Archive for the ‘Living the life’ Category

July 27

The alarm is going off, and yet I’m still fast asleep, rising from the depths of a dream to cancel the sound. It’s not like it was on tour where I would wake just prior to the clock going off. Now there is no need to hurry. I lie awake now blinking at the Florida sunlight filtering in through the window. Slowly my thoughts turn toward a final summary of the journey…

America, I have seen and touched your face. You are an enchanting country where beauty and resources abound. Through this bicycle quest I have come to know the land, the people, and most of all myself in a way I never could had I not taken the first important steps that ultimately led to our pushing off for the journey of a lifetime.

The land…

I was privileged to see this country from a unique perspective. I studied the land in an intimate way. Not through the bug splattered windows of a passing car, visiting roadside stops designed for gasoline and giant soda fountains with their yawning tubs awaiting a fill of ice and beverage. Not from 30,000 feet gazing down at irrigation circles dotting the landscape as so many scattered poker chips, or stopping at airports and conference centers with all the hasty meetings and empty handshakes.

I came to know the land, not from a cushioned hydraulic shock reinforced suspension, but from feeling my way across the face of this country, learning its punishing hills and thrilling valleys, living in the humid heat and numbing cold of its weather. I know of the wind and its fickle ways to frustrate and reward. I have been stung by the hard rains, refreshed by the soft, and worried by the destructive weather of the year. I refreshed myself in the lakes and was schooled on the rivers. The flooding of the lands was mine to behold, not only seeing the deluge, but smelling the resultant rot from the mix of mud and debris, the ruined crops. I witnessed the awesome power of tornadoes as described by the destruction of the innocent structures, towns, farmlands, and the broken hopes of man.

I’ve been warmed daily by the sun, cooled in the evening by its passing, and startled at night by the jeweled skies above. My tent has been both home and shelter, containing all that I need. I have chosen our sleeping places carefully and was educated by the unyielding ground upon which I lay.

The people…

Without hesitation I was invited to fish fries where people celebrated the bounty of their catch and openly discussed their secret places to go on their rivers. I spoke with proud farmers calmly explaining their sophisticated equipment and their spacious lands. I touched the lives of those wounded by life’s tragedies and losses when we met in the various corners of the country, and they told me of their aching hearts.

I caught the eyes of strangers with our bicycles and gear, striking up lively conversations and watched their jaws drop when I told them of our plans. As brother and sister undertaking such a journey, we saw the wistful eyes of those who knew their own family members were not close enough for such a venture. I came to know the tender hearts of those affected by our quest. I sent notes to everyone who donated to our ambitious goal thanking them for their generosity and admiring their loyalty to, and interest in our quest.

The responses we received from the people supporting us on this ride were surprisingly vibrant, generous, and loyal. The web site was constantly referred to by readers as something they looked forward to everyday. E-mails were pouring in. Donations were mounting. In many ways, all of us were on this ride and then some. The journal took on a life of its own, and the followers were legion.


Over the course of this journey, at times I pushed myself beyond limits I did not know I had. Limits measured more than in the miles of the road. I pushed beyond boundaries of health sustaining rest, hydration, food, and shelter. My emotions rose to a thin and fragile surface. I exceeded limits in patience in both myself and others that I will forever regret.

I used the time riding to explore the history of my life, sorting out priorities, and reviewing my achievements, my valued relationships, my restless wanderings, and I examined my many failures.

My life is a set of journeys, laced together by common threads and themes written in a script that I now know is not my own. To think otherwise is the foolishness of youth. There is a chapter that continues writ bold in the death of my daughter Carlie. The long road I have been on since that time has been at once, one of trial, pain, suffering, learning, and redemption. I have survived thus far. In this crucible, I have learned much.

This journey across the country is not unlike revisiting the days of my grief at its fullest. To exhaust myself in an effort, gain little rest, and then continue the next day when the will is weak, and the spirit dimmed, and be rewarded by the effort in some unforeseen way…this has been mirrored in my journey. 

I first envisioned this epic ride across our country associated with my retirement from law enforcement. I did not know what my next steps would be, and I wanted to use the time to contemplate the rest of my life. As life often does, opportunities presented themselves in an alternative I did not expect, and I found myself in a second career working for MADD.

Despite the change in circumstance, the dream of a cross-country ride never died. Ultimately, I was graced with a leave to perform this journey and it is done, the trip is complete…it is more than that; it is achieved. It was both my privilege and honor to see it through. It will remain so always as a sacred moment in my heart.  As I move forward now, I do so always knowing there is value in seeing the distance we have come.

Thank you for following

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July 20, 2011

I’m uncomfortable and feeling out of place in my own skin.  I’m riding in the bus today to Portland and visiting with the driver as we travel the narrow two lane roadways that wind their way back into the forests of Oregon.  I keep looking at the road flying by at what seems like incredible speed.

It’s not a forest anymore, it’s a blur of green instead.

I can’t smell the fresh air from here, sense the moisture, know the flowers and breathe in the shady coolness.  Not through this giant window with its “vista view”.

I cannot hear it.  The birds and their morning calls; the rustle of the leaves betraying a cool wind, the melody of a spring flowing off the hillside.  Instead, I hear the drone of the bus motor way in the back.

I cannot feel the shadows and the sun as they alternately dapple my skin.  The road is cushioned by an air-ride that imitates some unnatural motion.  The pavement is never this smooth.  This is altered too much.  I hope I don’t become sickened by the motion.

Where we were only concerned with sunrise and sunset before,  now there are deadlines to meet, packing to be done, and closing times to worry about.

I can’t sleep on this bus, I wish I could.

This is going to be a difficult re-entry.

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Journey’s end

Manzanita, Oregon to Astoria, Oregon

Miles: 46

Total count – friendly horn taps: 121

Total count – rude horn honks: 29

Total miles for the journey: 4,769

Perhaps I've captured more in this one frame than all the others

The end of the road!  We concluded our journey today, landing in Astoria after a pleasant day of sunshine and warmth for our final day.  We even had some challenging hills to keep us humble enough to appreciate a finish.  Greeting us in the parking lot of the Maritime Museum was a contingent of supporters, representatives from three law enforcement agencies, and the mayor of Astoria, who presented us with a commemorative plate and a personal check for a donation to MADD.

It was a noticeable transition to go from the inward contemplation that takes place when cycling for all this time to meeting and greeting people, smiling for all the camera shots, and suddenly having four media interviews to be done today stacked in an e-mail I haven’t been able to read yet.  Please don’t misunderstand, the experience was quite exciting for us, but it was a sudden entry into another world.  I think there will be a lot of that for a good long while.

An inland crossing to Astoria

While working our way through the inland portions of our ride today, we went through sections of forest and farmlands.  We discussed how it was sort of a short review of the journey and the places we’ve seen.  The coastal sections were breathtaking and the sun light only helped turn up the colors for us, as if to give us a show for our last day.

This journey’s end will take some time to contemplate all that it means from this end now.  I know we’ve reached a large number of people through this journal and I am quite pleased with that and grateful for the attention.  The word-of-mouth endorsements and the sweeping tide of donations that has been generated has been remarkable.  These are the things that can be counted and measured.  What may not so easily be accounted for is the effect the journey has on me, my sister Sallie, and most importantly others whose lives may have been touched by our efforts.  That’s where the important work is done.  Pedaling the bike was easy in comparison.

The blog will continue.  We have more funds to raise (I fully intend to reach the $20,000 goal I set), and the donation mechanism will remain active (so tell your friends it’s not too late to donate!).  I will however take a break from making daily entries.  I need to rest my keyboarding skills and work on getting some sleep for a bit.  We have bikes to take apart and gear to ship, planes to catch, and other worlds to return to.  The transition will be significant.

I’ve summed up the horn counts at the top of the page.  Among other notable items related to the journey, we:

  • Took 85 days from start to finish
  • Rode for 80 days — we had 80 dedications completed
  • Received over 27,000 “views” to the web site
  • Averaged 59.6 miles per day
  • Took two days off to rest
  • Were grounded for three days because of storms, including one for tornadoes
  • Repaired one broken spoke (my bike)
  • Replaced Sallie’s crank set and chain
  • Replaced a worn chain on my bike
  • Repaired one flat tire on Sallie’s bike

We completed the trip with the original tires we started with, but carried spares just in case.  Our packing and preparations were more than adequate, the only thing we did not take that we wished we had was shoe covers for colder weather (we used plastic shopping bags inside our shoes as a replacement).  We debated using summer sleeping bags and then having heavier bags shipped to us in the middle of the trip, but decided instead to take the heavier bags (North Face Cat’s Meow 20 degree bags). That was a very sound decision as we experienced more colder weather than warm.  We needed the warmer bags in Mississippi of all places!

Right now, as I look over the Columbia River and my fingers search the keyboard for the proper words to put this journey into context, I know it’s not possible.  Not right now.  I will need to contemplate the changes, the meaning, and the measures of this journey, and that may take a good long while.  It is after all, the trip of a lifetime.

Thanks everybody!



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Neskowin, OR to Manzanita, OR

Friendly horn taps: 1

Miles: 64

Total miles so far: 4,723

Ride Update:  We are about 51 miles from our finish line at Astoria. There is one more day until completion!  Please consider a donation now, as we complete this journey!

The Pacific shoreline at Neskowin, Oregon

We reached the coast yesterday.  And as that resulted in some small celebration, we have not finished;  We came out of the coastal range just down the road from Neskowin at the end of the day.  Neskowin is about 115 miles south of Astoria.  We completed 64 of those miles today, and barring any problems, we will finish in Astoria, Oregon tomorrow.

Today we got an old fashion drubbing from the Northern Pacific weather.  We got rained on until we were thoroughly soaked and then it rained some more.  All morning long actually.  The air was cool enough to chill us through to our bones after a couple of descents on the coastal ridges, so when we broke for lunch we were digging for dryer clothes and questioning the value of those “waterproof, but breathable” membrane rain jackets.  It seems they won’t breathe enough to keep up with us when we are exerting ourselves on the climbs, and they don’t really keep water out after a day in the rain like we had anyway.  I had my best luck with a wool jersey once the rain slackened some.  The wool blend would still insulate some when wet, and the fabric dried fairly fast in the wind.

All things considered, we have been extremely fortunate with weather on this entire trip, so we are not complaining.  The rain just makes for good memories after one is warm and dry anyway.  Right?

We were told a long time ago by a couple who had completed the Trans-Am some years before, that the days would turn into weeks and the weeks would turn into months for us while on this journey.  That is an apt description.  The experience is full immersion.  So much so, that I am just now surfacing enough to recognize it.  I recall when we approached two weeks from a projected finish, and in a blink, we were down to four days remaining.

In the middle of the ride, when we would seem to make little progress because normal measures were impossible to use, it was a bit like I was riding with my teeth clenched because it was difficult work and the daily efforts seemed like all I could muster.  Now I am wondering where it all went.  Somehow from that mid-point on, a new energy took us along and before we knew it, we are here.

Normal measures.  Now there’s an interesting topic.  I recall year two after Carlie was killed as being considerably more difficult than year one.  In year one I would think, “It’s been 123 days, and I feel like this…”  It was easy to measure and compare when I’ve never experienced 123 days after the death of my child before.  However, I found that day 437 was that much more difficult and one of the reasons is because I had no normal measure for day 437.  Who would have?  We usually count in months (only up to a year) and in anniversaries.  How do you relate to difficulties at day 437?  Who counts to 437 in the first place?  I know my teeth were clenched and I was all but hanging on.  And then..at some point I knew I’d make it.  It may have been after five years, it may have been nine.  I’m not sure, because the days turned into weeks and the weeks turned into months…  There were no normal measures, but it happened.

Not unlike this ride of ours.  Normal measures just don’t apply, but it happened.

Elephant Ear rock off the coast at Pacific City

The view from above Cape Lookout

Sunset tonight at Manzanita


Tomorrow’s ride is dedicated to Brian Hood

Brian Hood

Brian Hood was killed by a drunk driver in September 1998 in Bend, Oregon.  Brian is pictured here in the great outdoors, definitely in his element and the place he loved best.  Brian always saw life as an adventure.  His family loves and misses Brian.  They say, “Our lives have not been, and will never be the same without him….there will always be the empty chair.”  Brian was 23 years old.

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Cascading west

Sisters, OR to Vida, OR

Friendly horn taps: 1

Miles: 67

Total miles so far: 4,503

The Cascade Range as we leave Sisters, OR

We completed our final mountain pass today, clearing McKenzie Pass and dropping into the pacific side of the Cascade Mountains.  The pass was closed to all motorized traffic, so we literally had the road to ourselves.  This was quite fortunate, as they intend to open it to traffic tomorrow and in the words of one of the road crew, “It will be a zoo.”  The road is quite narrow and there are no shoulders.  I am grateful for the opportunity to do this without traffic.

We were rewarded for our labors going up the pass by terrific vistas at the top, and a complete change in vegetation going down the 4,000 foot descent.  The western slope receives about 100 inches a year in precipitation where the area we were leaving gets 10 inches a year.  The Pacific silver fir, western hemlock, and the western red cedar trees are a magnificent change, and their enormous trunks dominated my eye.  Ferns were growing on the forest floor and the green colors were sparkling in the sunlight.

We still have hills to deal with, but the monstrous mountains we’ve contended with are all behind us now.   We spilled out below the Cascade Range onto the banks of the famous McKenzie River, and we will follow the same river all the way to the area of Eugene tomorrow.  It’s downstream that way, so we are still descending (we like that!).  By the way, I am finally below 1,000 feet elevation and that’s just fine with me.  Summer can resume anytime.

Road closed...bicycles are permitted

Mount Washington as seen across the lava fields from near the summit of McKenzie Pass

At the summit of McKenzie Pass...pretty much freezing cold at that point too

Descending through the enormous trees

A covered bridge over the McKenzie River

The upper McKenzie River. We went by Greg Tatman's boat shop today too. If you are looking for a white water boat project to build, look up Tatman's boats.


Tomorrow’s ride is dedicated to Richard Dean Boes

Richard Boes

Richard Dean Boes of Stayton, Oregon was killed in a crash involving a drunk driver on June 13, 2003.  Richard was 26 years old.



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