This country is beautiful. Lets just settle that right now. From the unexpected pine forests of New Jersey, to the Appalachians, to the hundreds and hundreds of miles of corn and wheat and hay, to the beauty of Lake Shore Park in Chicago, to the unique variety of landscapes found in the Black Hills and Badlands (and even Southern Utah which I went to earlier this summer), and now to the Montana Rockies, and soon to the Columbia River and Cascade Mountains of the Pacific Northwest. God's creation is so beyond comprehension. And this is just one stretch across one country. I can't fathom places all around the world! The Andes! Macchu Picchu! The Swiss Alps! Tuscany! The Fjords of Norway! The tropical ares in southeast Asia! So many places. It reminds you not only how beautiful our planet is, but how big it is too. And how big our universe is. And how big our God is who breathes stars into creation.
The last two weeks have been a blur of awe inspiring beauty. After leaving Rapid City, we went straight into the northeast corner of Wyoming. The people in the small town of Sundance were so generous that they split us into small groups and took us home with them. We each had our own beds and it was the most divine feeling my back has experienced in 6 long weeks. It's amazing how when you start living simply, you acknowledge and appreciate the gift of every pleasure you get in life. Even just a warm shower.
Also in Wyoming we got the chance to see a friend I met in Washington. He showed us all around his hometown of Sheridan. The timing was perfect because they were having their Third Thursday Street Festival. We got to check out all the stalls and the shops running downtown. The city was beautiful and alive with cowboy culture. Cowboy boots, saddles, beat up Ford trucks, kids lassoing people in the streets. That's the cool thing about this trip. Every day you are in a new city with a slightly different culture. From the casinos and touristy boardwalk of Atlantic City, to the active and fun communities in Chicago, to the farming towns of the Midwest, not one stop is ever dull of excitement.
We spent the weekend in Billings, Montana. After spending a very smokey week in Wyoming from the fires in Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia, the sky finally started to clear over the weekend and we were blessed with a majestic view of the Rockies off in the distance. It took us only two days to bike to them. From Harlowton, our group climbed and climbed gradually over the first foothill and then down into where the Missouri River headwaters are near. And finally leaving Helena, we had our biggest climb of the trip so far. MacDonald Pass - 6,312 ft, separating the Atlantic Watershed from the Pacific. It's cool and weird to think that from now on all the creeks and rivers will be flowing into the Columbia River eventually and out to where we are headed in Astoria. I love climbing up mountains and this mountain pass did not let me down! People often ask what we do when we are biking. Do we talk? Do we think? Do we eat? well yes. yes. yes. But I just love when I am out on the road by myself, no other bikers in sight, and I can just sing and hum and whistle away to all my favorite worship songs. Over the mountains and the sea, Your river runs with love for me, and I will daily lift my hands, and let the Healer set me free. Could it be any more fitting?
This weekend we are staying at one of my favorite places in this country, Missoula, Montana. Yesterday we were treated with a Celtic Festival going down by the river in downtown. Live music with bagpipes, fiddles, flutes, and a wide variety of Celtic rock. And to top it off, I found a place called Scotty's Table and was treated to an amazingly tasty dinner! And what's not better for dessert then to walk over to the famous Big Dipper Ice Cream, wait in line for 30 minutes, and then salivate over some of the best ice cream these taste buds have ever experienced. We stayed in Missoula when I biked to Colorado Springs 3 years ago and I made a stop at Big Dipper so I couldn't pass it up. It's just that good.
This next week we will be doing less biking and more helping as we have two build days, one in Kellogg, and one in Lewiston. And before you know it, we will be biking in to Richland, WA!!!!!
Just a heads up for those wanting to see us or even ride with us, we are coming in to the Tri Cities on August 5th. Probably doing our final rest stop in Burbank about 10am, and then biking through Pasco along the river and to West Side Church in Richland. I'm thinking we will be clustered in small groups anywhere from the hours of 10am to noon. So if anyone wants to come through and cheer a bunch of orange jerseys on you know where to find us. Let me know if you might be thinking of biking with us along any portion :) The evening of August 5th we are having a presentation at West Side Church at 7pm for anyone that wants to come hear about the reason a bunch of crazy people like me are giving up the luxuries of life and biking across America. We would love to see you there. Then on August 6th, we will be leaving probably about 7 am (further notice on that will come as the day approaches) and headed up toward Yakima. We always have a devotion every morning if anyone wants to send our group off or even bike with us a segment of the morning. Just facebook me if that would be something you are interested in! I am so excited to see all of you there! Until then keep posted for more and more beautiful pictures as we still have 2 mountain passes to climb!!!