Crossing For Cancer

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The finish line…

Posted by crossingforcancer on November 6, 2008

Hi everyone – to pick up where I left off, for this final blog entry…

On our way to Galesburg, once again, we were tested by the nasty cold wind.  Lee went ahead of me in the form of a bullet so I could draft behind him on the heavy machine I was riding on.  I felt a wave of emotion as we cycled into town.    We arrived at Galesburg, home of the Dick Blick headquarters, with a welcome arrival from the Blick staff cheering me on as I rode into town.  John, a Senior Member of Blick met us at a hotel and took us to dinner along with Howard Metzenberg, two great folks.  We shared stories throughout dinner and then turned in for the night for some much needed rest.  I have to say that I don’t sleep much these days.  I can’t seem to make it past 3 a.m. as of late. 

The next day Blick arranged a walk to benefit PANCAN.  Lee and I walked 1.5 miles with 350 Blick employees.  What great supporters for the ride and PanCan!  I had the opportunity to speak to everyone at the park where the walk was held.  I couldn’t believe the support and feeling I felt from each person at Blick.   I sketched a portrait of Julie Butler who lost her husband to this dreadful disease.  After the walk and portrait sitting, we took a tour of the Dick Blick Headquarters.  Thank you so much to Julie and her family for making Lee and I dinner, what an amazing meal. 

The following day, we rode out of town with Howard Metzenberg and several Blick employees into a STRONG head wind.  THANK YOU BLICK for everything that you have done for me, the Crossing for Cancer and PanCan!

 

Howard and I on a tour of Blick

Howard and I on a tour of Blick

 

 

We approached the small town of Toulon, IL.   My brother and I decided to stay the night at an amazing vineyard.  We met up at Indian Creek where Fred and Connie showed us around town, such a great time!  I am now 75 miles away from my dad’s and on this night I couldn’t sleep….all I can hear is the wind blowing….hard, very hard.  I look around in a daze – as I have had many interviews and a lot to do lately.  It’s a much different feeling from being alone in the Mojave and the Rockies. I have been in deep thought about life and the change in me.  The ride has become very predictable now and the dangerous aspects of being alone are now gone.

I am 21 miles to the finish and I am having a hard time conceptualizing how I got here.  I am having a hard time emotionally knowing the ride is almost done.  I don’t know if I should be excited or sad.  I was fortunate to have my family and all the people I love meet me in my journey and can barely keep it together as I ride towards Marseilles, IL.  On the last night Lee and I stayed at my Uncle Ed’s in Peru, IL and had some amazing food, of course from my Aunt Betty.

Sitting 8 miles from my finish is not real to me.  I have been pedaling since August 13 and most nights I dream that I am pedaling; in fact, sometimes I wake up because my legs are moving.  I am honored and proud to be part of the world in a way that is so beautiful it is hard to compare it to anything else.  Humanity and love in the world is here.  You may need to sell your TV and stop watching the news to know this.  It may be the new “pill” for depression of other ailments.

 

Front page of The Times, Marseilles, IL

Front page of The Times, Marseilles, IL

It was exciting to finally approach Marseilles where many of the locals had heard about the Crossing via radio, word of mouth or front page of the newspaper.  I was greeted by my family and best friends Rob and Steve with the video camera in hand.  While cycling through the small suburb I slowed down to feel everyone cycling with me for the last day. 

 

 

I finally reached the corner just a half block from where my parent’s house lies.  I stopped, look down and can’t believe I am near the end.  Silently, I stare at the house.  The salt from my tears hit my mouth and it’s that familiar taste of feelings compiled into one powerful emotion that could bend steel or move a mountain…perhaps, the taste of life and death.

 

 

I coasted down the small road after 2,637 miles of pure bliss.   I had forgotten instantly the struggle I had been through and how my spirit was in the wild and in the wind.  I said my hellos, but even though I made it to my dad’s, I still needed to go just another mile to finish my expedition by climbing one last steep hill to the cemetery where I would stand at my mother’s resting place and smile with her in the silent world as the breeze wrapped around my face.  I planted the “Crossing for Cancer” flag that rode all this way from L.A. at sea level on my bike in the wind next to her.  I’ve reached the finish line of this journey.

 

Just like the last words my mom said to me… “catch ya later!”

Thank You…

Thank you to everyone that has been with me on this journey.  Thank you to my family for staying strong and believing in me from day one.  I know you were worried and I am thankful that you let me do this.  Thank you to my mom for always being at my side and giving me the strength I have always had throughout my life and this bicycle expedition.  To my friends I want to say thank you for the phone calls, text messages, emails and etc…your love kept me going. 

As for my sponsors:  Dick Blick, all I can say is WOW!  I absolutely cannot, to this day, believe how much you pulled off for me, from art supplies, to dinners, to organizing the walk with PanCan, thank you, thank you, thank you. 

Thank you to everyone at the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, Natalie and Brian for being a huge help and getting this project off the ground.  

Clif Bar, well, I am pretty burnt out on blueberry Clif Bars, but thank you so much for helping me to stay alive in the many times that I was so hungry, famished, shaky. 

To those of you that I met on the road that kept going and kept my spirits up when my legs felt like mush and my mind was crazy from the wind, thank you. Thank you to all of the newspapers and radio stations that covered the ride and got the awareness out there.  Thank you to all of you who donated to PanCan and me for the Crossing for Cancer, even if it was $1, it helped tremendously.  

Thank you to all of the families who brought me in like one of their own, fed me dinner, let me rest, told me stories, enlightened me, thank you.  Last, but not least I want to thank my publicist, Meghan Pochebit at Off Central Public Relations.  You have not only been an amazing publicist, but an amazing post master, secretary, psychotherapist, catering specialist, get-the-ball rolling tycoon, transcriptionist, internet specialist and FRIEND.  I will never be able to thank you enough for all of your support and help.  

I hope that I haven’t forgotten anyone, and if I did, please know you are on my mind.  It’s a whirlwind getting back into reality.  I look forward to seeing each of you at the closing reception on November 14 at the Northwestern Lurie Atrium.      -Scott

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Family Support…

Posted by crossingforcancer on October 24, 2008

Hi everyone,

To begin, I want to say a huge thank you to Gerri and her mother.

The entire family was incredible (even you Josh). I had the most amazing time; Gerri, your strength is indestructible.  Every moment I spent with the family was like Christmas.

Day. I was struck by the hospitality and kindness of these people.   It became very difficult to maintain my composure while I sketched because I felt like I connected with this family on such a spiritual level.  It was truly incredible.

I’m now off to St. Louis University High School to sketch Mark Tychonievich, who is not only a teacher at SLU High, but also one of the football team’s coaches.  I believe a defensive coordinator.  I was given the honor to draw Mark and I wanted to thank him and his family for their generosity.

One of SLU High’s students actually interviewed me for a feature in the school paper, which is great.  I’m really looking forward to reading it.

Another individual I met in St. Louis whose generosity was so overwhelming was Jeff, who helped me out over at the Blick Store and printed out an entire bike route for my brother and I to follow into Chicago.  I’m really looking forward to finishing this leg of the ride with my brother, Lee.  After over 2,000 miles of cycling alone, it will be nice to talk to someone other than my bike.

If anyone is ever visiting St. Louis, definitely check out Forest Park- that place was incredible. I rode through North East St. Louis – a really interesting area. Anyway that’s where I snapped a photo of the dangling shoes.

October 18

I finally met up with my brother at the Alton Tallest Man structure. It was like a dream seeing Lee pull up with his wife and my dad. Lee is a triathlon athlete, with the craziest spaceship looking bike. I am feeling really good as we begin our ride toward Bluffs.  Everything is coming together and every time I ride I feel like I have hundreds of people riding behind me or with me. Everyone that I have encountered thus far are all things that are good about this world.

The color tour was going on (the changing of the leaves. When we reached Bluffs Lee was exhausted and sore. We looked around somewhat lost until a local approached us. Sat read our minds and told us about an area we could set up camp. A little while later another local approached us, he mentioned a local bar called Sleepy’s. The staff was incredible and brought out extra catfish and shrimp – the hospitality has been amazing in all of the towns that I have ridden through. I wanted to say thank you to Sue and Jenny for the excellent homemade jam. I also picked up a coyote tail to ad to my bike for decoration.

After setting up camp we started a fire. A local called it in and a truck pulled up. I asked the man if he was the local cop “Kevin.” He replied, “No I am the mayor.” I felt awful.  I really wanted to make him some food but it was really late. “Just wanted to make sure nothing was burning down.” He drove off. It’s been getting freezing cold at night now, which has been really unpleasant. We woke up Sunday and everything in the town was completely closed except for the local ice cream shop “Plakies.” We entered and the town had prepared a huge breakfast for us, it was amazing – a slew of towns people just came to talk to us and ask about my journey.

Well time to continue onward. We were doing about 70 miles for a bit with a great tail wind, we were averaging about 20mph. So we are about 30 miles from Galesburg and I’ve almost broken 2,500 miles on bike. About 140 more miles to the finish line. I wanted to thank Pan Can for everything they have done and give a special thank you to Natalie.

Hope to see you all in Chicago,

Scott

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Posted by crossingforcancer on October 16, 2008

October 7

It’s raining hard in Clinton.  I sit waiting in the café in Clinton for hours.   I have to admit, I kind of like the rain, while I’m inside or in the tent – not really riding.  It finally lightened up enough to ride with rain gear.  I was looking for the Katy Trail, which is a 250 mile crushed limestone bike trail that used to be the old railroad.  I just kind of cycled up and ended up running into it.  I felt it was a dream.  The sound of the hard packed limestone under my tires – literally a tree lined path for bikers.  It was such a  perfect atmosphere with the intoxicating smell of wet fresh leaves under me, the changing colors, wow.  And I have only gone 17 miles on it.  They say it will get even better.  I came to a town just before dark, went for a sandwich and found camping.  The guy wanted to charge me $4 for a campsite with no showers or anything, so I just kept rolling and found a nice clearing in the woods and parked my tent there.  I was waiting to cross the main street in that last town and actually had to wait for a horse and buggy covered wagon to cross.  It was an Amish community – beautiful.  Simple, happy and pure.

I can appreciate the way the Amish live.  I noticed there were quite a few horse and buggies in town.  I got to the trail, went up a few miles and found a little clearing for the tent.  I find myself seeing the finish line and daydreaming about what I used to do before this…

Oh yeah, I live in L.A., fight traffic, congestion and angry people – including myself – it’s really incredible to reflect on my Los Angeles life, compared to what I’ve been doing day in and day out since the beginning of the Crossing.  I actually think it’s normal to bike across the country now, as if it’s what everyone does. 

Well, breakfast is done.  The suns out.  It’s a refreshing 70 degrees.  No wind, no grasshoppers, plenty of deer and I’m wearing 98 percent citronella oil to keep the mosquitos from eating me alive and carrying me away.  I honestly don’t think I have enough blood in my body to live past two miles.  This trail is out in the sticks and I love it.

Slept well in the local park after I called the sheriff to see if it was ok to camp there, Pete was his name.  Woke to another beeautfiul day in MO.  The night before I stopped at the KC general store.  They’re like the Starbucks of the mid-west.  Bought a bag of cheerios and some milk so I can have breakfast ready for the rest of the week. 

Rolling down the trail, to describe it is hard.  The trees surround the trail almost as if I’m riding through a tunnel of foliage.  The morning light slivers its way through to hit the moist leaves from last nights dew. Because of the dense air, the light-rays are almost visible as I cycle through this wonderland. I’m expecting Dorothy and the Tin Man to pop out at any time to ask if I want a bagel.

I came across one place that night, called Lucy’s Burgers, Beer & Grill and ended up sleeping in the back yard, they let me pitch my tent in the back there.  Woke up, had a tall glass of milk for the cheerios, some coffee.  The people in the town – the 50 or so – well, maybe 5 or so, are real nice.

I’m back on the trail and have had several flats on the rear tire.  I have about 16 patches on one tire.  Actually, that’s exaggerated.  It’s more like 6.  I’m on my spare tire for the spare tire, which I already patched with a dollar bill.  Good thing I had some small change and didn’t have to use a twenty.  

I ended up meeting up with this couple – Danielle and Caleb.  They’re a really nice, young couple, also just riding a couple of days on the Katy Trail.  They told me about this bunkhouse, where I arrived at a town called Pivot, for another unusual sleeping arrangement.  It is a building or bunkhouse donated by an elderly lady in the town, for the Katy Trail cyclists basically.  It’s a town of 11 people and a cool old funky bunkhouse.  It costs five dollars, you mail the payment in and the key is actually hanging on the light pole outside the building.  “The Turner Katy Trail Shelter.”  Turner is the lady’s last name.

I had a great night’s sleep.  The bar, post office and pizza place are the only establishments in this town, so I went and got a pizza and headed to the bar.  The bartender was actually sharpening a straight blade on a piece of leather when I walked in.  Asked if I needed a shave.  Yeah, probably not from that blade…

So, I chatted for a minute with the 11 people at the bar, which was the entire town.  The place was cool.  Equipped with it’s own Karaoke machine and the music was from the 30’s and 40’s.  It was pretty funny.  As I was leaving the shelter and old salt rode in.  He didn’t appear to have had a steady home for years.  He was riding an old bike held together by welding and some duct tape.  He told stories about when he’d ridden on a freight train across the country, walked across the country and has been on his bike for as long as he can remember – just a bohemian going around the world. 

So after meeting this guy, you know I’m never surprised to meet someone who has exceeded my bohemenian ways.  He was an interesting fellow but a bit jumpy, with due reason.

October 12

I rode through a small German Town called Herman.  Rolling through town, I heard rumors that it was Oktoberfest for the weekend.

Yup, it was.  Headed to the park where it was a sea of tents.  Met some very nice folks and ended up camping, unknowingly, by the couple – Danielle and Caleb again.  I wanted to thank them for putting a couple of my shirts in the wash.  They were great, very cool and helpful.  Nice people. They’re actually both army medics stationed in MO – just out for the weekend.  The last day of a very great weekend.

So, as I cycle through these mystical woods, it reminds me of the vine-filled forests of Harry Potter.  I can’t seem to capture it with film or words.  This magical place in MO, the Katy Trail.  I have to say, I’ve enjoyed this state a lot, so friendly and beautiful.  I’m now approaching a big city, St. Louis.  I’m a little freaked out about it actually, but excited to do portraits and experience the people I will meet and stay with there.

I met three other cyclists on the trail, Jeff, Dan and Mike, who were cycling the entire Katy Trail.  Jeff bought me breakfast at this little farmhouse in the morning.  I did a portrait of the owner of the farmhouse – he was waiting for our arrival and invited us for breakfast.  We rode for about 15 or 20 miles together.  IT was really nice and I wanted to thank them for their genorisity and friendship. 

I ended up staying near Jeff, Dan and Mike’s campsite.  They wanted to hear the story of the Crossing around their campfire.  The man’s portrait I did at the farmhouse – he has a history of relatives who have passed from cancer, so I decided to do two portraits of him on the spot.  It just seemed right.

        

I ended up going through a town called Augusta – a vineyard town.  I stopped for a wine tasting, it was really nice.  Lately, this trip is seeming like more of a vacation rather than such a grueling experience.  The weather is perfect, the leaves are changing – it’s beautiful.

October 13

I’m now in St. Louis and met up with Gerri, a pancreatic cancer survivor.  I’m going to save her incredible story for the next blog.  For now, so long and I’ll talk to you all soon…

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Closer to home…

Posted by crossingforcancer on October 8, 2008

September 29

Hi everyone, to pick up where we left off, I’ve been riding in Wichita, or a small suburb south called Haysville, which is where Tom and his family live.  They invited me into their home upon hearing about the Crossing, so I could complete a portrait.  Tom lost his wife Tammy to pancreatic cancer.  His love for her is undeniable.  His family is so great – such a wonderful bunch and very accommodating.  I felt so fortunate to have met them, learn of their struggle with pancreatic cancer and enjoy some much needed hospitality.

Tom, by Scott Glazier

Tom’s mom is quite a firecracker – so young at heart.  At one point she was jousting with one of her grandson’s and gave him a sucker punch right in the ribs!  Granted, they were just playing around and no one was actually hurt, but pretty funny none the less.  She’s a great lady.

I’m planning to do the portraits of Tom and Chris Davis, who I mentioned in the earlier blog entry.  Chris lives just outside of Kansas City and caravanned down with her entire family.  Tom agreed to have everyone over to his place and I did the portraits outside in the yard.  I felt honored that they all drove down and it was the perfect environment for these portraits, just a great, loving, family environment.  Not to mention the natural outdoor light.  It was a beautiful day.

It was so great to combine two families with such a specific commonality and similar passions.  It’s this incredible feeling of the family unit.  It’s so strong.  I feel the same way about my family – how we all pulled together when my mom got sick.  How my dad was so caring and did everything for my mom.  This is something that I’ll vow to never take for granted.  It’s going to be really hard to leave Haysville, I’ll miss everyone and especially this sense of family.

September 30

I’m moving onward to El Dorado, where I’ll take a bike path around a lake that a local told me about.  I may camp there if it’s the right time and the mood strikes me.  Riding again after feeling so at home is difficult, but necessary.  The moment’s with families always lift my spirits and keep me pedaling.

What’s going on, I’m realizing, is something much more than a bike ride or an art exhibition.  It’s an eye opening and life changing experience.  Not just for me, but for all of the pancreatic cancer survivors, fighters and others who have felt the effects of this brutal disease.

Many people have asked me, along the ride, how long I’ve been cycling and what the training was like for a journey like this.  Well, to answer honestly, the training was slim to none.  I’m not a professional, or even amateur cyclist and that’s part of the reason I chose to embark on the Crossing for Cancer.  I want to mirror the tragic shock and surprise it’s like when someone is diagnosed with cancer and becomes sick.  Tom’s wife, Chris, Cindy, Cheryl, my mom – none of them had time to “train” for their fight with pancreatic cancer.  They just hit the ground running.  That, to me, is the most inspiring thing of all.  In a way, the Mojave desert was my training, I suppose – both mentally and physically.

I’m once again being pounded by the wind – damn!  It’s one of those long straight roads that never turns, cows staring at me like I’m insane, grasshoppers popping and I’m chewing on the wind – or that’s what it feels like.  I’m stopping every mile as it seems I can’t keep my legs going.  I pedal over a small hill and see what appears to be a Sinclair Gas Station Sign. 

No, it’s just a mirage.  Oh yeah, I left the desert a month ago, it can’t be a mirage – not a heat mirage, at least, but maybe a wind mirage.  Nope, I pedal up to Lizard Lips Grill,  Gas and Video Rental – fishing tackle store… and probably post office!  They have it all.  It’s one of those places that was supposed to greet me, almost as if the place moved to this spot on my route, even if it was a mile away before.  I walked in and felt the need to sit and talk for a bit – get away from the wind.

I met another world traveler who worked there – a wandering spirit, her name was Jean Marie.  We spoke of travel and keeping open to the world as your home.  Carleen was another local and spoke of a man fighting colon caner – what a great spirit.  From the sounds of it, he will survive.

It was a nice stop, because in the hour or two I spent there it became evening. As I was leaving, the wind actually died and I pedaled the next few miles in.  I love this place and the people.  In fact, I will not be unhappy saying goodbye to the pounding wind, but I will be sad to say goodbye to the people of Kansas, they are good people – like Kevin and Sheri Patterson at Breadeaux Pizza.  Not only were they great, the pizza was too.  They were really kind to help me out and provide a meal.

 

So anyway, I left the Lizard – they gave me a plastic lizard and I just happened to have some super glue, so he could be a permanent friend to Curious George.  I super glued him to the frame of my bike.  I felt George was a bit lonely anyway.  And after watching the B Movie, these guys are probably talking about life as monkey and lizard while I’m not there.

I made it to the town called Yates Center and was greeted by a man at the motel I was to stay at.  He exclaimed, “welcome, your room awaits!”  Which was a great sentence to hear after all of this riding.  Ted Noble of Adventure Cyclist got my room for me.  He was a good man and had knowledge of cancer as many he knew are fighting, or have lost their fights with it.  Thanks again, Ted.

I have to say, when traveling alone as I often do, a lot of various things open up to you.  Ted and I spoke and reminded me of the Katy Trail in MO.  He ran and got me a map and wow – a 250 mile bike trail across MO!  I’m so excited, this trail is only for bikes and is actually part of the Lewis & Clark expedition somehow.

Thank you, again, to the people of Kansas for being so kind and giving my spirits a lift through the pounding wind.  Leaving this place, I feel like I’m starting to see the end of my journey approaching.  Which is exciting, yet somewhat heavy on my heart.

 

After doing thousands of portraits in my career as an artist, the more and more I go on, I can say that the successful portraits are not necessarily the ones that look like the model, but the one that feels like the model, emotionally.

October 1

I’m now at Uniontown, MO.  Covered 45 miles today, it was absolutely no problem – there was no wind – it was as if I didn’t even get out of bed.  If all days were like today, I wouldn’t have to eat so much food.  Once again I came up to a town with football practice going on.  I sat and watched for a bit remembering when I was one of the little football players and mom could be heard in the stands yelling over the loud speaker for me.

I ended up meeting some nice folks.  One guy named Stan, who’s going to meet me at the Uniontown Bar & Grill, which is where I’m waiting for my burger.  Basically, it’s a gutted house that a guy serves beer and cooks burgers at.  It’s the only restaurant in town; it’s got a jukebox and a pool table and I’m the only person here.  The guy serving up the burgers has a big skull and bones on his shirt – we were immediately friends.  Stan showed up and bought me a beer – I can only handle two these days.  He took me out to meet his mom and dad on the farm.  We talked for hours and had a blast.

Roberta at the Wyatt Earp Inn was really great, which is where I stayed the night.  I rolled out of town and Marshall, the bartender at the Bar and Grill, and his mom, who was the cook, made us some great meatloaf and mashed potatoes for lunch.  If you didn’t get there by noon you didn’t get anything because it really is the only place to eat in town!

October 4

Rolled through Fort Scott, Kansas and went to the First National Cemetery.  Stopped at a bookstore in town, met some nice folks.  Now I’m headed to Stockton for some relaxation and days off.

October 5

I did 45 miles today and once again, didn’t even feel like I got out of bed.  So, I’m here in Stockton now, which is, a lot of people don’t know, but where I went to highschool.  My mom used to be the cook at the school here.  I spent part of my time here after my parents moved to Chicago, so I’ve had half city life and half small town.  The local paper, The Cedar County Republican, interviewed me and is running a story.  It will be available online too – I’ll include a link soon.

After this, I’m headed to St. Louis and will be there from October 13th – 15th.  I’ll be in touch with anyone participating in a portrait soon and want to thank you in advance for all of your well wishes and offers to help – it’s what keeps me strong these days.

Until next time…

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The wind at my back…

Posted by crossingforcancer on October 1, 2008

September 22

Hi there.  To pick up where I left off, rolled out of Wells, after the office bought my lunch.  Of course the wind was coming very strong out of the south, with a touch coming out of the west, so I altered my course to head more north by east, that way the wind was more behind me.  I’ve been watching the weather and am expecting a northern front to come through, and bring a more northerly wind so I’ll try to head south.

There’s no way to describe the strength of the wind.  If I were at sea in this kind of wind, I would more than likely have no sails up and be running on bare poles.  I can see thunderstorms moving across the plains and many times I find myself just sitting by the road, rain and lightening free in one spot, yet a mere three miles from a storm passing in front of me from the south.  I enjoy the fresh smell of the rain in the distance as the 30-mile an hour wind blows it to me.  I just watch in amazement and listen to all the sounds.  I made a 60-mile run today and am now in a small motel.

To set up a tent in this would be brutal.  Not impossible, but a terrible pain in the “you know what.”  As I cycle, I find I’m seeing the flowers sprout through the cracks of the road, feeling the flying grasshoppers cling to my shirt as I pass by, or maybe a caterpillar rolling across the road.  I’m looking at all the details of life and realize how simple they are and how complex our minds seem to make it sometimes.

September 23

When I wake up in the morning, I realize that I must be at the border of a time change.  The town has refused to switch the clocks and my cell phone still says different.

My chess move to take the route to the south, in this constant game with Mother Nature, was a good one.  I did get that northerly front and for one day was able to have the wind strong at my back.  It’s always the first thing I do when I wake up, is check the wind direction.  So now I’ve been rolling hearing the steady hum of my tires at 22 miles an hour.  I know it will only last today and probably switch to the east, at which point I’ll be chewing on it again.  But at least I get one day of what seems to be rest on the bike.  The silence is so nice with the wind at my back.  Normally it’s so strong I can’t hear anything – even with earphones (for music) in.  It’s almost weird – the silence, so quiet, the wind with me.

I can see for miles.  There’s something special about being able to see and smell everything from this bike.  One thing though, I won’t have to eat for a while.  It seems as though I’ve eaten about five million bugs, they just fly right into my mouth and I probably have enough protein to last me for the next week. 

One thing that I’ve noticed through Kansas is how much I like that most towns are centered around a football or baseball field, a school or even a water tower.  The concentration of the youth is great.  Everyone waves and has time to talk for hours if they want to.  Today was good, I made good time because of that one day northern front.  Of course, the wind is supposed to be out of the southeast for several days now, so I have some hard days to come.

September 24

Left Syracuse, headed north to Garden City with a 20 mile an hour southeast wind.  I suppose I’m getting used to the wind now… Not really. I have to be honest, the aerodynamic nature of my bike is equivalent to a brick on wheels. 

Kansas is the first place that I’ve popped in my earphones to listen to some music.  The wind is so strong at times, I can’t even hear the music with it on full blast.  Looking around, eating bugs and feeling the strong wind is my life now.  I made an interesting discovery though, pedaling into the wind I began to try to understand it, it blew strong and fast, so I began to pedal strong and slow and steady. 

I’ve been trying to have more understanding with the wind, a symbiotic relationship, sort of a dance if you will.  I began to think of everything I’ve been through so far – the portraits, the people, my mom, dad, family, friends – just to get rid of all this frustration and negativity that’s been building since I entered Kansas due to the constant pounding of the wind.

I realized I can’t cure the problem of this wind, but I can cure the problem within it – within my self.  My spirit can be cured with the power of my mind, the negativity can be lifted and it was finally as if a magic wand tapped me.  My speed increased and life became almost easy.  I spent the next 25 miles this way, where a half-hour before I was thinking about giving up.  This isn’t the first time I thought this, but the most persistent. 

Giving up is not really an option, but it seems to creep in when it feels like hell for days.  To make a change within can be difficult at times, but really that’s the only thing that I have the power to change.  The wind’s going to blow no matter what.

I’ve been doing 10 miles an hour for three days.  This is basically fall harvest, so the narrow two-lane freeway is full of trucks driving by with produce and I’ve been riding in the grass to avoid them.  Here’s the problem: the flying grasshoppers.  I stir these grasshoppers up and they shoot out into the wind to get away from me like popcorn.  The wind catches them; they come right straight back at me and pretty much bean me.  Most times they grab onto me and then jump away.  I can only imagine what it might look like grasshoppers flying all over – in my beard, on my legs, in my shirt.

I actually saw one launch and I watched him.  Of course he has that boomerang effect because of the wind and bam – he latched onto my lower lip.  What am I supposed to do?  I’ve got trucks whizzing by me, both hands on the bars and finally jumped off.  I mean – jeeze!  And these things are everywhere out here.

I tell you what – we should have a contest, someone should illustrate what that must look like – me cycling into the wind with the grasshoppers flying all over me.  The winner can have a free trip to Kansas, with a bike and a toothbrush – all expenses paid.

I’ve been at my psychological limit, from the trucks, to the wind, to the grasshoppers.  My odometer is at about 1725 miles.  Even though I get to the breaking point, there is always something that sparks hope within me at times. 

September 25

I made it to Dodge City and took a much-needed full day off.  I wake up to almost a no-wind situation, even at 10 in the morning.  This made me smile for sure.  I packed up, filled my camelback with ice and water, ate some pancakes and rolled.  Rolling at the normal speed of 17 miles an hour-ish headed east.  Trying to make it to Wichita.  I’m making nice time to Kansas.  I had to look behind me to make sure Joe Bob, the local mechanic I met in the last town, didn’t install a motor on the back of my bike – it felt so smooth! It felt so good to have some rest and know the wind finally blew out. 

I’m now at lunch at a town called Mullinville – it’s so cool.  There are iron sculptures all along the road with names and sayings on them.  It was really cool.  I went on this dirt road to try to find the artist, but he was nowhere to be found.  His studio basically said closed: keep out.

The sculptures were really interesting and there were so many of them.  They went on for miles – something so bizarre.  The locals were saying that he’s an older local man, highly intelligent.  He kind of makes waves in the town – questions authority – they said he’s probably pissed everyone off in this town more than three times each… I would have loved to meet him.

September 28

I’m riding through Greensburg.  This town was devastated by a massive tornado about a year ago and looks pretty torn up.  It’s kind of scary to see the power of Mother Nature, where trees were torn to stumps and buildings were flattened.  The attempt to re-build is evident and right now, as I’m writing, I’m laying in a basement in a church in Haviland, KS.  I was at 55 miles for the day and came across this little town on Saturday.  What few stores were around were pretty much closed.

I ran across this guy, Josiah, asked if I could pop a tent up in the park – he said they wouldn’t mind.  He came back to check in later and ended up being the youth pastor for the town church.  He was a really nice guy and offered for me to stay in the church basement.  It was really great, one of the best nights sleep I’ve had on this trip.  If anyone’s ever slept in a church alone at night, then you know it’s… kind of interesting.

The wind today is blowing so hard across from me, that it’s bending my front fender to rub on my tire.  I think that these grasshoppers have been notifying the other grasshoppers as I move east that there’s a taxi service coming though.  They all just jump on me and ride.  When I jump off the bike, so do they – a free ride to the next town!

So today I’m on my way to Wichita where I have more portraits.  I’m set to meet with Chris Davis, a pancreatic cancer survivor, her daughter Michelle and other family members.  I completed a portrait of Chris, which was a wonderful, inspiring experience.  I’ll write more about our day together in the next entry, but for now wanted to express my heartfelt thanks.

Until next time.

 

Chris Davis, center, and family

Chris Davis, center, and family (I am at the top left)

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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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Another Week on the Long Road

Posted by crossingforcancer on August 26, 2008

Hello everyone,

It’s been a few days, but I wanted to update you on my progress again.

While still in Baker, I woke up, turned off my alarm clock, and managed to leave around seven in the morning. It felt pretty cool out. I wanted to try to wake up and get started by five, but it didn’t happen. Riding out, I was faced with the endless, straight road, trying to reach Halloran Summit, which is about 5,000 feet, and I was only at about 900 feet at first. It was my last major climb until Vegas, and it wasn’t easy.

FYI: If you happen to take the route I did and reach a road that’s called Summit Rd, it doesn’t mean a thing. It’s not the summit. You still have to go do some more climbing. That point is just a tease. It took me three hours and a gallon of Gatorade to get to the top, spokes popping left and right. I was up to five broken spokes and still traveling with no back breaks, because the wheel was almost rubbing on the frame.

The only time I pulled off the road at any point was because I saw this old trailer park thing over a cattle guard. There was a sign that read “Diesel and Drinks.” I parked my bike in what little shade there was, and a guy pops out of nowhere and asks if he can help. His name was Tim.

I told him, “Yeah, I’m just trying to find the shade.”

His first question: “What the hell are you doing out here on a bicycle?”

After explaining what I was attempting, Tim invited me in to watch CSI. I needed the rest, so I sat and talked with him for about an hour. Meanwhile, he’d tell other people who showed up that there was no trespassing, running them off. I felt kind of privileged to be sitting inside, talking with him, once I noticed that. He was an interesting man.

For instance, when I noticed some medical books on the table and asked him what they were for, he said, “Oh, I’m just researching what’s killing me.” It turned out that Tim had Mac disease, which complicates his Aspergillosis, a disease that’s eating away at his lungs. I asked Tim if I could sketch his portrait, and he agreed.

I finished the portrait and then went on my way soon after. It was amazing to meet Tim and hang out with him. He lives near the summit by himself, it seems, and he’s really pleased to be up there, in his small shack.

From there, I descended into the next phase of my trip and had my brother, Lee, put in a call to Low Way about my bicycle. Low Way hooked me up with a brand new wheel, but I didn’t get it until Vegas. I was still riding on the same five broken spokes, but along the way I met these really cool guys, Vada and Roger. They were honeymooners, and they offered to help me as much as they could. Anything I needed while I was in the area, they said, I should let them know.

At one point, I took a detour through the Mojave National Reserve at a cop’s suggestion, because there was something wrong with the road I’d planned to take. Breath-taking. Throughout this trip, even just this far into it all, nature has been revealing sights to me that have been absolutely stunning. Whenever I was going through Johsua Tree I felt like I was a ship in an ocean for what seemed like hundreds of miles. It was just incredible. No words I could say could describe the feelings inspired. It’s been phenomenal. I saw the moon rise right before my eyes that evening, right outside my tent. A bunch of rats were running around but I was able to get sleep. The detour was 30 miles out of the way but I was glad that I made the decision to take it.

Two more people I want to say hello to are Om and Zen, whom I met in the middle of the desert. Really cool guys. I woke up in the morning, faced with a mass of road, and riding along I hadn’t seen a car in about two hours.

I was on my way to Primm, going over a mountain to get there, and when I finally got to the top, a friend of a friend was there waiting for me. Corazone, a Filipino woman, made me all kinds of foods, and let me take a nap there. She also had this green blended concoction and told me to drink the whole thing. I jokingly asked if she had any sugar, because it was packed with about five different vegetables I had never heard the name of, but I finished the blend and went on my way.

When I hit Vegas, I met up with Sonia and Michelle and stayed with them for three or four days. I got a chance to spend time in their pool, and they also fed me. I’m extremely grateful. Thanks, you guys, for inviting and having me as a guest on the Sonia and Michelle show!

Performance sent Carrie Jo out with a new wheel in Las Vegas (Bike King had a wheel waiting). Ron, the store owner, was also extremely helpful. They put a whole new wheel together for me and checked my bike over to make sure that it was still capable of enduring my journey.

I went out to the Blick store and did some portraits there. Everyone there was incredible. Dan, Ryan, Cassandra, Adam, Dominic, and Lisa, thank you.


Right now, I’m getting ready to leave the north side of Vegas, to go over another mountain, headed to Lake Mead and the Valley of Fire. It’s pouring rain, and I just saw lightening bolt hit the ground no more than two feet in front of me. I’m getting ready to go out into middle of nowhere, faced with a lightening storm as I cut through Lake Mead and the Valley of Fire to Zion National Park and then into Cedar City, UT. I’m going to honest with you, I’m nervous. The ligthening’s hitting every few seconds, and I’ve got to deal with this pouring rain.

Before I go, I want to thank my brother, Blick, Bike King, Low Way, and Carrie Jo for everything you’ve done. Wish me luck. I’ll check in again soon.

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