Sunday, October 5, 2008

Miami to Indianapolis . . . Seeing The Pieces Fit Together

It was pitch dark at 4 a.m. on the Saturday before Memorial Day 2008. We were celebrating our annual Grandy Family Memorial Day Camping Expedition (Leah, David and I camp out in the backyard while Lori enjoys her best weekend of sleep inside), but I couldn't sleep. I had been brainstorming about a potential bike ride across the country like I had done 19 years ago and my mind was working overtime. I had been thinking about it for awhile, talking to others about the possibility, praying for direction and trying to see what God had in store for this possible journey, but there were lots of details to think through. Between planning the route, identifying roads that would be safe, engaging potential riders, coordinating a support vehicle and drivers, finding friends/family/others to help us with accommodations, coordinating with Traders Point Christian Academy and their students as well as potential sponsors, etc., not to mention actually trying to train for a distance that would exceed that of the Tour de France in a shorter number of days -- my mind raced as I thought through the logistics and tried to figure out the pieces.

Unable to sleep, I covered Leah and David to make sure they were warm, opened the tent and walked inside the house to gather my thoughts. Slowly, I moved over to sit in one of our chairs. Our family had been working on a 1,000 piece puzzle and I paused to look it over. Now, as I sat down and began to focus on the pieces, I realized that I left my glasses in the tent. The picture of the puzzle was cloudy; I could make out the general image of the puzzle, but the details were fuzzy. Still, I began to look more closely to see if I could find any pieces that would fit. If I squinted in certain ways, it was possible to see some more clearly, but most remained illusive. The analogy struck me: the planning of this journey (or most of our significant journeys in life) was much like the puzzle before me and how faith seems to work. God calls Christians to seek Him and follow when called. He doesn't promise that we will have all the details for our journey. Indeed, if we knew everything in advance, faith wouldn't be necessary. Instead, God calls us to look and listen hard, read and study scripture, seek His will, and respond when called, regardless of whether the route is completely known or mapped out. Like Abraham, we need to go to the land God shows us, even if we don't know where we're going. While we may have a strong sense of the direction He wants us to travel, we'll likely be traveling at times without our glasses. That, in turn, provides an opportunity for us to rely on Him, to travel to an unknown land, all the while realizing that He is in control. Practicing faith builds faith as we see our "skinny legs" develop into stronger legs. For us, this has been a journey of a lifetime and an opportunity to see how God works in all different situations. I pray that you have been encouraged as well.

A few final thoughts. First, a note of thanks to my friend, Norma Buckley (pictured below). With our return trip from Miami to Indianapolis being about 21 hours and deciding to drive straight through, we asked Norma if we could stop at her house outside of Atlanta. Even though Norma was leaving on her own adventure to Italy the next day, she welcomed us with open arms and helped us celebrate the conclusion of the ride. She relayed how she was traveling with a group to Assisi, Italy on a pilgrimmage of sorts to understand better St. Francis of Assisi and learn more about that part of Italy. When I asked Norma about her hopes for the trip, she simply said that she wanted to "pause and reflect", to focus on God full-time (rather than in the spare moments of her life) and see what He had in store for her. I was so impressed -- my friend and her family would take their faith seriously enough to interrupt busy lives and rearrange their schedules so she could shift her full-time focus. Clearly, they recognize the brevity of life and the importance of prioritizing in ways most of us rarely consider.

Second, having had awhile to think about our journey, let me share a few reflections:

* Faith is a journey, not a race: Speed is often important, but a faithful journey is not completed in one day. At times, I felt like we needed to go faster, to sprint along and show others how fast we could go. But I realized that to "make the distance" required strength for the long haul, not for the short term. Faith is a day-by-day adventure that requires us to keep our focus and persevere. Even if we experienced a day with more speed, I realized that the journey involves both down and up hills. It is inevitable that we will have rains, winds, hills and mountains -- we just need to keep pedaling, however slowly during difficult times, to keep heading in the right direction.

* What we eat is important: I could tell a huge difference in our cycling between the days I ate well and drank plenty of water and those days I didn't. Without good food, I lacked energy and focus. But just as good food sustains our physical bodies, spiritual food is critical. Who we hang out with as well as what we watch, read, listen to, discuss, pray about, etc. matters.

* Make sure you enjoy the ride: Julie is not a big fan of driving. Still, she loved driving/riding with Oma in the support van. Why? Because going the speed I went allowed her to see things along the road that she would normally miss. Indeed, she sometimes asked Oma to slow down so she could take a better look at things. Similarly, I sometimes found myself so intent on completing the ride, that I would focus on the ground ahead rather than take in the many sites along the way. Colossians 3 reminds us to "look up" and see the things that are all around us from God's perspective; it helps us enjoy the ride. Our individual rides will be over in a blink; make sure you enjoy your travels.

* Don't Rest Too Much on the Downhills: When I got a downhill in biking, the temptation was to relax and coast. Similarly, my normal inclination is to relax when things are going well and to rely on my own strength. But what I discovered biking was the importance of using the downhills to generate speed and strength for the uphills, the difficult times. If we continue to work during the good times, we'll have more strength for the challenges we're likely to face.

* The Hills Sometimes Look Bigger From a Distance: On several occasions, particularly as we rode through New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia, I noticed that many of the hills that appeared to have the steepest inclines from a distance actually weren't that bad once we got closer. What I realized was that we often shy away from things that appear more difficult from a distance and that reserving judgment and getting a closer look helped us to be more informed and take on challenges we might otherwise avoid.

* For Difficult Rides, Break Them Into Smaller Segments: When we started the ride, Matt would ask me how many miles we had for that day. Not thinking, I would tell him the full day's mileage without some further discussion about how we would break up the ride. I quickly realized that both of us struggled when we thought about riding the full 100-125 miles. Because of that, we soon started talking about a city that would be our next stopping point, setting an interim goal somewhere between 20-40 miles down the road. Because much of our training was done in 20-40 mile segments, breaking the ride up into smaller pieces helped us see that the mileage was possible. Similarly, sometimes when we face a challenge, we focus on the entire challenge, not realizing that there is no way we can ride the full distance all at once. If we break it up into smaller pieces, we soon realize it's possible to ride part of the way, then ride the next portion of the ride and just keep going.

* A Little Encouragement Makes a Huge Difference: I can't tell you how much difference it meant to us to receive cards from friends and family, notes on the blog or other forms of encouragement along the way. Two special memories are of traveling through North Carolina and having Lori, Leah and David join us for part of the ride. In North Carolina, so many people waved, honked (in a positive way), smiled and took care driving around us that at times, I felt like we were in a parade! Then, when Lori, Leah and David joined us for five days, it was the best. Seeing my wife driving at bicycling speeds when she's not particularly fond of riding in a car, let alone driving at all, and having Leah/David cheering and sounding their noisemakers as I rode up various hills made me feel like I was riding for the first day. During those times of encouragement, I literally found myself unknowingly pedaling with greater energy and speed, feeling the support of others along the way. Similarly, away from the bike, I'm convinced that most of us will never know how much a kind word, smile and other forms of encouragement impact others. It makes all the difference.

Finally, I want to let you know how much we appreciated the support we've received from so many of you. In particular, I want to thank my family for their tremendous support, Matt East and his family for their participation, Oma and Julie, Dan Brownlee for all his support (including creating the blog and equipping us with technology for the ride), my Mom, sister and brother for their extra involvements, the "Dream Team" of parents who helped coordinate the TPCA Walk/Bikeathon, all who supported us during our various stops in locations across Canada and the United States, our sponsors (including Andy Wernsman at Bill Estes Ford in Brownsburg, who provided our support vehicle, and Vern LaMere and his crew at T3 Multisport (86th and Ditch in Indianapolis), who did tremendous work to make sure that our bikes were ready to go and we had necessary supplies along the way), the staff, teachers and students at Traders Point Christian Academy and those of you who "rode along" during the journey by exercising, praying, following the blog and/or providing financial support.

I'm thankful for the opportunity to ride and see so many people participate in this journey of faith. I'm thankful for safe travels and the strength to finish the ride. I'm thankful for opportunities to see how God works through others in so many ways and takes interest in even the smallest of details. I hope and pray that each of us will continue to exercise this muscle called faith, encouraging one another to listen a bit more intently, squint a bit harder to see what God has in store and step out in faith in ways that we're not even able to imagine.

God Bless You and Enjoy the Ride,

Charlie ("Slightly Larger Legs") Grandy

Friday, October 3, 2008

To Miami, Florida -- The Beach is in Sight!

Today was a great day! We arrived in Miami Beach a bit before noon to finish this biking adventure and kick off the 2nd Annual, Best-Ever Traders Point Christian Academy Walk/Bikeathon via webcast from the beach. Our students were pumped up! I'll follow-up with a few additional thoughts shortly on this day and trip, but wanted to provide a few images from the day for now. We will be driving back to Indianapolis tomorrow (about the distance to Quebec City -- 18+ hours), with plans currently to drive through the night. We're really excited first to stop in Atlanta to see great friends there and then reunite with our families and friends in Indianapolis.

We thank God for safe travels and strength to complete the journey and thank you guys for all your encouragement. Thanks also to Bob and Linda Smith in Miami for their hospitality here. I told Bob it's not just anybody I'd ride across the country to see, but they're not just anyone.


Thursday, October 2, 2008

Days 18 and 19: Flagler Beach to Melbourne to West Palm Beach, FL -- Keeping Our Eyes on the Beach

It is hard to believe that we will ride to Miami, Florida tomorrow bright and early. We're excited to see our friends in Miami who are involved in planting a new church there, to kickoff the 2nd Annual, Best-Ever Walk/Bikeathon via webcast, to relax a bit at the beach and to see our families and friends in Indianapolis. We've experienced tremendous scenary the last two days as we've continued to ride close to the Florida coast. The skies have been blue, we've seen the ocean and various intercoastal waterways along the way (as highway A1A has wound its way down the coastline), the temperatures have been hot and we've continued to have safe travels (with a mixture of little traffic and quite a bit of traffic in spots). As I've been riding the last two days, I couldn't help but reflect on the entire journey, from the initial brainstorm to all the planning involved, to my interactions with so many different people and the process of seeing the various pieces come together and to our travels these last 20 days.

As you can imagine, I've had lots of thoughts (and plenty of time to think) and was really struck by the importance of keeping the goal in mind for this journey or our individual journeys of faith. Too often and along all aspects of this journey, it is really easy to be distracted from the ultimate goal. Just in the last couple days, we've experienced significant heat, another flat tire, physical pain in all the anticipated places, more cars that have been less patient than at any other time of the ride, etc. that all potentially serve to distract us from the goal. It's no different in our day-to-day lives, I suppose. There are so many opportunities to lose our focus and so many ways that we can become distracted. As we brainstormed, planned and began to ride, the thing that was most helpful for me was the image of being on Miami Beach with my feet in the ocean, bike in the air, connecting back with our students and others participating in the 2nd Annual Walk/Bikeathon. And what I realized was the importance of having the goal in mind to keep our focus, limit our distractions and set direction. Run with perseverance, the race marked out for us (Hebrews 12:1) . . . keep the goal in mind. It helps to put the distractions in their rightful place. I can't wait for tomorrow. In the meantime, below are a few images from the last couple days.

One quick prayer request: ever since we rode over to the Florida coast and have been biking along the Atlantic Ocean, something has come over Oma and Julie. Suddenly, they've started calling me "Surfer-Dude" constantly and keep talking about grabbing their boards and "hanging ten". Yesterday, I saw them down on the beach in an unusual pose (see below) and have really started worrying about them. I'm sure they'll be better once we get away from the ocean, but in the meantime, please pray that they'll snap out of it.

A special thanks to our hosts for the last two evenings: (1) Paul and Susanne Hansen in Melbourne, Florida; and (2) my sister, Diana, in Delray Beach, Florida. In Melbourne, we so enjoyed tremendous evening and morning meals (still thinking about the peach pie!) and your warm hospitality. While Oma knew the Hansens, they were new to me, yet I felt like I've known them for years and instantly hear and see in them a devotion to God and family. Thanks a bunch for making us feel so welcome and for all you're doing in your community. One of my highlights today was being able to ride a few miles with my sister, Diana, in Delray Beach (near West Palm Beach). For those of you keeping score at home on my family's participation, that now means that Lori, Leah and David have ridden part of the ride as well as my brother and sister. With the rest of my family participating in southwestern Michigan as well, it's been quite a family affair. Di: it was great seeing your new place and hanging out for awhile. Thanks for all your encouragement along the way!

To our students at TPCA: have a great time tomorrow at the 2nd Annual/Best-Ever Walk/Bikeathon. Be safe, encourage one another and thank your teachers and parents for their participation. In particular, be sure to thank Mr. Bengs and the "Dream Team" of parents who have helped pull together the event for tomorrow: Scott (the "Bird and Safety Man") Jackson, Heidi ("Someone Want Some Noise") Nikata, Nancy ("Water Queen") Lee, John (the "DJ") Bruce, Louise ("Watching the Kids") Frasure and Dan ("Techno Man") Brownlee and Lori Grandy.

With My Eyes on Miami,


Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Kingsland, GA to Flagler Beach, FL -- The Impact of a Great Teacher

Today we rode from Kingsland, GA to Flagler Beach, FL. Much of our travels were along the Florida coast (highway A1A), with shoreline and waves in the distance. We also rode through a few nature preserves, seeing a variety of palm trees, birds, snakes, and other animals (examples below). I actually rode right past a four foot snake on my bike path and had a few salamanders race me as I was riding (I won most times). The heat continued and looks to continue through the end of the ride, with temperatures in the high 80s and water at a premium. Regardless of the amount of water I drink, it always seems that I need more. Whether because of the heat or general tiredness, I started my morning a bit groggy and slow moving and it made me reflect on those who demonstrate unwavering dedication and passion despite the tiredness they may feel.
The person that first came to mind was my mom, Carmen Grandy. In addition to all of her household responsibilities, mom was a public school teacher for over 30 years. I can only imagine the impact that she had on students through the generations. But what I recall most is her single-minded devotion in raising us, helping us get ready for school, getting up early to fix breakfast several times each week and making sure we had what we needed, even when times were difficult. Things weren't always easy for my mom, but she always kept pedaling.

I also thought about others who taught me invaluable lessons. Most were teachers. For example, my third grade teacher, Mrs. Collins, taught us that it was OK to be excited about science. My sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Handy, exuded passion for learning and helped us navigate those early awkward years. Mr. Wilging, my Latin teacher, spent much of his time focused on ethics and helping us see that there was more to the world than a small town in southwestern Michigan. My high school history teacher, Mr. Adkin, helped us recognize the value of critical thinking and wanted us to excel as scholars. The list of teachers goes on, but their common theme was a passion to teach and an unwavering dedication to impact their students.

For me, this journey is about many things, but one large part is to encourage our wonderful group of teachers and staff at Traders Point Christian Academy. Not only do they partner with families in providing an outstanding education to our students, but they do so within a Christian worldview. From my Mom's experience, I recognize that it isn't always easy to be a teacher, but I am amazed at the impact they have on TPCA students and families. As with the list of teachers above, they teach with unwavering dedication and will impact the lives of students in ways not apparent for years. So on this day that I lacked a bit of energy, I thought about those who "just keep pedaling" to make a difference for their students. Thanks to all the teachers and staff at TPCA for their dedication; you make all the difference!

A special thanks to Tony and Michaelyn Milidantri and Larry and Patty Powell from Flagler Beach United Methodist Church for opening their homes to us and making us feel so welcome. We really appreciate your hospitality (and outstanding cooking)!
The countdown continues! Thank your teachers today and get ready for the 2nd Annual, Best-Ever Walk/Bikeathon! I'll see you from the beach in Miami.


Monday, September 29, 2008

Day 16: Savannah to Kingsland, GA -- Mr. East and the Lemondade Stand

When Matt East completed his portion of the bike ride in Williamsport, PA, he asked whether he might send me a few thoughts for the blog. "Of course", I said, "but only if you ride the rest of the way!" Seriously, I welcomed Matt's thoughts and they are included below. His comments are a good reminder of the joy of working with children and the fact that they, often times, have a thing or two to show us for our own journeys.

Matt East Comments: Thank you to everyone who sent me notes along the way, your notes truly helped! A special thank you goes to all those who fed me along the way! I would like to share a quick story that I shared with Charlie during the bike ride.

Two summers ago, Erin (my daughter), decided that she wanted to open a lemonade stand on Ford Road in Zionsville. I asked Erin why and she replied that "it is hot outside and I am sure people would be thirsty." Erin made a lemonade stand, cookies and of course LEMONADE! Erin and I were out the door to set up the stand. She was so excited. I asked Erin, what do you want to charge for the lemonade and cookies. Erin replied, "How about 25 cents for unlimited refills of lemonade and free cookies?" I said OK, but I thought she was selling the farm too cheap! Well it did not take long for our first customer to come by to purchase lemonade. Before we knew it, we were out of cookies and lemonade due to the incredible amount of customers in a short period of time. Based on what Erin was charging, she should of come home with only a few dollars, however, she came back with 4 times what she had asked for! How did this happen? Erin's heart was in the right place that she saw a need and simply wanted to help. Erin's customers saw her generosity and returned the favor by giving her more than 25 cents for lemonade. What a great day! I asked Erin what she wanted to buy with the money she earned. I was thinking to myself that she would want to purchase a Barbie or some sort of toy. Erin told me that she wanted to share the money with the poor....Yikes, I missed it. It was great to see God bless Erin while teaching me a lesson.

Charlie, Oma, Julie and Traders Point Christian Academy share the same heart as Erin for raising the awareness / importance of Christian education. Have a great week and continue to exercise your mind and body.


Notables About the Ride to Kingsland: In terms of our ride today, we had a good day riding from Savannah to Kingsland, GA near the eastern coastline of Georgia. It was flat, hot and pretty rural. We saw many areas of poverty and limited businesse. We did see many rivers, bridges and islands. I've included a couple additional notes of interest below.

1. What Was Different About Today? Today we saw more police cars than on any other day. I kept hoping someone would stop me for speeding, but I guess I didn't quite hit the speed threshold.

2. How Hot Was It? It was so hot that even the dogs along the route didn't have enough energy to run after me. I thought about engaging in a little smack with them, but decided it would be better to conserve my energy.
3. Best Quote of the Day: After we'd been traveling a good distance, I asked Julie how far it was to Kingsland, GA. Julie's response (with a great amount of seriousness): "about the width of my two fingers".

4. And the Debate Rages On: for the last four or five days, I've continued to look skyward on a regular basis and see birds throughout our days that appear to me to be eagles. During some difficult moments on rides, I would look up at them and be inspired, remembering the well-known verses from Isaiah to be raised up on the wings of eagles. Once I mentioned the birds to Oma, however, she thought they were vultures and might be looking for food! I think it's simply a scare tactic to keep me moving on the bike; I'm sticking to my version of the facts.

5. Don't try this at home: of all the odd sensations, I felt myself fighting to stay awake at various points on the road today. TPCA students: should you feel like you're nodding off while biking or walking on Friday, please go to the nearest water station for a little refreshment.
6. A special thanks: thanks this evening to Jonathon Cox at Northside Church of God in Jacksonville, Florida for allowing us to stay with them. We appreciate your opening up God's house to perfect (or not so perfect) strangers and wish you all the best in your ministries.
7. So close, let's just keep going: Because Kingsland is so close to the Florida border, we decided to just keep going. Nothing like a little of the "Sunshine State" to get us ready for tomorrow.



Sunday, September 28, 2008

Days 14 and 15: Myrtle Beach to Charleston, SC; Charleston to Savannah, GA -- Real Southern Hospitality!

Charleston and Savannah are two of the real southern treasures in the United States. They are filled with wonderful architecture, homes that look like museums, Civil War history (including Fort Sumpter in Charleston where the first shots of the Civil War were fired) and distinctive southern charm. You'll find these old, enormous trees in both cities -- Oak trees filled with Spanish moss that almost makes you feel relaxed just seeing it. We also looked forward to these cities because of the chance to ride with my brother, see good friends in Charleston and spend time with family in Savannah. Both rides posed some significant challenges.
As we reached the Atlantic coastline and traveled through South Carolina, we left the challenge of the hills and mountains behind. The relief we got from the flatter terrain, however, was replaced by the challenges associated with the heat of the south. With early morning temperatures in the 60s, clear skies and a cool breeze both days, we started our rides in relative comfort. But by about 10 a.m., we started to feel the press of the thermometer rising with temperatures reaching the mid-80s both days. When my brother, Jim, happened to mention that his bike's temperature guage indicated a road temperature of 95 degrees (because of the heat of the asphalt/pavement), I thanked him for his encouragement. But with his comment, I better understood the attention we needed to pay to ensure we were drinking enough fluids and taking in enough nutrition. Each time we stopped riding (and the breeze of the ride stopped cooling us), the sweat poured out. As much as I could drink, I remained thirsty. It made me realize how important it is what we eat/drink. Earlier this week riding to Myrtle Beach, I felt puny and without energy. Looking back, I realized that I didn't drink enough water, eat enough calories or take the other steps necessary for a strong ride. I was too quick to eat sugars and not the complex carbohydrates necessary to propel the ride. And I couldn't help but think about the "food" necessary for a strong journey of faith. How can I expect to develop a strong faith if I'm not eating the right things or taking in the right nutrition? Clearly, paying attention to what seem like minor and sometimes unimportant details makes a difference.

Myrtle Beach to Charleston:

A special thanks to David and Pam Cox in Charleston for their southern hospitality. There is no better thing after a long ride than to see great friends and be able to catch up a bit. Between a bit of pulled pork barbeque, okra and other southern fixings, having a chance to finish our ride with our family (including Lori, Leah and David), their family and get to see their kids and an evening tour of historic Charleston, you couldn't have asked for a better evening.

Charleston to Savannah, GA: After starting the morning with a wonderful breakfast of blueberry pancakes, bacon and juices (thanks again, Cox family), we reconnected with my brother and his colleague, Mike Lloyd, for the ride to Savannah. Our ride was filled with reminders that we were in the south. Stopping for lunch at a local cidermill, we saw such local delicacies as boiled peanuts and cowpeas. Much of our ride was through the tall Oak trees mentioned above and we saw several signs of large plantations and marshy areas. The day was warm again, so we made sure to stop on a regular basis to rehydrate, even having a mid-day picnic. Riding with Jim and Mike, we were able to draft a fair amount and save as much energy as possible. One of the real highlights today was having Leah join us out on the roads for about 8 miles at a pretty good clip (see video below). Her riding (and David's noisemakers) were a real encouragement.

Tonight we stayed with my brother, Jim, his wife Susan and their two daughters, Alexandra and Alannah. Thanks to them for all of their hospitality (as well as letting Jim join me for the last three days). With a traditional low country boil for dinner (i.e., boiled shrimp, corn on the cob and sausage) and an evening tour of historical Savannah, the day was complete.

Tomorrow we'll make our way to the southern tip of Georgia. In the meantime, the countdown is on for the 2nd Annual, Best-Ever TPCA Walk/Bikeathon. Make sure you have good meals prior to the event and plenty of water to keep you hydrated. What you eat makes a difference.

Charlie ("Growing Legs") Grandy

Friday, September 26, 2008

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Days 12 and 13: Raleigh to Wrightsville Beach, NC; Wrightsville Beach to Myrtle Beach, SC -- Nothing Like A Great Sixth Man!

In sports, they refer to the home crowd as the "Sixth Man". A good sixth man roots for the home team and helps encourage them (i.e., to help provide courage) to play their best. Over the last two days, my "Sixth Man" came in the form of (1) Lori, Leah and David beginning in Raleigh, NC; and (2) my brother, Jim, beginning in Wrightsville Beach, NC. Both would provide a boost as we continue our journey.

Raleigh to Wrightsville Beach: After enjoying a good night's sleep in Raleigh, we awoke to weather maps that looked ominous, showing a wide series of storms pushing in off the Carolina coast westward as we prepared for the longest ride of the trip. As soon as I stepped outside to do some packing, I could feel the front already taking shape with trees bending, winds whipping and a blanket of clouds making the morning look extra dark. So as I started to ride, I looked around intently to see whether the wind would make for a shorter or longer day. With a slight rain at the beginning, I felt the wind primarily behind me with some significant crosswinds. Behind me, I heard Leah and David with noisemakers in hand, rooting me on as I went up hills. With a slight tailwind and the help of my "Sixth Man", the miles went quickly, averaging somewhere north of twenty mph for most of the ride. After several days with significant mountains and rolling hills, the terrain continued to flatten out as we got closer to the coast and we saw a variety of plants and other items characteristic of North Carolina (cotton fields below).
About eighty miles into the ride, however, the rains began in earnest. Starting slowly, with a fair amount of visibility, they soon became extremely heavy. At first, I thought they would go away. After awhile, I realized they were going to continue and be heavier than even the rains we experienced in Canada. Fortunately, we were able to continue for the next two hours, still riding at a strong clip to make it eastward. Having my "Sixth Man" was every bit as inspiring to me as to sports teams like the Colts and I'm thankful for their joining me. My observation today was that we each have ample opportunities to encourage one another on our journeys of faith and the question I asked myself was whether I'm doing the things I should to encourage others. Clearly, it makes all the difference, especially during the rainy days.

A special thanks to Pastor Laura Mitchell at Wrightsville Beach United Methodist Church (WUMC) for providing dinner and accommodations and, more importantly, making us feel so welcome. Right after college, I went to work for GE and had an assignment at Wrightsville Beach, NC. I rented an apartment on the beach and spent a lot of my time there, but the thing I remember most vividly is the warmth of the people at WUMC. WUMC holds a special place for me because of their wonderful spirit and outreach to a young guy in the community, so when I prepared our itinerary, I was quick to add this location and reach out to the church. While my pastor from almost twenty years ago was no longer there, the warmth and willingness to help continues. No wonder their church has grown tremendously and continues to impact the community in tremendous ways. Laura: may God continue to bless your efforts and those of WUMC in all that you do.

Wrightsville Beach to Myrtle Beach: With the shortest ride today, in terms of mileage, we thought we were in for a relatively quick ride. With just over 80 miles to ride, we took some time to explore Wrightsville Beach this morning, taking some pictures and video and starting around 9 a.m. Soon, we would be glad for a bit shorter ride as the winds were coming straight off the ocean at 15-20 mph straight against me and Jim. Taking turns drafting, I appreciated the fact that his is a larger frame and again enjoyed having Leah in the support van to encourage us along. After feeling strong yesterday (in part, because of the winds), I found myself distracted by a number of nagging aches. Still, we were able to make it to Myrtle Beach during the early afternoon and spend a little time enjoying the beach (David below). We're off to Charleston tomorrow -- Jim and I will get to ride together again.

Having a supportive family and friends makes all the difference. Thanks to them and you for your continued encouragement.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Blackstone, VA to Raleigh, NC -- Returning Home

Although I grew up in Michigan and now call Indianapolis our home, I consider North Carolina to be my adopted home. Having spent seven years going to school in North Carolina and a bit more time working there, I love the friendly people, the large pine trees that tower in the forests, the pine needles that cast a fresh smell for miles and some of the local specialties like barbeque, hush puppies and okra. Known for its tobacco fields (shown below), it is a beautiful state, with mountains in the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east, great universities in various locations and some of the clearest blue sky days I recall. So between my family coming to join us in Raleigh and a return trip to North Carolina, we got ready to roll early and decided to travel as quickly as possible.

The day had a few clouds that served to guard us from the sun and just the right temperature for a cool ride. Riding along various lightly traveled country roads, we made good time this morning so that by 10:30 a.m., we were already a third of the way to Raleigh. Passing through South Hills, VA (about 9 miles north of the North Carolina border), we decided to take just a couple minutes to stop, stretch and get going again. Once we got there, our plans would change for the better.

As soon as we arrived, we met the owners of a convenience/towing business at the corner, named Sam/Pat Erwin and Jean Thompson. They rushed out to greet us with an immediate enthusiasm and asked us about our ride. Turns out that they saw our Ride Across America sign and my International Christian Cycling Club jersey and took an immediate interest. Inviting us into their store, they asked us to help ourselves to whatever food items we'd like. Jean then called the local newspaper while Sam provided a kind donation to the school. We bonded with them immediately and so appreciated their Christian welcome and interest in helping our students. Once we finished our interview (look for it in the South Hills paper shortly), we were on our way, but only after heartfelt thanks and hugs. Shortly, we made it the North Carolina state line and decided to straddle between North Carolina and Virgina (below). Along the way, we saw more people honking and waving encouragement than any other day -- says something about the people here.

For the rest of the day, we rode at a great clip, catching our first sustained tailwind. About 2:30 p.m., we were 97 miles into our 110 mile ride, when our route became simply too filled with traffic to continue. Because of that, we decided to put our bikes on the back, drive to the airport to surprise Lori, Leah and David and pick up our remaining 13 miles a bit later. What great fun to surprise our family! As it turns out, Lori and our host, Steve Monti, joined me for the final part of the ride tonight through beautiful local parks around Steve's home. A great way to finish!

Finally, a quick note about our hosts for this evening. I first met my friend, Steve Monti, in 1984 as electrical engineering students at Duke University. Of all the bright people in our engineering class, Steve stood out. He just seemed able to visualize science on a higher plane than the rest of us. I admired him for his intellect, but also for his deep interest in exploring other topics, including religion. After engineering school, we connected a few times and then lost touch for the last seventeen years, but as I put the schedule together, I thought of Raleigh and Steve immediately. I knew he had been working for IBM for many years, so I first tried to reach him there. Told he was no longer working there, I tried other ways to reach him. After finally connecting, he shared with me that he had recently left IBM after many successful years to see what God had in store for him and his family. He simply wanted to pause, reflect and pray for direction in the lives of their family. While I recognize that for many of us, it would be impossible to stop working for a period, I also recognize his deep commitment to doing God's work and putting his faith into action. I'd put his focus in a category of "radical reliance", the theme for Traders Point Christian Academy this year. His is a great example of our theme for the year. Thanks to Steve and his wife, Peggy, for their immense hospitality during our stay. We loved having a chance to meet your family, enjoy your wonderful cooking and catch-up!

For those of you who are exercising the full 20 days, keep it up. If my muscles are any indication, it's usually around this time that it becomes physically difficult to keep going, but they say that if you accomplish something for 20 days, it's likely to become habit. So keep exercising. Keep studying. The countdown for the 2nd Annual/Best-Ever Walk/Bikeathon continues. See you at the beach tomorrow.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Days 9 & 10 -- Gettysburg, PA to Culpeper, VA; Culpeper to Blackstone, VA: Rolling, Rolling, Rolling!

It's called your anaerobic threshold. It's the point above which physical exertion causes your muscles to seize, to burn, to feel almost paralyzed. The cause? Your muscles literally go into oxygen deprivation; they are starved for oxygen. For bikers, one of the most common times for reaching your anaerobic threshold is when you're biking up hills because of the strength it requires. You want to push to reach the top, but if you push too hard, you're sunk and likely to be stuck in a very low gear going a handful of mph. Let's just say that given our route yesterday from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania through Maryland to Culpeper, Virginia and today from Culpeper to Blackstone, VA, I became very interested in the best way to challenge the hills and again familiar with the concept of anaerobic threshold.

We left Gettysburg, PA yesterday morning knowing that our route might be difficult. We were heading south outside the greater Washington, D.C. area through Maryland into Virginia. It didn't take long to see that our planned route would need to change. Despite assurances from guest stop personnel that it was permissible to ride on Route 15, one look at the several large trucks bearing down on this near superhighway and we knew that Plan A just became Plan B. Taking time to modify our route, we found a couple of nearby country roads that would get us to our destination -- filled with the rolling hills of Maryland and Virginia.

Both days have had almost perfect weather. Even though the temperature yesterday started climbing toward 80 degrees late in the afternoon, the skies were fairly clear and there seemed to be a cool breeze. In addition, much of the routes were under trees that served to provide a canopy over the road and relief from the heat. The routes reminded me a bit of those areas in Kentucky known for their horse farms and we did, indeed, see many horses along with black fences intended to provide a border. We also rode through some historic areas; after all, many of the towns in this area were founded in the 1700s and are sprinkled with an old, colonial flavor reminiscent of a bygone era. All those things together and the rides have been spectacular.

As I struggled up several of the hills, I realized I was missing the point and needed a new strategy. You see, I was coasting down most of the hills and then finding myself without sufficient strength to go up the next uphill quickly. What if I pedaled a bit more downhill instead? While the approach did not work with every monster hill, I began to understand that just because things are going well (i.e., downhill) is no time to coast. By riding the downhill with strength and pushing myself a bit, it gave me a greater ability to take on the big uphills. A bit like faith, I suppose. If we coast through the easy times, we're more likely to find ourselves without momentum or strength for the uphill climbs. If we push through the easier times, it may give us greater strength when things are a bit more challenging. We continue to have safe travels and have had only minor issues with traffic (e.g., a few trucks blowing black exhaust our way as they welcome us to their locality).
Now, a couple critical updates: (1) yesterday, I set a personal record for the most bugs eaten in a single day with six. Not sure if I was just breathing extra heavily or they've started looking for me. I think I'm starting to like the chewy ones best. (2) Several of you have been interested in the final results of the recently announced and highly anticipated "Falling Off Your Bike Competition" between Mr. East and me. Despite an incredible effort by Mr. East in the final hours of the competition by completing a 3 1/2 turn, 1 1/2 sommersault fall in the inverted position, degree of difficulty 6.8, he came up just short. Final score: Mr. Grandy, 2 1/2 falls; Mr. East, 2 falls. We're thinking about petitioning the International Olympic Committee to enter bike falling as an Olympic sport -- we think we'd be shoe-ins (get it? We have difficulty getting our shoes out of the pedals) for the team.

Thanks to the folks at Culpeper Christian School for our accommodations last evening. We really enjoyed having the chance to learn more about your school and spend some time with your teachers and parents. Finally, tomorrow, we'll be joined by Team Grandy (Lori, Leah and David) in Raleigh, NC. Talk about an extra incentive to ride as fast as possible. We can't wait to see you all! Safe travels.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Williamsport, PA to Gettysburg -- Coming Out of the Fog

We began our ride from Williamsport determined to get off to a good start. With 122 miles on the route to Gettysburg and without Matt East to share the lead, we anticipated greater difficulty with the ride. Moreover, the beginning of the ride would continue in the mountains, only later turning into the rolling hills of mid to southern Pennsylvania. So we started a little after 7:30 a.m., but much to my dismay, the roads were filled with tremendous fog. To be honest, I didn't anticipate it, I hadn't put together a contingency plan and did not want to create any traffic risk for me, Oma or Julie. Cool, sticky, soaking fog; so heavy that it sprinkled over my glasses as I rode and I found myself removing them so I could actually see better. Indeed, the fog was so thick that at our first stop, Oma had to dry me off because the fog particles had accumulated on my clothes. Now I know what you're thinking: "Mr. Grandy, you wouldn't be foolish enough to ride in fog and endanger Oma/Julie in the process, would you?" Well, yes and no. We did ride in fog, but we made sure that there wouldn't be a safety issue. With the widest bike path on the side of the road that we've seen on the trip (approx. 8-10 feet) and car flashers running, we all agreed that we could continue safely. Nevertheless, I found that the fog actually heightened my awareness of the road and caused me to look and listen more intently to anything that could be a problem. It also caused me to reflect on the impact of being in fog and see a couple parallels with our faith study and the later part of my ride.

With today's study focus on Joseph, I wondered what Joseph must have thought as he experienced so many obstacles along his path (e.g., his brothers' actions, those of the King's wife, being placed into prison, etc.). I would imagine that he found it difficult to see the twists and turns ahead of him and how one portion of his ride would lead to another, a bit like being in the fog, looking for clearer vision. And as we emerged from the fog about 2 hours into the ride and began to focus on the goal of Gettysburg, I began to wonder what President Lincoln must have felt as he navigated the country through the Civil War. Much of our ride was now through the rolling hills of mid-Pennsylvania overlooking the Susquehanna River, with portions of cut rock along the route. Focusing on Gettysburg, I realized that no one could see all the details of how the war would turn out. Surely, President Lincoln must have felt some uncertainty about the direction of the country and felt like he was working his way, at times, through a "fog". And then it struck me that perhaps it is those times when we experience fog and have difficulty seeing too far out ahead that create an opportunity to deepen our faith. If it's been awhile, I recommend that you read (1) the Gettysburg Address; and (2) President Lincoln's 2nd Inaugural Address. Both are among the shortest presidential speeches and both are engraved in the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. While many debate the point, I think they show a president who has a deep moral conviction, is experiencing some "fog" and has placed his trust in God to determine the outcome of the bloody, Civil War. Without the fog, there is less need to look and listen so intently, to exercise our faith.

We finished our ride at the battlefields of Gettysburg and the location of President Lincoln's famous address. Just being on those hallowed grounds and trying to imagine what the battle were like gave me pause for those who have served our country throughout its history and do so today. Regardless of your political views, to put yourself into harm's way to protect others is a level of commitment few of us can fathom. So as we make our stop in Gettysburg, I encourage to reflect on the service of those who have made our freedom possible and to pray for those men and women serving our country today. I am thankful for their service and have a deeper appreciation for their commitment.

Finally, a heartfelt thanks to our hosts in Gettysburg this evening. It couldn't have worked out any better. We actually arrived around 5 p.m., spent a few minutes walking our nation's historic Civil War battle and still had time to join them for a 6 p.m. church service. We connected with Pastor Steve Baker, his wife Linda and Linda's mother Ruth through a local Christian academy (Adams County) and really appreciate their hospitality and the hospitality of Brian and Pat Woolsey. There is nothing like a warm shower, a great meal and a relaxing bed for the evening after a good bike ride. Thanks so much for opening your homes to us.

As folks continue to "ride along" on this journey, I pray that you see those situations of "fog" in your lives as opportunities to listen and look more intently as you exercise your faith.


Charlie ("Developing Slightly Larger Legs") Grandy

Olean, NY to Williamsport, PA -- Welcome to the Mountains!

Note: With some technical difficulties last night, I chose to sleep, so here's yesterday's update with my apologies for it coming tonight.

Today was filled with beautiful scenary, difficult climbs and exhilarating downhills. The weather was a bit cool, but there was no rain on the horizon and we faced neutral winds. Riding with mostly sun, we couldn't help but note the many fields of goldenrod alongside the roads (as in NY). And the views were spectacular. We spent much of our morning climbing, with some mountain inclines so steep that, at times, we would pedal for about 20 minutes going only a few miles per hour. Then mid-morning, the ride seemed to even out a bit, with many portions filled with long stretches of winding, curving downhills at speeds between 30-40 mph. As Matt and I talked later, we would literally be dripping sweat going uphill and then be freezing going down. After one particularly difficult climb, we actually asked Oma and Julie to take our spots on the bikes for a bit. Willing to help in any way possible, they donned our biking equipment and were ready to ride, only to find out that their feet could not reach the pedals on our bikes.
It is difficult in a few words to describe the beauty of the landscape or the fun of riding down some of these hills. To try to give a sense of the landscape and ride, we've attached a couple video segments below.