Cycle Miles for Smiles
Smiles on Hearts and Faces
Tel +31 63 426 7313 and +27 71 151 5604
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Europe, UK, Ireland and Scotland
2 500 km
Pretoria to Cape Town
2 000 km
New York to San Francisco
6 500 km
Supercycling Television Interview
Prior to the 2016 km cycling from Pretoria to Cape Town November 2016
Pretoria to Cape Town. South Africa. 2 - 15 November 2016
2 November 2016
We left from Wonderboom Airport at 05:50, escorted through the city's early morning traffic by the Metro Police reaching the Tshwane Executive Mayor, councillor Solly Msimanga's offices in Centurion after about an hour's cycling. He was to join us for a short distance on the bikes but due to logistical problems time ran out and he could unfortunately not. But we had a good meeting with him and other dignitories at the major's office. He assured us of his support.
ACDP President the Rev. Dr. Kenneth Meshoe (MP) prayed for us before we left. And in the spirit of the South African scene he did not pray for our safety on the roads but rather that we would not be thrown with stones and that our bicycles would not be stolen! Though we know that the risk of being hit by a car was far greater but the prayer did put a smile on my heart!
Then escorted again by the Metro Police blocking all traffic so we could cycle at fullspeed through the city and onto the freeway towards Potchefstroom! Nice as all traffic was stopped so we did not have to!
A radio interview on the bike whilst cycling was difficult with the roaring traffic passing us at 120 km per hour but it was done. And then a hot windy day. A very strong wind but blessed with the wind in our backs and we made good time. Despite temperatures reaching 40 degrees celcius (100F) at times we completed the 194 kilometers at about 17:30
The Team with the Mayor of Tswane/Pretoria Metroploe
Escorted by the Metro Police on the Freeway
One car behind us and one car infront of us
ACDP President: Rev. Dr. Kenneth Meshoe
We were welcomed to Potchefstroom by members of the local cycle club who cycled the last 10 kilometers
Day 2 November 3, 2016
After a good night's rest we left towards Reitz for our longest day of the journey which included a 70 km gravel/dirt road stretch. My toughest day. My lack of training whislt on the Africa Mercy and short stops not having enough time to take in food took it's toll by the afternoon. I had to slow down on my speed and made an extra stop to eat properly which gave me new strength. Two of our cyclists's bikes were unsuitable for the gravel road and were put on the trailor. The rest of us could carry on but not without a few punctures!
It was dark as we arrived in Reitz at the guestt house cycling in the lights of our accompaning vehicle ending the 211 kilometer distance in a strong headwind. A storm broke out with thunder and rain as we stood in reception! Just in time!
The Cycling Team
Vernon and Karin Coomber
Day 3. November 4, 2016
Nothern Freestate; cycling towards Ficksburg close to the Lesotho border. A much lighter day. 151km ending the day again in strong stormy head winds reaching the guest house as the rain started pouring down.
Beautiful Freestate Scenery
Travelling through real small rural towns!
Day 4. November 5 2016
Leaving at 08:00 after a full breakfast. Amazing that with one's food intake at least double if not trebbling the normal intake we battle not to loose weight which in practice would mean we are behind on energy intake and that would make the days so much harder.
After 160 kilometers cycling which included 1 468 meters climbs we were higher than Pretoria where we started but also in the back of our minds knew that Cape Town is at the coast and that is at 0 meters above sea level - we had to go down. The other 4 cyclists were all from the Johannesburg/Pretoria area and unlike me are used to cycling at these elevations and I knew it would take my body a few days to adjust to the less available oxygen at these levels.
Wepener, the smallest towm we stayed in. Dusty streets and African style shops on the sidewalks! But the guest house was great with wonderful food though we all had acute gastro the next morning that made the fisrt few hours of cycling interesting but all recovered as quickly as it came.
Lunch on the way
Day 5. November 6, 2016
183 kilometers from Wepener to Burgersdorp crossing the biggest river in South Africa, the Ornge River, from the Free State into the Eastern Cape and traveling through the town where I was born, Aliwal North (as well as the birth place of my mother) A pleasant day of cycling, hot, dry but the winds not too bad, my fitness returning and could feel the strength in my legs improving. Karen could not cycle for two days as she had a muscle injury in her leg and had to give it some rest. In Burgersdorp we ate at a real old time hotel; Karoo lamb tjops - the best in the world!
South Africa is caught in a severe drought
The Orange River as we crossed it at Aliwal North
Day 6. November 7, 2016
Dry hot windy and dusty cycling. I never drink frizzy cold drinks but the tins of ice cold Coca Cola in our support vehicle's coolboxes saved many a day - I called it black gas as the sugar and caffeine boosted one for the hours to the next stop. 156 km for the day to reach Middelburg late afternoon.
Thanks Pierre for the comment on WhatsApp on this one;
'Where did all the people go'
Day 7. November 8 2016
161 kilometers to Aberdeen and again a 1031 meter climb to reach our highest point today before we would start our final descent to the coast, 1 781 meters above sea level. Travelled through the picturesque and historic town of Graaff Reinette to Aberdeen.
Happy to reach the guest house. But a fright as we encountered the ghost in the hallway - we were all a bit weary that night. Non of us saw her moving from the hallway and we were thankful.
Many punctures we certainly had
Day 8. November 9, 2016
155 kilometers, extremely hot and strong headwinds on this day and an overnight in De Rust, a most beautiful town. Vernon got sick with a combination of heat exhaustion and gastro. He needed two days of rest and joined Trudi in the support vehicle that has been patiently travelling following behind us all the time at an average speed of about 23 km/h protecting us from the other traffic on the road. A wonderful thing she did for us.
Lunch in the heat of the day
Not a tree in sight!
Day 9. November 10, 2016
A mild 107 km to Oudtshoorn and an early arrival. I have a cyclocross bike meaning bigger wheels and stronger frame but not the ease and speed of the other bikes and Jan decided that that was enough; he bought me thinner smooth tyres to make my journey easier. Thanks Jan!! It made a big difference. I did not have to paddle downhil while all the other were freeing, to keep up with them!
Jan fitting new tyres to my bike!
I also had the oppertunity to address pupils at a high school about the need of the poor and what can and should be done about it
Day 10. November 11, 2016
Another easy 100 km for an early arrival at Ladysmith. Time to reflect about the purpose of the cycle tour and what we were achieving. We stayed in a guest house owned and run by a Scotsman that left Scotland for South Africa in 1974. Again enjoyed good food and good comeraderie. Though few of us knew each other before the tour we were blending into a team of niceness! Enjoying each other's company and sharing our suffering though this type of suffering is always healthy building memories that will last a life time.
Day 11. November 12, 2016
On our way to Swellendam and some mountain passes to negotiate, the Tredouw pass. Again we climbed 1 220 meters. But what goes up must come down. And a long descent into Swellendam, the third oldest town in South Africa, established 1746. Strong head winds - 123 kilometers yet again.
But before we reached this pass near Motagu an impatient motorist fist gave Tim and I a rude sign as he passed us and then tried to run Karen and Jan over with his vehicle. Vernon was still with Trudi in the Prado and they started chasing after him, got a picture of his number plate and reported him to the police. Soon enough the police caught up with him and he was warned by the police. A formal charge was not laid as it would have meant Vernon would have had to go back to that town for a court hearing.
Day 12. November 13, 2016
The toughest day I think for us all. Vernon was back in the saddle. Very strong headwinds for the first 70 kilometers to the town of Bredasdorp and a sharp turn from a southernly to a westerly direction eased the wind, now from the side until we turned south again into the wind to reach Stanforrd. A nice cofffee and the last of the 174 km to Hermanus/Vermont, now thankfully with the wind. Though it was mainly down to the coast it was rolling hills all day long and a total of 1 813 meter climbs. We were tired as we arrived and so thankful for a beautiful place to stay and one day of rest before our final cycle to Cape Town.
Day 13. November 15, 2016
The final day of cycling to Cape Town International Airport. And what a perfect day. The winds from behind, cool wheather, beautiful open skies and all along the most beautiful coastline in the world!
141 km and again escorted by the Metro Police from Strand to the Airport on the N2 national highway.
2016 kilometers in total. Done. To put smiles on hearts and faces - the surgical need of the poor.
Amsterdam, Belgium, UK, Ireland 2 - 28 May 2016
The first Five Days
Unforgettable first 5 days!
Left my house in Amsterdam at 07:30, Monday May 2nd, excited to at last start with the cycle
tour of about 3 500km that will total the year since June 1, 2015 to 10 000 km. Tired of cycling
around Amsterdam like a homing pigeon - now I needed to go!
But I forgot that The Netherlands are like a big city, you never get out of the city into the open.
Continues traffic lights, people, cars slowed me down. And then the wind: full in my face for
171 km's! I only had two 15 minute breaks. Was to meet a regional newspaper reporter at 16:00.
Arrived 16:30, interview 60 minutes, quick shower and a bite to eat and 15 minutes late for the
the 18:00 talk to about 90 Mercy Ship donors and supporters. The Flemish language is so close to
Afrikaans that I could give my whole talk in Afrikaans! Beautiful response after the talk and off to
our host family where we arrived at 22:30. Thanks so much Graham and Tharien!
But it all started with a talk at the Reformed Church, Protestantse Wijkgemeente Utrecht on
Sunday morning, May 1, and on my way there God gave me the words; "Words aptly spoken are like apples of gold in settings of silver." from Proverbs 25:11 and a prayer; Father, today I ask You to be truly the Lord of my tongue and my speaking. In the multitude of words which I will probably speak today please give me specially chosen apt words for the situations in which I find myself; words that will be precious and beautiful and bring Your life to those who need a unique personal touch from You today. I pray this in Jesus’ mighty name.
I see this a s prayer to accompany me the next 3 weeks.
Spoke a few words to the children and then to the congregation. (On mobile devices the pictures are at the bottom of the page)
On Monday night we stayed with wonderful friends in Zoersel, Belgium, Graham and Tharien as mentioned. Radio interview the next morning at 09:00. And then another two interviews the afternoon with newspapers. From there we drove to Knokke-Heist, one of the richest towns in Belgium. Our guest family was Bert van Dijk, Mercy Ships director, Belgium and his wife Huguette.
The City Council Building The Poem being read to me The South African Flag
The next morning we were recieved by the deputy mayor of Knokke-Heist, Piet De Groote, even with the South African flag hoisted on the pole in front of the city council buildings and a South African poem, written by one of the most well known Afrikaans poets, read out to me by Jan De Groote, communication officer of the city. That the love of the city will go with me on the bike tour.
Allerliefste, Ek Stuur Vir Jou ‘n Rooiborsduif
Allerliefste, Tertius, ek stuur vir jou ‘n rooiborsduif
want niemand sal ‘n boodskap wat rooi is skiet nie.
Ek gooi my rooiborsduif hoog in die lug en ek
weet al die jagters sal dink dis die son.
Kyk, my duif kom op en my duif gaan onder
en waar hy vlieg daar skitter oseane
en bome word groen
en hy kleur my boodskap so bruin oor jou vel
Want my liefde reis met jou mee,
my liefde moet soos ‘n engel by jou bly,
soos vlerke, wit soos ‘n engel.
Jy moet van my liefde bly weet
soos van vlerke waarmee jy nie kan vlieg nie
die laatste zin doet het in dit gedicht.
soos van vlerke waarmee jy nie kan vlieg nie
(a poem really about unanswered, impossible love, a message through a red breasted dove; onbeantwoorde liefde, misschien wel. maar ik denk eerder aan een onmogelijke liefde.
But with God everything is possible)
Deeply touched I left Knokke-Heist with about 15 cyclists cycling with me to the Belgium/Dutch border. Escorrted by Belgium police on bikes! And four cycled futher with me to Bredske, Tony, Mark, Aniek and Pieter.
A beautiful four days in Belgium came to an end.
Today the 5th of April we are with good friends in Terneuzen, Holland: Charles and Ilse Reyneke. A TV interview at 10:30 And off to Calais in France tomorrow, travelling though Belgium, 185km, to catch the ferry to Dover tommorrow late afternoon.
Blessed by God!
Thanks so much to Mercy Ships Belgium, the
Direkteur Bert van Dijk and every one at the
The Television interview this morning: Omroep Zeeland
(the text is in Dutch but on the video I speak in English)
5 - 17 May, 2016. Holland, Belgium, France, UK, Wales and Ireland!
I left Terneuzen, the home of long known friends Charles and Ilse, early in the morning of May 6 Brugge in Belgium where Ilae was taking Miranda to catch the Euroline bus to London. From Brugge I cycle to France and with a good wind in my back made it to Calais 185 km in
good time for the ferry leaving 17:00 to Dover
Another 3 kilometer cycling from the ferry to the guest house, found a meal in town and off the next morning 123 km
on a cycle path to London .... really challenging, beautiful country roads but mountain biking .... up and down, narrow paths, unpaved, rocks, mud .... and eventually decided not to follow the GPS but go on a highway as it was going far too slow. Once on the highway and the wind from behind I was flying and reached Atillio and Karin's house late afternoon. Then to the YWAM base at Harpenen and treated by Diane Richart of Mercy Ships for an evening meal.
The next morning I spoke at a Arikaans church in Guidford organised by an old schoolfriend of mine who now lives in the UK.
The afternoon cycling was from Atillio and Karin's house in the south east of London to Ana and Kryz, a wonderful Polish family in the south west of London, Putney. An interesting cycling experinece through the city centre of London - good that it was a Sunday afternoon!
Wonderful and blessed iwth all the new friendships along the way! Kryz an anaesthetist and Ana a surgeon - hope to see you on the ship soonere than later!
We reached Alton the next day and booked into a real English Country Inn agin after chalanging roads on the sides of canals with the cycling lane not wider that a couple of inches and this is where my front wheel got caught and i landed on my back in a bramble buch. Was really difficult to get up ... wherever I put my hand down to push me up in was on thorns but at the end just had to take it - I could not sit there forever!
Then two days of cycling in the rain. As Ed Sheffield of Bristol said the difference between summer and winter in Bristol is that in summer the rain is a bit warmer.
Arriving in Bristol we went straight to the hospital, a quick shower and change from the cycling clothes to more appropriate clothing and a talk at 17:30. Ed and his wife Ruth took us out for a meal. Ed has been involved with Mercy Ships for many many years as the pathologist. The ship would send the specimans to him and in his off tome he would process and report on the specimans - an unsung hero! And we'll see you on the ship in Benin in September!
At 07:00 the next morning a talk at a Rotary meeting and soon after left b y bike for Cardiff in Wales - Ed cycled the first 40 kilometers with me and we had a good English Fish and Chips before he turned back and I continued in the rain to Cardiff.
We overnight at Anette's place in Cardiff, anasthetist who has served on the ship at leat 6 times. She cycled with me out of Cardiff the next morning - always easier with someone who knows the area to get out of the big cities. She send me an old Celtic blessing at we were travelling Ireland;
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face.
May the rain fall soft upon your field.
And until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand
Indeed Anette, we have cycled most of our journey through Ireland now and in all the directions I have cycled we have had the wind from behind! In fact since that first day from Amsterdam to Antwerp we have only had the wind in my back!
We were forced to travel the last bit to the ferry at Fish Gaurd by car to make it in time - it also was a 3 1/2 hour ferry crossing that made the day imposiible short.
The Republic of Ireland
We overnight in Waterford where Michael Dockery put us up in a wonderful hotel and took us out for a Irish dinner in an Irish bar with live Irish music.
Early the next morning a talk at University Hospital, Waterford where Michael is a anaesthetist - he has seved on Mercy Ships 7 times!
And in the afternoon a meeting with the press and the major of Waterford who was very interested in the work of Mercy Ships.
At 17:00 I was on the bike and did the first 50 km towards Galway to meet up with Miranda in Clonmel but we lost internet connection and for two hours we were in the same town but could not connect. Eventually made contact and booked into the hotel at 22:00.
Left early the next morning towards Tiperary, Limerick and Galway 173 km but in good time to meet our guest family Ray and Denise Clarke who took us on a lovely walk in late evening sunshine - a beautiful windless evening.
The next morning I spoke at their church in Galway - almost 30 nationalities attend this church. I had another speaking engagement that evening with an Indian Chrush in Dublin which was 200 km away and had no choice but get into the car. But it is always more important for us to speak than to cycle but still frustrating if I cannot get on the bike.
A wonderfully blessed evening with this small chruch community in the heart of Dublin. God's presence allover.
Eby, in the striped shirt, anaesthetist who has often worked on the Mercy Ship, kindly set us up in a hotel in Dublin for the night.
The next morning a radio interview with Spirit radio, a national Christian radio station in Ireland and on the bike off to Rostrevor, YWAM base in Nothern Ireland 121 km where I spoke at their meeting and the talk was podcasted life on the internet. Today we have a day of rest in these wonderful surroundings. Tomorrow off to Belfast.
Belfast, Scotland and back to Amsterdam. 18-27 May 2016
Good safe cycling without incident from the YWAM base at Rostrevor to Templepatrick just north of Belfast welcomed by Michael McBrien and his wife Irene. I have worked several times with Michael, an anaesthetist, on the Africa Mercy and he was once with his wife, a pharmacist, on the ship. And when I was still working in Ireland I was often invited to their home for tea (that is dinner in Irish terms!) at the end of the day before I would travel the 3 hours to Mullingar to operate there the next morning. A warm shower to get ready for a talk that evening in their church. And what a friend! As I got warm and dressed Michael had a warm bucket of water washing my bike!!!
A wonderful evening at church with maybe about 80-100 people and at least 9 Mercyshippers, many of whom I knew!
A very blessed time in Ireland, a country that had been very good to me as I worked there at the time I funded my own mission for 7 years till I felt God wanted me to go on full support totally dependant on Him from May 2012 and my life changed again dramatically - none different from what He called me to but just much more intense in every way.
But His blessings never left me reminiscent of the years; we had sunshine every day in Ireland and the wind in my back no matter what direction I was cycling in!
Up at 05:00 the next morning to catch the ferry to Cairnryan just south of Glasgow, Scotland. While I was cycling Miranda drove to Glasgow airport to pick up Ellis that was our photographer for three weeks through the States last year - Ellis often said she wished she had her bike with her and now she was indeed joining me on her bike all the way back to Holland!
Out of Ireland and it was raining and cold again, and the first puncture .... , and my cell phone died. I found a bus stop shelter. Got my laptop out my back-pack, that I would sometimes have with me (and this day as the car would have been parked at the airport and i was worried about my passport, etc and rather kept it with me) and started up my phone. By now Ellis was picked up and left at our host's house while Miranda had to find my in the southern parts od Glasgow city - like a needle in a haystack! It was 17:00 rush hour. We had to be at a Rotary meeting at 18:00. Claire Walters of Rotary was so gracious and kept on saying they will wait for us. A quick shower, my talk's final preparations in the car and we arrived at 20:30 with yet another wonderful evening with wonderful people! And a warm meal after the meeting specially for the 3 of us! And that after I dropped a glass of water on the president of the club's foot! Sorry again Claire!
We stayed with Ian whom we have never met before and he could not be at his home that evening. We only met him the next morning. He had prepared a wonderful breakfast for us and how did it delight my heart when he asked to pray before we would start eating and could hear his love and close relationship with God just deep from his heart. We always pray before we start cycling in the morning (also in the States last year).
As we were about to leave we asked Ian to pray with us. (we did not know this picture was taken till a few days ago)
Ellis joined on the bike and on her first day we had 3 punctures between us, were 12 hours on the bike, had to visit a bike shop, but a nice lunch in Dunkeld, and after 195 km we made it to Glentruim at 21:00 with some snow on the mountains. Some light rain and very few pictures. Still a wonderful day and beautiful surroundings where we stayed
We left the next morning for Aberdeen via Avemore - in the rain! Another 194 km and on this day, May 21 we reached the most northern point of our cycle journey - Craigellachie (Gaelic: Creag Eileachaidh, "rocky hill" ) where we had lunch after cycling 4 hours in bitter cold rain with hands and feet feeling like 4 blocks of ice. We had lunch in a Scottish pub - and being a Saturday afternoon there were several wedding guests on their way to a wedding - all the men dressed in their scottish kilts.
Some years ago in the icy winds high on the mountains near Avemore, here in the North of Scotland, where I cycled this day, I picked up the smallest of Dutch coins (10c) under very special circumstances with a feeling in my heart that it had some real significant meaning. Joel 2: 30 was in my mind ‘I will cause wonders in the heavens and on the earth’ That night as I pondered the meaning of the coin He gave me ‘I saw two baskets of figs’ from Jeremiah 24:1, confirming the symbolism of the coin and as I understood that, then ‘My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me.’ John 10:27. One of the many many signs and confirmation of His leading of me to Amsterdam. And then the paradigm shift through a dime (10c) symbolic and one of the many leadings of the subsequent major step in my journey with Him.
From the area, more or less as much have chaged, where i picked up the coin, the wheather cleared, sunshine and wind in my back for the rest of the day.
I reached the hotel in Aberdeen at about 20:00, so I thought, but there were two hotels with the same name. Tired and looking forward to a warm shower and something to eat I realised I was still 6 km away from the actual hotel! And had to get back on the bike!
Sandra and her husband Jim (Sandra has been on the Africa Mercy several times as a nurse) set us up in a hotel for two nights. Took us out for a wonderful meal, crayfish and more, at 01:00 in bed, the next morning a Mercy Ships breakfast at their church followed by the church service where I spoke - approximately 4 000 pounds were raised for Mercy Ships. We had lunch with the pastor and his wife and a restful evening.
By now I was emotionally totally drained - I need a lot of alone time and the busy schedule caught up on me, but after a good night and alone in the hotel I was good again! With the winds in our backs and sunshine Ellis and I left the next morning for Edinburgh. A pleasant day of cycling.
In Edenburgh we were hosted by YWAM and stayed in a very old church with accommodation quarters. Had a lovely meal at Alexander Graham Bell Scottish pub. A Rotary talk early the next morning with breakfast and off to Newcastle upon Tyne. This was the last talk during the tour (4 more to go in The Netherlands). In the last 25 days I had the privilege to speak at 11 different venues, with 5 news paper journalists, 4 radio stations, 2 magazines and 1 tv station.
We were hosted in Newcastle upon Tyne by a wonderful Christian family Steve, an orthopaedic surgeon and keen cyclist, his wife Clare and daughters Emily and Lottie. Steve prepared the most wonderful meal for us and the next morning Clare took me into the city to get a cycle rain jacket as I left mine behind the previous night. We had such a good talk about the love and reality of God.
Because of the late start we had to drive a little to get through the city that always takes hours and with the rain makes it almost impossible to see Google Maps on my phone and find the roads. So we were 3 people with our luggage and two bikes in a Peugot 308!
We cycled for about 50 km but got totally stuck in the rain. Bikes were not allowed in this area on the highways and we were forced through the villages but could not see the maps on my phone in the rain. It slowed us down so much and we got bitterly cold with hands and feet ice blocks again. Eventually just looked for a Costa Coffee and phoned Miranda to pick us up! An unplanned stop. The first day since I started with the cycle tours that we had to stop and not reach the goal of the day. This is where I picked up the smallest UK silver coin (5p) under my chair just before we moved to more comfortable table and chairs.
That evening we were hosted by an extended family of Miranda, a Dutch/UK couple Dave and Reina Bullen, whose daughter got married a few days earlier. We were hosted by so many wonderful loving Christian family that could not do enough for us - we were so blessed
Off to Days Inn, Peterborough. No rain! and good winds! Made a good 160 km on the last cycling day in the UK and truly enjoyed it.
Near the end of the day we stopped on a little bridge to admire the river, the beautiful surroundings and sunset. Someone on a bicycle passed us and I asked him to take a picture of Ellis and I. He did and went off. He soon returned pushing his bike. 'I'm new on a bike and am really tired now' Not knowing how to respond at that moment we smiled friendly and said nothing about the 100 miles we just did.
Found the hotel just before my phone's battery power would run out and leave us directionless.
Up at 04:00 the next morning to catch the ferry at Harwich to Hoek van Holland where we arrived at 17:00 and then my last leg of cycling to my house in Amsterdam, 82 km, where I arrived at 22:15 against a strong headwind but clear warm wheather. And a wonderful bowl of pea soup and mackerel pasta from my neighbor and member of our foundation in Holland, Gerienne!
The end of the cycling for now; (though SA tour planned from 2 - 12 November!)
UK Ireland Tour 2 426 kilometers
1 June 2015, start of the USA tour to 27 May 2016 11 890 km
To spread the message of the plight of the poor
Proverbs 31:8-9 (NIV)
8 Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
9 Speak up and judge fairly;
defend the rights of the poor and needy.
New York to San Francisco June July 2015
Day 1 June 3
Hosted by the wonderful Mary and Angelo Petrelli, Operation Smile friends, in New Jersey we got up at 04:00 after a 3 hour interrupted sleep and departed from Times Square New York at after the TV interview. Thought it would be a challenge to get out of Manhattan and New York but that went smoothly! And then the challenge began. My GPS took me on the freeway. After a few miles realised this was far too dangerous and stopped to find an alternative route on my GPS. Next moment 'Morning Sir' And the police officer did not sound too impressed with me. 'You're illegal on this road' Picked me up and with me sitting at the back behind the lead window I heard him say 'I tracked down the white male on the bike' But explaining what I was doing and where I was headed for he took me to a safe off ramp about 10 miles away. And very friendly by now 'Get warm and a cup of coffee while you wait for your backup vehicle to catch up!'
Rest of the day the road twice ended up in a dead end. Bridge over a river closed or simply seriously blocked off. End of the day 192 km and 10pm. And my backup vehicle could not find me - both our cell phones flat by now. Eventually got contact again and found a place to overnight - in bed by 1 am!
Day 2 June 4
Smooth ride and wonderful mercies. Cold and rain but the wind from behind and made good time 158 km by 5pm
Day 3 June 5
Even a better day. Legs feeling much stronger. Warmer and hardly any rain. Half an hour late in Virginia Beach for the Operation Smile function but all good at the end 170 km. A nice rest today in a beautiful hotel sponsored by Operation Smile.
Day 4 June 7 to Empora
Left Virginia Beach. Smooth first 120 km. Had lunch and two more hours to go at at 25km per hour, I thought. Looking forward to the rest. But low and behold suddenly a notice 'no bicycles' on that particular road. And I had to divert. And not long after that the road that I was on was closed off and no thorough traffic. No alternate route. I cycled for about 1/2 hour and the GPS picked up a route again. Another 1/2 hour and I ended on a farm in front of a closed gate. No idea whereto now. And put my bike over the gate. And this is where it started: gravel road got narrower and narrower. Through a forest and suddenly 6 going mad dogs next to me. Fortunately chained but human in sight. For miles I heard them going crazy. And then the road started disappearing. By now no cell phone reception and in the middle of a forest. Picked up my bike and walked. Over a fence, though a farmers planted land and eventually after about 2 hours on a road again. But then chased by 3 dogs on 3 separate of occasions Ihad had to seriously out-cycle them!. So not 2 hours but an event full 5 hours before I could retire for the night. 166 km
Day5 June 8 to Durham
Uneventful day 161 km
Day 6 June 9 to Mocksville
By now my little sleep of the past two weeks was taking its toll. And I realised I was not eating enough neither taking in enough fluids. My energy was tapped and on a real low. 163 km
Day 7 June 10
Thankful for a short day. the reporters of of the Christian World Magazine cycled the last two hours to Asheville with me. We often stopped and talked, they had many questions and I cycled with a microphone attached to me. 125 km
June 11 Asheville; My first talk in the USA after my series of talks in February 2012 in the USA. This was at a holistic healing centre Cooper Riis for people suffering with depression and other similar problems. Really felt honored that this was my first talk as Miranda noticed it would have been excactly the first people Jesus would have reached out to. Had a lovely evening with my friend from Cameroon John Lucke and family. He is a cardio thoracic surgeon in Asheville and the one who said last year he know a plastic surgeon who is crazy 'but not as crazy as you' Spoke at his hospital the next morning before I biked from Jenny Roland and family's house after wonderful friendship and hospitality towards Knoxville Tennesee
Day 8 June 12
Up the mountains of North Carolina - 2000 m / 6000 ft My legs felt well recovered after the previous day of rest but at the end of the day again the energy was gone! Cycled to 22:30 to make the distance 156 km
Day 9 June 13 A fairly easy day to Mt Vernon 190 km
Day 10 June 14 Again 1500 m climb early morning but we reached Louisville, Kentuky 140 km
June 14 to July 3
We have now cycled 3 622 km, this is the true miles on the saddle but less than the geographical distance. The reason for this is we decided not to cycle through the big cities, it simply takes ages waiting at numerous traffic lights, our deadlines with the media and arriving at host families makes many days shorter than anticipated - after all this is the reason for the cycle tour; the message and not the mileage but we are keeping close to 160 km / 100 miles a day!
And have cycles through 17 States; New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas and Oklahoma!
My impressions so far; the American people are unbelievably friendly but the roads for cyclists unbelievably unfriendly. The roads are really a huge challenge; some so dangerous sharing road space with big trucks passing at high speed. Though all drivers with a few exceptions would slow down and only pass when the road is clear. Cycling into Minneapolis over the St Croix river I initially missed the cycle route over the river and ended up at the start of the Interstate - the first time and only someone shouted a swear word at me through an open window - made me think of something I read a while ago 'If someone throws mud at you, his hands will be dirty and he is the one losing ground' Though the mud thrown at you does make you feel dirty! But these incidences are really few and far between! Overall the people are helpful, friendly and very accommodating.
What surprised me is the vast areas in the USA, when you travel the smaller roads, that has no cell phone neither internet data coverage. Again making communication with the support vehicle and navigation impossible for often large parts of the day. There have often been times that I keep on cycling according to the position of the sun until I pick up coverage again - usually when one is closer to an interstate freeway!
And the last observation that really make the tour a true challenge are roads in the US that just stops; dead end, road works, road closed but no alternate road given! And one circles around for up to an hour to find a new route! But it all adds flavour to the day. Like yesterday I decided to pick up my bike and walk through the road works; big earth movers around me with wheels double my height! Almost through and a man came up to me 'This is no place for a bike, these trucks/earth movers don't see bike' I explained and more friendly 'Just try to get out of here as fast as you can!'
When I started planning the US trip people would ask me who would be my support team. I really did not know, I just knew I had to do it and answered 'God will provide' and believed it from my heart. The time came closer and I had no one - who would give up their jobs and join me for two months?? Still I believed God would provide. I contacted Miranda Tollenaar whom I met on the Anastasis 10 years ago to ask her to help me with our Foundation in The Netherlands. We met in Utrecht and when I asked her she said she knew I was going to ask her and the answer was 'No' but she would help me with the cycle tour if I would do it in 2016. I said no, I believe God wanted me to do it this year. She emailed me a few days later and said that the work, organizing for a speaker to come to Holland was postponed and she could help me. She then got Ellis Peeters, our photographer to join. And it certainly was a perfect team. Both of them with close YWAM connections and Ellis did her photography through the YWAM School of Photography in Hawaii. With their missionary background both were easy in difficult circumstances taking the days as it came. We could and did pray together for the days, also for the media contact, with host families - just a blessing. So sad when Ellis had to leave because of her commitments at home. Our team still feels broken.
A few days ago I ended up on a detour of about 9 km, dust, big stones; just a terrible road and I saw across the railway line next to me a highway and that looked much better! So I picked my bike up, through the bushes, over the railway line, again through the bushes on the other side and onto the road. Not long after that I met up with Miranda for lunch. My cell phone was gone! Slipped out of its pocket, must have happened while I was carrying my bike over the railway line. Instead of lunch we had to drive around the detour to find the road that I was on and then where I crossed the railway line. In my heart I knew we were going to find it. We got on the dusty road but really expected the cell phone to lie somewhere in the grass where I crossed the railway line carrying my bike. Miranda prayed 'Dear God please open our eyes to see the phone' And well before the area where I thought it would be a truck came passed up kicking up a thick cloud of dust and as it settled Miranda called out 'What's that!!' and half over it stopped and reversed and there in the dusty road half covered under the dust lay my phone! I got out, cleared the dust off and not even a scratch on the phone! Just thankful
I know that for the rest of my life I will remember how we were, and still are, overwhelmed by the friendliness and hospitality of the American people.
Mary and Angelo Petrelli, Operation Smile friends, who picked us up at JFK airport and hosted us for two nights. Took us to pick up our camper, wonderful Italian cooking and now helping us to get accommodation in Santa Barbara in California
Jenny and John Roland, Mercy Ships friends near Asheville, NC. Also two nights, caring for us in every possible way and set up a meeting with other Mercyshippers.
Paul and Verona Xanders taking us into their home near Indianapolis treating us like king and queens though never met us before.
Gary and Ann Karsh, Operation Smile friends that I met in the Philippines last year. In Chicago - wonderful friendship. Could not do enough for us - packed our van with food!
Steve and Dianna Starke - Coming back from Germany that night they left keys for us to get into their home, not knowing or ever met us before!
Torsten and Ann Marie Schultz. Waunakee, Wisconsin. Dear friends I met in Belgium 3 years ago when I spoke at their church in Antwerp and has since been supporting me in every possible way. And I spoke at the Schultz’s church
Robert and Kelly Joyce that only heard about us (through Steve Starke) about 10:00 in the morning, opened their home for us that same evening. The family of 6 sleeping in one room so that Miranda and I could each have a bedroom for the night! Thanks so much!
Mike and Bonnie Fadden in Buffalo, Minesota. Wonderful evening and morning with them. And talking at Mike's prayer meeting at 6am before cycling on.
Matt and Denise Tveite. Mercy Ships friends just south of Minneapolis who got the newspaper and an evening talk at the church organised
Stephan and Marta Williamson - Kansas City. Again total strangers treating us like royalty (connected through Steve Starke)
Cal and Nancy Berry - second evening in Kansas City. Total strangers taking us into their home and make us feel so special!
I cannot mention all the wonderful and many big and small things each of you had been doing for us. Thank you to each family - this makes our trip intensely memorable.
And soon in Texas for some days and the long and hot trek through West Texas, New Mexico and Arizona onto California!
Little sleep, seldom 6-7 hours per night, often less and a packed program let the days fly by! Sometimes too quick! Trying to soak in all the wonderful things happening every day! People, opportunities, health, life. Just thankful.
Texas, New Mexico and Arizona July 19 2015
Suddenly the roads became much easier to negotiate. Allowed on the Interstate highways and much easier to do high kilometers per day.
Just when I thought it was an easy day: did 170 km and let Miranda and Raymond Broadbent, (who travelled 6 hours to come and see me and 6 hours back tomorrow - Mercy Ships friend! I appreciate this so much!) I'll see them in a hour. But one never knows what is waiting around the next bend. First 'Dead End' and no further road, GPS shows to the left (apart from the interstate to the the right which is illegal for bicycles and I do not wish to be picked up by the cops again!). Can hardly call it a road to the left but I had no choice; sand bushes, railroad, bushes again and the road closed with gate over a cattle grid. Put my bike over the gate and made it stand in the grid. Walked to the one post of the gate and climbed on top. About to jump over to the other side but where I was to land a snake made his presence known - 2 inches thick, about 3/4 meter long. A shriek from my throat and fortunately my balance was still such that I could jump backwards! The snake, as far as I could identify it a rattle snake, disappeared into the grid. I got across the gate on the opposite side. Now to get my bike standing in the grid where the serpent disappeared into. 'Now Mr Serpent, I need my bike. We are not going to harm each other. Thank you for obliging' Twenty meters on another gate and grid. This time very weary. But a few minutes down the road another snake crossed the road. Much smaller and thinner but enough to raise the hair on my back. Still hardly a road, and it became too muddy I had to carry my bike and walk the mud. Through the water and mud, on my bike again but suddenly thick mud again forcing me to a standstill. My feet locked in the sleets and I fell over. Flat into a cactus bush with my back. I could not believe it. Lying in the thorns I wondered if it could get worse. Yes, I could have been bitten by the snake! And I was thankful. Had to spend at least 10 minutes taking out thorns from my cycle shirt, my back and my arm.Then about 1 1/2 km walk as the road was impossible to cycle. I arrived an hour later then anticipated. Ray was not to mad at me arriving an hour late, just said laughing ''Welcome to West Texas!' And I did 196 km for the day but 7:30 pm when I arrived.
I knew the road to California would be tough.
I have been warned for many months about temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius (!00 degrees F) and westerly winds along this long semi-desert stretch but in His grace winds have been easterly and over casted most of the days with cooler than normal temperatures. It is a beautiful world and I see myself so blessed and privileged that I can do this.
Tomorrow we enter California. We have now done just over 5 600 km (3 500 miles) and it sure will be cooler up the coast to San Francisco on Highway 1
I noticed so many churches in the USA and counted them one day; passed more than 50 churches in 160 kilometers
Never expected to see so many abandoned houses in the USA - at one point I thought the rupture happened a year ago - houses covered in dust and weeds with broken windows and broken toys lying around, cars totally abandoned with flat tires as if nobody had been there for a very long time. Not a soul in sight for miles
Chased and bitten by a dog - not a big one but when he came for a second bite I kicked him in the face and stopped him in his tracks ... I felt so bad.
Only one day really that I felt I was cycling in an oven - it was so hot and I thought I was a bit stupid to cycle in such heat .... but made it.
The little sleep of the past weeks is catching up with me - I have twice fallen asleep on my bike ... only for a few seconds though but the weirdest feeling when you wake up with a shock and see the tarmac flying past and not sure where you are and what’s happening.
Flat wheels on this journey; one each on July 1, 2 and 3. Then 3 on July 13 within one hour! And one more 2 days ago - only two of these were punctures the rest stones on the road crushing the tubes!
At El Paso I had a broken spoke replaced - caused by the thousands of hard bumps the bike had tolerated up to now.
Getting tired of eating! I eat as much and often as I can and whatever I can - and have lost about 3 kg (7lbs) in weight.
On the really hot days I take in about 10 liters of fluid and still feel dehydrated.
California July 20 to 31
From El Sentro to San Diego - 35 ft below sea level to a climb of 4 010 ft over 25 miles to the top of the mountain range before the decent to San Diego. Another encounter with a rattle snake. At 7 miles per hour steady uphill my eyes on the tarmac before me i had to make a split second swerve to miss the serpent, lost my balance and fell onto some rocks on the side of the road. The snake not too disturbed and still basking in the sun. Reached San Diego late afternoon after cycling 'illegally' on the Interstate 10 the whole day passing highway patrol cars at least twice. A talk at UCSD plastic surgery department and off to Fontana, California. Spoke on Sunday July 26 at Shepard's Grove Hour of Power
Then Santa Barbara with my chain seriously slipping and any uphill became impossible. $ 300 later and I was on my way to San Luis Obispo but halfway through the day the same problem and I could no further as the mountains where steep and the chain would only last a few yards before jumping off. Again a bike shop the next morning; the new chain had a broken link that was replaced and then all fine. A wonderful night in Monterey and then the last day! A very strong head
wind to Santa Cruz, stopped at TLC, Aptos and then a Starbucks coffee. It looked like I was not going to make the Golden Gate bridge before dark but a sudden change in wind direction and I flew home, Crossed the bridge as night was falling but still bright enough for pictures!
5 Billion People have no access to Essential, Safe, Timely, Affordable
One Heart One Goal: To put Smiles on Hearts and Faces
Thank you for having supported us in the previous cycle tours and the longest 6 510 km /4 068 mile cycle tour over 58 days (11 rest and 47 cycling days) from Times Square, New York in two big smiles to Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, June 3 to July 29, 2015 as we care for the less fortunate and take essential surgical care where it is most needed