In any endurance event you try to have the end in sight from the beginning. In between we have no control over the challenges from weather, terrain, or for that matter, what’s going on in our heads. Every day the end goal gets us out of bed and on the bike: get through today, and be one day closer to the end.
On this last day the miles quickly disappeared beneath me. Final days are often like this for me. The quiet hum of the drivetrain and the natural sounds of the forest were my soundtrack. Psalm 46 played in my thoughts: God is within her. My effort was steady – in the sweet-spot between hard and not too hard.
Endurance cycling is, for me, a rich metaphor for my relationship with Christ as savior and Lord:
Let us throw off everything that hinders, and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12.1-2).
Some days we fly along. Some days drag on forever. Some days we want to quit. But as we fix our eyes on Jesus we WILL cross the finish line.
On any given day bike time is influenced by wind, weather, heat, hills, bumpy roads, tiredness, freshness and other such things. Today it was rain, stretches of broken pavement and a headwind. But…it’s still time on the bike, and that brings a smile.
We’re in the Iron Range where even the dirt is iron oxide red. Iron and taconite mining have been the foundation of the economy here for over 100 years. The mining is down right now, and times are hard. One bright spot while passing through Eveleth was two Habitat homes under construction with twenty-plus more completed homes bringing hope to a struggling community.
My friend Nathan Thompson is the executive director of North St. Louis county Habitat. He runs a ministry – there’s no mistaking it – Jesus is everywhere. He’s been accepted by the community because of how he and his staff have served with love and faithfulness.
A locomotive that hauled ore to Lake Superior shipping ports
The first day of a bike tour is typically energetic. It’s all about anticipation and dreams of effortlessly devouring the miles. On the second day it dawns that you’ve gotten yourself into some serious effort…a sobering thought. The third day is the day where aches and pains manifest themselves. It also signals the middle of the tour: might as well keep going since I made it this far.
Today’s 80 miles began with tight legs. Overnight I had dreams of bad things happening on the bike, but I still got up at 5:15 and got dressed hoping for better. At the first rest stop I found THE stretch that released all the tension in my legs, and then the fastest 80 miles I’ve done in quite sometime.
The route wound through pine and spruce forests past some recent logging operations. The smell of fresh cut timber gave the air an evergreen that reminded me of Christmas. We had the road to ourselves and were able to chat while riding side by side. I needed a good day after two days of crushing heat, and God delivered.
We left Duluth and headed north to Hibbing and the Iron Range in the embrace of a dee-lightful tail wind. I mean, DELIGHTFUL.
E.g. enchanting,captivating,entrancing,engaging,fetching. FETCHING!
We were traveling at 20-24 mph without working overly hard. It was a special day of cycling as our group of ten rode nose-to-tail in a double line. The push of the wind allowed for playful conversation that made the miles pass quickly.
As you head north into the big woods, the open spaces contain tamarack swamps – a signature Minnesota wet land. They’re a mix of small evergreen, grasses and hardy high latitude creepers that can survive the long winters. The bright skies are reflected in dark pools of water…God’s signature on His creation.
76 miles, 1440′ climbed.
Total: 143 miles, 4540′ climbed 😊
One of 3 or 4 rest stops each day. Cold water and food in abundance!
The big yellow truck hauls our luggage from one stop to the next
We rolled out at 6:50 this morning for a 67 mile loop along Lake Superior, and returning through the NUMEROUS hills inland. Seven years up in northern MN must’ve done something to me: I don’t tolerate heat very well anymore – and it was hot today. Mid 80’s and increasing humidity. I overheated twice, but came back from the dead…as we say in the cycling world.
What’s called for is cooling down the core using shade, a cool breeze, unzipped jersey, water doused on the head and neck…or a combination thereof. It’s a beautiful thing.
Habitat for Humanity helps families stuck in the cycle of poverty come back from the dead. Dreams and hope are restored, and a God conversation is begun, or continued. It’s is a beautiful thing.
For the seventh time I’m packing my bike and bags to head out for a week of riding with my adopted cycling family at the Habitat 500.
We ride to raise money and awareness for decent and affordable housing. It’s a gathering of people brought together by vision and a generous heart…not to mention a quirky love for everything concerning cycling.
Early this morning I drove across the Wisconsin Dells beneath stunning blue skies and then north up to Lake Superior. A single mosquito (no doubt from the swamp 100 feet north of the house) accompanied me. Though initially quite active and skillful at avoiding my attempts at swatting, I’m thinking the AC must’ve done the creature in before the bridge crossing into Minnesota.
My congregation and a few friends generously contributed $1425 to the ride. The Grand Rapids affiliate is hoping to generate enough interest to bring my total fundraising up to $35,000 over seven rides.
The 157 riders convene in Duluth tomorrow.
The happy clutter of everything for a week of bike
The signature fundraising for Minnesota Habitat for Humanity is the Habitat 500 bike tour. Each July we ride – you guessed it – 500 miles over seven days in support of decent and affordable housing.
This is my 5th ride, and I’m thrilled to say that we’ve just passed $5000 in early fundraising. Our goal is $7500, and I think we’ll blow past this in a few more weeks! Each year we ride in a different part of the state. We stay in school gymnasiums, and eat meals prepared by local churches. Along the way, we are fed every 20 miles or so at rest stops that serve up the kind of high energy foods cyclists need. The cold pressed coffee at rest stop 2 is heavenly. This year’s ride is July 9-15.
Training in early spring is a bit…uh…adventurous in Northern Minnesota. You need to wear a LOT of clothing: insulated tights, insulated jersey, neoprene booties like scuba divers wear, and a windproof insulated shell. On cold days I add a layer of under armor. You don’t want to forget to put duct tape over the vents in your bike shoes.
I’d like to think this makes us mentally tougher, since the best part of a cold ride is when it’s over. It’s a yearly rite of passage on the frozen tundra. But take heart! In the words of our Viking forbearers, that which doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. Once the days grow longer, the sun higher in the sky, and the winds calmer; we are ready to ride in earnest…maybe with a hint of Viking aggression.
The online donation site is up, and can be found here.
A final thought. As the pastor of First Lutheran in Grand Rapids, MN I’m super pleased to say that we’ve been supporting Itasca Habitat for Humanity for several years. Behind me are more than 200 volunteers and donors who bang nails, serve meals to 150 hungry cyclists, and give generously.