What Happened? Seven weeks have passed since I arrived at the Atlantic Ocean after peddling over 3500 miles on a journey to feed the soul, heart and mind. This was an inner and outer exploration of the limitless of each.
As each day goes by, the need to sum it up in words, and the understanding that there is no way to do that, entices me to push it out further. Pretty soon it will have been a year and then a lifetime. A few short stories can in no way convey what it was like to spend months in the outdoors, in my heart, my head, with a power up high, and Mother Earth beneath me, feeling it all. Try to describe the taste of your favorite ice cream, the smell of rain or dirt.
The last week had me riding in Virginia. Relieved to be on the last map of ten (and to be out of Kentucky) had me upbeat. Fatigue and the declining ability of my body pushed discouragement to my door. The climate got decidedly friendly. Cool breezes and decreasing humidity made riding a pleasure again. Fast forward to our last day, we were anxious and frustrated. Excitement to be finished made the expectations of the day hard to live up to. For a minute, I thought we were all going to cry, all for different reasons. Spencer and I were riding and Blake was driving. The first thirty miles or so were smooth and lovely. A bike path made the ride carefree and the cooler weather from the distant coast was welcomed. Then the turn on to Colonial, to a road made of rocks, and uneven ones at that. I kept thinking it would end soon and lead us back to smooth road, to no avail.
On bikes we took a detour, and Blake in the RV could not get back on the route. We were just minutes from the shore when Blake asked us to wait for him to get back on. I did not know we were so close and wanted to keep riding. This frustrated Blake. Then, as luck would have it, we saw the RV go past on the freeway and Spencer, on the phone with him, talked him back to us, but not before some apologies had to be made and emotions settled down. I asked for a break, which really pissed Blake off as two minutes before I did not want to stop. I had mixed motives. I did need to stop, but my main motive was to let us all cool off and to allow time to make amends. We did. We all got a grip. It was a good thing we did that because just around the next bend was the final lap, the road in to Yorktown.
There at the monument we took photos and then on the shore where Spencer and I took the plunge. Then we all just kinda stared at each other. That afternoon we drove to the Virginia Beach KOA, where the RV was hooked up and we were turned off. We froze for a few days, moving just to swim, do laundry and get a bite to eat.
So what was the point of all this? Why leave my life, take my sons with me and ride my bicycle across the country? Was I prepared for what would unfold? Did I train enough for this? The point, personally, was to have an adventure, explore the abilities of my body and clean the slate of emotions built from a year of declining parents who would both pass that same year. To some it is unheard of to take this amount of time and “selfishly” spend it. On the road it was an everyday story. Many young people from the East Coast and several professionals from Europe and Canada were taking three months up to several years for such an adventure. It is a right we have to be here and enjoy our lives.
The trip home was full of it’s own experience. After a week of sunning and touring the Coast of Virginia, it was time to head west. Blake flew to Wichita and drove my car home (which we’d stored there once we had the motor home). Spencer rented a vehicle and had his own excursion heading back to the west. My oldest girl, Juliet, accompanied me for the first leg of my trek home. We breezed past The Capital, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and in to Illinois, where we were graciously hosted, by Kathy McMarthy a salon owner and cancer survivor.
That brings us to the clearly stated point of the ride, to bring awareness to, grow the base of, and raise funds for Hairdressers with Heart. Kathy learned about HWH from a Modern Salon post. Right away she felt the urge to contact us and ask how she could become involved. She is very savvy on the conditions of cancer treatment, what it does to the body and how we as Stylists can care for patients. We will be working together to create videos and other tools as an aid to the Style Hero. I shared with you about how tentative I was to work with an ill person. Knowledge is power and Hairdressers with Heart is working to bring that information to the stylist and empower us. So, thank you Kathy and the many, many stylists across the country that took the time to register on our network. Building the base is just the first step in the process.
Onward to Hudson Wisconsin, where I stayed with my brother and his wife for nearly one week! To be near family and decompress was heaven. Juliet flew home and I soldiered on to Badlands, Custer, Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse and the Black Hills. In Helena Montana, I scooped up my friend Debra from the airport and we road tripped the rest of the way home. Did I mention my cowboy infatuation? Two pairs of boots later, I still have not interacted with a horse. I think a self-sustained bike ride through Montana is in my future.
Here is some unglamorous truth. The cross training I did prior to the ride, resulted in a balanced fit body. Two plus months of riding only as well as a period of time where I considered sugar a food group when I really needed sleep, topped off with a road trip home having a cyclist appetite, has resulted in a thick middle and some dormant areas waiting to be used. So it is time to hit the gym and plan my next adventure.
The ride raised enough funds to pay, in part, for itself. We reached a broad audience through social media like Instagram and Facebook. The numbers who viewed and liked were far more active than the amounts of stylists who registered to participate. Still, we did get interest and a buzz going. We did get leaders who wish to help grow Hairdressers With Heart. We lost two key players in the volunteer department here at home. One was saddened and discouraged by the numbers of applicants we had to turn away. The services offered and the timing of them is specific. It is not available to all who apply. There are, however, many resources and other organizations that we have the ability to link these patients with who reach out to us. In order to grow to the level of support necessary to maintain this network, there are needs. One pressing need is the software to manage data on recipients, stylists and volunteers, funding by way of grants and one or two full time staff members.The positive notes: Hairdressers With Heart has linked many cancer patients to their own personal Style Hero and continues to do so.
My legs are kick ass strong! My heart is full of all the kindness expressed from those here that supported me and on the road from strangers. Thanks to all who read, cheered helped and supported this journey. Special thanks to Vintage Oaks management who contributed $1000.00 and to Navitas Naturals for sending healthy natural food with me, and replenishing as I traveled. And thank you to every person who contributed funds from $1 to $500! There was a wave of love and belief that I could do this, washing over me with each donation. Thank you Tad Consani, for his enthusiasm, start to finish, on my training, travels and then readjustment to home life. Debra Simpson, who was home base for operations and logistics. Chris Eddy, Katie Long and David Weissman for sharing my passion and riding with me. And most of all, thank you to my sons Blake and Spencer, I would not have made it without them. More good news, my sons and I are still friends. Love you so much boys.
I rode across the country to bring awareness to Hairdressers with Heart. We are a network of hairstylists known as Style Heroes, who provide pro bono services to patients with cancer experiencing hair related side effects from treatment. We are currently in need of volunteers to help facilitate the growth of our organization. To volunteer you need no particular ability, just time, energy and love. To further our reach and fund a wig, please donate.