We made it!!! Thanks a million for everyone's support! If you would still like to join us in support of young adults with cancer and First Descents, please visit my page to make a donation. http://teamfd.firstdescents.org/2010/fd/hughes/

Sunday, August 29, 2010


I distinctly remember the moment in physical therapy school, when my partner and I stumbled upon a theory for our final medical ethics/ethics education project: "Ethics is uncertainty." So simple, but one of those "ah-ha" life moments. Since that day and since that time that simple statement sets off a train of thoughts...ethics is uncertainty; medical ethical conflicts and dilemmas are not black and white, not right and wrong, not yes and no; medical ethics is grey; so the role of our educational system is not to teach us right from wrong; it is to teach us how to think, to process, to negotiate uncertainty--that's a huge responsibility. But life is no different. Life is uncertainty.
For some reason, I have been thinking a lot about uncertainty lately. The only thing certain about this journey is that "for every up, there is a down." Literally, not figuratively. I started at the Pacific Ocean and am ending at the Atlantic Ocean. Sea level equals sea level by my calculations. Thus, for every up, there must be a down. But outside of that, nothing else is certain. For every headwind, there isn't a promised tailwind. For every rough road, there isn't a newly paved road. For every good there isn't a bad and for every bad there isn't a good. Life is not fair. Each day is an unknown slate of uncertainty. Life is uncertainty.
Today, I rode 42 miles...not too impressive as a single statistic. But today, I rode 42 miles in the rain with temperatures in the mid-40s into 30-40mph diagonal headwind/crosswind. Sounds slightly miserable? At times, yes. But ultimately, I have a choice which days to ride and which days not to ride. I made the choice to ride today. And today, amidst the uncertainty, the teachings and wisdoms of my life teachers came flooding back--from my family to my friends to my co-workers, teachers, patients to complete strangers. To have a passion is to accept the denial that comes with it. There is more to be learned in losing than winning. Bad days remind us to be gracious and appreciative of the good ones. Hughes' don't quit. :) Everyday should contain laughter and tears. Take each day as you find it, but don't leave it that way. Okay, I will stop. Just saying that while the riding conditions were slightly miserable, the overall experience was worth the journey--thanks to my life teachers who have taught be how to negotiate uncertainty.

This evening, we had dinner with and are staying with Lindsay and Jacob Lorang. Lindsay is a great college friend from the good ol' days of Creighton University. (#1 school in the Midwest AGAIN! Go Bluejays!). It was so amazingly wonderful to catch up, have homecooked meals, and a warm, dry place on a cold, dreary night. Linds, the very best of luck on your next life endeavors! You are so ambitious! And happy tuna fishing...haha...400 lbs of tuna.

Random thought of today: You don't go into the ring to fight Mother Nature as if to win or lose, because you will inevitably lose. Mother Nature is relentless. And Mother Nature in Central Montana can be a real vixen. You go into the ring with Mother Nature to define yourself, to reconnect with your sense of humanity, to reinforce humility, to respect.

Lindsay and Mary--rise and shine!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Montana Rest and Relaxation

After successfully crossing the Cascade Mountains, as well as, the Rocky Mountains, I think it is time for a little bit of rest and relaxation. And low and behold, we are at Glacier National Park and it’s my birthday! Double whammy!

Glacier National Park is beautiful! Super beautiful! We drove the Going-to-the-Sun Road, read ALL of the signs (Mom’s choice), had lunch by Lake McDonald, wandered around the Visitor’s Center and shops, and went for a nice hike near Logan’s Pass. It was a wonderful way to spend a few days of R&R!

Glacier National Park was one of four pre-planned side excursions of the cross-country journey, also including Mackinaw Island (Michigan), Niagara Falls (New York), and Acadia National Park (Maine). But an unexpected blessing of these two days was meeting, dining, and staying with Chuck and Jinny Ludden—parents of Brad Ludden, founder of First Descents. They were such gracious and welcoming hosts to virtual strangers. There are really are no words to describe how wonderful, fabulous, adventurous, down-to-earth, and hospitable they are and how welcome they made us feel. “I learned that people will forget what you said, they will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” (Maya Angelou) THANK YOU immensely for being a part of this journey and for opening your hearts and your home to us! Also, a huge thank you for your assistance in arranging for new bike tires and an oil change. And finally yet importantly, thanks for the birthday cake. I know, right?!? Homemade birthday cake with candles and singing…who are these people? Awesome birthday in a beautiful place with wonderful people! Perfect!

So, before leaving Kalispell, MT, we hit up the bike shop for new bike tires (cross your fingers for no more flats) and got an oil change. At Toyota, we met Chris McKenzie—friend of the Luddens and FD supporter—who managed to squeeze us in and hook us up. Thanks, buddy, and best of luck in the mountain bike ride/race this weekend! Okay, I think Kalispell breeds great people and/or somehow attracts the nicest people. Chris has a bit of an advantage…he married a girl from Iowa. That’s a no brainer. :) But seriously, after talking for like 20-30 minutes, I was ready to pack my bags and move to Montana—the biking, the skiing, the hiking, the golf, the mountains/rivers/lakes, the weather, the people. From an oil change to the drawing board of life…Happy 29th Birthday! Thanks everyone…until we meet again!

Glacier National Park

Lake McDonald

Mom and Mary hiking

Mom and Mary hiking--Hidden Lake in the background

Birthday Cake!!! Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you...

Chuck (Grasshopper), Jinny (Mama Ludden), and Mary

Monday, August 23, 2010

Continental Divide and Century

It was a much better day...in fact, A GREAT DAY! Sooo STOKED!

After a good nights sleep and one helluva GAME ON pep talk, today started out much better. Well, it really started out again on Highway 93 (which is still an awful road), but I was in a much better frame of mind. Truthfully, the initial 9-mile Highway 93 stretch of my ride today isn't even accounted for in my daily statistics. I spent 9 miles on 93 before turning onto a county road. For those 9 miles, I was too busy concentrating on not dying that I didn't even notice that the computer on my bike (odometer, speedometer, time, and cadence) wasn't working. I finally readjusted the sensor after turning onto the county road. So, VAMOOSH 9 tedious miles gone!

Today's ride started on a wonderful county road still covered with thick, morning fog. As the sun burned through the fog, I enjoyed the greatest 10-mile bike ride of my life. The road wound past beautiful ranches with lush, green pastures and the mountains emerged in the background. The sights, the sounds, the smells, the moment...I was at peace. Something about the moment took me back to the campo of La Guama in the Dominican Republic and I randomly started singing a Dominican song about drinking coffee in the campo. mmm Dominican coffee on a brisk morning. Who doesn't sing in Spanish while riding across the country?

After a zen-like 10 miles, it was back to the reality of this ride. The day included one more stint on Highway 93, back country roads through deep woods (and more singing in Spanish. Bew...bew, bew, bew, bew. Hey CDC girls!), a gravel road (two thumbs down), and Highway 2 from here to eternity. Long story short, it was a great day for riding and I was in the right mindset. After actually looking at a map, I realized I was quickly approaching the Continental Divide and had a route decision to make. From West Glacier there are two options for crossing the Continental Divide. Option 1: through Glacier National Park and over Logan Pass. Option 2: around Glacier National Park and over Marias Pass. Due to bicycle riding time restrictions in Glacier National Park and a lot of one lane, pilot car construction on the east and westside of Logan Pass, we opted for option 2.

and KaZAM, after a good nights sleep and one helluva GAME ON pep talk, it was a great day for riding. After 60 computer miles (69 total), I started dreaming of crossing to Continental Divide TODAY. I had started the day with one expectation...to cover at least 70 miles. And now that I had looked at the map and already almost covered 70 miles, I made up my mind that I would be crossing the Continental Divide TODAY. And not just that, but I would be completing my first ever century ride (100 miles) as well. And well, I can't be content with a straight 100 miles because I NEED to see the 100.00 mark on my computer, which means I have just set me goal for a 109 mile (thanks a lot, Highway 93). Mind you, I set this goal 30 miles before the Continental Divide, 30 miles before the mountain pass, prior to any significant elevation change. What am I thinking? Well, now is not the time to start second guessing myself. GAME ON!

Good news! The road to Marias Pass was in good condition and had a manageable grade of elevation. Phew! Because by this time, it was really a race against daylight. For the first 70 miles of my day, I was toodling along aiming to have a good 70-mile ride. Then to decide to add another 30-40 miles including a climb to the Continental Divide...haha...well, it was about time I started moving a little bit faster. As I started climbing, I felt awful, then great, then depleted, then great again...such a rollercoaster. But I DID IT!!! I reached the Continental Divide at 98 miles into my first century! After an 11 mile pedaling descent, I reached the town of West Glacier and my computer finally read 100.01 (109 total)! Woot woot! It was a GREAT DAY!

Planning on an easy 50-mile victory lap tomorrow...then a few days off my bike to enjoy Glacier National Park and my birthday! Que WOW, I am almost 29!

The view from the breakfast table. Yep, looks like a great day for a bike ride!

Cheese! Crossing the Countinental Divide...it's all downhill to the Mississippi River from here!

At 98 miles into my first century. haha, drama pic. I actually feel GREAT!

100.01 miles! Woot Woot!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Frustration Station

I would love to paint the picture that this whole journey is sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows. But at the end of today, I am super frustrated. I haven't had a good riding day in the past 4 days and it is getting a bit old. A million things have happened. We were in a hotel 4 nights ago, so I was on the computer all morning. I didn't get on my bike until after 11am, then almost immediately crossed the ID/MT border and crossed into the mountain time zone. Poof! Another hour gone. With the late start, I only rode (forward) for 50 miles including a long stop for huckelberry pie and ice cream and a backtrack (through construction) because I lost my maps. Three days ago, I started late once again due to mechanical issues. I was riding like a rockstar for the first 50 miles and then started cramping. No good! Well, I will call it cramping, but is was a weird cramping and stabbing pain in my right side moving across my back and stomach then up my right chest and neck. So weird! Anyways, after advancing only 5 miles in the course of an hour between stops for stretching and walking and curling up into the fetal position, I called it a day. Yesterday, I had another good riding day along the beautiful Koocanusa Lake but stopped early to set up camp and clean up for church. Today was the pinnacle of frustration. I hit the road at a decent hour heading in the direction of Whitefish, MT. Whitefish was about 50 miles from my departure site and after the disgraceful daily average over the past three days, I was hoping to make it further than 50 miles. But low and behold, I didn't even make it to Whitefish. OMG! Approaching Whitefish from the West, I was traveling on highway 93, which has less than optimal road conditions (no shoulders, broken concrete, chia cracks, and moderate to heavy traffic). Though I vowed that I would not complain about road conditions (with the good comes the bad), I will say that I have traveled on gravel roads more conducive to road bikes than Highway 93. Anyways, riding on poor road conditions on a busy highway, dripping in rain, eating the road spray from RVs, shuttering from a few close calls with cars, and politely reminding those cars that they are idiots...it was time to call it a day. Safety first! But I only rode 33 miles today...ahhh!

After one more failure of a day, I am a bit frustrated. One or two of these days wouldn't even phase me. But I have only covered 195 miles in 4 days. Really?!? That is an average of less than 50 miles per day. I was doing better than this in the mountains! What is my deal? Is it mental? Is it physical? Are my expectations too high? Yes, yes, and no. I know I am not focused like I know I can be and need to be to get more mileage out of every ride. I am definitely exhausted. I am starting to feel lethargic between 40 and 50 miles, which is way too early. And I am crazy emotional about nothing, another sign of exhaustion or crazy hormones. My bet is on exhaustion!
Something needs to change STAT! I still have a long way to go, so I am trying to keep a level head and not FREAK OUT! It's a bit early for a major change in the game plan, I still have months ahead of me. MONTHS!!!

After a nap, a hearty dinner, a good nights sleep, and one helluva GAME ON pep talk, tomorrow WILL be a better day...or something may need to change. I honestly haven't even looked at a map to know where I am or what is in store for tomorrow...but it WILL be a better day. At this point, I will be content with a 70-miler. Wait! Am I entering the Northern Rockies tomorrow? Well, too late, a 70-miler it is. GAME ON!

Welcome to Montana!

Kootenai Falls

Koochanusa Lake..Montana is one beautiful place (pictures don't do justice)

Sign at the laundromat...Really Montana?!?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Word of the Day

Word of the Day: GUMPTION.

I was talking to a store owner somewhere in the middle of the Cascades...just one of a million random conversations to date on this journey. The conversation started on the topic of weather, when he said,"it's a beautiful day out there. Make sure you get out an enjoy the sunshine." And I replied, "for sure. I think I am going to go for a little bike ride." And he responded with, "where do you think you are going to ride? It's all up a mountain from here?" And so on and so forth with me describing that yes, I would be climbing that mountain and the next and the next heading East and ultimately crossing the country. At this point, most people respond with "wow" or "you're crazy" or "what inspired you to do that" or "you must be in great shape" (haha, I wish!) or "I couldn't spend that long on a bike seat (or something referring to saddle pains)." But this guy had a different response, catching me a bit off guard. He said: "Wow, you have a lot more gumption than the rest of us." hmmm, gumption. What a great word! Word of the day and word of the trip!

Gumption quotes:
1. "Anyone who has gumption knows what it is, and anyone who hasn't can never know what it is. So there is no need of defining it." --Lucy Maud Montgomery
2. "A person filled with gumption doesn't sit around dissipating and stewing about things. He's at the front of the train of his own awareness, watching to see what's up the track and meeting it when it comes. That's gumption." --Robert Pirsig

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Biking Progress

The journey thus far has taken me from the ocean shores in Anacortes, WA through the Skagit River Valley, up and over the North Cascade Mountains (apparently through a short stint of desert...according to one of the locals), and finally into the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. I have ridden for 9 out of 10 days and crossed the state of Washington. I expected that this journey would start out much slower than I am accustomed to due to the mountains and my not-so-diligent training as the summer progressed. :) In the mountains, I will guesstimate that I averaged 50-55 miles per day and since leaving the mountains about 70-75 miles per day for the past 2 days. So far, my body is holding up very well (again a bit surprising, due to the lack of training). Most of the information I read about others crossing the country warned me of severe saddle pain for the first 1-3 weeks. Well, a week and a half has passed and I am doing much better than expected. Road surfaces are variable rainging from super smooth concrete/cement to less than optimal new blacktop with freshly oiled loose gravel. It is usually the road surfaces that determine how frequently I am getting off my bike for "pressure relief" of my hands, feet, and seat. Otherwise, we are off to a great start. Crossed the WA/ID state line today and should cross the ID/MT state line tomorrow. Happy trails!

A breakfast shout out to my girls in Tillamook--the land of cheese, trees, and ocean breeze

Welcome to Idaho!

Pend Oreille Lake (pronounced pond-a-ray)

Bike path along the Pend Oreille Lake

Monday, August 16, 2010


One side effect of this journey thus far is a renewal that America is full of really, really nice people. The beauty of camping is that you inevitably start talking to you neighbor or someone in the bathroom or wherever...something we would be missing if we were hoteling it across the country. People are generally courteous about moving over on the roadways to "give me 3 feet." A county sheriff stopped at the junction of 2 highways to make sure I got across the intersection safely. Really?! Thank you, very nice people for looking out for your neighbors. One irony of the whole situation is that we literally had the same neighbors for 3 nights in a row. It takes until about mid-day for us to make a plan for the evening...depending on weather, road conditions, elevation, etc. Anyways, there is one in a million chance that we would meet the same people (who are driving from place to place) at any of the hundreds of campgrounds in this neck of the woods. But I guess I could say that these are the one in a million type of people. Just wanted to send a shout out to them for their friendship and participation in this journey. Cheers to Bill and Robin...until we meet again!

Our neighbors: Bill and Robin

Kettle Falls: Who is the one grouch? Hahaha

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Deep Thoughts by Mary Hughes

My sister informed me today of a conversation she had with one of my college friends regarding this journey. His initial reaction was seriously, what could you possibly think about for all that time? Or even if you resorted to music, you would have to start back in the 1950s to find enough material to last that long. Well, then I started thinking. I have been on the bike for 7 days and really don't know what I have been thinking about. This is my conclusion...

The average human being only uses 10% of their available brain power. And while I can walk and chew gum, I can't pedal and think, so I must use about 7% of my available brain power. Done. Deep thoughts by Mary Hughes.

No. In all seriousness, a recurrent train of thought goes something like this. I am utterly amazed at the art of bicycling and the evolution of this journey. Bicycling is a non-invasive, efficient form of transportation that still allows you to sense and experience your surroundings. On my second day of riding, I was overcome with a sense of gratitude for this experience, because it is such a unique way to explore the country. The rush of gratitude came when I compared myself to the cars that were passing me. While they were moving faster, they could only visually enjoy the scenery. Then I thought, hmmm maybe I do understand why people enjoy riding motorcycles because they can enjoy the scenery without the confines of a car. Then a motorcycle vroomed by and ruined that train of thought. But with bicycling, as with many other sports, I am able to experience my surroundings with all my senses. I see the tall trees and the shadows the clouds form on the mountainside. I smell the pine trees, the fresh cut hay, the coffee shops, the rotting carcasses (yes, with good comes bad). I hear the rushing water of the mountain streams, the approaching cars, the chirping birds, the hum of the powerlines. I feel the wind against my face and the changing road surfaces. I am sure I am tasting more than I realize, but thankfully, I haven't tasted any bugs yet. :) I am continuously inundated with sensory overload. So because I am only capable of using 7% of my brain power, I really don't have much room for thinking with all this sensing. And ultimately, it is my awareness of my senses and my reactions to the sensory feedback that are keeping me safe on the road. Happy and safe pedaling!

Today's challenge: How far can I travel without pedaling? Speed must remain above 10 miles per hour. Result: 12.7 miles.

Sherman Pass: The highest mountain pass in the state of Washington

Sign at the top of Sherman Pass: "As You Share In The Journey: It's All Downhill From Here"

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Theme Song

Why do we get songs stuck in our heads? And where do they come from?

I can honestly say that I haven't heard music in about a week. So, where the song that got stuck in my head today came from, I have no idea except that it fit the situation perfectly!

Today's ride began with 30 miles of flat terrain with a dreadful headwind, followed by a 26 mile climb to Wauconda Pass, and a descent to camp. Temperatures were in the high 90s without shade or a cloud in sight. It was soo hot. I was totally dehydrated by the end of the day, but calculated that I had consumed more than 3 gallons of fluid during the ride. Crazy!

Today's theme song began as just another song that got stuck in my head, another mantra with a good pedaling beat. But given the weather and the terrain, it quickly turned into the theme song for the day. Brought to you by Rodney Adkins...
"If you're going through hell
Keep on going, don't slow down
If you're scared, don't show it
You might get out
Before the devil even knows you're there."

Hoping for a more positive theme song tomorrow!

Today's random challenge: Trying to cross a metal cattle grate with a road bike and road bike shoes. Bahahaha! Way harder than it seems.

Looking down the road I just climbed

Today's terrain...looks like I might have some shade from the trees in the distance.

Wauconda Pass

Cattle grate. Bahahaha!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Perserverance and Determination

The primary focus of today was the climb to Loup Loup Pass...the third mountain pass in a series of 5. So far, the climbs have been 40 miles and 5 miles. Today's climb is 7-10 miles and I am looking forward to a 26 mile and 15 mile climb in the next two days. Being a Midwesterner, I am not a climber, would never claim to be a climber, and was really dreading the long climbs at the beginning of the journey. Prior to the trip, I thought of the Cascades and the Rockies as a mere passage to the plains and rolling hills of the Midwest. But as the reality of the situation unfolds, I am still not a climber and would never pretend to be, but I am rather enjoying the challenge and the rewards hiding in the Cascades and hopefully the Rockies.

I found myself laughing today at the life lessons that are best captured in children's storybooks. And twentysome years later, they are probably more relevant than they were when I was five. The two stories that I thought about today were "The Little Engine That Could" and "The Tortoise and The Hare." Both with the resounding themes of perserverance and determination.

Climbing has become an amazing test of my mental capabilities and a reassessment of my expectations. I get frustrated climbing because I expect to pedal and move quickly and efficiently on a bicycle. But in my first mountain climbs ever, I am learning to tone down the perfectionist in me. The first few attempts at anything aren't about perfection. There about taking each new opportunity as a chance to learn and to grow and hopefully to become better. It's about having the perserverance and the determination to finish what you started and ultimately proving to yourself that you can. I think I can, I think I can, I think I can. I thought I could!

Rock on the shoulder near the summit of Loup Loup Pass. Amen.

Loup Loup Pass...brrr

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Day Four: The Day of Firsts

As most of you know, I am from the Midwest...as in the land of rolling hills and plains. I spent my "Spring training" in the Dominican Republic (without a bike) and in eastern Nebraska (the plains). My final week of training was RAGBRAI (the bike ride across Iowa) and this year, the course was exceptionally flat. I say "exceptionally" because it is definitely the exception to find a flat-ish route across Iowa, because Iowa is NOT FLAT! However, today was the first day I have ever crossed a mountain pass via bicycle!

Today's firsts...
1. Crossing my first mountain pass on my bicycle. Make that 2 mountain passes today!
2. Which lead to my first mountain descent on a bicycle. Thanks to George--"the crazy guy on a bike"--who heeded the warning of gravel on the second turn of the descent.
3. So, Mom received her first Good Samaritan Award of the trip for picking up a broken down and injured bicyclist who lost control and crashed in the gravel.
4. Yesterday, I had my first flat tire of the trip. Today, I had my second. :( Okay that wasn't really a first of today but close.
5. Last, but certainly not least. I had my first shower in 3 days! Yeah! Thanks to 5 years in the Dominican Republic for my moderate efficiency with bucket showers, but really just be thankful that these pictures are not scratch "n" sniff. :)

Warning: This is the beginning of full body spandex pictures. Proceed cautiously!

Skagit River

Entering the North Cascades

Changing my first flat tire :(

Gorge Lake

Spray-painted on the shoulder...approaching Rainy Pass. This one's for Corrie!

Rainy Pass (#1)

Washington Pass (#2)

Washington Pass Overlook. Yep, I climbed the road behind me.

My second flat tire :(

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Plan/Logistics

Everyone has a million questions about the logistics of this journey, so here is the lowdown.

Biking: Yes, this is a given. It's a bike ride across the entire United States (and a few portions of Canada). The plan is to average 400-500 miles of biking per week resulting in a 9-11 week journey. At this rate, there is still time to play and enjoy the country.

Lodging: The majority of nights we will be tent camping with the occasional stay with friends, family, and hotels. That being said, I do and will have limited access to Internet, so my apologies for the delay in blog posts.

Food/water: We are preparing most of our meals over a fire or a camping stove. Lunch is served picnic-style in a city park, campground, or somewhere random on the side of the road. I do carry ample food with me as well as 2 water bottles and a camelback.

Communication: This is evolving and will continue to evolve. Depending on the terrain and the weather conditions determines how often I plan to meet my mom (aka support vehicle). We have cell phones as well as long range walkie talkies. In the mountains, we plan to meet frequently because no form of communication is effective and the availability of alternate food and water can be scarce. On the plains, we will probably only be meeting for lunch.

Finances: My mom and I are funding our own way, so all donations go directly to First Descents.

I hope this answers your questions and a bit of insight into the next 3 months of our lives! Feel free to ask any more questions that may still be burning.

Eating lunch on the side of the highway

Home is where you park it

Monday, August 9, 2010

Day 1: Dipping in the Pacific Ocean

Day 1! There are seriously so many emotions happening at this very moment, I am not really sure what to do...jump up and down with excitement, vomit from nervousness, or simply bow my head in graditude for the opportunity. It's Day 1! It's finally here!

Similar to the RAGBRAI (the bike ride across Iowa) experience, I will be traveling from one body of water to another. Except instead of the Missouri River to the Mississippi, I will be traveling from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic and thus the journey must begin with the christening of my back tire in the Pacific Ocean. Thanks First Descents for the picture-worthy new jersey. :)

Today's riding plan was more about logistics than it was about actually riding. I only rode about 25 miles in the late afternoon while trying to figure out the best ways to communicate with my mom (the support vehicle) and how the ACA maps work in reality. Over the course of the next few months, I am planning to primarily follow the ACA Northern Tier Route with the addition of the Great Lakes loop.

Happy Trails!

Tire Dipping in the Pacific Ocean

Anacortes, WA: The Beginning...

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Seattle Send-off Weekend

DR Reunion Weekend!

I couldn't have asked for a better send-off for this adventure. I spent the past weekend in Seattle with 3 of my fellow "casi dominicanas." Shawn, Amanda, Corrie, and I spent a few weeks last April volunteering together as physical therapy professionals in the Dominican Republic for Creighton's PT Institute of Latin American Concern (ILAC) program. It's amazing the depth of friendships that can develop in such a short period of time in a challenging environment like the third world of the DR. The send-off weekend included eating and drinking, more eating and drinking, a Flobots (hey, Colorado!) and Michael Franti and Spearheads concert in the rain, and Blue Angels airshow. Mom spent the weekend with Dan and Amanda (my sister's best freiend) and I joined them for a lovely Sunday brunch together. After another round of goodbyes, hugs, and tears, we are off again. This time to Anacortes, WA, the launch site for this journey. On Monday morning, we enjoyed a send-off breakfast with Brendan, my second cousin. Food, friends, and family--send-off weekend has been brought to you by the letter "f." Thanks so much to everyone for such an amazing weekend!