Honoring My Mother

May 2017 marked a major milestone in my journey back to me and my fitness. At the end of that month, I took off on my bike ride across America, supporting Bike the US for MS. Along the way I met many teams associated with the  LCC K9 Comfort Dog Ministry and began some wonderful friendships and solidified many more.

In May of 2018, I made my first attempt at an Everesting. While I did not succeed that time, it turns out that the ride counts for what  the Hells 500 crew now call a Basecamp (half way to the summit – 4424 meters). I did another basecamp in May, 2019, and finally completed one in September, 2019.

I don’t think I would have done either of those things had it not been for my Mom. She taught me to challenge myself, not settle for mediocrity, persevere, build character and give back to the community. She was my biggest fan years ago when I cycled from Chicago to/from New York.

In the midst of this super weird 2020, with COVID-19 changing almost all aspects of life, I have been working nearly every day – I am a healthcare worker. Tomorrow is my first day off since New Year’s week. If you know me, I can’t just sit around, so I got to thinking. I haven’t done a 24-hour challenge in a while. And it’s Mother’s Day weekend. So, I decided to honor my mother, who passed away from cancer in 2012, with a 24-hour marathon. I set out to run 1.1 miles every hour for 24.

In the spirit of giving back, this run will support my biggest cycling event organizations: Bike the US for MS and The Great Cycle Challenge (for pediatric cancer research). If you can help, you are welcome to donate here:

https://ride.biketheusforms.org/fundraiser/2759330

https://greatcyclechallenge.com/Riders/MicheleArnold

My thoughts on this run by the hour:

09:00 – Well, let’s go ahead and see how this goes! Nice running weather so far!

10:00 – Feeling pretty good. Nice to see the neighbors.

11:00 – Sun’s out. Warming up. Getting a little glitch in my R lateral quad. Ordered Panera for pick-up after this lap. Will pick up and the eat 1/2 after next lap.

12:00 – Getting hungry. Glad We picked up sandwiches for after this lap! Found my knee strap. Quad feels good.

13:00 – Getting warmer. A little harder breathing to start.

14:00 – It’s hot and windy now. Glad it’s only a mile!

15:00 – The wind is stronger now. Of course it’s a head wind for the last half mile. It’s taking me about a 1/4 mile to get warmed up from having sat/rested.

16:00 – Time to walk the dog! With that, I changed course to his usual path. Mr. SAG walked Scoob while I ran ahead. Looks the the neighbors are getting ready for a socially distanced barbecue. Smells good!

17:00 – Time for dinner when this lap is done! Good thing. Slowing down.

18:00 – Refreshed by dinner. Finally feeling better. Knees are doing OK.

19:00 – Interesting. All of a sudden, that wind turned chilly! I should have worn a jacket. Definitely pulling one out for next lap! Half way there! Passed the 13.1 mark!

20:00 – Yep! Chilly! Need a different jacket next lap. Sun’s going down. Need my headlight and reflective vest now.

21:00 – Neighbors have gone in. Still more traffic out than I’d like. No one else out running or walking, though. Bedtime for others at home.

22:00 – Pretty big party going on down the street. Probably 25 people making a lot of noise whooping it up. Must be a birthday party or something. Other than that, I’m alone on the streets.

23:00 – Party is still going.

24:00 – Getting tired and sluggish. Need caffeine! 🙃😤

01:00 – The cat and dog don’t know what to make of this. Every time I get up to put my gear back on, and come back in the door, they think they are getting fed. 🤣

02:00 – Nobody else is up and about! No one walking, cycling, or running. No lawn parties carrying on. No cars or trucks on the streets. Quiet! Except for the birds.

03:00 – This is the coldest so far. Should have grabbed my gloves. Maybe it will motivate me to run faster.

04:00 – Getting close!

05:00 – Normal wake up time. I’ll have to feed the animals when I get back this time.

06:00 – The sun is coming up. Won’t need my headlight anymore. Mother’s Day gift from my best girl (who’s in Indiana) was waiting in my chair when I got back. 🥰

07:00 – Feeling surprisingly good. Maybe it’s the cool air. Maybe because I see the finish line. Maybe because I just face timed with my best girl!

08:00 – Done!!! Finished!!! Finis!!!

And the ceremonial finisher’s prize…1A42C674-7FE7-4DA8-9CEC-B01228BEBBEE

Thanks Mom! Happy Mother’s Day!

This seemed fitting for the song of the day…

Ride (or run) on!

Giving Thanks and Paying it Forward

Thanksgiving is a holiday that always makes me feel good. No matter where we celebrate, or what we have for dinner, or who we dine with, there is always the giving of thanks – taking time to be mindful of the many blessings we are given daily.

Some things I’m thankful for:

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Good health
  • Safe home
  • Ability to run and ride
  • Beautiful places

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As I am reminded of the many blessings I have, it’s time again to think about paying it forward. Since giving Tuesday is coming up this week, I’ll take this opportunity once more to share links to some of the organizations I like to give to throughout the year. Some I give to directly. Some I raise funds and awareness for by riding or running in their sponsored events. Thank you for considering giving to them or your favorites.

Bike the US for MS

Great Cycle Challenge

Leukemia and Lymphoma Society

American Heart Association

American Cancer Society

Pink Heals – Napa Valley

Neurofibramatosis Network

The Pathway Home

Wounded Warrior Project

Lutheran Church Charities – Comfort Dogs

Make a Wish

Compassion International

Napa Humane Society

Samaritan’s Purse

American Diabetes Association

Lutheran World Relief

Fisher House Foundation

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Michael J Fox Foundation – for Parkinson’s Research

Song of the day:

Ride on!

 

Be Not Afraid

Do I get scared when I’m riding? Sometimes.

DSC01463When I was in my twenties and riding across the Midwest, I rode solo and through areas where the corn was so high you couldn’t see anything else all around. My mind would play tricks on me and I would imagine all kinds of things jumping out at me. It didn’t help that a film based on Steven King’s Children of the Corn was released in 1984. I didn’t even have a cell phone to call for help if I found myself in trouble. They didn’t exist yet.

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I’ve ridden in parts of the country where storms come up seemingly out of nowhere and are fierce as all get out. I remember one time coming back home with a friend from the South Bend, IN area. A storm rolled through and a huge lightening bolt hit the ground about 25 feet from where we were. I didn’t think I could run so fast. We left the bikes and ran into the truck stop that luckily was near by.

Image result for lightning bolt

Years ago, I was riding on a remote country rode in Ohio late at night. Unfortunately, my bike light ran out of juice (back up batteries were used up as well) and it was difficult to see anything. The moon was not bright that night. I can still remember the odd clomping sound coming at me from a distance. I was so relieved to finally see the dim light on the Amish buggy and be able to connect the sound to the horses hooves.

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I’ve reached 62.3 mph coming down a hill on a bike. That can be a bit scary on a 25 mm wide tire! It’s exhilarating at the same time, though, so scary hasn’t stopped me.

My bike has slipped out from underneath me when the rear tire hit sand on the shoulder while climbing a mountain road – I fell into traffic coming up behind me. An angel slid me out of the way. It has happened on wet railroad tracks as well. I’ve since learned to walk across wet tracks. You don’t have to tell me twice!

I’ve been chased by dogs and was once bitten.

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I’ve been on roads where triple semi trailers have passed so closely that I swear I could have reached out and touched them.

Since Mr. SAG now calls me Wrong Way, you know I’ve been lost!

All of these experiences were scary but we can’t let scary stop us! If I had, I would not have accomplished what I did this past year. Happy birthday to me! Since my last birthday, I’ve ridden across America on the way to 7,632 miles (about a thousand more than my previous best when I was 27). That includes 40 centuries (100+ Miles), or if using metric, 68 metric centuries (62+ miles) and 210,340 feet of climbing (7 1/4 times the height of Mt. Everest). That’s way more climbing than I’ve ever done since most of my previous riding was in the Midwest.

Along the way, with your help, I’ve raised over $12,000 for organizations like Bike the US for MS, The Great Cycle Challenge, The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Tour de Fox for Parkinson’s Disease and Tour de Cure for Diabetes Research.

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Song of the day:

Don’t let fear stop you. Ride on!

Tour de Fox – Check

I had a great time riding in the Tour de Fox – Wine Country event this weekend! I rode the “petite” 10-mile route. For me, that’s usually a warm up. After all, I’ve ridden 36 centuries this year. Those 10-miles were some of the most gratifying I’ve ridden, though.

The Tour de Fox is a ride to raise awareness and funds for Parkinson’s Disease research and I was privileged to ride along side a friend who has early onset of the disease. She has been riding for a few months now to prep for this ride which had a couple of pretty good hills in it. Her goal at first was to just finish alive. Check! Once she gained confidence, the goal changed to finishing in an hour. She actually finished with a personal best on the route of just over 53 minutes! Check! So proud of her!IMG_6474UntitledRoute

As usually is around these parts, it was a perfect morning to ride. It started out chilly, made it to the mid seventies by ride time and hit the high eighties by the end. Good thing we finished when we did too. The temperature rose to over 100 degrees F by mid-afternoon. Ugh!

The event raised over $600,000 for Parkinson’s research! Happy to play a small part.

Next up? I am planning to do a now annual, 24-hour challenge. I guess 2 years in a row makes it annual. Right? I participated in the Great Cycle Challenge 2017, which targets pediatric cancer, when I did my cross-country ride in June. It ran concurrently with my Bike the US for MS efforts since it is a virtual ride that automatically tracks your miles. I didn’t talk about it too much because my main cause was MS research. I did raise $1000. for GCC, though. September is Pediatric Cancer Awareness month so in 3 weeks, I will be continuing with GCC and co-sponsoring the first ever Molly Widner Courage Ride to raise funds and awareness for Pediatric Cancer Research. Only 4% of all cancer research dollars are directed towards pediatric cancers and it’s my hope to increase that. You’ll hear more about the ride coming up.

Today, though, we celebrate Pam and her team P-Cubed…Pamela’s Parkinson Pack!

Song of the day:

Ride on!

 

It Was Never Just About Me

Many who followed my cycling ride across America have expressed that they’ve actually missed my stories. Who’d have thought? I am humbled by your sentiments and have decided to continue blogging about my endeavors to stay healthy and meet new challenges. So come along for the ride – if you will.

It’s been said that when you embark on certain journeys, they change you and you grow in ways you would never have imagined. I recently reflected on my whirlwind ride and found that it changed me indeed. What started as a check off on my bucket list became so much more. It was more than just being about me and completing a goal. I decided early on that if I was going to take on that challenge, I should raise awareness and funds for something important. I was led to the group Bike the US for MS. They support self-contained riders, and my sister and some friends back home in NY have Multiple Sclerosis. What a match! I also raised funds for pediatric cancer research through The Great Cycle Challenge in honor of Molly, a special person who lost her battle with cancer 3 years ago. I will continue to raise funds for MS and cancer research, but will also join in other fights and ride, run, walk, or just be for a cause. As a matter of fact, I have two events later this month.

Light the Night Walk for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society – I will be walking with my friend Danielle who survived a battle with leukemia last year and taught me so much about courage and faith.

Tour de Fox – raising funds for Parkinson’s Disease research. I will be riding with a long time friend who has the disease and is an inspiration with her positive attitude.

How else have I grown or changed?

I stopped watching the news and being cynical. There are such good people out there who are wanting to help or make a difference in any way they can. They are curious and interested and fun and caring and so much more! I met Charlton on day 1. He found my lost packet of cash, credit card and id along the road and found a way to return it to me! On day 7, I met up with LaVoy and others from the Union Pacific Rail crew. They made sure I had safe passage and kept me hydrated and replenished on a hot day along the Great Salt Flats. Alan made sure I didn’t walk too far with a flat tire on Day 8. Team Cubby Comfort Dog gave us food, shelter, and worship on day 11. And we met up with many more LCC Comfort Dog Teams along the way that were wonderful to us. Then on day 27, Nancy generously gave me shelter from the storm.

My Comfort Dog Friends – Aaron, Cubby, Eddie, Moses, Joy, Katie, Anna, Gracie, Shami, Barnabas, Lydia, Obadiah and Jessy.

I also learned that staying connected with friends and family is a good thing. They love you forever, no questions asked. And some friends are family! Even if you haven’t seen them in years, it will feel like it was yesterday. You really can go home again.

And I now know more about me and what I’m made of. I did this ride in part to see if I could. I now know that I can. When it gets tough, I can push on. And I’ve grown by learning that even though it looks like I am riding solo, I never really am.

Since I’ve returned, several people have told me it was inspiring. That alone makes me feel great about completing the trek. Many people inspired me so if I can pay that forward to even one person, it was worth it.

Song of the day:

Stay tuned to hear more about the causes I support or the challenges I take on.

Ride on!

MAA – Epilogue – Reflections on a Month of Cycling Across America

 

 

Hi again – I get to relax in the RV on the way back to California, so I am taking some time to reflect on my month of cycling across our great country. I hope you had fun tagging along and getting a glimpse into what it was like. The following are some retrospective thoughts about the experience.

TRIP STATS

  • Start – Finish: San Francisco, California to Plymouth, Massachusetts
  • Days Riding – 32.5 plus prologue
  • Rest days – 0
  • Miles – 3569IMG_5704
  • Most miles in one day – 146.5 (Austin, NV to Ely, NV)
  • Feet climbed – 102,450
  • Highest point – 8062 feet (Colorado)
  • Most feet elevation gained in one day – 8288IMG_4236
  • Number of states touched – 16
    • CA, NV, UT, WY, CO, NE, IA, IL, IN, MI, OH, PA, NY, MA, CT, RI (ended back in MA)IMG_5837
  • Dogs giving chase – 36
    • Dog deterrent air horn used – 4xIMG_5428
  • Lutheran Church Charities (LCC) Comfort Dogs met – 12
    • Aaron (send off from home), Cubby, Moses, Eddie, Joy, Katie, Gracie, Shami (early morning send off in Illinois), Barnabas, Anna, Lydia, Obadiah – And they are all looking out for us on the way home!IMG_5827
  • Mechanical Issues – SAG Actual got really good at fixing/maintain things!
    • Flat Tires – 5 (I had one the day before the last ride – slow leak found at camp)
    • Brake pads replaced – 1 set
    • Rearview mirror replaced – 1
    • Chain dirt and grime cleaned – dailyIMG_5306
  • Times caught in rain – 3
  • Highest temperature on road – 104.6 degrees (according to Garmin)
  • Weight lost – 12 lbs.

OBSERVATIONS/LEARNINGS

  • I have a GREAT SAG Team!DSC01816
  • The sweet spot for riding is between 6 and 10 am.DSC01655
  • I don’t like riding in the wind (especially head wind)!
  • I don’t like rumble strips!IMG_4364
  • I am directionally challenged.
  • Biggest Surprise – that I liked Nebraska
  • I have the best supportive friends ever!IMG_5834IMG_5836
  • Best ride – day 15 – Gothenburg to Grand Island, NE – nice smooth road, flat, slight tail wind, moderate temperature (100 miles in under 6 hours).DSC01407
  • Hardest ride – day 12 –  Fort Collins, CO to Sterling, CO (103 miles) – lots of wind!
  • Prettiest scenery – California for awe inspiring, dramatic views and New York for absolute, serene beauty.IMG_4298DSC01738
  • Best barns – IowaDSC01552
  • Friendliest state – Nebraska
  • Best RV Park – Streetsboro, OH KOA (and then Dayton Ohio KOA after the ride)
  • Best bike path – Des Moines, IA
  • Best road – Route 6 in IL from Marseilles to Joliet
  • Worst road – Service and frontage road along Union Pacific Railway West DSC01174Wendover, NV to Salt Lake City, UT
  • Coolest experience – riding along prancing Antelope on the way to Laramie, WY
  • Dogs love to chase bikes.
  • This was a one and done adventure.
  • The vastness of this country is incredible.DSC01133
  • Riding across the country 100 miles at a time was easier than I thought and harder than I imagined (hard to explain).
  • When I asked for a sign along the way…
  • You get to take a new road/go in a new direction only at the top of a hill – never happens at the bottom – you must climb first!
  • Descents are the best!!! (This is what it was like coming down from Spooner Pass)
  • Scoobert is a dog that is too big for an RV!IMG_4345
  • Reconnecting with friends and family is great! Don’t wait to do it.IMG_5711
  • Downshift before you stop. No, really. Downshift BEFORE you stop!
  • America is not flat (except for parts of Nebraska)DSC01206
  • Even Iowa has hills, lot’s of hills!
  • My faith in humanity has been made stronger.
  • There are a lot of good people out there!IMG_5344
  • Respect the checklist! We learned early on that I needed a checklist to make sure I remembered everything. I forgot things every day! (Things forgotten: tail light, Camelbak, sunglasses, food, sunscreen, helmet, more…)Checklist
  • Respect the SAG team! They have a different vantage point and are extremely helpful!IMG_5051
  • Cycling gets you a great tan. LOLIMG_5726

This is likely my last post for a while. There will be more adventures/goals coming up and I may write about them as well, but I’m pretty sure nothing will be as epic as this one was! Apparently, this is the end of the path for now. 😉IMG_5080

God is good! Ride on!

 

 

MAA – Day 33 – (Omega) Done. Check.

It started as a dream about 30 years ago and after a nice 32 mile ride this morning, I made it across the country to dip my tires in the Atlantic Ocean! My sisters, SAG Actual, and SAG1 (their preferred names now) were there to greet me and record it for the history books! So cool!

I did get within site of the ocean first on a bike path, so I stopped to have a personal moment and take a few selfies. 🙂IMG_5644

Then it was on to Plymouth Rock and the dip in the Atlantic!

Obadiah Comfort Dog caught up to us to extend congratulations too!

Back in Latham, NY, my sister hosted a congratulatory cook out. I was so fortunate to re-connect with another high school pal, Terri!IMG_5707

And our cousins who read about the adventure in the Times Telegram came too! And they brought home made half moons too so they are definitely OK in my book!

The SAG team is just happy they no longer have to move in 20-50 mile increments!DSC01816

Other pics of the day:

Song of the day:

Stay tuned for a few reflections on the month of riding, and then it will be on to the next adventure! 🙂

Ride on!

MAA – Day 32 – Solo Ride?

Day 32 – a ride across Massachusetts – pretty, but HUMID! I found it as tough to climb in the humidity as it was at higher altitudes. I even dipped my toe, so to speak, in Connecticut and Rhode Island. CT was for about two minutes – literally. It was only for about a half mile. Rhode Island was a little longer – maybe an hour! But, I rode into them, so they are part of the history of this journey. 🙂 Rhode Island didn’t have a welcome sign, or any sign for that matter. When I entered, the sign was covered because of road construction. And when I left, there were no signs. I’ll improvise.

 

When we got into the campground – which is FULL for July 4th weekend – we had a great visit from Lydia Comfort Dog and her team of which I am now an honorary member!

 

This adventure is almost done. So has it been a solo ride? I may be the only one out on the road on a bike, but I certainly haven’t been riding alone!

Out there with me:

God – Soli Deo Gloria! – I’m pretty sure He intervened a few times (or at least one of His angels did)!

The SAG Team – I absolutely could not have done this without them! If I had tried, it would have been really, really, really, really hard! And it would not have been nearly as enjoyable!

SAG Base – Christy K back at home who connected us with all of the Comfort Dog Teams along the way and made sure we had shelter everywhere and kept the SAG Team sane.

LCC Comfort Dog Teams – Aaron, Cubby, Moses, Eddie, Joy, Katie, Barnabas, Gracie*, Shami*, Anna, Lydia, and soon to meet, Obadiah. You were there at the right time, every time providing comfort, shelter, food and friendship!

Tom J – The one who kick started my journey by pulling me back into good health and inspiring me with stories of his own adventures trekking through the Sierras.

Jena T – Always there with a smile, positive attitude, encouragement and interest.

My St. John’s Lutheran family who supported, encouraged and prayed every step of the way.

My KP staff, Sharon and Theresa who made me laugh and held down the fort.

Andrea, Aka. East Coast Support Crew Leader – and my sister who happens to have MS and inspired this ride to be so much more than just a bucket list check off.

Penni and Jennie – My cross training buds who motivate me to get across those state lines. It’s all about the bling – and so much more!

Felix who makes me feel like a lucky guy!

Kathy W, who tried desperately to implant songs in my head.

Everyone following along and commenting/liking posts or just sending good vibes.

All of the Good Humans I’ve met along the way.

Everyone who has donated to the cause.

Everyone following who has MS (or other). I ride because they can’t.

So thanks for coming along! It has helped me more than you know!

Song of the day:

Ride on!

* 7/6/17- Addendum – I almost forgot Shami and Gracie! How could I?  😦  Shami drove an hour to greet me at 7 am to make sure I had a great day! Thanks Shami! Love you and Toni! 🙂 And Gracie got us through the hail storm in Iowa!

MAA – Day 31 – More Family Time

This post will be short – spending more time with family – and the internet connection is lousy. 🙂

Today started and ended in the rain. I got soaked this morning as I was climbing out of Albany. It did help keep it reasonably cool and it wasn’t too humid ’till late in the day. Tonight, I got in just before the thunder and lightning storm hit. Phew! Luckily it was a little shorter day (85 miles) because our campsite is my other sister’s driveway so we get to see more family.

The Bershires reminded me of times we spent in the Adirondacks as a kid. Makes sense since they’re both considered to be part of the Appalachian chain. There seem to be fewer lakes, though.

Since it’s a family kind of day, cheers to my younger bro who turned 50 today! Doesn’t seem possible!

Speaking of family, get this… my ride across the country story was reported by my hometown paper yesterday. Front page/above the fold! 🙂19619196_1735432899808127_219148172_o

So – one of my cousins (who I haven’t seen in about 45 years) read the article and connected with me through this blog! She’s a cousin on my dad’s side of the family, who, as it turns out, has a daughter who has MS. My dad had 9 brothers and sisters and they all had big families too, so it was hard to stay connected through the years. Now how cool is that! 🙂

Song of the day:

One more century and then a virtual stroll (35 miles) into Plymouth on Sunday!

Ride on!