Sunday, June 12, 2011

Reflections after the Ride

> Reflections on A Ride
> "Whatever direction a relationship is headed, riding across the country together will accelerate the movement in that direction," said Hob and Deb, a couple we met who were doing just that. After having spent 56 days riding my bicycle across the country, I agree. Whatever direction my relationship with my friends was going, my relationship with my body was going, my relationship with God was going, the bike trip accelerated the movement. The ride was a metaphor for life.
> Friendships thrive on cheerfulness. Of course, almost anyone can be cheerful when everything is going her way. Maintaining cheerfulness through a flat tire, a detour on the route, or headwinds on chip seal makes a good riding companion. Patience, kindness, and self-control abounded among our companions. Friendship was a huge part of my ride. Eighteen of us lived in community. For the most part, we did what was good for the group; we looked out for the needs of others. We lived simply. I had few possessions with me but more than I needed. The reward of deepening friendships was the payoff. Unlike most of the members of our group, I had never dreamed of doing this ride until my dear friend Katherine asked me. She believed that I could do it, so I believed, too. Her enthusiasm and support sustained me through a year of training and two months of riding. I could not and would not have done it without her. Her energy, her helpfulness to me and others, and her perseverance leave me in awe. She remains my most remarkable friend.
> Nobody has ever called me an athlete. However, for a year, I used my body more intentionally than ever before. "Ride, eat, sleep, repeat," was the way one rider described our lives. I reaped the incredible rewards of breathing deeply all day long as I climbed mountains, rode through deserts and forests, sailed down long hills. The food was wonderful; the excellent diet gave me strength and stamina. Almost every night brought deep, refreshing sleep. Riding, eating, and sleeping all reinforced each other. As long as I kept pedaling it was all doable, so I kept pedaling. I learned not to fret; that steep grade, that tall bridge, that long stretch of construction would soon pass. Whatever was really bad did not last. Whatever was really good did not last, either. The sense of well-being is indescribable.
> In many ways, the whole trip was a pilgrimage. Although I have never experienced a retreat at an abbey, this may have come close. I spent my days in God's world. Katherine and I began each day by sharing our faith with devotions and Bible reading. As I rode, I prayed. I often made little repetitious prayers so say over and over -- my pastor calls them breath prayers. I sang hymns. Although I often started out the day anxious about the challenges that lay ahead, these prayers kept me calm. Being grateful helped a lot. No matter if the weather was bad, the pavement was rough, or dogs were chasing us -- we were grateful for the beauty of the earth, the hospitality of strangers, good health, road angels, friends, and the presence of God. Trust was essential. We could not do this alone. We trusted our riding companions and our guides for help. We trusted thousands of drivers who gave us room to ride. We trusted that God's grace was sufficient for every need.
> So now I am home. What do I want to do about it? I want to continue to live more simply. I want to live a more focused life by finding ways to distinguish what is important from the flood of information that surrounds me. I want to hold onto the attitudes that were nurtured on the road - cultivating friendship, using my body, being grateful in all situations, considering the common good, putting aside fretfulness, deepening trust, and praying without ceasing. My daily prayer is to find ways to encourage others to be more active so that they, too, will experience the benefits of improved health.

Reflections after the Ride

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Day 56 St Augustine, Florida!

In The End Is The Beginning!

We set off at sunrise, about 6:50 am., heading for the fire station at the western end of St Augustine. We had to ride the forty miles and arrive by 10:30. We were so pumped up that most of us arrived an hour early. We had a police escort through town to the beach where our friends and family were waiting. What a moment! What a morning! It defies description. It will be a long time before I stop smiling. It feels like tomorrow will be the first day of my life after the bike ride. We have a banquet this evening just for the riders. Dan and Katherine's husband Jack will fend for themselves.

Just for the record, we never experienced a drop of rain and I never had a flat tire. However, I should declare that I caused a flat on Katherine's bike this morning when I was pumping her tires. In a day or two, I will write about the experience as a whole and what it means to me.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Day 55 High Springs to Palatka, FL

I Was Not Overdressed

The wisdom of the biking world suggests that if you are not chilly for the first ten minutes of your ride, you are probably overdressed. I made this rookie mistake many times on cold mornings in the desert. We left at 7:00 this morning and I definitely was not chilly. Nor was I overdressed. There was not a thing I could have removed. So I knew what was in store for us.

The day began with about forty miles through pleasant country side with lots of pine trees, pastures and fields of new emerging hay. After that, we turned on to a road with lots of construction, shoulders that had been scraped for repaving, heavy traffic, headwinds, high temperatures and high humidity. That was a challenging 25 miles. We rode through Palatka over a high bridge and coasted down to a nice Best Western Motel. We had a very special dinner of beef tenderloin, caramelized onions, salad, and tiramisu. expectations for food were very high and have been exceeded every day. A few ladies gave awards to everyone. It was all done in good taste so it turned out to be fun. We went to Tex's room for a pajama party. That was fun. I am up later than usual but it is the last night.

Tomorrow we ride 40 miles into St Augustine, then have a police escort through town to the beach for the family picnic. Oh my! It is all over but the shoutin'.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Day 54 Perry to High Springs, FL

We had a 76-mile ride through central Florida today. We are definitely out of the panhandle now. We started out through more woods. The trees blocked the winds and the clouds kept us from overheating, if not from sweating. After the trees, we encountered more agricultural. The egg megafarms were mighty unpleasant. The pastureland with cows, horses, or sheep were lovely. The roadsides were lined with wildflowers! A feast for the eyes. We rode on several miles of bike path adjacent to the highway. About mid-ride, we turned onto some backroads heading to Inchetucknee Springs State Park where we had a SAG stop. It was a lovely little treasure with a spring fed pond for swimming. I enjoyed looking at it while I consumed my peanut butter sandwich. Fortunately, I had bug spray or the mosquitoes might have consumed me. From there, we headed on to our motel, which is right out of the 60s. It is conveniently appointed, the AC works well, and we are all on the first floor. We are happy to be here. The roads in Florida continue to be fine - smooth, wide shoulders, clean, flat, manageable traffic volume. Florida gets the highest marks for riding from me.

It is hard to believe that we are so near the end. I am pondering what it has all meant to me.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Day 53 Crawfordville to Perry, FL

A Straight Line

It would have been hard to get lost today. We turned left out of our motel, rode 54 miles and turned right into our motel. The road was straight, level, smooth, clean, had wide shoulders and only light traffic. We had a headwind that was mostly blocked by the woods on both sides of the road. We never passed a house or any other kind of building. Therefore, we encountered no dogs. It was a pleasant ride in all ways. I think I shifted a few times but not many. We arrived at the motel before our room was ready. Being slow riders, this was a first for us. We were thrilled! We feel like members of the club now. We went to a fine little Italian restaurant for lunch while we waited. When we left, the owner came out and said, "Ciao, y'all!"

The photo is the Wakulla River in the early morning. We were so lucky to spot two manatees swimming downstream. I was not quick enough with the camera but was thrilled to see them.

We are all all trying to process what this trip has meant to us. It is so hard to capture the essence of it in words but we all know that it has been an important milestone.

Ciao, y'all!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Day 52 Crawfordville, FL Rest Day

Bikers Celebrate Easter

Happy Easter! Eight of us celebrated Easter Sunday at Crawfordville United Methodist Church this morning. Two ladies chauffeured us and welcomed us in so many ways. We stayed for the potluck brunch. It was a nice service and we appreciated their hospitality...but I missed Broad Street greatly. I sat at the pool for a while this afternoon and relaxed all day.

On this Easter Sunday, I will mention, in no particular order, just a few of the acts of kindness that have made this ride so wonderful.

Don and Corliss who offered me water and encouragement on the ride to Globe, AZ
Jay at Gila Hike and Bike who corrected my pedal problem
Encouraging emails from friends
Fiona and Kathy Tex who have helped with dishes every night
Phone calls from Dan every evening
The man in the pick-up truck who helped me assemble the bike rack
Greta offering me her phone when I was getting roaming charges
The man at the Mississippi River who gave us water
Jack Jeter and John Feagin meeting us in the Texas Hills
My wonderful roommate Katherine who thought we could do this and led me along
All of you who have read this blog

I am so grateful for all of this and so much more!