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.