Saturday, July 5, 2014

Location: - Still Charleston SC Miles = 0, Ave MPH = 0, Cum. Miles = 0, Cum. Ave MPH =

So for those of you who aren't familiar with Charleston we are pretty proud of our Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge which opened in 2005. Thankfully during the design phase, although rather late in the design phase, some local folks became strong and effective advocates for a 12 foot wide addition to the southern side of the bridge which allows for walkers, runners, and cyclists to safely "enjoy" exercise. 

This lane is named Wonder's Way in memory of US Ensign Garrett Wonders who was killed in a bicycle/car accident as he was in training for the 2004 Olympics. From a most tragic incident, the Charleston/Mt. Pleasant area has gained a tremendous asset as it fills both a need for exercise for the locals, and serves as an excellent place for tourists to gain an extraordinary vista of Charleston and surrounding areas. This bridge is just simply a beautiful bridge and while you can't miss seeing it when you visit Charleston you must take the effort/time ride over it as well.

The Ravenel Bridge - with the Yorktown Aircraft Carrier on left side of the photo.

From a different perspective.

The bridge also serves as the place where local Low Country athletes go to do "hill work". The photos above may not give the true perspective but this bridge can give you a workout. This is especially true of the ascent out of Mt Pleasant which is steeper but additionally often comes with a nice stiff westerly wind in the face. Frequently the wind will gust and some of us cyclists just find ourselves standing up and "mashing" our way to the top. While prepping for the upcoming climbs over the Cascades and Rockies I have gotten some hill work in due to several recent visits to Virginia and Western New York but it was good for me to do some reps on the bridge Monday evening which amounted to almost 36 miles.

Here are some views from the top of the bridge.

I got another 36 miles in on the Ravenel Bridge 2 days ago - that's 13 ascents which I hope I will reflect on fondly when I face the Cascades. 

While I have been up on the bridge I have been handing out my "business card". People have been very receptive to what I am trying to do regarding

My "Business Card"

This is me working the crowd for support at the Awendaw Greens Barn Jam. If you never been you don't know what you're missing. 4 Bands or individual artists for $5 donation. Every Weds night, BYOB and BYOF, wood fired pizza available, organic vegetables, family friendly, runs from 7ish to 10pm. Eddie White, my dentist and organizer of the Barn Jam introducing me:

In an earlier blog I mentioned that I had placed an ad at the Adventure Cycle website for a companion to make the ride with me. Well I looks like I will have a cohort. Sandrin from Toronto answered my ad. We emailed back and forth several times and it looked by all indications that Sandrin was serious about making the trek and would be a good partner as he seemed to know what he was doing regarding touring, having done several long tours before. It just happened that on June 14th our daughter, McKenna and her husband Justin were married in the Finger Lakes region of NY so I emailed Sandrin to suggest that we meet in Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario on June 15th. We would go for a ride through the wine country and have dinner to get better acquainted. Sandrin agreed.

All the while I've been thinking..."Ahh Sandrin this must be a guy of Indian descent.As I reached our rendezvous point I'm looking around for Sandrin but there is no there is no Indian male waiting for me, however there is a French woman whose name is Sandrine. So you see I missed the "e"on the end of Sandrine and also never even considered that it would be a woman wanting to make this 4000 mile trip with me. It never even crossed my mind. Chauvinist??.... I hope not. Note to Neil: "Expand your horizon son."

As it turns out Sandrine immigrated to Canada as a child and speaks perfect Canadian :-) :-) and that should be good so that nothing should get lost in translation as I grew up near Niagara Falls and listen ed to radio from Toronto frequently and therefore speak fluent Canadian. 

After we exchanged a few laughs over my confusion regarding gender and after she tried to teach me the French pronunciation of her name (in which I mostly spit on her as my English trained mouth struggled with the French name) we went on a bike ride through the Vineyards of Niagara-on-the-Lake. I knew Sandrine was an experienced rider as she had taken several tours in the past including one in Europe. These were not as long as the TransAmerica but she definitely had experience. (I by the way have had zero experience with overnight touring. Isn't that interesting?) As it turned out not only was Sandrine experienced, but she was a very strong rider as well and that was one thing I was looking for. I didn't want to get held up with someone who didn't have the training and resulting stamina to make the journey at a reasonable pace. Sandrine is so strong in fact that I'm bringing  a rope along so she can pull me up some of those long mountain passes.

So here are two photos of Sandrine:

Perhaps you would ask the question, if you're not traveling with the group and traveling fully supported why would you want to travel with anyone at all? Doesn't that complicate things? Without much benefit? Doesn't considering the wants and needs of even one other person have to many drawbacks? After all you're going to be almost married to this person for 2 to 2 1/2 months correct? Another point people make is ..... Doesn't traveling with another person prevent you from getting into that space that so many cross-country cyclists say they have gotten into where they can truly examine the path forward in their life?

So I guess I need to say that my reasons for taking this trip are, one to support the cause that I believe in, i.e.helping Vets that are suffering from PTSD, to go on a great adventure to learn more about my country, to explore where I may wish to live and work in the future, to see amazing things at a speed and a depth that I could never accomplish with the car, and to meet great and interesting people. I think Sandrine will help with all of these things but especially the last one. She is extremely outgoing and gregarious and in my short time of interacting with her there is no doubt my mind she'll be able to draw people into our circle as we go and make many new friends.

There are also practical and safety reasons for traveling non-solo. The idea of going on this journey without one other person to watch my back was not too appetizing. It's nice to know someone will be there to make arrangements and phone calls if there's any kind of illness etc. It is even in the more simple and practical things - let's say I pull up at a store and need to go in and get....... well something..... who's going to watch my bike and my stuff while I'm in the store? Can you imagine being halfway across the country coming out with the bike gone and in fact everything, with the exception of maybe your wallet and what you just bought, gone as well.?

And as far as that "path forward stuff", I'm thinking there will be plenty of time as the road stretches out before us to contemplate all of that.

Hint: OK remembering that I don't know squat about blogging, I'd like to offer you a hint. If you are enjoying the blog as we go, you can become this thing called a "follower". I know that you display tremendous leadership capabilities daily, but what I hear is that in this case by being a "follower" you can get some sort of notification when I update the blog and won't need to check it manually ever again. At least this is what my Samsung Rescue Angel tells me.

Last night some very friendly and supportive cyclists down at the Ravenel Bridge tried to tell me how to link all of this into Facebook. It became very confusing but he promised to get his friend to provide me a tutorial. And as you know when it comes to raising money for a charity it is ....... all in the numbers. So if you would, please use your social media resources to share the blog address with those who will enjoy the journey with us, and perhaps take the opportunity to donate (these can be mutually exclusive but ultimately I hope not).

The Usual Disclaimer: 
And finally please remember the cause -  I will go into this in more detail and perhaps some level of haranguing later on, but for now here is the link .... and an additional link for donation   SoldiersBestFriend - Donate Please :):)  As you donate please enter my name in the appropriate spot so the folks at SBF can tally the results to encourage me and let me know WE are getting something done TOGETHER. Oh and I would be a lot more comfortable if you use the "honorarium" option vs the "memoriam" option - you'll understand when you click on the link:):).     I will be inserting this call to action in all of my blogs so I hope you don't mind.


  1. Uncle Neil,

    What a cool adventure! I have to say the gypsy in me is slightly jealous of your trek. I would love to do something like this just minus all the bike riding and in the comfort of a large RV with a flat screen TV and A/C ;) But, seriously, congrats on taking on such a cool and major undertaking. Thanks for supports Veterans with PTSD. We work with folks firsthand that unfortunately have experience this. I will post your cause and info on our Offroad Trackchair Facebook page and hope that helps get attention for your cause. Can't wait to keep reading as you go along!

  2. This is excellent! Cracked up A LOT reading this post! Must be that twisted sense of humor!:)