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.

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