(Sunday) September 29, 2002
A second day without an event awaited us today, so it was simply a day to get on the bikes and ride. 92 miles at our own pace, although some of it would be on a very wonderful parkway. And that is exactly how it played out. We had the wonderful pleasure of riding on the Natchez Trace Parkway, which is a historic route running north to south. Since it was a Sunday, traffic was almost non-existent, save for other bicycles. The weather cooperated perfectly, thus making the first 55 miles of our day some of the more peaceful miles we have seen. Along the way we stopped at Jackson Falls, one of the many stops along the parkway. After all of the flooding we had seen in various parts of Kentucky and western Tennessee, it was surprising to see a very small amount of water at this waterfall, but it was nice to visit all the same.
Tourists at Jackson Falls
The day ended almost as peacefully at it started, with our typical rowdy dinner, and a "Dinosaur Party", sponsored by Gary Smith, but in honour of Nancy's son Sean, who would have celebrated his birthday today. They also decided that any restaurant we go to in the future will have to list us as Dinosaur, so when the loudspeaker announces us, it will sound like "Dinosaur party of 15". It may sound like we get a bit goofy at times, and I guess we actually do. But when you have as hectic of a schedule as we have had up to this point, having a small amount of low pressure time is something we all enjoy greatly, and thus we let our hair down a bit. (Well, those that have hair at least)
For those of you doing the math on the weekend's mileage, it was a double century weekend. With Saturday's 109 mile ride ride, and then Sunday's 92 mile ride, the total comes to just over 203 miles for the weekend. More distance than I would normally ride on a regular weekend, that much is certain! And just in case that doesn't sound like all that much work to you, keep in mind that I spent close to 12 hours on my bike over the course of those two days, and at this point that wasn't really anything unusual. The best part is that I am not in any way stiff or sore from the weekend, and overall except for breaking in a new bike seat at the beginning of the ride, I have been completely ache and pain free for the entire ride. Tired? Yes. But even that is getting to be much less as my body has acclimated to the workoad, so that even after the long days with the 1-1/2 mile "HAC" riding (Ask any rider to tell you what that means), there was no after affect. Life is good!
(Monday) September 30, 2002We awoke today with one thing missing in our day. No luggage had to be packed and loaded into the support trailer. While this seems like a pretty minor event, it was a huge item to this traveling band of bicycle gypsies, who seem to roam like nomads from hotel to hotel to hotel. Simple things like being able to leave my shampoo in the shower until I use it again tomorrow, or being able to plug my camera battery charger in for a full 24 hours makes a difference in the day. Somewhat like a quiet day on a normally stormy sea, or a non windy day on the plains, you truly notice the difference.
Our riding still started out at 7:30 AM, although our destination was only 5 miles away, and our first stop was to have breakfast. Whew! OK, so that wasn't really too tough. And then we got to enjoy the one ride that every rider wanted to do at least one or two or three times again. At the State Farm Tennessee Regional Offices, we rode our bikes in one side of the main building, and rode down hallways from one side of the building, winding our way around to the other side of the building. All along the way State Farm employees lined the hallways clapping and cheering for us. We teased them by riding close to them and saying "Watch your toes!", and I think we were all smiling like school kids for all of the fun we were having. I will give big points to whomever thought up that way for us to share the message with State Farm, as it was truly the most unique way to "ride" during an event. A seriously good time was had by all, and it makes us appreciate their wonderful participation (and valuable sponsor support) in the Five Points of Life Ride.
The working part of our day ended with a Health Fair at the local Boys & Girls Club. We talked to a lot of young donors that were donating for the first time, along with putting the pressure on everyone we saw to take advantage of the free National Marrow Donor Program registration and testing. (The cost of the testing is all being picked up by one of our Five Points of Life sponsors!) Other team members talked with many of the students in attendance, trying to get them to realize that they actually are not as invincible as they think they are, and getting them to understand the importance of sharing the gifts of life in whatever way they can. As is not uncommon, teenagers can make for a tough sell (Something about them already knowing everything?), but even if we don't reach them all, we always have to have faith that we reached some of them, and that is all we can do. Rather like sales, in that you miss 100% of the calls that you don't make...
(Tuesday) October 1, 2002
Richard & Chris Klug
Today was our day to spend with Olympic Bronze Medalist (2002 Winter Olympics - Alpine Snowboard) Chris Klug. Chris is an amazing athlete and is sponsored by Saturn. But Chris is also has a very remarkable story in that he is a liver transplant recipient. He rode along with us from Murfreesboro, TN to the Saturn plant in Spring Hill, TN. Along the way we had one official school assembly program, and two "roadside" assembly programs. What the last two entailed were amazing, in that the student body of each school was outside waiting for us to ride by. For the first ride by we rode through the parking lot of the school, but for the second school, the students were lining both sides of the roadway as we went by. Lots of high fives to greet us as we rode past, and lots of very interested students. Here again was an innovative way for us to meet the students, and still do it within our time schedule. We got to talk with the students, answer a few questions, talk briefly with their teachers, and then off and pedaling again.
Can you imagine having the president of your company being a triathlete? Well, in the case of Annette Clayton, the president of Saturn Motors, that is exactly what they have. It is just one of the many things that makes the people that work at Saturn some pretty sincere and unique people. I have to say that it is not often that one meets this caliber of people in such large quantities in one company. They were our hosts for a very nice reception and lunch, followed by a tour of the Saturn manufacturing plant. During the tour (which started with us actually riding our bikes into the Saturn plant), we got to see in great detail how all of the plant works, along with how the cars are assembled.
Richard & Annette Clayton
The day ended with a great adventure for our support team, along with our large van and support trailer. It turns out the hotel we are currently staying at has a very narrow parking lot. At the back end of the parking lot is a grass field. In trying to maneuver the trailer to turn it around, the trailer hit a soft spot in the grass and was seriously stuck. In a lengthy bit of work that in the end was far simpler than it would have ever seemed, they were able to reposition the van to rescue the trailer, to a resounding round of applause from those watching. After that all it took was a quick trip to the car wash (at 9:00 PM) and no one could tell anything had happened. Just another example of how there is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes, besides the work that the riders do going from place to place by bicycle. This show doesn't run by itself!
(Wednesday) October 2, 2002
An interesting discovery was made this morning on our way out of Shelbyville, TN. We happened by a restaurant that appears to be using my name. And while I approve of the colour and style of their sign, I was surprised to see their offerings. I didn't even know I liked catfish, let alone sold it at retail! :-)
Our ride this morning was one of the best sections of roadway that we have ridden upon, but not really for the roadway itself. It was early morning with the sun at a nice morning angle in the sky, giving plenty of shadows and texture to the world around us. The grass was still wet along the road from the overnight dew, and things seemed fresh and clean. The road we were riding was a series of gradual climbs, on a curving and winding road that almost seemed to be wandering up the side of a huge hill, giving us some great vistas along the way. Not any hard climbing mind you, so that none of the riders seemed to care that we were gaining some reasonable elevation. After a fair number of miles, we found ourselves at the top, and things started to get even better from there. The same type of winding switchback road was also to be our pathway down to common ground. It was easy to hit 35-40 mph downhill, carving our way through sweeping curves in the road much like a downhill skier carves his way through fresh powder. And if we thought the view going up was good, going down made that pale in comparison. Huge valleys all verdant and rich were our landscape as far as the eye could see. And the lighting was simply perfect for the mood of the riding, something that is ever so hard to put into words, but is easily recalled by those that experienced it.
At the end of our 60.5 miles of riding today, we found ourselves at a blood drive in the heart of Huntsville, Alabama. I had never before been to Alabama, and this was my first chance to see cotton not only growing alongside the road that we were riding on, but also to see it being picked (by machine), baled, and even loaded into trucks via an overhead hopper. As for Huntsville itself, it is a dichotomy, in that there is still much evidence to the heart of old style southern Alabama, but yet many signs of the serious aerospace and technical market that exists here as well. Our visit to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center was a blast. I was 10 years old when Apollo XI landed on the moon, so this brought back a lot of memories of my youth. Not to mention that some of the stuff we toured is simply huge. Nothing like life-size replica of a Saturn V rocket in the backyard to add some credibility to Huntsville's input into the Space Race, and the first landing of a man on the moon.
Saturn V Rocket
(Thursday) October 3, 2002
Today was a great day for riding. Fairly nice roads, virtually no dogs, and good weather. Not much more to ask for I would say. However today's ride will also go down as one of significance to me personally. That is because on a stretch of rural highway that went along a national forest, I found myself going down a hill. (Before you start to fear the worst, let me tell you this story has no bad news in it, so you can stop cringing already) There was nothing special about the hill until I looked down and realized I was going 48 miles an hour. At this point I started to crank and was able to hit 50.0 miles per hour down the hill.(In the accompanying photo, the max speed is displayed in the bottom right corner) I have gone this fast on a bicycle once before, but that time it was shaky and I was very aware of the speed. This time it was smooth and steady, and I was even tucked into my aero position, one that does not give the most handling control. OK, so this is very much of a personal badge of honour, but it is still pretty cool to have been able to do it at all.
Bike Computer Display
Our destination event for the day was a simple blood drive. (We did have two school visits first thing this morning) The blood drive was in the small town of Jasper, Alabama, which is halfway between Huntsville (Yesterday's destination) & Birmingham (Tomorrow's destination). But what was totally unique about this blood drive was the location. The LifeSouth bloodmobile was parked in front of the First United Methodist Church. When you walk into the sanctuary of this church, you are very aware of several things, those being stained glass & the pipe organ. OK, so maybe calling it stained glass is a huge understatement. It is a stained glass fresco that is 200 years old, and is in perfect condition. Exquisitely crafted, and the thing is huge to top it off. Oh, and the other notable feature, namely the pipes? Well, they line the entire front wall of the sanctuary, and run from floor to ceiling. We didn't get the pleasure of hearing what they sounded like, but it was still quite amazing to find such history and craftsmanship in this small town in the middle of Alabama. It was indeed well worth the ride to this town just for this one piece of architecture and history.
We have one heck of a dedicated team that supports us all along the course of our days of riding. When we find our way to the support trailer in the morning, someone has already stocked all of the coolers and chests with ice. Someone loads our luggage every morning and takes it out when we get to a hotel every night. If we have a flat or need bike parts, someone has gone to a bike shop to stock us up on those items. And to top it all off, several of our dedicated crew members have put their money where their mouth is and donated blood. Today it was Jason's turn, and he was a high spirited donor. Normally used to being on the receiving end of the blood donation process, today was his turn to sit back and relax and have someone bring him an apple juice while he gave a pint of blood. Jason is also the one that oversees and is responsible for all of the rest of the crew members for the entire ride. This also includes getting Adrienne & Mitzi, (the two newest members of the crew that joined us in Huntsville) up to speed. This is just another example of all of what it takes to keep this show up and running every day while traveling across the entire country!
(Friday) October 4, 2002
Richard & Dirt
Thanks to our friend Tropical Storm Lili, today was a day to ride in the rain. And as rides go, we have gotten much more wet on some of the other days that we have ridden in the rain in the past month. However, as riding goes, it is highly unlikely we could have gotten any more dirty. We had black soot and mud and sand everywhere on our bikes that we could possibly get it, along with all over us. When we finally reached the 40 mile point in our ride, it had stopped raining, and we also met up with our police escort for the day. They led us on our way towards our destination, and we once again got the excitement of riding along with lots of attention and not a single hassle in traffic. It was a great ride, right up to the part where the police pulled into a self serve car wash. Yes, you read that right, this filthy biker crowd got a police escort right up to the car wash. And just as if we had rehearsed it, everyone put their bike along the wall of one of the bays, one of the riders went to get quarters out of the change machine, and yours truly took the spray wand and cleaned the scum off all of the bikes. When I was about done, I noticed that the support crew had pulled the similarly rain/mud spattered support trailer into the next bay, and it was almost fully cleaned. And then to really and truly make the day complete, who should be next to them washing his vehicle, but one of our escort officers. The officers did mention later that it was a first for them to lead an escort to a car wash (It was a first time for us to go to a car wash en masse, let alone be escorted to one by the local police). I tell you, I only wish I could make up stuff even half as good as this...
Once we had cleaned up our act and were escorted to our day's destination, we received a great tour of the University of Alabama Birmingham hospital. They had a blood donation and bone marrow registry drive going on when we first arrived. After that visit, we got to see the Bone Marrow Transplant floor. It was interesting to see just how simple the process of bone marrow donation and transplantation has gotten to be. After that visit, we got to tour the Heart & Lung Transplant floor. Lots more "clean room" type of environment, to reduce any risk of infection to the transplant recipients. And it was at this point that they showed us one very special item, one that completely overwhelmed me with just how powerful of a symbol it is...
When a patient leaves the UAB Heart/Lung Transplant wing, there is one thing they get to do. They get to ring the bell. The bell itself is a ship's bell mounted to the wall in front of the nurse's station. When they are fully recovered and fully packed, the last thing they do before they leave the wing is to ring that bell. And I can't tell you why this should affect me so, because I truly don't know what it is about it that touches me as it does. But this seemingly simple item put a lump in my throat and reached out and grabbed me. And by the way they presented it to us, and the look they had about it, I would guess that I am not the only one that feels that way. It is amazing how the most minor of details can be so much larger than so many of the much larger items in life. And we also know those little details can at times be some pretty powerful stuff...
(Saturday) October 5, 2002My bike never left my hotel room today. And out of the other team members bikes, the only ones that did go outside were getting detailed, or having the chain lubed, or some other maintenance type items. We did have an event at a local blood bank office first thing in the morning, followed by a trip to a local bike shop. The bike shop was far better than average as bike shops go (Bob's Bike Shop in Birmingham, AL), and we caused even more than our normal stir when we got there. Today we had the Johnson & Johnson video crew with us again, and one of the things they wanted to capture was what we do when we are not riding. A trip to a local bike shop is something we do often, so why not bring the video crew in to tape that as well? We were all trying to pretend nothing was going on while a guy with a camera was following us, with a guy behind him holding a boom microphone over our heads. In other words, subtlety is not our strong suit at times.
Now I would love to tell you that I took advantage of our non riding day and did something fabulous. But alas, it was a pretty boring day all in all. After the bike shop adventure, we got dropped off at the only entertainment in the area, that being a small mall about a block away. It was good for getting some Chinese food for lunch, so it was at least well worth the stop. After that it was time for a phoned in radio interview (for a public radio station in Gainesville), a movie on HBO, some laundry (Clean Socks!!), dinner with some of the rest of the entourage, and a little time spent at Barnes & Noble. No fabulous riverboat dinner cruises or visits to some hugely famous place or some elegant party where we were treated like celebrities. Just a quiet day of rest before we all have to go back to work tomorrow and ride to our next destination.
|Ride Log||Ride Calendar||Ride Sponsors||Press Coverage|
|The Five Points of Life||Why?||Training Log||Training Stuff|