Well, unlike many other Masons, I had no family history in our fraternity. I first heard about Freemasonry from my best friend in college, Brother Daniel Herr of Truckee Lodge No. 200 in California. Back in college, we would often suffer through our calculus problem sets together. And during those late nights, we would often find ourselves lost in philosophical conversation. Years later, when Dan became a Mason, he started hinting at how I would enjoy being a part of this fraternity as well. I didn’t pay too much attention to it at first, since I didn’t know anything about Freemasonry except through the limited discussion we had about it in my high school history class. But there was one event in my life that inspired me to dig a little deeper…
Back when I lived in Oklahoma before moving to Hawaii, Dan came to visit me for a few days to go storm chasing (that’s what meteorologists do for fun in Oklahoma). A lull in the storms implied fair weather and relative boredom in the southern plains. So during one of those “rest” days, Dan suggested that we go on a bike ride through my low-key town of Norman. Norman was a college town – home of the Sooners – but compared to the mountains of northern California where Dan was from, it was devoid of any major form of outdoor recreation much beyond hunting and fishing. I was a bit surprised by Dan’s request to go cycling. “Where do you want to go?” I asked.
“So what? Does it matter?” Dan responded, looking at me with a slight hint of consternation.
“Well, then where do you want to go?” I asked again, not finding it worthwhile to go anywhere in Norman without a purpose.
“I don’t know,” he said casually, not seeming to care about my concern.
“So, do you want to pack a lunch or something? Maybe do a picnic at a nearby park? Or maybe we can check out the area by the small airport on the north side of town?” I suggested, trying to come up with some purpose for the bike ride.
Dan simply turned and walked out with a bicycle in the garage. “You coming or not?” he asked.
Well, considering he was the guest, it would have been totally unbecoming of me as the host not to have at least tried my best to entertain, so I dropped my doubts and decided to tag along. “Alright, fine,” I accepted reluctantly.
And so, we started our bike ride to… nowhere in particular. We followed a road north through town, sped through several puddles left by the rain shower earlier in the day, and took turns in the lead. We made it to the northern outskirts of town near a municipal airport and tested our skills in tackling mud puddles on our mountain bikes. We explored unfamiliar roads and parts of town to which I had never been. I was fascinated by the various convenience stores, small businesses, churches, and unfamiliar schools that were tucked away in the humble corners of town. Dan and I shared the details of our lives since we graduated from college, stories from childhood, and our hopes for the future.
After over two hours of riding around town, we returned to my house and cleaned up. Between the new sights, the good conversation, and the cool breeze on my face, I had completely forgotten about why we went on the bike ride in the first place! And yet, I enjoyed every moment of it. I soaked in all the nuances of sight and sound. I learned things about the City of Norman that I did not know before. Although we were already good friends, through our conversation during the bike ride, I learned even more about who Dan was as a person and how that fit with his life goals. But most importantly, I learned about myself. I learned about my habits. I learned about my usual mindset. I learned about my reactions to new places and new ideas. I learned to challenge myself, not physically, but mentally – all within the space of two hours during a random bike ride around town.