Day 3 Ride Across America

In retrospect, Day 3 will be remembered as a steady effort on our first day in AZ. 5 miles into our ride, Interstate 10 crosses the Colorado river, the border between CA and AZ at that point. Our first saguaro cactus was seen at 5 miles inside the AZ border. We had two steady climbs of about 2 percent grade for a total of 51.5 miles and a wind coming from the south east. We saw the town of Hope – see photo below. The sign has been repainted and now correctly spells, “You’re”, having corrected the earlier, “Your” spelling. After the two long climbs, much of the remaining 50 miles was on a plateau – with farmlands extending to the foothills on either side. Finally, a steady 8 mile decline of about 2 percent led us to Wickenburg which resides at 2,000 feet elevation. See video with altitude on the top left corner.

As Mike told us, check your tires at every rest stop. At our 2nd sage stop, I found a thorn in the tire and when I pulled it out, the inner tube went flat. Fortunately, it was at the sage stop and the tube was quickly replaced and not on the road.

As the front desk clerk at our Wickenburg hotel checked me in, she asked me about my Growing Through Grief jersey. I explained the program and my fundraiser. “My mother died by suicide when I was 14 years old. I didn’t deal with it until I was in my 30’s. I wish they had a program like this (Growing Through Grief) when I was in school”

Tomorrow will be our biggest challenge with 3 large hill climbs – above 7000 feet before heading down into Prescott. From there we continue our descent into Cottonwood for the night.

Please click on Relive “Day 3 Ride Across America” and then click again on the next line that pops up. As the Garmin was being recharged due to a low battery issue, it did not record – so a straight line appears on the video where there is no road. Sorry for any confusion this causes.

Relive ‘Day 3 Ride Across America’

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Day 2 Ride across America

After a 6 am breakfast, we started riding at 7 am, pedaling east through the town of Palm Springs. Lush gardens and gated communities slowly gave way to the amazing agriculture of California exemplified by orchards of date, orange, grapefruit trees and nurseries with hundreds of flowering trees, Palm trees and perennials. After the town of La Quinta we began a slow and steady climb passing through Mecca and entering Box Canyon. See Photo below. Dry and nearly barren of vegetation, it was hard to imagine that last year a rain storm flooded the Canyon and destroyed the only road. A new road was just completed and we were the first traffic on it.

We entered Interstate 10, a busy, noisy and crowded Interstate and rode on the 10 foot shoulder. Fortunately, our first sag stop for water and snacks was a few miles down the road. But, most of the rest of our ride was on I 10, except for the last 11 miles. Frequent pieces of debris on the shoulder made it challenging to navigate. With traffic passing at 80 miles an hour on our left and wind up to 25 miles an hour coming from our right, all our concentration was focused on the shoulder ahead of us.

For the 10 miles leading up to the last sag stop at 108 miles, the Interstate shoulder had significant heaving of the tar from the heat. So, a year ago, the tar peaks were cut down, but the remaining holes were not filled. Thus, we bounced our tires every 4 to 10 feet creating jarring vibration to hand, butt and feet. As a friend would say – ” no extra charge for the fun”

I finished after 5 pm. Fortunately, Blythe, an agricultural center between LA and Phoenix, was a mild mid 80s, not the low 100s of last week. After a shower and a sandwich for dinner, “Rap” by our leaders reviewed today’s activity and discussed tomorrow’s ride to Wickenburg, AZ, our second state of the ride. Honestly, I am exhausted, but feel good about what has been accomplished thus far.

For the record, Todd had 4 flats today, 3 from small thorns and one from a piece of metal. Changing out the punctured inner tube and checking the tire for the cause of the flat can be very time consuming. So, every time I get off the Interstate, I check for wires – today I pulled out 4 – before they could cause a flat.

I want to help readers see a video of the day’s ride = it requires many devices to work and work well together. I hope a video from Day 2 appears below. Please click on Day 2 in the box below.

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Getting Started and Day 1

We met at 1 pm on Sat for the official beginning: introduction of riders and the team from America By Bicycle (ABB) followed by a thorough safety check and description of the ride across America. We were surprised to learn that 3 riders dropped out at the last minute – so only 7 of us will ride cross country.

The other riders include: Jen, a business woman, is from Oak Park, IL. Francois, born and raised in France, has retired from Wall street work. Morten is from Norway – his carbon fiber frame had a crack in it from shipping, so he had to buy a new bike. Mitch, a tax attorney, is the only one from CA. Marco is from the Netherlands. Todd, a businessman from CO says hopes his children may take up biking and ride with him. All the riders have planned for at least 3 years, some for 5 years, to go on the ride.

This morning, the luggage was put in the van by 6:15 and we finished breakfast before 7. Off to the shoreline near Orange street and Pacific Coast Highway for the tire dip and group photo. A bottle of water from the Pacific Ocean was collected to be poured into the Atlantic Ocean at the end.

We started on the Santa Ana waterway, biking for miles, passing the Anaheim and Honda stadiums. That trail lead to bike paths through parks along the river. We went off path and rode through Norco, a bedroom community that allows residents to keep stables and horses. This lead to more parkland trails. Outside the park, we passed Loma Linda University and its sprawling Medical complex. After lunch, we rode past large tree nurseries, orchards of orange trees, cattle and horse ranches. Multiple large lilac trees in full bloom – the size and shape of small oak trees filled the air with their heavenly fragrance. From Beaumont, we descended through city streets with a strong tailwind. That wind carried us onto I 10, the major interstate freeway, then onto Route 111 and into Palm Springs. 117.4 miles today. The legs are tired and the upper back muscles are, well, needing some attention.

Tomorrow is 135 miles to Blythe, CA. We may get off easy with a temp of only 85. Usually, it is in the high 90s. So, keep hydrating!

tire dip in Pacific Ocean

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A Letter

April 24th, 4 days to ride start

The chapel on the campus of St Catherine University overflowed with mourners and many had to stand on the stairs outside to hear about Madonna’s life.  She was loved by many – in addition to her spouse, family and friends were her students, school colleagues, former classmates and neighbors.  As the priest described an authentic, charismatic, empathic, wise, patient, funny and beautiful woman, I thought of my own interactions with her.  We had been introduced a few years before by her husband, a fellow resident in Internal Medicine at HCMC.  The brutal fact was that this special person had died five days after giving birth to the couples’ second daughter.  The pain and grief among the mourners seemed insurmountable and I still remember the scene and my own emotions during that funeral – more than two decades later.

The priest encouraged everyone to write a letter to her children describing Madonna and their interactions with her since the girls would not know her.  I followed his advice – thankful to be offered a method to honor her memory and sent the letter to the girls.  

My copy of that letter recently surfaced as I was cleaning my office. As I read the letter, my memories of Madonna returned as if she had died only last month.  I felt the same emotions as when I was in her presence and the same horror and pain I experienced at her funeral.  I was pleased that I had followed the priest’s advice and written the letter to her daughters – to help them know their Mother a little better.  But, I was surprised to learn how important that letter is to me now.  That letter brings back treasured memories I had not thought of for years.  And for me, my memories of Madonna are a blessing.

So, if the unthinkable happens to a child and they lose a parent or other loved one, write them a letter.  Tell them about the deceased individual and your relationship with them.  Help the child learn about their loved one – and you will help yourself as well.  

Postscript:  All those treasured letters are still held by Madonna’s husband and they will serve again when Madonna’s daughters have children of their own. 

Memories and a Dedication

April 14th Two weeks to ride start

My Uncle Steven, was 37 years old and dying of metastatic testicular cancer when our mother took my brothers and me to see him.  She prepped us by saying that he was near death and on oxygen.  At 17 years old, I was lost.  “What should I talk to him about?”, I asked my mother.  “Just tell him what you’re doing”, She said.  We were ushered into his room. He lay in bed propped up with pillows behind his back with oxygen tubing in his nose.  Emaciated, all his effort was given to inhaling as deep as he could through his nose, twenty times a minute.  He looked up at us with exhausted eyes.  I was overwhelmed by emotion as we watched him labor to breathe.  I don’t remember what we said to him.  Too tired and short of breath, he could not engage with us in conversation.  We said our goodbyes and left.  In the hospital hallway, I felt relief, guilt, loss, emptiness, overwhelming sadness, and other emotions I could not define.

A few days later, on a cold December day, he passed away leaving behind his 33-year-old wife and three young children, 6, 4, and 2 years old.  The oldest child, now a 52 year old physician, spoke with me recently about his memories of grieving for his father in his childhood years.  “No one else in class knew what I was going through.” Said my cousin. He cried spontaneously for months afterwards, especially when alone.  “Grief for me was like a rollercoaster with sudden emotional swings that were beyond my control”, he said.  Remembering that at the time he was described as “8 going on 15”, by his 3rd grade teacher, who knew of his father’s death. The teacher said it was a goal to get him to smile. Fortunately, his mother is a very strong woman.  “I always knew she loved me” and “I always felt I had security for whatever I did.” he said.  “She made sure that family and friends were very involved in our lives.”  His mother married again, “to a wonderful man I call Dad”, he said, with great warmth.  

My cousin, the physician, was 37 years old when he married, and the couple had their first child.  The timing of these major milestones in his life reminded him of both his father and of what he learned since childhood about life and grief.  He told me, “Understand that your loss will make you a different person – but don’t doubt that eventually you’ll be ok. Find a few people (sic family and friends) who have your back, people you can count on. Remember, it is not your job to help others with their discomfort as they try to find the right words to comfort you – allow yourself to grieve.”  In school counseling would have helped my cousin work through the challenging grief process he endured.

In November, 2017, another first cousin passed away from metastatic melanoma.  He left behind three young children.  Several of my friends lost their fathers when they were young- 9 and 6 years old.  A dear friend of mine lost his beautiful spouse leaving behind a 6 year old son and another dear friend lost his wonderful wife 5 days after she give birth to their second daughter. 

Nearly everyone reading this blog has experienced their own grief following the loss of a loved one or a classmate.  And while the journey of grief has similar stages and characteristics, each is unique to the individual.  In my own experience, I know that grief is incredibly complicated and life changing.  We can never prepare for it and grief is always different, always unpredictable with each new loss.   

Through this blog, we will learn from our outstanding Growing Through Grief counselors  how they help students learn to deal with their grief. They will help us understand that a child’s grief is different than an adult’s and is significantly dependent on the age of the child when they lose a loved one or classmate. We will also see how the counseling changes lives and improves school performance for children in measurable ways.  And we will hear from students about the many benefits they receive from the counseling.    

So, I dedicate my ride across America to the memory of the family members and friends I have lost and to those children now dealing with grief in childhood.   I will have many days on the road to remember the lives of my loved ones now gone and what made each relationship unique.  And my memory of them is a blessing to me.

Bike Route and Preparations

April 5th. 22 days to start of ride

Bike Route 3452 miles Costa Mesa, CA to Amesbury MABike Route
Total vertical feet climbed: 110,870.

With 3 weeks left until the ride starts, final preparations have begun. Clothing is being selected in anticipation of the vagaries of spring weather conditions. Equipment for the bike including many replacement parts for brakes, spokes, derailleurs, cables and inner tubes ( plenty of flats are expected ), a new helmet, sunglasses to fit over my glasses and running daylights for the front and back of the bike are purchased. The bike will have a complete overhaul and then be shipped out on the 19th to Costa Mesa. Computer, cellphone, camera, a Garmin to upload the daily bike route and all connecting cables must be reviewed.

Of course, buy plenty of sunscreen and lip cream with spf of at least 35 or higher. ( Yes, with my liberal application of sun screen, I must supplement my Vitamin D levels. As a physician, I’ve biopsied many moles and skin growths for skin cancer – so I know I must protect my skin) I will also buy electrolyte supplement for my water to replenish the electrolytes I lose in sweat. We drink at least a bottle of water every hour while biking, more depending on the heat and humidity.

Other considerations include regular sleep. During the trip, we’re up by 5:30 for an early breakfast and toileting before getting the suitcase out to the van by 6:30. The daily ride starts at 7 am.

Of course, good hydration and nutrition is needed now. And above all, don’t get sick – friends and family with the latest virus have been laid low for weeks. Don’t want to start a long distance ride the flu.