Sisters on Bikes in Chicago

fob_transportation-mormon_bikes-2

As usual on a Thursday, on the commuter train home I crack open my copy of the Reader, an alternative weekly in Chicago. And there is a full page article by John Greenfield, who concentrates on transportation issues for the City Life section. This article is all about sister missionaries using bicycles for transportation in Chicago. It was a fun piece, so I wanted to share it with my blog friends.

Here is the link to the article. I’ll also paste it in below:

Some folks ride bicycles in Chicago for exercise, while others do it to reduce their carbon footprint. Amanda Aamodt and Emily McCrary pedal for a higher purpose; biking, they say, is the most affordable and efficient way to spread their faith to others around the city.

For decades it’s been common to encounter young male missionaries—called “elders,” ironically enough—dressed in white short-sleeved shirts and black slacks with neckties and name tags, navigating Chicago in pairs on cycles. Female missionaries (aka “sisters”) on bikes is a more recent phenomenon.

“It’s kind of a strange sight to see two clean-cut young women riding bikes in skirts in Chicago,” says Aamodt and McCrary’s supervisor, elder Mark Bingham. “It’s very hard for them to be ladylike and modest—and yet they are. And they’re undaunted by the summer rain and the traffic. . . . We know that they are protected by the hand of the Almighty in their valiant effort and are blessed as they make great personal sacrifice to declare the news of the restored gospel.”

After connecting with Aamodt, McCrary, and Bingham through Alex Wilson, director of the youth education center West Town Bikes, who recently helped them out with some new rides and repairs, I caught up with them last week at Logan Square’s Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The young women discussed the advantages of using bikes for their ministry, as well as the dangers and annoyances they face while pedaling through the city.

Bingham, 69, a farmer by trade, temporarily moved to Chicago in July with his wife, Sherry, a piano teacher, from Honeyville, Utah, near the Idaho border, after they were “called” by their faith to mentor young missionaries. “We love rubbing shoulders with these folks,” he says. “It makes us feel young.”

Aamodt, a 20-year-old from Pleasant Grove, Utah, south of Salt Lake City, has been on a mission in Chicago for 16 months. McCrary, 19, grew up in Rocklin, California, and came to Chicago about a month ago.

Amanda Aamodt and Emily McCrary biking near Logan Square’s Mormon church - JOHN GREENFIELD

  • Amanda Aamodt and Emily McCrary biking near Logan Square’s Mormon church
  • John Greenfield

Nowadays men can go on a mission beginning at age 18, and their tour of duty lasts two years. Women must be at least 19, and their mission lasts 18 months. “We’re dedicating that time 100 percent to serving God and sharing the message of the joy that He has brought into our lives with others,” Aamodt says.

Worldwide there are 422 missions and more than 70,000 missionaries, according to LDS leadership. The Illinois Chicago Mission has at least 130 young missionaries and ten older mentors at any one time, with new ones coming in every six weeks. According to Bingham, about 18 to 25 people are baptized into the Mormon faith in the Chicago area each month due to outreach by missionaries.

Aamodt and McCrary cover a long, narrow stretch of territory bounded by Laramie, Belmont, Fullerton, and Lake Michigan, and they share an apartment in Hermosa. Like all Mormon missionaries, they’re volunteers and are responsible for paying for their own living expenses. The two women were assigned to minister primarily to Latino residents within their district, although neither one previously spoke Spanish. After six weeks of language-immersion classes at the Missionary Training Center at Brigham Young University, extensive Bible study in Spanish, and frequent interactions with native speakers, they say they’re now fluent.

Missionaries using bikes to make the rounds is a matter of pragmatism, Bingham says. “Sometimes Sherry and I follow them to appointments, and we have to park blocks away, but they can chain up right in front.” Other benefits include avoiding traffic, and not having to pay for gas, parking, or tickets, which is crucial for young people on a fixed budget.

Another major perk is that biking exposes the missionaries to more residents and encourages spontaneous interactions with potential converts. “In a car you’re kind of closed off, but on a bike you’re out with the people,” McCrary says.

Helmets are mandatory, and the missionaries get bike-safety training before they get rolling. Still, crashes aren’t uncommon. During one particularly unlucky week, four members of the Illinois Chicago Mission were involved in separate collisions. The day before my interview with the sisters, a driver struck one of their fellow female missionaries in suburban Westchester, Bingham says. The young woman is OK, but her bike was totaled.

“We’ve had some crashes, but no tragedies,” Bingham says. “I think the policy would be carefully studied if there was a tragedy. The biggest problem is the drivers: doors flying open and drivers who are turning and don’t see bikes.”

Amanda Aamodt, Sherry and Mark Bingham,  and Emily McCrary - JOHN GREENFIELD

  • Amanda Aamodt, Sherry and Mark Bingham, and Emily McCrary
  • John Greenfield

Aamodt says she’s never worried about crash or crime dangers while traveling in Chicago. “I trust that we’re on a mission from the Lord and as long as we’re doing the things we should be doing, the Lord will protect us.”

Bike use among sisters is still relatively uncommon, possibly due to supervisors being more protective of females. Wilson of West Town Bikes—who grew up in a Mormon family in Lincoln, Nebraska, but didn’t go on mission and doesn’t currently practice the religion—told me that in many districts women aren’t allowed to use bikes for missionary work, and that supervisors cite safety as the main concern.

Bingham says he’s especially mindful of keeping the young women safe on their bikes, even though he acknowledged that “the lady missionaries are very, very careful, the elders not so much.” For example, when one of the women had a malfunctioning brake on her Schwinn three-speed, he insisted on taking it back to West Town to be fixed immediately. “In the case of the sisters, I wanted to make sure those bikes were right.”

Despite the protectiveness of some mentors, Aamodt and McCrary believe the number of women using bikes is growing. Aamodt has female friends who are doing mission work on bikes in Florida, and she’s also heard of cycling sisters in California and Japan.

One reason more female missionaries can be seen on bikes nowadays may be that the age requirement for women was lowered from 21 to 19 a few years ago. “So the increase in sisters on bikes probably reflects the overall increase in the number of female missionaries,” McCrary says.

The mission maintains a fleet of used bikes missionaries can borrow, but many elders buy new ones when they get to Chicago. Lightweight, inexpensive fixed-gear single-speeds are currently popular with the male missionaries. “The elders are obsessed with their fixies,” McCrary says. “They tease us that we should switch to fixed-gear.”

Since it’s less common for sisters to ride bikes, the ones who do tend to use the hand-me-downs, McCrary says. But the chain kept falling off the bicycle she was previously using, and its handlebars were covered with duct tape. “My dad’s a big cyclist back home in California, so he thought it would be a good idea to get a safer bike.” She now rides a silver Trek hybrid with a step-through frame.

The frame shape is important because sisters are generally required to wear skirts that cover the knees while working. “It allows the skirt to lay down around your legs while you bike,” McCrary notes. “We try to always stay modest.”

Despite their conservative dress, Aamodt and McCrary say they often experience sexual harassment when riding. “We get a lot of catcalling, a lot of inappropriate things being said,” Aamodt says. “It can be discouraging, but we try to brush it off and remember why we’re here.”

Then there’s the issue of “helmet hair,” Aamodt says. “Every day we put on our helmets and look in the mirror and say, ‘Well, we didn’t come here to look like models, we came here to serve the Lord, so if that means wearing helmets, that’s what we’ll do.’ ”

 

Comments

  1. Heptaparaparshinokh says:

    39 years ago, my father discovered that a member of the ward into which he was newly baptized was one of the infamous Illinois Nazis. He did so from an article in the Reader, which he read on the Burlington from Union Station back to his home in Brookfield.

    This is a slightly happier story. I was wondering if my old friend (and former Chicago 4th Ward bishopric member) David Pulsipher would make an appearance, since he was a bigshot in Chicago city government in promoting bicycle infrastructure (and biked from Edison Park to the Loop every day), but I remembered that he moved back to his native Denver a couple years back.

  2. We sisters were riding bikes in Switzerland and France 35 years ago — without helmets, without safety training. Also without fenders or mudflaps, so in rainy weather we sometimes looked like reverse skunks with a stripe of mud up our backs. We learned to choose clothes that let us be modest, and nearly everybody had a clothespin on a string tied to the frame to keep the front of the skirt from billowing up in the breeze.

    No complaints, really. They gave us independence, and recognition, and stories of close calls — like the time I went head over heels over handlebars (literally) in Toulouse. Time slowed down, and I expected to smash headfirst on the pavement. Instead, and I don’t know why, I landed on a bus bench, in a sitting position, with my skirt in its proper position, my knees crossed the way we always sat. There was a smear of green paint on my eyeglasses from smashing against something, I don’t know what, because I had no bruises.

    And there was the time, also in Toulouse, when my chain came loose in busy traffic and wound around the gears. There was no way I was going to be able to untangle it under the circumstances, and we were therefore in for a very long walk home. Burt somebody swerved out of traffic, jumped out of his car, fixed my chain without a word, jumped back in his car and was off. People in France tend not to stop to help strangers, but that one did. I’ve been blessing his unknown name for decades.

  3. Kevin Barney says:

    Great stories, Ardis! I’m hoping others will tell their war stories about mission bike riding.

  4. Same time frame as Ardis — sister missionaries and elders in England on bikes. Also no helmets or safety training. But no mishaps!

  5. I was in Amish country today. A girl on horseback rode with her dress bunched around her waist and jeans on her legs. Novel.

  6. Not a war bike war story, Kevin. The picture by the column is about a block east of the Logan Square chapel. The “old” Logan Square ward building was where I met Moana on my 14th birthday when there was one ward in Chicago. We started dating in our senior year of high school. A mission for me more or less the same mission as yours (some on bike), Ricks for her. We got engaged 4 days after I returned. Married while members of that diverse and, for that time, a culturally rich ward; a collision of wide-eyed married dental students from Utah studying at Northwestern, and very working class, Hispanic and Eastern European whites. Our first daughter Joy was blessed in the old building. We still got out with friends from the Logan Square ward for dinner.

    Great memories. Thank you for stirring them up.

    Now back to the bikes…

    Greg J

  7. Definitely admit to being a bit of a daredevil (i.e. immature) elder on my bike in France. Helmets were just being introduced but not before I got hit by a car taking a free right in Cannes. My toe hit the car and my head hit the pavement. I was trailing my comp at the time and he didn’t notice the accident, just kept riding away. He finally stopped for me and then rode back just as I was being loaded into the ambulance. I was pretty junior at the time and my French was not great so I was very grateful he made it back to accompany me. No serious injuries, maybe a slight concussion. Did not actually make me ride more carefully going forward and I was still obstinate about wearing a helmet. I’m amazed there weren’t more serious accidents but it did instill a love of biking for me that lead me to be a regular bike commuter in DC and even now in Africa. But always, always with a helmet and abundant caution through intersections!

  8. Kevin Barney says:

    Greg, thanks for the story about you and Moana. When I was a boy growing up in DeKalb Logan Square was in our (Wilmette) stake, and so I got to that building on occasion.

  9. John Mansfield says:

    “Another major perk is that biking exposes the missionaries to more residents and encourages spontaneous interactions with potential converts. ‘In a car you’re kind of closed off, but on a bike you’re out with the people,’ McCrary says.”

    It is a fairly common thing when I am on a bike for someone in a car to roll down the window and ask for directions. A funny memory that stands out was a morning in LA when three teen-aged girls flagged me down as I was pedaling by. Their car had a flat tire and they asked for help. They had a jack and a spare, I took care of things, and they continued on to school. So even for help with minor car problems, cyclists can be more handy than other drivers.

    The U.S. bike market is so recreation-oriented. There are commuter bikes with good fenders and even chain guards, but you wouldn’t know it from stepping into most bike shops. To equip a recent missionary, the options were narrowed down to the Jamis Commuter, Electra Loft, and Sun Fritz, and the missionary decided on the Sun bike. I will be curious how that one works out.

  10. Paul Ritchey says:

    Great article, Kevin. Thanks for sharing.

    In Guyana, we borrowed members’ bikes occasionally, which typically had no seats and no brakes. That makes for good war stories: one of my companions, riding in a moonless night, hit a donkey at full speed (both recovered). Personally, I once lost control right before crossing a narrow bridge over a trench (a kind of swampy open sewer). Off and over I went, and ended up with my feet on the bridge and elbow-deep in the muck, with my nose an inch above the water. My tie had flapped over my shoulder somehow, so was spared. The mirth of my companions was matched only once, when I fell in (all the way this time) on top of a large female Caiman. But that’s another story.

    Then again, we didn’t have to deal with dangerous traffic, or worry about how we looked. Power to the sisters of Chicago!

  11. I rode about half the time on my mission in Phoenix 2000-2002. I had an old GT mountain bike I inherited from another missionary and passed on to another one when I left. There was a member that had a stable of bikes he had salvaged from the trash that we used to outfit missionaries that didn’t have one. I don’t think we had any bike sisters.

    The biggest mistake that most missionaries make with bikes, IME, is that they buy heavy mountain bikes with full suspension and knobby tires–features that are pretty useless, and maybe actually detrimental in a pavement situation. (Well, knobby tires might not be all bad in a winter situation.) Whenever somebody I know is looking for a mission bike, I push fenders, internal gear hubs, and chain guards. But so far I’m as one crying in the wilderness.

    A few missionaries came to my mission with those awful Liahona bikes. They were heavy and full of unnecessary features, but worse, they were low-quality and were constantly having issues with brakes or derailers coming out of alignment, and wheels coming out of true. We used to joke that they were aptly named because the only way they would consistently work was by a miracle of faith.

  12. I was intrigued by “It’s kind of a strange sight to see two clean-cut young women riding bikes in skirts in Chicago.” I think we’d generally understand a clean-cut young MAN to mean clean-shaven, short hair. But then what exactly does it mean to be a clean-cut young WOMAN?

    OED says that clean-cut means “cut with smoothness and evenness of surface; hence, sharply outlined or defined.” I like the idea that our missionaries, of either gender, are “sharply defined” even if clean-cut in the hair-and-beard sense only makes sense for the men.

  13. French missionaries coming out of the woodwork… mid 90s, and our mission was close to 1/3 sisters, all of whom rode bike.

    We did have helmets – will always remember one elder from Fréjus and his “Casque de Salut”. Can’t even remember the details, other than a tunnel, a sharp corner, a car, and a head over heels.

    For me, the only issue was the type of bike. Like many, I made the mistake of buying a mountain bike. Which is fine, since so did most people. But while serving in Draguignan, my companion had a 10 speed. When we biked to other towns, including once to Fréjus… that’s just exhaustingly painful. Literally biked circles around me.

    Of course, it was all made better when biking from Aix to Avignon up and over the Luberon. Sme of the downhill we did would have busted a 10 speed.

  14. Am I the only one who thinks riding a bike in a long skirt is unsafe?

  15. Kevin Barney says:

    I too noticed that unusual clean cut usage.

    And I too wonder about the safety of riding bikes in long skirts.

    I’m enjoying your stories. I only had one bike area (on Colorado), where our bikes were stolen and we ended up walking.

  16. And I too wonder about the safety of riding bikes in long skirts.

    Unless you’re talking ankle length, it isn’t the length so much as the fullness — a straight or A-line skirt that hits mid-calf or above doesn’t come anywhere near gears, but even a shorter gathered skirt might. I wouldn’t wear the long flowered skirt worn by one of the sisters in this Chicago story, unless I were just posing with my bike for pictures — but only because it’s too full, not because it’s too long. The other sister’s skirt is straighter and doesn’t have any extra fabric to flap near gears.

    Elders with long pants are themselves at risk — they’re the ones who need pants clips, after all.

  17. Mark Bingham is a family friend. Good to see him doing good. And I love biking in skirts. It makes me feel a bit like I’m flying when the skirt is billowing. I also like wearing bike shorts underneath so I don’t have to worry.

  18. On my mission in Denmark 30 years ago, everybody rode bikes, including sisters. Including 80-year-old landladies. Bike paths were often separate from roads and sidewalks, and could get pretty crowded in the big cities.

    I have so many stories of feeling like I’d been protected from close calls — crashes in which I miraculously didn’t get hurt but either looked spectacular or trashed the bike. I was a bit reckless and did some stupid things, but I felt like I had a guardian angel watching over me, and he was working overtime. Then one Pday in a brand new area, I was riding without hands and holding a big bag of laundry in place on the back of the bike. I was looking around at street signs trying to orient myself in the new area, and my front tire spun in some unexpected sand, sending me face down to the ground. It wasn’t bad, by my standards, and I was pretty sure I’d caught myself with my hands and arms, face 6 inches from the pavement. And then it was as though someone put a hand on the back of my head and slammed my face into the asphalt. Opened me a second gaping mouth right below my jaw. As I lay in the doctor’s office while he pulled bits of gravel from my chin with a pair of tweezers before stitching me up, I was convinced my guardian angel had gotten so sick of me that he decided to teach me a lesson. He was also making sure I knew he’d quit and that I was on my own.

  19. Interesting story. I was a missionary in Illinois, Chicago North mission when the Logan Square chapel was dedicated (by Paul H. Dunn). I remember he was rather entertaining (if not completely fact based), but gave the same talk he gave at the dedication of the chapel up on the NW side as well. :-)

    I’m just wondering why they are riding bikes in the city of Chicago at all. Chicago Transit Authority has a pretty good bus and rail system that made it so we didn’t use bikes in the city at all. A monthly pass was reasonable in cost and got us anywhere we wanted to go. Riding in the city would be exciting, in a bad way.

    We did use bikes in the North Shore suburbs. Still can remember guys in trucks swerving by our bikes and missing my head with their mirrors by inches when riding on Golf road.

    Never once thought we should wear helmets. On P Day I would wear one of those racing bike hats as my only act of defiance.

  20. Kevin Barney says:

    Jb, good point about the availability of public transit in the City.

  21. Elizabeth Pack Mansfield says:

    I served in the Germany Munich mission from 1991-1993. Many of the sisters in our mission used bikes. The bikes all had fenders, chain guards, mud flaps, baskets, and front and rear lights with a dynamo hub. It was a new rule then that all missionaries were to use bike helmets. In Regensburg, my companion and I and the pair of elders started wearing bike helmets. At that time, no other bikers in Regensburg were wearing helmets. People would shout at us as we rode by and make fun of our helmets. The helmets became a conversation starter. We actually started teaching at least one woman because of “bike helmet contacting.” As time passed, the four of us missionaries doing so much biking every day in that city had an effect–other people started wearing bike helmets too and people stopped making fun of us.

    That winter we were teaching an investigator who lived up in the hills above Regensburg. As we rode our bikes at night from her place down to our apartment which was on an island in the Danube (der Donau), our breath would freeze on our scarves, eyebrows, eye lashes, and bike helmets, leaving a coat of ice. Fun memory!

    Cobblestones are really bumpy on a bike….

    Biking in the snow was also memorable. Germans (and us) at that time used bike ponchos which covered the head, arms, body to the waist, and handlebars. I remember having the front tire kick the snow up onto my boots and my skirt. In our mission dress code, we were encouraged to look like young business people. But, you know, young business people just do not ride bikes in the snow wearing dresses! My companion and I used to joke around that after our missions, we were going to put on our best dress, best shoes, and go for a bike ride in the snow! We know we looked somewhat silly, but the bikes got us where we needed to go faster than any other transportation means. Besides that, one companion I had in Innsbruck dropped 60 pounds in about two months. She was pretty happy about it.

  22. Kevin Barney says:

    Elizabeth, thanks for the great memories!

    I’m happy the Church is hard core about helmets. I don’t remember anyone ever wearing them when I was a kid in the 70s.

  23. Fifty years ago, in the Franco-Belgian Mission I had a french 10-speed bike. Most of the missionaries, both male and female, used Solexes, a direct-drive motor bike. Motor scooters had been abandoned because they were considered unsafe. For me on my bike: no helmet, no training, just clips to protect my pants.

    My bike on cobberstone roads was problematic. (A seriously bumpy ride.) As were embedded tram tracks. We tied our feet onto the pedals of the bike, so it you got caught in a tram track groove, over you went damaging your suit pants. People opening their car doors on the driver’s side was also a problem. I hit at least one car door during my mission.

    The bike wore out the seats of our pants. So we would have a replacement seat sewed on our pants. This fashion faux pas was covered by our suit jacket.

    Despite the above problems, I loved my bike. I have fond memories of riding it. Particularly in the beautiful French and Belgian countryside.

  24. Aussie Sister says:

    93 – 94 in Sydney Australia I rode a bike the majority of my mission. Was the quickest way to get around. The fashion (?) was longer fuller skirts and peasant style dresses – also long and full. We got around this by wearing bike shorts underneath and using safety pins to pin the back of the skirt to the front of the skirt – like a nappy style but longer – just past our knees. The elders said riding behind us going down hill was funny as the wind would get trapped in our skirts and blow up like huge balloons.

    Helmets were compulsory in Australia so we didn’t stand out with them on. I found a good use for the helmets while tracting. We would hang them off the our backpacks and leave an open packet of M&M’s in them. Easy to grab a few M&M’s between doors.

  25. I love missionaries on bikes. But the article makes us sound like weirdos. Which I guess we are.

  26. My bike horror stories involve one crash and two stolen bikes, one of which I almost got back when I saw the thief riding it just around the corner a day or two after the theft. My companion and I confronted him, but to make a long story short, he eventually made a clean getaway. I took a photo of him a few days later when I saw him in “downtown” Angers (France). My vindictive self is still wishing bad things on him. Yes, I’m evil.

  27. Cobblestones, heavens those cobblestones! Rural roads (asphalt) that transition to cobblestone in historic districts (particularly at the bottom of a steep hill) are absolutely dangerous. The pain was intense.

  28. My dad (Uruguay, late 1950’s had a fixed gear track bike in one of his areas that he used. He’d let his comp get ahead of him, then he’d start pedaling on the fixie and soon pass his comp while picking up speed. I (Oklahoma 87′-89′) shipped my 21 speed touring bike (with pink handlebar tape) by out to my mission. Used it my entire mission when not in car areas. Had a rack on the back that I’d strap my groceries to on p-days when we’d go shopping. Each transfer missionaries with bikes would break their bikes down and pack them in cardboard “bike boxes” to load in the mission vans, the Greyhound buses, or however you were getting to your new area. Some missionaries would pack thier extra books in the boxes, until the MP prohibited it.

  29. Chicago cyclist here and I completely understand why many missionaries travel by bicycle, especially during much of the year. First, in the last 10 years the city has extensively invested in
    bike lanes, including protected lanes in some parts like what you encounter in cities like Copenhagen and Amsterdam, the Divvy rideshare system and extensive bike parking. They’ve also built other critical infrastructure like the 606 trail while increasing awareness of cyclists. Chicago has a 2020 goal to make As a result, the number of cyclists has tripled since 2001. That plus the fact that while the EL (elevated trains / subway for the uninitiated) is convenient for certain regions of the city it is woefully inadequate for many others and the buses are a very wait intensive experience if you depend on them. Bicycles put the missionaries much more in contact with the area they are moving through and more likely to encounter a wider variety of potential conversations. It’s also a healthier mode of transportation.
    https://momentummag.com/cycling-safety-in-numers/

    As for me, I served in France & Belgium 89-91 and this must have been before the helmet rule was implemented as no one wore them. Instead I wore a jaunty green wool Kangol cap with ear flaps that extended during the winter months and kept my head dry on rainy days of all seasons. In the larger cities like Reims where public transportation was highly reliable and extensively spread we stuck to buses but everywhere else I served were cities and towns with far flung surrounding regions within District boundaries so bikes were the way to go. We regularly rode between 20 and 30 miles a day. I bought a used mountain bike off a departing missionary (big mistake now that I look back on it as I wound up with a Carrefour private brand mountain bike that was barely better than what rolls out of Target these days). The first time I took it in for repairs at a reputable bike shop the mechanic wrinkled his nose at having to work on this inferior heap. In fact, the quick release seat and wheels caused me all kinds of troubles since every time we parked our bikes in the courtyard of a large apartment complex “les voyous” (little hoodlums) would often feel compelled to wreak havoc on our bikes and steal what couldn’t be locked down. I had to cobble together new hubs and seat attachment from the local hardware store after I realized they were going to get stolen otherwise.

    I think I completely rebuilt my bike by the time my mission was over and pretty much gave it away to some greenie as I couldn’t bring myself to charge him for such a well seasoned bike at that point.

    We had a few hijinks on the bikes, several of which resulted in bodily injury for me. It’s worth saying that I destroyed my ACL playing ultimate frisbee in the MTC and that resulted in a 3 week delay arriving in France as I healed. For that reason I sense the Mission President and the Lord figured extensive biking would be excellent rehabilitation – which it was. Still, there was the day we were racing down a hill in Charleville-Mézières and my companion swerved in front of me to catch a jump off a curb and as I slammed on my brakes the front wheel caught and I was jettisoned to the asphalt where I fractured my scaphoid bone in my left wrist. The doctor was going to put a plaster cast on but I told him I needed something waterproof since I expected regular occurrences of immersion (baptismal optimism) so he fitted me with a green fiberglass cast that I wore for 3.5 months while the bone healed. Unfortunately I also wrote left handed so I quickly educated myself how to write with my right hand in order to keep up with my postal demands. I’m still largely ambidextrous now and while it takes me twice as long my handwriting is surprisingly neater from my right hand.

    Later, in Mulhouse, on the way home from a Ward party at the chapel I was looking back at something and ran smack into the back of a parked Peugeot and got my first French kiss. Unfortunately the rear glass I puckered up against was less forgiving and shattered one of my top central incisors. I sure we made quite a sight for the next week as I waited for my dental surgery as we knocked at doors and unsuspecting housewives opened up to a gangly kid who looked like a hockey player whose face got the worst of it on the ice with my gap tooth smile and fat lips. By that point, the next time I saw President he looked me over and declared, Elder, could you please try to be more careful from now on? I do not relish having to write yet another letter to your parents detailing your injuries.

    That said, we also had the benefit of serving in the vicinity of the Le Tour de France so even greater bicycle adventures came as we enjoyed the bike culture that came with that festival. And since an American of real reputation and natural talent, Greg LeMond, was tearing up the countryside with his maillot jaune in 89 and 90 that opened the door for us as some curious folks wanted to chat up these young Americans on bikes.

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