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

O, Living God

Lately: less road kill, more living animals, thank goodness.  I heard prairie dogs make the most improbable sound, twittering like frantic songbirds as they ran from me into their subterranean homes; crickets like the sweetest, most seductive sirens, drawing me, at night, to the jagged shores of dreams.  I saw two quails and two jack rabbits, having never seen even one of either, before, in my life; a black widow guarding her eggs, just above my head as I lay on my back in the wide drainage pipe where I had sought shade in the hottest hour of the afternoon, and thanked God that I had not disturbed her more rudely; a flock of white birds circling a desert lake, seemingly having lost their way on some great migration to the north.


Through the desert, into the promised land.


Yup.  We actually rode our bikes all the way to Las Vegas.  Then!  Once we arrived, we were able to live like kings thanks to the kindness of a few strangers, now friends.  Scott put us up at a hotel in North Las Vegas the first night in Vegas and we have Dave and Denise to thank for putting us up at a hotel right off the strip, the second night.  It doesn't get any better than this.

A Vegas Night

The Ballagio

We had so much fun.  We checked out as many casinos as we could and gambled a bit of money while we were at it.  There was just too much to see and too much fun to be had, we decided we would have to visit again.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A Three State Day: UT, AZ, NV

Dave and Denise

From the wonderful stay with Dave and Denise in St. George, Utah, we rode 120 miles (our biggest day yet) to Las Vegas, NV.  Oh YEAH! 

The whole ride was through the desert and some of the hottest and driest weather, yet (you couldn't leave your mouth open for one minute before you were choking from lack of saliva).  
We had set out from St. George well rested and fed, thanks to Dave and Denise, to take on the desert and arrive in Vegas that day.  It was a challenging goal but we were unexpectedly, very well assisted along the way.  

I was a bit ahead of Dwight on my way south-west on route 15 to Vegas when I caught up to a car pulled over on the shoulder of the road.  I first thought it was just another over-heated car but as I got closer, a man stepped out of the car with a couple water bottles and flagged me down.  We talked for a bit, his name was Scott.  Scott's a bicycle enthusiast and has done supported tours in the past.  He was interested in our story because we were self-supported and he mentioned that he was looking forward to planning a self-supported tour in the near future.  At the end of the conversation he asked where Dwight and I planned on staying that night.  I told him, like normal, we didn't have anywhere specific planned to camp and that this was our normal practice.  After finding out that we were roughing it, he reserved us a hotel room in northern Las Vegas.  The hotel was beautiful and had a free continental breakfast we took full advantage of.

Then!  If Scott wasn't enough...I ran into another two cool guys.  Drew and Saul were on a road trip from Utah to the coast of Cali in their old-school VW bug.  They pulled over in the same fashion as Scott did, Drew hopped out of the car with some water bottles and Saul hopped out with some energy GU.  I talked for a while with both adventure enthusiasts and took some pictures.  They were all about they trip and full of congratulations and pats on the back.  It was great that they stopped to help me get through the desert and it was even more cool to meet two more awesome west-coast kids.  It turned out that they were photographers, too!   The following are the pictures they took and sent to me.



Saturday, August 16, 2008


Dwight - a blur on a bicycle

It's kind of dark but...UTAH!


Another long-awaited visit for me. It seems that is the case for most of the places in this part of the country. We rode right after we finished the North Kaibob trail in The Grand Canyon to Zion National Park. It was a night ride, so we weren't able to see most of the scenery on the eastern entrance of the park but when we woke up the next morning, inside the park, the sight was breathtaking.

Feeling so close to the end of the trip and the urgency to finish, we wanted to make sure we didn't forget one of the focuses of the trip which fueled it in the first place; to explore and enjoy the most beautiful parts of the nation. With this in mind, we decided to stay two nights in Zion, which made it possible to do a balanced, two day-hikes.

The first one being, Angel's Landing, which brought hikers to the very top of the canyon, a strenuous, steep climb.

Angel's Landing

The second one, The Narrows, which was an easier hike and brought hikers into the depths of the canyon, hiking upstream the Virgin River through the water.

The Narrows

The small portion of Zion we were able to see was unbelievable. There is something for everyone. Go there.

Mr. Hayles and the Grand Canyon

My friend, Hayles from Connecticut, is now living and going to school in Phoenix, Arizona. He was originally the first person going with me on this trip but there were some last minute complications which prevented him from going. He's an avid cyclist and adventurer and made sure a long time ago that Dwight and I would call him when we were going to the Grand Canyon so he could meet up with us. He drove 5 hours from Phoenix to meet up with us and brought us bike supplies, trail sodas and Arizona mementos.

We camped out that night at the North Rim of the Canyon. We bushwacked off trail, made a fire, a quick dinner and set up camp. In the morning, he treated Dwight and I to an all-you-can-eat booofet. We ate a huge breakfast and set out on the trail.

We hiked the North Kaibob Trail down to Roaring Springs (one of the side canyons), dodging mule crap the whole way down the narrow trail. Despite the crappy trail, we had a blast and decided that we had to come back another time to hike the whole canyon along the Colorado River.

Thanks Ry for hanging out, it was great to hang out and see a familiar face so far from home.
a view from the top of the North Kaibob Trail
"Roaring Springs"

You Can Always Count on a Gordon from Black Mesa.

Black Mesa Twin Cinemas

On a cold night on the Navajo Reservation we found ourselves in Kayenta, Arizona after riding just about 100 miles through the desert, from dawn till dusk. It was around 11pm when we arrived and we were exhausted, hungry and covered from head to toe in dirt and road debris. We grabbed something small to eat at the only gas station opened in town at that hour and I went off on my bike looking for a camping spot while Dwight watched our gear at the gas station. I rode around town scouting out spots to camp for the night. With absolutely no luck, for the first time this trip, I returned and shared the bad news with Dwight. Without any other options, we decided to set up camp in the local supermarket's front parking lot. As we were searching for a decent place to lay our heads, a movie theater employee walked out from the theater and asked us if everything was okay...I started talking with him for a bit and after understanding our story, he asked us if we wanted to sleep in the movie theater!

He invited us indoors and we immediately set up our bags and pads on the floor in the lobby of the theater with the comforting smell of popcorn saturating the air. It turned out that the movie theater employee was actually the owner and he lived in the theater, his name is Gordon.

Gordon invited us upstairs to the projection room and we were able to take a shower in the bathroom of the living quarters next to the projection room. We got all cleaned up and retired to the theater lobby for a great night's sleep.

In the morning, we were awoken to a breakfast which Gordon bought for us and had ready in the theater lobby. He introduced us to the laundry mat and the grocery store next door to his theater.

That night in Kayenta was truly looking bad. We had beaten ourselves to get to civilization and once we arrived, we found nothing which advanced our situation. We were beaten, battered and discouraged. Then we bumped into Gordon and everything changed. We were dry, clean, comfortable and safe because of his help. This was another example of the effect one individual can have on two others when he lends a helping hand. This is one of the dynamics of a trip like ours, which makes it so special. Thank-you Gordon.

Why must there be wild places?

Because the human, like any animal, requires solitude as well as companionship.

Marble Canyon

Vermillion Cliffs

Grand Canyon

Our constant companion on Kaibab Trail

Kaibab Plateau


Toward Angel's Landing

The Narrows
I admire this man's shorts
Obese squirrels all along the trail indicate that this rule has not been strictly followed.

Picking up a few days back: from the middle of nowhere we rode 86 miles to Marble Canyon. We made camp up on a flat rock (safe from ants!) near a Navajo Interpretation Center at the rim of the canyon, and between the two of us saw dozens of shooting stars before falling asleep. The next day we rode 42 miles to Jacob Lake (where, incidentally, there is no lake, only a pond, and even that is out of sight on private property) and met up with our friend Ryan Hayles, who gave us a lift down to the north rim of The Grand Canyon. We found a place to camp in the dark, and in the morning hiked down one of the side canyons to Roaring Springs, which Hayles noted would be more appropriately name Whispering Springs. Still nice, though, and freezing cold. On the way down Hayles introduced us to the prickly pear. Pleased to make your acquaintance. You are threatening, yet tasty. The hike was a little less than 10 miles round trip, with an elevation difference of 3,000 feet. The mule tours which we had to share the trail with all day kept things interesting. We said farewell to Hayles at Jacob Lake and rode 66 miles to Zion National Park. The following day we rode 10 miles to the other end of the park (we got a ride through a mile-long tunnel in an RV with a family from The Netherlands) and hiked up to Angel's Landing. Today, our second day in Zion, we hiked up Virgin River through what is known as The Narrows, and got our feet wet. We finished the day with a 35 mile ride to Washington (again!) where our new friend Dave picked us up and drove us the remaining 10 miles to St. George, where our other new friend, Denise, had a delicious meal waiting for us. Showers, laundry, soft beds. Oh, yes. It has been a little while since we've had such homely comforts! We've decided to take a day off, tomorrow, to recuperate from all this hiking and riding bicycles, before making our final push to the coast.