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Backroads Finds Wonders

July 25, 2022

Over the past few weeks, we have spent most of our time on backroads. Using a couple bicycling apps, we have seen few cars on the road. Yet, as we travelled further west, those back farm roads are turning more and more into gravel roads. So, the past couple of days, we have used the routes as suggestions. When the computer tells us to turn, we look to see if it is gravel. If so, we continue until the next paved road. This seems to be working.

One of the things I have noticed on the backroads is the number of wild animals. When they sense the bike, they begin running down the road or path. Then, they finally dart into the underbrush to get away from us. One interesting bird is the killdeer. When it notices us, it starts flying down the road, just above the ground. After 100 or 200 yards, it will land, run a little bit, then start flying again. This pattern will happen a couple times. Finally, it will fly a bit higher and make a loop around us and fly back. It is always out of range and wanting us to follow it. Obviously, it is sensing danger and distracting us from the nest. I am sure some day this will make a sermon illustration.

Another thing we have notices is friendliness of the people. In a time that our nations seems so divided, it is great to simply visit with people. One day, after we skipped a dirt road, we stopped to make sure the next paved road was going where we wanted. An oncoming truck stopped, the man got out and visited with us for 20 minutes or so. Then, when he found out we were going near his house the following day offered us his phone number. If we had any troubles, he would be around to help us out. Whenever we stop at a grocery store, someone wants to visit for 10-15 minutes. The other day, a retired farmer asked us if we were doing RAGBRAI. When we told him we were not, he said, “Your smart, who would want to ride a bike all the way across Iowa.” We then told him we were riding across America; he was a bit puzzled. He didn’t call us crazy, but we had another 10-minute conversation.

I had been planning of replacing the tires in Sioux Falls, SD. That would be about 1,850 miles. Well over halfway. About 120 before, the rear tire sidewall separated. This caused a flat. With a new tube, we continued. Less than a mile later, another flat. I realized the problem, switched the front and rear tires, and lined the tire with two $1 bills. This put less weight on the bad tire, and the money worked as a woven patch. Five miles down the road, we stopped at a Casey’s to examine the tire. It looked worse. We planned on getting a snack, then use duct tape to line the tire. A gentleman who had stopped while we were fixing the second flat, pulled up and offered his old van for us to drive the 35 miles to the bike shop. Then, a second person, with a truck heading the a lake past our destination, offered to haul us and our gear to the bike shop.

Tonight and tomorrow, we are staying in a WarmShower host in Sioux Falls. We have the basement pretty much to ourselves. They are looking forward to taking us out to dinner and showing us the area. There will be another cyclist joining us tomorrow evening. I am reminded that it only takes a bit of hospitality and friendliness to make a person’s day: whether it is simply visiting for a moment, giving a wave, stopping to make sure someone is okay. There are simple ways we can build community and overlook the things that separate us. For, when we are separated, we are alone and vulnerable. Though Janet and I are spending a lot of alone time, we realize that we are never truly alone. Others, and God, continue to watch out for us.

As of today, we have now travelled through nine states plus Washington D.C.: Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, and South Dakota. We were within 5 miles of Minnesota most of today, but never crossed the border. Will save it for another trip. We will spend the next week crossing South Dakota before entering Wyoming and onto Montana.

(I wrote this two days ago, but forgot to post. Sorry)


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