Thursday, June 11, 2009

Jefferson City, Missouri (part 1)

Tom and I slept in Wednesday morning. It was 8am when we started moving, if I remember correctly. Jeff City is only 22 miles from California (MO). The weather was not particularly attractive. Overcast, with a chance for rain. I wore my underarmor to keep my upper body warm and after we arrived at Sonic for breakfast I added my longjohns for more warmth. I ate a sad excuse for a breakfast burrito, but it was food and I can't complain. I am grateful for the sustenance.

We had nice roads to Jeff City. It was really hilly and the landscape was rolling, covered in green everywhere. Occasionally, a yellow cliff would arise on the sides of the highway where someone had cut out rock to lay down the road. It never did rain, but the clouds put a damper on my mood. It was a somber ride. Strictly business. I realized the next day that my riding sometimes became more of a chore than a pleasure.

When we approached the "big" city (it was big compared to what we were used to, but only 40-50 thousand), the roads got a little hectic. The shoulder shrunk in places and cars raced by. No close calls, fortunately. I tuned out the traffic somehow. As I think about it now, I probably should have been more nervous. My heart shudders now as I recall how close to me those cars were and how fast they were moving. But hey, I survived. (And so did Tom, of course. I kept peeking back whenever I could to make sure he crossed on ramps and exits safely).

Kathy, our lovely host (that is, our new family for Jeff City), gave me directions to the First Christian Church at our stop in Syracuse the day before. Tom and I rode some steep hills to the Capitol and took a lot of pictures of the building and statues. I wish we had more time to soak it in. Very pretty and full of history (a lot of tributes to Jefferson and Lewis and Clark).

At last, we arrived at the church and were immediately greeted by Kathy. We put our bikes in the custodian's truck in the back of the church (Kathy arranged for the custodian to give us a ride in his truck to our hotel. Yes, hotel. We stayed in the Hotel DeVille thanks to the generosity of several people at the church, as I later found out from David, their youth pastor). We walked back upstairs and met a woman working in the office and David. We arrived in the city early (around 12:30pm) and beforehand, I was afraid we would not have much opportunity for fellowship (and I wasn't really sure where our meals would come from either). However, during conversation with David, Tom and I committed to helping serve supper at the Salvation Army (which Kathy did mention the day before on the phone) and to share our story with the youth group at their weekly meeting.

The custodian drove us to the Hotel DeVille and Kathy checked us in and waited for us in the lobby to take us out to lunch (at some point between meeting her in the church and driving to the hotel she offered to take us to McDonald's). After dropping off our gear, we joined Kathy downstairs and she helped us figure out how to solve our laundry situation (I needed to sign a liability waiver in case I injured myself operating the machines at the hotel and Kathy also gave me some money for detergent and the machines).

Before lunch, we drove to the post office to drop off the church's newsletters. There, we were able to share our story with three fellas in the office (which was a unique atmosphere... I would have loved to see how everything works). We shared with Jim, Rick, and Cedric. They all showed interest and support for our journey. Jim called his uncle near Washington, MO trying to help us find a place to stay and Rick and Cedric gave us some cash to help with food. I am not used to this kind of love. Even after weeks of receiving it from complete strangers. It is still so unexpected and I am forever grateful.

We left the post office and bought lunch in the drive-thru. Kathy then took us to her house to eat the meal. She warned us before going in that there is about a 10-year age difference between her husband and she and not to be surprised. Well, that doesn't really matter to me :). Her husband, Earl, was a delight. He has a great sense of humor (and Kathy has a great sense of patience ;)... kidding, kidding. I can tell they enjoy one another). We ate our lunch and visited and discussed routes to take. Several people had brought up the Katy trail to go east to St. Louis to avoid highway traffic and to enjoy scenery. By lunchtime, Tom and I had made the decision not to take the Katy trail because the gravel would be too rough for our tires.

We finished eating and Kathy offered to take us for a tour. Earl decided to join us and he drove. There are a lot of details in conversations that I lose between writing these blogs and when they occur. I need to try to keep up better. However, if my memory serves me correctly, here's a couple of really simple tidbits: Earl was involved in the Vietnam war and had worked as a painter for 20-some years and Kathy and he have several children between them (I want to say five and both have kids from past marriages). They were a very cute couple to observe. We saw some of the city and we drove out to the Katy trail. Tom and I thought at that time it was the right choice to avoid the gravel. Earl took us back to our hotel before too long so that we could settle in and be ready for David to pick us up for serving supper at the Salvation Army.

It was during that break that I made several phone calls to try to make arrangements for the following day. As I mentioned before, Jim (from the post office) tried to reach his uncle in Washington to get us a place to stay. Tom and I had planned to stay in Union because it was on the highway we were going to travel (that is, highway 50), but all three men we spoke with at the post office said that Washington was far more lovely a place. After checking out a map, we decided that Washington was not too far out of the way with a little re-routing, so we decided to call churches there.

I don't remember all the details of my calls, sadly. I remember speaking with the pastor of the First Assembly of God Church (named Paul) and he explained that he wanted to help, but that they had already used all their yearly beneficiary funds to help out people with their mortgages and electric bills. He went into great detail as to how the people of his congregation are having hard times. He said that a lot of folks who hadn't lost their jobs were being retained at only 2-3 days a week, which was just not enough to make it by. And I needed to hear that. In the first two days in Missouri, it was not clear to me the reasons why some churches had been unresponsive. No one that had denied us help had been courteous enough to go into the details of their situation like Paul did. I was really touched by his openness and his tender heart and I was glad to hear the story of the way his church is helping their community. Perhaps this story was common throughout Missouri.

Since he could not help us, he gave me the phone number of St. Peters United Church. I called and spoke with another Paul (Paul K.). Paul K. said he should be able to help us out (his church would be hosting a group of bicyclists riding for Habitat for Humanity in a week and he also had a friend in mind that might be able to take us in) and that he was interested in reading my blog. He told me he would call later to let us know where we would be staying, but that we would have a place in Washington. That was very welcome news. He also told us to take the Katy trail because it is a shorter distance than taking the highway, more scenic, and without the hassle of traffic. I told him my concerns about our tires and he told me that we would be fine. And after later throwing the idea out to Tom (who checked some info online) we made up our minds to take the Katy trail.

Next, I started working on the blog and facebook (uploading photos) and before I knew it, David was calling me to let me know he was outside the hotel.

To be continued... it's late (1:30 am). I guess that's what happens in a new timezone (yay Vincennes, IN).

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