The inveterate author-adventurer Glen Hanket is preparing once again to put his two wheels on the road, traveling across the land, speaking to students and adults about the country, the environment, and pursuing their dreams.

This year's two-week trek takes him from Detroit to Chicago, through the scenic expanses of Michigan's Upper Peninsula and through the dairyland of Wisconsin.


We hit Shoals [Indiana] Sunday afternoon, ready for company. After pitching camp in the riverside park, we headed for the Methodist church to take in the evening services. With less than a dozen people there, our presence attracted quick attention. The minister, a stocky man gracefully entering middle age, detached himself from a consersation and headed our way. "Hi, I'm Howard Bell. Are you new in town?"

He chatted for a moment, then parted to start the service. "I'd like to thank everyone for coming tonight," he said, stepping to the lectern. "Unfortunately, our organist is on vacation tonight." Turning to us, he asked, "Do either of you play?"

We shook our heads. "I guess, then, we'll do without accompaniment." He asked for requests, then led the congregation in a capella song. After a half-dozen songs, he closed his hymnal.

"I have a sermon I'd planned on giving, if you want to hear it. However, we have guests tonight, and if you'd prefer, maybe one of them would speak about their novel journey." A show of hands nixed the sermon, so Howard beckoned me to the podium.

For twenty minutes I talked about our trek, focusing on the spirit we'd seen in the people across the land. From 'instant family' in Maine, through schoolkids bearing gifts, to small towns which couldn't stop giving, I wove a picture at odds with the nightly news. "I never imagined we would find so much caring, so much heart in the land."

They received my message warmly, asking more about the voyage. Even Sue, tired and ill at ease earlier, relaxed and took part in the questions and answers. After the service Howard invited us to stay at his house, but since Sue was exhausted, we declined.

Sue hit the sack early, while I stayed up to read. At 9:30 I put down the book, turned off the flashlight, and relaxed to the murmur of the White River. As I collected the energy to move to the tent and my waiting sleeping bag, I realized I had company. In the half-light of the starlit night, I could see he was well-dressed, wearing pressed pants and a print shirt. He was near forty, and looked deep in thought, neither smiling nor frowning. "Didn't mean to startle you," he said. "Just out for my evening stroll."

He sat at the picnic table with me and began to talk. I listened, too tired to contribute much, but interested in hearing of his Amish life.

"I don't always get along with my neighbors here," he confided. "Sometimes they don't care for how we do things. For example, on an Amish farm, we always leave a field wild for the birds and insects to have a place to feed. If I tried that in town, they'd have a fit. Call it an eyesore and probably fine me.

"Nature has a way of taking care of things, if we'd let it. If you have an infestation of insects one year, you'll probably get more birds to balance them out. Used to be, when you had too much tall grass, you'd have extra bison to eat it."

He rambled on, his voice sometimes flowing softly like the river just out of sight, other times his voice turning strident. "People shouldn't have more kids than they can support. The Amish, we take care of our own. We run benefits for widows and orphans, because they're part of our lives. Me, I had a son at age fourteen, and I had to take care of him and his mother. I did, too, for eighteen years."

He paused, and I turned to see him with his eyes closed, his face lined with sadness. "When my son left to go among the English -- that's what we call anyone not an Amish, Mennonite, or Quaker, the 'English' -- I warned him he'd lose his way, he wouldn't make it. After four years out there, he took poison and killed himself." His voice grew softer. "He kept saying, 'I can't find the answers.' I tried to tell him, 'There aren't any answers to find because there are no questions.' By twenty-one or twenty-two, you should know the path you are on in life. If you stray from that path, you're going to get confused, and look for ever more answers to which there are no questions."

He lapsed into silence, the white noise of flowing water surrounding us. When he spoke again, his voice had regained its strength. "The trouble is, people always need a thrill, they always need to feel good. The don't realize life isn't all 'feel good', there's pain involved, and 'feel good' is relative. If I have a bad toothache, I feel good when the ache is cured."

After nearly an hour he left, vanishing into the night much as he had appeared, leaving behind not even a name. Subdued but fascinated, I joined Sue in our nylon castle, drifting off with his words replaying in my head.