Archive for the ‘The mental challenge’ 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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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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*This post was written June 30, but I was unable to post until July 1 because of signal availability*

Twin Bridges, MT to Bannack State Park, MT

Rude horn honks: 2

Miles: 54

Total so far: 3,613

Nice background for a video shoot, yes?

We had some special visitors this morning. ABC World News News Correspondent Ron Claiborne, and Associate Producer Bradley Blackburn met us at our camping spot in Twin Bridges to do an interview about the ride, the blog, and what all this means. The intended purpose is for airing on ABC World News sometime in the next two to three weeks.

Sallie negotiates some camera angles

Let me say this right off the bat. These fellows drove up from Denver, and I hope they had another story to cover, because that is a long haul. Regardless, I know they had not had much sleep, but you couldn’t tell – their enthusiasm was remarkable. They were concerned about the time an interview would take and how it may affect the outcome of our day’s journey, so after introductions, Sallie and I started our ride on the bikes down State Route 41 and they shot background footage for about an hour.

Shooting background footage from a rental car

More background shots by Bradley Blackburn of ABC World News

The day couldn’t have been better in terms of weather. The sun was out, there was barely a cloud in the sky, the air was cool, maybe in the mid-sixties. At that point in the ride, the terrain was level as we moved south-west through a green valley dotted with ranches on either side, and bordered in all directions by gorgeous mountains (thank you once again, Montana).

After the background footage, I was interviewed at roadside for about 45 minutes to an hour. The interview was not easy, as it seems two things were going on simultaneously. One: We have been on the road now for over two months, and despite my willingness to try, it’s difficult to suddenly put together my best thoughts for this purpose. My thoughts are still there kind of percolating around all the time, but conclusions haven’t been drawn yet about the effect the ride has had on me or the work we do. Two: One of the effects I have noticed about the ride is that emotions are very close to the surface. We are engaged in an athletic activity that takes enormous amounts of stamina, our diets are not the best, we’ve been dehydrated, exposed to all kinds of weather, and we are sleeping the best we can  in tents on the ground in conditions that often require earplugs and eye shades. There were some questions that I tried to answer but my emotions almost overtook me, as they now lie so close to the surface. None of this is a bad thing, it is what it is, after two months on the road.

Negotiations continue about bicycle use

After the interview, a surprise – Mr. Claiborne donned a pair of shorts, a helmet, and some running shoes and asked if he could ride Sallie’s bike. This gave us both a little bit of pause, because these heavy monsters just do not handle like anything the average person has ridden. It turns out Ron Claiborne is anything but average. Along with his irrepressible enthusiasm, he’s apparently logged some serious mileage in Africa on a touring bike loaded with gear.

With my caution of, “The first hundred yards can be dangerous, but after that you’ll be OK”, he took to the bike like a natural. They wanted to an introductory shot with the two of us riding down the highway while he gave some opening remarks for the camera. We managed to do a few takes, a few U-turns on the highway without crashing or causing a traffic tie-up. It was indeed a good morning.

My hat is off to ABC World News for sending such an enthusiastic crew for the interview, and as always, please be kind to us in the editing room!


Tomorrow’s ride is dedicated to Bronson David Parsons

Bronson David Parsons

Bronson Parsons, from Troy, Montana was walking home with his best friend. He was a half a block from home when he was struck down by a hit-and-run drunk driver. Bronson was 25 years old.

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Lander, WY to Dubois, WY

Friendly horn taps: 2

Rude horn honks: 1

Miles: 78

Total so far: 3,274

Wind River cliffs

It’s been awhile since I’ve “worked the road” as a state trooper.  I know I’ve experienced weather induced trauma, but we all have that.  Certainly anyone who’s run for his life at the sssssshhhhhh sound of a semi truck going sideways on the ice can’t really come away from the experience unfazed.  It’s like finding your self  in a dinosaur nightmare, and the behemoths are out to get you.  I’ve suffered frost bite, and I’ve lost my way in ground blizzards (by that I mean out on foot where I can’t find my car with all the lights running).  I don’t do any of that anymore, I’ve been retired for over five years.

Today, I put on a show for Sallie’s birthday.  We are riding along in the afternoon struggling with some storm cell generated winds.  The storms are coming across at us from the west as we head north-west in the Wind River Indian Reservation. There’s a large combined cell behind us that we are pretty clear of after some hard work, it’s sliding south, but there’s one coming across in front of us and I can see sunshine on the other side, so if it hits us maybe we can ride through it.

Soon the rain starts and it’s coming down suddenly and with a fury stoked by strong winds, but the sun is starting to shine on us, so I get the feeling we may make it through.  That’s when I look up ahead and there is a large semi coming south and he’s churning up a serious amount of spray on the road, and I think to myself, that’s pretty wet, and that’s when the klaxon horns started going off in my head.


I found a road entrance to my right and there is this sign near the right-of-way fence that’s about 3 feet by 4 feet, and it’s maybe 6 feet off the ground.  It’s over to one side of a cattle guard, and I head for it, thinking I have to get my rain jacket out of my left front pannier.  The wind is really huffing now and I stop the bike.  The wind is trying to blow the bike over and my cleat is caught in the pedal and I can’t clip out on the left side, I’m going down!


(Meanwhile, Sallie is standing by the roadside, having to hold her foot on her bike stand to keep the wind from blowing her bike over, but she’s perfectly fine, and most importantly, hardly even wet from the rain.)

After some time of gathering up my belongings, cleaning my leg up, and getting the crud  that blew across the pavement when the bike was down off the brake surface of one wheel, we ride off.

And the storm cell passes, the wind dies, and I declare that all my struggle was much to do about nothing.  Sallie agrees.  A mile down the road, I realize I left my Camelbak too.

Either I worked one to many storms, or I’m touching base with the last threads of my sanity as we push ourselves beyond reasonable limits on this ride across the country.

Maybe it’s the former as well as the latter.

Perhaps I jinxed us by taking this rare picture of a windless Wyoming flag today at a rest area

A small one coming over the mountains at us


Tomorrow’s ride is dedicated to Harriet Phillips and Frank Colavita

Harriet Phillips and Frank Colavita

Harriet Phillips and Frank Colavita, were a sensational couple. Not only were they loving, generous, caring, involved parents but they were an inspiration to all those around them. They loved to go dancing, sailing, and were always drawing friends together for outings to festivals, concerts, art openings, or great dining adventures.  Harriet was an artist. Her prolific collection may be viewed at: www.zhibit.org/harrietphillips. Frank was a recently retired psychology professor at the University of Pittsburgh. They both loved their craft and had a passion for teaching it to others. Frank was a nationally ranked runner, having placed first in his age category in the Florida State Championships in 2008, qualifying for a prestigious spot in the Senior Olympics in summer of 2009. They were taken in the prime of their lives by a drunk driver, on February 13, 2009.

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Rawlins, WY to Jeffery City, WY

Friendly horn taps: 6

Rude horn honks: 1

Continental Divide crossings: 2

Total Divide crossings: 4

Miles: 69

Total so far: 3,136

The sky today near Lamont, Wyoming

For obvious reasons, we don’t see much television.  That’s not unusual for either one of us in our normal lives, so we are not missing anything.  The other day, I saw part of a news broadcast, possibly a Denver station, wherein they showed a video of a fly ball going into the stands at a stadium and waiting to catch the ball just as it bounced off a railing was a young girl of about nine years old.  The ball came right to her and just as she was about to get it, a woman (maybe in her forties) snatched the ball from the little girl’s hands, turned to her friends and they began a series of high five celebrations while the dejected little girl did an about face and went up the stairs out of the camera shot.

I thought about that today as we left Rawlins.  I took Carlie to a Denver Rockies game when she was about three years old.  We got there early and while in our seats during batting practice, a ball was hit into the stands behind us.  Somehow we didn’t notice, and the ball ricocheted around a bit and rolled under our seats and parked itself behind Carlie’s leg.  Ball recovered, I thought that was a treat.

The Rockies had a mascot named Dinger , a big dinosaur looking creature, that was not unlike the appearance of one of Carlie’s favorites, Barney the purple dinosaur.

Dinger came out on the field and began circling the wall below the stands towing a wagon.  I carried Carlie down to the wall as he approached, and the kids at the ball park were swarming in front of Dinger, as he was throwing T-shirts and other items up in the stands.  By the time Dinger  got to us, it’s wagon was nearly empty.  The mascot looked in Carlie’s direction, looked into the wagon and took something out with his hands cupped and reached up to Carlie.  Dinger gave her a baseball, signed by the entire team.

The last few days have been emotional.  In our state of constantly challenging the limits of our abilities, there is a fine line between what is manageable and what tips the scales into overload.

When Sallie and I left the cemetery this morning, I said, “Let’s go see Montana.”  It was my way of saying it’s time to move forward.

I agonize over Carlie’s death every day.  I am not immune from that by any means.  I prefer however to think of baseballs and this little child that charmed a dinosaur.

Rock formations near Split Rock, WY

A view of the Great Divide Basin as we came off Rendle Hill.


Tomorrow’s ride is dedicated to Johnathon Ferguson

Johnathon Ferguson

In Loving Memory of Johnathon Ferguson a life lost by a drunk driver.
October 21, 1985 – October 2, 2005. Forever in our hearts!

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