Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Close to Home

Lexington - August 23rd

Lexington is the last major stop before I reach the finish line in Cincinnati, and I can't believe the journey is coming to an end. I arrive at The University of Kentucky and I am greeted by the familiar faces of my childhood friends, Colton Deter and Benjamin Abourjeily. Colton jokingly said that I was an ordinary guy accomplishing extraordinary things. To which I replied, we all have the chance to accomplish extraordinary things if we work in a collective effort. I cycled over 2,500 miles, climbed 9 mountains in the Rockies, and delivered informative presentations in 50 cities across the United States. At the start of this journey I had zero cycling experience. I had very little public speaking experience, and I never dreamt of becoming a public advocate for a community outreach program. But throughout this journey I was able to adapt and improve in order to make a positive impact in the Support My School campaign. I gained strength from those who supported my commitment to this initiative, and through our collective effort we where able to accomplish more than I ever could have imagined. In my last discussion at UK I spoke about the value of solidarity and community interaction. Where we develop our communities and insure that our children have the opportunities to become successful. Where we not only improve ourselves, but where we also motivate one an other to improve collectively. Even though my cycling journey is coming to an end, my initiative to inspire and serve others is just beginning. I will continue to be active in the effort to improve educational standard in India, and hopefully my tour will be the first of many Support My School bicycle tours. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Ohio River

Louisville - August 21st
On my right side there is a 6 inch shoulder filled with a mixture of garbage and gravely rock. On my left side there is no shoulder and semi trucks whiz past me at 75 miles per hour. I have come too far to turn back, and honestly, I don't think i could turn around safely even if I wanted to. I am peddaling on highway 64, and in order to aviod traffic it is imperative that I stay on the 4 inch berm line that runs alongside the edge of the road. So I keep my head down, my upper body completely still, and I peddle forward. I shut out the rest of the world completly, and I focused on moving in an absolutely perfect straight line. I cross over the Ohio River and into the great state of Kentucky, and I thank God for allowing me to make it this far. As I got off my bike in Louisville I though about the collective effort that made this trip possible. I beamed with pride as I thought about the impact that my journey had made. All of the people that I inspired and spoke with in person. All of the people that we touched with our online video calls. And most of all, the children in India that where positvily impacted by Support My School. During my talk at the University of Louisville I discussed the importance of a collective effort. I started by explaining how countless individuals came together to help me prepare for this cycling journey, and how I utilized this united effort as motivation.Then I went on to explain how Support My School was also successful because of a collective effort, and how Indian communities came together in order to accomplish a common goal for better education. I closed with a challenge. Encouraging the group who surrounded me to find more information about Support My School at our  website at , http://www.ndtv.com/micro/supportmyschool/default.aspx, and also encouraging them to become active in their own communities. I stressed the importance of a life of service for others, and I commented on how every contribution makes a difference. My final statement was a quote from Mother Teresa, which states, "We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean, but the ocean would be less because of that missing drop." 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

A Community Effort

St. Anthony - August 17th

After speaking at 4 local churches and trekking across Illinois in just three days, I made my way into Indiana.  Days seemed to pass by just as miles passed by on the open road. Riding seemed effortless at this point, and the roads where becoming familiar again.  I could sense the end of my journey getting near, but I tried to stay focused on the task at hand. I didn't want to worry too much about the big finish or reflect too heavily on my previous rides. Instead, it was important for me to appreciate the current moment and stay active in my present rides. It was this attention to detail and  the present moment that allowed me to finish strong. I was covering long distances in less time, and I felt like I was exerting less energy than every before. At the beginning of the ride I was huffing and puffing my way up and over hills, but now I had enough energy to whistle as I powered through straight aways. I felt like I was on a mission and nothing could stop me in my quest to spread awareness. There was an unbelievable feeling of enthusiasm that motivated me, and I wanted to share this emotion with anyone I came in contact with. I arrived in St. Anthony, and I knew this would be a great opportunity to share the message of Support My School with a large number of people. The local fire department was putting on a chicken dinner fund-raiser and the entire community came together to show their support. There was live music, dancing, and some of the finest fried chicken I have ever tasted. I sat down to eat with a group of strangers and it wasn't long before I was telling my bicycle story. Little did I know, I was sitting with the Fire chief's wife. The chief's wife was very excited to hear about my cross country journey and she wanted everyone at the event to learn about our cause. Before I knew it, I found myself up on stage giving a presentation to over 200 people. I discussed the impact that Support My School was making in India and I commented on how it was similar to the community effort in St. Anthony. In both cases neighbors came together to support a cause that would benefit the entire community. In rural India people came together to provide basic amenities such as clean drinking water and public restrooms. In St. Anthony's people came together to support the fire department and raise money for a new safety training program. After my talk, the crowd responded with a great roar! The band picked up again and people rushed over to talk with me. Even though I was just passing through, the people of St. Anthony made me feel very welcome, and we were connected by our common interest to improve local communities.  

Saturday, September 14, 2013

A Different Perspective

St. Louis - August 12th

Its amazing how a stranger can travel to strange places and feel welcome. Throughout this journey people asked me if I felt lonely, board, or even vulnerable? Most people didn't seem to understand why I would want to bicycle across the county. Some couldn't fathom being away from home for over 2 months. Others didn't grasp the need to improve conditions in India, when there are many issue in the United States that need attention. At times this journey may have been misunderstood but it was critical for me to ignore the doubt and focus on my primary goal. That goal was to raise awareness for Support My School. When I first discovered this organization I was inspired by their efforts to strengthen communities and develop opportunities for children. I'll admit there where some difficult times, but I stayed true to my purpose. I thought about all of the people that where counting on me in the Support My School organization, and I continued on knowing that my efforts impacted others in a positive way. When I spoke in St. Louis I didn't talk about how difficult it was or how I missed home. Instead I emphasized how everyday was a new adventure, and how I felt liberated in sharing my experiences with others. I spoke about the kindness of strangers and the caring people that I met along the way. I tried to explain the beauty of nature and how I was motivated to climb mountains when it was surrounded by nothing but complete wilderness. St. Louis was a large city with a small town feel. With its many different ethnic neighborhood and a diverse population, it seemed like no one was excluded. This open environment shifted the discussion in my presentation, and as a result I felt more comfortable in sharing some details on the beauty that inspired me throughout my journey. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Katy trail to MizzOU and Beyond

Columbia - August 9th

I found the trail that I would travel on over the next 4 days. I found the trail that I would use to cross the entire state of Missouri. I found the Katy trail. It was an old railroad track that had been converted to a bike trail about 30 years ago. The trail wasn't paved, instead it had a thin chip-seal kind of gravel. The path was dusty but it was certainly much safer than the road. There was almost no one on the path and the was constant shade from the tick canopy of trees that flanked both sides of the trail. It was like traveling down a tunnel with an endless strait away.
After miles and miles on the mundane trail I made my way to Columbia, the place I consider to be the true heart of Missouri. It was a combination of a quaint cultured town, with a fair dose of college influence. The town was filled with historic buildings and family owned businesses. The college campus grounds where detailed with beautiful landscaping and a cluster of exquisite monuments. The most beautiful of all were the great stone pillars that stood tall in the center of campus. It was this atmosphere of kind people and the illustrious scenery that help prepared me for my next talk. I gave my next speech on behalf of Support My School at the outdoor circular amphitheater on campus. The sound was ineradicable and as I spoke my voice was amplified by the surrounding walls. The crowd of Mizzou students seemed to share an enthusiasm for service and I was proud to share the message of Support My School with such a receptive group. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

State Fair and The Old Trail

Sedalia - August 8th

 Crossing over the boarder and into Missouri, I was very excited to make my way through yet another state. My first stop was Sedalia, a rather small and uneventful town in Missouri. Well, ordinarily it is rather uneventful, but for a few days in early August its becomes one of the hottest spots in the entire state. Sedalia is home to the annual Missouri State Fair and people come from near and far in order to share this grand celebration. I thought I was just another face in the crowd as I cycled into town, but I was quickly recognized by the driver of a small yellow car. I was stopped at a red light when the driver pulled up next to me and said, "hey your that kid I heard about on the radio, we passed about 30 miles ago!"I thanked him for passing carefully, and I told him about how I was cycling across the country to raise awareness for educational conditions in India.He said that he heard about my story on a local radio station, and he was shocked to meet me on the road. As the light changed green and we parted ways, the man wished me luck and yelled out "enjoy the fair." I continued onward, and just after the fair grounds I found one of the most important trails of my entire journey. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Dogs and a Dirt Road

Kansas City - August 6th

Departing from the University of Kansas the weather was perfect and the skies where clear as far as the eye could see. Then just as I contested that life could not get any better I hit a bump in the road. In fact, I hit many bumps in the road as I turned onto a rock covered surface. In mapping out my route I looked for roads with less traffic, but unfortunately not all of the those quite roads are paved. This gravely dirt road made riding very slow and uncomfortable, but I had to trek onward past the miles and miles of farm land. After about 2 hours of bouncing along and riding through wide open fields I cycled up to a small blue house. Just as I pasted by the front door 4 dogs came bursting out of the yard and chased after me on the dirt road. I yelled to scare the dogs of but these persistent mutts would not quit. The big brown dogs ran along side me and I could see them getting ready to nip at my heals. I'm not sure that I have ever been more afraid in my life, and with everything I had I sprinted ahead on the bike. I created a gap between myself and the dogs and after about a quarter mile they finally gave up and faded away into the distance. After the dogs and an awful dirt road I could not have been more revealed to reach Kansas City. I was also relieved to see the familiar face of my Xavier University classmate, Jenny Martin. When Jenny first heard that I was cycling across country to raise awareness for a non-profit organization she quickly offered me a place to stay. I got to meet the entire family, and they where very excited to hear more about Support My School. I felt right at home with the Martins, and it was great to share the message of Support My School in a welcoming family environment.  

Sunday, August 18, 2013


Topeka / Lawrence - August 4th

Working my way through Kansas I became eager to share the message of Support My School with someone other than a bail of hay. So I got an early start and road into Topeka just after 10:00AM. At first it was a ghost town, and as I cycled down the main drag I could hear a pin drop. I stopped for breakfast in a local diner and I learned all about the history of Kansas's state capital. I also learned about the farmers market that was going on just down the street. As it was described to me, people came from near and far to exchange produce and discuss the pride of Kansas, The Rock Chalk Jayhawks. I had to get a look for myself and so I made my way down to the parking-lot produce party. There was definitely a wide verity of spirited individuals and I have never seen so much home grown produce in my life. I had a quick sample of the greens, talked hoops with the locals, and then made my off to a meeting at Washburn University. After sharing Support My School with students at the international house in Washburn I went east to Lawrence Kansas. Lawrence was by far my favorite city in the entire state. The people where personable and polite, and it seemed like there was never a dull moments. Most of all I enjoyed spending time with some of the students at KU. Normally when I speak with a group of students I just meet them on campus, but the Kansas student service group suggested that we meet a restaurant called the Casbah. I was excited to see the city with the group and they where more than delighted to show me around. After exploring Mass Street, a main student hang out, we venture onto campus. The students gave me a short tour, and than we discussed service and Support My School. I had never spent time with a more hospitable group, and I admired how active the students where in their local community.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Mile High City

Denver - August 2nd

My Aunt Ann lives in Denver and she was very excited for me to stay with her while I was in town. I rarely get to see my Aunt and I'll admit I was pretty existed to see her too. It was relief spending time with family and knowing that the most difficult riding was already behind me. I felt like everything was down hill after completing a cycle through the rocky mountains. It was as if the trip was almost over and I became very reflective on how far I had come to reach this point. Luckily, I had several important meetings in town that forced me to snap back to reality. Talking about Support My School got me back on track and I realized that I had many more people to reach out to. In fact, one of my best talks of the entire tour came while visiting a non-profit called Water for People. It was a very knowledgeable group who had worked to provide clean drinking water in impoverished countries around the world. I gave a solid 15 min speech on behalf of Support My School and I was very impress with how my talks had improved throughout the tour. I recalled my earlier talk that ended rather quickly, but now my talks where strong and informative. 

The Highest Paved Elevation in North America

Idaho Springs / Mt. Evans - July

I took a quick stop in an aged western city called Georgetown. There was an old fashion main street filled with little boutiques, antique shops, and mom and pop restaurants. The town's people that I met were kind and soft spoken. I had a bite to eat before I eagerly hit the road, but perhaps I should have waited and spent the night in Georgetown. About five minutes into the ride it started to poor. I pushed on through the rain and found myself flying down the wet street. As the rain beat down harder to went faster and faster. It was completely flat on the frontage road that ran next to the freeway and I felt like I could go on forever. Made it to the hotel in Idaho Springs way ahead of schedule and I chatted with the receptionist in the lobby as I checked in. It was then that I found out about Mt. Adams, the highest paved elevation in North America. I toyed with the idea of cycling up this great mountain and I fantasized about how I would work it into my trip. That night I even had a dream about cycling to the top of Mt. Evans. In my dream I was high above the tree tops and at the peak of the mountain I had a fried baloney sandwich. Probably insignificant. Anyways, the next morning I woke up invigorated and I looked into adjusting my itinerary so that I could ride to the top of Mt. Evans. I saw this as an opportunity to complete one of the most memorable rides of the entire trip and I imagined it would provide good points for discussing as I continued met with other organizations across the country. So after a quick breakfast, and a baloney sandwich to-go order for the road, I set out on my 28 mile climb. The the first 14 miles had a manageable incline, but there was deep fog which only dissipated after another heavy rain. I reached the base of the mountain and spoke with some strangers while I dried my wet jackets in the sun. One man told me that a few other cyclists had attempted to climb Mt. Adams earlier that day but they where forced to turn back due to the heavy fog. Another woman told me that another cyclist had fallen off his bike and had been carted away to the hospital just a few minutes before I had arrived. So the last three cyclists had not fared well with this climb, but I took the stories of the other riders with a grain of salt and optimistically began my own ride to the summit. It was a tough start and my stomach began to ache as I mad my way past mile marker 2. I wondered if I would have the strength to make it to the top, and I told myself that I would turn back if the pain became to serious. I couldn't afford to injury myself on this ride and jeopardize the rest of the trip so I cautiously proceeded up the mountain. I focused deeply on my breathing and worked on a steady cadence. I progressed slowly, 6 maybe 7 miles per hour, but with an elevation of over 14,000 ft I was happy to keep up a steady pace. The road was winding and it was easy to loose track of where I was. The cliffs where sharp and the view off the side seemed to be endless. I was completely consumed by the clouds that met the side of the mountain, and yet I continued to climb. After nearly 3 hours I reached the top of Mt. Adams! It was a spectacular view but I didn't celebrate as I had on the tops of other passes. I was overwhelmed now that the ride was over and I was shocked with idea of that being my last great climb of the trip. The best part of the ride was not reaching the top, but instead it was the entire climb to get there. Just being on the road and slowly ascending up the mountain I felt as if I had already reached my final destination.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Previous Obstacle

Breckenridge - July 26th

On the way to Breckenridge I noticed myself moving a bit slower than normal. The petals were turning but I wasn't covering the same distance. I thought I must be tired from the previous days of though riding, and that it was the soreness that was slowing me down. Perhaps true, but more importantly I was going up hill. I had to go up and over Yoder Gulch and anther pass of over 11,000 feet. It was not a very east ride but after conquering Independence Pass this ride was much less threatening. I just kept thinking about the other mountains I had climbed and before I knew it I was at the top of this pass. I was relieved at the idea of going down hill at first but then I got shocked by the temperature drop at the summit. It was about 40 degrees, and in addition to that I would be going down hill with a speed of at least 30 miles per hour. Which means that I would be getting hit in the face with some very cold wind. Furthermore, it started to rain as I cycled down hill. Now it was cold, wet, and I was fearful of stopping on the side of a slick steep mountain, but it was no where near as bad as any Cleveland winters I experienced as a child. Growing up with lake effect snow and bone chilling winters of shoveling snow off the driveway, it was safe to say I had delt with cold weather before. Eventually I made my way down the pass and into the touristy ski town of Breckenridge, but the successes of this ride was dependent on my previous struggles. Independence pass made today's climb seem easier and Cleveland winters make an icebox seem toasty. Its ironic how the previous obstacles made my current challenges seem more manageable and motivated me to continue on. 


Leadville - July 24th

With terrible stomach pain and perhaps some type of food allergy my final night in Aspen became very unpleasant. Between a head ache and struggling to keep food down I had a difficult time getting any sleep. In the morning I drank about a half gallon of water and tried to take a nap. After getting some rest I took some Tylenol and mulled over some plain toast. I was feeling unmotivated and sluggish but I tried to stay focus on my preparation. I had the goal of cycling out of Aspen and reaching Leadville today and in order to insure that would happen I knew that I needed to be mentally prepared and physically ready. So I packed my gear and proceeded with my regular routine of active stretching. Not trying to force anything but staying motivated and seeing what my body could handle. Slowly but surely I got ready to go and I was able to go for a short warm up ride without feeling ill. Finally I got a solid meal down and I felt like I was back to normal. Which was good news because I had one of my most difficult rides still waiting for me. Today was the day I would climb over 12,000 ft and cycle past Independence Pass. It was a daunting challenge but I felt confident in my abilities and I though of how far I had come to reach this point. I cycled everyday. It rained, I was tired, I was hungry, and most importantly I continued on through all of it. Independence pass was very slow going and it took about 3 hours to cover 19 miles and reach the summit. It was a windy road with a seemingly constant elevation but I stayed focused on the moment and kept turning the petals. I was relieved to finally the top and I felt like I had become and actual cyclist. After all if I could cycle over the continental divide and through the Rockies I could cycle anywhere. 

Despite historic bars, fine dinning, and extravagant shopping I was in Aspen for a much different purpose. I came to this vacation town to discuss service related opportunists  I wanted to learn about how others, who where generally more fortunate than most, felt about volunteering? I wanted to find out if tourists in this town were active in community service? And I wanted to get some input on the motivating factor that inspired active individuals to get involved in projects to assist others in need? I found exactly what I was looking for when I met Kathy, a message therapist who was also an avid humanitarian. Kathy travels to countries around the world and provides message services for individuals who struggle with hardship. She described her one of here more impact journeys when she when to Japan in 2011 after the Tsunamis  She spoke about the devastation and the people that she met during her travels. She worked on individuals how had been injured and she tended to those who had lost their homes. Kathy said it best when she remarked, "Weather I was physically healing their bodies or mentally lifting their spirits, I knew that I was making a positive difference in other's lives." It was an inspiring to discuss with Kathy and it gave me some much needed energy to continue on with my journey. When I struggle with cycling or tire of talking about my cycling journey, I focus on the purpose of my tour. This trip is not about myself and my accomplishments as a cyclist, but instead this is a trip to inspire others and spread awareness for Support My School. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Indescribable Beauty

Carbondale - July 21st

On the way to Carbondale I went up and over McClure Pass and it was one of the most spectacular rides of my life. Surrounded by lush green trees and sharp cliffs I began to make my way up the mountain. The climb was rather steep, but I was becoming accustom to the elevation in Colorado by now. I had a good cadence going and without any breaks I made it to the summit. It was a breath taking view at the top, but no amount of description can accurately capture what I saw. It would be like describing an individual sunset. We can make comparisons or attempt to summarize, but it is impossible to duplicate the understanding of a specific experience.

After staring off into the horizon for a few moments, I became eager to make my decent down the other side of the mountain. There where many steep twists and turns and I easily hit 40 miles per hour as I zipped down the pass. Then all of a sudden, I ran into some heavy traffic. I slowed down only to discover a large semi-truck carrying an oversized load. The truck was holding up a line of car as it slowly crept around corners, but some of the traffic was daring enough to pass when they saw a small opening on the narrow road. Without hesitation I followed the cars ahead of me and I quickly passed the massive truck. Once I reached the bottom of the pass I saw the brilliant red rocky mountains that squeezed the road on both sides. With the sun setting over the red cliffs that surrounded me and the adrenalin rush from the great decent, I lost tract of my tired body. The scenery over-load allowed me to hit my second wind, and I cycled into Carbondale with no recollection of exhaustion.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Semi-Pro Cyclist

Paonia - July 20th

Less than 1,500 people live in the town of Paonia. It is a quiet place where the people where incredibly friendly and considerate. There was a beautiful river that ran near town and we where surrounded by mountains off in the distance. I am always excited to get a feel for the local culture, and the diversity from town to town is amazing. In order to learn more about the local people and their way of life, I try to stop in small mom and pop shops and family owns restaurants. So while in Paonia, I went to get dinner at a local restaurant & bar called Louie's. There were many cycling photos behind the bar and the Tour De France was on TV. I knew this was the place for me and I quickly made friends with some interesting locals. Eventually I met the owner, and Louie was amazed to hear that I was cycling across the country for such a great cause. Louie invited my to stay at his home so I canceled my hotel reservation and took him up on his hospitable offer. It turns out Louie was a semi-professional racer back in the day and he has been an avid cycler for the last 30 years. He had dozens of bikes at his home and he taught me a lot about different riding techniques. I also told Louie about some knee pain that had been bothering me and so we readjusted my seat to solve the problem. It was great to meet an experienced cyclist and I am very appreciative to have been welcomed into the Paonia community.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Rest to Keep The Tour Going

Grand Junction - July 18th

After a difficult journey into Grand Junction I took a day off to rest and get back into cycling shape. I spent the early morning icing and stretching. Then in the afternoon I saw a doctor to insure that I was in good health. My instructions were to drink at least 14 glasses of water and get to bed early. I assure you I gladly complied with both recommendations. It may seem rather mondane but these rest days are absolutely essential to insure that I am able to cycle great distances each day.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Over 90 Miles in one day

On the way to Grand Junction - July 16th

Woke up at 6:00am with no alarm feeling very focus and ready to attack the most difficult ride of the entire tour. Today was the day that I circled on my calendar. I had been imaging this ride for weeks and I thought it would be one of the greatest challenges of my life. This ride was of particular importance because I had to cycle a great distance and there would be no place to stop in between. I would have to cycle a stretch between Rangely and Grand Junction Colorado where there was no hotel, restaurant, or gas station for 75 miles. I pictured it as pure abandon desert. I would have to carry all of my food and water for the day and there would be no where to stop for a bathroom break. I was nervous at first but I said a prayer, trusted my preparation, and got mentally focused. I started out the ride with a great deal of confidence, and I was feeling competitive as I raced the first 20 miles. Next I tried to ignore the mileage and focused on my breaking and keeping a steady pace. I stopped for a short lunch break after 38 miles and I sat in the grass next to the road. As I ate my sandwich free range cattle grazed in the field behind me, and I was amazed by the surrounding wilderness. After lunch I began my climb over Douglas Pass. I when over an elevation of over 8,000ft and it was an incredibly steep climb to reach the summit. There where times where I thought about quitting, but I pushed through the pain and continued onward. Over the next several miles I costed down the other side of the mountain and made my way closer to my final destination. After 65 miles of riding I had been through ever emotion. I was energized at the start, exhausted after climbing the pass, and amazed by the beautiful scenery I passed. The last 10 Miles before town I completely cleared my mind. It didn't think about my body, the miles, or my speed. I just floated along surrounded in nature, and I felt like it was just me and God. After 75 miles I reached a small gas station in Loma and took an hour long water break. I felt well rested and I was excited that I had complete the most challenging ride thus far. I was re-energized, and I cycled another 18 miles to reach Grand Junction. 

Dinosaurs and Oil

Vernal - July 13th

Vernal Utah is most notably known for outdoor activities, dinosaur fossils, and oil. While in town I spoke with a group of young students at the Field House of Natural History. The young group was interested to hear about my travels and I told them how I was raising awareness for Support My School and working to improve educational conditions in India. When they asked me questions they refereed to me as "Bike Man" and they wondered if I was scared travelling alone. I told the group that  with the support of my friends and family back home I never felt alone. I also talked about learning how to become self reliant and solve problems on my own. I have become used to traveling on my own and I don't get rattled when things don't go as planned. I am very confident in my preparation, and even when unexpected obstacles arise I approach them systematically. I am very well organized and I always have an action plan when I get lost, run behind schedule, or get caught in bad weather. I try my best to stay focused on the task at hand and calmly make decisions in order to keep the tour moving forward.

Rain Motivation

Duchesne & Roosevelt - July 12th

I spent the night at a bed and breakfast in a secluded valley off Hwy 40. There was no internet connection, no cell phone service, and the front yard consisted of a lama farm. It was not like the typical place I was accustomed to staying but it was incredibly peaceful.  Off the grid I enjoyed a quiet evening of much needed rest and the next morning I had breakfast with the owners of the property. I told the elderly couple about Support My School and some of the difficulties throughout my journey thus far. Despite a few setbacks, with directions and flat tires, the weather had been spectacular. In fact, it hadn't rained one drop the entire trip. just before I left, I said, "I could use a little rain to keep me honest this trip has been too easy." Then I mad my way down the driveway and as soon as I hit the road it started to rain. It was a torrential downpour with gusts of wind that pushed me backwards. As the rain crashing down upon me I made my way back to Hwy 40. The roads where slick and breaking quickly was dangerous. Giant oil trucks raced past me and splashed me with a mist of road water. Despite the poor weather the rain gave me energy and the passing traffic fueled my motivation. I took the conditions as a personal challenge and after ever truck passed I began to peddle faster. I reached Duchenne much earlier than scheduled so I had lunch at a local diner that had been in business for over 80 years. After speaking with several locals and learning about their community I continued another 30 miles to Roosevelt. It was very interesting talking about Support My School in the small towns that I had never visited before. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A difficult star

Fruitland - July 11th

Leaving the small town of Heber was easy, but physically peddling away was rather difficult. This marketed the start of a four day journey on Hwy 40 and I was nervous to see what the road conditions would be like. I passed through town, turned onto a dusty gravelly road, and I hoped that I had made a mistake. I thought to myself, there is no way that this road is route 40. I can't possibly ride on this rode for the next+200 miles. As tiny rocks rustled under my tires I begrudgingly peddled forward. After over 10 miles of slow cycling on the unpaved road my dreams came true and I hit fresh pavement. I let out a great bellow and thanked the Lord that my prayers had been answers. At first I was overjoyed to be off the rocks without a flat tire, but then I returned to reality as I realized the road was all up hill. Over the next ten miles I climbed over Daniels Summit and it was by far the most difficult climb I have experienced thus far. I was not mentally perpared for such a challenge, and I was cough off guard by a few things. First, the unfamiliar surroundings and the surprisingly steep grade made me feel unsure of myself. Then I was concerned with pacing myself and finding a safe place to take a break. I knew that I had to cover at least 50 miles in order to reach a hotel that night, and I was afraid that I would not be able to complete the ride after such a difficult start. Doubt crept into my mind and I felt like I needed to stop, but I push onward. Emotion rushed over me and my adrenaline reached its peak. I focused on the ground directly ahead of me and I willed myself slowly up the great incline. I yelled, grunted, and gasped, but ultimately I made it to the top without a break. In my state of anguish and accomplishment, not entirely sure that the climb was actually over, I refused to allow my effort to subside. I peddled on and as I regained my composer I began to cost down hill. Over the next 67 minutes I cycled over 24 miles. I flew down hills and raced up inclines. I passed robust forests and then empty valleys. There was no sign of civilization for 30 miles in any direction and I thought "how much farther?" But then a semi-truck would drive past and shout "you got it, keep going." I finished the ride and arrived at The G, the only convenient store in over 45 miles. They served hot dinners, and as I went to town on a double order of country fired steak, I thought of the distance I'd covered. I thought of Support My School. And most of all I though of how I struggled up Daniels Pass. That experience was an important test of will and I didn't want to push it away. That difficult time let me know that I was working towards something to special to give up on. That feeling of strife humbled me made me grateful for all the joy in my life. I want to hold onto that struggle closely and use it as motivation to overcome my next challenge. 


Provo - July 10

Before heading off to Heber, I gave talk with a group of students at Brigham Young University. In the months leading up to the trip I spent a great deal of time and effort in planning my route and scheduling speaking engagements. In order to choose the stops on my route I selected the largest cities that afforded the most public speaking opportunities. Next Coca-Cola and I reached out to local television stations, radio stations, corporations, churches, charities, and universities. It was difficult at times to schedule speaking appointments, but with a great deal of persistence, and perhaps a little good fortune, we began to receive positive responses. A few weeks before reaching Provo several students in the office of student involvement at BYU replied to my public speaking inquiry and agreed to host a discussion with me on campus. During my talk I explained the purpose of Support My School and discussed the progress that the campaign has made thus far. After my speech the students shared with me some of the other service related projects that they had been involved in and how they contributed to similar education related efforts. The students were very interested in improving education internationally, and they seemed very excited to hear about Support My School. After our discussion came to a close a few of the students showed me around campus. While visiting the football stadium we ran into some alumni. Before I knew it we were all talking like old friends, and I it was incredible to see the interaction between past and present BYU students. The two groups of student came from different eras, but both shared an incredible pride for their university, and an even great compassion for serving others and sharing their values.  

Monday, July 15, 2013

Tongan Efforts for Support My School

July 9th - Provo

In Provo I stayed with a friend from Xavier University, and her entire family welcomed me into their home with open arms. From meeting the parents, to singing with the small brothers and sisters I instantly felt like I was part of the family. We prepared a great Tongan dinner and I have never tasted better chicken in my life. Then the grandmother played the ukulele for me and told me about their families heritage. When it came time for me to share my journey and message for Support My School the family was all ears. After many questions and ideas of ways that they would like to get involved in the campaign, Uncle J. jokingly said that we should build schools in Tonga. I explained that Support My School is primarily based in India, but their is a plan to expand into other countries. This journey is not only about improving conditions in India. I have been inspired to contribute to the educational effort in India, but as I explained to Uncle J. our individual efforts are not only limited to India. Whether its a local community initiative or a project in Tonga every bit of effort makes a positive difference. We can revitalize education on a global scale, but it will take the efforts of many individuals and the collaboration of many communities. I have been inspired to devote my serviced to the revitalization of education in India, and the family was glad to help me spread the message for Support My School.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Temple

July 8th - Salt Lake City
This afternoon I met with a group of missionaries in Temple Square and exchanged stories. I was very interested to learn more about Mormon traditions and I wanted to share my work with Support My School. I learned that mission trips are optional and after praying to God for guidance, each individual decides on whether or not a service journey is right for them. In addition, mission trips are generally far away from home, and service related activities in those locations generally provide unique perspectives. These religious journeys embody particular values and through their dedication to service  individuals exhibit a devotion to their faith. While my journey isn't not religious, in many ways it seams like my cycling tour is similar to the Mormon's mission trip. I believe in the values and results of the Support My School campaign, and that is why I am dedicating my time and efforts to a cycling awareness tour. Also, I am finding that on a tour to spread the message of Support My School, I am learning more about my own beliefs and values. There is a great feeling of reassurance when I talk about Support My School and I know that my service is making a difference. The missionaries described this feeling of reassurance, as God's  way of encouraging you to continue on the path that your meant to travel.   

Public Speaking

July 6th - Reno

After cycling the back roads in the heat of the day I finally reached Reno Nevada. I was drained after a long day on the bike and I was starving for a good home cooked meal. I checked into the Wildflower Hostel and just a few doors down I came across an authentic Italian restaurant. Fresh pasta and carb loading was just what the doctor ordered so I hastily mad my way inside. I was not in a very talkative mood so I planned to sit alone at the bar and enjoy a quiet meal to myself. Despite my original intentions, I ended up meeting a girl who was also an active public speaker. She traveled through small towns in Nevada and spoke about the dangers of eating disorders with high school students. She struggled with anorexia as a teenager and after overcoming her eating disorder, she felt compelled to share her story with others. Her travels seemed similar to my own in many ways. While we spoke on behalf of different causes we were both inspired to spread awareness and serve others. She told me that at first she was afraid of public speaking, but she overcame her fears because her message is too important to keep to herself. I agreed wholeheartedly and I told her that our courage to share our messages with others is much stronger than our individual fears. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Why Cycle with limited Experience

July 5th - Carson City

After a favorable experience with warmshowers.com in Lake Tahoe, I decided to try it again in Carson City. I stayed with a delightful family who hosted over 100 touring cyclists over the years. The family had many quinine stories to share with me and I was interested to hear about the other riders that passed through. Some cycled for a cause, a few for recreation, and one cycled to fulfill a lifelong dream at age 60. Although the family had met many cyclists over the years, they never met a cyclist with such little experience. They explained that most of the people that they had encountered were either life long cyclists or members of an organized group. I have only been cycling for three months, and I had no prior experience with a road bike or any kind of bike that shifted more than six gears. The family was shocked that I was embarking on this journey for Support My School, and they asked me what inspired me to cycle across the country all of a sudden? I explained how I truly believe in the fundamentals of Support My School. Ideals of education, continuous improvement, service, and community interaction. It was a combination of these principles along with the positive results that Support My School has had on communities in India that inspired me to become active with the initiative. This campaign has inspired me to spread awareness and cycle across the country, and even though I lack experience I am dedicated to learning all that I can. 

Monday, July 8, 2013

4th of July

South Lake Tahoe  -  July 4th
Lake Tahoe has an average total population of about 20,000 people, But on the 4th of July over 100,000 people flock to the lake to watch the spectacular fireworks show. Originally I planned to stay in a hotel amongst the tourists, but fortunately I found another place to stay. I discovered a free website called warmshowers.com were cyclists open their homes to fellow touring cyclists. So for example, I can stay with a host in Lake Tahoe and then latter on I have the opportunity to open my home to a cyclists passing through Cincinnati. I stayed with a cyclist, named Ross, who has cycled over 7,000 miles total, toured in 49 states across the U.S., and toured in over 10 countries in South America. Needless to stay Ross had many spectacular stories to share with me, and he gave me some great cycling advice. Ross wished me luck on my travel, and said he that when I was tired I should think of Support My School and push through the pain.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Night Ride

Placerviller - July 3rd

Cycling into Placerville it got dark surprisingly fast. I was about 3 miles from my hotel and just after 9:00PM the roads were pitch black. With no street lights and only a small insufficient light on my bike I stopped at a local gas station. I noticed some young men my age and I asked them if them would help me out with a ride to my hotel. The guys where more than helpful as they lifted my bike into the back of their truck and drove me down the road. I told them why I was cycling and they where glad that they could be of assistance on my journey. After thanking the guys they said they were glad to support the campaign when it was too dark to cycle on. 

Presentation in the Sacramento Rose Gardens

Sacramento - July 2nd

Today, I met with a group of students in the Sacramento rose gardens. A group of catholic high-school girls arrived in a small white van and everyone was wearing black. I jokingly asked them if they were coming from a funeral, but they explained that they were all attending a black dress birthday dinner after our meeting. I went on to deliver a brief presentation on Support My School and my cycling journey to spread awareness for the campaign. I explained the purpose of Support My School, and then discussed how I was inspired by the campaign and took up cycling as my way to contribute to this educational initiative. The school-girls where shocked by my story and could not believe that I planned to cycle from San Francisco to Cincinnati with such little experience. I explained to them that this journey would not be possible without dedication and a collective effort. I have been training for months and I have also utilized the assistance and knowledge of many individuals who came together to make this journey possible. I worked with fellow students and a cycling coach at Xavier University to get in tip-top physical shape. I met with countless bicycle shops to learn about bicycle maintenance and to find the best routs to travel on. I also collaborated with Coca-Cola India to develop a presentation and schedule public speaking engagements. Similar to they way that many individuals came together in preparation for my cycling journey it also takes a collective effort to improve educational standards in India. Support My School helps to build schools, construct bathrooms, and provide other basic amenities, but the campaign is successful because of the way it inspires community involvement. In order to insure that there is sustainable improvement Support My School utilizes a network of local NGO's and charities that are familiar with the local communities  that they enter. Then through a grassroots effort they bring a community together to support education initiatives and provide sustainable improvements. The discussion with the school-girls in Sacramento stressed the importance of a collective effort and we discussed the endless opportunities that can be developed when individuals work together.

Kind Stranger

Sacramento - July 1st

While cycling to Sacramento I passed by a great deal of farm land and wide-open spaces. There were not many places to stop and as luck would have it, I suddenly needed to use the restroom. I was in between two giant fields with little privacy from the road, but off in the distance I saw a small lonely house. I cycled up to the welcoming residence and quickly knocked on the door. A few moments later a tiny grandmother appeared before me and invited me into her home. After using the bathroom the grandmother offered to cook me breakfast and so I sat with her and told her of my travels. As she tossed flapjacks high into the air I went on about Support My School and all of the positive work they are doing to improved educational standards in India. The grandmother was moved by my story and was very excited to hear about my passion for service and community involvement. As I left the old woman explained that in a quiet area like this she did not get many visitors. She said that it was God's country and that she could stand in one spot and see the sun rise and fall. She thanked me for stopping by and said that God would protect me as I cycled to spread awareness. I thanked her for her kind words and hospitality, and then I continue on down the empty road.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Lost on the way to Sacramento

Lodi - June 29th

In preparation for this trip I spent many months panning a detailed route and itinerary so that I would know exactly how many miles to travel each day and where to stay each night. I also included local restaurants, gas stations, emergency contacts, hotels, and a specific list of turn by turn directions along my route. Despite a great deal of diligent planning, I anticipated there would be many unexpected challenges that I would have to overcome. The first of these challenges came when I was cycling along Hwy 4 in California.
With record heat waves in California, I woke up at 5:30AM on Saturday morning and set out for Sacramento.  Before departing that morning I carefully reviewed my route and the route that my Garmin GPS suggested. I originally planned to travel along California State Route 160 but the Garmin GPS suggested a more scenic detour on Hwy 4. The millage added up the same and so I decided to go with the route my GPS suggested. To this point I had never had any issues with my Garmin and I believed that the suggested route was accurate. Unfortunately, once I got on the road I had issues finding satellite reception and my GPS would randomly turn off. I finally got the GPS working and it directed me to take Hwy 4 for 29 Miles. The final total mileage and final destination were the same as when I started and so I proceeded to follow the GPS. I stopped for lunch after about 35 miles of riding and checked my route progress, I constantly review my route to insure that I don't not miss any turns or cycle of in the wrong directions. So upon checking my GPS it began recalculating and changed my final total millage to 70 miles. So basically I had cycled an additional unnecessary 20 miles. I was incredibly frustrated and so I called Garmin. After checking my device we determined that my software was not up to date and I required an update before I could proceed. The operator mentioned that without an update the total millage while riding could be inconsistent but it would correctly calculate the total mileage upon the completion of a ride. I was forced to make a decision and with the temperature climbing over 104 degrees I decided to cycle into Lodi and find a hotel for the night. I was upset that i cycled an extra 20 miles but I was more upset that I did not catch my mistake sooner. The GPS appeared to be working correctly, but I should have double checked the mileage with my smart phone. After this mishap i updated the software on my GPS and I have implemented a system to insure that I stay on the original course. Now I upload my specific route onto an application called Garmin Connect. With this application I can transfer a course that I design directly to my GPS and get turn by turn directions, and it will also track my exact location and upload my live status online. My phone also sends me live updates to track my progress and insure that I stay on the right path. It was frustrating to cycle an extra 20 miles, but I adjusted my plans so that the mistake did not interfere with an of my other plans on the itinerary and I also took corrective action to avoid other mistakes in the future.