Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Roanoke, VA

After a great nights rest in Virginia Techs dorm Payne Hall, we were excited for the supposed downhill ride to Roanoke and our 4-star hotel that awaited us there.

Getting ready to ride at Tech

Paul a chapter brother who will be riding next summer

Leaving around the drill field

Today we had two crew ride alongs and for it being there first time on road bikes the did pretty well. We had a very leisurely morning not departing Blacksburg until after 11 AM and took our time on the very scenic ride, the first ride that I was familiar with.

Epic railroad photos of the pink elephant members, notice the sweet wristbands that we got. The pink elephant is the name of our van, we're pretty awesome haha!

Pink Elephant

Pink Elephant riding photo

We arrived in Roanoke to Hotel Roanoke around 2, it's a gorgeous hotel that is owned by Virginia Tech and were kind enough to host us for the night. Michelle also met me in Roanoke and took me out to lunch at Mill Mountain Coffee downtown before we headed to the friendship visit for the evening.

Michelle and I outside Hotel Roanoke

For the evening we went to Pump-it-up and worked with the down syndrome association who rented the venue for the event. Michelle had a great time and really worked well with all of the children. The evening was awesome and it was another great friendship visit on the Journey. Tomorrow is a day off thanks gooodness!



BLACKSBURG, man oh man did it feel good to be in a familiar place. Today was a homecoming for me and it was tough, exhausting, and it felt amazing!

We had been told that today could be the toughest day on bike and with over 100 miles to go and a really hard day yesterday I was a little apprehensive about how the day would go. I was excited to get the day on the road and with a wonderful cooked breakfast we were ready to tackle the difficult day that we had ahead. Fitting for the day our crew chief played "Enter Sandman" by Metallica as we prepared to hit the road. The topography for the day looked like a heartbeat, up and down all day with what appeared to be a lot of climbing hitting the high point at 16 miles into the ride.

My legs hurt, physically drained and as if there was nothing left in them; the worrying feeling that I had gone too hard the day before into Beckley was proving to be true. At mile 16 I was cooked and right as I pulled my paceline including the other two tech boys over the summit I felt as if I was going to have to rack into my home town and wouldn't be able to complete one of the most important days on the trip.

Today the teammate aspect of the trip really showed through as my teammates pulled me through 40 of the toughest miles of the trip. As we began to draw closer to Virginia and I began seeing roads I recognized and see mileages for towns I found my second wind and finally was ready to ride hard and fast to Blacksburg. The hills continued all day and we topped our total ascent in a day for the trip by over 1800 feet!

The roads today were awesome including huge descents and gorgeous winding roads under tree cover that formed a canopy shading us from the sun. Not only was the day 103 miles to begin with but the crew missing a turn and letting us go 3 miles before they recognized we were missing added 6 miles to our day and a trip back up a very steep hill after blowing past the Virginia state line sign on the way down we added another 2 miles making the day 111 miles.

We went back up a hill to take this photo

We were so excited as we rode into campus that we almost left the last two members of our paceline but waited to finish the day as a team the way we started.

Today was also special for me because my girlfriend Michelle drove to see us, it was the first familiar face I've seen all trip and really made my day. We showered quickly and headed to Steppin' Out, the downtown Blacksburg street fair that happens the first weekend of August every summer. The town mayor came and recognized us and declared today as Push America day in Blacksburg.

Our welcoming party at stepping out and some of my chapter brothers

We had dinner together and then spent the rest of the evening relaxing and enjoying the festivities Blacksburg had to offer.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Beckley, WV

The beginning of two torturous days over the Appalachian mountains today was a great day on the bike but I'm afraid I went to hard today and won't have enough left for Blacksburg. I rode in a paceline of three today which was tons of fun but also meant that we split the workload between three less people. My legs felt great today and the thought of being in Blacksburg in two days really had me fired up riding fast.

Today was full of rolling hills and several steep climbs. My pace line took the day fairly easy and since we avoided any major mechanical issues finished about 15 minutes in front of the next paceline giving us time to relax. We prepared for arrival at Mountain State University where they had prepared delicious fruit for us and we moved into the dorms for the evening.

Arrival at Mountain State University

Danny and I headed a few blocks over to the closest bike shop, we managed to find several huge hills between the dorm and the bike shop that we were less than enthused to ride after 70 miles of riding. After the bike shop the three tech boys decided to clean our whips for our homecoming tomorrow. I only cleaned about half of my bike when the crew chief came and found me to go scout the first few miles of tomorrows ride. We were pushing our time limit before we left hoping that we'd have time to scout and make it back to shower before heading out for our evening friendship visit when Murphy's Law held true and we got caught in traffic due to an accident. 2 hours after our departure and a few back country detour roads we made it back to shower and head to the friendship visit with Mountain State Center of Independent Living (the same organization that we worked with in Huntington) for which we were unfortunately very late for.

Jeremy present a grant check

The team enjoyed lasagna and salad and I had the privilege of speaking with one the founders of the organization who informed me about some of the projects they were working on. After dinner the team returned to lodging for about an hour before departing for evening entertainment provided by a connect at MSCIL.

Upon arriving at the "evening entertainment" we instantly knew we were in for a good time as we heard loud engines and fans cheering, we were at a dirt racing track in West Virginia; perfect!
We received pit passes which was really cool since most of the guys had never been around a race track, let alone had an opportunity to walk in the pits and see the cars up and close.

A night at the races!

Blacksburg tomorrow and a very tough ride from what I hear, I can't wait!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Charlestown, WV

An abrupt awakening this morning at 5:11 AM by my roommate and team crew chief letting us know that we had overslept by 11 minutes and we needed to hustle to get out of the hotel room put the day into gear, until I let him know that wake up wans’t until 6 AM and that he was not my favorite person in the world right then. After our second wake up we enjoyed two breakfasts this morning both the hotels snacks that were set out as well as the crew chief breakfast who I still hadn’t forgiven at that point in the day.

The ride out of Huntington was hairy and mostly city riding for the first 15 miles until we hit the familiar West Virginia back country road full of dogs, loud trucks, and gorgeous scenery that seemed an eternity away just a few months ago.

A tricky section of road around mile 35 required the pacelines to stack up and double paceline over a bridge about 5 miles from our arrival and friendship visit.

Today was a truly amazing friendship visit with Children's Therapy Clinic of W. VA. The clinic provides speech , occupational, and physical therapies to individual free of charge. They share a facility with the American Red Cross and run solely from private donations. We had a friendship visit with about a dozen of the children who utilize this amazing clinic and couldn’t help but grin from ear to ear as these children are so fun and positive it makes you overwhelmed with joy. I had lunch with Emma (6) who’s sister Elizabeth (8) was in a wheel chair and had been attending the clinic for several years going from depending on the wheel chair to walking with crutches. The facilities for the occupational therapy were very cool including a ball pit and swing for client sensory feel development. After eating entirely too much pizza at lunch the team reluctantly got back on the bikes and completed the remaining 12 miles of the ride including a very large, very steep hill that we climbed for the second time and arrived at the MLK community center in downtown Charleston around 1:30.

Children's Therapy Clinic

Elizabeth and the guys

Once showered we made the usual errands and many members of the team chose to clean our bike after punishment they had received in the rain the past few days. The team headed towards downtown for dinner at the Appalachian Power minor league baseball field. We enjoyed all you eat burgers, hot dogs, and BBQ chicken that we as usual ate too much of.

Huntington, W. VA

Rain, rain, rain that’s what it did all day today and we enjoyed every minute of it. Today began a lot like yesterday with %90 chance of rain for the early half of the day and it managed to stop just as we arrived in Huntington. I was soaked for the better half of the day with my fingers pruned and wrinkled for the rest of.

The rain really made the miles fly by and before we knew it our paceline had put 42 miles behind us and were asking for lunch to be at lodging where it would be dry. The rest of the ride went by in a blur of water in my face from the man’s tire in front of me. I didn’t have to drink much today as most of my water intake came from the road and as one of the guys on the team put it “the road tastes pretty good today, I’m actually not even that hungry for lunch since I’ve been eating road debris all morning."

Only one more state line to cross!
We arrived in Huntington around 1:30 and were happy to hear that we were staying the Holiday Inn tonight and would have warm showers and beds after a day of being soaked. My first action of business before evening showering and getting out of my soaking wet clothes was to head to the Verizon store right next to hotel to pick up a new phone since the trip consumed another one of my personal items, this time it being a broken screen on the phone. After squaring away my means of contact to the outside world and making my daily errands finding a Starbucks and bike shop I warmed up and enjoyed the amenities of a nice hotel.

The team spent the evening at Mountain State center for Independent living which assists individual with disabilities in many ways including job partnering programs, city accessibility issues, and obviously assisted living funding. We enjoyed a wonderful catered Famous Dave’s BBQ dinner and meeting some of the amazing clients and employees from Mountain State.
We rounded the evening out with a trip to Coldstone Creamery and a $3 movie theater showing “Pelham 123” with Denzel Washing and John Travolta, how could you go wrong with those two? The movie was awesome and I’m so excited to be approaching the hometown of Blacksburg and the intimidating ride that awaits us from Beckley to Blacksburg!

Morehead, KY

The first day we we’re able to ride due to weather, today was an incredible day on the Journey of Hope just without the riding aspect. We awoke this morning to pouring rain and overcast skies that gloomed of a troubled day. After packing bags we anticipated the normal crew chief breakfast, another morning with a solo cup full of cereal and peanut butter on a bagel. We were pleasantly surprise when we heard that a sponsor had decided to send us all to McDonalds to get whatever we wanted from the breakfast menu.

Not exactly cycling fuel, delicious none the less

After a less than healthy breakfast we headed outside ready to jump on the bikes and begin our ride to Morehead. A lightning bold in the distance and the following thunder immediately postponed our departure by 30 minutes according to Push America policies and procedure. Another lightning strike, and another; finally our project manager sent us back to lodging to wait the storm out.

64 days into the trip today was one of the first opportunities we’ve had to just relax and enjoy one another’s company without worry of riding or making a rack point. We sat around a table and played games including Outburst, Scategories, and puzzles it was just a unique opportunity to bond that we haven’t had yet; all the while the thunderstorm worsened outside.

The guys just hanging out

At 11:00 our crew chief called the day and let us know that we would be racking the bikes and driving to Morehead for our 1:30 arrival. Disappointed everyone piled into the overly packed vans due to the 7 additional bodies that are usually not in them and reluctantly drove to Morehead. At some points throughout the drive standing water as high as 3 or 4 inches covered the road we we’re supposed to riding on reassuring that we had made the right decision in racking for the day.

Upon arriving at Morehead State University we were greeted by brothers of the chapter there and fed pizza that we felt we hadn’t earned without riding. We enjoyed the company of the brothers for the afternoon and then headed to an on campus dorm where we had beds, warm showers, and wi-fi; all luxuries on the Journey.

Before dinner a few of us walked around in the pouring rain and found a bookstore/ coffee shop that kept us occupied until our evening friendship visit. We visited Horizon Riders an assisted living community for people with disabilities and played games for the evening. I played monopoly with a few of the clients, a personal favorite. Dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings with the brothers of Morehead State was awesome and they provided us with tons of wings and fries to fuel us for tomorrows ride.

Today was a very special day on the Journey and even though we didn’t ride we had an incredible friendship visit with Horizon riders that made the day perfect.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Day Off-Lexington, KY

My team mates called me crazy when I woke up early this morning to go for a run and about 15 minutes into the run I was beginning to agree with them. After running the half-marathon this spring I felt as if my running had developed and I was in decent shape, this morning my legs felt as if I had 20 pound weights attached to my ankles and I struggled to move every footstep. The run wound up being twice as long as I expected because I kept finding dead ends and run train tracks where I couldn't cross.

After my run and a nice stretch I had a crew chief breakfast at lodging and then headed to one of the local coffee shops to update some past blogs. I headed back for our 10:30 roll out and the team headed off to downtown to visit an organization called Latitude.

They prepared lunch for us and showed us what they're organization does in downtown Lexington. Latitude is primarily an art studio for individual with disabilities and had some incredible pieces of work including blankets sewn from plastic bags by a man who's deaf and blind.


Munching down on lunch

The studio

The bike was for last years JOH arrival

Some artwork for today's rally

I had the rest of the afternoon to explore the city and I made a trip to Third Street Stuff coffee shop where some of the artwork from Latitude is on display for sale, it's incredible to say the least. I also stopped by the two local bike shops to see what they had to offer and talked to some guys about trainers.

Tomorrow we ride to Moreheade, KY which should be nice 70 mile ride! Just a few more days to Blacksburg!