A cross-country ride is to many people, a pipedream. I was very fortunate that in this campaign, I was given an opportunity to take a trip of a lifetime and all for a great cause. As the Heart Across America ride passes its halfway point, let me share my personal highs and lows.
The kickoff at Palo Alto was spectacular. More than 800 people rallied together to spread the word about stroke and heart disease prevention, and to see us off as we ride began our ride. Friends, old and new, came to bid us goodbye and to say they look forward to seeing me again after I had completed this tour.
After the kickoff, we first went along the Pacific coast. We saw the breathtaking views from Big Sur, saw Gordon Ramsay, kicked off the National Walking Day in LA, and spent a number of days in stunning Del Mar as we kicked off Qualcomm’s Health Month. As we left to go east from San Diego, I ceremonially dipped the rear wheel of my bike in the Pacific, looking forward to June when I’ll be able to dip my front wheel in the Atlantic….
A Crashing Change to the Narrative….
We expected April 5 to be an easy day. I say that relatively, because the day before we rode 75 miles with 7,200 ft of elevation. As the saying goes, “what goes up must go down”- the following day would be a downhill ride. 7 minutes into the ride, we encountered poorly maintained roads. It was this, and a more-than-brisk downhill pace that led to me being thrown off my bike. I suffered from 3 broken ribs, a fractured shoulder, and a fractured hip socket. 740 miles and *then* a crash. Really.
I was airlifted to Sharp Memorial Hospital where I was to stay for the next two weeks. The surgery for my hip socket required more than 29 pins and cadaver bone just to reconstruct my hip. Fortunately, I was not alone as friends from all over came to visit, and for those who didn’t, sent their regards by every way imaginable. A few days after surgery I was sent immediately to rehab where, much like I had to relearn how to speak before, I had to learn how to walk again. Sharp’s most competent therapists made sure that my recovery was swift, and in a week’s time, I was able to fly back home to rest before rejoining the tour.
An Amazing Man...
I met Don Brennen not more than 6 months ago. He was an avid biker, Dave Fisch’s brother-in-law, and the father of my campaign manager, Amy. As we were planning how the cycling support during the ride would look like, Don without hesitation volunteered to take care of preparing a vehicle and being our driver and bike mechanic on the road. The care he put into the work that he did was something I’ve never seen before. He was creative, hard working, patient and most importantly, very skilled at what he did. On a 5,000 mile ride, the importance of a good bike mechanic cannot be overstated.
When I had my crash and we were thinking of postponing the ride, Don without missing a beat volunteered to ride in my stead. He continued on with Dave and rode through California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. To anybody who spoke to him during this time, his feelings were clear. In his own words - he was having the time of his life.
Nothing could have prepared us for April 25, the day the tour was scheduled to ride into Dallas. Don was found in his bed in the morning, having passed away peacefully in his sleep the night before.
Don was an extraordinary person with the kindest of hearts and we will remember him every day. He is survived by his wife Andrea and his daughter Amy, both of whom express that Don would have wanted the ride to go on. This ride is about heart disease and stroke and we will ride on, knowing that Don is with us.
The support and encouragement we’ve found...
We have had amazing encounters along the way, from individuals stories, to encountering whole groups at AHA events, as well as corporate events at Intel, Samsung, Qualcomm. In Texas its been a whirlwind of activity, we even rode with Michael Dell and had rode a bike for the first time since my accident (a handcycle!). We followed this with wonderful events in Houston; a health and wellness event at HP and a dinner with the Houston Aphasia Recovery Center. (more in these in future postings.)
Your involvement matters...
It has been an honor to reach deep with myself in service to this cause. And I can’t tell you what it means to have people come out to ride, to post photos on our social media, to share it with their friends, and donate towards the cause. I personally invite you to do what you can to join us.