Sunday, September 16, 2012

EPILOGUE

A few weeks ago, one of the greatest adventures of my life came to a close.  I am proud that I have created something that people I have never met wanted to read; I am proud that I have raised almost three times as much as my original target and that I have carried forward a great cause. I think that if all the money spent on wars were given to cancer research finding a cure to cancer would not be talked about as an unrealistic dream but it would seem an attainable goal in the near future. It is a naif thought but it is true nonetheless. I hope that governments and people in general will devote more attention to cancer research and will invest more resources on efforts to funding a cure. I know that I will.
My bicycle ride might be over but my fight continues. The spirit with which I took on the wind and the mountains of America is an inextinguishable flame. It carries on within. And with it I will fight my cancer. I could have spent the past 5 months sulking, brooding, damning life but I decided not to. It would be a losing battle. This is the card I have been dealt, it is a shitty deal but I accept it. Maybe this is my plan; it is my call, as religious people would describe it. And so I set out on a journey of body and mind. And if along the way I have inspired people...I am happy. I am convinced that no matter how desperate things are, your mind and your heart shape your approach to life. My cookie fortune message is this: your life is yours, until the very end. You control it. And try to love it all.
This journey was tougher than expected and if you have been kind enough to read my blog you have gotten only a glimpse of how tough it was out there. 100-mile days in the wind, in the cold, through the rain, with the trucks and the traffic and the fear of being sick it often felt like a punishment but it was never eclipsed by the joy of receiving messages of support from friends, acquaintances and complete strangers that wanted to support me, share their struggles and thank me for what I did. It is because of your vicarious participation in this journey that I made it to Vancouver. It is thanks to your love that I have reached the Pacific coast. Had I been alone, I would have quit along the way.
The complete solitude of cycling hundreds of miles in the open land of North America made me stronger.  Despite the pain and the struggle, I was happy. And I loved every minute of it. Well...almost! When I look at my face in the mirror and I turn my head slightly to the right I can still see the patch of skin on the top of my forehead that showed through the gaps of the helmet and that has been darkened by the sun light. I look at my hands and see the ridiculous tan line of the gloves that seems to cut my fingers in two. The line above the knees is still abundantly clear and so is the tan line on my forearms. When I walk to work I spot reminders of my trip all the time. Every time I see a cyclist I check out the bike and the gear and compare it to mine. When I feel the wind graze my skin I chuckle and revel in the thought that it could never be as strong as it was on an open road in Montana or Minnesota. When I wait at a red light I look up and gaze the deep blue of the sky and imagine myself cycling under the skies of the vast grasslands in North Dakota. Wherever I am I close my eyes and I see the endless lines of the horizon that frustrated me so much out there but taught me much more. The things we love never go away.
It is true that from now on my life will be from blood test to blood test, hospital visits to doctor’s emails and anxious waits in between. I cannot change that. But it is up to me to choose whether I want to be devoured by the anxiety or to just live my life and enjoy the ride, be it 1 month or twenty years. The sense of expectation with which I began each cycling day of my bike ride will be the same with which I will take on the next mountains.



 
 
 






















 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

STATISTICS (AND VANCOUVER)

Total days on the road: 35

Money raised: US $25.000

Amount of money raised (average per day): US $714

Days cycling: 32

Days rest: 3

Total mileage: 3347

Average miles per day: 105.6

Highest elevation: 6646 ft (Logan Pass)

Coldest temperature: 44F St. Mary, Mt

Warmest temperature: 101F Washington DC

Flat tires: 5

Tires used: 4 (3 back tires and one front tire)

Days with rain: 7

Storms: 2 (Medora, ND - Beach, ND)

Days with a headwind: 11

Days with a tailwind: 1

Earliest start: 6:40 am (Glacier National Park, Mt)

Latest finish: 10:40 pm (Pittsburgh, Pa)

Fastest speed: 39.2 mph (North Cascades)

Longest day: 155 miles (Day 3)

Shortest day: 25 miles (Day 21)

Toughest day: Day 17 and Day 32

Sunscreen tubes used: 2 and 1/2

Pictures taken: 1521


Cheapest motel: 30 $ (Napoleon, ND)

Priciest hotel: 209 $ (Vancouver, BC)


Worst road for traffic : Highway 2 in some parts of North Dakota and Montana for the trucks

Best ride: Too many! (definitely North Cascades, Glacier National Park, Lake Koocanusa, Great Allegheny Passage, Grasslands North Dakota)

Most peaceful road: Montana, highway 37; North Dakota, highway 46, Minnesota and Wisconsin country roads

Biggest dinner: 2 double cheeseburgers, 2 large fries with mayonnaise, one large coke, 4 buns with 375g of nutella and 1 liter of milk

State where I spent most days: Montana 7 days

Least days: Idaho, 1

Biggest City: Chicago, pop: 2.7 million

Smallest City: Siler, VA, pop: unknown



The Centro Italiano di Cultura prepares a lovely welcome for me 



Vancouver 



















 Vancouver sky
 


 And another one
 
 





 and one more!



The sun is going down, almost time to fly back home.. 



And the bicycle is all ready and packed
 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

DAY 35: VANCOUVER!!!

Concrete, Wa - Vancouver, BC (Canada)

136 miles - Total: 3347 miles

On the 35th day of the my bike ride, two days ahead of schedule, with a last day of 130+ miles and a border crossing, I complete my fund raising bicycle ride across the United States.

Another sleepless night. The rough bed linen, the bleach smell of the room, the last night before the exam feeling, I don't know what disturbs my sleep but I am not feeling too jaunty when I wake up. The weather is cold and wet. The road, a few feet from the motel, is wet and slippery. Forget about Vancouver, I say to myself, just ride a little and try not to get soaked. I have a banana for breakfast and I cannot be bothered to eat anything else. Fog hangs over the hills above the motel and out over the surface of the road, and the wind blows just enough to send me shivering the moment I crawl out of the motel. Again I wear everything I have. I ride 300 yards and I stop by the store near the gas station to grab water. There are few cars on the road. It feels like it is just me in this Godforsaken hamlet at the foothills of the mountains in Washington. The rain stops so I start riding just to see how far I can go before it starts raining again more than anything else. The fog floats slowly over the tops of the trees as I wind along a flat road. It's cold and wet and I think about grabbing my rain jacket, but a moment later the dark clouds float East and I know I will be safe from the rain. For how long? Is this a signal? I have done about 20 miles when I reach Seedro-Wooley and it is time to go North toward Canada. So I turn right on highway 9 which will take me all the way to the border. It is a bit of a gamble because the ACA route does not go this way. I am improvising once again. On google map last night it seemed like a good option. I don't know this road, shoulder no shoulder, traffic, steep inclines, distances. Not too sure. Doesn't matter any more. Looking North the sky looks ominous and I feel like I might as well jump in the lake with my clothes on. It seems that the weather should break at any moment now. Yet, I duck the rain, it appears that it rains a few miles ahead of me and this is the pattern for the rest of the day. The road is wet and the air has that heavy rain smell mixed with the fragrance of moss and grass and it lingers in the air everywhere I ride. I press on and the more I ride the better I feel. Highway 9 winds through farmland, I can smell fodder, manure, poultry and livestock odours that seem so familiar by now. These elements bring back memories of my ride through Virginia and Ohio. Almost without noticing I clock 55 miles by 12pm. I keep chasing the rain but luckily I don't catch it. The border is within reach and an exciting thought tickles my imagination, I can make it to Vancouver today. Let's go for it. Of course, who were you kidding, you were always going to go for it today. I stop to get my passport stamped, I fumble a few lines at passport control where a burly woman asks me why I am entering Canada here, the exact name of the hotel where I am staying and the day I am supposed to leave. I pass the test and I am off again, on the fabulously surfaced Canadian roads. For the rest of the ride I pedal with legs so light it's almost like they aren't there, scanning the horizon and waiting for that Vancouver sign that never appears. I shoot through suburbia and an urban area so vast that basically from the border to downtown Vancouver is a long colorful line of traffic lights, gas stations, parks, hotels, shopping malls. Even better, with the busy urban life as the new setting to my ride I don't even think about miles, weather or my fitness. I certainly think about the cultural shock that I feel entering this urban world, especially after the last few weeks and the last few days in the mountains. I ride fast and after God knows how long I finally see the Vancouver sign for the first time. It is not the official sign, it is the green highway sign but it is all good anyway. This is the moment you were waiting for. I feel a thousand butterflies in my stomach and something gets stuck in my throat, what are you gonna do now? Are you gonna cry? Of course not but I now think I can make it in 35 days as planned. Is this really the first time that I think I can do it? Did I really doubt it all the way through? Or was it just for good luck that I deliberately subdued any emotionally charged feeling regarding the fulfilment of the goal of this bike ride? Whatever it is I am now faced with the prospect, or I should say, the reality, that I am about to enter Vancouver and after 35 days and 3300 miles I can stop spinning the wheels, I can talk, I can listen, I can be the person I was before. I can put on a pair of jeans and go see a movie. Before I return to all that I still have a few miles to go. Entering Vancouver, as with any large urban centre, is not easy on a bike. I take little detours to avoid the highway. I later find out that urban sprawl is beginning to be a problem in Canada too. I fly through traffic lights, red and green alike, I shoot past various boroughs that are inhabited by Arabs, Chinese, Koreans and other ethnic groups and H1 finally takes me into Mount Pleasant and then it hangs left all the way into Stanley Park, the green heart of Vancouver. I pass several cyclists; I stop at red lights in utmost respect of traffic signals. I wipe my glasses as a gentle but steady drizzle has began. I cycle down the last stretch of urban road which takes me to the gate of the Stanley Park where I can take my arrival picture. Victorious.  

I made it. Damn it yes, we made it. 3000 miles and 25 thousand dollars later we are here. Coast to coast. Come on let it go now. I can let it all go now, all the mental discipline, all the focus the rigour to keep up with the scheduled, to follow without fail the established routine of riding all day and finding a motel, checking in, shower and manual laundry, downloading the pictures, writing the blog, eating, sleeping, getting up the next day to brave the elements once more. No more walking with heavy legs and riding through muscle pain and stress of not getting as far as I would like. I can let go of the fear of being ill. Yes let go of that fear because you are not ill. You made it all the way across, yes I made it all the way across, a 100% healthy person would find it atrocious and you, between rounds of chemotherapy, with cancer in your body, with your mind and your heart you made it so what the hell are you afraid of? What the hell will make you afraid in the future? You just turned fear into energy, you turned anger into strength, you raised money for a good cause. You made it, you did this just like you wanted it, now you can do anything you set your mind to, you can communicate it, you can share it, and above all you control your fear and now you cannot fear adversity so stop worrying. Oh yes, I can let go of all the constrains that I throw on myself just because weeks ago I was in the hospital and now...yes now you are you, you are free on that bicycle, free with your body that moves agile and sprints when it wants and climbs and descends mountains so high and cold that people that do this train for months and months, so stop with all that nonsense and rejoice, celebrate the accomplishment, it wasn't about proving people wrong, it was about being you even when 'you' was in total doubt. And you know this is going to be forever, not just for 35 days. I know, this is going to heal me, or at least heal my mind and free it from terror. Well said and now just ride around Stanley Park, such a beautiful place, a sanctuary of peace and nature, with the Pacific ocean on one side and the city with the harbor on the other. Check out those giant trees, they make a thick lush forest and look at that dark blue water, you are lucky aren't you? Yes I am lucky, I see so much of the world and I cycled across this amazing country. This is not a dream, this is life and life will continue after this. I know. What was it that you wanted to do when you got here? Kiss the ground? Sink to your knees? Yes but I can't now, I feel paralyzed, I can't let it go but it is all boiling inside and it will explode at some point. I know I made it. I made it for me and I made it for the people that love me and want to see me being me despite the problems that I have and that I will have in the future. I have the Pacific ocean in front of me, a few yards from my feet, I think back on the crazy, the kind, the hilarious, and the generous people I met along the way. I think about the beautiful landscapes, the sweeping open lands, the mountains, the hills, the rivers and the cities, the quirky signs, the towns that are thriving, and those that have been lost to time forever. All of the elements come together to create an amazing and rewarding experience that I will draw strength from every day for the rest of my life. Especially when things get difficult and you know they will. I will think about the places that were once a two-dimensional outline or a dot on a map and now fill a corner of my mind that's colored with texture and character and soul. And I think of the people that I have seen, I think of their faces and their eyes, eyes that will never see the world that I have seen and I will continue to see. You are lucky, yes I am.  

So much of my life has been defined by the things that I wanted, education, job, travel, sports; lately it seems that my life is defined by elements outside my wish and my control. Honestly, it seems easier to climb a mountain than to wait for the doctor's report on my blood test. But it is up to me to take both challenges with the same attitude. It is in my head. And it is in my heart. I define my life.

And now go ahead say it, it's not a cliche you can say it now, yes I can say that I am proud of myself. Now I am hungry. Go on, find a nice hotel and have yourself the best meal in the whole town. It is still you.





VIDEO: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SGDUuyQorqg&feature=youtu.be


VIDEO (IN ITALIANO): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ovUjuClaXQw&feature=youtu.be


http://www.myfoxdc.com/story/19431381/cancer-patient-bikes-across-america-to-raise-money-for-charity?fb_comment_id=fbc_490360730975175_5891783_490447084299873


http://washdiplomat.com/DPouch/2012/August2/story3biking.html
 

 
The weather is not very promising at 8am




The road is wet and it is very cold




Very cold













Highway 9




Mt. Baker behind those clouds




Washington sky



I turn around and I see the last of the mountains, they are behind me, now it is all flat (more or less) all the way to the Pacific
 



The little town of Acme, pop: 39
 
 
 
 
 
 Along H9


 
 A "new frontier"


 
 No line required for cyclists


 
As I cross the border the sun peeps out of the clouds. From the sign it is only 50 miles to Vancouver downtown, let's go



 The "people that we don't see" picking berries









I see this Vancouver sign for the first time just before I cross Pitt Lake



After miles and miles of urban areas at 4:57pm I finally enter Vancouver downtown




I did it!




In Stanley Park



In Stanley Park with the Pacific ocean behind