Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Through New York and Pennsylvania

Last week was busy and a lot fun. I spoke to over 1000 students across New York, at 7 different schools and the TV news showed up 6 times to interview me. I was also able to speak at the Rochester Latino Rotary Club, attend a gala for the Buffalo Rotary Club, and the Rochester AM Rotary club held a dinner party so I could meet their members.

Right now I am in Cleveland and trying to salvage a week in Ohio where the AHA was not able to help me out. But thankfully the Rotary clubs have come to my rescue and got me into a few schools in Toledo on Friday. Next week in Michigan is also shaping up to be really busy.

The rain has softened a bit, but it seams to be on an every other day schedule. Thankfully the roads are flat, and the prevailing wind has not been too strong.

Riding along Lake Ontario through apple and peach orchards was fantastic. And it smelled almost as good as riding along Lake Erie through Concord Grape vineyards. That smelled like I was riding through grape jam or jelly.

As always, I ride past our country's history. By chance, the place I decided to touch the water in Lake Ontario also happened to be the home of Samuel Cuyler, who was the northern terminus of the Underground Railroad for the southern slaves. And only a mile or so away from there was the Enchanted Forrest and home of Joseph Smith, who wrote the book of Mormon.

But one of my favorite parts last week was a interview by a FOX news affiliate in Rochester NY. It is so far the best story a news cast has done on Cycle For Heart:

Probably one of the most unique state houses in the country, this is the New York Capitol in Albany.

On the shore of Lake Ontario, my first great lake.

Niagara Falls. I know that the view is better from the Canadian side, but I don't think they get to see the rainbow.

Rochester Latino Rotary Club, they donated $100 to the American Heart Association.

Sprinting with the Students from French Road Elementary, the American Heart Association's #1 school in the country for fundraising, over $1 million in 13 years.

When it's not raining, and the sky is not gray, I see the most amazing parts of this country in all it's beauty

"Know who you are, Know who you want to be, and Follow your dreams..."
-Antonio Figureida

Location:Cleveland OH

Friday, September 9, 2011

2 weeks in.

I don't think I have ever been home sick before, but the first two weeks of this ride had me wrestling with my emotions as the hills and weather pounded me into the ground. So far I have done about 760 miles with 33000 feet of climbing in the past 15 days, rode through 2 tropical storms, and lost 10 pounds.

I shipped the bike to Fort Kent Maine. The bike is 25.8 pounds and my pack weight is 28 pounds without food or water.

It was a honor to speak to some of the freshman class and staff of the University of Maine in Fort Kent. The students are so full of energy for the coming year, and they have so many ideas and goals for what they want to accomplish. It was great to share with them my first ride across the US with all the hardships I faced while never letting go of my goal.

Fort Kent sits in the St. John Valley. A place where a lot of people's first language is French.

In Presque Isle Maine, I was lucky to catch one good day of weather for the balloon festival. The highlight was watching the kids run around inside an old balloon. The shape and color of the space it created was truly inspiring.

On my third day, Irene finally made land fall in Maine. At first this was no big deal as the warm air and rain, was pleasant to ride in. But in the afternoon the rain stopped and the winds picked up. By late in the day I was fighting to keep the bike going straight while crawling across the ground at 4.7 miles per hour. But when the storm passed, it sucked away the humidity and clouds and for the next three days the weather was perfect.

I got my first flat tire on a new rails-to-trails along the coast of Maine. It was a beautiful ride void of any major hills. The path went way off into the back woods, through wildlife areas, and far away from the hands of civilization. The only down side was the dirt and gravel, which made the going slow and rough.

The Bucksport Bridge. At 42 stories, I think it is the tallest structure in Maine.

The original Ft. Knox.

I spoke at St. Michaels in Augusta Maine. They donated $100 to the American Heart Association!

Camping in New Hampshire. Live free or die.

In Vermont I came across the destruction of Irene. Vermont can be so beautiful. Roads that wind through trees, with emerald green seas of ferns flowing across the ground. Giant slabs of slate stacked like stairs with water flowing down like a backyard fountain and the water sparkling like a chandelier. But then I came upon homes ripped apart, people digging their belongings out of the mud, down power lines, children using their toy dump trucks to shovel mud, and more destruction than I would like to remember.

Now the roads get flat and hopefully a calm Fall will welcome me to the next section of my trip, the great lakes.

"Know who you are, Know who you want to be, and Follow your dreams..."
-Antonio Figureida

Location:Albany, NY

Monday, August 22, 2011

I'm well rested

Cycle for Heart - I'm well rested.

In June of 2009, I finished my 4th tour across the USA. I was burnt out and needed a long rest.  While there are no words to describe how great it felt to speak at so many schools and reach out to thousands of people across America, the demand for Cycle for Heart was growing beyond my limited energy.  I was truly done and feeling like I needed to step away.  As I approached the end of the ride I knew I needed to stop when I would wake up in the morning and felt that waking up was a bad idea.  I took something that was once a challenge and the experience of a life time and turned it into a monotonous routine of daily life.  And I did it at the expense of my social and physical being.

I hate to say that cycling across the country can be redundant.  I had lost the perspective on a dream.  I had turned that dream into a business with an uncomfortably tight schedule of a procedure laden program.  Combine that with the fatigue of spending nearly a year's worth of time on a bicycle, alone, in horrible weather, on grueling hills, and it took a toll on my life.

So what better way to recover than to attempt the hardest thing I could do - cycle across Argentina and solo climb Mt. Aconcagua. 

On New Years Day 2010. I rode out of Buenos Aires.  The streets were comfortably quiet for a city home to millions.  And all the noise from a few hours before: the whistles, screams, cheers, booms and other vibrations associated with a city under siege; sounded like the party would never end.  But solitude gave way to thousands of people lining the street, standing behind barricades.  They were cheering me forward, snapping photos, and making me feel so good about being so confused.  But as I tried to translate the banners hanging across the road I realized that I was in the middle of a race course, the first day of the Dakar Rally.  Somewhere close by, hundreds of mad men where driving towards me at incredible speeds.  I quickly found the exit before being another Dakar statistic.

And that began a 1000 miles of cycling in two weeks with 100 degree temperatures and 85% humidity, mosquitoes, dangerous roads, friendly people, and beautiful countryside across Argentina to the Malbec vinyards of Mendoza at the foot of the Andes.

I left the bike with a friend and took the buss to an empty spot on the side of the highway, high up in the middle of the mountains.  Surrounded by high peaks on all sides, a hot and dusty rock canyon led away from the only road to civilization.  I put on a 92 pound pack (no guide, porter, or mule support) and started a painful walk into thin air.  4 days of biting black flies as big a bumble bees, precarious cliff hanging paths, screaming cold river crossings, searing heat, twisted ankles on boulder fields, and crippling pain from all the weight on my shoulders, and I made it to base camp.   After 10 days of climbing, slowly establishing higher campsites, thunder storms with lightning, snow & hail, -40 degree temperatures, there was one beautiful windless day on which I made the summit and did 25 pushups at 22841 feet. (highest mountain outside of the Himalayas)  I cried.  I was so proud of myself.

3 days later I returned to Mendoza, to find that I had pitting edema in my legs, had lost 17 pounds (1 pound per day), and had developed a nearly fatal case of rhabdomyolysis, which almost shut down my kidneys. But I ignored all medical advice and after only 6 days of sleeping and eating (took me two days to scoop a one-month supply of ensure powder into my mouth, with hits off my water bottle to wash it down), I tried to ride back to Buenos Aires. I made it 2 days before I nearly collapsed in 100 degree heat on the Argentine freeway.

I bought a buss ticket to the airport and took the first flight home, and I felt like I had accomplished something - I found myself.

And with that, I would like to ask you to please follow me for the next 3 months as I cycle from Fort Kent Maine to Seattle Washington, speaking to thousands of children about living a healthy active lifestyle, meeting with our elected officials, and getting the support of Rotary Clubs from across the country.  I wont be sending out long emails like this one, but for now on I will be sending a link to my new blog, where I can integrate video, pictures, and location to provide a interactive and complete picture of the journey.  On my website http://www.cycleforheart.org you can get live updates on my progress thanks to a GPS tracking toy.

Final note: over the years I have collected your email address along with thousands of others.  I have organize and safeguarded this list.  But with some recent and much needed technical upgrades, multiple emails and contacts have been merged together for my convenience.  I have done my best to go through this new list and remove contacts that should not be receiving this email.  If I have missed you, please send me a nice note and I will be prompt to respond.

Thank you,
Chris Figureida

All the different ways to say hi:
Website - www.cycleforheart.org
Facebook - www.facebook.com/CycleForHeart & www.facebook.com/chris.figureida
Clothing - www.cafepress.com/cycleforheart
Twitter - twitter.com/CycleForHeart
Youtube - www.youtube.com/CycleForHeart
GPS Tracking - http://share.findmespot.com/shared/faces/viewspots.jsp?glId=0slllWzHIhdL2H4R6hj3vG6YIRzvu2Z9p
Blog - http://cycleforheart.blogspot.com

Monday, August 15, 2011

Ready to go

Ready to go...

After months of planning, I am one week away from flying to Maine, and 10 days from taking the first pedal stroke towards my west coast destination. Tomorrow, the bike will be shipped ahead of me, and hopefully awaiting my arrival in Maine.

"Know who you are, Know who you want to be, and Follow your dreams..."
-Antonio Figureida

Location:Ventura, CA