When I rode cross country in 2007, one of our riders, Terry, a water engineer from Great Britain, rode with a cause to raise money for safe drinking water wells in Africa. It was a great idea and I thought if I ever did a big ride again I’d do something like that . . . if I found the right cause.
Well . . . on March 1, I’m setting off on the Southern Tier route from San Diego, CA to St Augustine, FL and I have found a cause – Alzheimer’s disease.
As many of you know Mary Jean’s mother, Ruth, has suffer from this disease for several years. The vibrant, outgoing, adventurous, sometimes “pushy” woman I first met 17 years ago has turned into a shadow of what she once was.
I think she suffered the most when she was still aware enough to know things were changing but couldn’t understand it all. She is past that stage now.
It has been a very difficult thing to watch, and live with, but Mary Jean and her brothers have been very strong, loving and very supportive.
And you can be too . . . in the world of Alzheimer’s research.
A few facts about Alzheimer’s:
* An estimated 5.2 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease in 2014,
* Including approximately 200,000 individuals younger than age 65 who have younger-onset Alzheimer’s.
* Almost two-thirds of American seniors living with Alzheimer’s are women.
* The number of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias will escalate rapidly in coming years as the baby boom generation ages. By 2050, the number of people age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s disease may nearly triple, from 5 million to as many as 16 million
* More than 500,000 seniors die each year because they have Alzheimer’s.
*Alzheimer’s is officially the 6th leading cause of death in the United States and the 5th leading cause of death for those aged 65 and older. It kills more than prostate cancer and breast cancer combined.
* In 2013, 15.5 million family and friends provided 17.7 billion hours of unpaid care to those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias – care valued at $220.2 billion, which is nearly eight times the total revenue of McDonald’s in 2012.
* Alzheimer’s disease is the most expensive condition in the nation. In 2014, the direct costs to American society of caring for those with Alzheimer’s will total an estimated $214 billion, including $150 billion in costs to Medicare and Medicaid. Despite these staggering figures, Alzheimer’s will cost an estimated $1.2 trillion (in today’s dollars) in 2050.
Funny what winter, and long cold nights, will do to one’s mind in the great north . . . thoughts of spring . . . dreams of biking . . . planning adventures!
It all started with some discussion about venturing south, in late February, to the Fredericksburg, TX area for some early southern spring biking. More cold days and more thinking added the idea of,“How about extending the warm weather riding, by going from Fredericksburg over to Louisiana and riding ‘Cycle Zydeko’a rolling Cajun party disguised as a bike ride!”Sounds good.
Let’s do it!
Followed by,“You know Louisiana is not that far from Florida. Why not continue on to Florida?”
Of course the next ‘natural jump’ was . . .“You know mid-Texas to the Florida Atlantic coast is like half the Southern Tier . . . why not just do the whole thing?”
It only took six of us about 5 minutes to decide that was a good idea. Of course, some of us needed to check with the Administration. Once we received their blessings, it was full speed ahead with planning!
Others will be joining and leaving at different times during the ride from Texas, Louisiana and who knows where else! Should be a jolly time. One of our riders, Linda, is even getting a new bike for the ride!
Unlike myTransAmcrossing seven years ago this adventure will include vehicle (READ: car) support, soft motels sheets ever night and our personal efforts to keep the restaurant business afloat . . . eating out for all meals.NOcamping,NOcooking andNOhauling gear. I must be getting older!!!
Given the above parameters, I’m not sure which of my six bikes to take.
The steeds patiently waiting out the winter of 2007. Since then a new collie and two new ‘foals’ added to the herd! Penny Portland seems like the logical choice but I can hear my trusty steed, from the TransAm crossing, Connie Cannondale stirring out in the stable. Will be a tough choice!
Seven years ago, while still working full time, I found time to strip Connie down to the frame and rehab all her parts. Since then, being retired, I’m now too busy to do that again!
Our core group of riders (l-r): Dan, Gina, Karen, Margie, Paul, Rick, Linda and Tom at our first of many planning sessions.
I started taking a close look at Connie and it seemed like she needed a little maintenance. Just a little ‘nip and tuck’ here and there, nothing major. One thing led to another and . . . just like when remodeling a kitchen . . . .
One project I have e been putting off is making a new bracket for my See.Sense bicycle lights, deemed the most intelligent bicycle light on the market, more intelligent than me, as you will probably agree with after you get done reading this.
See.Sense is Kickstarter endeavor that made good and is now selling their lights worldwide. The lights have a VERY large lumen output, are a fantastic light, and can be seen for over a mile away!
Since version 1.0, newer models have a feature that senses movement. Once the bike stops for more than 3 minutes, the flasher goes into standby mode and resumes flashing once the bike starts moving again. Helps save battery power which could be an issue during the long riding days we will have on the Southern Tier. The company offers a free firmware update to facilitate the new upgrades so I sent it off to Ireland, the location of the company headquarters. Problem is with the transit time, over and back, I will already be riding before they are returned. My bride will forward the lights to me, USPS, once they are received at our base of operations!
The back facing light is made to mount on the seat tube. I have my tube repair kit hanging from the bottom of the seat and will have the Arkel tail-rider pannier on Connie’s rear rack, so the seat tube mounting position is not an option.
Thus the need to fabricate a new bracket for the back of the rack!
Using scaled photos I took before I mailed the lights off to Ireland, I knew I needed a post, the same diameter as the seat tube, and some metal strips. 1/8 steel stock I had was too thick, so I ‘re-purposed’ the lid of an old DirecTV box.
Hope they don’t want it back. Whoever made the thing must have been having a ‘Happy Day’ as you can see from the smiley face they drew on the wiring strap!!
Next was a piece of a 27mm ‘seat tube’ for the bracket. Not having a spare seat tube, I turned a 27mm dowel on the lathe.
In order for the light to hang vertical the bracket had to mimic the 72 degree back facing angle of the seat tube. Everything went together and am now just waiting for the paint to dry . . .
Good thing I am retired!!!
But . . . some are not, and still busy but find time to be creative. With the cold below zero temps, emJay spent a couple of evenings designing and making this custom daisy patterned fleece cover up for our pup Daisy. Her ears are always the first thing to get cold . . . not any more!!!
It seems appropriate that the movie about early onset Alzheimers would finally get to town the weekend before we leave on the big trip so I could see it with emJay. Not sure where it has been for the last several weeks.
As Dave Letterman says on the Late Show when introducing a guest and their movie, ‘ . . . see Joe Blows movie opening this Friday in select cities, and I hope for God’s sake you live in a selected city.” Well . . . we evidently don’t because it has been playing around the country for weeks and is now finally listed as ‘Playing Everywhere’! But . . . I digress.
Still Alice is a movie based a bestselling novel of the same name, about a 50 year old college professor who is diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer’s.
Doctors do not understand why most cases of early onset Alzheimer’s appear at such a young age. But in a few hundred families worldwide, scientists have pinpointed several rare genes that directly cause Alzheimer’s. People who inherit these rare genes tend to develop symptoms in their 30s, 40s and 50s.
When Alzheimer’s disease is caused by deterministic genes, it is called “familial Alzheimer’s disease,” and many family members in multiple generations are affected. In the United States, it is estimated that approximately 200,000 people have early onset.
It was quite a movie. Although emJay’s mother was much, much older when she developed the disease there were many parallels between in the movie with her real life experiences.
I’d say it is a must see . . . and would be interested in your opinion of the movie..
Connie got stripped down to the ‘bare essentials’ as she needed a little ‘nip and tuck’.
All her surfaces were cleaned up, chain was cleaned, cables replaced . . . but there was one thing still bugging me.
About six years ago, while out for a ride, I had three, as Clint would call them, ‘punks’, push a grocery cart in front of me while I was tooling along about 15 mph. The cart went to the right, the bike went straight and I ‘disengaged’ from the pedals and was launched left. I received a broken collarbone and Connie seemed fine other than a scrape to the handlebar tape. An inspection (short of an x-ray) at the local bike hospital revealed no injuries (to her).
BUT . . . as I continued to take her on long extended rides I notice extra play in the fork. A ‘wobble’ that was in fact attributed to the resulting ‘ovalized reformatting’ of the headset caused by the impact with the shopping cart. Of course, the added inertia from my ‘slight’ frame pushing the whole thing didn’t help either.
You can see the resulting space from the stretching of the cup above causing the fork to wobble.
I got Connie put back together but wanted the headset issue resolved before this trip. Having run out of ‘bike time’ and not having an extra headset in stock, I took Connie to the local TREK Emergency Care facility and consulted with Dr Isaac, BMD (Bicycle Mechanic Doctor.
He agreed with the prognosis of an ‘ovalized cup’ and a new head set was ordered. Three days later Connie was back on her wheels again and in the garage waiting to be loaded for San Diego!
Dr Isaac, and his favorite patient, Connie ‘The Clydesdale’ Cannondale.
Linda, Margie and I would be traveling today from WI to CA via Denver . . .
We all met at the aeroporto and said good by to our loved ones . . .
emJay and I realized this will be the longest we have been apart sing the last time I road cross country . . . absence make the heart grow fonder. Lov’ you emJay and thanks for supporting me in fulfilling my crazy dreams!
We had a four hour layover in Denver and headed to the New Belgium Hub to begin ‘training’ for the ride. We were accompanied by Korina, a woman we met on the plane traveling to CA to pick up her mother. We had a great time with her and she was very excited and supportive of our ride.I think she might have gone with us other than she was married, had a young child at home and was a nurse/mid-wife with several clients who need her services in the near future!
She wondered where the rest of our crew was and we explained than Gina had flown ahead to CA and that Tom and Dan were . . . somewhere along the way probably having just as good of a time as we were . . . ‘training’!
or . . . maybe not!
Here Mary Jo our server and Korina discuss the benefits of a smooth IPA . . .
. . . while Linda described to us how much she was in love with Tim and had pictures of him along to prove it. Even one for her bike bag to gaze at as she pedaled along on the Southern Tier!!!
Soon we were on the plane for San Diego our last leg of today’s travels. As we chatted in the cab, our cabbie asked us if we were going to Mexico and we said, ‘No, we are riding across the US to Florida on bicycles’. After a moment of silence he asked us if were taking a GUN along on the journey!!!
Soon we at the Ocean Villa motel where Gina was already waiting or us and Tom and Dan had just arrived moments before we did.
Everyone slept great last night although it did get a little chilly. The air conditioner/heater didn’t quite keep up and we might need a few more blankets.
After a hearty breakfast at the motel . . .
it was time for assemble, test, assemble, etc . . .etc.
Then it time for a little reorganizing and repacking. Guess which room had a bad case of the ‘messies’?
The Dog Beach area is a huge do beach with every kind of canine running everywhere. They are welcomed every where including some restaurants.
Our motel even had a doggie shower!
A view from our balcony. During a morning walk, Dan talked to the guy in the middle of this photo who owned 13 dogs!
After all that activity it was time for a test ride downtown and a little lunch.
This was the PLACE TO BE evidently but with a line a block long we head to a local Mexican cantina.
Gina took the healthy road . . .
While the rest of us had more ‘traditional’ Mexican cuisine. What to have for dessert . . . at just the right moment Taylor came by with her parents selling Girl Scout cookies. I bought two boxes of Tagalongs. Taylor is the top salesgirl in her troop!!! These cookie will never make it to the city limits of San Diego.
Good thing we took that test ride because I discovered I needed a new handlebar stem. The bars kept slipping down, even when severely torqued. Similar to what happened to emJay last year when she crashed in France! A quick stop at Bernie’s Bike shop and a new ‘slightly used’ Bontrager stem was procured, and installed, for $3.00!
Soon it was 3:00pm, 5:00pm CST, and time for a little happy hour on the veranda.
Dan had been out doing a little ‘training’ and soon joined some of the gang on the veranda for a little happy hour.
. . . and more ‘training’!
Soon we we’re all hungry and headed downtown for dinner. Everything was very busy so we settled om Monster’s for burgers.
. . . and another ‘training’ session!
Leslie did a great job taking care of us as we continued to ‘train’ as the rain that had predicted for the weekend started, coming down in sheets. After a 45 minute wait we were able to head to the liquor store, get some vino and head back to the room.
Tomorrow we start . . . and we’ll see what the ‘Big Ugly’ ends up being!
We woke to the rain falling from the ‘ Big Ugly’ that had moved in overnight. Forecast was rain for the next three days.!!!!
We waited until it started to slow down a little . . . stalling as long as we could. Here Tom and Gina are talking to one of the staff from the Coast to Coast ride. Their group of 42 riders will be leaving from the Ocean Villa in six days. They’ll pass us in Louisiana when we stop for the 4 day Cycle Zydeco and a side trip to New Orleans.
He was nice enough to take a shot of our happy group us as we stalled some more waiting for the clearing that was supposed to take place at noon.
With a little break in the rain about 10:30am, we headed down to Dog Beach for our formal, start of the ride photo, and the traditional cross country rider tradition of dunking the back wheel in the Pacific Ocean. We’ll dunk the front wheel it the Atlantic when we get to Florida. Our happy group at the beach. You can see part of the large dog paw stencil on the round concrete pad.
It was time for the dunking . . . BUT no body else wanted to dunk. So only I did!
We passed the Ocean Villa motel on the way out, our home for the last two nights. Good place with a great view of the doggies on the beach.
The first 12 miles of todays ride was a paved trail through the south side of San Diego heading to Lakeside. We no more started biking and it started to rain . . . and rain . . . and rain. It ended up raining all day . . . no break in the weather.
Trails, roads and byways would be our home for the next two months. Right now the trail in San Diego is also home to many homeless. Quite a contrast, them pushing everything they own in a shopping cart or pull behind bike cart and we leisurely riding across the US with a sag vehicle and all the time in the world.
Here was another chap camped out in the bush. The plastic bag on the ground to the right of the bike was him sleeping in a plastic garbage bag trying to stay dry.
39 miles latter we arrived in Alpine after climbing 2,300 feet from sea level. We were all soaked, the temp was 54 and it was time for hot showers, a load or two of wash and Mexican dinner.
Tomorrow the forecast is for more rain, cooler temps and another 2,000 feet of climbing. Should sleep good tonight!
Woke to a slightly overcast day. The forecast was for ‘scattered showers’. By the time we went to the breakfast room it was raining. It would be a ‘Yin/Yan’ kind of day.
How about a little breakfast conference, as we took over the whole place!
Guess who had there usually biscuits and gravy, Barb. We all chowed down ready for a big day of miles and elevation gain . . .considering it is only our second day of riding all winter.
After finally getting everything packed and waiting for a little break in the rain we headed up hill.
One thing you noticed different in CA is evidently that can use the center turn lanes for loading zones
Our San Diego cabbie had asked us if we were ‘packing heat’ here is one we could take along.
Not uncommon on a big trip to have a ‘second breakfast’ along the way. Here is CA you have ALL KINDS of options. After a brief visit we FINALLY headed off again!
Gee . . .Tom and I were confused on what way to go . . .
But down the interstate we all went for the next 5 miles . . . in the rain!
Click photo to see the death defying feat!!!
We stopped along the way to try and view the sites . . . too rainy and foggy!
We no more exited the intestate and it started to pour and the temp was dropping as we climbed. Four miles down the road we found refuge in a small store that had just been reopened. The rain began to look more ‘solid’ in form and soon it was snow, hail, rain, switching back a forth. Tom decided a donut was in order but was disappointed there were no nut cover ones left. He got over it.
The weather issues were one of those times when I think we were all thinking, ‘What am I doing here’ If at home during a winter ride if it gets ugly, one heads back for home or short cuts to Funk’s and drink beer. Not when you are on the road. It’s the ‘yin’ of life.
It kept up fro some time and we spent so much time, and money in the store the owner, Lois, though she would be able to retire after our visit.
The weather had looked promising when we started but I had brought my leg warmers today but decided to still wear biking sandals. My toes were getting cold and with no socks along I needed to improvise. Plastic bag socks! They really worked. Not adding any additional warmth but block the wind and holding in the heat one’s feet produce. Highly recommended, although not too fashionable!
After and hour of waiting around we figured we had been getting going in order to finish before it got dark. About a mile down the road, I noticed the snow that had accumulated on the peak ahead.I stopped to wait for a break in traffic to just get Linda and the mountain but she was pulling too far ahead. So I snapped this shot, started pedaling again, and realized I had a flat. I yelled to her but she was too far ahead. I tried to call her but No Service!! I knew I would need help putting the new Continental tires back on the rims. Tom and I had trouble doing it when I installed them in San Diego.
So it was just Connie and me alone for the tire repair and the remaining 45 miles of the day.
Sure enough . . . a piece of wire had taken it’s toll. Sure enough I got as far as changing the tube and getting the tire 7/8 of the tire on the wheel but I really needed one more set of hands OR a Velcro strap like Tom and I had discussed to hold the tire in place on one side. It took about 45 minutes before I finally got the tire seated, Connie’s pieces back together and rolling up hill again!
By this time it was getting colder and starting to hail, which you can see in this unfocused photo. Hard to ‘follow focus’ on hail stones.
After much much more uphill, rain, sleet and now high winds I reached the half way point at 3:06pm. A casino/travel mart. Something for everyone!
Despite having eaten only a couple of hours before, I was famished and cold. Let’s see one needs, protein, fat and carbs . . . so had to of my favorites, roller wieners with all the fizxin’s and a 1/4 pound walnut crusted chocolate brownie. I have planned to take a photo to eat but was too hungry. About five minutes, this was all that was left.
As I warmed up I watched the people run from their cars into the store and back getting blown off course along the way. Finally I figured I needed to get the other half of the ride done before it got any colder and dark. A quick check of the temp on the Garmin showed 39.8!!!
The rain had stopped but the extreme side winds mad for a very chilly start again. I wondered if the winds always blew like this here at the top of the pass . . . I guess the name of the road tells it all!
Haven’t seen too many road side memorials yet but saw this one coming up on this tight curve, right under the telephone pole. As I rolled by I saw there was more. You see so much when you are riding you can’t take a photo of everything, so I have developed the 15 second rule. if I am still thinking about a possible photo op 15 seconds after I go by it I go back . . .
. . . this is one deadly corner. This memorial had a sting of solar lights and a video surveillance sign!!!
I finally started dropping downhill, somewhat out of the wind, the sun was breaking though and so the ‘yang’ part of the day began. We probably had seen several hundred Border Patrol vehicle sin the last several days of all descriptions. Pickups, SUV’s Jeeps, dune buggies, 4 wheel drives, cars. You name it. If it rolls and goes off pavement I think they have it. All painted white with a green stripe. They are all busy driving around on and off road. We heard they had made an arrest of a group of several hundred the night before.
Lot’s of extras!
I knew we would be close to the border on this trip but had not studied the maps close enough to know it started today. I saw what I thought was a railroad trestle and it ended up being ‘the fence’.
Funny thing is ahead there was a gap in the fence. Might have happened between budget biennium’s when the funding ran out!!!???
Along that area there were no entry signs up due to ‘Environmental Concerns” I wondered if there were not buried proximity switches and motions detector’s to detect those crossing at night.
. . . and long the road I saw several of these zip tie configurations evidently a favorite ‘temporary’ handcuff used by the Border Patrol around customers wrists.
In some places there was fence only a sign to tell you which side to stay of the border you are on. I guess they use the honor system here too!!!!
Soon I ran into Mike, from Virginia, heading west on the Southern Tier. He started on Jan 7 and only had two days left. We chatted and exchanged emails and cards. I wished we could have chatted longer but we were both cold and worried about loosing daylight. I had no light with me on board.
My heart sank as I saw a sign that read Ocotillio, our home for the night, 14 miles ahead. Never make it before dark.
BUT . . . what if one had a nice downhill. Like 12 miles of it!!
So down I went with the grade varying between 4-8%. With strong winds I REALLY had to be careful but when it seemed safe I let Connie gallop at 39 mph. She need to run after struggling up hill all day. I would learn later that Gina had been blown off her bike earlier in the day because of the winds!!!
Soon a rainbow welcomed me to Ocotillo . . .
. . . as well as a wind farm strategically positioned at the bottom of the pass.
We were ‘out of the woods’ and now definitely in the dessert!
Gina had snacks and beer for us!!!
. .. and Connie and I had our own suite!!! Little did I realize at the time I had placed her rear tailrider pannier right in front of the quartz radiant header. When I returned from the happy hour the pannier was too hot to touch. Another fifteen minutes and there might have been a fire call to the ocotillo Trailer park and Motel!!!
My ‘booties’ had worked out well other than my ‘big pork chop toe’ had come through the end!
A GREAT day that started sort of rough but finished really nicely. Just like real life . . . things usually seem to work out OK.
Two great quote’s from the last to day’s, both from Tom:
Day 1: We rode through mostly through urban areas, in fact we we didn’t leave San Diego County proper until late on Day 2. As Dan and I were huddled over the maps and our two gps’, trying to figure out where we were, we heard Tom say, . . . “don’t worry about it we have a bike lane and are making good time” Although we were sure where we were or going!