Have you ever considered biking across the country? If you’re trying to make up your mind, let me give you some reasons why you SHOULDN’T consider it.
1. Does the thought of 8 hours on a bike cause you to break out in a rash?
2. Do the words “tent,” “no showers,” and “ditch pee” cause you to start twitching and batting at invisible flies?
3. Does spending several weeks with only your spouse and no clean clothes make you want to check-in to marital counseling?
For me, seven months ago I didn’t know bike touring (the technical name for traveling by bike) existed. I thought cross-country travel by means other than car or plane was reserved for the likes of Forest Gump. But that was last fall and today I’d like to tell you the story of what has brought Joelle and I on this trip.
Last fall we thought we knew the direction for our lives. Joelle was pursuing a graduate program in Memphis and I was freelancing and working part-time at Bushwhacker in Peoria. We believed God was leading us to Memphis and were actively preparing for the move. The savings account was fertilized. The career hunt had begun. Then, after months of acing the application process, we were at the last step in the process. We went down, listening to the musical “Memphis” on the way down. And, after a long weekend down there, we left feeling confident this was the next step in our lives.
You don’t have to be a literature major to know what happened next in our story. We got the “thanks but no thanks” email and just like that, what we had felt confident was our direction, evaporated. I haven’t forgotten walking home that night and seeing Joelle on the couch. I sat down and we said nothing.
Rejection is never easy, but for us, this struck at a deeper nerve. I felt like our lives in Peoria were beginning to flat line and Memphis had become the paddles we hoped would shock us back to a life of adventure and out-of-the-ordinary experiences. Then it was gone.
After that, we spent some time not really looking for answers but just hurting. But then, without noticing it at first, we began planning a caper.
Several weeks earlier before the email came, we had talked about how to spend our last spring break in Illinois. I had wanted a story to tell not just a vacation to go on and had suggested a bike trip from Peoria, IL to St. Louis. 160 miles on a bike and then a train ride home.
But now with our summer completely free we had a bit more time on our hands. And with some extra cash we had stashed away for moving, we found ourselves available for something a bit grander than we had originally expected.
When I asked Joelle if she’d bike to the ocean with me, she said, “Yes.” Cue the montage and here we are in Gibsonburg, OH. 390 miles into our bike trip. For those of you keeping score at home, we could have biked from Peoria to St. Louis and then biked home by now.
But this story isn’t about crazy responses to rejection. Joelle and I know we can’t wander away on a cross-country trip every time we’re told no to something we want. No, this story is about choosing to live a life together and make our own story. We had looked to grad school and a possible move to jolt excitement and meaning into our lives but God was offering some thing better. Like a father teaching his son to drive, He was handing us the wheel and giving us the opportunity to write the next chapter in our lives and our marriage.
We’ve been on the road for a week now and there are parts of me that are ready to return to the goodness that routine can offer. I look forward to friends and beds and clean clothes.
But for now, the deep ache for a life lived meaningfully and intentionally with my wife pushes me on. June 20th will be our second wedding anniversary, but I don’t think it’s too early to share the ending part of our vows.
“I take you to live daringly, following Jesus through every adventure, known and unknown, as long as we both shall live.”
Left: Defiance, OH 7:30a.m.
Sleeping in: a campground in Gibsonville OH
Total mileage: 71
Avg speed: 11.1
High Speed: 20.3
Weather conditions: windy
Elevation Gain: -26 ft.
Total Trip Mileage: 393 mi.