“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.”
It’s been a while since I’ve sat in front of my laptop on the couch with the television on. It’s been so long that a year has passed and we are getting ready for another long-distance ride across Texas with students. A summer sabbatical this past year prevented me from organizing a summer ride with students–I had to be away from campus and students for most of the summer. Instead of riding, my family spent a month in Ireland. It was almost an equal trade-off.
Once the school year started back up, it was time to begin organizing another ride. This next one will run from the Red River, north of Quanah, to the Rio Grande River in Big Bend National Park. The ride will take seven days–a half-day driving to the starting point, a day to drive home from the end point, and five days on bikes in between. We will ride between 100-120 miles per day for the first four days and 90 on the last day for a combined distance of roughly 560 miles.
We will ride to raise awareness of the needs of people and families affected by cancer. We will also encourage others to give to cancer research and support foundations. Having lost a mother, mother-in-law, and uncle to cancer and having had other close relatives and friends affected by cancer, this cause is near and dear to me. It seems as if everyone has close connections to this horrible disease.
Over the past week, I have been working with my team to find and finalize hosts for our ride. To keep our costs low, we try to find churches and other organizations that will let us invade their facilities and spend nights in sleeping bags. Across our previous eight rides (crossing eight different states over 12 weeks and covering 7,500+ miles), we have rarely had to come up with money for lodging. With a combination of college guys and ladies plus faculty members and other adults, we take up more hotel rooms than could and should be efficiently used for a relatively small group. The times that we’ve needed hotels for lodging are usually when we have to make changes to our planned routes and stops due to rain and other timing issues.
This afternoon was a time of making contact with potential hosts and helpers. Some churches, like one that I’ve talked with over the past several days, are willing to let us sleep in their facilities, but they don’t have shower facilities. Showers and room to put down our sleeping bags (and cots/air mattresses) are all that we need. When showers aren’t readily available, we have to do a little more asking around. And that is what happened this afternoon.
Within a couple of hours of first asking for help with from volunteer fire department in one of our cities in the Big Bend area, we were referred to local motel and RV park. It didn’t take more than 30 minutes for the manager at the motel to get back with me and offer shower facilities for the group. The ranger at Big Bend National Park also quickly volunteered their shower facilities for the day we reach the border.
The pastors and staff at five different churches along our route (Quanah, Hamlin, Sterling City, McCamey, Marathon) all graciously and enthusiastically accepted our requests to let them host us. We hope to meet with members of their congregations on our stays to share our stories.
In a world that seems so polarized, mad, and obsessed with bad news and injustice, it continues to be so refreshing to find good, gracious, and generous people when planning and completing our rides. When you get away from the news media and focus on connecting with people, you find wonderful and caring souls everywhere you go. Finding them is one of the best parts of these rides.
We will reach the Rio Grande River one month from today. We will have new stories, memories, and relationships that will be with us for the rest of our days. It’s fun, exciting, and something that I’m really looking forward to!