I woke up this morning thinking, "Do we have to leave???". I got out of bed, started packing, and was generally in a kind-of bum mood until I saw the breakfast Nathan had made: pancakes and a dozen eggs! Yay! We are both starting to love eating pancakes with eggs over-easy on top of them. It's gooood.
After breakfast, we packed and checked the weather. It's still super cold, but at least it was supposed to get up into the 50's today! We were all ready to go and even had one bike out the door when Brother Ed walked in. We talked with him for a while about our trip and the Catholic church. Then Brother Mike walked in, and we chatted with him some too. We really like them, so it was cool to talk, but we ended up leaving about an hour later than we wanted to, so that was a bummer. Before we left, they gave us some contact information for a Catholic church about 45 miles away. We hoped to make 60 miles and cross the Virginia border today, but we took the contact info just in case.
After saying our last goodbye's, we headed out to meet a chilly morning. I think the temperature was in the upper 30's or maybe low 40's when we left.
Since we got a late start, we knew we needed to make good time to get 60 miles to Clintwood, VA, but we had to stop at the grocery store first to get our daily juice and some bananas. When we got there, there was this older guy outside, and he started talking to Nathan. He was talking about life, the road we were riding on, Jesus, etc... He was one of those people who just goes on, and on, and on, and you can't really get them to stop. Finally, I went into the grocery store and he came in to do his shopping too. When I was done, he was already back outside talking with Nathan and going on and on again. It was pretty hard to get away from him, but we finally were able to leave.
We were both getting frustrated at our slow start today when Nathan noticed the name of the town we were in: Happy, Kentucky. A whole town named "Happy"! How neat! We both perked back up after seeing that.
We put the pedal to the metal, and had gone about 20 miles when I suddenly realized I had to go #2 really bad (I know this is gross)! The feeling came out of nowhere, and I didn't think I could wait very long, so I told Nathan, and we started looking for somewhere to stop...but we were in rural Kentucky, and there wasn't much around. We rode about 2 or 3 miles before finding somewhere to stop (translation: 10-15 lloonngg minutes). The bumps were killing me, and I thought I was about to poop my pants when Nathan finally found a Subway - horray! I went in and made a bee-line for the bathroom. Turns out I didn't just have to poop, I had major diarrhea...the kind that totally empties you out. Ug.
I haven't had that on our trip so far, so I'm not sure what changed. I was a little concerned, because we're getting ready to go into the Appalachian Mountains today, and most of my body's water and calories just went down the drain (ba-dum-pum). To make up for it, I ate a big Subway lunch and drank a bunch of water. I was kind-of nervous, because I didn't know how the food was going to sit in my tummy. If I kept having diarrhea, it would be a long day... But if I didn't eat, there was no way we could make it over the upcoming mountain pass. So I said a prayer and downed my footlong!
Fortunately, Nathan was feeling fine, so after lunch, we kept heading for Jenkins Pass. We weren't sure exactly where the pass would be, but we knew we were getting close because the ups and downs turned into just ups. There were lots of hills, and the riding was pretty tiring, but we were looking forward to seeing Jenkins Pass. We heard about it from Father Mike. He said it was pretty new, and the rocks that were exposed when the pass was cut through the mountain were really neat looking. The rocks are so interesting that geologists have come from around the world to look at them and study them!
As we headed up the pass, I was feeling pretty worn out. I just didn't have very much energy, and I kept dinging my bell at Nathan so we could stop for a rest break. I think it was the diarrhea that had zapped me. Nathan was trying to be understanding, but he was frustrated because of all the setbacks we'd had today. The sun was starting to get low, and we still had a ways to ride.
The pass was really pretty, just like Father Mike had said. When they cut the rock to put in the road, it revealed lots and lots of layers and colors. It was very striking. And, of course, we also had a great view of the surrounding countryside. For as many great views as we've had this whole trip, I'm happy to say that they still amaze me. I feel in no way numb to the beauty of the Earth. America is such a breathtaking country, and, as usual, the view from Jenkins Pass didn't disappoint. God is good. :-)
In addition to the great scenery, there were three signs on the top that got our attention. 1 - A sign that said we'd just ridden a few miles up an 8% grade (no wonder it was so tough!). 2 - A 'Welcome to Virginia' sign (horray!). 3 - A sign for a gas station (food!). We went to the gas station, and when we got there, the elastic in my "super explorer skirt" snapped. Ah! I asked the lady behind the counter for a safety pin. She didn't have one, but she did find a paper clip. She reached over the counter with her paper clip in one hand and grabbed at my skirt with the other, bunched it up, and paper-clipped it......and it worked!! I was stunned. She smiled and gave me some extra paper clips "for the road". Haha.
While I was getting fixed up, Nathan bought a Zero bar. We'd never had one of those before. It's caramel, peanut, and almond nougats covered in white fudge. I tried it but definitely did not like it! Nathan didn't like it very much either.
After choking down the Zero bar, we headed outside, and some truckers were staring at us and our bikes, so we said hi. They asked about our trip and were amazed to hear that we had traveled all the way from the West coast! And, you know, I'm amazed too. I mean, it's crazy to think we've actually made it this far, and now we're about to cross into Virginia, a state that borders the Atlantic Ocean! We're getting so close! To document the occasion, we took a video and thought it was a great time to thank another one of our supporters, Bill Tanner! Thanks so much Bill!!
Unfortunately, the temperature had never gotten into the 50's today, but even though it was so cold, riding up the pass had made us both really sweaty. I mean a REALLY sweaty. Our shirts and bike shorts were wet from sweat, and our bodies were wet from sweat too. As we rode down the other side of the pass, I thought I was going to freeze! I was so cold, and we were going so fast (over 30mph), I started wondering if my wet clothes were turning to ice! By the time we got to the bottom, I couldn't feel most of my face or my hands. Brr!!!
We had 15 miles to go to get to Clintwood. Fortunately, it was mostly uphill, and that meant we'd warm up! Unfortunately, it was mostly uphill, and hills are hard.
We finally got there around 5:30 just as the sun was setting. We went into a McDonalds to get online and find a place to stay the night. Nathan was in a pretty bad mood at this point because we were behind schedule, so he got some french fries and sat quietly at a table while I used the computer. We found a church that had Sunday evening services that started at 6pm, so we decided to go there and ask for a place to stay.
When we left the McDonalds, it was 5:50, and it was completely dark outside. When we got there 20 minutes earlier, it was still light out! I cringed as I looked over at Nathan while we prepared to ride to the church in the dark (one of our least favorite things). If the french fries helped his mood at all, I couldn't tell.
After a quick ride, we found the church, and as we walked in, someone said hi to us and told us to help ourselves to food in the kitchen! I could tell this was a cool church. :-)
We cleaned up a little in the bathroom and went into the service. The pastor was talking about philosophy and the different philosophical eras the world has been through. Interesting topic for a sermon. I don't think I've ever heard a pastor preach about philosophy before.
He said we are now in the Post-Modern era, and the thinking that defines this era is that there are no absolutes. And while you might think that having no absolutes would lead to having no truth, that's not true. In fact, having no absolutes has produced the opposite effect, and now, in a really weird way, EVERYTHING is true. Whatever you want to be true is true, and no one can really tell you you're wrong. It's really weird and messed up, and it reminded me a LOT of college and the anything-goes and everything-is-right mindset there. The obvious danger to this way of thinking is that people do not believe Jesus when he says that HE is the ONLY way to God and to Heaven.
The pastor then talked about how we should respond as christians. He said that we should stand strong in our faith. People think that having the freedom to do whatever they want to do and believe whatever they want to believe is what they want, but it's not true. An anything-goes and everything-is-right mindset might be fun for the short-term, but ultimately, it doesn't bring the abundant life they expect. Not having rules and boundaries about the way to live and the way to get to heaven actually creates a lot of insecurity, because it gives you the pressure of needing to figure everything out on your own. All that pressure leads to a lifestyle of being wishy-washy, jumping from one thing to another, not sure if you've found the right way yet. This 'freedom' eventually works to take AWAY the emotional and mental security that comes from a grounded and focused life, the kind of life that God offers us. By standing firm in our faith, we stand out because we're not doing the normal 'post-modern' thing. Instead, we live for God and He is in control. People who are insecure are drawn to people who stand strong and grounded in authentic faith.
It was an awesome message, and I really connected with it! Towards the end of the message, the pastor looked back at Nathan and I and said, "I see a lot of head nodding back there! Is there something you guys would like to say or add?". Ha! I had been nodding along with everything he was saying. I didn't realize I was doing it that noticeably, but apparently I was, because we were sitting all the way in the back by the door, and he had noticed! So I sort-of cleared my throat and started talking about how it reminded me of college, and about how I agreed that strong and unwavering faith was an excellent way to live at all times, but especially in response to the post-modern way of thinking. I told him I really liked the sermon. He thanked us, and after taking a few more comments from the congregation, ended the evening service.
As soon as the service ended, he came right over to us to meet us and talk! His name is Bryant. We couldn't really talk with him very much because so many people kept coming up to shake our hands and tell us they were happy to have us as visitors. It was such an friendly church!!
We asked the Pastor Bryant if we could spend the night inside the church tonight because it supposed to get really cold, and he said yes! Woo-hoo! Then his wife came over and offered to drive us to their house for showers - wow! Then we headed to the gym where they had just made biscuits in the oven, and then made ham sandwiches with them. The sandwiches were sitting on tables along with fresh-baked cookies, chips, and drinks. Ah! Is this heaven?!! I could've died happy right there.
As we were eating, we met the youth pastor. His name is Kenon, and he's engaged to a girl named Erika, and they're getting married on Jan 22, 2011! He showed us some places we could sleep tonight. One place was the youth room. It had one couch and a few chairs. Then he showed us another room that had a HUGE wrap-around couch. The couch was so big, it took up the whole room! We both walked in and went, "WWWWOOOOOAAAHHHHH!!!". Then we laughed. We're not used to being around furniture very often anymore. :-) We decided to stay in that room (duh!).
Back downstairs in the gym, we ate more sandwiches and met Gary. He's an ex-Marine and a member of the "Sasquatch Watch Group of Virginia". He told us about all about Sasquatches and one time when he saw one himself. He said it was so big and tall that it crossed the road in only 3 or 4 steps! It was pretty amazing stuff.
Then we were whisked away to the pastor's temporary house (they're building a log cabin!!) for some quick showers and whisked right back to the church. It was getting late, so we decided to just brush our teeth and go to bed. As we were brushing our teeth, the Pastor Bryant came in to check on us. We were both in the boy's bathroom brushing, and I think he was pretty surprised to find us both in there..but he didn't say anything (Really. I think he stopped right in the middle of a sentence!). He went on though to invite us out to breakfast the next morning. He said he'd be back around 8:30am to pick us up. Coolness!!!
Now time for bed on our big, huge, comfy couch. What a great end to our day! (I think Nathan's even in a good mood again - yay!)