Day 44

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A small price to pay.

I talked about feeling anxious yesterday. This may have been for a couple of reasons. One, the fact that I’m getting so close I’m afraid of something going wrong, or two, the fact that my breakfast was turning into food poisoning. I woke up at approx 3 am feeling nauseous. Thinking I might be dehydrated, I walked down stairs to get a glass of water, and a Tums. I drank the water and began to feel a little better so I started chewing the Tums. About half way into my Tums, it hit me, and I sprinted toward the toilet. I projectile vomited with the majority hitting dead center; however I was too far away so the over spray coated the toilet and back wall. Nothing like cleaning toilets at 4 am.
The boys at Altoona were really fun, I enjoyed my stay with them. I learned what a whacker is. You’ll have to figure that one out yourself.
I stopped to pee in a field along the way. I walked out by a corn field. There was some kind of sticker bush brushing along the back of my jersey. I was wearing my bib style shorts. That means that if I need to go number 2, I need to take my jersey off. As I pulled my jersey off the stickers lodged themselves all over the upper portion of the bib. I did not notice until I was down the road, scratching like a dog. I also had huge sticker balls on my rear, and little stickers in my shins.
It rained most of the day. It was not too bad, until the water soaked through my jacket. Then it got cold. There is nothing like riding a coat hanger through a lighting storm. I took my iPod off to keep it dry until I got cold, then I figured as long as it lasts the rest of today. Cold and hungry, I stopped to eat in a little dinner named Chilly Willy’s, the owners put my meal on the house. I never really warmed up. Along the way I came across a bike shop going out of business. I bought a real waterproof jacket for $12.95, score. Finally I started to warm up.
For the first time I am starting to see the finish line. I am still remaining very focused on the finish. It looks like rain for the rest of the trip. I plan on riding 100 miles a day until I finish. I am planning my day with 100 mile goal and a 50 mile backup plan. My finish date will be dictated be the weather. The weather out here is no joke, it says when you ride, not you. It’s not always just rain, sometimes its a downpour with heavy wind and hail.
Now the chess game begins. When and where to move will be the question.
Today I thought about the men that responded to Ground Zero. As I was riding in the wet and cold, I thought about them. These men could not quit, could not just jump in a car and go home. They did what most are unwilling to do anymore, they did not quit when it got tough. This is what our fire service is and must remain. We don’t get into cars when we get tired, we don’t stop when it gets to hot, we Do Not Quit. 343 men did not quit and they died. They died because they did not quit. How far are you willing to go for your job? Are you willing to die for it. If you are a fireman, you better be. Those men set the bar for us. Are we that dedicated?
While I’m on my soap box, 9-11 was a terrible tragedy and it is my opinion that NO ONE should benefit from that tragedy. It is one thing for the victims families to be reimbursed for their loses, it is another for other groups to use this event to raise money for their cause. Honor the men that gave their lives, don’t exploit them.
Never Forget.

Day 43

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Over Hilly Philly

I woke up this morning minutes before my alarm went off at 5:45. I was in a hurry to get going. The Weather Channel is calling for rain. I walk next door for breakfast but they don’t open until 8am. That’s too late, I need to get going. I get dressed in my riding clothes that I had washed the night before in the sink. They were hung drying in front of the a/c unit hanging on the lamp and chair. I am getting close to my goal and I am filled with anxiety. I am so close but that’s when people get carless. I must remain focused. The hardest part of any journey for me is always the last few miles. I listened to “The Ledge,” a book about 2 guys that climb Mt Rainier and fall into a crevasse on their descent. It’s the short days I worry about, the ones that should be a breeze but turn into challenges.
I have been at this for 43 days now and I’m ready to go home. I can’t wait to see my wife and sleep in my own bed. I am not loosing any hope of finishing, I am just remaining cautious. It takes very little to put an end to your trip out here. My friend and co worker’s motorcycle trip from Los Angeles to New York ended the other day due to mechanical failure. A sobering reminder that this trip is not over yet.
My buddy Andre called m at 0630 this morning, he was already up and running around in New York. I asked him to call Altoona Fire for me and see if I could stay with them. Andre set everything up with them and texted me the address. These guys have really been fun. They have already fed me twice and given me a tour of the city. These guys are the Firemen I’m used to, I feel at home here. It’s nice to feel at home when you are so far away from your own.
Weather report is looking gloomy. 70 percent chance of rain tomorrow. The guys said I can stay another day if I need to. I really want to get in 100 miles tomorrow if I can. The weather will be the judge of that.

Day 42

Silly Hilly

Pittsburgh is a neat city with the big river and steel bridges. I found a great bike path with the help of REI. I rode down the river in awe of the skyline. Working through the city became a little challenging with the winding, hilly roads. Tired of traversing cities, I decided to head east. With a little help from Nicole at base camp I was able to work my way through the humid, hot, hilly suburbs to the east side of Pittsburgh. Rolling into town late, I decided to get a hotel rather than inconvenience the local volunteer fire dept.

Eastbound and down!

Day 41

Google Gone Goofy

Never, never, never. Remember! Never use Google to guide you on a bike! Why do I keep forgetting this? I am seeing some really nice country; however, when you are trying to meet people and the sun is going down, a Google sight-seeing tour is the last thing you want to do. After winding up in BFE in the dark with no sign of a place to stay, I decided to eat. Hungry, I walk into a diner and order pot roast and fries. It shows up in a sandwich, which I can’t eat because I am allergic to wheat. F (orget) my life. If I was a girl, I would have cried. Maybe I was crying I was just too dehydrated to tell. So I rode another 4 miles until I found a hotel. Close one, I almost had to sleep in the hammock.

Day 40

Today was all about finishing my tour of the city. I hung out at the hotel until noon and then went to lunch. My new friend Charles picked me up and showed me around. He offered to let me stay at his house that evening. We drove around with the bike in his car. About 6:30 pm he dropped me off so I could ride to his house from Akron to Louisville about 30 miles. I left my bags in his car including my sunglass. I did not think I would need my sunglass because it would be dark soon…..fail. Once the sun goes down out here the bugs come out. I only ate 1 bug before I figured out you can breathe through a mustache to filter out bugs. The only problem with riding in the dark is that you can not see everything, like HOLES. When my rear tire hit a hole, it exploded all three of my rear red lights and blew my rear tire. 1 hole, free, 3 lights $45, 1 tube $8, riding your bike into a hole in the dark down an unknown highway somewhere across the country….priceless.

Day 39

Akron

Akron is a really neat town, and where I am staying is even better. My hotel is on the main drag so there is plenty of food places open late. I started my day by sleeping in until 9am. I had coffee and started out on the 5k breakfast walk. I went to Wally’s Waffles. I told the waitress, “I’ll have four eggs, two hamburger patties, hashbrowns, and coffee. After breakfast, I walked around town a bit. I’m wearing my IAFF local shirt, so a lot of people ask, “Are you from LA?” I usually tell them what I’m doing. So this man, Charles, hears about my journey and tells me that he gives tours of the area and offers to show me around. Turns out Akron has quite a history. One place in particular is the Seiberling mansion. They are the family that founded the Seiberling Rubber Company which became The Goodyear Tire Company. Akron was the center of the rubber industry. The booming town used to rent beds for 8 hours at a time. The town was growing so fast that there was not enough room for everyone. Steel belted radial tires would be the down turn of the large rubber company.
Thanks Charles

Day 38

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Pride

I am always a little hesitant to ask for help and I never want to put people out. Sometimes I think my own pride prevents others the opportunity to be of service. I love helping people, it makes me feel good. I almost feel offended when someone won’t let me help them. Yet when someone wants to help me I decline. I am learning out here that it is ok to let people help you, and, like myself, they seem to enjoy helping. This is not to say that you should allow people to carry you, but I am finding it is ok to lean on people from time to time.
This was true in Oregon, OH. I felt funny asking the guys at Oregon Fire to let me stay with them last minute. As it turned out they were wonderful. They have two paramedics on staff for 24 hours and the firemen are volunteer. They went to the hospital to get me bedding, and cooked me dinner. They were very friendly and I enjoyed talking with them very much. They made rolls in the morning and the Chief brought us Starbucks. I felt like they enjoyed the visit as much as I did. As I peddled away I thought, “I’m glad my pride did not let me miss that experience.”
My eating habits are starting to get a little funky. I was not super hungry last night and I will pay for not eating later. The ride to Akron was a little slow. I stopped to eat several times, trying to make up for not eating the night before. It was a very beautiful ride, the weather was perfect and I enjoyed just riding with no time limits.  The real ride would not start until the 100 mile mark.
As I started into the traffic circle, I started to feel a little weak and I was really tired. I figured I still had about 30 miles to ride. “Man, I’m hurting and I still have to ride 30 more miles,” I said to myself.  I better stop and eat, that will also allow me a chance to rest a bit. As I walked in, a fellow said, “That was you getting chased by that dog wasn’t it!” “That was me,” I said. Being chased by dogs is becoming an almost daily occurrence. Most of them never leave their yards, and most are just showing off. Look at me, how fast I can run, look at me, I don’t even need a bike, they seem to be saying. Cows and horses are different, they just look at you as if to say, “What the heck are you doing?” as they watch you roll by. The same look my friends give me sometimes. I could tell this dog was no threat, he still had his leash attached to his collar. “Mister, wait for me! I’m off my leash and I’m coming with you!” He was smiling the whole way. Most dogs turn around after a minute or two. Not this guy he was in for the long haul. I yelled out, “Follow someone else, I’m going to New York!” Just then a women in a car pulled along side of me, “Is that your dog?” I’m sure she figured that I lived locally, that I had just left my house, and the dog was following its owner. It felt like a funny question at the time. I was happy that she turned around and helped my new friend find his way home. At my rest stop, I asked the waitress to plug in my phone because I was low on power, both me and the phone. Of course, I forgot it and had to ride back and get it.
Ok here we go, you just ate, you rested, and now you have your phone. Now the ride begins. I have 30 miles to ride, half of that is 15, I can ride 15 miles. Fifteen is too much, I’m beat, ride 5, you can do 5 miles. Ok, you are at 2 miles, 3 miles to go until 5. You made it, 5 miles. Now you only have 10 of the 15 to go. What time will I make it to Akron? Let’s see I have to ride 25 miles. Twenty-five, you said 10! We just road 5, you said 10 more, not 25. Ok, ok, it does not matter what time I get there, focus on the miles. This went on mile after mile for 26 miles until I made it to Akron.
Nicole would call from time to time. “I’m hurting and I still have 30 miles to go!” I said. She would calmly say, “You’re a bad ass, babe, you got this. Its only 30 miles anyways, keep going.” If she could see me, she would not be that optimistic, I think. Then I remember that it was Nicole and she does see me, she really does know what I’m going through out here, she is my partner. We have struggled up snow fields in places like Mt Shasta, and Mt Rainier together. She might not be here, but she sees me. I am grateful to have found such a solid partner.
I pull into a coffee shop and call Nicole. “I need a hotel and I only have about 4 miles left in me,” I tell her. While I’m waiting for her to research hotels on the computer at home, I drink my coffee in the dark outside and fix my headlamp to my helmet. I ride another four miles to the Ramada Hotel in downtown Akron.

Thanks Babe