Cross Country Cycle 4 Vets
Journey from San Diego CA to St Augustine FL
I also come from a very long line of military veterans. Just to mention a few, a 4th great-grandfather Helmont Kellog in the Revolutionary War, a 2nd great-grandfather Jas Kellog in the Civil War (Union) which was injured during the Battle of Shiloh, an uncle Stan Calder in WWII at Imo Jima, an uncle Adam Tymowicz shot down over France during WWII brought to American groups by the French Resistance only to be MIA in the Korean War on Nov 7th 1950 in Naha Japan (I was born on Nov 7th), and my father Thomas Sefcik being in the Navy on the USS Courtney to me following in his footsteps.
I had always told myself when my sons were older I was going to go to college and get my degree so at the age of 44, I was enrolled part time in college I started at Harper College and received my AA in 2011 and then I transferred to Northeastern Illinois University in the fall of 2011 and with dedication and giving 110% I graduated with a 4.0 GPA, Summa Cum Laude in Dec 2013. So, with finishing college in 2013 I was like what am I going to do now… well, let’s cycle across the United States from San Diego CA to St Augustine FL. Why not, I could do this, right!
Now for my next in my life, I will be cycling across the United States with Martin. We started this journey out as doing this together however, things change, people change, and I was cycling more than half of this my myself. Martin is only going from San Diego to Phoenix and then he is flying home and I will be a solo cyclist. I started biking a few years ago and will face many challenges while riding across from San Diego CA to St Augustine, FL as a solo female cyclist with medical conditions. So now I am having some concerns as well as my family, my son in Phoenix was ready to buy a bike and cycle with me and I told him no, I got this, and I only saved enough money to pay my bills for 4 months not mine and his. When started my journey in 2016 I never thought it would come so fast.
With many local fundraisers over a year and half to help me raise money for Gary Sinise Foundation and working 2 jobs to save money for my journey. I want to thank everyone that allowed me to have fundraisers and supported Cross Country Cycle 4 Vets. I was leaving and have raised just under my goal of 25K and raised $2340.00 I still have a way to go and will be talking and pushing my cause as I cycle across the great place I call home… the United States.
Well, it did and before I knew it I was on a train to San Diego CA on Feb 25th to start my 3000 plus mile journey across the United States that would take me cycling across the following states, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and into Florida.
About my journey, I knew I had to help someone, I was going to get the joys of completing this however, I wanted to do so much more. I felt we needed to do something to support our veterans, my brothers and sisters. We wanted to find any way to help them with the challenges that some undoubtedly face today. This was my way of shining a light and letting them know that they are appreciated for all they do for us… for their sacrifices and unwavering commitment to our Nation. Therefore, I made a call to Gary Sinise Foundation to see if I could turn my event into a fundraiser for Veterans and 1st Responders. They said yes, and we started it as a fundraiser. I had many local fundraisers back home to get donations which pulled in a few dollars however, my biggest was the Chicago Auto Show which pulled in thousands with lots of hard work. I worked two jobs to pay my bills and my way across the United States while I was on my journey to raise money for Gary Sinise Foundation and to raise awareness. I put my goal as $25,000 and a “thank you” to Sue the owner New Lenox/Lockport, IL McDonalds for her $2,420 donation to put me at my goal she was also one of my sponsors.
Although I’m no longer in uniform, I still want to express my support for my fellow veterans. I feel that once you have served in uniform, you are always in uniform. You take that oath for life you belong to that family no matter what. I would do it all over again if I had too with no hesitation. I grew up in New Lenox, IL, went to Providence High School and after school I joined the U.S. Navy, and served for 4 years. After boot camp in Orlando, FL my first duty station was Yokosuka, Japan aboard the USS Kittanning (tug boat) then I was transferred to Coronado, CA., then got married and became a Navy spouse for 15 years. So, I have had the chance to live and see both sides of the military family.
A big “thank you” to the Navy for letting us start our journey aboard the Midway, since my Navy journey started waking up next to you in Japan when I was stationed on the USS Kittanning. We will start with a few tunes by the Navy Southwest Ceremonial Band and then be guided through the streets of San Diego by the San Diego Police Historical Association to Ocean Beach Park to dip our tires in the Pacific Ocean, and then off we go on the start of our journey to Florida. As we arrive in St Augustine, we will be guided in by the AmVets Riders to end our journey by dipping our tires in the Atlantic at St Augustine Beach on May 3rd.
We would like to thank all our sponsors, endorsements, and everyone that has donated to Cross Country Cycle 4 Vets in support of the Gary Sinise Foundation. Let’s keep those donations coming so we can exceed our goal of $25,000.
Donations can be made on our website: CrossCountryCycle4Vets
Follow us on Facebook / Instagram: crosscountrycycle4vets
Feb 25, I started planning this two years ago, which seemed like a life time ago and now it is here as I leave Chicago on the Amtrak to San Diego the long-awaited time is here. I find myself in a roller coaster of emotions... I am happy, I am excited and on the flip side I am nervous, and I am scare, I am WTF have I gotten myself into, however, I am ready to get this started. I am telling myself “I Got This” however, do I really have this. All I know is that I am going to give these 3142 miles 110% and I will be doing this for my two sons Clem and William for you are my inspiration to complete this journey I am going to make you proud of your old mom… as I have always told you both, follow your dreams and give it your all. And as they taught me in boot-camp once you start something you always complete it. “You Never Quit” or “Defeat”. I will peddle east until I reach St Augustine, FL and I will see you all at the end. So, let’s keep reading and see if I made it to the end of my journey in St Augustine FL and see what I have experienced throughout my journey across the great country I call home.
I had two media interviews with Patriot News in New Lenox and San Diego Channel 5 news. These really got my mind going faster and faster on what I was about to embark, so many things were racing through my mind as we were getting closer and closer to San Diego.
I have a few cries over days on the train as I wonder what I have gotten myself into and I am sure I will have more along the way. It is scary knowing that I will be by myself out there, no one to talk too on my many miles of cycling, I was about to cycle across the United States, 3000 plus miles to places of the unknown, not knowing where I was going to eat, where I was going to sleep, what if I had a bad seizure who was going to help me for I was by myself, what if someone chased me. However, I am strong, and I will survive. I will do much soul searching as I cycle, and I won’t let you my sons or my brothers and sisters down. Shit this is it and there is no turning back only forward. This is prep your mind and nothing is going to stop me!
Mar 1, Me and Martin had an interview with KUSI Good Morning San Diego, you can view this under my Media section. The interview went well. Me and Martin walked around a bit in San Diego and went by the USS Midway and this brought back so many feelings for I hadn’t seen her for so many years. My family started arriving in San Diego, my mom, Clem (oldest son), Rhonda (sister), Tom (brother-in-law) and Ted came in from Illinois, William (youngest son) drove from Phoenix, and Steve & Dona (cousin from San Diego) Jen and Jeff (cousins from LA area) and good friend Louanne (ElCajon) meet for my going away dinner and we all had a great time. It was nice seeing my cousins for I hadn’t seen Jen in some many years. We all went to our rooms and I tried to make sure everything was packed, the tires were pumped, things were ready to go. I was a total mess; the nerves were shot, and tomorrow was the day. It was here and it was going to start. I meet Matt on Facebook, he was a cyclist going Texas to Califorina, we meet at the hotel so he could give me the in’s and out’s of what was going to happen, what I was going to see and helpful hints. He also, gave me a knife that we will keep going for when I get to Florida I will give this to someone traveling across. It will become the “traveling knife” Thank you Matt for all your information, kind words and take care my friend.
Mar 2, USS Midway – Glenview… Well the day has come, and we are on the USS Midway, it brought back tears as I walked up the bow and into the hanger bay onto the flight deck. I had to stop and take it all in. As of 30 years again I was pulling this ship in and out of port in Yokosuka Japan and so proud to do so while I was in the Navy on my tugboat, USS Kittanning YTB 787. I wore my tugboat hat and my dog tags along with my fathers which is the only thing I have left from my Navy days. We started with the Navy Southwest band playing some wonderful tunes for us. I had meet Nick Kimmel a wonderful man and he was onboard to represent the Gary Sinise Foundation, Nick is a triple amputee from Afghanistan, he fell on a 40-pound IUD and he meet Gary and they built him a RISE home that runs off his cell phone. Ms. Hunter was there to speak on behalf of the San Diego Mayor office. And a I said a few words, I told myself I was not going to cry however, as soon as I looked at my family, yes, I cried, pulled myself together and spoke a few words…. we then rode our bikes across the flight deck just as the planes did at one time across the flight deck of the USS Midway and on our way to Ocean Beach to dip our tires and say our final good-byes.
And we were off on our journey of the Southern Tier, San Diego CA to St Augustine FL. It was a nice ride on the trail however, due to the late start we didn’t make it to our destination of Alpine we only made it to Glen View, it was getting dark, so we had to find a place to sleep for the night, we ended up stealth camping on the side of a highway, very noisy however, a great place to put the tent without anyone seeing us. I want to thank my mom, Sons Clem and William, sister and her husband Rhonda and Tom, Cousins Jennifer and Jeff, Ted, Louanne for coming to my event and making this day so special. We had seen the 3 amigos’ at Ocean Beach today for they left a few hours after we did, and you will hear more about them throughout this story, just wait and read….
Mar 3, Glen View to Boulevard CA… After we woke up we hit the road heading to Boulevard, we went up some very steep and good hills and down some. Why does it seem the down is never as long as the up? I was doing pretty good going over them, the weather was not too good, we had light rain and cold started to hit around 10am. About 2 and half hours into the ride, I had felt a seizure coming on and this was not a normal one, this one was a strange seizure that I had never had before. As I started to get off my bike and as I started to walk over to the side of the rode, this seizure went into my legs not only my arms were it normally goes, and my legs gave out and I fell to the ground. I was scared for this never happened before. I was able to pick myself up and get to cover. I wondered what was this normally they just effected my arms never my legs, what if I had more of these. When I sat under the covered building about 25 minutes later; my legs were still numb however, my arms had stopped shaking and jerking. I had called my sister which was staying in San Diego for a few extra days and she and Tom came to get me to drive me to the next town for the night. We drove the course to see where Martin was cycling and found him, I asked him how he was doing for it was raining and cold, we grabbed the gear off his bike to make it lighter for him going over the mountains. Asked him how he was doing, and he wanted to move on… so we went about 10 miles on and waited for him… he moved on… we went about 8 miles on and then he finally got into the car. It was cold and freezing not to mention the complete incline of the mountain. We drove about 12 miles and found us a hotel in Boulevard and went out for dinner and said good-bye to my sister and Tom. Thank you, Rhonda and Tom, for staying in San Diego to make sure I could make it over that mountain. This was their main purpose for staying for she knows how my seizures are and the time they affect me.
Mar 4, Boulevard – El Centre CA…. This day was a very good day, we finally made it to the top of the mountains in CA, I was so very happy and started to yell and yell. There were a few hills however, they were nice rolling ones not the steep going up ones… and then we went down 4000 plus ft with a 6% incline on a winding road. I was like oh my God, all I did was look down not looking over, for you see, I don’t like heights. As I pumped my breaks to keep a slower pace, I really like to see what I am going to hit if there is something in the road where Martin loves to let go and go much faster. All I seen was more and more winding and more winding road. It was beautiful however, I was like we have to bike this. I am surprised I have breaks left on my bike. My hands were glued to the bars, you had to peel them off the bar and my nerves were high. We had to breaks about every few miles just to unwind and get the tension off your hands, neck and shoulders. We rode along the US and Mexican border and the wall as we cycled along it for some time. And you know what I didn’t see anyone crossing or mass coming over. As we rode along the Old Hwy 80 we started to see water jugs left for people that are crossing out in the deserts. This is where we started seeing many Border Patrol cars. We made it to El Centre and found us a hotel to stay for the night, we got all settled in and went to sleep for tomorrow is another long day as we have some miles to make up and we have to get to Phoenix by the 10th for Martin was leaving me and had a plane to catch. At 2:30am we were woken up be a lady knocking at the door asking to come in, I was like really, we had a long day cycling and had a long day ahead for this to happen. When I said something to her she finally left the door.
Mar 5, El Centre - Glamis CA… This started off a good day, we went through the Imperial Valley which was very interesting and the North Algodones Dunes, this was some good climbs and all sand. This again was very beautiful, just miles of dunes and sand drifts all over. It was very peaceful scenes. It was enjoyable until trucks came through at about 65 mph on the roads and hit the sand and made sand start blowing all over. It exciting watching the dune buggies driving through the sand. We made it to Glamis around 230 and found a store that closes at 3 so we were able to get lunch and what we found dinner there and we knew we were not going to make it to our next stop for it was getting late in the day and we still had some time to go, so we grabbed a few sandwiches and chips there for dinner. Meet Nahla from the UK, we had meet Jason earlier that day, he was her camera man and was also from the UK and carried her gear and drove the van, she was also cycling across the Southern Tier. We had cycled about 10 more miles until it was darker and still not to where we needed to be for the night. This is the second time we have not been where we need to be, is our maps off, do I need to readjust them for we have to once again find a place to stealth camped along the road again.
Mar 6, Glamis – Quartzsize AZ…. Around 230 – 3 in the morning the winds picked up and we had winds around 25-30 mph. when we woke up at 5:45 am we still had high winds and there was no way to ride our bikes with the head winds, so we just started walking, that is all we could do, there was no way we could bike with the head wind we had for we would just be peddling against the wind and forcing our bodies to tire out very quickly. After walking about 5 miles and needing to go 57 for the day. I told Martin I was going to flag down someone and he said no one would stop. Well the first time I started waving, I flagged a white pickup truck, Javier our “road angel” pulled over. He was going the same way were going, we put our bikes in his pick-up and our bags in the truck and on our way. Martin tried to give his $20 and he refused it. Javier had asked us if we were hungry and we said yes, so he said he knew of this good Mexican restaurant where we were going. We said we would pay and once again, Javier said if we pay he wouldn’t take us to it. He said is all about giving and believes in Karma, give and you shall receive. Thank you, my new friend Javier, after breakfast Javier went his way and we started biking our way. The winds had died down a lot and perfect biking weather. I wonder if this is from the times that I have helped others, that it now karma was coming my way when I needed it! We crossed a bridge and in the middle was a sign Martin stopped to see what it said, and he yelled…. We make it!!! It was the “CA State Line… We made it through the state of CA. After many hills and I make them all except for the mountain in Cuyamaco Rancho broke me, and I didn’t make it those 21.6 miles of climbing 4301 feet, we made it into AZ. It was so nice seeing that “Welcome to AZ” sign, what a feeling of accomplishment I felt inside when I saw the sign. One state down seven more to go.
Mar 7, Quartzsize – Aguila AZ…. We went past the Camel Stop which was a gas station and post office which was very old buildings, and both were closed down. Meet a few guys that were cycling around the world, they were finishing up the Southern Tier, United States and then going to Thailand next. The roads were very bad at times and at others good, the shoulders were very rough for a good part of the day and rode most of the time in the street and when cars came moved into the shoulder. There were many hills once again and many large open spaces to where there was nothing. The lands started to go to desert, cactus and mountains and it was neat looking. We saw a wild donkey and it was watching us as we cycled past it, did it know what we were since it was used to cars and trucks. We had a long day, our longest one so far 71 miles to our first WarmShowers host Randy and Phyllis however, with much pushing I made it. Martin kept pushing me to keep a 11 mph speed, so we could make it to Aguila at a good time and not too late in the day. This is what I will be missing when he leaves me in Phoenix, that person to push me, to talk to, to keep me going when I am having a bad time or melt down, that person when I have a seizure attack. We rode to Phyliss and Randy house, it was enjoyable for they lived in an airport housing area, it was a lock community and everyone that lived there were all pilots and owned airplanes. The community had a runway in the middle of it and the planes had the right of way, of course. So nor only a garage for their cars they also had airplane garage. Phyllis made a very nice dinner for us and we had nice conversation. This was our first WarmShowers host stay and they were both so wonderful. Martin was very spectacle of them and really didn’t want to stay at WarmShowers for he thought he had to talk over and over about the trip, however, her loved it and liked the conversations we had and realized it wasn’t what he thought after all. Our next WarmShowers host is Bill tomorrow night.
Mar 8, Aguila – Sun City West AZ …. In the morning Phyllis made us a very nice breakfast and then Phyllis and Randy biked from their house to the downtown city with us and then we were on our way. Thank you for the wonderful breakfast and the ride and all the best wishes. However, mostly for opening your home to us and all your generosity you both showed us. Seen my first snake today, lucky it was dead in the road that is how I like to see them. People were telling me it was too cold for them, they were wrong. Most of the day was in deserts with lots of cactus and sand and some very nice shoulders. With the scenery you can tell you are in AZ, there is nothing but cactus, mountains and sand, we are in the desert. They temperatures are very nice it is only in the 70’s so the best time is in March to bike through AZ. We had a good day, a very good long downhill into Wickenburg it was very nice for a change to have this. We stopped at McDonald’s for lunch and we had many people coming up to us to talk to us asking us what we’re doing, where we were going, how it was so far and all kinds of questions. I didn’t think we were every going to be able to leave. It was amazing at the many people that came to ask us questions of what we were doing, giving us best wishes and prayers for a safe journey. We stayed at another WarmShowers host Bill was so very nice, we went out for dinner and I picked up the bill for dinner, he wasn’t too happy about that for Bill doesn’t cook at all and we all had a very nice talk at dinner and back at his house. We went to bed early for again we have a short day however, tomorrow I am going to see my sons and I am so happy, however on the flip side I am losing Martin, my cycling companion for this journey across the rest of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida some 2700 miles. So many emotions going through my mind again, happy for seeing my sons after a week cycling across CA and AZ and wondering what I am going to do as a solo cyclist when I loose Martin in Phoenix.
Mar 9, Sun City West – Phoenix AZ …. Bill took us out for breakfast and we were on our way to Phoenix… yes, I get to see my sons after a long week of cycling. It was a long day of cycling and after taking the ACA long way on the trail, we were running late for our arrival into to Phoenix. I had a Fox News 10 interview at noon and running very late, I got my phone out and used Google to get to the park, I knew the streets from being in Phoenix before and we started to take the street to the park where my interview was set up for. We arrived at Phoenix around 12:30 and seen my two sons, Clem and Willian and Stasia (my step-granddaughter) there, there were some good strong hugs first before the interview. I had an interview with Fox News 10, it went very well, and we had a very long talk about my journey, what I was doing and some clips of me riding my bike and was viewed on the news at 5 (this is also on my website media and on my Facebook pages). It was a nice piece.
Mar 10, Phoenix – Rest Day, took Martin bike over to be shipped back and Martin left to go back home I spent the day with my sons, Andrea and Stasia. I had given up some of my gear to make my bike lighter for I was adding things from Martin’s gear to mine as I was going solo I needed the tent now and other gear to fix my bike. Yes, did I say solo, I was going the rest of this journey across the country as a solo rider, yes, these 2700 plus miles. So many things going on in my mind right now, how am I going to do this by myself, who am I going to talk to out her on these lonely days, who is going to give me support when and if I need it and who is going to push me to my limits to make it up those hills when I can’t do it. And who is going to be there if I have a seizure as I laid on the side of the road with my body shaking for 15 minutes to calm me down, to keep the snakes away from me if they came or other critters, who will be there to protect me if I need it. As many times as, people asked me to end this journey, I will not end this for just a reason of me being a solo cyclist. Why, there is no reason to… This ride will continue no matter how many how many of my family members want me to give up… like I said, “I never give up, you all know that!” It is like a part of my heart was torn in half with him leaving me, you said we would do this together, we were a team and now you are leaving me, and I will be on my own out there. However, this ride will continue, and I will finish it. I have to continue my journey for if you know me I don’t quit…. I am so mad at him and I am so very upset with him for leaving me out here alone to ride across the Southern Tier.
Mar 11, Phoenix – Mesa AZ …. As I left Phoenix, teary eyes along with the rainy morning. With saying goodbye to my two sons and I am now cycling as a Solo Cyclist across the Southern Tier. What am I going to do all by myself? Who am I going to talk too, who is going to push me when I am slowing down and I feel that I can’t make it? My son William was at the hotel before I left and got on my fully loaded bike and rode it, he was like how in the hell can you ride this bike, he was all over the parking lot and couldn’t keep it steady, I told him after a few miles you get the hang of it and the weight of the bike. Then we left the hotel with an escort down the street and out of Phoenix from my son William it was a slight drizzle that morning, which kind of made the mood just right as I was teary eyes. So many emptions going on right about now…I rode a bit and this cyclist came up to me and asked me if I was the one that was on the news last night I told him yes and he asked if he could take a selfie with me and told me it was great what I was doing and wished me well. I felt great that someone recognized me and made my day after it was starting to be a bad one. Then I was in Mesa by the trolley tracks, and it turned bad again, I knew I should have walked my bike over those tracks however, it is cycling 101, and I didn’t and yes you know what came next, I took a spill. I was on the ground, I fell, this guy came and helped me get up, I messed my right leg pretty good and my right foot. I had on my tights, so I really didn’t see any damage that was done to it, I could only feel the pain of the fall. I went to the side of the road, I wanted to call my son so very bad to take me to the hospital to get me leg checked out for I couldn’t lift it up without using my hands to put it on the pedal however, if I did I knew he would tell me to stop my journey for if something happened to me out in the middle of no-where I would be screwed and I knew it. I didn’t call him and I continued my journey, the show must go on. I keep going slowly to Mesa and made it there. I couldn’t lift my leg up to put it on my peddle so I had to use my hands and pull it up and place it on the peddle and start to peddle. This was not good however, I can’t quit, I have to go on. Stayed at Warm showers host Gerri and Bill with a few other cyclist. Bill cycled out about 8 miles to bike me into the community they lived in. I took off my tights and looked at my knee, I had a very good cut and scraps on my right knee and it was swelling up pretty good. I cleaned it out really good, took a stronger pain killer and iced my knee. Very nice couple and there was other cyclist there so we all kind of camped out in their home, I was on the couch, the others were on the floor and we had a great time.
Mar 12, Mesa – Clay Pool AZ…. The day started off okay, my knee was painful, I had to pull it up with my hands to put it on my peddle for it was serve pain, it hurt on the first few peddles however, once I stated to peddle, it got easier to peddle, and it was good. Today was going up a mountain, beautiful scenery and cactus all over. So, as I started to go up this mountain, I was going very well, I was determined to make it up, I had a good pace and I was on the last swag of it at mile 32, I shifted back on my seat and my seat moved to the side. I was like what the hell just happened. I hit my breaks as I wasn’t going that fast and found that my screw broke in half, the bracket fell to the ground. I was standing on the side of the mountain, with the seat in my hand, the screw in the other shaking my head, wondering what in the hell am I going to do now. I am in the middle of no-where. I had no seat all I had was the post on my bike I was holding my seat, the 3 amigos’ road by and they didn’t have any screws for me. Before I left for my journey I purchased Bike insurance that came with Road Side Assistance, with me being a solo cyclist and not knowing too much about bikes, I called them, she was very nice, and we talked for a bit and they located me on by my phone GPS and asked me if I was in a safe place, I told her I was on the side of the mountain. As I sat on the side of the road for 45 minutes looking at the mountain, looking at what I had conquered and what I still had left to conquer as I was waiting for the tow truck to come and get me I was so angry, disappointed, sad, I wanted to make that mountain. I checked into the hotel and there was a Wal-Mart right next to it. I took my bike and seat with the parts and of course they didn’t have the parts however, Tom a Vietnam Veteran the manager of the Toy department asked me to pick out a new seat and when I went to pay for it he told me that he already paid for a new seat for my bike to get me back on my way. Thank you, Tom, for your service and my new seat and getting me back on the road.
Mar 13, Clay Pool – Bylas AZ …. Had a very hard day, many rolling hills with a headwind/sidewinds of 15 to 20 mph. This was a day I was doubting myself a day I was ready to give up the mental state was winning within my head it was a day of 51 miles of a head and side winds and some good steep rolling hills with messed up shoulder and some of them I could not ride in to where I had to share the road with cars. I had my first what I would call bad seizure by myself and laid on the side of road for about 15 to 20 minutes however, it seemed much longer than that as my arms shook viciously and there was nothing I would do except listed to the rattlesnakes in the distance. I knew there were other little creatures like scorpions lurking around that I could not hear, but it was the desert and I know they were there. It was a seizure that I was in shaking so much and my upper body hurt so bad I had to lay down and just hold my arms as I shook. I was praying that a snake didn’t come for there was nothing I could do protect myself against them, I could not stand up or get a stick and swing it at it, I was hopeless as I laid on the side of the road. And at this point I knew it, for the first time I was scared cycling across the United States as a solo cyclist. As I laid on the ground on the side of the Old Hwy 70, a few cars passed me and kept on going, it was like really how they could go right past me, they see me laying on the ground, I could me dead…. However, thinking about it, why should they stop I asked myself. I cried a bit knowing that there was nothing I could do. This scared the shit out of me, for this was the first time I was on my own and there was for the first time nothing I can do and I had no help from no one. As the seizure stated to pass, I sat up and regained my strength, about 10 minutes later I was able to stand up and I got back on my bike and continue to peddle to Bylas. Bylass was my ending town for the night. As I regained strength in my upper body and arms over the next hour. It was nice not to have a hill to go up. I thought I was supposed to get tailwinds going West to East, all I was getting was side or head winds since I started this journey. I went thought the Land of San Carlos Apache Tribe, which was interesting, and at time sad seeing some of the homes and towns so run down, as I cycled on Old Hyw 70 and I was in the Indian Reservation all day. I made it to my Warm showers host Joe and Debbie they lived on the Indian Reservation, very nice couple and it felt so nice to just relaxed big time. Took my shower, ate dinner and just relaxed on the couch and got my Facebook and notes caught up. I ran into John from England a few times today on the roads it was nice to see a familiar face and to talk to a fellow cyclist about ours journeys, how we were doing and just to have a conversation with someone after being out there with no one to talk too. Good luck my friend and safe travels.
Mar 14, Bylas AZ – Thatcher AZ … Joe and Debbie were very nice host, at breakfast they gave me a pray book to read along my way when I left in the morning for Joe was a Lutheran minister on the Indian Reservation. This was an easy day and I was riding on the “Old West Highway” where history still lives, there were some hills, nothing too major and a few headwinds. Pulled into Thatcher and there was a pizza place across the street from the hotel. Took a shower like normal, Pizza seems to be the norm out here however, that is good, and I love it. The days riding seems to be getting easier and easier for me, this is a good thing however, the loneness is starting to get to me, the mind games are starting, the no one to talk to, to have a conversation with, to help me when I feel like giving up, no one to push me when I am having a bad moment.
Mar 15, Thatcher AZ – Duncan AZ …. Cycled on the Old West Highway, once again going through mountain, it was a very hilly ride with some very bad shoulders along the way. There were tall weeds growing in it and had to ride in the streets. I just didn’t have it in me and couldn’t get my speed up no matter what I did. One of these days I really wanted to give up, nothing seemed to go right for me and I was not moving fast at all no matter what I did. Meet up with Nahla again which was very nice to see her again after all these days. We seen each other and acted likes long lost friends and ran up and gave each other hugs. We all have been playing leap frog along the route. The winds started picking up along the way and about 8 miles from Duncan the winds were up to 20 mph. The traffic was starting to get really busy and lots of semi-trucks on the road. Nahla was afraid ride her bike into town about the last 4 miles, so I told her I would meet her in town. I was waiting for her to get in town and then I had to go find somewhere to use the bathroom and turned the corner and there she was. I was like where did you come from for she was behind me. She said the Sherriff closed the road to cyclist and they were bringing all cyclist in. I was in a place they could not turn safely to get me and only a few miles from town they let me continue on my way in and they brought her in. Nahla and I ate lunch and had dinner with the 3 Amigo’s, Jason and Nahla for they also got stranded there. Found out the reason for the traffic was due to them closing the Interstate 10 and re-routing everyone to the road we were on. We all had a great time talking and catching up on our journeys. It was a wonderful evening filled with joy, respect and love that you have for each other that you gain while you are out there cycling together. You bond as a family out here. Love you all and until I see you again, take care and be safe.
Mar 16, Duncan AZ – Lordsburg NM …. Today was a great day a long incline out of Duncan and I made the whole thing with out stopping and to my surprise at the top was a sign “Welcome to New Mexico,” I shed a few tears and made a few phone calls to the family (video call to my sons and call to my mom) to tell them I was now in New Mexico. I heard so many rattlesnakes along my way, when you are cycling out on the highway and it is so quite out there, just you and the snakes, all you hear is the rattles going off it is such an experience. It is kind of scary in a since for you know they are lurking out there and you just don’t know how many there are however, they are there somewhere. It is such a memory I will never forget. Lunch again was an oatmeal cookie and some mango slices due to no stops in between. I really hate these days with nothing in between however, you learn to prepare yourself and always make sure you have your goodie bag with you just in case. In my goodie bag of food consist of tuna/crackers, pickle, crackers, gummy bears, protein bar, peanuts. Lordsburg elevation is 4,245 and seems that all I do is go up and up however, you never seem to be going down, why is that. Got lost on my way to the hotel and finally made it there went another 6.2 miles out of my way. Two states down six more to go…. CA down, AZ down come on and bring on NM. I got this….
Mar 17, Lordsburg NM – Akela NM …. Decided I was not going to do the ACA maps and go through the mountains that would take me 3 days and a climb of 10k feet. If I did go this way I know first, I would have many seizures and second, my knee probably would not make it since I was still having issue with my fall in Mesa AZ. So, I decided to jump on Interstate 10 a straight shot and pretty flat, who would thought I would be cycling on the side of 18 wheelers going 85 mph, wow what an experience. The shoulders at first were rocky however, big then about 5 miles down they were perfect… then a wonderful tailwind came, and I was up to 15 – 17 mph pace, what a delight. Then after mile 32, every 10 miles was a rest stop, a gas station or just some place to pull over and take a break. I stopped at Bowling Continental Divide Trading Post in Separ talked about what I was doing, and they paid for my lunch, thank you for your generosity. It was a piece of heaven after a few rough days. I made it past were I wanted to stay however, which the tailwinds and the nice shoulder I decided to continue to go on to the next city of Akela. I had meet a very nice young lady Teri at a rest stop, I noticed her as she was walking to her car with others and she noticed me and my bike and all my bags and came over and talked to me about what I was doing and gave me a big hug, we talked for a bit of what I was doing. Later as I looked on my Facebook page she left me this message “Just meet you at rest stop! Amazed of what you are doing… stay strong, love that smile of yours when I went up to you today! That gave me faith and hope for anything is possible!! Take care, God bless you!” This is why I continue my journey. Thank you, Teri, for all your kind words at the rest stop and the message you left me. God Bless you and your family. Have a safe trip back home. Went through the Continental Divide where the elev was 4,585 feet.
Mar 18, Akela NM – El Paso TX… Yes, I made it to TX today. Today was a day from hell cycling…. I left the hotel and I had some good tailwinds for about 10 miles however, when I shifted in Las Cruces to go South that 20 – 30 mph tailwind turned to side winds to my right. I had to do everything for 47 miles to keep my bike on the road and not blow in front of a car. I got my 1st flat time a few miles past Las Cruces I was on the side of the road with all my bags off my bike and so desperately trying to take the tire off the rim, so I can get to the tube out to replace it… I was there for about 10 minutes and trying for about 5 with no luck... I had never changed a flat before. I knew how to do it however, the damn tire was not coming off the rim this is when David pulled off the road, he was a man in his 40’s pulled over and said “no woman should change a tire” … I was like thank you who every just sent this wonderful human being to me… and thank you very much David for helping me out for I was struggling on getting the tire off the rim. Went miles through Pecan trees and flat roads in a valley with mountains on both sides of me, with my upper body hurting as I tried to keep my bike on the road with the winds so bad. Rode on the Don Juan De Onate Trail and had to dodge some big ass tumbleweed blowing at me so big they could have knocked me off my bike. When I got to El Paso, why is it I always get to major cities around 430 right for the rush hour traffic, while riding on Hwy 20 still going up a hill, there were 3 car lanes, a right turn lane and lots of businesses on the right side. So, I could not use the shoulder for too many cars turning, no bike lanes, I was beat, the winds were still at 27 – 32 mph and the dust blowing in my eyes and mouth was driving me crazy and to add more…. and the cars started beeping at me, it wasn’t the beeps that came from behind saying I am behind however, the ones from the side saying what the hell are you doing on the street, the mean beeps, you know when you are a cyclist you know the different types of beeps that cars give you. I had a meltdown after 4 miles of this… I pulled over in a parking lot and cried, I had the good and the bad going on in my mind, I wanted to give up, I could not take no more of this shit, I am done with it! I can’t take this anymore. I thought to myself I have two options: wait until 8 until traffic clears and then go to my hotel or call an Uber, called Martin, crying on the phone I told him what was going on and “I can’t go on” and I called an Uber to get me and take me the final 5 miles to my hotel that my cousin Steve and Dona had reserved for me. It was so nice of them and hugs to you both, when I got to my room … I made myself a nice hot bubble bath to try a relax from the day not only my muscles however my mind. I had a rest day tomorrow, so I could take a bath, I learn not to take a bath on cycling days for your muscles get weak.
Mar 19 and 2o, El Paso TX … Rest days, took my bike to Crazy Cat Cyclery to get my seat back on and a few maintenance items done. I walked in with my seat in one hand and my post in the other asking them if they could fix it for me, I told them the story and they kind of laughed…. They did my seat, checked my brakes and few other things and put some goop in my tires for I was getting ready to hit those Texas roads with those Devil Heads. I had heard nothing good about them and I told myself I wasn’t going to let them defeat me, you see they are these little balls with thorns that are on the side of the road that will give you a flat tire in no time. And I wasn’t going to be their victim. They were some great guys and they didn’t charge me for any of the items, thank you very much guys for all your support and love. I later went to Track One restaurant right next to the hotel I was staying at for lunch and I was talking to my waitress on what I was doing. The next thing I knew Ken McDermott came over to my table (the owner) and a retired Air Force gentleman. We started talking about what I was doing and the things that I had been through so far and he told me lunch was on him. Ken was a very nice man and I really enjoyed talking to him, and if you are ever in El Paso go to Track One, the Chopped Steak was very good.
Mar 21, El Paso – San Elizario… This was a short day of 25 miles, the roads were good and had a great shoulder and tailwind for a change. Once again very close to the Mexican boarder and seen the wall and border patrol was in full effect. As I was riding to David campground, on the side I looked over and I saw a camel, I was like a camel in Texas on the side of the road, I stopped, and he came up to me and I petted him, so very cute. Once again, I was chased by 2 dogs, they were two little dogs and grabbing at my ankles… oh how I am getting so tired of this, people watch your dogs and tie them up or put them in your damn house. I got to David Cantu campground where I was going to stay for a few days. I put the tent up, it took me a bit, this was the first time I ever put it up, we really need to mark this A, B and C so we know where the long bars go for it would make so simple. For Martin normally did this however, after a few times I did get it up correctly. David came home, and we went out for lunch which was very good. Had a great talk with David and a few other cyclist Jem, Joe and Izaak as they also stayed at David and they were cycling the Southern Tier.
Mar 22 – 24, San Elizario… I am feeling a bit guilty for having so many days off and want to get “On the Road Again.” I have been off for 5 days and getting ready to get back on the road again. I toured the town of San Elizario and there is so much history behind this town. Learned about the Salt War and Billy the Kid breaking into the jail to get his friend out of jail. This was the only jail that he ever broke into. On the 24th Clint Fallen Heroes’ had a BBQ for me and I meet many nice people and Lorenzo, he had been following me along my way and started the Clint Fallen Heroes group from the his lost his son in Afghanistan and this is what started the Clint Fallen Heroes and it is a wonderful organization… look it up and if you are in the area go see them. Also, did a media event for El Paso NBC which is on my media tab, many thanks to NBC and Andra Little. I meet so many people at David’s that were cycling across the US and exchanged many stories. Meet Joe from WI, he was doing the Southern Tier and more.
Mar 25, San Elizario – Fort Hancock… This was a good day, David rode with me to Clint to show me the Clint Veterans Wall where we meet Lorenzo due to David got a nail in his tire and Lorenzo picked him up on the road and drove him to the Memorial Wall, and after visiting the wall and talking with Lorenzo for his son name was on the wall and he had a brick on the pavement. I was heading south to Fort Hancock and you are all such wonderful people and I will miss you all very much, may God Bless you all and stay safe out there and continue your work. The streets were not that good for the shoulders were small or gravel however, it was a pretty flat day. Seen more pecan trees, cotton along the roads and riding again in a valley. I wanted to get there early for were going to be getting some more good winds in the 30 mph in the afternoon once again from the SE and was not looking forward to fighting sidewinds again. I didn’t make it in before they started early however, I was only in them for about an hour, so not that bad today. Stayed at Bates motel for the night… well I have stayed at a few of these along my way, why do they always put me in the back of the hotel and not the front. I took a shower and went across the street for lunch/dinner for I didn’t have lunch for I wanted to get there early and beat the winds. This seems to be a bad habit I have picked up cycling… trying to get somewhere due to weather and not eating correctly. I hope this is not going to get me on my journey. Fort Hancock is another very small town with really nothing there, I have gone through so many of these and it seems to be the norm as I cycle across the US and that is what makes this ride so much fun, I am hitting all these small towns and meeting so many wonderful people there. Off the main roads and on the hidden path of the United States of America, the true America.
Mar 26, Fort Hancock – Van Horn… I got up in the morning and went across the street to the gas station for there was nothing from Fort Hancock to Van Horn and had to grab a sandwich for lunch, some snacks and drinks for the day. Then next doors for breakfast, I was talking to this Border Patrol officer in the restaurant about what I was doing on my journey and my journey so far, I ate my burrito and potatoes and then I went to pay for my breakfast and the waitress told me he had paid for my breakfast. Thank you to the Border Patrol officer that paid for my breakfast. I jumped on Interstate 10 and the wind Gods were on my side and I had a great tailwind for a change. I rode on the Texas Mountain Trail. Seen a sign on the road…. “Prison Area: Do Not Pick Up Hitchhikers” … I am on a bike, what if they push me off and take my bike. I had a few bad spots with some good hills however, overall a great day. I saw a sign “Culberson Co Entering Central Time Zone”, one thing I didn’t think about as I was doing this ride… I will be in all four time zones, Pacific, Mountain, Central, and Eastern. I found a wallet on the side of the Interstate 10 and picked it up, put it is my bag and figured I would call the local police department when I got into Van Horn. I got to the hotel and checked in, I was talking to the front lady as I was checking in and told her what I was doing and the next thing a lady in the lobby was giving me a $5 bill and thanking me for what I was doing for our fellow veterans, her husband was in the Vietnam war. I got into my room and about 1o minutes later there was a knock at my door, I was like who is this, I answered the door and there was an envelope handed to me that said, “To Tracy, thank you for your service and we support you!!!” Quality Inn Staff and there was a $20 bill inside. I got little teary eyes and gave her a hug and thanked her for her kind words and donation. Then it was around 10 pm and they called my room and said someone brought something to the front office for me, I went to the front office and there was a plastic bag in it was some 3 separate Ziploc bags with 6 tide pods, some dryer sheets and $8 in quarters for my laundry. To the person that dropped this off at the office, “thank you” This is why I continue my journey for the little things that people have done for me along my way. For the words that people have spoken to me or the txt messages people have sent me on my way. No matter what I must continue my journey.
Mar 27, Van Horn – Alpine… Got up in the morning and went to the gas station for I have 74 miles with nothing I mean nothing in between Van Horn and Marfa, needed to get a sandwich for lunch, potato chips, snack bar, extra bottle of water and Gatorade. When I left Van Horn it was wonderful, no winds and then it turned into another day from hell a very bad day, I had side winds once again around 30 plus mph. I seen the Prada store display and tumbleweed blowing all over. The Prada store is a symbol on the Southern Tier, it is a monument for us. It is a building out in no man’s land with a few purses and shoes in it…. And it felt so good when I finally seen it, it made it worth it, I was doing this. Had a few mental breakdowns today and the shoulders terrible. I felt I am so done with this ride, I can’t do it and I don’t want to be out here anymore. It is mentally getting to me and the games in my mind are getting worse being out here by myself with no one to talk to, to help me on these bad days. I am going to lose my fricken mind, I stood out in the middle of nowhere screaming my head off, crying, cursing out the world, and wanting to give up. After my meltdown I got back on my bike for you have no choice, shit I am in the middle of nowhere and I have to bike out of here, so get your ass back on the bike and peddle. However, I have to be strong for I don’t want no one to know how I really feel, I don’t want to show my true colors for I am going to finish this no matter what, I will win, and this mental game will not defeat me just like boot camp, play it and play it strong. For you still have a very long way to go so you can not break down not.
At about mile 54 the sheriff came and told me a bad storm was coming and there was no way I would be making it into town before sunset and ask if I wanted a ride in. At this point I didn’t want to be here either… and he didn’t want me out on the roads with the storm rolling in and the higher winds. He had already rescued Troy a few miles behind me and Troy was like don’t be stupid and get in. I know inside I was not going to make it for I still had a long way to go to make it to Marfa and I was behind due to the chip road and winds, so we put my bike on his truck and my bags and got in. We went to Marfa and there were no hotels available for the night, so he took us to the next town of Alpine. I went to the hotel and my knees are killing me from fighting the winds all day. Took a shower and once again iced these old knees and went to bed early, that is how I have learned to deal with being by myself, go to bed and you don’t think about it sleeping however, what is sleep. I haven’t had a good sleep in days, all I do is toss and turn I believe it is because I have so much on my mind and I am worried about what I am going to get the next day, am I going to make it, getting scared of those dogs chasing me, this mental game like I said. I am down to getting about 3 hours of sleep a night, I try however, that is all I am able to get. So I am not eating right and only 2.5 – 3 hours of sleep a night, I push myself more and more.
Mar 28, Alpine – Marathon… this was a pretty good day, nice ride which is good from yesterday disaster. My legs, knees and arms muscles are still sore from fighting the winds all day. I found the target store in the middle of nowhere which is another monument for cyclist. I talked to the cows for a while, you see when you are out there, and they are the only thing you start to talk to them and I think they are really listening to you for they are staring at you or are they saying as I feel sometimes that I have lost my mind, you are like hey big guy how you doing, hey there missy you need to gain some weight, you are kind of skinny there. I got to my Eve Garden Organic Bed & Breakfast and this was a wonderful site, very colorful and lovely site. Nothing I had ever seen before, I got in my room and took a shower and off to find lunch, found a little place that was closing in 45 minutes and got me some lunch. When you get into these little towns there isn’t much and you are on their schedules. I ordered me some Chicken fried steak and it was very good. Went past the Gage Hotel and ate dinner at this really nice Steak house, I splurged and got me a really nice big steak, potatoes and it was very good. The restaurant had a bunch of cow skulls on the wall. As I was eating there were two tables that brought their dogs in with them…. And the two dogs started growling at each other and they had to break them up. I am like even at my really nice steak dinner I have to deal with these damn dogs.
Mar 29, Marathon – Sanderson… When I got up this morning this cat at the B&B ran into my room and under the bed and I couldn’t get it out, finally I got it out and I was on my way. This was another good day did a 55 miler and felt pretty good, talked to my cows for a bit for I seen so many of them. I was riding along the road and heard a very weird noise, as I am curious I stopped my bike and made sure my bike was in between me and them, to see what it was, and it was 5 wild hogs, they call them Javilina. Three of them ran off back under the drain and under the fence to get back into he hills as soon as I stopped my bike on the side of the road and other two stood on the side of the road with me just looking at me behind some bush. I waited for them to come out for me to get some pictures of them. I yelled at them “what are you going to come and get me?” they then ran under the fence and ran off. I got chased by another dog, I am getting so tired of them and my tolerance level is getting lower as I am getting to the point of being scared of them. Riding on the Hwy and I had some good climbs and I had some good down hills and it felt good for a change. In the middle of the hills I stopped and had my Chocolate milk, it tasted so good, nothing like some chocolate milk on a good long ride. How much longer am I going to be in these mountains and hills country I keep asking myself. I heard Austin it flattens out and I am almost to Austin, one more week I kept telling myself.
Mar 30, Sanderson – Del Rio… The morning started off wonderful, I was on the road as the sun was coming up and it was so beautiful. Went for about 15 miles and then the day started to get from good to bad, the hills had become more steeper and I started to walk them for I could not ride it, I had my first seizure at mile 19, and got over to the side of the road and off my bike and shook it out. Then another hill came, I have had my share of walking up hills for I couldn’t make it… you see physically you can do it… if you can’t bike it you can always walk it. It is this mental game you play out here on the road. On my 2nd seizure, I was once again in the middle of nowhere and I heard those snakes, I was trying my best not to freak out however, I am freaking out and I need stay calm for I didn’t know where they were and like I mentioned, when I am on the ground shaking I can’t move my upper body other than shake. It is a scary to go through when you are by yourself, I started thinking why I am out here by myself, I can’t do anything if a rattlesnake comes. I am screwed, I can’t run, shit I can’t even get myself off the ground to do anything. I don’t have a stick, I have a knife and gun however, what good is that if I am shaking. Why didn’t I listen to them and go home? I didn’t listen because I am stronger, and I am going to finish. Then in my mind it is racing again, I am screwed if a snake comes. Well I am good, shaking is finished, and I am starting to get control of my arms and some upper body control. I need to get myself to standing… once I am standing I am good and then I can get on my bike. I am back on the road again cycling again… than about 5 miles down… here we go again I am on my 3rd seizure of the day about 34 miles in, I was on the side of the road for this one was not as bad however, still shaking a lot, Betty and Joe this older couple in a winnebago pulled over to see if I was okay, I told Betty that I was having a seizure and it will pass soon. She asked me where I was heading to and I told her Comstock and she said that I was going to get in and they were going to take me to Del Rio, there were no medical facility in Comstock and in case I needed it Del Rio would have it. I told her I would be okay, and she said, “listen to your grandma!” It was almost like my grandmother from heaven was talking to me and I had to listen to her. When I got to Del Rio, I received a txt from Nahla asking me where I was at, I told her, and I was able to see Nahla, Jason and the 2 Amigos, I guess this was somehow set up and why Betty took me to Del Rio... to reunite all of us.
Mar 31, Del Rio – Camp Wood… today started off a great day, I was going 31 miles to Brackettville however, when I got to the only hotel there they didn’t have any rooms available so guess what, I ate lunch there and … yes you guessed it right… I got on my bike and peddled on to the next city which was Camp Wood another 33 miles away down this hilly, winds were against me, listening to those rattlesnakes rattling in the cactus on the side of the road and once again back in the Texas Hill Country. There was nothing on the sides of the road to view except for a few cactus, trees and that was it for 33 miles. I did find a few trees along the way to take a break under and get a bit shade, you see out here there is no shade and all you do is bake under the sun for at least 8 hours a day cycling depending on how many miles you are doing that day. I was on what they the start of the “Three Twisted Sister” on Hwy 337, I should have listen to Nahla and took her way. Mentally this is getting very challenging to me and hard being the only one out here on the road. It is days like this to where I find myself breaking down, crying and getting discouraged in myself and what I am doing and wanting to give up. I made it to Camp Wood and it was another very hard day, tomorrow is also going to be a hard day for I am still in the “Twisted Sisters” heading to Vanderpool. I went out for a good dinner and hit the bed early for I will have a bad day tomorrow and I knew it before it even came for I viewed the map and noting but hills and no shoulders for the next 43 miles to Vanderpool. Where is Enterprise when you need it.
Apr 1, Camp Wood – Vanderpool… Happy Easter… Wow, what to say about today. I stopped at the gas station on my way out for once again not too much in between and need to make sure I have enough water and dinner for there is nothing in Vanderpool. So, Easter dinner will be a Ham and Cheese Sandwich and a dill pickle. It started off very nice, the scenery was beautiful for about the first 10 miles, I took a video and sent it to my family via a text message telling everyone hello and Happy Easter. However, you seen the mountains in front of you and just went to hell another bad day much worse than yesterday, total hills, sharp winding curves, no shoulders at all, bad bumpy roads…. I am on what they call the “Three Twisted Sisters” on Hwy 337. This is no joke of a road in the heart of the Texas Hill country. I walked 4 hills, for about a total of about 5 miles. Seen a sign that said “Caution next 12 miles… Since Jan 2016 13 Killed in Motorcycle related Crashes, Stay Alert Save a Life”. I really don’t know how much more I have left in me. I cried, I yelled, I cursed like a sailor, I wanted to just give up… but I keep on walking up shit I don’t have a choice, this is the first day I listened to music, I thought it would help me and it did in a way. And, I know I still have a long way to go until I finish, and I have every means of doing so. I tried to call my son William as I told him I would do so and had no connection just add more to my day. I ate lunch at the Frio Canyon Motorcycle Stop called the Bent Rim Grill “in the heart of the Texas Hill Country” in Leaky Texas, they told me it was for 2 wheels and I told them I came in on 2 wheels however, my wheels didn’t have a motor, they laughed and welcomed me. So, I had me a hot dog and fries.
I got to The Lodges of Lost Maples for the evening, I walked in and had a meltdown, cried and went into the bathroom and there was a claw foot bathtub with lavender bath salts. I was in heaven for a moment, I filled it up with hot water and took a long hot bath. After this I had my Easter dinner, a ham sandwich, dill pickle and hot tea I brought from the gas station that morning. You learn to grab food in the morning for in the day you never know what you will find on your way and I knew there was no place to eat there. I went to bed early for I wanted this day to end and then there was a knock at my door, for I had no cell phone service and my family was concerned for no one had heard from me all day. It was the owner of the lodge checking to see if I go there, you see they were calling to see if I made it there, she asked me if I wanted to come up to her house and call and I told her no, and broke down, she knew for many that come there have done the same thing, she game me a hug and she gave me some encouraging words. She called Martin to let him know I made it.
Apr 2, Vanderpool – Kerrville… Lori brought me breakfast in the morning, thank you it was wonderful, and the smoothie was the bomb… she then took me over the first 6 miles out for there was 2 massive hills which I would have just walked and had another breakdown, and then she let me out. I took a different way other than the ACA to Kerrville and it was a nice ride of rolling hills to Medina to Kerrville. Came across so many animals such as long horn sheep, bison, and chased by one more dog today. She told me to eat at Camp Verde Restaurant, Store and Post Office opened in 1857 and it was a lovely building, and have the meatloaf, which I did, and it was very good, I talked to my son William here and had a lovely lunch.
Apr 3, Kerrville – Fredericksburg… this was a short day, it was a light mist all day, I seen 3 armadillos however, they were all on the side of the road dead, also seen my 1st long horn steer. I was able to get my bike into the bike store to get fixed. My front breaks have been messed up since the Three Twisted Sister, and they replaced my chain. So, the bike is good to continue forward to St Augustine. I visited the National Museum of the Pacific War, this was a nice museum and if you are in town a must visit! Fredericksburg is a nice little town with many stores to bad I don’t have a place to store things or I could have don’t a lot of shopping. Also, the scenery is changing and starting to see the blue bonnets blooming and they are beautiful with more flowers in the roadway. Took a picture of my bike by Admiral Nimitz since I am Navy I had too.
Apr 4, Fredericksburg – Johnson City… Great day, the wind God was on my side… yes behind me pushing me, and it felt good for a change. There were once again lots of rolling hills and about 68 degrees. Perfect day for cycling and one of the best days! Came across a sign when I got to Johnson City that said, “Home of Lyndon B Johnson” and Lyndon B Johnson State Park didn’t know that one, just a little history on my ride. More and more blue bonnets hills. Came across this very cool sculpture of a bull made out of medal in Johnson city. Very neat town and a good size one with some nice places to see.
Apr 5, Johnson City – Austin… Good weather day, tailwinds however, had to walk 2 hills hey this is the joy of them. Either you can bike them or not… if you can’t the option is walking up them, the show much go on and you must continue. Getting into Austin was a bit nerve racking once again however, I am seeing this in most bigger cities with no shoulders and I have to ride in the street with the cars. And I always seem to get to them at rush hour which makes this much worse for cycling these streets and where you are riding in the car lanes. This was a great day, Sue the owner of McDonalds in my hometown New Lenox donated $2,420 that brought me to my goal of $25,000. I want to thank you Sue for your generous donation and for letting me achieve my goal for Gary Sinise Foundation for my fellow veterans. I hear you also told my sister to bring me home from Austin… sorry I need to continue my journey east to St Augustine. As my sister knows me I never quit!
Apr 6 – 8 Austin – Rest Days… my sister Rhonda and Tom are flying in from Illinois and my nieces Darriona and Daijonna and are coming in from Houston to visit me. We had a nice dinner with everyone and went to the Austin Zoo with Rhonda and Tom. Matt told me to go to Gus Fried Chicken in Austin… best chicken I have ever had, a must go to in Austin. Gave up some more gear to make my bike lighter again and Rhonda brought home about 10 lbs. of stuff, didn’t seem lighter however, my paniers were much smaller than they were. Now the tent… do I give it up or do I keep it… it was 50/50 and I kept it. On the 8th Rhonda drove me to Hempstead to get me back on track for I am a few days behind schedule and I have a wedding to make at home for my son I didn’t give birth to is getting married the next weekend after, so have to be on schedule. It was so nice to see family and meant so much to me to have her fly down to see me. Love you sis, and she tried her hardest to have me fly back… I must finish this to the end, I hope you understand. You don’t know how much it meant to me to have you come and see me at the half way point and to see family. Once I start I must finish. I know you understand. See you soon and love you.
Apr 9, Hempstead – Silsbee… Going to have some long rides coming up, hilly roads however, I do see them getting flatter and flatter. Getting closer to that next sign that I have been waiting weeks to see and the point of this journey that I know that I will complete this ride. When I see that Welcome to LA sign and I am out of TX I truly believe “I got this” and I will finish this ride. I should be seeing this sign tomorrow as I will be doing another long ride and pushing myself to do this long ride. I will shed some tears at this point so until I see that sign I will peddle some more tomorrow. You know the best part of this ride is seeing those signs and it makes it an accomplishment point in my journey that I did this, and it makes me cry with joy and inter triumph.
Apr 10, Silsbee – De Ridder LA…. It was a great long ride, it is so nice to be on flat grounds…as I cycled I went through these 7 miles stretch and it felt as if I was back home and cycling in Barrington, there was trees on both sides and had me some mosquitoes which I haven’t seen this whole trip. Well guess what I am out of this stretch and down this road and here is the Sabine River, this is the river that separates Texas and Louisiana…. As I stop and look back I found my “Welcome to Texas” sign so I had to go to the other side of the road to get a photo of this. Funny how I got the Welcome to Texas and Welcome to Louisiana with the river separation them both. When I came into Texas I was on the bike path and there was no sign except for the Hwy 20 sign, I was pretty upset however, very happy to find this one and capture the photo. I am shedding some tears for I am in Louisiana now, I made it through Texas, this big ass state, the state that has broken many people it didn’t brake me. I did it! I was chased by 3 dogs today, I can honestly say “I hate dogs with a passion these days”. And I pulled my gun on one of them today, I really thought I was going to use it today for the dog was not backing off and keep on coming at me growling as I was blowing my bullhorn, I threw a beef jerky I had in my bag and it started to get it and I took off running and jumped on my bike. As my heart was pounding I pulled over about 2 miles and started to cry, I am losing it out here, and these dogs are going to get the best of me and there is nothing I can do about it they are not going to stop coming at me. How can I make them stop!
Apr 11, De Ridder – Kinder…. It was a great ride once again, I stopped for a chocolate milk at the gas station and ran into Nahla, my friend from the UK. I was so happy to see her again. When you make friends out here it is nice to see that they are still going and going strong and it is nice to have someone you know to talk to. We rode the Oberlin for I was going to stay the night there the waitress at the restaurant said it wasn’t a good place, so I decided to continue with Nahla, Jason took my bags off my bike and we rode another 25 miles together, it really felt weird with no paniers and weight on my bike. She told me that the 3 amigos were only 1 now and that Carey was the only one left. I was sorry to hear this news. We said our good byes and Nahla continued to the next city for the night. The scenery was pretty much the same as the rest of the days… still trying to find a living armadillo all I am finding are ones hit by cars. Seen some crawfish fields which was neat looking how they flood the land and place traps then go with a boat and them out of the traps.
Apr 12, Kinder – Opelousas…. This was another good day, wonderful shoulders the whole way on Hwy 190 on the Acadiana Trail. I went through the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area forest which was very nice looking, and the roads are now really starting to level off. I never seen so much road kills though, I guess with the nice big shoulders they decided to use it also, mostly snakes and big frogs, I never seen frogs that big. I can see why they have frog legs down here. Seen for first time crawfish fields which was very strange to see out in the middle of nowhere. Meet up with Carey and road into Opelousas together. I was chased by 2 dogs again today, not happy and used my horn on them, it seems to get them to back off. So, it is working so far on most of them.
Apr 13, Opelousas – Baton Rouge… on the road with Carey today, it is nice to have a riding partner and someone to talk to on the road instead of myself. The shoulders went from bad to worse and to none. There was a huge bridge in Krutz Springs that we had to get a ride across, there was road construction and no shoulder. It was 2.3 miles long and too dangerous to cross, so this nice man at the gas station took us across. We got on our way on the road went past this train dinner called the Penny Dinner, really neat place. I wanted to stop for lunch however, Carey was way up the street and no way to call him. So, I keep peddling until we found a place in East Baton Rouge, Burger King. As we arrived at the Mississippi River and stopped at the gas station right before the bridge and was told it was illegal to cross on our bikes. Once again, no shoulder and there are cops watching the bridge. The lady at the gas station knew Tim with a pick up and he drove us over… I could see why it was illegal to bikes… once we were on the other side he stopped and let us out. Casey got in the back of the truck with our bikes and we were on our way across the bridge, got off on the other side and started biking into Baton Rouge, Tim stated it was only a few miles, well that few miles turned into 11 miles on road construction roads. We had to stay the night for major storms with high winds were on the way Sunday and really needed a rest day anyway. Went out for dinner and had some of the best Gumbo I have had since my journey and went back to the same place the next day before the storms came in.
Apr 14, Baton Rouge – Rest Day, have no choice, there are major storms coming in. There are high winds of 55 mph and hard rains. Went to lunch early so I could get my gumbo soup at this restaurant it was the best ever.
Apr 15, Baton Rouge – Covington…. When I left Baton Rouge I was going to take the Interstate 10 then merge into Interstate 12, since I had a good tailwind and I knew interstates had big shoulders, I seen a police officer in downtown Baton Rouge and asked him if I could ride on the shoulder and he looked it up on his computer in his car and stated “yes, I don’t see anything that has that you cannot, you have a helmet, flashing light and over 12” your bike is considered a vehicle. So, I got on the Interstate 10, it was very harry at times for there were many off and on ramps however once I got onto 12 I knew they would be less and few. I was about 12 miles into my ride and I reached for my water bottle and the siren came on and scared the crap out of me, Yes, I was getting pulled over by the police. Officer Walker from the Baton Rouge Police Department pulled me over, someone called it in that there was a female cyclist on the Interstate. He told me it was illegal to ride my bike on the interstate… I told him I asked the police by my hotel and he told me I could. He said he was going to give me a ride off and we put my bags in his car, he then went to put my bike on his front rail, I was like how we are going to secure it…. He didn’t have anything…. Then he told me, ride it to the next exit (2 miles down) and I will follow you on your side with my lights flashing…I looked at him and said illegally and he gave me a giggle…. Thank you, Officer Walker! He was a very polite young man. After this I was back on Hwy 190, I was chased by a pack of 4 big dogs… not again. This time is was not good with the dogs, I had not only my horn however, my gun pulled on these ones, they were 2 pits, 1 German shepherd and I am not sure what the other was however, they were not backing down. A guy came driving by in his truck and noticed what was going on and got in-between me and the dogs and I was on my way. Seen a sign for 55 north and really thought about getting on it and going home… however, think it would be more miles going to Illinois than finishing my ride to St Augustine FL, so I continued my journey to St Augustine.
Apr 16, Covington – Gulfport MS…. Yes, I made it to Mississippi, when I see the sign I shredded a few tears “Welcome to Mississippi” signs. Today was a good day, took the Tammany Trail, seen lots of rivers, lily pods, bayou’s, started going over bridges (not liking them) for there seems to be a nice steep hill in the middle of them, and I really do not like heights. Went past the NASA Stennis Space Center Buffer Zone which was cool however, I didn’t see or hear anything. And was now on the Gulf of Mexico and riding along the beaches. Totally a different scenery than the cactus and desert, hills in Texas, blue bonnets in Texas, the Dunes in CA, now I was on the beaches of the Gulf of Mexico. There was one bridge Bay Saint Louis Bridge was very long, 2.1 miles and high. Started seeing the homes on stilts which was very interesting to see these very large homes on stilts. I am now in gator country… got to start looking and find me a gator!
Apr 17, Gulfport – Bayau La Batre AL…. Yes, I said Alabama, yes, I am in fricken Alabama today still can’t believe it one more state to go after this the tears are falling, and the heart is pounding. I fricken can’t believe it… was a pretty ride along to gulf beach nice and flat bike trails along the beach front most of my day. Went across another big bride, the Biloxi Bay Bride, wow this one is 1.6 miles long and had one hell of a climb however, it had a nice separate place for bikes to ride and walkers to walk which was separate from the road. Stopped at the Mississippi Vietnam Memorial in Ocean Springs which was very nice memorial and wall. Went across the Pascagoula Bridge which was twice as high as the Biloxi Bay Bridge. I had to take a detour for the road was not in good condition from a storm that just came through and went through some neighborhoods and back onto the main street. Two more states to go, I don’t know what to say, I cycled through CA, AZ, NM, TX, LA and Mississippi. Now I just have AL and Florida. This is crazy I have damn near cycled across the United States I kept telling myself. I cannot believe it, nor can I believe I did it. I want this time to scream with emotions that I achieved it so far.
Apr 18, Bayau La Batre – Gulf Shores… Went over another bridge… not liking these too much, this was the Dauphin Island Bridge, 3 miles long with a very nice steep climb on it with a very nice side wind going across it. Started to see pelicans today flying all over. Took the ferry over to Fort Morgan which I felt like I was cheating a bit. Ate at the BGH Café on Dauphin Island and they owner paid for it, thank you my friend. Seen some of the forts that were built at Fort Morgan in 1819 which played a role in the Battle of Mobile Bay in Aug 1864. Road along the coast again and seen many more homes on stilts and many for sale or rental homes. Was chased by 2 more dogs today and had a bad day cycling due to the hot weather and humidity this was a short day with only 42. 7 miles and a hard day biking.
Apr 19, Gulf Shores – Gulf Breeze FL… Oh yes, I passed that “Welcome to Florida” sign and I was teary eyed. I can’t believe I have seen all 8 Welcome to state signs for California State Line, Welcome to Arizona, Welcome to New Mexico, Welcome to Texas, Welcome to Louisiana, Welcome to Mississippi, Welcome to Alabama, Welcome to Florida… I fricken made it. So many emotions are going through my mind right now… I biked across 7 states and I have 1 more to cycle through. I have to call my family and tell them. So, I called my sons and told them guess where I am at… I am in Florida, they couldn’t believe it however, I could hear in their voices how very proud they were of me, of their old mom. Then called my mom and sent the group a txt of me and Welcome to Florida sign, and posted it on my Facebook page. I was getting so many kind words and thoughtful responses that I made it. These are what keep me going and going.
Today was a good day, many bright colorful buildings, it is funny when you go through different cities, towns the designs and in Golf Shores, they are very colorful and bold. I went over 3 more bridges which I do not like however, it is part of the journey and it makes it challenging for me. It was a nice ride along the shores again with once again nice weather and took the scenic route, since I am ahead of the game I am taking my time to get there. I am 3 days ahead of schedule since I stopped using ACA maps from Austin going due east, instead of North, East South combo… and now time to take my time. Why not take all the scenic routes now and enjoy my final state?
Apr 20, Gulf Breeze to Miramar Beach… seen this old sign Turn Right Pensacola Beach scenic drive along Gulf of Mexico…decided to take the scenic route 399 which took me over 4 more bridges, the first one being a Pensacola Beach Toll Bridge all vehicles...$1.00 was I a vehicle? I was in the bike lane and there was no place to pay except if I went into the far left lane which I wasn’t going into… so I didn’t pay the toll and the lane that I was nearest wasn’t open, and 2 of these didn’t have any shoulders, it was a bit scary and I know the cars were not liking it for I wasn’t going any faster then 4.8 mph going up on the climb in the middle of the bridge. Sorry for this however, you really should put a shoulder on the bridge. It was very nice ride today with going on the trail for miles and seeing more and more houses on the beach front, seen a spaceship house with aliens in the windows to mansions on the beach front. Went past Hurlburt Air Force special Operations Command, to some of the Bluest waters in Destin Beach that I have ever seen. Had a good head wind today which is not uncommon this whole trip I have had a head or side wind. I am getting closer and closer to end of my journey.
Apr 21, Miramar Beach – Panama City… I decided to take another scenic route on Hwy 30A and go along the coast and see the white sand, lily ponds, and rich homes on the lake front. Ran into 8 miles of road construction… what a nightmare. Went across the Hathaway Bridge which is a 6-mile bridge, how fun it was, just when you thought you were off the bridge it curved and started again. However, I liked this one for there was no big climb in it. Made it to Panama City where I had my bike checked at a Trek store and all is good, found a nail place right next to my hotel… Mani and Pedi time (nice to pamper myself) after 48 days on the road, However, I can’t wait to get home and see you Diana.
Apr 22, Panama City… Rest Day – Storms coming in today, these were some excessive ones and the hotel where I was staying moved everyone on the 1st floor for the water was coming in and Gail force winds. Went for lunch before the storms came in and got me Tacos for lunch and nice spaghetti dinner since I had a microwave in the hotel.
Apr 23, Panama City – Apalachicola… Wow what a day, as soon as I left the hotel the humidity was 100% welcome to Florida, I was ready to walk back into the hotel and see if they had another room for one more day however, I have to keep going. I know this isn’t going to be good on my asthma and made sure my inhalers were handy for me to grab. Later in the day it did drop to 74% and I did have a slight wind which was a bit of relief, any little bit helps. Went by Tyndall Airforce base and nice riding shoulders. Riding along the highway started seeing “Danger, Explosive Disposal Range Keep Out” hoping they didn’t go off as I was riding by. Today, I was almost killed, if it wasn’t for a driver in a car blowing their horn, I really don’t feel I would be here. I was riding in the nice shoulder past the Airforce base and I heard the horn blowing, I looked in my mirror and seen a pick up truck also driving in the shoulder doing about 65mph. I swerved off the shoulder on my bike into the grass and rode into the grass, fell off my bike as I hill in the grass, and as soon as he pasted my he proceeded to go back into the street. The car that blew the horn pulled off and asked me if I was okay, I told him yes and he said he called the police on him, thank you for blowing your horn for I am not sure if I didn’t give me a warning of danger coming, I would have gotten off the shoulder and into the grass and out of his way, and if I would be here right now to tell you my story. However, I do believe he was coming for me. I entered into Eastern Time Zone, dang I also went through all time zones. Seen my first bear sign for the next 4 miles… in Florida, I never knew I had to watch for them here. Shoot I have gators, snakes and now bears, what next do I have to battle. I went over two bridges today the George Tapper Bride which was a short one however, a good climb in the middle as I was going into Port Joe. There seems to be a bridge before every big city starting in the Pan Handle in Florida.
Apr 24, Apalachicola – Medart … Still riding on Hwy 98 to 319 to Medart, rode on the FL Scenic Hwy Big Ben Scenic Byway, woke up to a very nice long 8 mile John Gorrie Memorial bridge going over the Apalachicola River, one of the longest I have been on and not that much of a climb in it. Was riding along the Gulf of Mexico again and seen a pair of dolphins in the waters. I also seen three snakes, 1 coral snake that I just missed going over. Not a good thing in the bike for he was right in front of my bike on the shoulder and I just swerved in time to miss it. Still no gators or bears. I was ran off the road again by a crazy driver, this is my 2nd time on my journey and this time fell off my bike however, this time I fell in the grass so no damage to my knees. Biked through Carrabelle and they had a very nice Veterans Memorial with little statues of all the military branches. Biked the coastline again and through the St Marks National Wildlife Refuge and it was a nice ride however, no place to stop for any meals or bathroom stops. Oh, what a day, luckily, I have my emergency food pouch to get into, tuna, crackers and pickle. Have to stock it back up when I get into town with a gas station.
Apr 25, Medart – Perry… Great ride, Great weather and nice shoulders to ride on once again. Riding on Hwy 98 again and nothing new in the scenery, same old stuff, rode through the Aucilla Wildlife Management Area and Flint Rock Wildlife Management Area. Another day of riding with not many stops along my way so had to take advantage of the ones I did have. One thing I do have to say is that Florida does have some nice shoulders for biking on however, they have the worse driver that seem not to like cyclist. As I got on the road this morning I was attacked some turkey vultures, I think they just got tired of flying away when the cars came and flying back and when I came through, they flew off and back down as I was passing the poor yes dead armadillo. When I was coming into Perry a gentleman I seen on the road pulled over and when I got up to him he told me he was also a biker and had his bike in the SUV. He gave me a nice cold water and told me good luck on my journey. It is the little things that keeps you going on these days and that cold water was very good on that hot humid day. It was so good going down, a nice cold drink. One thing with Florida the humidity is getting to me not sure if I would rather have the hills or humidity at this point.
Apr 26, Perry - Cross City … Very hot and humid today, luckily it was a short ride on Hwy 98 to Cross City for it was a bad day for me I had another seizure. However, I seen a cool moth, it is called a Spanish Moth it was pink, black and had a pom-pom head. Seen some more snakes and chased by 2 more dogs. Seen a sign for the Who Dat Bar & Grill and the Good Times Motel… just shook my head and smiled at the names. I am so happy for my friend Nahla finished today. I cried a few tears for her and I am so proud of her.
Apr 27, Cross City – Gainesville… Good ride was on a very nice trail called Nature Coast State Trail for 17 miles that a friend Mark on Facebook told me about. I ended with the trail in Trenton, then I was on 26 going east and started seeing blue ribbons on every tree, post and store. Then I seen that 2 officers were killed a week before as they sat in a restaurant eating lunch, it was a very somber ride going through this small town just days after and seeing all the blue ribbons and signs all over. Rest in Peace Sgt. Noel Ramirez, 29, a seven-year law enforcement veteran, and Deputy Taylor Lindsey, 25, a three-year law enforcement veteran. Finished in Gainesville, took my bike in to get checked and didn’t know that it was the home town of Florida University and the Gators. I only have a few more days to go and only 77 more miles to go until I finish this crazy journey I am on. With emotions going crazy these days as I ride my bike, I have been shedding a few tears here and there as I ride in silence along these streets. I made it and I still can’t believe I accomplished this by myself. I knew I had to and I was going to make my boys proud of their old mom. I don’t know how many times I wanted to give up along my way and I couldn’t. I would sit on my bike on those days and cry and tell myself why you want to give up, you are not hurt, you are having a bad day. Are you giving it 110%? You can’t give up! I must finish for my sons and for my brothers & sisters and all the 1st responders this is helping. I have this good demon on one side and on the other shoulder is the bad demon playing these mind games. However, this mental game is going to play a toll for some time in my life even after the ride is over, I can just feel it.
Apr 28, Gainesville – Rest Day … I have many rest days for I am 5 days a head of schedule and can’t finish until May 3rd. Oh, how I want to finish now and get this over with. Martin just doesn’t understand the reasons. I reached out to Stephanie and she contacted Bill Dudley… received an email from Bill Dudley that was sent to over 800 people about what I was doing and about my coming into St Augustine, thank you Stephanie for calling him and letting him know about what I was doing and date of arrival into St Augustine.
Apr 29, Gainesville – East Palatka… Once again nice roads, same scenery, the woods and moss covered trees. When I was reading a VFW sign I received my 2nd flat tire, this one was a good one and put a nice size .5 inch slit in my tire. I pumped it up to only 65 psi for I didn’t want the tube to bulge out of the tire and I only have yes 31 more miles to go. OMG did I say 31 more miles… yes, I did. I meet Andrea on the road in Palatka at a stop light and told her what I was doing and gave her one of my cards, she asked me where I was staying, and I told her. Next thing I knew when I got over the bridge and to the hotel, she was there waiting for me. She is from the bike club there in Palatka. We talked, and she invited me out to dinner and picked me up at 6. She also gave me some things to do as I was staying there for another rest day… as I stated I am way too early. Right after we got to Corky Bell’s restaurant, we heard a loud collision, I knew it was bad. When we were getting ready to leave the families were gathering in the parking lot with the crowd and found out that 3 people had died and 5 were taken to the hospital. I had walked back to the hotel for the road was closed for some time. I looked out a few times and the road was still closed 5 hours after the accident.
Apr 30, East Palatka – Rest day – Update from the car accident, found out that another child died, so overall it was the mother 21 yrs. old, father 18 yrs. old, 21 month and 4 yr. old died in the accident. So very sad. Road on one of the trails that Andrea told me about.
May 1, East Palatka – Palm Coast… Andrea came by to send me off and say bye to me and then I was off to Palm Coast to Cindy and Dan’s house. Cindy and Dan are from the Amvets Riders that have opened their home to me for a few days since I am early coming in. I want to thank you so much for opening your home and showing me so much hospitality and love. So, for my final long ride today of 33.49 miles… I was chased by a big dog (I can honestly say that hate dogs now), had some very nice shoulders, same scenery going through wooded areas and farmland… and a HEADWIND the whole way. What a way to end my final long ride with a head wind that turned that day into a workout instead of a leisure ride. Seen my first sign that said St Augustine… I was so excited to see this however, today I am riding to Palm Coast and it is actually 4 miles longer than if I rode to St Augustine. I received this email from the St Augustine Beach Chief of Police Robert Hardwick “Tracy, good afternoon. First, on behalf of the law enforcement officers in St. Johns County and our large community of veterans, to include myself we want to thank you. Second, welcome to St. Johns County and the final pit stop of your tour across America.” They were planning my Welcome and Escort.
May 2, Palm Coast … Rest day, Cindy and Dan took me to St Augustine and we walked around the town, we found the Old Spanish Trail mile marker, this is the big ball that marks the end of the Old Spanish Trail auto highway in 1926 that once linked San Diego CA and St Augustine FL. It was a must for me to find since I spent so much time on Hwy 90 and I was on the Spanish Trail. I had called my son and asked him to put me on speaker since Clem, my mother and Martin were in St Augustine and I told them that I did not want to see them today for I wanted to see them tomorrow at the finish and I had hoped they understood. I wanted that feeling when I came in and I knew if I see them today I would not have it tomorrow as I came around that corner, that joy, that excitement, feeling of accomplishment, that feeling of achievement when I seen them. We took a trial run of my last 4.8 miles and yes there were 2 more bridges, I can’t get away from them. I knew about the one however, not the other. We went out for dinner that night with a group of friends of Cindy and Dan’s and had a lovely evening. It was just what I needed to get my mind off tomorrow morning.
…...So tomorrow when I dip my tires in the Atlantic Ocean I will have accomplished something many never accomplished. I will have accomplished something larger than the distance, something larger then enduring the elements, something larger then cycling over mountains, something larger then not giving up no matter what. I accomplished cycling solo from San Diego CA to St Augustine… Tomorrow, I am undertaking something of degree and it’s not finishing a bicycle trip its proving that anyone can overcome anything and live their dreams.
May 3, Final 4.8 miles to St Augustine Beach…. I didn’t sleep very much at all, for my mind is going all over the place, I am going to see my family, I did this, and I still cannot believe I fricken rode my bike from San Diego CA to St Augustine FL. I don’t think I have felt this feeling since I graduated from Northeastern Illinois University in 2013 with a 4.0 GPA while working full time, yes, I graduated with all A’s. I guess I don’t do anything easy in my like and this goes back to I must push myself and give it 110%. Myself and Cindy drove to the staging area and I took out my bike, put the bags on it and a few community service vehicles started to show up and they got out and shook my hand and told me thank you for what I had done. I thought they were the only ones that were going to be there. Well to my surprise the Chief of Police came next, the Sheriff office came and gave me a coin, more police came shook my hand, and I was tearing up more, the media came, and interviewed me with them there before I left for my final last miles before I rode to the St Augustine Pier where everyone was waiting for me. Then the Amvets Riders came with a few American Legion riders there were about 14 motorcycles. We sat there for a bit and talked for a bit about what I had just done, and my stomach was getting in knots and the tears were coming.
The Sheriff motorcycle escort told me let me know when you want to leave… we were all in line and I pointed let’s go. As soon as I said that a few more tears came down my face. We went across the first bridge and then they started closing intersections for me. I was surprised, this was for me, they are closing the streets for me. I could not believe this, cars were beeping, giving me a thumb up, a few cyclists on the road were clapping and I know they were thinking who in the hell is this! I never felt so proud and thank you St Augustine Sheriff, St Augustine Beach Patrol and St Augustine Police Department. I went over the second bridge and this was a higher one… I went faster than I thought I would and yes, we were ahead of schedule however, this was my day. On the bridge Jeff from FirstCoast news was telling me congratulations and see me on the pier. Then I came around the corner and seen my sons, I started to cry for I seen how proud they were of me and I knew I made them proud of their mom. I wanted to stop and get off my bike and hug them however, I had a motorcade behind me and had to peddle onto the parking lot, so I kept going. In the lot there were many people there waving the American flag that was a proud moment for me. Went around the corner into the parking lot and there were more people, my mom was there and no site of Martin… for he forgot the champagne and thought he had time to go and get this and make it back on time. He didn’t know my GPS lagged and thought I was still on the bridge, well I wasn’t, and he missed it.
Bill Dudley had reached out to members of the community and they were there for presentations by Margret England - Vice Mayor, Nancy Sikes-Kline – Commissioner, Carlos Aviles – Fire Chief had given me a pin to St Augustine, Bill Dudley presented me with a check for $500 for Gary Sinise Foundation and the Amvets Riders presented me with a check for $250 for Gary Sinise Foundation.
Now it was time to dip that front tire in the Atlantic Ocean, we walked down to the ocean and Jeff from FirstCoast news had dared me to take a dip as well, so I dipped my tire, opened my champagne and then yes, I took my dip in the Atlantic Ocean.
As I cycled across the Southern Tier I had meet so many wonderful people, from Tom a Vietnam Veteran at Walmart in Clay Pool, AZ that not only repaired my bike to get me back on the road however, he paid for my seat and post when it broke, Terry that gave that talked to me at that rest stop in AZ and your kind words on Facebook, to Clint Fallen Hero’s that hosted a BBQ for me and your generous donation, to that special someone in Van Horn, TX that left at the front counter a bag that had Tide Pods, Dryer sheets and quarters for me to do my laundry. And to Stephanie that sent me that message before I started my journey to help my with my finish into St Augustine FL so very special and to Cindy and Dan in Palm Coast for opening your home to me for a few days. To those throughout my way for giving me donations for Gary Sinise Foundation to people buying me meals, Crazy Cats (El Paso) bike shops fixing my bike. To some WarmShowers host that opened their homes to me in AZ.
On my journey across the United States, I hit many things: California mountains, hills that never seem to stop from California well into Texas, California dunes with blowing sand, roads with palm trees on both sides miles after miles, Arizona deserts, Texas wind / dust storms, New Mexico and Texas 35 mile per hour side winds, All over 20 mph headwind, Texas Hill Country that I thought would never end, rain, heat, cars blowing their horns at me to get off the road for bikes don’t belong there, Florida 100% humidity, snakes, hogs, dogs chasing me and growling at me, miles and miles with nothing in between, trucks running me off the road, tumbleweed blowing at me, bridges with no shoulders (sorry cars for going so slow), 16 seizures, 2 asthma attacks, many days crying questioning myself, 2 flats, a broken seat post in the middle of going up a mountain in Arizona, Three Twisted Sister front brake cable broken and many joyful days meeting people throughout my way across the United State, Towns become infrequent with water becoming infrequent. The fall in Mesa, I went to the doctor when I got home and I have a torn MCL and a torn PCL. This will heal just in time for my next ride.
On those days I wanted to give up. I thought of who I was doing this for, my two sons and my brothers & sisters and 1st responders. That is what kept me going day after day, on those days I told myself I can’t do this no more. I would ask myself why… “you’re not hurt, tomorrow will be a better day”. Some were, and some weren’t however, I have to keep going. I can say as many times as I wanted to give up, I gave it 110% and finished it as I always told my sons to do. And yes, I did it in 61 days while I biked 49 of those 61 days. No matter what happened to me I never gave up, I always looked forward and believed in myself. There were those days of mental breakdowns and head games and physical days of walking my bike up hills for I couldn’t cycle it.
People keep asking me if I could come up with one word to describe my journey; it would be “Amazing” for I meet so many amazing people as I cycled across so many miles, I was amazed of all the support and love I received along my way, amazed in the kind words as people as I talked to them as I cycled across the this great country, It was amazing that I made my goal of $25,000 and I have went over my goal with a total of $30,575, Amazing that I made it, Amazing that I had such wonderful weather, except for the TX winds however, I never ran into any thunderstorms, Amazed of the love and support that St Augustine FL showed me on my final 4.8 miles, Thank you everyone for all the support and love you gave me throughout my amazing journey.