October 12, Day 102 of TheHopeLine Tour of 2014
(Click here for Part I of an Abrupt End)
At breakfast at McDonalds after church, it hit me. Tim had just explained that we probably had only seven or eight riding days left. This tour would soon be coming to an end. As much as I wanted to be home and as tired as I was, I was sad that the tour would soon be ending. I was so looking forward to the two days of rest just ahead to prepare us for the homestretch. With 4,336 miles to date, we are 90% of the way home. The shortest ride of our tour thus far, 20-25 miles, would get us to our rest days.
We headed toward Towanda, Pennsylvania. The beauty of northern Pennsylvania in the peak of foliage season was breathtaking. The day seemed warmer than the past week, when we wore 3-5 layers of clothing to ward off the morning chill.
As I ascended a slight grade along a narrower portion of US Route 6, I grazed the guardrail with my right rear pannier. I then swerved left and straightened my bike, only to hit a loose rock on the shoulder with my front tire. Down I went, right into the travel lane. Thankfully, no cars were speeding up behind me, which gave me time to pick myself up and get out of the road. When I first moved my right arm, I could hear a crackling sound, which triggered a well of emotions. As bad as my arm hurt, there was another haunting feeling: was the remainder of our bicycling adventure in jeopardy?
Meanwhile, cars and trucks continued to speed by on the other side of the road. Eventually, one of those cars, as we discovered later, turned around and came back to check on us. It slowed down and the woman on the passenger’s side asked if I needed help. They continued down the road to turn around while Tim moved our bicycles to a wider portion of the road. The carful of would-be rescuers met us there.
When the husband and wife, named Gary and Amy, quickly got out of the car, I immediately felt a calm and peace come over me. Their countenances radiated joy and contentment. Gary said that they had just come from church and were on their way home to Canton. They had seen me fall and came back to see if we needed help. Somehow, I felt an instant connection amongst the four of us. The calm within me grew when Amy said, “Whatever you need, we’ll see that you get it.”
As our conversation unfolded, they seemed to know exactly what we needed, yet they respected our decision making while offering information about local services. The more time we spent with them, it also became apparent that they understood what we were feeling. I soon found out that they were both in education, so we would have much to talk about, as we would spend much of the rest of the day together.
Their four-passenger Subaru would not fit our bicycles and gear, so Gary immediately called their neighbor, Jeff, who was watching his son’s soccer game. Jeff arrived in no time with a clean and capable pickup truck to transport us to the hospital. He hopped out of his truck and joined Gary and his son, who picked up the bicycles, loaded panniers and all, like they were children’s tricycles and placed them in the back of the pickup.
To the Hospital
The hospital experience was a blessing. When we arrived at the emergency room at the Troy hospital, the security guard asked me to fill out a simple form before admitting me. With Tim by my side, a kind nurse attended to me within two minutes of arriving. Only one other person was being treated, so I saw the doctor soon. The radiologist who read the X-ray concurred with the doctor. I had chipped my radius. They put my arm in a cast and the doctor recommended that I see an orthopedic surgeon within a few days.
Unbeknownst to me, our Good Samaritans were outside, waiting for a couple of hours on a football Sunday, and they had called their pastor who had joined them. They had already placed us on their church’s prayer chain!
I came outside and saw them basking in the late afternoon sun. As I looked at the blue sky and the colorful trees displaying their autumn regalia on the nearby hills, I thought, This must be what heaven is like: surrounded by loving people in a beautiful setting.
I looked back and saw the other ER patient come out of the hospital with a sling on his arm. I approached him and said, “What is this? One size fits all treatment?” He had popped the tendon in his right arm while bowling. His parents asked what had happened to me. I shared that we were bicycling across the country raising money for TheHopeLine, and told them about our goal to raise $100,000 for this organization with the main focus of preventing suicide in young people. The woman’s eyes filled with tears as she told of her father’s suicide in 1974. Her husband whipped out a twenty-dollar bill to donate to TheHopeLine. It was another reminder of the generous hearts of so many Americans and that too many people have been permanently affected by the suicide of a loved one.
While I was in the ER, Amy had been busy checking on ways for us to return to Massachusetts in the most economical way. Calling airlines and rental car companies, she landed a one-way rental car in Williamsport, 45 minutes away. Gary and Amy would drive us there. How can this couple—both working full time, one with a school board meeting to prepare for and the other with a dissertation to write, and with three kids at home—drop everything for us on a Sunday? The sermon I had heard a couple of weeks ago came to mind. You can’t hurry and love at the same time! They were living out the sermon as they devoted their attention to our needs.
The pastor prayed for us before we departed to Gary and Amy’s house. Jeff drove us there to swap vehicles with them so that he could attend to matters at home. We were overwhelmed by the grace, kindness, and care of these strangers. With arrangements made for our trip back to Massachusetts, we headed to Williamsport to pick up the rental car.
My conversation with Amy on the way warmed my heart. I kept thanking her. With her wholesome smile looking me in the eye, she told me how pleased she was to be able to do this for us. Later, after a late-night meal with them in Williamsport, she told me that her daily prayer to the Lord is, “Bless me into usefulness.” Then she said, “He answered my prayer today through you.”