Sunday, September 04, 2005


Click Here for pictures of the Finish Line

Friday, September 02, 2005


September 2, 2005

It is finished. I made it to the Atlantic.

I really don’t know how to dive into this entry, the last one of this trip.

I think the main thing that continues to become more and more evident is that this trip was just one of many adventures; the journey continues. Since Saturday, the continuing journey has already proven to be one full of wonderful surprises, ups, downs, and everything in between.

I guess I’ll give you one last run down of the final days and let the rest stem from that…

Wednesday I left Richmond and headed down to Jamestown. On the way out of Richmond I passed the Richmond Times-Dispatch building. I spoke with an editor a day earlier who told me he would get back to me and, of course, never did. So, surprised to ride right by it, I decided to stop in and pay him a visit. He ended up thanking me for my persistence and paired me up with a writer and a photographer. After a little interview and photo op, I really got on the road and made my way toward Jamestown.

That was the last great ride of the trip. 54 miles in three hours, non-stop; just a great ride of spinning along the great road of route 5, which runs along the James.

I got to the campground and was met by an 18 year-old girl who seemed to find pleasure in charging sweaty cyclists $25 to pitch a tiny backpacking tent on their property. Unwilling to pay such a ridiculous price, I called a friend who lives in Williamsburg and asked if she’d be willing to play host to a stranded cyclist. She said she’d love to help the cause and I headed over. Thanks again Jessica, it was great catching up on everything.

Thursday I left Williamsburg, crossed the James River, and got that much closer to the Beach. I had planned on camping out that night as well. I was about three miles from the campground when I came upon a closed bridge, sending me roughly 8 miles back out of my way. The detour put me on a road that would take me right to my house in Portsmouth if I stayed on it. Being the sucker for surprises that I am, I decided to stay on that road and shock my family by surprising them a day early.

They were very excited that I decided to do that. Someone spotted me as I pulled up to the house and the sounds of screams and surprise carried them outside to welcome me. It was great to see everyone. We went out to dinner and enjoyed our early reunion.

Friday I took a short ride over to Chesapeake where I was able to enjoy a little picnic dinner with some of my family that had made rather long trips to come enjoy the Finish Line festivities with us. It was a nice night of hanging out and enjoying the company of family the night before the big day.

That night I camped out in the Chesapeake City Park. It was nice to spend that final night on a picnic table, like so many before it. I ended up going for a midnight walk around the park. It turned into a pretty nice chat with God; talking about the shear wonder of it all, the amazing fortune He blessed me with in assembling the trip, thanking Him for the many blessings He provided while out there on the trip… I told Him how I couldn’t believe how quickly it all went. It was hard to believe I was in a park I had been to many times before on the eve of the final day of a cross-country bicycle ride.

Friday morning came pretty quickly. I woke up with the sun one last time and went for another walk. It was a nice morning. I didn’t know how I would feel as the day would progress, so it was nice to enjoy the quiet, early minutes and ease myself into it.

I made my way over to Panera where I killed a few hours before heading toward the Beach. The main thing I did, while I hung out and enjoyed my bagel and coffee, was arrange a thorough sample of my pictures from the trip for the running slide show that night at the party. That, too, turned into a great look back at the trip. It stirred up many memories, thoughts, and emotions as I went through each picture and remembered the entire trip day by day.

I left Panera close to 11, and rode over to a McDonald’s for lunch. I left McDonald’s around 12:30 and headed for Virginia Beach. The short stints of the ride that day were filled with all kinds of scattered emotions; I couldn’t figure out how I felt. As I got closer to the Beach it started to become a bit surreal. I stopped at a Chic-Fil-A a couple miles from the Beach and made myself breathe while I had a little ice cream cone. I figured, I started the trip eating everything in sight, may as well end it that way too…

It was 2 o’clock when I left Chic-Fil-A, and I rode to a nearby park to kill the last extra minutes before getting to the Beach at 3. I walked around and took one more look back at all the elements that led to that very walk. It was overwhelming. I’d get chills thinking about one thing, then I’d start laughing at the fact that it actually happened, then I’d remember another moment that made me stop and think just, “wow”… It was crazy.

Then, maybe the saddest moment of the day, I walked back over to my incredibly faithful steed, put on my helmet, and asked her if she was ready…

I know it’s only a bike, but it’s really not. That bike was my vessel; it brought me back home. I remember being out in Oregon, looking at the bike, thinking, “So, this is it.” That was the bike I had entrusted to carry me 4,000 miles and take me all the way home. And it did. I got on her one last time, made a right onto Gen. Booth Boulevard, and headed for the Finish Line.

My heart was pounding, honestly. I tried to prepare myself for the view as I came up to the Rudee Inlet bridge, the first time I would see the Atlantic. I rode onto the bridge, looked to the right, and received my reward. It was beautiful. More than that, it was home.

The familiar hotels, the jetties, the ocean, the bridge itself – it felt so good. I tried to fly down Pacific but the stoplights presented their own hurdles; prolonging the event, making sure I slowed down enough to take it all in. I got to 31st street, made a right, and headed for the Finish Line. As I crossed Atlantic, I started to hear the cheers.

There were roughly 50 people at the Beach to welcome me back; it was amazing. I rode across the boardwalk to the sand, got off, and muscled myself and the bike through 50 yards of loose sand to the Finish Line. I left the bike at the Finish Line, took off my helmet, and ran to the ocean; it was incredible.

I was dumbstruck. I was amazed that so many had come out to cheer me to the end. I came out of the water and found myself in a daze. I walked toward the crowd of friends and family in amazement. Thankfully my dad broke the shock factor with a big hug and welcomed me back, starting a great succession of hugs. It was a great homecoming. People I didn’t even know, just watching on the beach, welcomed me back with congratulations. I was also thankful to the two news crews that came out and covered the event. I had my first little ocean front press conference. It was great.

After an initial round of hugs and handshakes, I walked back to pick up the bike and take her down for her long awaited dip in the Atlantic. It was great. “It was great…” It was...!

I couldn’t have asked for a better reception. Thank you to everybody who came out Saturday to see me back. Thank you!

After the party at the Beach I rode back home with my dad to change, rinse off the bike, and catch my breath before the party that night. I tried to lie down for a minute to recharge, but could do only that – lie there, however even that was nice. I was whipped from that little jaunt through the sand, carrying the beast to the Finish Line. Once getting to the Finish Line, I almost didn’t make it to the water; I had envisioned a victorious dive into the ocean, I was lucky just to get there. It turned into a mixture of a dive and a collapse into the ocean – it felt great nonetheless. So, after a brief rest, we headed to Norfolk for another little celebration of the trip and all that went with it.

It was a great night; everybody had a nice time. We were able to celebrate all that came of the trip and it was great to see all those that came out for it.

It’s just odd that it’s over. I told Chaz, on the sixth day of the trip, while laboring up our third pass of the 114-mile ride to Baker City, about one of my favorite lines from the Bible. It is found in Luke and is often passed over on the way to reading the Christmas passage. Luke 2 begins, “And it came to pass that in those days, there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.” The birth of Christ ensues; a staple in churches all across the country around Christmas time, an incredible story.

However, one of my favorite lines from that is: “It came to pass.” It’s a great thing to remember. It’s all temporary, nothing’s permanent; it all came to pass. That day when it seemed we would never find the summit, the road kept climbing with every turn – as with so many other obstacles of the trip, I was reminded that it came to pass; it would end.

And beyond the trip, I think it’s an invaluable promise to hold close. Whether you find yourself caught in a moment, the joy of which you wish you could bottle and share with the world, or you stumble into a wall that seems 50 feet tall; it came to pass. Cherish the highs and fight through the lows, they’re all fleeting.

So, as promised, the trip too has passed. But as I said, the journey continues.

I have no idea what lays in store. I am excited by the future and the treasures that are ahead. I am anxious to see how I will arrive at all I have planned, now I feel I simply have to learn the tough lesson of patience. I just have to be patient, be patient, can’t be in such a hurry… It’ll come.

But what a great trip. If you have any desires to do anything of the sort – do it. Make it happen, then email me and tell me about it.

I am pleased to say; roughly $9,000 was raised for the CF Foundation. Of course, it’s never too late to give, if for some reason you weren’t able to contribute, there’s still time. Feel free to also check out the Foundation’s website from time to time and see what they have going on.

I couldn’t have asked for a better tribute to Stephen and the incredible journey he led while battling the monster of CF. His spirit will continue to thrive in the hearts of those who knew him. I was glad to be given the opportunity to share that spirit with those who would have otherwise never known him. He’s quite a friend and I am thankful to have been able to make this trip on his behalf.

Thank you to everyone who had a hand in this trip. I have an incredible network of amazing friends and family who worked very hard to make several key elements of the trip happen; to them I say, Thank You! Your tireless efforts are not lost on me. Thank you.

And another thank you to all those who lived vicariously through the journal and encouraged me along the way; I found that to be another precious lesson, the power of faith and support in a person. There truly were days when I’d feel a little low and call upon the encouraging notes and support to sustain me. It would just make me think of how important optimism, love, and support is for children – people in general.

So many lessons, so many treasures I’ll never forget. Thank you for riding along and enjoying this incredible experience with me.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Days 78-84

August 23, 2005


That just about sums up the past five days. It’s hard to believe it’s almost over. It seems like just last week I was here in Richmond, in this same room, laying out all my gear in preparation for the flight out to Oregon. Now, 84 days and 3,700 miles later, I’m back and just four short days away from the Atlantic and the conclusion of the trip.

The past few days have been a blur, as I suspected might happen. I think I’m in the early stages of post-tandem-depression. It’s not a depression; just an odd mixture of emotions. I’ll be in the middle of doing something and fade off into a scene from the trip. At dinner last night the sky reminded me of Wyoming. A car ride with my grandmother reminded me of getting behind the wheel of a car, for the first time in forever, back in St Louis. At lunch on Sunday I started wondering where Heather and Jackson, the Kiwi’s, were and what they were doing at that exact time.

I don’t expect this to end any time soon. I think this might be the beginning of a trend that will last a long time. Like any great love affair, I’m sure the trip will continue to teach me things long after it comes to a close.

As I return to the familiar surroundings I left a short while ago, I’m beginning to see how the ride has affected me. Beyond the scars and tan-lines, the trip has given me much more than I ever anticipated. To delve into the many thoughts and lessons of the trip in this forum, would, in a way, only cheapen them. They’re like sweet little treasures I found along my journey, the significance of which I could never fully convey.

Here’s a brief synopsis of the recent action:

Thursday I made my way to Roanoke where I met the kind folks at Channel 10 News. Karen McNew and her photographer, Jarrod, put together a nice story on the trip for the news that night. Karen was very nice and took a genuine interest in the trip. Jarrod, too, was very friendly and even let me crash with him that night. I was excited the have to trip featured in the news, the first of the trip. They did a great job of covering all the bases and highlighting all the elements. Thanks again guys! It was great to meet you.

Friday I landed in Lynchburg, literally. I had my first, and (hopefully) only, fall of the trip as I arrived in Lynchburg. It wasn’t anything too serious, just left me a bit banged up. Thankfully, Harrison, a Lynchburg local, spotted me laboring to patch my tire in my filthy, somewhat bloody, condition. He and his mother let me clean up in the building of their family law practice. After that, he drove me down to the bike shop to pick up a new tube and tire. He really saved me. My nerves were pretty shot and I wasn’t making too much progress in patching my flat. So, many thanks again Harrison! I’d still be on Fifth Street if you hadn’t been there to help…

Actually, I doubt I’d still be there. I would like to think my cousin and his wife would have eventually picked me up sometime that night. They were headed up to friends’ near Charlottesville and passed through town in perfect time to meet for dinner. It was great to see them. They treated me to dinner and enjoyed a firsthand glimpse into life on the road. Thanks again guys, looking forward to seeing you again – not too much longer..!

Another great thing about that night was getting a phone call from Karen McNew, the anchor in Roanoke. Her producer had her give me a call to find out where I ended up that day to do a follow-up for the evening news. Not only did they give an update of my progress, they recapped the whole event. So, another huge Thank You to the folks at Channel 10 News in Roanoke! It was a great surprise to find such great and continued support from the station.

Saturday was the worst day of heat and humidity of the entire trip, and the worst day of heat in weeks. I left Lynchburg with intentions of resting near Farmville that night. As I passed through Appomattox I saw I was only 24 miles outside of Farmville. Looking at the map, I figured I’d have enough time to get to Richmond and decided to make the push and surprise my grandmother.

A little past Appomattox, I crested the top of a hill and saw a handful of people on the side of the road waving as I approached. It was the Walton family. The Walton’s have two children with CF. A friend of theirs passed me down the road, called to let them know he just passed me, and told them where I was. They hopped in their car came out too meet and cheer me on. It was quite amazing. I was really touched that they came out in the heat to meet me. It was also great to meet little four-year-old Josie. A few of those little treasures I spoke of earlier came in that brief encounter with those great ladies.

It’s been great to learn of and meet these incredible people. They’re so young, and they have such an amazing, wise spirit about them. I rode off wishing I could do more; I felt so small. I can’t even imagine being the parent of one of these children. I’m sure they’d give anything to take this burden from them, eagerly trade places.

I got to Farmville, ate a little dinner, and got back on the road for Richmond. Some ridiculous phenomena occurred while I was inside eating dinner, the humidity increased 3-fold by the time I got back on the bike. It was almost unbearable. I was no longer sweating, I was now a human faucet and I couldn’t turn myself off. My entire body was completely drenched in sweat, including my shorts.

I never mentioned my rear and the great success I have been fortunate enough to experience on the trip for fear of jinxing it – I guess I hold on to a few superstitions here and there… However, I am happy to say, until Saturday, I never had any real problems with saddle sores or anything of that nature. But Saturday they came, and they came with a fury. I couldn’t even sit and pedal, I had to get up out of the saddle to do any pedaling. After a few minutes of fighting the pain, I pulled off, grabbed my dry shorts, ran into the woods, and swapped out. It was a little better, but after 7 miles those shorts were now soaked and as ineffective as the last pair. Before this whole uncomfortable debacle, shortly after leaving Farmville, I passed a sign that read, “Richmond 54.” 54 miles was not good; I thought I was only 30-35 miles away.

I wasn’t going to be able to make it to Richmond as I had hoped. I was father than I thought, crippled by a sore bum, unable to move as fast as I wanted, and quickly falling victim to a rapidly approaching night-time darkness. I could have roughed it behind another gas station or something of the sort, but being so close to Richmond and the bounty of potential rescuers proved to be too much of a temptation.

I called my Aunt who came and saved me from my miserable sweat fest. I really felt bad about throwing in the towel that night; it was the first time I felt like I quit, or had been beaten. I shouldn’t have decided to make the push; I should have found a spot in Farmville. Tracing it back to a few stupid moves on my part actually helped smooth it over. I told my aunt I was going to ride out to Powhatan, a little spot west of Richmond, on Monday for lunch to make up for it. She told me that was a stupid idea. I didn’t argue.

We didn’t go back to her house or my grandmother’s that night, my first stop back in Richmond was the ER in the Henrico Doctor’s Hospital. My grandfather has been battling a few ailments recently and was taken to the ER earlier that day. They decided to emit him, so we hung around while a room was cleaned and got him settled into his own room upstairs. It made for a long night, but it was good to see him and hang out with my aunt and uncle while he got situated.

Sunday I had lunch with family at my grandmother’s. It was good to be back at my grandmother’s. I stayed here for the five months I lived in Richmond while I assembled the trip. It was a nice visit and a great meal. Afterward, I headed over to my friends’ Jeff & Dawn for the night. I had planned on staying with friends and other family, I didn’t want to stay here at my grandmother’s, so as to prolong any sense of “home” for as long as possible.

Jeff & Dawn were incredibly helpful in assembling the trip. They made the trip themselves back in 2001 and had a ton of useful knowledge to share. When I think of our first night of hanging out and going over everything, I shudder to think of what they thought as I left. I knew absolutely nothing of the cycling world. They literally walked me through everything, and I couldn’t be more grateful. Not only were they patient in walking me through it all, they never doubted I could do it. And, knowing I exuded ignorance, I think that was the best part of getting to know them, their confidence.

They, once again, welcomed me with open arms into their home and even had a great dinner waiting. We chatted and ate amidst the healthy sounds of Mitch, their three-month-old, vying for his share of the spotlight. I thought of what a stark contrast it was to the night before in the hospital.

As I walked past the dimly lit rooms of the patients that night in the hospital, I wondered what kind of life they led up to that point; if they got to experience anything like the ride I just took on my way back to Richmond. Were they happy? I wondered how serious it was; if they’d have another chance to do some of the things they wished they had. It’s a strange paradox that all efforts to soften the experience of a hospital on the senses: the soft light, the hushed beeps, faint odors – they all add up to an incredibly jolting reminder of mortality and the frailty of life.

Snap back to the present dinner with the kids, the parents, the spitting up, the talk of a princess bike from a proud two-year-old named Carley – what a breath of fresh air. They’d smile and mention the peace that loomed on the horizon, but I didn’t mind at all; it really was great.

Those worlds should never have to meet. Kids don’t belong in hospitals.

After dinner Jeff kindly gave my bike, specifically my rear wheel, some much needed love. He also gave me one of his spare tires that’s in great shape. We finished tuning up the bike and sat down to watch a little video Dawn put together for Jeff of their own TransAmerican trip.

It was really great to see their trip. I was on the same route they were for some of the ride, so it was a great look back for me as well. It was great to talk about some of those “little treasures” with them. I really recommend making the long haul. There’s so much about the trip that people just wouldn’t understand without having done it themselves. It was so nice to have Jeff & Dawn to talk to and bounce some of that stuff off of. They’re really great. They also have a really great mother.

Before we headed off to bed, they told me to make myself at home and sleep in, whatever I wanted. They had to leave early for work, but Jeff’s mom would be there to watch the kids. I still wanted to get up and say thanks again to Jeff, but I just missed him. I did, however, get to meet his mom.

I’ve met a several great women on the trip and I was excited to find she was another one to add to the list. She was incredibly nice. I enjoyed listening to her stories of her travels abroad, the fateful road that sometimes took her there, and several other great topics of conversation as I ate my breakfast.

Carpe diem – remember that..? Seize the day, live life, drink it up..? I love talking to people that have, at least once, embraced that and let the tide carry them where it may. How great…

Yesterday and today I felt a little more tired than usual. I had two pretty late nights back to back, which I assumed was the cause. I had planned on taking off today, but decided to take one more day and get back on the road tomorrow, Wednesday.

I couldn’t be more ready to take that plunge into the Atlantic. Tomorrow I’ll ride down to Jamestown and get in position to take the Beach by storm.

Monday, August 22, 2005


I am alive and well. Sorry for the lapse in updates. The past few days have been a bit crazy. I successfully arrived in Richmond Saturday night and have been running around enjoying the re-entry to familiar surroundings. A full update will be posted sometime tomorrow afternoon...

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Days 76&77

August 17, 2005

Ten Days, Baby!!! How ‘bout that!

When I try to think of the trip as a completed task I’m rendered speechless. I can’t describe all the things that come to mind when I think of the Finish Line and all the things I encountered on the way to it, and to try to describe the wave of emotions that flood me while I think of all those things is out of the question, it would be impossible.

Yesterday I had another thrilling ride through the hills of Virginia. I got on the road and enjoyed an hour of quiet riding through a small valley on a little two-lane road. It was a nice afternoon despite the distant thunder. The approaching shower caught up with me about halfway to Radford and kept me company the rest of the way into town.

It was another ridiculous downpour. And again, it was quite fun. I didn’t even bother digging out my rain jacket; I just enjoyed it. It reminded me of playing soccer in High School. The best games were always the ones played in the rain; completely drenched, covered in cut grass from the waist down, finding any excuse to slide and get even more dirty – good times. It was only the second ride in the rain since the ride into West Yellowstone back in Montana. At one point my feet looked up and said, “Hey, remember when we’d get soaked like every other day back in Oregon and Idaho?”

I got to Radford, about ten miles from Blacksburg, around 7 or so and called a friend who lives here to see if I could crash with her. I hung out in coldest Taco Bell this side of the Mississippi (which I can now say that with some credibility) while I ate and waited for the friend to return my call. She never did, but I didn’t mind. I found a nice little $25 motel instead. The shower alone was worth $25.

Today I planned on heading over to Blacksburg. The plan was to get over there, hang out, then meet Molly and her husband for dinner. Molly emailed me a few weeks ago and told me about her 7-year-old niece, Diana who also has CF. She and her husband, Allen, live in Blacksburg and were excited to meet while I was nearby. We exchanged emails this morning and she said they could take the short ride over to Radford and meet me over here if that would be easier. So that’s what we did.

It was really great meeting them; we had a really nice time. Thankfully their niece is doing great. The doctors say if they didn’t know she had CF, they wouldn’t be able to tell by looking at her lungs, they’re strong and healthy! So, pray for continued health and success for Diana, as well as all the many other children fighting this disease.

I would also urge you to consider making a pledge to the Foundation. I know it’s a bit of a sacrifice, but I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t something I didn’t believe in.

Right now there is no cure for CF, but progress is being made. In addition to over one hundred care centers, a network of research centers, and the provision of numerous grants for CF research to be done all over the world, the Foundation also hosts an annual conference in Williamsburg, VA. For some reason, this has been one of my favorite tools of the Foundation to learn about.

Now in its 18th year, this exciting conference invites scientists, literally, from all over the world to share knowledge from their specific disciplines and converge to create a dynamic atmosphere of collaboration. Dialogues range from new drug discoveries, more effective treatments for patients, and breakthroughs in gene therapies, along with many more exciting topics and ideas regarding the ongoing war with this disease. It is this type of forum that will continue to keep the lines of communication open among researchers and push them toward innovative techniques in confronting CF.

The CF Foundation won’t waste your money.

If you aren’t the check writing type, click here to make a contribution using your credit card. It will take 5 minutes, 3 if you’re good, and you will receive a confirmation for purposes of tax deduction. If you would, also be sure to mark “In honor of” 2 Feet 4 Pedals so we will be able to track the funds being given as a result of the trip.

I’ve said it before, because I believe it to be true – there is no such thing as a small gift. I know many of my friends are still working while going to school; I know how tough that is. If you could just spare $10; that would be awesome! Before I left, my sister donated $10 of her hard earned babysitting money. That was just about a third of her total assets at the time and it couldn’t have been a greater gift. Just take 5 minutes, try and see if you can do it in 3 – I bet you could…

One of the best things I’ve learned out here is that there are far more good people in the world than there are bad. As much as the media may try to paint the picture of a scarred and broken society, I’ve found the exact opposite to be true. People inherently desire to find good in others. I found it all across the country, from a multitude of races, from many parts of the world. I believe one of the reasons we were put on this planet was to look after one another. Whether from Jamaica, India, Holland, New Zeeland, Kansas, or Virginia Beach, we're all still amazing human beings that believe in the great universals of love, health, and happiness.

We’re all the same.

You may not know someone personally with CF but trust me, they are out there; 30,000 strong. And they are just as wonderful as your little brother, sister, son, daughter, niece, or nephew.

Day 76: 66.33 Total: 3,584.48

This is Diana.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Day 75

August 15, 2005

Well, hopefully you got a little taste of how it felt to cross into VA yesterday. My sister said the entry was pretty cheesy, but in a good way of course – of course... I knew it was a rather excited account of the event, but I went ahead and posted it anyway – trying to keep you right here beside me…

As hard as it was, I did finally fall asleep after a long time of thinking about everything. Putting on that song and “re-living” the ride of the afternoon was like pounding a 2-liter of Mt Dew, I was wired; I was up for at least another hour. But it was good. It’s so funny to take a look at your current situation and trace back all circumstances that lead to you ending up right there.

Last night I camped out behind an Exxon gas station. I played around with a few other lodging options but ultimately found myself riding around Grundy in the dark with no viable plan. I headed down to a little town a mile out of Grundy called Vansant and stopped in the gas station to see if they had any ideas. I hung out with the lady and kicked around ideas. She finally called someone who suggested I just crash out back. “I can’t believe I didn’t think of that,” she said, “Yeah, Arnold may come through, but he’s harmless, you’ll be fine.” Arnold is an older gentleman who rides his bike to and from the bar down the road; it just so happens the gas station is halfway on his route to his house. She told me it wasn’t uncommon for him to stop there on the way home and sleep out back as well.

So, as I closed my laptop in this slightly overgrown grassy alley, with two commercial air conditioners trying their best to lull me to sleep under the blue hue of the fluorescent lights above, once again I began to think of the craziness of the situation and how unbelievable it was. That led to me thinking of how incredible the whole trip itself has been, which led to specifics within the trip, which led to how the trip was conceived, which led back to Stephen, which led to – you get the picture…

I never got to meet Arnold; it’s probably a good thing. I’m sure he would have scared me half to death, rolling up while I’m camped out in his favorite spot, on my laptop computer no less…

This morning I woke up, packed up, and got on the road. There was a thick fog lying in the hills this morning, it was pretty nice. It made for some great views as the sun, still golden, broke through the fog and lit up the hills in the distance. It was another nice morning ride. I ended up cutting the day a little shorter than I had planned. Instead of a longer day today and tomorrow to get to Blacksburg tomorrow, I decided to break it down into thirds. Now I’ll be able to get to Blacksburg at a nice hour on Wednesday to hang out and enjoy the town a little more.

I ended up in Tazewell, VA. It seems to be a nice little town. Tomorrow I’ll head toward Blacksburg and see how far I get.

Today: 48.55 Total: 3,518.15

Day 74

August 14, 2005

Virginia! It’s good to be here. Crossing the state line was definitely the highlight of the day, other than that, not much else happened. So, rather than bore you with the mundane details of where and what I ate, I’m just going to try to convey how great it felt to finally cross into my home state.

As I lay here, trying to figure out how to begin describing the feeling of crossing into Virginia, I realize it’s almost impossible; I can’t even really describe it to myself. I knew it would be a cool final threshold, but I was surprised at how overwhelmed I became as I started pedaling again, after the ceremonial photo session with the much-anticipated state welcome mat.

It was the first time I actually felt I had crossed into another state. It was more than just a sign this time; it was different. I felt like Dorothy stepping out of her wind swept house into the colorful world of Oz, it was beautiful. Just as I crossed the line, truly, the road joined forces with a river and ran side by side, the river to my left. The high wall of the bluff to my right took two large steps backward and was now showcasing the lush green blanket of sprawling ivy that covered everything and even hung from the trees. Mini-waterfalls of runoff water from the hills dotted the ride as the moisture of the recessed woods cooled my skin.

I couldn’t stop stopping. I kept wanting to take pictures, I also didn’t want the feeling to go away. I was on Cloud 9, reeling in a state of numb confusion over all the events that led me to that little bubble of time. I really felt like Dorothy, that’s as best I can describe it. I felt like I was in a place I knew but had never been. I kept looking up, to the right, the left, behind me... I finally put the camera away and told myself to enjoy it. I felt like I had crossed the Finish Line.

I was about 12 miles from Grundy and in no hurry to get there. I was on my victory lap. Not too far into the ride of euphoria U2’s Where the Streets Have No Name came on over my MP3 player – of course it would… For those who may not know – just, if you haven’t heard it, or haven’t heard it in a while, check it out. It’s a great song with the most incredible, adrenaline-inducing intro ever written. I was so pumped. I felt a truck coming up behind me, as it passed and I saw the bright Virginia license plate pull away the most giddy laugh flew out of me. It was nuts. It was great.

I want to do it again…

So I’m home; the rest of the ride is dessert. And I can’t wait. I don’t even know what else to say. I just put on that song again, closed my eyes, and let Bono and the boys take me back to this afternoon so I could refresh the feeling, and once again I’m speechless. What a great ride.

Today: 55.34 Total: 3,469.40

I'll buckle up, I swear! I'll do anything you want - I'm just so happy to be here..!

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Days 71-73

August 13, 2005

Two weeks from now the trip will be over.

Thursday I left Lexington and got back on the road for Virginia. Before leaving I was disappointed to learn the paper did not run the story as I eagerly anticipated. Referring to our conversation the night before, about big papers versus smaller circulars, Brett’s response to the sad news, or lack of news as it were, was, “That’s the nature of the beast…”

A little ways down the road I stopped by a little farm to hang out with a handful of very hospitable horses. I’ve really come to appreciate horses through the course of the trip. They have to be one of the most regal animals on the planet. In addition to their incredibly strong physiques, they seem to have a nice quiet wisdom about them. They’re quite amazing.

After my little equine excursion, I got back on the road and noticed a man taking my picture as I came down a hill. As I passed the man I realized it was Pablo. He had mentioned he had to go out of town that morning to get some pictures for the paper. I told him to keep an eye out for me in case he’d pass me on the way back, but was surprised our paths had actually crossed again. He passed me and turned around to take a few shots of me coming down the hill. It was really great to see him again. We chatted a bit, he gave me a bottle of water, we took a look at his better-detailed road atlas, and parted ways once again.

It was another day of feeling my way in a general eastward direction. I ended up calling it a day in Campton, Kentucky. Several people warned me that I would start to encounter some pretty rough hills on the ride coming out of Lexington. Thankfully it wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle. However, it was a pretty hot day, as they all are, and I was glad to finally rest for the night.

Yesterday I started the ride in the hopes of reaching Virginia. I knew it would be a long day but also knew it was possible. Had I managed to get on the road earlier than I did, I would have made it. I ended up running out of daylight. Yesterday did confirmed, however, that I’m in the best shape of my life; of course an amazing realization through a great day of riding.

As I said, the goal for the day was to cross the VA state line. Stupidly, I finally got on the road at 12:30pm. Even with the late start, I knew it was possible. It was possible, but I’d have to work hard to make it happen. I got moving and, pretty quickly, ran into a little succession of hills. I set a few bars for myself, as a hopeful means to reaching my goal for the day, and powered my way along. It was the hardest I had worked since the ride to Canon City with Temple, and it felt great.

I actually love to sweat. As weird as it may sound, I like being drenched with sweat in the midst of a workout. I guess it just feels like proof; proof you’re really working hard. Yesterday the sweat was, once again, rolling off me as I motored along. I was able to find a consistent cadence, which I hadn’t had in a while, and maintain it. In contrast to the day before, along with many other days, I focused on keeping the cranks spinning, and was pleased with my ability to do so. I was able to slip into a bit of a zone and perform. After I’d stop to grab a snack and a drink, it would take me a few minutes to fall back into the spell, but once I did I was in, moving just as smoothly as before.

As a personal act of quiet stubbornness, I haven’t used the third chain ring since before Missouri. I vowed not to dip into it for the duration of whatever Ozark madness I would encounter. I was successful in keeping my oath in Missouri and haven’t used it since, yesterday being the first test of that oath in a while. There’s really no reason for it, just a little personal “I did it” for whatever it’s worth. I’m sure it’s actually a waste of energy and wearing out my middle chain ring, but I’m a dumb young man and will, undoubtedly, continue the streak as long as I’m able.

I got to the east side of Pikeville at 6:30 and stopped in a Shoney’s where I inhaled a sweet tea, a piece of strawberry pie, another sweet tea, and spaghetti dinner, with meat sauce on the side, in that order. I kinda threw the lady for a loop when I asked for my dessert first, but it looked so good in the window I didn’t want to wait. On the way in I spoke with a guy who said the state line was about 30 miles away. Just as I planned, I ate and was back on the bike at 7 o’clock. I really thought I could hustle and get to VA in two hours, just behind the last shades of dusk.

As I made my way through Pikeville I noticed it was getting darker quicker than I anticipated. I felt something telling me to throw in the towel and call it a day. So, having learned my lesson to trust my instincts, I stopped on the west side of town and set up camp for the evening. I didn’t make it to VA, but I counted it a successful day nonetheless.

I decided to take today off here in Pikeville. Nothing too exciting, just a day of resting and preparing to roll into VA. Another sign of my hard work yesterday was the soreness I felt this morning. My lower back being the main pain, my whole body felt a touch more sensitive than normal. So it was extra nice to take it easy today.

Two weeks from now the trip will be over. A trip that once seemed as if it would never come now seems as if it has flown by. I used to refer to the ride as a journey, however, the speed with which the trip has taken, as well as the choices that lay ahead have shown me that it is only a trip, a short stint in a larger journey that will press on long after the 27th. I’m not sure where my journey will lead me after this trip comes to a close, but I will be ever thankful for the opportunity I had to make it and take in all I’ve been able to experience as a result. I am increasingly more thankful for having known Stephen and being able to benefit from the legacy he left behind. This was really a present given to me from him and I thank him for it. It’s been amazing.

But it’s not over yet... As anxious as I am to get home, I do still have 14 days left. I’ll be tapping into a few more papers in Virginia and making a final run for media exposure. I’m proud to say the three big news affiliates have committed to being at the beach for the Finish Line arrival, thanks to my hometown media/pr coordinator – my mom. So, that will be a nice final piece of publicity for the Foundation and the event...

I guess that’s all for now. Tomorrow, Virginia!

Day 71: 64.43
Day 72: 85.44 Total: 3,414.26

The heat's so bad even the cows start looking for shade...