Journal May 17, 2021: Adapting to Bike Life

I sit here in the Saluki Laundromat in Carbondale, Illinois. Once again God shows me kindness through the owner of an apartment complex. I Googled nearest laundromat from my hotel, and it brought me here to learn it’s for renters only. I went to their office and explained my situation and the owner gave me a key to their very nice facility. She even helped me with some photos. I asked just in time as she was getting ready to leave. I told her I would be working on my blog, and that she would be in it. Immediately she asked me for the website. Alas one of the challenges to the nomadic lifestyle. 

The Spiritual, Physical, Mental, and Emotional

Now that I have been at this nomadic lifestyle 3 weeks, I believe I am starting to adapt to my surroundings. One can prepare, practice, and participate in extended bike camping and excursions; however, there is still an orientation and adjustment period one must go through. 

Having one quarter of the TransAmerica route completed, I can say that the experience thus far has been exhilarating. The experience taxes one from four dimensions which I believe are the Physical, Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual. Without defining each dimension, I will use my blog to point them out. For me, the Spiritual has been amazing as I have seen God show up time and time again, and He influences the other three dimensions. It seems to me that the other influence is our personality or how we are wired. I have met people, like me, who have planned their trip out with precision and cost. Others have just shown up and let the wind, the sites, and weather direct their pace – time is not an issue as to when they will finish. Still others are enduring grueling paces to cover a set distance every day.

While I am enjoying seeing the landscape of our vast and magnificent country, by far, meeting other riders and people along the way is the most enjoyable part of the experience. 

The end of week 2 and start of week 3 began in Paint Lick, Kentucky where I got to see Betsy and spend the day with her at a charming BnB that we highly recommend. It was fun to introduce her to Mark and Pat a couple riding the trail and David.  The ensuing week would introduce me to Sam, Lauren, Sasha, and Scott. 

Upon departing Paint Lick and meeting 27-year-old Sam, I experienced a bizarre bike failure at mile 26 for the day. After departing a refueling stop, and pushing down on my pedal to start accelerating, my front small chainring collapsed. It literally folded over on itself. The teeth from the sprocket were biting into the tube that supports the seat. I had to use my pliers to bend the folded sprocket back and free it so that the top, or larger chainring could rotate freely.

Sam immediately located the nearest bike shop in Danville about 16 miles away off route. The bike was ridable, there were no other options, so I thanked Sam and said goodbye. The bike shop owner in Danville said that he did not have the parts to fix it. He said my best bet was to coordinate a fix via the manufacture in Carbondale – which was about 375 miles away in Illinois. Not exactly your flat cruising terrain. I would not have my 11 lower gear ranges to take on the climbs. Sparing you countless details and the swirling thoughts racing around inside my head, I called Jim’s Bicycle Shop and Jim and MaryAnn coordinated the repair details with Doug, at Phoenix Cycles in Carbondale. Jim had the parts to get the bike repaired. I just had to ride there.  Fortunately, I took a detour to get back on course and caught up with Sam to finish riding most of the week to Illinois. 

 

Milestones for me, are a big deal and satisfy my mental and emotional state. They are starting to put gas in my tank that sends me those self-talk pep talks that I can do this. Once I passed the 1,180-mile threshold, completed 3 maps, and crossed over into Illinois, my confidence piqued to another level on the spectrum. Factor in the grueling mountains of the Appalachians and an overzealous Jet Stream, the milestones resonate with a more satisfying tonality all their own. It’s why I am beginning to describe this attempt at riding across America as exhilarating and amazing. The four dimensions collectively reach down inside you and ping your soul. (Oh yeah, they ping your legs too.) But when God shows up through people and circumstances, your soul rejoices at the caress of God’s hand. Consider my God moment with Joyce and Ronnie below.

God Shows Up

1. Having your wife show up at the end of week two is a special moment to share in the rhythm of the trip.

2. Having Sam there at the moment of the bike failure was extremely helpful in locating a bike shop and thinking through some critical decisions in a short amount of time. I also appreciated rejoining his company later.

3. Meeting Robert and Candace at a restaurant in Springfield. They offered me their side yard to pitch my tent and tell me about the rich history of their property. It belonged to the pastor who married Abe Lincoln’s parents.

4. The heat and humidity descended on our riding by 10:00 am most days where it was 80 degrees. By 1:00 pm it was even warmer. With my bike’s inefficiency, it made my energy output all the more intense on this 64-year-old body. Sam had ridden ahead. I was already at 60 miles for the day and praying for an alternative to my camping arrangements in Eddyville. I had just walked my bike up a very steep graded hill for about one-third of a mile and downed most of my Gatorade and a Starbucks cold brew. I still thought an ice water sounded good. I hopped back on my bike and had ridden about one mile when I rounded the bend and saw a woman mowing her grass. 

I rolled into her driveway and immediately got her attention. You can imagine how a guy on bike loaded down with big red bags on his bike might pique one’s curiosity. “Hi”, I said. Would you be able to fill my water bottles with ice water?, was my follow up remark. She said her name was Joyce and her husband was Ronnie. Come over to the house and sit in the shade. She brought out a bottle of cold water and a cold wet towel. The towel was really a nice touch. We started to talk, and I answered all her typical questions. She was a retired underwriter from Peoria who was here with Ronnie taking care of a family heirloom – a really old house. 

She offered me another bottle of water which I gladly accepted and thanked her multiple times. She paused, and then suggested that I could stay in their unoccupied house for the night. AC, a kitchen, and a bathroom – offered to a complete stranger. I accepted her offer.

For me, I view these encounters as direct answers to prayers of all the people praying for me. When Robert and Joyce offered their hospitality to me it blesses them, as much as it blesses me, to accept it. It’s humbling and teaching moments for me. Sitting here in this laundry mat, as my clothes require another.25 cents to dry in delicate mode, is a blessing from a business owner to a guy on a bike. Kindness trumps just about anything. 

5. Back to the bike. At FOCAS/Lord’s Gym Ministries – our culture can be simplified to a formula of E (Event) + R (Response) = O (Objective). My objective is to ride across the country. That didn’t change. The event was the bike failure which I have no control over; and blaming, complaining, or disparaging wasn’t going to help. The only thing I could control is the “R”, my response to the event. I had to keep moving, making adjustments, and make the best of the circumstances.

Take-A-Ways

My laundry is just about done so I should wrap this blog up with my take-a-ways from week three:

  1. God is paying attention.
  2. He does not owe me answers to my trials.
  3. Keep moving toward your objective, even if you must change your pace.
  4. Enjoy the view, it will likely change.
  5. Accept the blessings from other people. Who knows, they might be an angel!
  6. It’s okay to ask for help.

Blessings and Stand Firm

Scott