Greetings from Washington, D.C.
Day 60:Washington, D.C.
ROB:None
PTOB:Thousands
Pursuit Miles:31,886
Mission Control Miles: 27,719

 I write from my Georgetown hotel room on a beautiful day a stone’s throw from our nation's capital. After such a fun "Texas style celebration" on Wednesday night, I woke to say goodbye and thank you to many departing friends who worked so diligently to make Pursuit something beyond what I could have ever imagined. I've received hundreds of congratulatory emails for safely reaching our cycling destination, and I'm beaming with pride and joy for all that we have collectively encountered and accomplished over the past year, and more specifically over the past 60 days. In this final note, I'm summarizing my thoughts, (influenced by Maire and the entire Pursuit family) pride, joy, hope and optimism for our Pursuit.
THE JOURNEY



In April of 2015, after a rough night's sleep followed by a stress relieving early morning bike ride, Maire and I decided to try something meaningful that would help raise money for The Center. After sharing our desire and vision with some of our colleagues and friends from The Center, we began a search for someone who could be dedicated full-time to creating a campaign and platform to help us accomplish our then ill-defined goals. We were fortunate to meet Jourdan Ellis during this interview process. The short timeframe of the project and lack of infrastructure paired well with Jourdan's fearless enthusiasm, and previous work experience with The Livestrong Foundation. Over the past 12 months, the small Pursuit team has been supplemented with 18 Committee Co-Chairs, 350+ volunteers, another 10 or so key staff members (mostly volunteers) and 45 amazingly supportive sponsors. In short, our Pursuit was to ride our bikes across the country, raise money to help The Center, meet with and learn from other organizations, and hopefully help reframe how our neighbors in the U.S. see and interact with people with disABILITIES, so that they would also begin to see these individuals for their unique ABILITIES.

 Our bike riding started on June 6th after we dipped our back tires in the Pacific waters off Astoria, Oregon, and concluded with a front tire dip in the Atlantic on August 3rd in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. In between, roughly 100 cyclists have pedaled with me through 14 states covering3,362 miles at an average speed of 15.7 mph. During the journey, we climbed 105,000 feet of vertical ascent, or roughly the equivalent of 5 summits of Mt. Everest starting from Kathmandu (that sounds more impressive than averaging 15.7 mph :-). The total cumulative miles ridden by my fellow cyclists and me totaled 31,886. Most readers also know that we set up "Mission Control" in Houston to attract new visitors to The Center and encourage our clients to be a part of the Pursuit journey via a "virtual cycling" studio. In total, 831 of our clients, friends, and volunteers rode 27,719 miles in Mission Control, nearly eclipsing our total across the northern U.S. Notably, superstar volunteer Steve Quick rode nearly 3,500 miles in Mission Control, as he matched our cross country feat while watching video of each day's previous road ride. In total, roughly 931 people pedaled with us on our Pursuit, logging nearly 60,000 miles, or the equivalent of riding 20 times across the U.S. between Los Angeles and Jacksonville, Florida. To put that in perspective, I rode only 6% of the total miles ridden in support of Pursuit....that's what I call high leverage!!! And we accomplished this with zero serious accidents, and a 100% smile conversion ratio!
 While as a team we established clear and public goals for Pursuit, I also set some personal goals for my summer journey. In essence, I wanted to relive my childhood years, I wanted to simplify life for 2 months, I wanted to see what the U.S. really has to offer, and I wanted to work on a couple of weaknesses. One of the first steps I took was eliminating much of the clutter in my mind..... I didn't read a newspaper or watch TV (Tour de France and Astros updates were exempted), I didn't check the Internet other than for essential Pursuit and SCF updates, I tuned out political discussions, and I tried not to return emails unless they were related to Pursuit. And thanks to my colleagues at SCF Partners, I was mostly able to achieve those objectives, which dramatically opened my senses and cleared my head to enjoy my journey across our country. What did I find?
 First, we are so fortunate to live in an absolutely amazing country! While I had previously "touched down" in all but one of the 14 states I visited with Pursuit (South Dakota being the exception), I hadn't spent much time in any of these states. From the seat of a bicycle, without the pressure of time or interruptions or any physical barrier other than sunglasses and a helmet, I began to take in the real character and beauty of each individual state and developed a true appreciation for so many unique things across our country. From a natural beauty standpoint, Oregon probably ranks highest on my list with its endless mountains, lush green forests, crystal clear streams, rivers and lakes. Its cooler temperatures and fresh and varied produce also stood out in my mind. We spent 8 days in Oregon, and I could go back with my bike for another 2 months. Wisconsin was the surprise runner-up. We pedaled through Wisconsin for 5 days, and I was surprised by the steep and rolling green terrain, lush lakes, well maintained roads, and string of healthy and unique small communities in the middle of corn, sunflower and dairy farms. Of course, we feel like we may have seen the best of the best of Wisconsin given that our route was carefully planned by Wisconsin super-companies and Pursuit partners Trek and Trek Travel...thanks for that Amy, John, and Tania Burke (our lead Trek Travel Guide, and CEO’s of Trek and Trek Travel, respectively)! But the beauty wasn't limited to those states....Idaho, Wyoming, South Dakota (the Badlands), Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and Delaware each offered rural beauty and iconic small towns and restored railroad depots worthy of separate trips. And the fresh air, smell of local agriculture, whispers of breeze, trickling streams, the overall lack of road noise, and wide open green spaces was amazingly cleansing for my urban, technology cluttered senses. 
                                                                                        Maryland's Rolling Terrain was an Amazing Surprise

                                                                                        Maryland's Rolling Terrain was an Amazing Surprise

                                 Wyoming's Beauty and a Perfect Road

                                 Wyoming's Beauty and a Perfect Road

 Second, despite what we read and see in the media, 99+% of people in our country are good,…really good people. As Governor Ridge said this morning during our visit, "these are the people that make America run." We stopped hundreds of people along our journey to inquire about their local economies, crops, pride, disappointments, schools, agriculture, activities, police forces.... just stream of consciousness conversations. Without exception, every single person we approached was gracious and eager to share their views with us. We met small restaurant owners, small grocery store owners, small gas station owners, and small inn keepers, one with only nine rooms, just enough for our Pursuit peloton. We were invited into stranger's homes for BBQ dinners and birthday celebrations, given roadside assistance as frequently as we encountered mechanical problems, met people eager to escort us back on course when we were lost, had endless helpful and friendly encounters with law enforcement officers. One of my favorite memories is that of a perfect stranger driving 5 hours round trip to return a lost $50 bike helmet. The list of my Pursuit memories of life in America is endless. Everywhere our bikes took us, we saw local and national pride beyond belief..
 Third, while we visited some big cities like Portland, Minneapolis / St. Paul, Chicago, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and D.C. during our Pursuit, I must admit I felt more alive and healthy in the small towns. Sadly, most of the small towns in our country are struggling, really struggling. I've heard President Obama and others talk about the vanishing middle class, and usually tune out these comments as solely political talk aimed at big bad companies and wealthy people needing to pay more taxes. I now have a better understanding of what he and the others are saying. Small towns grew and thrived after WWII on the heels of our global competitiveness in manufacturing, agriculture, and natural resource based economy. Today, 90% of the small towns that we visited, and their residents, are struggling. Their large employers are gone and the small businesses have shuttered, agriculture has become a corporate, technology-driven and "commoditized" business (obvious), and some natural resources such as minerals and coal are now more efficiently globally sourced. The small communities and their residents seemingly haven't been able to keep up with the changing demographics, job skills and technologies required to be competitive in a global marketplace. We saw so many small towns that were all but shut down. We saw freshly cut logs in Oregon being shipped to China, later to be returned to the U.S. as fabricated wood planks. We saw hundreds and hundreds of idled railroad cars and locomotives in the Wind River Basin. We rode on glorious “rails to trails” bike paths that once were the life blood of the Industrial Revolution. I have a better appreciation for how challenging it is for our law makers to deal with these rapid and sweeping changes. One simple (and I view as somewhat sad) but understandable by-product of this change is that the U.S. now plants more than 90 million acres of corn, with as much as 50% of yields going into subsidized/mandated ethanol production. Because of these subsidies, corn production has become big business, and is now far more efficient with technology, seed genetics, automation, lower labor content, etc. driving the small farmer out of business. Although I'm not an economist, it seemed as if the entire Midwest was planted in corn, and the local farmers and communities we visited were really suffering, even though these subsidies were initially intended to help them prosper. If nothing else, it gave me a better appreciation of the current political state of affairs, and I no longer think either side is as right or wrong ...they're just trying to help their local constituents make ends meet in a very competitive and changing world. Enough on politics. Sorry.
                                           You Can't Escape the Corn!

                                           You Can't Escape the Corn!

 In general, seeing the US from a bike saddle over 60 days with friends was a life experience I had well underestimated. It restored my faith in our country, in our neighbors and in our generations to come. We're a strong and resilient country, with endless resources, and a spirit that is alive and well. The chance to explore this country, see the small towns and communities, and visit with the people who love this country as I do is an experience I didn't fully expect from Pursuit. The kindness of strangers, the physical beauty of our parks, the wide open spaces,……we have something tremendous under our feet, just off the beaten path. It is truly refreshing and inspirational. 
                                                                                               Leaving Jackson Hole on a Beautiful Morning

                                                                                               Leaving Jackson Hole on a Beautiful Morning

Many people have asked what has been the best place, best day, and best experiences of our journey. Without a doubt, my favorite 48 hours started on our arrival on day 15 into Victor, Idaho. After a long tiring day of climbing on the bike, we reached Victor, one of the most beautiful valleys on the west side of the Tetons, and just on the other side of the Teton Pass from Jackson Hole. Upon arrival, we laughed hysterically as Bo challenged Hannah to an ice bath and a 48 ounce DQ Blizzard. We later went for an outdoor BBQ in downtown Victor followed by some delicious huckleberry ice cream milkshakes. Needless to say we slept well that night with big smiles on our faces! The next morning Stuart and Stephanie Page, along with Bo, encouraged us up and over the Teton pass, in one of our most physically demanding stretches of the trip. At the top of the Teton Pass, we were met by friends, Tom and Laura Bacon, and their friends Jimmy and Dana Jacobsen. We spent an hour at the top enjoying the viewsback to Victor and across to Jackson. We took the opportunity to rest our legs before hurdling downhill at 40+ mph with some of the most beautiful views in the world ahead of us. Over the next 24 hours we enjoyed a rainbow trout lunch with a group of 30, followed by the dual in the pool between Jourdan and Dave Patterson. The first Ride-Along guests then began to arrive in Jackson Hole and the evening culminated with a wonderful dinner hosted by the Hawkins and the Simmons. During that beautiful dinner, Dan Austin shared his stories of cross country bike pilgrimages and charitable pursuits all over the world. I was flying high to say the least. We were joined by the moose that got loose at the Hawkins abode. Throughout the remaining days of our journey, we constantly looked back at that dinner and the Hawkins overwhelming hospitality, and laughed about how Russell famously “cued the moose” just at the right time.
                                                                                                             Cue the Moose

                                                                                                             Cue the Moose

OUR GOALS

We established one Mission Statement and 3 goals for Pursuit. Our Mission was first to help The Center, and second, to try to enrich the lives of all our 11 million neighbors with disABILITIES. Specifically: 

1. Raise $11.0 -$13.5 million for The Center

2. Learn from other experts across the country how we could better serve our clients at The Center

3. Try to raise awareness that might play a role in enriching the lives of all people with disABILITIES.

 How did we do? While I'm not inclined to declare victory, I'm very proud of our collective progress, particularly given our compressed time frame. To date, we have raised $12.5 million, surpassing our initial or "entry level" goal of $11.0 million, and achieving93% of our $13.5 million stretch goal. This overwhelming generosity has resulted from 2,477 discrete donors, with over 85% of those donors being first time supporters of The Center. We also had 100% support from our Board members, and strong support from long time donors and generous foundations. Although the ride is complete, the financial campaign is not over. We still are seeing a tremendous and steady inflow of generosity from people new to our mission. In short, we are thrilled with the accomplishments, and we'll continue working to reach our goals. In the meantime, thank you very much to everyone who contributed so generously to help us help others.

STATE OF AFFAIRS REGARDING SUPPORTING PEOPLE WITH disABILTITIES

 Before addressing our learning and awareness goals, it's important to reflect on what we've learned from our 31 Learning Visits, countless interviews and desktop research. From my layperson's perspective, I'd like to frame a brief and general history of supporting people with disABILITIES in our country, with the caveat that I don't have a child, sibling, or outside of our clients at The Center, a close friend with a broadly defined disability. My observations are the result of 25 years of volunteering to support persons with disABILITIES, and through our learning visits and research over the past 60 days. I'll apologize upfront for any misstatements, lack of sensitivity, or inappropriate terms, or if I miss the mark on some of my initial observations.
 Up and through World War II, parents with a child with a disABILITY had limited options for help and support. Most children stayed at home, or were "institutionalized" in government-run facilities that many have referred to as 'warehousing.' In most cases, the outcomes were very sad....very low life expectancies (teens), little opportunities for growth and independence, broken families, and very few successes. Starting in the 1950's and 1960's, activist parents around the U.S. started to recognize and rebel against these inadequate alternatives. In many communities, parents formed organizations with a general goal of creating an environment where their children could begin learning and living "independently" outside their birth home, but not in institutions. The Center in Houston was one of these early pioneers. Thanks to these visionary (and in many cases desperate) parents and the work of some relentless pioneer leaders and loving staff, the outcomes (life expectancy, independence, happiness) started to improve rapidly for the select few who were fortunate enough to find an organization like The Center. As these life expectancies increased, many of these organizations morphed by necessity into adult communities and the issues evolved from education and life skills, into living and working independently as adults.
 Under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Congress passed ground breaking legislation that afforded all persons with disABILITIES the right to a public education through age 21, and started to define the concept of equality between the able, and the disabled, at least in terms of education. In 1990, Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, specifically entitling all people with disABILITIES the same general rights and benefits afforded to minorities under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It also made it illegal to discriminate against persons based on their disABILITY. 
         Long-time Center resident, Vicky riding in Mission Control with star Dynamo player, Giles Barnes

         Long-time Center resident, Vicky riding in Mission Control with star Dynamo player, Giles Barnes

On the heels of family activism, the growth of many non-profits supporting persons with disabilities, and ground-breaking legislation supporting equality, the life expectancies of persons with disABILITIES started to expand dramatically in the 1980's, 1990's and 2000's. More than through medical advancements, these life expectancy improvements were driven through better living conditions, improved independence, increasing acceptance and inclusion, and greater self-esteem. 
 So, where are we today? In many respects, we've come a long way in essentially only one full generation. In other ways, our progress has slowed or plateaued. Today, only about 20% of people with disABILITIES live and/or work independently. Many aspects of legislation intended to protect persons with disABILITIES are ignored and/or not enforced. Due to likely un-forecasted growth in life expectancies and a dramatically expanded adult population of persons with disABILITIES, our Medicaid programs are currently not structured to meet the financial means required to reach the equality goals outlined in the now decades old legislation. Due to constant financial pressures, wages for direct support staff are inadequately low, and turnover high, making continuity of care a constant challenge. These are some of our disappointments and challenges that we face every day.
                                                                             Maire and I had a wonderful visit with Governor Tom Ridge

                                                                             Maire and I had a wonderful visit with Governor Tom Ridge

We continue to make progress. "Inclusion" and equality is now a widespread vision sweeping our country for the IDD community. Employers are starting to make accommodations for workers with disABILITIES, and have improved their matching of ABILITIES with job requirements. Living options now range from supported living, to campus living, to community living, to independent living. Many state institutions are being improved, or closed in favor of private housing options. We continue to make improvements in the area ofof creating individualized support plans ("person-centered") that focus on each individual's strengths and interests, as opposed to simply offering broad based programs.
 Future breakthroughs will require adoption of technology, where most support organizations like The Center are woefully behind other industries. This will require a large investment. This is an area where efficiencies and learning tools could help our clients’ gain independent living and job skills much more quickly, and with less direct care staff. We also need to establish partnerships with employers to help train our clients for the specific type of work they are looking to accomplish, and employers need to make a commitment to give our clients a chance, and in the process live up to the spirit and letter of the legislation passed over the past decades. Possibly our greatest challenge is to have regulators, families and organizations like The Center work towards a financial model that is fair to all, provides equal access, and allocates financial responsibility that is broad and sustainable among families, government/Medicaid, and philanthropy.
                                                                          The Wingspan Glee Club in St. Paul, Minnesota

                                                                          The Wingspan Glee Club in St. Paul, Minnesota

 I am so grateful for every one of our 31 learning partners, who planned, prepared in advance, and shared so generously and passionately their thoughts and ideas with us. We could have hired a slew of consultants and not learned in 2 months as much as we did in these visits. Then, serendipitously, even after we had completed our formal learning visits for this journey, I had the chance encounter with Ms. Louisa Hogan, Co-Chair of Special Education for Bowie High School in Annapolis, Maryland. In a 10 minute conversation, I learned more about helping kids with special needs transition into adulthood successfully from this visionary educator. I also learned how someone with a passion and enormous patience can have a meaningful impact to over 200 people with disABILITIES in her district every year. Our future is bright because of people like Ms. Hogan. 
IMPACT AND NEXT STEPS FOR THE CENTER

 
 A major basis for our learning visits was to assist The Center's Leadership Team and Long Term Planning Committee in refining and clarifying our future strategy. In total, 4 members of The Center's Leadership Team, and another 8 members of our Long-Term Planning Committee and/or Board attended one or more of the 31 learning visits.We gained valuable insights about how we can change our approach to better support our residential, day and vocational programs. We also learned how and where we can better use technology to better serve our clients. And finally, we talked about the financial pressures affecting The Center, and debated ways to make our financial model sustainable, while also maintaining and/or improving our service delivery and client care. In short, we learned a lot from our visits that we will incorporate into our "Center 2.0" future strategy.
 Thanks to the generosity of our donors and the resulting financial success of our fundraising campaign, we now have the resources to complete the purchase of our land. We still haven't decided whether to stay, renovate, build new, or move, but at least we now can control a valuable asset, likely worth $30+ million. Regardless of the direction we take in "2.0" with our land, we will attempt to maximize the value of this asset to help modernize and improve the sustainability of The Center. We will be seeking the advice of The Midway Companies, who has been a generous sponsor and others as we make these decisions.
 Once we have completed our "Center 2.0" deliberations, we will share our plans broadly to insure we have the full support and alignment with our many supporters. 

MY PERSONAL REFLECTIONS

 
 In so many ways, this has been the trip of a lifetime for me. I’ve been blessed for 53 years with good health, great family, financial security, many great friends and a happy marriage. And I love my job and colleagues at SCF, have many hobbies and a growing faith. After 25 years of volunteering at The Center and watching circumstances, particularly financial ones, increasingly get tougher, I had developed a festering sense of guilt for not doing more to help reverse our course. Simultaneously, I sadly had 3 friends, roughly my age, battle and ultimately lose their fights with brain cancer. After 25 years of dedicating my working life to SCF, I also felt the need for a short break to hit the reset button. In short, Pursuit came at a perfect time. Thanks to Maire, my partners at SCF, and many friends with whom I consulted, I was fortunate enough to be able to take a “halftime break”.
 What have I learned? First and foremost, I stopped and went left, even when my daily routine said, go right. Even a plow horse that only turns to the right eventually needs to break cycle and try something different. I listened to my mind, body and friends when the calling was there. Second, I finally tried something uncomfortably outside my comfort zone… and I realized pursuing bigger dreams can really be fun, even with the risk of falling short. Third, and key for me, I convinced myself to be unconcerned with failure …just trying is about 70% of the therapy. When we started Pursuit, we had quite a few notable and initially depressing setbacks. So Maire, Cristy, Jourdan and I came up with a “solution”…we started to celebrate our defeats! At least we had tried one path and when we found it blocked…we knew to try other paths. Splendid…turn a loss into a win, and then we couldn't lose. I like games where everyone wins! Finally, my biggest form of halftime therapy came from pursuing these goals with a group of old and new friends who were working alongside me to help reach our goals, and to have fun. Almost everyone that has worked on Pursuit has seen me cry and get emotional during conversations, speeches, presentations and even interviews. Initially, I was embarrassed and didn’t understand why I couldn’t control my emotions. Soon I figured it out, I was continually overwhelmed by the support of my friends, both long standing and new and their willingness to work alongside me in Pursuit of a clear and common set of goals. This was magical, humbling, rewarding and therefore often caught me off-guard. I’ve had the time of my life over the past 60 days, and the past year, and I hope everyone who reads this can reflect on their own Pursuits, both in the past, and in the future.
I made a goal to work on my faith during Pursuit. I set aside time every morning for reflection and short study. On a nearly daily basis I saw circumstances unexplainably change for the better when they initially looked insurmountable. This journey and its twists and turns, definitely helped me strengthen my practice and faith.
 Nearly everyone who rode alongside me during our cross-country journey heard me cue up the song “Renegades” by X Ambassadors when were in a particularly beautiful place or at the end of a long, hard ride. The song’s special meaning to me was that I had finally Pursued something important to me, and it made me feel free. 


Run away with me
Lost souls and reverie
Running wild and running free
Two kids, you and me

And I say
Hey, hey hey hey
Living like we're renegades
Hey hey hey
Hey hey hey
Living like we're renegades
Renegades, renegades

Long live the pioneers
Rebels and mutineers
Go forth and have no fear
Come close the end is near

And I say hey, hey hey hey
Living like we're renegades
Hey hey hey
Hey hey hey
Living like we're renegades
Renegades, renegades

All hail the underdogs
All hail the new kids
All hail the outlaws
Spielberg's and Kubrick's

It's our time to make a move
It's our time to make amends
It's our time to break the rules
Let's begin

And I say hey, hey hey hey
Living like we're renegades
Hey hey hey
Hey hey hey
Leaving like we're renegades
Renegades, renegades


WITH GRATITUDE....., 

We still have a lot of work left to accomplish our ultimate goals for Pursuit but, II’ve already accomplished many of my personal goals. I’ve had fun, pushed hard, broken my ‘cycle’, worked on some weaknesses, learned so much, and have done it all with amazing friends whom I admire and respect. How do I truly thank everyone that has joined our Pursuit? We plan to have a wrap-up celebration in Houston later this fall, and I hope everyone will try to join us. While I know that it will be fun, it seems inadequate to express my true thanks. Finally, I plan to share periodic updates on our continued progress toward our shared Pursuit goals.
 For now, thank you to everyone who has read our morning note and followed our journey. And thanks to everyone who pedaled, volunteered, donated and worked hard to make Pursuit a success. And finally, thanks to everyone who advised, laughed, smiled and cried with me on my pursuit of a lifetime
,.....AND IN PURSUIT

 
 So where does Pursuit go from here? First, we have some deliverables to complete...a summary of our learning visits; a report on the financial results of the campaign; a plan for the future direction of The Center; and a gathering to celebrate our journey and successes to date. Beyond that, I am not certain, other than to say Pursuit as an entity is not done. Most good Pursuits take time, require perservence and patience, and involve many people. We plan to have several meetings over the coming weeks to gain others’ insights into future roles and goals for Pursuit. From our journey and learning visits this summer, it is clear that we are making huge strides in helping people with disABILITIES live more full, happy and productive lives. But it is also clear we have a long way to go. I hope Pursuit can play a meaningful role in making that happen.
 As we consider future possibilities for Pursuit, we’d value your thoughts, ideas, suggestions and any constructive feedback. And I’d like to hear from anyone, or any organization interested in planning and/or hosting their own “Pursuit for Those with disABILITIES”. Everywhere we visited, we saw the need for more collaboration, more advocacy, better regulation, more support, more research, and more information to support persons with disABILITIES. Please share your ideas and thoughts with us.
 I’ll conclude our Day 60 Morning Note with Braeden’s summary video of the past 59 days of our Pursuit journey.

With Gratitude and In Pursuit,
David, Maire and the entire Pursuit team


Greetings from Washington, D.C.!

Day 59: Denton, MD to Rehoboth Beach, DE
ROB: David Baldwin, Maire Baldwin, Ben Dally,Chris Duhon, Jourdan Ellis, Meredith Kimbell, Holt McNair, Jay Munisteri, Eric Nordstrom, Priscilla Plumb, Braeden Sawyer, Dave Thompson, Robby Walsh
PTOB: Eva Aguirre, Laura Bacon, Tom Bacon, Kenny Baldwin, Mark Barineau, Meredith Barineau, Katherine Barineau, Linda Bates, Bob Cappadona, Alan Desai, Nisha Desai, Stefani Ducote, Trent Ducote, Cristy Fojt, Ava Fojt, Robin Goffen, Jeff Goffen, Amie Herbert, Chase Herbert, Fred Herbert,Ian Herbert, Doug Hodo, Bo Huggins, Chaz Lusk, Harper McGee, Rishi Naran, Roberta Nordstrom, Lila Ontiveros, Gil Ontiveros, Nancy Ontiveros, James Pavlik, Amy Pavlik, Connor Pavlik, Kayla Pavlik, Priscilla Plumb, Jon Prather, John Schindeler, Virginia Simmons, Nathan Wang, Jacqui Willis
Pursuit: 49 miles, 3:24 hours, 14.3 average MPH, 240’ ascent, 1,315 calories
Falls: None!!! (On bikes) Plenty in the Atlantic Ocean!!!
Pursuit Miles: 588 miles (day 59); 31,886 miles (total)
Mission Control Miles: 247 miles (day 59); 27,658 miles (total)

 Yesterday, we woke with a very different feeling – that big game feeling. Realistically, this was one of the easiest rides of our 3,500 mile journey, mostly flat or downhill, with a surprising headwind from time to time, but the overall weather conditions were extremely favorable. However, the gravity and significance of the day had a strong presence. From our starting point at the Best Western hotel in Denton, we were joined by many friends and family members. Adding so many new members to our morning routine of inflating tires, synching Garmins and filling water bottles only fueled our nervous excitement and anxiety.
 The ride itself was an absolute pleasure with a somewhat comfortable shoulder, perfect temperatures, easy pedaling and visiting, and once again an endless amount of corn fields (more on that tomorrow). Naturally, there were a lot of differences from the prior day’s ride, we were headed to the ocean. While there were fewer miles, there were a lot more smiles. We were passed by cars that seemed to honk and wave enthusiastically. As those cars passed us, we would recognize some of the faces, suspecting they were coming to the beach to “surprise us”. Riding along the final 2 miles of highway, we were greeted by two lone cyclists on rental bikes in Pursuit t-shirts, Eric Nordstrom and Dave Thompson along the side of a four-lane busy highway. As we closed in on the final one mile of our cross country journey, we were met by a police escort to lead us down the iconic seaside thoroughfare.
                                                                              Maire and I making our entrance to Rehoboth Beach

                                                                              Maire and I making our entrance to Rehoboth Beach

                                                                  The Pursuit team making their final pedals to the ocean.

                                                                  The Pursuit team making their final pedals to the ocean.

 In the remaining yards of our journey, from the portable speaker on my bike, I played one of the many theme songs of our trip. As the X-Ambassadors song entitled Renegades played “all hail the underdogs”, we looked up to see something we will never forget. Our friends from all over the country, nearly 75 strong, who have done their part to fight for the underdog IDD community, waved signs, while wearing Pursuit t-shirts and holding white balloons emblazoned with the Pursuit logo. Locals had seen the crowd building and had asked to join the celebration and wave signs and balloons. As the quintessential beach American bandstand came into view, with the Atlantic Ocean in the background, the Pursuit team and I rode together and unabashedly wept. Mid-peddle stroke, I asked Jourdan, “where do we go now?” Without missing a beat, she gave the exact right answer – “we are going straight into the ocean.” 
Jacqui and John.jpg
Rehoboth Beach was more crowded than one would think an Eastern seaboard beach would be on an August afternoon. As we shed our shoes, threw our bikes on our shoulders, and meandered our way to the shoreline, something remarkable happened. Strangers, hundreds and hundreds of strangers, got out of their lounge chairs, stood up and cheered. While the Pursuit supporters awaited our awaited our arrival, word quickly spread like wildfire of our Pursuit journey. Some spectators would only hear of our athletic conquest of crossing the country by bicycle. However others were given the full Pursuit Monty, learning of the Mission, the money raised and the various intricacies associated with our cross country journey.
 We officially ended our cycling journey by dipping our front tire in the Atlantic Ocean. We continued to play and dance in the ocean like children, if children can be sprayed with some bubbly. As the summer season winded down on the east coast, the Atlantic Ocean was uninhabited by vacationers due to the 'no swimming' warning due to the strong current and dangerous waves. After a few failed attempts by life guards to get us out of the water, they left us alone. After 59 days of hard work and riding to arrive at this destination and dreaming of this sweet moment, nothing was going to keep us out of the Atlantic.
We concluded our evening in something that was seemingly familiar – The Texas Hill Country. No, we didn’t fly into Austin. We went to an authentic Texas BBQ establishment in D.C. proper. The sights, sounds and smells were so authentic that it reminded us of home. There were a few more surprises that reminded us of home. Firstly, our dear friends Tom and Laura “Mama” Bacon surprised the team, which augmented the earlier guest surprises of Bo Huggins and Bob Cappadona. We were thrilled to see Virginia Simmons and our new friends Robin and Jeff Goffen. Secondly, I had tears in my eyes as we previewed one more of Braeden's works of video art (please tune into Friday's note to view). Next, the amazing duo of Linda and Cristy shocked the group with a phenomenal rendition of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” to 'Don't Stop Pursuin' (written by famous songwriters, Roberta and Eric Nordstrom). To round out the night, the team had their chance at the Springsteen classic, “Born in the USA”, with the youngest member of the group, Chase Herbert, 11 years old. Although, the place seemed a fire hazard waiting to happen, we enjoyed every moment to store with the other great memories of this Pursuit summer.
 So, what’s next for Pursuit? Maire and I will stay in Washington D.C. for the next couple of days and continue our learning journey. We are excited about our Friday meeting with Governor Tom Ridge, Chairman of the National Organization on disABILITY. I plan to spend the rest of today writing tomorrow's Morning Note. Thankfully for my body’s sake, I will not be mounting a bicycle for at least a few days! Words can never express our gratitude, happiness and pride with what we have accomplished and the and optimism for which we now have for Pursuit's future plans.
We do have a small request, please set aside some time tomorrow, or over the weekend, to read our wrap-up and watch our recap video of our Pursuit journey. 

 
 With Gratitude and in Pursuit,
 David, Maire and the entire Pursuit team

 


 

Greetings from Denton, MD!
Day 58: Washington, DC to Denton, MD
ROB: David Baldwin, Chris Duhon, Jourdan Ellis, Braeden Sawyer
PTOB: Maire Baldwin, Linda Bates, Cristy Fojt, Meredith Kimbell, Harper McGee, Lila Ontiveros, Priscilla Plumb, John Schindeler, Jacqui Willis
Pursuit: 63 miles, 3:38 hours, 17.4 average MPH, 1,519’ ascent, 2,046 calories
Falls: None
Pursuit Miles: 252 miles (day 58); 31,298 miles (total)
Mission Control Miles: 453 miles (day 58); 27,411 miles (total)

 There are a few things that one learns over time. One of which is that everything happens for a reason. Secondly, is that there are many things in life that are out of your control. Yesterday morning, we all decided to meet in a high school parking lot in Bowie, MD to avoid morning rush hour traffic in D.C. Seeing that we were coming from different hotels, we thus took different routes in one of the most populous places in the U.S., and consequently we all encountered different traffic scenarios. In a somewhat rare event, I was the first one to the starting point, ready to start the first half of our remaining 100 mile journey. While I waited for the rest of our team to show up nearly an hour later, fate had more important plans. I decided to walk into the high school to inquire about using their restroom, and ended up running into Ms. Louisa Hogan who is the Chair of Special Education at Bowie High School. In the same serendipitous theme that has followed us throughout this journey, I took the opportunity to learn more from Louisa about special needs high school aged children, and what is being done in the Bowie School District to prepare their kids for life as adults. I learned more from Louisa than I have from most on our 3,500+ mile journey. For once, I’m thankful for traffic and things that are out of our control, in the sense that it enabled me to meet Louisa. 
While we got a late start, we were all on an emotional high between the chance meeting with Louisa and the proximity of the Atlantic Ocean. Often times throughout our journey, we are so focused on the wheel in front of us, that we just strap on our helmets, put air in our tires and get on our way. We look at the weather, the elevation, the ascent, but I am not sure we ever properly look at the larger geography map. Lila had said to Braeden and Jourdan yesterday morning, “if you ever come back to Maryland, you have to go to Annapolis.” Unbeknownst to a team of type A’s (did we mention we are tired), we rode through the capitol of Maryland and home of the US Naval Academy – ie, Annapolis. Naturally, we all stopped for the obligatory photo and more importantly to pay respect to all members of our Armed Forces. However, my mind inevitably gravitated to all of my friends and colleagues who either attended the Naval Academy or were in the Navy. Most importantly, I thought of my father – a proud Navy man, albeit through ROTC at Georgia Tech. Dad served on a submarine in World War II in the Pacific, and while he was pretty modest and quiet about his wartime experiences, he was fiercely proud of his days in the Navy. Dad was also one quick to take on a pilgrimage, be it trying to climb Mt. Everest, racing cars, bungee jumping, parachuting,....you name it, he loved an adventure.I've thought of my Dad often on this Pursuit pilgrimage, and know that he would have loved to be riding with me, and also know that he'd be proud that I didn't put this journey off for another time. I'm glad we happened by The Academy...it was awesome in many respects.
 Upon our arrival into Denton, I was greeted with more than the smell of the salt air. I had the wonderful surprise of see my good friends – Doug Hodo, Jon Prather, Kenny Baldwin, Jay Munisteri, and Meredith Kimbell, all of whom came in for the finale. I have a sneaky suspicion that there are many more surprises to come, as evidenced by the fact that no one on my team will give me a straight answer to logistical questions for tomorrow.
 The evening was concluded by the so-called “Lila and Jourdan Show” complete with a Pursuit themed hip-hop entrance song. The dynamic duo ripped a page out of the Trek Travel guide playbook and hosted an awards dinner for the Pursuit Team. The two of them are top notch students and hit the ball out of the park. They clearly learned a lot from the previous three awards dinners that they sat through. It was a night I will never forget, and I was proud to see them honor and thank all of the members of our Pursuit traveling team. 
 I started this morning with a nice email saying the Washington Post article on Pursuit was in today's paper. It was a nice way to start the last day of our journey.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/a-cross-country-biking-expedition-raises-millions-for-people-with-disabilities/2016/08/02/545dbbbc-5804-11e6-9767-f6c947fd0cb8_story.html

 Today is going to be a big day … monumental in fact. We have 48 miles to the Atlantic Ocean. I haven’t fully let myself feel the gravity of everything that it encompasses. Our goals which once seemed very far away are now within grasp. As the next few hours transpire, all I can say is thank you. Thank you for supporting and following our journey. Thank you for furthering our mission. Thank you for the encouragement. Thank you for the laughs. Thank you for time off. And thank you for helping Maire and me make our dreams come true.

With Gratitude and In Pursuit,
David, Maire and the entire Pursuit team

 


Greetings from Washington, D.C.!

Day 57: Rest day in Washington, D.C.
PTOB: David Baldwin, Maire Baldwin, Eva Aguirre, Linda Bates, Nisha Desai, Chris Duhon, Jourdan Ellis, Cristy Fojt, Amie Herbert,Fred Herbert, Meredith Kimbell, Harper McGee, Lila Ontiveros, James Pavlik, Priscilla Plumb, Braeden Sawyer, Sara Selber, John Schindeler, Jacqui Willis
Pursuit: 0 miles, 0 hours, 0 average MPH, 0’ ascent, 0 calories
Falls: None
Pursuit Miles: 0 miles (day 57); 31,046 miles (total)
Mission Control Miles: 701 miles (day 57); 26,958 miles (total)

 Yesterday Maire and I started our day in an unusual manner. Yes, we wake up daily with The Center in the forefront of our minds, and will tell anyone who will listen about Pursuit. However we typically do not do so to a live television audience. I joined PwC’s Brad Hopton on CBS Channel 9’s Great Day Washington. Brad Hopton is a tax partner at PwC and their Disability Inclusion Networks Partner Champion. We were grateful for the generous air time. Please click on the link to view: 

http://on.wusa9.com/2apixio

 Following our television interview, we were interviewed by the Washington Post as a follow up to our photo session the previous day on our journey into The District. We've received nice print and television coverage of Pursuit all across the country, but it was especially flattering to receive such nice exposure in our nation's capital.
 After many months of planning and so many spectacular events behind us, it’s hard to believe that yesterday we wrapped up the final learning visits scheduled in conjunction with our Pursuit ride. These visits have served as a significant “third leg of the stool” in terms of Pursuit’s overall mission. When we embarked upon our journey just two short months ago, one of our primary goals was to meet with “the best of the best” organizations serving individuals with intellectual disabilities to foster relationships, learn about best-in-class practices, and engage in honest, open dialogue about the challenges we all face as we strive to improve our service and delivery models and contribute toward a brighter future for our clients. We’ve now met with 31 different organizations, and our heads are spinning as we try to digest all the input we’ve received!
 Some of our sessions have involved one-on-one meetings with individuals in a single entity, while others have been in the form of collaborative roundtables with multiple perspectives in the same room. The majority of our learning visits have been with non-profits and social enterprises serving the IDD community programmatically, while others have focused on the advocacy efforts that are so critical in impacting funding and public policy decisions. We’ve also spent time withacademia, as we heard from professors and students in graduate level special education research programs at the University of Wisconsin at Madison just 3 short weeks ago. 
 Yesterday we introduced a fourth perspective – that of a governmental agency –we met with Commissioner Aaron Bishop of the Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AIDD), a segment of the Administration on Disabilities (AoD), part of the broader Administration for Community Living (ACL). In a wonderful “small world” twist, we learned that Commissioner Bishop trained at the University of Wisconsin’s Waisman Center, during which time he came to know our very own Chris Borreca, another UWI grad who also was an integral part of Pursuit’s Learning Visit Research team, and grandson of Dr. Borreca who led The Center for so many years! Accompanying Commissioner Bishop was our visit liaison, MJ Karimi, Lead Program Analyst supporting the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities (PCPID), one of the programs affiliated with the AIDD. After grounding us with a bit of historical perspective of the AIDD and the structure of various departments, Commissioner Bishop shared a wealth of information about his priorities, including his focus on systems change, and collaboration across silos to work toward using a common language and consistent definition of terms across related agencies that all fall under the umbrella of the AoD. He also offered very helpful suggestions about how to continue driving toward progress and change during this election year and beyond. At the conclusion of the visit Commissioner Bishop presented to the Pursuit team a beautiful, framed letter commemorating our visit to AIDD, along with his good wishes for our ongoing success. Maire and I were over the moon with gratitude while feeling completely humbled by the generous gift and warm welcome both the Commissioner and MJ extended to us during our visit. 
Following our meeting with AIDD, several members of our learning team met with Jennifer Mizrahi, the CEO of RespectAbility, a non-profit organization advocating for the employment of people with disabilities. Jennifer shared a compelling case for placing our energies into promoting high expectations around gaining employment opportunities for individuals with IDD.She encouraged us to focus on “early intervention” efforts (particularly relating to Autism) and readiness for competitive, integrated employment, skills development and employment training. She also urged us to explore “Project Searchlight” as a potential partner to help us hone in on job training for 16-20 year olds well before they transition out of school and while they still have the “get up and go” needed to be successful employees.
 Our final learning visit of the day was hosted by the Arc of the United States, represented by CEO Peter Berns and several of their policy and advocacy experts. The group also included policy leaders from Autism Speaks and two founders from Bike to the Beach. During our facilitated session we learned about the contrasting histories of all three organizations, areas of intersection in their work (particularly related to Autism), their advocacy priorities and how well they collaborate and leverage one another’s efforts. We were thrilled to have multiple representatives from all 3 organizations and came away with pages of notes from the very dedicated and knowledgeable voices in the room. 
 Also joining us were both staff and board leadership from The Center, members of our extended Pursuit team and both Brad Hopton and Kyle Lemmon from PwC.

   At the end of a very productive learning day I had the opportunity to moderate a panel at Pursuit Disability Inclusion Night, a Happy Hour hosted by Pursuit’s National Learning Partner, PricewaterhouseCoopers. Joining me in the discussion were PwC’s Disability Inclusion Networks Partner Champion Brad Hopton, PwC’s Director Kyle Lemmon and Autism Speaks’ Senior Director of Public Policy, Angela Lello – all three of whom had been outstanding contributors to our prior learning visit at the Arc. Not only were my fellow panelists extremely knowledgeable about the programs and advocacy efforts they each championed, all three of them happen to be parents of children with some form of IDD and truly spoke from the heart about very personal experiences in their own families. In my view, no one is more credible than an involved and loving parent when talking about the joys and challenges of working with their children who have intellectual development disabilities -- whether they are on the Autism Spectrum or have Downs Syndrome. I was honored to be at the table with these superstar parents who offered extremely valuable perspectives on so many of the issues we discussed during a very full and rich learning day!

One year ago, shortly after Maire and I had committed to chairing a campaign for The Center, we were faced with the daunting task of putting together a team to help us reach our goals. I started by asking my assistant Cristy Fojt if she would like a "second job". I'm glad she didn't understand the magnitude of that commitment, and readily accepted. Shortly thereafter, we started interviewing for a Campaign Manager. We interviewed a number of young, smart, energetic candidates, most were overwhelmed with the wide variety of objectives, scared about the lack of an existing playbook and intimidated by the condensed time frame of roughly one year. Fortunately for Pursuit, Jourdan Ellis saw each of those obstacles as summits to climb and eagerly accepted our invitation to come and build Pursuit. 
 Cristy Fojt and I have worked together for a long time at SCF. She finishes my sentences (quite literally sometimes), tells me when I'm out of line, makes me laugh and smile and generally makes all with whom we work feel important and positive about their work with our firm. In short, she is the perfect partner for me to help us accomplish our SCF goals. Over the past year, she has literally been working 2 full time jobs. The first is keeping our SCF duties on track, and when oil drops to $25 per barrel, those tasks aren't always fun and rewarding. The second job has been her wide reaching set of ill-defined tasks to keep Pursuit moving in a positive direction. Cristy has worked to recruit volunteers, helped to make their involvement fun and impactful, planned countless events on crazy short deadlines, created detailed data bases, helped host countless meetings and gatherings to accomplish our critical tasks, edited and published every morning note, and countless other critical roles,...and always with a huge smile on her face, and endless enthusiasm for our Pursuit mission. And oh, by the way, she is the largest fund-raiser on our Crowdrise accounts, having raised nearly $40,000!!! While continuing to flawlessly execute 2 demanding jobs, she's managed to help me return to balance when I've spun out of control with my dual duties. And for the last 2 months, she's had to keep our Pursuit and SCF roles running smoothly from Houston while the rest of us are having the times of our lives on the road. Cristy is an integral part of the SCF family and Pursuit network.
Jourdan Ellis has been the drive, organization, energy and reach of Pursuit since it's inception. Before the ride began, Jourdan helped structure and coordinate 8 Pursuit Committees, planned numerous key launch events, organized and attended countless donor, sponsor, and volunteer meetings, presided over weekly staff meetings, hosted bi-weekly leadership briefings, wrote our monthly newsletter updates, and has generally done everything neccessary and possible to take Pursuit from start-up to a well functioning organization.
Since the ride began 57 days ago, Jourdan is up at 5am every morning to make sure everyone on the team has what they need, whether our team is 3 people that day or 60 people. You name it and she does it – hotels, meals, media, social media, coordinate Ride Along guests, learning visits, etc. While I'm going through my post-ride routine of ice, therapy and stretching, Jourdan is getting dinner for the team. When I’m turning it in for the night, Jourdan is finalizing our route and plans for the next day and making plans to welcome the upcoming Pursuit guests. In short, Jourdan has run and managed all aspects of Pursuit in a seamless manner, shown leadership well beyond her 25 years, and has driven us to heights beyond our expectations.

 

 Without these two special ladies Pursuit would have fallen short of our goals in many ways, and would not have been as fun and productive for all of the sponsors, volunteers, riders and donors that have made Pursuit a success. For these reasons and more, Cristy and Jourdan are the Co-MVP's of Pursuit. Thanks to both of you for your tireless work and boundless enthusiasm for our Pursuit.  
   We have about 100 miles left on our Pursuit journey before we dip our front tire in the Atlantic Ocean on Wednesday around noon. I am feeling strong and positive about the next days, and am excited that most of our goals are within reach.  


With Gratitude and In Pursuit,
David, Maire and the entire Pursuit team


 

Greetings from Washington, D.C.!

Day 56: Charles Town, WV to Washington, D.C.
ROB: David Baldwin, Keith Baldwin, Chris Duhon, Jourdan Ellis, Meredith Kimbell, Braeden Sawyer
PTOB: Maire Baldwin, Fred Herbert, Harper McGee, Lila Ontiveros, Priscilla Plumb, John Schindeler, Jacqui Willis
Pursuit: 61 miles, 4:05 hours, 15.0 average MPH, 1,595’ ascent, 2,175 calories
Falls: None
Pursuit Miles: 366 miles (day 56); 31,046 miles (total)
Mission Control Miles: 730 miles (day 56); 26,257 miles (total)

    We began our morning yesterday with more of the same – dreary skies, looming raindrops and a potentially dangerous Virginia highway with no shoulder. Seemingly scripted, as soon as we hit the Washington and Old Dominion bike trail, the sky cleared. We cycled through colonial Virginian towns, complete with time period American flags. As we got closer and closer to DC, the emotions became a lot more difficult to contain. Without skipping a beat, as we crossed the Potomac from Arlington into Washington, three helicopters buzzed our heads. It was Marine One, and two of its decoys. Unbeknownst to the Pursuit team, the President was returning from Camp David to the White House’s South Lawn, where he was met by Press.
   Putting political opinions aside, to have the President of the United States fly over upon entering the Nation’s Capital after cycling across this great country for the last 56 days is overwhelmingly emotional to say the least. The President may have been met by the Press, but Team Pursuit was also met by the Press. Katherine Frey from the Washington Post met us along the bike trail in Leesburg, VA and captured footage of our team. We later captured our own footed when we went to the Lincoln Memorial (and  were promptly escorted out as we were not allowed to have our bikes), the Washington Monument and The White House. I shed tears in each of those locations, as I mentioned,  it was quite emotional!

9cf5984c-8f94-4d64-9efb-2f27671caaf3.jpg

   So much of this Journey, not just the last 56 days, but the last year, has been a mental and emotional mountain to climb. It has been famously said that without a coach, people will never reach their maximum capabilities. I’m not sure we have reached maximum capabilities, but we have all certainly pushed ourselves hard. With a new and rapidly expanding team, no road map, and a compressed time period, Pursuit's journey offered many obstacles to success. I in particular, had never organized or led anything like this before, while also trying to maintain my day job duties. Thank goodness for Meredith Kimbell. Meredith has been not only mine and Maire's personal coach through this journey, but has worked with our entire Pursuit leadership team to keep us focused on the most important priorities, to eliminate unnecessary steps, to work well together as a team, and to help us overcome mistakes and setbacks. In short, she has been critical to both our success and our enjoyment of Pursuit. And yesterday we were greeted by a big surprise at Mile 27 when Meredith was waiting on her "Trike" to ride into DC with us.  Meredith, thanks for your hard work and tirelessly positive spirit over the past year. 

meredith.jpg

 Missing from all of the monumental festivities was our SUV and Pursuit emblazoned trailer driver – Lila. She was busy navigating DC traffic and the narrow cobblestone streets of Georgetown. When we arrived at the hotel in Georgetown, we saw Lila drive down M Street. Parking in Georgetown can be a nightmare, let alone on a Sunday, and let alone in a trailer. Clearly thinking traffic laws were merely a suggestion, Lila jumped all 6 wheels onto a cobblestone sidewalk in front of our hotel, thus blocking foot traffic. We all laughed and gave a somewhat nervous cheer, which she returned with her trademark smile and wink. When Lila joined us in Oregon T-1 day before our launch, she had never driven a trailer. Now nearly 3,500+ miles later she’s parking on sidewalks. We continue to be amazed by her willingness to tackle any request. Whether the request is driving 15 mph across the country, making a grocery store run or staying up until midnight to communicate the day’s adventure in the Morning Note… she completes every task with a smile. Just 2 months before we departed for the Pursuit route, Jourdan asked if her friend could join. My first thought… oh great, I will now have to listen to 2 girls giggling for 3,500+ miles. Although there has been a great deal of giggling, it can be said that Lila was the last piece to making the Pursuit crew complete. We are grateful that our “mama bear” generously dedicated 2 months to the Pursuit team and our mission. 

  Today we have exchanged our bicycle helmets for learning caps. We have a jam packed 13-hour day of learning events which we have been looking forward to for months.
 

With Gratitude and In Pursuit,
David, Maire and the entire Pursuit Team


Greetings from Charles Town, WV!

Day 55: Hancock, MD to Charles Town, WV
ROB: David Baldwin, Keith Baldwin, Chris Duhon, Jourdan Ellis, Braeden Sawyer
PTOB: Maire Baldwin, Fred Herbert, Harper McGee, Lila Ontiveros, Priscilla Plumb, John Schindeler, Jacqui Willis
Pursuit: 44 miles, 3:12 hours, 13.8 average MPH, 2,224’ ascent, 1,304 calories
Falls: None
Pursuit Miles: 220 miles (day 55); 30,680 miles (total)
Mission Control Miles: 596 miles (day 55); 25,527 miles (total)
 

   In yesterday’s note, I discussed the difficulty of our ride and lamented that I hoped it would be the last of our difficult rides. Author Malcolm Gladwell says that it takes roughly 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. In the past 56 days and 3,400+ miles, some would incorrectly assume that we are expert cyclists or achieved mastery in the sport of cycling. I have done the mathematics and between the hours logged during the last two months and the last year of training, we are far short of that 10,000 hour expert level. However, we have gained some semblance of road and hazard navigating expertise. During one of our breaks yesterday, Jourdan turned to Keith and Chris and strongly asserted “this is the most scared I’ve been of any of our rides!” To see the look of horror on Keith and Chris’ face was emblematic of the severity of the danger. As a public service announcement, riding a bike across the country is going to bring all sorts of conditions, and yesterday yielded rain, very busy roads without shoulders, and some very tricky intersections on a busy Saturday morning. We stopped multiple times to assess danger points, slow down, and revive our pulses,....and made it safely, albeit at a very deliberate pace.   
There have been many people who have seemingly put in close to 10,000 hours on our Pursuit mission. While we have mentioned her in a previous note, it is worth repeating due to all of her hard work and dedication to Pursuit. Jennifer Dominiquini is a superstar because she trained with us, she rode back to back centuries with us, and shared in the sweat-pouring and subsequent soreness. But more importantly, she saw Pursuit's potential even before we did, and graciously integrated it into BBVA’s amazing Bright Futures campaign. Jennifer and her colleagues also helped to spearhead many of our marketing and communication efforts, hosted an unforgettable kick off event for us in Houston with their Dynamo Charities Cup, and organized large awareness events in Portland and Chicago, along with a special day at Wrigley Field. Jennifer has been the heart and soul of Pursuit's efforts to help lead people with IDD to Brighter Futures, and we can't thank her enough, and all of her colleagues at BBVA, for their amazing leadership, partnership, and stewardship. Without Jennifer and BBVA, our Pursuit would not have been a success. Thank you Jen, and thank you BBVA!

   Dave Thompson has also seemingly logged 10,000 hours in the name of Pursuit. Dave, a creative genius, came up with the Pursuit name and the overall theme of our campaign, all the way down to the importance of the colors. He was inspired by the golden age of cycling post WWII, where cycling was used as a functional healing tool in Europe. Dave was also the mastermind behind Mission Control. He enlisted the help of Midway and other crucial sponsors to build Mission Control. Dave saw Mission Control as a way to bring hundreds, maybe even thousands of new friends and volunteers to The Center to be a part of the Pursuit peloton, and to learn more about our clients and how we support them. He even inspired his own children to become avid frequenters of Mission Control. Dave's drive, infectious enthusiasm, creativity and passion for all things Pursuit literally gave our campaign an identity, and made me especially proud of what he has created.  

Dave Thompson.jpg

   Dave and Jennifer have been the creative engines behind Pursuit, and have shown tireless optimism and drive. Thanks to both of you, and your colleagues, for pushing us towards higher goals.  
  Yesterday marked an important milestone for Pursuit in Mission Control. Of course, we lived through another day of cycling, which is always a feat to celebrate. But more importantly, we reached a major goal. The total miles ridden by our clients, friends, family, neighbors, colleagues, and sponsors now totals over 25,000 miles! Let’s think about the gravity of that for a moment. Four months ago, Mission Control was a mere concept. With the help of Midway, Gensler, Arch-con and 15+ other sponsors, we transformed an old room at The Center into a state of the art spin room and gathering place. Just days before we left for Oregon, in a typical Houston downpour, the Mission Control roof was leaking. We had no clue if anyone would ever come ride at Mission Control. 25,000 miles later, we are thrilled that our fears were obliterated.
 Why is this 25,000 mile accomplishment important? For those who did not know, the The Her‎bert Family Foundation pledged $2 for every mile ridden up to 25,000 miles. For all you math majors out there, we have just raised a much needed $50,000. And the 25,000 mile goal completion is much more important than just monetary. The success of Mission Control facilitated the achievement in another goal – getting more people to The Center’s campus. Thousands of Houstonians drive by The Center on Allen Parkway on a daily basis and never know the gem that is in their own backyard. Not only did cyclists get to log some miles and burn some calories, but they met and rode next to our clients. Ultimately, new relationships were formed and a community was built. It is a beautiful thing. So thank you. Thank you to all who helped build Mission Control. Thanks to all of our volunteers who have worked to keep it going. Thank you to every one of you who came to ride at Mission Control. Thank you for helping grow our Pursuit community by riding along with us in Houston.
  Now we have a few more goals to reach – physically reaching the Atlantic Ocean via bike and hitting our $13,500,000 financial goal. It is hard to believe that we will be cycling into Washington, DC later this morning. I've long dreamed about riding my bike into our nation's capital, and today that dream will come true. 
As always, thanks for following our Pursuit journey.

With Gratitude and In Pursuit,
David, Maire and the entire Pursuit Team




 

 

Greetings from Hancock, MD!

Day 54: Cumberland, MD to Hancock, MD

ROB: David Baldwin, Maire Baldwin, Keith Baldwin, Chris Duhon, Jourdan Ellis
PTOB: Fred Herbert, Harper McGee, Lila Ontiveros, Priscilla Plumb, Braeden Sawyer, John Schindeler, Jacqui Willis
Pursuit: 40 miles, 3:21 hours, 11.8 average MPH, 4,272’ ascent, 1,594 calories
Falls: None
Pursuit Miles: 200 miles (day 54); 30,460 miles (total)
Mission Control Miles: 772.69 miles (day 54); 24,931 miles (total)


   Yesterday we had a very warm send off in the parking lot of our hotel from our Ride Along friends. There was an endless amount of hugs, so much so that our departure time was pushed back. It was a beautiful day and we were scheduled for a presumably short 40 mile ride into Hancock, MD. Having such a warm send off from our friends can be bittersweet, and it gives us something to think about on our ride. It always takes us a few moments to get our footing once the Trek Travel guides have relinquished their grip of our much needed hand holding. It was only moments after rolling that we instantly missed Amy, Sam and the rest of our Trek Travel guides. I had said this in our previous night’s celebratory dinner, but it is worth repeating to a larger audience. There is absolutely no possible way that I could have ridden over 3,300 miles without the help of the over 100+ riders who have joined us along this journey. Thanks to everyone who has turned their pedals to help me in Pursuit.  Please take a quick look at some of the Ride Along highlights below:

When I was told we had a 40 mile ride yesterday, my first thought was, “Great, this will be like an off day!” Oh man, was I ever wrong. As soon as we successfully maneuvered our way out of the hotel parking lot, avoided the freeway and hit a picturesque farm road, we had a treacherous climb before our legs could even warm up. For those of our readers who are not avid cyclists, 4,500’ of 10+% climbs over 40 miles may have been one of our most rigorous rides to date. It may also be difficult for our Houston readers to conceptualize rolling hills, as the steepest climb your car will ever see is an overpass on 610. The ride was so difficult, compounded by the heat and a few pesky bugs, that during our late lunch, Jourdan and I recapped our most difficult rides of the 3,300+ mile journey thus far. Yesterday’s Maryland back roads made it into the top 5, if not the top 3. Hopefully, we do not have any upcoming rides to compete for that slot on the few remaining cycling days:-) Some serious climbing in Maryland, who knew? To Pursuit, they are now known for a lot more than crab cakes, lacrosse, and football. And I must admit, I'm shocked by the raw beauty of this amazing state.  

   Remarkably, 54 days into our trip, we had another first … my first flat tire. Let’s remember that my friends Tom Bacon and Bo Dawson experienced multiple flat tires within an hour. Even my own Audi SUV has had 3 more flats than I have had. I can assure you the car flats were much more expensive and difficult to repair. Whether it was luck or my crack skills avoiding road debris, I’m grateful that my nephew Keith was with me to assist with my tire changing just 1 mile from the finish line.  
    On challenging days like yesterday, I’m grateful for so many people. I’m grateful for everyone who has helped us get to this point, both physically and emotionally – Ride Along participants, Trek Travel, our amazing group of "pullers", friends back in Houston, the list goes on. As many of you know, I have fought issues with my hip which comes naturally for a guy in his 50s attempting to ride a bicycle across the country. I have religiously taken ice baths every afternoon following the rides to combat further complicating my hip issues. I would like to give a special shout out to the two ladies who help keep me, as well as others, upright and ready for the saddle the next day – Jacqui Willis and Sabra Laval. In yesterday’s note, we left out an important part of the final Ride Along dinner – Jacqui’s birthday. She recently passed her test to become an US citizen and was scheduled to have her swearing in ceremony three days ago, but wrote the immigration office to inform them that she was on an important and epic American Pursuit and learning about her new country. Jacqui and Sabra, thanks for your help getting us safely across the country.  

 Today we head to Harper’s Ferry. The proximity to the nation’s capital and conclusion of our 3,500 mile ride becomes more palpable. With only 5 more days left until we reach the Atlantic, I'm getting both sad and excited about what lies ahead.  

With Gratitude and In Pursuit,
David, Maire and the entire Pursuit Team



 

Greetings from Cumberland, MD!

Day 53: Fairfield, PA to Cumberland, MD

ROB: David Baldwin, Maire Baldwin, Charlie Adams, Keith Baldwin, Melissa Baldwin, Linda Bates, Victoria Beard, Amina Belouizdad, Joe Blount, Jonathan Brinsden, Amy Davison, Nisha Desai, Stacie Dunn, Jourdan Ellis, Roni Erath, Brad Freels, Claudia Freels, Dorothy Gordon, Sis Johnson, Colin Livingston, Lisa Livingston, Mark Livingston, Shaun Livingston, Ernest Lizcano, John Long, Laura Leven, William Leven, Kenny Marks, Kelly Mattson, Trey Mattson, Rishi Naran, Laura Lee Pedersen, Priscilla Plumb, Rachel Racz, Doug Reigner, Jessica Rosenthal, Walter Sentonnian, Elliott Smith, Katherine Smith, Zachary Smith, Katherine Sorrell, Laura Sorrell, Mark Sorrell, Ann Stiles, Dave Thompson, Claude Treece, Scott Warrender, Judy Tuttle-Wurth, Bob White, Ellen Yarrell
PTOB: Jenny Binkowski, Leigh Ann Blount, Carrie Brinsden, Sam Clark, Kevin Kern, Harper McGee, Lila Ontiveros, Braeden Sawyer, John Schindeler, Jacqui Willis, Denise Smith, Brie Willey
Pursuit: 62 miles, 4:30 hours, 13.7 average MPH, 1,211’ ascent, 2,012 calories
Falls: Too many to count (we were fortunate for soft/muddy landings)
Pursuit Miles: 3,038 miles (day 53); 30,260 miles (total)
Mission Control Miles: 1,699 miles (day 53); 24,159 miles (total)

   Yesterday was the final day of riding with our last Ride Along group of our Pursuit journey. We certainly finished with some indelible memories. Was the Great Allegheny Passage breathtakingly beautiful? Absolutely! Were the people in our Ride Along group wonderful? Without a doubt! While each of those things may be true, it is likely not what our Ride Along teammates will remember the most. They will remember the rain … followed by the mud … which found its way to invade the riders from their shoes to their teeth, and ultimately wound up on the floor of their bathtub.‎  Despite the rainy conditions, every single rider, young and old, kept a smile on their faces and a warm heart, making my pedaling today seem incredibly light.  

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 I also want to highlight Roni Erath and Dorothy Gordon, our friends from Pittsburgh Community Partner NHS Allegheny Valley School, who were so inspired by Pursuit’s mission that they trained, raised funds on Crowdrise and delighted us with their presence on this last Ride-Along. Roni and Dorothy were true champions on our rainy, muddy ride to Cumberland.  We thank them for their dedication to the IDD community and look forward to a continued friendship with both of them!

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   There was more than one notable marker along our journey yesterday outside of the mud. First, we crossed the Eastern Continental Divide. The Eastern Continental Divide, in conjunction with other continental divides of North America, demarcates two watersheds of the Atlantic Ocean: the Gulf of Mexico watershed and the Atlantic Seaboard watershed. Prior to 1760, the divide represented the boundary between British and French colonial possessions in North America. Then we crossed the famous Mason-Dixon Line. The Mason–Dixon line was surveyed between 1763 and 1767 by Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon in the resolution of a border dispute involving Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Delaware in Colonial America. It is still a demarcation line among four U.S. states, forming part of the borders of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware and West Virginia.

 We also crossed some of the most beautiful bridges, entered and exited some of the darkest and most amazing bicycle tunnels anyw‎here in the world, and had some of the most breathtaking views from the seat of a bicycle that I have encountered anywhere along our Pursuit journey. 

  For the last two days we have been solely on bike trails. Consequently, our star videographer, who typically hangs out of the window or sunroof, mounted a bike to get "on the ground" footage. Throughout our Pursuit, Braeden has gone to great lengths to get the right shot. When on an uninhabited road out West, Braeden bungeed the trailer door open and stood in the moving trailer. Needless to say, Bo and I were not thrilled with his daredevil maneuver, however I admit it was a great shot. We are so grateful for Braeden’s talent as he has successfully and beautifully translated the mission of Pursuit visually to all of our followers. If you have not checked out any of his videos, we highly encourage you to check out our YouTube page.

We concluded our evening with yet another amazing awards dinner with our Ride Along guests, but this time emceed by the Trek guides who have become part of our Pursuit family. The roast led by the witty and smart Sam Clark was enjoyed by all. For dessert, Laura Sorrell arranged for ice cream to be delivered all the way from our home state of Texas. While it is impressive that the ice cream did not melt, what is more impressive is the mission of the folks who donated it. Howdy Homemade Ice Cream in Dallas is all about two things: amazing ice cream and even better people. They hope to change the way the world looks at everyone by hiring almost exclusively employees with disabilities, primarily Down Syndrome and Autism. And the ice cream was delicious! Check out their website

   Saying goodbye last night to nearly 60 of our friends, old and new, was a very emotional moment for Maire and me.  For so many people, well over 200 strong now, to have taken time off this summer from their busy lives to help make our Pursuit dream come true is almost too difficult for me to describe in words. We are so fortunate and overwhelmed to have so many incredible friends working so hard to make this something special. As I write and edit this morning's note, I keep flipping back with a smile to an awesome image in my mind of what Pursuit is all about...long time friend Elliott Smith, riding in tandem with his son Zach, across 120 miles of pretty challenging terrain, helping us celebrate everyone's unique abilities.   

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   Today we have a relatively short jaunt to Hancock which will take some adjustment without all of the cycling support that we have had the last 53 days.‎ We're very close to our nation's capital, and close to our destination. The next few days are going to be amazing, and emotional for me. I'm going to try to treasure every moment.       
 

With Gratitude and In Pursuit,
David, Maire and the entire Pursuit Team


Greetings from Fairfield, PA!

Day 52: Pittsburg, PA to Fairfield, PA
ROB: David Baldwin, Maire Baldwin, Charlie Adams, Keith Baldwin, Melissa Baldwin, Linda Bates, Victoria Beard, Amina Belouizdad, Joe Blount, Jenny Binkowski, Jonathan Brinsden, Sam Clark, Nisha Desai, Stacie Dunn, Jourdan Ellis, Roni Erath, Brad Freels, Claudia Freels, Dorothy Gordon, Sis Johnson, Colin Livingston, Lisa Livingston, Mark Livingston, Shaun Livingston, Ernest Lizcano, John Long, Laura Leven, William Leven, Kelly Mattson, Trey Mattson, Rishi Naran, Priscilla Plumb, Rachel Racz, Doug Reigner, Dave Roger, Jessica Rosenthal, Walter Sentonnian, Elliott Smith, Katherine Smith, Zachary Smith, Katherine Sorrell, Laura Sorrell, Mark Sorrell, Ann Stiles, Dave Thompson, Claude Treece, Scott Warrender, Judy Tuttle-Wurth, Bob White
PTOB: Leigh Ann Blount, Carrie Brinsden, Amy Davison, Kevin Kern, Harper McGee, Lila Ontiveros, Laura Lee Pedersen, Braeden Sawyer, John Schindeler, Jacqui Willis, Denise Smith, Brie Willey
Pursuit: 59 miles, 3:58 hours, 14.8 average MPH, 453’ ascent, 1,771 calories
Pursuit Miles: 2,891 miles (day 52); 27,222 miles (total)
Mission Control Miles: 792 miles (day 52); 22,460 miles (total)

   We were joined yesterday by 61 friends from all over the country! Coordinating logistics for a group of that many people to do anything, let alone ride a bike through a major US city is a massive undertaking. Our group is larger than any group that Trek Travel has ever led. Needless to say, the professionals at Trek made it look effortless. We had a phenomenal send off from our friends at NHS Allegheny Valley School and ACHIEVA, complete with banners and roaring chants. The sendoff certainly fired up our entire group as we rode out of The Steel City in impressive fashion.  

                                                                    Thank you NHS Allegheny Valley and ACHIEVA for our amazing send off!!

                                                                    Thank you NHS Allegheny Valley and ACHIEVA for our amazing send off!!

   We headed for the GAP, no not the clothing store, but the Great Allegheny Passage. The Great Allegheny Passage winds 150 miles through the mountains of Southwest Pennsylvania and connects Pittsburgh, PA to Cumberland, MD. We were joined by Doug Reigner, who is Director of Community Relations, and vigorously passionate about the GAP. Around mile 20, we stopped at Round Hill Park and were greeted by a team of volunteers from the GAP. While the beauty of the Great Allegheny Passage is fabulous, it is the enthusiasm and passion of people like Doug and their volunteers that make the GAP truly remarkable.

                                                                        Zachary Smith enjoying a stop on the GAP trail

                                                                        Zachary Smith enjoying a stop on the GAP trail

In reflecting on the sparkplugs of GAP, I thought about the equivalents at The Center. The list of those crucial people is very long, but Linda Bates and Roberta Nordstrom are the heartbeat of Pursuit. Those of you who have walked through the Mission Control doors or graciously contributed to Pursuit have more than likely interacted with Linda and/or Roberta. Both are modest in stature, but do not be fooled, they are forces of nature within the organization. As you can see from the masthead above, Linda has moved from the “Pursuit Team on Board” to the “Riders on Board” slot. Linda is the Chief Development Officer at The Center who has shed her business attire for a Pursuit kit and bike helmet this week. Linda balances a hectic campaign lifestyle, in addition to three year old twins. The dynamic duo have been the leading factor in helping Pursuit acheive so many of our fundraising goals.

                                                                    The Center's Chief Development Officer and Pursuit's Super Woman, Linda Bates

                                                                    The Center's Chief Development Officer and Pursuit's Super Woman, Linda Bates

   Roberta Nordstrom is the Fund Development Associate for The Center. In addition to talented grant writing, she is Pursuit's head cheerleader. While not on the road with us, she is constantly pumping us up through a series of inspiring notes. She has even taught herself how to make videos with epic soundtracks of our journey. Her thoughtful gestures always bring smiles to our faces and provide us with much needed energy. You can also often find her volunteering at Mission Control on the weekends, so if you haven’t met her, make sure to get to Mission Control!‎ Thanks Linda and Roberta for your tireless enthusiasm and hard work on behalf of The Center and Pursuit!

                   The Center's Fund Development Associate and Pursuit's head cheerleader, Roberta Nordstrom

                   The Center's Fund Development Associate and Pursuit's head cheerleader, Roberta Nordstrom

  These two firecrackers have been instrumental in making our Pursuit dream a reality. Also instrumental in converting our crazy idea into reality are our sponsors. From the beginning PwC dove right into spreading awareness about Pursuit and ensured us they would do far more than just deliver a check. On the first day of our ride, PwC happened to be hosting an event in New York called The Inclusion Project, a gathering of over 40 diversity leaders for a discussion around topics such as talent acquisition and employee engagement and innovation for people with disabilities. I Skyped with the group from our starting line in Oregon and was incredibly moved when they wished us well on the ride and gave us a standing ovation from across the country. PwC’s disability inclusion network champion Brad Hopton had shared his moving story about becoming a dad to a son with Down syndrome so I was honored to start the ride by receiving his real-time support.‎
   Since then, PwC has organized two virtual Ride Alongs from The Center. On one such occasion, 70 partners and staff from PwC participated with CW39’s Maggie Flecknoe broadcasting the ride live all morning.  One person she chatted with on camera was Kyle Lemmon, a PwC director who wrote about his experiences being a father of a son with autism and another person we’ve been inspired by along our ride. And of course, we were thrilled to see the PwC Chicago team out to support Pursuit when we swung through the Windy City. Mark Kirstein helped welcome us by posting this heartwarming and inspiring blog  about his autistic son Liam and the work he has done to help people with disabilities find employment. We meet with him and others from team PwC at Wrigley field during a beautiful afternoon Cubs game.
   Back to yesterday, we warmly welcomed PwC’s Victoria Beard and Charlie Adams to our Ride Along. Neither of them has been an active rider in the past but they purchased bike gear and went into full training mode just to join us.  We are so happy to have them.  As an added bonus, we will also have an extra way for you to follow the ride while they’re with us.  Follow @PwC_LLP on Snapchat for real-time updates from the road over the next two days. ‎They’ll make sure to entertain and inform you along the way!  We are very fortunate to have PWC as our National Learning Partner, and to have so many of their employees deeply engaged in our Pursuit mission!

                                                                           The PwC Team representing in Mission Control!

                                                                           The PwC Team representing in Mission Control!

                                                                     PwC's Victoria Beard and Charlie Adams on the Pursuit route!

                                                                     PwC's Victoria Beard and Charlie Adams on the Pursuit route!

   Lastly, we want to give a special Happy Birthday shout out to Pursuit super-teamer Jacqui Willis! Happy birthday Jacqui! We are grateful for all that you do, and for your tireless optimism and smile. 

                                                                                                           Happy Birthday Jacqui!!!

                                                                                                           Happy Birthday Jacqui!!!

  Today the Pursuit herd is off to Cumberland, MD down the remainder of the GAP trail. I'm so grateful to have so many friends riding with me on our Pursuit.  

 
With Gratitude and In Pursuit,
David, Maire and the entire Pursuit team


Greetings from Pittsburgh!

Day 51: Riding Rest Day and Learning Day
PTOB: Eva Aguirre, David Baldwin, Maire Baldwin, Linda Bates, Jourdan Ellis, Fred Herbert, Kevin Kern, Shon Link, Kelly and Trey Mattson, Harper McGee, Ginny and Ron Nixon, Lila Ontiveros, Priscilla Plumb, Braeden Sawyer, John Schindeler, Dave Thompson, Jacqui Willis
Pursuit: 0 miles, 0 hours, 0 average MPH, 0 ascent, 0 calories
Pursuit Miles: 0 miles (day 51); 24,331 miles (total)
Mission Control Miles: 628.11 miles (day 51); 21,668.11 miles (total)

   Yesterday was our much anticipated learning visit in Pittsburgh, and it was certainly worth the wait. NHS Allegheny Valley School (“AVS”) and ACHIEVA welcomed us with incredible hospitality after months of close collaboration in planning our time together. When I walked into the morning session, I found the conference room was already packed to the gills and teeming with energy.  Our largest learning session to date, we had over thirty participants, drawing from AVS, ACHIEVA, The Center, Friends of Pursuit, and a handful of interested teammates joining the upcoming Ride-Along. We also were very pleased to have as our special guest, Dave Roger, President of The Hillman Family Foundations. Dave and the Foundations have been stalwart supporters of Pittsburgh-area non-profits like AVS and ACHIEVA that focus on IDD, and they were instrumental in providing introductions, underwriting and moral support for the day’s learning and community awareness activities.
   Key learning points gleaned from our morning brainstorming sessions included the critical need for ongoing advocacy to address the shortfalls in federal and state funding – particularly the need to equip families to have a “voice” in affecting legislation that impacts their own children. We also spent quite a bit of time discussing opportunities to find better leverage of our resources through partnerships with other non-profits and the business community. Another recurring theme was the need for greater entrepreneurship ‎and technical innovation in our field, as well as focusing on changing needs of younger parents and their families. “Person-centered care” was an ongoing mantra. On the medical front, the group was vocal about the critical need for more dental care resources for our clients and the troubling correlation between poor dental health and other serious health issues. These are just a few of the energetic and passionate themes that emerged during our visit, and we are certain that this is merely the start of many more important conversations with these two great community partners.

                                                                                              A packed room for our learning visit

                                                                                              A packed room for our learning visit

  When we adjourned the morning learning session, the Community Awareness Carnival/Ride-a-thon was already well underway with approximately 400 participants, most of whom were clients of AVS or ACHIEVA, along with staff and/or family support.  All of them were wearing Pursuit t-shirts specially made for the occasion!  It truly warmed my heart to scan the “sea of green” on the lawns and pathways that meandered through the verdant AVS Pittsburgh campus. Particularly heartening was the chance to see so many clients enjoying their adaptive bikes as they rode round and round the paved paths. We grinned from ear to ear as they belted out familiar tunes through karaoke, and when so many of them unabashedly enjoyed the DJ and dance area (think Macarena)!  Just around the corner a number of the clients were delighted to try out the dunking booth, behind which was a huge Pursuit flag.  A particularly awesome aspect of the carnival was the extraordinary effort the organizations made in setting up a mini-cross-country Pursuit tour, complete with hand-made illustrations of all Pursuit’s major stops. The Rehoboth Beach stop was a show-stopper - complete with sand and familiar beach landmarks. I’ve been moved to tears many times on this journey, but seeing the effort and detail of these amazing “vignettes” all in one place was simply too much!  

                                                            A wonderful group photo taken at the Community Awareness Carnival / Ride-a-Thon

                                                            A wonderful group photo taken at the Community Awareness Carnival / Ride-a-Thon

                                               Team Pursuit enjoying the activities from the lawn

                                               Team Pursuit enjoying the activities from the lawn

                                   Dave Thompson setting the fashion statement for Team Pursuit

                                   Dave Thompson setting the fashion statement for Team Pursuit

    My very good friend Fred Herbert came from Atlanta to participate in our                           learning visits and to show his support.  Thanks Fred!!

    My very good friend Fred Herbert came from Atlanta to participate in our                           learning visits and to show his support.  Thanks Fred!!

                                                              What an awesome sign!!  

                                                              What an awesome sign!!  

  As if our day was not already off the charts, in the evening we enjoyed a magical dinner cruise aboard the Gateway Clipper, which took about 100 Pursuit supporters around Pittsburgh’s three rivers -- the Ohio, the Allegheny, and the Monongahela.  The riverboat ride served as the official kick-off for our Pittsburgh to Cumberland Ride-Along segment and enabled many of us to start getting to know our new friends. I would like to personally thank Kelly and Trey Mattson for their incredible work with our Pittsburgh learning events.  Their help has been instrumental in the success of this spectacular day. Thank you Kelly and Trey for all that you have done and are doing for Pursuit!
   Following a welcome to the group and remarks by Dave Roger, we were thrilled when Gary Horner of ACHIEVA delivered a proclamation from the Allegheny County Executive and the Mayor of the City of Pittsburgh, declaring June 26 “Pursuit Day.” The floodgates opened as I considered how far we’ve come with such amazing efforts toward raising local awareness.

                                                                                           The Gateway Clipper!

                                                                                           The Gateway Clipper!

   This morning we commence our final Ride-Along, with a group ofnearly 70 cyclists, mostly from Houston, riding with us as we exit this beautiful city and head toward Cumberland via the Great Allegheny Passageway. We are excited to reunite with our friends from Trek Travel and feel reassured to be in their good hands as we head into the final week of our epic adventure. It is with great emotion and humility that we greet many old friends and relish new ones, all here to help us double-down on our collective journey – increasing funding, driving continuous learning and promoting greater awareness for persons with disABILITIES!   

With Gratitude and In Pursuit,

David, Maire and the entire Pursuit team


Greetings from Pittsburgh, PA!

Day 50: Monaca, PA to Pittsburgh, PA
ROB: David Baldwin, Jourdan Ellis, Steve Gibson, Bo Huggins, Mark Livingston, Jay Munisteri
PTOB: Linda Bates, Kevin Kern, Harper McGee, Lila Ontiveros, Priscilla Plumb, Braeden Sawyer, John Schindeler, Jacqui Willis
Pursuit: 35.2 miles, 2:22 hours, 13.7 average MPH, 1,187’ ascent, 872 calories
Pursuit Miles: 195 miles (day 50); 24,331 miles (total)
Mission Control Miles: 1,258 miles (day 50); 21,040 miles (total)

   Yesterday was the shortest ride that we have had in recent memory. However in terms of the aging process, it might have well have been one of our longest. What should have been one of our easiest rides was complicated initially by user error. Our group got separated. As we crossed into double digit miles, somehow our group of 6 was quickly split into 3 groups of 2. The problem was further complicated by construction on our route and then exacerbated by an overwhelmingly large amount of riding time on a highway compounded by an excessive amount of traffic.
   We traversed over many bridges on our journey, and later learned that Pittsburgh has the most amount of bridges of any city in the world – totaling 446 (riders note...I think we crossed at least half of them :-). We also learned that Pittsburgh is home to the Klondike bar, to which Steve Gibson happily enjoyed in a 7-11, as well as a McDonald’s Big Mac. Thank goodness we didn’t overeat too much because we were hosted by our local friends, Rick and Leslie Bode, for a lovely Italian dinner. We welcomed some of our newest Ride Along participants. Our lovely hosts bestowed us with Pittsburgh “terrible towels” and a wealth of local knowledge and pride. They also calmed the nerves of some of our Ride Along riders by giving more background on our upcoming journey along the Great Allegheny Passage Trail to Cumberland, MD. Rick and Leslie, thanks for a wonderful evening, and a great welcome to Pittsburgh!

                                                                                                Our gracious hosts, Leslie and Rick Bode

                                                                                                Our gracious hosts, Leslie and Rick Bode

   Sadly, we said goodbye to two great friends – Pursuit's Chief Moral Officer, Bo Huggins, whom you have heard and seen much about, and Steve “Gibby” Gibson - both of whom had returned for a second leg of our Pursuit journey to keep us smiling and riding safely from Chicago to Pittsburgh. I'd like to say a special thanks to Bo who has spent nearly 3-1/2 weeks riding directly in front of me, keeping me safe, helping to lead the team wherever he could, and generally bestowing smiles, laughs, and wisdom on all us.   I will miss Bo's company and leadership greatly over these last 10 days.  

                                                                                                   Bo and Gibby's final ride with Pursuit

                                                                                                   Bo and Gibby's final ride with Pursuit

   Yesterday’s learning visit took place in Erie, Pennsylvania, and was hosted by the Barber National Institute (“BNI”). I first visited BNI this past January, and ever since that time I have known that this was a special place that had to be included on Pursuit’s learning visit tour. The early reports from our learning team reaffirmed that decision. First on their agenda was BNI’s monthly Forum for Transitional Work Services Awards, which included some 40+ program participants, plus staff. Our team was thrilled to help celebrate the many individual recognitions and hear the words of encouragement from recently hired adults to their peers. They then met with BNI President John Barber and EVP Dr. Maureen Barber-Carey, who shared their vision of “making dreams come true” for the many individuals and families served by BNI.
   Next they had a presentation about uses of technology, including “Tap-It” systems, iBooks with tutorials for teaching social skills, uses of iPad calendaring systems for keeping up with personal fitness regimens, and many different games for learning. They saw many examples of BNI’s adaptive bikes, which are used by the vast majority of the young adults they serve (and accommodate a wide range of disabilities). From there they toured the Expanding Social Opportunities Camp in a classroom setting, where they helped participants conduct a “learning experiment” called the “Volcano”!

                        Linda is happily assisting a client with her volcano

                        Linda is happily assisting a client with her volcano

    Trey and his teammate are skillfully preparing for their volcano's eruption

    Trey and his teammate are skillfully preparing for their volcano's eruption

  The Pursuit team visited BNI’s Senior Center, where they learned about Lunch Club, Club Erie, and the “Name that Tune” game, an obvious fan favorite! Next they met with BNI’s Fine Arts Director, Frank Fecko. Our learning team was completely mesmerized as Frank demonstrated at least seven different painting techniques, and offered detailed explanations of the resulting works. Several members of our team are already asking Frank how they can commission their own pieces!

                                                      BNI's Fine Arts Director, Frank Fecko  

                                                      BNI's Fine Arts Director, Frank Fecko  

The team wrapped up their visit with a final learning exchange with several of BNI’s program leaders and including a dialogue with one of the clients from BNI’s Supported Living program. The visit concluded with brief remarks by Bridget Barber, accompanied by Dr. Maureen Barber-Carey’s presentation of a client painting for The Center to commemorate Pursuit’s journey. We are absolutely thrilled to have found so many new friends at Barber and look forward to a meaningful collaboration, going forward!

                                     Dr. Maureen Barber-Carey gifted The Center with a beautiful client painting to commemorate our Pursuit journey

                                     Dr. Maureen Barber-Carey gifted The Center with a beautiful client painting to commemorate our Pursuit journey

 I have been looking forward to our Pittsburgh learning visits and Ride Along for months. Our Pennsylvania Learning team, Kelly and Trey Mattson, Cathy Frank and Priscilla have planned an amazing day today of learning visits with another 2 fantastic organizations. These visits are followed by a local fund-raising carnival and dinner cruise along "the 3 rivers" with our nearly 100 guests from Houston and Pittsburgh.   
 

With Gratitude and In Pursuit,
David, Maire and the entire Pursuit team

 


Greetings from Monaca, PA!
 
Day 49: Macedonia, OH to Monaca, PA
ROB: David Baldwin, Jourdan Ellis, Steve Gibson, Bo Huggins, Mark Livingston, Jay Munisteri
PTOB: Harper McGee, Lila Ontiveros, Priscilla Plumb, Braeden Sawyer, John Schindeler, Jacqui Willis
Pursuit: 86 miles, 5:39 hours, 15.3 average MPH, 2,700’ ascent, 2,400 calories
Pursuit Miles: 516 miles (day 49); 24,136 miles (total) 
Mission Control Miles: 1,128 miles (day 49); 19,782 miles (total)
 

   There is a first time for everything. Since we have started this journey, I have envisioned having a picturesque lunch under a pavilion or gazebo with a nice summer wind blowing. The heat and humidity have begun to resemble Houston, which we can handle. However the heat plus the climbs are something that we all dread. On days of long rides, we hit the road early and try to get in about 70 miles before lunch. Yesterday, John scouted out an amazing gazebo in a park and Priscilla assembled a Michelin Star quality lunch.
   Another first that I’m embarrassed to admit, is that this was the first time I did not think my legs would enable me to complete the ride. John had forewarned that rain might play a factor in our afternoon, but we did not envision the downpour that ensued. We had a 20 MPH wind at our back that we thought would push us to Pittsburgh within a matter of moments. We couldn’t see and hardly had to peddle. Once the lightning started only 13 miles from our destination, we wisely decided to call it. Not so wisely, I turned down a one way street… going the wrong way. Lila who is always behind us in the trailer followed us … into oncoming traffic. Thankfully, Priscilla not only saved the day when it came to lunch, but she really saved the day by picking up the rest of us wet dogs.

   All kidding aside, Priscilla has really saved the day when it comes to the greater mission of Pursuit. Priscilla came on board 5 months ago, putting her full time job at Sorrell, and her volunteer work at Spring Spirit on hold to help Pursuit. When we started, we had 10 learning visits planned and within no time, she had increased that number 3 times. She also added content, structure, organization and enthusiasm to our efforts to learn more about how to help people with IDD. Priscilla is the consummate professional and a wonderful representative for The Center. She works hard for the greater mission, but simultaneously fetches anything the Pursuit team needs with a smile on her face. Priscilla, thanks for your incredible sacrifices and leadership on behalf of our Pursuit!

 Our RV driver John is celebrating a birthday tomorrow. We have had a remarkable amount of team members' birthdays while on this journey. But I guess it’s not all that remarkable seeing that the journey is 60 days long and there are so many people on our team. Knowing that we will have pre-scheduled events on John’s actual birthday, Jourdan and Lila took the opportunity to celebrate our essential Pursuit team member. Lila bought a Star Wars themed cake and matching Darth Vader balloon, while Jourdan commandeered a princess tiara and a matching necklace. Happy early birthday John!

  As dinner waned and our stomachs had reached their max capacity of pizza, feeling nostalgic, we all went around the table and told stories of our favorite meals on the Pursuit journey. We laughed extremely hard, and within moments created quite possibly a new favorite. As Jourdan cleaned up the remaining pizza and cake, she decided that the best way to dispose of the unwanted cake was with… well, I’ll let the below video do the talking.

  While you can all have a laugh at our expense, with back to back videos of hip-hop dancing followed by a food fight, I don’t want to lose sight of the greater picture. In the middle of our reminiscing dinner, many of the favorite stories told were of the large impact Pursuit has had on people across the country. During the dinner while looking for an email in my inbox to share with the group, I received a heartwarming photo of the Borreca family from Mission Control. The Center would not exist without the Borreca family.  Dr. Frank Borreca was the iconic and long time Executive Director of The Center, and helped make it into one of the pioneering organizations nationally serving persons with IDD. Subsequently, his entire family, 3 generations strong, have been involved in helping to lead and direct The Center. Gloria Borreca, Frank's wife, decided to take all 3 generations to Mission Control for some more Borreca leadership to The Center!

   Today we have a short ride into Pittsburgh, followed by a series of large learning events today and tomorrow in The Steel City. And we'll also be joined by nearly 75 additional friends coming up from Houston for the third and final Ride Along, and another 25 friends from the Pittsburgh area. It is going to be a busy and fun next couple of days!

 
With Gratitude and In Pursuit,
David, Maire and the entire Pursuit team


Greetings from Macedonia, OH!

Day 48: Milan, OH to Macedonia, OH
ROB: David Baldwin, Steve Gibson, Bo Huggins, Mark Livingston, Jay Munisteri, Braeden Sawyer, Doug Sawyer
PTOB: Jourdan Ellis, Kevin Kern, Harper McGee, Lila Ontiveros, Priscilla Plumb, John Schindeler, Jacqui Willis
Pursuit: 68 miles, 4:11 hours, 16.3 average MPH, 2,011’ ascent, 1,698 calories
Pursuit Miles: 476 miles (day 48); 23,620 miles (total)
Mission Control Miles: 190 miles (day 48); 18,654 miles (total)

   We continue the count down to our tire dip in Rehoboth Beach as the number of days on the calendar dwindles. As a result, the timeline with which we need to accomplish our goals is also shorter, which adds anxiety to our already long laundry list of emotions.
   There is a fine line between determination and delirium. We have been doing this for so long now that I forget how truly insane this endeavor is. We stopped this afternoon in a small Ohio town called La Grange for some ice cream in a shop that was part of an Americana time capsule. To the Pursuit peloton, travel by bicycle in matching spandex by a team of grown men has become the norm. Others seem to react will a look of either intrigue or horror in response to the “where are you coming from” and “where are you going questions”, which gives us a bit of amusement.

 

We have traveled over 2,900 miles across the country. We are 83% of the way to our goal, in terms of miles completed. However, we aren’t the only ones riding. As our avid readers know, we are counting the miles ridden by our friends at Mission Control with the precision of an auditor, the total miles completed is over 18,500... WOW! Our goal is for our clients, friends and supporters to ride a total of 25,000 miles at Mission Control by August 3. In order to accomplish this, Mission Control will have to log almost 600 miles per day over the next 11 days! It is possible but we need your help.
    To make the trifecta complete, we must discuss our fundraising progress. We have raised $12.4 million to date from over 2,000 individual donors. We are 91.8% to our fundraising goal, and of course need your help to reach $13.5 million. In terms of miles left to ride and dollars left to raise, it may not sound like much in percentage terms, but in absolute value the task is daunting.
   While on the subject of Mission Control, we would like to highlight our young stars who run Mission Control. Harper McGee is a rising junior at Baylor, majoring in Finance. She is currently on the road with us and is the right hand woman to Priscilla and Linda on the learning visits. She always has a smile on her face and a ‘can do’ attitude. While on the road, she has left her sidekick Blade to run the show. Blade Labrada is also a rising junior, but at University of Texas and is majoring in advertising. Blade has an overwhelming amount of energy and enthusiasm. Blade has become friends with The Center’s Mayor, Allison Rosenberg, whom he did not know prior to his involvement in Mission Control. Both of these remarkable young stars have been crucial in the success of Mission Control. We would like to thank them for their hard work and their perpetual smiles. Their positive demeanors are contagious to all who come through the doors at Mission Control.

  This week was a historic week for Cleveland. Many of you have seen the highlights, whether you wanted to or not. However,one of the most important historic events in Cleveland this week … if not in the history of the city, may have been overlooked. The Pursuit Team was honored with a guest appearance from the Cleveland Cavaliers dance team upon our arrival to our hotel. Steve Gibson requesting a dance lesson from the all male Hip-Hop dance group is sure to make history.

   Today we are starting bright and early to get a jump start on the heat and our near 100 mile journey. God willing, we will cross into another state (Pennsylvania) and cross the psychological 3,000 mile marker of our journey. With a predicted 100 degree afternoon temperature, we will need to keep a good pace to avoid burning up this afternoon. Off we go...

 
With Gratitude and In Pursuit,
David, Maire and the entire Pursuit team


Greetings from Milan, OH!
 
Day 47: Maumee, OH to Milan, OH
ROB: David Baldwin, Steve Gibson, Bo Huggins, Mark Livingston, Braeden Sawyer, Doug Sawyer
PTOB: Jourdan Ellis, Kevin Kern, Harper McGee, Lila Ontiveros, Priscilla Plumb, John Schindeler, Jacqui Willis
Pursuit: 71.7 miles, 4:20 hours, 16.5 average MPH, 482’ ascent, 1,698 calories
Pursuit Miles: 430.2 miles (day 47); 23,144.7 miles (total)
Mission Control Miles: 790 miles (day 47); 18,464 miles (total)

 

   Greetings from Milan, Ohio. Firstly, when we crossed into the town of Milan, we instantly thought of our Italian Pursuit Ambassador Igi. Jourdan promptly sent him an email with a photo of the Milan sign, surrounded by Ohio corn fields. One can assume the Milan, Italy sign is lightyears different. We were thrilled by Igi’s instant response, but we were equally enthused when we passed a sign marking the birthplace of Thomas Edison. 

Milan.JPG

While being surrounded by historic relics of the inventing legend, we have thought about what Edison created. Amongst many other important firsts, he was the creator of the long-lasting and practical electric light bulb. It is truly amazing. I wonder if he knew the impact that he would have on the future of the world. I then thought about what we are trying to create – the long-lasting and practical impact Pursuit will hopefully have on the IDD community in Houston. Am I comparing Pursuit to Thomas Edison? Of course not. But we do hope that Pursuit will have an impact on The Center and its clients, neighbors and supporters for years beyond the biking part of our journey.  
   With 47 days complete, we are nearing the end of our Pursuit journey. We have a mere 12 days left. I would like to think that all who have been involved with Pursuit have been introspective about the larger purpose since day one. But as we get closer to the Atlantic Ocean, and the miles cycled continue to climb, the gravity of what we are all working together to accomplish gets heavier. Over the next 12 days, we would like to highlight some of the key people who have been instrumental in making this dream a reality, and who have been working essentially full time on Pursuit for an extended period of time. Closer to the end of our journey, we also plan to further expand upon where we go from here with Pursuit, and The Center.  
   One of the methods of creating a long lasting impact is learning from other organizations. Yesterday’s learning visit was so insightful that Priscilla, Kevin and Harper spent an extra three hours there to harvest some great ideas! While our cyclists made their way from Maumee to Milan, our Learning Visit crew traveled a couple of hours east to Twinsburg, Ohio, where they found themselves blown away by their visit to Hattie Larlham (HL). HL is a nonprofit organization that provides myriad medical, residential, recreational and work training services to approximately 1,800 children and adults with developmental disabilities. Today’s learning conversations focused to a large extent on HL’s employment programs and related support services -- including job assessments, one-on-one job coaching, and the use of community partnerships to develop and sustain both job creation and ongoing support for individuals with IDD. The team also toured one of Hattie’s three very successful doggie daycare and boarding facilities, where they talked with several employees and made fast friends with the more vocal canines in residence.

  Their next stop was newly opened Hattie’s Food Hub and Corner Market, a beautiful, LEED certified storefront, training facility, and processing center for small growers and neighboring farmers located in an urban setting very close to the Akron Zoo, another HL partner. They also visited Hattie’s Café in downtown Akron’s Canal Place, an office park development located in the former site of BFGoodrich’s 1871 rubber plant.  Our team eventually made their way to the countryside to see and hear more about Hattie’s Gardens, a sustainable gardening program for growing fresh, organic produce that also provides an effective work training program for adults with IDD. All these HL enterprises offer a variety of employment opportunities, and all pay at least minimum wage, regardless of disability or skills requirement.

What became immediately apparent during Pursuit’s visit to Hattie Larlham was the organization’s strong leadership at the very top, its entrepreneurial culture, and its nimble, can-do spirit.  As one of HL’s leaders described it, “We are innovators… we don’t sit still.  We are always looking for where we need to be positioned to be sustainable… This sets us apart from other nonprofits and is unique…”  We could not agree more! 
   Thomas Edison famously said, “The three great essentials to achieve anything worthwhile are, first, hard work; second, stick-to-itiveness; third, common sense.” John Schindeler encompasses all three of those things, and I can assure you that we would LITERALLY not be where we are in the country today if it were not for John. There is another famous saying about boats, that the best two days for a boat owner are the day you buy the boat and the day you sell the boat. I can assure you that the same can be said about an RV. John was not scheduled to join us until July, but on day 2 of our Pursuit journey, John received a phone call asking him if he could meet us in Portland for the entirety of our trip. He said he couldn’t be there in 24 hours, but give him 48. John has been the proverbial Johnny on the spot since the moment he arrived.  He is a bike mechanic that helps all of us with our bikes. He tunes and tweaks them without asking, which keeps us safe in the long run. His bike mechanic skills have morphed into RV mechanic skills. It seems that every other day there is something in need of repair with the RV, be it the generator, the AC, the plumbing, all seeming necessities. John has an optimistic attitude that would make Mary Poppins jealous. Despite dealing with some of the most mundane and challenging problems, John has a perpetual smile on his face. John’s enthusiasm is a motor for our team that keeps the peloton moving … often faster than the bus:-).  John, thanks for everything you are doing to make Pursuit a big success, and fun along the way.

John and Dog.JPG

 Today, we are off to Cleveland on a hot and sunny day. And I'm looking forward to adding another riding team member in long time friend Jay Munisteri. And it looks like we may have a tailwind!!!   Don't jinx us....


With Gratitude and In Pursuit,
David, Maire and the entire Pursuit team


Day 46: Rest day in Maumee, OH
 
PTOB: David Baldwin, Jourdan Ellis, Steve Gibson, Bo Huggins, Kevin Kern, Mark Livingston, Harper McGee, Lila Ontiveros, Priscilla Plumb, Braeden Sawyer, John Schindeler, Jacqui Willis
Pursuit: 0 miles, 0 hours, 0 average MPH, 0 ascent, 0 calories
Pursuit Miles: 0 miles (day 46); 22,714.5 miles (total)
Mission Control Miles: 958.13 miles (day 46); 17,674.74 miles (total)

 

   We were excited to start today’s Rest Day with a return to Bittersweet Farms, where we had an off-the-charts learning visit! From the moment we stepped foot on the grounds we felt embraced and surrounded by our new friends. We meandered through Bittersweet Gardens, received an immersion lesson in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs and marveled at the gorgeous produce, ranging from seedlings in the greenhouse to fully mature harvests that were boxed and ready to be picked up by members on-site and/or or delivered to a local grocery store. We learned about Bittersweet’s various animal therapy programs and found ourselves as delighted as young children when we spotted the miniature horses, chickens, sheep and rabbits. We then strolled through Bittersweet’s impressive fine arts studio and fiber arts workshop, and we couldn’t get over the quality of the creative works.  Indeed, some pieces displayed in Bittersweet’s main building struck an uncanny resemblance to paintings by one of Maire's and my favorite artists from Uruguay, Joaquin Torres Garcia. We also visited two of Bittersweet’s residences, which were as homey as anything we’ve ever seen in the Texas Hill Country, complete with big porches and wooden rocking chairs. 
   After our walking tour we settled into an open air pavilion where we enjoyed a bountiful and delicious lunch sourced by Bittersweet Gardens and prepared by Bittersweet’s culinary arts program participants. During lunch we continued our learning conversations, where we engaged in energetic discussions around how Bittersweet will continue to offer such unique programs all while facing some of the same challenges we’ve heard about from other organizations – workforce availability and ongoing staff training, funding, educating parents on support options, and, especially in Bittersweet’s case, greater community awareness of the full range of autism spectrum disorders. When it was time to depart, Beth, one of Bittersweet’s long-time residents who actively cycles on some of the more challenging trails in the area, warmed our hearts with her zeal in signing our Pursuit banner and her well wishes for our ongoing journey.

   Our afternoon learning visit was to Anne Grady Foundation (AGF), where we also met a kindred spirit. AGF’s Associate Executive Director Roger Fortener, an avid cyclist, shared with us that years earlier he and a buddy completed a cross country bicycle ride to raise funds for persons with disabilities. We learned that his trip was a bit more “bare bones” than our current sojourn, causing us to be even more inspired and impressed by his amazing feat. Who knew that during one of our learning visits we’d actually run into a non-profit leader who also had traversed the country via bicycle!

  We concluded our very rich learning day with dinner at a restaurant that boasts proud Houston ties – Carrabba’s Italian Grill, a long-time favorite of mine! This taste of home was a real treat -- particularly so, as it was a surprise celebration conjured up by my long time SCF partner and good friend, John Geddes. John and wife Lana have been following our journey closely, and felt like we needed a little taste of home to fuel us onward into our stretch run. Thank you John and Lana!
   Toward the end of our meal, a Carrabba's employee, Chris, introduced himself and said he had heard about our journey. He told us he had Asperger’s and was really interested in what we were doing. We instantly made friends with Chris and discussed our Pursuit journey with him. He was generous to spend a lot of time with us. When I asked him to give us encouragement, he yelled “ENCOURAGEMENT” with a big smile followed by a belly laugh. I laughed and told him that was exactly the kind of enthusiasm we needed. We left with full stomachs, but better yet, full hearts. Over the course of the day, we continued to be humbled by the countless others giving their all to make a real difference for making the same journey that we are. The country continues to feel smaller, and our mission more essential than ever before.

 This morning we are off for a 70+ mile ride in the heat. Thankfully for the team, Steve Gibson has returned! We are grateful for his cycling legs but also for his omnipresent positivity. We also would like to welcome Mark Livingston, who is joining from Houston as well. Mark is an avid and strong cyclist and came up for a few days of "pulling" before being joined by his wife and kids who will be riding tandem bikes with us from Pittsburgh to Cumberland. And it looks like we may have some tailwinds today....hope I didn't jinx ourselves!
 

 
With Gratitude and In Pursuit,
David, Maire and the entire Pursuit team


Greetings from Maumee, OH!
 
Day 45: Angola, IN to Maumee, OH
ROB: David Baldwin, Jourdan Ellis, Bo Huggins
PTOB: Kevin Kern, Harper McGee, Lila Ontiveros, Priscilla Plumb, Braeden Sawyer, John Schindeler, Jacqui Willis
Pursuit: 74.5 miles, 4:42 hours, 15.8 average MPH, 1,004’ ascent, 2,027 calories
Falls: None!
Pursuit Miles: 223.5 miles (day 45); 22,714.5 miles (total)
Mission Control Miles: 770 miles (day 45); 16,716.61 miles (total)

 

   Holy Toledo! We have officially crossed into our 9th state. We made it to Toledo, Ohio (or a suburb of Toledo at least). For the last few states we have been on country farm roads and not known we were in a new state for a few miles. In retrospect, we could tell by a change in the blacktop, but unfortunately we are missing some key “welcome to” state sign obligatory photos.
   While we did not see the “welcome to Ohio” sign, there are a slew of things that could have graced the sign. There are a lot of important people who are emblematic to Ohio’s identity. We would not have air travel if it were not for the Wright brothers, who hail from the Buckeye state. As air travel evolved to space travel, two of NASA’s most notable legends, John Glenn and Neil Armstrong are also from Ohio. Ohio is even home to seven US Presidents. We look forward to learning more about the Buckeye state in our next few days here.
    A large majority of our readers are from Houston, quite possibly one of the hottest places in the country right now. Hence as my fingers type this sentence, I’m sensitive to our geographic location and resulting climate. Nevertheless, it is HOT here. Bo, who recently joined us from Houston, thinks that we are experiencing a cold front. However, I assure you the heat is getting to us. Even Jourdan, who we have to fuss at to drink water, is consuming multiple bottles per day courtesy of the heat. As a result a few things have happened. Firstly, the generator in the RV has gone out due to excessive air conditioning use. Secondly, we are constantly in search of a good tree to shade us from the blaring sun.
   We are still in bucolic farm country. The scenery did not change with the change in zip code. We are in the middle of nowhere, with towns stretched miles and miles apart from each other, with little signs of bathrooms, let alone restaurants. Consequently, we continue our streak of picnic lunches on the side of the road, under a shaded tree. Yesterday we set up our picnic lunch in what appeared to be the front yard of an unoccupied farm. Appearances can be deceiving, and Jourdan happened to find another lifeform. A purring kitten naturally made its way into Jourdan’s arms. Within moments both had fallen in love and I feared the “we must take this cat home with us” look in Jourdan’s eyes. While I instantly nixed the idea as it climbed into my newly purchased Yeti cooler, Jourdan had contrived a way for the cat to literally ride inside her cycling kit. Fortunately, reasoning and the threat of kidnapping charges, enabled the cat to remain at its owner’s farm.

   After lunch, with the majority of our ride under our belt, we continued on to Bittersweet Farms. The mission of Bittersweet is to positively impact the lives of individuals with autism and those whose lives they touch. We will be going to Bittersweet Farms today for a learning visit, but we were too excited not to stop by on the way to our hotel yesterday. While the heat had beaten us down, we were instantly rejuvenated when we rode into Bittersweet Farms and were greeted by Tour de France decibel level cheers and wonderful signs. They fed us sinfully delicious cookies, to which I’m embarrassed to admit how many we consumed. But hey, doesn’t count when we are burning this many calories, right? We are looking very forward to our learning visit today!

 Today is a much needed riding rest day, allowing us to have 2 learning visits later today followed by another tomorrow morning.   And we're very excited that Steve Gibson, aka Gibby, joined the team last night and will supplement Bo Huggins' leadership of our peloton through his native Midwest states.  And rumor has it that super cyclist Mark Livingston will also be joining the team tonight.   Our team is growing just as my legs are growing tired...perfect timing for the work and fun ahead.  


With Gratitude and In Pursuit,
David, Maire and the entire Pursuit Team


Greetings from Angola, IN!
 
Day 44: South Bend, IN to Angola, IN
ROB: David Baldwin, Jourdan Ellis, Bo Huggins
PTOB: Maire Baldwin, Linda Bates, Kevin Kern, Harper McGee, Lila Ontiveros, Priscilla Plumb, Braeden Sawyer, John Schindeler, Jacqui Willis
Pursuit: 82.4 miles, 5:18 hours, 15.6 average MPH, 1,571’ ascent, 2,226 calories
Falls: None!
Pursuit Miles: 247 miles (day 44); 22,491 miles (total)
Mission Control Miles: 548 miles (day 44); 15,946 miles (total)

 

   Northern Indiana is home to bucolic and luscious farm land. Woven throughout our ride yesterday was the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail. This beautiful slice of nature gave our team a safe haven from tractor traffic and a perfect way to see part of the state. The downside for our SUV driving friend is that Lila was unable to follow behind. She would hop ahead to each opening and wait on the team. While waiting in one person’s front yard, she saw a cyclist pass her and then double back. Afraid that she was going to get in trouble for trespassing, she started the car and prepared to move. However the cyclist came straight up to the window with a huge smile on his face, and with a slightly winded breath said “I saw you on the news last night!” He continued to compliment our efforts and wished our team safe journeys. When Lila saw us she yelled, “go catch that guy in the yellow jacket.” Most of the time we are unable to hear everything Lila yells from the car, but all we heard was the “go catch that guy” fragment. We are so thankful we did catch him. Our new friend Bob is a retired American Airlines pilot and has been instrumental in the expansion of the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail. We rode with him for a few miles and learned quite a bit about the area.

   We have been greeted by countless friendly Hoosiers during our short time in Indiana. We met a farmer named Riley, who entertained our questions and taught us about the local land. Every time Lila was stopped on the side of the road waiting for us to pop out from our bike trail, strangers asked her if she was ok. It happened… every… single…time. The only Hoosiers that were not helpful or friendly were these sheep. Click here to see what happens when we asked for directions.

   As relayed in yesterday’s note, we are thrilled to have our Chief Morale Officer, Bo Huggins, back in his post. Given the warm temperatures, over 5 hour ride time and Bo’s affinity for frozen dessert, we concluded our ride with a crucial stop through a Dairy Queen drive thru. We continued on to Pokagon State park, not to be confused with Pokemon Go. The Park is nestled on Lake James. Our resident IronMan Champ, Jourdan, has a spot at the World Championship in 44 days in Australia. When she saw Lake James, she knew she needed to do an open water swim as part of her crucial training. However there was a problem – a large amount of ski boats on the water. Sensing this was a dangerous endeavor, Lila convinced a teenage boy to rent her a kayak since the hotel boat rental facility was closed, to row next to Jourdan so she was visible. Lila has now moved from protecting our team on land from getting hit by cars, to now protecting the team in the water from getting hit by boats.

   While the cycling team was in Indiana, the rest of the team was still in Illinois doing all the important work. Just a short drive outside of Chicago, the Pursuit team was welcomed at the idyllic Lambs Farms' community. The large plot of land is home to over 140 adults with I/DD that live on the grounds, many since its inception in the early 1960s. The first thing they noticed on entering the administration building was an enormous gym whose walls were lined wall to wall with bikes! Lambs Farms has a slew of businesses that employs its citizens - a bakery (where many of the Pursuit team stopped to get treats), a petting zoo, pet store, green house, thrift store and wedding facilities. They even have a phenomenal cafe where the team met in the afternoon. This well-known community is warm with the feeling of family. 

   Like many of our partners across the US, Lambs Farms has made changes within the past 10 years to accommodate an aging population. Discussions around the importance of independence and individuality echoed many of the conversations we had with our Chicago community partners yesterday. We are truly all in this together, striving for a world where we are all valued for our abilities, not our disabilities. 

 
With Gratitude and In Pursuit,
David, Maire and the entire Pursuit team


Greetings from South Bend, IN!

Day 43: Evanston, IL to South Bend, IN
ROB: David Baldwin, Jourdan Ellis, Bo Huggins
PTOB: Maire Baldwin, Eva Aguirre, Linda Bates, Kevin Kern, Harper McGee, Lila Ontiveros, Priscilla Plumb, Braeden Sawyer, John Schindeler, Jacqui Willis
Pursuit: 42 miles, 2:43 hours, 15.4 average MPH, 937’ ascent, 1,211 calories
Falls: None!
Pursuit Miles: 126 miles (day 43); 22,244 miles (total)
Mission Control Miles: 670 miles (day 43); 15,398 miles (total)

   We have crossed into our 8th state – Indiana (and the Eastern Time zone). Indiana is known as the “Cross Roads of America” because it has more Interstate Highway per square mile than any other state in the union. While admittedly we did arrive to Indiana via the highway, we were not on the highway for very long. Traversing Chicago rush hour traffic in a bus and trailer gave us all an elevated heart rate. The thought of leaving Chicago for Indiana via bike posed some potentially catastrophic issues that we wisely opted to avoid.
   Explorers Lewis and Clark set out for the Northwest Territory from Indiana. Since we spent so much time on the Lewis and Clark trail during our time out west, it was neat to see the origination. Speaking of our time out west, we received a very special guest from our first two weeks of our Pursuit ride. Houston’s own Bo Huggins returned to the Pursuit cycling team! He surprised the team with gifts, including his signature flip phone for Jourdan. We are thrilled to have our friend back, particularly since I was relying on a petite elite athlete to block the wind for my 6’ 3” frame.

                                                                  Jourdan proudly boasts her gifts of Hot Tamales and flip phone.

                                                                  Jourdan proudly boasts her gifts of Hot Tamales and flip phone.

We ended our evening with yet another special guest – Bo’s mother, Marcia! I have known Bo’s mother for longer than I would care to admit. Let’s just say some stories of my high school youth were discussed. Marcia’s family has had a cabin an hour north of South Bend for generations. Lucky for us, Marcia and her husband Barton drove to South Bend to join us for dinner. Since our hotel was a mile from the historic Notre Dame campus, we enjoyed dinner at a restaurant aptly named Legends, across from Notre Dame Stadium. Notre Dame boasts seven Heisman Trophy winners, which is the highest number of any school in the country. However we had a table full of legends and winners for dinner. Marcia’s husband, Barton Jahncke, won a gold medal in the 1968 Olympics for sailing.

                         Pursuit Legend Bo Huggins strikes a pose with his mother and Barton Jahncke in front of the famous Golden Dome.

                         Pursuit Legend Bo Huggins strikes a pose with his mother and Barton Jahncke in front of the famous Golden Dome.

   One of the many great thing about having such a large Pursuit force is the ability to divide and conquer. While half of our team was trying to accomplish the cycling portion of the mission, the other half was trying to accomplish the more important part of our mission – learning.
   Today’s Learning Event was hosted by Misericordia Heart of Mercy and included representatives from The Center and our other Chicago community partners – Aspire Chicago, Autonomy Works, Anixter Center, and Search, Inc. The group of 22 discussed their goals, missions and challenges, and, in a spirited dialogue, offered varying perspectives of how to best serve the IDD community in Illinois and beyond. A recurring theme was the challenge of staffing and the need for the conversation about IDD to expand to the broader community – particularly in the area of job creation. The group discussed various types of partnerships with universities, corporations, job training centers and the possibility of working with temporary staffing agencies. Although each of our local partner organization has a specific focus, they all share an extreme passion and common commitment toward creating programs that foster inclusion and integration, choice and independence, quality services, and respect and dignity for the IDD community.

   Following the formal learning visit we stayed on to tour Misericordia’s inspiring art education classrooms, their coffee packaging and bakery enterprises, and their impressive skilled nursing and senior care facilities.  We were sent on our way with delicious heart-shaped brownies from the Misericordia bakery – just what we needed to help fuel us for the coming days of riding across Indiana and Ohio!
   Later that afternoon we had an energizing visit to Search, Inc., marveling at their bright, contemporary setting and learning about their education, life, adventure and social enterprise programs. We ended our day at an Anixter CILA (Community Integrated Living Arrangement) where we also had a chance to visit with Marcella, one of last Friday’s recipients of PwC’s care packages. All told, it was an uplifting and quite thought provoking day, keeping the bar high for stretching our imagination about future opportunities for our many friends and neighbors with intellectual developmental disabilities and how all our organizations can have the greatest impact upon their lives through the work we do every day.
   Today, the Pursuit cycling team will ride 80+ miles to Angola, IN.

With Gratitude and In Pursuit,
David, Maire and the entire Pursuit team


 

Greetings from Evanston, IL!

Day 42: Rest day in Evanston, IL
ROB: Doug Bacon, Chrystal Boone, Frank Corvelli, Matt Davis, Nathan DeOms, Jennifer Dominiquini, Daniel Dominiquini, Jourdan Ellis, Eric Nordstrom, Richard Rosenberg, Braeden Sawyer, Payton Swope
PTOB: David Baldwin, Maire Baldwin, Mark Baldwin, Linda Bates, Sam Clark, Amy Davidson, Amie Herbert, Sabra Laval, Harper McGee, Lila Ontiveros, Trevor Pickard, Priscilla Plumb, John Schindeler, Brittany Sakowitz
Pursuit: 12 miles, 1:00 hours, 12.0 average MPH, 124’ ascent, 275 calories
Falls: None!
Pursuit Miles: 144 miles (day 42); 22,118 miles (total)
Mission Control Miles: 853 miles (day 42); 14,728 miles (total)


   Our readers will not be surprised that there is no such thing as a rest day when you are a part of Team Pursuit. While the day was packed with learning events and was initially planned as a riding day off, Chicago resident Doug Bacon wanted to show off his city to his Pursuit family. The Team rose early to scope out Chicago’s bike friendly metropolis, there are over 225 miles of bike lanes and more than 13,000 bike racks. They also have over 3,000 bikes and 300 stations through the city’s Divvy bike sharing system. The plan was to ride on Chicago’s famous 606. In the late 1990s, train traffic slowed along the Bloomingdale Line and thus was born a new method of creating green space in a concrete jungle. The 606 brings together arts, history, design and trails for cyclists.

                          606 Team Captain and Tour Guide, Doug Bacon

                          606 Team Captain and Tour Guide, Doug Bacon

   A torrential downpour forced the group to cut their ride short at mile 12. There was a quick scramble for cars in between Ubers and the unhooking of trailers to combat city traffic. A small but mighty group forged ahead to the 606 via motorized transportation to Ajejo’s Boathouse. Jennifer Dominiquini, Pursuit cyclist and BBVA champion, gave a great press interview while the rest of us looked like wet dogs. Despite the dampness of our socks and the chill in the air, we celebrated our memorable Chicago visit over a delicious breakfast.

                                                                                          A dry team photo prior to our abbreviated ride.

                                                                                          A dry team photo prior to our abbreviated ride.

   While we were ringing out our wet socks in Chicago, we know our friends in Houston were ringing out their clothes from the heat. We have mentioned one of our sponsors, Bike Barn, in previous morning notes. However it is worth highlighting that they had a Tour de France party and bike ride yesterday. Prior to the ride, Lee Neathery hopped up on a pickup truck and addressed the riders about the Pursuit ride, pushed the group to continue their fundraising efforts and purchase chances for the Pursuit ride raffle. Lee’s speech brought tears to the eyes of tough man Bullet Bob Cappadona. The report we received was that it was a great ride, a nice event and another opportunity to ensure that all in Houston know about The Center.

Cycling Superstar Lee Neathery jumps on her Texas themed soap box to preach The                                                 Center gospel.

Cycling Superstar Lee Neathery jumps on her Texas themed soap box to preach The                                                 Center gospel.

   After the skies cleared our afternoon was further enriched by a very rich learning visit and tour of Aspire Chicago’s Headquarters facility as well as their Careers and Learning facility. Participants included eight representatives of The Center, along with two representatives from PwC and one from our local community partner Autonomy Works. We were energized and inspired by Aspire’s bright and colorful HQ environment, featuring modular, open-space and multi-use space design for maximum productivity and efficiency. We also marveled at their use of cloud-based systems and other ways to leverage technology.
   We learned a great deal from both John McIlwain, Aspire’s VP of Advancement and Mark Kirstein, PwC Partner and Aspire Steering Committee member, who explained their partnership with the University of Iowa. The program provides their students graduating from a two year college program supplemented with a 12-week job training program using the Aspire curriculum and incorporating internships. Aspire’s Jack Regan provided a fantastic tour of their Career Training facility, which offers an Office Max training prototype for both warehouse and retail skillset development. The program includes various wellness practices, as well as ongoing assessment and measurement tools that enable Aspire to continuously monitor participants’ progress as they go through the program.

 In addition to a full day of learning visits in Chicago, we're back on the road today to South Bend, Indiana with very positive memories of the past week's Ride Along friends, our amazing visit to Chicago, and some outstanding lessons learned! Special thanks to MSP to Chicago Ride Along Chairs Alan Semple (the steady Scotsman!), John Bishop (the Wisconsin Whiz!), and Bo Dawson (the Texas Twister!) for their leadership and constant entertainment. And additional thanks to Doug Bacon, Jennifer Dominiquini, BBVA, and PWC for making our Chicago visit fun, rewarding, and rich with memories. Lastly, thanks to the Herbert and Dixon families, and Nate, Chrystal, Matt, Mark, Tom, Sioban, and Daniel from our extended family, and many others, for making our Chicago adventure one to remember.    


With Gratitude and In Pursuit,
David, Maire and the entire Pursuit team


Greetings from Evanston, IL!
 
Day 41: Lake Geneva, WI to Evanston, IL
ROB: David Baldwin, Doug Bacon, Mark Baldwin, John Bishop, Frank Corvelli, Bo Dawson, Jennifer Dominiquini, Jourdan Ellis, Jim Harris, Kevin Kushner, Sanna Larson, Jim Muschalik, Monica Muschalik, Eric Nordstrom, Trevor Pickard, Lance Reynolds, Richard Rosenberg, Alan Semple, Payton Swope, Gleeson Van Riet
PTOB: Maire Baldwin,Eva Aguirre, Linda Bates, Sam Clark, Amy Davison, Amie Herbert, Kevin Kern, Sabra Laval, Harper McGee, Lila Ontiveros, Priscilla Plumb, John Schindeler, Brittany Sakowitz, Braeden Sawyer  
Pursuit: 76 miles, 4:00 hours, 16.3 average MPH, 1,300’ ascent, 2,150 calories
Falls: 3
Pursuit Miles: 1,520 miles (day 41); 21,974 miles (total)
Mission Control Miles: 357 miles (day 41); 13,875 miles (total)

    Everyday atop our morning note, we denote a bevy of statistics. Maybe outside of the miles ridden, I’m sure that you leap frog over them to dive into the activities of the day. Within the statistics, one of the metrics has been more or less static at zero. Outside the first day of our voyage, in which we had two falls, and another random parking lot tumble, we have been very fortunate to have zero falls. Noah built an arc in 40 days, and we had zero falls in 40 days… until yesterday.
    We are lucky that we have had so many people come to ride with us on our journey. We had experts join us, such as co-owners of Bike Barn Lee Neathery and Neil Bremner. We have also had recreational cyclists (like me) quite literally throw themselves into this venture to show their support. We are extremely grateful for all of them. If you are an expert or a recreational rider, one thing is certain...falls happen to all of us.
   One of our better cyclists made a common mistake when unclipping, which resulted in a quick ER visit and consequently 11 stitches. Lance Reynolds, proud recipient of the out of network stitches, received a few personalized gifts to mark the occasion. When Pursuit super fan Roberta Nordstrom arrived to Evanston and heard about the accident, she rushed to the local drug store to purchase the necessities to keep his wound clean.  Later in the evening, the jokesters of the group gifted Lance some new sneakers to keep him safely out of his riding shoes.

                                                                   Lance Reynolds smiling through the pain as Amy does some triage to get our patient to a nearby ER.

                                                                   Lance Reynolds smiling through the pain as Amy does some triage to get our patient to a nearby ER.

  Soon after Lance was taken to the ER, there was an entanglement of wheels that took both John Bishop and me to the concrete. The recreational cyclists of the group were not having the best of luck. As a precautionary measure, I made a stop to the local clinic to ensure no fractures. After receiving a clean bill of health, I received a prescription for some R&R to last atleast 24 hours.

Adventurist and Triathlete, Dr. George Paul of Northwestern Memorial Hospital along with BCM's Super Doctor and Pursuit's Chief Medical Advisor, Dr. John Harrell in Houston, took excellent care of me.

Adventurist and Triathlete, Dr. George Paul of Northwestern Memorial Hospital along with BCM's Super Doctor and Pursuit's Chief Medical Advisor, Dr. John Harrell in Houston, took excellent care of me.

 Despite multiple first aid stops on the day, remarkably our team made it to our hotel in Evanston more or less on time. We quickly showered and made our way to historic Wrigley Field. For those of you who don’t know, baseball has played a pivotal role in my life. Getting to spend a beautiful summer day in a 100+ year old ballpark where the greats have played, and having cycled across the country to get there, was a bit overwhelming. The fact that the Cubs played a team from our home state made it that much sweeter. While the Texas Rangers are not our home team necessarily, they are from Texas, so the cheering spurts were conflicted.
   Maire and Amie went to the PwC suite and met a group from U1 REACH – Realizing Education and Career Hopes from the University of Iowa. It is a two year program that focuses on basic academic, life skills and transition course for individuals with intellectual and cognitive impairments. This is a two year college program at 6 universities across the U.S. We appreciated the chance to learn about other programs throughout the country and look forward to another learning event today. 

                                                                            Maire is undoubtedly my favorite teammate.

                                                                            Maire is undoubtedly my favorite teammate.

                                    Great views from the Cubs radio box

                                    Great views from the Cubs radio box

We concluded our evening with a wonderful event hosted by BBVA just steps from Wrigley field. It was heartwarming to see so many of our friends and family from all over the country who came to support us. Without the support of our friends, family and sponsors at PWC and BBVA, we would not be able to have gotten where we are today. Thank you!

On a side note, while Chicago is dubbed the Windy City, I don’t think it has anything on South Dakota winds!

 

With Gratitude and in Pursuit,
David, Maire and the entire Pursuit team


Greetings from Lake Geneva, WI!

Day 40: Madison, WI to Lake Geneva, WI
ROB: David Baldwin, Doug Bacon, Mark Baldwin, John Bishop, Neil Bremner, Frank Corvelli, Amy Davison, Bo Dawson, Jennifer Dominiquini, Jim Harris, Kevin Kushner, Sanna Larson, Jim Musachalik, Monica Musachalik, Eric Nordstrom, Lance Reynolds, Richard Rosenberg, Alan Semple, Payton Swope, Gleeson Van Riet
PTOB: Maire Baldwin, Linda Bates, Sam Clark, Jourdan Ellis, Sabra Laval, Harper McGee, Lila Ontiveros, Trevor Pickard, Priscilla Plumb, John Schindler, Brittany Sakowitz, Braeden Sawyer
Pursuit: 73 miles, 4:21 hours, 16.9 average MPH, 2,135’ ascent, 1,923 calories
Falls: None!
Pursuit Miles: 1,460 miles (day 40); 20,454 miles (total)
Mission Control Miles: 35 miles (day 40); 13,518 miles (total)

 

   Yesterday we began our journey 20 miles east of Madison in Waterloo, Wisconsin. Sound familiar? Well, if you are either an avid reader of our morning note or have an insatiable appetite for all things cycling, then you would know it is the birthplace and international headquarters of Trek Bicycle Corporation. While we did not go to the red barn where Trek was born, we did go to their massive factory and impressive headquarters.

                                                                                 The Pursuit Team gathers for a team photo at the end of the tour.

                                                                                 The Pursuit Team gathers for a team photo at the end of the tour.

  We were given a first class tour by some of their employees. Within the first few minutes, we learned that Trek and Houston have a few things in common. Firstly, space places a big role in both. While Houston has NASA, Trek prides itself on being raised on rocket science. That’s right. Many of the Trek bikes use the same NASA technology used on space craft. We learned about the carbon fiber manufacturing that goes into making one of the lightest bikes on planet earth. The frame was so light that Richard Rosenberg was able to hold it on his finger.
   There were many amazing things that stood out to us on our tour. First of all was the innovation and technology. Secondly, the American craftsmanship was astonishing. It was fascinating to see the man hours, pride and concentration each person put into their task. I’ll never forget watching a woman assemble the spokes on a wheel with laser-like precision. A personal highlight for me was getting to meet the man who painted mine and Maire’s bikes. As I have ridden my bike over the last 2,500 miles, I have received endless compliments from friends, strangers and even news reporters. To shake the man’s hand was probably much more impactful to me than to him.
   Trek’s founders strongly believed that to whom much is given, much is expected. Consequently, Trek gives back to the causes they believe in. We are over the moon grateful for Trek joining us in our Pursuit Mission. We could not have done it without them – literally.

 Priscilla, Maire and Linda headed into Chicago to meet with PwC to deliver care packages to clients from Search, Inc., Anixter Center and Misericordia. Their 2.5 hour drive turned into a 4 hour drive. Crawling along highway 90 Priscilla looked up to be inspired by a bright red sign from Misericordia.

   Priscilla and Maire spent yesterday afternoon with Victoria Beard and Sarah Tropiano from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) delivering care packages to clients at three partner organizations in Chicago. The first delivery was to Search, Inc., where Billie Jo Buckley was the recipient of the PwC gift. She is captain of Search, Inc.'s walking club and was thrilled with pedometers for her group. The group walks every Tuesday and plans to participate in community sponsored walks. Search took the opportunity to debut the group's new t-shirts and logo to the eight-member group. 
   The second visit to Anixter Center was to Marcella to deliver a friendship necklace and necklace tree. Marcella was thrilled with her new bauble! 
   The delivery team ended their day at Misericordia. Although the recipient, Kris, was at work and unable to attend, one of her housemates, Molly, was on standby to greet us and receive Kris’ gift. As most employees everywhere, Molly was thrilled on a Friday afternoon and said she was looking forward to the weekend. She works at Grant's grocery store four days a week and has a job doing laundry one day a week. She enjoys watching movies and staying up late on the weekends. Molly has been with Grants for 12 years where she enjoys her job primarily as a cashier. She has a big following of customers who will only queue in Molly's line. 

  Last night with Doug Bacon, Alan Semple, John Bishop, and Bo Dawson at the helm, an awards ceremony was hosted with a flare unique to this Ride Along group. The stories are endless and are not to be repeated, so sadly, I am unable to share them with you here. We were also joined by a handful of new riders yesterday, which was welcomed enthusiasm, as always. Today will be many of our guests' last day riding. We look forward to making new memories in the Windy City and in historic Wrigley Field.
   Like many great things, decisions and thus history is made over beers. Trek founders, Dick Burke and Bevil Hogg, famously engaged in a deep debate over what to call their then fledging bicycle company in the winter of 1975. Now over 40 years later, Trek is the gold standard in the cycling world. A week ago today, we were joined by a new Ride Along group who engaged in many seemingly meaningless debates over countless beers. But those debates birthed lifelong friendships and created the culture of this Ride Along group.


With Gratitude and in Pursuit,
David, Maire and the entire Pursuit Team


 

Greetings from Madison, WI!

Day 39: Spring Green, WI to Madison, WI
ROB: David Baldwin, Maire Baldwin, Doug Bacon, Mark Baldwin, John Bishop, Neil Bremner, Sam Clark, Bo Dawson, Jennifer Dominiquini, Jourdan Ellis, Jim Harris, Richard Rosenberg, Alan Semple, Gleeson Van Riet
PTOB: Amy Davison, Harper McGee, Sabra Laval, Trevor Pickard, Lila Ontiveros, John Schindeler, Braeden Sawyer
Pursuit: 55 miles, 3:31 hours, 15.7 average MPH, 2,841’ ascent, 1,733 calories
Falls: None!
Pursuit Miles: 770 miles (day 39); 18,994 miles (total)
Mission Control Miles: 1,020.73 miles (day 39); 13,482.21 miles (total)

   Madison, Wisconsin is home to many things. Most notably it is home to Wisconsin’s state capitol. Wisconsin’s capitol building happens to be the tallest in the United States, of course, after the US Capitol Building in Washington DC. Madison is also home to the Trek Bicycle Corporation. Well, technically their headquarters is in Waterloo, which is slightly east of Madison. Nevertheless, we were thrilled to begin our morning yesterday with a handful of new friends from Trek and Trek Travel to join our 55 mile jaunt into Madison.
   As you may have read in one of our previous notes, Trek Travel has been involved in the turn by turn planning of every mile of our cross country journey. Since we have taken so much of their valuable time, it is remarkable that they would voluntarily spend more time with us. Unfortunately for us, the husband and wife CEO's of Trek and Trek Travel, John and Tania Burke, respectively, were out of town on business at Le Tour. Nevertheless, they graciously hosted the Pursuit team at their beautiful home for lunch. We enjoyed a healthy rider's feast overlooking the lake and under the shade of some of the most beautiful trees we've seen along our Pursuit.   John, Tania, thank you for your hospitality!

   The city of Madison is separated by two lakes – Lake Mendota and Lake Monona. Otis Redding, singer of the American classic “Sittin on the dock of the bay”, died when his plane crashed into Lake Monona. The ever mischievous group of Doug Bacon, Bo Dawson, Alan Semple and Lila Ontiveros were very quick to shed a layer and dive head first into chilly Lake Mendota.

                                                                          “Geronimo!” says Scotsman Alan Semple, while cheered on by his pals.

                                                                          “Geronimo!” says Scotsman Alan Semple, while cheered on by his pals.

   Madison is also the beautiful home to the University of Wisconsin. Following our lovely lunch on Lake Mendota, the team rode a few short miles to the University of Wisconsin. Today’s learning visit was hosted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Department of Rehabilitation Psychology and Special Education (RPSE) and featured conversations with faculty and graduate students around supporting transitions to community living for individuals with developmental disabilities. During our discussion we had a chance to learn about “Living our Vision Dane County” (or “LOV-Dane”) a grassroots organization of individuals with disabilities, their families, friends and community members who, by the power of an extensive peer support system, assist in creating a “bridge” to a more independent, community-centered life. LOV-Dane is leveraging collaborations with universities and businesses and, most impactfully, families to create a network of social opportunities, shared resources and venues to share life experiences.
 

   I concluded yesterday’s note expressing excitement about seeing both new and old friends. We were joined yesterday evening by even more Ride Along participants who will be with us on the journey to Chicago. Of course, we were also joined by new friends from Trek with whom we cycled earlier in the day. However one of the highlights for me was being joined by two of my oldest friends from my college baseball days at UT – Doug Lindauer and Ty Harrington. These two fun and inspiring gentleman dropped their lives for a few days just to support Pursuit, and join in the fun for a few days. Always ready for action, they hosted interviews, delivered BBVA's Random Act of Brightness Awards, attended the day's learning event at The University of Wisconsin, and became instant friends to our 50 dinner guests at Trek's Mansion Hotel. Doug and Ty, thanks so much for joining our Pursuit!

We're off to Trek's HQ this morning for high tech tour of their amazing campus, and then another 75 miler across amazing Wisconsin!

With Gratitude and In Pursuit,
David, Maire and the entire Pursuit team


Greetings from Spring Green, WI

Day 38: La Crosse, WI to Spring Green, WI
ROB: David Baldwin, Maire Baldwin, Doug Bacon, Mark Baldwin, John Bishop, Neil Bremner, Bo Dawson, Jennifer Dominiquini, Jourdan Ellis, Jim Harris, Trevor Pickard, Richard Rosenberg, Alan Semple, Gleeson Van Riet
PTOB: Sam Clark, Amy Davison, Harper McGee, Sabra Laval, Lila Ontiveros, John Schindeler, Braeden Sawyer
Pursuit: 102 miles, 6:43 hours, 15.2 average MPH, 4,297’ ascent, 3,000 calories
Falls: None!
Pursuit Miles: 1,428 miles (day 38); 18,224 miles (total)
Mission Control Miles: 300.53 miles (day 38); 12,461.48 miles (total)
 

   The opening of yesterday’s morning note may have overstated our familiarity and confidence with centuries – the illustrious 100 mile ride. While our brains may have been prepared, the legs and rest of the body are a completely different story. We once again learn that nothing can beat local knowledge. We had the honor and pleasure of John Bishop’s family joining us for dinner in La Crosse. John is a native of Wisconsin and his sister, Martha happens to live in the wonderful town. She warned us that the first 20 miles or so were going to be straight up hill. To reiterate, when someone tells you something is going to be hard – believe them. For anyone contemplating back to back centuries, you are now officially forewarned.
   Wisconsin is the dairy capital of the United States, producing more milk than any other state.  John's cousin Nora is a large animal veterinarian, and informed us of a great dairy farm that we would pass along our route. Some of our support vehicles were a bit late to the dairy farm as they got stuck behind a milk truck at an Organic Valley Creamery location. It is pretty neat to see the origination of products you see in Whole Foods and HEB.
 
 While at the dairy farm, we met three impressive young women. The farm was run by Hannah. The young dairy farmers shockingly allowed us city slickers to try our hat at milking cows. Almost all who participated from the Pursuit team were successful in the milk acquisition. We continued our tour and met the newest members of their cattle family. One of the calves that was born last week instantly licked my arm given the excessive amount of salt my body was producing following the morning climb. Hannah encouraged me to let the calf suck on my finger. I reluctantly obliged. While we all laughed, I admit it was the most peculiar feeling.

  As you may know BBVA is our Presenting Sponsor. On this Ride-Along we have the wonderful Jennifer Dominiquini from BBVA with us. Jennifer brings an ever present smile and positive attitude to our burley group. She has also given our Ride-Along participants “100 Days of Brightness” packages. It creates an opportunity for BBVA Compass to deliver random acts of kindness across their footprint. Simply put, we now have $25 gift cards in our arsenal distribute to those who deserve it. Following our spectacular visit to the dairy farm, I awarded our dairy farming friends with the Live Bright package. Amy awarded her Live Bright package to a woman who let the team use her restroom while stopped for lunch. Lila paid for the groceries for a solider in uniform. We are continually amazed by so-called ordinary Americans doing extraordinary things. We encourage you all to participate in the 100 Days of Brightness and can follow along with the hashtag #LiveBright. 
   Following our spectacular visit, we awarded our dairy farming friends with the “Live Bright” Act of Kindness Award.

Today, we look forward to being greeted by old and new friends who will be joining the second half of this Ride Along. And we're all excited about having lunch and dinner with many of our new friends at Trek and Trek Travel today, and a tour of Trek's factory tomorrow!    
 This morning we are taking what now seems like a leisurely 55-mile ride to Madison. The back to back centuries over the past 2 days have left most of us sore and with some widespread aches and pains, but the beauty of Wisconsin is worth the pain.  It is now one of my favorite states in the country due to its amazing beauty, rich colors, and consistently welcoming residents.
   We spent the night a stone’s throw from the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. Frank Lloyd Wright is recognized as “the greatest American architect of all time.” He designed more than 1,000 structures, 532 of which were completed.

 

With Gratitude and in Pursuit,
David, Maire and the entire Pursuit Team

 



Greetings from La Crosse, WI

Day 37: Eau Claire, WI to La Crosse, WI
ROB: David Baldwin, Doug Bacon, Mark Baldwin, John Bishop, Neil Bremner,
Amy DavidsonBo Dawson, Jennifer Dominiquini, Jim Harris, Richard Rosenberg, Alan Semple, Gleeson Van Riet,
PTOB: Maire Baldwin, 
Sam ClarkJourdan Ellis, Lila Ontiveros, John Schindeler, Braeden Sawyer, Harper McGee, Sabra Laval, Trevor Pickard,
Pursuit: 100 miles, 6:43 hours, 14.7 average MPH, 3,199’ ascent, 3,050 calories
Falls: None!
Pursuit Miles: 1,200 miles (day 37); 16,796 miles (total)
Mission Control Miles: 311.2 miles (day 37); 12,160.95 miles (total)

   We are starting to get this whole century thing down, or at least conceptually. The saying, "the early bird gets the worm" rings true. We hit the road early, got in 75 miles prior to lunch, and dined on a first class meal from Trek Travel on the banks of the Mississippi, complete with local berries and Wisconsin cheese. There was a catfish festival that concluded two days prior to our arrival in this picturesque state park. Unfortunate timing for us, the clean-up crew removed the remaining facilities in the middle of our lunch. The wind changed direction thus wafting a retched smell that interfered with our olfactory nerves and cut our lunch short. The remaining 25 miles, we battled the heat, which was a welcome alternative to our lunch break.
   When we planned our journey, we were told to expect the unexpected. As expected, the unexpected happened. We were miles from our hotel when we came across construction signs. Sounds normal, right? Let’s keep going. As we continued on, the road did not – literally. Thanks to some kind construction workers, concentration and balance, we crossed via a balance beam sized bar. We have a whole new respect for the newly named US Olympic gymnastics team.

We awoke this morning in the Charmant, which was hands down the best hotel we have stayed in on our journey. The Charmant is an old candy factory with quaint charm and original artifacts. You would have thought the Pursuit gang was in Willie Wonka’s Chocolate factory and had the golden ticket. If you find yourself in La Crosse, Wisconsin, it is a MUST.

Since we have been in the state of Wisconsin, some of our Ride Along members have initiated a wonderful new nightly tradition. Thanks to a genius idea and subsequent execution from Carl “Bo” Dawson, Alan “The kilt wearing” Semple, and John “cheese curd loving” Bishop, we distribute nightly “acheesement” awards. The trophy is the legendary cheesehead hat that is adorn proudly by Wisconsinites

 Many of you read about the launch of our Crowdrise video yesterday. We would like to proudly announce that we crossed the $500,000 threshold on Crowdrise. While it is a great and awe-inspiring accomplishment, we are still far from finished and need YOUR help getting to our $13.5mm goal. We would also like to thank the people who reached out to Amina yesterday to help become Ambassadors for Pursuit! If you would like to become an Ambassador, please send an email to Amina Belouizdad at amina.bel@gmail.com.
   We are battling yet another century today, so please keep us in your thoughts. Let’s all hope that the unexpected that is certain to arise is manageable.


With Gratitude and In Pursuit,

David, Maire and the entire Pursuit Team


 

Greetings from Eau Claire, WI

Day 36: River Falls, WI to Eau Claire, WI
ROB: David Baldwin, Doug Bacon, Mark Baldwin, John Bishop, Neil Bremner, Bo Dawson, Jennifer Dominiquini, Jim Harris, Richard Rosenberg, Alan Semple, Gleeson Van Riet, Sam Clark
PTOB: Maire Baldwin, Jourdan Ellis, Lila Ontiveros, John Schindler, Braeden Sawyer, Harper McGee, Sabra Laval, Amy Davison, Trevor Pickard
Pursuit: 65 miles, 4:10 hours, 15.2 average MPH, 3,300’ ascent, 2,170 calories
Falls: None!
Pursuit Miles: 780 miles (day 36); 15,596 miles (total)
Mission Control Miles: 662 miles (day 36); 11,850 miles (total)

 

Our Final Push - We Need Your Help
Please Become a Pursuit Ambassador

  As we start our 37th day on the road, we would like to thank each and every one of you for all your generosity, support and encouragement over the course of our Pursuit. Since first introducing the campaign in January, we have exceeded many of our ambitious goals with the help of our 350 volunteers and now thousands of supporters. We are currently 22 days from the finish line and have raised 90% of our $13.5M stretch goal. As we approach the finish line, we are becoming laser focused on closing the gap to reach our target. To help reach our fund-raising goal, today we are launching a Crowdrise video that we hope will have a large reach. Many of you have read our Morning Note for the past 36 days, and have contributed in different ways to our successes to date. As a Pursuit Ambassador, we need your help in sharing this video with your friends and personal contacts, and extending our reach to as many new people as possible. If you prefer to receive pre-written email to forward to your contacts, please email Amina Belouizdad at amina.bel@gmail.com. She will send you a content rich email with instructions on how to send to your contact list.

 Now that we are in more populated areas, we have enjoyed many of the comforts of home that we didn’t realize we were without. Many of you begin your day with a cup of coffee and the morning paper. Sounds simple, but in some of the parts of our journey that seemed more difficult to accomplish. With Starbucks and the Wall Street Journal now in relative abundance, we awoke to the news of the Japanese elections. Seemingly more civilized than our current American process, it was not the only news we awoke to from Japan. Our Italian Pursuit Ambassador, Igi Riboldi, sent us some photos from Japan. While in Tokyo on business, Igi couldn’t help himself, grabbed a bike, donned his Pursuit kit, and struck a proud pose in front of the Palace of the Japanese Emperor. Igi’s email made us smile, proud of the international reach that Pursuit is having, and brought a tear of joy to my eye. 

As you have read from our previous notes, we have frequent guests at Mission Control. Today we met Gerald and Martha Still (through the magic of Skype). Gerald’s brother, Lawrence, lived at The Center for 20 years in Cullen Residence Hall. When Lawrence and Gerald’s parents passed away, they searched long and hard to find a place where Lawrence felt comfortable. After only one visit to The Center, Lawrence knew that The Center was the place he wanted to call home.
  Lawrence was born in 1930, and at that time he was not afforded the opportunity to go to school. Gerald distinctly remembers picking up Lawrence from The Center on a Friday evening. Lawrence had his paycheck for his week’s work, and on the back of the check Lawrence had signed his name. Signing one’s name is a phenomenal feat for a person who never learned how to read or write. Lawrence loved his life at The Center. He had a great job, tons of friends and family who visited on the weekends and holidays. Although like most at The Center, he preferred to not venture too far from The Center campus for too long.

 Lawrence lived a long life and passed away in 2011 at the age of 81. Gerald and Martha have remained loyal supporters of The Center. They caught wind of Pursuit in the newsletter and daily blogs. Gerald and Martha drove from College Station yesterday to have lunch with clients and ride alongside them in Mission Control. Their visit was filled with great stories about the impact The Center had on Lawrence’s life and the rest of their family. To add to this remarkable story, they left a generous donation in Lawrence’s memory.

 When Lawrence was a teenager we were at war with Japan. Now we have an Italian riding in a jersey with The Center smeared across it in Japan for men and women just like Lawrence. The dream that Maire and I had for Pursuit has become more than we ever imagined. I hope you all will continue to read our note, accept our humble call to action and become a Pursuit Ambassador

With Gratitude and In Pursuit,
David, Maire and the entire Pursuit team


Greetings from River Falls, WI

Day 35: St. Paul, MN to River Falls, WI
ROB: David Baldwin, Maire Baldwin, Doug Bacon, Mark Baldwin, John Bishop, Neil Bremner, Bo Dawson, Jennifer Dominiquini, Jim Harris,Trevor Pickard, Richard Rosenberg, Alan Semple, Gleeson Van Riet,
PTOB: Linda Bates, Sam Clark, Amy Davison, Jourdan Ellis, Sabra Laval, Harper McGee,Lila Ontiveros, Pricilla Plumb,Braeden Sawyer, John Schindeler
Pursuit: 43 miles, 3:05 hours, 14 average MPH, 1,722’ ascent, 1,196 calories
Falls: None!, 
Pursuit Miles: 559 miles (day 35); 14,816 miles (total)
Mission Control Miles: 438 miles (day 35); 11,187 miles (total)

   Yesterday began with another Ride Along group and another state! As is standard protocol with any group travel, we had a morning meeting to discuss logistics, contingency plans, etc. We are thrilled that Amy and Sam from Trek Travel returned to guide our second Ride Along in spite of our previous group’s rambunctious behavior:-) Since so many members of our current Ride Along group know so many of our previous Ride Along group (some even related to), it makes it easy for our guides to tell our new members what NOT to do. Amy warned the group to not follow in Tom Bacon’s tire tracks, as he broke a record for flats acquired in a 30 minute time span. Amy clearly stated do not run over objects in the street, you will get a flat.
   As we walked out to assemble our bikes, we again saw our friends from Wingspan, The Arc Greater Twin Cities and Living Well. They had come out on a Sunday morning to see us off on our departure from The Twin Cities. As we pulled away from the hotel they took out their cameras and waved goodbye. They are committed to the cause of collaboration and raising awareness for the IDD community. We are making progress in our cause.

                                                            The Ride Along team is fired up to start their journey to the Gopher State.

                                                            The Ride Along team is fired up to start their journey to the Gopher State.

   Yesterday was the shortest ride of this Ride Along, a quick 43 miles. About 10 miles into the ride, Neil Bremner noticed the front right wheel on the SUV was very low. This shouldn’t be surprising since Lila has driven the last 1,800 miles with her right tires in the shoulder and grass. Trevor was Johnny on the spot with a bike pump. Those Trek Travel guides are immensely resourceful. Remarkably, the trick worked and gave Lila 2 miles down the road before the tire went completely flat. The SUV needed not one, not two, not three, but all FOUR tires replaced. Apparently Amy’s advice applies to more than just bicycles.

                                                                                        Trevor being resourceful and an instant legend in our books.

                                                                                        Trevor being resourceful and an instant legend in our books.

   We crossed the massive St. Croix River, aka the headwaters for the Mississippi River, into the Badger State. Lila often helps block traffic in the SUV when merging onto heavily trafficked thoroughfares. Luckily we had someone much better qualified to look out for us… the local police. Without advance notice a police officer saw our peloton, turned on his lights, stopped in the middle of the two lane divided highway, threw on his florescent yellow vest and stopped traffic for us to pass safely. He continued to intercept us at other potentially dangerous intersections. Without our asking, the local police force have consistently kept us safe on our journey and we are very grateful for their help with our Pursuit.

                                                            Gary stopping “traffic”. No photo available for the more densely populated areas…

                                                            Gary stopping “traffic”. No photo available for the more densely populated areas…

  While we have highlighted Steve Quick in a previous note, we just had to do it again. On Saturday, Steve rode a total of 230 miles in Mission Control. 230 miles! In one day! To make matters worse, that was a day in which we logged a goose egg next to our miles column. He ripped a page from my book by concluding with a much needed ice bath; – again, thank you for ALL of your dedication to our mission!

                                  Steve enjoying some quality time with the floor following his 230 consecutive miles.

                                  Steve enjoying some quality time with the floor following his 230 consecutive miles.

With Gratitude and In Pursuit,
David, Maire and the entire Pursuit team


Greetings from St. Paul, MN

Day 34: St. Paul, MN‎ (Riding Rest Day!!!, Learning Summit Day, and RAL #2 Arrival Day)
PTOB: Eva Aguirre, David Baldwin, Maire Baldwin, Linda Bates, Jourdan Ellis, Margaret George, Joe Ivers, Liz Ivers, Harper McGee, Lila Ontiveros, Priscilla Plumb, John Schindeler, Glen Shepherd
RAL#2 Arriving Riders: Doug Bacon, Mark Baldwin, John Bishop, Neil Bremner, Bo Dawson, Jennifer Dominiquini, Jim Harris, Richard Rosenberg, Alan Semple, Gleeson Van Riet
Pursuit: 0 miles, 0 hours, 0 average MPH, 0’ ascent, 0 calories
Falls: None!
Pursuit Miles: 0 miles (day 34); 14,257 miles (total)
Mission Control Miles: 501 miles (day 34); 10,749 miles (total)

 

When traveling across the country, there are endless things to learn about the local landscape, history, people, culture, food, music, art, etc. When we cycled through the lush Minnesota countryside, it felt like everywhere we turned there was a lake. Minnesota has been dubbed the “Land of 10,000 lakes”, but the state actually has 11,842 lakes that are 10 acres or larger. To put into context, Minnesota has over 90,000 miles of shoreline, which is more than California, Florida and Hawaii combined. Minnesota is home to many of the major US companies that are household names – Target, Best Buy, 3M (one of the M’s stands for Minnesota), UnitedHealth, General Mills, etc. While learning about the proverbial “fun facts” is cool, it is not why we are crossing the country by bike.

   Archimedes, the ancient Greek mathematician, famously said “the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.” When crossing the country via bicycle, combating the elements and trying to minimize saddle sores, one would assume we would take Archimedes principle into very serious consideration. How quickly and efficiently can we get from point A to point B? If you were to look at a map of our route, you would notice we took a deliberate move north on our eastward journey. Why did we insert another letter in between A and B? Because Minnesota is known to be first in class on issues of IDD. People move to the Gopher State specifically for the services offered. We knew we had to take the detour to learn from the best and see what practices we could take back to The Center in Houston. I can assure you it was worth the extra chaffing.
   We began our morning at the Surly Brewing Company, which is a top attraction in the Twin Cities. No we did not start drinking at 8:00 a.m, we started with coffee. We needed the brain fuel for the knowledge that was being bestowed upon us. Living Well Disability Services, Wingspan Life Resources and Glee Club, and The Arc Greater Twin Cities all graciously participated in effectively a roundtable forum that enabled a fruitful dialogue. When discussing the highlights of the learning visit, Eva Aguirre said it best, “we all beat with the same heart.”

   The learning event was concluded by an epically heartwarming performance from the Wingspan Glee Club. It is apparent that Minnesotans have state pride in abundance, as they should.  The Glee Club concluded their upbeat concert with two songs by home state heroes. First was a sweet rendition of Judy Garland’s “Somewhere over the rainbow.” The crowd was noticeably silent listening to the angelic voices while mentally transposed to their childhood bedroom. They followed with the late Prince’s chart topping “Purple Rain”. The crowd enthusiastically kept the beat with their head while singing along. The good news is the vast majority of the song only has two words, "purple" and "rain", thus making it easy to participate in the sing-along. The bad news is the Glee Club’s singing was much better without the tone deaf members of the Pursuit team. Nevertheless it was a great way to conclude such a wonderful learning event.

   We ended our evening with a welcome dinner for our new Ride Along participants at an historic Italian restaurant in St. Paul, frequented by legendary guests such as Frank Sinatra. Some of our new team members rolled into dinner hot after Lila took them out on the town for afternoon cocktails. While they may be regretting some of those decisions this morning, I’m glad that the new team bonded prior to clipping in for their first day.

  We were thrilled to see our friends from Trek Travel. Excited for their friendship of course, but equally as excited to hand over the logistics reigns and partake in their legendary quinoa salads. Trying to find quinoa in rural South Dakota was like trying to find oceanfront property in Arizona. This morning our resident Scotsman Alan Semple is cheering on his fellow countryman, Andy Murray, in the Wimbledon finals. After its conclusion, we will trek a mere 43 miles to River Falls.

With Gratitude and in Pursuit,
David, Maire and the entire Pursuit team


Greetings from St. Paul, MN

Day 33: Mankato, MN to St. Paul, MN
ROB: David Baldwin, Jourdan Ellis, Brian Freeze
PTOB: Lila Ontiveros, John Schindeler, Linda Bates, Priscilla Plumb
Pursuit: 93 miles, 5:51 hours, 15.9 average MPH, 2,041’ ascent, 2,620 calories
Falls: None!
Pursuit Miles: 279 miles (day 33); 14,257 miles (total)
Mission Control Miles: 1,523 miles (day 33); 10,248 miles (total)

 

   We all know you are waiting with baited breath to find out who won the epic photo battle. Drum roll please … well, it was so close we decided to give the coveted award to all of the below. Yes, it does feel a bit current American tee ball where everyone gets a trophy but some of these photos are just TOO good. Plus tee shirts are cheap. Our own David Weresbe took some of his Pursuit socks, made for humans, and doctored them for his four legged horse friends. We received photos from Europe, the Great American West, Mission Control and from some of our newest aspiring cyclists. Thank you all so much for participating. Each and every photo brought a much needed smile to our tired faces.‎

                                                                                              Nice Pursuit socks!!  

                                                                                              Nice Pursuit socks!!  

                                                                                            Our youngest Baldwin twins in Pursuit!!

                                                                                            Our youngest Baldwin twins in Pursuit!!

                                                                           The Cisarik Family taking Pursuit to high altitudes in Telluride, CO

                                                                           The Cisarik Family taking Pursuit to high altitudes in Telluride, CO

                                      Breanne Subias recruiting Pursuit supporters at an Astros game!

                                      Breanne Subias recruiting Pursuit supporters at an Astros game!

                                                                         We can always count on the Quick Family for unwavering support of Pursuit!

                                                                         We can always count on the Quick Family for unwavering support of Pursuit!

                                                                                          The Sampsons taking Pursuit abroad!

                                                                                          The Sampsons taking Pursuit abroad!

                                                        The Center's Records Management Department showing their Pursuit support!

                                                        The Center's Records Management Department showing their Pursuit support!

                                              The Johnson Family knows how to compromise very well without Pursuit swag!

                                              The Johnson Family knows how to compromise very well without Pursuit swag!

   Yesterday’s 93 mile death march was filled with twists and turns. Literally. We turned every few miles – north, south, east and west. No matter which way we turned, the wind was the same … in our face. Exasperated and exhausted, we stopped pre-lunch for a longer than normal leg rest. We sought shelter in a sweet café. We entered Martha’s Eats & Treat, which is a staple in Dundas, MN. People literally travel from all over to dine in this quaint French café that is only open on weekends. We met Martha, her team, and somehow they let me get behind the counter. We are so glad we stumbled upon this national treasure. If you ever find yourself in this part of Minnesota, their pastries are a must.

   Upon rolling into the capital of Minnesota, we were greeted by multiple welcoming committees. Parking a bus and a trailer in a metropolitan area is a challenge, and thankfully one of our learning partners is keeping our vehicles safe. Unfortunately for our waist lines, they have also bestowed on us an enormous amount of local treats. We were greeted at the hotel by some of our Ambassadors, with welcoming signs and even warmer smiles. We are looking forward to learning from Living Well Disability Services, Wingspan Life Resources and Glee Club, and The Arc Greater Twin Cities today at our learning event. We will report back tomorrow with some of our findings. Stay tuned!

                                                 The gift basket of Minnesota made treats won't make it very long

                                                 The gift basket of Minnesota made treats won't make it very long

                                                                                 Our welcome committee stopped traffic to greet us at our hotel entrance.

                                                                                 Our welcome committee stopped traffic to greet us at our hotel entrance.

  While we are thrilled to have new friends arriving today for the Ride Along, we were elated to hear about the traction at Mission Control. We hope we report this many times over in the remaining days of our journey, but the folks at home broke a record with the miles recorded at Mission Control. It is not the first time Mission Control has logged more miles than the Pursuit cyclists on the cement road. However this is the first time Mission Control has exceeded 1,000 miles in a day, taking them to a total of over 1,500 miles for the day. We want to give a huge shout out to our friends at PWC who packed Mission Control all day with enthusiastic cyclists....over 80 cyclists strong!!!  Again, furthering our goal of bringing more people to The Center who would not otherwise, thus raising awareness, motivates our weary legs.
   Last night when leaving dinner we passed the Governor’s Mansion on historic Summit Avenue. In light of recent events, the street was blocked on both sides by flashing police vehicles, forcing passengers to take a detour. Police and first responders are top of mind for many in our country right now. Naturally, we have reflected on the police force that we have encountered over the course of our journey in the last 33 days. You have read about them in our morning note and seen them on our YouTube page. On our journey, they have kept us safe, helped us when were lost and given us a helpful hand. We are grateful for all that put their lives on the line on a daily basis for our safety. Our hearts and prayers go out to all of those impacted by the recent events in our home state of Texas, as well as the state with which we lay our heads tonight – Minnesota.

 

With Gratitude and in Pursuit,
David, Maire and the entire Pursuit Team


Greetings from Mankato, MN

Day 32: Worthington, MN to Mankato, MN
ROB: David Baldwin, Jourdan Ellis, Brian Freeze
PTOB: Lila Ontiveros, John Schindeler
Pursuit: 101 miles, 5:44 hours, 17.7 average MPH, 954’ ascent, 2,893 calories
Falls: None!
Pursuit Miles: 303 miles (day 32); 13,978 miles (total)
Mission Control Miles: 670.59 miles (day 32); 8,725.9 miles (total)

   There are a lot of old sayings that came to mind yesterday. We will start with “prepare for the worst, and hope for the best.” As we laid out in yesterday’s morning note, we had all braced ourselves both mentally and physically for a long 100 mile ride in the grueling wind and rain. We tried our best to hydrate and hit the hay early. I get my REM sleep in the comfort of the Pursuit RV. At 3am, I woke to torrential rains and screaming winds that shook the RV like a leaf on a tree. I should have been petrified that the RV would tip over, but instead, my only thought was “oh no… we have to ride in this … in four hours … Ugh.”
   Alas when our feet hit the floor after the dreaded alarm sound, we noticed the rain had stopped. We quickly scarfed down our breakfast and hit the road as quickly as possible to beat what we thought was more looming rain. Weathermen can be wrong. Apologies to all of our meteorologist readers out there. We are now two for two in miscalculated weather forecasts. On the Badlands to Murdo leg, the weather forecast did not project the pounding that took us offguard. Clearly tortured from the event, we were prepared this time. Again, prepare for the worst, and hope for the best. Thankfully for us, we had the best weather we could ask for. Well, maybe a little hot, but us Texans can take it.
  While it frightens our readers, we do have long stretches of riding on the highway. And yes, you should be frightened by the thought. Of course what immediately comes to mind are the throngs of speeding 18-wheelers who have to change lanes at the last minute in an effort to avoid collision. Additionally, there is an excess amount of road debris, especially when compared to the well-manicured and less traversed country roads we have previously had. As a result of the road debris, our tires can be attacked by arrant nails, screws, etc.
Surprisingly in our 100-mile journey yesterday, we only had one person with a flat. Jourdan had a flat on quite possibly the worst stretch of highway, a mere few miles from our final destination for the evening. Lila was behind her in the trailer to block traffic while Jourdan briskly jogged to safety. Unable to quickly fix the tire, the girls threw the bike in the trailer and began to pursue Brian and me. However Brian had already turned around to help Jourdan and just missed the girls just as they were pulling away. Brian’s phone was dead. Worried about me alone and the onslaught of oncoming traffic, they continued the pursuit of the two remaining riders.  The girls came to find me, Brian said he would catch up. Long story short, is we were all separated.
Brian reverted back to 1980 and did what any of us would do in a pre-mobile phone ubiquitous era, he asked for directions. The girls went to every hotel in Mankato and Jourdan even hollered out the window, “BRIAN, CAN YOU HEAR ME,” as if she was looking for a lost puppy. Me, not the greatest ambassador of technology, struggled with the various mobile map apps on my smart phone. Eventually, all parties made it safely to our destination. Lesson learned: Never leave a man behind. Also, ABC – always be charging. You never know when you will need your phone.

   As our avid readers are aware, one of the many goals of Pursuit is to get more foot traffic in The Center, which inevitably raises awareness. As our avid readers also know, Bike Barn and Bike Houston have been fervent supporters of Pursuit. While we were dining on yet another picnic lunch amongst a field of solar panels, we received an awesome newsletter via – Red Crank Monthly, the Bike Barn e-newsletter. Bike Barn and Bike Houston will be hosting a ride on Thursday, July 21st from 6:00-8:00 pm that STARTS from Mission Control. The bike ride is called Hullabaloo. If you are interested in participating, click here for more information. Red Crank also advertised a summer raffle with over $10,000 in prizes with benefiting The Center. And by the way, today was the second straight day in which there were no (none!!!) unused seats in Mission Control. Please book early (and often) if you plan to ride along with us in Houston. Thanks to the now 100's of you that have visited Mission Control!

We finished our day with another visit from the local media, this time from Mankato's CBS and Fox affiliates. Thanks to our friends at STFPR, we have received great coverage of our Pursuit journey all across the western U.S. We all love telling our Pursuit story, and marvel in all the people honking and saying hello to us the next morning after seeing the story on the news. The emails and visits to our website from people outside of Texas are increasing significantly. This makes us extremely proud, and hopeful that we are making a difference in changing people's perception about how we all can help our neighbors with disABILITIES.

       
One last reminder...Today is the last day to send in yourbest Pursuit photos for our extremely competitive photo contest. Winner receives ahighly coveted Pursuit tee shirt. Please send them to Lila at lila.ontiveros@gmail.com.

With Gratitude and In Pursuit,
David, Maire and the entire Pursuit team


 Greetings from Worthington, MN

Day 31: Sioux Falls, SD to Worthington, MN
ROB: David Baldwin, Jourdan Ellis, Brian Freeze
PTOB: Lila Ontiveros, John Schindeler
Pursuit: 68 miles, 4:39 hours, 14.7 average MPH, 1,308’ ascent, 2,318 calories
Falls: None!
Pursuit Miles: 204 miles (day 31); 13,675 miles (total)
Mission Control Miles: 422 miles (day 31); 7,983 miles (total)

   We were thrilled to cross over the Minnesota state line yesterday morning. Many things changed when we crossed the state line. The road literally changed to a more navigable passageway. The corn fields changed to a richer shade of green. When we stopped to take our team photo in front of the “Welcome to Minnesota” sign, we paused to comment on the near perfect weather. Was our enthusiasm for Minnesotaan excitement to be out of the South Dakota winds or was it genuine bliss to be in the Gopher state? If it was the former, then we were wildly misinformed. Unfortunately for us, the winds in western Minnesota are comparable to the dead in our face winds we experienced in South Dakota. Double unfortunately for us, we have a near 100 mile ride today… into the wind… and rain. And a second near 100 miler tomorrow, making today and tomorrow arguably the toughest tandem of the trip.  We didn’t know one could have high winds AND rain when not in a tropical storm, but evidently that is only a Texas rule.

                                                                                                         Welcome to Minnesota!

                                                                                                         Welcome to Minnesota!

   In life there are those who answer the call to duty, and then there are those who completely throw themselves into the deep end. Ashley and Blakely Kress are, thankfully for The Center, the latter. Ashley Kress is a relatively new friend. Ashley is the Development Director at The Rise School of Houston. The Rise School of Houston is the city's first and only school dedicated to the early education of infants, toddlers and preschool children born with Down syndrome and other developmental disabilities in an integrated environment. Ashley’s teenage son, Blakely, has Down Syndrome. Blakely is a student and the all-star manager for the Memorial High school football team. When we, in our search of volunteers to help staff Mission Control, made our calls, Ashley was one of our first. She and Blakely gladly answered the requested. They bring a level of enthusiasm and dedication to Mission Control that is invaluable. We are so grateful for their commitment to The Center and Mission Control. We really hope you will go by Mission Control to meet them.

                                             Ashley Kress with son, Blakely

                                             Ashley Kress with son, Blakely

                                                                           Blakely and Allison spending some time together at Mission Control

                                                                           Blakely and Allison spending some time together at Mission Control

  We have received some phenomenal photos for our photo competition. There are some that are burning the proverbial hole in our pocket. One we would like to share with you encapsulates one of the many team mottos that we use. One of our teammates frequently utters, “Teamwork makes the dream work.” We can assure you that the team is now nationwide – on the road, strangers who we meet and then become involved, participants in our learning visits, and our volunteers and clients at The Center in Houston.
 Ride-Along participant Nicole Demarey sent the photograph below that personifies that teamwork on the road. We are so grateful for all of your contributions to the teamwork that is making the dream work for some many people.

Varsity team members Bob Cappadona and Tara Kelly literally pushing me up and over the hill..."I think I can, I think I can...."

Varsity team members Bob Cappadona and Tara Kelly literally pushing me up and over the hill..."I think I can, I think I can...."

With Gratitude and In Pursuit,
David, Maire and the entire Pursuit team


Greetings from Sioux Falls, SD!

Day 30: Rest day in Sioux Falls, SD

PTOB: David Baldwin, Jourdan Ellis, Brian Freeze, Lila Ontiveros, John Schindeler

Pursuit: 0 miles, 0 hours, 0 average MPH, 0’ ascent, 0 calories

Falls: One (Lila tripping over a rock in the parking lot)

Pursuit Miles: 0 miles (day 30); 13,471 miles (total)

Mission Control Miles: 412 miles (day 30); 7,561 miles (total)

   Yesterday was a much needed day of rest. It was our first true day off in 30 days. The day “off” flew by, as the hours were quickly filled with running errands, completion of laundry, and much needed naps. Some of the team spent their free time in between the laundry room with a cool three hours at the gym. Sigh … youth!
   On days like yesterday, we had time to reflect on how far we have come. Literally, how far we have actually come. We have ridden over 1,700 miles, on a primitive form of transportation that has been in use since the early 1800's. That thought alone is difficult for me to grasp.
   The journey through the Rockies, Wyoming and South Dakota was sparsley populated with large cities. We had two visits and interactions with IDD organizations. Vertical Harvest in Jackson Hole and Big Horn Enterprises in Thermopolis. We enjoyed meeting their staff and clients. As we move further east we will have more visits and learning experiences planned.
    For you visual learners out there, below is a map put together by our friends at The Center chronicling our journey. For a larger view of the below map, you may click here: http://thecenterhouston.org/pursuit-overview/

Pursuit Map for Newsletter.jpg

Equally amazing is the amount of money we have raised to date....Last night at 10:10 pm Central time, we exceeded the $12 million mark! Naturally, I shed tears this morning when I learned from Linda Bates that we had reached another incredible milestone.  Maire and I, and the entire Pursuit/Center team are overwhelmed by our friends, old and new, who have come on board to help in every capacity. Thank you to everyone for helping us position Pursuit to make a huge step forward for The Center's long-term future!
   You have heard a lot about some of the Ride-Along participants, their personalities, quirks, etc. However what we haven’t highlighted is what they have done on the fundraising side. Many of these extremely busy individuals have each raised tens of thousands of dollars to support Pursuit through the crowd fund raising website, Crowdrise. Click here www.crowdrise.com/pursuitride to find your favorite Pursuit rider’s page. Or better yet, you can start fundraising yourself by creating your own page! There is no donation too small. Through Crowdrise efforts, friends of The Center have raised  $438,000 as of last night. We still have a long way to go and hope you will join us!  As remarkable as it sounds, our ultimate fundraising goal of $13.5 million is actually within reach.  
   Of course those who we have literally bleed and sweated with on the ride are not the only ones for whom we are grateful. We know there are plenty of people back in Houston who are sweating along with us… and not just because of the high temperatures and unbearable humidity. They are our friends who are logging miles at Mission Control. The thought that warms my already emotionally full heart is the clients who are riding, every single day, for their own cause. The clients’ ecstatic enthusiasm permeates The Center’s campus. It is palpable. There are clients who monitor the progress of the Crowdrise pages with hawks’ eyes. It is overwhelming to comprehend the difference that so many people are making in so many others lives. 

                            A packed Mission Control, complete with cheering section!

                            A packed Mission Control, complete with cheering section!

Friendly reminder to e-mail your best Pursuit photos to Lila at lila.ontiveros@gmail.com. You have three days left to enter before the deadline on Friday. We received some epic photos today and can assure you it is a very close race.

With Gratitude and In Pursuit,

David, Maire and the entire Pursuit Team


 

 

Greetings from Sioux Falls, SD!

Day 29: Mitchell, SD to Sioux Falls, SD
ROB: David Baldwin, Jourdan Ellis, Brian Freeze, Chris McGrew, Lynn McGrew
PTOB: Lila Ontiveros, John Schindeler
Pursuit: 75.2 miles, 4:17 hours, 17.5 average MPH, 1,200’ ascent, 2,293 calories
Falls: None!
Pursuit Miles: 335 miles (day 29); 13,471 miles (total)
Mission Control Miles: 0 miles (day 29); 7,149 miles (total)

 

   Yesterday afternoon, we said goodbye to our guests from Houston – Chris and Lynn McGrew. To recap a previous morning note, Lynn is a rocket scientist. That is not a joke. She is a legitimate NASA engineer that works on Mars. MARS! Not only is she a genius, she is a freakishly good cyclist. Her husband, Chris, is also a freakishly strong cyclist, despite his impressive intake of Doritos. Chris’ presence was felt three-fold. First of all, he helped block South Dakota’s persistently strong winds. Secondly, he produced amazing film footage, including the drone footage we received so many amazing responses to. Lastly, and most importantly, he finally gave our Ironman Champion Jourdan some competition. This is a rare sighting, but you can watch her get smoked here.

   Today is a much needed rest day in Sioux Falls and tomorrow we head into Minnesota.  South Dakota was our most difficult crossing of any states we have crossed thus far.  Please take a look at one of Chris’ recap video for insights of the challenges we faced.

Chris has taken some amazing photos. We know that many of you have also taken some amazing photos. We know this because you have sent them to us. In case you missed it yesterday, we launched a photo competition for those showing their Pursuit enthusiasm. The winner receives a highly coveted Pursuit tee shirt. We have received photos from multiple continents. You have until Friday, July 8th to submit your photos to Lila at lila.ontiveros@gmail.com

Lynn Tractor.JPG

   There is an old saying that your grandmother probably used, “tell God your plans, and he will laugh.” That saying can also be applied to “tell the city of Sioux Falls police your plans, and they will laugh.” The fireworks that Lila secretly purchased had two fatal flaws. First of all, it doesn’t get dark until 10pm in South Dakota, which just so happens to coincide with our bedtime. Secondly, fireworks are illegal within the Sioux Falls city limits. Needless to say, our grand plan will have to wait for another day when we aren’t as exhausted and can live without the fear of imprisonment.     
   The people of South Dakota have been very kind to us. That being said, between the wind, the rain, the sore derriere and being away from our friends and family on arguably the best holiday of the year, we needed a touch of home. Upon rolling in to Sioux Falls, we very proudly spent our Fourth of July team dinner at the Texas Roadhouse. When the front door opened and Jourdan saw peanut shells littering the floor with good ol’ country music blaring, she subconsciously blurted out “oh thank goodness.”
   We hope you and your family had a happy and safe Fourth of July weekend. While many of you are trekking back into the office from a long weekend, we are taking a much needed day of rest today.

With Gratitude and In Pursuit,
David, Maire and the entire Pursuit team


Day 28: Oacoma, SD to Mitchell, SD
 
ROB: David Baldwin, Jourdan Ellis, Brian Freeze, Chris McGrew, Lynn McGrew
PTOB: Lila Ontiveros, John Schindeler
Pursuit: 72 miles, 4:50 hours, 14.9 average MPH, 1,125’ ascent, 2,553 calories
Falls: None!
Pursuit Miles: 360 miles (day 28); 13,136 miles (total)
Mission Control Miles: 205 miles (day 28); 7,149 miles (total)

 

   Happy Fourth of July from South Dakota! South Dakota continues to hold up its reputation of high winds and sparse population. We encountered some friendly farmers yesterday. We have learned that farming in South Dakota is BIG business. Case and point, the John Deere equipment that one of our new friends Matt was driving costs upwards of $500,000. His farm hired a firm from New York City to enhance their profitability by analyzing satellite data captured by this huge tractor.

                                                     Chris, Lynn, Jourdan, Brian and David posing with Matt and some John Deere green.

                                                     Chris, Lynn, Jourdan, Brian and David posing with Matt and some John Deere green.

   Many of our readers have gone a step further in following our journey by riding along with us at Mission Control. For those of you who do not know, we have set up an 8 bike spin studio at The Center. While riding a stationary bike, riders will see the scenery that we saw the day prior. We have a fabulous film team with us! And for each mile ridden by visitors to Mission‎ Control, the Herbert Family Foundation is contributing $2 per mile! So you can ride, have fun, see our prior day's route, and help Pursuit race towards our $13.5 million fundraising goal.....what could be better!
   We would like to highlight Steve Quick, a man who has ridden the most miles thus far at Mission Control – totaling close to 700 (nearly 10% of all miles at Mission Control). As an avid cyclist and triathlete (not to mention former member of the British Special Forces), attending a Ride-Along piqued Steve’s interest. Unfortunately, his schedule did not allow him to attend. Nevertheless, Steve has become extremely committed to the Pursuit cause and thus a great ambassador of Mission Control. One of our many goals of Pursuit was to bring people to The Center’s campus. Steve has helped greatly in that mission by bringing his friends, and even raising money! Most importantly, he has formed an inseparable bond with The Center’s Mayor, Allison Rosenberg. Steve – Tip of the hat to you, sir!
   Please note Mission Control is closed today in honor of our Nation’s Independence Day. It is interesting that we are highlighting a Brit on the day to celebrate our independence from the Brits…Steve is our type of ally!

                                                                    Steve Quick receives an encouraging high five from Allison Rosenberg

                                                                    Steve Quick receives an encouraging high five from Allison Rosenberg

   We have two calls to action. Firstly, please, please, please come check out Mission Control and ride with us! You can sign up for a time via https://clients.mindbodyonline.com/classic/home?studioid=348901. Secondly, we are announcing our first contest! It’s time to break out the camera (or smart phone) and enthusiasm for Pursuit! We want to see the best Pursuit photo. The photo can take place at Mission Control or at the Center. Not in Houston? Not a problem. Many of you are on summer holiday, escaping the heat or just basking in summertime bliss. Show us where you are with your best Pursuit sign. The winner of this contest will take home the prize of a Pursuit tee shirt. It may sound silly, but we can assure you that these tee shirts are in high demand on the road. Swag is all the rage. We promise. Please send the photos to Lila Ontiveros at lila.ontiveros@gmail.com
   99 times out of 100, when we turn around, Lila is right behind us with the Pursuit trailer. As we pulled into town, Lila briefly disappeared. When we all collectively arrived to our hotel and began to unpack the car, a rather large box was discovered. With a confused and arguably disapproving look, Jourdan quizzed Lila on its contents. While she tried to keep the secret, inevitably the enormous fireworks light show was too much to hide. We will conclude our 4th of July enjoying the surprise fireworks purchase. Watching fireworks with the background of corn and wheat fields in South Dakota is about as all-American as it gets. 
   We would like to thank Chris and Lynn McGrew for dropping their busy schedules to come with us the last few days. Chris was kind enough to put together the phenomenal footage for Pursuit while he rode with us. If riding a bike, while filming and editing Oscar caliber material isn’t enough, he also produced material for his YouTube video blog. It is one of the top three cycling video blogs in the world called Cyclelogue. We highly encourage you to check it out here.

 

 From all of us at Pursuit Team, we hope you and your family have a happy and safe Fourth of July! Take a look here to see how we celebrate America’s birthday. (Do not try this at home)

With Gratitude and In Pursuit,
David, Maire and the entire Pursuit team


Greetings from Oacoma, SD!

Day 27: Murdo, SD to Oacoma, SD
ROB: David Baldwin, Jourdan Ellis, Brian Freeze, Chris McGrew, Lynn McGrew
PTOB: Lila Ontiveros, John Schindeler
Pursuit: 75.6 miles, 5:11 hours, 14.6 average MPH, 1,700’ ascent, 2,586 calories
Falls: None!
Pursuit Miles: 378 miles (day 27); 12,776 miles (total)
Mission Control Miles: 123 miles (day 27); 6,944 miles (total)

 

   A constant state of reflection is inevitable when traveling across the country at an average speed of 15 MPH. Throughout the 27 days of our journey, we have been to four states. Technically we have been to five, but we were only in Washington State briefly, to rest for the night. In these states, we have learned how widely different they are with each state boosting its own individual character. In South Dakota, a character trait that is inherent to “The Mount Rushmore” state is the wind!

  South Dakota is sparsely populated, with just over 800,000 people. During our lunch break today, we met a precious farmer named Bruce, who kindly let us dine in his front yard. Naturally I peppered him with questions about the area. It just so happened that he had been given a job offer in Houston in the 1970s. However he turned it down because he much preferred the less densely populated South Dakota country side to Houston’s sprawling metropolis. The South Dakota wind makes for some hearty people.

  With our significantly smaller peloton, it made breaking the wind more challenging. On the eve of our Nation’s Independence, the absence of retired Captain Hannah Rosenthal was especially felt. For those who have not followed along with our note, Hannah has been a crucial member of the Pursuit team long before we dipped our tires in the Pacific Ocean. Hannah has a family connection to the IDD community, which fueled her passion in the Pursuit mission. 
    As a bit of background, Hannah is a native Houstonian. She graduated from The Kinkaid School where she was a star athlete. She continued on to The United States Military Academy. Hannah served her country with honor and distinction. Like all of our veterans, she is a hero. Typically heroes don’t say much. Likewise, Hannah is on the quiet side, but when she speaks, you’d better listen. Hannah many times has made us feel like a slacker. Prior to departing on this journey, Hannah suggested bringing a few things that worked well for her in Afghanistan. Afghanistan?! What did she anticipate for our journey? I thought this was going to be a leisurely bike ride across a free America! (Let’s note she did two tours in Afghanistan). While this is certainly not a danger zone, there are a lot of prevailing principles that translate. Leave no man behind. Hannah never let me or anyone else get left behind. There is also the gesture of leaving behind supplies for those continuing the challenge. She left Jourdan various bike supplies, and left Lila with laundry pods and iphone chargers. May seem simple, but all are crucial to our day to day needs.
   Throughout history society has looked to the warrior for a model of Hemingway’s cardinal virtue – pressurized grace. When we think of Hannah, we think of our warrior… with pressurized grace. Hannah has returned to Texas to take pre-med classes. If fighting for our country wasn’t enough (TWICE), now she wants to devote her life to saving other’s lives. We would like to thank Hannah for all of her hard work and wish her well in her next venture.

 We have gotten such remarkable feedback from folks following our Ride-Along guests. The enthusiasm has become infectious all the way back to our hometown of Houston. We were sent a video from our of team members at The Center.

With Gratitude and In Pursuit,
David, Maire and the entire Pursuit team


Greetings from Murdo, SD!

Day 26: Badlands, SD to Murdo, SD
ROB: David Baldwin, Jourdan Ellis, Brian Freeze, Chris McGrew, Lynn McGrew
PTOB: Lila Ontiveros, John Schindeler
Pursuit: 61.4 miles, 4:16 hours, 14 average MPH, 2,175’ ascent, 2,600 calories
Falls: None!
Pursuit Miles: 182 miles (day 26); 12,398 miles (total)
Mission Control Miles: 421 miles (day 26); 6,944 miles (total)

 

    We knew that we would encounter this day. And after 26 days, we did. Yesterday’s ride was flat out miserable. There is no other way to slice it. The sadness of losing our Ride Along friends, compounded by a long drive back to our starting point, a strong headwind, persistent cold rain, and climbing made for a long and treacherous day. I had to close my eyes for extensive stretches of time just to keep the sideways blowing rain from stinging my eyes. But do not fret, there were no cars on the road. It is always suggested when one is in the depths of their misery to think warm and happy thoughts. I did not have to try very hard and the discomfort experienced on the ride was significantly lessened as I reflected on our friends from the past week's Ride Along – both old and new. The euphoric high from the previous night’s “awards” dinner gave me the positive attitude to conquer the elements.

                                                      Brian and David taking a much needed time out in the trailer from the miserably cold rain.

                                                      Brian and David taking a much needed time out in the trailer from the miserably cold rain.

 The prior evening, My brother by birth, Dr. Bob Baldwin, and brother by choice, Tom Bacon were the MCs. They did such a phenomenal job that everyone received an abdominal workout from laughing so hard. It is virtually impossible to paint a picture of the running commentary, but I feel it is important to try. Part of the elder statesmen group is the quiet leader Ronnie Cuenod. Ronnie exudes both inner and outer strength that I admire immensely. Ronnie was ALWAYS there in the exact right spot to block the wind and pull me over the most challenging climbs of our Wyoming Ride Along. I’m overwhelmed with gratitude to our statesmen for being some of the original architects in this epic American adventure.

 

                                                               Wild men and Ride Along Co-Chairs Tom Bacon and Dr. Bob Baldwin

                                                               Wild men and Ride Along Co-Chairs Tom Bacon and Dr. Bob Baldwin

   Lee Neathery was one of the prominent guest speakers summoned by the two long winded MCs. Lee is the spark plug that gets the team going in the morning, through the tough climbs, and the first to celebrate life. Lee, who is co-owner of Bike Barn in Houston, was an invaluable asset to any of our biking needs and was always lending a helping hand. Lee has never met a stranger, and as a result she befriended every restaurant owner, bartender, and gas attendant at all the establishments we frequented. Lee’s ever present positive nature was infectious, and we know it will be channeled to us throughout the rest of our journey.
    Bob “The Bullet” Cappadona and I met on an airplane and struck up a conversation about The Center. Bob had recently been at The Center for a function and had heard about the Pursuit mission. After our plane conversation moved to the baggage claim, I was not letting this elite athlete out of our sight. Thankfully he acquiesced to my plea and became a force on our team. With the exception of Jourdan, Bob is the only lunatic who gets up at 5am to run 10 miles prior to getting on a bike for another 100. Bob is one of the first ones up the hill and the most gracious giver of first bumps that any of us have ever met.
   In the millennial category, we had three gunners. Hailing from Houston is Tara “Tarawatt” Kelly. She shed her typical mountain bike and fearlessly led the pack. Always in her midst, were my nephew Foster Boone, and his girlfriend Nicole Demarey. Foster joined us from Las Vegas and Nicole from San Francisco. The dynamic duo were in a perpetual battle for best dressed against our Italian Stallion – Igi. 
Igi was not the only one of the group to grace us with his European presence. American ex-patriot, former Houstonian and current Holland resident, Michael Payne made those who knew him previously miss his presence in Houston, and those who didn’t, wished he still lived there. For cycling enthusiasts in Harris County, you may remember Michael was until his move the President of Bike Houston. He, almost single handedly, has tried to make Houston a safer and more bike friendly city.
   There were a few members of the team who had to cut their trips short. Paul Hobby left a day early to see his son on the East Coast. Paul always had a smile on his face, no matter how challenging the terrain. He perpetually made us all laugh with his quick wit. Following Paul’s departure, he was sending follow up emails raising more money for The Center remotely. Unfortunately Steve Gibson was only able to participate in the Ride Along for a small fraction. However Steve believes so much in the cause that his wife and daughter also joined us in Wyoming for the festivities. We feel very lucky to have such loyal friends.
   Last but certainly not least is Laura Bacon, who is lovingly referred to by all as “Mama Bacon”. While we all love our own mothers,  Mama Bacon is the mother that we all needed on this trip. As an accomplished and well-traveled chef, she was prepared for every possible dining scenario and practically had tabs on all of our blood sugar levels at all times. She read everyone’s faces and knew exactly what was going on in their heads, even before the person knew. She hugged everyone in the morning and at night, and started out each ride with a traditional Mexican blessing on each person’s shoulder. She bought thoughtful individual gifts for each and every person with significant meaning, which was discussed at length with a Lakota Indian, who happened to be the medicine woman in Dancing with Wolves.

 While we were all sad to leave our friends behind, we gained a some welcome additions from Houston. Brian Freeze has tirelessly helped me train for this daunting journey for the last year, and has helped Trek Travel plan every turn along the route. I’m grateful for his training and for sticking it out with me in the freezing cold rain yesterday. Chris and Lynn McGrew are avid cyclists who have taken time out of their busy schedules to help me ride, in addition to film while Braeden (our videographer) is away from the journey for the next week and a half. We are thrilled to have Lynn’s engineering skills, as she is quite literally a rocket scientist from NASA. We remain amazed at the group that has come together for this journey.
 
With Gratitude and In Pursuit,
David, Maire and the entire Pursuit Team


Greetings from Rapid City, SD!
 
Day 25: Gillette, WY to Rapid City, SD
ROB: David Baldwin,Tom Bacon, Bob Baldwin, Foster Boone, Bob Cappadona, Ronnie Cuenod, Amy Davidson, Nicole Demarey, Tara Kelly, Lee Neathery, Michael Payne, Igi Riboldi, Hannah Rosenthal
PTOB: Laura Bacon, Sam Clark, Jourdan Ellis, Lila Ontiveros, Braeden Sawyer, John Schindeler, Jacqui Willis
Pursuit: 67 miles, 4:18 hours, 15.6 average MPH, 2,540’ ascent, 2,250 calories
Falls: None!
Pursuit Miles: 871 miles; 12,216 miles (total)
Mission Control Miles: 483 miles; 6,524 miles (total)

 

   Yesterday we awoke in Rapid City in the Rushmore Hotel. It was the final day of our first Ride Along group, and we were topping it off with yet another phenomenal National Park. We avoided Interstate 90 as much as humanly possible for obvious reasons. We cycled on a side road that rolled for miles amongst a sea of wheat fields. The photos we had seen of the Badlands could not have felt further away. Nevertheless, we pulled up to yet another parking booth and were greeted by a smiling park ranger pointing us in the right direction. 

   As soon as we crossed into the park, the topography instantly changed. All of a sudden we went to from the field of dreams to a scene you couldn’t imagine in your wildest dreams. It was a hybrid of a mini Grand Canyon mixed with resemblance of Mars. Once again, the entire team posed for the obligatory family photo. Some decided to tempt fate by walking dangerously close to the edge for the perfect picture. Those few may fall into the millennial category.

MN Team photo.jpg

While the views were insane, so was the head wind. Downhills that would take some of our skilled riders well over 30 MPH, held them back by at least half. Historically the Native Americans did some of their best hunting in this area. Our group encountered multiple forms of wildlife, which is remarkable that it flourishes in such a sparse area. Given the heat and combined headwind, the team celebrated at the end of our journey. Our resident Italian, Igi, was caught channeling his best Keith Richards to commemorate his conquest. You can catch a glimpse in the video below.

  

 We are blessed that so many people have taken time out of their busy lives to be a part of our Pursuit mission. A lot has happened in the financial markets since the Ride Along has begun. I think it is worth noting that on a day where Pursuit graced the NASDAQ billboard in Times Square is also a day where US equities closed in a much needed positive direction. 

   Many of you reading this email at one point thought to yourself, “are these people crazy?” Frankly, we had no idea if people would be receptive to our dream. We didn’t know if we could raise the money. We didn’t know the first things about coordinating the logistics of cycling from one coast to the other. One of the countless people who assumed we were fit for a straight jacket crazy was Amy Davidson.
   Amy is an accomplished lawyer who made a pivot in 2005 from the legal field to a career combining her three favorite things – cycling, travel and food. This past winter Amy received a phone call from her boss at Trek Travel, who rapid fire shot her questions about Pursuit as if she was supposed to know what it was. Amy was tasked with consulting with team Pursuit to help plan our route. After the first conference call which well surpassed the two hour allotment, she realized how helpless we were and decided to jump in with both feet.
   Like her colleague Sam, Amy expressed that of the endless trips she has guided, the Pursuit journey was far and away the most impactful. In front of the entire group she professed that Pursuit was part of her life calling that she was supposed to answer. We are thrilled that she answered the call. Amy’s biggest take away is to dream bigger. Without Amy our big dream would never be possible.

 

Amy.jpg

 We concluded our memorable Ride Along with an unforgettable awards dinner that we will report on further in tomorrow’s note.

 
With Gratitude and In Pursuit,
David, Maire and the entire Pursuit team


Greetings from Rapid City, SD!
Day 24: Gillette, WY to Rapid City, SD

ROB: Maire Baldwin, Tom Bacon, Bob Baldwin, Foster Boone, Bob Cappadona, Ronnie Cuenod, Sam Clark, Nicole Demarey, Tara Kelly, Lee Neathery, Michael Payne, Igi Riboldi, Hannah Rosenthal
PTOB: David Baldwin, Laura Bacon, Amy Davidson, Jourdan Ellis, Lila Ontiveros, Braeden Sawyer, John Schindeler, Jacqui Willis
Pursuit: 204.8 miles, 1:43 hours, 16.3 average MPH, 1,538’ ascent, 1,531 calories
Falls: None!
Pursuit Miles: 279 miles (day 24); 11,345 miles (total)
Mission Control Miles: 245 miles (day 24); 6,041 miles (total)

   Yesterday we crossed into our 4th state – South Dakota. However this was our first state to cross via shuttle and not our bikes. Jourdan and Hannah stopped to take the obligatory photo at the state border, and Lila encouraged them to take the bikes out of the trailer to ride across. But we were pressed for time as a slice of Americana was calling.

  Following our string of intense and consecutive climbs, our Ride Along group was undeniably exhausted. When our guides informed us of our early morning departure, it took a little bit of the air out of our already deflated tires. But like everything else our two phenomenal guides have done, they surprised to the topside. They informed the group that we were going to Crazy Horse. For this highly educated group of individuals, it was an embarrassing moment for most as smart phones were discretely, yet quickly brought out to Google Crazy Horse.
   Crazy Horse Memorial is the world’s largest mountain carving located in the Black Hills. It depicts Crazy Horse, an Oglala Lakota warrior, riding a horse and pointing into the distance. The memorial was commissioned by Henry Standing Bear, a Lakota elder, to be sculpted by Korczak Ziolkowski. The sculpting, preserving and planning has continued on by some of Ziolkowski’s ten children. The sculpting began in 1948 and we assume it is many generations from completion. For a sense of scale, the entire Mount Rushmore Monument could fit in just a fraction of Crazy Horse’s head. Crazy Horse is entirely privately funded, which we found simultaneously fascinating and complicated.

  With Mount Rushmore National Memorial a mere 16 miles northeast, we ventured to see this internationally renowned spectacle. Upon our arrival, we grabbed a quick lunch in the cafeteria surrounded by Presidential memorials. We were pleased to see so many of our friends with disABILITIES employed and working at the Memorial. Once again spooked by approaching rain, we jetted off on our bikes through idyllic towns until we made our way to Rapid City. 

 Today is last day of our first Ride Along. Admittedly, the Pursuit team, a group of alpha type-A people, was a little nervous about the size of our cycling group from a logistics perspective, but also giving the reigns of those logistics over to someone else – Trek Travel. Boy were our apprehensions misguided. I can assure you that those who were previously nervous about relinquishing control are now paralyzed with fear over performing daily tasks without the guidance and expertise from Trek.
   We continue to be amazed by the serendipitous nature to which this amazing team has come together. Sam Clark, one of our travel guides, found out he was embarking on this ride along less than 24 hours prior to his departure. He originally hails from Colorado, spent his collegiate years in Washington State, and was thrilled to be making a trip out West. We were lucky to have Sam on the trip because of his welcoming demeanor, cycling knowledge and prowess, and perpetual positive attitude that propelled our guests up insurmountable mountains.
   Sam has guided over 50 bike trips all over the world. There were two things that stood out to him that set this trip apart from all of the others. Firstly, the trip over the Big Horn Mountains was the only time Sam has been “dusted” by a girl (Jourdan). More importantly was the impact the trip had on him. Sam shared that before this trip he had not interacted with individuals of disabilities given the nature of Sam’s occupation. When asked for a highlight from the journey, he immediately rattled off a laundry list of takeaways from his trip including Vertical Harvest – one of our learning visits. Since joining Pursuit, he has noticed more people with disabilities and has gone out of his way to acknowledge them. We continue to be moved by the impact that Pursuit has and will continue to make.

  And finally, we are sad to see road warrior Paul Hobby departing a day early to meet his son Eric in Virginia. Paul was constantly working to protect me from the winds, while keeping a smile on my face. Paul mentioned something to Lila that I will cherish for many years following our Pursuit..."Everyone will look back on their life and think, I've done some dumb stuff and I've done some good stuff.  And this was definitely some good stuff."

With Gratitude and In Pursuit,
David, Maire and the entire Pursuit Team


Greetings from Gillette, WY!
 
Day 23: Buffalo, WY to Gillette, WY
ROB: David Baldwin, Tom Bacon, Bob Baldwin, Foster Boone, Bob Cappadona, Ronnie Cuenod, Amy Davidson, Nicole Demarey, Paul Hobby, Tara Kelly, Lee Neathery, Michael Payne, Igi Riboldi, Hannah Rosenthal
PTOB: Maire Baldwin, Laura Bacon, Sam Clark, Jourdan Ellis, Lila Ontiveros, Braeden Sawyer, John Schindeler, Jacqui Willis
Pursuit: 77 miles, 4:20 hours, 17.8 average MPH, 2,000’ ascent, 1,731 calories
Falls: None!
Pursuit Miles: 1,078 miles (day 23); 11,040 miles (total)
Mission Control Miles: 313 miles (day 23); 5,796 miles (total)

 

   Yesterday we awoke in the historic Occidental hotel. The prior evening we essentially stepped in a time machine and went back to 1880. We dined in a restaurant connected to the hotel, and were given a history briefing of our surroundings by one of the employees. We learned that previous guests included Teddy Roosevelt, Butch Cassidy and Calamity Jane. We were amongst walls with bullet holes. What historic hotel is not complete without ghosts? Allegedly a ghost resides in room 19, which housed Ronnie Cuenod for the evening. While amusing to most of the group, Hannah, Jourdan and Lila stayed in the three bedroom Bordello Suite, which was a “high end” brothel in the 19th century. Needless to say, all were a bit spooked, but thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

Occidental Hotel.jpg

    We began our century ride, my second of the trip, early in the morning. Yesterday w