Thursday, March 31, 2011

Day 6 - Pictures - Blythe, CA. to Salome, AZ

Imperial Dunes between Brawley and Palo Verde
More Imperial Dunes
Jenny's bike with all her gear. Not the way I want to travel.
Wheels lunch site in the desert
Our "adopted" rider Jenny, who was traveling the same direction
Dinner at the campground in Palo Verde
My home for two nights in a row
Our version of tent city
As we enter Arizona
Typical view of the Arizona landscape
We started seeing the majestic cacti in Arizona
The grammatically incorrect sign as you leave the town of Hope, AZ
More Cacti
Indian writings on the upper left quarter of this stone (difficult to see)
A number of cactus varieties at the entry to the school in Salome
My own variety of cactus!

Day 6 - Blythe, CA. to Salome, AZ

57.5 miles today in 95 degree weather. We crossed into Arizona for the first time. We will be in Arizona until Apr. 6th. I have been having some minor issues with my bike that our mechanic thought might be due to a parts recall on one of the components related to the crankset. It turned out not be a recall issue and the manufacturer advised us how to repair the problem. We are good to go, Lord willing, for the rest of the trip. We began seeing majestic cacti when we passed into Arizona, but still the same arid, rather desolate landscape we have grown accustomed to for the last several days.

I keep forgetting to say this but remember the lost man near Julian that the sheriff's search and rescue patrol was looking for? He was found alive according to the report from the later riders through that area. So happily it had a good ending.

We spent about one-third of our day on US 10, which is interstate. Usually bikers are not allowed on interstates, but when it is the only road available to get to our destination they apparently make exceptions. There was a nice wide shoulder and so there were no problems even though semis have a tendency to suck you into their lane at the same time. You have to be alert. We are spending the night at Salome Elementary School in their air conditioned gym - a real treat.

We passed through Quartzsite this afternoon which is the home of our 81 year old rider, Bob. As we rode into town, we received a standing ovation from about 30 people waiting for Bob to appear. He could have easily been the mayor for the day with all the attention  (well deserved) he got today.

Don't forget to keep checking the "map"  to see our progress and the pictures I am posting separately under its own post.

I also understand from Myron that people from Circleville, OH are watching this blog. Welcome! Trust you find some interesting things worth following along on here.

Devotional Thought:
As I rode along today I was struck by how "Pilgrim's Progress -esque" this ride is. Pilgrim had many obstacles and hindrances along his journey. I thought of all the things that we deal with almost daily on our coast to coast trip that jeopardize our success: poor weather, winds, traffic, losing our way, sickness, injury, aches and pains, fatigue, breakdowns, careless and angry drivers and loss of motivation, to mention a few. Just like Pilgrim, we have to be ready for these inevitable events and to trust Someone greater than ourselves in our weakness and inability to control our circumstances. What a privilege to call out to our God when we are in distress or at the end of our rope! As Romans reminds us, Jesus is as near as our own heart.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Days 4 and 5: Brawley to Blythe, CA

You  didn't hear from me last night because I was out of range of any satellites. Tuesday was a tough day. Temps in the low 90s, riding in the desert most of the day. Plus I decided to add 14 miles to what was supposed to be a 68 mile day because I took a wrong turn. Even though I'm riding with 30 others, it is easy to find yourself by yourself on the road, so I missed the turn on my own. However, I was able to make up the distance and connect with the other riders by noon. I ran into several other self-contained riders (carrying their own gear up to 35 lbs) on long trips. One of them, Jenny, joined us for lunch and dinner and spent the night at the campground with us. She was on her way to St. Petersburg, FL from San Diego by herself. These riders are made of the kind of stuff that most of us aren't!

Today's ride was a nice 25 mile "breather" after yesterday. We still have not had very friendly winds. Most have been in our face. Where are the prevailing west winds we're supposed to get 75% of the time? I finally had the chance to say something to our group about Amanda Gives Back. Several responded with much interest and said they would make donations. They probably won't do anything until they get home from the ride but every little bit helps. It was also a day that we could get laundry done and enjoy a really nice all-you-can-eat salad bar at the Sizzler Steak House in Blythe. This also is the second and final night we will be in the campground tent camping. It's been surprisingly enjoyable!

Interestingly, we had a fellow join us who will ride with us for the next few days. When I saw his name it rang a bell in my mind that I should know this guy. As it turns out he was on the same coast to coast ride I was on in 1974! He only made it to Cincinnati but I remember him as quite a character. Coach also had the same assessment. We'll see if time has changed anything.

Thank you, everyone, as well for your comments on this blog and Facebook responses. I wish I could respond to all of you but time does not allow me to do so. I am looking forward to spending some time this weekend with our church's former youth pastor and his wife, Lee and Melissa S. I might even be able to free up some time to attend his church. I'll try and get more pictures on tomorrow or Friday. Thanks for staying tuned.

Devotional Thought:

While I was trying on Tuesday to get myself back on the right road after making the wrong turn, I analyzed what went wrong and how I missed the turnoff. Bottom line - I was not paying attention. Surprise! Nothing new for me. I thought about how it must look to God when He shows us the way He wants us to follow but we make a wrong turn, either because we don't want to do things His way or we're not paying close enough attention. Either way, it can yield the same results -not good if you want to be a Christ follower. God, help me pay closer attention to Your revealed will and be a more attentive follower.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Day 3 - Julian to Brawley, CA

Today was a study in contrasts as we traveled 74 miles to Brawley. We started the morning in 40 degree weather at a 4300 foot elevation and dropped 4500 feet to beneath sea level in the desert, where temps climbed to almost 90 degrees. We started in a lush green mountain landscape and ended up in a barren desert for about 40 miles just outside Brawley. I reached a speed of just under 44 mph coming down the mountain and averaged over 20 mph for the first 37 miles. That's pretty good for me and an illustration of the long downhill we enjoyed. We were able to stop where the truck with our gear was in order to remove our  cold weather riding clothes to something more acclimated to the desert temps. As I moved into the desert I was struck with how barren it was. No water, no houses, a lot of sand and scrub brush. It reminded me of the wilderness where the Israelites spent 40 years learning the lessons God wanted them to learn. As I looked across the desert I imagined what it must have been like to have perhaps 2 million Israelites making their home there while wandering for 40 years. It painted a graphic picture in my mind and provided a much clearer picture of the extremely difficult task that Aaron and Moses had. I asked God to help me learn the lessons He wants me to learn without having to spend an entire generation stubbornly resisting Him.

I'm showing you a picture of a couple guys that remind me of someone else. I am sure you have run into people that remind you of friends or acquaintances. Well, Andy and Gary are two of those guys. Andy reminds me of my good friend Tom B. at church in his appearance, voice and mannerisms. Gary reminds me of the trainer, Bob Harper, on the TV show "Biggest Loser". Yes, I do watch that show occasionally. I thought it was very kind of God to give me a guy who reminds me of a good friend while on the trip.
Andy on the left and Gary on the right

Day 3 Pictures - Julian to Brawley, CA

Julian to Brawley - looking ahead
Julian to Brawley - looking behind

Julian to Brawley

Julian to Brawley - the desert

The miracle of irrigation in the desert

Julian to Brawley

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Day 2 - Pictures - Escondido to Julian

Sunday Morning in Escondido Before the Ride

Escondido To Julian

Nice riding shoulders

Pie in Julian, a Wheels Tradition

Escondido to Julian

Day 2 - Granny Gears and Mazda Miatas

Polly's brother-in-law Myron
The route from Escondido to Julian was only about 36 miles. That was the good news. The bad news was that it was mostly uphill. Thank you, Lord, for granny gears that allow you to motor up hills more comfortably than one otherwise could. Granny gears are the lowest gears on your bike. I have 30 gears to choose from and I was on the next to the lowest. There was a stretch several miles long that was winding, narrow with not much shoulder. We were on that stretch the same time a local car club of souped up Mazda Miatas decided to conduct a road rally, busting around those hills like there was no tomorrow. However, they were as respectful to us riders as a car club can be and there were no incidents. Noticeable road kill today included a dead calf someone hit and a dead bobcat, something you don't see very often. We got outside Julian and noticed a whole squadron of sheriff cars and search vehicles, including ATVs and helicopter. I thought they were looking for an escaped convict. Instead, they were looking for a man who called in at 4:00 this morning who got lost in the mountains. I said a little prayer for him. I stopped at the Julian Pie Company, which has become a Wheels tradition over the years, and had a delicious piece of boysenberry apple crumb pie; definitely worth the stop. Weather was in the upper 50s and lower 60s, sometimes overcast, sometimes sunny; good temperatures for a day of climbing. The scenery was breathtaking with huge hills (we would call them mountains in Indiana) on both sides of the road alternating with beautiful, deep valleys on other stretches.
Again, click on the "map" to see our progress. If you click the + button and you are in satellite mode, you can zoom in and get a little bit better of an idea of the terrain.
Bob from AZ - 81 years young and still biking!

I continue to run into very interesting people on this trip. I am including a picture of Bob from AZ. Bob is 81 years old and probably put in more distance training than I did! He has bad knees and gimps along quite noticeably. But get a bicycle under him and his gimpy knees seem to disappear and his age is merely a number. BTW Polly, I did meet your brother-in-law Myron. These guys are amazing!

Devotional Thought: Already, I have been inspired and challenged by some of the people I am with. I hope that I have the "hutzpah" that some of these guys have when I am 75 or 80 (assuming the Lord lets me live that long) to even consider a ride across the street, let alone the country or to keep serving Him. These guys have learned to deal with their physical limitations and not let typical excuses that most of us would make and sit at home and wait to die at their age. It reminds me of Joshua and Caleb, who at a rather advanced age, still had the vision, passion and energy to claim God's promised land. God, don't let me make excuses!!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Day 1 - Carlsbad to Escondido

29 miles today. Nice, easy day. My speedometer decided to give me some problems but other than that everything was fine. Had a bike lane for most of the way. It appears that our riders are strong. Many of these riders have ridden coast to coast 3-5 times. My only claim to fame is that no one  had more time pass between crossings (37 years) and no one (except coach) rode any earlier than the mid-eighties.The scenery is beautiful, so unlike Indiana (not that Indiana is ugly, just different). As I get to know these people, there are many interesting stories. I roomed with Bob from Goshen last night. I told him I was riding for the Amanda Gives Back Foundation. He is a four time cancer survivor; two bouts with lung cancer and two bouts with kidney cancer. He has ridden across 4 or 5 times. It makes my adventure pale in comparison, but I'm not complaining! We are staying in a nice church with plenty of room in their fellowship hall. A two inch foam pad is my mattress for most of the trip but I am sure that it will not negatively impact my sleep since I can sleep anywhere, any time (I hear a big Amen from my wife).

The Pacific Beach in Carlsbad, CA 3/26/11

I encourage you to follow the map I put together of our trip. Just click on the word  "map" to view it. I will change the push pins to a green bicycle when we make that day's destination. If you click on the push pin or bicycle, it will show you the day's distance traveled and the cumulative distance traveled.

Devotional Thought:

When in San Diego yesterday, I visited a church called The Rock. It's where my nephew is Outreach Pastor. When he showed me his church he continually shared how the way the church is built and landscaped tells the story of God's love expressed to us through His Son. Three huge palm trees overshadow the church representing Calvary's three crosses. Six palm trees in the garden stand for the six days of creation and an empty spot for God's rest on the seventh day. Inside, the auditorium doubles as a place to "prayer walk" with different "stations" representing God's work in history to bring redemption to us. The building blocks in the auditorium are covered with graffiti that, upon closer inspection, are really the prayers and praises of that particular faith community. It reminds me of Deut. 6:4-6 where we are to daily use life experiences to speak of God's faithfulness and love for us to those who come after us. What a practical way to tell the gospel story!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Delightfully Uneventful

I left this morning at 5:30 (thank you Beth Ann and Rebecca) for the airport in Indy and got on the flight without incidence. Some people thought I might have problems with security getting on a plane without any checked baggage, a one way ticket and, apparently with my new look, looking like a terrorist. The only mildly uncomfortable experience was being delayed in Chicago for an hour because there was a problem with the engine. Once in the air, the trip  was delightfully uneventful. I arrived in San Diego (weather in the upper 50s and wet) and met my nephew, who is an outreach pastor in a huge church (7000) that is pastored by Miles McPherson, a popular evangelical conference speaker. He showed me his church - impressive!

Now, for meeting the group. I am, without question, one of the youngest riders on the trip. Many are veterans of previous Wheels coast to coast trips. I would say the average age appears to be mid 60s. It will be very interesting when we start riding tomorrow to see what kind of riders they are. They are from all over the country - two from Alaska, one from California, two from Arizona, one from Ottawa, Ontario and two ladies all the way from Christchurch, New Zealand! Yes, I did say ladies. Of the roster of 36 on the trip, 13 of them are women. I am not sure how many will be riding the entire distance since some of them are support staff. My bike survived the drive out nicely and I am chomping at the bit to get started.Tomorrow is a short 23 mile "shakedown ride" to help establish pacing averages to begin dividing the group into smaller riding groups.

Devotional Thought: 

Today was overcast and rather dreary beneath the layer of clouds almost all the way. But it was an entirely different story as our plane cruised high over the layer of clouds. It was bright and shiny and just beautiful. It was nice to keep the contrast in perspective. As a follower of Christ, do I live beneath the clouds and allow it to negatively impact my life or do I practice living above the clouds as I remind myself that life in Christ can put a much more positive face on life? Food for thought. Lord willing, talk to you tomorrow.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Wow, was that a close shave!

Well, the adventure officially began at 3:00pm this afternoon. My good and gracious friend, Jack G., drove me to Carmel where I will stay with my daughter Beth Ann overnight. I was very pleased that my other two daughters came and joined me for dinner as well. Early tomorrow I will fly out of Indy and arrive in San Diego between 10:30 and 11:00 am. From there I will be driven to Carlsbad where we will start the ride on Saturday.
 I decided to go very low maintenance for the trip so I said goodbye to the beard and and hair on my head (what was left). I really like the look although it is a little breezy. I can't tell whether I look like Yul Brenner, Telly Savalas or one of those teletubbies. My wife says it reminds her of the old Woolly Willy toy where you take a magnetic wand and move metal shavings to create hair on Willy's bald pate. What do you think?
The new Jim Fair look

Me with my beautiful daughters, Beth Ann, Becca and Kristen

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Newspaper article

The South Bend Tribune did a nice little intro article on my coast to coast bike trip featuring the Amanda Gives Back Foundation. If you are interested you can click here "Article" to read it. This article is, I am told, a preview of the trip with a more substantial article to follow when I return. I would like to track donations by viewers to AGB by asking you to write in the memo portion of your check "coasttocoastjim" if you feel led to make a contribution. I would love to see my ride be worth something to the Amanda Gives Back Foundation. I fly out to San Diego on Friday and start the trip Saturday. I AM READY!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

First Phase in the Books

Wandering Wheels founder and director, Coach Bob Davenport.

Well, I managed to get everything I am taking on the trip into a 15" x 30" duffel bag and sleeping bag stuff sack! These bags are what I will live out of for six weeks beginning March 25th. Nan and I drove down to Upland, IN today just north of the Taylor University campus (my alma mater) and dropped my bike and gear off where it will be driven out to the west coast in a large box truck. From the pictures that Nan took you can get a little glimpse of the ministry that is called Wandering Wheels. Most interesting is the picture of the elderly gentleman. That is Bob Davenport, founder and director of Wandering Wheels. He has been across America 43 times on a bike and will be riding half-way on this their last cross country trip! He is an amazing man. I am sure I will have more stories in the days to come. Stay tuned.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Random Thoughts,etc.

First of all, let me invite you to Trinity Church on Sunday March 13th at 6:00pm for my presentation on the cross country bike trip. I promise I will try to keep it interesting.

From Alistair Begg's book, Made for His Pleasure comes this great quote from John Calvin "Man never achieves a clear knowledge of himself unless he has first looked upon God's face, and then descends from contemplating Him to scrutinize himself." Maybe another way of putting it is that perhaps we spend too much time contemplating who we are without contemplating whose we are.

Stopped by EmbroidMe and dropped riding shirts and a cap off to have the Amanda Gives Back patches sewn on. Finished getting all the business cards separated and ready for the trip. The cards promote the web site and this blog in case people are interested in following this blog.

Rode 31 miles today indoors, 31 outside yesterday and 104 for the week. Will try to get another 150 or so in before leaving March 24th for the trip. Stopped by Target and Staples to add miscellaneous things for the trip.

Went to Logan's tonight with my siblings and their families and shared a little bit about my trip. I really appreciate their interest and support. I had a good friend from the church, Jack, offer to drive me down to Indy to spend the night with my daughter before flying out the next day. His generosity means I won't need to leave my car there for who knows how long. Talked to the South Bend Tribune and they are interested in doing a story on my trip. Cool! There probably will be a short story simply announcing the trip before I leave and then a more complete story once I return. It will appear in the community or local section of the Tribune whenever they decide to run it.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Ride Handout

Here is a picture of the business size card I plan on handing out to the people I come in contact with on the trip. Very basic. Very simple and to the point. Hopefully, it fulfills an important role for the Amanda Gives Back Foundation.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Duffel bag living

Besides the challenge of getting conditioned for a 2600 mile cross country ride is the challenge of figuring out how much gear you will need for 6 weeks of cycling and how much you will even be allowed to take. Wandering Wheels has been taking riders across America since 1967 and so they have a real good idea of how much a rider "really" needs. Besides taking a tent for a few nights of camping we were issued a stuff bag to put our bedroll items in and a 15' x 30" duffel bag to put everything else in. Everything we take for the ride will have to fit in both of those bags! Well, those bags came in the mail yesterday and I am happy to report that everything I was wanting to take will easily fit. Of course, I have learned over many years of riding how to travel light and what the essentials are. That's part of the appeal this trip has for me. I like the idea of traveling light and not cluttering my life with non-essentials. There are so many parallels I keep noticing between this trip and the Christian life. I am sure God will keep on revealing even more parallels once the trip actually starts. I am pumped!!