Nearing midway point, Bjorkman reflects on first half of her 3,000-mile bike ride, week 5
by Kelsey Bjorkman
Special to the Star News
Total Mileage to Date: 1,513
June 27, 2011
Once again, so much has happened since my last update. We are currently in Webster, South Dakota. We left Montana on June 23rd, stayed one night in Hettinger, North Dakota, and entered South Dakota on June 24th. Except for today, our last day off was last Sunday. We spent the time in Billings, Montana, relaxing and fellowshipping with people from our host church, The City Church.
Since I updated last, I have biked my first century, meaning a ride of 100 miles or more. My first was on June 20th, from Billings, Montana, to Forsyth, Montana. Our day was originally supposed to be around 70 miles and then 80 the following day. However, due to the heavy rainfall and snow melt in Montana, the place that was hosting us in Hysham, Montana, was flooded. We had to reroute and at the last minute called First Baptist Church of Forsyth. Ironically, when the pastor received our phone message, he had just read Hebrews 13:2 in the Bible where it says “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” He said to himself “These people are as strange as it’s going to get” and called Karl, one of our leaders, to invite us to come.
I am overwhelmed by the blessings we have been shown by our host families and churches. First Baptist Church of Forsyth did not know we existed until Friday, June 17th. They hosted us on Monday, June 20th, giving us not only a place to sleep but also a barbecue dinner, hot showers, the use of a massage chair and three bags of groceries to take on our journey. God’s provision through His people is a joy to behold.
I discovered on our ride between Forsyth, Montana, and Miles City, Montana, that I much prefer to ride over hills than through valleys. They sound like they would be the same amount of work, but it is distributed differently. When you climb a hill you see it coming ahead of you and can prepare.
You work hard and push yourself to reach the top. It’s hard and frustrating at times, but you know there is an end to be reached. When you reach the top you are rewarded with a view of what you just accomplished, as well as a glorious ride down the other side that leaves you with momentum to continue on the flat ground after. Valleys, however, are different. With a valley you often do not see them coming ahead of you. The ground suddenly drops down in front of you. You get a fun ride to the bottom, but then have to work really hard to get yourself back out and no momentum to continue on the flat ground. It seems a fitting parallel to life. How often we want to take the easy way out. Instead of going up from the flat ground we would rather skip the climb and simply ride down into the valley. But it doesn’t help us avoid the ensuing climb back up; it simply prolongs the inevitable. I think the question that has to be asked is whether the brief ride down is worth the effort of climbing back out and having no momentum. God often places hills before us, challenges that we must climb. But when we are willing to face the challenge, He is faithful to reward us in the end.
Another first for me this last week was riding my bike without any hands. I have wanted to accomplish this feat for years but have always been too afraid of wiping out on my bike to try it. While riding with Samantha and Jeramy one afternoon the topic of riding no-handed came up. I mentioned my fears and Jeramy told me it was kind of ridiculous for me to be scared of riding without hands since I ride the unicycle at home. I realized he was absolutely right and discovered that, if I approach it like riding the unicycle, I can ride my bicycle without hands. Attitude can make all the difference in any situation. When we approach a challenge with the proper perspective, that is when we are able to succeed.
Now that we have left western Montana we have no more mountains until we reach the Appalachians in Pennsylvania. We have reached the plains now with rolling valleys and hills, grass that ripples in the wind like a horse’s muscles beneath its skin, sporadic trees and wind. The wind has been both a friend and a foe to us in our riding. As with anything in life our biggest strength can also be our biggest weakness. When traveling in the proper direction, the wind at your back is a glorious thing. It pushes you forward, minimizing the amount of effort that must be exerted. Today we had a wonderful tailwind, at about 15 mph, that pushed us into Webster, South Dakota. We were cruising at an average speed of 22 mph. However, that same wind can become your worst enemy when it shifts directions. A straight-on head wind is a constant battle that wears on you in every way possible. Unlike a hill, you have no peak to look forward to, no destination or goal to reach except your final destination. You simply have to push, as hard as you can, for the entire ride. A crosswind, though not as difficult as a headwind, can be almost as tiring. It pushes your bike around like a boat on a lake, shoving you into traffic or off of the road. On Saturday, the 25th, we had a wind that alternated between a headwind and a tailwind and we struggled to keep our speed above 13 mph. It was an exhausting day.
Our trip this week was not without its random adventures either. On our way out of North Dakota, Dustin saw a sign for the world’s largest metal sculptures. We decided at the South Dakota border to take a short detour to see this sight, assuming it would take us maybe 45 minutes tops to get there and back. Our 45-minute detour turned into a three hour, 134 mile round trip detour. But was had a delightful time along the Enchanted
Highway, seeing the metal sculptures that dot the landscape along that route. Because of our detour, by two in the afternoon we had biked only 14 miles. It all worked out for the best, however, as our hosts in McLaughlin, South Dakota, were not able to meet us until 10 p.m. As it was, we got into town around 8:30 and had to sit around for an hour and half. Without our three hour detour, we would have been sitting around for over four hours in a town with nothing to do. God works in mysterious ways.
Another adventure has been road construction. About 12 miles into North Dakota we hit road construction. The team had gotten texts from Karl, our driver that day, that there was a dirt road ahead. We then got another text letting us know that we needed to shuttle through the construction as the dirt was too soft to bike on, and it would have been too difficult and dangerous to try and walk them through the construction. So we waited and had a delightful conversation with the flagman until the van got back to our end of the construction. We loaded all the bikes into the trailer, piled into the van and drove to the other side. We encountered a similar situation just outside of Roscoe, South Dakota. This time, however, it was not due to construction but due to flooding. A section of highway 12 was covered in water. They had built it back up with gravel and sand, but it was too loose to safely bike across. So, once again, we loaded up bikes and bodies and drove across. The water reached almost to the ‘no passing’ sign on the side of the highway.
I have been blessed this week with meeting more people and hearing more stories of their lives. In Billings, Montana, I had the joy of eating lunch with Selah, age 11. She had just returned from a trip to Europe with her mom where they visited her grandparents in Kosovo. It was so fascinating to talk to her and hear her perspective on everything she had seen and experienced. Some of it was the relatively typical things any 11-year-old would find interesting, such as using a Greek toilet that was just a hole in the ground. But she also had some profound insights on things that she saw.
Her grandparents are working in Kosovo with a day care that was built after all but six of the men in this community were brutally killed. The survivors started this day care so that the women would be able to work and provide for their families. Her matter-of-fact manner of discussing the atrocities that occurred in this village showed a maturity beyond her 11 years. And her recognition and appreciation for the work her grandparents are doing, and the impact it is having in that community, showed a heart that is going to change the world.
In Forsyth, Montana, I sat in the living room of the pastor’s house, talking with his 9-year-old daughter, Annalee. She is currently saving money to open an orphanage in Africa, and was so proud of the fact that she swam a mile that day at swim practice. She is just so open to whatever life might bring her. We had a wonderful visit with Annalee’s dad, Bill, the pastor of First Baptist Church in Forsyth, hearing him tell about how his family moved to the little town of Forsyth. They were originally in Tennessee when he felt called to become a sister church with a church in Montana. He was partnering with a church in Hysham, Montana, a town about 30 miles west of Forsyth, when he got a call from the church in Forsyth asking if he would be their pastor after theirs left. He was actually doing missions work in Montana, bringing teams from his church in Tennessee to work on people’s ranches for free, helping to repair things and doing whatever they needed. “I come from the Bible belt.” He said. “In the south, everyone is ‘a Christian.’” But he said that in Montana people are a lot more independent and will openly state that they do not need Christ. “They try and shock you.” He said. “There is a lot of strong language, from adults and students alike.” But, he said “The Biblical illiteracy is refreshing. They’ve heard so little (from the Bible) that it touches them when they do hear it.”
Some of the highlights of this past week for me were racing a mallard duck that was in flight (they can apparently fly at least 20 mph) and seeing both dromedary and Bactrian camels outside of Bowdle, South Dakota.
Tonight we are in Webster, South Dakota, and tomorrow we cross into Minnesota. We will be in Minneapolis on Thursday, June 30th, and staying until Sunday, July 3rd, when we head out for Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
We will be speaking at Oak Hills Church in Eagan, Minnesota, at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, July 1st. That evening we will be showing a movie about the 60 year civil war in Burma as well. We will also be speaking at Oak Hills Church’s service on Sunday, July 3rd, before we hit the road on our bikes later that day.
I am so excited to see my family and get three days off while we are in the Twin Cities. We are almost halfway to New York. So much had happened in so little time. It seems unreal to think it has only been three weeks since we left Seattle, Washington. God has done so much, I have met so many people, seen so many things and I am so different than when we began. I cannot wait to see what the next half brings.