Sunday, August 5, 2012

Bike Hike 2012

One week ago today, I was pulling out of the church parking lot, in a five car caravan, heading for Idaho and the annual middle school "Bike Hike 2012" as the lead cook, a role I had about three days to prepare for!  Fortunately, Kailyn was my able assistant - a veteran Bike Hiker, and she was up for the job.

Kids milling around the loaded bike trailer, waiting for the signal to "load up".
The "Llama" trailer, filled with stoves, cooking utensils and food, aka - my kitchen!
Loading the kids sleeping bags and clothing in the trailer.
One side of my car, courtesy of the kids.
The passenger side of my van . . .
The back of my van, and the reason for about 50 honks on our 1,038 miles,
something I never quite got used to!
We headed straight for the car wash Saturday night after unloading!
The heart of my kitchen included the monster grill in the center,
flanked by two burner stoves on either side.
You can see our portable sink just to the left.
Our one set of electrical outlets was on the outside of the restrooms,
and became our coffe area and charging station!

What our tables looked like before we got to the store to purchase cleaner!
We spent one afternoon cleaning our four large tables and the sink.
We have no idea the last time that chore was done, but certainly not before camp!
The kids, just behind the kitchen area, getting ready to leave for one of their bike hikes.
This little guy hung out in our kitchen area!  He was fun to watch!
Volunteer kitchen crew, flipping tortillas for taco/burrito lunch.
Frequent helpers in the kitchen.  They made kitchen duty a lot of fun,
and I was grateful for their willingness to help at nearly every meal!
There were others as well that I unfortunately didn't get photos of. 

My girl, cleaning the sink after dish washing duty!
While we had "running" cold water, it drained into a large bucket
that needed to be emptied numerous times a day.
Thank goodness for middle school boys!
 The kitchen work was never ending.  When I first looked at our schedule I thought we'd have a fair amount of time to take in a hike or relax with a book.  It never happened!  We were kept busy from about 6:45 am until after the evening program and snack at 10:00 pm.  Middle schoolers are like the Energizer Bunny ~ they keep going and going and going!  They usually were forced to their tents around 11 pm.  After the first night, Kailyn volunteered to stay up and put away the food after their snacks, and sent me off to bed around 10:30, which I greatly appreciated!

A typical day for Kailyn and I began with a 6 am drive to the showers (about 10 minutes away) and starting our three big pots of water heating by 6:45.  We used the heated water in three warming pans, to keep food hot as we cooked for each meal.  We also heated water for the kids to have hot cocoa in the morning and evening.  The water was usually still hot enough to use for washing and rinsing the pots and pans during clean up.

We cooked!  We made sausage, bacon, pancakes, breakfast burritos, oatmeal, and scrambled eggs for breakfasts.  After breakfast clean up (there was always a crew of kids assigned to help, which was wonderful) we'd set out all the lunch makings: meats, cheeses, fruit, peanut butter/jelly, chips, cookies, etc.  The kids would pack their own lunches most days, although twice we cooked hot lunches for them in camp.

Once the kids left camp for the day, Kailyn and I would finish clean up, do the prep for the next meal, and then drive to the nearest grocery store (20+ miles) or Costco (25 miles), shop, then back. Our shopping trips usually took up most of our "free time".  :-)

Prior to cooking each meal, we would heat water in the three big pots, as we did for breakfast.  We got into the habit of filling them with water whenever we weren't using them to cook in.  After the first couple days, we figured out we could use the largest of the warming tray bottoms to do our dishes.  The kids dried.

We fed them lots of fresh fruits and veggies, and needed ice daily.  It seemed like we were either cooking, prepping, cleaning, driving or grocery shopping all day long! We cooked chicken teriyaki, with rice and tons of stir fried vegetables, spaghetti and meatballs, hamburgers & hotdogs.  It was a continual challenge to cook for 35, trying to anticipate servings, and plan so that everyone was satisfied, but not much was left over.  Over all, we did a pretty good job for our first time as camp cooks.  We left Vancouver with four huge coolers packed with perishable food, and at least 15 big green crates filled with cooking pots and pans, utensils and non perishable food.  We returned on Sunday with one cooler full of water bottles on ice (for the ride home) and one cooler with the perishables.  We had 4 crates of leftovers, mostly snacks and paper products, and two crates with kitchen utensils, etc.

Two of the afternoons Kailyn and I met up with the kids and went to Sandpoint, Idaho.  We visited an airplane factory, which was very interesting.  They built small planes that were able to land and take off in small areas, and they were gorgeous!  It was fascinating to see the process from start to finish, all in one large building.  The guide told us it takes about 90 days to complete an airplane.

 Two of the very classy finished planes.  

On Thursday, the kids biked to Sandpoint, and we met them at a park.  There was a miniature Statue of Liberty on a pier.  One of the leaders offered to take our picture!

 Later that evening, after the kids ate their "sack dinner" and were given some free time to explore Sandpoint, the adults went to a neat little Italian restaurant.  It was pretty nice to get the night off from cooking and be pampered a little!
Kailyn and I went ahead and held the table while the adult and student leaders
walked the students from the park into town and gave them directions
on where they were allowed to explore! (And where and when we would meet!)

Our view on the restaurant terrace.
Kailyn snapped this sunset photo on our drive back to camp that evening.
I ran out of energy and/or time and neglected to take any more photos at camp.  It was a ton of work, much more than I anticipated, but also a lot of fun. When we volunteered for this job, I only knew one of the middle school kids, two of the student leaders (interns), and the youth pastor, barely.  Kailyn knew a lot more of them, but not all.

Over the course of the week, I got to know many of the kids through their willingness to volunteer in the kitchen, and listening to them share about their lives during the evening program time.  Over and over I was reminded of how unique each individual is, kids and adults, and how important connections are for us in our daily lives.  There were some broken and troubled kids, who stood out, and my heart swelled as I watched from the sidelines as my daughter sought to connect with those kids, not to preach or teach, but just sit next to them while they made a friendship bracelet or some other craft. She was never "off duty". Although it wasn't expected of her to participate, she knew several kids from when she was an intern when they were younger.  It was obvious that they loved her and wanted to be around her.

My role was chief cook and nourisher ~ I wasn't a teacher, or a leader ~ which allowed me to be an observer (when I wasn't sweating over a hot pot!) something I rarely get the opportunity to do.  I thought a lot about past students, and future students, and building relationships.  I thought about trust, and acceptance, and tolerance.  I was moved to tears numerous times over the course of the week.

Despite the dirt, the heavy lifting, the work, the miserable sleeping conditions, (the air mattress didn't help, and it was quite cold at night!) the aches and pains and discomfort . . . I loved the camp and truly felt God's presence in that place.  It was breathtakingly beautiful.  Each night when I'd wearily climb the short slope to my van at the end of the day, I'd look up at the vastness of the open sky, and the millions of stars and be humbled, yet grateful to be there.

I wish I'd taken more pictures.  We had this huge group camping area to ourselves and it was heavenly. There was plenty of room for the kids to spread out and explore.

It was a fulfilling way to spend a week of my summer vacation.  I wouldn't have necessarily wanted to do this, and probably wouldn't have volunteered previously, except I felt called to this emergency (and  Kailyn keeps saying it would be fun to do it again!)

Everyone was so grateful! Kids and adults thanked us after every meal, and would randomly drop by and tell us "Thanks for cooking for us!" We felt needed, wanted and appreciated.

Would I do this again?  Maybe . . .


  1. I don't know Sandi, it sounded like quite an adventure. Hard work though. I would have liked to help with that as I'm good in the kitchen but really don't like being in one, LOL!!
    I will be wondering if you enjoyed the experience enough to do it again! Love Di ♥

  2. It sounds like lots of fun even with the hard work. You got some wonderful pictures.

  3. Thanks for coming to my blog – we have been traveling so I am quite behind reading blogs. I enjoyed your trip to the flea market. Even though our house is totally full I still like to go to flea markets and will go to the big one next week south of Atlanta – it is like two huge Target stores or Home Depot size and more outside. You must have been quite busy on your trip but it was fun too. I love that last picture of the sunset.

  4. What an incredible amount of work this was! And thanks for taking the time to write this post and share the pictures you took. It does look like it was the adventure of a lifetime. I don't know if I would want to do this twice! :-)

  5. I've been wondering how your week was going. I loved seeing all your photos. You are one brave lady. That is all I have to say about this adventure. I did these things when I was younger, and it was fun, but I don't know that I have the stamina to do it now. You rock girl!

    How did you sleep? Did you tent? I think I remember that you were going to sleep in the back of the van. How did that go? I am afraid. I wouldn't be able to move in the morning if I did that.

    Really, you are not only brave, but you answered the call. That is something to be proud of. Your daughter will remember this time with you in years to come. Times like this are precious.

  6. How fun. I always remember camp fondly. Those kids will remember this well into adulthood. What a great way for you to spend a portion of your summer.

  7. If you had the assignment of writing "What I did on my summer vacation", you'd need about 10 notebooks to get it all done! Wow, what a challenge but you did a super job of helping those kiddos have a good experience. The "fishes and and loaves" shows the importance of nourishment of body and spirit. Sounds like everyone got both on your week. Thanks for sharing!

  8. What a touching story, Sandi. I loved every word. Glad you had such a good time with the kids, and they were right to thank you.

  9. You can only do this if you really like kids and only when the kids are as pleasant a bunch as this lot. All the hard work wouldn't be worth it otherwise.

    It sounds as if you got quite a lot out of the week yourself.

  10. Simply wonderful Sandi- what a marvellous expedition- you are all having a memorable family summer which is great to see- I hope my family holiday to Wales next week is half as good as your camping ;-)

  11. Fantastic Sandi. I really don't think I would have had the stamina, but you're right that appreciation goes a long way to spurring you on. Even I appreciate what you and Kailyn did for these kids. Heartfelt applause from me.xx

  12. Dear Sandi, what an adventure you had--one that requires a lot of work and effort but seems also to have rewarded you with good memories and realizations that might be useful when you start teaching again this fall. What a love you were to offer to do this. Peace.

  13. My goodness, you've been busy and having fun. Sounds like it was a great adventure.

  14. Wow, that would be too much work for me, but it does sound like fun to hang out with the kids in the wilderness. Now we only go camping in the RV...complete with AC and a comfy bed. Good for you for taking on such a big job on your vacation. Are you counting the days before you have to go back to work?

  15. A lovely post. It sounds as though you gave much but also got a lot in return.

  16. A Bike Hike sounds like a lot of fun, just as long as there wasn't a lot of biking and hiking involved. (LOL?)


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