Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Monday, October 1st

My trip is over and yet I feel a whole new one beginning. Before Sept. 10th, I, like the rest of the country, was completely ignorant to a deadly cancer called Neuroblastoma. I didn’t know it killed 80% of its victims. I didn’t know these precious babies suffer through weeks, months and even years of dreadful treatments that make them sick before hopefully making them better. I didn’t know these amazing parents had to hear a doctor say he could help their children if only he had the money. No one would stand for that. Not a doctor, not a politician, not a pharmacist, NO ONE. I pray every night that we find that person who won’t stand for it either. We need someone who wants to see their money working. And you will. If you invest in this campaign you will see returns on that investment you could never see in the stock market. You can go to Sea World and meet Sydney, the dolphin trainer. Once a little girl fighting for her life everyday, now a young woman who accomplished her childhood dream of swimming with dolphins. There can be nothing more fulfilling in life than knowing you saved a child and made her dreams come true.

To Randy, Kevin, Alec, Michael, Vander, Rick and Richard, it is hard to find the words that truly express how blessed I feel to have met you all. I know how lucky I am that this trip kind of fell into my lap. Thank you so much for letting me into your lives. For teaching me how to find a strength within myself I may never have known to exist. I know you heard the word hero a lot on this trip. Know that it was not used lightly. What you did took a courage that you don’t find in many men. It took the strength and bravery of a father determined to protect his young and see that no other parent feels the agony of helplessness.


Love you all, see you soon,

Monday, September 24, 2007

Sunday, Sept. 23rd

Sorry for the lapse in time since our last update but we have been steadily churning out the miles from destination to destination. Our morning departures have been a bit delayed due to media events directly resulting in arrival times much later into the evenings than anticipated. The route has proved to be a bit more treacherous than initially expected. The open shoulders of the first 10 days have all but disappeared. The populations surrounding the cities have increased, as has the traffic flow.

We got a late start to the day leaving Columbia, MO on our way to St Louis, MO. It was a nice ride but rather hilly and hot. Our resident Englishmen, Richard got lost in the scenic offerings of the area and put in an extra ten miles for good measure. It was the first glitch but nothing severe, more amusing than anything. We were just happy to find him pedaling on the right side of the road, which was comforting. Upon our arrival to St Louis we were given a lights and sirens escort by a ladder truck to the St Louis Children’s Hospital where we met with Dr. Leonard a pediatric oncologist and neurosurgeon. Dr. Leonard took us for a quick tour of the facilities and discussed the limitations of funding for pediatric cancers as a whole. Tired and hungry we made it to the firehouse, showered and walked to a local restaurant. A solid 6 hours of shut-eye proved to be just what the doctor ordered before we set out the next day. Many thanks to the guys at Stations 11 and 28 for the facilities and support.

Departing St Louis we embarked on our longest day yet requiring us to cover 300 miles of highway leading into Louisville, KY. This epic ride started as each day has. Eat, drink, and pedal! The day offered many rolling hills and hit temperatures over 100 degrees. Randy and Kevin both hit the century mark as the other guys pushed the limits on ascending and descending speeds to make sure we made our mark. After a long day we arrived at the fire station at the stroke of midnight, ordered a few pizzas, cleaned ourselves up a bit and hit the hay for a well deserved 5 hours of sleep.

The following morning we awoke to a great breakfast provided by the guys at the Company 5 firehouse, made some adjustments to our bikes, and set out for a visit to the Kosiar Children’s Hospital escorted by the ladder company. At the hospital we met with media and were given the grand tour by the hospital PR manager, thanks Kari. During our visit we met two children and their parents afflicted with Neuroblastoma. One child was a mere 6 months old. He was a precious boy full of smiles and giggles doing extremely well only days out from surgery. The other child was a beautiful princess named Sydney going through tandem stem cell transplants. She too was full of smiles, and fully engaged in an episode of the Wiggles. Her parents were wonderful! They displayed the fortitude required to defeat this horrid disease and had a bond between them which was very strong.

After leaving the Children’s Hospital we made our way to Lexington, KY. The day was full of near misses with rotting carcasses and debris lining the roadside and resulted in 3 blowouts slowing progress a bit but not stopping us in our tracks. Fortunately we arrived unscathed and to our delight were given 8 complimentary rooms at the downtown Radisson, which was a bit more luxurious than the cramped RV and back of the bike trailer we have become accustomed to (thanks to Heather Hart). At the hotel, we were met by two wonderful women, Kathy and Jeanne. They have been following our journey for some time now and gave us a much needed jolt of enthusiasm and motivation.
This morning we arrived at the Station 1 firehouse and were met with an overwhelming media response. Following some interviews and bike maintenance the guys at Station 1 treated us to a wonderful spaghetti lunch and prepared us for the long road ahead.

We now have a long journey ahead as we have to be in Roanoke Wednesday morning. We are about 300 miles away. So far this has been an uphill and windy road. We’ll let you know how the road turns out.

Love you all, see you soon.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Thursday, Sept. 20th

We awoke this morning to the aroma of strong fire department coffee and fresh bagels, refreshed and ready for what promised to be a big day of raising awareness and funds for the Hu3F8 project. After some “primping” we were ready for the arrival of the media at Station 6. Mike Hall and Kevin Joles were there bright and early and had already concocted a plan for the arrangement of the vehicles and banners to make the best presentation for the cameras.

The media arrived right on time and began interviewing all of us asking that we describe the disease and how it has affected out families. We were impressed by their interest, but felt that we were not able to effectively communicate how important this project is and how desperately we need to get 3-5 million dollars. We are beginning to recognize that there is so much important information that needs to be relayed and it is difficult to do this in a 2-minute television piece. We are starting to actively pursue the print media so that the entire story can be told.

After the media collected all of the information that they needed, we prepared to head out to the Sprint Campus for our meeting with the employees there. As we were getting on our bikes, we noticed a parade of second graders walking down the street holding signs of support for our children and us. We spent some time talking with them and their teachers, and thanking them all for their support, thoughts, and prayers. They remained to cheer us on as we mounted our bicycles and rode off towards the Sprint Campus.

On the 12-mile ride, we were escorted through Olathe and Overland Park by two police motorcycles, a ladder truck, and a chief’s vehicle. It was an incredible experience and drew quite a bit of attention to the information on the sides of the vehicles and hopefully drove some people to the website to donate.

We arrived at the Sprint Campus and we were welcomed by a multitude of employees who cheered us on as we rode laps around the campus. They formed in small groups at each building and seemed very interested as we stopped to tell them about neuroblastoma and how it affects so many children and families. They were intrigued by the proposition of such significant improvements and voiced frustration about a lack of funding. It was emotional to see the number of people who had taken time out of their busy day to support this effort.

We departed Sprint after a couple of hours of meeting people and a lunch that was provided by Kami Brady, of Sprint’s Communications Department. We headed downtown to the Children’s Mercy Hospital – Downtown Campus. There we met three families actively in treatment for neuroblastoma. Cade and Caden were full of energy and tons of fun to play with. Their parents all were wonderful to talk to and are all remarkable advocates for their children. The families were inspirational and provided the motivation we needed to get back on the road.

We headed out in the late afternoon on the way to Columbia, MO, where we had a meeting with the media. The late afternoon start made it necessary to modify our riding plan to ensure that we arrived on time. As night fell, we experienced the most dangerous riding conditions of the trip so far. Vander had two very near misses and we met some people who, by their words and gestures, indicated that they didn’t fully support our cause. Both times that the trail vehicle was stopped by the police, the officers voiced support, but asked that we find another route. Luckily, by the time the police were involved, we were a mile or so from Jefferson City, MO. We drove up to Columbia and found a place to camp for the night in preparation for the morning’s activities. We spent a good portion of the night developing a plan for a safer route to St. Louis and finally got to bed after midnight.

As always, we miss you all terribly and we are only a week away.
Love you all, see you soon.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Wednesday, Sept. 19th

We rose before the sun today to make up the ground that we lost due to the severe storm in Maryville. At 5:45 AM, Randy hit the road. He was highly motivated and full of his AM Red Bull. We followed closely behind him to ensure that he was safe as the night shift tried to catch up with the day shift. The day riders went ahead of us to a small town called Horton in Kansas and because of the storm; we missed our rendezvous on Tuesday night. The ride went quickly and we arrived around 8:45 to meet up with them. No sooner did we arrive then the day crew was heading out for Olathe (Kansas City). It was about an 80-mile pedal to the fire station and Mike, Vander and Richard chose to take it on all together. They made great time, other than a stop in Leavenworth to fix a wheel and grab a quick mocha latte at the coffee shop, showing up at around 4:30 PM.

Our welcome by Olathe Fire Department’s Station 6 was nothing short of amazing. We were welcomed with open arms into their “home”. We were given an opportunity to shower, do laundry and even get a massage. Thank you to Christie Smith who cam e to the fire house three different times to be sure that everyone got a rub down.

The entire crew vacated their bunks and allowed us to sleep in them, while they toughed it out on cots. They provided dinner for our entire entourage and went out and washed all of our vehicles while we ate. Obviously, we turned in early knowing that there were comfortable beds waiting for us. These guys were incredible.

I (Amy) got to go on my first fire call and it turned out to be a real fire. A 2-alarm fire in an apartment building where luckily everyone was out safely. Of course my unit, Q56, found and extinguished the fire. Thank you so much to Kale, Gene and Cactus Jack for allowing me that experience. It is one that will forever be in my memory. I really can’t stress enough how wonderful these guys were to us. They made sure every detail of our stay was taken care of. What a difference that made for our very long media day ahead.

Love you all, see you soon.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Tuesday, Sept. 18th

As I (Amy) sit here typing, we are in the middle of a massive storm in Maryville, Kansas. It started out as a sprinkle so Kevin thought he could make it. But no sooner than he took off did the torrential downpours begin. I think Kevin finally decided he couldn’t go any further when a lightning bolt struck close enough to scare him a little. I guess we should be happy it wasn’t a tornado since we are in Kansas, but the storm definitely wasn’t going to let up enough for us to get back on the road that night. So Larry, Alec, Kevin, Randy and myself pulled into a Super 8 to let the rain and lightning pass by.

Prior to that, we started out day 9 in Oberlin, KS. Richard, Vander, and Mike took the first shift of biking while the rest of us found an RV hookup. We pulled down a lonely lane and found a sweet couple named Phyllis and Charlie Godwin. They run the mobile home / RV park and we were fortunate to have met them. We got fresh water, took showers and did some laundry. They even had their local newspaper come out and interview us. Thank you so much Phyllis and Charlie. It was a pleasure to have met you in the middle of our journey.

When I say middle, I mean it. We were pretty much right in the center of the U.S. when we hit Maryville and were stopped for the night. The rest of the guys made it to Horton, KS, where we were asked by the “City of Horton” to stay the night and sleep in an RV park there. It’s pretty cool when you’re asked by the whole town to stay with them.

While Alec was biking, Randy, Kevin, Larry and myself stopped at the Kaffe Haus in Scandia, KS. This town consists of about 300 people who all run the three cattle farms in the town. So you can imagine it smelled fabulous as we biked through. The Kaffe Haus smelled great though and the food was fantastic. Not one thing on the menu was over four dollars. We all had spaghetti and a malt shake and then went on our way to catch up to Alec.

It’s the next morning now and we are biking back towards the rest of the guys where we are supposed to have some sort of town meeting before we head on our way to Kansas City. Tomorrow morning reporters will meet us at Fire Station 6 in Olathe, KS, which is just north of K.C. The firefighters are going to escort us to the Sprint headquarters where all of their employees are going to take some time out of their day to cheer us on. Hopefully, after that we are going to get to visit some kids at Children’s Mercy South Hospital.

We are half way home and still going strong to make it the rest of the way. By the way, Kansas is not as flat as we all thought it was. Lots of hills and wind in our face, which really intensified the aroma of cow manure.

Love you all, see you soon.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Monday, Sept. 17th

Well we all got a good night sleep at the Wyndham. Thanks to the general manager we were able to get discounted rates, which were subsequently picked up by one of our generous supporters.

We lost Rick St. John today. He had to get back to work, but he plans to join the team again in Louisville. Fortunately, we gained Richard Brown, our dad from England. Jack is his little boy who is being treated at Sloan Kettering.

We were welcomed with open arms at Denver Fire Station 1 where we were allowed to park our vehicles out of the weather and meet with the media. After multiple interviews and a quick prayer, Engine 1 escorted us to the Children’s Hospital of Denver. We biked through downtown Denver following a fire engine with emergency lights flashing. All we could think was what a unique experience it was. Many thanks to the Denver FD for their hospitality and assistance.

After signing all the right paperwork, it was finally time to visit some children. That’s what we had been waiting for all morning. With all of us missing our families, it was so wonderful to spend time with people who know what we’re going through.

First we met little Kayla, a beautiful one-year old princess whose eyes lit up when we walked in the room. You would never have believed that she just conquered a round of chemotherapy. But she is a little fighter just like our kids, with a determination that you don’t see in most adults. They have a resilience that I know I could never comprehend. We want to thank her mom Julie for letting us share in a very difficult day for her. Your strength is immeasurable and please know that you can always turn to us for support through this long journey.

Next were Jimmy and Jackson, two tough guys with smiles that just melted your heart. They were pretty consumed by their movies and board games so we didn’t interfere too much with that.

The Miller’s made a special trip to the hospital today just to see us. Their son, Justin is being treated at Children’s Hospital. He was so much fun. A six-year-old boy who loves red fire trucks, spiderman and blue monster trucks. He followed us around the entire hospital taking pictures and talking up a storm. He even got in the driver’s seat of the RV and tested out the horn. Justin brought smiles to all of our faces.

A special treat for a few of us was Hope. She was in the Transplant Ward so only a few of us could go see her. Talk about a beautiful little lady. Her favorite color is red and she had a beautiful butterfly tattoo on her arm. Her mother Lisa was so instrumental in getting us to the hospital today. It was only two days ago that we got an email on our blackberry saying how she would love to support us and the stopping at the hospital was the perfect way. Lisa, thank you so much for everything. Please keep your strength up and call if you need anything, even if it’s just to talk.

One amazing story is Aaron. He is a 34-year-old Stage IV Neuroblastoma survivor. When he was one year old he fell off his changing table and broke his collarbone. The X-rays showed a break and a tumor. He was truly an inspiration to us all as he is proof that our kids can beat this disease. He has been healthy since he was 15. Now Aaron helps give back to these kids by running a camp for pediatric cancer. A place where these kids can get away and feel normal if only for a week. It is called Camp Wapiyapi. You can get more information at www.wapiyai.org. Congratulations to Aaron who is expecting his first child in a few weeks!

We could’ve stayed there all day, but with 270 miles to bike we took off around 1pm central time. Special thanks to the Cohen’s whose son Jack is being treated at Children’s Hospital as well. They gave us $500 in gas coupons and a place to clean out the RV.

We want to send a special thank you to Mike Fleming. He guided us safely through the Rockies and over Berthoud Pass. It was nice to have someone with us who knew the turns and elevation. Thanks Mike!

I know this is a long blog so last but not least, we want to thank Lucas. He spent five hours last night tattooing four of us. That’s right we got the Highway 50 and yellow ribbon tattooed on our legs. What better way to symbolize the importance of this voyage? Lucas only charged us for two of the four and asked that we put the rest of the money toward the cause. He did a great job. Thanks a lot Lucas and Capitol Hill Tattoo.

Now we are riding in Kansas and will be in Kansas City on Thursday for another media event and hopefully another hospital. It really meant the world to us.

Love you all, see you soon.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Sunday, Sept. 16th

Today we began our uphill journey just outside the small town of Hot Sulfur Springs, Colorado headed toward the highest achievement of our cycling journey, Berthead Pass. This 11, 312 foot pass was what stood between us and Denver….and, ultimately, returning home to our children. It would be a significant climb taking us above the tree line into cold weather and a low-oxygen environment. It proved to be a challenge that landed some on the summit of the mountain and others discouraged breathing oxygen supplied by a local fire department. All were lucky enough to enjoy a, nearly, 5000 foot decent into Empire, a tiny town roughly 40 miles outside of Denver.

Since all of the dads made a valiant effort during the ascent, forgoing the relay style that had carried us thus far in the journey, none were in any condition to cycle into Denver. We drove the remaining miles and bedded down in the Wyndham Hotel in preparation for what may be the biggest event of the Loneliest Road Campaign to date.

Tomorrow we will venture into downtown arriving at Denver Fire Station 1 to meet the press. We are being told that we will then get a fire department escort to Children’s Hospital of Denver, where we will meet with a number of brave, determined children in the midst of battling neuroblastoma. We are so motivated by these kids and we all feel like this will be one of the most meaningful events of our entire journey. The Rockies are nothing and these kids are everything.

We are all starting to feel the effects of being so far from our spouses and children. News is constantly pouring in from the home from, some good and some devastating. We are all ready to be home with our families, but we know that this endeavor is incredibly important and can have everlasting effects on neuroblastoma treatment. This is bigger than us, and our desires to be closer to our wives and children. We know that we must stay the course, and we will.

Love you all, see you soon.