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.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Day 54 - New Windsor, NY to Farmington, CT (91 miles)

We woke with excitement, we knew that we had completed the last century-ride of our trip yesterday, and all that stood between us and our family and friends tonight was three mountain climbs along with more miles of rolling New England hills.  After completing our morning rituals of peanut butter covered foods and other preparations, we rolled towards Newburgh, NY.  We headed for the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge pedestrian path.  One of the reasons we had come up to Newburgh was that this was the safest bridge for cyclists to cross the Hudson on, due to its dedicated bike path on the southernmost edge of the bridge.  We descended down into the river valley and then climbed up onto the bridge path.  Signs warned of bridge work, but we did not think much of them until 200 yards into our crossing we were obstructed by a construction fence.  There was no way to push around it, and a local pedestrian told us that they have been occasionally closing the walkway throughout the summer as they conducted maintenance on I-84.  She said the bridge work would not be done until August 31.

Jonathan and I fully intended to get to Farmington today, not in September, so the state of New York left us with no choice.  We unpacked our bikes, and systematically (and if I do say so myself, rather smoothly) carried our stuff over the barricade into the construction lane, and reassembled our bikes on I-84.  Right before our covert operation, a police officer had driven by, so we knew we had to be quick in getting across the bridge.  When we could, we rode in the construction lane, and before long we had crossed the bridge, and climbed back onto the bike path on the eastern side of the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge.  Looks like we had to use I-84 more than I thought we would in yesterday's post...

With more than enough interstate riding for one day, we headed off in busy New York rush hour traffic on state and county routes towards Connecticut.  One large obstacle stood in our way: Wingdale Mountain.  After exhaustingly steep rolling hills that robbed us of our momentum at each climb, we entered a rotary that pointed us up 6+% grade hill that we trudged up.  Around a few more corners, it became evident that this was the first of the three mountains that our elevation profile had warned us about on today's ride.  Eventually we reached the summit as sweat poured from our bodies.  We descended down to a marshy lake, and thought the descent had been a bit short considering our prolonged ascent.  We were wrong and soon we were dropped down more steep hills and turns that netted us new top speeds greater than 43 mph each.  Two days in a row we have set new top speeds.

A couple more rolling hills and we had passed into Kent, Connecticut.  Our final state border crossing, and once again we were disappointed to not find a sign welcoming us home to Connecticut.  We had not eaten breakfast yet, and with a deadline to get to UCHC by 4:30pm, we stuffed down some gas station food before heading off towards Cornwall.  We cruised up Highway 7 and onto Route 4.  Leaving Cornwall we knew the second climb of our day would be imminent as we neared Goshen.  A tailwind was building behind us that keep us moving, but allowed the humidity to keep up with our pace and did nothing to slow our sweating.  The pace we were keeping today was quite a bit faster than we have been doing for the past 53 days, and I do not think it would be sustainable if we knew we had to bike tomorrow.  We stopped at a convenience store halfway up the mountain to refuel with electrolytes, protein and caffeine (what else do you really need on a cross country bike ride?).  We rode quickly through Goshen and took in the gorgeous views of lakes, hills and agriculture that this portion of Connecticut offered to us.  Approaching Torrington we lost the elevation we had fought so hard for.

We had one last stop at Burger King in Torrington.  The workers there could not believe that we had come all the way from San Francisco and one of them even ran out to the parking lot telling us she would pray for us to finish the trip safely.  Ride outside Burger King's driveway we started the third and final climb that was keeping us from Farmington.  This climb was the shortest of today's three, but without a shoulder and in increasingly dense traffic, was still a bit exciting.  Reaching the top, it was time to begin an overall descent down to the Health Center.

At this point our 4:30pm planned arrival was impossible, but we still did everything we could to make it to Farmington as fast as possible.  We rolled up and down the hills averaging close to 18-20 mph, with the wind still pushing us from behind.  Finally reaching Collinsville, it was time to use bike trails to travel along the Farmington River.  We passed a number of other cyclists on the bike path, and despite biking as fast or faster than them, we unsurprisingly were carrying the most gear out of all of them.  We passed Jonathan's street in Unionville and continued on to cruise past the Farmington Meadow Land.

We passed Miss Porter's School and landed out on Route 4 once again, this time heading towards the I-84/Route 4 intersection.  Traveling through the jug-handle turn, we could finally see the Health Center.  Never before have I been so excited to see that building.  We rolled in the main entrance and through the new rotary that had appeared since we left.  We crept up the speed bump covered hill and the Academic Entrance came into view.  Our families, friends, deans and the media were ready for our arrival and cheered for us as we rolling up to them.  Hugs, kisses, champagne showers, flowers, pictures and TV interviews welcomed us back to Farmington.  It has been quite an adventure, but both Jonathan and myself are very glad to have been back.  We are grateful for the support we received from Connecticut and from the memories and friends we made across America.

Photos by Jonathan Kobles

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Day 53 - White Haven, PA to New Windsor, NY (113 miles)

Today start with another cool morning that slowly warmed and became very humid as we continued to bike.  We rolled up and down hills towards Pocono Pines, before we turned off onto even more remote back roads (to avoid the climb into Mount Pocono).  This road was rather uneventful, but slow due to its windy, hilly nature.  Unexpectedly we spotted a sign for a 13% grade descent that would last four miles.

 This was the steepest marked grade we have encountered so far on the trip, and we could not believe that we were seeing this here in the Poconos instead of the Rockies.  We bombed down the side of the mountain down to Tannersville, topping 42 mph, new highs for us on the trip.  As we descended, the drivers became more aggressive as more New York and New Jersey license plates appeared on the road.

Reaching Tannersville, we were in a busy commercial area that was in great contrast to the small mountain towns we had been biking through.  This whole area is catered to the needs of tourists, and appears to be quite popular.  We stopped in at a local diner and are breakfast in our spandex, while many other customers were stopping in for their pre- or post-church Sunday brunches.  We spoke to a number of our diners who were shocked to here that we had come all the way from San Francisco, and wished us well on the final days of our trip.  Somewhere in Ohio, those who asked about our trip began being impressed by the distance we had covered instead of always exclaiming: "Yous a long ways from home".  In Pennsylvania, everyone we talked to definitely was impressed with how far we traveled, but are still a bit doubtful that we plan to get home tomorrow.

We set off from monstrous breakfasts to head down to the Delaware Water Gap.  This area surrounding the Delaware River along the Pennsylvania/New Jersey borders is a National Recreation Area.  For 20 miles, commercial trucks and businesses are disallowed on Highway 209, leading to a very nice ride.  The area is very flat compared to the Poconos, with only some rolling hills that help us to keep us our momentum.  The temperature was hot though, and with the high humidity leading to lots of sweating, we had to make sure to have enough water for the 20 mile stretch with no options for water refilling.  We did not get to see as much of the Delaware River as we had expected, but the break from the mountains was well received.

Emerging from the Gap in Milford, PA, we decided to push on another five miles towards Matamoras to grab a Subway lunch.  We cooled off in Subway and grabbed the last few things we would need for our trip from the attached Walmart.  Off we headed through Matamoras and into Port Jervis, NY.  Unfortunately, the state of New York denied us a "Welcome to New York" sign, so our collection will be one short (I hope Connecticut also does not disappoint us).  We were now following Highway 6 as it mirrored I-84 (too bad we cannot just ride this back to Farmington).  Leaving Port Jervis, we had to climb our final mountain of the day, but the grade was easy and after 20 minutes of low gear grinding, we reached the top.

The hills continued to roll as we headed towards our dinner in Goshen, NY.  I had pancakes #4, 5 and 6 for the day, while Jonathan replenished his electrolytes (mainly sodium) with some Chinese food.  After dinner we were left with a 19 mile ride to the western bank of the Hudson River.  Per usual, we continued to roll over hills well after the sun set.  Also keeping with our usual pattern, we found ice cream a few miles before our motel and stopped to enjoy some soft-serve before cruising into our lodging.  Tonight's neighbors seemed to be really enjoying themselves as they starred off at nothing and yelled nonsensically.  Luckily we were unable to hear them from inside our room.

Today's ride left us with about 93 miles tomorrow to the Health Center, a distance that we are confident that we can cover.

Photos by Jonathan Kobles