Tuesday, July 15, 2014

From the Corn Fields to the Prairies

It is hard to believe this bike trip is already half way done. My heart so full of gratitude and love for all aspects of this adventure. I want to share a little something that was one of those moments that just grabs at your heart. On this trip we have been able to visit areas that most people would hesitate to visit  places like Kensington, Pennsylvania and Gary, Indiana. The time I spent in Gary, Indiana touched me deeply. One morning we were driving to breakfast down Broadway - a street that was once lively and thriving with people but now just about every business boarded up and abandoned - one of the ladies said, "How can you have hope in a place like this?"  I agreed with her. Not only was this street empty but most neighborhoods looked similar. We were able to see first hand the poverty and brokenness that exists here in the Unites States. We had a build day in Gary on the childhood home of Michael Jackson. We cleaned out over growth so others could actually get to the houses to work. We had a presentation just like we do in most other places where we stay. During this presentation the local President of the Gary Fuller Center and one of the pastors spoke. I was blown away by the passion and most of all by the hope they had about their town and the work that was about to happen. It really opened my eyes to what the Fuller Center is all about.  Bringing hope to a community by simply giving a small portion of your time building, serving, and changing one life at a time.

We left Gary and were able to bike through Chicago on Lake Shore Drive. Seeing the skyline of the city was really awesome as all 30 orange bikers dodged the crowds that were enjoying a beautiful sunny Chicago day. We also had a build day in Waukegan - North Chicago. The theme there was heroes. It made me think of all the heroes in my own life. People who in one way or another that have had a hand in shaping my life story. So thankful for the soulful worship, the scrubbing of basement walls, the hospitality, the thick crust Chicago pizza, and the Heroes that we met there!

We had our hardest week after leaving Waukegan. Six days of back to back 80-100 mile days. How would I do individually? How would the group do overall? If I haven't mentioned it yet I will now. The group of people I am sharing this experience with are some of the strongest and  most amazing people! We all crushed this week!! We accumulated the miles through Wisconsin, Iowa, and southern Minnesota. Lots of days biking through corn fields, turbines as far as the eyes can see, introduced to strong consistent headwinds, and cheese curds. We spent the Fourth of July in Spirit Lake, Iowa where we had double fireworks - natures thunderstorm provided fireworks a little more impressive than the ones locals shot.

We crossed into the prairies of South Dakota providing us with some much needed change of scenery from the corn. Another one of my favorite stops was the Indian reservation in Porcupine, South Dakota. Here we met David Snell, the president of the Fuller Center. We worked on two houses on the reservation. The work was good but my favorite part came after we put the tools down. There were about half a dozen boys ages 8-12 playing a game of baseball. A wooden crate made up their backstop, a wooden board home plate, and a worn out path that went to one base that was directly behind the pitcher. In order for the ball to be in bounds you had to hit it between the two fields of tall weeds and grasses. Once you hit the ball you run on the worn path to the base and back to home. I played in the field some. It's amazing the way you can communicate by actions without even saying a word. When it was my turn to hit I stood there and pointed my bat to the far trailer next door. I'm sure they thought I would swing and miss or hit it several feet from the plate. I got a good overhand fast ball that I hit toward the trailer. I hit and Jenny ran getting a home run. Those moments shared with these boys will stand out the most in my memory and hopefully in theirs as well!!

Leaving there we biked through the Badlands National Park. The howling of the wind giving the ride a haunting feeling. Wondering all the stories and people who have wondered over this sacred ground. The ride was beautiful. The sun occasionally peaked through showing off the reds and other colors that make up these unique rocks. We made it to Rapid City, South Dakota. The neat little city sitting in bowl made up of the Black Hills. We had several much needed off days there. This morning we crossed into Wyoming - forever west- as the sign read. The state greeted me with a flat tire but also with a huge sky and mountains!! It is hard to believe we have made it this far. I'm so thankful for the strength and opportunity to get the chance to wake up every morning and ride all day on my bike. Despite all obstacles the beauty and experience itself wipe away the rainy days, the butt pain from sitting in the saddle day after day, the wind, and the heat.    I'm excited to see what tomorrow and the day after will bring!!

Hebrews 3:4

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

State Four and Mid West Rain

It’s been a while since I have posted. Time gets stolen quickly here. We have been on this adventure for almost three weeks sitting on the bike saddle for over 55 hours having gained around 28,000 feet. Yesterday we left Ohio and entered Indiana, our fourth state. Ohio was a relief after the hills of Pennsylvania. We had our third build day in Aurora, Ohio. This was a special stop for us since this is home ground for the founder of the bike ride and the trip leader. We had a lot of families come to build and bike with us. In Aurora we worked at several different locations. I spent the day working at a home where we laid laminate and emptied trash out of a basement. It was amazing to share lunch with the family as well as a devotion. That day was the anniversary of my accident in Montana. It was so heart filling to be able to give back and help build up this family. So many people had a hand in that day and this was just a small act that I could do for someone else. I am thankful for that day because if it never happened I probably wouldn’t be able to do this bike adventure. We passed through Cleveland, OH and stayed at the coolest archery loft where I introduced corn hole to Gerry (from Australia). We visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and sat people watching on benches overlooking Lake Erie. Our next long stop was in Toledo, Ohio where we had a build day and an off day. This build day was extremely well planned. Joyce and her bundle of energy made sure that this rest stop and build day would be memorable. It was! The whole team spent all day working on the sweetest couple’s home. I was on the Stucco room painting team. It was awesome coverage for the Fuller Center here. There was a live Christian radio station set up outside so we listened to music as we painted away. Other teams painted interior rooms, trimming on all the windows, yard work, and anything else they needed. The next day we were able to sit on the carpeted lawn and share a meal with the family, a city representative, Joyce, and others for the ribbon cutting. To top off the stay in Toledo we had a meal at Tony Packo’s CafĂ© followed by two-hour boat ride down the Maumee River. It was such a treat! So spoiled by all of these amazing people. We left Ohio and entered into Indiana. More flat terrain and daily rain leaves soggy feet and a lot of chain lubing. The ride today was through an Amish community. There were so many horse and buggies. I loved seeing the homemade swing sets and the children out playing in fields of puddles from the week’s rain. The days seem to run together and the blessings continue to overflow. Tomorrow we are heading to Gary, Indiana where we will be having another build day. Hoping the sun will grace us tomorrow! Keep us in your prayers! The following is a poem I wrote to try to capture all aspects of our trip.

Just Another Day on the Bike

Up so early, eager to rise
The morning routine now engrained inside
Butt cream, sunblock, orange jerseys, and black tights
Mostly done as others still live in dreams under the stars’ lights

A filling breakfast, a checklist for all chores done
Forming a circle, a devotion, and cue sheet routes as we await the rising of the sun
The pumping of tires, the sounds of bike shoes clipping in, the groaning of sleepy chains
Heading due west on empty roads in the morning light or drizzle of rain
Saying a prayer for all cyclists, preparing my heart and mind
Thanking God for this miracle of a day and the new friends in the town we left behind

Routes on trails, by lakes, across mountains, and by contrasted greens of farm lands
Muscles burning on climbs, wind in your face as we fly down all with the help of an encouraging word or a biker’s hand

Riding alone, in small groups, or a peloton train
Stopping every 20 miles to fuel our bodies so we can sustain
Enough energy to gain strength and prepare attitudes for what is waiting
Knowing the work we do for others alleviate people who are breaking.

One wall painted, one floor laid, one load carried to a dump
Can leave one grateful, one restored, one’s head lifted up

Amazing support through pictures taken, time given, and Oreo high fives
All while pedaling a bicycle, trying to live simple lives

A new township entered, a new home for the night
Hugs from strangers, delicious food that is such a delight

Homes of various churches, the Kensington house, and a unique archery loft
Humbled by angels who accept us, giving spirits whose hearts are amazingly soft
Bikes lining the wall, mats spread on the floor
Sharing life stories and the day’s treasures that we explored
So honored to be a part of this adventure we daily face
Thankful for the Fuller Center, their purpose of ending poverty housing we chase.

Hebrews 3:4

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Pennsylvania and her rolling hills

I can't believe it is already day 8. I feel like I have known the people I'm with a lot longer. Our time in Kensington was humbling and amazing. We worked alongside Shane and Katie Claiborne and Mike with the Simple Way Ministry. Our service day was spent helping them move office locations so it involved a lot of lifting and carrying beds, boxes, and office supplies. It was hard work but it felt so good to do whatever we could. We left Kensington, PA and biked around 100 miles to Hershey where the Hershey Community Church of the Nazarene housed us, feed us, and took us to chocolate world. I think I am giving all these people we meet along the way the name of road angles. On the Appalachian Trail there are trail angels. These strangers are so giving and they don't even know us. It just shows me more and more the working of God's family. From Hershey we were introduced to Pennsylvania's hills with a 57 mile day that took us to the historic Gettysburg. Today we got a double doozie. We had hills and rain. I don't think the sun has been out much the last three days. It was a hard 75 mile day for me. My legs felt weak and my knees sore as my body is trying to get used to biking day to day. The route took us over the Appalachian Trail. Memories filling my mind of some of 5 Alive's days spent in these mountains. I am thankful that I am able to do something similar but also something so different now. We had two main climbs that were 3 1/2 - 4 miles each. Patty Griffin songs of Rain and Up To the Mountain filling my head. Both very appropriate today. At times we rode through fog which helped because I couldn't see how much climbing was ahead. Not knowing if the water dripping off of my face, arms, and legs was from rain or sweat. Probably one of the hardest rides I have done. I tried catching glimpses of the mountains when the fog parted. This is such a beautiful state!! I rode most of the day alone as I tried soaking everything up. We have now ridden a little over 300 miles. Tonight we are in Everett, PA sleeping on a pew in a sanctuary. The pastor and some of the congregation cooked a delicious meal and hung out with us. Tomorrow is another mid 70 mile day with quite a few big climbs. Everyone has done such a good job and are all troopers! Again so blessed by this opportunity, the message of this ministry, and the people sharing it with me.

Please check out the fullercenter.org/bikeadventure and read the blogs our group posts daily. There are also pictures on The Fuller Center Facebook page.

Keep is in your prayers!


Hebrews 3:4

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Beginning

The journey has begun! This is my third day in Atlantic City. We met and had orientation yesterday. We checked in, got our orange t-shirts and orange Fuller Center jerseys. I couldn't believe this was actually happening. At times wondering what I got myself into. Other times so excited that I'm actually living this out. It was fun meeting everyone I will be living, fellowshipping, biking, and experiencing this ride and ministry with for the next nine weeks. Crazy. The riders are from all over - from Alaska to Georgia, from Ohio to California, and from Kentucky to Australia. I spent the rest of the night going over orientation, playing games and sharing a meal with this unique group of people. As I looked around at each of them it makes me smile knowing that not only do we all share a passion for biking, we all share a passion of serving. This is truly an amazing ministry.
This morning was an early morning. We had our first group ride at 6:30am. We biked 11.5 miles along the boardwalk in Atlantic City. We were met by the seagulls and few patrons as we enjoyed the beautiful Atlantic Ocean. Tomorrow we will be dipping our tire here as we start our cross country ride.  As we passed people their questions started of who we were and where were we going. Their reactions priceless as they wished us luck. We quickly prepared for our first day of building after the ride. We shuttled to a home in Atlantic City where we would be spending our day. There were about 30 Fuller Center participants there along with Atlantic City Long Term Recovery Group workers. We  spackled dry wall, sanded, painted, hung drywall, and spackled some more. It was hard work but it felt so good! A news crew from New Jersey came and talked so some of the riders. We didn't complete the house but made a lot of progress. I feel so good about this ride. The other riders are great! I love hearing about their life and their stories. Everyone is extremely friendly! This is going to be an amazing ride! Tomorrow we leave Atlantic City and head around 55 miles to our next destination. Hoping to get a good night sleep for our last night in Atlantic City. Prayers for the team, for those who are anxious, and for our safety. So thankful for the Atlantic City Long Term Recovery Group - Volunteer Center for hosting us these last two nights!

Hebrews 3:4

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Free Spirit and The Number 40

The days are quickly passing by and the bike ride is right around the corner. I don’t know how I exactly feel about it. I am extremely excited but at the same time hoping to get everything finished here in Bowling Green before it is time to head north. Graduation marks one big step of getting things done! I will finally be done with this phase of my education and life. As far as other aspects of training I’ll start with the physical aspect. I have been trying to accumulate as much biking time as possible – which it is at times challenging. I daily long to be on my bike and I have to remind myself that there are still things here that need to be done before leaving and I will spend plenty of days on my bike in the next few months. I am appreciative of any amount of time I spend sitting on the bike seat (saddle). That is one of the most important parts of training I have been focusing on. My goal is to have biked at least 1500 miles before I leave. I have said this before but I have been blessed with friends to bike with. I have a variety of styles of riding I have been trying to balance out. A dear sweet friend of mine who has ridden across the US about six years ago has helped me to slow down my pace – not only to just to enjoy the ride and the surroundings, but also to allow me to get even more saddle time. I have other friends who push me to go a little harder and get my heart rate up. I have been able to do some long rides including one century and another one coming up the end of the month. I realized the other day as I was biking a “Pedal the Park” ride in Mammoth Cave National Park that through hiking and biking I have done in Kentucky I have seen so much of this state and appreciate its beauty! I never would have seen this had it not been for these passions. This makes me excited to know that I will see so much on this upcoming bike ride of not only the countryside, but also the people!
 Mentally and emotionally I have been trying to prepare myself the best way I can. This is such a huge part of the ride. All of the day in and day out of biking, working, meeting, and new people all along the way. At the ride I mentioned in Mammoth Cave it started out in the pouring rain. It was one of those days that I wasn’t feeling 100% about biking. I was worn down from the business of the week and mentally couldn’t encourage myself. Thanks to my buddy Paula and her insistence of going and doing this ride, I went. I’m so glad I did because yes it was uncomfortable at first getting soaked and having fun pedaling up the long grueling uphills and slowly dodging the huge puddles on the downhills. I thought there are going to be a lot of days that are going to start like this. Just as I had to experience on the Appalachian Trail – you have to come to a place where you say, “This is the life I am choosing to live now and I will embrace whatever comes my way. I’d rather be doing this than something else.” So, I’m thankful for the uncomfortableness of the beginning of the ride yesterday because it only helped me mentally prepare for days to come.
Spiritually I am getting more and more excited. I have come up with a word through a graduation gift that has attached itself to my heart, becoming my theme and special word for this trip. “FREE SPIRIT.” This word truly signifies what I am longing for on this ministry adventure. I have joined an amazing small group that has been great! Through this group I am seeing more and more depth of my relationship with God.  I am praying for a simplistic mind, inner strength, a deeper bond with God, with other riders, and friends I will meet along the way. I am also praying for a deep brokenness from God to allow me to see, to live, to love better than I have ever before. It is scary to pray for brokenness, but at the same time, through brokenness comes  growth. I pray that I can be broken of my need to be so busy. A busy life has been an idol of mine for a long time. I pray that I can slow down enough to cherish both big and small moments that I tend to miss when I rush through life. I want to see Him through everything I do from pedaling 1000s of miles to swinging hammers, to serving, and to anything else that needs to be done.
As I was praying and talking with friends about my fundraising the number “40” was mentioned. As most of you probably know the number 40 is a very significant number all throughout scripture.  It is used over and over to show the fulfillment of God’s promises. I continually try to have faith that I can not only complete this journey, but also reach the amount of $3600 I need in order to be able to complete the ride. With fundraising I have raised $2,000 so far. I still lack $1600 in order to make the entire ride across the US. As of now I am covered to bike from Atlantic City, NJ through Souix Falls, SD. So, here comes the challenge. If 40 friends donate $40.00 I can complete my ride all the way to Astoria, OR. If you are interested in donating to help me make it the rest of the way there are several ways you can donate. The Fuller Center is a 5O1(c)(3) organization meaning that donations are tax-deductible. The Fuller Center will send a receipt and donation recognition for any amount $10 or over. There are several different ways you can donate. 

·         One option is through a check. You can make your check payable to “The Fuller Center” with “bike – (my name)” in the memo section of the check. The check can be mailed to:
                The Fuller Center for Housing
                Attn: Bike Adventure
                701 S. Martin Luther King Blvd.
                Americus, GA 31709

·         Another option is going to http://www.fullercenter.org/bikeadventure/meettheriders#Leah_Spurlin . Once you are here you click the orange button that says, “Sponsor her ride.” This is an easy step to make an online payment where any donations given will go directly to The Fuller Center.

Some of you have asked how you can stay in touch with me as I am riding. All the trip riders will rotate in posting to a trip blog that will be found at www.fullercenter.org/blogs/bikeadventure. I will also be posting as many personal blogs at leahspurlinblogspot.com. I will post a message on Facebook whenever I update a blog
I will be leaving Bowling Green on May 28, 2014 to head to New Jersey. Please continue to pray now throughout the ride for not only me, but the team and also the families we will be meeting and helping along the way! I know this experience will be both challenging and amazing! I’m excited to share this experience with you!

“For every house is built by someone, but the building of all things is God.”
Hebrews 3:4

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Join My Ride - Prayers and Fundraising

I know people have asked how they can help be a part of this ride. There are several routes you can take.
One way is through donations. I have to raise $3600.00 (a dollar a mile). The overall group goal we have is one million dollars. The money goes to various Fuller Center projects throughout the US and the world. None of the money will go towards me, but strictly to the ministry. If you are interested in donating you can go to this website: http://fullercenter.org/bikeadventure/meettheriders. Once on the website, you can scroll down to my name/profile and click on “sponsor her ride.”  This is a secure website and the funding goes directly to the organization. All donations are tax deductible.

The second way you can join my journey is through prayers and support. There will be a lot of learning, praying, training (mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually), and preparation that will go into this ride. Prayers for training and even throughout the ride would be appreciated.
I hope you can join my ride and see all the things God is about to do through my learning and growth as well as the way this team will serve. God bless and hope you join the ride!

“For every house is built by someone, but the building of all things is God.”
Hebrews 3:4

Small Treasures

I have been very blessed to have a wide group of friends that are willing to bike with me, to help me, to put up with my random bike times because of my busy schedule.  Today the first part of my ride was with my friend Beverly. We left earlier in the day and took off on a familiar country bike path. I’m trying to get as many miles as I can while also sharing great fellowship. Round one resulted in a good ride with a few sprinkles. The temperature finally got above 50. My last ride was when it was 45, windy, and overcast. Today I gladly enjoyed 60s and sprinkles. I rode 12 miles, had a delicious chocolate milk, and improved my mean voice of yelling “no” to an approaching dog. I am beginning to think they are listening now. Lately when I yell at them they stop and some even go home.
The second part of my ride was to be with some gentlemen who have also been very helpful in trying to prepare me for this ride. This section of my ride was going to be a new route. I love new routes! We were destined to bike to Gold City, KY. It was slightly warmer for this section. The gentleman that I biked with is a strong rider and what I would consider a quiet soul. We rode most of the ride in silence. It was very nice and reflective. The route had some hills. I was familiar with some of the roads until we entered Simpson County. Yes, the hills were more challenging but a weird part of me enjoys those hills.

When I worked in Montana with the Forest Service there was a coworker who taught me something valuable that I still think of and use even today after 7-8 years have passed. We were on our first hitch of the season (meaning it was the first time we went back into the back country for an extended period).  Of course coming from Alabama to Montana it takes a little bit to get acclimated to the higher elevations. I was also not in ideal shape. As we were climbing up the mountain he kept pushing and hiking as fast as he could. I was gasping for air and stopping along the way. When I caught up with him I asked why he was hiking so fast. He said that was the only way he knew how to get in shape. To push now will only result in preparing your body for these types of climbs so in the future you can more easily take on the climbs and enjoy them.

So, with that quick digression, I think of that advice whenever I start training for anything – whether a hike or biking trip. I love the challenging hills because I am able to push myself. Yes, it is hard and legs burn, but every time I take on a hill I know I will be stronger and be able to take on the next one with a little more ease.
We twisted and turned on these country roads past small ponds and staring cows. Fourteen miles later we arrived in Gold City, KY. A place I would probably never visit or notice if not for this ride. This is why I love biking. Our goal of ending at a mom and pop gas station was amazing. We stopped as locals were extremely friendly, all of them knowing each other. One sign hanging on the wall said, “We don’t call 911 here” - right next to a picture of a gun. I stopped a moment and took it all in. Small treasures like this store made my day today. The ride, the newness, the rawness and simplicity of this small town – I am glad I got to experience it.
The ride back was great probably because it was mostly downhill. The sun came out and that always makes days better. The more we rode the stronger my legs felt. Hopefully the days will continue to get warmer and I can get back on the roads on a more consistent basis. The ride is approaching quick. I am getting more excited for it. I’m sure some of it is a little bit of nervousness. I hope that I am ready in time.

Hebrews 3:4