The Cross Country Bicycle Ride Continues

Reader Contribution by Rick Stiles
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Tom and I continue to move across the country at 60 to 70 miles per day, taking Sundays off for spiritual, physical, and mental renewal. Since my last post we have traveled 1,270 miles, gone through Montana and North Dakota, and tomorrow we will leave Minnesota behind. Every place we stop, people ask why we are doing this. For me it is meeting people and seeing the country gradually change as I slowly pedal on the prescribed route.

I have seen the lush, green pine-studded forests of western Oregon and Washington change to the rocky scrub brush and sage on the eastern side, more resembling Wyoming than any mental image that I previously possessed. I saw Montana go from the green mountains and valleys of the Bitterroots to the dry arid ranch land many people tried unsuccessfully to homestead in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Western North Dakota reminded me a lot of the South Dakota Badlands, and, as we progressed eastward, it became more green and fertile with wheat and hay fields. Minnesota is flatter by far than the other states we rode through, but the unseasonably cold weather caught us off guard.

Every state has its own special beauty, every city has its own special character, and every person has given us their own special brand of warmth and blessing. I just hope that we are leaving something equally special behind for them to be blessed with.

We swap biking stories with other riders on the road. There was John, traveling by himself, who was heading to Calgary to visit his son, and Drake, riding for MS, who was going to turn south somewhere in North Dakota and head for southern Texas, and there was Mark, who moved to a small town in North Dakota with plans for opening a bicycle repair business and museum. Mark couldn’t wait to show us a 3-wheeled recumbent that he built and tell us about his idea for manufacturing and selling them.

Then there was 79-year-old Bruce Maynard. Bruce was pushing a 3-wheeled cart, affectionately called Sam, with his traveling supplies down I-94 when we met him. He had been walking around the country for three and a half years promoting Seniors Walking for Health. Next year he wants to walk around Europe doing the same thing.

People in the towns have been wonderful to us. Maybe the “odd” type of bicycle we ride generates an instant conversation point, or maybe seeing two old sweat-stained guys riding cross country creates the questions. Either way, people have gone out of their way to be nice.

There are pastors too numerous to mention who have let us spend the night in their church. There was Leona, a 79-year-old widow, who allowed us to stay in her home for the weekend. Other people have given us tours of their towns, or provided meals, or gone over the top in other ways to touch us with their generosity. Tom and I even helped pull pork from two barbecued pigs in preparation for a free citywide meal offered by one church. Each and everyone of the people we have met, we consider our friends even though our lives touched but for a few brief moments in time. I continue to be humbled by this whole experience.

And yet, every day, we continued to pedal eastward, ever eastward. We leave a small piece of our heart behind when we go, and we have the excitement of what tomorrow will bring, hanging in front of us like the proverbial carrot dangling from the cane pole.

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