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.

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


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.