In the past week we have had some awesome, but challenging times. In Berea last Monday we had several of the Fiji Headquarters staff from Lexington drive down to welcome us, as well as a couple WKU Alum and a Barb from the Madison County Alzheimer’s Association welcome us at a city park. J.B. Goll (Director of Chapter Services at IHQ) greeted us with some loud noise from a Vuvuzela! That evening we drove up to Richmond to stay with fraternity brother Malcolm Lunceford’s parents. Gordon and Kristi were extremely welcoming and cooked us an amazing dinner consisting of chicken/ steak skewers, twice baked potatoes, and Ale-8-One. We had all been craving Ale-8 for the past few weeks, so that was a great treat. Not to mention the wonderful mud pie for dessert. We watched a bit of the Tour de France highlights and played with their bulldog Missy for a while. Missy has to be one of the funniest dogs I have ever seen! Poor thing has a heart murmur, but once she gets riled up her “snorting makes her sound like a warthog! Haha. Check out this video to see just how crazy this dog is! : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mych2C-fnZY
The next morning we woke up to drive to Berea to begin our route. Mrs. Lunceford is a cyclist and after a bit of convincing and realizing she had the day off we convinced her to join us for the first section of the ride. Little did she know (or us!) that this would be the toughest 15-mile stretch we had seen since Missouri! Kristi pedaled like a champ up Big Hill (a 3 mile beast!) and grinded out the remaining miles to celebrate her ride with us by enjoying our favorite snack- a Clif Bar smothered with peanut butter! It was awesome having her join and support us by riding along. Having people like her who take an interest in what we are doing and really go out of their way to become a part of what we’re doing is what its all about!
After a tough ride into Buckhorn, KY we were greeted by Wade’s parents/sister and both sets of grandparents at this really historic local church. They cooked some amazing pasta and prepared some homemade ice cream to top off an extremely hot and tough day of riding through Eastern Kentucky. We were so thankful to have their support and went to bed worn out wondering when our next rest day would be!
Wednesday proved to be one of the toughest rides of the trip for me mentally, physically, and emotionally. We made the trek from Buckhorn to Buckingham, KY- truly finding our way into drug country. Along the way we encountered several steep Appalachian mountain climbs, numerous road-raged drivers, and several mean drug dogs. I had my first experience with a true dog chase about 20 miles before we ended for the day, with 3 dogs attacking me at once. As I un-clipped my cleats to kick and try to scare them away one came from my right flank, jumped up and bit my hand. When it landed on the ground- I kid you not- I ran right over its neck! Literally, its head was on the left side of my front tire and body on the right. After that the dog ran off whimpering, leaving me winded from my efforts right before our last climb of the day. I struggled to make it up the 2 mile ascent, but was relieved as I coasted into the town we were staying. Being from Kentucky I never thought I’d say this, but I couldn’t have been more happy to know that we would be crossing out of my home state the next day. I was worn down and needed some rest. Since we left E-town we had a problem getting back in the “groove” and were waking up late, taking longer breaks, stopping longer for lunch, and going to bed past our normal time.
Wednesday was refreshing as we knew it was our last truly mountainous day of the ride, as well as the day we would cross into our final state: Virginia! Our planned lodging at a local church ended up falling through, so we drove about 15minutes down the road and found a Holiday Inn Express to crash at. The hot tub, laundry, Wi-fi access, and free hot breakfast served us well and we started fresh Thursday morning. It was my birthday and I awoke to numerous texts/ FB wall posts- seeing how many people commented about the ride and what an impact we are having provided the inspiration I needed to make it 80 miles to Rural Retreat. One of my good friends told me something really neat about my birthday falling during this trip. She said something along these lines- “You know, everyone deserves at least one day out of the year for it to be all about themselves. The cool thing is that you are spending yours serving other people as part of a cause”. I couldn’t agree more- this birthday was one of the most special ones I’ve had. No- I didn’t get the farmer’s birthday cake with a tractor in it that I would drive around and ruin the rest of the cake with that I used to always have when I was a kid. But I did find enjoyment knowing that what I was doing with my day was helping others. I guess the older we get, the less a birthday means to us. Besides, that just means I’m getting closer to having to work instead of do fun stuff like ride my bike across the country for Alzheimer’s =P. I’m thankful for the opportunities I’ve had and the support from friends/family in everything I do, and that is more than any material present can offer.
The climbs that day weren’t as tough as we anticipated and the first rain of the trip was actually enjoyable as it cooled us off. I have to admit that Virginia could be the prettiest state of this trip! That could be due to excitement that the trip is almost over or how frustrated I was in Eastern Kentucky, but nevertheless the mountains and grassy knolls (shoutout to Jo-mint!) here are gorgeous! That night we met Fiji graduate brother Dana Hesse (who is so graciously joining us for the rest of the trip!) and went to dinner. I was surprised by a wonderful birthday cake with 20 candles, all of which I blew out on the first try. For some reason I forgot to make a wish! We went on to our campsite for the night and I’m so thankful it was primitive. We hit the hay early looking forward to riding into Blacksburg the next day, with a rest day almost in grasp!
Friday morning was a special occasion for me as well. And no- not because it was the day after my birthday and I wanted to continue celebrating! It was July 10- the one year anniversary of my Papaw’s death. We rode in honor of him and were welcomed in Blacksburg by fellow Fiji brothers from Virginia Tech. Today we took a tour of the campus and got to see the memorial from the VA Tech- a very special experience. After watching the World Cup at a restaurant in downtown Blacksburg we came back to the condo to hang out, catch up on laundry, and cook a nice spaghetti dinner. Its been great resting here and meeting several other fraternity brothers, but I’m looking forward to getting on the road and knocking out these last few miles before its all over. We’ll see what this week has in store for us!
BTW- if you want some GOOD entertainment, please watch this! This is how we get our energy up in the mornings when no one feels like riding =P