Crossroads

As I traveled across many states in our beautiful nation on my ride of a lifetime there were plenty of times when my GPS would take me into some very remote places and often times it was unclear as to where I just might end up. Many times I would stop at a fork in the road or at an intersection to determine just where I was at and where each of the roads ahead would lead me. I had to make the decision which way to go to get me where I needed to be. Many times I would use my GPS, in conjunction with google maps on the phone as well as a printed road map to come up with an answer. This is the same story that goes on for a rare cancer patient who is making life decisions. There are many “forks” in the road of life and for those of us with a dreaded incurable disease, we will need to make some hard choices at some point using whatever information we can. Some of these are pretty serious decisions, others not so dramatic but none the less all are important to get you where you think you need to be. Choosing the right highway in life can be a difficult one to navigate all while trying to remain positive seems to be the tough part.

These last couple of months since returning from the ride I have been very low key. Not a lot of writing. Not a lot of social media. Not a lot of anything really except trying to decide where my next path may lead me. I also spent over 2 weeks in August sick with a bad summer cold which has not helped much with getting things done. When I last “blogged” in July I was in the midst of fighting with trying to get new appointments at Mayo Clinic, after their business office told me they would not do so unless I paid my back balance. Since that time they have scheduled appointments, then taken them away again and then made new ones but only after I complained about the entire fiasco. I have made some payments and set up an additional payment plan to get the issues resolved concerning the bill but the entire process has left me pretty disenchanted about the entire medical system and the pitfalls of it all. On one hand I just want to forget the whole damn thing and live out what life I have and tell the medical industry to cram it. On the other hand I still want to know what is going on inside my body so I can be somewhat prepared for the next chapter, which in fact could mean my impending demise or it could mean I have a bit more time to prepare for the inevitable. These are just a couple of the things I am currently tossing around in my mind.

I have lived with Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma for 12 plus years now. I’ve had 4 major surgeries, 40 radiation treatments, countless numbers of CT scans, PET scans, MRI’s and doctors appointments and in my personal opinion they are no closer to finding a treatment plan for me than when I started the journey back in 2007. I am more disgruntled about the “cancer industry” today than I ever have been. Yes, I called it an industry and I make no apologies for that. The industry of cancer has become larger than the disease and I believe when that happens there will be NO cure for cancer. I keep asking myself the question: If there was a cure today, how many people would be unemployed tomorrow? Hundreds of thousands of people now depend on the cancer industry and it’s patients to put food on their own table. I know it sounds a bit harsh but I am just looking at it very pragmatically. Have you ever wondered why when the industry builds a new cancer center they announce it with a headline that says “New 300 Million Dollar Cancer Center to be Built”. They throw those huge figures out to prepare you for the revenue trolling that will follow and to keep the industry of cancer going and keep its patients flowing through the doors. If it was about the disease and the patients the dollar figure would not and should not matter. In some ways I guess you might say I have lost hope but in fact I have not lost hope, I just choose to look at hope from a different highway.

Next week I have the appointments that were scheduled at Mayo Clinic. I am still unsure whether I will keep those appointments. I feel ok despite getting really tired lately. The tumor under my left arm has definitely gotten larger since I last went in March and is causing some nerve issues in my arm. It is painful at times but is generally tolerable. It is a very visible tumor and can be felt easily (about the size of an extra large egg). The tumors in my lungs and liver are a different story. I cannot see them obviously so I don’t have an idea of there growth. I am not experiencing to much discomfort but at times I know from the sharp pains in the right side of my chest something is probably not right. Yes it might be nice to know but what will they do? So many times I leave Rochester for the long drive back home after rounds of scans and there is no treatment plan. Just more “wait and see”. I guess after this many years I’m getting tired of paying for “wait and see”. My current insurance plan runs from July to June so if I keep these appointments it will mean adding several thousand dollars to the current bill via the new deductible. I have been working however to jump off my health insurance plan and go ahead and sign up for Plan B Medicare (I qualify at age 60 since I am technically disabled). Its pretty much the same cost although I need to then find a Medicare supplement plan for the 20% that Plan B does not cover. When I put a pencil to it I might be able to save a couple grand a year. So one of the things I am considering is waiting for the scans until the Medicare kicks in, however I hate the thought of being on a Government program. As bad as I think medical system is in the country, putting myself in the hands of the Federal Government probably is not a good answer either. Scares me to death (no pun intended) just to think about it. In my mind there is probably one thing worse than the medical industry and that’s the Federal Government. Sorry folks, I’m just not a fan.

So maybe I should ask the few of you that will read the blog. What would you do? Ride On and live with it or sign up for more of the same? For me it’s a difficult decision so I will certainly pray for the right answer and in God’s own way I know He will answer me. If there was ever a time for my faith to be strong, it is NOW and strong shall I be.

Where Does the Money Go?

Back in late January of this year when I first launched the website and kicked off the Ridin On campaign I received many messages through my website. Several of these were friends, family and many others who I did not even know all wishing me well on the journey. Some were from other cancer patients telling me of their own personal story on how cancer has had an effect on their life or of that of a loved one. All were positive and uplifting messages. I did however receive one from someone who I had never met before and I was a bit puzzled by it. All the message said was “Where does the money go?”. That was it. Just a one liner simple question. I guess it was a fair enough since on the website I did have a donate button where people could contribute to the ride and the campaign. But never once in this process did I make this ride about me collecting money. I have never solicited funds from my followers and I won’t ever do that. From the start of this all I have said is maybe we can raise a few bucks to help offset the cost of the ride and any additional monies would be used towards medical expenses of either myself or others. Raising funds was never the primary focus of the Ride. From the onset of the campaign it’s never been about money and I hope and pray that I have not conveyed that to you in any way. I struggled for a bit with the question: “where does the money go?”, but I did in the best way I knew how answer the person and explain that raising awareness about rare cancer and meeting others is/was the primary intent of the ride. When I first talked about this idea of doing the Ride to my wife we were scrambling to see how we would ever afford it on our own. I would have did this ride even if I did not raise one dollar and that’s how we planned it. Thankfully, there were a lot of people who believed in the ride and the mission and got behind it. Some were very generous donations and we did manage to raise several thousand dollars to offset some of the costs. After buying the bike, creating the marketing, paying for fuel, hotels, food and maintenance on the bike we still went in the hole several thousand bucks. But all in all I could not be happier. The ride was wonderful and I believe in my heart it touched more than a few lives out there. Certainly worth every penny and I can’t thank those who donated enough for their contributions.

As I rode across the American highways for weeks I certainly had a lot of time to think. The one thing that kept popping into my head along the journey was that awkward question “where does the money go?” It was like it was haunting me on every turn. The more I thought about the question the more distraught and saddened and almost angry I became with it. Someone was actually asking a cancer patient who was trying to bring some awareness to his disease and others like it about where the money would go, after the cancer patient was the one who had spent thousands of their own money just to get to that point. Mile after mile, day after day, week after week I toiled over the question. Then it came to me. This is not a question I should ever have to answer but it is a question perhaps I should be asking of the cancer industry itself. “Where does the money go?” should be asked of every foundation in the world. You know, the ones who collect millions of dollars in the name of cancer research but there is never a cure. “Where does the money go”? should be asked of every pharmaceutical company. You know the ones trying to create more drugs in the name of wellness. “Where does the money go”? should be asked of every insurance company we are stuck dealing with. You know, the ones telling you how they are going to take care of you then deny your claim when you have one. “Where does the money go”? should be asked of every medical institution who treats cancer patients and schedules test after test with no remedy or treatment and says come back in 3 months for more. If you start to think how many billions of dollars have been collected in the name of cancer and cancer patients, shouldn’t we ALL be asking the question “where does the money go”?

Earlier this week I knew that I needed to schedule some doctor visits back at Mayo Clinic. I got on to the patient portal and asked to be scheduled sometime in late August or early September. I got a “canned” response back saying before they could proceed with scheduling I would need to update all my personal and insurance information. I could not find where to do it online so I called the oncology appointment desk and took care of it by phone. Since I see multiple doctors and departments sometimes it takes a while to get appointments coordinated in to a 2 or 3 day span, so the nice young lady told me she would call me back the following day with an appointment schedule. Yesterday afternoon my phone rang at it was the phone number from Mayo Clinic. When I answered it was not the young lady calling about my appointments. Instead it was the business office. The gentlemen told me before they could make these appointments that I was requesting they needed me to pay my account in full, just shy of 5000 bucks. It’s been no big deal in the past 12 years to have an outstanding bill with Mayo. In fact I have probably had some type of balance (usually in the thousands) with them since 2007 and never before have I been denied appointments based on a balance due. I could not pay it yesterday by phone since I’ll juggle an account or two around and come up with the 5 grand and it won’t be a big deal. Or will it?

The more I have thought about this yesterday afternoon and last night (could not sleep) the more fuming pissed I got about the whole financial situation with health care. Less than two days ago Mayo Clinic did a fantastic article about my ride I did to bring awareness to rare cancers. How could they now be denying me an appointment because I had a balance with them? Had they just reduced the value of my life to 5 grand? I just keep shaking my head over and over. I will not understand it. As I look at pictures I have taken of Mayo Clinic over the years it is a remarkable facility. MGM (metal, glass and marble) everywhere you look. Giant bronze statues, grand pianos in the hallways, valet parking and all the other fine amenities of a world class medical facility. Perhaps they need my 5 grand to polish the marble floor in the foyer area of the Gonda Building but I’m not sure 5 grand would even cover that. So maybe I should ask Mayo, “where does the money go”?

When I pay the 5 grand all will be ok right? Sure as far as Mayo is concerned and they will grant me the right of passage through the beautiful revolving glass doors once again and welcome me with open arms (and pockets). Not so fast. I still have to think how in the hell I will pay for the new rounds of scans and tests. My insurance runs from July 1st through June 30th every year, so on July 1st I now have a new deductible and a new maximum out of pocket to cover which has just been increased to $10,000 per year. Add that to my travel expenses to Rochester each time and there in will be my dilemma just as it has been year after year ever since the diagnosis.

I share this story with you not because it is mine. This story plays out all across our country with thousands of rare cancer patients going through the same thing and many are in a lot worse shape than I am, both physically and financially. Not sick enough to die but sick enough to keep the system asking for everything they have worked for in life. Just the monitoring of the disease itself costs thousands and thousands of dollars. Where does it end? “Where does the money go”? And for us living with cancer patients: “where will the money come from”?

I will ask you to do one thing when you are considering donations to cancer Foundations. Think about the patients who have to live with the disease everyday. Ask yourselves. Will the foundation I am giving to help those living with the disease or will it be evaporated into the abyss of the cancer industry. If you know someone who travels for medical issues consider covering a night in a hotel. Consider a gas card or a meal voucher someplace. You know exactly where your money is going. As I think about the future of Ridin On with Rare Cancer this will probably be a direction I will take it. “To help others directly” will be a part of the theme and as we work towards that I hope you will be there to follow along on the journey once again.

As you can tell I am a little more than pumped up about the whole money and medical thing. I did not write this piece to ask for your donation. It simply soothes my soul to write about it and get it out of my system. As I wrote this I’ve already thought of the next blog in a few days called “Crossroads”. Stay tuned, stay cool and Ride On.,

The Homecoming

It was a surreal feeling. I had been out on the road so long and the trip going so well there was a huge part of me that did not want the ride to end. In the final week I was joined by a longtime friend, Joe Morian. He met me in the U.P. of Michigan and he rode the final 1400 miles or so miles on the journey. I truly enjoyed the company. As we picked our way through thunderstorms and rain at times my eyes continued to be on the finish line. I tried to figure out which day we would arrive so I could plan a homecoming event. It was difficult to do from the road. We crossed Wisconsin and then Minnesota. As every mile went by I was becoming more familiar with the land and the territory. My dad was born in Fergus Falls Minnesota and as a young boy I would spend a few weeks every summer in the area visiting aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents. It was a very heartwarming feeling to be in a place that I knew something about. We stopped the little town of Underwood where I had an aunt still living there right on Bass Lake. When we pulled in to her house that she had lived in since the 50’s and she of course was surprised and we stayed just long enough for the thunderstorm to clear out, click a few pictures and our next stop was at the Foxhome Community Cemetery about 30 miles away. We rode down the soft gravel/dirt road which made for some interesting driving on 2 wheels with road tires but we made it. I had a chance to visit some of the graves of more of my family members that had settled in the area around 1900. My dad was raised in this little community and it really brought back some fond childhood memories. Just over 100 people now live in the once thriving town of Foxhome. Virtually all the business’s are now gone and long since boarded up or torn down. We then went to Breckenridge where my uncle had just been put into a nursing home. I was a bit afraid he might not remember me but all was good and we had a great visit. I hate that feeling you get when you have to say goodbye to someone knowing it will most likely be the last time you see them alive. If you do one thing in the coming days, weeks, months and years, carve out some time to visit your aging relatives. It means the world to them to know someone cared enough to stop and say hello.

Joe and I got a room in Breckenridge to stay the night. When we were parking at the hotel, I was backing my bike into a parking spot next to Joe. My helmet was balanced on top of my gas tank as I carefully backed in and then the next thing I know both myself and my bike were laying on the ground. When Joe went to put his kickstand down his foot slipped and his Harley fell into the side of me knocking me over. The only thing that happened was my helmet fell to the ground first and that’s where my chest decided to hit, right on top of the helmet. Talk about knocking the wind out of you! Whew! All was good however and just a bruise on the sternum and a small dent in the side box. Accidents WILL happen! :)

The next morning we ate breakfast at a small diner. It must have been a good spot since the local cops were there having breakfast too! They asked about the bike of course and we had a nice chat. This was the one and only time I would have ANY interaction with law enforcement on the entire trip. When we left we headed west for the small town of Wishek North Dakota. This was the little town I was born in and spent the first 6 years of my life. Like many small rural farming communities it’s population had dwindled but it still had plenty going on. We stopped at the local grocery store and picked up some of their famous German Sausage. They even gave us dry ice to put it on. I also found the house where we lived. I don’t think it had been painted since my older brother did in back in 1964. She looked rough but was still standing and it looked like it was somewhat lived in but I could not tell. We checked out town for a few minutes then we stopped for lunch at what looked like the only place to eat in town. Someone had taken the old theater in town and turned it into a bar/restaurant. Even had the felt wall curtains and the big screen still in it. We parked in front of course and while we were eating lunch the bartender/owner said someone came by, noticed my bike and paid for our meal. God has certainly blessed me on this trip. I’m so glad we stopped where my roots began.

We continued south and stopped at the South Dakota border to take a quick picture of the sign. Now the feeling of coming home was really sinking in. As we rode across the wide open prairie of my home state I could not help but notice how beautiful it is. Rolling hills of green! I have never in my life seen it so lush and beautiful. It was truly an amazing homecoming. We stayed in Pierre for the night. I’d have only 170 more miles and this 11000 mile journey would come to a close. My stomach was almost churning. The next day, Thursday June 27th would mark the 60th day I would be on the road. It felt strange but I was certainly getting excited. We washed our bikes up in the morning and had lunch with a fellow ACC cancer warrior that lived in Pierre and took some time to visit the state capital building. I had been there many times but always amazed at it’s beauty. We then were down the road for the final hours. As we left Pierre I had my tunes on in my helmet. What comes on? The song “The Final Countdown” by the group Europe. As every mile clicked closer to home the more excited I became. The weather outside was absolutely perfect.

Just outside Rapid City I let Joe get several miles ahead of me so he could video my return into a restaurant parking lot where a few faithful followers and family would be waiting for me. It was so exciting to pull into the place. People cheering my return and a TV interview waiting for me as well. I could not have had a nicer ending to one long long journey. God’s hand had led me around the country and back safely. I am so very grateful not to have had one mechanical issue, breakdown or debilitating accident on this trip.

As I am still decompressing a bit from the ride I just can’t believe it’s over. I can’t believe what I just accomplished. I set a goal, prayed for guidance and the rest is now history. Or is it…. Lot’s of questions swirl in my head. The biggest question is: Did I accomplish what I set out to do? From my perspective the answer is YES. I had told myself and a few others prior to the trip that If I touched only one person along the way it would be successful. I think I did that, plus hundreds more. The people of this country are amazing. The beauty of this nation is amazing. The next question of course is: What will I do with the Ridin On campaign now that this ride is over? Maybe I should leave that up to you. After all without followers there would be no campaign.

For right now I will be going through my journal, my pictures and I will continue of course to write about the journey a bit more in depth and also write a bit about the journey with cancer and my thoughts on the whole issue regarding the Cancer Industry. I’ve had 11000 miles and 60 days of thinking time. There is so much more to do and write about in my life. I hope you will stay tuned. I probably won’t ever be able to financially do a trip like this one again but I do see myself taking some shorter trips and continue to blog and write about the adventures. So please stick around and let’s see where we end up Ridin On……

The Old Buildings That Speak to Us

They are everywhere. If I’ve seen one on this adventure, I have seen a thousand of the old buildings that have long ago died of their own type of cancer. If they spoke, what kind of story would they tell? Whose lives have they seen? What joys and sorrows have come through their doors? What were the storms they survived? These are just some of the questions that go through my mind every time I see one of these old relic’s sitting by the roadside. I’ve taken a few pictures only if I manage to get stopped. Hundreds of them however are only etched in my memory. Some are churches, some are old barns and some are old homes and many are business’s that long ago quit operating. I am in awe of they’re unique beauty. The stories they could tell are probably endless. For me they sit like a rare cancer patient waiting for renovation and revival but like many us they will slowly decay and eventually fade away.

I also have had an eye on old cemeteries while riding the back roads of our country. There are literally hundreds if not thousands of cemeteries in the eastern parts of our country that are much like the old buildings. You can tell the really old ones. Headstones that are 200 or 300 years old in some cases that have long since had the names worn off by weather and only a faint sign of a date. Many have gravestones that are leaning over or broken by whatever means. Each stone marks a human that walked this earth. What was their story? Everyone has one. I’ll have one. What will your story be?

This past Saturday I had the chance to visit a cemetery in Preston County West Virginia. I have been studying my ancestry roots in this county for many years now but never had the chance to see where they lived and where they died. The cemetery held many of my relatives that were long ago forgotten souls. As I strolled through and saw a great grand father here or a great grandmother there I wondered what their life was like. One of the individuals was a great great grandfather by the name of Joseph N. Miller. He was born in December of 1809 and died in February of 1902. He had 14 children and was still fathering kids until the 1860’s about the time Lincoln was shot. I think about his life. He lived nearly the entire 19th century. What did he see? How did he get the news of the day? How many hot showers do you suppose he had in his 92 years in the 19th century? Do you suppose the government took care of him in his old age? Life back then was probably a bit simpler in some ways but much harder in others. He lived 92 years and I’ll struggle to carve out two thirds of that even with all of our modern wizardry in healthcare and things that are suppose to make my life better and longer. I wish I knew his story but I don’t know much and I’ll keep wondering, just like with all the other headstones names. Just like an old building still standing waiting for a story to tell.

Yesterday I had an interview for a Morgantown West Virginia newspaper. The lady doing the story was a bit of a historian for Preston County and she wrote human interest stories. She asked questions about my family roots in the county and then many more questions about my cancer and my ride for awareness. One of her last questions was what I wanted people to get out of this story. I told her very simply “to give the message of hope” and to “never quit no matter what the odds”. If all you could physically do was to pick up a pencil, then you need to write your story. I’m writing mine as I’m Ridin On and there is a lot more to write for sure. I don’t want to be the old sagging building on the side of the road with people wondering what my story was. I’ll write my story as I go, and when it’s time to go it will be done for me but perhaps not done for someone else. I believe it is human nature to have a self worth and a purpose in life just like the building that was built for a purpose but now sits like a rare cancer patient in a waiting room. Don’t be afraid to write your history and leave your mark. You are worth far more than a headstone or an old building that will be long forgotten in time.

As you can tell by a lot of my writing I love history. I love people and people have stories. Stories are history and history should not be forgotten. Make your history, write your story and keep Ridin On.

The Corner is Turned

As of today I have been gone from home for 47 days and logged 8508 miles. The route I have traveled seems so big but the time has sure gone by pretty quick. After Chris flew home from our rendezvous in Boston I headed to Maine this past Monday and then into the rest of the new England states I had not been to. New Hampshire and Vermont are very beautiful. There was the annual motorcycle rally going on in Laconia New Hampshire but I opted to avoid it since going to rallies is no big deal to me seeing and working in Sturgis for so many years.

I have now turned the corner so to speak and will be headed back west now. Tonight I am staying in Dubois Pennsylvania and will go on to Morgantown West Virginia tomorrow. Right outside Morgantown is where many of my ancestors on my mothers side were from. I want to check out some of the country around there and maybe visit a cemetery or two. From there I will head to Ohio to take in another sprint car race or two during Ohio’s “Sprint Car Speed Week”. I miss home but I still am not going to push it just to get done. I am still having a blast meeting people and seeing areas of the country that I have never been to and talking about Rare Cancer. I have now been in 29 different states and I will probably hit 7 more by the time I’m done.

I am holding up rather well. Riding everyday certainly has it’s challenges. I have days where I feel a bit wore out physically but there are also days where I feel my mind is “off the mark”. I’ve had days where I have felt like the interactions with other people have not gone well but then the next day, BAM! a ton of wonderful people again asking me questions and I get re-energized again and down the road I go feeling wonderful. I am also feeling much more comfortable on the bike than when I first left. The experience in that 8000 plus miles has built my confidence level up for sure. (not to the point of being un-safe). I am cornering the bike better and it feels good to ride. Today was the first time however that I came close to hitting a deer. I saw him standing on the side of the road in the tall grass and I got to my brakes pretty quick. I gave a quick toot of the horn and he turned into the ditch but then immediately turned back across the road. I missed him but the oncoming pickup clipped him and he went down. There have also been some rough two lane roads with major pot holes and vertical cracks which can reek havoc on a motorcycle especially the ones that your tire can fit in. It makes me realize that I am one tiny mistake or incident away from the ride being over. I constantly tell myself, “keep your head in the game Patrick”. I have been pretty lucky as far as weather too. I’ve been wet a few times but not bad and yesterday I rode from Saratoga Springs New York to Binghamton and it rained almost the entire day. Needless to say the picture taking was not as good but I did stop in Cooperstown New York to see the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. It is a neat little town and obviously buzzing with tourists and baseball fans. I may stop in Canton Ohio to catch the NFL Hall as well but we’ll see how that goes.

As I drive down the road (especially this week) I’ve been thinking what I will do when this ride is over. Will it mark the end of Ridin On with Rare Cancer? Will I do more rides? What else can I do with this campaign? What more can I do to help raise awareness about Rare Cancer? How can I financially keep this going? Should I throw some kind of celebration or event upon my return? These are some of the questions rolling around in my head as I Ride On down the road. For now I’ll keep enjoying what time I still have left on the ride. One things for sure is that this has been one heck of a good time and I have ALL of YOU to thank for that. Without your support and following the journey it would have been done long ago. So for now, lets all keep Ridin On and worry about the questions later.

Beemer Makes it to Bean Town

If you would have told me 7 months ago I would be sitting in Boston the first week of June after riding a BMW motorcycle around the country for 38 days I would have told you that you’re nuts. I certainly never in my wildest dreams ever imagined I would have a few hundred followers watching me do it on social media and online either. I guess we don’t ever really know what the future holds for us either or even the next day. I am for sure a bit out of my element here. It’s not a bad thing. Experiencing things that are different has become a huge part of this journey. Different places to see, different people to meet, different cultures and experiencing the different ways in which people live has been very gratifying indeed.

Boston is a very interesting city. Very rich in history. Very culturally diverse and a very busy place. I managed the ride up here this past Wednesday from a little town in Rhode Island pretty easily. As you get closer and closer to the city the traffic builds. You hold your place and your lane and do what you do best and get through the massive amounts of folks, busy to get from one place to another. At times you see someone do something really stupid, like cut another driver off, run red lights and my favorite and most disturbing using their phone and texting while driving. Yes, I pretty much have seen all that and more from the seat of my Beemer. I shake my head and even mutter the words “dumb ass” a few times while doing my best to get through it all. I made it of course and without issue. I parked in front of my son and daughter in-laws apartment building. I was lucky to have found one so close to the front door. I went in the building where I met a young man named Michael who was the concierge and he said he was expecting my arrival. He allowed me entrance to the apartment since both Forest and Nikki were at work. The first thing I needed to do was wash clothes. While the clothes were washing I went back downstairs to the bike and Michael informed me that it was street sweeping day and I got very lucky as I was parked illegally on and did not get ticketed or towed as the street sweeper passed. Yes this happens all the time, just ask Forest. He now wants Ridin On with Rare cancer signs for his car. I finished the wash and Forest and Nikki came home. We visited for a bit then it was time to drive to Logan Airport where we were picking up my wife Chris, who I had not seen in 38 days. I put the bike in a parking garage since I would not be using it for a few days. I had not ridden in a car since I left home either and that felt kind of strange too but I was sure excited to see my wife!

Forest does an awesome job driving in traffic around Boston. The narrow streets and people bustling everywhere is a sight to see for sure. We picked Chris up and Forest and Nikki took us to a hotel where a generous benefactor provided us a room for 3 nights. WOW, what a place! It’s called the Liberty Hotel and a large section of it used to be a local prison. This place is one of the nicest hotels I have ever stayed. Now I feel really out of my element but am certainly enjoying it very much. They had messed the reservation up a bit and did not have the room that was requested, so for Wednesday night they made it a complementary stay the first night in a different room and even gave us a voucher for breakfast the next morning to make up for the error. Talk about over the top service, wow. When we got to the room we noticed it is completely stocked with beverages and snacks but you better be careful, that Snickers bar looks mighty good but for $10, I think I’ll pass.

Thursday Chris and I had our breakfast and saw a few sights around downtown. We took in the Tea Party museum and stopped to see where Forest spends his day which was nice. We took in lunch at the oldest continually operating restaurant in the country. The Union Oyster House has been operating since 1826. Awesome crab cakes and clam chowder! We saw a few more sights in downtown and I even downloaded the Lyft app on my phone, which taking an Uber or Lyft was a first for both of us. Call us old I know!. We made our way back to the hotel where they moved us to the 10th floor with an amazing view of the city. Forest and Nikki joined us for the evening later. We are within walking distance of the Beacon Hill area and it is filled with little restaurants and shops. Very cool indeed.

Today and the weekend will be more of the same I’m sure. Fun times with my wife and family and a much needed break from riding a motorcycle around the country. I have never taken a vacation from taking a vacation, another first for me. Monday morning I will head for Maine and get back to what the journey was intended to do, raising awareness to rare cancer. It’s very nice indeed to have this opportunity to spend time with loved ones and see sights I would never be able to do. I am so thankful. I am so blessed to be given this opportunity in life to enjoy some simple pleasures. You too need to take time to enjoy the simple pleasures in life. Don’t get caught up in the mundane. If you’ve been given the opportunity to live, then live it to the fullest. Don’t let the days bad news dictate what your life will be like today and especially if your a cancer survivor or a cancer warrior don’t let the mental aspects of the disease kill you before the disease does. This continues to be an awesome adventure in my life. There is something special in your life that’s awaiting you too. Go out and find it and Ride On if you can.

It's the People That Make the Trip Worth Everything

It’s now day 35 of the ride. I have logged just over 7100 miles as I sit in yet another hotel room in Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania. I have seen some amazing parts of this country now from one coast to the other and still have a ways to go before I turn the corner and head for home. I’ve seen some of the most beautiful things that God has created in this world and have not even skimmed the surface. I have had days where I did not think they were going well, but in the end I always manage to find a positive moment to reflect on. My gps has put me in some questionable neighborhoods for sure yet there always seems to be someone there that has a positive comment for me. There have been days where I thought I just could not push myself one more mile, but I did it anyway. I’ve battled temperatures as low as 19 and as high as 99. My aches and pains in my neck, back, arm and hand sometimes make me wonder what I got myself in too. The traffic in and around cities that make me a nervous wreck at times but I keep pushing through. Is it just a quest to share a bunch of social media photo’s and move to the next spot? What drives all this? The answer is a pretty simple one and I mentioned it in my last blog as well. It’s the people. ALL of the people!

The people I have met on this journey have been and continue to be incredible. They are the driving force behind the whole thing and I never realized that it would happen that way. I used to think Ridin On with Rare Cancer was my thought and my thought alone and my quest to see some of the states I had never been to. But it really has taken on a life of it’s own, not only touching those I have met on the road but those I have met who are following the journey each day. It’s so incredibly humbling to me to think that this thought of riding around the country spreading the word about rare cancer and meeting others would touch people the way it has. Do I have control over it? No, not really. The number of people who comment about the bike and the campaign daily is almost shocking to me. People asking me to take a photo with them. People honking at me with a thumbs up as they pass. People I see in my rear view mirror at a stop light taking a photo of the sign on the back of the bike. Those who donate a meal, a small amount of cash or ask to pray with me. Folks asking me for another flyer to share with someone they know. Many others who share the horrible news of a cancer diagnosis or talk about loved ones they have lost to the disease. And then there are the really special ones I have met who are troubled with the same rare cancer that I battle.

As of today I have now met 5 others face to face who are living with or living with the after effects of Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma. All are very special people. We all share some common things but our cases are all very unique as well. Nobody has had their cancer treated the same. Living with a rare cancer continues to be a lonely world yet in all of it there continues to be hope. Hope for new remedies or treatments and hope for a decent future no matter what the diagnosis.

There are many more days left on the ride. Many states to see and yes, so many more new people to meet and share whatever I can with them. I have no idea at this point when I will get home. As I said before, the ride has taken on a life of it’s own and only God knows when I will get back to South Dakota. There is a part of me that misses home and wants to get back. But then there is the side of me that says this is a trip of a life time. What’s a couple of months worth in ones life? If you have never thought about taking a couple months off from your busy life to get out and meet new people, I think you’re missing out on a huge part of what life has to offer you. You will realize that even though people are all different and we may not always agree on everything in the world we live in today, the one thing you will is that the human spirit seems to be the same. People are more caring than the 24 hour news stories that cram garbage down our throats and into our minds. Even though it may not seem like it at times, people do care about people and we need to remember that. Find the good and keep Ridin On.

I would be a terrible person if I did not give a shout out to my wife Christina on this the 2nd day of June 2019. Happy 18th anniversary Chris. I’m sorry we are miles apart today but our hearts are locked in Love forever. See you soon!

Life on the Road

As I sit on this wonderful 115 year old porch and write this short piece, I watch at least a dozen squirrels play in the yard of green grass and large old trees. Seems pleasant enough but living on the road is no easy task. A new motel nearly every night for the last 30 days. I often times wake up in the middle of the night and the thoughts and questions pop into my head. Where am I at? What state am I in again? What town is this? I’ve had some really memorable stays and places I will remember for the service, the people and the surroundings. Many of nights however I am just getting down the road and staying someplace with a bed and a shower and a reasonable rate to accommodate my budget. Most days I don’t have a specific plan where I will end up. This might seem a bit unusual not to have a plan but I feel it leaves plenty of time for flexibility in my schedule. The standard motel/hotels seem to be all the same to me. Usually about midway through the day I’ll start searching for someplace to stay for the night or start the search while pulled over on the side of the road for a rest. I’ve begun to dislike this about the trip. Sometimes I find a neat little mom and pop motel but often times its been a standard Quality Inn, Days Inn, or just whatever. Those places are all the same to me. Same room, same stuff for breakfast, same everything. No personality, and certainly no value. I've heard comments from front desk clerks like “I ain't ever met anyone from South Dakota before”. Not what I would call a real welcome. The other day it was so hot and humid all I wanted wa s a place with a pool to cool off. I went to my standard Expedia or Priceline app and booked one. Get there and the pool is empty being renovated. Needless to say I was now hot and a bit cranky too.

Of my favorites on the trip there have been some great stays. Diamond Lake Lodge in Oregon is one that stands out. Nothing real special about the room but the people were amazing and the surroundings incredible. The little Trail City B & B in Coolidge Kansas was another remarkable find and just a couple days ago finding a B & B in the small town of Edenton North Carolina, The Inner Banks Inn. Edenton will be one of my favorites. The little cabin at the Bayou Resort in Arkansas was good for a couple nights of great relaxation too. The rest of the stays were pretty much a room to crash for the night and the standard “do ya wanna wait for a waffle” hotel breakfast. Very nice Interesting people at most places but the stays not as memorable as the B & B’s. One things for sure I will be seeking more B & B type place to stay. It seems the smallest places have the biggest interactions with folks. It’s an incredible feeling to be able to meet so many people in so many places.

In some ways its hard to believe I’ve been at this for 30 days now. Incredible! Just an incredible journey across this great country. So many people I’ve met and so much love and support of my journey. Everyday people tell me their cancer stories. It seems to be in everyone’s life or someone they know has died recently from cancer. People have graciously bought me meals, handed me cash, sat and said prayers with me and were happy to do it in support of the journey. I can’t thank them enough for their contribution to the Ridin On campaign. The comments and peoples reaction to the bike and the story behind all this has been wonderful. For that I thank ALL of the people who are following my journey.

The other part of this journey that’s hard for me is just missing my wife and family back home. Sure it’s an adventure out here but I certainly miss home too. I am looking forward to the next ten days and by that time I should be in Boston to meet Chris there for a long weekend. Gives me a rest from the travel and the biggest bonus is I get to spend time with my wife and our son Forest and his wife Nikki. Really looking forward to that and seeing the sites of Boston.

I do have some concerns about my upcoming routes going north from here. From what I’ve heard the traffic only gets heavier from here north. I better get used to that for a week or two. I’ll have to put some major trust into that GPS unit on the bike. It has been extremely helpful but it has sure led me astray a time or two as well. Overall I have been happy with the unit itself and it is helpful to pinpoint your hotel or a nearby restaurant. It’s also good because it always shows the speed limit zone you are in. Its not always accurate but I’d say 90% of the time it’s correct and help with speed zones through the little towns and changing on two lane roads. It was definitely worth the investment and I have come to rely on it a lot.

One other issue I’m now dealing with is carrying a bunch of heavier clothing and gear that I’m not using. Send it home? It will be 45 degrees in Northern Michigan if I do! But storage of the heavy gear takes up a lot of space on the bike. I’d rather use that storage for more lighter weight clothing. With the humidity on the east coast I can’t wear a t-shirt more than once and I only brought 3 short sleeve and 3 long sleeve. I ended up using my pocket knife to cut the sleeves off a long sleeve one just to have a tank top in the evenings. I could probably store only a couple more shirts. I am pretty full on the bike but it might be better than finding a place to do wash every couple days.

All in all I’d say life on the road has treated me fairly. I’m out enjoying life and raising some rare cancer awareness. People seem to like what I’m doing and for that I am so very grateful. This country is full of amazing people and places. I tend to focus on the positives that are happening, and they happen each day. There will always be a negative here or there but at the end of the day there is always something good reflect on and it usually involves peoples human spirit. No matter how dull the motel room, the people have been there EVERYDAY in support this journey across the country. I am truly honored and I thank God many times a day for being able to Ride On to the next day.

The Smallest Places, The Biggest Rewards

As I headed out from Colorado Springs a few days ago, I traveled east. My mind kept saying: “what in the world are you doing out here”? Miles and miles of straight roads across endless flat farm and ranch land for hundreds of miles and the crosswinds blasting me on every one of them. There was no way I was going to make it to Dodge City Kansas before dark. I stopped at a small town and parked along side the road for a water break and to return some phone calls. I also took the time to pick out a different route dodging numerous thunderstorms in my path. I picked a town on the map called Holly Colorado to stop for the night. It’s located right on the Kansas/Colorado border. When I arrived just before sundown I passed a motel that was closed. I drove down main street and saw another place and became quickly dismayed at it’s condition. No way I was going in there. There was one other in town. It looked nice and when I entered the desk clerk asked if I had a reservation. I knew I was in trouble when she asked and sure enough they were full. She did give me 2 business cards for B & B’s but suggested one of them a ways down the road just over the Kansas border. She said there was not much there other than the B & B. I thought I better grab some food so I went to the local grocery store to find they had closed 15 minutes earlier. I grabbed a Subway sandwich from the local convenience store and down the road I went to Kansas. The desk clerk was right, there was not much of anything in the little town of Coolidge Kansas. I waited outside the B & B for a couple minutes and then a very nice lady walked across the street from the Historic City Hall where she said they were having a town meeting. She was the mayor of Coolidge but also owned the Trail City B & B. It was once a saloon and gaming hall in the town of Trail City Colorado. Her father had purchased the building and had it moved to Coolidge. By the time I checked in, paid my $80.25 bill and got settled, I ate my sandwich it was dark and I was ready for bed. The next morning my breakfast was promptly served at 7:30. It was absolutely awesome, with French toast (homemade bread) eggs, potatoes, bacon, fresh fruit, yogurt, coffee and orange juice all done nicely with white linen table cover, cloth napkin and garnished like a 5 star hotel. It was amazing to find this place in the middle of no where in a town of less than 100 residents. I had the opportunity to visit with the owner. Her name is Lori Lennen and she grew up on a farm and ranch near Coolidge. She left of course gaining a degree or two along the way and was successful in the financial services industry and also ran a horse riding operation in Sedona Arizona. She is a big believer in the healing powers of horses and we spoke at length about that. When her father passed away she decided to come home and help manage her fathers estate which included many of the historic properties of Coolidge. She started with opening the Trail City B & B with her mother. A couple of the other buildings she has gotten placed on the National Register of Historic places including an opera house which she also applied for and received a grant to help with it’s preservation. She also opened a business called “Cousin Eddies”. It mainly sells antiques but she also rents space out to others who want to sell their wares. In the National Lampoon movie Vacation, Cousin Eddie is the buffoon played by Randy Quaid. Cousin Eddie in the movie was from Coolidge Kansas.

A few pictures in the morning in Coolidge and down the road I went to Cherokee Oklahoma. Not a metropolis by any stretch of the imagination but it was a quaint little place. When I arrived at the “Motel Cherokee” I was welcomed by the elderly owner and treated to a nice basic older motel room for $70 cash which the owner quickly stuck in his pants pocket. He suggested I hurry and get to dinner at his steakhouse next door and closing soon. I got out of my gear and went to dinner. When I entered the steakhouse I found it to be a bit dated but very nice. There was only one other table of 4 patrons dining. The young waitress told me that the special was “chicken fried chicken” or “chicken fried steak”. I made an easy decision and went with the steak. She said, “help yourself to soup and salad bar, it comes with it”. When I was about half way through my salad and soup she delivered my meal. Oh my gosh! A huge chicken fried steak that nearly covered the entire plate. What room was left on the plate was filled with mashed potatoes and vegetables then she dropped off a homemade dinner roll to boot. Wow, what a whole bunch of food. I finished what I could of the fantastic dinner and she dropped off my bill. $12.07 including tax! That’s it? For this whole dinner? It can’t be beat.

The next morning when I checked out the owner said they did not do breakfast but mentioned a couple local places. A young lady behind the counter suggested I try a place downtown called Macy Cakes. I found it. I spent a few extra minutes looking at all the closed up buildings in town before I went in. They were beautiful just waiting for someone to rescue them. I ordered a sausage, egg and cheese croissant and coffee. It came to $8 and some change and I paid and also handed her my brochure. At the time I thought was a bit steep for that however when it came I was pleasantly surprised to say the least. 2 sausage patties, 2 fried eggs dripping with white cheese on a freshly baked large croissant. It had to be one of the best breakfast sandwiches I ever had. When the gal came back to fill my coffee cup she laid down the owners business card along with a $20 bill. She said “this is from Macy, we like what you are doing”. Blessed beyond belief I was down the road once again. That day also had another great interaction with a Sonic Drive In manager named Perry in Hominy Oklahoma where I was searching the local cemetery for my great grandfathers grave. When I pulled up to the Sonic it was about 88 degrees out and I’m in my riding gear. The young car hop commented about my bike and I handed her a brochure. When I ordered a milkshake she brought it out I asked how much it was. She said there was no charge, that it was from the manager. As I sat at a table outside finishing the milkshake the young manager came out and spoke to me for about 20 minutes on how I don’t let my cancer diagnosis get in the way of living my life. He was inspired by what I was doing and he had some struggles in his own young life (not cancer) and I think he just needed some positive reinforcement. It was given freely. It’s truly amazing to meet and talk with strangers.

Yesterday I stopped at another roadside café in Arkansas. Had catfish, fried okra, coleslaw and hush puppies along with a glass of sweet tea all for $10. It does not get anymore Arkansas than that. After riding the day in northern Arkansas I looked for a small lake lodge to stay at. I finally found what I was looking for. A nice little cabin with a lake just a 1/4 mile away. The owners were super nice. They told me it was normally a 2 night minimum but he would charge me $100 for one night. I went to pay the hundred but told him go ahead and make it for 2 nights. $75 a night for a cabin with everything you need in it. Pot’s, pans, stove, fridge, microwave, cups, plates and the lot. Yes it’s older. The paint pealing from the cabin, but its quaint, clean and relaxing.

My point to sharing these experiences is 2 fold. I pick places that are out of the way small rural communities because there is a real need to help these places. The other reason is that often times it’s where the best value is for your buck. It is a common theme as I roll through these little communities to see business after business closed and beautiful buildings sitting vacant or boarded up. It’s sad. The ones who are left are trying to hold on, working there butts off to do it and trying to hold on to preserve the viability of their hometown. These are the hidden gems of America. It’s nice to venture to far away places and stay in a comfortable “chain” hotel and eat in a “chain” restaurant and support the huge corporations that are behind them. But for me, I like the small out of the way little places of the country. The places with true American grit and determination to make it in the world. Some will succeed, many will not and in my opinion you’d be foolish not to try it out and find out for yourself how the little business’ in the world can make a difference in your life. If you wait you just might miss out but I truly think you’ll be pleasantly surprised and the quality of the people and the value you get.

Tomorrow morning, weather permitting I’ll Ride On toward Nashville to stay with a high school buddy. I probably won’t make it in one day but I’m looking forward to finding another hidden gem in America. You’ll hear more hidden gem stories I’m sure.

A Long Distance Relationship

Quite a few of you that follow me and know me personally will recognize this story. For the rest of you I will share it.

It was Thanksgiving weekend in 1997. I was a single father of 2 young children, Robert was 10 and JoDee was 8. I did not go out to much or have much of a social life especially raising these 2 consumed most of my free time and I had just started a new job with Food Services of America. After they would go to bed at night I always had some free time on the computer. I had owned a computer less than 2 years at the time. AOL (America Online) was very popular back in the 90’s and chat rooms were kind of a thing. I found myself cruising some chat rooms for divorced people to visit with. I guess I just needed to talk to others who were in the same boat as myself. That Thanksgiving weekend I began to chat with a lady from Houston Texas. Her name was Christina. We chatted through instant message about half the night and seemed to really connect with one another. She also had 2 kids and we began sharing information about our lives. I suppose somewhere about 1 or 2 am we called it a night and wished each other well. The next day I woke up and tried to sign on to my computer to see if my new found friend was around. Sure enough as luck would have it the darn thing would not fire up. I tried the rest of the weekend but the computer was dead. I went on about my business and by the next week I was back up and running with another computer. I signed on to a slew of e-mails from my new lady friend with the familiar term most of you have heard, “ You’ve Got Mail”. She was pretty upset that I had not responded and I even think she wrote me off wondering if I would ever sign back on. Long story short we did manage to connect again and that started a long distance romance as we got to know each other through e-mail and instant message and long distance phone calls. By the middle of December we planned to meet in Denver over the Christmas and New Years when our kids were at their respective ex-spouses for the holidays. We met in the Denver airport and that is what started our personal relationship. We never seemed to mind that we lived 1300 miles apart although it would have been nice to live closer. We continued to talk daily by phone, by computer or whatever means we could. The long distance phone bills were horrendous for both of us for sure. (Yes, you young kids, we had to pay for every call 22 years ago). We saw each other only about every 6 to 8 months and this continued for 2 more years. She wanted to move to Rapid City and the opportunity finally arose in December of 1999 and I flew to Houston, we pack her things and moved her and her 2 kids to Rapid City. For 2 years I would wake up every morning to and e-mail that said “Happy Monday” (or whatever day it was). When she moved to Rapid City she got her own place but we always knew we would eventually marry and combine our families. That happened in June of 2001. Our relationship had survived the test of distance and time.

Since that time Chris and I have never really been apart for very long. I would occasionally travel with my job but it was never for more than a four or five days at the longest. Other than that we have always been together. So in December of 2018 when I announced to her that I was going on a 6 week or longer motorcycle trip around the country we find ourselves once again separated by distance and time. We talked about it a lot but her support for me and the Ridin On project is un-wavering and our love for each other has never been stronger. Out here on the road, I miss her dearly but I know our relationship is strong and we have been down this path before. As a bonus 22 years later their are more ways to communicate with each other than ever before and we seem to use it all to our advantage. She always knows where I am or where I am headed. She takes care of our dogs (all the kids have long since moved out) and she takes care of things at home.

I LOVE YOU CHRISTINA SHANNON and even though I miss you every mile of my journey, our souls and our hearts are forever connected. It could be a few more weeks until we see each other but please know you are with me every turn of the tire along the way. Your husband will be Ridin On back home soon!

The Loneliest Road

They call it “The Loneliest Road In America”. Highway 50 in Nevada stretches across vast amounts of pure openness. Miles and miles with no houses, no buildings, no people. No gas or convenience stores, not many places to get a cup of coffee and all you hear when you stop and look at the many Historic markers is the breeze blowing. At one point where I stopped however a military jet passed no more than a few hundred feet directly over my head so I guess the roar of that thing certainly woke me up from the slumber of driving a long stretch of road. They use this area to train “Top Gun” candidates and the brief glimpse of them roaring by was something to see for sure. From Fallon Nevada to Eureka it is approximately 180 miles with only the little community of Austin (population under 200) about dead center in between. Why would one choose to travel this road? For me the answer was very simple and planning to take this highway was planned from the very first time I saw it on the map.

There is another lonely road I should tell you about. It’s called a Rare Cancer diagnosis. As I wrote in my brochure, when you get a cancer diagnosis (ANY CANCER) it can be devastating. But when you have been diagnosed with a rare and strange type of cancer your world can get pretty lonely. You will struggle to find the much needed answers you are seeking about your disease. You find that Doctors and medical professionals have little information for you especially if you live in a rural area. You might find yourself trying to reach out with others with the same diagnosis only to find there are none in your area and very few across the country. It leaves you wondering why you were chosen to carry the disease. There will be no special support group for you. You soon realize all those pink ribbons that you see everywhere have nothing to do with the disease you have. The pink ribbon folks have done a tremendous job in bringing awareness to breast cancer. There have been many advancements in treatment for this type of cancer and of course there is still more to do. Rare Cancers get little or no funding for research into new therapies and drugs that perhaps might help you. Even when you find a newer treatment you might find yourself not only battling a cancer diagnosis but battling with your insurance provider as well to cover such costs.

This past week I had the opportunity to meet a man from Bend Oregon. Mike Houska was the first person I had met face to face with the same cancer as I have (Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma). I have met others from around the USA and the world through social media but Mike was the first face to face encounter I had and I have been carrying the disease for 12 years now. Mike is a true champion for our rare cancer. He has pension for researching things. He decided he would seek other treatment options rather than have is upper palate removed which would leave him living in a completely different world for the rest of his life. The treatment he chose is called Carbon Ion Radiation. This type of treatment was developed right here in the United States. How wonderful right? Wrong! Even though Carbon Ion was developed here, there is no Cancer Center in the United States which offers it. Mike traveled to Japan at his own expense to have this treatment. There are also places in Germany, and Italy and few others but not here. I have learned that the Cancer Industry is sometimes bigger than the disease itself. When that happens it becomes more about the money than the disease. I won’t rant much about my thoughts on that but here is a link to a story about Carbon Ion Radiation if you wish to read more about it. https://bioengineeringtoday.org/therapy/future-carbon-therapy. Sometimes I wonder if I will live long enough to see it happen here or if I would even be a candidate. I for sure cannot swing the cost to go the great distance to get such a treatment so for right now I’ll keep Ridin On to the lonely roads in America meeting others who struggle daily to find the answers in a lonely world called Rare Cancer.

The people I am meeting out here are amazing. Many with a breast or prostrate cancer diagnosis but not many from the Rare Cancer family. The bike seems to be the conversation starter in most places. Before heading out on the Loneliest Road I met some people in Fallon Nevada while having breakfast that were truly amazing. One was a retired Doctor (GP). He had never heard of ACC but he took my flyer and was going to research it a bit. Real nice fellow. When he left another man stood up and came over to me. He had taken my website information off of my bike while coming into the little restaurant and by the time he spoke to me he had already read my story on the website. He grabbed my breakfast bill and offered to pay. What a nice gesture. Another couple stopped me while in the parking lot, wished me well, took a brochure and off I went on the Loneliest road in America. I continue to be Blessed on this journey. Not sure where my lonely road will be today but there are many to see and I won’t let a little Rare Cancer stop me. Ride On my friends………

My Physical Pain From Riding

Many people have heard of motorcycle riders doing hundreds of miles in one day, even as many as 1000 in a day. These people are known as “iron butt” riders. I will assure you that I am no iron butt rider. In fact I do have some physical pain from riding. That keeps my mileage down everyday but that is kind of a beautiful thing in itself if you want to look at the positive side of the pain. It allows me to see more and visit with more people.

I have made no secret of the cancer that I have and where it is located in my nearly 60 year old body. I have four areas where the cancer has decided to park itself and two of these areas that lead to some physical symptoms of riding. One of these areas is known as the axilla. The axilla is basically your arm pit or an area close to under your arm. There are many nerves that flow through the axilla to your arm and down to your hand. I have 2 tumors located in this area (left arm) that measure at last look to be between 2 and 3 centimeters. They cannot tell me for sure but the speculation is that these tumors are either growing into or pressing against nerves and causing my arm and my left hand to go numb. After holding onto the handlebars of the bike for long periods, it becomes bothersome. In high wind especially when your gripping the bars a bit tighter it makes it difficult at times. This is the worst symptom I have when riding all day. I stop and take many break about every 50 to 75 miles just to get off the bike and try to get things flowing to the arm once again trying to make it feel normal. The other area I have issues with is my neck. I have had two cancer related surgeries to my neck. The first one was know as a radical neck dissection. This is pretty much a cut from your right ear to your left crossing under your chin. The second was not as dramatic but every time they cut into you a new nerve symptom pops up. Again in a heavy wind my head gets pushed around pretty good and the strain of that can be difficult to deal with. Yesterday after riding about 275 miles and not even in heavy wind I had pretty severe neck pain leading down to the top of my spine. This was the first day I noticed a burning sensation in the upper part of my back, basically caused from the neck strain. These are not fun without something do kill the pain but I use no pain killers while riding. I just push on a bit and when it’s time to stop, I am ready.

When I started all this I planned a route that I could travel between 250 and 350 miles a day My first day out I did 365 in heavy wind which is the greatest distance traveled. So Far in 9 days I have traveled 2374 miles which is an average of 264 miles per day. This is probably the average I will continue to have. Some days more, some days less. As I look at the map from Susanville California this morning, Myrtle Beach South Carolina seems like a long ways a way. But I will assure you I will get there. One day at a time, a little pain and all. I have always said I would be flexible in my schedule and I believe I have done that. Today I will only go a shorter distance, maybe only to Reno or to Fallon Nevada. I’ll be looking for a place to get a massage along the way for sure. Ridin On in western Nevada today.

It's More than a Ride around the Country

The pictures are great. The scenery is wonderful. My friends and family are the absolute best at supporting my efforts to travel around and see the sights and enjoy what God has created. But there is a lot more to this adventure than one might think. Ever since I started to kick this campaign off people have reached out to me to tell me their story or a loved ones story. I have received messages from many people who I don’t know and that to me seems a bit surreal. I’m not sure why that is a surprise to me but I never in my life thought that people from around the country would turn to me for a bit of inspiration or hope. Everything came together and the support has just continued to grow.

Now that I am out on the road it puts me to the test to meet people face to face, explain what I am doing and hear their story first hand. This has only been Day 3 of the actual ride and despite the cold, the blowing wind, the snow (like I had today), and my own aches and pains there are people out there who are inquisitive of my project and want to share something with me. Their support of my project seems to come naturally for them as they hear what “The Ride” is all about. The bike of course draws the curiosity with its signs and lettering and that just sparks a conversation. Others notice my logo on the jacket or one of my t-shirts and all this leads to me handing them a brochure and the conversation begins. Such a simple process really but it seems to work. Below are just a couple examples of the encounters I am talking about.

Pinedale Wyoming yesterday- Stopped for lunch at a little restaurant with a counter for single diners. A guy came in and noticed my bike outside and made a comment. A couple of other local old guys chimed in a bit and asked what I was doing. An old man (I’d say 75+) stopped and wished me well when he was walking out. I handed him a brochure and told him to read about it if he wished. It’s just another brochure handed out is what I thought. A few minutes later I finished up my soup and coffee, paid my bill and headed out to the bike. Just as I put my helmet on a pickup came pulling into the parking lot. It was the old man. He drove back to the restaurant and got out and said “I just read your pamphlet and I wanted you to know I think what you are doing is great”. He proceeded to tell me about the cancer that had taken his mother, father and two brothers. He stuck out his hand and shook mine and wished me well and encouraged me to keep it up and be safe. To think someone would drive back to to a restaurant to say something to me really made my day.

Today- I stopped in Arco Idaho for a quick cup of coffee to warm up a bit. I was busy checking the weather app on my phone for the route I was taking when a guy walked in. He noticed my gear and said “I hope your not going to Mackay, it’s snowing hard and accumulating”. At that point I thanked him because that was my route. There was only one other way I could go so I took it instead. When I got west of Arco I noticed that I was going to hit weather. Sure enough it started to snow pretty hard. It only was sticking a bit to the shoulder of the road and to my face shield but not to the road surface so I kept pushing on slowly (55 or so). It lasted for about 10 miles miles and I finally saw a sign that said, “Craters of The Moon National Monument Visitor Center”. I decided to stop just to wait and see what would happen with the weather. When I went inside a nice lady greeted me and commented about my choice of days to come through. We struck up a conversation about the Craters of Moon which is quite a fascinating place of 700,000 plus acres of lava that pushed through the earths surface and left huge boulders of lava rock everywhere. She said here is a brochure if you want to take one. I told her, “let’s trade, I’ll take one of yours and you can have one of mine”. That ended up being a longer conversation about my adventure and project about rare cancer. She told me she had lost a daughter to cancer, had another daughter currently with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and had a 4 year old grandson with a rare cancer (she did not specify the type). As she spoke about them you could see the tears starting to come into her eyes. She told me that her daughter was so down in the dumps and she really wanted to find a way to be more encouraging for her. My project had touched her. While we spoke she wrote down a couple of the quotes that were on my bike to pass to her daughter. As we spoke you could hear the love and concern pour out from her especially for her little grandson. She was trying to hold tears back but they flowed. “I can’t believe I met you today” she said. “I am going to give your information to my daughter” in hopes to encourage her to live life to the fullest instead of letting the cancer consume her. That is what the Ridin On project is all about, giving others hope. I took both of her hands and put them with mine and told her I would pray for her family and encouraged her to never give up. When I went outside to the bike, it had stopped snowing and the sun began to peek through the clouds a bit. What was that telling me? Even though I ran into a few more snow and sleet squalls I could not help but think about what drew me to her. I guess I’ll let YOU decide in your own mind what that was. For me it was powerful. Maybe I can make a difference.

I need a rest, tomorrows coming, let’s Ride On and meet and hopefully touch a few others…….

Survivors Guilt?

Yes, it’s a real thing. This past weekend I lost another friend and former co-worker to Cancer. Ralph Ross started working for Food Services of America about the same time I did back in 1997. We were the same age. His sales territory was in western Montana and we would only see each other a few times a year at sales meetings or maybe an occasional promotional trip. We would always run into each other at a hotel lounge or restaurant and enjoyed conversing with one another while enjoying an adult beverage or two. We had a few things in common as he loved cars, motorcycles, 4 wheelers and the outdoor adventures of life just as I do. We were never extremely close but I knew a bit about him as did he about me. One of our last adventures together was in the Bighorn Mountains where we participated in some sales strategy meetings followed by renting snowmobiles for a half day of some fun. That night we all met up in the lounge and Ralph and I had a good conversation about my advancing cancer and what my plans held for the future. He like most people I have that conversation with was encouraging and he told me to keep fighting on and doing the things I love to do. Sometimes when you have one of those conversations with someone that you only see a few times a year you always wonder in the back of your mind if you will die before seeing them once again. It would not be the last time I saw Ralph but our conversation was a bit deeper on that evening. The last time I spoke to him was at my retirement party in Billings Montana in November of 2016. He wished me well and I was off to enjoy my retirement.

Late last summer I was talking to another former work colleague and he told me that Ralph had been diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer and that it had already metastasized to other organs. I tried to reach out to Ralph but he was in treatment at the time and we never connected personally but we shared a few things on Facebook from time to time when he was able to get on. This past Friday the cancer took his life. I was heartbroken to hear the inevitable news that I knew would come one day. Ralph is once again one of the many people I have known that are diagnosed with cancer long after me and died in relatively a short amount of time after diagnosis. It’s gut wrenching! The things that race through your mind are absolutely terrible because on one hand you are grieving the loss of someone you once knew and the other hand you are thinking and asking yourself tons of questions. Why did he die and I continue to live? When is it my turn? Why has this not happened to me? Why was his cancer so much more aggressive than mine? I was first diagnosed back in 2007 and continue to live on with my disease. How can that happen? Should I feel guilty because he received less than one year of life after diagnosis and now after 12 years I live on with my cancer growing inside me? These are the questions that one cannot answer in life. I should NOT go there in my mind and I know that. But it’s real. It’s a feeling of remorse that his life that was taken and you move on. It’s a very hard feeling to explain but I can assure you that many of us with strange and rare cancers go through this because the waiting is like sitting around with a gun stuck to your head for years, held hostage by your disease. I certainly DO NOT have a death wish but these are the thoughts of one who lives with a metastasized cancer which you know will most likely end your own life if you don’t get hit by a beer truck first. It takes several days to shake this feeling every time this happens. The only thing left to do is move on. Remember those who have passed. Honor the joyful memories. Pray for their soul and loved ones and commit to yourself not to give up.

Well I will assure you that despite the news of another great individual who has passed, I will vow to keep pushing on. To live with a purpose. To live this day as if it were my last. To be happy in each moment that God has given me to enjoy the things of my life especially family, friends and adventure. To keep reaching for another day and be so very happy and thankful that I am still able to live on and enjoy life despite knowing my cancer could become extremely aggressive and end it all at any time. I will commit to Ridin On and hopefully touch a few lives along the way and encourage them to do the same. Yes survivors guilt is real, but it can be beat. I can move on and I will keep Ridin On.

Rest in Peace Ralph Ross, and thank you for the times we shared.

Am I nervous about the Ride?

Quite a few people have asked me about my feelings as the launch date quickly approaches. It is now less than 2 weeks until I leave my warm safe space of home and head out into the wild blue yonder. So many questions have come up and I really don’t know where to begin or how to answer those questions about the trip but here goes on a few.

Am I getting nervous? Yes, absolutely without question I am nervous about certain aspects of this adventure. The biggest issue for me in this whole ordeal will be being away from my wife for several weeks. I will miss her badly and so wish she could somehow join me on the journey. I have tremendous anxiety about being away from her for that long, however when we really look at it 6 or 7 weeks goes by really fast. We also will talk at the minimum of once per day on Skype or by whatever means possible. When we talk about it, she has the exact same feelings that I do. Chris works at the National Guard Camp so last night when we were discussing things I asked her to think about those men and women of the armed forces who are deployed from their families. My little mission around the country is nothing by comparison and when we think about it in those terms it’s really not that long and Chris and I spent the first 2 years of our relationship apart. She lived in Houston and I lived here in Rapid City. We can and will get through this. There is also Memorial Day weekend to think about when she joins me in Boston for a little rendezvous.

Some other thoughts have crossed my mind about preparing the things around the house that I would normally do at this time of year like planting a garden, (probably not gonna happen this year), cleaning the yard up and getting things set up with the lawn company so when I get back I don’t have a ton of work to do. Are my bills all set up for automatic payments? What do I do when Chris needs something fixed at home? What do I do if I have a major breakdown with the bike? And of course I am one of those guys who does not like to come back to a mess so organizing the garage and office is always put off until the last minute. All the “what if’s” cross your mind when you prepare for a journey such as this one but I think it will really come down to just getting as much done as I can and “winging” the rest.

I have found myself somewhat behind the curve as far as getting and keeping things organized. So much so that I have let my blog writing and social media posting fall behind. I cannot let that happen. I will find a way to get organized and stay organized on this ride but I will not let that organization process get in the way of the goals I have set out to do on the ride. At times I feel pushed and stressed about the last minute details of the upcoming Poker Run and Bon Voyage Event. Will people show up? Will the weather come along and kill the event? Most days most of you know me as a pretty positive person and I try to live with as many positive vibes as I can but the questions are always there, lurking in the back of my mind.

As the story goes along all these feelings and questions will pass. They will be what they will be and no amount of planning and preparation can tackle the un-expected issues of the day. The BMW is ready and I will be ready and I will tackle each thing as it comes along. One step at a time, breathe a little bit and lets Ride On.

Risks vs. Rewards in Life

It’s no secret to my family that I was in no way a great fisherman. In the headline picture I’m not sure if I was more proud of the little fish that I caught or how darn good looking I was in the “Skipper’s” cap. When I was just a small boy growing up many of our family vacations were spent in western Minnesota where dad grew up. Naturally, he and his family spent many days fishing in the lakes around Fergus Falls and when we would visit during the summer in the 60’s we went out quite a bit on an old homemade pontoon boat built with 55 gallon drums, 2 x 4’s, plywood and chicken wire. When we later moved out to Montana the fishing was a bit different on the Clark Fork river. I quickly found that river fishing was a bit more difficult than dropping a line in the lake and watching a bobber take a dive. It took a lot of patience and skill and I guess just like many kids I had very little of it. I lost some interest in fishing, however I did still go out occasionally but it just was not for me. I detested cleaning the damn things and getting a bone stuck in my throat was less appealing all the time. So it goes in life, some people do things as a kid but never do them as an adult.

In 1998 that would change a bit when an opportunity arose for a fishing trip of a lifetime. When I was working as a sales representative for Food Services of America there were many times they would run sales contests throughout the year for selling various products. Many of these at that time might include trips to various places and in the summer of 1998 Nestle’s was offering an incentive to 4 of the top sales people to go on an all expenses paid fishing trip to Kodiak Island Alaska. I did however at that time have somewhat of a handicap as my territory and client list consisted of a lot of schools who did not purchase during the summer. My dreams of this trip quickly faded as my sales of Nestle product was no where near where it needed to be to stay in the running for one of the trips. A couple weeks after the promotion was over I was working at my desk on a Sunday doing sales calls and preparing for my week ahead and I received a call from Wes, another sales rep over in Casper Wyoming. He said “you know I won the trip to Kodiak right”? And I knew of it and I of course congratulated him. He went on to tell me there was no way that he could take this trip. Wes had some health and family issues that just made it impossible to go. He then went on to tell me that he wanted to give me the trip. HOLY COW! How could I say no? Kodiak Island? Really? Who would be that generous? We quickly got it approved through our District Manager and the next day we needed to contact the folks at Nestle’s to get his plane ticket changed over to my name. Well, long story short after several days they could not change the ticket. It was purchased as a non-refundable ticket and there was just no way to change it. They did say however if I found a way to go they would pick up the lodging and all the rest of the expenses. But buying a ticket was not feasible for me. After some thought I told Wes I would just drive to Casper (240 miles), have him check my luggage and get the boarding pass and I would just use his ticket with his name on it. Keep in mind, this was 1998. This was 3 years prior to 9/11 so there was no TSA, very little in the way of security and the only time they really checked your I.D. was when you got your boarding pass and checked your luggage. I had all of Wes’ information memorized like his Social Security number, drivers license number, address and so on just in case somebody asked and I could not produce an I.D. as Wes. When it came time for the trip I met Wes at the airport in Casper. I gave him my bag now bearing his name on the I.D. tag. He checked in, got the boarding pass gave it to me and I then proceeded to the gate. It worked like a charm! I met the other guys going on the trip in Salt lake City and we were off to Kodiak Island for several days of world class fishing. River fishing in Alaska for Silver Salmon was much easier than trying to catch a trout in a Montana River and jigging for halibut just outside Zachar Bay was truly an amazing adventure. I could not have been happier getting to fly on a float plane and having the opportunity to view hundreds of bald eagles and very very large Kodiak brown bear along with a host of other wildlife.

The whole week we were in Alaska however, I kept thinking about how I would get past the gate agent checking my bag and showing I.D. to go home. The other guys on the trip were supportive and gave me some ideas but really I had no idea how I was going to do it. When it came time to check in I told the gate agent that I had torn the pocket on my jeans while in the woods and my wallet was lost (yes I lied). I gave him all of Wes’ info that I had memorized. He bought it hook, line and sinker (catch the fishing pun) and we boarded the plane and headed for our layover in Anchorage. Little did I know however that we had to re-check all of our luggage and at the time we were allowed to carry 40 pounds of frozen fish each which the lodge at Zachar Bay had packaged for each of us and we had to check that too. This time the gate agent was not friendly and he was not buying the story! He wanted me to contact someone back home to get some type of picture I.D. sent or I was not getting a boarding pass. OH SH*T!! Now what? The only thing I could do was to come clean. I told the guy I had lied and was using Wes’ ticket. He told me if I wanted to get home I had to purchase a one way ticket from Anchorage to Casper using my own identification and it was NOT going to be on the same plane as the other guys. I actually did not even have a credit card on me to pay for the ticket so I had to use one of the other guys credit card and would pay him back $650 or so when I got home. I stayed several hours more in Anchorage by myself and my plane left at 2:00 am headed to Seattle first to layover the entire day and then to Salt Lake and then to Casper. That was one long day and I still needed to drive 240 miles home. I was totally shocked when the luggage and fish were not lost. I think I got back to Rapid City around 7am the next day.

Well this is one fish story for the record book and once again in my life I took a huge risk to gain a huge reward. Think about trying that after 9/11 and you would soon realize that staring at the inside of a jail cell would probably not be worth the risk but all in all paying $650 for that trip in 1998 was but a pittance of what the trip was worth and now the story of a lifetime is priceless. I recently checked the price of a 6 day trip to Zachar Bay Lodge. $6000 per person in 2019 and that does not include airfare to Kodiak. So was the reward worth the risk? For me it was and risks have always been a part of my life to receive a memorable reward. What risks have you taken in your lifetime to receive life’s rewards? Please don’t wait. If you see an opportunity for adventure, weigh the risk, it just might mean a very rewarding experience. As an older adult however I don’t break to many laws or do things that are immoral but I’ll still take a chance here or there.

I can honestly tell you I think about Risk vs. Reward everyday that I am planning the Ridin On adventure. Many questions go through my head as I calculate the risks of such an adventure at my age and in my current condition as a stage 4 cancer guy. As I think about and write the many stories of my life they all seem to have an element of some type of risk. Yes, I’ve once again weighed the risk and I’ll be Ridin On for the reward that awaits me.

Scanxiety: What's that?

I am headed to Mayo Clinic in Rochester this week for my final check up prior to the ride. They are doing a PET Scan to check the progress of my active tumors and to check for new activity. For those of you who are following that don't know what a PET (positron emission tomography) scan actually is, it is similar to a CT Scan, however prior to the scan they will inject a radioactive tracer into me through an IV and have me relax for about an hour then they will scan me from my head and neck down to about mid-thigh. Cancer cells show up as bright spots on PET scans because they have a higher metabolic rate than do normal cells. Pictures from a PET scan display bright spots where the radioactive tracer collected. These spots reveal higher levels of chemical activity and details about how your tissues and organs are functioning, or in my case my tumors will light up like lights on a Christmas tree on the image. Prior to the scan (the day before) I will not be able to eat any sugar or starch’s to keep my glucose levels down. Oh well, bring me the 14oz Ribeye with a few veggies!

Some of my fellow cancer warriors have came up with the term “Scanxiety”. This obviously is anxiety prior to the scan, wondering what has changed since the last set of scans. Have the tumors grown? Has my cancer spread? Is it the same? Have my tumors shrunk? What will I do if it’s bad news? These questions always race through your mind but I guess after so many it just becomes a part of the whole process. For rare cancers such as mine that are highly unpredictable, PET Scans, CT Scans, MRI’s and biopsy’s have become second nature to me. You always wonder what will they will find next. I prepare myself by imagining the worst possible scenario so when I get the news I am able to process it rationally and just move on. Some patients however view it a bit differently than I do and the stress is very real and can have major impacts of it’s own on their health. For me, to keep the stress and anxiety away I usually try to have a bit of humor about the whole thing since I already know that treatment is very limited for me and worrying will only make it worse and make me much sicker than I already am. Attitude is everything when dealing with a disease as destructive as this one. Having the right attitude helps keep me moving forward, keep on living and keeps me wanting to help others if I can.

I’ll never forget the first time I had a PET scan about 12 years ago. I was pretty scared anyway but I was waiting in the holding area prior to the scan just after they had injected the radioactive tracer. There were several patients in the room and we each had our own little curtained off area so you could relax but you could clearly hear a conversation in the next area. A guy was getting his injection and the nurse asked him where he was from. He said, “I’m from Edmonton Alberta". The nurse said, WOW! your a long way from home. He explained to her that in Canada there was a 9 month waiting list to be able to get a PET scan and his doctors back home advised him to seek treatment in the U.S. or he could very well die waiting for the test. It might be different now but that’s what he was going through at that time. I have heard of others who have Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma from other countries describe how they have to wait sometimes up to 2 weeks just to get results from their scans. No wonder they have Scanxienty! I could not imagine waiting that long for my results. On Thursday morning at 7am I will have my scan. At 2:30 in the afternoon I will see my primary oncologist, Dr. Price. She will already have my results for me and we will review the scan together. So for all you folks who want healthcare like other countries have, be careful what you wish for. I’ll take what I have for now thank you.

So lets roll the dice on the PET scan and see what comes up. I’ll let you know for sure. Until next time let’s keep Ridin On.

A Long Walk for a Motorcycle

As I mentioned in my last blog post, the day I picked up my 2nd motorcycle at age 13 did not quite turn out the way that I had expected. Although I do not know the exact date, I do know that it was 46 years ago this month (March of 1973) probably in the later part of the month. It was a pleasant day and the sun was shining. My 78 year old grandmother (mom’s mom) was visiting us from Texas and dad thought what a great day to get Grammy out to see the countryside. Just a perfect day to head from Gillette Wyoming (where we lived) to Rapid City to purchase our new motorcycles.

Dad and I loaded the bikes we currently owned onto our homemade flatbed trailer. Normally we would have pulled the trailer with our big Chevy Suburban, but a couple months earlier my older brother Mike had an accident on some black ice and rolled the Suburban coming home from a ski trip. He was banged up a bit but was ok as were his passengers, but the Suburban was totaled. So dad hooked the trailer up to the 69 Cadillac. The Caddy was a nice car but I remember that it had the tallest front bench seat I had ever seen. You could not really see from front to back without stretching your neck a bit. We loaded up. Dad driving of course and my little grandmother standing about 5 feet tall (or less) sat in the front. I was in the back. We enjoyed our trip over to Rapid City on a nice spring day.

When we arrived at the dealership (Rice Honda/Suzuki) on Omaha Street I remember the tall sign for the dealership was damaged. I asked one of the salesman if a truck had hit the sign since the damage was quite high up. He said no, “that was how high the water was from the June 1972 flood”. The flood killed 238 people and left a mark on Rapid City that is felt to this day. That area of town is now a greenway and flood zone.

Dad and I made our deals. I’m not sure what he traded in but I do remember he bought a Suzuki GT380. I of course opted for the Suzuki TS250 Enduro trading my little Honda 100 in. All was good and we loaded our new bikes and started to head for home by mid afternoon. Dad decided to pull into a small gas station to fuel up in the town of Spearfish, which is about 45 miles north of Rapid City. That little station is still in business today in downtown Spearfish and it gives me the memory every time I see it. The station of course in 1973 was full service and a guy came out to fill the car with gas and of course dad was busy talking with him about our new bikes while my grandmother stayed put in the front seat. I decided I needed to use the rest room and went inside. Much to my surprise when I came back outside to the car, it was gone! What? Where the heck was the car and trailer? I looked to the north (the way out of town) and I noticed the car and trailer sitting at the stoplight about a block away. I ran as fast as I could to catch dad, but just as I was about to reach the back of the trailer, the light turned green and Robert Shannon had a lead foot and away he went. I waved my arms and yelled but could not get his attention. I thought certainly he will notice in just a minute or two that I was missing and come back. I continued to walk up the street so he would notice me when he came back. My worst fear was that he would be pissed off that I didn’t make it back to the car when he was ready to go (that was dad).

I walked all the way to the highway 14 intersection about 2 miles north of town but still no dad. Surely he and my grandmother would notice I was not there and come back. It had already been a hike just to get to where I knew he had to turn west and head for Gillette. At the time, Interstate 90 was not complete between Spearfish and Sundance Wyoming so highway 14 was what we had to take. I kept walking and of course by this time it’s now late afternoon and the sun beginning to set in the west and it’s starting to get chilly. I only had on an old white sweatshirt and some jeans. I walked a couple more miles and still no dad. There was a very friendly dog that came out from a driveway and he decided to walk with me for a bit, but when he realized I was not stopping he headed back home after another mile or two. I just kept thinking how mad dad was going to be when he had to turn around and pick me up. Well, he never came and I continued to walk, wishing I had taken my bike off the trailer to at least ride home. It was now dark and I was a bit scared not knowing what I was going to do but I was now several miles out from any town and I thought if I could make it to Beulah Wyoming right at the border there was a guy we knew that lived there and he had taken us ice fishing the previous winter. If I could only make it that far. Cars would zoom by as I continued to walk but nobody stopped and I just kept going but now it was very dark so I thought I better walk a bit further down in the ditch so I wouldn’t get hit. Shortly after moving to the ditch a car came screaming by heading east but it was dark and the car was moving fast so I could not tell if it was dad or not. I noticed the car doing a 3 point turn in a driveway that I had passed. I could tell it did not have a trailer and was scared that it was not dad. As the car approached from my rear and got close I realized it was the Caddy. I walked out of the ditch, opened the door and it was just my dad and not my grandmother. Now I was really confused. I jumped in the car crying of course thinking I was in trouble, but tears also filled dads eyes as he was so very happy to see me too. As we headed to the west it was less than a mile from the Wyoming/South Dakota border. In all, I had pounded nearly 12 miles out. Just a guess but I think it was between 3 and 4 hours. Dad always said it was a miracle that he spotted a flash of my white sweatshirt down in the ditch as he passed.

In talking with dad, he and my grandmother thought I had laid down for a nap in the back seat. The seat was so high and my little grandmother could not see over it but they both assumed I was back there. They even took a detour at Sundance so he could show her Devils Tower National Monument, then they checked to see why I was so quiet and both realized I was missing. He made a mad dash for home in Gillette, unhooked the trailer and dropped Grammy off. He did say he took the time to call the gas station but I was no where to be found. As fast as my dad always drove I am sure it did not take him long to make the 85 or 90 miles from home. That Caddy could flat move down the road. When I got back home my little grandmother gave me the biggest hug and I can hear her to this day in her little southern voice “ I’ve never been so happy to see someone in my life”.

Of course dad and I had a good story to tell for years. He always felt so terrible that he left me at the station and he apologized his whole life for that mistake. Me on the other hand still live with the memory. That road is still there. It is now the service road between Spearfish and the Wyoming border. Every time I drive the Interstate highway next to that road, it sparks the memory and even fills my eyes with a tear or two remembering the walk from 46 years ago, the day I got a brand new motorcycle at age 13.

Pat's History with a Motorcycle

I think it’s safe to say that from a very young age I took a liking to anything that had wheels or a motor and went down the road. Car’s, motorcycles, go karts, trucks and snowmobiles just seem to be a part of my life growing up. I learned quickly as a young toddler the difference between Fords, Chevy’s and other car makes and could identify them easily traveling down the road. Some of my early childhood friends growing up in Gillette Wyoming already had mini-bikes and I of course felt the peer pressure and my dad caved to my request to buy one for me at age 12. My older brother Glenn had a little 100cc Honda that he wanted to sell so dad bought it from him and gave it to me. I rode it for about a year and in 1973 I wanted to upgrade to something larger and I traded it for a brand new 250cc Suzuki trail/street bike. Dad gave me the payment booklet for the bike and told me it was my responsibility to pay for this one. The payment was $22 a month but I just landed a job at the local car wash for $1.60 an hour so I had it made. Still only 13 years old I was growing up pretty fast with a job, a motorcycle payment and the responsibility came with those. I clearly remember the day we picked the bike up and I will have a whole other story to write about that day at a later time.

Some of the other kids in the neighborhood were upgrading their bikes too and we had a lot of fun around Gillette. Obviously at age 13 I had no drivers license but that never stopped me from driving on every street or highway in and around town. I always wore a full face helmet with a dark visor so the police could not see who I was however there was a new young recruit on the Gillette police force who did know. That was my oldest brother Glenn, and he told me, “just don’t do something stupid to get pulled over” and “don’t use my name to get yourself out of trouble”. I took the responsibility very seriously as I did not want to get into trouble and luckily I never caught without a license.

In August of 73 the family was planning our annual family reunion trip back to Minnesota where my dad was raised. Dad decided we should take our bikes. Mom of course was against this as I was to young to make such a trip driving my own motorcycle. But dad usually prevailed in these types of disputes and 3 weeks prior to my 14th birthday we headed out. My dad and mom took the lead on their big Suzuki 750 followed by my brother Mike on his 650 Yamaha and finally me taking up the rear on my little 250 dirt bike. We traveled all day across eastern Wyoming, South Dakota then on to Fargo North Dakota. Gillette to Fargo is about 550 miles. For me to do this in one day on a small dirt bike did not seem unusual at the time but I don’t think many adults would even consider it today on a bike of that size. Outside of riding short day trips here and there this was certainly my first trip of any distance. We went to our reunion and back to Gillette with no issues.

The following year I did this same trip only this time I was by myself. Yes! by myself at age 14. My brother Mike could not go that year, so I used his 650 Yamaha. This made the trip a bit easier. Mom and dad were finishing up a long road trip of there own and met me in Minnesota. Since I was not 15 yet, I still had no license. On the return trip I again rode alone as mom and dad went a different direction. I remember having a chain and sprocket issue before I headed out from Fargo and had to borrow some money from an aunt to get it fixed. I think the bill was about 35 dollars and I only had about 20 on me and that was just enough to get me home. Of course gas was less than 60 cents a gallon so I had plenty travel on. Man oh man what a great memory.

Since my childhood days I’ve had many motorcycles over the years. I have also had times where I did not own one for years at a time but always kept an interest in motorcycling. One thing to note on the trip forthcoming is that I have never really driven a motorcycle in a large metropolitan area. The traffic will probably scare me a bit but I think by the time I get through Seattle the first week of the trip in May I will have been properly baptized into riding in traffic. I am currently trying to rig up some additional mirrors on the bike since my 2 Cancer surgeries to my neck have left it nearly impossible to turn my head around to look over my shoulders. That could be an issue in heavy traffic but I’ll figure it out and I’ll be Ridin On.

And come to think of it as I write this piece, I suppose I should get my drivers license updated to include a motorcycle endorsement before I leave this spring. 59 years old and I still don’t have a license to drive a motorcycle. Go figure….. :)

New Relationships Formed

If you are following the blog you have probably noticed that I have not written in a couple of weeks. No, I have not taken ill. No, I’ve not been too busy. I could probably come up with a dozen excuses but in all truthfulness I just needed some extra time to actually think a bit more about this whole process and the things that it is teaching me along the way and how I need to convey my feelings to myself and to you. Trust me, I’ve been very busy behind the scenes. One of the biggest and best things I have done for myself in the short journey is forge many new relationships both here in my home town and all over the country. I’ve met so many new people already and I have not taken the bike out of the garage yet. People from around the country who I don’t even know have taken the time to read my story and donate to the ride. Some folks have offered meals, a place to stay for the night or just words of support. They have all been positive and it feels wonderful doing something that you truly find enjoyment in and in turn have others respond in kind.

One of the stories about relationships that I want to share with you is a very personal one. When Chris and I first got married we blended our families together. She had 2 children and I had 2 children and we purchased a large home so everyone had the space they needed. Her kids were already in their teen years as mine were a bit younger. Her oldest, (Forest) was nearly 17 when we got married and was a Junior in high school. Forest certainly had a mind of his own, however he did not bother me and I don’t think I really bothered him. Aside from teaching him how to drive a stick shift and helping him get his first job there was not much for me to do. He was extremely smart and was very much into computers and techy things and that just became his forte. He went to the School of Mines and Technology after high school and graduated of course and moved on. Over the years I think we both came to realize that we were probably very much polar opposites. Our views of the world were different. Our political views were certainly different. His views on religion and mine were not the same. I was into business, motorcycles, guns, car racing and watching sports, he was not. We always were friendly to one another at holidays and family times and aside from some useless political discussions probably never had any ill feelings toward one another yet we never seemed to form an extremely close relationship. It was not until early December this past year and Forest flew home for a visit. I told Chris when the family got together for dinner I wanted to break the news to the family about the upcoming ride. Forest stepped up right away and really was pretty excited about the journey and said he would like to help if he could. At that time I already had planned on hiring a marketing company to build the website and help me with the social media aspect of it but as the days and weeks moved on that did not work out so well and it left me in a bit of a quandary.

Forest and his wife Nikki flew home for Christmas and I told him about the marketing company and the large cost associated with it so he offered to get together with me and help plan a website. Since that time obviously we have this thing up and running and I could not be happier. Forest has done all the layout for the website. All I had to do is write and he would do the rest. He has however allowed me to get in and play a bit, make some changes where I wanted and I have actually created a page or 2. We talk on a regular basis through video chat about our next steps and his advise has been invaluable. More importantly I feel through the process we have connected a bit deeper and our conversations are about a lot more than just a website for Cancer Awareness. Of the many relationships that this campaign has given me, none are as important as the one I have just described with my step-son. It’s hard to put into words the feelings I have for him. Forest is now 35 years old, has a very nice career in the tech world and married to a wonderful wife. I don’t think I’ll ever have to worry about him making a good life for himself. It saddens me that over the past 18 plus years I have not taken the time to really connect with Forest. The sadder part however is that CANCER brought this relationship together just as it has the rest of them, but I will use this as a life lesson and Ride On. Thank you Forest for all you have done and continue to do for the project. But most of all, thank you for being a wonderful step-son and helping me accomplish all of this and I look forward to our relationship growing form here.

Cancer does not have to tear everything apart, it can be useful if you make the best of it.