Crossing For Cancer

Archive for September, 2008

With beauty all around me, I ride…

Posted by crossingforcancer on September 24, 2008

Hello again,

To start off, I want to thank everyone who’s sent an email or posted a comment on the blog, it’s been so nice, and empowering, I really appreciate it.

September 15, 2008

I’m leaving Golden to head north to Boulder over to Cindy’s place. She is a thriving survivor of pancreatic cancer and will be joined by Patti, Cheryl and Judy; all of them are survivors whose portraits I did.  I did six portraits that evening. Pulling up to the home, they were eagerly waiting. I ate some incredible home cooking with them; it was amazing to hear their stories and to be able to talk with all of them. 

Cindy’s house is beautiful; it’s decorated with old photos of her Native American relatives.  She’s of the Native American Dakota Tribe.  She and her daughter Katie were both great hosts, as well as James, Cindy’s significant other. I want to thank them all again for their hospitality.

I had a shower and was exhausted after the ride and especially after the portraits. To do portraits like that, and that many, takes so much concentration and even more patience and emotional influx.  I slept so well.  The next day I woke and they took me on a bike ride through Boulder. Everything was really beautiful, rivers, brooks, all along the trail. It was nice to not have to worry about where I was going for once- they led the entire way.  We got back to the house and had another delicious meal.  Cindy and Katie both sat for a portrait.  I have to say, the way I do portraits are pretty hit or miss.  For those of you who’ve seen the way I draw, I sharpen a flat pencil like a knife and dig it in hard, into the paper with no eraser.  I actually did ten portraits in Colorado and only had to start over once.

Cindy, Pancreatic Cancer Survivor 

I’m really going for emotional content in the portrait and a likeness within their soul, spirit and the way they look, hopefully.  Sometimes the subjects end up with three ears, or three nostrils or something like that.  But, if the portrait is emotionally sound and has a likeness, I just go ahead and leave it.  I don’t erase.  If I don’t like the portrait at all, I just start over completely. It’s a very direct way to draw.

September 16, 2008

I’m sad to say goodbye to Boulder – I really loved it there and want to pay a special thank you to everyone who fed and housed me.  I had a wonderful time.

Rolling through Denver, I have to admit, being in a city kind of freaked me out a bit, it’s something I’ve grown away from.  But, all in all, I’m leaving Denver, after a bit of rest.  My legs are still pretty tight as I ride out of Denver on the Cherry Creek Bike Path. Quite a nice scene; I had a pretty soothing ride.

I stopped off at the Denver Museum of Art and it was highly inspiring.  I’ve always liked this museum; it’s just the right size and only takes a few hours to go through.  They keep a nice collection of Native American Art.  In looking through the collections, and based on this journey so far, I’m really recognizing that Native Americans are beautifully in tune with the earth – they have such a connection with the land, both physically and spiritually.

On a similar note, something powerful struck me in the museum. There were Native American quotes and sayings inscribed around the galleries.  One in particular really stayed with me:

 

“In beauty I walk.  With beauty before me I walk, with beauty behind me, I walk. 

With beauty all around me, I walk.”

 

I, for myself, thought that was amazing and substituted the word “walk” with “ride.”

As I rode out of the city I had a chance to think about how fortunate I’ve been to have people sit for me.  I feel like I’ve gotten pretty close to fully capturing many of the subjects.  It takes someone to have an open heart to agree to sit for a portrait.  Thank you to all of the people who sat.  I hope it was an equally amazing experience for you as it was for me. 

 Cheryl, a Pancreatic Cancer Survivor

September 17, 2008

I’ve pulled up to a town called Elizabeth about 45 miles outside of Denver.  It’s a sweet town.  As I pull up I hear the sound of an aluminum bat hitting a baseball. Further in the distance, a school band and an announcer for the hometown football game.  I can hear the sense of community before I even lay eyes on it.

I camped in a park near the stadium and grew sad when the distant lights faded and the sound of the screaming fans ceased.  My mind has been busy at night full of various thoughts and some confusion – the suburban sounds were a welcome distraction.  I’m now in the only café at Elizabeth writing.  Cowboys are everywhere.  Several have inquired about the trip and several locals have shaken my hand offering their sincere best wishes for the duration of the ride.  The small town mentality is really comforting. I realize that I’m open to whatever happens.  Everyone knows everyone here but me, however I feel like after a week here, I’d be a part of this small section of the world. 

 

I’ve thought that I’ve always lived for today and if you know me, you might agree.  The beauty about this life-changing trip and previous trips and adventures in my life is that you begin living for the hour. The day becomes long episodes of enlightenment.

Getting to the next town, after Elizabeth, was hard, getting into a rhythm with the rolling hills, back and forth, changing gears.  I was expecting a juicy downhill cruise, but it was only a myth.  I’m still in the high plains. I’m feeling the wind pick up daily, it gets flatter and flatter and I can start to smell thunder Storms as I make my way across the high plains.

Apparently the wind here does not let up.  Yesterday I was coming into headwinds up to 20-30 miles an hour.  Gusting at 40.  Some of the semi’s were even pulled off of the road.  I’m getting easterly southeast winds – I think it has to do with the weather system and the hurricane.  It’s a little frustrating and my spirits drop when I should be rolling at an easy 20 miles an hour pace on the downhill, and I’m struggling to keep my speed above 10 when I hit the wind.

 

I stop and look around to see the grass across the plains, blowing around.  Once again, I feel close to the ocean in all this grass, a sea of green. I eye a hawk hovering above, without any movement because of the wind. He can just stay up there, almost like a mobile over a baby’s bed, hanging from a string.

September 18, 2008

As I cycled out today I altered my route to be at a more agreeable angle with the winds.  Honestly, if you’re cycling, you know how tough headwind is. I’d rather climb Loveland Pass again to avoid this wind, it’s so fatiguing.

In distracting myself from the elements and the wind, I find many things funny out here, like the cows for example.

So these cows, there’s a herd that’s close to the road.  They see me, and they’re either going to run or stare at me.  I give them a long moo just to kind of wake them up.  When they stare its sort of like they’re thinking: “You might want to get one of those shiny things that’s much faster: it’s called a car.” Their stares never fail to crack me up.

Out here the towns are few and far between.  I came up to a town called Wild Horse.  The entire time I was pedaling toward it, I was imagining a big saloon with flashing lights, a Guinness waiting for me at the bar, and yeah, it was just a town with one farmhouse and a bunch of cows that looked at me as if I were crazy. I kept on rolling.

Shortly after passing the town I was pulled over by a Western Cop, a typical cowboy hat, brown Wranglers, a pair of aviator sunglasses that reflected my face right back at me. “Boy, where you going?  What are you doin?”  I told him about The Crossing and he ran my info.  He gave me directions to the nearest lunch spot and said that lunch was on him.  It was a great place.  For many reasons, I will remember this day for the rest of my life.

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In between moments…

Posted by crossingforcancer on September 17, 2008

Hi everyone,

I’m writing to you from my tent at about 1 am.  This morning I woke to a 70-mile stretch of ride all the way to Green River, with my speed baramoter steadily decreasing.  There are thunder-storms where I’m headed within the next 5 days, but at least it will be cooler…

September 7, 2008

On my way to Green River I hear someone honking as I’m cycling along I-70.  I don’t like riding on the freeway, but for this stretch I didn’t have a choice.  I turn to see where the honking is coming from and see the largest butt I’ve ever seen in a car window.  Yeah – I got mooned!  So that’s what happened on my way to Green River.

Earlier today I was sitting in a restaurant looking at the “Green River” – it should be called the Brown River, there’s nothing green about it.  The ride here was tedious.  It’s sad to be going 70 miles a day with nothing to see, no towns to stop in, no people to speak to.  I’m just pedaling as much as possible.  I was going to rest up in Green River, but took a look at the “Brown River,” choked down some French toast and hit the road once more.

It’s almost as if I’m playing a chess game with nature.  She always wins.  I’m just looking for a few key moves.  The wrong one out here could mean disaster.  From hypothermia to being caught on the mountain at the wrong time, so I get going while I have the upper hand.  Plus, I want to get to Grand Junction to pick up my new wheel, Clif Bars and art supplies.

I want to take a moment to truly thank Cindy and everyone at Blick Art Materials.  They’ve been providing me with my supplies this entire ride and I haven’t run out once.  Thank you.  I really appreciate it.

Once I was in Grand Junction, I was pretty overwhelmed by the city lights – I need to get out of here and back to nature.  Luckily though, I stopped at a bike shop to get a complete tune up and get the new wheel on.  One of the mechanics, John, offered up his spare bedroom while I was in town, which was really nice.  Good guy.  I’ve wanted a day off for a while now, but the storms were rolling in, so I had to get ready for the steep climb in the rain and snow.

September 10, 2008

I made it to the town of Parachute today, in my opinion it’s a town to skip.  It’s filled with oil refineries and just recently had a big boom that brought a bunch of guys down from Alaska with diesel trucks working 20 hours a day.  An angry little town. 

From there, I rolled into a town called Rifle, CO.  As I was cycling through I look out and see a metal worker who has an art studio out in the woods with beautiful work.  It was amazing and totally changed my spirits.  He worked with metal and acids, which I do with my work in a way.  [My latest collection] EnvirOnomy was evident in these parts.  I’d look to the left of this little street and see two beautiful horses in a perfectly green field and then right across the street I’d see a bunch of guys working in an oilrig.  It’s exactly the last series I’ve drawn about – the clash of the environment and the economy.

People ask me if I get bored, and yeah, I do – when I’m on the road and want to take my mind off of the pain, I make up songs and lyrics using the pedal strokes as a metronome.  I wish I could right some of the lyrics down but it’s impossible.  I make up so many songs and just forget them.  It’s fun; I might have had an album done now had I actually written them down.

But, it takes my mind off of things.  I find myself acting like Bill Murray in Caddy Shack talking to the Mountains or a bird – you know, how he used to talk to that groundhog on the golf course?  It’s ridiculous.  I do end up talking to nature quite a bit.

September 12, 2008

I’ve been riding through thunderstorms for a couple of days now and am not far from Vail.  I stayed in a town called Glenwood Springs last night, which was really amazing.  They had a 15-mile bike path.  Imagine that you’re on the neatest, nicest, smoothest bike path in your neighborhood.  Now take that path and put it right next to the Colorado River, in the Canyon – it’s absolutely amazing.  Right now, I’m sitting in a little restaurant in town and got caught in conversation because so many people wanted to hear about my journey.  It got pretty late, but I left the restaurant at about 11pm.  I’m getting close to Vail – the hotels are really expensive and the question arises: where am I going to camp?  I’m riding my bike and I don’t know where I’m going, I can’t really see anything. 

The moon is starting to come out now, so it gets brighter with help from the moon, I wish you could hear the Colorado River swirling by as I write, I’m camping right next to the shore – a little finger of it.  It appears that I’m on hole 9 of a golf course.  I’ll have to continue writing tomorrow and let you know how this all transpires because right now I’m in the woods on a golf course – I think?  I’m a little worried about bears, but I have a bear repellent in the tent and the food all locked up in Tupperware.  I’m at about 8,000 feet right now and I can see my breath.  As the chess game is being played, I’m going to try to summit the mountain tomorrow, when it’s supposed to be sunny and 60 degrees, but you never know.

I’ll let you know what happens tomorrow – if I’m awoken by a bear or some golfers teeing off I just don’t know – we’ll see. 

September 13, 2008

Well, it turns out it’s the golfers that I wake up to – out on Eagle Vail Golf Course – right next to this amazing river.  I heard the golf carts driving by, so I packed up my stuff and headed across the fairway to get back on the road.  People had to wait for me to pass before they could tee off – not too long though.  It was 24 degrees and I shook the ice of my tent to head to Keystone.

One thing’s for sure – Colorado has their land set up well for cycling.  There was a great bike path for many miles to go over Vail Pass at 11,000 + feet.  I was looking down at snow – it was absolutely mind blowing.  At times, when I was climbing, which was steep but not too bad, I’m getting used to the mountains now.

I met a lot of great people on the climb coming up from Vail and going over the pass. I want to say thank you to all of the people that I met.  I appreciate all of your encouragement, especially the folks at Gear Exchange in Glenwood Springs – they hooked me up with a lot of much needed services for my bike and this Curious George stuffed animal.  Amazing.  One of the guys actually invited me to ride with him and Lance Armstrong, who is currently training in Aspen.  But, having to get over the Continental Divide before the weather took a bad turn, I had to decline.  Just wasn’t meant to be this time. 

After wrestling with mother-nature yet again, I finally made it over Vail Pass at 10,000 feet then I went down into a town called Frisco.  Of course, meanwhile I’m talking to a lot of people – I’ve seen hundreds of cyclists.  Descending down now into Frisco through and around this really beautiful lake, right nestled down in the mountains.  I took another bike path all the way around to Dillon and I’m now at the base of the Continental Divide in a little town called Keystone.  Tonight it’s supposed to get down into the 20’s.

As I write, I’m out in the woods at the base of Loveland Pass, having just left Keystone. The moon is so bright coming over the mountains – I can see the snow.  I didn’t even need a flashlight to set my tent up its so bright tonight.

I’m literally 10 feet away from a moderately rushing river; the sound just makes me sleep so soundly all night, I can’t even explain.  I’ve been staying fairly warm.  Tomorrow, I’m going to get up and summit the Continental Divide – or what I think the real Continental Divide is – Loveland Pass.  I’m going far above the Eisenhower Tunnel, which is what they build so you wouldn’t have to summit the mountains.  Yet, I’m going well above the tree line, one hell of a climb, to descend into Denver tomorrow.  I’m still playing the chess game with mother nature – it’s my move and I’ve got some good weather, so I’ll set out tomorrow.

September 14, 2008 

I begin my 10-mile climb to the top of the divide, which took me three hours plus with this bike being about 90 pounds, but such an amazing rush.  I was getting shakey about 1/2 way up because the protein bar I had for breakfast lasted me, well, no time at all.  At this altitude anyone would require a lot of fuel but I have no food.  There was nowhere to have breakfast and the town was pretty desolate.  I need to flag someone down for a candy bar or something.  At that very moment, presto, a mini-van pulls up with two couples inside.  The van was descending to the bottom of the pass – they yelled my name out and four great people popped out of the van.  They had heard about my trek from another cyclist I had met in Vail. 

They were so friendly and wanted to talk – I managed to say “hi, how are you doing,” but immediately followed it with asking for a candy bar.  I chowed down about 8 mini snickers in about 6 minutes.  They had so much food, which basically saved me.  I think it would have been really tough.

I have four more miles to bike to the top and my bike is about 75 / 80 pounds after throwing out a beard trimmer and some other random things.  The pain in my legs and the altitude made it really hard with the load of the bike, but ironically I didn’t want it to end.  This is what I’ve been cycling for from sea level – the pain, the beauty, the rush of emotion.  For all of you reading this blog, I felt that I was supposed to stay here and pedal forever.

It was a stream of emotions as I approached the snow capped tundra above the tree line at what I call the summit of love.  It’s actually called Loveland Pass: 12,000 feet.

For about the last mile or so, I was standing up on the pedals and decided I wasn’t going to stop and rest even though it was hard after 20 – 30 pedal strokes with the air so thin.  I just kept going, this was the moment of approaching the top of the summit.  My emotions took over then.  I forgot about everything my body was telling me – to stop.  I made it to the top and am standing on the snow with my heavy bike.  I was engulfed with amazement that I had reached the summit, of what it felt to be in between two worlds: the past and the future, but nothing except the present on your mind.

I caught my oxygen and looked around.  I knew my mom was looking through my eyes to see what I saw, and to know the battles of people suffering every day – with one pedal stroke at a time, just as I was.  Although, for me I knew I would reach the top and not have to pedal while riding downhill for a while.  Many people will have to pedal until the end.  This trek was easy in comparison to the struggle of the people of the world and especially those fighting this cancer.

At this point, I was sad to see that I would not be looking to the west anymore.  To know no more mountains, stifling heat or coyotes were in the future.  Nothing like that stood before me and the house where my parents live, my finish line.

I’m sure I’ll be safe with a new set of rules and challenges and will cherish the struggle to this point forever.  As I begin to descend down, I took one last look over the land that I had traveled and saw it all in a flash from 20 degrees snow tundra to 118 degrees of red rock.  I said goodbye and looked down to the 50 mile descent to Golden, CO where I’ll be taking a needed rest for a couple of days.

Pictures and words are just no way to truly describe this experience.  I wish I could do better.  I want to thank everyone who has been helping me do so, back at the starting line of this journey.  Thank you Meghan, for holding this operation together. 

Until next time… 

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We’re all part of the journey…

Posted by crossingforcancer on September 10, 2008

September 2, 2008

Hi everyone,

To pick up where I left off last entry: I was in Panguitch, Utah for a while and as it was starting to get dark, I rolled out of town for about two or three miles and started walking into the woods to set up camp.  As I was walking, all of a sudden, this guy pops up in a sleeping back from the pitch black – we scare the daylights out of each other.  His name is Abdul and come to find out, he’s on the lamb, but I chatted with him for a bit, made friends walked about another 50 or so feet and pitched my tent.  The cast of characters I’m meeting on this journey never ceases to amaze me.

My trip leaving Panguitch the next day was mostly one of descent, in order to get below 8,000 feet and avoid the first snow they’re expecting.  The scenery just keeps getting better and better.  My body is getting stronger and I feel more Nomadic daily – open to whatever happens.  Random detours for unknown reasons, until I arrive and realize that I’ve found someone or something I was destined to meet.  The beauty of the world under my feet.  Free to roam, my heart is pure with no fear.

September 4, 2008

I’ve made it to Bryce Canyon and needed to do laundry desperately.  I’ve been keeping all living things away from me – bugs, humans, animals – because of my stench.

At Bryce I run into some amazing people, including Johnny, an Apache Indian whose portrait I complete. He’s lost members of his family to pancreatic cancer and it’s just so apparent in his eyes.  If you look at the portrait, you can see it.  We’re all affected by loss and tragedy.  I’m learning that as I ride through the country.  I set out with the intention of completing portraits of people battling pancreatic cancer and have completed many more, of people fighting cancer, people who have lost someone to cancer, people who have overcome the disease.  We’re all part of this journey.

These epic sights and the people I have encountered – words can hardly describe what I’ve experienced so far on this trip.  The magic in this part of the world is so breathtaking.  

Leaving Bryce, I headed to the KOA campgrounds in Cannonville before continuing my trek toward Escalante, UT and the Grand Staircase.  If there’s one place to be or see before you leave this earth, I would say it’s the stretch of road on Highway 12 through Escalante all the way to Hanksville.

Around this time I hit a 12% grade and thought my leg was going to fall off from a cramp – I’m clipped in and my bike basically falls over sideways, as I’m trying to strecth this cramp out.  The grade going over these mountains is intense and my bike is having just as hard a time as I am.

After kicking it a few times back in Vegas, I was reminded that the bike is the boss.  My bike is my home on this trip – I need to take care of it, whatever happens.  But.  I’m having a problem with my wheel again and thankfully Loway is building a special rim for the bike to send to Grand Junction.

But, I feel like my bike and I have a good understanding now.  For example,  I pull up to this town called Tropic and lean my bike up gently against the rail to eat and as I’m quietly walking to the restaurant – pop!  I hear a spoke brake.  I just laughed, went inside and ate a massive hamburger.  After the meal I went outside to give her, the bike, some attention – spoke to her for a while…

As I’m riding along Highway 12, I turn off on a small road, just on a feeling – a hunch.  I discover a rock shop and meet Scott, the owner.  He gives me a small rock from the shop and I do his portrait in return.  Scott suggested an amazing cafe called Georgettes, where I eventually ate and completed the owner’s portrait too.  You couldn’t miss the place – there was a teepee in the front yard.  Thank you to everyone there for the delicious meal and generosity.

September 5, 2008

I’m descending out of Escalante, trying to reach Hell’s Backbone to a view that is indescribable.  I can hear the river 200 feet below.  The rock is an incredible orange.  I’m at about 4,000 feet and have to climb to about 10,000 feet soon.  Of all my travels, this is the most beautiful landscape I’ve seen.  It makes me want to stop here forever with this pure soil under my feet.

I’m rolling into Boulder, UT – it’s an incredibly magic place.  A utopia.  On the short 30-mile ride from Escalante and Hell’s Backbone I don’t take any photos.  I don’t want to undermine the incredible beauty that’s happening before my eyes by trying to capture it with a camera.

Just outside of Boulder I encounter a guy who’s riding along on this hybrid mountain bike.  He looks like a local – looks like he hasn’t shaved in three years.  His name is Josh and he’s headed into Boulder to move irrigation, which I’ll discover first hand later on.  He came to Boulder from Palm Springs on his bike; stopped here and never left.  Which, believe me, if there wasn’t a mission to my madness here, I would have stayed in Boulder or one of these towns for years.  

Josh offers for me to stay at a friend’s place (that he’s house sitting) and in turn, I agree to help Josh move the irrigation systems.  Just moving the sprinklers forward, every day.  He makes very little money but is so happy and content.  A brilliant man with a masters degree.

I wish I could describe what it’s like in these little areas.  It’s all farmland.  The air smells of soil.  The sprinklers are going, the sun is rising and Josh and I are working in the land.  We finish and go back to the house.  Josh cooks a great dinner.  His friend Jill comes over and I complete a portrait of Josh that evening.  I’d really like to say thank you to them.  

My plan is to ascend into Boulder Mountain to get to Torrey, UT by night.  As I’m leaving a woman runs out of Boulder’s small country store to give me a muffin.  I want to express how incredible the food is out here in Utah – there’s such a big difference in being able to taste the freshness of what you’re eating.  So, she gives me a muffin and says that she has heard about the Crossing, wishes me well.  At that point I remembered that I wanted to go into the store to see some of the local artwork, which I do.  Beautiful photographs, oil paintings – really nice pieces.

As I’m leaving a man approaches with a bunch of photographs.  He’s a German photographer named Anselm Spring.  We began to talk and our spirits truly connected.  We were meant to meet on this journey.  He invited me to his studio which wasn’t far, but at the very top of a mesa.  This gravel road that I pull my bike up to get there was about a 1/2 mile long – it was crazy.  

When we arrive at his place it’s so much to take in.  Beautiful sunflowers, a garden.  His work ranges from religious paintings to beautiful landscape photographs.  Anselm’s been published in a number of books, which he shows me while I’m there.  One of the most interesting things in his maze of a studio were the mounds of vegetables.  Anselm grows his own squash, photographs it, sells the photographs so he can make money to buy the supplies to grow another crop and eats what’s left.  Truly incredible.  He has about 15 different guitars – such a creative mind.  We jam for a while and he offers me his couch to rest, but I needed to get on the road to Torrey, so I head back down the crazy driveway and back to the road.

September 6, 2008

I finally leave Boulder.  It was hard, I was sad to leave after meeting incredible individuals like Josh, Anselm and everyone else in the community.  I’m rolling up this mountain, after eating breakfast at Hell’s Backbone Kitchen, through such amazing scenery, completely without back brakes until I get a new wheel (again).  I start rolling down the mountain and I come about two feet from nailing a cow broadside in the middle of the road!  The cows out here are everywhere.

I didn’t think it possible, but when I make it to Torrey, the landscape is even more breathtaking.  At Capitol Reef National Park there is this brilliant red orange in the rocks – it’s not even mixable by paint.  Even more amazing than the landscape though, are the genuine people that I have met.  I feel homeless, but I feel that I am home.

September 7, 2008

I’m beat.  72 miles today.  I’ve realized that when the scenery is less desirable, and there are fewer towns and people to meet, I cover so much more ground.  There were times in Capitol Reef that I walked my bike for a few miles in awe of the landscape.  The 10 miles an hour (on bike) was just too fast.

As I leave Hanksville today I see some Lamas for sale for only 100 bucks!  I consider buying one and training him to take me on this next 100 mile stretch of nothingness to Grand Junction.  And I mean nothing.

I’m exhausted and will lay low here in Green River, thinking of the incredible generosity of everyone who has donated to the Crossing and to my cause so far.  Even more so, thinking of how each person I met was connected by the common link of being touched by cancer – either personally, through a loved one, in overcoming the disease, or in losing someone to the struggle.  That’s what keeps me going.

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Uphill Battle…

Posted by crossingforcancer on September 3, 2008

August 27

Well, Sheep’s Ditch wasn’t bad compared to the ditch created from the flash flood just outside of Las Vegas.  I didn’t make much distance today due to the lightening storm and I found myself stopping to take photos through the rain.  I thought I got distracted in the studio – wow, this is even more of a distraction.  I have to say, the culture shock from being surrounded by neon to nature’s neon is crazy.  I sit in my tent writing, red light on my head like a miner, and look around at the silence and the crickets.  I can hear the howling of coyotes and know there have to be scorpions crawling around the tent.

Today I came so close to running out of water, but was approached by a nice park ranger, named Samuel.  He filled up my water bottles on the way to Lake Mead.  I’m so grateful for people like him on this journey.

Anyway, the storm definitely cooled off the desert a lot – a nice 96 degrees.  It made me want to set up my tent on high ground, so I pedaled a little bit through the darkness to feel where the tent should sit.  When I’m pedaling and the time comes to stop, I just sense where it’s going to be – I just feel it. As of tonight I’m on high ground so I don’t end up awash in the night because of flash floods.

Last night I woke in my tent and thought I was going to blow away, the wind was up to 40 knots and the thunder was roaring.  I got up in my skivvies (it was so hot out) and tried to put rocks on the steaks b/c they were pulling up from the wind.  Got back into the tent and finally calmed down only to awake again at the howling of a coyote.

I’m on my way now, late start – it’s hot out, what else is new. The humidity from the storm’s kicking in and I’m trying to get to a small town called Overton (in Utah), after I get through the Valley of Fire.  I’m about out of water and flag down a truck that directs me to a marina at Lake Mead.  It’s so out of the way but I had to do it, just to stay hydrated.  I met a bunch of really great people at the Marina, but had to get back on my way.  Continuing through the Valley of Fire I thought I was literally on fire – at one point I got off my back and did a drop and roll, it must have been a hallucination or something.

I finally got out of the Valley, made my way into Overton and stopped at a small ice cream shop.  I’m almost out of the heat and I’m sitting here while the town kids are in the shop doing their homework.  I love this small town mentality.   In Overton, I checked into a hotel/apartment.  I met some really great people, including some construction workers and all of the apartment tenants, who invited me to their potluck and insisted that I go.

August 28

After my stay in Overton, I left full of food and well-wishes, from the potluck.  As I rode out I saw some beautiful farms, mostly with horses.  The morning light, I left really early, was amazing for the camera.  Pedaling for Mesquite at this time, before it gets hotter than it already is.

I went over the 500-mile marker today for the Crossing.  Right now I’m at 600 miles. 

I ended up getting to Mesquite finally – it was brutal.  Uphill pretty much the whole way.  Found the only tree in I don’t know how long and gave it a big hug.  I was near a park, blew up my air mattress and fell asleep for about two hours.  I woke up to a line of ants crawling over me.  I don’t know what the deal is with the ants.

At this point I’m 40 miles away from St. George and wanted to try to make it there, but had to go through an area they call the Gorge – a river gorge and highway that has no shoulders.  I had to race trucks over the narrow bridges so they wouldn’t run me down (on Highway 15).  It’s so hot – still in the 100’s.  I go to take a nice refreshing drink of my water and its like drinking hot tea.  I made it to St. George finally at about 11 pm.  I was exhausted, my legs felt like iron they were so tense, so I went pedaling through town at about 11 pm and had to stop almost every three minutes.  I thought I was going to have to sleep on the lawn of the bank; I was so tired at one point.  As I was pedaling through town I saw a Mexican Restaurant – I was craving Mexican, so I wanted to remember it for lunch the next day.

August 29

I slept for 13 hours.  I got up to the sound of fire trucks – woke up and headed down to get the Mexican food I was craving and the joint was on fire!  And this wasn’t a mirage – like when I thought my shirt was on fire, this was really happening.  So instead I left town to cooler temperatures at Cedar City, 50 miles away.  Cedar City is definitely cooler, but an uphill battle at about 20 knots right into my teeth.  I have a pretty good wind gauge – if my hair is blowing – than the wind is definitely at 20 knots (just take a look at my hair to see what I mean). 

 

I can only get a 5-mile an hour average at this point.  At one point I laid my bike down, to take pictures, and an officer came up asking if I’d been knocked down a few miles back.  Apparently someone called in a fallen cyclist, but I was just lying on the ground to take a picture.

Rested up in Cedar City and I’m getting ready for my first big climb in Brian Head, UT, but first I stopped in a small town called Kannarraville.  Kannarraville has the only all-female fire department, so I immediately call 911 to report my bike on fire in hopes of being rescued by an all-lady brigade (ok, so I didn’t actually do it).

August 31

I got kind of a late start today because I was resting in the cooler temperatures, but eventually headed up towards the top of the mountain from Cedar City. Let me just say that the landscapes are stunning, unbelievable, life changing. 

Started at about 9am, ascending from 5,500 feet to about 10,500 or 11,000 feet in a mere 25 miles – it’s one of the steepest climbs in Utah.  And about the shoulder in the road?  Well, there isn’t one.  I’m pretty much white lining-it the whole way and hoping, over the holiday weekend, that these trucks and trailers veer around me.  Pretty scary.

While riding up the mountain, I approach a guy on a bike about 11 miles ahead; he was resting from a day ride.  His name is Michael, a really nice guy, and his girlfriend Stacy pulled up too.  They were so amazing and offered to make me lunch, so we sat and ate and talked for about an hour.  Now I’m ready to approach this beast of a summit.

At times I’m only maintaining 3-4 miles an hour on the shoulder, which was so small I felt I had to walk a bit.  And meanwhile, I hear there’s a massive storm approaching.  Seeing the luminous clouds billowing up like enormous mushrooms, my sea barometer dropped pretty quickly.   Something was up, something bad was up.  But, at the same time I have to say that I feel so amazing.  My spine is just alive with chills.  Climbing this first mountain was so exhilarating.

Remember Summit Road?  Still have two miles to go and the weather is getting dangerous, with lightening. Of course I’m on the tallest peak in Utah- 11,000 feet, pedaling faster.  The air is so thin I can barely breathe.  Finally, I’m approaching Cedar Break National Monument, which is pretty much the limit.  The ranger let me peek over the edge and my eyes just rushed with emotion.

It’s kind of hard for me to express this, but I looked over this peak at the top of this mountain, and the tears flowed out of my eyes – I felt like my mom was standing right next to me looking out over everything.

 

I had to get going because the storm was coming in pretty strong and the lightening was all around – I had to get lodging and wasn’t even sure where I was going to go.  My spine was on fire with chills – it was only about 48 degrees.  The temperature dropped in a matter of minutes and I had to put on my rain gear – I saw what appeared to be snow.  Well, I was wrong.  At that moment I had to take cover – there was a massive hailstorm, so bad that I had to ride through about an inch of slush on the road.  Three miles to go, very cold now, I wasn’t able to shift my gears because I couldn’t feel my hands.  I was worried about potential hypothermia since I didn’t get my gear on fast enough, so I pumped my pedals as fast as I could to get warm.  I made the decision to stay in Brian Head assuming that I could get lodging because it’s a ski resort and it’s not peak season.

But it just so happens…. There’s a biking National championship race going on when I arrive!  I pull up to the lodge and wait for my order of pasta and hot cocoa.  It was a great atmosphere talking to all of the riders, with the bikes strewn everywhere.

I told one gentleman what I was doing on the Crossing and he generously bought my lunch.  Later I came across a man named Larry – a man that is amazing, only to realize that he is the announcer for the entire event for this National Championship.  Later, I meet the rest of the crew – Team Big Bear – a great, great, crew.

Team Big Bear

Luscious Larry

Dee Super Deelicious

Princess Patty

Jason Heiko

The Little German

Riddler Chris

They were so kind – an amazing group of people – we have a similar passion.  I rode up to the middle of the stage in the arena the day of the competition and right there, in the middle of the race, Larry announced the Crossing for Cancer and told the whole story to the crowd of 500.  I thank you deeply, Team Big Bear, for everything.

When the storm subsided I thought I’d head on my 30-mile downhill adventure.  Later, I realize Brian Head is expecting their first snow at 8,000 feet to hit, so I’m trying to descend to Panguich as fast as possible.

September 1 

I’m headed to Brighton Canyon right now and then up a major mountain – Boulder Mountain.  Out in the wild again without a connection to the outside world.

I’m going to be here for a little while longer, aiming to reach Colorado’s border.  I obviously won’t make it today because of all the mountain ranges, but I should be at my first Colorado stop soon.  It’s pretty crazy stuff.

Before I sign off this time, I want to thank Jeff and Josh for handling everything back at home base and Meghan and Chanelle for all of their work on the newsletters, events and details.

I’ll talk to you all again soon.

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