By unanimous consent, the word for the day is “headwind!” There’s nothing like a stiff breeze to take the pleasure right out of a long downhill glide. For much of the day, we were hunkered down against the wind, when we wanted to have our heads up, enjoying the beautiful scenery. But wind and weather, sun and stone – it’s all part of the experience of spending most of the day on one’s bicycle.
We awoke to the smell of bacon, as Dave rustled up some bacon and eggs in the kitchen of the outreach center. We washed up, packed our bags and headed over to the church for Bible study. Pastor Ed explained that once a month (i.e. the Sunday we were there) the church has gone to a combined service at 10:15. So we decided to attend the 9 a.m. Bible study to meet some folks.
Our Bible study was a circle of about 20 members, all of whom clearly knew one another very well. The leader, Joe, asked for prayer concerns, and I introduced our group. Joe then engaged in a running meditation on what it means to have character as a Christian, what ways Jesus exhibited his character and how we can strive to be more like him. The examples were personal, deeply meaningful, and we were grateful to be invited in.
Hannah and Jesse joined the Sunday school classes, where Hannah talked about her trip and the children sent along some drawings and prayers. Turns out one of the Sunday school teachers was SO pleased, as she has been trying to get the congregation to work on sustainability issues for years. We felt embraced, loved and blessed as we headed out on our trip.
Then: SMACK! From the get-go we hit strong winds as we made the long, slow climbs up through Shade Gap to Cowan’s Gap State Park. For me, it was a special pleasure as I still have fond memories of this part of the trip from last year, the mill, the farms and the quiet country lanes (Ray was somehow able to keep up with his family while riding, and whenever we stopped). I also knew, from my experience, to plan for us to stop and picnic by the lake. It was hard to leave that lovely piece of paradise.
It was a long day of biking, but we made it. Bill Shank and his wife Sandy, members at Christ’s Reformed UCC in Hagerstown received us warmly, along with a few other members of the congregation and Tim, pastor at another UCC church in town. There’s nothing quite so delicious after a long ride as lasagna, fresh salad and fruit, all lovingly prepared. Christ’s Reformed recently bought an old factory building next door to the church and is in the process of transforming the space inside. We are staying in part of the homeless shelter, which is now closed for the season – the food, the showers and now actual cots are all very welcome pleasures tonight.
We reflect on the many blessings we have received on this trip: food, support, love, a good place to sleep, cell phones – and surprising drive-by visits by the executive director of PA IPL (who also happens to be Dave’s wife!).
Jon (and the gang)