Hello everyone from Pierre, SD.
What a day it has been today! I have to tell you, this day was an incredible day in many ways. First of all, it’s Day 24 out of 50, so we’re almost at the halfway mark. Second of all, we went 117 miles today, which for me it was the easiest 117 miles I’ve ever done. We went from Wall to Pierre. We had to get up at 4:30 this morning, load the trucks at 5:15, have some breakfast and be on our way by about 5:45 this morning. It was cool this morning, we needed our little thin arm warmers, but it was still a beautiful morning, sunny and clear, couldn’t ask for more. We got out onto Route 14, which 14 happens to be my favorite number and we just celebrated July 14th yesterday. Route 14 was very beautiful, lots of rolling hills, lots of huge hay bales, which by the way, I found out that each one of them is 1500 pounds! I would have guessed maybe 500, but they’re 1500 pounds. I got a picture the other day standing up next to one of them, and it almost comes up to my head, so it’s at least 5 feet high. I also sat up on one of them, which you’ll be able to see the picture sometime soon when I get the pictures out to you. As we were rolling through the towns, we went through the town of Quinn, which of course I have a fabulous friend named Mary Quinn, the Quinn family, Mike and Mary Quinn and all their kids. I give a hello to all of you, I thought of you all particularly because I was going through Quinn. Mary Quinn, you’re a dear, precious friend to me and thank you so much for all your support and love over the past 20-plus years. I just prayed for you and your family especially today as I went through Quinn. We also went through the town of Cottonwood, which was really interesting. The population on the sign said 12 people! That gives you a little idea of the towns we go through. Then we went through the town of Phillip, which was really cool, because I have some great friends Brenda and George Phillips, who live down in Strasburg, Virginia. Brenda and George, you are very precious friends to me as well. I hope you’re doing well, hope you’re enjoying your summer. I’m sure you’re following my blog, so I’m giving a hello and a God bless to both of you and thanking you again for your incredible friendship and support and love through the years, all you’ve done and been for me. I can’t thank you enough.
We hit our first SAG stop at 30 miles, and those first 30 miles we were sailing, it was just beautiful. No wind, just kind of sailing along, wonderful ride. From that SAG stop to the next SAG stop there was nothing in between, nothing, nothing, nothing. Not even any towns, you just see nothing. We went from 30 miles to 56 miles basically just seeing land and riding on a road that had no real significant traffic. I was so free today because for the first time I was able to ride on the left side of the white line with no rumbles, no encumbrances, that’s why today was my favorite day. Every single ride that I went down I could gear it up and put it in the strongest gear in the third ring and sail down the hill and lift back up and climb up the next one without any problems of rumble or debris or traffic. I think that’s partly why I rode so strong today; today was one of my strongest rides ever. Once we got to the second SAG stop at 56 miles, from there to 77 miles we were sort of in a cross headwind, so it was quite a bit of wind. But I rode by myself, I wasn’t in a pace line, and I don’t know how I did it, but I just sailed through the wind. I felt like a bird today. I just was a powerhouse! I’m not bragging, but I just really was able to go. My legs just were going for me, I just was having a blast. I was riding all by myself, praying for all kinds of people, praising the Lord, singing, having a great time, thinking of all my family and friends and all of you out there who are watching and following the blog. Just thanking God for all of you, thanking God for our country, for all of you military families. I just had a wonderful time and it was just really a great free experience. Even with that cross headwind I made it to the 77.7-mile mark and we took a welcome right turn, which brought us right into a tailwind, which was absolutely fabulous. From 77 to 83 miles to the next SAG stop, it was clear sailing. We stopped off at a little park that had some water there, meaning just some water to be able to see. We don’t see water that often, little water holes or kind of marshy land. That was kind of fun to see that. Then at the 115-mile mark we hit the town of Fort Pierre, not quite into Pierre yet. We crossed over and at 117 miles got into Pierre, which was great. One thing that I haven’t mentioned along the trip that has happened recently, on the front page of the journal in this town they’re talking about all the grasshoppers that are invading the whole area because of the rain this spring. I guess there’s just been a ton of grasshoppers, and believe me, we’ve noticed. They’ve been hopping all over our bikes as we’ve been riding, when we have to go out in the bushes when they are no facilities, the grasshoppers are hopping, and you know what I’m talking about! They’ve just been all over the place. It’s interesting to see that they’re on the front page here, talking about the grasshopper situation here, how they’ve been infested with them. I’ve been hit in the face by several bugs, and I know that they’re most likely grasshoppers. They can kind of sting a little bit as they hit your face. Another thing that I’ve never mentioned that’s really been happening a lot, is that we’ve seen a lot of dead animals on the side of the road, which is really sad and hard to see, but it’s just been a reality. We’ve seen fox and rabbit and deer, all kinds of animals dead on the side of the road. A lot of times you can’t even tell what kind of animal it is. We see a lot of dead birds on the side of the road also. That’s just kind of part of what we see. But on the other hand, on the bright side of the insect and animal world, there have just been some precious butterflies that float around and can almost land on your bike and land on your shoulder. Just like a little kiss of nature, it’s kind of sweet seeing these pretty little sweet butterflies flying around. The birds kind of soar through and they come so close, sometimes you can see the red and white markings and the colors of the birds. They’re just beautiful. I wish I knew more about kinds of birds, because I’ve seen so many pretty birds and just hearing them chirping and singing and making their beautiful little melodies, their joyful noise unto the Lord, as I would say. It’s just fabulous to see the little birds and the butterflies. That’s another part of my ride that I’ve never mentioned that I wanted to mention today. One of the other significant things as we crossed over into Pierre, we also changed time zones into Central Time. So I lost an hour today.
We left about 5:45 this morning and got in today about 3:30, I think it only took me about 9 or 9-1/2 hours to go 117 miles today. I was riding pretty much between 20 and 30 mph the whole day, which was a really strong ride, as I say. We lost an hour but I kind of gained an hour of being able to communicate with everybody back on the East Coast, which makes me really happy. The only other significant thing that I really want to mention about today that was really different was the last 24 miles after the SAG stop, on Route 14, which is a beautiful road, they were doing construction in about five different locations.
We kind of had to keep stopping and wait and then they let you through. This one section, most of it was gravelly and dirty and dusty, the woman let us go ahead, and she probably should not have let us go ahead, because there were cars coming at us with one lane of dirt and mud. They had just sprayed twice with water down on the dirt, so it was really rather muddy. I have these thin tires that are just the 23-inchers instead of 25, and it was a little bit difficult negotiating the gravel and the mud. A couple of times I had to get off my bike, there were trucks coming at us and we just had to get off and literally move our bikes over. But needless to say, I look like I went dirt biking because I got sprayed with all kinds of mud and I literally had mud on my arms, my helmet, on the front of me, the back of me, down my legs, on my shoes. I had to ride after that another 15 or 17 miles with dirt all over me and all over my bike. When I got in I had to spray my bike down. A lot of us got dirty, but not everybody got as dirty as our little group did that went through there, because they had just sprayed. The heat was so high, in the 80s or 90s, that it dried up quicker, so when other groups went through, they didn’t get as muddy and as dirty. So I have the mud on my little sheet, the direction sheet that we follow every day that’s kind of on the outside of our bikes that we have clipped on. I have my little mud to prove it on my sheet. I got a picture I’ll have to send, I definitely was filled with mud. So I had to clean my bike before I could even bring it into the hotel, but when I got to my room, I literally had to go in the shower with my clothes on to clean my shoes, my helmet, all my clothes, before I even cleaned myself. So that just gives you an idea of how filthy I was! It was kind of fun, to tell you the truth, the dirtiest I’ve been in a long, long time. So I did a little dirt biking today. The other delight when we got in, this hotel, which is Governor’s Inn in Pierre, they have been the most delightful welcome to us that we’ve ever had. Not only did they offer us lemonade, iced tea, pretzels and pretzel dip, but also shortly after we were in for a little while, they had warmed up all these chocolate chip and sugar cookies and they gave us a whole bin of free beer, which is really kind of unbelievable. On this whole trip I’ve only had a couple beers, on a couple different days I had one beer. But I definitely took a Michelob Golden Light and we all toasted to a free beer on the hotel. I haven’t finished the beer, but it was nice to have a toast and have a little bit of the beer. It was sweet of them and very considerate and nice of them to offer that to us. They’re the only hotel that’s ever done that, so kudos to them. Also at this hotel, there’s a big group of people here who are just amazed that we’re doing this. They’re at some committee working on the dam that’s in this area, so they were teasing and said they were going to the “dam committee!” So they’ve got a good sense of humor and it’s really fun. I’ve been sharing my OLT cards with them and about the fundraising and about the trip, and they’ve just been kind of in awe that we’re doing this. To tell you the truth, I’m really in awe too, I can’t believe that I’m really somebody on this team of people who are riding, because there are a lot of people here who are very experienced riders. It’s really a privilege for me to be with them. I met a man named Bruce Westergard, and he’s with the Minnesota Municipal Utilities Association, and he’s out here on some kind of business. He gave me his card and I gave him an OLT card, and he said he is definitely going to pledge to OLT, so I really thanked him for that. Nice gentleman. It’s always fun to meet people from all over the country who kind of end up in the same place where we are, for whatever reason. It’s a small world and we’re all connected. Thank God we all need each other. I have to go to dinner and then go to rap to find out where we’re going next. I haven’t looked on the sheet yet to find out where we’re going tomorrow. Before I go, I have a couple of special people that I really want to thank. I want to thank Brendan Hehn and the whole committee from Fairlawn for your support for me and what you’ve done to pledge for me, I really, really appreciate it. Brendan, I appreciate you following my blog; Raymond has told me that you always ask how I’m doing, and I really, really appreciate it. It’s just really nice to know that all of you from Fairlawn are watching out for me by prayer and following me and supporting me. Emotionally it’s just nice to know that you’re there for me. I’m looking forward when I get home, you having shared reading my blog, you’re going to really kind of know a lot about my trip. Thank you so much for that. Thank you for the money support to Christar, that’s really a blessing and I really do appreciate it. Also I want to give a special thank you to Josh and Jen Coffey. You gave me some cards before I left and you had sealed them and told me to open them when needed. In the past week, there have definitely been some times when I’ve needed to open those cards. Josh, I opened yours first in the town where we watched the parade, and it was just really sweet to have a card just from you. Then last night I opened a card from Josh and Jen, and it was just so encouraging to read you be so sweet, and to say that I’m an inspiration is really a gift to me, because Josh, I know that you were in the Marines, and I can’t even imagine what you went through and what you did for our country. So I’m doing nothing compared to what you’ve done. Jen, you’re a teacher out there with those kids every day, and I know you two are just such a wonderful couple and I’m really thankful to be a part of your lives.
Thank you so much for your encouragement and for your words of love to me, I really appreciate it. There are so many of you out there, I can’t say thank you enough for all of you who are following the blog, for all of you who are pledging. All of our military people are so grateful. When I get into Sioux Falls, I guess we’re setting up for me to meet some military families, and I cannot wait, I’m so excited about that. Jay Brethen from Operation Life Transformed is setting that up for me. I guess it’s going to be covered by one of the television stations. I’m really looking forward to meeting some military family people and having an opportunity to be interviewed at the halfway mark, which will be really, really amazing that we will have gone halfway. I’m looking forward to that on the rest day, that will be sweet. To Raymond, my love, and to my fabulous children that are my most precious gifts, my mom and dad, I love you dearly, and my sisters, Janie and Susie and families. Blessings to all of you, I’m thinking of you all every day. Thank you for your prayers. God bless you all and God bless America.