October 19 2008

Comforting Sights of the Red, White, and Blue!

What a comforting feeling to be back on American soil. We can carry
a wallet in our pocket instead of hiding money and our credit cards
under the soles of our shoes. We can walk leisurely instead of having
to walk with a purpose and constantly having to be aware of
everything and everyone around us. We can greet people and except
generosity without being afraid of being victimized. Yes, what a free
feeling. A feeling we often take for-granted. (Side note....please
VOTE!) We first landed on American soil in Miami (from Bogota,
Colombia) and then flew to Jacksonville, NC where we were greeted by
our daughter-in-law, Molly. As she drove us to their home in Camp
Lejuene she informed us that Hurricane Hanna was suppose to hit land
that evening. She assured us we had enough food, beer and water to
weather out the storm (Ward was concerned. Remember, Ward is a
thirsty boy.) The shelves in the stores were pretty empty and
businesses were boarding up their windows or parking semis in front
of their big store windows to prevent breakage. All hanging signs and
signs that were not securely standing were taken down. Wow, this is
our first hurricane. When we arrived to our son, John, and Molly's
home we closely watched the weather channel. They were reporting
swells of 22ft at that time and we were only 5 miles inland from the
ocean front. We tried to drive to the beach to observe the hurricane
developing but the roads were closed. People were moving inland to
area shelters. We returned to John's and made sure there were no
items around his home that would go flying in the wind and we tied
everything else down. We filled buckets with water to use to flush
the toilets and planned on cooking on the grill the next day if we
needed to. They were predicting flooding (Ward and I were glad we
were sleeping on an air mattress. We would float.) and power outages.
We were ready! The storm hit around 3:00 am. It was down graded to a
tropical storm and, really, not much happened. The storm itself was
anticlimactic but the pre-storm preparations were very exciting. We
had a magnificent 5 days with John and Molly which also included
fishing in the ocean off of a pier. We were actually successful and
caught enough fish for supper. Ward's fishing pole DOES work. We left
John and Molly's on Sept. 9th but not before we gave them many xxxooo
as John was scheduled to be deployed to Iraq around Oct. 15th. We are
so proud of him.

We hopped on the Amtrak and arrived in Washington DC at 8:00 am.
Normally we would not look forward to an 8 hour layover but in
Washington DC? You gotta love it! We saw the White House, Washington
Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, Korean Memorial, and
the Capitol. All for free! Our tax dollars are being well used there.
The city was also exceptionally clean which was a surprise to us.
Back on the Amtrak with the next stop in Chicago. The purpose of this
stop was to see my sister's, Gail and Connie and their families. The
first night we were kidnapped by me sister Gail and driven to Antioch
(1 hour north of Chicago) where we had to partake in boat drag
racing. Little did I know I was going to be the passenger in this
water rocket for the warm up. 60 mph in a boat that rides 6 inches
off the water is both extremely exhilarating and frightening at the
same time. I felt like a rock being skipped across the water. Should
I have a helmet on or be wearing a seat belt? I don't know. I've
never done this before. Larry (the driver) said he gets up to speeds
of 100-120 mph when he is racing. For the record, Larry got first
place overall for the season. Oh ya, I got to ride with the winner.

After my sister Connie paid a hefty ransom (and I mean hefty) for us
we were able to return to Chicago where we spent time at their
Experimental Station which includes a bike shop. Its a unique set-up.
Kids can come after school and work (learn bike mechanics) to earn
themselves a bike or bike parts. We held a session where we talked to
the kids and showed them pictures of our trip. We wanted to inspire
them to dream. Ward also had the opportunity to repair bikes at the
bike shop and I got to weigh and sell mushrooms at the Experimental
Station's Farmers' Market with my nephew, Axel. It was cool.

Back on the Amtrak with our last stop in Lacrosse, WI where we were
picked up by Putnam's and driven to Decorah. We picked up our new
Schwinns and the next day, Sept. 14th, we started out on our Pedaling
for Pencils bike trek around NE Iowa. We visited schools, Rotary
Clubs, relatives and friends. We were able to see how our son, Ross,
lives in Ames. How could life be bad when you live on Sorority
Circle?? It was a fantastic and fun 2 1/2 weeks as we talked to over
1600 school kids and 6 Rotary Clubs. We also had 2 radio interviews,
a 2 part article in the paper and we were on KWWL TV. Jeepers. What's
going on? We're just 2 people on bikes.

We also had the opportunity to bike and share spirits with many of
our Decorah and Madison friends as well as the Budweg and Spreen
family. There's no place like home. On Oct. 6th we headed to New
Zealand. I won't tell you much about our experience so far here since
it will be its own egroup in the future. But, I will tell you its as
gorgeous as everyone says it is. Beautiful hills and valleys in every
color of green are outlined by the blue ocean water. That is what
we're currently biking through. Life is good.

We will be talking to 9 schools the week of the 20th - 24th and 2
Rotary Clubs. It should be fun. Thanks to everyone that has been
supporting our Pedaling For Pencils. We have changed our web page so
you may want to check it out. We are working on updating the blog
and photos so we will let you know when that is all done.

Until next time.

Jacky and Ward