was scheduled to return.


Hope filled the streets. Townspeople was smiling again. Laughing. Singing.


When things got bad, they would say, “It will all be better when the factory comes. We have to hang on.”


For two years the façade continued as Henry kept up his work of fiction. Finally, he asked for a meeting with the townspeople on behalf of “the factory”. That night everyone was there. There was the buzz of electricity throughout the place as they eagerly awaited the good news.


Henry faced the crowd, cleared his throat and spilled the beans. “The factory” had produced hope in the lives and families of those people. They’d held on, helped each other and that hope propelled them to not only survive, but to thrive in the midst of the Great Depression.


There was silence. Utter stunned silence. The longest pregnant pause in history. Then one by one, as reality dawned on them, the townspeople stood and clapped. Finally, the room erupted into applause. Indeed, Henry the Liar had saved their town.


From that moment on, he was known as Henry the liar… the one who singlehandedly saved the town. Today, when he’s called the name, he smiles because he knows it is a term of endearment. His heart swells with pride.


He’s old and sick. He won’t be with us much longer but he will pass from this world to the next in the same town he grew up in and lied to save. His heartbeat will continue to pulse strongly long after he draws his last breath. It’s the Heartbeat of America. It will never fade.

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In the Presence of Giants

Posted November 30, 2015 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

My friend Mary, her husband and I wound our way through the wet country roads yesterday morning. Even in the rain, the rolling hills and old country barns were breathtaking. My thoughts alternated between the present and my childhood as we drove.

Instead of Sunday morning church, we’d opted to visit two very important people. The first house, that now familiar blue structure I’ve come to recognize and love, came into view. We piled out of the car and into Willie Shelton’s home. Each time I am in his presence, I learn something new. And I respect the World War II veteran all the more.

I marveled as he told of being sidelined on his way to church by a snake one Sunday long ago. Wanting to protect himself and his family from the reptile, he grabbed the snake by the tail and cracked it like a whip. The motion was so violent, its head came right off, bloodying his clean and pressed white Sunday-go-to-meetin’ shirt.

I was impressed that he would even pick up a snake, let alone beheading it with one crack of his wrist. I always learn something from Mr. Shelton through his stories and today was no exception. Knowing we’d see him in a few minutes for Sunday Thanksgiving family dinner, we cut our visit short and headed toward the second home.

Deep in the heart of Chewalla, Tennessee, we wheeled into the driveway of the brick structure. A half dozen cars were in the driveway and folks ran through the rain carrying all sorts of food. Moments later we rapped on the door and entered the private room of Jeff York.

I’d met Jeff on the Road to Freedom tour. Hard to imagine it was over two years ago. Jeff stood bent double leaning on pillows against his desk. It’s where he spends his days tapping away on his computer keyboard. He doesn’t stand taller than three feet, and yet his personality, his quick mind and his wisdom reach to the outer limits of humankind.

Jeff has lived his life riddled with pain. A rare disease has fused every single joint in his body. He has never touched the top of his head. The only joints that move are his fingers. But Jeff does not feel sorry for himself. He uses those joints to write. He’s a freelance journalist for many newspapers in the area. He interviews individuals by phone and writes articles about them. Jeff has an uncanny ability to see into the human condition and truly understands people.

His condition has worsened to the degree that he can no longer get out and do the things he loves like attend church and coach softball. Yet, if you want to get up to speed about the people of Chewalla, Guys, Ramer, Selmer and other surrounding towns in rural Tennessee, all you have to do is ask Jeff. He knows what’s happening with everyone. He’s also not bashful at all and will tell you exactly what he thinks without reservation.

A short visit concluded, we drove back down the country roads as I pondered both of these amazing men. One had left his family behind and gone off to fight a war. The other stayed home and is still fighting one. Both of these men stand among giants in rural Tennessee. Out of the rolling hills in this amazing part of America, brave men fought. One came home, farmed the land and built things out of wood. The other tells stories for the benefit of others using his hands, the only things on his body that will move.

I’m enriched, yet humbled by both of these men. I feel wealthy for knowing them and being blessed to spend time in the presence of giants. I’m also reminded of how small I am compared to these mighty men. I certainly have a benchmark to strive for.

My life is forever changed by being in the presence of giants. Men who with no accolades just quietly do what they were created to do, without reward, and to so many, without notice. Yet, they leave a permanent imprint on their world and keep the heartbeat of America beating strong. Thank you men of valor for being who you are!

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Strangely Familiar

Posted November 28, 2015 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

I wound my way from my house to the main road, turned north and headed toward the nearest town five miles away. I passed the local Walmart and, my curiosity getting the best of me, I just had to see what lay beyond the next hill. So, I pressed on.

As I approached the traffic light where two major US highways intersected, it felt strangely familiar. I could not recall having come this far north since moving to my little corner of Tennessee, and yet, it was as though I’d spent time here.

When the Golden Arches came into view on the left, I realized I HAD been here! Not only had I traveled this way on the Road to Freedom Bicycle Tour, I’d stopped at that very McDonald’s! That is where I’d met Hazel, the little girl who’d been abused by her father.

My mind replayed the day I stopped there to blog and had been surrounded by the locals. It had seemed so far away from anything at the time. We sat for over two hours as I regaled them with my stories of the road, and the women God sent me to help.

Little Hazel had been waiting in the wings to meet The Bicycle Lady. She was shy, sweet and loving. It angered me that her father would harm her in that way. Her only concern was that God might be mad at her for causing her daddy to go to jail.

It was a magical moment of ministry when I told her that not only was God not mad at her, but He was angry at her father as well for harming her. It was as though the weight of the entire universe had been lifted off her little shoulders.

Of all those I met on the Road to Freedom Tour, Hazel always stood out the most. I never imagined that some two years later, the place I call home would be just up the road. Perhaps one day our paths will cross again. Maybe she will grow up to save others from the despicable acts she was forced to endure. One thing’s for sure. She entered the fast food joint that day as a shy withdrawn little girl but left a tower of strength and courage.

I believe God has moved mightily in Hazel’s life since I rode off into the great American heartland. Such a divine appointment could not have come to any other end. I’m grateful I got to meet Hazel. I’m amazed at her resilience. I’m envious of her smile.

As I drove away and the Golden Arches faded in my rearview mirror, I felt as though I’d come full circle. Somehow, and in some way, The Bicycle Lady had ministered to a little girl in rural Tennessee and today my reward is calling this amazing place home.




The Heartbeat of America does not beat any more loudly than this.

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