Saturday, April 30, 2011

Day 36 - Greenville to Luverne, AL

Today was just 28 miles because we do not have a day off between now and next Thursday, the last day of the trip.  We have one more light day on Monday (37 miles) to compensate for no day off. Today's weather was ideal with moderate temps, winds and hills. My friend Adam joined me for the ride and although he had way too much energy for me, we had a great time catching up with each other after about eight years and solving the world's problems.

Yet another rider, Tom from Birmingham, joined us today and will ride again tomorrow. What was interesting is that he walked up to me and told me he how much he enjoyed this blog. I asked him how he knew about my blog. Marilyn, our cook on the trip. gave him the address and so he started following it! I'm amazed how this blog has taken legs and gone further than I could have ever imagined.

Devotional Thought:
I would like to remind you to think about making a contribution to I opened up my computer this morning to see a post from Christine, Amanda's mom. She thanked me for trying to help raise money for Amanda Gives Back and then shared a piece of information that shaped my emotions for the rest of the day and reminded me that the sense of loss never goes away. She shared that today would have been Amanda's 16th birthday. Please pray for the family as they absorb the "what could have/ should have beens" of a young lady who passed way too early.

On another note, Coach shared quite an inspiring story of how uniquely God uses Wandering Wheels in the lives of its participants. A number of years ago a 15 or 16 year old named Rex joined the coast to coast team to ride. The minute Rex opened his mouth Coach knew this was going to be a challenging trip. Rex had a profound stuttering problem and could get very few words out without tripping over them. His problem made him somewhat of an outcast among the rest of the young riders. Amazingly a group of the youngest and most immature boys agreed to take Rex under wing for the rest of the trip. They had a rather unflattering and offensive nickname for Rex, "Dumb Rex", but that was better than not having their company. These boys, in their youthful exuberance, loved to look for livestock along the route, especially pigs, and stir them up to get them to run. When they encountered a bunch of pigs behind a fence row the boys would yell "Pig,pig, pig" at the top of their lungs. To their delight, those pigs would begin scurrying about. Rex was used to riding at the back of the group and one day they rode past a herd of pigs that the other boys apparently did not see. Rex could hardly contain himself because he didn't want to let this opportunity pass that the other boys missed. So, almost out of a sense of duty and excitement, Rex blurted out the word "Pig!" and sent the pigs scurrying about as usual. The boys were impressed. What was even more impressive was that one single word blurted out almost spontaneously altered Rex's life forever. Somehow, in God's good providence and mercy, Rex's stuttering nightmare ended at that very instant! His parents had spent thousands and thousands of dollars to try to get help for Rex and nothing worked. However, a Wheels coast to coast trip, some rowdy, immature teenage boys and a herd of pigs were the instruments that God used to deliver Rex from his lifetime bondage to stuttering. You can imagine how flabbergasted his dad was when he went to pick up his son on the trip's last day. Rex greeted him with the simple yet flawless greeting, "Hi dad. It's good to see you." The family was so grateful to Wheels for what the trip accomplished in their son's life that they very generously and gratefully wrote a check to Wheels for $20,000 to say thank-you!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Day 35 - Linden to Greenville, AL

Today was an 88 mile day for the riders. Since it was over 85 miles I decided to ride the extra miles and get the century. Actually, the total was 103. Because of the extra miles my bike odometer has passed 2200 miles. That was my 6th century of the trip with one more possibility coming again next week. The day was a picture perfect day to be riding; low humidity, temps in the mid 70s, sunny, beautiful roads and a slight tailwind. The only negatives on the day were logging trucks and very rolling roads, but even they were tolerable.

We have now started the "week of lasts". Today was the last Friday we will ride on the trip, tomorrow the last Saturday, etc. I am looking forward to next Thursday when the trip will be over and to seeing Nan and my brother Phil in Brunswick. Tomorrow is a short day of 25-30 miles to sort of make up the fact that we do not get a day off until the trip ends. My friend Adam, who is a professor of law at Faulkner College in Montgomery, will be joining me tomorrow on the short ride to Luverne, When I met Adam he was a graduate law student at Notre Dame who attended Trinity and for a time directed our choir. Since then he married Kate and has two very beautiful little girls. It will be great catching up on the years we haven't had a chance to visit.

You might want to keep Bob from Goshen in your prayers. He is our four-time cancer survivor who has been unable ride for several days.Because he is living with only about one fourth to one third of his pancreas his blood sugar had been hard to keep in adjustment, especially with the physical activity that riding demands. I know he is chomping at the bit to get back on his bike and get his health issues in the rear view mirror.

The Alabama River at this point makes the Mississippi look second rate.

This picture is just to the right of the one above.

The greenery is along side the road and hides what logging has done to a lot of the forests in the background - not very pretty.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Day 34 - Meridian, MS to Linden, AL

Day 33 was 62 miles long. It started out rather coolish at about 54 degrees but with sunshine and a wonderful north westerly wind. Prevailing west winds have been hard to come by on this trip and we made the most of it by making short work of today's mileage. We enjoyed more country-like riding although we have had to contend with more logging trucks today than the entire ride combined so far. We had a brand new stretch of highway to ride on that was still closed to the public. Perfect pavement and no traffic but, being the legalist that I am, I did not take it. We said goodbye to MS and its poor roads about 20 miles into today's ride and welcomed Alabama. It did not take us long to realize that Alabama roads appear to be the best toads we have ridden on the ride so far. So, I send a shout out to my brother-in-law and his wife, Jeff and Bridgette who live in Cullman, for their helping to make Alabama roads the best so far.

I need to make a correction from yesterday's post for getting names and spelling incorrect. My apologies to the people of Fowler, MI and especially the mayor and his wife (as I found out later) Vern and Bonnie Thelen. So I have corrected it and hope you are willing to forgive my faux pas.

For the people of Circleville, OH, I have to tell you about Myron's (aka Speedy) day. Myron is a good, strong rider but usually is a perennial tail-ender on many days. However, today was different. I am usually a top five first arriver to each day's destination. However, on this day, as I rode to the church at the end of the ride there was Speedy! His smile and sense of achievement covered his entire face. I think finishing this well was part of his bucket list for the trip. To punctuate the experience, Speedy asked coach if he would "yell" at him for getting in too early. Coach gladly accommodated and Speedy's day was complete! I reminded him that we start all over again tomorrow. I don't believe it even phased Speedy. Nothing will diminish his accomplishment of today!

Devotional Thought:
This has been a very difficult and tragic week for many in the South with the severe storms and tornadoes that have struck recently. Tuscaloosa and Birmingham, AL are the latest towns to be devastated by tornadoes. Tuscaloosa is about 50 miles north of us right now. We have seen God's good grace and mercy in protecting us from wildfires in the west and now from the severe weather that was probably closer to us than we realized. We had three nights in the last week where we had damaging winds and heavy thunderstorms while we safely rested in the protection of a building overnight. Imagine if we had been on the road trying to deal with this weather? This is not coincidence!! It is just another example of a loving God putting a "hedge" around us in the midst of the storm!
Glad to see Alabama

This General Store in Jefferson was the only place to eat between Meridian and Linden

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Day 33 - Pelahatchie to Meridian, MS

Today was a 69 mile day and the terrain and weather read like a broken record.from the last few days. Once again we had a fierce overnight thunder storm and high winds but woke up to clearing skies with promising dry weather and the hint of a tailwind. However, our rainless riding streak came to an end after lunch with off and on rain showers that actually felt pretty good. We got a couple pretty good downpours and then the weather would clear off and dry us. The tailwind that was hinted at by the Weather Channel really didn't develop until the ride was almost over.

We added a couple of riders, I  believe, for the day. Vern and Bonnie from Fowler, MI drove down on their way to Texas to visit with Richard and Rosie. Vern paid me a nice compliment about this blog and how members of their riding club are tuned in. Thank you for vicariously being a part of our trip! It was nice to get in a little early at the end of the ride today to get some bonus time that allows me to not be rushed while I blog.

I included a picture of my good friends George and Fran from Madison, MS. We enjoyed catching each other up after almost 20 years since we last saw each other. They were a part of the little church I pastored in Atlanta, TX and then subsequently moved to MS to pursue new work and to be a little closer to family. I have always respected how they raised their family and how God's blessing is upon them, their children and grandchildren. They are a great model of how to raise children correctly in the Lord.
George and Fran - I enjoyed fellowshipping with them over lunch and dinner yesterday and catching up.

I couldn't resist. Apparently this is a church for the weight challenged or for the people of Chunky, MS.

Devotional Thought:

I have discovered that I am a more content rider when I ride alone. Even though I can ride with a group if required I prefer to ride alone. I find that it is easier for me to center my thoughts on God when I am not distracted by other riders. With that said, it still takes quite a bit of discipline to center my mind on God. Some days are easier than others to do so. Even when I am in normal life, I find it still takes discipline to pursue solitude and focus on the One who made me and who desires my company. But once I have fought to discipline myself to enjoy His presence, it never disappoints! Isa. 49:23, "those who hope in me will not be disappointed.”

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Day 32 - Vicksburg to Pelahatchie, MS

Today was about a 70 mile day. Temps in the low 80s, rolling hills, heavy crosswinds. I think I said the same thing yesterday. Except that we dodged stormy weather from overnight that took out the power at the church last night and was predicted for the day. We saw evidence of the ferocity of last night's storm in the downed limbs, branches and, in some cases, trees.

I had the privilege to meet with George for lunch today. George, his wife Frances and their family attended the church I pastored in Atlanta, TX over 20 years ago. We had a great time catching up with each other since we have not had much conversation in those 20 years. They invited me to dinner tonight (still in the future as of this writing) where Frances can join us as well. George showed me some of the tornado damage that was wrought in Jackson on April 15th. It definitely was a tornado judging from the damage I saw.

US Highway 80 was a study in contrasts today as it alternated from a frontage road for Interstate 20, to a small early 20th century-like two lane road barely worthy of the name, to a divided 4 lane highway with a lot of businesses on it and busy traffic. Personally, I liked the frontage road because it was nestled in the woods with not much traffic on it.

Devotional Thought:

Yesterday I ran into a couple people at a Popeyes Chicken over lunch. Sarah, a lady probably in her late 40s or early 50s came up to me and gave me a contribution (which I quickly passed off to coach sitting at the table next to me) and began telling her story. She was a survivor of neck cancer so she spoke with the notable paralysis that came from her surgery and mild facial disfiguration. But she was happy to be alive and shared a little bit of her faith story. She really appreciated what we were doing and wanted to simply "check us out". An elderly white man and his Afro-American caretaker also came in about the same time. Coach asked her a rather personal question: "Describe your relationship with this man as his caretaker." She replied, "I treat him like my father." Even in the south where vestiges of racial discrimination still live on, it was refreshing to see her answer transcend stereotypes and prejudice. I am sure that her heart was committed to being Christ's ambassador wherever she found herself.

We all have stories to tell and share. Part of being a Christ follower is that we take those opportunities and ask God to use our stories to impact for His glory the people we share them with. Are you a story teller of your faith adventures?

Day 32 Pictures - Vicksburg, to Pelahatchie, MS

Audrey, our support driver, says this is Mississippi's version of Devils Tower. Looks to me like a large anthill.

Click on this picture to enlarge it. This is what kudzu does when it overtakes an area.

More kudzu

Purple flowers along the highway.

Close up.

Closer up. I can't focus it with my camera.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Day 31 - Monroe, LA to Vicksburg, MS

Well, they've already turned lights out for the night and it's only 8:00 CST! So I'll make this brief. You didn't hear from me yesterday because we had a day off. Trust everyone had a wonderful Resurrection Sunday! Today was an 85 mile day in the lower 80s with winds out of the south at 15-25 mph. The crosswinds were somewhat neutralized due to the mostly tree lined roads we were on. Where we had no trees the winds were nasty. Today's excitement came in crossing the mighty Mississippi River. Wheels had been negotiating for months with the bridge commissioner to allow us to use a restricted bridge that runs beside the usual bridge the interstate uses. It would have been real testy to be on the same bridge the interstate traffic uses. We were granted permission and the ride across was great. Despite the 84 miles today everyone looked to survive the mileage in good shape. We now have only 10 days of riding left and about 600 miles. My odometer is parked on 1899 miles for the trip so far. That's it for tonight. On to Pelahatchie tomorrow and a possible visit with friends who live very close to our route. Take care, talk to you tomorrow.

Day 31 Pictures - Monroe, LA to Vicksburg, MS

This is how I envision the Louisiana bayous

One more pic.

Waiting for the bridge commissioner to open a restricted bridge to cross the Mississippi River

The bridge is over a mile long

This is the bridge before the real bridge.

Now we're on the big bridge.

The mighty Mississippi River

The ubiquitous casinos all along the Mississippi.

Good bye Louisiana. 

Interstate traffic used the bridge at left, we used the one on the right.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Day 29 - Minden to Monroe, LA

Today was an 80 mile day. It was supposed to be a 75 mile day but Jim and I got turned around at the beginning of the day and found ourselves heading back to Shreveport before we got straightened out. It's much more inconvenient to correct a wrong turn when on a bike! We had a really nice day and the crosswind was somewhat inhibited by roads protected on both sides by trees that acted like a windbreak. Today we rode past Grambling University, an Afro American school known for it's strong football program and Hall of Fame coach Eddie Robinson. A little further east we rode past Louisiana Tech, which also has a football tradition and is where Hall of Fame quarterbackTerry Bradshaw played football.

Even though I know I've said this about almost every state we've ridden in so far, Louisiana has the roughest roads yet. I am really surprised that our bikes have held together as well as they have. There were some really bone jarring experiences with these roads. I'm glad we will be leaving the state on Monday. And for the first time we found ourselves being chased by dogs - even one "friendly" pit bull. (I could tell by the smile on his face :)

Some of the riders are battling respiratory issues, whether it's allergies, colds or sore throats. So far, I have remained healthy which is really a praise!

If you are following along with this blog and are in the South Bend area, I would love to have the opportunity to share my coast to coast trip with as many groups as possible, like Rotary or Kiwanis Clubs, churches or Sunday School classes, Seniors groups and more. It will give me a better platform to also promote the Amanda Gives Back Foundation. I would love to see thousands of dollars raised for AGB as a result of my coast to coast trip. I imagine that donations may increase after our trip is over. Please pray that at least donations from my trip will easily make possible the purchase of a jukebox for one of the local hospitals to help take kid's minds off of cancer.

I would also like to take a minute and acknowledge my middle daughter Rebecca's 21st birthday today. She is finishing up her junior year at Purdue in nursing and I am very proud of her! Happy Birthday, Becca!

Devotional Thought:

Tomorrow is resurrection Sunday when we celebrate our Lord's incredible sacrifice to make it possible to redeem us and reconcile God back to us. Please make every effort to be in church and celebrate with other Christ followers what He did for us. If Jesus had done nothing more than die for our sins, it would have been enough, but He did so much more than that. We are eternally indebted to His grace and mercy and great sacrifice to do for us what we could not do for ourselves. Thank you, Jesus!!!

Cleaning our bike's  drive train is non-negotiable, minimally once per week.

Everyone is required to service their own bike!

Day 26 Pictures - Mesquite to Mineola, TX

Below are some of the pictures from day 26 that I was not able to upload due to a weak internet connection.

Some of Ladybird Johnson's wildflower beautification efforts alongside Texas roads.


This picture in a DQ reminded me of what the first Wheels trip might have looked like at one of their favorite stops.

This is the "Salt Palace" in Grand Saline, TX, home of the Morton Salt Co. and one of the largest salt mines in the world. The exterior of this building is made entirely of salt.

Here is a closeup of one of the blocks of salt from the "Salt Palace".

This picture gives you an idea of the size of the salt mine.

Grand Saline was also the home of adventurer Wiley Post, who died in a plane crash with Will Rogers.

In the church we stayed in in Mineola, we were treated to a spontaneous piano concert by Ken, a very accomplished musician.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Days 27,28 Mineola to Marshall to Minden, TX

Yesterday our trip from Mineola to Marshall was 65 miles. Once again our day started out overcast and a little misty. But by noon it cleared and we enjoyed 80-85 degree weather the rest of the day. What we are now seeing in the topography are rolling hills which, for me, is some of the most undesirable riding because it can last all day long. That was our day yesterday, up and down. The highlight of the day for me was being able to visit with my good friends from the little church in Atlanta, TX that I pastored for four years. I had the privilege to perform their wedding and so there is a special bond with Ed and Sherry. I was not able to post anything last night because they treated me to dinner at a nice Italian restaurant and our conversation left no time or posting.

Today's ride from Marshall to Minden, LA marked the completion of our ride through Texas and a new state in Louisiana. It was a very pretty ride on a less congested road part of the way. Instead of scenery, pictures now display scenes of Americana, like the T.C. Lindsey Country Store that has been in business for 160 years and is managed by the family's 7th generation! There was a tremendous amount of history in that store that a camera does not do justice to. However, the highlight of my day was reacquainting myself with Dave, my best friend from my 1974 coast to coast trip. He got word of my blog through a friend of my friend and called the house and got my information. He and his wife live in Shreveport, which we passed through today, so we not only connected but he rode with me this afternoon the 30 miles into Minden on the same bike he took in 1974, wearing the same riding jersey we wore in 74! How did he do that?  Great memories renewed!

Devotional Thought:

Psalm 25:4,5 says "Show me the right path, O Lord; point out the road for me to follow. Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you." I shared this passage with you I believe yesterday and reflected on it once again in the last 24 hours. This wonderful passage of Scripture has such a parallel with our ride that I decided this is the perfect theme verse for my ride. I am going to try and memorize this passage and encourage you to memorize it too. Whether you are on a bike ride or not, we all are looking for direction from God to point the way He wants us to travel. Go for it!

Days 27,28 Pictures - Mineola to Marshall to Minden, LA

US Highway 59 takes us to Atlanta, TX where I pastored a small EFC church for 4 years 1986-90.

The school gymnasium was home for us on Thursday night.

The lady (lower right) was freehand painting a mural of the school's mascot on one of the gym''s walls.

Ed and Sherry are one of the couples in the Atlanta church whose wedding I performed. We enjoyed dinner and catching up on the last 20 years over dinner in a delicious little Italian restaurant.

This is the kind of pavement marker that Wheels puts on the pavement to  keep us routed in the right direction.

This little country store and the pictures below are from Jonesville, TX. This store has been in business 160 years!
A 450 lb. bale of cotton like they used to bale it.

The man on the left is the 7th generation of the original owners of the store.

Knick Knacks from the store

East Texas topography is much different than West Texas

Finally done with Texas, which went better than I would have anticipated.

Dave and Jeri. Dave rode with me coast to coast in 1974. His shirt is the one we rode with in 74. 
This is Dave's bike, the same one he rode in 1974! It's about 35 lbs. worth of sturdy but old technology.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Day 26 - Mesquite to Mineola, TX

Today was a 76 mile day. I have a very weak signal so I will have no pictures tonight. An unwanted visitor showed up this morning in the form of a misting rain and 64 degrees. It misted off and on throughout the morning and then disappeared without getting us very wet, but it was a bit chilly. We also sampled some of the best of Texas' highways this week with some of the smoothest roads since beginning the trip and some of the worst roads we've ridden on as well. Today we had some bone-rattling roads that made it feel you were in France on some of the old cobblestone roads. It was a great test for our bikes' durability and our patience.

Some of today's highlights:

  • Having lunch today in Grand Saline. Grand Saline is the home of one of the largest salt mines in the world owned by Morton Salt Company. They have a building called the Salt Palace where the exterior is built entirely of salt blocks.
  • We went to a hardware store to have pie in Mineola. It's an old fashioned hardware store that also has a small restaurant in it. Peach cobbler a la mode has few calories in it when you ride 75 miles for it.
  • The church we are spending the night in is Smith Chapel UMC about 5 miles out of Mineola. For a small church it is a very charming church with brand new pews and carpet in the sanctuary and a brand new Yamaha baby grand they've had for just one week. This is the church that when they added a fellowship hall several years ago they also built showers in their restrooms to specially accommodate The Wheels trips! Their youth department treated us to a brief handbell concert and then we moved to the sanctuary where one of their seniors entertained us with a wonderful informal concert on their new piano. He was a very impressive pianist who can play about anything.
  • I almost forgot to mention that the ladies of the church put on a great dinner spread for us. None of us left hungry for sure!
Tomorrow we are riding 62 miles to Marshall where I will get to see some friends from Atlanta, TX where I pastored a small EFC church in the late 80s, also called Trinity EFC.

Devotional Thought:

Psalm 25:4,5 says "Show me the right path, O Lord; point out the road for me to follow. Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you." Yesterday when we were making our way through Fort Worth, Arlington, Grand Prairie and Dallas I was not overly confident that I was following the correct route. In fact I probably spent about half  the day being a Wondering Wheel instead of a Wandering Wheel. Then I came upon the Wheels painted road marker pointing out the right way and my uncertainty vanished. I had been on the right path all along but seeing the Wheels marker brought about great peace of mind. After reading this wonderful Psalm and combining it with this trip, I have a greater appreciation for the analogy the psalmist uses. "All day long I put my hope in you."

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Day 25 - Weatherford to Mesquite, TX

Today was a 75 mile day and much more manageable than yesterday. The weather was not quite as hot and the wind was more favorable plus we didn't have to concern ourselves with detours. We bid our 4 part-time riders adieu this morning so it was a smaller group since they joined us in Alamogordo. We were either riding Interstate 20 (when we didn't have frontage roads) frontage roads along 20 or the streets of Fort Worth, Arlington, Grand Prairie, Dallas or Mesquite all day. Fortunately, the traffic was manageable and drivers were very respectful of our presence.

I officially ran into my first dead armadillo today. I am sure that I will see many more before we leave Texas. We spent a fair amount of time in downtown Dallas today and visited the old book depository where Oswald shot President Kennedy. There is an "X" that marks the exact spot on the street where Kennedy was shot and the 6th floor of the former book depository is now a museum. The 6th floor is where Oswald was when he shot the president. We also rode past the Texas State Fairgrounds where the Cotton Bowl is located, which is somewhat small potatoes compared to the new Cowboys Stadium, which we passed riding through Arlington. It is much more impressive than it appears on TV.

Devotional Thought:

Nothing profound tonight except that I think it is definitely a minor miracle to get 30 riders through the streets of Forth Worth, Arlington, Grand Prairie, Dallas and Mesquite safely. Janet fell for the 5th time on this trip but she keeps bouncing back up. Fortunately, her fall was not in a place where she could have fallen in heavy traffic. Those little blessings (not Janet falling, but God's protection) keep happening almost day after day. It requires major concentration and confidence to maneuver through city traffic in a town you are unfamiliar with while trying to not miss route markings that Wheels puts on the road to keep us on the right route. God is faithful and we can daily thank Him for His faithfulness for so many things.

Day 25 Pictures - Weatherford to Mesquite, TX

I forgot to add Joy the other day. She is our 2nd Kiwi from Christchurch, New Zealand and is a part-time rider and semi-full time support

This is the trailer map collage that grows after each day's adventures.

We rode right by the new Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.

A historic looking building in downtown Dallas that is actually a museum.

I am told the tower is an upscale restaurant

This is the infamous old book depository where Oswald shot  President Kennedy

Dallas skyline

This is the view the president would have had of the book depository if they had looked behind them.

The X in the street marks the spot that Kennedy was shot.

From another angle

The square window on the far right below the top floor is where Oswald made his fateful shot

This is part of Dealey Plaza looking toward the old book depository