Monday, September 7, 2009

Epilogue: Pedal for Wildlife

It feels like a decade ago that I left Carteret County to embark on a cross-country bike trip. I crossed many wonderful communities and met many wonderful people that I will never see again. Many things needed to go properly for me to pedal back here safely, and they did.

Over the past two years I have biked across the two greatest countries in the history of Earth. I was at the whim of strangers on countless occasions – when getting passed by tens of thousands of cars, when getting directions, when getting a friendly wave or served a hot meal. Time and time again Americans and Canadians showed me a wonderful side of the human spirit that seemingly never gets reported to us by media outlets. Moving slowly across our vast and stunningly diverse continent allowed me to absorb ever fiber and grit of these two countries; in them, the essential goodness of people is on display everywhere.

Every play has a central character but no great play is completed by one person alone. This is one of the most significant achievements of my lifetime because I confronted a great physical and mental challenge and, in so doing, raised money for a charitable cause important to me. I picked a perfect age to make this journey - young enough to still have legs but sage enough to figure out how to harness my energy for the better good. I had substantial help in undertaking and completing my journey.

Firstly, I would like to thank my parents, Charles and Muriel Rudershausen, for their never-ending support. They showed me how to lead a wholesome lifestyle and make a contribution to my community. I thank my siblings and aunts for their encouragement. I would like to thank Paula Gillikin for her countless words of encouragement and many hours of help with fundraising and web site development. Trish Slape, director of OWLS, provided incredible encouragement on my trip and was game for a novel fundraising idea. Dana Henderson and Kristi Moroch provided help with website development and press releases. I want to thank my supervisor, Dr. Jeff Buckel, for his support of my energetic and adventurous lifestyle.

I want to thank all the private donors and corporate sponsors for their support of Outer Banks Wildlife Shelter. You are supporting an organization that does salt-of-the-Earth work. This kind of work doesn’t typically make headlines but it is the essential fabric of a vibrant and healthy community.

Finally, I wanted to thank my local and long-distance friends and strangers that sent me e-mails of encouragement, waved at me as they passed, gave me free food and lodging, provided bike maintenance, and offered me advice. These simple acts of kindness meant a great deal to me, especially when I was far from home.

I dedicate the completion of my trip to my late cousin, Phil Patz. His sense of adventure and humor inspired me to fight through many tough miles on the bike.

In releasing a rehabilitated hawk or owl back to the wild, or pedaling across the continent, there is one true souvenir we take away. In fact, it is the only souvenir - the memory of it all.

The magician seemed to promise that something torn to bits
might be mended without a seam,
that what had vanished might reappear,
that a scattered handful of doves or dust might be reunited by a word,
that a paper rose consumed by fire could be made to bloom from a pile of ash.
But everyone knew that it was only an illusion.
The true magic of this broken world lay in the ability of things it contained to vanish,
to become so thoroughly lost,
that they might never have existed in the first place.

-Michael Chabon, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Day 32 A Dream Comes True Benson – Fort Macon, NC 133 miles

Thousands of dollars donated by YOU to the Outer Banks Wildlife Shelter

3525 miles

Thirty-six running days

Thirteen states

Four times zones

Two quads


Reception to Celebrate Completion of Bike Tour - Thurs, Sept 10

The Pedal 4 Wildlife 2009 bike tour ends on Sunday (today!)

All donors are invited to celebrate Paul's great accomplishment on Thursday, September 10th!

WHAT: Post Bike Tour Reception
WHERE: Veteran's Park behind Pine Knoll Shores Town Hall, 100 Municipal Circle, Pine Knoll Shores, NC. [Directions]
WHEN: 5:30pm, Thursday, September 10, 2009
GIVEN BY: Outer Banks Wildlife Shelter, Atlantis Lodge, and the Town of Pine Knoll Shores
MORE INFO: 252.240.1200, 252.725.9575

It's not too late to donate! The fundraising goal has not been met. Thank you for helping Paul get closer to 10K! DONATE NOW. Thank You!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Day 31 Stretching for the Atlantic Madison – Benson, NC 135 miles

A hot day of cycling under the late summer sun. There were a surprising number of hills that tested my tired legs. I was also surprised by how pleasant the Piedmont secondary roads are for cycling. I finally saw my first cyclists in a long time; the last one was in Kansas. I find it remarkable how few bicyclists I have bumped into on the trip.

The United States is stunning for its size and diversity. Maybe shortly I will be able to say that I saw its full breadth in a difficult but rewarding fashion.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Day 30 Border Crossing Troutdale, VA – Madison, NC 120 miles

The first ten miles today featured a really special country mountain road downhill past Mt. Rogers, Virginia. The air still had that chill to it and I had the road all to myself. It was good to ease into the day by descending. At the bottom of the hill I ate two breakfasts. Later in the morning the hills got tough again but I also crossed into Carolina. It was a good feeling. The final state on a long journey.

Northwestern North Carolina has some fine scenery. Most of these secondary roads are far more quiet than Highway 58 that I was on a day earlier. These back roads lead past countless Christmas tree farms.

Early in the afternoon, and just east of the Blue Ridge Parkway and Eastern Continental Divide, I descended the most wonderful hill of the trip; five miles on an uncrowded road with spectacular scenery. This hill signaled the effective end of the Appalachians.

The day felt easier. The proof of this was a faster speed and relatively less appetite. I took some wonderful secondary roads through the small farm and woodlot country of the Carolina foothills east of Mount Airy. It felt good to have the hot sun go down. I realized that it hadn’t rained on me since Colorado. As the sunlight faded I let the light of the full moon shine the road for the final 10 miles of the day.

Paul’s appeal for your donation to the Outer Banks Wildlife Shelter

On a cold January morning I first dreamed of the idea to ride across our great land and, in so doing, raise money for a local non-profit group that rehabilitates wildlife. Both of these goals are being fulfilled. It is wonderful to see the number of people following my progress across these United States. I am lifted by your words of encouragement and delighted to see folks donating money to an organization that I volunteer for during my free time.

I have biked over 3000 miles and have just a few days left. To those folks that have donated to Outer Banks Wildlife Shelter (OWLS), I say, thank you! Your money will be used to help wildlife on the Crystal Coast of North Carolina. Indeed, this is the wildlife that makes the Southern Outer Banks such a beautiful place to live and visit. To the folks that have not donated, I am asking for your support. I have just a few days left in my journey, but there is still time to donate through the website (www.pedal4wildlife .org) or by mailing a donation to OWLS (100 Wildlife Way, Newport, NC 28570). Remember, 100 percent of your donations are being used to support OWLS. Thank you for your support!

Day 29 Appalachians II Jenkins, KY – Troutdale, VA 104 miles

Today was epic for difficulty. Hill upon hill gassed me on Routes 23 and 58. Just horrendous hills all day. The downhill never really compensates for the up, especially when there is no paved shoulder, as was the case all day. Plus it got quite hot. One sign of the level of difficulty was my speed, an almost glacial 11 miles per hour. The other was my appetite. I tore into food like an unfed hyena. I ate 10 pieces of fruit, half a dozen cliff bars, pastries, egg sandwiches, tuna sandwiches, fries, a large bag of chips, etc. I am eating as I write this.

I was looking for a spark in the afternoon to revive me. I got one in Abingdon, VA. This was a very pretty city. Very few cities or towns I have passed through have a charm and a heartbeat, but this was definitely one that had both. I stopped at a wonderful coffee shop and inhaled several homemade cookies and pieces of quiche. The air conditioning and soothing music tempted me to sleep on their hardwood floor. Then Route 58 between Abingdon and Damascus went from four lanes to two, so I had to be super careful with the traffic. I almost bailed off of 58 to some county road seemingly adding more miles to the Appalachian crossing. I got to Damascus at around 6 PM. Damascus is a very nice town with a definite outdoor feel.

I got a pleasant surprise after Damascus. It was almost like this stretch of US 58 was waiting for me after the long hot afternoon. The layers of the onion just peeled away. I was in the mountain ravine of Mt. Rogers National Recreation Area and crossed the mighty AT. Suddenly, the traffic around me was gone, the sun was gone, and there was a beautiful trout stream running along the road. What ensued was the most pleasant 20 miles of the entire journey. This is what I had been coveting: a smooth mountain road with outstanding scenery; mountain slopes covered in pine, oak, and rhododendron; and no traffic noise for a long stretch of empty road. It made me forget that I was climbing another serious hill in my lowest gear. There were outstanding mountain views all the way to my campground at Troutdale. I saw several hawks and deer in the meadows between the hills. As light faded, the full moon came over the mountains on a completely calm and cloudless night.

Persistence has no substitute. It won the day.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Day 28 Appalachians Stanton – Jenkins, KY 117 miles

A very difficult day of cycling. I am actually writing this early morning of Day 29, as my interest in firing up the laptop was not there at the end of 28. It was very hilly. I decided on Route 15 to try to get through Kentucky. And so it was, Route 15 all day. The road started quietly, little traffic, and I got 40 miles by 11 AM. Somewhere between Jackson and Hazard the road got really busy. Coal dump trucks everywhere. I wished a railroad track to appear to carry that coal in place of the trucks. The Route 15 shoulder was pretty good in spots and rough in others. Kentucky DOT puts a rumple strip in the shoulder, which effectively eats up the useful part of the shoulder for biking. I just had to push on, as hill after hill greeted me on my way east. It was a cornucopia of shifting; all gears were used, especially the low ones that get you into 6 miles-per-hour territory.

The traffic overshadowed pleasant scenery and abundant bird life. It was good to hear familiar sounds in those moments when the traffic eased up: cardinals, blue jays, phoebes, nuthatches, and chickadees. Chickadees make me think about steep snowshoe climbs through quiet winter woods of New England and the Adirondacks. They come right up to a hiker in the winter, and provide a nice sight in snowy woods. I think I will have to get the bird feeder out this winter.

I eased the tenseness of the traffic by photographing a couple signs. I passed through Jeff, Kentucky, and would have been at a loss not to photograph ‘Jeff Mart,’ in honor of former and current supervisors with the same name. Shortly, thereafter, I photographed a sign that reminded me of another fishery biologist, one that likes biking and may experience hills like this in New England.

I got to Whitesburg about 7 PM and wanted to pedal a bit further with the cool of the evening. I was told the next town up - Jenkins – had no motel or campground. So, about 7:30 I started looking into the woods for a spot – any spot. I almost pulled into one place that looked like an abandoned firing range. That could be tough if a local pulled in at night wanting to practice. My legs were shelled, and I was pondering what to do. I pressed on, and came across a sign, ‘Fish Pond Lake.’ The bottom of the sign was occluded by bushes. I got off my bike and peeled the branches back to try to get more information. There was none. A local home owner a couple hundred yards down the line informed me of primitive camping up at the lake. I turn the corner and ascend up the lake; a ~12 percent pitch on a rough road greets me – ultra steep. I decide to practice walking my bike. I finally make it to Fish Pond Lake at dusk and found a tiny campground. En route, the local lady walkers contingent says they’ll be up at 5:30 AM, and ‘is there anything I need?’ I say a cup of coffee would be great. I pulled into my campground and start eating again. Seven thousand calories a day is a lot to eat. After eating a half pound chocolate bar, a local family brings me over homemade shrimp and vegetable kabobs and invites me to gospel singing here the second week of September. They were most pleasant folks and very kind. After dinner I take a mile hike to a local spring and dunk my head under numbingly cold water for 5 minutes to freshen up.

I had forgotten about the coffee. Sure enough, at 6 AM, a car pulls up to my tent and drops off hot coffee and pastries at my picnic table. The kindness of strangers is everywhere! I am not sure how close I might be to the Atlantic; the cup of coffee reads, ‘Channel Islands Coffee Company.’ As I write this chickadees and nuthatches serenade me to turn the pedals for perhaps one more ultra tough day over these old, steep mountains.

Empowered by Working at OWLS - Post from Outer Banks Wildlife Shelter volunteer

The following post was written by, Pat, who volunteers for the Outer Banks Wildlife Shelter. 100% of the donations to my cross-country bike ride will benefit OWLS. Please donate (link on right-hand side of this page)

Have you ever seen an injured bird on the road or have one fly into your window or have a squirrel dart out in front of a car and still be breathing? Or how about that turtle that was sort of run over by a lawn mower? What do you do? You know that you can’t take these wildlife creatures to dog and cat veterirnarians and you feel so helpless. These were my experiences and feelings for a long time before I began volunteering at OWLS.

That all changed when I heard about this wonderful wildlife shelter in Eastern North Carolina. I began volunteering in the spring of 2005. Because this was baby bird season the timing was perfect. Lots on injured babies or babies separated from their moms who needed to be fed and loved during daylight hours. Well I got in with both feet and haven’t stopped for the past 4 years.

There is nothing as fantastic as picking up a little tweeter who is desperate for food and lets you know every 30 minutes! Never did I think that I would be feeding meal worms or earthworms to birds but now I am a pro. When I leave my shift during baby bird or squirrel season I am happily exhausted. I am part of a team of wonderful staffers and volunteers who are as exuberant as I about helping wildlife survive.

Oh by the way, I now am one of those people who go out and do rescues of the injured birds, squirrels, owls, ducks, egrets, pelicans and many other creatures. I know what to do and many times because of my rescues and delivery back to OWLS these creatures have a fighting chance of survival. Without OWLS what do you think would happen to all the needy and injured little ones?

Empowered Pat

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Day 27 Serpentine Route through Kentucky Sanders – Stanton, KY 107 miles

I thought today was going to be a tough one, and it was. Not a yard of the route was flat. Hills and more hills slowed me considerably and ate up the daylight too quickly. A northeast headwind plastered me all day. I felt like I was on the beach in winter. However, it was cool and dry. Overnight I shivered the hours away in my tent and was happy to bike in long pants and a jacket for the first hours of the day. Autumn beckons.

The scenery today was pleasant. I passed many small farms in the first part of the day. The hills made me stop frequently to pet horses and goats. As the sun rose I spotted several deer, and heard herons, kingfishers, and coyotes. In the middle of the day I entered horse racing country around Lexington. It reminded me of the area I grow up in around Chester County, Pennsylvania. There were many well manicured farms with giant stately horses apparently well fed; none would take my meager offering of roadside grass when I stopped occasionally to look at the Kentucky map. The terrain around Lexington would make a great extended roller coaster ride.

The hills of the eastern United States have kind of crept up on me. So much toil was spent on the Rockies. Then there was the mental grind of pedaling through the corn belt. That is over. I shifted gears like a madman today. Tomorrow will be more of the same and maybe worse as I go up into the Appalachian hills of eastern Kentucky and western Virginia. My quads have already forgotten about their two day break this past weekend.

What helps on massive challenges like some mountain gaps I will ascend over the next 48 hours is zero distractions. A bicycle, especially one with a loaded machine, has apparently been such a spectacle for some Kentucky folks that they cannot help but say something when driving by. The roads are narrow and the traffic has been heavy. Ideally this will change over these tough passes so I can focus on the difficulties ahead. Ideally it would be just the sound of me and the machine reaching for the divide and pushing towards the ocean.

Day 26 The Longest Month New Albany, IN – Sanders, KY 73 miles

Today ends a long month of my life. Of course the time went fast. However, when you are very engrossed in moment-to-moment living, and everything is new, it feels like a lifetime. My flight to Portland on August 1st seems like a long long time ago. This has been a challenging journey. There are still hundreds of miles to go, but I feel as though I am getting closer. My current longitude is just west of the majestic Smokies.

Today was an abbreviated biking day. I left Paula at the airport at got a taxi back to where I left off on Friday. I was going to have the taxi drop me right off in downtown Louisville, but he suggested the Indiana route – much more out of the way – but I figured a taxi driver knows traffic. The first ten miles were like learning to crawl. Everything felt awkward. Then I got more comfortable. I had a headwind but the miles came easily; two days off and cool weather – 70s and low humidity. Indeed, the last 24 hours have felt like autumn. Summer is not gone yet, but the change of seasons can’t be far behind. I am now deep in the heart of northern Kentucky – lots of roller coaster hills and no straight roads. I will have to look at the map a lot until the Appalachians are done. Today I snaked my way through a bunch of back roads and got lost a couple times. A couple strangers helped me out as I peered at the map. I crossed then pedaled along the pretty Ohio River for about 15 miles. Route 36 in Kansas – straight and wide – is long gone. A lot more folks live east. Today I crossed I 71 by bike, tomorrow hopefully I 64. Maybe in a few days I will be lucky enough to pass over or under the granddaddy of all interstates – 95. This will signal that the waves of the Atlantic are not far off. That first whiff of salt air in a month will send happy shivers down my spine. What’s the statistic - 90 percent of Americans live within an hour of the ocean? I can’t blame them. It’s quite a force.

I had a wonderful weekend with my girlfriend Paula. We stationed out of Bardstown Kentucky. Bardstown claims to be the bourbon capital of the state. We celebrated this distinction by eating tofu and spinach and drinking no bourbon! I was craving salad and look forward to many more when my trip is done. Paula and I saw a number of sites in central Kentucky. These included going to a bike shop for a tune-up in Elizabethtown, visiting the Makers Mark distillery, going to Green River State Park, and visiting the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln. While at the bike shop Paula and I tried out a couple of collapsible bikes made by a company called Bike Friday in Eugene Oregon.

The first day of September 2009 will be a tough one. There will be hills upon hills until I can get east of Eastern Continental Divide. Then the loblolly pines won’t be far ahead.