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September 19, 2011
FINISHED!
Thank You.

Two hours, that’s all it is taking me to fly from Adelaide to Sydney. And from my airplane window the world looks so big. The landscape keeps spreading out with only small dirt roads that cut lines into the nothingness of rural Australia.  Sprawling out, the roads look like blood veins that carry people and goods to the small towns that I fly over in only minutes. And though now those towns and individuals appear to be so distant and far apart. I know that it is not the case. While this was a solo trip I did not do it alone. So in this final blog I want to say thank you! Thank you to all the individuals and families who donated to the cause and spent time in prayer for my travels. Thank you to all the individuals and families that opened your homes to me as I walked through your piece of the world. There are too many to name and yet, your kindness and provision both sustained me in day after day of walking and even more by enriching my experience in your beautiful country. Though The Earth Expedition is not over, for me it is. By Friday I will be taking a test in a lecture hall, and next week I will be caught up in the homework from the three weeks of this semester that I have missed.  Even though I will be living a much different story, I will be walking in a new reality. A reality that from my vantage point in seat 21 F is so much more apparent. We, us, the near 7 billion people in the world are so much closer then we think or feel. When you hear about bush fires, earthquakes,  terror attacks, and yes, people just like you and I except they are locked in poverty by their inability to attain clean drinking water, all these people are within walking  distance (from the airport).

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September 8, 2011
The Home Stretch... Almost Home
37k on 1Liter:

Bwinkle_1.jpgThe Coorong is an inland sea that stretches out alongside the Princes Highway and from Kingston to the township of Salt Creek some. It is some of the most desolate country in which I have ever walked through. It gave me the hardest and driest day I have had on this entire walk. Some of my friends couldn’t believe that I was doing this trip solo. Mainly for the fact that (to put a positive spin on things) I am a visionary, not one into details. I like to just go for it. Going out with the mind set captured in the Aussie saying, “she’ll be right.” And when I could not find a cart to push the freshwater I would need in Kingston I once again decided, “o’well she’ll be right.” After all I pack 4 liters and that would be enough to get me to near the two houses that according to google I would walk past the morning of the second day. As I made camp at the end of the day just off the road in a evergreen scrub thicket the plan was coming together. After cooking dinner I had exactly 1 liter.

The next morning 5K into the walk I came to the first house. After several attempts at knocking and loudly saying “is anyone home?” nothing. But there was a spout that looked like it came from the house. So I filled up my Nalgene knowing that if I got caught I simple explanation would most likely suffice. The liquid looked decent flowing into the blue bottle. But then came the leafy floaties as the bottle was topped off.  Luckily, I add an extra purification tablet to make sure. When I tried to fill the next bottle the water immediately turned brown, I dumped it out.  No worries, as  I thought there is another house. The next house was vacant. At this time I began to get a little worried. It hit me fairly hard that this is serious. But what could I do? I kept walking. By lunch I had managed to make it 15k in to the planned 30k day and had managed to conserve .5L of water. When I opened my can of tuna, instead of draining the brine I chugged it. After a short nap I was on the road again.

Bwinkle_3.jpgThe cloud cover that had kept the morning cool and shaded had long since burned off by the time I reached the 20k mark, it was as dry as my camel pack. I was empty. Well kinda. For the first time that day I felt the need to pee, a sure sign of dehydration, and in the moment every Bear Grills episode I have ever watched flashed before my eyes. I had heard stories of people surviving without water by  “recycling” their own, and in a moment I grabbed the plastic bottle and filled it half way. Vowing to only drink it as a last resort.

I knew from my tourist map that there was a public camping ground with fresh water 5-10k past where I had planned to stop for the day so I made the decision to go for it,. I didn’t really have a choice. By 27k I felt myself getting a bit light headed. I pulled out the water that had now had time for the purification tablets to work fully. Taking a big mouth full I quickly reversed the flow spitting the water out on the ground.  The bitter taste of salt water hung in my mouth, it was from a bad well.  By the 35k mark I had to sit down because I was dizzy. I pulled out the yellow, last resort beverage.

I’m not that bad, I thought. Slowly and more cumbersome than usual I dawned my pack and trudged slowly forward.  And then 2k down the road I saw it, a sign sitting in front of the ranch that said BANFF. I began slowly to walk up the long dirt drive. Behind me I heard the sound of gravel crunching and a pickup coming up the drive. Introducing myself and my cause gave me a place to camp and all the fresh water I could drink.

bwinkle_4.jpgTrying to guess the ending.
Resolve, it seems to be something that deep within the human nature we long for. There is nothing worse than a movie in which the credits begin to roll and the tension that has been building is still there, and the questions you have been asking throughout the story still remain unanswered.  However, when a story resolves in a way that is both beautiful and logical to the plot there is no greater feeling. It is like a compass is realigned in us and for a moment all of life makes sense. It is a ring that signifies so much being destroyed. It is the death of Lord Valdimore, Rudy finaly playing in a game,  the mission complete and the, “you may now kiss the bride”. The Hawaiian tropics bus pulling away from Harry and Loyd  as the pair walk into the sunset  saying, “We’ll get our break some day.” As I close in on the last week my mind tries and fails to picture the end. What will it feel like? What will it look like? and the next morning to get up and not have to walk anywhere. Weird. As the sun starts its downward fall on this adventure there in front of me stands a worthy foe composed of 4 days of rain and a considerable distance that I am not even going to add up in total till its done. But after it is conquered, and the credits role and this expedition for me will be over  I wonder will there be resolve? ~Ryan Beerwinkle

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August 23, 2011
The Final Stretch!
Almost Home
 
BEER_5.jpgI sit at the laundry mat here in Mt. Gambia.  I’m enthralled by the rising and falling cycle of my clothes in the drier. You might say I am easily entertained. You’re right! And yet as I am here observing  this weekly routine that is laundry, my facebook page is reminding me of other social cycles of home and the annual signpost that has served for me, until now, as the rhythm and rhyme to the rise of school and the fall of summer break. The Hydro Free Fair is the oldest free fair in Oklahoma. And since I could walk, every  3rd weekend in August I would take my handfull of tickets and dash through the crowd that was exponentially larger than the regular population of Hydro to cash in on the different games. A real natural of ring and ball tossing and not just for the top prizes, but even for glow sticks, Chinese thumb traps, and of course, the stuffed animals. All the while saving a few tickets to ride the Ferris Wheel, Green Machine, and my favoriteThe Octopus. With that three night “Bang” of excitement, in my childhood eyes, summer was officially over. I missed the fair this year.  For the past three years, for me a new tradition has soon followed the fair, the Ozark Christian College Ice Cream Social. The ice breaking ritual of a new school year full of new conversations and the catching up of old friends. I didn’t make the ice cream social.
 

But it’s all good. The reality is I am left out.  I am out of step with my friends and family. But that is not a bad thing.   I have 3 more weeks on the trail, and the cycle and rhythm that I have found here is where I am supposed to be.  It is not easy and it is not normal, but until Adelaide I will follow the ups and down  the rising and falling of the trail until the adventure comes to an end  

 
BEER_8.jpgWhat A View …
 “I'll have to be real, your blogs are way more emo than the other Earth Expedition guys, ha ha.”, read  the opening line of a recent message from my friend, Jeremy. I didn’t know how to respond to that. I have heard that a key aspect of maturity is to view yourself from 10 feet away. And yet to be objective or sober in my view of myself might be the hardest thing I have ever done. Yet I guess that’s what friends are for, to offer a mirror, or better yet, just stand there.  That’s all my new friend James had to do. It was last Monday as I finished a 38km (23.6 mi) hike. It’s safe to say my legs hurt, and usually I talk about such “pain”. But as the sun was setting and I reached the trail’s end, I could see James standing with 2 crutches. James has spinal bifida and needs the crutches for longer walks or extended time in open space. I didn’t know this at the time. I just had a habit of complaining about my legs when they hurt and didn’t realize that my host had limited use of his. I bit my tongue multiple times right before a complaint could roll off of it. But in that moment I realized what a blessing it was to have 2 legs that worked perfectly fine that I can wear out, pushing myself mile after mile. That 2 feet, that get blisters as they are being pushed farther and farther than they have ever been , are a gift. And don’t feel bad for James. He told me of one time that he had spent several days bed ridden unable to walk. A small task that’s all he wanted, to walk through the door. “Then” he said, “the realization hit me. I take it for granted when I can walk through the door. And as I laid there I realized how often I take my family and friendships for granted. Even the little things like food and CLEAN WATER.” And as soon as he said that I told him, “It’s going in the blog!”  
 
BEER_2.jpgBlog 13What a Crazy World

Today I am taking a day off. At first I was very reluctant to even consider the idea.  However, awaking to my 3rd day strait of rain and a 21 mile walk over steep terrain has its effect on even the most positive outlook.. After a quick call to Daren to get his opinion it was decided.  So with this time I decided to get caught up on the world headlines . WOW! It might be the fact that I have been in my own little walking world or that small conversations in the caravan parks where I often put my tent, and the local pubs (in small towns the only place to get dinner) is insulated and isolated from the current affairs that for lack of a better word are crazy. Maybe I have just dismissed the conversations as old men talking like old men. Whatever the reason, the relative instability finally sank in past the skin. The riots, the unpredictable markets, the countless wars and rumors thereof, ultimately leads me to the question of why?

In all the accusations and evidence, and the counter accusations and evidence that stand on either side of the numerous arguments that are trying to make since of these stories it is so easy to get lost. And yet is can be summarized in one word, BROKE. No one can look at the world and say this is how it should be. And yet I have hope. I belong to a Kingdom whose battle cry is “Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth.”  A Kingdom who says the most important people are those on the margins who are easily over looked at second or third glance. A Kingdom whose king rejected the glory due him to experience the sorrows sufferings and death, to set a template, an example of how one’s life can bring truth and justice to this mess.

BEER_3.jpgI don’t see the people of the margins as well as I should, I don’t bring the peace and order to this chaotic world that I could. But I hope I am getting better. And what I am learning is that making my life look like my kings is a labor of beauty that takes me farther and farther away from my own brokenness. As I am being emptied out trying to love people I do not even know. The peace of a power greater then my own in the stress of the road does something like nothing else I have experienced. I don’t claim to know much about being a good imitator of Christ or the spiritual realities that go with it,  but it something harder than walking hundreds of miles, though for me that has been central to the “working out” of my faith. It seems to be a relationship built like any on trust. A relationship that finds me in the darkest, wettest places of the road. And from the inside out brings to life a battle a cry of hope into the world. “Glory to God on the highest and peace on earth.” It allows me to stand in the craziness of the world and be that peace or that justice the broken are longing for.  At least that’s what I am walking for again tomorrow.
 
~Ryan Beerwinkle 

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August 2, 2011
Halfway There....
Ryan_blog_small.jpgOh Gravity

Ahhhh (Sigh of relief). Over halfway there.  Ahhhh (grunt of distain). Only half way there. This journey feels like a walk up a teetertotter and  I am just waiting to finally reach the other side of the center point of gravity so it’s downhill. However, I keep walking and just go higher and higher into the air. It’s as if there is something holding the far side. I am not sure what is holding the other side down? The fat feelings of insecurity, chubby storms that are unpredictable this time of year, or the ever pressing clock? I just keep pushing forward by the words of friends far away and the helping hand of Australians here. All the while getting higher and higher and waiting for the crash.  
 
~Ryan Beerwinkle (Australian Hiker)  

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July 25, 2011
There is Nobody Here...

Blog 9
There Is Nobody Here.

B_resized_5.jpgIt is raining, again. And I stand in the rain eating my sandwich because there is no place dry to sit. I shift my weight to the left leg to give my right ankle a rest. Apparently I twisted sometime not knowing but now the pain is making the reality known all too well. I am off the beaten track somewhere between Maffra and Heyfield on a rail road path converted a bike and walking trail, which no road bike would be fit for. I face my back to the wind to shelter my face from the rain but in a matter of seconds my sandwich becomes soggy. In that moment I look around there is nothing. No cars, not a farm house no barn not even a sheep or a cow can be seen. Isolation.  By far the greatest challenge that I face is the day to day reality that there is no one here. I am not searching for pity with that statement  but trying to communicate the emptiness of a moment that is often experienced. I daily meet wonderful people and have had some great conversatio about ActiveWater, about Jesus, and  about the US and Australia. But even the longest friendships here last only a brief moment before I am on the road again. But the road is not always as desolate as that moment on the railtrail was. So often there is no one here. There is no one to share the pain of walking 22 miles on the last day of the week when you are completely empty. No one to talk over the strategic in’s and outs of the route and food preparation, no one to rejoice with in the success, or share the fear of a given moment . I do have a ton of people that are supporting me through prayer and through encouraging notes on facebook. Those sustain me. And thank you if you are one of those people (please keep it up). But the toughest part of the day is still when an experience happens that words struggle to fully express,  such as a sunset, or perhaps,  running across a bridge just to cross before a semi truck tops over the hill! The times I stumble upon the generosity of a stranger, or the less fortunate times of walking 20 miles in dripping wet shoes, simply for the moment of richness to pass in the reality that there is no one here.
 
~Ryan Beerwinkle

Blog 10
But There Is Somebody There.
What is the motivation for the empty moments?  You are. Probably you know me if you are reading this  but there is a chance we have never met. Either way I need to tell you something.  I need your help.  I exist to be an advocate on behalf of thousands of men, women, and children that do not have clean water or basic sanitation. I have thought a lot about what exactly it is that I am doing and in gross oversimplification it goes like this.
 
B_resized_6.jpg I believe Jesus (stay with me of your not a Christian) was crucified, then beyond any powers known on earth he resurrected (came back to life in a way that is eternally permanent) on the third day. Through that event in history, I, by believing in him and submitting to what he taught, have eternal life. That Eternal life begins now. I am a partially redeemed person trying to live a life that redeems the world around me in the name of Jesus. My role as an advocate for those who suffer in this world is directly in the same role as being an advocate for this living God I place my faith in. LOVE GOD LOVE PEOPLE.  This is where you come in. If you are a part of the church (a follower of Jesus) then please partner with me in helping redeem this broken creation. And If you are not then I ask you to come and see the work of the Gospel and see the power that it really has to change lives (not only physical but spiritual as well). Somehow, me walking across Australia helps people in Africa. For the longest time I wasn’t sure how that works.  But it is simple, it is the power of an idea. That idea is SACRIFICIAL LOVE. The idea for me starts, Jesus rose (that’s my catalyst) .There are people hurting beyond what I can imagine (this will be the catalyst for others, but for me is a problem based in the presupposition that Jesus rose). I have to do something about that (that should be the universal resolution). Many make donations, others volunteer, thank you! you are awesome. And the more people that are living out lives full of sacrificial love, the richer we will be as a society. Yes, even as individuals! A love that cost us something is the idea that I hope you see as you follow The Earth Expedition. And the bigger that idea becomes, the better stories we all tell.
~Ryan Beerwinkle 

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July 25, 2011
A Cowboy Poem Inspired by the Drovers Hut
Blog 8 A Cowboy Poem inspired by the Drovers Hut

B_resized_3.jpgIt’s a frozen night 3 C’s below,
But to the cold my mind ponders no.
I sit here by the fire in the Drovers Hut,
With the original fire place, board walls rough cut.
I ponder lives of men fare greater than I,
Who worked to tame a land so rough and rye.

If this stone could talk what stories it could tell,
Of love and romance, of hate and hell.
Of men that worked hard from sun up to sun down,
Of men who by the sun turned caulis and brown.
Men who appeared for only a grain of time,
But how does one compare that generation to mine.

Don’t get me wrong, we are different alright,
I’m listening to Mumford and checking Facebook tonight.
But I ask again how does one evaluate
One generation to another or a mate to mate.
Perhaps its foolish perhaps you don’t care.
Perhaps my view is a little rare.

But I think when I ponder, “who gives a crap”
What matter really matters in life rhyme and rap.
There will be a Judge I believe to examine the scale
Simply to imagine that divine day spins me pale.  

What if the sum of life was how one brought light,
Reflecting from the Son who is the brightest of bright.
Then I would surely fail, for a good mirror I am not,
But what if someone else for me weight to the scale brought.

The Man of all men on his cross did bear you see,
And created a measure based on He.
No it won’t be the words of the mouth nor the work of the hand,
But it will be the heart with the grace of the Spirit’s brand.  
 
~Ryan Beerwinkle 

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July 15, 2011
There is no place like home Blog 6-7
Blog 6: “ there is no place like home

tmpphpnDkqzd.jpgWhen you’re a kid you can’t wait for Christmas or your birthday. Teenagers can’t wait to get a license and a car to go with it. Students can’t wait for that break: spring, Christmas, summer, heck the weekend. And to be honest I cannot wait to go home. I do not know where you call home or if you consider it a good home or a bad home. Mine is a great home and I have a lot of them. Let me explain. I could be way off in left or simply trying to talk smarter than I am (I have been known to do that), but I think the difference between a house and a home are the relationships that take place there, the family.
The teachings of Jesus blow my mind. And in (text) he does it again by defining His family as those who do his will.
One turn two weeks ago led me to the door step of a missionary to the persecuted church. From that door I went to another and another and another. For a week and a half I had a home, a bed to sleep in, a hot shower, and homemade meal. But more than that, spiritual brothers, sisters, grandmas, and grandpas. I would be sure to leave some out if I tried to list them, but if you’re one of them, THANK YOU!   
As good as those homes were and the homes that I will be apart of in the future kilometers to come, my heart longs for the day when I step off the airplane at the OKC International Airport. I want to hug my real mom and dad, drive the hour on I-40 west to Hydro, and then turn down a winding dirt road and  gravel lane to the place that has been home since before I could call it that. I get choked up just thinking about that day.
But there is still one better. There will be a day where all those who put their trust in Jesus will be home. And the tears from the pain of bursting blisters, thoughts of insecurity, and isolation will be wiped from my eyes. And the tears of my brothers and sisters around the world who literally are dying of thirst or perhaps from diseases that are in the water they do have, will too, be wiped dry. Admittedly they are suffering far greater than I am. Please do not think I am trying to compare. It is my prayer that this attempt to get off my butt and do something, does something to alleviate their suffering in this life. And as this adventure continues I put my faith in the fact that Jesus rose from the dead, the kingdom he came to establish is advancing, and one day when this jar of clay body is finally allowed to bust, I will go home. ~Ryan Beerwinkle

Blog 7:
 
TMP_1.jpgHave you ever tried to watch the minute hand on a clock move? You’re not alone.
Time, it’s a funny thing. When you watch it go by there is nothing that moves slower. And when it comes to pass it feels as short as the twilight that ends a day. Time to me, in retrospect, seems like moments of beauty, some darker... some brighter. For me, most often in the afternoon, or anytime it is raining my progress is like watching the minute hand on the clock. I know I am moving but I just can’t see it in the moment. But then I turn and get to breath in the big picture. How refreshing it is. I have been expeditioning since June 15th it is now July 9th (HAPPY BIRTHDAY AUSTIN! (He is my brother) So that’s 25 days. Midway through this week , I will reach the point of 1/3 of my distance covered. As I look back at how far I have come, there is so much to process for so much is crammed into that time. The only way for me to describe it is a beautiful sunset made so stunning by the rays of light and the shades of darkness. One man at church last Sunday said, “You’re going to miss it all when it’s done”  and though I miss my friends and family so much and even though this is by far the hardest thing I have ever done, I’m guessing a little time will prove him right. ~Ryan Beerwinkle
 
 
 
 

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July 4, 2011
Progress And The Price Tag Thereof

(Blog 4)

Progress And The Price Tag Thereof                               

I have walked from the Sydney to Batemans Bay. I HAVE WALKED 178 mi that’s 286 km. That is progress. But and there is expenditure for all progress. I’m not referring to the finances of the trip but rather the toll on body and soul. This the slow grind that dares to bring this freefall adventure to a halt. This is the blisters that have to be lanced daily, this is the near forty five pound bag that is secured to my back and waste for each punishing step.  This is the aching Knee that receives twice the work out as I walk and the uneven shoulder of the road. But with each step wile I am being broken down physically, something within me is coming to life.

Last Tuesday was my 22 birthday. So I decided to splurge and see if I could get a cheap trailer at the caravan park (with personal funds) to celebrate. I did, and for only ten dollars more than a tent site. I couldn’t wait. But the vision of splendor quickly went bust.

In the moment this is how I described it in my journal: “This cabin is dirty, there are dead cockroaches everywhere and a few live ones. Grey tape on the floor and the shower ran out of hot water 3 min in. My feet hurt worse than I can remember, my muscles and joints ache. But I am filed with joy! Though I am not being persecuted for the gospel I am suffering for it. And I know that because, for the first time I am experiencing that Joy that surpasses all understanding.“  To be alone in a dirty drafty trailer on your birthday and to fall asleep with a smile on your face and your heart content, that’s progress.

(Blog 5)

The darkest hour of the soul

It has been been said that, “the night is darkest Just before the dawn.” Those words pierce the core of my short lived life on The Earth Expedition. Every morning the alarm fires away at 5am. I lay in my dawn cocoon and with freezing lips and mutter to myself, “what the hell are you doing?” Some mornings it is the wind that flies fiercely from the west this time of year that pushes me to a paralyzed state. It whipps the rain fly to and fro all the time howling as if it is threatening me not to move a muscle. The past two mornings it has been the frost, as the slightly inland costal air could not retain its moister due to the degree drop that is often at its coldest when I must began stirring around. So I lay there. Longing for relief from the wind, the cold, and the pain. Longing to be anywhere else in that moment. Worst of all doubting.

Its seems silly now, but in that moment I doubt if I am actually doing anything of importance. Questions bombard my motionless body. Is your message empty? Will you be accepted? Will you have a place to sleep tonight? What’s the point? Who cares? That is the toughest part of my day, and the darkest hour of my soul. A decision must be made. To this point it has been to get up and conquer, but at 5 am with the wind blowing and the cold biting each day comes with a decision. 

- Ryan Beerwinkle         

  

 

 

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June 20, 2011
First Week!

The cost of something so beautiful:

Bryan_View_1.jpgAs I peered through the trees looking down Lawrence Hargave Drive I saw it. it was still a ways off and the drive was steep and not made for walking but I knew it was there, right there! I hear the sound of a tour bus shifting gears quickly to not lose momentum coming up the steep road. I jump over in to the 1.5 foot drainage ditch and hug the bank as the bus wises by, I don’t  even know if he ever saw me. As I continue to descend this process occurs over and over again. Sometimes the vehicles break sometimes they do not but finally I make it, and the danger is a small price to pay for something so beautiful.  My first glimpse of the ocean.

 The prayer the morning after a 22 mile hike and the end of a 3 day 63 mi stretch:

 Declaimer: this is personal stuff it might make you feel uncomfortable but it captures a bit of my heart in a moment when I journaled it .

Bryan_View_2.jpgFather, this is what I bring to you my blistered feet the crouch rotting smell of chaffing that won’t go away. My aching knees and sore hamstrings, my sore back and all my cramping muscles. Father they are all I have and they are yours, they are not much but I offer them as a living sacrifice. Jesus you said you are lord of the Sabbath, I need your shalom. You lord are the God of creation please strengthen my skin and my bones. Father please multiply the rest you have given me and my I rest in the shalom of your presence

 I feel as though I am on the edge of my mind battling the depression of isolation, and a step away from panic. Father give me clarity of thought and a Godly perspective, please allow me to rest in the mental shalom of your presence.

 Father this is my gift, my mental sacrifice, my attempt to somehow bear a cross. Please please please may it not be in vain, in Jesus name amen.   Signing off, Ryan Beerwinkle(Australian Hiker)

 

 

 

 

 

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June 17, 2011
First Steps in Australia!

Australia! 

Ryan_Sydney.jpg

It is my first night down under and it as if I am free falling. This is a holistic plunge is a revolving swirl of mental physical and spiritual attributes that are inseparable.  The one time I have gone cliff jumping the leap was the hardest part, my feet would not be made to brake from the granite face 50 feet above the water, but once they where willed to do so  the sheer joy and exhilaration shot through my veins  as I anticipated the impact. And a moment seemed like an eternity as I fly weightless finally crashing in the freezing clear Rocky Mountain water. However, on this jump into the Australian leg of The Earth Expedition the only second thought appeared from the tears that ran down my mom’s face as we parted ways at the airport, other than that the jump into this new world was easy. Seven hours in Airports , and eighteen hours in the plane I waited in anticipation for the impact of landing. And though the plain has landed I have not. Today was filled with my first time through customs, a 12 mile hike through several waves of rain, the making of many instant friends at the hostile and at this moment in time that I am experiencing currently seemingly is an eternity, there is no bottom there is no crash there is always plans to be made and plans to be changed. In this laborious free fall nothing is static nothing leads to the stop of momentum except for the grind of the fall it’s self, if it is allowed. Where is the bottom? What will it feel like to hit it? For now I will watch Seinfeld with the crew at the hostile, and enjoy the fleeting moment of peace that is, “a show about nothing”.    Signing off, Ryan Beerwinkle

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February 28, 2011
"Im a Runner Now"

I’m A Runner Now

Because your love is better than life, 
   my lips will glorify you
.

-          King David

A love that is better than life is a love worth dying for. That is the furthest thing from my mind as my warm-up walk lifts to a maintainable long distance pace. 4 miles is on the training docket today. For some that is a warm-up but for me that is a milestone in the uncharted waters of half-marathon preparation. My legs carry me swiftly compared to 4 weeks previous, when a mile seemed unattainable. As I look down the rolling hill of Landreth Park, the sun begins to wind down from afternoon to evening. I’m feelin good. I’m runner now. 

How short lived feelings can be. At about a 1.5 miles the only thing that drowns my panting lungs is the coal train that passes underneath as I cross the Broadway bridge  into downtown Joplin. I see a pretty girl step out of a shop entrance; almost instinctively my posture springs up and my stride lengthens. I feel like a prize stallion with a flawless gate, as a gallop by. I’m lookin good. I’m a runner now.

How short lived vanity can be. A block down from the pretty lady, I catch a glimpse of myself in a store window. I have looked better in carnival mirrors.  My gait resembles a hobbled mule, not a prize stallion (and I was still striding out!).  I turn from downtown and head toward the train bridge. Just how I planned it, running across the rail bridge where 5th street ended. I’m such a rebel. I’m a runner now.

How short the pride of rebellion can be. I head to the north side of 4th street to connect with my trail back to campus. I realize, as I’m crossing one of the busiest roads in Joplin, that there is no sidewalk on that side of the road, just a steep bank of slick mud left from the recent snow melt. Like some twisted game of human Frogger I bolt across traffic receiving the “just” finger for my stupidity. But, I’m coming up on the last mile and feeling my first hit of runner’s high. Once again I’m feelin good. I’m a runner.  

I top the hill, pass the library, and I’m back on campus. It’s all downhill from here, I tell myself. And my trot down the hill extends to full hobble as I finish between the cafeteria and Dennis Hall, not out of pride, or rebellion or vanity. There is something far greater than my new claimed identity as a runner. I slow from jog to walk as I reach the soccer field at the bottom of the hill. As I look at the sun now nesting in the trees on the horizon, and the sky lighting up in a fading transition from gold to pink to blue, the beauty of the moment reminds me of my true identity. I’m a son of the God who painted that irreproducible sun set. And it’s in that beauty that I catch a glimpse of his creativity, his identity, and his love. I was reminded in that moment who and what I was running for.

In answering the question, “Why would I do something as hard core as the Earth expedition?” My bio states:

  Because I truly believe that life is too short to live for yourself. I want to partake in the mission of The Earth Expedition to pour myself out as a living sacrifice for those who do not have clean water to drink… [I want] to show the love of Jesus which has been revealed to me.

And as this reality shot through my veins alongside the endorphins from my first four mile run, this hobbled donkey became a humble one, as I was forced to chew on the twigs of my previous convictions, my own words. I’m a runner now… who cares? The Love of God, now that’s something to talk about.  

-Ryan BeerWinkle

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January 17, 2011
The Earth Expedition Welcomes Australian Hiker Ryan Beerwinkle!

Hello Friends and Supporters of ActiveWater and The Earth Expedition!

We are proud to announce our Australian Hiker Ryan Beerwinkle to the team. Ryan going to be running a half marathon for ActiveWater as training for the 1,250 mile section of Australia! We will be launching Ryan this (USA) summer (Australia's winter) and you can follow his progress as he blogs his way across Australia! ActiveWater will also be tweeting his progress! 

Here is a little from Ryan himself:

I have always loved adventure. When I was younger, adventure was abundant in the wide, open spaces of rural western Oklahoma. Confronting bull snakes in the hay barn of my family’s farm, the countless camping trips, and treasure hunting for forgotten Native American artifacts in the sand rock canyons and river-beds are the snapshots of my childhood. As I grew up, my interests changed. Focusing on baseball, I played almost 100 games a year through junior high and high school. Any time left after playing ball and completing my work on the farm was spent on various adventures in the great outdoors: four-wheeling, fishing, hunting or camping with friends.

While I love adventure, I’m no addict. Really at my core, I’m an average guy going to Ozark Christian College pursuing my degree in theology. As much as I study, my friends see more of me than the inside of my textbooks do. I work enough, socialize more than I should, and hit the gym when I can… probably not enough. I’m not a nomad, I’m not a junkie for a thrill. I haven’t seen the world, I haven’t lived out of a backpack and I haven’t been a mountain-man. So, what could possibly drive me to sign up for the hardcore challenge of The Earth Expedition?

Because I truly believe that life is too short to live for yourself. I want to partake in the mission of The Earth Expedition to pour myself out as a living sacrifice for those who do not have clean water to drink. In this season of my life while I am young, without dept, and single, I wish to invest in these marginalized people, to show the love of Jesus which has been revealed to me. Engaging in this challenge is simple yet daunting and leads me to ask if I can do this.  I am confident that I can, but it will cost a great sacrifice. This is a sacrifice that cannot be fulfilled without doing the task and completing the mission. And in completing that mission my hope and prayer would be that through my words and my actions I might inform, empower, and activate the people I come into contact with to help confront the water crisis.

Howard Thurman stated, “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” True life is lost when invested in oneself. By participating and bringing to those without hope the love of a God who both sees and feels their thirst, and joining the battle to meet the greatest physical need in the world, I am living truth and true adventure. If love is dying to oneself, and death is the last remaining unknown, then to show one’s love by sacrifice is the greatest adventure upon which we can embark. Ryan Beerwinkle

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October 18, 2010
June 20-27th (Leg III)

June 20th – 27th

So the night before, Saturday, Bernie took me around the land around their house.  You see Bernie works for a farm that the city of Zurich owns.  They keep it to show school children how a farm runs and to also produce some local things for people.  Next to the Haab’s house is a huge barn.  When I first saw it I was immediately interested in finding out what it looked like inside and what it withheld.  So I that day Bernie showed me around in there and it was fascinating.  I learned so much about how the Swiss farm and used to farm and also about how to farm in general, because it seems that is a very international barrier breaker, farming.  Bernie also showed me pictures of the farm he works on which I planned on visiting the following Tuesday.  It was such a learning experience.


(here is the pig pen from the farm, also pictured above)

Sunday was nice with the Haabs.  I slept in a bit.   Which is funny to me now, I think I mentioned it earlier, because I used to think sleeping in was sleeping til 11 or noon, but now it’s sleeping until 9.  I love it actually.  Anyway after Joquim finished helping with the church the family attends near their house, him and I took a train down to Zurich to see Mahela, who lived there and worked for an intercity mission, and the girls who were just hanging out there.  We went over to Mahela’s place, which ironically was right next door to the venue that Underoath played last year when I was on tour with them, crazy flashback.  She showed us around the city a bit and we went to a nice park downtown.  Those Europeans are really great at making playgrounds for kids.  They had some really cool things I that were so much fun even for some of us that were much too old to be there.

After the park we went to the church that Mahela goes to, that also had an international service in English so I was very excited about this.  We went and then afterwards had dinner at Mahela’s place and discussed the service we attended.  The church was called the International Christian Fellowship and to be quite honest with you it disappointed me quite a lot.  Let me explain why, please excuse my harping, but I was quite opinionated about the whole thing.

So this was a church where Christians or non Christians gather to hear the Gospel being preached and taught for growth in the faith of those who believe in it, to be a voice to those who don’t and to have good community with fellow believers.  The basics of what the organized church is.  Well the crazy thing that I noticed and that stood way out to me was during the entire service the Gospel, or good news of the salvation through the life of Jesus Christ, was never mentioned.  Not once, seriously.  Not in the songs, prayers, offerings, sermon, no where really.  There were a bunch of hints toward the Gospel, but they never explained or taught or proclaimed it.  One thing I have learned while walking and listening to sermons or lectures about the Christian faith, is the importance of the Gospel.  That is the entire basis of the Christian life, the salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, but this place never mentioned it.  Now don’t get me wrong, they were very kind and loving people and had a real passion for community and love towards others, but they were missing the Gospel.  Maybe not in their lives, I’m sure many of them know and read about the Gospel often in the Bible, but there was not much talk about it in the main service.  It astonished me.  So afterward, over dinner, I conveyed my opinions and we had a discussion about it all.

The next day I went and visited the farm that Bernie works at.  It was so great.  Quite a far bicycle ride and since I haven’t been working those muscles, it was pretty hard.  I learned so much about milk processing, milking cows, raising pigs, and other farming things.  It was a really great day.  The following day I caught up the miles I missed from taking the train earlier.  It was very nice since the rain had stopped and also I used a day pack with just water, instead of my huge backpack.  So nice.  I got finished around supper time and felt great.  Until the next day.

(A good sight after a weary day)

You see when I first showed up at the Haabs Bernie and Mahela told me of a trip they both took when they first moved back to Switzerland from Jordan.  On this trip Bernie and Mahela, who was 16 at the time, walked from the southern border of Switzerland to the northern border.  Sounds great right, here is the kicker, they covered about 50km a day!  At that time I was lucky to get in 25 to 20 km.  50km is about 30 miles and 25 to 20 km is about 15 to 18 miles.  Given I had a heaver pack and was covering more ground, I still felt like a pansy when a 16 year old girl is whooping my tail in walking.  So that day I did the catch up work I kind of pushed myself extra hard feeling motivated by this story and walked my highest average that far around; about 23 miles.  But it wasn’t a good thing that I did that, because the net day I woke up I couldn’t fully extend my right leg.  I sprained my hamstring muscle or whatever muscle is the one behind your knee.  It felt terrible all day, but eventually after some tender loving care it was up and running to be back on the road the next day.

(The Wonderful Haabs, My Swiss Family)

So I got back on the road the next day, the sun was out now in full blaze, and I made it all the way up to Germany by the end of the day, found a cheap campsite and went and took a dip in the Rein river.  Met some local kids doing the same thing and we jumped out of some trees and had fun swimming in the very chilly waters.

(The German Border)

(Camping on the Rein)

I walked along the Rein River for a while.  Had a lovely dinner in this quaint Swiss/German town.  There was a bridge there and you could walk over to Switzerland, and then back over to Germany.  I felt like I was back at the Epcot center in Disney World walking from country to country.  It was so wonderful.  I got so used to walking in the rain through Switzerland that I hit another speed bump in the elements, the sun.  It was out in full blaze that day and a little after supper time I was feeling very dizzy and had a big headache from the sun.  It wasn’t a good feeling, but thankfully I was only 45 minutes away from my next contacts, the Shaffers, so I called Hans and he came and picked me up so I would have a safe place to stay for the night.  Don’t worry I came back and caught up those miles I missed from the car ride the next week.

It was great being with Shaffers and seeing them again.  Hans and Shirley work at an International Christian School called Black Forest Academy and their two girls, Emily and … go to school there.  They were so kind enough to let me stay in Emily’s room and had a telephone that could call America real cheap so I got in touch with my family and some friends while I was there.  I also called Daren the Director for this whole Expedition and got him to put in a request for a new backpack from Kelty, because you see the one I was using broke a little in Switzerland and was starting to get worse.  The frame that was the spine of the pack snapped at the bottom, you see the ole boy had already before me at least 1500 miles on it, so it was on its way out.  Kelty sent a new pack to my parents and they were in the process of putting together a package for me.

Over the weekend Hans and I watched the world cup, visited Basel, which is another one of my favorite European cities from this trek, and I did some writing and reading and resting while I was there.  I also went to the church that meets at the Black Forest Academy, it was in English and had a lot of Americans there so it was nice to be with some native English speakers (something I always treasured and appreciated along my trek, people I could completely communicate with, it’s was always such a good feeling).

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October 11, 2010
Accepting Applications for Australian Hiker (2011)

Hello Earth Expedition Friends!

We are excited to announce that our 3rd hike Daniel Allen Frazier has completed the third Leg of The Earth Expedition. Daniel walked the 940 mile trek from Italy to Sweden. Since 2008 the three Earth Expedition hikers Daren Wendell (USA), Bryan Schlackman (USA), and Daniel Frazier (USA) have logged 6,740 miles under their feet!

This past year has been extremely exciting for The Earth Expedition has developed in to a very successful non-profit organization that has been helping the people of Zambia, Africa with clean water resources and education. In the past 18 months as we have partnered with over 250 athletes and over 100 churches across the nation. Please visit www.ActiveWater.org for ways to get involved.

The Earth Expedition is now currently accepting applications for the 4th leg of The Earth Expedition. For Leg 4 The Earth Expedition will be walking in 2 legs the 3,000 mile stretch across Australia from Perth to Sydney. The tentative launch of the next leg will be between March and May of 2011.

If you are interested in being considered as the next hiker for the Australian Leg of The Earth Expedition contact volunteer@activewater.org and request an application.

Thank you for your interest in The Earth Expedition,

~Daren Wendell and The Earth Expedition Team

 

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August 30, 2010
June 12th-June 19th

June 12th- June 19th:

August 27th, 2010

I left you off in Milan, Italy here is what happened after that:

I had two days off in Milan, Italy with Michael and Nina and their family.  Saturday, the 12th, I relaxed, played some soccer with Max, and attended a wonderful summer solstice party.  It was at this farm outside of Milan.  They have this party every year there and it was full of wonderfully Italian people.  I met the woman of the house, Elizabeth, cooking pots and pots of pasta in the kitchen, and I ate plates and plates of pasta.  I was kinda just standing on my own for a while, because most couldn’t speak English and it made communication pretty tough, until this lovely woman came over to me and spoke perfect English.  I was taken aback for a second but then thought it was wonderful to find someone else I could talk to.  Her name was Jessica and was a translator for some businesses and that explained her good English.  She invited me to her table, where another woman was there that could speak English.  It was so refreshing to speak English with some people other than Michael and Nina and the family.  Also we had some very interesting discussions.  It was so refreshing speaking with Jessica and her friends and the party was just a great glimpse into Italian culture, I loved it.

(The Summer Solstice Party sorry about the bad picture, its just to give you a little idea of what it was like)

I went to Sam’s church the next morning.  It was nice, but I couldn’t understand a lick of what they were saying.  Afterward went with the family out to eat some pizza.  Had a bit of pasta and for dessert I had some real Italian ice, which was lovely.  That afternoon Michael’s niece came over to visit.  She was with three of her classmates from Wheaton College that were travelling around by train through Europe hanging out at hostels with people and sharing the Gospel.  It was great again to have people my age to hang out with.  We had a big dinner and one of the fellas gave me some headphones, because my pair broke already, that was a big blessing.

I got a ride from Sam and Joan in the morning to the other side of town on the road I needed to take north to Switzerland, said goodbye and headed north to the border.  I made it close to the border and found a campsite near a lake.  I went there and the fella didn’t charge me to stay there, a blessing, had dinner there and watched the beginnings of the World Cup.  It was great to watch Italy play and watch it in Italy with Italians hollering and yelling when they scored.  I met some Dutch guys that were working at the campsite.  One gave me a token for a hot shower and let me check my email it was great.

(A church in a small Northern Italian town)

(the lake next to the camp site)

I woke up the next day to a horrible sound in regards to what I do now, rain. Rain is good for the crops and livestock, but it’s not too good to walk in for eight hours a day.  I knew I just had to push on, so I took a shower and then pressed on to the border.  I got the border a little after lunch and celebrated in a little tradition I started, which was to have a really nice meal whenever I finish walking through a country.  So I ate some really nice pasta.  Then walked into Switzerland, I mean I just walked in.  It was so strange to me to walk right into another country.  After a while of walking I was starting to think about where I was going to sleep, when an angel just gave me a huge blessing, I mean this was one of the first huge signs that the Lord was really taking care of me.  Let me explain.

I was walking over a bridge when I see at the other end a woman standing there and it seemed like she was waiting for me.  I walked up to her and she asked me what I was doing.  She told me she saw me walking while she was stuck in traffic then again when she was coming home, so she stopped to ask.  I told her my story and she offered me a place to stay at her and her boyfriend’s house, her name was Sira.  I said sure it would be great.  She had a swimming lesson to go to, so I just waited until it was done, then she came out and told me her boyfriend didn’t want me to stay there.  So she took me to some hotels, they were pretty pricey and I couldn’t afford it. Switzerland is a very expensive country. She then took me to a hostel, asked the price, it was a lot, then she said she felt bad and wanted to help me so she offered to pay.  I was floored.  I couldn’t believe it, such a huge blessing, I mean huge.  She also bought me a really nice breakfast also.  I couldn’t thank her enough for such a kind and wonderful gesture that she did for me.  I mean it was incredible.  We said farewell and I retired in that wonderful manor house.  This was in Lugano, Switzerland I would like to add is one of the most beautiful cities I saw on this journey.  So to me, a weary walker, Sira was an angel that really helped by bestowing such kindness on me.  Such a blessing I couldn’t believe it.  The breakfast the next day was in this grotto and a big spread.  I took extra for lunch that day too.  Took a train out to where I left off the day before and kept walking.

(the hostel in Lugano)

(Lugano, Italy)

Let me mention to you something.  Ever since I started walking in Switzerland and before in Italy it started raining, let me say it’s not a nice feeling walking in the rain by yourself, for 8 hours a day with almost 45 pounds on your back.  So this started becoming really miserable.  I don’t know if I can properly convey to you how detrimental this was to me mentally.  It is really hard for some of you to understand how bad rain is for someone in my position.  I appreciate the rain for its life giving properties of watering the crops and the livestock, but if you have to spend all day walking in it, it’s miserable.  So for two days before this I had to deal with rain.  It wasn’t good for my health either.  I started getting a cold because of it and constantly shivering.  So here I was in southern Switzerland walking in the mountains in the pouring rain all that day.  I mean it felt like the heavens opened up and I could barely see it was so bad.  So when it got the worst it was all day I sat underneath a bridge and stopped and thought about what to do.  I was soaked to the bone, shivering because I was cold and wet and things didn’t look like they were getting any better.  The rain wasn’t letting up at all, but was getting worse. I had two chances continue in the rain and cross over the mountain pass that was another day’s march and would have been quite dangerous in those conditions or hitch through the mountain past the rain to a dry place to sleep.  I hitched, it was the safest and best option for me.  So I got a ride from a nice Portuguese man, who couldn’t and wouldn’t even attempt to speak English.  He took me safely through the mountain tunnel that was 17km long and to a town on the other side that had a camp site and thankfully the rain hadn’t hit there yet.

I know some of you might be thinking about that and if it goes against the whole mission of walking when I take a ride, but I have had along this journey to take a ride sometimes because it is the safest option for me.  It yet again is hard to convey to you what it is like walking by yourself 8 to 9 hours through countries there they can’t fully speak English.  It is extremely isolating and very difficult.  Now I am not complaining, I chose this for myself and I understood it would be hard I just want you to understand that I did not take rides just to do it, but it was necessary for me if I wanted to stay safe and healthy along this long trek.  But mind you I did a whole lot of walking.

So this guy dropped me at a camp site that was apparently surrounded by the alps, but because of all the fog that rolled in and the storm that was brewin’ I couldn’t see any.  It was so disappointing being in one of the most beautiful mountain ranges in the world and I can’t see the dang things.  I told my story to the owners of the camp site and they graciously let me stay there for free and even gave me a soda.  I went to sleep with some slight rain, but when I woke up the next day it was gone.  I must say it was a complete blessing to be able to see the sun again.

That next morning I had a sight I will never forget.  I got up, packed up and started off with the sun slowly coming out and the fog lifting, definitely better conditions.  As soon as I got out of the town and walking along this bike path that went around this lake I turn around and see an incredible sight, the Swiss Alps.  Oh what a glorious sight.  These pictures I have is but a small interpretation of the magnificence and beauty of that day.    By far, as I look back, that was the most beautiful day of walking, until supper time.  Around that time the clouds opened up again and they didn’t stop for days.

(the clouds rolling back to reveal the beautiful alps, the campsite there at the bottom)

(down in the valley there was where I stayed the night before)

(the swiss alps, well just part of them)

(here I am in the Alps)

After all of these wonderful sights the clouds opened up again and let loose a storm that went on for three more miserable days.  That night after the beautiful day of walking I found this campsite on a much smaller lake and came to the realization that Switzerland was extremely expensive.  I mean painfully expensive.  At the camp site it cost 26 dollars for a burger and fries.  So that night I had peaches and trail mix for dinner because I couldn’t afford anything else.  But throughout it all the rain never stopped.

It got so bad that I had to take a train out to Zurich, when I was about 22 miles south, to the Haab family to get dry and warm and ward off catching pneumonia.  That day I took the train I remember I was soaked literally to the bone and uncontrollably shivering because of that.  I couldn’t keep going I needed to get somewhere safe, warm, and dry.  But don’t worry the next week I came back and walked those miles I missed when I took the train.  As soon as I got North of Zurich where the Haabs lived the sun came out and I felt 100 times better.

The Haabs were so wonderful. They immediately just caught my heart with their warmth and kindness.  It was also very refreshing staying with them because they used to live in Jordan with my Uncle Jon and Aunt Jayne and family and worked at the hospital my Uncle helps run.  So it felt like I was basically staying with family.  There was Bernie and Susie and their four children; Mahela, Joquim, Sharon, and Daylia.  One of my favorite memories was waiting at the train station for Bernie Haab to pick me up and expecting some fella in a car or something and then here comes this tall lanky fella on a bicycle blazing down the hill and screeching in front of me just saying hello Daniel.  Oh it was great.  I spent five nights with the Haabs outside of Zurich, Switzerland.  I’ll explain on the next post why it was a bit longer than I expected, but oh so wonderful.

(the Haabs wonderful house Rumlang, Switzerland)

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