Friday, November 14, 2008

Back and Running

So I've missed all of you. Just a recap: we all are doing well, we've been super busy with school. Alyson is working as a Senior Community Leader at Brook Residential Hall, Kyle is working hard on earning his degree, Nathan is getting done with interviews for job prospects, Andi is rocking it in New York through an internship with the Baylor Film Network, and I'm working on getting into Law School. We're all just trying to get through these final semesters.

It was really weird being back from the bike trip. I still sometimes look at the road and think about getting back on my bike and just taking off. Yes I still ride my bike, old faithful has not let me down, who would have ever thought I'd have such feelings for an inanimate object. But it is truly my pride and joy. I can't say that for the rest of the team. Nathan and Kyle have been loving the feeling of returning to their old habits. Kyle discovered 97 cent Betty Crocker Cakes at the super market, he can't believe he never thought of those before (I come back to the apartment to see yet another cake in the oven). Andi has been in New York and was even able to meet up with a lady that we met on the road. They had lunch and everything. Andi has been having a blast in New York, he's been learning a lot.

Since we've been back we been loaded with tons of questions on how the trip was, what was our favorite part, what was our favorite city, did anyone get hurt, and we've had to answer them a million times. But we are particular happy for all the things we learned from the trip and all the people we met. We are very thankful. I was talking to Alyson the other day and she said how weird it felt not being in a new place everyday, but how she was happy to be stationary for a while. I don't know if I fully agree with her, I think I find myself in a new place everyday just not in the location sense.

But now we are getting finished with our 2nd to last semester of College and after working on the Alive Campaign behind the scenes, I thought to let you in on what we are doing. It turns out that Andi is still working on the Documentary and that is our biggest concern as of now. We got some great footage and we're putting it together. It looks really good. Keep checking the blog as more information reaches me.

Peace- Justin Brown

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Home Sweet Home!

We made it! We're home! As we crossed the Texas line today we couldn't have been more excited and then as we saw the Green and Gold from the Baylor tower, the feeling of completion started to resonate. This has to be one of the happiest days of our summer.

For the past 3 and a half days we have been driving non-stop crossing through Alaska, Canada, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, and finally Texas. It was an adventure in its own right, deciding that we were not going to stop anywhere, for showers or for beds until we made it home. There was a little bit of pride in making this kind of trip. I mean people take these kinds of trip by themselves let alone after you have biked across the country, but we figured if we can bike across the country and be okay we can stay in a van for 3 days and be even better. Unfortunately the drive was not as exciting as it sounds. We were tired in the "my body really really wants to exercise" sort of way...there something about being in a van for 3 days straight that takes a toll on the body, especially when all your eating is fast food and gas station beef jerky. All the hard work we've done to make our bodies in biking shape felt like it was deteriorating. Our stomachs felt awful, our legs wanted to run, our muscles wanted to sleep, and our bodies wanted a shower.

We each took our own driving shifts. Each consisting of 5 hours. The night shift was the worst, the scary thing about riding through the night, especially through the Yukon, was the animals. It was common to see wolves, bears, deers, and yes..buffalo. The greatest thing about the night shift was when it ended, and then the sun rose...I enjoyed seeing the sun rise every morning, but then after that ray of sunshine (pun intended) the days just dragged on, and sleep in the most miniscule amount was a blessing. I just jumped in the back seat and rested my head even though afterwards my spine was in knots. And the knots didn't go away. Our heads pounded from the lack of sleep but we pushed through.

The final run even though it was in a car showed how much we've grown as friends. We laughed even though the van smelled of trash and the floor was littered with candy wrappers. We've been through the bugs and the dirt while riding bikes and in a scary way I think we have grown used to being uncomfortable. As Baylor came into view we began giving High-5s, shouts of joy, and singing to cheesy music. We made fools of ourselves, honking our way into town. The poor van is just as much a team member as we are, and it was invited to join in in the excitement. According to Nathan's motto "If you take care of your machines your machines will take care of you," and the van has truly taken care of us.

When we arrived the first thing we noticed was the Texas heat. It was funny, I actually missed the unbearably sticky summer air. We were welcomed by Nathan's parents and family, as well as Susan from the Baylor counseling services, and Dub Oliver from Student Life, whom we all hugged and who basked in our smelly selves. We are so happy. There is no place like home.

-Justin Brown

Another note from Alyson:
On behalf of the team, after talking and hanging out this evening in Nate's apartment, we want to say thank you to everyone that has supported us, and helped make this trip possible. The bike trip was for our friend whom sparked this adventure, the people on our facebook group, our families, our friends, our sponsors: Ford Direct, everyone in Itasca, staff, students, and administrators at Baylor, and everyone else who has been with us. The list is long, and every day it grows. We are so blessed to have such loving and selfless people in our lives.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Coming Home!!!

Our adventure is coming to an end, tomorrow we will be heading home. We're getting all the last minute preparation made for the trip back. Getting an oil change, throwing away the trash that has accumulated over that past 70 plus days (there is a lot of it), and creating a makeshift bed so that we can sleep while the van is pulling forward. I hate to disappoint all of you but we're not going to be biking back! This is what we like to call a race to the finish. We're having to get home (Baylor University) by August 6th. So we are going to be driving non-stop (with a couple of breaks in between) to get home in time.

We're going to be waking up at 4:30 am and driving till 8pm just about everyday for 5 days. We're each going to take shifts to help the 15 hours a day go a lot smoother and safer.

It will feel good being on the road again even though its going to zip by. The drive back will be like rewinding a video tape. We will pass through the same terrain and experience the same weather, maybe by going through all of it, it will help all of us truly see the magnitude of our accomplishment.

I'm looking at my pictures again. I've been looking at all the pictures, strolling down memory lane. They are all so beautiful. What's really strange is I can't believe I was there. Its like somebody photoshopped my picture putting me behind those wonderful backgrounds. Time flew by so fast. Now it is only a memory, a picture, but it is a part of me. I was there. I saw the wonders of all creation, I experienced the desert heat, the ocean breeze, and the pine smells, I lived through all of it, and we made it.

I'm excited about tomorrow, getting back on the road, I think Willie Nelson summed my feelings best:

On the road again
Just can't wait to get on the road again
The life I love is makin' music with my friends
And I can't wait to get on the road again
On the road again
Goin' places that I've never been
Seein' things that I may never see again,
And I can't wait to get on the road again.

-Justin Brown

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Day 77: Anchorage, AK (rest day)

Today we got to sleep in, and woke up just in time to clean up and go out on the town. Once again, Andi is spending time with his folks. We hope they're having fun.

Nate, Justin, and I went to lunch and then hit up the Alaska Native Heritage Center. It was interesting to hear about all the history and see some native dances and artwork. We had fun taking a tour around the lake, seeing totem poles, huge whale bones, and going inside some huts.

After that, we went to dinner at Humpy's Grill. They had really good Halibut and we met a pilot for UPS who told us about his recent 12-day job that went to places all over the world, including Hong Kong, Russia, Germany, Anchorage (of course) and Kentucky. He told us, "You absolutely must travel. It's one of the best things you can do."

Then we walked around downtown. The shops and activities are pretty neat, and the Alaska memorabilia is one-of-a-kind. I refrained from buying a "Alaska: where size matters" t-shirt though. :)

The day was nice and relaxing, and Nate and I are going to watch some more "Friday Night Lights" tonight. Tomorrow is our prep day before we leave early on Friday morning. We'll be cleaning out the van, getting an oil change, and doing a lot of other necessary things... It's worth it. I can't wait to be back in Texas.


Day 76: Anchorage, AK (rest day)

We're all a bit tired today. The team has been working a bit to spread the news of our arrival. After lunch, we headed back to The University of Alaska Anchorage to be present for a welcoming ceremony. And other then we being the honored guests, the Lt. Governor showed up and presented us with gifts. He introduced himself and spoke of the tragedies of Alaska being a state where suicide is common, and that there needs to be more young people standing up for the cause. We felt humbled. Alyson said, "I think the trip is starting to sink in," keeping the tears from rolling down her face. I'm not at the point of fully realizing the impact of the trip but I know what she means. Meeting all these people, has put some added value to what we've accomplished.

We toured some more areas in Anchorage, and found ourselves in a theatre, where a man gave a old fashioned story telling of the Alaska legends. As he began to tell of the Gold Rush, that took place about 100 years ago, we felt a kindred to the story. We have traveled the same trails of the adventurers searching for gold. Because like them we were on an adventure searching for riches, not the material kind, but we were searching for the riches that can't be bought or sold, we were searching for meaning.

Nathan is saying "Goodbye" to his parents right now. They are leaving on a plane tomorrow morning leaving us on our own again. Seeing them was like a touch of reality, reminding us that this trip has to end, but now that they're gone in the back of my mind I swear I feel like I'm going to ride again tomorrow. I guess it has become a habit. But this trip has to end. Being with Nathan's parents also reminded me that I have parents awaiting me at home. I can't wait to see them.

p.s. Moose are everywhere!!

-Justin Brown

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Day 75: Anchorage, AK

Yeah, we're in Anchorage, and we got to sleep in! We went to the University of Alaska Anchorage today, and met with a lot of faculty and staff in student services. We had lunch and discussed our story and facts about the suicide and depression rates in the state of Alaska. They gave us UAA t-shirts, which are the same colors as Baylor! :)

Then, Andi went to hang out with his family some more while Nate, Justin, and I spent time with Nate's parents. First we went sight-seeing. We saw some glaciers, and then went to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center to see the animals. We took pictures of moose, elk, caribou, black and brown bears, foxes, bald eagles, and wood bison. The moose they had were the ones in the movie "Into the Wild".

After many pictures and looking around, we went on to our next thing: dinner. The five of us went to Outback Steakhouse and ended up talking until 11 o'clock there... we talked for FOUR HOURS about the trip, recapping events, arguments, and peoples' quirks. It was so good to think back.

Oh, and we're staying at UAA for the next four nights. They have such nice rooms, and gave us amazing perks. They made our beds, with mints on our pillows, and gave us towels with mini tolietries. It's like we're in a hotel! We'll be sleeping well tonight in Anchorage!

Alyson and Nate

Justin here: I just wanted to acknowledge the church where we spoke yesterday night. The youth helped put together our information packets, I was blown away how selfless they were. We've been doing a lot of speaking here in Anchorage, this is what it's all about.

Before I forget, we were even able to meet another one of our Facebook members! She was so excited to see us, and we were more thrilled to hang out with her. She's from all the way in New Jersey!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Day 74: WE MADE IT!!! Anchorage Alaska

We made it! We raced towards the finish line, with the wind against our face and our face bright with excitement, we crossed into Anchorage Alaska. It was like a blur my legs were stretched to the limits, I wanted to truly finish with all my strength racing with all my might. I didn't realize I had it in me to go so fast. I looked at the team around me, and I began to shout "This is for everyone who told us we couldn't make it, this is for our Facebook group, our friend, kyle, our families, our school, we made it guys!" It's all overwhelming. I still can't believe we made it, I still think that I'm going to wake up from a dream. I remember riding out of Baylor, and thinking to myself "We have such a long way to go" but now look where we are, time surely goes with every step. We took it one day at a time, and its so unreal that those days added up to this. What a journey.

Now in Alive Campaign fashion our ride couldn't go without a hitch, as we were riding towards the sign we had to take a detour because we weren't allowed on the Highway. As we flew through the detour I realized that Andi's and Nathan's family, in their vehicles behind us, wouldn't know where we went so we called them and as soon as we did we realized we were lost. Can you believe it? Only 10 miles to Anchorage and we have to get lost. We didn't know what to do, but after several pushes in the right direction we got back on track. Time was of the essence. We were scheduled to meet a news crew at 2 and it was 1:30! We didn't want to drive but we didn't want to be late. So we biked with all our hearts. And flew faster then I've seen us go. "Go faster" I screamed, "This is what its all about, this is what we've worked for" I encouraged, I felt like a slave driver pushing the troops along. Then Alyson started to yell, "Let's move it" and I realized we were all running off of adrenaline, pushing ourselves to the limit and working as a team to do it. We did 10 miles in 20 minutes, a record!

We joined hands and praised each other. Tears were shed, gifts were given, and everybody hugged everybody. Its like we won a million dollar jackpot. We received messages from school and home, people offering their congratulations. We couldn't be more thankful to our friends and family. Our lives are changed forever and for the good. Smiles were plastered on all of our faces. This is what it means to be Alive.

I want to thank all of our families that supported us, and our Facebook members that stuck with us!

Last year we created a group "Four guys, One destination, One Mission: Suicide Prevention:

-Justin Brown

P.S. Our journey is still not done and our story is still incomplete. We still have to drive back and we have several days here in Anchorage, spreading suicide awareness. We'll keep you up to date on what's happening. I also just don't want to say Goodbye to all of you.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Day 73: Palmer, AK (Rest Day)

Today we enjoyed a long, relaxing day in the rainy, cold city of Palmer. Justin and Andi went with Andi's family to look at some glaciers. They saw the largest glacier you can get to by road! Then, they pet wolves, at this wolf petting zoo area. They were adorable!

Nate and I decided to hang back at the church. We value our sleep. :) When we woke up, we drove to Walmart, got lunch at Chili's, and then watched a marathon of Friday Night Lights. I got Nate and Andi semi-hooked on the show now. Lol.

Andi is so excited that his family is here, and tonight, Nate's parents arrived. All of us went to dinner to talk about plans for tomorrow. Nate's dad is so surprised that we made it this far. I think I saw a glint in his eyes when he saw his baby boy again.

Seeing the two sets of families really makes me miss home. When my sister called me tonight, and all her friends got on the phone (Amy, Joey, and Derrek), she started crying. She said she missed me a lot and it wasn't the same without me. This trip is so incredible, but travelling for such a long time takes its toll. I value my family more than anything in the world now.

Alaska is shaping up to its name. Pastor Peter has continued to get us food and gifts, and we're just trying to keep up! People have been blessing us left and right, and its good to share that with Andi and Nate's parents, letting them see that first hand. They've become family to all of us, as we've worked closely with them these past few months.

We're so excited to be biking to Anchorage tomorrow. It hasn't even sunk in for us yet. We're just hanging out at the church, on the net, watching Friday Night Lights, and doing our thing. One more day of biking... less than 55 miles ahead of us...

All I keep thinking is, "What'll we do after this?"