A message from the Connecticut Burns Care Foundation

Ryan and Dwight hope to raise $10,000 to support the burn camp, which will host 70 children between the ages of 8 and 18. They are determined to reach the West Coast as a personal challenge as well as helping young burn survivors.

Started in 1991, the Arthur C. Luf Children's Burn Camp is located in northern Connecticut on 176 acres. Every summer, burn survivors come to the burn camp, which is a safe and fun environment that helps kids heal emotionally and physically. The Burn Camp is free to the children, who come primarily from the Northeast and some foreign counteries, but any burn survivor child anywhere is welcome. More than 70 adult counselors, primarily active and retired firefighters and burn unit nurses, occupational and physical therapists, child psychologists and even a doctor will serve as mentors for the week.

It's also our goal to promote burn awareness and fire prevention and education, which we do year around. We sponsor a burn survivor, burned in a car accident that involved speeding and drinking alcohol, who speaks to high school students throughout Connecticut. We also support the burn unit at Bridgeport Hospital, helping to purchase equipment.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Distance traveled

In an 18-wheeler: 8 miles
In a pontoon boat: 27 miles
In a car or pick-up: 541 miles
On a bicycle: 3,202 miles

In total: 3,778 miles

Thursday, August 28, 2008

All roads lead to Santa Barbara

We rolled out of Yorba Linda with the intention of reaching Ventura on the first night, but, in spite of our ambitions, were happily ensnared about 40 miles down the road in the hospitable arms of Ryan's (and now, I hope I can claim them as my own) friends, Brendon, Larla and Stanislava in Culver City.  They prepared us a hearty meal and shared music and spirits with us before taking us out on the town.  They are a fun, warm-hearted trio and, though I was initially eager to be getting on, I'm really glad we took the time to stop and hang out with them on our final evening before the end.  Ryan was courageous enough to let Larla give him a ride in a shopping cart we found on the street at midnight, and nearly paid with his life.  Thankfully, he sustained no serious injuries, and we were still able to continue our quest the next day.  We set out, in routine fashion, later than planned, leaving ourselves about half the daylight we needed to finish the roughly 100 miles to Santa Barbara.  We rode down to Venice Beach, our first sight of the Ocean, and continued along the (very crowded) bike path up the beach to Malibu, where we got on the Pacific Coast Highway.  The road strayed from the coast and became a bit elusive in Oxnard, where we ended up on route 101 for a bit, and I was forced to face my nemesis, the long-slotted storm drain, around every bend.  Thankfully I was a bit too clever for the son of a gun, this time, and did not fall for that gap-toothed grin, again.  

Venice Beach

What looked like a grass farm in Oxnard

From Ventura on we had bike paths all the way to Santa Barbara, some times winding along the coast where we could see the oil rigs lit up like Christmas trees out on the water, sometimes climbing up along the highway, sometimes wedged between two chain-link fences and illuminated like a little bicycle highway in its own right.  Those last 26 miles seemed, to me, impossibly long.  Every little town we passed through I was sure had to be Santa Barbara, but was disappointed to see signs proclaiming them "Carpinteria" or "Summerland."  Where is this place?  This road must just keeping stretching on in the dark, with intervening towns erupting from the growing asphalt to fill the space.  At long last we started seeing signs for the Santa Barbara waterfront trail, and rode between rows of tall, dark palm trees, with the lights of houses burning on the hills to our right, and the ground descending down to the water on our left.  And before long we were standing at the foot of Stearn's Wharf, and a friendly night worker had plenty of unsolicited advice about places to camp, but Ryan was already on the phone with Alec, cousin of our good friend Pietro Crespi, and we didn't need to know about campsites here or any where, any more.

Celebrating at a roof top bar with Pina Coladas, Stearn's Wharf

Ryan had said that the end would come quicker than we thought, and that it would have to be anticlimactic.  "That's it?"  He expected to say.  And as we ate lunch in Malibu I was thinking he was right, that we couldn't actually be here, already, on the Pacific Coast.  No way.  I think it was good, for that reason, that we didn't stop there, when we first met the sea, that we continued up the coast to the endpoint that had been in our minds for the last two and a half months (and longer), not only because it didn't really seem finished before then, but also because those last, interminable miles in the dark, which drove me close to madness with anticipation (unable to take my own advice) made the arrival that much sweeter.

Santa Barbara

Ryan has given some of these thanks, already, but I think they need to be reiterated.  Thanks to everyone who has welcomed us into their home, or onto their lawn, or has offered to do so; to everyone who has taken care of us, fed us, given us water, let us use a computer or a telephone, helped us out with equipment or repairs, given us directions, advice, or  words of encouragement, or drawn us pictures, or sent us mail, let us shower or do our laundry or swim in their pool, had patience and given us plenty of room while  passing us on the road, given us rides when we were stranded or broken down, let us float on their pontoon boat, let us get away with camping where we weren't supposed to, built and maintained roads and signs for us to follow or bridges for us to cross, manufactured bikes for us to ride, bought us hotel rooms, taken interest in our journey, and done a thousand other turns of kindness that escape my feeble memory.  Thanks to wilderness for giving us a place to sleep so much of the time, and for not eating us alive.  Thanks to dogs for keeping me on my toes.  Thanks to anybody reading this for giving us some one to write to.  

Thanks to my faithful friend, Ryan, for sharing this journey with me and for having the patience to stick with me, through thick and thin, all the way from one coast to the other.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Santa Barbara!

We made it.

Thank you to everyone who opened themselves up to be part of our trip, and to everyone behind us at home cheering us on! It was a challenging ride and without the support, kindness and generosity from everyone along the way and at home, we couldn't have done it. Thank-you.
The benefit softball game was a huge success! Thanks to everyone who came out. A special thanks to goes out to Jim and Joe Schreck and The Fishtale for donating all the food for the event, and Kevin Donahue, Kevin Roxbee, Chris Dowler and Bob Gilhuly for organizing the event.
To all of those who still want to donate money to the charity, visit http://www.ctburnsfoundation.org/polg_forms.htm. You can donate online or print out a form and donate through the mail. The donation program on our site is expired and no longer working.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

For those awaiting word

We reached Santa Barbara in the final hour of Sunday, August 24, our 77th day out by my count.  Thanks to Brendon, Larla and Stanislava in Culver City and Alec in Santa Barbara for giving us places to rest our heads during the last two-day stretch.  More details, soon.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Firefighter Charity Softball Game: Madison, CT

Saturday night, August 23 at 5:00 at the Surf Club in Madison, CT a firefighter charity softball game will be played to benefit the Connecticut Burns Care Foundation.  The Fish Tale Restaurant in Madison, CT will be donating all the food for the event.  It should be a great time, stop by for the game and a cookout afterwards!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Swing low

Out of Las Vegas we rode 45 miles and over the border into California, where we camped in a state wildlife area just short of The Mojave National Preserve.  The next day we rode over a mountain pass called "Mountain Pass" and down into The Mojave Desert, the hottest part of our route, where temperatures were getting up around 110 degrees.  

You know a place is classy when the bathroom door has two knobs.  This was an excellent Mexican restaurant in Baker which, as far as I could tell, was called "Mexican."

We stopped in Baker for most of the afternoon, and as the sun went down and things started to cool off a bit we set out to put on a few more miles before bedtime.  Down Route 15 the most embarrassing and maybe the scariest event of the trip took place.  Everything in silhouette against the headlights of oncoming traffic, the strength of my little light not enough to illuminate more than major obstacles in my path, I could not see the storm drain until it opened up underneath me, like a great square hole in the earth.  It swallowed up my front tire and sent me over the handle bars and skidding down the black top.  It was like a slip and slide, only less fun.  I was banged up a bit, particularly in the left shoulder area (my left arm had been rendered useless, for the moment), but still had aspirations to pull my wheel up out of the drain and keep riding along (slowly) until I turned and saw the wheel's condition.  

Like a liquid it had taken the form of its container, pouring down into the drain and spilling over the far lip, then resuming its solid phase in permanent testimony to that moment of trauma.  Its shape was the saddest thing I had ever seen, a gesture of defeat, of an abrupt, violent end, the rim collapsed, the spokes coiled inward like a spider holding her stomach.  Sad, sad, sad.  Ruined.  

Nobody stopped, but somebody called the police, and an ambulance showed up.  I told the drivers I didn't think I needed a ride to the hospital, but they offered to give us a ride back to Baker so we could hitch a ride to Barstow, the next town with a bike shop.

I had read somewhere that making a sign with your destination on it is a useful hitchhiking technique, because if people register that you are going where they are going they are more likely to stop, or something like that.  The best I could do was scratching out "Barstow" in the thickest letters I could manage with a pen on a brown paper lunch bag from the gas station.  It might have improved my chances, but not enough to get anybody to stop.  Then I thought I would switch up my tactic, and let my mangled wheel tell the story, but that was no more effective.  It probably just looked more menacing.  

So I just got turned down dozens and dozens of times, standing on the on-ramp holding up, alternatively, a paper bag and a broken wheel with my one good arm.  Meanwhile, Ryan was having similar luck talking to people at the gas station (at least they looked him in the eye, mostly) when Sonny and Denise rolled in, and our luck changed.  They were on their way from Las Vegas to San Diego with an empty truck bed and open hearts, just the people we needed to run into.  So we got a ride to Barstow, 60 miles down the road, where we camped out in the parking lot of a department store, and nobody had heard of the bike shop that was supposed to be our salvation.  We eventually did find the bike shop, but they didn't have a 27" road bike wheel (they only had motorcycles and a few BMX bikes), neither did the department store, the pawn shop, or any of the thrift stores in town.

No luck in the repairs arena, and one of my wounds was looking pretty gruesome, so I loaded my poor, one-wheeled bike and all my gear into a shopping cart and wheeled it across town to the clinic (this was a major improvement upon dragging the one-wheeled bike along on its own.  Much less labor intensive).  

A couple of x-rays revealed that I had not dislocated my shoulder or broken any bones (yes!) and a few stitches took care of the cut on my elbow.  Good as new!  I had never had stitches before, was very nervous and, for the record, they were not bad at all. Whew!

While I was getting stitches, Ryan was getting cozy in the entryway of the clinic

Battered, bruised, road-rashed, stranded in Barstow with no front wheel.  It was a perfect time for an angel to descend upon us and carry us in her chariot 110 miles across the desert to Yorba Linda.  Sandy came to the rescue and delivered us to our next scheduled stop, the home she shares with Rick and Alana, also known as paradise, where we have jacuzzied and secured a new front wheel, and should be ready to roll out for Santa Barbara shortly, only a two-day ride from here.

Que viva

Where will you land among all those lights that brim over the ridge like a cauldron of agitated stars, peering out in curiosity as you approach?  They are like saplings pushing up out of the edge of darkness, their little orange and yellow blossoms in the distance growing brighter, or like a string of gems glittering in the black bosom of the desert night.

Ryan was out of sight when I had my eighth flat on the road to Mesquite.  Out of sight and in possession of the pump.  So it would have taken me a while to get there had John not stopped and offered me a ride in his truck.  He was a former touring cyclist, himself, so he sympathized.  We strapped the bike between the cabin and the huge tank of baker's yeast he was bringing to Lost Angeles, and caught up with Ryan at the Nevada state line.  Thank you, John!

And then we got to Vegas.  Denise and Dave put us up in The Westin.  Consider us completely, utterly spoiled.

Ryan makes a killing at Roulette