Here's the story of why I'm riding across america

Hello, I’m Dave Nowlan. I cycled from Encinitas, Calif., to Cape Cod, Mass. from April 22 through May 28, 2012 in an effort to raise awareness of Multiple Sclerosis (MS), and to help fund research for a cure. My wife, Claire, and daughter, Julia, both have MS. I broke my back in a sledding accident almost three years ago; I’m the luckiest guy in the world to have recovered without being paralyzed and was able to ride this long cross continent adventure. Click on this link to “my story” for more information and why I continue riding. Here is a link to Information about MS

Monday, April 30, 2012

Day 9 Continental Divide

Today we reached New Mexico and transitioned to Mountain time zone.  Claire took a short side trip to Red Rock Park, which was cool.  I stayed more focused on riding today as it was a slow start, but today's route got me off the Interstate for much of today.  We were on Route 66 through Gallup NM for about 20 miles.  For the most part on RT 66 I passed through mostly quiet ghost towns that died after RT 40 was built and drivers could travel further distances at higher speeds bypassing many of these towns.

Today's big moment was crossing the Contential Divide, where east of this line all the water flows into the Atlantic and west of this line water flows into the Pacific.  The climb was not too bad compared to the climb out of Bullhead City AZ.  After crossing the divide I was able to get off the Interstate and was able to stay on side roads for the rest of the day.  This was a welcomed change with little traffic, and yes we ended up back of Rt 66 again.

Today's ride ended in Grants NM totaling about 83 miles.  Good news! The GPS application decided to send the link of today's ride map so here it is.  Hopefully this will continue.

Day 8 Wraping up Arizona

What a great day. The entire day was like living a dream.  We started the day  "Standing on the corner in Winslow Arizona"..How can you beat that?   Then we went to the Petrified Forest, and the Painted Desert, and still got in 94 miles.  We got within 5 miles of the New Mexico border and experienced the second flat of the day and ran out of daylight..I guess it had to end sometime.

We also got a little goofy along the way (to keep our sanity).  Enjoy!

Standing on the Corner in Winslow Arizona

Petrified Tree

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Day 7 Winslow AZ

We set off from Williams AZ and ended in Winslow, AZ.  93.7 miles today.   We stopped in Flagstaff At Absolute Cycles and picked up 2 new "Armadillo" tires at Adam's recommendation based on the type of riding I'm doing.  These tires make a huge difference, riding much smoother and safer, based on the rough surfaces and debris on the side of these roads.  Thanks to all at Absolute Cycles.

We also took a short break to see a crater created from a meteor that crashed into the earth 50,000 years ago.  This was an amazing sight to behold.

Time to rest..

Friday, April 27, 2012

Day 6 Aero Bars

Today was a very good day.  Faced with some headwinds, I put aero bars on my bike.  Thanks to Aaron, my son, for lending them for the journey.  They made quite a difference, they are designed to cut the wind like a downhill skier does with their hands out in front.  With the higher altitude the weather is much cooler, I wore my jacket until after lunch.  We met a woman who said they had snow here last week.  The mountains are even more beautiful today than yesterday. What a country.

Followed Rt 66 east to Seligman AZ for lunch.  Then it was time to cycle on the interstate (I40).  It is allowed in Arizona and not a problem as there are no other roads.  It felt safer than on many parts of Rt 66 due to shoulders you can't ride on, so I was sharing the road with cars passing at 65 MPH with little room to spare.

I want to give Claire kudos for being the best support staff imaginable. Until now she has been the unsung hero, but not any more (see her singing video below).  She organizes my nutrition (drinks, Gu, bars, gorp, you name it.) she is aways there to give me a boost up the hills.  It is always a welcome site to come over a hill and see Claire and her support vehicle waiting there to refuel me, swap out apparel, and provide a place to rest for a minute. She also gets the hotel rooms, does the laundry, picks up anything I need (zip ties today). I couldn't be doing this amazing journey without her support. Thanks Claire.

I put in 78 miles today arriving at Williams AZ (elevation 6,766 ft) around 5 PM. The last 18 miles were up hill.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Day 5 Arizona

Where do I start? First, thanks to all who have left comments and send their good wishes. It really helps while we are out on this journey as each day brings its own challenges.

We started on the Arizona / Nevada border today.  We got a donation from Gordon who we met while returning the key to the office.  I found that the rear tire on my bike had a rip in the sidewall and the tube was bulging out. I hit several objects yesterday on the hugh downhill in Nevada, so I'm sure that is how it happened.  It rained for the first hour or so on today's ride and to make the start interesting I had to go over a 3,600 foot pass (Union pass) from 500 ft.  This was a 12 mile climb in my lowest gear and took almost 2 hours.  I was extremely happy to get over the pass, as you might imagine.

We also got a donation from our waitress, Debbie, at Caroline's Country cafe.  People love the story.  Then, in the parking lot I met Jason, a Red Sox fan.  Can you believe it? What are the odds?

Through Golden Valey and over Coyote pass,  then down into Kingman AZ.  Of course I managed to find another dead end / dirt road, but Claire was there to rescue me.  Then back on Route 66 for a few more miles. We did about 65 miles today.  We staying on an Indian Reservation in a native American  lodge, in Peach Springs. It is actually very nice. We're about 20 miles south of the Grand Canyon.

All in all, it was a good day! The landscape keeps getting more majestic, the mountains are amazing.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Day 4 Navada

Today was another good day, we started in Essex CA and ended in Laughlin NV.  Getting to another state was a phychological boost.  To get started we had to back track ~25 miles from Needles CA, where we stayed back to Essex in the desert.  I followed old Route 66 for several miles until it stopped and then took local route 95 north to Nevada.  There was a more direct route coming up from Google maps but I was suspicious and sent Claire on a scouting mission and sure enough, it ended up as a dirt road.  The dirt roads are really sand roads here, impossible to traverse on a road bike. She saved me hours of frustration, I love that woman.

We had a cloudy day which kept the temps down a little.  While Claire was waiting for me in Laughlin at the bottom of a 10 mile down hill..(well, watch the video).  
Did about 65 miles today, climbed 2000' and dropping down to 500 feet above sea level, tomorrow have a 3,500 foot pass to cross. My tracking link is still giving me fits. Maybe I will get it right tomorrow..

All is well.

The first video I couldn't access so here's the You Tube link:

Day 4 Mojave Desert

Today was a much better day, no dead ends and all the roads were paved.  I had a flat tire early, and had to replace both the tire and tube. There was a hole in the tire and the tube broke through.   Had a hefty climb through another mountain pass which brought us directly into the Mojave Desert, with a nice 5 mile down-hill ride to the desert floor. What an unbelievable place, lots of sand and sage brush, no trees, surrounded by mountains.  The temperature reached 94 degrees, and the locals say this is cool by comparison to the summer months.  I thought Cape Cod had a lot of sand..

I biked 83 miles today, a good day.  The tracking app isn't working well, it was tracking after I shut it off and tracked me riding in the car to the hotel and thought I rode 112 miles, in error.

If all goes well tomorrow we should reach Nevada and maybe even Arizona.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Day 2 Joshua Tree CA

Today was interesting as I ended up riding to 3 dead ends. Some roads turned into dirt roads, which are no good for a road bike. We ended on on a freeway (I 10) where the CA Highway patrol allows bicycles. There are just no other options (we tried them all).  We finally ended on on the right road up to Joshua Tree and Twentynine Palms.  There were 2 large climbs over mountain passes to keep things interesting.  After all the detours I did about 65 miles today and came to a fork in the road I wasn't clear on which way to go, and will affect the next 4 days or so...

Day 1: To Banning CA

The beginning of the Journey arrived in grand style.  We left today from LEGOLAND with 3500 MS walkers cheering me on.  Many family and friends came to send us off, which made this event more special.   There was lots of positive energy, all of these folks came together with a single purpose- to help those with MS.  I was impressed and thankful to be part of it all.

For the first 15 miles I was escorted Rick Fultz and Jon Williams to get a great jump start.  Jon did the pulling, breaking the wind to ease my load.  This set me up for a great ride today, I met up with Claire after 40 miles in Old Town Temecula CA for lunch.  To my surprise my cousin, nephews and several friends all went out there to join us with another special send off, including Suzanne's group prayer for safe travels.

I made the first day's goal to Banning CA, about 88 miles in 6 hours and 9 minutes riding time.  There were a couple of long hard climbs through the mountains, and a nice tail wind increasing the speed a little.  Claire was there for me all the way, she's the best supporter I could imagine.  I feel good, and had a nice steak dinner to keep the nutrition up.  Day One was a complete success!!

PS: I had a little technical difficulty with the GPS tracking app (I forgot to turn it back on after my break at 66 miles) so this link to my route is a little short today, but still pretty cool.

Temecula Send Off

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Pacific Ocean Dipping Ceremony

Sunday is the journey's major kickoff at LEGOLAND, but Saturday a small group of family and friends gathered at Moonlight beach in Encinitas for the ceremonious dip of my bike's rear wheel in the Pacific Ocean.  My son in-law and I then rode 8 miles from the beach to LEGOLAND, which is now the first official leg of the trip.  Let the games begin.

Click here for a map of Saturday's's ride.

Family and Friends

Rick and Dave on the First Leg of the Journey

Friday, April 20, 2012

On my training ride yesterday, I met this gentleman who was riding a very unique bike.   Turns out he had an accident with a Toyota that left him with some broken vertebra in his neck and as a result he had this bike customized to allow him to ride upright.  The seat is suspended off the frame in a carbon fiber extension that has some give to it, so he was sort of happily bounding down the road when I caught up to him. It brought a smile to my face, so we rode together for a couple of miles, discuss this whole thing and compared notes on broken backs, etc.  This is one of the most unusual bikes I've seen over the years. It was custom made here in Sothern California.  I wonder what other types of bikes I'll come across on this trip?

 T minus 32 hours to blast off!

Here's a shot of Claire's support vehicle with the sign stuck on the back window. Nice.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Ann Romney Signs Dave's Cycling Jersey

Ann Romney has Multiple Sclerosis and she signed one of my cycling jerseys yesterday in Boston.  I’ve been collecting signatures on my cycling jerseys from people with MS to remind me of why I’m riding.  I'm riding for Ann and all those affected by MS. 

This is not a political statement, the effects of MS effects cross all political boundries.

Ann Romney Signs Dave's Jersey

Dave in Jersey Ready to Ride

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Journey is About to Begin

We're in the final week of preparation and all is going well, although a little hectic. The car arrived safely.  The "Cycling Across America" sign is now proudly displayed on the back window for all to see. We even had people coming up to us in parking lots enquiring about the ride. 

We'll be kicking this ride off from LEGOLAND on Sunday, April 22, at 8:00 a.m.  There is an MS Walk taking place and we'll be kicking off both events together.  We'll have 3500 MS walkers and I'll announce the ride, take a ride around LEGOLAND then I'm off!  We even have a west coast contingent walking in the MS walk to support my ride specifically how serendipitous

I've been riding short one or two hour rides every day or two while tapering off  before the start.   Coincidentally my Daughter Julia ran the Boston Marathon yesterday on the MS team there. We're having a good year!

Starting Point April 22, 2012 8:00 a.m.

Support Vehicle Rear Window Sign

Bike Prior to Assembly in San Diego

Monday, April 9, 2012

Claire and Dave Arrive in San Diego for Final Preparations

Claire and I arrived in San Diego!  All went well with the final east coast preparations. My final Cape Cod training ride felt good and is the last time I'll be riding these roads until the last day of the journey. 

To the Finish Line at Old Silver Beach


Southbound on the Shining Sea Bike Path in Falmouth

The bike was carefully dismantled and packaged for the plane ride.  It arrived safely and was subsequently re-assembled with no issues!!  Claire shed a tear when leaving, she's a little overwhelmed by all of this, and has a little fear for my safety.  The enormity of this really comes out when looking down from the airplane at 35,000 feet to see the landscape rushing by at 500 miles an hour and seeing nothing but wilderness for the majority of the time.

Bike is Boxed and Ready to Fly

Sunday, April 1, 2012

On the Threshold

The time is getting close, we're on the threshold of leaving for the California coast next week. The support vehicle was shipped yesterday, by truck, to San Diego. I successfully test packed my bike into the travel box to make sure everything fits and that I have all the correct fittings to protect the bike for its ride with us on the airplane.  I put it all back together and had a couple of rides in the trainer over the past two days. The knee is feeling good, but I'm only doing short rides for now to let it heal. 

We've been in contact with Rich Israel, president of the MS Society's San Diego chapter.  We are discussing the possibility of kicking off the ride in conjunction with an MS Walk at Lego Land, where there will be 3500 walkers for a grand send off, which would be very cool, and help to spread the word. More to follow about this, and if this is possible. All is good.

Dave on Trainer