Thank You !

I just wanted to add a quick note to thank everyone for their messages and comments. Your words are fueling me everyday as I work my way across this great country. I take nothing for granted; I know how fortunate I am. I count on you not only for my charities but to be with me in spirit everyday of this ride. I look forward to the days ahead and hope you are all doing well.

Update: REY DID IT! Friday, July 25, at 12:42 p.m., Rey arrived at Little Island Park in Virginia Beach, Va., completing his 3,700 mile journey. He was greeted by friends, co-workers and a group of more than 20 children from three local Boys & Girls Clubs, who thanked him for his fundraising. Congratulations to Rey for an incredible ride!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Final Thoughts and Thank You's — As I sit here at home thinking about the trip and all the memories that go along with it, I have to to thank and acknowledge all the people that made this trip possible.

To the kids at the local Boys and Girls Club in Virginia Beach, they all turned out on the last day to cheer me on. I really appreciate them for making the welcome signs and waiting so long for me to show up.

Ric Edelman was a major reason that this trip was planned at all. Yes, it is all his fault as we routinely like to say at the firm. If it wasn't for his efforts to get a lifetime goal out of me and many others for his book Discover the Wealth Within You, I probably would not have followed through with this long-term goal. I believe it is true that when you put a goal in writing and time stamp that goal, then odds are you have a much better chance of achieving it.

My training partner for years, Edelman Financial Services Director, Financial Planning Pat Day has seen me through on a daily basis the 6:30 a.m. workouts and spinning requirements that I had to accomplish. Pat has quietly worked very hard with me for the last 9 months to make sure I stayed on track for the physical requirements that I would need for the miles I would have to reach each day.

My bike coach from Carmichael Training Systems, Fiona Lockhart, has been prescribing for the last 9 months a step-by-step weekly training schedule. Fiona made sure that I was following a training program geared not only to ride the required daily miles, but to do it at a fast pace so I could spend more time with my family. She was also there to keep my head straight as I was working my way through the schedule over the winter.

The Communications Department at Edelman Financial Services: Will Casserly, Mark Bagley, Kelly Pike, Rick Fowler, Jessica Stasiw and Suzie Fenton. You are the reason the blog looked so good and updated on a regular basis with the pictures, etc. Thanks to Mark and his family who worked extra hard with coordinating the last day's events. They planned it all to perfection. Also to Rick Fowler for getting with me weekly for radio updates in mostly difficult cell phone conditions.

Drivers Joe Roy, Mark Wilson, John Davis and his helper Katherine Davis. You all were there to keep the RV moving forward over roads that were narrow and windy and in some cases very rough. You allowed Joan to handle all the other items that had to be done every day while rolling down the road.

My riding partner, Edelman Financial Services Senior Financial Planning Advisor Anderson Wozny, who came down to southern Virginia for 2 days and escorted me into Virginia Beach while at the same time setting his own personal one-day mileage record.

Director, Financial Planning James Baker who took 2 days off to drive Anderson and Pat to southern Virginia to meet me on the route. Also for providing support the next morning to all of us on the raod

To my iPod guru, Edelman Financial Services Director, Financial Planning Jan Kowal, who kept me entertained with his choice of artists and songs. Thanks to him, thousands of songs were delivered to this small gadget, although I couldn't listen to them all.

To my daughter Megan for sticking it out with us these past weeks. At age 14 she is glued to her friends and this separation was a strain on her, but she was gracious throughout and put her needs aside for a while to help us make this happen.

To all those who have contributed to our charities, I am humbled by your response and generosity. Your comments and emails have given me the strength to get up every morning and pound out the required 100 miles plus per day. Without your contributions this would have been just another cross country ride, but now we can say together that we have accomplished something pretty cool.

Finally, I dedicate this entire ride to my wife Joan. Joan has worked so hard to get things done on a daily basis so all those involved on the road had what they needed when they needed it: reservations at hotels, RV parks, food, drinks, gas, laundry, cooking, cleaning, directions for the RV etc., etc., etc. Whatever I have asked of Joan in the past and present she has never hesitated to jump in and be my partner, so it is with great love and admiration that I dedicate this ride to her. It is with her spirit and energy that we were able to accomplish so much in such little time. Joan has never asked of anything for herself on this trip and has done so much for others time and time again. I love you very much, and I could not have accomplished a thread of what was needed without you by my side.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Big Finish

Just because you weren't in Virginia Beach when Rey completed his ride doesn't mean you can't see the excitement for yourself. Check out these photos from the finish line.

You can also read this Virginian-Pilot article.

July 25th — Franklin, VA to Virginia Beach, VA — 72 miles As we departed today, we had more than a few unknowns about our route. For instance, what would be the conditions of the highways we had to ride? To get into Virginia Beach, we had to take highways that would not exactly be the preferred choice for most bicyclists. In fact, very far from it.

There are few choices going west to east in this area, so it was necessary for us to gut it out for a few hours to get to the location we were hoping for in Sandbridge, VA. To get there we had to ride a a few highways with shoulders peppered with nails, glass, rocks and whatever else. Consequently we each had flat tire for a total of three in just a few hours. The flats slowed down our ride time but added a little bit more excitement to the day.

I tried to think about the trip in total as we entered the beach area. I was asked many times what kind of thoughts you might have knowing what you are about to accomplish, and for me, I guess the answer is many emotions. I had a flood of memories of the toughest moments as well as the most rewarding. As I was riding down the beach, my riding buddies suddenly stopped and let me go ahead to enjoy the moment. While I was looking at the Atlantic Ocean to my left, I had so many thoughts going through my head it was hard to think. Finally, I reached the point at the beach where my wife, daughter, parents, co-workers and about 20 kids from the local Boys and Girls Club were ready to greet me.

Well I made it! Then I had to finish the trip with the traditional dunking of the front wheel into the Atlantic. Once I reached the water, a feeling of satisfaction, accomplishment and euphoria flooded in. I had made a promise to myself before I began this trip that once I reached the Atlantic I would throw my bike into the ocean. When I finished, some co-workers reminded me of that. So not to disappoint anyone and to make good on the promise to myself, I flung my bike into the ocean and watched it sink....Ahh! I sort panicked knowing how expensive bikes are and quickly plucked it out of the ocean. 4.5 hours on the bike today.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

July 24th — South Boston, VA to Franklin, VA — 120 miles Very exciting day today! Not only did I have my buds with me from Edelman Financial, but both of them were about to break their own personal one-day riding records. Also, James Baker (we call him JB) wanted to lend a hand by giving my wife the morning off and supporting us for the first 60 miles of the trip. So, all in all, I loved the company, the extra support from JB and the personal records my companion riders set today.

The terrain was much flatter today as we had some rolling hills to work through to get down to 250 ft. in elevation. Both Pat and Anderson put in some great times today, and they marked new one-day mileage records with room to spare. Tomorrow is the big day. I'm not sure how I will feel when we see the coast for the first time. Guess we will have to wait and see. 6.5 hrs on the bike today.
July 23rd — Hillsville, VA to South Boston, VA — 124 miles Today we are making a final push out of the hills at 3,000 ft. and into the lower elevations. This flatter terrain will put us a few hundred miles from the coast. This evening we will be met by a few athletes from Edelman Financial: Financial Advisors Patrick Day and Anderson Wozny. To get them down to South Boston, Financial Advisor James Baker donated his time to drive Pat and Anderson so they could join me for the last 2 days of the ride. Pat and Anderson are experienced cyclists, and both are triathletes as well. Basically they will make the ride tomorrow much easier, and I can really use the company about now. I appreciate them taking the time to see me through to the final destination. 8 hours on the bike today.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

July 22nd — Rosedale, VA to Hillsville, VA — 122 miles When Joan and I talked about the route today, we knew that we had a lot of climbing ahead of us for the first 50 miles to finish getting over the Appalachian Mountains. What we didn't realize was how narrow the roads would be, and since Joan had to drive a 30-ft. RV it was really interesting as the morning progressed.

As I was making the first ascent over the mountains, I realized that the road was getting very narrow and eventually deteriorated to one lane. The route was paved but with no guard rails and a drop-off of a few hundred feet to the right. I was worrying a bit about Joan and the RV ahead of me. It turns out that at one point Joan had to make a tricky move to let opposing traffic get up the mountain as she was descending the other side. The grades were very steep (around 10%), and we didn't end our climb until we logged 55 miles and were finally over the range.

The second half of the day was rolling hills that became more level as we increased the distance from the mountains. We eventually arrived at Hillsville around 4:45 p.m. with one long day but feeling good about the fact we are 3 days away from the coast. 9 hours on the bike today.

Monday, July 21, 2008

July 21st — Pippa Passes , KY to Rosedale, VA — 101 Miles We met the VA border around 11:30 a.m. Yeah! We still have a long way to go: around 420 miles left with 4 days to cover them. Today the grades on the climbs were very severe, averaging over 8% to 15% in some spots, which will give any rider fits in getting over the top of them. It feels great to be in my home state, of course, and I feel like we have accomplished so much getting to this point in the trip. We need to stay focused for the next 3 days, and I should have some buddies joining me in a few days to make the last 2 days more enjoyable.

Tomorrow will be more climbing as we reach 3,000 ft. I look forward to the end of the mountains and the beginning of flatter terrain and lower elevations as we get closer to the ocean. The scenery here is awesome with the mountains getting much larger and elevations reaching 5,000 ft. I'm seeing mountain goats in the lush green mountain pastures with larger mountain summits in the backround. It's beautiful country in southwest Virginia. 8 hours on the bike today.

July 20th — Booneville, KY to Pippa Passes, KY — 71 miles Eastern Kentucky roads are narrow, and the truck traffic is increasing. It is increasingly tough to navigate these roads as we have a large number of rights and lefts getting to the VA border, which is distracting to riding. The Appalachian Mountains are small in size here but steep. The grades are becoming more severe, and the climbs are getting longer. I can feel that VA border now as we are about 60 miles away. I am more aware of staying focused on the road in front of me, especially with all this truck traffic. 5 hours on the bike today.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

July 19th — Burgin, KY to Booneville, KY — 97 miles Goodbye to the Davis support crew: John from Edelman Financial Services and his 11-year-old daughter Katherine. Our latest SAG (stands for Support and Gear) crew members had to leave today, so we drove them to the airport in Louisville. John and Katherine were with us for 3 days but added much needed support for the entire time they were here with us. Thanks so much, John and Katherine, for joining us and for your help.

It was another hot day in the mid 90s with high humidity. The hills are getting into higher elevations and the grades are getting more severe now that we are at the foothills of the Appalachian mountains. My speed is taking a hit so the days will get a little bit longer to get in the 100 miles for the day. The is the second to last day in Kentucky and the excitement is building as we get closer to the Virginia border. 7 hours on the bike today.

July 18th — Sonora, KY to Burgin, KY — 101 miles Today the big heat returned to the mid 90s, and the humidity is in full swing. The hills in central Kentucky are rolling, but the grades are not that bad. Nothing is flat here so it is a constant up and down all day through rural neighborhoods with large fields. This morning I rode by Abraham Lincoln's birthplace in Hodgenville, KY. What was once believed to be the original cabin President Lincoln was born in was put inside a memorial building. Only years later was it found out that the cabin on display was not the original cabin but a replica that was built in the 1840s (much later than Lincoln's birth in 1809). We also rode by his boyhood home about 10 miles down the road. It was a small cabin just like the one he was born in. It was a good day today: sunny, no clouds and light winds. 7 hours on the bike today.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

July 17th — Utica, KY to Sonora, KY — 92 miles It was a pretty routine day. The rolling hills weren't very steep or challenging so we finished early around 2:30 p.m., but since we crossed into the Eastern time zone, we lost an hour. The surroundings in west-central Kentucky are corn and soy fields built into rural residential areas. We saw a wild turkey cross a street, a sight that is rare, at least for me. The rest days are over for this trip, and the next 3 days we will be logging around 100 miles per day as we get closer to the Virginia border. Two riders from Edelman Financial Services are going to join us in Virginia and ride the last 3 days with us to the coast.

I'm looking forward to getting into the last week as we have 8 riding days left. I am trying to stay focused, but mentally it is getting harder. Maybe when we get into Virginia that adrenaline will kick in again as the body and mind is getting a bit worn down. 6.5 hours on the bike today.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

July 16th — Rest Day in Utica, KY — We pick up new members of our support team: John Davis from Edelman Financial Services and his daughter Katherine.
July 15th — Elizabethtown, IL to Utica, KY — 86 miles Our time in Illinois is short lived, and we set our sites on the border of Kentucky. It feels sort of strange in a good way that we are about to cross into a state that borders Virginia. Just 5 miles into our day we had to stop because we ran out of road as we needed to cross the Ohio River. We have to take the "Cave In Rock Ferry" across the river as there is no bridge in this area. I have some pictures of the ferry, and we will send them in. The gentleman that works the gates and ties the ferry to the shore is what I call the "chain master." He is very skilled with the chains as he ties off the ferry without wrapping the chain around the anchors by hand. It is very interesting to watch as he tosses the chain around the anchor like a fly fisherman who tosses his line into a stream. With a deliberate stroke the chain wraps itself around the left and then right side of the anchor over and over again without the chain master ever touching the anchor with his hands.

Kentucky has much of the same landscape as Virginia, with rolling hills and terrain. But the grades are not that bad and are short in length. We will be in Kentucky for 4 days, and I hope the weather holds up for us as the humidity is picking up as well. 7 hours on the bike today.

Photos from Days 27-29

We say goodbye to Mark!

The chain master at work on the Cave in Rock Ferry

At the Kentucky border

On route in Kentucky

Beautiful Kentucky
July 14th — Chester, IL to Elizabethtown, IL — 133 miles We are working our way towards the Ohio River today, and there's more rolling terrain to pass through to get there. Southern Illinois is very green with small farms and corn fields throughout. The terrain isn't difficult. It just slows your speed with hills every mile. But they are easily ascended, and there's a nice, small descent to counter the short climbs. Temperatures have been in the high 80s, and the humidity is low. Basically, the past few days have been the best weather you can think of for biking.

We were looking to overnight at a campground called Tower Rock on the banks of the Ohio River. To our amazement it was closed. This is a state campground and it was closed, very strange. On our way to the campground I noticed a sign, "Cedar Hill River Resort", so we checked it out . To our great surprise we found an awesome property on the banks of the Ohio River. I have never seen this type of scenery on a river: the Ohio River is enormous and amazing to see. The property was as nice a resort as any I have been to: green grass to the river banks and trees to give you plenty of shade. The nicest people live there. I met a few neighbors next to the resort, and they are some of the friendliest people you will ever meet. The resort actually rents out cabins, pristine knotty pine cabins with hot tubs. Not what we expected at the end of our day. Owner Mike Tipsord was warm and friendly and made sure we were comfortable and that our needs were met. If you ever get to the Elizabethtown area near Cave in Rock, you should check out this resort. Mike, if you are reading this, thanks for great time and a wonderful place to stay. Too bad it was only for one night.

I haven't mentioned an interesting nuisance I have been encountering the last week: dogs, dogs and more dogs. I have been chased by about a dozen or so in the last week from eastern Missouri into Illinois, especially since the fields have become smaller and homes are closer to the streets. Out in the country dogs roam free, and I have seen dogs that looked like they were on their own and running wild. Most dogs start off with the intention of chasing me down; they get to a full run and either don't have the energy or hit their territory line and just quit. Fortunately for those dogs who do have the will to take it to the end, I have been in a fortunate situation where I can accelerate and get away, look back and laugh at them. On one occasion however, I was going up a hill and heard the bark. I said to myself, "Well this is it, he's got me," only to look back and see the dog pull up and turn around. What a bogus chase! Come on, man, finish the job! Fortunately for me, no dog has caught me yet. I am very alert, and will be ready for the next Cujo. Hey, lets face it: If a dog has it in his DNA to get me, then he will. Lucky for me, most don't know that. 9 hours on the bike today.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Route Map

One of the comments here on the blog asked if we could add map of the route. Click on the image below to enlarge the map and see the stops along the route. Rest days are marked in orange.

Monday, July 14, 2008

July 13th — Rest Day in St Louis — We say goodbye to our brother Mark Wilson We drove 60 miles or so north of Chester, IL, and crossed back over the Mississippi to get into St Louis. We had two tasks. One was to get Joan some beauty time at the nearest mall outside of the airport. The second was to drop Mark off to catch a flight back home to Massachusetts. We will see Mark off with great sadness as Markie (that's his nickname) was a great source of laughter the entire two weeks he spent with us. Mark is Joan's little brother, and when we asked him to drive the RV for two weeks he jumped at the chance, never hesitating to help his sister out when she needed him most. Mark had never been to Colorado, Kansas or Missouri so he now knows all three states intimately. Mark, Joan and I want to thank you again for all that you have done for us for these past few weeks: you kept it light and fun while driving the RV, which you handled with great skill. You’re a killer! (inside joke) I can't think of anyone I would rather have with my family keeping them safe while I am biking out there. We love you, man!

Also, a big thank you to the staff at A. G. Miller Co., Inc. from Springfield, MA, which covered for Mark while he was out and a special thanks to the owner, Rick Miller, for being so supportive of our efforts. I can't thank you enough for allowing Mark to be with us so long.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

July 12th — Eminence, MO to Chester, IL — 128 miles It seems hard to believe, but today we should be out of Missouri and into Illinois by the end of the day. The maps I have for this route do not say much about elevation or climbing, but I know from last night there are some serious grades here. I don't have anything to tell me what to expect, but my intuition tells me I have some work to do to get out of the Ozarks.

I was right, of course, but what I didn't know was that the grades were more severe and numerous than I could have imagined. The Ozarks by mountain standards are small (only around 1,500 ft. for the top elevation on our route), but let me tell you: They pack a punch that will put you down if you don't have the strength to climb serious grades. I lost count of the number of times I had to ascend 15% grades. They were short, mind you, but they were endless.

Up, down. Up, down. If you could see the road in front of you for a half mile, you might see 4 hills in front of you. I have never seen hills in these numbers, just amazing. It’s good interval training, though, and I kind of enjoyed it at first. But by the end of the day it was becoming ridiculous. I finally pushed away from the constant ups and downs around 4 p.m. and ended up in a huge valley just west of the Mississippi river. This is when the sky opened up and sheets of water began to fall from a thunder storm for a few hours. The rain felt great, and we pushed for the Chester Bridge and crossed the Mississippi into Illinois. At the border we noticed statues and pictures of "Popeye the Sailor Man." I love Popeye! The creator of Popeye, Elzie Segar, was born and raised in Chester. The town erected a 6-ft., 900-lb. statue of Popeye along with a board explaining the cartoon’s history in a park named after Elzie on the banks of the Mississippi. It’s the best border crossing of the entire trip thus far. Just over 10 hours on the bike today.

Photos from Days 25-26

Day 25, Friday, July 11, the rolling hills of Missouri

Day 26, Saturday, July 12 at the Illinois border in the pouring rain!

Day 26, Saturday, July 12 in Chester, IL, the home of Popeye

Day 26, Saturday, July 12, the Popeye Statue in Chester, IL

Day 26, Saturday, July 12, the (receding) Mississippi River

July 11th — Willard, MO to Eminence, MO — 142 miles We departed early this morning with one goal in mind: to make Eminence (which would put us one day ahead of schedule so we could build an extra rest day in St Louis). We have been adding on about 25 to 30 miles for the last 3 days to have a chance at this. We are pushing through wonderful scenery of small rural residential communities with horses or cows grazing in the front or back yards of these homes. There are rolls of hay in the green fields and rolling hills in the background. It seems like this is a beautiful place to live if you like the country, but services are few and far between.

The secondary roads in Missouri are narrow with very little or no shoulder so I am being extra careful of vehicles and making sure I am not getting in the motorists’ way, although in some spots it is rather impossible. I have been taught and read that it is wiser to take more road so that you are in better view of the motorists, and they pass you with more care. I do believe in that theory and have been testing it out a little to see what motorists do, and I can tell you that the more you stay to the right the more they will pass you with higher speeds and get closer to you at the same time. But if I take another foot of road to the left, vehicles will slow down and take more care in passing you. Sometimes this theory doesn't work though and you may put yourself in more danger by applying this technique in the wrong areas. Either way, I try to feel out a road and make my decisions hour by hour depending on the terrain of the road, volume of traffic and just the feel of how vehicles are treating me.

At the end of this ride, about 5 miles before Eminence, I was greeted by a 12+% grade climb, not a fun thing to do when you have 135 miles under your belt. I made it up fine but was pretty much spent for the day. I think we have arrived in the Ozark mountains :). Just over 10 hours on the bike today.