The Triumph of the Human Spirit

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 The Triumph of the Human Spirit
By Elizabeth R. OuYang

The biking/camping trip to Pennsylvania posed many obstacles before we even pitched our tents or mounted on our bikes. First, there was the New York City three day forecast of rain for the entire Memorial Day Weekend! The tense tone of the telephone conversation between co-leader Nancy Liang and several frantic last minute callers went like this: A pessimistic caller inquires,“Nancy, do you know it’s suppose to rain all day Saturday?” Irritated, Nancy responds“Yes, I know that.” The skeptical caller persists, “Nancy, do you know it’s suppose to rain all day Sunday too?” More irritated, Nancy retorts, “So, what’s your point?!!!”   In other words, no need to ask about Monday.  The trip was still on!!

Mentally prepared, 11 of us, Nancy, Winnie, Cam, Leo, Iris, Mr. Rong, Lawrence, Frank, Helen, Allen, Pei Chuan and myself left New York City with bikes, tents, lawn chairs, soft tofu, leather jackets and umbrellas for French Creek State Park in Elverson, Pennsylvania. George was expected to join us later that night-his job was to bring the hot tea!

The next obstacle was physically reaching our camp site. Tucked far into the park was the group camp site, but prior to reaching it, we needed to cross a ditch in the road filled with mud and protruding rocks in order to park. Well, Allen’s, Leo’s and Lawrence’s tires on their vans just rolled right over those rocks to the other side.  Cam adeptly maneuvered his BMW to the far side crossing the ditch and narrowly missing the rocks. While Frank and Helen, in their mufferless Ford Taurus, plowed full speed ahead right through the middle of the ditch, bumping all the way!

The third obstacle was appreciating the true meaning of a “primitive group tenting area.”  In plain words, it means, you don’t want to use the bathrooms.  But CMC members, known for their creativity and survivor skills, soon found other ways to let nature take its course-some related well to the earth, others made good use of restaurant facilities, still others maneuvered into the individual camp sites to use their markedly upscale bathrooms for a small price.

After pitching our tents and the canopy in the drizzling rain, we headed for Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  Our impromptu back up plan, in lieu of biking, was a day long shopping route, up and down hills hopping from store to store, passing horse drawn black covered buggies along the way. Apparently, Amish people don’t drive cars.  The first trail marker was Birds in the Hand Market, an Amish indoor market with several crafts and food booths-jarred apple butter, chocolate covered pretzels, wood carvings, hand made quilts, potholders, and pillows, artwork depicting Amish life on the farms, and gifts packed with “love”. Needless to say, there were numerous distractions causing all members to venture off course. Yet, we made record time hitting all the booths, with Liz leading.  Then onward to Intercourse, Pennsylvania (I kid you not-there really is a town called “Intercourse!!!”)  to do more shopping.  Needless to say, it was a quaint rural town with a built-in romantic atmosphere. The highlight here was Lawrence’s and Cam’s discovery of the flower, clamentis.  It was a big, flat purple star shaped flower (the size of a hand) with six raggedy pointed petals with yellow delicate strings forming the shape of a loose button in the middle of the flower.  Multiple clamentis were growing on a vine along the wall of a store.   It was here in Intercourse that we ate at a family style restaurant situated on an Amish farm with picturesque views of sheep and the farmland stretching outward for miles. It was all you can eat with the waitress bringing the dishes to your table.  For starters, we had “chow-chow”-mixed beans, pickled cabbage and apple sauce.  The entrees included ham loaf, fried chicken, and sausage with corn, sweet potatoes, beans and homemade buns with apple butter and dessert to top it off.  We returned to the campsite full and content. That night, the rain poured steadily on the roof of our tents, but all managed to rest.  Leo and Lawrence preferred the comfort of their back car seats. George never showed up that night. Could the rain keep George, the Appalacian Mountain trail achiever, from camping?!!  At the adjoining camp site were CMC members going on a hiking trip. While CMC is non-denominational, I prayed hard that night, in English and in Mandarin, for a sunny day and guess what-the sun came out on Sunday morning and stayed out!!  And George showed up just in time with his tea!

We had a great day for biking! After eating camp style egg mcmuffins, Iris and I packed “gourmet” sandwiches for the group and off we went on our bikes. It was an adventurous, challenging ride-the first ten miles were steep hills, the remaining 15 or so miles were rolling country hills.   The route passed by many farms that were set back far from the road with rich green pastureland everywhere.  We overcame many challenging obstacles-flat tires, leg cramps, momentary, sometimes painful missed routes requiring us to backtrack, and soggy carrots. Yet, it was a very rewarding day.  Almost everyone was exhausted, some more than others! There’s absolutely no need to identify particular individuals!!

That night, Winnie with Lawrence taste testing, made a delicious soup, with Nancy, Cam, and Helen creating curry “fat chicken” with potatoes and rice. Afterwards, Allen, with “very subtle prodding” from me, made a beautiful campfire.  Admiring the glow of the fire and the twinkling stars above, people huddled together and contemplated the day. It was here we learned that some of our CMC hiking neighbors had a car accident, but that everyone was alive and safe. We prayed around the campfire for their safe return. The next morning turned out to be sunny again! We did not go biking because we all wanted to wait for our CMC hiking friends to return safely which they did!!!

Then after packing up, Nancy, Winnie, Cam, Iris, Allen, Pei Chuan, Leo and Liz decided to check out the Crystal Cave in rural Pennsylvania.  After watching a short film, we received a half hour guided tour of the cave where we observed many fossil like growths in the shapes of various animals and objects. The temperature in the cave stayed constant at 54 degrees. We observed a baby bat and what it was like to be in a cave with the lights out!!   Then, we indulged ourselves with scrumptious ice cream cones. We returned home safely grateful for the company, the exercise, and interesting adventures.

The lesson of this trip for me was that what appears to be obstacles may not be obstacles after all. Those that are obstacles, it takes courage, stamina, faith and a positive attitude to conquer them and when you do, they are obstacles well behind you with a new  path ahead.  More obstacles, big and small, may lie ahead, but like the rolling hills, they come and they go. 

May 20001

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