And so it all starts with a question. Over the past week as I’ve talked with more people back home, my answers to, “How was your 500 mile bike ride?” have slowly transformed.
How as your trip? It was totally awesome. It was an amazing experience. The journey was worth it.
What was your favorite part? Being on the bike 8 hours a day. It was so fun! I love riding my bike. It is such adventure to explore and achieve new levels of riding and comfort. It was never a chore. My bike and I have a great relationship.
How far did you ride each day? 85 miles on average.
85 miles a day??? Were your legs really sore? No. With proper pacing, nutrition, rest, and technique, the recovery was quick and riding was comfortable. The food at lunch and the dinners at our hosts’ places were well suited to exhausted athletes, providing us with large amounts of carbohydrates and protein. It was a joy to get off the bike and strengthen ourselves up again with great food!
So it wasn’t hard? If the trip was hard, it was a small sacrifice to pay. But no. It was more fun and engaging than I could have ever expected. The riding was over before we even knew it. If we had the chance, I would have loved to ride back from Chicago too! I think a lot of people could do the tour if they were simply patient enough.
How did you get back from Chicago? We had a support van that drove alongside the team all the way down to Chicago that brought us back. The support van was our mobile base of operations and all of us on the trip developed a unique attachment to the faithful vehicle. Every 20 miles the van would stop to provide us snacks, food, hydration, and encouragement. The van was like an encouraging save point and full heal in a video game. Often in the middle of a long day, we’d be told the van was parked 10-15 miles away…a long way to go. But it just feels so good to ride toward something. When the van finally was in sight, it felt like finding a wild pokemon that we had been scowering the countryside for.
What routes did you take to get to Chicago? We rode county highways and back roads via Red Wing, Onalaska, Oxford northeast of the Dells, Madison, Rockford, and then to Chicago. The route to Red Wing was flatter with rolling hills through farmland. As we entered from the northwest, there was a miraculous 3 mile descent into Red Wing toward the river. The next day, we rode the east Great River Road in Wisconsin by Lake Pepin and along the river. It was a perfect day and the rolling hills through the bluffs were the among the highlights of the trip. The journey to Oxford was a long and winding adventure through rich and hilly farmland formed by glaciers long ago. To Madison was a short 60 mile day and we rolled into the city just after lunch with time to relax and enjoy the capitol. The next day was a fast straight trip down to bustling Rockford. We finished the tour with a harrowing day toward Lake Michigan in a race against time and the sun. The routes were incredible and to think that we navigated nearly 500 miles using printed map directions gives such an amazing feeling of accomplishment!
Did everyone ride together? There was a wide variety of riding levels on the tour. Some riders were faster than others. Generally, riders separated into 3-4 groups that varied by pace and desired intensity. At lunch, we all regrouped and determined how we’d ride the second half of the day with some stronger riders taking turns to lead and care for the slower groups.
How did you ride? By the grace of God, I felt I had boundless energy. I typically rode in the front, leading and navigating the first pack of 3-5 riders at speeds of 17-20 mph. There were stretches of riding that allowed us to form powerful pacelines that boosted our speeds in excess of 24 mph. However we didn’t always go fast since our lead group would have far outpaced the core riders – by as much as a few hours by the end of the day. Instead, I learned that slowing down made the trip possible. I chose to ride part of each day with a slower group or at a slower pace, helping guide, pace and support other riders. I took time to get to know others and listened in on their conversations with their riding group. And occasionally, I would ride at the back and keep the slower riders company, encouraging them and giving them a chance to push their limits and grow as cyclists. I eventually balanced each day riding fast in intervals usually for about an hour or two at a time, and then riding at pace with a slower group between intervals. This gave me a great balance of freedom, hard work, socialization, and a chance to serve others. It also provided needed rest from the hard spinning of the pedals to enable a more stable energy output throughout the day, allowing for an easy recovery and fresher legs for the next day’s ride.
Do you have any stories to share? I truly believe God made our way to Chicago. The temperatures were cool. There was no bad weather. We always had a light tailwind. Everyone maintained their health and finished the tour. No one got left behind. I don’t think the tour could have gone any better, we were blessed the whole trip. Our way was made indeed.
If you were to give me a few sentences about the trip, what would you say? 500 beautiful miles. Fantastic fellowship. Delicious food. Great adventure. Amazing cause. A platform for change. Our tour was all of these things and more. For some it was life changing. For others, it was a step of growth that will solidify into a foundation of determination.
How did it impact you personally? I was thankful for every mile that God let me pedal. Despite all these nice answers above, there is just something deeper in my heart that yearns to be expressed. The trip was as much an external journey as it was an internal journey.
God also fulfilled a longing of my heart, being able to lead a group of riders on a long cycling excursion and to work on cycling execution, endurance, and navigation. When I realized it was happening, it came as a pleasant surprise. The fulfillment was in a subtle way that I could never have planned.
So, what else do you want to express? At this time, I don’t know an effective way to process all of this. The internal journey is one of complexity. I feel the need to express it. I need to share it. It’s always difficult to retell an event that is less of a spectacle and more of an interweaving of hearts in the pursuit of a mission. Yes, the miles mattered, but in the end, they were only a medium for the true experience built between all 20 riders on the tour. And yet, the full measure of the tour is unknown as it inspires others around us and makes an impact for the greater good of those in need. A friend recently told me that I should not discount my personal experience in favor of only accounting for the broader story and mission. I am simply allowed to have both, and I should reflect on both. That makes my heart smile.
Are you going to tell that personal story? In time.
Would you do it again? In a heart beat.