Where does the time go?! I have made great progress this week, up to roughly 230 miles. I am a day behind when it comes to geographical location. The weather was a bit off and some possible tendinitis in my knee were the main culprits, but in the end I think it worked out for the best! Some highlights from the weekend.
Day 3 – Friday, May 12
Started the day off strong with the Trading848 Kickoff Event at the Philadelphia Children’s Alliance! My brother and I road up from Fairmount to their facility which is co-located with the Department of Human Services (DHS) and Philadelphia Police Special Victims Unit (SVU). When we arrived, we were greeted by PCA Staff and my dear friend Emily. There were a few photo ops followed by a tour of the facility, provided by Executive Director, Chris Kirchner. The operation is impressive to say the least. Each month, roughly 250 cases of sexual abuse are addressed at this location. Cases come from the DHS, SVU or walk in to the facility.
Each case consists of the child being interviewed by a forensic interviewer, trained to work with children of various ages and levels of cognitive ability. In addition to the interview being recorded, the case is triaged in real time by stakeholders within the PCA, DHS and SVU to ensure an appropriate course of action is taken. The idea behind this level of analysis, is to limit the amount of times a child must relive a traumatic experience, often a result of being questioned numerous times by various agencies. Recorded interviews are admissable in court.
In addition to the forensic interviews, the PCA also provides medical screenings, therapy sessions and guidance to families to promote healing to such victims. The medical screenings not only provide the necessary examination to determine if additional treatment is required, but also to corroborate a victim’s story. These services are provided by local physicians, CHOP being one of the main providers of staff. We also were informed of a more recent focus for the PCA, which was human trafficking. These cases tend to be more involved as the victims are often “street wise” and less willing to work with the authorities at first.
Chris went on to explain the various channels of funding received from state and city governments that cover operating costs for the staff of 34 PCA employees. We then discussed the current fundraising goal of $900k that PCA must meet to assist with covering the cost of additional services, such as therapy sessions.
I am likely leaving out a significant amount of information, but what I can tell you is that seeing the operation in person, speaking with the staff and hearing what they accomplish on a daily basis; was a very uplifting experience with such difficult subject matter. Everyone’s enthusiasm was apparent which surely translates to a positive experience for families through such difficult times. To learn more about the PCA and the Trading848 partnership, please visit my GoFundMe page or the PCA site.
As for the ride, Alex and I did a round trip of 13 miles to the PCA. After packing my gear and finding an early lunch, I set off to see my friend John in Delaware. Sadly, the ride was not quite as scenic as previous days, but I made decent time for the 25 miles or so to his place. The ride took me past the Philadelphia airport and Chester, where drivers were a bit aggressive and the shoulders had significant debris, composed of mainly glass. The tires survived and I got to John’s, just after 5 pm. That evening, I had the pleasure of catching up with John and his wife, Jamie and meeting his two kids, Ellie and Jack.
Day 4: Saturday – May 13
Today was a rather wet day. The Mid-Atlantic region was set to get at least an inch of rain. What a better day to test my rain gear. After eating breakfast and stretching, John joined me on my way out of town. What we found was that my route left us on many trails, that, while beautiful, were not very direct. Had the weather been nicer and road signs been clearly marked (Delaware is known for this being an issue), it would have been a fantastic ride.
We set off around noon and did not arrive to Havre de Grace, MD until just after 7 pm. I took a lunch break in Newark, DE and had a giant burrito that was basically inhaled. This allowed me enough time to dry out. The rain gear worked so well at keeping the water out, but it also tended to keep the sweat in. You can’t have it both ways people! I pushed on through the rolling hills of southern DE and northern MD. Passing over the Pulaski Bridge was fun, gaining tremendous speed on my descent. The disc breaks were extremely efficient in the wet conditions. With only three miles left, I faced the steepest incline to date, roughly half a mile of an 8% grade. I took it slow and made it. After that I was ready for the day to end.
I was then able to stay with my father’s professional associate of many years. The Carson family has been in the same house for as long as I have been alive, likely much longer. We used to visit most summers in the early 90’s and get treated to an Orioles game in Baltimore, a cookout (often consisting of a mystery burger, as Bob is an avid hunter and would not tell you the animal until after you tried it), swimming and bushels of crabs. The hospitality had not changed as I was eating a flank steak, watching an Orioles/Royals game within 30 minutes of arriving. We got to catch up on missed time while I iced my knee. That evening I slept quite soundly.
Day 5: Sunday, May 14
Mother’s Day and headwinds!!! The rain had passed and the sun was out. The Carson’s treated me to eggs and sausage and a packed lunch. I iced my knee and took Advil as my knee was really feeling it this morning. I was then given a tour of their property surrounding the houses in the quiet neighborhood. This included a visit to their son’s place whom has a decoy shop (ducks and geese), chicken coop and brand spanking new goat pen. Sadly, the goats were yet to arrive. I then set off towards Baltimore and was hoping DC.
ON the way out of the neighborhood I passed two touring cyclists, one with his bike upside down (tell tale sign of bike issues), fixing a flat. I checked to see if assistance was needed. The two had it under control, but I learned that they were two South Korean gentlemen, whom started in California and made their way to Washington DC to deliver a Korean War sentiment to members of the government. The language barrier was pretty significant and I couldn’t get a true grasp of their goal, but it sounded like they were tasked by their local government to do so. It was their first time ever in the US and they decided to ride across it. Not too shabby.
My knee strained as I started the journey. The headwind faced all day, slowed me to 12 – 15 MPH while going down hills. Uphills seemed easier as the wind would taper off. After 2 hours of riding my knee had loosened up. I took a break at a Royal Farms, which is a gas station and convenience store with some serious chicken. I called my wonderful mother to wish her a Happy Mother’s Day and was able to send the same message to my amazing sister. They were in the pool that day, I would have liked to join them. During the break, I was also able to coordinate a change in plans for places to stay over the next three nights..
Knowing that the wind and knee had slowed me down considerably, I was not going to make it to DC, rather spend the eveing in Baltimore. A friend of a friend that lives in Baltimore had offered to put me up. I never met this man before, but what a great guy! He was traveling back from his Mother’s Day celebration, so I would have to kill some time before he arrived. I set off into the wind around 4 pm, finishing the last 15 miles, in roughly two plus hours. The amount of glass on the side of the road increased as I got closer to the city. It was here I had to fix my first flat in my back tire.
Once into the city, I navigated into Fell’s Point, a charming area on the water. I had a recommendation to go to a raw bar. As I locked my bike up in front of a bar with live blues, a man asked me what I was doing with all the gear and where I was headed. We talk a few minutes and shortly thereafter he handed me a twenty to help me along my travels. Very gracious, I asked to treat him to a beer. He introduced himself as “TC” and took me into the Cat’s Eye Pub. What I found was that TC knew half of the bar patrons and all of the staff. He introduced me to his close friends whom treated me to a beer within minutes. I got to chat with some great people for the next hour or so until they left for dinner. I remained at the pub to watch the next act, getting to know Rob and Adam, the bartenders on the evening shift. Both guys were great and treated me like old friends the rest of the night.
Around 9 pm, my new host had arrived home. I settled the tab and took off to meet Brian. Brian lived less than two blocks away. He helped me with my bags up to the second floor and we got to talking. He had a couch set up for a night’s rest, a towel out for me to shower (much needed as I forgot to put on deodorant that morning and smelled like the 3rd day of a Phish festival) and got to know each other. Both of us are from PA, with family shore houses in Cape May, New Jersey. Brian was an amazing host, even though we only got to hangout for maybe an hour or so before he went to bed and I had Domino’s delivered. I showered, ate then passed out.
Day 6: Monday, May 15
I got up at my leisure and finally had a chance to set up my bike computer. It took entirely too long, but after 5 days on the road, I now will have a true understanding of mileage and speeds I hit along my route. I grabbed coffee and a bagel & lox at a small coffee shop next to last evening’s haunts and wrote some notes from my previous days’ exploits.
After breakfast I packed and headed to a local bike shop to have my gears looked at. The rear derailleur was slow in shifting and I wanted it checked. The guys at Joe’s Bike shop in Fell’s Point were awesome. All on the younger side, they had many years of cycling experience. All three had completed cross country trips, as recent as last year. I spent an extra half hour or so picking their brains prior to setting off to the Washington Monument in downtown Baltimore.
The weather was in the low 70’s which made for perfect riding conditions, save the same headwind from the previous day. While the knee was still reeling, it was feeling stronger than the previous two days. The Monuments Ride that I was completing was provided to me by a DC area cycling club. It was a very scenic route, but not exactly direct. This also tended to have A LOT of elevation changes. I stopped often to get water and apply sunscreen. When stopping you truly knew it was hot as I immediately began dripping sweat. The ride was both fun and challenging. There were beautiful backgrounds running along farms, ponds, creeks, rivers and I- 95.
At the midway point, the route had a 7-11 break spot. It was perfect in distance for when a break was needed. I locked up my bike right out front and went in to find foods and a Gatorade. As I grab my sandwich, a man asked me where I was headed. I asked if he
wanted today’s destination or the ultimate destination. Steve, as I would later learn his name, was very impressed with my journey and immediately offered to buy me whatever I wanted. I was gonna get a sandwich, chips and drink, but he had other plans. I met him at the register. He offered to buy me a hot dog. I was ok on hot dogs at the time, but he then grabbed jerky and a few 5-Hour energies. Who was I to say no?!
Steve and I chatted outside for a few. He works in cyber security and has been a long time Army Reserve, being stationed in Gettysburg, PA and now Virginia. This great American was unbelievably friendly and helpful. In addition to buying me lunch, he generously donated to the PCA, shared my cause on FaceBook, offered a place to stay in VA and send supplies in advance for towns that I would eventually travel. I am extremely grateful for people like Steve, as this is what one hopes to encounter during a journey. Big thank you, Steve, I will be in touch!
I finished my meal and got back on the road. The wind had slowed and I attempted to make up some ground. I found I was tired, but was able to forget that fact as the area was picturesque. The route went to the Washington Monument in DC, but it was getting late and my host, dear college friend, “Estephanie” was waiting for me. Since she already agreed to host me Sunday and I asked to push my night to crash to Monday, I did not want to delay in any time getting to catch up with her and meet her boyfriend. I arrived just after 8 pm. The sun beginning to set, I was able to ride through northern neighborhoods of DC I had never seen.
Stephanie and Mike took me into their wonderful apartment. Mike was charismatic and friendly. We caught up for a bit as I hydrated. Stephanie and I hadn’t seen each other in over 6 years. I only recalled she lived here after she reached out to me having read my blog post indicating my summer plans. I then popped a quick shower before we headed out for some food, beer and the second half of the Wizard’s Game 7 against the Celtics. Not the result Washtonians were looking for, the food and company was great. We left just after 11 and walked back to the place. We saw an overzealous (inebriated) Wizard’s fan walk into a street light. I hope he made it home without incident. An air mattress was filled for me and I was asleep before I knew it.
I am now up to over 230 miles in my trip. I continue to meet new people and catch up with old friends. It is truly wonderful to experience the world like this. People (when not driving) are so warm and welcoming. The site of a fully loaded bike makes people ask questions. No matter how tired I am, it is easy to talk about what I am doing and my partnership with the PCA. A big thank you to Steve, my hosts and all future hosts!!
Onward to Virginia and some rest days…