Biking across one nation to help feed students of another nation...$1.50 feeds one student in Kenya for one month.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Day 54: Farewell to the Tour!!!

The alarm went off at 8 a.m. and Mark quickly suited up in his padded shorts, jersey, gloves, sunglasses and helmet. I readied the camera and water and penned the last set of directions that would guide Mark the 30 miles from Ellsworth to Bar Harbor. I grabbed my cup of coffee and stole a quick kiss from my husband before he took off for the last time and I cautioned him to be careful of the heavy traffic. The temperature rose into the 90's as I waited 45 minutes and then went after him. Highway 3 was littered with cars that, I'm guessing, were filled with tourists looking forward to a big day of shopping, whale watching and eating seafood.
I spotted Mark, who had already made it 17 miles down the road, so I gave him a hoot and yelled, "Woohoo!!!" while pumping my fist. I located the ending destination in Bar Harbor, but due to the crazy crowds, I had to park a 1/2 mile down the street. Grabbing the camera, I ran down to Main Street and positioned myself at the finish line. I "people-watched" for the next 15 minutes until I saw him. Dressed in red and riding his red, Giant OCR 1 bicycle, he was impossible to miss. I snapped pictures and we both smiled proudly, as he pedaled down the pier to dip his front tire into the bay as a kind of ceremonial ending to this beautiful tour that began 4,300 miles west of here on the other side of this blessed country. Surprisingly, we weren't sad that it was over. It felt like it was time.
These last two months have been such a wonderful blessing that it's hard to describe in a few short closing words. Experiencing all of this together is something that we will always treasure and carry with us throughout our marriage.
Not everything went exactly according to our original plans due to things that were simply out of our control. When we got on that train a little over four weeks ago in North Dakota, it was tempting to think that we had failed. But thankfully, we are loved by our Lord Jesus. "Well what does that have to do with anything?" You may find yourself asking. It has to do with EVERYTHING because our success isn't measured by numbers or miles or any other human standard. Rather, our success is measured by our obedience through faith to our Heavenly Father. Mark and I have both come out of this experience with the ability to say that we followed His voice as best as we can hear. Although we are certainly far from being perfect children, the Lord has been gracious in giving us both His peace and love in all of the decisions we've had to make in regards to this trip and our hearts can rest in His assurance. That is a lesson that we've learned during this adventure that we hope to take with us for the rest of our lives.
We're so thankful to Steve Peifer and his family for their ministry to the students of Kenya and for allowing us the blessing of helping Kenya Kids Can in some small way. We look forward to the day when we'll get to visit Kenya ourselves and witness this miracle of feeding 25,000 students with our own eyes!
We're also so thankful (in an indescribable way) to Tim and Jan Butorac and all of our friends at RTC that have allowed Mark to be absent from work for so long. We look forward to rejoining all of you on September 20th!
Where are we going from here? Well, we have a few more stops to make before returning to Rochester, MN. Right now we are headed to Kentucky to see my family. My younger brother is in the U.S. Air Force and is in Kentucky for a short time. We're not sure when we'll get to see him again, so we're taking this opportunity! From Kentucky, we will go to North Carolina where Mark's childhood best friend is getting married on September 18th. They haven't seen each other since our own wedding two years ago, so this is very exciting for them.

Thank you all for reading and following along with us for these two months. Thank you for your donations to us and to Kenya Kids Can. Thank you for your encouragement and support and for following us along our journey. This will be the last blog, but it's been the most fun getting to write and report our day-to-day touring. It's made us feel connected to you and has reminded us that we weren't just doing this trip for ourselves, but for dreamers everywhere! If you have a dream, even as silly as riding a bike across America, you can do it for real!!!

Day 53

The heat is back today!!! It reached a high of 97 degrees, which is the hottest we've felt in a while. We did some driving today as Mark was in need of some rest and we're getting so close to the finish line that we can taste it!! We checked into a motel in Ellsworth for a rest day. Tomorrow will be Mark's official last day of biking, as we are only 30 miles from Bar Harbor, Maine!

Day 52

Today was Mark's last mountain to climb, the Kancamagus Pass. The elevation reached 2,855 feet and he made it up easily. He did get one flat tire, but that only set him back about 10 minutes. He was on top of the world when he reached the top and had proven to himself that he could do it. The Appalachians have nothing on him! He was one of many bikers attempting the climb today. Men and women of all ages were handling it, which I think served to spur Mark on.
We said goodbye to New Hampshire as we crossed into Maine, our final state in this journey. We're camping tonight somewhere close to Wiscasset. We're very excited because at 7:00 the owners of the campground give everyone free ice cream!
We want to give a special "thank you" to Gracepoint Church for your kind generosity. This family of people took the bill for the tires that we had to unexpectedly buy for our car when we were in Michigan. You've blessed our hearts with this sweet act of love and we thank the Lord for you! Bless you, Gracepoint!!

Day 51

Our time in Vermont came to an end today as we crossed into New Hampshire which, so far, equals Vermont in its beauty. Mark biked some good mileage and I followed him closely to take some good pictures of him riding through this wonderful part of the country. The temperature never rose above 70 and now that the sun is setting, it's dropped into the 50's!! The season is changing quickly up here. We're thankful that we bought good sleeping bags that cocoon our bodies and keep us warm in 30+ degree weather.
When Mark finished riding for the day we stopped off at a place called Lost River Gorge. There were a few options for hiking trails, so we picked the shortest one (3/4 mile) that advertised a nice overlook at the end. We briefly read the warning sign that said, "For experienced hikers only!" But Mark shrugged and said, "Oh, Americans exaggerate everything. I'm sure we can handle this trail easily." So we started down the trail and, at first, it appeared that he was right. Then we came to the point where the trail went straight up and there was no longer ground to walk on, but rather giant rocks and boulders. For the next 45 minutes we climbed up while hanging onto trees and roots to pull ourselves up. Yes, we were rock climbing and using every available muscle in our bodies. You may be wondering why we just didn't turn around when we saw the difficulty that lie before us. My only answer is that we Tiu's must have a problem. We don't know when to say when. Anyway, we made it to the top and the overlook was pretty nice. The climb back down was a different story. It was some scary stuff. At first I was just trying to go backwards and descend it the way you would a ladder, but I eventually has to sit on my bottom and scoot my way down. Mark was just saying, "Huh. I guess that sign they posted was legitimate." :)
Another adventuresome day.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Day 50

Sheesh...50 days on the road already? Craziness!
Well, we woke up to some showers this morning, but they passed for enough time that we were able to pack up our tent before they poured out again.
Mark ascended his first full mountain pass since we left the Cascades today: the Middlebury Gap which reached an elevation of 2,000 feet. He scaled it pretty well, which is good news seeing as how he still has a few more passes ahead of him and hilly terrain all the way to Bar Harbor. He says that he'd very much appreciate prayers for strength in his body and full recovery in the nights as he sleeps. We rode through another Rochester today. In the last few weeks we've been from our home in Rochester, MN to Rochester, NY to Rochester, Vermont.
Tonight we're camping in Thetford. Mark has gone meat crazy again and is currently grilling himself a steak over the fire while I watch in pretend fascination and munch on my bag of broccoli. The Grillmaster is in his element.

Day 49

We crossed into Vermont today by means of a ferry boat across Lake Champlain! We now have used almost every kind of transportation that is available on this trip: airplane, car, bicycle, train, feet and now boat! Are we missing anything??
I like being in Vermont because this is the setting for one of my favorite movies: Irving Berlin's "White Christmas."
This state has some of the hilliest terrain that Mark has yet to ride. He's handling it like a pro though. We're camping tonight in Middlebury, which is a really cute college town. Mark is cooking hamburgers, brats and chicken breasts over the fire right now. He's tired of our sandwich meat and wants lots of leftovers for the next few days. :)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Day 48

Today was a beautiful one. In the low-80's, the sun shining and a slight breeze. Mark finished his riding for the day in the early afternoon, so we located our campground in Newcomb and found a good spot overlooking a small lake. The bugs aren't as brutal now that the weather is cooler, so it makes sitting in our camping chairs much more enjoyable. It's getting dark earlier now too, which is also good news for us because we can fall asleep quicker. We've both always liked camping, but I think after this trip, we now LOVE it! It's definitely the cheapest way to get away, but there's also something really rewarding about sleeping outside amongst the trees and critters of the earth. Only moments ago we saw a little beaver fishing in the lake just a few feet away. The only exception to all of this loveliness is when it rains all night, in which case I retract these words.:)