Author: J Mandel, bike rider
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
DONATE to Growing Through Grief
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
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
“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
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.
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
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
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.
Day 18 – Ride Across America, Cameron to Kirksville, MO
Over the years, it has been made obvious at our school that the GTG program provides invaluable support to our students who have lost a loved one. Many students who begin the program at a younger age (elementary or junior high), continue working with the Grief Counselor all the way through high school. This clearly speaks to the impact of the program, and the special connection that is formed with the provider. – School Staff Social Worker
Every day, at least one of our sag stops are in the parking lot of gas stations, fast food restaurants or convenient stores that offer facilities for our use. At every stop, people engage me in conversation about my GTG jersey, the logo and the phrase Growing Through Grief. I explain the program and offer them the my blog site to learn more about the program and to connect with Park Nicollet Foundation. In every case, the individual tells me their story about a child who has lost a loved one and has struggled with grief. Often it is a niece or nephew and sometimes the classmate of their child or grandchild. Repeatedly, I hear affirmative statements about the value of GTG and the speaker’s hope that someday, GTG will be offered in their community.
Today was another long and challenging day as we biked from Cameron to Kirksville, MO. After 10 miles of city streets and local roads, we got on US -36 and biked for 27 miles. Those were the easiest miles of the day, with gentle hills of 2-3 percent incline and descent. We exited US 36 for Chillicothe and our first sag stop. I called my brother during the stop and learned that Chillicothe was the home town of one of my patients- she and her husband came to me once I started my practice!! The hills along our route, on the rural roads, Hwys V, K, KK, BB, B, C, MO-11, and Rte 63 were shorter than US 36, but much steeper- several reached 12 percent grade for 1/3 – 1/2 mile. The temperature also climbed to 80 degrees by afternoon. In fact, I drank 4 bottles of water during the last 20 miles to keep up with sweat and insensible water loss.
The scenery in this part of MO was lovely, with beautiful farms, nice homes and mature trees. We enjoyed our lunch in the town of Linneus, in Linn County, at 12:30. However, we still had another 49 miles to go. It was a long and tough afternoon with all that hill climbing, but we finally made it to the hotel by 4:45 pm. To round out the afternoon, Jen flatted with 100 feet to go to the hotel. in all, our ride was 119.1 miles with nearly 5,900 feet of climbing.
Tomorrow, we climb more Missouri hills before leaving the state for Quincy, IL. Below is the video with some pictures from today’s ride.
Day 17 – Ride Across America, Topeka,KS to Cameron, MO
The program has allowed my son to grieve outside of the home, which can be beneficial for a teenager who sometimes likes to keep their thoughts private from their parents. – Parent of a GTG Student
Please share these blogs with your friends, colleagues at work and family members. We are still looking to donors to help us reach $65,000!
Good weather greeted us this morning, our last one in Kansas. An alumni from the ABB ride in 2009, who lives in Topeka, met us after breakfast and rode to the mid-point of our trip with us. (Please see photos of mid-point in video.) I had a strong ride to the first sag and then to Atchison, past gently rolling hills of eastern, KS. ( See photos of street sign in Atchison, a commemorative stone marking the site Lewis and Clark stayed in Atchison on their historic journey and trains with Santa Fe markings ) The road across the bridge to MO was closed so we put bikes on the van and drove south past Fort Leavanworth – now a prison- and crossed over the Missouri river into MO at that point.
Following north along the eastern side of the river bottom for a few miles, we turned east and began climbing the first of many hills for the day. (biker joke – what do you see from the top of a Missouri hill? The next hill to climb). In addition to the hills, the landscape was dotted with trees and forests – a significant change from most of KS. The large, seemingly endless fields of crops in KS were replaced with the smaller family farm that included crops and cattle in MO ( much like MN farms) . The fields planted on the rolling hills, outlined by trees. Many of the homes were small – but well maintained and many had gardens. Lunch was at the central square of the small town of De Kalb, pop 200. By now, the temp was in the 70s with significant humidity. The combination of repetitive hill climbing with warm temperature made for an unpleasant afternoon. Most people agreed, they were ready to stop at 100 miles.
As we drew closer to Cameron, the farm houses grew larger, the grounds more interesting. Some homes also had facilities for smoking meats or an outdoor pond or above ground pool. Cameron has a small airport with at least 6 single engine planes seen in the hanger.
I finally arrived at 5:20 pm, exhausted after riding 121.7 miles and sore at all points of contact with the bike. In addition, I had swallowed a few bugs and others remained stuck to the layer of sunscreen that I wear on my face. Biking for me, especially up hills, has never been conducive to breathing only through your nose. Just glad I haven’t swallowed a stinging insect, thus far. After a long shower and a full dose of anti-inflammatories, I ate pizza with the group. As I walk,I can feel the discomfort in my legs and I am concerned about what biking will look like tomorrow.
As I write this, it has been raining with some dime sized hail for the last 20 minutes. Fortunately, the rain will stop soon and tomorrow is forecast to be warm and dry. 6 am breakfast and load by 6:45.
The video will show both my bike ride – as well as the u shaped detour along the western side and the eastern side of the Missouri river.
Tomorrow, we ride to Kirksville.
Day 16 – Ride Across America for GTG, Abilene to Topeka, KS
Imagine losing a parent or sibling or other loved one while in middle school. Now imagine having a safe place to process this grief with a trained professional and the support of your peers. Growing through Grief becomes a life line for students at a vulnerable time in their lives. We are extremely grateful for this important program and the support it provides.
– Participating school Dean of Students
A cool morning gave way to a beautiful afternoon and the added headwinds challenged us on this shorter than average distance day. Our first sag stop was at Katy Park in the town of White City. It was named after the superintendent of the railroad at the time. New Chicago and Swedeland were also considered as many of the Scandinavian townspeople had migrated from Chicago. See photo in the video. It is a lovely little town with many flower gardens displaying white and purple iris, orange poppies and white bridal veil. Further on, flat farmland gave way to rolling hillsides. Rock could be seen throughout the fields and appeared just below the surface at outcroppings. Cattle in groups on the hillside and near the fences adjacent to the Hwy showed curiosity about us as we passed. A few farms also had sheep, goats and asses. Our lunch, at mile 76 in Eskridge, was also in a park, the sun in a cloudless sky warming us while we ate.
Most of our route was on Hwy 4 and the rolling hills gave way to washboard like hills that could seen from a distance. A sign of Missouri roads to come, the peaks followed by troughs in the road occurred at 200 yard intervals. So, one pedaled consistently, but the speed you gathered going downhill didn’t carry you over the next hill. Difficult to maintain consistent output over the hills, I find it more tiresome than pedaling uphill against a consistent grade.
Ideally, on these endurance rides of 100 miles and more, one eats and drinks as you go. About a bottle of water every hour – more if warm and perspiring and a bar or other food about as often. It is the best way to minimize the ebb and flow of energy and maintain constant work output. It is a habit I need to practice and avoid eating all my calories at meals.
We had been prepped about some Kansas drivers not wanting to share the road with bikers. Another apparent statement against bikers were noticeable sculptures made from old bicycles that did not appear to have a positive impression about bikers, according to our leader. To prove the point, we had our share of drivers getting too close to us when there was room for them to move over a lane. And, I did get a flat (my fourth)- exactly at the driveway of an “artist” who made the bike sculpture. It turns out that he was a nice guy ( with a nice dog) and offered to help me. The flat occurred 12 miles from our destination, just when I wanted to be done. I arrived at the hotel at 4:30, enough time for a shower before afternoon Rap. Tomorrow, we enter Missouri, 59 miles into our 121.7 mile day.
After Rap, I was allowed to speak about the ABCDEs of skin cancer. A for asymmetry, B for an indistinct border, C for color change, D for diameter greater than 6 mm and E for evolution over time or everything else, especially a wound that doesn’t heal when it should. We briefly reviewed the 3 main types of skin cancer: Basal Cell, Squamous cell and Melanoma. Sun screen use, taking photos of moles with a millimeter ruler next to the lesion and checking family members and friends for these signs was discussed. Of course, any new or worrisome lesion must be checked by one’s primary care or a dermatologist.