Monday, August 29, 2005

Into the Woods

Originally uploaded by jeremysullivan.

My time in Jackson was exactly what I needed. I spent a lot of time being still: sitting on the couch listening to entire CD's in one sitting, having good conversation over a cup of coffee or a pale ale, and evening watching few meaningful movies. To use a phrase that isn't my own, "I feel very wealthy", and not in the traditional sense.

The reference to the word "wealthy" comes from my cousin Kevin. He has chosen to live very contrary to the American Dream and I admire him greatly for it. He will be my next familiar face whom I will visit in Helena, MT. But it is through Kevin that I met Scott this weekend. Scott and I connected on a number of levels and I'm very thankful for his openess to total hospitality from the moment I met him. Last night one of his neighbors came over and we were all hanging out. She asked, "How long have you known one another?" And we couldn't believe it was only two days. I'm glad we had the time to share our lives for a stint

Scott and I sat down and planned out my trip through Yellowstone over this next week. It's great to have the advice of someone who dedicates most of his days to teaching about the very land that I wil be wandering through. He stocked me with some good trail maps and bear I feel ready. At the end of the week I plan to meet up with Scott and some of his friends in North Yellowstone for a music festival. From their I will head to Helena for some time and at that point my parents will meet up with me on Sept 17. We will then decide to continue north towards Glacier and west to Washington - or - cut southwest to Oregon...pending the weather.

As I spend time in some in the wild protected land of this state, I will continue to pray for the devastated land of Camden and the people who have been disconnected from it. I will be off the radar screen for a bit but I continue to ask for your prayers. This week will be lighter on the biking, which will allow me to explore on foot. The achilles is healing slowly but surely.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Rest, Relaxation, Recovery

Originally uploaded by jeremysullivan.

This pictures shows the infamous Tetons, which I was able to stare at on the way down from Togwotee Pass and as I rode through Teton National Park on Friday.
As beautiful as it is, I must admit that I was physically and mentally exhausted after a challenging week.
I have found respite in Jackson, WY with a good friend of my cousin Kevin. His name is Scott He's invited me to stay at his pad for as long as I need to recover. He lives in a community-like set up with his colleagues at the Teton Science School. Scott works leading wilderness expeditions. He's extremely passionate about his work. He has the opportunity to teach some of this country's financial elite about the sacredness of the woods and the need for sustainable living as he leads them through the Tetons and Yellowstone. He's a great guy and we've had a lot to talk about.
Please continue to pray for the achilles. I'm hoping some time off the bike and a re-alignment of my pedals might allow it to heal.

Dudes in Dubois

Originally uploaded by jeremysullivan.

I spent the night in Dubois, WY with a great couple, Anna and Michael. They described Dubois as a town where the rich and famous (and the rich and not so famous) mingle with everyday folk. Lots of prominent city slickers come into town to play cowboy for a week on the ranch or join an expensive hunting excursion to come home with a nice trophy animal. Anna informed me that the technical term for these folks is "dude".
We had a great night of conversation sitting around the kitchen table eating some excellent tacos and drinking Fat Tire beer. Anna owns the local book store, so everyone in town knows her. Not only is she a literary buff, but she's got mad cooking skills. Michael, a native Wyomian, is as down to earth as can be. His background is in geology so he described the phenomena of the beautiful landscape that surrounded us in their secluded log cabin-like home. He also had some great stories about what he calls his "big dumb white boy" moments that he's had when traveling to different cities with his work for the telephone company. They're looking forward to their annual back country trip in which they pack up their mules and wander in the most secluded woods in the lower 48 for eight days. A special thanks for Anna and Michael for their warm welcome to Dubois.
In the morning I tackled a 20 mile uphilll to the top of Togwotee Pass - 9650'. I was rewarded with the beautiful scene you see in this picture and some leftover tacos....not to mention a 25 mile downhill. The downhill led me to the beautiful Tetons and a gradual relief from the wind that has been haunting me all week.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Relief...For a Bit

Originally uploaded by jeremysullivan.

I spent last night in Lander, WY, which I discovered is a really cool town. I stayed with a couple named George and Kari, and their 5 year old son Grady. They told me that the nasty section of wind that I went through before I got there is what keeps the wimps from Colorado out of Wyoming. Lander is home to NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School), not to mention all of the environmental organizations in Wyoming.
It felt good to hang out in their back yard, drink a cold beer and have some great conversation. George worked as an accountant for 4 years out of college. He then "retired" and rode his bike cross-country with his brother. After that he became a ski bum and met Kari. The next summer they biked to Alaska, which produced many great stories and a lasting bond between them. They adopted a beautiful boy from Cambodia (and are in the midst adopting a little girl from India). Grady challenged me to a wrestling match (explaining all the rules before we started). After he pinned me he sat on my lap and asked me to read him a Curious George Book about a bike, appropriately. We had some great Cambodian food for dinner and I got a good night's sleep. In the morning George rode out with me for the first 10 miles. He told me he has no regrets about the path he's taken. He and Kari now have a production company called Wild Heaven, George does the photography and cinematography and Kari does the writing and producing.
The weather today provided me with some relief from the wind. The first 55 miles of the 75 mile ride were peaceful as can be...I didn't know what to do with myself. I guess I looked up and enjoyed the beauty for the first time in two days. Then the wind came out of no where with 20 miles to go. But on the bright side it was cooler, so it was refreshing rather than a blow dryer in my face. Plus I was closer to the mountains, so I would have some relief on one straight away and then get blasted on the next. I decided to treat it like a hide and seek game to keep sane.
I finally arrived in Dubois, WY. I have another hook up with a friend of a friend. When I met Anna (the friend) in the book store, she asked if I was a purist. I asked why and she said because she lives 12 miles outside of town and was wondering if I would accept a ride or if I had to ride my bike. I said today...I'll accept the ride. Please pray for my left achilles tendon, it's giving me a bit of trouble, especially on the uphills.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

More of the Same

Originally uploaded by jeremysullivan.

This is a picture of the Baptist church in Jeffrey City where I stayed last night. At about 3am I was awoken by the shaking of the church walls. In my half-awake state I prayed that it was just some sort of circulation system...but it turned out to be that darn wind.
Today was a lot like yesterday, only shorter, 60 miles to Lander, WY. Today consisted of mainly headwinds, with a few cross winds that literally threw me off the road a couple of times....more patience and perseverence. I have a hook up here from friends of friends of my cousin, so I'm going to join them for dinner. Pray for relief from those winds tommorrow. Lord have mercy.

Winds of Character and Patience

Originally uploaded by jeremysullivan.

The picture above is of the "hot pool" as they call it in Saratoga (a walled-in natural hot spring). It felt great to soak in the 110 degree water and then dip in the mountain stream behind it.
I needed all the relaxion I could get heading into Tuesdays leg of the journey. I had heard about it from several eastbound bikers that I had passed in the last few weeks. One woman said it brought her to tears and that it was the only point at which she wanted to give up of the whole trip. For me it ended up being the final exam of my trip so far because it tested me in the areas of wind, distance, temperature and resources. Most of the day was spent on the Wyoming interstate (the only state to allow cyclists on the interstate). You know you're in the middle of nowhere when there are billboards advertising for restaurants over 100 miles away.
I covered 110 miles: 20 with a tailwind, 40 with a headwind, and 50 with a cross wind...all gusting up to 40 mph might I add. During the cross wind section I was leaning so hard to the left that I would nearly fall over when semi's would pass. With the cross wind in my face I was struggling to make 7 mph on some of the downhills. The last 20 miles alone took me 3 hours. By the end of the day all I could do was lower my head and pedal with every sinew in my body. There were 2 gas stations and one restaurant along the route. The restaurant was closed but they let me in to fill my water bottles. The thermometer outside said 98 degrees. But because of the wind I didn't really sweat, I just was covered with salt.
So now that I'm done complaining, let me tell you what I learned: character and patience. When I set out on this journey I knew there would be days like Tuesday. I decided that before I started I would embrace everything that I encountered: the thrills, the beauty, the hospitality, the loneliness and the frustration. One thing I learn every day is faith. With 36 miles to go I wanted to curl up in the sage brush, close my eyes and make it go away. But somehow I made it to this little ghost town called Jeffrey the mere grace of God and patience with myself. I'd like to think that my character is a little stronger than it was before.
Jeffrey City is literally a ghost town. There was once a few thousand people who lived there looking for uranium. Today only 109 remain. It's kind of a spooky place. Fortunately the local Baptist Church has created a biker ministry that opens up the church to give bikers a place to put their sleeping bag. The pastor Curtis and his wife Patricia gave me about an hour long orientation on the history of the ministry, their story, and their theology on who Jesus is. I was very thankful for their hospitality and their intentionality. However I was impressed by the fact that they asked nothing about me personally or my faith. I made a note to myself to not become so consumed in my mission that I forget who I'm ministering to.

Monday, August 22, 2005

We'll Miss You 'Ducci

Originally uploaded by jeremysullivan.

I learned today that a very special member of the Sacred Heart community passed away over the weekend. Carmella Narducci lived in the Waterfront South neighborhood of Camden since the 1940's (if my memory serves me right). In fact, she lived in her parent's old home. She saw many changes in her many years, but she would say, "I could move if I wanted to, but why? I have everything I need home and my parish." She would religously go to daily mass and eat breakfast in the rectory afterwards. When we first moved into the neighborhood she had our community over for homemade spaghetti and gravy. She mentioned it almost everytime I saw her after that. Every time I entered her house she gave me the grand tour, showing me all of her prized possessions...including a statue of Pinnochio that she kept in her drawer. She told me that all of her grandkids call her Grandma 'Ducci
She is the young lady to my right in the picture above. On the day I left on my bike from Sacred Heart, she said in her Italian accent "Be safe and make sure you come back here, OK!" I plan to do both of those things, but it won't be the same without you Grandma Ducci. Rest in Peace.

Wide Open Wyoming

Originally uploaded by jeremysullivan.

I woke up this morning to the sounds of football players crashing into eachother and coaches yelling across the park at the local high school. It rained overnight again and the weather was took me a few minutes to squirm out of my sleeping bag. I packed up my stuff and parted ways with Luke.
It felt great to pedal into clear skies after such a stormy weekend. By 10 am I was in Wyoming. Yesterday I was surrounded by fragrant pine forests and today I'm back to sage brush similar to eastern Colorado...but at least I have 2 beautiful mountain ranges on each side of me. The temperatures also quickly climbed to 90 degrees. Today was generally downhill, which made for a quick 70 miles...but there were some nice uphills to keep my legs in check.
I arrived in Saratoga, WY this afternoon---known for its hot springs, which I'm looking foward to. Tommorrow I plan to put in a big day because I'll be going through a barren stretch. I've been warned that there isn't even a ranch for almost 100 miles. Pray for favorable winds and protection in this wide-open country.

Arapahoe 'Rainforest' and a 17 year-old

Originally uploaded by jeremysullivan.

This is a picture of the sunset I was telling you about in Kremmling. It was like the mountains were exploding with red. I woke up in the morning to the sound of rain on my tent. It rained enough to saturate my tent but stopped by the time I hit the road. The temp was in the 60's and there were rain clouds in every direction.
I spent the day pedalling through 80 miles of the Arapahoe Forest. I some history with the Araphahoe because I went back country camping there a few summers ago with some friends. One of my most vivid memories was hiking off the mountain in a terrible storm. So it was appropriate that I spent most of the day under a steady rain. The terrain ascended most of the way...which I came to appreciate because the few downhills were freezing. I crossed the Continental Divide again at Willow Creek Pass---about 9600'. I thought often of the Willow Creek contingent praying for me in the Chicago area.
My destination was Walden, CO, another little town trying to restore it's mining atmosphere. I camped for free again at the city park. As I was sitting around drying out my stuff, another biker showed up. Luke started spouting off all these crazy stats about his trip...280 miles his first day, hitting 70 mph on the downhills, losing 40# in 2 weeks. I didn't know what to believe but he was hilarious. He was only 17, having graduated from home schooling when he was 14.
I give him a lot of credit for taking on this country at his age. But it was interesting to hear a 17 year-old's approach to this journey. He showed up wearing jeans and a coat someone gave to him because he had forgotten rain gear. He also couldn't remember half the places he had been because he was so set on making miles. Talking with Luke gave me a lot of perspective because I had often thought about how a lot of the older riders I meet are over-calculated, but I see more clearly now how years of experience changes our approach. But ahhh the passion of the youthful. God Bless Luker.

The Gift of Gravity and Tailwinds

Originally uploaded by jeremysullivan.

I took my time leaving Breck Saturday morning. I stayed up a little late Friday night strolling through town. The night was completely clear with a full moon to illuminate the sky and the mountains. It was just cold enough that I could see my breathe in the moonlight. I treated myself to a hot chocolate and walked up and down the streets, taking in the night.
It was a nice ride leaving town. There's a nice network of bike paths, which allowed me to fully concentrate on the mountain scenery, rather than trucks and RVs cruising past me. I was so distracted by my surroundings that I missed my turn at one point and climbed three miles towards Copper Mtn before I realized it.
I reaped the benefits of all the work from the last few days...which means a lot of downhills. And to add to that, I was graced with a sweet tailwind for the second half of the ride. It literally blew me through wide open basins and up windy roads like the one in the picture above. Me and my 60# rig were swept at 40 mph down the mountain. It was a ride that I didn't want to end.
I stopped for the night in a town called Kremmling, CO (about 2000' below where I started). I took advantage of some free camping behind the volunteer fire station. The day ended with a beautiful sunset.

Friday, August 19, 2005

On Top of the World

Originally uploaded by jeremysullivan.

I left the hostel pushing off into the chilly air, heading westward and waving to Richard pedalling in the other direction. Warren had informed me that the wind doesn't pick up until about 10 am, so I made the most of the early morning calm. I felt like a new man without the wind in my face...and perhaps a little more accostomed to the altitude. I stopped in the town of Hartsel for a bag of trail mix and a coffee. I met another bicyclist in town who was following the Great Divide trail. I don't think he had seen anyone in days because he couldn't stop talking as he chain smoked. He had won a nasty court battle and was using the settlement money to treat himself to a two month solo bike journey. He had crazy stories of cowboys in Montana pulling over in their pick-ups to get him drunk and high.

I continued on to Fairplay....and that's when that darn wind picked up again. I fought it for 6 miles until the winds started pelting me with rain drops. I decided to hide out in the South Park Saloon (the inspiration for the animated series South Park). I drank another coffee to warm up and stared out the window until the storm blew through. I remounted my bike and committed myself to crossing Hoosier Pass...the highest pass of the trip at 11,500 feet. I pushed against the wind for the first 2 miles and then began the four mile climb.

When I began this journey I said that as I exert my legs and lungs I will carry my neighbors and friends in my heart and prayers. During that climb I was more aware of each breath and push of the pedals than ever before during the trip...and the realities of Camden crossed my mind more than once. My toes and fingers were numb half-way up because the rest of my body was demanding all the oxygen that I could breathe in. It was a great sense of accomplishment when I reached the summit. I hung out there for about a half-hour taking it all in. I even called my dad to share the moment with someone. I met a nice couple from Wisconsin who were sight seeing. They were kind enough to take my picture and affirm my accomplishment. (I have a lot of pictures but no more room on my Flickr account to share them right now). I then bundled up and bombed 2000 feet down the mountain to Breckenridge.

My big day was rewarded with my own pad here in Breck, thanks to one of my dad's friends who keeps a place here to cross country ski in the winter. Thanks Bob and Molly. I also met up with a friend from Crystal Lake who owns a bike shop where I worked for a summer. Jim is an incredible athlete and even nicer guy (see picture above). He's 64 years old and an extremely competitive cross-country skier and canoeist...and a darn good biker and runner. He lives in Fairplay now and works in Breck as a alpine/classical ski instructor in the winter and does maintainance for the city in the summer. He says he treats his landscaping jobs as a workout, which keeps him in good shape. I went with him and his family for a pizza buffet this afternoon. Jim seems very happy. At one point he looked at the mountains and said, "This is the closest to heaven that I'll get, but I'm going to enjoy until the end."

I couldn't help but to take a day off here in Breckenridge and enjoy the city and the atmosphere. There are bikers everywhere. A sign at a local shop says, "Every dollar you spend supports another directionless college graduate," which I think sums up the culture of this town. I'll continue on tommorrow for Kremmling, CO. Thanks for all your prayers.

Are You Sure This Is My Body?

Originally uploaded by jeremysullivan.

As soon as I left Canon City, the climbing began. It started with what the locals call "Eight Mile Hill" which goes up towards the Royal Gorge. As I slowly gained elevation as the miles passed I felt like I had a different body from the one that was cruising for 100+ miles last week. On top of the elevation I was facing a stiff headwind---a factor I was prepared for in Kansas but neglected to consider in the mountains. The wind howled in the valleys, making them almost as tough as the protected climbs, but more demoralizing. I was trying hard to appreciate the scenery but I was also counting each mile that passed.

Eventually I reached a hostel that I heard about. It was unmarked, all I knew was that it was between mile markers 24 and 25 on Highway 9. It was a beatiful refuge nesteled in the mountains just shy of 9000 feet. (see the picture above). I walked up the hill and met Warren, who owned the place. He was an old hippie with a long grey beard who moved up there during the Vietnam War to get away from "the man" and live off the land. Warren pointed out the bucket shower in the yard and the outhouse. He assured me that I wouldn't have to face any animals face to face because he had good dogs who "bark like hell if anything's around." He gave me a bunk in a 10'x10' cabin that was filled with books. It didn't have any electricity but it had a south-facing window that allowed for some passive solar heating...which I was thankful for when I woke up cozy and stepped outside to frost and 35 degrees at 6:30 the next morning.

A few hours after I arrived, a Brit named Richard showed up coming from the West. We got on well, sharing the triumphs and trials of our journey so far. He had the satisfaction of knowing he had conquered the mountains, yet I had the anticipation of some of the most beautiful country ahead of me. When it came time for dinner we both decided it wasn't worth the 10-mile round trip into town for food, so we scraped together whatever food we were carrying with us. Luckily I still had two Ramens left from Father Lyndon back in Missouri.

Calm After the Storm

Originally uploaded by jeremysullivan.

When I walked out of the library on Tuesday when I last wrote, it began to rain. I found some shelter under an overhang at the local Catholic school. Within about 15 minutes tornado-like winds started blowing in from the south---tearing town tree limbs and flooding the streets. A nun who was working inside saw me and invited me in, bike and all. I told her my story and that I was seeking hospitality in Canon City, preferably from a church. She doubted that the Catholic church had any options for me, but she handed me the yellow pages and suggested I call around. So I randomly started calling the many denominations listed. After a bunch of answering machines I got a hold of Kirk Yamoguchi from the Vineyard church. He was very interested in what I was doing because he had biked across the country 21 years ago when he was my age. He said he was grateful for the hospitality he received during his trip and he invited me to stay with his family for the night. So I met him at his office and we biked together to his home.

I had a great time with Kirk and his wonderful family: Jane his wife, Wade and Joey his boys (see picture above, plus one of Joey's friends). Kirk was very interested in learning about Waterfront South, Sacred Heart and the Camden Community House. He called up one of the members of his church who had her two boys visiting who were about my age We all went out for dinner at Chilis. We shared a meal and told of our different journeys. In the morning the whole family gathered around me and prayed for me as I set out for the mountains. I know it wasn't by chance that I met the Yamoguchi family.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Jails and Monasteries

Originally uploaded by jeremysullivan.

This is a picture I took last week of the sunrise in Pueblo. This morning I packed up my rig and set out into the chilly air. I opted to take a short day and spend the night here in Canon City (prounounced Canyon because it's spanish word). I figured better to respect the mountains rather than be humbled by them the first day.
Canon city is situated in a valley, so there are mountains everywhere you look. It's not far from the Royal Gorge. It's other claim to fame is that it's country's correctional's that for alliteration. The woman at the tourist building was happy to tell me that there are 13 prisons within a 6 mile radius. She and her friends also bragged that they get the worst of the worst here in Canon City...John Gotti and the Unabomber to name a few. I visited an old Benedictine Monastery here in town and had the chance to do some meditation in the chapel. They also let me take a shower in one of the dorms...but were unable to hook me up with a room. I met two fellow bikers today, they're the first I've met that are also heading west. They're a nice German couple. We're heading for the same town tommorrow, so I'm sure I'll see them again.
Keep the prayers going everybody and I'll send an update when I get the chance...which will likely be Thursday when I hope to reach Breckenridge.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Farmers, Rock Stars and Old Friends

Originally uploaded by jeremysullivan.

So here I am back where I started, writing to you from the Pueblo library. I had an excellent side trip to Denver, Loveland, and Boulder...minus the bike.
I jumped on a Greyhound bus on Thursday to Denver, where I met up with my friend Libby who I know from Philadelphia. It just so happens that she has a rock star boyfriend, Jonathon, who was playing a festival at the Six Flags in Denver for a bunch of hyped up teenagers. He plays in a band called Roper. I enjoyed hanging out back stage consuming the free food and drinks and watching the bands interact with eachother. The show was good too, including a sweet cover of Welcome to the Jungle by Guns N' Roses.
I then spent Friday and Saturday at an organic farm called Guidestone, where Libby has been interning for the growing season. My sleeping quarters consisted of my very own teepee (the guy who owns it was out of town). I joined in on the farming activities each day, which was a highlight of the trip. I helped harvest vegetables, milk the cows, collect eggs from the chickens, and weed using this hard core tool called a scythe. I had the chance to drink milk right out of the cow...nice and warm. I also met some great people. There are about 9 people living on the farm, all of whom were very welcoming to me.
Libby and I crashed in Boulder at her boyfriend's house on Saturday night after going to a concert in Denver, which allowed me to dig the town on Sunday. I did some people watching on the infamous Pearl St. I enjoyed the interesting fusion of wealth, hippies, street performers, social consciousness, and endurance athletes.
Sunday evening I took a bus back to Denver to meet up with old friend John. John and I spent a summer in Guatemala together 4 years ago. I saw John in Chicago earlier this summer. But it just so happens that he moved to Denver 2 weeks ago. He joked that he might have to move to California so that we can meet up again.
I'll spend the night here in Pueblo again tonight...I have the old convent to myself again. Tommorrow I push off for the mountains. I'll need your prayers, especially over the next few days. I'll go from 4500 feet elevation to 9000 feet within the first 80 miles and I'll cross the highest pass (11,500) within the first 150 miles. Pray for my strength and my bike and my decision making. I have to make an important decision tommorrow whether to take an easy day or push up some serious climbs.

Support Your Local Farmer

Originally uploaded by jeremysullivan.

This is a public service announcement for community supported agriculture (CSA). Guidestone Farm in Loveland, where I visited is a CSA, among other things. This means that before the growing season every year, members pay a predetermined price to receive produce every week during the season. This provides the farmer with a sustainable income no matter what he or she faces throughout the year ie. weather, insects etc. It also connects people to their local farmer and their food through a direct relationship. For example, this week at the farm about 10 different vegetables were harvested. So each of the 59 members came up to the farm on Friday or Saturday and picked up a box with their share of each vegetable. There are also co-ops in which people take turns coming up from cities like Denver, so that not everyone has to make drive every week. CSA are often organic as well. I would highly recommend this to households that eat their fair share of produce. I know there are several in the Pennsylvania/NJ area and there is likely one in your neck of the woods. So support your local Libby and Rebecca in this picture (sitting on the compost toilet).

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

In the Zone

Originally uploaded by jeremysullivan.

In two days I rode 235 miles down a very straight road, Route 96, which took me through a good portion of Kansas and Colorado. Each day I would start with the sun at my back and then literally ride until it was setting in front of me. In the morning I would stare at my shadow in front of me and analyze my form. Over the course of the day it would move behind me...every time I would look over my shoulder I would notice it becoming bigger and bigger. In the evenings I'd be impressed by the rays of light shining through the clouds on the huge horizon. The traffic would dwindle by late in the day, allowing me to yell, sing and pray with no one to hear but the cattle grazing in the field.
Last night I rode in the dark for the last 15 miles or so as a storm chased me into town. For the last 5 miles a strong tail wind picked up, which shot me like a sling shot, surrounded by dust from the fields. It was exhilerating. I stayed at a biker hostel in a town called Ordway. I even scored a free burrito from the owner because the town had shut down by the time I got there.
Today I made my way into Pueblo...I must admit a bit tired from the last 2 days. It was a little hard adjusting to the fast-pace and indifference of the city after being in such welcoming small towns.
I asked around if there was a Catholic church in town. I found out there are 18. A priest named Father Ben hooked me up with an old convent to myself in a nice little hispanic neighborhood. I can even keep my bike and gear there while I take off for a few days. The plan is to take a Greyhound bus to Boulder tommorrow. I'm going to meet up with my friend Libby and then go up to an organic farm in Loveland where she's been working. I'll keep you posted when I have the chance. Thanks for all your thoughts and prayers.

Angels Drive Pepsi Trucks?

Originally uploaded by jeremysullivan.

Yesterday I decided to take on another big day...120 miles. By mid-afternoon the sun was beating down on me pretty good. Despite being very conscious of hydration, I started to feel a little light-headed, which scared me. I was about 30 miles from the next town. Then a Pepsi truck passed me and pulled over. The driver waved me over and handed me an ice cold bottle of water and Powerade. He said, "Take this, it's hot out there bro."
He was smoking a clove, which is a sweet smell. For the rest of the ride, every once in awhile I would catch that smell again. I will always associate positive memories with it. I found out last night that it had reached 105 degrees during the day...I had no idea it was that hot.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Welcome to Colorful Colorado

Originally uploaded by jeremysullivan.

The title of this entry is what the sign said this morning when I crossed into Colorado. People warned me that eastern Colorado is sparse, but man it's like those old Western and dry, with the occasional tumbleweed blowing through. But it's OK because I'm feeling good and I'll see the mountains tommorrow. Right now I'm at about 4,000 feet elevation.
Yesterday I logged 115 miles, which brought me to the little town of Tribune, KS. I camped in the city park across from the local swimming pool. I went over to the pool to take a shower and immediately I had a fan club of kids. There were these 4 little brothers in particular who followed me everywhere. They had a million questions, "How many states have you gone through?" "Can you name all the states?" "Bikers carry a lot of money, how much do you have?" One of the little guys painted my back with nail polish where are the chigger bites are.
Like a lot of small towns, the teenagers "cruise" at night in their pick-ups. I think the biker camping spot has become part of the cruise route because it's big news in a little town. So I had a lot of spectators all night with the occasional comment or whistle.
Today I'm shooting for another big milage day. I figure I'll take advantage of the flat roads while I can. Tommorrow I'll be in Pueblo, CO. From there I'll likely take a bus into the Denver/Loveland area to see some friends. I decided against biking there because I don't want to fight the suburban sprawl or the western range. Plus I figure it wouldn't hurt to hang around in the mountains and build up some red blood cells before I start climbing.
Well, stay in touch friends, I miss you.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Dodge City Rodeo

Originally uploaded by jeremysullivan.

Sunday I biked to a small town called Bazine, KS. It was there that I stayed at Elaine's Biker's Bed and Breakfast. I was given a bed on the screened in porch and an invitation to join Elaine, her husband Dan and their friends at the Dodge City Rodeo..."Kansas' biggest and richest rodeo".
I'm glad I went because it gave me some insight into Kansas culture. For instance, this picture shows an event called the mutton run. The event consists of putting a small child on a sheep and then the sheep takes off like a bat out of hell and the kid hold on for dear life. The event is scored based on how crazy the sheep is and how long the kid holds on for.
Dodge City itself is a trip. It's still sort of an old west town...lots cowboy boots, hats, tight jeans and sweet mustaches. Wyatt Erp has been immortalized there.
Well today will likely be my last full day in Kansas. I've learned to appreciate the open land, the huge wheat fields (which have been harvested), the grasshoppers, and the smell of cattle. I can't count the number of cattle trucks I've been passed by. Most of them are going to "feed lots" where they are fattened up or they're going to the slaughter house, an industry that sustains many of these towns.
The one thing I won't miss about Kansas is chiggers. They're these little bugs that get under your skin and itch like crazy (especially in the middle of the night). I got them the first night I camped in Kansas and they're still kickin'. Supposedly the only remedy is to cover the bites with nail polish, which suffocates them. I'm going to try it tonight.
Well, keep me in your prayers, I've still got a big day ahead of me. I'll be following the same road for over 100 miles.

Put Hudson on the Map

Originally uploaded by jeremysullivan.

Hospitality is always sweeter when you don't expect it. I'm getting to the point in Kansas where the towns are few and far between. Saturday evening I arrived in a tiny town called Hudson, which technically wasn't on my route map. I had gone 85 miles for the day and I wasn't sure if I could make it another 30 miles to the next town. There was one liquor store on the main road of town. So I filled my water bottles and sat down to make a decision. A friendly local stopped to chat and told me to check out a little cafe down the street. It was there that I discovered the Wheatland Cafe and the Bauer family.
The cafe is usually only open on Sundays after church but they were hosting a local class reunion. I was welcomed in and filled with chicken fried steak, scalloped potatoes, and homemade ice cream. I sat at the table for over an hour visiting with three generations of the family. I'm sure it's a routine that happens daily for their family...after all there's only 3 streets in the town. This picture shows Dean(Grandpa), Jordan(Grandson), and Darrell(Son).
They set me up in the town community center for the night. Grandma Bauer gave me the keys and a hug and said, "We're glad you stopped in our town."

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Mennonites My Way

Originally uploaded by jeremysullivan.

I'm unable to upload any pictures here, so this is an old one that I took in Lake of the Ozarks.
Well, yesterday I put in another solid day of 108 miles, which took me to the town of Hesston, KA---not too far from Witchita. There are a of Mennonites in this area, so I had a lot of choices of people to stay with from my Mennonite Your Way directory. I picked the Alison family because I noticed that the mother was a physical therapist. They turned out be a great family: Renee and Dean the parents, Ben their 23 year-old son, 15 year-old twin girls Kate and Kendra, and their 19 year-old son is in Guatemala for the summer. They refueled me with homemade pizza and chocolate chip cookies. Ben invited me to see the 10pm showing of Dukes of Hazard in Witchita, but I opted for a good night's rest and I was thankful for it this morning.
I realize some of you aren't familiar with the Mennonites. Some have asked, "Do they have electricity?" or "Are they like the Amish?" They are considered Anabaptist like the Amish, which means they believe in adult baptism. Mennonites run the spectrum in terms of their relationship with technology. For example, the Alisons live basically the way I did growing up. Whereas more conservative Mennonites will live more like the and buggies, plain clothing etc. I always associate the Mennonites with simplicity, hospitality, and peacefulness. They don't believe in war or military service. Many Mennonite men make an effort to establish themselves as consciencious objectors, in case of a draft.
Well today I went off route to Hutchinson, KS in order to get a new chain and a new sprocket. It turned out to be more expensive than I thought it would be, be it's worth the peace of mind going into the mountains. I must say the people here in Kansas go out of their way to be friendly. Sometimes when I stop to rest in a town it's hard to get going again because everyone stops to talk. Keep those prayers coming...especially that I can embrace these long, straight, lonely roads.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Early Morning Kiwi

Originally uploaded by jeremysullivan.

I got another early start this morning. After about an hour I got off my bike to take a break, when I met this guy Luke coming from the other direction. He's from New Zealand. He camped last night in city park in Eureka. He was telling me how he was trying to take a make-shift shower using the water fountain in the park pavillion. He was standing there buck naked in the dark when a woman walked by with her dog. He didn't know what to do, so he yelled out, "Sorry miss...just trying to wash." (In his nice accent). He said he was just thankful she didn't call the cops. We talked for a good while. We went over my maps and he told me what's worth seeing and what's not. As well as where to find cheap sleeping arrangements and good food. It's too bad he wasn't going the other direction because I think we would travel well together.

Chance Meeting?

Originally uploaded by jeremysullivan.

Despite battling the scorching sun over 105 miles, I made it to Toronto (Kansas that is). This picture above is a lake next to the town. Earlier in the day I had stopped to take a break at a little cafe. The owner kept a log with all of the bikers that had passed through. One woman in the book was raving about a little diner in Toronto called Courtney's. So my motivation for much of the day was the good meal ahead of me.

Courtney's lived up to it's reputation. It's so quaint, you feel like you're just sitting in her kitchen watching her cook. I had chicken alfredo and homemade bread. I was the only one there for awhile and then another guy came in and sat down. His name was Bryan Chance. He technically lives near Witchita but he bought a little place in Toronto, where he likes to come to get away and write music. He's one of Courney's regulars. We made small talk about my trip and about his work as human resources manager. He gives seminars on stuff like OSHA and HIPPA. He said most people in his line of work talk about developing a culture of safety, but he thinks a culture of truth is more important...which I found interesting. He ended up inviting me to crash at his place, where we continued our conversation. Bryan talked a lot more about truth, mostly in regards to his faith in God. He had a number of insightful things to say on several topics. I told him that my journey has really been an exercise of faith. He looked at me and said that this trip will give me strength for the rest of my life, even when I'm his age (which is about 50). I like that a lot.

Things got better when I woke up today. It started with Shredded Wheat pancakes (picture those big shredded wheat squares dipped like french toast). They were awesome. Then when I walked outside and discovered that the wind had changed from the south to the northeast, cooling the weather about 10 degrees and giving me a little push on those westward straight aways. Today I'm heading to Hesston, KS where I'll stay with a Mennonite Your Way family.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

A New Day

Originally uploaded by jeremysullivan.

This is a picture of the sun rising in Pittsburg, KS, where I stayed last night. Believe it or not it's the first sun rise I've seen all summer...I've never been much of an early riser.
All of your prayers must be working because once I posted my blog yesterday things got easier. I don't think the winds or the heat have let up but I think my attitude has changed. I'm learning to accept the elements, rather than resist them. I know this is not an original idea. In fact as I laid in my tent last night I thought again about the book On the Road. In the final part of the book, the main character Sal Paradise and his buddies drive down to Mexico and decide they are going to pull over in the jungle to spend the night. The problem is that it's too hot in the car to sleep and too buggy outside. But Sal lays down on top of the car and decides to become one with the jungle. Last night I had to try hard to become one with Liberty City Park, where I camped for free. As far as I was concerned it was the jungle.
This morning I met a British woman bicycling from Oregon to Virginia. She was able to give me some good tips on what lies ahead of me. It was interesting to talk with her because she's been so impressed my small town America. "It's much different from what we see about America on television," she said. I hope to meet other cross-country bikers, now that I'm on the TransAmerica trail. It seems like the towns on the trail compete to see who can be the friendliest to the bikers. A lot of the shops and libraries have you sign a guest book. Today while I took a break in Walnut, KS I read all the comments of the people who have passed through this summer. Believe it or not the touring season is winding down.
Well today I head for Toronto, KS, which has 312 people. Keep the prayers coming. I found out yesterday that I need a new chain, but the local bike shop was closing up when I got to Pittsburg. Supposedly the next shop on the trail is in Pueblo, CO. But I'm hoping to get one tommorrow if I take a detour.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Dry Land

Originally uploaded by jeremysullivan.

This is a picture of that dried out corn I was telling you about. I thought it was bad in Illinois, but at least there the corn is still green. Pray for rain.

There's Nothing Like Family

Originally uploaded by jeremysullivan.

Monday evening I rolled into Springfield, MO. My brother was transferred there this last Spring to be an assistant building project manager for an addition to a hospital. It was great to see Dan and his wife Nicky, as they've just settled in after the big Bahamas wedding. I'm also the first family member to see their new house, so I've got that going for me.
I enjoy the adventure and the new faces being on the road, but it's always refreshing to be amongst family where you can just relax and be yourself. This especially holds true with my bro, because growing up so close in age, our way of being and communicating is very similar. Whenever one of us throws out a sarcastic line or movie quote, the other knows exactly how to respond. We had the chance to sit around and catch up on old times, play a round of frisbee golf, and play fetch with his dog Rowdy. I also found out that Dan can make a mean enchilada.
While Dan was at work on Tuesday I had the chance to spend some quality time with my new sister-in-law. We sat around chatting and drinking coffee in the morning. Then Nicky was kind enough to take me to get my bike tuned up and re-supply my food bag. I tried to help her pick out towels for the bathroom but I don't think I was very helpful.
This picture was taken at a Thai restaurant where Dan and Nicky treated me to a feast. You'll notice the nice young lady next to me. We hit it off right away and she wanted me to take her in my trailer, but I had to say, "Baby, I just don't have any room for you."
It was great to see my little brother all growns up. I remember when we used to share a room and wake up early for our paper route. Now he wakes up early, makes a pot of coffee and kisses his wife before he goes to work. They grow up so fast.
I was refreshed after a day of rest, but I must admit that today's been rough. The combination of the heat, the wind and the wide open space are wearing on me. I expected all of these things in this part of the country, but I'm going to need your prayers because Kansas is going to be a long state if this keeps up. Pray for tail winds and cooler weather and/or for increased strength and patience for me. I hope to make it to Pittsburg, Kansas tonight.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Livin' Large in the Ozarks

Originally uploaded by jeremysullivan.

This is a picture of my new friend Jan in front of his crib---I use that word intentionally because the house reminded me of the houses I've seen on the TV show MTV Cribs. He explained to me this morning how they are going to create a waterfall through the front yard. Jan rode out with me for the first 13 miles or so on his morning ride.
I met Jan and his 15 year-old son Gage as I was biking down the road last night. They pulled over to see if I needed a place to stay for the night. They had just returned from the Ragbrai, a week-long 485 mile bicycle tour across they could empathize with my situation. I of course didn't hesitate to take them up on their effort.
I had a good time chatting it up with Jan as we ate burgers and corn on the cob. He and his wife (who was out of town) had ridden a tandem from San Diego to California when their kids were little. They had a nanny follow with an RV every day with the whole fam. Now Gage, Jan and his wife Cindy ride a triplet (3-person bike). He said they can get it up to 42 mph on the flats at full speed. Jan said he was happy I was taking this trip, in fact he wishes all of his children would do something like it. He has 4 other children around my age. He has accomplished many things in his life but his biking experiences seem to have shaped his quite a bit. I think that's significant.

Today I'm heading for Springfield where my little brother and his new bride live. I plan to take a rest day tommorrow (Tuesday) and head for Kansas on Wednesday.

A Night in the Capital

Originally uploaded by jeremysullivan.

I made it to Jeff City (as the locals call it) just in time for the 5pm mass at the Cathedral. You know you're making your way south when there's a sign on the door that says, "No firearms in the church without the pastor's permission." A young priest named Father Jamie celebrated the mass. He was very reverent and intentional with everything he did, which I appreciated. After mass I sat on the Cathedral steps and waited for a chance to introduce myself. When I explained my situation and my cause, he immediately said, "We will find a place for you here." He hooked me up with a shower, a cot and free range of the kitchen.
Later in the evening I went out to eat with 3 others from the rectory, Fr. Lammer the pastor, Fr. Rob, the chaplain at the local Catholic hospital and Joe, a seminarian on break from studying in Rome. They formed a beautiful community ranging in age from 25 to 72. I enjoyed sitting at the table and taking in the dynamic of this ecletic group. They each seemed very content with where they were and very supportive of one another.
This morning I headed out for Lake of the Ozarks. It was my first encounter with the steep hills of this state. My legs were burning with lactic acid as I tackled the inclines, but I found consolation in the sound and smell of burning mini van engines as they whizzed past me. Upon reaching the town of Lake of the Ozarks, I had to laugh because it was another tourist trap: haunted hotels, cheesie gift shops and arcades. Although I did find a nice beach at the state park where I could cool off for a bit.