July 5th, Springfield, KY - Berea, KY

Day 40

Today’s ride seemed very relaxed as we are still adjusting to getting back into the swing of riding in our regular routine.  I woke up this morning and my alarm clock read 645 am.  I thought I had overslept my fellow riders but it turned out they were all sound asleep.  We started our ride around 9 am and rode in honor of Katie Ferrell’s great grandfather.  His story was very sad.  He first discovered he had Alzheimer’s when he read the story of Ronald Reagan.  He read of how he felt confused and didn’t know why and then showed it to his family and said, “I think I have this same problem.”  So we rode in his honor and enjoyed another day in the best state in the USA, Kentucky.

We rode the first 16 miles into Perryville, Ky and had a great moment.  Perryville is the home of Eddy Montgomery of the country band Montgomery Gentry.  So in honor of Eddy and the great state of Kentucky we played the song “This is My Town” and all sang along.  I am sure there have been 100 people that sang it before us, but we felt pretty original.

We rode another 12 miles into Danville, KY to eat some lunch at the Pizza Hut.  Wade, Tyler, and I reminisced of our ride this past October as we rode the same road into Danville and ate lunch at the same Pizza Hut.  We all put a major hurt on the pizza buffet and even took a little cat nap in the Pizza Hut.  I don’t know if they appreciated us making ourselves at home in their restaurant but we enjoyed it none the less.

We rode the final 32 miles into Berea and started to feel the groove again of riding at a strong pace.  Fraternity brother and good friend, Ben Harper, met us about 10 miles outside of Berea to use his Toyota Prius as our chase vehicle.  We rode into the local park, right next to Berea College to be welcomed by a small group of friends.  JB Goll, Jessie Hitt, and Melany Musick came from Fiji IHQ to welcome us.  JB had the horns that they use in South Africa for the Fifa World Cup and sounded in our arrival as we rolled in.  A fellow hilltopper, Mark, also met us to take pictures and congratulate us on our progress.  Barb from the local Alzheimer’s Association chapter also met us to encourage us and grab a few photos.  We had a nice time hanging under the gazeebo and catching up with our friends. 

We then drove to our place for the night.  Fraternity brother’s, Malcolm Lunceford, parents have let us stay in their house for the night and were very welcoming.  They had a sign in their front yard and fixed us a wonderful dinner.  We also had some visitors including Luke Gilliam (best bro ever) and Katie Hindman.  Sara Puckett, fellow Hilltopper and my neighbor for the last year, also came by and brought some Ale8 from her hometown of Winchester.

We had a great day and ask for thoughts and prayers as tomorrow we will begin to traverse the Appalachian mountains.

In His Adventure,

Chaz Vittitow

July 4th, Elizabethtown, KY - Springfield, KY

Day 39

Happy 4th of July.  It is awesome to think that so many years ago in 1776 we claimed freedom as a country.  I am proud to be an American and to experience the freedom of my country, but I am most proud to have the freedom we are able to experience through Christ.  God has given us the ultimate freedom that we have been crucified with Christ and no longer live but Christ lives in us and we walk by faith (Gal. 2:20). 

Today’s ride was very special.  We rode out of Elizabethtown and had some people ride with us.  Bob Anderegg, my good friend and one of the chapter’s advisors, rode with us on his huffy mountain bike for 31 miles (very impressive).  Austin Howell, who rode into Etown with us and is a fellow hilltopper.  Alex Bridges, friend of Tyler and Cameron and a new friend to the riders of Fijis Across America.  And my father, Charlie Vittitow.  I really enjoyed riding with all of them but riding with my dad was especially awesome.  I felt like we were going to war together as we climbed hills and reached high speeds.  I have always admired how my dad enjoys being actively involved in my life and wants to experience things with me.  It was a memory I will hold dear for a long time and I hope to pass it on to my son someday.  We had some great time to talk and laugh as we enjoyed the beautiful Kentucky fourth of July day.

We finished our ride at the McDonald’s of Springfield and the day ended with some great laughs.  Tyler was riding Austin’s mountain bike for the last leg and decided to do a little off roading in the McDonald’s front lawn.  He went onto the lawn but got the front wheel stuck in the mud and did a superman dive into the grass.  I almost fell off my bike and several bystanders got a free show.  I laughed for a while and Tyler said it was some of the most fun he had.

We are staying the night with Cameron’s fraternity brother Alex in Lebanon and are celebrating our freedom by doing not much of anything at his house.  Happy 4th of July to everybody and only 12 days of riding left so keep us in your prayers.

In His Adventure,

Chaz Vittitow

July 2nd and 3rd, Rest Days in Etown and Kentucky

Day 37 and 38

The first day of rest turned out to be very successful and enjoyable.  We hosted a fundraiser in Etown at the Best Buy parking lot.  We had about 70 people come in and out to visit and enter for a chance to win some prizes.  It was great to see some people such as fraternity brothers, family members, and friends.  My good friend Eric Lutz’s grandfather lives in Etown and he came out to the event.  It actually turned out he was related to Cameron’s family, its a small world. 

My grandparent’s (Grandy and Grandmoo) made it out to the event.  I really enjoyed talking with them and they seemed to have fun at the event.  It was so encouraging to have their support and to have them at the event.  I hope to spend some time with them in the rest of my summer.  My parents also came and continued to show their awesome support.  I am so inspired by how much all the parents of the riders care for their sons.  They are all very supportive and show their unconditional love by their continued support on our ride. 

But, the event ended successfully with 5200 dollars raised.  We all stuck around to talk some but then my parents and I went to spend some time together doing our favorite past time, fishing.  We went to Caneyville to the farm of our friend’s Ruth and Norm Shank.  We were on the boat for a few hours and my dad caught 5 fish and I only caught one small one.  What else has changed, haha.  But if nothing else I was able to brush up on my casting skills and I am always reminded that to be on a boat fishing is to be on a vessel of freedom.

The next day my parents and I traveled to Bowling Green to work on the Fiji house.  We worked from 830 to 6 and were joined by several brothers, parents, and girls that were helping.  The day was a success and it felt good to work up a different kind of sweat and put a hammer to some nails. 

The days may have not been that restful but they were very enjoyable and refreshing.  I look forward to the challenge ahead and can’t wait to see what else God can teach me on this journey to the Atlantic Ocean.

In His Adventure,

Chaz Vittitow

July 1st, McDaniels, KY - Elizabethtown, KY

Day 36

Today was our big day of coming home to our family, friends, and supporters.  We woke up at the Rough River lake house and got ready for the great day of riding triumphantly into Etown.  We first said goodbye to the other two cyclists that also stayed at the cabin (special thanks to David, the boss of Radcliff Electric).  They were traveling to Sand Diego and had started in Berea, KY 10 days prior to meeting us. 

The ride began with a bit of a hiccup.  Wade and I turned left at our first turn instead of right and went two miles out of the way.  Luckily, we figured out our way and turned around to go the right direction.  The ride went on to be very beautiful and we continued to enjoy the beauty of our home state. 

As we rode on we were met by some fellow riders and friends.  Austin Howell, former WKU Spirit Master and WKU alumni met us about 20 miles out and rode with us.  Big props to him for riding with us on a mountain bike.  We were also met later by Matthew Coolidge and then later by Olivia Hamilton (younger sister of Cameron).  All of the riders were very enjoyable to have along and the highlight of the trip was the comment by Olivia.  “I like downhills better than climbing up these hills.”  Cameron said that ensured she was a Hamilton, haha.

As we neared our stop at Pritchard Community center we passed the grave site of Barret Cummings, Tyler’s Grandfather.  We stopped and looked at his grave.  Tyler thanked us all on his Grandfather’s behalf and it was a very nice moment for us all.  It is amazing how one life can inspire people.  I have never met Barret Cummings but he has inspired me long after he is gone.  It is comforting to know that God uses each life in a particular way and many purposes are not fulfilled while we can see them. 

We rode proudly behind our police escort to be welcomed by a small group of our biggest fans.  I was welcomed by many but it meant very much to me to see my mother, my sister (Erin), and my favorite (and only) niece.  Scarlett has grown very much and I so much enjoyed being able to hold her for only the third time since she was born in April.  It saddens me that I have not been around as much to see her grow as a child but it was such a blessing to see her and my mom and sister and I look forward to watching her grow up.  Scarlett will also meet me in Yorktown, VA where we will get a good picture that we can always look back on.

Two days of rest to come and I will try to soak up every bit of being in Kentucky and being welcomed and encouraged by my friends and family.

In His Adventure,

Chaz Vittitow

June 30th, Beech Grove, KY - McDaniels, KY

Day 35

Today was a real breath of fresh air.  We left the Paulsen’s house after a wonderful donut breakfast and started another beautiful day of riding in wonderful weather.  We rode the first 38 miles and then were met by Norma Henry.  Norma is one of our groupies and has been following our progress as we go cross country.  She told of us of her story of overcoming Cancer through God’s grace and the never say die attitude.  She was truly inspiring for us and seemed to be also inspired by us.  She rode the next 30 miles with us and we really enjoyed having her company.  She got to experience our singing on the bike and we all got to exchange stories of adventures on the bike.

We were also met by some other groupies mid ride.  I saw a car that looked like Mitch’s as we were going up a hill and then suddenly a man screamed, “Yeah go FIJIs!!!”  I thought it was a fellow fraternity brother but I then realized it was Mitch’s dad, uncle, and sister.  They met us at one of our stops and Barry also bought us lunch at the Fiddler’s Restaurant.

At lunch we were able to here about all the great adventures of Norma Henry.  She had ridden across Iowa in the Ragbri and had done marathons and triathlons.  She had experienced some very high accomplishments and some times of severe struggle with her cancer battle.  But, she always kept hope in God and never admitted defeat even when a doctor told her she only had 6 months to live.  An amazing woman that God placed in our path at the perfect time.  She even collected some 1980’s clothing from Nat’s Sports since Justin and I had lost our stuff.  We all enjoyed the crazy design tanktops and sweat shorts and will be making good use of them haha.

But, we ride into Etown tomorrow and will be welcomed by our friends and family.  We are so blessed to have made it this far and thank God for getting us this far.

In His Adventure,

Chaz Vittitow 

June 29th, Elizabethtown, IL - Beech Grove, KY

Day 34

There really is no place like my old Kentucky Home.  Not even ten miles in to our ride this day we took a ferry across the Ohio River and made it into the most beautiful state of Kentucky.  You could tell in the first town we went through, Marion, that we were going to enjoy our home state.  It was very classic and homey and we met some very friendly people.

The ride was hilly but we were very motivated as we entered our home state and were going to stay at our friend Jessica Paulsen’s house.  We arrived in Beech Grove after about 71 miles.  The best part of the ride was the last tenth of a mile.  I had been having some issues my chain falling off as I need to replace it, but it fell off right as I started to accelerate for the stage victory on the day, haha.  So, Tyler and Justin proceeded to push me as I coasted to the support vehicle.  That was true teamwork and was a moment to remember.

We made it to the Paulsen’s home just outside Owensboro and were welcomed to a wonderful hamburger and brat dinner and even had some birthday cake for Jessica and Wade, who just had birthdays.  We played Cornhole and even a new game called “Washers” or as Mrs. Paulsen says it, “Warshers”.  It was great to have a cozy home to sleep in and we all were very gracious to have the great accommodations.

After only one day we agreed that Kentucky is the most beautiful state and we all were very happy to be home.  Greatest place East of the Mississippi!!!

In His Adventure,

Chaz Vittitow 

June 28th, Murfreesboro, IL – Elizabethtown, IL

Day 33

Today’s ride ended up well but the first 50 miles really seemed to drag on.  Before we reached our first water fill up spot, I was already having some issues.  My chain had fallen off a couple times, the kleat of my shoe got loose so Wade had to undue my Velcro shoes to get me off my bike, and I had a flat back tire.  I was feeling a little down and out as I was walking my bike to the stop but then I remembered something.  We are to consider it pure joy when we face trials of many kinds, because the testing of our faith leads to perseverance.  I know that when I finally reach the Atlantic Ocean I will truly feel the joy of my victory because of the sacrifices that I experienced along the way.

Along the road today there were some interesting things.  I have still yet to see a living armadillo in Missouri or Illinois but have seen almost 1,000 dead ones.  We also had some interesting encounters with dogs today.  There was a blood hound that followed Tyler and Wade for almost 3 miles.  He wasn’t mad he just wanted to run with them.  He even chilled out with us some at the rest stop toward the end of the day.

We ended the day in Elizabethtown, IL which is in Hardin County, so it is basically the same as Elizabethtown, KY.  There was not much going on in the town but we did drive by a local softball game that was pretty packed.  While it looked like a lot of fun we were looking for a place to eat, which was hard to find on the night of the game.  But, we found a local diner called Lucy’s diner.  It was pure carnage as we had bacon and eggs, burgers and onion rings, and even some chocolate chip pancakes.  Truly a night to remember and we even got in their picture scrapbook of famous people that eat there and will be in the local paper.

Truly a great day even with the rough start but we all look forward to crossing into our home state of Kentucky tomorrow and are very motivated as we near the end of our ride everyday.

In His Adventure,

Chaz Vittitow

June 27th, Farmington, MO – Murfreesboro, IL

Day 32

We left Al’s Place, the local bike hostel, and we said goodbye to our new friend that we made while staying there.  His name was Andy and he was from Virginia.  He was traveling alone and was on the same path as us.  I had a lot of respect for him because he was my age and was doing all of this trip alone.  While I think I could do it, I much rather enjoy traveling with all the guys and experiencing the journey with someone. 

We continued to ride through the steep and frequent hills of the Ozarks and enjoyed the scenery of Missouri.  It got hotter as we traveled further East but this day we crossed into another state.  We rode over a bridge that crossed the Mighty Mississippi river.  It reminded me of one of my favorite books, Huckleberry Finn, and the town we crossed into was one to remember.  Chester, IL was the home of Popeye the sailor man.  He was created in the late 1800’s and the whole town was very proud of Popeye.  We ate lunch at the local Subway and enjoyed the several Popeye statues and paintings throughout the town. 

We rode the remaining 25 miles after lunch which was pretty flat as it went through the Mississippi River Flood Plain.  While riding I remembered that my good friend and fraternity brother, Alex Fahnders, lived in southern Illinois.  I gave him a call, which it was great to catch up, but he was not in town when we were.  It was a real shame. 

We arrived to our hotel, provided by the mother of Alex Kimura (thank you very much), and checked into our room.  We watched a movie, Walking Tall, with one of my favorite actors in it (The Rock) and then enjoyed a wonderful Mexican Dinner (provided by Barry White thank you very much).

We had another great day of crossing into a new state and were excited as we neared our home state.

In His Adventure,

Chaz Vittitow

June 25th, Eminence, MO - Farmington, MO

Day 31

Another morning of waking up sweating in the hot weather.  And while this morning was tougher than others as I had lost many of belongings and was very tired, God’s strength seems to surpass all understanding.  But, it is funny how bad things sometimes happen in threes.

While these things are pretty trivial in comparison to the hardships people face, I had to laugh at the first 25 miles of the day.  Of course losing my things was tough, but then as I was riding up the steep hills of the Ozarks I had a couple more mishaps.  While trying to summit one hill, I took a drink of my water but missed the water holster on my bike and watched my water bottle roll of the road and down into a ditch.  So I had to get off my bike and stop in the middle of a hill which was a little frustrating.  Then, not 20 minutes later, I was climbing another hill and I guess I wasn’t going fast enough to keep a wasp from landing on me.  So, while riding a wasp stung me on the lower back which helped propel me up the hill.  Not my favorite motivation but as Forrest Gump says, “God is mysterious” in the ways He helps you.  So I let out a yell of frustration but was able to laugh off my small misfortunes and continue peddling.

We made it to Farmington, MO at about 4pm and the place we will be staying at for today and our rest day tomorrow is awesome.  It is called “Al’s Place” and is a bike hostel.  It looks like a New York City loft apartment and is perfect for us.  We have showers, bunk beds, and television to watch the World Cup.  We then went out to Colton’s Steak house and had a wonderful steak dinner, special thanks to Scott and Amy Haga for buying our dinner.  We continued to veg out and rest after 6 days of riding in a row.  Our next ride on sunday will cross us over to Illinois and we are very excited to soon enter our home state of Kentucky.

In His Adventure,

Chaz Vittitow

June 24th, Hartville, MO - Eminence, MO

Day 30

After sleeping in the front lawn of the courthouse we woke up to find the weather was still hot and muggy and I was still sweating in my tent.  It was pretty miserable but helps get you out of the bed at 5 am because you don’t want to be hot anymore.  We said farewell to our friend Mike who was heading west and started our ride. 

The hills were very steep to start off the ride.  Though they didn’t last as long as the mountains in Colorado or Arizona, they were steep and frequent.  At one point on the ride we were passed by a convertible full of people with a rather large woman in a bikini sitting out of the moon roof.  It seemed to be a mirage that blurred by, but then they came back again to say hello so we knew it was for real.  I guess they were just enjoying the day. 

Anyways, we were able to make it 60 miles by lunchtime and stopped by the “Trails End” restaurant to grab some lunch.  We were welcome by some old timers in the restaurant.  One lady referred to herself as the dragon lady because she had a large dragon statue in her front yard that made her famous.  Needless to say, it was an interesting place but we had some good burgers and onion rings and Tyler and I were able to beat Jordan and Justin in a few games of billiards.

The day ended in Eminence, MO and we were all very exhausted after a day of several steep hills.  But our campsite was very welcoming with a river running right next to it and a cool breeze.  However, when we opened the trailer to get out our things mine and Justin’s bin were missing.

It turned out that earlier in the day Jordan and Tyler (who were riding in the car) forgot to latch the door of the trailer.  So they rode some of the way with the backdoor wide open.  They didn’t think they lost anything but mine and Justin’s bin had fallen out.  Unfortunately, when we went back to look for the bins there was no trace of them.  While it was frustrating and Jordan was very sorry we were able to keep a pretty optimistic attitude.  I lost all my clothes but it was only clothes.  Much worse things could have been lost.

We went to Wal Mart to pick up some things as I did not even have a shirt on my back.  We bought the bare necessities but since Justin is my little bro in FIJI we decided to buy matching shirts.  Here is the picture on the front haha:

It was pretty impulse but we needed to laugh as we had lost a good portion of our things.  But, it certainly taught me to be appreciative for what I do have and I know that I am still very fortunate to be on this ride and just like John Lennon said, “All you need is love.”  And I always have God’s love.

In His Adventure,

Chaz Vittitow