After 4 weeks of being apart, the men and the women’s team is finally united and it couldn’t feel sweeter. We met up on Friday of last week, where we enjoyed conversation over an amazing dinner of deep dish pizza in Naperville, Illinois. We found a generous family friend of Ashley’s who took ALL 12 of us into her house and gave us space to lay our heads for our first night together. The following morning, we were able to take the train into the city of Chicago where we enjoyed two full days of nothing but fun, sunshine, and ample amounts of food! We explored museums, walked around the streets of downtown, and got to talk to dozens of strangers about how we ended up in Chicago.
Indiana was equally as beautiful. We haven’t climbed much, the midwest’s flatness has allowed us to move along at a solid pace the past few days with not much wind or unbearable heat. There has only been two flats since riding with the men’s team- and knowing our record, that’s pretty dang good. We were able to detour off the path a few miles when we got to South Bend and headed over to Notre Dame to check out the incredible campus! We were also able to stay with the founder of a foundation Water for Good, where they drill wells in Central Africa. He informed us that they have actually drilled 200 wells with charity: water and listening to their stories about living in Central Africa inspired us all deeply. Jim and Faye had two of the biggest hearts for water of anyone we’ve encountered so far, and their passion for clean water definitely fueled a flame in our team. Indiana only lasted two days, but they were packed with joy, vibrant green trees, and newness.
Now being in Ohio, we have encountered a bit of headwind but mainly more flat, peaceful riding that has allowed us to grow in relationship with the men’s team and learn how to work as a cohesive unit. Though it is easy to get spread out going different paces, learning to pace alongside one another came in handy when the winds picked up the past two days. We’ve stopped at a few bike shops along the way to chat with the owners and tell people why we are doing what we are doing. We even stumbled into the same bike shop the women’s team from last year did! They recognized who we were right away and were thrilled that we stopped in to meet us! We were hosted by a family in Toledo along the river, which was absolutely stunning. Last night, our hosts took us to Lake Erie, where we swam, ate ice cream, and watched the sun set together. Needless to say, Ohio has set the stakes high for the remaining 10 days left, but we have high hopes for Pennsylvania.
Missing home has been a reality for all of us lately, but the people we’ve met has made every bit of it worthwhile. Our hosts have not only gone above and beyond to make us feel like we are right at home and comfortable, but they have been our reminder that humanity is such a beautiful, cohesive body when we are able to sit down together at the dinner table and realize how much we have in common.
We feel so lucky that we got to spend 5 amazing weeks with our small groups of 6–time to build up our inside jokes, time to get to know one another’s quirks, and favorite candy. But let us tell you, being all together again is filled with so much life. This team of 12 has met together every Sunday since October 2016, so at this point these are our people. We’ve been dreaming up this ride for almost a year now! Being reunited has been filled with spending hours on back porches exchanging stories in solidarity with one another. Sharing the odd encounters, the collected life advice, the weird meals we’ve eaten, and most importantly the stories about all the people we’ve met. It feels right to be back under the same roof again, finishing this dream the way we started back in October—together!
Our fears, our stories, our hopes, our dreams; we are starting to understand that there is so much more good in our world than there is bad. They are restoring hope in our souls and bringing joy to our daily routine. We have 10 days left of this journey. Savoring every moment and learning to embrace the newness each day brings with it.
We aren’t special, but we do care. That’s why we do what we do. We want every conversation we have with strangers to open eyes regarding the global water crisis. We want people to understand that clean water really does change everything. That the little girls we meet through our host families here in America are the same little girls in the villages of Central Africa that walk miles everyday to collect bearable drinking water for their families to survive. Though some days are more difficult than others, we understand that the more miles we ride, the more people we are able to inform about the necessity of water for all humanity. We are doing this because we firmly believe that everyone on this earth should have access to this basic (yet fundamentally crucial) need.