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Three thousand miles, nine states, and seven weeks. This is not a trip. This is not a vacation. This is a journey, a moment that has been stretched over 55 days, a moment full of wisdom and frustrations, joys and irritation. Every day has been humbling and every conversation has left lasting impressions.
Today we rode into Yorktown, VA. After waking up at camp just 30 miles away from our ending location, we all took in the sweet taste of accomplishment, never forgetting for a second that it was not by our strength that we got here. Cameron’s dad was nice enough to drive support today so I was able to bike the whole day with the guys. I can not imagine a better way to end the trip. We all rode, enjoying every moment together, sharing stories and songs that have been replayed during the trip hundreds of times.
I won’t ever forget the sight of riding down the last hill, seeing our families and friends waving signs and sending cries of slurred congratulations. We made it. Our feet hit the sand and we took for the ocean, embracing every moment of hardship, cherishing every second of enjoyment, feeling it all come rushing over us as we dove into the water. At that moment no one else around existed. It was just us, seven men that pedaled into the unknown and made it to the other side.
We are not created for mediocrity. Our lives were meant to be used for great things. If this trip has taught me anything it is this:
Selfishness is a waste. We are not our own, and our gifts were blessings meant to bless other people’s lives. Time is a character that likes to play games. Sometimes we get sucked in to believing that we have all the time in the world to make a difference, but the truth is, every moment should be dedicated to bettering your surroundings. Humility is not a gift, it is learned. Service is to act against human nature, but the more we crush human nature, the more freedom we have to make a difference.
There are people I met on this journey that I will never forget. Although I could never describe the views I saw, or the people we talked to, or the deepest lessons I learned, I can live a life that expresses all of these.
I am not comfortable with being comfortable. I am not ok with settling. Mediocrity is excellence’s worst enemy, and I refuse to be enticed. Accomplishment is nothing if it is followed by nothing. “Our reach must exceed our grasp.”
Thank you to all who have kept up with us on this ride, to everyone who supported us, and to everyone affected by Alzheimer’s who have not given up. Your determination has been a light on the top of every mountain we climbed. We could never have done this without you. And God is the ultimate power that has bound us all, bringing us together to accomplish great things. This is the key to life: relationship.
The race is never finished.
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Today was a good day for the ride, difficult at points, bringing back the strain that has made this trip so worth while. Last night we stayed in Richmond with a fraternity brother’s parents who were gracious enough to cook us dinner and make up fresh beds for us. Mrs Lunceford even rode the first 15 miles with us today, which happened to be the hardest 15 miles we’ve had in weeks!
Funny story: I’ve gotten into a bad habit of leaving things places where I forget about them. After having Pizza Hut for lunch in Danville, KY yesterday, I managed to forget our video camera..turning last night into an irritating 2 hour round trip to retrieve the lost camera. But in spite of the annoyance I felt at having to drive when all I wanted to do was sit and relax, my “big bro” Wade and I got to spend a couple of hours talking about things we have never really talked about before, learning a lot about each other.
I can’t help but realize that every day out here is a humbling experience. My position on this trip is one that provides me the opportunity to serve in every moment of every day. I’m not sure I realized until this summer how much I struggle with humility and serving with no expectation of getting anything in return. The time I’ve spent with these six guys has been fun but also testing. I’m thankful for every one of these opportunities.
I look at the guys every day and am amazed at how far we have come. To think that just over a month ago we were on the beach in California, and that in two days time we will be in the state of Virginia, leaves me in awe. I wish I would be able to remember every funny moment, every perfect view, and every person we’ve met. But I know that this trip goes far beyond things like these, things that can fade. This ride is much bigger than me. It will go far beyond this summer. And my hope is that the impact we’ve made on this world can be even half that of the impact the trip will leave on us.
We have all been pushed to limits, different ones claiming each of us. Life is not about the challenges that present themselves. It’s about the way you deal with these challenges, and the outcomes you as an individual create. I have heard it said that “friendship is the sweetest influence.” Sometimes I feel that attitude goes hand in hand with the thing we define as friendship. Relationships are the biggest part of life. I believe it is the very reason we are all on this earth. As God is, by nature, in constant relationship with himself, we should always be in relationship with him and the people around us. I have seen across this country that we as humans are bound by more than common similarities. There are things that go beyond our understanding, things God has placed in each of us that connect us.
We have been gifted, blessed. We have been given opportunities. The way a person responds to their opportunities can greatly affect the rest of their life. Every moment should be spent enjoying the blessings you have been given, and turning those into blessings for other people.
“What are you man if you do not learn love.”
My Old Kentucky Home:
It feels great to be back in the Bluegrass, even smells like home. Yesterday we made the journey from Illinois to Kentucky on a ferry that carried us across the Ohio River. After reaching the other side we all made it a point to mark our territory…by peeing in the grass. Spirits were high as we strolled through more familiar territory and last night made us feel more at home than any place on this trip. We were fortunate enough to stay at a friend’s house just outside Owensboro. The Paulsen’s cooked up a massive amount of food and the riders feasted, thankful for the chance to relax and play some corn hole!
After a good night sleep in the air condition, a commodity we have been spoiled with as of late, we set out at 7 this morning. Before starting the ride today, we were interviewed by a reporter for the McClean County newspaper AND we were interviewed as a group on a local radio station. It’s awesome to see the attention our cause is getting as we get closer to home and closer to our final destination. Kentucky really is the best..
At our second stop of the day, in Whitesville, a lady named Norma Henry met up with us to ride alongside the riders for the rest of the day. Norma is from Bowling Green and is an avid cyclist. She was incredibly encouraging and very inspirational in the way she showed support. Her story is intense and touching but she would hardly let us ask questions about her, trying always to keep the focus of the day on us. But it is people like Norma that keep us going every day, people that support us and have never met us, people that have a heart for our cause. She was diagnosed as a terminal cancer patient in 2008, after different attempts at fighting the disease. However, she refused to let this beat her, refused to give up. She turned to Livestrong and found clinical trials that she was willing to try in a heart beat. She had a clean scan two weeks ago! Thank God, because this world needs more people like Norma Henry.
Stories like this keep us going every day, knowing there are people who face much worse than we may ever face. Many times we let our circumstances define us. Our attitudes are so easily affected by the conditions around us. Norma didn’t let her grim circumstances define her. She let her experience define her. What she went through will most likely surpass any struggle I will ever have. However, her attitude was one that refused to give up, refused to give in. Life is full of situations that beg us to cave in. Who we are in those situations will make us the person we become.
There is no greater feat than that of staring fear in the eyes and refusing to be afraid.
Two weeks from now we will stand on the coast of Virginia, looking back on the past two months and trying to remember every moment that’s transpired, failing miserably. But over time we will recall the important moments; and always, always, we will have the experience.
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Hey everybody, today’s entry will encompass a few days all put together, so don’t be confused if I say yesterday and it was actually a few days ago:
USA USA!!! Yesterday was a day of celebration, as USA pulled out a win against the Algerians in our third World Cup game! Yesterday was also pretty out of the ordinary for us. We fnished 45 miles by lunch and decided to drive in to Springfield, MO to check out the largest Bass Pro Shops store in the country…well worth it! We finished our impulse trip to BP and hit the nearest Barnes and Noble for some good relaxation and reading. It was nice to take a break from the business and the sun.
It blows my mind the amount of people we’ve met on this trip. Two nights ago we stayed in a city park in Ash Grove, MO and met an older man from St Louis, who was biking across country. We all went out to eat at a local Chinese restaurant, which was an experience all in its own. Last night we stayed on the lawn in front of the Courthouse in Hartville, MO and met another biker, our age, from Savannah, GA. He was an interesting guy and it was cool hearing his story. Riding to promote Green Energy, he set out with a partner a month ago and has been on his own since day nine of his ride. Last night I got to talk to an Amish man right before we got into Hartville. He was one of the most interesting people I’ve talked to so far, barefoot and wearing home made clothes, he seemed to be completely unaffected by the distractions that tend to plague my life.
Yesterday we made it to Farmington, MO where the Alzheimer’s Association was nice enough to pay for us to stay in a local bike hostel. This place looks more like a NY city loft and we were even fortunate enough to have an event today, leaving tons of leftover food and drinks! I think the most surprising thing for me on this trip so far is seeing how nice strangers can be. So many people have helped us out by giving us food or a place to stay and it’s been very encouraging.
I wish I had enough time to write about every person we meet. There are so many cool stories out there and this world is full of people pushing the limits, not comfortable with sitting around and watching life happen. I know that we only have three weeks left, all of which will go by fast, maybe too fast. The hardest part of this trip for me has been balancing the taking in of all this beauty and all of the stories, while still having time to try and document every moment, hoping I won’t forget anything we’ve experienced. I know there will be details that are forgotten over the years, faces that blur as time moves them further away, and views that are simply too perfect for my mind to do justice.
But I hope the things I learn while I’m out here will never go to waste, will always keep me mindful of what is important. Life is full of memories that fade, but experience is what makes those memories, and that should never fade.
I’m looking forward to getting into KY on Tuesday and riding through our lovely home state! Everyone that has supported us along the way have been great and I don’t think we could have done this trip without it. But we still have three weeks so keep checking up on us and we’ll make sure we make it to VA by July 16!
More now than ever:
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On the road again!
I met the guys in Wichita, Kansas two days ago on their rest day. After enjoying a nice night in a hotel bed we hit the road at 6 am on Sunday, headed for Toronto. The guys finished early and we had a chance to sit around at our campground most of the day. I filled my time by getting lost in the world of Harry Potter and enjoying the beautfiul lakeside view we had from our campsite..quite a day!
It’s funny to be back on this trip. Sometimes it feels like I was never gone and other times it seems like I have started a whole new journey. Either way, the riders have done an amazing job getting this far, over half way and still moving!
When we were in the hot tub at the hotel on my first night back, we got to talk to a man with a pretty cool story. He and his family were in the process of moving to Prescott, AZ. It was ironic that we had just passed through there a couple of weeks earlier and this was a great opening to a conversation. I have a tattoo of a Chi Rho cross on my back and after seeing it, he asked us about religion. He told us a cool story of how God came back into his life after recent doubt…> A couple of years ago he was seriously contemplating whether or not he even believed God existed. He made a deal with him, saying if God sent him a Hawk he would know it was a sign that he existed and cared about him. Two years passed, but while on vacation not long ago this man came across a small nest of birds on the ground that had fallen from the tree shadowing it. The man immediately recognized the birds as Hawks (he knew a lot more about birds than I do). He and his brother raised these birds and fed them until they were strong enough to fly away. The birds found their way back to the man a couple of weeks later, landed on his arm and stayed long enough for another goodbye, and then flew away for good.> It’s interesting to hear stories of people making deals with God. Not every time does God return such a direct request. However, his divine nature can make the most random of circumstances chances to show his power.
We haven’t been praying for direct signs like the man I met the other day, but we do pray every morning that our ride impacts the people we meet. It is clear from the conversations we have had while trekking across country that God has a desire to show us the impact we’re making. Every conversation is laced with meaning and every opportunity we have taken to tell about our journey has been blessed with good conversation.
As humans we are made for relationship. God himself is in constant relationship, with himself. It is inate and it is necessary for our survival. This trip is so cool because it continues to show us that we are all connected through common experience. After all, it is our experiences that define us.
I pray my experiences will always define me, and that they will all be worth being defined by.
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Late night in Colorado Springs! It’s been a rough day in comparison to the beginning of the week. The guys rode 114 miles today, biking on terrain that turned to hills that rolled as far as you could see and cross-winds that would nearly knock you off your bike. But as always, they pushed through it and we made it to Colorado Springs late tonight! Every day I’m inspired by each of them and their devotion to this trip.
Every morning we dedicate the day of riding to a specific individual that we have come into contact with, someone who has either been directly affected by Alzheimer’s or were close to someone affected by the disease. This morning we rode for William Graubard. We met his son in the beginning of the ride while riding through Arizona, and got to hear his story of his father’s struggle with Alzheimer’s. William Graubard was a WWII veteran. He had early onset Alzheimer’s and the side effects were evident. His son said he would drive to work in the mornings in a car pool, but sometimes miss the turn to go to his office, never really noticing it until someone in the car pointed it out to him. He also said that his father began worrying about a lot of little things, something very out of character for him. William Graubard was completely brain dead by the age of 65 and finally passed away at the age of 70. Today we rode for him and his son.
It is easy to see the pain that this disease brings when you actually talk to people with stories like this. I have talked to so many people on this trip that have been directly affected by Alzheimer’s, usually a loved one of someone passed away. It is terrible the stories of people’s minds just deteriorating helplessly. I have a strong respect for the sons, daughters, and spouses that have had to go through something so intense and wretching. But this is why we ride. We have gone over 1,000 miles already, and the impact God is making through us is evident every day. I’m thankful to be riding with men that care so much about this world, and honored to be riding for the people that have had to cope with this terrible disease.
In a place where proactivisim is rare: Let’s bring change. Let’s bring hope. And let us always move forward, respecting the past, living in the present, and hoping for a better future.
I’m heading home to Louisville, KY tomorrow for a day, then on to Florida for a short vacation while the other guys enjoy a few days in Colorado. Pray that their bodies gain strength while they rest and their muscles are ready to ride hard when we get back on the open road. We still have a lot of ground to cover!
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Good morning from South Fork, CO! Yesterday was a great day for the ride. The day was supposed to be a grueling test of endurance and will, boasting a 10 mile mountain that looked to go straight up. But instead of dragging their bikes up the mountain, the guys handled it like it was a hill back in Kentucky, finishing the day by one o’clock, the earliest we’ve finished a route in the whole trip. It’s cool how the human body works. Once it’s pushed to it’s limit day after day, it finds ways to adapt and grow stronger faster. The guys’ legs are clearly used to the hills and now most of them hardly feel a burn when they climb.
After finishing the day of riding, we stopped in a local restaurant called the “Hungry Logger” for some lunch. It’s funny to see different small towns and the places in them that have been there for so long. Most of the places we’ve stayed or passed through have been little towns with not much more than a gas station on the corner and a couple of food places that always have the same original title- “Restaurant.”
The rest of the day was basically a half-rest day. This trip is spoiling me with good scenery. We stayed in a cabin in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and enjoyed getting to lay down on beds for the second night in a row. I must confess, the only thing we watched on TV was You’ve Got Mail…
Anyways, today shouldn’t be too rough of a day, as the terrain is pretty much flat all day. Colorado reminds me a lot of Kentucky, just bigger. Parts of it are surprisingly flat too. I guess it’s not all mountains and ski resorts. But yesterday I saw one of the best views of the trip. We stopped halfway up the mountain on our way through Wolfcreek Pass and the peaks split, showing the San Juan river snaking through, cutting a valley that stretched for miles. What a talented artist the Creator of all this must be.
I would also like to take this time to announce something rather important. Today was the first day we found sweet tea this side of the Mississippi! Every restaurant we’ve eaten in since Oceanside has looked at us like a bunch of hicks when we ask for sweet tea. It feels good to have a little taste of the South again.
As a friend of mine, Dorothy, used to say..”There’s no place like home.”
Missing the Bluegrass,
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Day of Rest! Today we are relaxing in a hotel in Pagosa Springs, CO. Sleeping in a bed was a nice change of pace and the riders were in serious need of a day without riding. After nine greuling days of battling hills and 100 degree heat, the guys are beyond relieved to have this day as a chance for some good restation (rest and relaxion).
Last night we had one of the coolest conversations of the trip so far (the coolest in my opinion). After dinner we ran into a couple of men that were pilots and were in town for the night. We asked where they were from and the conversation grew from there. I talked to one of them for about an hour and I’m not sure I’ve ever been quite as inspired. Steve Wolford was born in Africa and spent most of his life there, helping his parents who were missionaries in Congo. Both of the guys were pilots for a private owner and Steve has spent a lot of his life doing mission work in Eastern Congo, flying supplies to the secluded villages and transporting doctors and dentists. His story was exactly what I needed to hear. It’s strange that there is so much good in the world, but it gets shadowed by all the bad. We never hear about people like Steve on the news. We don’t even really here about the terrible things that are still going on just outside Rwanda and in other parts of the world. I used to think money could fix the world’s problems. However, we usually end up making the people that need our help even more dependent, rather than taking the time to actually go and show them how to do things necessary to living a healthy life. It’s cool to talk to someone that spends his life helping people in a literal sense, giving up his time and not just his extra cash.
One story Steve told us was about an African tribe member he brought to the states. After seeing the incredible wealth of our country, he told Steve it was too easy to die in America, both physically and spiritually; physically because all of the food we eat and spiritually because you don’t need God here. The first part of his statement was a little funny, the second part is much too true. We live in a place that lets us forget what we actually need too often. I don’t think people like Steve’s friend need me as much as I need people like him. We usually don’t recognize our greatest flaws until a total stranger is able to pin point them.
Traveling across this beautiful country I am proud to be from a place where we have so much. But too often we take it for granted. We live in a place of great opportunity. Let’s use those opportunities to help the people in the world who have true problems. Let’s be proactive and not just reactive.
“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’-Matthew 25:40”
Colorado is beautiful and I’m looking forward to seeing more of it as we travel through the mountains tomorrow. The guys will be daring Wolfcreek Pass, a 30 mile mountain that will most likely be the hardest test of endurance in the whole trip…just another day though!
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The rolling hills of Colorado? We woke up this morning at six, packed our gear, and departed from the little Baptist Church we took refuge in last night in Mancos, CO. The drive so far has been nostalgic to say the least. Green hills for miles, covered in trees and pastured valleys, reminds me of my Old Kentucky Home more than any scenery we’ve passed through so far. I’m sure the closer we get to Colorado Springs the more mountainous it will be, but for now I’m comforted with familiar veiws from the driver seat of the Burb (which is in major need of a good cleaning).
I’ve been amazed so far at the generosity of strangers on this trip. Twice we’ve been offered a place to stay and many times we’ve met people that just want to sit down and talk. The other night in a campground somewhere in Arizona, a couple in their sixties walked over to chat. We ended up talking for a couple of hours, listening to their stories about traveling, loving every minute of it. To top that, they pulled out their bluegrass insturments and let me jam along with them for a bit. I may never see these people again. The people I meet on this road may never become much more than strangers. Still, we all have a purpose, and so far God has blessed every conversation.
A couple of the guys quoted a verse from Isaiah this morning- “Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40: 30-31
It isn’t until we’ve pushed ourselves to our limit that we realize we can go further. No one can see past the boundaries they make for themselves, unless they reach those walls and see that what’s on the other side is worth the sacrafice.
“Our reach must exceed our grasp”-Oswald Chambers
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Finally out of Arizona! We made it across the border today and entered the lovely land of Utah. The scenery just gets better. With massive rock features growing out of the ground every few miles, the land looked like a cave floor with stalagmites growing from the ground (learned about those in middle school). The route to Bluff, Utah wasn’t easy, but the guys have clearly gained endurance. Their legs don’t even seem phased by 12 mile hills with steep grades.
This is probably my favorite site of the trip so far, with red rock faces surrounding us in all directions. John Muir said “The power of imagination makes us infinite.” Driving a car for 8 hours every day gives me plenty of opportunity to day dream. I’m amazed at how little alone time I have had over the past 20 years. This summer is most definitely giving me a chance to know myself and to know the world around me.
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