Sunday, April 18, 2010

Biking Across America...

A fourth year medical school student, Lauren Leffler has the month of April off in order to pursue something other than her usual work and study. After researching several other options, she decided to pack her bicycle into a box and fly from Florida to San Francisco. In California, she took her box of bike pieces to a bike shop and said, "Bring this bike back to life, please!" They worked their magic and soon she set off on what is the adventure of her young life! She is taking a month to bike from California back to Florida with a commitment to raise funds for Shriners Hospitals for Children. This is a wonderful cause she believes in strongly. Her residency will be in pediatric orthopedics.

I learned about Lauren's adventure from a friend. My friend was seeking a home in which Lauren could spend an overnight one day this past week. I quickly agreed we'd love to welcome Lauren to our home when she arrived in Kerrville.

But Lauren had 150 miles to cover between Del Rio, TX and our home and she would be biking through the most challenging hills in TX - more than a day's ride even for the most experienced long distance bikers. Lauren and I talked by phone and decided that I would pick her up if the distance proved too great the day she was attempting to cover that segment of her trip. We planned her route and had a stopping place for her in mind if needed.

She started early on Wednesday with overcast skies but slowed with pavement containing small pebbles rather than smooth asphalt. Lauren's call came about 3:45pm saying she would like a pick up at our prearranged spot about 6:00 pm if possible. I told her I would arrive there about 5:30 pm in order for her not to have to wait long for me. By now it was and had been raining all day - sometimes quite hard.

I arrived at Garven's Store before Lauren. I considered pulling out my book and reading until she arrived but I thought of the nearly 100 miles Lauren had already covered, saw the rain and threatening clouds and decided to head down the highway in her direction. Within a distance of about seven miles, I saw a speck in the distance I thought must be my biker. As she approached, I slowed my minivan and rolled down the window as she arrived. Her first words were. "Linda? Am I happy to see you!"

She was soaked and physically tired but got the bike loaded quickly so we could head off to a warm shower and hearty supper. She eagerly enjoyed the apple and banana I offered her.

But before going home, I felt she just had to experience Garven's Store. That lonely gas station and country store has a little bit of everything and is pure TX country charm. She purchased several flavors of their specialty Jerky before we dashed through the torrents of rain to my car for our ride home.

Lauren assured me that only her body was tired but her mind wasn't weary. She filled me in on her life, her family and some of the adventures she'd had so far on her trip. She admits it's been very different from what she expected. She's had only one or two days of ideal biking conditions but has seen magnificent countryside and met wonderful people. Her bike and her flip flops are keeping her on schedule - along with a few "helps" such as I had been that day.

Over supper we discussed the routing she'd mapped before the start of this trip. It would be another long day of biking but again it would take her on beautiful country roads in central TX. Since this is the peak of a spectacular season for bluebonnets, we knew she would have beautiful views along the way.

We awakened Thursday morning to more rain - gentle as we ate breakfast at 7:00 am. She relished the big bowl of Old Fashioned Oat Meal with raisins, cinnamon, brown sugar and a little milk as well as my signature homemade pecan rolls.

As my husband helped Lauren add some bike oil to her chain, he whispered to me, "Maybe you should drive her part way."

With the threatening weather and the distance she faced, that seemed very logical. Our suggestion was warmly accepted; "maybe to the edge of town?" But I felt a drive through Comfort past the Interstate 10 exchange which would get her on the road to Sisterdale would be better. This way she would avoid the "heavy" morning traffic coming into Kerrville.

So off we headed toward Sisterdale. As we left Comfort, there didn't seem a good place to stop so I decided to go all the way to Sisterdale. As it turned out, that was wise as a several mile stretch of road was under construction with the surface only rough, rocky gravel. It would have been a very rough, damaging ride on a bike.

But the quaint village of Sisterdale, (pop. 63) seemed a friendly, welcoming place for Lauren to reclaim her bike in order to set off for that day's ride. With a jacket giving some protection from the cool rain and all her supplies for the trip in a small bag encased in a garbage bag to keep them dry, Lauren donned her gloves, helmet and big smile as she straddled the bike and valiantly rode away.

I'm keeping informed about Lauren's progress through emails from her mother. At this point she has promise of only a small portion of the funds she hopes to raise for Shriners Hospitals for Children. But there is still time to participate with her if you feel inclined to add something for her worthy cause.

It was a pleasure to meet Lauren and host her briefly this week. This gal has courage and determination. She is trusting God for protection during this venture as she pays attention to her health, the road and her faithful flip flops.

She expects to arrive in Tampa, FL between April 26 - 28th. I think she'll make it with some amazing stories to share with her family, friends and future patients.

Lauren arrived April 26th at 5:30pm to cheers from her family and friends.

1 comment:

Marge B. said...

Dear Lee,

What an interesting story you've shared. How exciting to be a part of Lauren's adventure and to be used by God in this young women's life.
'Thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him.' (2 Cor. 2:14)
As always, your writing captures such a descriptive and loving message. The pictures so beautifully add to the story.

Thanks for letting me in on this neat opportunity and experience.

Love, Marge