Glenwood pastor on pedaling pilgrimage
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” There’s no getting around it. When the Rev. Lauren Martin of the Glenwood Mennonite Church gets back from his summer vacation, his congregation can expect him to weave his experiences into a sermon or two ” or more.
“Absolutely ” I’m afraid they’ll have to hear about this once in a while,” Martin said.
Martin is about to embark on what has been his decadeslong dream, riding his bicycle across the country. And while he is expecting a wonderful experience, he also knows there will be some hard times that should provide spiritual enlightenment.
“I have no idea what it will look like or what it will be, but I am sure my faith will be tested on this trip, and I’ll probably have some new understandings of this life journey, and how that is part of the Christian faith ” the Christian life being a journey,” Martin said.
Martin, who is 47 and from Pennsylvania, long thought his own life journey would include a coast- to- coast bike trip someday. But the years began slipping by.
“Life happens. You get your education, you get married, you get a career, you’re raising children and you literally shelve some of those early dreams,” Martin said.
“When I was 45, I had one of those experiences where people say they suddenly wake up and say to themselves, ‘I’m getting older, I’d better do this or I’m not going to get it done.'” On Thursday, Martin is scheduled to fly to Seattle with his bike. His plan is to dip his rear wheel in the Pacific Ocean in Anacortes, Wash., and then dip his front wheel in the Atlantic Ocean in Bar Harbor, Maine, some 4,200 miles and two months later.
He’ll ride alone and unsupported the first half of the trip. The slightly built Martin will pull about 40 to 45 pounds behind him so he can camp along the way. Then his wife, Kim, and daughters, Mariah, 14, and Sierra, 10, will join him in mid-July, after Kim takes leave from her job as a nurse at Valley View Hospital.
Kim plans to drive the family’s minivan ahead to a campsite each night, and frequently bike back to join Lauren. Their daughters also plan to do a fair amount of pedaling as they see the sights while traveling east.
Martin said he is heading into his trip wishing he had trained more, and is a bit apprehensive about trading in the comforts of home and routine for days filled with biking, camping and a measure of uncertainty. But it won’t be an entirely unfamiliar experience. When he was in college, a friend decided to push a wheelchair trip from Fairbanks, Alaska, to Washington, D.C. Martin accompanied him by bicycle from Denver to Washington.
“It was basically at that point that I said someday I will ride my bike across the country,” he said.
He knows, partly as a result of reading accounts of others’ cross-country trips, that he can expect “some incredible hospitality” along the way. He also knows some of the challenges he might face: “the mosquitoes, the hail, the heat, the truck drivers who basically want you off their highway.”
Martin has gone so far as to write down the fears he faces, and ask himself what he can do about them, such as buying a rearview mirror as a small measure of safety from vehicles. He also has heard fears from some people about whether, after such an adventure, he’ll want to return to Glenwood and continue to be the pastor where he has served for 15 years.
“There’s nothing you can buy to take care of that one,” he said with a grin.
But he appreciates that his church agreed to grant him a sabbatical to pursue his dream.
“In many respects this church is being generous and liberal in the sense of this is an investment in me. … They basically know if they keep me happy I’ll stay longer,” he said.
Church member Steve Carcaterra, a longtime cyclist who no longer rides much because of a back problem, praised Martin for pursuing something that Carcaterra also long had meant to undertake someday.
“I think it really takes a certain amount, well, a lot of courage at that point in life to do a major thing like that and I just applaud him for doing it, not just talking about it,” Carcaterra said. “I just wish I could go along with him. It ought to be a pretty good adventure.”
Martin will lug along a laptop so he can keep a trip diary and post it on http://www.crazyguyonabike.com, which features bicycle touring journals.
“I am expecting to see some beautiful country. I’m expecting to see why people say the United States is so beautiful. I will want to tell other people about that experience,” he said.
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