Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Is Life All About the Buzz?

Today, I had another new life experience.

I attended a memorial service for a 19 year-old young man.  A young man I had never met.  I was there as I know his father.

I sat surrounded by more than 50 other 19-ish year-olds and a crowd of family and friends.  We were sitting outside, on the deck of Hart Prairie Lodge at the Snowbowl Ski Resort.  A beautiful setting for an incredibly sad occasion.

I was sitting next too four young men who were very emotional.  Their tears rolled down their face without stopping.  Five days ago, I'm sure they would have never thought of crying in front of their friends....let alone in public.  Today - they were struggling to comprehend what had happened.  They were struggling to maintain any type of composure.

I watched as the young man's father made his way through the crowd of more than 200 people.  He knew most, if not all, of them; including all of his son's friends.  Impressive to see a father who is so connected with his child's life.  I'm sure if you asked the father, he would say he was not the best father but from my point of view, he was doing an incredible job today.

The father maintained his composure and ran his son's memorial service.  If you knew the father, you would either love him or hate him.  He is opinionated and direct.  Yet, many say he would be the first to help you in a time of need.  I have known him for a couple of years and would agree with their assessment.

He spoke at the beginning and then delivered a very strong message at the end.  In the middle, the young man's sister and friends spoke.  One common theme was how welcoming and loving the young man was.  He made friends everywhere and always made people feel included.  His friends came from New York, California and Tucson to honor their friend.  We saw a young man cry as he explained how his young friend was the first person to make him feel loved by a peer.  It would have been easy to judge this young man who was speaking as he wasn't "normal".  His long hair, cowboy hat and grundgy appearance would make most adults discount his existence.  Yet, his point was incredibly clear, his friend didn't judge anyone - from the time he was in grade school all the way through till he died.    A very powerful message.

For almost two hours we heard about this incredible young man.  His peers cried and laughed.  They all ageed - their lives were better for having known this young man.

I'm sure most are asking, "How did he die?"  Some are probably only reading to learn what happened and may have completely missed my inadequate attempt to convey my experience today.

The young man died because he mixed prescription medication and alcohol.  I don't know if this was his first time pushing the limits or one of many.  He had spent the evening with his friends.....the same friends who now couldn't stop crying.  The young man fell asleep and never woke up.  One of his friends had the sad, terrible, experience of finding him.  I can't imagine.

When the father spoke at the end, he had all of his son's friends stand and spoke directly to them.  He made it clear he didn't blame any of them for what happened.  He did challenge them to not let this situation be repeated.  He charged them with watching out for each other and not being afraid to basically tattle on their friends.

I had a friend who once pushed the limits.  He was lucky as he is still around.  I think the service struck home because I probably should have talked to my friend's parents about what was happening. Lucky for me, I didn't have to attend the funeral of a young friend.

Why did I write this long post?  I guess because today I was reminded about the importance of not judging others.  About tolerance.  About being happy.  About making others feel loved and important.

The young man's father made a simple statement - "Sam has no tomorrows.  You must all live tomorrow for him."  Wow.  Powerful.

This man just lost his only son and here he was showing love and compassion to his son's friends and challenging them.  The very friends who could have prevented this tragedy.  He could very easily have shown anger towards these young people.  We all have faults - so did the young man and so does this father - but today, he showed class, character and how to be a Father.... he showed foregiveness.

Guess I'm not sure who I learned more from today - the young man....or his father.  

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Stats and Final Thoughts on PCH

Hello All,

As I did in 2011, I have accumulated some stats on our ride.

  • 406.62 gallons of gasoline
  • 59lbs of ice
  • $53 of cheese
  • $119 of cold meat
  • 3 flat tires
  • 12 rides joined the 4 primary riders throughout the journey
  • Not enough homemade Banana Bread
  • Many home cooked dinners
  • Countless new friends

We didn't eat nearly as much peanut butter or pretzels as we did in 2011.  I think it is because the temperatures were cooler.

We had bikes on the ground approximately 1,488 miles of the 1,800 route miles.  We rode 82.6% of the mapped route miles.  Pops and Carl were with us at least 80% of those miles.  These two amazing men rode 24 of the 27 days.  Think about that - a 67 year old man with PD and a 53 year old man with PD rode 24 of 27 days and covered more than 1,000 miles.  If that doesn't give ya goose bumps or bring a tear to your eye, then pinch yourself.

According to my GPS, over the 27 days on the bike we put mustard on 70,897 feet of elevation gain.  This is an average of 2,625 feet/day.  We climbed the most on day 21 with 5,827 feet of gain.  Gain means the amount of feet we climbed - not taking into account our descents.  These are not net gain amounts (ups minus downs), this is just the ups.  Yes, had a lot of ups on this route.

I have been asked several times how much we raised and if the ride was a success.  Regarding the funds raised - although this is important to the ongoing success of the organization, it is not the main reason we rode.  We rode to encourage those impacted by Parkinson's.

Regarding if the Ride was a success.  I think we need to ask the Parkies if it was a success.  Are Pops and Carl a motivation to other Parkies?  Did they show that Parkies can do anything they set their minds to do?  Did we encourage those we met and give them the motivation to keep fighting?

Success will not be measured by the money raised, the miles ridden or my sense of accomplishment.  

Success will be measured by Parkie lives impacted, encouragement given and the impact on the lives of those who didn't know what PD was before they met us.

What is next?  We are working on that.  Probably a local ride here in Arizona.  Will there be another long distance ride - if I have my way, yes.  But its not about me.  We will have to see what the future holds.

Next time you see someone with a little shake, a shuffle in their step or a quiet voice - ask them if they have Parkinson's.  Then encourage them to keep going and let them know they are not alone.

Until we meet again - keep safe, keep moving and keep living your Best Life Ever.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Days 26 and 27

Yeah, I know, I am probably breaking some blogger rule by combining the last two days into one blog but that's what happens when you don't take notes!

Day 26 - Hermosa to San Clemente
Miles - 65.13

Day 27 - San Clemente to Pacific Beach and our Families
Miles - there's a story there……at least 57.37
Elevation Gain - 1,912 feet

Day 26 - Joey and Galen joined the team.

Joey is a friend we have made through the various PD events we have attended, participated in and volunteered at.  He works for Medtronics and is very active in the PD community.  Joey - thanks for riding with us and for all you do for those impacted by PD.  We greatly appreciate your dedication and encouragement.

Galen is a long time family friend.  He rode with us in 2011 when we left Phoenix and headed to Aguila.  A few weeks before left for Canada this year, I asked him (actually his wife Vera) if he would like to ride with us again.  He said yes so they joined us in San Clemente.  One day while he was riding with us I asked him, "have you ever ridden back to back 60+ mile days?"  He said, nope.  The farthest I have ever ridden was with you guys back in 2011.  Incredible - he owned the miles he rode on these last two days.  Galen - thanks for joining us again and for yours and Vera's continued support of us, our family and our Cause.

Day 27 - Our Last Day riding…..this time.

This is it, the last day of this section.  I have been working towards this day for a year….and yet, not wanting it to come.  Today means our adventure is over for awhile.  I won't get to spend all day with my Dad and Brother - like we have for the last 28 days.  However, we do get to see our Mom, Sister and nephew.  We get to see our friends and family who have been cheering us on for the last 27 incredible days.  Yes, it is bitter sweet.

We had some more special guests this day.  Mom, Eldon, Cidney and Pat and Charlie

Cidney and Pat and Charlie all rode with us the full day.  Dad and I met Cidney in 2012 when I had the opportunity to ride with the Davis Phinney crew in the Ride the Rockies (RTR).  Cidney has PD and was there because a friend of hers was riding on the team.  Cidney and her husband Pat took a day of their vacation to ride with us.  They are a great couple and like us - were not about to let PD stop them from living.  Pat was training to ride in this years RTR where I know he did well.  Humbling.

Charlie met up with us again.  He is the guy who found us on the road early in the ride and sold us the Body Float seat posts.  Charlie met us at the church in San Clemente with donuts and coffee and a smile.   It was good to see him again and it was very cool for him to take time out of his busy schedule to ride with us.  Thanks!

We met up with Mom and our friend Eldon near Pebble Beach.  They both rode with us the last 20ish miles.  As you know, Mom can hold her own on the tandem.  Her and Shannon are incredible team on that bike and 20 miles is a warm up for them.  Eldon - this guy hasn't really rode a bike in a few years.  He is one of the many friends Dad and Mom have in Phoenix who provide them with incredible support, encouragement and friendship.  Eldon was telling people he was going to ride and I think most thought he was blowing smoke.  He wasn't, from my understanding - he rode those miles like a champ - with his red hair flapping in the wind.

I say from my understanding because Keith and I missed a green light the others made it through and therefore missed a turn.  We ended up somewhere in San Diego.  Thankfully, we had our phones and Keith was somewhat familiar with the area.  Just when we thought we had climbed our last hill…there appeared another and another….and another.  Keith and I added about 10 miles and 500 feet to the final days route.  BUT - we ended up at boardwalk ahead of the rest.

The last few miles were on the boardwalk with all the Memorial Day beach traffic.  Incredibly, I didn't hear anyone get mad at us for bringing 10 bikes through the crowd.  We had several look at us and smile and others just look (as they were feeling no pain and probably couldn't focus on us.)

It was awesome to be greeted by about 20 of our friends.

We then headed back to our favorite spot on the beach - the Pink Cottage where we cleaned up and ate…and ate…and ate.  Thanks to Jodi, Cameron and Renee for the great meal.  I don't think I ate that much since the seven pieces of chicken in Paso Robles.

Thanks to all who joined, cheered and met us on Day 27.  You are awesome.

Congratulations to Pops and Carl for showing everyone with PD - Parksinson's Won't Hold ya!

Day 25 - Mugu-mania

First, sorry these are late getting posted.  The last three days of the ride were hectic and since getting home, I have had a hard time even thinking of sitting at the computer.  Work has been busy and I pretty much just want to veg when I make it home.

Day 25 - Oxnard to Hermosa
Miles - 61.91
Gain - didn't write

Today was a great day on the bike.  Relatively level and through some nice coast.  We rode by the Mugu Naval Air Station.  We stopped and read about some of the weaponry used there and other facts about the Station and I kept thinking about what all happened there in the more than 50 years it was in operation.  The base was commissioned in 1942.  Yes, I like history and am an information junky….I never said I remembered it all but I do like to hear, read and learn about history.  I really wish I had a better memory.  Anywho, this place is huge and I know some incredible events happened there.  I wondered where those individuals are now.  What are they doing?  How did they impact history…WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Gulf…...

This also made me wonder - how much of this trip will I remember in 5, 10, 20 years?  How much will anyone who wasn't on the ride remember in 12 months?

What I do know is Pops and Carl continue to amaze me, challenge me, inspire me.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Day 24 - Shut The Door!

Carpenteria to Oxnard

Mileage - 29.62
Elevation Gain - 258

We spent the night at the Carpenteria LDS church.  Dave was our host and he was great.  He had cowboy golf setup - which we moved to the park near the public showers and played while we took turns in the shower.  Then we went to the Palms Steakhouse where you grill your own steak or chicken.  Dave told us they had the best croutons and he was right.  they were incredible.

Today we had a nice short ride - mostly because we had a difficult time finding lodging further north. Again, there was a reason for this and we made a new friend in Dave.  Dave, and another gentleman named Bob from the church,  both of these gentlemen have Parkinson's......any questions why we were there?  Me Neither!

The ride today was great.  Along the beach and in no hurry - life is good.

Carl's Family - Leisa, Jordan and Kamrie - arrived in time for lunch.  He was excited to see them, and they him, and it was good for all to catch up.

Now we are sitting in Carolyn's backyard enjoying the sun and conversation.  Good Times.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Day 22 and 23 - wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

Day 22 - Rode around Paso Robles
Day 23 - Pismo Beach to Carpinteria

Day 22
Miles - 40
Elevation Gain - 1,000

Day 23
Miles - 56.22
Elevation Gain - 2,431

We stayed with Mona's family the nights of Days 21 and 22 and this was about 35 miles inland.  As a result, we all agreed it would be a good idea to just stay near Paso on Day 22 and ride in the area.  Paso Robles has many wineries and a couple of Olive Oil-ers so it was nice country to be riding through.  I was on the tandem with Dad for about 25 miles and need to recognize Shannon for his talent at captaining that rig.  It is so much different from a solo bike.  I was exhausted after my measly 25 miles.  Shannon has put in more than 200 miles on the tandem this trip.  What a stud.

Mona's family were incredible hosts.  On Sunday night we had fried chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy and salad.  I think I ate like seven pieces....guess I was hungry.  Then they got up and made us bacon and eggs for breakfast.  Monday night we had grilled hot dogs and some incredible beans.  Then for breakfast this morning they made biscuits and gravy and eggs.  Thanks Trish for opening your home to all of us!

Mona's Mom made me my favorite cupcakes with chocolate chips in them.  I had a "few" of those and we also brought some along with us for lunch today.  She also did all of our laundry.  She is a special lady in my book.  Thanks Marva!

Needless to say, we got off to a late start on the bikes today.  About 1/2 mile into our ride we passed a cinnamon roll bakery and they smelled amazing.  Yes, it was time for 2nd breakfast so we all enjoyed a local delicacy.  Got to love small town bakeries!  And we have hit some incredible ones on this trip.

Today's ride took us through more farmland where they were growing strawberries, broccoli and cauliflower.  Of course, we had some beach time also and the views were wonderful.

Full Disclosure - Sunday and Monday were two days when the crew all wondered if everything was ok with me.  I was riding but had pretty much checked out of most other inter-action.  Reason being - it was day 20-something on the bike and I was tired.  Also, our Friend Kyle is with us now which to me meant I could check out some from the day to day Ride operations and kinda veg.  Kyle, Shannon and I think a lot alike plus Kyle has ridden enough he has a cyclists understanding of what is needed from SAG.  This is not to say all of our other SAG drivers haven't been incredible.  Kyle is a great friend I am blessed to have and I know he will pick up on what needs to be done.  Thanks Kyle - it is great to have you along this week!

Rachel is also back in the drivers seat of the Edge and doing her SAG duties.  She had originally signed up to just drive for the first week but had so much fun she wanted to come back for this week.  As has happened throughout this ride and the past year of planning - everything happens for a reason.  The other person who was suppose to drive SAG this week had some scheduling issues and wasn't able to be here.  Guess what, Rachel was here to fill the gap.

A few of the sights from today:

Harvesting cauliflower.  They hand cut each head, place it on the trailer where another person rinses it and bags it.  Then it is boxed by another worker.  Note that no one is driving the tractor....at least until the end of the field.

A cemetery in a small California town.  It is ready for Memorial Day.

The next two pics are of paintings on the same building.  The first is a map of the Southern CA coast.

And the second is a "billboard" for Gold Medal Flower.  I love this old "billboards" on the sides of buildings.  I just think they are the coolest.

Take care all.  We are four days from San Diego and completing this leg of our journey.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Day 21 - sea lions and sun

Carmel Valley to somewhere near San Simeon

Mileage - 70
Elevation Gain - 5,400

Yes, we climbed a lot.  I think this is the most gain we have had in a single day.  Today we were riding fast until about lunch.  By lunch we had finished 30+ miles.  Pops and Shannon were on the tandem and Carl was resting.  We were on the 1 all day and most of it without a nice shoulder.  So far, most of the drivers have been very respectful and only a few have buzzed us.

Dad and Shannon called it a day about 3.  Keith and I kept going until 4.  I wanted to to hit 5,000 feet of gain...unfortunately, there was no good place to stop until we hit the 5,400 mark.  The last hill was brutal but Keith and I summited and then said - donedee.  

We are staying with Mona's sister, Trish, tonight and tomorrow.  She  made a great dinner of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy and a salad.  I probably ate too much chicken but I was hungry and still don't feel full.  Guess I burned a lot of calories today. 

We are about 35 miles from the Coast in Paso Robles so we are thinking we will just ride through the vineyards around Paso tomorrow.  We will still put in our 50-60 miles as usual but we thought we would see some new scenery.  Carl asked if I had checked with Corporate to make sure this change was OK and we confirmed they agree this is OK and a good idea.  We will use this as a quasi-recovery ride.   

Well, that's about it.  Good night all.