I have many, many people to thank for making this journey a reality. First and foremost I thank Dr. Jason Somarelli of the Duke Cancer Institute for being game for such a novel fundraising idea. Jason did a ton of work to make this a reality to help generate funds for research to fight cancer at Duke University, a world class institution of research and learning. I also thank members of his outreach team at Duke Cancer Institute…Erin Tate, Karen
Butler, and Jessica Hyland…for pulling off the mission of the R4R.
I want to thank the major donors and sponsors to the ride: Mill Whistle Brewing, owned and operated by Tom and Barb Bachman, The Sports Center in Morehead City, managed by Paul Gillikin, Breakthrough Physical Therapy in Morehead City, managed by Matt Ware, and Wells Family Dentistry in Morehead City.
I also wish to thank my supervisor of 15 years, Jeff Buckel. He was very understanding of me taking this time to memorialize my mother in this fashion. Jeff and his wife Christine were very generous in offsetting the costs of my big ride. I am tremendously grateful to both of them. My Mom thought the world of Jeff and his family, and for good reason.
This ride was tougher than my previous rides. In fact, it was the toughest thing I’ve ever done in my life. Why was is tougher than my previous cross-continental rides? I think there may have been a bunch of reasons at play. One is my age relative to other rides. Another is the length of this ride and the number of mountain miles, which surpassed the full length of some of my other tours. Then there was the heat. I went almost two months straight
where every daytime high temperature was 90 degrees-plus, across the full breadth of the continent. On some days I’d have to simply lie 50 feet off the roads on my camping mat, far enough away not to alarm motorists with the sight of a semi-passed out biker, but close enough to the road that the added toil of hauling my heavy bike off the road was not too bad. Just anything
to get out of the saddle and get out of the sun on those oppressively hot afternoons. Dehydration from an aversion to drinking out of solar-heated plastic water bottles probably also added up in draining my energy.
And finally there is the fact that the novelty of crossing the continent by bike has worn off…I’ve ‘climbed that mountain’ before.
Which brings me to my message to the donors that supported the ride’s mission to research cures for cancer at the Duke Cancer Institute. You gave this trip legs to stand on. You gave me a reason to press on through very, very tough days across this great land of ours. Of course I did this trip and to memorialize my Mother, who died of lung cancer. Mom and Dad always
said a key to life is to surround oneself with good people. Mom would be very proud of the people that donated to this cause and she would be honored to meet each and everyone of you. Someday this disease will be defeated, and each of you will have helped towards that end. As a small token of our appreciation of your generosity, Jason Somarelli and I look forward to sharing more information with you as the plans crystalize for a gathering of the donors to the ride.
Your generosity and my lifetime of preparation got me to the end. My exercise, on average of one hour per day, 360 days per year, for 35 years, gave me the grit my muscles needed to see me through. I had invaluable experience my brain had accumulated over these 3-plus decades on how to compartmentalize the range of pains and discomforts that are an inherent part of long distance bike riding.
After 5800 miles here’s how it ended. Long gone were the Harley and truck drivers blowing by with their noise machines. There were
no campground owners warning a seasoned outdoorsman about blood-thirsty grizzly bears. The chip seal of the Alaska Highway and the heat of the Rockies were far behind. There were no more disbelievers from the heartland that were shocked to learn that a guy riding solo at 10 miles per hour could make it diagonally from one corner of the continent to the other.
In the last miles, with utterly failing legs, I rode with the rich coastal sunset at my back down beautiful Emerald Isle on North Carolina’s Crystal Coast. There my friends Matt Ware and Lise Fondren found and safely escorted me all the way to Atlantic Beach Circle, where a group of my amazing friends and donors patiently awaited in the darkness of the autumn night.
That little vial of sand, the one I picked up on the beach in Anchorage on January 18th, seemingly a lifetime ago, was still in my back panier. To me it represented a pledge to myself, no matter how mentally or physically tough the ride became, to bridge the gap across this continent
of ours, for the sake of defeating cancer, in my Mom’s memory. So it was there, at Atlantic Beach, in the darkness and with the stormy surf at my feet, that I released my little symbolic vial of hope onto the sand. The bike, the biker, and a little piece of the Earth had somehow bridged a gap of seemingly endless obstacles and uncertainties, to help defeat cancer.
And finally, of course, there was Quelly…Mom’s dog…and my
dog too. After all this time of me being away from her, she fell into my forever-loving arms as the waves of my home ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, lapped rhythmically at our feet.
I am whole again.