Thursday August 19, 2004
Dear Family, Friends and Supporters,
I would like to take the time to thank you for your warmth, support, encouragement, patience, life sustaining care package (courtesy of Tim Bustos) and belief in me and what I have been attempting to accomplish. I left San Francisco on Friday, June 11, skirting the waves of the mighty Pacific Ocean, amidst a bright flicker of euphoria. I must admit that the experiences of the last couple of months have restrained my initial elation at the moment of departure and brought me back in line with the parameters of reality.
To those who have written or will write me, allow me to describe a typical day and explain why this has not been a vacation trip and why you can expect not to hear from me until sometime in September. Usually, I awake at sunrise and start pedaling somewhere between 7 and 10am. My average speed is 6 miles an hour, without gears and no coasting. When I have a 50, 60 or 70 mile day, this translates to 9, 10, 11 or 12 hours of cycling during the day.
By the time I roll into the next town, I usually check into a hotel (if there is one) or find a safe place to camp for the night. Often, when I get into the room, I only have the energy to flip channels until I fall asleep. The next morning, if you look at the bed, sometimes, you canít tell someone slept in it because the bed linen is undisturbed as I just fell into the bed and drifted into slumber the previous night. If I have a rest day, I normally spend the time in the public library, preparing press releases to media organizations in the next 4 or 5 cities through which I will pass before the next rest day.
Though I envisioned corresponding regularly with people and updating my online journal based on each dayís experiences, I have concluded that this will have to wait. I write notes from the roadside everyday and hope these will culminate in a book in the near future. Stay tuned. For the present, I would like to share feelings, thoughts and reflections that I have amassed over the past 2 months. Though I have often scorned these mass e-mails and have always been in favor of connecting on an individual basis, what flows below is all I currently have time and energy for.
The past 60 days of this odyssey have taken me through the California Gold Country, up, above, down and beyond the Sierras, across the baking heat and desolate landscape of the Nevada terrain (highway 50 ñ The Loneliest Road lives up to its reputation), past the spectacular sights and small and large towns and cities of Utah, along the ascents and descents of the spiritually-inspiring topography of the Colorado Rockies, through the corn and soybean fields of Nebraska, up and down the endlessly rolling hills of Iowa (contrary to a popular misconception, Iowa is NOT flat) and across the Mississippi to the windy city of Chicago, which is where I am now.
I have been molded and sculpted by experiences and ordeals whose impact will last a lifetime. Constant reminders have compelled me to remember that, as much as I want to peak around the bend and see what fate has in store for me, it is imperative to grasp the moment at hand. If one loses sight of this perspective, the precious treasure held in the palm of the present is lost forever.
That which has humbled me the most during this chapter of my life has been the treatment I have received from my fellow Americans. In light of all we have been through as a country, particularly over these last few years, it is quite difficult to convey just how remarkable and refreshing it is to discover that trust and neighborly caring IS alive in this country. Were it not for this fact, I would have returned home to San Francisco weeks ago. During the truly challenging moments, when I seriously doubted myself and my dedication to the causes for which I have been riding and even questioned the very reasons for which I was engaging in what, at times, seemed like a hopeless folly, time and time again, people, TOTAL STRANGERS, picked me up, literally placed me back in my unicycle saddle and blocked off the path of quitting that I was eagerly and anxiously contemplating. These people, my fellow citizens, would take the initiative to offer me food, drink, lodging and would resuscitate my heart, resurrect my soul and re-inject meaning into a venture and vision that seemed to bear little or no fruit. As much as I have relished the divine, natural beauty of the United States, the crown jewels I have unearthed are the individuals who dwell throughout our land that have rekindled the flame of my belief in the general goodness of human beings. If we were to treat our ìneighborsî (people who live in our neighborhood and those who do not) with only a fraction of the warmth I have encountered on my path, our world would be much enhanced.
As I surge eastward, beyond the 2/3 mark of my trajectory, I look forward to gaining a clear sense of the effect my journey has had on the fight against cancer and hunger. I hope that during our lifetime, the reigns of cancer and hunger as plagues that afflict the human race will be ended. In another aspect, my dear friend, Colette, suggested that my trip will end up being a success, if only as a result of my efforts to fulfill my self-declared appointment as a goodwill ambassador. Though this trip does not require travel documents, my unicycle has been my passport, granting me access to people, homes and an overflowing hospitality, as I have visited states, towns and areas that are quite foreign to that which I am accustomed.
As you can see by the itinerary that I am including below, I still have a ìfewî miles to go until I reach my original hometown of New York City. If the divine forces above continue to cradle me gently in their cupped palms, as they have done so generously for the passed 10 weeks, I will roll across the Hudson River in the middle of September. If you would like to see a bit of the media coverage my trip has generated, go to
If you would like to help, please visit my website :
Perhaps, as the site encourages, you might consider sending a tax-deductible donation directly to Americaís Second Harvest and/or the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. I do not collect or handle any funds in this endeavor. Through the website, I also encourage you to donate food to food banks, volunteer your time in soup kitchens and/or with cancer patients and register your tissue type with the National Marrow Donor Program so that if you are found to be a match for a patient with leukemia or some other blood disease, you could donate bone marrow and/or stem cells to save their life.
If you would like to send me invaluable moral support, this is ALWAYS appreciated. You can e-mail me at:
Though I will try, I cannot promise any responses before September and I beg your patience and understanding. I read EVERYTHING personally as I have access to e-mail once or twice a week.
If you do nothing else, though, try, everyday, to impact at least one life in a positive way. It could be someone you know or a total stranger via a random act of kindness. I believe that there is no evil or negative energy that goodwill, love, warmth and a genuine, profound caring cannot overcome. If we were all to lock hands and commit, allow ourselves to be infected by the contagious strain of caring throughout the year (not just during the holidays) for the human beings with whom we share Earth, we could form a potent wave, that could not be contained by any dike. It would wash over all towns, cities, states and countries, near and far, and precipitate a new dawn, a promising crop and a bountiful harvest. This is the dream that accompanies my slumber and the vision to which I awake in the morning.
I hold you all dear in my thoughts and thank you for keeping me in yours-
Peace and Prosperity
August 10 Marengo to Iowa City 30
August 11 Rest & Write
August 12 Rest & Write
August 13 Iowa City to Davenport 56
August 14 Davenport to Rock Falls, IL 62
August 15 Rock Falls to Hinckley 60
August 16 Hinckley to Chicago 56
August 17 Rest &Write
August 18 Rest &Write
August 19 Chicago to Valparaiso,IN 57
August 20 Valparaiso toRochester 66
August 21 Rochester to Kokomo 43
August 22 Kokomo to Indianapolis 60
August 23 Indianapolis to Seymour 62
August 24 Seymour to Louisville, KY 54
August 25 Rest & Write
August 26 Louisville to Carrollton 55
August 27 Carrollton to Cincinnati, OH 58
August 28 Cincinnati to Washington Ct. House 72
August 29 Washington Ct. House to Columbus 40
August 30 Columbus to Coshocton 77
August 31 Rest & Write
September 1 Coshocton to Cadiz 58
September 2 Cadiz to East Liverpool 48
September 3 East Liverpool to Pittsburgh 40
September 4 Rest & Write
September 5 Pittsburgh to Ligonier 62
September 6 Ligonier to Breezewood 63
September 7 Breezewood to Shippensburg 54
Sept.8 Shippensburg to Harrisburg 42
September 9 Harrisburg to Reading 61
Sept. 10 Reading to Philadelphia 63
Sept. 11 Rest & Write
Sept. 12 Philadelphia, PA. to New Brunswick, NJ 66
September 13 New Brunswick to New York, New York 35
As U have likely seen, I am just getting back in from a road trip to the Pacific NW and am playing catch up. THX so much for getting us up to speed on Patrick's ride!! As well, I apologize for this being out of order since our riders saw Patrick's words yesterday.
And yikes about Iowa and the car crash :(
So I talked to Patrick mid last week. He was at an
Econolodge in Coralville. (Iowa?) Then later we
talked briefly this past Monday (8/16/04). He was
supposed to reach Aurora, IL that night and Chicago on
My cousin Leo found him a place to stay in Chicago. I
think one of Leo's students put him up. He's hoping
to connect with one of his fundraising groups too.
Anyway, when we talked last he said Iowa is pretty
brutal. There is no shoulder along Highway 6 which
forced him to ride the white line the whole way.
These road conditions led to an accident between two
pickup trucks. From what I gather, one truck passed
him and then stopped to turn left further down.
Another truck going the same way gave him plenty of
clearance but did not see the truck ahead in time, hit
it, went off the road, and flipped three times. He
was feeling pretty guilty about it. Thankfully, no
one was seriously hurt, including the little girls in
the truck that flipped.
I told him maybe it was not like that on parallel
roads. Maybe ask a local cyclist which paths are
safer. Clearly Iowa does not have well marked bike
routes or if there are no routes, the roads are not
suitable for safe cycling. (which is the whole reason
for the NBG)
He unfortunately missed RAGBRAI too. His rest days
have been filled with phone calls and errands. He's
so busy sending out press releases and doing laundry,
he's had very little time to relax and see the sites.
In general the heat was "debilitating," but the last
couple days before the phone call were blessed with a
cold spell - 60 to 70 degrees.
He continues to use disposable cameras - probably
taking a total of 500-600 photos so far. The digital
camera that was given to him proved to be a hassle
without a computer to download to or extra memory
cards. He sent it back home along with the old old
backpack he had and the new one he received. He is
now using a cheapo backpack which is falling apart.
I says if he was to do it all again, he'd plan a lot
more carefully and more realisticly. The mileages he
originally set down on paper did not factor in
terrain, heat, or road conditions. Additionally, he'd
probably bring a laptop, digital camera, and try to do
most of the weblogs on the road. He'd also probably
start earlier each morning.
The vast spaces of no civilization earlier in the trip
have been replaced by towns every 15 or 20 miles,
which lets him replenish energy more frequently
without carrying as much stuff.
After a bit of down time in Chicago, he's going on to
Kentucky (?) to visit a friend, and then to NYC. I'd
say, your Kentucky friend can come and visit you on
ok, that's it. I think I've got a couple more faxes
to type up. no rush there I think.
More adventure beautifully told by Patrick Thomas and relayed to us by Max Chen. Too sensational:
Day #6 Placerville, CA to 5 miles west of junction of
Mormon Emigrant Trail with Highway 88
If you want to meet people, find a date, or just
simply disarm people of their inherent reluctance to
open up and socially interact with strangers, simply
buy a unicycle (you can skip the helmet) and walk
around town. It doesn't matter whether or not you can
ride. People, sooner or later, WILL approach you and
initiate conversation. In the event they ask you to
ride, you can simply say that you're tired from riding
and taking a break. This scenario has played and
replayed itself over several years. People,
practically, open up to me and talk about their past,
families, experiences with a unicycle, etc. One could
easily think that I was either a friend, acquaintance,
or their psychologist.
I love to ride unicycles. Yesterday, I came across a
few youth outside the community center in Placerville.
As is normally the case, they noticed the unicycle
before they noticed me. Without my one wheeled mate,
I'm just another face in the crowd. I talked to them
about my cross country ride and passed out cards with
the websites. A few of them wanted to try to mount
the unicycle so I helped them as best I could and
tried to make sure they landed on their feet. For an
outsider like myself, passing through remote,
unfamiliar areas, woods, deserts, cities and big and
small towns, the unicycle has been my passport of
diplomacy, granting me entrance to places and access
to people with whom my path would not normally cross.
Today is the day I discovered the precise state of my
conditioning. Ideally, I would've completed physical
and mental preparation prior to the start of this
journey. In reality, I have ended up completing my
training for this trip during the route itself. This
has been a reminder that, in order to attain your
targeted goals, you must first set realistic
I got an early start today and embraced a sunny
morning that forecast a day of promise. As I headed
east, I took the road out of Placerville that
paralleled Highway 50 for a while before diverging. I
cruised along for a . while through tranquil, rural roads
that climbed and dropped and weaved through and
around country homes, woods and green fields. At the
7 or so miles per hour that I averaged during those
first two hours, the wind caressed the tree trunks and
flapped the leaves and branches and ignited my
imagination. For awhile, I saw myself in the Tour de
France, leading a ferocious and aggressive breakaway,
urging my unicycle forward as quickly as I could
pedal. With my cycle shirt unzipped, I roared up each
climb and flew down every descent, always aware of the
two-wheeled predators behind, who desperately pursued
me. It was MY race to lose. I awoke to reality when
I realized I had ended up on the wrong road.
I pulled up to a wood mill/lumberyard, about a mile or
so from the town of Diamond Springs. When I told two
men I met there that I was trying to get to Pollock
Pines, I could tell by the shock on their face that I
wasn't even close. After trying to help me
understand, in vain, just how much I had strayed off
course and exactly what I would need to do to find my
way again, they offered to give me a ride to
Placerville. Once we were back in Placerville, they
decided that Pollock Pines, indeed, would be a better
launchpad toward Lake Tahoe because I could chose
between Highway 50 and the Mormon Emigrant Trail. As
they dropped me off in front of the Subway sandwich
shop next to the gas station, they wished me well and
said they would keep me in their prayers. They also
cautioned me to look out for the snakes, if I ended up
choosing the Mormon Emigrant Trail. If I chose this
path, they went on; I would face a long, isolated
road, plagued with known and unknown beasts.
After loading up provisions of food and drink, I first
attempted to gallop into battle by heading up the
eastbound on ramp of the Highway 50 out of Pollock
Pines, where cyclists are allowed. I trotted along on
my one-wheeled stallion for 100 yards or so and,
fortunately, wisdom won out on this day over reckless
idiocy. Though Highway 50 would have been the quicker
of the two routes into Lake Tahoe, I was quickly
reminded of just how much I cherish my life more than
haste for a speedier crossing. Once I regained my
bearings, by checking with few locals, I galloped on
to Sly Park, the door leading to the adventure ahead.
I stopped at the convenient store at the service
station; across from Sly Park and drank Gatorade, and
more Gatorade as if I were storing reserves for a
6-month hibernation. It was as if I knew what was
awaiting me. As I sat on the bench, outside the shop,
an older gentleman came out of the bar/restaurant and
struck up a conversation. He had recently retired
from the U.S. Forest Service and had given up smoking
just a couple years prior. He lives with just one
lung and said that when his doctor, years before,
painstakingly laid out the dire consequences that he
could expect if he continued smoking, quitting became
a more appealing option. He took great pride in his
knowledge of the woods and swore he could find his
way, without a map, into Nevada by using remote and
It was mid afternoon as we chatted, and until the day
I die, I'll never forget his reaction when I boldly
declared that I was going to try and reach Kirkwood by
nightfall. He looked at my unicycle and buckled over,
bracing himself and his jerking body by interlocking
both hands at the center of his belly. I didn't know
if he was suffering a seizure or heart attack as I
watched tears stream down his cheeks and his desperate
attempts to regain composure. When I heard his
laughter erupt and reverberate through the warm,
summer air, I was relieved. He said he knew
accomplished cyclists on two wheels, with gears, who
needed half a day to reach Kirkwood and here I was one
wheel, no gears, and it was almost 3 o'clock in the
afternoon. He almost keeled over again and had to prop
himself up on the pole, behind the bench. He told me
that, even if I made it to highway 88, I would still
have to contend with climbs that reach as high as
8,000 feet. I decided to heed his advice and scale
back my expectations.
After buying a sandwich and fries, thinking that I
might have to dine in the woods, I said goodbye to my
mate and rode past the man-made lake and up the hill
that greets you. This welcome was an early hint of
what to expect.
In short, the humbling and frustrating climbs along
the Mormon Emigrant Trail were tempered by the divine,
spectacular scenery that abounds. As far as the
horizon stretches, I could see hills and ranges
densely carpeted by trees. My soul was ablaze as I
beheld the mighty beauty of nature and I felt the
weighty obligation that rests upon the shoulders of
human beings to preserve the gifts of such incredible
natural wealth that has been bestowed upon us. Though
the stretch of the Mormon Emigrant Trail between Sly
Park and Highway 88 demoralized me because of the
overwhelming physical demands of the ascents, the
lessons I learned there have served as a beacon that
has illuminated my path ever since: when the riding
gets tough, you dig deep. In the end, your ability to
complete a ride depends not so much on your physical
conditioning as it does on your mental preparedness.
Toward dusk, the sun sank below the horizon of pine
trees and torched the canvas of sky blue in bleeding
brushstrokes of crimson. I camped out 5 miles west of
Highway 88 and instead of having to confront hyenas,
bears, mountain lions or snakes, my most formidable
adversaries were the mosquitoes. That was fine by me.
Max Chen delivered the goods to us once again. Here, I present to U the beautifully written account that Max transcribed from a fax he received from one most remarkable man indeed, Unicyclist Patrick Thomas. As U have seen in here, the UniMan is almost in Colorado now, but here is what his ride looked like after he left us in Folsom:
Day 5 Folsom to Placerville
Tuesday, June 15
20 plus miles
This trip will end up being an affirmation of my
profound belief in the genuine goodness of human
beings as a whole, or a partial or complete
repudiation of this very conviction. I believe that
the people, with whom I share this country and planet,
for the most part, are kind, caring and giving toward
their fellow homo-sapiens. During my two month
odyssey, I look forward to putting my principles to
Dinner with Don, my recumbent cyclist companion and
fellow cross-country road warrior, was superb. I
thanked him, profusely, for having the courtesy to
wait for me to eat. I had survived the extreme
ravages of the Davis, Sacramento, Rancho Cordova and
Folsom heat, as well as the wounds inflicted by my
unicycle seat. After pizza, salad and drinks, I was
born again. Though you could not tell by my account
of the unicycling journey from Davis to Folsom, the
path along the American River Parkway is beautifully
designed, lush with nature and spectacular views
throughout. One of my most enduring impressions of
this route is the dozens upon hundreds of gophers
(maybe, they were ground hogs) who, upon seeing
anything or anyone pass by, would retreat, in a flash,
to the safety and inner sanctum of their underground
After dinner, Don and I pedaled through the streets of
Folsom and made our way to Jack Martin's lovely,
spacious home. Jack is a cyclist, software engineer,
inventor, husband and father of five. He has created
an ingenious system that allows cyclists to replenish
lost liquids, without having to wear anything on their
back (check it out at http://gomb-er.com).
In light of the juggling that Jack has to do in his
multiple roles, it was pretty amazing just how
gracious he was as a host. Don and I failed to meet
Jack's wife, who was sleeping when we arrived and off
to work when we awoke. Nevertheless, Jack opened his
entire family and home to us. Don, I, Jack and his
oldest son talked in the kitchen, deep into the
northern edges of the evening hours while I, almost
single-handedly, drained a pitcher of fabulous
lemonade. Following a rejuvenating shower, I could
not have hoped for a better conclusion to a day that
thoroughly tested my commitment to this ride. Sweet,
luscious slumber overcame me with the quickness of a
A glorious, sunny and scalding day awaited me the
following morning. Jack, without missing a beat, had
a full spread of pancakes, juice, fruit, and coffee.
I enjoyed hanging out with his kids most of the
morning (my sincerest apologies to his middle son,
with whom I never managed to play computer games) and
then it was time to go. Jack's daughter, Rachel, was
kind enough to give me a royal escort, on her bike, to
the corner and I was off. I would miss the warmth and
comforts of the Martin home, especially during the
challenges I faced the following day along the Mormon
Natoma Street led me past the infamous Folsom State
Prison (why are prisons, so often, built on some of
the most incredibly scenic spots? Some examples are:
San Quentin (near Larkspur, Calif) and a Nevada State
Prison, near Connor's Summit, to mention a couple) to
Green Valley Road. Along the rolls, twists, climbs
and descents of Green Valley Road, I steadily advanced
toward Placerville, at a blistering speed of 6 to 7
miles per hour. Somehow, somewhere, I strayed off
Green Valley and ended up on Lode Road (in a town
neighboring Placerville), which is where I met Miriam.
She was getting the mail from her box, at the side of
the road, as I pedaled up. I was lost and bewildered,
at this point, and upon seeing Miriam, I was relieved
to encounter a soul from whom I could seek guidance.
It seemed that she was no less surprised to see
someone, like me, riding a unicycle on a rural road.
Nonetheless, Miriam was very hospitable. First she
offered to give me a lift and, when I politely
declined, insisted I come up to the house, for a
while, to rest before heading into Placerville. I
made my way up the gravel path to her house. This
experience has moved me deeply. Whenever I find such
trust, such friendly treatment, from a stranger toward
me, I am in awe, particularly in light of tragic,
tumultuous, events that have transpired in our country
and world over the past few years. The flicker of the
flame of human decency and hospitality, for one
stranger towards another, endures despite the hostile
gusts that swirl about it. Entering Miriam's house
was like boarding a flight in which you're traveling
first class (I've only imagined this experience.) She
had fruit drinks poured before I'd even walked through
Inside, Miriam introduced me to her housemate, Sandra,
and I also met Sandra's mom. We chatted, for awhile,
as I told them about the purpose of my ride. We made
our way into the living room, just as a playoff game
was starting between the Los Angeles Lakers and the
Detroit Pistons. I quickly learned that the best way
to stay on Miriam's good side was to avoid talking
during the game. She was a Laker hater and cheered
whenever they stumbled. The game was exciting and
while we watched the first half., I retrieved the
Subway Tuna sandwich which I bought hours earlier in
Folsom. It had wilted, like a flower, under the sunís
merciless assault, and seeped a stream of mayonnaise,
sauce, and tuna broth into my backpack. (for days to
come, my backpack, and everything it held, smelled of
As I prepared to depart for Placerville, Miriam gave
me a bag of strawberries as a parting gift. I thanked
them all for the kindness they had bestowed upon me
and then left to pedal the last few miles that lay
ahead. Later that evening, I reflected upon my day's
journey. I started to understand all too clearly,
just how significant the weather is during a cycle
trip. The fact that I had completed 20 to 30 miles
was irrelevant. Obviously, depending upon the nature
and severity prevalent during a ride, the amount of
physical, mental and spiritual exertion required can still
be drastically increased.
Max Chen offers this excellent report about our amazing unicyclist who is holed up in the Vernal, UT furnace as you will see:
July 9th update for Patrick.
He was on his way from Kamas to Duchesne in Utah
Friday morning (near Park City if that helps). He was
hoping to visit his uncle in Denver, CO by the
weekend. After three days in Salt Lake City, sending
out press releases, being on TV, and running errands,
he was back to the incredible pace of 6-7 mph.
His morale sounded much higher, partly because of the
dramatic scenery of snow capped mountains and forests.
Or as Patrick said, "The view does the pedaling for you". The limiting
factor for the ride will either be the distance, the
weather, or the seat. Up until now, he's been using a
t-shirt for an extra cushion, but will hopefully be
getting an air filled seat in Colorado.
People have been kind to him, probably a lot to do
with the unicycle. How can you not trust a man on a
unicycle? A motorcyclist who passed him on Highway 50
ended up being a motel owner down the road. She saw
him and then later gave him free room and board.
Patrick said it was very generous but he was so tired
that night, he ended up sleeping on the covers and in
the morning it looked like the room had not been
occupied at all.
A few people have also offered him money. Five
dollars here, ten there, but he has declined, telling
them to donate through the website or give a little to
their local cause. His web: http://www.pedalthewaves.org
He faxed a number of pages last week, but I'm still in
the middle of typing them up. They cover up to Day 6
near Placerville. Ancient history by now, but I'll
get them out maybe tomorrow.
The words above were followed by this note from Patrick yesterday afternoon:
At 7:20 PM +0000 7/12/04, Patrick Thomas wrote:
Hey Max and martin
Just a quick word from the town of Vernal, Utah, 30 miles from the border with Colorado. My pedal started falling off in the town of Roosevelt (28 miles back) and, even though I would screw it back in tightly, it would already be falling back off within the mile.
I was fortuntate to hitch a ride for the last 22 miles here to Vernal but, unfortunatey, it was Sunday morning, 7/11, and the bike shops were both closed. Apparently, alot of places are closed here on Sunday, greatly due to the Mormon Church influence. Even though the problem is with my right, crank arm , which is stripped ( after logging over 1,000 miles) I am trying to get two new pedal cranks and two new pedal, shipped overnight from Unicycle.com in Georgia (figure, i might as well do both pedals and cranck arms while I'm at it and not wait for the other pedal to start falling apart. I suppose with all the training and trip miles I have logged on these pedals, especially with the climbs, they have endured a great deal of stress). If I can get that done, I will probably leave here for Colorado on Wednesday, 7/14. Tryin' to keep cool in the 90 degree daily weather.
Here is Max Chen's report about our amazing TransAm unicyclist, Patrick Thomas who has his own web at: http://www.pedalthewaves.org
June 30, 2004
So I talked to Patrick last night for a good while.
He ís going to try and call every few days and I'm
going to try and relay his whereabouts and mental and
physical state (he ís tired, but still in good
humor). When he has the time, he'll go back and fill
in everything in his own words.
He called from the Jailhouse Motel in Ely, Nevada.
The restaurant is called the Cellblock Steakhouse! He
notes that Nevada is full of gambling smokers and
completely devoid of fellow blacks - quite a change
from multicultural San Francisco.
In the two weeks since his last report, he's had a
number of adventures, and many have revolved around
the kindness of strangers. From being offered
rides/shelter/food/water to arranging newspaper
interviews, people have been very generous and these
actions have reaffirmed his faith in humanity. His
ride has been documented in the South Tahoe Tribune,
Reno Gazette Journal, Nevada Appeal, and on TV through
KTVN - the CBS affiliate in Reno. You can check out
www.ktvn.com . Apparently some guy in a CA arranged
the interview and the anchorwoman came out to meet him
along the banks of the Truckee River. These
interviews and talking to strangers helps him keep
going and put things in perspective. They remind him
of his cause, because on those long lonely brutal
stretches he has considered turning back. He's had a
brief cold, his (in my words) grossly inadequate and
underplanned equipment has been falling apart, ** he's
had to camp out twice without shelter on the side of
the road**, and he survived sand storms and pummeling
rain. Someone please secretly steal and replace his
tattered, sewn, and HEAVY backpack. And give the
man an emergency blanket too (maybe he can use it as a
sail as well as prevent his teeth from chattering in
the night). He checks his mail every few days and can be reached at:
He's been amazed at the diversity of people's stories
as well as the range of natural environments. Forest,
desert, plains, mountains. It ís all there and unlike
from inside a car, he can really experience it: the
smell of roadkill; the tortuous cross winds; the taste
of bugs; plus he's got a cool tan line.
Anyway, he's pretty tired and realized fairly quickly
just how hot and arduous this trip is going to be.
He's been eating lots of deep fried goodness and
cholesterol filled breakfasts. I suggested bananas
and kiwis, lots of water and trail mix or granola.
He's mailed back a few packages with unnecessary
things like his CD player, microrecorder, and reading
book. (Don Loomis had quite a bit of extra stuff too.
Come to think of it, so did my brother and I). In
the future he's got a 90 mile day on "the loneliest
rode," which will be his longest day yet. He still
plans on going to Salt Lake City even with Skot Pís
horrible opinion about the state of Utah. He's going
to visit his uncle up in Denver. And he is still
determined to reach Chicago for the NBG event. I
suggested doing whatever he can to join RAGBRAI. That
will pick up his wavering spirits for sure.
Well, until his next phone call, that ís pretty much
What follows is TransAm unicyclist Patrick Thomas's description of the ride you saw Reno Wheelman bike prez, Mike Damon, talk about a few weeks ago now as per
And now that it's over, about all I can do is chalk Patrick's difficult ride up to is experience for which I accept much of the blame. And I can only hope to improve upon this run next year. I know Patrick, who has not once complained about this or any part of of his ride, learned a lot about his own personal limits as well...
THX Patrick. U have the respect of cyclists far and wide!
And before I give you Patrick, here is how Max Chen introduced Patrick's handwritten fax that he transcribed for us:
while i was typing this I kept thinking, "if 50 miles
is this torturous, he's never going to make it." but
i guess he's somewhere past Reno now. vultures have
probably singled him out and are constantly circling
above his head. i eagerly wait for the next
Days 2 and 3/ June 12 and 13
As a preface, I wish to thank the following
individuals for helping me get the word out: Max
Chen, for typing these words; Martin Krieg, for
motivating me to write, in the first place; Ade
Adeyemi for posting these words to my site and Larry
Hamel, for setting up the on-line journal on my
I took advantage of a rest day on Saturday, June 12,
to hang out around San Rafael. On Sunday, June 13, I
made a plunge eastward to Davis, in order to connect
with cyclists for a ride to Folsom on Monday, 6/14.
Sunday was a fantastic day. Travelling through the
breathtaking, rural roads of Novato, and the
vineyard-draped paths of Sonoma and Napa, I arrived in
As I passed through the town of Sonoma, the locals
were celebrating the Hanging (sp?) Bean Festival. The
central square was beautifully decorated, bands played
and several booths sold everything from tempting
delicacies, to irresistible jewelry. As I walked
though the square, one man, who was sitting in the
grass, got up and stumbled over to me. It was clear
that he was under the spell of a drink or two, but
during the whole episode, he was totally cool with me.
He pointed at the unicycle that I was walking with,
and said, ìI bet you can't ride that. By this time,
he and I, all of a sudden, were performers on a stage
and several people had already taken their seats to
watch the show.
I knew that no explanation, such as the fact that I
was tired and/or taking a break from riding, would
placate the crowd. Out of fear of causing a riot and
being pelted with rotten cabbage, tomatoes and eggs, I
mounted my unicycle and, to the glee of the audience,
pedaled to the other side of the square. Encounters
like these remind me of how unusual a mode of
transportation the unicycle is. It never ceases to
amaze me. I have been riding a unicycle for almost
30 years and do so for my own enjoyment and not as a
performer. When I do attract attention and bring joy
to others by doing what I love, it only heightens my
Monday, June 14, was an incredible day. It was a
launch date for the National Mayorís Ride
(www.bikeroute.com) from Davis to Folsom. It was a
gorgeous morning, sunny and warm, and we gathered in a
park. The mayor was present as were delegates from
Davis's sister city in South Korea, who were looking
into ways of making their city more bike friendly.
There were many 2-wheeled cyclists, Penny Farthing
specialists, recumbent pilots and Barbara, our
honorary rollerblader. After a few brief
presentations, including proclamations by the mayor,
expressing her support for creation and upkeep of safe
and accessible bike paths, and the customary photo
shoot, we were off, through the streets of Davis and
on to Sacramento.
Davis IS a bikerís mecca and it is a head rush to
navigate a city whose streets are designed for drivers
and cyclists on an equal basis. San Francisco too, is
bicycle friendly (with a lot of work yet to do, ed)
but Davis takes warmth towards
cyclists to a level all its own. It seemed that every
street (or every other street) is paved with bike
lanes and the drivers are respectful toward their
two-wheeled sisters and brothers. Davis rocks!
As we made our way toward the causeway (great bike
path that parallels highway 80), you could have
thought that the circus had arrived to town! Imagine
the scene: conventional, two-wheeled cyclists, Penny
Farthing navigators, recumbent bike pilots, a roller
bladder and unicyclist in tow! With Davis's mayor and
the South Koreans along for part of the ride, we
formed a United Nations on wheels!
To watch a Penny Farthing cyclist in action is a sight
to behold! It reminds me of the huge bird (perhaps,
the Condor) as it lifts off and takes flight. The
Penny Farthing cyclist takes the first couple of fleet
steps, hops into the saddle, spreads his/her wings,
gains altitude and starts to soar. Though a bit
awkward and unsteady at the outset, once the cyclist
is in the air, he/she is simply the embodiment of
For the duration of the ride from Davis to Folsom
(approximately, 50 miles), the theme of my thoughts
was: what was I thinking. It became obvious, early
on, that on my 24-inch unicycle tire there was no way
I was going to keep up with my multi-wheeled
companions. Jack (from Folsom), Faye (from Palo Alto)
and Mike (from Reno) were very patient with me. Bless
their souls! While I was pedaling away, drenched in
sweat in the 80 to 90 degree heat and feverishly
trying to keep up, my three mates were mercifully
riding at 1/3 of their potential speed, so as not
to leave me behind. While Mike and Jack stopped and
waited behind for Don (from San Jose) to arrive, Faye
and I cycled together toward Sacramento. She was a
wonderful riding companion and I as so glad to have
her because, for the bulk of the remainder of the day,
I was going to ride alone.
After brief and welcomed stops before the Capitol in
Sacramento and Old Sacramento during which we ate only
cookies, we entered the American River Parkway,
multi-use path toward Rancho Cordova and Folsom. This
would be the last I would see of most of my traveling
mates because, by the time I finally reached Folsom,
several hours later, they had already returned home.
Before mile 5 on the Parkway, I had already gotten a flat on a brand new
tire and tube, both of which I had just bought 4 days
earlier. After a quick fix, I was back in the saddle.
If I had been by myself, I probably would not have
finished the course. Knowing that my mates were
waiting for me, miles ahead, was the main motivation
that propelled me onward. There was no relief from
the relentless heat that ravages your will and
consumes your resolve. Every single fountain I
encountered was an automatic dismount and hydration
break. The problem was, the temperature of the
fountain water was normally a degree or two below
boiling so this provided little or no relief.
Furthermore, the cookies we ate in Sacramento were not
enough fuel in my tank. Looking at the map, I
rejoiced at the fact that at mile 18, there was a bar.
I fantasized about getting a drink and sandwich
before plowing ahead. Upon reaching mile 18, I was
devastated to discover that the bar depicted on the
map was not a food and drink bar but rather a sand
bar. I was beside myself at this point yet I decided
to channel my dire disappointment toward forward
By the time I reached the fish hatcheries and the
Folsom Dam, I could not ride anymore. I was sore,
hungry, tired, parched and disillusioned.
Nevertheless, because I had already reached beyond
mile 40, there was NO force in the universe that could
keep me from reaching Folsom. If I had to crawl the
remaining 5 or so miles, I would have. Don kept
checking in on me, monitoring my progress and
encouraging me. He kept telling me that I was close
but, as far as I was concerned, if I could not see the
pizzeria where he was waiting, I was leagues away.
When I finally stumbled across the pedestrian/bike
path, that crosses the American River and leads to
downtown Folsom, and dragged myself into Classicoís
Pizza on Sutter Street, I was a changed man. I had
been razed to ashes in the fire and rebuilt. The
cauldron of the human spirit is potent, indeed.
At 8:07 PM -0700 6/18/04, Cycle America/Nat Bicycle Greenway (NBG) wrote:
From: "Patrick Thomas"
Subject: RE: Greg Miller offers Don & Patrick Lodging (was Re: lodging)
Date: Fri, 18 Jun 2004 22:28:04 +0000
Thnaks for this message. I am on the shores of Lake Tahoe. I head to Carson City , then Reno then Fallon, Nevada. I have been trading messages with Don as we have gone in and out of cell phone coverage range. It is a good likelihood that I will miss several of the NBG gatherings from here to Chicago but I DO plan to be in Chicago on time!! I'll see waht I can do. I have to stay within my physical means and these climbs to 7,000 feet and beyond do take their toll!!
I will probably not leave Reno until Monday, 6/21.
PLEASE , send me your phone # once more and/or leave it on my cell phone. I WANT to talk to you this weekend as I recharge for the big plunge eastward .
Yahoo Patrick!! 831-252-8830 - U Rock!!
I also need to catch up on my journal. Lots to share.
Can't wait to see it. Nor can our riders on the cc!!
Okay, Martin, look forward to talking to you soon.
At 8:08 PM -0700 6/18/04, Cycle America/Nat Bicycle Greenway (NBG) wrote:
From: "Patrick Thomas"
Date: Fri, 18 Jun 2004 22:45:22 +0000
Do you realize the incredible source of inspiration you are??
Mirror Mirror! Everyone's talking about U guy Just feeding off of U and all our other riders!
By the way, will you be there in Chicago??
Be there guy!!
U 2 P-Man. And THX 4 U!!
I just got this from gifted artist and three time NBG Mayors' Ride veteran, Max Chen
Patrick sent me a fax and I just typed it up. So here is his first entry!
Day 1 San Francisco to San Rafael
I can't believe this day has finally arrived! What a
glorious day to have a send off for a cross-country
unicycle ride! The weather was absolutely
spectacular! Sunshine, blue skies and clouds,
splashed and dashed across the canvas of blue.
I met the National Bicycle Greenway cyclists
(www.bikeroute.com), who had just completed the Palo
Alto to San Francisco ride, at the steps of City Hall.
The group included Martin, Faye, Don, Barbara, Max,
and a couple of guys from Sausalito. One of the main
goals of the National Bicycle Greenway movement is to
connect cities across the United States with a network
of bike rideable roads and paths.
After a proclamation was presented, which
reaffirmed San Francisco's support for safe and
accessible bike roads and paths, our group headed over to
Ananda Fuera's Vegetarian Restaurant at 9th and Market for a
Later exiting the restaurant, Martin, Faye, Don, Max,
and I held the last of numerous photo shoots and then
I was off. I blazed down Polk Street, hung a left on
Chestnut, a right onto Fillmore and a left onto Marina
Blvd. Get ready Golden Gate Bridge, 'cuz here I
come.I took time to celebrate a solemn, ceremonial
pause at the southern end of the bridge, just north of
the toll plaza. I looked back toward my favorite city
on this planet: the majestic, beautifully adorned San
Francisco, one of the crowned jewels of California. I
looked at the onion-shaped domes of the Russian
Cathedral on Geary Blvd, Washington High School, the
pointed peak of the Transamerica Pyramid, the desolate
environs of Alcatraz, the Bay Bridge and, across the
bay I caught a fleeting, precious glimpse of the
noble, proud, and statuesque Campanile, standing tall
on the campus of my alma mater, UC Berkeley.
After making a brief prayer, that I would once again
return to that very spot to behold, taste, hear, and
smell the sensations that satiate my soul, I was off,
across the bridge that leads to the pot of gold at the
end of the rainbow. Though I could not predict the
manner in which this coast to coast odyssey would
unfold, I cycled north, along the west span of the
Golden Gate, plunging forward to discover and embrace
the unknown destiny that lay ahead.
As I crossed the bridge, I exchanged greetings with
the 2-wheeled cyclists, who passed me headed south, and I
proceeded into Sausalito. It was there, at the
Bicycle Odyssey Bike Shop, that I realized that I
would not make it to Napa on this day. The young
woman there walked me through the route (according to
a map) and explained the path I could take. The
problem was that the mileage indicator on my itinerary
guide was way off. Instead of 35 or so miles left to
Napa, I now had about 45 or 50 to go. For a
two-wheeled bike, this difference is peanuts, but, for
a unicycle, this 15 or so mile discrepancy meant a bit
more agony and pain.
After I decided I would not reach the much heralded
Kingdom of California wine, because it was already
late afternoon, I figured that I would head for exotic
San Rafael. The remainder of the ride was soothing to
the mind and comforting to the soul. I pedaled north
of Bridgeway, past Sausalito Cyclery and along the
Mill Valley-Sausalito Bike Path. On the shores of
Richardson Bay, I exchanged warm greetings with two
gentlemen who were seated on the bench. One of them
always cheers me on during my training rides to
My route continued past the point where Blithedale Ave
and Tiburon Blvd meet. It stretched onward to the
awesome bike path that parallels Highway 101, through
the heart of Corte Madera, along Magnolia Ave, past
the tranquil environs and lovely homes and restaurants
of Baltimore Park, onto Sir Francis Drake Blvd. before it
then spilled into the core of San Rafael, via Red Hill
and Greenfield Avenues.
There is a distinct beauty in San Rafael that lures
and captures the minds and hearts of those who visit.
It's Christmas everyday. I could not have hoped for a
warmer reception than the hundreds of brightly colored
light bulbs that adorn the trees on 4th Street. The
atmosphere made me want to stay up 'til after midnight
to peak at what Santa had stuffed into my stocking.
Instead, after an unceremonious feast of two 7-11
burritos, soda, and coffee, it was good night at the
motel on the corner of East Francisco Blvd. and Louise
Street, right along Highway 101.