About Lea's Foundation

In 1998, Lea Michele Economos, a young woman who died of leukemia at the age of 28, made a dying wish to her parents that others would not face the hardships she encountered by finding a cure for this disease. Her family started this charity to carry on that wish. Today, Lea’s Foundation takes an active role in finding a cure for leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s lymphoma and myeloma and to better the lives of people living with these diseases. At the UCONN Health Center, the Lea’s Foundation Center for Hematologic Disorders sponsors research in this field. A new program covers the cost of bone-marrow testing to help recruit life-saving transplants for patients. Also, annual scholarships are given to children with leukemia who are planning to attend nursery school. For more information on other projects carried out by Lea’s Foundation, please visit their website at www.LeasFoundation.org.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Day 10 - Ashland, OR to Klamath Falls, OR (62 miles)

Our day began with an assault on the free continental breakfast provided by our motel. In California, big breakfasts were avoided as they generally slow us down a bit. Due to the extended distances between our Oregon destinations, and the relatively scare convenience stores and delis, this breakfast was very welcome. After eating our share and stuffing some fruit in my jersey we headed off towards Emigrant Lake.
After we passed its shores we were presented with a 5 mile climb that snaked around many mountain sides as we ascended from 2000 to 4500+ feet.
During our slow ascent we were passed by a bike group as they pedaled by on their lightweight bicycles. Meeting them at the summit, they were interested to hear about our trip and curious to see what gear we had packed away for our 4000 journey.  The fastest of their 4 riders had previously ridden the 130 miles across the Oregon desert from Burns to Lakeview, a ride that we plan to tackle on July 2.  This served as encouragement that we had planned a survivable desert excursion.
The landscape became drier and we consumed more water than any other day (it was about 85 degrees and 16% humidity).  Since the beginning of our ride there were signs warning of open range livestock, and finally I met a herd of 20 cows looking to cross Route 66 as I pedaled slowly up one of its hot hills. Pausing to take a picture, I realized I had stopped between a mother and her calf and decided I should move to a safer, although less photogenic spot to document this cattle migration.
After several hours we emerged from the forested mountains and crossed the Klamath River. An historical marker commemorated an original river crossing of the Oregon Trail that was a half mile from the modern bridge. Leading a wagon train through this terrain is inconceivable considering the difficulty we had with only 75 pounds of bike and gear.

Cruising the last 10 "flat" miles brought us through farmland and into downtown Klamath Falls. As we walked to lunch/dinner after well-deserved showers we found ourselves in a classic car rally known as the Kruise of Klamath.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Day 9 - Cave Junction, OR to Ashland, OR (74 miles)

Surprisingly we survived our stay at the Junction Inn and departed with the same number of organs with which we arrived. We headed north and quickly passed through the town of Kerby and got to see the Holiday Motel in its somewhat cleaner glory.

We pedaled on along 199 past residences as we looked at nondescript landscapes that paled in comparison to California's beautiful forests (it was at this point that I nicknamed the state "Boregon" in my head). We rewarded with a surprise downhill that led to my new record of 40.0mph on my fully loaded bike.

We made good time into Grant's Pass and quickly grabbed a snack before heading off on highway 99 towards Medford/Ashland. This route was mostly flat, but we started to notice that the mountains were no longer partially barren due to forestry. Instead, we were entering a drier climate as we head east towards Oregon's desert.  Interestingly, it was along this road that we passed more wineries/vineyards than we did during our entire tour through California. When we arrived in Medford we decided that we easily had another 17 miles of pedaling ability in us due to the flat terrain. With that in mind, we booked the cheapest motel in Ashland and traveled for another 1 hour 45 minutes.

Ashland is the home Southern Oregon University as well as a popular Shakespeare festival. Due to these attractions, the pleasant downtown area was packed and all hotels/motels showed no vacancies. Ashland proudly displayed their "bicycle friendly" status upon entry and backed it up with well defined bike lanes and signals throughout city limits. Of the Oregon towns/cities through which we passed, Ashland is by far the most comfortable.

It is worth noting that Oregon has already been kind enough to supply us with 1.5 days of a well-deserved tailwind since our arrival. I hope this trend continues!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Day 8 - Crescent City, CA to Cave Junction, OR (55 miles)

We began the day with some we riding in a misting fog that kept the roads wet. We headed off Highway 101 and merged on 199 towards Grant's Pass.
199 started with a typical, winding climb filled with switchbacks. For the rest of California we would be following the Smith River. We had a slow 35 mile climb ahead of us. At times the only way we knew that we were headed upstairs was our slow 10mph average speed.
Smith River was beautiful and crystal clear, often offering views of the river bottom through 10 feet of rushing water. 199 continued the California tradition of spastically jumping between starting and ending freeway zones. Some parts of the road were the narrowest we had seen yet; they ran thinly between rock slide prone rock walls and cliffs that dropped down into Smith River.
Our time in California finished with a steep 2 mile climb up to the beginning of the Collier Tunnel. At the rest area many drivers were shocked that we were biking to Oregon, nevertheless across the country. One lady asked what way we were riding, then warned us we had miles of hill climbs remaining. After passing through the tunnel, we descended for about 8 miles. Seems like the lady at the rest stop had been unaware that any direction from a mountain summit will lead down in elevation.
We pulled into a general store 10 miles south of Cave Junction where we received some advice. "Panhandling is illegal around here, there are no cops for 40 miles around here at night". "Free vegetarian dinner at 12:30 on Saturdays at the church". And from the helpful cashier "Don't stay at the Junction Inn, you'll have a much better night at the Holiday Motel".
Well, the Holiday Motel was full. Guess what the only other hotel in the Cave Junction area is? The Junction Inn. Other options included camping at one of the town's trailer parks. After a drinking driver and passenger "complimented" Greg's bike, we decided to go with the Inn because our tent does not have a deadbolt.
Pictures of the Inn are forthcoming, but for now, here are some reviews of the Inn:
"Never stay there ! The place is so bad. Creepy looking people staying there. The room smelled like un-cooked fish when we walked in. everything was dirty. pulled the bedding back and there were crumbs and hair on the sheets.It was July and we had to swat away the wasps before we could enter the room."
"This hotel cuts every corner possible -- to the point that some of their actions are illegal. The man at the front desk is rarely sober. The cleaning person sometimes doesn't show up and your room ends up uncleaned and without towels for days. There is old rotten lumber on the lawn with nails sticking out of it. There is a broken pool chair and scratched up pickup topper in the pool area next to a green colored pool with garbage floating in it. There is a smoke alarm bracket hanging on the wall in the room with no smoke alarm."

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Day 7 - Eureka, CA to Crescent City, CA (87 miles)

We got a late start to our morning because we overslept our alarm. This was definitely due to how comfortable we had become in Bob and Marianne's beautiful home. They had exceeded our expectations once again by putting out a great breakfast spread of hard boiled eggs, fresh ground coffee, cereals, granola, bagels and local milk and butter.
We finally hit the road around 815am and cruised through Eureka and Arcata's flat terrain on 101 (occasional breaks were taken to peel and eat hard boiled eggs on the freeway). Mile 23 brought out the rolling hills which we endured until mile 45 when it started raining very hard on us. To avoid the rain and refuel we stopped in at a gas station/deli. We were given advice on a bypass to avoid 4 miles and 1500ft climbs of Highway 101.  (If you're wondering why we decided to do our longest ride to date on a day it rained, there's a simple answer:  We had a tailwind all day.  It was simply too much for us to pass up.)
Despite whatever climb we did avoid, we still slowly climbed for about 8 miles, leading to a 2 mile 6% grade descent. Descending this quickly in the rain was interesting. While two southbound bikers walked their bikes uphill, Greg lost his sunglasses in a downpour and I got hit in the chest by a bush as I squinted to avoid having more water/dirt from my front tire get in my eyes.
(side note: you may have noticed and wondered why so many people are heading south. There are these things called guidebooks for bike touring. They give you maps, elevation, bike shop locations, campground information, and advice on avoiding a certain prevailing north wind along the Pacific Coast during the summer.)
Thinking we'd had enough climbs and descents for the day, we were finally only 10 miles from Crescent City. Suddenly we start climbing through a construction zone. It is a most unpleasant surprise to start the steepest climb of the day when you are already 75 miles into a ride.  Passing the construction we found ourselves risen into a fog bank with 100ft visibility. After turning on our front and rear lights we continued to climb for nearly 3.5 winding and narrow miles. Eventually we were welcomed by a 6% grade descent sign. Learning from our last steep hill, we took this one slower, staying below 20mph on our way down.
Shivering and soaking we were finally in Crescent City. We headed to our Warmshowers host at St. Paul's Episcopal Church where we were able to share their activity room and soup kitchen with 3 other bikers. Thanks Katie!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Day 6 - Garberville, CA to Eureka, CA (78 miles)

Today we set off with the ambitious goal of making it to Eureka, CA. We had two reasons for this: 1) We need to meet Jonathan in a week and these sub-70 mile days are not going to cut it,  2) We are using Warmshowers for the first time and the prospect of having a solid roof over our heads is quite appealing.
We were off before the sun had fully risen, back on Highway 101. Interestingly in California, bikes are allowed on some highways and 101 is actually an official bike route. Another oddity of California highways is the arbitrary way they start and stop freeways. We'll be passing through a redwood grove, see a sign stating "Start Freeway" and suddenly find ourselves on a 4 lane highway instead of the previous winding 2 lane road.
We made decent time against a slight headwind for 14 miles until we reached the scenic alternative route named "The Avenue of Giants". The Avenue of Giants roughly parallels 101 for 31 miles and takes its riders past some of the oldest (and largest) redwood groves. This newly paved road was a great break from freeway riding and offered some break from the headwind. The views were gorgeous, with redwood trees growing into the road shoulder in places.

Back on 101 we soldiered on towards Eureka. The road remained a freeway and we made great time as the elevation flattened out. We arrived and met our first ever Warmshowers hosts, Bob and Marianne. They were incredible as they welcomed us to their house, provided us with their spare bedroom, great shower and offers for laundry and dinner. The welcoming we received by Bob and Marianne went well above what we had expected from anyone we had just met.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Day 5 - Fort Bragg, CA to Garberville, CA (57 miles)

We woke up early and packed up camp at MacKerricher State Park. It looked like we once again managed to avoid the headwinds that plague northbound travelers. Why else were we getting an early start? "That climb into Leggett"
For the past few days we've been warned of the climbs leading into Leggett by locals and southbound travelers alike.  We cruised along the coast for 18 miles, eventually diving into our final "Tsunami Gulch" (finally got one on video, coming soon). Climbing out of the gulch we were headed inland as opposed to the usual westward ascent out of the prior gulches.
A sign signaled that we were in for miles and miles of narrow winding roads. Soon we found ourselves climbing for 2 miles in our lowest gear (cruising at a whopping 4-5mph).  This was complicated by hairpin switchbacks and narrow/nonexistent shoulders. RVs, travel trailers and forestry trucks.  At the top we were rewarded with a "6% Grade for 2 Miles", something for which we were very grateful. At the bottom of the mountain we saw our first redwoods as we pedaled easily for the next 8 miles. We thought that the "climb into Leggett" had been blown out of proportion.
Then we began climbing again. This time for 2.5 miles of the same conditions. Then we descended. Then ascended even more. This repeated an unfortunate number of times. Finally we had our massive downhill into Leggett (high speed HD video coming soon).
Leggett's one restaurant had closed so we reached the end of Highway 1 and joined Highway 101.
At lunch we met the man we'd heard about from a rider in Albion who is circumnavigating the United States (his blog: http://relaxedchaos.com). He left Minnesota in September 2014, got to Maine, went to Florida, crossed to a southern California and was currently heading to Washington state before a return home. He's done all this with 150lbs of gear on his massive-tired bike (finally someone has more than we do).  Mike is very passionate about his project and plans to spend two months working towards formally publishing his blog into an eBook. 

Despite his accomplishments he was shocked that we had traveled 40 miles into Leggett and were insisting that we travel another 15 to Richardson Grove State Park (despite the state park conveniently located across from our lunch spot).
We cruised down our first freeway riding experience and arrived in Humboldt County. We had the hiker/biker campsite to ourselves and enjoyed camping under the red woods. (Right after our first touristy picture)

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Day 4 - Manchester, CA to Fort Bragg, CA (45 miles)

We woke up again at 515am, thinking we had figured out how to miss the worst of the daily headwinds. As I turned off my alarm I realized our tent's rain fly was flapping in the breeze, it was around 50 degrees out and everything was soaked from the dense fog rolling in off the Pacific. Defeated, I went back to bed for another hour.
We continued our trip up the Shoreline Highway, climbing and falling through California farmland with beautiful Pacific bluffs off to the west. While I'm not sure that happy cows come from California like the TV ads claim, there sure are a ridiculous number of cows in Sonoma and Mendocino counties.
We passed through a geographic feature that would repeat itself often through the day. I named it a "Tsunami Gulch". You would reach a peak and begin descending, quickly heading down and east, passing a "Entering Tsunami Hazard Zone" sign. This would often be followed by a hairpin turn and a steep westward ascent back up the other side of the gulch. (I've come to realize that signs about Tsunami Zones, "Narrow and Winding Roads Watch for Bikes", and arrow signs with a slow speed limit all indicate interesting/fun terrain is ahead)
We grabbed breakfast in a one store town called Albion and swapped advice with a couple biking southbound. They also told us of a man who they'd met who was circumnavigating the country on a bike with 4 inch diameter tires.
We soldiered on, resigned to fighting the cold headwind all day. At this point you might wonder why headwinds are so annoying. Hills will drain us physically, but we know that at some point we will get to descend and have (sometimes) miles of easy riding. Wind only takes our energy, only to take even more the next chance it gets. Wind drains us mentally.

Passing Point Cabrillo Light Station, we decided it was finally time for us to dip our tires in the Pacific Ocean.  We found Casper Beach, in Casper, California.  With a confused crowd of onlookers, we dipped out tires, and got our bike shoes a bit wetter than we bargained for...

Reaching Fort Bragg we found a restaurant for lunch. Oddly, no one else was wearing spandex or hadn't showered in over 8 hours of physical activity. Regardless, we sat at the bar, ate delicious and massive BBQ chicken salads, and found ourselves in a bar full of US soccer fans watching the US vs. Portugal match. While I'm a big soccer fan, I had resigned myself to catching score updates when I sporadically get Internet, so seeing the game was a nice surprise.
During our extended lunch break it had become overcast, leading to less wind. We cruised easily the final few miles into MacKerricher State Park. The park was renowned for its harbor seal population, and perhaps a bit less known for its great warm showers. Both were well received by us.
As we walked our bikes between seal spotting cliffs we were stopped by a couple who profusely thanked us for undertaking our ride. She explained that her son, Chris, had passed away from Leukemia in his 20s. This was a very grounding experience, and the strongest reminder for why we are undertaking this epic ride across the country. Chris's parents talked about his love of film making and how he worked with Paul Newman to produce a film explaining what happens when someone is diagnosed with cancer, and what treatment and life will become. Chris's dad wrote down the name of the video and I think it's fitting that I place that link here: The "C" Word