Thursday, May 29, 2008

Let my eyes see the grace...

The ride in to St Augustine on Sunday May 25th was perfect! It was sunny and warm -- it felt welcoming--and I could smell the sea. I was so happy -so sad -- I was thinking how proud I felt --and I was thinking I never thought this would be a gift I would ever have to give to one of my children. In the end I believe that it was all as it was supposed to be....every part...I was surrounded by loving friends, and they helped me with Ty's ashes--and helped me celebrate later. We had a wonderful dinner that night -and drinks -and so much laughter. All the gang was at the table in our best baggy mis-matched wrinkled clothing that somehow made it across the country! There were awards, poems, toasts, a great meal-- and everyone was in high spirits!

The goodbyes the next day were tough --though some of us will ride again together. My sister Joan drove up from Port St Lucie to pick me up ,and when she got out of the car she had a Curves t-shirt on that said "Dee Across America" -- I was so happy to see her, and she was able to meet Shirl, Nick, and Mattie. Thanks for waiting with me there guys --

I had a great time with Joan the next day --she took me to get an outfit (that fit) to wear home and we dropped off my bike to be shipped from a bike shop in Florida to a Pgh shop. Mostly we laid in the sun-- and floated in the water and talked and talked. At one point I fell asleep --which seemed crazy because at moments I felt restless --like I should be riding....or something.

Rob, Kali and Jamie came to pick me up at the airport and it was wonderful...I saw them first... so I had that split second to watch them --and let my eyes see the Grace.

For all of your love and support and prayers ...and your believing that I could do it...I thank you. And to my fellow riders --you are the best! Much love, Dee

Saturday, May 24, 2008

A Different Ending Than We'd Planned

Hi folks,
As most of you know, Kali, Jamie and I had planned to leave today to meet up with Dee in St. Augustine as she dipped her front wheel in the Atlantic Ocean and concluded her ocean to ocean bike journey on May 25th.

Sadly, my sister Jane-Ellen has been in UPMC Presby the past 2 weeks. She initially had a brain seizure and abdominal pains. Her diagnosis was systemic vasculitis which is an auto-immune disease that affects blood vessels throughout the body. The seizures were controlled quickly but on Thursday she needed to have half her small intestine removed. She is recovering in the ICU unit and doing ok.. I believe she will get better but it may take a while. As a result, I have needed to stay in Pittsburgh and we will not be able to be there at the end of Dee's ride. Clearly, at times, life can frustrate the best laid plans.

For the folks who have been willing to make heroic efforts to be there in our place and offered to help Dee find her way home to Pittsburgh (Laura, Donna Lee, and others) our heartfelt thanks for your generosity and kindness.

I spoke with Dee this morning and she understands that we will be with her at the end in spirit if not in person. I'm sure the end of her journey will be bittersweet with difficult goodbyes to dear friends who were unknown to her a little more than two months ago...such is life on the road.

Dee will be flying home on Wednesday. It will be good to have her with us again. I'm hoping she will be able to make the final post on the blog in the next few days. For those of you who have been readers and commenters on the Blog, thank you.

Best Regards,

Friday, May 16, 2008

Recent Photos

Here are some pics taken by Herb Lee during the past 2weeks.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Learn to be Still

Hi All-- this morning -the morning after my birthday I was listening to an old Eagles song "Learn to be Still" and I thought about how that is still something I am learning to do.....I love the motion -the rhythm- the heartbeating- the anticipation- ....I suppose that is just part of how I am ...
Yesterday was an amazing day -- it was a 75 mile day, which included a 10 mile bridge over the gulf in Alabama (actually we had only crossed in to Alabama earlier that day). On the highest part of the bridge we were riding as high as the Pelicans were flying ---boats beneath us --sun shining -it was glorious. We also had a ferry ride and then the last 21 miles brought us along a stip of land with water on both sides of me. I am a distracted rider when I am near water....and my riding partners think my day dreaming gets out of hand at moments....but I made it to our motel and we went out for a great seafood meal where the whole gang made me feel so great to turn 53! Today is our rest day and I am on my way to the beach when I leave this off I go...thinking of you all...thanks for all the birthday well wishes!! love, Dee

Monday, May 12, 2008

Louisiana to Mississippi...

Hi All, I am so excited to be writing you. I am at a library in Vancleave, Mississippi and Sheryl, Doug ,Nick and I rode steady to get here in time to hopefully make it to the library! We have only about 20 more miles today to go. Today is hot and sunny and so beautiful --I love being outside so much (that would be almost every minute of every day). I can not believe how far we have come -- and I am so proud of each of us! I continue to struggle somewhat with the trip actually ending. It wasn't an aspect of this whole adventure that I ever prepared for..... of course I can't wait to see everyone, but where do I go from here. There is a part of the ever "restless" me that is well suited to "being on the road" -- I left that life style to go to school and have a family -- and here I am again feeling so comfortable with it all I could just ride on. One friend told me to remember to stop at the end of the trip. I thought this was the oddest of comments at the time (was that you Linda Oldani!!)and now I think it was just someone who knows me well ... and knows that I could easily "ride to the beat of a different drummer".

I spoke to Rob, Kali, and Jamie last night---and yes I was teary --- the day had been one of those incredible days -the ride was through forests ,with thousands of wildflowers beside the road and some tiny towns with only a gas station or small store. At the end of the day I was riding with Doug and Andy and I made them listen to stories about Ty and Jamie and kali and half pipes being built and some of Ty's friends and Alicia and my sisters...they were the most patient of friends...and 2 of the sweetest guys you could meet. I talked till I couldn't -- and then we just rode. I am so proud of Kali and Jamie and the people they are and the person that Ty was. Mothers Day will forever be bittersweet for me I think -- but I get so much love and support from them -- i guess I Love that they sometime's parent me. When I talked to Kali about riding on a trip 2 weeks or so after this one (to Alaska) she simply said "Come home Mom --we need you at home." That's all I really needed to hear I guess.....and thankyou Rob for putting in to words what I tried to convey over the phone -- as always,I love you with my whole heart!

Tomorrow we head south to the Gulf, and I am really excited. I will be 53 tomorrow and riding toward the water seems like a great way to celebrate! Tomorrow is a 78 mile day and I guess we will cross at some point into Alabama. Sounds like a long hot day --but I am excited --and the next day is a "rest day". Some folks will be heading to New Orleans (renting a car), but I will be really resting --on the beach and in the water I hope! After my birthday, there are 2 weeks left of this adventure. Herb has been busy snapping pictures of all of us -- he has an uncanny ability to really see the picture. Frank and Eileen also have a blog of this journey and it is great fun to follow the trip through their eyes. I have missed being able to write in the last couple weeks, but know that I am well and in high spirits, and anxious to see everyone soon! No one need spend money, time or energy to see me at the end of the trip --I promise I will catch up with all of you --and share stories of life on the road on a bike until you are weary of them! I put some of Ty's ashes in the Pacific the day this journey began and I have carried some across the US for the Atlantic. It will be an emotional time for me. I am already thinking of where I can ride this summer --maybe I can start up in the Ottowa Valley when we take Jamie up for kayaking school at Wilderness Tours! That reminds me one of the riders (Aeda, from the Hague) will be riding on from St Augustine up to the Ottowa to visit with his son who lives there! See what I mean.....these bikers are crazy!! Anyway, love to all --be well and I will see you soon! Dee

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mississippi Mother's Day

Hi folks:
Dee has continued to be without internet access across Louisiana and into Missippi. Even Herb Lee, the trip photographer whose pictures I have shamelessly stolen and posted, has not been able to get up any fresh all I have are words.

We spoke with Dee tonight, Mother's Day, and she is doing fine. Kali and Jamie got to share their Mother's Day greetings with her. Needless to say, Dee got a bit teary but it was a great conversation.

I think it will be difficult for Dee to say good-bye to this group of people whom she has been riding and living with for the past 2 months. I said to her a while back, it's like being on a climbing expedition (or in a more major way, in the military/ combat) with folks you did not previously know. At the end of a relatively brief period of time, you will know these people better than folks you have known most of your life. I think this tends to be so because each of us, in varying degrees, crafts a desired persona which we work to maintain & project. In normal, day-to-day routines, this is a reasonably manageable task but in situations where we frequently find ourselves physically & emotionally exhausted, the task becomes harder and at times impossible. Our idealized personas start to wobble and, at times, dissolve completely. The people we are with are then able to see us at our most heroic and our weakest and most vulnerable. With most people, the unintenionally revealed reality is far more beautiful and interesting than the persona they have crafted and worked hard to maintain.

The group is now in Mississippi and the weather has been hot verging on sweltering. They have been trying to be on the road riding by 6 a.m. to avoid some of the midday heat. Temps have been in the high 90's with comparable humidity. Dee said at times it's hard to hold onto your handlebars because of the sweat running down your arms. Yesterday, a guy named Doug, was thrown over his handlebars when a large dog charged his bike and collided with his front wheel. Dee said there have been numerous times when dogs have chased them but normally that's all they do is chase and give up. This dog apparently hit Doug's bike the way a deer hits a car.... He was pretty scraped up and bruised but had the good fortune to tuck and roll rather than land flat and stop all at once. Dee rode with him most of today and said he kept up a brave and humorous facade but was clearly a hurtin'biker. Andy, the trip leader, managed to repair and true the badly damaged front rim on Doug's bike which allowed him to keep riding today.

Dee's 53rd birthday happens on Tuesday, May 13th which is also the 54th day of the ride and by then they should be in Alabama. Tuesday is a 75 mile day but they will be camped at Gulf Shores Alabama and have ocean access. Dee has been coaxing fellow riders into ponds, lakes and rivers since the trip began. She hopes she will be joined for an ocean birthday swim Tueday night by the entire entourage. I'd love to be there.

Again, deepest thanks for the many kind comments and heart-felt well wishes. It's the best part of the blog for Dee and me. Thanks folks, I hope Dee will be able to post soon. Robbie

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Pics from Edge of Texas into Lousiana

Hi Folks: It's been a while since Dee has been able to go on line. We talked with her on Sunday night. She's doing well. The group heads east and is a few days into Lousiana. Below are pictures from Herb Lee's site to give an idea of the scenery along the way. Take care, Robbie.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

When does a trip become a tapestry?

It happens slowly of course but some where in a month of time and hours on the road together there is a blending of color and light and energy and purpose that begins to feel more like a tapestry than a trip.

Remember the song...Every thread of creation is held in position by still other strands of things living--in an earthly tapestry hung from the Skyline....

Our group is well and just arrived in Austin, Texas yesterday. It was a tough 65 mile ride, with many large trucks -and many small roads with no where for bikers to escape to. Still -I enjoyed the ride. Arriving and riding through major cities via bike still overwhelms me -- but the route we came in on was very cool-- took us right past Texas University and out on to route 35 east to a Days Inn. Today is our first day off in a while, so we are all excited to have some time off the bikes. Althought despite the fact we are not riding there is still alot of fussing around with bikes and gear. Trading of skills comes in to play...I did some hand sewing in exchange for having Andy install new, cool green grip tape on my bike handlebars. I definitely made out on that deal...but don't tell Andy!

Some of the gang did a bus tour of Austin and really enjoyed getting to see the city -- some of us went to a bike shop that had a cool outdoor lounge across the street and had a great lunch.

We are at our half way point now ...and I find there is a lot for me to wonder about. I never could have imagined where this trip would lead me -- and I foolishly thought I was just riding across the country. No life path we veer off on to is ever as simple as we might think. I can tell you that I savor every moment --- that I even hate to sleep for fear of missing a part of it -- that it is hard for me to think about the veering back on to the road of a month ago... but I am well and I think of you all -- I am getting stronger and learning so much. --love, Dee

Every breeze that blows kindly-- Is one crystal breath we exhale on the blue diamond heaven. As gentle to touch as the hands of the healer....the hands with the Tapestry.

Sunday Update from Rob: Return of the sounds like a J.R. Tolkien sequel but it concerns the recovery of a new wedding ring Dee got me last Fall. I only had it for a few days and lost it while mixing cement for a project at my mother-in-law's house. Despite intensive search efforts, it was nowhere to be found. Then, today, a guy cutting & trimming my MIL's grass found it. Dee's brother Chuckie called Dee who got a hold of Kali who called me. Good news travels fast!

Today Jamie and I attended the IUP English Department Awards ceremony. Kali made us proud and received awards for: "Outstanding English Education Student", "Outstanding English Major", and "First Place in Expository Writing" for her paper "The Human Face of Immigration" which will be published and presented at a conference next Fall. It was an amazing day. On a less academic note, Jamie and I had a great time paddling at the Stony Creek River Festival and plan to attend a similar event at the Cheat River next weekend. Take care. Robbie

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Almost in Austin

Dee called last night. They are getting close to Austin. They've had some rain showers but I think the coolness is welcome in the heat. Today will be a shorter day than planned 45 miles vs. 70, as several riders have gotten somewhat fatigued and could use a bit of a break from the pace. Dee said she's been feeling pretty strong but also welcomes the respite of a lower mileage day. Some of these pics are from earlier in the ride but still give a sense of the scenery. Take care, Rob.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Del Rio, TX to Austin..the Road Ahead

I talked with Dee last night. She had arrived in Del Rio Texas which is right on the US/Mexican border directly due west of San Antonio, TX. They have ridden over the Pecos River and the Amistad Resovoir. She said the scenery has been beautiful but the head winds have been brutal. They leave camp early, around 6:30 am to get in as much riding as possible before the afternoon winds arise. Dee said head winds make it seem like you are climbing a grade even if you are on fairly level terrain. Yesterday was also the first rain they have encountered on the trip. I'm thinking rain and humidity will become more frequent companions now that the Gulf of Mexico becomes the dominant weather influence.

They are on their way to Austin which is about 5 days away and then another 5 days from Austin to the Louisana border. They have a layover day in Austin, their first in 9 days which is the longest they have gone without a layover day on the trip. Saddle sores have emerged as an issue with some riders but Dee says she has been doing ok in that department so far. There are a number of 60+ mile days in Dee's near future. While I was talking with Dee, I looked at the map on our kitchen wall and announced that they must be approaching the 1/2 way mark soon.

Dee said there will be a 1/2way party celebration soon. Yesterday, one of the riders had a birthday so they biked to a nearby bar to celebrate. Dee, is a rare and very light social drinker but I'm assuming the chosen birthday bar had no Chardonay as she had a beer and confided that it actually tasted pretty good. Clearly, the trip has not been in vain.

She has been sleeping out under the stars a lot lately, the only issue is unwanted visits from fire ants but so far it's worked out ok. I received a package of extra gear and some little gifts for Kali and Jamie, and one for Dee & me. I think she is finally down to only what she needs. I am reminded of the quote that "Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing left to add but rather when there is nothing left to take away". I'm thinking she's pretty close to this. She had a flat tire, her 9th of the ride and I believe she holds the "most flats" distinction. Other than that her bike has been fine. Two riders had to get to a bike shop due to broken spokes and possibly the need for rebuilt wheels.

Dee said she has gotten pretty dark from the sun and that drinking water is a full time activity during the day and at night. She said she had two bottles of water to drink before bed just to try and keep up to what is being sweated out each day. Chapped lips are a constant problem due to the sun and wind. The only thing I can compare it to is climbing expeditions where you watch your body gradually waste away to a point where it finally stops.

Her spirits are great and she has been doing well. Her biking has been getting progessively stronger during the trip. The West Texas hill country is coming up and I think she'll do well.

I had shared with a dear friend a month ago that you would think that after being married to someone for 30 years, there would be a certain resevoir of "being ok with being part for a while", it seems reasonable to think this would be true but I have missed Dee each day she's been away. I think this is a good way to feel. I can't wait to see her in Florida and bring her home.

On the home-front, things are good. I spent Saturday with Kali,who along with her room mate, were extras like me at the Pgh. Airport movie shoot. I'm glad it's over but it was mostly fun. Much to my amazement, Jamie did a total house cleaning on Saturday - he cleaned the Kitchen, handled laundry and ran the sweeper so that was pretty sweet to come home to late Saturday night... and I didn't even ask him to do it! For three days, he was the classic Latch Key kid...I was gone when he woke up, gone when he got home from school, gone at dinner time as well. He did just fine with out me....I pictured him as a feral skateboard child living on slurpees and end-of-the-day hotdogs at the nearby 7-11. This vision was actually pretty close to the truth. Jamie is excited as we have 2 river festival weekends in a row coming up. Take care folks, Best Regards, Robbie

Thursday, April 17, 2008

More Pics

These pics are from Herb Lee, the focus is on the women bikers. I spoke with Dee tonight, she's doing really well and had a great day. Her cold is abating and she's feeling good. It goes with out saying I/ we miss her dearly but I am so proud of what she's accomplished thus far and envy the experiences and vistas she is privy to.

I spent today where I will spend tomorrow and Saturday.... at the Pittsburgh International Airport as an extra on a movie set. Definitely a new experience for me. I met a lot of interesting folks, about 150, who were doing exactly what I was doing today....hanging out at a gate for 14 hours pretending to be air travelers while the real movie stars were being filmed. Amazingly, a number of the young folks I spoke with today in the 21 to 30 age range, do this work on a pretty much full-time basis. I secretly hoped I would be discovered by a Hollywood director today, but alas, no such luck.

Based on the limited dialogue I heard today, I'm thinking this film "She's Out of My League" will be released directly to DVD or late night cable. There have only been 2times in my life when I actually spent this amount of time in an airport, so I'm viewing this brief experience as a sort of karmic retribution for my past enjoyment of air travel destinations.

Whoops, sorry, it's Dee's Blog, the pictures speak volumes about life on the road with two wheels and no engine. Take care, Rob.

60 miles of sunshine and open road...

Hi All-- I never dreamed I would be on line today. I am getting faster in my riding which allows me to get in to camp --and in to town (if there is one)to look around and maybe find a library! There are 4 of us here at the library using each of their computers --and their bathroom--and I am charging my IPOD! We are a needy bunch when we hit a town! I really need my IPOD at night since I sleep less than most of humanity! It is too long of a night in a tiny tent without music. Last night when we were still at Mt Davis state park we were visited by both Javelinas and skunks at the same time! It was comical....all of us trying to move them out of camp....and then the skunk was hanging around near Mattie's tent.....all of this left me wide awake and ready for the day to begin, and it was only 2:30AM.

The ride today was 59 miles long -- and my favorite-- rolling hills and gradual climbs. I absolutely love riding beside trains! I feel like I am in the wild west (OH-I am!)...I always wave to them...and they always sound their whistle.....

Our "rest day" went quickly yesterday ,but we loved having it at the state park ---today was a great ride --after our first 28 miles we stopped in the small town of Alpine and hung out in a cool local cafe. We are a big family group --so these small towns seem to enjoy us. It is especially fun to meet other bikers...Frank met an man in his 80's who had raced in Italy as a young man, and today we met a nice guy who was talking about his son who had done the first 1976 bicentennial ride that Adventure cycling had mapped out.

We are camped in the town of Marathon -- and lately I have been sleeping under the stars without a tent. I love the feeling-- and there has been enough wind to keep bugs off. I am trying to get the rest of the group to do the same ...and tonight Sheryl says she will join me. Andy says if you do this you have to sleep naked --geesh -- where does he get this stuff? I told him it was his shirt that brought the Javelina's to our camp last night -- message--time for a clean shirt Andy!
Also --tomorrow we are on to Sanderson, Texas and that is where part of the film "No Country for Old Men" was filmed!

Well- there is only one food store in this town and since 3 of us on the computers are cooks or helpers, we must be going-- love to you all--Dee

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Lines across my face...

Hey all, I am finally glad to have a moment here to say hi and catch you up on what is going on. I rode for 64 miles the other day with a re-occuring song in my mind --Brandi Carlisle's , The Story. "All of these lines across my face--tell you the story of who I am....." I am getting many lines across my face....sun lines, salt lines, tear lines, lines that make me feel humble, lines from hours of each day that I am smiling--feeling so full of what I am doing--rich beyond expression.

Our entire group is very happy today--for one, we are being rejoined by one of our dear riders named Dave, who was hospitalized with flu and dehydration for 2 days. We have all been worrying about him, and hoping he could rejoin us soon. Once you throw up on this trip it is nearly impossible to get re-hydrated on your own. This is also one of our days off from riding. We are camped at Fort Davis, a beautiful state park in Texas. It was built during the days of Franklin Roosevelts era of the WPA and CCC and it is a stunning example of that kind of building! I was so excited I could not sleep last night much--so I got up early -showered and by then their was a group ready to hunt down real coffee at the lodge. The lodge is so cool, set in to the mountains, beautifully done, and the waitress that served us coffee has a baby due in May she is naming her Ylsa.

One of our riders named jeff who had re-joined us at the Black Range Lodge continues to suffer from some health issues and has had to leave our group! It was a sad morning leaving that church in Fort Davis --and Frank took a sweet poignant picture of Jeff looking at us all as we rode off that morning. Jeff will be missed by us all, but especially by his 2 riding partners Herb and Tom. We called the three of them "the wedge" --and they were an awesome team! Two days ago I rode BRIEFLY in Jeffs position with them -- thats all I could do --but it was for Jeff! As I said before, there is not alot of room for illness on this adventure since we ride so much each day. I have had a cold , but seem to be fine today and otherwise I feel great. Today we are riding without our paniers (since they are at camp)and what a different feeling that is. I am so used to all the weight --it actually felt like my front tire was loose! Last night a skunk was in our camp and all our food itams had to be in trees since this park has a Javelina problem!

It is sunny today and the sky is so blue --all of us riding in to town today--again- just reminds me of a group of wild kids with a day in a small town to fill with adventure! Some folks are going horseback riding, some of us are going for a milkshake (celebrating our first 1000 miles) some of us going to the local thrift shop to look for a birthday gift for Eileen! I have now gone 4 days without a flat ,so we are hoping the tire liners have sloved my problem!

So, despite the lines that leave my face looking like a elderly American Indian woman -- I am proud beyond belief of where I am -- and each and every line! Riding on-- with love -- Dee

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Into the State of Texas - more photos

We heard from Dee on Sunday night. The group was just outside of El Paso Texas. As Dee was talking to us on her cell phone, she was sitting on tree stump, looking down on to fields of cotton with mountain ranges to the west. She said they had been biking past miles of hot pepper fields the day before. They will have a rest day soon and then have a 70+ mile day and a 90+ mile day later this week. She sounded great. They are staying in a church tonight which means they don't have to set up tents. Some church members also cooked a main course for their dinner and baked a cake for them so it makes for an easier evening and the kindness was really appreciated. Here are some more photos from Herb Lee and Dee. I received a memory chip from Dee's camera so the enclosed pics are a mix of Dee and Herb's photos. Take care folks, Rob