Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Thank you for being patient and tolerating my previous brief updates. 

We rolled into Harrisonburg on Thursday around 2:00 after riding from Seneca Rocks over two substantial passes.   It was a great feeling to be in the town that has been my home for the past two years.  We spent Thursday and Friday visiting with friends and making the rounds to my favorite places.   On Friday morning we celebrated my birthday at the Little Grill with Boris, Julia, Nicole, and Joaquin .  My favorite breakfast, The Bricker's Son (toad-in-the-hole/egg-in-a-basket with vegetarian chili on top), tasted like Harrisonburg and made me feel even more at home.  With all the friends and familiar sights, it felt like the end of our trip; I thought it was going to be difficult to pedal out of town on Saturday morning and enjoy the last two days to the beach.  Fortunately, Ben Wyse and Austin Showalter met us early on Saturday to escort us out of town.  Their conversation distracted us as we crossed over the city limits and got us on the road without much of a bitter-sweet feeling.

The following two days were like a blur.  We met Momma and Dad Bailey in Richmond.  It was great to be reunited with them and share more about our trip.  They have helped us out a lot emotionally and logistically.  We have been thankful for their support.

Sunday was quite the sprint.  We rode the first thirty-plus miles without stopping, because my dad and Nate's friend Scott would leap frog with us in the car and hand us water and snacks.  It was fun and kind of goofy.  Around noon, my mom met up with us after picking up my friend Joe from the train station.  We all ate lunch together and then the non-bikers set off to wait for us at the beach.  We road another 60 miles at a blistering pace in some of the worst heat of the trip.  Around 5:00 we reached Sandbridge Beach after riding 106 miles.  Our muscles were shot thanks to the all-out sprint that ensued 7 miles from the shore, but me managed to hoist out bikes onto our shoulders and carry them across the sand and then collapse into the water.  We posed for some photos and then returned to the beach house for dinner.  We spent the rest of the evening in a semi-coherent state.

We are grateful for generosity of Tina and Dan Beachy who are hosting us in the Beach house that they rented.  Since arriving here we have had a full house of friends and family.  Our friends Hannah, Joe, Matt, and Scott are here with us.  We are thankful to finally have a a vacation (this trip has not been one).

We also would like to thank all of those at home and across the country who supported us in one way or another.  If we have learned one thing on this trip it is about how strong our web of support is and how generous people can be.  We would like to thank everyone.  Some bought us hotel rooms, some let us in their homes, some talked us through the tough sections over the phone, and some asked us tough questions and helped us learn from our experience.  I want to thank all of you.  Thank you, thank you.

My lack of satisfaction about my ability to thank everyone and my ability to bring closure to this blog is similar to my feelings about this trip.  Its ending seems abrupt and anti-climactic compared to the adventures that it contained.  I will therefore share a few more things on the blog (possibly a summary of our presentations about peace), I will continue to thank all of you as I see you, and I will continue to ride my bike.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Friday, August 20, 2010


We're in Harrisonburg.  It feels pretty good.  To the beach!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The selfless act of riding in the rain

A response to the Gulf Coast oil spill might be to begin riding your bike to work.  Sure oversight by the government and more responsible policies on the part of BP might have prevented or delayed the disaster, but as long as our culture places such a high value on automobile transportation and as long as our infrastructure necessitates it, the disasters are going to happen.  The demand for oil is so high that corporations will stop at nothing to extract it and it is not in our politician's best interest to make or enforce regulations of it.  I wish that corporations would choose to what is best for the citizens of the world even if it is not good for their pocketbook and I wish that politicians would make a stand for what is right even if it is unpopular, but I don't expect this to happen.  I imagine that if I were a CEO or a politician it would be as hard for me to make the decision to choose against deep-water drilling or to propose legislation banning deep-water drilling as it is for me to choose against car ownership.  This leads me to wondering if I should expect other people to make choices that are not in their own self-interest.  I would like too, but then I wonder if people can expect me to act in opposition to my own interests.

When you consider that we tend to act in our best interest (as noted by the safety infractions on the part of BP), the bicycle appears to have immense potential.  The bicycle is considered by most people in the world to be solely a form of recreation or even just a child's play thing.  Many people enjoy riding everyday or only occasionally, but they fail to recognize the good that could come from splicing this fun into their daily routine.  Our society puts immense boundaries between work and leisure.  If we could break down this boundary (this would mean allowing ourselves to not mind being sweaty in the grocery store) and choose to replace the 40% of car trips that are within one to two miles of the home with walking or biking, we would be able to act in our own self interest while concientiously objecting to the war in Iraq, global warming, and deep-water drilling.  We could selfishly enjoy the feeling of speeding down a hill with wind in our hair or the peaceful meditation of a walk while preserving creation.  If we already run errands and ride bike or walk for fun, we should combine them.  It would be good for us and good for the world.

I like to imagine what it would be like if I could expect myself and others to act in the best interest of others (against our own interest).  This might entail accepting higher taxes and social services, advocating for humane immigration reform, or occasionally riding our bikes in the rain.

We spent today with Joe's aunts Marla and Ann.  Tomorrow we ride to his grandparents'.  After that we head off into wild and wonderful West Virginia.  See y'all in Harrisonburg on Thursday!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

All things go, all things go...

The past two days have felt as long as a week.

Yesterday, we woke up early and rode the train into Chicago.  In the morning, we sipped coffee while surveying the giant stainless steel bean in millennium park.  After that we walked down the waterfront.  After this we split up.  Joe rode the train up to Evanston to visit his cousin, Elyse, who attends Northwestern University.  Nate and I met up with Lisle, a friend from EMU.

After eating lunch with Lisle, Nate and I swung by Chicago Theological Seminary for a tour and interview.  This was my first visit to a seminary.  It was both exciting and frustrating to start the whole college search again.  The visit did rekindle my interest in theology and ministry.  I also enjoyed walking around the building which features beautiful gothic architecture. Unfortunately by the time I would enroll, they will have moved into a new building.

After visiting CTS, seeing some mummies, and going to Lisle's house we drove into the city to pick up Joe and Elyse.  We then went to Megan Ramer's house.  She is the pastor of Chicago Community Church.  We met with some of her congregants in her yard and talked about riding bikes and living deliberately.  Partway through that conversation, our friend James, his father (and our pastor) Jonathon, and his girlfriend Ashley dropped by.  After the event, we went with them to the train station where Jonathon bought us all donuts (Micky D's was out of ice cream).

We got on the train at 10:40 and George picked us up at 11:30 ending a very long, but fun day.

Today we got a ride from George to compensate for our time spent in Chicago and I had a frustrating incident with a pedal.  We are spending the night with EMU friend Nathan Kauffman.  Tomorrow we ride to Archbold, OH to see our friend Stewart!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Midnight Rider

We have spent many nights of our trip camped out in public parks.  Each of these parks have had "hours of operation".  We ignore them in an effort to save money and avoid RVs.  We hope to not get found in the middle of the night and get kicked out, but we know it is a possibility.  As we sat on a picnic table at a park in Earlville, IL kate last night, we thought "Isn't it about time we get kicked out of a public park?".  At other times during this trip we have also wondered: "Isn't it about time we ride at night?", "Isn't it about time we ride 130 miles", and "Isn't it about time we see George and Joanne Carr again?".  Coincidentally, each of these musings occuerd within one span of being awake.

We attended Joe's church on Sunday morning.  We enjoyed the service, which featured some beautiful wildlife photography set to a reading of Psalm 104.  After the service we said goodbye to our friends and returned to Joe's house for a last meal with his parents.  Our friend, Theo, picked us up to drive us across the Mississippi River.  This short truck portage would allow us to spend a full day visiting friends in Chicago.

He dropped us off around 2:30.  It was sad to say good-bye, but we are very excited to get back together with all our friends in 3 weeks when we move into EMU for the semester.  We rode 60 or so miles to a small town called Earlville.  Around 9:00 we found a nice little park and decided to spend the night there.  Not one of us was particulary sleepy, so it wasn't until around 11:30 that we lay down to sleep.

Right as Joe and Nate slid into their sleepingbags the police officer showed up.  He did not immediatly kick us out, but did alert us a close call we had with a disaterous situation.  When he ran Nate's ID, the officer noticed that Nate is 17 years old.  This meant that Nate would have been breaking curfew if he had not been in the presence of a legal guardian, or someone who he is related to that is over 18 years old.  I therefore qualified as Nate's guardian.  This spared him from the mis demeanor charge of breaking curfew which would have necessitated our parents' prescence to release him from police custody.  Moral of the story here is: if you are under 18 years of age, bicycle touring is illeagal unless you are accompanied by a leagal guardian.

So, crisis averted.  We were told to pack up our stuff and proceed to the comercial campground down the road.  We made friendly chit-chat with the officer as we packed up and he, feeling a little guilty, repeated the directions to the campground far too many times.  Half because of spite and half because of our desire to fufill all of our "one of these day's" musings in one night, we made a decision to go all the way to Wheaton.

I wish that I had not been so tired during the ride from Earlville to Wheaton because I think I might have enjoyed it.  We cruised through suburbs that would have been over-congested during the daylight hours.  All of the road was ours; we did not need to fight for every inch like we do during the day.  We rode through greenlight after greenlight until we turned onto the Fox River Bike Path which turned into the Wheaton Prarie Path.  As dawn approach we found ourselves riding through Danada Euqestrian Center.  In euqestrian center we rode on wide fine gravel paths through prarie and timber.  It was beautiful and peaceful. 

We rolled into Wheaton at 5:00 and inhaled a few bagels at the first Dunkin Donuts that we have seen on this trip (we are deffinitly getting further east!).  I called George and Joanne just before 6:30 mass.  We were showered and in bed by 7:00.

Phew, I feel like I am processing last night's events as I type them.  Right now Nate and Joe are watching The Fellowship of the Rings and I am thinking about ice cream.  The Carrs have been extraordinarily hospitable.  We can think of no other place thaat we would like to be after a night like last night.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Bringing home the bacon bits (by bicycle)

I was just putzing around the interweb when I stumbled upon this article on CNN's website titled:  "College Degrees That Don't Pay".  This headline reminded me of a conversation that we had with a man that hosted us in Rapid City, SD.  We bumped into him at the library that day.  When he saw our bikes, he told us that he had done some long distance riding himself.  Not wanting to miss an opportunity, we asked to stay in his yard and he quickly agreed.  After loading our bikes (and ourselves) in the back of his pickup truck, we bounced across town to his house.

The man bought us pizza for dinner.  While we were eating, we learned that he had once been a career counselor.  He, was of course, disappointed to hear what each of our majors were.  Myself: Peacebuilding/Development & Biblical Studies,  Nate: Peacebuilding/Development & Photography, and Joe: Math (with little interest in math education).  He went on to explain how he had talked countless kids out of similar majors because they were not marketable.  He said that anyone with a any college degree can get the jobs that we want (I thought this comment was a little naive).

So anyway, I clicked on the negatively-spun CNN headline expecting to find an article that confirmed this gentleman's predictions.  I don't know why I needed to read CNN's  take on the matter.  I am well aware of the fact that I will be more likely to bring home bacon bits than bacon when I "grow up".  CNN of course confirmed the low salaries of a select 9 jobs, but also included a quote from a person in each career and each person expressed how satisfied they were with their career choice (leave it to CNN to title their article: "College Degrees That Don't Pay" instead of "College Degrees That Lead To Happy Satisfying Lives").

Nicole Ropp and I had a conversation earlier today about how we (and many of our friends) are interested in making choices like this.  We aren't exactly interested in prestigous "marketable" college degrees.  Many of us aren't fooled by the idea that "with money comes happiness".  We know that money is helpful, but we also know that many other things are more important.  Many choices we make might not make sense economically, but are beneficial in so many other ways.  These choices include: baking bread instead of buying it from the store,  patching clothes instead of buying new ones, raising chickens instead of buying eggs from the store, spending time with family and friends instead of working, and riding a bike or walking to work instead of driving.  The main reason these choices might not be sound economically is because they take time (time that could be spent working of course).  We make these choices for a whole variety of reasons: because we get to be creative, we get to ressurect,  we get to experience nature,  we get to excersice, we get to care for things, we get to be in relationship, we get to breathe, we get to be happy.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Iowa City

We have reached  Iowa City!  We arrived at 7:30 on Tuesday night after leaving Des Moines at 7:30 that morning.  Traveling that distance under my own power was quite the experience.  I enjoyed it, but it not something that I would like to do or could do every day.  I managed to zone-out and get excited as the miles ticked up.  It was fun at the time because of the epic distances we had covered and because we were arriving at Joe's house and hearing stories from Joe's youth.  It was miserable in retrospect.

Yesterday we slept in and then got a tour of Iowa City from Joe and his friend Ethan.  We visited a book store, a bikestore dedicated to bike commuting, and an Amish grocery.  Yesterday evening, we went over our friend Nicole's house.  We visited with some of our friends from EMU and some of Joe's friends from Iowa Mennonite High School.

Tonight we will talk with Joe's congregartion about our trip and why we ride bicycles.  I'm a little nervouse because the group tonight should be particularly large with lots of familiar faces.   I hope to share some of the things we talk about in a blog post tomorrow.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Des Moines

That last four days have flown by (and have been great fun)!  On Friday we left Doran's and rode 100 miles to Le Mars and entered Iowa.  After hearing about it from my friends for the past two years, Iowa turned out to be more beautiful than I ever imagined (I'm not kidding).  We found the the city park in Lemars to be a mosquito breeding ground, but fortunately the Catholic church left their front door ajar and we slept in their basement.

On Saturday, we rode another hundred miles to Manson, IA.  In Manson we were hosted by Jake and Lois Birkey.  They made us a wonderful dinner and sent us off a few miles down the road to the Central Plains Conference youth gathering at Twin Lakes Mennonite Camp.  We were hoping to hear the keynote speaker from the weekend, Shaine Claiborne, but missed him by a couple of hours.  We did get to see some friendly faces from EMU.  This was a nice suprise, but made us realize that schools starts in 4 weeks!

Sunday was supposed to be a shorter day, but when we reached Jefferson after 45 miles we found a bike path that went all the way to Des Moines.  We started down this path at 3 in the afternoon and found ourselves 20 miles outside the city around 7:30 or 8.  Not being able to think of anything better to do, we kept riding.  We reached the suburb of Clive around 9:30 completing another 100 mile day.  We enjoyed McCafe smoothies and fries before finding a place to lay down for the night.

We set up our tent in the dark next to the bike path and struggled to fall asleep in the heat with insects buzzing around our heads and we awoke at 5:45 to a looming thunderstorm.  We hurriedly packed up our tent and sleeping bags as the drops began to fall and scurried back to the Micky D's as the lightning flashed and the rain increased.  We sat there for awhile with growing hunger and no desire to eat an egg McMuffin.  Finally, at 7:45, I gave up waiting for a "reasonable hour" to roll around and I called the Des Moines Mennonite Church where we are staying tonight.  To my suprise, I got ahold of Randy who gave us directions to the church.  We set out in the rain and battled the traffic to arrive at the church by 9:00.  Randy cooked us some eggs and toast and his wife and church pastor Karen showed us around.  One of the church members, Esther, drove us downtown in the afternoon and we got a chance to see the capital city and enjoy some good coffee.  Nate and Joe are napping right now (I just woke up).  Later we will meet with some church members and talk with them about bikes and peace.

Tomorrow we will ride to Joe's hometown, Iowa City!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Justin, Jenny, and General Custer

Hi everyone!  It seems like a long time since I last updated this blog.  Much too much has happened to relay it all, but I can touch on the highlights. 

Today we are staying with our friend Doran.  He goes to EMU and lives in Freeman, South Dakota.  Last night we stayed in Parkston.  The pastor of the UCC church there bought us a hotel room!  We ate tacos that we made on our camp stove, caught up on world events thanks to Stephen Colbert and John Stewart, and slept well.  This morning we woke up to rain.  Yes, we rode in the rain today (we're working on the soggy postcards as we speak).  Fortunately, we only had to ride 35 miles to get to Doran's house.  We are relaxing, blogging, and playing board games.

Doran' has not been the only familiar face that we have seen this week.  After riding through the Black Hills last weekend, Joe's brother Justin and sister Jenny met us in the Badlands.  Justin has been serving in Laos with SALT for the past year and is home for a two week break.  He was willing to spend 20+ hours of his short time state-side in a car traveling to see us.  We had a great time visiting with them.  We drove through the Badlands, managed to find a glass of water at Wall Drug, and spent a couple hours going east on the interstate to make room in our schedule to spend time with them.  We enjoyed the respite and the chance to visit with people with out the semi-pretenses that are natural when you are talking to people that you do not know.

Jenny recently wrote a paper about the little-known conflict in the Black Hills.  Her paper analyzes the issues related to land disputes between the Sioux Nation and the United States Government.  As a tourist in the Black Hills, I saw no evidence of the long-standing conflict, but, as described in the paper, the first step to resolving the conflict peaceably is to educate people about it.

The Sioux native Americans inhabited the area that is now South Dakota long before any European settlers came to the area.   They were promised the Black Hills and surrounding land in the 2nd Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, but in 1874 Lt. Col. George Custer found gold in the Black Hills.  In an attempt to cash-in the previously  undiscovered mineral wealth in the area, the United States pressured the Sioux to sell the land by making food-aid dependent on the sale of the land.  When this did not work, the United States took the land.  Since this time, the United States have invested a lot in the area in the means of tourism and extracted exceptional amounts of gold and other resources.  The conflict lingers today as the Supreme Court and the U.N. have condemned the governments taking of Sioux land, but they have yet to return it.  The Sioux, who often live in demeaning poverty and suffer from its related effects, do not wish to accept monetary restitution, but desire the land of the Black Hills because  it would be source of lasting income and restore their dignity and traditional homeland.

According to Jenny's paper (and peacebuilding experts that she cites) it is important that people are informed of conflicts like the Black Hills conflict.  The United States has the position of power in this situation and will not back down until more citizens declare the maltreatment of the Sioux unacceptable.

When we are in Iowa City and have couple of days off I hope to take a look at a few of many conflicts around the world that are related to oil and our car centered culture.  I hope that if we can learn more about how the extraction of oil is connected to violence, we will begin to consider the methods of corporations, policies of governments, and gluttonous consumption habits of ourselves to be unacceptable. 

Until then, we will be riding through Manson and Des Moines and asking ourselves: is this heaven?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Traveling and Nature

"Right at the heart of American Conservationsim, from the beginning, has been the preservation of spectacular places.  The typical American park is in a place that is "breathtakingly beautiful"or wonderful and of little apparent economic value.  Mountains, canyons, deserts, spectacular landforms, geysers, waterfalls--these are the stuff of parks.  There is, signifigantly, no prairie national park.  Wilderness preserves, as Dave Foreman points out, tend to include much "rock and ice" and little marketable timber.  Farmable land, in general, has tempted nobody to make a park.  Wes Jackson has commented with some anxiety on the people who charge blindly across Kansas and eastern Colorado, headed for the mountains west of Denver.  These are nature lovers and sightseers, but there are utterly oblivious or bored by the rich natural and human history of the plains.  The point of Wes Jackson's anxiety is that the love of nature that limits itself to the love of places that are "scenic" is implicitly dangerous.  It is dangerous because it tends to exclude unscenic places from nature and from the respect that we sometimes accord to nature.  This is why so much of the landscape that is productively used is also abused; it is used solely according to standards dictated by the financial system and not at all according to the standards dictated by the nature of the place.  Moreover, as we are beginning to see, it is going to be extremely difficult to make enough parks to preserve vulnerable species and the health of ecosystems or large watersheds."
-Wendell Berry, Conservation Is Good Work

I read this essay back in eastern Oregon.  I will always remember that first part of the trip as my first encounter with somewhere that is truely desolate.  I made note of this passage and decided to revisit it after passing through the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone (and naturally, much more desolate high desert and a seemingly infinite amout of farmland).  I wanted to come back to it becuase I figured that after riding though mile upon mile of farmland and after visiting two national parks and a national monument, I could read it in a more informed manner.  Now, revisiting it, I am slightly confused.

I am confused because now when I read this passage I think of a number of things:
-I think of how lonely I was in eastern Oregon
-I think of how water is such a necessity for farming (and a touchy subject) in the high desert
-I think about the overcrowded cattle farms that do not have any grass in sight
-I think of how I could not take my eyes off of the mountians in the Grand Tetons
-I think of the slight depression that I felt as Yellowstone lake disapeared from view for the last time
-I think of the gigantic coal mine we saw outside of Gillete, Wyoming
-I thnk about how many RVs I have seen
-I think about the desire to ride fast that I get when I am bored
-I think about the animals that are protected in Yellowstone, but whose migratory habits are disrupted by fences outside of the park to the south

These things that I think about seem to conflict with each other.  I cannot deny that I have been very bored at times, but during these times I have seen things that trouble me or make me think.  These are things that I would be ignorant to or at least would not have the time to think about if I was not on a bicycle.  Sometimes I wish our entire country was "park worthy".  This would make for an exciting bike tour, but fortunately for our countryss economy, it isn't.  I, therefore, think Berry (and others) are on to something when they consider how our vacation habits affect our view of nature.  I may be bored by some places, but I find myself connected to them none the less.  I find myself asking questions about the issues that I see as I ride and wondering what it might be like to live in these places.

On Tuesday we were riding from Sheridan to Gillete.  Early in the afternoon a thunderstorm blew up behind us and chased us for a while.  When it began to catch us I stopped to put my wallet in my waterproof bags and almost instictivly stuck out my thumb at a passing truck.  To my suprise the man stopped and helped us load our bikes in the back.  He drove us out of the rain (we never actually got wet).  We learned a lot as we rode with him.  He works in the methane business.  Underneath the ground there is methane trapped in the coal.  There is a huge infrastructure in place to extract this gas and pipe it to Chicago and California.  He also drove us by the coal mine and told us about the issues related to it.  We learned a lot from this man.  He answered the questions we had about all the things we had seen while riding that day.  He dropped us off in a parking garage where we met  a reporter.  Through our short ride with this man, we learned about the complex local issues of this seemingly boring area.  As we ride we have been able to observe and experience local depth and then learn more about this depth through conversations with local people.

I don't think that bike touring is for everyone (occasionally I wonder if its even for me), but when it comes to experiencing an honest image of nature and working toward the greater ethic of conservationism that Berry calls for, it is probably the way to go.  We are in the midst of nature the entire time that we are traveling.  It is hard not to care about it and respect it when you are in it.

Tonight we are sleeping in the basement of a Methodist church in Sundance, WY (as in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid).  We are pretty pooped.  Today is our first day off since Jackson Hole (and it's only sort or a day off because we biked 20-something miles this morning).  We ride to South Dakota tomorrow!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


I spent last night and part of this moring writing a more-or-less thougful piece about the national parks.  When I went to publish it something went wrong and now its gone.  We need to get on the road so I'll just give you a quick update.

We just made bacon and eggs in the kitchen of the United Church of Christ in Sheridan, WY.  They graciously opened up their doors and let us sleep in their building last night.  Today we ride toward Devils Tower.  It should take two days to get there.  After leaving yellowstone a day early we seem to be close to on schedule. 

Friday, July 16, 2010

Jackson Hole, Jackson Hole

We are now in Jackson Hole.  A good Samaritan back home bought us a hotel room which provided a nice restful night sleep.  The scenery here is gorgeous, distracting, and quite a relief  after eastern Oregon and southern Idaho.  We enjoyed some extraordinarily over-priced buffulo burgers last night and are getting out of town this afternoon before we blow the budget on trying to sustain our high calorie diet in this expensive tourist town.

The last four days of cycling have been quite the breeze (tailwinds propelled out 90ish pound rigs at a 15, sometimes 20 mile per hour rate).  Spirits have been high because going fast is fun and covering long distances feels good.

Covering long distances might not feel as good in the near future as we have to travel the 900 or so miles from Yellowstone to Freeman, SD in 11 days (thanks to poor planning and being a day behind schedule).  We are going on faith that we will make it to Iowa on time (and are keeping our fingers crossed and hoping to meet a nice elderly couple in an over sized RV who offer to give a ride for a little bit).  We are going to do our best to put our fears aside and enjoy the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone over the next couple of days before heading out into Wyoming, the land that our banjo-toting, lumber-jacking, earth-wandering good friend Adam Leclair deems "unforgiving".

One conversation that keeps repeating is about rain and when it will fall.  We each have guessed a state.  Nate thinks that it will happen in Wyoming, Joe thinks we'll get wet in South Dakota, and I don't think we'll use our fenders until Iowa.  We thought it would be fun if all of you (our friends and family) got in on this sort of pool.  Guess what date we will get rained on first (for example: Tuesday 8/3).  You can post your guess as a comment on our blog or you can write your guess on the back of a black 160GB iPod loaded with every season of car talk and mail it to us.  I may not like cars, but I do like car talk.  If your answer is selected at random from the hundred of correct answers we receive, we will send you a completely saturated postcard.

We will not be able to access computers unless Wyoming has a grinch/Saul-to-Paul-esque conversion experience and suddenly becomes "forgiving" and flows forth with roast beast and interweb access.

We hope everyone is having a great summer!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Freeway Isn't Free

I have had a special affinity for this state ever since I bought a cordory tucker hat bearing its name from Gift & Thrift for $.075.  I still hold many aspects of this state (especially Boise) in high regard.  Such is not the case for its interstate system.

We are in Twin Falls, ID staying with EMU student Cody Stutzman and his family.  We arrived late last night after two tough days.  We enjoyed dinner with his parents, Lyn and Doug, when we arrived at around 10:00pm.  We then showered and slept for a long time (more than 14 for nate).  Today has been relaxing.  Joe watched the World Cup final and I read a copy of EMU professor Linford Stutzman's book "Sailing Acts" that I found on the Stutzman's coffee table.  It tells the story of the two summers that he and his wife Janet spent tracing the apostle Paul's routes around the Mediterranean Sea.  I really identifiesd with his story and could understand the trials and tribulations of their endeavor.  It was comforting to read about how he coped with the challenges that accompany rewarding experiences.

One challenge for us occured when we were trying to leave Boise.  We recently learned that out west, sometimes the freeway is the only road that connects two towns (bikes aren't allowed on the freeway for good reasons).  Such was the case with Boise and a town 50 miles away called Mountain Home.  Being on bikes and all, we tried to get to Mountain Home on dirt roads, but could not find the right ones.  We then had to back track and take route 78 which took us about 50 miles out of the way.  This made for two really long, hot days.  Fortunately, the night in between Boise and Twin Falls, we met a friendly sheriff who invited us to sleep in the town park of Grandview.  That worked out well with exception of the dog, the skunk, and the sprinklers.  After riding 100 miles on Friday and 90 miles into a headwind on Saturday, Cody and his fiancee picked us up, and  we were very thankful.

My advisor at EMU, Nancy Heisey, just chatted me on facebook and offered to pray for hospitality and wisdom for us to know where to look for hospitality.  We could use this over the next couple of weeks.  We hope to stay with people from the United Church of Christ in Pocatello on Tuesday night.  We have not been able to find someone to stay with in Jackson Hole, WY so we may not go there.  In that case we may just go through Yellowstone.  We do not at this point have any connections between Pocatello and Freeman, SD.  If anyone has any connections in northern WY or southwestern SD please call me: (860) 490-4452 and leave a message.  If you don't have any connections, we appreciate your prayers.

We are having fun and trying to stay cool.  Wyoming here we come!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

"We can not have all the things that please us..."

One of the nights we spent far from what is called civilization , under a darkening sky I pulled out my iPod.  Listening to a few songs before I close my eyes is one of the only ways to escape the depression that come with the end of the day.  The other way to escape that we have found is to listen to Joe read from "The Wisdom of the Enneagram".  

It is stressful to ride down the road looking for a suitable place to sleep.  We reach a certain mileage and then begin "keeping an eye out".  We are looking for a spot that is secluded, comfortable, quiet, and legal.  They have been places like a church parking lot, a town park (semi-legal = more stressful), a patch of grass next to a remote airfield, and a highway rest area.  Our stress is enhanced by our fatigued bodies.  Our  emotions are magnified and our senses are put on edge.

This particular night found us in a Oregon Department of Transportation storage area,  These occur every 10 miles or so along Highway 20 in eastern Oregon and are used to store road making material and sand for keeping the highway safe in the winter.  As I lay in my sleeping bag, hidden from the road by a large pile of gravel, the song "Annabelle", by Gillian Welch and David Rawlings played on my iPod.  The chorus of this song goes:

"we can not have all things to please us
No matter how we try
Until we've all gone to Jesus
We can only wonder why"

This song took me back to a conversation we had with our hosts, Sacha and Michael, the night before.  We stayed up to one in the morning talking about many things including: why most films are poor quality, how we wish we had the time and skills to garden, how its hard to be handy if you grow up in Los Angeles, what its like to not "settle down" in one spot, why our generation does not have the same degree of righteous anger that previous generations had, how in this "post modern time" when corporations are more powerful than governments many our conversations and questions can be answered by Wendell Berry (or as Nate says wendellberry like strawberry).

Another thing we talked about was our experience touring thus far.  One thing we realized is how much thought, stress, and effort goes into our basic necessities like food, water, and shelter.  Being on tour has really brought us back to the basics of survival.   Never before have we not known where we will sleep that night.  Never has our food been limited in such a way (by money, weight, and nutrition), and never before have we not been able to just get water from a faucet when we are thirsty.  We can not have all the things that please us, no matter how hard we try.  This has been very humbling, can be incredibly stressful, and an entirely new and eye-opening experience.  

Even more than this, we have learned the importance of people.  Not just in a cheesy "people are so hospitable" way (people are connected to our other basic needs, food and shelter are located near people and are sometimes generously given to us by people), but also in a visceral desire for social interactions.  Riding through eastern Oregon where a town consists of a single store that is open three days a week and such towns can be 50 miles apart is accompanied by an anxiousness that is not present when riding through more populated areas.  If we have been camping for a couple nights in a row we begin to feel a sublime, but intense loneliness. We wish we could stay with people every night of our trip, but we can not have all the things that please us, no matter how hard we try (eastern Oregon).  We feel this unbelievably strong and deep desire to be with people.  Not because they give us food, but because we have an unmet need for relationship and interaction when we are on the road.

I drifted off to sleep to David singing harmony to Gillian's charming twang and awoke to the most beautiful night sky that I had ever seen.  It's beauty redeemed our seemingly pitiful camping situation.  This feeling did not last as the distant yelping coyotes made us very uneasy.

We are learning a lot about grace.  Grace that is something small and beautiful in the midst of a scary situation.  Grace that is not just the hospitality of a handful of specific people, but also grace that comes though the presence of and interactions with humanity.  

We are in Boise and enjoying the hospitality of some very specific people.  Thank you so much Paula and Ken.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Come Thou Fount

This song will no longer congure up childhood memories of sunday morning church services, but instead will send me into awful flashback of Nate skidding fingers-first across the pavement on route 126 just west of Eugene.  The first (and hopefully only) crash of our ride occurred when Nate was inspired by bicycle-tour delerium to launch into a rousing version of the traditional hym "Come Thou Fount", became distracted by the spirit of the song (and the vocal solo that replaced the words he didn't know), and bumped into Joe's back wheel.  This set him off balance and sent him sliding across the pavment.  Fortunately his injuries were minor.  After some impromtu first aide, he rode off with a dislocated fingernail and 3x3 patch of missing skin on his upper-thigh.  Moral of the story: know the words to songs.

Yesterday was the first real climb of our trip.  We crossed the Cascade range through McKenzie pass (5,300ish ft.).  This required over 4,000 feet of climbing.  Fortunately, we had 20 miles to gain this altitude.  The climb was not as steep as many roads out east (reddish knob, massanutten, talcott mtn.), but its length was unlike anything that i could previously conceptualize.  The pass featured an "observatory" that offered breath taking views of "the sisters", which are 3 mountains each between 8,000 and 10,000 feet.  We averaged 25-30mph for 10 miles on the east side.  It was fun.

We reached Bend yesterday evening and are staying with Michael and Sacha.  They belong to a Mennonite church plant that is pastored by a man named Sam Adams, who is firends with Tato, who is a Member of "The Church of the Servant King", which is very well connected to Wipf and Stock publishing, where Charlie works, who went to Duke with Peter Dula, who is one of our profs at EMU.  Yup, its kind of like "7 degrees of Kevin Bacon", except is like "how many degrees can we be removed from a person and still be allowed to sleep in their house".

They have been hospitable to us as if we were life-long friends.  Michael gave us some suggestions about how to view, "his favorite place on earth", Yellowstone and Sacha, who is a school chef, has helped us reimagine our daily menu.  Nate and Joe are at Trader Joe's right now stocking up on high-energy and nutritional foods.  We hope these dense and nutritional foods will prove to be cheaper in the long-run.

We need to stock up on food before our next 4-5 days because no one lives where we are going.  This is going to be the first mentally tough section.  The landscape will not vary and we can expect to sleep out every night.  Our next "destination" where we have arranged shelter is Boise, ID.

I hope to write more about bicycling and advocacy, but I have not had time or energy to put those thoughts together.  Maybe in South Dakota I will have less to write about and be able to squeeze some of that in.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Portland to Eugene (by way of the coast)

We've reached Eugene Oregon and are enjoying our first rest day.  If I've come to terms with one thing during the 8-10 hours per day that I've spend on a bike since leaving Portland on Saturday it is my inability to recapitulate the never ceasing stream of random events and new experiences and my more or less insightful thoughts about them in a concise weekly blog update.  There is really no way to convey what we have seen and how we feel, but I will try my best anyway.

In Portland, we stayed with Joe's cousin Katie and her boyfriend Nick.  They showed us around the city and took us up to the top fo the building that they work in.  From their we enjoyed a great view of the city and the surrounding lanscape.  We could see Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens in the distance.  They are beautiful and unlike any mountain that I have ever seen.  I had finished one of my books during our day and half layover, so we stopeed at Powell's City of Books (supposedly the world's largest book store) to restock.  On Friday night, Katie helped us carbo-load by cooking us some pasta.  After that, Joe beat the four of us in Settlers of Catan and then we went to bed.

We awoke on Saturday morning wishing that we could enjoy Katie and Nick's hospitality a little longer while getting to know the city a little better, but we rode out of town with a giddy sort of excitment.  To Joe's suprise Nate lead most of the day (Joe and Nate have never ridden together and his more of a rock&ice climber/backpaker/extreme swimmer than a cyclist).  We easily rode 30 miles past our planned 60 and spent the night in the parking lot of "Faith Baptist Church", just outside of Lincoln City, OR.

Night time is the hardest time psycologically.  When your body is beat from a long day on the bike, one glance at a map can send you spiraling into a feeling of selfdout.  This feeling can be prevented by only looking at one fold of the map at a time and remedied by going to sleep.

We awoke early on Sunday morning in an effort to get on the road before we were stumbled upon by an early church goer.  It was nice to get a few miles in before stopping for breakfast.  Food has been a challenge for us, mainly because it is a lot more espensive than we imagined.  We tried to assemble a meal from items bought at the grocery store.  This turns out to be more expensive and less nutritious (though less processed) than buying a $5 footlong from Subway.  After discovering this we have been eating out and buying cheap, high-calorie processed foods.  This was working ok (though still too costly) until our bodies started to rebel against the simple-carbs.  We arrived in Eugene yesterday desperetly craving vegetables.

We are spending two nights in Eugene with an intentional Christian community called "The Church of the Servent King"  They people here are pretty cool and unbelievably hospitible.  I cannot even begin to convey their generosity and am speechless when it comes to thanking them. 

I am running out of time on the computer.  Nate wants me to share the list below to fill in the holes.

So far we've:
-stayed with Joe's cousin Katie and her boyfriend Nick in Portland
-dragged our boxed bikes across downtown Portland
-shopped at the world's largest book store
-surveyed Portland from the top of one of it's taller buildings
-rode 90 miles to Lincoln City, OR
-Learned that our stove doesn't burn Diesel
-eaten luke warm rice and beans
-realized that eating at subway is cheaper than buying groceries from a store
-slept in the parking lot of a church
-biked 80 miles to Florence, OR
-dragged our bikes across nearly a quarter miles of beach for a single photo
-dragged them back to the road
-wept over the state of our drive-trains
-tried, unsucessfully, to clean them
-seen some sealions
-asked to sleep in a man's yard
-been informed that he his grass had and impending engagment with his lawnmower and that we might try the park down the street
-hung out at the pavillion next to the suprisingly skate park, while reading Wendell Berry and waiting for the sun to go down
-layed out or sleeping bags under a tress
-seen park rangers coming to kick us out
-discovered that they were actually homless people dumpster diving
-been assurred that the park is a great place to spend the night
-been visited by two 50lb. racoons
-awoke to sprinklers in the middle of the night
-drank lots of coffee
-biked 60 miles
-enjoyed the most delicious salad I've ever tasted
-been treated to dinner
-met too many people to remember
-watched the movie "youth in revolt"
-slept in a real bed
-sat in front of a computer

Tomorrow will be our first day of climbing.  We hope to be in Bend in two days.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Up In The Air (Down on The Ground)

Riding your bike everywhere awards you a whole list of benefits; and unfortunatly frequent flyer miles are not on that list.  We therefore did not have the clout of George Clooney's character in his recent movie "Up In The Air" and were not able convince United Airlines customer service to pull some super-heroics to get us to Portland today (despite that fact that after missing 2 flights and then being rescheduled for a flight that had departed two hours earlier, I had called upon a bag of Miss Vickie's Jalapeno Chips to have a Hulk-esque effect on my typically slow-to-anger demenor).

Just when it looked like we were destined to spend the night in O'Hare (and my scoville induced rage had worn off),  George came to the rescue.

No, not George Harrison (the decidedely overdeveloped beatle's theme is through).
No, not George Clooney  (he's in a tight spot of his own)
but, George Carr

We were introduced to George and his wife Joanne a couple of days ago by their son (and our mentor) Dan over Skype and made tentative arrangments to stop by their house near Chicago when we ride through in August.  This introduction came with perfect timing and was either a sign of divine providence or the immense generosity and hospitality human beings.  They saved us from a long night on the floor of the terminal and have blessed us with couches, beds, internet, delicious food, and friendship. 

I was really anxious as our trip approached about all the things that will go wrong that are out of our control.  Today has washed all my anxiety away.  Things went really wrong and we are more confortable than we could ever be and have two new friends. I am now ready to enjoy the next two months confident that everything will turn out all right.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Magical Mystery Tour!!!

I have never been a Beatles super-fan.  I respect their music, but I have never been tempted to see Sgt. Lefferts' Phony Hearts Club Band at the local fair ground and I have been know to change the channel when "Let It Be" comes on the radio.  I was, at one point, quite the Eric Clapton fan, so "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" does hold a special place in my heart.

Anyway, Beatles songs have always confused me and left me with many questions.  Was Jude a guy or a girl?  Are Bono and John Lennon really temporary incarnations of the same entity, a psychedelic, philanthropic, funny-spectacle wearing shape-shifter called "The Egg Man"?  And what makes a tour a "Magical Mystery Tour"?

I have managed to find an answer to one of these questions.  I have recently been overcome with a sense of magic and mystery as our transcontinental bike trip approaches and have now found evidence that the Fab Four were actually singing about bicycle touring!

When I think about our impending tour, I realize how magical travel by bicycle is.   The bicycle is truly a magical invention in the way it allows people to ride infinitely far under their own power.   The  hard work of engineers, designers, fabricators, and mechanics  has created a unique contraption that magically (some would say mechanically) multiplies the human energy put into it.  Ever since it was first invented, the bicycle has given people a sense of unlimited freedom by allowing them to travel nearly anywhere under their own power.  It is a simple machine with miraculous power and unlimited potential.

The sense of mystery that has made day dreaming about the next two months nearly impossible is inspired not only by my awe of the mechanical magic of the bicycle, but also by sheer lack of knowledge or foresight into the events that will unfold.  There are so many unknowns.  What roads are we going to ride on?  In what way will my bicycle break?  At what point will I break mentally (or physically?  How will Joe and Nate put me back together?  Where are we going to find 6,000 calories every day?  Who are we going to meet?  What will we learn from them?  How long will it take for me to get on Nate and Joe nerves?  In what ways will our friendship grow?  What memories will be with me for the rest of my life?  What will I learn about myself?  How will I change?  Will we even make it to the east coast?  So many mysteries!

Our bikes have arrived in Portland.  Nate has graduated and is saying good by to his high school friends.  I'm piecing together the final logistics.  Mom and Dad have begun the "empty nest" grieving process.  Tomorrow we set off on a magical and mysterious journey!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The weblog

Welcome to the blog.

We will try to blog at least once a week.  The entries could include any number of the following:

-Where we are
-Where we are going
-Anything particularly interesting that has happened
-A piece music  that is fun, interesting, or helps conveys an emotion or theme
-Thoughts about transportation issues

We will try to do this all without sounding too self-centered.  This may be an impossible feat given that it is a blog about us, so please forgive us.

Please respond to what we have to say.  You can post responses to our blog or email us.  We want this to a conversation.

Thanks for riding along with us!