About Lea's Foundation

In 1998, Lea Michele Economos, a young woman who died of leukemia at the age of 28, made a dying wish to her parents that others would not face the hardships she encountered by finding a cure for this disease. Her family started this charity to carry on that wish. Today, Lea’s Foundation takes an active role in finding a cure for leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s lymphoma and myeloma and to better the lives of people living with these diseases. At the UCONN Health Center, the Lea’s Foundation Center for Hematologic Disorders sponsors research in this field. A new program covers the cost of bone-marrow testing to help recruit life-saving transplants for patients. Also, annual scholarships are given to children with leukemia who are planning to attend nursery school. For more information on other projects carried out by Lea’s Foundation, please visit their website at www.LeasFoundation.org.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Day 9: A Bad Man is Hard to Find (71 miles; Austin to Eureka)

We stumbled bleary-eyed into the International Cafe (not so aptly named, since it seemed only interested in Nevada) across the street for brekki at around 6:15 AM, all admitting we could have used 4-10 more hours of shut-eye. We hit the road by 7:45 and began the morning with three steep climbs. At the start of the second, we passed two sixty-something men on very fancy equipment. (I can only say "fancy" because I've chosen to remain blind to the many conversations the boys have about bicycles, rendering my understanding of what makes a bike particularly "sick" next to nothing. During these conversations, I am generally playing a mental Pandora radio station set to "I Will Survive", and thanking my thighs for doing, for the most part, the silly things I ask them to.)

We rested at the top of the second summit, and one of the men caught up with us. He explained that his brother is a "throat-breather" and they were off to a slow start, but planned on reaching Eureka (71 miles from Austin) and staying at the Best Western. Due to the fires to the east, the hotels would all be booked up but if we needed anything we were welcome to knock on the door of their suite. His brother came chugging up the last of the hill and, through his tracheostomy tube, explained that he had had throat cancer a year ago. Since the surgeons thought they got it all, he decided he would continue having fun; the brothers were planning to do all of Highway 50. The story was both humbling and inspiring, and the men donated to LEA's when they found out our cause.

We hunkered down to the meat of what Nate had mistakenly predicted would be an "easy" day. Though the heat could've been worse, we experienced the toughest wind yet. I now understand what the guys last year meant by feeling like you're pedaling uphill when the grade is downhill. Nevada hasn't ceased to yield an incredible countryside. It seems like someone picked up the Cascades, dusted off all the snow, shrunk them down and plopped them all over the flat expanse of desert. My faith in my eyes to be able to tell longitudinal distance has been proven insufficient again and again; a hill could be 3, 10 or 20 miles away. The monotony broke for me today when I spotted a coyote about 10 feet off the road, staring at my as I descended. I had the sudden urge to pedal faster as if it were going to chase me and bite my bike tires the way my dog would, but it didn't seem interested in me, as my several backward glances proved. Nevada really is beautiful, rugged country.

It was midday when we caught up with our third character, a seventy-year old guy wearing a baby blue tee, khaki shorts and New Balance sneakers cycling like he stole something. The amount of time this guy dropped knowledge on Mark Twain, geography, his personal history and any topic in between directly correlated with the amount of time we remained in earshot. The boys and I gladly soaked up his quirky bank of facts. One bit of "lore" was that when it grew too hot in the desert, one could dismount and crawl inside one of the corrugated pipes lying under the road to enjoy the cool draft coming through from the other side, being sure to first check for noxious desert creatures inside. He said he had been doing just this a few years ago when a Mercedes stopped, and two women got out because they thought he was dead. Also of note, he carried very little water because it made him more thirsty. For the whole day he had packed one gas station apple streusel, and one bottle of Gatorade.

We're in Eureka (Eureka!) for the night, population 650. We're planning on staying in the local park and trying to shower in the Best Western, if we can catch up with the two brothers.



Day 8: The Loneliest Part of the Loneliest Road in America

Fallon, NV to Austin, NV - 112 miles

We had been admonished about this ride by cyclists from years past and went into the day with fear. We began the ride at 5:45AM in order to avoid as much of the desert heat and wind as possible (in Nevada the wind apparently picks up after about 1:00PM). The first 20-or-so miles were very flat, which allowed for a comfortable start to the day. The scenery was similar to what we had experienced the day before - dry mountains surrounding dry flats. So without any distractions, the miles melted away.

The first climb rose a few hundred feet and was a relatively shallow grade. After reaching the summit, we cruised through the next few miles without any problems. At about mile 50, we reached Middlegate, which is essentially the only water or food stop between Fallon and Austin. It was a really cool old building with some very interesting characters lurking inside. The first gentleman that we talked to was (we assumed) one of the owners. He was quite talkative, and expressed a genuine interest in the many cyclists that pass through the area. He was particularly taken by a group of "40 women from 18-60" who came by a while back. Nate surmised that this was more women than he had ever seen. I tend to agree with this sentiment. We also encountered some "genuine hippies" who were about our age or maybe a little bit older and were hitch-hiking across the country. Unfortunately they had been stuck at Middlegate for the past couple of weeks. I'd have to imagine that it must be hard to hitch-hike now, given the countless signs forbidding it and the many urban legends. Finally, we met a German dude who was cycling from Kentucky to San Francisco while smoking cigarettes. I'd say that's quite a feat.

We took off from Middlegate and settled into a groove such that the next 20 miles flew by. We passed the same scenery that we'd seen the previous 50 miles and felt pretty good. This good feeling lasted until the next climb up New Pass summit - an 800 foot climb that seemed to be never ending. It took us through some really cool canyons between mountains, but I was far too angry at the constant grade to enjoy the view. We stopped for lunch and lounged by the side of the road to try to regain some strength before conquering the last 26ish miles to Austin. Those miles proved to be the most difficult of the day not simply because we had already ridden over 80, but also because there were two more big climbs. The final climb was particularly difficult, as it took us directly into the town of Austin. I collapsed in the parking lot of the Mountain Motel and wanted to kiss the ground. Nate and I immediately went on a quest for chocolate milk, only to come up empty handed. We ended up getting our fix with dinner at a local restaurant where we also stuffed ourselves with as much as we could possibly eat. The day was tough, but definitely not horrible and the food at the end made it all better.


Day 7: Chillin at the Holiday Inn (in Fallon, NV)

65 miles

As usual we woke up and took our time eating a nice breakfast and gambling a 7AM in the casino. Unfortunately we all came away from Carson City with far less money than when we arrived (*this is not actually true*). We hopped on the road and headed out to Route 50, which is also known as "The Loneliest Road in America". This road would take us from the outskirts of Carson City through the rest of Nevada. Needless to say we were all happy that there wouldn't be any time wasted while stopping to look at a map.

None of the us had a great idea of the terrain, but knew that it would be relatively flat. Little did we know just how smooth the day would be; after a steady climb out of Carson City, the rest of the ride was essentially flat or downhill.This was our first real view of the Nevada desert. It was beautiful but barren. "Dry" mountains with no trees surrounded us and unfortunately each mile was largely reminiscent of the last. Fortunately we cruised. The miles flew by as we passed countless casinos with the word "Nugget" stuck somewhere in the name.

We arrived in Fallon at lunch time and immediately set off to find food. It took a little time, but the owner of a local steakhouse was kind enough to donate three items from the "Lunch Specials" menu. The Fallon Holiday Inn Express was kind enough to donate a room, so we checked in and chilled by the pool. We received an amazing dinner from a local Mexican food restaurant called The Water Hole and went to sleep early to prepare for the long haul from Fallon to Austin the next day.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Day 6: State Capitols, continued

Carson City, unbeknownst to me at the time of arrival, is the capital of Nevada. Did you know this?

We huddled up last night after some deliberation and decided to take today as a rest day before several very difficult days through Nevada and stay in Carson City. From previous groups, we've heard that Route 50 is, in fact, appropriately named the loneliest highway and the wind can be crippling. It's taken some careful planning, but we've arranged our route and potential lodgings for the nights this upcoming week.

That planning was aided by the folks at the front desk of the Best Western, which generously donated a room! We'd been wondering whether previous groups were pulling our legs about getting rooms donated for these first few days so the confirmation of corporate hospitality is exciting, especially after a morning of getting turned down by motels. Lining up the room by lunch enabled a day full of chatting at Starbucks, laundry, and a much needed salad dinner. Keep us in your thoughts as we brave the wind of Nevada the next few days!

All the best,

Day 5: Bikers v. Cyclists

Today, we embraced the challenge of topping the Sierra Nevadas. It was either that, or we got tremendously bored of going uphill and very slowly. We cranked from Cooks Station to Kirkwood, a hefty climb, in about three hours, which set us up perfectly for a big day. Our legs comprehended the climbs in altitude a bit more viscerally than our minds that registered the changes in altitude by signs that noted the difference in thousands. Sean led the charge up with perfect, infatiguable form while Melina followed with ever increasing endurance. I brought up the rear, wondering why it was so difficult to bike in a straight line.

In Kirkwood we stopped in the local inn/restaurant where we ate alongside the tens (seemed like hundreds) of motorcyclists that passed us during the day. I consider myself a fairly tolerant person, but the sound of motorcycles buzzing past us and the presumptive swagger of riding in a posse...upset all of us. Why can't we two-wheeled folks be friends? Sean theorizes that it's because we're burning tons of calories climbing mountains and they are lowering their collective right feet. Makes sense.

Our bellies, full of pulled pork sandwiches, were counterbalanced by a delicious tailwind that pushed us up to Carson's Pass (8,574 ft. ). Strangely, the climb to Kirkwood seemed even harder than the final push. We celebrated our accomplishment at the top with photos and general good vibes (and maybe an occasional verbal jab at the motorcycles passing by). Riding that emotional and physical momentum, we started coasting down the backside (or hindway as my ancestors would likely say) of the Sierra Nevadas. I think we had forgotten that bikes could be ridden without burning legs so that was a pleasant (re)discovery. We ate up the miles so easily going downhill that we decided to make a great day into a huge mileage gain and go from Cooks Station to Carson City (82 miles).

We also crossed our first state line! Western Nevada is an interesting place: lots of really cool houses and kind of a retirement community meets wealthy suburbs meets resort combination. Genoa had a charming park with great grass--we rested under some trees for a while before making a wind-challenged push into Carson City.

Shade is a magical thing,