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, August 8, 2012

Knives, Bats, New Tats: A Reflection

This trip was a once in a lifetime experience and I will carry it with me for the rest of my life. Every day brought new challenges and unique adventures. 

I am so grateful to have shared this experience with Nate and Melina who were supportive and amazing friends throughout the seven weeks that we were together all of the time. I'd like to thank them for putting up with my shenanigans and malarkey at pretty much all times.  

I'd also like to thank everyone who supported us throughout the journey including friends, family, and those we met on the road. Your encouragement and support made this trip possible. 

I'd like to think that this trip has changed me for the better. I put a lot of thought into how I would permanently mark my body in honor of this trip and below is the final product.

That's my calf.

Day 46: Group Ride

Bloomsburg, PA--> Matamoras, PA (111 mi.)

Today was another great day for me because my parents came up from Maryland to join our last leg of this adventure. I had only found out a few days before that they had planned to come up, so to finally have the day come, especially when I had looked forward to it so much, was a joy.

I had passed along the route for the day to my parents, so I wasn't sure if I would see them at our lunch stop or along the road somewhere. It was hilarious, but not surprising to me, to suddenly see our family car on my left and my Mom, standing through the sunroof, suddenly yelling and cheering us on. They pulled over and we had a quick reunion before we had to finish the last couple of miles to lunch, which seemed absolutely endless.

My Dad brought my bike from home and--without the training he had hoped to have before joining us--put out a pretty impressive effort by riding with us for a chunk of the afternoon. It was so much fun to ride with him again and to share the journey. I just wanted to keep talking and telling him little anecdotes, but I had to remind myself that it's always helpful to look at the road when bicycling.

My parents helped us out with a room at the Scottish Inn, which you can see off of 84 (future Nate tells me it's awfully strange to drive past a place you've cycled through). It was a nice room and after getting some pizzas, we settled in for some quality Olympic viewing.


Day 45: Buggies and Beards

State College, PA to Bloomsburg, PA - 89 mi

What!? A day less than 100 miles!? Yes - and it was good. After a delicious breakfast at the Waffle Shop in State College we headed out into the rolling hills of Amish country. Along the way signs for freshly baked goods tempted us but we were able to resist the call of the whoopie pie. We did see a few horse-drawn tractors (or whatever), but didn't see as many buggies as I expected. I was thrilled to see at least one epic Amish beard, though.

We knocked out over 50 miles to lunch in Lewisburg, PA, which his home to Bucknell University an grabbed lunch at a local coffee house and cafe where we met a delightful couple driving a Prius who were beside themselves with excitement about our journey. They desperately wanted to help us in some way but didn't have any cash, so they supplied us with an essential nutrient: coffee.

After refueling we demolished the remaining 40-ish miles to Bloomsburg where the Patriot Inn graciously donated a room. They also had laundry service, which was pretty sweet because it meant that someone else got to deal with our nasty clothing. So naturally I was stoked.

Day 44: Friends and Family

Liganer--> State College, PA (108 mi.)

Today was another day where the presence of other people managed to dilute the pain of riding over a hundred miles in some consistently hilly country. My grandparents, who live part time in a farm house in PA, planned to meet us after the morning ride and buy us lunch. My grandfather is a big reason this trip is meaningful to me because he has multiple myeloma (and has been doing very well, fortunately) so I was thrilled he could come up and see what the day to day of our trip looks like.

As it so often happens, our time plans got twisted again by various mishaps, including a broken chain. Luckily, one of the guys at Bike Surgeon gave us a spare link and we were able to turn a pretty bad problem into a slight delay. When we finally got to the pre-determined lunch area, we were all very happy to sit down and eat (a free meal!).

Seeing people from the Great Outside (otherwise recognizable through their choice of sitting on more comfortable places than a small bicycle seat) is refreshing for me; my grandparents got to chat with local people about the trip we were on and their sense of pride and excitement helped me to shift my perspective from a routine day to a deep feeling of appreciation.

My grandfather, after lunch, volunteered to carry our bags around for the day in his truck. We still ended up in State College very late at night, but having no bags for the afternoon was a huge relief.

One of my college buddies grew up in State College and was nice enough to contact his parents so that we could stay with them tonight. The Millers were great hosts: good food, good conversation, and a good place to sleep. I think we all wish we could have spent more time in the State College area.

Happy in Happy Valley,

Day 43: Did You Know That PA Is Not Flat?

St. Clairsville, OH to Ligonier, PA - 107 mi

This was the most difficult day to this point. We were hit with climbs from the very first mile and they did not relent all day.

From St. Clairsville, we headed into West Virginia for about 11 miles, most of which was uphill due to a slight detour in Wheeling that took us up a mountain. Although our legs were already thrashed we pushed on to the PA border before taking a much needed break on the side of the road. The excitement of finally being in the East was squashed by the foothills of the Allegheny mountains. These hills were absolutely vicious and made the grades out West look like child's play.

To my delight, we stopped for lunch at a Waffle Shop in Washington, PA. It was already 12:30PM and we had only made it 42 miles so spirits were not as high as they might have been. Fortunately the massive portions at Waffle House including a waffle with peanut butter chips, two eggs, hash browns, toast, and meat filled our bellies and provided a nice energy kick.

We got back on the road at about 1:30 and a daunting 65 miles stood between us and a good night's rest in Ligonier. Somehow we were all able to dig deep and push through the gnarly grades of the Alleghenies and finally made it to the quaint little town of Ligonier at about 8:30 PM. Starving, we headed to a local tavern where we demolished some delicious food and kicked back a couple of well-earned brews.

Day 42: Lightweight

Reynoldsburg, OH--> St. Claresville, OH (117 mi.)

When we set off this morning, we saw two riders in the distance. This isn't particularly unusual for us, but it adds an element of excitement that other people are using bicycles to get around. As we got closer, they looked more and more like a couple (one guy, one girl) out for a morning training ride. The amount of time we've spent on our bikes has given us some well-deserved pride about our endurance so I at least expected to catch them at some point in the day. Surprisingly, they persisted in the distance and we never closed on them.

Yet when we stopped at a gas station after a morning bit of riding, we found two bikes propped on the outside. We allowed our bikes to graze next to theirs on the wall and walked in to meet our morning leaders. They were, actually, a brother and sister duo in their mid-forties who were touring across country as well. Their bikes belied this goal in that they were (very) nice racing bikes with almost no additional baggage. Unlike us, they had thrown in the towel after the romanticism of camping led to discomfort and instead planned a few days ahead, locking down motels wherever there destination was. Internally, I applauded their strong decision and envied their light loads. So it wasn't just a random training pair out, but rather well-seasoned riders who had been on the road for even longer than us. A recommendation for those of you considering touring: the lighter the better and if you can pull off the "credit card" touring, do so and enjoy your freedom. We traded stories about the difficult winds earlier in our trip and then went our separate ways. Later in the day we would meet another cyclist, a girl who was eventually traveling to NYU for PhD work. Our meeting took place in Quakerville and, yes, the picture that just formed in your head is correct. It was a difficult day of riding in the hills of Ohio, but meeting some fellow travelers always makes things a little more tolerable for the perspective it lends.

Day 40: Homeward Bound

Bloomington, IN to Richmond, IN - 125 mi

With rejuvenated legs and our sites set on home we set out for the first of many long days. Overall, the ride wasn't too bad and we cruised across the remainder of Indiana to Richmond where we received an amazing dinner from Olive Garden. We then headed down the road to crash at the Quality Inn.

UCHC Homecoming!

Check out UConn Today's article!

Day 39: Bloomington is Kind of Awesome

Bloomington, IN (0 miles) As my parents pointed out, Bloomington is a poetic town to cycle
through because of the 1979 movie Breaking Away, an underdog cycling
story where townies beat out the Indiana University cycling team.

It seemed to have book stores, coffee shops, ethnic and natural food
restaurants, green spaces and bike shops in just the right proportion
to appeal to. . . well, me. Oh! And boutique shops selling very cute
dresses. In a defiant act of rebellion against the drab and functional
civilian clothes I had packed in my panniers, I purchased a pink,
frilly dress that I would lug to CT for a wedding in September. I
spent most of the rest of the day reading in cafes to soak up the
pleasant atmosphere.

Day 38: We Crushed Central Time

Flora, IL to Bloomington, IN (131 miles)

Sean made the excellent suggestion that rather than take a rest day in
Bedford, we might as well go up to Bloomington, a city reputed by its
resident state University.

Besides a few flukey flats, the beginning of the day was relatively
smooth going. We stopped at a Subway in Lawrenceville for some fuel,
and made our way across the Wabash River into Vincennes, IN and
EASTERN TIME! The second half of the day brought on a downpour and
several more hills; we stopped 10 miles outside of town to eat a
spectacular and cheap diner breakfast and to escape the heavier rain.

For me, nothing beats the feeling of cranking into town for a rest
day. I know I've worked hard for a week and I'm about to give my body
and mind a well-deserved break from the harsh routine. In Bloomington,
we stayed at the Hampton Inn on Nate's dad's points (thank you Mr.
Windon!). We chose the Upland Brewing Company for a fabulous, inspired
dinner and fresh, hoppy draughts to celebrate what I felt was the end
of iceberg lettuce salads, boiled ham steaks and the unhappy triad of
beer options: Bud Heavy, Miller Lite, Coors Light.