The Journey Begins

Growing Through Grief is an intensive in-school grief support program provided to elementary, middle and high school students who have experienced the death of a family member or friend. Grief services are provided to the student free of charge and include peer support groups and one-to-one counseling on a regular basis throughout the school year. Collaborative crisis management support for death related incidences, such as when a staff member or student dies, are also provided to the school community.  The program is run by the Park Nicollet Foundation and is paid for through grants and philanthropy.

Throughout the bike ride, we will have updates about the Growing Through Grief program from counselors, student participants, teachers and family members of students receiving grief counseling.

The program is free to students. However, it costs $500,000 a year to support the program including the counselors, the printed materials for students, and numerous other expenses.  Philanthropy is the source for funding – and the Park Nicollet Foundation staff must raise that amount every year to keep the program going.

My goal is to raise at least $65,000, the cost of the program for a year at one school.  To make a donation, please click on the link below.  All donations go directly to the program. 

Please follow along with me as I ride bike across America.  The adventure begins on April 28th!

This video is an overview of the program – interesting to watch!


Sponsors:

  • Freewheel Bike
  • Borton Volvo
  • Mark Cheeley, Synergy Wealth Management, Ameriprise
  • Jim Greenwood, Greenwood Health Solutions
  • Many Individuals who care


Day 26 – Ride Across America for GTG, Marysville to Wooster, OH

[Our Junior High] has benefited immensely from our relationship with Park Nicollet Foundation’s Growing Through Grief program. For many years, we have been able to support students within the building who have experienced loss through weekly grief groups. In 2017-18, we experienced the unimaginable loss of three students. [GTG] partnered with us to support students, families and staff. They were present in our building for the majority of last spring, and [our GTG counselor] has continued to provide support for staff as we moved through the one year anniversary period of the deaths. We are so lucky to work with her and Park Nicollet Foundation’s Growing Through Grief program                                                                                              – GTG Junior High Principle

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Weather continued to be impactful during our trip.  Our departure was delayed until 10:30 am due to thunderstorms with lightening moving through the area.  Rain was expected for much of the day with temps in the 70s. (Rain coats are not helpful – snug jackets don’t breath enough for the heat and sweat we generate.  Loose coats pick up wind resistance and slow us down.)  Fortunately, a good westerly wind dried off the roads within an hour – by 11:30 am -and the predicted afternoon rain didn’t materialize.  In fact, it turned out to be a gorgeous if challenging riding day.  Please see videos for pictures.  

Highlights of the ride included the lovely farmlands- especially after a rain shower.  See the video for the lovely colors of fields, contrasting building colors, the passing cloud effect alternating with sunlight on the fields and hillsides.  We saw 8 creeks – all without signage.  And much standing water in the low lying fields.  We saw signs for the Johnny Appleseed Trail and the Shawshank Redemption movie scenes shot on location.  We passed through several small towns displaying at least one old building from the mid – 1800s, old churches and cemeteries at the town’s outskirts and the expected collections of old farm machinery.  

Our leaders were excited for us to bike on the roads today.  Especially, Hwy 603!  It came at mile 68 and continued for 7 miles with 5 tall hills and two hills having 14 percent grade!  It was exhausting, but there were also many more hills before we reached Wooster, OH and our hotel.  One hill in particular offered a commanding view of the surrounding farmland for as far as one could see.  Wooster, an agricultural, business and college town, is also the county seat of Wayne county -See the video for the beautiful and artistic Wayne County building. For the day, we climbed 4500 feet and rode 103 miles.

Tomorrow, the destination is Warren Ohio.  

You can use the link to “view on Relive” in the lower Right hand of the video box – then you can enlarge the video to full-screen if you want.

Please check the link for MPR recording of my interview with Cathy Wurzer below the Relive video

 

For those interested, below is a link to the interview I had with Cathy Wurzer on MPR, first broadcast on April 26th. Thank you, Cathy, for the opportunity to talk about GTG and this life changing bike ride across America!. We had a long and wonderful conversation that was edited for time. https://www.mprnews.org/story/2019/04/26/retired-doctor-bikes-across-country-fundraiser-students-loss

Day 25 – Ride Across America for GTG, Richmond, IN to Marysville, OH

It is a privilege to come to work every day knowing the impact of Park Nicollet Foundation’s program:  Growing Through Grief.  Our collaborative team of grief counselors, school based support staff, teachers, and administration embrace the opportunity to support, build resilience, and help children and teens see their potential through the midst of grieving a loved one.  In this process, we see student strengths rise to the surface where they find community, safety, and encouragement from their peers and surrounding adults.                       GTG Staff

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Five minutes out of the hotel door and we crossed the border into Ohio.  Our goal for the day was to reach Marysville, 104 miles down the road, by early afternoon to beat the forecast rain.  It was 55 degrees and humid when we started out and, again, most of our riding was on country roads – some of them Ohio highways.  Drizzle started by 10:30 at our first sag but it lasted only 30 minutes.  It returned again after lunch for another 40 minutes.  We did get to the hotel by 3 pm – to learn that the rooms were not ready.  So a quick frozen custard at a local fast food and 45 minutes later we  could get out of our riding clothes and into the warm shower.  The rain did come at 4:30 pm. Of course, we all needed to do laundry – but in this humid air, our gentle knits and lycra won’t have time to air dry- as recommended by the manufacturer.  After a short spin on low temp for the clothes, I’ll see how the clothes are in the morning before packing.

We passed through many small towns – as seen on the video.  Many older buildings, some dating to mid-late 1800’s dot the streets near the city center.  We don’t know the area, so large homes in the countryside seem out of place.  We saw many gated homesteads with a large home, a paddock, barn and horses, cattle, chicken and sometimes llamas and goats.  Then, just a few miles down the road, trailer homes in poor condition can be seen from the road.  Much older, out of use farm machinery may be seen in the corner of some yards or fields.  Many of the fields have pooling water from recent storms – unclear to us when farmers will get to plant corn and soybean.

Just before Marysville, we passed a water tower in the center of a large compound with the letters, ORW.  The signage at the entrance of the large facility read:  Ohio Reformatory for Women.  Other signage included yard signs saying: No to windmills, No pilot.

Biking, like driving, requires constant vigilance about the world around the biker, an understanding of the route and destination and good communication to other riders through hands signals and voice directions.  Today,  three of us were confused by the computer based directions from our Garmin that told us to take a right and then a left when crossing a highway on what was just a continuation of a diagonal road that intersected the highway.  I was first in line and realized I needed to turn around and cross to the diagonal on the other side. As I turned around to check traffic and talk with the others, I saw the rider, third in line, go down onto her left knee. She sustained a scrap to the side of the knee but reported no additional discomfort.  Later, she told me the biker in front of her suddenly turned to the left and slowed down without warning giving her no time to slow down, stop or unclip.  An unnecessary accident that good communication and awareness of others would have avoided.   

Tomorrow, Day 26, we ride to Wooster, OH.  Weather forecasts show temps in the 70s and rain intermittently throughout the day.  There is a possibility of thunderstorms.  I will take a light jacket – a wind breaker that will keep most of the water off me without being as heavy as a non-breathing rain coat.   And, a cover for the helmet and visor for my glasses.    

Please enjoy the video of today’s ride.  I would like to take more photos to show you, but the weather forecasts preclude a slow ride across the countryside taking time for photos.

I enjoy watching the videos.  It allows me to review the day and to see some of the surrounding scenes I may have missed.

Of course,  I always enjoy comments from you.  

Thank you for your support for Growing Through Grief.

Day 24 – Ride Across America for GTG, Lebanon to Richmond, IN

Grief Group has given me hope. Hope that someday it will all turn out for the better. This hope has motivated me to keep pushing, to stay alive. Grief group keeps me alive.                                                                                                                      – Todd, GTG Middle School Student

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Our ride today was cool, long, intermittently wet, interesting and a few times exciting. Again, we had a headwind from the east, 16 mph with gusts to 22 mph.  To help with the wind, several of us rotated through the position of first in line- and we drafted behind as he/she pulled.  We could maintain a pace of 13.5-14 mph by rotating the first person every mile.  As we advanced down the road, the fields slowly gave way to multiple small towns – see names on the video.  By lunch, the precipitation caught up with us and it drizzled for much of the afternoon.  Fortunately, the rain held off until 5 pm, a full 30 minutes after we finished.  Yesterday, our average pace was 17.8 mph and today only 14.1 mph due to the headwinds.

Scare! We were in a pace line on a rural road and I had just taken the lead.  The road became very bumpy with uneven asphalt and stone.  Suddenly, a shout!  Then, my name was yelled by a few people.  I thought someone had a flat.  NO!  for the first time ever, my front bottle had come out of its cage ( metal holder ) and fell to the ground.  Immediately, without time to react, Mitch saw the bottle as he ran over it as it lay parallel to his path.  Fortunately, he was not hurt!  The bottle was half full and the top was open, so water sprayed out and the bottle collapsed without pitching Mitch off his bike.  That is a drawback of a pace line, little or no time to react to something that suddenly appears in front of you.

As we traveled east, the small towns showed more pride – in their well maintained buildings, in their town’s history – with murals, posted placards along the streets announcing famous people born and raised in the community, signs informing us of a home or building on the National Historic Registry.  And some of the proud, older buildings on main streets, shuttered but still standing – a reminder of an earlier time – before big box stores and the internet.

Richmond, IN, a few miles from the border with Ohio appears to be a booming city with a strong history and good economy.  As with other large towns, we don’t see the main street or  get of tour of historical highlights – we stay on safer, less traveled roads to reach our hotel.

Our tour through the heartland of the country allows us to view many farms, fields, ranches and feed lots.  Especially on small farms, the cattle will stare at us and turn their heads in a staccato-like movement as they watch our progress along the road.  Most cattle will stare, some will come toward us and only a few will turn away.  A beautiful farm scene today: a calf stood between two cows laying down with heads up watching us and ruminating over lunch.  About horses, some will trot away when they see us, some will stand and stare and some will come toward the fence.  Again, they are fascinated with us – I imagine wondering what we bicyclists are.  Today, a colt saw us and with energy and a spring in his gait, started to trot along the fence parallel with the road.  As he trotted, he looked back as if to say, “are you going to play with me, run with me along the fence?”  Obviously, we couldn’t keep up with him and he got to the end of his corral long before we reached a similar point on the road.  In other settings, goslings from pairs of Canadian geese can be seen in the ponds.  Lambs were outside the barns, seeking their mother’s milk. And now, with more trees and swamps, sources for food and for nesting, we hear the multitude of bird calls typical of spring.  A time of renewal and hope on the farms and in nature.

Please see the video from today’s ride.   I will upload it on a separate post. Due to the headwinds and drizzle and difficulty getting the camera out from a back jersey pocket with full fingered gloves, I took fewer pictures than I wanted.

 

 

Day 23 – Ride Across America for GTG, Tuscola, IL to Lebanon, IN

…the program has tremendously helped my son in his grief journey. I see the difference in him on the days that he has grief group.                    – GTG Student Parent

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Our ride started at 7 am with a temperature of 52 degrees and it was 56 degrees at the end of our day.  Overcast, with a cool wind of 15 mph from the northwest, we headed more north than east for the first 40 miles. It was a tough morning as we pedaled into a northwest wind.   I added layers of clothing at the first sag to help warm me, but I was chilled all day.  We crossed into Indiana and a later time zone at the 61 mile mark.  Our quick lunch was at 77.8 miles – not wanting to stay long since we were outdoors and easily chilled in the wind.  The wind was behind us in the afternoon, but it had subsided and was not much help to push us to the hotel.  Finally, at 4:30, we arrived at the hotel in time for a short warm shower and  Rap.   Tomorrow, it may well be raining in the am and we will be headed into a 15 mph headwind throughout the day.

W passed through many small towns along the route with much if it on Hwy 136 and then 32 E, both two lane roads with 55 mph speed limits and lots of traffic.  Some of the towns were pretty, well maintained and colorful.  Others were in various degrees of decay with old worn out buildings ready for the bulldozer.  Many buildings were being used for a purpose that was not the original intent of the architect and builder.  For instance, the sports bar in Lebanon where we had dinner had brick walls and a high ceiling.  It was built in the ’40s and the trains brought prisoners of war to the area and American troops home after the war – according to the new owner.

My apologies, but I am having technical issues with my Garmin and the programs that sync it to my computer.  Thus, I do not have a video to show you our route and photos from today.  I hope to have it in the coming days.  Thank you for your patience.

Day 22-Ride Across America for GTG, Springfield to Tuscola, IL.

Growing through Grief, The Park Nicollet Foundation program, is like a big hug that surrounds our students.   Through their weekly group sessions led by caring experts they are getting coping strategies and support.  Growing through grief creates a peer group that can truly relate to one another.

– School Student Services Coordinator

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“Jeff, thank you for your work to promote this program.  It makes such an impact on kids and families across the community.  Today, Growing Through Grief reaches over 500 children a week providing support and encouragement to help kids and families move forward with courage and hope. The need is great and this program makes a real difference.”                

-Andrea Walsh, President and CEO of HealthPartners. 

On paper, today’s ride from Springfield to Tuscola, a mere 77.9 miles, appeared easy and unremarkable. As always, the details were more interesting. Rain was forecast to start early Sunday morning and continue throughout the day with perhaps a window of time with less rain between 8 and 1 pm. Thus, our initial leave time was 8:30. At the last minute, based on a change in the weather forecast with clearing skies from 9 am – 12 pm, we started at 8 – and that created some chaos for all of us. The goal was clear – get to the hotel before 1 pm to avoid getting caught a thunderstorm. The roads were wet as we started out, but with the strong southwest wind, they quickly dried. Beautiful farms with dark, fertile ground and large tractors tilling the soil were seen on both sides of the road for nearly all of our ride. On several farms, we saw Mennonite families, everyone wearing proper clothing and their grounds and barns well kept.

The wind kept us honest as we biked- we tilted between 5 – 10 degrees toward the wind as it came across our bodies just behind the right shoulder. For those half mile to three quarter mile stretches as we followed the farmland roads and turned into the wind, we saw our mph drop by 70 %! Fortunately, as we biked with the wind slightly behind us, our speed remained around 21.5 – 22 mph. (The three fast riders were dong 24 mph) We pushed hard to reach these numbers, knowing that we must race against the pending storm clouds. We had one sag stop for lunch at 40.7 miles near Mt Zion. We inhaled small portions of food and quickly got back on the bikes so as not to lose much time.

We reached Tuscola by 12:40 and with the weather not yet threatening, we stopped for ice cream at a DQ. The storm did come at 1:20 with even stronger winds and a heavy downpour for 20 minutes. How thankful I was to be off the road! After a shower, I had time to talk with family and catch up on correspondence. During our 4:30 pm Rap, we reviewed our route for tomorrow – Tuscola to Lebanon, IN. We will enter a new state and another time zone. The temperature will be 50 degrees at the start and will only reach 55 in the afternoon – a cool day for a 120 mile ride. And, as we travel further east, the towns and their traffic lights will come more frequently – slowing our momentum and requiring even more vigilance for inattentive or rude drivers. As we walked to dinner at the only nearby restaurant, an inexpensive chain restaurant, we all complained of muscle discomfort – a consequence of pushing hard to beat the rain.

Please see video with pictures of: farm related buildings and scenes, US Post Office in Mt Zion, IL, a Mennonite church with the parking lot filled with large black painted SUVs and vans, the enormous Fuyao glass company, claimed to be the largest EOM glass making company for autos in the world and some interesting signs.

As always, I appreciate your readership, any feedback you wish to offer me and your generous donation to GTG.

Dear readers, you can get a full screen image of the video by clicking on the link, View on Relive in the box below.

Day 21 – Ride Across America for GTG, Rest Day in Springfield,IL

Sometimes my daughter will share what she worked on with the grief counselor at school, and then we all talk about it as a family.  It becomes a way we can process our grief together – vital for us to move forward.                                  – GTG Parent

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For me, the above quotation speaks to the heart of the matter for a child grieving the loss of a family member or classmate. Their grief and loss is a personal, complex and long lasting experience, but it affects the people around them as well. For some family members, they may not be able to help the child if they themselves are also grieving. For others, they may not have the experience and wisdom to help a child process the thoughts and emotions of grief – at the child’s stage of development. So, as in the quotation above, Growing Through Grief counselors help support the grieving child and, indirectly, help the family members as they interact with each other and manage their grief as well. We are so fortunate to have this unique program for our school aged children.

Thankfully, today we can rest, catch up on necessities like laundry, buy supplies for the bike or ourselves and make good personal choices for food for lunch and dinner! This is the first large town we’ve been in for the past three states and I’m looking forward to a good fish dinner and vegetables! I will also check out the Lincoln Presidential Museum and family home.

At Rap yesterday, Mike, our team lead, introduced plans for our last day. We will have a small banquet, a slide show presentation selected from the many photos he’s taken of us and a chance for each rider to say goodbye. The next morning, I will have my bike boxed up and shipped back home.

The technical issue for the video has been resolved. Please see yesterday’s Relive video below. Then, please scroll down for a few more photos.

Having fun in Texas.

Day 20, Ride Across America For GTG,Quincy to Springfield, IL

The benefit of grief group for me is that I don’t forget the good memories with my dad and I can talk about it with kids that have a similar experience.           – GTG High School Student

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Humidity and the promise of heat met us as we started our bike ride today.  We left the charming town of Quincy and headed east toward Chambersburg, our first sag, 41 miles down the road.  We are now on back roads and small country highways with fields of wheat and tilled soil waiting for planting on both sides.  The air, though heavy with moisture, carried fragrances of honeysuckle and other wonderful scents, along with the inevitable and infrequent cattle farm aromas. ( see video of photos from Chambersburg).  We passed over the Illinois River at mile 47, our lowest point of the day.  Fortunately, the wind was mostly behind us and with consistent pushing on the pedals we could maintain 21- 22 mph.  As we entered the outskirts of Jacksonville, I saw the Nestle factory ( see video for photos )  and further into town, we passed a beautiful hospital and several medical related outpatient buildings.

We started east from the city on Old Jacksonville road, dating to the first half of the 1800s, ran from Springfield to Jacksonville.  An important artery for goods, crops and migration, it also had several historical features that we saw at Riddle Hill – 6.5 miles outside Springfield.  First, a sign marking the rest stop for the Potawatoni Trail of Death from 1838 – 850 members of that group were being forced to march into territory that would later become Kansas.  In the same area on July 4, 1861, the new 21st Illinois Volunteer Infantry, under the command of Colonel Ulysses S Grant spent their first night after leaving Springfield.  At mile 95, just past the small town of Berlin, the beautiful fields gave way to the signs of urban sprawl with homes and small company offices.  In a few miles, the road became Monroe street.  Suddenly, here was the imposing and inspiring State Capital Building ( see photos in the video)  It is closer to the street, standing on a hill and appears significantly taller than our State Capital building.  Surrounding it are other government buildings and older, charming buildings that have avoid the rush for development.  We passed older, residential areas and saw many school children as they left class for the weekend.  Within a few more miles, we reached our hotel and were met by Jen’s parents.  Her Mother made a batch of cookies for each of us!

Today, we say goodbye to Jim our mechanic and hello to Jeff Lazer from Lower Town in St. Paul.  Jim flies to the ABB office in New Hampshire tomorrow, will get 3 days at home in Vermont before heading west to lead another cross country trip with ABB.  In a small world story, I had met him at a rest stop on a Tour de Cure ride 3 years ago.  He spins at the YMCA in Edina and knew one of our group who goes to the same classes.  A pleasure to ride with Jeff!

With a consistent tailwind over our right shoulder, we were able to complete the 106 mile trip before 3:30 pm.  With the sunscreen and sweat on our faces, you can imagine that we looked like a windshield after a long trip – covered with bugs!  A shower, a meal in the hotel and tomorrow a day of rest awaits us.

Now, for the good humor of the day.  It was told to me that I am an inspiration to all the 50 plus year olds in the group!          Yes, they had thought riding across America was NOT something an older man of 63 would attempt and here I was doing it!  ( I wonder if they think I’m doping?)

We will start the last leg of our trip on Sunday morning.

To all, have a safe weekend.

My apologies, I am having trouble with embedding the video onto this site.  I will publish the video ASAP.

 

Day 19 – Ride Across America for GTG. Kirksville, MO to Quincy,IL

The Health Partners Bike Club are all behind Growing Through Grief and wishing Jeff a serious tailwind! Yep, they wish they were out there too.

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We have been biking eleven days since our last rest day and the toil on our bodies is evident. In fact, none of us has ridden these long miles on more than 5 days in a row before this trip. Sunburns, rashes, sore wrists, painful contact with the saddle, muscle cramps and irritation, irritated coughs, headaches, sore backs and shoulders are some of the symptoms. Riders remain pleasant even jovial, but a level of frustration with the hills and the headwinds is contributing to a focus on getting through the next two days to reach Saturday, our next rest day. So, I decided to look more closely at the scenery and take a few more pictures along the way. See video below.

Today started out with more hills, some headwinds and 63 degrees. We past Truman University in Kirksville, a lovely campus and medical center. Leaving the town, I had to take the NEMO sign picture for my friends who have watched Nemo and related films multiple times with their children. We saw farmlands along Hwy 15 to our sag across from the IDK cafe in Baring. (we will be featured on their website.) Most of the farm homes are newer, attractive buildings, but always, there are some abandoned and in decay. Lunch was at mile 58 in Monticello – and also our 2,000 mile mark since April, 28th! ( see photo). We needed the rest and lunch lasted longer than usual. Naturally, bikers and other interested in biking would gather around to ask about us and ABB. By then, headwinds of up to 25 miles an hour had formed. In fact, 15 miles down the road, we heard thunder and saw rain falling in front of us. With an intermittent strong wind from the side, I leaned my bike into the wind and sit upright to maintain balance.. But our East, SouthEast route frequently brought us into the headwind. As the temperature rose into the low 80s, we felt a little “baked” and we welcomed the clouds to block the sunlight when ever they came. In fact, I had to stop 5 times to wash the sweat salt out of my eyes – very irritating!

Our lowest altitude of riding was between mile 70 and 85. See video for photos and the flood maker. Fortunately, our last 20 miles was mostly with the wind and we were reaching 22-23 mph. How happy we were to cross the Mississippi and enter IL, knowing that the hotel was only 6 miles down the road. ( the bridge was too busy to take planned photos). Riding up from the river past industrial buildings, we started to see parks and historic buildings. Further on, Main street with its beautiful homes is reminiscent of Summit Ave in St. Paul. With 40,000 people in Quincy by census in 2000, the home prices are significantly lower than in St. Paul – especially for the homes advertised for sale.

This evening, after Rap, we had new chains put on our bikes. After 2000 miles upon exam, the chain had stretched and it can damage my cassette (gears) if not replaced.

Tomorrow, we bike to Springfield, 106 miles down the road. It will be 70 degrees when we start and mid 80s when we finish. Very warm for bike riding.

(Correction- yesterday we climbed 6,800 feet on MO hills – a few of the other riders want to be accurate!)

Please watch video below.