On Wednesday morning, we met with the mayor of Bedford County, Virginia and held our first press conference where we officially announced and read aloud a Proclamation signed and sealed by the Bedford County Mayor, Skip Tharp, recognizing our efforts on behalf of special needs children. After extensive interviews with the local ABC and NBC affiliates we stuck around for a while and asked one of the policemen about the local Jewish community.

He only knew one Jew but phoned him asking him to come down to the municipality building and meet with us. Incredibly, less than ten minutes later, there he was! (Ah, the beauty of small towns.) We chatted for a while and our new friend agreed to put on Tefillin with us. When all was said and done, we went back to our hotel to pack up the car, jumped on our bikes, and were on our way. WSET (the local ABC affiliate) followed us for about a mile or so along the road.

We had to hurry because we were schedule to meet with the children at a Jewish summer camp run by Temple Emanuel of Roanoke, VA. Our appointment there was for 1:00-2:00 pm and we left Bedford County at11:00am. We had thirty miles to go which normally wouldn't be a problem, but the route was all up-hill. To prevent getting lost in Roanoke, we parked our bikes at a CVS and drove the rest of the way to the Temple. (Don't worry, we drove back to the same point and continued on our way. There are no short cuts across America!)

Our experience at the Temple was incredible! After telling them about the Friendship Circle and why we are on this trip we had a long question and answer session. We were asked about everything under the sun, including our trip, but more importantly, about Judaism. One of their spiritual leaders explained to us that most of the children have had very limited interaction with observant Jews.

Towards the end of our time there, we asked the campers if they would like to see a Jewish ritual in action. They all said yes, so we called up one of the older boys and put on Tefillin with him while explaining what we were doing and why. Afterwards we answered more questions while the other boys over Bar Mitzvah put on Tefillin. We explained to them that while Tefillin is something only men have to do, women and girls have their own special rituals, such as lighting Shabbat candles every Friday night starting at age three.

After saying our goodbyes we drove back to CVS and rode from there to Blacksburg through the Blue Ridge Mountains. In Blacksburg we were able to relax for the first time in days. It was 12 Tammuz, the anniversary of the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe’s liberation from prison, and we held a farbrengen (chassidic gathering) over dinner.

To beat the heat we’ve been starting our days early in the morning so we can get a good few hours of biking in before the sun is at its hottest. We leave at 5:00am… next stop Jonesville!