Monday, September 1, 2008

Sunday, August 31, 2008

The end and the beginning

After an awesome parade led by three different police escort teams, we arrived at Liberty State Park around 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, August 30.  While traveling through the city streets of Jersey City, police cruisers leap-frogged from one intersection to the next, with sirens blaring, alongside our two-block long entourage.   Two young boys on bicycles slipped into the line and stuck with us until the end!  They were grinning from ear to ear, and many of us cyclists greeted them warmly.    It seemed so appropriate to me that the some from the highways and byways had  been brought aboard for the 'glory ride.'  They didn't have the helmets, the gloves, the jerseys, the spandex, or the fancy bikes, but they were thrilled to be caught up in this wave of excitement.  After 30 minutes of trying to stay 'tight' - tighter than we ever had to be on the tour - we finally saw the Statue of Liberty in the distance. We still had about 20 minutes more of cycling down a very long bike trail/board walk before we got close to the water and the cheering crowds.  Among the throngs of friends, family and onlookers, we saw our friends George and Pam Arwady.  What a surprise!  George is the publisher of the Newark Star Ledger and had a photographer on duty for the tire-dipping ceremony, which involved a few words from the chaplain, saying the Lord's Prayer, and then slowly walking toward the water, where a sailboat with a big sign "New City Kids welcome Sea to Sea cyclists - Congratulations!"  Trevor Rubingh is the pastor of this church which offers a lot of support for the youth in the community, including teaching youth how to sail!    After about 20 minutes of wild cheering, jumping in the water, etc (by the younger cyclists) all the bicycles were put up on big trucks, we boarded buses and all went to the Eastern Christian Middle School where most would be sleeping that night.  After quick showers,  we were bused again to Cedar Hill CRC for the closing dinner and banquet.  Then we claimed our van (which was driven by Cindy Kuperus from to Cedar Hill from New City Kids Church - it was there because Kyle Sandison drove it from Michigan to NJ earlier in August) and followed our hosts back to Eastern Chr. to pick up our bikes as well as Claire and Hank's and then to the place where we'd sleep that night. 

Thanks to Gordon and Shirley Kuipers of Cedar Hill CRC for their hospitality on Saturday evening and Sunday morning and for escorting us from their home in North Haledon almost to the front door of Pompton Plains RCA by 8:30 a.m. Sunday. We wanted to attend the 8:30 a.m. outdoor service because we knew that Rich's brother Andy would be preaching there that Sunday.  He had served at Pompton Plains RCA for over 20 years until his retirement a few years ago.  His wife Mae, our sister-in-law, was playing the keyboard and Andy  preached from the passages II Kings 4:42-44 and Matthew 14:13-21 "I Need a Miracle" and made three points: 1. God is a God of abundance, 2. There are times however when we do feel trapped, and 3. We sometimes need to 'BE' the miracle.   It was during that last point when Andy asked us to stand - the two people in yellow shirts, one of whom "looks a lot like me."   He talked about what we had done as part of the Sea to Sea bike tour.  He pulled out a few pages of printed material from the Sea to Sea website and told about the purpose of the tour in very cohesive terms - specifically reading from the description of what Partners Worldwide's indigenous development model.  He suggested that people may want to be a part of making a miracle happen by supporting the Sea to Sea goals.   After the service we handed out bracelets and people gave us money.  We collected $420 in cash and checks.  Thanks, Andy and Pompton Plains.  

Friday, August 29, 2008

Catching up at our host's home

Friday evening at 10:45 p.m. and Rich and I, Jake Prins, and Andy Heemstra are staying at the quaint Dutch architecture home of Sam and Dottie (daughter of Uncle Owen and Aunt Honey) Valkema in Sussex, NJ. I rode up and down mountains in Pennsylvania and New Jersey today. Rich almost completed the whole day of cycling, but when he was ready to quit before riding up to High Point in New Jersey, I said I wanted to finish it, so I rode with Paul Buth and one other guy from Carbondale, Penn. through the busy city streets before getting on Route 23 heading for the highest point in New Jersey before sailing down the mountain to get to Sussex. Had supper in the Sussex Christian School gym, where we also had a very long peloton meeting from 7:30 to almost 9 p.m. After that we were assigned to our host families - those of us who signed up to be billeted. Claire had recommended we sign up to be with the Valkema's and we're very happy that we did. It's wonderful to meet the owner of the Holland American Bakery that provided all the buns for the supper this evening!

Thursday, August 28, 2008
We had a wonderful rest at the Gelders and were excited for the day, knowing it would be shorter and less hilly. On a particularly long down-hill ride on US 11 we caught up with a group led by a recumbent bike and the drafting was lovely. When we got to the end of that long (26 mile) section, Rich and I pulled ahead, little aware what we were in for after an awesome view of a reinforced concrete bridge with a train on the top. Shortly after that a climb began that beat all climbs. Rich walked many of the slopes – I tried to bike up but a couple times was torn between stopping out of utter exhaustion or keep going because I was afraid I couldn’t get my clips out of the pedals I’d fall over backwards if I stopped. We made it though, and are in a beautiful state park – Lackawanna. We’re signing up for billets (hosts) for tomorrow and Saturday evenings.

Supper was a medley of dishes from chili with cheese and chips, tossed salad, pasta salad, scalloped potatoes, potato salad, sliced bell peppers, bread, peanut butter, mixed fruit with whipped topping (until that ran out), coffee, hot chocolate, milk, tea, and that’s about it. This was the last supper to be prepared and presented from the food truck as tomorrow’s supper will be offered by the Sussex CRC and the last night’s meal will be a banquet in a church I can’t recall right now. After supper we sat around chatting until peloton. I took some pictures of the crosses made by Troy and the other inmates in Chippewa. One man – from Haven CRC, Holland, who was wearing a blue/yellow cross on the zipper pull of his Sea to Sea sweat shirt, said, after I told him that I’d figured today it would take 70 revolutions a minute for about 12 hours to equal the number of inmates in Michigan’s prisons (over 50,000), that “one of those inmates killed my son.” He explained that his 36-yr. old son was killed in a car accident caused by a drugged, drunk driver up in Cadillac on Labor Day 4 years ago. The son’s wife of exactly 6 months was in the car but not badly hurt. The father has a picture of this son on his bicycle and is doing this ride for many reasons, but one is in memory of his son. Here we are, riding in lieu of our son being able to ride, hoping that some day he will be able to feel the excitement of the open road, and another couple knows that their son’s chance to do so, in this life, is over.

Peloton was a little sad – lots of announcements, especially about the last day’s logistics (three different police escorts for the last 10 miles because we will be in three different municipalities), when to take the group photo, that we can billet the last two nights, and can’t tent outdoors at Eastern Christian High School, and, of course, the flat tire count, the falls/spills count, and the weather report. Then we had a few people (the Dragts, a young lady, and a man) give impressions of the tour, and because it was starting to sprinkle, we hurried into a big circle for the final communion service. Bowls of bread and juice were passed around and people were instructed to say, “The body of Christ broken for you” or “The blood of Christ shed for you” when passing to the next person. Two flutes played “Eat this bread,” one other song, and “How Great Thour Art” during the communion, and at the very end, chaplain Len Riemersma prayed and we sang “Praise God from Whom all Blessings Flow.” We scattered to our tents and then it really started to rain. Now it is 4 a.m. and perfectly dry and cool. The weather has been so comfortable. We have been blessed.

Wednesday, August 27. Being on sweep duty meant that we had to be at the kitchen truck by 5:30 a.m. and help set up breakfast food, as well as fixin’s for lunch. The egg salad was great and so I made a couple sandwiches and we ate them about 2 hours after leaving at 8 a.m. which is a lot later than usual. We left with Claire who was also on sweep team, but she quickly pulled ahead. Rich’s bike computer wasn’t working very well so we stopped at a bike shop in Ithaca to have it checked. With a little spray on the contacts it was working again.

It was a hard ride – in my estimation anyway. Rich and I stopped frequently because of we were tired and there were a lot of hills – long, steep hills. We ended up arriving at the Valley CRC in Binghamton, NY at about 5 p.m. Jan Gelder took us to pick up some of our clothes from the gear truck and then to their house where we took showers and got ready for the supper of chicken or pork spiedies on Italian bread, salt potatoes, acini di pepe salad, baked beans, brownies and ice cream, milk, coffee, and ice water. It was a great supper preceded by a mediation by Pastor Gelder in which he used his inspired volume post-surgical lung expander, pneumonia-prevention device to explain that the breathing-in that we do when we see God’s creation and get to know God’s children is essential to our ability to breath-out the good works and spread the good news.

Tuesday evening, August 26. The highlights of the day were being interviewed by a television crew, and stopping at a farm 15 miles south of the East Palmyra CRC which provided lunch for the cyclists. It was a gorgeous set-up with tents and barbeque and salads and chips and home-baked cookies and bars for dessert. We saw my aunt and uncle (Grace and Ralph Hutt), also some of Rich’s relatives who attend East Palmyra church. We have sweep duty tonight which means we start working at 5:30 p.m. and work through supper and then again at breakfast tomorrow morning. We’ve been invited to Al and Jan Gelderloos to sleep tomorrow. I’ll probably do some wash there as well because things are starting to get grungy.

Monday evening, August 25. It’s a lovely late afternoon near Byron NY at an RV campground. Sylvia Hugen, Mel’s wife, rented one of the parked campers at the campground, and we (Mel, Rich and I, and Hank and Claire) spent some time socializing before supper. Sylvia brought some newspapers and crackers/cheese/beverages for the five cyclists she knew so we had a nice time between showers and supper.
It’s a cool evening, and the campfire which is blazing about 40 feet away from me. The peloton will start 10 minutes early – I’m sure because it’s rather chilly out and we’ll have to hunker down a little early in order to avoid frost bite. The evening ended with a country music ensemble (fiddle, bass and ?) leading us in singing around a campfire, where we could also roast marshmellows for s’mores.

Sunday evening, August 24. There was a lot of rain this afternoon from 2-3:30 p.m. just before the outdoor service in a park where the last Sunday celebration rally was held today. But just a little before 4 p.m. the sun broke through and the area stayed dry for the one hour service and the barbeque afterwards. I appreciated Alida Van Dijk’s reflections on the tour. She mentioned that a highlight for her was receiving one of the 250 braided crosses made by a few prisoners from Chippewa prison in the Upper Peninsula in Michigan, one of whom knew about the tour because his parents joined the tour in Grand Rapids.

We’ve been hosted (billeted) this weekend by Jaap and Pauline van Staalduinen who live on a lovely piece of property in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. They came to pick us up Saturday night at the Beacon Christian School shortly after a very nice supper served by several of the CRC churches in the area. After little ride during which we were introduced to the Dutch Flower House (Jaap and Pauline’s business) trumpet flowers which grace the boulevards in Niagara-on-the-Lake, we checked out several other unique varieties of flowering bushes and trees in their yard and in their immaculate greenhouses.

On Saturday afternoon Rich and I rode our bikes to Bike Fit, the local bike shop which was one of the most well stocked biking clothing stores I’ve ever seen. I needed my lower bracket looked at it because it’s been creaking, so while that was being taken apart and adjusted, I tried on some clothes and found a pair of shorts that I really liked. The repairs and clothing purchases came to over $170 (including the 13% Canadian tax.) But if these shorts are more comfortable than my other two pair, it will be worth it.

We had to take our baskets out of the gear truck for the weekly cleaning – a task that took the weekend sweep team at least 2 hours to complete. But just before supper we were able to return our baskets to the shelves and get ready for billet pick-up. So by finishing our cycling early on Saturday (we got to Beacon Chr. School by 1 p.m. ) it allowed me to take care of several things – first, getting a massage and being told by a physical therapist how to stretch better (because I have some very tight muscles in my legs after a week of riding and not very good stretching), cleaning out and organizing (again) all our baskets, not to speak of repair of the bike and purchase of new shorts. I’m very happy that we billeted and met new friends who celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary and Pauline, her 50th birthday this summer – similar to our celebrating our 40th anniversary and me by 60th. On this day when our youngest turned 25 years old, we met a young man aged 25 who was the oldest child of our brother and sister in Christ, Jaap and Pauline. Again, the Lord enriched our lives through this audacious bike tour.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Doing just fine

It's Thursday morning and we've just entered Hallstead, Pennsylvania and saw this little library so I thought I'd at least let folks who are reading this blog know that we're still peddling. I have a lot of reflections typed up on my computer which is on the gear truck and I planned to upload them last night at Al and Jan Gelder's house where Rich and I spent the night, but their computer wouldn't copy and paste and it was getting late (9:30 p.m.) and we had to get to bed. The scenery on this ride is just amazing. We have a short day today (58 miles) we're already almost halfway. Tomorrow's ride is very, very hilly and long, so we plan to relax when we get to camp this evening and get plenty of sleep tonight. Saturday is the last day, with a closing banquet at Eastern Christian High School and a program following that. More later. Thanks for your thoughts and prayers.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Toward Niagara Falls - Day 6

Our friends at Redeemer University College provided breakfast this morning (in addition to the supper last night.) We left at 7 a.m. and didn't take any snacks or lunch foods because we knew there were several church groups along the way who would provide refreshments. That is what happened. At Providence CRC in Beamsville we were served lunch, which included a variety of sandwiches, choices of beverages, potato chips, pickles and lots of homemade cookies and bars. A man came up to me to ask if I knew where his daughter-in-law, Cynthia Aukema, was, and I said I hadn't seen her yet, but I was curious if she was related to me. We talked a bit and figured out that not only did Jim Aukema know Owen and MaryLou, but the young man across the table was the son of Dan's Alice's brother, and Jim A. had a daughter who was an artist and lived in Saugatuck and knew John and Marty. It has been said that there is only one degree of separation between any two people on this tour. Have to go eat supper at Beacon Christian School now (in St. Catherine's, Ontario). Then after supper we will go to spend the night with some soon-to-be-discovered hosts. Every day is an adventure.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Taking it easy

Today I decided to take my time, which meant not riding with Claire. In fact, I chose to ride with Hank, who is notably more relaxed in his cycling. We all knew there would be several refreshment stops - at least 4 - sponsored by the CR churches along the way. In deed, there were some very welcoming groups who provided everything from Tim Horton's coffee, currant buns, sub sandwiches, watermelon, juices, baked goods and a respite from the shade. Somewhere along the line, we picked up Jake Prins and soon, I was with Jake and everyone else had gone ahead.

When we got to the last stop at the home of a church member from one of the churches in Hamilton, Jake Prins and I sat in some comfortable chairs under a large maple tree and fell asleep. When I awoke it was almost 3:30 p.m. - the latest time that one would want to arrive in camp. I said loudly, "Jake! We've got to go!" He jumped up and put his glasses and helmet on all in one swift movement. After filling our water bottles, we took off at a leisurely pace to cover the last 15 miles.

We arrived at Redeemer University a little after 5 p.m. I feel very refreshed after a nice shower in their locker rooms, and a supper of bratworst and salads, iced tea, lemonade, fruit and some desserts provided by Redeemer's campus services department. They also will provide breakfast for us tomorrow morning. They have chairs scattered around the front lawn where we'll most likely have our group meeting, which saves us having to haul our folding chairs around. All very considerate amenities.

Rich had set up the tent before I got to camp - he did that after he arrived about 2:30 p.m. Hank and Claire are going to someone's home tonight - being billeted is what it is called in Canada - because they feel they can share some of what the tour is all about with people that way. I agree, and hope that whenever the opportunity arises again, Rich and I will take it. Probably tomorrow and Sunday evenings we'll do that. For tonight, we're fine with going to peloton at 7:30 p.m., small groups at 8 p.m and then hitting the hay at a decent hour. The weather is gorgeous and the hospitality wonderful wherever we go in Canada. I'm learning the Canadian national anthem and singing it while cycling whenever the Spirit says sing!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Reflections on associating with Calvin alumni

As we sit here in the comfort of the home of Pastor Dan and Ida Tigchelaar in London, Ontario, Canada, after a lovely meal of roast, potatoes, beans, corn, peach cobbler with ice cream and peppermint tea, I wonder why I'm so blessed to be treated this well. Today was a very difficult day of cycling. I was drained of energy after 20 miles, but we had 57 more to go before getting to our destination for the day so when we were surprised by these fine friends about 10 miles from the planned camp site with an offer to spend the night in a real bed, after taking a real shower, and doing some laundry, how do you think we responded? Dan and Ida have been friends of Claire for a long time, but Dan and his twin Dave went to Calvin when I did, and they both went on to seminary and served churches in Canada until just recently. Other friends, also alumni from that era, were here for supper as well. So Hank and Claire, Rich and I, Dan and Ida, and John and Marg Hagans had a mini Calvin reunion right here.

I also had a chance to check my e-mail and other signs of energy from the real world. Was pleased to note that David Hoekema, philosophy professor at Calvin, had sent out an e-mail to Calvin folks that was very supportive of the Sea to Sea venture. It read, in part, as follows:

"Every week.... we read about another "I'm going to walk across Tasmania / bike across the Alps / swim the Arctic in order to cure the common cold / feed all the hungry in Mexico / build six new churches in St Ignace" project. Maybe I'm just getting old and cynical, but I grow weary of these, since the causes often seem worthy but unconnected with the particular athletic feat proposed. (And I know from experience in Africa what they sometimes produce: fifty different little projects side by side, not talking to each other or to local churches or agencies, kept afloat by a steady stream of checks from the US but having zero overall impact....)But a wonderfully inspiring counterexample swept through Calvin's campus this weekend: the Sea to Sea ride, which has not only raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for carefully selected agencies (CRC-related and many others) addressing the root causes of poverty and patterns of persistent injustice, but has also brought the riders and support crew to observe and assist some of the most effective church and nonprofit agencies in the cities visited. It's an amazingly well-organized effort. I'm sorry I couldn't arrange my summer obligations in order to ride with them for more than the one-day Saturday trek from Grand Haven to the campus (which was a wonderful experience all the same--new conversations with new people every few miles along the way, fantastic baked goods at the rest stops, etc.)The group rode off into the sunrise this morning, with..........Rich and Carol Rienstra among the third-segment riders who will touch tire to ocean in New Jersey in two weeks. (I believe Carol is the only Calvin staff or faculty member on the ride--but I may have overlooked someone. Seminary retiree Hank Zwaanstra is doing the entire coast-to-coast ride.)I have no official connection with the ride, only personal ties to a number of riders, but I want to invite all my colleagues to take a moment to give thanks for the dream that possessed a few people in the CRCNA and bore fruit in this ride (and the earlier one across Canada); to Carol for all her work to plan the Calvin stop and the uplifting rally yesterday at Fifth Third Park; and to the denomination that supports us. On occasions like this I feel honored and grateful to be a member of the CRCNA."

Another Calvin connection: when we stopped at the Forks in London for a watermelon break, who should say, "Carol? Is it you?" but Hannah Hoogendam who used to work (four years ago already!) in the APR office when she was a student. She loves teaches music at the Christian school in London and attends First CRC. It was so good to see her.

So, in spite of my low energy levels and sore muscles, it was an amazing day of surprises and good connections. We have so many stories, but I want to visit a little longer with Dan and Ida, so if you want to read more related to our experiences, and see some pictures, go to Claire Elgersma's blog.