Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Success Defined

I rode 61 miles today. The weather was beautiful and the pace was steady. I worked my way down Memorial and soon rolled through Hershey Park and by Addicks Reservoir. As traffic lessened the pace became steady, the pedal stroke rhythmic, and the act of riding and thinking soon prevailed.

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

Random Rides in Houston

A lot of people have asked me how I train for a trip of this length. The truth is, I am not entirely certain that you can. It is next to impossible to get your body prepared for a 4200 mile journey. There are variables such as wind, weather, mountains, altitude, heat, and cold. Not to mention fighting the mental strain of looking at a seemingly endless road stretching far ahead. As I sit in the comfort of my home, I am aware that I cannot comprehend the physical and mental related challenges. It will have to be a day by day endeavor.

With that said, I'm not fooling myself into thinking I can come home from work, hit the couch, and "take it day by day." As a middle school teacher, I was able to use my spring break to ride and averaged 63 miles per day. Recently, I have averaged about 200 miles per week, with the majority of the miles ridden on the weekend. I have tried, on any number of occasions, to organize a specific "training" plan. I wrote down the miles I logged, watched what I ate, and strapped on the heart rate monitor for a while. But, to me, the whole point of riding a bike is the freedom it offers. Now, I just go ride! If the sky is dark in one direction, I go the other. If a Starbucks sounds good, I make sure to stop along the way. I do, however, make sure I get the time in on the saddle. In so doing, I get to see things along the way.

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 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

Thanks Bike Barn

Some time ago, after brainstorming fundraising ideas with the CanCare staff,, I went home and made a list of people I wanted to contact. The challenge was two fold, in that I needed to admit to others that I was riding my bike across the country and I had to overcome a dislike for asking for donations, support....etc. My appreciation for CanCare outweighed these notions, so I decided to step up to the plate, and asked for help.

The first on my list was Neil Bremner, the owner of Bike Barn, 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

Going the Distance

I'm still trying to fathom riding 4262 miles. It will probably be beyond my comprehension even when the trip is complete. When I look at my maps, or even the mileage listed below, I must admit my heart skips a beat. After all, it is a journey with many unforeseen variables. I grapple with thoughts of not finishing, yet I embrace the ideal of reaching for something greater than a long distance bike ride. Yes, it is a once in a lifetime experience. However, the experience is driven by the purpose of supporting CanCare as they continue to assist in offering hope to those struggling in a very deep way.

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
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.)
detail addenda buy
2. Coburg, OR, to Baker City, OR (340 mi.)
detail addenda buy
3. Baker City, OR, to Missoula, MT (419 mi.)
detail addenda buy
4. Missoula, MT, to West Yellowstone, MT (332 mi.)
detail addenda buy
5. West Yellowstone, MT, to Rawlins, WY (349.5 mi.)
detail addenda buy
6. Rawlins, WY, to Pueblo, CO (390.5 mi.)
detail addenda buy
7. Pueblo, CO, to Alexander, KS (292.5 mi.)
detail addenda buy
8. Alexander, KS, to Girard, KS (333.5 mi.)
detail addenda buy
9. Girard, KS, to Murphysboro, IL (411.5 mi.)
detail addenda buy
10. Murphysboro, IL, to Berea, KY (410.5 mi.)
detail addenda buy
11. Berea, KY, to Christiansburg, VA (381 mi.)
detail addenda buy
12. Christiansburg, VA, to Yorktown, VA (367.5 mi.)
detail addenda buy

Monday, March 15, 2010

My Experience

With any new endeavor, there are unforeseen challenges. Initially, I thought it would be easy to sit and write about areas of interest and occasionally tie it to the theme of being a cancer survivor. The very nature of the cancer experience, however, is personal, which lends itself to conflict as I drudge up the experience while simultaneously wanting it to go away. While writing my way through the experience, I hope to embrace the fact that cancer is not just a part of my life, but a part of who I am.

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

There is Value in the Slow Lane

Initially, when asked why I wanted to ride across the United States, I would just start talking and hope something smart came out. In reality, I was speaking without having yet established true value.

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 Beginning

I have wanted to turn the pedals of a bike across the United States for some time. My journey through cancer is intertwined with this effort. This is how it began:
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 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 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

It's who I am

I have thought for some time how I wanted to start this blog. The only thing I knew for certain was that I didn't want it to be solely about me. I didn't want to babble on about how I love to ride my bike, or how I love the solitude of trail running with my dog. There is no doubt I love these activities, but in and of themselves there is not the level of significance that I am looking for.
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.