Monday, June 16, 2014


Almost every day since Philadelphia it has rained on us.  In fact, some days it hailed on us.  But I will get to that.  After helping out in Philadelphia and touring the downtown area, we had to trek out on our first 100 mile day into the heart of Pennsylvania.  To the heart of the chocolate world to be exact.  We rode all the way to Hershey, PA.  Most of the trail out of Philadelphia was a sweet hard packed gravel trail along rivers and through enchanted forests.  I got to ride with an amazing returning rider named Dan, and even though we got lost and ended up in someone’s private driveway, I would say the day ended up a success.  At Hershey they allowed us to spray off our muddy, nasty bikes with a hose, and once we were showered and ready, they took us to Chocolate World to tour their attraction.  Unfortunately, we didn’t end up going to where any of the roller coasters are…so now I will just have to come back, but it was still a fun place to be singing with the dairy cows.  Like literally, the cows sang on the tour ride. 

From Hershey, we rode into historic Gettysburg.  After our chore team got done with everyone’s laundry, I was able to go explore the town and the battle memorial.  Me and my new, awesome friends Dani and KP, went on an exploration for ice cream…..which was unsuccessful, but then ended walking over to the memorial and experiencing all of the rich Civil War history these areas have.  But of course, on the way back, we got hit by a torrential downpour and ended up walking back into the church looking like we just decided to jump into a lake.  Definitely gonna remember that day.  That seems to be a theme.  There are a lot of memorable moments. 

After Gettysburg, we began our climb into the mountains of the Appalachians.  We climbed 3 pretty major passes (which I’ll be honest, I didn’t think existed in this mountain range) and totaled just over 7,000 feet of climbing by the time we crawled into Everett, PA.  There wasn’t much to do in Everett but that didn’t stop me.  I went exploring with another new friend, Kristina (another theme haha, there a lot of new friends each day, we are becoming family.)  We found a sketchy bridge that was being worked on and only open to pedestrians - oh and was traversing flooding waters….from all the rain that we’ve been biking through.  We also found a cool golf course and watched people golf, pretending we were announcers and giving everyone names.  Our personal favorite was Derry.  Which was a mix between Dave and Jerry because we couldn’t agree which one best suited him. 

Leaving Everett, we headed for Mount Pleasant.  What a beautiful day it was.  We rode over the Laurel Highlands to beautiful partly cloudy skies.  Of course the word highlands doesn’t come without climbing.  We totaled another 6,600 feet of climbing over many many rolling hills, before finally descending a 4 mile, 7% grade hill.  Always the best part!  Quite possibly the only reason to even climb up the hills in the first place.  BUT we weren’t so lucky as to dodge the rain all day.  On the last hill, 5 miles out from the church, we got hailed on.  IT POURED! It poured so hard my arms hurt going down the hill as we looked for shelter.  My windshield wipers on my bike helmet didn’t appear to be working as I did my best to dodge holes, sticks, and other bikers going 30 mph down the hill.  But alas, we found a gas station, ran in, and lo and behold found a happy, and very dry, Gerry (who is our Scottish/Australian rider) huddled inside.   He apparently is more wise than us and ducked for cover before the storm comes.  Genius. 

From the very pleasant Mount Pleasant, we finally headed to our rest day near Pittsburgh.  And for once, it didn’t rain.  In fact it was beautiful! Pittsburgh couldn’t have advertised itself better to us.  I loved it! We got to bike across cool bridges, on amazing bike trails, through brick downtown streets, and by Heinz Field and PNC Park.  Pictures were had.  We spent our evening and our rest day in Rochester, PA, about 30 miles NW of Pittsburgh.  Had the chance to go swimming, to walk around town, and to experience the fine local dining….at Dairy Queen. 

Today we made the trip into our third state, Ohio.  Me and Dani swept, which basically means we ride at the back and make sure everyone makes it (which apparently we are terrible at, as two riders got lost and got to the first rest station behind us).  But we were able to make the most of the day by taking a bunch of crazy pictures and even throwing our bikes into the lake and jumping in.  Ok that last part didn’t happen but we did put our feet in the lake.  There were only a couple short spurts of rain but other than that, the day went alright.  Right now, I am getting the chance to spend some time alone in a park across the street from our church as I write this, enjoying the soft breeze and the sun reflecting colors off the giant storm clouds in the distance.  I couldn’t imagine a better way to spend the evening before our build day tomorrow as we help out in Aurora, OH. 

You know, it’s funny, rainy days always will come.  Even when you think the sunny days will never end, the rainy days inevitably appear in the distance.  Things happen unexpectedly.  People hurt your feelings, family breaks your heart, your possessions get destroyed.  You can be in a large group of people and still feel like you are alone.  You can be going along smoothly and still lose everything.  Things don’t always go as planned.  Life isn’t always sunny.  Even just now a storm rolled in on me and I had to evacuate the park for shelter.  But God is greater than a storm.  He can calm the seas.  He can get you to walk on water.  All you have to do is call out to Him, to keep your eyes on Him.  And then all of a sudden, no matter what is going on all around you, doesn't seem to matter.  All that matters our the eyes of your beloved savior guiding you out of the boat and leading you on a seemingly impossible journey.  So if there is any thing I have learned from these days of storms and rain, it’s that life is gonna throw waves at you.  People aren’t always going to treat you like you want to be treated.  You are going to get overwhelmed by storms that attack you in a rush.  But when it’s all said and done, its funny how much it all doesn’t even come close to comparing to staring down the eyes of the Man who died for you and wrapping your arms around Him with a love that’s greater than the biggest storm life can throw at you.  So when sadness comes, when anger comes, when frustration comes…even when happiness comes, go to God.  Just go to God.  The storm will pass. 

Thank you all so much for keeping involved with all that we are doing along the way.  I am very excited to tell you about the couple of build days we have coming up as those tend to be some of my favorite parts.  But until that time comes, arrivederci.