The White Church (USA Day 46)
Here’s something I love about the TAT. Each day there seem to be places of legend, passed from cyclist to cyclist like a hot potato of insider knowledge. Those who come east tell it to those going west, and vice versa, so that tourers descend upon some point from both directions, leaving their little mark on some visitor’s book. A couple of days ago it was Cooky’s, the pie café, who serve their wares to every cyclist on the TAT by nature of the cyclists’ appetite and the lack of any other edible thing in Golden City. Today, it was something a little different.
“There’s a white church,” said Nathan, as we parted at a junction just north of Pittsburg. He’d ridden out of town with us to take some pictures and see us off in the right direction. “Head to the kitchen round the back – you can fill your water and eat whatever’s in the fridge.
Then, half an hour later, we met Ken on the road, wearing an Astana jersey, and with some seriously impressive calves. “Check out the Lutheran church down the road,” he told us. “You can’t miss it. Cyclists are always welcome there. Go round the back.”
So we spun off west and almost forgot about the church until an out-of-place spire melted over the horizon, then the tower, then rest of the whitewashed structure. There was a building at the back, so we pottered over and parked our bikes in some shade. The moment we climbed off, a voice rang out.
“I’m so glad you’re here!” A young woman, heading to her car, stopped to greet us like old friends. “Head inside, grab some food. You’re welcome to stay the night if you like!”
Inside waited a fully-stocked kitchen with coffee and cold water, and a fridge full of food plastered with post-its reading ‘Sausage gravy – help yourself!’ and ‘Watermelon – eat as much as you like!’
I’m just now realising that we forgot to have any watermelon. Heartbroken. The sausage gravy was delicious, though, and they’d left a big bag of biscuits (definitely scones) to accompany them. As we sat and ate, delighted, in walked Dolores, a retired teacher who’d been assigned the job to set up the church hall for an upcoming community lunch. She’d collected some birdhouses, two of which had belonged to her mother, and had paired each with a biblical quote featuring mentions of birds. She showed us proudly, then went back to fixing an old tablecloth with sticky tape. The church was in flux, she explained, after their pastor quit, but it looked to us like the activities under her charge were going on without a hitch.
We thanked Dolores for the biscuits and gravy, accepted her gift of some crackers from the store cupboard, signed the guestbook and continued west, once again astonished by the kindness of strangers and the strange mysticism of this trip. How can one continuous line across the USA be so full of good people and so free of bad ones?
Well, I guess we didn’t cycle through Washington D.C.
Today: 61 Miles
Total: 2006 Miles