Seeking solace

Published 11:04 am Thursday, April 11, 2024

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AHOSKIE – As a former member of the U.S. Navy as well as a man who seeks spiritual guidance from the Bible, Lawrence Chase says he’s troubled by the deeply entrenched political divide within the Washington establishment.

Perhaps that’s why he seeks solace among what he calls “average, hard-working Americans.” And he meets them, on what is now his second, sight-seeing tour of the United States, which included a stopover in Ahoskie last week. His chosen method of transportation is a bicycle.

After spending five years in the U.S. Navy, he lived briefly in the Benedictine Monastery in New Mexico before returning to the Washington, DC area in 2016.

On June 14, 2017, a mass shooting occurred during a practice session for the annual Congressional Baseball Game in Alexandria, Virginia. James Hodgkinson, age 66 who was described as a left-wing activist, shot six people, including U.S. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, U.S. Capitol Police officer Crystal Griner, congressional aide Zack Barth, and lobbyist Matt Mika.

That incident led to a 10-minute shootout between Hodgkinson and officers from the Capitol and Alexandria Police before officers shot Hodgkinson, who died from his wounds later that day at the George Washington University Hospital.

“That shooting rattled me and millions of other Americans,” said Chase. “Everybody was on edge. That shooting compelled me to travel across America on a bicycle and meet with common, normal people. I wanted to stress the need for all of us – all races and genders – to cast aside our political beliefs and work together to solve our most basic social problems.”

Two months after that shooting, Chase began his two-wheeled journey. His original plan was to only be on the road for three months. Now, seven years, a worldwide medical pandemic, and several long stopovers later, the 68-year-old is still out on the open road, spreading his message of hope for all Americans. He simply stops and speaks to individuals and in some cases has been invited to deliver his message to churches and other faith-based groups.

“There have been occasions where I’ve remained in one place longer than expected due to weather extremes or thanks to very kind people opening their homes to me for weeks and months at the time to rest up before continuing my journey,” he stressed.

While on the road, Chase said he would try to cover 50 miles per day, staying overnight in campgrounds or national/state parks. Once every two weeks he would treat himself to a night in a motel.

“This was God’s doing,” Chase noted.

He said the most grueling part of the original journey was crossing the Appalachian Mountains.

“I had to walk my bike to the top, which took about six hours, and then about 40 minutes to get down because you’re going so fast,” Chase recalled.

From there his planned route would take him through Kentucky, Missouri, Kansas, and Colorado. However, his cell phone died in western Kentucky, causing him to make a decision to backtrack to central Illinois to visit with relatives and get a new phone.

“It was October by then and with the cold weather season arriving, I decided to change course and head south,” Chase explained. “By the time I got to Jackson, Mississippi, my story had spread and some of the TV news crews did stories about my journey and my purpose.”

From there, Chase turned west, traveling through northern Louisiana, Texas, and into New Mexico, where his bicycle malfunctioned.

“This is where I cheated a bit, having a friend rent a truck and take me to Albuquerque,” Chase said. “With winter coming on, I stayed there for several months.”

While residing along the southern border, Chase said he witnessed the impacts of illegal immigration.

“This is nothing new for them nowadays, they’ve had problems for years there,” he stated. “What compounds the problem there is the fact that they, like many communities, have residents, American born and raised, who are low income and have to rely on the system to live, to include food pantries. When you double, triple, or quadruple that number of needy people due to the steady stream of those coming across the border illegally, it puts pressure on that same system that’s only set-up to handle those already living there. I’m not judging people by my comments, just laying it out as it is. I saw it for myself.”

Chase did eventually return to his bicycle journey, heading into Arizona. By that time, the calendar had flipped to March 2020…..the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I was trying to reach my final destination, the Spanish Mission in San Luis Obispo in California, but the governor there had shut down the entire state due to COVID,” Chase explained.

Two years later, Chase gave up on his original quest, leaving all his gear behind and taking a train back to Washington, DC.

“It’s the same old problems there…people say it’s like living in a bubble; I say that’s not true because you can see outside of a bubble,” Chase noted. “It’s more like living in a cocoon…tightly wrapped and suffocating. Those in power suffer no consequences when their ideas are implemented and fall flat. All they do is raise money to get reelected so they can come up with even more bad ideas.”

That’s led him to a second journey, one that began last year and is confined to the East Coast.

“I’m living life as a Christian disciple, living as humbly as possible,” Chase said. “I’m now visiting more churches.”

He left Charleston, SC two weeks ago and made it to Morehead City earlier last week. His plan is to reach Williamsburg next week and from there keep heading north, eventually reaching upstate New York.

Chase spent Wednesday night in Ahoskie. As Thursday morning’s chill gave way to brilliant sunshine, he began making his way north along US 13…accompanied by his message for the next stop along the journey.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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