Monday, June 30, 2008


Here are some more quick hits from me, let me know what you think:

-I have been attacked by a fat gray squirrel. It ran alongside me and then jumped on my bike!
-I have also been attacked by birds in Nebraska. I call them "devil birds."
-My two new muscles are really sore.
-I traded shirts with my friend Raul. He bought us dinner.
-As you know, we are eating everything in site because of how much we bike. We have broken 4 and a half toilets across America so far.
-I admit that I am a big germophobe. I'm working on it.
-I have become a little more sunburned. I am now blackety black.
-I finally body-slammed Eric. I haven't decided who is next.
-Someone in our group talks in their sleep. I won't mention any names.
-I miss my Uncle Paul.
Current Book: The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd


People at work.

Hey everybody! A lot has happened since I last blogged, both within our group and in the world. My sister was thrown from a car, she is okay now. Also, a number of my friends are facing very difficult family situations. I am learning new things and meeting new people everyday. There is an amazing unseen an overlooked community in this country.

People of all creeds and colors have welcomed me into their homes, bought me groceries, given me a warm place to sleep and shower, taken pictures of me to remember who I am and given me shirts! Many people have written notes in my journal and sung me songs and given me new books to read. I've met men and women from age 20 to 70 walking, running, biking, driving, and working across the country to be the hands of feet of Christ. God is moving. People are moving. The Kingdom is growing.

I often find myself laughing at my old "boxed up" definition of God. That would be the one where God's work is programmed and centered around what goes on between the four walls of the sanctuary. I love that too, but I am sure that there is a work to be done everywhere and anywhere. Its great.


Hospitality... Again.

I originally posted the following material a few days ago but took it down last night following an email from a member of Moses Hill Covenant Church in Loomis, NE. In the chaos of this week's events (a scary accident, an emergency rest day, and the unexpected departure of two team members) we were forced to change our route and cancel a church in order to make up time that we spent in the hospital. During all of the departures and confusion, it seems that the call to Loomis to inform them of the cancellation was made far too late. When we found out about this last night, we were all pretty upset and I was even more upset when I read that a member of the church there had taken issue with this post. We apologize profusely for the confusion that came out of this week's injuries and upsets and we want to acknowledge our own imperfections and shortcomings. We truly regret what happened in Loomis. That being said, I think that the post still has validity and I'm not ashamed of my words. -Matt


Well, it's the end of a long day (a long couple of days, actually) and the four men are here in Paxton, NE. It was our second day of riding with just the four of us and it's really strange. We left Fort Collins on Wednesday morning after staying with my great aunt and uncle, Duane and Shirley Enquist, who were great to us and made us feel right at home. We'd all like to thank them again for all of their help and hospitality. Unfortunately, lots has happened since then (see Emily's post below).

People have been wonderful to us on this trip. People have opened homes and churches to feed us and to give us shelter. But as we were sitting in Sterling, CO on Thursday trying to figure out what to do, our luck ran out. We've been calling churches when we know we're going to be at a town in the evening and simply asking if we can sleep on the church floor (sleeping on pews is so much nicer than sleeping on rocks). I called every church in the phone book in Haxtun, CO, our anticipated stopping point that night. Nobody answered (not uncommon) at 5 of the 7 churches. One church turned out to be way outside of town and thus not exactly convenient when you're biking. But the other church made me pretty angry. I explained to the pastor that we were a group of students, riding cross-country for charity and to have conversations about social justice in the church. I explained that we were going to be in Haxtun in a few hours and we needed a floor to sleep on.

He immediately seemed hesitant. He explained to me that the church was under construction and that he didn't think we would want to stay there. I said that we just needed a place that would keep us dry and warm and out of the forecasted storms. He again told me that there was a lot of construction. I was starting to get a little angry at this point because he was my last chance at finding a place to sleep that night. I told him that construction didn't bother us and that we honestly only needed 15 square feet to lay down on and then we would be out in the morning. There was a long silence and then he said, "sorry, we're under construction."

Hey, maybe every inch of the church's floor was actually covered in nails or something. And I know that it might seem like I'm acting like I'm entitled to special treatment or something like that... But I don't think that's it. Because I believe that the church's doors should never close but that the church should be a place of hospitality and a place where the homeless can find a roof over their heads when a storm is rolling through town. I believe that as long as the church is still thought of as a building then those buildings should be used responsibly and with grace and generosity. And it should be said here that an overwhelming percentage of our interactions with churches and pastors have been just that: examples of responsible stewardship and generosity. But this one pastor in small town Colorado just left me thinking about the pregnant Mary being told there was no room at the Inn.

The thing that I love about this trip is that it's so often been the unexpected people that have served us in the most significant ways. It's been the people that don't quite fit the molds or the models for those who you might expect to be "on our side" that always seem to come through for us. When we rolled into New Raymer, CO, we were riding around town looking for a place to pitch some tents when a woman in a beat up old El Camino pulled up next to us and offered us a place to stay in the local 4H barn. She flagged us over to the car with a Budweiser can in her hand hanging out of the car. We slept well indoors that night, listening to the rain crashing on the roof above us.

And last night, the four of us pulled into Venango, NE completely exhausted after battling a strong wind all day. We pitched our tents in an abandoned field behind the high school and then walked over to the local bar and grill to steal some electricity to charge our phones. We'd hoped to stay anonymous and not order anything until our phones were full enough to get us through the next day but instead we immediately had all eyes on us. We met wonderful people last night as we walked in sweaty and smelling terrible. Raul, Henry, and Candy bought us all huge dinners and made sure that we had a place to sleep last night that they knew was safe. We met up with them this morning at Raul's house where he offered us showers, gave us some advice on our route, and made us breakfast. It's funny, one of our mentors once told us that you will always find that the doors of bars are always open while churches are a little more hit or miss. So, I guess the point is just that it's been a great experience relying on people on our way and always being pleasantly surprised at how easily God transcends our petty stereotypes are prejudices about who's in and who's out. The kingdom is always bigger that we're expecting.


Some Nebraska love:

Our camping spot last night

Fixing a flat.

The Great Plains. It is really beautiful here, and the lack of mountain passes each day is a real plus.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Goodbye Bike Trip (at least for awhile)

The speedy recovery for which we hoped has yet to come to fruition. I arrived in Sterlin, CO by vehicle about a day ahead of the group. I curled up in a hotel bed and barely moved until chec-out time yesterday. We were hoping that I'd be completely healed and ready to ride when the group rolled into town at about 1pm. Before we re-attached the trailer to my bike, I conquered my psychological fear of repetition and went for a little test ride around the parking lot, only to find that I cannot put weight on my right arm (the arm that was pinned between the guardrail and the rock). Implications? I cannot steer with that arm, only manipulate its position for better balance while steering with my left hand; and I cannot use my back brakes. I feel fine taking the risk and continuing with the trip. Nothing else really makes sense to me. But the team would prefer that I reach full recovery before rejoining them. (I think they just like sleeping in later while I'm gone!) They were good enough to take another half rest day yesterday afternoon to help me decide what to do at this juncture. Today, Andrea's mom will come pick up us women and we'll drive with our bikes back to Sioux Falls. From there, my parents will retrieve me and I'll return to Minneapolis until I'm functional again.

This is an extremely difficult decision for me. I'm very upset to leave this trip, especially this next portion between Nebraska and Minneapolis, the promise of which clinched my original decision to ride the whole trip. And I'll miss meeting and conversing with people across this distance. I will miss our times with churches. And of course I will miss the team. I could barely stand a day apart from them. What will this next while hold?


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

An Unexpected Rest Day

Yesterday was a scary day. We were riding out of Poudre Canyon towards Fort Collins when we were met with some serious setbacks. The turns were sharp, and though the roads were good, the shoulders dropped off at points onto some nasty gravel. I came around a corner to see Emily's bike and trailer turned upside down. She was wedged underneath the guardrail, her right shoulder pinned between that and a rock. I was terrified because I did not see her move for a moment. We all jumped off our bikes, Matt sustaining some nasty scrapes in the process. We managed to stop some traffic and get transportation for her and Matt to the hospital. There was no cell phone reception for 30 miles. Even the radios in the department of transportation vehicles were not working. One of the men who stopped (Kevin) was a trainer and helped us stabilize Emily's arm and look her over to make sure we could move her.
Matt and Emily made it to the hospital and got taped up with a ton of gauze and a proper sling. Nothing was broken or seriously damaged.
The four of us that were left in the canyon biked the 40 miles to Fort Collins and made it there just in time for Emily's release. We were thankful that Rich was still in town. He helped us move our bikes around town and we spent the afternoon with him before we went to the bike shop to have the damage assessed and then headed to Matt's uncle's house for some rest time.
Those are the scant details of our misadventure. What cannot be noted sufficiently is our panic, relief, and sincere thankfulness for those who stopped, for those that helped, and for those that prayed and will continue to pray for us as we continue on our journey. We hope to be on the road in the morning.

We are not yet daunted.
We will continue.
The Lord is good.


Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Good Samaritan

We have just returned to our temporary home here in Loveland, CO after a marvelous evening with Crossroads Covenant's youth group. This morning, each of us also had the opportunity to participate in the Children's Church time. The lesson this week was on the commandments to "Love God and Love People," and the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10. As Andrea and I walked into the second session of Children's Church, where we got to share about the trip, we talked about how surprised we are by the applicability of Jesus' parable to our journey, and vice versa.

Throughout the past four weeks, many people across states, biographies, and faiths have unquestioningly invited and welcomed us into their lives and homes. Strangers have fed us and given us soft, warm places to sleep. Strangers have listened attentively and patiently. Jesus reminds us of the two most important Mosaic commandments: Love God. Love others. Then he illustrates those commandments with a story. This summer, "Samaritans" across several states already have illustrated those commandments with their lives.

Thank you. And please continue to do so. These are Kingdom acts.


Thursday, June 19, 2008

From Steamboat Springs

I sit in front of the Bank of the West on Lincoln Ave. in Steamboat Springs, CO as I write this. I can't tell you how excited I am to be here - my family vacationed here a few years ago, and so it kind of feels like coming home. As we road towards the town, my excitement built. I never would have expected to be so happy... but I've realized that this is the first familiar place for me on the route, except for Peninsula Covenant at the very beginning. It's the first time that I've ridden into a town that I've driven through before, with sights that I recognize and memories along with them. I miss familiarity.

In a few minutes, we'll head east toward Rabbit Ears Pass, which is one of two Rocky Mountain passes that we're tackling on our trip (the other is Cameron Pass). Our map says that the grade is 6.8%, and that the elevation is 9426ft (the highest thus far). It's going to be hard, but I can't wait for the view.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A little fun .

Aight People! We're almost to Colorado and since I usually blog about physical and mental pains that come from riding so much, I'm going to try something fun. I have decided to try double bacon cheeseburgers everywhere we stop. (Don't worry mom, when you bike this much, you can pretty much eat anything and you kind of have to for the calories and the salt intake.) I am also going to see how long it takes me to get sick of grape powerade. So far the absolute best burger came at Bones Bar and Grub Grill in California. Second place goes to Major Station in Nevada, I think that's where it is. There is no third place yet.

-I have two new muscles just above my knee!
-I shaved and washed my hair finally!
-Black people DO in fact get sunburned, if you know me and you've seen the picture Matt posted of me . . . . (I like my winter shade of African-American best. lol.)
-Pizza at Noon in 90 degree weather does NOT work!
-Gophers can whistle like birds.
-Horses and sheep are afraid of bicyclists.
-Our team has fully incorporated the Obama fist bump, (or the "terrorist fist jab" as FOX news calls it)
-I finally body-slammed Matt. Eric is next.
-Erykah Badu's "Soldier," Christa Black's "California Sunshine" and the COGIC anthem "Hallelujah" is good for climbing long mountains. But the best riding song for me so far: "KNock on Wood" by Eddie Floyd!

Gotta go bike now! I'll have more relevant things to blog about when we start meeting with churches again in a week or so!

Church homes

In addition to camping and our house in Duchesne, UT, we've been staying in a lot of churches along the way. We've gotten into the habit of finding a church in a destination town, calling one and asking to spend the night in the building. So far, we have not been turned down. Recently, there seems to be a surge in the house-church movement in U.S. Protestantism. Our experiences of temporary homes in churches across these three states so far causes me to wonder: why aren't more chuches homes? The opportunity for a church to also be a home seems even more important than the opportunity for a home to also be a church.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Colorado, here we come!

We're taking a post-lunch nap under a tree here in Roosevelt, UT. Tomorrow afternoon we should be crossing into Colorado! The people of Utah have been really good to us. It's a beautiful state and we've had a lot of great experiences here but I think we're ready for the challenge ahead of us. We took the day off yesterday to rest in Duchesne where we rented a 3 bedroom house for two nights for cheaper than the local hotel! Ok, so it was a bit of a fixer-upper on the outside, but they inside was nice (nice-ish) and it felt good to have a home for 36 hours or so.

Pray that we get through all the Colorado climbing. We're a bit behind schedule, but we're planning on being in Fort Collins on Saturday night! Here's some pics of the last few weeks:

A desolate day on US-50 through Nevada

We did a lot of climbing in Nevada, somtimes 4 passes in one day.

It was really beautiful though.

Biker gangs.

Our camping spot just after Daniel's Summit near Heber City, UT

Helmet lines in the hair! Always funny.

We laugh a lot.

Our most recent abode. It needed some yard work.

But we made ourselves comfortable.

And it was a much needed rest day.


Thursday, June 12, 2008

My Goal.

As my brother Matt and I were talking while we camped in a ditched off the side of Highway 50 the other night, we agreed that we have at least one common hope for this trip. That we leave it more excited about being a Christian than we are right now and that we find new ways to connect with God beyond the four walls of church and beyond the limited possibilities that are often bottled and sold to people our age.


Worst day yet for me.

The last 24 hours or so have been rough! At the end of Tuesday, we battled winds that had to be at least 40 miles an hours while treking through the lonely desert. I was literally blown off my bike at least 4 times. Since then I have had 5 flats and at one point the air pump broke. My rear derailer is non-functional and my front wheel is warped. At one point yesterday, I threw the bike down in the middle of the highway and walked slowly to the middle of a pasture, boiling with anger, and staring up at the clear blue sky. My bike was going so slow that by sunset I still had about 10 miles left. I was freezing and began to get dizzy, and finally fell off my bike. Eric picked me up fed me and gave me his warm clothes. THen he walked the last stretch with me and carried my bike up a hill to the church where we ended up sleeping. I am thankful to Ryan, who we flagged down, for giving me a ride on the back of his truck to an air compressor and also to Cody and Baker, who patched a tube for me and changed flat number four.

When I finally got to the church the team made sure I had food, medicine, and rest. It was really good to get to sit down relax. I couldn't eat much because I thought I was going to vomit again, but I woke up this morning smiling and eating everything in sight. THank God.

I just kept thinking of my big sister, who sang to me over the phone. She sang:,

Press your way through.
Press your way through.
God's got something waiting for you,
if you just press your way through.

Today we are stopping at a bike shop.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Utah, finally!

As I type this, I'm sitting in the Border Inn, just east of the Nevada-Utah border. We've finally gotten through Nevada - which is reason for celebration for the group.

Granted, we still have plenty of mountains left to look forward to. But thanks to the hospitality of the people of Grace Four Square Church in Ely, NV, we were able to take a much-needed rest day. We're still tired, but our muscles are feeling better and stronger. I'm confident that we're gaining more and more strength and endurance as we go.

The time in the desert has been interesting for us as a group. We just want to get through the desert and on to Fort Collins, back to churches, back to our mission. We miss the conversations, the learning opportunities, and all that comes with church visits. It's been tempting for me to just write off this part of the trip as unimportant and feel as if we're not accomplishing anything.

But as my parents reminded me, this portion of the trip is all part of the task that God has set before us. What we are doing here is laying the groundwork for the rest of the trip. And the time that we have here in the desert is allowing us to learn how to ride and work as a group before we are visiting churches more frequently. I pray that God is using this time to prepare and shape us for what lies ahead.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

This country is incredibly big.

We spent the night last night in Eureka, NV after a 72 mile ride from Austin. It's been about four days now where everything looks so similar. We'll pass through a mountain pass and then slip down into a huge valley where you can just see for 20-30 miles across to the other side where our next mountain pass rises up. It's beautiful but getting very exhausting. It pretty much looks like this all the time:

There's always another mountain range just around the corner. There's always another climb at the end of each valley. And I guess my point is just that it's exhausting and that we're ready for a change of scenery. Alas, we have at least 3-4 more days in Nevada and then we're into Utah, which will probably be pretty similar.

I miss my family and a sense of home and relaxation. I miss flat land (God bless the midwest).

Well, time to hit the road.


Thursday, June 5, 2008

Austin, NV

We're in Austin, Nevada at this juncture, staying in a motel for the first time on the trip. It's really nice to be in a new state and not have people ask us if it's the first day of our ride. That being said, California did have its advantages, and it's hard not to miss a place in which towns are less than fifty miles apart and Oreos are affordable. We'll probably be in the desert for another two weeks or so, and then the trip will be pretty full of time with churches, which I'm really looking forward to. It's been great to meet new people and learn about their concepts of social justice and their experiences and efforts to help others.

Speaking of meeting new people: to the couple that left early at dinner tonight, thank you so much for surprising us by paying for our meals. To the couple who were sitting near the wall: happy anniversary, and enjoy your sailing adventures!


Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Honest thoughts about Skunks

Last week, as we bicycled from Redwood City to Pleasanton, CA, we passed a dead skunk with one arm extended on the side of the road. Dylan's voice popped into my head: "I wonder what it was reaching for in its last moments?" In that moment, I realized I don't know anything about skunks, besides the widely shared opinion that they are nuisances and the fact that they emit a foul odor that can be muted by bathing in tomato juice. But what do skunks eat? Where do they live?

I rode on.

Several days later, we passed another dead skunk that reminded me of my silly ponderances, but this time I began to wonder if my ponderances really were so silly. While every analogy breaks down at some point (according to Bret Widman), my skunk encounters and subsequent thoughts led me to wonder at the People whom I don't know anything about. Who is simply a smelly nuissance? Or, to a lesser extent, whose gifts do I not recognize?

This challenging thought took my imagination across borders, far away from myself. There are a lot of People in Our world who are not wholly acknowledged and treated accordingly. Hopefully, this trip will help to rectify that in some small way.

My skunk analogy and hours of contempletive riding also smacked me in the face last week. Sometimes, I fail to recognize the gifts of good friends, people with whom I interact everyday. This was a difficult and humbling lesson from which I hope to grow.

Who are the skunks in (or out, as the case may be) of your life?


Random thoughts Occur.

I'm still amazed that I am riding across the country on a bike. Sometimes I have to remind myself that this is really happening. It will become more difficult for me as time goes on I think. All of the other team members will get a chance to see family, friends, church members, and so forth and I will not. I think of my parents and my brothers and sisters everday. Sometimes it's hard, but what I do is put on a headset and start each morning with a little gospel and picture the people I love. Being so far away for college has cost me a lot of time with my closets friends and family. It's just different when they're physically there and you don't have to describe some of your most formative experiences on the phone.

I guess i'm realizing the importance of close relationships. Meeting people on the road and talking about God and justice is so refreshing, I just wish I had taken more time to do that with the people around me before.

Well, I have one more year of college and maybe I can work on that. I realized the other day, that other than God of courese, I don't have that one friend to call every other day and tell him how I just crossed the Sierra mountains. It was painful.

The Surley

Today was a nice day and we rode about 75 miles. My Surley Long Haul Trecker is holding up really nicely. Other than two flat tires, the thing is a tank. It's been through some pretty rough terrain in the last few days and it's a light and durable machine. It can make really sharp turns even with all of my bags attached to it and i'm glad I bought it. It's a very reliable road bike, especially for some one like me who hasn't biked since he was 8 years old!

Into the desert

Matt here, in Reno. The rest of the team is in Fallon, NV. Unfortunately, I twisted my knee last week in Sacramento, CA and have had to miss the last few days of biking. The most frustrating part of it all was that it wasn't even a biking injury. No, I got hurt walking down the stairs.

Luckily, my dad was kind enough to fly out and keep me company and cart me around this weekend while I recovered. And I'm thankful for that.

Tomorrow morning, I'll rejoin the team in Fallon and we'll head out into the desert. It's going to be a much different desert than we'd anticipated (forecasted high of just 65 tomorrow). Today my dad and I picked up a bunch of tubes and other spare parts in preparation for the weeks ahead (I would be very surprised if we found another bike shop between here and Colorado).

So pray that I'm ready physically and that we will be taken care of these next few weeks. We have no more hospitality lined up for nearly 3 weeks but I feel good about that. It's been refreshing to wake up in the morning and ride east not knowing where we'll sleep that night, but not worrying about it.

I don't know when the next blog entry will be. Perhaps there will be wireless interet in the middle of the desert. But there's no chance of that. We'll update when we can.

Our dear friend and tech adviser Paul Johnson has added a nice little map to the site in the bar on the right. You can check out progress on there. Also, we now have links to Spark and Acirfa in the sidebar there for easier access.