Welcome to Deidre's Dream

An unsupported bicycle ride across America to benefit cancer survivors and their families 
Click here if you would like to support our effort

What it's about

Help me help cancer survivors to Livestrong like my wife Deidre did. Deidre was a woman who accomplished anything she set her mind to. Neither chemotherapy nor radiation slowed her down. Her love of life, family, and friends will never be surpassed.

When she decided to take up cycling, it lead to dozens of centuries (100 mile ride in one day). When she decided to learn to swim competently it lead to her winning her age group in the 2006 Los Angeles County Triathlon Championship Series.

When she decided to be a mother and wife, she set an example for the rest of the world with her capacity for love, caring, nurturing, and support.

Please help me continue Deidre's legacy of love and living life at it's fullest by supporting my ride across America and contributing to the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

Chris Bredenberg, our friend and neighbor from Santa Fe, and I will be riding from San Diego, CA to St. Augustine, FL beginning on or about May 10, 2008. We are aiming at a 35 day crossing. Our ride distance will be approximately 3,200 miles.

Our efforts won't bring us the pain and doubt that comes with a cancer diagnosis. Though diminishing over time, as life returns to something a little more predictable and with an ever more urgent need to live it, none the less the doubt is ever present. Deidre's courage and relentless fight to live continues to inspire me, and others who knew her.

Deidre died September 10, 2007 after a long and brave battle lasting nine and one half years but she lives in the hearts of all who knew and love her.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Epilog Santa Fe, New Mexico

Epilogue Santa Fe, New Mexico

3,164.5 Total miles
84,428 ft Total climbing
35 Pedaling days
7 rest days
15.1 MPH Average speed

It's been almost two weeks now since we returned home to Santa Fe. I could say I was waiting to write this while assimilating the experience but in truth there was, and remains, so much to do at home. We're still moving in really.

As I interact with people back home I realize how different circumstances were on the road and have formed a couple of theories on why it feels so different from being at home. One lesson I want to remember and apply is that it doesn't have to be so different.

First, there are very few people to whom a rider on a bicycle is threatening. Some bicycle tourers may be perceived as derelict and no doubt some are, but they certainly aren't taking an easy way out and offer little threat. I admit I thought someone touring had to be a bit anti social. Now I know the opposite is true.

Second, there is very little you have, while touring on a bicycle, that other people want. Information is what the majority of people you meet are interested in. Where you're coming from, where you're going, how long you've been traveling, how much longer until you reach your destination, what your route is, how the weather has been where you've already ridden. The motorists and local residents with whom a touring bicyclist crosses paths often lend great assistance at very little personal cost by offering information about a place to eat, a place to sleep, what the coming terrain is like, where a Laundromat can be found, and how the local weather has been. Because of this I don't think people look at the touring cyclist and wonder, or worry about, what the bike rider wants from them. More often than I anticipated the "civilians" look at the cyclist and wonder if they can lend aid to the rider.

Third, when you are riding to benefit others, as in our case raising money for cancer survivors, people don't have the perception of the rider investing their time and effort for personal gain.

Fourth, when a farmer passes you on the way into town, he sees you toiling away in the same heat and humidity he has been working in plowing his fields. The same was true of road workers. They all had a wave and a nod for us. Law enforcement almost always had a wave and a nod for us too. These are people who have some notion of the physical effort the touring cyclist makes and don't spend a lot of time wondering why.

Because of the relatively slow speed at which we move and the lack of physical barriers (doors, windows, engine noise) separating us from the rest of the world, we are closer to the Earth and it's inhabitants, not to mention the reek left behind by some of the inhabitants unfortunate enough to encounter people in their high speed steel boxes with windows.

This physical closeness eliminates one of the principal barriers between people.

At the beginning of our ride I almost felt silly telling people where we were going. I remember day one when we had gone fifteen miles and stopped for lunch. We only had a little over three thousand miles to go. When we told people our destination that day, I think some related the idea more closely to themselves and thought about how it would be to begin such a long ride. As we logged more and more miles people began reacting differently. First with wonder and down the road it became amazement. We heard the word crazy from day one to the final day but with ever-greater wonder. By the time we got to Florida and were within a few days of Saint Augustine it became a little difficult for me to comprehend.

For us it was pretty simple. We set our minds to the expectation of success and spent time seeking solutions, when the situation demanded, rather than waiting around for external assistance. Everybody has this ability. Even the most vulnerable among us can achieve great things with determination and perseverance.

Patience is crucial to good decision making.

During the planning stages and at the outset of our trip I gave thought to human threats we could face. It could be we'd meet up with someone who thought we had something in our bags they wanted. It could have been we were on the wrong stretch when the last of a six pack of Bud was being popped in the cab of a pick-up truck driven by someone paying too little attention to the shoulderless road. While we were on the trip the news reported the killings of a couple of young girls walking on a country road. The investigators, at one point, determined that it must have been a "thrill kill". It's even easier to twitch that wrist a few degrees clockwise on the wheel then to pull a trigger. Just like life, you can't live in the shadow of unknown threats. You can only cower. We chose to live every second aware and perceptive of the amazing world around us.

I have friends who I think would be disappointed to know we were not armed. I have always tended to buy into the notion that violence begets violence and by extension, you can determine the level of force and firepower used against you by using like. Many might say I was being naïve but I would always prefer giving up the cash and credit cards to being involved in a violent and potentially deadly confrontation. If you're the unfortunate one hitchhiking when Ted Bundy drives by it's not a gun you need. It's better timing.

Easily said by someone who hasn't experienced that kind of situation.

The biggest reminder of all is how similar we are as people. I almost used the word lesson in the last sentence rather than reminder. What I think makes it a reminder is how most of us knew this as children. It's not until you realize other people have things you want, and vice versa, that you begin calculating your interaction with them.

More than anything, I think people want to be relevant. This begins by communicating with others. I think that establishes, to others, your entry in the human race. Relevance comes through sacrifice as well. Whether it's the sacrifice of time to offer directions, or re-open the kitchen to cook up one more lunch or dinner, or make the Housekeeping Department's washer and dryer available for a small load of cycling clothes. I heard a comment the other day where the speaker said, "sacrifice is the noblest of human acts". I think almost everyone has it in them to commit noble acts but don't know how or never find the opportunity or fail to identify their chance when it presents itself. Other people seem comfortable with the idea and make little conscious effort at all to act nobly. It, like many actions, becomes more and more natural with repetition.

On our last ride day, we crossed the St. John's River with around twenty miles to go to St. Augustine. We crossed and turned north along the shore for several miles before turning East again for the final push. Just before our turn East we saw a picnic area on the shore and stopped. We sat on a picnic table and watched some people, not to familiar with boats and trailers, attempt to get their boat out of the water. Dusk was coming and the wind was blowing. The river is very broad at this point. Maybe as much as a mile. It was a great final scene. We had experienced so many beautiful scenes in the preceding weeks.

I think back and realize the rate of sensory input was huge. I have watched the slide show of the trip several times now and I am transported to the place and time of the picture with each frame.

People have asked about the experience. I wondered myself how I would feel once we completed our trip.

Several years ago I was invited to sky dive with our neighbor. She had received a jump as a gift from her sisters for her fiftieth birthday. She asked if I would be interested in going with her and jumping myself. I had always talked about it and I don't think I hesitated at all before accepting the invitation. We went to Perris, in Southern California, and each arranged to jump tandem (with an instructor strapped to your back). It is a life changing experience for many people. Some become so addicted to it they are referred to as adrenaline junkies and they hang around a jump zone offering to pack chutes for enough money to get rides up in the plane. The jump was a fun experience but it really didn't leave me feeling different.

Several years ago a friend called me up to say he had heard about an event called a double century. He knew I raced triathlon and was an avid cyclist and asked if I wanted to go and ride one with him. I said, "yea sure" with no hesitation. It was an epic affair. A two hundred mile bike ride in Death Valley that lasted over twelve hours. After finishing, I was pleased with my performance but it did not leave me feeling like a different person. I went on to win the California Triple Crown a couple of years later (three doubles completed in one calendar year). Achieving that allowed me to purchase and wear a pretty exclusive jersey but the world around me looked pretty much the same.

In 2005, I raced my first Ironman Triathlon. That is an event that begins with a 2.4 mile swim, then a 112 mile bike ride, then a 26.2 mile marathon. The legs are raced back to back and the entire endeavor will take the winner just over eight hours to complete. It took me twelve. I thought surely this would leave an indelible impression on me. The desire to compete in the race was the natural progression after racing shorter events for the preceding few years. I chose to race in Brazil (there are somewhere around twenty events annually around the world). It made for a great vacation. I witnessed people around me experiencing profound life changing effects during and after the race. Many who complete an Ironman distance triathlon will define themselves in that context for many years or in some cases the rest of their lives. The effect on me was not so profound. I did get a nice finisher's medal and tee shirt though. I went on to race two more Ironmans and will race my fourth this August in Louisville, Kentucky.

Here I sit two weeks and two days after my final pedaling day into Saint Augustine. The resulting feeling is far more complex than that left by my other physical endeavors. I hesitate to use the word profound because I think time provides and evolves perspective. The lasting impression I'm feeling has not to do with anything so personal or individual as the physical accomplishment of the ride. Rather, I feel like I know every other human being I meet a little better. What I often feel is the decency others offer, although sometimes hidden. I suspect if you ask for help, far more people than you might expect would line up to offer it. The feeling comes with the realization that it took more than our individual efforts to complete our journey. It took the kindness and decency of dozens or hundreds of people. People I had never met before and many who I will likely not meet again.

In a time when we are bombarded with divisive rhetoric by our leaders and inflammatory reporting in our media, it is very reassuring to know that at their core most people are good and decent. Most people want to be loved and want to express love. Most people cherish peace. Most people want to help.

In Texas people told us we wouldn't meet friendlier people on our trip than Texans. They attempted to prove it over and over. In Louisiana we had the pleasure of riding across the heart of Acadiana. Real live Cajun country. I had no idea what to expect and what we got was consistently the warmest and friendliest treatment of our whole journey. I was reminded of our family cycling trip to Holland and Belgium in 2007. Acadiana is like the Western part of Belgium. They long ago figured out what matters is what you can't buy. Life across most parts of the South is much more about relationships than possessions. I think that is probably true in more places than not but that attitude doesn't sell soap as they say. Our media delivers its message in an attempt to create a world where you can be happy enjoying your big TV while limiting your interaction with strangers and being good consumers.

Chris was the ideal traveling companion on our trip. He never complained about anything. He let me be the in charge alpha jerk I can sometimes be. He never suffered from poor attitude even when he suffered from inadequate nutrition, challenging weather conditions, or high mileage. I have to hand it to him. How must it feel to a twenty three year old? Rightfully, it should serve as a lifelong reminder that anything is possible given desire and dedication.

Finally, I was struck by the frequency of contact with people having stories of personal survival or the survival of friends or family to share. There is an odd complacency that seems prevalent when it comes to cancer. There is a feeling of acceptance of its existence and fear of its effect. People often don't approach it as something we can combat and eradicate. It is easier to imagine shooting enemies with bullets than curing cancer. Some people believe the cure exists and it is for economic reasons that people die from it. I never was one to believe that. I met too many people who would gladly pay a million dollars for a cure. It seems that with multi million dollar benefit caps many insurance companies would pay the same million dollars to cure a patient. One round of chemo can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

I don't know what to do about it other than spread the word that fighting cancer matters and is a worthy battle. I think the Livestrong approach is unique with its emphasis on survivorship. Most people fear the diagnosis and don't think about living beyond it. How do we convince our politicians that stopping cancer deaths matters to Americans?

The chances of receiving a cancer diagnosis and dying from cancer is greater by orders of magnitude than the chance of being killed by a terrorist or as the result of any other violent act. As a nation we spend more in one week fighting wars than we do in one year fighting cancer. We lose more citizens to cancer death in two days than we have in any and all terrorist acts perpetrated against Americans, at home and abroad, in all of history.

Who's in charge?

It is a beautiful, big, diverse country we live in. I believe we are among the most fortunate citizens of the world. Our country has some of the warmest most caring people in the world. Our country is not as ill as our media and politicians would have us believe.

Perpetuating the fear of a de-evolving world falling into violence and disorder keeps us scared. When people are scared, they want more than ever to be told what to do. They want someone to be in charge. They receive their orders via the media. Fear works well for politicians' job security and media outlets' ratings.

Don't believe everything you are told. Get out and see for yourself. It's not hard to do but it is easy not to do. Work a charity event or visit a hospice. Visit a care facility providing for the very old or very young. Work at a soup kitchen for a holiday. Rock a crack baby in your arms in a hospital nursery. Take your child or grandchild for a walk or better yet teach them to ride a bike. Or even better, do that for the kid next door while you're at it.

I used to think it nothing but responsibility skirting when politicians talk about volunteerism in America. I see that it still is for some of our leaders. I resent the claim there is a necessary connection between religion and selflessness or even that there is an automatic association. If religion is what it takes to make someone act more socially responsible than so be it but I think gratitude is the most powerful motivation for doing good. Not threats of damnation and hellfire. The feeling a person receives from sacrifice is the reward. Try it.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Day 42 Gainesville, FL to St. Augustine, FL

June 20

Gainesville, FL to St. Augustine, Fl

101 Miles
760 ft of climbing



Yahoo! We arrived in St. Augustine Friday evening. Our legs are very tired. Were we not so close to the finish we would have taken a rest day in Gainesville after a one hundred and twenty one mile ride Thursday.

Not including our rest day on Dauphin Island, we averaged over ninety miles per ride day. Whew!

Three thousand one hundred sixty four and a half miles with sixteen miles (eighty four thousand four hundred and forty eight feet) of total climbing. I like the way it sounds in miles.

As much as I have to add, and will in an epilogue, (epiblog?) we're headed out to explore.

I'll post again from our ride home (not by bicycle).

What a ride!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Day 41 Madison, FL TO Gainesville, FL

June 19

Madison, FL to Gainesville, FL

121 Miles
1990 ft of climbing




As I write this we find ourselves in Gainesville, Florida anticipating our final ride day. Just as life seems to accelerate as we age, so too have the final riding days of this adventure.

We have had such good weather we've been riding between ten and fifteen additional daily miles this week than we had originally planned to reduce the mileage for the last two days. As we watch the weather forecast it appears we leave heavy rain in our wake. We've been unbelievably fortunate to have a total of less than eight hours of riding in heavy weather. That doesn't include high wind days but at least we were dry for those.

Thursday was one of the best riding days yet. The humidity is down significantly though the temperature is up. Riding along at an average between fifteen and sixteen miles per hour, the breeze we create helps cool us.

It was a day full of rollers, as evidenced by our climbing statistic. Nothing steep or stinging though. Northern Florida and the panhandle have shown us beautiful countryside. The people seem to be getting a bit friendlier as we get further East.

We're left with somewhere around one hundred miles to go today and we are getting a late start. I had the best sleep I've had in days. I think drinking a gallon of sweet tea daily has saturated my body with caffeine. Add to that copious amounts of coffee, on days I make Peet's, and it's not too different from Chris's Red Bulls and Rockstars.

I can understand how people can adopt this as a perpetual vagabond kind of lifestyle. If I had no anchors and if I liked sweat soaked dry camping it could be me.

Poor Chris was not so fortunate with his sleep. The mold, fungus, and general rot left him heavily congested. Florida has brought with it the greatest concentration of airborne bugs yet. We take at least a dozen hits a day each. Some so big that they rock you on impact. Somehow most are at head level. I actually had a small knot on my noggin from one that managed to hit me square in a vent hole. They often have great mass.

Time to get our travelling act moving. The next post will be after our arrival, providing we experience no serious breakdowns or other delays.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Day 40 Quincy, FL to Madison, FL

June 18

Quincy, FL to Madison, FL

111 Miles
680 ft of climbing




Wednesday was a beautiful day for a ride. It was cooler from the time we woke up and the humidity was down. It was slightly hazy and all around pleasant.

Our plan to eat breakfast at the B&B and then ride to lunch fifty or so miles down the road didn't work out too well. When our host asked if we would like a muffin, bagel or toast, I asked if that was the extent of breakfast. He said yes and I asked for a bagel and a muffin. He said, "are you sure, the muffin is Texas sized". I said, "yes, both please", and did some quick math to determine we would be lucky to get eight hundred calories out of our morning meal. That's enough to go about fifteen miles. Maybe twenty if it's flat with a tail wind.

I think we were alone at the inn and there was little incentive to provide us the hot breakfast that we had read commendations about in the hall. Oh well, Tallahassee was only twenty five miles or so down the road.

We rode into Tallahassee and immediately began our search for food. In the five miles we rode through town, a town of one hundred and fifty thousand people I might add, we saw not one sit down restaurant. It was exclusively fast food. As we neared the edge of town, on the far side, we finally picked a fried chicken place. It was Lindy's Fried Chicken, a local place. That or Wendy's, McDonalds, Burger King, or Taco Bell.

We left our early lunch feeling sluggish and more full than we were. It was heavy food.

It took awhile to get back up to speed. The map directed us to the St. Marks bike trail. It was two lanes, through the woods, nicely paved, that looked to go on for miles. We needed to turn after six or so. The trail runs parallel to Woodville Highway and in many places the cross streets didn't come through to the bike trail.

We settled into a rocking groove with the absolute flatness and complete protection from any wind. It wasn't windy anyway. We cranked up the iPods and flew. We were probably going twenty three miles per hour. Miles pass quickly at that speed. We passed a county line sign and I stopped to say I thought we may have gone too far. We decided to cruise a bit further and look for crossroads. We came to a couple of young men standing trailside and stopped to ask if we'd missed the turnoff. They said "you passed Woodville five miles ago".

We turned around and I said to Chris, "remember, peoples' perceptions of distance are rarely correct". We have found that people, almost without exception over judge distance.

We made it back to the county line sign and had to go another two miles or so. We had added a little over seven miles to our day. Oh well, the scenery and the riding were nice. I told Chris I would be very pleased to end the ride with lost miles in the single digits.

We made our turn and pressed on. We quickly rode into rolling hills and although we were pouring sweat, as usual, it felt much cooler than it had since we entered Florida.

I am coming to realized Florida is a very large state. I am most familiar with Southern Florida, Ft. Lauderdale and points South. Several trips to Orlando and the Atlantic coast East of there, Daytona, Cocoa Beach, Canaveral, and such have always left me with the impression that the state is not really Southern but rather Southeastern. The part of Florida we are riding across is very Southern. One of the last bastions of racial segregation too. We've seen more swamp and Spanish Moss since Pensacola than we did in Mississippi or Alabama.

It is not as friendly a place as those we've visited either. The people of color are much quicker to ask about our adventure and are generally more pleasant to interact with than those of a paler complexion. I can almost feel resent in the air. This is of course not exclusively true and as a generalization is by nature false but it is our experience.

We rode on through the day and came to Madison around eight o'clock. It's good to be in the new time zone. It stays light until nine. I have a travelers' advisory. Google Maps consistently displays locations of businesses incorrectly. Often by as many as six or seven miles. That's pretty significant when you are self propelled. Our route runs close to the I-10 and the chain motels are often near the interstate rather than in the towns we pass through. We try local first but sometimes, like in the case of Madison, the motels are exclusively near the interstate rather than in town as Google Maps indicated for Super 8 Motel. We ended up having to ride another five miles off route for a place to stay. It worked out because there's a Denny's next door and they can't screw breakfast up too badly. Even at ten o'clock at night.

Back to the room and in bed.

Countdown t minus two days and counting. I feel the culmination of our efforts coming.

More to come.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Day 39 Ponce De Leon, FL to Quincy, FL

June 17

Ponce De Leon, FL to Quincy, FL

95 Miles
2040 ft of climbing




Tuesday we woke up with an extra rider. Michael was bright eyed, bushy tailed, and ready to go. He told us this would be the furthest he'd ever ridden in two consecutive days. By double. It ended up just shy of two hundred miles in two days. The pace was reasonably easy for him on his light, fast bike.

Once again, the scenery was not what I expected. Heavily wooded with semi frequent patches of recently harvested tree farms. The trees are mostly used for pulp I understand. There was very little flat riding but little of what you could really call climbing. It made for a new kind of fatigue. It's also true our pace may have been a little quicker with Michael than it would have been otherwise.

As we crossed the Apalachicola River we entered the Eastern Time Zone. There was a steep short climb from the river into Chatahoochee. We were less than a mile from Georgia at that point. We got to town hot and breathing heavily.

From Chatahoochee it was rolling hills to Quincy. We rode past a magnificent golf course complete with airstrip. We then rode past a series of country estates and I wondered what fueled the economy. Maybe the proximity to the state capitol, Tallahassee.

After saying goodbye to Michael we found a place to stay and went to dinner at an excellent soul food buffet complete with fried chicken (second only to grandma's), turnip greens, and pancakes. After dinner we went back to Allison House and showered, then went back out and did our laundry at the local liquor store/laundromat. All this within a few blocks. Then it was back to Allison House to finish the basketball game on TV and off to sleep.

We were not disturbed by any ghosts though our accommodations were officially haunted according to a certificate in the downstairs hall issued by some authoritative group.

Talking with out host we learned that the wealth we saw in and around Quincy comes primarily from tobacco. It was a center of shade grown tobacco production which is used primarily for cigar wrappers. White Owl Cigars was headquartered here.

Off we go again. The countdown has begun to our final cycling destination of the trip.

More to come.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Day 38 Pensacola, FL to Ponce De Leon, FL

June 16

Pensacola, FL to Ponce De Leon, FL

103.5 Miles
1015 ft of climbing




We woke up Monday morning feeling good. I think Chris and I are feeling a bit less frantic and a bit more reflective this week. I wasn't really aware of how intensely focused we've been about completing our mission until the goal began coming into view. Barring the same threats we've faced all along, injury, breakdown, and weather, we have four riding days left.

After breakfast I made it a point to meet our generous host Jennifer, the hotel manager. When I shook her hand and looked in her eyes I could feel the goodness in her. I expressed my sympathies for the loss of her mother and she for the loss of Deidre. We shared a few tearful moments and shared the feeling. Love is the only thing that endures all. Jennifer asked if she could do anything else for us and I knew she meant it with all her heart.

Cancer is an indiscriminate thief. We beat it when we honor those lost to it by being the best people we can be. We also beat it by not giving up on its eradication. In the meantime, I have discovered comfort in a stranger's kind gesture or the shared sorrow of loss.

Michael came down with his bike and Chris and I both marveled at the slick, red, lightweight machine that is a Lamborghini to our Freightliners.

Michael's daughter Jessica, snapped some pictures of the three of us and off we went. The ride began up Scenic Highway. I was expecting white sand beaches and more Floridian Riviera like we had on the way into Pensacola. Instead it was beautiful wooded bluffs.

The first part of the ride was once again rolling hills. Chris and I have talked about how it would be travelling East to West. I think facing the Rockies in the third week would be brutal but really it's changes of scenery that let you know you're making progress. That and crossing state lines and time zones. Speaking of which, we cross our last time zone Tuesday.

We got to treat Michael to a classic gas station grill lunch. Burgers are typically the only alternative to fried on the menus and I am burgered out. I popped spoke number thirteen but replaced it after lunch without having to take the wheel off the bike.

We hit the road and it wasn't long before the clouds opened up and we got dumped on huge. After several miles in a fierce rain Michael noticed his front tire was flat. We looked down the road and low and behold we saw a gas station with a nice big overhanging roof that was not indicated on the map but whose presence could not have been more convenient.

We stopped for traffic and waited for a chance to turn left across the highway. As we crossed I heard a commotion behind me followed by the sound of a helmet slapping the pavement. When Michael made the turn his front tire folded under the rim and the front end slid out from under him like he was riding on ice. We all assessed his condition and fortunately a hip raspberry seems to be the worst of it. Chris and I thanked him for suffering the obligatory crash on the ride. He replaced his tube as the rain waned.

We set out again and the riding was quick. We made it to our intended destination, for the day, of DeFuniak Springs and had the ceremonial changing of the maps. We put section six away and pulled out section seven, the final map.

We all felt so good we decided to go a bit longer and make it a century (one hundred miles) for Michael. We also wanted to chip away at two fairly high mileage days (one hundred eighteen on Thursday and one hundred twenty eight on Friday) we had planned for the end of the week. The towns are coming much more frequently now and are becoming larger making it easier to modify our ride plan if we feel better or worse than expected.

DeFuniak is a lovely looking small town USA kind of place with a small lake at it's center surrounded by a circular drive. The occasional Mercedes in the driveway suggested it is a bedroom community for somewhere else. Tallahassee maybe?

Before leaving DeFuniak we practiced what we've learned by calling the only hotel and one of the only restaurants in Ponce De Leon to make sure they were both open for business before we left the metropolis of five thousand behind.

We ended up having an excellent, healthy dinner complete with salad and baked sweet potatoes. There were actually items on the menu prepared by grilling instead of frying.

Tuesday will be Michael's second and final day riding with us. We look forward to another fine day.

More to come.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Day 37 Dauphine Island, AL to Pensacola, FL

June 15

Dauphin Island, AL to Pensacola, FL

61 Miles
185 ft of climbing



Sunday began at an easy pace. Knowing we had a short day, we didn't hurry. We got to the breakfast table and were treated to eggs, bacon, sausage, grits, fruit, biscuits, and pancakes. It looks like allot when I see it in writing.

Some other guests were at the table when we arrived. We had met Michelle and Jimmy, and Les and Tommy the afternoon before when they asked us about our ride while offering us a couple of cold beers.

The weather was dry when we woke up but the night before I stood outside our room, about fifty feet across the lawn from Mobile Bay, and watched a big electrical storm come our way from the Western shore (the East side of the bay).

We talked with our new friends and some guests we hadn't met prior joined us at the table. We learned there was a fishing rodeo going on at Dauphin Island that weekend. Eighty percent of the guests were fisherman and women in town for the rodeo.

The rodeo consists of various competitions for the largest catch of various types of fish. Red Snapper and Amber Jack among them. They told us there was a kids competition too and anything they pulled out of the sea counted.

We didn't realize how huge the deep sea fishing was here but we did by the time we finished our ride. It seemed like every other business we passed offered fishing charters.

After breakfast we said our good-byes and rolled out. Carol was a lovely hostess and made me promise to come and visit her again. I'd love too.

We planned to take the ferry from the island to Point Morgan on the mainland. We arrived at the dock about half an hour early and took the opportunity to ride to Fort Gaines. Being a barrier island to Mobile Bay, Dauphin was the site of guns defending the bay. Fort Gaines is most famous for its role in the Civil War's Battle of Mobile bay where from his flagship, The USS Hartford, Admiral David Farrugut spoke the words, "damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead". I thought that was a cycling term first uttered by Captain Kirk speaking about Klingons.

The ferry ride was about a half hour long and ten minutes or so from arriving the skies opened up and it poured rain. I said to Chris, know the closest shore or oil platform at all times and don't try to swim with the bike if anything happens. I said this jokingly.

We rode off the ferry into moderate rain and on down the highway we went. Point Morgan is the home to Fort Morgan and at the end of a peninsula extending approximately twenty miles into the bay from Gulf Shores, Alabama toward Dauphin Island. The ferry ride was probably six miles or so.

The rain eased and stopped after fifteen minutes or so of riding and we had dry skies the rest of the day.

We rode along the shore through Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. The strip between the highway and the water was full of high rise time shares and on the opposite side souvenir shops and assorted theme restaurants. From the looks of things you either go fishing, eat, or buy souvenirs when you visit the area.

We stopped for a lunch of butter and fish (a bit more rich than intended). Down the road another couple of miles in Lost Key, we stopped at the first coffee shop we'd seen for hundreds of miles (no Starbucks sightings for over a week). Inside they had a desktop computer with an internet connection and I was able to upload a few recent pictures.

My friend Michael was planning to drive down, from Atlanta, to meet us in Pensacola. He initially thought he would drive himself, ride with us, and then ride back to his truck a day or two later. We had arranged that I would call him, on his cell phone, once we found a place to stay.

When we were talking to our new friends at the breakfast table, earlier that day, they unanimously agreed that the most beautiful beaches in the world were found in the Pensacola area and the ride up Scenic Highway was spectacular. Chris and I decided to find a place to stay before that stretch so we could begin our ride with Michael there the next day. We saw a Residence Inn and a Courtyard by Marriott next to each other, one block from the route and decided to stop there.

We rode up to the Residence Inn first and Chris went inside to check rates and availability while I called Courtyard from out front. The woman at Courtyard quoted me one hundred and nineteen dollars per night for a king single with a sleeper sofa. Chris came out of Residence Inn saying the woman acted annoyed by him asking questions and we agreed, based on attitude, that Courtyard was a better choice.

We went across the street and inside the hotel and were helped by Ryan Albertson. I figured two rooms would suffice with Chris and I staying in one and Michael in the other. I gave Ryan my credit card and as he was registering us he said, "the rate will be one hundred and fifty nine dollars per night". I said I had called and a woman quoted one hundred and nineteen. He explained I had probably called the other Courtyard, an older property in another part of town. I asked if there was anything he could do to help with the rate since I was getting two rooms. He said he would give us a rate of one hundred and thirty nine. I thanked him for helping us out. The hotel was new and fresh feeling and very well appointed.

As he continued registering us we began talking. Ryan is a runner and competed in School. I talked about how running requires effort for me but I do it competitively in triathlons. We talked about running stores and had a nice conversation. He asked about the ride and I told him what we were doing. By the time he handed me the registration to sign he had changed the rate to one hundred and one dollars saying he thought it was a good thing we were doing. I expressed my appreciation and took the keys.

I called Michael to tell him where we were and found out his daughter Jessica, and her boyfriend Allen, had driven with him so they could pick him up down the road after two days of riding with us. They planned to spend Monday and Tuesday at the beach.

I took a quick shower and went downstairs to meet them. I took a Livestrong card with me that I wrote the blog address on and thanked Ryan again for the help on the rate and gave him the card.

Michael had already arrived and extended their room one night. I went back upstairs and greeted our new rider and saw Jessica for the first time in at least twelve years. She and my daughter Ashleigh had gone to preschool together. She has become a beautiful young lady and greatly resembles her mom.

As we were getting ready to step out for dinner, the phone rang in our room. It was Ryan from the front desk. He said, "Kirk, I'm sorry but my manager, Jennifer, said I can't give you the one hundred and one dollar rate". I thanked him for trying and he said, "I can't give you the rate because after we looked at the blog she insists on providing you the rooms on a complimentary basis". I was speechless. As evidenced by this journal, that's rare.

I thanked him profusely. He told me that his manager Jennifer's mother had died from cancer and his own mother had beat cervical cancer when he was a very small boy. I told him that's what LAF wants, for everyone diagnosed to survive.

We know we are doing something good because it always feels right but the kind of affirmation we receive from people like Michael Beach at Fort Davis Drug Store, Nena Artl at Nena's Café in Leakey, Texas, Lenore Prud'Homme at the Outpost in Round Top, Texas and now from Jennifer at Courtyard by Marriott in Pensacola is very fortifying.

Thank you all for your contributions to our efforts. We deeply appreciate it.

At Ryan's recommendation we walked across the street to Maguire's Pub for an authentically Pensacoline experience and had a very nice dinner and great conversation.

More fun and love tomorrow.