Mercy Riders

Pushing pedals, pushing hope


Emil McCauleyNavigation

For more pictures of the ride, click HERE to view them on flickr

mercyRIDERS - One Year Later

2014-07-29 13:36:29 emil

I’d would absolutely do a cross country ride again, but at a bit more leisurely pace.  And I probably need to win the lottery to be away from work for that amount of time again.   There is so much beauty in this country, both in landscape and people, that I’d like to take more time to immerse myself in it. And what advice would I give to those that want to do a similar feat; if you’re thinking of doing something epic, think outside the bucket and figure out how to help a worthy cause. Pray every morning. Don’t go into it to say “look what I did”, but “look what we did”.  With what you get in return, you’ll need another bucket.

Bill and Claire have reflected on parts of the ride recently, and pack an awesome punch into a couple sentences.  What a gift.  I share their feelings.  What a gift and honor it was for me to ride with them and Greg, Keith, Mark B,  and Jim, and be supported by Liz, Barb, and the huskies.  My joy alone that Michelle drove and our boys Mark and Matthew participated in and witnessed all the good in the country could speak volumes. In a short year I have already seen seeds bear fruit in recent decisions made by the boys.  A longtime friend of the family emailed a short note my mother after the ride. She ended with “Don (my father) would be pleased”.  That is one very humbling remark.  I have been changed by this event in ways that I can’t fully articulate.

We set out to help others, and I know we did.  Our financial goal was achieved and surpassed.  The blueprint for the ride wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t expected to be.  Frankly imperfection increased the amount of encounters with strangers, and time after time we ended up being on the receiving end of unconditional kindness and generosity.  It was major contributor to keeping our spirits up.

There are so many to thank, from mom and pop stores to campgrounds and hotels that gave us a break.  Farm stands that just gave us food knowing what we were doing.  Churches that gave us cupcakes and shelter.  Family and friends, and people we encountered on the ride who contributed out of their pockets. Our many sponsors who allowed for all this to happen and to those that simply followed along and prayed for the cause and our safety.  I’m sure there were some bruised and broken angels that watched over us, but that allowed us to break open the first aid kit for only one purpose; vitamin I (ibuprofen). THANK YOU.

Like the 42 days of the ride last year, this reflective exercise has come to an end quicker than I thought. I had a great time looking through the pictures that I hadn’t had a chance to go through during the ride. It brought back great memories. Riding for Mercy Housing was and is a perfect fit for me. It parallels my spiritual involvement with St Vincent de Paul and my professional journey as an architect.  It’s hard to imagine to have ridden for anyone else. Adventure is out there. Find yours.  And share it. Emil

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July 26, One Year Later

2014-07-27 14:30:11 emil


We woke to a simple breakfast at The Lutheran Church of Our Savior, who allowed us to stay an additional day to rest before going home.  Those of us that didn’t need to leave for home right away went to the beach and milled around Cape Henlopen State Park.

Cape Henlopen State Park

Cape Henlopen State Park



Pat with her family and friends.

Pat with her family and friends.

Special thanks to Pastor Schaeffer and staff, including Pat for her welcoming ways and awesome dinner.

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July 25, One Year Later

2014-07-25 22:34:22 emil

We aren’t allowed to bike across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, so we are dropped off in Chester, MD and start the days ride there. Jim and Greg got some extra miles in on an early morning ride.

In Georgetown, DE we ate at the Brick Hotel, a colonial looking building in the town square. We were seated at a long table with fancy dishes and place settings. I felt a little out of place because I didn’t have a monocle and a white wig. The food was great and the staff couldn’t be nicer.

As we ride in a paceline out of Georgetown via rt 404, we are filmed from a helicopter by Fox News, who was alerted of our ride by the brother of the gentleman we met at the Flight 93 memorial.

Within a few miles of the end of our day we rode along rt 1, then finally end at the boardwalk in Rehoboth Beach. We get off the bikes and walk them down to the Atlantic Ocean to do our front wheel in the water. There is a reporter from Fox News there and she interviews Greg, Jim, and Claire.

After the dip

After the dip

A deep sense of satisfaction washes over me as I look East over the water.

Matt vs the Atlantic

Matt vs the Atlantic

That would be a great ending to the day but we are granted yet another gift in the way of lodging. The Lutheran Church of Our Savior answered the call from Mark’s friend Jean who was tasked to find us a place to stay. The church allowed us who didn’t have to stay two nights! And they fed us, as well as the people they feed on a regular basis through the great outreach they normally do. I can barely think of a better scenario to end our journey.

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July 24, One Year Later

2014-07-24 21:45:52 emil

One of the reasons for riding to DC was to be in DC for a rally on the lawns of the Capitol Building. Bill spoke and made us all very proud to have done what we set out to do.

Rally for the Homeless

Rally for the Homeless

After the rally we went on a tour of the Capitol Building. Later in the evening we had barbeque and prepared for our very last day of riding, to Rehoboth Beach, DE. Late in the day on the eve or the last day of our ride across the country, we have just found out that we have a place to stay.

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July 23, One Year Later

2014-07-23 21:45:18 emil
[caption id="attachment_1515" align="alignleft" width="512"]Ready for DC Ready for DC[/caption] The roads are just a little wet from the storm the night before.  We make our way mostly south, and within a couple of hours are in Gathland State Park where we spend some time brushing up on the American Civil War. It's quiet. And green. We head south on Rt 17 over the Potomac into Virginia where the road turns into the Berlin Turnpike. We take a photo at the sign indicating we've arrived. First one we've encountered since .... the Mississippi. [caption id="attachment_1514" align="alignleft" width="348"]Virginia Virginia[/caption]
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July 22, One Year Later

2014-07-22 23:12:29 emil

The day starts off foggy and overcast. We break camp for what will be the last time we use our tents. The fog lifts but the overcast sticks around. The last time we were rained on was the day before we rode into Denver. Seemed like forever ago.

It’s hot, but there’s not much in the way of climbing. We can tell we’re getting closer to sea level. Rides of 100+ miles are left in the rear view mirror. Along the route today the mechanical bug bites again, this time with my handlebar shifter that controls the front derailleur. I’m stuck in the big chain ring. This would be unacceptable in mountainous riding, but is more of an annoyance.

There is a short rain delay. We seek shelter for about 20 minutes at a gas station.  Total strangers offer a place to stay just down the road.  While it’s tempting, it would lead to more miles for the next day, so we politely pass. We are beginning to head in a SE direction so we’re on different roads the whole day, starting in McConnellsburg. We’re off route 30 and on 16, then 416, then missed a turn to stay on 416, so a couple miles are added. I missed a sign that we’d passed into Maryland. I would have like to know… Anyway 416 turns in to Maryland 58 and we take that straight into Hagerstown, MD.

The decision is made to stay at a Days Inn mainly because of impending rain. And it rained hard all through dinner at the local Texas Road House. Good call. And this will be our last day in a hotel, and one last wash in the hotel laundry room

Jerseys washed and ready for DC

Jerseys washed and ready for DC


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July 21, One Year Later

2014-07-21 21:03:35 emil
We stayed on route 30 all day today.  The early stretch was literally on the highway, and not much fun.  Things settled down after about 20 miles, then a huge hill over 5 miles long. Hills here rival some of the relentless mountain regions through Colorado.  The entrance to the Flight 93 National Memorial is right off route 30, and we made a planned stop.  You have to wind your way through a paved road flanked by wild flowers.  The monument is simple but striking.  There are marble slabs stood up on end, each with a name of a passenger lost. On one slab in particular, a womans name was engraved, and next to it, very faint, it read "and unborn child".  Slabs are arranged in such a way that if you look down all of them, in the distance you see a stone, which is where the plane came to rest. [caption id="attachment_1502" align="alignleft" width="768"]Flight 93 National Memorial Flight 93 National Memorial[/caption]
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July 20, One Year Later

2014-07-20 23:55:14 emil

Long day today made longer by the fact we don’t have clear directions again.  Did I mentioned my frustration with that?  If not, I soon will.  Ask anyone within a mile radius of a little gas station on south side of the Monongahela River after I was asked if my phone call was important.  The acoustics are perfect there.  Better than a tile shower.

I always expect a big sign as you cros the state line.  Not so since we crossed the Mississippi.  Pennsylvania kinda crept up on us.  We knew we were close as the hills became more and more a challenge.   Late morning we cross the Ohio River.  Over the bridge is a power plant, and Jim decides to go for his camera.  His front wheel decides to go for the expansion joint in the road, and Jim’s bike becomes possessed; but Jim doesn’t fall and doesn’t run into the curb and into the river.  The more I looked at it the more I see he tempted fate.  Check this link out.

Jim vs the Bridge over the Ohio River.

The hills here are steep.  Very steep.  Sometimes you wonder if you’ll fall backwards steep.   Early afternoon we’re in Pittsburg.  I look at the map a year later and see that we’re only supposed to cross one river.  This day we seem to be crossing rivers at will, and there was a dead end that I’ll never forget.  Someone at Google needs to update a map.

About 5 miles from Greensburg, PA (our destination) we’re back on route 30.  No side roads to take.  It’s getting dark so we decide to live to ride another day and get picked up by the van.  It was great to have Matt back back with the pack this evening.  Camping with his cousins was over, and Michelle’s sister-in-law Jill brought him to us this evening.  He’ll be a big help going forward.

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July 19, One Year Later

2014-07-20 16:54:35 emil

On this day we ride through Wooster and Canton, OH. Along the way we happened upon the Shenandoah Bike Shop, run by an Amish family. We pass many buggies, the sign of simpler times.

Passing on your left!

We planned our end of day resting place better than most days, but as we arrive, we find our plans have fallen through. Directly across the street from where we were to stay is the Mount Zion Church. A few of its members are still around, and allow us to camp on their lawn. We’re a good distance from any dinner place, and we’re in need of supplies. Keith spots a sign for a golf course and the music minister of the church and he drives the 3 miles to it to see if we can shower there and maybe get something to eat. He comes back and they don’t have showers, but they will stay late for us and feed us all we can eat fish and chips! This trip just seems like it was arranged to show each of us how there are so many good people in the world.  It really keeps our spirits up.

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July 18, One Year Later

2014-07-19 13:22:16 emil

On this day we stay in Ohio, taking the historic Lincoln Highway for most of the hot and humid day. It parallels route 30, weaving north and south it, which means we’re not in heavy traffic. We enjoyed some tail winds again.

A Drive-in.  I haven't seen one   of these in a LONG time.

A Drive-in. Wouldn’t it be ironic to watch ‘CARS’ here.

I looked back at the original post for the day, and I mentioned the movie “Cars”, where little towns are bypassed by an expressway. This whole trip so far has been like the movie in a sense. Because we value our lives and aren’t allowed on the expressway anyway, we’re taking ‘back roads’ to get from point to point. Being on a bike, you can’t help but take time to look around and if we stop, we always seem to be greeted with genuine courtesy.

We finished the day at the Auburn Lake Park with 100+ miles ridden. In years past Greg and I would talk about the number of century rides we have done in a year, and 10-12 seemed to be a good year. Given that, this year is AWESOME.

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July 17, One Year Later

2014-07-17 20:37:40 emil
It was ridiculously hot and humid outside the hotel in Rochester IN at 7am. We got some limited relief in the form of a paved Nickel Plate Trail running south-east out of town until we get to county road W1000N. We cross Meridian St at some point and the road changes to county road E1000N. I'm actually better at remembering numbers than names. There's heavy traffic on the Jane Adams in Chicago? No clue where that is. Just west of Roann, IN we all needed water, and we see a woman in a driveway and ask for water. She doesn't live at the home but gets the owner, who gladly gives us ICE and water. Ice, yet another commodity we take for granted. [caption id="attachment_1108" align="alignleft" width="800"]Carol helped us out with water when there was none to be found. Carol helped us out with water when there was none to be found.[/caption]
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July 16, One Year Later

2014-07-16 15:08:00 emil
With a generous two day rest, we're on schedule and back on the road.  And it's hot and humid.  It was hot and humid coming out of Denver, but it was more of a gradual buildup.  Here, after enjoying some civilization and air conditioning, it' s a little bit of a shock. I am the holder of the map, a mostly made up route based on lines on a computer.  The satellite view is not quite there yet in terms of knowing if the route you picked is all pavement or if you're in gravel.  Today is all pavement, beginning at the point on the Old Plank Trail we ended a few days earlier.  I've navigated half of the route before on trips out to meet Michelle blueberry picking in Indiana. The scenery today is traditional midwest.  Corn and other crops.  But there are some gems, a few depicted here. [caption id="attachment_1104" align="alignleft" width="800"]No Caption Necessary No Caption Necessary[/caption]
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July 15, One Year Later

2014-07-15 16:17:05 emil
On this day, we drive up to Chicago and visit some of the Mercy Housing facilities that we're helping. The first stop is in Englewood, with 99 single‐room occupancy apartments and on‐site social services.  A few of the residents join us in a ride to Lake Michigan, talking about their stories along the way.  We ride up the lakeshore and cut over to Wabash to the South Loop Apartments, a 207 unit facility. A small reception is organized where we each talk about our experience on the ride thus far. Additionally, some residents are taking up a fitness challenge, and talk about their experiences. It was a great event to be part of.
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July 14, One Year Later

2014-07-14 15:10:35 emil
Sunday, a day of rest. Literally. A big reason I wanted to be home the day before was to be able to participate in the St Vincent de Paul food pantry, which is hosted every month at my parish, St. Anthony Catholic Church. I joined at the charter's inception 4 years prior, and it's gotten me out of the comfort/complacent zone and out into my microcosm of the world to help the poor. It very much has played the important role of me not riding across the country to say 'hey look what i did', but to involve others in a great cause and say "HEY, LOOK WHAT *WE'VE* DONE!" The community "WE". I am getting as much out of being part of SVdP as the people we help. People in need asking for help, now there are some strong people. Having to put your pride aside and ask for help can't be easy. As Bill observed during the ride, it's easy for us to cloak our perception of things on a situation, only to find it's not a good fit. SVdP has helped me in this area to focus on the person and their situation; to see Christ in them. I'm not there yet in every case, but like this ride, it's a journey, and I know God has patience with me.
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July 13, One Year Later

2014-07-13 10:20:16 emil
On this day we are scheduled to be home at the end of the day. Home for half of us anyway. Once again we are blessed with great weather, not too hot as I recall. Even though the miles are rattling off, early on we don't seem to be making good time. Soon though, we begin to see familiar monuments from long rides we had done in preparation for this ride. Now the miles seem to go quicker as the "theory of relativity" kicks in. We've been down this road before so naturally it goes quicker, like getting older - time seems to fly by faster. [caption id="attachment_1467" align="alignleft" width="640"]Claire, her father and sister Claire, her father and sister[/caption]
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July 12, One Year Later

2014-07-13 01:08:18 emil
Jose' made it back at 7am, in time for a departing picture. [caption id="attachment_1461" align="alignleft" width="854"]Thank you Jose' Thank you Jose'[/caption] We take 92 east, then north to Riverside Park, just before crossing of the Mississippi River. [caption id="attachment_1462" align="alignleft" width="779"]On the Iowa side of the Mississippi River On the Iowa side of the Mississippi River[/caption]
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July 11, One Year Later

2014-07-12 00:44:10 emil
On this morning we maybe spent more time than we should have at the local bakery next to the theatre on the square, but the goods were great, as was the coffee, and so were the local folks. The weather continues to cooperate as we try to go 128 miles. The rolling hills continue, as do the bad roads, that is until toward the end of the day, when new pavement granted new energy to tired legs. The route we are taking will actually be filled with riders doing the RAGBRAI bicycle ride across Iowa. It started a week after we went through the state. Good luck to them.
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July 10, One Year Later

2014-07-10 22:44:43 emil
It's good to pray in the morning. We always have during the ride. It clears the mind and focuses on the good things we are doing. We eat to get us going before we ride, then will stop and get a more substantial breakfast later, which we affectionately call 'second breakfast'. We cross into Iowa along rt 275, which has a pedestrian walk along one side. Not all bridges have this amenity, so we need to plan accordingly. [caption id="attachment_1453" align="alignleft" width="816"]At the Nebraska/Iowa Border over the Missouri River At the Nebraska/Iowa Border over the Missouri River[/caption]
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July 9, One Year Later

2014-07-09 21:55:16 emil
Last year I wrote I didn't remember much about this stretch. Looking at the route and reviewing some pictures, a few things come back. Claire had called ahead and secured a place to stay in Omaha NE, only 120 some odd miles away, saving us money on lodging yet again. Michelle and the boys often go out and hit some museums and saw the sights. On this day they visited a museum of small, old buildings. Mark and Matt enjoy the basic of small spaces. [caption id="attachment_1448" align="alignleft" width="464"]We're happy that pictures don't have audio We're happy that pictures don't have audio[/caption]
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July 8, One Year Later

2014-07-08 23:21:38 emil
It had rained overnight, but the gravel road out of camp was dry, as were the roads. Again, every 20 miles or so in the hot sun we would get to a town and take a short break. I had a slow leak in my tire, so in the shade of a huge grain silo next to the train tracks in the small town of Atlanta, NE, I changed my tire. The riders went over to some homes close by to get water, so I handed my water bottles to one of the guys to have them filled. Bill had a moment that he later shared at a church service. Many of these towns like Atlanta had seen better days. Many of the homes were run down looking, like you'd be embarrassed to have a visitor come to your house. But not so here. Not at all. These were proud people who have been through more than we can imagine, and in talking to them the environment you originally judged them by disappeared and you were just there with faith filled, good natured people. Powerful stuff. Thanks for sharing that Bill.
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July 7, One Year Later

2014-07-07 23:30:18 emil
I remember this day starting off well, then getting very hot and humid quickly. And the wind wasn't helping. As we rode it became abundantly clear that farming and the railroad were a closely knit pair, and the very small towns we road through, 15 - 20 miles apart separated by green and amber fields, depended on both heavily. So much so just about every town had a Railroad St. 20130707_174222 mod
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July 6, One Year Later

2014-07-06 19:09:30 emil
My brother’s Ed and Pat join us for the early part of the ride. It’s an honor to have them along. After a turn at 15 miles each, we stop at our vehicle and get some food. Ed has made a Men’s and Women’s sign and stuck them on a couple of bushes. Classic. [caption id="attachment_1429" align="alignleft" width="899"]No tinkling was done during the taking of this picture. No tinkling was done during the taking of this picture.[/caption]
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July 5, One Year Later

2014-07-05 15:19:44 emil
Technically we're a day behind.  We want to get to Chicago on Saturday the 13th, which will require 100+ mile days between Littleton and Chicago. Here's to hope'n! This day we have a couple of additions to the crew. In addition to Claire being back with us, Ivan and Echo, Barb's huskies, join us on the trip.  I've been to Barb's and have been introduced to them before.  They're great. [caption id="attachment_1419" align="alignleft" width="826"]Saying 'bye' to Mom Saying 'bye' to Mom[/caption] Traveling up through Littleton and Denver, we rode the bike path along the South Platte River.  It's a great ride with plenty to see and do (if you have the time) along the way.
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July 4, One Year Later

2014-07-04 15:06:50 emil

Bikes are being worked on today.  My brother-in-law Mike Cooper opens his Outback Steak House early for the riders, my family and friends, and Sr Lillian from Mercy Housing.  We fill half of the place.  Later we have a bar-b-que at his house.  And we get THE phone call.  Claire’s plans aren’t working out as she thought.  There is no question we join up again.  My sister Peggy offers her car and Bill drives the 4 hours round trip to bring her back.  For being just a couple days away, it’s a joyous reunion.20130704_115926mod

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July 3, One Year Later

2014-07-03 22:20:36 emil

I’m sure this wasn’t the first time anyone had the thought, but this was the last mountain we were to climb during the ride.  It was a weird feeling.  The terrain would change again.

This is the first day we part from the tried and true path of Adventure Cycling, and plot our own course.  This was due to the fact the AC doesn’t hit many large cities, keeping you safer.  We shall see how this really pans out today.  How hard can it be?

Turns out, especially in the mountains where you only have very limited options, it’s hard.  And dangerous if you aren’t on your game at all times.   Route 285 (now infamous) is one lane in each direction and not much of a shoulder as you begin our climb up Kenosha Pass.  I was out in front of our pace line, into the wind, getting ready to drop to the back of the pack to allow the flow of riders up to the front for their turn to pull.   I glance at the mirror and see I’m clear behind me, so I move slightly to the left to let the line behind me pass.  At the same time, a porsche (I think) decided not to consider us a vehicles, and used our lane to pass a long line of cars coming in the opposite direction we were riding.  I knocked Greg off the road getting out of the way.  Neither of us fell, but I was rattled to say the least.  We had to keep going, but did so with a good distance between ourselves, and we regrouped at the top of the pass.

At the summit we sat in a parking area adjacent the road, and had a bite to eat. Then, a dirt devil developed and rearranged a few loose items around us, including Jim’s helmet, which was lifted up in the air and thrown a good 50 feet to the road, where is was promptly run over by a car.  Fortunately, we had an extra helmet.

Over Kenosha Pass

Over Kenosha Pass

Barb, being from the greater Denver area, found a beaut of a road, where we could just coast for miles like floating down a stream.  At the bottom I recognized that we were within 10 miles of our destination in Littleton. I had new energy and thought I was holding back, but had to stop several times to allow the rest of the group to catch up.  Although I don’t live in Colorado, it was good to be ‘home’.

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July 2, One Year Later

2014-07-02 22:01:50 emil
The day began with prayer as usual, but we also were feeling a loss.  Claire, who’d joined us on our 4th day of riding, was parting ways midway through the day, back to going it alone on a more southerly route than we were taking.  She had become such a part of the pack, a stonger rider than many of us.  Ok, certainly more than me.  Before we departed, we officially made Claire a mercyRIDER by bestowing the smallest mercyRIDER jersey we had (which was still too big).  It was a fitting start to the day.
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July 1, One Year Later ... and 25 Years Later.

2014-07-01 13:32:08 emil

The group rode on rt 550 for the majority of the day, passing a WalMart (a true mark of civilization) for the first time in seeminly forever.  Bill picked up a new tent.  He was thankful.  We all were.  In Montrose we headed east on rt 50 and I begin to see familiar landmarks from Ride the Rockies tours done a couple years before.

One of the great things about Michelle is that she pushes me out of my comfort zone, and is supportive of some of those crazy zones I get into.  This ride is case and point, game, set, match … checkmate.  I’ll think of more.  On this date Michelle and I celebrated our 24th anniversary at a KOA camp last year just outside Gunnison, CO.  Tasty cupcakes shared with twisted arms as if they were wine glasses (mine containing ginger ale of course).  Years before when the idea was floated out there that my friends and I were contemplating this ride,  I had hoped she ( and our youngest Mark and Matt ) would go, because of her rugged individual attitude and the fact that adversity is rarely in her vocabulary.  She immediately said she wanted to drive the SAG vehicle, and added she’d do the group’s laundry.  Awkward silence.  “Dear, there’s not a competition for the position.  We need two vehicles and you’ll drive one.”  She almost had more energy than we did trying to come up with plans.

So fast forward to the present day July 1, 2014.  Our Silver Anniversary today.  I am blessed with a great, patient friend, and mother of 5 children that daily surprise me, and much of the time I have to say, “they didn’t get that from me!”  I know where they got it.  I am blessed.

For the record, the patch in by beard that I now sport is a faded blond, not silver.

Moments before she said yes.

Jan 29, 1988 I had all the confidence looking my best – just hours before she said “yes”.

Wedding Day

Wedding Day

Celebrating 24

Celebrating 24 years, July 1, 2013  Outside Gunnison, CO

25 Years.  Lord, grant us at least as many more.

25 Years. Lord, grant us at many more.  MATTHEW-focus!

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June 30, One Year Later

2014-06-30 12:34:44 emil

A few riders, me included, get an early start because there’s a mountain to climb and maybe not being the stallions of the group, this might even things out at the end of the day.  It didn’t really help.

For the first time in a while, we have some shade in the morning along route 145.  The climb begins and we experience some cold.  Where was this 2 days ago!  And fo the first time in over two weeks, it rains.   For an hour as we ride.  It’ll rain again for 10 minutes later in the day.

At Placerville we turn north/east on route 62 and end the day in Ridgeway, where a church allows us to camp on their porch. So many stars; the milky way is clearly visable. And a new experience for me, the Orvis Hot Springs. Being modest folk and traveling as a family, we steer clear of the clothing optional area, although I think Matthew might have taken a wrong turn and got a very quick education.

Evening in Ridgeway

Evening in Ridgeway

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June 29, One Year Later

2014-06-30 12:06:35 emil

There was little relief from the heat last night.  Sleep wasn’t easy to come by, and the shower consisted of a water bottle.  Utah seems like it goes on forever, but that’s because the roads snake north and south more than east to west.  Or west to east in our case.  Keith appears to be suffering from yesterday’s heat, not eating well but keeping pace.  On this day we finally break through to Colorado.  There’s actually amber waves of grain waiving at the welcome sign, as if the line delineating one state from another meant everything dry and orange goes with this state, and everything green goes with another state.  Our day ends in Delores, CO, home to Lizard Head Cyclery.  The owner stays open late to accept us in to inspect my broken drailer (yes I still am dealing with it), Keith’s shoes that have fallen apart because of the heat from the day before, and other rider’s needs.  We camp just outside town at the Delores River RV Park, again given a discount by the kind folks there.

At the state line between Utah and Colorado

At the state line between Utah and Colorado

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June 28, One Year Later

2014-06-29 19:40:12 emil
This day I take my time somewhat in the morning because the route along 24 goes through Capitol Reef National Park along route 24, and if you like riding past massive orange rock formations, this is your place. [caption id="attachment_926" align="alignleft" width="800"]Early morning ride through Capitol Reef National Park Early morning ride through Capitol Reef National Park[/caption]
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June 27, One Year Later

2014-06-29 18:09:37 emil

We blast out of Bryce Canyon with an early start, the beginning of a scheduled long ride ahead.  Early on we make great time, getting in almost 50 miles before 10am, and a stop in Estalante to refuel.  The staff a the Circle D were courteous but I think we overwhelmed them because it took a while to get the pancakes, which were great.

The days are getting hotter and hotter, and the scenery is changing consistanty, mostly in the tan to orange and red, with little green.  There are outcroppings that look like inspirations for massive temples.  I hope to return to this general area for some painting and sketching opportunities.

We end the day about 30 miles short of where the plans say we should be.  I’ll say it again; riding 140 miles here is not the same as back in Illinois.  Just say-n.  The end of the day has become one of the things am looking forward to.  While the route is staying true, where we plan on staying is not.  But instead of stress, we’re seeing it as opportunity, and today is no acception.  We’re in Torrey, UT and we’ve stopped at the Broken Spur Inn and Steakhouse.  Naturally we have steak.  They have one room.  But they also have a conference room.  For the price of one room, and our promise to be out of the conference room by 7am, we’re set with indoor camping.  Unbelievable.  Again.


Heading out of the canyon area

Heading out of the canyon area

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June 26, One Year Later

2014-06-29 14:49:32 emil

In addition to my second leg message of the trip, today we hiked several miles in the canyon on this day, getting up close to the orange stone. You could literally take pictures all day.

Internet access throughout the ride so far has been very sparse. Michelle’s phone can act as a hot-spot, but you need coverage to do that and it’s spotty at best. Even where there is access, it’s anything but high speed.  Again we’re reminded of those things we take for granted. Directions, which are pretty straight forward looking at them on the internet are another thing when you have to unfold the paper map, if you can find the last person that had it. But hey, we’re roughing it so no complaints. Just as long as there’s way. And ice. We put a premium on ice. It’s hard to take one of your water bottles and squirt some on your head to cool off as I ride. On a real hot day in Illinois months before I learned the hard way that it was necessary. It was a valuable lesson.

But back to the scenery….


Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon

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June 25, One Year Later

2014-06-29 14:33:28 emil

Mechanical issues creep in for a couple of riders, me included.  Just as we leave Cedar City to begin our travels east through the Rock Canyon, my front detailer cracks just as we hit the sign “not recommended for semi trucks”  which translates to “you have 5 hours of climbing ahead.”   I’m in a low gear for most of the day climbing so I’m not shifting much anyway.

The rest of the gang is way ahead of me, which allows me to look around a little more. Being in a family of 9 kids we as a family of modest means didn’t travel much, and much of what I see is for the first time.  It’s hard work, but it’s countered with awesome beauty and the humbling thought that I’m 50ish, lucky and healthy enough to ride, and I’m riding for people that would love nothing more than to have a stable living environment where they can be helped by Mercy Housing in mind, body and soul.

The climb begins with this warning.

The climb begins with this warning.

At the summit of the day, I almost pass up my first ever look at a canyon, Cedar Breaks. It’s 150 feet off the main road. Michelle and the boys arrive in the van about at the same time, and we take a family photo with the canyon in the background.

The day ends in Bryce Canyon, a fantastic orange hole in the ground. We’ll stay here to rest (and hike) tomorrow.

Entry to several canyon campsites

Entry to several canyon campsites

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June 24, One Year Later

2014-06-25 01:08:59 emil

A year ago this day the Blackhawks won the Cup.  We watched the end of the game in a pizza place in Enoch, UT.

We were suppose to go another 12 miles or so, but it was getting late.  Michelle was off trying to find a campground.  We’d gotten a bit of a late start, mainly because a group of us rode in the night before under the lights of one of the SAG vehicles.  Greg and Keith go off to a business adjacent our route, and they were directed to a former Mormon bishops home, that of  Vern and Janice.  They are empty nesters and have a lot of room, and offer us to stay indoors at their place.  More great luck.

During the ride, on the long straight road where you seem to be able to see forever, this time we see something along the road on the left side.  Of course it takes forever to get to it, and it ends up being a old abandoned house with a pen of some sort and a big tree in the front.  We’re tired so we stop and rest a little.  There’s cow manure and beer bottles all over the place too.  And we don’t know where Jim is.  Keith concludes drunk cows buried Jim under the house.  I laughed so hard I cried.


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June 23, One Year Later

2014-06-24 21:20:52 emil

No toilets outside Major’s Station, but the owner gets up early and opens up the place, allows nature to call, makes some coffee and sees us on our way.  Michelle and Barb, true to form as on most all mornings, make breakfast.  It’s always good, almost non-deservedly so.  Whatever the preconceived notion was, there are times it just seems it should be more rugged.  Careful what I wish for. I look off to the right, and having kids, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast comes to mind, specifically Gaston, as he sings “I use antlers in all of my de-cor-a-ting…”  The entry to this ranch would certainly impress him. 100_3526 The road changes texture at the Utah line.  The first sign of commercial life lies an hour ride inside the state, at Baker. Not much there, and for the first time, not a receptive bunch of people.  I’m hungry, but knowing our SAG is close behind I don’t get anything substantial. It ends up it’s another 26 miles before we eat.  It could have been much shorter, but someone who ate made the decision to push it further out.  It’s too long for me. Not physically, but mentally.  I’m pissed off but I don’t say anything.  No one else does, so it’s probably just me.  Toward the end of the 26 miles stretch, but still a few miles from being in sight of the SAG vehicle,  I’m huffing it at the back of the pack.  All the sudden I get this song in my head; Dire Straits “On Every Street“, and it’s loud and crystal clear and as if I’ve got headphones on. Good headphones.  At the instrumental back half of the song, I blast off, screaming by everyone and I just keep going and going until I get to the SAG vehicle.  Yes I wiped myself out, but it felt better than aimlessly yelling at someone for my own lack of communication and being embarrassed about it later.  I recouped and regrouped, and felt better for the remainder of the day.

long road ahead. a cloud cuts through the view

long road ahead. a cloud cuts through the view

On this day we also meet Jonah in the middle of nowhere, who was walking from the east to west coast, relying on others for donations and kindness along the way.  His adventure is called dudetrek, and he looked it.  In 2014 he’s going to walk from the Pacific Crest Trail.  Ah to be 20 again.



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June 22, One Year Later

2014-06-23 23:53:37 emil

The last few days were sub-100 miles days.  Today we’re going for 110+ or so.  Over 5 passes.

Back in Illinois, and in Wisconsin, planning for and doing a century ride is pretty straight forward.  We aren’t far from civilization and it’s relatively flat.  I’m guessing it’s not a template that can be applied throughout the ride, but here we go…

We’re going to end up this evening at Major’s Station.  About 2/3’s of the way through the day’s ride, we go through Ely and treat ourselves to a rootbeer float and a cool dip of the our feet in a stream in a nearby park.  I’d like to come back here as there’s an old train system in place.  Michelle and the boys might return the next day.  Just before getting to our final destination, we get another treat; a long downhill.

Major’s Station is a bar with a gravel lot around it, some of it dedicated to vehicle campers.  It has a shower that costs a couple bucks each.  Outside there’s an adjoining fenced in pen area (with antler ‘barbed wire’) with goats.  We’re allowed to roll out sleeping bags on the back patio.  For whatever reason the bugs aren’t bad.  We’ve had no rain.  It hasn’t been oppressive hot.  We’re lucky and we know it, and pray each morning it continues.

at Major's Station

at Major’s Station

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June 21, One Year Later

2014-06-23 23:33:30 emil

This day was another one on route 50 all day, and lots of desert again. We’ve been riding for about a week and I am finally in a decent groove. I haven’t felt sick or had headaches, so the camelback must be doing it’s thing.  When you’re tired the last thing you want to do is hit the rumble strip.

check out the road in the distance vs the landscape at the shoulder

check out the road in the distance vs the landscape at the shoulder

I haven’t spent any time in this part of the country. I’ve been to the west coast a couple of times on business, and a few trips for weddings, but nothing that immerses oneself in the land like biking does. You really see and feel it. It’s immense and awe inspiring

I keep wondering how someone can ride by themselves in a place like this. Even something as mundane as a flat tire would become an ordeal. If everything isn’t going well, I could see doubt riding with you like your shadow. It’s hot and there’s no shade so doubt’s always there. Keep your head up as dad would say, that way you aren’t looking at your shadow. Or something like that.

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June 20, One Year Later

2014-06-20 23:43:10 emil

We had ridden 100 + miles the day before. Getting up on this particular morning was slow going for the riders. We took some pictures at the iconic bullet ridden car, and we took out leave around 9:30am, late by our standards, and plays into a shortened day.

20130620_092438 red middlegate morn

Now 7 Mercy Riders. The two in red are riding a similar route.

Prayer Ring

Prayer Ring

Usually the first day or two having a new rider in any group requires some adjustments. Claire posed none. She rides like a pro, and fits right in, down to the witty banter. We broke up the monotony of riding the straight parts of Route 50 (coined the loneliest road) buy naming our favorite movie, saying, moment, etc. You cant do that and fill 3640 miles, but it was different, and gave each other a little glimpse into each other personality. At one point we saw fighter planes in the distance dropping something and huge plumes of smoke coming up from the ground, seemingly in slow motion. Kind of like our riding at that point of the day. We are pretty tired as we reach Austin, NV. It is the first sign of life since we left Middlegate. Cheap places are full. but the Austin Baptist Church allows us to sleep in the corridor of their church. So far, we’ve found showers at every place we’ve stopped for the day. Key amenity.

Narrow Sleeping

Narrow Sleeping

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June 19, One Year Later

2014-06-19 23:45:37 emil

This is the day we left Kate at Lake Tahoe, refreshed. I was warned that after we went through Carson City, some 10 or so miles away, you won’t see shade for another 400 miles. This was not far from the truth.

We’re using maps from Adventure Cycling for guidance through the day before we get into Denver. The routes shy away from big cities, except on the coasts. They are tried and true routes and indicate what you can expect in places, and show the mileage between them. They fold into rider friendly packets. Given the fact that we are on a route that has bikes on it, I had a preconceived notion that in the upcoming towns there would be some resentment towards bikes as they come in and ask for water and ice and to use their bathrooms. I was pleasantly surprised that thus far, it wasn’t the case.

Cities give way to towns, and towns are getting smaller and smaller. And further apart. This is the first time I’ve ridden in any desert.  We’re on the Lincoln Highway; route 50. It plays on the mind. There’s something in the distance, and while our route to whatever is on the horizen is pretty flat, you can’t gage whether you’re making any progress. Immediately to the right and left are sagebrush, sand and some dirt. For miles. This kind of riding would be hard to do by yourself, yet later today we’ll finally meet a couple riders, including the woman that’ll bike with us, who were doing the trip on their own. No support van and car like us. Hey, that something in the distance is the van! Time to refuel.

Van in the Nevada Desert

Van in the Nevada Desert

Our destination today is a dot on a map. As you zoom in closer on the computer, it’s still a dot. Middlegate is a bar, with camping and some rooms for rent behind it. The toilet, and there’s only one, is an outhouse that includes a shower. But the big news is Claire Reinbold, the 30 something year old woman ‘stalking’ us on the internet. A friend dropped her off here at the camp. Frankly if someone dropped me off here I wouldn’t call them a friend. Literally the middle of nowhere.

Michelle got to the campsite first.  This is the first time we setup the tent.  I say we but Mark and Matt set it up.  They met Claire before the bikes rolled in. Claire is a school teacher riding for a cause she’s taken up, the World Pediatric Fund that helps kids get medical help they need. We meet two other riders that are raising money as well. We’re impressed that she’d go it alone. She has a great sense of humor, and very easy to talk with. Her route pairs with ours until Gunnison, CO.

First Meeting with Claire

First Meeting with Claire

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June 18, One Year Later

2014-06-18 23:46:44 emil

Our first rest day, one I didn’t realize I needed. Badly. My legs are sore but gaining a little definition. Mark B taps my leg and I yelp. I am in need of a message. Never had one before. It hurt, but afterwards and for days after, I felt pretty good.

An email rolls in from the website. It’s the woman our support team had met. She picked up the card from the ranger the day before and stated she was ‘stalking’ us via the website. She asked if she could tag along and we said certainly. We will meet here tomorrow at the end of the day, in a town called Middlegate, NV.

Kate, our host, has been wonderful to talk to. The house has been in the family since it was built many years ago. A month before our arrival she’d lost her husband, which again just adds a deeper level of awe at what great people there are in the world. Here we are lucky to rest in such a wonderful place, and she said on more than one occasion that it was such a blessing we came. God works in mysterious ways.

The gang's all here on Kate's back patio.

The gang’s all here on Kate’s back patio.

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June 17, One Year Later

2014-06-17 23:35:09 emil

Last night we slept under the stars on the restaurant’s deck.  After dinner the constant background noise coming from the ‘back yard’ of the place stopped.  It was the generator. All of the lighting and other electrical needs, including water pumps, were powered by it.  Flush the toilet once and the tank doesn’t refill.  It’s evident that the comforts of home are a gift, and out here those gifts are guarded.

The morning crowd dynamics is prevalent.  At home I can get up, brush teeth, shower, eat and be out the door in less than a half hour.   It takes a while for the gang to get moving.  Rolling up the sleeping bag takes an extra 5 minutes.   We still haven’t used the tents.  There are some things we’d like to change in the van, but we’re managing.  Today there is more climbing up to Carson Pass, with lakes and snow capped mountains in the background.  I’m beginning to forget the day of the week.  NICE!

101_3426 At the top of the pass there is a ranger station, which in my limited experience is rare.  It’s usually a sign and a widened shoulder.  The van is behind us at this point.  On their way up the pass they encounter a woman riding by herself, carrying her gear in a pull along trailer and ask how she’s doing and if she needed anything.  At the top of the pass, Michelle left one of our cards with the ranger, and asked them to give it to the woman when they saw her.  We’ll soon find out this exchange happened.

At the top of Carson Pass

At the top of Carson Pass

On the backside of the pass we get a taste of a nice long downhill, cut a little short by a left hand turn we needed to make.  We’re going to Lake Tahoe, several miles short of our anticipated Carson City stop.  A friend’s mother (Kate) lives there and we were offered the opportunity to stay ON THE LAKE.  I of course keep this detail to myself.  There’s another climb we need to make before the get to our destination. With less than 10 miles to go, at a stoplight, we realize we’re about to leave California and enter Nevada.  We ask a stranger to take our picture.  He asks what we’re doing, we tell him, and he donates to the cause.

We roll to the house and the gang is floored by the beauty.  Michelle, Barb and the boys are already there, and enjoying the sand and water in the back yard.  We introduce ourselves to Kate. I run into the water as Greg dips his to in.  The water is freezing, but feels great. The rest of the guys find some comfort on the wonderful patio overlooking the lake.

The back of Kate’s home

Kate offers to take us all out to a local restaurant close enough to walk to.  On the walk over, she says we look like we need to stay an extra day.  WHAT? “Absolutely” probably came out of my mouth too quickly, but wow, what a gracious offer.  It’s not our scheduled day off, but all things considered, we needed it.


Dinner with Kate

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June 16, One Year Later

2014-06-17 00:15:55 emil

It was Father’s Day. My day began with texts of well wishes from the older 3 kids and a cool bike made out of wire Mark and Matthew picked up from a street artist in San Francisco. I am grateful to have Michelle and the boys with me. I had hoped early on in the planning stages when Michelle cheerfully agreed to SAG for the team, that we could include the boys. I knew it would have a huge impact on them … maybe not right away, but as I’ve seen over the last year, events of the ride have impacted them in surprising ways. And I can’t help but think about my dad too, who passed on to a better place 7 years ago. What would he have thought about all of this?

Father's Day

Father’s Day

Scott McKinney (in red/black), a biking friend of our host, rode with us out of Sacramento using the bike trails assets the city has. We saved a whole lot of time not having to refer to maps for the twists and turns every couple miles. Lots and lots of climbing on this day. Along the way though we posed outside Folsom Prison, had pie in Placerville. Personally my legs are getting tight, and I’m bringing up the rear. Or at least I would had it not been for Mark B, who will get the ‘no rider left behind’ award in my book.


The last 10 miles of the day were a killer for me, and I wonder how the rest of the ride is going to go if on day 3 I’m sucking wind so bad. The scenery was awesome though, 100ft pines lining a two lane road through a national forest.   We called ahead to Cook’s Station and talk to Jack and Connie, purveyors of Station. They were going to close a couple hours before we were going to get there, but they kept the place open late just for us, and we had some excellent fish and chips. They allowed us to camp on their party deck. So many stars. And the first serious leg cramp.

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June 15, One Year Later

2014-06-15 21:18:36 emil
Diane and Nicholas made us breakfast, and we were driven back to where we left off the day before. Aside from the night in the hotel after flying in to San Francisco, we haven't spent much money on food or lodging. The same can be said for the end of our journey today. During the day we're still working out logistics between figuring out where to stage rest stops and where we'll be staying any given evening. From time to time, we got some royal treatment at rest stops, where Mark and Matt, riding in the van, would run up and ask if water bottles needed to be filled. Chairs were put out. It was awesome. [caption id="attachment_1349" align="alignleft" width="620"]not your typical rest stop not your typical rest stop[/caption]
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June 14, One Year Later

2014-06-14 20:48:54 emil
[caption id="attachment_1342" align="alignleft" width="620"]weAREoff and we're off![/caption] The riders decided that our first scripted day (June 15) was too long (a planned 124 mile ride), so we opt to get started the morning of the 14th, the day of the 30th Anniversary Gala for Mercy Housing.
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June 13, One Year Later

2014-06-13 23:13:17 emil
I’ve worked hard to get everything finished at the office prior to the departure.  Still, I feel funny not going in for at least a couple of hours.  I get over the pretty quick.  Mark B and I fly to San Francisco to meet the rest of the gang.  Seven days prior, Michelle and the boys flew to Denver to visit family, then pick up Barb’s car and drove to California to see some sights along the way that we won’t be seeing during the bike ride.  Five days after that Greg and Jim and Tim Murphy (friend of the team) drive the van with the bikes and gear from Frankfort out to San Francisco via Denver, picking up Barb and dropping off Kevin.
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