Announcing the Best of TheHopeLine Tour

Tour CardDebbie and I are pleased to announce the highlights of TheHopeLine Tour of 2014!

Wow! What a tour! This wasn’t just a bicycle joyride across America. This was an intense journey, with a targeted awareness and fundraising campaign tied to it, filled with challenging and inspirational moments. Filtering through so many photos and blog posts reminded us of just how beautiful America is and just how much we experienced in the past few months. We’ve narrowed the field down to 25 photos and 16 blog posts. Now, we’d like your help in picking the top ones!

In addition to what you’ll see from the photos and blog posts, there were some lofty numbers associated with TheHopeLine Tour of 2014. However, the numbers below are not currently aligned with the correct category. We’re giving away a copy of our book, Two Are Better, to each of the first three people who can match 10 of the numbers on the left with the correct category on the right. Please submit your answers through the contact form.

7 days
11 miles
14 elevation gain in feet
80+ states
90+ photos
102 videos
114+ blog posts
300+ page views on the Open Road Press website
500+ email pitches for support or media exposure of TheHopeLine
1,400+ media interviews
3,300+ facebook posts
4,344 facebook likes
12,000+ canisters of powdered energy drink mix
167,000+ gallons of fluid


Click here to view the highlights page and please make sure to cast your ballot for your favorite photos and blog posts. We hope you enjoy this retrospective of our tour. And please feel free to share it with others.

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Hope Is Not Free


TheHopeLine sign on Tim's pannierDebbie and I have been busy poring over several thousand photos and nearly 100 blog posts. We’re assembling some “best of” highlights for you to enjoy. And we’ll soon be asking you to vote on your favorites to help determine “the best of the best.”

While the beautiful scenery and touching stories of TheHopeLine Tour are free to those who choose to enjoy them, the cost of hope for countless youth is not free. Sure, it’s free to the young people who call or chat in to TheHopeLine, but someone has to pay for the service.

Many of you have already given, generously and sacrificially. We’re truly grateful. Your kindness is making a real difference in the lives of young people. However, many others have not yet pledged support. You may be one of those people.

No Free Lunch

TheHopeLine is funded entirely by private dollars. Consequently, they don’t have overreaching government regulations tied to government dollars impeding the effective model of support and intervention that has transformed the lives of so many teenagers and young adults over the years. In 2013 alone, TheHopeLine intervened in the lives of over 3,000 youth who were struggling with suicidal thoughts. Many others are being set free from addictions. Yet others are finding life-changing strategies to cope with the consequences of the poor decisions they have made.

TheHopeLine reaches these youth through effective radio and Internet content, and only through the presence of God’s Spirit. God’s power is free to anyone who asks for it. The radio and Internet content and its delivery, however, are not free.

Unique Window of Opportunity

If you are considering a donation to TheHopeLine–and we hope that you are–there’s great news. A faithful donor of TheHopeLine has just stepped up and offered an extremely generous amount of support contingent upon the participation of others such as you.

That donor, a Midwest dairy farmer, has laid $100,000 on the table in the form of a matching challenge. So, from November 1 until December 31, 2014, if you choose to donate to TheHopeLine, your gift will effectively be doubled. It will have twice the impact to change lives for the better. For example, if you donate $100, the dairy farmer will donate $100 to match your gift.

Recent Success Story

Many teens and young adults who turn to TheHopeLine do so because they know of nowhere else to turn. There they sit, with computer or smart phone in hand. They open a browser window and type in something such as a 15-year-old girl did just after I returned home from TheHopeLine Tour. Here’s what she googled:

“I need a Counselor online.”

She was being abused at home and bullied at school. A counselor wasn’t really helping her and school administrators were ignoring her claims of being bullied. And, she was struggling with suicidal thoughts. She didn’t know where to turn, yet she knew she needed help. Then, she found TheHopeLine. Ninety minutes after we connected, this is what she wrote:

“This may sound odd, but I have more colors in me now than an hour ago…. I feel very happy, I [have] never been this happy since, I don’t know. Like pure joy. I mean someone that cares, watching over me. Like the emotions I have as if I was a young tod…. I feel better…. Thank you so much…. I feel that I can rest in peace…. I love that you helped me so much and that I will never forget you…. I’m happier than ever.”

We provided some follow-up resources for her and sent her away into the night with a renewed mind and fresh strategies to help her through her crisis. She had the hope and the confidence she needed to carry on. Where would she be now if TheHopeLine hadn’t been there for her? And, by the way, we reported the abuse and the bullying to the appropriate authorities.

Helping Others in Need

Without generous private donors funding TheHopeLine, people such as this young lady would not find hope. The cost of hope is not free. It takes the generosity and kindness of people like you to keep it flowing.

Although volunteer coaches like Debbie and me are not paid, there are phone lines, equipment, support software, and support staff to pay for, staff that could be making more money for comparable services in the for-profit realm. They are sacrificing for the benefit of young people in need because they strongly believe in what they are doing. We’re asking you to make a similar sacrifice for the benefit of those same teens and young adults.

We’ve prepared a web page that explains why TheHopeLine is worthy of your support. Click here to learn more. If you would like to pledge your support now, please go to our pledge form by clicking here. A 13 to 29-year-old whose life is hanging in the balance will be most grateful that you did. And you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you made a difference.

If you have already pledged support, please share this post with contacts who you think may be interested. Thank you.

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Autumn Payback

October 11, Day 101 of TheHopeLine Tour of 2014

Fall’s Changing Colors

Picture Perfect Panorama in PennsylvaniaShort sleep accommodated a fast getaway from our unsavory motel room this morning. While we ate breakfast in the familiar confines of a Subway restaurant, a kaleidoscope of fall colors was outside preparing to dazzle us with its richness and its thoroughness in covering area hills. The colder air and shorter nights that have challenged us on the touring front are paying dividends with the visuals. This is the brighter side of fall touring. It’s autumn payback time! The farther east and the later into the season we travel, the better it gets.

Splendid scenery west of Troy PASoon, we were off. The morning chill was now a familiar foe and had lost its intimidating power to cower. Instead, we delighted in the splashing colors of fall and in ripping off chunks of the remaining mileage in our trip.

We met a group of adventure cyclists of a different kind outside an outfitter’s outpost. They were launching into a trail ride on this autumn Saturday and many seemed ill clad for the cooler temperatures and ill equipped for the bicycling to come. In its full fall décor, the “Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania” awaited their 20-mile ride along Pine Creek River. Although the canyon is one of the Pennsylvania Board of Tourism’s major “Do 6” attractions, it is several miles off the beaten path. We chose not to divert from our main objective, although we may return in the future to enjoy the splendid scenery. For now, the promotional photos that wowed us will have to do.

Colorful Hills in PAAn astonished waitress served us lunch in Wellsboro. She couldn’t believe her ears when we described what we were doing. It made us realize that we’re traveling an infrequent route for cross-country bicycle tourists. That’s okay. We’re enjoying it anyway.

After lunch, we held our collective breath and booked another motel room sight unseen, this one in Troy. Who knows what we’ll encounter when we arrive!

Freefalling to the Unknown

Ready for downhill plunge?We cycled toward Mansfield, home of Mansfield University. The hill just outside of town provided a wonderful view of the surroundings. Not only did a bright sun provide for warmer riding conditions, but it also highlighted the magnificent fall colors on the so-called Endless Mountains. The hill soon plunged us into a joyride. This descent was a monster hill that delivered a coasting extravaganza. Yet another large descent west of the next town, Troy, matched the cycling pleasure.

Endless Color in the Endless MountainsOur arrival in Troy brought us closer to discovering what the overnight accommodations would be like. Due to yesterday’s experience, the unknown state of tonight’s lodging had been looming over our heads all day long, more so over Debbie’s head than over mine. With no restaurants nearby, we bought supper at a local grocery store and carried it to our room before sunset. When Debbie opened the door to our motel room to find a newly renovated room with four beds, she breathed a sigh of relief and smiled. We will sleep well tonight!
For October 12 post entitled An Abrupt End, which was posted earlier, click here.

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Bear Necessities

When Debbie and I first talked about taking another long-distance bicycle trip through the Pacific Northwest, my internal risk-o-meter kicked back in. Wolves, cougars, and grizzlies popped up on it, soon followed by rattlers, tornados, and wild dogs.

We began researching the tendencies and geographical dispersion of animals that have had a history of posing risk to unsuspecting—and unprepared—humans. With neither of us that familiar with outdoor survival techniques, a crash course courtesy of the Internet served to bounce the needle on my risk-o-meter far to the right. Fear and reason were jousting for supremacy in my mind.

The Grizzly, or should it be Grisly, Truth

Given the nocturnal nature of wolves and cougars, I was able to discount the associated risk to an acceptable level. As for bears, well…black bears are one thing. With reasonable precautions, they pose minimal risk. Grizzlies, however, are quite another matter. They’ve made a strong comeback from near extinction decades earlier. And human close encounters with them are on the rise, particularly in Yellowstone National Park and a wide radius surrounding it.

Bear Sighting in PAMany experts believe grizzlies have become more dangerous there because tourists have fed them and regularly come in close contact with them, with camera in hand and an open car door nearby. One of our lodging hosts in Montana claimed that the proliferation of the grizzly population is a significant problem for local ranchers and landowners. He said that the increase in predators, including grizzlies, wolves, and eagles, has jeopardized the livestock, the livelihood, and the well-being of area ranchers.

Debbie was much less concerned than I was before we embarked. She was also leading the charge for another grand adventure, although I don’t want to give the impression that I was not excited about one, too. So, we made a “deal.” I told her that we wouldn’t be traveling through bear country…period…unless we were prepared with safety precautions. I know that sounds like a hardline, unilateral decision, but some things are difficult to compromise on. Our safety is one of them.

Preparing for the Worst

Momentum surrounding pre-trip preparations brought the more practical considerations to the forefront. Even I would agree that bear attacks are low-probability events, despite the high probability of severe consequences if we were ever to face one. Therefore, we conveniently deferred bear proofing ourselves until the “midnight hour.”

Watch out you bears and dogs!We flew to Oregon armed with enough bear-defense information, but with little practical experience and as yet unproven—or missing—equipment. Once out West, buying a can of bear spray was an easy first step. Whether we would know how to use it—or be able to use it with an intimidating bear brandishing its jagged teeth as it charged full speed toward us—would be another matter. I studied the instructions as best I could and decided not to worry about the rest.

Our other major defense, beyond choosing our campsites judiciously, would be to learn how to suspend a bear bag from a tree branch. Every article that we read emphasized this practice. Not only does it keep bears away from your tent, but it also protects your food supply and your gear from other nocturnal hunters.

Dress Rehearsal

So, when we first decided on the trip, I had asked Debbie to take the lead on tying up a bear bag. She’s the “knot person” in this duo. She was a scout and a member of the Appalachian Mountain Club. As for me, when it comes to outdoor preparedness, you could call me the “not person.” I didn’t fail scouting, I just didn’t participate. I was too busy playing sports to embark on outdoor adventures. However, that was then, and this is now. As the starting gun was about to fire us into our excursion, the time had come. Check out this video.

Debbie masters the bear bagI have to hand it to Debbie. She mastered this art form with relative ease. The picture to the right sums that up best!

When we reached Sioux City, Iowa, I breathed a sigh of relief. After all, when you bicycle tour, you should only carry the bare necessities, and we no longer needed the bear necessities. We could hand over our bear spray to the next cyclist bound for the Pacific Northwest. We would have a ceremonial picture of the handoff, post it online, and wish him well.

A few thousand miles later, however, that encounter still had not come. We were too late in the season for westbound adventurers. Consequently, here we sit, at home, with an unused can of bear spray. Yet, that suits me just fine. It’s a better outcome than if we’d had to use it!


Filed under Bicycling, TheHopeLine Tour

Fall Touring

October 10, Day 100 of TheHopeLine Tour of 2014

Colder Nights and Shorter Days

We’ve altered our strategy of late. Instead of cycling into the middle of the day and finding out where we might land by day’s end, we’re planning our nightly stops earlier in the day. The cold weather has both of us shivering at the thought of camping. And with daylight waning by suppertime, we simply can’t cycle as many hours in the day as we could earlier in the season, which limits our options. We’ve discovered fall touring has more differences from summer touring than simply the clothes on your back.

Yes it's cold in Smethport on Oct 10So, when we saw today start with clearer skies and chillier temperatures, we utilized the early morning hours to plan a stop for the night. Several calls to churches within our estimated reach made it clear to us that we were approaching the northeast. (We can say that because we live there!) One church had a pancake breakfast planned for Saturday morning and thought our presence there would be incompatible with the early morning preparations. Another church said that they currently had no leadership and therefore no authority to grant our request for a safe haven. When yet another church suggested that we connect with a homeless shelter located several miles east of them, we knew we were no longer in the West or Midwest, where such requests are more commonplace and more readily welcomed. It also caused us to reflect on the state of affairs these days, when a similar request 25 years ago would likely have been handled much differently. Not even an explanation of our mission mattered to these people.

We decided to reserve a room at a motel within a shorter distance. We were concerned about room availability. Booking motels sight unseen can be risky these days, even with Internet reviews to scour. Without our trusted Adventure Cycling Association maps, which come vetted for appropriate and convenient accommodations, and with fewer daylight hours, considering lodging options has been more challenging and time consuming. Motels in this area don’t have many reviews. They are also older facilities whose lifespan has merely been elongated by a spike in oil and gas drilling activity in recent years. There’s no telling what the room would look or smell like, but it would beat sleeping in the cold…or riding in the dark on this truck-infested road. Of course, booking a room early is not a guarantee, as last night’s room came without heat.

Hilly Terrain

Finally, around 10:00 am, we ventured out into the 39-degree morning. In case we had any doubt that it was cold, the smoke in the mountain valleys and the reading on the local bank thermometer confirmed it. So did our fingers and toes.

Cold fall morning in Smethport PAWe tackled the hills that people had warned us about yesterday. There were four or five of them before arriving at Port Allegheny. They were reasonably sized hills, but their pitch and amplitude were modest compared to those of hills we have already faced in the West, in Missouri, and along the Ohio River valley. The worst part of cycling up the hills was coasting down the other side of them, which is normally the fun part. However, with the cold temperatures, the added breeze caused runny eyes and noses, and chilled the extremities.

Prospective Pledgers

Just outside of Port Allegheny on one of the last climbs, we met a couple tending to their property. This wasn’t just any couple. They were bicycle tourists from years gone by. And they had also worked with troubled youth from inner cities. The husband was planning one last tour for when he hits 65 next year. One last tour? Ha! That’s what they all say.

When we began our fundraising tour over three months ago, we thought God would place people in our path who would understand the mission of TheHopeLine and have the means to make a big dent in our fundraising goal. I sensed that this couple was one of those encounters, just as we’ve sensed others, who are now miles removed from us, have been. Our responsibility would be to simply share what TheHopeLine does and what the need is. The rest would be up to them, with God’s Spirit prodding them along. We had plenty in common with this couple and talked for several minutes. Eventually, we shared TheHopeLine and, due to the cold, left sooner than we otherwise would have, and made our way to a semi-heated diner for brunch.

Several patrons and the waitress were interested in what we were doing, so we shared it with the whole diner, since most were in earshot. When we departed, an equally friendly sun helped alleviate the cold start to the day. We were off to enjoy the fall foliage in the Susquehannock State Forest.

Motel Roulette

Descent from Denton HillWe ascended Denton Hill, noted as the high point on the map for Route 6 at 2,424 feet. People at the diner held the climb in high regard. Yet, we easily dispatched of it at this point in our trip. It took us some time to climb it, but little effort. Once at the top, a cordial man drove up and asked if we were the cyclists who had left a message on his answering machine last night. He runs a local motel. When I acknowledged that we were and that we’d booked a room farther down the road, he asked at which motel. When I told him, he uttered no words, but his smirk was difficult to mask and it said much. Debbie didn’t see his expression, but I did. And it made me wonder just how the evening would go.

Fall foliage in SusqueHannock State ForestThe descent from Denton Hill was certainly a just reward for the climb. We made our way to our motel and checked in for the evening. My suspicions were confirmed when we cycled toward our reserved room, situated in an old strip motel. The roof of the accompanying restaurant was obviously in need of replacement, as it looked more like the lichen-covered bark on a cedar tree than a manmade structure. The management said that they were nearly full tonight and that the room hadn’t been rented out in quite some time, which explained its distasteful smell. They handed us a bottle of Febreze to address the problem. At least the heat worked, and the shower was good, so we were thankful. We spent the majority of our time in the back room of the adjacent bar, which served a two-fold purpose: we had Internet access and we reduced the amount of time we would spend in the motel room.

Bicycle touring is not for the faint of heart. There are circumstances, such as this one, that are simply beyond your control. If you can learn to accept the good and the bad, you’ll find that the challenging situations are a small price to pay for the benefits of touring. The same can be said for life itself.
Are you one of those individuals who has met us on our tour, or followed us online, you understand and appreciate what TheHopeLine does, you have means to support it, but you just haven’t yet pledged your support? You can do so now at this link. Young people whose lives are hanging in the balance will be most grateful.

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