The Legend of Issaqueena 
Nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, there once lived a Creek Indian maiden named Issaqueena, in a village called Keowee Town, aptly named for the beautiful Keowee River. Issaqueena fell in love with an English trader, Francis Allen. One night she overhead a tribunal talk of attacking Star Fort, where Allen had gone to do business. She jumped on her pony and made the 96-mile trek to alert Allen and the fort of the impending attack. Her mission was successful and she and Allen were married and had a son borne of the union.

Issaqueena’s Last Ride is a challenging bicycle ride through the beautiful foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of South Carolina commemorating this young Cherokee woman's contribution to the English settlers. Ten years ago, in 2008, I took up the challenge and logged my first 100 mile bike ride on this difficult route. In the middle of the experience, thought it might be my last.

I wasn't really sure what to expect, so I arrived at 7:30, one hour before the start time. I didn't come with anyone to go on the ride, although my wife did come to cheer for me before we took off. I really appreciated her support. At 8:30, we promptly took off out of the Walhalla area. I had lined up about middle of the pack, a position that I felt would keep me from going out too hard, and keep me from getting caught up in the high speed riders.

However, somewhere between 30 and 40 miles in, and I was finished. I had been riding at a 20-25 mph pace. This could really be trouble. A stop helped dramatically, but only for a few miles... Somehow my wife and father-in-law decided to drive out and find me, and when they did, they found I had become all alone. I stopped and talked with them for a few minutes, drank another entire bottle of gatorade, and pounded a Cliff bar. The problem was, I had only just now reached the bottom of the mountain section. Talking with them raised my spirits a little, and put things into perspective that unless I rode at my own pace, I would to be able to complete the total 100 miles.

I didn't push it. I got up to 9 mph occasionally, but I stayed at a pretty consistent 6mph. Not a blazing speed by any means, but I was still moving. I didn't see anyone at all for 2 or 3 very slow miles. It is amazing what your mind thinks about when you are all alone. I began to worry that the volunteers would clean up and leave their rest areas before I got there. The road was painted with things like "You thought that was hard," and "Nope, there is still more" but I did begin to get excited when it said "One really hard mile left" I might actually get up this thing! It must have been a cyclist who wrote that last sign, because it ended up only being .77 mi left in the mountain climb. Normally "one mile to go" turns out to be about 1.3 or so, but this time it went in my favor. This was a stop overlooking beautiful Lake Jocassee.

The next stop was at 70 miles or so, and I was making good time, and all was well in the world until a rider says "Now there is one more real nasty climb coming up" I think he said it would have 17% grade... I'm not sure if I heard him right on the second part, but he was right, it was nasty. Then the home stretch.. I had 20 miles left to go, mostly flat or downhill. It is funny how hard even the slightest uphill became. But I was doing it! I knew my girls would be waiting for me to come in, and that excitement began to turn into speed. I pulled stronger and stronger over the last 10 miles until finally - we had made it!

My computer said 100.043 miles, and had a total ascent of 8900 feet. Awesome! I had survived the experience, but I would not have if it had not been for the support of many others along the way.

As I said, 10 years has passed since that ride, but it is still a vivid memory for me. I have been eager to try many additional challenges in life, and feel like one of the most pastoral things I can do is to lead others to do the same. Why? Because it is in our own weakness we find out how strong God really is. It is in our need of one another, that God unifies our hearts.

In Romans 15:5 it says: 
May the God who gives ENDURANCE and ENCOURAGEMENT give you a spirit of UNITY.

What is God challenging you to do today? It may not be a difficult bike ride, hike, or public speaking engagement. Yet, whatever it is, through it he will teach you to rely on Him. Are you willing to take action today? I hope you will!

Pastor Milo
@milowilson