Final Training Ride and a Few Ruminations (& an Invitation!)

Today is the last training ride before the long-awaited epic ride. Dad and I decided to make it a dress rehearsal for the actual ride, decking out our bikes in panniers and packing all the gear we’ll need to see what the added weight feels like. Basically the new gear gives you a 20 pound butt which is unfortunate on uphills but very nice on downhills. Overall, it’s very nice and I think Dad and I are going to make it, even while trucking all of our stuff!

However, today ended up being more than just a trial run, it was also an inspiration. So I’ve spent much of this summer trying to get closer to God, and I think that increasingly this bike ride is helping me to get there. I think bikes are good places to think, and also good places to pray. I frequently do that, even if it’s just begging God to please smite every car within a 10 mile radius because I’m tired of riding in the shoulder of the road. But more so than my own prayers, I want to thank all of you who have reached out with prayer for me on this crazy trip because it means so much to me. It seems like every day someone is telling me that they’re praying for me, and I think it’s working. Today one of our regular Thursday night riders, Julie, told me that she’s praying for our trip, and then we ended up having a conversation about how we both think that riding your bike is kind of its own form of worship. Then after supper, my dear Aunt Chris called to tell me that her entire Bible group is on call for prayers all of next week -- all I have to do is text.

I’d like to thank all of you, once again, for following my journey, donating to my cause, and providing unbelievable encouragement and strength through your prayers and your comments. In the past week my arthritis has been making its presence felt, and it’s people like you who help me get over it.

I can’t wait to start riding on Saturday, and I will be thinking of all of you when we take off! As a reminder - you're invited!  We plan to meet pretty close on 8am at Benjamin's Coffeehouse at 49 E Court St, Franklin, IN  46131, and we'll visit with whoever shows up and roll out a little before 9am.  We've engineered the first few miles to be local at a comfortable pace, so feel free to bring your bike and ride along!

Thanks for reading,

If you haven't yet considered a donation, please do - it makes a difference!  (The pink Donate button above and to the right!)


P.S. Today I got a bunch of cool stuff in the mail – Macalester College sent me a Macalester bike jersey (with a polite reminder to wear it the day I triumphantly reach the school) and the Arthritis National Research Foundation sent my whole family a giant box filled with CureArthritis gear. Here I am repping ANRF:

Cant’ wait to try this new stuff out on the ride!

The Route

This weekend I was lucky enough to head to Wisconsin to visit my grandparents’ lake home in Oconomowoc. It was fantastically beautiful up there, as you can see:

and I’m very excited to use it as one of the rest stops on my epic ride … which begins this coming weekend! My dad and I have been in fully fledged preparation mode this week, making last-minute emails and finalizing the route. 

Here is the plan thus far:

Saturday, July 26th: We’ll depart close to 8am from home and head the few blocks to our Courthouse Square and local Coffee Shop. We hope to see some friends there, so we may start the ride itself as late as 9am. 

Highlights of Day One: The first ten miles are a bit of a local tour, passing Franklin College (the first school on the jersey), using our local Greenway Trail to pass by my old elementary school, then doing a lap around Franklin Community High School (my current school), then heading north to Indianapolis. There we visit the University of Indianapolis (the second school on the jersey), which my older sister is about to attend this fall, then follow the Indianapolis Cultural Trail to the City Center, passing the State Capitol, and then heading up through Butler University (the third college on my jersey). Then we travel through the artsy community of Broad Ripple (most exciting part of the day of course, love the good bohemians) and pick up the Monon Trail through the rest of Indianapolis and Carmel. We then work our way up to the first stop, at Wesley Manor in Frankfort after about 102 miles. My great grandparents lived there until their deaths, and I still have memories of visiting the retirement home to listen to their stories and draw in their especially entertaining coloring books. At the home, I’ll be lucky enough to enjoy a reception hosted by my Great-Grand-Aunt, Nelle, who is 90 and still lives there.

Sunday, July 27th: Departing Wesley Manor/Frankfurt, and hoping to join up with a group of Lafayette area cyclists who have been following my blog, headed to Valparaiso University (Jersey college #4).

Highlights of Day Two: This day is pretty much rural Indiana, with a nice section along the Tippecanoe River in the middle. It’s a longish day, about 115 miles. In training I’ve done three 100+ mile days, but this will be the most miles I’ve done in a two-day period ever. This day will most likely involve a valiant struggle against boredom and some interesting conversations with dad. Maybe I’ll work on my singing. Sometime in the afternoon we will arrive for a visit at Valpo. For this day, sleeping arrangements have yet to be made but we’ll have it figured out soon.

Monday, July 28th: Departing Valpo and heading through Chicago.

Highlights of Day Three: This day we head west to Crown Point in order to pick up the Erie Lackawanna Trail which takes us through the rest of Indiana and into Chicagoland. About the halfway point of the day brings us to the University of Chicago (Jersey College #5), and from there it’s following the LakeShore Trail all the way through Chicago, passing all the great sites of the Skyline, Museums, etc. On the way through and out of Chicago, we pick up a couple of “bonus” colleges rolling through Loyola and Northwestern Universities, then we continue on along the Lake all the way to old Fort Sheridan, then west to Hawthorn Woods where an old friend will put us up for the night. This could well be the most challenging day for me; it’s 110 miles and my third consecutive 100 mile day. The bonuses are that the vast majority of the miles are on trails, and the midday stop at the University of Chicago can be extended if need be. Worst case scenario, we have lots of connections in Chicago from our days living in the Windy City so we can truncate the day if needed. 

Tuesday, July 29th: Departing northern Chicago suburbs to western Milwaukee suburbs. 

Highlights of Day Four: Assuming all is on track, we have an easier day of 82 miles and a possible rest day to look forward to at the aforementioned lakehouse with my grandparents. The path follows well-traveled cycling roads northwest toward McHenry where we pick up the Prairie Trail to the Wisconsin border. We do get to ride through the resort town of Lake Geneva (likely a lunch stop) and end at Oconomowoc. 

Wednesday, July 30th: Planned as a rest day, but available if we need to slow down the first half of the trip. By this time, we’ll have ridden close to 400 miles over 4 days, and ideally a full rest day will be in order. 

Thursday, July 31st: Mapping hasn’t been done yet, but the plan will be to go 100 miles through Madison, WI and a bit beyond. This will likely be a motel stay, and the route will be flexible based on how we’re doing. 

Friday, August 1st: The goal will be Lacrosse, WI. Again, probably a motel night and distance is flexible. 

Saturday, August 2nd: Cross the Mississippi and head to Rochester, MN where I’ll be staying with an old family friend who is President of Crossroads College, another bonus college visit.

Sunday, August 3rd: The goal will be to make it to Minneapolis and Macalester college. We’ll likely be staying with cousins who live in Minneapolis. 

Monday, August 4th: My official college visit at Macalester. We also have one day “in the bank” in that if I were to need to slow the second half of the trip we could delay the arrival to Monday, and do the visit Tuesday. 

Tuesday, August 5th: Return home in Mom’s van – she’ll be driving up to participate in the college visit and to bring us home. 

Wednesday, August 6th: First day of school for my senior year!

As we finalize the maps for the second half of the trip, I’ll detail them here on the blog. 

Sorry for the long post, but here is the route, in all its almost completely planned glory!!


Thanks for reading,




P.S. If you are interested in details, I'll post links to the daily route maps themselves in "The Route" page of this site.  Just head to the menu and look under "More," and dig in if you're interested.  Thanks!


Optimistic Bethany at 6:30am on RAIN day - ready to Ride!

This past Saturday was RAIN, the Ride Across Indiana.  160 miles, as they say, "One Way, One Day, All the way." First off, I’d like to thank all of you for your warm support and encouragement – I’m not going to lie:  It was freaking hard.  I decided I was ready to die at mile 120. Well, maybe not actually die, but I did become a diva at mile 120.  And again at 140.  But knowing I have all these great people behind me sure helped.

Adam, Julie, Tim, Me & Dad getting ready to start RAIN 2014

Adam, Julie, Tim, Me & Dad getting ready to start RAIN 2014

My mom, dad, and I got up at the ungodly hour of 4 in the morning and drove to the College of St. Mary of the Woods in West Terre Haute with our regular Thursday night ride buddies. We set out in fabulous Bethanywhere gear, and found ourselves in this giant pelaton of riders. I was a little terrified when I realized just how many bikes that thirteen hundred registered cyclists means. We rode along for awhile, met some people, appreciated all the clapping spectators. Some spectators weren’t so happy – one particularly classy toothless woman leaned out of her pickup truck and called us cyclists a few unfriendly words because we were using her very own personal highway, but we valiant RAIN riders paid her no heed.

Somewhere in Indiana... with a long way yet to go.

Michael, me and Dad at Lunch - 95 miles into the ride.

Michael, me and Dad at Lunch - 95 miles into the ride.

The ride was well supported and full of mostly great riders, but it sure was long. At one point we found ourselves trapped behind a group of riders with questionable ideas about which side of the road to ride on, and this was one of the most frustrating points of the ride. We engaged in a series of sprints in an attempt to escape the crowd, and enjoyed some success, but untimely stoplights forced us back into their midst. It was during this time that the rain came. Indeed it’s very ironic, rain on the RAIN ride. Anyway, we finally pulled aside and waited for the miscreants to pass, then continued on to lunch and the 95 mile mark. My good mother brought my little sister and our family friend Michael to meet us at this stop to thoughtfully present us with a container of ice and tell us we were pretty.

After this, we pressed on. By mile 120, I was really tired. And grumpy. I went into unpleasant mode at about this point, but dad remained patient and encouraging and we plowed on. We did stop and make good use of every single rest stop provided on the ride, but I found motivation to finish in dreaming of a chocolate milkshake and a shower. Finally, when we spotted the signs declaring, “Five miles left,” and then, “One mile left,” I discovered the energy that I had really needed the entire ride but had finally uncovered. I discovered that my legs – seconds ago demanding rest, fuel, and possibly complete removal – were capable of 23 miles an hour uphill. This nonsense lasted the final two miles and petered out abruptly when I crossed the finish line. Just under twelve hours elapsed time, just under ten of those on the bike, and 16.3 miles per hour as our moving average.  I was completely gone after that; the photographer had to ask me to stand with my bike for a picture by the finish line roughly 178923 times until it got through.

Dad & me after the ride.  Sweaty but happy.

It was a very triumphant moment, and I’m glad I had the opportunity to do RAIN. I’m not sure I have the guts to do it again next year, but 160 miles is also terrifyingly vivid at the moment so I will just ask myself again next week.  One thing I will say is that my confidence in my ability is much higher, and for that I'm grateful.  This week and next I have Band Camp all week, and I've had some numbness in my hands, probably from gloves a bit too tight and hand position - of course if you are on the bike for ten hours in one day, you do sort of run out of places to move your hands...  Anyway, I'll be working hard to finalize logistics, and as always love so much to hear from all of you with ideas, or just a little encouragement.

Thanks again for all your wonderful support,



A Forecast of RAIN

The RAIN (Ride Across INdiana) ride is this weekend, hence the horrible pun. After last weekend’s painful jaunt through 116 miles of hilly Martinsville countryside, I think I can do it. At four o’clock in the morning on Saturday we will be riding (in the car) with a few friends and fellow riders to the start, at the westernmost edge of the great state of Indiana. Because of this ridiculously early wakeup, I have been deprived of the opportunity to babysit my favorite little guy, good old Hank.

Henry trying Peanut Butter (good stuff!) for the first time a couple of weeks ago.

Henry trying Peanut Butter (good stuff!) for the first time a couple of weeks ago.

Needless to say, I hope the ride is worth it.

We’re doing our last pre-RAIN training ride tonight, the Thursday night CIBA ride. We fully expect to see each and every one of our regular riders with us at the RAIN ride, (all 160 miles of it) and will be gloriously clad in Bethanywhere getup.

Speaking of Bethanywhere getup, the jerseys are in! They look awesome and I will be sending them to all who ordered them. Thank you for your support!

I must make this post a brief one because I have to don my bike gear - thank you for reading! I will make a nicely detailed post describing the RAIN ride, and write much more soon!



A Little Bit of Symbolism

So I read books all the time, and sometimes this habit invades other parts of my life. I’m known to fall into observation mode, where I just stare off into the middle distance or, more frequently, end up staring rather intently and creepily at the people surrounding me. Not to brag or anything, but I’m getting pretty darn good at spotting internet-arranged blind dates. (Sometimes they’re wearing nifty little nametags declaring “Hello, my name is …”) I’m just kidding, but I would totally do that if I was going on a date with someone I’d met on the internet. It just makes sense. 

Anyway, two days ago Dad and I decided to go on our newest longest ride ever: 116 miles through the hilly Martinsville area. (We began with our local CIBA club ride, "The Cemetery Ride," that had us passing by 19 cemeteries in a 51 mile loop and ended with wonderful watermelon at the Courthouse Square gazebo.  Then we rode the loop again and finally continued on, "over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house," for a visit and pork chop feast provided by grandpa.)  

The Safety Briefing before the CIBA Cemetery Ride

I don’t measure vertical climbing in feet or miles or meters or whatever other units that the rest of the world that isn’t America uses – I measure climbing feet in Eiffel Towers. That ride was five Eiffel Towers, or darn near a mile up for those of you who prefer to use the more plebeian measurements.  It was horrible. Hills upon hills upon hills and when you were finally done with the hills, just kidding, look, more hills! And the biggest hill came as a surprise in the supposed denouement to the Grandparents, at mile 104. Thanks, Dad. I’m not very good at hills, so during one of those monstrosities I started looking at the struggle from a literary perspective.

Hills are so symbolic it’s crazy – riding a bike is like this giant metaphor for life. You’re just plodding along, and you see this hill in the distance. Sometimes hills look so big, so long and intimidating – but then they’re not so bad when you speed up approaching them and therefore give yourself enough momentum to get straight up. That’s kind of like seeing a looming challenge and being able to prepare yourself for it, and then it’s really not so bad after all. I think of these sorts of hills as the piano recitals: you hate them, you dread them, you worry about them, but in reality it’s not so hard as you’d thought. But those sorts of hills don’t seem to be the most common ones. Sometimes it’s just the opposite: you see a hill, you start climbing, and soon you discover that the hill is much longer than anticipated. Either it’s a steeper gradient than expected or there’s a tricky turn that leads to an extension of the hill, or sometimes it’s just a mirage that causes you to see a hill as shorter than it is. Those are nasty, because you get hit with a lot more pain than you were expecting. I think Junior year is a pretty good example of this. “I’ve got this. I’m smart. I can take three AP classes and two honors classes and do marching band and take piano lessons and work at the candle store, no sweat.” Nope.

But it’s not just one’s perception of hills – it’s the way they work that’s so symbolic. When you’re defying physics and dragging yourself and a bicycle up a hill, time slows down. Your bike is moving inches at time, every pedal stroke is a massive effort. No longer are you flying across terrain; you’re slowly, painfully, dragging yourself. Hard times are like that – they’re long, time slows down, it seems like you’re going nowhere. And the good times, (the nice flat bits) fly past. And even when you’re cresting a hill, there’s no immediate payout. Hills aren’t like the ones in cartoons, where they go straight up and then straight down. Sometimes, there is no downhill at all after a hill. It’s the same in life – there’s no lightbulb moment, no sudden instant when hard times are over and the economy is back on track and Barack Obama and John McCain have regular cookouts together on the White House lawn. There’s a recovery period, where you have to get your breath back and reach that crest, and then deal with whatever comes after. 

Maybe I’ve just been in the sun too long but I like to think everything has some crazy deep meaning somehow. And this, friends, is how I will deal with the somewhat pointless and yet weirdly important activity of biking up hills. 


Thanks for reading, 




PS - We crossed another huge milestone yesterday when I heard from another donor and learned that we've now together raised over $1000 for the National Arthritis Research Foundation.  Thank you all so much.

Leaving Paradise

Yesterday we rode one last time to the Village Baker (a Spring Lake/Grand Haven local legend famous for its unimpeachable pretzel bread and incomparable chocolate milk fresh from a nearby dairy). For the past few years we’ve made the annual summer trip to Michigan, we’ve discovered places that have become our particular haunts, and this bakery has become one of them. We rode a total of about 24 miles to Bakery and back from our campsite at Hoffmaster State Park. We suffered a few setbacks including a flat tire, a light drizzle flamboyantly defying the all knowing iPhone’s prediction of 0% chance rainfall, and a disturbing lack of pretzel bread at the Bakery.

Moonset over Lake Michigan - our last night.

However, we were still having a good time until we found ourselves stuck when Dad and Zoe had gotten ahead on their tandem at an intersection and Mom, Charissa, and I were stuck behind an elderly couple cruising along slowly in the most difficult maneuvering spot on the route. The man was riding a trike, and effectively blocking traffic. I decided it would be best to just coast along behind because forcing all three of our bicycles past them on this narrow path directly adjacent to a busy highway would be rude and dangerous. From this position, I looked at the trike and saw a positively medieval pair of leg braces stuffed into the back basket. I wondered how a man in need of such intimidating hardware would be able to pedal a bicycle, and decided it must be a motorized trike. They pulled over and let us pass, and we continued on until my back tire (as always) flatted and our entire entourage stopped. Eventually the couple reached us and stopped to ask if they could help. Because I had been behind him, I’d never actually seen the old man’s face. He just looked happy, happy to be on his bicycle (tricycle). They talked to us for a few minutes, commenting on the rebellious weather. It wasn’t really the conversation that struck me, but the way that man was so happy to be able to ride a bike, even though I doubt he could walk – at least not without constricting leg braces.

I’m lucky, I have a condition that can be controlled through the use of anti-inflammatory medication. I get to ride my bike, without a motor and without anyone’s help, and that’s a gift. I think of biking as 'improved running'—you get to go faster, and you get to spread out your energies over a greater distance. I may not be able to run because of arthritis, but I sure can ride my bike. And even if something were to happen to prevent me from completing my epic ride, I’d still have that gift, that I get to “run” and I get to enjoy the same type of happiness that man found in his trike. And that’s a blessing.


My sisters and I playing at the beach at sunset - Lake Michigan

In-Saddle Entertainment

One of my sister's photos... makes me want to go... anywhere!

As I’ve intimately described in past posts, Michigan is a fabulous place to ride a bicycle. On so many bike paths everything is so perfect, with a nicely angled view of Lake Michigan and every blade of grass arranged just so. It’s just like riding a bike in a movie, where filmmakers conveniently forget stoplights every ten feet, illiterate drivers, gravel, and an unwavering sun hell-bent on delivering sunstroke, sunburn, sun poisoning, and/or death. 

If Michigan is like riding a bicycle through a Hallmark classic, Indiana is more like riding through something by Quentin Tarantino. I’m being dramatic, but I know I’m going to feel the lack of the Lake Effect when we return home. 

And so, I have a couple of ideas to distract myself on the bike back home — mostly with music, of course. While we’ve been on vacation I haven’t felt the urge to put on music because I was comfortable in the climate and focused on the scenery. On pretty much all long rides in Franklin, one must inevitably follow a long road through cornfields — usually some sort of highway. When there’s no change in scenery, it doesn’t feel as if you’ve gone anywhere! I found that the 80-miler on Highway US 40 through Indiana was much harder on me than the century through scenic northern Michigan. There were many substantial hills on the Michigan route and the mileage was greater — but my ability to distract myself was much, much greater. I think it’s all part of the mental game, which is worse for me than the physical one. Anyway, I’m planning to use music to battle fatigue, discomfort, and even boredom on the bike. To do this, I need some new song suggestions! I will admit that OneDirection is my favorite for biking (and my dad’s - Dad says he's more about the 80's tunes, but you should see him dance on the bike when "You Don't Know You're Beautiful" comes on!), but anyway, my musical tastes are varied and I love new music in general. 

If you have any ideas, please comment! I’d love to try out any suggestions and I’ll probably be thinking of you when your song comes on :)

Other than that, you can also be sure that I’d love any ideas you may have for in-saddle entertainment. I will most definitely be involved in a cutthroat game of Yellow Car with dad, but I’m happy to try out any other ideas. 

Side Note: Yellow Car is an integral part of my life. My aunt and uncle and their children started playing this game a few years ago and now everyone in the Catlin family has taken it as our God-given mission to carry on the practice of this game and to initiate into the game anyone and everyone who is present in a moving vehicle with us at any time. The strict rules for the practice of Yellow Car are as follows: When you see a yellow car, you say, "Yellow car." Now you have a point. Congratulations. 

I’m kidding, there are actually very important strictures like: the car must not be a commercial vehicle; you cannot count the same car twice; two people cannot count the same car; motorcycles don’t count; taxis don’t count; gold cars don’t count; yellow VW Bugs count double; and if you’re that one kid who goes to my high school and has a yellow car, then your car counts double. Except that you can’t count a car you’re currently in. 

Now you, too, can play Yellow Car. :)

And on that note, I will post again soon! Thanks for reading, 




P.S. Also, I would like to take a quick moment to point out that my Amazon Wishlist is now online! You can access it here if you’d like. Many of you have already generously donated to the National Arthritis Foundation, and that is my #1 priority, so I thank you for that. I put this Wishlist on the site after a couple people asked if they could help me out on some of the funding for the trip itself. Much of the cost of gear and travel has been covered by my family and me, but I thought I might as list a few items I’m going to need on the trip so people could donate to the effort in that way if they so desired. Dad has a rack and set of panniers but I don't, and think I'll need them, and I only have two pair of bike shorts, and won't be able to do laundry every night so am hoping to get a third, and I put in a few other nice-to-have items. Thank you!

First Century!

Today I rode my bicycle 106 miles. And it wasn’t even that bad! We took a scenic route from Petoskey State Park along the Lake Michigan Coast (via M-119 and the “Tunnel of Trees”) to Mackinaw City and back. There were hills, many hills. (Dad says that the 3100 vertical feet of climb equal about 5 1/2 trips to the top of the Washington Monument or three times to the top of the Eiffel Tower, but who's counting?) Anyway, the pretty scenery and the ever-present lake made everything bearable — even the thousands and thousands of mosquitos. In all honesty the most problematic stiffness I’m dealing with at the moment is my hands, which are numb from the seven hours on the bike and not feeling particularly graceful. (In other words I blame any and all typos or errors on hand numbness.)

Bethany half way through the ride at the base of the Mackinaw Bridge in a swarm of Mosquitos!

During the ride Dad and I discussed various topics of debate in the media for the first half, and in the second, I put on my tunes and we just zoned out to that. In consequence, I really didn’t have any time to feel sorry for myself or count my aches and pains — maybe I’ll just ask fellow riders their opinion on abortion next time I’m on a long ride because, whatever said riders’ opinions are, they’re bound to be nice, long rants. 

There was one moment of near despair when Dad kept having chain skips on climbs and at mile 94 found a bent link, necessitating breaking and repairing the chain.  Took over a half hour and for a minute there I wondered if I'd have to leave him.  (Not really!  I wanted my century but not that bad.)

Thanks again to all for your encouragement, financial support, and of course generous compliments of my writing. I’m beginning to get a swollen head. 

Unfortunately, I shan’t be able to give you much more writing tonight because I am very tired, and (right after I dish out a very personal and individualized insult to each and every mosquito bite I have earned today) I must adjourn to bed! :)


Thanks again,




P.S. Here is a triumphant photo of Dad and me arriving back in Petoskey State Park (to a very enthusiastic crowd of admirers including my lovely mother and sisters) along with another shot of me after my ride - see the smile?

Our triumphant return to the campsite after 106 miles and my first Century!

I have to admit that I'm just a little bit pleased with myself!