Wednesday, September 29, 2010

On the road again . . .biking in Colorado

One of the nagging questions that I wonder about, and that comes up now that the cross country ride is over is "Are you still riding your bike?"

Yes -- very much so.  In fact, Glenn D., a fellow cross-country rider who lives in the Denver area, lent me a classic red De Bernardi bicycle that he has kept up in great shape.  It was a state-of-the-art bike 20 years ago but with his exceptional care it was great fun to ride.  And, as it is a more traditional road bike instead of my normal touring bike (Jamis Aurora Elite) it was fun to shave off another 10 pounds of weight for climbing the hills in Colorado.

My wife, Cindy, and I were out on a retreat for about eight days but for seven of the eight days I slipped out for a few hours to climb the hills around Vail.   I was glad to get at least three "signature" rides of going up the Vail Pass (10,600 feet) twice and then a very challenging ride of riding through the town of Minturn and up and down Battle Mountain Pass (9200 feet) and returning to Vail.    The altitude and the grade of the hills were all wonderful flashbacks to our cross country trip.

Cindy rented a bike as well and we tooled around some of the bike paths together.   Most of the rides I'm going on since returning are much, much shorter than our cross country trip.   But, I'm enjoying them tremendously and they all give me warm memories of our nine weeks on the road.   Still, simply to ride for a bit with Cindy was something that we couldn't do for several months.  And, the mountains and colors of Vail were simply spectacular.   I saw so much of the country going from Seattle to Boston but when we arrived in Colorado I fell in love with the mountains.  

Once the cross country ride  finished we had a 10 day "bike free" vacation on the east coast and then came home to Minnesota.  On average I think I'm riding about five days a week since I've been home.  The Colorado ride was great to get some climbing legs back for a week.  Coming home to the short hills of Minnesota was great fun to see how much better and smoother I am climbing.  It's not that the hills aren't still hard -- but I have so much more confidence going up them and I keep thinking how short they are compared to these ones in Colorado or what we saw in Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota.   

I tooled around the lakes in Minnesota today and enjoyed a few hours out back on my own bike.  My sabbatical is coming to an end and I'm already starting to think about how far I can ride into the fall and winter.   Was up late last night looking at winter bike riding websites!


Saturday, September 11, 2010

Top Memories: Welcome, Welcome and Welcome

It was often hard to stop and pull over for pictures.  We did it a lot, but the balance between taking a photo of another river or mountain vs. continuing on another 25 miles up a hill was a delicate one, especially riding with others in close formation.  Still, there were times that were no brainer photo stops -- and they all had something to do with entering a new state or special place.  As you can see, we felt very welcomed!

Funny thing is that sometimes we wouldn't see a sign going into a particular state.  For example, Minnesota didn't have a "Welcome to Minnesota" sign on the road we came in on.  But other times we would actually take the "welcome" photo as we rode into the next state.  For example, when we took the "Welcome to Maine" photo, we crossed over the other side of the road, turned around, and also took the "Welcome to New Hampshire" photo.    Get it? 

Let me also mention a special thank you to my fellow riders turned photographers as we all took turns photographing each other at each state along the way.    Cheers!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Top Memories -- Local Public Libraries

How did I spend my summer sabbatical?   Blogging and biking (but mostly biking).  
The thing is is that I didn't have a computer along the ride.  So I was completely dependent on local libaries along way -- at the mercy of their hours and general availability  (i.e. how close was it to where we were camping).   On the whole I think I was able to blog just over three times a week.   Like biking, blogging was a very new adventure.  It started as an idea that my wife, Cindy, and I would do together.  She set up the blog and then I would call in each night for her to post something interesting about the ride.  We often did this -- but in a short time she helped me figure out some of the ins and outs of it all and it became great fun for me and some of the other riders who blogged along the way.  One a bloger rider rolled into town, the first question always became, "Where is the public library?"  It became a slight addiction. 

It was common for us to talk about who was blogging about what and even ponder, "What should we blog about today?"   And, the funny thing is that generally we would only have about 15-20 minutes to post a blog depending on our available time and how long we could stay on the computer at the library.  Libraries varied in how long you could use their computers.   We also became quite the evaluators of each library.  One winner was the James E. Wickson Memorial Library.  

The James E. Wickson Memorial Library was located in a fun and funky tourist town of Frankenwuth, Michigan.    The town has a complete Bavarian theme and lots of tourist coming and going. Even the local oil change garage has a Bavarian look to it.   But what caught our attention was the fun little coffee machine they had for us as we took turns on the computers to blog. 

Writing from home this seems like such a little thing -- so what, a coffee machine in a library!   But we embraced fun little things when we were on the road -- like stopping under the shade of a tree or finding a place that would let us put ice into our water bottles.  This trip brought out the simple things in life for each of us.   Having coffee in an air conditioned library in a little Bavarian tourist trap of a town was just wonderful.  Thank you very much!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Top Memories -- Riding on the Moon

As I've been home for just under two weeks it is time for me to start organizing photos and enjoying some of the memories of the trip.   Here is the first of several photos and memories I'll share on the blog -- Riding on the Moon -- in South Dakota.

As I looked through the states that we would be riding through on our bike across America, South Dakota was lowest on my list.  Vermont was very high as I'd never seen much of the east coast before.  But South Dakota?  All I could think about was Wall Drug and lots of flat long headwinds as we would go across.  Truth is -- South Dakota was a smashing place to ride a bicycle across.  

One of the highlights was riding through the Badlands.  I had been to the Badlands several years ago and enjoyed it -- even camped there one night.  But generally in a car you just sort of blow bye it and say, "Hmm, that is interesting."  And then you  move on to Mount Rushmore or Wall Drug, depending on your direction.   But to ride for three or four hours through the Badlands with hardly a car around us in the middle of the week with a morning rising sun and 60 other fellow bicylists was great fun -- it was like riding on the moon.

Up until this point along the trip we had been hammering out long distances, huge climbs through Montana and Wyoming and the ride felt slightly like an endurance challenge.   But we all became giddy riding through the Badlands and taking photos as we rode and stopping at east point of interest.  We couldn't stop enough just enjoying the tremendous landscape afforded us on this unique corner of the world.  Just loved it. 

Saturday, September 4, 2010

We Did It Together --- Thank You

Last night my wife, Cindy, helped me go through all the donation reports that have come in for this bicycle trip over the last three months.   We were so excited to be able to report to you that our initial goal of  "One Dollar A Mile" has been exceeded!

As of September 1st the total funds raised for this adventure was $4320.  These funds will be used in our ministry that allows me to train leaders in West Africa (primarily Nigeria and Ghana) in Community Development and Discipleship.   I loved cycling across America.   A very special blesssing of the trip was knowing that dozens of you -- our friends -- were supporting our work in Africa.  

Meeting this goal is a tremendous encouragement to us and we want to say thank you to each of you.    

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Following Yellow Arrows

I just arrived home two days ago from the east coast.  After the ride completed, my wife, Cindy, and I spent several days in Boston before camping for three more days in Acadia, Maine and having a great time with her relatives in Albany, New York. We also had great fun visiting the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY and seeing the Boston Symphony in Tanglewood, MA.     My thought process was that if I spent nine weeks cycling to get to the east coast it would sure be nice to stay a bit and see some sights.   It was all more than great as a post bike trip celebration.

I'm now back home in Minneapolis.   Of course the big question is, "Have you gotten on the bike yet?"

Indeed I have and it was great to go out the day after we landed in Minneapolis. My first ride was a wonderful 30 mile ride that took me though Fort Snelling State Park, along side the Mississippi River and up Ohio Street and Grand Avenue in St. Paul.  I especially wanted to try some of the steeper hills in our area.  What was once a serious challenge has become very manageable.   It isn't that the hills are not hard or even have steep grades but that I found myself approaching them as, "No worries, this will be over soon, at least they are short."   My mind raced back to the Big Horn Mountains and 30 miles of hill climbing or the wonderful but steep climbs in Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota.    The hills were creating memories for me of the trip.   It wasn't that I raced up them but rather that I had confidence that I knew that no matter how steep they were I would soon be over them and moving along and along again.   I'm a little faster than before but even more so much more confident in riding in traffic, going up hills and simply enjoying the ride which made it a very enjoyable experience.  But there was one problem.  I missed the yellow arrows.

Throughout our entire trip, volunteer staff routers planned our route each day and marked yellow arrows all across the country helping us to know where to turn and guiding us across America.  It is one of the clear benefits of going with many others on such a trip.   And, I simply miss the simplicity of waking up early in the morning and rushing out on our bikes to follow the new yellow arrows of where we should go for the day.   Often we forgot the towns we were staying on and the towns we were heading to.   Like ants following single line, we just headed down the road following these yellow arrows.    It was one of the simple and comforting things about the trip -- just go where you are told.  Follow the yellow arrows.

On my bicycle I now have to think and plan and decide where to go and how long to go and when I should go back and what other things I need to do and become a responsible human being again!  On the bike, as in life, we have to make our own yellow arrows.  But some interesting things have changed.  For example, I returned from my ride yesterday and drove into my driveway.  Then I realized I needed to pick up the mail at the Post Office.  Rather than hop in my car to drive the mile to the Post Office, I just rode out again on my bike.  It was as if I was still on the bike ride going into a nearby town to pick up stamps. 

There are significant differences that I'm starting to feel now that I'm home.  Most of it has to do with distractions -- even good things like reading a book or walking the dog -- and all the other things to do - like mowing the lawn and washing dishes -- and people to connect with whom I have missed for the summer.   No more just biking for seven hours a day.  The best way to put it is that I miss following the yellow arrows! 

Sunday, August 22, 2010

4200 Miles -- I rode my bicycle across America!

After several days of rolling shady hills through Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire we finally arrived in Gloucester, Massachusetts (just north of Boston) where we were rode the final mile together with a police escort taking us to the Atlantic Ocean.

Sadly and gladly the ride is over.  Sad to leave my new friends and fellow bicycle warriors who fought the hills and headwinds and long days with me every inch of the country.  Glad to know that this huge goal and lifelong dream has been accomplished and I'm ready to come home.

My dear wife Cindy met me in Durham, New Hampshire and we were able to enjoy the final two days together.  She joined with many other family and friends of my fellow riders to cheer us on at the end of the ride as we pulled into the parking lot of Gloucester High School at 1 p.m.   After we all arrived, as a group of 70 riders, we rode together the last mile to the beach and dipped our bicycle tires in the ocean.  Mission accomplished.

After celebrating with each other on the beach we all took showers and then met again in the evening for a small cruise on a whale watching boat in the Gloucester harbor.  It was great to see the family members of many of the cyclists and share highlight stories of our nine week adventure.   Indeed, as our tour leader Greg Walsh often said, "This is summer camp for adults."   So we exchanged addresses, email accounts and phone numbers and promised to be friends forever.   What a ride! 

Thank you all for reading along these nine weeks.   It has been so fun to hear from you along the way.  It has been a joy for me to both ride through the United States and also to write about it several times a week.  

Please know that as I have more to write about this amazing experience and some photos to share once I get back home.