Neil Tomba will be cycling across the United States where, along the way, he intends to engage in conversations about faith & Jesus with individuals from all walks of life. A book and documentary film will follow.
  • Day35

    Packing up

    June 29, 2019 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 82 °F

    Packing up

    We slept well past 7:30am this morning. Glenn got an invite to go down the street and have breakfast with Jeff and Wes, however that never really ever happened. Glenn said, "Come out here, and look at all the action".

    I went out to the side street and there were Neil, Jeff, Wes and a few others hovering over the carry-top. The Carry-top had been so faithful for all 33+ days until today. The guys were trying to get it unjammed! Ugh. Something had moved and the key latch was not working. Poor guys. I'm not sure and still don't know if Neil had already gone on his "morning shoot" of landmarks in Washington DC. What was important, to have the lid open so Jon could get all the camera equipment shipped out by the early afternoon. He needed it the UPS store by mid-afternoon.

    The guys tried everything. Then they thought if they would unbolt it and lift it down to the street level, maybe just shaking it would giggle it. Once they got the screws unbolted and unattached, it took 4 strong guys to lift it up and over. They tried shaking and gently slamming it on the ground. Nope. Not going to open.

    Finally, a technician from the hotel brought a drill gun and Neil as able to drill a hole in the top carry case. I couldn't handle all the drama, so I went upstairs back to the hotel room and took a quick power nap.

    At exactly 1pm, all the electronic equipment was loaded into the Nissan (except 1 piece) and all those folks traveling to Dallas Love Field, boarded into the van. We drove the 1 piece down to the UPS store and dropped it off, then followed several people's directions to get to Ronald Reagan International airport.

    At 2pm, we pulled into the "drop-off" lane and hugged the team good-bye. They were flying back to Dallas. We were driving back to Dallas. Someone asked what we were going to do and I said: "I think we will just look at each other!"

    We literally were parked on the curbside until 3:20pm when we drove away. We sat there. Glenn literally bawled like a baby. Our emotions were real. They were deep. We were exhausted. We were beyond exhaustion. We were drained. The whole #ConversationsCoasttoCoast event was physical and emotionally exhausting on us. And we're not young anymore. We are grateful for the extra strength the Lord gave us to endure it to the end. Unbelievable, no policeman came knocking to the van door asking us to move on.

    In summary:
    There are several things in my life that I count as life-changing. Besides my high-school mission trip to Mexico and Guatemala in 1972, my Moody Bible Institute college experiences and my 1977 Practical Missionary Training through Central America, this definitely has changed my life.

    We will be forever impacted by the generosity of friends that cheered us to the end.
    Grateful for the opportunity to leave Guatemala for a month.
    Grateful that Neil had faith in our ability to help with the #CC2C project.
    Grateful to see how easy it is to have "surprisingly easy to start conversations" with people.
    Grateful to see how God shows up with Divine appointments along the way.

    Total miles from Santa Monica Pier, California to Annapolis, Maryland -

    some where between 2535, 2795 and 2968
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  • Day34

    Day 33 Fredricksburg, VA - Annapolis, MD

    June 28, 2019 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 88 °F

    Day 33 Fredricksburg, VA - Annapolis, Maryland
    Miles 88
    Times we got lost on Friday afternoon in downtown DC - 2

    We made it! Day after day after day...These are just some of my memories....

    get up every morning as the sun rose
    have the van ready and cleaned out
    rally around the cyclists
    say a small word of prayer
    cheer them on
    stop and refill the bottles
    buy more new ice and more cases of bottled water,
    refill their drinking bottles
    watch God surprise us with "easy to start conversations"
    take a quick picture with my iPhone and send a text message to Kris asking for prayer
    look for a gas station so we could use the rest-room
    follow behind the cyclists so no one would run into them
    pull the van over in the shade so the cyclists could sit in the airconditioned vehicle and enjoy some COOL air
    open up the "junk drawer" and creatively make a posting for each day on the white-board
    answer, "Hey Glenn, where is my... (you fill in the blank)?
    try to survive each day with little sleep
    be encouraged by our friends who showed up along the route to cheer us on - Thanks Pam and Gary in California, Rebeca in Oklahoma, Jack and Val in Oklahoma, Virginia and Evie in Kansas and Jonathan in Kentucky!
    listen to Vela speak on the walkie-talkies and read the lunch and supper restaurant locations and menus - food review
    hear the words "Hold back, Glenn. The drone is up and we're recording/"
    watch the camera folks sit backwards in the white Nissan Pathfinder with the back hatch up driving across the US
    hearing stories how the drone "crashed" and it was rescued and brought back to life
    being 'dead tired'
    getting group text messages announcing the time when luggage had to be at the van and when we were all leaving for the next morning
    getting volunteers to hold the "White board" for my morning photo
    eating breakfast at McDonald's - I think we ate there 10 times
    making a wrong turn
    making a wrong turn and seeing how God would have a divine appointment arranged for us all
    pulling over for lunch in the middle of the Mojave desert for lunch and sweating profusely
    opening up a hand-delivered encouragement note from friends back at Northwest Bible Church
    having a cheering party in Oklahoma City at a B-B-Que place with a van load of folks from Northwest Bible
    watching Neil have "morning" and "evening" video shootings with Jon each day
    using my iPhone to research the "closest" bike shop
    sleeping in til 8:30am on our 2 days offs
    having surprise cyclists join us out of the blue (Randy, Tom and Michael in Kentucky and Virginia)
    watching how God would show us his presence each and every day
    write my blog postings. Post them on Facebook. Update my FindPenguins
    share each meal with Glenn - cause how are we going to survive eating out for a month
    walk around the van and stretch my legs as much as possible when the van would stop to give water and food to the cyclists
    download the app "Find Friends", so we could use it to find the cyclists if we got separated
    have my dad use the program "FindFriends" and he could tell me exactly where we were in such and such state and what the next town would be, etc
    each day "count" different things - like how many truckers would honk, or how many windmills we would pass
    keep a digital account of each and every conversation on my "note" to give to Paul later
    look outside the van across Small Town America and noticing stuff that I would not have noticed while on the interstates traveling at 70 mph
    hoped that I could read while going along 15 miles an hour, but only to realize that was impossible with all of the bumps and turns. Instead, I would enjoy the scenery and help with other details
    be amazed how God has taken care of each and every day and that everything has a purpose - either if we made a wrong turn, started later in the day than hoped for or that there would be people God had put in our path whose lives would be changed
    nicknaming Glenn's van as "ChuckWagon16"
    checking for internet connection so I could download "RidewithGPS" program and I would have a 'turn-by-turn' reading for the riders
    not having to decide on what to wear each day, it was either a blue, green, red or gray #ConversationsCoasttoCoast t-shirt
    saying goodbye to our GPS "Betsy" and purchasing a new Garmin GPS and naming her "Betsy 2.0"
    being grateful that Vela would go to the laundromat and wash our clothes while we would unpack and sometimes go down the street for dinner
    hearing Una's voice and seeing her jumping up and down as we would round the corner to the hotel or landmark. Thank you, Una, for your encouragement!
    hearing the crushing sound of the empty water bottles collapsing as we throw them into the "make-shift" garbage bag
    reminding Glenn to wear his "work-shirt" while loading the van and changing into his #CC2C shirt as we pull out each day
    discovering new dining options in local towns
    Sonic - not again!
    Pronouncing Route 66 as "Root" 66
    McDonald's - not again!
    purchasing and organizing a front rack and tub with individual bins for the cyclists to have and use. We figured this out like day 2 or day 3. We needed something manageable instead of all the rider's food, and gear in the 2nd and 3rd row of the van. That wasn't going to work.
    watching Caroline's steady and graceful motion of riding her bike from California to Maryland
    Bawling like a baby when we drop folks off at Washington National Airport - because we had completed the task and we were totally exhausted
    Playing the CAN YOU REMEMBER game "What town did we meet Ramona in?" or "Where were we on Day 17?" or "What was the name of the restaurant where the men took up an offering for our journey?"
    wearing compression socks because my legs got swollen
    grateful for the opportunity to use our gifts of networking, hospitality, van driving, van loading and unloading, communication and all around love for the folks on #CC2C
    creatively using old Walmart plastic bags and hanging them behind my seat to use as garbage bags
    getting homemade cookies from Una and Sarah when they each arrived
    great send-off at Santa Monica pier with FacebookLive and friends
    taking a cat-nap driving on a straight road through the Mojave Desert watching the monotonous motion of the 3 cyclists (Judy, not Glenn;)
    I stayed in 2 KOA campgrounds for the first time in my life
    Enjoying the iconic Route 66 hotels including a Wigwam
    Hearing Neil say "Stewarts, we could not have done this without you!"
    Having the Roughriders join bike ride and encourage Neil along the way
    hearing Wes say "Hey, Dude!"
    I know there are more items, but I just praise the Lord that we finally reached Day 33. The last day of the ride. Coast to Coast. Conversations Coast to Coast. Go, Team Tomba.

    Neil wanted to leave at 7am. The cyclists would have breakfast and we could load up on our own. The cyclists went across the street to McDonald's only to find that it was closed and rode 1/2 block to a diner. In the meantime, Glenn and I loaded up the van. This time the van wasn't parked directly in front of the hotel, but off to the side on a slight incline. I didn't want to slip, so I was not a big help for Glenn today. But we were ready and raring to go. Normally I take a picture with one or two of the folks, however, they were all at the diner. So, on this last day, Glenn and I took a "selfie".

    We see the cyclists at the light and watch them ride back over to the parking lot. Wes was a little confused as to the course route. He was thinking it was leaving from the hotel, but the downloaded version was from a different intersection. I pointed out the error and mentioned the correct intersection on I 95. Since we were ready to go, lead the way. But we forgot Vela! She got a ride in the camera car and we met up at McDonald's a few miles down the road.

    The routing was on highway 1 into Alexandria and then on into DC crossing the Patomic River. We crossed over historical markers and landmarks. At times, Glenn would drive on ahead and then other times he would "pull back" and let traffic go. There was a section that the riders went through a shady hilly spot that was very refreshing.

    Just after the McDonald's spot, something fell off of Wes's bike. It was Taylor. Wes purchased a yellow "Gumby" type doll at the Amish farm a week or so ago and had attached it to the handlebars. He named the doll Taylor after his daughter who is back in Dallas. So glad we stopped because "Taylor" had fallen off. At the next stop, we handed Taylor to Wes. Wes had the biggest smile e.v.e.r!

    We got separated and then we told Jeff we were parked at a church parking lot, next to the 4th of July Fireworks stand. Jeff said, "That's perfect. We'll be there in a minute". We radioed to the cyclists to pull over. In the parking lot was the mother-in-law of one of the workers at Northwest Bible. She literally lives 2 blocks away. She had been "following" us and knew our path would be just blocked from her house. I think her name was Lori. She even made a post and sign to cheer us on. We also used the shade to cool down. Wes was working with his tire. I think they changed it out. We handed out more water and food to Wes, Neil, and Caroline.

    Pulling into DC we had communication with the riders, then they took a bike path which is impossible to follow. My "Findfriends" was not working, and then we were out of walking-talking range with the riders. Traffic was horrible. We ended up going over the George Washington bridge. Creeping along the bridge, the van next to us honked and asked about #ConversationsCoasttoCoast. Glenn wanted to give them Neil's business card out the window, but that didn't work. They were just cheering us on.

    We finally met up at a restaurant Vela suggested. The Shake Shack, right in the shadows of the baseball stadium. We found out that Wes had a flat tire and found a bicycle repair store nearby and was able to solve his problem. I ordered a hamburger and fries plus strawberry shake and Glenn got the chocolate malt shake.

    It was really hot today. The cold AC in the restaurant was such a blessing. I can't imagine how hot it must have been for Neil, Wes, and Caroline. What a blessing to meet up with the cyclists again. We regrouped and then determined that we would reconnect with them say like 10 miles into Maryland and go from there. We were following Sarah in the Nissan as we drove into Maryland. We radioed to them mentioned we needed to fill up with gas. We pulled over and while there, Glenn purchased some more water and I think ice. Now we are good to the FINISH line.

    We would play "hop-scotch" with the cyclists through Maryland. Finally, we pulled into a strip mall and parked the bikes. I walked down to Jimmy Johns to use the restroom. The cyclists were getting cold water and resting. I had a conversation with a black lady that was from the area and she was waiting for the bus so she could go to her second job. Nice lady.

    Just a few more miles. Vela suggested we have the finish line at Ego Alley. Pier where all the nice boats and yachts go. There would be some of the Tomba's friends there at the finish line. Also, Vela was texting with Caroline's family to let them know of the time and place. We made one last stop at a shopping mall where there was a Best Buy. I'm trying to figure this one out. I think they (whoever they is) got a new Go Pro camera for Neil to have at the finish line. Either that or the old one was repaired. As I think about this, this is how it went a lot of the time. We would stop. Something would get fix and then we would go on. No details. Don't need to know the details. IN this case, Wes radioed up to me and said "Neil would like to turn the camera on the last mile. Please let me know". I radioed back "Roger!" And within the last mile, we did let Neil know.

    As we pulled into the pier area, it started to rain. Just an isolated rain shower. The Camera car made a wrong turn and came behind us. Vela started her FacebookLive commentating.

    Wow. 3,000+ miles, 33 days and hundreds of conversations! Way to go God!

    Neil had a short presentation where he thanked everyone that made it possible. He introduced his friends that live in the area and had come down to the pier to encourage Neil and Vela. He thanked each of the camera crew folks, us, the friends back at Northwest Bible and finally his dear sweet wife, Vela. At that point, Neil hugged and kissed her! I can see how Vela's spontaneous and voiceful personality complements Neil's structure goal and lifestyle.

    For our final evening, we joined Caroline's parents on their new Catamaran boat for dinner. Fish. Salmon. The sun was setting and we had a wonderful evening. Next, drive back to Silver Spring, Maryland for our last night.
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  • Day33

    Day 32 Bellemonte Fishing - Fredricksbur

    June 27, 2019 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 77 °F

    Day 32 Montebello Camping and Fishing Resort - Fredricksburg, VA
    Miles - 88
    How many times I opened the 2 side passengers doors to pee on the side of the road - at least 33 times (you gotta do what you gotta do)

    Good morning. It was kinda difficult and challenging to get the Van loaded up with folks staying at 3 different locations. Fortunately, we just took in a small backpack into our cabin. We rearranged the stuff in the 2nd and 3rd seats. As soon as it was time to leave, everyone loaded in the van. Neil started to walk down the gravel road. We picked him up there. It was decided that we would drive out and onto the main highway to start the morning off. Jeff offered to drop the cyclists off, but we drove on ahead. There was a small town of Afton, but only a few houses, no stores or restaurants. We splurged on ahead. The drive down the Blue Ridge Parkway was quiet and peaceful. The mountains were blue and rolling.

    It was then decided we needed to go to Charlottesville, and then find an IHOP. Finally, Breakfast. I know it must have been terribly disappointing not to ride down the Blue Ridge Parkway. I would have been. But that is the way it goes. Things happen for a reason.

    Once at IHOP, we had to wait for a long time. I know Neil was wanting to have a conversation with an employee, but like it has happened so many times, it is just difficult for the employee to get the time away from the job.

    Jeff and Wes sat at a different table to figure out a route for them to take. They got their food first, so to allow time to plan. The route was pretty. Lots of rolling hills and side streets. The route was along Anna Lake. We passed over some railroad tracks and by golf courses. Caroline had an adjustment to her bike. Wes is always right there to repair things.

    We stopped at a convenience store to refuel, go to the bathroom and buy some ice. This location was quite unique. In the public bathroom, there was a shower tub and shower.

    A few hours later, we stopped at the entrance to Lake Anna State Park to get some water. Wes asked for the blue towel that Vela had for Neil. Where you soak it in water, and the cloth becomes very cool. Wes wrapped it around his head. Everyone was HOT and tired. Interesting fact, when they stop, the cyclists are very thirsty, but they don't seem to be breathing hard - like I would. Some sit on the back of the Nissan.

    As they were riding along a two-lane road, Neil stops to have a conversation with a lady that was sitting on her porch. I think she had a dog in her lap. I don't know her story. Glenn, Vela and I were "hiding out" around the corner until he was finished with the conversation.

    Just a few minutes down the road, Neil takes a stumble. He flipped over his bike and down on the shoulder of the road. I mean, I thought the bike was going to be twisted up. Thankfully, Neil tucked and rolled. We stopped immediately to see how Neil was doing. Just a few scratches.

    Our next stop was a convenience store just outside of Fredricksburg. The gals went inside to use the bathroom. Others went in to buy a drink or chips. Glenn started talking to the cashier and asked if he could talk to Neil. Yep, he was available. Glenn walked outside to ask Neil if he had time. Sure enough camera folks got inside quickly and talked with this man from Northern India.

    While they filmed, I stood in the shade tree and made a phone call to Ken R. Ken is having surgery in a few days and I wanted to let him know that we were praying for him. I also told Ken that I appreciated his influence and impact on my life. Of the top 3 things that I have done in my life, this #ConversationsCoasttoCoast along with the summer of 1977 traveling through Central America have been the most challenging, most rewarding and most stressful things I have experience. I could sense his smile through the phone line.

    Next stop was Fredricksburg. It was here, where I first saw the Street direction sign of Washington DC. Yikes it's getting real. And getting close. The CoachWagon drove on ahead and stopped at Walgreens to purchase some Epsom salt for Neil, then we got to the Best Western Hotel.

    The cyclists come riding up with another cyclist. He is semi-pro and enjoyed being with Wes, Neil, and Caroline. Vela met her college friend at the hotel and they went out for dinner. Jeff stayed back and did laundry. The rest of us went to eat Chinese food.

    After dinner, Glenn and I decided to drive 1 hour into the city and get the boxes that we shipped from California out to Virginia at the DeWitts house. Then take those boxes into the hotel at Silver Springs Maryland, where we'll be staying on Friday night. And then drive back. We knew it would be a late night, but you never know what wrench could be thrown in on Friday night. We didn't get back to the hotel until 1:30am, and in bed by 1:45am. Short short night. I had to call the hotel to make arrangements for all this and then Jeff C. had to call the manager since the room reservations are under his name. It all worked out good.
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  • Day32

    Day 31 Daleville, VA - Bellemonte Fishin

    June 26, 2019 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 73 °F

    Day 31 Daleville, VA - Montebello Fishing and Camping Resort, VA
    Miles - 72 miles
    Turtle Rescued - 1
    Train tracks - 2

    Its the normal routine. We get up before 5am and get the van already. Even though the time for folks to have their luggage out by the van at 6:15, we are always there by 6:00 am, cause there will inevitably be someone needing a glove, shirt or whatever. But we are happy to be there to help there. Usually, Glenn is cleaning out the trash from the day before, and I get into my "junk drawer" which is under the first row of seats. It this junk drawer, we have scissors, pens, paper, and my whiteboard. I have habitually been taking the "day" picture at the beginning of each day. This has been very helpful for me to recount this stuff for that particular day.

    We have breakfast at Cracker Barrel in Daleville. Daleville is like a northern suburb of Roanoke. I think I had breakfast with Jeff that day. Glenn didn't eat breakfast as he was helping the riders get ready for the day. I did order biscuits and gravy for him and we got that in a "to-go" bag. At the end of the day, the gravy was thrown away, and I think Neil had the biscuit at one of the breaks.

    The cyclist was ready and left on their RidewithGPS course. The first stop was the Appalachian Trail. Vela and I got out. She made a video of her actually "walking the Appalachian Trail". She started in Daleville and ended in Daleville.

    This particular day was beautiful. We followed the Bike 76 route. We came to a train trussel and I took some pictures. Then we continued on, it wasn't until 10 minutes later that I realized that we were "off course". Just after the train trussel, the 76 sign turned left, and we missed it. Ugh. We finally made our way back to Jeff and the camera car and the cyclist. Then the cyclists had a photo opp and Jeff told us to stand back. Hold back. We pulled over into the shade. And waited and waited and waited. We never heard a call. We were out of cell phone coverage and definitely out of two-way walkie-talkie. Finally, Glenn backed up and we got a text message from the camera car for us to come on up. I think this was one of the darkest times in our journey, where there were some miscues and unfortunate circumstances that we couldn't hear the camera car and we waited maybe a little bit too long. The ride was beautiful once we started going.

    We stopped in one town that had a swinging suspension bridge. Vela, Jeff and I walked across it and the vehicles came to the other side. At this time, the weather was getting pretty hot, I remember.

    We rode into Lexington, Virginia. This is the home of Washington and Lee University (where Wynn B) went to college. Glenn and I remember having a picnic lunch with him several years ago while visiting him. We had lunch inside at Macado's Restaurant. Great place. Glenn and I shared a Ruben sandwich. Most of the folks ate lunch outside on the porch.

    As soon as lunch was over, there was a crowd waiting to talk to Neil. One was a gal. Another was a guy sitting on the porch steps. And then the last was a mother and son that I struck a conversation with and they were just curious about what was going on. Neil talked to all 3 groups. He later recounted that there were no conversations as they were eating lunch on the porch, but rather once they got their bikes out and were ready to roll. I think Wes talked mostly with the young gal. Again, I don't know the conversations, but it was neat how these 3 groups of folks all came together. Divine Appointment. Glenn, Vela and I talked with the mother-son.

    As we drove out, we drove through and under the Virginia Military Institute campus. Quite impressive. The ride continued on to Vesuvius, Virginia and here the cyclists took a water break. Glenn parked under the tree and we filled empty water bottles and replenished their thirsty mouths. I walked to the 1 room US Postoffice and struck up a conversation with the Post Master.

    I said "So you are the Post Master" and her reply was "No, I'm the Post Mistress". I laughed. I had a lengthy conversation with her. She grew up in the area. Married her high school sweetheart and has only been a few other states. Never been on an airplane. It was fun to talk to her. She only had 1 postcard stamp, but she had several postcards with stamps on them. Glenn and Vela rode 3 miles up the road to a lonely mom and pop's place, Girdys to buy some much-needed ice. I stayed in a small store and wrote 3 postcards. One to mom and dad, one to David, Emily, Lucy, and the baby and my final card to Brighton and Violet. I quickly drove a picture of the USA and x marks the spot for California and X for Maryland. Glenn came back after having passed up the hole in the way.

    We got up to Caroline. The guys were on ahead. Man, this was a steep climb. Ugh. Several times on the curves, I would yell out the window to Caroline to encourage her along the way. Sometimes it looked like she was standing still. But faithfully, she would climb and climb and climb. I don't know how she did it. It was impressive. She rode up to the top of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

    We finally get to the Montebello Camping and Fishing Resort spot. A cute store that stocked all the supplies you need. Vela, Jeff and I realized that we needed to cook out for dinner. We bought all the supplies to make hamburgers, pickles, tomatoes, even charcoal to cook out on. I walked across the street to the pond where Wes, Caroline, and Neil sat - totally exhausted. They wanted ice-cream. I can still picture them in my mind, sitting on the bench in front of the lake and the ice cream in their sweating hands.

    Once we got the cabins, Neil started to put the food on the grill. However, just before that, he decides to cut his hair. I think he was very tired at this point. Then we realized that we forgot to pick up the charcoal at the counter. Glenn drives down to the store to see if anyone is around, talks to a stranger and brings back a cord of wood. In the meantime, Jeff walks down the gravel road and talks to a family that was camping and returns with 1/2 bag of charcoal that we could use. In exchange, I think we gave them some shirts and maybe some other food items.

    For dessert, we all wanted smores. But we didn't have any marshmallows. However, we had a bag of small cinnamon cake donuts that I bought several days ago. Neil put the donut on the grill topped with Hershey chocolate and I layered that on top of a granola bar. Pretty delicious. Afterward, we sat around and shared some experiences so far on the trip. The journey was coming to an end soon. Jon and Christine had to drive to Charlottesville to get a battery or something, so they were not around. Glenn and I had our own cabin. Cute and very tasteful and adequate. Just not enough time to enjoy it fully.
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  • Day31

    Day 30 Wythesville,VA - Daleville, VA

    June 25, 2019 in the United States ⋅ ☁️ 66 °F

    Day 30 Wytheville, VA - Daleville, VA
    Miles - 102
    Turtles rescued - 1
    Black bear and baby cubs spotted - 3
    Emergency repair on Wes's bike - 1

    Down to just a few days left in this amazing adventure. People are getting gitty, anxious and nervous all at the same time. Its been a L.O.N.G. 30 days. It has gone bu fast - and it has gone by slowly.

    This morning, I woke up at 4am to finish my blog. Last night, I could barely type and decided to finish up this morning. I finished up around 5:30am just in time to get ready for the day and then go down and help Glenn load up the van.

    It was kinda overcast in the morning but cleared up before breakfast. We all went over to the Cracker Barrell for breakfast. Glenn and I shared the Old Timer's breakfast. Just before we left, I checked to see if there were any letterboxes in the area. There was one at the Best Western Parking lot - and that was on our way out of town. So, with Wes's permission, we followed the clue and did a letterbox. Very easy. Glad Glenn did this for me. We also drove by a tiny tiny church. I got a picture.

    About 20 minutes up the road, one of Neil's friends that lives in North Carolina drove up so he could cycle with the team. What a kind friend to do that. He was all decked out in the cycling outfit and he rode probably an hour or two before he has to ride back and get his vehicle.

    Just right after this, Wes' chain on his bike kept breaking or was creating problems for him. He would ride for 3 minutes, then stop. Do that again several times, til finally, he had some screws out and was really working on it. It looked like he had it repaired. And we started to drive to meet the team. They had only gone 1 mile up the road where they started to have a conversation with a man and his wife or girlfriend. They were in a Sprinter van. Once we rolled into them, Wes decided he needed to find a bike shop. He searched the internet and found one just 20 minutes up the road.

    We asked the other bikers to get their stuff that they would need like food items. Then we quickly left. Glenn drove on I 81 towards Blacksburg. Then off the interstate to a bike shop in a Kroger's shopping center. While they were getting that repaired, I walked over to Kroger and bought a case of water. I think we were there for 45 minutes. And then we called Jeff and they were just sitting down to eat lunch at Fatz.

    25 minutes later we were at the restaurant also. I had soup and salad. Glenn had chicken. Now it was time to roll again. Heading North on the side streets on the rolling hills through farmland. We didn't seed corn like we used to see in Kentucky and Missouri.

    We went through one tunnel and I saw one covered bridge. We stumbled upon a barn and Jon took some photos of the blue bike against the old barn.

    As we were driving towards the Super 8 motel tonight, Neil saw 2 ladies trying to get a couch through the front door. Glenn, Wes, Matt, and Caroline helped this family. Then afterward, Neil was able to have a conversation. Glenn and I went on to the hotel to get checked in. Tonight, Glenn and I are together.

    We met Neil's cousin, Monty. He lives several hours from here and drove down to see them. We went to a Chinese restaurant for supper tonight.

    We got back to the hotel room by 9:45pm. Another late day. We get to sleep in 30 minutes later tomorrow.
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  • Day29

    Day 28 Jenny Wiley Park - St Paul, VA

    June 23, 2019 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 73 °F

    Day 28 Jenny Wiley State Park, Prestonsberg, KY - St. Paul, VA
    Miles - 91
    Churches - United Methodist, First Baptist, Alliance, Free-Will Baptist and Old Regular Baptist

    Never again. It was a 1 start Hotel. I called the front desk at 10pm and asked if it is normal for the guests to be so loud outside our door. The reply was "I'll tell them to be quiet, otherwise I'll have to call the police!" Wow, it must be a normal occurrence. Even at 1am, I was awoken and could hear loud talking. I was pretty tired, so that didn't keep me awake.

    I did wake up at 3:45, and since I knew we had internet, I got up and finished yesterday's blog. I finished it in time, before Glenn and I left with Jon and Neil to head to McDonald's. We met the rest of the crew at 7am for breakfast. I walked through the parking lot to get a few items at Wal-mart.

    Glenn had pancakes at McDonald's, and by the time I walked back from Wal-Mart, he was already out getting the bikes ready, the coolers and water bottles prepared. He organized the snacks and food items too.

    The camera crew were in McDonald's downloading files and stuff and because they didn't do the normal "interview" with Neil, we had to leave and follow the cyclists from the get-go. We quickly waved and hugged Jonathan Edwards "good-bye". About 20 minutes later, we get a honk, and Jon goes driving by. He decided to drive to NC to visit his daughter.

    It was very foggy this morning. We had new cyclists join us. Matt, who is the Tomba's son-in-law. He has fresh legs. He is a good climber. We followed behind Caroline and Neil. We traveled down the main pike and then off some back roads. At one time, the cyclists were climbing up and up pass mobile homes after mobile homes with barking dogs and junk cars in the front yard. It is just my stereotype image of the Kentucky backcountry. Once they reached the top, the pavement changed and we were in a middle-class community with 3 car garages and manicured lawn dotted with swimming pools and trampolines.

    At times the riders were under a canopy of trees. Other times 2 vicious dogs came out and attacked Neil. He fought back with his water bottle. One trek, they were riding up and up and up to a pass and down into a clearing. They were on a 4 lane highway, however for about 2 miles one lane was under reconstruction, so they just drove on the smooth pavement behind the orange barrels.

    As we were driving through a winding 2 lane road, Neil stopped by Free-Will Baptist Church of Dorton, KY. They got an interview with the Pastor, and then Neil asked if he could speak one of the newest believers. That was cool. At 11am, it was time to begin their service so the #ConversationsCoasttoCoast continued on as the church service began.

    I had to go to the rest-room, so I followed Christine to the bathroom, which was just inside the entrance of the church. They were singing a familiar Christian song.

    Most of the day, our route was following a creek. Homes across the creek had individual bridges to the property. At times our road would cross over to the other side. It was a nice beautiful drive.

    We calculated that the next town would be Jenkins, KY and that would be a good place for lunch. Giovani Pizza. Closed. So we chose Las Penasa Mexican restaurant near the city swimming pool. Glenn and I shared enchilada dinner. Glenn talked with our waiter. He is from Mexico, DF and came to the states when he was 18 years old. Neil wanted to do an interview/conversation with him, but since it was a Sunday afternoon, he was extremely busy and didn't have the time.

    After lunch, the ride was immediate steep. Up Up and Up. Til finally we arrived in Virginia. We cut off and went through a tiny road that had bunches of switch back. A sign: Rte 633 not recommended for trucks over 30 ft in length. Glenn thinks the van is probably 30 feet in length. When we were making the switc-back, the front of the blue box scraped the ground. All day was beautiful. The ride was one of the best. I did take a cat-nap when I was mesmerized by watching the cyclists work so hard to climb up a steep mountain.

    In the afternoon, the cyclists "crashed" out of exhausted. We stopped at a Valero gas station for a potty break and the cyclists were thirsty for water. I noticed a Magna ice-cream bar and then offered to get anyone one of these delicious bars. Neil, Christine and someone else took me up on the offer. Delicious. Brings back fond memories from Bolivia days.

    We ended up the day in St. Pauls, Virginia at Western Front Hotel. Nice place. Glenn and I have a very unique room. Decorations are awesome. Neil immediately had a conversation with someone in town. I stood around to have him sign the release form, but I didn't know how long that would take, so Glenn encouraged me to go and check into the room and take a shower and get ready for dinner. Glenn finally came up to the room at 6:20pm.

    We walked around the corner to Sugar Hill Brewery. Good food. But the service was terribly S.L.O.W. Glenn and I shared a meatloaf meal and we enjoyed talking and getting to know Matt. We returned to the room at 9pm. Now to finish this blog and get to bed. Now, suddenly the fire alarm goes off. Ugh. Blaring lights and fire trucks. We walk downstairs....outside for only 5 minutes. And we're back in our room. Good night.
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  • Day28

    Day 27 Natural Bridge Park - Jenny Wille

    June 22, 2019 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 64 °F

    Day 27 Natural Bridge Resort State Park - Jenny Willey State Park (Prestonsburg, KY)
    Miles - I think 100
    Mobile Homes counted - 86
    Wrong turns - maybe 2
    Shetland ponies - 3
    Turtles - 3

    This morning I was up by 5:00am, took a shower and got ready. We noticed that it was kinda overcast and as soon as I opened the hotel room we saw fog out in the parking lot. There was a layer of dew everywhere, but it was not too sticky. When we went out to the van, there wasn't too much water. I quickly got "the junk drawer" out and got my whiteboard and wrote "Day 27". I was getting ready for my daily photo.

    Breakfast was at 7am. Glenn went up to the restaurant and grabbed breakfast really quick. I think we have the "Guatemala mindset" that we don't leave the van unattended, especially when we have bicycles.

    We drove out of Natural Bridge Resort State Park for about 15 minutes. There was a steep incline and this would not have been good for the cyclists from the get-go, so once we got them on the road, they started their journey. And it started to rain. We handed off the rain jackets several times to Wes and Caroline.

    Neal rode on ahead of everybody, so most of the day I was watching from the front seat only Wes and Caroline. There were several times, Jeff radioed to us and let us know when not to turn and when to turn. I understand now that the camera crew was with Neil and film him ALL day. That's fine. It is different than what we have been used to.

    Most of the day we were weaving in and out of the turnpike that goes towards Prestonsburg. These were small winding roads. Small farming communities. And lots of mobile homes. Some that looked like they have been abandoned for years. One mobile home looked like it was built in the 70's - that bright yellow and brown trim home.

    Today, we didn't see a lot of folks out in the yard like yesterday - and that is because it was raining most of the day.

    We needed a potty stop and there wasn't a gas station or hotel anywhere, however, we stumbled upon a Dollar Store. It was kinda junky. One bathroom was out of commission, so we all waited in line for the men's room. I chatted with Jeff and we decided that it might be best to get some picnic supplies. I loaded up the yellow cart with bread, ham and turkey meat. We didn't need chips or other sweets - we have those from previous purchases.

    While we were in the parking lot of the Dollar Store, Neil was complaining that he was very very hungry. Then the next thing I see, he is stuffing a blue marshmallow chocolate cake treat in his mouth. You know that type of treat that is chocolate cake and white cream filling in the middle and its a spongey type thing covering it. Then I look, he is throwing part of it over to Sarah. And Sarah throws it back. He is being a goofball. I think he was totally hungry or totally exhausted.

    Once we get on the bikes and Neil is way ahead of the others, then we get a radio call that the camera car needed some water. We thought that was strange since we had just stopped for a break. Later to learn that Neil had thrown up that cupcake. It got the best of him.

    For lunch, we stopped in Salyersville as there was a Wendy's, Taco Bell and Subway all at the same intersection. Vela wanted Subway and Caroline wanted Wendys.

    Jonathan Edwards has driven down from Indiana and was tracking us to this stop. However, because of all the detours we had to make, especially with the construction, we didn't connect with him until nearly Salyersville. He did pull off and was able to watch Neal chat with a couple at the convenience store.

    Later, Jon met up with us at Wendy's. After an exceptionally long time for lunch, I started talking to a lady with her two grandchildren and she was asking about the #ConversationsCoasttoCoast. I explained a little bit about it and also encouraged her to be sure and follow Neil and his journey. However, at the same time, Neil was asking the support crew to do something, maybe to drive behind or ahead. I'm not sure since I wasn't in on the conversation. It was only just 20 miles up the road to Jenny Willey State Park.

    We followed behind and stopped at a national battlefield. Then we continued on to the state park. Tonight, the Tombas and the Stewarts are staying at the Quality Inn in town so everyone would have a bed to sleep in and we wouldn't have to share a bed. This Quality Inn is not the best one around. The Tomba's had to switch rooms already since their room was full of flies. Our room was ok,

    We helped Vela and Neil by taking them to the laundromat. It was just down the street from the restaurant we ate at. I had macaroni and cheese, Glenn had a salad. Very good. It was a noisy place. Jon Edwards joined us and was able to visit with Wes and with Jon the photographer.

    Believe it or not, Glenn let Wes drive the van back to the State Park and the rest of the crew would meet us for Breakfast at McDonald's at 6:45am. I asked Glenn if that was ok since he has always been the guy to make sure there everything was in its right place. We shall see.
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  • Day27

    Day 26 Harrodsburg, KY - Natural Bridge

    June 21, 2019 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 59 °F

    Day 26 Harrodsburg, KY - Natural Bridge Resort State Park, KY
    Miles - approx 100
    People that waved to us - 245

    Good morning. I woke up this morning and noticed that Sarah was not in her bed in the room. The sheets, covers, and pillows were not there. I found out later she’s didn't even try to go to sleep because I was snoring so loud by the time she was ready to go to bed, what's the use? She just took the bedding and went to the adjacent room and slept on the wooden floor. I got some laughs when Vela mentioned she could hear my snoring through from the second story. I had some ear plugs I gave Sarah. I did my part.

    I got up at 5 o’clock to take a shower and get ready for the day. I loaded the bicycles from the "living room" of the house and brought them out to the front parking lot area in plenty of time after I had some quiet time and reading. Glenn drove up in the "Chuckwagon" and everyone pitched in to load the bicycles and suitcases and we were heading out by 6:45 and headed back into town to McDonald’s for breakfast. Glenn and I shared a pancake breakfast plus I had a Frappuccino all the while Glenn is re-adjusting the bins. He even tried to get ice from McDonald's and they didn't sell him any. We stopped at a convenience store to buy some ice in town before heading out for the day.

    The weather was just beautiful today clear blue sky. Perfect to take photos. Its the day with white puffy clouds as we drove through the countryside. We rode through large farmlands dotted with old wooden barns. On most of the homes and barns, there would be the traditional "Pennsylvanian and/or Amish" looking quilt symbol on the side of the barn. I also noticed that some homes had the Star of David hanging on one small end of the house or barn. I need to look up the reference for this tradition.

    I was counting how many people would wave to us in the van. My count was over 250 and then Wes radioed back to me and said I should be counting how many people we saw mowing their yard either by a push mower or riding lawn mower. Glenn's reply that we would do that tomorrow since it would be a Saturday (however Saturday was raining and hardly anyone was outside).

    We did stop to talk to one man that was repairing his fence by the side of the road. He mentioned that a car lost control several days ago and drove into his wire fence. He immediately told us about a "Biker's Stop" just up the hill. Sure enough along the side of the road in a vacant acre, was a covered shed and porta potty. There was free water, fresh fruit, and cookies (some were homemade) and bike supplies. This was on the Bike 76 route.

    We ate lunch at a restaurant called Cook-Out in Richmond. It is a local chain in the Kentucky area famous for hamburgers and chicken. Glenn and I shared a chicken sandwich, onion rings, and a peach milkshake.

    Richmond, Kentucky which is the home for eastern Kentucky State University. Neil was having a conversation here on campus and had gone ahead of us. Vela decided she needed to walk around a bit, so I looked up on the "letterboxing" web site to see if there was a letterbox near by. Sure enough, one at a cemetery a few blocks away. Very clever clues.

    Once Neil finished his interview, filming, and conversation, we were on the road again. We used our cell phone to reconnect back up with Vela on the other side of this beautiful campus. Neil had another interview as we were leaving Richmond.

    The area was beautiful. Forest and green! Steep rolling hills. I don't know how the bikers do it. Again I'm amazed how they keep going mile after mile after mile.

    As we approached the Natural Bridge Resort State Park we ate dinner at the Red River Bar-B-Que Restaurant. Very good food. Immediately when we arrive at a dinner location, we try to have the 3 cyclists order and get their food first, since it is important and part of recovery to eat within the first 45 minutes of getting off your bike. Glenn and I were tieing stuff down and had to order last. We shared a dinner plate.

    Neil was having a conversation with 3 or 4 motorcyclists. Harley Davidson folks. And as he was talking, I was outside of this old restaurant just sitting and enjoying the weather and engaging with a few folks. And with all the camera crew and sound equipment out, you get a lot of questions asked. One family started asking questions and I was explaining what we were doing. They got really excited about the whole concept. Then Glenn started to talk with the adult son and found out that he graduated from Ben Lippen High School. Same school Glenn graduated from. Small world, Big Family. Unbelievable. Divine appointment. Small school but different location. Glenn attended the boarding school back in the '70s when it was located in Ashville, NC, now the school is located in Columbia, South Carolina. This particular family had come to Kentucky to attend Jack Layman's grandson's wedding. Jack with Glenn's headmaster back in the day.

    We are staying at the National Bridge Resort State Park. Glenn and I stayed here back in 2002 when we were following Ellen and the Women's Concert Choir and I was hosting the Alumni dinners prior to the concerts. I did not walk the trail to view the bridge.

    Jonathan Edwards met us here as he drove down from Indiana for a few days to see how the #ConversationsCoasttoCoast really works.

    A funny story on Vela. I got a knock on my door. Vela. She comes busting in and says "now this is a cold room! Our room is so hot!" She explained that she even called the front desk to complain about the temperature in the room and the guy on the other end said: "Lady, just calm down!" Vela has a great way of expressing herself. I've probably mentioned this in a previous post, Vela has the same EXACT laugh as our good friend Kathy. Now that's a compliment. And every time I smile when I hear her laugh as it reminds me of Kathy.

    There were a few wrong turns for the day. And even Wes slipped and skinned up his elbow. We were being told to "hold back" for the shooting, so we didn't see the mishap. Wes is ok. There were times when the cyclists were riding on gravel - not the idea road condition. Again the scenery was beautiful. Lots of trees. Green.

    Good night.

    Again, several more conversations. And several more ways to see how God puts us at the right spot at the right time.

    Normally Glenn proof-reads my blogs, but with our crazy schedule, he does not have time. So please enjoy reading, but don't look for those grammatical errors.
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