|On an Atlantic beach in Virginia.|
Happy faces everywhere!
OK. Let’s cut to the chase, the
I’m done. Yes, I did it. I
finished four days ago on Aug 7, 2013. I rode my bicycle for 3578 miles
(officially; unofficially the distance was over 3600 miles) across the U.S.
Please accept my apologies for not
writing as much as I wanted. It was my goal to keep up this blog daily, knowing
it would be difficult. Instead, it became impossible due to the finite hours in
a day and the necessary things that needed to be done post-ride every day. If
someone could have prepped my bike for the next day, showered, laundered my
clothes, pulled out the clothes for the next day, gotten prepped on the next
day’s ride, walked to go get food, and do my night routine before bed for me, I
would have had a better chance of writing every day. This didn’t include
emails, phone calls, or solving issues such as been sick, or when I crashed.
(More on that later.) Trust me when I say my mind was writing even though my
fingers didn’t have access to a keyboard.
|Note bleeding left elbow. Can't tell any one.|
I have struggled with how to
answer people when they ask about the trip. They are sincere in my welfare and
want to know. But, they appear to want a one-word description answer such as, “It
was nice,” and then they are allowed to walk away with a smile on to the next
But, even if I give them only one
word per day (32) and per state (12), we’re still talking about a 44-word
answer. Janalou has wanted to be present each time I’ve been asked because each
time is a different answer and she’s learned more about the trip, details that have
become blurred, and moments that are quickly melting away or into other moments
during the ride.
Now sitting back home in the
comfortable confines of a chair without ointments on my butt and in a controlled
air temperature without wind, within close proximity of a bathroom and food, I
want to be very clear on a point about this ride:
This came out of a discussion last
night and I felt simultaneously embarrassed, maligned, and misunderstood. It
was an incorrect assessment of the crossing. This wasn’t true. I didn’t “hate”
the event. How could someone hate something and continue on with it for so
long, something that at times was grueling and painful? No, I didn’t hate my
bike ride across the country.
Ask most people who cross the
finish line of a marathon or Ironman and what they won’t say is, “It was fun!”
as they’re bent over in cramps and throwing up. And yet, within minutes, these
same people are thinking about their next event.
However, the ride was hard and not
for the faint hearted. Sometimes it was grueling, and usually lonely. It was
peaceful at times, and dangerous at others when I was traveling over 60 MPH
down a mountain pass. It was overwhelming to point of long empty stretches of
road threatening to swallow me up or sitting on a bench shivering after 6 hours
in the rain knowing I had another 4 hours to go. It was majestic when riding
through snow-capped craggy peaks and looking over miles and miles of open
fields without a single tree. It was scary waking up on the road after a crash
at Mile 85 with another bike, and having to ride another 60 miles. It was all
these things and more.
This was the accumulation of every
run and every bike ride I’ve ever been on. It combined every surface,
environment, pain, and joy I’ve experienced over the past 43 years, at least, with
a great sense of accomplishment. In my post-ride hangover (people warn of depression after
such multi-day events), I do sense a different perspective of my home and my
life in it. It might border on existentialism how even though we are all
different and separated by great swaths of geography, we are all connected and
united under the belief that all men and women are created equal, with certain
undeniable rights, as our Constitution says.
I want to fill you in some of the
characters we rode with.
I wrote an article some time ago for
The Phast Times News that got a lot mileage called, “The Flaw.” It suggested
that the more athletic a person was or the longer the event was, the bigger “hole”
or “flaw” the athlete were trying to cover, hide, or fill in. In other words,
there is a deficiency the athlete is trying to make up for. In the same way an
artist suffers for his art, an athlete puts all his pain into his performance. Greg
Floyd sent me an email during the ride articulating the same thing, that man is
in a constant search for a higher power (God).
One thing was clear. Endurance
cycling and accompanying cyclists are a culture unto themselves, just as
endurance running is, with the athletes being socially awkward (one endurance rider
said, “socially inept”). That was true for some of the cyclists on this ride,
but not all.
There were about 30 of us. Four
tandems (three husband & wife teams, and one father & son team),
several lawyers, an inventor/chemist, college professor, a vet and professor, a
father and son on individual bikes (the son turned 16 on the first day of the
ride), high school teacher/coach, and several that were retired. There were riders
from several U.S. states (California, Washington, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana,
Vermont, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Nebraska, Arizona,
Massachusetts, and Connecticut), but also Puerto Rico, Australia, Italy, and
The tandem father and son is a
chiropractor while his son, Zak, has Down’s Syndrome. Zak was very popular,
high fiving everyone. He was so happy. If didn’t matter if he was cycling for
10 miles or 150 miles. He was known to stand up on the bike and pump for three
miles. That’s an amazing feat. But, during the ride we saw him stand up for six
(6!) miles and pump. Though we were all very proud and supportive of him, his
dad, Greg, was also proud of him. At the end, Zak received a well-deserved
standing ovation from all the riders and crew. It was a very touching moment.
|Neil and Marci. Long sleeves.|
The two organizers, husband and
wife, Lon Haldeman and Susan Notorangelo are super stars in ultra-cycling
world. I knew Lon threw my college roommate, Bob Rubey, who came and rode with
us one day. Bob told me stories about Lon in 1982, and had a poster of Lon
holding his bike after setting the cross continental record. ABC Wide World of
Sports did a special program on him. ESPN was doing a story on him during our
ride that will come out later this year. Look for it.
Susan also owns records for
cycling across the country, one on a tandem with her husband, Lon. These are
people that have the knowledge, experience, and passion for being facilitators for
other people’s dreams of cycling across the country.
I wore two pairs of bike shorts
since Montana. It seems to be what saved me. Or rather, saved my butt. I used a
LOT of the chamois crème products “Butt Butter” and another called, “As
Master.” Actually, gobs of it. Yup, nothing like several guys standing around
with their hand down their shorts lubing up! Male bonding!
|Richardson Bike Mart and Gator Skins. 3600 miles on the|
same tires and no flats!
For those who pay attention to
such matters, Continental “Gator Skins” tires were by far the best tire. No one
with those tires flatted. I, and several others, made it all the way across with
a single flat tire. I think everyone who didn’t ride with Gator Skins flatted. These
were not very expensive, either. But, they took a beating! (Thank you South
Dakota and Minnesota department of transportations!)
Some of the roads have been pretty
good. Most have been terrible! I see this as proof that traffic engineers are
not taking into account other road users, or those that legally have a right to
use the roads. Another example of how our society is blind to those not on four
wheels with an engine. This is just not right, even though the law says
The biggest difference in my
comfortable level, I believe, is my bike. It’s a Specialized Robeaux with
“Zerts” in the front forks, rear forks, and under the seat to absorb rough road
surfaces. I tested this extensively in Texas on chip seal roads (tar mixed with
stone.) It is similar to riding over a
cheese grater or maybe the rumble strip on highways, for miles and miles. The
shaking not only wears out the rider, but wears out the components of the bike,
too, including the tires.
Every day I wear sunscreen over my
face, and sunglasses! Let me tell you about the virtues of prescription
sunglasses. WOW! To be able to see now when I’m running or cycling is huge!
Previously coming to Texas, I never owned a pair of sunglasses. But with so
many sun days, it became a necessary purchase.
My watch died about half way. L
It became necessary to buy another one immediate because of the tan line from
where I wore it. Pearly white exposed skin under the sun for 10 hours at a time
would have created another problem.
I think it was Friday, July 26,
riding 123 miles from Albert Lea, MN, to LaCrosse, WI. It was a beautiful day. Oh!
Beautiful day! After 19 days of head wind (a very unusual weather pattern), we got
a tail wind. YES!
Though it rained and stormed later
in the day, this was our best day yet, averaging 22.2 MPH. It was our first day
in 19 with a tail wind. Oh, hallelujah! Geez,…how sweet it is. Everyone was
enjoying the break in the weather, which has been downright freaky.
A high pressure dome that normally
sits over Dallas, and gives Texas its endless 100 degree days, was located
between Chicago, New York, and DC, baking those people. A low pressure system
went backwards from New England to Dallas. How weird was that?
All this made unusually weather for
us as we travel east.
|Last day heading to the beach. Ready to be done.|
Usually, normally, the weather
patterns are from west to east. Everyone knows this. Including the weather!
However, in an unusual turn of events, we’ve had headwinds, almost entirely,
for 18 days. “Geez buddy, give me a break.” Thankfully, it came. And not a day
too soon. (Oops! I’m whining. J
It was a great day. Man, we averaged
over 25 MPH between miles 82 and 102. “SWEEET!”
There were a few minor…problems.
One guy of our leading foursome would sprint up the hills during his pull, then
go to the side to let the next person through. Problem was that next person was
worn out, and unable to pull through. This happened over and over again. No one
wanted to say anything for fear of coming off as impolite or rude. But after
one incident, we’ve let our feelings be known, explaining a better way to break
the wind for the group.
We’re not the only group that’s
had…issues. Members of one group said there was a rider who “gave more instruction
than a nuclear submarine captain.”
|Wrapping up against injuries and the cold.|
No breakfast this morning. UGH!
It was July 23. In the lead group
I had been riding with for a few days, some wheels got tangled about Mile 85
one day when we were scheduled for 145. I was third person back in the echelon
and got caught up in it, slamming the left side of my head to the pavement,
with my sunglasses cutting the bridge of my nose on the inside toward the eye. Somehow
my left hip, shoulder blade, and elbow sustained contact with road, too. The point
of impact was above the left ear. The helmet did its job, but is cratered on
that side. I have some road rash on the left shoulder blade (was worried I
damaged the surgery from the last wreck), left elbow (matches the scares from
the Peach Pedal wreck last July), and left hip. Ouch! I remember the impact
with a white light going off. But, don’t know how I came to be lying in the
road on my back hearing the voice of one of the other cyclists bringing me to.
I remember thinking, “I got to get up before one of the organizers drives by,
spots me, and pulls me out.” So, back on the bike I went, and rode the
remaining 60 miles looking a little dazed, bloodied, and damaged.
Organizer Lon saw me and asked if
I went down, I looked away, and gave a casual, “Yeaaah,” and nothing more. I
wanted to make sure I rode every inch from coast to coast.
This is the first time I’m
mentioning the incident. Many on the ride never knew. And no one back home
knew, either. …I didn’t want to worry them. I kept a stiff upper lip and
|Monty, Bob Rubey, Lance Shelton.|
Dressed for the cold.
The morning of July 30, as I went
to get my bike (usually we slept with them leaning against our beds as there
was so little room) in a downstairs room off the hotel lobby, Michael
Montgomery (Monty) surprised me. “Hey, Slap Happy,” he casually said coming
from behind a large post dressed to bike. My eyes welled up because it was so
nice to see someone that knew me and had spent many, many miles with on the
Monty I have spent the most miles
together of anyone I’ve ever biked with. His thick quadriceps and strong build
give him the talents of sprinting and hitting incredible fast speed bursts. We
through Costa Rica together in 2007, climbing the famed San Isidro and
Lantana mountains while carrying panniers filled with clothes and supplies, and
I was over joyed to see him and
told him so repeatedly. Monty knew Lance, too, since they were the same kind of
cyclists. Monty would bike with us for only four days before heading back to
Dallas for work. But, his birthday was Aug 4, so we could celebrate it
I was glad Monty came up because
now he fully understood and appreciated what I was doing. He had a sore butt,
too. And his hands were sore. He told me how hard the 375 miles he had done
with us had been hard on him. He said he couldn’t believe how we’re handling
2600 miles. …It gave me a sense of self-respect and achievement.
|Darci West, Lance Shelton, Monty dressing in long sleeves.|
With him, came the masseuse I use
in Dallas, Darci West. She was another welcomed smile. She scored getting a job
on PAC Tour for the remainder of our journey. Her birthday was Aug 7, the day
we finished. It was wonderful to have to good friends.
Also on July 30 (going to Grand
Rapids, MI, I believe), another event happened for the first and only time.
Lance and I over slept, mistakenly setting the wrong time on our respective
alarms. We woke up 15 minutes before we were scheduled to leave. You know
you’re in trouble when the first thing you hear is your roommate yelling, “OH,
As you might imagine, we threw our
stuff together, got dressed, got our bag and bike downstairs, and left, still
trying to wake up. It was 50 degrees! (BRRRR!) I missed breakfast and I was
hungry. My butt was VERY sore. I was having a rough time pedaling 15 MPH. …I
was having a rough go.
Thankfully, everyone else seemed
to be having a rough morning, too. The first stop wasn’t for 30 miles. I rode
on one half of my saddle, and ate an energy bar.
At 30, I wolf downed some almonds,
a banana, Fig Newton’s, and some Gatorade. By Mile 60, our second rest stop, I
was doing better and got some more food. By lunch at Mile 98, I finally felt
back to normal. I knew I didn’t want to repeat THAT again.
One of my college roommates, Bob
Rubey, also joined me came. He drove up from Rockford, IL where he lives and
rode along as part of our coalition. Ride Of Silence organizer Gary Gilbert and
his friend Lisa met me and Bob for dinner in Portage, WI after riding on the
worst roads of the 12-state trip in Minnesota (20’ concrete slaps separated by
large expansion gaps that jolted the rider for 30 miles! Horrible!)
Lisa Stokdyke who came up from Southlake,
TX, and showed me around Manitowoc and Sheboygan, WI. It was a wonderful break
as we ate in an old time ice cream shop (Beerntsen’s). We’ve been friends since
our days at American Airlines together in 1988.
|Dan, Geiselle, Tom making our way through the wind|
and down the road. Long sleeves again.
A visitor I had on July 30, while
we made our way through Michigan was Carl Woodard, who, along with Bob Rubey,
was one of my Best Men. I met Carl in 1976 while we served on the ship in the U.S.
Navy. Great guy. This time I was honored to meet his twin brother, Eric, too.
On July 31, Grand Rapids to
Coldwater, MI, we had wind and a constant soaking rain, that left everyone
chilled. I spent 10 hours in the saddle that day, mostly alone, and not really
happy. I couldn’t wait to get to the hotel. I was cold, wet, and tired. I just
wanted to go to sleep. I was so happy to hold a cup of hot chocolate at the 6
hour point. It was miserable.
Ride Of Silence web master Tim
Potter met and rode with me the next day. We had some great pork chops south of
Coldwater. Again, always nice to see friends. We stayed at a very nice place
that belonged to friends of his, Bob and Helen in the middle of an apple orchid
on the edge of a lake. Any other time and I would gone running in the orchid
and swimming in the lake.
Friends from across the street
from where I live, Barry & Amy Milliron, met up on Aug 1 when we arrived in
Lima, OH. They brought brownies and cupcakes for the riders, while we went to
Olive Garden and I enjoyed salad.
Mike Stieglitz, another Best Men
at my wedding, as well as a my coach/mentor/and friend, biked the last half of
our ride from London to Circleville, OH Aug 2. Along with his wife Kathy and
children Brian and Ann Marie, we met up with a cool guy from Young Life – North
Carolina, Mike Pacula, and had an italian dinner.
During the ride, things run out.
It’s hard to pack for 30 days and know every condition one is going to come
upon. My watch broke, I had worn out my cycling shorts, and my energy powder at
run out. Janalou had to ship me some to a hotel down the road from where we
Music helped me tremendously
during those long stretches of nothingness. But, my earphones also went on the blink
and had to get some more. As for the music I listened to:
Barton Hollow, 21, Quadrophenia,
Never Mind The Bullocks, Elephant, Look At Yourself, Ænima, If You Want Blood
You’ve Got It, Sticky Fingers, 2112, Get Your Wings, Ziggy Stardust, Paranoid,
Revolver, Thick As A Brick, LA Woman, Wish You Were Here, Making Movies,
Dookie, Billion Dollar Babies, etc.
No disposable music here. No “bounce”
“taylor slow” or “celine be gone.”
On Aug 3 from Circleville OH to Parkersville, WV, we had torrential
rain at the start and for most of the morning. The afternoon cleared and we all
seemed to hold an easy pace over the easy rollers and (relatively) short
distance of 100 miles. We all knew what was coming the following day two days,
Sunday and Monday, August 4 and 5. It would be our two hardest days of ride,
and they would be back-to-back.
|Peaking! Making to the top of yet another mountain pass.|
Aug 4, Parkersville to Elkins, WV, we stabbed the thick morning fog
and headed to our appointment with the first day in the West Virginia
mountains. The ride took longer (7 am to 4:30 pm) because of the climbs. But,
this first day was the easier of the two.
The following day we had to gather all of our strength, persistence, knowledge,
and experience to make over the 7 mountain passes spread over the 106 miles
into Virginia. No one along our route cheered us on as they didn’t know what we
were doing, as the drivers and pedestrians hadn’t in the rest of the country.
I was happy reaching the hotel thinking, “I’ve made it past the
hardest part. There is nothing they can throw at me that I’m not ready for.”
I learned The Ride Of Silence has
a long way to go.
I can ride 100 miles when I’m
sick, or injured, or both.
Once my body is at a level of
activity, it almost doesn’t matter what I eat or when I eat it. But this is not
the norm for 97% of the American population.
A good foundation is underrated. Know
where you’re sitting, what you’re sitting on, and who you are sitting with.
Prescription sun glasses are underrated.
I learned the American driver needs
to learn to share the road with other users, as stated by law. He also needs to
learn he has a brake, and that there is not a Bill Right that says he must do
at least the speed limit. Last, drivers must realize it is not a federal law to
pass. But to pass only when it is safe to do so, as they learned in driver’s ed.
I learned we are all different,
yet all the same. We are united under one flag and belief of freedom against
persecution for our religion, race, gender, and political beliefs. Yet, are all
separated by geography, upbringing, interests, and goals. And none of is wrong
in this country.
I learned we all have a story,
from the most influential, richest, accomplished, and educated, to the least of
these. As I entered the scattered cities and towns along the 12 states we
crossed on our path from the Pacific to the Atlantic oceans, no one beyond PAC
Tour knew what we were doing, least of which the motorists. We all have a story
to tell, one that maybe even our closest loved ones don’t know about. Hidden
secrets deep in our soul, we are all seen as one dimensional shadows moving
along the sidewalk without a past or a future. In contrast, we all have both. This
truth makes me sad because many people are not able to tell their stories
because few appear to care in a country where the individual is so highly
elevated and separated from the fabric of the rest of ones’ community, let
alone country. Yet we had a story to tell. People would do well to hear other
people’s story. They will be surprised and might learn something.
There is the vastness of this
country that is hard for anyone to comprehend; that we live in such an
expansive and rich land there is the appearance there is enough room and food
for all of its people. Maybe there isn’t. But if there is, it will be because
we share and aren’t wasteful with our resources.
The great majority of American’s
are obese. It’s a sad fact easily seen, everywhere. Fact: Bicycles can help, along with air quality and congestion.
ID, Arlo’s (they take American Express!)
: crossing the Bad
Lands, I put a fizz electrolyte tablet into my mouth thinking it was a protein
tablet. The one I took normally goes into a large water bottle and fizzes like
Alka-Selter. Instead of fizzing in the bottom of water, it was in my mouth by
mistake. I had to keep drinking water to dissolve it.
that fly higher than a cyclist’s helmet and swarm flies more than any horse
barn. Both were in South Dakota.
: Riding the
last 25 miles of a 150 day (July 22) into Murdo with the legend himself, Lon
: when I
frighten two birds with my bike, in the road fighting over an insect, one flew
into my front spokes. I didn’t look.
Though I’ve now completed this
ride and five other multi-day rides, I don’t see myself as a cyclist. In the
same way that I’ve done three swim crossings of Dallas’ five mile Lake Ray
Hubbard, I don’t see myself as a swimmer, either. Weird. I always see myself as
a runner. Running is my home sport and was the pathway to cycling and swimming.
But this illustrates that maybe we
don’t always see ourselves correctly. Maybe we are blinded by what we think are
our talents are, or were told what we are good at by a parent, sibling, or
teach, who didn’t really know. As a result, we don’t really know until our real
talent comes out. In the meantime, we flounder trying to find our spot and
place in the world. That came be too late in life for some people who could
have contributed to their sport or art and moved it (and themselves) forward.
Such a shame.
To paraphrase Bob Dylan, he who is
not busy living, is busy dying.
So, I want to finish this ride and thread,
Crooked Tan Lines, the same way I started it, with thank you’s, because after all,
everything finished well.
I want to recognize and thank:
Janalou: wife, friend, life partner; particular and peculiar
My mom and dad, as mom slips away
Lance Shelton: as he said on the last day, “We spent enough
time together to be legally married. We almost got a divorce, but we’re not
Dave Morgan, Darren Durrett, and Team Young Life: great
people for a great cause!
Bob Rubey: officially introduced me to serious cycling and
Lon Haldeman while rooming together at Southern Illinois University –
Carbondale. Bob met me in LaCrosse and road a day with us. It was a great to
have him along, and a surprise when he said he didn’t want to do such a crossing.
Mike Stieglitz & family: always my coach, mentor, and
friend. They met me in Ohio and Mike rode the last 40 miles with me. Very nice
to have him as part of this since he’s been present for each one of my athletic
Jim Cormier: one of my Best Men, a friend since high school,
we used to play hockey together.
Larry Pao: one cool dude. An intelligent runner at White
Michael Gorton: Mike was one of the inspirations for this
ride when he told me his story of riding from Texas to Connecticut. We summited
Mount Kilimanjaro together.
Duct Tape People (Dr. Randy, Dr. Dr. Himmelsehr, Dr.
Palacios, Dr. Sherman, Logan Sherman, John Sutherland, Darci West): these are
the people who were (in some cases, desperately), trying to keep me from
falling apart (physically and psychologically) before I left to start this ride.
Darci West drove up with Michael Montgomery to be part of the team. NICE!
RBM: Jim Hoyt, Woody Smith, Jack G, Joe Howard, etc, etc.
Mike Keel: a voice of reason in the car-crazy wilderness of
The Core: Michael Montgomery (He rode with us for four days!
On the fourth day, admitted this was hard on the body and that he probably
wouldn’t do it.), Tracy Cleveland, Michael Smith, Mike Gibson, Khai Harbut,
Jamie Shaw, Joseph Murphy, Art Fairchild
Team Z: Terry Zielger, Victoria Piper, Chris Hughes, Jane
Zeigler, and company
TNT-Tuesday Night Track: runners all, triathletes some, but
all of open hearts
The support of those who believed and stuck by me.
Those who came out to meet me and offer encouragement: Roger
Schramm from Spokane, WA; Lisa Stokdyke from Southlake, TX; Barry & Amy
Milliron and family from Garland, TX; Mike Pacula from southern Ohio; Carl &
Eric Woodard from Dansville, MI; Jim Doudna from Sandpoint, ID; and Gary &
Lisa Gilbert from Arlington, IL.
AND OF COURSE…The Ride Of Silence, those who keep it
together (Tim Potter, Elizabeth Adamcyzk, Benoit Valin, J. Steve, Mark Hagar,
and every local director around the planet!) and the thousands who have lost
their lives legally sharing the road with a motorist.
May the train whistle never be found.
|Aug 7, 2013: 3600 miles. The end.|