Cycle Across America Archive

A Blast From Two Pasts

Posted April 24, 2017 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

I drove Dillon across the bridge on US 41 south into Henderson, Kentucky as memories played in my mind. Four short years ago I’d ridden into the town on the Ohio River during the Road to Freedom Tour. It had been a place like no other.

But I was headed to a nearby town to the south to pick up chicken so I could not stay. I finally found my shipper in the middle of nowhere. I parked and headed in to the shipping office. No one was sitting at the desk behind the window. As instructed by the handwritten sign on the wall, I rang the bell.

A man came out of the back office and told me to back into door 7. A few moments later, a young lady with a pink high visibility vest came out and approached my truck. I climbed down as she asked me to unhook one of my air lines (they place a lock on it to ensure the trailer cannot move while workers are inside).

She looked at me for an awkward moment and finally said, “I know you.”

“Really? I’m not from around here.”

Her eyes widened, “You’re the Bicycle Lady!!”

I took my first good look at her. “Oh my goodness. You’re Charlotte! But how did you recognize me?”

“Your voice. I’d know it anywhere!”

For the next fifteen minutes Charlotte told me how she’d left her abusive husband, moved and started a new life. She thanked me a dozen times for wheeling into her neighborhood on a bicycle in 2013. That had given her the courage to take back control of her life and get out of a bad situation.

They loaded me in no time and after hugging goodbye, I was back on the road and headed toward coastal Georgia. I’d been on the road since early morning and wasn’t able to make it too far before having to shut down for the night only sixty miles away.

The mom and pop truck stop was empty so I opted to go there rather than the two crowded national brand truck stops. I meandered inside hoping I could talk them into making me a vegetarian pizza. The lady behind the counter eyed me strangely as she waited on other customers.

One man kept getting in my face. No matter where I moved or turned, he followed me and continued to get in my face. I returned to my truck until I saw him leave the parking lot. As soon as I walked back in, the lady behind the counter asked if she could help me.

I told her my request and her eyes opened wide.

“I know you! You’re the Bicycle Lady! I’d know that voice anywhere!”

“I know you, too Joanne!”

Joanne was yet another woman I’d met along the Road to Freedom Tour. She’d been working at a restaurant at the time. We’d met the one night I spent in her town. Joanne had bruises on her face and a broken hand. Today she looked radiant.

“That man I was with is in jail. I realized that if you could ride your bike all over America to tell your story, I could tell mine too. I filed charges against him and he’s been in jail ever since. My kids and I are safe. I’m the manager of this place and my life is back on track.”

She gave me my vegetarian pizza on the house and we spent the next hour talking like old friends. I finally said goodnight and as I climbed back in Dillon, I realized that God was orchestrating things for quite some time.

In 1993 I battled cancer that left me with partial vocal paralysis. My scruffily voice is quite unique. Because I used to sing, I HATED when my voice was compromised. But at that moment sitting in my truck thinking about Charlotte, Joanne and the thousands of women I’d met on my bike trip, I was grateful for it. Years after we’d met and I pedaled away, these women recognized me again because of my weird, gravelly voice.

God knew. He knew each of those women needed help and that I would answer the call. He knew I’d run into them again the other day and would be blessed to see how far they’d come. And He knew we would have to have some form of identification. After all, we were all on new adventures.

As I settled in for a peaceful night’s sleep, I thanked God for my strange voice. I thanked Him that out of all the millions of women on earth, He chose me to take the Road to Freedom Tour. I thanked Him for my weird, unique voice that suddenly sounded angelic.

Somewhere in the night my memories turned into dreams in the hills of Kentucky, two pasts having converged into an amazing present.


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Tribute to the Godmother of Cyclo-Touring

Posted October 18, 2013 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

Dakota, Bob (my new trailer) and I set out on a shake down ride of sorts today. I met BiknJeanne Hargrave for one final ride before I set off again for parts unknown on the Road to Freedom Tour.

Dakota and Bob

Dakota and Bob

We reminesced about our tours together. She is responsible to getting me into touring in the first place. After two nasty crashes three weeks apart while riding a ill-fitted road bike, Jeanne suggested I try touring. She really thought I’d like it. She even offered to loan me gear to go on a tour.

We drove to Indiana and spend a week riding around the hills, camping and seeing the country the best way possible: on the back of a bicycle. When I loaded the panniers she loaned me for the trip, put the on the bike and started out, I only had one thing to say: I was born for this!

Jeanne taught me everything I know about touring. I watched and listened. I asked a ton of questions. I’m sure she got tired of answering them but she never let on. I am riding the Road to Freedom Tour today because Jeanne took the time and energy to introduce me to cyclo-touring. 

BiknJeanne and me putting Dakota back together after shipping.

BiknJeanne and me putting Dakota back together after shipping.

My custom-built Waterford touring bicycle was Jeanne’s recommendation. As I click off mile after mile, not a day goes by that I’m not grateful for her wisdom. I comfortably ride every day on a bike that’s made precisely to my body geometry. It’s amazing.

Yesterday we stopped at Grumpy’s for lunch and talked of plans to continue our rides. And of course, I asked her a ton more questions. I couldn’t let the opportunity pass. 

The Godmother-BiknJeanne Hargrave and me

The Godmother-BiknJeanne Hargrave and me

There are times in a person’s life when in just being themselves, they change the world. Jeanne, or the Godmother of cyclo-touring as I like to call her, did just that. I shutter to think what my world would be like without her. The Bicycle Lady would not have appeared on Kayleedean’s front porch in the middle of an Illinois corn field. Seven year old Hazel in Tennessee would still think God was mad at her. 

As I pedal mile after mile, it is riding on the back of a tandem with Jeanne pulling the weight. If I reach more women and set them free from the fear that binds them, it is because the Godmother gave me the keys. 

The Godmother of Cyclo-Touring, Jeanne Hargrave (Sorry for stealing your photo from Facebook)

The Godmother of Cyclo-Touring, Jeanne Hargrave (Sorry for stealing your photo from Facebook)

Godspeed on your journey, BiknJeanne. May you always have the wind at your back and open road up ahead. May you always have blue skies and someone with a great stove to cook your dinner in camp after a ride with a breathtaking view. 

Thank you for making Road to Freedom Tour possible. 


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Blending into Nothing

Posted October 16, 2013 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

Yesterday was a dreary day where I am. Clouds and drizzly rain with the temperatures in the upper 60’s were hardly the perfect photo op for a postcard. So I walked three miles to a local bagel place, pulled out my I-pad mini and got lost in a book.

Geese on the bike trail on a rainy day

Geese on the bike trail on a rainy day

After a while I noticed that I was being ignored, which isn’t a bad thing if you want to be lost in a book, but it got me thinking. What if I was needing help? What if I wanted people to see me? 

So I walked home, changed into my bicycle gear, hooked up my new trailer and pedaled back down to that same restaurant. I wheeled up right in front and leaned Dakota against the window. I walked in, ordered a bagel and sat in the same seat. 

Suddenly, folks began to notice this alien in spandex. Looks turned in my direction, many of them from the same people who’d ignored me moments before. 

What's not to notice!

What’s not to notice!

It seems I came out of the wallpaper to become a conversation piece. Men and women approached me. They asked where I was headed, how hard it was to pull a trailer, why I was doing such a crazy thing.

I was invited to join a group of women who took up most of a side room. They marveled as I told them about Road to Freedom. Interestingly, many of them had walked right by me without even a nod moments before.

It’s all about the spandex. Well, and loaded panniers, bicycle trailers on a rainy day doing what anyone in their right minds would never do. 

As I said farewell and headed back out to the dreary day, one woman followed me out. She had not been with the group. I’d seen her come in and tuck away in the corner on my first visit. 

Packing up, preparing for a Sunday departure.

Packing up, preparing for a Sunday departure.

“Are you really riding your bicycle around the country helping women who have been abused?” 

Did I detect a quiver in her voice? “Of course I am.” I handed her one of my business cards. “You can follow along on my journey if you’d like.”

“How do you get people to listen?”

“I wear spandex,” I said chuckling. “Would you like for me to listen to you?”

For the next hour we sat outside in the drizzling rain as Beverly told me the story of her abuse that started as a child, and continued to this day. Just like me on my first visit, the world passes her by without even wondering whether she was hurting.

I prayed with Beverly and recommended she take the bold step of getting some help. 

Through tears, she hugged my neck and said, “You’re the only person who’s taken the time to care and listen.”

As I rode off with cold drizzle hitting my face, it was a sobering reminder that women who have been victims of assault or abuse blend into nothing. They make it a point to not be noticed, all the while secretly pining for someone–anyone–to pay attention to them.

That’s why I pour my middle-aged body into spandex, pack all my belongings onto my bicycle and ride on a rainy day. Road to Freedom continues.

Trying to figure out what to pack is tough

Trying to figure out what to pack is tough

I’m putting the final brush strokes on my book proposal to get that off to those who have requested it. Then it’s off again. My departure date will be Sunday! Where I’m going only God knows but to be sure there will be women just like Beverly who need an alien in spandex to listen, to care, and to help.

God blesses the broken road that leads me to hurting women.



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Doing the Impossible in a Day!

Posted October 10, 2013 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

On Tuesday at daybreak, I left Orlando, wiggled through the rush hour traffic safely and headed north. The ride was beautiful. That part of Florida is a mixture of newly manicured lawns and rustic old Florida. Though I prefer the latter, the man-made horticulture creations were breathtaking.

country Road on Emporia Road outside Astor

The first half of the day went as well as any cyclo-tourist dare hope for. I even had the opportunity to minister to Shantelle, a mere two days after her significant other tried to shoot her and hit the TV instead.

After fifty miles in the saddle, I left civilization behind and entered the Ocala National Forest. It’s a very remote area, usually without any cell phone coverage at all. If you do have it, it’s spotty at best.

Entering Ocala National Forest

Entering Ocala National Forest

Then the rain came. No, not a nice, mild autumn shower but the deluge that more resembled a water fall. After about five miles, I found a trail head that had one of those information kiosks. I wheeled Dakota under the narrow overhang and was grateful to have it.

Yeah, I look like a drowned rat

Yeah, I look like a drowned rat

When the rain slowed enough that I felt comfortable unpacking my phone from its waterproof pouch, I called the campground. I knew I would not make it there before it closed so I followed the instructions and called ahead for the combination to the gate. The phone clicked and on the other end I heard:

“Due to the government shutdown, we are temporarily closed. Thank you.”

Oh my. I was just thinking I’d have to pitch my tent and spend a miserable night in the rain. It never dawned on me I wouldn’t have a place to do it. I was stumped. Being waterlogged didn’t help my problem solving attempts.

I knew if I kept going deeper into the forest, I’d have to ride at least forty miles more before any hope of civilization. So, I doubled back five miles and headed east. The rain had stopped and I knew I would be able to make it many more miles. 

Oh, silly me. Turns out the rain had just inhaled before spewing out all the water in the Atlantic Ocean… right on my head.

I stopped at a Dollar General Store. Have you ever noticed they don’t have overhangs on their buildings anywhere other than right in front of the door? Me either. Standing there just got me wetter so I finally pushed on.

Astora Motel. Yes the Old car is still there!

Astora Motel. Yes the Old car is still there!

I came to the grated draw bridge over the St. Johns River in Astor Florida. Its never a good idea to ride over steel grating on a bicycle but in the rain is out of the question. So, I dismounted and walked Dakota, praying that I would not have a reason to look down.

On the other side of the river I found a family owned campground and next to it, an “Absolutely No Frills at All” Astora Motel. They had one room left. I was wet, cold and hungry, so I checked in and walked my bike to the last room on the far end: #6. (told you it was small).

After a good night’s sleep knowing the gecko in the bed would eat any spiders that tried to get between the sheets, I packed up and was ready to hit the road at daylight. My shortened day Wednesday made for an impossibly long day yesterday.

Where you used to go to get fresh oranges in Florida

Where you used to go to get fresh oranges in Florida

But I was able to ride 97 miles fully loaded from Astor to Jacksonville, FL. I got back to Jacksonville after dark. I’d made arrangements my friend, BiknJeanne Hargrave to meet in Green Cove Springs. She rode her bike down and we rode to Orange Park together. By the time we got to her house, darkness had fallen so she drove me the last six miles to Jacksonville.

Fighting a Fierce Headwind!

Fighting a Fierce Headwind!

There are times in all our lives when we feel we won’t be able to do something. We feel there are no solutions or that our circumstances render us helpless. I learned through the last two days that it’s not over ’til it’s over and there is always a way. Somehow, someway there is a solution if you just keep pedaling.

Each of us has within us the ability to resolve any dilemma if we just dig down and pull up what’s within us. We really can do the impossible, with nothing if need be.


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Shining Out of Darkness

Posted October 9, 2013 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

Yesterday I left Orlando just as the sun was coming up and maneuvered Dakota through rush hour traffic. By 9:00am I was in historic Mt. Dora. I’ve been to this quaint little town dozens of times, but never on a bike and apparently never down particular streets. 

Found a Crazy Old Pan Am Plane on my ride. "Coffee or Tea?"

Found a Crazy Old Pan Am Plane on my ride. “Coffee or Tea?”

I noticed that homes began to look a bit run down and people on porches stopped to stare in my direction. Then I realized I might be in the wrong neighborhood when I saw a console TV sitting at the street with a bullet hole through the tube. 

My natural tendency was to pedal out of that neighborhood as fast as I could, but there was a woman on the front porch. What’s more, she looked she hadn’t slept in days. So I did what anyone would do. I stopped and waved to her. 

She waved back and gave me permission to approach when I asked. When I pushed Dakota closer to the house, I realized she had a little baby asleep in the chair beside her.

I told her I’d noticed the TV and how sad she looked and asked if there was anything I could do to help her. She balked at first but then realized she had a listening ear so she began to tell me about “baby daddy”.

Dakota found a place on the lake in Umatilla, FL

Dakota found a place on the lake in Umatilla, FL

For years he’d beat up on her and Shantrelle has taken it. But three days ago, he went after the baby. She launched out at him like a mama bear. He pulled out a gun and fired at her. He missed and killed the TV. Fortunately, the gun only had one bullet in it or he would have finished what he started.

I asked her where the shooter was now. 

“In Jail. Somebody called the law. What am I going to do? If he can’t work, I don’t have money to feed the baby.”

Like so many abused women, Shantrelle felt stuck. She felt she had to stay in the presence of a man who beats her mercilessly in order to get a few pennies to buy baby formula. 

Unfortunately, she was unwilling to leave and go to a shelter even though I offered to make the call. She did take my information though, as well as the number for the domestic abuse hotline. As I turned to leave, Shantrelle called to me and said, “God sent you to me today, didn’t He?”

“Yes, He did.”

As I mounted Dakota and pedaled out of her yard, her face was shining out of darkness in my mirror and somehow I knew her life would change. The seed I planted would grown and produce freedom fruit in Shantrelle’s life. In a not too distant future, she will be a free woman.

You just never know what could be shining out of the darkness along the Road to Freedom.

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So Why Are You So Passionate About Your Tour?

Posted October 8, 2013 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

Early yesterday morning, I hugged my great friend and author, Roxanne Sherwood Gray, goodbye and Dakota and I pedaled off into the morning mist. I wound my way into Orlando through a series of roads and trails. 

Saying Goodbye to Friend and Author, Roxanne Sherwood Gray

Saying Goodbye to Friend and Author, Roxanne Sherwood Gray

At one place on the Cady Way Trail, two men road toward me on bikes of their own. Suddenly, one of them stopped and asked me to stop as well. He said he wanted to talk to me about what I was doing. His friend rode on while Don began asking all sorts of questions about why I was out on a bicycle alone fully loaded with gear.

Don wanted more information so I invited him to join me for lunch. I’d already planned to stop by a local eatery and visit one of my favorite waitresses, Donna. I didn’t expect him to but Don showed up right on time.

Lake Baldwin at Baldwin Park

Lake Baldwin at Baldwin Park

Over chips and salsa, I explained Road to Freedom to him. He was intrigued and asked if he could ride with me. He offered to show me a less congested route through Orlando. When ominous clouds opened up and dumped on us, he found us refuge in a city park.

We sat on picnic tables as he asked question after question. He just couldn’t figure out why I was so passionate about Road to Freedom and the women I serve. I tried the best I could to explain it but, in all honesty, I don’t quite understand it my self. All I know is those women are suffering and I must go to them. 

When the rain finally stopped, we said out goodbyes and headed off in different directions. I turned, and rode, backtracked and improvised my way through heavy Orlando traffic. A second wave of storms roared through. I stopped put on my Burley rain gear and pedaled on, grateful for my 100% waterproof panniers.

Up in the distance I saw a woman walking with a small child in tow. Neither she nor the child had any protection against the storm. I rode up to her got off Dakota, took off my raincoat and put it over the child. It drug the ground. Through the raging storm, I asked her where she was going. Fortunately, they were going to where she worked, right up the street. 

Weeping Willows at Baldwin Park Before the Rains Hit

Weeping Willows at Baldwin Park Before the Rains Hit

I asked her if I could sit the child on my bike, and offered to push him to her place of employment. She almost melted in gratitude. I zipped up the rain gear around his ears, hoisted him to Dakota’s seat and off we went. When we finally got to the store where she worked, I pulled out my camp towel from my pannier and dried her son off, then handed the towel to her.

As she wiped away what raindrops she could, she asked me what I was doing on the road in the rain. When I told her about Road to Freedom, she told me how she and her son escaped domestic violence at the hands of the child’s father. Things are unbearably difficult for her but it was better than the abuse.

I told her I was out there to help her…to give her the courage to keep moving forward in spite o

Helga’s Life… In Her Own Words

Posted October 6, 2013 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

Yesterday I paid tribute to a wonderful lady, Helga Gish, who I met on the Road to Freedom Tour. I was instantly drawn to her and her stories of growing up in Germany during the war. She passed away this past week. 

Helga Gish and me... new buds

Helga Gish and me… new buds

Today, I thought I would give you a glimpse of Helga’s life in her own words. While words alone do not capture her precious spirit, my hope is that you will be introduced to the wonderful woman who blessed my life in such a special–albeit brief–way. Here are only a few of her stories:


My Life During the War
Helga Gish
 I was born in Berlin Germany, just before Hitler became the ruler. When I was 10 the war broke out and I lived through it. The first things I remember was the Gas Mask we all had to have and keep handy in case of an air-raid. The first time September 1939 when the bombs fell in our neighborhood, I lived in the basement apartment with my grandparents. My grandfather raised the shade after we turned out the lights and showed us the bomber in a big spot light. The Germans were shooting at the plane, we saw and heard the bombs coming down. All the houses were 4 stories high and most of them were on fire. All our windows blew out, glass was everywhere. After the sirens let us know the alarm was over with we walked through the street and helped the people carry water buckets to help put out the fires. After that air-raid we went to the regular bomb-shelter. It had bricked up walls and metal doors and heavy beams supporting the ceiling and walls.
The next few years we didn’t get much sleep. I went to school and often had to go to a bomb-shelter during that time. Once I had to walk 3 hours to get home from the business school after a big raid on the downtown area and the government buildings. The whole town stood still, nothing worked, no transportation, no telephones, and no electricity. I was worried that our home was hit too, but as our house came into sight I saw my grandmother look out of the window waiting for me. Then we both cried. We didn’t have much to eat, the ration tickets were barely enough. We had friends with a big garden out in the country and they sold us vegetables and fruit. I didn’t get to eat any chocolate. My aunt had two children and she made candy sometimes and gave me some. She got more rations for the kids. The war lasted 5 years. We were not allowed to listen to foreign speaking radio stations and I tuned into the BBC once by accident and my granddad explained to me the danger. Someone could hear us listening and turn us in, and the Nazi would pick up us and take us to a concentration camp. One night I listened and heard the BBC say this is the British Broadcasting Company calling Germany. I knew then that I liked the English language and tried to copy what they said. I could not understand what they were talking about, so I turned it off. I really didn’t want to get in trouble either and I knew to obey my grandparents. My mom was dead and my dad was in the service. I got a job at a magazine company. Even though we lived one day at a time I can think back on some good times too. My grandparents took me to the Theaters, movies and circuses. Sometimes we would barely get home and the sirens blew and we had to go to the shelter. Most raids lasted 1-2 hours. Sometimes the bombers would come twice in one night. Then came the end of the war. We heard distant artillery for days, then it came closer and all that time we were told reserves were coming, Berlin will not be taken. When the shooting came closer we were told to seek shelter. On the last day one young German stopped at our house. He was so tired and worn out my grandmother gave him a bowl of soup. He wanted to stay but the people in our apartment house wouldn’t let him because of fear that if the German Gestapo caught him, they would have shot him and punished all of us too. Had the Russians found him it would have even been worse. They would have burned out house down and killed all of us. This soldier got killed a block away and was thrown in a mass grave. it was dangerous to get on the street because snipers were shooting at everybody in sight. My grandmother and neighbor heard that the bakery around the corner was selling the last breads, so they ran there, I had strict orders to stay put. I heard bombs falling and got real scared and my neighbor came to tell me she couldn’t find my grandmother. The bakery was hit and she ran home. So I ran to the bakery to find her, I looked everywhere and checked the wounded people and ask if they saw my grandma. Then I heard a shaky voice saying, “Will you sell me some bread.” It was her, asking the baker. She saw me and fussed at me all the way home with her bread in her arms.
That night we heard the tanks roll in and the Russian language outside of our shelter. We hung out a white flag letting them know that we surrendered. They came in and made all the men come outside. They looted and robbed us all, gold watches were their favorites. They also raped women and children. I was spared by the grace of God and my grandmother. When we were told to go back to our apartments she kept me in the shelter for 2 long weeks. She knew the Russians wouldn’t look for anybody there. They came to the apartments looting. We thought we were safe and she let me come home. That afternoon a truck full of soldiers stopped and almost knocked down our door, one old soldier and a real young one came in and took a lot of things and put them on the table, then he went to our bedroom looking for more things to steal. We heard a big commotion, he was kneeling on the floor and praying to a picture on our wall. He got up and left everything and stopped the other soldiers from bothering us. My grandmother never liked that picture but loved it after that.
Food was scarce and one day I saw something I’ll never forget. A delivery wagon came along our street and the Russians jerked the driver off the wagon and killed the horse, then called for the people to come and get some meat, they came from everywhere. My grandmother too. We had never eaten horse meat before that but was glad to get it.
My grandfather was drafted toward the end of the war, he was an airplane mechanic but got sick and laid in a hospital, when the Americans took that town. So he was a prisoner until the end of the war in France. He was dismissed and walked and worked his way back to Berlin. We thought he was dead and he hoped to find us alive.
Berlin was divided into four parts, our part of town fell to the Americans occupation and that was good for me, now I could learn to speak English. The place I worked had a lot of American and Russian soldiers as customers. I wasn’t too long before I met my husband. We met each other in 1946 and were married in 1947 and came to America.
I feel sorry for any country at war and wished everyone in the world could live in peace.
 A boy my age who was my friend lived across the street from me. His dad was a strict Nazi. On the last days of the war he sent his 15 year old son out to fight with a gun. He had no training in warfare and knew nothing about fighting. They found him where he had been hiding in a bombed out house. The Russians killed him because he had a gun beside him, it was never used. He was so scared. His dad was captured by the Russians and I was glad, his wife never knew what happened to him.
Once I was in a bomb shelter at our Business school. It was hit and the police made everyone get out but left the dead. A girlfriend and I were in a sealed off supply room with tools, water and sand behind a steel door. We felt the direct hit from the bomb and just stayed there thinking we were safe until we smelled smoke. Nobody was left in there and the door to the outside was shut tight. We saw a place on the wall outlined in white paint, this indicated a way out of the shelter. We took a pick and knocked out the wall where a window had been. It was marked for the purpose of emergency exit. My friend got out first and I heard a faint crying. I was out with one foot but went back to check and sure enough it was a baby in a buggy. I took it out , handed it to my friend and we ran toward the main street where the firemen were hosing down the houses. They couldn’t believe we came out of the school basement. We gave them the baby and they made us go to a subway station up the street. I never knew what happened to that baby, mother and child must have taken shelter there. Mother must have been among the dead.
My aunt lived in the country, when the Russians came. She had small children and was washing diapers on the stove in a large pot. The Russians came in and shoved her aunt aside took a spoon and sampled some of the ingredients in the pot. Of course they spit it out right away. They took some potatoes to cook and eat. Since they were dirty they needed to clean them, these Russians had never seen a flushing toilet before and threw them into the commode and accidentally pulled the chain to flush. When their potatoes disappeared they shot the toilet and shouted “Sabotage Sabotage” My aunt couldn’t laugh without risking her life but told all of us about it later. We all had a good laugh about that.
Now you know why I sat for hours as Helga shared these entertaining stories of growing up German during the war. Her life lives on in her stories, her memories, and her personality. We will miss you, dear Helga!
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Keep Dancing, Dear Helga

Posted October 5, 2013 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

Many of you will remember I met the most incredible woman as I passed through Henderson, Kentucky. Helga Gish came over on a boat from Germany as a war bride after World War II. I had the privilege of spending some time with her. I marveled at her stories and tried to imagine living life dancing in her shoes.

Helga Gish and me... new buds

Helga Gish and me… new buds

I injured my knee while riding from Illinois back to Henderson to connect with some courageous women. While there, I was able to sit with Helga again while she told me more stories of the homeland. The very next day, she was admitted to the hospital with complications of diabetes. 

Helga ultimately had two toes amputated and remained hospitalized or in rehab until this week. At her request, she was brought home to be in her own bed and with family as she said goodbye to life on this Earth and greeted eternity. Wednesday, dear Helga slipped the surly bonds of earth and touched the face of God.

Helga loved to dance. Her eyes twinkled as she reminisced about going to the officer’s club in Germany and dancing with the American soldiers. She could hardly wait to feel her feet move beneath her in rhythm to a Polka. There was none of the sensual dancing in today’s world, but rather a very respectful and orderly waltz. Cultured. Proper. Totally Helga.

Henderson, Kentucky, where Helga spent the last years of her life.

Henderson, Kentucky, where Helga spent the last years of her life.

I can’t see Heaven as I write this but I know her legs are moving to the praise music the Heavenly Angels are singing. No pain or blindness. She clearly sees her Lord and I bet her feet-that now have 10 toes again-haven’t stopped moving since her Eternal dance card was punched.

Some may think that Helga just danced her last dance but they would be so wrong. She’ll never stop dancing now. 

She lived her life by a simple rule: When she was given the choice to sit it our or dance, she danced! And that was her wish for others as well. Her mere presence encouraged others to dance. 

When I visited her in the hospital, I told her I needed to bust her out and we’d head across the river to the river boat to dance. She’d have to teach me the Polka. She said she’d taught many women to dance the Polka, but didn’t say she would teach me. She must have seen me try to dance before and know I’m hopelessly doomed to a life without rhythm.

Keep Dancing, Dear Helga!

Keep Dancing, Dear Helga!

Helga will be missed here on Earth but on the other side, they’ve been waiting for her to come and dance. To have her join them around the throne as they sing praises and dance the Heavenly dance. 

Keep dancing, dear Helga, until we greet you again. Thank you for teaching us how to dance in life, even if our feet don’t leave the floor.

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Packing Up, Ready to Roll!

Posted October 3, 2013 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

The long-awaited day of departure for the next segment of the Road to Freedom Tour is less than 24 hours away. I’ll be taking to the roads again on Friday, October 3rd. I’ll be heading south to Central Florida for a few days, then back north before heading generally west.

On the road again, just can't wait to get on the road again.

On the road again, just can’t wait to get on the road again.

Many of you have emailed and texted me, wondering how my knee is feeling. it’s doing very, very well. I’m riding normal daily distances now with no pain at all. I was expecting surgery and extensive rehab but here I am walking miles around town and riding dozens of miles a day on Dakota.

BiknJeanne Hargrave, my cyclo-touring mentor, and I caught up with old friends yesterday to cruise a 30 mile ride on a local rail trail. After navigating the heavy urban traffic for several days, I was elated to see chickens running around at the trail head. A ride through the countryside was just want I needed!

I know why the chicken crossed the road, but why did they come to the bike trail?

I know why the chicken crossed the road, but why did they come to the bike trail?

I was able to reunite with old friends and meet new ones. Unlike professional bicycle racers, when friends get together for a ride, no two of them look the same. Their attire is different. The bicycles they ride come in all shapes, sizes and colors. But we all have a common purpose: to have fun and fellowship!

One friend I was especially grateful to see is Larry Elswick. Several years ago, Larry retired, bought a touring bike and set off to ride cross country. He went from east to west. That’s unusual. Most riders like to go west to east, thinking the wind will be at their backs. But Larry blazed the trail and made it all the way from Virginia Beach to the western shores of Oregon. 

My hero!

BiknJeanne has been such a great help to me on this leg of the journey. She completed some fine tuning on my bike that dialed things in very nicely. I’m confident Dakota will perform admirably. 

Cyclists come in all shapes and sizes but all have round tires and are ready to roll!

Cyclists come in all shapes and sizes but all have round tires and are ready to roll!

Sadly, I had to order a part for my new Bob trailer so I won’t be taking it to Central Florida. I’ll pick it up as I pass through this area next week on my way west. So, at least for this leg of the journey, I’ll travel light and use my panniers. 

Most likely, I won’t have a blog post tomorrow but don’t miss a special tribute to Helga Gish on Saturday. 

Thank you all for your support, prayers and for helping me get the word out about the Road to Freedom Tour. Thanks to you partnering with me, over 1300 women so far have found the courage to face their fear and find their freedom. Good job!

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Paying it Forward

Posted October 1, 2013 By Reba J. Hoffman, Ph.D.

If you’re been following the Road to Freedom Blog, you’ll remember  many stories about the unexpected generosity of total strangers. Such was the case today. I’d like for you meet Ed.

While preparing to resume the Road to Freedom tour, I tried to figure out something that could help prevent a re-injury of my knee as I pedal. I began researching bicycle trailers as a potential option. The reviews were overwhelmingly positive, particularly regarding the Bob Yak trailer.

Captain Ed shows me my new trailer

Captain Ed shows me my new trailer

I talked to cycling buddies and decided it could actually help minimize the strain on my healing ligament. Trouble is, they retail for $450. So, I headed to Craig’s List where I found one for $125. It was three hours away by car, or two days hard ride fully loaded on my bike. 

I had specific questions so we emailed back and forth for a few days. Finally, I was ready to at least go try it out. I was blessed when my friend, Cathy, volunteered to drive me to Savannah, GA to look at and possibly purchase this used trailer. So I made a call to Ed, the owner. 

Ed said he’d been following my blog and immediately asked how my knee was doing. When I told him it was doing great, he said he thought the trailer would help quite a bit. And he should know. In 2010, after passing the Bar Exam, he and a friend rode from Maine to Key West. He pulled the trailer for three months. 

Ed then said something I wasn’t expecting. He said he would not sell me the trailer. I was okay with that. I’d be reluctant to sell my cycling equipment. He then said the Road to Freedom was such a noble mission he wanted to donate the trailer to me and the Tour. 

Ed paying it forward!

Ed paying it forward!

So Cathy and I hit the road for the 150 mile trek to Savannah. Ed, an attorney, serves our country in the Army as a member of the JAG corps. And he is a wonderful young man. He said, “So many people helped me along my trip. I”m just paying it forward.” 

I felt like I’d known him forever, and yet, we’d only met moments before in a gas station parking lot. I suppose some people met there to deal drugs, or to hitch a ride, or just get gas and the 42 ounce fountain soda they sell for only 99 cents. But Ed was there paying it forward and I was there being blessed beyond measure.

The ride through the low country marshes of north Florida and Southern Georgia are breath taking but they fail in comparison to the beauty of a soldier, a total stranger, so eloquently and completely met the need of The Bicycle Lady and the Road to Freedom Tour. Ed made a way for the tour to continue by helping ease the strain on my recovering knee.

This is yet one more miracle that has occurred on the Road to Freedom Tour. Even though I will sleep in the undeniable peace that comes from a need being met, I have no doubt that Ed will receive the greater blessing for having set aside monetary gain and decided to be content with paying it forward.

You mean Bob is really mine?

You mean Bob is really mine?

When was the last time you either paid it forward or was blessed by someone paying it forward? Share it here.

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