Tuesday, July 26, 2005

July 25th Asheville, NC 3,700 miles

"Yes I've gone to Carolina in my mind." I can't really believe it, but around noon yesterday in an unassuming little hollow in the smokies I did it.....I crosses in NC!!!! Leaving in the rain in Astoria nearly 8 weeks ago this day seemed a lifetime away. And in many ways it was a lifetime between there and here. So many memories, friends, mishaps and miles. For the few minutes I sat there under that sign all my aches and pains faded. I was home. It's a pleasure cruise from here, filled with family friends and food. But a lot has happened between where I last left you and today.
Since we last spoke, things have gone from hot to hotter. Whew! I think my weight was holding pretty steady for a while there, but the deep south weight loss plan has taken hold. As any of you who live on this side of the yard know temperatures have been breaking records for weeks now, and I have had the pleasure of experiencing it all first hand. My opinion..."yup, it's hot" For the first few days back in MO, and IL the heat was really getting me down. I could barely think, much less enjoy my daily spin. It was at this make or break point that I came to a conclusion. It's hot, it's gonna be hotter and nothing is going to change that. Rather than suffer through the heat I decided to revel in it. If I was going to sweat, then I was gonna see how much I could sweat. I wouldn't just survive the heat, I would push harder through it. All I needed was a little perspective. This trip is for a very special group of kids. Would they worry about the heat? I doubt it. The courage it takes to push on through a little heat is nothing compared to the courage that each of these kids and their families show on a daily basis. That's perspective. From that day on the heat hasn't been nearly as much a factor. I figured I had crossed the entire country and countless mountain ranges, and I'd be damned if a little heat was going to ruin this final leg. Hey at least I could go back to eating carbs right? No need to worry about ballooning up at this point.
I would have to say the greatest part about these last few hundred miles has been my return to the mountains. The Appalachians, a mountain range that many of you know is very close to my heart since my walk along the Appalachian trail in 2001. It's great to be back in the hills, and familiar terrain. It's also "interesting" to be back in the south. The roads I have been traveling have taken me through a part of this section of the country that most people will never see. "Interesting" places. Places where you're as likely to get bit by a stray dog as you are run over by a drunk on an ATV going the wrong way down your lane. Believe me I speak from experience. My favorite memory has to be a night I spent on the side of the road in Kentucky just east of the Cumberland Gap. I can't have gotten more than 2 hours sleep between the jeers and screeching tires of drunks headed back from Middlesboro. It's not often that two sherrifs stop at 3 in the morning to tell you you shouldn't be there, and advise that it would be safer to pedal in the dark than risk a run in with the locals. As with the rest of this trip, my luck held and I lived to see another sunrise. Probably the scariest night yet.
Despite a few hairy situations, the pedaling has been wonderful in this section. The mountains here are absolutely beautiful. It's a different kind of beauty than the west. Whereas the mountains in the west possess an almost overpowering beauty, it's not so here in the Appalachians. The beauty here is much more approachable and inviting. Tight valleys and beautiful clear streams running through groves of rhodedendron. Maybe I'm biased growing up here, but I would say that the Appalachians could rival any mountain range out west in their beauty. A great contrast anyway. It's great to be on familiar turf. And as always my luck has been impecable. In KY, a break down led to two wonderful nights with a friend of the family down in Bowling Green. Thanks D+A!! Unexpected delays have led to chance encounters with incredible people, and an unexpected reunion with a very dear old friend. I love ya miss Shana banana!!! The road continues to provide.
These last weeks have been filled with a lot of thinking as well. I realize except for 6 days back in early June I have spent nearly the entirety of this trip alone. To say I am filled with emotion would be more than just an understatement. So much has happened, so many beautiful experiences, defining moments, choices, and awakenings with no one to share them with other than my journal and the few readers of this site. For the most part these emotions have become internalized, where they have built and built to the point now where I am bursting. It's a good feeling though. This is why I came alone. This time has taken on a personal and special feel that no other time in my life could possibly rival. Good, bad, happy, or sad it's all been mine to work through and to incorporate. For the fiftieth time I'll say "it's hard to explain". I think it will take months and even years for me to put this all into context and to gleen all the knowledge and lessons this trip has provided. I've found what I came out here looking for and then some. While I'm sad that my days on the road are numbered I'm now ready to share these experiences. I can't wait to see my friends and family. Nothing will ever be quite the same after this trip. I say this in the best way possible. So many doors have opened to me, and as with any good trip I'll carry these mental pictures and memories until the day I die. These last few weeks will forever color my decisions and experiences in the future.
My main focus on these final days is to try and get as much as I can out of the time I have remaining and reach as many people as I can for the kids. I've been looking forward to this stretch through NC for weeks for that exact purpose. This is it, the final push to spread the word and hopefully do some good for a lot of deserving kids. I hope that I'll be able to use these emotions that I have collected cross country to excite people and get them involved. The planning has begun for a party for the kids after my finish and I can hardly wait. It's all been on paper so to speak up until this point, but the chance to meet these kids face to face gives me goosebumps. They're the reason I'm out here, and the reason you're here. So I'll say it one last time. There's power in numbers here. No matter what the donation, every bit counts. Tell a friend, and tell them to do the same. This is about so much more than a ride cross country. The ride itself was merely a vehicle to bring people together behind a common cause. This is about helping others and in doing so giving a part of ourselves. I know with the original site being shut down we've hit a bit of a set back. As far as I see it this is nothing though, this trip has been filled with challenges and this one is no worse than any other. Hopefully we'll get things back up to speed as soon as possible. If you're reading this entry you've found your way just fine. So please pass on the new info to everyone you can, and I'll look forward to seeing ya'll soon. A huge round of thanks to Gordo for all the work you've put in to keeping the site going under trying circumstances. You're friendship and creativity are amazing. A big thanks to Mom and Dad and all the folks at Brenner as well for keeping things rolling while I'm gone.


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