In the video above,
Below is Rob's day-by-day blog written while on his ride.
Sept. 18, 2011. Day 8
Today was our last day and our schedule was tight. We had to go 72 miles and be at the Pentagon by 2:00. I was up at 5:00, breakfast at 5:30, ride briefing at 7:00 and a ride start at 7:15. My bike was still in chase vehicle 14, with a twisted right hand break from my fall yesterday. Lynn also asked me to get taped earlier, because she had a growing list of other riders who needed her medical expertise. Another problem was that it was still dark outside until 6:30 or so. Everything came together though and we left on time.
Because it was our last day, everyone rode. The flotilla of riders started south, as we left Winchester VA, and headed for a real nice bike path which forced us to ride, 2 x 2. It was neat, because there were hundreds of riders going the other way, on some sort of ride, because they all had numbered signs on their handle bars. The Virginia countryside was beautiful with huge lots and sprawling homes. The riders pace was fast and the 20 miles or so I rode seemed to feel like a sprint. We entered an Interstate highway and had State Police blocking entrance and exit ramps, as we continued. We were told there was only one big hill climb, but as usual, the ride director lied, and the second hill climb did me in. I got in Scooby's bus again and found the same usual suspects, the weaker riders. We all met at a rest stop, a local gas station and I began taking a lot of pictures of riders, because I knew the ride was almost over. I got back in the bus and we headed for our last lunch stop in Great Falls, Virginia. On the way, we went through some small towns that were impacted from the Civil War. We passed legendary towns like, Leesburg, which was where the Confederate Army, won a historic battle, called the Battle at Balls Bluff. When we finally got to our lunch stop,the space was loaded with riders, not just R2R riders, but several groups of local riders who were going to join us for our last 17 miles to the Pentagon.
I had a chance to meet Sloan Gibson, the national director of the USO. He was going to join us for our last ride leg. I had a chance to visit with General George Casey again, as we talked about golf and our summer homes, his being on the beach in Mass. The USO canteen trailer was there serving the usual faire. I enjoyed my last cup of Ramman noodle and a couple of bananas. At 12:30 the riders headed out and it seemed like our riding group had grown to 500 riders. Again we were 2 x 2 and went down a road that would take us to the Pentagon. The homes were just as beautiful as the ones in Virginia, sprawling on both sides. We then entered D.C. and media trucks started popping up all over the place taking videos of the riders. Soon we were able to see the Washington monument and I knew we were getting close. We then made a few turns and had a few small hill climbs, and I then felt a hand at my back and it was John Wordin, helping me ride the last few miles. Soon the Pentagon came into view and volumes of people waved and cheered us on while we entered the Pentagon parking lot. The ride was over. All the riders were asked to come to the new Pentagon Memorial, the site of where American Airline Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon. We were greeted by Commandant James Amos, the head of the U.S. Marines. He explained to us how the Pentagon Memorial was created, with sloping benches coming out of fountains of water. Some benches pointed away, represent those killed in the Pentagon and others pointed towards the Pentagon, those killed on AA77 Deborah Burlingame was introduced, the wife of the killed pilot on AA77, and she spoke of our courage and thanked us for riding in memory of all the 9/11 victims. All the riders lined up for one last group photo, as hundreds of people began taking pictures of the riders for the last time.
All the riders were invited to Fort Myer, an Army Base,for a special ceremony and reception. We rode as a group and entered a gate without the usual scrutiny one would expect on an Army Base. Soon we heard patriotic music being played by a U.S. Marine Military Fife Band, as we parked our bikes and entered Henderson Hall for our last group meal and some sentimental gifts that were passed out to us from the U.S. Army. All the riders hugged each other as we said our good byes. We then rode to the Arlington Sheraton to pack up our bikes, clean up and make our way to the Airport. 560 miles later, the ride was over and what will always be remembered to me as a life changing experience.
A final blog will be written encompassing my 9 day ride experience and how it affected me, probably for the rest of my life.
Sept. 17, 2011. Day 7
Another cool and sunny morning greeted the riders for a 3 state ride, that included Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia. Before the ride, another thrill happened to me at breakfast. I was sitting alone, with Aloha Jones, volunteer photographer for R2R, when General George Casey approached me and asked, if he could join us for breakfast. Wow!!! That got my heart pumped and shortly thereafter, we left Rocky Gap and headed for Winchester, VA. A good portion of the ride at the beginning was downhill and with some small hill climbs, but after we entered West Virginia, it all changed. The monster hill climbs were back and forced me off the bike for some of them. By mile 27.7, I was through and fell off the bike awkwardly into a guard rail, keeping me from rolling down an hillside. Scooby and the other riders saw it in the bus and told me as I got on, that the fall looked like it was happening in slow motion. I was not hurt.
We finally got to the 40 mile lunch stop which was next to the Bloomery OMPS grocery store. The USO canteen trailer was there and were starting to break camp, as the slower riders and chase vehicles arrived. I had some Rammon noodle and some Slim Jims. I helped with clean up and got a ride from Lee, one the R2R volunteers who had bikes and other supplies in her long wheel base passenger van. I was tired and didn't want to get stuck in Scooby's bus, because he was following the last group and I knew he'd be the last one to the hotel.
Tonight was our last dinner and our host was another American Legion hall. Upon arrival to my hotel, I saw within walking distance a Texas Longhorn Steak House and Saloon. My mouth watered as I thought of ditching the group and ordering a big steak and potato. After cleaning up, my decision was made, I was going out for steak. Entering the restaurant, I was looking for other R2R riders, who may have had the same supper thoughts and wanted a big fat steak. I ran into 4 riders and asked if I could join them. We found a bigger table and proceeded to have the most wonderful dinner date. I knew 3 of the 4 riders from our ride, and we went around the table sharing our stories. One rider was a 26 year Army vet who just retired from the army. I found out later, he is a writer and has books on Amazon. Another rider enlisted in the Army in 2002 and was an MP, with 3 tours of duty in Iraq. The last military rider only spoke of her family, she looking very young, but with 4 children, including a 19 year old. The commonality of the 3 is PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a mental illness that afflicts most serviceman. This is the silent taboo that wasn't recognized or treated in earlier wars. The dinner ended too early and we walked back to our hotels for an early night, because we have a 72 mile ride tomorrow that ends at the Pentagon, our last stop.
Sept. 16, 2011 Day 6
Today was unbelievable. It got cold the night before, so most riders
had on cold weather gear. John Wordin required that we wear our
Patriotic R2R jerseys and bibs, because We were going to the Flight 93
Memorial in Shanksville, the hallowed ground at the crash site and now
monument. We all left in proper fashion and proceeded nicely, until the
hill climbs got unmanageable. I was only 5 miles out, but I had nothing
left, as I got into Scubby's bus. As we entered the Memorial you could
see a huge field, with wild flowers and some outcroppings. We got off
the bus and gathered by some new pine trees next to a plaza where
American Legionaires, Air Force Color Guard and other visitors were.
Then tone was somber, with visitors quietly observing, as David and
Peggy Beamer were there to honor their late son and hero, Todd Beamer
with the entire R 2R family. John Wordin brought 3 American flags for
the flag raising ceremony which the R2R riders were to participate. I
was shocked and honored, when John approached me and asked me to be
part of the flag raise. General Casey and 2 R2R soldiers marched to the
flag pole and pulled the flag down and handed it the Air Force Color
Guard to be folded in the proper manner and then returned to the
General. The 3 groups followed in sequence raising and lowering their
flags and then handing them to the ColorGuard to be folded. I was in
the 3 rd group and the only non-military participant. The Beamers then
walked to the flag pole and raised the last flag honoring their son,
Todd. David spoke afterwards with the same themes he shared with us the
night before, before he led all the site visitors in a acapella version
of "God Bless America.". After visiting other areas of the memorial, we
headed to Berlin, our American Legion Lunch stop.
The hospitality of these Americans was consistent with every other group that hosted a lunch or dinner meal. Today was sloppy joes, chips and beans. other servings included cut up fruit and assorted homemade cakes and pies. Even though I stuffed myself with lunch, I got on my bike and enjoyed a long downhill run, with speeds up to 35 to 40 mph, but then another long uphill eventually forced me to end my ride. I wish I would have stayed on for a bit longer, because the rest of the was all downhill to Maryland and the Rocky Gap Lodge Resort. A banquet dinner was followed with a large group of military going to the hotel bar, with soldiers singing like, Tom Cruise in Top Gun. I stuck around for one round of drinks and called it a night, because tomorrow's ride is 64 miles.
Sept. 15, 2011 Day 5
Not a pretty day in Gettysburg. With breakfast at 5:30, a ride briefing at 7:15, a 95 mile mostly uphill ride and finally pouring rain. Not pretty. I was 50/50 at breakfast, but by the time I went back to my room to get ready, I said, Not happening. I have never ridden this bike in the rain, not my thing, and with those skinny tires and dangerous slopes, I think I made a great decision. Instead, I rode in 2 different chase vehicles at 2 different portions of the ride.
Leaving the hotel, the chase driver, map helper and I followed the riders to the Gettysburg cemetery for a ceremony, including a look alike Abe Lincoln. He praised his soldiers and recited the "Gettysburg Address." The short ceremony ended and the riders left in a rainstorm. While driving, you could see the overgrown fields, out droppings and the split rail fencing. It all looked so real in the rain. The riders were level, but a eventually they had to make a right turn after a 300 or 400 foot drop. Most made the turn, some went down. I was helping riders in the minibus with their bikes and offering any comfort I could. Before long, the 8 seat bus was full and our driver told us at the rest stop, we had to look for another truck, because he had to make room for other riders, because he was at the back of the caravan.
I then hooked up with Ellis, a Harrisburg native who knew who knew the local terrain and as a R2R rider, he chose to man the chase vehicle for rider support. I saw him change tires, adjust brakes and position his truck to protect the riders. The riders ascended up the mountain, 5500 feet, and then the fog rolled in and the wind started to howl. We were heading up to the Laurel Highlands, the eastern ridge of the Appalachian mountains. Watching the riders go up 15-18 degree slopes on a wet track was extraordinary. Some had to get off their bikes, but most didn't, as they maintained perfect cadence and slowly rode. Watching their calves, reminded me of perfection, like Michaelangelo's David. I only saw a few recumbents, because of the potential danger. Lunch was at an American Legion hall in McConnelsburg, with the usual exceptional hospitality. Some chose to take a bus directly to the hotel after lunch, which was the 58 mile mark, many continued the last 37 miles, all uphill. As we got higher, the vistas, the mountain ranges came into play and believe it or not, the sun started to come out.
Bedford was finally reached, but the marching band was starting to leave. We missed the fanfare. The faster riders were already there, the Shimano guys tending to the bikes, checking them out for bent parts. Tyler, master Shimano tech, was adjusting someones lockin pedals, another tech was truing rims, while everyone was looking for their bags and get cleaned up for a 6:00 dinner at another American Legion hall.
We took buses to the Legion Hall and saw the usual excited and happy members, volunteers and officers. This was my 6th dinner on my ride and this was the 6th consecutive night of chicken and pasta. They must know what the riders like. The highlight of the evening was an appearance by the parent's of 911 hero, Todd Beamer, who's heroics with other passengers, took down United Flight 93 in Shanksville, PA. David Beamer spoke poignantly, as he shared his story with an emphasis of our country's vulnerability to radical Islam and the continued threats to our country's security. John Worden presented him with the customary autographed R2R jersey while the picture taking went on.
Friday we have a 72 mile ride, but Shanksville is our first 25 mile stop and I hope I can make it, with more monster uphill climbs. With Jerry at my back, that is my goal, even if I have to get off the bike.
201l. Day 4
Lastly, tonight's dinner was another outstanding affair, put on by the Gettysburg American Legion Auxillary. It was in our hotel's ballroom and I had the honor of sitting with 2 retired Generals, 4 star U.S. Army General George Casey and U.S. Marine Major General, Richard Natonski, both part of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004.
Thursday's ride is Gettysburg to Bedford, 95 miles and breakfast starts at 5:30 with a 7:15 start.
Sept. 13, 2011. Day 3
Another beautiful day in America. Today was a grueling ride, 77 miles of hills and slopes. I was up late last night writing and paid for it today with little or no energy. During our ride briefing this morning a special guest and rider was introduced, Sir Charles Barkley, He had on a jersey that he couldn't even zip up. Our first stop was 2 blocks away, the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Sir Charles posed for pictures with all the riders in front of the Rocky Balboa statue.
We headed northwest and entered the city of Manayunk with galleries, shops and trendy restaurants before entering the Schuykill River Trail. a stunning river scene on our left with beautiful elevations, with multiple scullers rowing up river. We then crossed the river and headed for Valley Forge. We had our first rest stop as guests of Lockheed Martin, the jet and rocket firm that sells weapons to our military. 200-300 LM employees waved us in their parking lot and passed out to us snacks, water, and energy drinks. This is where Sir Charles said goodbye to all of us.
We headed to Valley Forge, the 1777 military camp that Gen. George Washington forged before battles against the British. The terrain was stunning, but the elevations and hills became a battle that I would take on for 10 miles before I would drop out of the ride. The 3600 acre monument had period homes and cabins along our ride with some old cemeteries. The 10 and 15 degree hill slopes were endless and I just ran out of gas. My day was over. I got into a chase vehicle and figured I did okay, by going 37 grueling miles.
I had a gas in the chase vehicle with a couple of guys from Texas and one from Colorado, all retired military, but young. They were shielding the recumbent riders from the cars and trucks on the 2 lane historic road and we passed out water, while motoring and helping riders with flat tire replacement wheels and tire. The one liners were non stop. We continued on route 23 for miles and entered Amish/Mennonite territory in Lancaster County, with shops and an occasional Amish Horse and buggy siting. We continued to our hotel and saw that some riders were already there, but most were still riding stretched out for miles, based on strength and endurance biking abilities.
The night ended with an informal dinner at a local American Legion hall. Tomorrow we head to Gettysburg, which should be a great ride, assuming I can handle 55 miles of hills and valleys. Either way, if I'm on my bike or riding in a chase vehicle as support help, this week has been sensational. The majority of the riders have military backgrounds and the stories they've been sharing with me daily are astounding.
Sept. 12, 2011. Day 2
Today was another great day and the best part about it was, I finished. It rained overnight and we woke up to fog. I had Lynn tape up my sore thigh after icing continually the night before. After yesterday's injury, I thought I was done for the week. By 9:00 our ride briefing convened, the sun came out and Bruce told us some course conditions by mile marker. Today's ride was from Princeton, NJ to Philadelphia, PA, just under 60 miles. At 9:30 we took off into the beautiful New Jersey countryside, with nice asphalt roads. With exception of 2 small climbs, the first 20 miles were manageable.
Entering PA., the terrain was more rolling. At the 22 mile marker, we stopped for lunch and entered a new 911 Memorial installation, called "Garden of Reflection." Again, energy snacks and drinks, Raman noodle, bananas and oranges ruled, but the stop had little to do with lunch.
John Wordin presented Ellen Saracini, widow of one of the pilots that went into the WTC, with a R2R autographed jersey signed by all the ride participants. She shared her story and described how the garden was laid out based on WTC deaths in various communities. I tried to speak with her briefly before we left, but I fell apart. I walked away and entered the Memorial with sadness as I read the names of the local citizens killed on 911. Google this PA installation to see the beauty and importance of this monument. The ride continued and was quite pleasant, going into some wooded, dense forests and feeling the coolness and enjoying the damp smells. We saw some vintage stone houses and some old stone fences, circa 1700. We passed an elementary school who's entire class, with teachers waved American flags and encouraged us with their patriotic screams.
Later, at mile marker 49 the terrain changed and became more metro. It started to look more like Jersey City as we passed the the Philadelphia Industral Correctional Center, pretty spooky with razor walls at street level. We continued and saw some old Philly type row house with Granny sitting on the porch waving. We made a brief stop at an American Legion Hall and were handed iced water by older veterans who proudly wore their uniform caps. I washed down my second Aleve of the day, before we thanked them and rode off. After a few turns, I saw the Philly sky line, we were getting close, but still far away. We then entered an older section of Philly, which had old street car steel rail lines with deep grooves and uneven surfaces. I saw a rider go down, 30 feet in front me, with a thud as he was unable to uncleet his shoes from the peddles. One of my support riders, Joe, stayed with him until a medical team showed up and later telling me the rider broke his collar bone. More emotion came my way as I felt for him, because his ride was probably over. After a few more turns, we pulled into an old Best Western Hotel, which would be our accommodations for the night.
Our dinner plans changed as the American Legion switched from a dinner at the Philadelphia Armory to a boat ride on the "Spirit of Philadelphia.". The dinner cruise went on for 3 hours with more presentations to American Legion members. Later, some riders and I jumped into cabs and headed to Gino's for a late night Philly cheese sandwich and talked about tomorrow's long 77 mile ride. I'll tape up in the morning and see how it goes! http://www.socialmediadecals.com
Sept. 11, 2011 Day 1
Today was a great day, even though I didn't finish the ride. Everyone was in their assigned red,white and blue jerseys, bibs and socks. We had an 8:30 ride meeting with a 9:00 start. Rule of the day, watch for pot holes. New Jersey has a reputation for bumpy roads. This weeks ride has the biggest field of any that R2R has ever done. The key was 9/11. A New Jersey State Police officer sang God Bless America. The recumbent bikes took off first. By the time I got started, the lead bikes were a half a mile ahead. Going 2 x 2 and sometimes 3 wide, the comradarie was beyond anything I have ever experienced. Additionally, New Jersey State Police cars and volunteers riding Harleys, led and blocked streets so to cardon the riders from any traffic. The standing traffic were blaring their horns and Americans were lining the streets waving and taking pictures and video taping. The ride to Liberty Park was 10 miles and everyone made it there intact.
Liberty Park is directly across from the WTC on the Hudson River. A group picture was taken on a small hill with the skyline of NYC in the background. The Pledge of Allegiance was spoken and the National Anthem was sung. John Campbell, deputy assistant Secretary of Defense, spoke and praised and thanked all the wounded warriors and first responders who were riding and talked about his mission of care and the transitioning our heroes into the private sector. We then had an opportunity to sightsee and take pictures. Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty were visible and everyone's emotions were going wild with Patriotism. We then exited the park and headed southwest to Princeton.
We had a lunch stop scheduled 23 miles away. Riding through the metro areas of Jersey City and Newark weren't very scenic, but the honking and waving continued. After a while we rode to some rural towns with charming storefronts and various road grades. I started to drift to the back of the pack and some of the slopes in the roads required some strenuous peddling, but then experienced riders had my back and helped urge me with a push with one of there hands. As we got closer to our lunch stop the grade got even more difficult and I had to get off the bike for the first time. After a while, I got back on the bike as I got closer to our lunch stop and then felt pain in my left hamstring, not good. I had a trainer help me with stretching, after a lunch of peanut and jelly, energy bars, bananas, oranges and Gatorade.
I got back on the bike and went another 17 or 18 miles when the hamstring locked and I was forced to get off the bike. I was probably one of 10 riders who dropped out because of injury. There was a broken arm and a fractured collar bone in the group. I was bussed to the hotel with another broken down rider as company. As we arrived at the hotel, most of the riders were already there, with uniformed Army passing out energy bars and Monster energy drinks. I ran into Rick Bruder, who knew I was hurt and told me that training staff would be at the pool working doing some rehab. Afterwards,I went up to my room, checked a Bear score and put on a bathing suit and headed for the pool.
Dinner was at 6:00 and afterwards announcement were made about tomorrow's ride to Philly. The featured speaker was, Bob Delaaney, an interesting guy who's tenure included the New Jersey State Police, both uniform and under cover of vice, a 25 year career as an NBA referee from the Michael Jordan era and an advocate for PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. The stories were haunting, but Delaney's spirit of recovery and treatment spoke volumes of his mission, discussing his book, Surviving the Shadows. That ended Day 2. I went up to my room wondering how long I last for tomorrow's ride.
Sept. 10, 2011. Prep Day
Our flight left on time at 6:00 this morning and once we arrived in NYC, we jumped in 2 cabs with my friend, Rick Bruder and his wife, Patty and friend, Lisa. Rick is chairman of the Board of Ride2Recovery and Lisa is past President of USO of Illinois. Unfortunately, we flew into Laguardia in Queens, but our hotel was at the Meadowlands, in New Jersey. Rumor has it we had rooms near Ground Zero and got bumped by President Obama's entourage. We took the Midtown tunnel into Manhattan and then took the Lincoln Tunnel in New Jersey. We missed the 10:00 tour bus and a wreath laying ceremony and tribute at a Firehouse and a tour of the WTC Visitor Center. We checked in and went to the R2R hospitality rooms and put our bikes together. Lunch followed.
At 4:00 there was a mandatory R2R orientation and clinic. John Worden, executive director and professional cycler, went over the rules and stated that the 530 mile American Challenge is not a race. That put a smile on my face. He also introduced a lot of staff, including ride, publicity, equipment, taskmaster, luggage and medical managers and directors. John's number rule is, be on time, and he was serious.
Dinner began at 6:00 and included introductions of sponsors, including United Health Care, USO, American Legion, Shimano, Monster Energy and U-Haul. Speakers at tonight's dinner included, Tim Brown from NYFD-11, who was a first responder and entertainment was performed by country/western singer, Emily West. A touching moment was a video of 10 high school kids who rode their bikes from Washington to MAINE, over 3600 miles. They did it last summer and raised over $100,000. for the R2R.
After getting up at 3:45 this morning, I think it's time to hit the sack. I got a 50 mile ride tomorrow from Liberty Park and Princeton, NJ.
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The Ride 2 Recovery is produced by the Fitness Challenge Foundation, (501c3) in partnership with the military and VA Volunteer Service Office, to benefit mental and physical rehabilitation programs for our country's wounded veterans that feature cycling as the core activity.
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