A day of much needed rest helped jumpstart us into another day of riding with renewed vigor. We traveled to Manheim and spent some time with a friend and representative of thehopeline.com. Some of you may be familiar with our association with TheHopeLine from our prior trip in 2010, when we actively promoted the ministry on our trek across America. Mark Gries is their National Director of Development. I’ve had many conversations with Mark over the phone, and we have even shared prayer requests. But we had only met once in person. Mark has a similar story as mine: he married and moved to Pennsylvania where his bride lived. We shared an interesting time of catching up before Debbie and I proceeded on our journey.
We cycled through Amish country in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. The area offers an interesting mix of agriculture-based industry, tourism, and a subculture lifestyle that rejects some of today’s technology. We saw Amish children playing with old-fashioned, yet wholesome, toys. And, of course, there were the horse and buggies for which these people are noted. The buggies navigate on the same roads as tractor-trailers bringing goods to market. Avoiding an occasional horse dropping provided a new twist to the cycling challenge. We noted massive corn fields with tobacco interspersed.
As lunchtime approached, so did a large dark sky from the west when we stopped in Bowmansville at a family restaurant. No sooner had we ordered our meal, than the clouds split open to cracks of thunder. Strong winds pushed a driving rain outside. Shortly, we heard the sirens and clamor of emergency vehicles speeding up and down the center of the small town. The waitress suggested we bring our bicycles into the restaurant. Once we recognized the potential violence of the storm, we wholeheartedly embraced her splendid and thoughtful idea. Despite the porch overhang, a swirling wind was pushing the rain on our loads, while the winds would potentially topple the bicycles.
With our final bite of dessert, the cloud cover outside was drastically improved, inviting us to resume travel. One of the waitresses, who had just gotten off work, was cycling behind us with her long dress and helmetless head. She was able to correct our path out of town and set us back on course. God’s provision was in evidence yet again.
The grades of the hills were indeed less severe than those of our prior cycling day, but the terrain became more challenging as the day wore on. We climbed another 4,300 feet of altitude over eighty miles. The afternoon ride was more challenging. For one, the beautiful Amish farmland was giving way to trees and hills. We navigated more complex map instructions, with turns it seemed every mile or two. And despite riding adjacent to busy roads not too many miles away, no services were available on our route to provide a break or more comfortable bathroom rest stops.
Today’s lunchtime storm was not a surprise, although its timing may have been. The weather forecast had indicated the potential for violent weather for both today and tomorrow. Tomorrow’s forecast was particularly ominous, inclusive of tornado threats. So we had resolved to achieve high mileage in anticipation of another possible day off tomorrow.
As the sun began it decline, we opted to check motel possibilities from afar. Our ride into the dusk toward our selected overnight stay found us navigating through a Philadelphia suburb, with a late arrival and even later meal to replenish some of the 4,900 calories burned. A twelve-hour day was in the books, and uncertainty loomed about Friday’s weather.