Thursday, April 30, 2015

Day 40 Austin

Better day today.

Sean Maloney gave a powerful speech at Intel to a full house. He also gave a very  moving tribute to Don Brennen.

Amy Brennen, Don's daughter and campaign manager for Heart Across America followed with a beautiful tribute to her Dad and the Heart Across America mission. She had us all in tears and received a standing ovation.

This was soon followed by Sean trying out a hand-cycle that Greg Lakomski at Intel was able to find.

Sean looked great flying around the parking lot with his new found mobility.  A bit scary! I'm not sure how he was able to do this with his broken ribs, dislocated shoulder and 29 pins in his pelvis

He is going to go out with Greg tomorrow and do some practice riding and then join us on part of the ride we will be doing on Saturday with Michael Dell.

We then toured a bit of downtown Austin.

Walking around town

What a powerful sculpture..

I was also able to schedule an appointment with a cardiologist tomorrow just to be on the safe side before I continue to rack up high miles on a diet of restaurant food, powerbars and potato chips....

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Day 39 Waco to Round Rock

Any day that ends with smiles is a good day. We had sunshine and a tail wind to boot. So no complaints.

The day started out with a route proposal from my friend Ron Neher.  The route  took us off the I-35 corridor in  Jarrell, Texas.  This sounded like a good idea but added about 20 miles to our 85 mile day. So we decided to start up about 20 miles South of Waco and added his segment.  This proved to be a good choice as it avoided the freeway exchanges in Waco and instead gave us some nice open roads at the end of our ride.

Despite the good weather and favorable winds, the first 50 miles were laborious. For one, we had a late start. Just as we were preparing to leave, I received multiple phone calls related to upcoming activities in Austin. There were also issues with the delivery of our new order of HAA jerseys. It was 10 am before we were rolling.

And then we faced so much concrete and construction activity.. Stop and go. Stop and go.  At one point we were forced on the freeway. Looking ahead I could see the shoulder went away. So we got off our bikes, crossed a field and rode instead on a closed road. No one complained so we continued riding around  "road closed" barriers which seemed to be in high fashion. It also became quite hot and Diana began to feel ill. She wisely decided to ride in the van for a few miles and save her energy for the promised open roads.

Riding on closed roads

Lunch time finally arrived and was pleasant and refreshing.

Applying sunscreen before facing the afternoon sun. Amy insists, no need to rub it in...

Diana and Amy having fun in fields with beautiful wild flowers

After lunch we reached the route portion Ron had recommended and it was simply great. Diana had hopped ahead of us when Rich and I stopped to help a stranded cyclists with a flat.  

So Rich and I were basically chasing the rabbit. 

All morning I had been riding slow and cautiously, afraid that something would break if I pushed hard. This had the opposite effect on me and I was feeling aches and pains all over. Rich, not being aware of my fears, started hammering. Like a happy puppy I found myself chasing his wheel. It felt great and brought some of the joy back in riding. 

Diana on the other hand was playing her own game and doing her best to keep us at bay, even though this was frustrating the camera crew and their attempts to get a drone filming us overtaking her. Their first attempt failed. The drone was up, Diana flew by, and Rich and I were still far away on the horizon, struggling to reach her. It took another shot to get it right.

It did us all good to have some fun. 

Closing in on hotel

It wasn't long after we arrived in Round Rock that we were greeted by our friends Ron and Chris Neher. They even brought some of the best electrolyte and energy replacements systems.  It was great to see them both. 

So in summary, a good day. Not too eventful but that was just what the doctor ordered.

Cheers, Dave

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Day 38 Waxahachie to Waco

We rode today. Dave, Diana and Rich Howell. Dennis and Amy supporting us from the van.

I wasn't sure it would happen.

We struggled with this. I knew this is what Don would have wanted. His wife Andrea was also sure of this. Yet emotionally, Diana (Don's little sister and my wife) wasn't sure we were ready. After  long talks with Don's family we agreed we would ride. But the misgivings were still there.

I texted Rich, who had bought tickets months ago to fly from California to Dallas to join the ride. He was planning to cancel his ticket and join us later in the trip.  I instead, encouraged him to come. And he did. He arrived yesterday afternoon.

I soon regretted this. Diana was now feeling that she wasn't ready and that we should take a pause. I agreed but felt trapped. Rich flew out to join us and now we didn't want to ride.

So we slept on it.  Diana told me in the morning that she wanted to the moment she told herself that she could and would ride, she felt an emotional release and felt Don's support.

Diana had flown to Dallas, as soon as she heard the tragic news of Don, with no intention of riding,and did not bring any biking accessories. Her bike was still in the van, but nothing else. So she came out this morning  wearing Don's clothes, helmet and shoes. She had tightened the shoes to their maximum snugness, and hoped that the oversize shoes would not hurt her feet.
And she told us she felt Don surrounding her.

We drove the first miles to Waxahachie to avoid miles that Don often referred to as "junk miles". Junk miles are miles with traffic, stop signs, light after light etc.

The first thing we did in Waxahachie was visit her Uncle Harry and Aunt Flo.  Both are doing extremely well and are living independently despite being in their late 80's. Hugs and support abounded. I was so happy to get a chance to see them again.

We then drove to the Wagahachie Dog park and started preparing to ride. It was drizzling. And cold. I was going to say, 'let's just drive' but Diana was already on her bike testing out the fit of her shoes...

getting bikes out..

Diana getting ready to go

So we rode..

I now felt lighter. I needed this. I think deep down I knew this was right for me and right for Diana. I think I had been afraid to give myself permission to do this. Now my only fear was that one of us would get hurt. But I was glad we were doing this.

I mentioned to Diana, "I can feel Don's presence. I think he's in the van laughing at us". We laughed through the rain.

Soon the rain stopped. A beautiful tail wind came up and carried us forward. Don was with us. We flew through Italy, Texas. I looked at Diana riding. Protected in the front by me and in the back by Rich. I was so glad Rich came. Had he not, we would likely have not ridden.

We reached our lunch spot only to find the little quaint cafe we found on Google maps had closed three months ago. We kept looking for a place and finally happened on a small grocery store that looked ready to fall apart. They had a small deli section and we were told they  could make sandwiches for us.

We all ate up and had a good talk with the young girl who had made our sandwiches She was fascinated by our story. "I've never been to California or New York. Never left Texas!" She  then said, some day she was just going to go out and walk and walk, just like Forest Gump, her favorite movie. Soon she  was quoting lines from the movie and Diana and her were singing lines from "Against the wind".

We told her about Don and she expressed  " Oh no, how sad". Then without hesitation she said "It's good you're riding." She added, "It's also good thing you didn't eat too much.  You won't be able to ride if your tummy's too full!!" She really help lighten the mood.

The rest of the ride was good. It was different than any ride we have done on this journey. I was not riding for Heart Across America. I wasn't riding to prove a point or keep a schedule. I was riding because I needed to ride. For me. For Don. I think the same was true for Diana and Rich. The rhythm of  our ride was meditative. It  was calming.

It may be true that I'm not facing the hurt and that this will make it hurt deeper and longer. But I'm in no hurry for the hurt to go away.

As we cleaned our bikes I once again felt pangs of regret. Missing Don. It's not the same, Never will be.

But I could still feel the  bits of the relief I felt while riding. The intermittent  laughter and joy between periods of  sorrow and contemplation were still fresh in my mind. I'm glad we did it.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Day 35: Jacksboro, Texas

I am very sorry to report that on Saturday morning we discovered that Don Brennen had passed away peacefully in his sleep.

Words cannot describe how difficult this has been for all of us.

Don's family and friends have gathered together to offer comfort to each other. We are currently exploring our options for the future.

With a heavy heart, Dave

Friday, April 24, 2015

Day 34 Seymour to Jacksboro or Rainy Wet Ride!

We can feel the progress. Just one more day and we will be riding into Dallas. We expected today to be relatively easy.  Only 73 miles and not a lot of climbing. So we decided to have a relatively late start. Breakfast at 8 am at the New Maverick Diner. Roll out at 9 am.

As we headed out to breakfast there were clouds in the sky and a few drizzly drops falling.

Food was good and we were pleasantly surprised to find out the restaurant was completely non-smoking. The things we take for granted in California!

With tummys full we were ready to roll out. We were on the road right on schedule and all it took was 5 or 10 pedal strokes to get the rain to start flowing. As we turned towards 114 East, Don made the wise decision to seek shelter in the van (the van name: White Goose is starting to stick). I rolled on and hoped the rain would soon stop. There's the difference between an optimist and a pessimist. The latter is better informed.

The rain only got worse. Winds were from the South East, exactly the direction I was riding. It wasn't long before I soaked to the core. But I was warm from the effort of keeping the bike moving forward.  Here's a short clip that gives an idea of the conditions.

About 15 minutes later, a pickup truck drove by, passenger window open, and I heard shouts of encouragement. I felt a bit like an elite rider. Well, with the White Goose trailing me with flashy lights, and me riding in this horrendous weather...people must think something special is in the works.

And there is. This is a ride reduce the number of preventable strokes and heart attacks. Knowing this gave me the resolve to keep going.

Our fundraising is going very well and will go a long way towards achieving our goals. If you haven't yet considered supporting  HAA, no better time than now! I need the encouragement after a day like today! (Fundraising page)

So back to today...

We stopped for lunch at a Subways in Olney, Texas, about halway to Jacksboro. Since it was still pouring, we decided to eat in. It was freezing inside. Fans running full blast and I was soaking wet.

I ate quickly, got in the White Goose and changed into not just dry socks and shoes, but a new bib. The rain was still coming down strong so I even brought out my soon to be famous, rain gear, a full body Tyvek suit.

Note, I put my HAA vest over it make it clear why I'm riding. It also gave me some much needed back pockets.

As luck would have it, minutes into my post lunch ride, the rain stopped. I considered stopping and removing the suit but since it wasn't to uncomfortable, I just kept going. 

Then the White Goose pulled up beside me and Don hollered, there's a large farm vehicle gaining on you! Music to my ears. There was a strong cross wind and it was a struggle to hold 15 MPH. I slowed as the vehicle gained on me and as soon as it passed, I found it's slip stream. This gave me a comfortable constant 19 MPH speed. I was glad to have my suit on though as the back splash from the tractor tires soon had me covered in grime.  

The free ride only lasted several miles but it was enough to give me a much needed break. With about 20 miles to go, the rain stopped completely. Dennis and Don pulled ahead and as I rounded a turn, found Don out and ready to close the gap to Jacksboro with me. This gave me the chance to shed the Tivek suit.

What followed was the most beautiful part of the ride. Not because I had Don's company (though that helped) but because the terrain changed to beautiful rolling hills with wild flowers all around. Here's a sample...

We reached the new section of the Butterfield Motel around 3pm. Perfect timing. And the motel is everything it was advertised to be. Super clean. We are all happy.

 I washed my bike, showered, and started laundry. Then I remembered I had a package delivered to the hotel. I went to get it and then it hit me. It had been delivered yesterday to the motel in Seymour. I called the hotel and asked them to return it to sender. They refused. Told me I must come get it. 

Argggh..Long story short, Dennis and I drove back to Seymour and picked up the package. Even though it had my name on it, they had already opened the box. It was just a Norelco shaver. "Don't worry, we didn't use it, we just thought it was for us", the owner explained to me. I thanked them and left. They just earned a 1 Star Yelp and Google rating.

We made good time and  were back in Jacksboro in time for dinner. We found a great little Italian restaurant, Roma Pizza. I almost finished a large Pizza on my own, I was so hungry.

Oh did I mention, Jacksboro is a 'dry' county? No alcohol. Wild. 

But Don did see they have a Starbucks.

Tomorrow we are off to the big city of Dallas. And Sunday we get to be once again with Sean Maloney, our fearless leader! We can't wait. It's been tough riding without him.

:-) Dave

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Day 33 Matador to Seymour

Lots of Big day today. 122 miles. Wind was in our face and the first 70 miles were wet.

But Don and I finished the ride. 

I had my doubts. At lunch Don was close to hypothermic. Soaking wet and shivering. But after adding some layers and rolling out he warmed up. 

Only had two flats today. The last one was messy. Stan's  sealant all over the place. I guess it doesn't work when there's a wire penetrating the tube. 

Highlights were these:

1) Leaving Matador: great breakfast and all the guests came out to bid us farewell.  Lots of hugs and good wishes. I felt like I was leaving family.

2) dry socks:  at mile 80 I had the realization that I could dig in my sack and pull out dry socks and shoes. Simple pleasures are the best!

3) Our  motel in Seymour has hot water. Can't say much else.

4) Texas roads and drivers (so far) are absolutely great!

Low lights:

1) Wet weather: Here's a typical shot:

2) Roads are so look and look and the road runs all the way to the horizon. Time passes slowly

3) So far most restaurants have smoking and non-smoking sections. No real dividers between them, just less dense smoke in the non-smoking areas. I guess I'm spoiled living in California

4) Yes my hotel had hot water. But one of my towels had hair on it (the short curly type) and there are breadcrumbs on the sheets on one of the two beds in my room.I complained to the front office and they suggested I just sleep on the bed that doesn't have breadcrumbs.

Also I found dead or dying cockroach on the shower floor. He put up a fight but was able to get him down the drain.  Hard to believe this hotel had all 5 star ratings....

So I am now in the process of changing rooms. As a result, this is a short blog entry. Better days are coming tomorrow!

:-) Dave

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Matador adventure continues

Sharing pecans with new friends

Dinner was a blast

And now the tornado warning

Now in the Court House basement   Got to meet most of the residents and guests of Matador. 

And now finally back in hotel. 

Day 32: Plainview to Matador

Today promised to be a short 62 mile ride though the threat of strong winds was still there. We left Plainview around 8 am which is relatively early considering the distance, but we wanted  to have some margin just in case the winds kicked up.

It turned out though to be almost perfect riding conditions. Wind from the SW. We were heading SE. Not bad. And as we crossed into Floyd County both Don and I exclaimed "Thank you Floyd!".

 State Highway 70 and its wide shoulder was as smooth as a bowling ball (and flat!).. Texas sure knows how to put down asphalt.

Wildflowers were starting to bloom. I believe these are Indian paint brush flowers

There are bulls everywhere. Here's one in front of a prison

As we rode, we could see interesting cloud cover in the distance

Soon we were under it

We stopped briefly in Floydata to get food and picnicked around mile 40.

Before we knew it were in Matador

Seeing this we didn't expect much, however once we hit Main Street we were in for a pleasant surprise

Our Hotel is actually a B&B

 The rooms in our 'hotel' are all different and beautiful. What a treasure.

My room is huge! It used to be a barbershop so one whole wall is mirrors. 

Nice hooks to run my laundry line... ..

 (and yes, I did enjoy the whirlpool before I did  laundry!)

Even more, I had a  hot shower with 4 pulsating shower heads. Boy did I feel pampered!

...but this is the calm before the storm. Tornado threats exist for tonight with golf ball sized hail. And tomorrow's ride is a 120 miler....

(We are in Motley County)...