Traveling 2-by-2 cross-country
Ryan Summerlin July 24, 2012
On a 4,000-mile journey, it’s almost a given you’re going to name your vehicle.
The tandem bicycles ridden by the members of two six-member families received names before they ever began the summer adventure on the TransAmerica Trail.
And Dash. Dash got its name last, because riders were deciding which bike they liked best.
If naming their mode of transit is typical for a long road trip, what’s unusual is what the two families – who stopped in Frisco to stay with Mary Anne and Geff Hoffman on Monday – are doing to keep their minds and spirits honed during the three-month journey.
Clark Schroeder explained that the group focuses on four pillars as they put in hundreds of miles from Yorktown, Va. to Astoria, Ore. The pillars are to strengthen their relationships through teamwork; to develop character through discipleship (like sharing Biblical lessons on leadership); to plan and accomplish dreams (typically by breaking them into smaller pieces); and to share Christianity throughout the country (they hand out “Million-dollar question” tracts of their own making, which shares a message of salvation).
It’s a tough trek, everyone agreed, though the children in the group said it’s much better than school and in some ways, is better than other summer vacations.
However, it’s a challenge, and challenge is good, they also agreed. They’re learning to overcome adversity – even the adults, who need to think about where to get food for everyone, including Annemarie Schroeder with her gluten allergy.
“Staring at a road for eight hours,” Hannah Schroeder said.
“Staring at the captain’s back for eight hours,” Noah Schroeder chimed in.
“Waking up at 4:30 a.m.,” Jon Michael Halvorson said.
“Seeing and smelling roadkill,” Sarah Halvorson added.
The list goes on. Heat. Distance, like when cities in Kansas look much closer than they actually are. Getting enough fluids. Dodging semi trucks. Hills – whether long and shallow or short and steep.
But it’s also filled with delights, and the cyclists spent far more time excitedly sharing stories of people being good neighbors than talking about the challenges.
Like when they ran through cornfield irrigation systems to cool off.
Or when a couple, clearly not well-off, offered to drive them to get ice and water. When the families declined, the couple went out of their way to get and deliver cold water and ice to the 12 thirsty souls.
They had broken down recently, and someone stopped to help them, Lesli Halvorson explained.
“They were angels to us and we just wanted to be angels to you,” she recalled them saying.
“Across the board, when we stop in a grocery store with eight kids in bike shorts … people are so friendly,” she added. “It gives you hope in humanity.”
In Buhler, Kan., a man offered to throw steaks on the grill. Others have offered showers. One woman asked when 8-year-old Abraham Halvorson had last been told a story, and proceeded to read “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.”
When the dozen cyclists arrived in Frisco via Fairplay, they had pedaled about 2,600 miles on their way to Astoria, Ore., which is nearer their hometown of Oak Harbor, Wash. than Yorktown, Va., the start of the route.
The family pedals Monday through Saturday, breaking on Sundays to attend whatever local church is nearby and to rest. Otherwise, “We eat, sleep and bike,” Abraham Halvorson summarized.
“To see these kids, aged 8 to 16, doing this, it just knocks your socks off,” Frisco host Mary Anne Hoffman said. “There are all these bikes with their trailers.”
Hoffman and her husband, Geff, were finishing up their own cross-country bicycle traverse when they met the Schroeders and Halvorsons, who were just setting out in late May.
“They seemed so focused,” Geff Hoffman said, explaining they’d met at a convenience store. The Hoffmans ended up inviting them to stay at their home when they passed through Frisco.
“It’s our way of paying it forward,” Geff Hoffman said, adding that he and his wife have been touring bicycles for 25 years, and have seen their share of receiving help when in trouble and answering questions. They also signed up for warmshowers.org, a service offering touring cyclists a shower, a bed, or food.
As for this family summer adventure, Dan Halvorson called it a “dream.” So far, that dream has come with many flat tires and some tough days, but no show-stopping injuries and many days of hope, teamwork, and meeting people whose paths will and do cross again.
“We’ve had this dream for eight years,” he said. “We’re ecstatic God let us do this trip.”
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