Posts Tagged ‘bicycles’


February 21, 2010

Sarah Cool was a student of mine at William Jewell College. She  visited Hati in 2007and wrote the account of her trip below. I thought we all should read her words.
Tables Turned, Trip #1 to Haiti, January 2007
A recent humanitarian trip to Haiti allowed me the chance to accept acts of mercy and hospitality from others.

The group I went with had no special project to complete, nor did we bring anything with us, other than a willingness to complete our “mission”: to listen, learn and be changed. And that’s what happened.

The changes began the day I left on the trip when accepting a $20 bill from a stranger, after the first of several flights I’d be on that day. She’d overheard my conversation with the bank about how I’d realized that I’d forgotten the PIN to my debit card just before leaving, and so I’d left home without any cash. As I hung up my cell phone, with no resolution from the bank, this stranger pressed a $20 bill into my hand, insisting that I just couldn’t be without any cash. I didn’t want to take her money. $20 seemed like too much. I wanted her to give me her address so that I could return it to her as soon as I got back home. She refused, telling me to just pay it forward. I assured her that I would, as I was on my way to Haiti for a week.

The group I went with stayed with Haitian families for several nights in the mountains where there was no electricity and little running water. These families shared everything they had with us: food, water, time, and friendship. In fact, they slept on straw mats on the floor while we were given their beds. That was the most difficult for us, but what were we going to do, refuse to accept what they had to give?

Again and again we were treated like royalty, from wonderful meals, to visits with local artisans to see and even learn their crafts, to lessons with the elders of the community about their rich history, culture, economy and politics. Songs were prepared and sung for us on several occasions. We were treated with hospitality beyond anything I’d ever experienced. We were included in their daily activities and fellowship like we’d lived amongst them for all of our lives. We were cared for and looked after as if we were their own. And yet, we’d only just met. We were strangers and family all in the very same instant.

It’s as if I was plopped down in the middle of what my associates and I hope it’s like for our neighborhood friends visiting Cherith Brook, the new Catholic Worker house we’ve recently opened in downtown Kansas City. I was at the reverse end of all the hospitality and acts of mercy we’ve been offering in our new community. Now I was the one receiving rather than giving. It felt somewhat awkward, but reassuring too.

I tried to pay that $20 forward several times over during the trip, both monetarily in the purchases I made from artists that I might not have otherwise, and also in the attention I paid to those around me, and in the extra awareness I had of my surroundings.

And now, being back on the other side of giving, I have a different appreciation of what it feels like to receive. Although uncomfortable at times, it’s very inspiring to know that God puts folks in our path to take care of us when we’re most in need. And likewise, God puts us in the path of those who most need us.

What more did I receive from Haiti?

I went on this trip with such misconceptions about the country, her culture, and her people. I imagined that what I’d been told by the media and others was true, that most of the land was brown from deforestation, that most people lived in stick and mud huts, that I should be fearful of disease and for my safety, and other misinformation I dare not even repeat. Once there, the only thing I feared were the armed UN officers patrolling the streets in their tanks.

In fact, after having arrived, I was almost instantly ashamed of myself for not having gone to Haiti before to find out the truth for myself. It feels as though something powerfully evil has been at work, poisoning the world’s view of Haiti and therefore her ability to turn the tide. And for what purpose must the world persecute this tiny speck of an island? The bible verse that comes to mind is the parable of the laborers in Matthew 20:16. So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen. In the end, I envision that Haiti shall be first, and the rest of the world, especially the US, last. Haiti will be, must be, chosen.

On the contrary to my false impressions, I found Haiti to have an atmosphere of peace and calm beyond anything I’d felt before. Her people were genuinely interested in getting to know us, and in us getting to know them. We hiked up into mountains covered with lush vegetation and trees full of fruits, some I’d seen before and some I’d never heard of. We experienced waterfalls, swam in the bluest ocean waters, and saw the most beautiful palm trees. We learned of her struggles and of her triumphs. What a strong people she holds!

Haiti revealed to me the most deeply spiritual and genuinely honest people I’ve ever encountered. Things I’ve wondered about all of my life became crystal clear during my short stay on her sacred ground. I feel a profound gratitude towards Haiti and her people for accepting me, embracing me, taking me as I was, in the midst of all the negative notions that I had, and helping me to see her in a new and clear light. What a gift!

And what will I give back?

I’m committed to telling her story, the true version, to as many as will listen. I will encourage others to do as I did: go and see it, experience it, feel it for yourself. I will share the lessons that I learned, carry her in my heart, speak well of her, sending positive vibes with all that I say and do. These are my responsibilities, now that I know better. To do less or otherwise would be reprehensible. It’s as if I’m bound by a contract, one more powerful and obligatory than if it were written, to uphold the truths as I’ve seen them, to promote a different consciousness about Haiti, to do my part to turn the tide.

For more information on Haiti, please visit or

(If you are able but have not yet made a monetary donation to the relief efforts in Haiti … please go to and do so. ANY amount will help. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.)

Sarah Cool


The 2009 MS-150

October 2, 2009

By Ed Chasteen


            Some1,600 of us gathered last Saturday morning at Raymore-Peculiar High School way before dawn. Son Brian and I beat the crowd and got there at 5:15.But the two of us and Mark ride slow and hung back at the start line to let all teams leave. We started with the individual riders. Before the day ended they would pass us and we were last.

            The three of us have ridden the MS-150 together for years. We stop at every rest stop, talk to everybody in sight and eat everything we see. We get separated on the road, but I hear Mark’s booming laugh hills away.

            Mark is waiting when Brian and I pull into Sedalia right at 5 PM. We sign in and hurry to dinner with our United We Ride team. What a feast! Happy talk, good food, great people. We re-live the day. Then to our room at the Holiday Inn for a quick sleep. Up at 4:15. Downstairs by 5. And a surprise. Breakfast is waiting. Ordinarily at 6:30, they serve. But just for us MS riders today at 4:30 they start.

            And what a breakfast. Biscuits and gravy as good as I’ve found. Scrambled eggs. bacon, sausage, cinnamon rolls, waffles, milk, coffee, orange juice. And no waiting in the food line back at the fairgrounds. A great beginning for the day.

            We’re routed today through Knob Knoster State Park and a series of steep hills in quick succession. Yesterday late in the day when Brian and I had stopped atop a hill to get a drink, the sag car assigned to follow the last riders stopped and Joy, she said her name was, came up to us. “Could we carry your bags?” she asked, as she pointed to the two rear panniers and seat bag I always carry, everything I need for the ride inside. “No, thanks. I’m used to them.”

            But by the time we come to test stop #3 today, those hills have turned my legs to rubber. I SAG to rest stop #5. Biscari Brothers Bicycles is my home bike shop in Liberty. They were here yesterday with their repair shop. And again today. They take my panniers and tighten my front fender.

            A pickup is coming toward me and turning right off Highway 58 as I come to an intersection where I might turn left. Two men are standing in the intersection and saying something I can’t make out. That infernal headwind we’ve been riding into all morning drowns out all other sound, and the turning pickup hides the men from view just as I come to them. Brain and Mark are at the moment somewhere behind.

            A mile or so up the road, I stop to look back. I don’t see them. Must have had a problem. They’ll catch up. Several miles later I look back. I don’t see them. I’ll wait at the next rest stop. I ride on. A car pulls up. “Do you know you’re off the route?” He asks.

I should have turned left back where the men and the pickup were. He calls a SAG to take me to rest stop #7.

            Brian catches up with me between #7 and #8. We’re about three miles from the finish line a little after 5PM when a SAG pulls up. “The route is now closed. How about we give you a ride and let you our around the corner from the finish? You can ride from there.” They have picked up Mark a little way back. The three of us ride in.

            Both days on my back I wore a sign: I’M RIDING FOR BETH SCARBOROUGH. Many people asked. “Beth Scarborough is my pastor’s mother-in-law. She has MS. She lives in Waco, Texas. My pastor just came in April, and I met Beth. And I promised to ride in her honor.”

Build It and They Will Come

June 22, 2009

By Ed Chasteen

             This field of dreams is in Iowa. Iowa County. Wisconsin! Alex Jordan built what was to be his private retreat. Where he could go and be alone to study and think about art. His passion. A few friends came to visit. They told their friends. Carloads of people started coming. And kept coming

            He began to charge admission and use the money to build more buy more art. More people came. He built and bought. Like Topsy the place grew. Fired by his scatter-shot imagination, his building and buying went in all directions. Eclectic is too limited a word to describe the lack of theme found here. Every human sense is engaged and assaulted.

            The House on the Rock. That name gives no hint of what’s in store. It belies the sensory overload and the overwhelming of all conventional understandings that live here.

            No matter how far you’ve traveled or how much you’ve seen, you have never seen anything like the House on the Rock. So says a sign I see at the House. I found no reason to disagree.

First Day of Summer Ride, Saturday, June 20, 2009

June 22, 2009

By Ed Chasteen

             Must be a dozen or so bike-friendly routes from Liberty to Smithville, winding, hilly roads everywhere. Several of the 20 riders who show up at Biscari’s this morning at 7:30 have ridden various ones. And when we all get to breakfast at Lowman’s shortly after 9, we discover that we’ve not all followed the emailed directions I sent to everyone earlier in the week. Twenty-five miles by the route I’d planned, some found a shorter way of about 20.

            Six first-time riders show up this morning. Roberta Lowman has reserved the big round table in the no-smoking section for us. We join two smaller tables to it. Pitchers of ice water and glasses await us. Our waitress comes quickly. She fulfills her mission with dispatch and good humor. Our food is soon set before us. We swap stories of family, friends, jobs, the road, summer plans. Biking to breakfast whets the appetite razor sharp. And not just for food. The news of our lives flies around the table. Knowing that our time at table is short and the lure of the open road on our bicycle strong, gives our time together an ethereal quality not usually found on ordinary days.

            Around the table this morning sit Dan, Graham, Lyle, Frank, Monte, Tony, Mike, Petra, Lela, Deb, Mendy, Seth, Steve, David, Diana, Rodger, Ed. Louie, Steve and Craig we’re with us at Biscari’s to start our ride. But for different reasons could not be here in person for breakfast.

            Every Saturday morning we bike to breakfast. Everyone who hears about us is welcome. Go to for our schedule and stories about our rides

The Usual

June 8, 2009

By Ed Chasteen


            No Interstates come anywhere near these places. An eclectic assortment of vehicles travels these roads: bicycles, motorcycles, horse-drawn Amish buggies, farm machinery of all shapes and sizes, 18-wheelers bringing goods and groceries; taking tons of corn to market, pickup trucks with work to do down these gravel side roads.

            At the intersection of J-40 and V-64 in Van Buren County, two buildings sit on opposite sides of the road kitty-corner from each other. Neither draws attention. No sign stands in front or above either. The bigger building is the Amish school where some 30 children learn basic reading, writing and arithmetic. The smaller building has a small sign lettered in black on the glass door: Lebanon Store Junction Café 1-319-397-2447.

            Two hours up I-35 from Liberty and two hours east on Iowa 2 has brought son, Brain, and me to Bonaparte Inn B&B, our home for four nights while we Bike The Villages of Van Buren. For 27 years now from Keosaquah, the county seat of Van Buren County, a ride by this name has occurred. I have come many times. But Brian and I cannot come together then, so now we come in early June for our own variation on a theme. Using their maps, we expand the ride and double the miles. Bonaparte, Bentonsport, Keosaquah, Pittsburg, Lebanon, Cantril, Leando-Douds, Birmingham, Selma, Milton, Vernon, Stockport, Farmington, Mount Sterling: collectively, the Villages of Van Buren. Not very big. Not far apart. Some along the banks of the Des Moines River. Steep climbs and rolling hills to reach the others.

            Our second day we come to Junction Café. No cars or people about. Brian and I take booth #3. Deb, owner, waitress and cook, takes our order. Grilled cheese sandwich and ice tea for me. Oatmeal  and ice tea for Brian. One other patron comes in the hour we spend.

            Cantril is our destination today, to visit Dutchman our goal. The heart of the Amish community, this little village and this giant store draw folks from afar. The Jalipino Eggs in a jar and the Vanilla Peaches pique my interest. Bundles of work gloves, bins of seeds to plant, hanging baskets of flowers to buy! Dutchman has it all. And the people have come to get it. Brian stands in line to buy three bananas and a pair of socks.

            Our third day we miss a turn coming out of Keosaquah and climb a monster hill to Pittsburg, its boarded up General Store off to our right and a view of the river back behind at a distance through the trees. We find ourselves at mid-morning back at Junction Café, seated again at #3. When Deb comes, I order “the usual. “And you want oatmeal?” She asks Brian.  Deb has worked here 10 years. Owned the place for four. Open seven days a week for breakfast and lunch. “Tough now, she says, “sometimes I have more bills than customers.”

            Croton does not appear on the Villages of Van Buren map we carry. But when Brian and I come across an inviting road coming out of Farmington and running along the river, we want to know where it goes. Five miles later we come to a modest monument announcing “Croton, site of the fartherest north battle of the Civil War, August 5, 1861” Two hundred yards later brings us to the boarded up General Store. Just beyond, the road turns to gravel and we turn around.

            On this road a couple miles out of Farmington on our way to Croton, we had seen two concrete walls parallel to one another, each about a foot thick, eight feet apart, six feet high and 12 feet long. Lettered on the end of the wall facing the road: HORSE WASH. As we ride back to Farmington, two beautiful horses stand between these walls, one tied to either side. A middle age man and woman are spraying both horses with jets of water and wiping them down with something from a bottle.

            Up the road a little piece, we stop our bikes to gaze at a pasture full of horses, big and tiny. Mares and foals! Two dozen mares and as many tiny horses shadowing them on spindly legs. A little later over all-you-can-eat catfish at the Bridge Café in Farmington, Brian is talking to Maura back in Kansas City on his cell phone and mentions the mares and foals. Maura’s brother is a large animal vet in Philadelphia. He has told her, she says, that horses have their young in May. And we’re here to see them on June 5, a sight that those who come to the official Villages of Van Buren Bike Ride can never see.

            Too early yet to plan next year’s ride. But odds are we’ll do the usual.