At the end of a long day of cycling, John Windsor and two friends had made it to their destination in Hesston, KS. The problem was, the church where they had planned to spend the night was 20 miles away.
Unsure what to do, they sat in a grocery store and wondered where they would spend the night. And unexpectedly, in the town of just 3,700, they were celebrities.
"Everybody was just coming up, wanting to know our story," said Windsor, a Hampton native.
In a short time, they were offered a place to stay, plus a rare home-cooked meal.
Such is life when you're biking across the country.
Windsor, a 2007 St. Paul's alumnus and 2011 St. Mary's grad, left Astoria, OR on July 28, en route to Yorktown, VA. He's riding the Adventure Cycling Association's TransAmerica Trail, which takes cyclists 4,262 miles through 10 states. Windsor is using the journey as a fundraiser for the Johns Hopkins Eating Disorder Program, a cause that impacts someone close to him.
"Hopkins is so well known and after talking with them, the research they do is pretty phenomenal and the research is really kind of what brought me in," he said, speaking by phone from Melvin, KY, 600 miles from his finish line.
When his friend, St. Paul's classmate Jon Zorn of Hunt Valley, first talked about biking across the United States last year, it seemed insane. But when he called Windsor to talk about it in February, Windsor began to give it some serious thought.
"There was something about it, I really wanted to do it," he said. "I didn't have any plans after college and I thought that would be the best time to do it."
Windsor, Zorn and Australian native Raphael McGowan (who had to return to Australia mid-journey) started making plans for the summer trip.
Charity was the next thing on Windsor's mind. He had never done anything like this, but in just over two months on the road, he's raised $7,150, "which is pretty good for my first experience doing a charity of any kind," Windsor said.
Windsor has also been fortunate to be on the receiving end of plenty of charity himself along the way. He uses Google and online communities like Warm Showers to find homes and churches to spend the night. Many residents in towns along the trail are accustomed to the travelers, Windsor said. But the nicest people in the country were found in Hesston, where what could have been a night out under the stars turned into a night of new friends and warm food.
"It's just incredible seeing how generous and open these people were," he said.
Windsor has been blogging during the trip, as time, cell reception and battery power allow.
Besides being able to do good, the other gift for Windsor is the ability to see the country in a way few can experience. On two wheels, he said you get the sights, sounds and smells of 70 to 85 miles per day. And, you get to meet new friends in places most people would fly over or drive through.
"You're going at kind of a perfect speed that if I were walking it I would be bored with everything," he said. "You are making decent headway every day, but you're taking your time, you're looking at all the small towns, at all the different scenery. I wouldn't travel any other way across the US."