Archive for the ‘The physical 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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Prairie City, OR to Dayville, OR

Miles: 46

Total miles so far: 4, 308

The John Day River

One of the distinguishing features of our journey and its effect on us physically is that we now have a considerable ability to recover quickly from additional stressors placed on us.  Yesterday we had a tough ride of 70 miles with three passes to go over, yet this morning we were good to go and do it all again.  Our ability to recover quickly is not unlimited, but I can tell a vast improvement has taken place.  The human body is an amazing thing.

The general store at Dayville. Petunias grow particularly well here.

I suppose one of the issues we will face is what happens to us when we stop this daily regimen of pretty intense and extended physical demand.  For a  long time we’ve been discussing our eating habits while on this ride, and what we will need to do when we stop the caloric expenditure we are currently engaged in.  Right now our furnaces are stoked and running on high. We can eat anything and still remain in a constant state of caloric deficit.  We’ve both lost weight, and believe me, we hold nothing back at the dining table.

Other than shutting down the calorie machines, I will be curious to know what other effects there will be.  Right now for instance, I’m a little jumpy and unsettled because we had such a mild day of riding, and we did 46 miles.  What’s going to happen when we stop cycling altogether?

Afoot bridge across the John Day River. There's a "No Trespassing" sign there -- for good reason I suppose.

What will I learn from this experience about recovery?  Certainly, out here every day is a new one.  Each day has its own signature, makes its own impression, and is governed by conditions way beyond my control.  Things like terrain, wind, sun, all variable, and all beyond my reach.  I believe this helps in recovery.  Every day becomes a new day.

So what happens when routine once again becomes the rule?  Can I take some of this with me and move forward with that freshness of every day presenting something new?

A vintage, absolutely immaculate 1977 VW bus

This is Ellen and Pete. Pete runs a website as a reference for full time motorhome travelers at http://www.bigrigbible.com

This is Pete and Ellen's home. We received a personal tour.


Tomorrow’s ride is dedicated to Jonathan David Irizarry

Image not available*

Jonathan Irizzary was killed on June 25, 2008.  He was riding his bicycle home from work on a summer evening when he was run down by a drunk driver in Flint Texas.

*I received a dedication request from Jonathan’s twin sister Ann Marie Irizarry some time before the journey started, however the image she sent cannot be used, and attempts to contact her have not been successful.  I offer my apologies and regrets for not getting this straightened out, but I did not want to miss the dedication.

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Baker City, OR to Prairie City, OR

Friendly horn taps: 3

Rude horn honks: 2

Miles: 70

Total miles so far: 4, 262

Shadow play: Out of the Saddle!

Last year on the 10th of July, Sallie and I got a 4:15am start on Colorado’s Triple Bypass, a 120 mile, one day ride, covering three mountain passes.  Today we did three mountain passes here in Oregon.  The differences were notable in that we had much more oxygen in the air to breathe, and we didn’t go 120 miles to accomplish the ride.

Nonetheless, we put in a full day covering Sumpter Pass, Tipton Pass, and Dixie Pass on our way into Prairie City.  We spent nearly the entire day in the forest, which always provides green relief from some of the prairie, and when the trees would clear, the vistas of the ever present surrounding mountains were beautiful, particularly when we cleared Dixie Pass and dropped into the john Day River Valley.  The view we had of the Strawberry Range was breathtaking.

The Strawberry Range as seen from across the John Day River Valley from near Dixie Pass

We are getting an early start on the night’s sleep, as we are rising at 5:00am while the weather remains fairly warm, and to be quite honest, we are a little tired from the day’s labors.

Sallie says next July 10th, she’s not going to be climbing any more mountain passes.  I say talk is cheap.

Lovely mountains on all sides

This gentleman was a bomber pilot in WWII. He remains in contact with the faster life today

As seen this morning in Baker City. I think there's a trademark story here somewhere...


Tomorrow’s ride is dedicated to Kay Cee Herring

Kay Herring

Kay Herring was a native of Buford, Georgia.  On December 1, 1999 Kay was killed in a rear end, high speed collision with a drunk driver while traveling between St. Augustine and Jacksonville, Florida.


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Lolo Hot Springs, Montana to Lowell, Idaho

Rude horn honks: 1

Miles: 87

Total so far: 3,894

Descending with the Lochsa River to our left for the entire day's ride.

I look at the alarm clock and it’s 4:30am.  Despite my desire to sleep, the process of waking will take hold now, and there is little I can do to prevent it.  I will fall asleep again, but it will be the in and out of slumber marked by dreams until the alarm goes off at 6:00.   We are within a stone’s throw of Lolo Creek.  Camping this close to the banks of a creek when the morning will be chilled is a recipe for damp wet mornings, but the campground needed us here because they were cleaning up after some sort of a rock concert two nights before.

I hear water drops hit my tent floor.  This tent will do that on cold wet mornings.  It doesn’t leak, it is the condensation from inside that runs down the rain fly until it catches up on a wave in the fabric.  The water collects and then drops.  It’s not much, my gear will remain dry.  The tent will be soaked from the dew and we’ll pack up wet tents again.  In the cold.

I snuggle back down in my sleeping bag and go for the bonus sleep – that little I can squeeze out before it”s time to get going again.  Think of the warmth of the bag; breathe; don’t think of anything else…sleep will come.

“Good morning Sal.”  I give my usual greeting upon reaching the alarm clock and silencing it’s morning roust.  My comment is returned with a mumble from her tent about the cold, but we are up.  The routine is well established, first dress in the cycling clothing of the day, supplemented by knee warmers, gloves, and layers covered over with the heavy rain jacket — whatever we have for warmth.  No socks and shoes — we’ll be walking around on wet grass.  Flip-flops, the non insulated non-water proof variety.  Cold toes are in our future.  Pack the sleeping bag, the Therma Rest mattress, the clothing bag, get all the gear ready and pitched out of the tent.  Grab the food pannier (right front) and exit the tent, leaving the last warmth of the morning.  Our day begins.

Ascending Lolo Pass

After we fix breakfast and secure our equipment to the bikes we ascend what is left of Lolo Pass.  This will end our time in Montana, as the pass marks the Idaho border.  One more state behind us, only two more to complete.  Descending, we enter a new environment entirely, marked by two deer I surprise just at the top of the pass.  I would expect mule deer, but these are clearly white tail.  The trees suddenly change.   There are pines here I do not recognize, and red cedars appear.  Giant red cedars.  maybe they are all that big.  I have no way to know.  There are ferns in the understory.  Ferns?  The mountains of the river valley are steep.  Consistently steep.  You-will-need-rope to get up these, leave the horses behind steep.

Only one more border crossing remains

A peek over the top

I take a picture of the terrain as we begin descending Lolo Pass, but I miss taking a picture of the highway sign that says, ” Road Curves the Next 99 Miles”.  Really? Really.

Red cedars. Big ones.

Soon we are alongside the Lochsa River and I come to understand why we are on a winding road for 99 miles.  We will trace this river the rest of the day.  The white water is spectacular, but it’s obvious the run-off has the water levels too high to work safely.  There are no rafts on the water.

We begin a section of the ride that has no services (water, food, gas stations, etc.) for 65 miles.  We had planned to camp at a forest service primitive campsite on the Lochsa River, but the riding is so spectacular, we do not want to quit, so we push on to Lowell.  Down the river we go…

Some of the white water on the Lachsa River

More river than the rafts want...

Safe landings in Lowell, Idaho...and a picture with Peter Townsend to prove it (not really he says he's Tom Petty)


Tomorrow’s ride is dedicated to David Scott Berry

David Scott Berry

David Scott Berry was on his way back to college when he was hit head-on by a drunk driver.  David was 25 and he was from Mena, Arkansas.  The crash took place on May 25, 2008.

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