TheHopeLine Tour Post Trip Thoughts Part 3

Part 3 of a 3-part series (To read Part 1 of his post trip thoughts, in which Tim describes the experience and how he is missing it, click here. For Part 2 about the route and the touring high points, click here.)

Fundraising

Pitching TheHopeLine was a privilege. We only hope that we have made as much of a difference for it as it did for our tour. TheHopeLine cause immediately connected us with people everywhere. Everyone, it seems, is affected by suicide. We learned better techniques for sharing our mission and developed more confidence the farther east we traveled. Our thanks to Marfa Films, who shot this video outside of Grace Baptist Church in Milford, Ohio, before we embarked on the bike path to Xenia. I must say, we seem a bit road weary here!

My biggest disappointment of the entire tour was the inability to land significant media appearances, despite pitching print and broadcast media in large nearby cities like Omaha, Kansas City, St. Louis, Nashville, Louisville, Cincinnati, Columbus, and Cleveland. A major network television station in Louisville shot video of us and a senior producer in Columbus (Ohio’s largest television market) showed interest in our story. It seemed the farther we traveled, the higher the potential of drawing attention to our cause. However, no significant exposure materialized. The day our trip ended, we were planning a short day of 25 miles, and two rest days in which we would pitch media in Scranton, Philadelphia, New York City, Hartford, Worcester, Providence, and Boston. We’ll never know whether any coverage we might have received from those contacts would have made a difference in our fundraising campaign.

Tour CardI’ve developed a new appreciation for just how difficult it is to raise money, even for a nonprofit as worthy as TheHopeLine, which is saving lives. We’ll end our campaign somewhere over $20,000. Even though we had a higher goal, $20,000 is a healthy sum, and the potential exists for more. We’re thankful to family and friends, who were the predominant source of the funding. People were generous. They were also supportive by following us through the Open Road Press blog and Facebook.

I’m convinced we met prospective donors with the potential to send the mercury in our fundraising thermometer sky high. There were a handful of farmers with substantial crops and livestock, an investment banker, a financial advisor, a real estate developer, and that older gentleman at a motel in Brandenburg, Kentucky, who checked in just after we did. I had a strong impression that he was destined to make a difference. Whether or not he checked into TheHopeLine, we may never know. Potential donors were everywhere. We had promising encounters in Montana, South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

Two Are Better

There’s nothing like a bicycle tour to bond you together with your riding partner. In our case, since we’re husband and wife, we reap a special bonus. Here we sit, overwhelmed with memories as we sift through photographs and blog posts, as we consider what was and what might have been. The intensity of our tour and its fundraising campaign meant that we needed to be fully engaged and cooperative to maximize our efforts. Crossing the Ohio River at Mayville KYIt seared us together. It’s not that we weren’t together before, but a bicycle tour unifies you toward a common goal much better than everyday life ever will. We grew closer. What bigger blessing could we have had? None that I can think of.

Thank you to everyone who followed and supported us. We believe that the connectedness and safety that we enjoyed were a direct result of other people’s prayers and God’s constant provision. Life’s experiences are accentuated when others are pulling for you. The pledges of support to TheHopeLine energized us. And those who regularly commented or “liked” on Facebook reminded us of the prayers and goodwill that came our way every day. We’re grateful to those of you who partnered with us.
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If you have not yet pledged support to TheHopeLine as part of TheHopeLine Tour of 2014, it’s not too late! What’s more, a generous donor of TheHopeLine has agreed to match your contribution dollar for dollar from now until the end of 2014. Won’t you please help raise the fundraising thermometer higher while making a lasting difference in the lives of young people in crisis? To pledge support right now, click here. If you would like to learn more about why TheHopeLine is worthy of your support, please read our case for support page.

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TheHopeLine Tour Post Trip Thoughts Part 2

Part 2 of a 3-part series (To read Part 1 of his post trip thoughts, in which Tim describes the experience and how he misses it, click here.)

The Route

Lunar Landing?Our route provided plenty of challenge. It kept us out of harm’s way and offered cities where we could pitch TheHopeLine to media and engage more people face to face. We traveled more miles and climbed more feet of elevation than on our other tours. And when you include Oregon, Idaho, and Montana in your touring, you’re sure to encounter breathtaking sights. The appealing visuals continued into Wyoming, where the terrain had us wondering whether we had landed on the moon. South Dakota and states farther east followed suit. We inhabit a beautiful country.

Debbie and I began TheHopeLine Tour of 2014 on the marquis route for bicycle touring, the Transamerica Trail. This moved us through the high desert of Oregon and Idaho, through the Clearwater National Forest and Lolo Pass, to Missoula, Montana. This portion of the route was more challenging than the Lewis and Clark Trail that we followed through the Columbia River Gorge in 2010. This year’s early route had more climbing and some long stretches between services. It was also hotter.

In Missoula, we changed to a route that would avoid the traffic, tourists, and “teddies” of Yellowstone National Park, a multi-day service-less stretch through Wyoming, and 11,000-foot Hoosier Pass in Colorado. Instead, we opted to head east through Montana along the I-90 corridor. With rear ends sore from climbing and a knee that had already been treated in Oregon, we felt the route change suited our capabilities much better. Our route would also take us close to some major cities that might offer better fundraising possibilities.

So, we headed east and dropped into Wyoming. Little did we know, the Bighorn Range and 9,600-foot Powder River Pass awaited us before we would eventually earn the right to enter flatter terrain. Once into South Dakota, we shadowed I-90 until reuniting with the Missouri River and the Lewis and Clark Trail. The Missouri led us south to the state of Missouri, where we followed it toward the Mississippi River. We dipped south again to cross into Illinois at Cape Girardeau, following ACA‘s Great Rivers South route on the fringes of Missouri’s Ozark region.

An option of our revised route would have taken us through Mississippi and Tennessee, leading us south of Nashville to TheHopeLine’s headquarters. However, after a two-week break in Sioux City, Iowa, tending to an injury, we skipped the more southerly route in the interest of returning home before snowfall and just in time for Debbie’s return to teaching.

The Ohio River at Brandenburg KentuckyThe Ohio River soon became our traveling partner as we navigated through Illinois and into Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio. Somewhere in Kentucky, we switched to ACA’s Underground Railroad route. The hills along the Ohio River surprised us…and challenged us. The state of Ohio delivered us back into the northeast when we entered our fourteenth state of the tour, Pennsylvania. Halfway across Pennsylvania, on US Route 6, our tour ended with a broken arm. We were headed toward ACA’s Atlantic Coast route, which would have deposited us into New England. Eventually, we’d have found our way to Rhode Island and the Atlantic Ocean to complete the coast-to-coast trek. However, this time, it was not to be.

Superlatives

Ribbon roadMissouri gets the prize for being the most unpredictable state. We were surprised by the many hills. Missouri’s lettered highways provided plenty of roller coaster action, with constant ups and downs. A two-day hiatus on the Katy Trail provided welcomed relief to the climbing.

The most beautiful state? I’m partial to Montana, which has it all: beautiful mountains, grasslands, evergreen forests, clear mountain streams and rivers, blue sky, and expansive vistas that earn it the name Big Sky Country. Idaho has magnificent scenery, too, but it was more difficult to enjoy due to more harrowing roads.

Oregon is a worthy competitor. Its scenery is wonderful and diverse, plus it features the Pacific Ocean. The unusual terrain of the high desert, with its breathtaking views, was spellbinding. Kentucky’s ridges offered plenty of long, eye-catching views, filled with green hills and valleys and interspersed with cropland. Our final days in Pennsylvania suggested that we had some even more spectacular foliage awaiting us had we been able to continue farther east.

TheHopeLine sign on Tim's pannierBicyclists heading west told us the people of Kentucky were extremely friendly, helpful, and hospitable. We found this out firsthand. The people of South Dakota were unusually friendly, too. In fact, we found friendly people in most of the places we traveled. Those we met from Canton, Pennsylvania, who played a special role in our journey’s end, fell into a category all their own.

To read Part 3, about the fundraising and marriage aspects of TheHopeLine Tour, click here.
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If you have not yet pledged support to TheHopeLine as part of TheHopeLine Tour of 2014, it’s not too late! What’s more, a generous donor of TheHopeLine has agreed to match your contribution dollar for dollar from now until the end of 2014. Won’t you please help raise the fundraising thermometer higher while making a lasting difference in the lives of young people in crisis? To pledge support right now, click here. If you would like to learn more about why TheHopeLine is worthy of your support, please read our case for support page.

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TheHopeLine Tour Post Trip Thoughts Part 1

Part 1 of a 3-part series.

Back to Reality

Okay. I admit it. Debbie and I have been flat-lining ever since returning from TheHopeLine Tour of 2014. How does one sum up, let alone move on from, a 4,344-mile bicycle tour to beat all? Months of unopened mail, a deferred book launch, and easing back into sedentary daily life after our high-energy routine have translated our hyperactive motion into a feeling of being frozen in time, still locked within the memories and the grandiose scenes that delighted us this summer.

Surreal photos on our living room’s digital picture frame punctuate an experience that is difficult to put into words, even for its protagonists.

Cycling to meet the Bighorns in Wyoming- There’s one of those pictures just now: Debbie and her bicycle dropping into a mystifying, yet magnificent, stretch of the Wyoming terrain, which has graciously allowed us to become part of the scene.

Debbie Surveying South Dakota's Badlands- There she is overlooking South Dakota’s mysterious badlands, awestruck by another of our country’s unusual physical features.

Deb Climbing White Bird Hill- Another magical moment pops up: Debbie climbing White Bird Hill in Idaho, with its adjacent and plunging canyon in the background, reminding us of our wind-buffeted ride to the top. The word “Hill,” as it is applied here, mind you, is the worst of misnomers. We’ll not see a hill like this for quite some time, if ever again.

Ready for downhill plunge?- And–oh no–another splendid, foliage-filled frame of Debbie cycling US Route 6 in Pennsylvania, heading toward an unpredictable ending unbefitting of a gallant road warrior like Debbie. Regardless, adventure never looked so good.

The Experience

As I ponder post trip thoughts, two of our trip’s attributes come to mind. The first is intense. When you combine the daily rigors of a long-distance bicycle tour and a fundraiser, with its substantial social media content, you often finding yourself burning the candle at both ends. Debbie and I found our candles’ wicks were often aglow late into the night and shrinking from use during the day as we pedaled east toward cooler autumn temperatures. Nevertheless, the mercury in our fundraising thermometer continued to rise.

And the second attribute? The exact wording still eludes me, but here are some candidates: amazing, awe inspiring, life changing, moving. However it is described, deep emotion and overwhelming blessing must preside regarding this tour. It spoke to the heart…and it still does. As experts who describe the potential point value of gymnastic routines might say, we went “big.” Real big! And the post-event scores and emotion reflect that.

The experience was fantastic; the challenge, monumental; the blessing, Montana-sized. We basked in the freedom of the open road, soaked in some beautiful countryside, raised some needed funds and awareness for TheHopeLine, and grew closer together. Falling just short of our intended destination at tour’s end did little to dampen our spirits or take away from what we had already experienced. In fact, the unanticipated finale forever branded our journey as one filled with God moments, thanks to our heaven-sent rescuers.

Tour CardI miss the open road, traveling to parts unknown, being wowed by the beauty of America, connecting with people about TheHopeLine, and doing it together with Debbie. In fact, it feels like we’re still in grieving around here. Our larger than life experience has forever changed our perspective. There’s a big world out there. Being a part of it for three and a half months has simply whetted the appetite for more. Whatever form that may take, you can count me in.

For Part 2 of Tim’s post trip thoughts, in which he talks about the route and the touring high points, click here.
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If you have not yet pledged support to TheHopeLine as part of TheHopeLine Tour of 2014, it’s not too late! What’s more, a generous donor of TheHopeLine has agreed to match your contribution dollar for dollar from now until the end of 2014. Won’t you please help raise the fundraising thermometer higher while making a lasting difference in the lives of young people in crisis? To pledge support right now, click here. If you would like to learn more about why TheHopeLine is worthy of your support, please read our case for support page.

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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

Introduction

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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