Friday, July 13, 2012

So long LIfe Ride 2012

Here it is, most likely the concluding post of Life Ride 2012.

I flew home on Sunday, July 2nd and started the re-acclimation at work on Monday.
Michele arrived Friday July 6th after staying on the east coast a few days to visit cousin Carol. My bike arrived yesterday and today I took it out for a quick 30 mile test run. It felt strange on a ride that short; I guess its all a matter of perspective. Anyway, it was really fun to get back in the the saddle again.

After initially struggling last year with the decision to undertake this journey, and all the preparation, its hard to believe that it is coming to a close. Right from the beginning we aptly named this 'Life Ride 2012' for the relationship with our Pro-Life values and supporting Birth Choice Health Clinics.
Michele and I would like to deeply thank everyone who supported LifeRide with your interest in our journey, kind words, prayers and support of Birth Choice.  In addition, your generous donations raised over $7500 and more are still coming in.    We especially would like to thank our two daughters and son-in-law, Jennifer, Lisa and Tim for all their help in support of Life Ride from initial planning, logo design, customized sweatshirts, cheering, phone calls, mail handling and house sitting visits.   We thank our neighbors as well for helping out on the home front . We also appreciate the time and efforts of Laura Jones who contacted many reporters along our route getting Life Ride covered in several newspapers along the way.  Together with everyone, we truly hope to have made a difference, however small, in the quest to save the innocent unborn.

This ride was really about life, that greatest gift; how we use it & how we waste it, who we are, and what we are capable of doing. A journey such as this is really eye opening. We'll try to share our observations here.

First a bit of the dry facts:

Total Miles: 3430
Total Number of States: 15
Total Vertical Feet Climbed: 109, 256
Total Time Riding: 224 hours, 10 min
Average Speed: 15.3 mph (includes all city traffic, side trips etc)
Number of flats: 3
Total Number of Pedal Revolutions: ~ 1.2 Million

Favorite States: AZ, NM, KS, MO, NY

Favorite Rides:
Prescott to Cottonwood AZ, (The climbs were tough but the cool breezes swirling up to Mingus Mt were delightful.)
Cottonwood to Flagstaff AZ, (The red rocks of Sedona and the smell of pine trees in the canyons.)
Erie PA to Hamburg NY; (Beautiful road, lake on the left, vineyards on the right.)

Hardest Rides:
Las Vegas NM to Tucumcari NM (109 miles, hot dry and windy)
St. Joseph to Chillicothe MO (endless rolling hills)

Estimated calories burned per day ~ 4000
1 Huge breakfast per day: pancakes, waffles, OJ, yogurt, bacon, eggs, pastries etc
1 Huge dinner per day: pasta, potatoes, steak, chicken, dessert etc
1 normal lunch per day: chocolate milk, V8 juice, sandwich, chips

On the road fluids:
~ 25 Gal of Gatorade consumed
~ 45 Gal of water consumed
~ 25 Gal of water poured on rider for cooling
On the road food:
Enough gels, PBJ sandwiches, Cliff bars, Luna bars, cookies, bananas, oranges, ice cream, trail mix,
veggie wraps, watermelon, doughnut holes and yogurt bars to choke a large horse.

Highest temperature was 111 in Indio (my Garmin was reading road temp of 120.9), coldest 45, only two partial days of rain and lots of wind both headwinds and tailwinds.

Now to the more subjective comments and observations:

The Riders:
We had 21 coast to coast riders; 16 men and 5 women. There were 3 married couples, one of which rode the tour on a tandem bicycle. As you might expect this group was filled with rather focused individuals that had many stories of incredible challenges and accomplishments such as climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, cross-Atlantic sailing trips, running marathons, skydiving, cycling in China, Africa & Europe. Many were retired from very successful business careers.
The interesting thing about the group is that it was the oldest average age of any tour Crossroads had run to date with an average of 62. The youngest was 48 and we had two riders of 70 and 71. One guy only 18 months ago fell from a tree and broke his back in three places yet he was there riding strong.

A tour like this is a significant challenge both physically and mentally but I found it interesting that the mental side of it, your attitude of life if you will, is probably the most dominant factor in a successful outcome. Age is not really the driver, nor is pure physical condition. Years ago, a retired engineer friend who was involved with mentoring young adults to become future engineers and scientist, once told me of his retirement: 'I'm going to burn out, not rot out'. I now understand his message that relates to life in any phase: No goal is out of reach.

Near Chillicothe, MO we rode past the following monument. I think it really captures what I am trying to say about the mental side of our tour.

The People:
It seemed to me that as we moved east, there was a slow but steady change in the people we encountered. Since we spent so much time on the road, these observations are primarily those of the local drivers but I think these conclusions hold for the people on the street as well.

CA/AZ/NM: Willing to wait for cyclists; maybe because it was the law but never the less we got along fine. Fast paced in urban CA but generally considerate everywhere.
KS/MO: A patient sharing of the road, almost too much at times. Some cars would match our speed on the roads for large distances until they could see a stretch that they could pass and move completely into the opposite lane. It was like they were saying 'I'm in no hurry, we'll wait'. I would call this 'Patient-Sharing' and I think it is part of the basic nature of the people and midwest culture . I loved it.
OH/PA: I would call these encounters 'Impatient-Tolerance'. We were given the right of way in most cases but when a car did finally pass, the car often gunned its engine in disgust. It was kind of like saying, 'how dare you cause me to have to wait'.
NY/VT/MA: Finally, we received the reaction from the stereotyped New Englander. These drivers would pass us on blind curves or hills, often dangerously crowding us to the shoulder. I call this style 'Aggessive-Intolerance' and it was like they were saying 'Get off MY road'.

My Life's Support
Speaking of dreams, some dreams can't happen with only your own singular determination and focus. My cross country cycling dream would not have been possible without the complete support of Michele. On one level, I can't imagine she would ever have bought into this insane idea for me to go in the first place. However, she not only supported the idea from training start to Boston finish, she joined in and followed along in a rental car for the entire trip.

Standin' on the Corner in Winslow Arizona..........
She was there documenting the craziness of the patients....

Michele looking for a Pulitzer in journalism.....

No Pulitzer received, but she does capture us throughout the journey

Beyond the departure journalism, she didn't take the shortest (Interstate route) between our start and destination hotel each day, but rather she got a copy of our turn-by-turn route sheets and traced the riders' route for each day. Now, that is about as close to riding the tour yourself as a person can be without getting saddle sores.  She was a part of the tour in every way: every day, every mile and hill, in a way I really can't describe.

From the start to the finish, we were there together on this most incredible journey.

Revere Beach, MA  29 June 2012
 I couldn't imagine taking this 7 week cycling trip with out her.  I'm incredibly Blessed.

Personal Take-Aways
In no particular order:
Michele and I were surprised how much farming went on in this country and how much of that is done on small family-farms. I hope we never loose this. Also, seeing these farms up close and intimate and then seeing the larger cities, we were struck with how much we are really dependent on each other. I wonder if the typical city person really thinks of that family farmer in KS,MO, IN or OH. This city boy didn't think that way and I suspect many other non-farmers don't really get it either.

These people are dependent on.....

....these people.

I also observed many very overt signs of patriotism, morals, faith and religion, and community in the Midwest. We have become so secular, intolerant and 'politically correct' in other parts of the country that these signs are almost unheard of. Either they never get built or if so are challenged in court or covered with graffiti. I for one loved this feeling of the Midwest.

I learned a lot about myself and my response to hardship and challenge. As the tour wore on, when facing difficult terrain, or physical discomfort or fatigue, I seemed better and better at responding. Of course, as the tour continued I got in better shape and on that physical level the riding became easier. However, as I mentioned earlier, I believe that the mental game is the eventual driver to success. In my mind, I began to really believe that I could overcome the obstacle, climb that hill or finish a really long ride. I started to mentally see the hills a little lower, not quite as steep or that long ride just a bit shorter. Here is a photo of rolling terrain in MO that is so demoralizing each time you reach the top of a hill. You see just more hills and more climbing and more road ahead. As the text says, self doubt tends to enter your mind and a little voice in your head gets a little louder.

The voice screams at you to quit and take a bump in the SAG wagon to the next rest stop but somehow you silence that voice and find a way to continue. Somehow, the hills are climbed and the miles roll on....  until the impossible dream finally comes into view.

And my final thought, a realization that when I speak it, tears come to my eyes. I've mentioned that this tour involved some major choices: sleep lost to training, lonely miles and at times what I would call pain or suffering. However along with that also came times of indescribable joy and personal satisfaction.

This journey was called Life Ride 2012 and as I reflected on those many miles and the emotional rollercoaster, it dawned on me that those countless unborn children lost to 'Choice' will never get the chance to feel the pain of the climbs or the joy of the summit. The mixture of excitement and self-doubt of the first miles in CA, and then the victory of the Atlantic sand in their toes will never be theirs to feel.

Why don't they get to dream? Why don't they get to choose?


Jennifer said...

Lovely and touching. Thank you!

LB said...

Beautiful recap dad! What an amazing journey you took us all on. I'm so proud of you!