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!