Friday, April 18, 2008

April 10th--Day 3--Sanctuary South of Sidney, IL

I realized I needed to off-load some gear. With Sayd's help at the Paxton Inn, I boxed about 4# of gear, and hoped I'd find a P.O. en route to mail the stuff back home. I also realized the day was going to be fierce, weather-wise: BIG, BIG rain with winds that ultimately gusted to 54 mph. I was scared, my stomach churning, yet going forward was the only option I knew. I had to be in Nashville on the 14th to meet Kirk. We were both very much looking forward to our little Gaylord's Opryland get-a-way. It would mark about the midpoint of my ride and a much needed respite for him.

I called my friend, Valerie from Washington IS, WI. Among many, many ultra distance canoeing ventures she has done, her most epic was a two-continent canoe trip spanning 3 years from the Arctic to Antarctic. Valerie is a person of deep faith who understands passion, drive, focus, intensity, reliance upon God, faith, fear, adversity, grace, and victory--all defined in God's terms. She talked; she prayed, while I tried to swallow my grits and eggs at the Paxton Grill next to Sayd's Paxton Inn.

I really didn't know how this day was going to be lived out, but staying in the safe harbor of the Paxton Inn would not this day reveal. The winds were manageable and the rain was but a sprinkle. Wind chill was in the mid 30's.

I found my P.O. in Rantoul as well as a much needed bathroom. I thought maybe this was karma that this day would turn out OK. But 40 minutes and 8 unnecessary miles later I was still in Rantoul trying to get around or through Chanute AFB and a golf course. I was caught between cursing my bad fortune of having lost so much time when the wind and rain was still manageable and Valerie's words about "God's Timing."

20 miles later I'm in Saint Joseph, IL having passed through the likes of Thawville and Flatville. Surely the founding fathers and mothers of these fine towns could have been a little more inspired than Thaw and Flat; then again...

I take safe harbor in Subway to fill my water bottles and get up the nerve to press on as by now the rain is coming down forcibly and the winds are steady in the mid-upper 20's with gusts in the 30's. The rain is described by as "heavy"; hard to hold the bike on the road with the likes of these.

10 more miles. My Sealskinz waterproof socks are working as far as keeping my feet dry, but I have about an inch of water between my sock and shoe, sloshing with each pedal stroke. I need to stop, figure out where I am in relationship to my destination--Charleston (I think it's 40 more miles); how I'm going to get dry, keep going, and deal with the even worse weather forecasted for the rest of the day.

Maybe I can find a friendly house. Maybe the owners will take me in and let me dry my clothes; let me talk to Kirk; give me time and space to figure out what to do. The first few houses I looked at with this plan in mind looked really scary.

Then I came upon a house that reminded me of that of some good friends who are hog farmers in Sycamore. There was an electric candle on in their kitchen window, a good sign I thought. I pushed my bike up the steep, crushed gravel driveway and parked it under a tree. I prayed they didn't have a dog that would defend its property when it saw the likes of me. I prayed that the owner, if home, would open the door. This, I think, is one of those times when it's easier to be female than male. I believe doors might open more easily to a female in distress than a male. I don't know, just my thought. So I knocked; the door opened; they had a cat.

I introduced myself and he told me he was LeRoy. I invited myself in. I could not believe the puddle I was making. It was as if you had taken the laundry out of the washer before the spin cycle and just held the whole load in your hands. I remember saying to LeRoy, best case scenario, I wonder if I might dry my clothes in your dryer. He said, "Why certainly, but I don't know how to run the dryer. Please come in, but through the garage, and as soon as my wife comes home she can help you.

Clothes in my panniers were perfectly dry so I shed the wet for the dry and waited for Joyce to come home to run the dryer. We should have run the clothes through the spin cycle before putting them in the dryer, but the extra time it took to dry gave us, LeRoy, Joyce, and me, time to visit, tell some life-journey stories, talk to Kirk, and for LeRoy to come up with the winning solution--would I like him to drive me to Charleston putting my bike in the back of his pick-up truck.

God's timing, Valerie's message to me. Had I not had my challenges getting through Rantoul, I would have been 40 minutes past LeRoy and Joyce's when the wind and rain ground me to a halt.

LeRoy and I had a great visit all the way, 40 miles, to Charleston. I learned no one in IL had yet plowed their fields--way too wet. LeRoy is 72 and still works his 1,900 acres of beans and corn, all by himself. It costs about $400 just to plant and harvest a square acre, excluding the cost of farm implements; and they have about 1M of farm machinery. Those are all numbers, risks, and a life-style I really can't begin to comprehend, just as I'm sure he can't comprehend a Chicago life-style.

The storms came and went all day rolling through in waves.

God's timing. Sanctuary in Sidney. Matthew 25:35-36 applied--I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed to dry my clothes and you let me use your dryer; I needed to get to Charleston, and you carried me in your pickup truck. LeRoy and Joyce were Christ for me this day.

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