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

June 21, Special Olympics Bike Ride

Saturday, June 21. Huntington, Indiana. Parade Day/Rest Day.

Checked out of the local motel after having spent a night in a room with DNA samples on the wall. Now I am no germaphobe, but that was a bit much even for a road-doggie of my considerable experience in unusual overnightings.

Met the Amity Masons at the High School's parade staging area, spot #63 at around 9:00am. As 'Pigbike' wouldn't fit anywhere on the float, it was agreed that I would ride along side. I met Brother Bob Crispin and his lovely wife as we were preparing to begin the parade. When I told him my motel story, he graciously offered me the opportunity to spend Saturday night in his 'shed'. (More about that later...) Over 120 units were part of Huntington's Heritage Days Parade. It is my guess that well over 20,000 spectators lined the parade route. Here's something very cool that happened. The pick-up towing the Lodge float carried Masonic banners as well as a large American flag. Along the mile long parade route, as our float approached, men would stand, remove their caps and small children would rise from their blankets, stand and put their hands over their hearts. I have a wonderful picture of two small boys saluting the flag as we passed. The moment was SO All-American MAGIC that tears welled behind my Ray-Bans. I snapped a moving photograph of those boys. (Note: I have given up on trying to send photos from the road. We'll work out the bugs for the next ride. When I get home, I will turn the blog and the photos into a powerpoint and make the CD available by request.) Having ridden the parade route in Huntington, my belief in the fact that Americans love America has been revived. Therein lies our Nation's strength. I wish I saw more of that at home in Cleveland. Take a look around Progressive Field during the playing of the National Anthem. Many in attendance leave their backward caps on, and a whole bunch don't even bother to stand in respect. Sure, it's a free Country, I just wish there was a law against ignorant disrespect for our flag and all she represents. We could all learn a great deal from those two little boys in Huntington. And as for promoting the Special Olympics, thousands of people saw and read my t-shirt billboard as I rolled through the streets. I hope the impact of my uniquely presented marketing message will help to open people's eyes and wallets on behalf of our very Special Olympians.

Following the parade I was invited back to the Lodge for a tour from Past W.M. Roger Dimond. Their Lodge is incredible and it is easy to see that they have spent countless hours on this labor of love. Roger invited me and Lakeshore 307 to return to Huntington in October to be part of their next One Day Class. Sounds like a great reason to road-trip...though next time I think I'll burn fossil fuel to make the voyage. Left the Lodge around 2:00pm and headed for cover as a nasty thunderstorm was rapdily blowing in. Found a dry spot under the overhang at the local supermarket, Marsh's. Had the classic bicycle tourist's lunch of a couple sandwiches, yogurt, a banana and some Cheesy Poofs. As I was waiting out the rain, a white car pulled up and a man jumped out and ran to share my dry spot. He introduced himself as local Pastor Joe and he wanted to bless my bicycle and my trip. I thanked him profusely and he reached into his pocket, fans open his wallet and starts pulling out money. I assured him that in spite of the fact my bicycle now looks like a gypsy traveling wagon, I was financially solvent and I appreciated the offer and it had touched me deeply. He handed me his card and bid me to e-mail him with the news of my successful return home. Amazing folks in this town called Huntington...and there's more.

Walking past a 'Dart-the-Balloon' game on the Midway, a handsome young man called me over. Expecting his b.s. hustle, I was jaw-dropped when he told me, "Hang on a sec, lemme get you something." He handed me two icy cold bottles of water and just wanted me to know that 'carnies' often get a bad rap. He wanted me to know, "That it ain't all like that. There are some good people here." In fact he told me that whenever he sees a kid in a wheelchair go by, he calls the kid over and GIVES the kid a free prize off his table. Nice guy. More...I had a little more time to kill until I could leave for Brother Crispin's as he wasn't going to be home until late afternoon. Bike pushing around, visiting a really neat art studio in the old train depot, I ran across an older gentleman who took a great interest in my travelling rig. His name is Carlton Sprague, he is "eighty-something" and he still rides his one speed, balloon tire bike almost every day. We parted company and about fifteen minutes later our paths crossed again and he had a map of Huntington, that he figured I 'could use'. He showed me exactly how to get to Bob Crispin's place and then leaned into me and asked. "How are you set for money? I've got more then I can ever spend. Now how much...". I cut him short and assured him I was flush but was very much obliged for his offer. I shook his strong, thin hand and headed out of town to Bob's.

The five mile ride to Bob's was my first time heading east and it was grand and glorious not to have a headwind roaring in my ears and trying to push me backward. Arriving at the Crispin's beautiful farm, I was welcomed inside like a long, lost friend. Warm conversation and clean laundry. In a bicyclist's world, that is a fine way to spend a Saturday evening. Around 10:00pm, Brother Crispin and I adjourned to his back porch and we spoke of Masonry. I hung on every word that this 40 year Mason had to impart. He helped me to realize how truly special it was to be a Freemason. I really do have brothers EVERYWHERE ! There will never again be a time when I feel alone on the road. Thank you Brother Bob. Thank you Amity 483.

Turns out Bob's "Shed" was his hunting cabin just off his barn. Seriously Five-Star accomodations in the life of a bicycle tourist...alas no WiFi, hence the delay in this posting. To close tonight...(Forgive the syntax...), Huntington, Indiana good place...VERY good place. I will return. Peace

Friday, June 20, 2008

June 20, Special Olympics Bike Ride

Friday, Huntington, IN. I have a confession. Last night I spent $145 including my Triple A and AARP discounts for a room at the Holiday Inn Express in New Haven. Those of you who know me will be aghast at how I spent such a princely sum due to my history of "thriftiness". Truth is it had a jacuzzi in the room and my back had been tightening up for the last two days. I spent an hour bubbling while enriching myself in Trey Parker's biting cartoon satire. And this morning I felt like a thousand million bucks. Rain that had been forecast for the morning had disappeared and I made the command decision to push one more day of wind and get to my westernmost waypoint, Huntington, Indiana. Why Huntington? Answer, Bucket List. Yes, on my list was some strangely driven desire to visit the Dan Quayle Vice-Presidential Museum located in Huntington, IN. I figured as long as my bike trip was taking me close, I would jump into Indiana and knock one of those things off my bucket list. More on the Museum later.

Rolled west toward Fort Wayne around 9:00am. Nasty gravel in the bike gutter and I flatted out for the first time. Took me my usual three minutes to break the bike down and get the tube changed and now I faced a pump decision. My old frame pump was dependable but took a lot of strokes to bring the tire up to 95 pounds. But I had packed a fancy new mini-pump that supposedly did twice the work in half the strokes. As I was about to administer the final blast of air, the new pump snapped the valve clean off the tube. I had to start all over with another tube. I opted for my old pump and cursed the new one. Rode through downtown Fort Wayne. Very pretty city. Wished I had had more time to linger, but I was working on my bucket list and the Museum would close at 4:00pm. Things that happen on the road are often inexplicable. Dig this. Riding just south of Fort Wayne, still peeved about my bike pump, there...laying in the road at the entrance to a fancy shopping center is a brand new bicycle pump. I am not making this up. It is hanging off my bags right now and I am looking at it. Gets better. I wear an old pair of prescription Ray-Ban Aviators. I train in them, ride in them and marathon in them. Over the years the sweat from my face has pitted the underside of the frames and when they bounce up and down for a long time as I ride, they give me raccoon marks under my eyes. It was really starting to annoy me today and I thought about the fact that I wasn't carrying any fine grit sandpaper on my bike which I could use to smooth the frames. Ten miles north of Huntington, the Road Find Gods answered again...I am not kidding...laying on the road...a full pack of GatorGrit Power Plus black zirconium fine sandpaper. Made in Fairborn, Ohio. Freaky, eh?

Gets even better. Arrive in Huntington to find they are in the midst of their 'Heritage Days' Festival, a street fair covering many blocks Downtown. Locate the Vice Presidential Museum and am greeted by the curator, Dan Johns who mentions he was in receipt of my e-mail and had been expecting me. It is Friday afternoon, we are the only ones in the Museum and I am granted a VIP tour. This Museum is about the Vice-Presidents, it just happens to be located in Dan Quayle's hometown. His collection includes an artifact from every American Vice-President. The collection itself is impressive, but Dan Johns' grasp of the history of the Vice-Presidency is awesome. We have had some very interesting men fill the number two position in our Country over the years. Granted the upstairs is mostly about our 44th Vice-President, but overall, I give the Vice Presidential Museum in Huntington two giant thumbs up.

Left the Museum around 4:00pm, and went across the street to a local bank to cash some Traveller's Checks as I had spent $46.00 on Quayle souveniers. How's this...American Express Traveller's Checks ARE NOT WELCOME. They wouldn't cash them. Too much chance of fraud. Even though I had proper I.D. and don't think that I appear overtly nefarious. And how fast am I going to flee the scene of the crime on my Pigbike? (At 10 miles an hour.) Demanded to see the manager, and after a call to American Express, they cashed a few checks. What a pile of horse poop. Why bother getting American Express Traveller's Checks if you can't cash them on the road? Isn't that the concept behind travelling checks? O.K., it worked out, but American Express has got some "splainin' to do," (Apologies to Ricky Ricardo), when I get home.

Bummed around the festival, looked at some amazing vintage cars, dunked a couple of dollies and as I was leaving met an artist lady who informed me that the local Masons were holding a fish fry on the other side of town. It was within easy bike pushing distance so I choogled on over. A gentleman with the square and compass on his breastpocket was walking out so I introduced myself, told my story, and presented him with a card and commemerative t-shirt. His name is Roger Dimond, and he is Past Master of Amity Lodge 483. We exchanged handshakes and he told me to wait right there. He returned moments later and introduced me to the Lodge's Worshipful Master, Jeff Baumgartner. Jeff escorted me into the fish fry, waved me past the pay-here table and got me set up with a delicious meal. And in recognition of my efforts, he next presented me with a check for Ohio' s Special Olympians that he asked I deliver in person on behalf of Amity 483. Amazing day. Amazing band of Brothers. They want me to join them on their float in tomorrow's parade. Think I'll do it? Stay tuned. Rest day tomorrow. Laundry and more adventure. Peace

Thursday, June 19, 2008

June 19, Special Olympics Bike Ride

Thursday. New Haven, Indiana. Another day, another 56 miles with the wind on the nose. I am looking very forward to my upcoming rest day. Spent the majority of the day on Route 24 travelling between Napoleon and New Haven. If it is indeed true that all of America's needs move by truck, than I am convinced that all of America's needs moved along the 2-lane Route 24 today. Convoys of trucks, some up to 10 deep, came in waves from both directions. All day. And I had a most bicycle UNfriendly 2 foot berm. Please allow this visual. Eastbound and westbound semi rigs simultaneously passing your fully loaded touring bicycle as you balance precipitiously near the edge of the road. Imagine that you could take your left hand off the handlebar and easily touch a truck passing you at 60 miles per hour. Now imagine doing that for 5 hours and 53 minutes. So, you think you had a bad day? Oh, and just for fun try this...looking up and seeing an oncoming semi swerve out to pass another and now TWO big rigs are barreling toward you less then a quarter mile ahead. Time to put the bike as deep into the ditch as possible. People always ask me if I am scared out there. Not so much scared as cautiously scared. All I can do is be cautious. Today I was scared. I guess somehow that is a good thing. It keeps you from getting complacent. Too much complacency in our world. Brothers, ask yourselves what you can do to help.

OK, apologies for the soapboxing. Last night as I was loading the digital pics into the computer, somehow I managed to lose that precious photo of the Special Olympian, Ben Snyder from Grand Rapids. Hoping for the best, I took the camera to a Walgreen's in Defiance and Brendt the camera guy, pulled up the missing picture and printed me two 5 by 7's. That picture is a poster waiting to happen. Spoke with the girl at the Speedway in Defiance as she was changing the gas prices on the street sign. I asked her how people reacted as she raised the prices. She said that she felt like she needed a bulletproof vest. Gas in Defiance is $4.09/gal. It feels very much like the Country is in a foul mood. What is up America? If you want change, make change. Just do something. Oops, more soapboxing...mea culpa again. Tonight to close, I will introduce you to another of the 'Road Gods'. The 'Road Find God' places many treasures along the ride. It is almost like a video game that you get to live. See a prize, and gobble it up. Today may have been a lousy day for riding, but for Road Find it was spectacular. Wrenches, a socket, 32 cents, a cool marble, a 'Caution Student Driver' magnetic sign, a Titlest, and a Wal-Mart Associate badge and lanyard. The name on the tag was Steve. My Dad used to call me Steve. I guess Dad was letting me know that he was watching over my ride. Pops really never liked my bike trips. He would sit out in his lawnchair for the whole day when he knew I was coming home. Best handshakes ever. O.K., now I'm waxing melancholy. Blog focus, blog focus...Sorry gang, I am pretty beat down tired. Improvement tomorrow. You have my money-back guarantee. Peace.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

June 18/Special Olympics Bike Ride

Wednesday. Napoleon, Ohio. I wanted to get on the road early today as the winds are lighter in the morning and were expected to ramp up to a steady 15-25 knots as the sun got higher. Touring Cyclists are notoriously superstitious. Certain things we carry are only on the ride because we believe they are lucky. For example, I am carrying a road-found pair of 3-D glasses. I somehow KNOW they are filled with good fortune and must be on the ride. Out on the road luck is a friend. Other friends exist on the ride of a bicycle tourist. In my world, I refer to them as the 'Road Gods'. There are quite a few of them. One of them is the 'Road Sign God'. I'm not talking about regular road signs we ignore every day, I'm referring to signs he/she chooses to show you. An example. This morning I shovelled down a Denny's Grand Slam and as I walked out to my bike, a new red pick-up was parked very near. The hand lettering on the door said, "Bob's Masonry". Hmmm...masonry? A sign? So it was going to be a day filled with cool Mason stuff. I pedalled off at 7:00am in search of the Masonic adventures. Lots of other cool things happened today, but allow me to begin with the Mason stories. Riding along the Maumee River, (into the freaking wind), I came to the town of Tontoganty. Something told me I was near something special, so I snapped a picture of the town's sign. Rolling out of town, I glance over at a railroad crossing sign and notice a small brown sign, on the ground half covered by weeds. And the sign says, "Ohio Historical Masonic Site, 1 1/4 mile" with an arrow pointing north. Well, I'm heading west, but I understand the zen of the, 'Road Sign God', so off route I go to the site. Very cool to stand at the site of the first Masonic Lodge founded in Wood County, 1831. (Nice photos which I may not be able to post until I get home and get some computer guidance. Sorry folks. I'll keep trying. ) Couldn't tarry too long at the site as the mosquitos were swarming. Pulling into the town of Grand Rapids, I knew I was in for fun adventures since I had begun my journey from the Village of Grand River four days and 200 miles ago. Grand Rapids/Grand River? Oh it gets better. It is said that timing is everything, and how could it be that I am pushing my bicycle along Main Street and as I pass a pizza shop, a woman is asking her little brother if he is going to Columbus? I glance over and see the young boy is special. I stop, and just ask the young man, "Are you going to the Special Olympics in Columbus?" Beaming, he replies, "Yes, I am." I tell him that I have something for him and reach into my panniers and produce a Special Olympic t-shirt. I introduce myself as the Bicycling Ambassador for the Special Olympics. His sister introduces me to Ben Snyder. He works at the pizza store and he's going to participate in volleyball and baseball. His sister snaps a picture and smiling broadly Ben states, "If you are going to be in Columbus, you can be my room-mate and I can wear my shirt." Happiest kid you'd ever meet. Yes my friends, they ARE special. Support these kids. Consider coming down to Columbus for the games, June 27-29.
What next in enchanted town of Grand Rapids? Try this. Pushing my bike further down the main drag, two older gentlemen take note of my loaded machine and we begin to chat. Turns out I was in the company of a 55 year Mason, W.L. Hampton. W.L. asked me to spread the word to my fellow Masons that an editorial in Monday's N.Y. Times should be read by all and discussed at the next meeting. Sounds important, let's heed the advice of a 55 year man. Still more...located the Grand Rapids Lodge and left a card and t-shirt. O.K., for those of you keeping score, that's four Mason things out on the road today. Very cool. Visit Grand Rapids. And ask me about the Red Hat Ladies from Grand Rapids sometime.

Lots more to write when I can use words to help illustrate my road photos, but I will close today with a couple interesting tidbits. I spent 25 miles on Route 6 travelling west from Fremont and found that the road had recently been designated a "Wide Load Detour." Semis hauling double wide trailers caused me to go 'bushwhacking' on five occasions. Always, better safe than dead.
The Wind Gods frowned in my direction again today. How so did I offend them? I was reaching dead tired with miles to go when I stopped for a rest on a cement guard rail under a railroad underpass when a State Trooper went by. He obviously saw me as two minutes later, he had turned around and pulled up to check on me. The trooper in car #1918 wanted to know if I needed help. Great gesture and good work by a person who holds one of the toughest jobs imaginable. God bless the troopers. God bless the professional truck drivers who respect my efforts and give me fair clearance. And God Bless the artist who painted the 30 foot high Campbell Soup Can just outside Napoleon. I have the pics...really. Indiana tomorrow. Peace.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

June 17/Special Olympic Bike Ride

Tuesday, 17 June. An infinitely advanced wordsmith once coined the phrase, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." Today's 58 mile ride from Oberlin to Fremont embodied the wordsmith's idea. Please allow me to adroitly describe today's 'worst of times.' Wind. Headwinds blowing on the nose at a steady 15-20 knots, gusting with malice at times to 35. I spent the majority of my time in the saddle managing gears to match the wind. Headwinds are the penultimate bane of the long distance tourist. A reasonable man would prefer a day's ride in the hills and heat. A touring bike is the aerodynamic equivalent of the windward side of a barn. Not so great in the aerodynamic's arena. Pushing a touring bike into the wind is akin to spending the day trying to push a cement block up an uneven brick wall...for 6 or 7 hours. It makes for a
long, tough trudge. Ah, but do not the worst of times often yield to the best of times?

Today they did, in spades. I'll give you the "Cliff Note's" version of today's good times, and conclude with one of those amazing moments that can only happen on a bicycle tour. My fraternity brother Ralph made an ad hoc decision to ride out a little with me this morning. I got to go bicycle riding with one of my brothers who I had known for 35 years, but had never ridden with. Today as we parted company after 10 miles and exchanged a fumbled fraternity handshake in our bike gloves, I felt something powerful and wonderful. I have always admired Ralph, and today Ralph respected me and my efforts on behalf of the Special Olympic kids. That meant a great deal. Less than 10 minutes after Ralph went east and I went west, I was 'grannying' my fat bike up a short, steep incline when I saw a cyclist in my mirror. Dave caught me at the hill's crest and we rode and chatted. Small world? He knows and rides with Ralph. He also gave me excellent directions for a modified route and then told me that if I went to Fremont, his former bike mechanic worked in town and I should meet him. The route suggested was kharmically fated. Cross the turnpike, bear left on Joppa Rd. and then left on...you are not going to believe this...MASON ROAD. I spent the majority of my day on Mason Rd. Almost stopped for lunch at the 'Mason Jar Tavern'. (I have the photos and we are working on gettin them up.) Please be advised that I suffer slightly from technophobia. I still play 8-tracks. But I'm learning. And isn't that one of the life's great lessons? Keep learning. And our Masonic brotherhood has so much to share and teach.

Quick hits. Other cool moments...a guy saw me coming and idled his zero-turn lawnmower until I passed and we shared a thank-filled wave...young guy in a pick-up pulls up to a stop sign and could have rudely pulled out in front of me as I pushed wind toward his intersection, but instead he smiled and waved me through. Another nice hand-signaled exchange. And then I pulled into Fremont...

It was easy to find the bike shop after a construction worker on a closed bridge provided me with exact directions. I met Phil, the former Oberlin bicycle mechanic who now plied his magic in Fremont. He knew both Ralph and Dave from his days spent spinning wrenches in Oberlin. It was like meeting a friend of a friend. As I was telling my story of riding for the Special Olympics, a slightly built middle aged black gentleman who had come to the counter looked at me and said,
"My name is George, and I was a Special Olympian. I ran 30 years ago and I met the Kennedy's when they came to event." George had a work badge hanging from his blue denim work shirt's pocket. It said he was a custodian. And he was the happiest, most joy-filled person you could ever stand next to. He gave me the distinct impression that his experience as a Special Olympian taught him that he could succeed given the cards he was dealt. And he did succeed. He had a job he was good at and he loved his bicycle and the freedom it provided. Self-actualization? May we all be so lucky. God bless George. My dedication to doing my part to rasie awareness and build publicity for the Special Olympians has never been higher. It actually makes me feel young again. Napoleon, Ohio tomorrow. Please turn off the west wind. Peace.

Monday, June 16, 2008

June 16/Special Olympic Bike Ride

Monday, June 16th. The 30 mile section of this ride took me from one Cleveland State Fraternity Brother's home in Avon to another in Oberlin. Spent a lovely day with my friends Ralph and Melissa. If you have never visited Oberlin, please put it on your 'Bucket List'. It is a really neat place. I will definitely be making a return visit to check out the Allen Museum, FAVA and Finney Chapel. Had time to bum around with my pals, get a haircut, visit a bakery, have two fine meals and fix the bike. Oh, did I forget to mention that touring bikes break on a regular basis?

The grinding noise began about 5 miles into today's ride. Sounded like it was coming from either the crank or one of the pedals. In my experience, whenever a potential problem arises it is always the most expensive problem that requires the fix. I was certain that the bottom bracket bearings had fried and if I could find a bike shop it was going to be at least eighty bucks. My CSU fraternity brother Ralph who is an avid bicycle rider suggested we take a look at the pedal bearings. As usual, if I'd learned anything since meeting Ralph in 1973, it is that Ralph is usually right. We took the pedal bearings to the Oberlin College Bike Co-op and for the princely sum of $1.50, had the repair accomplished.

Other cool things that happened today. Delivered my first 'Bicycling Ambassador' card and safety green T-shirt to the Oberlin Masonic Lodge. I have photos to prove it, I just haven't figured out how to load them to this blog. Will be heading off toward Sandusky tomorrow. Wish me fair winds and good luck. And a little bit of love for my left knee. Much obliged.
Brother Spudd

Sunday, June 15, 2008

June 15/Special Olympics Bike Ride, (SOBR)

Please allow me a quick introduction. My name is James "Spudd" Sasak, I'm 52 and I belong to Lakeshore Lodge 307 in Madison, Ohio. I have taken a dedication to the principles of Moderate Fitness Recovery and created an endurance athlete. Thirty seven marathon finishes and well over 25,000 miles of self-contained bicycle touring allow me the privilege to count myself among the athletically gifted. I wish to share my gift with some special friends. I am going on a 6 or 7 hundred mile bicycle trip to raise awareness for our state's special athletes. I will be pedalling around Ohio for the next couple weeks in my "safety green" Ohio Special Olympics t-shirt drumming up as much interest for these amazing athletes as I can. And visiting as many Masonic Lodges as possible. If you're not home I'll leave my card and one of my "safety green" t-shirts. I hope to meet all of you out on the road.

June 15/Special Olympics Bike Ride, (SOBR)

Prepping for a bicycle tour is a lot like training for a marathon. Millions of details and knowing you are going to somehow forget something. I must admit to forgetting nothing except that my left knee had been a problem since the Rite-Aid Cleveland Marathon on May 18th. I rested it for the last four weeks. I received amazing treatments and massage from incredible specialists. And still the knee is banging. Not as badly, but it is going to be touch and go. Lots of aspirin and water. I'll stay in lower gears to save the knees, travel more slowly, and hopefully be able to keep my assignation with my Brothers and ALL of Ohio's Special Olympians on Friday evening,
for the opening ceremonies on June 27 in Columbus. Let me leave this introduction with one of the incredible lessons we can learn from our Special Olympians. A popular corpoarte slogan tells us to, "Just Do It." Our Special Olympians teach us to, "Just Try It." Fearless of failure they are teaching us to "try" a little bit of physical activity. Even though we may not all be natural or gifted athletes, we can at least try to get ourselves into a little better shape.

Here's the skinny; I have promised my Lodge brothers at 307 that I would learn how to blog and send my bicycling adventure stories daily. Deeds not words. Today I pedalled from Grand River to Avon Lake. Nice weather, tough winds, help from good friends. I covered 50 miles along Lake Erie in about 6 hours. Laying over at my Cleveland State Fraternity Pledge Brother, Willie Keis, we speak of fraternity days. I have missed the connections with my college chums and welcomed my new brothers as I became a Mason. There are a great number of similarities between my college fraternity and my Masonic fraternity. I will try to tie them together during the course of my travels. But one thing is certain. One of the major smilarities is that both of my fraternities highly value service to the Community. This bike ride is my chance at this point in my life to do something good for some great kids. Many layers my friends. Stay tuned. I will tell you a good story.
Pictures are worth words times a thousand. Will try to get photos up asap.
Staying tuned,
Brother Spudd