Day 67 - August 16th, 2008 - Washington, D.C. - 14 miles

Wow…it is finally here.  Our last wake up of JOH and it still had to be at 6:00 in the morning.  C.J. took his squirt gun and ran around the gym like an idiot squirting people as I chased him as everyone was pretty lively this morning.  We had an awesome sponsored breakfast from Chris’s mom which was a perfect way to start the day.  Out big duffle bags were given to nationals today so we had to pack everything up into our secondary bag which was a little big of a task since we got our new t-shirts and hoodies yesterday.  Breakfast was a long one since we didn’t really have a time schedule today.  Our rack point was 10 miles by 9:30 which if we didn’t meet that, we shouldn’t have cycled across the country.  The ride was a pretty sweet on of course.  Even though any little hill we hit we would complained about for fun.

We were red flagged when we hit Che’s crew stop since there were no vans ahead.  This is where the ride became really fun.  We had talked about pelatoning the last half a mile into stage up where nationals was.  A pelaton is a large group of cyclists that aren’t really in a pace line or anything and is a big P&P offense.  Well when Che said “First group go”, everyone left.  We pelatoned the last 5 miles to stage up skipping stop signs through the back roads, chanting different inside jokes along the way and just enjoying the last few miles of our journey.  Geoff just about had a heart attack after Che told him on the phone, “Yea they just all left.”  We knew stage up was on George Washington University and we had Mason leading us in.  Mason has been probably the worst driver on the team and just sort of loses awareness sometimes and after making a circle or two trying to find stage up.  We all decided that we would find it by ourselves and the pelaton went on.  Mason eventually caught up to us, pissed off, and after a few calls to really figure out where it was, we arrived at stage up.  The south and trans teams had 40 mile days so we reached stage up well ahead of both teams. 

The trans team rode in followed by the south team.  We don’t really like the trans team because they always think they are better than the other routes, but because we rode with the south team for a week at the beginning of the trip, we had become friends with a lot of them and greeted them all as the rode in.  Colin from the south team proposed to his girlfriend and everyone got down on a knee and sang the rose to her.

All three teams lined up in a double pace line to ride into the Capital.  It was such a thrill seeing 65 cyclists riding through downtown D.C. with a police escort.  People would be stopped at cross walks clapping for us as we rode by.  Then we hit the 2 round a bouts that I’ve seen images of before from previous teams and after the 2nd one we could see all the friends and family waiting for us.  It was a moment that I wish I could relive every day.  We got off our bikes and walked them through a crowd of people on our way up to the capitol.  After listening to a few speeches, and letting everyone take pictures of us, we were released back to our families to take more pictures.  John and Theresa Posta surprised me as they just happened to be in D.C. the day that I arrived and I haven’t seen them in a couple years. 

We had to be off the Capital lawn by 1 and I was one of the last ones off as most everyone had gone to the hotel by then.  It was the first time I was technically allowed to ride by myself as I headed the 3 blocks to the hotel.  Once there I picked up my bags while a lot of people were packing up their bikes.  After a shower and some downtime, I went to lunch with my family and was able to drink my first beer with a meal in 67 days. 

After lunch I came back to the hotel for a crucial nap which lasted 2 hours and was fantastic.  I woke up just in time to iron my shirt and pants which I had carried with me all trip but hadn’t worn yet and went on a wild goose chase to find my sandals.  I had to go to lunch in my cycling shoes because I left my tennis shoes in Chicago and one of the crew members temporarily lost the sandal bag.  The reception was pretty sweet though.  Clifton won the Bruce Rodgers award for our team which is handed out to the person who best exemplifies the 4 qualities of Push America: Abilities, Empathy, Teamwork, and Integrity.  Everyone on the team sort of knew it would be him just because he was that amazing to the team.  I had told him during the team ritual that he was the one person that this team couldn’t lose and that was the truth.  He has to be one of the more amazing people I’ve ever met.  Bruce was also on hand and I went up to him and thanked him for everything.  He remembered my name which I had wondered if he would or not.  It was a pretty nice reception all though I wish there would have been a dinner involved.

Everyone headed out after and most people headed to the Dubliner.  A nice little Irish Pub that we invaded.  Everyone just drank the night away and I had my first Barack Obomb.  The bar tender didn’t quite make it right so my first impressions of not really that good might be a little skewed so I will have to take another someday…possibly at our first reunion.  Today was certainly worth the past 66 days and the friends I have gained I hope I will keep for forever.  This has truly been an amazing journey and I have no regrets about it.  My body certainly needs time to heal, and I will greatly enjoy just sitting around doing nothing, but I would do JOH again if I had a chance.  What a ride it has been.  Tomorrow it’s officially over as some of us said our goodbyes tonight and tomorrow we will finish those goodbyes and head our separate ways.  Thanks to everyone who donated to me and followed along this summer.  I can’t even begin to tell you how much I appreciate it.  And a special thanks to my family for everything and to allow me to do this.  The ride is over but the hope lives on in the lives we’ve touched and those lives that touched us.  Feel the hope!!!

Day 66 - August 15th, 2008 - Bethesda, MD - 70 miles

I’m pretty much ready for cycling to be over…atleast for now.  I just need a break.  Today was going to be a shorter day around 55 miles but somehow it turned into a 71 mile day.  The crew just kept telling us 12 miles more everything we hit a stop.  We were also told we had one pass to climb and then it flattened out.  Obviously their idea of flattened out is a lot different from ours because it was rolling hills the rest of the way in.  It also rained on us for the first time since Colorado but it was at the end of the ride and wasn’t too bad.

After the ride we packed up our duffle bags and sent them with nationals.  We won’t be seeing our bags again till tomorrow.  Our team shirts and hoodies that we designed, along with our free jerseys from Chipotle were delivered and are sick.  We headed out and washed the vans and had dinner at Chipotle then headed back to lodging.  We continued on with the ritual from last night which took up most of the night.  The rest of our time on our last night together was spent signing jerseys and cleaning our bikes in prep for tomorrow.  No one is touching any of the mechanical stuff on their bike in hopes they won’t jinx it and have some sort of problem while riding in.  The journey ends tomorrow.   It’s so crazy.

Day 65 - August 14th, 2008 - Hagerstown, MD - 73 miles (29 cycled)

It was bound to happen eventually…my first major bike problems.  The day started off with a lot of climbing like yesterday and was foggy for most of the morning making it hard to see out of my sunglasses.  The downhill’s were awesome and Drew and I slingshotted around each other at 40-50 mph just like we did yesterday.  At one point we were 4 wide screaming down the hill at 40 mph.  At Che’s first crew stop we rolled up and met all the other pace lines.  It was basically a free for all on all the food in his van because it is being picked up by nationals today.  P & P (policy and procedure) was thrown out the window today and about 17 of us unzipped our jerseys and stood on the side of the road shot gunning diet coke while a few others videotaped.  It was becoming a really fun day on the bike and my legs felt great after yesterday.  Tripp had just broke a spoke and racked and then it was my turn to rack.  Going up a hill I could feel that my chain couldn’t catch one of the gears cleanly and kept switching by itself.  Maybe 15 seconds later it felt like I had dropped my chain and when I looked down I could see my derailleur hanging down.  I stopped immediately as it was about to get caught up in the spokes.  After examining, I think what happen is that one of the pins in the chain had come loose and that when that link was going around it was causing the miss-shift.  That link finally got caught up in the derailleur and locked it up while I was still pedaling.  All the pedaling created enough torque to snap the derailleur hanger completely off.  I knew my day was done and actually Van Treese was sweeping and when he came up I just told him I did what he did to his bike earlier in the trip.  The only except was his was a lot worse as he bent his frame, stripped where the derailleur hanger hangs, and needed a lot more repairs.  I road with Che for the rest of the day and we went shopping to cook some hot dog in the engine of the car again.

After lunch, Erecke, Tripp and I headed to the local bike shop to get our bikes repaired.  That’s where I found out that derailleur hangers are more or less specific for each model and that he didn’t have any for my Felt.  After talking to Geoff a little on the phone and many, many phone calls to bike shops that carried Felts, I found one shop that had a hanger in stock in Virginia that would require me to rack tomorrow and one in Fredrick that didn’t carry the one I needed but might be able to see if one would fit even though it wasn’t specific for the felt.  Geoff said to give it a try even though it was 30 miles away.  ROAD TRIP!!!  Once there the guy said that it would work but it wasn’t a permanent fix and to try a shop down the road that the original bike shop said to use as a last resort.  I personally think the first bike shop just gave us horrible advice because the last resort would have saved us a lot of time.  $85, a new chain, hanger, and 15 minutes later my bike was working again.  Even though the derailleur is still a little messed up from everything, it works.  The derailleur on my bike is the most expensive component so it’s good that I didn’t have to buy a new one.

Barney and Doc had a surprise for us which they wouldn’t tell us the whole day.  It turns out they went out and bought a slip and slide for us to play with.  While everyone as outside, Doc and Geoff set up a Pi Alpha ritual for us inside.  The ritual took up the rest of the night and will be continued tomorrow since it took so long.  One more full day left…

Day 64 - August 13th, 2008 - Cumberland, MD - 59 miles

Well I knew we would be climbing today, but I didn’t know we would be doing Kirkwood again.  On only a 59 mile ride we climbed over 8,500 feet total but never passed over 3,000 feet in elevation.    It was a long and hard day but was good thanks to Team Stop A Lot which consisted of me, Joe, Taylor, Glenn, and Drew.  We hung out with the sweeps for a good part of the day taking in the ride and not hurrying.    Our climbing pace was right on with Kirkwood but we certainly did it in a much better time now that we are in shape.  We were pulled over real quick today as we were on highway 40 due to a detour.  When we entered the highway we saw a sign that said no pedestrians or bicycles but we went on it anyways because we are cyclists and don’t think…we just do what we are told, haha.  The cop was ok about it and let us go on our way since he pulled us off as we were getting off. 

We took a tour of a center today that housed 16 elderly people.  They showed us what they had done with some of our grants from the past and also showed us how they made things more accessible for people.  One of the guys worked at Allegheny College and had his class make ordinary things with buttons so people could turn on and off things, trays to help people keep personal items, etc.  We also were able to try some liquids they had thickens up to a honey consistency to help people who have trouble swallowing. 

Dinner was ribs and chicken held by the Rotary club.  It was a great dinner and afterwards we headed back to our awesome hotel where we each get our own queen size bed.  A couple of us headed to the pool and hot tub to relax and basically called it a night.  We have another long day tomorrow with a lot more climbing.  Let’s hope my legs are up to it.

Day 63 - August 12th, 2008 - Uniontown, PA - 38 miles

Ugh, what a miserable day today.  We racked the bikes through the city and onto 51 because it was rush hour and very sketchy.  Everything was good until about 5 miles in the trip when my stomach really started to hurt and just made the ride miserable.  It was a short ride which was good but the pain lasted until about 5 miles out from lodging.  Some of the contact rashes have spread while some have cleared up but they still make it very annoying and sometimes painful on the bike.  We had a few good climbs today that I struggled on because of my stomach but hopefully I’ll do better tomorrow.  We have a couple big climbs and passes tomorrow so it will be a bit of a challenge.

Before we headed out on our free time we circled up and found out that Ryan Monkman was going home due to a picture that nationals had found on the internet of him drinking.  Since he’s not of age it’s a pretty big deal to nationals.  The whole team was pissed off at the decision and we have rallied behind Monk and are trying to make an effort to change nationals mind before he leaves.  Monk has been amazing on the trip and had to work to gain a lot of the guy’s respect.  He’s been one of the best crew members on the trip and was very selfless.  We hate the fact that we are 4 days away from DC and that nationals is playing this card without seemingly any concern for the moral of the team or anything else.  Either way it put a damper on the day.

Dinner was held by the Knights of Columbus on the site of an old mansion that had been torn down.  After we got back to lodging, we gave away our gag gifts to each other on the team with plenty of hilarious ones that I can’t really talk about, haha.  Geoff told us tonight that he doesn’t want anyone going out for the next 3 days to make sure we make it into D.C.  so everyone is staying in tonight and playing some basketball at the YMCA we are staying at.

Day 62 - August 11th, 2008 - Pittsburgh, PA - 0 miles

A 9:00 wakeup?!?!  What is the world coming to?  What a great way to start off the day with our latest wake up of the trip.  The morning started off quickly though as we headed out to our first friendship visit of the day with UCP of Pittsburgh.  We have known about this group since the first mail drop of the trip when we all received pen pal letters from the people there.  I had kept in pretty good communication with them and so did some of the other guys.  Some of the pen pals even sent little presents along the way to some of the guys and some gave them presents when we got there today.  I was a pretty popular guy as I had a whole class as my pen pals which I got to meet most of the today.  I first met David who communicated to us through a computer and showed us pictures of him with Howie Long and Terry Bradshaw among others.  He was very cool and energetic.  Joycelin, the teacher of the class introduced herself to me after I had already met Lynn, whose favorite class is stress management, and then she pointed me in the direction of Nate.  Nate was an awesome guy.  We basically made fun of the Cleveland, Philly, and Washington fans.  The whole place was decked out in a Pittsburgh sports theme and even our brunch was made to be tailgate-like minus the alcohol.  Certainly a big characteristic of any Pittsburgh sports, haha.  Throughout the course of our visit they pulled names and gave away prizes.  Lee actually won a stuffed Penguins Zamboni and gave it to me.  This was certainly one of the best friendship visits on the trip and certainly one I will remember.

After we finished with UCP, we headed to another friendship visit at Milestone.  They showed us how they teach people with a developmental disability different life skills and even showed us where they work.   It was certainly a different view on things.

We headed back to lodging for a few hours before we went to Cecil Park to have dinner with family and friends.   We had corn hole and a multitude of other games that the guys played.  I spent most of my time with Becky, a reporter from the Observer Reporter.  I’m expecting a great article from her since I told her just about everything about the trip that I could.  The time was short lived and we headed back to the hotel.  I’ll be back home in 5 days so it’s not that bad.

The guys at the beginning of the trip somehow found out about Midget Monday’s at Casey’s on the Southside.  For those who don’t know, you can buy a shot for the bar for about $10 and Manboy get on the bar or comes out of his little house on the bar and walks down the bar pouring shots in everyone’s mouth.  The guys absolutely loved it.  Jason ended up spending $218 at the bar because a bunch of guys go into a car bomb chugging contest and whoever lost had to buy the next round.  Even before this he had racked up a lot on his credit card and fears the phone call from his parents…now it seems like he’s already so deep in to just keep digging his hole.  It was a great night though and Swebb came down and bought me a few beers.  There will certainly be more of this once I’m back home working downtown.  I’m ready to be done with the trip.  I’ll miss the guys and all the great times but I need a break.  I know I’ll look back and read this one day and know that I would give anything to be back on the bike with everyone.

Day 61 - August 10th, 2008 - Pittsburgh, PA - 78 miles (66 cycled)

Hello Pittsburgh!!!  Finally I get to be back home again in the city with the great football team but first we had to cycle 70 miles.  C.J. and I were basically forced by the team to sweep because it was our hometown that we were going to even though we didn’t have an arrival.  The ride was a really nice one with some good climbs that we had to pound out.  C.J. and I spent most of our stops on the phone while we tried to re-route Geoff to a better route and while I tried to keep in contact with my dad and Steve who were planning on riding along with us.  We ended up stopping at a Park N Ride right outside of Coraopolis where we met up with my dad and Steve, and a bunch of other people that had come to see C.J. and me.  By this time Geoff had already told us that we would be racking fairly shortly because he didn’t feel safe having us ride through some of the construction and roads so that was a little disappointing but we understood. 

Once we hit rack point, Channel 11 came down and interviewed C.J. and I and my dad and Steve decided to ride the rest of the ride.  It was so nice to be back but I really would have loved to have rode through downtown.  Last year they had a police escort but apparently this year the police department said it would be too difficult to do again. 
Dinner was over at my mom’s boyfriend’s house and we walked into a crowd of family and friends.  It was a great time though with a lot of great food.  All the guys were impressed with all the mounted animals in his house.  The homecoming was short lived as we commemorated the moment then headed back to the hotel.

After trying to figure out what we were going to do tonight, and a rain storm, most of the guys went over to C.J.’s buddy’s house in Oakland where we had a small little impromptu party.  All in all it was a great day and I only have 7 more days till I’m back home again.

Day 60 - August 9th, 2008 - Niles, OH - 52 miles

1 WEEK LEFT!!!  Wow, I can’t believe it is this far already.  It certainly doesn’t feel like cycling across the country (well, to my body it does).  We hit our first real hills today since going into Rockford, IL and the hurt at the beginning.  It didn’t help that it was pretty chilly out and my muscles were stiff for the first 10-20 miles.  Today was also the first time I’ve worn both leg and arm warmers since Colorado I think.  The ride was nice for the most part though.  We hit one of the steepest little hills I think I’ve ever seen and going down was fun but coming back up, not so much.  Our pace line had the worst buzz of the trip today.  A BP 18 wheeler probably came within a foot of hitting us today on what seemed to be purposeful or the driver was just reallllllly not paying attention.  He came so close that you could feel/hear the depressurization of the air right before he passed.  When he was passing, my only response was a quiet little whoa, while Ehrecke’s started screaming and yelling obscenities, it was definitely way too close for comfort.  Everyone slowed down after he passed and just had to wait a few minutes to gather their selves back together again. 
We had 3 arrivals today, one to a Saturn dealership, one to lodging/friendship visit, and one that set JOH history.  We arrived inside of a mall, double pace line, to be recognized at an America’s Next Top Model talent search.  It was certainly an experience and the strangest arrival we have had so far.  We had 15 minutes after we got off the cat walk where we played “guess her age”.  The trick to the game was to lowball the age because chances were you were right.  Scary.

Once we arrived back at lodging we showered up and had a dance party.  Some of us left a little early and took a van to go get haircuts which were desperately needed.  Most of us haven’t had a haircut since before the trip.  I finally got one which I’ve been trying to get for about a week now, so I’m all good for Pittsburgh and DC. 

We had an amazing dinner at Olive Garden and all our programming ended at 6:30.  We don’t really know what all this free time is like and a bunch of us took naps while I think a bunch of guys went out too.  My nap lasted 4 hours and was amazing.  I’ve been up for 45 minutes now and plan on going back to bed because it is midnight now.  My body is still hating me right now so hopefully the sleep will help because we have a long 80 mile ride tomorrow into PITTBSBURGH!!! So excited.

Day 59 - August 8th, 2008 - Mentor, OH - 32 miles

Surprisingly today, even though it was only a 30 mile day and we had a day off yesterday, my ass still hurt.  I think it has had just about enough of cycling for now.  It would like a nice comfy recliner in front of a tv.  The ride today wasn’t that bad though.  We were racked to an airport down by where the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was so that the crew wouldn’t have to try and navigate us through the city.  Once we got on the road, we only made it 2 miles of so until we were red flagged.  Last night there was a huge thunderstorm and Geoff couldn’t really see much while he was trying to scout, plus the directions we had weren’t the best and we had to re-route today on the fly.  After an hour of sitting around, we got back on the bikes and road along Lake Erie again to Mentor. 

We arrived at a park where our friendship visit was and once again it was awesome.  They had a bunch of games set up for us and had fishing poles for people to fish.  They had brought a fire oven and cooked some amazing pizza’s right on the spot.  Mason and I teamed up to play some corn hole which a lot of the Colorado boy’s have never really seen or played.  We won our first game, lost our second to C.J. and Joe but destroyed them 21 – 4 in the rematch.
We cycled from the park to lodging at Lake Erie College and showered up before leaving for the minor league baseball game we were going to.  The game its self was pretty cool.  We were recognized on the field before the game and Mike, who is from Cleveland, got to throw out the first pitch which he ended up throwing in the dirt.  It was a pretty sweet park for only being an A minor league team.  We left early so we don’t know who won the second game of the double header but the first game ended in the 10th on a play at home after the Captains tied it up in the 9th.  It was a very nice and relaxing day sponsored by the Society for Rehabilitation. 

Once back at the college, Mason and Jason had their 1 on 1 basketball which had been building up for weeks now.  They had bet $150 on who would win and Lee had a side bet with Mason that Jason would make it into double digits.  Mase ended up winning 21- 14 and controlled most of the game but tired down the stretch.  Tonight is the first time we have had wireless since Chicago so everyone is excited about that.  8 days left…2 days till the town with the great football team.

Day 58 - August 7th, 2008 - Cleveland, OH - 0 miles

Hello easy day off and 8:30 am wake up.  I had woken up on my own before 8:30 partially because my air mattress has started to lose some of its air recently and because we never wake up this late.  It felt great though, and we headed to a nice warm breakfast shortly after.  While eating, a couple people who work at the clinic spoke to us and actually had 2 former patients turned employees talk to us.  The first was Jamie who was a very beautiful girl.  She got up and told us about when she was 15 and playing varsity basketball, she collapsed.  After the doctors cleared her to play, a month later, she collapsed again.  She was in a coma for 3 days and when she woke up she could think and knew what she wanted and stuff, but couldn’t speak or walk.  She had suffered a stroke.  She eventually came to the Cleveland clinic where she learned how to walk and talk again although both are still visibly impaired.  She is currently in college and is really smart and plans on becoming a physical therapist because she believes she is an inspiration for other patients who see how far she has gone in life even with her disability. 

The second was Lionel.  He was absolutely hilarious.  He had CP and has been either a patient or employee for the Cleveland Clinic for over 15 years.  He ended up showing us around the building and made us sing If You’re Happy and You Know It through the hallways.  Everyone at the clinic knew who Lionel was.  I met a girl named Allison today, who some of the guys met yesterday, but she danced to Hannah Montana today for all the groups that passed through.  She, like Lionel, was a premature baby that when born weighed less than 2 pounds but she was full of so much energy.  She still had visible wounds from when she had to have a Tracheotomy performed to allow her to breathe.
After our tours around the clinic we had lunch in a courtyard outside. I came in with one of our crew guys, Screech (his nickname because he looks and acts exactly like Screech from Saved By the Bell), to help with some pictures that he needed to send to the Push America office.  I ended up missing KOB too while I helped him out. 

During our free time in between lunch and dinner, 5 of us went to go look for a barbershop that was supposed to be only a quarter of a mile away.  The Cleveland Clinic isn’t in the safest of neighborhoods and while walking around, we saw plenty of boarded up houses.  We were basically walking through the ghetto.  We came upon this first shop named White’s (we found it hilarious because we were in a predominately all African American neighborhood) and when we walked in the lone barber basically told us he wouldn’t cut our hair.  The 2nd store we found was boarded up but we finally had luck with the 3rd. When we walked in the guys looked puzzled but said they would cut our hair.  Glenn went first and they immediately took off his side burns.  We all looked and laughed and basically decided then we weren’t going to get our hair cut here but we had to stay.  As we tried to figure out how we could leave without being rude, Glenn ended up getting his “thug-a-licious” hair cut complete with a fade.  It is actually really hilarious.  It took the guy over an hour to do and that let us use a real story of the fact that we were late to dinner.  The vans came and picked us up and everyone started laughing at Glenn’s haircut.

Dinner was sponsored by Masterson’s family at a great little Italian restaurant and afterwards some of the guys went to see a movie while some of the other went out to the bars.  I was one of the few that stayed in to catch up on a lot of things including some of the Pittsburgh arrival stuff.  Only 3 more days till da burgh and only 8 more days left on JOH.

Day 57 - August 6th, 2008 - Cleveland, OH - 67 miles

What a ride today.  Even though we are headed to Cleveland which I automatically despise coming from Pittsburgh, the ride there was beautiful.  We followed Lake Erie the whole way in and passed through some very, very rich areas.  Some of the houses were just ridiculously big and one even had one of the old gondola cars from Aspen that were sold off a while ago.  We ended having a police escort for 22 of our 67 miles.  Having the escort for that long and riding through downtown Cleveland makes me even more excited for Pittsburgh.  The arrival was done in 3 stages, one to staging/lunch, then one to the arrival through downtown, and then one to lodging.  At staging and lunch I got my first kill of assassins.  We had gone down to the beach and on our way back up the path, Chris and I stopped to take a picture while the rest of the group stopped briefly then continued on.  It couldn’t have happened more perfectly.  I shot Chris and all he did was look around to see the group walking away with their backs turned to us. 

Our arrival was really cool going right through downtown out to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  We stayed for about 30 minutes and had an amazing view of the city.  A bunch of the guys, acting like 5 year olds, rolled down a big hill there and raced back up.  Cycling back through the city to lodging was pretty hilarious.  People on the side of the streets thought we were racing and kept cheering us on saying that we could do it.

Once back at lodging, I got my second kill almost as easily as my first.  Gardner wanted me to walk to the showers with him and I couldn’t get my stuff together in time.  But on the way back from showers, he said that he didn’t trust me but didn’t care anymore.  About 2 seconds later, I shot him.  I found out my next target and went on my first actual stake out.  This turned out to be my downfall as Gardner told me he was up in the shower.  As I walked into the shower, I saw that only Che was up there and I had my gun pulled on him on the way back down but turned my head for just a second and then I was dead.  I was a little upset that I let my guard down, but at least I wouldn’t have to worry about the game later tonight when we were out on the town.

We ended up getting free tickets to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame but could only spend 50 minutes in there before we had to leave for our dinner cruise.  It was so much of a tease because I could have spent days in there.  The dinner cruise was arranged by Jim Karlovec who arranged the first JOH the year after Bruce rode across the country.  The skyline view of downtown was pretty awesome.  We got to see it while the sun was still up, all lit up at night, and were able to see the sunset on the lake.  As much as I don’t like Cleveland, it was a really sweet view.  The boat itself was a great time.  Even though some of the guys got tired of it because we weren’t allowed to drink, I enjoyed it the whole time.

Afterwards we headed out on the town.  The first bar we went to was really expensive and we quickly left and found one of the greatest deals so far on the trip; $1.25 Molson and a bar not too far away from the other.  There was hardly anyone inside, but we managed to entertain ourselves.  A couple of the guys managed to create a new drink which they hope will sweep the nation.  The Barack Obomb is a White Russian with a shot of Jaeger and then you chug it through the straw.  It was dedicated to Steve Golden, one of the crew members, who is working on the Obama campaign.  We caught a cab ride back and took the cab through a Wendy’s drive through.  $40 later split between 7 guys and the night ended It was still pretty early though considering curfew was at 2 and we got back at 1. 

Day 56 - August 5th, 2008 - Sandusky, OH - 75 miles (25 cycled)

Well today was supposed to be a 75 mile day but at mile 21 we had to rack due to a lot of construction.  The last group was really far behind already and it took them a while to hit where we were racking.  That, on top of the fact that breakfast this morning at the Pi Kapp house ran really late, cause us to rack up to stage up.  Breakfast this morning was awesome though.  A bunch of ladies from the Toledo and others prepared us a nice homemade breakfast with smoothies!!!  It was definitely an awesome way to start the day.  We received our assassin assignments after breakfast and when we hit rack point we already had 4 confirmed kills.  It’s really funny because everyone is paranoid about who is killing who and always watching your back.  We have to travel around in groups of 3 or more to make sure we are safe.  Basically, the rules of our game require you to be alone so no one can see the kill.

Our friendship visit was really cool.  We had lunch at the park we arrived at and they had set up games for all of us to play including tug-o-war, balloon toss, and corn hole.  They fundraised by making and selling tacos to send us to Cedar Point which is even more impressive/awesome.  We’ve been going to the Double S Industries for 20 of our 21 years of JOH and our lodging is at the Double S Industries tonight.

Cedar Point was an amazing time.  We had only 2 ½ hours there but C.J., Drew, John, and I managed to knock out 4 coasters in that time.  We hit up Millennium Force, Raptor, Mantis, and the best of all, Top Thrill Dragster.  Top Thrill went from 0-120 mph in under 4 seconds then shot you straight up in the air just to come back down.  The lines weren’t bad at all today and we only waited 45 minutes for the 17 second ride but it was totally worth the blur of memory that it is.

We received a stipend for dinner from Che’s mom today because it is Che’s birthday.  It was only 6 dollars and we ended up going to Ruby Tuesdays on the way home from Cedar Point.  I had to use my gift card again because my checking account is too low.  The worst part about that is I have no idea how much is on the gift card so I’m basically using it till runs out.  Hopefully I can make it to Pittsburgh with it.  Everyone is staying in tonight after an awesome day.  I think the count is up to 6 deaths in assassins and I’m still alive.  Haven’t made a move on my target yet but will probably sometime tomorrow.

Day 55 - August 4th, 2008 - Toledo, OH - 58 miles

Today’s ride was a nice and easy 58 miles.  It’s pretty funny how 58 miles is easy now.  When I first started training, a 35 mile ride then would feel like 120 mile day now.  We left Michigan today though and entered Ohio even though the back roads we were on didn’t have a Ohio sign which means hopefully going into Pennsylvania there will be one on the opposite side of the road.  So far I have pictures of all the state signs and only the Wisconsin one did I forget to hold the VT flag. 

We arrived onto the University of Toledo’s campus where there was a pretty big arrival for us.  The Pi Kapps shoot off the cannon for any special event on campus and they did so twice today scaring a lot of the cyclists coming in.  At the arrival, a bunch of people spoke, including the mayor of Toledo and the regional governor for Pi Kappa Phi.  Every came inside just before it began to rain for lunch which was sponsored by Chipotle.  Even though Chipotle isn’t on our jerseys, they are one of our main sponsors this year and they have provided us lunch a handful of times.  In Pittsburgh, they are sending us Chipotle cycling jerseys for free which is really awesome.

After lunch we headed to lodging which is a dorm on campus.  Its actually really nice to be back in dorms again…bringing me back to my freshman year even though these are nicer than the ones at Tech.  I’ve been impressed with the campus too.  It’s really nice and fairly big.  I always considered Toledo a pretty small school and I guess I’ve just lost perspective of campus sizes since I’ve been at Tech for so long.  A group of us quickly left the dorms without even moving into our rooms or showering to go to a friendship visit.  Once we were there, it was a pretty quick one, but we got a full game of line tag in which uses the lines on the court for a human Pac Man style game of tag.

Dinner was at Outback and hosted by Nick, a Pi Alpha from 2002 and current Chapter Advisor for our Toledo chapter.  He was a beast.  He is doing his 3rd Iron Man Competition next month.  Apparently he just decided one day to sign up for one and for the first one his goal was just to complete it.  Now he trains year round 10-15 hours a week and a month before he competes he ups it to 20-25 hours a week in addition to his job. 

We bought squirt guns after dinner as for the next week or so we will be playing assassins.  It should get pretty intense as I know it was when I played it a few years ago for homecoming with Kappa Delta.  It looks like a bunch of the guys are planning on going out tonight to one of the Toledo brother’s apartments so it should be a good night to end a pretty good day.  Cedar Point tomorrow!!! 12 days left…

Day 54 - August 3rd, 2008 - Ann Arbor, MI - 68 miles

Today’s ride was another beautiful one just like yesterdays.  Plenty of tree covered roads and the rolling hills flattened out today so that made it pretty nice.  Unlike yesterday, all the pace lines stayed close together and we pumped out 60 miles pretty easily. 

Our arrival was at a Saturn dealership again where no one was at because it is apparently Sunday in the “real” world.  After lunch, we headed towards lodging which was at some person’s house.  Their son is a Pi Kapp and is signed up for JOH next year.  They were holding a garage sale to help his fundraising and already had raised $2,000 and the day wasn’t even over yet.   After we quickly showered at the YMCA, we convinced Monkman to take us to the M Den, Michigan’s Bookstore, to get some souvenirs. 

Once back, we had little over an hour of free time and C.J. and I took our trip down to campus a mile away to see the big house and Yost Ice Arena.  Yost Ice Arena is amazing.  The outside has such an old look to it and the inside felt much of the same.  Some people we talked to said it held around 7,000 and we asked them what MSU’s held and they guessed around 6,300.  Banners hung from the walls and rafters of NCAA Championships, Frozen Four appearances, and Conference Championships that they had won.  Growing up, Michigan and Boston College were the 2 college hockey teams I really wanted to play for.  Even once I was at Tech, Michigan is the one college I wish I would have looked at because they have a really good Architecture program too.  I’m still glad I picked Tech though.  From what I saw of Michigan’s campus, it is much like WVU and integrated into Ann Arbor.  The big house was under construction and they wouldn’t let us in.  Apparently they are adding onto the 107,000+ people it can hold and building a bunch of luxury boxes.

Our friendship visit tonight was kind of different from all the others.  We went to a center that specialized in brain injuries.  Most of the people there had suffered the injuries in car accidents.  Van Treese and I ended up playing Euchre with Evan and Mike who were awesome.  Mike’s car accident was a little over a year ago and was actually DOA (dead on arrival) to the hospital.  Even then, they said he would never walk again.  Well now he is walking and we had a great time with him.  Evan’s accident was more recent (February) but they were great to play with.  They actually almost shut us out he first came, but we came back in the second two to win the series.  It brought me back to my day of sitting outside with the lifeguards at VBCC where all we would do is play Euchre on slow days.  Definitely the best job I’ll ever have.

Our curfew is real early tonight, 11 o’clock, which was set by the people whose house we are staying at.  No one is going out tonight.  I’m tired anyways and have a slight headache so the extra sleep will be put to good use.  Ohio tomorrow…

Day 53 - August 2nd, 2008 - Lansing, MI - 74 miles (68 cycled)

Two weeks left!!!  The first half of today’s ride was beautiful.  It was much like my training rides down at school.  We rode through the rolling hills with tree covered roads and passed a beautiful lake along the way.  Still makes me wish I was I was out jet skiing.  It was a 64 mile ride to our lodging today and we were racked at 68 miles.  Our whole pace line was pretty pissed because we could ride that 6 miles in 20 minutes or so which would be the time it took to rack up and drive there.  We became really pissed when we saw the last group, who was slacking all day and was racked when they passed us, cycling again into the arrival location.  Apparently Geoff had told everyone to rack up even though the first 2 pace lines were within 6 miles.  Once he saw that there were people outside waiting to greet us, he said that we couldn’t ride in with everyone racked.  Mason and Monkman, the crew members who racked us, didn’t get the memo and racked us.  Basically we got screwed over big time.

We arrived to a great welcome.  Our lodging fell through, but a bunch of people stepped up and are opening their houses for us.  The family that is organizing is had their son do JOH a few years ago.  It’s really nice actually cause there is a park next to the block of houses where we had lunch, dinner, and played some wheelchair basketball.

During our free time today, C.J. and I were dropped off at Michigan State’s campus so we could go to their bookstore and buy shot glasses which we have been collecting all trip.  I found mine almost immediately.  MSU hockey won the NCAA National Championship last year and they had shot glasses commemorating that.  Once we left the bookstore, we had to walk back to lodging and on the way we passed MSU football stadium and Munn Ice Arena.  We first tried to get in through the front doors but they were all locked.  I found a side door that led down to the ref area and to the ice which was perfect.  The MSU team was leaving the arena as we were getting there and there was no one in the building.  It was awesome and definitely the highlight of my day.  They don’t play in quite as big of an arena as we do (their arena probably hold 4 to 5,000 and ours hold over 8,000) but they have 3 National Championship banners hanging from the rafters which automatically trumps anything we have.  After we left, C.J. and I had to walk back 3 miles which was a hike to say the least.  We got back literally like 30 seconds before when we were supposed to be back for dinner.  Talk about good timing.  A bunch of the guys went to the Pi Kapp house at MSU, but I stayed at our house.  I wanted a nice relaxing night to catch up on things and I didn’t really feel like drinking.  We head to the Big House tomorrow and I will attempt to break into Michigan’s hockey arena too. 

Day 52 - August 1st, 2008 - Kalamazoo, MI - 63 miles

What a day today.  Mason got his ride along today which he did rather well with.  Finished the whole day even though the pace line had to slow down to roughly 14 mph for him.  But he finished.  He was walking around gingerly afterwards, saying his ass hurt.  I can’t wait to ask him how it feels tomorrow.  A bunch of the guys said he should just get on the bike real quick tomorrow so he can feel some of our pain.    While Mason was riding, Clifton and Bobby took his place on crew.  The funniest part about today was when we rolled up to their stop and we didn’t see them.   As we were getting closer I said they are probably sleeping in the air conditioned van.  As soon as I said that they come out, shirtless, with paint on their body and faces like Aborigines Tribesman, sticks and silly sting in hand.  They had waited for us in the bushes for about an hour because we were red flagged a few miles back as Che had to go jump Monkman’s car because he let the battery die.  We were instructed to wait for the sweeps to get to the stop, but they never did because Taylor had a flat.  So while they were waiting in bushes, we were sleeping on a few miles back under a tree in someone’s yard.  Sounds like a good trade off to me.  The ride today though wasn’t that good for me.  I was really itchy most of the day and just never really got comfortable on the bike.  I was falling asleep on the bike a lot at the beginning until we hit some conversation lanes and Joe and I talked back and forth about families, girlfriends, etc.

We arrived at the Saturn of Kalamazoo today and they had an awesome taco bar set up in their service area.  It was great except that I became more and more itchy.  I really need to get something to help the rashes because what I’m doing now isn’t working as well as I would like it to. 

Lodging is at a beautiful YMCA camp in the woods so we actually get beds tonight in the cabins we are staying in.  Dinner was put on by the families of a couple of Pi Alpha’s from a year ago.  The one family is having us write and seal a letter about our experiences from this year.  Tomorrow we will receive last year’s letters from cyclists, still sealed in the original envelops.  It’s a pretty cool tradition and I’m really excited to see what all is in the letter I receive tomorrow.  After dinner we had a team meeting where we voted on the Bruce Rodgers award for our team.  It is the award given in D.C. for the team member who best exemplifies the 4 stances of Push America; Abilities, Teamwork, Empathy, and Integrity.  Right now I’m typing up this journal entry from a laundry mat.  I can’t even remember the last time I did laundry which is pretty bad, I know.  I needed it bad too, haha.  Tomorrow is going to be a longer day with an early wakeup, so I’ll be getting to bed early.  Tomorrow also marks the 2 week mark.  Crazy.


© Copyright Ryan Cole 2008