Friday, October 31, 2014

Day three

Delayed post due to sketchy wifi and lack of sit-down time
A lot of rolling hills.  Had fabulous lunch for 17 people for about $17 at an open air restaurant.  Joel got tired and hammered out a long twenty miles only to find out that we had nine left. He was not happy.  I wasn't exactly excited about the news myself.  But, that big rascal got on that bike and hit the gas.  He told me to keep him posted on mileage and I had to push just to catch him and tell him the mileage.  I heard he was determined and does not quit.  I know now.  Tomorrow is mountain day...

Monday, October 27, 2014

Day two

Everyone was pretty strong.  Finished a little tired and tender, but that's expected.  As Mike and I discussed, even if the legs are strong, after ninety miles you are a little sore in all the points bearing your weight.  But, we all finished together with smiles on our faces.  There was one point today where I was a bit concerned, I wasn't feeling 100% after lunch and too much water.  I was riding along and started feeling like I was having vertigo or something.  It took me a second to realize that my tire was going flat.  The team was right on point.  It was like a professional bike race.  I raised my hand and they were swarming on me before my bike or the truck was completely stopped.  It went so smoothly that I was kinda tickled and actually enjoyed having a flat tire.
The scenery is changing too.  Amidst the ultra flat land and rice paddies, there are these rock formations that rise steeply several hundred feet.  The roadside vendors are looking a little different and there have been some interesting vehicles along SuperHighway 1.  The median and roadside are naturally beautiful.  I'm not sure if they were planted that way, but if we were in the US, you'd go out of your way for this 'scenic route'  I think the Thai drivers are so much more attentive to what's going on.  There's scooters, cars, tractor-like vehicles, tandem tractor trailers, and other vehicles all travelling the same roads, but somehow flowing seemlessly in a way that you just won't see stateside.  Maybe it's the lack of electronic distractions or I'd say it's more likely that they're just more polite and less self-serving in their driving.
It was another good day with divine appointments.  We stand out in our blue and yellow bike shorts and we've had requests for photos and Suphot doesn't let an opportunity pass, so we've made some connections...and that's part of the mission: to leave footprints for Him wherever we go.

Day One

Day one of riding, the big prize!  We loaded up the truck and rode to a tire shop away from the center of Bangkok, partly to start out away from heavy traffic and partly because it was clearly where God wanted us to be.  Back a few years ago when planning out this ride pastor Suphot rode the whole route in his car looking for places to stay, plotting mileage, etc.  He said that while he was driving the Holy Spirit told him to turn into this tire store.  While there, he noticed a framed picture of The Last Supper and asked, "Is this a Christian shop?"  The owner answered that it was.  That may not seem that spectacular of an occurence in the US, but given that less than one percent of Thais are Christian, it was clear confirmation of the Holy Spirit's prompting.  The owner was very enthusiastic about what they were doing and insisted that they start here.  I'm not sure how they were the prior two years, but they were so sweet and gracious to us.  Once again, we were served various exotic (to me anyway) fruits and such that were fantastic.  They brought out their folding Brompton bicycles and rode around the shop waiting area.  We sang a little and then prayed over the sweet couple.  They were such sweet folks that I think we could've stayed there all day, but there was work to do.

It was a good day.  We maintained a good pace with a quick chain issue being our only mechanical and a little dehydration being the only physical.  Had another fantastic lunch and then we went to a children’s home nearby.  Bunch of little kids just having a good time ogling the pale force (pale by Thai standards anyway).  I think we all would have taken every single one of them back with us if it had been an option. It’s a great motivator to see all of those little faces and recall that those are the ones we ride for; we want to see hope in them.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Breakfast, boiling table tops, bad translations, and we begin!

First full day in Thailand was pretty fun.  Had a fantastic breakfast of pad thai, various fruits, yogurt, oat, eggs, bacon, and some excellent coffee.  Nathan took Bobby up on his challenge of eating durian.  I've heard it described as smelling like rotten feet, week old garbage, etc.  Personally I thought it smelled like an area that a cat had repeatedly marked.  Upon trying it, he liked it...a lot. I think he finished the bowl.  He did say later that the burps were pretty unappealing.  For dinner Bobby, Taylor, and I went to the Hot Pot Buffet where you select various soup ingredients and put them in a pot that's built into the table and boil them into a soup.  We are not soup pros, at least not with unfamiliar Thai ingredients.  Once it started boiling, it began growing.

After dinner we walked down the street a little ways and looked at the street market where one could purchase anything from squid, to Hello Kitty socks, to pad locks, and various shirts with messages apparently lost in translation.
For Thankful
Haha!  That's just what I was thinking!

Well, tomorrow the work begins.  We assembled the bikes and it appears they all made it over the ocean in perfect condition.  Very thankful for that.  I'm not sure how many miles we have to do, but I don't suppose it matters; we're all going to pedal until they tell us we're done or we just can't go any longer.  I'm sure the other riders have been asked the same question, but the most common question when I've told folks what we're doing is, "Are you nervous about riding that far?"  The answer is that I'm not.  This is the one aspect that I know how to prepare and train for.  The only thing I know about anything else on the itinerary is what I've been told from others.  (They have been 100% accurate thus far, by the way!)  But, I've been pretty skinny most of my life and I've always loved riding bikes, so I can finally put that to use, and tomorrow we ride for Him.
This post was written the prior evening, but sketchy wifi didn't allow for its upload.
Long, long day.  I don't sleep well on planes and we spent about 24 of the last 28 hours in the air.  Some of the team apparently do not suffer the same affliction.  I'm prone to motion sickness and still feel like I'm swaying while typing this and my head hurts.  But, we're on the ground and I'm looking forward to being still and horizontal for a while.  It's 3:00am here and I think I'm going to leave it at this for now.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Everything is packed.  My superstar-helper-wife Mandi helped me check off a big spreadsheet of items grouped by container.  Just a handful of small items to throw in tonight and it will all be sealed.  Next step will be unpacking it all and I'm excited about it.  This is fun.  My first trip out of the country.  Other than being born outside of Chicago, IL, the boundaries of my travels are Columbus, IN; Pensacola, FL; Virginia Beach, VA; and Fort Worth, TX.  Most of the team has gone on multiple trips, but I'm not sure that they aren't more excited than me....which makes me even more excited that they must know something I don't!  Exciting!  My phone has been dinging all morning with the usually silliness, but also us quizzing each other about who slept and how much.  Turns out for most of us, not much.  Oh, the anticipation!  For some, odd sleep is normal, but I'm hopeful we can make up time on the plane.  There's one thing I'm not excited about.  I'm not a nervous flier; I'm not a nervous anything, I suppose.  But, being a rather energetic person, I dread the idea of being in a vessel for about twenty-four hours; maybe if I sleep a lot I won't be so stir crazy.  My wife says I'm like a caged animal when the weather keeps me indoors; I do tend to pace from door to door.  I'll get plenty of outdoor time soon, regardless of weather.  The forecast shows rain at some time every day as far forward as the forecast goes, but we're going to ride, regardless.  We've done rides in hot, cold, wet, dry, but mostly hot and humid.  If we were aiming for something easy and comfortable, we probably wouldn't be bicycling 485 miles.

Thinking about the goal helps on the rough days.  Some days you feel like a pro, but some days things just aren't right.  Taylor, Derek, and I were aiming for a sixty-miler that included "The Wall" one day about six weeks ago.  Derek had to turn around and go to work before we reached "The Wall"  "The Wall" is a steep hill (about 14% according to my bike computer) that goes from the delta seemingly straight up to the bluff.  Taylor and I rolled for a while in the flats with considerable headwinds, but we kept pushing.  Then, I hit "The Wall" literally and figuratively.  After that short and steep climb, I ran out of steam.  My neck, back, and feet were hurting and I just had no power left.  There's no shortcut back from where we were.  Just had to pedal it.  I kept spinning and Taylor kept encouraging me, reminding me that I could, sharing some advice his Marine brother gave, "it will come to an end" or something like that.  It was rough, but I made it.  We averaged more than 17mph for that last twenty miles.  I'm no super athlete, so I'll take that.  It's certainly better than I would've expected for how wiped I was that day.  All that to say that you can do so much more than you think.  SEALs say it's 90% mental and 10% physical.  There have been plenty of rides when one of us was having a tough time, but the motivation of what we're riding for kept us churning.

I've talked to several people that say they'd love to do what we're doing, but just can't.  For some, that's true due to physical limitations.  But for most, you haven't explored those limits.  I've seen some impressive physical transformations in our team.  These guys got the challenge/calling/whatever and answered it.  I think this parallels our spiritual lives.  We convince ourselves of limitations, usually based on our own comfort zones, and stagnate.  We approach the edge of where we're comfortable and don't push past it.  Pushing past the comfort zone regularly also expands the comfort zone and sometimes exposes a hidden gift or ability that wasn't expected.  Getting outside that comfort zone is refreshing, builds a confidence as well as a dissatisfaction with staying comfortable, and creates a desire to push more.  In short, don't say, "I can't" when you know in your heart you're really saying "I won't"  He called you for more than that.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Three days to go...

It's Monday and we leave Thursday morning; it's getting very real.  We had our commissioning yesterday during church.  That certainly adds to the anticipation and to the reality that next Sunday, we'll be on the opposite side of the planet pedaling.  We did a last minute push to make some t-shirts because there are no afternoons left to do so.  Most of the guys started packing up their bikes Sunday afternoon and evening and there were several texts showing the bikes disassembled in their shipping cases and expressions of frustration in trying to get the bikes to fit in their cases; capaciousness is not a luxury afforded in a bike travel case.  The texts!!  Oh the text messages!  If we were charged a penny per text, we would've burned through enough money this past year to charter a private jet to Thailand.  Our wives and girlfriends tell us we're like a bunch of twelve-year-old girls.  It's team building, although some aren't as concerned with team unity as they are with sleeping when the texts keep on coming throughout the night or when they're at their "jobs".  We are silly and although we don't take ourselves seriously, we do take this mission very seriously.

During our commissioning Pastor mentioned that we had been doing physical training regularly for the past year.  I think we're all physically ready.  Most of us, ranging in age from late twenties to late forties, are in the best shape we've ever been in.  There's little concern in the team of being unable to meet the physical challenge, but my prayer is that we're ready for those divine appointments, that even in our physical exhaustion, we won't slack in our roles as ambassadors for Christ.  If you will, pray for that.  Pray for our families; they've sacrificed a lot leading up to that and are left holding down the fort in our absence.  Pray that we keep our focus in spite of the distractions that come up at the last minute....there have been plenty so far!  Pray for continued unity amongst us; unity isn't so hard after a full night's sleep as it is after riding a bike or riding in the back of a truck for days on end on a compromised sleep schedule.  Pray for us to have influence wherever we go and that we'll utilize that influence for His kingdom.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Getting ready

I thought a blog would probably be a useful tool to keep our friends updated as to the goings-on with the ride and the mission trip.  This is my first mission trip and I suppose I'll be doing most of the typing and hopefully with it being a new experience for me, it won't be an insufferably boring account of things.  Stay tuned...