Written by: Jeff Gabriel

Against the wind. The last two days we’ve had strong headwinds the entire day – and the rides were long. Both days were about seventy miles. But there’s one thing the riders learn. It’s much easier going against the wind if you work together. Riders form small groups with people of similar speed and take turns in the front of what’s called a pace line. The leader of the pace line breaks the wind for the other riders and the riders take turns at the front of the line.

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Discerning the Why

Written by: Jennifer Elpers-Wells
So why do you suppose someone would decide to ride a bike for miles upon miles, complain about the “hills” they are challenged to climb, how their buttocks hurt from riding, or how sore and tired their legs are to then work on building a house the next day? Or even more challenging is to ride in the rain when it is 48 degrees.  Each of us could be at home doing something we find more pleasurable. What would compel someone to ride about 240 miles and have 2 build days all within 6 days?  Well I asked a few of my fellow teammates why they were doing what they were doing.  Here is what some of them had to say.

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The Beauty of the Trace

Written by: Kelley Westenhoff

There is nothing better than starting a long ride day with a fantastic breakfast send-off. Shady Grove Methodist Church in Duck River fixed sausage, eggs, and pancakes in great quantity. In fact, I think I saw Connor enjoying a sausage pancake sandwich at our first rest stop later in the morning.

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New Normals

Written by: Kim Kegler

Friday, it rained. Saturday, it rained. TODAY, it rained. And, I mean RAINED. Yet, today, we got on the bike.

Back at home in South Carolina, there’s no way I would have started a bike ride with a drizzle. That’s why we have trainers and spin class, right? But, FOR REAL, I really would not have been outside on a bike today but for #FCBALife.

“When in Rome”, follow the crazies, right.

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Who, What, Why?

Written by: Macy Holsinger

Who? What? Why????

Wide array of ages, backgrounds, and experiences coming together to ride their bicycles from Nashville, TN to Jackson, MS because they love more than riding their bikes, they love serving one another and the communities they encounter.

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Featured Fundraiser: Crystal Anderson

Crystal Anderson, a first-time FCBA rider from Richmond, Virginia, has raised lots of money this year – and she even seems to be having fun while doing it! Crystal will be trekking from Pittsburgh, PA to Washington, D.C. with FCBA’s new off-road “Dirt to D.C.” ride in September 2017. With almost $1,000 raised, Crystal has already gone above and beyond her minimum fundraising goal of $750, and is now shooting for $3,500!

Read more about Crystal’s ride – and consider donating to her campaign – at: https://fullercenter.donorpages.com/BikeAdventure/CrystalAnderson/


FCBA: Why did you decide to join the Fuller Center Bike Adventure this year?

CRYSTAL: “There are many wonderful charitable organizations in the U.S. and worldwide, so it can be difficult to choose where to dedicate personal time and resources. I hope to win the lottery some day so that I can make meaningful contributions to more than one organization per year. In the meantime, I have to choose, and the Fuller Center for Housing won my heart and my commitment.

I have several friends who volunteer with the Fuller Center for Housing and mentioned how amazing the organization is. From the main website and social media, I felt the Fuller Center mission aligned with my values. After visiting the main website, I happened upon the Fuller Center Bike Adventure site and found the information to be thorough, transparent, and very helpful. They just made it so easy to say, “I want to do this!”

And then there is the challenge of it all – the challenge of fundraising (which I’ve never really considered myself to be good at) and the challenge of 350 miles (I’m only just now getting active again after a 2-3 year hiatus). I just love that I can challenge myself in ways that I haven’t before – all while supporting such a great mission and organization – as well as all those friends out there who are building with the Fuller Center. I’m so excited!!”


FCBA: We heard you like to ride your bike in your office…is that helping you fundraise?

CRYSTAL: “I purchased a FitDesk 2.0 during Amazon Prime Day last year – I got it for a steep discount (this isn’t advertising, rather it is just informative for anyone else who may be interested in the details).

I sit a lot – I mean, a lot. At least 8-12 hours each weekday for work and approximately another 10+ hours a week in my car are “sitting hours.” The FitDesk is a stationary bike with a sturdy desk on top, and it allows me to keep moving at times when I otherwise would not move. It has been helping me train – and yes, fundraise also.

During the February Fundraising Fiesta, I took the FitDesk to work for 2 days for an awareness campaign and fundraising effort. Most of my donations to-date were made during those 2 days. And while not everyone who stopped by ultimately donated, I know that they learned about an organization they were not previously aware of – the Fuller Center for Housing.”


FBCA: What other strategies/methods have worked well for you so far?

CRYSTAL: “Reaching out to specific people by email has worked for me. I started by contacting people I know are like-minded with respect to charitable giving and volunteering, and I branched out from there. The FitDesk awareness and fundraising effort also has been most helpful. I may have to consider taking it to a public place in the future – to see if I can’t gain some media attention for the Fuller Center 🙂

I’m still kind of new to fundraising (in any major way), so I’m sure I will learn a lot more in the process. I will continue to try to think of new/creative approaches. My best ideas may be the ones I haven’t thought of yet. A yard sale? A dance event to benefit the Fuller Center?”


FCBA: Can you offer any final tips for our other Bike Adventurers as they kick their fundraising campaigns into high-gear this spring?

CRYSTAL: “My tip: consider your workplace and your colleagues. There may be certain protocols in your workplace that you have to follow in order to send emails, to hang posters, or to ride a FitDesk, but there are potential exponential benefits of trying. Colleagues may end up being your best supporters, and many employers will match your colleagues’ donations (by some specific %). Exponential benefits!”

Final Ride

Last night at Parkway Baptist Church (the  second church named Parkway Baptist we visited) in Kosciusko, Mississippi, we were treated to the creative song writing of Tony (one of our riders), who penned words about our trip on Natchez Trace to the tune of “Oh Susannah”.  “Oh Tom Weber, oh don’t you cry for me, cause I’m rolling down the Natchez Trace from Nashville, Tennessee, etc., etc.”.  Some of us also viewed the movie “Selma” about the early 1960’s civil rights struggles of African Americans that culminated in the March on Selma, Alabama and the aftermath.

Today we had terrific weather for our final day of riding.  It started out at around 60 degrees at our 8:30 departure and rose to almost 70 degrees by mid-afternoon.   The wind was to our back and side for most of the day.  The route was fairly flat as we made our way toward our final destination – Tougaloo College in Jackson.  We are staying in their gymnasium, which can easily accommodate our 40+ people.  Millard Fuller (Founder of Fuller Center for Housing) created a scholarship  for Tougaloo, which is a Christian college that primarily serves local African American students.  This evening we had a wonderful dinner at the home of the president of Tougaloo college.

IMG_3813Finally, I would like to say a hearty thank you to a group of people who have made our bike rides much more enjoyable than they would be with their absence – our SAG support people.  SAG stands for support and gear – which only partly describes the wonderful service these individuals provide.  We had two support vans with trailers.   The SAG team begins the day by ensuring all the luggage and drink/food supply is properly stored in the trailers for transporting to the rest stops and the day’s final destination.  They also do any last minute shopping need for the day.  One van and trailer goes to the first rest stop, while the second van and trailer go to the second rest stop (Rest stops are typically around 20 miles apart).  Once at the rest stop, they unload and set up the drinks and food so the riders have easy access.  When the last riders are through, they pack everything up and move to either the final destination or another rest stop.  The SAG team also does a lot of the shopping for food that we will cook for our meals, when not provided by the host church.  They also do many other little things for riders each day that are much appreciated.  So a big THANK YOU to Cindy, Mary Rae, Melanie, Paul and Sue – our terrific SAG team.

-Jeff Gabriel

A Little Water

After a great day volunteering in Greenwood, Mississippi the Fuller Center Spring ride anxiously watched the weather forecast to determine if we would have a dry 74 mile ride to Kosciusko, Mississippi or a wet day. Despite our requests for divine intervention with dry weather, Friday broke with heavy rains and the promise for a wet weather day.

The group headed out after another great breakfast from Parkway Baptist in Houston under rain and turned south. The group was cold and soaked but pressed on with an odd collection of grocery bag shoe covers and garbage bag leg warmers.

I too was rather dour like the weather outside but as the day progressed I started to become aware of the wonder that was around me on the ride. It started with the 8 mile long trail of destruction wrought on the landscape around the Nantchez Trace by a tornado in 2011. You could sense the sheer power that had roared through the area 5 years ago with trees snapped in half and bare like chopsticks.

We then moved into the wooded section north of Kosciusko and the woods swallowed the Trace as we climbed and descended the rolling hills. The ever-present drizzle turned into a hard rainfall and the woods erupted with a cacophony of sound. As I rode quietly I focused on the sounds of creation around me; the gentle roar of rain hitting leaves in the forest, the soft patter of drops hitting the bed of needles on the forest floor, the cascade of water in roadside streams, the swish of water rooster-tailing off the bikes, and the rhythmic breathing of my riding buddies as we rolled along. During that rain I realized how the thing we had dreaded that morning (the rain) helped me to be that much more aware of the wonders of creation around me.

I was soaked and tired but in that moment every bit alive and amazed by God’s beauty and the gift that he gave me on this very special ride from Houston to Kosciusko. We often say the Bike Adventure changes you. Sometimes all it requires is just a little water.


-Mike Rutherford

Baptist Town Build Day!

DSC_0613Today was our second build day of the trip.  After a wonderful southern breakfast prepared by the men at Parkway Baptist Church in Houston, Mississippi, we loaded into the vans and were transported to Greenwood, MS to Baptist Town neighborhood.  This is one of the first areas where freed blacks lived in Greenwood in the 1850’s.   While there, we worked on a Community Center cleaning up outside, staining the railing, built a porch for a reading program, and many other odd fix up jobs.  Another group of our team went to a home and worked to repair a floor and re-screen a porch for a homeowner in the neighborhood.

This was a special day for me in so many ways. I have ridden this same ride for four years in a row now and each one is different because of the other people riding in our group.  This year, my youngest daughter is riding along.  She has heard so many stories of how special this ride is and all the love we experience in our group and from the churches who host us.  She is experiencing it first hand now.  Additionally, Greenwood is where my dad went to high school and where my grandparents lived all the time I knew them.  I would spend a week there with them each summer as we grew up.  A little piece of my heart still dwells there.


As we worked in Baptist Town we had the opportunity to see the Katrina cottages that we built steps for two years ago in Greenwood.  The homes are now being lived in and appreciated.  What a blessing to see our efforts benefit others.  It is great to see a town trying to revive an old neighborhood where people have lived and put down roots.  As we were working a sheriff car came through and the deputy took the time to thank us for the efforts we were making today.  He had been born in Baptist Town and was fully aware of how the neighborhood had declined.  He patrols there regularly trying to get the place cleaned up too.  It does take an army and we are doing our little part to make the world a better place.

This evening we came back to the church to another delicious meal provided for us.  Some of the church members were there to share our meal with us. It is amazing how generous and kind they are.  After we got cleaned up we took the time to have a movie night at the parsonage where most of the females on the trip are staying.  We watched The Help which was filmed in Greenwood, some of it in Baptist Town where we had been working today.  It was great fun to recognize the homes we saw today in the movie.

Tomorrow morning we will mount our bikes again and hit the Trace riding 75 miles as we head on down to Kosciusko, Mississippi.  We have another day of riding together, sharing our stories, helping each other and having fun ahead of us.  Another warm church floor and welcoming church members are waiting for us down the road.  We are certainly blessed in so many ways!

Diane Bies