I am the epitome of gracefulness. On my third day on the bike after rejoining the 4K riders at Jackson Hole, I decided to suspend my riding days once again. As we were biking from West Yellowstone, Montana to Sheridan, Montana, I was enamored by the sights and scenery that we were passing by. As such, I was compelled to take my camera out of my CamelBak to snap some photos as I was biking. Unfortunately, rather than staying put at my side as I had planned, my CamelBak slipped out of my grasp as I unhooked a strap from my shoulder and fell and jammed my front wheel. Fortunately, I had approximately two seconds to realize what was about to happen and utter, “Oh shit”, before being flipped off my bike at 20 MPH and slammed face first into the pavement.
Blood. There was so much blood. It was as if the ground had punched me in the face and caved in my teeth. Remarkably, it did not hurt as much as I would have expected, though I expect the shock of the incident must have blunted much of the pain. This was actually one of the more puzzling aspects of the entire experience. While I was offered pain medicine through out my ride in the ambulance and my stay in the hospital, I refused the offers because I wasn’t that much in pain and was lauded a “tough guy”. First off, I didn’t actually have enough pain to warrant mitigation by medicine. Secondly, after my father’s experience, I think I view pain as a verification that you are alive. Throughout my father’s last days at the hospice, he was given a daily treatment of morphine shots. As far as I’m concerned, unless on the operating table, I have no need for painkillers, especially in this incident, I planned to suffer the consequences of my regrettable actions.
As the pain wasn’t terrible, I found the worst part of this escapade was the time I spent in the waiting room until I was carted off to the operating room. Despite being accepted into the Emergency Ward, I waited nearly four hours till I was finally treated. Throughout the whole time, I was spewing spit and blood into a bucket before they finally sowed me up.
Now my handsome visage is temporarily marred by bloodied and swollen lips and exposed sutures. I expect to get the sutures out in five days, and the doctor said the swelling would completely heal in ten. My teeth have been temporarily straightened by wires, but I will eventually have to get them sealed through root canal therapy or replaced after the ride. All and all it is not too bad, and I have decided to done a surgical mask to cover my injuries till they are healed. Despite the dentist and SARS jokes, I now have acquired a set of medical scrubs far before any of my other friends aspiring to be doctors.
People have complimented me on my perseverance to come back to rejoin the ride after such an injury. While I appreciate such comments, I do not deserve them. My father worked for over five years while undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatment to support my family. He worked in the constant shadow of exhaustion, nausea, and most importantly death. The worst I will suffer from this injury is a week of swollen lips and some fake teeth. If I cannot get up after such a insubstantial, non life threatening injury, it would shame my father’s efforts. I apologize to my mother for causing her such worry so soon after my father’s passing, and for defying her wish for me to come home, but this is a personal struggle I must overcome.
First I would like to apologize for not updating this blog recently. I got lazy for a week, but as I promised to become more regular, stable internet became exceedingly rare from Kansas through Nebraska.
For those of you who do not know, my father passed away last Wednesday peacefully in his sleep, succumbing to the cancer he had been battling for the past five years. While he had been in stable condition for a number of months when I left for the bike trip, he took a sudden turn for the worst just as June ended. Initially I was shocked and greatly saddened by the turn of events. Just the day before, I celebrated my 19th birthday in Boulder, Colorado along with my teammates. It was unreal to receive the phone call from my mother the very next day, learning that I was to fly home that night.
Fortunately I was able to make it to his bedside to talk to him one last time. While he could not respond to my words, at the very least I took comfort in that I could tell him what I felt needed to be said. I swore to strive harder towards better grades in college and a successful future in order to take care of my mother and sister in absence. I apologized for my ungratefulness to all that he had done for me, and thanked him for all the sacrifices he made in order for me to live a happy life. Most importantly, I told him that I would celebrate his life and memory by living my life to the fullest.
I had come home hoping for the best, but expecting the worst. I attributed this as the reason for my appearance of ambivalence to the entire matter. The friends I told were more shocked and upset than I was. I didn’t think my dad would have wanted me to waste my life mourning his death. He spent his very last years trying to help my sister and I live a normal life, the best way I could honor that would be to continue on doing so, and if anything, aspire for even greater things.
I will be honest and say that it took me a while to reach this conclusion. After all, I started this bike ride for my father as I didn’t know any other way to help his situation. We were told that the daily struggles we encountered while biking on the road were like the struggles that cancer patients underwent, and by going through them ourselves, we could understand their pain better and perhaps inspire others to keep on fighting. After my father passed away, I became extremely disenchanted with the whole concept. What bullshit I thought, it was absurd to compare our trivial physical struggles with a cancer patient’s daily ordeal of chemotherapy and radiation treatments, all in the looming face of death. How could I inspire anyone when I could not even save my own father?
But eventually I realized, there was nothing I could have done in my father’s situation. It would be detrimental to myself to regret, and the only thing left was to move on. But regardless that I was able to reach this conclusion by myself, I still greatly appreciate all the words of comfort and support I received from everyone who learned of my loss. I found no greater source of comfort than the fact that I had friends that cared about my well-being.
As such, I decided to rejoin the ride and finish my journey to Portland. I started the ride in honor of my father and it is only appropriate I finish in memory of him. As I said in my eulogy to him at his funeral today, I would ask that you not feel sorry for me or even share in my sadness, but instead honor my father in living your life to the fullest and caring for your friends and loved ones as he would have continued doing. I buried my father today, but only his body, because I carry his spirit with me as I continue on living.
You guys might not know this, but I consider myself a bit of a loner. I tend to think of myself as a one-man wolf pack. But when my sister brought Doug home, I knew he was one of my own. And my wolf pack… it grew by one. So there… there were two of us in the wolf pack… I was alone first in the pack, and then Doug joined in later. And six months ago, when Doug introduced me to you guys, I thought, “Wait a second, could it be?” And now I know for sure, I just added two more guys to my wolf pack. Four of us wolves, running around the desert together, in Las Vegas, looking for strippers and cocaine.
I still need to watch the Hangover Part 2, thought I have heard it is not as good/quotable as the first one.
As I become more accustomed to the daily regimen of biking, I have started to face another obstacle. While I have befriended many of the other cyclists in the group and enjoy their company, their constant presence 24/7 is beginning to take a toll on me. Masturbation jokes aside, I have been hard pressed to find adequate time to spend alone, unlike at college and home where I can find a quiet corner to relax. We are always moving during the day and at night I’m too exhausted to think about anything else but sleep. Even on our rest days, we always try to spend our limited time to go sight seeing and other activities. While this is probably the way it should be, as to make as much of the two months we have on this trip, I am not used to this constant bustle and it has become very tiring.
"Not only are we going to New Hampshire … we’re going to South Carolina and Oklahoma and Arizona and North Dakota and New Mexico, and we’re going to California and Texas and New York! And we’re going to South Dakota and Oregon and Washington and Michigan. And then we’re going to Washington, D.C. to take back the White House, BYAHHHHHHH!" -Howard Dean, 2004 Democratic Presidential Candidate
So despite all the doubters, I managed to survive the first week of the bike ride. For those of you who didn’t know, I am currently on a cross country ride from Baltimore, MD to Portland, OR spanning over 4,000 miles to raise awareness and money for cancer research.
Let me start off by saying that I had absolutely no clue how hard this was actually going to be when I signed up. This week has probably the hardest thing physically and mentally that I have ever done. Our ride director, Stephen, said at the very beginning of the ride that this trip would test our determination and actual reasons for undertaking this journey but I didn’t really understand how much truth were in his words until we started biking.
Most of you are probably well acquainted with the fact with my tendency to give up and complain when the going gets tough. I can confidently say that if I can survive the rest of this ride, I will finally be able to “man up” and “build character points” as Billie and Brian would say. While the rest of you enjoy your summers relaxing, I spend the entire day underneath the sun either riding as far as 120 miles. The mountainous landscape of the east coast that I claimed was so much better than the boring flat plains of the Midwest is now my mortal enemy. The steep inclines that were fun to climb in a car are an absolute bitch to ride up in a bike. The flat terrain of the Midwest that I had looked forward to isn’t much better, as I ride through Ohio I am constantly riding against the wind as well in constant lack of shade.
I honestly was ready to give up on the second day, when we road 70 miles through Pennsylvania in 98 degree weather to climb up two mountains each with a over 3 mile long winding road at an over 8% grade to the summit. I kept thing how stupid I was for signing up for the trip, I had only thought that riding across the country would be such a cool thing, not how hard it actually would be. Everyone else seemed to be going so much faster and I was constantly being left behind. Then I remembered all the support you guys showed when I was fundraising (and how Amanda and several others threatened to take their money back if I didn’t finish the ride) and how hard my dad’s daily struggles were. But what motivated me most was the connections I was able to draw between my struggles up the mountain to my problems with studying and work ethic. Sure it was hard as balls to find the motivation to keep peddling up the mountain, but if I stopped I would just be spending more time under the hot sun. There were no short cuts to the other side, I just had to suck it up and get to the top. And then after that there was a easy downhill ride. So I decided that if I was able to finish this ride and constantly push myself, going back to college in the fall and putting off playing LOL to study first, college life would be a lot less stressful and more fun. And if I just got over the painful part of studying quickly, I would still have plenty of time to do other things.
So TL:DR; this ride finally helped me realize something I should of realized a long time ago.
Anyways, besides the bike riding I haven’t had much time to do much else during the first week. I have been absolutely wiped by the time I reach the destination and don’t have much energy besides taking a shower and eating. I also have to get to sleep by 11 PM so I have at least 6 hours of sleep before waking up 5 AM. Ever since I have been able to find the motivation to get through the bike ride, this has been the hardest part of my day. No matter how determined I am as I go to sleep, none of this matters when I am woken before the sunrise. And despite what you might think, I still have not gotten used to this. I’m pretty sure that even when I’m finished with the ride, I will immediately go back to sleeping till noon. I was able to get a rest during the day last Friday when I volunteered to drive the water van to give my legs a rest. Even that was quite exhausting and stressful, as I had to keep track of all the groups and mark the route out in chalk ahead of the bikers.
Speaking about eating, after the rides I do not remember having ever been so hungry. It is said that we burn about 3,000 some calories riding all day on top of the normal 2,000. Yesterday at lunch, we were able to get a local Jimmy Johns to donate several sandwich platters to us and I ate 4 whole subs. Some of us have discussed how much we would eat if we smoked weed after biking to see how much we could eat with the combined effects of post-exercise hunger and munchies.
In terms of the people, I was pretty worried about whether they were the type of people I was going to hang out with for the next 70 days, although I knew Jason. Most of them are pretty cool but unfortunately I’ve pretty much settled into the same group dynamic I have with all my other groups of friends. Nancy, one of the riders I befriended even asked “Is it like this with all your other friends or are we just especially mean?” Begrudgingly I had to admit that all my other friends give me a lot of shit too. Dammit guys, I demand more respect when we see each other again.
While I was slow to start in the beginning, I have began taking pictures during the bike rides everyday. It is sometimes hard to find interesting things to take pictures of especially this last week where we just spent most of our time on country roads with the same scenery of mountains and trees. But as we ride past more populated areas I have been able to take more pictures. I will try to post pictures from each day with a blog post from now on.
Anyways, despite of all the difficulties, I couldn’t imagine any other way to spend this summer. I’ll begin to start posting an entry everyday to give the people with no jobs (Billie) to read. See you in the fall!