The ride may be over, but the journey never ends...November 15, 2008Leave a comment
So where is the blog you are probably asking? In cyberspace... After having spent the better part of three, no four hours typing it, my computer froze and what I had been continuously saving on the website, was no longer responsive and all gone! Heck, darn, grrrr.... I will try again in the morning! And it was really going to be a doosie...
Enjoy the pictures. It's 1:45 am and I'm going to sleep now...
Ok, I'm back, refreshed and reinvigorated and ready to make my final entry. The title of this blog may have more to do with my computer not wanting the journey to end, so it throws me a curveball late in the evening and I have to start all over. Well that's ok. More thoughts and reflections come with a good night's sleep rather than a late night, furious typing session. So let me try this again...
I believe the journey never really ends because the destination is never static. There should always be another place to go or challenge to accomplish as we go through life. When one adventure ends, another one starts. I just have to figure out what my next one will be!
The day started off early, early, early. I was up at 5:00 am in order to get the bike back to where I left off in Titusville last Thursday. I was scheduled to meet my press escort at the KSC Badging office on State Road 405, at 8:00 am. In my hustle to get out the door I always forget something. This time it was my camera. While I assembled my panniers back on my bike, Jay and Margo were kind enough to return to the hotel and fetch my lost article. Luckily my bike doesn't require a set of keys to start; otherwise I would have forgotten those too! (Sound familiar Mom and Dad?)
The ride through Titusville was a non-event. The roads were quiet that early in the morning as most folks were probably sleeping in after the launch the night before. I trundled down Hwy 1 and crossed the NASA Causeway on SR 405, arriving at the Badging office precisely at 8:00 am. I was met by COL Johnny Johnson, USAF (Ret), our escort and docent for KSC and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS). I've worked with COL Johnson before during previous trips to KSC and he is always fun to be around and full of interesting stories. I was also incredibly pleased when four colleagues from NASA pull into the parking lot to greet me. Jerry Ross (one of only two people to have flown in space seven times and my mentor), Dr. Joe Schmid (Flight Surgeon extraordinaire, and my personal physician when I become the President), Steve Pruzin (keeper and provider of all things Flight Data File, all of the checklists and articles used by the astronauts during flight), and Jose Hernandez (astronaut in the class of 2004 and assigned as a Mission Specialist on STS-128, also the Prime ASP (Astronaut Support Personnel) for STS-126). As the Prime, Jose was responsible for strapping the crew in the vehicle and is the last man out of the hatch before it is closed for flight. I was a member of that team for two and a half years. Best job in the office next to flying in space! It was great to seeing everyone and fun to talk about my journey. Thanks so much for coming out and wishing me well.
After discussing the route I would follow with COL Johnson, I headed through the west gate and north along the road to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB). Just after I turned north, I noticed a bald eagle sitting off to my right. Proudly perched on the branch of a pine tree, it symbolized that my journey was nearing completion and that I had been guided safely across the country. If you remember, my journey began with a blessing from the Makah Nation and eagle down was sprinkled on my bike and me to keep me safe in my travels.
I turned east in front of the VAB and made a stop at the Press Site for more photos. Curt Richter, a world-class photographer on assignment to document the end of the shuttle program, came along to take some large format pictures. It was like watching Ansel Adams and his big box camera at work at KSC. I continued down the crawler way toward Pad 39A with Jay Roman hanging out the back of the van, high definition video camera in hand. I passed the crawler-transporter, a massive 5.4 million pound behemoth that carriers the shuttle to the launch pad.
We rounded the edge of the pad perimeter and headed out to the beach road, before venturing into a stiff 20-knot headwind. I was hoping to draft behind the van, but they stayed too far ahead to make an impact, so I was left to grind my way down the road, no rest for the weary! We made numerous stops along the way to the Cape. First was the turn off to the KSC Beach House, which is used as conference center and for the crew. Next, we took some time to pay our respects at Launch Complex 34, site of the Apollo 1 fire and the launch site for Apollo 7. From there we stopped at the entrance to the Gemini launch site as well as the Mercury Seven memorial. Under the concrete lies a time capsule that will be opened in 2464.
I passed the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse before turning on Camera A road and the beach at Cape Canaveral proper. Just as I left the pavement, I came close to doing a head dive off my bike as the sand took my tire to the left and I went right. Luckily I was able to quickly release my right foot from the pedal just in time. It would have been the only time that I fell off my bike this entire trip and right in front of Jay's camera! Thank goodness for the quick reflexes of a 50-year-old young man!
Just as I had done three months before on Hobuck Beach, in Neah Bay, WA, I pushed my bike through the deep sand and stood at the water's edge as the surf enveloped my front tire and feet. Four thousand, one hundred and eighty-four miles after I began, my trek was complete. Almost complete, that is. I still had to pedal down to the Cocoa Beach Pier and meet with a reporter from the Florida Today, Rebecca, and two friends of Joe Oswald that attended the launch, Sarah and Matt. Once at the pier, I pulled my panniers off the bike and loaded it up in the van and closed this chapter of my life. Now I turn the page and start to write the next...
So what was this all about? Why in the world would I pedal over four thousand miles from coast to coast? As one of my fellow cyclists I met during this trip told me, people have an easier time believing that we can fly in space than being capable of pedaling across the country. Why did I do it? It was for the challenge, to be quite honest, both a physical as well as a mental challenge. And not just to challenge me, but hopefully to challenge students to accomplish great things in life. I was only able to accomplish difficult challenges in my life, because there were people who believed in me and encouraged me to do my very best. I hope that in some small way, what I have done over the past three months will give students the encouragement they need to seek out their own challenges. Flying in space is a challenge, graduating from high school or college is a challenge, as is pedaling across the country. The things we do in life that take tremendous effort, also provide the greatest reward. There is a phenomenal amount of satisfaction that comes from doing a good job, more so when the job is difficult and demanding. I tell students, if you do nothing, you will be nothing. But with time, effort and motivation, all things are possible. You just won't know if you don't try. I challenge everyone to challenge themselves, accomplish things you might not think you are capable of doing. You just might be surprised at where it takes you!
I extend my deepest thanks and appreciation to everyone that has followed my journey. I could not have done this without the support and financial assistance of the Chickasaw Nation, Pro Bikes, South Dakota Gearup and Trek Bicycles. To Jay, Stacy and the folks from Linn Productions, thanks for the IT support and helping document my journey. To Margo, my love, I couldn't have done this without you. No more early morning phone calls with wind in the background from my Bluetooth headset! To my parents, brother Jim and sister Jenn, thanks for your love and encouragement. My birthday celebration in Thermopolis, WY was the best I have ever had. I'm still freaked out over my brother appearing out of the darkness! And, lastly, to my daughters Jessica and Amanda, thank you for always being there for me! I love and adore you both more than you will ever know!
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