Tomorrow is promised to no one.
Sometime in early February between phone calls about job opportunities and what’s next for me, I began to think about my life, family, friends, and experiences. I have had a blessed life with loving parents, brother, wife and friends. I have seen more of the world than 95% of the global population. I have also had too many friends and colleagues who saved or delayed that special trip or experience thinking that tomorrow will be there only to be dealt a hand that was unforeseen. Right now, Laura and I have very close friends who are experiencing just such a situation. This couple, despite their challenges, continue to inspire us and others around them with optimism and the strength of their love for each other and family. It is with this backdrop that I kept coming back to my dream of wanting to cycle from the west coast to the east coast. This would be a trip to experience people and appreciate the beauty of our country! SO WHY NOT NOW!?!?!?!
I started Googling maps and bike routes from west to east. Should I go the southern route, shorter by 500 or so miles and I could get an earlier start like April? I selected the northern route because I wanted to avoid the spring storms, tornadoes, and eventual heat. I also love the mountains and snow-capped peaks! So with the help of the Adventure Cycling Association, I am cycling across Washington, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, down to Iowa and then across Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and eventually back to my hometown Baltimore. The trip is ending up close to 3,500 miles.
I downloaded the ACA app and started the detailed planning. The app supported my ability to determine miles per day I could cycle, elevation gains and losses, facilities, points of interest, and just what was possible. I most likely looked at the plan on my excel spreadsheet every day with Google Maps and Rand McNally. I was constantly tweaking it even up to this last weekend. Did I want to come off the trail and go a little south to see the Coulee Dam? That would have put me on a busier road however I decided to remain on the direct trail. I can always change my mind on Day 3.
As I started the detailed planning, and shared my dream with Laura, she responded with, “Well, if you are doing this ride, you should do it for a cause and for something you really believe in…something local…not a national cause.” Without hesitation, I immediately responded that I would dedicate all fund raising efforts to the Creative Arts Academy (CAA)! I have followed the CAA and the founders from inception. The level of passion the faculty, staff and students is infectious! Shortly thereafter, after a James Taylor concert at the venue in the Quad Cities, we hitched a ride with Joel and Diane, the CAA founders, and we brought up the idea of doing this fundraiser. Since it was late at night, Mom and Dad, as I affectionately call them, responded, “Oh. That’s nice.” It was not until the next day that it hit them what we had mentioned and immediately followed up with us to see if we were serious. We responded favorably and they were equally excited to do this with us and more importantly they committed to enlist the help of the CAA students!
We quickly developed a small but fierce team to start planning the fundraising. The team consists of Joel and Diane Franken, Jessica Taylor, Caitlin Amburn, Laura and me. We had weekly calls and assignments, discussed social media content and ads, direction, fundraising events, soliciting the help of a core group of students (affectively called The Wolfpack), talking to local QCA media, tv and press, for interviews. We set a goal of $100K!!! Just like in my career, if you are going to go after something make it worthwhile!
I watched many YouTube videos of people who had done extensive bicycling treks over long distances, especially Bicycle Tour Pro. His trips were informative and very helpful. The others were very informative as well. These videos covered everything from what to pack, tips for selecting camping locations, setting expectations and other tidbits.
I also talked to several friends and experienced cyclist about their experiences and what to expect. Particularly helpful were my good friends Dave and Denise (11) Hausler. They are avid cyclists and very knowledgeable.
In mid April I flew to back to Chicago to Amlings Cycle to get a crash course from the guys on how to maintain the trike. Josh spent the better part of 4 hours helping me do everything from flat repair, chain fixing, fine tuning and just general tidbits as he treks days at a time as well. I walked out of the store with new friends and a pair of sandals for biking plus a spare battery. I spent the evening with my great friends Ed and JaYne Carpenter reminiscing, having a great burger and then Ed beating me at darts….always good to spend time with them…..
Physical & Mental Prep
At the early stages I extended my treadmill time per day. I jumped it up from 30 minutes to eventually 2 hours. Just to teach myself patience…. I know there are going to be days where it will be 25-40 miles of a gradual elevation gains of 6,000 feet and the pace will be slow and will have to just grind it out….. I’m not the most patient person so this was a challenge……
In March started to cycle….10 mile trips grew into 20 then 30 and then 50….always at one clip…..my first trip with the panniers had me questioning my saneness…..on about mile 2 of that trip I was struggling….. Cursing myself, calling myself an idiot for undertaking this adventure….I was making a fool of myself….When I got home after 25 miles I was unloading the panniers and noticed I did that trip with parking brake on….After laughing at myself I felt reassured….Pinky had very dirty feet from the rubber burn off though…….