After two days of driving from Key West to Baltimore then to Somerset, Pa., I was ready for a nice ride. Maybe not this one but it’s the ride I got.
I have driven the mountain up westbound on US Rte 30 from Shellsburg towards Stoystown probably more than 100 times and always wanted to bike up it. A nice little climb it’s a two-lane road with a little bit of a shoulder. Safe enough.
I left my parents’ place and rode into Somerset, fueling (eating) at Sheetz. Then I headed east on PA 31. The rode has narrow shoulders and lots of coal truck traffic. But generally the coal trucks gave me wide berth – it was the regular pickup truck drivers who made no attempt to go wide even when no cars were approaching.
The weather was about 50 degrees and a mist from the fog hung over the area. The first 20 miles featured some nice rollers on the Allegheny Plateau. Crossing the Allegheny Mountain I pedaled hard trying to hit a good speed. Only when the road flattened out did I check to see my high speed — 50 mph.
Anytime I hit 50 mph it’s going to be a good day on the bike. I descended to the valley floor then navigated by feel. I knew where I could go to get to Shellsburg but took a chance on a road before Manns Choice. I guessed right.
In my mind I was going to go farther – over to Rte 96 and past Shawnee State Park to Shellsburg but I was also planning to meet my sister, Betsy, for lunch. So a 50+ mile ride made more sense than a 60+ mile ride. I found Buena Road which cuts over to Rte 30 near the Buffalo Farm.
Coming out on US 30 I turned left and started up the mountain. I always wanted to ride up US 30 but in better conditions. It was foggy and visibility was low. Winter dirt was still on the shoulders. Here they use a mix of of salt and black cinders to treat the roads. Combined with the mist and fog, it made for a wet mix on the bike.
I began the six mile climb and enjoyed every pedal stroke. I only wish I could see. Visibility was so poor near the summit I could hear a car approaching before I could see its head lights. I was hoping that no car would come flying up behind me. But none did. And over the six miles only 20 cars passed me on the climb.
On a clear day it is advertised that one can see three states and seven counties. But today I could barely see 100 yards. I passed the remains of the Ship Hotel, a travel icon in the 1930s.
I continued on “Seven Mile Stretch” and reflected that three days ago I was riding Seven Mile Bridge. What a difference. Unrelenting sunshine. Views that went forever. Here? Not so much.
I passed the entrance to the Flight 93 Memorial then continued to Stoystown before heading back to Friedens. It was a dirty, chilly and wet day but was still a good 54 mile day on the bike.
With a day to relax in Key West before heading home, I awoke to a beautiful day with nothing planned. Some of my teammates from the Key to Keys ride were flying home while others were sleeping in from a late night on the town. Still others had family members join them in Key West.
Me? I had my bike.
I started with no real plan. I began by riding back to the buoy that marks the Southernmost Point of the Continental United States and seeing many “Southernmost” landmarks including hotel, hotel on the beach, furniture store, and hockey rink.
I passed the Key West AIDS Memorial. I don’t like to think of “them” vs. “us” but it makes me wonder why no Cancer Memorial. I’m not suggesting less be done for AIDS but more needs to be done for cancer.
I left headed north – the only way one could head, and rode. As I rode I got to thinking about the Seven Mile Bridge which many teammates got to ride yesterday but we survivors, did not. And I rode.
The ride was a combination of shoulder on US 1, bike lane on US 1, and bike path separate from US 1. From the original highway which featured separate one lane bridges, many of the bridges are fully intact and are designated for riding down the middle and fishing from the sides. This is part of the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail.
I had pictured mile after mile of bridges but most of the highway through the keys is actually on land. The big exception being the Seven Mile Bridge.
Not all bridges are intact
I knew it was near mile 50 and wasn’t concerned about riding 50 miles. But I was unsupported and to ride 50 north would require 100 miles total. I wasn’t sure how my body would react to the distance. Or the winds.
Railroad Bridge, then Highway Bridge, then Ruins
As I rode farther north, I decided that I would turn around at noon unless I was on the bridge. At noon I was a couple miles short. I lied. I kept going.
Just short of the bridge I stopped at a campground/gas station/food store. I bought a water and Gatorade but the water was too much to fit in my bottle. In the store I explained that I was coming back and wanted to leave my half-full water behind the counter and the woman offered to keep it in the Snapple cooler instead. So cool. Off I rode.
I rode across the Seven Mile Bridge greatly enjoying the trip. It seemed to be littered with GU packages and sponges and I thought damn cyclists. We have to do a better job and not drop our energy packets when empty.
I touched the sign to Marathon Keys then turned around and rode back. Stopping at the food store to pick up my water one woman wanted to know how many miles I had ridden. I wasn’t displaying mileage so I showed her the buttons to push on my Garmin so she could see it — but not tell me. I didn’t want to know. I was just enjoying the ride.
I also found out that the litter on the bridge was from yesterday’s seven mile race across the bridge. Damn runners. I had a bit of a headwind riding the first 60 miles and was able to ride the final 44 miles at more than 20 mph. Tailwind. Nice. Real nice.
I felt good except for too much sun. Each day on the trip began with applying SPF 50 sunscreen and then halfway through I was always able to reapply at the team car. With no support today I only applied before I left. But the legs felt good. And I can cross the Seven Mile Bridge off my bucket list.
We left Baltimore eight days ago for a 1,300 mile trip to Key West. Today we arrived. Well, actually it was a 414 mile ride and an 886 mile drive.
The day began with the dedication circle. Imagine what a better place the world would be if 25 people held hands and dedicated a ride, or the day, to them. I have met some wonderful young people giving up a summer of their lives to participate in the 4K for Cancer or the Texas 4000 so I dedicated my day to them.
The final dedication began with calling the names of six riders and two staffers — all of us being cancer survivors. We became the middle of the circle and the outer circle closed around us. It was very humbling.
The six of us would form Groups 1 and 2 and ride out of Homestead. This was my first day to ride with Jessica Tanner. The rest of the team was Jae Slye, Paul Lemle, Meg Shipman, and Patti Jackson. Our drivers were Abby Ramirez and Samantha Powell.
As we rolled out I grabbed more business cards (about the trip) and just had fun while riding. We kept a very comfortable pace which allowed me to drop back or speed ahead. It was just a fun day to ride.
The top of the Keys are pretty boring on a bike. Or maybe more realistically, the entrance to Keys. It’s a divided highway with aqua blue jersey barriers, 45-55 mph traffic and a narrow shoulder. This is not for everyone. But we had great company and even a flat by Jae didn’t bother us today. Even the 30 minutes it took to change it because she was riding deep rim wheels. Nope, we were relaxed.
My expectation before the ride was to ride the entire length of the Keys on this day. I don’t know if that is any longer a bucket list option for me. It was fun today to ride with my teammates.
Twenty miles from Homestead we jumped in the Tundra and began our drive to rendezvous with the rest of our teammates. We first stopped in Key Largo for a quick restroom break. Then, on schedule, once back in the car we decided we needed lunch. One of the staffers reminded us we didn’t have time but we were survivors. We said screw it. This was a day of celebration. Our celebration.
We stopped at The Beach Cafe at Morada Bay in Islamorada. Great location and great food. We got back in and swore, on a day no group had time to stop to eat, that we would never tell. And we haven’t.
As we went through Marathon we saw it out ahead. The Seven Mile Bridge. We were amazed at this structure and disappointed. To a person this was the section of the Keys that we most wanted to ride. That would have to wait for another day.
We arrived about seven miles north of Key West. This is where we met the other riders who were hungry and maybe a little concerned about our whereabouts. We then rode into Key West together. The first mile in Baltimore from Race Pace Bicycles to the Inner Harbor and the last miles into Key West were the only times we rode together.
We blocked an entire lane and most people were celebrating with us. The people of Key West were very welcoming. While riding I was talking to a couple on a motor scooter and both were cancer survivors. I invited them to ride with us but they got caught at a light. The celebration was on.
We arrived the famous buoy and were greeted by a number of family members of riders who had made the trip.
Dinner was celebration at Fort Zach on the beach with evening activities in town.
This was an amazing journey. I take back friendships and memories. For every person who donated and/or help me up in prayer or good thoughts, words cannot describe what that means to me.
This was also a week of transformation. For three and a half years I have been a cancer survivor. And yet, until my name was called to enter the “Circle of Survivors” (it wasn’t really called that) most people on the ride who did not know I was a survivor.
What they heard me talk about were the many other people fighting cancer that I rode for each day. And that’s what is really is about. This wasn’t a ride for me. It was a ride for all people who are battling cancer and to remember those who have lost the battle. And I’d rather be an advocate than a survivor.
As our journey makes its way down the east coast, pedaling and driving, but mostly driving, today was my only day to ride in Group 4. Group 4 gets to drive first and then ride — all the way to our destination. Our destination was Homestead, Florida, south of Miami and the gateway to the Everglades and to the Keys. My teammates were Andy Veliuona and Meg Shipman. Our driver was Laura S.
At the dedication circle, I was met by Chris Keisel, my cousin, Mary Kay Sherry’s boyfriend. I appreciated that he came over but was disappointed that Mary Kay didn’t make an effort. We were just a few miles from her home in Vero Beach.
Today I rode for Jack Morton. It was a random act of kindness that almost went viral among his followers on Facebook. Just knowing someone is thinking of you and dedicating their day means so much. And every day our riders and drivers dedicated their days to one, two, or many people battling cancer.
As we drove Laura said we could stop anywhere for lunch before riding. I saw a Chick-fil-A and offered that. She got angry and said she would take us anywhere but there. Seriously? I understand some people make political statements with their shopping choices but they don’t make them for me. Especially when I am a client for your silly organization. I raised more than $5000, in part so you can have a job, and this is how the organization treats its people once they have your money? Ok, understood. I should have ended my trip and association with this group right then and there.
Before we put wheels down at Hollywood North Beach Park, Andy laid down the gauntlet. “I hear you have quite a reputation at giving out the cards. Well, today, you’re going down.” (His words may have been embellished slightly to the enjoyment of the reader.)
And that was all it took. Andy handed out the first card to a person walking by but I would give a lesson today.
The cards were simply business cards with the name of the organization. And we were proselytizing missionaries, raising money for this organization.
But to get underway I took out a pump from the car and checked the pressure in my tires. The pump sucked. It let air out of both tires. So we do this trip down the coast and the organization didn’t even have a working floor pump in every vehicle. I almost abandoned today’s ride right there but decided to ride on on low tires and try to find a bike shop.
Lesson learned: Check air at the hotel before all groups roll out so if the one pump in your car is defective you can find one that works. It was also indicative of the lack of attention to detail this trip had. All their air pumps did not work.
The cue sheet today was hand written without mile markers. We would simply follow US 1. The farther south we went the more obvious it became that planning was, again, very disorganized. In fact, the only good day with cues was Day 1 in which I had volunteered to do all the cue sheets, and we didn’t use any on Leg 2 (Group 2) since I knew all the turns. By now they were making things up as we went. There was no real planning ahead of this trip.
Most of our riding was urban riding. Lots of traffic lights. And lots of opportunities to show Andy how it’s done. Cards, that is. I stopped and talked to people on sidewalks. I caught a couple at a light in their convertible and talked to them. As a man on a motorbike prepared to pass I matched his speed and handed him a card. Each time I looked at Andy. He gave up. I handed out 40 cards today. It netted the organization $0.
As soon as I could find one, we stopped at a local bike shop. For air. The bike shop was great to let me get some air in my tires. It was hard to believe we didn’t have a working pump in the car.
Nearing lunchtime, I decided to ask a local for directions. As we rode by, the guy yelled out “I’m not homeless!” I asked “local?” and asked where to eat. He recommended a place so we went in the opposite direction. But I still gave him a card to show him what the ride was about. And Andy deducted points from me for giving a card to a homeless guy.
After lunch we iPhoned our way out of Miami. I deferred to Meg and Andy on this. I just wanted to ride so I didn’t care where we went. On South Miami Avenue we were stopped for a drawbridge opening on the Intercoastal Waterway. I handed a card to Juan Londono, a local originally from Colombia. He was gracious enough to lead us on our way through Miami.
I appreciated Juan riding with us. I have been in similar situations many times where I have met cyclists and have ridden with them as well. Today I received.
Our route today was supposed to be 48 miles. Once we reached that, Laura said she was ready to transport our group to the hotel even though we did not ride to the destination. Meg and Andy agreed to stop and get in the SAG but we were only eight miles from the hotel. I told them I was going to ride the rest of the way.
As Meg and Andy loaded their bikes, I rode on to the hotel. I arrived at the hotel at the same time they had arrived.
Dinner was at the hotel. John JJ Beck had found a local BBQ joint and brought dinner in. We sat around the pool and talked about riding in Altoona. It was real strange having Craig Babst mention the small town of Gipsy, Pa.
I was offered (or selected) the chance to ride a century (100 miles) today along with my teammates, Jimmy Kondisko, Chris Zahlis, and Meg Shipman. It appeared to me, and my teammates, that we were selected as the strongest riders and most likely to be able to complete a century ride. But logistically it was doomed from the start.
We left the hotel and faced a two-hour drive. From day to day we never knew who we would be riding with or where we would start, or finish, so to ask us to ride a mystery 100 miles was a bit of a stretch. Especially so when we learned it would take a two-hour drive to get there. Or more importantly, how about telling us the day before so we could fuel, and sleep, properly?
This would be the start of a very special day because I was wearing Tepig. Chey Hillsgrove carried Pikachu across the country on his cancer ride to Portland last year to give to Jake the Hero. Instead, Jake’s big brother, Alex Grecco, got Pikachu. Jake’s mother, Stacey Gravina, had Tepig to arrive and he would be carried to Key West and presented to Jake’s younger brother, Josh Grecco. The mileage would not be important as long as Tepig made the trip.
We arrived at Ormond-On-The-Beach and pushed off into a heavy southerly wind. It would be strong in our face the entire day. The high buildings of Daytona Beach offered some respite from the wind but once out of the protection of the buildings we were being whipped around.
We had a six-hour limit because we needed to be off the course in time for another shuttle ride in a car, this time to our destination, Vero Beach. It wouldn’t happen. The first 18 miles we went through at a 16.5 mph clip which was pretty astonishing given the massive headwinds.
Even at 16.5 mph we were below the 16.7 average we would need. Without stops. But then the group began to falter.
Meg, of slight build, was getting shredded in the wind. We encouraged her to ride third wheel while we took turns up front in the wind. Jimmy was of slight build too so I always looked to latch onto Chris’ wheel.
At New Smyrna Beach we tried to follow the beach route, 1A, and stopped at a 7-Eleven. I started talking to a young couple which led to a discussion that you can’t get there from here. We turned around.
Directions were generally awful on this trip. There was little planning ahead of time. The routes were not communicated to the team ahead of time so no one could load those on their bike computers. And they consisted of wrong turns. And we found one mainly because our route had not been communicated to us.
Back on route we followed U.S. Route 1, a most dangerous road with small shoulders and 60 mph traffic. Unlike two days earlier, we had no one behind us “blocking” for us. It was open season on cyclists for the cars that blew by as one intentionally flew by within 12 inches or so.
Our support driver, Liz Kaplan, had left us to drive back to Jacksonville to pick up the CEO, who was at the Mayo Clinic. We had no support (other than the 7-Eleven). So there were four of us to ride with no support and to bring in the CEO mid-ride so he could go for a bike ride. It was a clown show.
Ultimately, the CEO was able to join as at Mile 53. But he had to wait for him.
We had a strong team. But we weren’t properly notified ahead of time, needed to leave before the dedication circle to have enough time, needed proper directions and support that would stay with us. But it was typical of the way the ride director handled this trip.
As we approached Titusville I saw a high bridge and told the group we would cross the bridge and finish there. You would think that our support or the CEO would be time-aware and know how far to go yet I had to make the call for them. We had a fixed finish time which we would not meet and the park offered stunning vistas. And it looked like a fun bridge to cross so we went.
We put out bikes on the truck and hurried down to Vero Beach to Bent Pine Golf Club where we were guests for the evening. Dinner was hosted by one of our rider’s parents at the golf club. Of course it wasn’t just dinner. It was a fundraiser. We were instructed to sit among members of club and maybe they could get $10,000 of out these folks.
Today I rode with Craig Babst and Paul Lemle. Alex Wright was our driver so I was hoping for good things from him.
L-R: Craig, Barry, Paul, Alex
In our dedication circle I dedicated the day to Abigail “Happy Abby” Bolenbaugh, a soon to be six year old who recently celebrated her five year Cancerversary.
Meg Shipman inking my legs
Too early to get ready to ride, we jumped in the Suburban and headed to Richmond Hill, Georgia, to ride our portion of today’s route. Forgetfulness would plague me today. We were in a parking lot with a CVS and just ready to roll out. Then I remembered I didn’t have on my heart rate monitor. Except that I was wearing it.
Barry, somewhere in Georgia
No longer using cue sheets we simply followed our instructions to ride on US 17. I don’t like 17 in Virginia, I didn’t like it in South Carolina, and I didn’t like it in Georgia.
The morning was quite pleasant with temperatures near 70. Expected to reach the low 80s I was an hour into the ride when I remembered that I had forgotten to apply Chamois Butt’r.
US 17 is a four lane road but in this section it wasn’t heavily traveled. Craig, Paul, and I had been riding in a pace lane, loosely, and Alex was following blocking one lane of traffic for us. With no traffic behind I told the guys to keep pedaling and I’d catch up. I dropped back to the “team car” and told Alex I had forgotten to use Chamois Butt’r.
Rolling on US 17, he reached for the tube. I extended my hand. He squeezed. Nothing came out. “Uh, Alex” I said, “You need to first remove the foil from under the cap.”
Alex removed the cap, then the foil, and replaced the cap. Reaching out the window he squeezed a sliver of Butt’r on my finger. I looked at him. “Dude, I need a dollop. A dollop” Alex then squeezed out a blob of the stuff on my fingers. I thanked him and rode ahead.
Now what? I was rolling down the highway about 50 meters behind Craig and Paul with a dollop of Chamois Butt’r in my hand. This would be harder than I expected. But I got out of the saddle and was able to apply it to the chamois and keep rolling.
Catching Craig and Paul they asked where I went. “Chamois Butt’r,” I said.
Barry, Paul, Craig
Alex had looked at the route and found a longer but safer alternative. Thankfully. Our first turn was at Mile 25 near South Newport. We first passed The World’s Smallest Church* and then I asked the group to stop. We did and offered up The World’s Biggest Prayer for Meg Shipman’s friend, Kristen.
Once we were off US 17 we could ride more freely. Out in the country I was shocked to see a runner approaching us. It was that remote. But I reached for a Key to Keys card and rode over to his side of the road. I held the card for him to reach and made a perfect hand off. This was that start of something big.
We had business cards about the ride and we were challenged to hand them out. And I took it to a new level. It was easy for me because I believed in the mission. On this day I saw a woman on the side of the road and I stopped and handed her a card and told her what we were doing. And so I would all the way to Key West.
We had a nice ride in to Darien, Georgia, riding on moss covered streets, passing beautiful houses and mileage signs including one to Key West.
Almost Equidistant between Key West and Upyours WV
(There is no Upyours, WV)
Hoping aboard our magic transporter we were taken to Saint Marys, Georgia, which was my first day arriving well before dinner. Saint Marys is a quaint town located on the Cumberland Island National Seashore. It begged of exploration by bike, of which I had time, but I found the one washing machine next door in a small store. I opted to wash clothes instead. I’m sure my teammates were thankful.
The evening dinner was Brunswick Stew presented by a local cycling club. One of the riders warned us to eat towards the picnic area or else the “noseeums” would eat us up. Tiny gnats, biting midges, impossible to see but you could sure feel them. The evening was beautiful but one didn’t want to spend time outside.
Vince presenting a new Gnome to Patti Jackson
I was very pleased that my cousins, whom I had only met online before, Brad and Mindy Lawmaster, drove in from Jacksonville to meet me. I was touched and honored.
L-R with the Lawmaster Family
Hannah, Sam, Mindy, Emma, Brad, Jack, Barry
Next door in a bar the owner made it Karaoke night. It was a throw down of talent between Vince Schiano and Rob Keleher. Everyone else sang for fun but these two sang for keeps. I was explaining to one of the patrons and pointing out each person and why they had no reason to smile or laugh. Everyone’s lives had been changed by cancer but here we were, one group, laughing like we may not have laughed in years.
It was another pleasant morning. My group consisted of Meg Shipman, Jae Slye, Gwyn Reece, and me. We were Group 1 and this time we could roll out of the hotel after the dedication circle.
With cue sheets showing left turns when they should be right turns andvice versa, the cue sheets have become a thing of the past. We just followed our driver, Alex Wright. Each day was special and this would be a special day.
It was yellow jersey and I wore a yellow jersey. My Team Fight jersey was dirty and smelly so I wore my CCC jersey as the back was a tribute to Jake the Hero Grecco.
Alex, Meg, Jae, Barry, Gwyn
Alex drove ahead and would wait for us at the turns. While we would pass he would be jumping up and down and waving the Team Fight flag. LSU must have lost a hell of a good cheerleader when he left.
As we meandered down the coast we occasionally had to go inland on US 17. That is not a fun road to cycle on.
Ferris Wheel, North Myrtle Beach
Twenty eight miles in we missed a turn as he wanted us to turn on 16th Street. Instead we went to 15th Street then turned back one block. As we passed the First Baptist Church of Surfside Alex spotted a playground full of kids. He had an idea – the right idea – and we all doubled back for a photo op. Alex first asked the teachers if the kids would pose with the flag but they suggested we be in the picture as well. And we did. Yep, we used this kids for a photo op.
The Kids of the First Baptist Church of Surfside
It was very meaningful meeting those kids and their teachers. I wonder if they went home and told their parents about these cyclists riding by.
One teacher told us about a pediatric cancer center at the Medical University of South Carolina and told us to contact Jacqueline Kraveka. And we would. Well, we would try.
It was fun, and more relaxing, riding on the coastal road. But eventually the coastal road ran out and we had to ride on US 17.
I don’t like Rte 17 in Virginia and I don’t like it in South Carolina. Four lanes, no shoulder, and heavy traffic. But Alex followed right behind us for more than 20 miles which gave us a protective barrier. Because cars were coming at speed on a large vehicle and not four cyclists, they had to move over. But many saw “honk if you hate cancer” written on the van and gave courteous honks as they passed.
Gwyn and Meg coming over a high bridge near Georgetown
Our moment of truth came when three sheriffs’ cars went by and none stopped to warn us not to block traffic. That made the rest of the ride even better.
We had a good ride. At 63 miles it was a personal best for Meg.
Jae, Barry, Gwyn, Meg
On the drive to Hilton Head I called three numbers to reach Dr. Kraveka. We wanted to come by and visit their cancer center. When I reached someone who seemed to know what I was talking about I was informed they were having an open house today at 4:00 and it would be a bad time to swing by. I was disappointed and I think my colleagues were too.
We had located one of the other groups and could have had two groups visit the cancer center. I have a personal interest in pediatric cancer and count this failed visit, even though it was not planned, as my one disappointment in the trip.
Andy Veliuona and Rob Keleher at Sonic in Charleston SC
As we drove the two groups met up at Sonic in Charleston. Rob Keleher had never seen car hops on roller blades so this was a treat. Then we motored on to Hilton Head.
It was a comfortable 60 degrees and getting warmer. A great day to ride. No warmers would be necessary today. I dedicated my ride to my friend Elaine B.
I was in Group 1 with Meg Shipman, Jae Slye, Paul Lemle, and Chris Zahlis. Except for Chris, all were cancer survivors but Chris may be the biggest survivor of all since he lost his 10 year old son, Dominic, to cancer five years ago. Unthinkable pain for a parent.
Barry, Chris, Jae, Meg, Paul
Arriving in Durham, we parked one mile away so we could at least give the appearance that we had biked in from somewhere. We did. Dunkin’ Donuts. We rode in from Dunkin’ Donuts.
Inside Relaxation Room at Duke
We were to visit the Duke Cancer Center. But this organization was not about giving hope to patients. This ride was loosely “modeled” after the Spokes of Hope ride from Indianapolis to Washington DC/Baltimore in 2012, but was more about relationships. With hospitals.
We were given a tour of the facility. We saw a relaxation room. And a store of wigs for chemo patients. Met hospital administrators. Yippee. But at the end Duke arranged for us to meet some patients and the organization warned us not to take any pictures due to HIPPA. Of course, the law applies to medical providers releasing patient information, not a bunch of cyclists. We called B.S.
The day at Duke spoiled a day of riding. Not that we didn’t have enjoyable riding. We did. We just weren’t able to complete our 50 miles which we were supposed to do.
On a gorgeous day our other groups rode by the U.S.S. North Carolina and took a ferry across the sound. Those were routes I would have preferred but I knew, if done right, our real mission was to bring hope to patients. Today I got to do that if only briefly.
Samantha, Paul, Meg, Chris, Kristy, Jae, Barry, Laura
Although disappointed that I could not ride more today, I was honored and humbled to have spent part of my day off the bike visiting patients at the Duke Medical Center. I can bike anytime. This was a special day.
We finally were “wheels down” in the early afternoon. As we rode we twice discovered the cue sheets weren’t that good. Sometimes they told us to go left when it should have been right. After twice going the wrong way we came to an intersection. Cue sheet right. Barry left.
My group challenged me but I told them to look at the sun. Key Wets was east and south. The cue sheet said to go west. That did not make sense. Although they started into the sun, eventually they turned around and followed me. We sort of blew up the cue sheets after that.
The group activity and dinner was at a firehouse in Myrtle Beach which we missed because we spent so much time at Duke. Three days in a row late for dinner. Once we arrived at our hotel, last, we went to Outback Steakhouse.
Chris, Barry, Meg, Paul, Jae
And at night in the hotel lobby as I was doing referee assigning, I was up so late that the night manager opened the restaurant for me to get some breakfast.
Photo Credits: Matt Brown (for most but I claim credit for the bike on top of the van photo)
A chill in the air greeted us outside the Best Western hotel in Zion Crossroads, Virginia. Like yesterday, it would be a day for leg warmers and long fingered gloves. After breakfast we got our group assignments and mine was Jimmy Kondisko and Jae Slye along with our drivers, Liz Kaplan and Vince Schiano.
At our dedication circle I dedicated my ride to Joe Petrucelli.
Meg, Patti, Barry, Paul
We drove south on U.S. 15 and then to a very remote location out in the woods. We didn’t know much about our route except our mileage today was supposed to be 60 and Liz had said we would end about five miles north of Farmville. Shortly before we turned off toward our country start location, I saw a sign that said Farmville 21 miles. Seemed to me we had 60 miles to go 16. We could do this!
Jimmy, Jae, Barry
Even though we had cue sheets we weren’t sure which direction we were to head. A local drove up in his pickup truck. While Liz was asking directions I saw the gun. Well, guns, handguns, on the floor in his truck. Welcome to rural Virginia.
Weather Barn which is actually painted vinyl siding
Once oriented, we pushed off with confidence. In the first couple of miles we were greeted by a 3-legged dog chasing us. Then a 4-legged one. Then two 4-legged ones. Repeat (except for the 3-legged dog). It was that kind of day.
A Couple Miles of Gravel Logging Road
Early on Liz, at least figuratively, went off cue and directed us down a gravel logging road. Two miles on gravel. It was that kind of day.
A Chalked Turn for us to Follow
Liz decided to go ahead and “chalk” the turns. Well, one turn. A very nice smiley with a left arrow. It would be the only turn she chalked.
When we came to US 460 the turn wasn’t far but it was a major highway, fast traffic, and no shoulders. We all discussed how best to ride “protected” from the traffic. As we discussed our plan a convoy of at least 50 army vehicles came by. We were wearing “camo” jerseys and many vehicles saluted us with a friendly horn tap as they passed by.
Thumbs Up to the Military
At one intersection Liz and Vince were waiting and directed us to turn right and informed us of a trail ahead. The trail was the High Bridge Trail. We rode for a few miles on the gravel rail bed which was quite enjoyable although the wheels didn’t roll as freely as on pavement.
We reached the end and saw we were getting closer to Appomattox and farther from Farmville. We turned around and headed towards Farmville, just enjoying a day on the bike. As we approached Farmville we noticed an upside down smiley chalked on the road. Jimmy pointed out we had passed this way before. We laughed. And laughed some more. We had just ridden a figure eight. It was that kind of day.
Liz wasn’t happy. She knew we were way off course and was worried that she would be in trouble. Why? I don’t know. We were having an enjoyable day on the bike even if pointed in the wrong direction. But we enjoyed the ride no matter where we were headed.
Jimmy and Vince
One of these guys is going the wrong way
We rolled into Farmville and met Liz and Vince. Aware that we were under time constraints to get to Durham, we still wanted to ride our assigned distance to “do our part for the team.” At that point we had given up on actually finding our way to the real route. Jimmy and I wanted to push forward, on the rail trail, just for fun, and go over High Bridge, a high trestle on the old Southside Railroad (later Norfolk Southern).
We urged Vince to grab Jae’s bike, even though it had a women’s designed seat. We had fun with him as he struggled to control it and its areobars but he loved riding eight miles with us.
Normally a “roadie” I was glad that we found this rail trail. I doubt that I would travel here to ride it and it was definitely worth doing.
Barry, Soldier, Jimmy
High Bridge could have been called Long Bridge. It was high. And long. At the west end we found some reenactors, presumably Confederate, and stopped and talked with them.
It was also very windy. But it was a beautiful sunny day and a great day on the bike. In all we had ridden 20 miles on gravel.
We followed the trail and met Liz and Jae in Rice, Va., and then drove to Durham. Running late all day, after a quick shower we went to Raleigh Times restaurant for a group dinner. We were the last ones to arrive. It was that kind of day.
I began the day in Baltimore where we rode to Race Pace Bicycles on Key Highway. After a light breakfast of bagels we had a dedication circle on the sidewalk. I dedicated my ride to Jake The Hero Grecco.
Although the ride was billed as biking to Key West, in reality we would drive 3/4 of the way to Key West and bike one fourth of the way. We were formed into four groups with each group riding 1/4th of the day’s mileage. We rode over to the Inner Harbor where Groups 2, 3, and 4 would be transported to their starting locations. My group, Group 2 did the segment from Washington DC to Nokesville, Virginia.
Barry (L); Robert Della Vecchia (R)
We were transported by staff members Abby Ramirez and Vince Schiano. My riding group included Patti Jackson, John Beck, and Rob Keleher.
My group, Group 2, began in NE Washington, D.C. in front of a Catholic church. Two nuns came out and posed for our sendoff photo. We then followed the Metropolitan Branch Trail to Union Station, through and past the Mall and across the Memorial Bridge into Virginia.
Barry, Rob, Nun 1, Nun 2, John, Patti
Credit: Vince Schiano
On the Virginia side we rode up the Mount Vernon Trail to the Custis Trail and connected with the Washington and Old Dominion Trail out to the Virginia suburbs. In Vienna we stopped at Nottoway Park for a lunch of bagels. And peanut butter.
On the Mount Vernon Trail by the Memorial Bridge
Just out for a Saturday run
It was an uneventful but beautiful ride. It was sunny but the temperature struggled to reach 60 degrees. The day would be a day without cues because this was my domain. I have ridden every inch of this route many times and it was fun to just ride without worrying about turns.
Potomac River, Virginia side, looking at Memorial Bridge,
Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument
On the run in to Nokesville on Kettle Run Road, I caught a rider. I asked her how far she was going (a set up question to be sure) and she said “not far” or “just down this road.” Of course when she asked how far I was riding I told her “Key West” (always a good conversation starter).
Jan Roberts Stover
A brief discussion ensued. As we talked and I told her my name she told me my friends, Marty Cox and Acacia Ellis have talked about me. Small world.
John Beck on the Custis Trail
Cramping forced him to be shuttled
My team was astounded that I ran into a cyclist who knew who I was. They were astounded even more when arriving at Nokesville Park even the dog knew me. That was easily explainable since my son, Andrew, brought some items that I wanted to take with me but had forgotten. But Maggie was one that could not ride with us.
Barry, John, Rob, Patti
There’s also a story of the Gnome that traveled the world for years with Patti and somehow got smashed but that’s for Vince to tell.
Gnome. Before and After
We went to the restaurant, Positively 4th Street, in Charlottesville for dinner before driving to the hotel at Zions Crossroads.
At 11:00 p.m. I was visited by friends Scott and Margaret Scudamore for desert at the IHOP next door. At midnight it would be a late night but that was normal for me since it was the beginning of soccer season and, even on this trip, I had to burn the midnight oil to get the games assigned so the kids have refs.