Sunday, July 27, 2014

Continental Divide

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!!!

Monday, July 14, 2014

He holds it all together.

Today my name was up for writing the Fuller Center Blog.  This is what I wrote in case you don't have access to that blog.  It can be found at --- FULLER CENTER BLOG --- Definitely check it out to see what the other riders are saying each day about our trip.

The last few days have been indescribable.  Any words I attempt to put on a page won’t scratch the surface of what this area of South Dakota has been like.  Yesterday, I witnessed a band of wild horses galloping right next to the road and then veering up and over the hillside.  If you have ever seen Dances With Wolves, imagine that.  Acres of grassland and prairie flowers flowing like purple waves across dry river beds that chisel their way through layers of salmon and white colored sandstone jutting out of the ground in every formation imaginable.  The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, Badlands, and Buffalo Gap were the most breathtaking and silently inspiring places to just hear nothing but your breath, your bike chain whirling, and the occasional squeak of my pedal.  It’s amazing how taking away all the cares and all the sounds of life can just leave you speechless before the endless glory of God manifested all around you.

I just had to write a little about yesterday because it left such an impact on my trip.  And not to mention we had the opportunity to check out Mount Rushmore at sunset and see a lighting festival that involved hearing about the history of our nation and the monument. 

Today, me and a few of the other riders, Lydia, Steve, and our van driver Brett, decided to use our “rest” day to go do a local running race.  So in case you are wondering, yes, we are slightly crazy.  But I don’t regret it for a second.  It was the Mystic Mountain 8 mile trail run in the heart of the Black Hills…..and it was gorgeous! We ran amidst peaks and valleys of pine, waded through knee high creeks, and trekked through muddy puddles to fully envelop ourselves in the beauty that is this area. 

Rapid City and the surrounding areas is turning out to be one of my favorite places just because of how much you see everyone out on their bicycles (or their motorcycles, which there are a lot!), or walking through the countless parks, or hanging out and one of the many local swimming pools or hang out spots, or grabbing a drink at one of the many microbreweries and ale houses.  The city is just alive with culture.  I am really glad we were able to spend a day off in this city, and even more glad that we get another one tomorrow. 

That is my favorite thing about this Fuller Center Bike Adventure.  Not only do we get to see these amazing new places, but we get to do them with a family culture that we create with all of the riders, and we get to do it from the seat of a bike.  No sitting in a car, music drowning out nature, air conditioning keeping you comfortable, engines making the terrain seem boring.  Just you, a few other bikers struggling together, the swirl of chains hissing in unison, the smell of flowers, rain, cows, corn, the sounds of horses galloping, dogs barking, wheat rustling, the struggle of every headwind, the beauty of every tailwind, the refreshment of rain, the beauty of every sunset, all of it singing together glorifying God who holds it all together.  Who holds us all together.

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.  And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.  And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.”  Colossians 1:15-20

Monday, July 7, 2014

Trials and Storms.

Man, it has been busy lately.  It doesn't seem like that long ago that I wrote, but it turns out it's been almost 2 weeks! I wrote my last blog from Indiana and now we are in South Dakota!!!! I guess I have a lot to try and remember and catch up on.

Gary, Indiana was unbelievable!  I have never seen anything like it.  The city has gone from 180,000 to barely 80,000.  Entire streets are abandoned.  Businesses are boarded up.  It seemed absolutely hopeless.  The street we were working on was the same street the Jackson 5 grew up on, except now at least 10 of the homes are boarded up, overrun with weeds and trees, and littered with trash and broken glass.  We cleaned up 2 of the houses yards and filled countless blags with bottles, cans, plastic bags, and all sorts of random trash, even a vacuum cleaner.  Coincidentally we were there on the anniversary of Michael Jackson's death so people were lining the corner, driving by, impersonators dancing to blaring music in the middle of the street.  One word. Unforgettable.  I will always remember Gary, Indiana and the resilient hope the Fuller Center partner has there to stick it out and repair the neighborhoods that they grew up in.

After that we spent the weekend just north of Chicago in a smaller community called Waukegan.  The Fuller Center partner there called the Hero Project had just completed their first house and moved in the family and was now purchasing and renovating the second house for a new family.  We were able to go in and help paint and clean up around the house a little bit to prepare them for the work.  They were so passionate about their mission in the North Chicago neighborhood.  It was contagious to be around.  Jerry, our Scottish/Australian rider, and Everett (who love to sing during the ride) were able to join in with the gospel choir for Sunday worship.  It's increible to see how these churches accept us in so quickly and are excited that we can help them.  30 pairs of hands gets a lot of work done fast!

On our off day we were able to ride the train all the way into downtown and check out a lot of the local attractions.  We went to a comedy club that was absolutely hilarious, we saw the "Willis" (Sears) Tower, went to the Jelly Bean, walked down Michigan Ave, went to Navy Pier, and walked along the waterfront of Lake Michigan.  I EVEN FOUND A GHIRADELLI STORE! Possibly the best moment of my life.  Total for the day we walked about 11+ miles that day.  Some off day huh?

But alas all fun things must come to an end.  Segment 4 would be a week like no other.  540 miles in 6 straight days of biking.  The second day was the hardest day I have ever had the experience of biking through.  Rolling hills and headwinds for 80 miles made the day udderly exhausting (We were in wisconsin so forgive my cow pun).  For the week, we did 92, 81, 96, 87, 88, and then 94 miles to finally reach Sioux Falls.  Along the way we were met with many corn fields and smells of manure.  I got to see the Mississippi River for the first time from the ground, Climb through attics and staircases to get to a bell tower of a church to watch the thunder storm (maybe not to bright), watch God one up the 4th of July celebration by sending a thunderstorm to pour rain and give a light display like none other.  Realistically it was a blur.  Bike all morning and afternoon, shower, eat dinner, sleep, bike all morning and afternoon, shower, eat dinner, sleep....over and over.  We were all exhausted and well ready for the rest day in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  We have now biked for 22 days, been in 9 states, and seen rain in 16 of the days. 

Today we biked out of our rest day in Sioux Falls and into no mans land, AKA Parkston, SD.  Just 40 miles of boring, EXTREMELY straight roads through corn fields.  There was an incredible thunder storm that just passed us to the north that treated us with a painting like you could only imagine.  The clouds were waving and twisting and all sorts of paintbrush designs.  In Parkston we were treated by a bunch of the local kids who attend the church.  They were very inquisitive and eager to hang out with us.  One of them asked to race me so I had the chance to race 3 of the kids around the parking lot course.  It was a race for the ages!  Probably the easiest fun I have had thus far on the trip.  Kids have a way of bringing out such simple peace and joy in everyone.

The next two days we have back to back 100+ mile days on some pretty fun terrain as we get closer to our build day on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, and eventually another 100 mile day to get to Rapid City, South Dakota.  Hopefully I write again to you sooner this next time but thanks so much for reading along and supporting our trip.  Just a heads up, so far I have only raised enough to get to Billings, MT.  I still need 600 more dollars to finish off my fundraising goal, and officially be able to bike all the way to the Pacific Ocean.  I have a little less than two weeks to get to that goal so if you would like to donate or know more about this organization that I am riding my bike across the country for just ask away! I will post the link to my donation page if you want to give.  Unlike other mission trips where most of the money goes to airfare and residency, 100% of the money all of us bikers raise goes straight to help building and repair costs of all the homes.  Here is the link to the page.  Just click here.  Thank you all so much for your continued support.  Loving getting to show all the pictures and videos to you all as we make this incredible journey.