And we did

Brace yourself, friends. The long break in our correspondence requires a long update. After many weeks of big sky country, interesting findings in ND, a week off in the windy city, and hilly, silvan countrysides the team made it to Maine and the Atlantic mostly safe, sound and not too warm. Autumn comes quickly in the Northeast and with it chilly mornings and even chillier rain. We’ve met all the people these 8 weeks would allow and found them to be every bit as hospitable and lovely as we could hope.

Today, we are 3/4 of the way through our journey!

We look to the South with hope for warmth and sun, more familiar roads and less traffic. Almost every day I wonder how we can still be out here pedaling our tired bikes with our tired legs. Only by the grace of our great God! I count it a privilege to be able to write to you now, alive and well. The events of last week, which I am about to divulge to you with brevity (yeah right), I was sure were going to be the end of us. And so, with that melodramatic introduction, I will begin.

Saturday, September 24, was the day before my birthday. We were headed to Erie, PA for the weekend, hoping to get some things done (as usual), not expecting to have the energy to really do all of them (as even more usual). The roads up here aren’t that great. Lots of cracks and uneven pavement. The day was going perfectly until one of these cracks also had a really big puddle next to it in the shoulder. Joel, who was leading the group, called it out and went around it. Eric followed Joel. Abe veered into the grass to avoid it. Troves tried to hop up on the top of the uneven pavement, but ended up going through it. I also tried hopping up on the lip, but my back wheel didn’t make it and I crashed.

I landed in the road, so my first thought was scramble to the roadside to avoid getting hit by a car. Once laying in the grass, a lady who witnessed the crash, who happened to be a nurse, and Joel came running up. They saw my cracked helmet and started asking me if my head hurt or if I was dizzy. “Yes, a little,” was my unfortunate response. I only say unfortunate because I spent the next several hours strapped to a board, racking up my first hospital bill. After some x-rays they let me go with only some scrapes and bruises to show off.

Two cool things happened because of this crash. One is that I got to ride in an ambulance. The other is that I got to share our mission with the nurses, x-ray techs, and a state trooper.

And then the best thing ever happened!! My parents showed up! Oh how wonderful a meeting it was, all hugs and kisses and tears of joy and get well flowers! They had come up to surprise me for my birthday, meaning to meet me at a rest stop, but met me at the hospital instead. And I had been wondering why my own mother wasn’t answering her phone when I was in the hospital!! Haha…

The rest of the weekend was great. We all relaxed and my body got stiffer. My wrists and neck were so stiff that I was unable to ride on Monday. Monday we said goodbye to my parents and headed out to Buffalo, NY. Another beautiful day! It smelled like grapes.

Our hosts in Buffalo were absolutely wonderful. Sara and Josh Merwyn, and their kids Abigail, Lillian, and Ellis, threw a fundraiser party for us with hot dogs, live music, cake, desserts, and a suggested donation of $20 per plate. It was so fun! And so successful! She raised over $1000! We were so blessed by everyone there and by Sara and Josh’s commitment to our cause.

Tuesday morning we visited Niagara Falls. Talk about h2o!

Our ride on Tuesday took us to Rochester, NY. From there we went to Oswego, NY and stayed at a community house/ministry called Grace and Glory Wednesday night. We didn’t make it in before it started pouring outside. Thursday morning was beautiful, and the roads only a little wet.

Our ride to Inlet, NY on Thursday was interrupted by a downpour that none of us were dressed for. The rain came down in sheets that blinded us. Joel, Troves, and I huddled in a shed, shivering in our thin, wet clothes. When the support crew arrived to save us from hypothermia, we changed into dry, warm clothes and set off. But we had lost too much daylight in the delay. We ended our ride about 10 miles before Inlet and picked up where we left off the next morning.

Friday’s weather was perfect. A beautiful day and a beautiful ride through the Adirondacks. Oh man. You gotta see it. It may be my favorite place we’ve been so far.

Our hosts for the evening, Pastor Charlie and family, ushered us in to their home right before the rains began again. We enjoyed lasagna, showers, laundry, and some local history lessons before heading to bed at the church next door.

A brief glance at the forecast Saturday morning wasn’t needed to know that we were never to be dry that day. It started raining early, with no promise of letting up. We stayed indoors as long as we could, trying to avoid the wet, cold world outside. All of our clothes were on us, plus some plastic bags and duck tape. And still we were not equipped for what lay ahead.

We say we ride rain or shine, but nobody told me about cold, rainy, windy weather. We all got split up on the first leg and arrived at the first stop in varying states. Eric, who was prepared for weather much worse than this (like snow), kept going, as dry as can be in his Gore-tex gear. We weren’t sure were Abe was… Troves, Joel, and I were about to shiver to death, even after some hot chocolate. We decided the only acceptable course of action was to get our clothes dry before continuing. We changed out of our wet things and visited the laundromat. 2 hours later our gloves and wool socks were finally dry. Thank you, God, that you provided a support crew as patient and wonderful as Leila and Michael. What would we do with out them?!? It was 3:00 PM before we were finally ready to keep going, and we still had 72 miles left.

We were supposed to have gone from NY through VT to NH on Saturday. It was going to be so cool to go to three states in one day! Haha…there was no way we could make it before dark, so we sent Leila, Michael, and Audrey ahead to our host, where Abe and Eric would hopefully be. The last we heard from them was from text messages that warned us against back roads. (You’ll have to hear their stories about the day. It’s craziness.) The intent was that we’d go 20 or 30 more miles today and then someone would come back and pick us up when it got dark, bring us to our host, and then bring us back the next day so we could finish the ride on Sunday (which would normally be our sabbath).

(Are you still following this? My memory of it is so jumbled and dreamlike, I’m sure you’re just dying to be done reading already. Don’t worry. You can stop now. Everyone ends up alright. No one even gets sick!)

It’s 3 PM. We set off again, with dry clothes and a few hours of daylight left. It started to rain.

After 10 miles Troves told us that his hands were about to freeze off. (“We are tropical animals!”) It’s time to give up for the day. Our light was failing and the temp was dropping. Dunkin’ Donuts offered the promise of a hot drink, so we pulled in and stayed there for an hour, burning our tongues and figuring out the best course of action. It was 5 PM and the support crew was still trying to get to our host.

After talking with the employees, we decided to go to the Castleton Pizza Place and Deli to wait until the support crew could come back and pick us up. They didn’t close until 10 PM so we had plenty of time. At first it was nice. It was good to sit down, eat some soup, start to warm up. But we couldn’t shake our chills. And we kept getting worse news from the support crew. Eric and Abe weren’t at the host place. They weren’t answering their phones. It would take 8 hours of driving for Michael to come get us, bring us to where we were supposed to be, bring us back the next day, and drive back. It seemed like our best bet was to find a hotel somewhere close by and stay there. But we had no dry clothes with us, so the support crew would need to bring some. We started calling around. Everything was booked and our phones were running out of juice.

Finally, Eric and Abe showed up! It’s 8 PM. Michael had gone to town to get dinner for everyone, so the crew didn’t start heading our way until 8:45. It was a 2 hour trip, so we began to worry about being kicked out into the cold night. Troves stuffed some wadded up newspaper in his jersey to keep warm. I did the same. The support crew kept running into road closures and detours and dead ends coming back through VT. Their ETA was well after 10.

Finally, we found a couple of vacancies and tried to book them. Dropped call. We tried again from the restaurant’s phone and the phone with the credit card info on it died. So we used Troves’ card. Yay! A warm place to sleep! It was probably about 10 PM. Joel started explaining everything to the employees of the pizza place and miraculously 2 of them offered to give us a ride to our hotel in Rutland, the next town! They helped us hide our bikes in some shadows next to the building and we hopped in the car.

What angels. They were so nice and turned the heat up probably way hotter than they were comfortable with, but it was lovely. Josh encouraged us to keep the faith and told us about the struggles of Vermont to get back on its feet after Hurricane Irene brought floods in August. We arrived at the hotel with our spirits higher than they had been all day. The hotel concierges laughed when they saw us walk in. They thought we had been prank calling them. The Ways arrived shortly after and we all went to bed. Big mistake.

Its amazing how being cold all day can make you do things you’d never do otherwise. Like not think. When we got up at 8:30 AM (oops), we went to eat a nice breakfast in the hotel (french toast and crisp bacon). At 9:30 we thought about our dirty, smelly, wet clothes. No prob. We can just throw them in the washer upstairs. It was full. Time to panic. We had 60 miles left and who knows how much sunshine. We rushed to a laundromat. $10 for one load of laundry? Crazy! We went to another one down the street and threw them in. I stayed there to switch them out, and Troves and Joel went back to gather our things and check out. Troves was dropped off at Dick’s Sporting Goods to scout out some rain gear before we left. They picked me and the dry clothes up and headed to Dick’s, where we prepared to meet the worst weather possible. Waterproof pants, jackets, gloves were ours. If only they made waterproof socks…

When we finally made it back to our bikes at the pizza place it’s 2 PM. We threw on our gear and I changed my flat. We left at 3 PM. Hm…sounds familiar…Thanks again to our awesome support crew! Sorry we’re so much trouble…

There was sunshine at the bottom of the Green Mountains of VT but as we began climbing…they should have called them the Misty Mountains. But this time we were prepared! We knocked out 35 miles in no time and stopped to eat some Clif bars. At 5:30 we had 25 miles left and only 1 hour of sunlight. Time to push it!

We went as far as we dared. Our road was winding, busy, and unsholdered. Darkness and mist fell thick in the mountains that night. Troves and I decided that God wanted us to use our brains and get off the dangerous roads, but we still wanted to get in some more miles. Joel found some back roads for us to try, but they led to a closed road back at our busy highway. We crossed over Quechee Gorge and stopped to look at directions. As I stood gazing into the inky void, listening to the water rush below us, a voice called out from across the street. A park ranger, with ample knowledge of the unwashed away backroads, invited us into his shop to look at a map. Hooray! We got directions to White River Junction, VT (yes we were still in VT) about 7 miles up on empty roads.

We made it there safe, sound, hungry, and only a little wet. Abe and Eric met us with the car and Joel stashed our bikes in a clump of trees on a hill. (Our poor bikes.) We grabbed some Subway and headed to where we should have been 2 days ago.

Isn’t it funny that we were supposed to ride straight through VT but ended up spending so much time there? If everything had gone according to plan, we might not have talked to anyone in the state. And we still wouldn’t have rain gear. We wouldn’t know how to keep the faith as well as we do now. We wouldn’t be able to tell people, “well, it isn’t all fun and games” with a straight face. I wouldn’t have experienced that rallying determination that people get when they know they’re headed straight for disaster and danger and, instead of giving up, grit their teeth with a grin on their lips and gravity in their eyes.

With everyone reunited, it felt like we were finally home. A shower and a bed felt like heaven. All we had left to do to get back on track on Monday was get to our bikes and make it to Farmington, NH before dark. And we did.

2 WordPress Comments on “And we did”

  1. WilliamCeda May 22, 2016 3:26 AM #

    Thanks-a-mundo for the article.Much thanks again. Rattan

  2. gretchen October 9, 2011 7:29 PM #

    Wow! What a story. We are so glad you’re all ok. We thank God for your safety.

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