Sunday, October 24, 2010

Finding Adventure at Work?

Finding Adventure at Work?
What do you get when you mix adventure with work? As a rule of thumb, I usually escape work to get out of town to locate the needed realm of adventure. In my long list of occupations I have managed to track down one job where I was paid for adventure. After a long duration in Tucson, Arizona, I was seeking a change in routine and life for me and the family as I jumped online to find what opportunity had in store for us. I came across a job listing that caused me to laugh. Bicycle Messenger? No, not a listing for Chicago, New York, or some other huge cement jungle. Shaking my head, I found myself heading north to Boise, Idaho with the prospect of my new career(?) being the driving force. Ok, maybe a short lived career. Does someone in their mid 30’s, married with a child, with diabetes make a major move to be a Bicycle Messenger? Haha guess at least one of us does. The manager, Tealdo, even held the job till I could arrive.

I would find myself as the only bicycle messenger in town. I worked for Fleet Street Couriers, a courier company that made deliveries via the automobile with one lone dude on a bike. This was a September arrival so fall and winter were looming for this unprepared desert rat. I will note that it does help one’s transition into a new climate when you are in the elements most of the day. I can largely credit this occupation as being a key step toward my transition into becoming a spastic gear junkie. One confession out of the way. The transition had taken me from my desert attire to a world of microfleece, gore tex , synthetic layering, booties, lined gloves and a thermos to carry the necessary caffeine and a very large courier bag that I soon found could carry a granormous amount of "stuff".

I am looking over a small, tidy pile of notes I had taken during the courier season as I waited for urgent calls to to send me in 4 directions at the same time. Seems to be that most of notes them were taken during the memorable winter zone. Imagine that? As I scan a page of the courier lifestyle, it is 9:03am on an overcast day in January and snow is forecasted for the evening. Weather had been a real fascination of mine, especially since I had spent many years in the lightening zapped, monsoon skies of the Southwest. I soon adapted morning sessions with the weather radio predicting whether Dave would get seriously cold, frostbitten, drenched, hit by lightening, blown off the road by raging winds, or wilt in 100+ degree heat. Mother Nature...will you be my friend today? Further down the notes, I read that it is 1:30pm and the snow had unleashed, and my day had become way more interesting, and slippery, but I am so very glad to be out pushing the pedals and being removed from 4 walls, lousy lighting and emails messages screaming my name.

The jumbled notes and my memory bank would reveal a time in life that was new, unique and exciting. What a cool job? Dang that was awesome, but there were some really tough, weary and drag down demanding days.
The toughest days were the days that I was sick or feeling the dome of sickness crowding my little world. Rugged times for a sick and weak courier on 2 wheels. Especially when your work day on the bike would cover 25-50 miles. Much of the mileage was delivering "Rush" deliveries.
Point A to Point B as fast as I could pedal with there often being a pick-up and delivery to Points C,D,E,F already lined up. The other grinding days were when the blood sugars were difficult, or impossible. Glancing through my notes I had described an unusual day with strange weather. My next line referenced that my blood sugar was on a parallel line with the weather. Ugly, non-sympathetic and out of season. The challenges of diabetes.

I would see all of the glory of Boise’s four seasons as my days as a bicycle messenger ended one year after I had arrived on the scene for a job that would challenge me and reward a person with diabetes who wanted adventure, found it, got paid for it, and brought diabetes along for the ride.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

1 Stage, 3005 miles and a pillow waiting for me back in Sitka

1 Stage, 3005 Miles, and a Pillow waiting for me back in Sitka

The Race Across America (RAAM) is considered by many to be the most difficult bicycle race on the planet(If you are seeking adventure and tremendous suffering this may be the event for you). When the cyclists roll out of Oceanside, California the stopwatch will not stop until they cross the line in Annapolis, Maryland. Pedaling east, the 3,005 mile stage will include over 100,000 feet of climbing, temperatures that can range from freezing to 105+ degrees, physical exhaustion, illusions, wicked weather and yes, a major overdose of insomnia.

This past summer was my third RAAM as a crew member. It is a very novel way to spend a vacation. So much for a normal holiday time on the beach. Our RAAM train will zip through 14 states, take lots of cool pictures, assist heroes on bikes, make new friends, promote a cause and stash some wonderful memories en route. The crews are a vital link for the riders survival. We take care of the details so that they can crank the pedals 24 hours a day.

Team Type 2 consisted of eight riders with Type 2 diabetes. Eight dedicated, determined men cycling with a mission & a purpose. There would also be a Team Type 1 with cyclists who had Type 1 diabetes. I am hard wired to the cause of both teams as I have Type 1 diabetes and run events through my diabetes adventure group – No Limits.

This year was the largest field ever. 30 solo riders and 210 racers on 39 teams. 19 countries were represented. Solo riders found some of the worst weather in RAAM history as storms seemed to follow them across the country. On the other hand, teams, which left 2 days after the solos, were blessed with excellent weather.

For the solo crusaders, if you choose to sleep then you are losing time to the competition. Grinding the pedals for 22 hours a day is not unusual for the soloists. The teams are able to alternate riders and snatch a little bit of zzzzzz’s, but as the RAAM t shirt so aptly states, “This Ain’t No Tour”. 24/7 for the crew and the cyclists who a putting their sweat and heart on the pavement of backroads America while dealing with a rather challenging disease.
Our crew, assembled from all parts of the country, gathered in Oceanside, CA for a crash course in RAAM 101. Not stated, but soon to be evident, it would not be unlikely to piece together only about 20 hours of sleep during the week that we are bouncing down the roads. It is a challenging task, but it is an opportunity that I cherish and I will catch up on some sleep………later.

19 crew members, all volunteering their time, seems like a small army but we are all on the game board as the pieces move along the route. We all have important tasks to do that need to happen. In the 5 vehicle procession there are drivers, navigators, a massage therapist, 3 nutritionists, a crew chief and many assorted, vital tasks to be done by all to make the race as doable for the troopers of Team Type 2.
Team Type 1 would win the 8 man category for the fourth time in 5 years with a time of 5 days 10 hours and 48 minutes. Team Type 2 would span the country in 7 days 14 hours and 53 minutes. Just behind the time posted in 2009, but just ahead of the dog chase that was created by the 8 man team Friar’s Club who were nipping at our heels and tires. 3005 miles and it was decided by 2 minutes. This definitely ain’t no tour. Not a chance.