Saturday, December 29, 2012

End of the year

December 30, 2012

This will probably be my last entry in this blog as I wanted to personally thank those who not only contributed to my fundraising but also helped Diane Sawyer, Bobbie and myself along the way.
We have to start with Alicia O'Neill and Betsy Parker from the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF). They are a pair of beauts for sure.
Thank you Alicia for having people join us in seven of the 13 states we rode through on our 1,348 mile journey. From the time we had Betsy's sister and her friends join us at the starting line in Jacksonville on Father's Day to the finish line in Maine some 16 days later, your presence was felt.
Her sidekick -- Betsy -- not only helped plan a portion of the ride, but actually followed our exact location live on the computer thanks to Bobbie and her Geek Squad ability to maximize our smart phones. One day, as Betsy was watching while we were in South Carolina, we made a change in the route because of advice we had received from a local fire chief we met at a post office. Betsy immediately texted Bobbie and told her emphatically that we missed the turn, which was a short cut to our day's destination.
What can I tell you about Andy McVey from Wilmington, North Carolina. Not only did he call Bobbie while we were approaching the hotel in that city, but he said to be ready at 6:30 because he was taking the three of us to dinner. He showed up with a bag full of energy groceries as a welcoming gift. We have to get back to his town so we can repay the favor.
In New Jersey, my brother Bruce joined us for the segment leading to his house in Red Bank and, along with my sister-in-law Jill opened their home to Diane as well. The day sailing was theraputic for all involved as we had gone hard for 11 straight days.
The last Friday of the ride, Carmen Phaneuf, who lives in my old home town of Little Silver, made it a point to show up at Bruce's house at O-Dark-30 so she could ride a couple of miles with us. Carmen was bald at the time after undergoing treatment for the multiple myeloma and she wanted to be a part of what we were doing. I will tell you, after meeting her and another lady I will mention shortly, my life has changed for the better.
On the ferry to Manhattan, we met Neill Groom who wanted to know what Bruce, Diane and I were up to as we were all wearing MMRF shirts and he saw us come on board with our bicycles. Neill heard the story and within an hour donated $500 to the cause. (And then Bruce ran into him a week or so later in Red Bank when Neill was walking his dog and Bruce his).
In Manhattan, there were Diane and Dolores who led us around the island before handing us off to Tom Holland, who works with the MMRF on its endurance programs. Tom recently completed the Ironman in Hawaii so he knows a thing or two about cycling. I never did get Diane and Dolores last names.
At the beach in Connecticut, we finally met Alicia and Betsy and the people who work at the MMRF as they had a party for us Floridians. Then it was on to a massage they arranged as well as dinner in one of their local places.
The next day, we met four more riders at the train station who the dynamic duo (Alicia and Betsy) had arranged for us to ride with into New Haven, where Alicia joined us on her bike for a short distance.
Finally it was the last day and the minute I started packing the car for the last day of riding, I met Mike and Jean Dreyer who, along with their two sets of twins, wanted to be a part of this nonsense we started. Mike rode and guided us the last day to the finish line while Jean, herself a multiple myeloma patient, was there at the lighthouse to welcome us along with Alicia and what seemed like dozens of others.
Jean and Carmen are not really multiple myeloma patients -- they are multiple myeloma dominators as both are fighting this disease with everything they have. 
We were invited to the MMRF gala in Connecticut in October and when we saw both of them at our table, it took me a couple of minutes to get my emotions in check.
I also have to tell Diane Sawyer, who did the ride with us, how much I appreciated having her along. While I didn't enjoy riding at a slower pace than what I had planned, she did force me to stop more often and that probably was why I never got dehydrated or got weak from not eating enough. Those were two major concerns of mine while training.
I know I probably left out a couple of people's names and I apologize for that. But you have to understand as you get older, you tend to forget. And today I am another year older. December 30 is also the birthday of LeBron James, Sandy Koufax, Tiger Woods, Matt Lauer and Michael Nesmith of the Monkees. Can you guess which one doesn't belong? Of course -- Koufax, he is lefthanded.
It's hard to believe that at age 61 I rode my bike from Florida to Maine. The facial reactions I get from people when I tell them of that ride are funny. I get this a lot: "You did what?"
Looking back now, I ask the same thing, "I did what?" But not once along the way did I ask to spend more time in bed -- I was always the first one up, dressed and at breakfast everyday. I guess people get that way when you have something to do, something to accomplish.
I wanted desperately not to do the ride because it would have meant that the Putz, my buddy Roy Gross, beat the multiple myeloma. But when we got the news on March 10th that he had passed the night before, the ride was set in stone.
So thank you to everyone who came in to my life, who donated to the cause, who prayed for our safety along the way and who continues to be a part of my life (read Carmen, Jean, Alicia & Betsy to name just four).
Let's hope for a healthy 2013 and that I won't have to do another long distance bicycle ride in memory of anyone else.
Happy New Year to everyone and thank you very much again.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Video Is Complete

August 2012 -- It is about six weeks after completion of the bike ride and after much editing, numerous discussions and frustrations about selection of music, the video is complete and is now part of this blog.
Bobbie is so incredibly talented and has so much patience to put it together -- I would estimate she spent more than 50 hours on it.
Turn your sound ON, press play and follow us along on a day-by-day journey from Florida to Maine.
Thanks for your support and I hope you enjoy the show.

Highlights Video

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Comments We Have Received

Diane & Marty - you both are fine examples of teammates with determination to help others fight thru pain& illness . Thanks for scratching the surface of what I think & feel arriving at Nubble Lighthose. I had been kept posted by Ruth - following you on this blog only . Then I read it all while waiting to witness the joy of what you both did for many who suffer - families of Cancer. I know now that many will have some Hope thanks to your efforts an d your trip...the sunlight of the spirit above was very clear to me that day in York beach. I am so grateful he let me witness you make it in real time not just read about it. My words could go on forever, but space does not permit. What you did is truly god given amazing. Peace, Hope, Love. To you & everyone your trip will each out to! I love you my friend who entered my life in Maine with so much goodness, life, inner & outer beauty, great qualities too many to list ... My hope is our paths cross sooner than the years gone by; it's one day at a time - up to God like all things in his world. REBOS. XXXI. MD

Marty and Diane,
Marty, what can I say, you are amazing, and I know I have said it countless times, but you are..You are one of the most selfless people I have ever met..You have a true love for this sport of ours, now which you have taken to another level. One which many of us simply dream of...All I can say, is I wish I could have been with you..And congratulations on an incredible job well done...

Today the word hero is over used..But used in the context of what the two of you have achieved these 17 days, and who you have touched along the way, and the purpose you rode for..You are Hero's...Taking the selfless act of riding a great distance, in the memory of a friend, for a noble cause so others may not suffer as he had..Yes you are hero's..As cyclists, you represent the best of what this sport is...Cyclists as a rule have big hearts, are compassionate, team oriented, and there is a camaraderie found on the road, that cannot be found in other sports..Over these past 17 days, you joined an elite group in our wonderful sport, as well as became great example of ambassadors,
to what others should aspire to..In both of your writings, I saw a humbleness of sorts, which is also found in true hero's..Your focus was true and inspired..Take the time in the coming days to celebrate what you have achieved..

Diane, thank you for joining Marty on this journey, and maybe we can share the road sometime in the future..Your writing was heartfelt and inspiring...Like you I am a New Englander, my cycling roots came from the roads of NH, Maine, CT, and RI, which you traveled on the back half of your journey..You and Marty are a great team..These past 17 days you became a part of a unique fraternity in cycling..Those of us who choose to ride for others, put the heart back into this sport of ours, from your writing and your images, I can see you have an incredible heart..What you just accomplished these 17 days, is a life changing event..You now represent the best of what this sport is...

You are Hero's my friends...


-Jeff H.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Reflections On The Journey

Bobbie keeps asking me if what I just accomplished had sunk in as yet and my response has been the same -- I don't feel like I've done anything except ride my bicycle from point A to point B. Just because point A was in Florida and point B was in Maine doesn't necessarily mean I've done anything other people couldn't do as well.
When I first thought about doing the ride, I was on the phone with Roy and told him, point blank, that when he dies, I was going to ride my bike to raise money for the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation. I had the kind of relationship with him that I could just about say anything I wanted and he knew exactly what I meant. He said, "thanks alot for writing me off already."
My response was that I was not writing him off, his life was no where near the end and that he was going to beat the disease. In fact, when Pam set up a Caring Bridge web site to distribute daily information to everyone about Roy's condition, my job was to keep him laughing, to get his mind off the battle he was going against. Granted the laughter was only for a couple of minutes each day, but it was something that I could do, that I was good at and I know he appreciated it very much.
Then I started telling people about my idea and the more I told, the harder it was for me to back out. Then I started this blog, contacted the MMRF, told my riding buddies in Miami about it and next thing you know, Father's Day, 2012 was upon us and off we went on the first leg into Georgia.
It's all a big blur now -- Georgia melted into South Carolina and North Carolina was the same until we got to the Outer Banks. Then it was into Virginia and quickly thereafter I was departing the ferry in Cape May, NJ to a raucous crowd consisting of Martina and her family with a sign welcoming me.
Diane and I looked at each other and said, can you believe we rode our bikes to New Jersey? The same was said each day as we entered another northern state and look at that, there's the Nubble Lighthouse in York, Me., and Alicia from the MMRF greeting us with a bunch of friends and family.
My friend Jeff in Pittsburgh is a long-time cyclist and he wrote to us often while on the ride. He said this is a life changing experience and that remains to be seen. I know I came across so many people who went out of their way to donate (remember the lady who stopped us and gave us $2 and Neill on the ferry to New York who gave $500?), to take us to dinner (Andy McVey in North Carolina), to ride with us (thank you Carmen, Mike, Diane, Dolores, Cristina, Chris and Wayne as well as Alicia, Betsy, the University of Miami graduate who's name escapes me at this moment and his friend).
Carmen and Jean are two multiple myeloma patients, each fighting to keep healthy and to beat back this disease which I didn't even know existed two years ago. Carmen rode just 3 miles with us the day we left for New York but she will continue to inspire me to make the most of every day I have left on this planet. As for Jean, wow, what can I say. I rode with Mike, her husband, on the ride into Maine and I learned the entire story of how she was diagnosed and how she is coping with it, especially when you consider she has two sets of twins, ages 12 and 9.
Jean says I inspire her -- maybe so. But she is just like Carmen, fighting to make the most of each of her days. Those two, I promise, will be a part of my life for a long time and I know we will stay in touch not only through this summer, but for many summers to come.
Today, July 4th, Diane has already flown home to Orlando and is getting back into her routine, which, unfortunately, calls for her to start looking for a new career after her position was terminated a couple of months back. After close to 3 weeks of driving, Bobbie shifted to the passenger seat and today was her day to spend walking the numerous outlet stores in Kittery. It was a far cry from going from point A to point B, and a lot more fun.
We are heading to the Boston area to see Neil and Ellen, who have the same business up here that Bobbie and I have in South Florida. Then it is to Bristol for a tour of ESPN on Friday before spending the weekend back with my brother and Jill (and more sailing on the river).
By the end of next week, we will be back in our own routine at home and even have our rent-a-dog coming to stay Thursday night (we take care of Allison's dog Madden when we can). Things will be the same -- mow the lawn, take care of the pool, clean the house, book new events and try to work down the debt we've accumulated over the years.
But a couple of things won't be the same: I have a new appreciation for the good health I have and hope to continue to have for many years to come and, sadly, I know now that the ride is concluded, my memory of Roy will start to fade. It is a fact. When both my Mom and Dad passed away, I thought of them many times each day, then it was just once a day, then once a week and so on. It's natural.
Today, I think of my parents and know that what I just accomplished they would be very proud of and that is what makes me happy -- that I continue to do the right things to make my parents proud of me.
PS -- Bobbie will be posting a video of the trip online in the coming weeks so look forward to that and if you haven't had a chance to donate to the MMRF, we would be glad to accept anything you would like to donate. The web site is listed in the heading on this page.
Thank you for reading, contributing and following this ride.
Bobbie and I brought "Roy" along with us the entire way and here we are at the finish.
Roy sent me this lifesize cutout about 15 years ago as his replacement for a new year's eve party we were hosting in Miami. He said he couldn't make it, but would send a suitable replacement. He has been with us stored behind the guest room door for 15 years.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Grand Finale

After 17 days, close to 1,400 miles and 13 states, Diane and I were the first (and only) team to arrive on the mat to complete The Amazing Race (East Coast Version).
We didn't win $1 million but collected close to $7,000 for the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation of which I will now proudly say I am a "family" member.
We rode with Mike all of the way from Nashua to the Nubble Light in Maine, some 75 miles with the usual ups and downs but nothing like we had the previous day. Mike' wife Jean has MM and presently is in good health.
At the finish, Jean was there and gave me a huge bear hug, saying thank you for all that I've done.
I did nothing except ride my bike for a couple of weeks. I told her she and Carmen (from Little Silver) are my inspirations because while my ride is over and I went through some trials and tribulations, including getting hit by a mirror on the first day (you should have heard the explosion of the mirror on my left elbow -- boom! It sounded like my tire blew up, when in fact it was  a kid who looked down at the wrong time and his rear view mirror hit my left arm just above the elbow. Nothing broken, but a nice a bruise which has already gone away.) Carmen and Jean are fighting the disease and will continue their struggle tomorrow and the next day and the next day and so on. I get to pack up the car and drive home to Miami. They inspire me to live every day as best as I can because you don't know if there will be another after today.
Today's ride brought the official bike computer total to 1,343 miles of actual riding. That, of course, doesn't count the five ferry rides in North Carolina, from Delaware to New Jersey and from Jersey to Manhattan.
There are so many people to thank, so many things to point out and many topics to cover but after celebrating with Bobbie, a bottle of wine and some fireworks over Portsmouth, NH, it's time to close down for the night.
Thank you everyone for following along on the ride. I have a lot of pictures on Facebook both on my site and Bobbie's page. I will have a couple of more blog additions on this trip before we head back to Florida.
 With the Nubble Light behind, I was still strong enough to lift my bike over my shoulder. I think I saw Lance Armstrong do this once and I wanted to replicate it.
 Diane and Jean talk about the same hometown they came from -- a small town in New England. Jean and Mike have 2 pairs of twins!!
Mike, Diane and Marty confer on the side of the road as to which direction they should take. Mike had the map, Marty had real time GPS and Diane had an opportunity to take a break.

It was an amazing journey and I thank everyone who participated with well wishes, encouragement and donations to the MMRF.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Hardest Day Of The Trip

I knew it when I laid the route out -- today was going to be the hardest day of all. Count 6 climbs of more than a mile each and 2 climbs which were five miles long (when will it end?). I could almost feel my heart jumping out of my chest on that first climb up to about 1200 feet. It was so steep that Diane decided early that it was best to park her bike in the back of the van and ride to the top.
The map said 75 miles but when our turn-by-turn directions had us going on to Mass. 202, I was 100 feet up the ramp when I noticed the sign which said no bicycles. OOOOPS.
Now what?
Well after scrambling for an alternate route and after speaking to a construction worker outside a pizza place we had lunch, we added 18 miles to the day and finished with 93 miles. Not exactly what I had in mind, but it's behind us.
We also got wet for only the third time on the trip, this time a short cloudburst in one of the numerous forests we rode though on our way to Nashua, NH, our final night on the road before hitting Maine sometime around lunch tomorrow.
Once again it was the people we encountered along the way which made our day. Outside a country store just across the New Hampshire line, a Vietnam Vet approached me after reading the banner on the back of the van. He said he lost a number of friends from cancer and was wondering when it was going to hit him as well. He said he admired what we are doing and wished us the best.