Day 75 [Great River Road State Park, MS – Greenville, MS]

SATURDAY, AUGUST 14, 2010

[Again, please excuse our dust as we work around grammatical and technical issues…when we DO get somewhere that has reliable wifi, we will update this blog with correct paragraph spacing and a WHOLE BUNCH of photos (there are already 500 photos here), so check back often!]

Do you realize that there are only about 2 weeks left in our Mission Possible Tour? Hard to believe!

And have you seen the video yet of Earline and I from Day 71 at the Tom Sawyer Campground just south of West Memphis, Arkansas? The link to its posting on YouTube can be found right on the top center of the Home Page of this web site (see if you notice the “something” floating down the river behind us as we’re talking!).

Back to the Great River Road State Park….it should be closed.

As we were coming in at midnight last night, a truck pulled beside us on the road inside the dark park, and said we needed to pay $20, or something like that. It was late [and I don’t remember if we even HAD $20, but we said we’d take care of it in the morning.] [Plus we didn’t know who these folks really were!]

Good thing we didn’t, because I don’t really even think the place was open, and SHOULD be closed, at least until there is some major clean-up completed.

The campground is filthy….I won’t belabor the point, but here are some photos, including from the dining and office area which signage says was open daily, but it was locked down and the doors were chained.

Lonely campsite in GRR State Park

Blown light

Torn shower curtain

3 lights out of 18 working

Plateless socket

Busted railing

Chains on door

Appropriately so, even the bugs know this place needs prayer. I saw my first ever praying mantis, and he hung around our campsite almost all morning.

Praying mantis

Had our morning breakfast of Vienna Sausages and Spam….yummm…..

Vienna sausage

[….doesn’t Earline look excited??!!] Left the campsite and checked the main area.

GRR SP pretty place empty1

I mean, as this last picture shows, it is a pretty area…..that’s the Mississippi River way in the background….but even this area around the office was unkept – cobwebs and leaves unswept, sidewalks cluttered….and totally empty. Really left you with a sad, sick feeling.

Has the economy hurt them as well? Is there mismanagement going on here? Not sure….someone later in the day told us that Hurricane Gustav a few years ago had completely flooded out the place, so maybe that’s part of it….or ALL of it.

Just be forewarned….do NOT bother to go to this mess [in less you check first and see if repairs have been done]….

….and WE proceeded to head south towards Greenville [where my phone should be waiting!]….little knowing….

…..what special things God had in mind for our week to come!!

As we left the Great River Road Campground [the ONLY one leaving, ‘cuz no one else was staying there!], we saw a house with some people around 80–100 yards away [maybe the ones from last night?], and we waved good-bye, but we didn’t go any closer.

As we exited the campground, we saw a payment box, so we left one or two dollars in the box along with a “concerned” note about the campground.

Only right to leave SOMETHING, right?

It is HOT again today….we heard 105 was the forecast. Earline and I still have our umbrellas goin’ on.

Under umbrella at GRRSP

We saw our first farm equipment lawn ornament [FILO] that we had seen in several weeks. [I think they need some pointers, tho, from the folks up north!]

Notice the feisty guard dog protecting the FILO!

Lawn ornament cultivator with dog

At a convenience store in the little village of Beulah, and were again talking to many of the patrons of the store, when we met music minister Eldridge Jenkins. Looking for a church to go to tomorrow morning, we asked him what church he recommended in Greenville, and he didn’t hesitate: Zion Baptist Church, apparently one of the churches where he rotates as music minister.

We called the pastor, and after several tries with our on-again-off-again phone service, we were able to get thru. He recommended the Salvation Army as a place to stay (not what we were hoping for….but we were fine with ANYPLACE God led us.)

Yet another beautiful sunset (The heavens reveal His glory!).

Sunset north of Greenville

It was again dark as we pulled into town (but not nearly as late as last night – only about 9pm). We went to the Salvation Army…we had been trying to call them all late afternoon and evening, but no answer.

And now, no one came to the door. Hmmm.

Weird.

Salvation Army in Greenville

We called Pastor back, but it went to his answering machine.

Okay.

Maybe they’ve gone to bed….now what?

Should we find the church and camp out, like we did at Beech Grove in Kentucky?

What other option is there?

Suddenly, they called back. They had been outside, talking to relatives. They were going to come by with their pickup, and transport us to the local Fire Station #1!! (It turns out the pastor’s wife works downtown and called the Fire Chief for us!)

So the Pastor and his wife showed up at the Salvation Army with their big pick-up truck, we loaded our trikes in the back, and they drove us down to the fire station.

They suggested setting up our tent on the grounds, but the guys at the Fire House said we could sleep in the air-conditioned barracks with them. After the experiences we had the last 2 nights, we enthusiastically said YES!

In the fire house

Jon in firehouse washroom

Earline in firehouse

Jon on bunkbed

Great showers, actually very comfortable bunk beds that the guys slid together for us, WIFI connection!!, the AC was CRANKIN’!, and…..VERY COOL ambiance.

Thanks, guys! (Some photos of y’all in tomorrow’s blog!)

And thank you, God, AGAIN for your protection and provision.

TGG,

jon

Day 49 [Clarksville, MO – Foley, MO]

MONDAY, JULY 19, 2010

Got up around 8 (but it was tough, after being up so late, but I was SO grateful for the time and circumstance that allowed me to get caught up with the blog) (All that’s left is fixing the formatting of the text and uploading the already prepped photos.)

As we were packing, Kaley came over and showed us on the radar on her Blackberry a rapidly approaching thunderstorm that would be here (Clarksville) within 30 minutes. So….no need to rush packing…I figured we could wait out the storm, which looked to be an intense, but narrow line of showers. Some views of the rain:

Morning storm at Eagle Bluff

Morning storm at Eagle Bluff

I read Psalm 19 (one of today’s Psalms – you can read 5 Psalms every day – just add 30, 4 times – 19,49,79,109,139; this way you can read  ALL the Psalms every month).

I think it is interesting how the heavens silently “declare” God’s glory. Whether during the day, or at night (and we’ve ridden at both times), God’s creation is all around us, around every single person on earth, and available for us to observe, and watch, and study….to get a sense of WHO God is and what His character is like.

Sometimes in the city, we miss these clues that are staring us in the face if we only look.

Earline and I have felt the power of a beating, summer sun. We have enjoyed the relief of a cloud that provides shade, and coolness. We have seen the explosion of stars in a clear, rural sky (I showed Earline the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper, the North Star, and even the Milky Way). We have longed for and enjoyed a cooling breeze that comes from the depths of the shaded forests that we venture through.

We have seen the various stages of crops like corn that grow and mature into abundant harvests.

An old hymn goes like this: “We plough the fields and scatter the good seed on the land; but it is fed and watered by God’s Almighty hand.”

It’s all God…it really is. And how fortunate we are to be able to see glimpses of Him in our daily walk, if we only take time to stop, look, and contemplate.

The storm finally let up, we finished packing and said our good-byes….

Final goodbye to Eagle Bluff

Before we left I got a picture of Clarissa and her 6-week old German Shepherd pup. She breeds and sells pups like this (she also rescues “retiring” horses from race tracks….what a tender heart!):

Clarisssa and pup

We headed down the hill (this is what we had to come UP in the dark Saturday night!)

Road up down Eagle Bluff

And these are the lighted signs we saw Saturday night, wondering how could we ever possibly stay there?!!!

Signage for Eagle Bluff

Thank you, Clarissa, Diane, Kaley, and the whole crew of Eagle’s Bluff Golf Resort. May God bless you RICHLY for your warmth and hospitality!

We headed down to Elsberry (shared a meatball marinara at Subway…..yumm!). (Later, Earline had some….er, “problems” with her sub. Ooops!)

ALERT! ALERT!

PLEASE, MRT, encourage Missouri to put a paved shoulder south of Elsberry….there was only a gravel shoulder, AND there were rumble grooves carved into the outside white line that extended out on to the 1 foot shoulder that was there. We had to ride (and bicycles would, too) on the INSIDE of the white line on this 2-lane road. Most of the motorists were patient, but some weren’t.

The grooves would stop a little ways before each driveway or side road, but enduring the 15 or so miles of side grooves was tough.

We had a few rolling hills enroute…again some uphills and some downhills….here’s Earline getting ready to drive off a cliff…..(well, it LOOKS like it!):

Drive off cliff

Saw some beautiful clouds, and a pretty sunset along this Hwy 79 route.

Golden sunset

We were headed towards Winfield (another town named Winfield) (see Winfield, IA), but only made it as far as a little north of Foley (yes, another town named Foley, as in MN) where we camped for the night. Paul (and his partner Wayne) owns a little 6am to 10pm convenience store, called Evergreen Farms (they grow a lot of their own FRESH produce behind the store!), and graciously let us camp just to the side of his store. Here’s Paul hard at work:

Paul a tEvergreen Farms

About 12:30am we woke up to BLOWING winds and thunder (reminded me of Lake Pepin, and I thought, oh-no!) But I had secured all 8 positions around the tent, we have the tarp that Gayle gave us (THANK YOU, GAYLE) and secured that over the trikes, so we should be okay.

I have been monitoring the side and floor of the tent, and everything seems to be staying dry, but WOW….I have NEVER in all my tent camping life EVER experienced as much rain as we just had. It has just recently started letting up a little (it is 2:30am, and yes, since I’m awake anyway…..I’m blogging from my Blackberry) but I would not be surprised if we received 4 or more inches in the past 2 hours….talk about displaying the sheer power of God.

The electrical power to the convenience store went off about a half hour ago, so, sorry, Earline, there may not be coffee in the morning!

Everyone have a blessed day, and thank you all for your continued prayer and financial support.

TGG,

jon

Day 46 [Hannibal, MO – [somewhere along County Road B, MO]

FRIDAY, JULY 16, 2010

Day 46 started out with a pleasant surprise…Andy and Sue Cairns (you may remember them from Day 9 and 10) stopped by on their way to see his mom in St. Louis.

Andy and Sue

Had a wonderful morning sharing stories (they both ride recumbent bicycles) and encouraging each other’s walk with God. GOOD friends that have resulted from this Mission Possible Tour. Earline even tried out Sue’s bike (oh-oh…gotta remember how to balance!).

Earline on Sues trike

For a short time, the WiFi Pedalers were a 4-some! Bye, you guys….see you soon! God bless!

Andy and Sue wave bye

Tegan from KHQA had mentioned that Hwy 79 south of Hannibal was closed by a mud slide from all the rain recently. So we reluctantly headed out to Hwy 61 to detour around. Very busy road…lots of truck traffic…BUT it DID have a nice wide shoulder, and we were grateful for that.

Now after about 12 miles the MODOT tried to get funny and put in rumble grooves like Illinois (see Day 34)….but the shoulder was wide enough that we were able to go around the outside (THANK-YOU, JESUS!!)

Long tough hills going up, but long fun hills going down…..whee!

Hwy 61 south of Hannibal

Finally saw an exit for the detour to 79….stopped at a little town beside the exit, but the only convenience store in town was already closed. Hmm. We stopped to ask some directions from a family getting out of their car, and the family they were coming to visit gave us some much needed water from their kitchen sink. We appreciated it!

County Road B headed west was pretty hilly, and it was starting to get dark. We knew we’d never make it to the town of Louisiana, and I didn’t want to ride again at night, so after we saw this pretty yard (with yet more farm-implement-yard-art):

Old plough

……we stopped (actually turned around and went back to it) to ask if we could set up the tent in their yard. No one answered the door, so I started to head back to my trike. I noticed the lawn hose scattered across the yard, and it didn’t really match their tidy yard, so I decided to roll it into a nice circle by the faucet. As I was doing that, Earline all of a sudden heard “psssssssst.”

Oh no, flat tire #4 (and again the back tire….ugh).  But it WAS a pretty sunset! (sigh)

Flat tire 4

Flat tire with house and pretty sky

I didn’t have any CO2 cartridges left, and for some unexplained reason, I didn’t spin the tire and try to hand pump it up. I just took all the gear off and changed the tube. (This was the tire that I forgot to transfer the protector strip to.) (Hmmm.)

By now it’s getting REALLY dark, and we decide to camp beside their garden anyway. Earline wrote a note and left it on the door with our little 1/4 flyer.

THEN their dog started barking while we were setting up our tent. He came closer (Earline got out the pepper spray), but he just sniffed the trikes, wagged his tail and let me touch him, and then trotted away as if to say, “You’re okay….I’ll be YOUR guard dog tonight, too!” And we never saw him again.

Only thru God’s grace,

jon

Day 33 [Dubuque, IA]

SATURDAY, JULY 3, 2010

Nice night sleeping by the river, but….unfortunately, we had a carload of teenagers beside us, again having loud conversation, loud music, and every other word a curse word. [Earline’s mom used to say that if they cursed it was because their vocabulary skills were low!]

And yes, this was not the first time this has happened [see Day 22]. Lord, what is your purpose in all this?

We saw this group meeting of pelicans [apparently planning the day’s fishing activities!]

Pelican meeting

And these were not the only animals awake Saturday morning…..apparently the park is right next to a greyhound race track next to a casino….and wow, were the dogs ever raising a fuss early Saturday morning! One fella told me that they weren’t fighting, even though they sounded aggressive to me…..he said they just bark a lot when around feeding time, or when other dogs around them are being trained. Hmmm.

Spent almost all day getting caught up on this past week’s blog photos [it was a busy week], using the wifi at the Hilton next to the casino. The folks at the Hilton were so nice to let me set up in a corner and spend all day there practically. Thank you for your hospitality! [And the breakfast buffet looked GREAT!] [Yeah, couldn’t afford it…but it LOOKED great!]

Just before the fireworks Earline and I spent some time at the north end of the park overlooking the river where the fireworks would be, talking to people about our trip and our purpose. Here’s a picture of Jeff Hanson of Verona, Wisconsin trying out the trike:

Jeff Hanson of Verona

The trikes have proven to be a good “vehicle” to get people’s attention and let us explain the purpose of our trip. I estimate that we in the past month have talked to over 300 people already one-on-one about our mission, our work with the Deaf, and our efforts through God’s Hands Agency, as well as to hundreds more through group situations in churches and organizations.

And we have spent time with dozens more in counseling situations, giving them an encouraging word, letting them know that truly “with God ALL things are possible!” We have seen many come away from our conversations with them inspired and uplifted by the zaniness of our own Mission Possible tour, knowing that God, too, has a purpose for THEIR lives that they CAN accomplish with HIS wisdom and strength. [Proverbs 3:5-6]

Tried to get a shot of the fireworks with my camera, but that didn’t work too well [HA….oh, well]:

Fireworks at Camp 17

Fun night, and we were glad to have the opportunity to see Dubuque’s fireworks display…..thanks!

Thanks to ALL of you for your prayers and financial support.

TGG,

jon

Day 9 [Crosby, MN – Brainerd, MN]

JUNE 9, 2010

What an interesting night we had!

The Nordic Inn Medieval Brew and Bed has an amazing decor, good food, a dog as big as a pony, and a fast-talking viking who “won’t shut up unless you go to your room!”, as he put it.

After pulling on the huge chain ring outside the front door, a viking horn blast announces your arrival, and as the doors swing open, you are greeted by Steinarr and his canine side-kick Thor:

Viking and Thor

To prove that all things ARE possible, here is Earline, who is deathly afraid of dogs, actually petting Thor’s head (with Lady Amber looking on):

Earline petting Thor

There are several resting rooms, beyond the means of these peasants (US!), but I got a picture:

Fancy viking bedroom

Here was the stairs, going up to OUR “Lookout” room (There was a full sized bed and enough room to get by on either side, but we were especially thankful for clean, dry sheets with no rain falling!). The small black rectangle near the top is the doorway to our room:

Lookout room stairs

After a hearty breakfast with carbs and protein (stuffed burritos) (wasn’t my favorite) made by Steinarr himself, we started getting packed up, and it started to rain AGAIN!

I was VERY discouraged, but then…..just at that point…..I heard my “owl”…..which I was hearing for the very first time on our trip. This is the same bird sound that I heard growing up, just outside our farmhouse window in Iowa, and that I mention in a blog while scouting out the Horrible Hundred back in October. (Also a very discouraging time after TEN flat tires in 2 days….here’s the link to THAT story.)

I now understand that it is probably not an owl, but a dove or a pigeon of some sort, but that sound is very comforting to me, and I accept it as a note that God uses to encourage me at times when I have reached a point of disappointment or discouragement, when I have reached the rock bottom of my ability to move forward.

(Or possibly evidence of an angel? Psalm 91 promises as much.)

I consider it a gift of grace.

Do you have such a sound, or thing, or word, that encourages you at your deepest or darkest times?

There are specific Bible verses that also encourage and inspire me at those times, but sometimes I think God reaches out and uses something special from His creation to inspire and encourage us when we need it the most.

So we packed all our gear, covered it with the yellow waterproof covers we got from Terry and Antonia at Jandd Mountaineering. With all the rain the past week, we have been ESPECIALLY grateful for your thoughtfulness and generosity.

As we headed out from the Nordic Inn, the rain was just a drizzle. After going a few blocks, I tried my air horn, and realized it was almost out of air. I stopped to pump it up with my pump, and realized that the attachment plug was no longer on the end (must have come loose…and this is my “flat-insurance” pump!)

What to do? No way I could ever find it.

Pray for no flats…pray we can find a store or bike shop. There was not one listed in Bob’s book in Crosby.

And then…..after just a few more blocks, I see…..a bike store!

What??!!

Bike store in Crosby

We quickly turn around, and head in to Cycle Path and Paddle.

We met the owner, Jenny, and it turns out, she used to be a certified interpreter for the Deaf!

Here’s Earline and Jenny:

Jenny and Earline

More stories and plans were shared, and we headed off to Brainerd with a spare air pump in hand.

The 15 miles to Brainerd were slow going….real breezy, and in our face. The drizzle for the most part had stopped, but Earline’s leg, yes, was STILL bothering her. We wanted to try and get as far as we could, so that the trip the next day could be short and get us into St. Cloud in time for the Deaf softball game, and where we also would find Miles and Brenda Roulan’s daughter.

After finally making it to Brainerd, we are following the MRT path in the book through town, when a guy comes out from the side of his house, kinda flags us down, and asks some questions about our trip. It was a steep hill, and after we finished talking to him, we finished climbing to the top of the hill. We stopped for some reason (maybe to catch our breath!), and before we could continue, this same guy comes running up and asks if we’d like to stay for a meal with some friends they had coming over.

Feeling that this was God’s leading, we decided to take him up on his offer, and triked back to his house.

On-fire Christians, this fine couple (with their own recumbent bicycles in the garage!) made us feel welcome, and let us slide right in with their guests from a close-knit Bible study they used to belong to up North, feeding us and letting us stay the night.

Andy and Sue (By the way, you guys, please give us your contact info! We wanted to let you know we made it safely the next day, but didn’t have a way to do so!) have worked in Israel the past 4 years, I believe it was, and they showed us their huge pumpkin garden, and their maple-syrup-making set-up.

Here’s a picture of the whole crew after supper (Andy and Sue on the left, Craig, Mark, and Steve in the back, and I didn’t catch all the ladies’ names):

Andy and Sue Bible study group

What a DELIGHTFUL evening, and a good opportunity for Earline’s leg to get some rest! Planning to get up the next morning at 3:30 to get on the road and make St. Cloud by nightfall. Good night!

TGG,

jon

Day -2 [Detroit Lakes, MN – Camp Itasca, MN]

MAY 29, 2010

Dah, dah, DAH…..

[Whispered in a deep voice] “When we last left our fearless, God-blessed servants, they were on their way to Detroit Lakes, MN, trikes in hand, on the mighty Amtrak Empire line.

“Then, about 2:30 am, they were hurriedly deposited on the side of the road, about 50 yards from the lonely Detroit Lakes platform, along with their entire life’s possessions for the next three months. A cool breeze from the south greeted their faces in the darkness.

“They smiled, and took pictures, realizing they were just (according to Google) only about 55 miles from their destination, the headwaters of the Mississippi River.” (cue dramatic opening music)…..

Okay, enough with the third person dramatics! There’s enough here without it…HA!

Jon off train in DetroitLakes
We put the trike boxes outside the door of the station, and moved all our gear inside. There were about 7 people inside, waiting for another Amtrak train headed south.

One of them was a couple, a Mr. and Mrs. Ron Griffith. He was dropping her off at the station for a trip to visit family. His family was actually responsible years ago for introducing a type of bean into the area as a cash crop, and it is currently the area’s second most prolific crop, behind potatoes.

We brought my trike into the warm station for the purpose of putting it back together. (We’re talking a fairly small room here, maybe 20 x 20. After unfolding my trike, I couldn’t get the chain untwisted, and I couldn’t figure out how the chain routed through the tubes and back axle. Never thought to study that. I DID have the “T” owner’s manual with me, and that helped.

Jon assemble trikes
Of course, I am assembling this in front of everybody, and I’m EMBARRASSED that I don’t know how to quickly put it together. ACK!

But we are answering questions about our tour as I attempted to route the chain, and finally Ron and a young oriental gentleman (who never said a word, but helped me figure it out with hand gestures) helped me get the chain routed correctly.

THEN, when I tried to tighten the boom screws and attach the seat, I realized that in my little tools duffle, I had neglected to pack EITHER of the Allen wrench tools. Only the tool that I probably need THE MOST to tighten various screws on the trike.

DOUBLE ACK!!

I just continued to attach what I could.

By this time, most of the folks’ train had come in, so the only ones left were Mrs. Shogren, who was picking up her son, and Mr. Griffith. It was at this point, that Mrs. Shogren said she would go to the 24-hour Walmart and GET an Allen wrench tool for me. AND she wouldn’t take any money. What a blessing!

I truly would have been lost without her offer. Thank you, God!

We then continued to put Earline’s trike together (easier, because of the new way it folds), and added the bottle holders and panniers. We took the trikes outside, tested their maneuverability (to see if I had put them together CORRECTLY), and then added the rest of the gear.

And as you can see, even though it was only a little after 5am, it was already light outside! [Closer to the Arctic Circle.]

Earline outside Detroit Lakes Station
FINALLY got everything fully packed on both trikes (for the first time ever!) and Earline toodled around the station, testing her ability to drive it with all the gear on it. She also remarked (as I had done when testing it a couple weeks ago with a 40 lb. bag of bird seed) that it was VERY easy to pedal, and you hardly noticed the extra weight. (Kudos to I.C.E. for their well-made and designed trikes.)

Had some prayer time, and headed over to the Sinclair station just across the railroad tracks to fill up on water and goodies for the trip up to Camp Itasca. At the station they mentioned that they had just opened this gas station on Tuesday for the first time this year! (Thanks, Lord, for your provision.)

Little did we realize how significant that provision was!

Earline enjoy blue skies and lakes
We headed out on Hwy 34 for Lake Itasca State Park about 8am on an absolutely GORGEOUS blue-sky day.

Many giggles and frustration as we tried to get clipped in to our clipless pedals. I guess it takes a while to get the hang of it. Especially important for recumbents, though, because without the clips, you can accidently slip off the pedals (something Earline had happen to her later in the day) and experience “leg whip” as your foot and leg get slammed against the horizontal axle, resulting in bruised or even broken bones. (Earline is alright, thankfully.)

The road was 2 lanes, and very busy, but the road had a wide shoulder that we stayed on. We would stop occasionally to catch our breath and stretch our legs. Met Trudy at her mailbox, who until Earline mentioned thanking God for His blessings, was trying to figure out a way to witness to US! Alright!

Met Mr. Leonard Hammer, an elderly gentleman who waved us into into his yard, and talked about a variety of topics, including showing us the bundle of large Northern Pike fish that he had just caught.

We also discovered that he had just lost his wife of (probably) 50-plus years only 6 months earlier. Pray that God comfort Mr. Hammer in his grief at the loss of his wife.

Jon and Mr Hammer
Earline also found out that you CAN tip over on these trikes, trying to turn too fast on a side road with all the extra weight on board. No serious injuries, but she did get a boo-boo. (See the boo-boo?)

Earline tipped over
Okay….you have to look REAL close!

Boo boo close up
Headed up Highway 37, which had a lot less traffic. We had to visit mother nature….ahem, you know, relieve our bladders….on the side of road, behind a tree [lots of THOSE]. No convenience stores up here!

Earline on the road to Itasca
As we traveled through some farm country, and some more farm country…..and some more farm country…..well, we’re getting tired….

Earline in open MN fields
……(didn’t get much sleep last night….well, actually, I didn’t get ANY), I was getting REALLY sleepy, and found myself dozing off. (One of the hazards, I guess, of the recumbent trikes – they ARE comfortable.)…..and Earline had maybe an hour of sleep on the train.

Not long after the above photo, I suddenly woke up, and found myself headed for the ditch on the LEFT side of the road. Earline was FRANTICALLY blowing on the aluminum whistle I had gotten her for dogs. I averted the ditch, but we were very grateful that there had been no oncoming traffic at that time.

And just a minute or so later, a large semi truck went right past us on the other lane….thank you Lord for your protection!

This ended up seeming like a deserted highway….no stores, not much traffic….

Pretty day but EMPTY
By this time the power on my phone DIED, which had the GPS Google map that I had been using.

We made the turns that I remembered, but it seemed like it was taking us an AWFULLY long time to get to certain intersections. We tried to call Camp Itasca, but after a minute of conversation our signal DIED, and repeated attempts to connect resulted in a “no service available” error message.

We headed up 37 past 113, looking for Hwy. 200. By now our mileage had crept PAST 55 miles, and it looked like we were nowhere close to our destination. Earline didn’t feel she could go on.

Here knees were hurting pretty badly, and this is also when she experienced “leg whip” which didn’t help matters. I tried to help her up some of the hills by holding on to the side of her chair, and pedaling with her, and that seemed to help. (Of course, she didn’t WANT me to help, because then she felt guilty, cuz she knew I was tired, too.)

Mmm….do WE ever treat that God that way? Not asking for His help when we KNOW we need it. Either because we’re too proud, or don’t want to bother Him. (Trust me, He WANTS to be bothered!) If you are a parent, and your child has a need, don’t you as a parent WANT to know about their need? Of course, you do.

We FINALLY reached Hwy. 200, but after turning right we still experienced hill after hill. The sun was going down. HOW MUCH LONGER??!!

I had a little battery operated recharger, that powered up Earline’s phone enough to make a call, and FINALLY found a signal that let me reach Craig at Camp Itasca. Only a couple miles further, he informed us.

Then we went over a bridge over the Mississippi. OUR FIRST river crossing (Bridge #1) on our trikes! (River’s a little smaller here than at LaCrosse, huh??!!)

FIRST bridge over MR on Hwy 200
Here’s a view FROM our first bridge over the Mississippi:

View FROM 1st bridge
Finally rolled into Camp Itasca, after 78 miles total! We had long ago run out of food and water, so we were VERY grateful (and hungry, and thirsty)!

And Craig and Rosann were wonderful – they had a spot all picked out for us to set up our tent. Rosann actually drove Earline over to the convenience store across the street to get some food and drink.

We quickly got unpacked, set up our tent, enjoyed a quick (and NEEDED) shower, and headed to bed. Thank you, Lord, for safety AND provision. We could not have done it without the strength of Your promises, and the wonderful way that You worked through all the GOOD that people we ran into extended to us.

We are TRULY grateful.

jon

Day -11 [Orlando, FL and Riverview, FL]

MAY 20, 2010

Wow, days are all really a blur now. They say the days right before a trip are the most productive, and I’d have to say that’s right. Running many errands – dropped off the custom made flags to get them laminated for the trip (should last a little longer than the “poor man’s laminate” that I had on them before….hey! They lasted over 4 months, just putting overlapping, clear shipping tape on both sides of the paper flag. Took about an hour to “coat” each one by hand.)

Less TIME this time around, so I am having the service bureau laminate the 12×18 size for me. Here’s what they look like:

ICE Trike flag

 

We’re also getting additional flags that will go on TOP of these flags for additional visibility. I wanted one that matched the color of this home-made flag, with additional durability for flopping around, that will hopefully attract attention and warn motorists on busy highways that we are near. (Remember, at only 40 mph, you will go 1200 feet, about a quarter of a mile, once around the track, in only 20 seconds. That’s how much time vehicles will have to see us and make adjustments to their driving. Of course, at faster speeds, the time shrinks even more.)

I actually found these flags on Mark Power’s site….they are designed and made by SoundWinds / AirArts out in Portland, Oregon, specifically David Ti. (I just realized this – the guy who I talked to on the phone called himself “T.” Hmmm – what you bet that this is the same guy who DESIGNED them!) A lot of pretty and unusual designs – and that’s the POINT, right!!??!!

Attract attention and BE SEEN.

But here’s where Mr. T gets some EXTRA special space-time on our blog:

I had ordered only one, to match the one that I THOUGHT Mark had.

BROWNIE POINTS #1:  When he realized how much shipping was (MORE than the flag, because of the pole), he called me to confirm that I wanted to spend that much on shipping. Good job!

When I got down to PowerOn (story coming up), I realized that the only SoundWinds flag that they had was some pastel-colored butterfly…..pretty, but UH-UH!

So I quick called Portland….but NO ANSWER….let’s see….about 3:30 our time, that means it’s only 12:30 their time, and I know UPS comes to his establishment early. IF they hadn’t come yet, if he’s at lunch now, I’m thinking, “no way is he going to get this message after lunch and BEFORE UPS gets there”…..ACK!

I call back a half hour later…..STILL goes to voice-mail…..double-ACK!! (or more correctly….ACK!-ACK!) (HMMM! Kinda like the Aflac duck!)

BROWNIE POINTS #2: Finally, about an hour later, I get a call from Ti, and by some quirk of fate (and God’s favor!) the UPS truck is LATE today, and he has someone run down to abscound the package before UPS gets it (YEA!) so they can put another flag in it and rush it back down (4 flights Ti said) (Oh, no!!!). So Earline and I have matching flags for Sunday….WAY TO GO SoundWinds!!

Here’s what we and SoundWinds went to all the trouble for:

Sound Winds flag for our trip

I think it will match rather nicely!

Back to PowerOn (literally)….sorry, I didn’t take pictures – mistake there. I’ll try not to let that happen again. I spent most of the afternoon at Mark’s, with both trikes “up on the rack”….a stand that holds the trikes about 4 feet off the ground so that they are MUCH easier to work on (I tried to convince Earline that we need to take one on the trip with us….of course, she’d have to carry it. (I have a lot of OTHER stuff to carry!) She was NOT enthusiastic.

We cleaned them (mine actually had a lot of gook on the chain), removing dirt from various places. But having gone over 1400 miles already since November, I guess that’s understandable.

We fixed the chain path on Earline’s. Take a note, those of you have a minimal distance between your waist and your toes. (HA!) A shorter distance between the pedals and the seat will alter the angle of the chain, and Earline was having her chain jump off the front gears whenever she pedaled backwards (she likes to do that, if you remember from the video!). Mark just did a simple adjustment to the tube, putting in a couple spacers that moved the chain further out from the center boom, creating a straighter line up to the front gears.

Mark also showed me how to remove and add links to the chain. I showed him my modified headrest. Took a short, white piece of thick PVC pipe from Home Depot (cost, about $1), put in in the oven at 200 degrees. (that’s Fahrenheit for you British types). Gave it about 10 minutes, until the pipe starts to curve in the oven on its own. Take it out (yes, with GLOVES on), and shape it how you want. Leave it a little wider than your seat tubes, so that there is still a little tension on the cooled down pipe to make it fit snugly.

It cools down (and stiffens) rather quickly, but if you don’t like your hardening shape, put it back in the oven and try again. (Thanks to Peter at peter.ca who started my thinking on this path.)

Also prepped all six of the tires with liner on the inside, to help prevent incidental punctures and lessen the chance of a flat tire . (I’ve already had 4 in the past 5 months.) Also put some “goop” on the inside to flow to the scene of any puncture (kinda like blood coagulating!). See Flat Attack tire sealant. [LOVE that stuff!]

Cudos to Mark again, who gave us LOTS of tips (like a whistle for Earline to scare away the big, bad doggies) and lots of supplies to ensure our safe and successful trip. THANKS AGAIN Mark and Linda – you guys are THE BEST!

Gotta go!

TGG,

jon

Sugarloaf and Trikes: More Horrible 100 Observations

SEPTEMBER 29, 2009

The question is, can a trike do the Horrible 100, specifically can it conquer the mighty Sugarloaf Mountain?

Yesterday I had a chance to answer that question.

Went to West Orange Trail Bikes and Blades Co., and rented a Sun tadpole trike. The people at West Orange were very helpful, even with some of my odd requests. (like stick-um….see below a little bit.)

Sun trike at West Orange
A tadpole trike by Sun (I’ll have a few comments about this trike at the end.)

Having done the entire Horrible 100 a couple weeks ago, I knew from the map where I wanted to go – today’s purpose is simply to see if this trike can handle the rigors of the hills north of Clermont, and especially Sugarloaf Mountain, and if I can do it in a timely manner.

After adjusting the length of the pedals bar, and the seat (this is as low as it would go), I headed west. Well, not exactly. I couldn’t shift!

I had put on some sunscreen on my face, arms and legs, and with my hands slippery, I couldn’t grip the handles! Had to come back to the store and look for something to give my hands some grip. (Note to self: bring your GLOVES next time!)

Finally found that washing all the sunscreen off my hands eventually allowed me to grip and twist the shifters (which did feel stiff and tight). Unfortunately, I can see where that could be a dangerous situation if you’re trying to tug and twist on the shifters and go straight ahead at the same time, especially in a high traffic areas.

Took old 50 over to Turkey Farm Road…. made it up that hill with really……not MUCH effort. Hmmmm. Turned up Fosgate Rd. (this is part of the Horrible 100). Then turned on Grassey Lake.

Saw a deer – a young buck! (Obviously lost.)

Deer in Clermont
This deer overslept!

Continued up Grassey Lake….what a gorgeous day today!! The sky was so blue!!

Bluest Blue Sky
Talk about blue!!

Turned on Citrus Grove Road, and before turning right on Scrub Jay Road, saw this in front of me – part of the Horrible 100….NO WONDER I was panting going up that hill last time! I didn’t remember it being that steep.

Citrus Graove Road
Citrus Grove Road hill – part of the Horrible 100.

After turning right on Scrub Jay Road (the Horrible 100 in reverse), I AGAIN went past this tall tower.

Scrub Jay tower from north
Same tower, different day, different bike…..er, ah, TRIKE!

One thing I’m realizing as I’m headed out of town, is that these hills seem to be a lot easier on the trike. Part of it, I guess, is the gearing. I can shift way down, and still proceed. I might be going slower up the hills, but the effort doesn’t seem near as hard. Plus, I’m not having to worry about BALANCE. I went up and down Grassey Lake and Scrub Jay, without even having to go in the lowest gear. I’m thinking that Sugarloaf WILL be conquered today.

Headed west on 561A after Scrub Jay, NICE long downhill – I’m in the top gear in the back (8), and top in the front (3), and just cruising along. Drinking a lot of water – almost out. Hope those thermoses are still at the top of Sugarloaf.

I forgot to mention this in the last blog. Right before the turn to Sugarloaf, there is a horse farm, and the fence is COVERED with…[wait for it]…. shovel heads. Yup!

Shovel heads
Shovel heads? What can it mean?

I think I figured it out – obviously, everyone who has died from fear or heart attacks going up this mountain, they’re actually buried right here on the spot, and each time they use a different shovel to dig the grave! And…..HERE THEY ARE!

And here it is, again – the dreaded Sugarloaf Mountain!!!!

Sugarloaf with clear skies
Sugarloaf Mountain – it LAUGHS at those who try to conquer it….we’ll see!

Take my last swig of water, rev up the ‘engines’…..and off we go.

I figure I need a record of this, so I put my camera IN HAND, and off I go. I put the front gear in the lowest setting, and figure I’ll leave it there for the whole ascent, so it’s my left hand that holds the camera. Just to show the superiority of the trikes, I’ll TAKE PICTURES WHILE CLIMBING the mountain. Try doing THAT on a bike!

The steepest pitch is right in here, beside the small yard lights on the right that have stonework pillars that they’re set in.

Assault on Sugarloaf, with shoe
Yes, that’s my foot….taking this picture WHILE climbing up the mountain.

Got it totally down in first gear at this point, but no sweat….okay, maybe a little sweat. Okay, maybe a lot of sweat, but I’m not gasping for air like I was on my bike. My legs DID start to get a little tired about 100 yards from the top, but I MUST do this. And just then…..

Dog on Sugarloaf
Bark, bark, growl! Will he attack?? The gate just to the left of this photo is WIDE OPEN!

Mind you, I’m taking this picture WHILE continuing to climb the hill.

But the dog doesn’t come any closer….heh, he’s probably trying to figure out what in the heck it is that I’m riding!

Finally, at the top! No stopping, some picture taking along the way, and the trike has conquered.

Conquering trike
We came, we saw, we conquered.

Now, to see if that water is still up around the corner. I’m thirsty!

Okay, here’s the house….what??!!?

No water top of Sugarloaf
No water??!! ACK!!!!

You can see a gray spot on the driveway WHERE the water stand was….but not today, I guess. Well, I was GRATEFUL when it was there for me last time.

NOW…..time to go down the south slope.

Kicked the trike into the highest gears, and off we go. Within 50 yards I’m going faster than what I can pedal, so I’m just hanging on. Picking up more speed…..I’m guessing 45 to 55 mph at my fastest. Especially with the direct steering of this trike, I need to concentrate on keeping it straight and true.

WHEW!!!!! That was fun! Here’s what I just came down.

SE hill of Sugarloaf
Coming south from Sugarloaf. I think I surprised the UPS guy!

Some MORE downhills now….this is fun!

Whoops!! Just ran across this sign….NOW they tell me!

40 MPH speed limit
Shhhhhhhh! Don’t tell anyone!

Filled up with water in Montverde, and headed back in to Bikes and Blades.

Now remember, from Sugarloaf on down to the bike trail on old 50, this is all part of the Horrible 100, and near the end of it, actually, so these downhills should be much appreciated.

Saw this – whatever it is – headed south from Montverde. Is it a castle? A golf resort? Hmmmm.

Montverde castle maybe
Very gorgeous, but what is it?

When I got back in to Bikes and Blades, discussed some of my adventure with the store manager, Mr. Taylor Powell.

Taylor Powell

I had moved the steering handles back on the direct steering bars, to give me a little more control. I was glad I had, because coming down some of those hills, it was everything I could do to keep it going straight.

I hate the seat on these Sun trikes….not just dislike, but HATE…..NOT comfortable. I was experiencing what they call “recumbent butt.” Had to keep shifting from one cheek to the other!!!

And granted, this is a rental trike that has probably been through some abuse, but it felt kinda like dad’s old ’49 Chevy truck. A lot of shaking and bumping. Kinda of a rough ride, and a lot of veering from left to right to left, and that was when shifting (it was tough to shift, even with dry hands), AND when braking. A lot of brake steer…had a hard time continuing straight when braking hard.

Experiencing the grip shifting on this trike being so stiff, I am thinking now that thumb shifters are the way to go. That way if the shifting tightens up, or my hands are sweaty or greasy, I won’t have to worry that my steering will be affected.

(I have since been assured by a couple of sources, that the Sun trikes are notorious for swervey steering – and apparently the direct steering is partly to blame.)

Good things? Not too much, I’m afraid on this trike, except…..when I WAS able to shift, it would slide completely through all of the gears from top to bottom, smoothly, and on demand. The high end was not very high, though, and I often was going faster than what the gearing allowed me to pedal.

But the low end….the low end was a GOOD low – I could climb even Sugarloaf without much real difficulty, and I appreciated that!!

All in all a good test of a trike going up the hills north of Clermont. Time-wise, even stopping and starting, adjusting the water bottle, taking lots of pictures, it took about 3-1/2 hours.

So looking at the map – maybe 25, 30 miles. Which means I probably averaged close to 10-11mph. Almost enough to complete the Horrible 100 before they close the booths!

Gotta do some more training!

(P.S. By the way, Taylor gave me TWO tubes and a patch kit to take with me…..I was PREPARED this time!)

(P.P.S.S. Course, when I am prepared….NO FLATS! Ha!)

jon

 

How to Be Ready for ANYTHING

September 5, 2009

Okay, so going over 2,000 miles is going to take some planning and preparation! Who KNOWS what we might run into…so here is a possible list of items that we might need [smile!]:

Jon - we WILL conquer the River

Earline rides a bicycle in a dress?

DECEMBER 27, 2008

BRIDGING THE GAPS…..The vision is conceived, Christmas of 2008, as a way of encouraging Families through God’s Hands Agency. But is it too much? Is such a task possible? The needs of the Deaf, and Families who have experienced loss are so great, but dare Earline and Jon possibly attempt such a challenge? 2,222 miles? 90 days? 36 bridges?

See for yourself as Earline tries riding a bicycle for the first time since Jr. High School! She’s willing to do whatever it takes to draw attention to the needs of the Deaf, and strategies to strengthen Families across America.