By Tom Tebbe
A few short minutes before 4:00 a.m. cell phone alarms began ringing, rousing sleeping bikers to prepare for a 103 mile ride from Montgomery, Al to Demopolis, Al. After a 5:00 a. m. breakfast and clean up of our host church, the Vaughn Park Church of Christ in Montgomery, we wove our way through many turns in Montgomery. We had not ridden for more than 7 miles, when I got careless and started reaching for my chaulk to mark a turn without stopping. Next thing I knew was my bike was out of control and I was falling on my right side. Thankfully, we were going slow, however the road surface was rough, so I have nice rash on my hip, skinned ankle and elbow. (one moment of not paying attention will put you on the ground real fast). After readjusting my helmet, I hopped back on the bike and pedaled on down the road. Someone said "How is your ego?" I said, "I don’t have any ego left after that dumb move!"
Soon we were biking through rural Alabama. Pedaling through soybean fields, pastures of beef cattle and open forested lands is very peaceful. I began to think about the hard work involved in the process of getting food from the field to the millions of consumers around the country. When we stopped after 25 miles for our first rest stop, a farmer was storing a 12 row seeder in a shed and attaching a 16 foot wide disc. I asked what he had been planting, he told me he had been planting sesame seeds. He said the plants grow about 3 feet tall with a bushy top. He also explained that the planter can been used for almost any seed – soybeans, corn, peanuts, sesame, wheat oats and other grains. The work of the farmer reminded me of how often I want a quick response or answer to a problem. We are biking to help eliminate poverty housing. This is not a problem that has a quick, easy or convenient solution. It takes the enthusiasm, energy, determination, planning and execution on a strategic basis.
Our mid way stop was Selma, Alabama, the town made famous or infamous by the March 7, 1965 civil rights march. Black Americans had been given the right to vote for decades, but social structures in the south prevented them from being registered to vote. After continuous efforts over the years to exercise their rights, a march was organized. This endeavor was met with death threats to many involved in the march and their supporters. When Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act in 1964, he referenced this march and the courage of those who marched to protect the civil rights of others.
As we rode through the day, the clouds that kept temperatures down through most of the morning faded and the temperature climbed to 100 degrees by 2:00 p.m. About this time we saw a church marquee requesting rain from God. Well, God answered that churches request with a downpour that featured crackling lightning strikes, booming thunder, 60 mile per hour winds and pelting rain mixed with light hail. Unfortunately, we were caught in the open with no shelter 9 miles from our destination. We had no choice but to get off our bikes and wait out the storm by the side of the rode. After being blasted by the wind, rain and hail for 20 minutes a truck stopped. A Good Samaritan had picked up 3 riders and their bikes. As another rider loaded his bike into the truck, our support van drove up. We loaded 3 more bikes into the trailer and drove to our destination. There were a number of chilly, soggy riders in the van. One person in another group of 3 riders had a flat along the highway as the storm approached. As they were changing the flat tire, Eddie Griffin, came out to the road to check on the approaching storm. After helping a lady who had run out of gas, he told the riders to come his house and wait on his porch until the storm passed. So, we want to give a shout out to Eddie and thank him for taking care of our riders and helping them stay safe when the Armageddon storm blew through.
A hot shower after getting really chilled feels absolutely wonderful. A big thank you to Fairhaven Baptist Church of Demopolis, Alabama for being wonderful hosts and warming us inside and out.