Sunday, September 14, 2014

From the Beginning to the End



Summary of 2014 FCBA Ride

The start of the journey, introductions made, sleepless nights on bunk beds, while hearts flutter
First build day of spackling and painting on destructed sandy shores of Jersey, whose casinos make the sky line clutter

Practice ride down the boardwalk, getting down the Oyee, starting the ride on the Atlantic by the dipping of our back tire
Riding by fields of cranberries, following chalked FC arrows ended our short visit in New Jersey around a Tabernacle campfire.

An entrance into Kensington with parks lined with painted hubcap flowers, learning even more about Shane, Sarah, and Mike’s community
Breaking down beds, moving boxes, picking up trash, seeing the true meaning of America’s poverty

Feasts shared in the Simple Way, singing My Hope Is Built, wheelie escorts by kids, and an Aqua Garden
This stop eye opening to a way of life not normally seen – it’s so real, yet so hidden

From the murals of Philly, a run up Rocky’s steps, small gravel trails, and Pittsburgh’s many bridges
To the foggy climbs up switch backs as we are welcomed to the Appalachian Mountains and her ridges.            

A Hershey town of chocolate, fields of graves in Gettysburg, to Everett’s own town
Days of biking in the rain, passing through cities with populations reaching millions, yet quiet moments on back roads we still found.

Next came the buckeye state – a place of reunions and homecomings
A drastic change from Kensington, a boat ride from Bob, a build day of superb organizing.

Spread out in Aurora, neighbor to neighbor, devotion and lunch shared with the owners of these homes
Laying laminate floors, basements that humble, our bodies and family bonds becoming   stronger.

A walk to the Rock-n-roll Hall of Fame and the waterfront to a lake that’s grand.
Archery lofts, corn home games, huge potlucks, cozy storms, and a night spent in Cleveland.

Buildings covered in bugs, getting baptized in the waters of Lake Michigan, biking parallel to water named Erie
The excited bundle of Joyce, a zoo, a boat ride through Toledo’s River called Maumee

An entire painted home, a radio station, a teary eyed cut of a ribbon
Gifts of service through laundry, goody bags, meals of BBQ and corn on the cob, and huge white shirts that were generously given.

Entering into a new state of Indiana, days of horse and buggies, more rain and storms
Time spent in Gary where we saw more brokenness, so empty…leaving my heart torn

A place where hope is absent, Jackson fans come to see Michael's memorial
Time spent lopping, sawing, and clearing yards, Katherine Jackson and neighbor’s hearts so thankful

Illinois greeted us with a ride along the beach, navy pier, and the Chicago sky line
A weekend of second halfers, hand clappers, gospel singing, and heroes we did find.

Gaining and losing riders, the sadness and joy this weekly process brings
In Waukegan putting in 17 windows, painting, and scrubbing walls of a basement clean.

We entered our hardest week full of long days of accumulating miles…taking us into Wisconsin
Cheese curds, and our hardest day facing 20 plus mph headwinds

A short stay soon found us in Iowa, a new state
Crossing the Mississippi River, crossroads, and stretches of endless corn became our daily fate

Where the mile stretched forever, arriving in a new mid-west region
No more busy towns, middle of nowhere rest stops, turbines, and a 4th spent at Spirit Lake with sparklers of celebration

Fields of agriculture made up our daily scene
As lines are quoted from the movie “A Field of Dreams”

Our shortest stroll was through Minnesota
Greeted by a hailstorm, Grandpa’s Funny Farm, before crossing into the South of the Dakotas

Where the roads turn red and cornfields change into prairies
Arriving in new towns, worshiping with all denominations, and extra days spent in Rapid City

Orange painted nails, malts consumed, a downhill ride past Wounded Knee into the Indian Reservation
Meeting David Snell, a climb up on the bluffs for a panoramic view of this broken, but beautiful nation

Painting the home of a veteran, pulling weeds, and picking up buried trash that was covered for years
A pick up baseball game, an unspoken connection and joy spent with half a dozen boys brought me to tears

Knowing we are on sacred ground, families are priorities while living simple lives
A different culture, living on their time, a delicious traditional meal of grape juice pudding and bread that was fried

A ride through the badlands as the sun gives the rocks a colorful blend
Going through ghost towns, deserted roads, as the stories of the past fill the air through the cry of haunted wind

We headed “Forever West” into Wyoming – home of tumble weeds, cowboys, and interstate cycling
Smoke covered mountains with a faint outline of the snowy peaks showing

Sleeping in homes in Sundance, Wyoming, amazed at the things we take for granted.
Numerous home cooked meals, daily showers, pillows, and sleeping in a bed.

Homemade ice-cream in Gillette as we hear a lot about fracking
Entering the state of Montana as my heart starts flying

Where prairies turn to mountain peaks, creeks to cricks, and the sky so big its vastness swallows you whole
Surreal postcard views, passing trains, frontage roads, and moments of awe that overwhelmingly feed the soul

Beartooth pass, Helena’s headwinds, Sovereign Hope picnics, and giving hearts that make smoothies
Biking through construction, through forests of pines, and winding mountain brooks with their peaceful melodies

Small western towns, sunsets that fill the sky, wrestling rooms with orange mats, and cold mornings
Bodies stronger, legs toner, confidence and progress of riders so inspiring

Idaho meets us at the top of Lookout Pass, her downhill leaves us screaming
A build day in Kellogg, of hanging siding, a trailer becoming a home, and roof stripping

The longest gondola ride, open ski lift to a sea of mountains, as the wind makes the daisies wave
Dips in cold creeks, diving and swimming in lakes, bike rides off Coeur D’Alenes Trail – these  memories I will save.

Garbanzo beans and lentils turning the landscape different shades of green
Early morning departures, colorful sky devotions, riding behind the first light of the morning sun’s rising.

Changing time zones, communicating with hand signals, tan lines now permanently ingrained
Moments you want time to slow down before it slips away, while also wishing miles to pass because of the ongoing pain

An adrenaline filled ride down the spiral road into our last build day in the Lewis and Clark valley
Six wheelchair ramps renovated and built, landscape down, and sorting eggs at the food pantry

Meeting Washington’s triple digit extreme heat, the eastern part of the state dry, mountains brown and bare
Unforgiving roads causing flat tire parties as the land changes to green vineyards, apple picking, orchards of hops, peaches, and pears.

Strolls through winding canyons, by Rimrock lake, through tunnels, and 8 miles climbs up to White Pass
Special time shared with PCT thru-hikers and a viewing of Mt. Rainer – a moment I wanted forever to last.

Where passes turn to grades and mountains turn into cascades
Thinking over the trip as a whole-the rainy hard days in comparison to the good – seem to fade

One last cue sheet, devotion, song, and prayer
Crossing the Columbia River into Oregon, our last rest stop with thick smoothies made by the bike blender

The scenery resembling rides in the east, steeper shorter hills and greener trees
The smell of the sea, the taste of accomplishment, the feeling of being a part of something so big, my heart so free

Our last ten mile ride in this long orange line of family – this I cherish the most
So many stories, memories, lives touched, and a ride ending as we crest the hill and can see the Pacific Coast

Tires dipped, groups dive in, as the cold waters mark the end of our journey
Tears shed, voices raised in song, one last first raised while shouting “Oyee!”

Nine weeks of life built into this one moment, bitter sweet of the arrival of this August 9th day
A dream achieved, bikes raised above the head, knowing that we can now say, “We’ve biked across the USA!”

Saturday, August 16, 2014

From Sea to Sea Summary

I have been trying to find the right words to summarize this experience and it is hard to capture it all. First, I can't believe the ride is over. Nine weeks of getting up daily and biking no matter if it is raining, hot, or cold. You get to a point where you run on automatic. Your body surprisingly recovering after back to back to back long days. Where you don't mind the challenges such as climbing mountain passes or riding in head winds (I prefer passes over winds) because you know that will make you stronger for what is coming up next. You know the sight at the top will wipe away any pain and memories of the climb. There were a lot of interesting things along the way.

I loved worshiping in churches of different denominations every week. It is so amazing to know how big the family of God is. Even though there are differences we all live for the same reason serving the same God!

I loved seeing the beauty of this country. It was amazing to see how much the country changed along the way. From starting out on the east coast where we passed through cities with populations in the millions, days spent riding in the rain,  where everything was green and lush in the Appalachians to the midwest where populations dwindled. It seemed like there was more corn than people. Where I completely understood what the crossroads of Iowa were. I could stand in the middle of one of those and see forever in all directions. This part of the country providing food and other agriculture. Then arriving in the West where the skies were so big, clouds fascinating, and mountain views that left you in awe. A place where the mountains filled the skyline instead of skyscrapers or houses. To the cascades and the Pacific Coast where at times it resembled the east yet is different with their vineyards and orchards. Both extremes of drought and lushness.  Regardless of the differences in landscape, the thing that remained the same were the people. There are so many amazing people with giving hearts across this country. Welcoming strangers in orange shirts into their churches and homes, cooking meals for hungry bikers.

I loved the build days. We had 9 build days that kept up humble and made us realize even more how fortunate we are. Numerous families we were able to help out, get to know, and give them hope, a home, and a smile! New skills learned, new perspective on the poverty in this country, and the thought of knowing that in the small amount of time in each of these days worked that one hammer stroke, one wall spackled, one piece of trash picked up, one shingle pulled, on room painted made someone else's life better.

I loved the cyclists I shared this time with. It's amazing how quickly a group of people become family. Sleeping, eating, doing laundry, and cycling with them 24/7 - seeing weaknesses, strengths, and their stories are something I cherish.

This ride changed me deep down. It reminded me that I am strong and  still able to physically do more than I thought I could. This ride made me slow down mentally and physically. Allowing me to see things, hear things, smell natures fragrance, and feel the freedom that comes with biking everyday. Where your main objectives are to get to the next point, be safe, and live to the fullest. Soaking up as much as possible. Being willing to give, to serve, to be a part of a team. I'm so glad I got to work with this ministry. The Fuller Center is a solid ministry that is helping lives all over the country. I wish that I had the chance to meet and listen to Millard Fuller. I am proud to carry out and in a small way help his dream of ending poverty housing.

To all those that I cycled with, that fed us meals, that prayed, that welcomed us to their churches, that donated, that had some hand in our journey...thank you! It was a fun ride. I hope you enjoyed it too!!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Living a Dream and Reaching a Goal

The days are flying by here. We have just finished our 7th week. Wow. Our stay in Wyoming was short. We visited and stayed in Sundance, WY - where our hosts invited us into their homes. That night we were reminded of the things we tend to take for granted like having our own beds and real pillows. Some of the host families took bikers around town, up mountains, and to Devils Tower. So blessed that these people allowed strangers wearing orange into their home. We are daily reminded of how many good people there are across this country! We biked to the east of Yellowstone and entered into Montana. In Billings I was able to reunite with my Montana mom (Debby) while some of the group got the chance to take a ride through some of the prettiest mountains in my opinion - the Beartooth Mountains. I was blessed to get the chance to live and work in Montana for a span over 4 years. In this time I spent most of my time in a small portion of the state. This ride has given me the chance to see so much more of Montana. Every day I love and appreciate the beauty of this state more and more. There have been some pretty hard days with brutal headwinds, climbing mountain passes, flying down hills through National forests where I can barely take it all in. There are sunsets where you feel like you are part of them, mountains in all directions, and a sky that is forever big! Days are spent where I feel like I'm living in a dream. I am literally. I don't want the ride to end in two weeks. God has cleared a lot of the smoke to where we can have clear views and air! Two days ago the Fuller Center hit a milestone and reached an amazing goal. We were able to raise around 175,000 on this years bike ride allowing the Fuller Center to reach its Goal of raising a million dollars!!!!

We are now in Missoula, MT. We get a day off tomorrow and I'll get to meet up with some more friends. We had a lovely 85 mile ride today. It was like a reward because the last two days we have had to face some pretty strong headwinds. Most of the ride was downhill. Biking through mountains with creeks snaking alongside the road, fly fisherman out casting does something to my soul! We lose several riders but add around 10 new bikers for the next section. Next week we will have 2 build days and fewer miles which will be nice! It will be sad to leave Montana but I'm excited to visit our last 3 states.

Hebrews 3:4

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!

Leah

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