Monday, August 17, 2015

Update from the road: Days 7 - 10

Today is day 10 and my second rest day. I spent the day at a windsurfer and kitesurfer camp. I took another wrong turn and ended up at a campground that has WiFi and the surfers invited me to stay, covered my camping fee, and gave me a ton of food from their potluck. They really saved me because there was no way I was going to make it back to the 101 and down the road to the state park with the $5 hiker-biker sites and I was going to just sleep on the beach.

I was dead tired and low on food and money. I thought my nearest bank was an 85 mile round trip, but the surfers found one for me that is just 23 miles down the road. I learned today that most of the towns on the coast are 23 miles apart because that's how far the stagecoaches could travel in a day.

The camp host is an old army vet who brought me over a bag of food and offered me money for the shower. I was invited to cake and ice cream tonight to celebrate a surfers 69th birthday! I have not had ice cream in days, I can't wait!

It's been a few days since my last blog and things have been wonderful. I made it to the coast, camped four miles south of Florence at a hiker-biker site at the state park, and met a couple from Canada. The girl's father had prostate cancer and she shared some of her feelings about what it was like for her when she found out. Her partner's uncle has the same cancer as me and I was able to give them some brochures that will hopefully be helpful.  Maybe, when I get to Calgary City, I can talk them into an interview.

I got up early and headed out for the next campground planning on only riding 30 or 40 miles, but one of the bikers I camped with passed me and the race was on. We were planning to camp together on the beach, but I lost him after going over the bridge north of North Bend.  Wow, was that a fun bridge to cross! I lived in North Bend for a few years as a kid, and I stopped to look in the mall I used to terrorize and the movie theater that we stuck into and watched movies at all summer. I looked for my friend's mom's house, but could not find it and it was getting dark. I needed to get to Red Sunset Bay to camp. This was a hard 65 mile ride and I arrived at camp super late and had to set up in the dark. The campground was great with a super hot shower that I had to abuse for a long time!

I got up in the morning and was completely exhausted, but felt the need to push-on and ended up riding the hardest stretch of road so far, Seven Devils road from Charleston to Brandon. I was so exhausted I had to walk up every hill. The night before the sign said 44 miles and I was really not looking forward to another long day, but when I got to the road the sign said 22 miles and my heart filled with joy.  Even having to walk up every hill, I was happy!

When I reached Brandon I was done! Real done! I even tried to call and message a few friends about renting me a cheap motel room, but the cheapest room I found was $85 and that was at a special rate just for me. I kindly thanked the man and headed down the road to find a campsite. It was nice that he treated me with respect.

I stopped in town to investigate better cellular service because T-Mobile has almost no coverage on the coast and went to buy a sausage on a stick for two dollars.  I expected a whole sausage but, when the guy cut me off a two inch strip, I kindly asked for my money back and started heading out of town. I rode around old town just for fun and really wish I could have afforded a crab-cake.  I talked with a motorcycle biker who had cancer and then ended up meeting a fellow cyclist whose friend had just died of cancer. We talked and shared our stories of pain and loss and I left him in the dust, fully expecting him to pass me down the road. I was heading for a park where I thought there would be camping and got about a mile down the road before realizing that I did not want to ride back up that hill. When I got back to the 101, I noticed that there was a small sign stating that there was no camping at that park! I was so happy I had turned around!

The next sign I saw showed tent sites and free WiFi with the state parks logo so I assumed that they had hiker-biker sites but they did not. They were charging $15 dollars a night and all I had left was $20 until I made it to a bank and cashed a check. I was about to leave when I was chased down and invited to a potluck. I explained that I was heading down the road looking for a hiker-biker site and this nice lady said not to worry about it and just set up my tent. The camp host let me stay two nights for free. I really needed the day's rest.

I've been having a hard time connecting with hosts because T-Mobil has horrible coverage on the coast. I'm going to have to buy a new phone with Verizon or someone else so I can manage my affairs better. I hate to keep spending money on technology. My GoPro crapped out, hopefully it is just a problem with the update I installed before leaving Portland and someone with a computer can help me get it healthy again. I lost a lot of recording time between Eugene and here. Makes me kinda sad. I really wanted to record the whole trip and play it in fast forward for all my followers.
I ended up at Floras Lake Windsurfing and Kitesurfing campground south of Bandon. Once again, people opened their hearts to me and shared their food, fire and good music with me. It was by far my best night so far. Once again I had rode too far and hard.  It was nice to sit in a camp chair and listen to people's stories.
The next day I retrieved my electronics after my new friends charged them for me and ended up talking with a man who is a kitesurfer, currently has prostate cancer and has already has it removed and treated with radiation.  His tests still indicate cancer, but today he was out flying across the water with his kite sailing high. I'm still hopeful I can talk him into an interview.
I made a new friend named Josh and helped him repair his kite.  All I really did was hold it down and he helped me take some great photos for my daughter. It was awesome watching him get his kite up into the air!
I'm heading for Gold Beach in the morning to cash my check and to get another day closer to California! A song by David lee Roth comes to mind! The sun is setting and I might be missing ice-cream and cake, so I'm off to see if anything is left! I'll update next time I get free WiFi. This Word program only works if I have WiFi!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

The first week on the road...

Today I awakened in my own private apartment owned by an awesome couple and it sounded like it was raining. My heart sank for I'm not ready for rain again.  It turns out they have a stream in their yard. All the people I have been staying with have been very nice and I'm really learning a lot about adventure cycling.

I got Word to work on my tablet today, so I can now start writing real blog posts. 

Saturday, August 8: Day One 

The first day, I left Portland on Saturday around 4:30.  Right out of town,  on the way to Oregon City, I hit my first big hill and had to push half way up.  It was brutal and I arrived at my host Sandy's home kinda late. They had food waiting for me and chuckled at how much gear i was pulling.

Sunday, August 9: Day Two

I woke up to a nice bowl of oatmeal. Sandy is a health coach and she gave me my first interview. We talked about nutrition and she provided a wealth of knowledge. The interview went well, but being my first interview, I had some of the camera angles wrong.  My last host helped me figure out how to frame my shots for future interviews.

I left Sandy's home around 10 AM, figuring that I could ride 80 miles to Corvallis, OR for an interview with a lady starting chemotherapy the next day. After 11 hours of riding I was still 25 to 30 miles away and was looking for some bushes to sleep in when I came across a small farm house with their lights on and door open. I was running low on water, but had lots of Ensure, so i decided to ask them for some more water and some directions to the next town. I guess I was in bad shape because the lady made me sit down and rest and then told me I could sleep in her camper. God, I was ready to cry!

It turns out that she is a fellow survivor and she gave me my second interview. It was awesome, and we both shared some very personal stories. After I went to go to sleep in the trailer, her neighbor came over to make sure everything was OK. It's nice to see neighbors looking out for one another. It turns out that this neighbor's friend is having his voice-box removed next week. I was right where I needed to be and was able to leave the lady with my brochures that have a list of support groups and suggested that this friend contact me.

Monday & Tuesday, August 10 - 11: Days Three & Four

I set out the next afternoon for Corvallis, OR and again arrived in town kinda of late with no place to stay. I tried calling a few people from the Warmshowers network and got hung up on three times. Again, I wanted to cry, but one lady called me back.  She and her friend ended up coming into town to meet me and they insisted on loading my bike and trailer into their van and driving me to their place. I said I wanted to ride, and they again insisted on driving me because they live up a big with a 20% grade.  Thankfully, I listened and took the ride. 

We arrived at this awesome old country home in a woodland setting with deer all around and a bunch of chickens in a coup. Real down to earth people who prepared a meal and cooked up some of the fresh corn I purchased from a roadside stand on a private farm. We ended up spending most of the night talking. The next day I was too exhausted to move on, so I stayed another day. We talked some more and I took a ride into town to get a new SD card and some food. This was the first time I had spent more than a few dollars since leaving Portland. Everyone has been so kind offering food and drink.

Wednesday, August 12: Day Five

I set out for Eugene, Oregon, but I got a late start and did not make to my hosts home until 10 pm. A four hour ride took me more like seven hours. Today I'm going to try and lighten my load and maybe ditch the trailer so I can travel faster.

The host I'm staying with has a friend who's husband died of throat cancer and I might stick around to try and get an interview out of her. If not, I plan to come back and try to connect with her in the future. Hopefully she will add me on Facebook.

Thursday, August 13: Day Six

The plan for today is to head west down Highway 126 toward Florence. I won't try to make it all the way over the Coast Range, instead I'll stay at a private yurt campground. They have a free yurt for me to stay in tonight. I have to get going soon if I'm going to make it. If my host's friend calls and wants to connect, I'll turn around and come back to Eugene for an interview.

My body is adjusting to all the miles. Last night, after riding seven miles, I made it up a bike hill without having to dismount and push the bike. That felt good and gave me renewed confidence. I'm too concerned with how far or how fast I travel, my main mission is to connect with other survivors. I started posting Craigslist ads in cities I will be visiting looking for anyone interested in sharing their survivor stories.

I'm excited to get my new brochures from Atos medical.  The black and white ones I have now are just not the same thing. I want to present people with something of quality that looks professional. Atos is also sending me some jerseys they had printed. They are also sending me one or two of their new hands-free units that will allow me to talk with having to stick my dirty finger in my hole, my stoma... I call it the hole.
I really looking forward to riding along the coast and doing some camping at the hiker-biker sites that charge $5 per person. I expect to meet lots of fellow cyclist and hope to meet some fellow survivors. 

Thank you for following my adventure and sharing my story, your support has made this all happen.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Two nights before I hit the road...

Just two nights left before I hit the road. I’m having lots of mixed emotions that are keeping my mind stirring and my heart tight. I can never sleep before major events. I did a hundred mile bike ride once on no sleep and climbed Mt. St. Helens on no sleep (more than once!). I’m just too excited to sleep. It has been a long road getting here.

I can remember not being able to walk around the block about six years ago until one day I did and I kept doing it. So I was throwing up on the side of the road with cars pulling over asking if I need help. “I’m fine, I just rode 5 miles or 10 miles,” I would say. Within a year I was doing hundred mile rides and back to climbing to the top of Mt. St. Helens.  I had three really great years.

About two years ago I started getting massive headaches that would last for a week or two. I could not function at all. I continued riding for a year with frequent headaches. My doctor had advised me to cut back on my riding when they first started, but cycling was my life, and after a year of pain I gave in and stopped riding more than 10 miles a day and no racing. No one wants to go 8 mph when they can go going 22 mph!

That was a year ago. This winter was very depressing. My pain levels were out of control and I had to ask the doctors for some medication. It sucked being back on pain pills. My mental health was really going downhill. I had lost most of my hope.
I broke down and started a fundraiser to raise money for a recumbent bike. Because I had operations on my neck, and had a feeding tube for so long, seventeen years too long, and had lost too much muscle mass, the riding position of my road bike was hurting my neck. The recumbent fixed all of that.
Instantly I was back in the saddle. Within a few weeks I was up to doing four 40 mile rides in ten days. The world went from a dark painful place where I saw little hope to one where I could dream again, dream about adventures, and a better life for my daughter.

Because of my recumbent bike I was able to stop taking the pain medication and will be doing my ride pain medication free. I still have pain, but no pain while cycling and nothing feels better than a fifty mile bike ride. 

So I planned this project: the film and the ride to make it happen.  It started with the burning desire to ride every day and ride far, and I realized that if I can do that while accomplishing something even greater, than so much the better!  I started talking about the ride with a few of my Facebook friends who wanted to connect, and then I realized that this trip could be so much more and I decided to make it an Epic Adventure and turn it into a documentary about our lives.

Thankfully a few believed in me and Atos Medical put up money and medical equipment to make a 30 day ride happen. With this small ride I hope to gain enough momentum and gather enough support to spend a year or two riding around the entire world with my family, completing the filming for a feature length documentary along the way!