A few years ago, while between jobs and after a particularly stressful period in my life, I decided to do something to replenish myself. On some level, I think I aspired to find my inner Alexander de Tocqueville, Everett Ruess and Jack Kerouac. (Or, perhaps, it was just an excuse to relax, get in shape and enjoy a few cold beers.) The result was that I bought a touring bicycle and some panniers, loaded them with camping gear and spend a few months pedaling across America by myself.
Given my lack of preparation and training, it should be no surprise that for much of the ride, I was in pain. Whether it was due to sore muscles, a chaffed butt, miserable weather or just plain loneliness, on many evenings I would crawl into my sleeping bag and think that the following day I would call it quits.
Yet, without fail, when the sun rose the next day I would awake to a message from a friend (who proudly goes by the pseudonym “Polish Super Hero” – or “PSH” for short) that would motivate me to get back on the saddle and keep pedaling. These messages ranged from supportive entreaties to drill sergeant-like derisive insults – with occasional prescriptions for “medicinal agave juice” (i.e. tequila) for my various aches. But they were just the push I need to keep going.
And, it turned out to be one of the most wonderful experiences of my life.
Since finishing this bit of mid-life wanderlust and returning home, I’ve enjoyed many long rides in the Santa Cruz mountains with PSH and listened to him describe his role as president of the Aldar Academy, a non-profit school for students with severe learning, emotional and behavioral problems. Aldar is one of those schools where teachers work tirelessly to help the most troubled children – children that public schools are ill-equipped to support. If you have a friend or family member who has these challenges you know how valuable it is to have a place like Aldar as part of your community.
Unfortunately, as a result of the recession, Aldar has faced funding challenges due to the reduction of available public and private funding during the last few years. On many of our rides, I listened as PSH shared the difficulties of raising money and the positive impact that “just a few more dollars” would make.
After one of the rides, I thought of an idea to help, something which would tap into our mutual love of cycling and in small part repay him for his support during my journey across the country. When I did that ride I had a surprisingly large number of people who urged me to write a book about my travels. So, with their encouragement, I did.
Changing Cadence recounts the story of my travels through the farming and fishing communities of the South; the ranch lands and Bible Belt of Texas; the lonely deserts of New Mexico and Arizona; and finally up the coast of California. It also describes the wonderful diversity of people I met along the way – the brokenhearted woman from London exploring the West alone on a motorcycle; the pair of college students walking across the country in support of the Tea Party; the woman hiking the circumference of the country on a prosthetic leg (along with her three-legged dog); and fellow cyclists like Don, a middle-aged, yarn spinning, former Marine with a grey ponytail and a penchant for McDonald’s Egg McMuffins.
So, for all you IPA drinking, Clydesdale bodied cyclists; weekend warriors; or those of you who sit at your desks and wonder what it’s like to unplug and venture into the unknown, I have a favor to ask. Please purchase a copy of Changing Cadence. I think you’ll enjoy the story, but more importantly you will be helping a wonderful non-profit organization, because all proceeds from the sale of the book will be donated to the Aldar Academy.
Changing Cadence is now available on Amazon.
Thanks for your support.