How to Eat an Elephant

September 26, 2014 • United States
How to Eat an Elephant

To celebrate turning 30, a man decided to ride his bicycle across the U.S. in 30 days to raise funds for Samaritan’s Purse

Brittney Clark works at Samaritan’s Purse international headquarters as a connection coordinator in the donor ministries department. She and her husband, Jacob, wrote a blog about his bicycle trip across the U.S. to raise money for international relief.

Jacob: I bought a one-way ticket for August 28 to San Diego, California. I will turn 30 on October 2, and to celebrate, I want to bicycle around 100 miles per day for 30 days. In San Diego, I will take my bicycle box off the conveyor belt and assemble my two-wheeled machine on the airport sidewalk. Then I’ll head home, reaching the Atlantic Ocean by my birthday.

Brittney: Jacob has decided to use this trip for something bigger than himself. He’ll be raising money for the work being done by Samaritan’s Purse around the world. Jacob and I decided to direct funds to International Relief, which is where your gift will go if you decide to support his bike ride.

How to Eat an Elephant

Through Arizona, Jacob had to start riding before sunrise each morning to avoid the hottest part of the day.

We’d both appreciate your prayers for the first few days, which Jacob estimates will be his hardest. He will have some of his biggest climbs (two days of 8,000 feet elevation gain), as well as going through the Mojave Desert. On top of that, there’s a record-breaking heat wave scheduled for the area. We were checking the temperatures of some of the towns he’ll be going through, and he’s got several days of riding in more than 110 degree heat.

Last night, we grabbed some additional items that we hope will make his ride a little less miserable, like a towel that somehow gets cold when it’s wet and some UV blocking sleeves to cover his arms. He’s still got everything that he’ll need packed into two little bags.

Jacob: Riding across the U.S. is a bit like eating a elephant. It must be done slowly, carefully, and one bite at a time. I’m taking this trip one day at a time. My daily log (partially reported from Brittney) is below.

Daily Log

Day 1

Brittney: I dropped Jacob off at the Raleigh airport just before 6 a.m. One of our friends graciously made some calls and found Jacob a first-class ticket all the way to San Diego. It might be the last taste of luxury he has for a while.

He arrived in California just before 1 p.m. and put his bike together. He then rode to Newport Beach to put his wheel in the Pacific, which he said was the best part of his day. Afterward, he rode 45 miles through California before stopping for the night.

Day 3

Brittney: Day three was almost 100 miles, and all of it was on Interstate 10. There isn’t much out there. The first rest stop he came to was closed, so he went 60 miles with no break in the hot sun. Once he finally made it to a rest stop, the only thing they had was a water fountain filled with hot water. There was no food.

How to Eat an Elephant

At this stop, a man wearing cowboy boots and spurs told Jacob he was “a tough sucker” because of the heat.

He filled up his water bottles and was lying on a picnic table when a man came over to check on him. The man was training for an Ironman Triathlon, so he knew what Jacob was going through. He and his family were driving from California to Phoenix and had a cooler of drinks in their car.

He gave Jacob a Gatorade and an ice-cold Cherry Coke, which Jacob said got him through the remaining 40 miles of the ride. This was so encouraging for me because I had prayed specifically that morning that the Lord would put someone in Jacob’s path to encourage him and watch over him, and He did.

Jacob:[The man who helped me] was a great reminder not to worry. If I simply put weight into God being who He says He is, then He will always provide. It may not be how I expect, but He always provides. He promises to always provide. We just have to live like we believe it.

Day 4

Brittney: Jacob made it to Arizona, where he stopped in a town with only one hotel. It was totally booked (even though it was in the middle of nowhere) because apparently it’s dove season. Because all the rooms were filled, the hotel manager let him sleep on a deck chair out by the pool and the chicken coop. Jacob said that with all the people in for dove season, he didn’t get much sleep.

Day 5

Brittney: After leaving the hotel, Jacob rode to Phoenix, where he stayed with our friend Dave’s parents. They treated him to a comfortable bed and a big, delicious dinner.

Day 7

Brittney: Jacob said today was the hardest day yet, but he also felt like it was a “momentum swing” for him. For the first time, he felt like he might actually meet his goal of finishing this ride on schedule, which was a morale boost for him.

How to Eat an Elephant

For miles through Arizona, there was nothing behind Jacob and nothing in front of him.

He will be riding through some isolated areas in the next couple of days and mentioned he may be out of cellphone range. At least the heat is becoming less of an issue, which means he doesn’t have to start before the sun comes up each day. That’s great because it’s much safer for motorists to be able to see him on the side of the road.

Jacob: The first week of this trip has been an adjustment phase. Going from cycling in Boone, North Carolina, when I had time, at 65 degrees, to spending nine to 10 hours on my bike seat in 113-degree temperatures through Southern California and Arizona has been a change.

Day 8

Jacob: Climbing up from the desert to the plateaus of New Mexico, the temperatures plunged again. In the mornings, it was high 50s with drizzling wet conditions. New Mexico has some beautiful sections, but a lot of open road led “my thoughts to start eating my other thoughts,” as my friend Alinna put it.

Day 12

Jacob: After New Mexico, I planned on going through Texas at the skinniest point as a mental boost. The two days in Texas were encouraging. It was a lot of drop in elevation, and it was nice to see communities and people out working the land.

How to Eat an Elephant

While traveling through Georgia, Brittney saw Jacob riding. She took the opportunity to take a few photos.

I spent one night in Texas. It was one of my longest days. With no place to stay, I kept on going to the next small town, and then the next, until I found a small inn. When the guy asked why I was riding, I told him I was raising money for a non-profit in my hometown called Samaritan’s Purse. He said he knew it because he gets a newsletter every month from them and proceeded to charge me only half the rate!

Day 14

Jacob: I knew Lawton, Oklahoma, was going to be a turning point for me on this trip. When planning and looking at terrain maps, the U.S. seems to go from desolate to green and lush at Lawton.

Day 16

Jacob: The closer I get to the Mississippi Delta, the closer to home it feels. Tomorrow I hope to get to Arkansas. Arkansas shares a border with Tennessee, which is basically home.

Some expected difficulties of the second half of the trip are physical and weather. The land is greener as a result of more rain. Rain can lead to miserable cycling and safety issues with being seen. Physically, my knees are wearing out quicker than I thought they would.

How to Eat an Elephant

Jacob finished his ride on Sept. 23 in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. At that point, he had raised $3,000 for international relief.

When you attempt a long distance physical activity, you go through deficits in your diet such as vitamins, calories, and protein. These deficits can lead to changes in your mood and outlook. Maintaining a positive outlook requires you to recognize this difficulty and actively work on keeping the right perspective.

Thank you for your prayers and support. It’s so appreciated.

Editor’s Note: Jacob quit blogging after Day 16 but still posted progress reports on Facebook. He made it to Arkansas on September 14 and crossed into Mississippi on Day 20. He crossed the Alabama state line on September 17 and took a day of rest. On September 19, he started his journey through Georgia and made it into South Carolina on September 21.

He decided to push for the Atlantic Ocean on September 23, finishing his ride with a 125-mile day and more than week ahead of his intended schedule.

A final note from Jacob: I feel like we as believers in Jesus can and should live life as some of the freest and most genuinely joyful and giving individuals. If I let my mind wander to the things that make me feel alive, I trust that God will take care of every aspect of my life. In that trust, I bring him Glory. I want to honor God by living the fullest life that I can and seeing facets of Him in every new experience. Of course balance is important in life, but if I err, I want to err on the side of my deprivation and in His abundance.