Betsy's Cycling for Service
Betsy's Blog Posts
Kindness Can Change the World
The days of pedaling down the highway with my road family are now complete. For the past 1-1/2 months, I have cycled 6-8 hours and 80+ miles daily, and it has been both exhilarating and exhausting. Many experiences have changed me along the way, but one of the most significant ones was the kind and gentle way of the South. As we journeyed down rural roads, people waved and shouted, “Ya’ll be safe!” They chased us down in cars and ATVs to offer water bottles. Countless friends with names unknown smiled and waved while perched on their porches and as they walked along the roadside. Hotel clerks and restauranteurs offered prayers and blessings over us as we set out for the day. Drivers pulled up in their cars and trucks at our water stops to ask where we were headed and to wish us safe travels.
One day while cycling through rural Louisiana, we stopped in the tiny village of Tangipahoa for lunch. Dennis had set out the food table and our camp chairs under the portico of Brown’s Chapel Missionary Baptist Church. A police car pulled up. Out popped Police Chief Darrell Martin, who warmly greeted us and told us that he was a Deacon at the church. He also introduced us to his wife Sheila, the Mayor of Tangipahoa village. They unlocked the church and offered us use of the restroom facilities. We chatted a bit before they drove off, leaving the church unlocked and unoccupied for this neon-clad group of pungent strangers they had met 5 minutes prior. After lunch, townspeople waved to us as we rolled down the road past a tornado damaged building, railroad tracks, and ramshackle dwellings. This struggling town of generous souls extended a brand of unselfish kindness that is truly rare and precious.
If I could bottle the kindness of Tangipahoa village and other rural towns across the South, I would fill one million bottles and bring them to Denver. I’d give a bottle to everyone who crossed my path. I’d ask recipients to pop the tops and sprinkle kindness on the doorsteps of those who remain isolated and fearful after COVID, across the entrance of the tents that line our sidewalks and bridges, and over the heads of inflamed and polarized citizens. Without invitation, I would wipe it across the foreheads of people who are quick to judge others when they have no idea about the life circumstances that shaped them. I would dab it on the eyelids of people who are hardened or blind to the great need surrounding them, so they could see and care again. I’d drop a bottle off at every home and workplace and on the steps of the Capitol building and send bottles via FedEx and UPS trucks across Colorado and the surrounding states.
Kindness changes lives. It can be applied large-scale through services, housing, and food distribution like VOA does or by simple gestures that individuals can incorporate into each day--a wave, a smile, a gentle pat on the shoulder, a moment taken to listen to someone else’s story, or a small compliment. Kindness can transform others from feeling unimportant and ignored to valued and noticed if we’ll just purpose to spread it around.
If the need for more kindness has resonated with you, please complete this little science project with me. Then store it on your desk or windowsill for a while. Ingredients include oil, water, and a glass jar. Pour equal parts of oil first, and then water into the jar, and look for the result. Consider kindness the oil and meanness the water. Chemically, oil and water are opposites that don’t mix due to density and polarity differences. In society, kindness and meanness are opposites because kindness represents compassion, decency, courtesy, and affection, while meanness comprises intolerance, hatred, and hostility. If you ever doubt the impact that your kind words and deeds have on this crazy world, gaze at your jar and remind yourself of this important little thing. Just as the oil will always float on top of water, so your kindness will always create buoyancy in the lives that you touch and make the world around you a better place to live.
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7) – I thank God for sending angels to protect me and my riding team along the way. I thank my loving family, faithful friends, and amazing VOA family for your continued support during my ride via prayers, scriptures and quotes, texts, emails, care packages, phone calls, and visits. A huge thank you to those who donated to VOA and its programs. I cannot express my gratitude enough for your kindness—thanks a million and keep spreading the love around!
ENTRY 4/17 – Palatka, FL to St. Augustine Beach, FL
We began our ride a little later this morning because it was only 33 miles to the finish. We ate breakfast, cleaned up our bikes, and donned our COLA jerseys in a show of unity. We rode in a tight group along a tree-lined bike path before taking the road through town toward the beach. My son John joined us for the first 32.9 miles of the ride, and then peeled off from the group right before we entered the St. Augustine Beach parking lot. I was weepy again today, but having John along helped to dry some of the tears and keep me focused. The team members made a point to bicycle alongside each other to have final conversations before the finish line.
Entering the finish line area was surreal. Family members and friends waited with their cameras, and we could see the waves of the Atlantic Ocean breaking on the beach ahead. We carried our bikes down some stairs to the beach and dipped our tires into the surf. The exuberance and pride that everyone felt was overwhelming! I was touched to be celebrated by a large entourage including Glenn, John, and Ryan, my in-laws Dean and Kara, and friends Tom and Laura.
Ft. Walton Beach to Palatka, FL
4/16 – Alachua to Palatka – 65 mile route on flat roads - This was an emotional day for me. I cried from the hotel in Alachua to the first water stop 20 miles away. The realization that this glorious trip would be over in a matter of 1-1/2 days was hitting me hard and felt simultaneously like a gut punch and a relief. The presentation of two boxes of doughnuts at the water stop cheered everyone up, and we spent the remainder of the day trying to ride together as one big group. My husband Glenn and sons John and Ryan flew into Jacksonville late the night before and met us after lunch to ride the last 10 miles into Palatka with our guide Bobby and me.
4/15 – Today’s ride from Madison to Alachua marked our last 80+ mile ride for the trip. We traveled on mostly flat roads with minimal interference from the winds. Pulling into the hotel was both triumphant and bittersweet. I now ride exclusively with the “Big Dogs” group, and we ran a peloton most of the way. David Junior’s family was in front of the hotel ready to meet him when we arrived.
4/14 – The ride from Midway to Madison was a 77-mile cruiser with the tailwinds that we love so much. There were some indecisive, swirly winds toward the end of the ride, but compared to past days, this was a breeze. I swallowed my first bug today. I saw him careening toward me but couldn’t close my mouth in time. He landed in the back of my throat, and I tried to slug enough water to send him further down my GI tract, but to no avail. He found a secure spot on my left tonsil and held on for dear life until I reached our rest stop 10 miles away. I ate some nut mix and drank more water to flush him down to my stomach, and that was that.
We stopped for lunch at the boyhood home of Ray Charles, Greenville, FL. We parked our bikes against trees in the Ray Charles Memorial Park where the Charles Restaurant, adjacent to the park, blasted music that townspeople sitting under a pavilion and we in our camp chairs enjoyed very much. After completing the ride, we gathered at the DQ across the street from our hotel and enjoyed icy cold ice cream as a reward.
4/13 - Chipley to Midway was a 78-mile route. Dennis sent an early morning message to the group that a tornado warning was in effect from 9 am to noon, and he would let us know our start time based on the weather. Just like yesterday, we were going to face headwinds with gusts, and we began scratching our heads trying to figure out how we kept getting headwind forecasts when we purposefully chose to do a West-to-East ride to avoid them. The storm passed quicker than expected and we were off for the ride by 9 am. After the storm passed, the weather was beautiful with sunny skies and lighter than predicted wind. Along the way, we passed towns with interesting names like Niceville, Two Egg, Lloyd, and Chattahoochee. After lunch, we crossed over to the Eastern time zone and cycled a half mile out of our way to bag the state of Georgia as the ninth unique state that we had set our wheels into. After taking a few photos, we crossed back into Florida and continued toward Midway.
After checking into the hotel and cleaning up, we took the van to dinner. We had eaten our fill of oysters and other shellfish over the past couple of days and welcomed the comfortable and more familiar food at a local Italian restaurant. The group did a lot of strategizing about how to effectively jump back into reality without too much stress—like how to adjust to exercising only 1-2 hours per day instead of 6-8 hours and how to effectively decrease our diets from ingesting everything in sight to eating normally again. Sounds silly, but I’m serious. It’s going to be an adjustment.
4/12 - From Ft. Walton Beach to Chipley, we had an 86- or 100-mile option. I wasn’t convinced that I wanted to do another century ride, but peer pressure from the usual rowdies drew me in and I completed the 100 miles with them. Our ride took us from the beachside to the inland roads of the Florida panhandle. We had headwinds with gusts again today but none of the rain that was forecast. Along the way, we saw a couple of armadillos who had, in fact, made it to Florida; however, sadly, there was further evidence that none of them would be traveling into the Carolinas or any other state. We completed the ride in about 7-1/2 hours, and after dragging ourselves into the hotel, I was surprised by yet another care package full of tasty treats and well wishes—so much love and surprise!
4/11 - Gulf Shores, AL to Ft. Walton Beach, FL
This was a great day because our legs were fresh after the wonderful rest day in Gulf Shores and because we would cross into our last state, Florida(!), and ride 75 miles along the ocean to Ft. Walton Beach! The winds coming off the ocean gusted in our faces most of the day, but having sand dunes and an ocean view to enjoy kept us going! We stopped for a picnic lunch in a parking lot near the beach. Shelley's friend Steve from her ½ XC ride last year showed up to meet us. He was the first person in the line of riders that Shelley rode in on the fateful day near Austin. But, like Shelley, he too was back on his bike with a big smile on his face, and that was encouraging to see. It goes without saying that our road family is so extremely proud of Shelley. She is truly the Belle of the Ball around here with her positive attitude and sparkling personality!
Captain Safety - Every Team Should Have One (or Two)
The responsibility of situational awareness and safety weighs heavily on our guide and COLA co-owner Dennis. He prepares us daily with morning briefings. He talks about the route, road and traffic conditions, wind and weather, and reminds us to pay attention to staying together, communicating about oncoming traffic, and preventing a crash by keeping a distance from others' wheels. Even with all this preparation, the unforeseen arises—a piece of scrap metal that can a leg or glass shards and metal objects that can puncture a tire. And there are the unforeseen threats, like today during our 75-mile ride when an irate driver rolled down her passenger window and screamed at one of our cyclists for a solid minute before angrily speeding off and narrowly missing another car.
All of the above have happened in spite of our readiness. This is why I no longer marvel at the fact that I have not listened to one podcast, completed an audiobook, or listened to any music while cycling down the highway. I’m busy paying attention to where I am and who I’m riding with. A couple of riders in our group practice situational awareness by mounting radar devices on the rear posts of their bikes. Steven the guardian (I’ll explain this in a future post) and Bill, our recumbent rider who cycles solo due to a different pace, have these radar devices. The devices ping and flash with greater frequency as a rider or vehicle approaches. This gives Steven and Bill time to prepare. It allows them time to respond appropriately, such as whether or not to simply yell “car back” or “car passing” to the line of riders ahead or to pull off the road to make way for drivers who won't pass or double wide trucks that take up too much road.
I have the joy of managing a group of volunteer speakers in the AmeriCorps Seniors RSVP Community Resilience Program. They speak on topics like Disaster, Preparation, the Colorado Opioid Crisis, and Safety for Seniors. The first portion of Safety for Seniors covers the need to pay acute attention to one's surroundings when out in the community, because seniors are viewed as a vulnerable group for perpetrators. We discuss the necessity of identifying exits in stores in case a rapid departure is warranted, avoiding lonely or dark areas, and being vigilant about the proximity and behavior of others. At the end of the presentation, we hand out bright red whistles, which is a real hit with the attendees. I have my red whistle in my bike bag just in case.
Back to Dennis, I really appreciate all that both he and Bobby do to keep us safe, not just during the daily briefings, but all day long. He and Bobby drive the van up and down the highway to track our whereabouts and monitor weather and traffic. They drive behind us on high-speed bridges and issue verbal safety reminders to us as needed. All this, so at the end of the day, we can reflect on the wonderful experience that we had because we finished safe and unharmed.
Lessons Learned From Segment Five
Well, it’s almost impossible to believe, but my road family and I have now logged 2,449 miles and 71,124 feet of elevation gain—the elevation accrued by the rise and fall of the mountain climbs, giant Texas rollers, and gentler rollers of the other states. I’m so glad that I continue to learn lessons. Here are some from Segment Five:
- Certain animals in Louisiana and Mississippi could really use some education – As we entered these Southern states, I stopped counting squashed armadillos because they were everywhere. I also stopped counting the deflated carcasses of snakes, frogs, and especially turtles, on the road due to sheer volume. If any animals need training on road safety, it would be these unassuming critters! If I were teaching the safety course, I would begin by citing a study in Florida that tracked 343 turtles that tried to cross a four-lane highway. Not a single one survived! My advice to the legless and four-legged attendees would simply be: whether or not they see a car, DON’T cross the road . . . ever!
- If you’re not on the road between El Paso and Houston, you can easily bicycle through three states in one week – this week, we traveled through Louisiana, Mississippi, and into Alabama. The reward was a day off in Gulf Shores and some luxuriant walks on sugar white beaches!
- You know you’ve been cycling a long way when you can convert cycling hours to days. Since March 5, we’ve logged over 195 hours of saddle time, which converts to just over 8 full 24-hour days!
- Rain or shine, Easter Sunday is always a day of joy – Easter is my favorite day of the year because I believe that it symbolizes hope for humanity. Although the entire day was overcast and windy during the 73-mile ride, I was able to start the day with some one-on-one sunrise time with my Heavenly Father. I’m all in when it comes to John 3:16 because it is a Bible verse that sums up Easter. Jesus freely made the ultimate sacrifice of his life to offer salvation and everlasting life for those who choose to believe. Now that’s amazing grace!
- Just when I thought I might remain a cycling nomad for the rest of my life, I’m feeling the pull of home again – this idyllic and carefree life that my road family and I have enjoyed is quickly coming to an end. After 37 days of living in COLA World, I’m beginning to yearn for my family, friends, work, and general routine. This cross-country trip has been one of the most amazing accomplishments of my life, but reality calls, and I’m ready!
Segment Six comprises the last 508 miles of our journey. My husband Glenn and two sons John and Ryan will fly into Jacksonville International Airport late on April 15. They will cycle with me on the afternoon of April 16 and on finish line day, April 17. I’m so excited to see them and have them ride along beside me!
ENTRY 4/8 to 4/9 – Wiggins, MS to Moss Point, MS to Gulf Shores, AL
We started 4/8 decked out in raingear again, and it was a good thing, as the rain did fall. Bobby drove the van ahead of us, and one point, kept us at one rest stop a little longer than planned to allow a storm cell containing a torrent of rain to move past so we didn’t get dumped on. We rode 81 miles on rain-soaked roads, which covered our bikes and the riders behind us in road splatter and mud. We stopped to enjoy a picnic lunch at the Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge in Gautier, MS, which was a lush, quiet area with trees and bogs. I was disappointed to not see any cranes, but the peaceful stop was worth our time. When we checked into the hotel at Moss Point, I received the most wonderful surprise! My boys had made cookies and sent them with an Easter card, personalized with loving messages. It completely made my day and I ate 4 of the 6 cookies before I knew what I was doing.
On 4/9, we woke up “smelling the barn”—a rest day in Gulf Shores awaited us once we completed the 73-mile route. It was a fun day with some unique stops. In the first 42 miles, we crossed the Alabama state line, cycled over the intercoastal waterway and bridge to Dauphin Island, and then walked our bikes onto a ferry that took us to the Gulf Shore side. We cycled down the road from the ferry station and stopped to enjoy gumbo, po boy sandwiches, hush puppies, and more at Tacky Jack’s, a waterfront restaurant at Orange Beach. The remaining 21 miles was flat and easy to complete. All day the weather was uncomfortably cool (50s) and the winds were high and swirly. We arrived in Gulf Shores around 3:00 pm for hot showers, dinner, and a day of rest on 4/10.
ENTRY 4/6 to 4/7 – St. Francisville, LA to Franklinton, LA to Wiggins, MS
To this point, we haven’t had to worry about rain, but on the afternoon of 4/6, the weather fronts that have been terrorizing the rest of the country finally caught up with us. From morning until just after lunch, the skies were overcast but with no precipitation. However, after lunch, the skies opened up and a couple of hours of intermittent rain got all of us pretty wet. At dinner that night, Dennis warned us that we might be facing rain for most of the next day and to be prepared.
On 4/7, the oppressive gray of the morning placed its hands on our shoulders and pushed down hard, making all of us sluggish and not really wanting to ride. A 30% - 70% chance of rain was forecast over the entire route from Franklinton to Wiggins. Due to hotel unavailability in Franklinton the night before, we had to mount our bikes and board the van for a ride to Amite, LA, which was 24-miles out of our way. To begin the ride this morning, Dennis and Bobby drove us back to Franklinton to start where we left off the afternoon before. Everyone was fully decked in rain gear from helmet covers all the way down to shoe covers. I overdressed and was very sweaty and uncomfortable for the first couple of hours, then began to shed the layers once we crossed the state line into Mississippi. We lucked out, and over the lightly rolling 84-mile course, we didn’t run into any rain.
Giving Thanks for Service
I have wanted to write something about the VOA Veteran Services Center (VSC) in Denver, but I just didn’t know how to explain its importance until I observed something today. I saw it in a simple action after teammate Kevin’s tire had flattened about a mile away from our rest stop. He walked the bike to the parking lot of an old rustic food market so he could get help from our guides. The flattened tire was “deflating” for him because it was flat #6 for this trip. He set his bike under the cool of a covered porch in front of the market. A couple of teammates sat on benches under a sign listing offerings of sausage bread, Boudin balls, venison, and smoked chicken. A few others perched on some splintered stairs that descended from the porch. Whether they realized it or not, the team surrounded our guide Bobby and Kevin in support as they muscled the tire off the rim. It was a shared experience—all of us have had a flat tire and know the disappointment and labor involved in replacing the tube. It was a scene of camaraderie with so many road family members creating community around them as they went about their work.
During all of this, a soldier dressed in camouflage parallel-parked a large flatbed truck on the road in front of the store and walked across the parking lot. Bobby approached him with a hearty handshake and a “thank you for your service!” There was a message in that gesture that spoke to me. It was a greeting of shared experience and appreciation. The soldier smiled as Bobby explained that he had been in the service too. That initiated a conversation that went on for a while until the soldier was on his way again.
My road family uses the bestowal of Scout, the stuffed horse, as a symbol of appreciation. We show support by gathering around a problem or helping directly with it. VOA shows support and appreciation for veterans and their families who have faced homelessness and hard times. According to statistics, 9% of Colorado’s homeless population are veterans. The VSC offers services such as housing, food, and case management. It also has a Female Veteran Program and partners with other veteran-serving organizations across Colorado to provide assistance for veterans based on their individual needs. Amazingly, the VSC receives 800 unique veterans each month.
VOA offers additional appreciation and support for veterans through its volunteer programs. The AmeriCorps Seniors Retired Senior and Volunteer Program (RSVP) offers volunteer opportunities to create and write encouraging messages on 911 Day of Service and Veteran’s Day cards that are handed out to veterans in the community. RSVP’s partnership with Soldier’s Angels allows volunteers like E.J., Dan, Gina, and Bob to hand out socks, masks (during COVID), hats, blankets, and hygiene kits.
I never served in the Armed Forces, so there is much about the veteran community that I’ll never know firsthand. But I do know the importance of acknowledging those who have served and fought for our freedom and risked their lives for our country and its causes.
It is our responsibility to support all veterans, especially those who struggle to adapt to regular life once they leave the service. I’m proud that VOA and the VSC offer robust assistance for them and their families. I’m riding my bike across the country for donations toward programs like these.
ENTRY 4/5 – Ville Platte, LA to St. Francisville, LA
There were two options for the ride today—an 80-mile route or 100-mile route. A couple of crazies and I decided that we should conquer the 100-mile route. Five of us broke off from the rest of the group after lunch in order to bag the extra 20 miles needed to accomplish the century. Once we reached the 100.1 mile mark, we just happened to find ourselves at a Sonic. It was Shelley’s birthday, so we celebrated her completion of the century ride and her birthday with a round of thick, creamy milkshakes.
All of us are feeling the urge to enjoy every linear inch of the ride now that we are down to 11 remaining riding days. I have been carrying our team mascot on my bike for a couple of days, but I handed him off to the next rider this morning. Here's a word about our mascot.
One evening early in on our journey across America, our guide Dennis pulled out a stuffed horse named Scout. To be awarded this little steed, a rider must have to have done something notable during the day. Richard, AKA “King Richard” because he is from England, was awarded Scout that first night because he had just announced the birth of his fourth grandchild. When asked her name, Richard told us that her parents had not yet decided. The next day, one rider slyly designated our ride to be “No Name Grandbaby Day”. By day two, we collectively decided that if no name had been announced by the end of the day, the baby’s name by default would be “Scout.” Time passed and no word. Welcome to the world Baby Scout!
As a follow up, Richard's beautiful granddaughter eventually received the name Charlotte Margot, and the stuffed toy Scout continues to be awarded to a different group member every couple of nights. As Scout made his way around our group, he has been dressed up, taken to a spa, spent pooltime with the guys, and is attached to the bike of his holder each day. Scout has gone full cycle through the group, and now I am handing him back to Richard for the next round of fun.
4/4 - DeRidder, LA to Ville Platte, LA
We started our journey across Louisiana in earnest today. We covered 78 mies and 855 ft of elevation, which translates to more pancake-flat roads. The Louisiana countryside is not as littered with wildflowers as Texas, but the wetlands we passed through featured the most beautiful shades of green. We passed swamps, lush wetland grasses, flooded fields with crawfish traps, and bright green rice paddies.
I often alternate riding groups, and that’s what I did today. I started the day riding with the B group (B for beautiful) and riding after lunch with the big dogs who cycle at a faster pace. There were eight squashed armadillos along the way—those migrating East toward Georgia and the Carolinas, no doubt. However, the most impressive roadkill today was a large variety of reptiles and amphibians—15 crushed turtles, 12 deflated snakes, and 1 eviscerated bullfrog. If any animals need a course in road safety, it would be these creatures! If I were teaching the course to the unassuming critters of Louisiana, I would site one study in Florida that tracked 343 turtles that tried to cross a four-lane highway. Not a single one survived! My advice to them would simply be: whether they see a car or not, DON’T cross the road...ever!
4/3 Lessons Learned – Going into Segment Five
Greetings from *COLA world. Just when I thought my road family and I had plenty of miles and time to go yet, we are left with only 2 weeks before we dip our wheels in the Atlantic Ocean. I’m having such a great time that I’m not sure how I feel about seeing the end of the tunnel. (*COLA = Cycle of Life Adventures)
Here are some lessons learned from this past week:
- If you pedal through Texas long enough, you WILL eventually reach the other side of the state – after 17 days of cycling across Texas, we finally crossed the border into Louisiana! We’ll miss the colorful strata of prairie verbena, Indian paintbrush, bluebonnets, and pink primrose, the vast ranch lands, and herds of longhorns but NOT the chip seal! Also, we’ve had our fill of BBQ and Texas-sized portions (abnormally huge!) and are ready for some Cajun cuisine.
- If you stop expecting to see armadillos, you’ll finally see some. During our last days in Texas, we spotted the flattened remains of three armadillos on the road, evidence that they do still live there – however, the little armed creatures are rapidly moving East and North into Georgia, the Carolinas, Kentucky, and more states. Is this due to lower rent or lower cost of living? No. According to a Google search, armadillos are migrating out of Texas due to warming climate trends and a change in growing seasons—a tough reality for the Lone Star State, as the armadillo is the official small mammal of Texas.
- If you’ve ever watched the Dystopian science fiction TV series Westworld, you’ll understand this one. This week, the team realized that we are living in a Utopian microcosm called “COLA World.” Our guides dictate our breakfast and ride start times, break and lunch mileage stops, and hotel and dinner locations every day. With so many decisions being made for us, it is very easy to lose track of time. We find it laughable that no one is confident of the calendar date or day of the week on any given day because we don’t really need to know. I made the mistake of turning on the news a few days ago but quickly turned it off. I’m happy to wait another couple of weeks before shaking off my torpid mental state and calling the shots for myself again.
- The to-do list on a day off consists of four main items: 1) Do laundry; 2) Clean and degrease the bikes; 3) rest and 4) try to figure out the exact calendar date and day of the week.
Segment Five comprises the next 482 miles and a passage through Louisiana and Mississippi into Alabama. We’re hoping that the weather will cooperate and that we won’t encounter too much weather.
ENTRY 4/2 – Navasota, TX to DeRidder, LA
3/31 to 4/1 – Navasota, TX to Cleveland, TX to Lumberton
The rides on the two days to Lumberton were in the 70 – 75 mile range with a transition from Texas Hill Country rollers and to flat roads. We rolled through Sam Houston National Forest and enjoyed a towering corridor of fragrant pine, cedar, magnolia, and deciduous trees on either side of the road. In spots, the forest service was in the process burning the undergrowth on the forest floor, and the campfire aroma was enjoyable until we began choking on the smoke and ash. One day, we stopped for lunch at Old Baylor Park in Independence, TX. This is the site where Baylor College and Baylor Female College first opened their doors in 1846 and was the precursor to modern-day Baylor University, now located in Waco, TX.
4/2 – Lumberton, TX to DeRidder, LA
From Lumberton, we continued 83 miles down flat roads toward Louisiana. We cycled past more pine forests and underbrush burns—done in early spring to help prevent fires in the summer. We passed by a site that wasn’t just smoldering but was burning up into some of the trees. While we were photographing the fiery spectacle, a forest service agent stopped to inform us that the fire in question was “a controlled burn that is out of control” and he had a big chuckle about it. We stopped for lunch in a church parking lot just short of the Louisiana border. After lunch, the team rode together to the State of Louisiana welcome sign and posed for a photo—state number five in our cross-country cycling trek!
The View - The Team Advantage
Having a team behind you is important in life. Family, friends, and work mates offer encouragement and support for us on a daily basis. One of my favorite things to do in the morning at VOA is walk into the kitchen where things are buzzing like a beehive. Lines of crew load food into hundreds of trays for the meal programs, the delivery drivers pull hot lunches out of the ovens and load up their trucks, the City Harvest food garage hums with supply deliveries and sorting of commodities for the food bank vehicles to pick up. People smile, wave, and issue a friendly greeting as I zip by. The greetings are uplifting and genuine, and it is energizing to be around people who share the same mission as I do and are happy in their work. As I head to my desk in the Admin building, I feel that same sense of joy and camaraderie, because at VOA, we’re one big team who share the mission of service.
On the road, the riding team shares a mission of helping each other fulfill a dream. The road team helps pull you home when the route is long and the winds are howling. They encourage you forward when you’re just not feeling up to your game. The team provides comfort if a vehicle blew by too closely and it rattled you, or you make a poor decision during your ride, but they support you anyway. Team creates bonds through shared memories and experiences that you can laugh or cry about together. And on this lonely road across the country, teammates can offer kinship with a simple pat on the shoulder or a quick friendly hug—the power of touch that provides warmth, comfort, and belonging.
Our new rider Shelley was in a horrible cycling accident last year, where the two riders behind her were mowed down by a hit-and-run driver. One of the cyclists passed away, and the other was seriously injured. Witnessing such an accident rattled Shelley so much that, for a while, she didn’t think she’d ride her bike again. It was a true act of courage and a big part of her recovery for Shelley to get on a bike and ride halfway across the country with us this year. She started her first cycling day with a smile and a look of sheer determination. The cycling team circled her with physical support and her friends and family provided emotional support by following her on social media, talking by phone, and with prayers. She has two days of riding under her belt now, and we will continue to support her as she works through the memories and emotions.
VOAC family, friends, my own family – you have been a critical part of my team while on the road. I am completely overwhelmed by the number of people who have reached out to cheer me on. It warms my heart knowing that people are sending up prayers and sending encouraging words, verses, and quotes. And while you are not physically present, you are there in spirit. It is something that boosts me forward every day. Some nights, I spend time reading the well-wishes and encouragement written in Sharpie on my blue cycling jacket and it makes my heart warm every time.