Monday, October 14, 2013

Stats and Strains

During our training in Minneapolis prior to starting the Refuge Ride, we noticed a theme of road side debris that surprised us: gloves! Who knew there were so many random, mostly single gloves strewn on the sides of roads?! We decided to track the number we saw along our journey, which often was a nice distraction during difficult or monotonous days. Total gloves we saw during the 97 days: 822! Other road side items of interest included: 1 ironing board, 1 unopened bag of marshmallows, 5 fly swatters, countless bottles of urine and enough clothing to supply a thrift store.

It has been an amazing journey! Highlights included meeting Ethel in Georgia on day 4 who continues to call and pray for us, meeting our guardian angel life saver Roy in Kansas on day 53, seeing the smiles on peoples faces as we rode by, attentive cows, enjoying a wide variety of scenery at 10 mph, the encouragement we received from family and friends, and the incredible generosity of restaurants, stores and hotels. Out of 97 nights we only paid for lodging 4 times!

The best part of our journey was interacting with people who got it. They would hear what we were doing and without hesitation would dig deep and give generously for the refugees. We noticed that those who would give like that were ones who did not necessarily appear super well-to-do. Often it seemed they might relate to what it is like to go without and be in need. In contrast, many people who would drive up in fancy cars and looked more put together would take our picture, excited, impressed and entertained, but all they would leave us with was a stinging, "Best of luck."

Besides uncaring people, the biggest struggle we encountered was wind. It didn't affect us often, but 3 days riding in 30-40 mph crosswinds in Kansas definitely topped our "bad day" chart! Other challenges included uncomfortable unicycle seats, the camber or angle of the road which caused us to lean the opposite way to stay on the unicycle and really strained our bodies, cold weather out west, snakes on the road and trail, spiders and webs across the road, and lack of sleep.  We were most surprised by a lack of personnel and organizational support, and the general public's ignorance about how to function normally when unicycles are around.

Katie found strength during tough rides by mentally quoting Joshua 1:9, "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."  And He was with us! Every pedal of the way without a doubt! He is with Syrian refugees, too and we pray this Refuge Ride will help them know His love in tangible ways!

Roy from Bird City Kansas escorting us on narrow windy roads.

Cows were sometimes our biggest fans.

One of many hotels that generously donated rooms for us.  Thanks to all!

One Day At A Time

How can one sum up 97 intense days crossing an entire country 3,511 miles wide, traveling 10 miles an hour on one wheel?  Quite hard to do but here is round one...

When we started out on this journey we honestly didn't know if it was possible and if we'd even make it more than two weeks.  The extent of Katie's prior cycling experience was riding her 3 speed antique Raleigh bicycle with a basket on front to the grocery store or the State Fair on occasion.  Dustin, on the other hand, with 31 years of previous cycling experience has nearly worn out his knees.  Three knee surgeries over the years has forced him to really baby them.  Thus, we prayed, planned and prepared as much as we could and set out, taking one day at a time.

Yes, one day at a time is what got us through!  97 days later, on October 9, 2013, Katie became the second female and we the first couple to cover this distance and cross the entire United States on unicycles!

On tough days we would remember the struggle the refugees experience and pray for their needs.  It really helped keep things in perspective.  We chose to take on this challenge of riding unicycles across country and knew it would not be a cake walk.  We prepared and had the best equipment available for such a journey.  Even our most difficult day was far better than what the refugees experience on their best day.  We had a roof over our heads every night, more than enough food each day, loved ones in contact with us cheering us on from near and far.

Displaced Syrians did not chose their circumstances.  Many are in hiding or waiting at borders for a chance to flee or at best are sleeping in crowded tents.  They are tired, hungry, thirsty, afraid and in great danger.  They could not prepare for this crisis and many have fled with only the clothes on their backs.  They have lost loved ones in indescribable ways or have not heard from family and friends in a long time.

And so, we pressed on, one day at a time!  Our ride is over but the need is greater than ever.  Please continue supporting Syrian refugees in any way you can!


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Be Prepared...

Dustin carries extra gear in a bright blue dry bag that goes on his front unicycle rack.  He cinches it down with three straps so it doesn't rub the inside of his knees as he rides.

That bag contains the following:
- Four port USB charger
- Cables to charge GoPro, GPS and phones
- Flip flops
- Extra water reservoir to carry water if need be
- Extra bearings
- Lock and cable
- Emergency bivy sacks (extremely small, lightweight, waterproof sleeping bag)
- Life Straw (water filter)
- Tarp
- Microfiber washcloth
- Rope
- Eye mask
- Earplugs
- Sea To Summit silk sleep liner with pillow insert (this brings much peace of mind/comfort when sleeping in sketchy beds)
- 10,000 mha back up battery and cables for phones and GPS
- Headphone case with phone headset and 16 gb flash drive and USB SD/MicroSD card reader
- Back-up Micro USB cable
- Back-up USB charger
- GoPro wireless remote charging cable


Friday, October 4, 2013

The Burden We Carry

Pack with water reservoir.
We each travel with really nice Gregory back packs that hold 3 liter water reservoirs.  A hose attaches to the reservoir that comes over our shoulder, connects to the shoulder strap and a nifty bite valve makes it easy to drink constantly.

Along with the contents listed below, our packs hold layers for various temperatures.  Arm and leg warmers, 2 different jackets and a variety of gloves are either being worn or stowed in our packs.
Dustin's pack contents.
Along with water, Dustin's Gregory Miwok 22 pack contains the following:
-Sunglasses and case
-Cleaning cloths
-Baggie with ID, GoPro battery, extra micro SD cards for GoPro
-Food bag with bars, fruit, energy and fruit chew, jerky and peanut butter for dark chocolate  (most of this is consumed by the end of the day)
-Cycling hat
-Rubber bands
-Halt! dog spray
-Chamois cream
-Respro Hump backpack rain cover
-Spare flashlight batteries
-Phone with waterproof case
-Swiss Army knife with pen
-GoPro remote
-Safety pins
-Tire pressure gauge
-Multi tool
-Sanitizing hand wipes
-10 lumen mini flashlight
-Fenix 120 lumen compact flashlight
-Refuge Ride mini cards
-First aid supplies
-Zip ties
-Emergency headlight handlebar mounts for the compact flashlights
-Bag with tools and lighter

Katie's Gregory Maya 18 pack contains:
-Phone in waterproof sleeve
-Wet wipes
-Encouraging verse from friend
-Sewing kit
-Hello Kitty wallet
-10 lumen mini flashlight
-Fenix 120 lumen compact flashlight
-Pink Swiss Army knife
-Food bag
-pStyle - the most amazing invention for women to stand up and pee with ease!
-Sunglasses, case and cleaning cloth
-Blistex with sunscreen
-Refuge Ride cards
-Chamois cream
-Respro Hump rain pack cover 

Katie's pack contents.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

As Typical As A Day Gets On The Refuge Ride

If you are interested in what a typical day on the Refuge Ride looks like then read on.  

We get up at 6a, pack our belongings and put on riding clothes that hopefully dried from hand washing the night before.  Away goes our clothes line which is our emergency rope strung around the legs of an inverted ironing board or whatever is available in the room.  We fill our water packs with 1 to 3 litres of water and sometimes ice, depending on weather, number of services we will see on our route and distance between.  

At breakfast we load up on as much hearty food as is provided and our stomachs can handle, usually eggs, sausage, yogurt, waffles, milk, oj, bananas and the like.  If available we take fruit, bagels and cream cheese for lunch down the road.  We refill our food bags with granola bars, jerky, fruit snacks, energy chews and most importantly, dark chocolate.

We'll check out at the front desk of the hotel and thank them for donating a room, hand out cards and answer questions about the Refuge Ride project to inquisitive people in the lobby or outside the hotel and on a good day, receive some donations.  After stretching and praying and either putting on sunscreen and sunglasses or hat, gloves and jackets, we fasten on our helmets and back packs, turn on the GoPro and off we go on day #?? of the Refuge Ride!

Every 5 miles or so we'll take a short break to stretch, rearrange layers of clothing once we warm up if need be and every other stop eat something.  Often we'll ride up to a car that has passed us, pulled over and someone is taking pictures or video of us riding up.  We'll hold hands and pose in front of them on our unis, give them a card and tell them why we are doing such an insane journey.  We tell them we do pictures for donations for Syrian refugees.  

On we ride, over the river, through the woods, up and down the hills and across the country.  We are constantly watching traffic approaching in our little helmet mirrors and jump off our unis if we see vehicles crossing the line into the shoulder behind us if there is one, or jump off if there is little shoulder and we see 2 semis or motorhomes about to converge next to us.  When semis pass us we brace for the wall of wind they bring.  We get lots of honks, waves and thumbs up from passerbys who may have seen us on the news, heard us on the radio or are just excited to see weirdos cruising along the highway on one wheel.  And there are always the cows that continue to bring us such encouragement with their undivided attention. 

If we come upon a gas station (or coffee shop!) we'll stop in and refill our water packs if need be, often receiving donated power drinks (or decaf mochas!) from kind employees.  With our unis parked in front we inevitably get into conversation with people about the crazy big unis and what we are doing on them.  Katie will take advantage of breaks along the way to do a bit of business and call hotels to secure donations for sleeps down the road.

We always give a "Hallelujah!" when we arrive at our destination for the day.  Before even entering we take pictures of the hotel or lodging and inspect our tires, removing rocks, glass, corn, thorns or whatever debris the tread may have picked up.  This can save us from having a bad next morning.  After checking in we settle in, immediately shower then wash all our sweaty riding clothes in the sink.  Usually we'll use up a small bar of soap during the clothes washing process.  We never take for granted the blessing of running water!   After ringing out our wet clothes we lay them out on a towel, roll them up and twist the towel (a trick we learned from Dustin's mom).  It always amazes us how much water the towel soaks up which greatly speeds up the drying process.  We then hang up the clothes on the makeshift clothes line.

Each day we receive an email or call from Katie's wonderful dad telling us who has donated dinner for us that evening.  Though bleary eyed, we eat a hearty dinner, take pictures of the fine and generous establishment and whole-heartedly thank the powers that be who have contributed to the Refuge Ride through their donation.

Back at the hotel, Katie inputs stats and journals about the day while Dustin adjusts and reviews the route for the next day and posts a Facebook update for the next morning.  We usually fall asleep working on our evening tasks but manage to finish before turning in after midnight to sleep for 5-6 hours before getting up to start over again.  

There you have it.  One day at a time with the support, prayers and contributions of many, we're making this cross country trek to bring hope and help to Syrian refugees a reality!

Another inquisitive passer by.
Laundry is done and wrung out.  Getting ready for a roll and twist in a towel.
Twisting the laundry in a towel.  Before learning this trick we often had wet clothes the next morning.

Ironing boards have more than one use.

Some nights we get to practice the limbo every time we need to leave the room.

Katie confirming another hotel donation along the road.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Ode to Buhl Idaho

Some towns we can't wait to get out of.  Some towns we don't want to leave.  Iuka MS was one of those towns we would have loved to ride around all day, as was Wray CO and Buhl ID.  Maybe it's the four letter towns that rise above their names.

We rolled into Buhl on day 77 and stopped at the Country Store.  A cashier personally bought us jerky, insisting we get 2 packages.  Eighty year old Willy was putting gas in his truck when we rode up and came inside the store to visit.  Turns out he used to ride unicycle and had a brother-in-law who also rode, built unis and tried to start a unicycle club in Buhl back in the day.

On the hunt for a coffee shop, we were directed to Broadway Java, which is an amazing place!  A sign on the cash register read, "Your God can move mountains", an inspirational verse was hand designed on each cup sleeve and great music was playing.  Stepping in there was a much needed breath of fresh air.  The owner not only made us the best salted carmel and Mexican mocha's known to man, but gave a huge donation to the refugees!  Soon we were joined by Willy, his brother-in-law Greg, and a recent high school graduate Jacob, who had received a handmade unicycle from Greg and was now tearing up the roads and trails with it.  We had a great visit with them.  They called the local paper who sent a reporter to the coffee shop to interview us and take pictures before we left.

A few blocks down we got word that our support vehicle was catching up with us.  We rendezvoused in Cloverleaf Creamery parking lot which turned out to be a delicious meeting point.  Everyone going in and out of the shop talked to us and another reporter from the same paper came over and did a second interview.  As we were finally wrapping up to leave, Dustin got into a conversation with the owner of the Creamery and we couldn't turn down her generous offer of "killer chocolate" ice cream in homemade waffle cones PLUS a half gallon of their fresh skim milk in an old fashioned hefty glass bottle!  And enjoy we did!  

Thanks Buhl for the encouraging response to the RefugeRide and for your support and prayers!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Lava Hot Springs and Support Team!

What a treat to have our route take us through Lava Hot Springs Idaho!  We were blessed by a wonderful stay at the Serenity House which included beds, breakfast and road side assistance.  The owner Jack lived just down the road and came by to meet us and bring us special bread.  When our van wouldn't start the next morning he drove over to give a jump start to get us on our way.  He also sent along delicious dried fruit and cookies he had made.

When we first arrived in Lava Hot Springs we met Mike and Darla walking their dog.  Darla invited us to stop by Blue Moon Bar & Grill the next day for the best cheeseburgers around.  She has worked there for 27 years and wasn't joking about making a mean bacon cheeseburger!  Wow!  As an avid cycler, runner and swimmer, she appreciated the challenge of unicycling across America.  When we arrived at The Blue Moon she even gave us a bag full of energy gel, chews and bars!  When Dustin brought his unis in to get a picture, another customer asked to see him get on.  Dustin hopped on and rode around the bar for a little demo.  Darla announced to everyone in there about the Refuge Ride and the need of Syrian refugees.  Thanks Darla for blessing us along our journey!

Can't forget to mention that we were able to enjoy the actual hot springs in Lava Hot Springs!  They had many pools varying in degrees from 112f to 102f.  I don't think we made it past 105f degrees.  Super relaxing and about zapped us of all energy for the night!

We are so thankful to have Dustin's mom and step-dad with us these days!  It's been over 2 weeks now and we are still enjoying each others company.  Many of their friends think they are out on vacation but we have really put them to work.  Each day they drive us to where we left off the previous evening.  They patiently wait for us to stretch, apply sunscreen and muster enough umph to get on our unis and head out for the day.  They pray with us then off we go.

They drive our route for the day scouting out the roads and services along the way and report back to us their findings.  On a few really cold and rainy days they have stopped with us every few miles to let us jump in the warm van for breaks.  Heading up and down some long mountains with low visibility they have driven slowly behind us, with flashers flashing to ensure cars pass us with care.  They drive ahead to our lodging for the night, check in, put our bags in our room, stock our fridge and set out snacks.  We are getting spoiled!  It is so encouraging to see their friendly faces throughout the day keeping us encouraged and laughing.

We get an email each day from Katie's dad telling us where we will eat dinner that night.  He spends time calling restaurants each day finding places that will donate meals for us, helping cut costs and allow more money raised go to the refugees.  Such a blessing to have dinner decisions taken care of!  He has also been contacting media along the way, which has resulted in numerous radio, newspaper and TV spots.

And we know there are countless more praying with us and sharing about this project and giving generously!  For all this we are thankful!  Keep it up team!
Darla at the Blue Moon