Wednesday, July 03, 2019

Day 33 Fredricksburg, VA - Annapolis, Maryland and final thoughts

Day 33 Fredricksburg, VA - Annapolis, Maryland
Miles 88
Times we got lost on Friday afternoon in downtown DC  - 2

We made it!  Day after day after day...These are just some of my memories....

  •  get up every morning as the sun rose
  •  have the van ready and cleaned out
  •  rally around the cyclists
  •  say a small word of prayer
  •  cheer them on
  •  stop and refill the bottles
  •  buy more new ice and more cases of bottled water, 
  •  refill their drinking bottles 
  •  watch God surprise us with "easy to start conversations"
  •  take a quick picture with my iPhone and send a text message to Kris asking for prayer
  •  look for a gas station so we could use the rest-room
  •  follow behind the cyclists so no one would run into them
  •  pull the van over in the shade so the cyclists could sit in the airconditioned      vehicle and enjoy some COOL air
  •  open up the "junk drawer" and creatively make a posting for each day on the white-board
  •  answer, "Hey Glenn, where is my... (you fill in the blank)?
  •  try to survive each day with little sleep
  •  be encouraged by our friends who showed up along the route to cheer us on - Thanks Pam and Gary in California, Rebeca in Oklahoma, Jack and Val in Oklahoma, Virginia and Evie in Kansas and Jonathan in Kentucky!
  •  listen to Vela speak on the walkie-talkies and read the lunch and supper restaurant locations and menus - food review
  •  hear the words "Hold back, Glenn.  The drone is up and we're recording/"
  •  watch the camera folks sit backwards in the white Nissan Pathfinder with the back hatch up driving across the US
  •  hearing stories how the drone "crashed" and it was rescued and brought back to life
  • being 'dead tired'
  •  getting group text messages announcing the time when luggage had to be at the van and when we were all leaving for the next morning
  •  getting volunteers to hold the "White board" for my morning photo
  •  eating breakfast at McDonald's - I think we ate there 10 times
  •  making a wrong turn  
  •  making a wrong turn and seeing how God would have a divine appointment arranged for us all
  •  pulling over for lunch in the middle of the Mojave desert for lunch and sweating profusely
  •  opening up a hand-delivered encouragement note from friends back at Northwest Bible Church
  •  having a cheering party in Oklahoma City at a B-B-Que place with a van load of folks from Northwest Bible
  •  watching Neil have "morning" and "evening" video shootings with Jon each day 
  •  using my iPhone to research the "closest" bike shop
  •  sleeping in til 8:30am on our 2 days offs
  •  having surprise cyclists join us out of the blue (Randy, Tom and Michael in Kentucky and Virginia)
  • watching how God would show us his presence each and every day
  • write my blog postings.  Post them on Facebook.  Update my FindPenguins
  • share each meal with Glenn - cause how are we going to survive eating out for a month
  • walk around the van and stretch my legs as much as possible when the van would stop to give water and food to the cyclists
  • download the app "Find Friends", so we could use it to find the cyclists if we got separated
  • have my dad use the program "FindFriends" and he could tell me exactly where we were in such and such state and what the next town would be, etc
  • each day "count" different things - like how many truckers would honk, or how many windmills we would pass
  • keep a digital account of each and every conversation on my "note" to give to Paul later
  • look outside the van across Small Town America and noticing stuff that I would not have noticed while on the interstates traveling at 70 mph
  • hoped that I could read while going along 15 miles an hour, but only to realize that was impossible with all of the bumps and turns.  Instead, I would enjoy the scenery and help with other details 
  • be amazed how God has taken care of each and every day and that everything has a purpose - either if we made a wrong turn, started later in the day than hoped for or that there would be people God had put in our path whose lives would be changed
  • nicknaming Glenn's van as "ChuckWagon16" 
  • checking for internet connection so I could download "RidewithGPS" program and I would have a 'turn-by-turn' reading for the riders
  • not having to decide on what to wear each day, it was either a blue, green, red or gray #ConversationsCoasttoCoast t-shirt
  • saying goodbye to our GPS "Betsy" and purchasing a new Garmin GPS and naming her "Betsy 2.0"
  • being grateful that Vela would go to the laundromat and wash our clothes while we would unpack and sometimes go down the street for dinner
  • hearing Una's voice and seeing her jumping up and down as we would round the corner to the hotel or landmark.  Thank you, Una, for your encouragement!
  • hearing the crushing sound of the empty water bottles collapsing as we throw them into the "make-shift" garbage bag
  • reminding Glenn to wear his "work-shirt" while loading the van and changing into his #CC2C shirt as we pull out each day
  • discovering new dining options in local towns
  • Sonic - not again!
  • Pronouncing Route 66 as "Root" 66
  • McDonald's - not again!
  • purchasing and organizing a front rack and tub with individual bins for the cyclists to have and use.  We figured this out like day 2 or day 3.  We needed something manageable instead of all the rider's food, and gear in the 2nd and 3rd row of the van.  That wasn't going to work.
  • watching Caroline's steady and graceful motion of riding her bike from California to Maryland
  • Bawling like a baby when we drop folks off at Washington National Airport - because we had completed the task and we were totally exhausted
  • Playing the CAN YOU REMEMBER game "What town did we meet Ramona in?" or "Where were we on Day 17?" or "What was the name of the restaurant where the men took up an offering for our journey?"
  • wearing compression socks because my legs got swollen
  • grateful for the opportunity to use our gifts of networking, hospitality, van driving, van loading and unloading, communication and all around love for the folks on #CC2C 
  • creatively using old Walmart plastic bags and hanging them behind my seat to use as garbage bags
  • getting homemade cookies from Una and Sarah when they each arrived
  • great send-off at Santa Monica pier with FacebookLive and friends
  • taking a cat-nap driving on a straight road through the Mojave Desert watching the monotonous motion of the 3 cyclists (Judy, not Glenn;)
  • I stayed in 2 KOA campgrounds for the first time in my life
  • Enjoying the iconic Route 66 hotels including a Wigwam
  • Hearing Neil say "Stewarts, we could not have done this without you!"
  • Having the Roughriders join bike ride and encourage Neil along the way
  • hearing Wes say "Hey, Dude!"
I know there are more items, but I just praise the Lord that we finally reached Day 33.  The last day of the ride.  Coast to Coast.  Conversations Coast to Coast.  Go, Team Tomba.

Neil wanted to leave at 7am.  The cyclists would have breakfast and we could load up on our own.  The cyclists went across the street to McDonald's only to find that it was closed and rode 1/2 block to a diner.  In the meantime, Glenn and I loaded up the van.  This time the van wasn't parked directly in front of the hotel, but off to the side on a slight incline.  I didn't want to slip, so I was not a big help for Glenn today.  But we were ready and raring to go.  Normally I take a picture with one or two of the folks, however, they were all at the diner.  So, on this last day, Glenn and I took a "selfie".

We see the cyclists at the light and watch them ride back over to the parking lot. Wes was a little confused as to the course route.  He was thinking it was leaving from the hotel, but the downloaded version was from a different intersection.  I pointed out the error and mentioned the correct intersection on I 95.  Since we were ready to go, lead the way.  But we forgot Vela!  She got a ride in the camera car and we met up at McDonald's a few miles down the road.

The routing was on highway 1 into Alexandria and then on into DC crossing the Patomic River.  We crossed over historical markers and landmarks.  At times, Glenn would drive on ahead and then other times he would "pull back" and let traffic go.  There was a section that the riders went through a shady hilly spot that was very refreshing.  

Just after the McDonald's spot, something fell off of Wes's bike.  It was Taylor.  Wes purchased a yellow "Gumby" type doll at the Amish farm a week or so ago and had attached it to the handlebars.  He named the doll Taylor after his daughter who is back in Dallas.  So glad we stopped because "Taylor" had fallen off.  At the next stop, we handed Taylor to Wes.  Wes had the biggest smile e.v.e.r!

We got separated and then we told Jeff we were parked at a church parking lot, next to the 4th of July Fireworks stand.  Jeff said, "That's perfect.  We'll be there in a minute".  We radioed to the cyclists to pull over.  In the parking lot was the mother-in-law of one of the workers at Northwest Bible.  She literally lives 2 blocks away.  She had been "following" us and knew our path would be just blocked from her house.  I think her name was Lori.  She even made a post and sign to cheer us on.  We also used the shade to cool down.  Wes was working with his tire.  I think they changed it out.  We handed out more water and food to Wes, Neil, and Caroline.

Pulling into DC we had communication with the riders, then they took a bike path which is impossible to follow.  My "Findfriends" was not working, and then we were out of walking-talking range with the riders.  Traffic was horrible.  We ended up going over the George Washington bridge.  Creeping along the bridge, the van next to us honked and asked about #ConversationsCoasttoCoast.  Glenn wanted to give them Neil's business card out the window, but that didn't work.  They were just cheering us on.

We finally met up at a restaurant Vela suggested.  The Shake Shack, right in the shadows of the baseball stadium.  We found out that Wes had a flat tire and found a bicycle repair store nearby and was able to solve his problem.  I ordered a hamburger and fries plus strawberry shake and Glenn got the chocolate malt shake.  

It was really hot today.  The cold AC in the restaurant was such a blessing.  I can't imagine how hot it must have been for Neil, Wes, and Caroline.  What a blessing to meet up with the cyclists again.  We regrouped and then determined that we would reconnect with them say like 10 miles into Maryland and go from there.  We were following Sarah in the Nissan as we drove into Maryland.  We radioed to them mentioned we needed to fill up with gas.  We pulled over and while there, Glenn purchased some more water and I think ice.  Now we are good to the FINISH line.

We would play "hop-scotch" with the cyclists through Maryland.  Finally, we pulled into a strip mall and parked the bikes.  I walked down to Jimmy Johns to use the restroom.  The cyclists were getting cold water and resting.  I had a conversation with a black lady that was from the area and she was waiting for the bus so she could go to her second job.  Nice lady.

Just a few more miles.  Vela suggested we have the finish line at Ego Alley.  Pier where all the nice boats and yachts go.  There would be some of the Tomba's friends there at the finish line.  Also, Vela was texting with Caroline's family to let them know of the time and place.  We made one last stop at a shopping mall where there was a Best Buy.  I'm trying to figure this one out.  I think they (whoever they is) got a new Go Pro camera for Neil to have at the finish line.  Either that or the old one was repaired. As I think about this, this is how it went a lot of the time.  We would stop.  Something would get fix and then we would go on.  No details.  Don't need to know the details.  IN this case, Wes radioed up to me and said "Neil would like to turn the camera on the last mile.  Please let me know". I radioed back "Roger!"  And within the last mile, we did let Neil know.

As we pulled into the pier area, it started to rain.  Just an isolated rain shower.  The Camera car made a wrong turn and came behind us.  Vela started her FacebookLive commentating.

Wow.  3,000+ miles, 33 days and hundreds of conversations!  Way to go God!

Neil had a short presentation where he thanked everyone that made it possible. He introduced his friends that live in the area and had come down to the pier to encourage Neil and Vela.  He thanked each of the camera crew folks, us, the friends back at Northwest Bible and finally his dear sweet wife, Vela.  At that point, Neil hugged and kissed her!   I can see how Vela's spontaneous and voiceful personality complements Neil's structure goal and lifestyle. 

For our final evening, we joined Caroline's parents on their new Catamaran boat for dinner.  Fish.  Salmon.  The sun was setting and we had a wonderful evening.  Next, drive back to Silver Spring, Maryland for our last night.

(More stuff after the photos)

Packing up

We slept well past 7:30am this morning.  Glenn got an invite to go down the street and have breakfast with Jeff and Wes, however that never really ever happened.  Glenn said, "Come out here, and look at all the action".

I went out to the side street and there were Neil, Jeff, Wes and a few others hovering over the carry-top.  The Carry-top had been so faithful for all 33+ days until today.  The guys were trying to get it unjammed!  Ugh.  Something had moved and the key latch was not working.  Poor guys.  I'm not sure and still don't know if Neil had already gone on his "morning shoot" of landmarks in Washington DC.  What was important, to have the lid open so Jon could get all the camera equipment shipped out by the early afternoon.  He needed it the UPS store by mid-afternoon.

The guys tried everything.  Then they thought if they would unbolt it and lift it down to the street level, maybe just shaking it would giggle it.  Once they got the screws unbolted and unattached, it took 4 strong guys to lift it up and over. They tried shaking and gently slamming it on the ground.  Nope.  Not going to open.  

Finally, a technician from the hotel brought a drill gun and Neil as able to drill a hole in the top carry case.  I couldn't handle all the drama, so I went upstairs back to the hotel room and took a quick power nap.

At exactly 1pm, all the electronic equipment was loaded into the Nissan (except 1 piece) and all those folks traveling to Dallas Love Field, boarded into the van.  We drove the 1 piece down to the UPS store and dropped it off, then followed several people's directions to get to Ronald Reagan International airport.

At 2pm, we pulled into the "drop-off" lane and hugged the team good-bye.  They were flying back to Dallas.  We were driving back to Dallas.  Someone asked what we were going to do and I said: "I think we will just look at each other!"

We literally were parked on the curbside until 3:20pm when we drove away.  We sat there.  Glenn literally bawled like a baby.  Our emotions were real.  They were deep.  We were exhausted.  We were beyond exhaustion.  We were drained.  The whole #ConversationsCoasttoCoast event was physical and emotionally exhausting on us.  And we're not young anymore.  We are grateful for the extra strength the Lord gave us to endure it to the end.  Unbelievable, no policeman came knocking to the van door asking us to move on. 

In summary:
There are several things in my life that I count as life-changing. Besides my high-school mission trip to Mexico and Guatemala in 1972, my Moody Bible Institute college experiences and my 1977 Practical Missionary Training through Central America, this definitely has changed my life.  

  • We will be forever impacted by the generosity of friends that cheered us to the end.  
  • Grateful for the opportunity to leave Guatemala for a month.  
  • Grateful that Neil had faith in our ability to help with the #CC2C project.
  • Grateful to see how easy it is to have "surprisingly easy to start conversations" with people.  
  • Grateful to see how God shows up with Divine appointments along the way.

Total miles from Santa Monica Pier, California to Annapolis, Maryland - 

some where between 2535, 2795 and 2968