Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Bobby Longenecker Signing Off

Biking across the country has always been a dream of mine; something I knew I wanted to do as a challenge and an experience. I wanted to see America for what it truly is, to meet people of different backgrounds, and see this beautiful country. As many of you know, last summer we were set to undertake this adventure, but a few obstacles came in the way and we were forced to push the trip back a year till this summer; it was worth the wait.
From the snow-peaked rocky mountains to the flat wheat fields of the Midwest to the small fishing towns in Maine we truly saw the country in its many forms and shapes. But beyond the beauty, beyond the landscape were the wonderful people we met. Anybody reading this has probably been following the blog closely and has a grasp that we relied on the people of the small towns we came to as we got rid of our tent. But through our perseverance in taking rejections, and gracious people opening up their doors to us we got a house to sleep in almost every night. Although sitting on a bike for six hours a day is a blast, the true enjoyment of the day began as we got into someone’s house and started getting to know them. It was amazing to see the transition of many of our hosts and conversations as the evening wore on as they began to see us as harmless. These hosts were truly gifts from God, providing us with the physical needs of food and lodging while also a mental break and motivation to keep going.
Undergoing an 8-week trip with the same people everyday is always going to be challenging, especially when you eat, sleep and do the same thing everyday. That being said, although we had our disagreements at times, there are no two other guys I would have rather done this trip with:
Seth- You have been a friend for so many years, but only after this trip do I feel that we have truly become open and honest with each other. You were the beast of this trip hauling up the mountains and leaving Dietrich and I in the dust on those climbs. I truly enjoyed your free spirit and your ability to lighten the mood in some of the harder times.
Dietrich- We have been planning this for almost two years now and it is finally complete. I know biking was merely a means to the end of meeting people and seeing America for you, and I thank you for pushing that mindset into my head. Dietrich, we are opposites in many ways and that brings upon small clashes over little things. But I truly thank you for helping me to slow down and “smell the roses” and listen to people, not just bike from place to place.
This was truly a life changing experience for us and I truly believe it has made us all better men… whats next?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Dietrich Linde Signing Off

I had some people tell me before I left, “This isn’t going to be a trip about biking. That bike, well that’s just a simple form of transportation for a great adventure.” They couldn’t have been more right, and because of that I’ll need to give some people some credit.
“The Locals:” This trip could not have worked out better. We began the trip seeing some of the most incredible sights possibly throughout those first 3 weeks. It was unbelievable. We met some great people out there and they gave us a nice taste of the west. We then departed for Kansas, and the Midwest, the place everyone told us to skip over. All people did was complain about how hellish it was going to be, seeing nothing but corn and wheat fields. But it was out there where we got to see the real, hardworking, good ole’ small town American’s. Not only did we meet all great people, but we didn’t meet any remotely “bad” people either. The worst we got was the one guy that said “you’re in the belly of hell.” These people were great and they absolutely just walked us from one state line to the next. They fed us, talked with us, taught us, showered us, and even mothered us as well when we needed it most. They would do essentially anything for us, and its great knowing that I could go back and stop in at any of the houses, and immediately be welcomed in with a place to stay. And against all the warnings of the East coast being a tough place to find help, time and time again we were welcomed into homes with such wonderful people. I think it’s best to say that we can learn a lot from these people, and I can only hope that those that read this would do the same. Some of the most frustrating times were when people we knew personally would tell us “wow, I would never allow three strangers like that in.” So, for the sake of the people we encountered, I say within reason to help those that need it: pick up the hitchhiker, open your home, and “feed the hungry.”
Now for those guys that I enjoyed waking up next to every single dang day of the trip… I remember thinking three days in, wow arguing like this blows; it can only get worse from here. Well that didn’t happen at all. Those bigger arguments like what route to take, or “Seth why don’t you have spare spokes” just fizzled into a few little petty things which would come up every now and then. We argued about dumb things like, “Bobby just sit, all we want to do is just sit. Sit Bobby” So for the fact that we spent 24 hours a day together, ate, slept, talked, saw, and heard all the same things, and had the great “joy” of seeing each other’s greatest high’s and greatest lows, I do believe we got along incredibly well. We became so dependent on each other and did not even know it. Its tough telling people things about the trip without those guys there backing me up and taking a line. And it’s not when we felt on top of the world at Moncharch Pass or riding through home that did it for me. It was those times when it was just us, the times only we know that I really knew to love these guys. Times like the 40 McDonalds lunches, or eating PB&J crammed behind a fence being deafened by the wind in the “belly of hell” when we didn’t say a word or that great 9 hour ride through the desert in the middle of the night. I’ve learned a lot about these guys, and got to really know who they are. They’re great, great guys, and I could not have asked for much greater, and for that I’ll try my best to find you some great, great girls as well. I learned a lot about them, but I learned a lot more from them, I can only hope I did might have done the same. Thanks again guys, we really did it. Maybe I’ll l cry a little now…
Finally I want to give credit to the one that changed this bike trip, and gave us something we never could have imagined on our own. It sure would have been different without Him, and singing the song “livin’ on a prayer” as I pedaled through the desert could not have been more relevant. Hope, prayer, and a “little” touch of ignorance is what completed this trip for me. I lived off that stuff. It’s something I can’t really describe. It was when the timing, the thoughts, and the emotion all came together so perfectly that God really shown through undoubtedly. I honestly have countless stories of when I really, truly, without a doubt saw Him. Weather, safety, people, routes, and timing are just a few things to where we were so graciously blessed. We were blessed by the people, and I can only hope they can say the same for us. This trip, through all its frustration definitely put your faith on the line… and then just like that through a little bit of patience everything would change and all you could say was “Wow, why doubt?” If you could walk through my shoes just one day or even one hour on this trip, you would see and you would believe, and all those we stayed with I’m sure can attest to that as well. For once in my life I have felt something that is truly indescribable, and I can only say one thing about that: your prayers were felt, they were felt. Thanks again.

Seth Charles Signing Off

Well its been a few days since the trip ended and I've had some time to think about all that has happened in my life over the past 8 weeks. It sure has been quite the journey. I keep thinking of things that occurred on the bike trip that are so applicable to life and the christian walk. This trip was something that was so full of experiences, I think I'll be able to draw from them and learn new things all the time but there are a few things that made impressions on me.
The first thing that hit me was the power of a conversation. It may seem kind of idealistic but there were so many times on this trip where we just started talking to someone and before we knew it, they were offering us their beds to sleep in, their shower to wash off in, and their food to eat. I think that in our everyday busy lives we lose sight of the fact that the people passing us around every corner are in fact human beings with feelings, hopes, fears, and dreams. Sure this sounds cliche, but It amazed me that out of all the very different people we came in touch with, all of them were genuinely concerned for our well-being and safety. The people really wanted to hear our stories and get to know us as we got to know them. So, if there is an opportunity to strike up a conversation with someone, take it, even if its for a few minutes. Let people out there know that your a person who cares and we all don't have to live in our own bubbles.

The second thing that I noticed was the power of perseverance. So many people along the way would ask, "Where you guys going?" 
We would respond, "Maine!" 
That was usually followed by, "Holy (fill in your favorite four-letter word)!"
Everyone was blown away by the fact that we were biking from San Diego, California to Lubec, Maine. Seriously, who does that just for kicks? But looking back on the experience, the only way to accomplish something that big is by putting on goggles that let you see only the day in front of you. 
So many times on the bike I would think "Holy crap, how am I ever gonna do this?" 
Than, another side of me would say, "just make it through today Seth, just make it through today." 
Yes we are called to be wise and plan ahead for certain things, but I think in our Christian walks, we should be looking at the day in front of us. What can I do to further God's kingdom today? How can I help someone today? All the sudden the task seems more at hand. And than when you look back on your life down the road a few months you realize, "Wow look what God has done through me, I never thought that was possible!"

Finally, I realized the value of good friends. When I finished the trip and was driving home, I thought that there was no one else that I could have thought of to do this trip alongside me. I want to thank Dietrich and Bobby so much for giving me the opportunity to join them on this trip. It truly was the experience of a lifetime. 
Dietrich, thank you for being so easy going and always bringing energy to some of those lifeless days. You were always there to lighten the mood and make the trip fun on the tough days. Thank you also for being brutally honest at times. You taught me a lot about myself and called me out on things in my life that need changing. I'm grateful for that. 
Bobby, thank you for your power to motivate us and your foresight on many things. You made the trip actually happen and without you, we never would have made it to Maine. Thank you, for your willingness to help out when I was tired and to pull the BOB as long as you could to give others the break they needed. Your quiet determination and optimism is what got us across the country. Also, your ideas to vary our diet and eat chinese food was always a big treat and a huge refreshment. So thank you guys. We have made a bond that is stronger than we realize. Two months we shared, that only we will fully know. A friend by your side to pick you up when you fall is worth more than anything else. 
I want to say one last thank you to everyone at home who kept us in their prayers. They were felt and we couldn't have made it without them. Thank you Mom and Dad for allowing me to experience this trip at the expense of a few extra gray hairs. And thank you to all of those reading who encouraged, fed, housed, or helped us in some way along the trip. You were the ones who made it the experience of a lifetime.

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith."
Hebrews 12:1 

Sunday, July 19, 2009

"Three young men who left on a journey and returned very much men" T.S.

07/17/09 ~ Well this was the day. It came upon us to quickly and yet it felt like years since we set out from San Diego. So many places we've seen, so many people we've met, so many things we've learned, about ourselves and others. We couldn't have asked for a better experience in our beautiful country, and it truly is a beautiful country with incredible people.
We gathered our things at Ben's and headed out for our last ride. It was foggy and we agreed that we liked it because it embodied every image we have of New England before the trip. This day was a day of lasts. We ate our last breakfast together which consisted of honeybuns at the last gas station that we would stop at. For our last lunch, we hit the last McDonalds and had our last McDonalds dollar menu items. It was a weird feeling today.
About halfway through our ride, Will Charles and Karl Linde met us to take the last of our stuff so we could ride completely unweighted for the last section of our trip. It was great to see them and we felt like we had been given wings when we emptied our racks and set out for Lubec.
We journeyed onward and soon made our last turn onto our last road that we would ride on. The traffic was minimal and we rode side by side enjoying the last few moments that we had with just us. Soon was saw the beautiful town sign for Lubec and stopped for pictures.
We continued on and flew through the small fishing town that is the most easternmost town in the US. As we came down to the Canadian border, it was a cool moment because we came down the hill and through the fog saw all our parents and family cheering us on. They had gathered right at the border with a banner strung high that we rode under in sheer joy as we had finished the journey.
It was all smiles as we took pictures at the border and hugged family. Even some tears were shed in the realization of what we had accomplished. After some photos, we rode down to the pier and touched the marker on the rocks marking Canada. Than, we rode down to the water and Dietrich led the charge into the frigid cold water. There we hugged, and on the count of three all dipped under bathing in the cold Atlantic water that we had road all summer to feel.
From there, we returned to the hotel and were presented with medals courtesy of Seth's Grandparents. Afterwards we showered and spent the rest of the day touring Lubec and sharing stories about the trip.
I don't think the three of us will ever realize quite how much this journey has changed us. It has challenged us physically, challenged us in how we relate to others, and challenged us in our relationship with God. The trip taught us that life truly is a long journey where you need to continue to press onward towards the goal. People were placed along the way to provide for your needs when we felt weak and tired; to provide words of encouragement when we felt like we couldn't pedal another pedal. We thank everyone who has helped us, fed us, provided shelter for us, encouraged us, and prayed for us and we acknowledge that you weren't placed to help us by chance but that God was guiding every part of our trip. So with all that said, let everyone who reads this know that America is a beautiful country. The landscapes of this country are incredible but more important is the kindness and generosity of its citizens. There are many genuine caring people in this country. Take time to meet them and share with others.

Note- this is not the closing post, as we mentioned before, we will each add our own conclusion, they should be up in about a day or two.

Blueberry Capital of the World

07/16/09 ~ Got up at around 7 and hit the road, bound for Cherryfield, the last place we would stay, and last real day on the bike trip before our final destination of Lubec. In Cherryfield, a town 50 miles away, we had another internet hook up through couchsurfing, who was a great guy named Ben, the local blueberry farmer. We set forth towards his place, stopping by at a grocery store to eat a dozen donuts for breakfast. We arrived there at about 11:00 in the morning, and Ben was nowhere to be found. We walked ourselves inside, and started looking around his house to see if anyone was home there. Suddenly, two young girls about 20 years old came out of the one of the rooms, sort of confused as to who we were. We introduced ourselves, and said we were some couchsurfers, and soon discovered that these two girls were some other couchsurfers as well. Instant connections are always great. Apparently they’ve just been driving all around the country for the past 8 weeks in their car camping out. They then found Ben, and had been staying there at his place for the past week just because they simply “loved it so much here.” We ended up hanging out and talking with them for the afternoon until Ben came home later on. It was great talking to them and sharing some great stories from both our trips, and we finally got to actually hang out with some girls for once as well, that never happens! And I don’t even think we were that socially awkward about it either, a sure double bonus, and a great last day. 
The two girls and us then ended up cooking up a big meal that night of Beef Stroganoff and Spaghetti. We then concluded the night hearing some pretty crazy stories from the man himself, Ben.and playing a little bit of chess as well. Ben sure was quite the Chess master, although we cannot fail to mention Seth did beat him on the first try… but the Ben beat him the second game. We could not have asked for better last day on the bike trip with such great and interesting people. Tomorrow we head for Lubec, the easternmost point of the United States, and Canadian border. 

A Last Minute Save

07/15/09 ~ 
There are few greater things to wake up to then looking straight out at the ocean 30 feet out which was as smooth as glass with the sun reflecting off of it. It was great, and then Jean came into our cottage telling us she had our breakfast all ready for us, a beautiful start to a great day. We devoured her great scrambled eggs, bacon, and English muffins and set out on the road headed for Bar Harbor, and Acadia National Park. We rode 30 miles up to the town of Ellsworth, where we enjoyed a great lunch of New England clam chowder, “voted the best around,” of which Bobby was craving to eat for the past week, so we quite well satisfied his cravings. 
After that we rode on 2 miles to where Route 3, the road which takes you the 20 miles into Acadia, departs from Route 1 and decided we should hitchhike. We wanted to hitchhike for one, just because it’s always quite interesting, and for two, because Acadia is 20 miles out our way, and we do not, do not, do any extra mileage. We thumbed it for a while, and naturally the smallest possible car, full of junk decides to pick us up. This guy was convinced we could get all 3 bikes, and his junk, and 4 guys crammed back into his tiny little sedan. So we did, it consisted of strapping Seth’s bike straight on the roof, Dietrich’s bike in the trunk with this guy’s junk strapped on top of it, and Bobby’s bike thrown in the back seat on top of Seth and Bobby. He then drove us the next 20 miles straight into Bar Harbor, where Acadia Park is at as well. 
We spent that afternoon touring some of the park, and hiking the trails as well. The trails were absolutely beautiful, as you could climb way up on top of a rock, overlooking the island and ocean as well. It was some of the best views we’ve seen this trip. We then went back to Bar Harbor, where another internet hook up through couchsurfing, was cooking us up some great spaghetti and meatballs. While eating we found out the place we thought we would be staying at actually didn’t have room for us, so we began looking elsewhere for a place to stay. We luckily, at the last minute, were put up by another couchsurfer in the area, Lynn Slocom, who lived 8 miles out of town. She graciously picked us up, drove us back to her place, and gave us some great beds to sleep on. We slept great that night, and were so thankful Lynn was able to pull through at the last possible minute.

Blessed in Belfast

7/14/09 ~ 
For the first time on the trip, after a great night around a campfire, we decided to sleep in. We did not set an alarm clock and slept on the couches in Christie's house until we naturally woke up. This was fitting to the spirit of the trip as we were in the relaxed mode now, knowing we were close to finishing and just trying to enjoy every moment of the final few days. We finally woke up around 9:30, said our goodbyes to our great host and pounded down a dozen donuts at Dunkin Donuts. 
After breakfast we did the shortest ride of our trip, a 30 mile trek along the Maine coastline to our planned out destination of Belfast where we had a cottage waiting for us. In a similar to Kansas-esque fashion of hosts calling ahead to the next town to host us for the evening, Mark and Kathy in Placerville, Colorado called ahead to Kathy's mother Jean in Belfast, Maine and told us we would be coming through. I still cannot get over the fact that us randomly knocking on a door in Colorado led us to a cottage in Belfast, Maine, but nonetheless we rolled into the quaint little fishing town with a home already lined up. 
Upon pedaling into town, Charlie (Kathy's brother in law) called us up and told us to come to his cafĂ© the "BayWrap" for lunch and we enjoyed a free meal of wraps. If you are ever in the Augusta or Belfast areas, I would definitely recommend a stop at the "BayWrap". After visiting with Charlie, he gave us directions to his mother in law Jean's cottage and we headed over there. Jean an energetic woman whom enjoys bike touring herself showed us to our own oceanfront cottage. We spent the afternoon relaxing on the porch swing, overlooking the vast expanse of the ocean. 
That evening Jean prepared a big spaghetti dinner, and we enjoyed an evening listening to Jean's stories of her canoeing down the Colorado River and bike tours and listening to Charlie and his wife Liz talk about their six month honeymoon in which they spent a month hiking in the Himalayas. It is truly amazing to hear the crazy things that people we have stayed with have done and learned from their adventures. They not only encouraged us and our adventure in many ways but they put ideas in my head of future endeavors. Before we knew it, it was time for bed and we all retired to our own rooms and beds feeling truly blessed for all that we have been given.