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Bike 4 Friendship

Our week ended with a wrong turn and a succession of mishaps. Tubes, tires, cranks – it seemed they were all feeling the heat just as much as we were! After stopping and starting and losing lots of time we finally arrived at our hotel relieved to know we’d be able to rest up over Shabbat!

On Sunday we attended a program hosted by the Friendship Circle of Houston. We were asked to speak about our trip and we shared some of the highlights with our audience. We also asked the men to put on tefillin with us. A moving video was presented featuring the Friendship Circle, a reminder of why we embarked on our journey in the first place. We received a Proclamation from the local mayor and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson spoke, commending us for our efforts to enrich the lives of special needs children. When the hullaballoo finally ended, we were presented with medals and hugs from the Friendship Circle children themselves.

Monday we headed over to Austin. We left early in the morning but even then we felt like we were biking inside a giant, endless oven! The winds blowing against us didn’t help either.

Pop! Pop! Pop! Tires popping and left and right meant we needed to stop in at a local bike store to stock up on spokes and tubes – we even ordered some spare parts to be delivered to the hotel where we would be spending the following Shabbat. Tuesday we hit a hilly patch and did a lot of uphill pedaling! Taking a break we were approached by the owner of nearby Hummingbird Ranch who wanted to make sure we were okay. We introduced ourselves and reassured him that we were alright.

After a long chat our new friend invited us to join him in his shooting range to try out his AK-47 and M-1. We decided to take him up on the offer and enjoy the opportunity! Shortly thereafter it began to rain and our friend insisted that must have brought good luck with us since it was the first time he’d seen rain in ten months!

On to Kerrville, Texas we felt like we’d hit and earthquake. The road sloped endlessly downhill and was extremely bumpy. Our bodies shook and we felt like a giant cell phone was vibrating under us.

In Kerrville we met with a handful of Jewish families from the surrounding areas. Sara Saltzman, a local, coordinated the event. She connected with us after reading about our trip on the internet and put together a little meet and great. She also fundraised for our trip from the surrounding areas. We enjoyed chatting with the attendees and even found a tefillin customer.

We have come to really appreciate the meaning of Shabbat – a day of rest. Unfortunately, we faced some kitchen challenges this week and our Chulent (traditional Shabbat stew) ended up being not-kosher. Luckily we had other food and, with some creativity, we prepared for ourselves a non- traditional but equally satisfying Shabbat feast.

Vice Mayor of Leesville
Vice Mayor of Leesville

The night before we left Mississpi we met another biker who wanted to cross the bridge into Louisiana with us. In the end he needed to leave an hour later but we were happy to have met him nonetheless.

Entering Louisiana we met a number of local folk. The owner of a nearby tattoo parlor called us over and asked us who we were, where we were coming from and where we were headed. He seemed genuinely interested and took some pictures with us.

When we walked into the convenience store the owner insisted on giving us free bottles of Gatorade. We were pleasantly surprised to see how truly friendly and generous these people were, especially considering that we were complete strangers to them!

Continuing on to Leesville, we were extremely grateful to the local Days Inn for sponsoring our stay.

Onwards to Livingston, Texas, where the mayor set us up to meet with a Jewish friend of his, Dr. Mike Shukan. Originally from Newark, NJ, Mike is a very active member of the local Jewish community. We enjoyed talking to him and offered to put on tefillin with him. He initially declined but 30 minutes into our chat we asked him if he wanted to check his Jewish Blood Pressure. This obviously piqued his medical interest and he agreed. We asked for his left arm and pulled out our tefillin. He laughed and agreed.

While we were talking with Mike, another guy came over to us and said, "Hey, I recognize you guys! You’re the ones I saw on the 190.” It turned out he was actually a truck driver for Lays and passed us twice, once east-bound, once west-bound, while out doing deliveries.

Our new truck driver friend, Bob, found it inspiring that we were sharing a religious experience with fellow Jews who hadn’t had a religious experience in years. He also expressed concern that we were drinking enough and gave us a box of chips as a parting gift. Thanks, Bob!

Three rabbis cycle across america. This is their blog. Learn more at Bike4Friendshiop.com
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