Friday, August 05, 2005

The new blog...

Hey thanks for reading!! I've started a new blog and it's
I felt this one was a chapter for the hospital even though the tour was personal.
The new one will continue journaling rides such as Tour de Oink and Ride for the Roses with Lance Armstrong as well as zanny advetures along the road of life.

Friday, July 29, 2005

End of the week thoughts (or TGIF!!!)

I've had a fun week. There have been many good wishes from friends that I'm home safe as well as pokes and prod's by my buds. I'm glad to be home but I miss the road too. I replay the days over and over and I remember how much fun it was. I even got a handwritten card from our CEO, Dr Jon Bates. I'm framing that one! What an honor!

One story that I hadn't put in the blog was the panty bridge! There is a bridge in south Arkansas and I was riding along and there were a bunch on panties hanging on it. I couldn't really tell if it was a recent prank or not. If you folks down in South Ark are missing your drawers off the clothesline, I think I know where they are!

I did get out and ride with Rance (yep, the trainer and dater of Kim). I just thought we would ride the LR side of the river but nah, we headed straight for the Broadway bridge over the Arkansas River at 5:20. The last of rush hour was poking along and we got to wait through a couple of lights. I know, I know, I should have dropped down and zipped through the standing cars but my luck has been good lately, let's not push it! Down the north side of the river and back to Rance's house and I just couldn't stand it, I dropped him off, slapped him a high five and headed toward the park for a longer ride.

Competitve Cyclist Team were doing repeats of Overlook Drive. That's a tough cookie to do repeats on. I watched for a jiffy then wanted to do a little hammering so I got my speed up to a nice 21 mph and held it all the way back to Alltel offices and then back down to behind Rance's house. Legs felt good and the burn was going on. I felt pure freedom!

One thing I realized I missed on the tour that I didn't expect was the soundtrack that comes and goes. I'm talking about the kids that love to thump their music. My son is one of those thumpers but he is over in Denver. I always find my head bobbing to the beat. I know sometimes when you sit beside them in traffic it is a pain in the tail but admit it, you love the free spirits! Next time you're in the car, crank it up! Jazz sounds good loud!

Funny story! I called Chainwheel bike shop to schedule a tune up/clean up for Tuesday and my friend Sara answered the phone! We had a good laugh because her father in law heard me on the radio talking about my adventures and I had talked about the train track wreck. Sara is a great rider and I'll ride with her and her husband Aaron anytime. Yes, Sara was the one that had the honor of crashing with me that day.

I'll head out for a ride in the morning since Terri is getting into a fitness kick and back into the walking/running that she enjoys. She said she was going to walk in the morning then pick up fresh farm veggies from the LR Farmer's Market in the River Market District. Yum! I can't wait to have a country veggie dinner. She makes the best!

A lot of folks have asked me what my next big adventure was going to be and it will happen October the 23 in Austin, Texas! Rance and I are heading down to ride with Lance Armstrong! The Ride for the Roses is that weekend and we're going to go have a boys weekend out! Plans are to ride the century and cheer on those who are fighting and those who have beat the odds against cancer. We'll also remember those that the disease has claimed. Wear your yellow wrist band and show your support!

Also I was asked to speak at the BACA meeting in September! Another huge honor! BACA is a great group here in LR that promotes biking. Go visit them at It stands for Bicycle Advocacy of Central Arkansas.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Returning to "normal"

So it’s been several days now since the trip and I have had some rest and starting to get in the mood to ride after dinner again. Since it’s for pleasure and not training I don’t feel the need to wolf down a banana and a glass of water 30 minutes before riding but it is a good thing to do. I’ll drag a friend or two out this week, listen to them whine about how hot it is then see if my legs will find themselves and go zoom-zoom!

I had almost forgotten about the phone on my desk. Man, that thing rings a lot! I think I’ll go on another trip so I can forget the phone. That was nice!

Rance and I have decided to go to Austin in October and be a part of Lance Armstrong’s “Ride for the Roses” event. You know those yellow rubber wrist bands? Well, this is grand central for those. There will be thousands of cyclist there riding different mileage lengths. We are going for the 100 mile (century) ride. I’m excited!

One thing that I found I like to do (call me sick!) is climb the hills. It’s hard but when I pace myself and just take my time, the reward of overlooking the valley’s is the best!

Saturday, July 23, 2005

The day after (it's called withdrawal)

And what does one do after 14 days of riding? Mow the yard! That was my first thought this morning. Ok, that’s a lie! My first thought was what day is this and where do I ride to? Then I realized that I was in my own bed and had been asleep for almost 11 hours. Got up and saw Terri off to the River City 5K this morning and then I really did start working in the yard. I could have sold the backyard as hay and I mowed it the day before I left.

Honest, I’m lost in K-Mart today! I have taken the bags off the bike and will remove the rack so it looks like the bad boy road bike that it is. The frame is filthy and the chain needs major work but we made it for 14 days. So Specialized bikes are champs in my book.

I’ve been eating like I’m still riding. Everyone has said that I should take a week off. Something tells me that I’ll sneak out at first light in the morning and ride before church.

My aunt Beck passed away in Alabama this morning. Mom told us we’re not supposed to have favorites but she was mine! Funniest southern lady I’ve ever come across. Lived on the TN River and had a boat house that we would jump off of. They owned a grocery store so after we swam we could go to the store and load up on candy! Her kids and husband are good as gold. Aunt Beck, thank you for some of my favorite childhood memories! I’ll miss you.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Day 14: Home sweet home!

The dawn of the final day was here and I wasn’t really sure if I were excited or anxious. I guess some of both. The feeling I had was close to the same as day one in Fort Smith.

I picked up Ron and we headed down to the river for a final 11 miles to the hospital. The warm sun and humitity was present and the river was great to see. I was becoming at ease because I know every crack and bump in the road. I started to realize I was really home. We met up with Rance and Keith under the bridge and got going. At Murray Park we met up with several other cyclist and I was honored that they would take time out of their Friday to join me.

As we passed the state capitol I got my first glimpse of the hospital. A wave of relief hit me. I knew at that moment the final chapter was well in the process of being written.

We did as we were told and made it to the Nutrition Center just past South Campus and I was greeted by friends! They loaded up in the ACH version of the Pope mobile and as we pulled out to ride the to front I looked up and saw indeed the street was lined with people. My bike’s front wheel took a couple of jerks because I was becoming overwhelmed fast. I looked back to see where the other guys were and told them to stop treating me special and get up here and ride with me. They laughed.

The first wave was the kids from our child care center. What an honor! They were singing to me and I thought I could cause a little chaos so I reached down and pulled out the water bottle and sprayed it their way. I missed! HA! One little boy had his hands over his ears!

All the way down the street were friends and coworkers cheering. Honest, it was almost too much. I knew that there were going to be some folks outside but nothing can prepare you for this! I saw friends from the clinic, friends from patient accounts, friends from the main hospital and at the end of the rainbow, I saw my friends from my office!

I got a bear hug from Andree’ and spotted my family in the crowd. I hugged my dad and mom and winked to Terri in the crowd. There were so many people, and I really wanted to hug and say thank you to each and every one and in time next week, I will.

I was presented with the yellow jersey (which is given to the winner of the Tour de France). I was not expecting either. I couldn’t be happier that my boss Jerry presented it. He is a cyclist himself and gave me tons of pointers before I left. I was supposed to say some famous words and all that stuff but it left me. I have no idea what I said. I probably said something like, “Thank you, it was a great fight and I will be whipping his tail again in the rematch.” If I did then I hope Jermain’s speech went something like, “It was a great ride and I can’t wait to do it again!”

After I said whatever I said then I asked how much we got and was floored when Mr. Gordon said it was over ten thousand!! I knew at that moment that the ride for the kids was a success. I knew that someone's life would be a little better.

After a few interviews, I was off to Cracker Barrel in NLR to eat with all my family. As in the words of the small town social sections of the newspapers, “A good time was had by all.”

So I’m home now, tummy full, showered and in clean clothes, I’m trying to reflect on the trip. My niece Shannon who climbed Mt Rainer told me that it would take months to process what I had just done. I think she’s right. I can’t believe that I rode a bicycle around the state of Arkansas. Actually, it hasn’t hit me yet that I did it … did I?

Ok, now I know that there are a lot more people reading my blog than I ever imagined and most days when I would write it would be just after I got in so folks wouldn’t be worrying and know I was safe. Of course that was the worse time to write because I looked back over some of the day’s entries and scratched my head and ask myself if I really went to school? What lame grammar and spelling. So to everyone out there that slaved through my horrible writing, thanks for sticking with me!

Now, I promised some of the funny and dangerous stories from the road so here we go …


The first morning I was so nervous that I got sick at my stomach and hid in the bathroom in the lobby.

One of the first nights I was on the road I was in a small motel and the people in the room next to me were … uh … how could I say this in a nice way … happy to be together! It was raining and I was so glad that I found a pizza delivery place and while I ate and watched the recap of the Tour de France they were “being happy”. Y’all know I’m hard of hearing but geesh come on, it’s barely dinner time folks! I heard them about to leave and I couldn’t resist so I looked out the window and locked eye with the guy and I busted out laughing. The girl realized what had just happened and hopped in the car very fast, embarrassed (I hope!).

I stopped at a look out point and some guy in an 18 wheeler pulls over and gets out and starts to take a whiz! I’m not looking in that direction and didn’t even realize that the driver had gotten out. I was taking photos of the mountains and was going to try and piece together a panoramic style photo series. Next thing I realized was that I’m pointing the camera almost straight at the guy doing his business, he sees me, I see him, I try to turn away, he tries to get zipped up, I start laughing really loud, he no doubt thinks I’m some whacko. I try to be nice and hop on my bike and leave the parking lot. But of course it can’t be that easy. He starts his truck and we both head for the drive at the same time! I see him moving, he turns and sees me right outside his truck and boy, I had no idea that you can make a truck take off that fast!

McGehee: Oh now I really thought I had lost my mind that day. The wrong turn which made me drive an extra approximately 40 miles, my hearing aid shut down, storms were brewing. I was so tired that when I checked in I got in the shower with my hearing aid on and didn’t even realize it until I was washing my hair. My hearing never smelled so clean after that. Didn’t work worth a flip either!

South Arkansas c-store: I was getting water and a lady asked me how far I was riding. But she thought I was lying. I mean she really thought I was lying. She told me there was no way on God’s green earth that a normal person would ride a bicycle all the way around the state. I told her it had been done before and she told me it had not or she would have heard about it. She kept rolling her eyes. I finally got my change and left. A few minutes later another customer went in and came out just as I was leaving the parking lot and the guy looked at me and shook his head like I can’t believe you would come up with a cock-a-dooley story like that and expect anyone in our town to believe you!

I was riding along one day and there had been a lot of tire pieces all over the place. This is something really common from about central Ark south. Anyway, I riding along and just dodging them was a chore then one of the pieces of black rubber came to life! It was a big ole snake! I thought I could get around and thump … right over him! Someone asked me what kind it was and, trust me, the snake nor myself care to ever see each other again! It was black and it wiggled, you narrow it down!

There is a food store outside of Jonesboro called Food Giant and there is a sign on the ground that's bigger than the store sign that say's "Get your guns and ammo here". Honey, I need to run down to the store and get a gallon of milk and a new 12 gauge shotgun! Be right back!"

The dangerous:
The day I thought the trip was going to come to an end was the very first. Vince is a great rider and can fly down the hills. We were going down some big hill before we ever got to the mountain and Vince was in front. I was going so fast that the bike started to vibrate to the point that I could not focus. I mean I really could not see. I was trying to slow down but I didn’t want Vince to think I was a loser. Finally I hit the brakes a little and straightened out. Later that day as the club riders met up with us the light changed red and half the club got through and I was in the half that didn’t. I applied the brakes and nothing happened. I was either about to take out half of this club or I was going to fly right into the line of oncoming traffic. Somehow, the brakes locked at the last moment and I slide right to the front of the line. One of the guys said, “Wow, a power slide!”

Riding in Hurricane Dennis. Rained so hard I couldn’t see. Trucks sprayed me and I couldn’t tell when it was a water puddle or not. I rode a lot that day without being clipped to the pedals.

The pack of dogs outside of Mena. There was a pack of dogs that came charging out and this was the first time that one actually seemed to be intent on eating me. I was about to give the dog a shot of water to the face when out of no where comes a red pick up driven by a Hispanic lady. She was honking and carrying on and I thought it must be her dog but she whipped the truck toward me and chased the dog honking and flashing her lights. I was very grateful and started singing Gretchen what’s-her-name’s song “Redneck Woman”.

Just outside of Mena the shoulder of the road disappeared and it’s raining and no place for trucks to move over if another car was coming. I was riding along and a truck came from behind very fast and in the lane. I was coming up to a very narrow spot in the road and there was a creek that goes under the road with no guard rails. The truck flew by, sprayed the skin off of me and the air caused a vacuum that jerked my bike and sent me about an inch from going off. It would have been the end if I had. I stopped and looked down at the creek and rocks and said a prayer of thanks.

Ok friends in Employee Health, this one’s for you! The day I went to MeGehee, I really ran out of water and stopped sweating. I thought strange thoughts to the point of I wonder what would happen if I stopped and got in this family’s swimming pool? Could I tell them I was in danger of heat exhaustion? Would I get arrested or shot first? I thought the same about a creek I passed. I sort of remember a junk dealer stopping to ask me if I were ok. I remember the U of A Argi Center truck stopping to check on me. I remember the police kept going by over and over. I remember singing Lucy in the sky with diamonds. Those are the things I remember. Who knows what I forgot!

There were days when my left arm would be completely numb by the end of the day.

On highway 1 outside of Jonesboro are a lot of folks with FL license plates. There was an RV that got so close due to a small shoulder that the mirror went right over my head.

Ok, there you go. You know if I would have included the danger notes that people would have begged me to abandon the ride. I knew I couldn’t stop and, honest, many times when I felt lonely or pain, I thought of our patients. That’s what the ride was about. Feel their pain and fear. Some days I was the rider, some days I was the patient.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Day 13: Booneville to Perryville

Top right: Ron Rizzardi and myself after the 73 mile ride. Happy we made it!

Top left: Ron in the city park in Ola, AR. Small town with a great city park!

Right: I glow when light hits me.

Start: Booneville 6a
End: Perryville: 11:30a
73 miles

Ron and I started riding a little after 6 this morning. First stop was the c-store to load up on ice, water, and Gatorade. Great riding with a true friend. We had tailwinds pushing us along and it times we were moving along at 20 mph with ease. The miles were flying by. We laughed and talked and Ron got to hear one of my songs. I was singing to the chickens in the chicken houses. Ron was in front and started riding faster, and I just kept singing louder! We had our share of the dogs today and funny thing happened! One came running out, Ron's in front, and lo-and -behold out came the pepper spray and sprays right at the dog ... hey buddy, uh, I'm behind you!!! He sprayed again and I'm thinking, ok, I'll feel this in just a moment, aim for the grass. I kept waiting for the sting but it never came. The dog of course ran off. I laughed at my, once again, good luck! The day became hotter and hotter. We lucked upon a c-store here and there but by the time we got to Ola, water was getting low. Perry was only 6 miles away and we knew there would be water. Not much in Perry except for one fine Tire Shop. We stopped and Ron got the guy to give us water ... the best kind in my book ... out of the garden hose! Wasn't cold but did the trick! Off we go again and just need to knock out 3 more miles to Perryville and we'll stop and cool off and eat. No problem, oh crud, big momma hill! Let's go, just knock it out! I had told Ron that I had learned not to look up while climbing because to me it was a mental game! I can pedal great but if I look up then all the sudden it hits me that I'm climbing and I think I need to down shift. If I don't look at the top and just work to get there then I make it up a lot easier. We stop at a place called Ezells which is a great place if you are going through Perryville. Everyone knew each other and they made us feel welcomed. After a lengthy cool down we ordered and I called Terri to let her know where we were. She was going to leave her office around 1 but it's only about 11:30 or so. Said a big storm is around Pinnacle so we call it the end. I sat there letting the words bounce all around in my head ... it's over. Terri picks us up and we drive through the rain and lightening to Ron's house and then home. Emily comes running out and gives me a big hug. The other Emily is there as well as a couple guys that are the present "dates". Tony is the guy in Sherwood that has the really cool truck that is solid camo (he's the other Emily's guy). I knew I was home with 3 teenagers more than I'm supposed to have but I wouldn't trade it for anything. Tomorrow I will pick up Ron and we'll be under the 430 bridge to ride the final leg to the hospital. Should met up with Rance and Keith around Murray Park. Look forward to seeing friends and family after two weeks of riding. Am I a changed man? You wouldn't believe. After tomorrows ride, I'll tell some of the REAL stories that I couldn't tell that have happened along the way. Some wildly funny, some wildly dangerous! So come on back and prepare to laugh your tail off as well as say, "I'm glad we didn't know this until the ride was over!"

Day 12: Fort Smith to Booneville

Top Photo: Heading into Booneville! Hunch down and screeam "Weeeee" all the way down the hill!

Welcome to Greenwood sign! What a royal welcome! Thanks Greenwood!

The view after the climb outside of Greenwood

I loved the Hampton Inn so much that I slept late and really took my time leaving. As I was leaving the front door and man in a suit asked about my ride and I asked him the quickest way back to Hwy 71. He told me and then looked at the map in the entrance to be sure. He was right on the money. The way he gave me was right to where I needed to be and cut some time. I was on my way to Hwy 10 and home! First stop would be in Greenwood to visit the paper there. Greenwood has a special place in my heart due to it being where my buddy Geoff Hartmann lived before cancer took him from his sweetheart of a wife and 2 beautiful daughters, Gracie and Christy. I still miss him and his laugh and true since of adventure. This guy would go to places like Peru to go trout fishing! Anyway, I'm coming into Greenwood and I have to get into the turn lane to get to the town square. I stop and look around a second waiting for traffic to pass and suddenly burst out laughing! There, right in front of me is a big Greenwood Chamber of Commerce sign that says "Welcome to Greenwood George Cobb". Bless the citizens of Greenwoods heart! Here's a middle-aged guy in skin tight black shorts, funny shoes and bags on his bike that now look as if he's a homeless person ... in the middle of a busy street laughing by himself! But they took me in and loved me like their own! Martha Cole is the sweetheart of Greenwood! We sat out of the sidewalk bench and she brought me some grade juice in a box (Hey Shannon Boshears, I thought about you!) and it was the best grape juice I had ever drank. We talked awhile and she took a couple of photos. Another lady came by and she said she heard that I was in town. She is the secretary of the Mercy Medical Bicycle Team. These guys are awesome and I told her I was a big fan of theirs. Soon I was one my way to Booneville but first stopped by the c-store to refill water bottles. Within that short time, I heard 8 different stories of how ACH has saved a child or improved the child's health when others could not. 8 stories in about 45 minutes!

The trip over to Booneville was a good one with a couple of Jim Dandy climbs but once to the top the view was well worth it. I'll load photo's of these views as soon as I get them back. A couple of dogs ran along with me for a bit. Not the threatening type at all. They were just bored and wanted to play. I got into Booneville and saw a couple of motels I had checked on and was very glad that Terri had asked the folks at the paper which one I should stay at. Countryside Inn is a nice little motel. Very clean and comfortable. It was the first motel room I had on the trip that smelled like fresh clean smell rather than motel room smell. The lady at the counter was one of those you just wanted to hug. Laughed when I told her I was sorry for coming in the office all sweaty and stinky. She told me the same and said she had been outside too. She had a great collection of John Deere ole toy trucks in the lobby and I told her about the quilting ladies of south Arkansas in the c-store/bait shop/restaurant that were putting together the John Deere quilt. Her eyes lit up and she really wanted to know more. If you go to the Inn this weekend, it might be closed due to her leaving and searching the south for a bait shop that has quilts! Good luck honey!

My niece Shannon came up and we had dinner at a local Mexican place. My dinner was out of this world! It's at the corner of Hwy 10 and Hwy 23 or known by the locals as Main and Broadway. When Shannon and I get together we always have a good laugh! She had had a bike wreck a few weeks ago and we had to tell war stories and compare scars. Thanks Shannon, you made my day! Later Ron Rizzardi came up and spent the night and we will ride the final day together.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Day 11: Mena to Fort Smith ** The circle is complete!!!!!!!**


WE REALLY DID IT!!! Start : Mena 6:30a End: Fort Smith 1:00p 83.42 miles As I woke up this morning and looked out the window I could see that is was going to be a broken cloud morning. Much better than rain! I got ready, threw two cups of coffee and 2 honey buns and a banana down. Checked with Channel 7 traffic (Yep, Lisa and Chopper Scott) to be sure there were no pile ups in Mena (Don't laugh, you never know). Out on the road and remember what I was saying about the shoulder of the road being bad, well, what-da-ya-know, just past Mena it's great! Hey Michael and crew at Hampton Inn (Fort Smith), if you are reading this, once again you amaze me with the service and unselfish giving! This room is beautiful! True confessions section: When I got checked in and up to my room I starting laughing so loud. It was one of those laughs that no matter how you try you can't stop. Then I jumped on the bed! Only the full parking lot of Best Buy 4 floors below could see me and I really didn't care! I do feel sorry if there was some business exec next door cutting a million dollar deal because buddy I bet I screwed that one up for him! It's so fun being this excited. If I could have the bed in front of the hospital this afternoon, I would have invited the patients out and we could have all taken turns jumping on the bed and laughing! Laughing is great medicine! My ride was a slow one. Honest, I didn't want it to end. I took more photos today than any other day so far. I stopped half a dozen times to look at the mountains and to just enjoy the beauty. I only had 10 miles to go and I stopped at a c-store and hung with the local boys (ok, maybe not but I sat a few booths from them ... they were talking land movement). I would never stop 10 miles before the end of a ride just to cool off normally. As I was going through the forest area, I remembered what the waitress told me last night during dinner. "You need to be careful, they are having bear problems." Hear I am, solo riding down the highway and pass a couple of houses and they have these trash boxes out by the road. Now these aren't your basic trash bins! These are Binsford 2000 Bear Out trash bins! The things looked like they were made of old jail bars. I thought to myself, what would I do if I saw a bear? Probably laugh and tell him that I just saw some fresh road kill back there and it was already cut up for him. Go get it boy! I also saw where old motorcycles go to die. There was a field of old motorcycles. All sorts of shapes, sizes and brands. I really wanted to stop and take a photo but their puppy got all bent out of shape so I rode on. There was a guy in a white pickup that honked and gave me big thumbs up today! Thanks mister! There was this one home being built and it was one of those stop and gawk moments. Have you ever seen the perfect piece of land and thought about a dream house? Well, this was it for me. A huge log cabin was being built and there were mountains in the background and a good flowing creek running through the property! I envisioned Terri and I sitting on the front porch in the swing, drinking sweet tea and watching grandkids hunt crawdaddy's under the creek rocks. I called my mom and dad after I cut the foolishness in the room to let them know I made it safe. Mom said her and dad were coming up to the hospital on Friday for the arrival. That made my day! Dad doesn't get around so great so this is a big big deal to me. I told her that they would be in the VIP section and no way would they be blended in the background. She began to cry. As soon as they are done they have to go back to Benton and pack and head for Destin with my sister and her family. My family has some wild wild stories about trips to Destin but we'll keep those in the family. Ok, maybe just one story ... my sister Sherry loves to get up very early and she was out on the veranda (pronounced in my family as "VI-randa) and was telling my niece about this couple in the early morning hours making sandcastles out on the beach. Well, friends, they weren't making sandcastles! We'll stop right here! HA! When I got into Fort Smith the TV 5 station chased me through town. I took off through the traffic and haven't heard from them since. Do I get the yellow jersey for that one? HA! Speaking of TV, I guess I need to get on home pretty soon, Terri told me last night that the computer finally died. Guess what she told me today? The TV died too. I think it's a plot to have me knock out all the things I needed to be doing while I was training for the ride. You know, honey-do's. I told her I was excited that the TV died so we can get one of those cool wall mounted plasma jobs! She hung up! Tomorrow is a very short 36 miler to Booneville and my buddy Ron Rizzardi is coming up after work and maybe my niece Shannon. Ron will ride the final long day with me down Hwy 10. We'll be at the Countryside Inn in Booneville. My other niece, Melissa, is coming down from Rogers and we'll eat out tonight! I'm going to Panera Bread!!!!!