Day 7: Picayune, MS to New Orleans, LA

It is with a glad heart and a slew of new friends, that I rolled back in to New Orleans today with my buddies from Pablove Across America 2011. We consumed over 600 miles of sweet American blacktop (and quite a few dirt roads) and over 16K vertical feet. We had no major accidents, very few mechanical issues and managed to raise almost $300K for the Pablove Foundation.

Today’s ride saw us traveling through the back roads of southern Mississippi, getting an escort through the Stennis Space Center, sprinting into Louisiana across the Rigolets bridge and welcoming two guest riders into our group for the final promenade into the French Quarter and Children’s Hospital. It was truly an honor to follow Jeff Castelaz, John Bennett and Adam Weber into New Orleans. I was pretty overwhelmed at the site of my beautiful wife and daughter greeting me at the finish line. (Unfortunately, my little boy had to stay in school because our arrival fell right in the middle of nap time at his school).

Friday night, we hosted a party at the WaaM House for all the riders and their families. We served up some homemade sausage and chicken gumbo as well as some other local treats, and washed it down with Sazaracs and a keg of NOLA Brewing Company’s Hopitoulas.

I’m wishing all the riders and crew safe travels back home and can’t wait to see you back on the road for Pablove Across America 2012!

Most especially, I’d like to thank you all for your support and encouragement before and during the ride. I was pushed to my physical limit over the last week, but my mind was always on those for whom we were pushing the pedals around – those young children and families for whom the Pablove Foundation is giving its all.

Day 6: Laurel to Picayune, MS

This is our next to last day on the road for Pablove Across America 2011. Today we logged about 95 miles between Laurel and Picayune, MS. The day was pretty much solid rollers and some semblance of a head wind. No dirt or gravel today, much to my own personal disappointment. I’ve been absolutely thrilled rolling through the most remote parts of the country. A few days back, I saw a church sign that said, “There are not short cuts to any place that’s worth going.” For me, that’s pretty much been my experience this last week.

Tonight’s wrap up video is pretty much a full on shout out to the awesomeness of the folks at HERO and BikeLab in Greensboro, AL who donated the amazing bike I’ve been riding this week. Even though it’s weight is probably twice that of the bikes the other riders have been pushing along, I’m happy to say that it has been a durable, comfortable and thrilling machine to ride. We’ve been lucky enough to have Pro Tour mechanic, Chad Contreras of SRAM’s Neutral Race Support with us and he has tuned this thing into perfection.

Day 5: Meridian to Laurel, MS

Day 5 of Pablove Across America served up just about everything a cyclist could hope for – beautiful scenery, dirt roads, rolling hills, a 2 man time trial and a finish into town that was so fast it blew the group to bits! Sitting here in bed after a long day in the saddle, I can honestly say it was a rocking good time. But when you’re out on the road, laying down 30 mph, with your heart jumping out of your throat, well, it certainly feels less than fun!

Looking forward to another 100+ miles in the saddle tomorrow!

Day 4: Columbus to Meridian, MS

Yesterday we closed out the night with dinner and with a very humbling and inspiring conversation about why each of us has chosen to get involved with this ride. Basically it was 18 dudes pouring their hearts out, shedding tears and offering words of support and encouragement. Emotionally draining evening after a physically exhausting day.

The word “epic” has been tossed around a lot the last few days, but today really lived up to it. The group rode 115 miles (almost 8 hours in the saddle!) through windswept fields of cotton, over several miles of dirt and gravel roads, through some beautiful forests and over 3000 ft of vertical gain. Best day I’ve spent on a bike – like ever.

Day 3: Russellville, AL to Columbus, MS

Wrapping up another brilliant day with Pablove 2011. The morning in Alabama started out foggy and quite cool. Very much like what I would imagine riding fall classics in Europe would be like. Today was our longest day yet at 100 miles and around 3000 feet of total climbing.

Every one of those miles ridden and feet climbed was in honor of my mom today. She was diagnosed with breast cancer back in the summer 2000 and after surgery and a very aggressive regimen of chemotherapy and radiation treatment, I’m so happy that she is still with us. Today is her birthday, and I just wanted to say happy birthday and I love you, mom. You are an inspiration to our family and I am so thankful for your life.

Tomorrow brings another 100 miles to my woefully undertrained legs. So night night for now!

Day 2: Laurenceburg, TN to Russellville, AL

Wow, what a day. Although technically today was shorter, we still had a fair amount of climbing as we rolled out of Tennessee and into Alabama. I can’t express enough how beautiful some of these roads are we’re riding down. Definitely a testament to the wisdom behind getting off the beaten path.

Highlight of the day was stopping to film our afternoon dedication at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio. I’ll let you read the Wikipedia entry to get all the details, but suffice it to say, some of the most important sound recordings in history came out of this studio. Seriously heavy stuff. My musician dorkiness was goin’ off big time.

Day 1: Nashville to Laurenceburg, TN

Got through Day 1 of Week 3 without any major problems. We did about 88 miles from Nashville to Laurenceburg, TN. Total climbing of around 3800 ft. Now, I haven’t ridden anywhere near these distances of certainly climbed ANYTHING in a long long time. But the challenge is one I’m ready to grapple with.

The rest of the guys are all very cool. Some offering tips on how best to ride in a group. Others making adjustments to my position on the bike. Others just trying to offer me giant glasses of wine immediately following the ride (yikes).

Here we go!

Well, after months of build up and anticipation, we’re gonna pack up the kids and the bikes tomorrow morning and head up to Nashville to join the Pablove Across America peloton for the final 530 mile leg into New Orleans!

Honestly, I’m giddy with excitement. The Icehouse is getting geared up for the Donor Appreciation Party tonite, I’ve got my legs all shaved up, and my kids are looking forward to missing school for a few days on our family road trip!

Extra special giant thanks to HERO and Bike Lab in Greensboro, AL for the donation of the amazing bamboo bike I’ll be riding over the next week. I’m going to have a complete post on this in the next day or so, because it’s just that awesome.

I’m continuing my fundraising push all the way into New Orleans, so if you have the time and the means, please drop by my donation page and help out with whatever you can manage.

Here’s the route details:

  • October 20th (Thursday) · Nashville, TN Team rests while week two riders depart and celebrates with a Nashville Benefit Concert

WEEK THREE – 526 Total Miles

Map
  • October 21st (Friday) · Nashville, TN Team rests while week three riders arrive and visit Monroe Carell Jr Children’s Hospital
  • October 22nd (Saturday) · Nashville, TN Team leaves Nashville for Lawrenceburg, TN [79 miles]
  • October 23rd (Sunday) · Lawrenceburg, TN Team leaves Lawrenceburg for Russellville [62 miles]
  • October 24th (Monday) · Russellville, AL Team leaves Russellville for Columbus [95 miles]
  • October 25th (Tuesday) · Columbus, MS Team leaves Columbus for Meridian [92 miles]
  • October 26th (Wednesday) · Meridian, MS Team leaves Meridian for Laurel [58 miles]
  • October 27th (Thursday) · Laurel, MS Team leaves Laurel for Picayune [92 miles]
  • October 28th (Friday) · Picayune, MS Team leaves Picayune for New Orleans [48 miles]
If you’re in New Orleans, please feel free to come out and welcome us home on Friday. We’ll be rolling into Children’s Hospital, and I’ll post more details as I get them figured out.
Thanks for your support, and I’ll see you soon!

Why?

So, a lot of folks having been asking me why I’m doing what I’m doing. Why Pablove? Why cycling? Why cancer? I thought I’d just take a moment to really lay out why I’ve decided to lend my time and energy to this amazing cause.

When I was in high school, my grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer. This was really the first time someone I was really close to was sick beyond my comprehension. She and my grandfather lived about 5 hours away from us, so we weren’t really close in terms of proximity during her illness. And much to my regret, in the end, the last time I saw her was at the funeral home. No chance to say goodbye, or I love you, or how much I appreciated everything she had done and taught me. She passed away after a long and valiant battle, and I remember being left with memories of summers spent as a child in her sweet and tender care. I recall a dream I once had when I was going through a particularly tough time in my life when she appeared at the end of a jet way in an airport and as I passed her on my way off the plane, she looked at me and smiled and said, “Don’t worry, honey, everything is going to be just fine.” I woke up from that dream crying, just wishing I could see her and give her a hug and say thank you one more time.

It was during junior high, high school and college that I was an active and competitive bike racer. During the long and grueling hours on the road I recall having a silent mantra that I would constantly repeat to myself. It was basically, “This ain’t nothing.” Thinking that no matter how bad I was suffering on the bike, it was nothing compared to the pain and suffering and loneliness she must have felt battling against her cancer. She was and still is a constant inspiration to me. So this ride is for my Memaw.

Then there is my mother – my step-mom if you want to get really technical, but to me she’s always been my mother, no matter how much shit I gave her as a teen and young adult. In the summer of 2000 I was living away from my family in New York City. I got a call from my dad and he could barely keep himself together on the phone. My dad’s a crier – I think I inherited that trait from him. Mom had been diagnosed with breast cancer and was looking at a double mastectomy and several months of chemo and radiation treatment. As he choked up in my ear telling me the news all I could do was make a bee line for St. Patrick’s Cathedral where I sat for hours staring at the cross at the far end of the sanctuary and begging for mercy on my mom and dad.

It’s now 2011, and my mom is cancer free. I think there’s some medical milestone around 5 years of being disease free that’s pretty significant. She’s blown through that. And I am eternally grateful. I’m so inspired by the love and commitment and persistence that my mom and dad have shown over the years. So this ride is for my mom and for my dad. You’ve given me a lot to live up to. I hope I can continue to make you guys proud.

Then my kids. My sweet beautiful children. Abigail turns 10 next month, and Arlo is 3 1/2. My love for them grows every single second that I am in their presence. Their curiosity, creativity, wonder and unabashed love of life is something that provides constant inspiration and joy. I only hope I can be a good example and an inspiration to you guys as you grow into young adults and someday have families of your own. This ride is for you, Abby and Arlo. Daddy loves you more that you will ever know.

And finally, this ride is for Pablo, and kids like Pablo all around the world. I never knew you, little dude – in fact, I’m going to be meeting your dad for the first time in Nashville – but you must have been a truly amazing little person, because your mom and dad have put together something truly special. In the marketing world, we’d call it a “grassroots movement”. But know that they are in good company. Great change always begins with a very dedicated and passionate few. For Pablo Thrailkill Castelaz, and all of the other kids around the world who would rather be out riding their bikes than sitting in a hospital dealing with the totally sucky experience of pediatric cancer treatment, my ride is for you.

This ain’t nothin’.