Monday, November 25, 2013

Hartland.. still?

You know what? I'm still here. My thoughts for maintaining forward momentum fell through, but everything is working out anyway.

And I must apologize to someone in New Jersey, who I told that if I ever failed to update my blog by Wednesday, she'd know I'd died. I'm sorry, I guess I can't really guarantee much of anything.

As I write this, it's been 17 days since I arrived, and I plan to leave in a couple days. I've spent longer here than any place that was not my home. Ever. In fact, I've spent more time at this place than I'd ever been away from home before this year.
David 
Hartland Institute of Health and Education is a self supporting Seventh-Day Adventist health and evangelism college. As a student, one is required to work at least 16 hours a week in the farm, garden, grounds, shop, or one of the many other vocational training fields, beyond their class load. Because of the self supporting nature of the school, and the number of volunteer workers, the cost of attendance is quite low. By working 26 hours a week one can get room, board, and tuition for free, though this track does add some time to the finishing of a program.
Taken by Katherine
This is not a particularly large educational institution - someone said there are somewhere around 50 students, and a similar number of staff. However, due to the nature of the school, students come from all over. I was told that nearly 30 countries are represented. There's also a high enough Hispanic group that it's not infrequent to hear the staff speaking to each other in Spanish instead of English.

Katherine
Staff I've interacted with come from places (as either first or second generation immigrants) such as Korea, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Australia, and the UK, as well as of course multigenerational American citizens.

David and Andrés
Students, meanwhile, come from Canada, Mexico, El Salvador, Columbia, Venezuela, Paraguay, Peru, Argentina, Brazil, China, Japan, Korea, Australia, Fiji, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, England, Dominican Republic, and many other countries, and all over the US.


For the first week, I really didn't have anything to do. Those I'd met seemed to appear and disappear with a strange irregularity. I didn't know the schedule at all, or what sorts of things were going on. Nothing quite as lonely as being near people, but having no way to talk to anyone. So I hid out for the first part of the week. Finally, I got bored, and asked to be put to work.


With my wrist still wrapped up, I went off to help Kevin chop wood. My job was to roll the hardwood rounds (as large as 26 inches across) to the lift, from where they would be rolled into the wood splitting machine, capable of turning a single round into 6 pieces of firewood. The larger rounds would still need split a couple times. I think that's the most lopsided "full body" workout I've ever experienced.

Mr. Riechard, Riley, and a student from China
That Friday, I attended a vespers program with Riechard's, who had initially said I should come over if I stayed that long, though I assured them there was no reason I would be. Ah, well.. plans change. :D





Mr. Shin and Kevin, as the choir busses prepare to depart
On Sabbath I followed the choir, who went to a Korean church to sing for the service. This was the first time I'd ever been somewhere where an interpreter was necessary for almost everything that happened. (Things said in English or Korean).

Baby Francis
Shane
At the Korean church, the platform was tight, and the ceiling almost not high enough..
Toki and Kevin 

Mr. Sanchez
After sitting for a week, I thought it a good idea to ride a few miles, to give me something to do, keep my leg muscles somewhat in shape, and evaluate my wrist. Oh, and I lost my helmet somewhere in the moving process, and had to get another one. Fortunately there was a bike shop nearby. While I was at it, I also got some attention to my axles. They said they hadn't been greased in maybe 10 years.

Never mind that it was one of the more scary roads I've ridden on (high traffic non-divided road with limited shoulder), it was nice to be riding again. I much appreciated the tail wind headed out, and not so much the head wind coming back.
Thanksgiving tables.. 
I stayed around long enough for the College's Thanksgiving meal. To give an indication on size, there were somewhere around 125 plates, for students, staff, and various community members.
Cartina 

I helped set up chairs, and fold and tie the napkins.

Persimmons
Katherine, surprised that one could possibly get a picture of her without her knowing..
After cleanup tag game
After being here a week, I finally developed enough contacts, and a good enough basic understanding of the general schedule, and the allowance to eat lunch in the cafeteria, that I could find things to do if necessary, and at least knew were to find people certain times of most days..

The only motion shot I got that panned out..
I was told when taking this shot that I always miss (it wasn't meticulously aimed). I think this was a score.
Saturday evening I was invited to the house of a married student (non-married students live in the dorm), for food, games, and, since I was there, telling stories. It would have been much easier if I'd had my laptop to show pictures with, instead of just my phone..


Minha ended up winning, proving that one need not be completely fluent in English to win at Apples to Apples.


Brother Beavers


This completely unanticipated stop has been wonderful. It's nice to be stationary, to be around the same people for more than a couple days, to be able to do useful work.. And, as it turns out, as you will find out, everything will work out well, and I'll be able to stay on schedule for the last bit of the month.

The one thing I'd miss the most being a student here, vs. just staying for a couple weeks, is the many talks in the evening with Kevin, a logger (equipment operator, mechanic), wood worker, farmer, builder, demolisher, and anything else that might need done. 

And for those who are wondering, my wrist is almost as good as new, though a bit of energetic shovel work Yesterday did irritate it slightly. By the time I finally get back to bike touring, I shouldn't have any problems with it at all. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Hartland Institute

Well, this last week has certainly been interesting.

Before I left Columbia, MD, I carefully planned where I'd spend my weekends, all the way to Florida. I wrote up an itinerary, and was slightly concerned about the next couple weeks on account of mileage, but was sure everything would work out.

It wasn't until Monday afternoon when I finally made it out of Columbia, and I didn't get far before dark. Well, I can catch up on mileage later in the week.
Out back of a church I slept at.
Tuesday, after practically freezing the night before, I made my first priority to buy some warmer clothes at a second hand store somewhere. I ultimately had to go to three locations before finding what I needed, and each spot was further from my intended destination. But I did find what I needed, at a rather reasonable price - gloves, pants, and shirt, for $13.

By this time I was a day and a half behind on mileage. Fortunately, I was able to re-route further south (vs. more west), and save 80 miles over a two week period.

On Wednesday I made 42 miles, which on the scale of the last couple weeks isn't bad at all - but still less than I needed to in order to reach my intended destination.
I saw a whole community of houses built on stilts like this. Maybe it was a camp, I don't know. Must have problems with ground moisture? 
The cable ferry I took across the Potomac from Maryland into Virginia. 
Oh, and the warmer clothes I bought? I found them entirely too warm, as temperatures went into the mid-70's during the day, and not below 50 that night.

Also, I'd failed to make contact with anyone at my intended destination. It always seems on this trip that when I simply cannot make contact with anyone, it's an early warning that my plans are about to change, making such contacts irrelevant. But not to get ahead of myself..
Lots of construction of large homes in this area.
Thursday morning I got a decent start, and found the hills to not be too much of a challenge.. If you've been following my trip closely you may know that in 4 months I've encountered very little rain. It did start raining after I hit the road, not enough to be miserable - especially as it wasn't overly cold - just enough that I put on my rain jacket to stay drier.
Of the older homes such as this, it was frequent to see several stages of construction. The stone part is probably over 200 years old, the log part (far left), is probably closer to 100 years old. Looks like 4 separate add on projects.
I came to a four way intersection, and was directed onto a gravel road. I went a ways, but thought certainly there was a better route.. So I switched from bike directions to car directions. It saved a mile. Backtracked, took another gravel road.. Maybe it won't be as long.

However, this gravel road was much worse than the former - single track, loose gravel towards the middle.

I came to a hill, and for some reason thought I'd see how fast I could get going - maybe I could break my former gravel road speed record, since it has been a standing record the entire trip.

Unfortunately the road was worse than I'd realized, and I drifted to the middle, where the gravel was a couple inches deep. Flying downhill at 27 miles per hour, my bike started wobbling, then spun sideways, quickly skidding to a stop, with the back wheel ahead of the front. As the velocity of my bike changed rapidly, my own velocity remained relatively consistent, so I was temporarily propelled through the air, making landfall about 6 feet from my bike.

The first thing I did after sitting up was to thank God it was raining, as my jacket certainly prevented me from getting scratched or scraped up. However, my wrist appeared sprained. A couple guys in a small car came down the road, and seeing my situation, offered to give me a ride to a medical facility. They were unable to take my bike, however, so stored it behind a rock wall, while I marked the spot on my phone so I could some back.

At the urgent care center, I was told I had indeed sprained my wrist, though nothing worse than that, and that I shouldn't use it for a week.

Well, cool! I can take a week of riding! I think I could use the break.. 

I don't think I've ever been more stranded in my life. There I was, at the Urgent Care center, 20 miles from my bike and most of my stuff, no where to go, and no way to get there. My nearest definite contacts were hours away. Obviously I was going to need more than just a contact, I'd need somewhere to stay for a few days to regroup and recuperate. 

I tried calling a few churches, and even a few WarmShowers contacts, but was unable to get through to anyone. Finally I decided to call Hartland Institute, a self supporting Adventist health and education center, about an hour and a half from where I was. I had stayed with the parents of a staff member when in New York, and just that morning got a message recommending I visit the place from another friend, though it had been out of my way, so I didn't plan to. But, at this point, what options did I have?

I was put through to Mr. Reichard who said he'd come for me in a couple hours and take me down.

At this point I realized how good it was that, when the guys that gave me a ride to the medical center grabbed my backpack, my sweat shirt and warmer pants which I'd looped through the shoulder straps came along with me. I had to wait till dusk, and got slightly cold even as it was.
Finally, just after dark, I got back together with my bike after 7 hours apart. Everything looked ok, and we loaded it his Prius, to make the ride down. I realized just this morning that I must have left my helmet there.
The gate house, where I've been staying. 
The Mansion - the location of the cafeteria, library, chapel, offices, and Girl's dorm (upstairs).
As it turned out, I arrived at Hartland during a graduation weekend. At this school, graduations are really more testimony and mission report than celebration and fanfare, as the emphasis of the school is to train people to work in various missionary capacities in the US and around the world, and 4th year students are sent out on internships before returning. In this case the three graduates - an Australian, and a brother and sister from Argentina - had been evangelizing in Washington State, running a health center in Austria (unexpectedly), and working at a health center in Alabama, respectively. 
The graduates, Christian, Debbie, and Henry.
Now, to me, and all the staff and students here I've spoken with are in agreement, it's clear that God brought me to this school for a reason. I know many people are praying for me all along this trip, and as much as weather has been in my favor (cooler than normal in the Midwest, warmer than normal in the north east, drier than normal on the eastern and southern US), and my luck with roads - busy traffic right after dark, blind corners, narrow shoulders, and suddenly, no traffic till it straightens out, or, arriving at the worst intersections consistently at low traffic times (left turn at an intersection with 4 lanes each direction, only vehicles going my direction are also taking the turn), or how generally in passing on and off ramps I find a lull in traffic - it seems evident that God has indeed been looking out for me. I've almost come to take it for granted that forecasts of rain will dissipate, and that, generally, everything will work out wonderfully, and so haven't generally given God credit where due, but I think it time to change that now.
Nice to hear a choir again, wishing I were part of it.
In the last few days I've been here, I've come to like the place. At potluck at church a couple students invited me to go pray with them between going through line and eating. One student, who was working while I was sitting in the lobby, apologized for not having tried to help as he saw I was in need at the moment. While, as I discovered on reading the student manual, I've made numerous infractions on many rules while here, everyone has been quite forgiving, and I have only gotten the very slightest negative feedback from anyone, if that. So many people have come up and introduced themselves, and asked about my injury that I have difficulty remembering faces, let alone names. And all the while I'm inspired to be a better person, to be more focused, and more committed. 

Originally I intended to leave Sunday evening, but after a contact fell through, and I realized I was in no particular hurry, I've decided to stay another day or two yet, and am considering returning to attending school here, if God works things out...

Monday, November 4, 2013

Recumbent bikes, and Washington D.C.

Writing this, I'm sitting outside, on the back porch of church I found, using their power, and my Internet. I'm not exactly freezing, but I am cold. This negatively impacts my typing, but I manage.

This week started about midnight on Saturday. Wait.. I was still awake from the week before...?

Alright, for the purpose of this blog post, this (last) week started about mid-afternoon on Sunday when, as my hosts for the night were headed out, I needed to find someone else. Needing still to update my blog.. Um, yeah.. same thing happening right now. Almost. But I digress..

Anyway, after the shortest ever planned ride, in which I was actually heading towards my ultimate destination, I made contact with Robert Blanda through WarmShowers. His profile asked for a week notice, but when I asked on about a 4 hour notice, he said he'd love to have me stop by.

Now, because I like parenthetical thought and side notes more than actually telling stories and giving chronology, I'll take a little bit of a tangent for a moment.

Looking on the WarmShowers network website, or in the app, there's a box where people can say how much of a notice they would like ahead if you wish to stay with them. Some people leave this blank, a lot say 24 hours, or 1-3 days, and some request a week, which for me really doesn't make sense. I don't know how much distance I can make in a day, I don't know what's going to happen, so on the vast majority of cases I make hosting requests within 6-8 hours of when I would arrive at the destination. Maybe 10% of the time I solicit more than a day in advance. Perhaps it would be easier if I planned ahead, but..

Well, Robert, an IT/graphic design/photography professional, while he's never gone on a long bike tour what I'm doing, organizes a regular group of some two dozen people who go on "bike packing" trips (like, backpacking, with bikes), sometimes as long as a week or so. There are lots of rail trails and such in these parts that give opportunity for such without needing to spend time on roads. The majority of the folk on such trips, as it turns out, ride recumbent bikes, Robert included. He had me take out his trike for a spin, and I, being so much shorter than him I was laying almost flat in order to reach the peddles, found it to be quite an interesting ride. Maybe I'll have to try one out again some time.

Before I left he posted some pictures of me on Facebook, talking about my trip, then afterwards wrote a blog post about me. Before long I had several friend requests from various friends of his, and a few new followers to my blog.

Thanks Robert!

You can find out more about his organized trips by going to bikepacking.us.

That was the best story of the week.

On Monday I made it to Philadelphia. There aren't a lot of bridges from New Jersey to Pennsylvania (there is a waterway between, if you didn't know), and it just so happened that the sidewalk on the preferred bridge was closed. Not wanting to ride through Camden to catch the next bridge, I took the advice of a friendly police officer and got a ride from someone at the nearby liquor store.

I went to downtown Philadelphia, where all the historic sites are, but unfortunately I arrived just as everything was closing, so only got to see things from outside.

Part of the old Philadelphia trolly system.
I managed to see the Liberty Bell, and Liberty Hall, but was not able to see enough of the former to really prove that was what it was (being inside, while I was not), and somehow failed to get in a picture of the latter.
Steam gysers?
I did eavesdrop on a tour for a few minutes though.
Not sure the identity of this structure, but it made for a cool picture.

Please Touch Museum. Sounds fascinating.

I guess "Deleware Memorial Bridge - Port of Wilmington - Baltimore" does take up a bit of sign space.. 

This sign describes the case of one of two pieces of unclaimed land on earth - though, apparently, it's only slightly larger than the space underneath the sign.. 
I made it to Columbia, MD, with a little assistance on Thursday afternoon, where I spent the weekend with Greg, the brother of a friend of mine who I've never met, though their dad lives two miles from where I've grown up.

Having nothing he needed to do that weekend, Greg took me around on to see the sights of DC on Friday, Sabbath afternoon, and Sunday.
The Joint Strike Fighter - F-35B Lightning II
Well, on Friday we walked through the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, a companion to the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian.
The tiles of the space shuttle Discovery. You can clearly see the angle at which it falls through the high atmosphere on reentry. 


The space shuttle is one of few things I've seen that looks more impressive the farther away I got..
A small bit of the aircraft here - many of the Japanese aircraft were the only surviving examples.


The Metro, my first experience with lightrail.

Right after a light rain, the Capital building quite shone!

Washington Memorial during the day. Apparently they built the scaffolding after a semi-recent earthquake.
Secret Service police car. Also saw a US Capital police car but thought one police car picture was enough.
Some government office building...
Building apparently dedicated to women of the Civil War
WWII Memorial
Viet Nam War Memorial
I bet you can't tell what this building is..

The Washington Memorial
Korean War Memorial
FDR's well worn finger, where thousands of people have touched it..
Jefferson Memorial
I think this building belonged to the Department of Energy
When I first heard him I thought it was a marching band.
The Monitor and Virginia. No wonder the battle was inconclusive..
Pictures taken 150 years apart from the Smithsonian Castle, same angles, of D.C.
All in all we walked perhaps 15 miles in a 3 day period, and visited only most of the memorials, and a few museums, including the Air and Space Museum, Museum of US History, the National Archives, and the Smithsonian Castle, which is essentially the "this is the Smithsonian" building.

After all that walking I began developing a blister on my foot (currently taped so I can ride without problem). Also, it seems walking is so foreign to my system, my leg muscles (shins particularly), and the tendons at the back of my knees becoming rather sore. The latter made even standing up a bit uncomfortable Sunday evening up till Monday morning..

It was fun touring with someone else. I'll have to come back again, and maybe do something similar with someone on down the line some time...