So I begin my 50 Faiths project. Tomorrow I embark on a journey from Portland, Oregon to Anchorage, Alaska on a rental BMW 1200GS motorbike, bringing only what I can fit in the two side-panniers, Wolfman duffle, and the tank-bag. It’s about 2500 miles if I were to travel directly to Motoquest’s headquarters in Anchorage. But, how many times do you get to ride a motorcycle to Alaska? I’m definitely doing at least twice that many miles. After trips to the northern Alaska-Canada border crossing west of Dawson City, YT and up the Haul Road to the Arctic Circle, I’m sure I’ll get close to 5,500 or 6,000 miles in two weeks.
I’m sitting in a Portland Holiday Inn right now, just arriving 30 minutes prior. I feel a restless anxiety regarding the trip ahead of me. It’s a mixture of nervousness over the unknown and the sheer anticipation of the joyous freedom adventure brings. Sure, I ‘m worried about the dangers like weather and the risk of a motorcycle accident, but overcoming these fears gifts the satisfaction of accomplishment only adventure can bestow.
Adventure is a very spiritual notion. It is how one must live. Through faith, one steps out into the unknown, overcoming fears in order to experience something new, worthwhile. Ultimately, adventure changes us. And we go on living our lives, giving others the gift adventure has given us. In many ways, adventure is the heart of spiritual and religious experience. We, Christians, use Advent to describe the holy season of Jesus Christ’s birth.
My first stop will be McMenamin’s Microbrewery housed in a former Methodist church in Portland, then I will visit the only Shinto Shrine in the lower 48, the Tsubaki Grand Shrine of America in Granite Falls, Washington.
The trip, already, is off to a very interfaith start. On the shuttle from the parking area to the terminal at Detroit Wayne County Airport, I got to know my driver, Moses. Moses lives in Dearborn and is Muslim. Dearborn, Michigan boasts the highest concentration of Arab Muslims and the largest mosque in all of North America. Moses told me about the wonderful Halal food in his neighborhood, how much the Muslim community is growing and thriving, and his continued heartbreak concerning bigotry directed towards Muslims, post-9/11. I told him about my work with Muslims at Texas Christian University and at Borgess Medical Center in Kalamazoo. I asked him if he’s seen All American Muslim on TLC. He quipped, “My kids watch that religiously!” He was also impressed and honored that I had read the entire Quran recently. He dropped me off at my gate, and with a big grin on his countenance, he exclaimed, “I’ll see you again soon, Jake!”
For ten minutes, two people from different religious backgrounds, got to know each other a little bit.