Who wants to hear about Missouri and Kansas??


Linda and the world's largest ball of twine

I didn’t, but now I think the Midwest is awesome. After my one day of riding in the van, I was more than ready for our 83 mile ride into Lawrence, Kansas. On the way, we stopped through Kansas City, Missouri (intuitive name, right?) for a rare lunch at Chipotle. It was incredible being in an urban setting again and we all loved the atmosphere of Kansas City. It reminded me of Williamsburg in Brooklyn combined with San Francisco with its hip brick and bared metal buildings and busy but spacious metropolis.
We were told that the host at Lawrence would be a surprise and thus throughout the day we offered our guesses about our living quarters for the next three days–sports stadiums, mansions, and hotels were amongst the mix. To our incredible excitement, we arrived at the Marriott that the local Habitat had arranged for us to stay at for no cost to either of us. The next two days, both build days with the local Habitat, were packed with sleeping on beds, clean showers, the swimming pool, watching the Tour de France on cable TV, reading the complimentary Wall Street Journal, and exploring Lawrence. Lawrence is a cool little college town with a lot of awesome boutiques and restaurants, so I got my fill of Thai food and window shopping and cool coffee shops that I’d been lacking.
Building with the Lawrence Habitat was a godsend. We are rarely fortunate enough to find an affiliate that is organized and knowledgeable enough to keep us interested for the entire day, much less two. The last build site in Springfield, Illinois involved us moving around old junk in a dump that was packed with massive insects, weeds, broken glass, broken light bulbs, and years-old and rusting but filled paint cans. The flustered ReStore office assistant that was assigned to give us tasks then asked if we wouldn’t mind cleaning the company truck that he and his fellow workers had trashed with old food, dirt, broken tools and spit jars. In Lawrence, we were assigned to all help build one woman’s house, who was also there working alongside us. We all had various jobs, and my project for the next two days was to work on the trim around the window, which involved making proper measurements to the sixteenth of an inch, measuring and cutting boards, leveling and nailing them in and finally caulking the creases. I learned a lot from Mark, who had been the former Director of Construction and who led me through the work, and the rest of the Habitat crew led us through the frame of the house and explained a little bit about the homeowner selection process and showed us their innovative and above-ground tornado shelter. We were sad to leave the hotel and Lawrence Habitat but alas, the trip must go on.
A lot of my preconceived notions of the Midwest involved envisioning a lot of right-wing ideas and such being constantly shoved down our throats. My own ignorance helped me to be pleased to see the contrary, though we do come upon the occasional pro-life billboard. Last night, we stayed at a Catholic high school in Beloit, Kansas where the girls slept in a math classroom that had two scathingly pro-life flyers taped on the whiteboard. A leader brought up a good point that even if our hosts thought differently from us on major issues (though you would never bring that up at the dinner table) they are extending their hospitality and generosity regardless. They’re caring people just as we are! Who could have thought? Moving on…
Today was an eventful day into Red Cloud, Nebraska. Doesn’t it sound like a dreadfully dry and deserted place? Anyways, this is also the hometown of author Willa Cather–but let’s be honest, nobody really knows who that is or why she’s important. We had an incredible swim early on at a beautiful lake then rode through Cawker City, Kansas which is home to the WORLD’S LARGEST BALL OF TWINE! A sweet woman named Linda saw some of us biking through earlier and brought her roll of twine for us to add onto the ball. She told us about the history of the ball: a farmer had a bunch of hay and started rolling up the twine he had from the hay into a ball. Eventually the ball got too big to fit in just a bucket and his neighbors brought over their twine and it got so big that he brought it into town and left it there. Like,what? We also went to the geographic center of the 48 contiguous states of America, which was a cool landmark. Now, we’re sleeping outside at a park in Red Cloud because apparently the church didn’t have space for us inside. That’s just as well since we’ve all been itching to “camp out.” All in all, the Midwest is beautiful, welcoming, and awesome–everything¬† I didn’t expect.



Sunset in Red Cloud, NE




Free Olive Garden from a host!




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