Saturday, 27 July 2013


Our 151 kilometer ride today started without breakfast. We rode into the town of Sully, 30 km out of camp, where we were served a delicious breakfast. Pancakes, bacon, eggs, fruit, and orange juice quickly filled up my belly. Yet again Iowa proved to be anything but flat. I figured, given the humongous meal I ate last night, that I would not be hungry this morning. But, despite the two plates of food and bowl of fruit loops I ingested for supper, the growling of my stomach accompanied on my first 30 kilometers today. Dealing with the constant hills didn't help my empty belly any.

While riding, I couldn't help but remember my time in Africa last summer. I was reminded of my students who often did not eat breakfast or supper- their only meal was the lunch they were given at school. How did they work on an empty stomach or concentrate on schoolwork? I don't know if I could have gotten up to ride today if I had not been promised a large meal shortly after beginning. How did those children get up and do a full day's work ... without food in their belly? I had a hard enough time making it to breakfast without food or water in my belly, let alone the whole day! I now have a small understanding of the plight of my students.

I thoroughly enjoyed my breakfast and departed for the next 120 km to camp in Coralville, IA. A strong north wind had developed and the already cool morning became even cooler. I was so grateful that we were headed east for most of the day. In fact, I found the north wind often giving me a small push along. I was able to find energy I didn't know I possessed and I flew along those roads. Perhaps the hills were less up and down than they have been, perhaps that bacon really gave me energy. Whatever it was, I cruised through the day. Sure, my legs are still tired. Sure, I couldn't turn my head by the end of the day. Sure, I was more than happy to get of that bike seat. But I loved today! 

My bike odometer died early on, so I spent most of my ride not knowing the time, or distance or speed. And I found this all quite comforting. It was nice to loose those small distractions and just focus on biking and the surroundings. I spent a good part of my afternoon cleaning my bike and stripping off the zipties holding the odometer to my frame. A new odometer is on my list, but I'm not going to go out of my way to buy one at this point. 

Today the tour welcomed 24 new cyclists. I was asked to help orientate them to the gear truck and make sure they were situated with their laundry baskets and shelves. I really enjoyed that and getting to knew these new recruits. I can't imagine how hard it must be to join in the middle of such a tour! Prayers for their smooth integration would be appreciated.

I also have to say that I am so grateful for all of you. Since sharing about my uncle both on my blog and during peloton last night, I have received much support from cyclists and strangers alike. So thank you for your prayers and help! We pray that he is fine and simply off the grid exploring a new culture. I am always amazed and so grateful for such a strong community of believers. This is what the church should be like and I thank you for your support. I will keep you up to date. Blessings!

Skits during peloton. Laughter truly is good medicine!

Our skit: Reminiscing about Sea to Sea in the old age home. Such fun!

Friday, 26 July 2013

Halfway across the Continent.

Red Rock Dam
Well, our fifth week is nearly at a close. We have completed day five of week five and have a mere 94 miles to cycle tomorrow (a mere 94 miles, ha!) Today I left bright and early after an eventful night full of train whistles and multiple rain storms. My habit of sleeping under various pavilions and overhangs has finally come in handy as I was one of the only ones with a dry tent this morning! I was on the road by 6:30 with the hope of getting into Pella early to do laundry, emailing, and rest up for our long ride tomorrow. Because of the rain and the shorter distance today some cyclists took their time packing up and getting on the road. Everything was dripping wet this morning and riding on wet roads is not a picnic. But I left early anyway and was able to enjoy a wonderful stop in Knoxville, IA, about 60 km into the ride where we were fed pie and cookies. Delicious!

At about kilometre 74 of our route today (our 67 km day turned into an 81 km day so keep us off some of the busier highways) we cycled past the Red Rock Dam. What a gorgeous area! I had to stop and take some pictures of the scenery. I rode along a beautiful bike path through dense forest along the lake created by the dam. It was just a joy to ride there, out of the sun, surrounded by the sounds of wildlife and nature, breathing in the smells of wet earth.

Five kilometres after crossing at Red Rock dam I made it to Central College in Iowa. They rolled our the red carpet for us and for the first time in a long time- since June 24th actually- I am sleeping on a real bed tonight! They had even made a huge greeting card for us and had all the RAGBRAI cyclists sign it when they passed through Pella few days before. (RAGBRAI is the annual ride across Iowa). So neat!

Well, I was able to get my laundry done as well as find an internet connection good enough to support a skype call home. After a very long nap I went in search of supper where I, yet again, ate way too much good food. It seems that I cannot eat enough food to keep me full until the next meal. By morning, my stomach is always growling at me to eat. The Pella cafeteria fed us well and all of us are headed to bed full- perhaps too full.

They had even prepared a short celebration service for us here at the College. Turns out that it was just what I needed. Time to worship our Lord and listen to a wonderful message based on Isaiah 58. Isaiah 58 is one of the passages that I have memorized and mediated on during this trip so I found it a providential occurrence to have it as the subject of our message. Pastor Ryan Faber talked about true fasting, how so often we humble ourselves for a day, but on that day we do as we please and exploit our workers. But that true fasting is this, "to loose the chains of injustice, to untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and to break every yoke." I was reminded yet again of my reason for being on this tour. To raise awareness of the plight of Michael and Moses and Evalyne and Bonny ... all those children in the world who are struggling in the cycle of poverty. I am not riding my bike because it's fun... cycling is fun, but by the end of week five, when the body starts to break down, the fun starts to die a little and stubbornness and perseverance begin to take over. I am biking because I love it but also because I know that it will do good. I was reminded of this yet again.

So tomorrow I ride 153 kilometers. To be honest, I'm not really looking forward to another 7 hours on my bike seat, riding over these huge rolling hills that make up "flat" Iowa. But I am going to do it. And we are going to ride the first 15 miles on an empty stomach into a town called Sully where we will be served breakfast. I hope to get a small glimpse into what it must be like to work or study without a full belly.

But the sun has set and I am still awake... that is unusual. I have a big day tomorrow so I will sign off for now. But just a final personal prayer request. My Uncle Doug is currently doing a self-supported cycling tour in the Philippines. Somehow we just realized that no one has heard from him in a month and a half. Now, that in and of itself is not unusual, he often goes on long trips and tends to fall off-grid occasionally. We are concerned however at how suddenly his communications ended. He could be in a very remote area (this is very possible as he likes to experience cultures without touristy fronts) but we have some cause for worry. Please pray that he shows up safe and sound, that all is well and our concern is all for naught. Thank you.


Thursday, 25 July 2013

Lost in the Cornfields... literally

Wednesday was a day for the record books. It started out normally: me leaving camp alone around 7:00. I was ready to get our 138 kilometres done and rest up for the next day. I had my map all ready, lunch made, water bottles filled, tires pumped up and an appropriate amount of sunscreen applied for the distance we had to ride. Everything was going great. I hit SAG #1 and received the cursory warnings to "keep the eyes on the rearview mirror and to wear sunscreen." I agreed that I would indeed do that...  I was 50 km into the ride when I began to get that sinking feeling in my gut. I hadn't seen another cyclist in about an hour, but  in and of itself that's not unusual. But I also should have seen SAG #2 by then and I hadn't come across it. I checked my map and realized that I had missed two turned about 20 kilometres back. That too is normal as sometimes we "turn" without actually turning. I chalked up to missing those turns to not paying attention to road signs, but that it was still the same road- just with a new name. 

Now, I don't carry a phone or GPS and I was all alone but surprisingly, I didn't panic at all. I took it in stride and decided to continue working my way north along US-59 until I found someone to direct me. I knew I had to go north and east today so I just worked my way that direction. By kilometre 60 I saw an elderly lady putting her plants out on the back porch. By the time I had cycled around to the back of her house she had already gone back inside so I went back around to the front and rang the doorbell. On the second try the door opened and we had a wonderful conversation. Turns out that her grandsons love to bike and they are currently in the mountains! (have I mentioned that I love this generation!!) Well, she didn't know where Diagonal, Iowa was and no other cities were mentioned on my cue sheet. The only other important marker was a road- US-71. She told me to take a road called US-34 about 30 miles east and I should bisect US-71. I thanked her and continued on my way. By now I was pretty sure I was really lost. 

Along US-34 I found two cowboys putting in fence poles. I pulled over, waded through the grass, and asked them if I was indeed on my way to US-71. "Yes," they said, "just keep going east." So I rode and rode and eventually, I rode through a town called Red Oak. I contemplated stopping but decided against it. Then I came across a small down named Stanton. Here I pulled into a gas station and asked the nice ladies inside if they knew where Diagonal was. They didn't (of course), but they did have internet, mapquest and a printer. In 15 minutes I had a printout of where I was, where I needed to be and how to get there. 

I set out from Stanton armed with the knowledge that I had yet another 100 kilometers to ride to get into camp and no SAG stops along the way. The mercury was rising steadily but oddly, I didn't worry. Although there were few cities along the route, farmsteads were plentiful. After 80 km on US-34 I turned onto IA-25 and had another 10 miles to go before turning onto J23. By this time it was 2:00 and I had been riding for the last 7 hours, my two water bottles were slowly being depleted- despite me trying to ration it. Just as I was down to my last half bottle I saw two men using a saw in their front yard. I pulled in and asked if they happened to have any water. They blessed me with two ice-cold bottles and I set out refreshed with the knowledge that it was only an additional 16 miles to Diagonal. For the first time all day I had found someone who knew where Diagonal was! Such excitement! 

When I crested yet another long hill I suddenly saw a reflective yellow vest on the horizon, just turning the corner. And then I saw another one... and another one!! Oh joy! For the first time all day I saw fellow cyclists. Finally. I. Was. Back. On. Route. I started singing at the top of my lungs! The cows alongside the road must have wondered about the crazy biker girl, but I have never been so excited to see reflective yellow in my life! 

And then I saw my first proof that the town of Diagonal actually exists. Although exhausted, my legs cramping up, and my skin burning, I just had to stop and take a picture of this momentous occasion: 

I caught up to some fellow cyclists and my excitement at being back just overflowed. I yelled and talked at them and just couldn't stop. It was so wonderful to be back! I think they must have thought I had heat stroke or something. The adrenaline kicked in and I booked it into camp. Signs posted by the United Church of Diagnoal guided the way into yet another beautiful park. They even promised homemade pie and ice cream. To be honest, the only things that got me into camp Wednesday: God, helpful locals, and the promise of pie and ice cream.

It turns out that I rode 112 miles on an 85 mile day. You can see how far off route I went on the map below: I'm the red line. The tour is the black line. Yup, I have no idea how I got so lost... typically my internal compass is great. But, with God's help I have made it back alive and well. Just tired, sore, and sunburnt.

My ride today into Chariton, IA was uneventful. I think that everyone was worried I'd get lost again. Come to think of it perhaps that's why Rick rode the entire way with me. I'm unsure about whether it was so I wouldn't get lost... or so he wouldn't get lost. We had about 30 turns to make today so getting lost was a great possibility. So here I sit. I'm tired and ready for the weekend. Tomorrow's short route is a godsend before Saturday's long ride. But we are promised a beautiful camping spot come the weekend and, most exciting of all? Monday we are out of these insane hills!! Finally!

Thank you for all your prayers. For how completely lost I was I should have been freaking out, but I kept my cool- and  think it is because so many are praying for me. Also, Rudy and Shirley Folkerts have rejoined the tour. Shirley broke her leg heading into Colorado Springs. She hopes to ride the last couple of weeks of the tour. But for now she's helping where she can and being a joyful face when we arrive in camp. Also, Roger Feenstra is back after his wife's surgery. All things went well and Roger is happier than a pig in a mud puddle to be back!

It is now a week and five days until the tour arrives in Canada and my dear home of Sarnia. We cannot wait! Blessings to you my friends!

Entering Iowa

Our stay at Oasis in Iowa was quite the unique experience for Sea to Sea. We spent the night at a kid's Bible camp and got the chance to hang out with 50 campers. We played dodgeball and had a campfire with s'mores and worship. What an adorable opportunity! After four weeks of only adults to hang out with, we were all thoroughly enjoying time spent with a younger generation. Their joy and energy almost seemed to rub off on us!

Around 8 we started the campfire. So, here we were, 100-odd bikers sitting around a campfire with 10-year-olds roasting us marshmallows! They would run around asking who would like a s'more and then roast the marshmallow for us. They really seemed to enjoy it!

Well, this was one day where the adults went to bed before the kids. By 9:00 most of us had already hit the hay while the kids bragged abotu their 3:00 AM bed time. We were able to sleep indoors- airconditioned- and many of us took the camp up on the offer. I am working on a record of not putting my up tent. I don't remember the last time I used my tent and it has been a real adventure working to find cover in each of our camps!

After a few hours of restful sleep, we were all very rudely awakened at 6:00 when a camp leader flicked on the lights. Word spread quickly that a large storm was brewing on the horizon. In the space of about 10 minutes all the tents had been taken down and the gear bags stored along the sides of the gear truck. The breakfast tables were moved from the great outdoors into our sleeping area and all those wishing to sleep in were awakened. Those who had opted to sleep in their tents had been woken up when the wind suddenly picked up with fierce intensity. Those who peeked out their tent flys saw a very large, very dark cloud on the horizon.

The next couple of hours were spent in slight panic mode as we packed up everything that could be blown around, ate breakfast and got ready for the ride. We were asked to not leave camp before 8:00 because of the severe storm warning, so I spent a long time just sitting outside watching the clouds roll in. By 8:00 the storm had still not hit but seemed to be moving northeast. So I set out on our ride, prepared to spend the entire day battling the brutally strong winds coming from the north. It was only raining a little and the temperatures were very nice, especially with the cloud cover.

Well, long story short, Tuesday turned out to be a fantastic day- beautiful temperatures, the wind died down soon after we started riding and the skies remained overcast. I rode with Rick from Hamilton and Henny and Harry from Fredericton. For a day that started out quite stormy (literally and figuratively), the ride was wonderful, full of laughs, good conversation and fun. Oh, and a lot of hill, but that's a given. Whoever told me Iowa was flat should be shot... Iowa is NOT flat! I think we have done more climbing in Iowa than we did in the mountains! Seriously! These hills are not easy.

Sam was so diligent in roasting those marshmallows!
Singing time!

Our day was only 111 kilometres long, most of it hilly. Near the end of our ride we crossed the Missouri River and the Iowa/Nebraska state line. This line is in the middle of the Missouri River and the Missouri is in the middle of a very long and very flat plain. Ahead we could see the bluffs rising out of the ground but it took a long time to reach them. We camped among the bluffs that bordered the Missouri River basin in a beautiful state park. Our stay there was relatively uneventful for Sea to Sea although Billy- our motorcycle driver- was rudely awakened in the middle of the night when a large tree branch fell on his tent. His neighbours heard a crash and a yell. Some became concerned and went to investigate ... others rolled over and went back to sleep. All in all, Billy is currently on tent #4. We speculate that some raccoons had a little dance party in the tree that night as there was no wind that could have blown down that branch!

Monday, 22 July 2013

Camp Oasis... what an Oasis!

Well, our fifth week has begun. We are on our way from Fairbury to Iowa City, Iowa. Our ride today was nice and short as we rode from Fairbury to Firth, NE. As typical, I left early and arrived early. As I crested what must have been hill # 200 of the day, I saw a young woman with a megaphone and pink shirt waving at me. I was a little confused as I didn't recognize her and my odometer said that I had a little distance to cover yet before I was to arrive in camp. Well, turns out she was tasked with directing us into Camp Oasis as the entrance was kind of hidden. I was just about set to cruise down yet another hill when I spotted Abby so I'm glad she was there or I would have missed the camp entirely and would have had to back track up the hill. 

Abby and I had a wonderful conversation as we directed the arriving Sea to Sea traffic into the camp. It was some time before the next riders arrived so we chatted. She was very curious about road biking and what equipment we use and how far we bike and what kind of bikes we use. Her questions and enthusiasm made my day. We talked about our schooling and ultimately learned that both of us are in education and are interested in cross-cultural missions. I met  a kindred spirit on the side of the road today! 

As Abby and I talked we planned to put her on one of our bikes and take her for a short ride to get a feel for what clips and skinny road bikes feel like. Well this adventure expanded into a group of five- myself and four new riders, three from the camp and Matt, our new truck driver. The five of us took a 2 mile jaunt down to the tiny town of Firth for ice cream. We had a very long training session about clipping in and clipping out. I couldn't risk anyone falling as we were borrowing the bikes of fellow cyclists- and I know how much they care they put into their bikes. We made it without incident thankfully, and I think I've discovered one or two budding cyclists in the group! What fun! 

I have received many comments and much encouragement about my comments on Saturday about dealing with the pressure of riding fast and being first. And I thank you all! I am encouraged and refreshed and so grateful to have such a supportive community on my side. I am doing much better after a wonderful day off. My raw emotions have healed, for the most part and, during the ride today, I barely felt pain in my butt- thank God! I babied my butt yesterday and spent as much time as possible lying down and resting. And today I have noticed an improvement! 

But more importantly I have two stories. I am ashamed of how easy it has been for me to forget why I'm on this tour. During our worship yesterday, Jane Brouwer spoke about how she too struggled on Saturday's ride- how the wind was exhausting and her butt complaining. But then she went on to describe how she was reminded, while struggling along on her bike into the headwind and driving rain, that we cyclists have the opportunity to call a SAG vehicle at any time, that we don't have to ride the entire distance if we don't want to. We chose to be on this tour. And, when we finish biking across the country we all have a nice comfy bed at home to welcome us and a job to provide us with an income. The poor don't have these options. They don't get to wake up every morning with the knowledge that at the end of a long day's work, a hot, delicious meal will be waiting for us. They don't have the assurance of assistance when the going gets tough. They often don't even have clean water available. But we do. We are blessed. 

A friend of mine who is at camp this supper recently wrote the following:

"Have you ever had a really good cheesecake, and you savour absolutely every bite?  Then when the plate is empty, and if you’re like me, you have licked every last morsel off your mom’s favourite china, you lean back in your chair, remembering what was, and wishing that there was more.

“Don’t be sad it’s over, be happy it happened” (Dr. Seuss).  God gives us tonnes of cheesecakes, in loads of different varieties, and He wants us to enjoy every bite, and to not be sad when it’s over, but be happy with the cheesecakes that He gave us.  I urge you to examine your cheesecakes, and find the blessings that have come from them!"

Here I was complaining of the small things. I let a sore butt and a tired brain cloud my true purpose for why I am doing this trip. I am blessed to be able to participate in Sea to Sea, to meet fellow brothers and sisters across the country and spread awareness of the plight of those in need. So I apologize. My eyes have been unclouded, at least for the moment. I am learning to constantly go back to God for redirection of my purpose. These words of my friend, combined with those of Jane have redirected my mind to what is more important. I am working to remember to "enjoy my cheesecakes" and to not only find the blessings that come from them but also work to be a blessing to others.

And yesterday's Sabbath reminded me again of the beautiful body of Christ. This church family opened their doors to us and I have never felt so welcomed! From being greeted at the door by three church members, to Sea to Sea decorations all over the church and sanctuary, to a cycling-themed sermon, to an over-the-top potluck, Sunday was a phenomenal time of rest, joy in the Lord, and rejuvenation. Future churches will be hard pressed to beat these United Presbyterian brothers and sisters!

Well, it is two and a half weeks until we reach Sarnia, Ontario, CANADA!!! How time has flown! I can't tell you how excited we are to cycle into Canada! Word is spreading of our tour and what we are working to do. Praise the Lord for His surpassing greatness! All glory be to his most holy name!

Saturday, 20 July 2013

"If you call the Lord's Day a delight ... " (Isaiah 58)

After a delicious night's sleep in Red Cloud's beautiful and cool community centre, I yet again hit the road. My body longed to stay in bed and boycott that small triangular seat for the day, but one has to do what one has to do. So I dressed and mounted that metal steed. The rain yesterday threw many people off as belongings had scattered thither and yon in an attempt to dry them. It look me a little while to round up everything, but I was soon on the road.

The long days we rode this week have taken their toll on my body. Many, including myself, struggled today after our exhausting century ride yesterday. Every day this week was over 100 km, and that just wearies the body. After yesterday's heat, distance and lack of wind, we didn't quite know what to expect for today's ride. The elevation map showed long rolling hills however, and this time that map proved very trustworthy. All day long we puttered down one long descent only to gear down to climb the following hill. As we passed near the Oregon Trail, I couldn't help but empathize a little with those early settlers. How discouraging it must have been to finally crest a hill only to find yet another on the horizon. I too began to be discouraged. It felt like my legs had zero “get up and go” today. The ability to push that pedal seemed to have disappeared over the course of week to the extent that today, I resorted to using my granny gear on nearly every hill.

Right from kilometre one I was tired but I knew that I could rest for a day when I arrived so one pedal stroke after the other I strained through. My butt has gradually been giving up this week, all day long I felt like I was sitting on hot sand paper. The saddle sores are irritated by the constant pressure of the seat and no position proved comfortable. To cap it all off, we had a head wind as well. Normally in a head wind I would spend most of the day down in my drops or on my aerobars. Not so today, my crotch refused to handle the pressure of my body weight as I leaned forward. Therefore, unless absolutely necessary, I spent the entire day sitting up as far as possible, my body catching all the headwind it could. My quad muscles had been worked to the point that stretching them hurts. I cannot say this with more emphasis, “PRAISE GOD FOR SABBATHS!” The Lord knew what he was doing when he decreed we take a day off each week. What a wise God we serve!

I am confident that God had my back today because each time I neared the point of complete and total discouragement something would happen to keep me going. The first distraction from my pain came in the form of a crop-dusting plane... at least that's what I think was, but I'm no farmer. It was either a crop-duster or a happy-go-lucky pilot who liked to fly in continuous circles over a corn field ... my limited farming knowledge leads to me think it was a crop-duster. Well this little yellow plane would fly in sweeping circles over the highway I was cycling down. First one way, wheels nearly touching the corn, then up and around in a big arching circle to turn back the way he had come, up and over the powerlines and the road in an acrobatic arc and back down to dust yet another strip of corn. I amused myself watching the plane's smooth movements ... until the plane decided to play chicken with me!! The plane had finished and was on its way back to base but he must have seen me because he started flying the road, dipping down to the point that I thought he was going to land the plane on the road! He was heading straight for me! I tell you, I was seconds away from ditching the bike and hitting the dirt! At the last second he pulled up to avoid the power lines and off he flew. That small adrenaline rush pushed me through the next kilometres. And, as reason slowly returned I realized that he must have just wanted to scare me because his wingspan was too wide to land between the lines.

The one blessing all ride was the cloudy skies. From the moment I left this morning, the skies were clouded over and the sun was hidden. I thank the Lord for this blessing. Somewhere in the back of my mind I had made the connection that clouds could mean rain, but it didn't quite register until kilometre 110 when I could just make out the sound of thunder in the clouds above my head... it was difficult to hear over the headwind whistling past my ears, but when I saw the flash of lightening to my left I was sure it was going to rain. I had been struggling along, having a nice little yelling match at the sky, complaining about my breaking body and praying for some relief or burst of energy, when the skies began to burst. Huge, cold drops fell to the asphalt. When they hit my skin they fell like little pieces of gravel. The first storm lasted only five minutes, but my shoes had developed a puddle and my clothing stuck to my skin. Thankfully the rain cooled me off, but not to the point of being cold. Not only that, the work of keeping my eyes open amidst the onslaught of enormous raindrops kept my mind off the hills and the wind and the pain. And those five minutes of rain flew by and I was farther down the road! When I made it to kilometre 118 passing the “Welcome to Fairbury” sign just as the skies began to break for the second time. I road into camp dripping wet and praising God that I had made it. I know for sure that it was not my strength that got me into camp today... perhaps it was some of that good-ole Dutch stubbornness, but no, it was God. I prayed the entire way, reciting verses and reminding myself of the break I would get when I arrived.

We left Kansas yesterday, finally found a sign...
And the people of Fairbury have been nothing but wonderful. Since the rain continues to come and go- perhaps for the entire weekend- the police pulled some strings to get us access to their community centre. Yet again I get to sleep in air conditioned comfort. Thank God!

Some prayer requests: that this Sabbath would be a day of wonderful rest. A day in which muscles heal and strengthen, butts and crotches heal of their sores and are suddenly able to bear weight without pain, and emotions calm in our day of rest. And this leads me to my second request, it's more personal (although I don't know how you can get more personal than butt sores...)

I have developed the reputation of leaving camp early and arriving in that night's camp early. Apparently, this means I am super fast! Not only this but getting into camp early apparently equates being a strong rider and, as I found out today, being strong apparently means never struggling. I have had fellow cyclists while complaining about their muscle and body problems say, “oh, but Christeena never struggles with that!” I even had some go so far as to call me superhuman! Now, perhaps (and likely) my emotions are raw after six days of gruelling distances, but these comments hurt. I have no desire to be superhuman. I have no desire or drive to get into camp first. I just so happens that my drive to get to camp early and rest results in me often arriving first. This isn't a competition but the first question out of everyone's mouth when they see me showered and set up when they arrive is, “when'd you get in?” And that's all fine and dandy, but I too find our rides difficult. I am not, repeat NOT, any more special or skilled than anyone else on this tour. So prayers for understanding; empathy; and emotional and spiritual rest would be very much appreciated. While the community of Sea to Sea is wonderful, and I absolutely love being a part of it, emotions inevitably become raw.

Thank you so much and my our good and gracious God bless you. “May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”

Courtesy of Ray

Friday, 19 July 2013

What do you get when the temperature is the same as the mileage?

Welcome to small town America ... Kensington's claim to fame made me laugh enough to turn around and take a picture
Our camp in Prairie Dog State Park
After a long and drawn out discussion during pelaton which included democratic votes and debates, we decided to move breakfast back to 6:30 from 7:00. Oh, the little issues that become a big deal when in such close quarters. I have learned over the last few weeks that when we say “breakfast starts at 6:30,” this really means, “breakfast starts at 6:00.” So I set my alarm accordingly. True to form, breakfast was nearly all set out by 6:00 and I was able to get on the road to tackle this 160 km day before the heat and wind picked up by 6:10. Turned out that I was first out of camp and stayed first for most of the ride. I don't care about arriving in camp first, I just love to get in early. Today I made great time considering the heat we dealt with. Over the course of the day the thermometer soared above 100 degrees. The sun scorched it's way down on us. The wind that we had dealt with for the last three days had died off over night and the humidity and heat began to hang on us. 

We were treated to two treat stops today. Prairie View Church had coffee and amazing goodies waiting for us when I arrived just after 8:30. I stocked up on baked goods and fruit and set out on the road soon after just as the next batch of cyclists were arriving. 

Around the 110 kilometer mark a relative of Barb's had treated all of us to a soft serve ice cream cone. Delicious! Particularly since the heat had just begun to really set in. Typically, when we reach the 100 kilometer mark, the end of the ride is in sight. Not so today. At the 100 kilometer mark today I was two-thirds of the way done. I had psyched myself up accordingly but this still did not make the ride easier. 

By this time my already sore butt began to complain in earnest. No position on the saddle was comfortable, so I made do as best I can. The skin on my arms began to burn and my brain began to go on little complaining rampages. The terrain had changed overnight from pancake-flat plains to rolling hills. And they just didn't stop! Once you reached the crest of one hill, the next one was there waiting for me to climb. The scenery consisted of small towns, cattle and wheat. Rolling hill after rolling hill of yellow and green. While it was definitely not as desolate as the desert, there was a certain eerie-ness to the area. Perhaps it was the absence of the ever-present wind. Perhaps it was the sparseness of humanity. I don't know, I just felt very out of place. 

So I climbed hill after hill for 160 kilometers and tried to not let their continuity and predictability get under my skin. After our delicious treat at 110 kilometeres, the ride became a struggle. I am grateful to have learned that most struggled those last 50, because I sure did! The entire morning we rode east- more or less. And then we turned due north. What little wind we had seemed to die and the air just hang around us. I felt like I was peddling through a damp blanket. My company consisted of cows, horses and the ever-present sound of cicadas and grasshoppers. The sun began to dip behind sporadic clouds and the relief from its heat was palpable. Once I turned north I knew, because of the road signs that we had 20 miles to go...those were the 20 longest miles of the day. It was 16 miles to the Kansas/Nebraska border and I have never been so excited to see a vehicle in my life! There, sitting on the border was Tom and Donna ready to help with a photo shoot and wrap my neck in cold cloths. 

I knew it was only 4 miles to camp so I rounded up what energy I had left to limp into camp. It is always a cyclists' hope to ride into camp in style, with some sort of speed, and a smile on our faces. I was chuckling to myself as I rode as thought through a list of words that would befit how I felt I looked: bedraggled ... pitiful ... Well, I did little more than putter into camp, but I made it! I sat down on that picnic table with no desire to get up any time soon. 

Gradually my energy returned and, although tired, I searched out a shower. As more cyclists began to arrive in camp I decided to join some of them in a swim. As we were about to jump into the pool, a thunderstorm suddenly broke with such force that we were stranded where we were. Those under the pavilion were stuck there; those out in the town remained there... Well the rain came own horizontally, tents developed four-inch deep puddles in them- particularly those without rain flys. Even my belongings, which I had stored 7 feet under the cover of a pavilion, were soaked. My books are drenched but, other than that, everything is salvageable. The grounds around this community centre are now covered with various belongings and the nearby laundromat is overloaded, as we are trying to dry sleeping bags, sheets, tents, pillows- the list goes on. 
Our rain storm created such community as we worked together to dry our belongings

Well, the storm had ended and the clean up begins. 

The men working to fix Henny and Harry's trailer
Sadly, this rain storm was not the only adventure of the day. Matt, one of our faithful drivers, is attempting to put a new part into one of our SAG vehicles. Henny and Harry's tent trailer was damaged today when someone backed into it. They are now using a step stool to hop in until they can figure out how to get the lower half of their door open. 

And, most drastically, Malorie and Katie collided, fell and had to take a visit to the hospital. Both are doing fine, but are very sore and will be taking a short break. Word spread quickly. We were all concerned for their safety and shaken up that yet another serious spill has happened.

Albert and Matt collaborating on a repair

Please continue to lift up this tour in prayer! Seriously, we need it! 

Entering Nebraska today!!

Our kitchen truck getting all supplied from Sysco

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Windy. Oh, and more wind. The wind continues.

Today was one of our shorter rides of the week (take the word “short” with a pound of salt- 109 km is still no picnic!). Again, I left as early as I possibly could. I find that it is so nice when I can get out early. This way I beat the heat as well as the intensity of some of the sun. I even can beat some of the wind. But I've been learning that these mid-west winds don't die over night and gradually increase over the course of the day- they start out early and don't die ALL day!

I was flying along. Having skipped the first two SAG Stops, I was making fantastic time. When I reached SAG #3 with Julie and Julia and their famous watermelon, I stopped. Turns out that 2 miles past SAG #3 Phil had found construction. The workers had asked that we only come through in groups of 10 so I had to wait around at SAG #3 for 9 other cyclists to come along. This took about 40 minutes ... I ate my lunch, laid down for a bit, stretched, talked, sang some songs ... We finally got on the road. I guess that's what I get for leaving early and skipping SAGs!

Once through the mile-long construction zone with our little peloton of 10 people, we again spread out according to our various speeds. I have to admit that the road wasn't very nice through the construction zone, but we managed. They had just laid down the new asphalt and it sort of stuck to our tires, gathering up all other manner of road debris. I worked hard to keep the bits of asphalt off my tires by rubbing my gloved hands along both tires while riding. It takes some flexibility, but once you get the hang of it, it can prevent any number of flats. We still got into camp early that afternoon and I spent some time being orientated to helping out Al and Phil with managing weekend scheduling and receipts. 

Harry and Henny Drost from New Bruinswick want to start a "choir." They asked me to help out. I don't know what I'm helping out with but I made an announcement at peloton for those who are interested. We led in some singing before our peloton last night. It is always an interesting adventure singing outside...

Last night I slept out back of the washroom building in Fike Park in Colby, Kansas. I just rolled out my mat and sleeping bag on the sidewalk, covered myself up, put on my blindfold, put in my earplugs and what a beautiful night's sleep! 

Welcome to the prairies! Suddenly, the world looks flat again!
This morning I rolled out of camp at 7:03- we switched time zones again so it felt more like 6:03. Since we were heading more northeasterly on our route today, the really really strong southwest wind turned out to be a fantastic tailwind for most of our trek... until the last mile. I rode our 117 kilometres in about three and a half hours and found our last mile the hardest of the day. We are staying at Prairie Dog State Park and the mile it took us to get into the actual park was directly into the wind. What a difference! We all arrived in camp praising God that only the last mile of the entire ride was into that headwind! This wind is quite something and we are all questioning whether this is a normal occurrence. It's the kind of wind that tears things out of your hands and makes it difficult to do anything outside. 

Hopefully the wind dies a little tomorrow because we leave on another near-century day into Red Cloud Nebraska. The wind looks like it will be a bit of a challenge for our ride. With the major climbs out of the way for the time being, wind and distance have become the main challenges for our cyclists. Butts are developing sores from sitting on the saddle for so long, tan lines are becoming very distinct and bodies are slowly (or quickly) tiring. We are all definitely ready for our day off in Fairbury, Nebraska. 

Goodbye rain, HELLO wind!

This morning we were told that a Colorado State officer was coming to speak to us at 6:30. The only through road to our destination that night was I-70 so we had asked to travel on it for about 70 kilometres. We were asked to not leave camp until we had had our “talk.” So I set my alarm for 6:15 giving me ample time to take down my tent, get dressed, and be eating before our talk from the officers. Well, I got up and realized that half the camp had already started en route. The promised “talk” never materialized. All we were asked to to do was personally check in with the cruiser sitting at the entrance to the school. So I quickly scarfed down breakfast and waited in line for my personal pep talk from the police man... This is what I learned from him, “stay as far to the right as possible, watch out for the rumble strips and be careful of the on-ramps- cars aren't looking for you.” My outward reaction was, “of course, officer.” Inwardly, I couldn't help but say, “well duh, we've been doing that for the last three weeks. This is what I had to wait around to hear? Gracious!” The 70 kilometres on the interstate was uneventful and most vehicles were very courteous. The only downfall of the ride that I found was a very strong cross wind that, if not careful, threatened to knock you flat on your side. I was able to power through the day. I don't know if it was the slight downhill that we were blessed with or the possibility that the cross wind had a slight talk wind in it. So I arrived in camp in good time and found that we were staying in a beautiful park - Parmer Park - another oasis in the heat. The highlight of the night? Wonderful grass. It is interesting how we take the small things like grass for granted.

This is what we do to avoid the wind!
I had planned all day to track down some wifi. Becuase of this mission, I showered, claimed a sleeping spot under one of the pavilions (I don't set up my tent unless I absolutely have to), and puttered my way over to McDonalds. Thankfully, McDonalds was nearby. When people talk about the mid-west winds, I now completely believe them! Everyone made it to camp but most were wind-burned, sunburned, and exhausted. The majority took a short pit-stop in one of the fast food places just as we entered Burlington, CO to re-energize and cool off. They had multiple flats today because of road debris so I helped my friend John fix his two flat tires. 

Prayer requests: Jake is doing well physically. He's biting at the bit to get back in the saddle. Praise the Lord for the medical care that saved his life! Peter suffered from a scratched cornea in the rain on Monday and if off the road for a few days until he can have it examined again. Prayers for those cyclists who want to be riding, but are unable or not allowed would be appreciated.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Rain, rain, go away...

Sunday night all but a couple of die-hards opted to sleep indoors. Our pelaton had come to an end suddenly as the looming dark clouds began to let loose their wet load. All night it rained. The area was in need of the moisture so we couldn't begrudge them the rain. We hoped however, to be able to ride this morning without rain. Thankfully, we awoke to dry skies and had just enough time to load up the trucks before the misty skies opened. For the next hour or two I rode through rain. I could barely see more than 100 feet ahead of me- the fog was so dense. I frequently found myself wondering if I had reached the end of the world- or at least somewhere in England. The rain dripped off my face, mingling with my sweat, runny nose, and dissolved sunscreen- the resulting taste was NOT pleasant! I later learned that, being at the front of the group, I outran the storm. I ended up biking through less rain than most of my cycling buddies.

I stupidly left on my ride this morning with only my arm warmers- I had on shorts, a tank top and shoes. The result? Quite a cold cyclist. I knew that if I stopped for too long I would get too cold to continue. My response time became sluggish and the feeling in my hands and feet was rapidly declining. But I kept peddling. I wanted to keep going before the cold caught me. Thankfully by hour 3 of the ride the rain let up and the fog lifted a little. I began to slowly warm up. A strong wind came from the side and this resulted in a slight side-tail wind. I did my best to use that small piece of wind to my advantage and I skipped the first two SAG stops. At kilometre 78 I hit SAG three and stopped briefly. By the time I arrived in camp at 11:15, I was nearly dry. I could fully feel my hands and feet and my response time was back to normal- I had even developed a bit of a sunburn!

I am thoroughly enjoying the adventure of riding across the country- in any kind of weather. Granted, riding in the rain is not the most fun I've had in the last few weeks, but it was interesting for sure!

We became quite inventive in our attempts to stay warm today. Many improvised garbage bags into clothes to put next to their skin- keeping their body heat in. The cafes in the few small towns we passed through on our way to Limon were overrun with men and women looking for coffee and hot chocolate. While some had to call in extra help to serve us and, in the case of one cafe, ran out of dishes, I'm sure they all enjoyed the unexpected revenue.

The sun is shining brightly now and we are enjoying the cool breeze blowing through the shade. Prayers would particularly be appreciated for one of our cyclists, Jake, who was taken into the hospital with chest pains today when he arrived in camp after finishing the ride. The efficient doctor then bumped another patient off their medivac and sent Jake to a larger hospital where he had two stints placed. He is doing fine and the doctor says that he can rejoin the tour in 5 days! Thank God for knowledgeable medical people on this tour who were able to recognize these cardiac symptoms!

More and more of us cyclists are being injured. Shirley and Rudy are on their way back home to determine the next step in fixing Shirley's broken leg. We have also said goodbye to numerous cyclists and hello to 10 more. This tour is in a constant state of change; it sure keeps us all on our toes! But what fun it is to wake up each morning with new and exciting challenges awaiting us.

Please continue to remember us in prayer. Blessings!

Camp in Limon

Colorado Springs, CO

Sunday in Colorado Springs we worshiped with Cragmor CRC- about a mile from where we were camped at Colorado Springs Christian School. What a wonderful service- beautiful music, applicable message and friendly brothers and sisters in Christ. I arrived early to make sure that things went smoothly with the service. I was asked to find four men who were willing to help serve communion during the service. I had also found two people who were willing to speak and explain a little about what Sea to Sea has meant to them.

I am going to take another liberty here to tell someone else's story. I had asked John Stehouwer to speak during the service. He is the youngest of our full distance cyclists- age 14. When I asked him to share, he seemed a little hesitant at first, but I was confident that he would do a fantastic job- and he did! On our century ride into Shiprock, NM, John's rear derailer cable broke. This left John with just his front three gears to work with for the last half of the ride. Having ridden that route as well that day, I know that the ride was NOT flat!! To ride 50 miles with only three gears surely must have been brutal! Well, John was struggling; the difficulty of the ride was getting to him. Suddenly he saw something along the road. On it was the word “Jesus” so he quickly turned around and picked it up. It was a license plate. The main part of the plate read “Jesus,” but in smaller print above it was, “You have a friend in...” John had his God-moment. He was reminded that he did indeed have a “friend in Jesus.” The ride didn't get any easier physically, but his spirit calmed. I had already heard this story at pelaton, but I still had tears in my eyes hearing him share how he saw God that day.

This trip has just been one God-moment after another.

Yesterday after church I happened upon the opportunity to ride up to Pike's Peak. Pike's Peak is a mountain that towers over Colorado Springs at an elevation above 14,000 feet. This particular day it was extremely overcast so we were unsure about whether we would be allowed to the top. I was excited to see the route that some of our guys had biked the previous day. And it turns out that I am very glad that I did not go along on that crazy adventure! The climb to the summit was only 19 miles but the grades were so steep and the elevation so high I am unsure about whether I would have been able to even bike it! I probably would have had to resort to walking up. But the views, oh the scenery! Who could refute the existence of our glorious God after views such as this?

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Why Do we Do this?

Yesterday a fellow cyclist asked her daughter (who rode the '08 tour), "why do we drag ourselves out of bed at 5:30 every morning to get on our bikes day after day?" Today I woke up wanting to ask that same question. I woke up physically tired. I spent the night tossing and turning on a stuffy and dusty gym floor. Every time I yawned and stretched out my legs (which was often), my quad muscles would cramp. For me this was a tell-tale sign that I seriously need to stretch and that these muscles need a break! To sit for six days in a row on a bicycle seat just tuckers the body right out.

This morning, it being day six on a bike seat, I awoke to the dreadful sound of air being let out of mattresses. I got up, dressed in my biking gear, waited in line for the bathroom, packed all my sleeping stuff and loaded it up on the truck, ate breakfast, and was on the road 45 minutes later. With only 79 kilometers to ride today, many were taking their time getting on the road. The elevation map however, showed some significant (and constant) ups and downs on our way to Colorado Springs so I, being the perpetual overachiever, left early. I have now been in camp for 4.5 hours and have been able to give my legs a much-deserved rest.

This last week I have been wearing two pairs of biking shorts as my butt has been developing some sores. I am very happy to announce that my butt feels much better as a result of my babying it!

So, back to the question of why we do this everyday... in answer to her mother's question, she wrote back, "we do it because something happens to make it all worth it." And I would like to explain why this physical exhaustion is worth it:

This morning, about 5 kilometers into my ride I noticed that something large had suddenly blocked the left lens of my sunglasses. I was confused. I tried blowing whatever it was off my glasses, to no avail. So I took the glasses off. It was then that I noticed an earwig making its way across my lens. Needless to say I was pretty grossed out! It took some trying but I eventually got that bug off my glasses without crashing!

With my legs complaining at the start of the ride today and this crazy encounter with an earwig, I was beginning to dread the coming 79 km of climbing but also more than willing to tackle it because then I could have a rest.

So, as I'm grinding my way up hills, something happened to suddenly make all the pain worth it... I hit a downhill. A small thing, I know. But that short downhill reminded my why I love riding, and why I get up every morning at 5:45 to put myself through the physical pain of cycling some more. Suddenly the muscle exhaustion didn't seem so great and I was able to enjoy the rest of the wonderful ride.

Somewhere near the middle of the trip while I am climbing up yet another hill, a motorcycle flew down the road in the opposite direction. I was not paying attention to the traffic around me more than to make sure I wasn't hit until I heard a loud cowbell. Now, the cowbell holds a special place in all of our hearts as Bernice, one of our wonderful SAG drivers, has sat at the top of many a long climb faithfully ringing a cowbell signalling to us weary riders that our work is complete- at least on that particular climb. So, to see and hear this woman ringing that bell for all she was worth while her husband, the driver, honked the horn, just caused my spirits to soar!  

I am contentedly sitting here on the beautiful campus of Colorado Springs Christian School, resting and more than looking forward to our Sabbath tomorrow. We are also patiently waiting for 7 of our riders who decided to climb Pike's Peak (on top of our regular ride today). We received word that they had reached the summit just as a massive thunderstorm was bearing down on them. We pray for their safety as they make their way down and into camp. (You can see pike's peak in the picture below, it's the highest peak to the left).

Our camp today at CSCS