Halcyon Bike Shop

I have had the BEST experience with Halcyon Bike Shop in Nashville.  Extremely knowledgeable staff, extensive inventory, and a zero pressure environment.  SO grateful to have found them…

With Stephannie, Co-Owner of Halcyon Bike Shop in Nashville, TN

Halcyon Bike Shop
2802 12th Ave S
Nashville, TN 37204


The Kona Sutra

I Found “The One”

After months of research and hours of test riding, I found my bicycle.  The beautiful Kona Sutra Touring Bike.  When I hopped on this beastly piece of machinery, I knew almost immediately that we were meant to be…

While Stephannie, co-owner of Halcyon Bike Shop, was ringing me up, I have to publicly admit, I became a bit teary eyed.   It was pretty cool moment, actually. I put my hand on the Brooks Saddle and smiled to myself.  This is the one.  This is my Sutra, and together, we are going to travel from one side of the continent to the other…

Today was a big step.  Soon to be followed by more big steps.
No more running in place.  NO more standing still.  #FORWARD


My First Ride

Today, I went out on my first real bike ride since 9th Grade…  The Music City Bikeway came very highly recommended – and now I understand why.  It’s 26 miles long with a variety of landscapes and terrains.  The carefully constructed routes span from scenic greenways, major Metroparks, and leads right into the heart of downtown Nashville.  Even for someone with little to no attention span, my interest was totally peaked the whole ride.  **Oooo, squirrel!!**   Sorry, I’m back.

Two Rivers Park – Cumberland River at Sunset

My first ride was short – just over 4 miles long.  I wanted to test the waters…  Figure out what muscles are going to be used most.  Get a feel for my bike, practice changing gears, braking, and finding ways to sit that hurt the least.  I’m going to take this bad boy out again tomorrow and see what my 10 mile time is…  🙂

#NerdAlert, I took my bike out on a photo shoot.  10-second self timer FTW.

I’d like to recommend the Lazer Blade helmet with MIPS (multi-directional Impact Protection System).  It weighs less than 1/2 lb, fits very comfortably and securely to my head, has excellent ventilation, and it’s just an over all good looking helmet…


Hell on Wheels

My face guards came in the mail!  I figured out that the wind while riding really dries out my mouth and nose.  I actually had a slight sore throat the next morning.  These have totally solved the problem.  They’re made of seamless polyester microfiber by SA Company.  The actual printing on the face shields is very high quality and vibrant.  They’re soft and they stay put.  RAWRRR!!

My Mom is NOT a fan of the skull, but as soon as I scare off my first mountain lion, I know she’ll have a change of heart…


10 Miles

My First Mini-Milestone

I went back to the Music City Bikeway to try out my first 10 mile ride.  The section from Two Rivers Park to Shelby Bottoms is truly beautiful.  I’m REALLY glad I bought these riding bibs – having padded bottoms on a leather saddle is like night and day.  10 miles in 43 minutes makes me happy.  And relieved.  I think it’s a great starting point…

Here is a fairly helpful Interactive Greenway Map for Nashville.
I’m excited to check out other sections!
P.S.  Riding is incredibly therapeutic…  I can already feel it.



Training Day 3

Got deep in my head and tested my limits today.
20 miles in 1 Hour, 15 Min.  And 1,300+ Calories…
This one was for YOU, my fallen family.
#honorthefallen #AViciousCycle

I know this isn’t the wisest thing to do…  But as a side note, I did this with zero food or water intake.  I deliberately wanted to see how I would perform and feel running only on fumes.  The mind is so powerful, it’s scary sometimes.  I’ll be sure to fuel and hydrate going forward, but it’s good to know that I’m capable of this madness when resources are scarce.


Group Ride

Got in on a nice 7-mile group ride, organized by Halcyon Bike Shop. They host them every other Sunday.  They’re free of charge, and ideal for beginners.  This was my first time riding on actual roads with traffic, so it was a GREAT learning experience.

The ride started at the bike shop and ended at one of my very favorite spots in Nashville.  The Shelby Avenue Pedestrian Bridge.  This is the exact spot that I took my skyline photo when I first moved here in 2011.  <3



I think that bridges are the most beautiful structure the human race has ever invented.  Uniting two lands, connecting sides, crossing divides, facilitating possibilities…  I took the Music City Bikeway past Shelby Bottoms all the way to the Pedestrian Bridge to enjoy Nashville’s beautiful skyline.  Thank you to fellow photographer, “Michael”, for pausing his jog to take these for me!  🙂

I keep imagining what it will feel like to cross the breathtaking Golden Gate Bridge at the end of my journey…  Can’t wait to make it a reality.


Paracord Bracelets

Paracord Bracelets
Sample bracelets made by Sarah

I’m hand making Custom Paracord Bracelets to help raise money for my journey and they’re actually pretty freaking cool, too.
~ Handmade by Sarah
~ Made of Mil-Spec 550 Paracord
~ Very Easy to Fasten
~ Tons of Color Options
~ Fast Free Shipping & Tax Included

Purchase yours on the Support Sarah page!

Paracord Bracelets
Sample bracelets made by Sarah



Milestone Alert!!

Today’s ride was a little wild and also my very first time cycling alone in traffic. I ended up going way further than planned, too! 🙂 I started at Two Rivers and took the greenway through Shelby Bottoms to the Nashville Pedestrian Bridge. BUT THEN! On a whim, I Googled Halcyon Bike Shop and ended up cycling through the city clear to the south side!! I flew into the shop on my bike and slammed on the brakes like, “Wuzzup.” They filled all my water bottles, checked my air pressure, and hooked me up with some lights. #HomeAwayFromHome

Nashville Pedestrian Bridge

I left the shop around 5pm – the heat of rush hour. I had to make myself dive into this challenge. This scenario is much more realistic for my bike trip than the greenway… It went REALLY well. Drivers were aware of my presence, saw my hand signals, let me into turn lanes and passed me safely when necessary. It was actually kind of awesome… Even had people say “Hi!” at red lights and whatnot. I absolutely love this city…

Today’s Stats:
Miles: 23.6
Time: 1hr 45 min
Ave. Speed: 14.7
Calories Burned: 1,518

Today’s Log via: Map My Ride (app)

I’m really getting excited about this journey. At the same time, I am realizing just how much progress is still required to be prepared for it. I plan to cycle 50-70 miles per day – and that’s with the weight of my gear. These are unweighted rides. One day at a time. Just gotta keep topping myself and staying focused… Thank you all for believing in me!!! #VeteransUnite #honorthefallen


Combat Vet Cycles Across America

Thank you all so much again for following my journey, showing your support, and simply believing in me… My coast to coast bike trip will total over 4,000 miles, cross through 10 states and 4 times zones. I want to HONOR my fallen Brothers and Sisters and UNITE my fellow Veterans. I want to experience the country I LOVE and fought for in a way that’s both gratifying and GRUELING. Please share and help spread the word to the Veterans you know and others who might find my Bicycle Journey across America interesting or inspiring. I would love the opportunity to know them and make them proud.

I’ve been hand making custom paracord bracelets to raise funds for my journey.  Thank you so very much to everyone that has purchased one so far!  Some of your color combinations have been nothing short of legendary.  🙂

Follow Sarah’s Bicycle Journey Across America:

Off Road

Cumberland Park, overlooking the Cumberland River, Nashville, TN

It will truly be an privilege to represent my fellow Veterans and honor my Fallen Family by taking on this physically demanding endeavor…  As I train, I think about the countless challenges that will surely arise throughout this journey and what it will take to power through them.  Turning these feelings into fuel, emotion into momentum…  Pouring my mind and body into something that will aggressively fight me back.  I cannot wait.  And I look forward to taking you all with me…  😉

10 miles, 33 min, 49 sec

I pushed really hard today, bringing my 10 mile time down to 33 min.  The Music City Bikeway is a great way to build endurance and practice handling.  So many hills – and some are pretty darn steep.  I’m already thinking ahead to the fact that these hills are nothing compared to the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Or the Rocky Mountains…  But they will be gorgeous, and the beauty of nature will distract me from my discomforts, just as it always has.  <3

Using your legs to power yourself across the U.S. is no vacation, lol.  However, one thing I think will be great about cycling rather than driving is the speed.  There’ll be a chance to soak in the surroundings and note the details.

The Natchez Trace is a 444-mile National Parkway that runs from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, TN, connecting the Cumberland and Mississippi Rivers. This weekend, I’m taking my Kona Sutra out to the Natchez Trace Parkway.  I will ride 50 miles on Saturday.  Time for a real test.   Wish me luck.  😉

Paracord Bracelets – Hand Made by Sarah

I’m making and selling custom paracord bracelets to fund my journey.
Purchase Your Bracelet Here


50 Mile Milestone

On Saturday, I took my Kona Sutra out to the Natchez Trace Parkway (highway 100).  I cycled my very first 50 miles in under 4 hours, burning over 3,000 calories.  25 miles out and 25 back, starting at Loveless Cafe.  The elevations were formidable.  1-2 mile long inclines, steep descents, and surrounded by the beauty of nature.  When things got really hard, I just took a look around…

The Natchez Trace is a beautiful, mountainous 444-mile stretch, beginning in Natchez, MS and ending near Loveless Cafe, southwest of Nashville, TN.  It’s loaded with amazing historical sights, hiking trails, and camp grounds.  All the drivers were very courteous and there were many other cyclists out.  Can’t wait to go back and take the time to explore off the beaten path a little more…

I am NOT going to try and sound tough and tell you that it was easy.  It wasn’t – it was very difficult.  This 50 mile ride gave me a small taste of what’s to come, and I have to say – I’m starving for more.  I believe this journey will finally force me to tap back into the same facet of myself that the military required.  A part of me that has been lying dormant for over a decade.  This journey will be eye opening – an awakening.

There are certain skills that the military requires we master.  Among these, is taking the slightest indication of defeat and turning it into a tool.  Harnessing it, dominating it, translating it into energy – pure, relentless force.  When you begin to feel overwhelmed, use it to your advantage.  Apply it to your stamina.  Use your mind to melt it down into fuel, into rage, into numbness, whatever it needs to be to fill in the gaps between you and wherever you need to be.
…… I’ve missed this ……


Support Sarah’s Journey

It’s Happening!!

Less than 3 weeks before I begin cycling across America.  I’ve been training like crazy, practicing inclines with traffic on the Natchez Trace Parkway, and doing timed speed cycling on the Music City Bikeway.  It’s coming down to the wire.  I couldn’t be more excited!!  I haven’t ridden a bicycle since 9th grade and only had a month to train…

Almost all of my gear has come in and I had a fun time laying everything out and going through it over the weekend.  I ordered my Giro Clip-In Shoes and Pedals – they should be here early next week.  Apparently, they are a necessity on long tours so you can pull up on the pedal as well as push down.  I hear they take some getting used to, so I’m anxious for them to arrive.

This past Sunday, Stephannie met with me for a 4 hour, hands-on repair and maintenance class at Halcyon Bike Shop.  As I type this, I still cannot even believe how much I learned…  I now feel completely confident in changing my tires and tubes, removing damaged chain links and repairing my chain, replacing wheel spokes, adjusting my brakes, and doing alignments.  In FACT, when I got home, my Schwalbe Marathon Tires had come in and I swapped them out my myself in the garage!!!  😀

The Clement X’Plor Tires that came with my Kona were great tires.  The handling was amazing.  However, after talking to cyclists and researching, the deeper tread would have resulted in heavier resistance on the pavement.  Today, I tested out the new Schwalbe Tires, and wow.  Noticeably more smooth, and still, the handling felt spot on – even though it had just rained and the pavement was wet.  My previous 20-mile time  improved by 4 minutes!!!

Follow my Journey:
Support Sarah



I was incredibly honored to be featured on Fox 17 News (WZTV Nashville) tonight…  It was an awesome experience working with Eric Alvarez – so talented, creative, and personable. He captured my message and upcoming mission beautifully…

Less than 2 days remain before I head to Virginia and begin this grueling, yet glorious cycling journey across America.  It will be a privilege to honor my fallen Brothers and Sisters and I will pour my body and soul into this journey in order to represent my fellow Veterans and make them proud.

I’ll be blogging regularly and opening up quite a bit via my “Updates & Blog” page, as well as my AVC Facebook Page.  If by taking on this journey and being vocal about my own issues results in even ONE Veteran not feeling alone – or inspires ONE Veteran to power through another day rather than end their own life:  MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

Support Sarah’s Journey

Follow Sarah:

*Information about my Coast to Coast Route, Upcoming Stops, Veteran Meetups, and general whereabouts will appear on the Scheduling Page.


Oscar Mike


One last stop at Halcyon Bike Shop, then I packed my gear, got into a one way rental SUV, and hit the road.  Next stop, Yorktown, VA!!

It’s all coming to a head…  The planning, the training, the gear, the excitement and anticipation – it’s time to apply all of it to my new reality.  No more Google searches or Amazon purchases.  The only step left to take is to start.

Come on Sunday.  Get here already.  🙂

Follow My Journey:


Video Credits: “A Vicious Cycle”
Produced By: Liz Lee Schullo
Executive Producer: Sarah Lee
Music: “Isolate” by Moby
Music Licensed By: MobyGratis
Special Thanks: Phillip Schullo

It Begins

I am finally here.  The starting point of my journey: The Yorktown Victory Monument in Yorktown, VA.  This is it.  Sunday, May 7th.  It’s time to ride…

I arrived in Yorktown at 0500 Friday morning, May 5th.  Fine tuned my gear and ate at Beachcomber Restaurant several times.  Pretty much became a regular and they were all rooting for us by the time we left…  🙂

On Saturday, I had the honor of meeting with Marine Veteran Daniel Sharp, a talented filmmaker and admin of Pop Smoke and Military Memes.  Daniel has been very helpful in spreading the word about my Journey through social media, and he took the time to meet with me and interview us.  Amazing guy…

Well!  Only 4,010 more miles to San Francisco, CA and the beautiful Golden Gate Bridge… Sunday is here, so here goes nothin’.  😉



The first several days have been incredible and I’ve been off to an intentionally slow start.  Adjusting my body, fine tuning my load, and thoroughly enjoying the places and people.  The sounds, the smells, the scenes.  It’s so very rare to find experiences capable of igniting all five senses…  I love this.  I love everything about it.

I could spend hours alone in the sand, listening to the waves kiss the shore and the birds cry overhead; and I’ve loved hunting for shells since I was little.  So I decided to pick out a shell from the Atlantic Coast and carry it with me to the Pacific Coast, where I will pick out another.  It’s the little things…  The Colonial Parkway took me from Yorktown to Jamestown; about 21 miles.  Along the way, I ran across a beautiful monument in dedication to the French Soldiers who gave their lives for our Independence during the Battle of Yorktown.  Glad I got to take a moment to thank them…  I didn’t even realize some of this history!

The Capital Trail is a beautifully groomed bikeway that stretches clear from Jamestown, VA to Richmond, VA.  I entered at the Jamestown trail head and the entire ride was basically eye candy until Charles City, a great stop for the night.

I was able to help someone with their tire, which was awesome…  He was out training for an upcoming race in Europe.  Thank you, Halcyon Bike Shop, for the repair class!!  Day 2, it already came in handy…

The Courthouse Grille in Charles City not only has delicious homemade food and free cold water out front, but it is a staple stop for passing cyclists.  There is a world map on the wall where you can add a pin to your hometown and there was barely a spot open anywhere.  The owner, Bonnie, graciously offered a safe place in the back yard to camp.  The next morning, after cooking some breakfast, I noticed the most perfect climbing tree ever, and I’d be a fool to pass up an opportunity like that…

This part of the country is so overwhelmingly historic and powerful.  I refuse to blow through it.  Nearing Glendale, VA, I spotted a small Veterans’ Cemetery and stopped to pay my respects.  Just as I rode off, the Pastor of the Willis United Methodist Church stopped and offered a place to stay!  Full kitchen (made Mac ‘n Cheese), warm showers, plenty of floor space, food.   I challenged him to a game of “horse” before he left and to my surprise, he not only took me up on it – he totally beat me!!  🙂

Heading out toward Mechanicsville, VA today – about 20 miles today, through the rain.  Looks like some pretty wild weather on the way…  Thunderstorms and heavy showers in the forecast until Saturday, but that will be immediately followed by eight straight days of sunshine!!  That’s when the big mile days begin.  😀

It’s now only 4 days into my journey and I am already dumbfounded as to why I haven’t always lived like this.  Simplistic and intricate all at once… It feels impossible to describe, but I will truly try my best.  <3


Blue Ridge

After saying goodbye to my friend Cathy and leaving Willis UMC in Glendale, it was off toward Mechanicsville in a chilly downpour.

I was totally game for it.  But, the weather had the last laugh as I took a wrong turn and had to cycle on a full blown Turnpike to get back on route.  It was a little insane and extra miles, but honestly, the thrill topped the negatives.  Horray for lights and reflective gear!!

Leaving Mechanicsville, the weather was gorgeous, and made for a wonderful ride toward Ashland, VA, where I ran into a couple who had read my in the Willis UMC journal!  They were excited to see us and ask about A Vicious Cycle.  They’re calling their journey Tour de Strange.  Love it!!

As the sun was dropping, I discovered a rustic old historic church on the side of the road and decided to Stealth Camp in the back corner of the property near the forest.

There’s something about being in nature that has felt like home to me since childhood.  In a nearby field, thousands of fireflies lit up the night as far as you could see…  It was an unbelievable sight.  I enjoyed a Montecristo and watched them until their hypnotic blinking made my eyes heavy.

I laid in my little tent listening to the insects sing, the coyotes cry and the trees rustling in the breeze.  In the distance, I could hear the sound of cars buzzing by here and there.  People rushing to get to wherever is it they’re going.  And not a single part of me envies them at all.  It’s almost like I never want to be them again…

Monday, I rode over 30 hilly miles to Mineral, VA, and stopped to refuel my body at Mineral Restaurant.  The owner asked some questions about the journey and then later, came to our table and announced the entire meal was paid for!

After dinner, I went to the Mineral Volunteer Fire station and they offered up their building for the night! The kindness I’m experiencing on this trip is blowing my mind almost daily…

Finally, it’s time to introduce my Kona Sutra and my Quads to the formidable Blue Ridge Mountains. On the way from Mineral to Palmyra, VA, I finally got a glimpse of their grandeur.  Stats from my first official mountain ride (not counting breaks):

I’m staying at the Palmyra United Methodist Church, relaxing in their outdoor sitting area writing and looking over my maps.

While the upcoming elevations are menacing to say the very least, I can’t help but smile to myself.  Sometimes destroying yourself physically can create mental clarity.  So… Blue Ridge Mountains: You know what to do.  🙂

I keep my fellow Veterans and our fallen family at the forefront of my thoughts as I power across this beautiful country that we would all proudly give our lives to defend.  It truly is gratifying and grueling, just as I’d hoped.

The views are breathtaking and I LOVE that I have to EARN them.


The Climb

Everything is going well and I am safe!  It’s been rumored that there is limited cell service upon entering the Blue Ridge Mountains, but little did I know I’d be entirely off the grid for such a length of time!  There is so much to share, and I’ve been finding it difficult to formulate a proper post that will do this past week justice.

Last week, I got a glimpse of what was to come.  In the distance, beautiful mountain ranges in shades of blue that belong on color swatches in every paint store on the planet.  More majestic than intimidating from afar, but as I approached the base, it began hitting me how physically challenging this would truly be.

As I neared Charlottesville from Palmyra, there were signs for Monticello; Thomas Jefferson’s famous home.  It was decided right then that I would take a day to go back and explore this historic landmark and learn all I could on the guided tour that’s offered.  That evening, I made arrangements with a local couple to stay at their home, which doubled as a shared space / hostel for travelers.  They were very accommodating – I highly recommend Fair Haven, owned by Flame and Raven; a very warm and welcoming couple just east of Charlottesville.

Monticello was built in 1772 by our 3rd President and one of America’s Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson.  This neoclassical style home is located in Albemarle County on an 850 foot peak in the Southwest Mountains of the Blue Ridge.

Thomas Jefferson was the principal author of our Declaration of Independence and served as President from 1801 to 1809.   He briefly practiced law, at times defending slaves seeking their freedom.  During the American Revolution, he represented Virginia in the Continental Congress that adopted the Declaration, drafted the law for religious freedom as a Virginia legislator, and organized the Louisiana Purchase.   He was an inventor, architect, linguist, mathematician, horticulturalist, philosopher and brilliant writer.  His final resting place is near his home in Monticello Cemetery.  What a privilege it was to tour his home and visit his grave site…

Before heading out of Charlottesville, I stopped at The Bike Factory for a little tune up before approaching Afton Mountain, which is notoriously difficult for cyclists.  The shop’s staff was very helpful and informative – great guys.  The owner informed me that roughly 50% of westbound cyclists quit their journey while attempting my upcoming climb.  He also mentioned that I would most certainly need to stop and walk my bike up at some point.  I smiled and said, “You Don’t Know Me.”  While at a late lunch at BJ’s Brewhouse, a man by the name of Greg Trojan, a fellow cyclist, approached the table and asked about A Vicious Cycle.  We chatted for a while and as it turns out – Mr. Trojan is the CEO of the BJ’s Brewhouse National chain, and was visiting from L.A. to attend a local graduation.  Incredible…

After spending some time at the shop, picking up a few things at the store, I rode to White Hall, VA and set up camp behind a community building across from Wyant General Store.  The local gas station had Campbell’s tomato soup in stock and I was taken right back to childhood.  Even found some grilled cheese crackers to dip and ate dinner under a little wooden lean-to.  It was really special…

The next day, we went across the street to the General Store, which has been owned by the Wyant family since the 1800’s.  Even got to spend some time with John Wyant and the amazingly talented locals of White Hall.

I was honored to meet Dale, a decorated Air Force Veteran, who hand made me a beautifully crafted wooden top on the spot and also gifted me an original Army pocket watch he’d been holding onto for many decades.  It was incredibly meaningful and emotional hugs were exchanged…

After packing up the camp site, we met back at the General Store to listen to some amazing, spontaneous, authentic Bluegrass Music, played by the people of White Hall.  Talk about being in the right place at the right time…  It’s always a treat to get a behind the scenes peek into their every day lives and an honor to be included in the local traditions.

The time has come to take on Afton Mountain.  I’ve been hyping myself up, but not psyching myself out.  All that I can do is give everything that I have.  Numerous cyclists have warned me of this climb, and the grade of the incline is a menacing 20% – 30% for miles at a time, nothing like the mild, timid grades the signs warn you about on highways.  I was determined, forbidding myself from getting off of my bicycle and waking.  I set out and began the climb:  Mile after mile of unforgiving inclines, sharp curves, and non-existent road shoulders.  I began using my entire body to power my legs, using my clipped in shoes to pull up on the pedals as well as push down, taking in massive breaths of the ever thinning air.  All of a sudden, I realized…  I made it.  I DID IT.  I was in Afton. I didn’t walk – not ONCE!!  I pulled my phone out and immediately made a video.

I arrived in Afton around 9pm, just after dusk, and took in my first breathtaking (and very much earned) view of the mountains from a guard rail by the Inn at Afton.  The next morning, as I returned to the same guard rail for a day lit version of the view, an older gentleman approached me and introduced himself.  He had lost his beloved wife a few years back and frequents this very spot and view regularly.  I was touched that he’d want to talk to me during his alone time here.  After a few minutes of conversation, we quickly realized we were both Army Veterans, and he had an impressive 40 years of service under his belt, separating from the Army as a First Sergeant.  The stories he must have – I wish we’d had more time to talk about our shared military sentiments.  But, he was heading home and it was time for me to head toward the famous Blue Ridge Parkway and continue my journey.

On Monday, I entered the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway.  Although I’ve driven it in the past, the opportunities to experience its tremendous beauty would be much more abundant and intimate while on a bicycle.  Nature never seems to disappoint, so always make and take the time…

After tackling an obnoxious number of inclines, I arrived in Love, VA, at a really neat destination called Royal Oaks Cabins and Campground.  The owner, Keith, still happened to be at their general store 2 hours after closing time, so not only were we able to stay at the campground, but Keith fired his grill back up and made us delicious, hot paninis and we enjoyed an ice cold beer.  This was seriously a huge treat…  Keith and his wife, along with their son and daughter, run this hiker / cyclist friendly establishment, which I HIGHLY recommend.  I also got to witness a bicycle with a 14 speed automatic transmission, apparently invented and patented by the creator of Porche.  Fascinating.

I set back out into the Blue Ridge Mountains, coming across inclines that were challenging, but mild in comparison to previous climbs.  That day, it became official – I had reached the peak of the mountain.  On top of the world…  Scattered sunlight decorated endless layers of cascading terrain.  A gentle breeze made use of my perspiration to coax a chill.  The storms in my mind dissipated briefly and laid placid.  It was quite a moment.  What was left of the air in my lungs was stolen away by the breathtaking scenes waiting to reward me with the title of Cyclist.  Can’t wait to know what’s to come as I descend from this mountain top and continue my journey…


Video Recap:

Hello Kentucky

Virginia has been good to me. Unapologetically beautiful, both in its spectacular landscapes and local communities.  The drivers were cautious and courteous – not a single close call throughout the entire state.  Thank you so much for your patience with the delay in my update – I’ve truly been off the grid.  Today, having Wi-Fi is a treat I will thoroughly indulge in.  🙂

Rick, a retired Navy Chief, and his amazing family in nearby Vesuvius, opened their home and hearts and invited me in as family!  I never wanted to leave…  <3

Chief Rick showed me around the City of Lexington, giving me a tour of downtown, Stonewall Jackson’s gravesite, and other significant landmarks.  We visited the Virginia Military Institute and I had the honor of meeting Marine Officer Colonel Coggins, as well as other Officers and countless new Navy and Marine Recruits.

The Virginia Gem and Mineral Institute had a geological dig in the area, searching for the indigenous rock called Unakite.  It’s a gorgeous stone, boasting bright shades of pink, green, and is infused with crystals of granite.  They invited me to be an official member of the Institute, which I of course accepted!  After we detonated a large rock of Unakite, I picked out a piece to keep, and found one both shaped like Virginia and colored like its mountains.

Spending time with Rick and his family truly felt like a gift and their tremendous generosity will never be forgotten.  They even toyed with the idea of filing adoption papers, but I had to press on with my journey…  🙂

We attended a Memorial Day service and he was able to meet Colonel Coggins, who delivered an emotionally pungent speech in dedication to the fallen.  I spent some time with the Colonel and also the Buchanan Police Department afterward.

Memorial Day is always tough.  How can we ever sufficiently thank our fallen Brothers and Sisters.  Deployments seem to result in an exchange of pride for guilt, esteem for disdain; and it’s not necessarily obvious upon returning home.  It creeps up and compiles up over time.  Our friends gave their lives in our place.  We were responsible for one another.  We left as a complete unit and our hearts and minds returned with missing pieces.  Sometimes, it feels as though I’m living on borrowed time.  They paid the ultimate price for me, and there is a debt that I will always feel I owe, but can never repay.

That is why such a huge part of my cycling journey is to HONOR them by LIVING and attempting to make the most of this incredibly unique opportunity for healing.  Letting days pass by cannot be an option for me any longer.  No more standing by while your heart and mind fight each other to the death. Deliberately feed your mind with healthy new thoughts!

Thank you SPC Sam Bowen, 1LT Charles Wilkins, and PFC Ryan Martin, with every beat of my broken heart.  Your loving sacrifice will NEVER be forgotten.

Most cyclists travel west to east to condition themselves for these unforgivingly steep grades.  I’m proud to say that I have not walked my bike in the Blue Ridge Mountains AT ALL.  Not once, not ever.  So many people said there’d be times I’d have to.  That it’s the norm.   But they don’t know me.  People have discouraged and doubted me throughout my life, and it’s been fun to continuously educate them.  However, the truth of the matter is: The people that you have to prove wrong have NO place in your life.  Remember that.

The Blue Ridge are said to be the most physically demanding portion of my journey.  But each section of the country will present a new set of challenges…

The rest of the ride through rural Virginia was loaded with unique sights, intense climbs, and quirky surprises.

It’s been a pleasure taking my time through this gorgeous state.

I feel that I’ve learned a great deal about my bike, gear, the daily routine, and have gained a strong understanding of what is expected of me both physically and mentally.

The last monstrous climb of the Virginia Mountains was a gruesome 1,500 foot, 30% grade, 3.7 mile long, that took every last piece of me to conquer.  I swear, part of my soul itself is still scattered on that mountain top.  Not once did I stop – not once did I walk.  It required me to reignite a part of my body and mind that I hadn’t tapped into since the military.  Eric Ward, this climb was for you, Brother.  You are loved and missed endlessly.

Kentucky has been calling my name for quite some time now and I’ve been very anxious to experience the “Unbridled Spirit” of a state I’ve only ever driven through.  I will miss the mountains, but I’m excited to begin those high mile days.  That being said, it’s official.  I am in Kentucky.  State 2 out of 10.  620 miles down.  3,390 miles to go.

Recap Video:


1,000 Miles

With the Appalachians in my rear view, I’ve been making some serious tracks and hitting some major milestones.  Last week, Eastern Time turned into Central as I entered into the second time zone of four.  July 2nd marked exactly 1,000 miles into my 4,300 mile journey. Today, I bid a fond farewell to Kentucky and cross the Ohio River into Illinois via Ferry, entering my 3rd out of 10 total states.

The rolling hills of Kentucky have been beautiful and graceful.  Although they aren’t nearly as high or steep, the long flat stretches and head winds between the hills require constant pedaling, making the milder inclines feel much more challenging than I’d assumed.

Meeting other cyclists along the way has been fun and inspiring. We were honored to say “Hi!” in passing to Evan Deutsch, who finished 1st place and set a new speed record in the 2017 Trans Am Bike Race.  We got to talk with Jon Lester (who finished 2nd place), met an awesome father / daughter racing team, and other cyclists like us who are touring cross country.

Yesterday, as I was cresting the rolling hills, it dawned on me that I’m really going to miss the declines.  Letting my legs rest while the breeze hits my face and uses the sweat that I shed on the way up to cool me on the way down.  Gravity graciously alotting me just enough recovery time to take on the next incline.  I’ll never forget.  Those Blue Ridge climbs killed me and brought me back to life every time.  Breaking, then building me.  Breathing in cadence with the pedals, anxious to receive my visual reward at each mountain top…  Making my body switch to auto pilot, as inclines are very much a MENTAL endeavor.  It was a whole system that I had figured out pretty well, and even grew to love and embrace.  I honestly look forward to the Rockies…  Until we meet again, mountains!

I’ve met some seriously incredible Veterans and civilians alike throughout this state, including Navy Veteran John Briody, who served aboard the actual USS Intrepid!!  The Intrepid is now a Sea, Air and Space Museum, located at Pier 86 in NYC.  He shared some incredible stories with me – I could’ve listened all day!!

In Berea, KY, I had the opportunity to talk with a Marine named Russ Carson.  What a solid human being…  Served in the Marine Corps for 8 years, continued his service as a Contractor overseas, coaches kids’ sports, and plays semi-pro football for the Kentucky Patriots on the side.  Plus, he’s laid back, fun to be around, and also helped support my journey!  He treated us to Gold Star Chili, which is a 5-way chili chain similar to Skyline, which we have in my home state of Ohio.

I had the pleasure of meeting Tara and her two sons (ages 10 and 7), who are cycling across the country on a 3 person Tandem Bicycle.  Unbelievable.  Imagine the experience they will gain at such a young age!  They’re acquiring invaluable skills and overcoming challenges that most people won’t be introduced to until adulthood, if ever!  Huge kudos to Tara – a brave, brilliant, and loving Mom.  We got to spend two nights together, including sharing a small cabin at Alice Lloyd College to hide from a massive storm and flash flooding.

Another highlight was running across Rick and Theresa and getting to stay in their 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom vacation home.  Seriously, the kindness and generosity of people never ceases to amaze me…  Cyclists!!  Check out City Gone Country Inn, located near Sand Gap, KY.  They will pick up you and your bicycles and make you feel like royalty!  What a TREAT…

Whelp, as it turns out, my “no flat tire” luck has finally run out, haha…  I had THREE flat tires in the span of 5 days recently, and I couldn’t be more grateful to Stephannie and the staff at Halcyon Bike Shop in Nashville, TN for the maintenance and repair class they gave me before beginning.  Each flat was quickly and successfully patched and I’m still using my original tubes!

On Tuesday, June 27th, the most amazing early birthday present in the world was awaiting me at the Brook’s Café in the tiny town of Sonora, KY.  My PARENTS!!!  My amazing, wonderful, loving parents.  My biggest fans.  My heart.  I was completely taken by surprise!!

My parents mean everything to me.  They’re exceptionally kind and warm to everyone they meet.  They raised me to be selfless and empathetic, encouraged my individuality and creativity, and taught me how love should feel and be shown. They’ve believed in and supported every single one of my dreams.  All I want for this lifetime is to continue to make them proud and all they want is for me to be happy and at peace.  <3

We spent a couple days together in Falls of Rough, KY and enjoyed a cozy cabin, putt putt golf, good food, and made plenty of memories.

……followed, of course, by a “Kniffin Goodbye”, which are notoriously the longest goodbyes in the history of goodbyes.  <3

Thank you all so much for the birthday wishes!!  I celebrated my 34th birthday on July 1st (Saturday), and the week has been full of surprises!!  I spent the day cycling 43 miles from Falls of Rough, KY into a town called Utica, KY, then slept at a Volunteer Fire Station.

This journey seems surreal some days.  There’s no quick fix to any method of sustainable self help.  Consciously taking small steps in the right direction will slowly create a divide between you and your demons.  A calm begins to build inside, accompanied by subtle results that might go unnoticed at first.  There’ll be exciting little realizations throughout the process that feel almost like a dream.  As I look at the beauty around me, listen to my tires tread the pavement, feel my legs burn and the sun hit my back, I realize this is actually happening.  I didn’t just talk about it…  It’s really my reality!  🙂  I’m being patient and trusting the process, but I’m anxious to feel the real healing begin.  Maybe it already has…

July 2nd in Dixon, KY marks the 1,000 mile mark…  As the elevation flattens, I can’t wait to discover and tackle the new challenges that await.  I believe taking the inclines out of the equation will allow for more energy to explore my mind while cycling.  Get lost in my own thoughts.  I’ll be honest.  The most treacherous terrain I’ve traveled through is my own mind, but it’s time to get unguarded and let this journey do it’s job.


Facebook | Instagram | Support AVC

Ups and Downs

Entering Illinois was exciting.  It was via ferry, across the beautiful Ohio River.  Because it was my third state, it really felt like I was finally making a dent in my journey.

I was born in Ohio, living more than 20 years of my life west of Cleveland, and have crossed the Ohio river again and again.  But having peddled over 1,300 miles, then crossing it…  It was completely different, seeing the same sight through more appreciative eyes.  I’ve climbed a lot of trees, hiked many trails, and gotten purposely lost in nature countless times in my life… But this was, thus far, the longest and hardest I have ever worked to enjoy such serenity…

The first town and my stop for the night happened to be home to a mysterious natural wonder called “Cave In Rock”.  The cave’s opening is a striking 55 feet in width, and was formed by powerful winds, water erosion, and by the cataclysmic effects of a massive earthquake back in 1812.  It was truly awesome.

Well, as it turns out, the Ozarks exist…  The mountain range that I can only refer to as the Appalachian’s evil twin.  Was I so geographically challenged that I assumed after Kentucky, the terrain would suddenly bow down to my accrual of climbing accomplishments?  How foolish of me…  Silver lining:  More downhills!!

The heat swept in like some blistering pendulum, forcing me to finally adjust my bed time and sleep schedule.  Early mornings are my current ally, and riding west with the rising sun at my back has been a big advantage.

During my ride on July 16th, at my 21st mile, I stopped and had a few moments of silence to reflect upon and mourn the loss of Army Veteran and dear friend, Eric Ward.  It would have been his 21st birthday…  I’ve known Eric since he was a young boy.  His parents, Kendra and Brian, are two of my closest friends.  Bringing awareness to the 22 Veterans we are losing each day to suicide is an important part of my bicycle journey across America.  It’s been surprising to learn how many aren’t aware of this unfortunate fact…

Meeting other Combat Veterans throughout this journey has been eye opening.  I’ve stayed silent for well over a decade as to not be a burden, to avoid having to funnel my thoughts down into words.  Isolating and internalizing…   But listening to and opening up with other Veterans, particularly Vietnam Veterans, has been overwhelmingly enlightening.  The unspoken bond that exists among service members transcends generation, branch, or circumstance.  We fit in together so effortlessly, like pieces in the most formidable and obscure puzzle ever designed.  These have been real moments, riddled with deep connections, discussing real monsters.  Mouths that smile, but eyes that scream.  Never comparing – only relating.  I believe the ones who are best equipped to help us – ARE us.

As I announced earlier, I received a message from Dave Philipps, a reporter from The New York Times.  He said he would like to include me in his upcoming story, and I was honored and thrilled – and nervous.  However.  No more hiding.  If I’m going to be vocal about my issues and this journey, and if I am being given the opportunity to do so via the largest newspaper in the world, it is NOT the time to be shy.

He and Photographer Max Whittaker made the process comfortable.  We met at the VFW in Chester, IL for an interview, then took some photos and video.  It just so happened they met us the day we crossed the mighty Mississippi River into Missouri – state number 4 of 10!

The people of Missouri have already outdone themselves in friendliness.  Almost every oncoming car waves at me and Bicycle Route 76 is very well marked.  The drivers have been courteous and allow me plenty of room as they go around.   And of course, I’m still scooping up and naming all the little creatures along the way.

The lodging available for cyclists throughout the state is impressive.  One of the overnight highlights was an old prison converted into a Cyclist Hostel called Al’s Place, located in Farmington.  The décor is spectacular and amenities include a kitchen, showers, beds, bike storage, and laundry.   After a long, exhausting day, walking through those doors was a dream come true, quite honestly.

Meeting and getting to know locals as well as other cyclists on the TransAm is a continued treat I thoroughly enjoy…  It’s encouraging and heartwarming how genuinely interested others have been in my journey, A Vicious Cycle.

A beautiful truth has been unfolding itself since the start of this journey: My military family is far larger than I could have ever imagined.  Our talks have been intense.  Veterans from every war we’ve had have been synonymous in their sentiments and struggles.  We miss it every day.  The camaraderie, the significance of service, being actively engulfed in what we believe was our one true calling.  The military is the only thing that’s ever made complete sense and now a hole remains that nothing can seem to fill.  There’s another war going on; a silent war we fight, a secret war that time can’t tick away.  Part of me was hoping I was the only one.  That it was just me and I could fix this myself.  That the storms in my mind that disrupt my day to day and interrupt my nights, would eventually dissipate on their own.  It’s tough to learn they won’t.  However, an even larger part of me is relieved I’m not alone.  That even the strongest mountains are being eaten away by the same stream of thoughts.

Off I go into the flat lands of Kansas, celebrating my first day of level land with a delicious 60 miler in just over 4 hours.  Much like the upcoming route depicts, my pounding heart will slow and steady on this terrain and finally allow my mind to race.

Support Sarah’s Journey

New York Times

On July 11th, New York Times Reporter and Pulitzer Prize Winner Dave Philipps and Award Winning Photographer Max Whittaker drove to Chester, IL to meet with me to discuss A Vicious Cycle.

It was an honor and privilege to be included at the tail end of what is most certainly one powerful beast of an article.  I am very excited to announce that Dave’s moving story, “Finding Some Peace After War” was printed and distributed in the Wed, August 2nd publication of the New York Times.  Read Article

Photos by Max Whittaker

Dave and Max made what could have been a rather intimidating process feel fun and even easy.  VFW Kaskaskia, IL (Post 3553) President and Marine “Paco” welcomed us inside and gave us free reign of the building for our interview portion.  We then set out into the Ozarks for our last ride in the state of Illinois, then crossed the mighty Mississippi into Missouri.

Photos by Max Whittaker

It was good to be able to explain to Dave that I want my journey to honor my fallen Brothers and Sisters in Arms who gave their lives for us.

Photos by Max Whittaker

Part of my journey is connecting with other Combat Veterans who may feel at war with themselves like I do, and to give voice to our issues by being more vocal about my own.  I also need to prove to myself that I not only WANT to be here, but DESERVE to be here…

Photos by Max Whittaker

Max did an incredible job of capturing our lifestyle on the road.  Down to every last detail, he depicted our personalities and our journey both mindfully and creatively.

Photos by Max Whittaker

It was a VERY hilly 100° day, but luckily that night, I found some cover behind a small church in Ozora, MO (population of 183), complete with working outdoor ceiling fans!  Unheard of…

Photos by Max Whittaker

The next morning, I broke down camp, boiled water for oatmeal, hydrated, then hit the road.  Max and Dave followed by car to get some action shots, then waved goodbye and disappeared into the hills.

Photos by Max Whittaker

What a wonderfully surreal couple of days that was…  I want to thank everyone who has encouraged, supported, and believed in me throughout this intensely grueling, yet deeply gratifying journey.  It’s hard to believe I’m almost halfway across the United States. Far too many new milestones are quickly approaching for me to slow down now…



Bump in the Road

On Sunday, August 20th, I was involved in an accident on State Highway 96, five miles west of Wetmore, CO.  I felt it very important to wait and announce this until all the details and information were concrete.  I am ok, resting, and able to finally formulate a post.

The Accident
At approximately 11am, I was forced off of the road by a Ford F-350 Truck hauling a large trailer.  I saw the truck in my rear view mirror and made sure I was riding right of the white line, giving him extra room to pass me.  As he approached however, he drifted behind me onto the white line and there was no longer a shoulder.  My tires sank off the road into sand and slid right, causing me to fall left back onto the highway, landing full force on my left knee.  I landed directly in front of a car who was following very closely behind the truck.  I threw my arm up, and the car saw me just in time to swerve and avoid running over my upper body.  I will never forget the sound of those tires screeching behind my head.  EVER.

The truck never slowed down or stopped and the car pulled off for a few seconds, then drove away.  I got up, propped my bike up, and flagged down a truck going back toward Wetmore.  The concerned and generous couple loaded me up and took me to Wetmore Community Center, where a Veteran’s Organization called Team Rubicon was currently deployed to help with a natural disaster in the area.  We took the following photo that morning before the accident.  These guys are INCREDIBLE.  Military family is everywhere.

Rory (Navy Vet) and Ruth, both EMTs, examined me on the spot and made me comfortable while they finished their TR Op.  Rory told me that the group actually heard the tire screech from their job site and wondered what the heck that was. “That was me not getting run over,” I half-smiled.

Jeremy (Army Vet), loaded me into his truck, along with my bike and gear, and we drove to Colorado Springs for the night.  Rory and his wife Ellie had invited me into their home for dinner and to relax.  Rory helped sterilize my knee and got me elevated and set up with bandages.

Denver VA Hospital
On Tuesday, Jeremy drove over an hour to the ER at the Denver VA Hospital.  The Colorado Springs VA Clinic told me that I need to go to Denver in order to be seen, for some reason…  I was VERY anxious to learn the extent of my injuries.  The drive there was absolutely beautiful, at least.

Within an hour, I was admitted, triaged, and sent up to the radiology department for X-rays.  We met with Dr. Tyler Schmidt, who confirmed that there was NOT a fracture.  After explaining again that I am positive there is a problem internally, he ordered a CT Scan for a clearer picture.  Linda, the CT technician and a fellow cyclist, actually gave me her personal cell and offered her home to me if I needed a place to stay while in Denver.  The CT Scan came back clear of fractures (not even a hair line), but the Doctor concluded that I do have a moderate Medial Ligamental Sprain with possible micro-tearing.  I waited patiently for my IBUProfen prescription; and although there’s nothing sexy about a giant knee brace, I still gave it a solid try.  Hey, laugh now, cry later.

The Verdict
I had already told myself if there wasn’t a fracture and surgery wasn’t necessary, that I AM pressing on, no matter what.  Doctor’s recommendation:  Stay off my knee for a couple weeks, icing and elevating.  Then I can slowly re-introduce my knee to the pedaling motion.  Clipping and unclipping my shoe into the left pedal is no longer an option, which is fine.  I went down to prosthetics and was fitted for a hinged knee brace as well as a knee sleeve for added support.

I am currently in Colorado Springs and am in very good hands.  The Veterans here have been taking me out for meals, and after quickly gauging how hard headed I can be, are making sure I don’t ‘overdo’ it.

A local cycling host named Jeffrey took me into his home for a comfortable and quiet recovery, completely free of charge.  Turns out, he spent a lot of his youth in my tiny hometown of Norwalk, OH.  His Grandpa was a pastor at the church where I attended pre-school, and also where my Dad took me sledding every single winter…  He still has his Grandpa’s commemorative plate with the Lutheran Church engraved, seen below.  This is INSANELY uncanny – almost scary.  🙂

Overall, I am fortunate and grateful.  This could have been significantly worse and I couldn’t have hand picked a better group of people to be surrounded by.  Now, to brainstorm my plan of attack for the majestic and massive Rocky Mountains as well as the rest of my journey…

Game Plan
~ Shed any and all weight off my gear that is not absolutely essential for survival
~ Plan a less steep route back into the Rocky Mountains, still maintaining 4,000+ total miles
~ Begin carefully cycling with no gear around the Colorado Springs area by early next week
~ Add gear back to my bike and cycle locally by late next week and be back on route by next Sunday

I will still make my Kansas / great plains post soon, but wanted to keep you all in the loop with this very unexpected plot twist.  Before this journey began, I made a promise to myself that it would take a true worst case scenario for my ride to end.

#FinishWhatYouStart #ArmyStrong


Exit Wounds

The last two weeks have been riddled with hope, frustration, realization, and finally – an extremely difficult decision.  Brief recap: On Aug. 20th, I was forced off HWY 96 near Wetmore, CO by a large truck, then almost run over by the car behind it.  I feel fortunate to be alive.  My left knee took the full force of a 250+ pound impact.  I was transported to Colorado Springs, seen by the Denver VA, and have been taken excellent care of by both a generous cycling host and the members of a Veteran Organization called Team Rubicon. I’ve been trying to recover and rehab my knee injury ever since.

My original visit to the Denver VA on August 22nd included a brief exam and concluded in Dr. Tyler S. stating to, “Stay off it for a few days”.  I knew this was a hasty and dismissive diagnosis based on my level of discomfort and he wouldn’t give me a solid timeframe or an MRI.  Just a bunch of hydrocodone, which I refused.  After the first week, the urge to get back out there was noticeably gnawing away at me. This journey had finally provided me with a renewed sense of purpose after nearly a decade, and days were once again passing me by.

After 9 days of rest, I went to Planet Fitness and used the stationary bike to safely reintroduce my knee to the pedaling motion.  It was painful at first, but there were some pops and cracks of relief, and I could feel it loosening up with each rotation.  I knew this wasn’t comparable to my steel frame Kona with full gear, but it was a start.

After the second visit, the cycling stats improved from 35 RPM for 2 miles up to 60 RPM for 6 miles.  Excitement certainly set in as improvement felt obvious.  I went ahead and purchased a cane to help with some short rehab walks. #CaneTellMeNothin #CaneStopWontStop #iLiterallyCaneEven

Desperately needing nature, I visited Garden of the Gods after my second rehab session.  This is a visually obscure and equally alluring array of disc shaped boulders that seemed as though they were spiked into the ground after a heated game of Greek God ultimate frisbee.  An easy walk up to an overlook provided what felt like a small victory in my recovery.

Now at the two week mark, I’m able to put weight on my knee painlessly.  Lifting my leg and twisting my foot, however, is still very difficult, making the back half of the rotation needed for riding feel weak and unstable.  On the 13th day, I decided to dust off my Brooks saddle and helmet and take my Kona Sutra out for a ride.  One mile, flat ground, no weight – testing my knee as responsibly as possible.  Pedalling and smiling, a sense of relief came over me as I felt at home again on my saddle… Based on pain levels and weakness, I didn’t know if I could do this.  But I did!

Unfortunately, less than an hour later, my knee was noticeably swollen. The inflammation and instability felt like day one. I immediately iced and elevated, hoping this was just a short term reaction.  The next morning, I could barely straighten my leg, it had become so inflamed.  After only one unweighted, flat ride.  For only one mile.  Staring down the barrel of reality can feel pretty defeating sometimes.  Everything I’ve been viciously cycling away from has been slowly catching back up to me the last two weeks.  Idle time for an active mind can be a Veteran’s worst enemy – or anyone’s.  I really needed to heal fast and ride again soon.  Instead, it’s back to the Denver VA.  It’s been two weeks – this isn’t right.  It should be getting better.  …still trying to stay optimistic.

On Sep. 3rd, we drove back to the Denver VA Hospital and had a very different experience.  The ER Doctor (Lauren A.) is a fellow cyclist who has had a knee injury in the past.  She spent over an hour examining my knee and calling orthopedic specialists for second opinions.  Dr. Lauren made it clear that she didn’t want to be the bearer of bad news, however, she stated, “After examining your knee, reading the CT Scan, and talking to the specialists, it could be months before you can safely ride your bike again.”  …and she had personal experience to back up her time frame.  In this moment, reality hit me harder than highway pavement.  I’m going to have to go home and heal.  I cannot allow myself to follow this wreck with recklessness – this injury is worse than I was originally told and will unfortunately take more time.  With winter nipping at my buds, I will now have to wait until Spring to complete my journey.

After digesting this diagnosis, sanity made me switch gears.  Just out of reach, I’ve been longing to formally introduce myself to the Rocky Mountains and fantasizing daily about all the memories I’d make with them.  Emotional and physical peaks and valleys.  Maybe its pinnacles would pull me in close and we would laugh together over how the Appalachians seemed like molehills now, or cry tears of victory together on its summits after 20 mile long, 10% grade, 4 hour climbs.  Now I can only speculate and salivate until Springtime…

For 2.5 weeks, I’ve admired Pikes Peak from a distance.  I needed to go and at least say hello.  The indescribable beauty of the drive up to 14,114 feet kept my eyes wide and my jaw dropped.  We reached the summit, took in the views and experienced some snow.  An unforgettable afternoon replaced the disappointments of yesterday with wonder and renewed willpower.

The Rockies are easily one of the most majestic and powerful landscapes imaginable.  This is the first time I’ve ever laid eyes on them up close and in person.  Their dominance is mesmerizing and the intricacies of their beauty seem to unveil themselves in endless ways wherever you look.  Sometimes, it’s overwhelming, just how many ways there are to repeatedly fall in love with our Country…

Driving up these mountains is one thing, but powering up these passes with 80 lbs in bike and gear underneath will evoke an entirely different set of perspectives and appreciation.  I cannot wait to know them in this way and properly describe them to you.  For now, photos will have to do.  For now…

Tuesday, I took my Kona Sutra back to the Great Divide Bicycle Shop in Pueblo, CO.  Lee, the owner, had become a friend, a big support, and a wealth of knowledge when I passed through late last month.  He sensed my enthusiasm and was sad to learn of the accident and injury.  Lee graciously offered to box up my bike free of charge and is seeing that it’s safely shipped home to Nashville.  I have ridden over 2,200 miles on my Kona from Yorktown, VA to Wetmore, CO.  This is so weird – it just doesn’t make sense yet.

Yesterday, I packed up my panniers and gear and got everything ready to ship.  It was a very somber process.  This journey was about healing.  Not more pain.  I stared at my gear, all packed away.  It belonged on my bike.  Not in a box.  I belong on my bike.  Not in a bed.

Revised Game Plan
Early next week, I will return to Nashville and dive full force into my recovery and knee rehab.  The VA has helped set up Orthopedic Specialists and physical therapy.  I didn’t cycle over 2,200 miles to give up or get weak now!

The moment the Colorado spring season allows, the Rockies and I will meet face to face on a much more intimate playing field.  I will be back on two wheels and they will be patiently waiting.  And until then, I will be starving for a true taste of their grandeur.

During the upcoming months, I will be documenting my recovery and will fine tune a “continuation start date” for the spring.  So long as I’m breathing, I will always fight to finish what I start.  I am grateful my accident wasn’t fatal and that recovering, then continuing, is an option.  Now it’s time to start healing my knee so I can return to Colorado and get back to healing my mind.  Dear Rocky Mountains, hold on to my heart til I get back, please.  Thnx.  <3

#FinishWhatYouStart #ArmyStrong


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 would 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.

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…

On September 11th, I flew Southeast to Nashville on Southwest Airlines.  All remaining gear arrived shortly after my plane landed.  I spent the day unloading an impeccably fine-tuned loadout from cardboard boxes and padded envelopes.  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 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 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 extent 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 limitations 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 self-misconceptions 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


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.




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 memories 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 will be all we have left of each other.  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.

Follow Sarah’s Journey:
Facebook  |  Instagram  |  Twitter



I received word that the Second Brigade Motorcycle Club planned to recognize me at their Annual Banquet in Northeastern Ohio.  SBMC is a Fraternal Motorcycle Club of Veterans and Non-Veterans alike, whose mission is to support and honor Veterans of all Ages and from all Wars.  Each year, they present plaques to 5 Combat Veterans and I am the second Female Vet to be recognized in their club’s history!

What a privilege to be recognized alongside three Vietnam Veterans, as well my fellow OIF I / II Vet, Amanda Adamson.  Adamson and I spent a couple months pulling 12-hour static security shifts together at the perimeter of FOB Speicher near Tikrit, Iraq in 2004.  She has been a massive supporter of A Vicious Cycle, and an overall solid battle buddy and friend over the years.

As you can imagine, we had a wonderfully wild time celebrating with the members of Second Brigade MC.  Participating in their ceremonies and traditions, swapping stories with fellow Vets, and learning about their Club’s ongoing missions.  I call them the Rock for the Rocks.  After all, what in the world would us Veterans do without selfless organizations such as SBMC…

While up in Ohio, I got to spend some quality time with my close friend and former Squad Leader, Sergeant First Class David Parks.  We had WAY too much fun playing with weapons.  I almost couldn’t bring myself to give that Ruger 7.62 back to him…  And never hurts to dabble in the more intimate forms of medieval combat.  It’s always a real treat for my inner child to get her hands on grown-up toys.

Don’t just turn heads. Break necks. 😉

FOB Speicher, Tikrit Iraq, 2004

Spending time with other Veterans seems to be the best medicine.  It’s a camaraderie that cheers when you succeed and catches you when you fall.  Because when you fail, fail.  We joke on each other a lot and we’re tough on each other.  Don’t be fooled by our grotesque humor and brutal one-liners…  We care a lot.  Unspoken sentiments.  Unyielding loyalty.  Truth is, I would not be alive today if it weren’t for one of my Brother’s ultimate sacrifice.  Which brings me to my final stop up north: The Fallen Heroes Memorial in Sunbury, OH.

It was a cold day in central Ohio, with a high of 13° and wind chill of 2°.  I parked, took a deep breath, and walked into the Memorial.  It was quite an impressive layout, complete with impeccably aligned rows of labeled crosses, marking every fallen Ohio Hero during the War on Terror.  I scanned the grounds silently, impacted and speechless; this was our war, these are my heroes.  I came here seeking out one cross in particular.

PFC Samuel Bowen.  A husband, a father, a Soldier in my section of the 216th Combat Engineers – who because of his ultimate sacrifice and acts of bravery, could not return from Iraq with us.  Still, after 13 years, I have not the words, Brother.  I am forever grateful to have known you and honored to have laughed with you.  Thankful to have received your famous bear hugs, and to have served by your side.  We will Never Forget your courage and selflessness.

After drying my cheeks and circling the sobering grounds one last time, I ended up crossing paths with a man and his wife.  They were taking turns photographing each other next to a cross that read Sergeant First Class Charles “Chuck” Adkins.  I carefully offered to take a photo so they could both be in it.  They looked over and nodded with thankful eyes.

After the photo, the man introduced himself. “I’m Charles Adkins, Chuck’s Dad.”  He paused, adjusting his cover that read Vietnam Veteran and straightened up tall. “That’s my boy…”  Perspective flushed over me like a slow-moving tsunami – Charles had lost his son in Afghanistan near FOB Gamberi during Operation Enduring Freedom in April of 2011.  He took me through the tough story of that day, then shared some endearing memories, and spoke of how they’ve kept SFC Adkin’s memory alive through benefits, charities, and programs such as their Annual Golf Scramble.

His son is a local legend and truly a hero’s hero.  The Charles L. Adkins Memorial Highway (Ohio SR-101) runs from Castalia, OH to Sandusky, OH in Erie County.  It was incredibly special to get to learn about Chuck directly from his father: who is also a Combat Veteran, bravely serving in Vietnam as a Small Artillery Specialist in the First Field Force’s Charley Battery.  We said our goodbyes and exchanged a very lengthy and meaningful hug.  What an unbelievably remarkable encounter.  These coincidences continue to give me chills.

Well, it’s not every day that you find yourself sitting across the table from a bona fide Rosie the Riveter.  Rosemary Keefe is a 93-year-old Michigan native who humbly describes herself as a “plain old farmer”.  However, anyone who has had the pleasure of listening to her stories knows better. She is the loyal widow of Airman George Keefe, a decorated WWII Veteran.  Brave revolutionaries such as Rosemary inspired a massive social movement that increased the number of working American women from 12 million to 20 million by 1944 – a 57% increase from 1940.

Rosemary’s factory was located in Detroit, MI. The riveters drilled holes into the floors of planes, which were then shipped to Buffalo, NY for assembly. The holes along these 8-foot panels had to be perfectly straight and circular as to not let air get trapped under the rivets. One Rosie would drill and another would hold a backing for the metal bolts to tighten against, forcing them flat. The rivets were then affixed and covered with mica glass to ensure they were airtight.

“The day Pearl Harbor was bombed, I was walking out of the theater and when I looked around, people were like statues on the streets.  It was quite a sight to behold”, Rosemary explained.  “They were all frozen in place, reading the local papers.  The war separated a lot of families and it was hard saying goodbye to my George.”

“I had wonderful parents…  My husband and I had 7 children together, and now I have over 80 grandchildren and great-grandchildren”, she paused. “I can’t complain about my life.  All I know is the day I turn 100, I’m going to have pork roast.”

Acupuncture @ Totty Chiropractic, Nashville

Getting to gorge myself on the bare-bones lifestyle of the road has now become a constant craving.  Comfort and convenience leave very little room for appreciation.  Out in the elements, feeling fully submerged in LIFE, free from newsfeeds and click-bait and talking heads.  Disconnecting, being embraced by communities, experiencing kindness, and listening to people’s stories has a remarkable effect on a person’s psyche.  Like sunbeams through societal storm clouds, America quickly begins feeling as indivisible as it was born to be.  For now, I’ll be rehabilitating my knee and counting down the days until May.  Because when it comes to my limitations, I get the final say.  #FinishWhatYouStart #ArmyStrong


Behind A Vicious Cycle

SGT Sarah Lee, OIF II Combat Vet, will be completing a 4,000+ Mile Cycling Journey Across America.  Start Date: June 2nd, 2018 – Pueblo, CO.
Her story:

Follow / Support Sarah’s Journey:

Sponsored by A Ride for the Wounded

Click Image to View Event

“A Scenic Ride from Nashville, TN to The Wall That Heals: Traveling Vietnam Wall in Cookeville, TN”


Support System

Current status: Colorado Springs, CO.  Two more wakeups remain until I finally face the Rocky Mountains and I AM READY.  Gear and bicycle are fine-tuned, the route is set, and my spirits are high.  Over 2,000 miles under my belt and less than 2,000 miles remaining.  4 more states and one more time zone.  The line up includes the Rocky Mountains, High Desert, Great Basin, Grand Canyon, Sierra Nevada’s, and onto the beautiful Golden Gate Bridge, finishing at the Pacific Coast…

As June 2nd, 2018 grows closer, I find myself reflecting on the organizations and people that not only helped make the continuation of my journey possible, but reinforced and solidified the positive mindset I’ve been clinging to since my accident last year.

In late January, I was linked up with A Ride for the Wounded through our mutual military friend, Major Cory Kline.  This Kansas City based non-profit was born to better Veterans’ lives and support their missions by hosting Charity Motorcycle Rides and Events on their behalf.  This year, they chose A Vicious Cycle as one of their recipients!

Our Motorcycle Event (We Ride!) took place on April 21st, beginning in Nashville and finishing 90 miles east in Cookeville, TN at The Wall That Heals; Traveling Vietnam Wall.  I met with Fox 17 Nashville on site and was able to gift a Vietnam Veteran the rose that I received at my Welcome Home ceremony from Iraq back in 2005.  View segment:

The impact of this indescribable day certainly fanned the flames that have been building inside of me.  I was overcome with emotion and gratitude for both the massive effort put forth on my behalf by A Ride for the Wounded, as well as the abundance of bikers that participated in support of my vision and mission.  Breathtaking.

The last few months, I’ve been traveling to Tennessee VFWs to discuss my bicycle journey and the story behind A Vicious Cycle and I could not have received a warmer welcome.  The VFW and its members have shown me an enormous amount of encouragement and support, both on a local, district, and national level.

In early May, I was notified that VFW National decided to issue me a grant toward both the completion of A Vicious Cycle and to help kickstart Waypoint Vets, the program I’ve founded and am launching upon my return this fall.  It will afford other Veterans opportunities to detach and unite through nature based outings and social activities.  I now know first hand how much healing can happen out there.  Needless to say: goosebumps and tears.  It’s happening.

I’ve had the honor of speaking to American Legions, AmVets, Legion Riders, Rolling Thunder, Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association, and other incredibly supportive groups and clubs. It’s incredible what can happen when you surround yourself with people who recognize that your intentions are pure, your vision is clear, and drive and execution will be formidable and organized. I am adamant about making a real difference for my fellow Veterans going forward. Period.

In preparation for my departure, my military family really stepped up during training. SFC Masaitis drove from Cleveland, OH to Nashville for two weeks to kickstart my training and get my mind right. At 6’6″, 255 lbs, this hurricane of a human being infiltrated my comfort zones and helped remind me that despite pain or injury, I am still a force to be reckoned with.  My Army Infantry friends SFC Nunn and 1SG Steward had me back on their radio show, Stew & the Nunn (Watch Segment).  My brothers and sisters from across the branches stepped up and joined me in conditioning for my mission.

A special thank you is in order for my good friend Robb (DJ Worm). He is a radio personality for Rock 106 out of Monroe, LA and a professional DJ.  Robb organized a fundraising event on my behalf where contestants challenged him to a game of Name That Tune. …and no night is complete until you are “fireman’s carried” out of the venue by another woman, haha.

On my way to Colorado, I stopped in Kansas City, KS, where I met with ABC News Channel 9 to discuss the importance of post-war healing, winning the war inside, and finishing what you start. We interviewed at the National WWI Memorial downtown – a powerful and one of a kind landmark that I was honored to visit. The segment aires on June 1st: View Segment

While in Kansas City, I was able to link up with Daniel (founder) and Mark from Team Fidelis, enjoy time with the members of A Ride For The Wounded, and visit my local friends.  We toured the National WWI Museum, visited a few Veteran Memorials, and said our goodbyes at iHop.

On May 21st, I left Kansas City for Pueblo, CO, where I dropped off my bicycle at Great Divide Bike Shop.  The owner, Lee, and his staff gave it a thorough once over and Sam, who works at Great Divide, posed for a selfie with Bambi.  Sam also organized a 7-mile bicycle ride when I got into Pueblo that visited each of the Veteran Memorials as well as an escort for our first day back!  Incredible.

It’s been awesome being back in Colorado Springs. Familiar views were quick to steal my gaze and both new and familiar faces were eager to warm my heart…  I couldn’t ask for more generous, thoughtful, and uplifting people to surround myself with before setting out back on this journey…

I’ve been house and dog sitting for a Navy Veteran, who is one of the members / medics of Team Rubicon that helped me last year.  Such a relaxing escape to come back to after training each day…  Having the right people behind you makes moving forward feel easy.

Time to head back to Pueblo and mentally clip in.  Day 1 will be 51 miles to Canon City with a stop in Wetmore…  Saturday, June 2nd, 2018 at 0800 is just around the corner –  and as I said the night before I set out last year: the only thing left to do is to start.  #ArmyStrong #HonorTheFallen #FinishWhatYouStart



The journey has begun and I am back in the saddle!  It has come as a massive relief that there have been zero issues with knee pain.  Thank you all endlessly for believing in me and for your continued support.  People are nothing without each other – it’s a beautiful truth.

Prior to setting out on June 2nd, I had the pleasure of interviewing with Zach Hillstrom of the Pueblo Chieftain Newspaper.  We had a 2 hour talk, and he composed this incredible article, summarizing my story and mission beautifully: Read Article

Afterward, I headed to the City Park and met Caiti Blase with Pueblo ABC News Channel 5 (KOAA) to talk about Veteran Issues and the importance of pulling yourself from the ashes.  View Segment:

While training in Colorado Springs, I received a call from Marie Harris with Bowling Green State University.  I was proud to attend and graduate from BGSU as President of my major with a Bachelor of Science in Technology, an Associate of Arts, and Minor in General Business back in 2009 before starting Sarah Lee Photography in Nashville.

Marie and I spoke for quite a while and Robb Nardeccia constructed this awesome article, which will also be published in the BGSU Alumni Magazine this Fall:  Read Article

An Army Veteran couple named Nancy & Brent reached out and took me into their arms and home like part of the family, making my days prior to starting out fun and comfortable.  They even threw an amazing farewell party with some local friends.  Smoked prime rib, smoked salmon, baked beans, fruit salad, and greens.  Then, a motorcycle ride in the Rockies!!  Vroom Vroom.  I miss them  so much already…

Sam Chambers of Great Divide Bike, Hike, and Ski single handedly arranged a send off escort from City Park in Pueblo to Cañon City.

The escort included cyclists, bikers, and chase vehicles.  They weren’t going to let anything happen to me this time, haha.  ‘Honored’ and ‘speechless’ doesn’t cut it.  All of us single filing down Highway 96 was an incredible sight…

It was a memorable Day One: nearly 50 miles from Pueblo to Cañon City with a stop in Wetmore near my accident site.  The community of Wetmore arranged snacks and a hydration station for us all at the halfway mark.  Just what we all needed!!  We arrived in Cañon City and celebrated a challenging, but successful first ride at Royal Gorge Brewery.

Finally, I came face to face with the front range.  As I mentioned previously: While nature and mankind are equally seasonal, nature never seems to disappoint.  As promised, the Rockies  handed back my heart in one piece.  I left such a part of myself at the front range last year – like an offering…  A collateral of sorts, until my deeply anticipated return.

On a journey from east to west, you inevitably cross paths with avid thru-hikers in two main Trail Towns: Damascus, VA (Appalachian Trail) and Salida, CO (Continental Divide Trail).  It was fun to swap stories in quaint Salida at the Simple Lodge & Hostel.  I even got to buy a Navy Veteran his birthday shot right at midnight, with his girlfriend’s permission of course.  🙂  Happy birthday, Shipmate.

Time for Monarch Pass. This infamous summit peaks at 11,312′ and is the highest point on my entire 4,300+ mile long route.  The main climb is over 3,000′ at 7%-8% grade in only 10 miles distance, from Maysville to Monarch Crest.  I reluctantly listened to all the usual trite warnings and the “watch out for’s”, but consequently, it was a pristine and consistent climb.  “It is what it is” is a resignation of effort – everything is what you make it.  If you can get into a groove, you are golden.  Besides, I have never walked my bike once in over 2,900 miles.  Not going to start now.  Push yourself, not your bike.

17 years ago to this day, at age 17, I enlisted into the United States Military.  June 6, 2001 – the proudest day of my life.  I carried my Army flag and American flag to the top and held them high. This was a day of reflection, vigor, and victory.  I miss the military and its camaraderie every day.  It’s tricky finding civilian friends who would take a bullet for you without hesitation.  Being a soldier in the United States Army is the only thing that’s ever made complete sense to me.

The Rockies are magnificent and breathtaking from base to tip.  The detail could entertain your eyes and mind for lifetimes.  The crisp air seems to revive your soul, even as it thins.  On each summit lies a reincarnation of sorts; it can feel as though you’re slowly dying while climbing its sides, but are reborn ten fold during the descents.  Like clockwork.  The way the peaks meet the clouds is the closest reality can get to heaven on earth.

The temperatures have been relatively mild and I’ve very much enjoyed beginning my rides in the late mornings.  Days consist of eating my own limitations for breakfast, sharing lunches with mixed company, and digesting all the details around me.  The way the mountains and I are consuming each other is intoxicating.  This mutual respect must be earned over the miles, for these ranges both preceded and will outlive us all.

Both the Dallas Divide summit and the descent into Telluride, CO could undoubtedly tweak the very definition of stunning.  My cycling host for the night, Zak, met me on the way and rode with me into town.  We ate dinner with Hiatt, another cyclist touring on the same route.

The next day, Zak took us on a spontaneous water skiing excursion at Ridgway Reservoir.  I hadn’t attempted skiing since grade school, but managed to get up right away!  It came back to me immediately… just… like…   ….riding a bike, lol.  Which up until last year, I hadn’t done since grade school either.  We made PB&J’s and relaxed on the lake all afternoon.  It was an unbelievable day with unforgettable people.  You never know who you’ll meet or how or where.  So put yourself out there.

I left Telluride and cycled through smoke and ash alongside a massive wildfire which forced the shut down of San Juan National Forest.  A bit menacing, but I passed by it quickly enough.  Thankfully, a freaking awesome group of bikers helped clear my throat by buying me a very cold, much appreciated Face Down Brown Ale.  We had too much fun, as if that’s possible.  Bambi, the deer skull I found in Missouri, typically attracts my favorite kind of crowd.  😉

The final test was cresting Lizard Head pass, summiting at 10,222′; my last pass of the Rocky Mountains.  Monarch butterflies followed alongside me the entire climb, which was certainly symbolic.  A journey such as this is meant to transform you, and while you may not yet possess the clarity of a Caterpillar, the signs seem to be everywhere you look.  Pointing you in the right direction.  Directing and dissecting your perceptions and perspectives.

The generosity and friendships continue to bloom as I rolled into Delores, CO and was welcomed by Coast Guard Veteran Dave and his wife Belinda, who allowed me to stay in their beautiful gym.  I had met a couple named Al and Betty in the town before that they happened to know and hadn’t seen in a while, so we all got together for breakfast the next morning.  What a spread!!  …So grateful.

Speaking of spontaneity, my time in Dove Creek, CO was riddled with both unexpected excitement and sentiment.  The locals adopted me for the weekend, took me on adventures, and I was even invited to a wedding up in the Monticello Mountains!

The wedding was unique and wonderful.  Perfectly sliced sections of Aspen trunk replaced chairs and rows of trees replaced the aisle.  Warm sun, cool breeze.  The perfect day for love…

I had the great pleasure of spending quality time with a decorated Vietnam Veteran and Marine Special Forces Sniper named Stan.  It’s truly amazing how the military bond transcends both generation, war zone, and branch.  We both felt less alone after having met – our encounter was intense, deep, and will be forever engrained.  Stan gifted me a beautifully engraved knife, complete with his name etched into the side to remember him by.  A keep sake and a keep safe, all in one.

SITREP: Utah. The 7th state out of 10.  Over 560 miles down since Pueblo with roughly 1,380 miles remain.  Crippling heat topped with delicious descents, surrounded by what appear to be slices of 1,000 layer chocolate cake, called Mesas.  Where wind blown sands have sculpted the earth and mountains are crumbling into dunes like an hourglass.  The dust in my teeth simply adds to my grit, there’s no such thing as drinking too much water, and shade is nearly as scarce as cell signal.

I will now indulge in this untamed terrain – a desolate decadence.  40 mile long climbs, triple digit temperatures, and sharp double-digit grade inclines are a bittersweet, but just dessert for this challenge seeker.  Not a single soul or resource for 70-90 miles at a time.  Preparation will truly be my ticket to survival.  I’m going in hot.  See you on the other side…

Support SGT Sarah Lee’s Mission


Sands of Time

Utah’s terrain will leave you feeling convinced that you’ve left our planet.  Mesmerizing extraterrestrial backdrops contrast the barren foregrounds.  Mesas and mountains are lined up like a fleet of freeze-framed battle ships crashing through a sea of sand dunes…

As I made a dent in the Beehive State, temperatures hit the hundreds, resources were scarce, and signal was nonexistent.  Preparation and hydration have become key to survival and it can get a little scary.  But I needed this.  In some ways, I feel this perceived torture is not only deserved but desired, and it is indeed graduating into a new found will to live and lust for life.  Comfort and convenience leave NO room for appreciation.  Some would call this quest crazy or take an opportunity like this for granted, but one man’s trash is indeed another’s treasure.  The right kinda wealth.

I spotted some loose rocks on the side of a mesa and formed them into a giant heart, clearly visible from the road.  Maybe this little bit of Sunshine can coax a smile or briefly lighten an emotional load… You really never know when someone has decided that it is going to be their last day on earth.  Be kind.  Kindness can turn wolves into shepards.

Over time, white wings began forming on my back like a Rorschach inkblot.  Salt from sweat, serving as evidence of this grueling, but necessary ride – climbing onward and upward.  An expedition such as this is the healthiest Hell to endure.  Detaching, braving the elements, and facing the unknowns alone.  Using your body to power yourself across the continent.  Trading your vices for victories.  Breaking chains and cycles.  Rewiring and repairing your own mind.  Using your demons to earn your wings.

80 mile intervals without a hint of human.  Perhaps a powerline or two will slice apart the landscape in passing, but that is all.  Another day, another mountain.  Summit after summit.  Scenery, sweat, and silence.  My 2004 Iraq deployment instilled a new found gratitude for silence.  Nothing manifests a deep seated appreciation for the sounds of peace like the sounds of war.

Mesa Farm Market…  A beautiful farm and store oasis nestled between Hanksville and Torrey, UT.  The owner, Randy, said he had been running it since the day he could walk.  Every item was fresh from his farm and made with labor and love.  When asked for insight pertaining to his lifestyle, he responded, “It is heaven and it is hell.”  I smiled and flashed back over the months, “the most beautiful outcomes are raised by contrasts.”  His eyes softened and he returned my smile, then gave me a short tour.  Our talk was brief, but deep – it was nearing noon and I had to beat the heat.

I love this lifestyle of bare minimum.  Having to carry everything you own – an effective rule in deducing necessity.  My entire self-supported gear load, including bags and tent, is under 24 lbs total.  Self sufficiency is a powerful gift that you can give to yourself, and turning nothing into something is extremely satisfying.

One of the toughest rides of the west was the climb into Boulder, UT.  The grades varied between 8% and 14% that day and the heat hit three digits.  I made it to Hell’s Backbone Grill and was greeted by my server Kasha, who is also a cyclist. We talked for a while about A Vicious Cycle and when it came time to bring my bill, she instead brought a note.  It simply read: “Enjoy Your Ride”.

On top of it all, Kasha offered to join me the next day on my ride to Escalate!!  I was so incredibly excited and flattered she would do that with me.  I mean, she IS in a magazine – and one of the most beautiful souls I have ever encountered.  Then the staff all yelled, “Go Sarah!!” from the back porch as I rolled out after dinner.  My heart melted…

That night, I stealth camped under a lawnmower shed in the city park, narrowly escaping their underground sprinkler system.  It was like an episode of American Gladiator getting to the port-o-john dry, lol.  The next morning, I was invited to breakfast by a large group of Yale Alumni!  We had a blast and they sent us off in style.

The stretch between Boulder and Escalante was likely the most intriguing and magical landscape thus far.  About 13 miles from Boulder was the delightfully unexpected Kiva Koffeehouse, which was built directly into the side of a mountain.  After eating lunch with Kasha, I met a few Veterans and enjoyed some bonding time.

Escalante Outfitters is a full service campground equipped with tent spots, cabins, restaurant, gear store, showers, and laundry. Down the street, Escalante Mercantile offers all natural local ingredients; including the smoked salmon filet, cream cheese, fruits and hummus that I excitedly purchased.  I set up my camp, spent time with some awesome people and ate like total royalty at my little picnic table.

I stopped just shy of Tropic, UT and stayed at Cannonville KOA.  The next half hour consisted of laughing with the staff followed by a job offer by Karen & Judy.  🙂  I set up camp, then spent quite a bit of time down the road being formally educated by a local on the intricacies of Mormonism.  It’s always interesting to learn the foundations of different faiths.  The next morning, Judy invited me into her home for coffee and a quick hangout.  She told me about an upcoming waterfall that was only a short hike off my route.  Totally doing it.

While paying my respects at the Tropic Veteran Memorial, I was greeted by a retired science teacher.  As I fine tuned my gear, we talked for almost two hours about my journey, concepts and theories of life, nature, and then he and his son treated me to coffee.  Plus, one of the best post office experiences ever.  People are genuinely great – everywhere.  Spoiler alert, America: We are NOT as divided as we may think. Not even close.

Between Tropic and Bryce lies Mossy Canyon and Trail, just as Judy said.  It was a half mile hike or so back to the waterfall and cave.  It was a blast, meeting and going on spontaneous adventures with other Veterans, families, and groups.

After cresting my summit near Bryce, I got to secretly treat Marine Vietnam Veteran Tom and his wife Pat to a slice of Bryce Canyon Pines‘ famous pie.  I heard a “pssst!” and when I turned around, Tom shot a straw wrapper right at me.  The waitress blew my cover, haha.  But it was the best ‘thank you’ EVER.  I loved hearing about his service – Vietnam Vets always leave me hanging on their every word.  I kept the straw wrapper, too.   As evidence…  🙂

The day prior to my 35th birthday, I rolled into Panguich, UT (or Penguin Sandwich as I call it).  I contacted a local guide named Scout, who was touring with the Yale alumni.  She scooped me up and we headed to Zion for my birthday – bicycle, gear, balloons and all.  We instantly connected and our first conversations were incredibly thought provoking…

On our way toward Zion, I met Chuck, a Navy Veteran who had been living on the road via his motorcycle for over 18 months.  He even gave me a shout out on his YouTube Channel!!  We’re obviously kindred spirits – and a little crazy…  View Our Clip

Scout took me to some of her secret hideaways within the petrified sands of Zion National Park.  We felt like kids again, running barefoot along the silky smooth surfaces – care free and laughing.  It was blissful.  I do always try to be a giver when it comes to others, but I don’t think I’ve ever taken so much away from an experience with just one person…  Thank you, Scout.  Infinitely.

Thank you all so much for all of your amazing Birthday calls, messages, posts, and comments!!  The Yale alumni couple who invited me to breakfast in Escalante had also unknowingly treated me to a surprise day of Canyoneering!!  Because of their generosity, I got to spend my 35th birthday scaling and repelling off the cliffs of Zion with Scout and Joe the Marine – a fellow Global War on Terror Combat Vet.  It was incredibly therapeutic on many levels.

After a couple 60′ and 70′ canyoneering rappels, the Marine Officer gave me a curious look.  “You know… you look really comfortable with this.  How would you feel about repelling from three times this height?”  My face lit up like the sun, “TAKE ME THERE.”  He smirked and said, “Thought so.”  So he did.  …and it was glorious.

After a night of camping at Jacob Lake, it was time to say goodbye to Scout and push south.  I began digesting the fact that I was about to lay my eyes on the Grand Canyon for the first time in my life.  As much as I have mastered holding back tears, I knew this would be an ultimate test of temperament – for several reasons.

On the way into the National Park, I pulled up alongside two couples near the entrance sign and asked them to take my photo.  Shortly after, a herd of wild buffalo appeared by the road.  Woah.

This was the spark of an incredible friendship and some major Veteran bonding time, as one of the husbands was a decorated Marine Vietnam Veteran.  They invited me to their campsite for a ribeye and jumbo shrimp dinner on the grill!!  I literally dream about meat and the next four meals were nothing short of heaven for me…

The North Rim awaited me without angst as if it had been there for hundreds of millions of years or something…  Patient and steadfast, the earth had caved over time to form the planet’s most vast cradle, carefully lulling the inevitable reactions and emotions of the masses.  After approaching the rim, I walked backward toward the ledge hesitantly, took a deep breath, then finally turned to look.

My eyes instantly welled, darting around undeservingly.  My jaw disappeared through the canyon floor.  For the first time on this trip, the words are not presenting themselves and I will not try to find them.  It is an experience you will have to define with your own mind and through your own eyes…

Before leaving, I both celebrated the life and mourned the death of my Army Brother PFC Eric Ward, Veteran and beloved Son and Brother of my dear friends, Kendra, Brian, and Baylee.  It hadn’t rained once over a month, but today, storms were rolling in from every single direction. Standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon National Park’s North Rim, I threw Eric’s commemorative rock as hard and as far as I could.  I saluted and wept silently as it cut through the air and vanished into the depths.

Eric had never seen the Grand Canyon – it was the first time for us both.  And now he will be part of it forever…  I’ve known PFC Ward since he was 8 years old and watched him grow into a handsome, talented, incredibly loving young man.  His memory is kept alive and well through his family via the 4WARD Project.  Honoring him has been a priority throughout my journey.  I hid a silver commemorative rock at the famous rim to rim Kaibab Trail to be found later…  A tough, but incredibly special experience.

My good friend and 1st Infantry Brother CPT Jerry Bell (Vietnam Veteran / Bronze Star and Air Medal recipient), made a special trip from southern Nevada to join me for Eric’s rock throwing.  He certainly helped put an uplifting spin on an otherwise solemn day.  The four of us had a moment of silence on the cliff, then enjoyed lunch at the Grand Canyon Lodge.  #BFFs #IGY6

So, the elevation profile on my next map set looks a freaking seismograph reading.  Bring it.  😉  On some of the more menacing inclines, mental strength is everything and mind games are key.  Sometimes, I’ll tip my helmet down so the climb is out of view and only allow myself focus on what is right in front of me and what is behind me.  When what’s ahead seems dismal or unclear, nothing refuels your think tank like shifting your focus to how far you’ve come.  That said, I hit my journey’s 3,000 mile mark right at the hiker / biker campground at the Grand Canyon!!!

The high desert and Great Basin ranges of Nevada will present their unique challenges, just as each part of the country has.  Vast stretches of emptiness by day.  Sleeping under a blanket of stars by night.  Nevada.  My 9th state out of 10.  My 4th and final time zone.  Two map sets remain out of 12.

My head has much to sort through while navigating these high highs and low lows…  I am now surrounded solely by positivity and peace, and the healing has become instantly noticeable.  Renewed momentum, empowered, and happy.  Just me and my bike and the sand and the stars.  My circle is complete.  Keep moving forward, don’t let anyone steal your smile, and always leave people better than you found them.  Thank you all endlessly…

Click to Support Sarah’s Journey


Who Saved Who?

On Thursday, July 19th at 11am, I found out that my cat Kittums has cancer.  An aggressive lymphoma that had already reduced her to nearly half her body weight in only three weeks time.  The Veteranarian warned that she would almost certainly not survive until I finish my journey.  Kittums and I have been joined at the hip for 13 years and she may very well be the closest thing I will ever have to a child of my own.  It is baffling how illnesses such as cancer can just storm in and steal away something so happy and healthy that unbearably fast…  I do not understand.  All I know is that it was out of the question that she endure this process without me.

I immediately found a round trip plane ticket and arrived home in Nashville just in time.  My return flight to Nevada is on Tuesday, August 7th, and I will resume and complete A Vicious Cycle with only 385 short miles left to go.  I am preparing to say goodbye to Kittums while home, as she has such a very short time left to live.  I will be honest with you all: I am devastated to lose her.  This post is to honor her life, her love, and her memory.

Kittums has been by my side since coming home from my 14 month tour to Iraq, 2003 – 2005.  The sad truth is that a lot of my life before and shortly after my deployment is a vague, distorted blur.  I don’t know what it’s like to live without her because as far as my memory allows, I’ve really never had to.  I was a different person after returning from war and she has loved me without question or measure.  She has been my greatest joy, my safe place, my therapy, my light.  That little ball of fluff has been my rock behind the scenes.

Pets are family, and service animals deliver an unspoken understanding and level of healing that humans simply cannot.  They gauge your demeanor like mindreaders and will take in your happiness and pain as if it were their own.  You are their sole priority, their only focus, their entire universe.  Kittums has helped me power through more dark nights than I care to disclose.  Her light was always brighter than my darkness.  She is my confidant.  My constant.

The days begin and end with Kittums delivering smiles to my face and unwavering love, especially during my long stretches of isolation and seclusion.  She has been my daily go-to for peace, warmth, and refuge.  I don’t know how I can ever thank her enough, aside from pouring my love and gratitude into all of her remaining moments.

On the nights I am able to get tired, she positions herself centered on my chest until I fall asleep.  Her body warmed my heart and her rhythmic purring calmed my mind.  Before closing my eyes, for as long as I can remember, I would ask her: “Hey Kittum?  What did I ever do before you?  What will I EVER do without you…”

As I wept over her, she mustered up the strength to reach out and wrap her paw tight around my finger.  She pulled my hand into her chest, and looked directly into my eyes.  Suddenly, her message for me entered my mind as clear as day… She said, “Live Like My Love Made a Difference.”  So we made some keepsakes…  <3

On Tuesday July 31st, cancer took Kittums – she passed away in my arms shortly after I took our photo.  She stayed strong and fought to live until I got home to her, and remained so loving and beautiful, even though her very last breath.  It’s sobering, holding a small wooden box in my hands that used to be my best friend.  Less than an hour after she passed, I recieved this Facebook memories notification from 4 years ago, on this exact day.  Unreal…

Some of her ashes will accompany me on the remainder of my journey. Upon reaching the Pacific, I will scatter them along the shore and watch the waves sweep them away.  Last night, I created a tiny 1.5″ tall glass vile, which will help ensure her safe transport to my finish line: The Beautiful Golden Gate Bridge.

She was so very much a source of strength and love throughout my adult life.  I highly recommend a service pet for anyone who lives with daily social, mental, or physical ailments.  It is almost supernatural, the way they ease your soul and fill the voids in your mind, heart, and life.  Kittums showed up as a stray, but I’ve questioned every day: “Who Saved Who?”

I already miss you every minute.
…thank you forever, Sweetheart.

A Vicious Cycle post coming soon!


Back to Business

I have arrived back in western Nevada and will be officially setting out tomorrow. Thank you all for your incredibly touching and overwhelming support in my having to return to Nashville to say goodbye to Kittums. I can’t express my level of appreciation for each and every one of you and your sympathy / sentiments during these difficult weeks…

Before leaving for Nashville, I had the honor of having breakfast with a decorated Vietnam Veteran, Captain Dennis Vehe. Dennis and I, along with our mutual friend CPT Jerry Bell, enjoyed some nostalgia and commeraderie, and had a wonderful time getting to know each other. A thorn between two roses, I assure you…

CPT Vehe served as an Air Mission Commander of the Army Aviator Rotary Wing in the 128th Assault Helicopter Company and was in charge of the entire Combat Assault Operation while Airborne. He has 1,010 combat flight hours under his belt, and was awarded the prestigious Air Medal with Valor. He served 12 months in Phu Loi, Vietnam from Sep ’70 – Sep ’71. The photos he shared truly painted his stories to life.

It was intense and surreal to put his phone to my ear and listen to an actual audio recording CPT Vehe made while firing up his Huey before heading out on an assault mission. To personally be sitting next to him and watching his expressions while hearing that Huey and his voice from 48 years ago was riveting.  Every hair on my arms was standing at attention by the end. According to numerous Vietnam Vets, to hear the sound of those blades approaching was to experience solice, even in hell.


“One of the most beautiful sounds an Infantryman could hear. They were our Angels”, explained CPT Bell.  CPT Vehe also took these photos while in flight. One boasts a beautiful sunset-silhouetted Huey and in the other, he caught a 2.75″ rocket being fired from one of their c-model gunships during routine LZ prep fire.  Incredible. These images are invaluable and it is an absolute privilege to be able to share them.

While home, I received word that a cancerous tumor was discovered in CPT Vehe’s throat – a rare parotid malignancy…. He had begun chemotherapy in Las Vegas, close to the airport, and it was obvious for me to go visit him!  🙂  After many more laughs and stories, we shared a long goodbye…

My current status – heading north toward my leave-off point. There are reports of huge California wildfires that have crept to within 200 miles of my route. The resulting smoke has already found it’s way to me and is rather thick and worsening. My balaclava will be crucial.

One map set, 335 miles, and the last state out of 10 remains. One final massive climb over the Sierra Nevada’s, then it is finally “all downhill from there”. Just a quick stop to see some friends I made while in Middlegate last month, then I am rolling out!

The Utah / Nevada blog post is almost complete – hopefully by this weekend. I cannot wait to play show and tell!  🙂


Lost and Found

In the Great Basin, the concept of “distance” exists solely as an optical illusion. The lack of moisture in the dry desert air results in crystal clear scenery that throws off your frame of reference completely. Upcoming ranges that appear to be within just a couple miles are 20-30 miles away in actuality. Its relentless trickery is both frustrating and fascinating as you pedal for what seems like an eternity toward the horizon. However, the horizon out here isn’t all that bad…

I met a wonderful woman named Karen at a market in Milford, UT just before crossing into Nevada. After talking for a few minutes, I went out and bungeed my groceries onto my bike. My plan was to set up camp in their city park under a pavilion. She came outside and surprised me by offering up their entire rental house in town! What an unexpected treat… The front yard was lined with these hilarious yet beautifully painted toilets. Karen is an incredibly talented artist in nearly every medium, and porcelain is no exception. 🙂

Karen’s husband, Mike, is a Vietnam Veteran and we got to spend some very special time together the next day in Baker, NV. We chatted and laughed together as I set up my camp for the night. Upon leaving, they paid me an ultimate compliment by saying that if they’d had a daughter, they would have wanted her to be just like me. I texted them this photo as they pulled away.

As I approached the outskirts of Ely, NV, I ran across a group of bikers at a bar / restaurant in Major’s Junction. They were in the middle of their 16th annual ride that had turned into a memorial ride in honor of a brother they had lost, and had stopped for drinks. Loads of veterans were participating and of course, we quickly figured out who we were and started in on each other.  🙂

They asked my plans and when I explained they involved tent camping behind the restaurant for the night, they said, “Ummm, no. Actually you’re coming with us.” I was grossly outnumbered and thought it best not to argue, haha. So off we went to Ely for one of the most incredible and unique experiences of my journey.

They treated me to dinner and drinks all night.  I felt like part of the club – we had a special and meaningful connection.  I stayed with Keena and Darin, brother and sister-in-law of the man they were riding in memory of.  It was a crazy and unforgettable night.  Needless to say, I took the next day off riding, haha…

About halfway between Austin and Fallon is a little oasis called Middlegate Station. The heat had me convinced this was surely a mirage, but to my relief, there it was. Restaurant, cabins, amazing people, live music. It was heaven. I opened the door and walked into the most eccentric variety of décor I may have ever seen in my life. Amazing.

Middlegate Station is family owned and we grew close during my stay. Especially with Travis, a Navy Veteran who served alongside the Seals in northern Iraq around the same time I was over there. We bonded bigtime. I was excited to add my 1st Infantry Division Combat Patch to their wall. The ‘Big Red One’ is now represented alongside hundreds of other service patches.

The next day, the guys took me off-roading up the desert mountains in a Wolverine, then shooting with a 7mm bolt action rifle that had a kick like a Clydesdale. I could have stayed there forever.  ‘Murrica.

I also had the pleasure of meeting Bleed the Stone, a metal band that had stopped there for gas while on a tour, but ended up staying and performing two nights in a row. The lead singer, Michael Beck, hand wrote his lyrics from their hit song on a napkin for me and the band signed it. One of the staff at the restaurant hand sketched this skull in a matter of minutes. So impressive, all of it…

Off I go, back into the sandy, salty abyss… The Nevada terrain is simple and predictable; crossing a basin then cresting a range, crossing a basin then cresting a range. The width of Nevada is mainly made up of these two elements: vast open spaces cut vertically by mountains. There can be beauty in simplicity and substance hidden in emptiness. Clipped in and zoned out…

While VFWs were scarce on my route, I have been very fortunate to have gotten to meet with other Veterans in nearly every single town. Little did I know, Fallon, Nevada was about to curb my VFW craving. At Post 1002, walking through their door means you are family. It was like having a giant blanket of badassery wrapped around my exhausted, weathered cyclist self.

I cannot speak highly enough of this Post. VFWs are a safe haven for us, both to cut up and break down. Veterans, I am telling you… GO to your local VFW and experience the closeness. Make the first move – start a conversation and let the commeraderie alleviate your alienation. “No One Does More For Veterans.” – their motto is spot on. The Commander (Mac – Navy Vet), Quartermaster (Jim – Army Vet), and their members treated me like total royalty.

Mac, the Commander of VFW Post 1002, took me out to the Naval Air Station for a tour. We looked through the aircraft and memorials, and saw the tower where the famous “fly by” scene in Top Gun was filmed.

In Stagecoach, NV, I met an incredible woman named Elise at a restaurant called Maddy’s Place. It was named after her daughter. Her children are Veterans, including a daughter who is a Marine, and part of the illustrious Marine One. I ate a delicious sandwich and talked to Elise and my new friend Rudy for quite some time, then Rudy treated me to my meal!  Elise set up an impromptu interview with Denise, a journalist from the Dayton, NV Dispatch newspaper, then paid a kindness to me that I never ever saw coming…

Elise’s surprise would rejuvenate me in every single way… She made arrangements for me to stay in a King Spa Suite at the Gold Dust Casino Hotel in Carson City for two nights – free of charge. I soaked my tired and tattered body for hours and hours in the jetted tub. It was a gift that refilled my sails – my morale is at an all time high. Thank you so much, sweet friend…

Inside everybody you know, there is someone you’ve never met. Take the time and make the effort to understand one other. Vulnerability is the key to connection. Kindness bridges the gaps in unity. Effort paves the paths toward happiness. Don’t compare – relate. And remember: Let no one steal your smile. Onward and upward – the Sierra Nevada summits await. My final climbs. There is now So Much in my rear view mirror…  🙂

I have a very Smokey date with my tenth and FINAL state. California, I am so excited to experience you and take in what you will teach me. Only 243 miles to my finish line: the Golden Gate Bridge. I am rolling slow and allowing this last wave of healing to sink in before it is all over. Of two things, I am now certain… Treading water no longer works for me and drowning is no longer an option.

My journey; a mission of post-war healing, of uniting my fellow Veterans, of honoring our fallen family’s ultimate sacrifice, of shedding light on our issues and becoming vocal about my own ~ soon, I will be seeing it through to completion. The Golden Gate is in my crosshairs. Crossing bridges. New beginnings. Just as I had hoped. I am so grateful. So humbled… I CAN’T WAIT TO FINALLY ANNOUNCE MY NEXT CHAPTER!!!

Follow Sarah  |  Support Sarah


California Love

As expected, my welcome committee was lined up and waiting: The Sierra Nevada Mountains. Smirking and chuckling amongst themselves, these summits knew they would be a formidable final test. My body was begging my mind to wind this journey down, but this range is an unavoidable gateway to the Pacific, and a daunting right of passage before I am officially ‘Golden’.

Nearing the border of California via my cycling route, I was a bit confused as to where my Welcome to California sign was hiding. Turns out it’s the smallest sign ever, with California printed on one side and Nevada on the other. This is my 10th and final state… Yeah, that’s a no-go. So, after rolling my eyes and taking a fairly underwhelming photo, I decided to back track 3 miles to a main road in search of a better sign. Boom, found one!!  Yay. Time to get back on route.

Along Rt. 88 (Carson Pass Hwy) were ‘stations’ that date back to the Pony Express and I made it a point to stop at each. The first stop was Hope Valley Cafe in Markleeville, owned by Leesa, the coolest biker chick ever. We had an awesome two hour talk as I sipped coffee and devoured a delicious breakfast burrito. I got a breakfast sandwich to go and they even stuck a surprise cookie in my take out bag! Leesa runs two successful restaurant locations and our adventurous, free spirits connected quickly. The lust for adventure and sense of wonder can be contagious, and it’s been beautiful discovering others who haven’t let that fade away with childhood.

The climb from the border of California to the appropriately named Tragedy Springs campground was a sinister 5,600 foot gain in elevation. The switchbacks were sharp as scalpels and the shoulder was gone with the headwind. Then, out of nowhere, the Appalachians came knocking, delivering a friendly but fierce reminder that not only is this totally possible, but that climbing to the top is now a permanent part of my DNA.

Carson Pass, you sadistic monster…  Your 3,200 foot incline almost got me. But I KILLED that climb in one shot, never stopping or walking once. The intensity may have very well rivaled the climb out of Hayter’s Gap back in Virginia, which was 1,500 feet in only 3.8 miles. Carson Pass ONLY gets steeper and narrower and more chaotic toward the top. It took everything I had left.

During the last 2 miles, I began searching my head for perspective; surely something in my past could humble this hell. This was a legitimate physical and mental struggle. As I rounded the final curve of my final summit and spotted that elevation sign, nostalgia took the reigns. That was it – I had passed the final test… It was important to take a moment of silence at the top and reflect on my climbs since leaving the Atlantic. A lot happened on those climbs. A LOT. The mountains will humble you without prejudice, only accepting payments in pain and perseverance. Their inclines are riddled with discarded demons, and their declines laced with tears of triumph. They are brutal to the unprepared and rewarding for the determined. Cycling up a mountain is like nothing I’ve ever faced. It’s life-altering and liberating. Death and rebirth.

At the summit, Lynne and Larry came out and greeted me with handshakes and ripe cantelope and asked, “Did you just ride up THAT with all THIS??” I loved it… They work at the Carson Pass Welcome Center and explained that this is a special crossroads, connecting the Western Express cycling route with the Pacific Crest Trail.  We had a great talk before I began barreling down the mountain toward the coast.

The plan was to tackle all remaining climbs of the Sierra Nevada’s that day, then end at Tragedy Springs. There was supposed to be a campground, but there was not. It was a trailhead with a couple benches, so I began scouting out a flat spot and was very tired. However, when I returned to my bicycle, I spotted a truck that had followed me back to this isolated area. As they looped to come back, I jumped on my bike and rode into the woods and snuck around back onto the main road, losing them. Might not have been anything, but could’ve been the worst thing. Never feel sorry for playing it safe. I rode a few miles up and camped near the edge of the road, hidden in plain sight


Fresh out of water for the next day, it was slightly nerve-wracking that the nearest resource was 15 miles ahead. It was all downhill to Ham’s Station to ingest the most well-earned coffee and breakfast burrito of my life, lol. A large family walked in and I offered to move so they could combine some tables and sit together. They treated me to my meal as a result! Turns out, this family was on their way to transport a loved one’s remains to her final resting place. I hugged every one of them so hard – it blew mind that even in the midst of a solemn and difficult day, they would show such generosity to a complete stranger. We talked for a bit, then took a photo with the staff…

I began flying down the mountain with alarmingly loud and worn out brakes, watching for gravel, potholes, chipmunks, pinecones – the silliest little things could literally ‘end’ you on a descent. The turn I was supposed to take came and went at about 35 mph, ha. Before I knew it, I had gone downhill over 4 miles on the wrong road and the only option was to back track up an 8% grade mountain. Thankfully, I happened upon OK Corral – one of the stations along Rte. 88. I was physically done for the day. I asked to set up my camp in back of their property and they graciously made an exception for me. The owner, Eric, was truly kind and even asked if I needed anything before running to the store.

Toward the end of the night, an intellectual and witty man named Jim approached me and we dove into a deep chat. His enthusiasm for my journey pumped me up big time. He introduced me to his wonderful wife, Gina, and they invited me to stay with them. After explaining I’d already set up my camp out back, they invited me to their home for the following night! A beautiful oasis tucked away in the forests of the Sierra Nevada, complete with hot tub and continued hangouts with this awesome couple? Yes, please! We made plans to meet the next day.

While cycling toward Jim and Gina’s, I ran across Pearl’s Cafe in Pioneer, CA. This power couple grows everything they serve fresh and their culinary creativity results in me salivating simply from typing this. I mean, just look at ‘The Lifesaver’ sandwich!! After discovering that I had cycled here from the east coast, they surprised me with some homemade granola to “fuel me the rest of the way”. Boy, did it… P.S. the pinecones in California are bigger than pineapples.

After leaving Pearl’s Cafe, I cycled into a neighborhood tucked away by nature; unassuming, yet grand. I was nearing Jim and Gina’s home. This will certainly be the rejuvenation I need after sleeping on the ground the past six nights. Jim and Gina are an Italian couple, with deep roots grounded in Sicily. Jim even taught me to make homemade pasta! 😀

We talked and laughed on their patio over a delicious meal of tri-tip steak, delicate pasta, and brussel sprouts. It felt like we had known each other for years – the ongoing warmth on this journey never ceases to amaze me. Inviting a perfect stranger into your home, to me, is a very big deal. To work hard throughout your life and give to others out of what you’ve earned is deeply selfless. And opening up your personal life and privacy to someone new really is a brave and a profound gesture.

After 8 days straight of riding, I decided to take the next day off and we went on a guided tour of Black Chasm Cavern. Black Chasm was likely known about by the local MiWok tribes, though gold miners were the first credited with exploring the cave in 1854. The miners described the cave as having vaulted chambers large enough to contain the largest trees and crystals that stood out from the walls in every conceivable direction, turning and bending into many shapes. These are known as Helictites and are an unusual formation in cave systems throughout the world.

These cave walls had to have come straight off a sci-fi set… Geology has become increasingly fascinating while traveling east to west. It all began back in Virginia during my geological dig for unakite with the Gem Institute. From the mountains, plate tectonics and fault lines, down to the smallest Apache Teardrop of Obsidian. It’s remarkable, our planet. There is even a lake at the bottom of this cave and the acidic water is actually potable. H2OMG.

We then went to Indian Grinding Rock Park in Pine Grove, CA. All of the holes shown in the image below were formed over time by rocks and the vigorous grinding of acorns into flour for a variety of essential uses. The way of life the Native Americans mastered has always fascinated me to the core. Brilliant, inventive, resourceful masters of minimalism. There is so much still to learn from their lifestyle. In fact, there is something to learn from virtually everyone. Start surrounding yourself with people who are different than you, then open your ears. Your mind will follow. It’s pretty cool. We’re actually not all that different.

The next day, we went to an original ‘Gold Town’ called Sutter Creek, CA and enjoyed an olive oil and wine tasting at Bella Grace Winery. The owner, Charlie, was an insightful, informative, and knowledgeable man. He and his wife own the winery, which has been in the family for many generations and was named after each of their Grandparents, Bella and Grace.

That night, I met with Dee – the owner of The Mountain Grill at Mace Meadows. Also a long distance touring cyclist, we had some major stories to swap. We loved reminiscing together through familiar territory, and although our routes varied, the sentiments were synonymous.

Gina posted about A Vicious Cycle on a local online group and invited Veterans in the area to come out and meet me. Veterans from every single war showed up and we dove into each other. Every branch and conflict was represented: WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, OIF, OEF. The unspoken Veteran bond transcends generation, war, MOS, and branch. Our hangout very quickly blossomed into a patriotic performance as we all linked arms and broke out into spontaneous song. Not a single dry eye survived in the restaurant, except ours. View Video

We had some unforgettable laughs, conversations, tears, and major mischief. Particularly this decorated WWII Veteran, who was more lively and witty than the restaurant’s total. Even at 93 years old, and after a very unexpected peck on the cheek, the verdict is in: He’s still ‘got it’. Haha. One encounter that will stay with me for life was my heart to heart with RJ “Mighty Mouse”, an OIF / OEF Marine Recon Sniper who is about my age. Our generation of Combat Veteran is a rare breed, and when it comes to certain things, we really are all that we have sometimes. A long, tough talk was followed by one of those notoriously rough military hugs. We’re now family.

On my way to Sacramento, I stopped into the VFW Post 6604 which is located in the Folsom Veteran’s Hall. The Hall was extraordinary inside with a beautiful lineup of branch flags in the back lawn. Julie, the bartender, treated me to a glass of wine and the camaraderie commenced! After goodbye hugs, they gifted me a nice sized flag to attach to my bike.

From Folsom, CA clear past Sacramento, there is an elaborate network of trails and over 35 miles of my route is included! I barely had to touch the road or listen to traffic, and it was nicely paved and well manicured with lush landscaping. I took a little time off route to explore Sacramento.

While on the trails, I met a fellow cyclist named Rob and we partnered up for a bit. He is over 70 years old and cycles around miles nearly every day. It was wonderful learning about the trails and surrounding area from him as we rolled along. We had an unforgettably intense conversation, to include discussions on suicide and friends lost to it… We even passed by a beautiful memorial bench with his friend’s name engraved across the back. It was a delightfully deep ride together. I thoroughly believe adventures like this are best experienced and enjoyed while solo. The availability required for these incredible daily unforeseen interactions just doesn’t happen otherwise. Also, rattlesnake!!

After a while, when people would ask “Where ya headed?”, I would just reply “West”. Next, they would say, “Well how far are ya goin?”, to which I’d reply, “Til I run outta road.” 🙂 Well, guess what? It finally happened… My route includes a ferry ride from Vallejo down to the Port of San Francisco’s Ferry Building via the San Francisco Bay Ferry. Ticket is bought and bike is loaded. One ferry ride and a 5.5 mile bike ride, and I will come face to face with my finish line: The illustrious Golden Gate Bridge.

I’ve been asked countless times, “What about your journey scares you the most?” My hesitant but honest reply has always been, “Finishing.” I have fully embraced this journey and allowed it to help me heal. In spite of my physical limitations, despite negative influences, I actively bent every bar in the prison I had created for myself and even broke a few. This journey was meant to disrupt my darkness and offer me an opportunity to lock myself back into life. And I am TAKING IT. I am no longer afraid of finishing, and the next Chapter has been written. Alongside the completion of my journey, I have been building a program that I have named Waypoint Vets.

Waypoint Vets will afford small group nature-based outings and activities, exclusive to Veterans. After discovering first hand how much healing happens while detaching in nature, I want to facilitate these opportunities for other Vets to experience this together at no cost to them. I am adamant about making a real difference for my fellow Veterans, and I believe those best equipped to help us ARE us. We have an obligation to our Fallen and each other to pull ourselves from the ashes and keep fighting the war inside.

If you would like to contribute to the building and launching of my Non-Profit Organization, Waypoint Vets, please click here.


Golden Opportunity


Going from two wheels to water was a welcome change; one that hadn’t surfaced since crossing the Ohio River via ferry from Kentucky into Illinois. The ferry ride from Vallejo to the Fisherman’s Warf was fast and fascinating. The boat ripped through the San Pablo Bay into the San Francisco Bay, passing beautiful waterfront homes, Angel Island, and the infamous Alcatraz Island and Prison.

During the ride, I met a fellow Army Vet named Steven and his daughter. After bonding over a satisfying blend of both light and heavy topics, he invited me to join them for lunch. Steven is the West Coast Ambassador to the non-profit Friends in Service of Heroes and dedicates his days as an advocate for Veterans and their families.  He is so inspiring and genuine.  We had a blast. 🙂

I stayed at a very impressive Hostel on the bay called Fisherman’s Warf Hostel. The guys at the front desk and I played music together, sang, geeked out about gaming, discussed the universe, and talked at length about the many meanings behind my journey. Then they locked my bicycle and gear into a secure room – it was all so well organized… This place is seriously top notch and the amenities seemed endless. A total treat toward my trip’s end.

The rooms were organized into three main options: all male / all female shared rooms, co-ed rooms, or private rooms. The upstairs had several bathrooms available, gorgeous indoor / outdoor lounging areas, and Cafe Franco; a quaint restaurant with a creative menu and local craft beer.

I spent time with Amanda, a world traveler who basically blew my mind with the details of her experiences. What you gain and take away simply from interacting with similarly adventurous people is invaluable and everlasting. As you continue to expand your personal horizons, you become bigger and the world becomes smaller – in all of the best ways.

The downstairs of Fisherman’s Warf Hostel has a full kitchen with hiker/biker boxes, movie theater, outdoor lounge, and game room. The outdoor lounging area is gorgeous at night. It was way colder than I anticipated, so the heating lamps were everything…

It’s only a short walk away from enjoying the Bay via the Aquatic Park Pier. Staying here was very budget-friendly, and worth every single penny. I got bundled up, queued my music, and headed down to the water. My VFW balaclavas served as excellent makeshift pant legs, lol. The ways in which the VFW has supported me throughout my journey are endless, from the local clear up to the national level. I am humbled and forever grateful.

Oh, Golden Gate. You elusive, mysterious, seductive structure. I have traveled over 4,000 miles to see you for the very first time. Through 10 states and 4 time zones. Upon crossing you, I can officially claim that I have CYCLED Across America: Feet on Pedals every single inch of my route from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. Carrying everything I needed underneath me, using only my legs to power myself across the continent. Even in the wake of a near-death experience and ligamental injury in Colorado, never once did I walk my bike – no negativity, no fear. The mission, mere miles away from accomplished… It was time to tease myself with a first look at the finish line…

Golden Gate, as I slink underneath your shadows of symmetry, the reverence and anticipation for my bridge crossing continue to build. I watch as the locals approach you; as they utilize your structural prowess to ease their daily travels. I watch the tourists’ excitement – how fun to fly to your shores and be greeted by your iconic crimson towers. Fun and easy are delicacies that you so graciously facilitate, but I have traveled across America on a bicycle to experience your embrace. I have never seen you before in my life, but I have dreamed of you, fantasized about you, broken and rebuilt myself in order to meet you…

I cannot wait to lose ourselves together in the waves of haze that strut past your towers – this daily masquerade that you seem to not only tolerate but enjoy. You steadfast, beautiful compilation of physics and poise. You have my full attention. Your tension cables ease my angst. I look up at your towers with awe, but please understand that a rediscovered stamina now lives behind my smile. You and I were both built to last, after all. You represent my mindset, my hopes, my goals… Connecting the divided, stretching between shores, facilitating possibilities. Crossing bridges, new beginnings. I don’t want to rush – I never want this to end…

A couple of days before crossing the Golden Gate, I stopped into the War Memorial Building looking to make some meaningful connections. Right inside the front door was Paul Cox, Chair of the American Legion War Memorial Commission, who immediately invited me into his office to talk. I told him about my journey and he called Nelson Lum, Commander of the Cathay American Legion Post 384 in San Francisco. They made a few last minute calls to arrange some support.

Robert, the cyclist friend that I met near Sacramento, made a few secret calls after meeting me. One of those calls was to Dion Lim of ABC7 News in San Francisco. We got in touch and it was quickly decided that she and her crew were going to join me at the Golden Gate on Labor Day to do a story! I will cross on September 3rd, 2018; the date was set. Until then, I will be in Napa Valley…  I headed north to visit family and explore wine country with my Aunt Liz and Uncle, “San Francisco Tim“.

Labor Day is finally here and the time has come to end A VICIOUS CYCLE. I arrived at North Vista Point at 0800 – a notoriously breathtaking view of the Golden Gate bridge. Admittedly, I was not emotionally prepared for the platoon of support that was standing by… 🙂 <3

ABC7 San Francisco News, the American Legion Cathay Post 384 Commander, Chapter 82 Legion Riders, VFW members, and friends I had met along my journey all showed up to escort me across the Golden Gate and down to Ocean Beach to dip my tires into the Pacific. My heart was overflowing – I couldn’t believe the turnout with such last minute notice.

Approaching the bridge, it felt like my heart, mind, and body all joined forces in some euphoric synchronized swim. Even while peddling 250 pounds between myself, the bike, the gear – I felt weightless. Like some buoyant badass, riding into 9,000 feet of outstretched steel arms at over 200 feet above the waves.

The Legion Riders blocked traffic and surrounded me with thunder as we stormed the San Francisco streets. The elevations of this city are relentless, and I cycled up incline after incline; my final climbs before reaching the edge of America. We crested and curved, then it appeared… The Mighty Pacific Ocean. As we flew down the cliff toward the sand, my smile took over my entire face. My cheekbones barely allowed for my eyes to widen and well, and my jaw nearly got caught in my spokes. One more challenge remained: pushing my steel framed Kona Sutra and gear through 800 feet of loose sand to the surf.

The push was crazy difficult and I could feel muscle failure approaching as my tires sank and the sand cut each step in half. I closed my eyes and listened to the waves pounding the shore. They grew louder and louder, both the ocean and the voices of encouragement. My body was honestly at its breaking point. I opened my eyes and glanced down at my feet cutting through the sand and my mind flew back to Basic Training, then to my Iraq deployment… when I felt most capable, most relevant, most alive.

Then in a roaring rush of adrenaline, fire, and realization, I was reminded that I AM still that person – and I AM still mentally and physically capable of great things and that I DO deserve to be here. As I began evoking my Brothers and Sisters who did not survive their wars either abroad or within, a second wind came over me that could have sunk every ship in the Bay. I let out a yell that was echoed by dozens of others, then I destroyed the rest of that push to the surf. Stopping shy of the water, I threw off my shoes and socks, exposing those meritorious tan lines.  I took one last look around at the love and support surrounding me.  ……..Eyes front, Sarah.  It’s time to finish this.

The ocean and I rushed together at equal speed, both taking in one more deep breath before finally crashing into each other. As the water swirled around my ankles and poured through my spokes, I felt them ALL. I felt our Fallen. I felt the friends I’ve lost – that we have all lost and are continuing to lose. I felt everyone that believed in me, my fellow Veterans and their support, my loved ones. Everyone, everything. Every single reason that I still want to live flooded into my mind, washing away my sorrow and filling my voids to the rim. The sacrifices my friends made in combat… The friends I have lost to suicide since. Their faces and smiles swarmed my mind and tore into my core, and in that moment, I was certain beyond all doubt that I had made them proud. That I had honored them. That I had properly represented my fellow Veterans and the United States Army. That healing and peace are truly possible for everyoneWE HAVE TO HONOR THEM BY LIVING.  I cry typing this, even now.

As I waded in from the water, the Legion Riders met me and put their hands on my bike. The President, Cory, looked at me and said, “Mission Accomplished, Sergeant. We will take it from here.” Then they began carrying my bicycle back to the steps for me. I barely got out an affirmative nod and cracked a broken “Thank You, Brother”, then we walked back through the sand together.

Jerry Bell, fellow Big Red One brother, drove from Nevada to present me with the Quilt Of Valor on the beach. After CPT Bell read some very touching and powerful words, Paul and Nelson draped the quilt over my shoulders. Afterward, my Aunt, and San Francisco’s Retired City Public Works Manager, Liz Lerma, performed a beautiful Chicano / Navajo prayer ceremony. It was stunning… Veterans, our family is larger than any one of us can ever comprehend. Today has changed my life forever.

After interviewing with ABC7, we went out to celebrate at Mona Lisa in downtown San Francisco. After a heartfelt toast, I kept it classy by slamming my champagne , then accidentally shattering the glass on the table. Can’t take me anywhere… The President of the Chapter 82 Legion Riders looked around and said, “Can we keep her?” and everyone cheered, haha. The celebrations continued into the evening, then I had the most thorough night’s sleep of my freaking life.

The friendships and connections made today and throughout this journey will last a lifetime. Every day that you are alive is seasoned with promise and laced with opportunities to undo your own damage and improve upon yourself. You must be so very careful with whom you share your adventures in life. Our days are numbered, but your impact can be infinite.  This journey was an opportunity of a lifetime and its healing changed my head and my heart.  I don’t know how to begin thanking you all – I hope my eyes can deliver a glimpse of my gratitude.  Your love, support, and encouragement planted a unique level of accountability and drive inside of me that I’ve never experienced before.

The generosity, warmth, and support that I received throughout America forever changed me. Each act of kindness would result in me asking, “How can I ever thank you enough – or repay you?” The response was verbatim from Atlantic to Pacific: “Just pay it forward…” And that is EXACTLY what I am going to spend my days doing. Alongside the completion of my journey, I have been building a Non-Profit Organization that I have named Waypoint Vets. After discovering first hand how much healing happens while detaching and being active in nature, I want to facilitate opportunities for other Veterans to ‘beast and bond’ together at no cost to them.

Waypoint Vets is officially in the Formation stages, Officers are in place, and we are awaiting 501c3 approval.  The planning and logistics for solid, dynamic, and (frankly) awesome adventures are well underway.  I am adamant about making a real difference for my fellow Veterans, and I believe those best equipped to help us ARE us. I don’t believe there is any One Answer for our combined issues, as Veterans are all very different books sitting on the exact same shelf.  But what I Can do in my lifetime is Contribute to the Solution. To organize some sort of ‘mini-exfil’ for these Vicious Cycles that plague our community.  ….And to be blunt: We as Veterans have an Obligation and Duty to our Fallen and Each Other to step up, keep living, and keep fighting – together.

If you would like to contribute to the building and launching of my Non-Profit, Waypoint Vets, please click here.  If you have any questions, want more information, or would just like to reach out – please feel free to contact me any time for any reason.
#VeteransUnite #HonorTheFallenByLiving