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)!
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!
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!
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.
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.
Then, they are sprayed with WD-49.
And last, they are placed back in their “home” for storage.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!!
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!
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.)
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)!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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 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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.) :)
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!
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...
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!
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...
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.
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!!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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!).
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!
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.
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
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.
On our rest day in Berea, KY, we visited this fun pool- open to the public.
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.
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!
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).
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.
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.”
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...
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.
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!!
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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!
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!