We weren't out of Golden before one of my water bottles popped out of its holder and fell to the ground, where it stopped as I coasted another thirty feet. I didn't think that was a good sign (the water bottle was a damaged, but still functioning) and I really didn't want to have to get off the bike already. Nonetheless, I retrieved the bottle and we were on our way.
A passerby asked me where I was going as I was stopped at the light at 13th and Ford St. in Golden and I got to share about my trip for the duration of the light. Then Tom and I were really off to the races. Traffic was never a problem. We stopped at a park early on so I could take off my underarmor (and we shared our adventure with three people there), we cruised down 27th street until we hit downtown Denver and took a snack break, rode through the city, took another break at the City Park (and took some pictures!), saw the contrast between upper class standard of living and lower class on Montview Blvd., and warily merged onto Colfax, which led us out of Denver. From Colfax, we rode frontage roads along the interstate and made our way onto highway 36. Before we knew it, Denver was just a tiny city in the distance (sorry, no pictures of that :( ).
Once I was out of the city, I figured it would be easier to pray. I had less traffic and street signs to pay attention to. The land was dry from the outer skirts of Denver to Byers. There may have been some areas of green, but I recall a lot of yellow and brown colors too. The morning had been cool and comfortable, but once we finally hit the stretch of highway the temperature rose and we took less breaks (in the city, traffic lights mandated that we stop every so often). I was thoroughly enjoying the scenery (the grasses and trees, the houses and people busy working in their yards, and the sky) along the way. In prayer, I thanked God for His marvelous creation.
At Bennett, Colorado was when I started to get into trouble. We rode something like 13 miles in 50 minutes to get to Bennett and I needed a break. We stopped a bank to refill water and get off the "saddle" (the bike seat). We didn't rest enough. I believe that is the reason I felt so terrible when we finally did make it to Byers. The riding wasn't too bad on my legs or my lungs, but I was so hot I felt sick. Trying to focus on anything but discomfort is difficult. Still, I managed to pray (even if it wasn't as much as I'd hoped) for the Catholic church in Byers (Our Lady of the Plains), the generous man who helped us there (I will refer to him as MonSr), and the "kids" (there were 12 in all) who were going to have Confirmation that night.
We arrived in Byers before 2:30 and my bicycle computer's odometer read 65 miles. We found Our Lady of the Plains and the Parish office across the street. We parked our bikes and waited until 4pm for MonSr to arrive. It was a long, hot wait, but as I slowly cooled down (I felt sick from the heat until we reached the motel at about 5pm) I made some telephone calls to arrange plans for the following days. At that time I learned that the Lord will be blessing us and providing for us through First Christian Church in St. Francis, Kansas on Thursday.
MonSr arrived at 4:10pm and quickly invited us in the Parish office. He sat us down, gave us money to stay in the motel down the road and for food, served us Sprite (it might have been the best I've ever had), and spoke with us about Byers and the Confirmation that night. He asked us about ourselves and we shared about our lives. Unfortunately, there wasn't much time to just chat because of preparations for the Confirmation. However, before we left for the motel Tom and I learned that MonSr's father went to Mines! That is excellent! In the 1920's about all they offered there was mining and maybe petroleum engineering.
One thing that really struck me while I was talking with MonSr (over the phone and in person) is how excited he was that Tom and I are on this mission. Over the phone, he expressed that he believes this spiritual journey is a wonderful thing to be doing and asked us to pray for him, his church, and the "kids" going through Confirmation. I was struck by his enthusiasm and support. I hadn't really witnessed this from anyone else I talked over the phone with (to ask for a place to stay and food to eat). That said, I was a little shocked! I don't think I should be surprised at all that God will put incredible people and places in our path on this journey. Part of me now also believes that I don't truly understand the implications of my mission. If MonSr had such support and enthusiasm for this mission and for us and that shocked me, I need to come to the realization that I don't entirely understand how important this act of faith (and coming on this trip in obedience to God) will be and already is. I pray and know that God will teach me more about why I am on this trip. That is, I do know some of the reasons why (see our mission statement), but I trust more will be revealed about what I am to learn and experience.
There was a thunderstorm and there was rain. I was afraid I would miss the Confirmation. Fortunately, the rain stopped and I had plenty of time to go to the church. The sanctuary was simple, but dignified. The people in attendance were excited for the Confirmation event and reverent as I have seen once before in Mass. This was only my second time at Mass and I'm very glad I was able to attend this special occasion. The ceremony was beautiful. I admit that I was tired and nearly nodded off once or twice, but I was conscious for the most part. I was wide awake during the Confirmation. I prayed for the kids as they proclaimed their commitment to their faith that they would live their lives for the Lord and follow Him, just as they said they would.
At the end of Mass, I had the honor of meeting the Archbishop from Denver (MonSr introduced us). It was a pleasant conversation and I learned that we have several connections (he knows my RA from my Junior year in the dorms and another good friend). MonSr described my journey this summer and the Archbishop offered me some money. I declined saying that we should be provided for on the way. However, I decided later that night that I would graciously accept any support (financial or otherwise) for this trip. It is true that God will provide for us the entire time and that I do not want to burden anyone, but that does not mean I should turn down financial support on the way. First, because financial support is a demonstration of God's provision, whether I think I have enough now or not. Second, because a donor wants to love us and help us in any way they can and the truth is I can use all the help I can get (who knows what is to come!), whether it is prayer or food or a gift of money.
The last thing to say is that I need to be real and open with anyone; unafraid of judgement based on my beliefs. Being open may well lead to judgement, but honesty is the best policy. I did not lie to anyone, but God revealed this truth to me as I was attempting to not breach the fact I am Protestant (I was afraid of being in the Catholic church and not being Catholic) despite that it was probably obvious I am not Catholic. Still, everyone was pleasant to me and I witnessed only love amongst everyone I interacted with. The first day of my trip was an amazing display of God's care for me and a testament to the faith and servant's heart of MonSr, which were a great example to me.
We rode to Byers, Colorado on Tuesday, May 19, 2009.