Nostalgia

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OFFICIAL:  I am able to continue my journey in May, 2018!!  My VA PAC Team linked me up with Dr. Tammareddi, an Orthopedic Surgeon at the campus in Murfreesboro, TN.  There is moderate tearing throughout my PCL Ligament, as well as some damage to the cartilage around my patella.  There is not a full tear, so they would like to avoid surgery.  For now, it’s IBUprofen, physical therapy, and slowly re-strengthening my knee and body.  Dr. Tammareddi is truly a talented and caring doctor.  I gave him one of my A Vicious Cycle cards at our initial consultation back in October.  Two months later, my Airborne Infantry friend, who also had an appointment with him, told me that my AVC card was still sitting at his keyboard, on display.  I couldn’t believe it…  That meant so much to me.  I see Dr. T again on January 18th to follow up.

I would like to extend a very special thank you to my great friend: Vietnam Combat Veteran and Army 1st Infantry Division Brother,  Captain Jerry Bell.  He surprised me by sending an OIF Veteran hat, which I received the morning of my MRI appointment.  His impeccable timing and thoughtfulness brightened my day immensely…  CPT Bell served from ’66 – ’72 as a Small Unit Commander.  He is a two times recipient of the Bronze Star Medal as well as the Air Medal, for heroic acts in combat.  He took the time to meet me on my journey (a 20 hour drive for him) on his way to the annual Big Red One reunion.  It was incredible to hear him speak and I’m so thankful to have gained the continued support, encouragement, and friendship from a man of his caliber.

After resting my knee for a few weeks, I submerged myself back into my Photography business.  A positive way to keep busy and forget about being suspended in this recovery limbo.  This is my 10th year as small business owner and I truly do love capturing moments for others…

Quite a lot of Veterans have increasingly noticeable memory issues, including myself, and I often rely on photos to specifically recall people and events.  They are important.  One photo can bring back a whole day of memories.  Images can paint the complete picture of an experience, or summarize an existence.  Someday, it could be all we have left of someone.  Many of my clients have been coming to me for over a decade now!  Their trust and business have meant so much…

My sister took the time to make a trip from Ohio and visit me in Nashville.  After stopping at Halcyon Bike Shop and photographing murals around the city, we spotted two homeless Veterans sitting near highway I-65.  An Army Vet and a Navy Vet.  They waved and smiled at every single vehicle that passed them by.  It was incredibly heartwarming on a cold November day.  We found a gas station and got them two hot coffees and some Clif bars, then parked on the shoulder and walked over.  We had a great talk, shared some laughs, exchanged stories, and ended with long hugs.  It was pretty special.  Always try to leave people better than you found them.  Take the time, make the effort.  I only wish I could have done more…

Outside of a visit from family and meeting clients for photo shoots, I have admittedly been isolating myself heavily with little to no social interactions since early September.  It still isn’t clear why isolating feels like such a necessity, regardless of how unhealthy and dangerous it can be.  This sort of pattern is part of what this journey was mending, and continuing my ride in the spring has never felt more crucial.  After several months of self-inflicted cabin fever, fight or flight anxiousness was setting in.  It was time to try and fly.  I decided to head north for a few days and return to a few special spots I’d discovered along my bicycle journey.  Bag packed, gas tank full, on four wheels rather than two.  Time to hit the open road and pay Bicycle Route 76 a visit.

Sonora, KY: A small town along the TransAmerica Trail that will forever hold a  place in my heart.  My parents surprised me back in June for my birthday in this very patriotic place.  Nostalgia swept me back to June, when I rounded the corner of Main Street on my bicycle – my Mom and Dad waving ecstatically from the front columns of Brooks General Store and Cafe.

It was just as I remembered; the table where I opened birthday presents, the wall of signatures, and I even ordered the same meal again.  Grilled chicken sandwich, cottage cheese, coffee, and water.   The owners remembered us vividly and we looked through the log book together for my entry.

On my way into the Cafe, I spotted a truck parked out front with a Special Forces license plate and couldn’t help but asked who it belonged to.  A gentleman raised his eyes from a newspaper and lifted a couple fingers in the air.  “That would be my truck, ma’am.  Name’s Jarvis Burton.”  We began talking and he shared some incredible stories from his tour in Vietnam and his time as a Green Beret with the 6th Special Forces out of Fort Bragg.

SPC Burton led my imagination through a couple of intense combat experiences, to include a descriptive witnessing of the infamous “Puff the Magic Dragon” warship in action.  The Douglas AC-47 ‘Spooky’ (radio call sign “Puff”) stockpiled 45 Flares and 24,000 rounds, including three 7.62 mm miniguns, each of which could selectively fire either 50 or 100 rounds per second.  As he spoke, it felt as if my ears tripled in size, as to not miss a single syllable this hero was telling me.  On the way out to my car, I remembered a special little spot, hidden from view, where I watched a sunset on my journey.  There was no better way to end my visit in Sonora, KY…

Nothing beats getting lost on Memory Lane – a welcome diversion when plagued with choosing a path…  Nostalgia is a beautiful escape – it’s hindsight’s charming stunt double.  Hindsight can be a harsh educator for somebody with a warm heart and cold mind.  The 20/20 vision hindsight affords can stain you with resentment and cynicism – particularly when you’ve allowed yourself to only see the beauty in others.  While people and nature are equally seasonal, one ironclad truth remains: Nature never disappoints.  My stop for the night was a humble, secluded cabin near Falls of Rough, KY, where I had taken several cycling days off to spend time with my parents back in July.  It was nice to be back.

The memories came flooding in as I pulled into the Rough River Dam Lodge, located in Falls of Rough, KY.  Smiling ear to ear, I recalled exploring the grounds, the endless buffet at Grayson Landing Restaurant, playing putt-putt golf, laughing with the lodge staff…  Recalling having to fix three flat tires while there even made me chuckle.  And the staff members remembered me!  It was so cool.  Being back here made it clear – I was really onto something out there.  The anticipation for continuing this journey has reached an all-time high.

As the sky darkened, it was time to refocus on the reason I came here: some internal conflict resolution, free from interjection or external insight.  Closing the door is soothing because it’s safety, but sad because it’s selfish.  Locking yourself in also means locking everyone else out.  But no one has a better chance of solving your puzzle than you do.

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// NOTHING FOLLOWS //

Veteran’s Day

My Veteran Brothers and Sisters
We replaced words with action.  Anger with precision.  Fear with bravery.  Personal safety with selflessness.  We stood up and stepped forward to defend our country and it’s people.  The American Flag flies backward on our uniforms because while others would stand still or run away, we charge deep into the flames.   It was our HONOR and PRIVILEGE to serve you, America.

Our hearts and minds may be charred, and while the fire inside does its best to consume our days, we chose to carry this responsibility for those who are not capable or willing.  We’ve experienced life and death on a significantly grander scale.  We’ve tapped into a facet of ourselves that some may never discover.   Keep sharp, aware, and ever wary, Brothers and Sisters; as that call to protect and defend never fades.

2004, Operation Iraqi Freedom

It’s a call that can’t be explained.  Only answered.
More than words, my Brothers and Sisters.
Never alone, never forget.

// NOTHING FOLLOWS //

HWY 96, MM 21

Nearly 5 weeks have passed since I was run off the road in the Rockies.  I am currently recovering in Nashville, as Doctors confirmed it could be months before my knee is strong enough to ride safely in the mountains.  The day before leaving Colorado, we drove down Hwy 96 and found my crash site: Highway 96, Mile Marker 21.  Even after three weeks and rainfall, my tire tracks were still embedded in the sand.  Being there was eerie and frustrating and sad, but I choose to smile anyway because I am grateful and fortunate to be alive.  This isn’t the first time death has tipped its hat at me, and thankfully I got to wink back once again.

As I ran my fingertips along the indentations, I realized: If I hadn’t been watching my mirror or had done anything differently, I might not be here.  I picked a flower growing by my tire marks, which will serve as a reminder that Spring will indeed bring me back to this very spot.  I will be seeing #HWY96MM21 in my rearview mirror.  And I WILL finish what I started.

That evening John and I had a final cigar, reminisced about the trip thus far, and of course made a few last minute jokes at each other’s expense while we had the chance.  I had been saving my Java Mint cigar to enjoy at the highest point on the route.  The Monarch Pass Summit, which reaches an altitude of over 11,300 feet, was only a 3 day ride away.  I was so close…

I stayed with Ruth in Wetmore that night. She’s an EMT who was working nearby with Team Rubicon the day my accident occurred.  Ruth actually heard the driver’s tires screech as they swerved around me from their worksite that day and had been checking in on me since.  It’s been truly eye-opening, the amount of generosity I’ve encountered.  ‘Thankful’ doesn’t even make a dent in defining it…

Well, no more prolonging the inevitable.  It was time to head to Denver and fly back to Nashville.  It was a tough goodbye, but my heart is genuinely happy that my ‘Partner in Climb’ has decided to continue this incredible journey.  I will be sharing all of his updates on the A Vicious Cycle FB Page as they come in.  Happy Tailwinds, Marine.  Don’t be too rough on those poor Rockies…  #DOERS

On September 11th, I flew Southeast to Nashville on Southwest Airlines.  All remaining gear arrived shortly after my plane landed.  Spending the day unloading an impeccably fine-tuned loadout from cardboard boxes and padded envelopes was a bummer.  After washing and drying my sun-bleached clothing, I smelled each shirt in search of a specific ‘scent’, but it was now gone.  It’s not a bad smell or a good one – not even a human one.  It’s this distinct scent from being on the road.  From being ‘out there’…  I miss ending each day having breathed air I’d never breathed before.  I miss sleeping in a new place each night and waking up not knowing where I’ll end up.

My Kona Sutra was delivered safely via Fed Ex.  Tom was awesome and was all about our selfie, haha…  After having a private moment with my bicycle, I opened the box to check out the packing job.  Wow, Great Divide Bike Shop does not mess around with their quality – inside the box looked like the most successful game of Tetris ever played.  So impressive, and not a single scratch anywhere!  Many thanks again to Lee & his staff!!

I immediately took my disassembled bicycle to Halcyon Bike Shop.  We had all grown pretty close in the months leading up to this journey and I was looking forward to seeing them.  I hadn’t even ridden a bicycle since middle school, so this was all new to me.  Halcyon taught me just about everything I know about my Kona – they are a solid shop.

They rebuilt my bike on the spot, then the amazing Stephannie did a full tune up and got him ready to (as she says), “Get back into the wild”. It was a bit surreal being back at the shop before completing my journey, but this will be an awesome place to come and reminisce with other cyclists during this hiatus.  It’s pretty great now that I have all this literal street cred under my belt too, lol.  Nashville cyclists, seriously: Halcyon Bike Shop.

Operating a car felt brand new at first but came back quickly. “Just like riding a bike”, ha, I wish…  Some days, I’ll take my car through the country roads of northern Nashville, which are a lot like the roads were on route.  When there are no cars around, I’ll slow down to 15-18 mph, put all 4 windows down, and use my imagination.  It reminds me of riding, just a little.  Just enough.  There are also many spots downtown that few people know about; and they can be peaceful, even in a big city environment.  Nashville is very easy to love.

After bringing my bike home from the shop, I set up my Bike Trainer.  It allows me to mount and suspend my actual steel frame bicycle and uses a magnetic wheel, making the resistance of the different gears feel realistic.  The trainer is set up inside, so I can use it all winter long.  It’s truly the best possible way to safely strengthen my knee and properly prepare for this spring.   I’m so grateful…

There is a noticeable improvement in my knee and I’m very close to walking with no limp at all.  The inflammation has officially gone down just enough to get an MRI.  It was good to be back at my assigned VA in Murfreesboro, just south of Nashville.  My PAC team genuinely goes above and beyond.  My physician ordered the MRI and it was completed the same day.  Sometime between now and Monday, Sep. 25th, I will finally know the exact details of my knee injury!

I began this journey with 11 paper maps, 100 lbs in bike and gear, and absolutely zero cycling experience whatsoever.  So far, I’ve pedaled 2,200 miles, in spite of 14 years of daily chronic neck pain, despite a major recent surgery and two bad knees.  My personal limits have been either rediscovered or redefined, both physically and mentally.  It’s about pushing back when the odds are against you.  Falling then standing back up, and taking a stand against your own limitations and the limitations others put on you.  I’ll be counting the days until I continue, and you can count on me to fight and finish.  I was really on to something out there, and whatever it is, it’s still waiting for me…  #HWY96MM21 #FinishWhatYouStart

// NOTHING FOLLOWS //