I don't recall a lot from the ride now except a few things. First, a turkey scared me half (well maybe just a tenth) to death as it flew away from the side of the shoulder. I should probably look ahead so I don't get so startled. Within another mile the other half of me was scared to death. This time a skunk popped out of the brush near the shoulder and as I rode near it it turned tail about four feet away. I thought I was in for it! I swerved and I nearly shouted but suppressed my voice enough to say something along the lines of "uhhhhh" (probably louder than I should have considering the skunk might have been frightened already). Fortunately, we were spared, but I really thought we'd have a surprise for our host that night.
About 100 feet after we encountered the skunk I saw a black truck at a stop sign nearby and as we approached the driver said "look who it is!" It was Julie's (from Hill City) brother, Jeff (I'm pretty sure that's his name). We had a nice powwow and I told him about the skunk, which we all saw galavanting down the shoulder from where we had come.
We made great time. By 2:30pm we had arrived at the Sinclair gas station a couple miles north of our host's farmhouse. Justine was the first person to reply to our communication about a place to stay and food to eat. I called up to Sylvan Grove by the Friday of Chapter Camp (two Fridays prior) and she emailed my by that Sunday night saying we'd have a place to stay. She and her husband Art drove up separately to pick up me and Tom (and our bikes, which rode in Art's truck). Justine was a beautifully kind woman (and not elderly, if she's reading this ;) ). I found out right away that she had taken in a bicyclist before. We arrived on the farm, unloaded our things, showered, and went downstairs to visit in the kitchen.
Their house was so beautiful. I have never seen a farmhouse like this before! There was history all over the walls, character in the halls, and something just felt magical... like something out of a movie. Justine and Art gave us a tour of the city of 350 (we got to see some historic sites and go inside their Lutheran schoolhouse which was probably a century old) and told us about the history of the town - the farm rivalries, the wealthy banking/politician families, and where the name of their town comes from (all the groves within the trees where they would meet together). They shared about their family including their childrens' professions (Justine's only disappointment is that there was not an engineer in the family :P ), some family history (like the Portuguese sailor on Justine's side), and what they do on the farm. I soaked it all in.
Justine and Art have a fairly simple life on the farm. However, Justine is pretty interested in political topics and Art has an incredible knack for math and science. He got his degree in English, but was only six credit hours from having a Bachelors in math. There are some non-trivial issues in the small town life. Justine is trying to bring a convenience store back to the town and started making a business plan for review by the city's committee. Art has to deal with the inconsistency of moisture for his crops and the fluctuations of prices on hogs, cattle, and crops. Some years are good and some years are bad. Nonetheless, they shared with me and Tom all they had without reservation. Justine was one of the most naturally hospitable people I have met thus far. She would take anyone in. No questions.
One thing that sticks out about my interactions with Justine is that she seemed a little beside herself that God has not given her a mission like mine. She seemed eager to do something for God, but couldn't because He hasn't told her to take a trip like this one. I wanted to reassure her that it is clear God is using her in her little town of Sylvan Grove and that His calling is different for everyone.
For breakfast the next morning we had scrambled eggs and pancakes. They made enough for an army. I guess the last cyclist they hosted ate a ton. I warned them that our appetites were not too big, but they didn't feel put out by us not eating everything.
I cannot share enough about these two amazing hosts. They have a different lifestyle than anyone we've met, with different concerns, and different connections to God. They did not seem as active in their pursuit of God through scripture or prayer (as some other hosts), but their love and hospitality showed they still follow Him. My prayer for them is that they encounter God no matter what activity or project they are working on and know that He is with them desiring constant companionship.
We rode to Sylvan Grove, Kansas on Monday, May 25, 2009 (Memorial Day).