The Bacon Ride


The ride begins with the stay the night before. Trying to bump my status with Marriott, I was just looking at their properties. The Courtyard by Marriott is a nice hotel and was about $20 less than Fairfield Inn. The only difference for me was Courtyard did not offer a free breakfast.

At Flap Jacks in Lebanon

Now, was it worth $20 for a free breakfast of powdered scrambled eggs and concentrated orange juice? I decided it wasn’t. I took the Courtyard, left early, and ate at Flap Jacks in Lebanon. Ordered the three-pancake breakfast. That was $6.27 so I came out $13 to the plus. (less tip, of course)

Lebanon, Ind.

Ken Hart greeted me at registration and said “I thought we might see you here since you were in Piqua, Ohio yesterday (posted on Facebook). Cindi Hart did a little better – a big hug. Always a big hug from Cindi.

Lebanon, Ind.

I went for a four-mile warmup ride in preparation for the 100-mile ride. Arriving back, cancer survivors (or warriors or veterans) were staged separately. Alexis Overbeek came over to meet me. We had been friends on FB for five years but had yet to meet in person. Today we did, She and her husband, Pierce, had come, at my request, to volunteer with Spokes of Hope. It was great meeting both of them.

Alexis and Barry

While a bagpiper played Amazing Grace while we were at the start line, I removed my helmet out of respect – and the riders took off. I was caught without a helmet. I put it on, tightened the strap, and found myself 100 places down in the roll-out. Without being too much of a jerk I passed 98 people and caught Cindi and Rena Smock at the front. The three of us set the pace until Cindi went ahead for some video. Then Rena and I led it out about 19-20 mph for the first five miles. We discussed we were probably burning too many matches and decided to let some others pull through.

At the start


It was another 15 miles to Rest 1. I just sat in and was pretty much amazed that it seemed the entire ride stayed together. That wasn’t completely the case as a shorter route had broken off but we were a controlled group to Rest 1.

Cindi Hart with instructions to newbies – “Eat more bacon”

It was there I would get – bacon. This is the Bacon and Smoothie Century. In fact, Pierce was dishing it out and overloaded (overdosed) me on bacon. Never thought I could eat too much bacon until today.

Can one eat too much bacon? Yes, yes one can. Pierce loading up the bacon.


We rolled out of Rest 1 pretty much as a group. I sat further back and the yo-yo-ing got pretty bad, especially when turns were involved. It was constant accelerating to catch up after each turn. Eventually, perhaps halfway to Rest 2, I let my group go.

Cancer Warriors

Now solo, I dropped back, got passed by a small group then two Spokes of Hope riders went by. Rena said “grab a wheel” and I did. In short order, we caught the small group. Then we started a true rotating pace line which was the best riding of the day. Rena and Tim Wozniak seemed to have organized the line and it was some of the best riding I did all year.


With one solo rider ahead of us, we almost caught him two or three times. There must be something about the predator-prey instinct that cyclists have not to be caught even when it benefits them. When he was 100 meters up the road I said I was going to catch him and have him join us. I took off, caught him in no time, and told him he would be better off to soft-pedal and join us. He did. And we would have been better off too although in less than five minutes we were at Rest 2.

Rest stop

The sky turned black. Ken looked at his radar app and said we would get wet but no thunder or lightning. Ken would be wrong. We left out of the stop, had an overpass to cross (an Indiana hill) and I had the usual lactic acid after a stop. One group went ahead and I joined the second. We rode. We had probably five women and five men, all about equal ability.

Ken Hart assuring us we won’t get wet


Up ahead was a big dog and he (or she) did not want us on the road. It came at us in the opposite direction, misjudged our speed but then did a U-turn. He (or she) was fast. With people yelling I reached for my water bottle. I squirted him (or her) in the face and he (or she) backed off. I heard a woman say,’ “Wow, he just squirted him away.”

Rain pouring down


But then the rain came. It was gradual. At first, it was light and was a cooling rain. I thought we could ride like this all day. But then it was harder. Then thunder. Then lightning. We pulled into Rest 3 at MP 50 and the winds picked up. We helped move the pop up tents so they didn’t get destroyed or blown away.

Getting directions back to start (Pierce and Alexis)

We talked about cutting it short. We were given directions but when we left one rider thought we were finishing the route. And it felt like we were as we were following markings on the road. There was still thunder and lightning and I decided I would drop off the group and find my way on my own. I did not want to ride in a storm.

Cindi Hart with inspirational words

I dropped back, fiddled with Garmin’s Back to Start feature and it looked like we were headed back the right way. Except I had let the group go up the road. No worries. Today would be the day that I went over 60,000 miles cancer-free. I was happy being by myself for a bit.

Ken Hart welcoming riders

I got back to Lebanon, in the rain. I stopped at the bell for cancer survivors to ring. I rang. No response. But I didn’t expect any. The 100-mile ride became a 100 km ride. Spokes of Hope had closed the course due to the weather. It was a prudent and safe thing to do.

Lebanon, Ind.

I saw old friends, in the case of Alexis, met a friend, finally, for the first time, and went over 60,000 miles. It was a good day despite the rain.

T-Town 2018


This was the 10th year that Spokes of Hope was invited to Valley Preferred Velodrome in Trexlertown, Pa. In previous years, we had childhood cancer survivors “take a lap” against cancer sometime during the evening races.

We were the pee-wee football team that gets to play on the big field for five minutes of the half-time of an NFL game. Or the midget hockey team that gets five minutes between periods at an NHL game. There is also some down-time between races at the velodrome and Spokes of Hope filled the gap by introducing the childhood cancer survivors.

Take a lap against cancer – Barry and Branon Cooper getting some laps in on the track. PHOTO CREDIT: Kathy Robinson

But it was always a blast for us. For Cindi Hart, she just glowed when she could teach the young kids how to ride on the track even if it was the flat ground-level apron. But that would not happen this year.

Spokes of Hope Memory scarf – Jake “The Hero” Grecco is the first name in the upper left corner

In the past it has never been smooth. We usually didn’t find out until an hour or so before the program when we would go on. But riding the track was only half of it. Spokes of Hope loaded up a trailer and brought a full display and store from Indiana to sell at the velodrome. And some of the mission was just support for people coming by.

Barry Sherry, Linda Baun, Lexi, John Baun

Call it a miscommunication, but we arrived only to be told that we would not be riding on the track. Uh-oh. No worries. We still had the tent plus there was an entire evening of bike races.

In Memory – Alex Shepherd

My cousins from New Jersey, Stacey Gravina and her family, always come over to see me. That always makes it special. Stacey was the mother of Jake “The Hero” Grecco, one of our heroes.

Stacey Gravina, Raeann Peters, Barry Sherry, Josh Grecco, Gary Gravina, Logan Gravina

But this year was especially hard. I had hoped that my cousin, Kay Walborn, would join us as a cancer warrior. Instead, her name was the latest to be added to the Spokes of Hope banner that Cindi carries with her on rides. Kay lost her battle five days earlier.

Kay Walborn’s name added to the scarf. This sucks.

One of the people that came through was young Lexi. She was diagnosed with Acute lymphocytic leukemia (A.L.L.) in February, 2015, finished treatment May, 2017, and relapsed December, 2017. Lexi – we ride for you!

Cindi coaching Lexi

If Friday is all work, especially if we don’t get to ride), then Saturday is all play. Each year we meet for a group ride out to Topton and back. We meet at The Market Cafe which is quite a neat place situated right next to two train tracks. Unless you’re a railfan, which I am, you probably don’t want to be sipping on a cold drink when a train rumbles by.

On the road to Topton

The ride is truly one of my favorite rides of the year. It is just fun. But it is also a ride with other warriors – a brotherhood, and sisterhood, that can’t be explained and we don’t want others to join. But if you are diagnosed then we welcome you.

Front: Ken Hart, Cindi Hart. Rear: Barry Sherry, Jay Bodkin, Kathy Robinson, Andrew Werner

We had another great Saturday morning ride. Weather was perfect. Company was superb. I love my Spokes of Hope family.

Spokes of Hope Saturday Ride


Our riding group from Spokes of Hope met at the Valley Preferred Cycling Center for what has become our annual ride in the valley.  I joined Ken and Cindi Hart, Jay Bodkin, Kathy Robinson, Andrew Werner, and Branan Cooper (but Branan could ride only for a short bit).

Ken Hart, Kathy Robinson
Ken Hart, Kathy Robinson

Cindi asked us to gather and we formed a small circle. She gave thanks for friendship and then I offered up that this must also be a dedication circle. I led by speaking about Jake, whose family I had visited an hour earlier. And I dedicated my ride and day to Amelia Schmidt.

Bowers, Pa.

We rode out country roads to Topton. But not without incident. Jay came to railroad tracks and did a bunny hop. He hopped right out of his cleat – the shoe suspended on his pedal. He did an emergency repair and we were able to continue as a group.

Topton, Pa.

We did a loop out to Bowers and ended up at the cafe in Topton next to the railroad tracks. While drinking milkshakes and smoothies (I had a smoothie), Cindi asked for a hill on the return ride where we could ride for the people we have dedicated to.

Near Topton, Pa.
Near Topton, Pa.

Andrew found a hill near Mertztown. Cindi and I went up. I yelled for Amelia and Alex and Jake.


Andrew and Kathy followed. Jay and Ken watched. After the dedication, we passed a pumpkin patch and were surprised to see they were harvesting pumpkins in August.

Well, at least this writer was surprised.

Cindi Hart
Cindi Hart

It is always great riding with these cancer survivors as they enjoy their lives and triumph over cancer.

Clockwise: Ken, Andrew, Jay, Kathy, Barry, Cindi’s shoes (Credit: Cindi Hart)



I think this was the eighth straight year for Spokes of Hope. It was my fifth straight year attending.


The last night of racing for the season at Valley Preferred Cycling Center, Spokes of Hope was invited to “take a lap against cancer.” We met at 4:00 p.m. and got to ride on the track until 5:00 p.m.


The featured pediatric survivor was Abby. She is a five year old who has bilateral retinoblastoma. Ponder that for a moment. Five years old.


We met at 4:00 and rode some practice laps on the track. The kids rode down on the apron while the big kids got to ride up on the track.


Unlike past years where we were an intermission guest, this year we were first up – right before the national anthem.


We were announced as taking a “Lap Against Cancer.” The crowd enthusiastically supported us – little and big kids alike.


As we left the track the National Anthem was sung. We stood at attention, me with my hand over my heart.


This is always a special night. Honoring kids and seeing old friends. And we got to see some good bike racing too.


Reflections on the Year – 2015

My Top Ten* Cycling Moments of the Year

In chronological order

1. Ride the Rockies

My third straight year going to Colorado to ride these big mountains. I don’t know why but my favorite climb was the 14 mile dirt road up and over 12,000′ Cottonwood Pass. The legs felt great that day. Best day of the year, in fact. I rode 105 but could have easily ridden 50 more.


2. Texas 4000

After Ride the Rockies I went up to Estes Park thinking I would run into the Texas 4000, then giving up, then meeting and riding with them.

3. Chey and Chelsea in Altoona

It wasn’t the full Jacob’s Hero Ride that I had hoped but was very glad to have Chey Hillsgrove and Chelsea Johnson join me for two days of riding in Bedford and Blair counties.


4. Early mornings in Delaware

A fun week at a beach house in South Bethany, Delaware, began each morning with a 30-40 mile ride. Delicious!

Canal - South Bethany
Canal – South Bethany

5. Ohio

On my way to Indiana I stopped to ride through Piqua and Lockington, Ohio, two places I lived when I was 9-12 years old.


6. Spokes of Hope – Indy

Surprised friends Ken and Cindi Hart by showing up to their Spokes of Hope ride near Indianapolis.

Barry trailed by Julie
Barry trailed by Julie

7. Trexlertown

The community of cancer survivors combined with riding on the velodrome in Trexlertown. Bonus ride to Tipton on Saturday.

8. New French Friends

On the W&OD Trail I saw a man and daughter on a recumbent pulled over so I stopped and asked “Where did you start and where are you going?” I was surprised to learn they started in Vancouver and were cycling to Key West. Thomas and Sylvaine Houdy, from Lyon, France, and their children, Theo and Elsa, took 11 months off for a trip of a lifetime.

Cold and rainy near Williamsburg
Cold and rainy near Williamsburg


9. Meeting my Amish cousins

Imagine the surprise on young Amish couple, Keith and Julie Zimmerman, riding their bicycles to church when I slowed down and told her that I was related to her. When she told me her last name was Wenger I knew were were related and tried to explain it to her. I don’t think she believed me.


10. Livestrong

Brought in Alex Shepherd’s father, Dan, and he and I had a couple days riding before the event then 100 miles fighting cancer.



11. Ride with Dad

A beautiful Fall day I was able to meet my dad and my sister. At 86 the thought is always there it may be his last ride on a bike.

Pinkerton High Trestle
Pinkerton High Trestle

12. The Governor

A quasi-private ride with the governor of Delaware, Jack Markell. Of course I wore a Texas jersey to a Delaware ride.


2015 was my top mileage year by 1500 miles. I rode 8,078 miles (or 13,000 km because that looks cooler). Using the format for Potomac Pedalers’ Iron Crotch Award (for 5,000 miles):

Total Miles: 8,078  (I prefer 13,000 kilometers)


Longest Ride – Crested Butte to Salida, CO over Cottonwood Pass, CO. – 106 miles.

Date on which 5,000 was achieved – Aug. 22 at the Spokes of Hope Ride in Indianapolis

Most miles in a Month — 1,232 (July)

Most miles in a week — 521 During Ride the Rockies

Number of Zero mile weeks – None

Number of 100 mile days – Three

And I will add for 242 rides the average was 33.38 miles per ride.

Most interesting story – My Amish cousins.

And that’s it. Another year. No falls or crashes (always a plus)! It was a good year but I still had 123 days without a ride. Lazy, lazy, lazy. I don’t know what 2016 holds for me. I want to do an epic ride for children’s cancer awareness and research but things have to fall in order. I love France, Italy, and Switzerland but don’t know if I will get back this year. I hope wherever it is I ride safe, make new friends, and most of all, continue to find peace on the bike.

*I can’t count

Spokes of Hope – Pa.


Having celebrated beating cancer with some kids last night at the Velodrome, this day was reserved for a fellowship ride. Mileage goals aren’t usually that important to me but they do provide an incentive at times. A few days ago I wasn’t sure I would ride 1,000 miles in August then, all of a sudden, realized I could do it today. I had a goal.


I left the Homewood Suites hotel and biked the two miles to Trexlertown. First, I made my way over to the track at Rodale Park and rode laps. By the time my Spokes of Hope friends showed up I already had 10 miles in the book.


And so eight of us pushed off from the Velodrome for the back country roads in Lehigh and Berks counties. We started with Ken and Cindi Hart, Jay Bodkin, Kathy Robinson, Branan Cooper, Andy Werner, myself and some guy named Mike (my apologies).


Surprisingly, I have ridden these roads before. I must say they are enjoyable.


We headed out into Mertztown to Bowers then doubled back to Topton. Mike peeled off in Mertztown and we were down to seven. In Topton we stopped at a cafe by the tracks which appears to be overrun with cyclists (in a good way – lots more bikes than cars and it was busy inside).


When we were ready to roll out we picked up an eighth rider to make up for Mike. Although we didn’t go back to Bowers, we basically just followed the route that we had just come out on.


Back at the cycling park, we huddle up for a group photo and, for most of us, said goodbye for another year. As they packed up, I rode back to the hotel and went over 1,000 miles for the month. A nice way to finish the ride.

Spokes of Hope Indy


It was the annual Spokes of Hope ride. Without a word or hint to the organizer and with a very late registration, I caught the organizer, Cindi Hart, off guard when I walked up to registration. Hugs ensued.

Finish Line Hug
Finish, not Start, Line Hug

I was given a special placard as “Cancer Veteran” and we veterans lined up 50 yards back from the other riders. When it was time for the opening ceremonies we rolled past the other riders as they cheered us to the start line.

Cancer Veteran
Cancer Veteran

A bagpiper played and we rolled out with a great police escort. Cindi was at the front and, in one mile, when she peeled off, I pulled off with her, not knowing if I would see her at all during the day and I had to leave immediately after it ended. Cindi urged me to go and catch up with the other riders, and eventually, I did.

Been There Done That
Been There Done That

Or at least I started to. I had to work my way through some slower riders (probably riding shorter distances) and then could finally see the lead group or some riders dropped by them. This was a very small ride and I didn’t realize it but if I didn’t catch on somewhere I would be riding 100 miles solo.


I could see the group and timed them at 2:00 up the road. It took about five miles but I got it down to 1:00. I really wasn’t closing the gap. A couple of riders dropped off the back and I caught and passed them but did not catch on before the first rest stop.

Rest Stop
Rest Stop

The ride was well-supported if 50 pounds of bacon is support. (It is.) We were at a Love’s Travel Plaza and I walked inside to use the rest room. There was bacon. There were smoothies which were still frozen. Cookies. I grabbed a smoothie and a spoon and was digging at it when most of the riders pulled out. I hated to throw away a smoothie and Ken and Cindi Hart were at this stop so we chatted briefly.

Spokes of Hope Van
Spokes of Hope Van

Again, Cindi urged me to go “ride with someone” and when I saw two cyclists pull out I went with them. I met Nathan and Julie from Fishers, Indiana. They were first year cyclists, both triathletes, attempting to complete their first century ride. I’m not sure they wanted me or welcomed me to ride with them but they were stuck with me. We were going to do this.

Nathan and Julie
Nathan and Julie

We rolled into Stop 2 together and I waited for them to roll out. We were now a team. A Century-completing team.

Not long after we left I saw another couple farther back. I thought I would slow the pace, let them integrate with us and give us five. That would give us a physiological and psychological advantage. Todd and his wife rolled by and I jumped on their wheel. Nathan and Julie did not follow. I let Todd go and dropped back with my friends.

Rest Stop
Rest Stop

At Rest Stop 3 we were told we were last on the road except for a tandem. This is when I realized this was a very small ride. And then Todd and his wife (I don’t know her name) pulled in. They had made a wrong turn.

A volunteer told me to try to keep us together (which I was trying to do) but Todd pulled out and ahead. But we eventually pulled them back and integrated once we all started talking. We had 40 miles to go.

Barry trailed by Julie
Barry trailed by Julie

I tried to go to the front and set the pace. The wind was often in our faces and I thought it would help my friends if I rode in it. After Rest #4 I rode at the front almost all the way back. At one point I thought Nathan and Julie were dropping back so I let Todd’s wife ride up front. It worked.

Todd and Wife
Todd and Wife

We rolled into Zionsville and, as we came to the finish, I let the four of them finish first. This was also Todd’s first century. Well done, my friends!

Nathan and Julie
Nathan and Julie

Overall I averaged 16.4 mph for the 100 miles. Not bad but it wasn’t the 19 mph I averaged, solo, in the first 18 miles. I had an offer at Rest #1 to ride with a group at 19-20 mph which would have been cool but they took off while I was in the rest room. And if it was speed I was after, I could have taken off at any time but this was much more rewarding. I was very happy to shepherd new riders completing their first century.  And they must have averaged at or near 16 mph for their first long ride.

Lions Park
Lions Park

At the finish I was greeted by Cindi. We posed for a few photos then I had to leave. The 7.5 hours on the bike (six of them moving) would be easy compared to the 7.5 hour drive ahead of me.


EPILOGUE: One rider, a cancer veteran, posted that he rode most of the miles solo. Although he seemed upset at first, he used the time to reflect on his cancer journey. At first many people are by your side but eventually one finds oneself facing the journey alone.

I experienced sort of the opposite. I had a journey and could have ridden it alone. But I chose to ride with others instead to encourage and support them. And that was the best thing for me too.

T-Town Turnpike


Well, it’s not really the Trexlertown Turnpike. I began the day hoping that my sister, Betsy, and I would take our dad to the Great Allegheny Passage at Rockwood and ride about 12 miles to Fort Hill. But he said he was too tired to ride (he is 85) and I had kept him out late past midnight at the Pittsburgh Steelers’ game.

Pumping Station Road Entrance

Betsy previously had expressed interest in riding the Abandoned Turnpike at Breezewood. Fresh off buying lights for her bike last week at the 25 Hours of Booty, we both drove to Breezewood. 

Entrance off Pumping Station Road
It is not marked

I had my Trek Domane and a Trek MTB with me. The pavement on the Pike2Bike ranges from average to poor, with a lot of poor. All things being equal, I would choose a mountain bike over a road bike but it’s not bad on a road bike. It’s just better on fatter tires. However, since I had both with me it meant I had to leave one in the car so I chose to leave the MTB in the car instead of the road bike.

Entrance off Pumping Station Road

Entering from Breezewood, and after climbing the steep trail up to the start, you have your choice of four lanes of pavement, although it is often hard to tell. You start out in the left “lane” – that is where the entrance puts you. My experience is to ride the left lane to the Rays Hill (first) Tunnel. After exiting the tunnel, ride the left lane for a couple of miles but then switch over to the right lane before reaching the Sideling Hill (second) tunnel. After exiting the second tunnel, stay left. These are my suggestions only and know and there is no perfect line to follow.

Eastern entrance to Sideling Hill (second) Tunnel

I flatted after exiting the Sideling Hill Tunnel. I couldn’t find any glass in the tire but there is a little bit of glass on the trail. I think it was probably a pinch flat from the rough pavement.

Closest intersection to Pike 2 Bike

Once out at the far end, we rode another mile just to see where the roads lead. Then we 
turned around and went back.

Exit of Sideling Hill Tunnel, looking west

After our ride I drove to Trexlertown. The last couple of years, the cancer support group, Spokes of Hope, was at Trexlertown to honor pediatric cancer survivors. This year, the invitation did not come until Wednesday, so we scrambled to get participants, both big and small.

Valley Preferred Velodrome
Trexlertown, Pa.

I arrived at 3:30, we took some practice rides on the track at 4:00 p.m., coached by Cindi Hart. The kids stayed down (on the track). The grownups stayed up. Cindi ran us through some drills but in the end I think it was just the two of us.

Cindi Hart

After the practice ride I went on to over to the Bob Rodale fitness track. Three lanes: slow bikes on left, roller bladers in the middle, fast bikes on the right. What a great track to ride.

Cancer Survivors and Warriors

At 7:00 p.m. (scheduled) or 7:15 or 7:20 (actual) we were introduced to the crowd at the Valley Preferred Velodrome. We took 3-4 laps and the crowd cheered the entire time for the survivors and cancer warriors. It warmed my heart.

The races are a blast to watch, especially the Madison where teammates take turns and sling their partners ahead when they make the exchange. The German-Austrian duo of Marcel Kalz and Andreas Graf killed the field, lapping them in both the 50 and 100 lap races although American and local favorite, Bobby Lea, was not there.

Josh Grecco

My dear cousins, Stacey and Gary Gravina, came over from Phillipsburg, New Jersey to see me (or maybe just see the races). It was so great to see them and their boys.

Barry and Stacey

Abandoned tunnels in western Pa., velodrome in eastern Pa. – I’d say it was a good day.

What’s in a Jersey?


Group rides that aren’t timed often lead to small talk on the road. My experience is when I wear a destination or event jersey someone will talk to me about it. Be it the Mt. Washington Auto Road Hillclimb or Alpe d’Huez, I will have people asking me about the event or sharing their own experiences.

I brought my Ride the Rockies and Spokes of Hope jerseys to wear today unsure of which I would go with. When I wear a cancer jersey very few people will say a word. But I had a feeling and decided to go with my newest kit. I wanted to display the first blue Spokes of Hope kit made (last week).

It was 52 degrees as I rolled out of Thurmont. My legs felt heavy. Very heavy. I refereed a soccer match last night. As the assignor, I had a late turnback of a game and rather than scramble to find someone to take the game I took it myself. 

A Pretty Barn and Horse near Myersville, Md.

When I referee I am not one to stand in the center circle. I give the game the effort it deserves and I worked my butt off running with the U16s. I got home after 10:30 p.m. I showered and went to bed.

Now pedaling my legs felt very heavy. I was conscious not to go out too fast but still found myself passing people on the low part of the seven mile climb over the Catoctin Mountain which greets the riders on the Civil War Century.

Rest Stop at South Mountain

I was passing people and eventually realized that everyone I had been riding with were now behind me. I was going out too fast.

Not the bike I rode

At Mile Nine I felt a twinge in my quadriceps. I knew I was in trouble. I was cramping just nine miles into a 100 mile ride. I decided to back off and take it easy and hope to make the full route. It was a beautiful day for a ride warming up to the mid 80s.

Antietam National Battlefield

Navigating through Boonesboro, Md. was interesting. A quaint little town it apparently held a community yard sale on this day. Traffic was backed up or cars were simply double parked. It was a little bit sketchy at times getting through there safely.

A lasting image of the community came when I rounded a curve and saw three kids in the yard, probably 7-9 years old. I called out “Morning!” One of the kids yelled back “GET OFF THE ROAD!” It sort of reminded me of Gene Wilder in Blazing Saddles stating “the little bastard shot me in the ass.” I just thought these kids have already learned this from their parents. They don’t have a chance to grow up and be a compassionate member of society.

On the climb up South Mountain headed towards Blue Ridge Summit, Pa., I was passed by five riders. One said “I like that jersey.” Once over the top I caught the group (meaning they stopped) and stopped with them. There I met Kim Goldman and gave her my card. We talked about the jersey, the organization, and cancer. She invited me to ride with them.

Save for the last hill before Fairfield, Pa., I stayed with them but even then quickly caught back up to them. I generally felt good. After the rest stop we pedaled on to Gettysburg. Fighting off the cramps there were times when I felt good.

The moment of truth came while riding through the battlefield. I had dropped to sixth wheel (last) as we were required to ride single file through the park. There were even three volunteers with signs to remind us. Out of the blue came a loud pop. My front tire blew.

Help at Gettysburg (Josh Sayre)

This was the second time on the day. I never had a tire blow out on me before but earlier, as I was leaving the rest stop at Mile 50, I had a tire blow. Rather than change it on the side of the road I walked 200 meters back to the fire station where I changed the tire. Now just 20 miles later, it happened again.

Would my new friends keep going? Or would they stop and help this stranger? Without a spare tube (already used) I was screwed, But Josh Sayre, riding in front of me, heard my faint yell of “flat” or at least heard the tire blow. He stopped and gave me his tube. The SAG was right behind us so I could use their floor pump. This change was easy.

After a group photo we were rolling again. At Mile 85 we were riding along at a good pace when we came to the last rest stop. They indicated they were not going to stop but I was low on my fluids. Any thought about continuing with them immediately disappeared with a cramp. Our pace up the small climb to the rest stop was just enough to induce more cramps.

L-R: Ben Herbert, Josh Sayre, Kim Goldman, Ben Aiken, Mike Davis, Barry Sherry

I pulled over and could barely lift my leg over the frame. Looking for something, anything, with salt, I found Doritos (yes). I refilled with Gatorade. I drank five bottles on the day with seven bottles of water. I took off for the final 20 miles. And I was deep in the suitcase of pain.

I could find no rhythm in pedaling. When I did I would stay there. Sometimes it was a slow cadence. Other times it was faster. But then a cramp would come and I would have to change position, cadence, and twice, stop to stretch. To make matters worse, although it was all flat, there was mostly a headwind to contend with.

My Salty Snack

The ride was a struggle. Actually, from Mile 60 to 85 it was a breeze as I was talking with the group. But the last 20 miles, riding solo, was very difficult. My skin was white with salt deposits.

The irony is I like distances. I often do my best in the final quarter of a long ride. But I was ill-prepared. I even had a jar of Endurolytes which would fend off losing all the salt and electrolytes. At home. In a drawer.

It was a difficult ride. And while I did set a personal best on the climb up Catoctin Mountain, I will remember the difficulty of the day and how ill-prepared I was. But I will remember most meeting new friends on the ride. All because of what’s on the jersey.

Spokes of Hope


The father of cyclist Davis Phinney and grandfather of Taylor Phinney, Damon Phinney, created an organization called Cyclists Combating Cancer (CCC) before he died from prostate cancer. CCC historically has been the largest single group raising funds for the Livestrong Foundation.

Spokes of Hope has grown out of CCC as an action group visiting cancer patients and spreading hope. I first met some of the Spokes of Hope last year at RAGBRAI. 

Valley Preferred Cycling Center

I was invited to Trexlertown to ride on the Velodrome during the last Friday night races of the season at the velodrome. This was a UCI (International Cycling Union) event with an international field.

The day kept unfolding with surprises and kept getting better as the day grew older.

Pros Warming Up on the Track

I arrived at the velodrome around 3:45 p.m. for a practice session on the track. Riding on the velodrome is unlike the normal riding we do. This was a 333 meter track with 28 degree banked curves. 

Pediatric Cancer Survivors

We joined seven pediatric cancer survivors including Duncan Micheltree who was being honored. Cindi Hart gave us a quick lesson in terminology and track riding and we all rode off practicing on the track. The kids stayed down on the apron and Cindi took us newbies (me?) in a pace line up on the track.

Paceline on the track

Wild. The bike of choice is a “fixie” which is a fixed geared bike with one speed. When you pedal it goes forward. When it goes forward the pedals rotate. There is no coasting. And there are no brakes.

My very limited experience tells me these bikes are actually safer than a typical road bike. Once on the track if I crept up on the rider in front of me in the pace line my options were to overlap wheels or brake. Braking was out of the question so I overlapped wheels which can be very dangerous on those 28 degree curves. Riding a fixie one can just slow down the pedals.

As I went on to the track I heard my name being called. Very strange because I knew no one here. I did a double take and heard my name again. I saw a woman and went over to her. “I’m Andrea Mitcheltree,” she said. “I’m friends with Stacey and Gary (Gravina).”

Barry with Duncan Mitcheltree

Then I remembered. I met Andrea last year in New Jersey at Jake’s funeral. I am guessing that Trexlertown is less than 30 miles from Phillipsburg, NJ.

And it was Andrea’s son, Duncan, who was the feature of the night. This was so cool.

Duncan with his parents, Andrea and Eric Mitcheltree

After our practice sessions we left the track. I then sent Stacey a message to “come see Duncan and me ride tonight.” She was confused.

Three Colors of Spokes of Hope

I left the velodrome and went across the street to the “track.” They have a one mile cycling track which is very cool. This is not an oval but a meandering road with three lanes – one for fast cycles, one for rollerbladers, and one for everyone else. What a great park.

The Track at Rodale Park

The people started coming in to watch the races. Once the events started I took a position at the top of the boards on Curve 1. I was shocked when Stacey tapped me on the shoulder. Although I had called her it certainly sounded like they would not be able to make it on this special night.

The Fast Lane

Before the last (feature) race of the night, we were introduced. Spokes of Hope with the pediatric cancer survivors. The crowd cheered heavily and for a minute I inhaled it all but I know it was for the kids – not me. I rode high on the wall and in the back stretch a number of kids held out their hands for me to “Low 5” them. I did. 

Pros at the Start of their Race

The last event was the 120 lap “Madison.” Teams of two riders would tag team. The “resting” rider would sweep down from one of the high curves and catch his partner from behind. As he did the front riding would grab his hand/arm then pull him ahead — a sling shot move, really. Then he would safely maneuver up to the wall and wait for the next lap to change places.

Keep in mind there’s no coasting or stopping with these bikes. So if one wants a rest they have to pedal farther during their rest period so they have longer in between their shift at riding all out. Stacey, Gary, and I stayed for all 120 laps. It was an exciting event.

Riding in the Countryside

On Saturday our Spokes of Hope group met at the velodrome and went for a 25 mile ride out to Topton and back. It was a great day for a ride and I think I saw more cyclists on the road than I did cars. This was a special weekend of riding and am looking forward to next year.

Spokes of Hope at a barn in Mertztown



Ride in the Country

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