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 33 – Ride Across America for GTG. Keene, NH to Salisbury, MA, the Atlantic Ocean and the finish!!

GTG Bike Thermometer 5.30.19Current money raised. With the addition tonight of $1000 from one of the riders on the trip with me, we have raised, $24,565 for GTG.  

Our loss has forced my son into uncomfortable and unfamiliar feelings and thoughts.  My son has an opportunity to be around others who are experiencing the same feelings that he has and the program provides a safe, non judgmental space for him to share those feelings. As a result, he is receptive and engaged in my conversations with him.                                                                                                                                  – Parent of a GTG Student

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Success!!  Today we completed our ride of 3450 miles at the Atlantic Ocean on Salisbury Beach, MA.  We started at the hotel in Keene at 7:15 am.  We rode through Keene and up Concord hill located on the east side of town. The hill is more than 2 miles long starting in town and climbs between 7 and 14 percent grade.  A tremendous effort, especially first thing in the am.  By the time we reached hilltop, drizzle and fog descended on us and we were cold and damp for the rest of the day.  Precipitation was not forecast and none of us had proper clothing on. The temp declined to 46 degrees and with that came cold, Southerly winds.  We felt those winds in open areas and certainly at our finish on the beach. 

New Hampshire is a verdant, beautiful and historically rich state.  At every town, homes, buildings, cemeteries prominently displayed the original home owner, the age of the building or the origin of the cemetery, respectively.  Sometimes signs would identify and give history for a prominent citizen – see video.  In addition to logging activity and trucks hauling tree trunks, mills cutting timber into boards, we saw paper companies, camps and retreats.  Invitations for  recreational activities appeared everywhere – including downhill skiing.  We frequently saw boats on trailers and we saw several beautiful lakes in areas along the ride.

Jut before lunch, as we were coming to a stop at a light, Jen grabbed my arm.  She couldn’t get her shoes unclipped.  I was able to prevent her from falling and with more force, she was able to unclip.  Fortunately, our lunch was across the street and she was able to clean her cleats and pedals which were then treated with WD40.  Her clips worked well after that.  

Due to the weather, our progress was slower than planned and we arrived 40 minutes later than expected for our group ride to the shore.  The other riders and Mike wore the ABB jersey made for this year.  I wore my GTG jersey – see photo.  How exciting to see my partner and friends at the beach waiting patiently for me!

At the beach, we took off our shoes and socks and ran with our bikes to the water’s edge to dip our tires in the ocean,  then raise our bikes over our heads and shout with joy.  33 days, 3450 miles ( for the other riders – I had about 370 miles less due to the wedding trip )

Then, our bikes were transported by van to the hotel, we showered and boxed our bikes for shipping home.  Later, our farewell dinner celebration was filled with good humor, warm congratulations from each other for our accomplishment, speeches with heartfelt sentiments and thoughtful insights about one another that comes with spending some intense time with each other.  The staff was particularly complimentary about the 6 of us and how well we came together as a family – to support one another on the hard days and to appreciate each other like a family.  Truly, I feel very close to the other riders after biking across America with them.  

Some final thoughts in another blog post.  For now, please enjoy the video below!  It is now 12:20 and time for bed!

Day 32 – Ride Across America for GTG Amsterdam, NY to Keene, NH

The Growing Through Grief program is something I am incredibly fortunate to be a part of. Losing a parent or a loved one is never easy, and the GTG program gave me an opportunity to share my story to someone, and show me how to handle my grief. It is refreshing to talk to someone who will listen about things that most people do not understand about losing a loved one at a young age. I have been a part of the program for almost 10 years now, and I am thankful for the relationships that I have built, and the techniques I have been taught on how to conquer the hardships that come with losing someone that you love.                                                                                                                    – Joy, a High School Senior

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A tri-state day as we left New York, passed through Vermont and entered New Hampshire to stay the night in Keene.  A cool start to the ride at 50 degrees, so we all wore extra layers.  We were shuttled to a nearby local diner for a hearty breakfast off the creative menu.  Blueberry, chocolate and pecan pancakes were spectacular!  After a ride back to hotel and bikes and loading luggage, our start time was delayed until 9 am.  

New York State scenery continued with relatively low rolling hills, small towns, farmhouses, barns and fields.  Apple orchards were also present.  Ballston Spa, Malta, Mechanicsville, Schaghticoke, Pittstown, Boyntonville, and Hoosick were the towns we biked through in New York.  We had to ride around a truck painting the white strip on the side of the road.  We also biked over the Hudson and Hoosic Rivers.  See photos in the video.  At 63 miles, we crossed the Vermont border and entered the lovely town of Bennington at mile 68.  See photos in video.  I met a resident of Bennington, Mrs Gilbert, out painting her mailbox to look like a large mouth Bass. She has lived 50 years in the Bennington area.  

The highest point of the day was at Hogback Mt. in VT.  I’m told that you can see 4 states from that vantage point – NY, VT, NH, MA.  Our vertical climbs to the Vermont border totaled 3677 feet. We then had another 4967 feet of climbing before we reached our hotel.  Much of it on long steady climbs for 3 – 8 miles at 5 – 9 percent grades.  ( On 6 climbs, 2 lanes were offered to cars and trucks going uphill. All the bikers reveled in seeing the sign saying, “Right lane Ends”, because that meant we were near the top of the hill.)   The descents on the other side of the hills were steady with similar downhill grades, but the shoulders and sometimes the road surfaces were in poor repair.  So, we “took the lane” and rode in the single downhill car lane – much to the chagrin of drivers frustrated with being unable to pass us.  We finished lunch at 3 pm and I got to the hotel by 6:40 pm after riding 125.6 miles- a very long day.  All riders complained of being tired and our legs just not responding to our mind’s demand to pedal harder.  We had used up much of our physical and psychological energy during yesterday’s ride and had little in reserve for today.

I loved the sweeping scenery of Vermont with beautiful hillsides, farms and forests.  Most of the time, a creek or brook was next to our road.  If we were going up hill, the creek would travel downhill against our route and if traveling downhill, the water would move with our direction. Lovely light colored boulders and stones filled the brooks and creeks.  In both directions, the cascading water offered a delightful sound for us.  (I am unable to upload the video of the brook for your viewing.) In one town we saw the remnants of a water driven mill.  Also present in Vermont were windmills and solar panel arrays.  

As we talk about our bike ride, our group members are thrilled with what they have accomplished – their first ( and for most, their last ) bike ride across America.  Of course, they are eager to get home to family, friends, work and their usual routine.  They are also interested to see how these repetitive days of more than 100 miles  of bike riding might improve their performance when they bike with friends or in competition.  And they want to rest their bodies – at least for 4 -5 days.

Tomorrow we have 108 miles and 5,250 vertical feet of climbing to reach the Salsbury beach east of Amesbury and dip our tires in the Atlantic to end our ride.  Some of us are fortunate to have our family and friends waiting for us for a 3 pm seaside celebration.  

It is now 10:30 and time for sleep.

Please enjoy the video of today’s ride.

Day 31 – Ride Across America for GTG, Syracuse to Amsterdam, NY. 118 miles

I’ve benefited from grief group because during my grief, I was isolated and kept everything in and now I feel better after opening up.   I felt comfortable asking questions about grief, death and what feelings are normal to have as I grieve.  I feel that others can understand what I’m going through and I feel supported.              – Adam, a GTG High School Senior

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Honestly, today was tough.  51 degrees at the start of the day and 52 at the end.  We biked into a headwind and rain ( except for 10 minutes when it was not raining) all day long.  I wore 5 layers of clothing and added a plastic bag over my torso at lunch and still I was cold. I have few photos to show due to rain, poor light conditions and difficulty getting the smart phone out of a back pocket on the jersey and get a photo while wearing gloves. At every traffic stop, we could squeeze water out of our gloves.  Although we ate our sag food lunch indoors – I didn’t have warm dry clothes to change into and, actually, I was warmer back on the road biking and generating heat.  The headband was soaked, despite having a rainproof helmet cover on.  Our feet were wet and cold, despite having “rain booties” over our biking shoes.

None of us had ridden in this type of weather before – being fair weather riders at home. Yet, no-one asked to get out of the rain and ride in the van.  A tough minded group!

Rain poses safety concerns.  Obviously it makes the road slippery, especially the white strip on road side.  It creates puddles and we can’t see what is lurking in the bottom of the water.  (1 rider did flat after going through a puddle)  Spray from cars and trucks raising water from the road surface or from potholes also increases the risk of an injury. Our brake don’t work a well.  Our tires lift water and dirt from the road surface onto the following riders.  It diminishes vision – for us and for drivers – a good reminder to turn on headlights when driving in the rain.

Much of our route was along the Canal Erie.  We stopped at several places to read the history of the canal, the expansion and the change that came with rail and auto traffic.  We did some a few boats on the larger sections of the canal.  We passed through Canastota – please see photos from the city.  Greystone Castle was a replacement for a Methodist Church that burned in a fire in 1908.  The congregation left and the building was purchased in 1995 and is now used as a party and event center.

Amsterdam, NY, located on the Mohawk River and, subsequently, the Erie Canal has an interesting history and a good economy.  I refer you to social media information about the city.  We did see several distribution centers near the town including Target and Clayco.

Tomorrow, the weather is expected to be better with no rain and, perhaps, a little tail wind.  We’ll bike 125.6 miles and climb 8600 vertical feet to Keene, NH and go through Vermont on the way.   Thursday, we’re at the coast and the end of our journey.  After much planning, anticipation and hard work, all the riders have noted that the end seems to be coming so quickly now.  And we’re all dealing with the fact that on Thursday, we will have biked across America  ( except for my 3 days off for the wedding).  I’ll have more to write about the ride and some thoughts at the end of the week.

Please enjoy the Relive video from today:

 

 

 

Day 30 – Ride Across America for GTG, Batavia to Syracuse, NY

Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.                                          – Pele

fireworks
Photo by Frank Cone on Pexels.com

Congratulations Jeff!

Grief group helps me because you can talk about your feelings and meet people who are going through the same thing as you.  It has helped me so much!  Thank you!!                                                                                                  – Jenny, a GTG High School Student

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Memorial Day, 2019

I spent hours today, remembering the family, friends, teachers and others who help raise me, educate me and gave me guidance and encouragement along the way.  My memory of them is a blessing for me and I enjoyed telling the other riders about some of the people I thought about today.  The lessons I learned from these people and others I remember, still inspire me and motivate me in my life.

I hope that your Memorial Day was relaxing, rewarding and full of good memories of those who have impacted your life.

After three days off for my niece’s wedding, today was more difficult than expected.  However, with all the small towns decorated for Memorial Day Parades and people gathering to celebrate, it was easy to feel joyful and supported.  We saw several Fire Departments barbecuing chicken and beef for the crowds – it looked like 600 chickens over a very large grill for the people of Avon. We saw old fire trucks, floats and other regalia along with musicians ready to participate in the parades.

Many beautiful older homes lined the roads we biked.  More than 3 dozen homes had cupolas – see photos.  Many of the homes listed the dates of construction -some in the 1700s, but mostly in the early to mid 1800s.  Most of the farms, despite their long history, had up to date structures and equipment.  It was exciting to see the places and remember the history associated with them from school or other reading.  Syracuse and the Erie Canal, Seneca Falls and the First Woman’s Rights Convention in 1848, Waterloo and the beginning of Memorial Day Celebrations, Avon and the Finger Lakes Region of New York.  It was all very interesting and I was able to capture many photos along the way.

There was road construction on our route, so we had to follow a detour, adding about 5 miles on the day.  Also, it is becoming more common for gas stations and other businesses to refuse us the use of a bathroom – even if we buy something.  So, we often must wait longer than we want – especially Jen – to find a bathroom.

Final plans are being made for Thursday, the last day: boxing and shipping our bikes home and getting those who need a ride to the airport in Boston for the flight home.  I need to ship my bike box from the hotel on Friday.

Tomorrow, Day 31, is expected to have rain and cool temps in the 50s all day.  And a headwind.  We were informed that our group leaders do not need to ride in bad weather – they have nothing to prove!    As for us, we’ll see how it goes…………….

Please enjoy a photo heavy Relive video

 

Day 29 – Ride Across America for GTG, Dunkirk to Batavia, NY

It’s been an outlet for them to share and allowed the opportunity to grieve. This has been an amazing program for both of my children and I’m sad my son is graduating and won’t have this any longer. I am extremely thankful this outlet has allowed my children to work through their grief and see that they are not alone.            – Barb, a GTG Parent

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For additional reading on the loss of a parent and the impact on children, you can read a general review in an online article called “Death of a Parent affects even grown Children Psychologically and Physically”, by Joshua Krisch in the May 9th, 2019 online publication, Fatherly.                                                                                                https://www.fatherly.com/health-science/parent-death-psychological-physical-effects/

Starting in Dunkirk this am,  the riders split into two groups.  One followed the prescribed course from Dunkirk to Batavia.  Marco and Morten chose to go to Buffalo and visit Niagra Falls – from both the US and the Canadian sides.  Only when they got to Buffalo did they learn the city was having a marathon – and the the bicyclists got caught up in some of the road closures.  They also had a flat – from Morten’s tubeless tire and there was no bike shop open to day to help them.  Ultimately, with the help of a local farmer, they taped the tire  – that helped for 30 miles, then he put in an inner tube to resolve the problem.

I missed the 3 state day, Ohio to Pennsylvania to New York.

Jim came in from New Hampshire to take one of the vans for the cross country ride he will lead in a week. His van broke down and can’t be fixed in time for his trip.  So, we will use the one van for the rest of the trip to the ocean.  Also, we are all disappointed in the lack of quality and cleanliness of the hotel we’re staying in.  Fortunately, it is just for one night.

Tomorrow, we head out for a 121 mile ride to Syracuse.  Each of the next four days will also have at least 3,000 vertical feet of climbing.  Our hope is that the rains and headwinds predicted for the next three to four days will lighten up and be easier for us to ride in.

 

 

Day 28 – Ride Across America for GTG, Warren, OH to Dunkirk, NY

“Safe travels, may the wind be at your back!”

“I love how you are using your Retirement to continue to “Make Good Happen.”  This, along with your work with Habitat for Humanity, is truly inspiring!”

“How awesome!  Best of luck on this journey for such a great cause!  You are indeed living the Head and Heart, Together, motto”.  

– Encouragement from Health Partners and Park Nicollet Employees

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The group biked from Warren, OH, to Dunkirk, NY today, one of the five long days of over 130 miles.  The weather was wet in the morning, then dried off quickly.  A long and challenging day, it was completed successfully by the  group.

As I write, I am in Chicago, it is 10:30 at night and the pulsating rhythm of the wedding reception music coming from the large outdoor pavilion can still be heard.  The morning rains quickly passed and it turned out to be a beautiful day for an outdoor wedding.  Officiating the ceremony, which began at 5 pm was relatively easy for my first time- the dialogue had been agreed upon in March, it was typed in 24 size font and placed in a 3 ring binder.  Good plan – the winds would have carried away any loose sheets of paper.  The individual vows of bride and groom were thoughtful, heartfelt and showed insight into their own soul and that of their betrothed.   Listening to the beautiful words, it was easy to understand why so many people teared up as the vows were said.  Both families could not have been happier for the union of these two special young people.

The couple chose to have the groom crush a glass under his heel to end the wedding ceremony.  As I explained to the attendees, “this act has several interpretations and for William and Alexandra, it marks the end of their separate lives and the beginning of life as a couple.  It is also a statement that even in this moment of exquisite happiness and joy, they’re aware that suffering still exists in this world and together they hope to ease some of that pain through the life they want to live.”

Officiating their wedding was a special honor for me – and a lot of fun. I hope to be able to officiate at other wedding ceremonies.

Tomorrow, I fly to Batavia, NY, to rejoin the group.  The group will ride from Dunkirk to Batavia.  Then, together, we will have four days to reach the Atlantic shore,  just east of Amesbury, MA.

Day 27 – Ride Across America for GTG, Wooster to Warren, OH

I feel that my child opened up to the group [then] he opened up to me. Improving my child’s coping skills helped the entire family.                                         – GTG Parent

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It is a beautiful morning in Wooster with sunny skies and a temp of 56 degrees.  It will be a shorter day to reach Warren and the next hotel, 96 miles down the road.

Today, I leave the group and fly to Chicago.  My niece has asked me to officiate at her wedding on Saturday.  Sunday, I return to the group in Batavia, New York and complete the ride on May 30.

Please continue to check these daily posts for additional information on Growing Through Grief.

Sorry for the delay in getting this posted.  Thank you for continuing to follow this journey with me.

 

 

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.