Thursday, October 25, 2012

Celebrate Impermanence

We have dipped our tires into the Atlantic. And then we dipped our smiling lips into a long cold beer. Some cried, others laughed, and everyone looked like they had eaten the canary. That look of knowing something that no-one else does. That discovery of a deeper understanding of who we are and where we live is a treasure not easy to find. And because of that discovery we each go back to our other lives very different people then we were on September 14.

A beautiful coincidence is that Brett was able to make the trip back to a hospital close to home by way of air ambulance. He has started to shown signs of recognition and consciousness. He wags his hand in response to questions, and he moves his eyes towards whoever is talking. His recovery is just beginning and he has a long way to go. His life has changed forever. And we all go our separate ways with Brett deep in our thoughts.

Nothing is ever the same. Each day the ride was different and there was nothing we could do to change that. But that is the same in everyday life. Nothing stays the same and when we don't accept that fact, then we suffer.

Thank you all for following this journey and contributing to Awaken Africa.

"A man practices the art of adventure when he breaks the chain of routine and renews his life through reading new books, traveling to new places, making new friends, taking up new hobbies and adopting new viewpoints" - William Petersen

Sunday, October 21, 2012


In the Navajo reservation, a skinny dog, with junked up eyes and only 3 working legs found his way to our lunch stop. He was skiddish and afraid but hunger overrode his fears as snooped around for something to eat. One of the group took pity on him and he has been with us ever since. His name is Baboo, formally unknown.

Now he's got some meat on his bones, his eyes are clear and loving, and he embraces affection. He rides in the van and is there to greet us at our stops. He willingly gets smuggled in a cooler if we stay in a "no pets allowed hotel". He eats like a king, and even with a bum hip he has no problem hopping up onto a cozy bed. He is probably a lab crossed with a basset/dachshund....hence one of his nicknames...Lowrider.

Baboo has become one of the group, and the rest of us take great delight in humanizing the thoughts he might have about his past, present and future life. After the trip he will get a hip replacement, loose a bit of his manhood and find his home in Greenville. We are all pooling our money to pay for his vet bills.

We are in Columbia, SC home to the Gamecocks. The weather is treating us like Kings.

Our friend is showing more signs of recognition, like thumbs up, and some subtle head movement. His family is starting to make plans to move him to a trauma unit closer to home. He continues to dominate our thoughts.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Smokeys

Today after leaving Asheville, we climbed to cross the Eastern Continental Divide. The descent brought us into a the village of Chimney Rock which is nestled in the shadow of the mountain for which it is named. I had one of those "where am I" moments. Looking around I could have been in the Rockies again, or perhaps the Alps. My brain certainly couldn't assimilate what my eyes could see with North Carolina. But they will now. Beautiful.

Our route through the Smokey mountains has taken us up long winding climbs, down some ripping descents and along wide free flowing rivers. It's a cyclist paradise.

A few days ago, while sitting next to the bike in at a random gas station, probably looking a little worn, a guy with one arm approached me. He asked how far I had ridden. I said a hundred miles. He said "we have no idea what it feels like to ride a hundred miles, do we". Probably not I said assuming "we" referred to everyone who hasn't. I thought to myself that the challenge of riding a century pales in comparison to the challenge that he faces. Or that many of us face on a daily basis. Just dealing with the stress and anxiety of daily life is one of the biggest possible challenges. A friend's 13 year old daughter has diabetes. She says that life is no different for her except she has more responsibility. Shouldn't we all adopt that attitude as we face our daily lives?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Thank you!

"You have not lived until youve done something for someone who can never repay you " - John Bunyan

Thank you to all of you who have donated to Awaken Africa. I never cease to be amazed and touched by peoples' generosity. If you are not able to donate, I appreciate you following my journey and perhaps reading about Awaken Africa and becoming more aware of the challenges the children of Africa face, or for that matter the children of the world.

Here is one minute video showing what Awaken Africa( soon to be Lion Hearted Kids) does. Your donations will help perpetuate this environment for traumatized children.

We are in Sevierville, TN, which you may not have heard of until I say that Dollywood is just up the road. We had a couple of our longest cycling days to get here from Nashville, but the weather couldn't have been better. Our backdrop is a kaleidoscope of the season changing leaf colors covering the rolling hills. The dogs are still nice and feisty, and the Romney/Ryan posters litter the yards. The mornings are cool, and the midday sun is warm. Tomorrow we cross in North Carolina.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

It's not about the Bike

If and when I cycle in Charleston next week, the assumption is that I will have accomplished something. But have I?

Being able to cycle from the west to the east coast of America is a pointless achievement unless you pay attention as you ride. If you spend the whole time thinking about how to make it to the end without having to ride in one of the support vans, what have you accomplished. How many times have we trained or worked toward something, only to recede into a slump of sorts once the big event is over? Why is that? Most likely because we become attached to the outcome because that's how we want to define ourselves, only to find out that is forgotten as quickly as it ends.

Whether I ride in the van because of freezing rain or because I have muscle cramps, or whether I make it across the country unaided at breakneck speed, it will only be a milestone if I paid attention along the way. And that's not something ill be able to brag about, in fact no one will ever know. But that experience will shape me and be the memory . Feeling those drops of cold rain, feeling the wind in my face, feeling the burn in my quads, the smells, the sights, feeling the love, feeling the stress and anxiety. Paying attention to each thing as it happens, rather then worrying how each thing might prevent me from getting to the end...that's the accomplishment, that's the desert.

I take this thought into this next week, our last week, which I hope lasts a lifetime.

We are enjoying a rest day in Nashville, at The Hermitage Hotel. A hotel who has hosted everyone from Bruce Springsteen, to Don King, to Lance, to Al Capone to Jimmy Hoffa. Perhaps the latter is still here somewhere. This hotels old school ambience makes one feel to need to walk around the lobby in a bathrobe. That of course between catching some live honky tonk on broadway.

Tomorrow we are back on the bike. Our friend is in day 8 of being in a coma. Our thoughts are with him.l

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Dogs of Missouri

Any self respecting cycling guide will tell you to slow down if you get chased by a dog. Any self respecting cyclist if chased by a dog will peddle like a bat out of hell. But if you make the decision to flee you better be sure you can maintain a solid 25mph for 50 meters...a big commitment.

As we rode through Osarks and its surrounds, our daily expectation was somewhere between 5 to 10 chases. Sometimes the dogs were solo, other times they pursued in packs. Either way Missouri was great for our interval training.

No one was bitten, which begs the question if these dogs mean business. Even dogs can be profiled and like people you can tell by the look on their face as to their intention. The dog that comes in hot, with hair bristled, a patch on their eye and knife in their hand, and catch you on a hill, well inclip your dog side shoe and ready it for a foot in the mouth. Like anything you do enough times you start to understand it may not be what it appears at first. So after a week of being ambushed you realize that if you steer toward to dog and look it understandingly in the eye, it will get its run in and then back off. It's just a game, if you play by the rules.

And then there are the post ride war stories. They are sort of like fishing stories. No self respecting cyclist should admit to being chased by 2 dogs with 3 one of the group proudly announced. I'm thinking its better to just say you were chased by a dog with 6 legs. But all dog chase stories are very funny especially when you picture the flight, fight or freeze dilemma and the ensuing action. Today's close call for me was when I caught out the corner of my eye a barkless fox hound peeling out of a barn in my direction. I chose to flee. A questionable decision considering the next 50 meters was up a hill. My adrenaline kicked in. The hound came close but backed away...with a shit eating grin on its face.

We are in Dover, TN. In the last four days, crossed the Mississippi River by ferry, we had a lot of rain and side winds, and the temperatures have been warm again. Our appetites seem to be peaking as we town hop eating everything in our paths. Tomorrow night is Nashville.

Our friend still lies in a coma and is always in our thoughts.

Thursday, October 11, 2012


I would be lying if I said I was doing this ride primarily to raise money for Awaken Africa. I'm doing this ride for further self discovery and taking the opportunity to raise awareness for Awaken Africa, and in the process learning about why, how and when people give money to a cause that may never affect their own well being.

I learned my latest lesson yesterday. I received a text from a good friend of mine last night asking where I was. I told him that I was in Branson, MO. He responded saying that he had just found out that I was cycling cross country. I was sort of confused since he had made a substantial donation last week. His response to that dilemma..."I just saw an email that you were raising money for something in Africa." I am truly touched.

Our friend still lies unconscious in the hospital. There has been some subtle progression in his recovery, but unfortunately his predicament is still quite dire.

I think that everyone's intention on this ride has changed...each day is now a dedication. It's a dedication to our friend, a salute to him getting the most that is possible out of his situation.

We are rolling through the Ozarks. Today's century rolled along beautiful country roads. Unfortunately in cycling the term rolling is not like an amusement park ride, it's a gentle way to say a lot of uphills. But for some this kind of riding is fun.

We are closing in on the mighty Mississippi

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Dark Days on the Trek

One of my fellow trekkers crashed 2 days ago. He was helivaced to a trauma unit. He underwent immediate surgery to attend to his fractured skull and relieve the hematoma in his brain. He lies in ICU unconscious. His prognosis and future is undetermined. His wife and children wait patiently by his side. All we all can do now is wait...

The conditions on the road at the moment of the crash were as innocent as could be. This could have happened anytime, anywhere...on a bike, in a car, on an adventure, on our way to work, on our way to dinner.

The group rides on. The group has become even closer as we unite our energy and send it to our compadre. The 2 doctors in our group help us understand, the priest in our group helps us understand, and we all help each other channel positive energy to our friend.

On this trip we all share experiences of difficult long days in the seat. When we are at home we struggle with relationships, or seem to suffocate under the pressure of life' stress and anxiety. But all this suffering and struggle pale in comparison to our friends predicament. In fact yhe latter all seems like a luxury, like a privilege.

We have crossed into Missouri and are also 2/3 of the way across the country. It seems like yesterday that this journey began.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Century Week

93, 93, 103, 127, 113. Those are the respective distances we covered this past work week.

My brain on wind...the night before the 127 mile day, the forecast called for 25 mph winds headed out of the NNE. We were heading E. The one thing I've learned the last few days is the weather forecasters might be hit or miss on rain, but they seem to be dead on wind speed and direction. The trees were whipping around when we woke up for the 127 day. A nerve wracking sight. It was a long and sometimes treacherous day. The treachery was the potential of being blown off the bike or into traffic. But all of this drama when assimilated properly by the brain becomes a quiet hum. And the day ended late but without incident. But that's when the brain reverts to images of days of easy riding thinking that hard stuff is over. Needless to say the next day after a very sheltered start through a beautiful park in Woodward, OK, we popped out into a headwind. It was amazing to experience the feeling of almost immediate defeat, thinking that the day was going to be hell. But as Churchill said "when you are going through hell...keep going". And all I had to do is bring myself back to the present moment, and remind myself to experience each meter as it came. The day was long but actually quite easy in the grand scheme of things.

This country is so amazing in its cultural and environmental diversity. I sometimes feel like I am crossing international borders. At one point we are seeing Elk in the conifers, then Pronghorn on the plains. Or talking to a Native American, then hanging out with a Native Mexican. Seeing someone driving a brand new Range Rover, then seeing someone riding a horse to work. Seeing an oil well amongst corn fields. Being a cyclist on an interstate highway. Being cooked by 127 degree roads, then being pelted by freezing hail. Being pelted by democrat rhetoric, then being pelted by GOP rhetoric.

And we are only halfway across this country. Now it's onto the weekend, with a couple 70 milers in our sights.


I'm sitting in a Starbucks in Bartlesville, OK, after a beautiful 70 mile ride from Ponca City. It was 28 degrees when we woke up, but the right amount of layers and a full Sun, made for a comfortable day.

I'm sitting here just thinking of the randomness of being here at this moment. Some would say I scripted being here, but it doesn't feel that way. I don't think we can truly script our lives and when we try that's when we loose the to speak.

Some would say I'm on an adventure, but I think each of our lives can be an adventure. William Petersen said..."A man practices the art of adventure when he breaks the chain of routine and renews his life through reading new books, traveling to new places, making new friends, taking up new hobbies and adopting new viewpoints"

Today's adventure took us through the rolling hills of north East Oklahoma. A couple days ago I would have called anyone who said OK had contours a lier. I suspect we are out of the Great Plains, and today's rollers are a measure of the east coast riding we will experience from here on in.

Now it's time to adventure my way into the hotel jacuzzi.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Head Wind vs. Tail Wind

Our last two days had a very similar profile. 93 miles. 4,000 feet of climbing. A steady climb in the morning, and then fairly flat terrain for the last 50 miles. There was one big difference. The last 50 miles of yesterday was into a 20 mph headwind and todays latter 50 we were pushed by a 20mph tailwind. So that begs the observation of what changes when the wind changes... Tailwind vs. Headwind - Lucky to do 10mph up a slight incline vs. cruising at 25 up that incline - People develop turrets vs. people sing top 40 dance songs - Get to your destination in time for lunch vs. get there in time for a nap - Best ride of my life vs. that was my last bike ride - Dreading ones turn at the front of the pace line vs. refusing to leave the front - Everyone in the pace line hates each other vs. its like Woodstock in the pace line - Stop for water refills every 5 miles vs. don't need to drink - Wondering if its going to rain tomorrow vs. combing weather reports for a 3 degree change in wind direction. You get the picture. There are a happy group of cyclists at the best western in Clayton, NM.

Monday, October 1, 2012

2 mile high club

3 days ago we reached our highest point of the ride, during the longest ride of the trip. The distance for the day was 140 miles which brought us throught the Cumbre Pass which is about 2 miles about sea level. We were welcomed by hail. Since that was the highest point it must be all down hill from here.Spending a full day riding a bike is a journey in itself, considering the range of emotions and sensations one experiences. It is so epic, that what you are feeling at 9 a.m. feels monumental at the time, but by 3 p.m. is long forgotten as you are wrestling a new "life changing" experience. The end of the day like that is pure ectasy for most, probably mostly out of relief with a springling of accomplishment. The physical fatigue usually appears to be the dominant sensation, but the weight of our cerebral experience is often underestimated, if not already forgotten. Our arrival in Taos, was the end of half the groups' journey, as well as the end of a big day. Big Party. Good thing that yesterday was a rest day. A day for recovery, a day for good-byes, a day to embrace change.The party is over now and today we got a taste of whats to come. A beautiful ride through Cinamaron Canyon started the day, but a 20 mph ended a day that took us out of the mountains and onto the plains of NE New Mexico. The next week will be Oklahoma...long flat and windy.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Awaken Africa

Before I started this journey I thought long and hard about how I might raise money for Awaken Africa. I have felt conflicted since many of you donated to another amazing cause a couple years ago on my behalf, so I didn't want to ask again. I am now 1100 miles or third of the way and have realized that its not about me but about all the children that Awaken Africa can and will help. So once again ...I use my adventure to help raise awareness. Imagine this child. A pot of boiling water topples onto her from a stove. Her once pretty little face is barely recognizable, disfigured by third-degree burns. She does not have the luxury of plastic surgery, post-trauma counseling or even the loving care of a family. Imagine the pain, the fear and confusion at so many levels this child would face.

Burns like this are just one of the many tragedies that are common to many African communities, where makeshift stoves, open fires and lack of family supervision are the hallmark of poverty.

The topic of children’s mental and physical health is very important to me because I believe that health is our most amazing privilege and I think that it is our responsibility to cultivate and protect this privilege for the children of the world.

Awaken Africa is dedicated to facilitating healing and growth of children and families from underserved communities in South Africa. The 501c3 organization offers culturally relevant mental health services that treat the psychological traumas resulting from low socioeconomic circumstances, violence and like threatening health conditions. Awaken Africa is committed to raising the psychosocial and emotional well-being of children and families from underserved communities in South Africa thereby cultivating the leaders of the future.

Thank you for your consideration

Friday, September 28, 2012

Mountain Time

We are lounging in Pagosa Springs, Colorado. The sulfur hot springs provide are a nice way to sooth the muscles in preparation for our 140 mile, 8000 feet of ascent, ride into Taos tomorrow.

The hot flat landscape has been replaced by the greener, cooler hills of Colorado. I think that most of us have found our rhythm, and routine thanks to our Trek Guides who make our daily transitions unrecognizable, who are always there to sooth our hunger and thirst, who have our bags waiting for us in the next hotel, who are always smiling...even when we are not. All we have to do is eat, sleep and ride...if we replaced ride with sex we would be like the lion, the king of the jungle. But for now we are just the masters of living.

Red State, Blue State

The NFL was created by a man who considered the state of consciousness of the people of United States. He realized that this was a country of pilgrims who fought for what they wanted and believed. He realized that this country loved a hero, loved the forward movement of its history, and that it loved its story and the successive chapters thereof so far. So he took the the basics of rugby and soccer, the 2 sports not really enjoyed by this new nation and added a quarterback, a forward pass, and the 1st down, just like a chapter where a fan can stop for a second to absorb the big picture.

As we cycle through red and blue states in a presidential election season, we are constantly reminded of the genesis of this country as we know it. Washington represented a self sufficient group of people who wanted a government who would play a minimal roll in the development of this new nation. Just like we needed a new sport we needed a new form of government. And this became the basis of our constitution.

It's now 2012 and we are no longer that people who had nothing, and were ready and willing to band together to build a nation. The nation has been built, and we are enjoying the privilege that this nation offers us. Our consciousness has changed, we take this nations infrastructure for granted, which is fine. But shouldn't we all acknowledge that we are a bit more needy then our forefathers. We depend and need - roads and bridges; cheap gas and public transport; regulation and deregulation and regulation; we need to feel safe and comfortable. We need all these government subsidized perks so that we may sit back and enjoy Monday Night Football

Monday, September 24, 2012

Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon has been forming for 2 Billion years...

And it's as majestic as it is old. It's image for me has always been of a post card destination, loaded with tour buses andhoards of people. The latter is very true. But if one can find a place of solitude and gaze out over this relic of time and perhaps even ponder its existence, then the anxiety of falling into a tourist trap quickly fades.

To put it into perspective, if the first human looked out over this canyon, they would see pretty much the same thing we see today. Our existence is a speck in the big picture. It's an important reminder not to take things too seriously... Cause our things are just a speck in the big picture.

After a rest day at the Grand Canyon the group had a beautiful, wind aided cycle into the Navajo Nation, where we will spend tonight in Tuba City.

The picture below is like most pictures in that people who look at it have a very different experience to the photographer. This picture stood out for me in this case. I was sitting quietly on the edge taking in the grand canyon, when this big crow hopped along the edge and when it got to about 2 feet from me it stopped looked up(so I iPhoned it) at me and then hopped along to the next ledge. Someone once told me the crow was my animal I'm a believer.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Getting your kicks on Route 66

Lunch today was in Peach Springs, a small town in the Hualapai Indian Reservation. As we ate a local resident wandered over and stuck up some casual conversation leading into a request for some water and then some spare change. The water was apparently needed because he had a bit of a hangover. He went on to say that he doesn't drink much but last night he had a 20oz'er before bed. I thought to myself, that a nice big beer like that may make me sleep well I doubt it would induce a hangover. That teaches me to assume, since it was 20oz of whiskey...

The roads in the reservation were resurfaced with the nice gritty tar and there wasnt a bar of cell phone service. Admittedly I probably don't understand the big picture, but at face value I had some third world déjà vu. Sort of a weird feeling in the middle of the U.S.

A couple of kids walking along the road further engaged my philosophical thinking. Society tends to look at underprivileged or traumatized children with eye of pity, or perhaps even the need to adopt or help, or just see the good in them. Those children grow up like we all do, with personalities moulded by survival and fear. When we encounter adults who annoy us, or who seem to be not nice, or who scare do we perceive that person? Those people are the same people they were as children. Why do we stop seeing regarding them with pity, why do we stop looking for the good in them?

We are heading west along route 66 and based on the media coverage over the past few years I've been expecting so see droves of homeless people heading west in their 5 year old minivans. All I've seen are miles of freight trains with China written on the containers, 2012 minivans heading east, and people using iPhones. The only place that appears to be in a recession is Peach Springs, but I'm guessing that has looked that way for since Chester Arthur was president.

The desert is getting greener and bushes a little higher. Besides wild Burros, the only signs of wildlife as we speed by on these hot days is a wild boar, bobcat and owl...roadkill. Which happens to be the name of the restaurant we are dining at tonight.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Havasu, Arizona

One of the joys of daily long distance riding cycling is the ritual of rubbing cold anti-rub cream on your cycling shorts and pulling them on first thing in the morning.

But the payoff is arriving in amazing places like Lake Havasu...home of a London Bridge. In the 60's Havasu purchased a bridge from London, England for a couple million bucks and here it stands today in all it's glory. Who'd know we are in a red state...

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Heist

Picture a movie where there is a split screen. On the left there are a couple of cops at the LA airport scratching their heads as to the whereabouts of the coffin that was just reported missing. On the right you see a couple of guys with long hair tearing up the I10 towards Joshua Tree in a rented hearse. In that coffin 30 years ago was the musician Gram Parsons who overdosed at the Joshua Tree Inn. His father wanted his body back in New Orleans for burial. But his friends new he wanted his ashes spread around the hills of Joshua Tree National Park. They made it to the chosen hill, doused the coffin with gas and lit it on fire before having to run from authorities, who eventually caught them. They were fined $750 for stealing the coffin. Body theft was not against the law then. Parsons charred body made it back to Louisiana.Last night we stayed a few miles down the road from where Parsons enjoyed his last days in this small oasis town in the middle of the Desert.Parsons life and death is not what put this area on the map. And neither did the   mormon settlers when they named the plant formally known as Yucca, the Joshua Tree, because it's branches reminded them of the biblical Joshua raising his hands to the sky.  Bono, brought a subtle world wide attention to this area when, knowing why the tree was named so, thought it would be the perfect name for an album exploring the boundaries of American Culture.The Mojave desert is just about in our helmet mirrors, as we shack up for the night in Parker, Arizona on the east bank of the Colorado river. The Mojave desert is harsh beauty.  The road disappears into the end of the earth, the mountains with their ragged edges stand their ground against the nothingness, of earth, and pre-tumbleweed. And the stillness is owned by the sun, which keeps the air at 100 degrees but kicks the road and rocks to about 120 degrees...the latter becomes the ambient temperature for a cyclist.  But nothing an efficient pace line and frequent water and goodie stops catered by our very efficient guides, can't handle.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Coast to Coast

"Pay attention Timothy"...I don't know how many times I heard that growing up. Subtle advice,  that never really seemed to sink in. Today was day one of cycle across America. A 80 mile spin from a nice 70 degree hotel across the street from the Pacific in Santa Barbara, to a dry 100 degree Valencia. The word on the street is that dry is the best kind of heat...Im reminded to day that dry heat, is the dryest kind of heat. As I cycled along today the concept of paying attention festered in my thoughts. All I could think about was the end of the ride, or why I signed up for this in the first place or if i remembered to pay my health insurance...rather then paying attention to the beauty of the Santa Ynez mountains or just listening my own breath and body. It reminded me how we continuously strive to get to the end of things. The end of a project, the end of the month to be paid, the end of the time before a vacation, the end of a run, the end of discomfort, the end of comfort(cause we know it's coming). And if you add all these up, it adds up to the end of life. We strive to get to the end of life. As I cycle across the U.S. my mantra is to examine paying attention and understanding the big picture rather then dwelling on or fretting the smaller stuff. There are 20 something of us. And it's just the beginning. And that's all that matters.