Day 7 -- (98 miles, 605 so far)

Today, I am delighted to say, was a lovely day for a bike ride. Some way, somehow many of my aches and pains checked out for the day, allowing me to fully enjoy the beautiful Wisconsin scenery. It helped that the vast majority of today's ride took place on gorgeous state trails.

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We even gallivanted through some old railway tunnels that had been blasted straight through moutains. They were super creepy and fantastic -- there were no lights and as soon as you'd gotten a hundred yards into the tunnel it was pitch-black without the aid of a flashlight. Also, although it was a sunny, temperate day, inside the tunnels it was raining. I was kind of disturbed by this phenomenon as we were emerging from one of the three tunnels on our route, and commented something along the lines of "at least there aren't bats" at which moment The Sherpa decided to assure me that there most certainly were.

The Sherpa and I fancied ourselves photographers as we explored these caverns, and here  are some of our attempts:

 "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here..."

"Abandon all hope, ye who enter here..."

 White crystal walls, cool rough ceilings.

White crystal walls, cool rough ceilings.

 One of the more creepy vistas

One of the more creepy vistas

 Walk toward the light!

Walk toward the light!

We couldn't quite manage to capture the immensity or depth of these tunnels on iPhone cameras, but let it not be said that we didn't try!

As we emerged from the final railway tunnel (this was the longest one -- it lasted three quarters of a mile) we encountered a man who identified himself as "Tunnel Tom," a retired furniture-maker who spends a lot of time in the tunnels.  While chatting Tom up, the Sherpa snapped a pic in front of the great double doors at the beginning of the tunnel, so here I am at what very much appears to be the gates of Hogwarts. 

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Unfortunately not everyone we encountered on our trek through the tunnels was in any shape to take photos for us -- right at the mouth of one of the tunnels, we came upon a woman who had taken a rather nasty fall. We of course stopped to try and help her daughter get the unfortunate lady out of the road, and were finally able to make use of our slightly nerdy and yet infinitely useful supply of stuff strapped to the back of our bikes by sharing our first aid kit. 

We also came upon a biker couple that had even more stuff strapped to their bikes than we do -- they were from Kansas and had traveled through Iowa and along the Mississippi all the way to their turnaround here in Wisconsin. He is a professor at a liberal arts college, and it was pretty cool to meet them and discover that crazy hair-brained bike tour schemes like ours aren't so weird as I had thought. 

All in all, it has been an incredibly encouraging day that reminded me that I actually do really like riding my bike :)  

I think we're going to make it!!! 

Thank you for reading and being fantastic, 

 

Bethany

 

P.S. Yellow Car stands at 60-59 with The Sherpa in the lead. Yes, yes, I need to get my act together, but I did improve my tie-breaker by one today. There was a dark moment today when The Sherpa claimed THREE Yellow Cars in a row and my prospects were quite bleak but I eventually recovered, and fully intend to take the lead again!!

 

Day Six -- (101 miles today, 507 so far)

Today I am grateful, and that's why I survived. You see, after a day of pampering in Oconomowoc, neither my mind nor my body was in any mood to touch my bike again. However, it was time to get back on the road so The Sherpa and I set out at 7:45 this morning.

We had only traveled about 19 miles when I was officially done. I was sore, stiff, and heartily sick of pushing myself. Nothing in The Sherpa's extensive Motivational Arsenal was working, so he called in reinforcements: Mom. One blubbery phone call later, I had some new strategies and encouragement to get me through. First: take every mile as just that, one mile. Thinking about the total distance or the fact that I had some ten hours left on the bike for the day could only shut me down. Second, she suggested that I take into consideration that this bike ride isn't just for me anymore -- it's given other people hope and therefore it's not senseless pain. She told me I might find some comfort in the melodramatic (as my theatrical personality usually does) by dedicating each mile to a person: this mile is for Aunt Cheryl, for being a saint. This mile is for Aunt Chris, for her perseverance and warmth that I one day hope to emulate. This mile is for The Sherpa, for being The Sherpa. This one is for my little sister Zoe, for being endlessly entertaining and sassy. This one is for my littlest fan Henry Jones, for being the most suave little devil I've ever met.

 The beautiful boy, Hank, at our send off last Saturday.

The beautiful boy, Hank, at our send off last Saturday.

I went through many, many miles in this manner, and if your name is not mentioned in here, I'm pretty sure I can guarantee it was mentioned in my head at one point. I intend to continue this strategy tomorrow, because I've been lucky enough to be blessed with many, many wonderful people in my life and generous supporters on my journey. 

I'm ever so grateful to each and every one of you -- I would have named you off one by one but I'm afraid my blog post would exceed the verbal limits (and my readership would become ridiculously bored). 

Regardless, this method of passing the time served to both speed up the clock and put me in a much improved mood. 

After this, I was further encouraged when dad and I were trundling along and happened to pass two little girls and their lemonade stand. They were set up on a road directly branching off a highway, and as such had enjoyed very little traffic through their little business. However, they started jumping up and down and waving their arms wildly when they saw us pedaling towards them, and excitedly told us that for bikes lemonade was free, of course it was free! We made a little donation to their enterprise anyway, but it was so sweet how they got so excited to give us free lemonade. I'm pretty sure I'm going to make it standard practice to stop at any and all lemonade stands in the future. They're very important. 

Now, I must go to bed so I can hopefully extend this good mood into tomorrow's ride!  

Thank you for reading, and all that you do,

 

Bethany

 

P.S. Yellow Car stands at 54-54, but unfortunately The Sherpa is winning because he has more Bugs than me (+3 on our tiebreaker) and yes I stooped to the level of Hummers (falling to +1) However, my gift car was deemed acceptable and so I am pleased. I fully expect a crushing victory on my part tomorrow, stay tuned!

 

Day Five -- Rest Day!

I woke up this morning at six thirty for some odd reason and went out on the dock to watch this:

 Here Comes the Sun at Silver Lake

Here Comes the Sun at Silver Lake

Then I went back to bed. And the rest of the day has pretty much followed along those lines.

Lying around feels SO AMAZING. It also helps that my grandparents slaved away before we arrived to fill the house with unbelievable amounts of food including an entire roast chicken with stuffing. After four days of sweating and blisters and sunburn I feel like a princess! Actually, I haven't done anything particularly princess-like all day unless dancing to Frank Sinatra in the kitchen counts. (And that was after I sampled pretty much every single food item I found in the fridge, because why not?)

Anyway, besides the great tenderness towards the food and the delight at the fact that I was allowed to sleep all day, I feel much the same as I did last night -- and I'd like to say that after the struggle of yesterday on the road, I felt encouraged. The responses I keep getting are just awesome, and I will be ready to get back on the road tomorrow. You can all be assured that I will continue to "work that fanny"! You guys are the best!

While I was gloriously lazing around, my dad decided he needed to bike to town to correct a small difficulty we have encountered in our travels. You see, over the past few days my dad has been using and encouraging me to use some Burt's Bees concoction when our lips get chapped from the sun and wind. I was feverishly putting some on yesterday and wondering why on earth my lips have been feeling so weird when I took the time to look at the container. It was not, in fact, lip balm but some sort of hand lotion that you really aren't supposed to put on your face. Ever. It was really astonishing how quickly my lips deflated to normal size once I started using actual Chapstick. 

I was amused and impressed when dad decided it was time for him to go to town (though I was most definitely excited about having a normal face again) because I had absolutely no intentions of abusing my rest day with biking. He didn't seem to mind, and I came to the realization that on this journey, dad is "The Sherpa." I am the over priveleged white guy who can barely struggle up the mountain, and he carries the heavy stuff and scampers along no problem. Hence, he is now The Sherpa for the rest of this trip, and will be referenced as such. 

Now -- unfortunately I have a very pressing arrangement this evening, and it is watching "Risky Business" with The Sherpa because he made some reference on the bike a few days ago and I didn't get it -- so I will say goodnight!  

Thank you for reading, 

 

Bethany

 

P.S. A good family friend of ours (the father of my littlest fan, Henry) texted me a picture of a Yellow Car, and The Sherpa and I are currently engaged in hot debate as to whether or not I get to count it. The official Yellow Car Roster will be posted tomorrow with the result!  

P.P.S. Special bonus - today I am Pippin!

 

Day Four (82 miles, 406 so far)

 Holy cow! I rode my bike all the way to Wisconsin

Holy cow! I rode my bike all the way to Wisconsin

My post yesterday was lame due to exhaustion, so I shall attempt to make it up from the safety of beautiful Oconomowoc tonight. First, a little chronology:

Yesterday: 

We woke up early to tour Valparaiso, and met with our sweet and accommodating tour guide Hannah who showed us all things English, music, and travel (just how I like it). I also love the chapel on campus -- "chapel" hardly does it justice but the building and the atmosphere are fantastic. I will definitely be applying to both Butler and Valpo!

At about 9:30, we began our trek to the University of Chicago. A few hours later, I had my very first up-close-and-personal encounter with the south side of Chicago. Here I learned that dressers, dead cats, and cucumbers are acceptable and appreciated forms of littering -- they are in fact highly encouraged. I also learned that the best place to throw (and ultimately shatter) beer bottles is definitely in the six-inch wide bike lane. My favorite part about the south side of Chicago (besides all the sagelike wisdom of course) is the 70 year old homeless man who recommended that I "work that fanny girl". That could quite possibly be the greatest thing anyone has said to me ever. 

When we emerged from the south side we quickly arrived at the University of Chicago. Unfortunately, we were an hour late for our appointment due to outrageous headwinds, but the staff was super nice and they talked to us anyway. I think maybe I'll just make biking to see people my standard practice -- everyone is always so nice when you casually drop, "Yeah, I rode my bike here to see you," into the conversation! 😉

The University of Chicago seems like a fantastic place to be a wild and untamable English major, and I will definitely be applying there as well!

 With Amy at her "cupcake rescue" in Lake Forest

With Amy at her "cupcake rescue" in Lake Forest

After the second college visit of the day, we pressed on along the Lakeshore Trail in Chicago with beautiful views of both Lake Michigan and the cityscape. We stayed on the trail for about twenty miles and then continued on out of Chicago into the network of suburbs (Evanston, Winnetka, Glencoe, Highland Park...) At this point I was getting rather worn out and so entertained myself with shameless commentary to my dad about the veritable behemoths housing Chicago bigwigs. Then, my aunt Amy called and asked to meet up with us at a McDonald's en route to cheer us on and provide us with cupcakes. We loved seeing her (and the cupcakes) and were incredibly encouraged by her kindness -- and the food.

 Vive les Cupcakes!

Vive les Cupcakes!

Unfortunately, due to headwinds, we were not making good time. We were stuck going 12 or 13 mph instead of the usual 15 or 16 we can manage on longer rides. This added time meant we were out until after 10:30pm, exhausted and frustrated and sore. Our gracious hosts for the night, the Syversons, kept in close contact and offered to bring us snacks, come pick us up, anything. Finally, five miles from their home we just hit rock bottom and surrendered. The Syversons picked us up, brought us to their house, and provided us with chocolate milk, spaghetti, and lodgings. In the morning, they brought us back to the exact point where we had called it quits the night before and we set off again. 

Today: 

 With John Syverson before departing today.

With John Syverson before departing today.

Today was difficult because it was day four and that meant some discomfort and pain. Again, we had headwinds -- 10 mph, which was actually a significant improvement from the past few days. However, my dad and I are both exhausted. I spent much of the day battling fatigue, stiffness, soreness, discomfort, and some strain on my mental game. I just really, really didn't want to do today. 

But here's the thing -- the more I've thought about it, the more I've come to terms with it. This thing we're doing -- it's hard. I've done centuries before and they weren't too bad, but these are consecutive centuries. And what's more, they're HARD centuries. The wind has been unspeakably wicked this whole trip, not to mention freak rainstorms full of thunder and lightning that disappear as quickly as they came and an unbelievable amount of construction on the planned route. It seems as if pretty much everything nature can throw at us it has, and I've found myself desperately wondering if there wasn't some reason that this thing has been so freaking hard. 

Finally, I have some ideas. I think that this whole time I've been trying to make this ride work for ME -- stop whenever I'm feeling uncomfortable, work really hard to make sure the ride is pain-free. But every time I touch my phone or glance at Facebook, I see all these amazing people saying all these amazing things, and I'm so encouraged and so ready to jump back on the bike. I have the tools and I have the support -- what I think I need is just to accept that this ride is going to be painful at times, and that that is part of the journey. It's been hard, harder even than I expected, but that's okay. I fully intend to finish this ride, because I think that is what I need to do. 

Today we had to stop 8 miles early because both darkness and a sudden, violent storm flew in, forcing us to take shelter in a nearby garage. Kurt, the owner of said garage, came out and talked to us, offering us a ride to Oconomowoc because the lightning storm was showing no signs of letting up anytime soon. He would be another example of a random Good Samaritan we have encountered on this trip, because along with the insane weather we meet some pretty cool people.  

 A frozen concoction that helps me hang on!

A frozen concoction that helps me hang on!

Tomorrow is a rest day, and I have already settled into relaxation mode via this ice cream masterpiece and a long phone conversation with my dear mother.  

More updates to come, thank you all for your wonderful support. You guys keep me going.

 

Bethany

 

PS - Yellow car now stands at 49 for Dad and 48 for me. We were actually tied, but my last car was a Hummer, bringing my tiebreaker to +2, then Dad got a yellow bug, putting him back on top with his tiebreaker at +2 as well! Unbelievable. 

 

 

 

 

Day Three (108 miles, 324 so far)

 The Chicago skyline in the background as we followed the Lake Shore Trail

The Chicago skyline in the background as we followed the Lake Shore Trail

Today took us from Valpo through the  University of Chicago and all the way to my dad's good friend John Syverson's house. Unfortunately, like yesterday, today was no walk in the park. Three centuries in three days has been something of a challenge, and today has been about as difficult as one might expect three consecutive centuries to be, but the support of all you followers has been unbelievable. I've seen so many of your prayers and encouragement on Facebook and my blog, and it helps me so much. 

We made it within five miles of our final destination tonight and I just had nothing left, couldn't push the last five miles. We called the Syversons who very kindly came to pick us up, and brought us to their lovely home. At the moment we are sitting around the dining room table eating garlic bread at midnight, but dad and I intend to head back to the place we had to call it quits tonight and begin again, so we shan't skip out on any mileage! 

Now I know it's a short post tonight, but I have to get some sleep.

Thank you so much for all you do, 

Bethany

 

PS - Yellow Car: Dad 40 (+1 tiebreaker), Bethany 38 (+3) I'm totally closing the gap! 

PPS - This is Dan, Bethany's Dad. Bethany was exhausted and has turned in for the evening, but she asked me to add a photo, so I did, but as we wait for her to apply her unique voice to today's adventures when she has a bit more time, I want to share a moment from today that she probably won't tell:

Tonight as we approached 10 pm, in complete darkness with one surviving headlight between us, I suggested that we should take John up on the offer of a rescue. Although she was in significant physical pain, Bethany choked back tears and said, "I just don't want to ruin Bethanywhere."

At first I couldn't understand, but I believe that Bethany is making this story as a gift -- to other kids trying to overcome their own difficulties, to her family and her friends. She's writing it for you and she wants it to be authentic, so to give in, even a little, cost her something. She insists that we start tomorrow exactly where we left off, so she'll be pedaling every last inch of the journey, not for the sake of the miles, but for the sake of the story.

My Dad (Bethany's Grandpa) posted a couple of lines from a song from Man of La Mancha this morning, "To try when your arms are too weary, to reach the unreachable star." I'm certain that Bethany will keep trying, and reaching: Her impossible dream is bigger than the miles she's riding; it's the story she's writing.

Day Two (116 miles, 216 so far)

Today was hard. Our obstacles were (including but not limited to): malicious, evil and possibly Satanic headwinds, unexpected gravel roads, sudden and violent rainstorms, massive hills, forced circumnavigation of a hookie-playing bridge that was missing the road part (photo attached), and shoulder pain.

 Bridge out. Not acceptable at mile 95.

Bridge out. Not acceptable at mile 95.

I struggled today, and I think one could safely say that today was the day that I realized the enormity of what I'm trying to do.  However, today wasn't all sadness and adversity; there were several bright spots.  This morning Dear Aunt Nelle forsook her church greeter responsibilities in order to join us for breakfast. Actually, she did make it in time to greet some folks at the service, and commented by email that, "They all know we are glad they came to church." She is so great!

 Aunt Nelle the magnificent

Aunt Nelle the magnificent

While Aunt Nelle was fulfilling her role as the social hub of Wesley Manor -- and therefore introducing us to every person in the room -- I proceeded to order every single item on the menu.  Nothing makes me happier than knowing that I've eaten ten pounds worth of food.  While working through this mountain, dad's high school friend Kathryn Henderson and her whole family stopped by to give us best wishes, hugs and a card containing a donation for the Arthritis National Research Foundation. The Hendersons had barely left when Melissa McCurley walked in decked out in cycling gear with her husband John, and introduced herself as a fan of Bethanywhere who hoped to ride with us for a bit today. John couldn't ride because he had to work, but I was of course thrilled to have more company on the ride. We said goodbye to Aunt Nelle, and departed for the hilly section of the ride.

 Melissa the brave

Melissa the brave

Although I complain about hills (and these weren't anything to laugh about, not with my panniers giving me a twenty pound derrière) the first part of our ride was lovely. I really enjoyed getting to know Melissa, and learning about the well loved and pampered lab rats where she works at Purdue. Even the views were nice; perhaps Indiana is growing on me -- still in love with Michigan, but Indiana will do.

 A field of Sunflowers

A field of Sunflowers

We stopped for lunch in Monticello, and unfortunately several things started to go downhill from there, and not the good kind of downhill!  First, this super weird storm just kind of appeared from out of nowhere and started pelting us with rain. We were of course stuck in the middle of corn fields, and there was nowhere to hide. By the time we reached a farmhouse and sort of creepily pulled up to it, the rain was already beginning to subside. Unfortunately, what did not subside was the nine thousand mile-per-hour winds. Standing still, those winds were capable of knocking me over; riding into them, they were capable of inflicting severe misery. (Winds not pictured -- I was too busy dragging my seven ton body and bicycle through their invisible tyranny.)

But of course, by the time we reached our turn off from the Aisle of Pain, it was only to discover that there was in fact no road, only loosely packed gravel in every direction.

 Absence of asphalt

Absence of asphalt

We endured a mile of this, with the ever present nine thousand mile-per-hour crosswinds, only to turn back into the headwinds when the tarmac finally reappeared. In the midst of this, at approximately mile eighty-two, my shoulder decided that it had had enough of this nonsense and would no longer be participating in the ride. However, the rest of me, having a bit over thirty miles yet to go, pressed on. The shoulder continued its loud and painful rebellion for a few miles, until finally it lapsed into sullen numbness. Other than the detour caused by the aforementioned bridge, we were able to continue on towards our destination.

Dad, Melissa and I (and the shoulder, contrary to its wishes)  arrived at Valparaiso University more than two hours later than planned, Melissa having unaccountably stayed with us through all of this silliness, and we were met by her longsuffering husband John who gathered her up to drive her home to Lafayette.

 Melissa and John 115 miles and uncountable hours later.

Melissa and John 115 miles and uncountable hours later.

It was a rough day, hopefully one of the hardest on the trip. There were a lot of points where quitting sure seemed like a pleasant option, but we made it. We didn't fall behind on the schedule, and we arrived in time to see this rather encouraging sunset behind the chapel.

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Thanks for reading,

 

Bethany

 

PS - Yellow Car now stands at 25-19, with Dad enjoying a nice lead.  I still have a +2 tiebreaker advantage, however, and expect good things tomorrow!

Day One (100.3 miles)

Nature sent us off today in a fantastically torrential rain storm -- but several dear friends and family came out anyway to cheer us on and ride out with us for a ways. It was so wonderful to see these great people at Benjamin's coffeehouse this morning, and it meant so much to see everyone there. 

 There were about 20 brave souls at Benjamin's for the send off. (A few escaped the photo...)

There were about 20 brave souls at Benjamin's for the send off. (A few escaped the photo...)

After the wrath of the winds had died down (it only lasted the first fifteen minutes of the ride) the sun came out and suddenly it was a beautiful day. I spent the first half of the ride in a happy daze because of all the amazing support I've received, and soon enough we were in Indianapolis. 

Actually I take that back -- I spent MOST of the ride to Indy in a daze. However, dad and I have decided that an epic bike ride must be accompanied by an epic tournament of Yellow Car...which means constant vigilance. I described this particular tradition in a previous blog post, but for those of you new to the blog, suffice it to say that "Yellow Car" is a cutthroat game involving spotting and screaming about yellow cars. And that's about it. Anyway, we have set out a few ground rules for this epic game of Yellow Car: yellow cars can only be claimed while we are on bikes; yellow cars can only be claimed when we are together; yes, unfortunately, yellow Hummers are yellow cars, but they are lame yellow cars because they're terrible for the environment and so in the event of a tie Hummers are backwards tie breakers, whereas yellow minis, smartcars, and bugs are bonus tiebreakers because they're cool yellow cars. Every day I shall be updating the Yellow Car roster. Today, the results are 13:10 with dad in the lead but dad has two Hummers and I have a mini so I like to think that though I may be losing, at least I'm losing with honor instead of winning through the tears and mandatory gas masks of future generations...

Anyway, the first half of the ride was wonderful, bringing us through Franklin College:

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 And UIndy:

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We continued on towards Butler, but before we arrived adversity struck twice. First I had an unfortunate flat tire as we were crossing the 10th Street Bridge over the White River. As dad repaired it, I attempted to distract myself from the fact that every truck that crossed the bridge caused it to tremble by watching two little turtles on a log in the river who appeared to be passing the time by intently staring at each other. Then, after we crossed through the IMA gardens, we encountered a massive staircase leading up to Butler's campus. Now, with all the gear on our bikes, they each weigh around 50 pounds. This staircase had over 100 steps.

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So, dad decided to carry both bikes up. And so he did, one at a time, all the while wearing bike shoes that basically feel like backwards high heels when walking. My dad's pretty tough. 

After the epic climb, we toured Butler, and it definitely is beautiful! I love the school and was pleased to discover all of the study abroad and creative writing opportunities. Here I am hugging the mascot, Butler's famous bulldog.

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When we had biked through all of Indy, we headed out to Frankfort, where we are now. We got to spend a fantastic evening with Dad's Great Aunt Nelle, who is absolutely hilarious. She invited a few friends over and we played Quiddler and ate ice cream. She's about to turn 91 but that in no way affected her warm hospitality -- or her sense of humor. She told us that on her birthday one year, her first husband died. A year later on the same day, she remarried -- but "God had given her a year off for good behavior." 

I'm thankful for the success of Day One, but now it's time for me to turn in so I can be ready for Day Two!

Thanks for reading,

 

Bethany

 

 

UIndy News Features Bethanywhere

Charissa & Me at her graduation in May of 2014

Just a quick note to link a great article that UIndy posted today.  Hope to see many of you tomorrow at Benjamin's.  We'll try to be there by about 8am and leave by 9.  Remember that the first few miles will be at a kids' friendly pace - around the Courthouse, over to Franklin College, then via the Greenway Trail to Needham & Webb Elementary.  Feel free to bring bikes and ride along if you like!

Oh, another cool thing about the article is that it mentions so many people who have been a great part of this whole journey so far.  First, my dear big sister, Charissa, my roommate and best friend, who'll be attending UIndy starting next month.  Then my Aunt Becky, who graduated from UIndy both as an undergrad and as a Physical Therapist. (Coincidentally, Charissa's graduation gift was a trip to visit Aunt Becky in Seattle and she's there right now!)  Also my Great-Aunt Cheryl who has always been a huge support to me and has been so encouraging with this journey.  And finally, my Great-Grandpa, who was a trustee of UIndy for a couple of decades, and who lived his last several years at Wesley Manor in Frankfort, where I'll be stopping the first night of my ride.