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.