World Travelers...Kind Of

 We set out from the Atlantic Ocean on June 14th aiming for the Pacific and on July 28th we made it to Pacific…Missouri. No ocean here, but the Comfort Inn has a nice pool! 

Yes, it’s just one of the amusing twists and turns of our journey. Let’s see…we’ve had breakfast in West Berlin (Pennsylvania), lunch in Poland (Indiana) and an early dinner in London (Ohio). It was over 90 degrees in Alaska (Indiana) when we passed through, and our biggest regret so far is that we were within ten miles of Funkhouser (Illinois) and didn’t swing by. Funkhouser just SOUNDS cool, doesn’t it? 

One place we DIDN’T miss, though, was Casey, Illinois. Pronounced “K-Z”, this fascinating little town was one of the highlights of the whole trip, primarily because we arrived there during Jenny’s visit so she could share in the fun. About 15 years ago, like so many small towns, downtown Casey was struggling. Lots of people were ready to give up, but not local businessman Jim Bolin. He came up with an idea of how to get people to come down off the interstate and visit…build a Guinness World Record holder…and so he built the World’s Largest Windchime! It was so successful that now Casey has twelve record holders — from the largest rocking chair to the largest mailbox. The town was packed with families enjoying the fun on the  Saturday we passed through…tribute to somebody who saw a problem, didn’t give up and tried to solve it.

Seeing a problem, not giving up and trying to solve it? 

How about it’s 99 degrees, the hottest day of the year so far in St. Louis, you’ve got 4 miles to go to finish the day and a stalled tractor trailer is blocking both lanes of the road you’re on. What do you do? 

If you’re Matt and Tommy Ryan, you zigzag between cars and shoot over to the opposite sidewalk to get around the mess! You feel so proud of yourselves until you realize you’re now riding through debris from a recent street paving job. It only takes about twenty yards of pebbles and half-dried tar shooting up though your spokes and chains for something to jam Matt’s derailleur so badly it completely twists in on itself and locks up. 


Problem!!! 

Ok…don’t give up…solve it!

Four different Lyft rides, three hours and two bicycle shops later, we were safe and sound in our hotel with four brand new tires and a new derailleur for Matt. 

But let’s be real: some problems are easier to solve than others. 

We’ve been traveling for over 1,300 miles, and if a mishap  like that had happened anywhere during 1,000 of those miles, we’d have been in BIG trouble. There’s no Lyft driver (let alone four different ones!) showing up to save you in Alaska, Indiana, and certainly no bike shop anywhere for miles around. Our first big mechanical failure happened in the middle of the sprawling city of St. Louis. Yeah, it was hot, but how lucky can two guys get? 

                    

We keep getting signs that someone’s watching over us. 

Sometimes they’re tiny little moments , almost ridiculous, like the time we were struggling up this hill and saw this poor dead squirrel, feet in the air, lying smack dab in the middle of the yellow line, just another of hundreds of roadkill we’d pass…except just as we rolled by the little guy hopped off his back, looked at us as if to say, “Hah! Tricked ya!” and scurried off. Was he sunbathing? Sending us a message about never quitting? Who knows…but the laugh gave us the energy to push to the top of the climb. 

Other times it seems like there’s really something going on…like Tommy saying one animal he really hadn’t been able to get a good picture of was a horse, then that same day we found TWO off the trail near Edwardsville, Illinois…and they posed for him!

Or on a day that the excessive heat warnings on the news worried us so much that we got up early and started riding at 7:00 AM, and just as we left Greenville, Illinois we saw this huge rainbow arching over us as if to say, “Don’t worry…I got you!” 

Or some of the kind and encouraging people we happen to meet along the way, like Vicki and Jeff at the BB Coffee Lab in St. Clair, Missouri, who were on their way to a rafting trip on the Meramec River. Vicki said, “I DO NOT like being on the water,” but she’d summoned the courage that day to give it a try, and we wished each other well on our respective adventures. Later, she and Jeff donated $100 to the cause...how thoughtful!

Or Zach and Heather at the Dollar General in Stanton, Missouri, where we stopped after nearly 30 miles on a 95 degree day. Not only did they give us water, but they let us sit and cool down back in the loading bay for a half hour…. Zach even set up a fan for us! Talk about going above and beyond!!!

We’ve been rolling with the punches and overwhelmed by our blessings…and look at the smile on Tommy’s face in this last picture as he stands on the Chain of Rocks Bridge, how the old Route 66 used to cross the Mississippi River…does this look like a kid who’s disappointed he didn’t get to Pacific Ocean yet?

He’s beaming because he rode a bicycle all the way from New Jersey to the Mississippi freakin’ River to help others and to prove a point to himself…hey, a river’s got water like an ocean, right? 

Almost the same thing! 

Maybe you already knew this, but we just found out Missouri has mountains. 

Ok, Ozarks…bring it on!

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