by Robert Newport, 2022 missionary (rider on Ohio Route)
Day six was brutal. 132 miles and the last 30 were a march of attrition. 102 degrees straight up in St. Louis…heat index of 176 or something. I especially felt like I was riding my bicycle through the warming setting of an oven between the arch and the river, where 100-foot concrete walls and asphalt trails conspired to bring the riders to a nice simmering broil. People sitting under shady awnings at bars we rode past yelled, “It’s 102, you guys are nuts!” “Thank you!” We replied. The crack seal on the roads was literally melting and causing tires to slip in the goo.
15 miles out, we took a break and the support crew doused us with as much water as they could. “Robert, you ok?” someone asked. “I. Just. Need. To. Lie-hereahminute” I barked as I ate a hot banana. Getting up and through the city was a grind with significant elevation gain, and the following downhill was a welcome 38 mph coast.
I consider myself blessed to finish. As we ground it out to the end, I was not a very pleasant person to be around, grew more ill-tempered with every last mile, perhaps became slightly delirious and started yelling. “Robert, chill. We’re almost there,” one of the remaining riders exhorted.
Finish we finally did after one last hill and many obscenities muttered under, and over my breath for that matter. We arrived upon a large celebration of life dinner at St. Joseph’s Church, west of St. Louis, and a delicious feast provided by the Knights of Columbus awaited. The speeches, pictures and live music were to immediately commence but just for a few minutes I wanted no part of it. I had to be alone, decompress and run some ice cubes over my head before I bit someone else’s head off. I called my dad and told him we were done before making a couple work calls.
After thanking the Knights for cooking dinner, I made my way back in to the celebration in my dried, sweat salt-crystallized riding shorts, bug-speckled arms, and sunburnt face. I rejoined my team, who after gutting it out with all week, I will always share a special bond with. We were tested in the crucible, and everyone handled every adversity with exceptional grace and maturity. There were times where we may have bent but we did not break. What an excellent route leader we had in Sophia.
My favorite part of the post-ride and celebration activities was sitting down and having a beer with my team and sharing a few laughs while flipping coasters on top of our pint glasses.
I can only speak for me, but I doubt anyone else had trouble falling asleep immediately after shutting their eyes that night. It was a decadent luxury to wake up at 6:30 AM to make it to mass that morning as opposed to the customary 4:00 AM all week. A simple thought from Father’s homily that stuck with me was, “do you know God well enough to know what he wants of you?”
We then enjoyed breakfast before saying our goodbyes and parting ways. Thankfully, my teammate Curt was headed east back to Philly, and Columbus, where I parked my car at the starting point, was on the way. Devin and Chloe, two other teammates, rounded out the trek back to our vehicles with all the Biking for Babies art still proudly scrawled all over the van. It was fun to see people try to read it all as they passed.
As we approached Indy, we came to an intersection and Chloe noticed a woman with a “pregnant & homeless” sign. We made a U-turn and went to work. This was precisely what we rode 560 miles for and swiftly attacked her with prayer, pregnancy resource center contacts, and a box full of cycling snacks and t-shirts. It was a gift to be able to help Sierra, her husband Bryson, and their soon to be born son Phoenix. I don’t post about it to say, “hey look at us, we’re so great,” but I post about it to portray the precise need for what we are doing. Sierra had no idea about the Indianapolis pregnancy resource center contacts we were equipping her with, but I’m sure she knew all about Planned Parenthood. We got her number and will follow up to ensure she is properly cared for. Curt, just like he had done all week, showered Bryson, Sierra and Phoenix with beautiful, passionate and powerful prayers. THIS IS WHY WE RIDE! And thank you Lord for giving us the grace to be able to serve a few of your children.
I sat in Columbus in an autozone parking lot as I wrote this…had to pick up a quart of high-mileage oil to top off the engine before driving back to Indy…the rain gently pitter pattered on the roof of the car. My lungs draw a little deeper and my heart is a LOT fuller. The Lord has blessed us, and like teammate Erin said, “I can’t wait to see how the Lord is going to use us this week.” Use us He has and will continue to.