Tuesday, December 21, 2010
1) Move forward. Find a way. There's no point in whining about anything.
2) No matter what, you can!
3) Remain in the moment, plan for the future.
4) Don't live in the future.
it's not here yet.
it probably won't turn out how you hoped anyway.
even if things don't turn out as planned, the joy is in the process.
I was glad to leave Baker City. It was concrete, motels, junk yards and unhappy folks at dinners. There was minor climbing and the land soon leveled out. We slow pedaled across land that was harsh and dry, but not so much so to eliminate greenery. We passed ranches, cattle, cabins, rivers and canyons. We passed horses grazing in windswept grass being fed by the steady mist of irrigation.
We rolled downhill, following a river gorge, stopping to look at the vast, open land. Appearing hills soon altered the landscape once again thus limiting the view. With the town of Oxbow ahead, Idaho is near. From what I've been told, if I can handle the mountains so far, I should be O.K. One day at a time is all I can handle. The rest is too overwhelming.
Thursday, December 9, 2010
We woke in Baker City to more cold and rain. Immediately out of town we began an 8 mile, 2700 foot climb. The fog, yet untouched by sun, layered the earth with an ominous tone. The climbing was slow and rhythmic which lent for time to hear rain clicking on my helmet. My breathing was slow, healthy and alive. It felt so good to once again live so well, so healthy, so deeply! I rode with gratitude and heart felt joy.
The fog soon gave way to the suns rays shining across the valley floor. I descended hills with stinging sleet. A Blue Herring flew from the surrounding pines, silently gliding above. I saw a fox chased by dogs. I watched a cow leap a ditch and stand hillside protecting her calves. I witnessed deer and elk running across the valley floor, cutting through grass with such athletic grace you couldn't help but get off the bike and watch in stunned amazement.
The day was filled with the spectacular.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Initially I thought I'd write about the riding. As I sit and think, my thoughts are led to the people I have seen along the way. I got a glimpse of America today. A good America. An America that I am beginning for the first time to truly love. The waitress at the dinner this morning had a tooth ache, she kept working. A truck driver across from us had a recently shaved head. A scar along the side of his skull, I'm assuming, was from a recent surgery. He got in his truck and drove. He went to work! I'm beginning to see an America that does have standards. It's an America based on being an individual, working when you don't want to work, and striving for a good life.
It rained today, all day. Heavy rain and light rain. Yet, I look back and see a country, my country, as a spectacular place to be.
I'm filled with uncertainty, but I'm hoping for a good outcome. I feel well, better than I thought.
We left Salom 70 some odd miles ago. I write from camp in Colburg. The ride started with hard climbs which soon flattened to a steady 12-15 mile per hour pace. I cannot begin to describe the beauty of the area. It is one of rich farm land with greenery and distant mountain peaks. The silence is disconcerting yet liberating. I'm tired, I'm scared, I'm free. We're headed for McKenzie Pass in the morning.
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
We woke to 50 degrees and rain. As we drove to the coast the sky turned blue and clouds drifted away. The Gods, it seemed, smiled on us as we dipped a tire in the Pacific and began our journey to the Atlantic. We stopped at Otto's, ate a burger the size of a face and hash browns to match. The surrounding town surrendered to the deep green of the mountains while the mountains surrendered to fog. Everything seemed just as it should be in this part of the world.
The beauty of that which is natural seems to transform people. It crawls inside of them opening chambers for peace. There is an ease here, a feel unlike the city where the natural world is secondary to the artificial world of buildings, controlled temperature, and technology. Nature brings order. People seem to assist rather than resist one another.
Tomorrow is the second day. Good grief, how embarrassing to not have the stuff to make it.
Monday, December 6, 2010
"Be kind and merciful. Let no one come to you without coming away better and happier."
I'm wiped out! Last night the flight from Houston was delayed a couple of hours. I arrived in Portland around 3:00 a.m. Pacific time. I write from the corner of the hotel room bed. Before me lies a tattered bike box with shifter cables in similar condition. Anyway, my mind is still on teaching and the daily routine with Adriana. It might sound odd, but I'm not even into this thing yet and I already miss her. I wonder what it will be like to not share a morning coffee with her for the next 50 something days and hearing about her day. I'm just so tired from work and travel I'm questioning everything. Tomorrow I ride! I'm scared! I'm everything! Who do I actually think I am to hop on a bike after cancer treatment and ride across the United States?
I don't know what I'm getting into. I suppose I'm living on hope for the next couple of months. Now that I think about it, hope was the very thing I so desperatally needed for cancer treatment. Now wouldn't be a good time to let go of it.
During the course of the trip I wish to express myself with the awareness that I am in the middle of something special. It is a special time in my life. I'm overwhelmed by the support of my family and friends. I'm overwhelmed by the opportunity to rediscover peace while I pedal.
Saturday, September 18, 2010
The thick smell of sulfur filled the evening air!
Saturday, August 14, 2010
-Oliver Wendell Holmes
Thursday, August 12, 2010
I hope all is well in your part of the world. I'm writing from the porch of a hostel in a little town called Mitchell. It's about 80 miles outside of McKenzie Pass. The porch is really cool. The roof extends well beyond the door offering cover from sun and rain. There's a beat up pair of cowboy boots by the door next to a sign that says "Please remove spurrs before walking on wood floors." I don't know what the population is, but I haven't seen more than 10 people since I arrived. Every now and then you see a muddy truck with a dog in the back. The owner hops out and heads in to the burger/bar for a shot of Jack Black, a burger, or to sign up for Friday's amateur boxing night. Anyway, they serve up a burger the size of your face ... well, not yours sweetie ... let's just say the burger was huge! The fries are so big they flex when you pick them up. The guy that served it bought the place about 5 years ago. He didn't seem like the owner of a burger joint to me. He had a thick grey beard that hung to his chest with yellow nicotine stains on his face and fingers. He told me he and his wife moved out there because he had a job on a ranch. The job fell through so they bought the burger place and stayed. It's kind if funny all the twists and turns a person's life will take.
I hope you enjoy the photos! As soon as I get cell phone service I'll give you a call. Talk to you soon.
Monday, August 9, 2010
- Laurence Fishburne
As I write, I feel incredibly content. It is a contentment derived from the realization that a personal victory has been achieved. I awoke this morning at the foot of Mckenzie Pass. It is one of the first "real" climbs of the trip. Up to this point, I had convinced myself that if I stared long enough at a topography map the route would suddenly be ridden with ease. This, of course, would not be the case.
McKenzie Pass was closed and we were forced to take the lower route, Sustaine Alternate, which involved 34 miles of consistent climbing with 4800 feet of elevation gain. The remaining 60 miles involved rolling terrain.
The next morning, the skys were heavy and overcast. While eating breakfast and filling water bottles for the day, I faced potential failure and physical pain. Later, while riding, any gradient change marked the beginning of my doom. I was quietly, but assuredly, marking myself for failure!
In, Relections on the Art of Living, Joseph Campbell wrote to the effect that anything you do has a still point, or, what I take to mean a time in which things are neither good nor bad, they simply are. When you're at that point, according to Campbell, you can perform maximally. Basically, I was riding out of fear rather than in the moment. I had yet to realize that "still point." But as happens so often on the bike, the observance of one's surrounding takes over and anything beyond your immediate world is no longer part of the moment. A still point often arrives.
I remember the initial challenge of the climb, but somehow the moment seemed to ease its way into the ride. A slow grind up the pass turned into one of awe as moisture-thick trees parted to make way for the deep rumble of waterfalls.
Friday, August 6, 2010
Thursday, August 5, 2010
In late September 2008, I was diagnosed with cancer. Surgery, chemo, and radiation introduced me to a darkness I have never felt. June 4th, 2010 marked the beginning of a 57 day self-supported, 4200 mile, bicycle journey from the Pacific to the Atlantic. Each pedal stroke introduced me to fear and self-doubt, as well as heartfelt elation and joy. The ride was a privilege, a gift; in fact, it was a celebration of life. It showed me that I am a survivor and that maybe, just maybe, I can reach for greater heights.
My hope is that I can convey my journey in such a way as to do it justice. In an effort to collect memories, I took pictures daily and journaled nightly. Combining the two created what I hope to be assorted reflections and lessons of a special time in my life. Rather than giving a day-by-day account of the trip, I reviewed pictures and journal entries in three day increments. The significant events are what I'd like to share. I include few details such as speed and distance as they have little relevance other than meeting the August 1st return date. The following is the retelling of my story.
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
With limited time to write before we, once again, hit the road, I can say this trip, thus far, has been both exceptional and extraordinary. I am in the midst of an adventure of a lifetime! This awareness enhances the experience allowing me to further appreciate ever changing surroundings.
I currently write from Kansas. We have ridden though Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, (including Yellowstone and the Tetons), Montana, and Colorado. Heat, snow, rain, sleet and wind are all part of the day. Elements of the outdoors have proven to enhance the experience as the environment is ever changing and never controlled. Within this environment I have ridden past buffalo close enough to feel their stare. I have awakened at night to a growling pack of wolves, 75 yards away, attacking something weak or establishing command. I have been sore, tired hungry, and elated. Magnified emotions are par for the course. I have never, however, let go of the thought that a short while ago this might have never been. It goes without saying cancer is a nasty thing. The opportunity to ride across our breathtaking country is in stark contrast to the sterile and confining walls of a hospital. Although the contrast in experiences is, at times, overwhelming, I am thankful to see what this country is all about. I am learning that I am proud of my country! We are, indeed, a good people. I look forward to sharing.
Saturday, June 12, 2010
I have some awesome videos and pictures but no way to post them yet. So stay tuned because when I am able, I want to share them with you all!!
Today is Saturday, June 12, our first real day of rest since our journey began. I am doing very well and feel very confident! Tomorrow we will be in Idaho as the journey continues!
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
A balanced life involves living simply, pursuing passion, doing good, and loving much.
I leave for the airport in a couple of hours. I ride the 4th. I anticipate two months of living simply, pursuing passion, doing good, and loving much.
Sunday, May 23, 2010
Here's the link:
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
After returning home, I cleaned up, and decided to check my email before I, once again, began to write. I was amazed at what I found. There was a message from Cancare asking me if I would be interested in appearing on Great Day Houston with Debra Duncan. I mean, how cool is that! The subject matter is young cancer survivors, my bike ride across America, and Cancare. Who would have ever thought that a short time ago I was struggling to regain my health while trying to come to terms with a terribly uncertain future. Now, I'm back teaching school, I will be riding my bike across the U.S., was highlighted in a Cancare newsletter, and will appear on TV in the morning.
I'm blessed. That's all I can say. I get to go on TV, if for only a few minutes, and talk about riding a bike for an organization that I feel so strongly about. Wow! I suppose it's a good thing to think to reach for what is possible rather than spending time dwelling on what will never change.
The show will appear May 12th on channel 11, from 9-10am. I have no idea what to expect, so I hope it goes well. Either way, it's a cool thing to let people know that Cancare does good for those currently not at their best. Wish me luck!
Monday, May 3, 2010
Sunday, May 2, 2010
The link is below:
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
It seemed to go unsaid that we were not going to push the pace or even worry about speed. I stopped and took a couple of pictures. Now that I think of it, they were taken from the parking lot of a kalache shop and the front of a coffee house. It was a day of little concern and steady miles. Not exactly training, I suppose, but 65 miles is 65 miles and, at this point, I'm after time in the saddle.
I got home in time to start paitning the upstairs bedroom. A project which took a bit longer than anticipated. In fact, it cut into a lot of after work riding time this week. Either way, it's good to start getting some of the projects around the house done before the Trans Am ride.
With the trip planned and details in order, the focus, for this month, is long miles and time in the saddle.
Saturday, April 10, 2010
In a few days I will send an email to my coworkers explaining my intentions to ride a bike across the United States. I have been reluctant to make this announcement, in fact, I have told few people about my intentions. I have been reluctant partially because it is surprisingly easy to write in a blog about such a trip. There is no possibility for ridicule and the vulnerability from potential failure is lessoned as there is no interaction with others. The blog has, in affect, offered a haven.
If I opted to remain in this "secure" haven, I would make my close friends and family aware of the trip, and then roll down the road. If I kept the trip to myself, however, there would not be funds raised for www.cancare.org. In addition, I would suppress an opportunity to express gratitude for a return to health and a life of hope. In fact, in many ways, not making an announcement is an indicator of a lack of full commitment. Part of pursuing any significant goal, I am learning, is directly confronting potential failure. It is through this confrontation that a strength and resolve is derived. A strength which is acquired only through a public announcement that I will be riding my bike across the United States.
If you are so inclined to donate to Cancare, please do so at the link above. All money will go directly to Cancare and a receipt will be mailed to you. No money goes to my trip as I don't think it is right that others work so I can ride.
I'm looking forward to a great day. A little time to ride, breath deep, and enjoy uninterrupted time on the bike. Maybe it will even turn into a century ride. Either way, I need to hustle as real life waits in the form of a paint brush and bucket of primer. Time on the bike, time working around the house, and time with my wife. That's a good weekend indeed!
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
My mind began to wander, as it often does, and I soon began to think, for some reason, about success and failure. I had a need to clearly define, as related to the trip, what is success, and what is failure? The answer did not arrive without considerable thought. In fact, I started this blog entry several times, and stopped as my thoughts were never clear.
My initial response to the question was matter-of-fact. If I finish the trip, I succeed, anything short of that is a failure. Well, this is true. But life is not matter of fact and this trip is a huge part of my life. In order to answer the question, I needed an all encompassing solution. A solution which holds true in life and in the endeavors that I choose to pursue.
I have felt self imposed pressure to use this trip as a means of marking my return to health. I know full well, however, that if this is my only objective, crossing the finish line in Virginia will be a bit hollow as the trip was self focused. Although this would remain the trip of a lifetime, and I would be honored to have had the experience, it would not be achieved in the way that I desire.
I remember, while in college, reading Ralph Waldo Emerson and his thoughts on qualities that made for a successful life. As I recently went back and re-read, I discovered ideas that, if pursued, success, despite the outcome, couldn't help but follow. With the thoughts of Emerson in mind, I found the line between success in my life and my cross country journey soon blurred. Although the wording is not exact, his thoughts remain beneficial to my version of all encompassing success.
1) Laugh often and laugh much.
2) Appreciate beauty.
3) Find the best in others.
4) Give of one's self.
5) Leave the world a little bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition.
6) To have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation.
7) To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
So yes, success, in this case, is partially measured by the matter-of-fact. I either make it across the country or I don't! But it is also measured by waking daily, facing struggles, and in the midst of these challenges choosing to laugh, choosing to appreciate beauty, and choosing to find the best in others. This version of success can be achieved in Oregon, Montana, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, or places in between. Sure, I want the pedals to turn all the way across the country, but I also find solice, and must remember, that success is not completely determined by where the pedals on a bike stop turning.
Monday, March 29, 2010
Sunday, March 28, 2010
It seems like the majority of the planning is complete. Over the last couple of months, I have been grinding away at the details. I set up an ebay account and sold the bike I currently own to purchase the Surly Cross Check, the bike which will take me across the U.S. I got together with Bike Barn, made decisions related to the best bike set up for the trip, researched and purchased panniers, and ordered maps from http://adventurecycles.com. I met with Doug, a rider from Virginia, in Austin a couple of weeks ago. He seemed like a pretty low key guy who will face challenges as they appear. I set up this blog to chronicle the events of the trip and raise money for Cancare. I am happy to say that donations are gradually starting to appear. I have been amazed by the generosity of people. If you are inclined to donate, the link below will take you directly to the Cancare donation page. All of the money will go directly to CanCare and not toward the funding of my trip. You will receive a thank you letter which will also serve as your tax free notification.
My journey across the United States is a personal challenge which, I'm hoping, will serve as a marker indicating a return to health. Part of this journey involves raising funds so the CanCare staff and volunteers can continue doing good for a group of people struggling through a rough time in their lives. Please help!
Saturday, March 20, 2010
The first on my list was Neil Bremner, the owner of Bike Barn, http://www.bikebarn.com/. Although we had not spoken recently, I had known him from years past. My pitch was simple. I said, "You were aware I had cancer. There is a nonprofit organization called CanCare that emotionally assists people with this disease. I'm riding 4200 miles across the U.S. to raise money for this organization. I need a bike to withstand the miles and the abuse. I don't have access to a large media audience to say 'go shop at Bike Barn', but I would really appreciate your help." Before I even had the word "help" out of my mouth, he said, "I will be happy to assist you any way I can." How cool is that! The bike was not free, but the assistance was significant. I went to Mark Chamber's Bike Barn store on Westheimer and pieced together a bike, from scratch, with Billy and crew. Their experience with everything from gear ratio to bike set up has been incredible.
I'm still amazed at the generosity! The encouragement I have received for this ride has been beyond my imagination. Thank you Bike Barn! You guys rock!
Thursday, March 18, 2010
We will leave the morning of June 4th from Astoria, Oregon. We have two months allotted for the trip, but we hope to complete the ride just shy of 55 days. In an effort to defray costs, we will be camping. When weather is too extreme, we will stay in churches or motels along the route. We will eat out the majority of the time, but we will carry a meal or two for emergency use.
Listed below is mileage and towns that we will be traveling though.
TransAmerica Trail Summary:
Astoria, OR, to Yorktown, VA 12 map set (4,262 mi.)
overview gps buy
1. Astoria, OR, to Coburg, OR (234.5 mi.)
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2. Coburg, OR, to Baker City, OR (340 mi.)
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3. Baker City, OR, to Missoula, MT (419 mi.)
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4. Missoula, MT, to West Yellowstone, MT (332 mi.)
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5. West Yellowstone, MT, to Rawlins, WY (349.5 mi.)
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6. Rawlins, WY, to Pueblo, CO (390.5 mi.)
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7. Pueblo, CO, to Alexander, KS (292.5 mi.)
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8. Alexander, KS, to Girard, KS (333.5 mi.)
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9. Girard, KS, to Murphysboro, IL (411.5 mi.)
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10. Murphysboro, IL, to Berea, KY (410.5 mi.)
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11. Berea, KY, to Christiansburg, VA (381 mi.)
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12. Christiansburg, VA, to Yorktown, VA (367.5 mi.)
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Monday, March 15, 2010
September 25, 2008 marked the date in which I was forced to make room for this new reality. I noticed a bump on my side burn, yet it remained small and unnoticed to others. I felt healthy and fit, but after three weeks, and a gradual increase in size, I intuitively new something was wrong. As a result, I went to the doctor. A biopsy was performed, cancer was revealed, and within two weeks I went from experiencing the freedom of my bike to lying on a surgery table within the confines of MDA.
The diagnosis was Merkel Cell carcinoma. It is a rare form of skin cancer with only 1500 cases diagnosed nationwide per year. It is exceptionally aggressive. Left undetected, it attaches to nerves, and then grows at an alarming rate. The Parotid Gland is a salivary duct on the side burn in front of the ear. With surgery, mine was removed. After a brief healing period, chemo and radiation followed. If caught early, the rate of return for this type of cancer reduces significantly one year following treatment. Fortunately, mine was caught early.
After follow up testing, I received word that I currently show no signs of cancer. After celebrating with family, I hopped on my bike and rode with an emotional freedom only known before September 25th. I now will move forward hoping to do the best I can with the blessing of a new perspective.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
I have learned that in the process of seeking what is of value, a person must first establish what, to them, is of no value. This process has remained true in my riding life. Despite much effort, I cannot ride a bike fast. I have literally been in the middle of a race and wondered why I am not going faster. With every corner or climb, I would transfer every ounce of my being into those pedals, and the only return was a pulsating desire for what would never be. So I quit! I changed lanes, and discovered value from the slow side of the road.
Although I express appreciation for those with the ability to ride fast, I no longer have envy. There is a cost to the pursuit of a podium and it is in this pursuit that value is often compromised. Looking up at a finish and down at a time is nothing more than an indication of an end. It is with this awareness that I value riding in the slow lane and observing that which is yet to be discovered. It is the shifting of gears, the effort of the climb, and cresting to the morning sun. It is the effort free speed of descending while riding toward an afternoon with wandering thoughts. In short, it is riding while knowing I am not rapidly finishing, but having awareness that the moment is continually there.
So when people ask me why I'm riding a bike this distance, my response might still be too long. The partial reply, however, is that I find value in watching moments unfold as I slowly pedal along.
Monday, March 8, 2010
The Trans American trail is a back road bike route extending 4200 miles from Astoria, Oregon to Virginia. While not teaching over the summer, I worked at Bike Barn, a local bike shop, and became familiar with the route. But, like any trip involving two months, real life often speaks a little louder and the trip becomes secondary to other responsibilities. At that time, this was the case.
After the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, I discovered a need to confront life with a deeper resolve and a heightened sense of urgency. As my cycling fitness increased, I began to seriously entertain the idea of a trip that would serve as a representation of these qualities.
After discussing the trip as a fundraising effort with the CanCare staff, I began to see the opportunity to do something good. With this incentive, I researched the trip and discovered a doctor in Virginia, by the name of Doug Garner, who was riding in honor of a friend who passed away from cancer. We combined efforts, and now have a total of 5 people making the journey. With the theme of cancer awareness in mind, we will take our shared belief across the country.
For those interested in following our journey, you can do so at http://ridingthroughlife-alex.blogspot.com. It is a cancer focused site that chronicles an emotional and physical journey back to a life as a survivor. If anyone feels compelled to tell their story, or to offer something learned, I welcome the exchange on the blog.
For those interested in contributing, there is a paypal account soon available. All money will go directly to http://www.cancare.org/. No funds will go to my efforts.
Finally, I want to bring awareness to the staff and volunteers at CanCare who wake daily and seek to comfort those going through the physical and emotional turmoil of a nasty disease. I have found that there is a collective reverence and appreciation for life among cancer survivors. This trip is my way of reestablishing hope and purpose and fully embracing life as a survivor.
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Just recently, I realized that I have been focusing on my interest in running and riding in an effort to escape who I really am. I am a cancer survivor. After Sept. 25th. 2008, my reality, my very perception of who I am changed. I struggle to regain that perception.
This blog is about my journey as a cancer survivor. It is a journey I hope to chronicle as I run and ride my way through a life full of challenge, hardship, beauty, and friendship.