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.