Friday, July 31, 2009

Carlyle, Illinois part 2

We were not on Highway 50 at all that day. Instead, we were on State Route 161, a road paralleling 50 to the south. The plan was to head north sometime since Carlyle was right off 50. When we rode into Bartelso we found a beautiful Catholic church called St. Cecilia and ate a snack.

It was overcast and cool (in a good way). I want to say I ate grapes, but the memory's shady. A man was working on lawn care and nearby a girl and her father were examining a tree in the courtyard. I walked around the church, finding it lovely. Since I was checking the map on my cell phone frequently that day, I pulled it out again and looked for directions to Carlyle... where would we turn north? My phone gave us unexpected and new directions taking a shortcut on Slant Rd., which chipped a little over three miles from our day's trip. We were going to stay on 161 until 127 and go north. I'm glad I happened to be checking the route as often as I was (on my phone) that day because our host was much further away than anticipated (seven extra miles). Anyways, enough with the logistics.

Slant Rd. was a beautiful short cut. The sun came out to greet us (for a ten minute respite from the overcast skies) and we were surprised by picturesque scenery here in the middle of nowhere. There were a couple houses and some fields (which might not sound all that exciting, but hey, beauty is in the eye of the beholder).

There was maybe one car on the whole stretch of road and everything was at peace. One house advertised some sort of fresh food products... I wish I could be more specific (I think there was goat cheese and some strawberries). Often times, I felt under pressure that I could not stop and do some exploring because Tom was with me and I believe I subconsciously knew that he was more of a destination sort of guy and I am a journey guy... that said, we did not take many pit stops along the way to just check out places. Just snap a picture and move on. I thought to myself that if I ever came back, I would go into that little store and try some of their food.

At the end of Slant Rd. we turned on 127 north and soon enough I could see a church steeple (barely seen in the distance in the photo below) and other tell tale signs of a city in the distance (increased traffic and something about the way the trees are clustered around a town).

I thought we were home free once we were in the city. Based on the directions from Carol (our host for that night) I thought we'd have maybe three more miles to go. The miles dragged on and it was another seven from the city to the campground at Eldon Hazlet State Park. I think it was because I wasn't expecting to ride that much further that I became slightly agitated (probably a little frustrated and impatient). I just wanted to be there already. We only traveled 62 miles that day, which is not too exhausting, but when a surprise like seven extra miles comes up, I tend to get a little impatient. That was another 45 minutes to ride. Not to mention, because of the time zone change in southern Indiana (it was close to 4 pm in Illinois, which means it was close to 5pm - closing time, if we were lucky it wasn't sooner - in Illinois) we had to stop for 30 minutes to make phone calls trying to arrange for a place to stay in Vincennes and Bedford, Indiana.

For Vincennes, I left messages with a voicemail, reached another church who told us they couldn't help, and spoke with the son of the pastor of the third and final church on our list. The church was Central Church of Christ and the boy's name was Benjamin. I quickly explained our situation to Ben and he told me he'd pass the message on to his father. Having exhausted the numbers for Vincennes, I started on the list of churches in Bedford and I left voicemail messages with the two churches. Next, I tried the number for St. Vincent de Paul's Catholic Church and I was forwarded by the secretary to Father Rick. Somehow, and I can't explain just how, but somehow, I felt right about St. Vincent de Paul's.

As we finally continued through the State Park, I felt like the land was strangely deserted and even a bit eerie. Maybe it was the lack of traffic going into the park or the weather (on the brink of sprinkling) or the scarcity of animal and insect movement or my dreading camping. Maybe it was just the unknown and exhaustion. It could be that I had just gotten off the phone with few leads, which may have left me feeling a little bit alone. Now I recall needing to make some purchases (such as toothpaste), but passing by a Wal-Mart thinking that I could easily return if necessary... that could have added to my somber mood (it soon became clear that a trip to Wal-Mart would not be easy given its distance from the park - roughly seven miles one way) because perhaps I felt isolated from humanity. No matter. We trudged on.

In truth, the park was pretty. There was water and trees and two herons. I saw a deer scamper through the woods later. Oddly enough, there weren't many mosquitoes. I'm not complaining about that. I rode tentatively forward, not knowing what was ahead. I was very concentrated on getting us safely to our destination for whatever reason.

Finally, we hit the campground parking lot. I felt a little more secure. After a minute of observing the campground map we rode to our host's home, a popup camper. Carol was waiting outside for us.

Carol was very focused (this was her workplace too and there was business to take care of getting us set up in an appropriate plot of land). I don't remember exchanging many pleasantries. I think she didn't quite know what to think of us guys on bicycles traveling across the country. She told us that Pastor Wagner spoke with the church about us and said we had a tent and so she thought she could help us. She paid for our land ($8) and gave us the "bicycle love offering" ($35) collected by the church. It was clear that she wanted to help us and even though she was not naturally outgoing, she welcomed us and loved us (whether she knows it or not) and I am very grateful for that. She said that she didn't know what we'd like to eat and that she didn't have much food, so she made us a beef and vegetable soup for supper. She sent us off to set up our tent and come back for supper afterwards.

I had to dig deep in my bags and disturb my spectacular packing job to get out the tent. This was the first and only time we'd use it, so I guess I can be glad that I brought the thing. With Tom's help it was up in no time. Camping is much more Tom's territory than mine. I believe Tom was expecting that we'd camp much more often than we did, hence he originally packed a camp stove (which we shipped back to Colorado after our stop in Topeka, KS). Tom was in his element. He was a mountain man in the flatland woods and I was a fish out of water. I could tell he could rough it more than I would ever want to. This place might have been heaven for Tom. I'm glad we only camped one night ;).

We ate supper with Carol and learned a bit about her. She's from the Apostolic church, but she has found a community she likes at the Church of God and she likes the pastor. Her husband and she used to travel with the camper from Carlyle to Florida during the different seasons, but now she does it alone. She has a lot of descendents (she's the first great great grandmother I've ever met!) and gets to do tours among them to visit everyone (she stays with each of her children for two weeks and moves to the next during the winter).

She seemed relegated or succumbed to a certain lot in life, doing what she could to keep busy, but not entirely happy either. Perhaps that had to do with her husband's passing. She had a strong commitment to her place as a member of the Apostolic denomination, but that confidence did not overflow into the rest of her being. I thought I sensed that something in her life was not at peace. Perhaps she struggled knowing if there was something more she ought to do with her life? She said she didn't know how to help us, but was doing what she could and I thank God for Carol's faithfulness. She was "taking it one day at a time" like so many people I'd met on the way, but this did not seem as reassuring or encouraging for her. She may just have a different personality than I have seen or it might have been this particular day. To me, however, she seemed to be lacking purpose. In any case, I hope that she has hope and joy and peace in her eternal life through Jesus Christ.

It was in the next few days that I decided I should be careful what I say about others and very careful trying to judge their hearts. I do not want to hurt anyone's feelings and maybe it is wrong to talk about people like this. Is this not personal? Is this not private? And yet, this is a part of my experience and how I perceive the people I meet. But, I have been very wrong about things before. Perhaps so long as I do not condemn people, but share my perceptions out of love... but maybe it is better if it is between me and them.

Among other things, I hiked around (is it called hiking if there are no hills?), looked out at the gorgeous lake, took a very uncomfortable shower*, saw a groundhog, journaled a tiny bit, and then went to bed early. Tom tried starting a fire with his flint and steel, but failed miserably (sorry, Tom!). If it's any consolation to Tom, we had a rough time starting it with the lighter that Carol lent us too because our wood was wet. Tom stayed outside and read at the picnic table that we chained our bikes to and I retreated early to the tent. This was his sort of place. Quiet.

We rode to Carlyle, Illinois on Tuesday, June 9, 2009.

To see more photos from my trip: add me as a friend on facebook -

*those showers were hot! I had enough less-hot water to rinse with in each of the three stalls before it became scalding about five seconds later. That said, I would rinse, lather, run to another stall, start to rinse, run to another stall, rinse again... ouch.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Carlyle, Illinois Part 1

Whenever I think of the city Carlyle, I hear it in Pastor Wagner's accent. I think that's because I ended up calling his church and reaching the voicemail so many times. I'm not so sure I can describe his pronunciation of Carlyle here, but it's very distinct. I never met the man, but my memories of him are very fond. I'm not sure I've ever had this particular attachment or gratitude for someone I've never met before.

My interactions with Pastor Wagner probably consisted of no more than 15-20 minutes of phone conversation, but it only took a minute before I knew he cared for and loved me and Tom without reservation. How can this be? He assured he would help us, he was patient in waiting to learn if we found help from another church in Carlyle (recall, I thought we might be helped by the Lutheran church, but they couldn't help), and he even held a special love offering for our bicycle trip, which collected $35 from his small congregation of less than 20 (I believe). He would have taken us in himself if not for being in and out of town and it being his wedding anniversary.

Before we left St. Louis (maybe on Sunday or Monday evening) I called him and he expressed interest in getting to meet me and Tom. It was more than a passing interest. No, I could tell by his tone that his desire to meet us was like that of estranged family members trying to see one another. If you could tell by someone's voice that they wanted to meet you and be in relationship with you that much, you would do almost anything to run to them and meet them at least halfway. Maybe I'm being a little melodramatic. I found out that he works in Centralia and it was sadly quite a bit out of our way. When he and I realized we couldn't meet we were both disappointed.

On to the details of the ride.

There was only one thing on the news that morning that I paid attention to: tornadoes. This time in the area of Shiloh, Illinois. Over the weekend, many tornadoes hit Colorado, my home state, and on Monday (the day before) a tornado struck right where we were supposed to be. The reporters were out in some suburbs sharing stories of the damage and of neighbors coming to help neighbors. I realized very quickly that this tornado-damaged neighborhood could potentially be on our path for the day so I asked Tom if we could ride through Shiloh. I hoped we could see the neighborhood in person (for interest sake*). Tom told me that it was not in the plans and truth be told I was a little disappointed I wouldn't be able to witness the damage in person. It didn't hit me until later that we could have been in the path of that very tornado had I not felt so gut-wrenchingly terrible about leaving St. Louis the day before.

Paul drove us and our bikes in his nice, big Yukon across the Mississippi river and into Illinois. Thank God that we had hosts with the capability of transporting us out of large cities, thereby avoiding Interstates and heavy traffic (and possibly dangerous neighborhoods).

Tom and I started our ride in Columbia, IL and rode east towards Belleville. We took a quick break there for snacks and I saw my first ever drive-in convenience store (that I can remember)... actually, I didn't think it was an operating drive-in, so as we were resting outside the window I felt guilty that I was slightly in the way of the white truck that drove in a big circle to make his way to buy cigarettes at the window.

We moved on. It was a cloudy morning and fairly cool. I started seeing more and more beautiful orange flowers on the side of the highway, which I later found out were Daylilies. That day, my mood was very "down to business." I was more focused on the logistics of ride that usual, but I was enjoying the ride tremendously. The weather was nice, but I considered the possibility of rain. Tom hadn't let us down with the route yet, but we were not on Highway 50 (which was straightforward) and so I was more vigilant in making sure we were not taking a longer route than necessary to Carlyle. Later, I even went as far as finally fixing (uninstalling and reinstalling) the Google Maps program on my phone that had been malfunctioning for several weeks.

So, it was amid perfectly pleasant conditions that we rode by a barn that was blasted by the tornado. It took me a minute to figure out why the building looked so un-normal and what these seemingly unnecessary vehicles were doing parking on the side of the road. Then, I was blown away. The barn was missing its roof and the house next door clearly had damage. Then there were the trees that were ripped in half. Then the fragments of building in the field across the street. On second thought, there's no way it took me the whole minute to piece all of that together. The cars were of neighbors coming to help clean up, no doubt. I was not expecting to see any of this since we were not riding in Shiloh.

It was around that time when I realized just how big a bullet we dodged. This is most likely the path we would have taken the day before... We stopped at a house a little later and I asked a woman there about the previous day's weather. They had golf ball-sized hail and the tornado tore through their timber lands.

I am blessed and I believe we were spared from grave danger.

*And now, I think I was in awe of the terrible power of tornadoes and wanted to see the damage, but I was not connected in emotion with those who were affected... I neither felt sympathy nor understood what they were really going through. My interest in seeing the damage was no more than just to have the experience of witnessing the effects of tornadoes.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

St. Louis, Missouri (Monday)

Monday morning I had mentally prepared myself to leave St. Louis. It was often hard to leave the safety and security of a loving home and leave once again to an unknown, uncertain future. Nonetheless, after two days of rest, I was physically and mentally prepped to hit the road. However, it turns out leaving that day was not to be.

It seems like we were checking the weather a lot those last couple days. We were looking at the weather radar and trying to track rain and lightning. We'd had a little rain on Sunday, but not as much as we expected. Colorado had five tornadoes on either Saturday or Sunday (I've told people it was Sunday, but maybe it was Saturday). I remember looking in awe at the pictures that some of my friends had taken. Tornadoes are scary. Actually, tornadoes were one of my only fears for this trip because I had a vivid dream about them before leaving. Fortunately, in my dream, me and my riding partner (was it Tom? I don't remember) escaped to a lake.

I ate breakfast. Eggs and sausage and toast with jam. Jane was so fantastic a servant to us.

The weather was dreary that morning. The sky grew darker and darker. It was hard to believe it was 7 or 8am because it was so dark. Tom woke up and joined us. I felt uneasy. He checked the weather and I checked the weather (on my phone) and we watched the TV for the weather. He seemed certain this wouldn't be too bad, that I was psyching myself out and that we just needed to go. His forecast called for low chance of rain for the rest of the day and I knew that Tom would not be hindered by weather like rain.

The odd thing is that I was ready to go when I woke up. I was packed, ate breakfast, and was ready to move, but a terrible feeling arose in my chest. I suddenly felt so nervous about leaving that my heart ached. I felt almost desperate that I should convince Tom not to leave. Mind you, the doom and gloom over our heads at that very moment, showering hail, rain, and lightning on the roof, surely contributed to my unease. Tom might have thought that I was just afraid to leave the comfort of the house... that a little rain was what I was nervous about, but I prefer to think I'm not a pansy. No, something inside me was churning and I did not feel comfortable leaving. I finally convinced Tom we should not go by saying we should listen to our hosts about whether or not to leave and then I sort of egged on Jane to say that we should stay. Now it seems to me I was a little underhanded, but I feared nothing less would convince Tom that we should stay.

My heartache disappeared the instant we committed to staying an extra day. The rain and hail stopped in an hour. The sun came out. But we were committed. I figured Tom would not be happy with me because I wanted to stay and the weather turned out so nice. I was a little disturbed that my bad feeling proved to be incorrect (or so it seemed). Nonetheless, Jane and Paul let us stay another day and I was determined to do something productive now that we had no choice but to stay (Paul would have give us a ride out of the city, but he was already at the church).

So, I started reading 1 Samuel on the recommendation of my Dad. Then both Tom and I looked at the anti-virus software on Jane's computer (trying to fix some errors). I took an 8-mile bike ride. I liked that time alone with God. I spent a lot of time just chatting with Jane, who was babysitting three (or was it four?) little girls.

That evening, Paul took Tom and me to the Lone Elk Park and we saw some wildlife (buffalo, elk, deer, wild turkeys). It was nice to spend that time with Paul. It was good, quality time in my book (even though I wouldn't necessarily consider this wildlife to be wild... it was more than a petting zoo, but less than natural). Before I forget, the first or second night we were there, Paul took us into his "Den of Death" (his den with several of the animals he's killed) and asked us what some certain objects were. I knew I had seen them before and I knew they came from an animal, but I had to dredge up a memory with my grandpa to get the answer: turkey beards! I was one of the few people to get that right and maybe that helped me build a slightly better rapport with Paul ;). Before going home, Paul dropped us off and Wal-Mart and I picked up some snacks (apple sauce, TLC granola bars, etc.), sunscreen lotion, and a bar of facial soap.

Back at the house, I looked at a map with Paul and Jane and this was after we had found out that Clay City (a two day-ride away) was not a viable option to find a host. I had made many phone calls, all dead ends. The final woman I spoke with suggested Flora (Illinois), a slightly larger city about 8 or 10 miles east. Tom and I were okay with Flora and before we even had the chance to make some phone calls, Paul remembered that he had a friend from his Bible school pastoring a church in Flora. Thus, Paul called "Billy" and after a bit of catching up (and Paul explaining our situation), Bill agreed to help us. Bill already had a lot on his plate as it turns out, with the sudden death of a member of their congregation and I could tell even during the phone conversation that it was not the easiest thing for Bill to do to take on another responsibility. Still, he took us on.

After some ice cream we all went to bed. We found out the next day that we dodge a big bullet by staying an extra day. Call it the Holy Spirit, call it a miracle, or call it coincidence, but we were spared from grave danger.

We took a third consecutive day of rest in St. Louis, Missouri on Monday, June 8, 2009.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

St. Louis, Missouri (Sunday)

Sunday. Day two of rest. I really enjoy going to our hosts' churches on Sunday because I get to spend more time with them and share more life with them. I had a blueberry muffin (which looked funny, but tasted great... Jane attributed the funny look to them being whole wheat) and oatmeal for breakfast.

Tom and I joined the college group Bible study before going to the service and I was very surprised at how many students were in attendence. The teacher was very talkative and was very strong in her conviction of the message she wanted to portray. Her illustrations proved her points well and I certainly identified with much of what she was saying (and a lot of it could be very useful if the listener really connects), but I still had an uneasyness about my time there. Again (like in Hill City), I think it was how she conveyed the message in her tone. I'm sad to say I can't provide a specific example, but it seemed a bit forceful to me... unnecessarily poignant. Or, perhaps I was uncomfortable because I felt like this was much more of a lecture than a seminar. That is, she had points that she wanted to reach, but wouldn't necessarily let conversation arrive at those points (albeit, we weren't the most talkative group. I like to have more time to think about a passage and its implications and through conversation arrive at new realizations). I did sometimes feel like we were being talked down to like children who've misbehaved (it seemed somehow condescending), not young adults seeking God together cooperatively. Now, I feel a little unnecessarily critical of her, but those were the vibes I felt during the lesson.

Maybe I'm thinking too much about this (I tend to do that, sorry). I didn't gain much from the lesson. Either the lesson was not for me (because I have already learned it) or it didn't have time to take hold or (I have to leave open this possible explanation) I was not receptive to the message because of the state of my own heart.

Getting back on track. Gateway Christian Church had great facilities and friendly, committed members. This was for me a very evident result of Paul's legacy of following Jesus Christ. Paul was starting a series on the Beatitudes. Since this was the 36th anniversary of his church, he spent this service sharing what blessings the church has had over the years (and showed a nice slide show of pictures through the years) and covering lessons learned. I took some notes on my phone. Here are some of his church's lessons (these are from my notes and are either paraphrases, summaries, or direct quotes):

"When it comes to God's will: It doesn't matter whether we can afford it, but whether God wants us to do this.

God doesn't need perfect circumstances for His miracles.

No disgrace in failing at great goals. It is only disgrace to have the fear to not make great goals.

He will always provide if we are doing His will.

'Never doubt in the dark what God has proven to be true in the light.'

'It is helpful, but it is not necessary to know and understand what God is doing and why. It is necessary to trust that He knows what He is doing.'

Sometimes He delivers us to the fire instead of from the fire. He has promised to always be with us through the valley, through the storm, through the fire."

We went out to eat lunch at a place called Zapatas (I think). I had the Mexican buffet. We were joined by their intern, Josh, and his girlfriend, Julie. Also there was Anna, a young lady we met in the college group, and Julie's sister. It was a pleasant lunch. Many thanks are in order for how Paul and Jane provided for me and Tom and for how we were welcomed by the others at the table.

At about 4 or 5 pm, Tom, Jane, and I arrived at the picnic. The kids were just finishing up their slip-n-slide with mustard and relish. Gross, but fun for a young boy. I played volleyball, my favorite sport (to participate in). Supper was fantastic. You really can't beat a church potluck. At the end, there were a couple testimonies and I was really touched to see how much Gateway meant to the couple of people who spoke about their experience at Gateway. It reminded me a lot of Bennington Bible Church in Kansas. Community. That's what I see making such impacts in their lives. I was also touched that Paul prayed for me and Tom before the whole congregation. That was so unexpected and so precious. I praise God for His children and the love they showed to me. I am really awestruck by their care and compassion... and for them it was second nature. They loved with such ease.

Before I went to bed I squared away plans for Monday. I was in touch with the Carlyle Church of God in Illinois. Pastor Wagner was one of the kindest people I spoke with and I'm sad I never got the chance to meet him. I remember thinking about his initiative in trying to help us. On the Katy trail Thursday and Friday, I spoke with him and a Lutheran church. I thought I'd be able to secure something with the Lutheran church because our conversation was so upbeat, so I told Pastor Wagner that I thought we'd be taken care of. The Lutheran Church ended up falling through, but Pastor Wagner made it clear that if the Lutheran Church couldn't help he would work something out for us. And that he did. He arranged for us to meet with a member of his congregation (Carol) at the Eldon Hazlet State Park campground at the Carlyle Reservoir. There, we could pitch our tent (plot paid for by Carol) and Carol would feed us supper and breakfast as well as give us some money collected for us at the Sunday service. I really couldn't believe that once again someone (and his church) would reach out to us like this. It really makes me want to cry each time I think about it. Pastor Wagner really hit the ball out of the park, even with my curveball pitch.

We took our second consecutive day of rest in St. Louis, Missouri on Sunday, June 7, 2009.

St. Louis, Missouri (Saturday)

I don't remember how I prepared for the day on Saturday morning. I probably woke up around 8am and had breakfast with Paul and Jane. Tom slept in for a while, I remember that. I also remember that breakfast was delicious each day we spent there. After breakfast, Tom and I packed some lunches and Paul and Jane were giving us a ride downtown by about 9:30am.

We arrived at the Gateway Arch early and bought our tickets to ride to the top. While we waited, we explored the museum (Museum of Westward Expansion) below the arch. I had the feeling that this journey brought us along our particular path for a reason. It was a strange sensation. That we would ride through just the right places (of historical significance) on our way east provided the opportunity to learn more about what the US is built on. How did the US become what it is today? I was traveling backwards in time from Denver, east and I got to observe the westward progress in reverse. Not only that, I took a critical and curious look at the figures of our history. These are figures that all Americans should know and that many revere. What made them great? Are they worthy to immitate? In what regards do I admire or respect them? In what ways do I not? I will tell you now, that I hold these men (and women) in no higher regard than the men they were... that is, I do not lose sight that these people did great things, but only through the strength, knowledge, and wisdom that was given to them by God.

We were in line for the arch in no time. Then we were in the tiny capsules (made with technology from the 1960's, if I remember correctly) that took us up to the top. What can I say about the Gateway Arch? It is certainly a feat of precise engineering. What a strange building, though. It was built in honor of St. Louis being the gateway to the west because that is where Lewis and Clark really kicked off their journey west. The view from inside was quite pretty from all sides. It was cool to be at the top, but it was no long-awaited dream fulfilled. I can say that I have done it, but it was not a lifetime achievement to be there. Maybe I just don't get impressed the way I used to... I suppose it could be that I've grown used to seeing skyscrapers and riding rollercoasters.

However, observing the arch from the outside was much more impressive. I remember gazing at the towering structure thinking this was something alien... like the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey. And I was also waiting for a scene from the Stargate series to happen.

Tom and I also went to the Old Courthouse where the Dred Scott case took place. It was a museum in its own rights. There was so much history to absorb between this place and the museum under the arch that I got a headache trying to take in everything. I felt mentally tired very fast and I was ready to leave already. Still, I was in St. Louis, so I might as well see whatever else I could. We went to the old Union Station next. We walked around, sat down, and then got picked up. Before we left, we did get to try out the "whispering arch" where one person can stand about 20-30 feet away from another, whisper into the wall, and the person on the other end can hear as if standing right beside them.

Paul and Jane took us to a graduation party of a girl from their congregation (whose father happened to be another one they took in back in the 80's... Paul and Jane have a history of taking people in). It was good to talk with a couple of the kids around our age about our experience.

We went back home and the Rockies beat the Cardinals again. Supper was yummy. I am a slower eater than Paul, which is apparently a rarity ;)

We had a day of rest in St. Louis, Missouri on Saturday, June 6, 2009.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Inventorying my bags

Just in case you are interested in going on a trip like mine, here is a list of what I brought with me (some I sent home in Topeka and will account for later):

-Touring bicycle (road bike made from steel or titanium) with back rack, water bottle holders
-Sun glasses
-two large panniers (combined volume of 109 liters) with rain covers
-sleeping bag with black plastic bag for rain protection
-Leatherman (never used)
-2 pairs of triple-A batteries
-2 pairs of double-A batteries
-First aid kit
-4 water bottles (and an occasional gatorade or two)
-bungie net for strapping sleeping bag to bike
-2 Ace bandages for my knees
-Lights (small headlight, blinking tail light)
-notebook (for writing notes and contact info)
-solar/crank-powered flash light/radio with weather band (used through Kansas and maybe once after)
-sun screen lotion (2-3 bottles at a time for my arms, legs and 2 bottles for my face)
-two-man tent, tent footprint
-sleeping pad
-2 Shamwows (one large, one small, both used infrequently)
-cell phone

-shoes (biking shoes and walking shoes)
-3 pairs of biking socks, 2 normal socks
-2 pair of biking shorts
-2 pair of biking shirts
-2 t-shirts
-swim trunks
-warm-up pants
-long-sleeved Under Armor winter shirt
-wool longjohns
-2 pairs of underwear
-bandana/scarf (never used)

-one half roll of toilet paper (never used)
-one bar of Naptha (used twice)
-2 bars soap (one for body, one for face)
-shampoo (small bottle)
-body wash/shampoo (small bottle, got it in North Vernon)
-contact lenses (one case for each eye), 3 contact lens cases, 2 contact lens solution bottles, eye drops
-stick of deodorant
-2 nail clippers (fingers and toes)
-toothbrush and paste

Bike maintenance:
-two spare tubes
-two spare tires
-bike lock
-computer (small device to track mileage, speed)
-4 tire irons (dont ask)
-chain lube
-2 patch kits
-chain breaker

Food stuff (fluxuates):
-dried fruit (bananas, raisins, apricots)
-not dried fruit (whenever I could I brought apples and bananas)
-Electrolyte 'Stamina' packets (like Gatorade, but without the sugar)
-whatever lunch I could pack (usually consisting of at least one sandwich)

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Update 7/2

Hi everyone,

I cannot wait to catch you all up on each day's progress, but I must wait a while longer to do that (and I will, don't worry!). However, I do have some exciting, yet sad news to share. My journey on bicycle has come to an end.

Today, Tom and I rode from our hosts in Alexandria, VA to his grandparents' city, Rockville, MD. In particular, we ended at the UPS Store and shipped our trusty steeds of 45 days back home to Colorado. I was definitely a little apprehensive when I saw my bike - all taken apart and nonfunctional - ready to be packed. Hehe, I don't want to think I've become attached to an otherwise inanimate object, but it was almost like leaving behind a pet that your parents told you you couldn't have any more. I stole just one glance behind me as I walked away, so I'm not too bad, you see ;). I believe that because I've spent so much time on those two wheels (45 days and probably near 200 hours) and depended upon it for so much (1800 miles of travel) that I really didn't want to leave it behind. I need to adjust to the "normal," faster modes of transportation again.

So, my bicycle journey is over. But, my spiritual journey will never end, so long as I desire to continue. There are several reasons for ending bicycling before Buffalo, NY. I first realized that D.C. could be the end of bicycling last Sunday at Tom's Aunt and Uncle's house. Let me lay out the simple circumstances:

-Tom has family in the D.C. area that could take him to his family reunion in Buffalo.
-My father is in Philedelphia on business each week and I could stay with him at his hotel and leave from there.
-Tom has wanted to see his girlfriend in New Jersey since we started the trip (and we had intended to go there), so he could stay with me and my dad in Philly across the river if he wants.

Based on those factors, I knew that I could feasibly be finished here. Then I had to think about my spiritual journey. Is this what God wants? Am I supposed to go on? I could certainly go on. God will provide for me, I have no doubts or fears about that. But, do I need to go on? I felt nothing drawing me on to Buffalo. No feelings that I'd be missing out if I stopped early. If we went on, I would meet more people and we would be riding several more days and several more miles, but I can meet people and pursue God each day whether on a bicycle far from home or not. Now, being on bicycle far from home does provide a unique opportunity to open up about my faith that being at home in comfort does not. Will I go home and lose my motivation to pursue fellowship or opportunities to witness? Time will tell, but I hope I've learned enough from my experiences this summer to open up to strangers even in my home city. Being home will open different opportunities to serve people and share God's love and I must be aware of those possibilities and take advantage of them.

Sorry for the drawn out stream of consciousness. The distance of this trip is sufficient, the people I have met were fantastic (and I believe we were with just the right people and interacted with the right people all along), the experiences were meaningful, the country was beautiful, and God's lessons were pertinent to the state of my heart and place in my journey. My continued spiritual journey is not dependent on my being halfway across the country from home or using a bicycle to get around. Although, I believe everything about this trip was indicative of God's perfection and His intimate knowledge of my heart.

So, why is it sad that I am ending now? This all came very suddenly. I told Tom that I figured we could end here in D.C. that same Sunday night and by the morning I was decided. It was very abrupt and all other possibilities were discarded. I had absolutely no plan committed for how I would get home after arriving in Buffalo. I tossed around some ideas: plane, train, bus, car, motorcycle. I thought I might drive home and visit all the places I came through on the way here... hence not ending the journey until some time after July 15. Instead, what I will do is fly from Philly to Denver on July 9. That means I will not be able to see the wonderful people I love so much (and this was definitely a factor in my thought process as I decided what I should do now). That includes everyone I have met and supported me on this journey. They took me in (or prayed or followed my progress, sending me encouraging words), a stranger, and cared for me like family. I did not deserve their love, but they showered me with it. I cannot repay them for their kindness, hospitality, and generosity. I know that their motivation was pure, that is, out of love - without expectation of reward - that God may receive all the glory and praise.

I am committed to seeing my new family again. I do not know when and I do not know how. In the meantime, I will certainly be in contact with each of them as I continue this journey - no longer refered to as my "spirit journey," as though it ends after bicycling - which is called life. Does it need a better name? What is life? Life is in Jesus Christ. Life is a journey that never ends so long as you go with him. Live.