A Strong Finish
“Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof.”
This trip has been a trying one. I have spent many hours everyday dreaming of its end and of a return to a normal life- sitting in normal chairs, exercising for an hour at most, and eating regular meals. However, as the end of this journey draws ever closer, there is some melancholic feeling that accompanies it. This has been life for the last 48 days, and although we have constantly been beaten and battered by the elements, there is something to be said about a life where all you have to worry about is the next mile. I have never been able to live my life so “one day at a time” as I have on this trip. Perhaps this was due to the crazy mileage we had to complete each day, or maybe it was due to the fact that we never knew the next place we would sleep until the day of.
It seems as though God aligned things for our last night as a team because of the place he gave us to stay. The final place he provided for us to live was a luxurious home that a church owns just 40 miles outside of New York City. We cooked a big chicken alfredo dinner, and sat around the table to our last supper. We enjoyed each other’s company- which is a miracle after spending every hour of the day together for the last 48 days.
As we finished our meal, I bit my lip in hesitation for a proposition I really wanted to make for what we should do next. I really wanted to do a classic APU affirmation circle. I not only have been paid to bring people together and build community for the last three years in Residence Life, but I have developed a passion for it as well. However, for this trip, our team has had to focus on getting things done so much, that I have had to hold back from many team building activities I wanted to do. But as the trip was coming to a close, I knew how important it was for all of us to end it on a positive note- even if that meant we had to look each other in the eye and painfully tell each other what we mean to each other and why we appreciate it.
So, I courageously made my proposition to have a sappy love fest…and it was shot down immediately by more than half the team.
Well. So much for that.
Everyone decided they would accommodate my idea, by jokingly making up sentences (by each person saying one word at a time) to “affirm” one team member.
After we laughed at the ad lib encouragements we all made, Andrew joined my team and said he thought it would actually be a good idea for us to do my idea.
And for the next hour and a half we listened to each other explain what we appreciated about each other, and what the trip has meant to us. These ranged from first impressions, to early conflict, and to how that conflict evolved and was reconciled. No one cried, but many things were said that I won’t soon forget. We got to talk about all the successes that this trip has included. We rode 3,000 miles, we raised $32,000, we didn’t die, and we don’t hate each other. WOW. So many reasons to celebrate.
The only downside to having this sacred time was that it was getting late, and we still had to clean out the van. So from 11:30 PM to 1:00 AM we gutted, vacuumed, organized, and re-filled the van.
Most of us didn’t fall asleep until 2 AM, and our wake-up call was 5 AM.
So it was with three hours of sleep that we clipped in and headed down the hill to New York City. We had to head out early because we were meeting up with Cubby Graham, a Charity: water employee, and Simon Reinert, a NY based filmmaker, about 20 miles outside of the city to complete our final leg with us.
We rode quickly with much anticipation. The road was smooth and downhill, which put us way ahead of schedule. But then, we heard the most dreadful sound that none of us wanted to hear at that time. It was the sound of air flooding out of Andrew’s back tire.
But it was okay! We were close to the park where we were planning to meet Cubby and Andrew, and Krista was there in a minute to bring Andrew the pump.
Soon, we were back on the road, and before we knew it we saw Cubby and Simon waiting for us. We met them with excitement, because they had ridden 8 miles already on their fixed gears to come meet with us. Cubby told us he had never ridden more than 5 miles, but he was making the journey for us!
Then we got the call.
The van wouldn’t start.
So Jordan and I rode back down the hill to see what the matter was with the van batter, but by the time we got there, Krista had figured it out and got the van running.
Another close call, but it ended well, and we could still keep moving towards NYC- just 17 miles away.
So our final leg of our ride began with Simon and Cubby on their fixed gears heading on out of New Jersey.
Then it happened.
Cubby’s pedal fell off his bike.
Cubby can’t pedal without a pedal! And we could not get that dang pedal back in to last very long before it fell out again. So, we called Krista one last time. She came back and picked up Cubby to drive him on to Battery Park- our finish line.
We were so antsy, but all these delays were okay, because we knew we were going to make it. It’s June 26th, and this is the day we ride into NYC and finish our bike ride across America.
On we pedaled into the city, and across the busy bridge that took us to New York State. We yelled and pointed with joy when we saw the skyline of the city. The Empire State and Freedom tower clearly showing us how close we were to our goal.
We finally arrived at the ferry that would take us to Manhattan. We stopped for a quick photo-op (insta-op) and boarded the ferry. The ferry crashed over the waves and we worried our bikes would topple over on top of each other, but they never did. The city drew closer and closer, and the buildings grew taller and taller. The freedom tower was the most welcoming site, as we pulled into the dock that was in the tower’s shadow. We rode our bikes along the water to battery park, where our friend Misha was waiting to welcome us! Her album, Weight of Glory, was released just last week, and she brought us all a copy as a congratulations gift! What a welcome. Cubby and Krista found us as well and celebrated with us.
We decided to ride over the Charity: water office and see the office that has brought over 3 Million people clean water. They usually don’t give tours, but everyone in the office was excited to meet us in person, instead of just on Instagram. They were excited about our campaign, the feat we had just accomplished, and the generous donations our campaign has accrued. We got to walk around an office that is changing the world. We met people who are behind the scenes of the world’s largest clean water provider. Surreal. Also, it was at the charity:water office where Chris Chandler found us! He was one of our hosts in Chicago, and he flew out to NYC to celebrate with us! Sadly, the next order of business was to take Krista to the airport, because of her teaching job in China that starts in a couple days.
That night, Cubby, Simon, and Stacie (our Charity: water rep, who worked with us the whole time) took us out to dinner at the meatball shop. We enjoyed a delicious meal in a lively atmosphere. It was a great time in the city, and we enjoyed getting to know these native New Yorkers a little more.
And thus concluded the end of our ride from Annecortes, WA to New York, NY. Day 48 was done, June 26th had come and gone, and we fell asleep in Queens, NY at Jordan’s Uncle’s house.
Looking back on the trip, it already feels like a dream. It was so different from any type of normal lifestyle, that once any trace of normalcy returned, the feeling of being on the ride deserted us. But I don’t want to forget what it was like. I don’t want to forget all the lessons I learned and people I met. I don’t want to forget the ex-Las Vegas cop and his mother who opened their home and cooked for us on our second night of the trip. I don’t want forget the countless churches that left the door unlocked for a group of seven strangers to come sleep in their basement. I don’t want to forget the lady in Montana who asked us if we needed help on the side around, and then offered up her home for us to sleep in. I can’t forget the pastor with a family of 9 who invited six more people in his home to spend the night on a Saturday night-the night before church. I’ll never forget the older couple who lived in the woods of Washington and made us a huge dinner and breakfast, and told us all about their lives, their ministry, and their traditions. How could I forget the day we were riding through Montana and got invited to a wedding reception where we had a free meal, celebration, and got to play a few songs for them while the bride and groom (and everyone else) danced? How could I forget Tom and his family who housed us two nights in a row after some of the worst days of riding we had to endure? How could I forget the strangers we met in gas stations, coffee shops, and restaurants who asked us about our story, and then ended up donating right on the spot? How could I forget Jim, who cooked for us, let us do laundry, and take a hot shower after a spending all day in the freezing rain and being unsure if we had a place to sleep? How could I forget the hospitality of the Pritchett family in Minnesota who took us out to eat, threw parties for us, and worked hard all weekend long to give us a good rest. Or the Piering family in Wisconsin who worked so hard to set up a huge fundraiser in their backyard, and worked so hard to house us all comfortably, and then cried when we left? I can’t forget the hospitality of the Borsts’ and the Chandlers in Chicago as they fed us, housed, us, and showed us around that beautiful city. I can’t forget Kendall, Lisie, Ally, or Lauren and how they supported us in Wisconsin, and then how excited they were to ride with us as we left Chicago. I can’t forget Whitney and how her family welcomed us in Indiana- the day after she arrived back in the US, and then how she drove three hours a few days later to go to Cedar Point with us. I can’t forget the countless homestays we had where people did their very best to make us as comfortable as possible for the twelve hours we would spend there. I never did forget when Jim told us in Washington that this trip would change the way we see people. He said we would really be able to trust people and see just how many good people there are out there. And Jim was absolutely correct. I still consider it a miracle that someone opened the door for us every single night, even though they had no idea who we were until we called them the day of.
As much as I am driven to forget the wind, rain, cold, heat, humidity, elevation, hunger, and physical pains, I don’t want to. I don’t want to forget the sacrifice we made and the cost of adventure and growth. I don’t want to forget how unbelievably comfortable my life is, because of all those who will never know such a basic human need as clean water. I don’t want to forget the days when I asked myself “Why the heck am I doing this to myself?” while continuing to pedal and pedal. I don’t want to forget all the times I prayed for strength through discouragement, because the fact that I am sitting here in a Starbucks next to the World Trade Center is a testament that God answered those prayers. God answered our daily pre-ride prayer to keep us safe. God hears us when we pray, and prayer makes a difference.
I don’t want to forget how hard we worked and the incredible fruit it has produced. Right now, seven college student’s lives have been changed, 300 people have given to this campaign and developed a passion for those without water, and over 1,500 people in Tigray, Ethiopia will gain access to clean water… all because of the Ride for Water. Fifteen hundred people will have the chance to go to school and live their lives instead of retrieving water all day. They won’t have to drink water that gives them deadly diseases. I don’t want to forget anything about what went into making that happen.
Thank you for your support throughout this campaign. Thank you for tracking us on the map, for calling us to see how we are doing, for donating, for looking at our pictures and reading our blogs. Thank you for buying shirts, offering advice, shooting encouraging texts, and for praying for us.
Thanks Mom and Dad for always figuring out how to make my dreams come true.
If you work hard and put in the time, you will get there.
And you will inspire others to get there too.
Ride for Water
Notes to my teammates that you can read if you so desire:
You killed it. I can’t imagine being in your shoes, being one girl with 6 guys, and being the only non-rider. You worked so hard the last 48 days to serve us by calling churches, driving, cheering us up, cooking, giving back massages, and so much more. Oh and composing an entire album on your computer throughout the whole trip. You were a trooper, and you persevered until the end. You persevered across the whole country putting up with us, and I think that is a testament to your strength and what you are capable of. Now, you are in China, I hope you get some rest there J
What would this campaign have been if we couldn’t tell EVERYONE to go to rideforwater.com for the last six months? We were proud to say that to everyone because we knew that your web design skills would impress them so much and they would see that we were official and we meant business. What would the campaign have been without your pictures and ideas? How would we have navigated the last half of the trip without you leading us on your phone? You held so many vital roles to this trip, that really held together the entire operation.
Just like Krista, you killed it. You stuck with it through a lot of adversity. A lot more than the rest of us had. You had a lot of pain in your knee, and yet you still rode into NYC with us. It was encouraging to be around your fresh energy, and your jokes make me laugh sometimes.. You hosted us for an incredible break at your home, and you kept us moving towards our goal when we really needed to. Thank you for all these ways you made this trip better.
Thank you for always cheering me up when you could tell that I just didn’t want to talk to anyone. You make me feel like a pouty little kid when you just work so hard to get me out of a quiet bad mood, but I am grateful for it because you are good at it. Thank you for listening to so much Beyonce and Dream girls and for belting it out. Thank you for making me laugh so hard all the time. Thanks for staying light hearted through all of the MISERABLE times. Thank you for being one of my best friends.
You were our leader Andrew, and as much as you didn’t want to be, you still did it. You taught me so much about servant leadership, and how to love people. You work so dang hard, and you never stop until the job is done. You know what needs to be done and you are willing to make the sacrifice to do it. You inspire me to do the same. You always helped when someone else had bike troubles. You were the most present and consistent member of our team. You lived in every moment and embraced whatever was going on so wholeheartedly. You got to know everyone we stayed with the best, and you enjoyed every lengthy conversation you had with them. I commend you my friend.
Your letter is going to be half as long as everyone else’s. Just kidding. Chase you set the tone for this trip, and it continued even after you left. You worked hard with excellence to do everything right, and to teach the rest of us how to do the same. You served as an excellent representative of our group, fighting to get us hot meals, to cook for us, and to completely engage and connect with every member of the team. Thank you for your concern with our safety, and how highly you valued that. My parents probably thank you for that as well. Thank you for taking us to your home and for showing us an incredible time there.