Monday, December 28, 2015

Looking back at 2015 and the Heart Across America odyssey

I found myself today looking through photos on my iPhone and sure enough I was soon reliving the Heart Across America ride.

I'm off work today and after 14,000+ miles of riding in 2015, am ready to sit back, relax, let my bikes rest safely in the garage, and take some time to reflect.

My overwhelming sentiment is one of gratitude. Old friends, family, and the multitude of new friends, all chipped in and opened  their hearts to the cause. Every day I felt surrounded by kind friends, some close by, other from afar, but all willing to share hope and  compassion and the joy of  living and pursuing a dream.

The ride in many ways was a snapshot of life. Lots of highs and some extreme lows. There were many days where we were just  excited to be alive. Experiencing pure joy. Cycling  in the company of others sharing the same dreams and riding with purpose.  Witnessing beautiful scenery and sharing huge smiles. I will treasure those days forever.

TThe ride is on!

First day down. Davenport. All smiles

Beautiful Ragged Point, CA

Leaving Ragged Point, CA

Light moments in Buelton, CA

Sean and Jason Chen in San Clemente

Dave and best friend Bruce in Phoenix
Surprisingly good food in Show Low

Don and I crossing the border
Beautiful New Mexico
New friend in Moriarty, NM

And there were days where it was difficult to envision a tomorrow. As I look at the shots of Sean recovering in the hospital from his fall, or relive the days following Don's passing, I'm amazed that we were able to keep the fire burning.

Happy smiles without any clue of the tragedy waiting around the corner.

Sad day in Dallas

Comfort from best friends Ava and Chrissy

Despite the emotional turmoil, or perhaps because of it, we kept moving forward. Much like the story of all our lives.

As we live, we all experience great loss.

Each day still comes regardless of how the world we once knew has changed.

So we ride to breathe hard, and to hear our hearts beating, trying to take in the new reality without our brother Don. There is comfort pushing through the physical and emotional pain, and there are peaceful moments spinning, where time stops  and we feel alive and free of heartache. And we know that Don would have wanted us to move on.

And of course, never give of Sean's favorite sayings.

I feel like this shot of Diana and me riding, alone captures that determination:
We ride on.

And we manage to find light moments and support as we continue to spread the message of hope, and stroke and heart failure prevention.

Don and Diana's aunt and uncle greet Amy, Diana and me.

Sean  is back in the game
Celebrating life
Michael Dell and 100's of supporters greet us in Austin
Dennis watches over a new friend

Judge Kerry Anderson and friends in DeRidder, LA

My cousin Jimmy Montreuil meets me in Houston

Todd Nelson shows up in Natchez and keeps me moving forward

Rick Hoffman (who I last saw in 1979) pulls us all the way from Ohio to New York. Friends for life.

Jonney Shih flies in for the finish line ride

Emotion filled Mike Elliot rides Don's bike into New York

Cycling Olympian George Mount at the finish line

Sean's family celebrates the conclusion of the ride 

Many asked if it was difficult to go back to 'normal' life after this odyssey. It was not hard. I welcomed the transition back to home, family, and yes, work too! The last weeks of the ride had me very concerned for safety as I was only too aware of the dangers involved each day leading riders through unknown paths. The sense of relief  I felt crossing the finish was overwhelming and I was brought to tears. I was ready for a bit of 'normal'.

The days back home celebrating Don's life were heart wrenching but also heartening. Seeing his family and friends coming together helped me realize how lucky we are.

Handmade quilt honoring Don

Memorial for Don

One of Don's favorite bikes

Family together honoring Don

Sean and I continue to get together and now that he is back on two wheels we have enjoyed several rides together. He is however mostly focused on rowing, a sport he threatens to introduce to me. Certainly seems like the odds of avoiding road rash and broken bones are better while rowing.

Shortly after my last post, Sean, I and our families met with Steve Pine and his  Clarity Creative film crew. Steve interviewed all of us through tears and laughter. The experience certainly helped us appreciate what we went through and how it affected us and those around us.

Overall, through the ups and downs, I think we accomplished much more than simply raising $360,000 for the American Heart Association, though that was no small feat!  

It was a grass-root endeavor. Inspired and driven by Sean's relentless determination and support. 

We reached thousands of people along the way, many of them through one-on-one conversations and shared experiences. 

We will never know the full impact of  this but I have to believe it will save lives and give hope to those recovering from adversity. 

We couldn't have done it without all of your support. Thank you, thank you thank you.

I will close with a shortened version of a poem given to me by  a friend; author unknown. It compares our life journey to riding a train. Seems to capture much of how I'm feeling.

..this train ride will be full of joy,
sorrow, fantasy, expectations,
hellos, goodbyes, and farewells.
Success consists of having a good relationship
with all passengers
requiring that we give the best of ourselves.

The mystery to everyone is:
We do not know at which station
we ourselves will step down.
So, we must live in the best way,
love, forgive, and offer the best of who we are.
It is important to do
this because when the time comes for us to step down
and leave our seat empty
we should leave behind beautiful memories
for those who will continue to travel on the train of life.
I wish you a joyful journey on the train of life.
Reap success and give lots of love.
More importantly,give thanks for the journey.

Lastly, thank you
for being one of the passengers on my train.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Looking back for closure

It's hard to believe we crossed the 'finish line' in New York over 3 months ago.

For reasons I don't fully understand, I've been unable to bring myself to read my blog and reflect on the odyssey.

Today I took a first step and have read through the first few days, taking time to correct many typos and more importantly, reflecting on how I felt back then and how I feel now, looking back at the history.

Hopefully I'll continue to work through the process and find some closure.

One thing Diana suggested is that Sean and I, and our families should get together and share our before, during, and after reflections. Things have finally settled down a bit and I think we are all ready for this. Time to lock in a date!

Cheers, Dave

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Mother Goose makes it home

My friend Mike E. graciously agreed to fly out to New York, join us on our grand finale ride and then hop into Mother Goose and drive her back across the country. That was Sunday, June 14.

Seems like ages ago.

But time flies, and on Tuesday, June 22, I received a note from Mike that "Mother Goose has Landed".

He added "The Goose survived but has about 40,000 bugs impaled on her nose....All the equipment behaved nicely in the back seat the whole way home and no one asked are we there yet?" "

I wrote back that I looked forward to retrieving my bike and extra luggage and hearing more about his journey.

I was pleasantly surprised the next day to receive an email recap of his adventure. It was interesting for me to hear that his impressions along his route closely paralleled mine.

Here's Mike's recap:

Thanks Mike for letting me post this!

"People in this country are generally kind, gracious, and generous.  Staying at small hotels, I found proud owners and managers happy to provide not only a room and meal recommendations, but wanting to engage in conversations about my travels.  Same story in the restaurants, especially at breakfast.  Don’t miss breakfast.  Really interesting people get up early for breakfast.

Most interesting place I stayed from a bike-rider’s perspective was Togwotee Mountain Lodge in Wyoming.  I had gotten there mid-afternoon and decided to ride back up to the Continental Divide I had driven across a few miles earlier.  As soon as I left the driveway I caught up with a fellow rider.  Turns out Clark was doing a solo cross-country ride to raise fund for Nepal earthquake relief.  Riding a 33 pound touring bike equipped with steel fenders and a pannier rack on the back (not being used at the time), he struggled up the mountain as we chatted.  He had to stop a couple times “to get a drink of water.”  He never got to the point of gasping, but it was clear he was feeling every bit of the 9000 foot elevation.  His sister was providing SAG, so when we saw her car parked on the side of the road, we knew we were getting close to the top.

The next morning  I found that the Lodge was an unofficial gathering place for riders crossing the country.  Two Norwegians were riding the Divide from Canada to Mexico.  Two other riders were participating in the Race Across America.  I saw a tandem pull up, and as the stoker got off, he was assisted into the Lodge by a helper.  He was blind, but that wasn’t going to stop him from riding.  You can read Thomas’ story at   Check out the page Actual to Dubois to see some of the scenery I enjoyed in the Goose.  Yes, it was that nice!

Note from Dave: here's a photo I uploaded...
Funkiest place I stayed was Dawson’s Lodge in Chemult, Oregon.  So far out of the way that you’ll need a good map to find it.  LuAnn had joined me in Boise, so we got to enjoy this experience together.  As we drove up she looked at me and said, “What…..did….you…”  Built in 1929, it looked like a 5 room hotel out of a western.  Only thing missing was the hitching post for horses.  The rooms had doors that opened to a common veranda furnished with rocking chairs that were as old as the hotel, maybe older.  All the rooms had a door that opened to an inside hallway as well.  The innkeepers kept all the inside room doors open so you could look in the rooms as you pass through the hall, and each had a different theme.  We stayed in the Cowboy Room.  Roy Rogers, Dale Evans,  and the Lone Ranger were in old photos on the wall.  Our bedframe was made up of 9-inch pine posts.  Huge!  A set of Texas longhorns hung above the bed, and a Stetson hat adorned one end.  They did have indoor plumbing, but there was a sign telling us to take quick showers not because of the water shortage, but because they only had 100 gallons of hot water for the whole hotel.  Ma innkeeper had no teeth, Pa innkeeper was rail-thin and talked a mile a minute.  Ma explained that the Chalet Restaurant down the street was the place to eat dinner because they slaughter their own beef.  If you eat at KJ’s across the street, you’ll get gas and won’t be able to sleep.

LuAnn and I headed over to Crater Lake with the intention of riding bikes around the 33-mile Rim Drive.  First of all, let me say that we were stunned at the beauty of Crater Lake.  If you’ve not been there, and we hadn’t, immediately put it on your bucket list.  An absolute must-do.  We had gusty winds at the top, and the road was narrow.  The ranger at the entrance had  warned us to be careful because some of the road had no guard rail and sheer thousand-foot drops.  We saw what he meant, and I’ll tell you the truth, I was terrified.  On a calm day with no traffic, the ride would have been enjoyable.  Gusty winds, sheer drops, traffic with drivers more interested in looking out their window at the lake than in looking at the road… way!  We kept the bikes in the van and put on our hiking shoes.  As we walked the trail, it often came within 2 or 3 feet of the edge of the crater.  I stayed well away from the precipice.  I’m not afraid of heights, I’m afraid of falls.

Travelling across the country, I didn’t stop at all the sights along the way.  I missed Orville Wright’s birthplace, I missed the Corn Palace and the John Deer Tractor Museum in Iowa, I missed Laura Ingalls Wilder’s birthplace.  I did stop at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, and then drove across some of the most beautiful unspoiled prairie in eastern Wyoming.  Speaking of South Dakota, though, my thoughts were that it was too bad that you weren’t allowed to enjoy the beauty of its prairie due to the visual assault coming from endless stands of billboards.  I saw more billboards there than in all the other states combined.  I don’t know what Wall Drug is, but I must have seen over 200 billboards for that alone.  Ugly, ugly, ugly.

Old federal highways and state highways offer a low-stress alternative to Interstate highways.  Often only two-lane, very light traffic, but watch your speed as you travel through old, forgotten towns.  I remember I had to drop my speed from 65 mph to 45 mph for a town which proudly posted its population as 4.  I thought, “That’s not a town.  That’s a house.”

Sections of Ohio and Indiana roads were in pretty sad shape, but far and away, without any question, the worst roads I travelled were CALIFORNIA.  There were sections that I thought were going to shake everything off the walls.  More ruts, more patches, more really bad repair jobs than anywhere.  Just awful.  How do the other states wind up with pool-table smooth roads while we endure this crap?

Surprise along the way:  the nothing-ness of Wyoming, Idaho, and eastern Oregon.  Wyoming was pretty, though, and I did see cowboys on horses rounding up calves.  I thought it must be staged for the travelers.  The Great Northern Basin in Oregon had a desert beauty of its own.  Endless miles of sagebrush and wildflowers in blue, green, yellow and red.  On the downside, I couldn’t get out of Idaho fast enough.

Enough for now.  Catch me on a ride and I can tell you about trying to figure out what all the icons represent on the Nav system in the Goose, what DEF is and how to find it, and having to choose between country/western or Praise God radio stations across much of the country.


Thursday, June 18, 2015

HAA recap video and a little more

Here's a  video summary of the ride produced by Clarity Creative. Short and sweet.

I don't think the full impact of this HAA ride will hit me until I go back to my old routines. 

At a minimum I think it will be strange to go back to the same place more than 2 days in a row. I'm looking forward to this after 84 days on the road. And I am  looking forward to some home-cooked dinners and some bland simple lunches. I'd  be afraid to check my cholesterol after all of these rich meals I've enjoyed day in and out. 

Flying home today I looked at the plane's trajectory with a new appreciation. There's a new found familiarity with many of the cities we flew over. But crazy to see all of my riding undone in a 6 1/2 hour flight. In hindsight I should have booked a flight with 12 connecting stops. Next time... ;-)

While on the journey I had some physically challenging days, but rarely felt exhausted.
Now after 3 days off my bike, I'm feeling spent. Crazy.

I'm realizing that I don't have any photos on this posting. Not to break tradition, here's a few shots from the AHA's Heart Ball’s 100th Anniversary celebration. This was a fitting conclusion to our adventure. It also was our 25th wedding anniversary. Like small children, we both pretended the whole  event was to celebrate our anniversary. It's also fun to post some pictures where we are out of our biking attire!

At hotel, all dressed up and somewhere to go!

Early in the evening we met with Dr. Mehmet Oz and talked with him at length about Don. He showed a lot of interest, sympathy and caring. 

Visiting with Dr. Oz: We were truly comforted by his empathy 

 Taking a minute to enjoy the skyline views

Visiting with Steve Pine and David Smith 

 My favorite shot of the night

Monday, June 15, 2015

Day 84 Smooth sailing to a grand finale

Long armed "Rick the wall"  taking a selfie with me as we prepare to cross the Hudson River

I was not sure what to expect as we prepared to roll out on Sunday to officially conclude the HAA odyssey. We had just modified the course to address safety concerns and George Mount and I were preparing to play sweeper and warn any riders that may have missed the updates to the route. 

Of course, Rick the Wall volunteered to join the sweeping operation and Mike Elliot who had just arrived on a red eye flight decided to do the same. David and Tiernen Regan  also joined in. We were a formidable team.

 I worked on Don's bike to adjust it to fit Mike's smaller build. As Mike prepared to ride Don's bike, we were both overcome with emotion.

We rolled out gently. Not sure what to expect as we hit the hills, traffic, and narrow bridge passageway. We soon arrived at the old meet up point and sure enough we found a group of cyclists ready to join the fray.

Riders ready to go

 We advised them not to ride over the bridge but our warnings went unheeded. They were determined to join, regardless of the dangers. Sue, shared she hadn't ridden a bike in 8 years. My comfort level went from concern to alarm. But there was no swaying her. 

Sue calling the shots!

Initial trail riding is calm and serene

Tight squeeze in traffic

Then there were hills. George led us out and took us up the hills at a brisk pace. His climbing legs are back and I could hear suffering behind me. Tiernen, riding behind George seemed to welcome the challenge and I could sense that George was smiling. The joys of riding!

We reached our first stop lights and I looked back. Mostly smiles. Of course, put Mike on a bike and he always smiles...

Checking on the troops!

We arrived at the bridge and stopped at a first tier to wait for a signal from the camera crew to proceed. 
Approaching the bridge over the Hudson River


Ride across America verteran Max waiting for signal to move on! 

Tiernen enjoying the view

Soon we were on the way ...

Narrow passage ...


Busy trail

Smiling George 

It wasn't long before we hit 56th street and rolled up the hill to 9th avenue. There we met the rest of the team, including Sean Maloney and ASUS Chairman,  Jonney Shih

Jonney Shih, all smiles!

 Sean Maloney, "Let's do it"

Here we go! 

Rolling out

George Mount at the finish!!

The reception at B&H Photo was grand. I was overcome with emotion. Lots of wet eyes around me from both riders and those celebrating our arrival at the finish.

Congratulations to Amy Brennen, Jaril Valenciano and Steve Pine for their parts in making this a superb finish.

My work though was not over. We had to coordinate loading up bikes in the van, figuring out how to get to lunch, unloading at hotel etc., and sending the van on it's way to California with Mike at the helm. As things moved forward I could see Dennis relaxing more and more. Kudos to him for doing such a spectacular job getting us to New York. Dennis, the Mother Hen driving Mother Goose!

This all went like clockwork, with the exception of David R. and Tiernen arriving at the hotel sans luggage and wallets and expecting the van to arrive.

The van was happily parked at B&H and we were enjoying a feast of a lunch. In the end he scraped enough money to get a cab to our lunch spot, so all was well.

As Mike and Rick drove off in the van, Dennis looked both relieved and sad.

By evening smiles were everywhere.  .

The /Regan clan!

It's hard to believe the ride is over. I'm sitting at Starbucks with Diana, still processing yesterday.
Too early to even think about what the last 12 weeks have meant to me. 

I'm currently feeling physically exhausted yet filled with relief and gratitude. 

I will probably write one last blog capturing a recap of the adventure.   :-) 

Thank you everyone for your support and encouragement. Your comments and feedback have helped keep the fire burning. And a special thanks to friends, family, and caring new friends who came out to ride, provide support, or simply cheer us along the way. I don't have the words to tell you how much this has meant to me.