Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Journey's End, Special Olympics Bike Ride

Friday, June 27. Jesse Owens Memorial Coliseum, Columbus. A half-marathon jump onto Ohio State's sprawling Campus. Nice ride through our Capitol. Arriving at the Coliseum around 3:30pm, Pigbike and I had completed our assigned task after 530 miles. I cannot accurately bring words to the feelings that overcome a distance cyclist when they at long last, arrive at their destination. You have to live the moment to understand. This ride was as much an exercise for my spirit and soul as it was for my road weary legs. The day had just begun to get amazing....

Immediately setting up Pigbike for a photo against the Jesse Owens Historical Marker, an OSU Campus Policeman approaches and asks if I would like to have him take some pics of me with the bike. We swapped stories, he helped me locate the Masons tent and informed me that the games were underway, and I should roll inside to enjoy the efforts of the Special Olympians. I stood at the fence and marvelled at kids running the 440. Many of these kids run on pure guts. It is beautiful to witness. Each County's contingent had t-shirt 'uniforms' in all colors, shades and states of tie-dye. Almost two weeks earlier in Grand Rapids, Ohio I had met Special Olympian, Ben Snyder and given him one of the electric green Special Olympic t-shirts. Amidst that sea of t-shirt color I located Ben. He saw me and another magic road moment occurred. Ben led the entire Wood County Team to where Pigbike and I were standing, excited handshakes with the Team and some fabulous digital photo moments. Other Teams walking by also stopped and took pictures with me and the Pig. A fully loaded touring bike just might be the greatest rolling ambassador ever. I got to talk to so many amazing people in the Coliseum and along the way. And then it gets BETTER!!

The Campus Cop had pointed me toward the Masons tents and staging area. I slowly walked Pigbike to their location, not quite certain what sort of welcome, (if any), I would receive. That question was answered as Grand Lodge Member, Mike Cecil saw me coming and rushed to meet me. We did a whirlwind meet and greet with the many Brothers on hand. I could not have felt more welcome. Brother Cecil informed me that Grand Lodge had arranged for an interview for their website and that Grand Master of the State, Ronald Winnett was on his way and was anxious to meet me. Meeting the Grand Master was incredible. We swapped stories for about fifteen minutes and snapped a bunch of photos together. And then it gets EVEN BETTER!!

By 6:30pm, more than 400 Masons had assembled for the Opening Ceremonies March into the Coliseum. Amazing sight to behold. I was asked to ride in behind the Grand Lodge Members, and to kindly not run over the Grand Master as he was recovering from a recently broken tibia. He also asked me to peel off with the Grand Lodge Members at the speaker's podium and to take a seat with the dignitaries in front of the stands packed with 2,600 athletes and hundreds of their parents, family, and coaches. Looking into the electric crowd and watching 400 of my Brothers pass the reviewing stand, I was again awestruck. Brother Winnett was called to the podium, and before the formal presentation of the $200,000.00 check to the Special Olympics, he asked me to stand. He recognized my awareness raising ride to the crowd and my effort was rewarded with a wonderful ovation. I doffed my cap and in the midst of that magical moment, I spotted Ben Snyder again in his electric green shirt. He was bouncing and jumping with unbridled enthusiam. Again, magic. Sheer and utter magic.

Fate intervened once more, as I met Junior Grand Warden, Brad Goebel and his charming wife Kathy. Seems they are from Willoughby, (very close to Grand River), and could arrange transport for Pigbike and I if I wanted a fossil-fueled lift home. Threatening weather and reports of three upcoming days of rain, made my decision easy. Riding in the rain sucks badly. It can be stupidly dangerous and if you don't have to rain-ride...don't. Loading the now stripped down Pigbike into Brother Goebel's van and myself and my bags into Brother Grumpy's Buick, I enjoyed my first car ride in over two weeks. Arrived in Grand River that evening, a mission had been truly accomplished.

Wrapping up, I must send my thanks to my dear friend Cat, who nightly reassured me that at least one person had read my blog, Mission Control at Lakeshore Lodge 307, all my Brother Masons, the Road Angels and to the Divine Powers that kept me safe during my travels. Next year I plan to do a 'Penny-per-Mile' bicycle tour fundraiser around the perimeter of Ohio culminating with an arrival in Columbus to coincide with next year's Special Olympics Opening Ceremonies. We'll have time to plan and hope to raise a pile of dough for these incredible athletes. If you have enjoyed my story this year, please feel free to send a tax deductible donation payable to: 'Ohio Special Olympics' , c/o Lakeshore Lodge 307, P.O. Box 333, Grand River, OH. 44045. (530 miles...Nickel a mile = $26.50...dime a mile = $53...quarter a mile = $132.50...you can do the math. Please help if you can.)
Brother James "Spudd" Sasak signing off and staying tuned. God bless us all.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

June 27, Special Olympics Bike Ride

Friday. Columbus/Jesse Owens Memorial Coliseum, OSU.

Dear Fan(s) of this Adventure Blog,
Pigbike and I landed on schedule. 530 miles. The Opening Ceremonies of the Ohio Special Olympics were without a doubt, one of the finest days I have had in my 52+ years. Kharma, Kismet, Kids and Masonic Brotherhood made it special great. SO much happened, that if I didn't have the photos to prove it, no one could believe me. It's going to take a day or two to decompress and put it together for the blog. So far, I have a fluidly expanding outline. Please stay tuned as I toil to put words to the magic of that day. Peace

Friday, June 27, 2008

June 26, Speical Olympics Bike Ride

Thursday. Westerville, Ohio.
Woke up as usual around 6:00am, flipped on the TV to a local Columbus station and saw videos of flooded roads and fields. Apparently the lines of severe thunderstorms that had pummeled the area had produced up to 4.5" of rain in some places. Also, the tornado warning sirens had gone off last night, but I blissfully slept through them. No harm, no foul.

Rolling by 8:00am, I found myself in Columbus rush hour traffic on Route 23 South. Five miles of that cacaphony brought me to Chesire Road and I headed eastward along a much quieter route. Crossing Alum Creek Resevoir, (quite the pond!!), I soon found a 'Rails-to-Trails' bikepath which I followed south into Westerville. Walking Pigbike through town, I found the Westerville Lodge and left a Special Olympics t-shirt and my calling card.

After a short hop of 21 miles I arrived at the parent's house of one of my Couch Potato Running Team member's, Nurse Neff. Roger and Betty Neff are most gracious hosts. They fed and watered me and allowed me the BEST, long overdue afternoon nap of my trip. Apparently I was conked out so soundly, that Mom Neff was afraid I had expired! Not so, I was awake in time for a lovely dinner and evening with the world travelling Neff's, including a guided tour of Roger's award winning hosta gardens. Remarkably impressive plantings and arragements.

Spent some time sewing my riding shorts back together with dental floss. I won't win any blue ribbons for my abilities as a seamstress, but dental floss is a sturdy fix-all on the road. Tomorrow I finish my appointed run to the Opening of the Ohio Special Olympics. I cannot wait to meet the athletes, as well as my Brother Masons who I hope are looking forward to greeting me. From what I can gather, local media coverage of the Special Olympics has been spotty at best. That is a pure shame.

Anyway, a BIG DAY tomorrow!! The Opening Ceremonies of the Special Olympics. And I get to be a small part of Ohio Special Olympic history on behalf of my Brothers Masons throughout the State and especially Lakeshore Lodge 307. It is a very cool feeling. Wish you were here.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

June 25, Special Olympics Bike Ride

Wednesday. Delaware, Ohio. Was ready to roll around 6:45am and went down to the lobby to check out the 'continental breakfast' offering. Cake donuts and a waffle making operation that looked dangerous...and ice cold orange juice. I opted to hydrate with OJ when a tall, thin man took interest in my bike which was parked out front. After relating my story, he tells me to, "Wait right there...I want to give you some money for the kids." He returned moments later with a $20 bill, I had him write his name and address on a card so I could send him a thank you when I get home. His name is Mike Spence from Benton, Illinois. And he wrote, "God bless.", on the card. Sure appreciate the kind words and deed. Pushed my bike out of the parking lot and up to the entrance of Rt. 33, the shortest, straightest route heading east toward Columbus. Was greeted by the infamous freeway sign prohibiting, 'farm machinery, vehicles less than 5 brake h.p. and BICYCLES. Time for plan "B" and it wasn't even 7:00am. Ran 20 miles of really entertaining short, steep hills on county backroads. Well, if life and bicycle touring teach you anything...chin up as every uphill has a downhill.

The roads eventually flattened out as I pushed eastward into Union County. Every County has their own idea about how much pavement they are going to place to the right of the white line. Some Counties have really nice, wide 'bicycle ' lanes, 2 - 3 feet. Union County along Route 347 has about 4" right of the painted line. Gets a little dicey when you are getting simul-passed by the motoring public. This will allow me to introduce another bicycle tourist term, "riding the paint." On narrow roads like Rt. 347, about all you can do is ride right on the painted sideline and hope that the vehicular traffic shows some respect. 99% of the time they do. Still, 'riding the paint' for the 19 miles across Union County is not something I would care to do again.

Made Delaware around 2:00pm after 50 miles and a 10.2/mph average speed. The mileage and average speed come from my cycling computer which is lovingly referred to as my 'Yippee Meter'. That's because at the end of the day, you can see how far you have travelled and exclaim, "Yippee!!". Really. A few high points from today's ride. Stopped in Pharisburg at a combination Marathon Station/Diner. Travelling invites you to sample new foods. Today I had an angus burger with fried bologna and rye cheese. Pretty good actually. I stopped in East Liberty's Post Office and walking out a man in a pick-up informed me that I should fill my water bottles at East Liberty's famous horse trough. No kidding...an artesian well constantly filling a stone horse trough. That was the first time in all my adventures that I've ever watered up at a trough. Had only one dog chase today...it was a yappy, four pound fluff-ball. Pretty funny.

I haven't talked too much about the weather. Frankly it has been sunny and lovely. I didn't want to jinx my luck by writing about how nice it has been. Until today, when the thunderstorms blew through in waves. Nice to be inside watching. The weather channel says there are possible twisters sighted near Wapak. Yikes.

Walking Pigbike through the streets of Delaware, I spotted something very rare. A bike shop. They are getting more scarce all the time. The owner of Breakaway Cycles, Dan Negley told me that the number of bike shops in the U.S. has fallen from 7,500 to 4,000 in the last ten years. I don't know about you, but I love a good bike shop. Dan's store is exceptional. While chatting with Dan, a Delaware Bicycle Officer stopped by to check out my touring rig. Officer Bob Hatcher gave me some outstanding directions and said he may be in Columbus on Friday for the opening of the Special Olympics. I hope to see him again. Great guy.

I stopped by the East Liberty and Raymond Masonic Lodges to deliver t-shirts, letters and cards. Snapped some more pics of each Lodge. Can't wait to sort my photos and see how many Lodges I have actually visited. Well, I'm getting close to completing my 'Get to Columbus' portion of this ride to raise awareness for our Ohio Special Olympians. As far as raising awareness, I think I've done the job. Everywhere I stopped and talked to people, it was always about the Special Olympians. Thousands of people have driven past me as I rode 500+ miles and have read the giant billboard on my back..."Going the Distance" OHIO SPECIAL OLYMPICS. Talk about putting the word on the street. I am proud to be the cycling ambassador for the Special Olympics. I almost hate to think that this part of the adventure is so close to being over. It has been a hoot so far. See you in Columbus??

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

June 24, Special Olympics Bike Ride

Tuesday. Bellefontaine, Ohio. Greetings from the highest point in Ohio. Ever been to Lombard Street in San Francisco? Coming into Bellefontaine is a lot like a bunch of runs up Lombard Street. Hills to plateaus, more hills and...oh wait...more hills. The livestock here must have offset legs to handle the angles. I'll get back to Bellefontaine, (pronounced: Bell-Fountain), in a moment.

Woke up without wake-upcall as usual at 6:00am. Since the Armstrong Museum did not open until 9:30am, I had some time to spend. It was a weird morning. I had three and one half hours until the Museum opened, but I felt badly about burning daylight and not being in the saddle and pounding miles. In a bicyclist's world...especially in great weather...time is miles. I was missing my morning miles...but the wait was worth it.

Arriving at the Armstrong Museum exactly at 9:30am I was third in line. The nice counter lady allowed me to hide Pigbike behind a dumpster in their receiving area. Major rule of bike touring: "If you ain't on it, can't see it or have someone watching it...LOCK YOUR BIKE IN A SAFE PLACE." I've had some trippers lose their machines during my tour leading days. Never a good morning on the road. With my bike safely secured, I entered the Museum.

Goose bumps. Honest to God. Goose bumps. I had entered the halls that had been graced by some of our Greatest American Heroes. Most of our Astronaut Corps have walked through that Museum. You could feel it...really strong mojo. The Museum gets another set of giant thumbs up. I am a mere bicycle cowboy who is in absolute awe of our band of space cowboys. Imagine having a rocket strapped to your butt and trusting your ground crew was right. I'll admit it...growing up in the 60's I hero-worshipped two things, Pete Rose and our Astronauts. If I couldn't play left field for the Indians, I wanted to be an astronaut. Neither one a choice in my cards this passing. Remember your first telescope? Where were you when Armstrong sent these words home. "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind ."?? Today's visit to Neil's Museum was exceptional...except in the Lunar Lander and Shuttle Simulators I proved myself best earthbound and pedalling. I crashed both simulations...oops.

Mostly flat run after the Museum visit for the first twenty miles. The counter lady at the Museum let me know my day would head uphill as I got close to Bellefontaine. O.K., Pigbike has been over the Rockies seven times...how bad could Ohio be? Answer: Rockies=long, slow slope.
Bellfontaine=short, steep climbs. Fortunately in my bicycle tourist brain, I have concocted the fantasy that since I am now at the highest point in Ohio, the 56 miles I have left to Columbus will be a downhill glide. Wanna' bet??

The run to Bellefontaine was interupted only by three wide load semis driving me into the ditch, a lovely roadside Malt Shop and a Subway. Made landfall in Bellefontaine around 2:00pm. Walking Pigbike through another fascinating small town, I located the Chamber of Commerce, locked up Pigbike and went upstairs. Meeting Director Ed Wallace and Sue Stanford was great. They fetched me detailed maps for my difficult run tomorrow, and also went ahead and booked my room for the night. Great folks...visit Bellefontaine. Have been worried about my pictures because I have screwed them up while computer loading. Went to the local Walgreen's and once again their ACE photo guy, Rodney printed two discs off my camera's card. One copy was sent home via Priority Mail. Nice insurance policy...some of those pics are ONCE in a lifetime shots. Patronize Walgreen's...great customer service.

Pushing my bike north out of town, I found the Masonic Lodge in Bellefontaine. Delivered a t-shirt, letter and card. Received some great news from my home Lodge today. My little bicycle adventure is making ripples in the Ohio Masonic Sea. Gentlemen and Brothers...one man may dare great things but he is nothing without his Mission Control. Thanks Houston, I mean Lakeshore 307...
Delaware tomorrow. Bad day on dog roads. I'll be OK. I feel your good wishes.

Monday, June 23, 2008

June 23, Special Olympics Bike Ride

Monday. Wapakoneta, Ohio.

Headed out of Decatur, Indiana around 7:00am after a jim-dandy continental breakfast. America's Best Value Inn's get a pair of giant thumbs up. Very nice place to overnight. Eleven miles along Route 33 East brought me back into Ohio. Feels good to see Ohio license plates. Stopped at the Rockford Post Office to send home some excess Quayle souvenirs which were taking up limited space and basically pissing me off. That is never a good thing based on the dearth of available of space on my touring machine, Pigbike.

A little backstory on Pigbike. She is a 1993 Cannondale T-700 I bought back when I was professionally leading bicycle tours. Outfitted with four oversized, custom-made Beckman panniers, a rack pack and handlebar bag, her gross vehicle weight is 103 pounds when she is loaded to travel distance. Needless to say, with my 200 pound (m)ass on her back, she just doesn't want to go into the wind very well.

Fortunately today I had a 5 mph tailwind. That may not seem like much, but I laughed out loud more than once today when I saw flags in people's yards blowing in my direction. I covered 45 miles by noon given the light tailwind and pancake flat terrain. A great day for a travelling cyclist is being a member of the "50 Mile by Noon Club." Today was a pretty fair day with an average speed of 13 mph.

I knew that I had to locate the Wapakoneta Masonic Lodge as it is the 'HAMER Lodge'. The W.M. at our Lakeshore Lodge is Brother HAMERcheck. Riddle me that Batman. Luck being on my side, the Lodge appears on my left as I enter Wapak. I stop to leave a Special Olympics T-shirt, greeting letter and card. Having only one crumpled card left, I write the blog info from the card on the greeting letter and hang the shirt and letter on the Lodge's door.

Walking my bike, I am in awe of the beauty of this 175 year old town. It is just one of those places that just feels good. That good feeling almost immediately played out. Passing a small print shop, I see a woman walking inside and I ask her if she works there. With an affirmative reply, we step inside, I tell her my story and show her my one remaining crumpled Masonic business
card. She tells me to come back in fifteen minutes. I return and she places three dozen perfect business cards on the counter. Asking the tariff, she replies, "These are on me. I appreciate that you're helping the kids." God, I love the road!! I went to my handlebar bag and grabbed a fresh chocolate chip cookie I had just bought and paid my tab to Mary with a smile. Thank you Mary Beech at Image Masters in Wapak. You are a Road Angel.

Found another of my planned waypoints further down the road, just west of I-75. The Neil Armstrong Air and Space Museum. It is a place I have always wanted to visit...just be advised it is closed Mondays. I only have about a 40 mile jump tomorrow so I plan to tour the Museum in the morning and get a late start for Bellfontaine, and the highest point in Ohio. Closing tonight with two words...Waffle House. One of my Dad's faves is right next door to where I am staying...we always had grits. Peace

Sunday, June 22, 2008

June 22, Special Olympics Bike Ride

Sunday. Decatur, Indiana.

Great overnight in the 'Shed'. Slept like the proverbial log and awoke to a fantastic homemade breakfast with the Crispin's. Brother Bob asked me if I would like some deer jerky to pack in my bags. Good jerky is a road-doggie's ultimate bicycle cowboy food. The filet mignon of packable trail meat. Sadly, the time to head east had come and as I strode to my trusty aluminum steed, Bob stopped me and handed me a gorgeous, 'Proud to Be a Freemason' pin for my handlebar bag. Another fine, touching moment. Wow. Hated to leave, but was eastward bound around 8:30am.

Rolling along the miles of beautiful farmland on a quiet Sunday morning, the bucolic serenity was shattered by a man's sharp call of, "GET BACK HERE SAM !!" A powerful mixed breed dog...in my estimation around 80+ pounds had broken away and was closing on me at warp speed. Angry barks and snarls filled the air as he triangulated my position and hurtled toward Pigbike. I yelled, "NO...STOP...GO HOME !!", in my angriest voice. It was to no avail. He continued closing, so I swerved into the traffic lane. He had almost chased me clear into the middle of Route 224's two lane, 55 mph highway before finally giving up his pursuit.

Normally when being dog-chased I reach down a grab my water bottle and squirt them square in the puss. They get the funniest look when you blast them and inevitably call off the hunt. Except today as I had broken my waterbottle and was essentially out of anti-dog ammunition. (Note to Self: ALWAYS fix your equipment, and DON'T swerve into two lane highways.)

Arrive in Decatur around 11:30am after a flat, fast, (Avg. speed: 12 mph.), thirty mile run. No head wind. I repeat...NO headwind! Booked in at the very well tended America's Best Value Inn and promptly took an air-conditioned nap. Caught up on yesterday's blog, watched Caddyshack and carbo-loaded for tomorrow's 50+ mile jump into Wapakoneta with a Domino's Cheese Fest.
Cheesy bread, double cheese pizza...you get the picture. Smell-o-vision anyone?

To close, thinking about the two gentlemen yesterday who out of the clear blue offered me money...I did not recognize them for who they are. They too are Road Gods and I missed their message. If people want to support my effort and support the Special Olympians, I must be open to accept their gifts on behalf of the kids. I GET IT NOW. If you want to support my effort and the efforts of our Special Olympians, why not take the pledge.? My final mileage to the Jesse Owens Memorial Coliseum in Columbus will be right around 500 miles. How much per mile is my ride worth? A nickel...quarter...a buck a mile? Please send your generous, tax-deductible contribution payable to, "Ohio State Special Olympics", c/o: Jim "Spudd" Sasak, Lakeshore Lodge 307, P.O. Box 333, Grand River, OH. 44045. You have my word as a Brother that 100% of all monies donated will go to the kids. Think about it. Thank you. Peace