Friday, July 29, 2011

Adopted by a Bike Racer

Joe Ossman rode with me two days ago.
Eastern Iowa (very hilly).
It was a good day to ride today:  fairly cool (only about 88 in the afternoon), not too humid, mostly good Iowa roads.

And the people are nice.  Today, I ate breakfast in Allison, Iowa, and was invited to sit with three beautiful women, Donna Kruse, Gladys Henders and Mary Hewitt.  Allison is the county seat of Butler County, but my breakfast companions told me their county is the only one in Iowa without a single stoplight.  In fact, the only cafe in town recently closed--a curse of many small towns in middle America--and so breakfast was being served by some other kind and beautiful women from the Amvets Auxillary in the Amvets Hall.  All three of the women I sat with have lived their entire lives in Iowa; but they admit that most young people are leaving because there aren't enough jobs.

Again, they called the local paper and I am now apparently going to have my picture on (or maybe

If this keeps up, I'm going to expect a statue to be erected in my name soon.

Most of the rest of the day was uneventful, although as the afternoon wore on my rear tire seemed to be losing air; so I pumped it up, and it deflated slowly again, but not as slowly as before.  I'm stubborn, so I kept pumping it back up.  But each time I got less and less distance on a full supply of air.

Dave Delperdang.
Meanwhile, I happened to meet a local racing rider, Dave Delperdang, who changed course just so he could ride with me for a few miles.  Dave watched me pump up my tire several times, then led me to a local bicycle shop when we got closer to his home.  His son Jeff, 21,  is presently biking from Iowa to Washington, D. C. in a ride to raise awareness about climate change.  So Dave thought of his son, and decided to adopt me.  Soon I was watching Russell Rayburn, a true mechanic in the style of Wilbur and Orville Wright, work on my machine...and in now time he had it fixed and operating better than ever.  Russell has a sign on his counter that says a lot about his shop:  "In the summer I will refuse certain jobs.  I refuse to sacrifice quality for quantity."

Dave lives with his son and his wife Judy in Clear Lake, Iowa, a really beautiful resort town.  So they invited me to go to dinner on the lake and we had a great pizza and took another back to Russell, who is still working late as I type at around 11 p.m.  Judy works for one of the newspapers in the area and Dave works for the Lutheran Church and you couldn't find a nicer pair.  They even gave me a tour of the town, and although Russell joked earlier that "Iowa resort town" was an oxymoron, this is a beautiful area.  (I'd estimate that Clear Lake is about ten square miles in surface area.)

Dave and Judy.
So, yes, the trip is going well and no one has thrown beer bottles at me, even though today I was wearing my Ohio State bicycle jersey.

I know Dave and I were talking about climate change and how many Americans don't believe it's a problem; but I'm not so sure.  Dubuque had 14 inches of rain in one night recently; and Chicago had almost 7 inches in two hours; and one of the warning signs scientists have been predicting would be freakish weather events.  I also saw a tiny article recently, noting that a whale from the Pacific had crossed over through the Artic into the Atlantic, something scientists say hasn't happend for 200,000 years.

It's also interesting to me that almost every lake, pond and stream I've passed in the last ten days is clogged with thick green algae, the result of farm fertilizer run-off.  This same run-off into the Mississippi causes a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico every year, where algae is so thick oxygen in the water is depleated and fish can no longer live.

This year the dead zone was the largest ever, 8,500 square miles (I think), bigger than New Jersey.

I taught World History, and I know many societies in the past collapsed when they collapsed their own environments.

So call me "worried."

Caesar started as a dishwasher in his
cousin's restaurant twenty years ago.
Finally, let me stay on my soapbox a moment longer, and say that in Clinton, Iowa I had the best meal of my trip at a Mexican restaurant called La Feria (I think that's spelled right).  The owner is named Caesar Lopez, and he came to the United States with his family when he was a young boy.  The meal his place put down in front of me was so huge, and so good, I felt almost guilty paying such a minimal price--and even thought of ordering a beer just to improve the tab.  I asked the waiter if the owner was around, and Caesar came out to see me.  He's probably only 35, but already has three places, and says, "I love what I'm doing, I don't see myself ever doing anything else."  He just loves to make the customers "feel good," "to put the best food possible" on the table.

I asked him what a "bad" day was in his place.  He said when they served 500.  "What's a good day?" I asked in astonish-ment.

"We serve 2,000."

Caesar is a lot like Russell.  A man committed to his job, to doing it right.

So, yep:  I believe America still gains by immigration.

Russell in his shop.  The guy is good.
 If you would like to donate to help find a cure for type-1 diabetes please click HERE!

(This single click takes you to my fund-raising page. There, click again on "donate to this event." Then click "Biking and Painting for Diabetes."

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Rain Again? Seriously?

Bellevue, Iowa
Joe Ossman, veteran of a cross-country trip
in 2010, is at right.
Pedaling across America, you have plenty of time to think, and you can learn something new every day. Today I learned that you cannot break a fall by landing on a camera.

This morning I have the ugly bruise and malfunctioning camera to prove it.

Other than taking a hard spill, however, yesterday
was one of my best days yet as I was joined by a gentleman named Joe Ossman. I met Joe last summer when my brother (Tim) and I planned to ride with Joe, Chuck Boehme and Rich Fowler from San Francisco to Yellowtone Park. That ride ended for my brother after three days when he took a fall and since I didn't know the others and he did, I decided to pull out and ride this summer for JDRF.

At that time, the idea that my two youngest daughters might want to go along this summer was also a major factor.
Joe and Rich went from coast to coast themselves, so they're serious riders (and so is Chuck who did "only" 1300 miles); and since Joe was going to be visiting friends in Iowa, he said he'd have his wife drop him off one day and he'd ride with me. Joe did more than just ride "with me," he led the way almost the entire way, 86 miles, cutting through the air and making my job much easier. It's the same idea as the Tour de France where team riders shield the team leader and help him conserve strengh. In fact, Joe kept referring to himself as my "domestique," as they call support riders on the tour. And with a good tailwind we did make great headway, from Bellevue, Iowa on the Mississippi River to Strawberry Point, 86 miles away. Joe's wife, Kathy, joined us at the end of the day for a good supper (and showed me scrapbooks of Chuck, Joe and Rich's ride, which she and Rich's wife Cindy and Chuck's wife Janice supported).

And then the Ossmans also paid the dinner bill!

The good news today is that it's fairly cool here in Iowa. The bad news is it's cool because it has been pouring rain again. Dubuque, over on the river, got fourteen inches last night, I'm assuming an unheard of record for the city. Strawberry Point got about four; but I was lucky to be in a motel undercover. When I got up this morning, it was sunny outside and the prospects looked good. Then I noticed I had a flat rear tire, the third flat in the last three days). I spent half an hour patching all three tubes and trying to find any hidden bit of metal or piece of wire that might be puncturing all the new tubes. Couldn't find a problem. Had another hugh breakfast.

We're off!

One mile out of town I notice a huge wall of black clouds ahead. I consider stopping. No, the rider must go on.

Three miles out the cloud begins rumbling and flashing and the wind roars and the cloud breaks open and it feels like I'm getting hit with hail. The rider realized that discretion is the better part of valor and takes cover under some trees.

So here I am, waiting out a little precipitation in Oelwein, Iowa, which means I've been rained on 15 days on this trip already. But I can't complain. The people I'm meeting are universally kind, whether it's Joe and Kathy or the host couple at Starved Rock State Park a few days back, in Illinois. Bonnie and Phil Lyerla let me set my tent up on their lot and didn't charge when they heard I was riding to raise money for JDRF. Then the next morning Bonnie served me an omelette and toast, and I got to watch Phil feed the wild turkey that visits him mornings.

Later that day I stopped for a drink and some pastry at a little shop in LaSalle, Illinois. I had a brief talk with a gentleman at the next table and he loaned me the front section of the day's newspaper. The question came up, where was I going. California, I said, riding for JDRF.

We talked for awhile and he told me about family hiking trips he, his wife and two kids had done and talked about a vacation they took to Denali. Then he called the local paper and they sent a reporter over to take my photo.

I hope the photo didn't make me look fat.
Mike and Kathy.

Finally, my kind friend rose to pay his bill, stopped by my table to wish me a safe trip, and handed me a check made out to "Juvenile Diabetes" for $100. His name was Doug Gift--and his check says he's an attorney at law.

Later that same day I took a wrong turn trying to find the library in Peru, Illinois and ended up staring at my road map in front of Mike Frizoel's house. He called out and came over to help. Then he noticed my JDRF shirt and got excited. His wife Kathy is a type-1 diabetic and he said she'd love to meet me, but said she was at her doctor's appointment. So I said I could stick around. Kathy Frizoel has been a type-1 diabetic for forty-eight years, since age eight, and she has all kinds of medical problems, some related to diabetes and some not.

What Kathy DOESN'T have is a quitter's mentality.

Mike's tiger tatoo to honor his wife.
 She's a deeply religious individual and believes God uses her for His purposes. When she was battling breast cancer a few years back, for example, her experiences helped her convince others to get check-ups, including one good friend who caught a serious condition just in time. Kathy has also had eye surgery on both sides and recently got a kidney transplant, and she has titanium rods in both legs from a serious car accident. Mike interrupted at one point and said they sometimes meet little old ladies, who hear about his wife's problems, and go, "Oh, sweetie..."

Like THEY feel sorry for her.

Mike's a funny guy, who knows all the neighborhood kids, and says he gets along with them all because he "hasn't ever grown up." Then he tells me how he and Kathy first met. Mike was out bicycling and Kathy was sitting out in front of her apartment high-rise. "I felt like a teenager," he told me, and said "I thought she was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen." (Kathy later admits that she liked Mike from the start too, with his gentlemanly manners and remembers thinking, "Wow, he likes me and he has just gorgeous eyes.") Mike says he sat down in front of her and asked, "Would I be totally out of line if I asked you if you have a boyfriend?"

The answer was no, and they've been together since, four years.

I asked Kathy about her diabetes. When her blood sugar level hit 890, she went into a diabetic coma and didn't come out for ten days. In the meantime, she kept thrashing about and pulling at various tubes and wires, and when she finally recovered, her doctor told her mother "she fought like a tiger" and that nickname stuck.

Mike shows me his tatoo of a tiger on his back in honor of his wife--but I don't think to ask him why he has a picture of Jerry Garcia.

The Frizoels are on a fixed income, so they aren't rich, and all her medical problems have left Kathy in a wheelchair at this point. So she doesn't take anything for granted. But she says the same prayer every morning, "Use me today, Lord, for whatever you need." I ask them what they both want out of life in the next ten years. "Mostly enjoy life," Mike replies.

"Take a cruise," Kathy says.

Eventually, I pedal away, happy to have had the chance to talk to them both and ride another fifty miles that day.

In the afternoon, I ran into Pam Cromwell, a single mother with a type-1 daughter, Raygan, age 10, a left-handed young lady who swims and plays soccer, baseball and volleyball. Pam remembers thinking "my life was over" when Raygan was diagnosed. But care is steadily improving from when Kathy first showed symptoms of the disease and remembers boiling syringes and needles to keep them clean to now when Raygan can wear a pump and still engage in sports.

Mom says Raygan works hard in school, but doesn't know any other diabetic kids, because they live out in the country and Raygan's entire school only has 100 students. (There's not even a school nurse!) Pam tried to get her into a camp for diabetics this summer, but all the openings were filled. So Raygan doens't always have people she can talk to who understand what she deals with in her daily life.

If anyone reading this blog might like to say "hi" to Raygan, here's mom's e-mail address:

If you would like to donate to help find a cure for type-1 diabetes please click HERE!

(This single click takes you to my fund-raising page. There, click again on "donate to this event." Then click "Biking and Painting for Diabetes."

Monday, July 25, 2011

St Annes:  The Cathedral in the Cornfield
Beaverville, Indiana

The road may turn; but it's going to be flat.
Somewhere in Illinois.
Kankakee River:  Great for a swim on a 100 degree day.
The picture above is taken near Aroma Park, Illinois.  One of the minor pleasures of bicycling is that you get in touch with the world through all your senses.  Sometimes it's trucks loaded with manure, or fresh cut hay, or hot tar you smell.  In Aroma Park, as I pedaled down a neighborhood street, it was barbeque on the grill...ah...I wanted to stop and ask for a plate...and what's that special aroma???

Marijuana smoke.  (Well, someone was going to need seconds!)

Riding out a long storm near Kankakee, Illionois.

If you would like to donate to help find a cure for type-1 diabetes please click HERE!

(This single click takes you to my fund-raising page. There, click again on "donate to this event." Then click "Biking and Painting for Diabetes."

Kind Acts

I don't know if I can make this computer work (I'm in Peru, Illinois).  So I'm just going to say, quickly, that I have been receiving a lot of kind assistance.  I was telling you about Ralph Kruger and his family when the Computer Gods suddenly erased about an hour's work.

As mentioned, Ralph was celebrating his 82 birthday when I met him and his family in Trece's Restaurant.  They told me I'd be seeing plenty of wind farms up on Indiana 18, and Don Yost, his son-in-law, mentioned that a farmer earned $7,000 for every turbine on his land.  Ralph fumed a little and said "it's all poltics" and explained how one big land owner with connections got 30 turbines and "the small farmer" got none.  Don's wife, Joyce, kind of "shushed" her father, but I expect he was right.  Anyway, when they heard I was riding for JDRF, Joyce asked if she could donate.

Of course, the answer is yes.  So she gave $10.  Then Ralph pulled out a $5.  I said thanks, headed outside to unlock my bike, and another fellow named Jeff Holeman followed.  "I overheard you say you were riding to California, and just think it's a great cause."  So he also gave me a $10.

It's these kinds of acts that make riding even in blistering heat seem fun.

Yes, we have no bananas.
The cash crop today is electricity
I'm going to try to add more to this post, if the Computer Gods don't smite me again.  Sunday the 24th turned out to be a great day to ride.  I rose early, did 2.7 miles, and a guy in a pickup truck slowed down as he passed to say, "They're predicting violent weather."  So I pulled over and hid under a park shelter nearby.  Sure enough the heavens soon opened and poured out moisture for the next three hours and I sat and read a book.

Once the skies cleared, however, it was only about 80 degrees the rest of the day, and overcast, too, and I did 80 miles without suffering a bit.  In fact, I even took time off to watch the parade for the Catfish Day's Festival in Wilmington, Illinois.  I'll try to upload a picture now if this computer doesn't defeat me.

What can I say:  it's small town America.
I spent last night at Starved Rock State Park, near LaSalle, Illinois, and had a good conversation this morning with the camp hosts, Bonnie and Phil Lyerla.  Next you know, Bonnie is bringing me breakfast, (I'd show you the picture; but this computer won't allow me to rotate it), always much appreciated when you are burning 5,000 calories a day--or something that feels like it. 

So, until next time, I'll just have to show you Phil, feeding a wild turkey.  More later when my luck with computers improves.

If you would like to donate to help find a cure for type-1 diabetes please click HERE!

(This single click takes you to my fund-raising page. There, click again on "donate to this event." Then click "Biking and Painting for Diabetes."

Hot, Hotter, Hottest

It's hot; but it's flat!
Here's the short version of the first four days out of Cincinnati (20th-23rd):  hot, cornfields, hot, sweat, confields, holy s#@%, it's hot.

Otherwise, the ride has been going well. First, I've been meeting nice people. On the 23rd, for example, I started feeling woozy in the heat and took cover from the punishing sun under a park shelter in Papineau, Illinois.

I drained one water bottle and tried to eat a bite of lunch. The ham I was carrying in my saddle bags went down fine, but when I tried to eat a Triscuit it felt like a lump of wet sawdust on my tongue. I spat it out and figured I probably needed to conserve the water in my other bottle, then took a brief nap, hoping to rally a little. Luckily, a church in town was having a memorial dinner and when I went looking for their hose after I awoke two of the ladies coaxed me inside and gave me a huge bag of ice. I filled both bottles, poured in water, and drained both twice.

One of the women asked if I'd like a piece of custard pie but I was too hot to enjoy desert.

I asked if their area of Illinois was growing. No, they said. Papineau has a sign claiming "Population 180." One of the ladies insisted there were probably only 100 today.

St Annes:  "The Cathedral in the Cornfield"
Beaverville, Indiana
Still, I've been pedaling through wonderful farm country. The corn is high right now and fields are green, and I'm told farmers are expecting a good year. At breakfast on the 22nd I talked to an old timer who still raised mules. The day before I talked to Sam Cline, 7, who was enjoying a sundae at Wendys with his great grandparents. Sam shows hogs.

That's right. His family (both parents are college grads) raises hogs. I asked Sam if he wanted to be a farmer when he was older. He just finished kindergarten, so he kind of smiled and gave a shrug. He did tell me he likes playing outside, and he's an outfielder for his ball team. "You think you'd like to be a baseball player then?" I asked.

"My dad sure would like it if I played for the Cubs," Sam replied.  (I didn't want to tell him he'll be lucky if the Cubs ever win a World Series in his lifetime.)

When I left, I asked him, "How do you want to be described?"  Again, he shrugged, so I promised to say he was a handsome young man.

And he is.

Everyone in the Midwest knows how hot it has been.  So that's not news.  But my second day out, when it hit 100, I decided I had to find a hotel for the night. Unfortunately, I was deep into farm country and dark was coming on. I used Google Maps and found I was only 8.2 miles from the "Dog Patch Hotel." I called to see if they had room. The owner was a gravel-voiced woman named Marcia Clark and said she usually closed at 6, which seemed odd, but my phone was nearly dead, so it was a hurried converstation. Marcia said she'd wait and I pedaled hard to get there in time.

It turns out Ms. Clark owns a doggy day care. "You're not the first one to make that mistake," she said, which wasn't much consolation. But we quickly brokered a deal and I was able to sleep comfortably on the floor of her air-conditioned office.

Some hotels you worry about bedbugs. Some you worry about fleas.

Marcia was a big-hearted woman and gave me fruit to take with me in the morning and offered the capsule version of her life story. Four marriages. Four alcoholics. But she has a nice business and a trim farm now.

Meanwhile, althought the heat is blLuckily, the country I'm crossing now is as flat as the Loveland bike trail, so I'm not sweating up any hills.

In many of these smaller towns the old cafes and restaurants still hang on and the Subways and Arbys are nowhere to be seen. I had breakfast at Nancy's Restaurant in Hagerstown, Indiana one day. A group of old retired fellows told me about the area. The old factory where two of them worked, Precision Piston gone. They listed other companies also gone and we all just shook our heads. I think we were all wondering, "Where does this all end?"

I've bicycled across a lot of states this year and in 1999 and 2007. Nebraska, Kansas, even much of New York, the little towns are dying. The waitress at Nancy's, however, did mention that 800 Amish families were soon coming into the area.

So the buggy-making industry gets a boost.

I also had a great lunch at Trece's in Rossville, Indiana. As always, I follow the rule: go where the locals are. Trece's was packed. I ended up talking to a family at a nearby table. Ralpk Kruger was celebrating his 82 birthday, along with his wife Mary of 57 years. Mary told me they would have been married even longer, but Ralph got involved in the Korean War. He told me he went way up north to set up radar stations to give U.S. pilots more warning.


If you would like to donate to help find a cure for type-1 diabetes please click HERE!

(This single click takes you to my fund-raising page. There, click again on "donate to this event." Then click "Biking and Painting for Diabetes."

Saturday, July 23, 2011

CSI: Wayne County, Indiana

The scene of the crime?
Well, my ride across America is going well. Next time I decide to bicycle maybe I'll cross the Sahara Desert.

It can't be much hotter.

Then again, this is like a cheap and effective diet plan. Forget Jenny Craig. Just pedal 242 miles in three days when it's about 100 degrees.

The good news is that I've been meeting a lot of nice peoole. Even the deputies in Wayne County are nice. I don't hold it against them, just because they handcuffed me briefly and thought I might be a suspect in an armed robbery. I mean, how many times do we have to pick up the papers and read about another criminal bicycler making his or her getaway, pedaling like Lance Armstrong on a good day?

It's a two-wheeled crime wave.

Here's the story, ripped from the police files. After riding about 70 miles, out of Cincinnati, the first day, I got caught in a thunderous downpour. Normally, I hate getting drenched; but since I had been broiling all day, I was glad to cool down. Still, it was a deluge. So I pulled in behind one of those fenced electrical transfer stations and threw up my tent as fast as I could. Even then rain poured through the opening in the top before I could get the flap attached and poured in the door as I threw gear inside.

At this point I had to use my shirt to mop up all the water inside my tent and then ride out the storm. Fifteen minutes and it passed. So I crawled out from cover like a sopping wet Punxatawnie Phil and surveyed the situation. As I was calling my wife to tell her where I was a cop car came skidding to a halt on the road in front of the fence.

I admit I do "stealth" camping whenever I can (camping for free in isolated spots). So I was planning on staying where I was. Now the deputy jumped out of his cruiser, gun drawn, and shouted, "Hands up!"

"Huh?" I responded, like Clyde (with no Bonnie).

"Hands up!" the officer yelled again, and shook his pistol at me.

I reached for the sky.

The deputy called me out from behind the fence, told me to turn around so he could see if I had a gun in my waist band, and then cuffed me.

I must say it seemed like a bit of an over-reaction to, at worst, a victimless case of trespassing.

Keep in mind, I'm in shorts and bicycling I explain I'm riding for JDRF. (By now a second officer has arrived.) They can't arrest me can they? I'm doing a good deed.

Not impressed. The cuffs stay on.

They explain that there has just been an armed robbery, ten minutes ago, in Richmond. I want to point out that's six miles south. I don't quibble with armed men. I start laughing, though, adding quickly, "I'm not laughing at you. You're just doing your job. But this will make a good story later."

They checked my ID and then called in for a description of the suspect. White male... his 20s.

Well, close. Now I can see why they thought I was their man.

Really, the four officers (two more had now come flying up) were all friendly and they simply told me I'd have to camp elsewhere.

I pedaled five miles down the road, with darkness coming on fast, and threw up my tent in some woods where NO ONE could see me.

Somewhere an armed robber is still loose. He may be riding a green bicycle.

I will post again soon to tell you about some of the cool people I've been meeting, like Sam Cline, 7, who likes baseball, and Ralph Kruger, who was celebrating his 82 birthday with his family when I met them eating lunch.

I'll even explain how I spent a night sleeping in a dog kennel.

If you would like to donate to help find a cure for type-1 diabetes please click HERE!

(This single click takes you to my fund-raising page. There, click again on "donate to this event." Then click "Biking and Painting for Diabetes."

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Nineteen Good Reasons to Ride

Want to know why I'm willing to pedal across the United States, even today, when it's supposed to hit 95 degrees?  It's because every day 82 more young Americans turn up with type-1 diabetes.

And those people are young men and women and elementary kids and even toddlers, individuals like these:

Nicole Ayers,
planning to study nursing
in college.
Ben Wilson, aspiring photography and film major.

Alyssa Heal, type-1 diabetic since age 11.

Audrey Lake,
beating diabetes for 49 years
and without a complaint.
Joel McElfrish never let being diabetic
ruin his great sense of humor.

That's my Emily Viall.
She wasn't diabetic yet.
She could eat what she liked.

Katy Rogers: 
she's an artist and a good one.

Kyle Williams:  scuba diving into the future.

Noelle Fletcher.
She turned up type-1 at age 26.
Her brother, Matt, helped her
get over being a baby
and take her shots.
Matt Westendorf. 
His mom found him asleep and worn out
on the kitchen floor at age 3.
That's when he got diabetes.

Lauren Lemmon.
The young lady never gets down
about being diabetic.
She does admit she isn't fond
of Brussels sprouts.
Tom Youkilis
is much better looking than this.
He just never sent me his picture.
He never complains about his long
battle with insulin, shots, needles
and pumps.

Adam Kavka.
When he was in seventh grade
he gave me advice about diabetes
when Emiy was first diagnosed.
Now at Ohio State.
Sydney Mahon.
Someday she wants to be in theater.
Sidney Staebler.
Type-1 diabetic
who gave me a
petrified rock and
a little extra
Sam McCorkle.  Diabetic since age 4. 
A Taekwondo star ever since.
Andrew Benzinger.
He's only four and his
grandfather Sam wants to
see him grow up
strong and healthy.
Jason Durbin (with his son).
He's a good dad and a diabetic.

Nick Hopkins:  he's a pet lover
and will be a freshman at
Loveland High School this coming year.

If you would like to donate to help find a cure for type-1 diabetes please click HERE

(This single click takes you to my fund-raising page.  There, click again on "donate to this event."  Then click "Biking and Painting for Diabetes."

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

My Daughter is a Type-1 Diabetic

That's Emily at right, when she was about 4.
Sarah, her sister is at left.
Mom in the middle.
What can I say about Emily?  Well:  I love her.  We all do.

Emily has been a type-1 diabetic for six years, since she was just turning 15.  She was a scared teen when we headed for the hospital and her mother and I were more scared than she.  Now she's a camp counselor for the summer, working with handicapped children and a senior-to-be at Ohio State University.

Fittingly, she's studying nursing, a career that captured her interest when nurses at Cincinnati Children's Hospital helped her adjust to the realities of her new life as a diabetic.

What else can I tell you?  Emily doesn't complain.  I find that, as a crabby complainer myself, truly amazing. 

She's a fine student with an incredible work ethic and a runner, too, having completed half-marathons in Cincinnati and in Nashville this spring.  She's a music fan and recently attended Bonnaroo where she and her friends hung out part of the time with my friend Bill Skyllingstad and me, because Bill had us perfectly prepared for the intense heat.  (By the way:  the music was great.)  Emily is a Harry Potter fan, which is easy, a Bengals fan, which is harder, and a member of the Tri-Delt sorority.  Another reason I love her is that if she had her way, everyone who wanted to be in her sorority could be.

Emily at the music festival. 
Kelly Petersen, her good friend
and fellow nursing student at left.
That's what I like best about our youngest child.  She's kind to everyone.  She accepts people as they are and for what they are. 

She's going to be a heck of a nurse.

Anne, my wife and Emily's mom, and I hope to see a cure for diabetes in her lifetime.  Meanwhile, she'll just have to handle the shots and the needles with grace, poise and aplomb.

That's how she does it every day.

Emily ran cross-country
in high school.
It was scary one day
when she went low.

Sometimes Emily (left) looks sophisticated.
Other times she just likes to have fun.

If you would like to donate to help find a cure for type-1 diabetes please click HERE

(This single click takes you to my fund-raising page.  There, click again on "donate to this event."  Then click "Biking and Painting for Diabetes."

Yellowstone, Yosemite and Beyond: For Emily

Some people wonder why a person my age would ever bicycle across the United States.  Most of you know:  I'm not exactly a young fellow, and the legs don't look as good or feel as good at 62 as they used to.  I say:  because I can. 

The scenery, seen at slow-motion, alone is worth it.  Tomorrow, I'm heading out again on the second leg of my journey.  I'm planning on cutting north up to South Dakota and the Black Hillls and then on to Yellowstone.  After that I'll bend south again, across Utah and Nevada, through Yosemite and on to the coast of the Pacific.

I thought it might be nice to post a few pictures (from my brother Tim and a gentleman from Vancouver, Washington, Timmy Campbell, also a serious rider).  It's not hard to have these kind of views from the seat of a bike--even if the seat, itself, is kind of hard.

Buffalo grazing in Grand Teton National Park. 
(Picture by Tim Viall)

My trip should end after passing through Yosemite National Park.
Estimated time of arrival:  August 23.
(Tim Viall)

This picture comes from Timmy Campbell, from his ride down the Pacific coast.
He's a new Facebook friend and a serious bicyclist.

This is also a picture from Timmy Campbell's coastal tour.
I hope to see some trees like this on my own journey.

(Picture by Tim Viall)

Yellowstone in winter.
At least I won't have to worry about snow on my ride.
(Tim Viall)
There's another great reason to ride.
Because I love my diabetic daughter
(Emily is at right).

If you would like to donate to help find a cure for type-1 diabetes please click HERE

(This single click takes you to my fund-raising page.  There, click again on "donate to this event."  Then click "Biking and Painting for Diabetes."

Monday, July 18, 2011

Sam McCorkle Kicks Back and Enjoys Life

Sam McCorkle:  Breaks boards and handles
diabetes with equal skill
 Sam McCorkle is your typical type-1 diabetic, which means he's your typical individual.  Sami is unique.  He doesn't let any one aspect of his life define him.

I had been calling his mom to get information and I'd miss her, and she'd call back and miss me, but we finally made connections recently.  Sam's mom reminded me of my wife when she discussed her son's condition.  Four years ago, Mrs. McCorkle, her husband Randy and sons Sam and Luke were on vacation in Aruba when she noticed the first signs that something was wrong with her oldest son.  Sam was eating a lot, but seemed to be losing weight.  During the day, however, he was fine, staying active at the pool and down at the beach.

She decided it would be okay to wait until they returned to Cincinnati before taking Sam, 7 years old at the time, to the doctor.  Meanwhile, her husband took a flight to China on business.  Laureen headed for the pediatrician, got the initial bad news that the young man was diabetic, and she and the two boys were soon headed for Children's Hospital.

Like my wife Anne, when our Emily was diagnosed in 2005, Mrs. McCorkle was stunned and frightened by the news.  "The impact, walking into the Emergency Room, you still don't believe it."  The first day at the hospital was the worst.  "You're there for hours, you're thinking about everything that's bad."  She remembers telling herself, "He'll never have a popsicle, he'll never be able to sleep over at friends" and in her worry she put together a long mental list of daily restrictions he'd now inevitably face.

Luckily, the people at Children's Hospital know what they're doing and the second day, a nurse counselor came into the room and started explaining what a diagnosis of type-1 diabetes really means.  First of all, it's not the end of the world in any way; and once you know that you start feeling a little better.  "I love them," Mrs. McCorkle said when I asked if her experience with Children's had been as great as ours.  "I do believe Dottie [the nurse counselor] saved my life...I was out of my mind."

Slowly but surely, the McCorkles came to grips with a new reality.  Dad flew back from Shanghai as soon as he could.  Luke decided, at age 4, to support his brother when he got home by "measuring" all the food he ate, just as Sam was doing.  The first day out of the hospital, Sam went to the pool for a swim like always and then headed for Taekwondo practice.

If you have a chance to talk to Sam, as I did, you find out quickly that he has never let being a diabetic interfere with what he sets his mind on doing.  He has Taekwondo practice every Saturday morning for two hours, and for several more hours on different weekday nights, and all the exerecise helps him keep good control of his blood sugar.  He's studing and practicing now for a spring 2012 test to become a black belt in his chosen form of martial arts.  When I asked him what he liked best about Taekwondo, he responded honestly, "It's fun to kick people."  Then he added that his teachers emphasized that you "don't abuse it when you're out."  Sam said, in a modest fashion, that he could already break a one-inch board in half with his foot or his fist.  Not bad for a guy who is only 11, I thought to myself.

He has won several awards and gone to the National Tournament three years in a row.  (Luke is pretty good, too, from what mom tells me, and although Sam admits he and his brother sometimes fight, they never use any of their martial arts techniques on each other.)  Meanwhile, Sam has racked up some very impressive grades, too.  He's a straight-A student, heading into sixth grade next year in the Loveland City Schools.  He likes to read, especially Percy Jackson's books about Greek mythology and now he's trying a little Egyptian mythology for variety.  His favorite movie is Avatar and he likes the Harry Potter series.

There are times when Mom still worries--and she has even tested Luke once or twice when he showed a hint of the syptoms of type-1 diabetes.  But these are the days, where if you have to be diabetic, at least the care has improved.  Sam has an advanced pump, so small he can wear it while fighting, weighing only an ounce even filled with insulin.

Mom gives the Loveland Schools high marks for the way nurses and health aides have taken care of her son.  Connie Smith, who handled Sam in second grade, was wonderful.  Then Cindy Fackler took over, and Judy Leamy and now Stephanie Schumaker, all of them doing a great job.  "You have no idea how wonderful these women are until you need them," mom says.  "I feel like my son is safe at school...they don't coddle him, but they take care of him."

So a round of applause to the Loveland nurses and aides is in order.

There was a time, when Sam was young, that when teachers asked him to write about himself, he always mentioned something to do with diabetes.  Now, he's past that.  He's working toward a black belt.  He's working hard in school when school is in session.  He's even working on learning how to play the violin.

I get the impression--very strongly--in talking with Sam, that he's very mature for his age.  He doesn't let diabetes get him down.  "I'm going to deal with it and go on with my life.  I don't really worry about it at all," is how he puts it.  He admits there are some activities he has to avoid.  He can't go scuba diving at any great depths because his pump couldn't take it.  And he's a little bit bummed because he can't have as much birthday cake to eat as he sometimes wants.

I like Sam's mature answers so much I finally asked, "What would you say to another kid if they had just received a type-1 diagnosis?" "Always listen to the doctor," he responded immediately.  Then he added, "It's okay to be afraid the first two years.  But it gets better."

At this point, I was thinking to myself, "This guy is eleven and he has a better prespective on life than I do." 

I put this final question to him:  "What would you do if you woke up one day and they had a cure?"

Sam doesn't let diabetes drag him down, but his answer shows you how much we need to keep looking for a cure.  "Yippee, I'd be saying in my head.  I'd rip off my pump, smash it with a hammer and eat everything there is in the pantry."

So, yeah:  someday, when there's a cure, Sam is going to go wild on his birthday and probably eat a whole cake.

Until then, Sam McCorkle is your typical type-1 diabetic. 

He wears a pump, he deals with a still-dangerous disease, and he's his own man.
If you would like to donate to help find a cure for type-1 diabetes please click HERE

(This single click takes you to my fund-raising page.  There, click again on "donate to this event."  Then click "Biking and Painting for Diabetes."