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.