Thursday, November 29, 2012

Route 66

One of the reasons why I love Route 66 so much, is because it has character. Billy Connolly said it so well on his show about the Mother Road, "everything isn't beige".  Maybe he's been to Irvine, CA.

In it's close to 60 years of "official" existence, 1926- '84, business' along the road needed to find creative ways to lure travelers to their diners, motels, gas stations and souvenir shops. So they would use bright colors, gimmicks, neon and more to get people to stop at their place, instead whizzing on past. Yes, they were often kitschy and gaudy, but they displayed boldness, character and individuality. It worked then, and now it serves as a portal. Visiting these  unique places along "The Main Street of America" transports you back to a different time. Whether it's the 1930's when farmer's were escaping the Dust Bowl in search of a better life in California, or the 1950's and 60's where a Nuclear family of four was headed to Disneyland on vacation, you know that these little oasis sprinkled along the roughly 2,400 miles of road from Chicago to Santa Monica, were brief respites for people going somewhere. People that, whether through necessity or adventure, were leaving their "comfort zones" and venturing out onto the open road. 

The road has a voice, and it is relentless. It keeps calling like a lost love that may never touch your lips or speak your name again. It lies dormant, waiting for you to reclaim it with passion and the absence of fear. 
Facebook- Jan. 25th 2012

Yes, the road has an allure. There are countless books, films and songs written about it. And none more written about than Route 66. There is just something so damn sexy about her. It's not just me who thinks so either. People are flocking to this road. She is arguably more popular around the world than to people whose own town it runs through. I am not entirely sure why other people are fascinated. For me, I was hooked from the start. The fact that in 1928, C.C. Pyle put on a Transcontinental Footrace from Los Angeles to New York via Route 66, known as "the Bunion Run", to happening upon the statue of the winner of that race, Andy Payne, in his hometown of Foyil, Oklahoma, on my own run across America, there have been many reasons for me to feel connected to her. 





I am rather embarrassed to admit that when I was originally planning my run, I didn't even know about Route 66. I just opened up Google Maps and sort of just put those two pins on either side of the continent and waited to see where the line went. In fact, the original route only followed 66 to somewhere around Albuquerque. It wasn't until I adjusted the route to go through Tulsa, Oklahoma to see family and talked to a business associate of mine and he said "Oh, you can take Route 66" that I even considered it. 

After hearing that, I went to the library and checked out some books that completely intrigued me. Not only was I amazed by the pictures, but the stories and the history! They talked about The Will Rogers Highway (one of the names it's known by) serving as the main highway for people heading west. How the many business' and towns along the highway became prosperous serving those people and then,  with the threat of being bypassed by the Interstate, their eventual struggle to survive.

One of the books also talked about traveling in general and this thing called "wanderlust". Boy could I relate to that. During the run, I was so excited to see the things that I had seen in those books. I felt connected to places before I ever got there. On a particularly hard and lonely day, with 30 miles down and a few more to go, I was running into Tucumcari, New Mexico. I ran down a road lined with old broken down, abandoned Motels. It was sad, but for some reason, it gave me solace. Somehow I could relate to the way they were left. They were once pillars in the desert, and now they were vacant and falling apart. I would get closer to them than most people had in years because I wasn't separated or isolated in a car. I passed them slowly and couldn't ignore them. 



Tucumcari, New Mexico


But for all of those that were dead, there were as many that were still struggling to stay alive and many even thriving. It seems there are plenty of people out there that want to slow down. They want to see this part of America that was truly unique. They don't want to just get from point A to point B on a Superhighway. There are a lot people who's idea of travel is different than driving down a concrete corridor whose exits all have the same travel center and the same 5 restaurants, making it difficult knowing whether the Cracker Barrel you are in is in Florida or North Dakota. No, there are people who want to see what is in between. The uniqueness of each little town. Their personalities and the people who live there. I wanted to see it. I wanted to see every bit of it.

I had ran almost all of 66 on my run from California to New York. We went though Phoenix, so we missed the California and Arizona parts until Holbrook.  Also, we left it in St. Louis, to take the Old National road east to New York. I have since driven most of the Arizona and California parts but that just doesn't compare. I was 60 miles into what was supposed to be an uninterrupted, no drama ride the entire way from Boston to LA via Route 66, but that didn't turn out the way I had hoped. Perhaps that is another one of the reasons why I seem to have such an obsession with this strip of pavement that is only partially still there. And perhaps it wouldn't be out of line for someone to point to this obsession as the cause of me almost biting the big one. And they might have a point. But still, I don't blame her. My love for her doesn't die, it just gets stronger. Because it's not really the road, it's what it represents.  It's movement and forward momentum. It's dreams and adventure. It's leaving home and perhaps, coming back home. It's hope! Yes, there are other roads, but this one is special. So I will keep on dreaming about it. And soon, do the whole thing in one shot.

Until then, I am going to go through all of my pictures and do some editing and post them to instagram, Twitter, facebook, Tumblr and wherever else I can annoy the crap out of people. But beyond trying to spread my genuine enthusiasm for Route 66 to other people (the struggling business' could use the customers:) I also have a real interest in photography developing (pun). I've fired up the old Photoshop after many years and am in the market for a nice DSLR. I've even registered at the local Junior College to take some photography classes. I know, I'm a "self taught Man" but, I have a new lease on life, so I am changin' a  few things up. Who knows, maybe I can eventually figure out a way to put together my own travel show. Maybe do a show about all of the breweries along the way. I'll just put a twist on it and run or ride a bike between all of them. Yeah, that sounds pretty good!

Until then, I'll leave you with a few of my pictures of Route 66 and hope you will find them as interesting as I do.  If you would like to see more of my pictures from the road, you can view them here.


Bluewater, New Mexico

Catoosa, Oklahoma

Seligman, Arizona

Elk City, Oklahoma

Seligman, Arizona

Williams, Arizona

Cool Springs, Arizona


Oh, and that Billy Connolly guy, he also said "Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes. After that who cares?... He's a mile away and you've got his shoes!" He's a funny guy! :)

Paul

Monday, November 26, 2012

My bicycle accident

"In the blink of an eye" that is how quickly everything can change. But just like an "overnight success",  it only appears to be "overnight" because no one sees the countless years the person dedicated to get there. These "blink of an eye" moments, are really just a collision of multiple events, decisions or actions, that have intersected at any one point in time, to create an altering of course, or "life changing event". The collision gets all the attention, but the fascinating part is all the pieces that lead up to it. I have had such a collision. Both figuratively and literally, and thank God, I am here tell about it.

I wrote that opening, two weeks ago. Since then, I have managed to do many things BUT write this post. I have spent countless hours location tagging pictures, posting like crazy on Facebook and organizing everything on my laptop to the point of obsession. It's not that I haven't had time to write this post. I have nothing but time. I have been sitting on my butt for a month as of yesterday. I went from riding my bicycle for close to 75 miles a day to a sudden stop. A very abrupt stop! An extremely violent and violating stop. Oh yes.... THAT stop. That "blink of an eye" moment when you are supposed to see your life flash before your eyes. Well, I don't know about that. What I do know,  is that at that moment, there were two things that I thought.


Side note: It's not like I can't talk about this. I talk to everyone about it. Very matter of fact, actually. No emotion, just what happened. I know how lucky I am and surprisingly, given my history with panic disorder, I have taken it extremely well. Maybe too well. Maybe I am waiting for the hammer to come down. I have not had to take a single Xanax that was prescribed to me in Kankakee, Illinois..... Maybe I'm afraid that writing it down here will jog it loose. Maybe, I'm afraid that writing it down, here, will dredge up the reality...... what really happened. Not the physical reality, I have been dealing with that for a month. No, the mental part of it... Writing it down is hard. Articulating it is harder, especially when there is one piece missing....One big important piece... Anyway, enough stalling...


The first thought was "This is NOT supposed to happen"


Riding a bike, you KNOW that something is not supposed to hit you. I didn't hear him coming, I just felt him hit me. It was the most violent and violating force that I have ever felt. Violating is probably the best way to describe it. You know, it's always in the back of your head. You hear all the stories. Everyone tells you they couldn't do what you are doing (riding or running across the country) and then, they tell you the stories. They tell you about so and so who was killed. They tell you about all the crazy drivers out there and how they don't pay attention. And then, they tell you to be careful. But it's not up to you! They mean well, but they don't understand. I actually had this exact conversation with my Mom on this very morning. 
The only way you can possibly get up and do this every day, the thing that they say they can't do, is to have faith and tell yourself it won't happen to you. You have to turn your back to the very thing that can kill you. You have to be vulnerable, You have to have faith that it won't happen to you. It wasn't supposed to happen to me, and it was!

The next thought..... "This is why I wasn't supposed to go on this trip". And I felt like the biggest asshole for going! Those were the only things I remember about that moment.


From Facebook, November 4th:


I never realized, an obsession and fascination with detective work before. I need to fill in this missing chunk of time. These few seconds that are right at the tip of my brain. Tiny pieces come in flashes when I am in that state between sleep and awake. It's like a name you can't remember, but it's right on the tip of your tongue and it keeps gnawing at you. 


 I said I didn't lose conscienceless

but I clearly don't remember what happened between the moment I felt the horrific force of impact and the next moment, the panic of me in a ditch feeling for parts that weren't in the right place. I remember what I thought, vividly! But I don't know how I got there.

So, with every new clue, I try to get closer. I study the damage to the panniers, the damage to the car, the damage to my body, and methodically try to piece together the most dramatic, scary and mortal moment of my life.

Another piece of the puzzle was unboxed today and I entered into evidence and consideration, the damage to my bike.

I imagine the best I'll ever be able to do is guess, based on these clues, exactly how everything happened. What part of the car hit what part of me and my bike. If I somersaulted or rolled. Did I go over the handlebars or did I spin off the side like a whirly gig? Why did the bones that were broken, break and why the other ones didn't? What part of me or my bike ripped the side mirror off his truck and shattered the front headlight?..... Why didn't I die?

Perhaps there is one person who knows the answers to some of my questions. Perhaps even though he didn't see me before he hit me, he saw what happened to me after.

But then again, maybe I don't want to know.......



Here is what I do know. It was October 25th, a very windy Thursday. I was on day 22 of my ride from Boston to Santa Monica, CA and I was approaching the 1,200 mile mark. The ride was going amazingly well. I had flown my bike to Boston and spent the first day walking around the city taking in all of the history.


The old State House



I was in heaven! The Freedom Trail, The Granary Cemetery, Paul Revere's house. What a town! I even saw this!




My favorite show


Then, the next day, I set out on my bike for what was supposed to be a 3,400 mile journey.



On the Charles River


I had ridden through the very hilly state of Massachusetts to Albany, New York. In Albany, I rode the Erie Canal, approximately 350 miles to Lake Erie, stopping and camping at some of the 35 locks along the way. It was beautiful!



Lock 20


Camping!

The beautiful bike path

Lock 21

The colors were amazing!


Being on the trail was fantastic, But I was definitely looking forward to what was at the end of that trail.



Niagara Falls


I had looked forward to the Falls and it did not disappoint. The sheer power of the water was amazing. To stand so close to the edge at some spots, with nothing but a metal railing between you and that incredible force. Breathtaking! A woman who takes pictures of people at the falls took this one of me. It was awesome and I could have spent a lot of time there but I had to move on. I found a craft brewery right down the road in Canada!

I was a little worried about the whole Canada thing and going into a different country. You know, the whole....... well.....anyway, they let me in......and ......let me back out. Or better stated, let me out and then let me back in. In fact, the border agents getting back into the states were extremely nice, even driving me and my bike across the bridge after I was told that bicycles couldn't go across (which I only found out after arriving in Sarnia). I only spent three days in Ontario and it was very nice. But, I was glad to be back since I had turned roaming off on my iPhone, which made navigating especially hard, forcing me to go old school with a real paper map.

Now that I was in Michigan (the state where I was born) I had just two days to get to my cousin Karl's house in time for the "Iron Brewer" competition he was holding at his Brew Supply Shop. Talk about perfect timing!


Cool sweatshirt!


I arrived in Grand Ledge at the end of day 16 and I would take my one (and only) rest day, the next day, which was a Saturday. I needed the rest as I had decided that my goal was to get home the day before Thanksgiving. Originally, I wasn't sure if I was going to do the whole 3,400 miles. But now that I was out there, I was having such a great time, I definitely wanted to do all of Route 66. But, I needed to be home for the holiday, which meant that I would need to do roughly 75 miles a day to make it. I could fly home from wherever I was at on November 21st and fly back out to finish, but, I really didn't want to do that. So, I was going to suck it up and do the miles, still trying to take the time to see the sites and take plenty of pictures. After all, it IS the journey, right? But, in all honesty, it wasn't going to be a cakewalk by any means. My bike weighs roughly 120 pounds and between hills, wind, pictures and Breweries, 75 miles a day can be a challenge. But the challenge is good. It makes it that much more fun to be out there.

I left Grand Ledge with my sights set on Chicago. I have flown into and out of Chicago a few times on layovers and even drove in from South Bend, IN just a few months earlier at the end of my DC ride. But I have never actually seen the city. I was very excited! Of course being on a bike, I would really see it. 


The Chicago Skyline


An old MGM friend of mine lives in Chicago with his wonderful wife and two children. They were kind enough to invite me to stay with them for the evening. DJ and I went out that night and had a few beers and in the morning, him and his wife and I went and had a really nice breakfast at a really cool Diner. How cool is the city? Where everything was within walking distance from their house. I had a great time with them. I would have liked to have stayed longer, but had to go. Not only did I have a ton of miles to do, but I was also extremely excited to be in Chicago because of what lie at the intersection of Jackson Blvd. and Michigan Ave. The Art Institute of Chicago, you say? Yes... but across the street......!


YES!


I was so excited to be at the start of Route 66! I had done a majority of it on my run across the country in 2010 but didn't do any of the Illinois section because I left it in St. Louis and took the Old National Road east. And although I have driven most of the Arizona and California part, I didn't run that either because I ran through Phoenix. Since my run, I have become so enamored with the Mother Road that I couldn't wait to be on it again. I have multiple books about the history of Route 66 and I have seen so many pictures that I couldn't wait to see all the places that I hadn't seen, for myself.

The 1,150 miles to this point felt like a warmup for what lie ahead. I would be retracing a lot of the steps, literally, from my run, and in a big way, that was comforting. Hindsight has a way putting things in perspective and as I was riding on this trip, some things became very clear. Back in 2010, I was running towards something to be sure. The Statue of Liberty was a symbol for me. But as much as I was running towards it, I think I was also running away. I was running away from home and running away from some things that I needed to face. I have largely dealt with all of those "things" and as I was riding, I realized that I really was coming back home. It was like I was coming full circle. It was a really good feeling. Like I could put all of it to rest and finally move on. Yes, I was glad I was out here. I was glad I bought this bike and I was glad I got on the plane to Boston and was heading home... because I almost didn't. I came very close to calling the whole thing off.

I'm not going to say that I wasn't a little nervous for my other adventures. I was for sure. I spent many restless nights wondering what I had gotten myself into. But, I never had seconds thoughts on going. This trip was different. I kept looking for signs on whether or not I should go. But, instead of hoping that they would all lead me to going, I wanted them to lead me to stay home. All the way up until the day before I was to leave, I would vacillate between going and not. I would flip a coin, it would come up tails (my "no" side) and I would do a "2 out of 3". I actually decided the day before that I wasn't going to go and even called the airline and asked about the cancellation policy and if I lost anything by waiting until the day of the flight to cancel. I didn't, so I decided to wait and see how I felt in the morning. I woke up and hadn't changed my mind. But, as a final contemplation, I sat down and talked to my Mother and asked her what she thought. She, uncharacteristically, said that she thought I SHOULD go and that they (my parents) would be fine and that they would take care of Bella, the family dog that has become MY dog (long story for another post).




Bella

So, with an hour and a half to pack, I gathered everything together, packed my bike in a box and called the cab to take me to the airport. That was the last time that I had any doubts of whether or not I should be on this trip. I had an amazing time. I met so many wonderful people. Anytime I would think about it, I couldn't believe that I almost didn't go. I had no regrets for going. No regrets until 3:11:35 on Thursday October 25th. It wasn't my first thought, It was my second. "This is why I wasn't supposed to come". I felt like such an asshole. I always listen, or try to listen, to that little voice inside my head. It was telling me not to come. I didn't listen and now, I was going to die.

I had just left Wilmington, Illinois, the home of the Launching Pad and the Gemini Giant. I was almost giddy seeing these wonderful icons of Route 66.


The Gemini Giant


I was only 60 miles in and I had already seen so many great places, like Dell Rhea's Chicken Basket in Willowbrook, Illinois.


Dell Rhea's


And the the Rich and Creamy in Joliet, Illinois.


Rich and Creamy

So I was very excited, to say the least, to be on 66 headed towards St. Louis. The Launching Pad was closed so I went to a great little Pub and Grill called Hayden's Crossing for lunch.


Hayden's Crossing Wilmington, Illinois


It was a wonderful place with wonderful food and a really cool waitress. I was thinking about the little town of Wilmington and how I wished that I could have spent more time there when I stopped to take a picture. I was on I53 which is an original alignment of Route 66, just paved over and now a State highway. It had an abnormally small shoulder, enough that I would take notice and document it. I had struggled with the roads since leaving Chicago. So much so, that the previous night, I left "66" to take a safer road since it was getting dark.


3:10:51


Normally, in a situation like this, I would ride against traffic. Even though it is technically against the law, it seems much safer to be able to see what is coming towards you. Especially on such a long stretch with little cross traffic. For what ever reason, today I didn't. I stopped my bike at 3:10:43. I took this picture at 3:10:51 and I resumed riding at 3:11:21.

Then at precisely 3:11:35, forty four seconds after I took this picture, I felt the most violent and violating thing I have ever felt in my life. I didn't hear him coming. All I felt was the force of a 2007 Ford Ranger going between 50 and 60 MPH strike me from behind.

I was able to gather this information from my Garmin and the picture I took with my iPhone.




As best as I can gather from the information I have, the damage to my property, the damage to me and the damage to his truck, is that he hit my left rear pannier with the front side of his vehicle. I've surmised this because the front light on his truck was broken. Then, his side view mirror hit my back and sheered it off the side of his truck. There is a crumple in the down tube of my bike, where my ankle would have been, both wheels are tweaked and both of the panniers on the left side of my bike were damaged with the rear one being destroyed.

As I said, I remember thinking those two thoughts vividly but I don't remember what happened to me next. The Paramedics asked me if I lost consciousness or blacked out and I told them no. I probably said that because I don't remember "waking up", but I clearly don't remember how I got in that ditch. All I remember is sitting there holding my side, and figuring it was just a matter of time before I died. I don't say that to be dramatic, it's the truth. I can't describe the level of panic I felt the first few moments in that ditch. I knew that what just happened was bad, but I didn't know what was going to happen next.

Fortunately, the driver stopped. He seemed to be about a quarter of a mile down the road before he got out and walked back to where I was. He called 911 and then I waited. I was in a lot of pain and most likely in shock. I had no choice but to try and stay calm. If this was it, there wasn't anything I could do about it. Oddly, a sense of calm came over me. I just slowly leaned myself back and laid in the grass and waited. It's kind of weird, all those years of panic, all those years of being afraid that something bad was going to happen. All of that fear of losing control. All of that worry that death was around every corner, and here I was, laying in a ditch after being hit by a truck and I was finally calm and at peace.

I remember looking around at all of my belongings strewn everywhere. Since I was below the road in the ditch, everything was at eye level. I could see my panniers and stuff laying in the road and the grass. It was very surreal, like a movie. All of the stuff that I had obsessively packed and worried and worried about anytime I would leave it outside a store, was now everywhere, out of my reach. I know that other people stopped but I don't remember how many people and I don't remember anyone talking to me. I also don't remember seeing my bike, my awesome bike! I have no idea where that went.

I just laid there, waiting. I tried to access the damage to my body. I could tell with good certainty that my left ankle was broken.





I was also sure that there was something wrong with my back and ribs. I felt my rib cage and I felt what I thought was a separation. And my back felt like it was cracking. I could still move everything, so I figured I wasn't going to be paralyzed, but it was very painful. At this point I was mostly worried about internal injuries. I knew I had some broken bones and I was worried that they were, or were going to, puncture something. Thankfully, my neck and head didn't hurt at all. I can't explain that since I don't know how I ended up in that ditch and I can't tell you how or what my body did on the way there.

It took about 10 minutes for the ambulance to arrive. I was very relieved when they got there. The Paramedics lifted me onto one of those backboards and put me in a neck brace and lifted me into the ambulance for the very bumpy 25 mile ride to the Riverside Medical Center in Kankakee, Illinois. Boy did I feel every bump!





Once I arrived at the hospital, I was given 2 CT scans and several X-rays. Each time having to be lifted onto another table, which was very painful. I waited for close to three hours for the results of the tests, the worst part was not being able to eat or drink anything while waiting for the results. The results came back and I was extremely fortunate. to only have a broken ankle, a broken rib and 9 broken vertebra. If you are into actual medical terms, my injuries were;

Left rib fracture

Transverse displaced fracture through the base of the medial malleolous and a

Fracture of the Spinous Processes T3-T9 and L2-L3

They started pumping me full of pain meds and admitted me. They decided to operate on the ankle and give me some new hardware.




They operated on Friday, late afternoon at around 6pm. I was finally able to eat and drink something, thank God. It had been well over 24 hours and I was famished! Now, I had to figure out how I was going to get home. The logistics would be difficult. The hospital knew that this was a special case and they weren't going to be able to just discharge me like a regular patient. I had no family anywhere close and my only friend nearby was DJ and he was 60 miles away. I had my bike and all my belongings and me that would need to get back home.

Let me just say, everyone involved in this was absolutely amazing. The Police came to the hospital to get a report. They informed me that they had a team come out and scour the site, or the "debris field" for all of my stuff. Somehow they found my iPhone and my wallet and gave that to me before the ambulance took me away (I don't know what I would have done without my iPhone). They found everything else except for my sunglasses, an iPod nano, a Cheers shot glass I had bought for Brittany and some Canadian coins I was saving. They gathered that up and put it in storage next to the Wilmington Police Station.

So, to get me back and my things back home, was going to take some doing. The hospital assigned a social worker to coordinate everything. She found a bike shop near the hospital who could box up my bike for the flight. Now I just needed to get the stuff from Wilmington, which was 25 miles away, to Kankakee and all of it and me to the airport.

My Father and my daughter Brittany flew out on Sunday and stopped in Wilmington, got my bike and belongings and took my bike to the bike shop. Steve, the owner of the bike shop informed me that he wasn't going to be open on Sunday. But when he heard what happened, he said he would box it up if they brought it to his house. Like I said, everyone was amazing! So, Brittany and my Dad flew in on Sunday, went to Wilmington and picked up my bike. They stopped off at Hayden's Crossing and ate dinner and headed to Kankakee. How crazy, I never imagined as I left Hayden's that My Father and Daughter would be three 3 days later under these circumstances. Life is strange.




I have never been so happy to see two people in my life! One of the most difficult calls I've had to make was to Brittany and my Mom while I was in the trauma ward. I texted Brittany and my Dad first. I didn't know at the time what the extent of my injuries were, but I knew I could tell them without knowing and they would be ok. My Mother was a different story. I told them not to tell here until we knew if I was going to be OK. That was a long 3 hours. Anyway, like I said, I was very happy to see them. The hospital let them stay in the room that night and the next morning we drove to Chicago Midway Airport and flew home.

The last month has been a blur. I don't know how close I came to having this be a completely different outcome. Perhaps that is why I am so obsessed with what happened in those few seconds. Working with Motocross riders, I have seen plenty of guys fall off a bike and never walk again. I don't know how or why I was spared that fate. But I think about it. I think about it a lot. The craziest thing is, I am at peace. There is a good chance that I am repressing the memory of what happened in the moments after I was hit. I'm not sure. Like I said, the last month has been a blur. Perhaps part of it has been the shock of going from riding all of those miles everyday, which already puts you in a different state of mind, to not only stopping abruptly but having your whole reality change. Add to that, the trauma of what happened and then to top it off.....pain meds.

It's been difficult. and I know it's not over. The Doctor has told me I can start putting weight on my ankle and now my brain wants to do more than my body will let me. But I do know it will come in time. I will make a full recovery. But of course for me, a full recovery will be when I can run and ride again. I can't wait! I have the rest of Route 66 to do... Against traffic!

Paul

Friday, November 9, 2012

The two party deception


I have a lot of time on my hands. I also think a lot. That can prove to be a very scary combination. I had planned on posting this to facebook but decided not to and to post here on my blog. I am writing in a little different style than I usually write on here (my blog), but I think that might be good for this one.

I am also writing out of turn. Something happened on my ride from Boston to LA that is the reason I have so much time on my hands. I won't even try and summarize here at this time. I will instead suggest that you friend me on facebook here and you can see there, what happened. Trust me, I have started the post several times, but since I tend to agonize over every word here, it is proving to be more difficult than I would like. I will finish it in the next few days.


Anyway, my friend wrote something on facebook that prompted a response from me that I felt summed up an overall theory that I have, politically. I think more and more people are sensing  this truth, but I don't see it articulated very often. I know I have talked about it many times, perhaps too much, but I feel it is so important that I will risk overstating my case (and annoying everyone) to CLEARLY spell it out.

My friend wrote:

Today I am thankful to be an American. I may disagree with a lot of people for what they say...but I SO STRONGLY believe in that right to say it!!! As a country, we are so blessed and we shouldn't forget that.


I responded:

I agree fully!!! We do live in an amazing country, first, because of the wonderful landscape. I have seen so much beauty, through my travels, but I still feel like I have only scratched the surface. There is still so much to see.

Second, the people that I have met are amazing!! We constantly hear how scary and terrible everything and everyone is out there in the world. It's enough to make you not want to leave the house. But, I can tell you, from all my experiences, that it couldn't be further from the truth. 99.9% of the people I meet are kind, loving and helpful. And they are that way to someone (me) whom they could certainly judge and ignore, but they don't. And here is an important point, they don't know, and I don't know, if they are Republicans, Democrats, conservatives or liberals. It doesn't matter. We are just people. Those divisions are false divisions. The country may be "divided" by a line that serves certain agendas very well... BUT we, as human beings, are not divided. In fact it is quite the opposite. We are all connected.

Third, what we can't forget though, is that this country is great because there were a group of people that hated tyranny and believed in freedom and fought for that freedom. People sacrificed their lives for an idea. It was an idea that had never been tried before. We formed a Union, it wasn't perfect, we still had slavery and we didn't completely believe in liberty and freedom for all people but we put in place a form of Government that would at least give us the means to right things that were wrong. It is the mechanism of that Government that is good and that we have to defend at all costs. It is also the concept of freedom and the basic principles of liberty that are exciting and .... well.... liberating, that must be cherished and defended. We must be constantly vigilant lest we take for granted and lose those liberties. We were warned by the architects of this gift that we were given, how easy it would be to lose it. Trading liberty for security is one of many ways.

The biggest mistake that any of us can make, is thinking that the danger only lies with one party. That it is just "them" that want to "fundamentally change America". That if everyone would just convert to "our party" we could fix everything. Step back and you will see that both parties want to strip us of freedoms or have the government control our lives. They just each want to do it in different areas. It is a very sobering realization once you see it. In the interest of keeping this relatively short, I won't list both platforms and the blatant hypocrisy. Besides, I think everyone knows in the back of heir heads already. That is why, I believe, there is such heated and vitriolic debate. If one "side" was truly for freedom and liberty, across the board and the other  "side" wasn't, would there really even be a debate?  If those really were the two sides of the aisle, would we even need such a large Government? Perhaps, stoking this "division" ensures one thing.. Big government, ironically, to fight big Government. The big government that half of both parties claim they don't want. Is it by design? I will leave that for you to judge.

So why do I say all of this? What is my point?

I AM proud to be an American. We are a great country! We are, for the most part, great people! We need to try and love one another. We need to protect ourselves and our country from the real  enemy. And its not the one you think it is by watching one of the cable news shows or listening to one of the talk radio stations. They are entertainers. Their advertising dollars, hence their jobs,  depend on you continuing to hate the wrong people.

I see a lot of people filled with anger and hate. I was filled with anger and hate for a long time. It is the majority of the reason that I left a pier in CA and ran to the Statue of Liberty in 2010 on my "Run for Liberty". I did find my liberty. I found it by letting go of my hate. I found it by doing my best to find love and joy again. It's been hard for me to reconcile that sometimes though. Do I not fight things anymore because I want to get along? Do I say, "oh well", and never fight for the things I believe in, in the interest of "getting along"?

The answer is simply this. You must fight the REAL enemy. I assure you, if you are a "Democrat" the enemy is not the "Republicans". If you are a "Republican" the enemy is not the "Democrats". No, if you are an American and you TRULY believe in the constitution and you truly believe in freedom and liberty and all the wonderful things that come with those, along with all the scary parts, and how with freedom and liberty come responsibility and faith. If you believe in all of those things, then the  enemy is tyranny! The enemy is all of the forms and threats to liberty and freedom that it disguises itself as.

So, are there 2 sides to all the  issues? Yes, but if you divided it along the real lines. The TRUE lines, it wouldn't be close to the 50/50 division we see in our country, like we see now. It would be more like 95/5 and there wouldn't hardly  be a debate. And, more telling, there wouldn't be a need for such a large Government (and lobbyists, etc..).

So, yes, we need to get along. We need to find common ground. But the common ground cannot be to accept half of each of the big government platforms. Or to compromise some of our liberties in the interest of "getting along". The common ground of both of the two major parties is that half of each platform believes in freedom and what this country was founded on and what it's core principles are. Lets take those 2 parts, the  common ground and adopt them and throw the hypocritical, tyrannical part out the window. Yes, it can be done. After all, our two conventional parties are an invention of politicians and we can choose to shun it just as easily as we have chosen to adopt it.

Paul

Monday, October 8, 2012

Boston!

Well, so much for writing about the rest of my ride from D.C. To South Bend. Work, traveling for Motocross and life got busy. I'll try and incorporate some stories into future posts, but for now I better talk about where I am now and what I am doing.

I am sitting in a diner in East Greenbush, New York, about 12 miles from the start of The Erie Canal. Yes! Another adventure. My ride a couple months ago was meant to be a test ride for a longer ride starting in October. I had planned to ride from Canada to Mexico but I had been advised that the weather along the Pacific West Coast would be very rainy. So, after long consideration, I decided to fly my bike out to Boston and ride back towards home. My plan is to make it as far as I can by Thanksgiving. If I can pound out a lot of miles, it is possible I can make it home. If not, I'll catch a plane back. This one is about just touring and having fun. I'm always faced with the decision of whether or not to stop and look at something or to keep going so I get in enough miles. I've never regretted stopping but having some goal is good or else I would stop for EVERYTHING. So, that's the plan.

My route is Boston to Albany, where I will ride along the Erie Canal to Niagra Falls. Then Chicago via Canada and then follow Route 66 to Santa Monica. I am excited to see the Illinois section of the Mother Road as I missed this on my run because I didn't go up to Chicago. As far as I am concerned, as long as I get to St Louis, I'll be happy. Anything after that is extra. so, I'll play it by ear and just have fun. For me that is huge!

Of course there is one thing that could get me to end even sooner.... Bella! That's an issue that I'll have to explain in another post. Right now, I've gotta ride.

Paul

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

D.C. to South Bend, Indiana: Part 1

Some roads lead to places unexpected. Sometimes, you have the faith to follow that inner voice that is telling you to do something or go somewhere, only to find that where you end up, is not where you thought you were headed. That is a journey and that is not only what I have learned to embrace, but what I look forward to. 


"Where are you riding to?" That is the question I heard most often. I guess it was obvious from the amount of stuff I was carrying on my bike that it wasn't a day ride. I should have said South Bend, Indiana since that is where I ended up instead of Buchanan, Michigan where I told everyone. But then maybe the conversations would of been shorter and I would have missed out on getting to know so many people, albeit briefly, along this amazing trip. After all, the people I met, seeing my family and finding peace in Ann Arbor,  truly was the best part. 


I said Buchanan because that is where the 6th Motocross race of the 12 race series is held. Race #5 was in Mechanicsville, Maryland. Our hotels. However, were in Waldorf, Maryland and South Bend, Indiana. I rode between those two points. Had I rode the direct route between the two, the distance would have been around 700 miles. I took the more scenic (and flat) route by way of the C&O towpath and The Great Allegheny Passage, which follow winding rivers)  as well as heading a bit north to Lansing, Michigan by way of Jackson, making my total mileage 920. I was out a total of 19 days but only rode 17. That makes an average of about 55 miles a day. I did a couple of shorter days due to the location of some campsites (and a couple of breweries :) Most days, I rode between 60 and 65 miles, which wasn't bad considering the weight of my bike (103 pounds) and the heat. Ah yes, the heat!!! I managed to pick the two hottest weeks of not only the year, but apparently the last 100 or so years. Yes, record temperatures. 



I seem to do well with the heat. I hate being cold, like REALLY hate being cold. Admittedly, it is hard to do lots of miles in the heat and it is preferable to have cooler temperatures while you are running and riding, but you don't do that all day and night, so I enjoyed the warmer weather but this was a bit much for even me. I will say that riding in it was definitely easier than running in it! Honestly, I am not sure I could have ran in it. Riding was easier because you actually create your own breeze which really helps, the problem is stopping. There were a few days where the temperature was in the  low 100's with a heat index in the 110's I would be ok while riding but when I would stop, the heat would envelop you and feel like it was choking you. I definitely battled dehydration and the wonderful headaches they bring and places where there was no shade, it was tough to escape the stifling heat in any way other than to just keep peddling until I was  done for the day.

But like anything, the pain or discomfort you feel is temporary, luckily. Instead, I am left with all of the wonderful, amazing memories of my ride. I have so many I'm not sure where to begin or which to choose to write about here. So, I guess I'll just let 'er rip. 

I started 20 miles south of Washington DC. I was so excited to see our nation's capital! I had been there on a family vacation when I was 14. But, like most teenagers, I was too into music and chicks to care about monuments to presidents. This time was different. I am still into chicks and music :), but also VERY into american history!! There is no better way to see DC than on a bike! Except when you want to go up the steps to the Jefferson Memorial and realize that leaving ALL your belongings for the next 3 weeks, sitting alone, out of sight,  while you go read plaques, is not a good idea. 



I found a way to take my bike up (elevator) into both memorials and aside from security at the Lincoln memorial telling me that I couldn't have my bike up there, I pretty much got to see everything I wanted. The only thing I wasn't able to see was the Smithsonian. There was nowhere to put my bike. I was bummed, but rationalized it by realizing there was no way I would be able to see everything I wanted to, in an afternoon. I considered getting a room and staying for a day, but opted not to when a) I saw the prices of rooms in the area and b) remembered how many miles I had ahead of me and accepted the fact that I had no idea how this whole thing was gonna go and better make sure that I get to South Bend on time. 




DayOne entry, Jun 17, 2012


Georgetown is incredible! Is everybody beautiful in this town? Seriously! It was amazing riding my bike around the Capital. It was easier than running.



So, I saw all I could see and started on the C&O Towpath. I was so excited to be on this trail. It was as beautiful as I had imagined and there was a ton of little signs citing historical information that no matter how hard I try, I can never ride or run past and have to stop, read and take a picture of. 



This is easier to do when running. It is harder when riding, as is taking pictures. I take a picture when something special catches my eye (obviously). When composition or contrast is interesting I want to take a picture! When you are riding, by the time you stop, the picture has completely changed. It's different than running. So, I'd stop and either compromise and shoot the new perspective, ride back (annoying) or just forget the shot. This actually bummed me out a bit. Pictures are how I remember my trips. I play them as slideshows and relive so many great places. I wonder how many gaps I have allowed due to the faster pace? Oh well, no matter, my memory is so bad, I'll never know the difference :)

I was excited to spend my first night on the Towpath. I was looking forward to camping and knew of all the campsites along the 330 miles of trail. I rolled up on the first one that was about 10 miles into the trail and saw a sign saying that it was by reservation only and for groups of Boy Scouts or something. I called the number on the sign but got no answer. There was nobody at any of the sights and it was getting dark. The next campground was about 10 miles up so I really had no choice. I chose a sight towards the back, pitched my tent and settled in for the night. 



Or, tried to settle in. Actually, there was nothing settling about my first night camping, alone, with over 800 (planned) miles ahead of me with an admittedly semi irrational fear of bears, made more rational by the location of this campsite, directly adjacent to an island named "Bear Island". 

Paul

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The C and O Canal, The GAP and beyond!

There is something about traveling that makes me feel connected, connected to God and the universe. For someone that has suffered from panic attacks for much of my life and damn near slipped into agoraphobia a couple times, venturing out beyond any perceived safety into the unknown is very empowering. The less safety nets the better. It's like the parent that tells the kid "if your gonna cry, I'll give you something to cry about". It would be a little silly to be afraid of going to the store when I have been in the middle of the desert, running, with "safety" nowhere in site.

I know, thinking that doing anything in United States is doing something in extreme conditions compared to parts of the rest of the world is a stretch, but it's all relative. And hey, I'm trying to not let myself get carried away. I don't feel the need to go "Into The Wild"..... yet.

No, I will settle for covering the most interesting places I can find using my own power. Whether it be on bike or running, I prefer seeing a place, NOT from inside an enclosed, rolling piece of metal. It is so much more intimate for me and as I have become so enthralled with history and love to read about the places I am going, there really isn't anything more exciting.

SO.... I had been trying to think of a ride I could do before my planned Canada to Mexico ride in the fall. I have been shooting Motocross for the last four weeks and that continues until the first week of September. It is amazing to be traveling to these 12 races around the country. Ok, I am surrounded by metal much of the time. In fact I am typing this from about 30,000 feet in the air, surrounded by metal and hoping it stays that way for the duration of the flight. But I love this type of travel as well, just a bit differently.

Anyway, I have a couple weeks off starting June 17th and I figured I could take my bike out for a nice trial run. But where? I already did a few hundred miles down the coast about a month ago. What about the part of Route 66 that we didn't do on the run because we went through Phoenix? That would be awesome and I would love to do that, and will one of these days, but I am afraid it would be too hot in June... hmm.... I thought, well.. maybe take a train towards the east coast and ride for a couple weeks. Then it dawned on me that the races that straddle the break are in Mechanicsville, Maryland and Buchanan, Michigan. I'm not really sure how mad I would have been at myself if I would have never realized how PERFECT this is!!

I am flying my bike out to this weeks race, then riding the 870 miles to the next race. Not only is it one of my favorite parts of the country, there are also tons of historical sites along the way. Historical sites for our country and a couple personal ones as I will be heading a little farther north and riding through the town I was born in, adding about a hundred miles to the trip, had it been point to point. Of course I am sure I will find most of the craft breweries along the way and as an added bonus, I will be visiting my cousin in Lansing who owns a brew supply store. I actually just found this out last week from my other cousin. He's had it since 1999. How did I just find this out? There is actually a longer story in there, but I think I will save it for another time. Perhaps I will start a journal on the road and post here. Lots of people do that while touring on a bike. Since I am hoping to have more energy cycling rather than running, maybe I can actually keep up with one. Ahhh! I have threatened to do that before, so I won't make any promises.

Speaking of bike touring, here is the full set up.


I shot this while doing an overnighter last week to see if I was forgetting anything. It's best to be prepared! And boy have I prepared. I fretted over every choice, from the bike to the panniers to the camp stove. I am very happy with all my choices and I even realized a little bonus when I discovered that my Ortlieb panniers will also fit very nicely on my baby jogger making me look a lot less homeless!


Yes, I like cycling, but running is still my love and it is nice to know that the things I am getting will work for both. The lightweight camping gear will also work for backpacking if and when I decide to REALLY rough it and do the Appalachian Trail or a backpacking trip in Europe or elsewhere :) But first things first!

I'll head out from Mechanicsville, Maryland and ride through our nation's capital and from there enter the C and O Canal that runs along the Potomac. Then, after about 150 miles, I'll hit Cumberland and start down The Great Allegheny Passage. To say that I am excited about this would be an understatement. Chris and I did about 75 miles of this and it was my favorite part of the run. I always knew I would go back. I didn't think it would be this soon. This really is PERFECT!! Well, except I wouldn't mind having a lady riding with me and tour like these guys. But, you can't have everything.



From there, I will leave The GAP in Pittsburgh and make my way to Ann Arbor then Jackson, up to Lansing and on to Buchanan in time for the race on July 5th. I'll have 19 days to cover the miles which should give me a chance to see a bunch of stuff along the way but still give me a decent amount of miles to do, that I will feel like I have earned that beer (or 2) at the end of the day.


So that's that! That's the map and that's the plan.

As I look out the window of the plane, somewhere over northern Arizona, I am so thankful. Thankful to be traveling. Thankful to be meeting people. Thankful to be seeing so many beautiful things. Thankful to feel connected. But maybe most of all, I'm thankful that I stopped longing to be safe and started living. I think it's true that you don't really appreciate things until you don't have them. Or stated another way, maybe experiencing pain makes pleasure that much better.

As always, I'll post pictures on Facebook. But, I really am going to try and keep a better journal/ travelogue on here. It is much easier to read and eventually Facebook will go the way of MySpace... right? :-D

Paul

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Beer cycling?

Ok, that is one way to describe it. But I'd actually like to think that I am hitting the open road again, mainly to quench my longing for adventure. But, it is true that breweries will be a magnet and will determine some of my route. This is going to be a relatively short trip. I had planned to ride a bicycle from Canada to Mexico once I finished the project I was working on. But, I was advised that weather in the spring, through those states would be less than desirable. I will be starting to shoot Motocross on May 17th so, my window of opportunity has narrowed to only a few short weeks. I will also be running the OC Half Marathon on May 6th along with Brittany and I have several family and friends doing this as their first race. So, I need to stick around the area for that.

I have been so restless since my run. Seeing the over 8,000 pictures rotate as my screensaver, creates such bittersweet memories. In many ways, after doing something like that, you can feel like that was it, the pinnacle! I have spoken to other crossers about this and they said that the way they fought the depression was to have more adventures. This was always the plan. Even when I was out there (crossing) I was talking to Chris and Mike about what was next. I never imagined that it would be the end. I always thought it would be the beginning. For whatever reason, when I got back it didn't quite work out that way. I think partly because I was looking to do something bigger! Perhaps I thought I needed to think of something PERFECT. Now, I realize, I just need to get out there. I need more pictures. I need to create more memories. I need to look FORWARD to my life. And, it doesn't have to be perfect. In fact I don't want it perfect. I don't even want a plan.

So, my non-plan is to pack up the panniers, hook them on to the hybrid and head towards San Clemente this Thursday, April 26th. Julie from PubQuest, along with her bike, is going to take the train up from San Diego and we are going to meet at Pizza Port . Then we are going to make our way down to San Diego hitting breweries along the way. Then I will have 4 or 5 days to make my way back home for the race. It's only 100 miles so I will most likely make some detours. The mileage is not long and it is not an exercise in endurance and I don't have it mapped or planned other than those two destinations. That is out of character for me and very exciting. I just want to explore, have an adventure and see where it takes me. This will also serve as a nice test run for a longer tour in the fall. I'll see how much I like being on a bike as opposed to running and if I decide to do something on a bike, what works equipment wise and what doesn't.

It feels great to sit here and have something to look forward to. I remember on the run when I would look at the map and see a part of the route that I hadn't done yet. I would realize that at that point it was just a line with a name or number on a map, but after I had ran it, it would be a memory and it would, from then on, always hold meaning and, most likely, a really great story. Maybe that is what traveling means to me. Creating a connection between me and places on a map and the people along the way. There is no better, more intimate way to do that than to run or ride it. I am so glad that my run won't be the end of that road, but God willing, just the beginning.