Road to Freedom Archive

A Blast From Two Pasts

Posted April 24, 2017 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

I drove Dillon across the bridge on US 41 south into Henderson, Kentucky as memories played in my mind. Four short years ago I’d ridden into the town on the Ohio River during the Road to Freedom Tour. It had been a place like no other.

But I was headed to a nearby town to the south to pick up chicken so I could not stay. I finally found my shipper in the middle of nowhere. I parked and headed in to the shipping office. No one was sitting at the desk behind the window. As instructed by the handwritten sign on the wall, I rang the bell.

A man came out of the back office and told me to back into door 7. A few moments later, a young lady with a pink high visibility vest came out and approached my truck. I climbed down as she asked me to unhook one of my air lines (they place a lock on it to ensure the trailer cannot move while workers are inside).

She looked at me for an awkward moment and finally said, “I know you.”

“Really? I’m not from around here.”

Her eyes widened, “You’re the Bicycle Lady!!”

I took my first good look at her. “Oh my goodness. You’re Charlotte! But how did you recognize me?”

“Your voice. I’d know it anywhere!”

For the next fifteen minutes Charlotte told me how she’d left her abusive husband, moved and started a new life. She thanked me a dozen times for wheeling into her neighborhood on a bicycle in 2013. That had given her the courage to take back control of her life and get out of a bad situation.

They loaded me in no time and after hugging goodbye, I was back on the road and headed toward coastal Georgia. I’d been on the road since early morning and wasn’t able to make it too far before having to shut down for the night only sixty miles away.

The mom and pop truck stop was empty so I opted to go there rather than the two crowded national brand truck stops. I meandered inside hoping I could talk them into making me a vegetarian pizza. The lady behind the counter eyed me strangely as she waited on other customers.

One man kept getting in my face. No matter where I moved or turned, he followed me and continued to get in my face. I returned to my truck until I saw him leave the parking lot. As soon as I walked back in, the lady behind the counter asked if she could help me.

I told her my request and her eyes opened wide.

“I know you! You’re the Bicycle Lady! I’d know that voice anywhere!”

“I know you, too Joanne!”

Joanne was yet another woman I’d met along the Road to Freedom Tour. She’d been working at a restaurant at the time. We’d met the one night I spent in her town. Joanne had bruises on her face and a broken hand. Today she looked radiant.

“That man I was with is in jail. I realized that if you could ride your bike all over America to tell your story, I could tell mine too. I filed charges against him and he’s been in jail ever since. My kids and I are safe. I’m the manager of this place and my life is back on track.”

She gave me my vegetarian pizza on the house and we spent the next hour talking like old friends. I finally said goodnight and as I climbed back in Dillon, I realized that God was orchestrating things for quite some time.

In 1993 I battled cancer that left me with partial vocal paralysis. My scruffily voice is quite unique. Because I used to sing, I HATED when my voice was compromised. But at that moment sitting in my truck thinking about Charlotte, Joanne and the thousands of women I’d met on my bike trip, I was grateful for it. Years after we’d met and I pedaled away, these women recognized me again because of my weird, gravelly voice.

God knew. He knew each of those women needed help and that I would answer the call. He knew I’d run into them again the other day and would be blessed to see how far they’d come. And He knew we would have to have some form of identification. After all, we were all on new adventures.

As I settled in for a peaceful night’s sleep, I thanked God for my strange voice. I thanked Him that out of all the millions of women on earth, He chose me to take the Road to Freedom Tour. I thanked Him for my weird, unique voice that suddenly sounded angelic.

Somewhere in the night my memories turned into dreams in the hills of Kentucky, two pasts having converged into an amazing present.

 

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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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Forever Joplin

Posted August 22, 2015 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

The sun peaked over the rolling hills to the east as I pounded the pavement on my early morning run in Joplin, Missouri. A cool, gentle breeze kissed my cheeks as birds sang out to encourage me to continue my trek.

I rounded a corner into a neighborhood just as a little old lady was bending to pick up the morning paper.

“You’re out early. Can’t say’s I blame you. Beautiful morning, ain’t it?”

I took that my cue to stop and strike up a conversation. Poor lady. She never saw it coming. Something had intrigued me since the tornado ripped through this town on May 22, 2011 and I needed to ask the local about it. Once I confirmed that she was born and raised there, I dove in.

“When the tornado hit and in its aftermath, what were you thinking about?”

“My friends, my family and neighbors who lost so much.”

“So the tornado did not strike your house?”

“Oh yes, they had to rebuild the whole backside of our house. And our barn was completely gone.”

I was astonished. “And yet, you were thinking about everyone else?”

Gertrude (Gerty) looked at me as if I’d just stepped out of an alien spaceship. “Why of course I did. Why on earth would I not?”

I went on to explain to her about the Road to Freedom Tour and how media, television, the movies and politicians have led us to believe Americans are not like that any more. That we don’t take care of our own. That the America I grew up in is gone forever.

A tear trickled down Gerty’s cheek as she gazed off into the past through the window of her soul. She took a long breath then said, “No one told Joplin. We’re a small town of good folks who love each other and our country. Right after the storm the biggest problem we faced was that we couldn’t find our loved ones, not because we were injured or missing. But we couldn’t confirm everyone was alright because we wouldn’t stay at home.We all insisted on going out  to help each other. Their homes were damaged, even destroyed and yet their first concern was for others. It took over a week for us to make sure everyone in the family was safe.

“That’s who we’ve always been and we’ll remain forever Joplin.”

I thanked her for taking the time to answer my question and jogged off. With each strike of my foot on the pavement, I clearly heard the sound of the Heartbeat of America with gratitude that once again I received confirmation that it is alive and well.

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