September 13, Day 73 of TheHopeLine Tour of 2014
Something happened today. The character of our tour changed, and we welcomed it.
After our dark ride off the Katy Trail and over the Missouri River last night, we were sluggish on short sleep this morning. We cycled to our intended morning stop: a bike shop on the other side of town. My rear tire was again in need of replacement. When you carry a lot of weight on a touring bicycle, the rear tire takes a beating, particularly when you are also traveling on unpaved surfaces.
Alex at Revolution Cycles knows customer service. And he knows how to engage the customer with appropriate and friendly banter. He also understands how to tune a bicycle. In short order, he slapped on a new rear tire, replaced the chain on both bicycles, and even restored my indexed shifting, which other bicycle shops failed to do. We were impressed. That was a great way to start the day.
Subway was right around the corner, so we had breakfast there. A young man named Michael came up to our table and inquired about our trip. He is a bicyclist as well and has done some touring based out of his home in Washington, Missouri. He knew well some of the routes that we were traveling and shared his insights. He recommended we have Revolution Bicycles check out our bikes! When we told him that we’d just been there, he said the owner was like a second father to him. We also found out that Alex was the owner’s son.
Soon, we left lunch and made an impromptu visit to a church we had passed near the bicycle shop. A youth leader was in the office preparing for a big day. We shared about TheHopeLine, left some material for him, and headed for our next stop.
We had some interesting encounters outside the grocery store. Two women were raffling off a quilt to benefit a small church. They intercepted Debbie at the door and queried her about our journey. When I came by after Debbie had made her way into the store, we shared some more conversation. I described TheHopeLine to them and they really “got it.” We find some people readily understand the mission of TheHopeLine, while others simply don’t get it. Later, one of the women, who’d had some personal brushes with suicide, enthusiastically pledged some support. She described how heroin addiction had become a major problem with the area’s youth.
Meanwhile, one of the store’s stock clerks passed me by again. He’d been in and out of the store, attending to customers’ needs in the parking lot. Eventually, he brought one of his fellow clerks out to see our loaded bicycles and to chat further. When I asked them whether any of their peers struggled with suicidal thoughts, they went silent. Soon, however, one of them cited a few cases of youth suicide in nearby schools. The other shared some stories, too, about relatives who had killed themselves. Their initial silence made me wonder whether suicide was a topic that no one talked about or whether suicide had become so commonplace to these youth that the question may have seemed irrelevant to them. One of the youth commented that holidays are always different now because he doesn’t see his cousin at them anymore. A person’s absence is a constant reminder to those he leaves behind after he takes his own life.
Finally, we hit the road, which included a ride down US Route 66. However, there was much to ponder. Cycling would take a back seat today. In the past several days, we were bound by the confines of the Katy Trail. Now, there were people around, and friendly ones at that! There was also traffic around, as route 47 was filled with cars on this Saturday afternoon. We had begun to take Katy’s peacefulness for granted.
After 30 miles, we were at a crossroads. We would need to cycle another 30-plus miles, with no services in between, to make it to evening accommodations. After asking a local named Carl at the Dairy Queen about the roads, he convinced us to stay put and tackle the hilly and windy road deeper into the Ozark region with fresh legs tomorrow morning.
We rolled a couple more miles to a budget motel and called it a day. The rest will do us good. We had yet another meaningful discussion with the motel attendant about TheHopeLine. Her son is a pastor and understands these youth issues well. Today was more about people contact. Our return to civilization had spawned several strong connections with people. We needed that. Communicating with people is really what TheHopeLine is all about.