October 18th, 2:30AM Chicago, IL. I had spent the night at our son Manu and his partner Gilly’s apartment in Chicago. After not enough sleep, I left for the train station. Had not gone more than 10 paces, before I tripped on a crack in the sidewalk and suddenly found myself staring at the silhouette of my shoes against the night sky. I took inventory of my limbs and they all seemed to move. Scanned the area for things that may have fallen out of my pockets (yes I’m a pro at this). My knee was bloodied again and jeans were torn, but as I picked myself up I told myself it was good to get the days fall out of the way. Now it would be safe to get on the bike. The rest of the journey, apart from almost missing my flight, proceeded without incident. Later this week we’ll be someplace down there cycling back the other way.
Getting the diagnosis of ALS (as I imagine with any major illness) can be an incredibly lonely moment. There is a tectonic shift in your world and you suddenly feel separated from everything and everyone. Today I was greeted at San Diego Airport by Rae, Dottie and Pete. Pete is an old friend from back in the Kibbutz where Rae and I met. We proceeded straight to Ocean Beach Park, where we were met by people representing many facets of our lives. As I mentioned before, Pete and his wife Dottie, who now live in L.A., Raif, Jessica, and their new baby, Penny. Raif was the tutor for two of our children’s Bar Mitzvah’s 11 and 9 years ago respectively. He is now a Rabbi in L.A. He chanted a prayer for safe travel that had been inscribed on a plaque from Sinai Temple of Champaign to accompany us on our ride. Then I got a message from Rachel, one of the labor and delivery nurses I worked with: “Everyone on labor and delivery at Carle just had a moment of silence/prayer/reflection/solidarity in honor of yourself and those riding with you. You better have felt it, it was powerful.” And yes, I had definitely felt something, but had attributed it to the burrito I ate for supper the night before in Chicago. I’ll try and pay more attention from now on. Dave Johnson, the brother of Paige Johnson Parkhill from our hometown, who herself has ALS and was one of the first people to reach out to me when she heard of my diagnosis. Dave helped me carry my bike to the beach. Marilyn and Larry, neighborhood friends that now live in Riverside, came to see us off and brought us home grown avocados. Ruth, a friend who has known Rae since the 60’s and was one of our road angels in San Diego was also there. How foolish of me to feel alone.
We did the wheel dipping ceremony in the Pacific and headed up the mountain on our way out of town. Today’s ride was more just to get out of town and not have to deal with Monday morning San Diego traffic. So 47 miles and 4,000 feet elevation in our first day. Tomorrow we get down to some serious riding.
The crazy 8. The people accompanying me are also a collection of my riding past and present. Rae, Luci, Lynny, Ira, Ian, Daniel, Andi and yours truly. As I have mentioned, Ian and I have ridden cross country before. We finished that particular ride together but not in the manner we had anticipated. In a sense, this ride is unfinished business for us. Luci? Well, one day I was at work and I got a text from Luci: We just entered you into a 24 hour bike ride. Your name for the ride is “Midway Midwife, I brought you into this world, I’ll take you out.” Any questions? No ma’am. Believe it or not Rae was the person who introduced me to cycling in the first place. When I first came to the States she borrowed a bike and showed me around town so I wouldn’t get lost. I don’t think this is where she thought it would lead.
We are spending the night at Camp Oliver near Descanso, CA. It’s a summer camp owned by a Catholic order of nuns. Daniel worked here as a counselor in the early 60’s. Daniel’s, sister Michele is currently the director of the Sisters of Social Service which runs this camp and they have invited us to spend the night. This is the first time that Daniel has been back since his counseling days 50 years ago. Andi, Daniel’s partner, just started riding a bike recently, and joins us on her longest ever cross country trip as navigator, cheerleader, sustenance provider and will also ride when she can. Lynny and Ira who have been friends since forever, are avid cyclists. They knew what this ride means to us and wanted to be part of it. I figure between the Nuns, the Temple Congregation and the labor and delivery nurses we have a lot of bases covered.
Peace, love and midwives