Monthly Archives: July 2009

The Kindness of Strangers

Last evening we pulled into Christ Church in Hackensack, New Jersey and thoroughly enjoyed the gracious hospitality of the church and its people.  Everywhere we have been in this nation we have experienced an outpouring of kindness and generosity: in California’s Mojave Desert, Daniel ran out of water as he was riding in 100 degree weather.  He smartly took shelter beneath a bush instead of pressing forward.  A family saw him, stopped, offered him water, and allowed him to continue forward; while I was riding in 100 plus weather in Nevada, a lovely Latino family stopped, told me of the Bishop’s plight—flat tire—and offered me cool, cool water to drink; in Overton, Nevada, when we tried to pay for our extra stay at the RV park, the manager refused, sending us on our way; in Kansas, when we were stopped waiting for Isaac and Mark to complete their shift, a concerned young man stopped behind us and asked with great concern how he could help us; in Farmington, Missouri, Father Peter Van Horn and his wife, Beverley, opened All Saints to us and allowed us to relax in a beautiful new space;

And, at a number of convenience stores where we stopped we met delightful men and women who wished us Godspeed.  Police officers, curious about our traveling, stopped us, asked us what we were doing, then supported us once they heard—even the one who pulled me over while I was supporting Daniel’s ride through Ohio.  And here, in Hackensack, we have had cool water to drink, warm water for showers, comfortable mattresses for rest, and kind church members for conversation.  In sum, we have met incredibly kind people, happy and eager to share their world with us.

 After arriving at Christ Church, we set off for our first meal together—all 11 of us at the same time.  We ventured to Casual Habana Café where the owner Benny served us delicious Cuban food.  Benny was very kind, serving us basil lemonade and all sorts of Cuban foods.  Rt. Rev. Mark provided entertainment with assorted card tricks which amazed us.

 Now, as we prepare to leave Christ Church, we expect to arrive at 815 2nd Avenue in New York City.  Kelly drove the 16 mile route last night and told us that it will be hilly—more than we expect.

Accidents Will Happen

Yesterday’s biggest event was Carl’s crashing into a car in New Castle, Pennsylvania—yikes!  We spent our last few hours in the Buckeye State, and then we made our way into the Keystone State.  Carl took off on his Ride and Greg and I followed behind him, looking to support him.  We came upon him a few miles down the road, standing next to a young man and his mangled bicycle.  We immediately stopped, of course.  Carl seemed fine, but unsettled.  David, the tattooed driver, was stunned that he hit Carl.  Carl was riding fine when David inexplicably turned into Carl while trying to enter a convenience store.  There was no rhyme or reason for David’s turning into Carl and impeding his progress on road: Carl, legally traveling along, Route 208 in Pennsylvania, lost his opportunity to ride.  His front wheel was completely mangled by David’s driving, so Greg took up the challenge and road the hour.

Pennsylvania has many terrific riding routes, and we used PennDOT’s Route V to cross Pennsylvania yesterday and this morning.  It is a pleasant road that rises and falls dramatically over the width of the State.  After an hour, Greg was “gassed” so I took over for 90 minutes.  It was lovely to ride in the daylight, as I traveled up and down the road and enjoyed the vista afforded by Pennsylvania’s varied terrain.  Dan followed me and did a tremendous job pushing us toward Clarion.  This morning Mark and Steve arose early and continued on PennDOT’s Route V toward the Jersey boarder.  Isaac rode a rough patch before Steve took over to cross the Jersey boarder.  Kelly rides now and the rest of us will push toward Hackensack, New Jersey, where we will stay at Christ Church in their parish hall before triumphantly riding across the George Washington Bridge tomorrow.  The weather continued to be the story, as rain and thunder threatened for most of the early evening last night.

One of the best parts of this trip has been meeting people.  I must prepare for my Ride, but I will continue this thread later.  Suffice to say, this trip has been made incredibly pleasurable because of the people across this country who have opened their hearts to us.

People Get Ready

On Saturday, we continued to monitor the weather after Friday evening’s impressive thunderstorms in southern Indiana, but, thankfully, we were able to ride all day Saturday without incident.  After Dan and I nearly finished our customary graveyard shift (the thunderstorms cut short our rides), The Hollingsworth team of Mark and Isaac started early Saturday morning, moving us spritely toward the Ohio boarder.  When their shift concluded, Kelly O’Connell and Steve Sedgwick took off with the baton, while the rest of sough the comfort afforded by an RV campsite: picnic tables for leisurely lunches, stationery bathrooms, large, clean showers, drainage facilities (Dumping grey and black water is as cathartic an activity as saying 12 “Hail Mary’s.), laundry facilities (And we discovered washing one’s clothes after 8 days in an RV is as decadent a treat as sipping champagne on the banks of the Seine.)

 

While we wiled away the time at the RV camp, speaking with families enjoying their vacation there and admiring larger RV’s, Kelly and Steve enjoyed a wonderful ride along the Ohio River.  Yesterday I waxed poetically about the special significance and historical place that the Mississippi River has in American lore, but I could have just as easily been celebrating the Ohio River, which also has a rich and deep history.  Because it flows westerly, the Ohio, which feeds into the Mississippi at Cairo, Illinois, was a convenient means for pioneers to reach cities like St. Louis.  Because it separated Free states from slave states, the River has a clear place in American’s second fight for freedom, the Civil War. It has been featured in many works of art, including the iconic Boatman’s Dance, Huckleberry Finn (Remember that Jim and Huck’s original plan was to raft south on the Mississippi to Cairo, Illinois where they would then float to freedom on the Ohio River.), and Uncle Tom’s Cabin (Eliza crosses the dangerous ice floes along the Ohio and escapes to freedom).   Kelly and Steve reported that their trip along the Ohio River featured scenic vistas and welcomed tailwinds. They finished their appointed round 30 minutes early, and we met in Ohio, the state.  Kelly’s parents and her father-in- law met us near the Queen City, Cincinnati, and Kelly, stunned that we did laundry without her and eager to spend time with her family, gathered her laundry and Steve and went home for a few hours.  We, after sending Carl Petterson and Greg Daniels on their way at approximately 5:30, descended on the local grocery store for victuals.        

 

The evening passed uneventful, as Greg and Carl rode mainly on the Miami Bicycle trail in southern Ohio, enjoying the smooth surface.  They gave over their responsibilities to Dan and me around 11:15 in London, Ohio.  I rode the first 90 minutes, and then repaired to the Prius to support Dan.  While traipsing along behind him, I was pulled over by a police officer.  As polite as Dr. Henry Louis Gates was disorderly, I explained why I was seemingly riding the double line behind my cyclist at 1 in the morning: to make sure that I didn’t cast a shadow on the road for him.  Luckily, he let me go without incident, and I continued to follow Dan before finishing my ride. Dan completed our shift beautifully, averaging well over 20 miles per hour through Fredericktown and into Butler, Ohio.  Mark and Isaac awaited us and took off for Port of Canal Fulton, where we made the transition back to Kelly and Steve this morning.  Mark and Isaac reported a challenging ride that started at 5 this morning, but a good one.

 

            Canal Fulton, part of the famous Eric Canal system, has transformed the formerly vital canal into a living museum, so we have wandered around here meeting and greeting well wishers.  Carl’s mother and dog visited with us this morning and supplied us with more homemade beef jerky—thank you, Mrs. Petterson—cookies, and potato salad.  Greg’s wife and son visited with us as well, sharing cookies and Mediterranean Chicken Salad.  After exchanging pleasantries and appreciations, we repaired to a local café for breakfast: pancakes, vegetarian omelets and other good breakfast fare.  

 

Soon we will leave here, expecting to enter the Pennsylvania, the Keystone State, my family’s future home, which will be the final test for us.  We have heard that the mountains of Pennsylvania are even more challenging than the Rockies (or even, perhaps, the Ozarks).  The wind is blowing in such a way that I think rain will travel with us across the state line.  

 

People, get ready, we are almost there.  Of course, we never could have made it this far without our tremendous support: Erin, Gary, and Martha.  They have driven us in the RV, taken hundreds of pictures, rubbed our weary muscles, shown tremendous flexibility, resilience, and patience, bucked us up, and supported us in every conceivable way.  We eight riders bask in the glory of the task, but we could never accomplish it without their anticipating rough spots and quickly working to smooth them.  At every transition they are there to assist us and guide us.  Their work has not gone unnoticed by us.  We appreciate all that they have done and know that when we arrive in New York on Tuesday morning they deserve as much of the congratulatory words as those of us who rode.

Not Gonna Let ‘Em Catch the Midnight Rider

After we left All Saint’s Church in Farmington, Missouri yesterday afternoon, we continued east, searching for the Mighty Mississippi. We very much enjoyed the hospitality of the Church, which read about our Mission on Erin Kirby’s Blog page, http://ning.com, Riding for Their Lives, and determined to give us succor. As noted yesterday, the opportunity to sit in an air-conditioned space and stretch out meant a great to the 11 of us who have been traveling from Anaheim in an RV meant for 6. We returned to the RV refreshed and ready to see what I consider to be the essence of America, The Mighty Mississippi. As we grew closer, my anticipation grew greater, and I lamented that Kelly O’Connell, our impressive route coordinator, had the absolute pleasure of crossing the Mississippi on her bicycle. In the RV we slowed our progress as we crossed it, and then stop on the Illinois side to marvel at God’s creation. I ran barefoot back over the bridge, soaking in the River’s greatness, watching a train pass underneath, and wishing that I could dive in. Isaac, fearing that I might just jump in, held on to me as I inhaled deeply the air about the River and smiled deeply. I might have been the happiest on the trip at that moment. In Missouri, which we crossed in a remarkable 24 hours, Claryville stands as the sentinel over the Mississippi, while in Illinois Chester, like Argus, guards our greatest River. Chester, the home to Popeye, seems like a great candidate for this task. We took pictures of the River and of the stature of Popeye. If you wish to see pictures from this trip, go to http://ning.com, Riding for Their Lives. Illinois was another “thin” state, so we “crossed through” Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana in one day. While in Illinois, we stopped for burrito dinner while awaiting Carl and Greg to complete their rounds. The RV crossed into Indiana and awaited their finish. Just before 11 in the evening, after learning of the Red Sox first victory in almost a week, I supported Dan as he took over along the southern roads of Indiana. He moved along easily for the first 20 miles until we hit Evansville. There, the byzantine roads confused us, so I started anew a bit north of the city, traveling 18 miles before my shift ended. In Missouri, I had a chorus of tree frogs accompanying my trip. This night it was relatively quiet as I rode along. Then, because Indiana 57 joined I-164, I rode along the highway illegally for three miles. That was not quiet as trucks zoomed past me and caused me to pray as I hadn’t prayed since the night before when I traveled through the Ozark Mountains. At our change, we met a kind police officer in Oakland City, Indiana. He spoke to us of his “Black Sheep” ways, as he was the only police officer in a family of ministers. He warned us, because of the lateness of the hour, to be aware of the late night revelers leaving bars at 2 AM, CDT. Dan rode along in the dark, we the “Black Sheep” of this trip, always traveling at night. Dan and I are the Midnight Riders, the Midnight Ramblers, who silently move us forward while the denizens of the RV soundly sleep away. While listening to the radio, my broadcast was interrupted with a weather warning concerning thunder and lightening. Dan finished his shift to peals of thunder and bolts of lightening. I was about to begin my second and final shift at 3:30 when a tremendous gust of wind, a bellowing sound of thunder, and a spectacular strike of lightening deterred me. So we called the RV and let them know our plan: to wait out the thunder. The thunder has dissipated some, but we now ride through Switzerland County, Indiana on our way to the Queen City, Cincinnati, with rain cooling our way. Tomorrow will be spent crisscrossing Ohio, traveling the Miami bicycle path, traveling through London, around Columbus, just north of Canton, then east toward the Keystone State. We hope to meet congregants from Christ Church, Hudson in Canal Fulton, Ohio. Of course, if it is 1 in the morning (and Dan and I will be riding), the best laid plans of these men and women may not come to fruition. Weather, the main story last week this time, is again a topic, as rain follows us (okay) and thunder and lightening threaten us (not okay). We are still determined to ride into New York City on Tuesday, and we have reconfigured our route to ensure our finish. Rev. Kelly O’Connell, who has done a tremendous job creating our paths, has expertly rerouted us. It is a challenging task to find a route that takes us east, and she has done it with great success. I cannot imagine how much time she has spent with this task, but I do know how pleased I am that she has done such good work. We rider, who have the opportunity to focus on riding and enjoying the scenery, have Kelly to thank for concentrating on the details that make this trip possible. Thank you, Kelly. If you wish to read other persons thoughts try these sites Carl and Greg’s sites: http://carlbikeride.blogspot.com; http://biketrip4erd.blogspot.com ot Gonna Let ‘Em Catch the Midnight Rider After we left All Saint’s Church in Farmington, Missouri yesterday afternoon, we continued east, searching for the Mighty Mississippi. We very much enjoyed the hospitality of the Church, which read about our Mission on Erin Kirby’s Blog page, http://ning.com, Riding for Their Lives, and determined to give us succor. As noted yesterday, the opportunity to sit in an air-conditioned space and stretch out meant a great to the 11 of us who have been traveling from Anaheim in an RV meant for 6. We returned to the RV refreshed and ready to see what I consider to be the essence of America, The Mighty Mississippi. As we grew closer, my anticipation grew greater, and I lamented that Kelly O’Connell, our impressive route coordinator, had the absolute pleasure of crossing the Mississippi on her bicycle. In the RV we slowed our progress as we crossed it, and then stop on the Illinois side to marvel at God’s creation. I ran barefoot back over the bridge, soaking in the River’s greatness, watching a train pass underneath, and wishing that I could dive in. Isaac, fearing that I might just jump in, held on to me as I inhaled deeply the air about the River and smiled deeply. I might have been the happiest on the trip at that moment. In Missouri, which we crossed in a remarkable 24 hours, Claryville stands as the sentinel over the Mississippi, while in Illinois Chester, like Argus, guards our greatest River. Chester, the home to Popeye, seems like a great candidate for this task. We took pictures of the River and of the stature of Popeye. If you wish to see pictures from this trip, go to http://ning.com, Riding for Their Lives. Illinois was another “thin” state, so we “crossed through” Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana in one day. While in Illinois, we stopped for burrito dinner while awaiting Carl and Greg to complete their rounds. The RV crossed into Indiana and awaited their finish. Just before 11 in the evening, after learning of the Red Sox first victory in almost a week, I supported Dan as he took over along the southern roads of Indiana. He moved along easily for the first 20 miles until we hit Evansville. There, the byzantine roads confused us, so I started anew a bit north of the city, traveling 18 miles before my shift ended. In Missouri, I had a chorus of tree frogs accompanying my trip. This night it was relatively quiet as I rode along. Then, because Indiana 57 joined I-164, I rode along the highway illegally for three miles. That was not quiet as trucks zoomed past me and caused me to pray as I hadn’t prayed since the night before when I traveled through the Ozark Mountains. At our change, we met a kind police officer in Oakland City, Indiana. He spoke to us of his “Black Sheep” ways, as he was the only police officer in a family of ministers. He warned us, because of the lateness of the hour, to be aware of the late night revelers leaving bars at 2 AM, CDT. Dan rode along in the dark, we the “Black Sheep” of this trip, always traveling at night. Dan and I are the Midnight Riders, the Midnight Ramblers, who silently move us forward while the denizens of the RV soundly sleep away. While listening to the radio, my broadcast was interrupted with a weather warning concerning thunder and lightening. Dan finished his shift to peals of thunder and bolts of lightening. I was about to begin my second and final shift at 3:30 when a tremendous gust of wind, a bellowing sound of thunder, and a spectacular strike of lightening deterred me. So we called the RV and let them know our plan: to wait out the thunder. The thunder has dissipated some, but we now ride through Switzerland County, Indiana on our way to the Queen City, Cincinnati, with rain cooling our way. Tomorrow will be spent crisscrossing Ohio, traveling the Miami bicycle path, traveling through London, around Columbus, just north of Canton, then east toward the Keystone State. We hope to meet congregants from Christ Church, Hudson in Canal Fulton, Ohio. Of course, if it is 1 in the morning (and Dan and I will be riding), the best laid plans of these men and women may not come to fruition. Weather, the main story last week this time, is again a topic, as rain follows us (okay) and thunder and lightening threaten us (not okay). We are still determined to ride into New York City on Tuesday, and we have reconfigured our route to ensure our finish. Rev. Kelly O’Connell, who has done a tremendous job creating our paths, has expertly rerouted us. It is a challenging task to find a route that takes us east, and she has done it with great success. I cannot imagine how much time she has spent with this task, but I do know how pleased I am that she has done such good work. We rider, who have the opportunity to focus on riding and enjoying the scenery, have Kelly to thank for concentrating on the details that make this trip possible. Thank you, Kelly. If you wish to read other persons thoughts try these sites Carl and Greg’s sites: http://carlbikeride.blogspot.com; http://biketrip4erd.blogspot.com

Toto, I Don’t Think We’re in Kansas Anymore (But We Actually Are)

Knowing that the average attention span in our bloated information society is as short as a rainstorm in the Nevada desert, I shall attempt to be brief. 

Day 7 started for Daniel Orr and me at 3:00 am CDT when we arose for our 3:30 shift.  As we waited in the Kansas night for Carl Petterson and Greg Daniels to complete their shift, we stole a quick glance into the sky and saw every star ever created.   The paucity of light, the absence of urban light pollution, and the lack of structures to draw away someone’s attention combined to focus one’s vision on the brilliant night sky.  Cloudless, the sky afforded us a complete and arresting view of all the stars watching over the Kansas night.  Finally Carl and Greg arrived, filled with stories of meeting BMX cyclists who cheered and celebrated them and Newton police officers who detained them and questioned their sanity—across the country on bicycles in how many days?  Dan started our shift, and in our first hour we met exactly one car and one armadillo over the course of the first seventeen miles covered by him on his recumbent bicycle.  Dan is a sight on that bicycle which reclines.   Many a time I watch him and covet his wide, welcoming seat, as he sits close to the ground pedaling away. Fairly quickly we left the dark side streets of Kansas for US Route 54, which was surprisingly busy with trucks in the predawn morning.  The undulating hills provided the challenge once I jumped on my bicycle, determinedly traveling east and eagerly anticipating the sunrise.  I finished my first 90-minute shift and returned the reigns to Dan for his final shift.  We started the morning in the mid 50’s, but by the time the sun rose, the temperature climbed, as did the humidity.  We finished our five hours and handed the responsibility to cross Kansas to Mark and Isaac Hollingsworth.

In the RV, we talked away, as I had a chance to listen to NPR and hear the news of the day, including Gates’ run in with the Cambridge police—a blog for another day!  Greg awoke from his nap to share with us that his family once lived not too far away in the towns of Elsmore and Savonburg.  He sheepishly asked us if we could visit his paternal grandmother, his paternal grandfather, and his father’s graves, which were fewer than thirty minutes north.  All of us in the RV were excited to share this moment with him, so we used our Garmin to find Elsmore off Route 59.  Because the town consisted of little more than a few houses, we found the gravesite immediately and paid respect to Greg’s family with a prayer led by Steve Sedgwick.  We then followed the back roads to Savonburg, the town where Greg’s grandmother lived.  We found her house—a bit changed, but isn’t everything?—and we took a picture of him before the home he used to visit when he was a little boy.  Driving down from South Dakota with his family in the dead of night, Greg and his family would make it to Savonburg for summer visits.  Needless to say, this was a special moment for him and for all of us.

Typical, while the rest of us were lollygagging in the RV, the Hollingsworth team was pedaling furiously toward the Missouri boarder.  After our detour we had to work to catch them, which we finally did in Pittsburgh, Kansas, about five miles from Missouri.  Kansas has been with us far too long, and we were ready to shake that dust from our feet.  Everyone talked of Kansas as flat, and if I said that earlier before I traveled it, I was wrong.  Kansas isn’t flat: it is rolling.  Every cyclist dreams of Kansas’ flat terrain and gentle tailwind, but each cyclist experienced a rolling terrain and smart crosswinds that forced us to focus as we rode.   Willa Cather, in her novel, My Antonia, talked of the plains as not being a country, but being the raw material out of which a country is made.  I understood her as I cycled almost 90 miles through Kansas on my shifts: everywhere I looked I saw such potential and such opportunity here.  Kansas is unrelentingly long, but I loved the land as much as I appreciated the kindness of the people. 

In Pittsburgh, we determined to have lunch, a hot lunch, the first hot meal I had enjoyed since a burrito in the Vegas airport last Thursday (Chipotle doesn’t count, for it was served cold!).  We descended upon Harry Café on Broadway in Pittsburgh.  Our waitress, born and raised in Pittsburgh, welcomed us warmly enough, but she could not imagine what would draw anyone to Pittsburgh, Kansas.  She seemed nonplussed by our jovial ways.  We happily consumed onion rings, hamburgers, hot roast beef sandwiches, steaks, pancakes, hot cinnamon rolls, and chocolate cake.  Oh, it was good!

Now we are in Missouri and those who have traveled across country talk of Missouri’s roads as the most difficult in the country.  I think everyone mentally prepares for Utah and Colorado’s mountains, but no one thinks that Missouri’s hills and mountains—the Ozarks—are worth noting.  We have been in the state for only a few miles, but already we have marveled at the changes in elevation.  We just stopped at a gas station in Ash Grove, Missouri, and spoke with the delightful owner who shared his great joy with us.  Steve and Kelly finished a spirited ride with a generous tailwind, which allowed their completely more than 90 miles in their five hours.  Greg and Carl prepare for their shift, which means that Dan and I best prepare for our shift, which will begin at midnight.

There are many stories ahead, but as we remember the Daniels family from Elsmore and Savonburg, Kansas, let us celebrate our families that allowed us to raise this money, support this worthy cause, and enjoy this adventure.  I am particularly thankful to my wife and her parents who patiently await my arrival early next week.  Without their support, this ride would not have been possible.

Half Way There, Living on a Prayer

This morning, starting around 12:45 CDT, Dan Orr and I traveled east toward Ellington, Missouri, which was 80 miles away.  If Kansas is an unmade bed, a crumpled mess of half hills, then Missouri is a rollercoaster, a wild ride that exhausts the rider.  Kansas was long and uneventful, taking a long time to cross, while Missouri, seemingly as many miles, is flying beneath our wheels, but at a cost: I think that all the riders are taxed from the riding.  Yes, it is great to travel downhill at 35 miles per hour, but then the accompanying trek uphill fatigued the rider.  In addition, it is just exhausting to ride up and to ride down and to ride up and to ride down.     

Dan did yeoman work riding up and down the hills (and small mountains of Missouri) for the first 1:15, and then he pulled over and gave me my shot.  I loved the downhill rides on this morning journey, passing armadillos on the ground and traveling underneath bats, and other animals at great speeds in the dark.  But, then that joyride would be joined to a torturous uphill climb, leaving me sucking wind like crazy.  Because of the fair-warning, I knew that Utah and Colorado would be challenging, but I knew nothing about Missouri.  As noted in an earlier post, Missouri is considered the most challenging state to cross because of the rolling hills and mountains.  It just drains the rider. Dan took his second shift, and then I took my final expecting to finish by 5:45 in Ellington.  Since we had only seventeen miles to go to reach the town, and since I had 1:15 to do it, I was incredibly confident.  Then I hit the first huge uphill climb.  I pushed through it, barely, hopeful that that one would be the last one.  A few minutes later, I was climbing a second one in the Ozark Mountains, and I was fading fast.  A third one just about killed me, forcing me to stop to catch my breath and to refill my water bottle.  I thought that I wasn’t going to make it, but I finally did complete each and every one of the hills and mountains of my morning ride.  Of course, the gorgeous sunrise, my second consecutive day greeting the sun on my bicycle, inspired me, creeping through the trees on the elevated horizon.

After a quick shower, I passed out on the community bed, listening to “My Favorite Things” by Julie Andrews, because I had convinced myself that hearing her singing that song would help me complete my Ride.  I was right.  Just listening to the whole Sound of Music soundtrack soothed me and restored me, preparing me for my 9 PM shift.  When I awoke from my morning nap, I discovered I was in Bismarck, Missouri, which featured a tiny—six foot tall—Statue of Liberty outside the convenience store that provided my lunch.

 

This afternoon I have been holed up at All Saints Episcopal Church in Farmington, Missouri enjoying the hospitality of this beautiful new church; the church was built last summer and its priest has been exceedingly generous, plying us with food and drink and space outside the RV.  What a beautiful thing.

We are preparing to leave Tornado Alley and resume our march toward New York City, in spite of my having already seen a Statue of Liberty.  We are more than half way there, and we are living on a prayer on our way toward Bon Jovi’s New Jersey.

Long Day’s Journey into Night (and) Kansas

Since I last posted, I have ridden six times, traversed all of Colorado (with help, of course), and slept very little.  If weather dominated the conversation during the first few days (everyone talks about it, but no one can do anything about it), then sleep has replaced weather talk.  Because the weather forced us to fall so miserably behind in terms of time, which waits for no man (the plan was to cover 400 plus miles each day), we moved to an insane Riding schedule that called for four of us riding two hours over the course of an eight hour shift.  Our team, Rt. Reverend Mark Hollingsworth, Carl Petterson, Dan Orr, and I, started our first climb in the Rockies around 7 in the evening on Monday just west of Dolores, Colorado.  Our plan was to travel from Delores to Montrose, passing through Stoner, Rico, Telluride, Sawpit, Ridgeway, and Colona.   The first ascent (from 7,000 to 10,020 feet) was gradual but noticeable, as each one of us took an hour, climbing in the twilight and then complete dark.  We had two ascents, both to over 10,000 feet.  We dropped down after each one, and then started anew the next climb.  Each time my shift started, I was rewarded with a nice long, challenging, gradual climb.  The cycling in Utah steeled me for this task, and I came to expect and enjoy climbs every time I positioned myself in my saddle.

Now, envy, as we know, is a deadly sin, and I started to become envious of the Bishop, for every time that I seemed to climb for a full hour, he would reap the benefits with a long descent.  While in the car with Carl and Dan, I expressed my envy plaintively!  At one point, I wasn’t as envious of his having such a luxurious downhill, as he wiped out crossing onto smoother pavement.  Luckily he was okay—able to continue riding—but watching from the Prius, we were unsettled to see him fall and hit his head on the pavement—he cracked his helmet.  There were also light moments as we watched him descend: a badger or a porcupine crossed his path, and Carl, Dan, and I spent the better part of an hour arguing whether it was one or the other—we still don’t know!  Each evening ride provided us with the opportunity to see such interesting animals, which appeared from the brush.  One of our most favorites has been the deer, which prance and hop like mountain goats when they cover the rocky terrain in Colorado.  It is as if they have adapted to the mountainous terrain with their unique and arresting jumping.  They also seem to like bicyclists, as they often follow alongside us—from a safe distance—before crossing the road.

When Mark returned to the vehicle and was informed of my obvious envy, he commented, “The best cure for a case of envy is a surfeit of the coveted thing.”  Well, the next time I jumped on for my shift, at 2 or so in the morning, I climbed after Daniel had started a good, steep climb (soon after we had passed Telluride) for six miles.  I climbed for five full miles before reaching the summit and then flying downhill into Ridgeway, losing almost two thousand feet of elevation in seven frightening miles.  Traveling down a mountain at 35-40 miles an hour can exhilarate and intimidate, but it takes on a new level of fear at 3 in the morning.  I rode down with my hands positioned on the break, fearful of hitting uneven pavement, road debris, or even a jackrabbit, deer, or any wildlife not expecting a cyclist at that time in the morning.  I did make it safely to Ridgeway and handed over the cycling duties to Carl, who road like the wind through town, averaging 23 miles per hour through the dark streets.  Mark finished our turn, as we waited for the RV to pick us up.  We finished our shift around 4:30 and turned in for a couple of hours.

Our next shift started precisely six hours after the last one, so we were up and climbing by 10 the next morning.  Carl was eager to climb Monarch Pass, 11,312 feet and the site of the Continental Divide.  Dan started us out on the climb, and then passed the baton to Mark, who climbed the first three miles of the nine-mile ascent to Monarch Pass.  Carl jumped on his bicycle, as eager and as excited as anyone could possible be for the torture ahead—ah, youth.  His climb was spectacular from every possible perspective: the vistas were dramatic, the elevation changes were steep, the hairpin turns were fierce, and the work was arduous.  Carl and I had been joking about my holding the coveted Pokka-dotted climbing jersey (awarded during the Tour de France to the best hill climber), but I told him that were he to ascend Monarch Pass, I would happily relinquish the jersey.  He climbed Monarch Pass like a mountain goat, maneuvering the steep switchback with relish and confidence.  He summited the Pass just after noon, and we stopped to take in the accomplishment: 6 miles in 45 minutes!  On his way up, he was greeted with great gusto by cyclists descending the Pass.  He later told me that there were a number of inspirational and comical messages on the road as he climbed: “The Pain in your legs, is really in your head,” “Dude, don’t hurl on the shell; I just waxed it!”  At the top, we met a group of cross-country cyclists who were spending 72 days crisscrossing the country: 60 days riding and 12 days building houses.  They were a group called Bike N Build, and they were enjoying the view from Monarch Pass after their climb from the opposite direction.  Starting in Providence, they are traveling to San Francisco, stopping along the way to help build housing.  The group inspired us, and I was envious of the long time that they had to cross the country: 72 days to our 10!

Knowing the degree of ascent and descent and tiring of my whining, Carl deferred to me and let me have the descent.  I flew down from Monarch Pass and the Continental Divide, averaging well over 35 miles an hour for the eight miles.  Having sunlight this time, I enjoyed the descent, until a truck passed too closely and caught me momentarily in its wind, shaking me as it passed.  Once at Ponca Springs, I passed the riding back to Dan and then he to Mark and then he to Carl, as we followed along the Arkansas River and watched with great envy from the bicycle seat or the car seat the white water rafters enjoying the River.  I finished another shift, before Dan and Mark pedaled along a bit, waiting for the RV.

The RV had shot ahead of us because we had an accident while backing out: the bicycles on the back were bumped, and Kelly O’Connell and Steve Sedgwick’s bicycles were slightly damaged.  The RV rushed ahead to Pueblo to have the bicycles repaired and to purchase a helmet for the Bishop after his fall.  They met us west of Pueblo, and we started a new cycle of shifts, because we realized the one that we had—four of us riding for eight hours and three of us for six hours—was absolutely killing us all—I think that I had 4 hours of deep sleep over 48 hours.  On a trip like this one, however, it is the small rewards that mean so much.  Isaac spotted a Chipotle in Pueblo and encouraged the RV denizens to purchase us dinner.  Nothing tasted so good as last night’s Burrito Bowl.  After four or five days of every kind of cycling snack, something warm with rice, beans, and corn tasted so good; our first warm meal in days!  Every thing has been turkey sandwiches, goo, granola bars, Cliff Bars, peanuts, and trail mix since Saturday.  Chipotle could not have tasted better if it had been filet mignon.

Since we started a new riding pattern, with each two-person team responsible for five hours of riding, I watched as Isaac took off for his first real ride—and was he excited to discover this sweet, but dangerous descent for the first part of his ride.  He took us 20 miles closer to Pueblo before Kelly and Steve took over, and I took a shower and went to bed at 9 PM PDT.  Dan and I were scheduled to ride at 6 am, and we were delirious to take advantage of the potential rest.  Of course, we both awoke three hours later ready to ride, but forced ourselves back to sleep and arose at 5:30, ready for our shift.  Kelly and Steve took us to within two miles of Kansas, a state that had gained Eden-like stature in our minds, for we deeply desired to ride on flat terrain.  Dan took off, and I followed alone in the Prius, grateful for the time alone to collect my thoughts and to call my wife and wish her a Happy Anniversary—our 14th!  Dan rode 20 miles in the warm Kansas morning, and then allowed me to ride.  I rode 22 miles, passing the Central Time Zone sign, something that I had never seen posted before—a sign denoting a change in time.  Kansas is flat, but it does roll a bit beneath one’s wheels, and it always looks as if there is a rise ahead, but rarely does it materialize (we actually dropped in elevation from Pueblo, 4,700 feet to Alexander, Kansas 2,050 feet).  I enjoyed the undulating molehills this morning and the warming day—stated around 60 this morning and Dan and I finished after 11 at around 80 degrees.  In Kansas, one can literally see for miles: when I first hopped on my bicycle, I saw a grain elevator in the distance.  I thought that it was nearby, but it was actually more than two miles away.  It dominated the landscape as the only signpost of life in the vicinity.  As I rode, I would spot these elevators and ride toward them—there was almost nothing else to mark my passing, save cattle, corn, wheat, and billboards: “Are you on the Road to me?—God,” read one of the billboards.  Considering what we are doing, raising over 100K to help stamp out Malaria, I was tempted to nod my head, “yes,” but we still have a long way to go.  Route 96 stretched out before Dan and me, almost as straight as an arrow, as we passed through Tribune (named after Horace Greeley’s paper, for this native New Hampshirian stood up for the people of the plains and advocated for them), Selkirk, Leoti, and Scott City, eventually turning over our riding reigns to Mark and Isaac in Dighton, Kansas, some 90 miles into the Sunflower State.  Along the way, I passed a rider on his bicycle between Scott City and Dighton, and he was cycling all the way to Virginia.  I wish him safe passage.

Again, the simple pleasures take on more meaning in an RV with 11 people trying to find space: a place to sit; a place to eat; a shower; a clean, well-lighted stationary bathroom; cold drinks; chewing gum; jellybeans.  We arrived in Dighton, sent Mark and Isaac, and then raided a convenience store, where I purchased Gatorade, Arizona Iced Tea—drank two of them in five minutes!—Smartfood, Trident, Beef Jerky, and jelly beans.  My lunch time meal of turkey and cheese seemed like a feast, knowing that I had the Hutchinson News to read—did you read about the 842 mile golf course in Australia set to open west of Sydney or the tractor that was stolen from a worksite, which will cause delays in building a bridge here in Kansas?—iced tea, cold iced tea, to drink, and jelly beans to consume.

This trip has been rewarding on so many levels, but it hasn’t been without its challenges.  The good news is that everyone is doing his or her best to step up to the challenges that living in an RV built for six people (Did I see someone sleeping on the floor last night?) provide and that we are doing what we can to better this world one mosquito net at a time—sleep be damned!