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rideATAXIA Blog

In January 2007, rideAtaxia was born when Kyle Bryant and his father began their 2,500 mile, 60 day cycling journey from San Diego to Memphis, TN to raise awareness and funds for FA research. Now functioning as a program of the Friedreich’s Ataxia Research Alliance (FARA), rideATAXIA offers single day, challenging and family fun bike rides at locations all across the USA. From firsthand accounts of Kyle’s inaugural journey to the most recent news about our annual bike rides, the evolution of rideAtaxia is chronicled in this blog.

 

Compilation

Due to intermittent internet access here in the great state of Texas, I have not been able to blog as frequently as I would like. Therefore, this post is a compilation of the past week. I will try to date it and keep it in chronological order, pay attention!

PS- Check out the previous post for new pictures!

The One Legged Man and the Ten Year Walk for Jesus

2/15/07
For two days I have ridden with one leg. I have been riding with a shortened crank on the left side and I have been trying not to use the left leg for power, it just helps to turn the crank around.

Yesterday (Wednesday) we met a group at the United Methodist church in Van Horn. Linda Mizzel had contacted me and told me that she had some close friends that were affected by Ataxia. She invited us to have lunch with her and some of her congregation. It was a very nice lunch with some very nice people. On Saturday, in Fort Stockton, I will meet the Nylands who are friends with Linda and who recently lost one of their daughters to FA.

That afternoon, we decided to put in 20 to 25 miles to try out the new crank configuration and to start moving forward after spending a day trying to get my knee working. We started out at about 2pm and a storm was brewing. There were thick, black clouds to the west and the wind was blowing to the east. As soon as we got about 100 yards down the road, the sky opened up and hail poured like crazy. We turned around and headed back to the trailer like little girls. After warming up and watching the intense hail pass, we gave it another try. This time we made it to the freeway and we were off. The new crank worked great! My right leg did all the work while my left was just along for the ride. We rode about 20 miles fighting a brisk crosswind. Our ride showed up and we quickly jumped in out of the cold. We took off heading east to find an offramp so we could head back to Van Horn. We got about 2 miles down the road and passed a guy walking on the side of the freeway with a huge cross on his shoulder…what the? We noticed a frontage road so we got off at the next offramp and decided that in the spirit of the adventure we should go talk to this guy and see what he was doing.

We stopped on the side of the frontage road and waited to greet this cross bearing gentleman. We asked him where he was headed and he said, “Well, I am on a ten year walk for Jesus, I started seven years ago in Tijuana with a dollar. I am going to write a book when I am done.” The cross he was carrying on his shoulder was made of light weight fiberglass and it had wheels on the bottom for long distance travel. Wally jumped out of the car and asked if he could take a picture and the guy was happy to pose for a souvenir shot.

He seemed like a very nice down to earth guy. He was hoping that we were heading east toward Pecos so he could catch a ride because it was very cold and the sun was getting low on the horizon. We told him that we were heading back to Van Horn and he said, “Well, some days I just say, ‘Alright Jesus what now, how are you gonna help me out.’” And with that, he kept his head down and his cross rolling.


Today we got up early and it was 28 degrees outside. We were wondering if the cross bearer (I gotta start getting the names of the people that I meet) made it to Pecos to survive the night. We got on the road at about 9am wearing about four layers of clothes each. We rode 55 miles on mostly flat terrain and finished before three oclock. I rode with only the right leg once again and it seems to be working fine for now. I plan to try this for a few days and then try to go back to the old configuration, each day it will have to be a game time decision.

2/19/07

One Leg, Up Hill, Against the Wind

It is Sunday night. On Friday we woke up in Balmorhea, TX and found that our water hookup was frozen. The pipes in the trailer were ok but we put an extra layer on before we left that morning. We rode about 40 miles that day through scewnic West Texas. We might as well have been on a treadmill for 5 hours, the scenery never changed. Every time we would climb over the slope in front of us, we would see the same shallow valley that we just crossed...for 40 miles!

The next day we woke up in Fort Stockton and rode 20 miles through the same scenery as we had experienced the day before. However, we stopped early that day to meet some new friends for lunch. We met the Neylands at a nice Mexican restaurant in the metropolis of Fort Stockton (also present were Clint, Dave, Vanessa, Jaden, Wally, Mary, Mom and Dad).




Side Note about Fort Stockton: The reason that there is even a town here is the fresh water spring. Native Americans and later White Settlers found the spring and said, "Hey, water! We have not seen this stuff for 400 miles, we had better not go any further or we might never see this stuff again." Every July there is a festival to honor the water, no joke.

We had a great time meeting Emily, Ruth and David Neyland. This family has been through some tough times lately as they lost their oldest daugheter Betsy to FA. They had all kinds of stories to tell about Betsy, sounds like she was a great girl and quite a fighter. Thank you, Neyland family for lunch and the great company, it was very nice to meet you. We will meet again and Betsy is in our thoughts.

Today we woke up early to start out where we left off yesterday.

Fort Stockton Sunrise

We started right next to a giant wind farm and the wind mills were not facing west like we had hoped.

The wind was coming from the south east and we were heading due east so it was quite annoying at first. Then our route turned a bit more south. at mile 17 we looked at the time and it had taken us 2.5 hours to get that far. At mile 20 Mom called and said that she was at a rest stop about 2 miles ahead. At this point our route had turned south and the wind was in our face. It took us 30 minutes to travel those two miles. We had traveled 22 miles in 4 hours and it felt like we did enough work to have gone 50. The other thinng was that we saw at least 25 dead deer on the side of the road today. I don't know what it was about that stretch of road but there was large roadkill at least every half mile. Our ride reeked of roadkill and crude oil from the oil fields all around. The sving grace of this stretch was the giant wind farm. It is nice to know that someone is actually using the hellacious headwind.

Bonus picture:

Me and Clint-dog

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lost and Found

50 miles east of El Paso is where we started on Sunday. The wind was at our backs and it was a smooth ride for a while. The map that we were using had us turn onto a farm road and we took a nice ride through the Texas country side.

- Side Note: The tail wind was the strongest we have experienced so far. We were traveling at about 17 mph and there was no wind resistence at all. It was like we were riding in a vacuum. In the middle of nowhere, no people, no cars, no wind, no sound except for the clicking of our chains and gears. We noticed a train up ahead but we could not hear it. Very strange, it felt like we were cycling through the twilight zone.

The scenery was pretty great. Just to the right were huge grassy fields and in the distance were some sweet Mexican mountains…a guitar softly wailed in the distance…what?


Then the route turned to the northwest. Not directly into the wind but it sure felt like it. We were traveling slightly uphill but it felt like we were climbing a pretty good grade. At one point Dad was practicing his “tacking” skills which involved pedaling directly into the wind and then turning and holding out one arm so the wind could push him along…what a barney.

At mile 23 we encountereds I-10 and headed east again with the wind at out backs. It wasn’t long before we started a climb. We continued for about 5 miles and met Mom for lunch. My knee was not feeling top notch at this point but I was managing. During our rest I iced the knee and then heated it back up with our new microwavable heat pad. Took a few Advil and we were on our way. We had come about 30 miles that morning so Mom left to meet us another 20 miles down the road. However, the knee was not willing to warm up for the afternoon ride. We went about a mile and I could not make it all the way around with my left knee. So I got out my phone to call Mom to come pick us up because we couled not continue that day. No signal. So Dad started to push me up the hill to see if there was a downhill that we might be able to ride the wind for a few miles. Pushing me was getting us nowhere fast and I figured out that i could just do half a stroke with my right foot and then back pedal for half a stroke and repeat and that would get us somewhere. So I tried this for about a mile and a half and it was too much work for little reward so we decided to try the phone again. I reached into my pocket and the phone was not there! Idiot, you must have dropped it when you tried to call the first time. I could hardly propel myself at thisw point so Dad decided he would go back against the 40 mph wind and look for the phone. I took shelter under an underpass and waited for him to return. He was gone for a good 45 min and when he finally returned he was empty handed, couldn’t find it...stuck. So Dad decided that he woule go ahead and look for Mom while I would stay at the underpass and try not to freeze in the wind.

So Dad left and in the meantime I figured I might try to find someone to lend me their phone for one call. There was a rest stop down the road so, pedaling with one foot, I approached a guy who did not speak a lot of English and he told me that he did not have a phone but I could use his CB. Thanks, but that’s not gonna work. I went to the only other people at the rest stop, here is an excerpt from our conversation:

Me: Hi, do you folks happen to have a cell phone that I could borrow?
Lady: We’re Canadian.
Me: So…Canadians don’t used cell phones?
Canadian Lady: We just use it like a pager, ya know, we don’t make calls.

So I gave up on that one. Obviously Canadians are afraid of crazy, phoneless, one legged, bearded guys on tricycles…go figure.

So I sat under the underpass for 2.5 hours w3hile Dad rode 20 miles to find our ride. When the sag vehicle arrived, I got in and we went back for one final look for the cell phone. We found it next to the road where we stopped to decide which way to go. Thankfully we were all still in one piece so we drove on to Van Horn for the night crossing the central time zone boundary on the way.

That night as we chilled in the Desert Fox, I knew I was not going to be able to ride the next day unless we figured something out. So I looked up some local doctors to see if we could take care of the problem in the morning. It turned out that all of the listings for doctors were in Odessa and Midland which was about a 2 hour drive. Wait a minute, I have a friend in Midland maybe he can recommend a doctor. I called my buddy Clint and he said that his Dad’s girlfriend Vanessa works at the hospital and she might be able to get me an appointment with a sports physician, what a great coincidence. In the morning Clint called and said that Vanessa got me a 230 appointment with Dr. Mark Fredrickson in Midland…awesome. So we left right away, it took 2.5 hours and we were a bit early. We sat in the waiting room for about 15 minutes and who comes in but Clint and his Dad (Dave)! We chatted for a while and I mentioned that I was looking for a machine shop where I could have some work done on the crank of my bike (my uncle suggested that I shorten the crank on the left side so my knee would not have to bend as much when it comes around). It just so happens that Dave is a manager for a company called Cameron Compression Systems and they operate a machine shop in town…another convenient coincidence. He made a phone call and said that if we drive to Odessa after the doctor that a guy named Rich would take care of us.

The doctor told me nothing different than all of the other doctors that had looked at my knee. The knee is fine its just overused. So he gave me a prescription for a strong antiinflamatory and sent me on my way.

Dr. Fredrickson was a very nice guy and I appreciate him taking me in on such short notice. Thank you also to Vanessa who set this up.

Side note: We are currently driving back to Van Horn and it is snowing like mad outside.

After the appointment, Dave had to catch a plane so we (Mom, Dad, Clint and I) piled into the car and headed for the machine shop. We were greeted by a gentleman named Jeff, we explained our situation and he said they would figure something out. We also met Rich Fuston, the Machine Shop Sr. Service manager, very nice, tall fellow with a southern drawl.

Once inside the shop, we met a few if the technicians whi helped us out. Chris and Thomas. We talked about our options and decided that they would try to drill and tap a new hole in the crank, moving the pedal in toward the center and effectively shortening the crank…

The only problem was that the bike uses all metric size hardware and the threads on the left crank are reverse (righty loosey, lefty tighty). So first of all, they were going to have a tough time finding a metric tap and it was going to be impossible to find a reverse threaded metric tap. We found that the right pedal is forward threaded so if we had two right pedals, we might be in business. So Mom, Dad and I visited a local bike shop to buy another set of pedals while the guys at the shop called around to find the right metric tap for the job. We went to a great bike shop in Odessa, Bicycles Etcetera. We bought a crank puller, a pedal wrench, a new set of pedals and a spare crank in case our plan did not work out.

When we got back to the shop, they had found a metric thread tap at a local supply store and they were ready to go to work on my crank. So we pulled the crank and they drilled the hole. They did not have any metric drill bits so the hole was just a smidge too small, they went someone to Sears to fetch a bit of the correct size while Clint, Rich, Mom, Dad and I took a load off in the break area with tea and coffe (they really took care of us).

The guys finally got the pedal to fit into the threads and we put the crank back on the bike. I sat in the seat and back pedaled a few times noticing how much less my left knee was moving compared to my right…sweet.


So now we are headed back to Van Horn. It has stopped snowing. Reinforcements have arrived for us in Van Horn. Our good Friends (pretty much family) Wally and Mary Krill had left on Saturday from Grass Valley, CA and they caught up to us today so they are going to travel with us for the rest of the trip. Wally and Mary were great cyclists back in the day. They traveled all over Europe, Australia, New Zealand and the US in Bikes, it will be nice to have their experience on our side.

Tomorrow we are having lunch in Van Horn with a new friend Linda Mizell who has organized an event for us, should be fun.

Before I go, I want to draw attention to the treatment we received in Midland. I was overwhelmed by how everything worked out. I was also overwhelmed by the warmth and hospitality that was shown to us. The guys at Cameron Compression systems donated about 5 hours of their time and energy on the spot and did it with a smile. Thanks guys, it was great to meet you. You guys may have provided us with the boost we needed to get over the hump…we’ll see.

Me, Clint, Rich, Chris, and Thomas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quick Update

 

Dad could finally stomach a Cliff Bar and a banana today. I nursed the knee. I have found that the two keys to overcoming this problem are hydration and stretching, but it is day to day.

Today we rode 46 miles and finished by 2 pm. Not bad, easy riding.

 

Feb 10, 2007

 

There are 2 parts to this entry, I want to put a lot of emphasis on PART I.

PART I.

157 miles in two days!

We started out about 12 miles west of the New Mexico border on a slight uphill. It was slow going for the first 15 miles until we were a couple of miles into New Mexico where the tailwind kicked in.


We sustained a speed of 17-20 mph for the next 60 miles stopping only at the continental pide, a couple of rest stops and once for a flat tire.

Forgot the tripod that day.

Check out this crazy piece of metal that I ran over on the shoulder.

Looks harmless enough from the outside, but wait...

That thing casts a shadow!

We took one last stop because I had to wipe the catchup off of my face. I ran over a packet on the shoulder and it sprayed all over me. What a Barney!


It was so flat and windy in this section that we saw this series of signs several times.




oK we get it, actually I think I got it after the first sign. Fortunately, the wind helped us.

We took our time those two days and enjoyed the easy riding. At one point we (Dad and I) could not help but laugh because we were hardly doing any work and sustaining a speed of 20mph.

PART 2.

Knee pain and food poisoning.

We are currently in El Paso, Mexico...I mean Texas. This place is huge. Even huger is Juarez Ciudad which is just south of the border. Looking to the south at night there is a vast sea of little sparkling lights for as far as you can see. It looks like when you are a freshman in college and you visit Tijuana for the first time at night. Coming over that hill from San Diego, ya thats what its like. I realized today that those little lights are not in Texas but in Mexico. I think Juarez might be a bit bigger than El Paso.

Anyway, back to the pain...

So last night we stayed in Las Cruces, NM. Did not see much of that town and in hind sight, we should have rested there instead of El Paso.

Las Cruces, those mountains are way more impressive in person.

That night my knee did not feel great. We left in the morning for a short 45 mile ride to El Paso. We crossed the Rio Grande which was not very Grande, it was a tiny trickle at this point, lots of people taking their share up river I guess.


About 20 miles in, the knee locked up and stopped me in my tracks. We took a rest and I managed to coax the knee to go a bit farther. At 30 miles we met the sag wagon and decided to call it a day on account of a bummed knee. So we drove the rest of the way to El Paso.

That night we went out to dinner at this sea food place that was recommended by a local. The food was pretty good and we probably ate a bit too much. That night Dad was not feeling too good and it continued to the next day (today). He made it until about noon and slept the rest of the day in the RV.

We are hoping that all of this gets worked out by tomorrow and we will be cruisin' once again.

I want you all to know that we will be fine, and I am trying to tell you everything so you can struggle with us. Thats what this is about right? Sharing struggles with others to make it a bit easier to roll along. My grandma likes to say, "Many hands make light work." Its not supposed to be easy, so we struggle on. Thanks for sharing the load.

 

Shout Out to Phoenix, AZ

 

Let me tell you about the great friends that I made in Phoenix (all of this happened last week but I just got the pictures so here goes).

At 1 pm on January 31 we met a group of people at the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University.

This event was set up by FARA (the Friedreich’s Ataxia Research Alliance) and NAF (National Ataxia Foundation) to expose the new department at ASU that is dedicated to research for diseases like Friedreich’s Ataxia. We met the head of the new department Gary Poste who talked about their new ideas and the dedication they have for fighting this disease.


We also met new friends such as Rita Garcia (head of the Phoenix area NAF support group) and Dave Zilles (NAF board, old friend):


Connie, Chelsea, and Dad (didn’t catch the name) Chamberlain:


Vicki, Brandon and Gramma:


It was very nice to meet these new friends and it was such a great event that we decided to continue at the Four Peaks Brewery that night.




Thanks for the great time, whenever I am in Phoenix you can count on a call from me, hope to see you all in Memphis!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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