Friday, July 31, 2009

We have arrived in Calhoun, GA!

Sumner prepared an amazing breakfast

I would like to extend a very warm and sincere thank you to Sumner McCallie, the McCallie School, and all the staff thereof, for a wonderful stay last night at their campus.  And a double thank you to you, Sumner, for a breakfast that will go down in history, and will be a definitive highlight of the trip.  It was fantastic.

Enjoying breakfast

Here’s a snapshot of what happened today:  we rode in the rain, we lost Nick for a few hours, and everyone arrived safely at our next destination.  Since this is roughly what has happened for the past three days, I’ve decided to skip the details of the ride, and to share a few thoughts I’ve had while pedaling for the past few weeks.  I hope you won’t mind the interjection.

Eric and Thad

Spending five hours a day on a bicycle for past three weeks has invariably lead me to draw parallels between cycling and my personal walk with Jesus Christ.  Over time, I’ve come to realize, or rediscover, some core truths about my faith.  For example, I give you the “pace line”.

We are in Georgia!

For those unfamiliar with the concept of a pace line, let me briefly explain.  On days where there exists a strong headwind, or a group of riders simply want to increase their efficiency and speed, they agree to form pace line.  Once on the road, the cyclists form a line, each rider tightly tucked behind the one in front, with their wheels about a foot apart.  The lead cyclist is tasked with setting a pace, at a speed he or she is comfortable with, and the rest of the riders follow suit.  The leader acts as a buffer, creating a wind pocket, and making less wind resistance for the rider behind them.  In a correct pace line, cyclists behind the leader may only need to pedal 85% as hard as the lead cyclist.  Eventually, the leader falls back to the end of the line, and the rotation continues, each rider taking a turn at leading, and then resting at the rear.

The obvious issue when riding in a pace line is trust.  Being so closely packed together at high speeds creates a dangerous situation.  One’s view of the road is greatly obstructed by the rider in front of them, and because of this, they must rely on the lead cyclist to navigate them around obstacles, warn them of bumpy terrain, and to set a pace everyone can comfortably ride at.  For example, I’ve spent a great deal of time riding in pace lines with Eric and Nick.  Three weeks ago, I kept a healthy distance in the line, and I paid for it in calories, needing to compensate for the gap with my own strength.  However, over time, I’ve come to trust these two inherently.  It’s not uncommon for us to ride with only a few inches of space between our tires at speeds exceeding 20 mph.  And it struck me today, how if I could only trust Christ this much with my life, when I so haphazardly trust my friends with it every single day.

There have been other parallels on the road.  The seemingly endless climbs, when you’re reduced to staring at the chunk of pavement directly below your front tire, and just keep churning away at the pedals:  never give up.  There are times when nothing seems fair – when you’re caught in a downpour, and the rain’s soaking you from above and water’s soaking you from the rear tire of the rider in front, and you’re breathing hard, but you can’t keep your mouth open because the spray tastes of oil and antifreeze and the nearest pile of road kill that’s been sloshed free, and a semi passes inches from your bike, enveloping you in a fine mist, and you’re only five miles into the fifty mile ride, and you can’t believe you’re only going eight miles an hour.  That’s when you have to laugh.  God puts us in these types of situations for a reason.

We’ve crossed landscapes of astounding beauty, but witnessed the sides of roads littered feet deep in trash – images of perfection lost, of a soiled purity.  We’ve met individuals of great kindness, humility, and displaying a great passion for servant hood.  But yet, everyday, we’re honked at on the road, yelled at, belittled.  Even just yesterday, someone in a vehicle threw a piece of metal from their car window and hit me in the back of the head while I was making my way through Chattanooga.  It’s all been a reminder that the way we live our lives has numerous and indeterminable consequences, for both the purposes of building up, or for breaking down. 

In the end, I feel that “faith in action” has invariably become the de facto motto of this trip. Whether it’s by coming together on a build, by spreading the message of our housing movement to those we meet, or simply by encountering road rage on a daily basis, it’s how we roll.  In the end, I believe worldview strengthens us; it’s why I think the Fuller Center will continue to see growth on all fronts of its ministry, and why each one of us will walk away from this trip a better person.  Every mile down, every spin of the pedals, is moving us closer to a higher goal.  And personally, I can’t wait to see the end result.

Thank you again for allowing me some room to air my thoughts about our trek, and for your continued support and prayers concerning our safety and cause.

God bless.

P.S.  I’d also like to extend a welcome and congratulations to our newest rider, Becky Akton, who joined us yesterday in Chattanooga.  She weathered her first day of riding through the rain like a pro.  Great job Becky!

written by: Thad Wontor

photos by: Esther Hyejin Chung 

Pardon me boys, it’s the Chattanooga Choo Choo

Susan & her rain gear

What a day! So much happened during our journey to Chattanooga, but we all arrived safe and sound.   We started off with a fantastic breakfast off baked oatmeal (a Crystal specialty) and eggs.  The warm food was the perfect way to start our 56 mile ride in the pouring rain.  Nick and I made certain to protect themselves from the rain with hefty bags.  Why buy a $50 rain jacket when a hefty bag will do.  Oh, and the socks and shoes had to be protected as well, so Nick put on a baggy on each of his feet.  He was a splitting image of the Big Fig Newton.  

Thank you OCEE Tire & Auto

While on the road, it rained for a while then stopped just long enough to air dry.  But then came the downpour.  We all managed to eke it out.  Thank goodness it wasn’t longer than ten minutes.  Esther, however, did not have it so easy.  Her crank managed to fall off while she was riding, so she and Megan headed to an automotive repair store to refasten it. Thank you OCEE Tire & Auto for helping Esther out!

Esther heckled the riders while riding in the van. In this case: Krystal

When we arrived in Chattanooga, the skies were clear, but the direction signs weren’t.  Ryan and  I were at a Walmart corner for at least 45 minutes, trying to figure out which direction to go and to be certain the arrows directing the rest of the group were marked correctly.  Basically, all of us ended out riding into Chattanooga together.  Michael had given great directions to the group, the streets were just not marked clearly.  Perhaps it may be that I am from California and don’t know Tennessee sign age.  But, we finally figured it out, with much of Michael’s help.   On the way, I had a close call.  A car turned in front of me, without using a blinker.  Rather  than run into the car, I managed to push off the car with me hand and fall backwards, the bike sliding right under the car.  No damage and the women who did it apologized profusely.

Becky is riding with us to the coast :)

We arrived at McCallie school around 2:30.  WOW!  The steep hill we had to climb before reaching our destination was well worth it.  Sumner McCallie met us and showed us the facility.  We were staying in the dorm rooms of the school, an all male boarding school which is highly regarded in both academics and athletics.  A beautiful school….and they have beds!  What a treat!  Seven of us were invited to go swim in the pool.  This was no ordinary pool.  It has a high dive and a long slide.    Nick, Erik, Thad, Crystal, Thad, Esther and I didn’t hesitate to jump in…and all of us jumped of the high dive at least once….even Esther!

Megs ready to hand out some propaganda

After the swim, we were all invited to a fantastic barbecue at the local Habitat Restore.  Many of the board members from the local affiliated were there.  This gave us an opportunity to share the Fuller Center’s mission with them.  There was much good conversation going on.   Everyone walked away fully satisfied and sated.  

Habitat for Humanity provided an awesome feast for the Fuller Center riders

From there, Sumner arranged for someone from McCallie School to take us downtown.  We walked through the waterfront area.  Was I ever impressed with the entire downtown.  The planning department has done such a great job of transforming it into the jewel of the city.

Sumner giving us info on the city

Just before we had to go back, a woman stopped us and asked us why we were all wearing orange t-shirts.  Kristina proceeded to tell her about the Fuller Center.  She was so impressed that she give us all free ice cream from her shop at The Ice Cream Show store.  And this wasn’t a small scoop.  They make their own ice cream and whip it with as many additions as you please, then put in a waffle cone.  

Enjoying The Ice Cream Store's yummy treats

I would recommend this place to anyone who visits Chattanoogs.  Now we sit in the dorm, fixing our bikes for tomorrows ride, then heading to bed. 

 Downtown Chattanooga,TN

written by: Susan Pratt

photos by: Esther Hyejin Chung

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Send the riders mail!

There is nothing better than receiving real mail! Family and friends are invited to send packages and other mail to the riders at the following address before Monday August 10th:

The Fuller Center for Housing
ATTN: (Rider's name OR Bike Adventure)
701 S Martin Luther King Blvd. 
Americus, GA 31709 

We have arrived in Etowah, TN!

Banner hanging at Morrison Hill Christian Church

“For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything.”  Hebrews 3:4

                  Another day, another 60 miles down!  We started the day off with a WONDERFUL french toast breakfast prepared by Steve and other members of the Morrison Hill Christian Church.  Ryan led our daily devotion and we learned even more about how the fundamental principles of the Fuller Center have biblical ties and are based on Jesus’s teachings.  We talked about some of the responsibilities that come when we are called to be the light of the world, and were reminded that we must let everyone see our light so that they can glorify and praise God.

Michael & Krystal getting ready to ride               

The ride to Etowah, TN continued to challenge our bodies, but the mountains are making us stronger!  When the miles seem long and the roads feel endless, we have to remind ourselves what we’re riding for and the goal of this ministry.  It’s amazing to think that we were all hand selected by God for this trip, and that we were each CALLED BY NAME to carry out His work.  Maybe the mountains along our route are here to teach us new ways to grow closer to God—they’re definitely keeping us humble and reminding us we must rely on His strength and not our own!  Moses and Elijah climbed mountains to get closer to God; maybe the Appalachians are His way of helping us grow in OUR faith as we strive to carry out the job we’ve been called to do.

                 Riders with members of Morisson Hill Christian Church

We arrived at North Etowah Baptist Church, and were warmly welcomed by an amazing and friendly congregation.  We feasted on BBQ chicken and lasagna (delicious!), and had the opportunity to join the NEBC for a Wednesday evening prayer meeting and Bible study.  Thank you to everyone who opened their hearts and church to us and helped ensure we were well taken care of!  We sincerely appreciate your generosity.

        Best church sign :)          

Tomorrow we’re off to Chatanooga!  It’s hard to believe we’re almost all the way through Tennessee, and just a few miles away from our next build!

Delicious food and pleasant conversations in  North Etowah Baptist Church

written by: Erika McLemore

photos by: Erika McLemore & Esther Hyejin Chung

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Half Time: We have arrived in Kingston, TN!


We are half way there.

 We have pedaled 683.6 miles. We have biked through four states. We have rolled on all sorts of terrain: flat, inclinations, hilly, mountains & the “I’m-going-to-get-a-hernia”.  We have endured not because we enjoy biking but because we enjoy biking for a cause: to eliminate poverty housing. In two and a half weeks we will be dipping our front tires in to the Gulf Coast in Florida.

 Fog over Norris Lake

There have been days when I just wanted to get off my bike and call it a day but God constantly reminds me that whether I climb what seems like a straight angle hill or descend a terrifying slope He is  a l w a y s  by my side. I might go through ups and downs on and off the road but as long as my actions are rooted in Him, He will push me forward and towards Him. I know Roman Victor (my bike) and I would not have made it this far if it were not for His strength through my weakness. 

I ran in to Nick while taking photos of a beautiful lake

I had been terrified of crossing the Tennessee border because I am riding a fixed gear bike (I cannot switch gears or coast) and several riders have told me Tennessee is extremely hilly. Although my legs have been working a tad bit harder, my eyes have been getting quite the treat. 

The road has weaved through rivers, lakes, waterfalls, mountains, plains, cornfields, and tons of towering trees...all in a day! It was been a great reminder that I need to take better care for our Earth because it houses all of us and my individual actions affect the whole environment. Riding my bike while observing the flora and fauna in Tennessee has been a blessing because it has provided such a sensory experience that riding a car would not impart. 

We made it though the rain :)

Today's scenic route did bring some challenges. The rubble on the ground pierced at least 7 tubes. Kristina even got 3 flats! I became a little too distracted and marked and took the wrong road for a total of 4 miles. I am also convinced I went up the steepest hill in my little adventure. Melissa slashed her tire and used Ryan's business card to hold things in place until we got to the church. You have got to love the "Adventure" part of the Fuller Center Bicycle Adventure. We also rode through the fog, sun and the rain. Despite the little problems we encountered we all made it safely to Morisson Hill Christian Church in Kingston, TN!

Special thanks to:

Helen and the riders

Helen from Powell Valley Resort for making us a amazing breakfast.

Tracey, Adam and their pup Einstein
Morrison Hill Christian Church for showering us with love! Individuals from the church took two riders each to their house and made us a mouth watering meal, allowed us to take extra long PRIVATE showers and turned our dirty clothes squeaky clean. Thank you so much for your hospitality! Christ's love radiates from Morrison Hill Christian Church :)

Yummy Food
Adam & Tracey for making a delicious meal for Melissa and I and welcoming us in to their home. They even cooked a tasty vegetarian option for me! Oh and they also tried to fatten Melissa and I up with unbelievable amounts for ice cream and cookies! Thanks guys!
Rivers Total Car Care for cleaning our van and trailer for free! Chad Rosenberger offered us a free car wash when he saw how muddy our van was. Rob and Joe washed our van and were able to transform it to the shiniest vehicle on on the road. Oh and not only did they clean our van but they also allowed all the riders to use their restroom. If you are ever in Oak Ridge, TN stop be sure to stop by to get a car wash.  Thank you so much for your generosity! 

written and photos by: Esther Hyejin Chung

Monday, July 27, 2009

We have arrived in La Follette, TN

We were thrilled to cross in to TN :)
We had a theme today: mountains. 


But first, before I mention the 98% humidity, the flat tires, the climbs, the fun, let me first thank Central Baptist Church of Corbin, KY for their hospitality and friendliness. Thank you so much for aiding us in our trip.

The morning started off well – we had a lovely breakfast prepared by Krystal and co, and Ryan led a devotional on Nehemiah, tying the raising of the wall around Jerusalem with work being done by the Fuller Center. We hit the road by 8:30, splitting a dense fog. I’m finally starting to appreciate the orange jerseys. 

It wasn’t long till the sun burned the fog away, and started in on us. About the same time, Mr Eric “Flat Tire” Schweinhart got his first of the day (number six of the trip). However, he wasn’t the only one. By the end of the day, almost half the team was reporting flats, myself included. 

Pedal Power
As the ride progressed, the landscape began to change from rolling hills to something a bit more mountainous. Kentucky eventually turned into Tennessee, and as we made our way through Jellico, the mountains set in for real. The next thirty miles turned out to be some of the most challenging of the trip, but was inarguably the most beautiful. Our route weaved us through densely wooded valleys, past rock outcroppings, and beside a roaring river that stayed perpetually by our side most of the way. Springs seemed to seep right out of the solid rock cliffs we rode under. The temperature dropped considerably in the shade, and the pavement was some of the best we’d encountered. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your viewpoint), we only had one major accent, perhaps two miles long. However, the descent was simply stunning. 

A river kept us company during part of the ride

Our intended route was 65 miles, and we entered La Follette, TN around mile 54. From there, we struck out east, headed for the enormous Norris Lake reservoir. It turned out to be almost completely downhill – a nice break from the previous mornings’ climbs. We pulled into our destination – Powell Valley Resort and Campground, around 3 PM. We held out just long enough to confirm we were in the right spot before we all leapt off the bikes and dove into the lake. It wasn’t the cleanest water, but it would’ve taken nothing less than an oil spill to keep us out. Lisa, Kyle, Eric, Michael, Krystal, Nick, and I swam out across the marina, shore to shore – about 150 yards in all. It felt good to work out the top half of my body, and to have my weight distributed everywhere instead of just my saddle and feet. 

Erika carrying her bike towards our cabins
After the swim, we moved our gear into two cabins which sat above the lakeshore. Supper was hotdogs roasted over an open fire (Nick and Kyle got it going). Activities that followed included philosophical conversations on music, swinging on swing sets, attempting to get Melissa to sing some music from her acapella group, and trying to find the most comfortable way to spend the night, sans air conditioning. Some people will be attempting a night out under the stars. I was in that group up until a few minutes ago, when I discovered that the dew has already soaked through my bedding. So I’m off to the cabin to try again. One thing’s for sure – that 11 mile descent this afternoon will be an 11 mile climb in the morning, and I’m going to need sleep for that…

Well, that concludes Monday, July 27th, twenty o’ nine. Please continue to pray for our safety and our ministry. Thank you so much for your continuing support.

written by: Thad Wontor

photos by: Esther Hyejin Chung

Sunday, July 26, 2009

We have arrived in Corbin, KY

Erika speeding through!
Hey everyone! We had another great day of riding today. The day began with a much needed extra hour of sleep. We packed up the trailer and said our goodbyes to a rider who had to leave us today. HannahJoy, we miss you! 
The rain from the night before dispersed, giving us nearly perfect weather. The route was beautiful. We rode through part of Daniel Boone National Park. There were some rough up-hills, but each one paid off well with a wonderful downhill. Many of the riders even broke the 40 mph barrier. 
Thad bonding with Sprocket
The day was not without its challenges. Lisa got 2 flats, Esther’s chain fell off while she was going 30 mph downhill, Esther also set off an alarm in a random church which made THE Sheriff come around, Thad almost ran out of gas, Kyle missed both designated rest stops. [Luckily, Thad was nice enough to make a custom rest stop just for him]. We also encountered a lost little puppy. We named him Sprocket. Krystal, Eric, Michael and Thad helped clean him up and even found him a home here in Corbin. I’m also told that Emily, Susan, Michael and Krystal each saved a road-crossing turtle. 
After church some of us went to get some Chinese food
When we made it to the church, we quickly found out that no one had been expecting us. Apparently, the pastor with whom Ryan made plans had left the church and failed to mention that we’d be stopping by this evening. Thankfully, the Central Baptist Church was very kind and let us stay over anyways. We all got showers, food and we wrapped up another amazing day. Only 7 more days of straight riding before our next build in Americus, Georgia. Thanks for reading!

written by: Kyle McDowell

photos by: Esther Hyejin Chung

Saturday, July 25, 2009

We have arrived in Berea, KY

Complete Turnaround 

The morning presented us with extremely ominous clouds and very windy conditions.  As we loaded the trailer, the skies darkened and storm arrived. Ryan decided that a rain delay was necessary, and we waited in the church for the skies to clear. 

We made the front page in Winchester! 

Roller skates were utilized, Fuller-ball was played, and naps were definitely appreciated. We were presented with Winchester’s newspaper, which sported a picture of Kyle and Michael on the front page, working hard on the porch-roof from the day before. Krystal’s interview took up a huge portion of the article as well, and she showed off her people skills for all of Winchester to enjoy.

Krystal, Melissa & Kyle enjoying the article

 When 9:30 rolled around, we circled around Pastor Art Beasley, who presented us with a great devotion before our ride. And with that, we were off, the weather having completely turned around. The ride was just over 38 miles, though with the wind fighting against us, it felt much longer.

  Emily enjoyed her ice cream

We were all smiles when we pulled into St. Clare Catholic Church, and a ridiculous amount of power bars were consumed. The church’s town, Berea, is a cute, quirky town with gorgeous hills and beautiful brick buildings. We went to the local RV park to take showers and returned to the church with high expectations for our spaghetti dinner (the dinner chore group did a great job). Now our exhausted little bodies are galavanting the streets, some going to mass, others doing the laundry, and some enjoying some down time. Oh yes, and Krystal is working beside me, extra hard. What a gal (wink, wink). To wrap this little session up, thanks to all you readers (or as they say here in the south, y’all) for checking up on us and for your continued support. So until next time, God bless. 

Clean jerseys!

written by: Lisa Corsi

photos by: Esther Hyejin Chung

A letter from Winchester, KY

Entry from: Friday July 24th 2009 Winchester, KY

July 24, 2009

Dear Mom,

We made the front page in Winchester, KY!

We are having quite the adventure!  I never imagined that being constantly surrounded by 16 other individuals from all over the country (and Canada) would prove so successful.  We each have our own stories and reasons for being here, but are united in interests in helping people and pedaling.  We ride together, eat together, build and repair houses together, and do laundry together (ha)! 

 Mary Jo cooked us a yummy nutritious lunch  

  Each city that we ride into has welcomed us with amazing graciousness.  We stayed at Central Baptist Church in Winchester, Kentucky.  The parish provided us with some amazing feasts during our stay.  Shannon Cox made us waffles for breakfast, which were a very welcomed surprise…and delicious!  Speaking of food, a great joy for today was the grand opening of our “crunchy peanut butter” jar.  It was kind of a big deal, and the honor was bestowed upon Lisa, who managed to finger out the last scoops of the creamy jar…with her bare hands. 

   Sandy from the The Bluegrass Heritage Museum 

The Fuller Center Cyclists split into groups for the day to work on three local projects.  One group laid brick for a pathway leading to the Bluegrass Museum.  From what I hear, it was a lot of shoveling sand and leveling ground.  Another group worked on tearing down a porch roof on a rather disheveled house.   Thad, Eric, Susan, and myself built a wooden porch for a newly renovated house.  Richard Butler was the foreman on our job; he is a retired industrial arts teacher who provided us much insight into the world of carpentry.  Most importantly, Richard expressed sincere passion in helping others if he was able.  It is quite refreshing to see that philosophy echoed throughout the country!  We are all neighbors!  Richard was even courteous enough to let Eric and myself take a break from cutting boards to provide some quotes for the Winchester Sun.  We found it quite rewarding to step back and see a completed job, another piece of a home done!

Laying bricks at the Bluegrass Heritage Museum

Soon after sweating over our various jobs, we were welcomed to the city’s Park and Recreation public pool.  I was so excited about the opportunity to jump into some water, I dove in fully clothed!  Speaking of antics, Kristina and myself invented a game during the stay at Central Baptist Church.  Let’s just say that it involves roller skates, a kickball, and the game has been documented on video.  I hope that Kyle finds some useable footage in that madness on wheels!  Dancer’s Pointe opened up their beginner’s ballroom dance class for us later that night.  We salsa’ed, did some swing, and learned the fox trot.  We all had a blast, and laughed until our bellies hurt.  Kyle and Lisa danced so well; they shook the wood floor in fear.  Michael asked for help on getting his hips swinging and Eric vowed to be a dynamite dance partner in 2 days…maybe 3.

  Melissa enjoying the pool

  I expect that this exceptional community is well on their way to growing the seed that has been planted.  We encountered so many wonderful souls passionate about providing decent housing for the community.  Some of the very special people that helped us with our goals include: Randy Whisman, Richard Butler, Pastor Art Beasley, Mary Jo and Al Bonds, Judy and Larry Crowe, JC and Audra Young, Shannon Cox, Ken Davis, John Rompf, Sandy Stutts, Gardner Wagers. 

Michael receiving a scalp massage from Kyle

  Thanks for the support along the way, and I’ll keep eating peanut butter! Thanks for watering my plants, tell the dogs I miss them, and I’m having a great time!

          After the swim


Krystal Goodwin

photos by: Esther Hyejin Chung