You’re Invited!

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We’re excited to announce that we’ll be giving a presentation about our Cross-Country Bike Adventure on Saturday, November 3rd, 1:00 pm, at Shift Bicycles in downtown Richmond (113 N 18th St, Richmond, VA 23223). We hope it will be an interesting and enlightening experience for all ages- whether or not you followed our blog. In addition to sharing our experiences, we plan to have an interactive element, too. Please join us! We would love to see you (and even meet some of you in person for the first time)!

A Fitting Adventure Wrap-Up

We started our bike adventure with a partial purpose of supporting ECHO, so we thought a fitting way to end our trip would be to visit ECHO. We are so glad that we decided to take the detour home by visiting the ECHO farm in Fort Myers, FL! What an amazing place, and what a wonderful collection of skilled and caring people who work as a team to find solutions to many different agricultural challenges related to worldwide hunger and poverty!

 Not only is the ECHO farm beautiful, but so interesting, too- full of small-scale reproductions of farms in different regions of the world: plants yielding vegetables and fruits I’ve never seen before, animals raised for the purpose of food that generate useful waste products for use as fertilizer or in other useful ecological cycles.

Not only is the ECHO farm beautiful, but so interesting, too- full of small-scale reproductions of farms in different regions of the world: plants yielding vegetables and fruits I’ve never seen before, animals raised for the purpose of food that generate useful waste products for use as fertilizer or in other useful ecological cycles.

On our first full day at ECHO, the staff and interns gathered for a very nice reception (in our honor). We were humbled by this, but so appreciative of the opportunity to share some of our stories and answer their questions about our bike adventure. Our journey was partially a mode of raising awareness and funds for ECHO using people’s enthusiasm and interest in our family adventure. The ECHO staff and interns, though, are the ones doing the more direct, hard, and daily work of addressing the challenges of world hunger and helping find solutions to those challenges. We were honored to partner with them for our 4-month bike adventure, and we hope to continue to spread the word about the good and meaningful work that they do!

 This is a picture of Jerry explaining some aspect of our bike trip with the ECHO staff and interns at the reception that they had for us. From this perspective, you can only see about a third of the folks that had attended. 

This is a picture of Jerry explaining some aspect of our bike trip with the ECHO staff and interns at the reception that they had for us. From this perspective, you can only see about a third of the folks that had attended. 

 This is a gift- wrapped in the beautiful, blue fabric (see behind frame)- that ECHO so graciously gave us at the reception. It is the framed magazine article that Danielle Flood and her summer intern, Maddie Christy, had written for the August issue of Florida Parent and Child Magazine. What a special keep-sake this will be!

This is a gift- wrapped in the beautiful, blue fabric (see behind frame)- that ECHO so graciously gave us at the reception. It is the framed magazine article that Danielle Flood and her summer intern, Maddie Christy, had written for the August issue of Florida Parent and Child Magazine. What a special keep-sake this will be!

 Avery pulling weeds...

Avery pulling weeds...

After seeing some of the farm, our family  had the opportunity to volunteer there for a couple of hours. We weeded and mulched amid the warm, humid contrast to our previously chilly, dry, and mountainous location just a day before. 

 This is our sweaty bunch during a fulfilling time of volunteering on the farm. ECHO staff member, Heidi, whom we worked with (Jerry taking the picture). 

This is our sweaty bunch during a fulfilling time of volunteering on the farm. ECHO staff member, Heidi, whom we worked with (Jerry taking the picture). 

 Russell brushing off a rake, the first step in the tool cleaning process. 

Russell brushing off a rake, the first step in the tool cleaning process. 

The boys learned to clean the tools that we used. What a great way to give tools a much longer life! We should do this at home! Water isn’t used to clean these (that would cause them rust faster). Instead, they are dry-brushed into a bin with a bristle brush.

 Douglas spraying a tool with WD-40, the second step in the tool-cleaning by process. 

Douglas spraying a tool with WD-40, the second step in the tool-cleaning by process. 

Then, they are sprayed with WD-49.

And last, they are placed back in their “home” for storage. 

 Tool storage room...

Tool storage room...

Jerry and I would have loved to stay longer at the ECHO farm to hear more of what the 14-month interns could teach us about each of their areas of expertise. The farm is an active and vibrant research center dedicated to exploring methods for propagating and growing plants and animals for both food and for a livelihood in various countries and climates throughout all the world. In addition, ECHO serves as a hub for folks living and serving in third world countries to ask their relevant agricultural questions to experts in the field. They are also able to connect people to each other who might experience similar agricultural, economic, or cultural challenges so that they can glean ideas and learn appropriate methods from one another. 

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How does an impoverished family living in a crowded city grow enough food for their own family with limited space and resources? One solution might be a roof-top garden using little to no soil and instead using old clothes or bed sheets to incorporate a wicking method for moisture and for fertilizing the vegetable and fruit plants. Old car tires can even be used as efficient planters.

 These “rooftop” garden experiments are utilizing a method of fertilizing and watering that involves continuous wicking from these buckets onto a mat of either old clothing, bed sheets, old carpet, or a polyester fiber. 

These “rooftop” garden experiments are utilizing a method of fertilizing and watering that involves continuous wicking from these buckets onto a mat of either old clothing, bed sheets, old carpet, or a polyester fiber. 

How can folks irrigate their farms when there is no home and gardening store around to purchase irrigation supplies and perhaps no electricity to run water pumps for water transport? With simple and easy-to-come-by materials, farmers can build water pumps and irrigation systems that allow their crops to flourish. 

 This shows many uses of simple pvc pipes and rubber tires that can be used for so many different purposes, such as homemade manual water pumps, irrigation systems, and other uses. 

This shows many uses of simple pvc pipes and rubber tires that can be used for so many different purposes, such as homemade manual water pumps, irrigation systems, and other uses. 

How can a family’s need for income and nutrition be met in the most efficient and cost-effective way? One solution could be through aquaponics, in which the waste and nutrients from one organism is used and cycled through to the space of another- fish and vegetables growing by mutually producing nutrients for one another in separate holding tanks in which the water is constantly cycling through them. 

 This is the aquaponics system. In the foreground are rectangular reservoirs which receive nutrient rich water from the fish tanks in the background. (three fish tanks are covered by the black shade cloth) In these reservoirs float foam “islands” which hold vegetables and leaf crops. These plants use the nutrients and then this water is cycled back to the fish tanks to start the cycle over again. The fish tanks were full of nice fat tilapia. I’m getting hungry!

This is the aquaponics system. In the foreground are rectangular reservoirs which receive nutrient rich water from the fish tanks in the background. (three fish tanks are covered by the black shade cloth) In these reservoirs float foam “islands” which hold vegetables and leaf crops. These plants use the nutrients and then this water is cycled back to the fish tanks to start the cycle over again. The fish tanks were full of nice fat tilapia. I’m getting hungry!

 This is the seed bank on the ECHO farm. Small-scale farmers from all over the world can obtain seeds from here- either during the annual conference at ECHO (held in Florida in November), at other equipping events in various remote locations in the world, or seeds can be ordered from ECHO by the farmers.

This is the seed bank on the ECHO farm. Small-scale farmers from all over the world can obtain seeds from here- either during the annual conference at ECHO (held in Florida in November), at other equipping events in various remote locations in the world, or seeds can be ordered from ECHO by the farmers.

 This is a bamboo house built by interns and staff on the ECHO farm, using bamboo grown on the farm. Training on the farm focuses not only on plants but “appropriate technology”—region appropriate food prossessing, cooking, building, and other physical aspects that support families. The ever-present focus is to use materials easily available to locals. 

This is a bamboo house built by interns and staff on the ECHO farm, using bamboo grown on the farm. Training on the farm focuses not only on plants but “appropriate technology”—region appropriate food prossessing, cooking, building, and other physical aspects that support families. The ever-present focus is to use materials easily available to locals. 

 This is another type of dwelling built on the farm using materials grown and harvesting there.

This is another type of dwelling built on the farm using materials grown and harvesting there.

 This is the movable pig pen. 

This is the movable pig pen. 

There were two different uses of pigs that we saw on the farm. One situation had pigs in a movable pen, in which they forage and naturally till and fertilize the ground beneath them. The pigs and their pen can be moved to bemutually beneficial for the soil and for the pigs. 

 These are the pigs in their pen that collects their excrement in deep layers to be used for fertilizer. 

These are the pigs in their pen that collects their excrement in deep layers to be used for fertilizer. 

 Another set-up had some pigs in a pen where they would go about their business of eating and pooping. Their excrement would collect over a long period of time in specific types of grates, and microorganisms would be constantly working to break down this material. Later, it would be used as a very rich fertilizer. 

While we were in Florida for those 3 days, we were able to enjoy a beautiful beach not too far from the ECHO farm- on the Gulf coast- with our new friends, the Flood family. 

 Digging holes, building sand castles, and playing in the warm and calm Gulf coast waters with our new friends, the Floods. 

Digging holes, building sand castles, and playing in the warm and calm Gulf coast waters with our new friends, the Floods. 

When we returned home, we were struck by how well our parents had cared for us while we were gone. They had faithfully cut grass, collected and tended to our mail, received items we returned, made sure all was well with our home- both inside and out, and even tackled a mildew problem that cropped up in our basement during our absence. They wiped down furniture, counter-tops, mini-blinds, cleaned upholstery, washed linens, filled our refrigerator with nutritious groceries and prepared a lunch feast for our return. And my mother flew all the way out to Jackson, WY, to greet us at our finishing point and help us with the process of shipping bikes and gear. We together explored the Grand Teton area in addition to flying to Florida to visit ECHO. We are surely missing some things, but we hope you get the picture. We wanted to thank our parents publicly for the love they have lavished on us!

With this particular adventure having ended, we also want to thank each of you again for following us, supporting our journey with your prayers, encouraging words, and many acts of kindness all across the country! The biking was fun, challenging, and invigorating. But the most important and meaningful parts of our adventure were the people that we were able to meet—experiencing kindness from those who began as strangers to us—and for God’s grace, protection, and provision for our needs! We are still processing all that we experienced. And we are currently trying to reacclimate ourselves to whatever normal is back here at home.  Our intent in the next month is to cull our many pictures and video and provide some sort of “overall snapshot” to those of you that are interested.  Stay tuned!

When WE Are The Wildlife!

 These are the bikes on the pick-up truck we borrowed in Lander, WY.  

These are the bikes on the pick-up truck we borrowed in Lander, WY.  

Since the last blog post, we were so kindly transported over Togwotee Pass by my sweet friend Clair. She has some very generous friends who let us borrow a pick-up truck to transport the bikes from Lander to a point where we could bike from (Jerry did this 4-hour round-trip bike drop-off the day before) and then another friend let Clair borrow a minivan so that she could transport us to that point. We knew that with our timeframe and the considerations regarding distance, climbing, and camping available- that it would not be feasible to bike the 70-mile climb from Lander to the next possible camping area. We’re glad we made that decision because it allowed us to spend more time biking to the Yellowstone Park area and exploring so much of what Yellowstone has to offer.

 South entrance to Yellowstone National Park. 

South entrance to Yellowstone National Park. 

 Here are the three boys on the triple all together- just riding around a campground together during some free time. They have really formed some tight bonds on this trip, despite the normal moments of conflict and arguing that you might expect. 

Here are the three boys on the triple all together- just riding around a campground together during some free time. They have really formed some tight bonds on this trip, despite the normal moments of conflict and arguing that you might expect. 

 This is a view of a huge gorge in Yellowstone that we enjoyed while on a snack break headed up to Old Faithful. 

This is a view of a huge gorge in Yellowstone that we enjoyed while on a snack break headed up to Old Faithful. 

 Here is an elk meandering through our campsite. She acted as if nothing was unusual. “Pardon me while I forage here.” I guess we were the ones invading her territory. 

Here is an elk meandering through our campsite. She acted as if nothing was unusual. “Pardon me while I forage here.” I guess we were the ones invading her territory. 

As we paused this past week to take pictures of sites all around Yellowstone, such as the elk near our campsite and the geysers and hot springs, other tourists were doing the same. But there were multiple times that tourists from many different cultures visiting Yellowstone stopped to take pictures of US- as if WE were part of the wildlife. Perhaps there are some who think that we are just that: wild, crazy, unusual, etc. I’ll admit that we are a sight on our double and triple bikes loaded down with all of our gear!

 We made it to Old Faithful just as it was beginning its eruption that occurs about every 90 minutes. So cool! Or, more accurately I should say, so hot!

We made it to Old Faithful just as it was beginning its eruption that occurs about every 90 minutes. So cool! Or, more accurately I should say, so hot!

 Such power, generated from all of that heat and constructed waterways underground to produce predictable bursts of water and steam at Old Faithful. 

Such power, generated from all of that heat and constructed waterways underground to produce predictable bursts of water and steam at Old Faithful. 

 These geysers and springs were such an amazing expression of the effects of volcanic activity in the area! The water (super-heated from underground igneous rock)- bursting up to the surface from a network of constricted natural plumbing- was a sight to experience, as were the hot springs that provided a unique habitat and ecosystem for microorganisms that are thermophiles leaving behind a beautiful mat of color for all to see! (Thank you for letting me indulge my biological tendencies!) 😁

These geysers and springs were such an amazing expression of the effects of volcanic activity in the area! The water (super-heated from underground igneous rock)- bursting up to the surface from a network of constricted natural plumbing- was a sight to experience, as were the hot springs that provided a unique habitat and ecosystem for microorganisms that are thermophiles leaving behind a beautiful mat of color for all to see! (Thank you for letting me indulge my biological tendencies!) 😁

 Grand Prismatic Spring- the largest and most vibrantly colorful of all the hot springs we experienced in Yellowstone. Just to give a little scale, the diameter of this spring is about 300 feet.

Grand Prismatic Spring- the largest and most vibrantly colorful of all the hot springs we experienced in Yellowstone. Just to give a little scale, the diameter of this spring is about 300 feet.

 On our way to and from Yellowstone, we passed over several continental divides. This one was particularly intriguing because the lake at the top of the pass emptied into both sides of the divide- having an ultimate destination of either to the Atlantic or the Pacific Ocean. 

On our way to and from Yellowstone, we passed over several continental divides. This one was particularly intriguing because the lake at the top of the pass emptied into both sides of the divide- having an ultimate destination of either to the Atlantic or the Pacific Ocean. 

 On our way out of the Geyser Basin area of Yellowstone, we noted this sign. It was hard to believe that we only had 79 miles left of our bike trip!

On our way out of the Geyser Basin area of Yellowstone, we noted this sign. It was hard to believe that we only had 79 miles left of our bike trip!

 Some beautiful falls we enjoyed in south Yellowstone. 

Some beautiful falls we enjoyed in south Yellowstone. 

 Wohoo! We made it to the Grand Tetons, signaling the beginning of the end of our adventure!

Wohoo! We made it to the Grand Tetons, signaling the beginning of the end of our adventure!

 Upon entering Grand Teton National Park, we stayed at a beautiful campground (Lizard Creek) on Jackson Lake. We found so much satisfaction in watching the boys playing, creating, and innovating with the things around the water. They made a “dam” out of rocks, driftwood, and grasses, and they used a drifted tree trunk as a floating “raft.”  They also attempted to use a very long (40 feet long?) washed up tree trunk as a canoe. This was quite entertaining to observe!

Upon entering Grand Teton National Park, we stayed at a beautiful campground (Lizard Creek) on Jackson Lake. We found so much satisfaction in watching the boys playing, creating, and innovating with the things around the water. They made a “dam” out of rocks, driftwood, and grasses, and they used a drifted tree trunk as a floating “raft.”  They also attempted to use a very long (40 feet long?) washed up tree trunk as a canoe. This was quite entertaining to observe!

 Russell (head sticking out of the water) pushing Douglas on their tree trunk raft. 

Russell (head sticking out of the water) pushing Douglas on their tree trunk raft. 

 Gross-out ALERT!! We later discovered that all of that playing in the lake yielded some first experiences with being host to parasitic leeches. All three boys found at least 2 leeches on them. Here is a picture of Douglas pulling off a leech on the back of his knee. Look how securely it is holding onto his skin!! Fun fact: Did you know that in leeches’ saliva is an anticoagulant (to prevent its host’s blood from clotting and to allow continued sucking) and an anesthetic (which numbs the  area so that its host does not feel the attachment)?  

Gross-out ALERT!! We later discovered that all of that playing in the lake yielded some first experiences with being host to parasitic leeches. All three boys found at least 2 leeches on them. Here is a picture of Douglas pulling off a leech on the back of his knee. Look how securely it is holding onto his skin!! Fun fact: Did you know that in leeches’ saliva is an anticoagulant (to prevent its host’s blood from clotting and to allow continued sucking) and an anesthetic (which numbs the  area so that its host does not feel the attachment)?  

 Our final night of camping was here at Jenny Lake. Such a beautiful place with the Tetons as a backdrop. This campground is so popular that when we left at 8:00 AM, there was a line of cars waiting to get in to claim a campsite for the next night. We were so thankful that there are designated hiker/biker sites reserved for people like us who bike in and need a place to pitch a tent!

Our final night of camping was here at Jenny Lake. Such a beautiful place with the Tetons as a backdrop. This campground is so popular that when we left at 8:00 AM, there was a line of cars waiting to get in to claim a campsite for the next night. We were so thankful that there are designated hiker/biker sites reserved for people like us who bike in and need a place to pitch a tent!

 Here are the boys doing their respective jobs to help with the packing up of our camp in the morning: Russell and Douglas taking down the tents and Avery washing/drying the breakfast dishes. 

Here are the boys doing their respective jobs to help with the packing up of our camp in the morning: Russell and Douglas taking down the tents and Avery washing/drying the breakfast dishes. 

 A fun rock the boys climbed on during a hike we took around Jenny Lake. 

A fun rock the boys climbed on during a hike we took around Jenny Lake. 

 Our peaceful view while cooking dinner on our last night (Jenny Lake). 

Our peaceful view while cooking dinner on our last night (Jenny Lake). 

 Our last camp dinner: on the shore of Jenny Lake, using up our freeze-dried contingency food. 

Our last camp dinner: on the shore of Jenny Lake, using up our freeze-dried contingency food. 

 We couldn’t ask for a more beautiful day and magnificent view during our final day of bike riding. The Tetons are so dramatic and “in-your-face” the whole time you’re in this area! We were really thankful for a nice bike path all the way to Jackson. It allowed us more opportunity to look around and not be as distracted by traffic and safety. 

We couldn’t ask for a more beautiful day and magnificent view during our final day of bike riding. The Tetons are so dramatic and “in-your-face” the whole time you’re in this area! We were really thankful for a nice bike path all the way to Jackson. It allowed us more opportunity to look around and not be as distracted by traffic and safety. 

 We got an early start on this final day- that we were able to stop for breakfast at this cool outdoor restaurant overlooking the Tetons. 

We got an early start on this final day- that we were able to stop for breakfast at this cool outdoor restaurant overlooking the Tetons. 

 Another possible seating area at the restaurant was inside of this massive teepee. Looked like a good photo opp.!

Another possible seating area at the restaurant was inside of this massive teepee. Looked like a good photo opp.!

 This is the hole in the inner tube and break in the side wall of the tire. 

This is the hole in the inner tube and break in the side wall of the tire. 

As we were preparing to leave the restaurant where we ate breakfast, some folks struck up a conversation with us about our bikes, the trip, etc.  And all of a sudden, POP! A flat tire- as the bike was just sitting propped against the fence. It was almost comical that we would have a flat tire on our final day- only 12 miles from the end. But we were thankful it didn’t happen while we were pedaling, and it served as a good reminder that God has been caring for us in many ways- both seen and unseen- during our whole bike adventure!

 Jerry certainly has had some great practice on our journey changing flat tires (this was our 5th one). And he did this one fast!

Jerry certainly has had some great practice on our journey changing flat tires (this was our 5th one). And he did this one fast!

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And... we made it!! With my loving Mom welcoming us into Jackson, capturing it on video. We have had a mixture of emotion as we end our biking journey. On the one hand, we are looking forward to getting back, reconnecting with friends and family, and resuming some normalcy. But on the other hand, we will miss being on our bikes each day exploring the sights, smells, terrain, geography, history, and nature of our country. And we will miss the unique and formative experiences we have had meeting so many great people, setting and meeting goals as a family, doing hard, challenging, and meaningful things together, overcoming small adversities along the journey, and learning to trust God in new ways. 

 Whew! We did it!!

Whew! We did it!!

But only our biking journey ends in Jackson Hole. From here we will fly to Florida to spend a few days at the ECHO farm in Fort Myers to tour the farm, do a bit of volunteer work there (to “get our hands dirty”), and meet some the folks that work at ECHO who make their mission a reality. Then, it’s back to reality in Richmond on August 26. 

 Celebration dinner for finishing our journey. 

Celebration dinner for finishing our journey. 

 Here we are finally getting ready to eat 100 Grand candy bars in front of the  Grand  Tetons to celebrate our  100 th honk of the Honk-O-Meter. 

Here we are finally getting ready to eat 100 Grand candy bars in front of the Grand Tetons to celebrate our 100th honk of the Honk-O-Meter. 

 Mmm! 100 Grand candy bars!

Mmm! 100 Grand candy bars!

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We finally saw some wild bison today. And a few days ago on our way to the Grand Tetons, we also saw a mama bear and two cubs on the other side of a ravine. That was exciting, but we weren’t able to stop and take a picture... safety considerations (park rangers were making sure traffic- including us cyclists especially- was passing through quickly). Unfortunately, we have not seen any moose, which is disappointing. We learned today that moose can get as tall as 5-6 feet, not including antlers, and that they can swim quite well. In fact, they can dive down 20 feet and swim at 6 miles per hour for up to 2 hours. I had no idea that these huge, heavy animals could even swim!!

 And here are some of the bison up close. They are such massive animals!

And here are some of the bison up close. They are such massive animals!

 This is a real, stuffed moose that we passed tonight in downtown Jackson Hole. (Note: Avery is donning his new “moose” blanket that he got as a souvenir.) 

This is a real, stuffed moose that we passed tonight in downtown Jackson Hole. (Note: Avery is donning his new “moose” blanket that he got as a souvenir.) 

We anticipate sharing at least one more blog post during or after our visit to the ECHO farm. So, stay tuned!  Thank you all for your incredible support of our family along the way- to those of you who have prayed for us, shown kindness to us in many ways and been a part of our story! 

Wyoming and Reaching 100!

 Yippee!! We made it to Wyoming! See the vastness of the plains and the sagebrush in the background! Those are the most characteristic aspects of our Wyoming experience so far. The smell of sage filling our nostrils is so pleasant and I’m sure will be quite memorable.

Yippee!! We made it to Wyoming! See the vastness of the plains and the sagebrush in the background! Those are the most characteristic aspects of our Wyoming experience so far. The smell of sage filling our nostrils is so pleasant and I’m sure will be quite memorable.

Well, it’s time to update you all on the status of the Honk-O-Meter. In case you missed the previous blog post, the Honk-O-Meter is our count of the number of friendly car/truck/motorcycle honks people have given us on our adventure. Well, as we were approaching Rawlins, WY, a couple of days ago, we received our 100th honk! So, how will we celebrate? We’ve used much of the sentiment of your suggestions and have come up with two different things. First, we plan to donate $100 to ECHO. Each honk is an audible expression of kindness and support for our journey. Since we are partnering with ECHO on this journey, it seems fitting to channel that support to encourage their work to help stop worldwide hunger. (If you feel so inclined, please join us- and others who have already donated- to show your support, too.) The other thing that we plan to do is each eat a 100 Grand candy bar. (Someone had suggested eating 100 m&ms, but we already do that every day since they are such a great sweet treat that pack well in our things.)

 Here’s the campsite where we stayed in Kremmling, CO. There was smoke in the air from a relatively nearby forest fire. 

Here’s the campsite where we stayed in Kremmling, CO. There was smoke in the air from a relatively nearby forest fire. 

 Breakfast around the campfire on a frigid morning. 

Breakfast around the campfire on a frigid morning. 

 Here’s another campground- a beautiful, yet primitive one that’s part of the the National Park Service. Truly a wilderness experience at this one. 

Here’s another campground- a beautiful, yet primitive one that’s part of the the National Park Service. Truly a wilderness experience at this one. 

 This was a nice creek just behind our campsite (the one you see in the picture above). The water was very cold, but that didn’t stop the boys from playing/swimming in it!

This was a nice creek just behind our campsite (the one you see in the picture above). The water was very cold, but that didn’t stop the boys from playing/swimming in it!

 There’s nothing like warming yourself by the campfire after an early morning rain. Jerry and the boys were even able to get the wet wood lit!

There’s nothing like warming yourself by the campfire after an early morning rain. Jerry and the boys were even able to get the wet wood lit!

 Can anyone shed some light on this type of rock formation? It’s like a big, narrow, and long wall of rock that goes up the side of the mountain. Note several of us at the bottom for scale. 

Can anyone shed some light on this type of rock formation? It’s like a big, narrow, and long wall of rock that goes up the side of the mountain. Note several of us at the bottom for scale. 

 Yeehaw! What a climb up to this pass! This is another part of the Continental Divide that we passed through. How cool that a drop of rain makes its way to either the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean at points like this one!

Yeehaw! What a climb up to this pass! This is another part of the Continental Divide that we passed through. How cool that a drop of rain makes its way to either the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean at points like this one!

 Here’s what the 2-mile road looked like on our way into another National Park Service campground just inside of Wyoming border. If you’re able to zoom in and the resolution is high enough, you may be able to spot the antelope in the road.  

Here’s what the 2-mile road looked like on our way into another National Park Service campground just inside of Wyoming border. If you’re able to zoom in and the resolution is high enough, you may be able to spot the antelope in the road.  

 At the same campground (as above picture), we hiked down to the North Platte River, where the boys boldly played in and explored the freezing cold and refreshing water. Downriver there were multiple fly fishermen taking advantage of this beautiful resource (apparently quite the destination for anglers).

At the same campground (as above picture), we hiked down to the North Platte River, where the boys boldly played in and explored the freezing cold and refreshing water. Downriver there were multiple fly fishermen taking advantage of this beautiful resource (apparently quite the destination for anglers).

 Upon arriving in Saratoga, WY, we wasted no time in visiting the mineral hot springs we had heard about there. This pool was like a very warm bathtub, naturally fed by the hot springs and having a subtle smell of minerals.  What a neat experience!

Upon arriving in Saratoga, WY, we wasted no time in visiting the mineral hot springs we had heard about there. This pool was like a very warm bathtub, naturally fed by the hot springs and having a subtle smell of minerals.  What a neat experience!

In Saratoga we stayed in a house that belongs to the Episcopal church there. The only 11-member Church not only hosts through-cyclists (via WarmShowers), but also has a ministry that refurbishes old donated bikes and gives them to kids in need. They  also have a ministry that teaches kids how to cook and then the kids take their cooked meals home. 

We were so thankful to have gotten to the Episcopal host church when we did! Only a couple of minutes after getting ourselves and and our things settled inside, a hailstorm passed through, dropping marble-sized hailstones and raining hard. We were so glad to have more protection and shelter this time (compared to the last hailstorm we weathered with only the protection of our tarp)!

 This is the house (that belongs to the church) where we stayed in Saratoga. Again- it was nice to have beds and the use of a kitchen. 

This is the house (that belongs to the church) where we stayed in Saratoga. Again- it was nice to have beds and the use of a kitchen. 

 Here are the hailstones dropped by the storm! 

Here are the hailstones dropped by the storm! 

 This is what much of our ride has looked like while biking through Wyoming: vast, rolling hills, mostly brown with sagebrush everywhere. We’ve had the frequent sightings of antelope and prairie dogs, and we spotted one coyote. We even had to make a large radius around an actively rattling rattlesnake that was ready to strike at us had we gotten any closer. Yikes!

This is what much of our ride has looked like while biking through Wyoming: vast, rolling hills, mostly brown with sagebrush everywhere. We’ve had the frequent sightings of antelope and prairie dogs, and we spotted one coyote. We even had to make a large radius around an actively rattling rattlesnake that was ready to strike at us had we gotten any closer. Yikes!

 Just a cool perspective... 

Just a cool perspective... 

Upon reaching Rawlins, WY, we soon discovered that there was no hotel with vacancies in which to take a comfortable day off. So instead we stayed at a campground. 

 What fun! The boys were able to use these pedal-powered 4-wheelers around the campground.  

What fun! The boys were able to use these pedal-powered 4-wheelers around the campground.  

At this campground we met two separate guys who are biking the Great Divide Mountain Bike Trail. This trail runs from the Canadian to Mexican border. Boy, that’s an admirable undertaking!

 Jake, one of the Great Divide Mountain bikers we met.  Such an interesting guy who has so many interests and enjoys educating himself about everything, including philosophy, edible plants, etc. 

Jake, one of the Great Divide Mountain bikers we met.  Such an interesting guy who has so many interests and enjoys educating himself about everything, including philosophy, edible plants, etc. 

 Ed, another one of the Great Divide Mountain bikers, who is a retired college biology professor, originally from Virginia, but now a resident of New Mexico. We hope we are in this good shape in retirement!

Ed, another one of the Great Divide Mountain bikers, who is a retired college biology professor, originally from Virginia, but now a resident of New Mexico. We hope we are in this good shape in retirement!

 Getting in a little reading in on our day off- at the local library in Rawlins...

Getting in a little reading in on our day off- at the local library in Rawlins...

 When we arrived at our destination this day (Muddy Gap), a very kind family showed interest in our adventure and enthusiastically lavished us with bottled water and Gatorade, and invited us to join their picnic in the parking lot. Their family is on a trip tracing the steps of their pioneer ancestors in the area. How blessed we were to be brought into their family briefly, share a meal with them, and hear one of them (Ed) tell of some of the interesting history of the pioneers within a mile radius of where we were standing! (Pictured here are Sam, Ed, and Inga, only part of the family there.)

When we arrived at our destination this day (Muddy Gap), a very kind family showed interest in our adventure and enthusiastically lavished us with bottled water and Gatorade, and invited us to join their picnic in the parking lot. Their family is on a trip tracing the steps of their pioneer ancestors in the area. How blessed we were to be brought into their family briefly, share a meal with them, and hear one of them (Ed) tell of some of the interesting history of the pioneers within a mile radius of where we were standing! (Pictured here are Sam, Ed, and Inga, only part of the family there.)

 Check out the beautiful sunrise at our campsite in Muddy Gap. This is literally a field next to a convenience store where cyclists are allowed to camp.

Check out the beautiful sunrise at our campsite in Muddy Gap. This is literally a field next to a convenience store where cyclists are allowed to camp.

 Whew! That was quite a long, hot climb- on our way from Muddy Gap to Sweetwater Station!

Whew! That was quite a long, hot climb- on our way from Muddy Gap to Sweetwater Station!

In Sweetwater Station we camped at a Visitors Center run by the Mormon/LDS church. It was a beautiful property, with the Sweetwater River flowing through it. It was also very close to the Mormon Trail where Mormon pioneers traveled west using hand carts to transport their belongings. This Visitor Center was like a museum. A couple working there was gracious to give us a tour and explain some things to us. 

 This is the beautiful Sweetwater River flowing through the grounds of the Sweetwater Visitor Center  

This is the beautiful Sweetwater River flowing through the grounds of the Sweetwater Visitor Center  

 Sister and Elder Moses, the gracious couple who gave us a tour and helped us understand about the Handcart Company. 

Sister and Elder Moses, the gracious couple who gave us a tour and helped us understand about the Handcart Company. 

 The boys trying their hand at the hand carts.  

The boys trying their hand at the hand carts.  

 This is a schoolhouse replica at the Sweetwater Station Visitor Center.  

This is a schoolhouse replica at the Sweetwater Station Visitor Center.  

We arrived in Lander, WY, on Friday after a 93-degree day with steady climbs of rolling hills and no shade. But how happy we were to make it there because we knew we would be staying with my high school friend, Clair, who would take us on many fun outdoor adventures! 

 In Lander we enjoyed RiverFest happening at the city park, featuring local artisans who were also selling some of their work. There was also a tent where kids could do various art activities. This particular activity was one where kids could come and contribute to a large mural of the landscape. 

In Lander we enjoyed RiverFest happening at the city park, featuring local artisans who were also selling some of their work. There was also a tent where kids could do various art activities. This particular activity was one where kids could come and contribute to a large mural of the landscape. 

 Later, the boys came back and added some more to the mural that they and others had painted on. Here is the finished mural. 

Later, the boys came back and added some more to the mural that they and others had painted on. Here is the finished mural. 

 We enjoyed watching this guy, Abe (a college student), make a couple of beautiful creations out of clay on the potters wheel. 

We enjoyed watching this guy, Abe (a college student), make a couple of beautiful creations out of clay on the potters wheel. 

 Look! He made a hole in this vase. So neat to watch his method! 

Look! He made a hole in this vase. So neat to watch his method! 

My friend, Clair, who lives with her husband in Lander, loves the outdoors and even works for NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) directing special projects and leading week to month-long outdoor courses in the wilderness. She is an avid rock climber, mountaineer, mountain biker, and hiker. So how appropriate that she would offer to guide us on a hike up to a natural water slide and take us rock climbing! What amazing experiences! We so appreciate Clair’s generosity with her time and energy, as well as the patience and enthusiasm she has shown us while taking us on these fun adventures. 

 Hiking with Clair to the natural rock water slide...

Hiking with Clair to the natural rock water slide...

 One of the gorgeous views on the hike! 

One of the gorgeous views on the hike! 

 This rock water slide is no joke! And the water is freezing cold (snow melt from the mountain). There is Douglas at the top getting ready to go down it. Russell, Douglas, Jerry, and Clair all did it. Avery and I opted out. (We had fun in the water and climbing all over the rocks along the river.)

This rock water slide is no joke! And the water is freezing cold (snow melt from the mountain). There is Douglas at the top getting ready to go down it. Russell, Douglas, Jerry, and Clair all did it. Avery and I opted out. (We had fun in the water and climbing all over the rocks along the river.)

 Avery, Clair, and I (and Boots, her dog) are warming up on the warm rocks after playing in the cold water. 

Avery, Clair, and I (and Boots, her dog) are warming up on the warm rocks after playing in the cold water. 

 Posing for a family picture on our way back down from the falls and the water slide. 

Posing for a family picture on our way back down from the falls and the water slide. 

 Russell and Avery taking in the beautiful river and valley (on our hike back from the water slide).

Russell and Avery taking in the beautiful river and valley (on our hike back from the water slide).

 to the right...

to the right...

On our second day with our wonderful outdoor guide, Clair, she took us rock climbing. And her sweet friend, Margo, came along to be another belayer for us as we did the climbs.

 Clair teaching Russell how to tie a figure-8 knot to the climbing harness. 

Clair teaching Russell how to tie a figure-8 knot to the climbing harness. 

 Russell and Avery way up there!

Russell and Avery way up there!

 Douglas working hard at the beginning of a climb. 

Douglas working hard at the beginning of a climb. 

  “That was so fun!!”

 “That was so fun!!”

 Avery and the sweet smile of satisfaction and accomplishment after completing a climb. 

Avery and the sweet smile of satisfaction and accomplishment after completing a climb. 

  “That was hard, but so fun! I want to do another climb!”

 “That was hard, but so fun! I want to do another climb!”

Clair and Margo took the boys through 4 climbs each. The first was an “easier” one, and the others were a bit more challenging. We were so proud of the hard work and courage that the boys mustered to do these climbs!

Jerry and I did the “easier” one and through it gained greater respect for what the boys were doing. Hard, but lots of fun!

Clair and Margo both gave so much of their time, energy, encouragement, and expertise. We are so thankful for such a memorable, fun, and unique experience!

 There’s Jerry on the left and Avery to his right. 

There’s Jerry on the left and Avery to his right. 

 And there I am trying to stay focused and trying NOT to look down. 

And there I am trying to stay focused and trying NOT to look down. 

 Here are the boys with Margo and Clair, our sweet climbing instructors/belayers. 

Here are the boys with Margo and Clair, our sweet climbing instructors/belayers. 

 Hiking to and from the rock where we climbed, we went over this cool bridge spanning the Popo Agie River.

Hiking to and from the rock where we climbed, we went over this cool bridge spanning the Popo Agie River.

Interested in how we plan to wrap up our trip? We have decided that our journey’s final destination will be in Jackson Hole, WY, among the Grand Tetons. That is where our biking will end, but our adventure will continue as we make a detour home (via plane) by stopping by the ECHO farm in Fort Myers, FL. We are looking forward to having a tour of the farm and becoming acquainted with some of the folks who make ECHO a reality! Then, we arrive back in Richmond on Aug. 26. 

The Honk-O-Meter and Conquering the White Monster!

Introducing: The Honk-O-Meter! At the beginning of our journey, Douglas began counting the number of cars that honk at us. We have recently decided to name this the Honk-O-Meter. And currently we are up to 79 honks. We would love to hear from you about ideas for how to celebrate if/when we reach the 100 mark. Feel free to share your ideas in the comments section. 

 You’ve heard about several of the storms we have weathered. Here we are under a bridge avoiding another storm that passed after about 30-45 minutes. It was actually a very comfortable place to take shelter. There was even a creek that the boys could play in to let out some creative energy. (See next picture.) 

You’ve heard about several of the storms we have weathered. Here we are under a bridge avoiding another storm that passed after about 30-45 minutes. It was actually a very comfortable place to take shelter. There was even a creek that the boys could play in to let out some creative energy. (See next picture.) 

 As we waited out the storm, the boys made a rock dam and played in the water. 

As we waited out the storm, the boys made a rock dam and played in the water. 

One of the places where we stopped a few days ago was the town of a Guffy, CO. This is an interesting and slightly quirky town. In order to reach the town, we had to go UP 1 mile off route, which may not seem like a big deal, but after a tiring day of biking, a one-mile incline is a bit of a physical and mental challenge for this group of 5! But it was well worth it! What an interesting experience to stay in the town of Guffy! 

 Bill gave us warm welcome to Guffy, CO, offering us water as we pedaled up to his place, the “Guffy Garage.” He had heard about our family from some other TransAm cyclists who had previously come through. He has been hosting cyclists for about 40 years at his hostel, which consists of a series of historic cabins that used to be active in the mining days. 

Bill gave us warm welcome to Guffy, CO, offering us water as we pedaled up to his place, the “Guffy Garage.” He had heard about our family from some other TransAm cyclists who had previously come through. He has been hosting cyclists for about 40 years at his hostel, which consists of a series of historic cabins that used to be active in the mining days. 

 Here is another view of the “Guffy Garage,” headquarters for the cyclist hostel and for Bill’s collection of unique antiques. Throughout the town there were countless antique cars, buildings from the mining days (some of which have been repurposed), collections of antique bathtubs, horse-drawn wagons, and skeletons of different animals on display. 

Here is another view of the “Guffy Garage,” headquarters for the cyclist hostel and for Bill’s collection of unique antiques. Throughout the town there were countless antique cars, buildings from the mining days (some of which have been repurposed), collections of antique bathtubs, horse-drawn wagons, and skeletons of different animals on display. 

 Here is a taste of one of the sights in Guffy.  

Here is a taste of one of the sights in Guffy.  

 This is cabin where we stayed in Guffy. It used to be where they would assay gold during mining times.  

This is cabin where we stayed in Guffy. It used to be where they would assay gold during mining times.  

 Ha! We thought this was funny! We parked our DOUBLE (tandem) and triple here in Hartsel, CO, then we saw this sign. Behind this café and saloon is where we camped for the night (open to through cyclists) . Also camping there was a young man mountain biking the Continental Divide Trail. 

Ha! We thought this was funny! We parked our DOUBLE (tandem) and triple here in Hartsel, CO, then we saw this sign. Behind this café and saloon is where we camped for the night (open to through cyclists) . Also camping there was a young man mountain biking the Continental Divide Trail. 

From Hartsel, we pedaled a very difficult 18 miles through a strong headwind and heavy traffic. We were so glad to make it to Fairplay, where we stayed in an historic inn, and where we would wake the next morning (around 4 AM) to begin our ascent to Hoosier Pass. 

 So that’s where it got it’s name! It’s neat to us, too, that the pioneer Kit Carson is mentioned on this plaque. Back in Rocheport, KS, we had stayed with a couple, the husband of whom was a relative of Kit Carson. 

So that’s where it got it’s name! It’s neat to us, too, that the pioneer Kit Carson is mentioned on this plaque. Back in Rocheport, KS, we had stayed with a couple, the husband of whom was a relative of Kit Carson. 

 Check out this view of the sunset from a spot in Fairplay! Wow! 

Check out this view of the sunset from a spot in Fairplay! Wow! 

 And on our way to Hoosier Pass, we pedaled through the town of Alma (highest incorporated town in North America-see sign), where we also picked up some instant hand warmers for the boys. 

And on our way to Hoosier Pass, we pedaled through the town of Alma (highest incorporated town in North America-see sign), where we also picked up some instant hand warmers for the boys. 

 Whew! No wonder it’s so hard to find oxygen to breathe!! Look at that elevation!

Whew! No wonder it’s so hard to find oxygen to breathe!! Look at that elevation!

 See that peak?  That’s Hoosier Pass Summit, a.k.a., “the White Monster.”

See that peak?  That’s Hoosier Pass Summit, a.k.a., “the White Monster.”

 “Ok, guys! Here we go! We can do it!!” 

“Ok, guys! Here we go! We can do it!!” 

Early in our journey- back in Virginia- we were so thrilled when we were able to report our conquering of what we called “the Green Monster,” which was the series of climbs in the Blue Ridge Mountains. On our elevation map they looked like a giant green mountain- thus the name. Here in Colorado there is a similar challenge: reaching the highest point of the TransAmerica Trail, Hoosier Pass, at an elevation of 11,539 feet. The climb to this point could be seen as beginning in Kansas as a slight constant incline. But the most challenging part of this would be the final 4 miles of a consistently steep grade to the Hoosier Pass Summit. These 4 miles are literally a constant uphill (absolutely no downhill breaks). We figured we would have to walk our bikes up most of this section. But we are so happy to report that we made it up  to Hoosier Pass Summit without walking any of it!! The sight of the parking area and official sign at the summit was almost more than we could bear! How gratifying it was for our family to conquer the “White Monster” together! We were also thankful that we made it up and then down the other side safely, as we had heard about the potentially busy traffic, treacherous switchbacks going down, and very little shoulder to ride on. 

 Up the 4-mile climb, we took a break to catch our breath and this was our view as we looked behind us. Both the view and the altitude were breathtaking! 

Up the 4-mile climb, we took a break to catch our breath and this was our view as we looked behind us. Both the view and the altitude were breathtaking! 

 Here is our victory picture after making it up to Hoosier Pass Summit. Notice the socks on the boys’ hands and leggings on their legs. It was quite cold and windy!

Here is our victory picture after making it up to Hoosier Pass Summit. Notice the socks on the boys’ hands and leggings on their legs. It was quite cold and windy!

 Standing at the Hoosier Pass Summit sign, looking down the way we would descend the other side, here is our initial view. Can you believe that view!!

Standing at the Hoosier Pass Summit sign, looking down the way we would descend the other side, here is our initial view. Can you believe that view!!

After descending Hoosier Pass, we made our way through Breckinridge, Frisco, and finally Dillon, where we have been able to stay and have a day off. We are incredibly thankful for the generous hospitality of the parents of our friend Craig (Jerry’s long-time friend from VT who lives in Boulder). They have opened up their condo in Dillon to us, and we have fully enjoyed the comforts of it!  Craig worked out his work schedule to come up from Boulder to spend some additional time with us in Dillon. A great way to continue to strengthen a cherished friendship separated by many miles. 

 After a trip to the grocery store, we enjoyed making a delicious dinner and eating it on the balcony/porch of the condo. We grilled steak and salmon, accompanied by baked potatoes, broccoli with cheese sauce, corn on the cob, and brownies. A fitting celebratory dinner for having conquered the “White Monster!”

After a trip to the grocery store, we enjoyed making a delicious dinner and eating it on the balcony/porch of the condo. We grilled steak and salmon, accompanied by baked potatoes, broccoli with cheese sauce, corn on the cob, and brownies. A fitting celebratory dinner for having conquered the “White Monster!”

 What a great view off of the balcony of the condo: Lake Dillon with the Rockies in the background!

What a great view off of the balcony of the condo: Lake Dillon with the Rockies in the background!

 Enjoying a relaxed breakfast with Craig after sleeping late on our day off. 

Enjoying a relaxed breakfast with Craig after sleeping late on our day off. 

Tomorrow we plan to get an early start as we continue to head north through more of beautiful Colorado. We will be approaching Wyoming sometime at the end of the week.

*Don’t forget to comment on the Honk-O-Meter if you have suggestions for a celebration upon reaching 100 honks.  

Rest and Altitude

 On our way to Boulder (i.e., driving the rental vehicle), we stopped for a couple of hours at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. In this picture we are on the roof top being guided to look at the sun through some special telescopes.

On our way to Boulder (i.e., driving the rental vehicle), we stopped for a couple of hours at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. In this picture we are on the roof top being guided to look at the sun through some special telescopes.

Entering Pueblo, CO, on our bikes certainly felt great from an accomplishment perspective, but also because we knew it meant that we would have a good week of rest, relaxation, and quality time visiting with family and friends in Boulder, CO- just a couple-hour ride in a rental truck. And we were not disappointed!! My cousin Steve and his wife Cindy graciously hosted us at their comfortable and spacious home. They also fed us so well- Cindy is a very knowledgeable and gourmet cook. While we were able to be the unworthy recipients of such incredible cooking, she and Russell connected as Russell became her apprentice in the kitchen every now and then. We were also schooled by Steve on the intricacies of the Tour de France, which was happening while we were there. Steve is both a huge fan of bike racing and quite an avid bicyclist himself. 

 Here we are with my cousin Steve and his wife Cindy and their sweet old dog, Raven. 

Here we are with my cousin Steve and his wife Cindy and their sweet old dog, Raven. 

  Steve went with us on a tour of Celestial Seasonings in Boulder (not the first time for most of us, but fun nonetheless).

 Steve went with us on a tour of Celestial Seasonings in Boulder (not the first time for most of us, but fun nonetheless).

 Aren’t we a sight in our hairnets! ...about to tour the Celestial Seasonings factory, complete with stepping into the mint room (a highlight of the tour with its aromatherapy effects). 

Aren’t we a sight in our hairnets! ...about to tour the Celestial Seasonings factory, complete with stepping into the mint room (a highlight of the tour with its aromatherapy effects). 

 Like our new tee shirts? Back in Missouri, while riding on the Katy Trail (you may remember from a few blog posts back), we encountered a group of cyclists who are on the board of directors for the Rails to Trails Conservancy. We visited with them during a mutual snack break and talked with a few of them about our family bike trip. After taking an interest in our adventure, we exchanged contact info., and they sent all of us Rails to Trails tee shirts to my brother’s house in Colorado. 

Like our new tee shirts? Back in Missouri, while riding on the Katy Trail (you may remember from a few blog posts back), we encountered a group of cyclists who are on the board of directors for the Rails to Trails Conservancy. We visited with them during a mutual snack break and talked with a few of them about our family bike trip. After taking an interest in our adventure, we exchanged contact info., and they sent all of us Rails to Trails tee shirts to my brother’s house in Colorado. 

It was a treat to be able to spend some time with my brother Rick and his wife Sarah. We enjoyed an outdoor concert (Rock and Rails) in their town of Niwot, which is just outside of Boulder. And we enjoyed some great meals together (much of it cooked by Cindy), a trail run with Rick, some yummy local pizza, bowling, and a fun game of wiffle ball where I managed to hit Rick, the pitcher, straight in the face with the ball (Oops! -see an earlier Instagram and Facebook post for the video). 

 Cindy, Steve, Sarah (Rick’s wife), and Rick at Rock and Rails. 

Cindy, Steve, Sarah (Rick’s wife), and Rick at Rock and Rails. 

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I was so grateful to have the opportunity to reconnect with a friend from Richmond- Caty Winyard (who moved just outside of Boulder about 2 years ago). She and her family used to attend our church and we used to be in a women’s Bible study together. 

 Caty and her 3 kiddos met us at a park/pool in Boulder where we spent the afternoon. 

Caty and her 3 kiddos met us at a park/pool in Boulder where we spent the afternoon. 

 Have you ever seen a climbing wall towering over the deep end of a pool? We hadn’t, but boy, was that fun!!

Have you ever seen a climbing wall towering over the deep end of a pool? We hadn’t, but boy, was that fun!!

 Molly and I on our hike. 

Molly and I on our hike. 

Another friend we were able to spend some time with was Molly Gibney and her daughter, Ella. (Molly’s husband, Tom, was on a business trip, so we didn’t get to see him, unfortunately). We hiked, picnicked, climbed on boulders and through rocky tunnels, ate Glacier ice cream (local to Boulder), and on another day enjoyed Water World together. 

 Hiking and feeling the full effects of the higher elevation. 

Hiking and feeling the full effects of the higher elevation. 

 Ella and Russell exploring a rocky passageway. 

Ella and Russell exploring a rocky passageway. 

 We had a very fun day at Water World with Molly and her daughter Ella.

We had a very fun day at Water World with Molly and her daughter Ella.

 Susan, Craig, and Nathan

Susan, Craig, and Nathan

We were also thankful that we were able to work it out to see Craig Peterson, his wife Susan, and one of their sons- Nathan- while in Boulder. Jerry and Craig go way back to their days at VA Tech and in the Navigators Ministry. 

 What a pleasant evening eating dinner together on Craig and Susan’s front porch! We were excited that Craig had made his family’s recipe of pesto, which we’ve been using for years at home and that we had been craving on the bike trip. 

What a pleasant evening eating dinner together on Craig and Susan’s front porch! We were excited that Craig had made his family’s recipe of pesto, which we’ve been using for years at home and that we had been craving on the bike trip. 

 It may be difficult to tell, but this is a pile of the hail that pelted us. It had about 10 minutes to start melting before this picture was taken. 

It may be difficult to tell, but this is a pile of the hail that pelted us. It had about 10 minutes to start melting before this picture was taken. 

As we resumed our biking in Pueblo, CO, after a wonderful week of rest, we headed northwest, attempting to reach the town of Florence 40 miles away. We were soon reminded that we are not in control. Not only was our first day back to biking a physically challenging one (mild climbing and the effects of the altitude), but it also proved to be difficult in other ways, as well. Just a few miles before a town where we planned to refill our water bottles, a storm quickly blew in. We found ourselves pulling off the road to a hillside (think: desert, dirt everywhere with a few scrubby bushes and tufts of grass, dark clouds letting out their water with a fury, winds blowing so hard that the rain starts to hurt, thunder booming). After we lowered the bikes to the dirt- soon to become mud, we all huddled under our tarp to gain protection from the wind and rain. After a minute or so, hail began to pelt us, with only the tarp as our protection. The size of the hail was somewhere between a pea and a marble, and it hurt! Thankfully, our helmets came in handy for this, and we were able to position the boys so that they were not in contact with the tarp. Whew! Were we glad when the hail stopped, the rain subsided, and sun peaked out. We were a cold, muddy mess, as were our bikes. But we came out of it and now have a crazy memory and story to tell. Lesson learned: we need to start biking earlier in order to reach our destination and beat these afternoon thunderstorms that have become quite a phenomenon in the Rocky’s this summer. 

 Here are our bikes and tarp in a sloppy, muddy mess after the storm had passed. The bikes were caked in mud even more after we rolled them out of this area back onto the road. 

Here are our bikes and tarp in a sloppy, muddy mess after the storm had passed. The bikes were caked in mud even more after we rolled them out of this area back onto the road. 

 At least we got to enjoy this pretty rainbow after the storm!

At least we got to enjoy this pretty rainbow after the storm!

 The next day we pulled into a self-service car wash (Jerry’s brilliant idea!) and power-washed all the mud from the bikes. Thank goodness for our waterproof panniers and dry bag on the trailer!

The next day we pulled into a self-service car wash (Jerry’s brilliant idea!) and power-washed all the mud from the bikes. Thank goodness for our waterproof panniers and dry bag on the trailer!

After the hailstorm, we made it to the town of Wetmore. There was no obvious place where we could refill our water. But as we were stopped and pondering whether we should continue to Florence (only 10 miles further and mostly downhill) in light of another possible looming storm system, a local man pointed us to the library/community building where we could get water and use a bathroom. We arrived just in time as one of the librarians was closing the library. To make a long story short, while two of us were inside, Jerry and the other two boys prayed that God would guide us as to what we should do. About 2 minutes later, two folks came into the building (just to water some plants), and one of them, Nan- the library/building director- began chatting with us about our trip. Without any prompting, she invited us to stay in the community building, and she even reopened the library and kitchen for us to use. Well, I guess that was the direction that we needed. 

 Nan, the library director, who invited us to stay the night inside the community building. 

Nan, the library director, who invited us to stay the night inside the community building. 

 Thus is the Wetmore community building, which houses the library as well. It used to be an old schoolhouse, built in the 1920’s. It has undergone an addition to the front since then and some other minor renovations. 

Thus is the Wetmore community building, which houses the library as well. It used to be an old schoolhouse, built in the 1920’s. It has undergone an addition to the front since then and some other minor renovations. 

On Thursday we pedaled through Florence, then stopped in Cañon City for lunch. We had just gotten food at the grocery store for lunch, dinner, and breakfast the next morning. Then we realized another storm was heading our way. While at the grocery store, we got into a conversation with a woman who works as a cake decorator in store’s bakery (she was on a short break). The next thing we know... she has invited us to stay at her house. Our alternative was camping at a nearby campground. We accepted Kim’s kind invitation and she and her husband welcomed us into their house, giving us beds to sleep on, dinner to eat, showers to take, and laundry to do. Wow! Such generous hospitality! We were particularly appreciative when we looked out of their window at the gushing rain we would have had to camp in. So thankful for the blessings of people who care and who freely show kindness!

 Our gracious host, Kim, cooking us an amazing breakfast: sourdough, chia, hemp pancakes and eggs. 

Our gracious host, Kim, cooking us an amazing breakfast: sourdough, chia, hemp pancakes and eggs. 

We’ve Reached Colorado!

Whew! Kansas sure is a long and flat state!  Although the trek going west is a constant uphill grade-usually subtle, we found it challenging in its own way. By the time we had gotten to Colorado, we had gained a good 4000+ feet of elevation. Our days were usually in the 40-50 mile range, with a 70-mile and a couple of 60-mile ones in there too. We felt a great sense of accomplishment once we reached the Colorado border! 

 Here we are at the Colorado border. So happy to have reached this point!!

Here we are at the Colorado border. So happy to have reached this point!!

 Here is one of the views we enjoyed while still in Kansas- lots of wind mills. So glad they can put that crazy wind to use!

Here is one of the views we enjoyed while still in Kansas- lots of wind mills. So glad they can put that crazy wind to use!

 Here is Ana, a godsend when we were sweaty and tired. In the course of her delivery job she passed us in her delivery truck. On her return trip she picked up some ice cold water and then flagged us down and rushed over to hand them to us. It was the highlight of our bike riding day!!

Here is Ana, a godsend when we were sweaty and tired. In the course of her delivery job she passed us in her delivery truck. On her return trip she picked up some ice cold water and then flagged us down and rushed over to hand them to us. It was the highlight of our bike riding day!!

 We had the pleasure of camping two different nights with this lovely couple from the Netherlands, Mike and Ineke. They, too, are going west across the TransAmerica Trail. 

We had the pleasure of camping two different nights with this lovely couple from the Netherlands, Mike and Ineke. They, too, are going west across the TransAmerica Trail. 

 After our toughest windy day, we decided we needed to stop short of that day’s goal and stay in Dighton, KS (rather than continuing that day to Scott City). As we were surveying the city park and where we would set up our tents, this sweet woman, Destinee, and her 3 boys, drove up to us (after having seen us riding through town) and invited us to stay at their house. They just recently became WarmShowers hosts. We really enjoyed getting to know them (Mike, Destinee, Tatum, Brayden, and Camden), enjoyed the great food they so generously cooked for us, our boys playing with their boys, and the wonderful showers and beds.

After our toughest windy day, we decided we needed to stop short of that day’s goal and stay in Dighton, KS (rather than continuing that day to Scott City). As we were surveying the city park and where we would set up our tents, this sweet woman, Destinee, and her 3 boys, drove up to us (after having seen us riding through town) and invited us to stay at their house. They just recently became WarmShowers hosts. We really enjoyed getting to know them (Mike, Destinee, Tatum, Brayden, and Camden), enjoyed the great food they so generously cooked for us, our boys playing with their boys, and the wonderful showers and beds.

 The boys really enjoyed playing with Tatem and Brayden in their pool!

The boys really enjoyed playing with Tatem and Brayden in their pool!

 Imagine the joy we experienced when this mill and bakery showed up on our route in the middle of the corn and grain fields in Kansas! 

Imagine the joy we experienced when this mill and bakery showed up on our route in the middle of the corn and grain fields in Kansas! 

 And here we are inside the bakery enjoying some fresh-out-of-the-oven doughnuts. Great pedal power food and a very fun and unexpected treat!

And here we are inside the bakery enjoying some fresh-out-of-the-oven doughnuts. Great pedal power food and a very fun and unexpected treat!

 We met Mike and his kids, Madeline and Quentin, at the bakery just outside of Leoti, KS, where we had stopped to enjoy those scrumptious doughnuts. Mike was there to offer his wheat to the mill as a possible grain they might use in the future. After talking with us for a bit, he invited us to the cookout and pool party (that the hospital employees were having) at the city park where we had already planned to camp that night. We accepted the invitation and later he and his wife invited us to stay at their house instead. We wish we had been able to have more time getting to know this delightful family, but we needed to get an early start the following morning. 

We met Mike and his kids, Madeline and Quentin, at the bakery just outside of Leoti, KS, where we had stopped to enjoy those scrumptious doughnuts. Mike was there to offer his wheat to the mill as a possible grain they might use in the future. After talking with us for a bit, he invited us to the cookout and pool party (that the hospital employees were having) at the city park where we had already planned to camp that night. We accepted the invitation and later he and his wife invited us to stay at their house instead. We wish we had been able to have more time getting to know this delightful family, but we needed to get an early start the following morning. 

 Mike and Julia, who generously (and spontaneously) hosted us in Leoti, KS- even while Julia had to be the on-call ER physician at the local hospital that weekend!

Mike and Julia, who generously (and spontaneously) hosted us in Leoti, KS- even while Julia had to be the on-call ER physician at the local hospital that weekend!

 This is where we crossed from the central time zone into the mountain time zone in western Kansas (almost in Colorado, but not quite). We’re lined up standing in both time zones. Hmm... what time is it then??

This is where we crossed from the central time zone into the mountain time zone in western Kansas (almost in Colorado, but not quite). We’re lined up standing in both time zones. Hmm... what time is it then??

 Here is the church where we stayed in Sheridan Lake (Sheridan Lake Bible Church). We thoroughly enjoyed the people we met there, in addition to the air conditioning and use of the kitchen! Since it was a Saturday night, we were able to go to their church service the next morning. See below for more coolness at this church...

Here is the church where we stayed in Sheridan Lake (Sheridan Lake Bible Church). We thoroughly enjoyed the people we met there, in addition to the air conditioning and use of the kitchen! Since it was a Saturday night, we were able to go to their church service the next morning. See below for more coolness at this church...

 The boys got into a rubber band war in the church’s common space (using a rubber band gun Russell had recently bought). 

The boys got into a rubber band war in the church’s common space (using a rubber band gun Russell had recently bought). 

 These missionaries, Larry and Di (working in Indonesia, but currently just beginning furlough), were visiting the church and shared some amazing testimony. One super cool connection is that they have used ECHO for agricultural support as they farm (and teach locals some best practices in farming) where they live in Papua. In addition, they work with Wycliffe in Bible translation. Larry uses his skills in media to teach people about Jesus, and Di works as a physician giving medical attention to families, treating folks with HIV, and much more, in addition to nutrition education. It was a real encouragement to talk with them and hear what they are doing!

These missionaries, Larry and Di (working in Indonesia, but currently just beginning furlough), were visiting the church and shared some amazing testimony. One super cool connection is that they have used ECHO for agricultural support as they farm (and teach locals some best practices in farming) where they live in Papua. In addition, they work with Wycliffe in Bible translation. Larry uses his skills in media to teach people about Jesus, and Di works as a physician giving medical attention to families, treating folks with HIV, and much more, in addition to nutrition education. It was a real encouragement to talk with them and hear what they are doing!

 After the church service, we were invited to a potluck lunch. What a blessing to get to know these dear people and fill our bellies before our afternoon ride. (We even had some food to contribute to the potluck!) 😊

After the church service, we were invited to a potluck lunch. What a blessing to get to know these dear people and fill our bellies before our afternoon ride. (We even had some food to contribute to the potluck!) 😊

   When we arrived in Eads, CO, we camped in a small city park. Upon arriving, we noticed a sign alerting us to the automatic sprinkler system that turns on at 7:30 AM. This gave us the motivation to get our camping gear packed up by then. (We’ve been trying to get an earlier start each morning, and this served as a great way to hone those packing skills!)

  When we arrived in Eads, CO, we camped in a small city park. Upon arriving, we noticed a sign alerting us to the automatic sprinkler system that turns on at 7:30 AM. This gave us the motivation to get our camping gear packed up by then. (We’ve been trying to get an earlier start each morning, and this served as a great way to hone those packing skills!)

 in Eads, CO, we realized that we were at the half-way point on the TransAmerica Trail!

in Eads, CO, we realized that we were at the half-way point on the TransAmerica Trail!

 We had been warned not to drink the water in certain places in CO. So we spotted this purified water dispenser in Eads, and thought it would be a great place to fill our water bottles. This man, Larry, was filling his jugs there and graciously let us fill our water bottles from his jugs (no charge!). In addition, he prayed with our family for our trip! So, I suppose he helped give us both physical and “living” water!

We had been warned not to drink the water in certain places in CO. So we spotted this purified water dispenser in Eads, and thought it would be a great place to fill our water bottles. This man, Larry, was filling his jugs there and graciously let us fill our water bottles from his jugs (no charge!). In addition, he prayed with our family for our trip! So, I suppose he helped give us both physical and “living” water!

 Saw this sign and had to take a picture of it. “Hanger” is something we battle on the road. We try to stop often for snack/water breaks, but sometimes, hanger gets the best of us and it isn’t pretty!

Saw this sign and had to take a picture of it. “Hanger” is something we battle on the road. We try to stop often for snack/water breaks, but sometimes, hanger gets the best of us and it isn’t pretty!

 Not only was entering Colorado a big milestone for us, but so was reaching Pueblo, CO. Perhaps this was because Pueblo is the place where we would take off about a week to visit with family and friends in Boulder, CO. Check out the elevation! Woohoo! 

Not only was entering Colorado a big milestone for us, but so was reaching Pueblo, CO. Perhaps this was because Pueblo is the place where we would take off about a week to visit with family and friends in Boulder, CO. Check out the elevation! Woohoo! 

 Our Pueblo celebration dinner at a terrific sushi restaurant. 

Our Pueblo celebration dinner at a terrific sushi restaurant. 

Record Mileage in Flat Kansas, But Not Easy

You may remember from a previous blog post that at a Mexican restaurant in Clinton, MO, we had come across two brothers who had also been cycling on the Katy Trail. We exchanged numbers and a week or so later, one of them, Bill- along with his wife- invited us stay in their home if we happen through the Wichita area. So we accepted their invitation and really enjoyed getting to know them a bit and soaking in the kind hospitality. 

 Here is Bill and his dog, Fergus. The boys had lots of fun playing with this little ball of fur. (Bill’s wife wasn’t available for a picture when we thought to take one.)

Here is Bill and his dog, Fergus. The boys had lots of fun playing with this little ball of fur. (Bill’s wife wasn’t available for a picture when we thought to take one.)

 Bill helping Jerry to clean the grime and debris from our bikes after the miles on trails and roads. 

Bill helping Jerry to clean the grime and debris from our bikes after the miles on trails and roads. 

 Our record day of 70+ miles from Bel-Aire (Wichita area) to Hutchinson, KS. 

Our record day of 70+ miles from Bel-Aire (Wichita area) to Hutchinson, KS. 

 Zion Lutheran Church in Hutchinson that hosts through-cyclists (hostel-like). We were thankful for the shower, beds, and AC here after our record-breaking 70-mile day!

Zion Lutheran Church in Hutchinson that hosts through-cyclists (hostel-like). We were thankful for the shower, beds, and AC here after our record-breaking 70-mile day!

 As we were passing through the town of Nickerson, KS, we stopped for a snack break under the shade of a tree. A sweet woman quickly approached us to welcome us to the town and let us know of all the town has to offer.  As we were about to finish up, she returned with ice water for each of us.  What kindness!

As we were passing through the town of Nickerson, KS, we stopped for a snack break under the shade of a tree. A sweet woman quickly approached us to welcome us to the town and let us know of all the town has to offer.  As we were about to finish up, she returned with ice water for each of us.  What kindness!

 A few days ago we arrived at the city park in Sterling, KS, where we would swim (for $1 per person!!) and camp for the night.  After Jerry had talked a bit with Jonathan (the father of this family) at the pool which was closing soon (@ 6:00), Jonathan invited us to join their family for dinner. What a pleasure to get to know them a bit and be shown such kindness! One (or both) of the daughters is raising a lamb for 4-H (see in background on the far left).

A few days ago we arrived at the city park in Sterling, KS, where we would swim (for $1 per person!!) and camp for the night.  After Jerry had talked a bit with Jonathan (the father of this family) at the pool which was closing soon (@ 6:00), Jonathan invited us to join their family for dinner. What a pleasure to get to know them a bit and be shown such kindness! One (or both) of the daughters is raising a lamb for 4-H (see in background on the far left).

 We have a unique way of finding biscuits-and-gravy fundraisers in small towns. This one was at The American Legion in Sterling, KS. The lady in the salmon colored top was the chef. This breakfast ended up fueling our hard day that involved a tire blow-out. 

We have a unique way of finding biscuits-and-gravy fundraisers in small towns. This one was at The American Legion in Sterling, KS. The lady in the salmon colored top was the chef. This breakfast ended up fueling our hard day that involved a tire blow-out. 

 Whew! This came at a good time! This person has a hose stretched out to the road for cyclists (between a long stretch without any water sources- no nearby stores nor towns). Thankful for this opportunity to refill our water bottles on a hot and long day!

Whew! This came at a good time! This person has a hose stretched out to the road for cyclists (between a long stretch without any water sources- no nearby stores nor towns). Thankful for this opportunity to refill our water bottles on a hot and long day!

 We were in the middle-of-nowhere, KS- miles from even the smallest town, and the front tire of the triple blew out. This time I was the one at the helm and the explosive sound scared me out of my skin! We had a spare tube but didn’t have a spare tire for the unexpected side wall breakage. So it was time for resourcefulness! Jerry semi-sealed the inside wall with a special tape we had on hand. Then, we prayed the 20 miles to Larned. We made it with this bulging tire!!

We were in the middle-of-nowhere, KS- miles from even the smallest town, and the front tire of the triple blew out. This time I was the one at the helm and the explosive sound scared me out of my skin! We had a spare tube but didn’t have a spare tire for the unexpected side wall breakage. So it was time for resourcefulness! Jerry semi-sealed the inside wall with a special tape we had on hand. Then, we prayed the 20 miles to Larned. We made it with this bulging tire!!

 As we were riding the 20 miles to Larned, KS, on our sad blown-out tire, we were praying that we would first of all- make it there (!), then second- that there would be someone who could help us get to a bike shop 23 miles from Larned. Well, here he was waiting for us (almost literally). Dennis is his name, and his mission is to come check on the cyclists and help however he can. He drove Jerry to the bike shop for the new tire. We enjoyed talking with him, listening to his stories about being in the navy, about life, etc. So thankful for kind people and God’s grace!

As we were riding the 20 miles to Larned, KS, on our sad blown-out tire, we were praying that we would first of all- make it there (!), then second- that there would be someone who could help us get to a bike shop 23 miles from Larned. Well, here he was waiting for us (almost literally). Dennis is his name, and his mission is to come check on the cyclists and help however he can. He drove Jerry to the bike shop for the new tire. We enjoyed talking with him, listening to his stories about being in the navy, about life, etc. So thankful for kind people and God’s grace!

 These two recent college graduates, Nick and Mitchell, are traveling the TransAmerica Trail, too, going west just as we are. It was a pleasure making their acquaintance and camping with them in Larned, KS!

These two recent college graduates, Nick and Mitchell, are traveling the TransAmerica Trail, too, going west just as we are. It was a pleasure making their acquaintance and camping with them in Larned, KS!

I hope that all of you who have told me that you are praying for our safety, protection, and provision- that you would be encouraged by the many ways God has responded to those prayers!

Fun and Free Food on the Fourth!

Blessings awaited us as we approached the town of Yates Center Tuesday (July 3). Our first stop was a grocery store to gather what we needed to cook our dinner.  As we were leaving the store, a man across the street started asking us about our biking adventure. (Our unusual bikes with kids definitely attract attention that just Jerry and I alone would certainly not get!) So, after talking with him for a little while, we carried on to the city park where we cooked our dinner, planning to ride a mile or so to a campground (which had no showers) after eating our dinner. Well, the next thing we know that same man  showed up and invited us to not only camp in his yard, but also to use his shower! Yippee! 

 Denny, our gracious host who let us strangers camp in his yard and use his bathroom/shower. 

Denny, our gracious host who let us strangers camp in his yard and use his bathroom/shower. 

While at the grocery store, Douglas had spotted a flier inviting folks to a 4th of July breakfast (biscuits and gravy) and cornhole tournament to help raise money for a local church youth group. There was no question about where we would have breakfast the next morning!! While at the breakfast, we thoroughly enjoyed talking with many of the people there. We even found out that the family of the event’s organizer does the same homeschool curriculum/method/model that we participate in (Classical Conversations). It’s fun to connect with folks in this way- so organically!

 Mark (the organizer) serving those delicious biscuits and gravy. 

Mark (the organizer) serving those delicious biscuits and gravy. 

 Mmm! Biscuits & gravy at the city park. 

Mmm! Biscuits & gravy at the city park. 

 A sweet new friend, Sharen, whom I enjoyed talking with at the biscuit/gravy breakfast.  

A sweet new friend, Sharen, whom I enjoyed talking with at the biscuit/gravy breakfast.  

 The cornhole tournament after the biscuits & gravy breakfast.  We didn’t participate- we needed to get on the road. 

The cornhole tournament after the biscuits & gravy breakfast.  We didn’t participate- we needed to get on the road. 

We then got on the road to ride the 32 miles to Eureka, KS. You may or may not have heard on the news that Eureka was hit pretty hard a week ago by a tornado. We were actually uncertain until that morning whether we would even be able to stop there. It turns out that the town has really rallied around each other, and they seem to be recovering well. When we arrived at the park that allows cyclists to camp there, we found that there was a family-friendly 4th of July party going on, complete with FREE cookout and fireworks, plus a very fun playground and new friends that the boys enjoyed playing with. We couldn’t have planned that any better! We’re loving being a part of small-town America!  The only drawback was that we needed to wait for the park to clear out before setting up our tent for the night.  We finally got to sleep at 11:00. But it was well worth it!

We arrived today in El Dorado, KS, after a very hot (~95 degrees) day of riding 32 miles. We are again off-route, this time because we are headed to Wichita to meet up with a man whom we had met about a week ago while he and his brother were eating at the same Mexican restaurant and were also biking the Katy Trail (much faster than us!).  

We are all still thoroughly enjoying our adventure- rich with experiences we would never be able to plan or replicate and full of encounters with so many different people whom we’ve been blessed to meet! 

Bye, Katy. Hello, Kansas.

 And this is why we’re doing this trip! Part of the reason, at least. Just HAD to take a picture while we were at the Ballard Grill for lunch. 

And this is why we’re doing this trip! Part of the reason, at least. Just HAD to take a picture while we were at the Ballard Grill for lunch. 

We just came to the end of the Katy Trail a few days ago, which took us across most of Missouri. We still had a couple more days of riding (on roads) before crossing from Missouri into Kansas. One of the days while still traveling on the Katy Trail we were halted by a storm in Boonville, MO. Again, it was a good place to be waylaid- as we were able to spend some time exploring the local museum and got a room at an historic (and cyclist-friendly) hotel. Jerry and I were even able to celebrate our 18th anniversary there in the hotel restaurant while the boys ate pizza and watched TV in our hotel room. It was a win-win!

 Boonville Museum and Visitors Center. The boys are standing in front of a half-scale replica of Lewis and Clark‘s keel boat. 

Boonville Museum and Visitors Center. The boys are standing in front of a half-scale replica of Lewis and Clark‘s keel boat. 

 Here is one of the long and sunny stretches along the Katy Trail. Not all of it is out in the open. In fact, much of it is shaded along the Missouri River.  

Here is one of the long and sunny stretches along the Katy Trail. Not all of it is out in the open. In fact, much of it is shaded along the Missouri River.  

 Here we are waving goodbye to the Katy Trail as we entered Clinton, MO. 

Here we are waving goodbye to the Katy Trail as we entered Clinton, MO. 

As we exited the Katy Trail, we only had to ride about a half mile to the Clinton Community Center, which allows cyclists to use their facilities (showers!) and camp in the field/pavilion behind the building. That evening we ate dinner at a Mexican Restaurant (air conditioning!), met two brothers there who were biking the Katy Trail going the other direction (we may encounter one of these brothers later this week when we bike through their hometown of Wichita), and then enjoyed a movie afterwards (Incredibles 2). That was a great way to spend the evening after biking in 95-degree weather all day. 

 Ballard Grill where we stopped for lunch on our way from Clinton to Adrian. These little places are gems! 

Ballard Grill where we stopped for lunch on our way from Clinton to Adrian. These little places are gems! 

 We really enjoyed talking with this nice group of men who also happened to stop into the Ballard Grill for lunch. We were taken aback when one of them came outside as we were about to leave and handed us a $100 bill “to use for dinner” because they “were inspired by us!” How humbling to us and generous of him!

We really enjoyed talking with this nice group of men who also happened to stop into the Ballard Grill for lunch. We were taken aback when one of them came outside as we were about to leave and handed us a $100 bill “to use for dinner” because they “were inspired by us!” How humbling to us and generous of him!

When we arrived in Adrian, we had a little trouble figuring out where we would stay (no official campgrounds), but a very kind woman in City Hall made some phone calls and the next thing we knew, we were being welcomed into the Frontier Village to camp for the night. This was an outdoor venue where they have antique tractor field day (which had just happened the previous weekend). There are reconstructed buildings along a “road” that make you feel as though you have been placed into an old midwestern town- complete with saloon, post office, ice cream shop, bank, etc. There were also old steam-powered machines that they used for demonstrations, old tractors, a small train that kids could ride, an old caboose, etc. We were thankful to camp at this place. There were even showers for us to use, in addition to the interesting farm equipment to see. One of the challenges of the recent camping we have done is that although there have been some nice breezes in the evenings, the temperatures have been in the upper 80’s and 90’s, plus the mosquitoes are come out in full force in the evenings. So we have to close our tent to the mosquitoes and get as much breeze as possible through the mesh of our tents. But the tents get incredibly stuffy. It has been so difficult to fall asleep while we are dripping with sweat! So, if you notice that I’ve mentioned air conditioning several times, this is the reason!

 Frontier Village in Adrian, MO

Frontier Village in Adrian, MO

 This is our official “We’ve entered Kansas” picture. Unfortunately, there was no sign to stand in front of at this point, but here it is: the Kansas/Missouri border, just outside of Amsterdam, MO.

This is our official “We’ve entered Kansas” picture. Unfortunately, there was no sign to stand in front of at this point, but here it is: the Kansas/Missouri border, just outside of Amsterdam, MO.

 Who said Kansas was flat? These rolling hills were pretty substantial, although we’re fairly certain they will level out very soon. 

Who said Kansas was flat? These rolling hills were pretty substantial, although we’re fairly certain they will level out very soon. 

Upon entering Kansas we camped at the Linn County Park campground, which was right on the La Cygne Lake. The breezes off the lake were terrific! We had gotten fresh gourmet Asiago bratwursts just before leaving Missouri and had them in our spaghetti that evening. Very satisfying! 

Next stop: Garnett, KS. We found a comfortable motel with AC. We are taking a day off, enjoying the community pool, a late breakfast at a wonderful local spot (Prairie Belle’s), and some planning. 

 The boys having a blast in the community pool in Garnett, KS. 

The boys having a blast in the community pool in Garnett, KS. 

 Jerry pushing the boys on a merry-go-round at the community pool playground. When was the last time you’ve seen a merry-go-round like this?

Jerry pushing the boys on a merry-go-round at the community pool playground. When was the last time you’ve seen a merry-go-round like this?

 Douglas’ dirt creation at the playground. 

Douglas’ dirt creation at the playground. 

Tales, Trails, and Tails

 The Gateway to the West. Our hotel was right next to it, complete with a view of the Mississippi River. 

The Gateway to the West. Our hotel was right next to it, complete with a view of the Mississippi River. 

It has been quite a while since we have been able to add to our blog. What a time we have had over the past week or two! Let's go back to our 5-6 day rest in St. Louis with my (LisaPage's) mother... It was quite a full and exciting time. We took advantage of some wonderful places in St. Louis. We went up in the Gateway Arch ("Gateway to the West"), amazed by the story of its construction in the 1960's, spent a full, hot day at St. Louis Zoo, attended a nice service at a local church and went to lunch with some nice folks we met there, and we spent a whole day at the City Museum- awed by the creativity, artistic ingenuity, and the fun that all ages can have there exploring the tunnels, slides, hidden passages, climbing structures, etc. It was like an exploratory adventure, climbing/crawling workout, art museum, and giant all-ages playground wrapped up into one place. We also spent a big chunk of time at the St. Louis Science Center- which is also quite a well-done museum! In addition, we went to Six Flags of St. Louis amusement park- lots of fun there! And our final evening was spent with a super gracious couple outside of St. Louis (friends of a friend).- Kenny and Katrina- who provided us with incredible hospitality: beds, showers, laundry, and delicious dinner and breakfast, not to mention delightful fellowship and conversation!

 Here we are at the top of the Gateway Arch

Here we are at the top of the Gateway Arch

 Our view from the top of the Arch looking to the east, with view of the Mississippi River.  Can you tell if it’s morning or afternoon (hint: look at the arch’s shadow)?

Our view from the top of the Arch looking to the east, with view of the Mississippi River.  Can you tell if it’s morning or afternoon (hint: look at the arch’s shadow)?

 St. Louis Zoo (FREE, by the way!)- a whole different world is under water. So cool!

St. Louis Zoo (FREE, by the way!)- a whole different world is under water. So cool!

 More St. Louis Zoo: such a fun sea lion show!

More St. Louis Zoo: such a fun sea lion show!

 More unique animals at the zoo... 

More unique animals at the zoo... 

 Our little eaglets!😄 

Our little eaglets!😄 

 Enjoying lunch with our new friends from the church we attended that morning in St. Louis. The couple on the right: David and Kendra, even know of ECHO and have supported them over the years. 

Enjoying lunch with our new friends from the church we attended that morning in St. Louis. The couple on the right: David and Kendra, even know of ECHO and have supported them over the years. 

 Making and testing sail boats at The St. Louis Science Center

Making and testing sail boats at The St. Louis Science Center

 Boiling Hot, Boiling Cold chemistry demonstration at the Science Center. This was so cool!!

Boiling Hot, Boiling Cold chemistry demonstration at the Science Center. This was so cool!!

 Making and testing a Mars Rover at the Science Center

Making and testing a Mars Rover at the Science Center

 We’re enjoying being unplugged on our adventure. 😉 (sculpture at St Louis Art Museum)

We’re enjoying being unplugged on our adventure. 😉 (sculpture at St Louis Art Museum)

 Just a little taste of the artistic components at City Museum. 

Just a little taste of the artistic components at City Museum. 

 One of the climbing structures at City Museum

One of the climbing structures at City Museum

 Grandmommy going across the suspended spider web at City Museum.  

Grandmommy going across the suspended spider web at City Museum.  

 Our view from the door of the school bus that is half-suspended from the 11-story roof at the City Museum, looking out over the old airplane that people can also climb to- via a tunnel. 

Our view from the door of the school bus that is half-suspended from the 11-story roof at the City Museum, looking out over the old airplane that people can also climb to- via a tunnel. 

 Three sweaty, but very happy boys taking a rest after exploring the caves, tunnels, slides, and secret passageways at City Museum. How convenient that headlamps were already a part of our gear!

Three sweaty, but very happy boys taking a rest after exploring the caves, tunnels, slides, and secret passageways at City Museum. How convenient that headlamps were already a part of our gear!

 Life-sized LEGO tower that the kids were contributing to (City Museum) 

Life-sized LEGO tower that the kids were contributing to (City Museum) 

 Fun times at Six Flags. Can you pick out Jerry and the boys in the back? This was right before they got completely soaked.  

Fun times at Six Flags. Can you pick out Jerry and the boys in the back? This was right before they got completely soaked.  

 Our sweet and gracious hosts, Kenny and Katrina, with whom we stayed for our final night in the St. Louis area. 

Our sweet and gracious hosts, Kenny and Katrina, with whom we stayed for our final night in the St. Louis area. 

We finally resumed our biking after our stint in St. Louis, but instead of getting back onto the official TransAmerica Trail, we made the executive decision to take an alternative route to cross Missouri: The Katy Trail- in order to avoid the incessant rolling hills of the Ozarks. As beautiful as we have heard the Ozarks are, it was more important to us that we give ourselves a break from the hills and explore Missouri a different way. The Katy Trail is a relatively flat trail of crushed gravel that lays on an old railroad bed and spans the entire length of Missouri. As we have traveled this route, we have been able to reflect on what we both like and dislike about being on the Katy Trail. We really appreciate the flat terrain, but we have also come to realize that flat does not mean easy. When on this flat surface that has a very slight uphill grade, we have to constantly pedal. There is not much coasting, nor do we have the satisfaction of working up a hill to then go down the other side as a reward for our hard work. In addition, although the views are nice- directly following the length of the Missouri River- there is very little visual (and physical) variety, so that makes the hours on the saddle difficult.  We've experienced more saddle soreness than we have up to this point. It has been special that the route we are traveling along the Missouri River is the same as what the Corps of Discovery (Lewis and Clark Team) took when exploring the West. We have passed many landmarks such as places that Lewis and Clark camped, places where they interacted with Native Americans, etc. One unforeseen advantage of traveling the Katy Trail is that it is wide enough that we have been able to ride side-by-side and have more interactions with one another, not the least of these are the "leaf wars" that they boys made up to pass the time on the bikes. They collect leaves from the weed trees that hang into the path and then strategically through them at each other on the opposite bike.  They have had hours of fun at this game! (And we figure it is helping the park system with their pruning needs at the same time.) :)

 Here we are starting on the Katy Trail.  

Here we are starting on the Katy Trail.  

 Stopped for lunch along the Katy Trail at this beautiful spot overlooking the Missouri River. Just across is likely where Lewis and Clark stepped foot as they were on their journey west.  

Stopped for lunch along the Katy Trail at this beautiful spot overlooking the Missouri River. Just across is likely where Lewis and Clark stepped foot as they were on their journey west.  

 Historic marker about Lewis and Clark along the Katy Trail.  

Historic marker about Lewis and Clark along the Katy Trail.  

After camping a night at a campground that actually had a camp kitchen (!) that we were able to use, we soldiered on and made it to our first Warm Showers host- a lovely family who hosts through-cyclists. In case you haven't heard of it, Warm Showers is a network of folks all around the globe who host cyclists to give them a warm shower and usually a place to pitch their tent (in their yard).  Some of the hosts even provide a couch or bed to sleep on or even a home-cooked meal.  Well, this family was the epitome of hospitable! They provided beds for all of us, dinner that evening, and breakfast the next morning. We thoroughly enjoyed getting to know them! They, too, homeschool their three children, whom the boys enjoyed playing with. And they have a unique business renting treehouse cottages in a Bed & Breakfast format.  We were able to go see their treehouse cottages, and they were so beautiful and fun at the same time- a perfect retreat for folks wanting to get away and enjoy a unique experience. If you're heading through Missouri, you should check it out, or just take a virtual look at these cottages: hermanncottage.com  But if you want to stay at one of these, you had better plan ahead- they're quite popular, apparently!

 Our lovely Warm Showers host family, Lee, Keely, Julie, Elly, and Westley. 

Our lovely Warm Showers host family, Lee, Keely, Julie, Elly, and Westley. 

As we continued on yesterday and were about 15 miles from our destination, we were pedaling past a small campground and all of a sudden, we heard a big explosion. (I thought someone was setting off fireworks.) No, it was one of our tires blowing out (could be a result of the wear-and-tear of the crushed gravel??). Anyway, this explosion happened right in front of a couple's campsite. So they ventured over to see if everything was alright with us. They saw the ECHO logo on our shirts, and said to us, "Is that the ECHO based in Florida?" Yes, in fact, it sure is! Well, it turns out that not only has this man participated in a special agriculture class there (to assist in a charity/ministry he is involved with), but he had already been following our blog, too!! He works for the Department of Agriculture in Kansas and he and his wife were already familiar with the good work of ECHO. We really enjoyed becoming acquainted with Floyd and Gayle, and they also pointed us to the camp store, which just so happened to have a tire that was the right size for our blown-out one, and it would work until we got to the next town to get the type of tire that we needed long-term. (We had a fresh inner tube, but our current tire had a break in the side wall, so it was not going to work adequately.) We believe that these circumstances were clearly orchestrated by God, and we felt blessed! But it doesn't end there...

 Floyd and Gayle, who witnessed our tire blow-out as we passed by on the trail and then we realized our mutual connection with ECHO, as well as our common homeschooling connection (their children are grown now). They had been following our blog without having known us (then made the connection as we began talking). Amazing!

Floyd and Gayle, who witnessed our tire blow-out as we passed by on the trail and then we realized our mutual connection with ECHO, as well as our common homeschooling connection (their children are grown now). They had been following our blog without having known us (then made the connection as we began talking). Amazing!

As we traveled to our destination, we were waiting to hear back from a Bed and Breakfast where we wanted to stay, but we hadn't heard back from them, and there was no place to camp.  In addition, yesterday was our anniversary (18 years!), so we thought we would celebrate by staying at a B & B, rather than camping. Well, we reached the town and still hadn't heard from the B & B. Not finding any good alternatives that we felt we could afford, we resigned ourselves to have some dinner and see how God would provide for us. At the cafe where we ate some wonderful, locally sourced food, some locals struck up a conversation with us. And the next thing we knew, we were staying with a very generous, welcoming couple, Tim and Kathy. They had extremely comfortable accommodations for us: beds, showers, laundry, fixed us a delicious breakfast the next morning, and even let us use their hot tub! How often do complete strangers welcome you into their home this way?!! Did I mention that the man who runs the cafe where we had dinner gave us free locally made honey ice cream after we announced that it was not only our anniversary, but also that we had just reached our 1000-mile point? Wow! Such generosity and hospitality abound!

 The gracious staff at Meriweather Café and Bike Shop in Rocheport, MO. We enjoyed the delicious locally sourced food selections, their kindness, great conversation with Brandon, Eli, and Evann. This place is a gem and you should definitely stop in if you are close to Rocheport. 

The gracious staff at Meriweather Café and Bike Shop in Rocheport, MO. We enjoyed the delicious locally sourced food selections, their kindness, great conversation with Brandon, Eli, and Evann. This place is a gem and you should definitely stop in if you are close to Rocheport. 

 Our kind and gracious hosts, Kathy and Tim,  in Rocheport who put us up for the night and fed us a wonderful breakfast the next morning.  

Our kind and gracious hosts, Kathy and Tim,  in Rocheport who put us up for the night and fed us a wonderful breakfast the next morning.  

 Pretty rough, hugh! Here we are enjoying the hot tub at Tim and Kathy’s house in Rocheport, MO. 

Pretty rough, hugh! Here we are enjoying the hot tub at Tim and Kathy’s house in Rocheport, MO. 

 The boys had a blast swimming in John and Cee Jaye’s pool while Cee Jaye and I chatted it up.

The boys had a blast swimming in John and Cee Jaye’s pool while Cee Jaye and I chatted it up.

 Here we are enjoying a yummy dinner with Cee Jaye and John out by their pool. They were so gracious to pick up some dinner to share with us just before we left Rocheport, MO! 

Here we are enjoying a yummy dinner with Cee Jaye and John out by their pool. They were so gracious to pick up some dinner to share with us just before we left Rocheport, MO! 

So, you have now read about some of our tales and about the Katy Trail, so now the part about tails (see title: “Tales, Trails, and Tails”). On the Katy Trail we have encountered quite a bit of wildlife- most of which have been animals with tails. ;) So over the past few days, we have seen the following... Reptiles: lizzards, turtles, green garden snake, black snake, have run over the tails of a small brown snake and a jeuvenile copperhead (yikes!) . Mammals: red fox, grey fox cub, squirrels, coyote, cows, bunnies. Birds: red wing blackbirds, hawk, killdeer, Cardinals, robins, calls of wood thrush and quail, black vultures, turkey vultures, crows. Amphibians: toads, tree frog, salamander. That’s a lot of tails!

Thanks for reading this long blog post. We hope that our next post will be sooner, rather than later. Until then...

Thunderstorms and “Hitting a Wall”

We encountered several thunderstorms in the past week. But each time we were able to find cover and protection. It’s all part of our adventure and the way God is orchestrating our protection, His provision and answers to all of your and our prayers. 

 To escape a storm, we took cover in this drainage tunnel, which runs under the road.

To escape a storm, we took cover in this drainage tunnel, which runs under the road.

 And this was our view of our bikes (which were under the tarp) from the drainage tunnel we were hunkering down in. 

And this was our view of our bikes (which were under the tarp) from the drainage tunnel we were hunkering down in. 

 Whew! We made it to this cattle barn when a second storm system blew in. 

Whew! We made it to this cattle barn when a second storm system blew in. 

 At a little restaurant in Sebree, KY, we struck up a conversation with a sweet couple, and the woman treated the boys to ice cream! More kindness! 

At a little restaurant in Sebree, KY, we struck up a conversation with a sweet couple, and the woman treated the boys to ice cream! More kindness! 

We made it to Clay, KY, Sunday (the 10th), unsure of where we would be spending the night. We arrived at a ballpark, thinking we could find someone to ask about pitching our tent. And what do you know... Jerry saw a woman cutting the grass and she happened to be the commissioner of parks. She not only said that we were welcome to camp anywhere there, but she offered us the use of the concessions grill, plus as many hamburgers, hot dogs, and such as we would like for dinner. Wow! Later, her aunt and uncle showed up and offered their church (just a block around the corner) as an alternative place for us to stay. Yes, please! That meant air conditioning, showers, no bugs to swat, and freedom from having to pitch our tents and re-pack them in the morning. What a series of blessings!!

 Here is Clay City Park. As a minimal way to show our appreciation, we helped pick up litter all around the park to help them get ready for the baseball and softball games happening the next day.  

Here is Clay City Park. As a minimal way to show our appreciation, we helped pick up litter all around the park to help them get ready for the baseball and softball games happening the next day.  

 This is Jamie (commissioner of the park) and her husband, Corey. They were such a blessing to us! We thank God for putting them in our path!

This is Jamie (commissioner of the park) and her husband, Corey. They were such a blessing to us! We thank God for putting them in our path!

 And here is the church fellowship hall (at Webb Memorial United Methodist Church) in Clay, KY, where we stayed. 

And here is the church fellowship hall (at Webb Memorial United Methodist Church) in Clay, KY, where we stayed. 

The next day we made it to the Ohio River, which is the line dividing Kentucky from Illinois. So, we boarded the small ferry that took us across the Ohio River, saying goodbye to Kentucky and hello to Illinois, landing us in the town of Cave-in-Rock, IL.

 Here we are waiting for the ferry that would take us across the Ohio River.  

Here we are waiting for the ferry that would take us across the Ohio River.  

We stayed in the campground at Cave-in-Rock. Although the campground was beautiful, we had a rough night. We had trouble finding flat spots for our tents where the camp host asked us to stay; the heat and humidity in our tents were unbearable-very difficult to fall asleep; and there was a storm that night (very thankful that our new tents remained water tight!). So, we did not get a good night’s sleep, but nevertheless, we packed up the next day and started biking to our next destination. And that is when we all seemed to “hit a wall” in our energy level, motivation, and enjoyment of our biking that day. Our morale was down. Then came another storm. And this one was fierce and lasted about 2 1/2 hours. Thankfully, before it began to pour down and the lightning and thunder were upon us, we spotted a farm with a huge shed. We knocked on the owners’ front door to ask for permission to weather the storm in their shed. They gave us their blessing. So there we were- waiting with our bikes and gear. We snacked a little, then boredom set in. I like when the boys get bored because on the other side of boredom is creativity. They began playing in the dirt- literally. A couple of hours into waiting for the storm to dissipate, the woman (whose property we were on) came out and brought us a bag of snacks: cheese doodles, crackers, cheese, candy...) More kindness!! She expected nothing in return. She had also been praying for our safety as we were out weathering the storm. 

 Here are the boys making forts in the dirt. They came up with their own game, which involved destroying each other’s forts in a systematic way, and then we had to vote on whose fort was most destroyed based on its original condition. The things that amuse boys!!

Here are the boys making forts in the dirt. They came up with their own game, which involved destroying each other’s forts in a systematic way, and then we had to vote on whose fort was most destroyed based on its original condition. The things that amuse boys!!

 Wow! Look at all the snacks our host brought us during the storm! 

Wow! Look at all the snacks our host brought us during the storm! 

The long wait during the storm allowed us to figure out an alternative plan for the rest of the day- in light of the “wall” we had hit. Jerry found a cottage only 3 miles away that had the perfect accommodations for us- including AC, beds, full kitchen, and laundry! After the storm had finally passed, and we were full of junk food 😉, we were ready to head there. The mood was positive and energetic. The cottage was the perfect respite. The following day (yesterday) we got onto our bikes and had a difficult, but successful, day of biking some pretty tough hills in the heat and humidity. We were so glad to reach Goreville United Methodist Church, where we stayed last night (again, AC and comfort!). Dawn and Jeannie have been so accommodating to us, as they have gone out of their way to make our stay here comfortable. 

 This is Jeannie and Dawn, who are instrumental in the church’s ministry to the through-cyclists. We’ve been so blessed by them in many ways!

This is Jeannie and Dawn, who are instrumental in the church’s ministry to the through-cyclists. We’ve been so blessed by them in many ways!

One change that we made this week was to switch around the bikes that we are pedaling. Originally, Jerry, Douglas, and Avery had been on the triple, and LisaPage and Russell were on the double. However, we’ve been searching for ways to make our efforts and pedaling most efficient. So, with much reluctance, I (LisaPage) agreed to try captaining the triple. I had been a bit fearful of doing so because the last time I tried it, the bike was difficult to control (that was before we had gotten new, wider handlebars). But it was actually fine. After getting used to the slight difference in gearing, I’ve become accustomed to it. And it seems to be working out well- our current set up: LisaPage, Russell, Douglas on the triple, and Jerry, Avery, and the trailer on the double.

Tomorrow is the day that we head to St. Louis to spend multiple days enjoying the sights and activities there and to meet up with my (LisaPage’s) mother. We plan to rent a truck for this excursion. We had planned to bike to Carbondale, IL, today, but we won’t be doing that because we have come to realize that Avery is showing symptoms of a minor concussion that he likely got almost a week ago from slipping up and hitting his head on a hard floor. (We’ve spoken with several medical folks and are allowing Avery to rest and recover.) please pray for his full recovery and that this will not hinder us from enjoying the activities we have planned for our time in St. Louis. 

 This cat was there to greet us at the front of the host church in Goreville. Lots of smiles it generated!

This cat was there to greet us at the front of the host church in Goreville. Lots of smiles it generated!

Another noteworthy item is that Bill Lohmann wrote a follow-up article about us in the Richmond Times-Dispatch this past Monday- highlighting our first month-and-a-half of our bike adventure. If you missed it, here’s the link to the article: http://www.richmond.com/life/bill-lohmann/lohmann-first-month-of-cross-country-bicycle-trip-tests-mettle/article_c1817ad2-87b3-5a94-a3e0-29bb56688f82.html

 

Caves and Kindness

We apologize for taking this long to update our blog! It seems difficult to carve out the time some evenings to do so. We spend so much time and energy simply with the business of living: settling into camp, getting groceries, making dinner, cleaning up, getting to bed after an exhausting day of riding, waking up, having breakfast, cleaning up, packing up the camping and other things onto our bikes, then getting on the road to ride to our next destination, etc.

But not all days have included riding lately. In fact, we took a few rest days at the beginning of the week to allow a muscle in Jerry’s leg to heal. We were afraid it was on its way to an overuse injury. During that time we stayed in a campground in Danville, KY, for 2 nights (Pioneer Playhouse and campground).  This particular venue is about to begin its summer season of plays that they perform in the on-site amphitheater. The actors stay in housing at the campground. Unfortunately, our timing was off, as we were not going to be there anymore once they begin the shows this coming weekend.

 More TransAmerica cycling buddies in Danville, KY (Eileeny, Scott, Becky, and Kyle), all of whom are on their venture separately. These 4 coincided for several days and nights so were able to pal around, get to know each other, and ride together for a little while. 

More TransAmerica cycling buddies in Danville, KY (Eileeny, Scott, Becky, and Kyle), all of whom are on their venture separately. These 4 coincided for several days and nights so were able to pal around, get to know each other, and ride together for a little while. 

In order to be sensitive to Jerry’s leg muscle and in order to stay on target with some of our trip goals, we then decided to rent a pick-up truck from Danville, KY, and drive to Mammoth Cave (with all of our things). This was a great decision. Although we missed a few miles in there, we were able to meet up with a Tennessee friend at Mammoth Cave, experience 2 very interesting, fun, and different tours of the Cave, and then drive up to Sonora, KY, where the bike route would resume.

 One of our milestones and anticipatory places: Mammoth Cave!

One of our milestones and anticipatory places: Mammoth Cave!

 Here we are entering the cave. We were amazed at how cold it was down there (between 53 and 55 degrees). On one of our tours we went 300 feet underground and shimmied through “fat man’s misery,” as well as some very massive open spaces, all surrounded by colossal pieces of limestone. 

Here we are entering the cave. We were amazed at how cold it was down there (between 53 and 55 degrees). On one of our tours we went 300 feet underground and shimmied through “fat man’s misery,” as well as some very massive open spaces, all surrounded by colossal pieces of limestone. 

 Here is one of the many “rooms” that we passed through during our first tour in Mammoth Cave. This one was a historic tour where we learned about the saltpeter mining that helped provide raw materials for gun powder during the War of 1812, as well as the discovery of miles and miles of this massive cave system (over 390 miles!). 

Here is one of the many “rooms” that we passed through during our first tour in Mammoth Cave. This one was a historic tour where we learned about the saltpeter mining that helped provide raw materials for gun powder during the War of 1812, as well as the discovery of miles and miles of this massive cave system (over 390 miles!). 

 Our sweet friend Mona made the 1 1/2 to 2-hour drive from Tennessee to experience Mammoth Cave with us and she brought an amazing dinner to share with us at the campsite that evening. What a blessing! We missed that her husband John was unable to join us!

Our sweet friend Mona made the 1 1/2 to 2-hour drive from Tennessee to experience Mammoth Cave with us and she brought an amazing dinner to share with us at the campsite that evening. What a blessing! We missed that her husband John was unable to join us!

 Here is a view of the stalactites, stalagmites, and columns that we saw at the end of our Domes and Dripstones tour at Mammoth Cave. The only lights in the cave were the occasional orange low lights that lit our way. No flash photography. So amazing the long process that it has taken for these rock formations to “grow.” It was also very cool when our tour guide turned off all the lights in the cave. We could see absolutely nothing! How often do we experience zero light like that?

Here is a view of the stalactites, stalagmites, and columns that we saw at the end of our Domes and Dripstones tour at Mammoth Cave. The only lights in the cave were the occasional orange low lights that lit our way. No flash photography. So amazing the long process that it has taken for these rock formations to “grow.” It was also very cool when our tour guide turned off all the lights in the cave. We could see absolutely nothing! How often do we experience zero light like that?

We stayed at a guest house (which sort of had a bed & breakfast feel with a more personal touch) in Sonora and enjoyed getting to know the owners a bit while we sipped on wine and while the boys played in their lake: kayaking, paddle boating, and swimming. (I know! Rough life!). 

 Our sweet and gracious hosts (Rose and Charlie) at the guest house in Sonora. They specifically open their home to the cross-country cyclists, in addition to hosting weddings and other events on their beautiful property. 

Our sweet and gracious hosts (Rose and Charlie) at the guest house in Sonora. They specifically open their home to the cross-country cyclists, in addition to hosting weddings and other events on their beautiful property. 

 Our view (from the back porch) of the boys playing in the lake at Thurman Landing.  

Our view (from the back porch) of the boys playing in the lake at Thurman Landing.  

 Thurman Landing, Charlie and Rose’s guest house in Sonora, KY

Thurman Landing, Charlie and Rose’s guest house in Sonora, KY

We resumed our biking the following day, and have now had 2 very hot, hilly, and challenging days (48 miles Thursday, and 43 Friday). Thankfully, Jerry’s leg now seems fine and injury free. We have also switched the boys around a bit on the bikes in an attempt to even out the work load among all of us. Because of Avery’s size, he isn’t able to contribute as much power to the pedaling as the rest of us. And we think that has contributed to the stress on Jerry’s body. So now, we are trying Russell and Douglas on the triple together with Jerry, and Avery and I together on the double. So far, it has worked out better, although the rolling hills of Kentucky are about to do us in!! We were happy to leave the Appalachian Mountains behind us, but what we have biked through recently has been very difficult, too. After our 48-mile day to the Rough River State Park, we were so thrilled that we could camp near a building that had showers and beautiful, soft grass for pitching our tent!

 Mmm! We were so excited about the all-you-can-eat catfish special at the Rough River State Park lodge, where we ate dinner with our cycling buddy, Robbie. We are so glad that our paths have crossed with him so many times! 

Mmm! We were so excited about the all-you-can-eat catfish special at the Rough River State Park lodge, where we ate dinner with our cycling buddy, Robbie. We are so glad that our paths have crossed with him so many times! 

As we have pedaled through the countryside in Kentucky, we have gone through enormous amounts of water and Gatorade. To fill up on these necessities, we typically stop into convenience stores and small groceries. Friday we stopped into a small country store and after selecting our goodies (including ice cream for the boys), the store owner filled up our water bottles with ICE water and gave us the remaining 3 pizza slices from lunch. But he didn’t stop there! As we were sitting enjoying the pizza and drinks, he came over with a big plate of cold cut meats, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, bread and let us make some sandwiches. We finished everything on that plate!! What kindness! That large snack fueled the final push of our journey to Utica, KY, where we stayed inside of a firehouse: air conditioning, shower, laundry, use of the kitchen- and all with 2 of our new cycling buddies (Robbie, with whom we have spent several days/evenings, and Becky, whom we first met in Danville) who both happened to be staying there, as well. 

We have decided to stay put today at the Utica Firehouse because Avery is feeling a little under the weather. Again, a great place to be forced to pause- since we are in air conditioning and have access to so many facilities. Our next goal is to make it to Missouri in about a week. At that point, we plan to drive up to St. Louis and spend time with my (LisaPage’s) mother who plans to meet us there. 

Contrasts of Land and Life

 This is Kerry, whom we met in Hindman at the cyclist hostel (a local church). She is cycling as part of Warrior Expeditions, which is for veterans re-entering society after being deployed in war. She had heard about us (“the family cycling across the country”) and was determined to catch up and finally meet us. From now on, she’ll be way ahead of us!

This is Kerry, whom we met in Hindman at the cyclist hostel (a local church). She is cycling as part of Warrior Expeditions, which is for veterans re-entering society after being deployed in war. She had heard about us (“the family cycling across the country”) and was determined to catch up and finally meet us. From now on, she’ll be way ahead of us!

 This ballpark in Combs/Hazzard, KY,  not only had a great playground, but free miniature golf the boys played while we cooked our dinner under a nearby pavilion and contemplated where we would stay that night (no official places around). Jerry and I prayed we would find someone to ask. And while Jerry walked to the bathroom, he came across the patrolling sheriff and asked if we could camp there that night. Affirmative! The sheriff was very helpful, welcoming, and supportive of our family having what we needed that night. So thankful!

This ballpark in Combs/Hazzard, KY,  not only had a great playground, but free miniature golf the boys played while we cooked our dinner under a nearby pavilion and contemplated where we would stay that night (no official places around). Jerry and I prayed we would find someone to ask. And while Jerry walked to the bathroom, he came across the patrolling sheriff and asked if we could camp there that night. Affirmative! The sheriff was very helpful, welcoming, and supportive of our family having what we needed that night. So thankful!

 Here is the free mini-golf next to the playground. 

Here is the free mini-golf next to the playground. 

 Here we are under our tarp (Jerry’s make-shift shelter) when a sudden storm blew in while we were on our way from Combs to Buckhorn. What better a time to have our lunch- during a forced stop. 

Here we are under our tarp (Jerry’s make-shift shelter) when a sudden storm blew in while we were on our way from Combs to Buckhorn. What better a time to have our lunch- during a forced stop. 

 Here are two recent college grads (Kyle and Mark) who are biking cross-country while raising money for Compassion International. We met them in Buckhorn. They were so excited to meet us because according to them, we are of legend status. They had heard and read about “the family going cross country.” It was refreshing to experience their enthusiasm and go-with-the-flow personalities. While talking with them, the pastor at the church across the street asked if they needed a place to stay (which they did- we already had plans of staying at the nearby campground). So great seeing another example of kind hospitality!

Here are two recent college grads (Kyle and Mark) who are biking cross-country while raising money for Compassion International. We met them in Buckhorn. They were so excited to meet us because according to them, we are of legend status. They had heard and read about “the family going cross country.” It was refreshing to experience their enthusiasm and go-with-the-flow personalities. While talking with them, the pastor at the church across the street asked if they needed a place to stay (which they did- we already had plans of staying at the nearby campground). So great seeing another example of kind hospitality!

 Here is another mid-day forced stop on account of thunderstorms (on our way to Booneville). So we took shelter under a stairwell at an apartment complex. Another great opportunity to have our lunch: tuna wraps and peanut butter. Bunny ears on Mom. 

Here is another mid-day forced stop on account of thunderstorms (on our way to Booneville). So we took shelter under a stairwell at an apartment complex. Another great opportunity to have our lunch: tuna wraps and peanut butter. Bunny ears on Mom. 

 So what do boys do on a rainy day when we’ve arrived at our host shelter (pavilion behind Booneville Presbyterian Church) waiting for dinner time? Well, Avery and Douglas decided to make a restaurant that serves grass, clover, and wood shavings from the sticks that Douglas spent about 2 hours whittling. The currency at this restaurant was wheat stalks and leaves they had collected from the area. The decorations were whittled sticks. 😊

So what do boys do on a rainy day when we’ve arrived at our host shelter (pavilion behind Booneville Presbyterian Church) waiting for dinner time? Well, Avery and Douglas decided to make a restaurant that serves grass, clover, and wood shavings from the sticks that Douglas spent about 2 hours whittling. The currency at this restaurant was wheat stalks and leaves they had collected from the area. The decorations were whittled sticks. 😊

As we reflect on our many experiences thus far, it is clear that it has been a mixture of so many contrasts.  Here are some examples...

  • Patient drivers who wait to pass us until a safe opportunity comes vs. beefed up pick-up trucks (with loud, ground-shaking mufflers) that wait to pass, but do so in a way that shows frustration and power
  • smells of sweet honeysuckle vs. roadkill (lots of dead black snakes, box turtles, snapping turtles, and various small mammals)
  • incredibly difficult hills to climb (many requiring us to walk the bikes up) vs. some nice, welcome, flat terrain after the Appalachians
  • the sweet dogs that let the boys pet them at the ice cream place yesterday vs. the countless dogs that run out to the street barking at us (this is a phenomenon apparently unique to Kentucky and well-known to the TransAmerica cyclists- some even carry mace for this very reason)
  • the varied reasons people choose to cycle across America: Warrior Expeditions (one of the ways our veterans choose to re-enter society after being away at war- we’ve met two women doing this), personal goal, a way to see and experience America and its culture, to raise money for a charity (we’ve met two guys cycling for Compassion International, others I don’t recall now, ECHO- the charity we’re riding for, etc.), quality time, adventure, and challenge as a family...
  • beautiful farmland- horses grazing, roosters cockadoodling, healthy, lush gardens growing vs. neglected homes- in what used to be coal mining towns of Kentucky, rural areas with only convenience stores for food choices and seemingly quite homogeneous populations vs. suburbs with parks, full-service restaurants and hotels
 This is Jay from New Zealand (and recently London), whom we met at the cyclist camping spot (pavilion behind a local church). We enjoyed hearing about his stint playing bass guitar in a rock band in London, the challenges of finding food- as a vegan- on his cross country bike tour, and his engagement to his fiancé. 

This is Jay from New Zealand (and recently London), whom we met at the cyclist camping spot (pavilion behind a local church). We enjoyed hearing about his stint playing bass guitar in a rock band in London, the challenges of finding food- as a vegan- on his cross country bike tour, and his engagement to his fiancé. 

 A friendly dog at an ice cream shop (quite a contrast to the barking dogs who rush at us in the streets of Kentucky). 

A friendly dog at an ice cream shop (quite a contrast to the barking dogs who rush at us in the streets of Kentucky). 

 Pushing our heavy bikes up a steep hill. Not sure which is harder: trying to pedal up the steep climbs, or pushing our bikes up them??

Pushing our heavy bikes up a steep hill. Not sure which is harder: trying to pedal up the steep climbs, or pushing our bikes up them??

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Saying bye-bye to the Appalachian Mountains with this 6% grade, 2-mile downhill. These downhills have been roller-coaster-fun, but we’ve certainly had to work up some steep climbs for the thrill of the downhill.  

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On our rest day in Berea, KY, we visited this fun pool- open to the public.  

Realizations and Mileage Record!

If you were able to read our last blog post, you saw that we were faced with a tough decision about whether or not to cut off a significant number of miles in the western section of Virginia. Well, despite our struggle with wanting to complete all parts of the set route, we went ahead and decided to eliminate a rigorously hilly 235 miles (approximately) from Botetourt County to Breaks Interstate Park. Jerry’s parents picked us up with our bikes and all our gear to give us a 3-day rest in the comfort of their home. During that time, we were lavished with loving care by them, delicious food, soft beds and showers, and a time to again reevaluate our things. We’re happy to report that we were able to leave behind 25 pounds of things!! That may be hard to believe, but when you add together some books, a bag of salt (which Jerry refers to as a bag of rocks), and lots of other miscellaneous items, they add up. In addition, we ordered new tents to replace the leaky one we were using. Also, it was nice to be able to celebrate my (LisaPage’s) birthday together with them- we had a nice dinner at the nearby Chateau Morrisett.

 Jerry’s wonderful, loving parents- just before we said goodbye at Breaks Interstate Park, where they dropped us off after our 3-day rest/re-evaluation period with them. 

Jerry’s wonderful, loving parents- just before we said goodbye at Breaks Interstate Park, where they dropped us off after our 3-day rest/re-evaluation period with them. 

 This is what it looks like to be “picked up” somewhere. These are our bikes in the back of Jerry’s Dad’s pick-up truck.  

This is what it looks like to be “picked up” somewhere. These are our bikes in the back of Jerry’s Dad’s pick-up truck.  

 And these are our things in the back of Jerry’s parents’ minivan.  

And these are our things in the back of Jerry’s parents’ minivan.  

We are so thankful for Jerry’s parents’ sacrificial love for us. They drove us over 3 1/2 hours to Breaks Interstate Park, where we stayed Saturday night. On Sunday morning we resumed our riding. And here is another example of a way God provided for a need. Just after leaving Breaks Interstate Park, we were “limping” in a low gear because there was a problem with Jerry’s gear cable having been pinched by his kick stand. We didn’t anticipate the need for a heavy wrench that would only be needed for the kickstand bolt. So, we thought we might find one at the hardware store in the next town. (Later, we discovered that the hardware store was closed because it was Sunday.) Enter: Brandon, who Jerry spotted working on his vehicle in his shop, only a mile after we discovered our problem. He had the wrench we needed!! Yay! No more “limping” to the next town. Problem solved!

 Here is Brandon, who had the wrench we needed at just the right time. We couldn’t have planned this any better! 

Here is Brandon, who had the wrench we needed at just the right time. We couldn’t have planned this any better! 

We got back on our bikes and rode about 20 miles to Lookout, KY, landing at a “bike hostel” run by a local church. There were showers, beds, food, and a kitchen to use. Plus, we reconnected with our new TransAmerica cycling friend, Robbie, whom we’ve really enjoyed getting to know. In fact, he was our partial inspiration for what we biked the next day- Monday. We were able to set our family mileage record: 50 miles yesterday!! And it was one of our longest and toughest days- several very steep climbs that required us to push our heavy bikes up the steep hills. It was a huge sense of accomplishment to make it to Hindman, KY. We didn’t know if we would be able to do it, and we had tentative, alternate plans if we didn’t end up making it there (asking to camp in someone’s yard). 

 One of the amazing views at Breaks Interstate Park, also known as the “Grand Canyon of the South”  because of the huge canyon and river that runs through it. Of course, this picture does not do justice to the actual view and experience of being there!

One of the amazing views at Breaks Interstate Park, also known as the “Grand Canyon of the South”  because of the huge canyon and river that runs through it. Of course, this picture does not do justice to the actual view and experience of being there!

 This is our newest TransAmerica cycling friend, Robbie, who is completing a section of the route from western Virginia to the Mississippi River (which he wasn’t able to complete a different year). We have encountered him several times and have enjoyed getting to know him. We will not likely see him too many more times, as his pace is greater than ours. 

This is our newest TransAmerica cycling friend, Robbie, who is completing a section of the route from western Virginia to the Mississippi River (which he wasn’t able to complete a different year). We have encountered him several times and have enjoyed getting to know him. We will not likely see him too many more times, as his pace is greater than ours. 

 Here we are at the Kentucky line! Yippee! 

Here we are at the Kentucky line! Yippee! 

 The “bike hostel” where we stayed Sunday evening in Lookout, KY, hosted by a gracious group of volunteers of a local church. 

The “bike hostel” where we stayed Sunday evening in Lookout, KY, hosted by a gracious group of volunteers of a local church. 

So now, for the unpleasant realization that we made a couple of days ago... it is not likely that we will make it to Oregon! With the time frame that we have given ourselves, we don’t see it as a realistic goal anymore that we would be able to get all the way to Astoria, Oregon, by the end of August. We were a bit naive in our expectations of the number of miles we could accomplish with kids in tow while pedaling a tandem and a triple bike. We’ve learned and have heard from others that Virginia is one of the toughest parts of the whole TransAmerica route. So, only time will tell if we would actually be able to ramp up our mileage enough to make up for the lower mileage we have had to bike in this first month. Nevertheless, we are continuing to enjoy our adventure and will keep in mind our purpose and renewed goals. There’s nothing like accomplishing big challenges together as a family! The boys manage to make lots of fun wherever we are and whatever circumstances we find ourselves in. They really rise to a challenge and have exceeded our expectations in many ways. 

 Can you spot it? It’s a diamond-back rattlesnake that Douglas caught a glimpse of as we were pushing bikes up a very steep climb. We kept our respectful distance. But it was cool to see one of these in the wild. It also served as a warning about venturing into the brush near the road.  

Can you spot it? It’s a diamond-back rattlesnake that Douglas caught a glimpse of as we were pushing bikes up a very steep climb. We kept our respectful distance. But it was cool to see one of these in the wild. It also served as a warning about venturing into the brush near the road.  

 Jerry caught a picture of Russell and me (LisaPage) trudging up one of the steep climbs (picture does not do justice to the severity of the slope!)

Jerry caught a picture of Russell and me (LisaPage) trudging up one of the steep climbs (picture does not do justice to the severity of the slope!)

 Well-deserved Dairy Queen “blizzards” as our reward for getting over that final steep mountain and making it 50 miles yesterday! 

Well-deserved Dairy Queen “blizzards” as our reward for getting over that final steep mountain and making it 50 miles yesterday! 

Resting and Re-evaluating

 Look at the flowers that Avery picked at a campground. We enjoyed them at our dinner table that evening. 

Look at the flowers that Avery picked at a campground. We enjoyed them at our dinner table that evening. 

Over the last two days or so of riding, we parents have both felt like the hills are more difficult than they should be. We realize that we never signed up for easy, but it has felt harder than it should be. So that has led us to the conclusions that: 1- we need to rest our legs and let our muscles build (I think we’ve been breaking down our muscles without letting them build.  For those biology people out there: too much catabolism, not enough analobism!); and 2- yet again, we need to re-evaluate our belongings and try to whittle down the weight even more. We are thankful that we had already planned to meet up with Jerry’s parents at about this time. So instead of just meeting them in a through town, they came and picked us up (with all our gear and bikes, too), and have brought us back to their “part-time home” in Meadows of Dan, VA, for a couple of days. What great timing! We do believe that God orchestrates our lives, whether big or small, and even those things we do not yet understand completely. It’s not only a comfort, but also we are sometimes able to see God’s hand (in hindsight if we notice).

While re-evaluating and reflecting, we have realized how much we both are not only competitive, but also like to “play by the rules,” if you will. These two qualities have come up in our decisions about doing various things that seem to us like “cheating,” such as allowing people to take our gear over a mountain so that we can concentrate on the hard-enough task of pedaling. And now we are faced with the decision of potentially cutting off some miles- for many reasons. We are considering such factors as the time lost from illness and rain, the lower physical endurance of children, and the time and miles we have before us. Then, we have reminded ourselves of our overall goal for our biking adventure. We are not doing this to earn any medal or prove anything to anyone. But rather, we have embarked on this endeavor to share an adventure together as a family, make memories, set and achieve challenging goals, enjoy nature that we often take for granted, meet and interact with interesting people, help raise awareness and funds for ECHO in their fight against worldwide hunger, build life skills together, trust God to protect and guide us, and much more. So, when we remind ourselves of this perspective, it becomes less important that we cover every single mile of the official route. We say this as a half apology to those of you who- like us- find fulfillment in “playing by the rules.” So, FYI, we are heavily leaning toward cutting off some miles this week. And the desire to be complete and cover every single mile is something that we may just need to let go of, in light of our overall purpose and “for the good of the team.”

 The boys having a blast playing in the river near our campsite. 

The boys having a blast playing in the river near our campsite. 

 While passing through Lexington, we got our ice cream fix with 50-cent Frosty’s at Wendy’s. Yum!

While passing through Lexington, we got our ice cream fix with 50-cent Frosty’s at Wendy’s. Yum!

 This is the pavilion in Buchanan (part of a fairground-type of park) where we weathered a storm while we cooked our dinner, then ended up camping, too. So thankful for the firemen who gave us their blessing to use it!

This is the pavilion in Buchanan (part of a fairground-type of park) where we weathered a storm while we cooked our dinner, then ended up camping, too. So thankful for the firemen who gave us their blessing to use it!

 We couldn’t believe this kind man, Chad, and his two sons. He noticed us weathering a storm in our tent (while he was working at the Botetourt County sports complex where we were camping). He left, and the storm passed, but he returned with Bojangles chicken, biscuits, mashed potatoes, and sweet tea. We hadn’t even had a conversation with him at that point! He just thought we might not have a way to get dinner. Amazing!! Is it too cheesy to call him our “Boj-angel”? 

We couldn’t believe this kind man, Chad, and his two sons. He noticed us weathering a storm in our tent (while he was working at the Botetourt County sports complex where we were camping). He left, and the storm passed, but he returned with Bojangles chicken, biscuits, mashed potatoes, and sweet tea. We hadn’t even had a conversation with him at that point! He just thought we might not have a way to get dinner. Amazing!! Is it too cheesy to call him our “Boj-angel”? 

 After weathering the crazy storm from our tent in the field of the sports complex, we saw another storm system coming our way, so we moved all of our things to this maintenance shed we found on the property. We felt much more secure here, and we enjoyed the Bojangles chicken under this shelter, too!

After weathering the crazy storm from our tent in the field of the sports complex, we saw another storm system coming our way, so we moved all of our things to this maintenance shed we found on the property. We felt much more secure here, and we enjoyed the Bojangles chicken under this shelter, too!

We aren’t exactly sure where we will re-start our journey after our two-day rest, but we hope we will resume with gear that is several pounds lighter after re-evaluating. Until then...

Green Monster Conquered!

After our rain-forced 3-day stop-over in a very nice campground: Misty Mountain Camp Resort (where we stayed in a primitive cabin- see previous post), we were finally able to bike again. Despite being waylaid, we enjoyed our time there: shelter from the heavy rain, being able to play pool and ping-pong, and jumping on the gigantic blow-up bounce pad. 

 The boys playing on the giant blob mat in between bouts of rain. It was like a big trampoline. The boys made all sorts of games on it, and we playfully joined them, too. 

The boys playing on the giant blob mat in between bouts of rain. It was like a big trampoline. The boys made all sorts of games on it, and we playfully joined them, too. 

 Douglas on dish duty while staying at the Misty Mountain Campground

Douglas on dish duty while staying at the Misty Mountain Campground

Another highlight of our “rain-out days” was meeting a lively couple who are cyclists local to the area (Crozet). They came across us while we were sitting out front of Wyant’s Store in White Hall, as they were going by on a training ride the day before all of the heavy rain began. We exchanged numbers and reconnected a day or so later and we all went out to dinner together. They had some great wisdom and insight not only about biking up Afton and the Blue Ridge Parkway, but also about going across the country. What a blessing to make their acquaintance and become friends! Marit and Mark, thank you!!

 Our new friends, Marit and Mark, whom we met in White Hall while they were out for a training ride. Later, they took us out to a local restaurant/brewery where we enjoyed some yummy pizza (and good beer, too). 

Our new friends, Marit and Mark, whom we met in White Hall while they were out for a training ride. Later, they took us out to a local restaurant/brewery where we enjoyed some yummy pizza (and good beer, too). 

But what lay ahead was a beast! We were dreading having to go over Afton Mountain, but the rest of the stretch of the Blue Ridge Parkway was also a lofty challenge. Thankfully, my aunt Page and uncle Bill, who live only about a 20-30 minutes car ride from there, were ready and eager to be our trail angels. They took all of our gear (6 out of 8 of our panniers and our one trailer) in their car and took it over the mountain for us. That way, we could conquer “The Green Monster” (as Jerry likes to refer to that stretch) without our heavy gear. We were so thankful not to have our things, and I don’t know if we would have been able to accomplish it with such success if we had had to haul our things up, up, and up some more. If you look at the elevation map below, and you go from the far right (Yorktown- where we began May 1) and go to the left, you should have no problem figuring out what we are referring to as The Green Monster.

 Yes, The Green Monster is very obvious on this elevation map, hugh! 

Yes, The Green Monster is very obvious on this elevation map, hugh! 

 Here we are at the top of Afton Mountain in the mist: happy about our accomplishment and about the gourmet popcorn that we rewarded ourselves with! 

Here we are at the top of Afton Mountain in the mist: happy about our accomplishment and about the gourmet popcorn that we rewarded ourselves with! 

 LisaPage’s aunt Page and uncle Bill, who took our things over “The Green Monster” for us and met us at the campground to return our gear to us.  

LisaPage’s aunt Page and uncle Bill, who took our things over “The Green Monster” for us and met us at the campground to return our gear to us.  

You may be thinking that the steep trip down might be rather fun and exhilarating. Well, we were actually dreading the steep downhill, which we’ll just refer to as the Vesuvius hill. You cannot tell from the elevation map, but it’s not only a steep grade, but also very windy (that’s windy with a “long-I” sound) with short switchbacks and we were warned of occasional gravel on the turns. So we heeded all cautions, took it slowly, pumped our front and back disk brakes, and made it down- safe and sound. Whew! We were glad to have that behind us!

The next two days took us through Lexington and onward through the “valley”. But on a bike, that’s a relative term. Our legs were still not recovered from fighting the Green Monster, and the consistent rolling of the valley sapped their energy.  As we rolled toward Buchanan we were both plotting how we can lighten our gear yet again. 

Hitting the Hay... Literally!

 Where we slept last night (may be difficult to  see, but we set up a spot to sleep on the hay just beyond the white bike).

Where we slept last night (may be difficult to  see, but we set up a spot to sleep on the hay just beyond the white bike).

On account of the looming foecast for this week, we have had to alter some of our plans. Last night the owners of Wyant’s Store in White Hall (across the street from the community center behind which we were going to camp) offered their barn as an alternative to camping in a potential storm. So we took them up on that offer, and we literally “hit the hay.” Yes, we slept inside of the barn on a soft bed of hay. A highlight of this time was that the boys became quite acquainted and taken with the 3 goats and 3 donkeys (one of which was an adorable baby donkey who stayed close to mama) that we shared the farm yard with.

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The biggest challenge was that the animals were a little too interested in the space outside of the barn where we were trying to cook our dinner (which was right in the middle of the farm yard). So first, we had to do a little problem-solving and build a baracade out of some of the scrap materials around. Russell jumped right up to that challenge! Then, we were able to successfully cook our dinner (pasta with broccoli, cheddar and Parmesan). 

 Russell’s baracade to keep the goats and donkeys away from our cooking area. 

Russell’s baracade to keep the goats and donkeys away from our cooking area. 

 Douglas helping to cook dinner. 

Douglas helping to cook dinner. 

This morning we had to decide on our next game plan, in light of the predicted storms for the next few days. While we could have biked this morning on our way up Afton Mountain, the fog was concerning us, as well as where we would end up landing for the next few days. There was really no perfect place along the route that would allow us to both progress a bit and also weather the storms safely for 3 days. So we decided to bike 8 miles to a campground that is about 2 miles off route and stay in a primitive cabin for the 3 days. It has turned out to be a very good option with lots of things to do and a different experience for us all.

 Our “primitive” cabin for the next 3 days- just 2 rooms, no running water or bathroom (water spigot around the corner from the steps). Bathroom/showers are a 3-minute walk UP a steep hill. 

Our “primitive” cabin for the next 3 days- just 2 rooms, no running water or bathroom (water spigot around the corner from the steps). Bathroom/showers are a 3-minute walk UP a steep hill. 

 Protecting our bikes from the pouring rain. 

Protecting our bikes from the pouring rain. 

Real Answer to Prayer!

Not all prayers that we fling up to a God are immediate. But, boy did we see a specific and immediate answer today!  Let’s back up to yesterday- when a couple from the bike-specific host church in Palmyra where we were staying- came and generously lavished us with a yummy dinner upon our arrival. We had absolutely no expectation of this warm welcome!  Not only that, but they also allowed us to stay inside the church in the wonderful air conditioning and they let us use the kitchen. The pastor of the church even drove us to his house to let us all take showers. We really enjoyed meeting and talking with Cindy and Gerry who provided us with the dinner, and we had a great conversation with the pastor and his wife and daughter: George, Rita, and Jessica- not just about our bike adventure, but also about their family, their adored pets, and about homeschooling. Note: This was after our longer-than-expected biking day, on account of the flat tire that Jerry and the boys had to fix.

 Jerry’s opportunity to show the boys and me how to change a flat tire.  

Jerry’s opportunity to show the boys and me how to change a flat tire.  

 Before leaving Mineral, we attended a church service at Mineral Baptist Church. They had children present flowers to their mothers in honor of Mother’s Day. I was so touched by this gesture and put my 3 carnations in my handlebar bag for our day’s journey.  

Before leaving Mineral, we attended a church service at Mineral Baptist Church. They had children present flowers to their mothers in honor of Mother’s Day. I was so touched by this gesture and put my 3 carnations in my handlebar bag for our day’s journey.  

 Gerry and Cindy and the yummy meal they provided for us at Palmyra United Methodist Church.  

Gerry and Cindy and the yummy meal they provided for us at Palmyra United Methodist Church.  

 Rita, daughter Jessica, and George (pastor of Palmyra United Methodist Church) who graciously allowed us to take showers at their home. We must have looked really dirty!! What a sweet and welcoming family! 

Rita, daughter Jessica, and George (pastor of Palmyra United Methodist Church) who graciously allowed us to take showers at their home. We must have looked really dirty!! What a sweet and welcoming family! 

We had a great night’s sleep inside the air conditioning of the church, and when we awoke and had our breakfast, we were on our way. However, our ride to Charlottesville did not turn out as we had imagined. Only a quarter of a mile into our ride my front derailleur (the contraption that helps to switch one set of my bike gears) broke. After Jerry determined that he could not repair it with what we had, we simply decided that we would take off the derailleur and keep the bike chain on the smallest front gear and continue to ride to Charlottesville. The drawback to this plan was that although we would be able to progress up hills just fine, traveling on level road and down hills would be very limiting to our potential speed because we would not be able to go to a high gear. But, alas, we hopped back on the bikes... Well, now my chain was slipping in a very predictable, rhythmic pattern (i.e., every 4 pedal revolutions). When we inspected it, we found that there was actually a break in one of the chain links. (We’re not sure if a broken chain caused the derailleur to break, or vice versa. Nevertheless, this was a game changer!) We knew we had to fix this problem or have a bike shop fix it before going any further. So, Jerry rode a short distance to a nearby store thinking there might be a way to fix the problem short-term. Not finding a quick fix, he prayed that God would provide a way to meet our needs. Literally 20-30 seconds later, his phone rang. Remember Cindy and Gerry (the ones who provided dinner for us the night before)? Gerry was calling Jerry, having seen whom he thought must be us- hanging out in the grass with our bikes and gear. (His wife, Cindy, happened to have Jerry’s phone number from our initial contact.) He sensed that he should check on us. And when he did, he found out what had happened, and asked how he could help. People, we can’t make this stuff up!! Fast forward... he ended up picking up our bikes, plus Jerry and Russell, and taking them to the nearest bike shop (in Charlottesville). His wife came and picked up Douglas, Avery, and me, plus all of our gear, and delivered us to the place where we are staying tonight in Charlottesville. The bike shop proceeded to fix my bike in no time- literally stopped what they were doing and got to work on our need! We were reunited with Jerry, Russell, and the bikes only after being at our hostel/bed-and-breakfast for only about 20 minutes. What a day!  And what a cool way for God to work- answering Jerry’s prayer specifically and immediately! It was certainly a faith building memory for us all!

 What do you do when your dad is inspecting a broken chain derailleur? Go play in the nearby Rivanna River, of course!

What do you do when your dad is inspecting a broken chain derailleur? Go play in the nearby Rivanna River, of course!

Currently, I am sitting in a laundromat about 1/2 mile walk from where we’re staying, waiting for our laundry to dry- while listening to the sounds of both Spanish and English speaking folks doing the same. It’s storming outside, and I’m thankful for the shelter we have from the rain, wind, and lightning. I’m thankful for the cans of Brunswick Stew we so conveniently opened and heated up for our dinner tonight. As I reflect on these comforts, conveniences, and provisions, I can’t help but think about those who do not have such things. We are trying to keep this in mind as we go about our bike adventure- not only to remember to be thankful, but also to remember those whom we are indirectly supporting by raising awareness and funds for ECHO along the way. If you are not yet aware of what ECHO does, please take a minute to check out their website further (they are generously hosting this blog for us). And if you are able to donate at all (whether it’s a big or small amount), it would greatly encourage us on our journey!