The following post, written by Mark Andrews, is an update to the article he shared with The Connection in April, where he previewed his cross-country bike trip. Rev. Andrews is a Spirited Life Group 3 participant and pastor at St. Luke’s UMC in Hickory.
What a summer! On June 1, my wife, Denise, and I embarked on our journey across the country, me on my yellow, triple-crankset, Schwinn bicycle and Denise in our car, driving as my support along the way. We began at the waterfront in Edenton, North Carolina and ended at Sunset Bay State Park in Charleston, Oregon. The purpose of my expedition was mainly to take some time away from the parish, to refresh my spirit while pursuing one of my bucket-list items, but I also used this trip to raise funds and awareness regarding United Methodist Women’s efforts to stop human trafficking. While I fell short of my $40,000 goal, there has nonetheless been over $16,000 raised thus far — no small change!
Upon first getting permission for my leave, I was filled with giddy delight, but as the day for departure approached, I began feeling anxious about what I had gotten myself into. Was I physically up to the challenge? What if I failed? What would I say to my congregation? I began to worry about the challenge to which I had committed Denise and myself.
I started off the trip the way I do most projects, trying to get it all finished as quickly as possible. After the first two days of riding almost 190 miles, we arrived in Durham, North Carolina at our daughter’s home, physically and emotionally exhausted from trying to do too much. Lovingly fed and refreshed, I resumed the journey at a more moderate pace the rest of the way.
There were some more long-mileage days, but I averaged about 65 miles, or 100 kilometers, a day — fewer in the mountains of eastern Kentucky, more on the flats of the Kansas plains. But each mile brought “signs and wonders” at the beauty of the United States and the marvels of creation. Traveling on back roads and through small towns granted me a perspective on this country that one misses when driving on interstate highways. Never having traveled extensively, every day was an adventure, as I discovered what was around each curve in the road, or exulted in the vistas just over every mountain and hill.
Denise and I learned to trust in the providence of God for safety, weather, food and lodging. My bicycle had no mechanical problems. I never even had to change a tire! We found a place to sleep every night, whether in a city park in a tent, in a church fellowship hall made available through the hospitality of its people, and a few hotels. There were a few dangerous and anxious moments in the journey, but all of them were overcome by God’s mercies.
What I enjoyed the most was the simplicity of each day. A recent book detailing Paul Howard’s epic bike ride is entitled, Eat, Sleep, Ride. That title pretty well summarizes the gracious gift this experience was for me. What seems so out of reach these days is at the same time what we need most — Sabbath, solitude, silence and simplicity. These were all characteristics of my time of renewal. I hope to incorporate what I learned this summer into my daily life and my weekly observance of Sabbath-keeping. And I’m still pedaling when I can.
-Rev. Mark Andrews
Photo taken by Denise Andrews in the mountains of Montana