Words cannot begin to describe the incredible summer I have had. I have ridden through redwood forests, vineyards, by the waters of Lake Tahoe, Lake Utah, Lake Michigan and Lake Erie. I traversed the Sierra Nevadas, the Rocky Mountains and the Alleghany Mountains. I cycled through rolling hills and endless flats of farmland this summer. I made 34 of the best friends of my life.
Most importantly, though, I feel like we made a difference this summer. From our first friendship visit playing basketball in San Francisco to rocking out with the clients of the Southside Art Center in Sacramento. From learning about childhood tumors to horse and cycling therapy in Utah. From employment centers and spina bifida in Nebraska. Every friendship visit helped to shape my summer. Dancing, eating, laughing, eating, singing, eating and most importantly giving back. Our team raised over $500,000 this summer and I am excited to have given that money back to awesome organizations who can use a little more financial support. This summer I truly learned what ability, teamwork, empathy and integrity truly mean, and how all of these character traits can be carried out. Many times I was guilty of going into a friendship visit worrying about how I would interact with people who had many disabilities. Quickly all qualms were pushed aside and I learned to embrace their abilities and this allowed me to have an awesome time no matter where I was. This entire summer would not have been possible without teamwork. Riding in pace lines requires teamwork for everyone to remain safe. Keeping each other accountable to get places on time and for people to stay positive and have “no bad attitudes” took teamwork. Empathy is a character trait that I really knew little about before this summer. I learned to humble myself, try my best to understand others, but most importantly to treat everyone equally. I learned selflessness and understanding. A willingness to help others, hear their stories, and interact with everyone one a personal level was instilled in me and was better than any training I could ever receive in a lecture hall. Integrity was learned this summer through accountability. We were all accountable for our bike maintenance, calling hazards out in the road to keep other cyclists safe, staying positive no matter the level of exhaustion, maintaining the image of the team in a positive light to all sponsors and other people we interacted with daily, and also holding myself accountable for the trip I signed up for over a year ago and that countless donors contributed to make this summer possible.
Saying goodbye to the 34 brothers who made this summer possible was incredibly difficult, but this is not the end. Returning to normal life is exciting because I can take the lessons that I learned from each cyclist, crew-member, sponsor and client and apply these lessons to the way I live my life.
I am incredibly proud of how much our team accomplished this summer, the personal growth hat has occurred, but most importantly how we have been able to dispel the negative image of fraternity men for thousands of people by “Building leaders of tomorrow by serving people with disabilities today.”
This summer cannot ever be replaced. Thank you for keeping our team in you
Sixty-Seven days after I left home for Oakland and sixty-three days after I started cycling over the Golden Gate Bridge, today I arrived at the United States Capitol.
The morning started like many others: a wakeup of 6:15am, a crew chief breakfast outside, and patiently awaiting the crew to mark our turns ahead. I rode today with Alberto from Iona and Chris from GA Tech. Our ride to stage up was only about ten miles and mostly downhill. A couple of miles in the team all waited at the Washington D.C. border and we crossed over it together as one team. It was awesome to all ride together one last time. We arrived at our stage up location at George Washington University in no time. Much of the team went to Starbucks in the interim, and we just hung out on the lawn together waiting to get in to double pace line formation. At about 10:30am we lined up in our double pace line for arrival. Chris and I decided to ride side-by-side which made the whole trip come full circle. We first sat by each other in Oakland at orientation the very first night. We have ridden together numerous times, more than any other teammate, so it was fitting to ride together one last time.
A little before 11:00am we set off for our final destination, the US Capitol. We hit every stoplight on the way there so we ended up a few minutes late. We rounded the corner a few blocks from the Capitol and could then see the massive crowd there to greet us. I could not help but smile thinking about all that we accomplished and all who were there to support us and cheer us on. We dismounted our bikes and walked them through our fans that were surrounding us on both sides. We made our way to the lawn, placed our bikes down, embraced each other and got into our picture formation.
The CEO of Push America, Chad Coltrane, welcomed our families and us to arrival. The top fundraisers for JOH and BAM were recognized, next. Then, each project manager got up and spoke about each route. Nick gave awesome remarks about our team: our trials and tribulations, but also our great successes. We then took one group photo with all of the teams and then divided up and took individual team photos. Once all of that fanfare was over we finally were able to greet our family and friends. There to cheer me on were my parents and sister, chapter brothers Mike, Ben, Tim, Cole, Justin and John, as well as Laura, Lucy, Holly and Cassie. We took a group photo or ten and then headed back to our hotel.
Once at the hotel I showered and then headed to lunch with my family and the Miami gang. We ate at Union Station at Pizzeria Uno. It was a delicious meal and it was great to catch up with everybody.
After lunch I walked with Mike, Laura, Tim, Lucy and Cassie to the Museum of American History. When in DC I think it should be a requirement to visit at least one museum. We saw the Presidents’ exhibit, the pop culture exhibit and the Wild West exhibit.
I walked back to my hotel with Laura and Cassie and got ready for the end of the summer banquet. I met up with my parents at the banquet where we then took our seats. The program started with the BAM team doing some camp songs that they learned this summer. We next heard from Chad Coltrane again as well as Pi Kappa Phi’s National President. Then, the Bruce Rogers Awards were awarded. The award recognizes the person who most embodies the values of Push America on each team. I could not be more proud of Michael Walton for receiving this award for the North team. He was the glue to our team this summer by keeping us accountable. He taught us the moves to our “Every Time We Touch” dance and was the first man out every morning to help start the day off on the right foot. To finish off the night the North team performed our dance to “Every Time We Touch” one last time.
For dinner my family and I headed back to Union Station and ate Chinese food. I LOVE Chinese food and had been craving it all day so my family obliged and let me eat whatever I pleased.
I spent the remainder of the evening hanging out in the hotel with my Miami friends as well as my JOH brothers.
The long summer is over, but I would not have changed one moment of it.
Tomorrow takes me back to Oxford for RA training.
Thanks for keeping the entire team in your thoughts and prayers all summer, we made it!
Love & Honor,
Today was our last real day of riding. I rode with my Miami brothers Jason and Saurabh. A few miles into the ride Saurabh took his first spill of the trip. We were riding down a steep hill after it had rained and Saurabh was going a little too fast and hit an oil slick and fell to the ground. I heard him go down behind me so I slammed onto my breaks and started to fishtail as I headed toward a one-lane bridge. Luckily I came to a stop and was able to dismount and check up on Saurabh. Save a few scrapes and bruises he was fine so we continued on our way. In the next town we stopped at McDonald's and ate some breakfast. There was no rack-point so we had no hesitations about stopping for a bit.
At mile 37 we ran across a 15 meter section of road covered in shattered glass. We pulled over to check our tires and as we did that a truck pulled up to start taking some of the glass and metal off the highway. It appeared as though several windshields had fallen off the back of his truck.
We finished out the day in decent time and arrived in Bethesda at the Landon School. We were treated to a Subway lunch by a couple former JOH cyclists and then showered up. After showering we cleaned our bikes for the big day tomorrow. We had a lot of fun trying to get our bikes to look new, but wow have they taken a beating after making it across our great nation. By the time we finished cleaning our bikes it was time to head to dinner.
For dinner we drove to Virginia for the all team dinner. The Trans America, South Route and Build America teams were all in attendance. It was great to share an awesome meal with them and catch up with my chapter brother, Peter, who rode the South route this summer.
After dinner we went back to the Landon School and made final preparations for arrival. We spent the night reflecting on the summer with each other, signing each other's jerseys.
Tomorrow is the big day. I cannot believe how fast this summer has gone. I cannot put into words what it has meant to me, and saying goodbye to my team will be incredibly difficult. I'm trying not to be sad that it's over, but joyous that it happened.
Thank you for following my blog this summer and for continued prayers for our team.
Love & Honor,
Today was another day of climbing through the Appalachian Mountains. Today I rode with Derek from TCU and Doug from NIU. In all actuality I rode with pretty much the whole team. It was incredibly foggy at the beginning of our ride and there was a lot of climbing. Pretty much the entire team was at the same crew stop at the same time and we all decided to go down the mountain through the fog together. This is definitely frowned upon for safety reasons, but with it being our second to last day we decided to give it a go. The crew was hesitant to allow it to keep happening, but eventually just let it happen. It made the day go so much quicker riding with 20 of my brothers; we tackled mountains and then enjoyed some steep downhill’s weaving in and out of each other. With about 25 miles left on the ride we got on a bike path that ran on old railroad tracks along the Potomac River. It was a very scenic ride; we rode along hundred-year-old telegraph lines and most importantly it was incredibly fast and we cruised right along. Once we reached lunch we divided back into our pace lines to ride into town and lodging for safety purposes.
Once at lodging we showered and got ready for our last friendship visit of the summer. We ate dinner with live-in clients of the Potomac Center, which serves people with severe intellectual disabilities. Many of us helped feed the clients their dinner of KFC potpie and applesauce. It was such a learning experience for all of us. I take for granted how easy it is to do simple tasks for me like eating meals. We made sure to purée their food, made sure that it was cool enough, and also that it we fed them at a slow enough pace that they could swallow all of their food. We were not able to have conversations with the clients, but it was incredible to see the joy on their faces to be around 35 guys that cared about them and took time to just sit with them.
After dinner we had some time to clean up our bikes and take naps. I chose the latter. We have had many hard days on the bike, many early mornings, and many late nights on the trip and after over two months my body is just completely pooped. I would never trade any of it for anything and we always remind each other whenever someone complains of being tired, “No one ever looks back on JOH and says ‘Man I wish I would’ve slept more.’”
To finish off the meeting we came together as a team just to reflect on the summer and provide each other words of encouragement, wisdom, and moments where we all exceled this summer.
One more day of hard riding tomorrow and then Saturday is arrival.
Thanks for keeping up with my blog and praying for the entire team this summer.
Love & Honor,
Back into the mountains we went!
Today I rode with Alberto from Iona and Kevin from Iowa. We climbed out of Uniontown and were instantly into the Appalachian Mountains. We kept a great pace all day, and after 7,000 feet of climbing, and crossing into Maryland, we finally arrived in Cumberland at the local YMCA. The team all took naps on the brand new indoor soccer field that’s turf was installed 3 days ago. It’s amazing the places you can fall asleep after being on the bike for so long.
For dinner we ate with the Cumberland, Maryland Rotary Club. We had an awesome meal of burgers, fried chicken, baked beans, potato salad, and more brownies than one could ever imagine. It was enjoyable to talk with the members of the club, hear their stories, and take advice from them about networking and sustaining relationships.
After dinner we headed back to lodging and did our team gift exchange. We had a lot of fun getting gifts for each other, and I got a new Snuggie! To finish off the night we tied up loose ends programming wise and organizationally and headed to bed.
Thank you for keeping up with my Journey of Hope this summer!
Love & Honor,
Pastor Doug Nolt and I catching up in Uniontown
What an awesome day for the team!
We started the day off early with a sponsored breakfast at Chick-fil-a. Dino Taylor was gracious enough to sponsor the breakfast for the entire team and it really got us off on the right foot.
After Chik-fil-a we departed for Uniontown, PA. I rode with Mike from Maryland and Reggie from Iona. We stopped very minimally along the trip so we ended up first. After seeing flats for the last month we encountered a large hill that was a 14% grade, the largest we have seen on the trip. Dino followed the team in his truck and was at every crew stop handing out snacks and drinks as well as providing some great encouragement up the huge hill by blaring music along the side of us.
Everyone made it into lodging at Uniontown YMCA in great time, all before lunch. After I put my bike away I was able to visit with Doug Nolt, my childhood pastor who moved to Pennsylvania about four years ago. It was great to see him and catch up for about an hour before lunch. Our lunch was sponsored by the King family whose son rode last year. We had Italian sausage, chicken fingers, veggie trays, fruit, and some phenomenal chocolate and vanilla cake. We all indulged a little too much, but were incredibly grateful for the awesome food.
After lunch the team showered up and got ready for our team activity. A cyclist from last year, Andy King, treated the entire team to whitewater rafting in Ohiopyle. For most of the team this was a first time experience. The 4-hour trip vent about 7 miles, and the team took many spills. One such instance was when the team approached “Dimple rock” (which is notorious for spilling rafts) and spilled my raft, send myself and my teammates into the rushing water. The teammates that spilled out were retrieved once they were carried through the rapids and to an area of calm water. Riding the rapids was the most exhilarating but also most terrifying experience of my life. Getting sucked under water, jutting into rocks, and tossed back and forth was incredibly fun and scary, but we all made it out safely with minor bumps and bruises.
The rafting ended with the team all in one piece and we then headed to our sponsored dinner. A local man named Tony hosted us at the K of C. He first heard about Journey of Hope 16 years ago in a television ad and he has been sponsoring the teams as they pass through Uniontown ever since. A woman named Patty helped Tony serve us. She made us delicious brownies and rice-krispies to accompany the meal of rigatoni, meatballs, salad, and bread and butter. The meal was phenomenal and it was awesome to hear about the local history from Tony and Patty that they have learned on walks they take every week. Making a connection with sponsors has made the trip much more enjoyable and educational.
To finish off the night the team headed back to the YMCA to get ready for bed. Only a few days left of riding until DC means the team needs as much rest as possible to make every ride count and give it our all.
Love & Honor,
Our last day off together.
Today we had a nice late wake up time of 7:30am. After eating breakfast with University of Pittsburgh Pi Kapps we headed back to our rooms and I took an hour long nap. Rough life.
For lunch we walked over to CLASS which stands for Community Living and Supports Services. We ate some local Pittsburgh delicacies and interacted with their clients. I sat with two gentlemen that do not have the ability to talk, but with the use of a special mechanism and eye scanners they are able to type out sentences to convey their thoughts. It was a neat way to interact with them. They loved having us at lunch today and I believe not one person left without a smile on their face.
After lunch we headed back to the hotel and swiftly headed to Dave and Andy's, a local ice cream restaurant. Thus we continued our tradition of trying out local ice cream shops. Following ice cream we headed back to the hotel and I took yet another nap. My body is pretty worn down after cycling about 3,500 miles so I am trying to get all of the rest that I can before the home stretch into DC.
For dinner we drove about a half hour to the Woodlands Foundation and ate dinner with their campers and our Build America brothers. I ate with a young lady name Julia who loves being around boys so today was her dream come true with 35 JOH guys and 20 BAM guys in attendance. Following dinner we all headed over to their rec hall and talked to them about perseverance. Many of our guys gave them personal examples of when they have had to persevere on this trip, and also opened it us to questions and stories from the audience. It was great for us to be able to connect our experiences on this trip to experiences that they have had in their lives and it brought us all together as a group.
We then headed back to Pittsburgh and I went with Kyle and Blake to film my scene for our team music video at a local Rite Aid. Stay tuned for that video in the upcoming week.
For my final blog post I am going to be answering and responding to feedback from my blog viewers so if you have any questions just leave them in the forum (under News)below!
Thanks for your continued support this summer!
Love & Honor,
We made it to Pennsylvania.
Today I rode with Jack from Tennessee and David from Iowa. We encountered some pretty crappy roads going through Youngstown and I got my first flat tire in probably 5 or 6 states after a staple punctured through the tire and popped the tube. I quickly changed it and we headed back on our way. We encountered some tough hills but we made it through. The last 15 to 20 miles of the trip were along the Ohio River from where it originates to Pittsburgh. We hung out along the river for a while and ate lunch before heading to our friendship visit.
At our friendship visit we worked with a rowing club that adapts their equipment to also serve people with disabilities. We were able to help them into the boats to row on the river as well as have some races on the erg machines which simulate rowing.
Following our visit we headed to our hotel, showered quickly, and headed to bowling. We bowled at a really awesome vintage alley. The lanes were all made of gorgeous wood, and it had an overall awesome atmosphere. I bowled a 104 my first game, and then after a slow start my second game came away with a 132! It was great to hang out with the guys, our sponsors, and just have a moment to make some more memories before the trip ends. We ate pizza and awesome salad for dinner. The salad is a secret recipe of the bowling alley owner's mother and it was delicious. It had ramen in it, and tasted like a well marinaded chicken. It's hard to describe but it was a pleasure to eat.
After bowling we headed back to our hotel to have free time the rest of the night. I hung out with David for the night in our room. We caught up on logistical stuff for the school year like ordering textbooks and making sure odds and ends are taken care of before we head back. It was very relaxing to stay in for a night and really have no worries.
Tomorrow is a day off in Pittsburgh before we get back on the bikes Tuesday!
Thank you for your continuese
Back into the hills!
Today I rode with Jeff from Colorado and Michael from TCU. We had a fun day pushing the pace on the bike and tackling the hills of eastern Ohio. We finished as the second pace line so we got to eat lunch early. For lunch we were treated to Dave's chicken, cole slaw and potato wedges. Ohio has certainly delivered on this trip!
Following lunch we had a friendship visit and dance with Fairhaven School. They serve people from infancy to age 22 with disabilities and help to socialize them into real world settings. It was a blast dancing for a couple hours, signing autographs, and conversing with those in attendance. It was really cool to learn about their lives and the adversities that they have overcome.
For dinner we headed to Olive Garden. The manager, Joe, had heard about JOH while in Vegas about 10 years ago when our South route was in Vegas the same time he was there. He researched it a little bit and figured out that the North team comes through Niles and has been hosting teams at his Olive Garden ever since. Sponsors like him are what make this trip possible. I also sat at a table with Linda, who organized the dance and she left tons of wisdom with us. Most importantly she reminded us to always to true to ourselves and we will always go far.
After dinner we headed to the mall to buy each other our gifts for our Secret Santa style gift exchange. We are supposed to buy each other gifts that represent each other and our experiences this summer, and spend less than $20. It was a lot of fun going around the mall to shop for my recipient and I am certainly excited to do they exchange.
Tomorrow takes us out of Ohio and into Pennsylvania. We are making the most of our days left and living it up. Our team does not like to discuss what month we are currently in, so today's date was actually July 34th.
Thanks for checking in!
I started the morning off bright and early by going to get coffee with our crew member, Jesus, before everyone else got out of bed.
To start the morning off we headed over to the Cleveland Clinic Children's Hospital for a breakfast, lunch, and a friendship visit. We spent the day touring the facility and hanging out with some of their clients. We spent time solving riddles with two young girls at school, talking to teenagers battling chronic pain, as well as patients receiving dialysis treatment. Everyone in the hospital had a smile on their face and were more than willing to talk to all of us, even though most were in tremendous pain for one reason or another. We are able to get off our bikes at the end of each day and the pain subsides but they are not able to shed their illnesses so easily. While we were at the Clinic we also received our mail. Once again, it was so awesome to receive mail from so many people who are thinking and praying for me on this trip. I received exciting news that one of my coworkers at the Prosecutor's Office gave birth earlier in July, congratulations Allyson on the birth of Jonah! After eating lunch the Kids on their Block made their encore finale show and it was one for the record books. All of the kids in attendance were super attentive and loved hearing from the puppets.
After the Clinic we were given a few hours of free time. I got a load of laundry done, my first in 2 weeks, as well as a much needed 2 hour nap in.
For dinner we headed to a local shop called Melt which specializes in grilled cheese sandwiches. I am not much of a cheese guy but I got a great BBQ burger, cole slaw and fries. Josh and Jesus attempted eating over 5 lbs of food, 3 of which is cheese, but both came up a little short. It did provide good entertainment for the night. Our chapter brothers Jake and Jameson who rode JOH last year as well as Jake's girlfriend Jen also joined us at dinner. It was awesome to catch up with them and compare JOH stories. They will also be joining us for breakfast tomorrow.
Following dinner we headed back to lodging and ran last minute errands. It was nice having a day off, but I am ready to get back on the bike