Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Adventure has Ended

The 7th Annual Fuller Center Bike Adventure, June 5 through August 10, 2014, has officially ended.

From the Atlantic Ocean (Atlantic City, NJ)

     to the Pacific Ocean (Seaside, OR) -- 3,600 miles!

The van survived the trip (with 8,645 miles added), and I’ve promised it a thorough detailing when we get home!!! 

There was a big difference in being support as opposed to biking the entire trip, and though I did miss the biking, I felt good about being able to give back as support, to pay back for the support I’ve received over the past rides. And, it helped to have Lois along on the trip. 

It was a great thrill when trip leader Melissa announced at morning circle up in Helena the end of July that the one million dollar donation goal, set in 2008, had been reached.

It’s always bittersweet to have to say all those goodbyes at the end of the trip, to people who were strangers nine short weeks ago, but have become friends and family during the adventure. Memories, tears, laughter, hugs  it was quite the adventure!!



Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Adventure Continues

Sunday all the FCBAers enjoyed a day off. It’s always great to break the routine every week, worship at church, and enjoy that ‘day of rest’ as we get ready to continue the journey Monday morning.

As the weeks go by some riders leave, new riders join for a day, or for a week, or for the  remaining weeks (five weeks left in the adventure). At the team meeting on Sunday nights as we sit in a circle and share who we are and something about why we participate in the bike adventure I’m always amazed and delighted at the depth of the responses. Some are funny, some are heart rending, but all are amazing. Also, each rider is assigned a day to blog for the Fuller Bike Adventure website, and those blogs are truly inspiring (http://www.fullercenter.org/blogs/bikeadventure .

Then, Monday morning, we’re on the road again, as we bike to our next destination where yet another host church opens their doors to us and we again set up our bikes and sleeping areas in whatever spaces we can find. 
A tough day yesterday, 96 miles, with climbing and a 20-30 MPH head wind or cross wind. We are in charge of the last rest stop, waiting for all riders to pass through, while the van and trailer head to the church to unload. Rider after rider came in with tongue hanging out, saying they would have been ready to quit as they came over the hill if the support van had not been in sight!!

Another tough day today, scheduled for 103 miles. As we start out, winds are calm, but the bikers face almost 4,000 feet of climbing; nothing that looks steep or long, but still 4,000 feet. We were fueled by as much spaghetti and meat balls as we could eat last night, with another great host church, Assembly of God in Winner, SD. 


Saturday, June 28, 2014

Why I Ride

While chatting with a Waukegan FCBA board member Friday evening, I was asked why I keep riding year after year. Not a simple thing to answer. I’ll try to explain: I am an introvert, which may raise some eyebrows from my FCBA family, but it’s true. Because I am an introvert, I have trouble meeting people and making friends. The FCBA adventure forces me to meet new people and forces me to relate to them. And, this is only a little painful for me, for the people who ride with me very soon become my heroes -- I can sit back and watch the relationships grow between the riders, and eventually they all seek me out to some degree, and soon we start bonding in a very beautiful way. Almost without exception, they are all younger than I am. They inspire me more and more as the weeks progress, as they are challenged both physically and mentally, while they seek out who they are, and who their God is. They witness their faith, which allows me to grow in my faith. I can encourage them as they struggle up the hills, against the wind, against the cold, against the hot, against the road conditions, against the loneliness when they end up by themselves mile after mile, and when I see the looks on their faces as they reach summit after summit of struggle on this adventure, my heart sings for them. 

Then, of course, there are the people we meet in church after church. Beautiful children of God! Going out of their way to open the doors of their churches, their kitchens, their homes for showers, helping us with transportation to the showers, sharing their faith, cooking meal after meal, etc. Sometimes only doing one of the above, more often doing all of the above. 

And finally, the people that we help. Fixing a bathroom so the homeowner will not have to use the woods, adding wheel chair ramp after wheel chair ramp, replacing an entire roof, helping a young man regain some dignity with an accessible bedroom and bathroom, painting, cleaning up yards, etc., etc., etc. Who benefits most, me or the families we are helping? 

As we meet people on the street I hand them FCBA business cards, explaining what we are doing, and I’m always thrilled by the looks on their faces as they try to comprehend exactly what that means. 

The reaction on our first practice ride in Atlantic City when we were stopped at a light not two blocks from our start was priceless. A couple across the street called out, asking what we were doing, so I rode across the street to hand them a card and explained that we would be riding our bikes to the West Coast. The man asked two times if this was true, and finally shouted out, “You’re not really going to _ _ _ _ing Oregon, are you?” I explained again that we were. He looked over to the group and shouted out to Everett, “Hey brother, are you really going to Oregon?” like he didn’t really believe me and had to ask the only brother he saw. A most delightful experience, and it’s one that’s repeated time after time the entire nine weeks, but usually without the colorful language.

And so I have evolved from a cynical old man sitting at home, signing up for a bike ride across America, and finding out that it was God’s plan all along to put me on my first ride so I could grow in my faith. Once I found out firsthand what the Fuller Center is all about, namely helping people with a hand up to affordable housing, it was no longer about a bike ride, but it was about me doing God’s work, and growing in my faith. A truly beautiful experience! I am blessed to have found this calling. After riding the last three years, being supported by others, I decided to give back to the riders by driving my car as an extra support vehicle this year, with Lois as my navigator, and I am greatly enjoying the experience.


Monday, June 23, 2014

Support Team

The bike adventure is so much more than just biking and speaking and building, although that is what its purpose is. It’s fireflies in Toledo, mayflies in Cleveland, a boat ride on the Maumee River,

an overnight stay at an archery loft in Cleveland, a dedication ceremony at the home of Dee and Roy, removing tree branches and digging out shrubs, tilling garden areas which are then mulched, painting the entire outside of a home, painting the inside of another home … and the list goes on. But, the most wonderful part seems to be the welcoming and offering of help, along with a generous amount of hugs, along with tears of blessing, gratitude, and thanks, both from the bike adventurers as well as from the people we are privileged to serve.

There have been a number of bike issues, along with some accidents. We had six go down on a bridge crossing in a small town, five at one time. Worst injury was to John, some road rash on his face; he is fine, just looks like he lost the proverbial fight. Some other road rash on knees and shoulders, but, all in all, everyone’s doing fine. The bikes took a worse beating, with three needing work, and parts replacement.

It’s been interesting to be support for the trip rather than a rider as I have been the past three years...getting to see the adventure from a different perspective. As support I’ve had the opportunity to go into businesses and/or even private properties arranging support stops that have bathrooms. Today, in the middle of farm country, with the corn much too short, I stopped at a preschool nursery that was closed. I found the owner next door working in the yard of a rather large farm. I explained what we were about, asking her if we could use her driveway to support the riders. She asked if we needed bathrooms, and graciously took me over, opened her school, and shared God’s love by letting us use her facility. The neat thing is that this is not unusual. The same thing happened last week, when I stopped at a large 4-door work building next to a house. The homeowner used the building to store and work on very old cars and army vehicles. He still had a Studebaker from late 50‘s, early 60’s in which he dated the girl he married. As the riders kept coming in, he kept showing off his car and other vehicles, and opening up his home.

This morning at circle up, Leah shared a beautiful poem she had written about her experience with the bike adventure, and then lead us in prayer. These riders keep impressing me with their faith, and their many personal abilities and gifts. It is a delight to experience this adventure with such beautiful children of God.


Monday, June 9, 2014

Finally, some word from the old guy on the FCBA adventure...

On the third day of the drive over we were "profiled" (or so it appeared). Colorado, as most everyone knows, has legalized marijuana, so the adjacent states have been stopping cars with Colorado plates, looking for marijuana. I had been watching my speed, setting my cruise control at the speed limit mostly. On the Ohio tollway (speed limit of 70), far from Colorado, I had gotten brave and set my cruise on 74, four miles over the limit. I noticed a state trooper car parked ahead, as two cars passed me as we all went past the trooper's car. I saw the trooper leave his position, come up fast, with no lights, me in the right lane, he in the left. He got just up to me, then abruptly slowed down, got behind me, and turned on his lights. Up until now I had never heard of a cop stopping a car going 4 mph over the limit. He was very polite, checked my license and registration, asked some questions about what we were doing in Ohio (we gave him a bike adventure card), asked Lois if she was Lois, asked me if my driving record was clean (he never checked before approaching our car?), and told us to stay at the speed limit, and to enjoy our adventure. I guess he smelled no marijuana, so he let us go?

Orientation in Atlantic City was fun, as alway, as we got to know one another (via "train wreck" as we introduced ourselves) and then learned a bit about what's expected on the trip, got chore assignments, etc. We enjoyed a walk on the boardwalk, and I even joined the 10 mile practice ride as a sweep. After the ride we had a great build day in Atlantic City. Lots of mudding upstairs and down, lots of window work. I found a little work I could do, but was mostly transported people and then shopped with Melissa. It was great to see all the progress made on the house by our team, and to help the local Fuller affiliate for the time we were there.

After an early breakfast we all headed for the beach for devotion, followed by the traditional dipping of the back tires of the bikes into the ocean. And, then, the riders were off! 

We overnighted at Lord of Life Lutheran Church in Tabernacle and were treated to lunch, bbq dinner, breakfast, and lunch after church. What a wonderful group of folks! It was good to visit with a number of people I had met on an earlier trip.

On the 2012 bike adventure we stopped to help build an accessible bedroom and bathroom for Justin. He and his mom were at church Sunday and I was so glad to visit with them. He is enjoying his new area, which he had painted blue. I asked him why not pink, at which he laughed and said pink was for girls. I brought in my pink bike to show him what I ride and he laughed heartily at me.
I told him I have a picture of him being hugged by two pretty girls and that I was jealous. He remembered with a big smile that it was Kelsey and Kelsey. I'm totally blessed to have helped on his project and to have visited with him again. God continues to work in and thru me. (This picture is from 2012 at the work site.)

Today we helped Shane Claiborne and staff move furnishings out of one building, into another for The Simple Way, to consolidate their offices into one central location. That took the morning and a little of the afternoon, with lots and lots of boxes, furniture, supplies, etc. being moved via 'bucket brigades'. Shane and Katie graciously hosted a cookout feast at their home, and Shane explained the progress made by Simple Way in the Kensington community, a community that works together. They have also started a FC affiliate called Simple Homes Fuller Center. We toured the aquaponics project (awesome); some helped clean garbage from the sidewalk; some cleaned the garden area; some took a bike tour of Philly. A shout out to Shane and Katie, and Mike (as well as his daughter Sumer) for opening their homes to a number of us, and for their dedication to this community!

My buddy Kert, and his wonderful family, have been just outstanding in their support of this ride. About 12 riders stayed overnight at their home on our way to Atlantic City, as they graciously hosted us and provided much more food than we could eat. Today, here in the Kensington community, they have provided more and more and more food for us. It's been so great to spend time with Kert's family, to get to meet his extended family and friends who have been providing so much love, support, and prayers.

Tomorrow we have a long ride to Hershey, PA so we'll be getting an early start with breakfast at 4:30. The adventure has begun, and there are so many neat "kids" and "grandkids" to get to know better as the ride progresses, and many new friends to meet along the way.


Monday, March 31, 2014

A recap...

It seems to get harder and harder for me to blog regularly as the years riding with The Fuller Center mount up, but here’s a bit of a recap for the spring adventure.

Over the past three years I have been talking to my geezer friends here in “geezerville” about Fuller Center and the bike adventures. This year Bob and Joe both joined up and rode. It was fun having them along, getting to know them a bit more, although I did not ride with them much, as they are stronger riders.

Thursday was one of my better build days. We made a production line for building steps for homes that would be permanently placed in a neighborhood badly in need of decent housing. I was teamed up with my good buddy Kurt, ripping about 80 risers, and another 20 top steps. We made a good team, and were able to teach Harper how to run the table saw also. She learned quickly and was very safety conscience. Matthew also taught Harper how to use a Skilsaw. Special times with son and granddaughter. Will Judah be ready and willing to join us next year? Maybe we could get a family rate?

I managed to get some good riding days in on this spring ride: 75 miles Friday, and another 61 miles on our last day of riding Saturday. On the first leg of the Saturday ride I was fortunate to be able to get in another pace line on flat roads, so I was not dropped. We had a double line of riders, with up to 14 riders, 7 in each line. We would ride about 2 miles and the lead two riders would peel off together, and drop to the back of the line, while the next two would take over pulling. We must have ridden 15 miles or more with these two lines continuing to work together. It was a total blast!! And, we were fortunate that Melissa and Ryan were sweeping, and totally fortunate that the police did not see us riding this way, since it’s not quite legal, and not Fuller approved. We also had very little traffic in either direction, and Ellis was following in his car, protecting us from the few cars that came up behind us. I think the passing cars enjoyed seeing us riding as much as we enjoyed riding. 

It was especially fun when Kurt, on his fat bike, joined us. Seeing this oddball (the bike) in the middle of the mix of road bikes was a bit unusual. Matthew had been riding ahead to catch up with Harper who had taken off with the lead group, and we finally pulled them both in, so It was more fun to have her experience this type of riding. All in all, one of my best rides ever. Not necessarily best day ever, as my rear was dragging on the last leg of the ride. 

Speaking of rears, NO BLISTERS so far this year, after taking about 14 weeks off, and then only riding 15 and 20 miles at a time to try to ease back into the saddle. Yea!!! This meant however, that with so little training (about 150 miles total this year) I was not able to ride the entire day on a couple of the longer days. But that was ok, because we ride as a team, and the other riders pulled for me.

One morning near the end of the ride, 86 year old John walked by me and said, “morning, geezerman”. That just made my day.

During one segment riding with Matthew and Harper we came to yet another hill to climb, and I said, “my mind wants to attack this hill, but my legs say, ‘ha ha ha’ ”. Harper responded, “maybe you should negotiate”. Food for thought about life (from a teenager!!!).

On Saturday we had a police escort (as we did last year) from the Trace to Tougaloo College, our last stop. One of President Hogan’s assistants joined us for this three mile ride. We gave her a Fuller orange shirt, and she joined John to lead us to the college. Some good natured teasing took place when she wasn’t able to keep up with John (86 yrs old), so the Rivers brothers got on either side of her and helped push her along. She said she would be better prepared next year.

Sunday we were up for early 5:30 breakfast, and it was cold and rainy again. We had packed all the bikes yesterday after the ride, so we took just a fast breakfast after loading the gear in the trailer and rented vans, and headed back to Nashville.

This summer I will be joining again for our ride from Atlantic City, NJ to Astoria, OR, at 72 years of age. I will try to ride a little of this adventure, but I have signed up as the second support vehicle for this 9 week journey. So, I will be driving my van to help support the faster and slower riders, allowing the Fuller van and trailer to maintain the 20 mile rest stops for the bulk of the riders. This worked out well last year when I joined the second half of the summer with my vehicle, and I’m looking forward to the summer adventure by supporting rather than riding.

However, I do plan to ride through my hometown of Chicago, and I’m looking for friends and relatives to join me for that day (or days) of the adventure. Special invitations to go out soon.


Monday, March 17, 2014

The adventure has started … again!

This will be my fourth year, 7th ride, and I have slept on church floors over 170 times. It’s well worth the simple living, and ‘sacrifices’ to comfort, because we’re helping families in need, meeting great people along the way, making friends, and bonding with fellow riders. 

During orientation last Saturday we met 38 fellow participants, learned names, then learned names again as we were in helmets, sunglasses, and bundled up in riding gear. Another great group of people to get to know. Weather cooperated and the practice ride went fine; a short 11 miles just to get to know how people ride together, making for a safer group.

Sunday we enjoyed a nice introduction and fellowship with Holy Lutheran Trinity Church. Then we packed, dressed for biking and were off down the Nachez Trace Parkway, on the way to Jackson, MS, to arrive next Saturday. This was a short ride day of about 37 miles, but we had rain with temperatures around 43 or 44 the whole way. So we arrived at the church thoroughly wet and cold. This was our third stay with the best small church, Shady Grove Methodist, I have experienced in my three years of riding. No disrespect to any of the other great churches we have stayed at, but Shady Grove has a Sunday attendance of about 30 people, and more than half of them showed up to great, meet, welcome and feed us dinner and breakfast. Their mission starts at the exterior doors of their church.

Today we rode about 55 miles to Collinwood United Methodist Church, another church hosting for the third year in a row. No rain today, but  temperature showed 28F for the first leg of the ride. Finally got over freezing after the second stop, and it warmed up all the way to 39F when I rode up to the church. In my opinion the cold can be dealt with if the proper gear is worn, and the rain can be dealt with if the proper gear is worn. Temperatures like today, with rain, make for very difficult riding. So we were lucky, and so glad we’re not home being couch potatoes. I just love it. 


Thursday, January 2, 2014

Happy New Year

Biking in 2013 was a little disappointing for me as I struggled all year with saddle sore blisters. I have not been on my bike for 7 weeks now, and have gained way too much weight because of the layoff. I am looking for better riding in 2014. Unless of course I am just getting older, and need to expect less. At this age, I seem to age the equivalent of 3 or 4 years, or some multiple of years. Maybe (quiet now) it is or will become like dog years.

However, I still managed to ride 3,167 miles for 2013, my average speed being down only slightly. So for the last 3 years since joining The Fuller Center Bike Adventure (FCBA) I have averaged 5,540 miles per year, still not too bad for an old geezer.

What’s up for 2014 you ask? OK, I will tell you anyway. FCBA is on the agenda again. January 17, Harper (now 15 years old) and I will be talking to the ELCA youth gathering of the Rocky Mountain Synod about our FCBA adventures. There will be about 750 kids, and another 200 adult chaperones. A fantastic opportunity to spread the word about The Fuller Center for Affordable Housing.

March 14th I (and hopefully Harper and Matthew) will be arriving in Nashville, TN for the start of the FCBA spring ride. This will be the 3rd annual spring ride down to Jackson, MS, a one week ride of about 400 miles, with one build day. All three of us rode last year and had a great time in spite of the cold wet weather. Looking for better weather this year, but regardless, we will again be helping families with a hand up to safe affordable housing.

Then on June 5th, the day after my 72nd birthday, I will be arriving in Atlantic City, NJ for the start of the summer ride. We will be taking a northern route and ending up in Astoria, OR. Another 9 week ride, ending August 10, and covering the usual 3,600 miles. On this ride I will be supporting with my personal car, and only riding occasionally, when another rider may need a break, and will drive my car for me. I now have a Toyota Sienna mini van, equipped with the ability to carry 6 bikes and 4 passengers. Lois calls it my bus.

Last for 2014 will be a fall ride with the geezer bike club down in the Texas hill country. If it is not too hot, this will be another great trip with my age group.

Again this year, I will be looking for help with donations. I know this may be getting old for some of my supporters, but the cause is great, and help is needed. A big thank you to all who have donated in the past, you have helped me to help many families in need.

Peace to all