St. Matthew's Episcopal Church recently hosted 11 Adventure Cycling riders making their way across the United States. The summer adventure takes them across the country on the TransAmerica Trail, which passes through Newton.
"We started in Yorktown, Virginia, and we're headed to Florence, Oregon," said Chris Scheihing, one of the Adventure Cycling team leaders. "We're basically going from ocean to ocean."
Riders from Idaho, Ohio, Vermont and Great Britain are cycling between 30 and 80 miles per day on an 83-day trip that spans more than 4,200 miles.
"We do this one just about every year," Scheihing said.
This Adventure Cycling group has a support van that travels with them, and another group without a support van will be coming through Newton next week.
"It's very well organized," said Peggy Gerber, secretary at St. Matthew's Episcopal Church.
The cyclists came in one by one throughout the afternoon on Tuesday, some heading to the city's pool for a shower and swim time.
"It's been a little hot, but we can deal with it. We always try to take a swim at the end of the day and cool off," Scheihing said.
Scheihing brought his own shower setup with him, hooking it up to one of the church's outdoor water spigots.
The groups brought in their own food for meals, setting up inflatable sleeping pads on the floor of the church.
"It was a hard ride that day because we came from Eureka and it was hot and windy," Scheihing said.
Headwinds and sidewinds, along with the soaring temperatures, make for a physically challenging ride for the cyclists.
"They were tickled to death about the three-foot rule in Kansas," Gerber said. "Not everybody abides by it, but it makes a difference."
Though the group will sometimes sleep in a park or at a hotel, staying at the church gave them a chance to relax in an air conditioned space, use the kitchen facilities and have wifi access to communicate with friends and family back home.
"I overheard one gentleman say how he had made this trip once before and had always remembered Kansas as being the most friendly state," Gerber said. “That was expressed over and over throughout the evening."
The group has supper at 6 p.m. each day, followed by a meeting to plan out the next day’s travel, stops, etc. Occasionally they will have meals prepared for them, but for the most part they buy, prepare and cook all their food themselves.
The cyclists disperse after the meeting, each to their own space. The next morning, breakfast is served at 6 a.m. so they can get an early start on beating the heat.
The cross-country ride gives riders a chance to meet people and see many historical sites.
Newton is just two days short of the trail's halfway point.
"They thought Kansas people were so friendly," Gerber said. "They said they went one place where, when they stopped in the shade, a high school girl brought them water."
St. Matthew's Episcopal Church member Ruth Cooper remembers the first time she saw the cycling group come to Newton.
"Many years ago, they had come in off First Street after it was newly tarred," Cooper said. "There were eight of them and I invited them home with me. I felt so sorry for them, they looked so tired."
As they cleaned the tar of off their bicycles, Cooper learned several of the riders were from Europe. The group ended up staying at Cooper's home for three days.
"They were just wonderful people," Cooper said.
You can find more information on Adventure Cycling trips at https://www.adventurecycling.org.