Friday, November 19, 2010

Homecoming

Isaac and Lacey left for work the next morning after coffee, and I hit the road for the last time. I was blessed with a beautiful day to end on: sun shining, light breeze, and more blazing hills to gaze at (kinda dangerous at times though, because you don't want to watch the road..... minor issue). I rode around some small mountains, through shedding forests on a back country road. I was singing “Country Roads” by John Denver as I wound through the countryside. It was all new landscape to me until I hit Dardanelle, and it was almost just like any other day on the trip, except I knew I was almost home. I took my time, and tried not to count the miles, just keeping my head in the clouds and scaring cows as I rode by.
When I hit Dardanelle, I was overwhelmed with a feeling of surreality. I had thought of this day since I had started the trip, the day I would make it home, if that day came. And here it was. I had a handful of miles left till the trek was complete, was over, and I knew those miles like I know the feel of a soccer ball beneath my feet. Just instinct, just natural. A sequence of roads and turns that I had made a hundred times, probably more, except now it was extraordinary, to me at least. The commonplace colliding with the momentous. It felt so weird, an unusual homecoming, that I had awaited for over 3 thousand miles. I had made it. It was hard to swallow.
I ended by going up Sheppard Drive, which made a great final hill to end the trip on. I'll just say it's steep, and mildly long. It was an apt consummation of the trip – one final push to the finish; I felt like I earned the respite of home. I rolled into my driveway (another weird feeling), greeted by my parents, and my brother and sister-in-law. My brother turned on the car stereo to blast the Rocky Theme Song, which still makes me laugh, thinking about. I had made it, and made it in time – by Thanksgiving, to see my family. I was home, by the grace of God.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Friends all over

In the morning, I crawled out of my tent and the dugout to find a handful of pickup trucks parked around the baseball fields. My first thought: “Those definitely weren't there last night. Nope.” But for some reason, I couldn't see or hear a single person. Strange, I thought. A little creepy too. As I was packing up, and trying to not be seen. A man walked around the corner, and jumped a little when he saw me. He invited me into the concession stand to get warm, to my surprise. After I packed up, I took him up on the offer. There were just four guys hanging out inside. They were the groundskeepers, and apparently none of them saw my tent when they drove up. Go figure.

Anyway, I just chatted with them about the weather, sports, faith, and life in general for several hours. They were so generous. They even convinced me to take some of their candy bars, and bought me some biscuits and gravy for breakfast. One of the guys even offered to drive me to Booneville, my next stop on my trip, but I declined. Before I left, we prayed together, which was encouraging and uplifting. Towards the end of the trip, I began to realize that even though I had little to give anyone, especially the people that helped me out, I could always pray with them and for them. I have found that, somehow, you can connect with a person on another level when you pray together. It's a small, yet powerful way to love someone, and simultaneously you are uplifted yourself in the process. I don't why it has taken me so long to realize this, but now, whenever I remember and have the opportunity, I love praying with whoever I meet on the road. It's the least, and at the same time the most, that I can do for someone.

I rode on, under gray skies, into Arkansas. Crossing the state line energized me to press on, being so close to home and the finish of the trip. The route to Booneville was incredible! There were plenty of tough hills, but I loved the challenge of them. And the view at the top of each crest was impeccable! Cows dotting the sloping valleys, surrounded by strings of auburn hills. Ahh! Beautiful countryside, and I knew I was getting closer to home! I arrived in Booneville after dark, and started asking around for places to camp. Randomly, as I was stopped at a traffic light downtown, a guy and his friends walked up and asked where I was going. So, I asked him for a place to stay. He told me about the city lake a few miles north where I could camp. I thanked him, and hoped I could find something closer. As I was about to leave, his friend came back and asked me my name again. He offered to let me camp out at his house, just a few blocks away! I wouldn't have to ride a couple miles through the hills, and I might get to hang out with these guys. I quickly took him up on the offer.

I end up hanging out with him (his name's Isaac), his wife, and their friends. They even built me a bonfire by my tent in the backyard – my first bonfire of the trip, on my last night! It was great! I hung out with them, and heard part of their stories. They're both from Booneville, and he works with a company that employs workers with disabilities doing manufacturing jobs. Random (or maybe not), because that has been an interest of mine for the past year. I don't know how much to read into it, but it was insightful at the very least to talk to him.
I slept in the backyard with their two German Shepherds and an electric blanket they let me borrow. Ironic, camping with an electric blanket and an extension cord running inside, but it kept me warm! Thanks a bunch Isaac and Lacey!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Camping in a dugout!

The next morning, at the park next to the rodeo grounds, I met a couple who lived in Wilburton. They just walked up and asked where I was going. So, we started chatting about life, and why the heck I was doing what I was doing. We talked a little about guidance, and how God directs our lives, which I am still trying to figure out. They encouraged me and gave me some advice – to pray for God to close doors, to shut opportunities that aren't His will. I'm still chewing on it, and how God hasn't closed doors in the past even upon my asking. At any rate, I prayed with them, and was encouraged by their faith and their spirit. They also told me of the fairgrounds in Poteau where I could camp the next night.

I rode on to Poteau that night, taking the afternoon to do some fishing. I was unsuccessful, again, but I got to see Lake Wister, take a sweet ride through the hills, and enjoy nature. I'm telling you guys, the world's beautiful out there. It's been so nice to slow down, and see it, and really try to just observe it without any clutter going through my mind. And it's lovely, the small things that we overlook everyday. Since coming back to Russellville, I notice the scenery so much more than before. And they say that the movie Avatar makes the real earth look bad. C'mon!
I found a church in the town of Wister that was still open, since it was Wednesday night after all. I asked the pastor if I could camp out on their lawn for the night, and I was very optimistic about it, since churches had been real helpful in the past. But, he politely turned me away, to my surprise, so I rode on. I found the fairgrounds in Poteau, and threw up my tent in a baseball dugout for the night to escape the wind. I figured no one would care, since baseball season was over. The dugout proved to be amazing, and the perfect size for all of my stuff, as the wind picked up throughout the night.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Autumn in the hills

The next day I rode to McAlester under beautiful skies. As I went through Oklahoma, I saw some amazing fall colors in the rolling hills. It was starting to feel more and more like home, like Arkansas, with little hills that were starting to get steeper, and trees everywhere. I had expected that the colors would be all gone by the time I rode through, but I went through at the tail end of the change in colors. The hills were dazzling in the collection of colors: greens, blazing oranges and yellows, and many hills covered in a warm auburn red. It was definitely starting to feel like home.

I made it to McAlester early, and I decided to waste time for a while. When I started trying to find a place to stay, the cops in McAlester told me that there was nowhere in town to stay. I decided to go to next town over, Krebs, only a couple miles away. It was a small town, so I thought my chances of them letting me stay there were good. When I asked the guy at the gas station, though, he called up dispatch, who told him that I couldn't camp in Krebs either. I was thinking about just throwing up my tent anyway, and being discreet. However, a lady, named Angel, overheard my small plight, and she said she could drive me to a state park. Before she did though, she asked me if I was going to murder her or not. Valid question, I suppose, all things considered. I guess my reassuring was convincing, because she did give me a lift to Wilburton, 20 miles away, and actually told me to camp at the rodeo grounds, and make sure I wasn't seen by the cops. So, I hopped a fence, found some cover, and hoped that the coyotes I heard wouldn't find me, or the cops. And I woke up the next morning, and no one gave me any grief. That night, though, her name struck me, and it got me wondering.... Who knows, huh?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Oklahoma, again, and interrogating officers

Monday, I left Whitesboro, TX, where the Carpenters live, and headed on. I realized that morning that I would make it home by Friday, and that I didn't have any long, tough rides to endure before getting there. So, I ended up leaving around 1 PM, mostly out of laziness and overconfidence. Maybe not the greatest idea, since I still had 60 miles to go that day......

I fought the wind through Sherman, up into Oklahoma all the way to the town of Caddo. Not much to say, except that once the sun set, raindrops started coming down, and they were a little cold. I was just hoping to make it to Caddo before I got soaked in freezing rain. I got to Caddo. It never rained.

I slept in the park there, after the lady at the gas station called and made sure it was okay. I fell asleep reading in my tent, and a little later a loud thumping and a flashlight on my tent woke me up. I heard, “Caddo police” and starting freaking out. I crawled out, and two officers were standing there. As I just woke up, and I was still trying to figure out what was going on, I was freaking out. My heart was racing, and I was nervously stumbling over my words. They actually just wanted to see if I was okay. The younger one looked at me and asked me why I was doing this, as if I were crazy. I laughed and stumbled through an answer. After they left, I thought it funny when I realized my pulse was through the roof, over nothing. After that I went back to sleep.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

One more chance to rest

Well, the next day was Sunday, which had been my day off during the trip, the one day a week to chill and kick it, and after the previous night, I was rather ready for it. Maybe more than a little bit. Unfortunately, though, because I had gotten to my campsite so late the night before (around 1 AM ish) and because I had to bike back into town to get to church, I ended up waking up early, and not getting a whole lot of sleep. Whatever. It is what it is.

So, I went by a church that I had seen the night before in Gainesville, a church called Grand Avenue Baptist Church. And thankfully, I got there before the service started. So, I chilled for a little bit outside, and then joined them for the service. It was definitely more traditional than I'm used to, and smaller than I expected, but there was a definite sense of life and sincerity there, which I think is much more important in a congregation than immaculate presentation or impressive numbers.

Afterward, I had a chance to meet a number of people from the church. The pastor bought me lunch at his restaurant – sweet, yeah? A pastor, AND a restauranteur, among other things. I was impressed. Even more impressive, he spoke truth from pulpit, which can sometimes be amiss in church. Anyway, great guy, Bill Black.

That afternoon, I hung out with their youth pastor, Josh Carpenter, a man who is several years younger than me, and yet a youth pastor. I was again impressed, especially with his maturity. We got to talking about our adventures, our plans for life, and so on. We talked about our travels to various places, and I was pumped to find another guy who has a passion to see new things, to adventure. I also tried to convince him to take a bike trip (you should do it, Josh!).

His folks let me stay with them that night, and I was able to connect with them – John and Suzanne. Their whole family loves adventure! John and I talked for hours about how enamored we are with John Eldredge and with pursuing adventure. It's easy to converse with someone for hours when you agree on a lot of things. They encouraged me significantly in my bike trip and my plans for life. And they blessed me with a place to stay that night. Thanks so much, you guys!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

I just wanted to put up a tent. That's all.

On Saturday, I left Wichita Falls early in the morning. They kick everyone out of the homeless shelter at 5:30 in the morning. Man! That was easily the earliest that I had woken up on the trip. But, I guess it was good to get an early start to the day. I hit the road at around dawn, although I stopped on the outside of the city to get some food.
The day was beautiful, but it felt long. Very long. I made it about halfway, and I just wanted to sleep. No more biking. And I caved. I found a park and passed out on a bench for an hour. It felt heavenly, like everything was all right. But then I had to keep riding....

I rolled into Gainesville, TX well after dark that night, and started asking around for a place to camp out. I ended up going to the McDonald's in town to get warm for a while, and I ran into a few policemen. I started chatting with one of them, who actually worked in a neighboring town. He was super helpful. He asked the police from Gainesville where I could stay, and they flat out denied permission to camp out anywhere in town, effectively saying that I'd have to go to another town to find a place to stay. Not very comforting when you have to bike to the next town. Kinda irritating, to be honest. There has to be somewhere in town where I can put up a tent. But the first cop was at least sympathetic, and bought me dinner at McDonald's! Another act of kindness that I in no way deserved, from a complete stranger. My irritation abated.

He told me that the best place to stay would be a rest area off of the interstate a few miles up the road. I was kind of irked that the only option for me was miles out of town, but when that's all you have..... I started riding up the interstate, looking for a rest area, and I kept riding and riding. I was so tired, but the 5 miles I rode felt like 20, and I lost my patience real quick. But I found it, and then I realized that I had to walk my bike across the four lanes of interstate to get there – another little thing making my night just that much longer.

When I finally get to the rest area, I find a spot to camp out, and have dinner (it's midnight by this point). As I'm unpacking, a security guard walks up and asks what I'm doing. I explain my situation, and in a very matter-of-fact voice tells me that I can't pitch a tent there. What?! I was getting right out angry. The police had sent me there, who I'm sure meant well, and I now I can't even stay there? The security guard told me that I could lay out my sleeping back and sleep outside, just without a tent. State law, apparently. So, all the truckers could park there and sleep for the night, but a person on a bike couldn't put up his tent? He apologized, and I could tell he was just doing his job, no personal animosity towards me. Still, I was ticked off.
After eating dinner and stewing in my anger, I took my tent and gear to the other side of the frontage road, hoping I was out of sight, and camped by the road. Honestly, I slightly hoped that the security guard would give me trouble, just so I could give him a piece of my mind. Which I know isn't right, but I was tired and fed up. But I slept well, thankfully.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Homeless for a night

I knew that night, in Wichita Falls, that the weather was going to get cold. Fortunately, Shawn, whom I met earlier that day, told me about a place called Faith Mission that would let me stay the night. When I arrived into the city and talked with some people, I realized that it was a homeless shelter. So, I braced my mind for sleeping the night in a homeless shelter, which I had never done before. I get to the mission 10 minutes before they lock the outside gate (such a relief!), and after 5 bowls of their bean soup, I join the other men in the dorm. I tried to blend in as much as possible, and I didn't let on that, financially, I was fine. But, I looked the part pretty well, and they didn't seem to have any standards for admittance. So, I joined all these other men in this shelter, in a dorm like setting, and was homeless for a night. As I lay in bed, I was laughing to myself at the irony, how I had chosen to put myself in this position, and out of desire to be warm, made myself homeless. I am so grateful that the Mission was far from being a permanent residence for me. Even so, I thought it funny how I had ended up in that situation, and how no one questioned my presence there.

I had a chance to briefly talk to one of the men there in the morning. He seemed much more put together than me, certainly better dressed. We didn't have much time to chat, but when I asked how he got there, he said he had just lost his job, and all of his resources had run out, and he was just doing what he needed to get by for the time being. Seemed like he should have had a family, a 9 to 5 job, and a house in the burbs. But I guess hard times can fall on anyone.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Friends in Strangers

So, the next morning, when I slept through my alarm, got a late start, and realized that I needed to ride 100 miles that day, I got a little anxious, and stressed about making time, especially against the wind. But, I took time out, throughout the day, to sit, and chill, and pray, and read. And I stopped stressing about it. I relaxed, and enjoyed the ride, much more so than the day before. Not only that, but I made it to where I wanted to get to – Seymour, TX - and wasn't even up real late. I was so much more at peace, and enjoyed the trip, as opposed to stressing about getting home. And I don't want to miss out on enjoying these last few weeks, even though I do want to get home. I want to enjoy and experience it as much as I can, and not miss a heartbeat. It was refreshing to refocus.

The next day, the rain came in, and I wasn't about to ride in it this time. At all. It was a cold, windy, overcast, British weather day, the kind I cannot abide, the kind that can make you sick in an instant. So, I rode to a small feed shop in Seymour, the Feed and Seed Barn, to wait out the storm. I had been told that a man worked there that loved to cycle. And I ended up hanging out there all morning, talking with James and Shawn, who both worked there. So cool! I just chatted with them about their families and their experiences, and how they like living in a town of a couple thousand. James and I talked cycling over lunch that day, and introduced me to everyone we saw. It was funny – I felt kinda like a celebrity.

I'm glad that I didn't miss that opportunity to meet such cool people, full of character and life, and hear their stories. I love getting to hear the stories of people in all walks of life, and I feel that God has wanted to use this trip for that purpose - to connect with people. Blessings to you guys!

I then headed on to Wichita Falls that afternoon, after the rain stopped, and even though it was miserable weather – overcast and windy – I enjoyed the ride. Just getting to hand out with cool people made it all worth it.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Losing focus

So, Wednesday I headed out from Lubbock for the second time, biking 4 miles out of my way to a bike shop that was supposed to be open, and wasn't. And then I flatted another 2 tubes that day, fighting tube patches, and having to carry my bike at times. It was really starting to get to me, all the problems my bike was having, and I was starting to get discouraged about my bike even making it home. I realize now that spokes and tubes are minor issues, but even so, it gets to you when you're on the road. I was really feeling like I was fighting God, trying to get home. I mean, that was my motivation and focus – push home, so I can get to see my family, which hasn't been together like that for a couple years. So, I was so focused on pushing on, making lots of miles, and making it on time. And I felt like God was resisting me. I thought of the Bible verse that said that God resists the proud – was I being proud about this?

Later that night, when I was setting up camp in Dickens, TX, and eating dinner, I realized that I was losing focus of the point of the trip, and I really wasn't focusing pursuing the Lord. I had been slacking on spending time in the Word, meditating, and praying. The phrase “you've lost you're first love” came to mind. Convicting. So, I resolved to take time to pray and read, no matter if I had a lot of miles to ride, if I was behind schedule, or what. It was a priority, and I needed to maintain that. Even so, I felt pretty miserable and lonely that night. I was kind of tired of being on the road.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Windy West Texas

The next day, I rode on to Lubbock, TX, which just ended up being a long, tiring day. I knew before I started that it was going to be end up being over 100 miles that day, which didn't really excite me. That, and I had a decent cross-wind hitting me all day, which makes life a little more difficult, and slow. So, it ended up becoming just a long day, spending a lot of time in the saddle. Not much to say there, except that when I say the Lubbock City Limit sign, I was kinda ecstatic. And then I had another 15 miles to go before the day was done.

But, again, the Lord provides. A lady that I met in Texico, NM, named Jo Igo, got me in contact with her son, Chris, who goes to Texas Tech. He lives with several other guys on the south side of town, and they let me crash at their place. It was great hanging with those guys, all of whom are solid guys, and really fun to be around. It reminded me a lot of the house I lived in my senior year of college, and the camaraderie we had there – a bunch of solid Christian guys growing and encouraging each other. What a huge blessing, especially after a completely draining day!


The next day, I was super determined to make some headway getting home, since I had been eager to get home by Thanksgiving. But, I'm guessing God had other plans. After breaking and replacing a broken spoke that morning, I hit the road, and quickly hit more problems. About ten blocks down the road, I ran over something and flatted my tire. No big deal – fixed it and went on. About a mile from the city limits, I broke a spoke, and really started questioning how far I was going to make it. And, get this, as I was fixing my spoke, another spoke broke. I don't know why. I guess it's one of those things. So, I spent an hour or two fixing my wheel, and decided to head back to stay with Chris and the guys. And I flatted another tire. At that point, I gave up, pretty much. Some days, you just can't win, and this was one of those days, I suppose. Maybe it was God telling me to stick around for another day. I don't know. Chris picked me up, and I stayed another night with the guys, which, again, was a huge blessing to even have that option. Thanks so much guys!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Charity

Recently, I've been the recipient of grace, in various forms, I suppose. Maybe charity is a better word for it. And, it's been a struggle to know how to deal with it. I think that a lot of it has to do with my personality, how I'm wired if you will. Take for instance a guy in Belen, NM, that gave me a few bucks out of nowhere, just walked up and gave it to me. Another guy, in Fort Sumner, NM, when I asked to fill up my water bottles, he started giving me a bunch of candy.

In Texico, last night (11/7), I was sitting in the gas station reading my Bible, solely because it was warm there, and I wanted to chill. I promise, I wasn't looking for handouts. A guy, with some coworkers, sits down near me, and shortly asks me if I'm hungry. I guess I look homeless – oh well. I said I'm fine, and we proceed to swap stories. He's from Cuidad Juarez – crazy, right? - and he travels back and forth to Oklahoma every week with a load of used cars. Anyway, he presses if I want anything, and I let him buy me a candy bar, since I have the worst sweet-tooth ever. He pays for it, and I see a disgusted look on the face of the lady behind the counter. Now, maybe I was imagining the look, but I started questioning myself – was it right to let him buy me a candy bar, potentially under the pretense of me being a legitimate hobo? I mean, I have food, I'm okay on money, I have a place to sleep at night (although it's sometimes cold). I'm not homeless or poor – so is it wrong to accept his charity?

So, today I get blown away, for the millionth time on this trip. I go to church at First Baptist in Texico, New Mexico. I'll admit, that I did want to, while I was at church, ask somebody about a place to do a load of laundry – my clothes reeked from desert sweat. So, when I'm chatting with the pastor, and he asks me if I need a place to stay, I decline, saying that I'm camping in the park. However, I did say that I'm looking for a place to do laundry, even a laundromat or something. After the service, he drives me and all my gear to Clovis, pays for a hotel room, pays for breakfast, and gives me a bunch of money for laundry. A hotel room. That's kind of a big expense, you know? I think he got tired of me saying “Thank You.” I feel like I should give him something in return, like I should somehow earn this gift, maybe clean his house from top to bottom or something. But, all that was right to do was receive. And that's really hard for me to do, all along this trip, is receive that which is freely given. I try to make sure that I don't beg, and that I'm honest about my need situation. But, even so, I feel like I need to earn it, to be independent. And that part of me is such an American, individualistic thing, and I think it makes it so hard to accept God's grace that He gives us, that we could never earn anyway. And yet we try. Or I try at least. The least, I can do, I think, is be grateful. Thank you so much, Rob Hollis, for a shower, and clean clothes, and being a conduit of grace. And to everyone who has given, I can't say thank you enough. May you be blessed even more than I.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Some Halloween candy, some respite

I left Fort Sumner early on Saturday, again trying to make it to the Texas border by that night. I met a cool guy that morning whom, when I saw him walking around outside, I asked for water. His name was Alberto, and he brought me into his place. We chatted for a little bit, and he ended up giving me a bag full of candy, and couple bananas. I thought it was rather funny, in an encouraging way – this stranger that I just met helping me out by giving what looked like leftover Halloween candy. Which I gladly accepted. I mean, it's candy. Don't have to ask tell me twice.

That day, I was feeling slightly under the weather, but that might have had something to do with the night spent in the desert. Maybe. But I made it to Texico, NM, found a place to camp, and crashed hard. Thank God for warm Kelty sleeping bags! I hid myself in the town park, with the police station right next to it, and hoping not to be seen by them. I was so ready to take a day off and let my legs relax, trying to get some decent sleep.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Finally, some tailwind

After waking up in the middle of nowhere, and realizing in the daylight that there really wasn't anything around, I started heading to the next town – Encino, NM. I had been really struggling mentally after Belen, since making a fairly big decision regarding my future and what I was going to be doing for the next year. I guess it was a big decision, and being me, I always second-guess myself. I wasn't very certain of the decision that I had made, and I started worrying. And when you have hours to yourself on a bike, it can tend to snowball. There were a lot of moments that day when I really didn't want to keep biking. So, I did a lot of praying that day, praying for God's will to be done, and just kept going.

Fortunately, there was some relief that afternoon, a little encouragement from the tailwind that I got. Since, in the desert, there might not be anything for, say, 60 miles, that day I had the choice of riding 40 miles, or 100 miles. So, being stubborn, I decided to ride 100, going to Fort Sumner. And I made it by sundown, due to the merciful western wind. It was exciting to feel fast, even if it had nothing to do with me. It gave my spirits a little lift, at the least. It was one of those rides when I couldn't see my destination until I was on top of it. Just little hill after little hill in the desert, with nothing around but the occasional train. Then, I crested a hill, and down in the valley sat Fort Sumner, out of nowhere. The day ended well.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Sleeping by the tracks

After leaving Albuquerque, I was starting to take on a very driven mentality. I had lost some time in the Denver area, and if I wanted to making it back home by Thanksgiving, I needed to book it. My brother and sister-in-law were coming back home, and I hadn't seen them in a couple years. Since Thanksgiving is a pretty big deal with my family, I made it a priority to get home by then. I don't regret taking extra time in the Denver area; it just made the return trip a little tight on time. So, once I got out of high elevation where I needed to find homes to stay in, and thus could camp out in the lower desert, I decided to hold a pretty strong pace.

After I went over the mountains in New Mexico, I was dead focused on making it to Texas by the end of the week. So the next day, I was racing to make distance. However, I quickly realized that, in the desert, there aren't many little towns to stop in, for water or to camp for the night. This kind of presents a problem, especially in the desert. I didn't realize how cold the desert gets at night. I mean, it's the desert, right? Heh.

So, I leave Mountainair, NM, trying to head to the next town, forty miles away. And then the sun sets, and the temperature drops, and my legs start getting tired. And on this road in the desert, there is no sign of human dwelling, only the trucks passing me on the road and the trains passing on the rails. So, what do I do? I find a random pull-off on the highway that's used by railroad workers, where there are some electrical boxes and propane tanks right next to the railroad. (The tracks are only about 50 feet from the road). And I make camp behind these big propane tanks, between the highway and the railroad, and try to stay warm. I think I was pretty well hidden, since no one came by and gave me any trouble in the middle of the night. I did hear some coyotes come by late in the night though...... It turns out that on this section of railroad, a train comes by about every 15 minutes, rumbling right by my tent. All in all, I didn't get the most sleep that night. But, it's all good, because I made pancakes in the morning. Heck, yes!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Heading east

On Wednesday, I headed out from Rio Rancho, NM, only to have to turn around a mile down the road. My bike was giving me troubles, out of nowhere. For those that know bikes, the derailleur hanger was bent inwards, throwing off the real axle, the derailleur, and the brake rotor. Things I couldn't fix. But Cris is kinda my hero, and he gave me a life to a bike shop, which fixed it for free. Sweet!
After that, I left for good, and rode through Albuquerque, down south to Belen. It was an odd type of beauty that New Mexico has. The mountains run in a line from north to south, and Albuquerque is nestled at the foot of Sandia's Peak. Sandia's is some kind of desert mountain I suppose, with impressive height in the midst of arid plains, but unlike the Colorado mountains, there's little greenery or snow on it. It's a red-brown protrusion in the ground, like someone took a chisel and punched a dent in the earth from the other side. And the string of mountains continued down all the way along my route. A beautiful accompaniment under the desert sun.
Thursday night and Friday morning were full of weird experiences, mainly just interactions with people. I was asking around town about a place to camp out, and I met a guy named Mike who was super sympathetic and helpful. As it turns out, he's with the Army, and does black ops in Afghanistan, most of it he can't even tell me about. I was totally taken off guard, since he's such a chill guy, not giving off any stereotypical rough-and-tumble feel. But he drove me to the fire department, let me use his sleeping bag, and promised me some MRE's for the ride the next day (freaking sweet!).
The guys at the fire department were cool that night, and let me use a side lot to camp out in. I got to chat with some of the guys there - all in all a good night.
Next morning, though, things changed, I suppose. I was relaxing, eating breakfast at the fire station, taking my time, when one of the firemen, off-duty I think (maybe the chief?), drove up to me, and told me to get off the property. I was still waking up, not completely coherent but completely taken off-guard, and I just said, “huh?” He said something along the lines of “We can't have you all sprawled out like that.” Apparently, I was sprawled out too much. Whatever. So, I started packing things up, which took another 30 minutes, and he watched me from the other side of the parking lot.
Not only that, but Mike, who said he would call me the next morning, never called me or came by, which was totally weird since he kept saying he would at least come by. He's left a message on my phone since then, so I'm assuming something came up. Weird though.
I stuck around for a while, as I also had to make a decision about what I was going to be doing come January. I sat outside the Belen library for over an hour, mentally debating, weighing my options, going back and forth, trying to figure out God's voice. After I finally made a decision, which I didn't feel completely confident about, I left and headed south.
I cut through the New Mexican mountains, and headed across the desert for home, finally heading back east. Fleeing the sunset, I suppose.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Down into Albuquerque

I left Santa Fe, and rode on to Rio Rancho, NM, after resting on Sunday. It was a sweet ride, as it was only 50 miles, and pretty much all downhill – soooo nice to be reaping the rewards of altitude. It started out rather rough, with a flat tire, a broken spoke, and a derailleur gone crazy in the span of about 5 miles. But, I didn't get super frustrated this time. I just fixed them and went on, for the most part, since I was equipped to do so. I felt confident for once, that I could make it home, that God would work things out and help me deal with the random contingencies that arise. And I made it to Rio Rancho.
I hung out with good friend Cristobal Duran, and stayed with his family, which was a blast! His mom makes amazing Mexican food, and I'm pretty sure I was spoiled for the several days I was there. She has inspired me to make chilaquiles when I get home. More than the food, it was cool to hang out with their family for a couple days, to kick it with Cris and his siblings. I was very impressed at the cohesion of their family; they were all so close, so very close, and there was nothing melodramatic or disingenuous about it. They were just tight. And their parents seemed like very down to earth leaders. Mr. Duran had a very impressive nature about him, a quiet, soft-spoken kind of strength and a strong devotion to God, and he led his family in that way. It was cool to be a part of that for a couple days. Big thanks to them for letting me stay there and hang out!
While I was in the Albuquerque area, I also had the chance to hang out with a guy named Tom Seamon, a NYC native transplanted to New Mexico. I happened to meet him on the side of the road coming from Alamosa, and we ended up having lunch in Albuquerque. We checked out the Old Town, historic district of the city, and I got to hear his story, including some sweet stories about driving a nuclear submarine during the Cold War, and almost being a part of the start of nuclear war. Good thing it was almost.
I also had a chance to hear about his life-long journey with his homosexuality, and hear about how he dealt with it over the years. Even more interesting, he shared how he blended his Christian beliefs with his homosexuality, which he now openly admits to. As I listened, it was incredibly eye-opening to hear the story from his vantage point, from someone who been through struggles with his sexuality for years, and has been in the church during the whole time. His experiences carry a weight far more powerful than any logical argument or rationale, and will definitely give me something to think about. Thanks so much for hanging out and sharing, Tom! You'll be in my thoughts and prayers.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Things do work out. Really.

Next day, I got to hang out with Soraya for a little while. She was such a big help, taking me to the bike shop to get my spokes fixed and get the tools I need to fix it on the road. It was good to get it taken care of, but it definitely would have made it hard to get to Santa Fe that late in the day. But, Soraya was so gracious, and offered to give me a lift to Santa Fe.
She also let me borrow her jeep that afternoon to check out Taos. Crazy, right? Letting a scruffy-looking guy borrow your car, just to see the area? I mean, sounds crazy to me, but I was/am so thankful. You're awesome Soraya!
So, I went for a drive through the mountains to Taos Ski Valley. Man, it was so beautiful. I took this little road that wound through the desert for a few miles until it hit the foot of the mountains. As you approach, you see this wall of peaks, like a line of soldiers standing in a tight row; just desert for miles, and then mountain after mountain marking the end of the flats, a line in the sand. Then, the road finds a gap in the line, and start making its way between mountain after mountain, alongside a small creek.
I stopped at a little pull-off and had lunch – my exquisite diet of tuna and cucumber sandwiches :). The creek was running by, rushing over some stones in the stream-bed, and massive evergreen trees towering overhead. The setting sun was casting its rays here and there throughout the valley. I was just overwhelmed by God's peace. (It's ridiculous how the emotions of one day can completely contrast the emotions of the next). I was so blessed to have made it here, have my bike taken care of, and have a way to Santa Fe arranged. And what more could I ask for, sitting alongside that mountain stream with nothing but the sound of flowing water, and food to eat. It was so refreshing after the previous day. Before I left, I sang “Come Thou Fount” at the top of my lungs, standing there in the little valley.
Soraya gave me lift to Santa Fe, and I stayed that night with a guy named Alan Sharpio. I stayed another day in Santa Fe, taking a Sabbath day to rest and catch up. Thanks so much Soraya for the lift and everything, and thanks so much to Alan for letting me stay a couple days.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Broken, on the side of the road

Next day, I left Alamosa, and I felt like I could conquer the world. Right? I mean, I just beat the Rockies, so the flats of the San Luis Valley, down to Taos? Ain't no thing! Shoot! ….. Right.
I headed south, trying to hold a steady pace. I got to Antonito by around lunch time, and stopped at a church there to eat. I was feeling restless in my spirit though. Again, I was coming back to trying to hear God's voice, and develop my ability to do so. And it was still very much frustrating, mainly because I'm not good at it. I had been told that it would be downhill to Taos from Antonito, but outside of town, I definitely started climbing. And climbed, and climbed. My frustration was mounting, up to the New Mexico border. And I broke a spoke on my wheel – a wheel on which I had two spokes replaced in Denver. And I starting losing it. You'd think I'd have some confidence after the day before, but I was very comforted in that moment. I was in the middle of nowhere, no bike shops till maybe Taos, which was 60 miles away. Just a sign a hundred yards ahead that said “Welcome to New Mexico” on it. I was irritated, and I started questioning God if He was opposing me on this trip. I was wondering if I was Jonah, if maybe I was supposed to end the trip in Denver, if I wasn't supposed to make it back to Russellville. I tried listening, to hear what God was trying to tell me, but again, I couldn't discern God's voice out of the turbulence in my mind. And so I got even more frustrated, audibly shouting, “Just let me hear you! Make it clear!” Did God want me to go back to Denver? I didn't know. I knew I wanted to keep on going, and make it home.
I kept going, slowly, trudging uphill, but slowly breaking down. When I got to the foot of San Antonio Peak, amidst the chaos in my mind of my objections and emotions, I heard, “Get on your knees.” What? Here? In the middle of nowhere, kind of the desert, on the shoulder of the highway? “Couldn't hurt, I guess, at this point.” So I stopped, and knelt, still very frustrated and fed up. And God exposed my heart, my pride, my lack of submission to Him. I still held onto the trip as my own. I wanted to finish it, no matter what, to make it home, and I really wasn't willing to change my plans for Him. Even after all that had happened, I still held onto it, and wouldn't let Him take it. It was proud and selfish, and He broke me down, on the side of the road. Painfully, I gave it up, and let it go. If He wanted me to turn around, I would, and I meant it. And I felt Him say, “That's all I wanted.” Now, I maintained the option of Him turning me around, but I just needed very clear instruction. Very clear. But it never came.
I limped my bike along to Taos, breaking another spoke before the day was done. And it was downhill to Taos, but just the last 20 miles. Anyway, Soraya Perez was awesome enough to pick me up in her Jeep outside of town, and we got to hang out that night. Such a refreshing ending to a draining day.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

My Mountain

So this was it, the big day that I had been anticipating and amping up for – my ride over the Rockies. Well, part of them at least. I want to go through the San Luis valley (Blanca Peak, Alamosa, Taos, Santa Fe, etc) because I knew that area was beautiful, and I wanted to do some mountain climbing on this trip. I mean, I'm a guy. I need a mountain to climb. Or in the cycling world, a mountain pass to summit. So this was it – La Veta Pass. 9200+ feet, with over a mile of net elevation change, and 75 mile ride from start to finish (Walsenburg to Alamosa).
So, Mark drops me off in Walsenburg (thanks again!), and I head toward the Rockies. I made a steady pace for the first 5 miles, and then it hit. Worst headwind ever. Or at least for me, on this trip. 50 mph, I'm guessing, straight from the west. I usually don't look at my speedometer much, because it usually depresses me, but I looked that day. It was depressing – 6 mph. I mean, you can run that fast, easy. But, it quickly became a mental battle – could I hang in there, no matter how long it took, no matter if the wind relented or not? Sure, I could gear down, and go slow. But could I hang in there, and see the day through? I thank God that He gave me the sanity to trust in Him, and I knew He would carry me through. Again, the physical journey became a spiritual battle – me and JC vs. the other guy and his stupid wind. And we made it to the top (where I was singing “Undefeated” by Audio Adrenaline at the top of my spent lungs), and down the other side.
On the other side of the mountains, the wind died. Just the majestic view of Blanca Peak, right over my shoulder. It was dangerous at times, because I didn't want to watch the road – just stare to my right at an impressive image of serenity, a towering watchmen over the valley. I made it, that day, by 7:30 PM, and was greeted in Alamosa by the hospitality of Don Thompson and Jan Oen. Thanks so much for a bed to sleep in after a long day! We had done it - we had bested the wind and the mountains.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

You just don't go fast on a bike!

After Pueblo, I headed south to Walsenburg, CO. Like always on my trip, I got a late start in the morning. For some reason, I move incredibly slow in the mornings. It's a fact of life that I have just come to accept. Seriously, from the time I wake up to the time I'm on the road, typically two hours have passed. Some days three. It's deeply frustrating, and usually ends up ruining my mornings. I get on the road late, and then I'm stressed out trying to make up time, and when the afternoon comes and I'm still behind schedule, I end up just trying to talk myself out of stress. It's a vicious cycle of being slow, and stressing out because I'm behind schedule.
Anyway, after finally getting out of Pueblo, I hope on I-25, only to find a lovely headwind coming out of the mountains. It might have taken me 3 hours to go a litte over 20 miles, as well as draining all my energy. And I though I was in shape..... The entire way to Colorado City (first leg of the day) I was so stressed and frustrated, because I had told Mark Schneider, the guy who I was staying with, I was going to meet him in Walsenburg. All morning, I just kept fighting the headwind trying to make up time to meet him, and just got angrier and angrier (it's surprising how much a little wind can alter your demeanor). But, after lunch, and accepting the fact that I may be late, and I might be the slowest person in the world, the second half of the day was fun, and cruised into Walsenburg before Mark did. It's funny how a change in perspective makes all the difference.
I stayed with Mark and Val Schneider, who live in an adobe house that they made themselves. They grow a lot of their own food, have their own well, the works. They have a super cool set-up, and were really hospitable to this hobo on a bike. And they had great apple pie. Thanks Mark and Val!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Along the mountains, into the desert

I set out from Denver, going back the way I had gone several days before, which I just want to describe for you. I took a small country road which paralleled the interstate, more or less, running along the front range. The route was definitely tough, climbing from 5200 ft to 7200 feet over the course of 60 miles, but it was so beautiful. Coming out of Denver, it runs through some ranch land, rolling hills covered in dry grass, about 10 miles east of the mountains. It slows snakes its way closer to the mountains until, by the time you hit Palmer Lake at 7200 ft, just north of Colorado Springs, you are riding your way on a road that curves its way around the base of the mountains. By that point, you're gasping for air, trying to figure out how people actually live up that high. But the beauty of the desert landscape leading up to the wall of the Rockies it phenomenal. I stayed that night with Randy and Amy Newton again, who came and picked me up when, apparently, snow clouds where coming in. Thanks a bunch, you guys!

The next day, I headed toward Pueblo, and actually ended up getting snowed on. It was the weirdest thing, I suppose because it never happens in Arkansas. It was partly cloudy, but overall very sunny, when all of a sudden I see little white dots start coming down from the sky. And the sun was shining. What??? Apparently, it's not that uncommon to get flurries on sunny days, but it was pretty novel for a guy like me. So, I'll claim it – I've biked through snow on this trip.

The rest of the day was an easy ride down to Pueblo, where I stayed with Tom and Sharla Hochstetler, and their rambunctious dogs. Cool people! I had a chance to chat with Sharla about her job as a middle school teacher in Pueblo county. I was so surprised to hear about the tough community that she works in, deal with a bunch of kids from broken families. I was completely blown away by the rough crowd of kids that she works with in an area that is very rural. Previously, when I thought drugs, broken homes, and tough communities, I used to think urban areas. You know, inner-city LA. But apparently, you can find problems all over, even in the desert of Colorado. Even in Puelbo, there are so many kids needing love and guidance, and parents who care, especially in these days where rough times, especially financially, have hit everywhere, which can totally pull families apart. I have so much respect for people like Sharla who seek out the need, and have such a passion to work at a job where you might not see the payoff. Rock on, Sharla!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A small breakthrough?

On Saturday, after being back in Denver for a couple days, my frustration was mounting, as I wasn't feeling like I was making any progress in the area of “hearing” God's voice, nor was I any closer to knowing the point in my being back in Denver. I felt like I was meeting my “quota” of quiet time, praying, and reading, but that even so, God was coming through, like I sometimes feel that He should. But no, and I was confused. So, I went out for a ride, to clear my mind, and to stay in shape. But, about a half mile down the road, I noticed my wheel was out of alignment. And apparently, I had broken two spokes at some point. Sweet! So, I tried to replace the spokes, but quickly realized that I didn't know what I was doing. I carried my bike back to the house, and, after some research, I realized that I didn't have the tools to fix it. I tried to anyway, only to end up irritated at my bike, as well as God.

So, out of options with the bike shops closed, I went for a walk to clear my head. I found a bench on the side of a street several blocks away, and I started to read and pray. And apparently, I was sittingout right outside of a church. Cool, whatever, didn't really mean much at the time. But then this guy comes out and starts talking to me. We talk for a while, and I go in to meet his dad, John Gallegos, the pastor of the church, who proceeds to tell me all about Globe ville and how God is using their ministry there. And all the while, I'm thinking, “What the heck? Is this you, God?” I start to get excited about the inner-city work the church is doing there. They are awesome people, by the way, wholly devoted to serving God, with great passion and vision. They even gave me some food out of their food panty! It was weird, and I'm still not sure about what God was doing, but it seemed too weird to be a coincidence. Very much a God thing, with how everything panned out that night.

Over the course of the next day, while I made preparations to head south on Monday, and being around some solid, encouraging communities of believers, I felt a freedom, a peace take over me. I started actually believing that it was okay to make the wrong choice. God has my back, and if I screw up, it's all right, as long as I keep my sights on him. It was a small breakthrough, a feeling that I hadn't had for a while. So, I made my bike ready to leave, looking to what the next weeks would bring.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Back in Denver

So, I rode back to Denver, more than slightly confused and unsure whether I was even doing the right thing. Leaving the Springs, the first thirty miles proved brutal, for whatever reason. They were definitely uphill, and hilly, but it shouldn't have been as difficult. Maybe it was the air, or lack thereof. Maybe it was something else.... But at any rate, it was a fight to get up to 7300 ft, and I mean it was a tooth-and-nail kinda thing, and honestly, there was at least a little frustration aimed at God. I mean, if I was trying to be obedient, shouldn't He be giving me a massive tailwind or something? Right?
It was downhill and easy the rest of the way, thankfully, and I arrived at my friend Ryan Likes's house around sundown.  I stayed the next several days in Denver more or less trying to figure what the heck I was there for. I felt mostly confident that I was doing the right thing in going back to Denver, but didn't have much idea as to why I was supposed to be there. Was there someone I was supposed to meet? Was there an opportunity that I was to find, an open door to, say, a job? Was there something I was to hear, to do, to learn while there? Or was it just a test in obedience? I didn't know, and even now am not sure.

I spent much of the time doing a lot of reading of the book Is That Really You, God? by Loren Cunningham, which deals a lot with discerning the will of God, and learning how to hear. It was really encouraging to read, and hear a Godly man's real testimony about being led by the Spirit, but at the same time it was deeply frustrating, because I felt like I was nowhere near that point and I ached to be there.

But, I had a great conversation with Ryan Likes as we threw a frisbee around, and we came to the conclusion that the point of this whole spiritual journey thing isn't to have it all together. The point isn't to have THE answer to life. The point is Christ. The point is to know Him, and struggling is a part of that. God isn't near as concerned or worried about what I'm going to be doing in three months as I am. He's just wants me, as He wants all of us. In other words, I need to stop worrying about whether I make the right decision or the wrong one, because that's not the point. The point is Him. At least that's where I stand at this given point in time.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Confusion, voices, riding around in circles

At this point, in order to try and explain the next few days, I need to go back to the beginning. If you remember, the point of this whole ordeal, the trip as a whole, was to seek guidance and clarity. And I have been looking for guidance on two levels: the immediate level of occupational/geographical plans for the near future (this coming January), and also, on a deeper level, to draw closer to the heart of God. Both of these, in my mind, go hand in hand, and both really pertain to the discipline and skill of listening to God. A relationship requires communication, speaking and listening. And to be honest, in my relationship with my Creator, I have never been good at hearing/listening. Thus, in my whole quest to not only gain understanding of God's immediate plans for my life but also an understanding of who He is, my ability to listen to Him has been focal. And has been found to be wanting. Very wanting. A.k.a. - I feel like I have very little idea what God is doing in my life, most of the time.
So, back to the present. I was riding away from Denver, going to Monument on Sunday, October 17. And, leaving the city, I asked God, "What was the significance of my stay in Denver? In the connections made and the various interactions? Why did you orchestrate all this?" And I felt the Lord say, "Turn around."
Now, I want to pause here, and not that I am, even now, not certain that it was the Lord speaking, and that I "correctly" received some direction. So, I battled for a while. "Wait, is that you God? That doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Why should I go back? I have arrangements made in Monument, and Peyton, and Colorado Springs, and farther. I mean, it would throw things off, like crazy, God." So, I battled, and didn't feel any concrete insight.
So I went on to Monument, and stayed at the house of guy named Rowland, who welcomed me in on short notice. (Thanks a bunch, man!) And I battled on Monday, sitting in the Monument library, frustrated and confused. I asked my father for advice, and I asked my friend Ryan Likes to pray about it. I went to Peyton, CO, to see another old friend - Daniel Bava, and his wife Jess and son Adrian. (Thanks, guys!) Still battling, I went to the Springs, and after talking to my dad, Likes, and reading/praying/trying to listen to God for a while, I was impressed with a simple question: "Do you trust me?" Was God testing my obedience? Unsure, I decided that God wanted me to go back. (Again, kind of a shot in the dark). So, after staying the night with Randy and Amy Newton (Again, big thanks!), I headed back. And for what reason, I had little idea.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Riding away....

Friday and Saturday were great days to reengage with old friends. I stayed with Ryan Likes, friend from JBU, and we had dinner with the Starr family - Desi and Rose and kids. What struck me about them and their home was the presence of life and vivacity among them. It was so overwhelming (in a great way) and full of love. So great to see the dynamic of their family!
I later had some great chats with Ryan, his housemates, and other friends, talking a lot about life experiences, deep conversations full of the richness and gravity of life, and all that is encompassed by real living. A very refreshing several days in Denver, and I biked away on Sunday, after biking for a ways with Chris (compadre at the Cheesecake factory), and I wondered what I was supposed to take away from that. "God, what was that, the whole experience in Denver, all about?" I don't think it was an accident, but I don't have an answer, either. Vamos a ver.....

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Hobo in the City

So, I have spent some great time in Denver, meeting new people and renewing old friendships. Such a great time, without a doubt. I rolled in from Fort Collins (after a long day of wicked hills! I wish I'd taken some pictures of them. And I'm still not used to the lack of oxygen here either) and met a guy named Chris at a house party/ music gig for a band called Churchill. Great guy, and great group of people! They're all connected with Providence Church in Denver, and it was great to get connected with this group of people. At first, I felt really out of place, being a sweaty, smelly, unshaven guy who looked strikingly like I had been living out of a cardboard box for the past couple months, in the midst of a really classy group of people in this uptown area, but they welcomed me in without a thought. I ended up chatting with a couple, Jerome and Martha, for a couple hours about our life stories (needless to say mine was shorter). Later, I ended up staying with another couple - Joel and Lauren - who generously opened their home up to this cycling hobo. I'm sooooooo grateful to have met all these people who opened up their homes and their hearts to me without reservation. It's been the biggest blessing, and definitely a recurring blessing throughout this trip - God connecting me with open-hearted, generous people who have given of themselves in so many ways. So cool!
Just wanted to include this image - on Thursday night, Chris and I went to the Cheesecake Factory downtown as they were closing, and gorged ourselves on the leftover delectables from other tables in the restaurant while we talked about things - life and love and why. I must add that the whole act of scavenging at a restaurant is only a social crime if you aren't a hobo on a bike. Or extremely hungry. Or both. Hmm.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Halftime!

I'm in Fort Collins today, staying with Drew Thomason, another friend from JBU. having my bike worked on today. Fortunately, it's just routine stuff. All of the funny noises that I have heard from my bike,such as random squeaks, pops, and creaks, apparently are not serious. My bike is kind of like an old man with all of the random noises it has, creaky joints and all. But, he'll be alright. We'll get back home okay. Which, by the way, today is right about halfway. 1500 miles done, 1500 more to go, and exactly halfway in my 10 week schedule. We'll see what comes in the second half. I'm headed back to Denver tomorrow, and then heading south from there on Sunday. Again, it's nice to have a few days to sit around on seats that are more than three inches wide. Yeah for couches!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A lil' R&R

Right now I'm just chilling in Denver, CO, staying with Christi Newton, a friend from JBU. I got here on Friday, and I'm so glad to have a little rest for a few days, after riding hard to get here. Drew Thomason came down from Fort Collins, and we hung downtown yesterday. And today I'm just chilling, planning out where I'm going from here. I'm thinking about heading towards Albuquerque, and then heading across Texas from there, but we'll see, like always. Tomorrow, I'm going to Fort Collins for a couple days, and then head back south.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Rockies, at last

After the previous night, I slept in, and carefully some pancake mash for breakfast. I still don't know what was up with my stomach, but it never resurfaced in full force. Just kinda reminded me every now and then that it was there. I headed towards the Rockies, hoping I would see them, but to no avail. The desert started to get more hilly, and I started to see some pine trees on the way. So, I can't complain, by any means. There's something in the remoteness that is serenely breathtaking. I couldn't see the Rockies, that day, but I could FEEL them getting closer.
After stopping numerous times that day to catch my breath and wonder where all the oxygen went, I rolled in Elizabeth, and the guys at the local fire station directed me to a really nice parked where I hid out for the night. It was a great, quiet place to camp, secluded from the highway, with a well-maintained soccer field to sleep on. Until the sprinklers went off in the middle of the night. I woke up when I heard a loud crashing come down on the top of my tent. Oh, man, you'd think I'd learn. Oh well.
I left Elizabeth in the morning, and after about 8 miles of climbing hills, I finally caught my first full view of the Rockies. Incredibly captivating. I came to the top of a hill, and through a break in the pine trees, I could see row after row of mountains, and spots of clouds hanging out above them. Mmmmmmm. Nothing like it. I went on into Parker, CO for errands, and headed into Denver for the weekend. I'm so glad to have a chance to relax, and hopefully get used to breathing without any air.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Where did the oxygen go?

Greg and I parted ways in the morning, and I had a long day ahead of me, since I spent the night in Eads. I was dead set to get to Limon, which I realized later was over 1000 ft higher than Eads. And 80+ miles away. Yeah, that was interesting.
At Kit Carson, CO, I ran into a guy named David who was biking across the US, and this guy was intense! He was from Malaysia, 59 years old with a wife and 8 children (all grown) back in Asia! Crazy! He had retired from his job several years ago, and has taken something like 4 bike tours since then, all over Asia and Europe, and now the USA. Super cool guy. Check out his website: www.bicycletouringmalaysia.com
I pedaled on through Hugo, some crazy road construction, miles without anything, and finally made it to Limon. I got there after sundown, and I couldn't find a place to stay. No one in town suggested staying at the park, as the police would certainly accost me. I went to several stores and gas stations, and no one had any suggestions, except the KOA in town. I called them, and they charged 30 bucks for a tent camper. I mean, c'mon. Thirty bucks? And all I use is the bathroom. So I sat outside the gas station for several hours, trying to figure something out. 9 PM rolled around, and I had nothing, and I was starting to get really worried, not really sure where the heck I was going to stay. Too late to go knocking on peoples doors, to see if they would let me stay there, and the police and fire stations where shut down for the night, and I was running out of options pretty quick. Thankfully, though, a police officer pulled up after a while, and he was totally sympathetic to a travelling cyclist. He calls up a coworker, and finds out that there's a fishing pond a couple blocks away to stay at where I wouldn't be bothered. Huge relief! And only a few blocks away, as opposed to biking for another 5 miles! Thanks God!
After I set up camp, and right as I finished eating dinner, right when I though things were going pretty well, something attacked my stomach. Horrible feeling! I'm thinking that it was altitude sickness, or maybe that I didn't cook my corned beef hash well enough, or something. But until I passed out in my tent at around midnight that night, I was rolling around on the ground, half-conscious, wondering what was going on. Thankfully, I slept it off, but I still don't know what it was. Worst night of the trip, hands down.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Like minds

I left in the morning from Lamar. It was a frustrating morning, as nothing was going as smoothly as I wanted. It's kinda funny, I'm finding myself fighting frustration a lot. Probably something I should work on, being okay with life not working out seamlessly. Chill out a litte more. Yeah....
I started going through the desert of Colorado. So, for the record, many people say that western Kansas is rather desolate. Okay, it doesn't hold a candle to eastern Colorado. There's acutally crops, grain elevators, town, cows, something on the road in Kansas. At least I was never worried about water in Kansas. In Colorado, there might be nothing for 50 miles. And by nothing, I mean no towns, no gas stations, no crops, no cows, just 18-wheelers flying by at 70 mph. And you can't even see the Rockies!
Anyway, I made it to Eads in the afternoon (slower than hoped), but I met a guy named Greg who had been cycling around the country, coming from North Carolina. Real cool guy, and we just started chatting at the gas station in Eads, and decided to hang out in town for the night. It was cool that we were both at a similar place in life, looking for purpose and direction for the next phase in life. We definitely had different spiritual foundations for taking our respective trips, but I think it was great that he was looking for spiritual meaning in life, and we both acknowledged the existence of greater purpose than just the material. Blessings on your trip, Greg, and I hope you find that Bible valuable!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Something to live for

Rode a good long way today, from Lakin, KS to Lamar, CO, a solid 80 miles. I was really blessed to stay at the Methodist church in Lakin. I want to say a big thanks to Michelle at the church for her generosity , who allowed me to do that.
I stopped in Syracuse at around 11 to grab something to eat, and I ran in to a couple from the area who chatted for a while. Great people! I talked with them about some of the thing they were going through, trying to make ends meet. He had his foot injured in accident some years ago, which disables him from engaging in almost any job available to him, and yet he cannot get any assistance from the government due to some legal loophole. And she tries to bring in enough money to pay the bills. And they live day to day, month to month, check to check. And yet they have hope. They have joy. Frustrations, sure. But that doesn't seem to penetrate any deeper than the surface, and that blows me away. Even just their attitudes in how they talked was a testimony to me.
Later that night, I talked with a man who was middle aged, and had a chronic medical problem with blood clots. And that day, a young girl he knew had just died from the same condition. Scared him to the core, and he apparently had narrowly dodged death several times already. Talking with him, he seemed very unsure and scared of the future, of his job, his family, death. And he didn't seem to have a lot of hope, something to live for. I can't even imagine that. It was saddening, to say the least. I pray that he finds The Truth, and that The Truth gets a hold of him.
And that's what makes this difference, in any and every circumstance. Hope in something more, something more real and true than this broken world. That's something to live for. That's the only thing to live for.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Last Stretch of Kansas

After Dodge, I headed west, going through Garden City to Lakin. Definitely a more uplifting day, with a slight tailwind in the afternoon, letting me cruise into Lakin. In Garden, I went to a tortilleria, and got some amazing, fresh, corn tortillas. Ah! Nothing like it. I went back later because I accidentally ate my first pound of tortillas in one sitting.
But, even cooler than that, I met a Honduran woman at the tortilleria who works at one of the meat packing plants in  Garden City. I had read some about the horrendous conditions and strenuous demands on the laborers in those plants, actually right before I left for this trip. But, talking with her, I got to hear her perspective, optimistic and encouraging about working at a meat packing plant. She was happy to have the opportunity and felt great about how she was treated, as opposed to the horrible news that you hear on muck-racking exposes. It was refreshing to talk to her, that certain sides of our society are functioning well, and she was so encouraging to me going on this trek.
After Garden, I made it to Lakin, and camped in the park for the night. The next day, I went fishing south of town, trying to catch my dinner, with a ghetto fishing pole, made out of a wooden stick I found on the side of the road. No dice this time. But, it was  good day to rest and pray. Getting ready for a long week, uphill, to get to Denver. Woo!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Get the heck into Dodge....

The next day, I made it to Dodge. Man, that sounds awesome just saying that. I'll say it again.  I made it into Dodge the next day, which was a very frustrating day, until the end. I woke up that morning with high expectations of making at least 70 miles, hoping to get to Colorado before the snow came in. But, I woke up that morning in Kinsley and wasted half an hour looking for my spices (which are super important when you're living off bread and canned goods). Then, I realized that my bread and tortillas, which I had been saving for breakfast, were gone. And seeing how I didn't see any torn up bags or messy signs of an animal, I decided that someone had taken them. Aka, someone had robbed me, while I was sleeping. Creepy, frustrating, demoralizing, yes. My valuables hadn't been taken, but even so, it was kinda disconcerting that someone had been walking around my campground, and frustrating at the same time. I suppose that I hope whoever took them really was hungry, and needed them. Who knows?
After that, I fought a headwind and some light drizzles to get to Dodge way behind schedule. Then, getting groceries took forever (so, Dodge has some tough hills. Go figure). So, by the time 6 PM rolled around, I was still in Dodge, trying find internet access.
But, thanks to God, I met a man name Ken Campbell at the library who let me spend the night at his house, which was a great encouragement to end the day on. I had dinner with him, his wife Elsie, and their renter, John. We had a great, relaxing evening, chatting with some quality people, and I got to sleep under a roof! Sweet end to a frustrating day. Thanks a bunch to the Campbells!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

More Thoughts on Being Alone

I'm learning how to be alone, and to be okay with it. I'm now learning that being alone doesn't equate with being lonely, especially if you believe in a loving Creator, a God who wants to relate and commune with your life, one who wants to be near all the time. That's something that I have always had trouble, and still do. How do live in such a way as to be near to God? How to I talk to Him? How am I to understand Him? To relate to Him? God often seems to be a great concept in my mind, rather than a tangible relationship. But, maybe, just maybe, with this intentional time of separation from relationships, I'll how to put my relationship with God first. Make that what I live for, rather than trying to please people, to live up to expectations. Maybe I can really face myself with only God to turn to for approval. Poco a poco.

Falling Into Stride

I've made it to Kinsley, KS, well on my way to Colorado, and I'm really loving this trip. Before the trip began, I was pretty freaked out, nervous about how it was going to happen, details and all, and scared about being by myself, more or less alone for several months. And for the first week, it was a tough adjustment, getting my legs in shape, getting used to not knowing where I was going to stay that night, hoping to not get robbed, all of it. But now, the freedom of this whole trip is quite amazing. I've never been at a place in life where it didn't matter where I went or what I did to this extent. I'm not bound by deadlines, by an itinerary, by expectations that I have to meet. I am certainly bound by a budget, but that in some ways adds to the excitement, in that it forces me to be dependent. Dependent on God for everything, for food, lodging, company, protection, energy, health, but also dependent on others from time to time, for necessities.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Errands and Encounters

After Buhler, I went into Hutchinson, KS, to do some errands. I got some warmer clothes, since winter and the Rockies are coming, after all, among other things. It's amazing how long it takes to do the simplest things, like run to the grocery store and post office, when you're on a bike. But, it's a good patience builder, I suppose.
The managers of the Kansas State Fairgrounds were kind enough to let me camp on the grounds there, with running water and everything, for free! Another blessing, for sure. Sleep under a beautiful starry sky that night.
The next day, after spending some time in the library of Hutch, I biked on to the small town of Stafford, KS, all of 1,500 people, where I met a man named Jerry Hogg. Man, we talked faith for the longest time. He is an ardent member of the Church of God, and so we talked A LOT about our beliefs. Great chance to discuss our difference in belief, and why we believe what we do. I camped in his yard that night, and after breakfast, pedaled on to Kinsley, KS.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Slow and Steady, Pressing on

After El Dorado, I rode to Buhler, KS, going through a number of small towns in Kansas. I had to make a slow, steady pace, due to an annoying wind coming across the croplands, and my knees feeling pretty precarious. Just to clue you in, since going through the hills in Arkansas my knees had been giving me some weird pains. The front of my left knee and one of the rear tendons in my right knee just slowly started to hurt, and came and went in terms of pain. The frustrating thing was, that if I adjusted my pedal-stroke to help one knee, it would make the other knee worse. So, going to Buhler, I just tried to not push my knees too hard, taking a slow pace to get there, rather than shorter, faster spurts.  It kinda worked. Kinda.
I had a chance in the afternoon to do some reading, Is That Really You God? by Loren Cunningham. It was kind of frustrating reading about this man of God who has such an incredible gifting of hearing God and being led by the Spirit. I guess I'm just at a point where I wish so desperately to be able to hear God's voice, and feel His presence, in my life. I mean, I guess it's a learned discipline, but sometimes I so strongly desire clarity in my spirit, and it doesn't come. Keep pressing in, I suppose.
I was able to spend the night with Mike and Beth Prieb, and their three sons that night, and actually helped them with their math homework. Awesome! Big thanks to them and their hospitality! Great family!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Learning to trust

On the night of the 25th, I rode into El Dorado, KS, after a long day of riding. One of the most stunning experiences: riding through the countryside, coming to the top of a crest, the setting sun ahead of you, and you are riding along a front of thunderclouds. A light breeze, a little rain, and the earth just open around you. All the while battling to make headway. That moment is implanted in my brain.

So, I pulled into town, after dark, again, feeling very cold, and in a lot of ways alone, really hoping to find some kind of companionship. I asked around for places to camp, prayed to run into someone who might let me camp in their yard, but I was just directed to a local park. Kinda depressing, especially on a cold, windy night. But, at the same time, looking back, I think it was  test of dependency. Do I really trust that the Lord will provide? Do I really trust that He'll give me what I need, He'll protect me, He'll provide? To I let His love, His grace, His approval be enough for me? Or do I still yearn to find fulfillment in other things, such as the acceptance of others?

The next day, I attended First Presbyterian of El Dorado, and God took care of me, in extravagent ways, even though I still struggle to trust Him. I met Mal and Janice Shaffer, and they were the biggest blessing to me. They took me to lunch with their friends, let me stay in their house, and bought groceries for me. It was amazing to be so warmly welcomed by people who I have never met before, and me, one who doesn't deserve that kind of grace. Again, God provides, even when I have so little faith.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Help in odd places

I crossed into Kansas on the 23rd of September, fighting a ridiculous cross wind. Warm welcome, Kansas. Oh well, I guess I shouldn't expect any less. I made it to Pittsburg, and took a break at the local bike shop. I pressed on to Parsons that night, pulling in way after dark, maybe like 9:30. It was a long day. But, mid-afternoon, I had found out that a line of thunderstorms were rolling my way, to hit around midnight. No big deal for riding, except that I don't want to be caught camping in a tornado. Minor detail. So, after night fell, and I was riding on the shoulder of this highway, with trucking flying by at 70 mph, I decided to try and find some sort of shelter. So, I start knocking on doors. Genious idea. Rural Kansas, after dark, time when farmers are going to bed, and I come beating on their door asking to camp out in their garage. The looks they had on their faces just screamed, "Get the heck off of my property!" And understandably so. So I gave that up real quick. 
I kept on to Parsons, and found the police station. When I told them that I just didn't want to get caught in the storms, I got another suspicious look. He told me about a campground with uncovered sites that cost money (aka over my budget). But, a man sitting in the station, a local, took me aside and told me about the park downtown with covered pavilions. Smiling, he told me that I could make myself pretty well hidden in there, and that I wouldn't get any trouble from the police. And I could always say I got lost if they found me in the middle of the night. Anyway, I thought it interesting the different responses you get from people: some don't want much to do with you, some will walk another mile with you. And you can't tell by first impressions, either.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Crossing paths

So, I left Springfield, and it took me the first half of the day to get out of the city, after running over a nail somewhere and having to change the flat. But, after I got out of the city, I made pretty good time, and made it to my destination just after sundown. Missouri has some lovely hills, that's for sure, and some pretty farm land. And I am liking hills, because they're not too windy, and you get the best views from them. Anyway, I made it to Golden City, MO, and camped out with another traveling cyclist named Mark Rowdon. This guy was ridiculously cool. He had been traveling from Lake Tahoe, going through the desert, the mountains, the plains, heading to Virginia. What was cooler, he was interested in becoming an evangelist when he finished the trek. Freaking sweet! Really cool guy, sold out devoted to Christ, and a lot faster of a biker than me. And he had a sweet beard. Facial hair always increases cool points. Ride on, Mark! You've definately motivated me to keep on trucking.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Jes Chillin....

So, I've been in Springfield since Saturday night. I had a great Sabbath on Sunday, hanging out with friend Xuan Huynh. I've been fixing my bike, again - that chain had to be replaced, and now the gears won't shift right. Bother...... But, it'll work out. I'm hoping my knee is at least a little better, because I'm heading west tomorrow, towards the Wichita area. We'll see where I end up!
Tulsa to Springfield

Saturday, September 18, 2010

GO MO!

After camping in Vinita, I went on toward Springfield. I headed toward Neosho, MO, and stayed with Kendall Daniel's family. His mom said she'd kill me if I were near their home and didn't stay there. So, naturally, how can a bum hobo refuse? It was a short day on the road, but I met some cool people. At Twin Rivers Park in OK, I ended up trading some of my fishing line for some fishing hooks, and talking for a while about what I was doing, where we were from. He told me a lot about fishing that I never knew, like you can catch catfish with a piece of a bar of soap. That's right in my budget range! (I'm hoping to, one of these days, catch my dinner and cook on my little stove...... hehehe)
It was such a blessing staying with the Daniels! It was great to chat with them and have a roof over my head. I then headed on to Springfield on Saturday. I had a long ride, but I got started late, and I really didn't ride very fast, which ended up making a very tricky ride through bustling Springfield at 9 PM. But I survived, and the bike did too. I had another great chat with a guy that day as well. I went to a produce stand off of Highway 60, because tomatoes sounded amazing, especially ripe ones. Anyway, I started chatting with the guy running the stand, and we ended up talking about everything from smoking deer jerkey to trying to figure what God wanted to do with our lives. It was completely random, but so refreshing and real. I was hoping to keep chatting, but other customers came in. Even so, I hope he was encouraged, because I will definately remember that. If you ever read this man, I'm praying for you!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Back East??????

So, I spent a couple days in Tulsa, recharging, fixing my bike, and letting my knee heal. My bike started going funky on me, the derailleur starting eating my chain apart. So I spent a good day trying to figure out how to properly adjust my derailleur. I'm new to the whole bike mechanic thing, BUT, I think I get it now. So, I got it working nice and smooth. The only problem was that one of the links in my chain started coming apart.... frustration. I bent it back into place, and crammed it together, but I'm afraid that it's going to blow on me out in the middle of nowhere. We'll see.
Broke down, on the side of the road in Tulsa
So, I set out on Thursday toward Springfield, MO, to see more friends. Getting out of Tulsa took like half of the day, but I made it out, and meandered my way up to Vinita, OK. This was my first night not having arrangements planned for where I was to stay. So, at the end of a long day of riding, I pulled into Vinita around sundown, and started praying. Real hard. And God directed me to a nearby residential district. The first house I came to, and I mean the first house, the one on the corner of the neighborhood, I found a couple setting up for a garage sale. I asked them if I could camp out in the empty lot across the street, and they invited me to camp in their yard, which was sooo cool. I was so relieved. I mean, the FIRST HOUSE that I came to. Crazy.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Night Riding in NWA

After the ride to Fayetteville, I wandered around Northwest Arkansas for the weekend, staying with friends Chris and Amber Latimer on Saturday in Rogers, and Kendall Daniel in Siloam Springs on Sunday. I do want to say a big thanks to all of my great friends who have supported me these past several days, letting me stay in their houses, use their showers, eat their food, etc. You guys are great!
On Saturday evening, when I was riding to the Latimers', I ended up riding around on small neighborhood roads under the stars. I could hardly see the road in front of me, only a small, faint circle created by my headlight. It was so serene, so peaceful and beautiful, looking up to the night sky, dotted with stars, and the cool breeze flowing by as I rode. It was a spirit-thing, you know? Just overwhelmed by peace, a tranquility that I rarely feel. I'm still trying to figure out how and why the Spirit moves when He does. I don't know.
I made it to Tulsa on Monday, and I have been here for several days, taking a Sabbath, fixing my bike, and taking care of details. Thanks to Jon Erickson and Mark Delavan for letting me use their couch! I'm not sure where I'm going from here, but I think I'm leaving tomorrow. Maybe north, maybe east. We'll see!

Through to Tulsa

Friday, September 10, 2010

Searching for Strength


On the 10th, I woke up, said goodbye to JT, and headed toward Fayetteville. It still took me forever to get on the road in the morning. I didn't get out of Harrison until 10. One of these days I won't be friggin slow, one of these days...
That day I had another long ride through hills, although they weren't at steep as the days before. But, I had to make it over 75 miles in one day. And I had a headwind from time to time, something that I try not to despise whenever it appears. It's so easy to get frustrated and irritated at the wind, and even channel it at God, when there's a headwind impeding your progress making every stroke you take that much harder. It was definitely a challenge to keep a positive attitude, and I'm not going to say that I didn't swear at the wind from time to time. But the sun was out, which always energizes me.

Third Day
But, it was slow going all day, and I was tired from the days before. And the mile markers didn't seem to pass near as quickly as the days before. But, I was determined to be in Fayetteville by nightfall to meet my friends Ian and Steph Fraiser, and I really didn't want to call him and have him bail me out. (I'm stubborn, what can I say?) But, even though it was hard, mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually, God still sustained me to get there, in ways that I don't understand. Towards the end of the day, with about 20 miles left to ride and legs wanting to give up, my spirits mysteriously lifted and my body got a little boost, and I had strength to finish to Fayetteville before sundown. I'm not sure, but maybe God was subtly giving me strength to finish.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Into the Mountains

Well, the first two days were kinda rough, I suppose. I started on Wednesday, the 8th, at around 2 in the afternoon. My goal was to at least get into the Ozark Mountains, and camp wherever I could for the night. Well, it was raining when I set out, all dreary and overcast, which typically puts a damper on my energy levels. But, I was energized by a few people on the road, having a good chat with a woman who ran a gas station. I made it to a place called Moccasin Gap, a rural campground up in the hills which seemed rarely used.  I went to bed in my tent (underneath a large pavilion :D ), and prayed that the rain would stop by morning
I woke up at sunrise, and the rain was coming down in full strength, which never makes things easy when you're trying to keep your sleeping bag, your clothes, and your computer dry in your little yellow trailer-bag. But, what can you do? And, even though trying my hardest to get on the road quickly, it still took my two and a half hours from waking up till I was on the road. I guess I just have to accept that I'm slow in the morning. Oh well.

First 2 Days
So, I set out, toughest leg of the day, by far. Steep hills all morning long, constant rain, and no shoulder on the road. There were so many times when, if I could hear an 18-wheeler coming behind me, I would completely pull off of the road into the ditch so I wouldn't get hit. Good old country roads. Oh, and the rain pants that I had bought from Wal-Mart a few weeks before, well, I had already torn a gaping hole in the crotch area. Nice!
But, after about 4 hours on the bike, watching the miles get smaller on the signs, I made it to Jasper! I found a local fruit stand selling apples, and after buying 2, sat down and talked to the lady operating it. She was so cool. She was 76 years old and going strong, just retired from 16 years of being a nurse. I talked with her about what I was doing, that I had just graduated and everything. She was very encouraging, told me to keep on searching, especially since I can right now in my life. After a long morning of riding, just talking with her gave a huge lift in my spirits. Not only that, but the rain cleared and the sun came out. I was so pumped.
So, I got back on my bike, determined to make it to Harrison, AR, to meet my friend Justin Thompson. I made it about 2 miles out of town, just enough for there to be nothing around, and my rear tube blew out. All of sudden. Frustrating. But the sun was still shining, so it was all good. I replaced the tube, and while I was inflating it, the new tube pushed a hole through the side wall of my tire, which was supposedly a pretty strong tire. Frustration went through the roof, as I was losing time to get to Harrison. I finally fixed that, wasted more time wrestling my trailer onto my bike, swore some more, and finally got back on the road an hour and a half later.
But, somehow I made it into town just after 5:30, and met up with JT. It was a frustrating day, for sure, but even so I made it to Harrison, a total of 93 miles through the mountains. God made it possible, despite everything. And I had a roof over my head to sleep under that night, and a good friend to hang out with. God provides, huh?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Pre-Game Jitters

Well not really jitters. Maybe that will come tomorrow. Right now, I'm just trying to not stay up too late, so that I can actually get started tomorrow. Tomorrow I start the trip, and I'm hoping I have everything together. If not, oh well. Life goes on. I'm pretty sure I won't die. Anyway, I'm planning on leaving mid-day tomorrow and making my way toward Harrison, AR. I'll probably stop somewhere halfway between here and there, camp for the night, and finish the ride to Harrison on Thursday. I'm just trying to make sure everything is sorted out. There's a lot more things that you have to make sure of before you leave for a couple months than you might think. Little things, like spokes for your wheel, and soap for your dishes, and stuff. And I'm a procrastinator. But, anyway, tomorrow, game on.