The True Heroes of Ian's Ride

It's been a few months since the last blog post and in that time I came down with a nasty case of the flu and spent a lot of time watching snow fall. I've been really wanting to put out a few blog posts but just couldn't get in the right headspace. However, I've drug my feet long enough and we're going to start with this one.

2018 was another big year for me. We finished building my home and I finally got to move in. I got to spend a few days at our nation’s capital, with dozens of other chair users, to advocate for disability rights. I rode my wheelchair another 365 consecutive days, made a productive trip to California, and of course was able to get in another big ride. However, one of the most significant things to happen to me in 2018 was the formation of a little nonprofit called Ian's Ride. There are some really special people who came together and donated their time, knowledge, and support to get this thing off the ground. I’d like to spend a little time here acknowledging them.

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First, let me start with the two people who have been with me since the very beginning of this Ian's Ride journey. I'm talking about Deborah Nelson and Jeff Boyd. We first met a couple years back during my 2016 ride. They are both avid cyclists and love being outside. It was a fast-made friendship. Nearly two years ago they approached me and brought up the idea of starting a nonprofit so that I could continue to advocate for more outdoor accessibility. I loved the idea of doing more of these rides but was a bit intimidated by the administrative side. I've always been much more comfortable in the break room than in the board room. However, it was an opportunity I couldn't pass up and I will never be able to thank them enough for all they've done. Since then, I've been able to do regular trail runs/rides with Deborah to help her train for her lofty goal of a half marathon every month of 2018. We love getting some miles in on the Olympic Discovery Trail and it's always a great opportunity to catch up and share our fondness for the outdoors. I don't get to see Jeff as much, but we are both gear heads, and he is always super helpful in making suggestions to enhance my wheelchair's performance. He was pushing for those lithium batteries from the get-go. Deborah is the president of our Board of Directors, and Jeff is the Vice President. They're both great people and great friends.

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Next, I'd like to mention the man who undertakes the secretary role on the Ian's Ride board, Quentin Wildsmith. Quentin is an attorney out of Seattle and has done so much of the legwork to get this nonprofit off the ground. The administrative pieces to putting a nonprofit together were way over my head, but this guy handled it like an expert. Everything from the application, bylaws, incorporation, and the tax exempt filing were managed by Quentin. He always has good suggestions and keeps me informed on relevant Ian's Ride events on the peninsula. I don't know Quentin as well as some of the other board members, I really hope we'll spend more time together in 2019. I respect Quentin tremendously and look forward to getting to know him better.

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Lena Washke is the next heavy hitter on the board that I really want to tell you about. Lena is an accountant here in Port Angeles and our families have connected numerous times in the 10 years I've lived here. She holds down the treasurer role and has been unbelievably helpful with keeping track and managing our finances. This is an area where I fail miserably and having someone incredibly knowledgeable on the subject has been a godsend. She has sacrificed so much of her time and patience and has been all around wonderful. She spearheaded the setup for T-shirts and even a mass mailing that we tried. It's truly an honor to know her and her incredible family.

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Another standout director to mention is Steve Stratton. Steve's background is insurance and is the owner of Wenner-Davis & Associates Insurance in Port Angeles. I've known him for some years, and he was a big supporter of the 2016 ride. He's been an outstanding advisor on all the various insurance questions that come up when planning a wheelchair ride across the state. He is a friendly, down to earth man who always makes you smile when you're around him. I was thrilled to have him join us at my house for the culmination of this year's ride and quite chuffed to share a victory beer with him minutes after the rides completion. He also dabbles in brewing, which makes me that much fonder of him.

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Finally, I'm honored to have Laurie Stewart as one of the directors for Ian's Ride. Laurie is the CEO of Sound Community Bank and has so many awards and accolades associated with her it's dizzying. Just recently, she was named American Bankers Community Banker of the Year and her name was in lights in Times Square. She has been quite valuable in helping with bank issues and just sharing her expertise, which she has no shortage of. It truly is a pleasure having her on board.

These are the true heroes of Ian's Ride. I'm just a guy who loves being outside and enjoys long rides in his wheelchair. The people I've mentioned do the real work and are always helping behind the scenes. These are busy, professional people who take time out of their hectic schedules to help me advocate for a more accessible outdoors. I most definitely could not do what I do without their help. I don't know how I ever got so lucky to be associated with such special people. It's been a real pleasure to mention how great they really are.

That’s enough for now. I will be posting again soon to tell you all about my recent trip to California.

Thanks to the Supporters and the Crew

Oh how time flies when you're having fun. I can't believe it's been over a month since I made it home from the big ride across the state. I will admit, it took me at least a week to decompress and rest my body after all those days on the road. After catching up with all the e-mails, messages, social media posts, and life in general I'm finally ready to express some post-ride reflections. But it can’t be done all at once. I need to start with the good people that were part of this. And there's quite a few who helped make Ian's Ride 2018 a success.

Chair adapter extraordinaire!

The brains behind our electrical modifications.

First off, I want to thank a few people who really helped in the background and haven't got the acknowledgment they deserve. I'll start off with Steve Smith and Russ Woodward. These two were the brains and muscle behind adding the lithium battery to the back of my chair. I never could have put the daily miles I did without the incredible ingenuity these two contributed. Steve is super handy with anything electronic, and Russ never ceases to amaze me with his incredible fabricating skills. Big thanks to both of you for all you did to help me in this endeavor. The next person I want to acknowledge is Kayleigh King. I met Kayleigh through my friends at Nelson Boyd Attorneys during my 2016 ride. She was a tremendous help with social media and even joined us at one of the breweries with her family. She is really awesome! Anyway, she came through again this year and really helped us out with aspects of the website and blog that we could not have dealt with ourselves on the road. She has a wonderful eye for design and a technical knowledge that proved invaluable. Thank you so much Kayleigh!

Now onto the crew… These are the people that were with me in the trenches. They put up with heat, smoke, long days, roadside food, and a slow 7 mph crawl across the state. They each set aside two weeks of their precious summer to spend time with me, and I couldn't have asked for a better group. I love each of them dearly, and the memories I have with them and this trip will be strongly cherished for the rest of my life. I'll try not to prattle on too long about each of them…

Josh Blaustein (Dr. B)

All smiles.

When it comes down to it, Dr. B is the reason I do these rides. He brought me on my first bike touring trip back in 2006 and has been one of my closest friends ever since. After I became paralyzed, he would schedule bike touring trips, so they would begin or end near my home in Port Angeles, so I could still feel like part of the crew. He's got one of the biggest hearts of anyone I know, has a sharp wit that keeps me on my toes, and has the kind of attitude that makes you want to be around him constantly. I'm so fortunate to have this man in my life, and as I've said before, he is truly the heart of these rides.

Josh Sutcliffe (Chauncey)

Josh really enjoys a good beer.

There is a lot to say about this guy. I met Josh several years ago when he was interviewing with me for a job as an attendant. I rarely hire males, but everything about Josh made me smile, and his keen interest in outdoor athletics made him the perfect match for me. I have never once regretted bringing him on the team. However, he is so much more than an employee. He is a close friend and really part of the family. His jovial demeanor, constant optimism, and willingness to help makes him someone I'm proud to have in my life. His willingness to go out on an adventure at the drop of a hat, and his physical ability to do so, makes my life a lot better. This guy can run dogs in the morning, climb a mountain with me in the afternoon, and still star in a Shakespeare show at the end of the day. He really keeps us all smiling during the rides and is always there for me when I need a hand. Thanks for everything Josh, I'm lucky to have you.

Jimmy Quenelle

Sorry ladies, he’s taken.

That brings us to Jimmy… Oh how I love to give this guy hell. I do so because the damn guy is perfect in every way. I mean for Pete's sake, riding his bike across the state wasn't enough; he had to run more than 180 miles of the way! He is an animal, physically, and one of the kindest, friendliest, most thoughtful people I know. His vast knowledge of natural history, beer, and all things outdoors keeps me in awe. He has taught me so much in our nearly 14-year friendship and some of my fondest memories are while in his presence. I've made a trip to California every year, for 10 years straight, to visit him and his family and I hope to do so for the next 10 years. He means the world to me. Cheers Jimmy, here's to an amazing friendship.

Ben Boyd

Ben cracking wise.

I have known Ben longer than I've known any of the other guys. We met back in 2002 when we were both attending Santa Barbara City College. We were both young and ornery and had a common interest in drinking beer, chasing girls, and playing disc golf. We became fast friends. He is a guy you can always depend on, super faithful to his friends, and has a never-ending fun-loving energy. He is not a distance cyclist, but he wanted to help and be part of the ride anyway. His contribution turned out to be critical to the success of our ride. Despite all the planning we never considered that the weight of people, wheelchairs, and gear were more than my minivan could handle. Ben really came to our rescue with the U-Haul truck he drove across the state. He was able to haul the bikes, gear, and an extra person to and from the start and end points of each day. Even more, he would deliver our stuff to the awaiting hotel room and make sure that the facilities were accessible. To top it off, he would take care of extra errands (such as beer runs, he is also a beer aficionado) we needed ran, check on us riders during the day, and he even got out there and put a bunch of miles in with us. He was essential. I don't get to see Ben as often as I would like, and to be able to spend two whole weeks with him was awesome! Thanks for everything Ben, I love you like a brother.

Teena Woodward (Mom)

She is awesome!

That brings us to my mom. She is always the hardest for me to write about because I could never illustrate in words just how amazing she is. She is my hero, my role model, and my best friend. She has done everything she could in the past 10 years to push me to succeed in life as a paralyzed man. The role she played in this year's ride demonstrates just how incredible she is. Every morning, she would wake up well before I to get started with the morning routine. She would stretch me, prepare the wheelchair, proofread the blog, make sure the crew was all up and moving, get me in my chair and ready, and all of this before she could even have her breakfast. She would then drive us to the starting point of the day and begin managing all the publicist duties and the social media aspects of this endeavor. She would have an hour or two before needing to bring Jimmy his bike and delivering us all lunch. That is just what she had to do before noon, the afternoons and evenings could get even crazier. The amazing thing about my mom, is she did all this without complaint and with a smile on her face. I love you mom, and I know how lucky I am to have you.

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Love these guys!

Before I wrap this up, I'd like to thank a few others that deserve an honorary mention. I'll start it off with Todd Stabelfeldt, the Quadfather. He and his beautiful wife Karen drove all the way out to Spokane so they could start the ride with me. They both were also there on the final day to see me through the finish line. I love them both and was thankful to have them be part of the journey. Next, I'd like to thank Denise Smith-Irwin, Joe Meyer, and Tyler Schrenk. These three wheelchair users joined me on day 11 and really lifted my spirits. It was wonderful having some other chair users join me along the way to remind me of the importance of accessible trails. Next, big thanks to my dad, brother, uncle Al, and cousin Jason for driving/flying all the way to Washington so they could be there for the finish of the ride. My uncle Al drove all the way out from Wisconsin and the rest flew up from San Diego. I've got some great people in my family. I'd also like to thank one of my very best friends Matt Marks for also flying up to be part of this. Lots of love brother. Finally, a shout out to Kenny Salvini, Jesse Collens, Bonnie Richardson, and Marsha Cutting for making the final day that much better. Thanks guys for helping to represent the wheelchair trail riding community.

I could not do what I do without the love, support, and enthusiasm of the people in my life. Those mentioned here are just a few.

Day 13 The Home Stretch

Our final day started at Discovery Bay overlooking the water.  Most of the day would either be on the Olympic Discovery Trail (ODT) or backroads.  I’ve been looking forward to this leg of the trip.  I’m in my own backyard, and there’s something significant about coming home after a long challenging journey. At Discovery Bay, my entourage (six cyclists and two runners) and I were met by two other cyclists, Wallace and a friend who would ride the entirety of the day with us.  We started off  on what ended up feeling much like a victory lap throughout the day.  There were many points along the route which would be meet up points for friends, family, and fans. 

The excited crew at departure.

The excited crew at departure.

Matt "Mizzo" Marks

Matt "Mizzo" Marks

A little ways before we reached our first meet up spot at Diamond Point we would have to ride on Highway 101 briefly.  We were provided a police escort from the state police as we entered the highway.  At the sight of the flashing lights Matt Marks’ instincts kicked in, and he was seen running into the bushes.  After realizing the police were there to support us, Matt came out of the bushes and got back to running.  While running behind the escort Matt was heard to say, “This is the first time I’ve ever chased a police officer.”

 

 

We arrived at Diamond Point where there was quite the welcoming party.  There were a lot of supporters with signs and positive vibes.  My favorite kind of women, Women on Wheels, a local cycling club, joined our growing group.  We were now becoming quite the spectacle, if we weren’t already.  I asked Dr. B. for a head count, but he can’t count past twenty, so I only know there were more than twenty of us now.

The welcome into Clallam County.

The welcome into Clallam County.

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Just a little bit of dirt.

Just a little bit of dirt.

After a quick interview and some rest, we continued on the ODT working our way to the next welcoming party waiting for us at Carrie Blake Park.  At times today it felt like I was already done with IansRide and was just out on one of my daily rides on the trails.  But we still had a job to do, and we still needed to finish these last twenty or so miles.  Even though we didn’t have much car traffic today, we made up for it clogging the trails with cyclists, runners, skateboards, and wheelchairs.  My trusty domestique Chauncey was there managing the chaos like only he can.  It may have been more difficult than dealing with semis on highway 20 at certain points.  Throughout the ride I have avoided any type of off-road terrain fearing my chair would acquire enough wear and tear and didn’t need any extra stress.  Not to mention, it’s not too comfortable for me either.  That being said, today was the last day, so we rode on a quarter mile dirt path to make things more interesting.

 

My great friend, Kenny, and the force behind The Here and Now Project.

My great friend, Kenny, and the force behind The Here and Now Project.

Just before reaching Carrie Blake, my good friend and fellow quad Kenny Salvini joined us.  I’ve been waiting for Kenny to get off his lazy ass and join me.  #getoffyourasskennysalvini.  We kept calm and rolled on into Carrie Blake to more fanfare and hoopla.  We rested, schmoozed, took photos, didn’t sign autographs, and then it was time to move on.  We were joined by another friend and fellow quad Bonnie Richardson as we left the park.  My cousins Becca and Jason also joined in here.  Again, due to Dr. B’s limited counting ability I really couldn’t tell how big our group was now.  

Heading out of the park we had our second police escort of the day as we made our way through the not-so-busy streets of Sequim.  Matt, who was on a bike now after twelve miles of running was visibly nervous.  I explained to Matt that Johnny Law was our friend, and he had nothing to worry about as long as he stayed close to me.  His nervous look remained however until the escort was over.  Once at Railroad Bridge Park we ate lunch and we were joined by Todd, the quadfather, and his lovely wife Karen.  If you recall, they were with us at the very beginning in Coeur D'Alene! My friend Marsha, also in a wheelchair was now with us as well.  And my grandpa, Papa, was there too.  He was coming along for the ride in a bike/chair combo powered by Nicole Lepping from the Sequim Wheelers.  Russ and my mom were now on bikes and rolling along with us.  I told my mom I was so glad she got to ride with us.  She’s been running around for the last two weeks taking care of me and the crew. Finally she could relax and enjoy the home stretch. 

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The entourage at Railroad Bridge

Jesse Collins added style and panache to our group.

Jesse Collins added style and panache to our group.

Leaving the park we were more of a spectacle than I could have imagined.  Luckily I can’t see behind me and Dr. B can’t count, so I didn’t really know what the situation was.  I did though have a sense there was still something missing, and a few miles down the road from Railroad Bridge we found the missing piece, Jesse.  Jesse is another good quad friend of mine.  Jesse’s great attitude and fabulous new hairdo added to the spectacle.  We were officially a motley crew. If I am ever to be compared to Forrest Gump, this would be the moment.  

 

The last four miles or so were emotional for all of us.  At different points along the route today we all had a moment where we realized we had made it and accomplished something special.  Once we made it to my house it was time to celebrate.  My friends finished all the beer from my tap, and made a substantial dent in the collection in my fridge.  Jimmy had run the entire twenty nine miles, so I was hoping he would stay hydrated.  I recommended water, but he needed the food value that beer contains.  Our friend, Kristin, had arranged for burritos from Little Devil’s Lunchbox to feed the masses.  A local lumber company, Interfor, together with Little Devil’s Lunchbox picked up the tab.  Thank you!  It’s going to be hard when I stop getting free stuff.     

more than 20...Less than 50.  What a welcome!

more than 20...Less than 50.  What a welcome!

 

As the night went on, the crowd slowly dispersed, and the team gathered in my house to reminisce.  It was great to sit around with the crew and share our feelings about the ride.  I’m so thankful for everything this group has done for me.  All they want in return is beer.  It’s quite the deal.  I am incredibly lucky to have such strong family support and have the good friends I do.  I always feel supported whether it’s doing something I do everyday or riding across the Cascades in my wheelchair.  No one who knows me ever tells me “no, you can’t do that.”  There’s a bitchin’ line in one of my favorite Guy Clark songs, The Cape, “He did not know he could not fly, so he did.”   

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Day 12 Kingston to Discovery Bay: Back on the Peninsula

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The day started at the Kingston Ferry, which is familiar territory for my mom, Chauncey, and myself. The sky was overcast not with smoke, but a cool PNW mist that made the air feel extra refreshing to breathe. Joining us today for the ride to the Hood Canal Bridge was the West Sound Cycling Club, who not only greatly increased our numbers but added a lot of visibility with all of their blinking lights and bright clothing. Among the crowd of new faces were some very familiar ones: my dad, brother Adam, and close friend Matt were riding with me all the way today, and my uncle and cousin were providing extra vehicle support. It means so much to me to have the support of my friends and family.

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We all rode on the busy street out of Kingston to Port Gamble, car drivers passing us by with supportive honks and cheers. I chatted with members of the cycling club, and learned how active they were in advocating for inclusive road infrastructure. I'm not sure the Hood Canal Bridge would have been doable for me if it hadn't been for their voices. Thank you West Sound Cycling Club for the work you do!

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We made it to the bridge, which was the stopping point for the club, and continued across with a slimmed-down group. You might remember Matt from the 2016 ride. He's thinking about signing up for a triathalon, so he decided to run with Jimmy. My brother rode my mom's downhill mountain bike, which isn't ideal for riding up hills on the roads, but he barely complained at all riding over the rolling terrain of the 104. I'm probably the most proud of my dad, who rode the whole day. 

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On the other side of the bridge, I really felt home. We took a picture with the Nelson Boyd sign, as they were the sponsor of the day. There's no way I can thank them enough.

I added a layer, and before we took off a beautiful great blue heron flew overhead. They are such majestic creatures, gracefully floating their giant bodies in the air overhead. Then the GBH blessed the van and Adam with a giant splatter of poop. The GBH is now Adam's spirit animal.

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Along the way we added another rider to our group: Wallace Teal. He has a fascinating cycling history, not only having ridden across the US but also started an ocean-to-ocean race in Panama that continues to this day. I'm honored to ride with him!

We stopped for a generously long lunch at 20 miles. Once everyone had eaten, Jimmy and Matt hopped on bicycles for the rest of the way. Less than a half mile from the finish, we stopped at the Discovery Bay Village Store for a beer and to chat with other cycling tourists who had parked their bikes outside.

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After hitting our finish line for the day, we piled our stuff in all the vehicles and headed to one of my favorite watering holes, The Taproom in Sequim. An anonymous patron paid for our first round! The rest of the tab was picked up by Steve, who is not only a close family friend, but is responsible for setting my chair up with the lithium battery. His name is prominent on the list of people without whom this ride would not have been possible. Thanks Steve!

I can't believe the 2018 ride is almost over. One more day, then I can relax a bit. Or start planning for 2019.

For those of you wishing to join me on the last leg of our trip, here is our planned itinerary (please allow some wiggle-room for unexpected delays):

9:30 - 10:00 - we leave Discovery Bay
11:15 - Diamond Point
1:00 - Carrie Blake Park
2:00 - Railroad Bridge Park
3:30 - Robin Hill Farm Park
5:00 - HOME!

Day 11 Getchell to Edmonds: Cruising to the Ferry

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Around mile 400 of this journey, I was cruising the Centennial Trail with good friends, taking in wavy Sitka spruce and draping western red cedar branch patterns, observing different types of houses and what people are doing with their yards, weaving from more forested areas to more developed areas in this wild land-urban interface while just enjoying the sights and sounds of western Washington. The group had grown to include another cyclist (Diane Trepanier) and three people in power wheelchairs: Denise Smith-Irwin (who graciously hosted us all at her house last night), Joe Meyer and Tyler Schrenk, all from our big and wonderful Here and Now Project family. In the peace and quiet of the Centennial Trail, we all got to mingle and converse as we made our way southward toward Snohomish. 

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Right around this point, Jimmy passed his overall running goal for the trip of 120 miles. Tyler cruised with us for a few miles, Denise and Diane stayed with us until we got to the southern end of the Centennial Trail, and Joe kept going with us when we had to leave the quietude of the trail and continue on along roads. We had a quick lunch pit stop at the Rotary Park in Everett. I couldn’t let the crew rest for very long, as we still had a long way to go, and some meeting logistics had us running a little behind schedule. So I used my powerful lips to crack my whip and we were off again.

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Travel for the remainder of the day was challenging as we dealt with increasing traffic and urban congestion. Not long after lunch, Joe’s wheelchair just suddenly quit while we were heading up a steep hill, and the crew had to disengage his drivetrain, back him up onto a sidewalk, then push him into our van so that my mom could get him to where he needed to be. We rode the Interurban trail for a while, which mostly runs along roads, but occasionally has pure trail sections.

Trusty Ben returned the U-Haul today. It served us very well, it’s hard to imagine how we would have pulled off this trip without that vehicle.

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The day was highlighted by our first view of the briny waters of the Puget Sound. That is when we could viscerally feel just how far we’ve come on this journey, just how close we now are to our final destination. We were elated when we arrived at the Edmonds ferry station, and we were able to go right up to the water. Natalie from BodyPoint and Leo from Norco met us there, and we ate, drank and were merry at Rory’s, a restaurant just a block from the beach.

Soon thereafter, we boarded a ferry and were bound for Kingston. Most fittingly, the name of the ferry was Spokane, the endpoint of our very first day, which seems like a long time ago now.

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We are now back on the Olympic Peninsula, and only have 2 more legs to finish this journey.