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/

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

If all goes according to schedule, I should reach Bar Harbor, Maine and the Atlantic shore sometime TOMORROW! So, enjoy a random collection of stories from the journey (starting with a few and adding more as I think of them).

Oh, the places you'll go...
A super sweet waitress was intrigued by this whole biking across the country thing and had a million questions for us. After we had paid, she approached us and said "I just have one more questions, if you don't mind. Where do you go to the bathroom...do you just go at every wayside restroom (aka rest area)?" Bahahaha. "Well, yes and no. I go at wayside restrooms and gas stations, in cornfields, behind hay bails, trees, and guard rails (as a last resort)." Yep, just marking my territory. :)

Driving Awards
The Best Drivers Award goes to the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and New Hampshire! Very much appreciated. It was a pleasure traveling with you. The Worst Drivers Award goes to the state of Michigan. Sorry, guys. It is legal to move over (even just a little bit) when you pass a cyclist. Better luck next time. On the professional side, the Best Driving Award goes to our US Postal Service drivers. They are coureous and friendly. Solid performance! And the worst or scariest groups are the logging truck and oil truck drivers. Seriously, people. Is is possible to get splinters from a passing log truck?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Last State!!!

We are officially in Maine! maine, MAINE! For anybody that completely failed US geography, Maine is a coastal state and the LAST STATE before the sweet sight of the Atlantic Ocean. I was hoping Maine would feel like a giant victory lap, but there is still over 200 miles of work to be completed. And the backroads of Maine are STEEP, Jiminy Cricket!

I honestly don't even know how to prepare for the end...will I laugh, will I cry, will I jump up and down with excitement? At this point, I am excited to complete this enormous personal challenge and excited for what the future holds. I am immensely grateful for the opportunity to embark upon the venture and all the life lessons learned along the way. It has been one crazy adventure after the next--the good with the bad, the ups with the downs, the laughter alongside the tears. Here's to the last state in this solo, supported cross-country bike ride! Cheers!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Appalachian Mountains

Thanks to every cyclist familiar with this route for warning me that New Hampshire contained some of the steepest climbs of the entire journey. GREAT...because I am still not a climber. Was biking across the plains and "rolling" hills supposed to somehow prepare me to spend miles upon miles climbing a MOUNTAIN? Well thanks to everyone for putting the fear in me and thanks to the past 2 months of training, becuase I just DOMINATED the last climb in the Appalachian Mountians. BAM! Adirondacks of New York...check. Green Mountains of Vermont...check. White Mountains of New Hampshireof ...check, check, check. It's all downhill from here, right?

Monday, October 18, 2010

They're Back

Headwind and hills...stopped riding as it started raining.
Nor'easter--day off
Nor'easter--day off
Headwind, rain, and mountains.
Headwind and mountains.

This is the weather/terrain combinations of the past five days. And this is the first nor'easter of the season. Aren't we just the luckiest bunch of wayward travelers? It was after a few days of similar dreariness that I may have posted that this (the bike ride) was the hardest thing I have ever done. Well, today, I officially revert that statement. I can't say as though this is the HARDEST thing I have every done...but I will confirm that this is one intense emotional rollercoaster.

Let's have Jesuit consolation/desolation reflection moment...
Sunshine brings me consolation.
Clouds and rain bring me desolation.
Tailwind brings me consolation.
Headwind brings me desolation.
Riding over a snowy mountain pass brings me some very cold hands and feet...over the pass (consolation), frozen phalanges (desolation).

Well, apparently my current limit of tolerance to rain and wind is four days. Yep, today was the fifth...riding uphill into very cold northern headwind. After twenty-five miles of riding with legs full of lead (or sand, hmmm, maybe I do believe in the Sandman), I reached the limit again...though this time with much more poise and class. Mom pulled over next to me, rolled down her window, and with one look and one statement, she knew...I was frustrated, exhausted, and deflated. Any guess on the one statement? "Mom, the tears are back." And I rode on.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


Two comments about Vermont...

Home of Vermont White Cheddar Cheese and Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream...mmm...this state can be very proud of its dairy farmers.

Home by preference of poet Robert Frost. Way back in the days of 5th grade, I chose Robert Frost as the subject for my 5th Grade English Fair project. Well, today, I am in his home by preference state, passing through his hometown, and chosing between two roads in a yellow wood. How ironical! Still recited mostly from memory...with a check for clarification.

The Road Not Taken
By: Robert Frost

Two road diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both
But be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A message from Ellen

A Day in the Journey...

Four years ago, two girls walk into a bike shop, mention they are going to ride from Pittsburgh, PA to Washington D.C., and oh yeah, they need bikes too. M&E express maiden voyage.

Today one of those girls is turning that ambition up a couple notches. I'm talking about a solo supported bike ride across the United States. Some may say she's crazy, some would say she's an inspiration. I'd say she's amazing!

I've known Mary for four years, and in those four years, she has brought out some of the best qualities in me. Mary is the friend that everyone wants to have. She has the capability of helping you find and live your passion. As a physical therapist, Mary also strives to bring out the best in her patients through her creativity combined with a smile or a joke.

Is it any surprise that this cross country trek isn't only about Mary? (There's something about Mary...) NO! This journey is also about young adults living with or survivors of cancer. Those that have followed Mary know that with each pedal stroke she is fighting for people in our age bracket to have the opportunity to set their worries aside and conquer fears of extreme outdoor sports thanks to First Descents.

This past weekend right outside Niagara Falls, the M&E express was in full force once again. I joined Mary for a weekend of great weather, great conversation and great riding. Century ride day/night one well into the cold night along the Erie Canal (thanks Mama Hughes for choosing a B&B for a warm evening!) P.S. I believe that may have been the first successful century ride for the M&E express. Day 2 included a beautiful day along Lake Ontario camping at the shore in Fair Haven, NY. Onward to Day 3...ending in Fulton, NY. Here my parents met us at the end of my journey with Mary. First impressions are everything, Mary I'm glad you wore spandex :)

I leave this weekend with great memories, as Team Hughes continues on to conquer the end of the trail...less than 600 miles to go!

You have my endless support!

Monday, October 11, 2010

More Visitors!

Ellen Wilson, a friend from the Pittsburgh days, came to join the journey for the weekend! A riding buddy! Yippee! Thanks, Ella, for coming to play and the friendly competition.

It was four years ago this summer that Ellen and I bought our first adult bikes and set out to ride from Pittsburgh to Washington, DC via a rails to trails bike path. Ha, we didn’t know what we were getting into and it was one “hot mess” of a trip from beginning to end—including camping in the mountains with a sheet (no sleeping bags, only a sheet), a sprained wrist from an unfortunately hilarious wipeout, showering with a garden hose in a parking lot, etc. But we survived and still laugh about how naïve and ridiculous we were.

Well, back then we may have been naïve. Now, we are just bull-headed and competitive. Hmmm, I can’t say as though one is better than the other. Ellen arrived on Friday night and looking at the map, we decided we would be completing a century on Saturday. Thank goodness for the rest day on Friday or my body would have nothing to do with another century. But anyways, we had 15-20 miles to ride to a bike path and then would be riding on a bike path for 85 miles. 85 miles of a bike path! Easy ride, easy century, done and done. Ehhh, WRONG! The clerk at the gas station told a big, fat lie when he said the trail was newly paved and in great condition…ehhh, wrong again. The bike path wasn’t paved at all…it was a dirt path. Yes, 85 miles of dirt on road bikes. Debbie Downer, but doable.

Overall, it was an enjoyable day…warm and sunny with a gentle headwind. Did I mention that we are now bull-headed and competitive? Yes. Well, we didn’t start riding until noon or a little later and admittedly should have called it quits when the sun went down…but we said we were going to complete a century…so, headlights on and the ride continued into the dark. When we finally completed the century, it was pitch black and 41 degrees. Yep, we were frfrfrfrozen in shorts and short sleeves. Crazy girls...someday we will learn our lesson.

The next two days proved to be fabulous riding days. Her parent met us on the third day to pick her up and return her to the "real" world. Quote of Monday morning...(Mary)"hey, Ellen, have I ever met your parents?"...(Ellen) "Nope, first impressions are everything"..."(Mary) "Well, in that case, I better wear spandex." hehe

It was wonderful to have a companion on the journey. I am quite sure that the ridiculousness of Mary and Ellen has yet to come into full fruition. Here’s to the future and to making wiser decisions!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Niagara Falls

Another day off! Niagara Falls!!! Mom has been looking forward to this moment for the past 60(ish) years and 3,400 miles. She was here at the age of 4, but who remembers family vacation from when you were 4 years old? Anyway, this is the one destination on the journey that Mom was looking forward to and it is very exciting to share this moment with her. :) We spent a night and a morning on the Canadian side, then crossed to the American side for the afternoon. It still takes my breath away…so beautiful! Thanks for sharing this journey with me, Mom!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Ontario, Canada

It's a place to live,
And a place to grow,

Yes, we are in Canada. This is no longer a cross-country journey, but a cross-continental journey. Sounds impressive, huh?!? Because we opted for the longer route up and over the northern part of Lake Michigan, it really only makes sense that we would stay on the northern shores of Lake Erie. And, Ontario seems a bit more interesting than the Indiana/Ohio combination. Did you know that because of the lake effect from Lake Erie, the southernmost part of Ontario has similar climate to the Carolinas? Must admit I was a bit surprised when I say tobacco fields growing and smoke houses. Only later to learn that they also have magnolia trees and fields of tomatoes, brussel sprouts, peppers, potatoes...pretty much, you name it, they grow it. And a million thank yous for the innumerable wind breaks to block the Lake Erie winds...it made for much calmer riding conditions. :)

Monday, October 4, 2010

1000 TO GO for First Descents

1000 miles to go! Only 1000 miles left to the Atlantic Ocean. Well, I guess it is all a matter of perspective “only 1000 miles to go” or “geez, still 1000 miles.” Irregardless, 3200 miles logged thus far and 1000 miles remaining in this cross-country journey. Phew!

To publicly answer the most commonly asked question, “So, do you have cancer?” Nope. I do not have cancer. I am not a cancer warrior or survivor. So, why First Descents? Why young adults with cancer? Why outdoor adventure therapy?
-Because I am a young adult.
-Because I am a health care provider.
-Because I live and breathe and love the outdoors.
-Because I believe that resistance and challenges and new experiences lead to personal growth.
-Because companionship and friendship make the journey bearable, memorable, and enjoyable.

For all these reasons and a million more, I decided to ride across the country for First Descents. One of the greatest things I appreciate about First Descents is that they refer to camp as "outdoor adventure therapy." As a physical therapist, it is no wonder that I support other forms of "therapy." But it isn't that simple. When I think about First Descents, I think about my patients and the life lessons they have bestowed upon me. I think about the struggles we have overcome, the tears we have shed, the immeasureable amounts of laughter, the walks, the talks, the hugs. I am truly blessed everyday.

Over the course of my career, I have worked in settings spanning from the ICU to the professional sports arena. Yet, irregardless of the setting, the focus of therapy is on restoring "quality of life," considering that "quality of life" is a growing spectrum or a moving continuum. If you too believe that we are continually growing, changing, and evolving, then so is our definition of "quality of life." Thus it seems extremely natural for me to support an organization that challenges young adults to push their limits, to challenge themselves, to expand their continuum for "quality of life." I ride for First Descents in support of their mission and philosophy and in appreciation for the positive impact they have on the health care system through personal empowerment and advocacy. Additionally, I ride for my patients who continually bless and strengthen my life. It is in their honor that I wear the breast cancer bandana/scarf and carry an Irish Blessing prayer card--thanks, guys, you know who you are!

An Irish Blessing

May God grant you always...
A sunbeam to warm you,
A moonbeam to charm you,
A sheltering Angel so nothing can harm you.
Laughter to cheer you.
Faithful friends near you.
And whenever you pray,
Heaven to hear you.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Chicago Weekend

Cross-country bike ride TIMEOUT! We are off to Chicago for the weekend for a friend’s wedding. Biking will resume on Monday morning after a brief re-entry into the “real” world. As of today, we have 1,040 miles to go to the Atlantic Ocean. Thus, sometime on Monday, we will cross the 1,000 miles to go mark. How exciting!