Thursday, June 26, 2008
The days leading up to the final ride passed in a blur. The excitement built with every revolution of our wheels. The hills that had been such a problem, only a minor obstacle to our goal that we had been working so hard towards for the past three weeks. We pedaled fast and it was fine because Philadelphia, our final destination, was so close.
Our last full day of riding, from Lancaster to Conshohocken, Jamaal and I both agreed to finish strong. Regardless of the heat, soreness, hills, or anything else that we've complained about thus far, nothing would keep us from finishing this day without feeling as if we had put everything of ourselves into the ride. We owed it to ourselves, to the cause, and to everyone who has ever had a dream and has striven to achieve it.
This tour has been the biggest blessing in my life because it has shown me that there is little in the way of one's dreams. It just seemed as if everything came through for the success of this ride. As if circumstance approved by having everything fall into place. I truly believe this event brought together some of the most beautiful people in the world. I don't mean beautiful in the physical sense, I mean beautiful in the emotional sense. I have met some of the most passionate, caring individuals because of this ride, and without them I would never have realized my dream. This being said, it is those who we encounter along our life's journey that will allow us to overcome the obstacles in our path. As I have mentioned before, I believe mine has allowed me to meet some of the most beautiful souls on the planet. I could never begin to repay them in thanks, but here is an attempt to thank those who have helped Jamaal and I. (Sorry if I leave anyone out.)
Our Sponsors- Without your financial support, this ride would have never been possible. Thank you for contributing to the hope of so many people with hepatitis B, and not just searching for an opportunity to increase profits. Thank you for being human beings, and not just a corporate business facade. You have done more good than you can ever know.
The Hepatitis B Foundation- I can not thank you enough. Everyone there, the researchers, the staff, thank you. You are the refuge of hope for those of us who are infected with hepatitis B. You're efforts do not go unnoticed, and you are appreciated.
Our Family- Jamaal and I couldn't have done this without our family's support. The approval and encouragement from them were greatly comforting to us on the road, and we are glad to be back home with our families. Thank you both, my family and Jamaal's.
Matt Gorman and the fellow riders- Thank you for riding with Jamaal and I into Philadelphia. You have no idea how much it meant to Jamaal and I to have other riders along with us for the final stretch. I wouldn't mind riding bikes for another three weeks if I had you all along with me. Thank you so much. It meant a lot to Jamaal and I.
The BBB girls- Suzie, Allison, and Cara. THANK YOU! It was nice to unwind at the party that you had planned for us after arriving in Philly. It's too bad though because now, when I am craving Rita's Ice, I'll have no where to turn. Thank you.
The Blocks and the Wittes- Thank you for believing in me. You very easily could have turned me away, but instead you gave me the opportunity to fight for myself and others through the Believe in the Cure Cycling Tour. I am truly grateful, and I am blessed to have met you all. Thank you so very much for this opportunity you have given me.
Melanie Groft- It will be odd not talking logistics with you over the phone or via email. I have truly enjoyed working with you while planning this, and I can't help but think that this was a little more than coincidence. Coming into the new position of Director of Development at the Hepatitis B Foundation, you took me up on my idea, and look what it has become. Thank you very much, Melanie. It has been a great ride. (Pun totally intended.)
Everyone that has followed Jamaal and I along our journey, thank you. Your support through your thoughts and prayers has been tremendous in helping Jamaal and I complete our journey that has now come to a close. All in all, it has been the greatest experience of my life. Thank you for allowing me to share it with you.
In closing, thank you everyone. Without you, who knows how the world would be. We have come far and endured much, and we have persevered to accomplish our goal with the help of others. Successfully have we completed the plight of mankind embodied in a 1,287 mile journey undertaken by two teenage boys. Rest assured, however, that this is not the last of my journeys.
Pedal on everyone, and take care.
-The beauty of mankind lies not in his greatness, but in his limitations.-
P.S. I am really going to miss the slurpees from 7 Eleven. Just saying.
Monday, June 23, 2008
Today is the day. The ride to Philadelphia. We are leaving the hotel here in Conshohocken in a little over an hour to ride into the city. I can't believe that this day is already here. I feel happily nervously excitedly elated. Basically, I don't know what or how to feel. I am now eighteen years old and I am completing one of my dreams. I had an idea and I have just witnessed its fruition. I just would like to everyone who followed Jamaal and I through our journey, and all those who kept us in their thoughts and prayers. This is something that I will never forget and has given me a lifetime of memories. I am truly grateful for that.
We have reached and surpassed our goal of $10,000, and in turn, received the matching donation of an additional $10,000, bringing our total to $20,000. Our new goal is now $25,000, so if you haven't already, every little bit will help. Thanks again for everyone's support. I PROMISE WE WILL POST MULTIPLE VIDEOS AND I WILL CATCH YOU UP ON EVERYTHING.
John and Jamaal.
P.S. I am sorry if none of this is coherent. This is probably just one of the greatest days of my life, so thoughts are fleeting.
Saturday, June 21, 2008
June 23 (Final Day): Conshohocken, PA – Philadelphia, PA (12 miles)
Mr. Patrick Clancy
Cary and Deloris Ellis
Cyrus Feeser and Charles Groft
The Horan Family
Special Loved One S
pecial Loved One
A Close Friend
The Research Scientists who are making a difference
June 20 (Day 19): Hunt Valley, MD to Lancaster, PA (61 miles)
Dedicated to: Cyrus Feeser and Charles Groft – 20 milesThe Horan Family; 40 miles
Thursday, June 19, 2008
I have noticed that I have been eating a lot lately. I mean obviously I need more calories than I would need normally, but there is no way I am going to be able to eat this well when I get back home. It'll be back to PB&J and grandma's dinner special then. That's nothing to complain about though. I don't think Jamaal's diet has really changed much on this trip though. He's always managed to find something to his liking at any restaurant we've visited.
Tomorrow we ride to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. I have been told that we are guaranteed to see Amish people tomorrow so that should be interesting. I find their culture to be very interesting and I believe this will be a great experience for both me and Jamaal. If nothing else, it'll be something new to experience. Anyways, I hope everyone had a wonderful day wherever you happened to spend it. Take care, and tune back in tomorrow. We will have a big post tomorrow.
John and Jamaal.
June 19 (Day 18): Alexandria, VA through Washington, DC to Hunt Valley, MD
Claire Morris – 50 miles
John Ellis and Jamaal Warren from Mrs. Maness - 20 miles
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Mr. Patrick Clancy was one of the only father figures I have ever had. He was always well dressed and had some bit of wisdom to spread every time he saw me. His bow tie and suspenders made me feel like I could relate to him because of his quirky sense of style. When I spoke with him, he was one of the only adults that actually made me feel like he was listening. Just before I left for the ride, I talked with him in length about the tour. He asked questions of concern, and spoke to me as if I were his own son. I will miss him as I am sure many others will. I would like to dedicate tonight's blog post to Mr. Clancy and the entire Clancy family. I am incredibly sorry for your loss.
I find it odd how something as grievous as this can occur, but yet the sun can shine brighter than any other day. Maybe this is an attempt to console us. That when we are feeling our lowest, the sun shines bright to keep our spirits from falling any lower. We rode today from Tappahannock to Fredricksburg on more of the most beautiful roads we have been on the entire trip. In Fredricksburg, the traffic into D.C. began getting heavy so we hopped in the van to pick up Jamaal's mother from the Reagan National Airport. Afterwards, we headed to our hotel in Mount Vernon, Virginia where we met with Melanie Groft. She was in the city and stopped by to discuss the final days of the tour with us.
Tomorrow we will be staying just outside Baltimore, so I believe Jamaal and I are going to do some riding in downtown D.C. to see the sights. Tonight we got a taste as we drove through the downtown area, and I absolutely fell in love. There is so much to see and so much going on that just the sight of it all makes me happy to say that this is the capital of my country. Taken with the good and the bad, I am looking forward to being in D.C. tomorrow. Well, take care folks. I ask that you might pray for the Clancy family, if you would.
John and Jamaal.
May you be happy soon and forever, Mr. Clancy.
John and Jamaal's ride today is dedicated to the following people. Enjoy the ride to the Washington D.C. area!
June 18 (Day 17): Tappahannock, VA to Fredericksburg, VA to Lorton, VA(90 miles)
Cary and Deloris Ellis – 24 miles
Lili Chambers – 22 miles
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Today was the most beautiful ride of the trip. I thought South Carolina was beautiful, but Virginia has topped that. We've passed some of the most beautiful farms, and in between, there are large forests that rise up into high ridges and dip into low gullies. The trees don't even stop for ponds, as they grow out of the water like spindly fingers. We had quite a few hills to climb, but our focus was drawn towards our surroundings so we didn't mind the climbs much at all. The shoulder was so large that it was almost like we had an entire lane reserved for us. Jamaal should have had a birthday long before because it seemed like everything went in our favor today.
Jamaal promises me that he has a couple of videos in the works so maybe tomorrow when we make it to D.C., he will get a chance to upload them. Also, Jamaal's mother is flying in to meet us tomorrow, and she will be riding with us the rest of the way. Sorry that there isn't much to say tonight, but I think that could be a good thing. It means things went pretty smoothly. Alright, well, Happy Birthday Jamaal. Hope you had a good day, and I hope everyone else had a wonderful day as well.
Here we come Philly!
John and Jamaal.
Monday, June 16, 2008
We reached a bridge, probably a mile or so long, with decent elevation. The elevation reminded us of the hills we encountered in the first week of riding and allowed us to approach the speeds we topped in the first week too.(I topped out at nearly 28MPH going down this bridge.) After the descent though, as with every hill, I began to slow and I attempted to coast on the speed I reached as far as I could. Jamaal, however, pedaled through and tried to reach the highest speed he could. A well disguised pot hole thwarted this attempt, though, causing Jamaal to slide baseball style while still attached to his bike. His fall looked pretty gnarly to say the least and I was actually genuinely worried, but he was on his feet as quickly as he fell and managed to come out with only a couple scrapes. He brushed himself off and we were on our way again.
After reaching Virginia we encountered what appeared to be fog, but after breathing some of it, we discovered it was smoke. Yeah, no kidding. Smoke. I assume this is smoke blowing from North Carolina into Virginia, but it ruined the rest of today's ride. It was so bad that we saw a few, unfortunate pedestrians walking with bandannas over their faces to keep from breathing the smoke into their lungs.
Tomorrow we ride from Yorktown to Tappahannock. I have been informed that there isn't much there so tomorrow should be interesting. However, the day after we will be riding through D.C. and Baltimore. How we will go from nowhere to the U.S. capital from one day to the next, I will never know.
Tomorrow is Jamaal's birthday, so I am sure he would appreciate it a lot if you could leave him a message for after tomorrow's ride. Thanks everyone. Take care and be safe.
John and Jamaal.
Today's trip crossing into Virginia is dedicated to the following individuals...
June 16 (Day 15): Edenton, NC to Yorktown, VA (103 miles)
Claire Morris – 50 miles
The Research Scientists who are making a difference – 40 miles
Francine Cohne – 13 miles
June 14 (Day 13): Jacksonville, NC to Washington, NC (70 miles)
The Research Scientists who are making a difference – 50 miles
Cyrus Feeser and Charles Groft – 20 miles
June 15 (Day 14): Washington, DC to Edenton, NC (56 miles)
John Ellis and Jamaal Warren (Way to go guys!) – 40 miles
Cary and Deloris Ellis – 16 miles
Sunday, June 15, 2008
Upon arriving in Washington, we had a run in with a drawbridge. You see, the portion of the bridge that raises up to allow boats through is actually a mesh weaving of metal that is a poor surface for bike tires to ride over.(DEATHTRAP) We had no choice though but to ride across since there was no shoulder on this bridge or any other way to cross. Jamaal likened this riding experience to drifting in a car. (I seriously doubt he knows first-hand. He probably just saw it on a video game or movie.) Nonetheless, we made it safely to our hotel.
Today, we had our first rain of the entire trip. Two weeks of sunshine before we had any rain at all. Before we began this journey, Jamaal and I considered riding in the rain, barring lightning and tremendous down pours, but after testing the conditions of the roads for ourselves first hand, we decided that the roads were too slick. It would be selfish and stupid to endanger ourselves just so we could ride in the rain. Sunday always serves as a good day to rest and recollect ourselves anyways, so we appreciated the first true break from riding we have had the entire trip.
For dinner, we ate at a buffet that reminded me of the scene from Vegas Vacation. You know that scene I am talking about. The scene with the blue stuff and the yellow stuff ? Let's just say I played it safe, and ate only what I could recognize.
Tomorrow we will be in Virginia, only a week from our final destination- Philadelphi ! Now that Jamaal and I have rested up we will be riding strong for the last stretch. I can't believe that the ride is almost completed. I won't know what to do with myself after this is over and done with. I'll feel like I should get up every morning and ride for 60 miles or so before I can do anything else. I definitely feel changed for the better by doing this. Well, sorry for the late update folks, but we will have more video coming soon. Take it easy.
John and Jamaal.
Saturday, June 14, 2008
I am usually not too superstitious, at least when it comes to Friday the 13th, but today proved to be unique. Whether or not this is because of Friday the 13th, I guess Jamaal and I will never be sure, but consider the following circumstances.
- Jamaal and I met a fellow tourer early this morning during our ride. He was touring fully loaded with nearly forty pounds of gear by my eyes' estimate. We rode along with him and chatted with him a bit, discovering he was riding from Miami to Canada because he felt it was "a good way to spend the summer." Now you might say that this isn't odd, it's just absurd, but there is more to the story. Riding behind him, we clocked our speed at around 12-13MPH, slightly slower than the 16-18MPH that Jamaal and I typically cruise at, but we didn't mind the slower pace and the conversation and company he gave. We stopped at a red light, and he informed us that he was going to part ways with us. It was kind of sad, but to each his own, I suppose. Here's the unnerving part. An hour later, after stepping our pace back up, we were rehydrating at the van when we spotted the man on his bike again as he passed by us. Trust me, there is no mistaking this guy. Honestly, how many people are touring at this moment in time, in the same area that we are traveling in ? Weird.
- Jamaal fell off his bike. Obviously, it wasn't a poltergeist or specter or ghost or anything. He wasn't paying attention and he ran into the back of my tire causing him to fall into the road. Luckily for us, there were no cars coming at the time, but it was the first fall of the trip, and it just so happens that this occurs on Friday the 13th.
- We almost got hit by a car today. The closest we've come to this scary situation in all of our riding adventures. We rode up to a red light at an intersection and right as we pulled up to the light it turned green, so we pedalled through, but as we were, a truck adjacent to us slowly, but deliberately began shifting over to the shoulder. Luckily, Jamaal and I had enough space to stop and avoid an accident as we watched this car drive over numerous cones on the shoulder and then drive away.
- To top this all off, our hotel had rooms donated to us in Jacksonville, NC, but for tomorrow night and they had no available rooms for us tonight.
Today was interesting to say the least. It was a fun, short ride, and we were able to meet up with some friends here in Jacksonville. We will be bunking with them tonight, so thank you Ammons family. Tomorrow we ride to Washington, NC, a 70 mile ride.
Sleep well, folks, and take it easy,
John and Jamaal.
Friday, June 13, 2008
Thursday, June 12, 2008
The Believe in the Cure Cycling Tour, itself, began as a ride to raise awareness about Hepatitis B and to raise money for finding a cure for Hepatitis B, and so far, it has been quite successful. This ride, for me, was successful as soon as we left Pensacola, but we have come so much further. From being chased by dogs to dead car batteries, muscle cramps to broken rear derailleurs, we have run the gamut of problems one could encounter, but we have pedaled on. This captures what I have felt "Believe in the Cure" truly means. Like I said before, the money raised is going towards the Hepatitis B Foundation's mission on finding a cure for Hepatitis B, but this takes time. (As all things take time.) Will the cure come in my lifetime ? My children's lifetime ? How can one be certain ?
I feel as if "Believe in the Cure" is a misnomer. I feel as if it should be something more along the lines of "Believe in your heart and mind" because that is, for now, the cure to Chronic Hepatitis B, and many other chronic illnesses that plague us. This is the only thing that I can be certain of; that if I am determined enough to wake up and live each day in ways that would "make the mountains glad"; that if I have the strength to make a difference with each moment; that if I believe in my heart and my mind that I am not broken, but healthy and even cured, who will tell me that I am not ? Nothing, now, could tell me otherwise. This is the whole picture. Pedaling on when the air gets thick and the hills get steep, when the temperatures start to rise and your muscles begin to ache. This is what the Believe in the Cure Cycling Tour truly means.
John and Jamaal.
90 miles. Only an hour and a half by car. (Quicker if you've got a lead foot.) By bike, as fast as your legs and your heart can handle. This is what I love about riding my bike. My speed is directly related to how I feel. If I am excited or angry, I ride quick, emotions becoming my fuel. If I am tired or sore, I rode slow, riding myself towards sleep. In a car, things are more robotic. No matter what happens, your car will still go as fast on the day your dog died as it did on the day there were nonstop reruns of COPS. (Well, if you are lucky.) I guess what I am trying to say is that riding my bike makes me feel connected. It makes me feel connected to myself and the things around me and I find that to be a very fulfilling feeling.
We left out of Charleston and had better luck leaving there than we did Savannah. Crossed over this beast of a bridge that allowed bikes across but we didn't discover this until it was too late. I tried to make my mom turn around so we could ride back over it, but she pointed out the long day ahead of us, so thoughtful minds prevailed. We pressed on and completed nearly 60 miles to Georgetown before lunch. By this time, Jamaal and I were hot and hungry so we hopped in the van and scouted for a restaurant. We came by a place by the name of Gator Krawls, a nice restaurant with a menu that anyone could love. Even those who enjoy eating fried alligator tail. I tried it, and I admit that it was actually quite good. Not your typical meal, but nonetheless good. Jamaal, however, did not. He decided to eat a chicken tenders instead. Full of food and tired, we napped in the van until three as my mother and grandmother did some shopping. As soon as they got back, though, it was back on the road with no time to even rub the sleep from our eyes.
The last stretch to Myrtle Beach proved to be a pleasant ride, encountering the most beautiful bike trails I have ever seen. Paved trails that lead through the forestry of South Carolina ran parallel with HWY17. There were even bridges built over small creeks that crossed the trails. I wish there were more trails like this back home. The only thing I could compare this trail to would be the UWF nature trails, but they cater more to MTB's. I am glad that we were able to ride on these beautiful trails though. It was a good experience.
Upon arriving to Myrtle Beach, Jamaal and I went to Pirateland Campgrounds. It only took us an hour or so to set up our over-sized, mansion tent that sleeps eight. (Jamaal and I don't like our feet to touch.) We then blew ten bucks in the arcade, and ended up riding our bikes some more. This was an interesting experience because apparently, at night, all the campers get in their golf carts and just ride the same stretch of the campgrounds' paved roads. To be honest, it was almost majestic seeing the conglomeration of golf carts, bikes, walkers, and runners. Jamaal and I cruised this strip for a while, darting through the aforementioned cluster of vehicles and people. Afterwards, we decided to go to the beach to compare it to the one back home. (The sand was grittier, but the beach itself was still nice.) We turned in after we decided there was no more trouble to be caused and slept well having nothing but the tent bottom and a sleeping bag under our backs.
All in all, a very good day. We would ride to Wilmington the next day, and be a little over halfway done with the trip. It's going by so fast. It seems like yesterday that we were in Pensacola. That's how all things go, it seems. Anticipation makes it feel forever away, and then it arrives and it is over and you have nothing but memories and pictures...I wouldn't trade these memories for anything in the world.
On that note, I close Day 10. After I list the crazy finds of the day, of course.
- A life vest away from any apparent body of water. I can't think of any explanation.
- A brunette wig. Probably one of the most disturbing finds thus far.
- A hockey stick. I imagine this was viewed as disposable because with this heat, why would anyone think about playing hockey ?
- A mutilated teddy bear. I don't quite understand why we keep finding mauled stuffed animals. It must be just as tough for survival in the stuffed animal kingdom as it is in the animal kingdom.
- Typical assorted clothes and roadkill. They have become as common as mile markers to us now.
John and Jamaal.
Today's ride is dedicated to the following person...
June 12 (Day 11): Myrtle Beach, SC to Wilmington, NC (75 miles)
Claire Morris – 50 miles
Myrtle Beach was the final destination yesterday. They are very excited that they finally hit the coast. They stayed in a campground last night called PirateLand campground, which is located right on the beach.
John wanted me to assure you that he will be doing a dual update this evening when they get into Wilmington, NC.
Thanks to all of you for following their incredible journey!
Have a great day!
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Today John and Jamaal will be riding through Francis Marion National Forest and then heading to the coastline for the first time in their trip.
June 11 (Day 10): Charleston, SC to Myrtle Beach, SC (93 miles)
Claire Morris – 50 miles
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
This is how we began our day. Not long after, we were on the roads riding through beautiful South Carolina. The dense forestry of SC still captivates me and Jamaal. It almost looked as if you would need a flashlight to walk through it even at 10AM. We made excellent time today finishing 62 miles by 12:45PM arriving in Charleston. I could only attribute this to the scenery, the shade, and the relative flatness of the roads we were traveling on. All in all, a very good day.
Once again, we had to wait to check into our rooms, so we went to eat at a local restaurant. As usual, the food was delish. (Honestly though, after riding, you could feed me and Jamaal a boot and we would totally enjoy it and my family will attest to this. When they ask us what we would like to eat after we finish riding, our typical response is simply, "Food.") My mother carried on the tradition of making it aware to everyone in the restaurant that Jamaal and I are riding our bikes clear cross the country. That's what mothers are for though, right ? Embarrassment ?
3PM came around and we checked into our rooms. Retrieving our keys, Jamaal and I were looking forward getting into the A/C and taking our nap. Jamaal beat me to the door, but when I came around the corner he was still waiting outside. He then came out with some story that someone was in our room. I thought he was pulling a prank, so I disregarded it and attempted to open the door. Upon opening it, there was shaving cream on the table, a laptop on the bed, and luggage sitting on the floor. We took the all too familiar trek to the front desk. They apologized and gave us a new room; with a broken air conditioner ! Oh well. You win some, you lose some.
Had an interview for the Charleston Post. I enjoyed this interview because the reporter actually allowed me and Jamaal to speak freely about everything, and not just in such a QandA blunt format. So thank you for that. Can't wait to read the article, Chase.
(Had to change the title because of copyright infringement)
- Most interesting roadkill award goes to SC hands down. We saw a horseshoe crab dead on the side of the road.
- A live deer took off into the woods after we road past. The first living animal that didn't chase us.
- This next one is kinda sad. A dog's leash was found in the road. Could only spell out a bad situation.
- A Semi with one large open roofed container that contained two of the largest tires I have ever seen. Larger than the van that we are traveling in.
Tonight, Jamaal and I restocked on Gatorade and got lost through Charleston. Tomorrow we have a 90 mile ride through the Francis Marion National Forest, finally ending in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Hopefully, the ride will be beautiful and the forest will keep us cool. Well, take care folks. Can't wait to hear from you,
John and Jamaal.
P.S. We have heard that some of you have expressed concerns over our attire. More specifically, our shorts. Do not worry. We are wearing the proper cycling shorts. They are just under our "normal" shorts. Jamaal and I still have issues over wearing cycling shorts in public. Thus, the shorts over our cycling shorts.
The first full day in South Carolina is dedicated to the following people...
June 10 (Day 9): Beaufort, SC thru Charleston, SC (73 miles)
Phill Powell – 10 miles
Johanna Rall – 10 miles
Special Loved One – 40 miles
Monday, June 9, 2008
Georgia had one last surprise for us this morning. We got out to HWY 17, and began pedaling when I remarked to Jamaal, "Hey. Does this look familiar ?" Of course Jamaal has a terrible sense of direction and place, so this was the wrong question to ask of him, but even he began to recognize our surroundings. Somehow we managed to double back through Savannah, and we got so turned around that we lost a good half hour or so, but we finally figured it out. HWY17 actually merges with the interstate to cross Savannah's Talmadge Cable Bridge, so we had to load up the bikes to cross this impressive monument.
Afterwards we were on our way, making it into South Carolina soon after. Almost instantly the fauna seemed to change, as tall trees hung over the roads providing consistent shade, but the nice bike lanes of Savannah failed to cross the state lines. The roads were in poor condition with spotty availability of shoulder space, but the further we traveled the better the roads seemed to become. We got here a little after noon, here in Beaufort, and took our daily ritual nap. I woke up to a reporter's phone call, and after answering a couple of his questions, we went to explore Beaufort. So far, I think SC is my favorite. I haven't been here long, but I love the look of the place. Quirky shops and local restaurants line the street we are staying on and we are minutes from the downtown area. Tomorrow we will ride to Charleston stopping just before the Francis Marion National Forest. Before I call it quits though, I'd like to take a moment to remember Georgia in all of its gloriousness.
You are a great state. Thank you for our safe passage. It was incredibly hot, though. In the future, it would be more pleasant for your guests if the weather were cooler. Anyways, thanks for your wonderful bar-b-que and your nice residents. Take care, Georgia. We'll miss you.
- What appeared to be a dog, but after passing it, we discovered it was a wild BOAR. (Jamaal argues with me on the initial appearance of this creature, claiming it looked like a "beaver.")
- A dirty magazine that someone only got for the articles and after reading them, tossed it on the side of the road.
- A decapitated baby doll that apparently attempted to cross the road, but forgot to look both ways.
A butter knife to complete our collection of silverware. So thanks once again, Georgia. It's been real.
Love, John and Jamaal.
Today, John and Jamaal are riding for the following individuals....
June 9 (Day 8): Savannah, GA to Beaufort, SC (45 miles)
Francine Cohen – 5 miles
Special Loved One – 40 miles
If you would like to dedicate miles from John and Jamaal's journey to someone you love, please click here to find out how.
Sunday, June 8, 2008
Despite our short ride today, Jamaal and I felt like we were moving incredibly slow. I think the week's worth of consistent riding finally caught up with us. However, we still made good time and arrived just outside of Savannah at 12PM. We had two television interviews to do when we got to town, so before we went to check in the room, we completed both interviews. Afterwards, we attempted to check in, but they informed us that we couldn't until after 3PM, so we cruised around Savannah in the van, and got a little food.
As soon as we got back, our rooms were ready and everyone took a nap. During my nap, I had that dream again. This time it was not as vivid as the first time, but it was still enough to jerk me out of my sleep. I don't know why I keep having this dream, but it's interesting because I never really dream. (Or I don't remember them, at least.)
We ate dinner at Uncle Bubba's Oyster House. My grandmother wanted to eat there because it is Paula Deen's brother's restaurant. It was quite good despite the 45 minute wait. So between the naps and eating at Bubba's, we didn't have a whole lot of time to sight see. Kind of a bummer, but Sunday isn't the best day to sight see anyways.
Well, folks. Tomorrow we ride to Beaufort, SC. We will have crossed an entire state in 4 days. Not bad timing for being on bikes. We are at 450 miles at this point, and will surpass 500 by tomorrow. We love to hear from everyone and truly appreciate everyone's support. Take care, and we hope your weekend was swell. Our weekend was.
John and Jamaal.
Today John and Jamaal are riding for the following people...
June 8 (Day 7): Hinesville, GA to Savannah, GA (53 miles)
Phill Powell – 10 miles
A Close Friend – 20 miles
Special Loved One – 23 miles
Saturday, June 7, 2008
I rolled out of bed and trudged to the free breakfast offered to us by our hotel. In front of me, my options were an assortment of danishes, muffins, and other pastries, oatmeal, grits, and waffles. I made myself a bowl of oatmeal and sat down to contemplate the day ahead of me. Jamaal stayed in bed for a while longer, but then joined me for breakfast.
Afterwards, we returned to our rooms to pack up, and soon after, loaded the van to get back to the main highway. Jamaal and I, sitting in the back seat of the van, waited for the van to start, but it never happened. The van wouldn't start. The battery was dead and my family was thrown into a panicked fury. Luckily, we asked someone to jump the van and they were kind enough to oblige. Finally, we were able to get on the road and begin today's journey.
Riding was at a slightly slower pace today than the breakneck pace we kept up yesterday. We still made decent time though reaching Jesup by noon. We stopped to eat at a sub shop, and of course, Jamaal got philly cheesesteak. We napped until 1:30PM and was back on the road by 1:45PM. Nothing like waking up from a nap and hopping right on a bike.
As usual, the ride after lunch time became really difficult. By then, the rural roads have lost their charm, the legs begin to burn, and the heat beats down on us. It is then that mental toughness supersedes one's physical condition. Distractions to take your mind off of this feeling are few and far between, but Jamaal and I make do. Games, like seeing who can get the most truckers to blow their horn at you, help pass the time and take your mind off the soreness. Pace slowing, we arrived in Hinesville at 4PM.
It wasn't long after that we found our hotel, and checked in to our rooms. Of course, my mother, aunt, and grandmother always inspect the rooms to make sure that the "boys" don't have the better bathrooms, but to our dismay, our room only contained one king sized bed. My family joked about me and Jamaal sharing a bed, but the joke was on them. After speaking with someone at the front desk, they had no other double bed room so we were upgraded to a suite. If you ever get a chance to stay in a suite, even if you have to go to a hotel within your own city, do it. It's nice.
After dinner, there was one more surprise event in store for us. Driving to the hotel, there was an accident that happened right before our eyes. I thought for sure that we were going to get hit as well, but the car swerved and hit the curb in front of us. We waited for the police and ambulance to arrive and gave a statement. Luckily, no one was badly injured.
Tomorrow, we have a short day. Only 30 miles. We should be finished before noon. I am looking forward to going to Savannah. I have heard that it is quite beautiful there, and we will be near the coast! Well, folks. Take care and enjoy the rest of your weekend. You have no idea how much these comments help us through this journey. It allows us to see who this is affecting and gives us support when we feel we are going through the worst.
John and Jamaal.
June 7 (Day 6): Waycross, GA to Hinesville, GA (66 miles)
Johanna Rall – 10 miles
Claire Morris – 50 miles
Special Loved One – 6 miles
These are the individuals who John and Jamaal are riding for today. This section of the blog will be updated daily.
You can see the full section of the Virtual Mile Marker dedication here.
Friday, June 6, 2008
All in all, today was a very good day. One of the best even. We made good time arriving in Homerville by noon leaving us just a 25 mile stretch remaining. It was there in Homervile that we decided to stop for lunch. Walking in we noticed the Valdosta newspaper with our pictures on the front. The article was in the sports section and it was beautifully written. A woman even recognized us in the parking lot and began crying as she hugged us before we left for Waycross. It was quite moving.
Tomorrow we are headed to Hinesville, one day out of Savannah. I know we are getting close to the coast because we saw a fully inflated beach ball on the side of the road today. Anyways, before I leave to go to bed, I have a joke for you. For what is Waycross, Georgia named ? You have to go WAYCROSS Georgia to get there !
Forgive me. It sounded funnier in my head. Well folks. Enjoy the weekend.
John and Jamaal.
Thursday, June 5, 2008
Once we crossed into Georgia, I almost immediately regretted waking up this morning. The highway had a rumble strip used for keeping drivers that fall asleep from driving off the side of the road. At first, Jamaal and I both thought that maybe this would only keep up for a couple miles or so, but no, it has been this way since we crossed the state line. This caused today not only to be physically exhausting, but mentally as well. Imagine having four or five inches as a margin of error with traffic on one side and miles of dips in the road that can potentially throw you over the handlebars or destroy your bike, whichever comes first. Riding was tense all day.
The one thing that you could possibly say went in our favor was the wind. It provided a constant breeze most of the day, but the only drawback of this is that we had to pedal through it- our first headwind of the trip. The wind was a double-edged sword that, with the passing of speeding vehicles, often felt like it was blowing out of all directions at once, making us feel like we were suspended in motion. It was frustrating to say the least.
Later in the day, traffic picked up. Cars and trucks of all sizes sped past us throwing off our balance to an extent. When you're out on the road, you get used to the sound of cars, and after a while you can use this to judge the location of the vehicle behind you. Using this, we could, at times, shift to the outside of shoulder. Other times all we could do was brace on our bikes and flinch when the semi or speeding car passed. Not to mention the heat. It made the air feel thick, like you had to chew it up before you could swallow it down.
To be honest, I almost felt like giving up on today. I wanted to pack it up and sit in the air-conditioned van. I wanted to lay down and sleep and rest my weary legs. I wanted to get out of the sun and the heat and breathe easy. I stopped and thought about what I was considering. I wasn't just flinching when cars zoomed by. I was flinching at every obstacle placed in my path. I was flinching in the face of a challenge, and it is this same pattern of thought that prevents many of us from doing that which would make us happy in life. Luckily, Jamaal was there to struggle along with me. We channeled our frustration and completed the day by 4:30PM and made our way to the hotel.
Now, to give credit where credit is due. Thank you, Christian of the Courtyard Marriott in Valdosta. He donated two beautiful rooms to me, Jamaal, and my family, and they even had a banner and refreshments waiting for us when we got here. It was very much appreciated after such a long day. I am truly thankful for people who have been so supportive and I just wanted to shed some light on a person who has gone above and beyond to assist us in making the tour possible.
Alright. Tomorrow, Valdosta to Waycross. If all goes well, Jamaal and I will be finished by 4PM. (That's our goal, at least.) Oh, and the lost artifacts segment has been put on a hiatus. There were too many stressors to distract us from interesting road litter.(But I did see a whole carrot.) Sorry folks. Anyways, take care.
John and Jamaal.
P.S. Here are some videos from Day 03 and Day 04.
Believe in the Cure Cycling Tour- Day 03 from John Ellis on Vimeo.
Believe in the Cure Cycling Tour- Day 04 from Masta Jaymall on Vimeo.
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
The treetops grew even in height with each other, and became denser, like meticulously landscaped hedgerows. The road leveled out for a stretch so Jamaal and I took advantage of this opportunity, but my bike felt differently. DISASTER STRUCK ! The rear derailleur snapped completely off of my bike. (Don't worry. It's not important that you know what this means or this part's function. Just know that it keeps the bike from moving forward.) I guess you could say that this was a minor setback. A video of this can be viewed here. No worries, though. I brought a spare bike. My trusty ol' blue, Mike the Bike.He came to the rescue and allowed me and Jamaal to travel 70 miles today to Quincy, Florida. When we arrived at Quincy, we drove to Tallahassee in search of a bike store and we found a place that fixed it. So thank you Sunshine Cycles for staying open later than normal to fix my bike. We finally found a hotel after driving around for nearly an hour, and after such a long day ( We didn't get off the bikes until 6PM.) I must admit that I am pretty tired. So If you would excuse me, I will have a more substantial update tomorrow. (Pictures, video, the like...) But before I do, I'll leave you with this.
- One dirty sock. Perhaps of the gym variety.
- One Nike sneaker. Looked like a Runner or maybe a Cross-Trainer.
- Female undergarments.
- A Glove. (Without the hand.)
Night folks !
John and Jamaal.
P.S. Please enjoy Jamaal's beautiful craftsmanship.
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
With food in our stomachs, Jamaal and I, along with my aunt and grandma, loaded the van and drove back into town to begin today's ride. The drive was relatively quiet. Yesterday's ride weighed heavy on our minds, but the anticipation of the new adventures and experiences set before us helped subside our negative thoughts. We turned on to 90 East and pulled over to unload the bikes and start the ride.
The first ten miles of today flew by. We cruised through, finishing the first stretch in a half hour. However, our confidence after this first stretch was certainly challenged during the second stretch for we began to encounter tremendous hills. (As a side note, don't let anyone tell you that there are no hills in Florida, and if you happen to be one of these people...Try riding a bike.) To give you an idea of the size of these hills, it was possible traveling down these hills to approach speeds of 30+ MPH, but on the flip side, we slowed down to nearly 8 MPH climbing them. Jamaal and I pedaled on, though and finished the second ten mile stretch in an hour. Winded and slightly disappointed in our pace, we took a break to refresh ourselves and to prepare for the next 40 miles of the day.
Knowing all to well that the afternoon heat would be arriving soon, we consciously stepped up our pace, but only within our agreeable comfort levels. The hills began to work more in our favor as the climbs seemed much shorter than the descents. We cruised through small cities, 3 in a ten mile stretch. Traffic wasn't an issue, and most drivers were courteous enough to pass in the opposite lane.
As a matter of fact, everything went very smoothly UNTIL we passed through a rural area outside of Westville, Florida in Holmes County. Jamaal and I were pedaling along when the all too familiar sound of a barking dog averted our attention. In most cases, this sound is nothing to worry about because the dog is usually behind a fence or on a leash, but it just so happens that in this particular instance the dog was given free reign. I, of course, being the cautious person that I am told Jamaal, riding slightly ahead of me, to "Book it!" but Jamaal felt that it wasn't necessary and continued at his normal pace saying, " Nah man. It won't keep up." Having said this, the only thing I can imagine is that the dog felt as if this were a challenge, and sped past me on my bike, headed straight for Jamaal. It was only then, and no sooner, that Jamaal decided to pedal faster. Needless to say, we were traveling at speeds of 21+ MPH and the dog was still running right beside us. However, the dog could not keep this up and went back to his yard to await another brave cyclist's attempt to pass.
Perhaps it was events like this that helped us move so quickly, but by 11:38AM we saw a sign informing us that we were only 9 miles outside of Chipley, our destination for the day. This sent our spirits soaring and after navigating through Chipley, we arrived at the hotel by 12:30PM. (Not sure if this was planned, but our room number the past two nights has been 108.)
Since then, Jamaal and I have showered and taken naps. We also drove in to town for dinner at a local place called Bailey's. (If anyone is curious as to who has the best Philly Cheesesteak sandwich in Florida, Jamaal's your man. He's eaten them the past two nights. Stay tuned for his Philly Cheesesteak reviews.) To top off the night we treated ourselves to ice cream, and turned in for an early night. Oh, and I almost forgot. Here is the second edition of...
The Lost, Road Artifacts of the Day
- Two pairs of underwear, one boxer briefs, the other whitey tighties, both Hanes.
- A lone, metal fork. ( I guess to go with our spoon ?)
- A empty gallon jug of bleach
- Road kill that appeared to be a Bald Eagle, but upon further inspection turned out to be vulture of sorts.
- The Ninja Turtle cast, too slow to make the journey across the highway.
- Banana peel death traps left for cyclists going on grand ventures.
Believe in the Cure Cycling Tour- Day01/Day02 from John Ellis on Vimeo.
Thank you for your prayers, and your support.
John and Jamaal.
Everyone is riding with you John and Jamaal!
Monday, June 2, 2008
The kick-off was everything I had hoped it would be and more. Friends, family, and total strangers came out to see Jamaal and I off for the beginning of the cycling tour. It meant a lot to me to see so many people who cared enough to come out. Even our sponsors took time out of their busy work schedules to attend. All in all, I am incredibly thankful for everyone who took part today. It was a great moment for Jamaal and I, and a wonderful way to begin the tour.
But now, the part that I have been so excited to share. After getting hung up at the stadium waiting on the police escort, (He informed us that he had to shave before he came, so it was completely understandable.) we turned on to Hwy. 29 at 11:19AM to begin our 78 mile trip from Pensacola to De FUNiak Springs. The escorted ride down Nine Mile Rd. was almost eerie having a whole lane to ourselves all the way to the Escambia River. I imagine the only thing cooler than this is probably riding shotgun with the sheriff, but this is a bike ride, so I digress...
Riding through Pace we ran into some road work, but it wasn't much, so we weren't slowed down by it. The extreme heat of the afternoon, however, did. Riding in 96 degrees of heat wears on you after a while, but Jamaal and I made the best of it. We tried to see who could come up with the strangest road artifact spotted from the bikes and we have compiled a list of assorted oddities that we encountered.
- A lone, metal spoon.
- Numerous crushed, trampled, cell phones.
- "Extra" nuts and bolts that separate themselves from cars.
- A stuffed chew toy for a dog.
- A Cyndi Lauper cassette tape.
After riding for about three and a half hours with numerous stops to hydrate, Jamaal was badly attacked by cramps. They were relentless, and soon spread to my legs as well. So between the heat and the cramps our progress was most definitely hindered, but we pressed on slowly, but surely. At one point, perhaps due to the dizzying deliriousness brought on by the cramps or maybe the effect of the heat on one's mind, I began to feel closer to my surroundings. I felt closer to the trees and the grass, and I felt closer to the clouds. Riding my bike almost seemed to heighten my senses, strengthening my awareness of the world around me. It is this feeling that pushes the pedals on long after my legs have become sore and my butt has become numb, and it is this feeling that I would like to convey to you. This feeling that you are a part of the world around you, and that you should know everything you can about this beautiful thing you are a part of.
That is the goal of this bike ride. To inform people of a single, yet hurtful, aspect of the human life. Despite all my heady ideas and dreams of the amount of money I hope to raise for the Hepatitis B Foundation and hepatitis research, I must keep reminding myself that the greatest thing I could accomplish with this cycling tour for the Hepatitis B Foundation and for myself is the awareness that this ride could potentially raise. Tonight we rode until just before night fall. We did not quite reach our destination by bike, having to travel the last 14 miles by van, but we still had a very productive day riding 64 miles by bike despite having a late start. Today helped me realize that what I am doing is real, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
I must end it here for it is much too late, but I would like to thank everyone who is following along and for everyone's prayers. Take care everyone, and I will be back in touch soon.
P.S. PICTURES WILL BE FOLLOWING TOMORROW !
A perfect send off for John Ellis and his friend Jamaal Warren, as they begin their cycling journey from Pensacola to Philadelphia. With media coverage, the Tate High School Pep Band, and a police escort to the county line, John and Jamaal are on their way! Our celebrity host, Tessa Savoy from NBC 15, was quoted as saying, “John, we would like to commend you for your effort to reach out and turn your medical diagnosis into a message of HOPE for all those who have been affected by hepatitis B. Jamaal, we would like to commend you for your loyal friendship to John and for the courage to embark on this journey with him.”
A personal message from John
“I would like to thank all of my family and friends who have been involved in making this day happen. Their encouragement will give me the strength I need to reach Philadelphia!.”
“Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after another.” – Walter Elliott
Pensacola, Florida is the westernmost city in the Florida Panhandle. It has a population of about 53,000 and sits on Pensacola Bay, which connects to the Gulf of Mexico. Pensacola has had a rich and colorful history dating nearly 450 years. Established in 1559, Pensacola has been controlled by 5 countries: Spain, France, Great Britian, the Confederate States of America and the United States of America. It is the home of the first US Navy airbase, the Blue Angels flight demonstration team and the National Museum of Naval Aviation.