Sunday, August 25 – 2853 miles down, 420 to go
This was the best and worst day of our journey.
The best part about it was that Joe Williams joined us and was going to ride with us. Joe is in the running to be The World’s Most Interesting Man, and he’s one of the warmest most personable people I’ve met in a long time. Joe has PD and was our host in Durango several weeks ago when we had our first rest day. Wow, that seems eons ago. Anyway, Joe has some business in this area of the world, so he flew in early and joined us this morning around 6:15am. While Tom and I were talking with him, he told us he had a donation from his cycling team, Go Joe Go. He handed us a baggie full of money, and suffice it to say that the GJG Team stepped up Big Time in supporting us. We spent some time talking and catching up with him, and as a result didn’t get going until after 7:00am.
I was rattled because the Garmin picked today to urp and give me the dreaded “Course Calculation Error” message. That means it will not even try to display “Turn Left” or “Turn Right”, and I would have to keep a close eye on it to keep us on-route. As we rolled out of Canton we all had no idea how eventful our day was going to become. Joe informed us that his PD has affected his left leg, and it took at least 20 minutes to warm it up. He says he calls it “Waiting for Lefty“, so that was our mantra for the day.
First, we were into more hills and climbs, and that slows you down. Joe was strong and we kept our paceline going, but as the day wore on that became more and more ragged for a variety of reasons. Our first “event” was the appearance of yet another Road Closed sign. We inspected just how closed it really was, and since it was Sunday we had no workers or anybody else to contend with. It was a missing bridge, but we saw you could easily walk across the gap. We were actually thrilled because one of our big supporters, Jay McAvoy, has promised to donate another $100 for every detour we encounter and conquer. So Jay, that’s $100!
At one stop we were re-filling water bottles and Joe wasn’t around, and then a familiar scent wafted through the air. Rick and I sniffed knowingly, and I said, “That’s A&D ointment!” Sure enough, Joe emerged from behind the trailer where he’d been performing an A&D sham. We were all pleased that Joe joined the Butter Club, albeit with A&D instead of Chamois Butt’r. Hey, the brotherhood and sisterhood of the Chamois allows some variance.
One interesting item is that Joe has done a lot of studying how PD affects his performance, and ways to fool his body into performing better. One of those methods is music. He’s talked to trainers and exercise people and has undertaken some interesting studies as well. He has speakers on his bike that connect to his iPod, and he was playing an eclectic mix of country, folk, African tribal and techno-pop. He said that in his studies it’s been shown that early on his power is 80% in his right leg and 20% in his left leg. Once he warms up and has the right musical beat, his effort level changes to 50%-50%, and if he has a playlist with the proper beats he can ride at a very high level for about 42 miles. And sure enough, once he warmed up and put on his music, he was strong strong strong.
Our next event was when a group of motorcycles passed us, and their leader made it his priority to ride up right next to each of us and goose his throttle many times, I guess to try to scare us or something. Right after they’d done that, we came around a corner and found the motorcycles stuck at a Stop sign. Joe rode right up next to them and started yelling “HEY!” at the guy who goosed his engine to scare us. Joe was pointing at him, and the guy didn’t have the cojones to look Joe in the eye. I reminded Joe that we have “Davis Phinney Foundation” displayed on everything we were wearing, and that we had to calm down and represent.
But the motorcycle guy was still a ninny to do it, and even more so since he didn’t deign to even look at Joe. And we got a glimpse of a different side of Joe. As mentioned above, Joe is a wonderful, soft-spoken and friendly person. But this guy got him wound up, and I was able to see Joe upset, which made me realize why Joe has been successful in starting businesses and generally in life. He’s got some fire hidden in there. Also it shows the underlying passion and fight that obviously benefit him when fighting PD. He just gets mad at this filthy disease.
Joe was full of Adrenalin after the incident, and he took off on some of the hills we encountered. He flew away from the group, and didn’t slow down for miles and miles. Like I said, he was strong but the day was turning hot and I was worried that he might burn himself up early, so I had a bit of a talk with him about keeping the rhythm of he group. We stopped for lunch and a Dilly Bar break (Amy hit DQ – thank you Amy!). Joe kept flying and as a result we splintered into indivduals. Rick and I ended up riding together most of the day, and Joe and Tom kept together as well. In fact, Tom turned into Joe’s wing-man for the entire day, coaching him and encouraging him. I think it would be an interesting study to see what the effects of music tempo and adrenaline are on a Parkinson’s person.
And then the worst began to happen. We went off-course several times as the Garmin wasn’t notifying me, and as a result rode several miles that we didn’t need to ride. This continued to happen throughout the day and it really got me aggravated.
And then Rick fell. I’ve studiously not mentioned the fact that we’ve ridden clean for 36 days without any accidents. I didn’t want to jinx us, Kind of like not mentioning the phrase “no hitter” when a pitcher has one going. We were going up yet another hill, and the shoulder had about a 4 inch dropoff down into some gavel, and Rick’s wheel slipped off the shoulder and he couldn’t recover. His bike slid down that dropoff and dumped him handily on the road. He popped up immediately and checked out his bike, so it wasn’t anything major. Tom was directly behind him and witnessed the whole thing. Rick dusted himself off and we got going again.
As we rode along something hit me right in the nose and startled me. I realized it was a leaf, and that I was riding through several dead leaves that were yellow and red in color. It struck me that Autumn is tinging some of the trees already, and some are shedding their leaves. Not a lot, but we started this ride over 5 weeks ago in High Summer, and now we’re perilously close to Fall. We’ve been riding a long time. We also were surprised when we crossed the Ohio River, we went into West Virginia for about 5 miles. An unexpected State!
And then we hit another detour. This time there wasn’t any bridge and we were temporarily stymied. But Joe went investigating and said “There’s a walking bridge!” So we all grabbed our bikes and went down the embankment and one by one navigated the “bridge”. It was more like a metal ladder that had been laid down over the river, and when you got to the middle it began to oscillate wildly, threatening to dump you in the water. Regardless we all crossed and kept on going. Jay McAvoy, that’s $200!
We entered Pennsylvania and were greeted with more hills. Joe was tiring after his morning efforts so we were split once again, with Rick and I in front and Tom shepherding Joe behind. We were grinding up another hill when a car in the opposite lane began to honk at me. I was like, “Really dude? I’m not even on your side of the road!” But the person was pointing behind me. I turned to look, and there was Rick on his back on a lawn next to the road. He’d fallen again! This time he didn’t pop up so quick. This one left a mark. There was a ridge between the roadway and shoulder, and he’d caught it wrong and it dumped him. He hit the road first and then bounced into the yard.
I went back to help and Rick slowly got to his feet and brushed himself off. We checked his bike which incurred some scrapes, but seemed to be in good working order. Rick had some abrasions but mounted his bike and we continued on. We took a stop in a mile or so and got the first aid kit out and patched his hip up. He’s got a nice strawberry on his hip, and his arm and leg are abraded as well, but thankfully nothing serious. All I could think of was a play on the old Howard Cosell broadcast of the fight between George Foreman and Joe Frazier: “Down goes Baker! Down goes Baker!”
All the detours and falls and off-course and hills and heat were turning it into a long day. We finally got close to Pittsburgh and Joe was giddy because he wanted to get a century ride in, and all my off-course problems had us close to 100 miles. Anything to help, Joe!
One note on why I love to ride with Rick, and that’s because of his dry wit and humor. We were near the end of the ride and I asked him, “Do you want to lead for awhile?” His reply was, “Sure, I haven’t fallen in front of you yet today“. And that’s why I love Rick Baker.
We had some more course issues (this time due to more detours and closed roads) close to the city but found a way across the river, and stopped to take some pictures. Joe was ecstatic and hugged us all and actually gave me a kiss on the cheek. It meant so much to him to ride all that distance (which took 11 hours) and to finally arrive into Pittsburgh. But Tom was the hero of the day as he kept right next to Joe and encouraged him up all the hills, Especially the last hill, which was a real bear, but Tom hung with Joe and got him up that puppy.
The sun was starting to set when we got to the hotel, so we cleaned up quickly and went to dinner. Joe was in fine fettle and once again I just have to admire his will and determination. Like I said, when the motorcycle incident occurred I got a glimpse of the hard steel will that underlies Joe’s soft-spoken and friendly demeanor.
We’re finding that with all of these PD people that we meet and ride with. Joe could sit in his beautiful house in Durango and let this disease overwhelm him. But he goes to spin classes and rides his bike and studies how music can help him lick his disease, and he’s actively trying to kick Parkinson’s butt. I’m a lucky man to be able to witness these battles that occur while on the bike. Joe struggled at the end but he would not be denied. He battled and battled and when we got to the bridge with this beautiful city in front of us, we all cried because Joe was so happy and overwhelmed. He just kept saying, “I never thought I’d get to ride back into this city! I never thought it would happen!”
Oh it happened Joe. Because there was no way you were going to let it NOT happen.
All you had to do was wait for lefty.