Wednesday, August 20, 2008

First few days of Sea to Sea

Wednesday, August 20. Having been properly warned - several times – that if we didn’t take our passports we wouldn’t get into Canada, we made sure before going to bed last night that along with our driver’s license, a credit card, and our health insurance card we put our passports in our bike shorts pockets. Because it was very cold we went to bed early and stayed in the tent as long as possible in the morning. Breakfast was being served early and for a shorter period of time so the gear truck could be readied for the trip as well. The port-a-potty had been shut down for the whole day on Tuesday because it needed to cleaned and kept that way until leaving Canada. Ed Witvoet, the tour logistics manager, did not want to ‘declare the contents.’ He swore that he’d do a DNA sample and find the culprit if there was anything in that port-a-potty on Wednesday morning. Fortunately, we are a compliant group who do what we’re told.

I’ve been wanting to ride with Claire so when she asked if we'd like to, Rich and I jumped at the chance. We quickly put our tent away and brought everything to our baskets on the truck, pumped up our tires and took off at 7 a.m. We finished 20 miles by 8:30 a.m. and stopped at a little coffee shop and purchased a cinnamon roll and coffee - $7 not so wisely spent because as soon as we crossed the St. Clair River there were hundreds of people waiting to welcome the cyclists to Canada, with Tim Horton’s coffee, freshly baked cinnamon rolls, fruit, cupcakes, water, juices, etc. – all free. There’s no reason to spend any money on food during this tour. The cooks who are with us are excellent. First night was so much stew that they begged us to eat more after everyone had a least one heaping scoop and seconds, and last night the same thing with lasagna. There is so much food and it’s really good! (maybe we’re just very, very hungry?)

After that amazing welcome from so many people, we proceeded on a road along the St. Clair River until we reached the first of many "supported" stops. Then before we knew it - arrival at a large arena where people were providing watermelon and more refreshment, and pointed out that the bicycles would be stored in the arena. The camp area was lovely - we picked a spot near a fence so we could hang up our wet towels and tent cover (everything was put away damp this morning.

Tuesday, August 19. We faced a stiff headwind – which was predicted along with cooler weather than we had on Monday. Several of us left early because we knew there would be this 10-14 mile/hr. wind from the east and we had to cover 95 miles to get to Richmond High School where we’d spend the night. We arrived at camp by 4 p.m. – that’s after almost 8 hours
saddle time (and one hour of various short breaks.) We tried to stop frequently (we didn’t really have to try too hard!) so we could share information about the purpose of the tour. We pass out business cards with the Sea to Sea website and other information on them. Lots of people make donations on the spot. Other gifts have made as memorials – we’re hearing about that right now. Mark Van’t Hof, a young pastor who passed away in February of a heart attack, helped a couple people get set to go on this bike trip. His widow spoke about him and his work – his quiet, blushy and subtle ways. She wishes sometimes that he had been more flashy – like Shane Claiborne had talked about fires being started all over. She read from Isaiah 58.

Monday, August 18. A lovely breeze is blowing here at Sleepy Hollow campground. Rich is asleep in the tent after a swim in the lake. I waited in the shower line for 30 minutes, but it was worth it. So here it is – 4:30 pm on our first day of cycling from GR to Jersey City. I feel great! The 68 miles flew by – we were in camp at 2 p.m. No wonder, because it was a perfect day for cycling. We had the wind behind us all the way, except for a one mile back tracking to get to Lowell CRC for a refreshment break at 10 a.m. That was a great reception with awesome food - breakfast casserole, bagels, fruit, homemade muffins and more. Two girls who attended band camp at Calvin were serving coffee with the “first M’bandi in America.” Her husband works at Calvin seminary and their oldest son will be a sophomore at Calvin this fall.

The leftovers from the Lowell stop were sent with the food truck and we enjoyed a muffin and some orange slices when we arrived in camp. That’s not to say we didn’t stop for lunch – a couple times. At a farm house about twenty miles from our destination several cyclists were gathered around one of the motor homes in our caravan which had pulled into a driveway and asked if he could use the homeowners yard as a stop. Not only did the homeowners agree but they provided us with water they brought down from their cabin in northern Michigan. “Throw away all your water, and try this!”

I stopped a couple times to lie down on the grass at the side of the road and listen to trees rustling in the breeze. One time when Rich and I were lounging at the side of the road, 81-year-old Jake Prins came by. He stopped to take off his socks and go barefoot in his sandals. He doesn’t wear clips, but does have straps on his pedals. He also has a mat that is attached to his bike – “in case I want to take a nap on the way. People my age have to do that once in a while.” There are so many interesting people in this group – from ages 18 to 81.

What a privilege to cycle! To have a bike that glides over the road so easily – often over 20 miles an hour. To have all these support people and vehicles so that we don’t have to carry a load on our backs. Just to have the time to spend on this venture. I can’t get over the well-oiled machine that is Sea to Sea Bike Tour ’08.

Thinking back on the sendoff we had this morning at Calvin College – with Mike Van Denend and Dale Cooper, who recited from memory, as he does so well so often, Philemon verse 7 and Ps. 121, let me assure all who read this that we have been refreshed by God’s mercies, and the Lord did keep our coming in and our going out today.

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