Friday, April 5, 2013

Gearing Up

The Race Across America starts on June 11th.

I'm Cassie's crew chief this year.  It occurred to me yesterday that once the race starts, all I have to worry about is keeping the crew focused.  They'll be given their jobs and responsibilities beforehand.  They are all dedicated and  committed to Cassie's quest and her desire to raise awareness of veterans' issues.  They are the ones who will make her cross the finish line.  They just have to be taught how.

We have most of the vehicles lined up and have arranged for a three day house rental in Oceanside before the race.  The lodging is really critical because it is where our crew members will assemble.  Having them all in one place and spending time together will help them bond as we join together for a common cause.

The house will also serve as a school for the crew.  We have a combination of RAAM veterans along with some newbies.  Everyone will need to be put on the same page.  That will be easy for the newbies.  My concern is getting the veterans to keep an open mind and not let past experience discriminate.

The race itself is frightfully expensive.  I've been putting out feelers to a variety of companies whose sponsorship could well benefit from being associated with Cassie's effort.  We need buckets of money just to feed and house the crew as well as pay for the vehicles themselves and their associated expenses.

Cassie herself is getting ready physically and mentally.  I worry that she spends too much time agonizing over things that shouldn't be her concern.  All she needs to concentrate on is getting herself ready.

Having won the Sebring 24 Hour last month, she's well on her way.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Making It All Happen Again

The die is cast!

Lots to do with little time.

First things first, though.  Cassie's brainchild, Pedal For Heroes, received IRS 501(C)(3) charity status several months ago.  Last week, the first bicycle was delivered to a veteran!  Bicycles are more that a means of transportation, they are also a valuable form of therapy.  We fully intend it to be the first of many!

Next up on our dance card is the second annual Pedal For Heroes event.  If your fitness center is not on board, tell them to get on the stick or, in this case, on the seat!  The idea in Ohio is to spin (stationary bike) one minute for each Ohioan lost in the Middle East since 9/11.  Not in Ohio, pick your own poison.  Cassie's goal, which I fully support, is to turn Pedal For Heroes into a national institution, helping vets throughout this great country of ours.

Some fitness centers don't have enough cycles.  They've learned that other forms of exercise will do as well.  Last year we had folks swimming, on rowing machines, jogging, etc.  Just figure how much you want to give per minute and go for it!

If you're not up to riding or otherwise exercising your brains out, you can still make a tax deductible contribution to her quest.  We not only need support for the annual event, but Cassie also needs to raise a very large bucket of bucks just to take part in the Race Across America.  It costs a lot to cross the country to raise awareness of veterans' needs.

She'll make it all the way across this June.  I know.  I've got her back.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Flags Of Honor

Lots of stuff going on!

Cassie never seems to slow down.  She met us last Friday at the Ohio Flags Of Honor Ceremony in Brookpark.  I had invited her with the ulterior motive of introducing her to the man who created the display.

She has been planning a race through Ohio that would start at the Andy Nowacki Memorial Highway and finish somewhere around Columbus with stops at a variety of veteran's monuments along the way.

It just seemed to make sense to get the Flags Of Honor involved somehow.

Each flag represents an Ohioan who has paid the ultimate price for freedom since 9/11.

There is lots of planning to do for next year!  The second annual Pedal  For Heroes event will take place on February 24, 2013 and RAAM 2013 starts on June 11th.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Making The Decision

Cassie met us at the Matchworks Tavern in Mentor.  My wife, Sheila, chose it because she knew that there were usually several seafood choices available.  Cassie, as usual, was running a little late.  It's the natural result of trying to do too many things in  the course of one day.

We chatted about lots of stuff and eventually the conversation turned to my last blog.  I suggested that it was time to talk baseball and she knew right away where I was taking the discussion.

"No!", she emphatically stated,  "It's waaaay to early to even think about it!"  I mentioned anything and everything I could think of to sweeten the pot but she remained resolute.

The following Friday, we met at Lifecenter Plus in Hudson for a Pedal For Heroes meeting.  We talked about strategy for next February's event and  I brought up my favorite baseball slogan again.  Her shields were still up!

We met again at Lifecenter Plus yesterday.

The conversation, oddly enough, eventually evolved around RAAM 2013.  I told her that I would die a disappointed and bitter old man if she didn't give it another try.  She did, after all, have more to prove!

She thought briefly and then much to our amazement and delight, answered......................"Yes!"

Sunday, June 24, 2012


It's been four days since Cassie had to withdraw from the competition.  I am still humbled by the experience and the profoundly life changing events of the previous ten days.  I am also still trying to catch up on sleep.  I can only imagine the adjustment that Cassie is trying to make.

We talked on the phone yesterday.  "I'm frigging angry!", she exclaimed time and again.  In some ways I understood.  Cassie had worked extremely hard for this race.  It's not just the physical aspect but the financial aspect.  She had to raise a ton of money just to make it work.  For the better part of two years, her life consisted primarily of working out and begging for money.

Cassie is proud and dedicated.  I can only imagine how hard it is for her to meet with her contributors, large and small, and let them know that their investment didn't pay off.  How wrong she is!  Their investment paid off in spades!  All over the country there were people pulling for Cassie.  Her main goal was to raise awareness for the plight of many veterans.  I believe that she did that.  The crew firmly believes that she gave her all.  There is no more that a person could give.

For a brief period in all our lives, Cassie elevated us and made us better than we were before.  There are no words that accurately convey the level of indebtedness that we all owe to Cassie.

It's because of the above reasons that I don't fully understand her anger.  Maybe it's me.  Maybe it's the aftereffects of a week of sleep deprivation on some old guy whose sleep patterns could normally be used to set the atomic clock.

It really doesn't matter how I feel.  It only matters how Cassie feels.  My wife and I are having dinner with her tomorrow.  I'm planning  on talking about baseball.  How does baseball fit in I hear you whine?

It's simple.  The first baseball game I ever saw was at Ebbett's Field watching the Brooklyn Dodgers.  My Uncle Charlie was a huge fan.  He even bought some of the seats when they were about to tear this beautiful monument to the national pastime down.  In those early years of my life, I heard the same phrase declared time and again:

"Wait 'til next year!"

Friday, June 22, 2012

Onward To The River That Made Samuel Clemens Famous

We let Cassie sleep until almost 4AM.  Except for her sick day in the desert, it was the longest time that Cassie had spent off her bike.  It wasn't easy trying to get her going.  She was sore all over, especially around her butt and adjacent areas.
 Cassie downing breakfast drink.

Cassie applying protective cream before heading out.

We headed out on the first leg of the day.  It became apparent that it was going to be a difficult day from the get go.  After several minutes on her bike, she radioed for a saddle change.  We stopped and Tommy hopped out to change the seat.  Kat became alarmed, mentioning riders in the past who had similar difficulties.

We moved forward and had a late shift change.  Mike and Kat2 took over direct follow while Tommy, Kat, and I met Rachel and Kristy at a motel room that had been used by them and Mike and Kat2 before them.  Talk about hot bunking!

Kat set up a new crew rotation while there and I now became paired with Kristy.  When crew change occurred, Kristy and I moved to #2 and headed to Fort Scott with the dirty laundry, the concept being that the crew and especially Cassie would have something not-too-stinky to wear for a few days.  After the laundry was finished, we parked at the Fort Scott Visitor's Center.  I went in for a chat with a local Rotarian and Chamber of Commerce head while Kristy opted for some shut eye.  After a quick walking tour of the fort, I returned to the van and found Kristy ready to go. We positioned ourselves to cheer Cassie on as she passed by the time station in Fort Scott.

We then went into leapfrog mode, passing our heroine up, finding a parking spot, and then cheering her on as she rode by.  I also called ahead to a motel in Camdenton, MO, reserving a room for the night.  Kristy and I were going to have clean sheets instead of used sheets!

Cassie was struggling at crew change but we felt that she should make Camdenton by morning or at least be nearing it.  Kristy and I left for the 75 mile ride to Camdenton feeling pretty good.  Cassie had done some amazing things, including overcoming sickness in the desert and then pushing forward to make the Durango cut-off with time to spare.

We were gratefully asleep by 1AM and woke up to the 3:30AM alarm.  Kristy checked on the progress and we were shocked to find out that she was just then approaching Weaubleau, nowhere near her time schedule necessary to meet the Mississippi cut-off time.

We dressed hurriedly and set off in the direction of Weaubleau, hoping to meet up along the way.  Sadly, we had to drive all the way to Weaubleau.  We found her sobbing and surrounded by the rest of the crew.  Some were trying to talk her into continuing.  A relative of hers who actually lives in Weableau looked at me and just shook his head.  

I moved next to her, looked her in the eyes and asked her if she was done.  She nodded, sobbing the whole time.  I then asked her if she felt that she had done the best she could.  She nodded again, telling me how sorry she was for letting everyone down.

How wrong she was!  She let no one down!  Those who were with her had the amazing honor of watching one miracle after another take place!  Many male riders never made it through the desert, let alone do it while sick!

We put her bike on the rack and Rachel called race HQ, letting them know that she was done.  Knowing the type of person that Cassie is, they insisted on hearing it from her.  She could barely squeak the words out.  Tears were streaming down her face to match those pouring from the rest of us.

We drove to Camdenton where I took an extra room and we let her shower and then sleep.  We were ready to do whatever Cassie would ask of us when she woke up.

It was the absolute very least that we could do for a woman who changed our lives.

Next up:  The Epilogue

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Halfway Point!

We had changed shifts a little earlier so when we pulled into the timé station on Ulysses, Tommy, Kat,  and I were in the support vehicle with Mike and Kat-2 in the direct follow vehicle.  Rachel and Kristy were on sleep shift and had checked into a motel down the road.

Waiting for Cassie can be boring.  I kept myself awake by alternately walking around the vehicles and chatting with some wonderful ladies who had volunteered their time and forfeited their comfort to make sure that racers and crews passing tbrough their fine town were properly tended to.

Cassie woke up about thé same time that Rachel and Kristy arrived.  We knew that this was going to be a big day and so made preparations to get underway as soon as possible.

Cassie had a hard time getting going.  She was unsteady on her feet and needed to be walked to a restroom.  Soon her breakfast began to kick in and she was ready to ride.  She took off and Tommy, Kat, and I went to the same motel room that Rachel and Kristy used and we hot bunked.

Later that day, we caught up with the rest of the crew in Pratt, Kansas and made the switch but not before Kat purchased a bunch of party poppérs for the halfway point celebration.

By now there was an horrific crosswind, slowing Cassie down and sometimes almost pushing her into the adjacent lane.

Three hours later, we approached the halfway point and shot ahead so that we could position ourselves for the momentous occasion. 

Cassie flew by as we set off the poppers and cheered.  To her credit, she just kept on pedaling.  We continued to move forward and opted to delay crew change until the next time station in Maize, Kansas. 

Cassie received a makeshift shower behind a Pizza Hut and we put together her cot and bedded her down under the stars.

A couple hours later, Kat and I were sitting on a curb chatting when Cassie woke up SCREAMING!

She began writhing in pain.  Kat got to her first.  Her knees and legs were causing extreme agony.  Kat began massaging while I ran to #1 van for the medical supplies.

We realized that she needed to be in #2 van.  Kat cleared the way and I picked her up and carried over, placing her on the floor just as my arms were losing control.

Because of her long hours cycling, her legs had become very swollen, causing all the pain.  We rigged up a makeshift traction device and Kat began gently massaging her legs.

We soon had her calmed down and let her go back to sleep.  After all, Kat DID promise her three hours of sleep! 

We needed to make sure that she was rested for the big  push to the Mississippi.

Next up:  Onward to the river that made Samuel Clemens famous.