Days of Service

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Taking a break from my fitness adventures to tell you about a special trip and a different cause that is near and dear to me.

Just ahead of Martin Luther King Junior Day – a day of service, I had a great opportunity to deploy to So Cal with my friends Aaron Comfort Dog and Jennie. We were able to visit with so many people, bringing comfort and joy through this wonderful ministry.

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Aaron is one of many Lutheran Church Charities’ LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs, who are stationed and deploy all around the country to bring comfort in times of need. I am blessed to be one of his photographers and soon to be handler.

On the way down south, we met Andy, who moved to Bakersfield, but previously worked with Aaron’s friend Katie Comfort Dog and team. I met them in Nebraska when I cycled across America. Talk about connections!

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We even got to visit Concordia University – Irvine where the girl has returned to study after her semester around the world (#CUIATW).

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CUI

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The visit to Southern California was requested by Maeson, who is student teaching at Christ Lutheran School in Costa Mesa. We visited kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grades. Maeson was teaching about how to be loving and compassionate to others so they even role played with Aaron, which was a lot of fun and very heart warming.

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Serendipitously, we met people who were celebrating birthdays, and who wouldn’t want hugs from Aaron Comfort Dog on their special day? Happy Birthday RuthE!

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As a special treat, we visited the ocean at Huntington Beach – a fabulous reprieve from the fog and gloom we’ve been experiencing this week (normal this time of year in my neck of the woods). Of course we got to run around and play too!

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All in all, it was a wonderful experience and motivating to get myself back out into God’s country to run and ride and soak it all in!

Song of the day:

Ride on!

 

Does God Ride a Bike?

I don’t know if God rides a bike or not, but I’m pretty sure He’s out there with me when I do. The evidence is overwhelming.

  • He’s there every time I witness beautiful sunrises and sunsets.

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  • He was there when I biffed on the road while climbing the mountain. I’m pretty sure he pushed me out of harm’s way.
  • He was there to help Charlton find my cash/ID pack and save my epic ride.

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  • He’s there showing me beauty where I thought there was none (think Nebraska).
  • He’s there when I feel just enough soreness to feel alive and like I really worked hard, but not enough to stop altogether.

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  • He sends angels to watch over me.
  • He reminds me how wonderful my friends and family are.
  • He protected my bike when I wasn’t smart enough to secure it to the bike rack before taking off in the RV.
  • He sends comfort, food and shelter at just the right times and in all the right places.
  • He puts smiles on our faces even when we’re not really feeling it.
  • He speaks to me through signs.

His majesty is everywhere!

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John Muir once said about hiking – “I don’t like either the word or the thing. People ought to saunter in the mountains – not hike! Do you know the origin of that word ‘saunter?’ It’s a beautiful word. Away back in the Middle Ages people used to go on pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and when people in the villages through which they passed asked where they were going, they would reply, ‘A la sainte terre,’ ‘To the Holy Land.’ And so they became known as sainte-terre-ers or saunterers. Now these mountains are our Holy Land, and we ought to saunter through them reverently, not ‘hike’ through them.”

I too, saunter, just on a bike (Mr. SAG would say “wander”). Everywhere I ride is Holy Land and I am in awe!

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 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 24 – Wetness Abounds

I’ve always been one to not start riding if it’s raining, but if I get caught in it, it’s OK, I just keep going. When I started out this morning, it was not raining, but within five minutes it was a different story. So, I dug out my rain jacket, and onward! It stayed with a pretty mild to moderate rainfall for about four hours. And then off and on for the rest of the day. Mr. SAG was happy when I asked him to use the shoe dryers again tonight. 🙂

One of the benefits of riding a bike across the country is that you don’t miss much. You don’t have to do Batman turns when you see a roadside stand. You just slow down and coast right in. Many that I’ve seen are like this one – honor system. I got some honey and maple syrup today (love a little in oatmeal). IMG_5171

I even made it to the destination a little early today. The SAG Team was happy – they got to make an unexpected side trip to check out Fort Meigs. It is the largest reconstructed wooden-walled fort in the nation and helped secure the Great Lakes region during the War of 1812.

Anna Comfort Dog came by the campsite tonight. Well her team did. Anna was actually working – providing comfort to a needing family. Linda and Charn represented, though, and they made me an honorary team member just like Katie Comfort Dog did. Anna is Katie’s sister after all. This really is becoming a Comfort Dog tour. The network is incredible!

Scoobert thought he would step in but it didn’t quite work out. He was very distracted.

Other pics of the day:

I did reach Ohio today. And if you haven’t noticed, some good friends gave me a lanyard with a #micheleacrossamerica medal and state pins to add every time I reach a new one. Well, when I got to the Ohio sign, it was raining and windy, so I just did a quick pic and moved on. About ten miles down the road, I noticed I still had the lanyard on! All I could picture was some old athlete riding around with his/her medals on and this tune popped in my head…

So, song of the day lol:

MAA – Day 22 – Comfort from Dawn ‘Till Dusk

Short post today…

I made it to Indiana! This is the area where I really cut my teeth on long distance cycling. I can’t tell you how many times I rode from Hammond to South Bend and back. It was our century training ride (with Dave N). We would ride it nearly every Saturday and Sunday – March/April to October (depended on when the snow hit). We would push to make the time shorter and shorter, or race certain segments. We got the hundred miles down to under four hours at one point! Not happening today! 🙂IMG_5088

This post is short because I also got to hang out with my college roomie again last night. She told all kinds of stories about our college days. I told Ms. SAG that most of them must have been made up – it couldn’t have been me she was referring to! lol! Fun times, though! She even made/brought us dinner! How cool was that! Thanks Deb!!DSC01611

Aside from getting to city traffic yesterday which was more nerve wracking than any day I’ve ridden thus far, I had Comfort Dog visits to see me off, and welcome me to camp! Sure was great seeing Shami and Barnabas! They calm the nerves so well! Scoobert thinks he’s a comfort dog in training! Ha!

Other pics of the day:

Song of the day (since I’m back in John Cougar territory):

Ride on!