The Crew

 

I’m home, and I’ve had over a week to rest and decompress. There’s plenty I’d like to share here as a wrap up to my experiences on this adventure. But first I need to tell you all about my crew. They were not only supportive and helpful. They were funny, clever, interesting, and uplifting. I couldn’t have asked for a better team.  I had the easy job.  The two Joshes were with me for the distance. These guys really did the work. They put themselves at risk on some dicey roads. Without them, and the rest of the crew, this trip never could have happened. So here’s to you guys.

Josh Blaustein, aka Dr. B, aka The Umbrella Man, aka John Craigie Fangirl – hailing from Santa Cruz, CA where he is a chemistry professor, a father of four daughters, and to my mother’s dismay, a vegan.

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He was the mechanical guru on the team and our fearless leader. Stuff breaks frequently on a wheelchair, particularly after 300+ miles, and he was always there to get things back in working order. He developed a love-hate relationship (he may disagree with the love part) with the numerous umbrellas we went through. He tried every MacGyver move possible to help keep me shaded and his skill with a bungee cord is unmatched.  His mechanical assistance was appreciated but the most valuable asset he brought to the table was his never-ending positive attitude and ability to always make me laugh. I could never say enough good things about this guy; he was truly the heart of the team. Thanks Dr. B, you bring fun wherever you go.

Josh Sutcliffe, aka Chauncey, aka JS – hailing from Port Angeles, WA where he is a dog runner, a barefoot runner, a thespian, and keeps me alive on a weekly basis.

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This Josh has worked for me for over a year. I’ve known him not nearly as long as the other crew members, but his contributions were critical. He is a man of many hats – he can handle my respiratory needs, my wheelchair glitches, beer pouring, and personal needs that I’d prefer not to ask of old friends.  He forced water on me when I didn’t want it, and sprayed me down to cool me on the scorching days.   This was his first time meeting many of my close friends, and he handled it with humor, tolerance and grace. You the man Chauncey.

Adam Mackay, aka My Brother – hailing from Port Angeles, WA where he dominates in disc golf, works construction and is an awesome Dad to my beautiful niece, Paige.

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Adam was able to start and end the trip with me. He is not an avid cyclist but made the long miles look easy. I was super thankful to have him. He is a busy guy and I don’t get to spend nearly as much time with him as I’d like. He had to miss work to do this. Being able to share part of this ride with him meant the world to me. He enjoys his beer at least as much as I do and is a smart, funny man who I really admire. He will soon be moving to San Diego and I will miss him tremendously. Thanks bro, you made it an unforgettable trip.

Matt Marks, aka Matty Mizzo – hailing from Oakland, CA where he shapes the young minds of Oakland’s youth.

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Where to start with this guy… Matt has gone with me on every vacation/trip I’ve been on since I sustained my spinal cord injury. That is at least one trip a year for eight years! He is one of my very best friends, is always there for me when I need him, and I couldn’t imagine doing this trip without him. He can single-handedly transfer me into any hotel bed (often despite my reluctance) and can stretch my legs and arms like a champion. His happy-go-lucky attitude can light up a room and his quick wit forever keeps me on my toes. I’m extremely lucky to have a friend like him. Lots of love Mizzo.

Jimmy Quenelle, aka The Beer Guru, aka Stud – hailing from Morgan Hill, CA where he is a biologist doing important conservation research, a father to two daughters, and brews some quality beer.

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I asked Jimmy to join me on this ride months prior and it just didn’t look like things were going to work out. I had written him a letter (more like a desperate plea) a week before we left asking (begging) him to consider joining us. He really wanted to, but just couldn’t make it happen. So imagine my surprise when he was at my hotel door the night before the final day. I was ecstatic. He’s been one of my closest friends for a long time, and I generally make a yearly trip to California to stay with him and his lovely family. He is one of the smartest guys I know and has been there for me during all the trying times after my accident. The sparkle in his eye, his sensitivity, and infectious laugh make him an absolute delight on any excursion. Thanks for the surprise arrival Jimmy. Your company was appreciated more than you know.

Teena Woodward, aka Mom, aka Supermom – hailing from Port Angeles, WA where she manages a small business, maintains a beautiful piece of property, and keeps me alive around the clock.

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This is a hard one. We all have a special place in our heart for our mom. Many spinal cord injury survivors have an even greater appreciation for these maternal figures. My mom has been my rock ever since I broke my neck (okay, since I was born). She has sacrificed so much to ensure that I am a healthy, happy man and I will never be able to repay her for all that she has done for me. I love her more than words can describe and will always be thankful to have such an awesome person as a mother. I truly lucked out in the mom department. During the trip she was nothing short of amazing. She was the publicist, social media manager, Sherpa, bringer of lunches, and the road crew. This does not even include the caring for me every night of the journey. I’ll admit I am a pain in the ass during the nights. I sleep on a ventilator and often have respiratory needs throughout the night. She went to sleep after me and woke up before me every single night. She woke up when I needed help coughing or needed to be turned and got the least sleep of anyone. She had the hardest job of all and did it with class, style, and a smile on her face. Thanks mom, you are amazing!

South of Woodland to Portland: Mission Accomplished, and Beer

Our final day began after a restless night of sleep. I’m not quite sure what caused the restlessness; excitement about our final day, the giddiness over Jimmy’s surprise arrival, or the espresso stout I brushed my teeth with. In any case we made it to our starting point at Summit Grove, albeit a little behind schedule and began the final leg of the trip toward Portland.

The route today contained few trails, lots of roads, and lots of cars. We found there to be more traffic today (even before Portland) than most of the other days, especially what we’ve been dealing with since Seattle. The highest traffic areas did have (debris filled) bike paths, but the riding was still a little stressful.

After helping super mom pack up everything up from the hotel Jimmy joined us on the road, for what turned out to be a mild 21.5 mile run. Yes, he ran the last twenty plus miles. I know what your’e thinking, Jimmy is a stud. That may be true, but being nine feet tall he didn’t have to take too many steps to get to Portland. The temperature was on the warmer side today, but not too hot. Jimmy did break a sweat around mile fourteen.

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At the base of the Interstate Bridge spanning the Columbia River, which connects Washington and Oregon, I conducted one last interview. A reporter and photographer from The Columbian met me and my crew, asked a few questions, took some photos, congratulated us and wished us the best. The time had now come to roll into Oregon and find the pot of gold (aka breweries) at the end of the rainbow (aka riding my wheel chair across the state of Washington).

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The Washington-Oregon border is located along the bridge. Shortly after crossing into Oregon a representative from Nu Motion was waiting on the bridge for me with some much needed parts, a microswitch and some screws we lost along the way.

Once off the bridge we (poorly) navigated our way toward downtown Portland, to the Tom McCall Waterfront Park. Along the way we were joined by another runner (Dane) and long distance skate border (Cory). I was able to live out my Forrest Gump fantasy finally. As we approached the waterfront we were greeted by two women (groupies) who were super sweet and cheered us on.

We made our way across one final bridge and were coming down the home stretch enjoying the people and scenery. When we arrived at the Tom McCall Park we were greeted and cheered by family, friends, and fans numbering in the single digits. It was an emotional finish for us all. After twenty minutes of feeling like we topped Mount Everest and taking in our moment of glory we rolled another mile to our luxurious hotel.

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While celebrating with a pre-brewery beer in the hotel room we were met by Ian from New Mobility. We chatted for awhile and then made our way to Cascade Brewing to sample some, actually all of their sours. Ian joined us which was great, because he also helped lead the way to the brewery. It was nice not to have to rely on the Joshs for directions. It’s amazing how much faster things move when you’re not constantly making wrong turns.

Raise your hand if you rode your chair from Canada to Oregon!
Raise your hand if you rode your chair from Canada to Oregon!

Also joining us at the Brewery to help celebrate were friends and family even surpassing the single digits. We all enjoyed the atmosphere and the sours. They take their beer very seriously at Cascade. In addition to the tasty beverages, Cascade gave us some shirts, paid for most of our bill, and took some time to just sit with us and talk about some of their brewing techniques.

Josh Blaustein is REALLY tall.
Josh Blaustein is REALLY tall.

The night was still young as we left Cascade, so we stopped into The Commons Brewery to sample a few more beers and some delicious food. I’d like to give a nod to The Commons for their musical choice, some old time folk/country/bluegrass was making my ears happy.

Now for the trip back to the hotel. Can we make it? Jimmy, Adam, the Joshs, and myself walked and rolled our way back to the hotel, with minimal difficulty, other than a ten minute wait at a train crossing. Once back at the hotel we began to sum up our day which you’ve now just read. Trying to sum up our entire journey can’t be done justly here, and most likely I’ll never be able to fully explain to someone everything I’ve experienced over these eleven days. I used Strava and Ride With GPS for the entire ride, and will do a full recap when I’m home with more technology.

This all started with a crazy idea. My crazy idea was met with support from all the meaningful people in my life. Everyone made me believe I could do it. Guess what? They were right. I have experienced many up and downs along this path and I’m happy to say I wouldn’t change a thing. Well, maybe I would have put those bikes in a safer place so they wouldn’t have been stolen by some punk ass bitches. I accomplished what I set out to do. I raised money for a good cause, raised awareness, made new friends, and spent time with old friends. And now I need some beer and a some rest and some more beer and some more rest.