John and I love to bike.
We travel with two road bikes (paved surfaces) and two mountain bikes (unpaved areas). The road bikes live on top of our jeep and the mountain bikes are suspended on their own rack attached to the back of our RV.
This past July we were staying at Twin Mills RV Resort in Howe, Indiana, which is surrounded by Amish and Mennonite Farms. During our three week stay we enjoyed several bike rides in the beautiful surrounding farmland. On our final morning, July 31st we planned to bike 50 miles. What I didn’t plan on was the BIG surprise waiting for me at the END of that ride.
Our usual pre-biking routine includes scoping out various routes using Map my Ride to find smooth pavement and little traffic. Our next task is to bring in our biking bins which contain all our stuff.
Then we check The List- (Yes. We love checklists. We have them for biking, hiking, backpacking, and RV set-up.) Cannot forget the Buttonhole. Long distance biking requires this anti-chafing cream. What to wear
This particular day I chose to wear my favorite biking jersey. Across the back is written:
“Support the International FOP Association, In honor of Pat Doerr”
We created these special jerseys five years ago. In 2012 John biked 400 miles in three days to raise funds and awareness for my son Pat’s rare disease- Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progresseva.Heading out
We started biking east for two miles toward Howe, Indiana. Next, we turned south on smooth pavement for six miles into the town of LaGrange.
Because the Amish religion frowns on it’s members posing for photographs, you won’t see any faces of the individuals we biked passed, but I did manage to snatch a shot of this woman loading her cart at the Miller grocery store in LaGrange.
We turned west for fifteen miles then zig-zagged ten more miles toward our rest stop/excuse-to-savor-the-biggest-chocolate-custard-donut-ever at Rise and Roll. (Thus, negating the calories we burned biking there.)
Next, our route took us five miles to the town of Middlebury where we headed north.
Getting the chance to see life from the seat of my bike is a great shift (pun intended) from the fast-paced world of rolled-up-window-air-conditioned-don’t-hear-a-thing-car-travel. Biking through Amish country allowed me to down-shift into a happy gear; the slow-down-and-step-back-in-time-gear. Where else can you experience:
- sounds from clip-clopping horse-driven buggies
- the simplistic beauty of freshly hung amish clothing dancing in the breeze
- the beautiful absence of telephone poles and electric lines
- the aroma of fresh manure (road apples)
- dozens of smiling Amish children waving at us
Our last stop before heading back home to our coach would be seven miles up the road in Shipshewana. John and I decided we were hungry again, and propped our bikes outside the Subway in the center of town to go inside to eat.
This is where the BIG SURPRISE happened.
We ate our sandwich then hopped on our bikes to ride the five miles back to our campground. After showering and playing with the dog, I decided to check social media and was shocked to see this photo of me:
It was posted by Dorothy Hostetler.
The Facebook caption read:
“Hi everyone-Most of you don’t know me, but our daughter Heidi had FOP and passed away from a drowning 14 years ago. My niece just spotted this person in our tiny town of Shipshewana and I would love to say hi- does anyone know who this is?”
I immediately responded that it was ME!
We shared a private message- deciding to meet up at Dorothy’s home that day since John and I were leaving Indiana the next day. I drove four miles to Dorothy’s property, and met her son Tim arriving in his car. I introduced myself as a mom with a son who has FOP and Tim’s eyes lit up. He pointed to the back of the property indicating where I could find his mom.
Dorothy, who owns and runs a massive canning business, was working in their commercial kitchen. I entered the building locking eyes with Dorothy.
Then we hugged again.
Much was said in that embrace. We walked over to their home where I was introduced to Dorothy’s husband David. We shared photos of Patrick and Heidi. We shared stories. We shared tears and laughter. We shared the hope for a cure of this nasty disease. (FOP is so unique that it only affects 1 in 2 million people; there are 800 known cases in the entire world.)
That morning I had awakened clueless to the surprise friendship awaiting me after our ride.
Our rendezvous was as unlikely as FOP is rare.
Ironically, a routine biking day in Amish country shifted me into the Surprised-and-Blessed-Beyond-Belief-gear. How lucky am I?
Have you experienced a surprise encounter like the one I just described? Please share your story with us!