Saturday, August 8, 2009

Welcome Home: We have arrived in Americus, GA!

"Oyee!" from Plains, GA

What a day!  When (and where) did it even start?  After waking up and packing at 4:00 a.m. Central Time, over 100 miles from here in Auburn, we hit the road for an early start on our journey's longest day of cycling into The Fuller Center's central location, Americus, Georgia.
We are so glad to have Dave join us!
While most of the team got off to a fast and smooth start, unfortunately our newest rider Dave Steere, whom we're all so pleased to have with us and is obviously such a great (and fit!) 62 year old guy, missed one of the first turns.  Things went from bad to worse, though, when he discovered that somewhere along the way he lost a number of personal items, including his cell phone!  Thankfully, being the resourceful man that he is, he was able to catch a ride from a good Samaritan and meet back up with the group to be with us the rest of the day.
Jacob Battle treated us with the most delicious peaches!
Our first stop was compliments of The Fuller Center of Cusseta, Georgia, which we like to call "The little Fuller Center that could," since their small, very rural area raised the money and built and entire home.  The rest point was held at the Four Winds Restaurant, which is famous for its Ranger Burger, and since it fell at about mile 52 it made for the perfect midway stopping point to get ourselves fully refreshed and ready to keep on going.  Three additional riders, Kirk Lyman-Barner and his two sons, Levi and Luke, joined up with us at that point for the rest of the day - what fun!
Faith captured some awesome footage!
Our next stop of the day was at mile 90 in Plains, Georgia, birthplace of former President Jimmy Carter, where we enjoyed homemade peanut butter ice cream.  Other local cyclists joined up with our group, and after posing for some group photos, we were ready to head for the last 10 miles towards The Fuller Center's home base.  
While most of us rode, Eric trotted. Oh and we had police cars escort us :)
A police escort took through the city of Americus for yet another photo op before heading on down to The Fuller Center.  Perhaps was most memorable was Eric Schweinhart getting a flat tire, which caused me to spontaneously yell, "Just run with your bike!" - and he did!  And then it was one of those moments you just always remember: the entire parking lot full of cheering fans yelling "Oyee!  Oyee!" and clapping and making a lot of joyful noise as we rode our bikes into The Fuller Center's parking lot.  People were so excited you would have thought we had just come back from winning the Super Bowl.  
Linda Fuller presented each of us a trophy!
For me personally, since I live here in Americus, it was special to see so many people that have become personal friends, including those from the Mennonite Church (special thanks to Susie, Crystal, and Dave for biking in with us, and to Lewis for driving the support vehicle into town so that every single cyclist could ride in) and so many others.  I have trouble finding the words to express the appreciation that I and all the riders feel.
A Georgia Peach is not overrated. 
Linda Fuller herself was there to present each of the riders with a personalized trophy, and Fuller Center board member Jacob Battle contributed some world famous Georgia "Alberta" peaches, the best peaches you'll ever eat.  Afterwards, the riders headed off to Kirk and Cori Lyman-Barner's home for an incredible refreshing jump into their swimming pool and hearty cookout dinner.  Again, we are so grateful.
Mark's last day with us! He will be missed! Ribbit. 
Although the ride is NOT over (we still have money we need your help to raise!), if it had ended today we could feel like we've already accomplished enough to have made it a wonderful and fruitful journey.  God has truly blessed us and, I believe, allowed us to be a blessing to others.   
Today was special.  I hope it was one that all the riders will always remember.  I know I will.
Riders in front of the Fuller Center Office in Americus, GA!
written by: Trip Leader Ryan Iafigliola

photos by:  Scott Umstattd and Esther Hyejin Chung


Chris Cosby said...

Looks like ya'll had a big group for the ride in to Americus! All those orange jerseys look good. It was great riding to the headquarters of the Fuller Center last year, so I know you all felt the buzz of excitement. Congratulations on a big biking day for all!

kwishum said...

What a great day for you all! I'm in awe of what you've accomplished, both the riding and the raised awareness of what Fuller Center is doing.
To me, what you are doing is much better than winning a Super Bowl!

Sandy Heidecker said...

Wow, Ryan! Good job in chronicling in your post! It definitely gives me that warm, fuzzy feeling as I remember the love and joy of our friends of Americus! I definitely have a smile with these great words and memories!

kwishum stated it well... "what you are doing is much better than winning a Super Bowl!"