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, July 12, 2014

Day 24 - Tetonia, ID to Jackson, WY (42 miles)

Today was bittersweet. We'd grown accustomed to resting in the Abely's beautiful home and taking in the breathtaking views their property offers of the Teton Range. We rose early to clean up and close up the house, before heading down to Driggs. We took a different county road out and were surprised to find almost 3 miles of paved road leading us to Driggs.

Driggs was a very cool town with historic buildings, various types of restaurants and great stores; it was too bad I did t realize I could get here on a paved road during one of the rest days. Leaving Driggs we found a bike path that would keep us off the road for the last 8 miles into Victor, ID. Victor was an interesting town that seemed similar to Driggs. Its one oddity, every parking spot along its main street requires drivers to back into their parking spots. I can think of quite a few people who would be unable to visit Victor for this exact reason.
Continuing our trip towards to inevitable climb into Teton Pass, we left Victor (and the Teton Valley) and entered Targhee National Forest.  Slowly we climbed, until about 23 miles into our trip we reached Wyoming!  With the sign welcoming us to our new state, came final reminders and warnings of the impending 10% grade that we will encounter.

I found a truck weigh station. Its scale rounds to the nearest 20lbs. I was dismayed to see that me, my bike, my gear and my water weighed in at 260lbs.
Slowly we climbed for a couple miles, the suddenly the 10 percent grades were upon us. Into my lowest gear, I crept up the mountain side, barely maintaining 4mph. Every mile was a quick water break, with a longer water/snack break halfway up. As I climbed each steep climb, I could see a switchback ahead that seemed steeper. Unknowingly nearing the top, a man pedaling by on a carbon fiber bike high fived me and told me "that's damn impressive". I bet he and his bike didn't weigh 260lbs...

Following my high fiving biker uphill, I reached a sign advising trucks of steep grades and to test their brakes in 1500ft. Knowing the summit of my climb was close, I sped up the last 1/3 of a mile. Reaching the top, I made a weird sound to express my exhaustion and success; it got some tourist attention. Breathing heavily, I placed my bike against the sign welcoming me to the Wild West of Jackson Hole. This made me some friends.
I spoke with two men who were on a family trip from Kentucky around the country. They had covered 3000 miles and planned to reach 5000 miles by the time they finished. They were interested in my route and Lea's Foundation. They both made generous donations for the foundation. As they took pictures of me, another lady asked if she could donate. She explained that her son had done the Southern Tier cross country ride two years ago to benefit Mt. Sinai hospital. She donated as well and I was truly impressed with the generosity that was being shown to a disheveled bicyclist. Before the family continued their trip to Kentucky, one of the girls ran up to me with two apples. The apple was delicious and exactly what I needed after climbing the mountain.

Teton Pass at 8431ft is the second highest pass of our trip (the pass out of Yellowstone into Cody will best it by a couple hundred feet). Mid-1800s wagons required 2 weeks to cross the Teton Range to reach the Teton Valley where we had started. From the pass, the view of Jackson Hole is amazing.

Before we left we met a couple from Idaho who are involved with triathlons and unfortunately know someone recently diagnosed with leukemia. He wanted a picture of us and plans to follow our blog. Success photos and poses complete, the GoPro was set to record before we bombed down the mountain. Unfortunately our triumphant descent was complicated by rain, limiting our top speed to around 43mph.
We emerged in Wilson, Wyoming as the rain began to pour. Eating a gas station lunch we remarked on how many mountain and road bikers we saw in the area. I honestly don't think I've ever seen so many bikers on mountain trails before, it is a very bike friendly area.
Covering the six miles into Jackson I crossed the Snake River which I had first crossed when I entered Idaho one week prior. Arriving in Jackson, we saw a tastefully designed small city. Catering to tourists and outdoor fun, it seems you can engage in any outdoors activity your heart desires here.
Photos by Jonathan Kobles 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Day 23 - Rest Day in Tetonia, ID (0 miles)

Day 23:

Today's rest day is looking up as Jonathan is starting to feel better. Tomorrow will be Teton Pass day and then on to either Jackson or a bit more north into a Grand Teton National Park campground.

No biking today, just some laundry and trip planning/routing.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Day 22- Rest Day in Tetonia, ID (0 miles)

We planned to take a rest day so that Jonathan's knee could rest/heal before we take on the second biggest climb of our trip tomorrow, the Teton Pass. Unfortunately this morning he is feeling under the weather and we will have to spend another day resting in beautiful Tetonia.
I spent the day sorting out and patching some of our tire tubes and it finally looks like we have four functioning tires that have zero slow leaks occurring. Hopefully now that we're leaving Idaho, the constant tire punctures from nails, wires and staples will also be left behind.
Tonight I made a 7.5 mile round-trip to the convenience store to restock our food/electrolytes. While this is definitely a shorter trip than usual, the gravel and dirt county roads slowed me considerably.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Day 21 - Idaho Falls, ID to Tetonia, ID (70 miles)

After loading up on coffee and carbs at our complimentary breakfast, we took to the road with Rexburg, ID as our planned stop for breakfast. This road brought us a change to the typical sage brush scenery we had become accustomed to in Idaho. Finally off to the east, the Teton Range was visible. Also along our route were signs for Yellowstone and Jackson, two destinations that we are very anxious to reach.
This morning's ride would prove to be the last time that we were on a four lane highway for some time. Keeping with the theme of "odd vehicles being on highways in Idaho", I heard what sounded to be a tractor trailer truck revving its engine loudly behind me. Instead, it was a tractor driving in our shoulder, wishing to overtake us. Otherwise our ride to Rexburg was unremarkable.
Looking for a big meal we pulled into Applebee's and started talked to the manager there. While they did not open for another hour, nor did they serve breakfast, we were given an extensive history of this manager's bike touring back in the 1970s when he was a self-proclaimed hippie.
Eating breakfast at Burger King, I began to notice the influences of the LDS Church in Rexburg. Not only is Rexburg home to a large LDS Temple, but also contains Brigham and Young University - Idaho. There were many customers around our age that were well dressed, clean cut, and appeared to be married. Heading further into Rexburg we spotted many apartment buildings boasting that they were University approved for either male or female housing. Stopping in AT&T to get a screen protector on Jonathan's shattered iPhone, we spoke with a BYU student, Jason. He told us that his overall cost of attendance is around $5000 annually, they sign a strict honor code when they enroll, and that there are no bars anywhere in Rexburg. What do students do for fun? Sometimes the school brings in entertainment such as magic shows.  Jason's brother goes to Mizzou, and unsurprisingly says that student life is a bit different there. The life of a BYU student seemed totally foreign to the experiences Jonathan and I had in college.
Now on Route 33, we began our turn towards the Tetons. First stop, Sugar City's Post Office for Jonathan to mail home some extra clothing. We continued on for a beautiful, but grueling 30 miles of net elevation gain. This was complicated by Jonathan's knee feeling the effects of daily long rides during his first week. Every time we reached the top of a hill and expected to head down, our speedometers corrected us and pointed out that we were still ascending, only now, more gradually. The redeeming quality of this road was its scenery. Distant views of the Tetons became closer and clearer with every mile, and a partially overcast sky gave us some relief from the heat.
By the time we reached Tetonia we were tired and running low on water, but decided to head past our destination to get a real meal at the North End Grill.
Dinner completed, it was time to make the 3.5 mile trip on packed dirt/gravel to my father's friend's brother's vacation home. We are extremely grateful to the Abely family for allowing us to us their truly beautiful home with stunning views of the Tetons.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Day 20 - American Falls, ID to Idaho Falls, ID (76 miles)

After a pretty restful sleep (only one freight train whistle woke me up), we got another early start. The Oregon Trail tourers were already finishing up breakfast and were preparing to head off to Rupert (about 50 miles to the west). With well wishes exchanged, they headed off.

After we packed up camp we headed back on I-86 towards Pocatello for another Denny's Grand Slam breakfast.
Today's breakfasts were about 25 miles into our trip. Big meals lead to slower biking, and despite saying we would eat less this morning... Well, we didn't. The staff at Denny's was fantastic and gave us some coupons for future use. They crowded around Jonathan's iPad and checked out the photos he's been shooting since Oregon.  In general, now that we've been off busy bike touring routes (such as the Adventure Cycling Association Pacific Coast route we unofficially followed) people we meet are much more interested in our trip. Honks and waves on the highway, questions and encouragement at rest stops and gas stations. Personally, I'm really enjoying getting to tell so many people about our trip and cause.

After breakfast it was time for a trip to Walmart. We found the best bathing suit we could. In terms of sizes that weren't XXL, XXXL or XXXXL, the only real choices were camouflage. Luckily we found some misplaced patriotic bathing suits over in the boys' section.

Following fun merging onto I-15N, we headed off to the Fort Hall Indian Reservation. At a gas station, we repeated the process of explaining our ride to one of its customers. Some odd questions popped up during the conversation: "Have you guys ever felt unsafe?" "Is it just the two of you?" "Do you guys know any martial arts to protect yourselves?" He shook our hands at the end of the conversation and said he'd be honored to go on such a trip. Regardless, we realized that we should start answering questions more carefully. What is the easiest way to make me feel uncomfortable? Ask me if I feel "unsafe" or "uncomfortable".

Leaving the reservation and north of Blackfoot, we came to our daily rest area. This time it had cold water and more importantly lava fields! While the Devil's Half Acre pales in comparison to Craters of the Moon National Monument, we were still quite excited to see some hardened lava as our time in Idaho winds down. These fields now have some vegetation growing on them and eventually will be covered by windswept dirt like the rest of this area of Idaho.

One highway overpass tire tube repair later, we rolled into Idaho Falls. We recharged at a truck stop and then headed to Dave's Bike Shop. The staff was fantastic at helping us find what we needed and wanted to hear about our ride. If you're ever in the Idaho Falls area, check them out, they have a great selection.  We ran into the Snake River once more downtown, this time with the massive The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter-Day Saints Temple along its shore. It's very impressive, look it up.

Today we reached 1341 miles completed during this tour. That's a bit more than 1/3 of our anticipated 4000 miles. Quite a big milestone!

Photos by Jonathan Kobles 

Monday, July 7, 2014

Day 19 - Twin Falls, ID to American Falls, ID (94 miles)

We got an early start this morning, knowing that we had Jonathan's longest planned day ahead of us (90 miles).  We headed out through the city and along 10 miles of agricultural land until we once again reached the Snake River, this time east of Twin Falls. We stopped to take pictures and with the sun still low in the sky, the photography conditions were great. This bridge, several hundred feet above the Snake River, had an annoying habit of bouncing up and down with each tractor truck that traversed it. This greatly hurried along our photo session.

Merging back onto I-84 for another day of freeway riding, we had our eyes set of Burley, ID for breakfast. This stop would be just under 40 miles into trip. About 30 miles through farmland we went, until we hit 7 miles of road work. The left lane was closed and slowly the orange barrels forced the highway traffic to travel in our large shoulder. Out of room, and traveling within a food of traffic, we decided to cross over and try out luck in the closed left passing lane. The construction consisted of fresh sprayed tar on the center white line and left rumble strip. With the job completed we weren't sure why the cones were still up, and before long were speeding along in the left lane. Nearing Burley we see a set of headlights in our adopted lane heading towards us. It looked like a go-kart. Sure enough it was one. This wasn't the local drunk on a joy ride, instead it was a highway worker that was responsible for placing reflectors in the fresh tar before the white lane dividing line was resprayed. He didn't seemed bothered by us, and we exchanged waves as we passed.

After our Denny's Grand Slams, it was time for more freeway.  The road was still smooth, so we powered.  Finally I-84 headed off towards Salt Lake City, along with most of its traffic. We switched over to I-86 towards Pocatello, Idaho. Suddenly we were in the middle of nowhere with the next rest stop coming up in 20 miles. Jonathan was banking on the town of Raft River having food/ice. The "town" had a single closed down gas station, so we were forced to head to the rest stop. This stretch of road was isolated. That's really an understatement. Other than very distant mountains and endless plains, there was nothing at all. Fighting boredom, we reached the promised Cold Water Rest Area (now 71 miles into our day). There was not cold water. Only very warm water.  Slightly recharged, and as Jonathan napped a bit, I followed the signs to see some Oregon Trail wagon wheel ruts. These ruts were formed by 1000s of wagons following the trail/highway we've been on. Hike completed, I stood 15 feet from faint tracks I could see over the barbed wire fence. Scenic opportunities scare, I headed back to Jonathan.

The last miles of the day are always the toughest. 19 miles to go, we started with a great two mile downhill. Climbing to the top of hill with a wind farm, our tailwind disappeared (Idaho has been great; nearly a tailwind daily). Instead the final 8 miles would be Jonathan's first headwind. He was thrown headfirst into this demoralizing weather phenomenon. Crawling downhill and uphill alike, we limped into American Falls, Idaho. Recharging our electrolytes at the first gas station felt great. Ready to head to our camp site, Jonathan had a flat. Small piece of wire in tire found, we patched, reset the tube, and cruised to the Willow Bay Recreation Area.

This was complicated by a 10 minute wait for a freight train to finish unloading and clear the road. I guess this is a charm of small towns in the West. Setting up our tent in camp we met the first bike tourers that we've seen since Crescent City, California. They were on a supported tour along the Oregon Trail from Wyoming to western Oregon. Supported tours have their gear carried for them, and food cooked for them at camp. This luxurious biking is amplified by the fact they only bike 25 miles from Pocatello today....

Lake by the campgrounds in American falls

We have more ambition than 25 miles tomorrow; off to Idaho Falls we shall go.

Sunset on the lake

Photos by Jonathan Kobles 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Day 18 - Glenn's Ferry, ID to Twin Falls, ID (59 miles)

Our first RV park camping experience was quite inclusive. Free of charge we were provided live country music from a distant backyard, live demonstrations of a busy freight train line, very bright lights shining down on our tent and the constant hum and engine breaking of trucks on the nearby freeway. If we wanted to charge our phones however, that would have been $2 extra. 

This all led to a sluggish start that was further compounded with free thorns from our camping field leading to Jonathan's first flat tire before we even got on the road.  This flat tire used up our last spare tire tube, meaning that we'd have to stay south on the freeway to find a bike shop. This unfortunately meant we'd miss the lava fields of Craters of the Moon National Monument. We worried we'd be in for endless miles of boring interstate by traveling this way.

After our 4th visit to the Mini Mart we headed off on I-84 East. Right off the bat we got to undo the nice descent we had enjoyed the day before. After this hill, the ride became rather monotonous. We rode for many miles with nothing but brown landscape surrounding us, with some mountains visible off in the distance.
Suddenly we happened upon Malad Gorge. While we know nothing about this gorge, it was picturesque and gave us an excuse to take our first pictures of the day.

Interestingly, the solid appearing freeway bridge was actually quite flexible. This led to an interesting bouncing sensation every time a large truck would pass by. Happy to finally see something other than the brown sage brush country of southern Idaho, we continued on 84.

With the temperatures again reaching into the mid 90s, we were once again stuck sucking down hot water from our bottles. The town of Jerome provided us with lunch and ice for our hydration packs and bottles. Because Jonathan hasn't eaten Subway for lunch everyday for the last week, he was actually genuinely excited to see the Subway sign from the highway. Inside the restaurant we met a couple who asked us about our journey and were excited that we were headed to Twin Falls because that's where they were from and they claimed that the Snake River (which we've been following on and off for the last few days) ran through a very impressive gorge that base jumpers frequented. While talking to them was nice, I was a little unsure how impressive this Idaho attraction would really be.

Back on the freeway we went for the final 14 miles to Twin Falls. Finally exiting the freeway after a couple stops to cool off under overpasses, we cruised downhill to our destination. Right before city limits we stopped at the scenic view markers and finally got to see the Snake River again. The gorge was beautiful. Several hundred feet below us the river ran swiftly as kayakers and rafters enjoyed its likely cool water. To the west, two country clubs ran along both of banks of the river. Having enjoyed the scenery, we headed into the city of Twin Falls. We'd managed a discount on a motel, and since the only available campground was right next to the freeway, we thought it best to actually get some sleep tonight.
Dropping our gear at the motel we headed to the sporting goods store to buy out the rest of the 700c 28mm tire tubes to replenish our nonexistent stockpile. Across the street we ate dinner at Café Rio. I never thought I would say this, but Café Rio takes the concept of Chipotle and improves it. One such improvement: sweetened mint limeade, which was perfect after 60 miles of biking.

After dinner we headed the five miles to Shoshone Falls. These falls are nicknamed the "Niagara of the West". They were very impressive and were our third surprisingly picturesque Idaho attraction of the day. Definitely a good way to make up for not seeing the lava fields. The falls are near the location of Evil Knievel's motorcycle jump of the Snake River. The hydroelectric dam on the Falls generates electricity for 9,000 households annually.  The park was located in the gorge and required quite a steep climb out on our bikes but it was well worth seeing the Shoshone Falls.

Photos by Jonathan Kobles