Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Finish ...

First of all there is no finish, only a start for the next adventure.

So, as I hope you may have surmised, I arrived in Vancouver, and I have arrived home. Both safely! Sorry for the delay in writing this final blog.

In total, I rode my bike 1,140 miles out of a total of 3,700 miles, so from that standpoint, a disappointing trip for me. However, the trip was awesome in all other aspects! While not able to ride much, I was still part of the adventure in my support role, and the extra support vehicle seemed to be greatly appreciated by all riders. I did bike the final ride into Vancouver, crossing the border with all the other riders, singing (ok, off key, but enthusiastically) to the people in cars waiting in line at the border, and participating in final ceremonies on the beach. 

Traveling from the Atlantic to the Pacific by bicycle is a fantastic way to see our country, while spreading the word about the need for affordable housing for everybody, and participating at build sites along the way.

Some highlights of the this year’s FCBA in no particular order:
The continued support of Lois to make my joining these adventures possible
Riding with returning rider friends again
Meeting new riders and seeing them overcome the struggles of the adventure
On the adventure with Melissa as the leader this year for the first time (she was great)
Returning to some of the same places we have stayed at in the past
Attending the ceremony for a veteran as he moved back into his house we helped repair
Staying at new churches and meeting great new people
Having slept on church floors over 170 times since joining The Fuller Center in 2011
Watching our team completely remove and replace the roof on a house of a family in need
Seeing first hand the tornado devastation in Oklahoma, and helping with the clean up
Witnessing and participating in the "foot washing" initiated by four of our riders for all the riders
Not giving up because I was not able to ride
My community bike club coming together as a unit to monetarily and emotionally support my ride
The continued help of friends and strangers who donate to help make this trip possible
Having complete strangers stop during a sudden electric thunderstorm to help us get to safety
Being humbled by the heat and humidity
Being humbled by saddle sores
Having friends Krystal and Michael take care of me in the ER
Seeing this country in slow motion again
Helping build more handicapped ramps at homes
Handing out a FCBA card and collecting a $20 donation while continuing to ride my bike
Listening to a red neck sincerely telling us to watch out for the red neck truck drivers in his area
Having other male riders paint their nails Fuller orange with me
Helping with the inspiration by pedaling, being present at the signing of a new covenant partner on Vancouver Island, and participating in the signing ceremony that took place, which included moving native customs---a special blessing!

I will of course ride the spring ride with Harper and Matthew, so that’s great to look forward to. Some soul searching will be needed to determine how, and if, I will participate in next year’s summer ride. The route will be from Atlantic City, New Jersey to Astoria, Oregon, going through my home town, Chicago. There are many possibilities there, so I’ll have to figure out how I want to participate. I’d love to ride again, but not if I can't ride the whole way. Maybe I’ll take a year off, or join as a support person.

So, I need to get back on my bike again, and see if I can get comfortable on it. I’ll occasionally update my progress here, and keep my three readers informed on next year’s participation.

Peace ...

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The support team ...

2013 is my third summer Fuller Center Bike Adventure. I rode most of the 2011 summer ride, the 2012 spring ride, 2012 East Coast ride and West Coast ride, the spring ride 2013, and now the summer ride. In 2011 I needed the van support to carry me three times. In 2012 I didn’t need to get in the van at all, but this year I was in the van more than I was riding, because of various health issues. After struggling for the first three weeks I left the ride for a planned fishing trip in Alaska with my brother and his family, rejoining the ride 10 days later. While away from the ride I visited my family doctor who told me I needed to take 4-6 weeks off the bike to heal properly, so I decided to drive back to FCBA in my SUV that has 4 bike racks, and help support the riders. 

I’ve been supporting for about two weeks, and we have two weeks left to finish the summer adventure. It has been a great experience! Up and down the ride, protecting riders, picking up tired or disabled riders, staying at the last rest stop to allow the van to get to the church to unload and get ready for showers. I’m not riding, but am feeling very useful.

This year I am 71 years old, and last year I rode a total of 7,402 miles on my bike, 4,200 with the Fuller adventure. Although admittedly not a fast rider, I’m a good, safe rider who has been able to ride without accident, and I know my way around riding, in groups, and especially with the Fuller Adventure.

So having ridden with, and now supporting these riders, I want to try to tell you about these "kids and grandkids" on this adventure. Most of the riders have arrived at the start of FCBA with very little training or even experience on a bike. All kids learn how to ride a bike, but riding a bike across country is quite a different experience. Some riders come with bikes that are not in the best of condition, need some TLC, and many start even needing new tires. Often riders do not "fit" their bikes properly, and I have taught more than one rider how to get on and off a bike. I have talked to many who admitted that on the way to the start, they had to force themselves to continue because of the apprehension of the unknown.

I have watched these “kids” become accomplished bike riders, team leaders, caring team members, and grow into a family unit that I have been blessed to witness and share six times now. I have watched these kids ride their hearts out for a cause greater than themselves. I have seen them cry at what they perceive as failure, cry at accomplishing what they thought was impossible, and cry for the families that we help along the way. I admit, I have cried with them. Today I was shedding tears of joy as I watched Melissa reach the summit of a climb that was over 10 miles long with a constant grade of between 7% and 8% which came about mile 72 of a 91 mile ride. She was struggling, not sure she could make it, but so proud that she did. Yesterday I was blessed to watch a new rider, Dottie, ride 106 miles her first day, almost all of it uphill, having ridden no more than 50 miles before. I have been blessed to witness the joy of accomplishment on so many faces that I can't begin to count. Many of the riders enjoy the advantage of youth to help do what seems impossible, and I have been blessed to have witnessed these feats. It’s so great to watch new riders with about 100 miles of training before starting on a 9 week ride that averages 75 miles per day, riding the entire distance, and literally jumping for joy at the finish. I was so proud to witness my son teach his 14 year old daughter on the spring ride this year, how to mud, hammer, use a saw a chisel, etc., and have her ask what else she could do to help on the build site.

I have also witnessed the faith these kids possess. They know the bible, they know how to pray, and they have been blessed with the desire to help people less fortunate. Alex came to me when I was feeling bad about not being able to ride, asked if he could pray for me, and proceeded to do so. They have given of themselves days, weeks, months, and years in service to others. They have become my heroes as I watch them struggle to reach goals that seem impossible. Not all of them reach every summit, but they are all out here trying, serving their Savior, as they serve others.

Peace ...

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Riding again ...

My car as an additional support vehicle has been put to good use. I feel a strong part of the ride because I feel useful as extra support. Of course I’ve been disappointed at the lack of biking, but feel good about my support role, and have been getting good feedback and appreciation from the riders, so I’m all good with it! I’ve been able to drive up and down the line, helping to supply food, water, and electrolytes, as well as picking up riders who have hit the wall, have a nagging injury, or a bike has failed with double flats, failed tire, or mechanical trouble of some sort. The last couple of days I’ve supported at the last van stop by letting the van leave while I stayed to support the last 4-8 riders. This allows the luggage to arrive at the church earlier, get unloaded, and have us prepared for showers or whatever, much sooner. Seems to smooth out the operation a little.
After another 4 days supporting with my car I was finally on the bike again today. It. Felt. Great! I averaged 16.1 MPH on this short ride day of only 38 miles. A group of us stopped short of the first van stop to hike about 30 yards to enjoy a great view of a beautiful gorge.

Following today’s short bike day we took showers at the local swimming pool, and most of us went in the pool for a while also. Yesterday I had a one-on-one basketball challenge with Melissa and she beat me (although she did step on my foot as she went around me to score her basket). Today we had a swimming race, and I beat her to get even.

Chocolate malt today: 7.5

Peace … 

P.S. … catch up!
The halibut I brought back from Alaska was a big success! The cooks did a great job of preparing the fish a couple different ways, and it was delicious. A few said that it was the best meal of the trip. We were even able to invite our hosts in for a bite of fish.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Twin Falls, ID

It’s working well to use my SUV as a second support vehicle. Tomorrow, however, I think I’ll bike 20 or 40 miles. 

As you can see, I’ve got a new bike to ride!
And, Alex, as you can plainly see, is apparently king of the ride today.

No malts to rate lately (sigh). 

Peace …

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The support role ...

I arrived back on the adventure the yesterday evening, meeting the group in Craig, CO. Some of the fish I caught in Alaska had been flown back with my nephew Brad, so I stopped briefly at his house to pick up the halibut. We are settled in Dinosaur, CO and the FCBA ‘chefs’ are preparing the fish for our dinner tonight as I am writing this blog.

My doctor told me yesterday morning that if stay off the saddle for 4-6 weeks, my saddle sores may heal enough for me to ride again. So, I’m driving my SUV as a second support vehicle. I told Melissa I would take the first day myself to get a feel for how it would work with the group, and she will alternate with me driving as second support.

Lindsey joined the adventure last week while I was gone, and a couple days later she got sick with a stomach bug, and Carol was sick with the same thing.  I have room to carry four bikes on my car, so we started the ride to Dinosaur with my bike on top, and Lindsey’s and Carol's bikes on the back rack. We took off and I stopped to buy some yogurt for Carol, and then caught up with the riders at the first rest stop. On the way to the next stop I found Mark and Susan working on a flat tire, so I stopped behind them, providing a bit more safety to them while they worked on the flat. At the second stop Lindsey decided she felt well enough to ride, so I pulled her bike, and she was ready to go. 

After the sweeps arrived and left, I took off ahead of the van, passed all the riders, and decided to stop at 10 miles out primarily to be there for Lindsey, in case she found herself not well enough once she started to ride. I happened to stop near the top of a hill and got out as the riders approached me to cheer them up the hill. As it turned out, Lindsey was ok, but Nicole’s knee was hurting, so she joined me in the car. I loaded her bike, and after the sweeps passed we continued to the 60 mile stop. Our next stop was only 15 miles ahead, leaving about 12 miles to finish the day. At the last stop, Lindsey was feeling bad, so she got in the air conditioned car to cool off and rest. When Melissa and the sweeps came in, she was through for the day, also feeling bad, so she put her bike in the trailer (since I had four bikes on my car) and got in the car to cool off. 
Without the support of my car with bike racks, we would have had to stack the bikes, one on top of the other in the trailer, which is difficult, and hard on the bikes, and gets the Therm-a-Rests black from bike chain oil (we try to protect the bikes by putting the ‘mattresses’ between the bikes). So instead of 5 bikes stacked in the trailer, we only had one, which made me feel good about the entire day in my new support role.

The downside to the day was when I jumped on my bike after settling in, and rode three blocks to get ice cream. After about three pedal strokes my sores immediately started hurting. So, I am now finished complaining about that area of my anatomy, and I’ll let my three readers assume from now on the reason I will be riding short distances, if any, is because of the saddle sores. 

Had a great malt tonight, with a rating of 9! It got extra points because the closed shop was opened for the six of us as we drove up in the car. People are great.

Peace ...

Friday, July 5, 2013

Packed ...

Enjoyed a 9.5 chocolate malt yesterday at a local old fashioned soda fountain parlor! This has definitely been the trip for some good quality malts. I also scored a Chicago hot dog -- yummy.

Yesterday was a pleasant morning for riding before the crosswind started blowing us around. I was prepared to stop the van the first time it passed me because I didn’t think I could stay on my saddle longer than a few miles, but I made 60 miles. At the 60 mile stop I was too uncomfortable so I rode in the van the last 32 miles. 

Seemed a little strange to be in Canadian, TX celebrating July 4th. Our cooking chore group made an excellent spaghetti dinner, so we ate well. There were a few fireworks last night, but I didn’t watch. Guess I’ve seen too many fireworks in my long life to appreciate them and go “ahhhh” (besides, sleep was calling!).

This morning was to be my last day of biking before flying home tomorrow, but I boxed my bike up last night so I wouldn’t be stressed out tonight trying to get the bike and myself ready for that early flight out of Liberal, KS. One day home, then I fly to Alaska to fish with John, Hillary, and Brad. I’ll be joining FCBA again in Craig, CO July 15 for at last part of the build day. And, hopefully I can arrive with some fish to share for dinner. Today is another 90 plus day on the bike so I will ‘suffer’ in the van an entire day with Nadine. 

Blog will continue when I return to the bike adventure.

Peace ...

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A long, short ride ...

In my past blog I forgot to mention Carol, who I almost met early in our ride, when I gave her a FCBA business card at a stop light. I had just got to her car when the light changed, and I had to pedal away. She drove straight and we turned. The neat thing about this very brief encounter is that when I got to our stop and looked at my email, she had already been to my blog and left a message. (My blog address is on the back of the FCBA cards I had printed.) I have handed out many cards, but I never know if anyone actually goes to my blog or to the FCBA site and looks at what we are doing. So this response was kinda special, and I invited her to our build site in Craig, CO. Turns out she is an author, and I look forward to reading one of her newest books when this adventure is over.

Today turned out to be a long, short ride -- a comment made by two or three other riders. We had some head winds, lots of rolling hills, and gravel road for a few miles at the start. In addition, we had highway maintenance (or rather lack of) with unintentional speed bumps (one hole repair across the road was at least 4 inches high for no reason). Add to that another day with a sore bottom, and it made for what seemed like a long day, when it should have been a short refreshing day of only 47 miles. Very difficult to get into the ride when you are in pain just sitting on the saddle. I hope that I am not complaining about the bottom for the next 5 weeks. Maybe special parts of me will heal with the upcoming time off fishing in Alaska!

Saw two birds of prey today, but they are a little bashful here in Oklahoma, as they flew off when I stopped to get my camera out. I’ve seen a few others over the last 4 weeks, but mostly I’ve seen vultures soaring overhead as we bike. Seems like a mixture of black and turkey vultures, but I’m not really sure. I know the last week or so they’ve been turkey vultures.

We’re at a new covenant partner stop here in Elk City. We arrived about noon (most riders way before that), and the local president didn’t expect us that early. He was planning to provide dinner tonight and breakfast tomorrow for us, but when we arrived he went across the street and got the makings for lunch for us. It was a nice gesture on his part to get us lunch as well...we meet the nicest folks! 

We are doing a presentation for him tonight after dinner; our presentations give us a chance to tell complete strangers about our lives and how we got involved with the Fuller Center, and what it means to us as individuals. It’s always a neat experience, and as we progress on our journey, more and more riders are stepping up to talk.

Seems I’m needing more naps on this trip than ever before. The ‘kids’ always seem to nap and still sleep all night, which has been working for me as well. Enjoyed an hour’s nap this afternoon, but I made sure to set my alarm so I wouldn’t miss dinner (the ‘kids’ had to wake me the other day before dinner!).

Peace ...

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Rode strong … almost ...

First, on our work day yesterday in Moore, OK, we split into two groups. One group went on site and spent all day clearing the debris from one house to get a clean slab. The other group (‘Just’ Kurt, ‘Smart’ Kert, and me) worked at a warehouse at one of the churches, making pallets of goods stored in the gymnasium, and transferring them to outside storage bins. A long, hard day’s work for both groups. 

When we were all at the host church the local covenant partner's president, who is also a police chaplain, met us and briefed us on the situation in Oklahoma City. We had already seen some of the damage as we rode our bikes to the church, and seeing the destruction in person was almost overwhelming. Television coverage cannot begin to show the scope of the loss of life, disruption to lives, and effect on this community and the entire city. The good news is the complete outpouring of help that the American people always give. There was so much being donated that it overwhelmed the churches and community that were receiving it, storing it, and trying to get it to the people in need. Just a beautiful example of the generosity and love that pours out of the people of this great country.

Our second and third nights in Oklahoma City were spent at the Marriott Courtyard Hotel in historic downtown Brickyard. A very generous arrangement from the hotel, a first for me on these trips. We stayed 3 or 4 to a room, so in our room one person slept on the floor, but it was great to have showers and towels to use, and of course pillows and beds! The breakfast was a luxury I didn’t mind paying for, but the one downside was we were all scattered about, and it’s hard to plan things together that way. Additionally, we had to pay for our own food, except for breakfast on the day we left. With all of us in one room trying to get cereal and bagels eaten, get cleaned and packed up and out on our bikes in a reasonable time, the place was a bit hectic. But, we did it, and it’s all part of the adventure.

Tonight we each have our own room in the dormitory of SWOSU. We went down the street to make our own creative dinner, which was quite good, if you know what quinoa is, and like it. Surprise, surprise: I ate it, along with some chicken and a make-believe salad. 

So, after a hard day of work yesterday in the warehouse and on site, we were back on our bikes again today for a 73-mile ride to Weatherford, OK, along some back roads, as well as on old historic Route 66. I was riding a strong first 40 miles, averaging 13.9 MPH, and really enjoyed riding again. I slowed down the last 30 miles to about 12.8 MPH, and started to have saddle problems again. I was able to tolerate the saddle, but it’s hard to ride strong with a sore bottom. 

However, today was by far my best ride of this adventure. I was riding with Kristi primarily, as well as with Nicole. They are both just a delight to be traveling and riding with. Kristi and I were teasing each other a lot, especially when we started going up and down a number of hills. The hills were not long, but were decent 6% grades. Kristi was not feeling too well (claimed she ate too much candy the night before) so I was able to pass her going uphill, but she would come storming downhill, passing me up. I would catch her going up again, and on and on it went. As I passed her going up, I would gently encourage her with comments like, "Attack, old lady," and she would be hollering (and growling) at me as she stormed down. For my ‘encouragement’ I even earned an obscene gesture from this fine, upstanding, pleasant young woman (the highlight of my day of fun). Kristi is a stronger rider than I, so she was being a bit kind to me riding today. Nicole, on the other hand, is one of the riders I can still keep up with when I’m able to ride. She’s also a little more reserved, but is a delight to be with, and of course I tease her as much as possible. 

We had so much fun on the ride I just had to treat them both to chocolate malts. We found malts made the way they used to be made when we stopped at Lucille's Roadhouse about 3 miles from the end of the ride. I gave a generous rating of 9.5 to my chocolate malt, influenced by the atmosphere of Rt 66.

Had a second chocolate malt at a chain called Braum's. They have a big ice cream cone as a sign on their building. That malt earned a good solid 9.0 rating.

And so to bed, at almost 10pm. We’ll enjoy a late 6:30 breakfast tomorrow, as we have a short 57-mile ride to Elk City.

Peace ...

Saturday, June 29, 2013

“Circle-Up” this morning

Instead of a ‘blog’ today, I’ll share my devotion given to the riders this morning … 

I’m not good at finding scripture to support what I believe, but love is the primary theme in the New Testament and therein lies my beliefs in all social situations. As you have heard me say, these FCBA bike trips have renewed my spiritual well being and my faith in my Lord and Savior.

You riders all inspire me. You are becoming real life heroes to me, doing what you are doing. I’m sure you still don’t realize the full impact this trip will have on your life, and on the other people's lives that you will touch along the way. That is what has brought me back to this ride. It has become a passion that I believe in, as the money we raise is put to good use, making a difference in hundreds of people's lives. It’s a great thing. Don't forget the impact we have on the congregations, and others we meet as we spread the word of our mission.

I have been down emotionally about this trip since day two and the ER trip and even before that, because of the trouble with getting my meds adjusted. And, of course, not being able to get in proper shape for this ride. I’m not sure that the meds are in the right balance yet, but my doc and I are working it out. I’m struggling mightily on this bike trip. I’m not used to being in the van, and it depresses me. If I had signed up as the van driver I would be just fine, but I signed on to bike, not ride in the van. So I struggle mentally with the road and my bike. I’ve lost my mental edge, and am having trouble finding it again. This is a new struggle for me. 

Some of you may be struggling also. I’ve never been a fast rider, but for the last two years I’ve always ridden, except for three partial days. Mostly I’ve ridden near the rear, but always finished. Three weeks into this trip, and I have finished maybe twice. 

In about a week I’ll be leaving for a fishing trip with my brother, his daughter and son, rejoining you in Craig, CO, missing about 10 days of our time together. You will continue to be in my prayers as you learn more about yourselves than you ever expected. 

Of course, whether I ride in the van or not really doesn't matter, except to me. We are a team, and I’m still helping those in need of housing. So that means it’s just a matter of my pride being hurt. You can supply the proper scripture here for me.

Starting as a lark in 2011, my FCBA orange fingernails (thanks to Hailey) have become a way for me to tease, but also to talk about FCBA, and I continue to have fun with it. Thanks to those of you brave enough to join me this year--a first for other guys to paint their nails.

I also greatly enjoy teasing about my pink bike. As a guy I’m ‘secure enough in my masculinity’ to ride pink. I ride pink for FCBA to help raise money. But the primary reason for the pink bike and my sister’s name, Pat, on the front fork, is in support of cancer. Pat died of cancer almost 19 years ago, at only 54 years old.

Peace … 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Hot!!! ...

93 miles today from Idabel, OK to Atoka, OK. A pleasant morning riding. At 12:15 my bike computer showed the temperature as 95°F. One hour later it was up to 105°F. Humidity still must be in the 90's. I’ve decided that at 71 years old, I really don’t need to be on the road biking with temperatures over 100°F. That’s my new policy, and I’m sticking to it.

A first yesterday! I have spoken with numerous newspaper reporters the past three years with FCBA, I’ve been on two studio TV shows, and I’ve been interviewed by television reporters numerous times. Some time during an interview, or after an interview, I always ask the interviewer for a donation to Fuller, saying something like, "I’m still short of my goal” or “another rider is still short of their goal". Well, yesterday a newspaper reporter finally gave a donation. He was holding his camera with one hand, searching thru his pockets with the other hand, changing hands with the camera, but only finding pieces of paper in those pockets. He went back to the other hand again, and as he pulled out more paper, a dollar bill fell on the floor. “Ok,” he says, “looks like that’s all I have,” and he picked it up and gave it to me. I hated to take his last dollar, but I was not about to give it back. Nice guy!

Yesterday evening at the grocery store we met the sports reporter for the same newspaper. While he was asking questions about the ride of ‘Just Kurt’ and me, Kurt noticed a woman half listening to the conversation. She later drove up to our van out in the parking lot, got out with her check book, and asked if it was all right to give us a donation, and if so, how to make out the check. She wrote a check for $100 and told us we still had time to cash it at the bank down the street. We told her that would not be necessary, as we would send it to headquarters to be deposited. Nice lady!

This morning I was riding alone on the backroads, when I noticed a truck coming toward me, going rather slow. The truck passed me, and I kept an eye on it behind me, as the driver turned around and drove back toward me. After the “speech” the other day from the guy who stopped at our rest stop, to “warn” us about the rednecks in these parts, I was starting to get a little nervous. There’s nobody else around! The driver caught up to me, driving slowly. The passenger window was down, and the driver looked over at me as he drove alongside, asking me how far we were going. I gave him a quick response about our charity ride ending in Vancouver, BC. He then asked how far we were going today, so I looked at my route sheet, and told him to Atoka, OK. I think he asked me to stop for a minute, but I wasn’t about to do that, although I didn’t feel nervous anymore. He slowed down, creaking along, while I pedaled on. I decided to pull over into the oncoming side of the road, and he slowly caught up to me. I got a business card out, held it out for him to grab, and saw him open his wallet. He handed a $20 bill out the window to me. I think this is a Fuller Center first, to get a donation on the fly. He wished me good luck, I thanked him, and we went on our way. Another nice guy!

The best thing one can bring to this adventure is a strong mental attitude, keep it, and strengthen it as the ride progresses. Because of various factors (some beyond my control, i.e., medications). I arrived in Savannah unprepared both mentally and physically for this bike adventure. If the mental attitude is strong, the physical will take care of itself; if the physical is strong, the mental will not necessarily take care of itself, I’ve determined. I’ve ridden these miles before, I’ve ridden these miles in this kind of heat and humidity before. I separated my shoulder on the way to the 2011 ride, but I was still sharp mentally. My mental attitude was fairly good last year, though I lost it for a day or two on the West Coast ride. This year my trip to the ER on our first practice ride dropped my mental attitude way down, and I’m still struggling to get it back, but it’s a tough road (pun intended). So I will continue to ride, but only as far as my mental edge will carry me.

Peace ,,,

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Hot! and down to only 90% humidity ...

Our time in Shreveport was very informative. They are doing an awesome job of building, rehabbing, and using the Greater Blessings program.  Shreveport was the first place Millard went to after Habitat, and was persuaded to start building again because of the need after Katrina. Interesting history was shared with us there. And, we had 3 nights in a barracks type setting, with bunk beds, mattresses, sheets, and sleeping on the floor! And, I managed to get a lower bunk.

We had an 86-mile day today, and I had a good day of riding. I rode with Melissa, Brett, Doug, and Kristi for most of the first two 20-mile segments, then Kristi and I rode together for most of the third 20-mile segment, although she had pulled away from me near the third stop. We took off for the last 25 mile segment and promptly missed a turn. Two and a half miles later we realized our mistake and turned back to get on the correct route. Before we got back to the missed turn, the van came by, having missed the same turn! After letting them know to turn back also, we got back on track, now having gone 5 miles out of our way. 

Most of the afternoon, temperatures of over 100°F registered on my bike, but the humidity was probably all the way down to only about 90%. Not as bad as it has been, at any rate. I had forgotten one of my water bottles at the last stop, so had to stop to buy a bottle of water to put on my bike. About 7 or 8 miles from the church I was starting to feel bad, so we stopped in some shade for a few minutes, and then took off again. I made another few miles, but realized I was going to be in trouble because of the heat if I didn’t stop. Kristi stopped with me at a convenience store, where I bought a cold Gatorade and stayed in the air conditioning, hoping I could recover enough to finish the ride. Finally I realized I needed to stop before I was in real trouble (didn’t want another trip to the ER). So, I called the van to come get me, and as it turns out, we were still 5 miles from the church--the same distance Kristi and I covered when we missed our turn. Had I not missed the turn, I would have made the church. Bummer! Kristi couldn’t be persuaded to leave me and finish the ride while I waited for the van, and as we were waiting, the sweeps caught up to us, so we all waited for the van together. 

I averaged 16.1MPH for the first 20 miles, 15.2MPH for the next 47 miles, 12.6MPH for the final 19 miles, for an overall average of 14.7MPH for the total 86-mile distance. The good news is my saddle was treating me much better, and we have a shorter day tomorrow, so I’m looking forward to a great ride!

Tonight Brett and I gave the presentation for the congregation since Melissa had to leave for a while. Brett played the DVD introduction and talked about what the Fuller Center is and what it does. I gave an overview of how the bike ride functions, and about my experiences since joining the Fuller Center Bike Adventure. We also called on a couple other riders to share their experiences riding. Several thoughtful questions were asked after the presentation, so all-in-all, a good evening.

Peace ...

Friday, June 21, 2013

In the van again ...

A good morning today, riding with 6 other riders. Yesterday I rode with another group of riders, which accounts for my faster times. We tried to run a pace line, but the roads were so bad that we had riders trying to find their own smoother ride. Bikes were weaving all over trying to find the smallest pot holes, and the roads were much the same today.

So, I managed to hang on for the first 20 miles, but decided to take the rest of today, as well as tomorrow, in the van. Then we have a day off, followed by a build day, giving my rear end three days to heal and get me back on the bike for good.

At the first stop, a guy in a pickup pulled next to the trailer, rolled down his window, and caught my eye, so I walked over and greeted him. He said that we need to be careful out on these roads: “Do you know where you are? In case you don't know it, you’re in Louisiana redneck country! We’re in the grain transportation season, and these rednecks only drive their trucks once a year. And, mostly using grandpa’s truck that hasn't seen maintenance for years.” “You guys must be crazy,” was said a number of times. “Ya’ll need to be careful,” was said a number of times! “Do you know anything about redneck behavior?” was said a couple of times. So, I thanked him and off he drove.

On the ride a few days ago a pickup came toward me, with the passenger in shotgun position (appropriate, considering). He had climbed through the window, sitting with his entire body facing across the highway toward me, and when they got close to me, he started “shooting” me with an imaginary machine gun, hollering “da da da da da, got cha!” Glad it was all pretend!

We had a 92 mile day today, with 100°F temperatures. Everybody made the ride except Melissa and me. What a group of troopers! They were sucking up the water and electrolytes and sweating it out faster than they could get it in. An enormous effort from all, and most had never even considered doing something like this. Makes a difference when riding with the enormous purpose of helping people have a safe and affordable place to live.

Our route took us over a river, but the bridge on our route was closed, so we had to route around to find another bridge. In the process, a few of our riders ended up crossing via the Interstate. ChaCha rode it by herself, and said she had never been so scared. But, she did it, and if it should happen again, she will be much more prepared, since she’s now “Interstate biking experienced.”

Funny, supporting the riders from the van feels useful, but not the same as biking. It would seem better had I signed on to drive or support, but I signed on to bike. I don’t really feel as much a part of the team as I would if I were able to bike like I should. Seems like I’m letting the team down; not reality, but what I’m feeling.

Sonic chocolate malt yesterday: 4.5 

Temple Baptist Church had a carnival tonight and we were invited to join them for hot dogs, corn dogs, nachos, snow cones, cotton candy, etc. There was a station for each, where you just stepped up to get what you wanted. Hailey had done my nails (orange with FCBA and the bikes) again this year, and as I stepped up and held my plate out for a corn dog, the older (older than me even) lady serving caught sight of my nails and asked, “What's that on your nails?” So I started to tell her what FCBA 2013 means, and she interrupted me, as she kind of gently slapped at my hands, and said, as she looked me in the eyes, “You know, we used to call that behavior sissy!” Then I finished telling her what the letters stand for, showed her the bicycles drawn on the thumbs, and I looked her right in the eyes, and said, “Yeah, and I am man enough to wear them.” She looked right back at me, “Good for you!“ 

When we finished eating we were back with three of the leaders of the church, explaining how a covenant partnership works. Questions and answers began to wind down, so of course I found the opportunity to share this story with these men, and they asked me who the lady was. I told them it wouldn’t be appropriate to divulge the person’s identity, but two of them, laughing, immediately said that it must be Mabel at the corn dog station. Did not get a donation, but it made my day! 

Peace ...

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Back in the saddle again ...

Ouch!! Well, riding was actually not too bad today until the last 20 miles. We had to stop and group up to cross the Mississippi River because we needed special permission and all had to sign waivers before crossing. The bridge was opened just for us, and we had an escort to cross with us. The bridge is 1.5 miles long, and a much better ride for us than crossing using the Interstate. 

I was running strong up to this point, averaging 15.8 MPH for the first 42 miles, then down to 12.9 for the second 39 miles. Unfortunately it was a long wait for all of us to reach the bridge, at about mile 60, and after the long wait, when I got back on my bike, ohhh, my butt was sore and sweaty, and my knee was aching! After a few miles trying to ride my knee back to functioning, I gave up, stopped, called the van, telling them to wait for me because I needed a ride if I couldn’t ride out the pain in my knee. After talking to the folks in the van, I started riding again, and the knee felt better immediately! Not near 100%, but I could push down on the pedal again. So now I felt like my knee would hold, but my butt was screaming at me. After catching the van I applied a generous amount of cream, and off I went, with the pain at least tolerable. I had a good finish the rest of the way, with the sweeps pulling me.

We ended up riding about 4 miles on the Natchez Trace, without 35°F temps or rain. Much more pleasant ride this time than back in March when we rode 400 miles on this beautiful route in deplorable conditions.

Last night the church members were very, very receptive to us. They provided a wonderful dinner, as well as a full breakfast of eggs, bacon, sausage, grits, big fruit dish--just your typical Southern breakfast!

Tonight we are in a community center, making dinner for ourselves, and we will prepare breakfast also. We are so grateful for a dry and safe place to crash, much more than some of the people we are helping have.

Doctored my butt, hopefully enough to make another 80 miles tomorrow. And, while waiting at the bridge I adjusted my saddle slightly; hopefully this will help on tomorrow’s ride.

Peace …

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Van Driver ...

Never before have I missed a day of riding because of saddle sores, but today was the first. I hurt so bad yesterday that I didn’t want to risk an infection by riding again today. So, I rode in the van, drove the van, and helped support the riders. 

However, I made a bad decision! Actually, made two mistakes today. First, I left the sign that we use to help mark the van stops at the first van stop. Second was the worst mistake, made after the second stop, by going back to the first stop to retrieve the sign. That left the riders without timely support, and we were unable to recover in time to provide the third stop for any of the riders. Baaaad mistake, and I should know better!

The route today was about 81 miles, not a bad ride. We were on Rt 80 all day, a bit narrow, especially on the bridges. Some of the riders did get hit with a good rain shower, but not too bad, and within 5 miles of the church.

The congregation has been very welcoming, and some members took us to their homes for showers, which is always a nice diversion. They are providing dinner tonight and breakfast tomorrow, and allowing us to do a presentation on the Fuller Center.

Let’s hope for healed saddle sores in the morning!

Peace …

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Saddle sores ...

After riding all 7,400 miles last year without any butt problems, I’ve been bothered with saddle sores on and off all year. The first 20 miles today went well; I was moving OK, but my saddle was starting to bother me again. With days off after the ER event, I thought I would not be in too bad a shape, but after the rest stop at mile 22, getting back on the bike was torture. 

So, of course then everything started to bother me. The hills, (short and only 4%-5.5%) seemed like twice the % and 10 times longer. I know for sure I never had any down hill runs at all. :-). I know for sure I have climbed all of these hills and hit all 2 million bumps on this road before (just because I’ve never been on this road before is immaterial)! They all feel and look like those I’ve actually seen and hit in the last two years. 

For the life of me I could not conjure up why I was out here today. Yesterday I rode 86 miles at an average speed of 14 MPH; today I rode 55 miles at an average speed of 11.8 MPH, under similar conditions as yesterday. And, going through my mind for 33 miles today was questioning what I was doing out here. Of course I had to fit that in with the stupid "skunk song" that kept playing in my mind most of the day! I will acknowledge I’m inspired by my fellow riders, the church members who cater to us, and the blessing of helping people in need of safe housing. But, this is my third year, and I’m thinking maybe I should have taken a year off, doing just the spring ride with family. Or, maybe driven the van this year. Ah, questions.

We rode through rain for most of the first 22 miles. It took a few miles to get to us, but then hung around in various degrees of strength until almost the first stop. I had almost dried out by the time we reached the church. Showers were available at the church again, a luxury to not have to transport to get our showers.

So far, not even a good or bad chocolate malt to rate, and after two yesterday, I have no plans of going out for one tonight. :-(

All in all, a tough and depressing day for me. Thank goodness this kind of day has been few and far between on these rides. I’ll probably rest my rear tomorrow.

Peace, geezerman

Monday, June 17, 2013

Some excitement ...

We hit a strong thunderstorm at the end of the ride today (or, it hit us). High winds, blowing rain, some hail, and lots of lightning. The faster riders made it to a Subway just in time to miss getting soaked like the rest of us. One civilian stopped and picked up four bikes and three riders in his truck, which allowed room in the van for the other riders. First group loaded, up the road, stop for the next group, jump out, open the trailer, load bikes, in the van, on to the next group. Bikes stacked on top of bikes, hot riders steaming up the van windows. Three others had found shelter so we could make a trip back to get them, since we were out of room in the van and the trailer. All great stuff since everybody made it to the church safely and on time.

Because I had been pacing myself nicely to make the whole 101 miles today, I was disappointed having to make the pick up, but, it just wasn’t safe in that weather. I did make it to about mile 88 when the storm hit.

We have a tough 6 days of riding this week. Today, 101 miles, then 60, 80, 80, 80, and another 80 before we have a day off.

Blogging really has been hold---my iPhone crashed, and I drove to Birmingham, 90 miles, to the Apple store to beg for a slot to have them check and fix it. Finally got a manager involved, and my phone was replaced quickly. My hearing is so bad that using another phone that does not Bluetooth to my hearing aids makes using it almost impossible. So without my phone, I’m not in communication, and get very frustrated. Who'd a thunk it?

So, a little catch up: Our first training ride was from Tybee Island to Savannah, a ride of about 18 miles. Having trained in about 9% humidity in Colorado, I now was biking in Georgia in about 90% humidity, with high temperatures. I thought I was riding within my limits, but kept wondering why my heart rate was registering so high, when I wasn’t riding that hard. Turns out, after downloading my bike computer, that with the head wind, temperature, and humidity, I was riding much too fast. Net result was I ended up with extreme shoulder pain, weak pulse, and blurred vision (good thing we had an MD riding sweep). EMS was called and I ended up in the ER. After an EKG in the ambulance, and another one in the ER, fluids via IV, chest x-ray, cat scan of my head, some other tests I don't remember, nothing was found wrong (really good thing). My good friends Krystal and Michael beat me to the hospital, and stayed with me the entire time. The ER doc told me he didn’t know what caused the symptoms, but I should take it easy for a few days, then gradually start riding again. I asked the doc if I could get a second opinion of the rest days, and Michael said, “sure, you are a jerk”. What are friends for, if they don’t make fun of you?!  What happened?: I pushed too hard for conditions, dehydrated myself, and caused symptoms that could have been heart related.

Following many conversations with our bike adventurer Dr Scott, and emails with my MD in Colorado, I changed meds to help get me back to riding like I want to be able to ride. So my two days off were spent driving the van (which worked out well because our van driver was late getting to the ride); one day riding only 40 miles, because it was cool, and gradually working up to today, where I could have made 101 miles if not for the storm. I was surprised that I enjoyed driving the van and supporting the ride for two days. It was a challenge and I seemed to be up to it (glad I didn’t have to back the van up though). 

It’s been good speaking at the churches, at Melissa’s request, and I’m happy to share the Fuller story since I’ve been doing it a while now. We had quite a few others who spoke in Montgomery. It’s a good mission to share!

First week is over, and we are now down to 19 riders, and two support folks, with16 riders going the entire distance.

We’ve had numerous injuries on this trip already. My visit to the ER; Caleb, our 15 year old rider, went to ER (he dehydrated much worse than I did; van driver, Nadine, fell off a wall, badly scraping the back of her thigh; Doc fell thru the roof of a repair project house, scraping his shin; and Louis crashed, hit his head, and also ended up in the ER. All are doing fine, but this hadn’t been the best start of the first week to a long ride.

My malt ratings: A very good malt at a place a couple miles from the Montgomery church the other day gets a solid 9. And, not a bad shake at Jack’s after the ride tonight, but only an 8 because it was not a malt (they used Blue Bell ice cream, so it had to be good!).

Peace and love,

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Trouble ...

No time for blogging lately. I ended up in ER first day riding, but all is well again. Nothing serious. Still working on meds adjustments. Still working on stupidity.

Yesterday I rode about 65 miles, and got in the van the last 20 miles.

A fabulous build day today.

Lots of great people to be riding with, great meals, and congregations that have helped us.

I'll catch up with details as soon as I can. Internet has been sketchy, and time has been short.

100 miles and 100 F tomorrow; leaving church about 6am.


Friday, May 31, 2013

Ready or not, here comes the geezerman again!

My bike shipped out to Savannah two days ago, I fly out next Thursday, and report on Friday for the start of my third FCBA June 8. I’ll be 71 at the start of this trip. My weight has not come down from my winter gain like I was hoping --- I’ve had some trouble training hard, and I acknowledge that I’m still eating too much junk food.

Riding the Trace in early March, 400 miles in a week, was really tough for me. I had not trained enough, the weather was very cold, and we had rain, rain, and more rain. I had 7,402 biking miles last year and wondered if that alone took its toll on this geezer body. But, I kept thinking I should be riding better than I was. 

A few weeks ago I was still not riding well, but nothing seemed especially wrong as I started climbing. One climb I have done in the past was only about 2 miles, but had up to an 11% grade. I had to stop to catch my breath, not just once, but 5 or 6 times. After descending this climb, we then proceeded to ride up another 6 miles, but only at 4% to 6% grades. I was able to ride this climb without too much trouble, but still not like I had done in the past.

Then a week later we set off to climb Flagstaff, about a 5 mile climb, with grades running 4% to 11%. Again, I could not maintain the climb, stopping every quarter mile or so, trying to catch my breath. I wasn’t tired, but just couldn’t catch my breath. I’ve never before been dropped riding with my geezer buddies, but this time I was about a half hour behind them reaching the top, and I missed them going back down. Now, I don't mind being dropped, but not on a ride that I have done before, and don't ever remember losing sight of everybody. So I rode back home by myself, thinking about possibilities. 

After getting results from a physical in January (to make sure I was OK for this summer) including an echocardiogram, stress test, then a nuclear stress test, the doctor thought I should be on a heart medication, which I started in early February. So, after the difficult times riding I decided to see a new doctor, explained what was happening, and asked him about the new medicine I had started taking. He examined all my test results, told me diplomatically this was good medicine, but it was not letting me get enough oxygen when exercising. So, he switched medicines, and today I was able to ride some 4% to 11% grades, into head winds of up to about 35 MPH, without having to stop once. Still not riding as strong as I should, but finally starting to feel good about my climbing. My average non climbing speeds have increased also. 

So, now it’s time to start packing. Yeehaw, I’m coming to you Vancouver, BC, ready or not!


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

7 weeks to train ...

Only 7 weeks left to train, and we have more snow today, on top of about a foot the last couple of days. I need to be training, but not in this mess.

Ok, I need a couple of my 5 readers to donate, and get their friends to donate, to help me ride to help families in need. The summer ride from Savannah, GA to Vancouver, BC, starts in 7 weeks. This is a nine-week ride, covering about 3,700 miles, and I still need about $2,400 to reach my riding goal. My donation button is on the right side of this blog, and remember, any amount from $5 to $5,000 is greatly appreciated. Well, $5,000 would be a little more appreciated than $5, but since all donations go to help families in need of a hand up, any amount is welcome.

This summer I will not be riding the entire distance because I will be leaving the trip July 6 and returning July 15. I will be joining brother John, his daughter Hillary, and his son Brad, to fish in Alaska. I am disappointed that I will be skipping out on my Fuller Center family, but I am looking forward to some quality time with Weber family.

As I have blogged, the spring ride was fantastic. Cold and wet, but fantastic. Here are some pictures from that ride.

Me, Harper, and Matthew talking to a reporter along
the way

                                         Everybody at the start of the ride (I think we had 33
                                         people participating)

See, I can still do some actual work

A nice paceline, working together

         Matthew teaching Harper

Harper "mudding"

About to head down the Trace

Me, Harper, and Matthew (it didn't take Harper
long to learn how to raise her bike for the pictures)

Matthew teaching Harper how to use a chisel

Our oldest rider, John, at age 85, lead our police escort

Our police escort that got us from the Trace to the
church in Jackson, MS


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Final day riding ...

Saturday:  We went to bed last night expecting to wake up to another day of rain, but were pleasantly surprised to find no rain. I was determined to start with the lead riders, and try to stay ahead of anybody I could. Once on the Trace we soon were riding in a group of about 20 riders; such fun to ride in a group that large. The weather actually was overcast, and looked like rain, but since we were all in rain gear, nobody was concerned. The group broke up when Kurt stopped to walk over to a fenced pasture to pet a couple donkeys that were looking at us, and most riders stopped to watch. I stayed with a small group who just kept riding. As it turned out, the rain never came, and we were dry all day. Eventually the sun even showed itself. 

After the first rest stop, I connected with Matthew and Harper, and we rode together in a paceline that included Bud, who is 75 years old. After the second rest stop, Harper decided to ride in the van to the last rest stop, and Matthew got to ride with the lead riders and hammer it for the remaining 20 miles. 

The last stop was at a visitors center where we planned to gather and ride to the church together in Madison, just outside of Jackson. A police escort was arranged to take us the last 5 miles to the church. Riding together in a group of 30 riders behind a police car with its lights flashing, with two additional police cars alternating ahead to block all the intersections for us, was a great finish to this ride. We were almost a half-block long, occupying a full lane of traffic on a busy street. Our oldest rider, Jack, who is 85, led the group, with his American flag on his bike. Halfway to the church, Jack’s bike threw a chain, and he had to pull over. Nearly before he got off his bike, another rider had pulled next to him and put the chain back on. The group had stopped (which forced the police car to stop) and waited until Jack got back to the front --- a nice touch which showed what kind of people we ride with. 

The riders were another great group of people to be riding with and getting to know, at least a little. We very quickly came together as a well-functioning, coordinated unit. We all had our assigned work group leaders for preparing meals, packing the trailer, cleaning the churches, etc. Someone told me the average age of this group was 51 (the oldest, 85, and the youngest, 14) which I find interesting for a spring ride, organized to allowed those still in school to participate in the ride. On a side note, a rider younger than 18 needs an adult sponsor to be riding with, and of course Harper had Matthew (her dad) and me (Gramps) to keep an eye on her. 

This ride was particularly difficult for me, mostly because I didn’t prepare with enough saddle time before the ride, so was not in good enough shape to enjoy the actual ride itself. And, of course, not enough miles in before, means a sore butt on the ride! Plus, the weather conditions, not being ideal, took take a big toll on the body. Once I start training for the summer ride I‘ll see how my body reacts.

Sunday:  We rented three minivans to get everybody back to Nashville this morning. Each minivan has a driver, three passengers, four bikes, and some luggage. The Fuller van has a driver, nine passengers, the remaining bikes, the remaining luggage, and all the coolers and supplies. So off we go, in a vehicle paceline back to Nashville. Some were taken to the airport to fly home, some were picked up in Madison, and one was even biking home. Oh, yeah, it’s raining again as we drive back to Nashville.

In spite of my struggling with the biking, the trip was a total delight. Having Matthew and especially Harper along was great. Getting to interact with Harper, watching her interact with the other riders, working the build day with her, and especially getting to share my supply of cookies with her -- ah, life is good. One highlight stands out above the others: when the three of us rode past as our photographer was taking our pictures, Harper said, "I hope I didn't have any snot dripping out my nose." 

I’ll try to post a link to the Fuller site with pictures, as soon as I get home. And, I’ll post a few here when I get home...hmm, maybe a blog of pictures?

Peace ...