About Lea's Foundation
In 1998, Lea Michele Economos, a young woman who died of leukemia at the age of 28, made a dying wish to her parents that others would not face the hardships she encountered by finding a cure for this disease. Her family started this charity to carry on that wish. Today, Lea’s Foundation takes an active role in finding a cure for leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s lymphoma and myeloma and to better the lives of people living with these diseases. At the UCONN Health Center, the Lea’s Foundation Center for Hematologic Disorders sponsors research in this field. A new program covers the cost of bone-marrow testing to help recruit life-saving transplants for patients. Also, annual scholarships are given to children with leukemia who are planning to attend nursery school. For more information on other projects carried out by Lea’s Foundation, please visit their website at www.LeasFoundation.org.
Sunday, July 28, 2013
We still have a while before our final ride to the Atlantic coast, but we wanted to write up our thoughts about this trip while they're still fresh in our minds. While all of the stories and experiences could make up a novel, I think this short write-up captures the main themes. We're each working on our own to put up here. Here's mine (Dan's):
There I stood, making what I thought would be the final adjustments to my trusty Surly Long Haul Trucker in Pacific Bikes, San Francisco. I remember feeling restless to get on the road and begin seeing the city by bike, looking forward to the famed hills and gorgeous views from the bay. That first day was one of our best- we casually rode through SF, marveling at the sights and contemplating staying out there for good, but eventually ended our day in picturesque Sausalito with a warm welcome to the home of our first Warm Showers host, Winnie. I wish I could say the entirety of the trip held the enjoyment that the first day offered, but I soon began to see why cross country bike trips aren't a common vacation choice.
As we compiled miles in the first week, we realized that professional bike fittings are recommended for a reason- mere millimeters in measurements like saddle height, handlebar angle, and cleat position can make the difference between blissful riding and hell on wheels. Unfortunately, my saddle and cleat positions weren't perfect, which, combined with the huge jump in miles, led to inflammation in my iliotibial (IT) band on the outside of my left knee. I had had a similar problem two years ago on my right side due to running, and it set me back in marathon training for over a month. I began to fear a similar outcome- either that I would either have chronic, nagging pain in my knee for the duration of the trip, or that I would cause permanent damage to the IT band. This also occurred at the time when our bodies were starting to realize what we had in store for them, and they angrily fired back with overall muscle soreness, fatigue, and mental fogginess. The outlook of riding with a bum knee all day, every day, through difficult terrain for the next six weeks was defeating. I refused to throw in the towel, but there were moments when I would have welcomed a trip-ending muscle tear, just to be able to justify ending the discomfort of riding. After making adjustments to my bike and focusing on treating the IT band in our down time, my knee slowly began to improve, and the thoughts about not being able to finish thankfully worked their way out of my head. I then began to reassess why I embarked on this journey in the first place. It was not for a vacation- most cyclists who do cross country tours take months to complete the journey to fully enjoy the land, sight-see and take time along the way to soak up the surroundings. Our coast to coast ride was for Lea's Foundation: in order to raise money and spread awareness for the foundation, and to honor those who battle terrible cancers like leukemia. After coming to grips with the fact that our journey was nothing like struggling through what we were riding to cure, I started focusing on the opportunity to challenge myself, both mentally and physically, more than I ever had, and tried to appreciate all that our route had to offer. I'd like to think that after completing our journey, our encounters while on the road have led to a positive change in some of my perspectives.
The generosity of the people we met throughout our adventure has truly been one of the greatest aspects of our experience. From our Warm Showers hosts, to random people on the street, store owners, motel managers, and other riders, it has been remarkable how genuine and sincere people can be. I think we, in general, have a cynical view of people based on a pessimistic depiction of our society as a whole. And while people in certain areas are much more high-strung than in, say, Kansas, when it comes down to it, we witnessed that people will generally take the time to help or show a genuine interest in a great cause like Lea's. People in Kansas really were great, though. One Kansasian, Father Anthony Kiplagat, not surprisingly had a great outlook on life and provided us with some great food for thought (and even better food for eating).
Father Anthony is a priest who grew up in Kenya and now resides in the small town of Osage City. While, not surprisingly, Kansas wasn't his first choice of residence, he pointed out that you can enjoy yourself no matter where you live. It seems like such a simple concept, but making the most out of your living situation is the key to holding an optimistic view on life, which I think many of us can take to heart. There were many beautiful places we saw - California, southern Utah, the Rockies - and many less than intriguing - a good number of our days east of Colorado. Yet, despite the surroundings, people seemed to be generally content and proud to live in their hometowns in most of the places we rode through. Even in the most desolate of places, like Middlegate, Nevada,with a staggering population of 17 souls, the residents took pride in the quiet, unimpeded lifestyle. Every place we saw had its own unique atmosphere, and being able to witness that made our trip an adventure, day in and day out.
In the future, I hope to spend a good deal of time exploring the natural beauty that our country has to offer. I never expected such diverse, jaw-dropping sites all within the continental US. While in Telluride, Colorado, we heard on multiple occasions that people who travel to ski resorts all over the world still find Telluride to be the most beautiful. I feel privileged to have been able to visit there and stay with such a generous family as the Kramers. I also hope that now and in the future I can carry on my appreciation for life's simple pleasures, which we relished during our time on the road. A homemade meal. A warm shower. Good conversation. The cool, clear nights in the middle of the Utah canyons and Colorado Rockies. The list goes on and on. And while I'll be glad to take a break from long rides for a while, I will definitely do some more bike touring in the future. It really is a great way to see places in a way that being in a car doesn't compare to (though a motorcycle tour might be pretty sweet). With proper planning and a less demanding itinerary, I know future tours will offer some more incredible adventures.
To all of you who have followed or even checked out our blog: I hope you've enjoyed reading about our journey. To everyone on Warm Showers and those along the way who supported us and wished us well: we cannot thank you enough- the trip wouldn't have been nearly as enjoyable without your generosity. I hope that Pat and I were able to help out Lea's Foundation and inspire some people to get involved with cancer research or get active, at the very least. I still remember the first pedal stroke from Pacific Bikes in San Francisco: between then and our last one at the academic entrance of the UConn Health Center, we had quite a remarkable journey that will no doubt stay with us for the rest of our lives. Thank you for joining us, and I hope the blog depicted our travels in and honest and meaningful way.
Check back soon for Pat's version as well as our final post after the group ride on August 24th.