Tuesday, 27 August 2013

That's all folks

I'm back home again now.  My parents spent a few days in New York and then met me at the beach for the tire dipping and at the church for the banquet.  They picked me up from the church Sunday morning and we drove back to Ontario together.

I had a blast this summer -- it was a great adventure.  I particularly enjoyed the mountains.  They were a bit of a challenge to climb, but the views from the top were breathtaking, and riding down the other side was always exhilarating.  The food was amazing and it's going to be hard to adjust back to a normal diet.  It was also interesting to see first hand some of the poverty that this tour is working to end, particularly in some of the inner cities and Native American territory we biked through and camped in, and to hear stories at the celebration services of specific ways we are making a difference.

I want to thank everyone for your support whether it was through donations, prayer, encouraging emails, or all of the above.  I couldn't have done this without your help.  Thank you!

Monday, 26 August 2013

Ocean #2

After two months, we've finally made it to the Atlantic.  I have to say that getting to the Atlantic to dip my tire was a lot more work than the Pacific.  I figured a more triumphant pose was appropriate (and that's what everyone else was doing too, though maybe that was just to avoid getting salt water on their bikes).

Day 62

Saturday - We couldn't have asked for better weather for our last ride.  I rode with the same group I often rode with, played euchre with, ate meals with, and drank beer with.  We continued down the Hudson River and then crossed the George Washington bridge to Manhattan.  We took a bike path down to the Staten Island ferry.  Not surprisingly, the bike path was very crowded -- I think we passed more cyclists and pedestrians on that path than on the whole rest of the tour combined.

When we arrived at Staten Island, we had a police escort to Midland Beach where we dipped our tires in the Atlantic Ocean, officially completing our Sea to Sea journey.

Today's route.
Distance: 91.9 km
Elevation: +1817 / -1967 ft

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Day 61

Friday - We did a lot of climbing again today, but we didn't have to go too far, and it is a little cooler as well, so it was a good ride.  The climbs were challenging, but the downhills were a lot of fun.  My bike computer doesn't work, so I don't know for sure how fast I was going, but I probably reached about 70 kph.  We had many great views along the Hudson River and from bridges over it.

Near the end of the ride, several of us stopped at a gazebo for some ice cream cones that Rachel had just bought for us.

After our peloton meeting, a large group of us took a walk along a path through the woods.  The trail was long and the sun had long set so it was quite dark and we could barely see where we were going.  Finally we started seeing some light at the end of the tunnel.  We stepped out onto the street and there before us was a large building surrounded by light.  Inside we were able to enjoy some delicious golden nectar (for a small exchange of paper).  It was a wonderful end to our last night of the tour.

Today's route.
Distance: 92.2 km
Elevation: +2736 / -2792 ft

Friday, 23 August 2013

Day 60

Thursday - We continued down the Hudson River for another beautiful ride in beautiful weather. We heard some thunder early in the afternoon, but the storm passed us by.  Before rolling into camp, Rachel, Marc, and I rode by the Vanderbilt Mansion, though we didn't go inside.  Just two more rides left!

Today's route.
Distance: 106.8 km
Elevation: +2646 / -2524 ft

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Day 59

Wednesday - We had a beautiful ride today along the Hudson River.  We've left the mountains, so we didn't need to do nearly as much climbing, which made the ride much easier than yesterday's.  The weather was great, though it is starting to warm up -- it looks like we might finally see some real August weather.

We spent most of the ride following New York Bike Route 9.  Unfortunately, the bike route hadn't been maintained very well.  Apparently, this is what they expect bikers to ride on:

Needless to say, we stuck to the road.

Today's route.
Distance: 122.5 km
Elevation: +1864 / -1979 ft

Day 58

Tuesday - We had a good ride today, but it was probably one of the most challenging rides of the tour.  We went through the mountains, so it was one big climb after another.  I really enjoyed the first half of the ride because I had gotten a little bored with the flatness of Michigan and Ontario and the scenery was spectacular.  The climbs were challenging but enjoyable and flying down the other side was a blast (In the words of my brother-in-law: "Wheeeeeeee").  However, after a while it was really tiring and the wind shifted against us, so we couldn't even go fast downhill.  At that point I just wanted to get into camp.  Thankfully, there's a "rehydration station" just outside our camp, so I'm feeling a lot better now.

Today's route.
Distance: 131.3 km
Elevation: +6661 / -6930 ft

Monday, 19 August 2013

Day 57

Monday - We had a great start to our last week with beautiful weather and a nice ride.  Rachel had taken last week off to visit family, but she's rejoined the tour, so I rode with her and Marc today.  We had no trouble crossing the border back into the US.  The last half of our ride was along Lake Champlain, which was beautiful.

Tonight we're staying at the Ausable Chasm campgrounds.  The Ausable River runs through the chasm carrying water from Lake Placid to Lake Champlain.  A few of us walked around the area getting some great pictures.

Today's route.
Distance: 120.4 km
Elevation: +1334 / -1065 ft

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Day 56

Sunday - We were bussed to the island for a celebration service at the Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul, a Presbyterian church.  The church was a beautiful old cathedral and the service was highly liturgical, reminding me of Lutheran services I've attended in the past.  A praise team from the local CRC also led us in a couple praise songs.

After the service we were free to spend some time in Montreal.  Shannon took us to her favorite restaurant, Santropol, where we enjoyed some great sandwiches in a very relaxed and pleasant atmosphere.  Afterward we walked through a nearby park and headed to a pub recommended by a friend of someone in our group for a refreshing beverage.  Finally we headed down to the pier where a bus was waiting to take us back to camp.  It was a very enjoyable final Sunday for the tour.  Just six days left!

Day 55

Saturday - We had another beautiful day and another beautiful ride along the St Lawrence River.  We've passed into Quebec and are camped on the south side of the river just outside Montreal.

Julia Miedema, one of the cyclists, organized a euchre tournament tonight.  The way it worked was that eight hands would be played and the pair who won the most points would move clockwise to the next table, while the losing pair remained.  In both cases they would shift so that they were no longer partners.  This was great because you would end up playing with a lot of different people instead of being with the same partner the whole time.  Given all the noise and laughter I heard, we all had a great time.

Today's route.
Distance: 110.5 km
Elevation: +684 / -787 ft

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Day 54

Friday - We had a great ride today along the St Lawrence River with beautiful weather -- sunny and cool.  For an extra challenge, a time trial was set up between the first and second SAGs. We would each leave the first SAG one minute apart so we couldn't draft off each other and our start time would be recorded.  There was someone else at the second SAG who would record our time when we got in. It was 26.2 km between the SAGs and about 40 cyclists joined in.  My recorded time was 43:55 which gives an average speed of 35.8 km/h and placed me about the middle of the pack.

Tonight is our last night in Ontario.  Before entering Ontario we were warned that we would be eating our way across the province and that has certainly turned out to be the case.  Almost every day we've had churches set up rest stops along the way with refreshments and goodies, often two or three churches a day.  A few times, churches have even come into camp and served us dinner or deserts.  We've frequently passed people waiting for us, waving and cheering as we passed.  Riding through Ontario was been an absolute blast!

Today's route.
Distance: 105.9 km
Elevation: +854 / -890 ft

Friday, 16 August 2013

Day 53

Thursday - We had a short ride today, so most of us stopped about two-thirds of the way to go on an hour-long cruise around the 1000 Islands on the St. Lawrence River.  There are over 1800 islands, many of which consist of only a single residence, a dock, and a few trees.  At the farthest point of the tour we circled around an island on which sat a large castle.  It was pretty cool.

Today's route.
Distance: 83.4 km
Elevation: +854 / -890 ft

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Day 52

Wednesday - We had a good ride today, though it was a little cool and we had a strong cross wind for most of the day.  We took the scenic route to Kingston along the lake.  At one point we had to take a ferry across the bay to continue down the highway.  There was a sizable hill at the fairway crossing with a large lake at the top called the Lake on the Mountain.  It was really strange to see such a large lake up above the rest of the country side with no rivers or creeks feeding into it.

Today's route.
Distance: 113.8 km
Elevation: +1253 / -1334 ft

Day 51

Tuesday - Today we had three churches along the way offer us drinks and goodies.  The first was Hope Fellowship in Bowmanville.  There was a large group of them cheering us as we biked into their parking lot.  They had coffee, fruit, and timbits for us as well as a table of assorted candies and little baggies so we could put together a bag of candies for the road.

The second church, Grace CRC in Cobourg had more coffee and a large selection of delicious baked goods.

Last, but not least, Fellowship CRC in Brighton offered us ice cream and oliebollen.  We were really spoiled today.

Just after I left the last church a sudden storm blew in and I got soaked.  When it finally stopped raining, I figured I must be close to the school where we are staying tonight, and sure enough, I crested the hill and there it was.

Today's route.
Distance: 133.6
Elevation: +2570 / -2518 ft

Monday, 12 August 2013

Day 50

Monday - This week has started out quite well.  I rode with Marc today and we really booked it.  We were one of the last ones to leave camp, I think only the sweep team was still there, but only five people were in camp in Ajax when we got there.  We probably passed about 100 riders.

We spent the entire ride in the city, which was a little busy, particularly through Toronto.  The road we were supposed to take, Queens Quay, was all under construction so we had to find creative ways to get through.  Some took adjacent roads, some rode on the sidewalks dodging pedestrians, and some were even led through by local cyclists.

We received a warm welcome in Toronto, every one of us:

Today's route.
Distance: 129 km
Elevation: +1280 / -1782 ft

A Typical Day, Part 5

After dinner we have our evening meeting, called peloton.  A peloton is a group of riders riding in a line drafting off of each other which allows them to go faster as a group than they could alone.  Jay Prium, the tour's chaplain, usually starts the meeting with a short devotion and prayer.  We count the number of flats and falls people had and open the mic to anyone who wants to share something about the day, particularly any stories of donations they collected from strangers.  A list of directions for tomorrow's route is distributed (this is erroneously referred to as a map, a minor pet peeve of mine), and Phil Quist explains the route to us including any detours or interesting points along the way.  Any new riders joining us are asked to introduce themselves, and any riders leaving after the next day's ride are offered the opportunity to say goodbye.

After peloton, we break up into our small groups.  There are eighteen groups, each with a leader.  For some reason, our group wasn't assigned a leader, so we aren't entirely sure what the expectation was for what we should be doing.  We usually just chat for a while about how our day went and then one of us prays.

After small groups the rest of the night is free.  People use this time to blog or check email, to sit around and chat, to play euchre, or to get ready for bed.  Bedtime for most people is usually sometime between 9:00 and 10:00 pm.  We all need our sleep so we'll be fresh and ready to do it all again tomorrow.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Day 49

Sunday - For breakfast this morning, Sean made chocolate-chip pancakes and bacon.  I don't think there exists a breakfast better than that.  My parents drove us to my home church in Stratford for a surprise visit.  It was really great to see everyone there again.

After lunch at my parents' house, we headed back to Redeemer for the Celebration service.  The praise team was good and I really liked the message.  Ending poverty isn't something we can do ourselves.  Using the story of the feeding of the five thousand as an illustration he pointed out that we just need to focus on helping those in front of us, and it's God who will multiply our efforts.

After the service we had dinner provided by local churches.  Each church essentially provided a bagged lunch and it was a surprise what was in it.  It was kind of fun discovering what was in the bag and trading items with other people.

Do I smell bacon?

Day 48

Saturday - Pat Tiemens, a friend and fellow deacon from Stratford CRC, met me at the school this morning so we could ride together.  He recognized another cyclist here, Jessica Van de Hoef, who is his cousin, so the three of us rode together.

We stopped at Maranatha CRC in Cambridge early in the day where I met my sister and brother-in-law, Melinda and Sean (he's the Sean who's been posting so often here).  It was so great to see them again!  They and a few other member of the church put out water, fruit, and lots of goodies for us.  They put up some great signs to help us find the church, one of which had a personal greeting to me (above picture) which I actually missed coming in because I was so eager to see them.

We had a short ride into Ancaster with great weather and a nice tail wind.  Sean picked me and drove me back to their place so I could shower and do my laundry, and so we could have some "guy time" which means drinking beer and discussing theology.  My whole family got together for dinner at my parents' house.  It was so great to see them all again.  I might have some trouble leaving again on Monday.

Today's route.
Distance: 71.3 km
Elevation: +1497 / -1769 ft

Day 47

Friday - We came the closest to my house today.  For the last half of the route we were on roads that I had either biked or driven many times before.  It's really exciting to be so close to home again.

About halfway through the ride I was met by two coworkers, Mike Paola and Dave Wellstood, and we rode together for a while.  At one of the SAG stops, they had taken out the Welcome to Canada sign that they had for us when we crossed the border, so we took a picture in front of it.

I went slightly off route when we rode through Cambridge so I could get my first official Tim Hortons donut for the tour.  Someone brought some timbits in Imlay City, but those don't really count -- they were really just a foretaste of what was coming.  It was a very tough decision, but I decided to go with an apple fritter.  They taste great and because they have fruit in them, they're healthy too.

It felt a little strange riding the route between Cambridge and Breslau.  I had ridden that route so many times on a bus and it felt a little weird riding on it as a bike.  It was also a little strange taking a shower at Woodland.  I had attended this school for three years, but today was the first time I took a shower there.

Shannon's dad Hugo picked a few of us up and brought us to her house in Kitchener.  She gave us a tour and then we hung out there for a little while rehydrating with some refreshing beverages provided by Hugo.

After dinner back at the school, one of Shannon's friends, Jonathon Hunse, brought us to another friend's house where they had a small party for Shannon with a few other couples from her church.  More refreshing beverages were served along with some great desserts.  I knew one of the other couples -- Dave and Cara DeHaan; I work with Dave and went to high school with Cara.  It ended up being a bit of a late night (I can't believe I'm calling 11:00 pm late), but we all had a great time.

Today's route.
Distance: 116.5 km
Elevation: +2487 / -2244 ft

Friday, 9 August 2013

Day 46

Thursday - I met up with Pete on the road today and at about the halfway point we were met by Steve Hiemstra, another member of our church, and we rode into London together.  The skies were overcast, but the rain held off, so we had a pretty good ride.  We rode some pretty nice bike trails along the Thames River through London.

Tonight we're staying at London District Christian Secondary School, which I attended for grades nine and ten.  It's changed quite a bit since I was here -- they put up a nice new extension.

Today's route.
Distance: 111.9 km
Elevation: +1209 / -985 ft

Thursday, 8 August 2013

A Typical Day, Part 4

Dinner is usually at 6 pm.  The food here has been amazing here in terms of the quality, quantity and variety.  A lot of us are actually gaining weight.  We've had chicken, lasagna, fajitas, meatloaf, hamburgers, sloppy joes, and spaghetti, along with a variety of vegetables, potatoes (baked, mashed, or scalloped), and usually a desert like pudding, cheesecake, or ice cream.  There's usually lots of extra for anyone who wants seconds.  The tables are usually setup outside and we line up while the members of the sweep team in charge for the day serve us.

Sometimes, we're provided dinner by a local church community.  These meals are always great, and often have an every larger variety of food and desserts for us.  It's also nice for our kitchen staff to take the day off every now and then.

Day 45

Wednesday - Today didn't start out very well.  A thunderstorm rolled through just as were getting ready to leave.  A number of cyclists had already left, but those of us who hadn't yet waited in the school until it passed.  It was still raining pretty steadily when we left, so we all got soaked.  Thankfully, the skies cleared up and we had beautiful weather for the rest of the ride.

The crossing into Canada went very smoothly.  We went a little out of our way to cross on the ferry, but it was nice following the river south and then back north again.  Canada customs had been sent all our passport information ahead of time, so getting though was very quick.  We had a very warm reception on the other side with a cheering crowd, cookies, watermelon, and Tim Hortons coffee.  It was good to be home!

We received a very warm welcome from the local CRC community.  They had signs and balloons all along the route to Sarnia.  They also served us a wonderful dinner of pork chops, corn-on-the-cob, and baked potatoes, with lots of amazing desserts as well.

Shannon's father was in Sarnia to meet her and he met an old friend there who had just moved back to the area.  Since thunderstorms were predicted overnight, they invited us to sleep over at their house.  They lived just a few blocks from a beach on Lake Huron, so we started walking down to it, but a thunderstorm hit just before we got there and we got soaked.  They gave us towels to dry off and put our clothes in their dryer.  We had to wear our cycling clothes for tomorrow while we waited for our clothes to dry.  So much for avoiding the rain.

Today's route.
Distance: 127.4 km
Elevation: +1758 / -1716 ft

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Day 44

Tuesday - We had another cold, wet day today.  It drizzled off and on all morning and then started coming down more steadily for the last part of our ride.  Of course, it stopped only a couple kilometers from camp.

Our route took us through downtown Flint.  We were warned ahead of time not to ride through it on our own.  It looked pretty bad with lots of graffiti and boarded up buildings.  It was certainly a vivid picture of the poverty we are fighting against.

A lot of new riders have joined us this week.  This morning I passed someone who rides his unicycle for part of the ride.

Tonight we're staying at Imlay City High School.  Member of the local CRC came by after dinner to serve us ice cream.

Today's route.
Distance: 122.3 km
Elevation: +1758 / -1716 ft

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Day 43

Monday - I rode with Peter Visscher today who's riding for the week and we were joined by Adam (see post for day #12) at the first SAG.  We rode pretty hard and only one rider beat us into camp. 
Shortly after we left the third SAG we were passed by a hay baler going about 40 kph.  We quickly snuck in behind it and were able to draft behind it for almost 30 km.  Although we had to work hard to keep up when going up hill, the rest of the time we cruised at about 40 kph with very little effort.  It was pretty awesome.

Marc marked the route today and added a number of humorous messages along the way.  When a town limit sign was in sight, he marked "sprint" on the road and we raced to see who can reach the sign first.  I won most of the races in my group, but that was probably only because Peter didn't know what the game was, and I usually saw the "sprint" sign first so I got a head start.  We had a lot of fun on the ride today.

Since we got into camp early, I used the extra time to do some bike maintenance.  I cleaned the frame, cleaned and relubed my chain, and replace both my front and bake tires, which were really showing the miles and had a fair number of gashes and punctures.

Today's route.
Distance: 103.8 km
Elevation: +1513 / -1486 ft

Milk, it does a body good

Day 42

Sunday - I spent most of the weekend at a friend's house who lives near Grand Rapids.  We had a great time of intellectual conversion, beer drinking, and watching G rated movies with his kids.  It was nice change to be able to take a hot, private shower and to not be greeted by a line of naked men waiting to use the stall when I finished.  He let me use his washer and dryer and I feel like my clothes are really clean for the first time on this tour.

A celebration service was held in the Van Noord Arena at Calvin College.  We cyclists came in with our bikes and walked around the upper level of the arena.  We then left our bikes against the railing and joined the congregation on the lower level for a service of praise to God.  The pictures I took didn't turn out, but you I'm sure there will be lots of pictures of the service on the Sea to Sea website.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Day 41

Saturday - We had a short ride today between Holland and Grand Rapids.  The sun was out again, so it was a nice ride, We were joined by a number of riders who joined us for the day, so it got a little crowded on the roads.  We stopped at Calvin CRC for lunch and then all rode into Calvin together as a group.

We've now completed two-thirds of the tour.  Just three more weeks to go.

Today's route.
Distance: 62.9 km
Elevation: +986 / -818 ft

Day 40

Friday - Well, the nice weather didn't last very long.  It rained on us for most of the ride, so we were pretty cold and miserable.  We stopped at Hope Reformed Church for cookies and coffee, which was a nice break from the weather, but it made it really hard to get back into the rain and keep going.

We also stopped at Graafschap CRC just outside Holland.  It was apparently the first CRC in the denomination.  They had a small museum in their basement documenting the history of Dutch settlers in the area.  The original church building was across the street.

We're staying in the dorms of Hope College tonight.  We met up with Christy who rode with us the first three weeks and works at the college. She invited a number of us over to her place a few blocks away after dinner.  She'll be riding with us again tomorrow.

Today's route.
Distance: 95.6 km
Elevation: +1948 / -1953 ft

Friday, 2 August 2013

A Typical Day, Part 3

The first thing most people do (after they have rested) is to claim a spot on the lawn and put up their tent.  Sometimes, the place where we are staying at will allow us to sleep inside which is nice when the place is air conditioned and it is really hot outside or raining, though some still prefer to sleep outside in their tents for the privacy.  It is a little odd sleeping in a gym filled with a hundred other people.

The next order of business is to take a shower.  The quality of our showers varies quite a bit from place to place.  The shower rooms in schools are usually pretty good, but when we stay in a city park, we usually have to use the shower rooms from the nearby city pool which don't tend to be in very good shape.  Often, less than half the nozzles work and those that do spray the water with enough pressure to blast the tan off our skin.  The nice showers actually have hot water.  A couple times, we actually had private stalls with curtains!  I successfully went through all of high school without showering with a bunch of other guys, but that's simply not possible here.  I get a little uncomfortable when one of the older men strikes up a conversation with me when he's standing in front of my buck naked.

Once we've showered and setup our tent, we usually have a few hours of free time before supper.  A lot of people use this time for an afternoon nap.  Most try to find some wifi to reconnect with the rest of the world.  Sometimes it's available from the place we're staying at, but other times we need to head into town looking for a McDonald's or any other place that offers free wifi, and sometimes we are just too far from civilization and have to do without.

Day 39

Thursday - We had a great ride today!  The day started with a breakfast of pancakes, sausages, and fruit provided to us by the Illiana Christian High School.  We crossed into Indiana early on our ride and spent the first third of our ride on beautiful paved bike paths.

There was no sign for Indiana on the bike path, so the person who marked the path for us made one for us.

The rest of the ride was spent along Lake Michigan and we could often view the lake from the road.

After getting into camp, taking a shower, and setting up our tents, a bunch of us rode down to the beach to enjoy the warm sand and cool lake water.  We then met a group of riders from Immanuel Reformed Church in Grand Rapids who are joining us across Michigan.  They dipped their tires in Lake Michigan and will be dipping their tires in Lake Huron when we reach the Canadian border.

The Lighthouse Ministries where we are staying served us a dinner of fajitas, fruit, and freshly baked cookies, and then led us in a time of worship in their sanctuary, followed by an ice cream social.  We really are getting spoiled on this tour.

Distance: 135.8 km
Elevation: +1681 / -1696 ft

Day 38

Wednesday - It didn't rain during the ride today, which made it a much better day than yesterday.  However, it remained damp and overcast the whole day, so none of the stuff that got wet yesterday was able to dry, unfortunately.

Tonight we're being hosted by Illiana Christian High School in Lansing, Illinois, just south of Chicago.  They provided a fabulous dinner of spaghetti and chicken.  After our peloton meeting, they put on a ice cream social for us.  With how well the support staff has been feeding us and everything that local church communities have been providing us, I don't believe I'm losing any weight, but at least I can eat all this great food without gaining any.  It's going to be difficult to adjust to a normal diet again after this is all over.

Today's route.
Distance: 146.6 km
Elevation: +1574 / -1814 ft