Jan 7, 2012--Introducing . . .

THE GOAL:  Raise $10,000 for Stillwater, Oklahoma’s, non-profit Judith Karman Hospice all proceeds going to nurse education.

THE RIDE:  Solo bicycle ride from heartland Stillwater, Oklahoma, to Bristol, Rhode Island’s, harbor, beginning April 16, 2012 and ending nearly 2000 miles later on May 27, 2012.

THE CAUSE: Stillwater's non-profit Judith Karman Hospice. 

Choosing the JKH as my charity was heartfelt.  My parents died a little over two months apart when I was just into my 20s.  This was a very difficult time for me and my siblings.

It wasn’t until my mother-in-law received care from the Judith Karman Hospice in 2006 that I understood what a wonderful, supportive, and vital role hospice plays in the final months or days of a loved one.  JKH nurses and staff were lovingly there 24/7 for my mother-in-law, my husband, and me.

I am dedicated to doing anything I can to help our wonderful JKH hospice so that others can experience hospice’s compassionate care.  I would like to try to make the general public realize what occurs when one is a hospice patient or family member and what happens in the industry.

THE CYCLIST:  Susan Schuyler Walker.  I am a retired English teacher/editor/technical writer/curriculum developer.  I’ve also retired from vegetable gardening and beekeeping.  My local Audubon affiliation, bicycle touring, and Earthwatch Expeditions see me away from home too often to keep up with these hobbies.

Since 1998, I have bicycled the West Coast, Alaska, Newfoundland, the East Coast, the length of the Danube River, the length of the Mississippi River (3x), and crossed country on my bicycle (4x).

But, there are several things that make this ride different. First, I will turn 70 on the ride.  Also, for the first time, I will be riding for charity and will ride solo.  All of my other bicycle rides have been vacations on wheels with at least one other cyclist.  And, last, I have  plotted the route myself and will rely on your hospitality and that of hospices and civic organizations along the route to provide speaking venues, accommodations, and fuel for the engine where possible.

Susan and her Specialized bicycle with loaded B.O.B. trailer in  Bellingham, Washington, before the 2009 C2C ride
Please bookmark my blog site and pass the word to friends.  I know that together we can reach our goal of $10,000 and make a difference for Stillwater's JKH hospice nurses and the recipients of their care.  

Now we're cooking!

February 14, 2012

Woohoo! What a fantastic VALENTINE'S DAY!

THANK YOU to our first Gold ($1000) sponsor, Hideaway Pizza, and to our first Bronze ($500) sponsor, Cooper's Bicycle Center.

Mention Stillwater and people often say, "That's the home of The Hideaway isn't it?" Yes it is. Hideaway Pizza, owned by kite collector/maker Richard Dermer and owner-manager David Sanders has been in business since 1957.  A community and student favorite, Hideaway even sends pies out-of-state to Hideaway-starved alumni.  On Valentine's Day, they make a special heart-shaped pizza for lovers. 

Family owned and operated, Cooper's has been a star Stillwater business for 83 years, even providing bicycles to soldiers during WWII. I bought my last six bicycles from Cooper's, and I thank owners Wes & Mary Cash each time I get on my bicycle. They've been an enormous help in outfitting me for my various bicycle tours and they play a big role in our local bicycle club, The Red Dirt Pedalers, and in  bicycle advocacy.
And that wasn't all the great news I heard on Valentine's Day.  I also received my first route assist.  Niki Pope of the Stillwater Chamber of Commerce has been contacting Chambers along my route.  Thanks to Niki, I heard today from the Moberly, Missouri, Super 8 which is comping me a free room on April 25th when I roll in.  Thank you Wyndham Group Super 8!  And . . . the Moberly Chamber wrote to say:  "We would also like to help publicize this event with our local TV stations and other news media.  Please let me know what we can do to help, and if we can arrange a formal welcome and speaking opportunity. . . ."

Way to go Niki and Moberly, MO, C of C! This is exactly what I hope to hear from each of my overnight host cities!

And finally, thank you to my dear sister Sarah Schuyler; to long-time Audubon friends Freddy Miller and Nona & Jerry Wilhm, and to cyclist Charles Decker, one of my husband Jeff's OSU students, for your generous donations.

Together we can make a difference!


Progress Report

February 28, 2012

Spring is in the air! The snow drops, Bradford pear trees, and daffodils are blooming here in north-central Oklahoma, and I am only 46 days from my ride start. Yowsa, yowsa, yowsa!

First things first: A big thank-you to the following recent donors: Jim & Joyce Barnes--two of daughter Lucy's coffee shop friends; Calvin Anthony and the staff at Tiger Drug--my pharmacy for the past 33 years (now how can that be when I'm only 29?); former OSU president James Halligan and his wife Ann; Ravi & Surekha Sheorey, Mrs. Paul Devlin; Mary Berry; Payne County National Bank; Dr. David Thomas; Richard & Cynthia Shawley (Go Susan!); Judy Wolgamott; Gladeen Allred; L & L Properties; and S. L. Bonner. Thank you all for your generous donations to the Judith Karman Hospice. And another BIG thank you to sister Sarah Schuyler for my Subway gift card (fuel for the engine) and for her tireless work in contacting bike clubs and shops along my route. Love you dear sistah!

We're closer than ever to my $10,000 goal. My thought: If 500 people donated a mere $20, we'd be over the top . . . and the nurses at the Judith Karman Hospice would be the most up-to-date and best educated in the area. Please don't forget to check out the Memory Miles page (top right) to see my itinerary and to choose a day you'd like me to ride in memory of a loved one. Also, you cyclists might want to scroll down the Memory Miles page and choose a creative way to donate based on my projected stats.

Presently I am spending a deal of time on the computer, reaching out to Rotary Clubs and other civic groups in my host cities for speaking venues and homestays and contacting hotels. I'm also contacting Warm Showers hosts along my route for lodging. They have been very forthcoming. So far I have complimentary accommodations for 18 of my 38 nights. Next month, after an all-out effort, I will post the names of those cities in which I still have not found a bed, and maybe you followers can help me find a room for those nights. 

And whew, have I been busy locally! I have spoken to a group at the Cushing Hospital, to the Perkins Noon Lions, and to my bicycle club, The Red Dirt Pedalers. I am scheduled to speak to the Stillwater Noon Lions this Thursday and to speak to the Perry Noon Lions the following Thursday. On March 20th, Judith Karman Hospice Director, Lisa Smith, and I will make an appearance on KWEM, TV-31's "The Morning Edition" at 7 a.m., and on March 23rd, I will speak to the Stillwater Rotary Club. Yesterday morning I was interviewed by Gladeen Allred and Valerie Bloodgood for  "Senior Spotlight" KSPI's radio program that airs Wednesday mornings at 7:40 a.m.  And . . . yesterday afternoon I was interviewed by OSU junior Michael Martin of the O'Colly. Quite an interview. I think the article will start with the day of my birth. Just kidding. The kid had it together and I'm curious to see how he organizes all the information in his feature.

I've been training by pulling my B.O.B. weighted with 30 pounds of bird seed. The B.O.B. weighs 12 pounds, so that makes a tidy 42-pounds of drag (uphill) or push (downhill). I am hoping to keep the weight under that for the ride. I've planned on packing the minimum amount of clothes and toiletries, my small computer (so I can keep this blog), my camera, and my lunchbox (a plastic shoebox in which I keep my snacks and lunch fixings handy). Valerie Bloodgood, my ride coordinator at the JKH, and I rode 40 miles north to Ponca City this past Sunday. It was a beautiful day and great ride with a tailwind.

Until I've more news,


Donations to the Engine

March 3, 2012

Today I received in my home mail a $200 check from Mary Anne Trevey. This money was donated to me for "your expenses on the road." Mary Anne is my sister Sarah Schuyler's boss and the owner of the Mariposa Market, a wonderful natural foods store in Willits, California. I met Mary Anne for the first time 12 years ago. She had generously loaned Sarah her pickup so that Sarah could cross the coastal mountains to Fort Bragg to pick up my daughter, Jessica, and me and our bicycles. We had been cycling the coast from Vancouver to Point Reyes Station, CA, but Jess took a tumble on Leggett Hill and our ride ended in the Fort Bragg ER. I've met Mary Anne again briefly several times since then, but this donation and thoughtfulness was totally unexpected. Thank you Mary Anne. You are a generous and thoughtful woman!

In the same vein, today I received an e-mail from Ann MacMillan, another of my sister's acquaintances who lives in Willits, California. I have never met Ann, but have heard many good things about this 88-year old woman. Ann wanted to "donate an expensive room to Sarah's sister," so the email confirmed a reservation at the Inn at the Stone Mill in Little Falls, NY. The reservation is for a suite with a jacuzzi bath, refrigerator, microwave, and view of the Mohawk River. It sounds fantastic, even from this distance, and I know it will be heavenly after a day of cycling. Thank you very much Ann. Yours is a wonderfully thoughtful gesture.

And thank you to the Inn at the Stone Mill who gave Ann a 20% discount when they heard about my charity ride, and to David, who made the reservation and said:  "Send me some promo stuff a little before her arrival and I’ll make sure something gets in the newspaper."

See what I mean about random acts of kindness (R.A.K.s). They are happening before I even set foot to pedal on my charity ride.


Update on Donations and Training

March 5, 2012

A huge thank you to this week's donors: Mr. & Mrs. Paul Porter; Spirit Bank; Fred & Barbara Shultz; Richard Giles; Becky Irby; Cory & Shannon Williams; Ann & Eddie Watkins; Joy Sanders; Karen McBee; Iris McPherson, a longtime Payne County Audubon member and friend; and Kevin Mussett of A &M Storage, a fellow cyclist, cycling advocate, and longtime friend. I will ride in memory of Kevin's mother, Bonnie Mussett, on the first day of my ride.

A sincere thank you to all who donated! Your donations have helped me surpass the one-third mark of my $10,000 fundraising goal and I still have nearly a month-and-a-half before I pedal. I know I can reach this goal, particularly if some clinics, companies, and businesses I've asked get behind this cause with a sponsorship. Won't your company or business please sponsor this very worthwhile fundraising effort? Remember:  Because the Judith Karman hospice is a non-profit, all sponsorships and donations are tax deductible.

Valerie & Dean Bloodgood made several spring/Easter donations this week. They donated in memory of Valerie's uncle Raymond Zayat who died May 24th. They also made birthday donations honoring Betty Bloodgood Secker, Dean's sister, whose birthday is April 18th; Alice Barber, Valerie's aunt, whose birthday is coming up May 14th, and even as a birthday surprise to me, Susan S. Walker, whose birthday is May 21st. Thank you Valerie and Dean Bloodgood!

Valerie is my coordinator at the Judith Karman Hospice and is helping me train also. She pedals a recumbent, a bicycle that some call a two-wheeled lawn chair because of the rider's laid back position. But, while these low bikes are comfortable and go like the wind downhill, the laid back position can make climbing a bit of a chore. I live 8 miles east of Stillwater, and Valerie thinks of all sorts of creative reasons for me to pedal to and around town with her (I'd like you to meet so and so, I have two tickets to. . ., can you come for an interview, you've got to try this new restaurant, let's go to the Farmers' Market, etc.) I'm not complaining. I love having a reason to ride and Valerie's company; dislike just putting in training miles.

Valerie and I rode to Tulsa this past Sunday, about 60-some miles. Temps were in the 70s and I got sunburned on my right side that was inadequately protected with sunscreen. Arrived in Tulsa pretty much beat, so must train hard my remaining days before departure. I'm still training with my B.O.B. bike trailer, and he's still carrying 30 lbs of bird seed and causing me to call him bad names on the up-side of hills. But on Sunday he decided to talk back and squeaked and squealed the whole way. Today I am silencing him forever (I hope) with rubber washers and shims.

Will update when I learn more. . .


Perry Noon Lions are Kings

March 8, 2012

Just back from Perry, OK and a "Heartland to Harbor for Hospice" presentation to the Perry Noon Lions.

The family-style meal prepared by the Catholic Altar Society was delicious, and the audience, inquisitive and appreciative; a truly great group of community movers and groovers, including municipal judge Sherry Wallace DeBordRena Wheatley, the Noble County Treasurer and Lions program chair responsible for my visit; Ed Malzahn, owner of Ditch Witch (Charlie's Machine Works), one of Perry's prime employers; and other prominent businessmen and businesswomen, as well as pastors, doctors, lawyers, and maybe even the proverbial Indian chief. The latter would not surprise me in this area of the country, but if so I missed the introduction.

Also present was Charles J. Hanger, the officer famous for arresting Timothy McVeigh. For those of you followers who are not from Oklahoma, Timothy McVeigh was the person who detonated a truck bomb in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Bldg. in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995. The attack, which killed 168 people and injured over 800, was the deadliest act of terrorism within the U.S. prior to the September 11, 2001 attacks. McVeigh was executed by lethal injection in June of 2001.

I don't want to leave you on that sad and ugly note, so shall remark on our remarkable weather. I'm glad I picked a bouquet of daffodils and narcissus yesterday because today it is raining steadily but without the usual woodwinds and cymbals that OK storms generally bring. Temps have dropped from the 70s to the low 30s. This much-needed rain was wonderfully welcome.

I thank Noon Lions President, Ed Cook; Secretary, Sam Ebersole; Treasurer, Lori Pierce; and each of you Perry Noon Lions for contributing so very generously to the Judith Karman Hospice at the end of my talk. You are a fun bunch of Lions . . . and I'm not lyin'.

Susan S. Walker


Pet Peace of Mind

March 12, 2012

Hello again. Never thought I'd be writing so soon again, but the donations are now coming in at a good clip.

First things first: HAPPY BIRTHDAY to brother Phil of Tiverton, RI, whose 74the birthday this is. Phil's house in my destination. He plans to ride the last 10 miles with me from East Providence to Bristol, RI. 

I would  like to extend a special thank-you to the Cat Clinic of Stillwater (Annette, Sarah, Crystal, Stephanie, Jessica, Morgan, Mark, Caitlin, and Lazarus the Cat) from me, of course, but also from my two cats, Teddy and Paddy. Here is the note the Cat Clinic included with their donation:
Dear Susan-- We are excited and awed by your upcoming ride from Heartland to Harbor for Hospice. After much thought and discussion we decided that from a cat point of view the best days to sponsor would be the rest days. We have enclosed a check to support the rest days and to remember the kitties that sit in laps and bring restful spirit to their human companions."
Thank you all at the Cat Clinic! I am touched.

Do you know that the Judith Karman Hospice is the only hospice in the area to provide care to patients' pets through the national Pet Peace of Mind program? Pet services are necessary to keep the patient and pet well-cared-for and together throughout the end-of-life journey. Funding for Pet Peace of Mind comes from a grant from the Banfield Charitable Trust.

This week I would also like to thank physicians Renee & Randall Willis for their generous donation. Renee and Randall are part of what I call my "medical team." Seems as one ages one needs a team -- sometimes even the size of a baseball or football team -- to treat the various body parts that are "going bad on you," as comedian Bill Cosby once said. Just kidding . . . kind of. Thank you very much Randall & Renee for your donation!

Other donors in the past week or so include John Mills & Sue Bonner; John & Cindy Boon; Marita Johnson; Sondra Blakley; Carla Knight; Jill Holmes; Carol Ann Deetch; Greta Friesen; past Audubon president, Pat Jaynes; Poteet Funeral Home; Red Dirt Pedaler and friend, Kathy Legako; and Ginger Lacy. Ginger, an acquaintance of my older brother Phil, and a member of Tiverton, Rhode Island's Open Space Commission, donated in memory of her father, John Lacy. Ginger reports: "My dad stayed at a hospice house for only two days before he passed, but it was the most dignified and gracious way to end years of illness. The kindness was welcomed and learned from."  Thank you all for your donations!

I would like to point out here that the Judith Karman Hospice, like many other hospices, does not house its patients. Those who experience JKH care do so in the comfort of their own or their relatives' homes or in assisted living facilities. Also, hospice neither hastens or postpones death. Instead it affirms that people should live life with as much dignity and comfort as possible.The Judith Karman hospice was founded on the belief that death with comfort and dignity should be available to everyone, regardless of their economic status; thus, all care, services, and equipment are provided at no charge to the patient or family.

This is why my Heartland to Harbor for Hospice bicycle ride and your donations are so very important. Thank you all.


Halfway Hooray!

March 24, 2012

Another fantastic day in

On Friday, March 23rd, we hit the HALFWAY MARK IN DONATIONS! I know we are going to  reach my goal! Actually we're well over the halfway mark in donated funds, thanks to the generous support of Stillwater Chiropractic Group, and The Railroad Yard, Inc. two new Bronze sponsors; and three additional donors Dr. Mark Paden, my husband's and my orthopedic physician; Helen Jordan, long time Payne County Audubon member, supporter, and superb BIRDATHON fundraiser, and the bighearted contribution of Clara Sterrett. THANK YOU Clara, Mark, Helen and Stillwater Chiropractic Group, and The Railroad Yard, Inc.!

Also on Friday at the invitation of Lisa Smith, Judith Karman Hospice Director, I spoke to the Stillwater Rotary about the ride. While I spoke, slides of some of my previous long-distance rides were looping in the background. This was an interested group, with a couple of cyclists in the mix, so my talk quickly became a Q & A:  How many miles per day will you average? (50). What about the weather? (I've O2 rain jacket and pants and will take shelter from storms where I can find it.) Are you going  to have SAG support? (No, this one I ride unsupported and solo.) How many days will it take you? (42 with 4 rest days in the mix) Are you going to camp? (No. I will overnight with Warm Showers hosts, a cycle touring group that provides a bed and shower to other touring cyclists; in complimentary motel rooms; with hosts from civic groups such as the Rotary; at hospices; and with friends and relatives.) What if you have a mechanical problem on the road? (I can fix many simple mechanical problems, and I have bought from the Better World Club roadside assistance for bicyclists similar to Triple-A.) How will you make yourself visible on the road? (I will be pulling a B.O.B. trailer that has a spot for a tall flag. Last week I took some hunter's orange fabric to a screen printing shop and they created a flag for the top of the standard that shows the JKH logo and has "Heartland to Harbor for Hospice" printed on it. Some time back I ordered small flags of each of the 11 states I will ride through. These will fly below the orange Heartland to Harbor for Hospice flag.)

In addition, to speaking to the Stillwater Rotary on Friday, I met my BFF, Sue Jones, for a farewell get together, and she gave me a sweet note and $50 "on the road" spending money. Thank you Sue!

Speaking of "on the road" I am on it. In my car. Actually I am in a fusty little Budget Inn at the mo in Colfax, Louisiana (I think) . . . somewhere off Hwy 71S north of Alexandria, LA, at any rate. I drove 600+ miles today, mainly because there ain't nuttin here. Just cypress swamps, small churches set back in the pines, the occasional small business, and farms. This was the only motel for miles and miles.

Tomorrow I should reach Port Sulphur on the Gulf Coast south of New Orleans in good time to unpack at the Earthwatch Research Station and bicycle the levee system for a bit before rolling up the sleeves for a week of helping Earthwatch scientists determine the affects of the Gulf Oil Spill on wintering loons.

I'll keep the blog updated and will report and even include some pix of loons and the research we are doing. You all please hold up your end by continuing to promote and donate to the Heartland to Harbor for Hospice bicycle ride, all proceeds to benefit Stillwater Judith Karman Hospice nurse education.

I will get back on April 1st and then have only two weeks before ride start. Yikes!


BIG, BIG News!

Thursday, March 29, 2012:  Yes, that's right, I have momentous news to  report. Are you ready? Juergen Janzen's Stillwater's Janzen Toyota Dealership has become a Platinum Sponsor, donating $2500 to the Judith Karman Hospice through my ride! And . . . the good news does not end there. Toyota, USA matched Janzen's donation with $2500. This means that I have not only met but have exceeded my goal! THANK YOU so much Juergen Janzen and Toyota, USA!

But, guess what? I think I set my sights too low. I am at this moment revising my goal upwards. NOW we are reaching for $15,000!

I'm still in the Gulf of Mexico and my hours are long and tiring, so I will follow up on this the first week of April when I get home. In the meantime, thank you Juergen for your kind, wonderful, fabulous Toyota dealership donation and for taking the time to apply to Toyota for a matching grant. The staff at Judith Karman Hospice and I literally shed a few tears on hearing of your generosity and that of Toyota, U.S.A. Thank you also to financier Foster, salesmen Grant and Jerry, mechanic Jesse, and the rest of the excellent staff at Janzen Toyota who have been financing, selling, and fixing my cars for the past 20 years.

Platinum donor Juergen Janzen, owner of Janzen Toyota; bicyclist Susan S. Walker; and Judith Karman Hospice Director, Lisa Smith pose for a photo session at the Toyota dealership 

Juergen hands Lisa a check for $5000--actually a blank check for show as the "real deal"
had already changed hands

Two of my favorite salesmen at Janzen Toyota, Grant Rampel and Jerry Gustafson. I also had a photo taken with my favorite mechanic Jesse Wood, but it did not turn out.

More to come when I am through being loonstruck. Ha, ha. I spent a l-o-n-g day today on Lake Borgne and the Biloxi Wildflife Management Area taking a wintering loon census. We counted 55 adults and juveniles within an area with a diameter of approximately 15-miles. On the way to our site we came upon a 6- or 7-foot alligator in the road. We got out to take pix. The gator looked dead--even had a tire track seemingly running through it--but we kept our distance. Good thing. When a pickup got too close, the alligator leapt to its feet, spun around and ran off the road. No shuffling. No hesitation. Fast!

Susan before the "dead" alligator wearing her Blagojevich hairdo.
Will try to add a few pix of my work here tomorrow if I can find a free moment. Got to sleep at 3:30 a.m. again last night and then spent 12 hours on the road or on the boat today. To bed, to bed . . . zzzzzz.


Earthwatch Team

Saturday, March 31, 2012

My Earthwatch Expedition is over and I am on my way home. I'm in a LaQuinta in Mount Pleasant, TX. Tomorrow I will continue up 271 to Paris, TX, and then west on 82 to I-35N and Stillwater, OK.

This Earthwatch team made me feel very ordinary and unaccomplished. Here is the lineup:
--Wit Ostrenko, president of MOSI (Museum of Science & Industry) Tampa, FL. His blog contains some pix and an account of our Expedition (www.mositravel.blogspot.com).
--Jody Rosengarten, dog trainer & behavior therapist, published author, world traveler, and owner of a house full of rescued dogs and rescued parrots (www.thebarkstopshere.net).
--Karen Glum, Science Department Chair, Seven Hills School, an independent college prep school for pre-K-12 in Cincinnati. Her school sends her on extraordinary trips. Her favorite was Alaska, but she may change her mind after her trip to China this summer.
Betsy Snow, me, Darwin Long IV, Karen Glum, Wit Ostrenko before our first loon catching night
--Diane Brookshire, a Cyber Science Teacher who conducts her classes live online to students who for some reason or other cannot attend regular school. She conducted a live classroom session with Ann and Andrew.
--Ann Tompkins, a neonatal nurse who will turn 79 next month. Ann is not "entirely retired." She still puts in one 12-hour night shift at the hospital each week. Ann is the grand dame of Earthwatch Expeditions, having been on 21 of them, more than any other volunteer! Her two favorites were working with women and children in Africa and orangutans in Borneo.
Jody, Andrew and Ann cutting up before our Tuesday evening meal of shrimp, crayfish, and dirty rice.
--Peter & Betsy Snow and Ann signed up for the two-week expedition and thus were "old hands" having been on task for a week by the time we arrived. Peter and Betsy have a place in Marathon, FL, but they are there infrequently. Several years ago they quit their well-paying jobs. They have been traveling the world, visiting places of interest, and working with Earthwatch ever since. Both of them worked on the Cloud Forest Birds of Ecuador Earthwatch Expediton that was my introductory expedition--they at a different date than I, though. Peter & Betsy deserve a special thank-you for a very generous donation they made to the Judith Karman Hospice. Thank you Peter & Betsy!
--Andrew East, coordinator and team leader of the project, as well as an excellent cook. Andrew is starting his master's degree at the University of Southern Maine where his thesis is . . . you guessed it . . . the winter ecology of the common loon in the Gulf of Mexico.
--Dr. Jim Paruk, Director of the Center for Loon Conservation at Biodiversity Research Institute (BRI). Jim is the PI, or head Earthwatch Scientist for this project and is Andrew's advisor. Jim was at the LA field  station only for the first evening. He had to fly to Maine on Monday to teach a class. It was our loss because he took us newbies on a bird walk and proved to be a very knowledgable and interesting guy.
--Mark Pokras, senior veterinarian at the Wildlife Clinic at Tufts. Mark has conducted over 500 loon necropsies. We watched him perform a necropsy on an adult Maine loon that had ingested a large fish hook and a lead sinker. Though it had lead poisoning, neither the hook nor sinker caused its death. It died of blunt trauma injury, possibly from being struck by a boat.
--Darwin Long IV, Biodiversity Research Institute (BRI). Darwin, an avian biologist, has worked since 2003 with loons, first in Morro Bay, CA, and now with the study of the effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on Gulf Coast wintering loon populations. Darwin is also an aviculturist with the Audubon Nature Institute of New Orleans, specializing in penguin biology. Darwin netted and worked up the three loons that my group captured--one adult, that I got to hold (see photo below) while it was being worked up, and two juveniles.
This is an adult loon just getting its breeding plumage. We were taught to tuck the loon's head under our arm. Here I have released the head for the photo but am wary of the long, sharp bill. This bird was large and strong. It actually let out some tremulous yodels while I was holding it, almost as if to say, "Oh, oh, oh. Oh no. What's happening?" Below are internet pix of a juvenile with a grey bill and brown eye and an adult with black bill and red eye in breeding plumage. The adults in their winter plumage look quite similar to the juvenile loons.
Below are a juvenile and an adult in breeding plumage from the Internet. Actually the loon on the left may be an adult in winter plumage. Adults in non-breeding plumage and juvenile loons look very similar except that the adults have a red eye and a more pronounced triangle of white on their necks. The juveniles have brown eyes and gray bills:

Below, we are in the Gulf  Delta waiting for the sun to set so that we can spotlight and capture loons for banding and workup. When the loon is caught in the spotlight, it freezes and then the boat slowly closes in on it until it can be netted. This was no easy task. Our first night, we were on the water from 7:30 p.m. until 3 a.m. Our group found maybe four loons and captured only two, an adult (the one I'm holding above) and a juvenile. The other group was unsuccessful in finding and capturing even a single loon that night. Loons are fairly solitary by day, some forming small, loose rafts at night (see below).
A raft of six loons on the Mississippi Delta among poles marking oyster beds.


Where's the Wildlife?

Saturday, March 31, 2012

This photo pretty well sums up the present Gulf of Mexico with its thousands (yes, thousands!) of oil rigs and refineries. Check out this YouTube video which graphically shows wells from 1942 to 2005. I can only imagine how the number has grown in the last 7 years. "Free the Mississippi" an article from Onearth Magazine sent by Karen Glum in April after the expedition is sad but also an eye opener.

Can you spot three denizens of the natural world in this photo? Stumped? Scroll down.

Yes, there are three White Ibis in this photo, pretty well camouflaged among the pipes and stacks.

Below are a couple of wildlife photos that Ann Tompkins took (gecko and alligator) and sent to me in early April, and a couple that I took and am just now posting.
A Gecko warming itself on my windshied wipers. Maybe it was gleaning insects from those on the car.
I see one on the blade above its head.
A blue crab crossing the road. I took my bike along to keep up my training and these guys whipped out and quickly scuttled sideways across the road, which was at the foot of the levee.
Tricolored heron. On our last day we split into two teams and went birding. The tide was up so the water was over the road in spots and the birds were right beside the road. We saw trees full of yellow and black crowned night herons and roseate spoonbills; white and glossy ibis, snowy egrets, little blue herons, anhingas and double-crested cormorants, many osprey. My team even  found a nesting great horned owl. The most surprising to me were the little blue herons. They were bright blue and their bills were even brighter blue. I had never seen little blue herons that looked anything but slate blue before.
Andrew East binocs around neck, Sibley field guide in hand posing as a true birder before his bird-doo bedecked car, on the afternoon that we split into two teams and went birding. Lisa Glum behind Andrew and Jody Rosengarten on the bayou side of the car.
Now you can see why I thought the alligatgor dead, though looking at this photo,
it does seem to have the light of life in its eye.


Progress Report

Monday, April 2, 2012

Busy morning today, my first day back from my Earthwatch Expedition. Yesterday I completed the flag standard for B.O.B., so his flags flew proudly this morning on my ride to and from town. It is a very windy day and the flags whipped and snapped behind me, the pole arching at times with the force of the south wind. It looks very tall, but actually when I am in the saddle it is only a bit above my head.

My flag standard with the 11 state flags in the order in which I will ride through them, with the Judith Karman Hospice logo and ride name on the top. I think my favorite is Ohio, the differently shaped red-white-and blue one in the center. The flags should make me very visible and should stir up some conversation when I am parked outside a store or restaurant.

My first stop was the Judith Karman Hospice to briefly catch up on all and to turn in some donations sent to me or gathered during my week in Port Sulphur, LA. So far this week, we have Memory Mile donations from Albert Zayat, my aunt Marge Bloomer, and cousins Hansi Bloomer Tripe and Carolynn Bloomer Ludwig. Also a "Happy Birthday Susan!" donation from cycling friend Patricia [Trish] Macvaugh; a donation from my next door neighbors, Pat & Kay Murphy in honor of Kay's  mother, Marge Rohl; a donation from Idamae Mattheyer, and a generous donation from the esteemed Norman N. Durham, OSU Environmental Science professor, now retired. In addition, we received an individual sponsorship from University & Community Federal Credit Union on McElroy. Thank you Albert, Marge, Hansi, Carolynn, Trish, Kay, Idamae, Norman, and University & Community Federal Credit Union! You are making my fundraising easy.We are well on our way to $15,000.

Next, I cycled to the NewsPress hoping to find Chase Rheam. He had scheduled an interview and photo shoot for tomorrow, but I was hoping he could do it today while I was in town with the bike. Also, it is supposed to storm tomorrow. Chase wasn't in, so I cycled to Cooper's Bicycle Center where I bought a new helmet (my old one is pretty well worn out); scheduled a tuneup for tomorrow if it rains or next Monday if it doesn't; bought a spider bungee cord so that I can load stuff atop my B.O.B. bag; and had Brad Rogers loosen my left power strap, which was a click too tight and fought me each time I tried to slip my foot into it.

Still had time to kill, so went to Panera and then BancFirst where I cashed a check from my brother, Phil, who will ride the last leg with me from Providence into Bristol. He wanted me to have a little spending money on the road. Thank you dear bro!

Checked back at the NewsPress and Chase still wasn't in, so went to the screen printing place next door and ordered Valerie a tee similar to mine with the JKH logo and my ride name "Heartland to Harbor for Hospice" on it. See the back of mine below.

The back of the jersey I had made for the ride. It's post-ride wrinkled and soggy but I think the printing looks great.
Finally caught up with Chase and we completed the interview. He took several pix of me and the bike & flag-bedecked B.O.B., and then I rode back home (I live 8 miles east of town) in the heat and wind. If anything gets to me on this ride, it will be heat. Riders always talk about the 3 H's--Heat, Hills, and Headwinds. Hills I can walk if very steep; I slow down if I have a headwind so I don't wear myself out; but heat is my archenemy. Somewhere along the way my thermostat broke so I must take measures (more about this later) to avoid overheating. Ironically, I had planned an early spring departure thinking to avoid the heat, but we have already had temps of 90F!


Sky's the Limit!

Monday April 9, 2012This past Thursday I received momentous news! My daughter, Jessica is going to fly from San Francisco to Buffalo on May 15 to ride with me the week into Schenectady, NY. We will celebrate our 70th and 40th birthdays together--hers a month early--and she will fly home from the Albany airport. What larks we'll have!

Jess and I are both travel and adventure junkies and have enjoyed many travels together: hiking Norway's Jotunheimen Mountains, biking on Sweden's Gotland Island, going on a Norwegian class trip to the U.K., camping on Vancouver Island's Pacific Rim, bicycling the U.S. west coast, bicycling Alaska, canoeing Utah's Green River . . . Our last "Mutha/Dauta," as we call our trips together, was in 2010 when we kayaked Nicaragua's remote Padre Ramos Estero for five days and then vacationed on a caldera lake (Laguna de Apoyo) above Granada and at Boca de Sabalos Lodge on the Rio San Juan, the river that provides the border between Nicaragua and Costa Rica.

Presently Jessica is in Utah enjoying the snow that finally arrived just as winter was departing. Above is a photo she sent the day before she emailed that she'd be joining the Heartland to Harbor for Hospice ride in May. She is the one whoohooing in the white pants and goggles. About the photo, she wrote: "A shot of us killing the backcountry last week --we'd just skinned up for almost three hours to get up to the top of the chute behind us--up nearly 4400 vertical feet! Now we boot back up a couple hundred feet and it's downhill for half an hour to the car! XO Jessica"

Thank you Ann Hayes and your Okmulgee family for your donation to the Judith Karman Hospice through my Heartland to Harbor for Hospice ride! One of my husband Jeff's students in the mid-80s, you and your parents have become true family friends over the years. Thank you also to David Stoddart and to Roxanne & Mike Baldwin. Roxy is the receptionist at Clinton Hetrick's dental office, and her husband Mike is an avid racing cyclist. A big thank-you to Jules & Trish Emig, too, for your kind donations. Jules is the OSU English Dept. Undergraduate Advisor and one of my husband Jeff's co-workers. Their attached note read: "Best wishes, Susan."

A big thank you also to husband Jeff for his Memory Miles donation. More about that on May 11th, the day I ride in Pennsylvania. Judy Allen, who lives in Northampton, MA, and is a bereavement coordinator for Hospice of Franklin County in Greenfield, MA, also donated Memory Miles, so you will be hearing from her on the May 24th Northampton blog. Thank you Huz and Judy!

Northampton has become a "hotspot" on this ride. The Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce wants to set up a speaking engagement. Judy offered me her condo for the night, but I had to turn it down as I already had two other offers from Warm Showers hosts. Then I will get in touch with Sherrill Harbison, a U. Mass. professor of Scandinavian Studies whom I met in Norway in 1987-88 when our family spent a year there on Jeff's first Fulbright. And, to top it off, Jody Rosengarten and Ann Tompkins--two interesting and fun women whom I met on the March Earthwatch Expedition--have both vowed to meet me in Northampton on the 24th. Woohoo! Full tilt boogie as my sister would say.

Joyce Meyer, of Oasis Garden & Gift Shop donated a Subway gift card and a meal in Pawhuska! Before she opened her shop, Joyce and I knew each other through the Payne County Audubon Society. After she opened her shop, Joyce was the source of some of my koi, and she has become friends with my daughter, Lucy, who has a large green thumb. Thank you Joyce. Your gift to fuel the engine is much appreciated.

Please keep your donations and sponsorships coming. Be sure to look over the Memory Miles page (click open upper right) and see if a date or a city or a state holds some significance for you or a departed loved one. Then donate at least $1 for each mile I will ride that day. I will mention in the blog those in whose memory or on whose birthday or anniversary, etc., I am riding. The sky's the limit!

In only seven days I push off on the first day of my ride--68 miles northeast to Pawhuska, OK, a city of about 4,000 and the capitol of the Osage Nation. This will be my only day in Oklahoma. Pawhuska is only 26 miles from the Kansas border. I will then ride three days in Kansas before pedaling nearly a week in Missouri.

I am ready for the ride to begin; weary of pedaling nowhere training miles. The weather forecast doesn't look favorable, however. Thunderstorms are predicted for this entire pre-ride week. Because the ride starts on Monday morning when most will be working, I have planned to meet interested cyclists on Sunday, April 15th at 1 p.m. at the Judith Karman Hospice Offices (not the resale store) for a little ride about town as a send off. Valerie Bloodgood, my JKH, liaison and ride coordinator, has planned post-ride refreshments also. The weather forecast could mean an ill-attended or cancelled Send Off Ride. Check the blog or with Valerie (880-4434) to see what's up.

On the first day of the ride, Monday, April 16th, there is a 60% chance of showers. At least no thunderstorms are predicted for my first day out. If it is raining, I will ask Kathy Legako, who has volunteered to SAG me to Pawhuska, to carry my trailer. I will ride unencumbered and test my O2 rain gear to see if it keeps me dry . . . and cool.

Reminder: There's a place for comments at the bottom of each post. All followers can read these comments (before I delete them) but the message is also sent to my email associated with the blog. I can reply to it in private; my response will not appear on the blog. No email addresses will appear on the blog, also. Thus, the comments section is a good place to communicate with me, to book a speaking engagement, to tell me what you want me to say on the blog about someone you've bought Memory Miles for, to tell me that you want to ride a leg with me, etc.

Tune in often.  



April 15th Send-Off Ride

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The day dawned bright, clean, and super windy after two days of strong storms, hail, and tornadoes. The perfect day for the Send-Off Ride we planned for the Sunday before my actual departure because most will be working tomorrow morning at 6:30 a.m. That's the time I expect to pull out of the drive on the first day of my adventure.

About a dozen hospice staff and cyclists met at the Judith Karman offices (see below) for a piece of delicious carrot cake and a glass of fruit punch, both made by Valerie Bloodgood, my JKH liaison and ride coordinator.

Mary Cash presented me with a card and bon voyage gift from the Red Dirt Pedalers: a $125 Walmart gift card, two Grease Monkey Wipes, and two Chamois Butt'r packets. Very very thoughtful gifts for the engine. The card read: "Thank you for all the years of Wheel Issues, the best newsletter in the state of Oklahoma!"  For those of you who are not from Stillwater, I was editor-in-chief of Wheel Issues, The Red Dirt Pedalers Bicycle Club monthly newsletter for 13 years. I had to discontinue editorship when I took on two other newsletters and the role of webmistress for the local Audubon group. Thank you all my Red Dirt Pedalers friends! 

JKH Nurse Barbara also had a gift for the engine: two pkgs of granola bars and a pkg of small boxed raisins. Love both of these treats on my shade stops. Thank you Barbara and all the nurses at the hospice. You are delightful people and hard workers.

Love this pic. The shadow of the JKH awning makes my bicycle pop out of the photo. From L: Leroy Smith, husband of JKH Executive Director Lisa (white skirt); daughter Lucy; me; with my ultra-short haircut for the ride; Valerie enjoying holding a chihuahua puppy; Kathy Legako, a Red Dirt Pedalers bicycle club member and friend who will SAG me to Pawhuska tomorrow; Carl Hamby, Kathy's husband; Lisa Smith; Kevin Mussett, originator of the 2009 C2C cross-country ride; Lea, JKH Bereavement Coordinator; and Mary Cooper Cash, owner of Cooper's Bicycle Center. Not shown are Gladeen, Kathy, Billie, and Barbara, JKH staff; and Jay Criswell, Stillwater Public Library cataloger and friend.

Check back tomorrow to see how the first day of the ride goes.



Day 1 — Stillwater to Pawhuska, OK or Deja twos

Monday, April 16, 2012

Today I ride Memory Miles for the following individuals who are missing from our lives but not from our fond memories. Thank you all for your mile donations for these individuals:

· Bill Burke, Sr., a likable but crotchety curmudgeon who began cycling in his mid 60s and for years rallied Red Dirt Pedalers to PreWheel & FreeWheel, wind rides, weekend tee-shirt rides, and our winter centuries and Saturday morning rides (always with a café break before the return). For several years, Bill and I rode together nearly every day after work. I miss the old devil.

· Mary Ellen Cooper, Mary Cooper Cash’s, mother, famous as M.E. Cooper, a writer of mysteries and true crime stories; her daughter, Mary Cooper Cash, owns Cooper’s Bicycle Center, a Bronze Sponsor of my ride

· Larry E. Hamby, RDP Carl Hamby’s father and a resident of Pawhuska since the late ‘70s. While in Pawhuska, Larry worked as a petroleum engineer for the Bureau of Indian Affairs until his retirement in 1990

· William G. “Bill” Luce, retired OSU Extension Swine Specialist and amiable Red Dirt Pedaler who was felled by a stroke while exercising at Total Rehab. Bill lived the rest of his life in a nursing home and died just a few days ago on April 3, 2012. My condolences to his wife Nancy and to their four sons, Harmon, Bowie, Glenn, and Bryan.

· Bonnie Mussett, Kevin Mussett’s many-talented and plucky mom, and a woman whom I had the pleasure to know

· Joshua Raymond, Red Dirt Pedalers Terry & Cindi Raymond’s son. Terry writes: “He was a great son and is greatly missed. We know we will see him someday in the future!”

· Florence Wass, dear friend and fellow Audubon member and birder who loved Oklahoma and would have been thrilled to follow my ride east.

Despite the weekend storm and tornadoes, the day dawned sunny, so B.O.B and I left on our great adventure at first light . . . or intended to. I didn’t actually get started until 7:15 or so. At 6:30 Valerie calls: “Where are you?” She has been at the end of the drive since 6 a.m., wanting to get a photo of me starting out (below).

Leaving my drive in a blur of speed at 7:15 a.m. April 16th
The first 23 miles of my route to Hwy 99 N are familiar because I’ve used this route for training rides. The first town I ride through, Yale, OK, should really be called Hole, OK, I think, because it rests at the bottom of a V. Part way up the east side of the V, I passed God’s Garage (photo below). God’s Garage, an old filling station, has become part of the Church of God behind it. Each Saturday the Church conducts a God’s Garage Sale. Here one might expect to find white robes, halos, used pearly gates, clouds, and many more heavenly items.

Took this photo (see me reflected in the window) on an Easter Sunday training ride, hence the puny B.O.B. bag

Jim Thorpe lived in Yale from 1917 to 1923. At the top of the hill out of Yale is Jim Thorpe Park and the Jim Thorpe home. As well as the Rice/Kirby cabin the oldest known homestead in Payne county.
Took the above two pix on Easter Sunday when I was still carrying 25 pounds of  birdseed in B.O.B. Should have been carrying 50 pounds of birdseed to make the training more realistic.
Here I met Kathy Legako, a friend and RDP club member, who had donated her time to sagging me today. She passed me as I was dragging B.O.B. — who is overloaded and weighs 53 pounds — up the last portion of the hill. All the while I am thinking, “Why am I beating myself up on the one day that I have SAG support?" When I got to the top and the Jim Thorpe house, I loaded B.O.B into Kathy’s Avalanche pickup. He had dragged his (w)heel a mere 13 miles.
Kathy waiting before the Jim Thorpe house

As I was leaving the JT house, my chain came off when I tried to shift out of “Granny Gear,” which I’d needed on the hill. Took a moment, and then I was on the road again. Some time after we turned north on Hwy 99, I woke up Granny again to help me up a steep hill. She stuttered and stammered. More ragged shifting. When we reached Wynona, 9 miles south of Pawhuska, we stopped in a little café, and Kathy treated me to a sandwich. She is a very good SAGtress. Ice water? Cold banana?  Do you want my chicken sandwich?  It’s more filling than your BLT, and you need to keep your strength up. Kathy should have been an athletic trainer instead of a computer whiz.
 All of Osage County
Vast ranches on today's route. Many of the fields filled with great numbers of horses--hundreds. Later that evening Mary Kay told me that these were mustangs from out west and that the government is paying the ranchers $1.38 a horse per day. No one can "adopt" or buy these horses. At this government pay rate, ranchers are switching away from cattle to being a retirement community for mustangs. I looked this up and found a good Tulsa World article about the practice. Here's a bit from the article:
  • The Bureau of Land Management has contracted with 16 privately owned ranches across the Midwest, nine of them between Tulsa and the Kansas state line. The bureau will add three more ranches in Oklahoma next year.
  • The Drummond Ranch alone keeps 3,400 horses, receiving an average of $1.30 per head, per day.
  • That adds up to $1.6 million a year.
  • In total, the bureau has placed more than 28,000 horses into "long-term holding," paying more than $13.2 million a year.
Mustangs on a ranch near Pawhuska
While in Wynona, I called Mary Cash, owner of Cooper's Bicycle Center to ask about bike shops in the area. There were n-o-n-e.  After Mary had us check this and that, we discovered that the derailleur was misaligned and the alignment too complex to tell us how to fix on the road. So . . . I called Mary Kay Warren, Mary’s Cash’s cousin with whom I would spend the night. Could we drop the trailer at her house? She was agreeable, so we dropped B.O.B. and headed in the truck for Stillwater via Ponca City, a longer but faster drive. Long story short-er, we got the bike fixed, Kathy switched the truck for a car that got better mileage, and we drove back to Wynona where Kathy dropped me so that I could pedal the 9 final miles to Pawhuska.
Leaving Wynona sans B.O.B. for the final 9 miles to Pawhuska.
I started out and the going was tough! I had no energy to get even the trailerless bike up hills. Had I sat in the car too long? Were my muscles fried? I was too proud to call Kathy, but my mind circled around the feasibility of this ride. If I was this weak . . . . After four torturous miles, I discovered that the front brake was closed on the rim! DUH-UH! This because of the way Kathy’s bike rack works and my failure to run through the ABC's (air, brakes, chain). I centered the brake and sailed off.

Whew! What a day. The whole thing took until 7 pm. Kathy was planning to stay overnight with her mother–in-law Juanita Hamby, and we discovered that Juanita lived only a few blocks from Mary Kay. The four of us ended up having a fab home-cooked chicken dinner at Juanita’s. Thank you Juanita! R.A.K. (Random Act of Kindness) #1.

Didn’t get back to Mary Kay’s and showered until 9:30 p.m., so called it a day. Don’t be alarmed if I miss a blog or two. I may be too tired or not have Internet access.