The Bucket List

Everyone has a bucket list.  I am not an exception.  Of course my bucket list has or had many cycling adventures on the list.  I am sure you are shocked by that.  Not all are cycling related,but most are.

Circumventing Lake Erie was high on my list.  I was able to accomplish that 2 years ago and thus I was able check that one off the list.  Hiking the Grand Canyon is still on the list.  As is visiting Normandy, France and also the Vatican in Rome, Italy.  See, I told you it wasn’t all about cycling!

But I have to admit, the number one thing on my list is to cycle coast to coast.  I am happy to announce that I will be able to check this off my list in a few months.

Beginning in March of 2019, I will begin an adventure that will take me and 40 of my new best friends from San Diego, California to St Augustine, Florida.  We will cross thru the states of California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida on a journey that take 52 days to complete.

I am blessed that I am able to try to accomplish this goal and it will take a lot of hard work to make it happen.  I started spinning classes about a month ago to keep in cycling shape and also to improve my cardiovascular system.  I have averaged about three classes a week and can feel the improvements already.  I will still try get out and ride the real bike, but with Ohio winters, that is always a challenge with the darkness and all.

Many of you may think I have lost my mind to take 2 months and cycle across America.  But I think I am lucky to have the opportunity.  Besides, you got to try to finish your bucket list with the days you are given in this life.

The Tale Of Larry Hill ~ A B.A.R.R. 2018 Story

If you are a cyclist, there are certain rides that are a “must” do.  Rides such as Trans Am (America), the Continental Divide (west) and the East Coast.  There is also the another big one, the GAP and C&O Towpath.  It was the latter that made up the B.A.R.R. 2018 and that is where I met Larry Hill.

The Greater Allegheny Passage (GAP) and the C&O canal connect Pittsburgh to Washington D.C. or vice versa depending on the direction you go.  The canal actually starts in D.C. with mile 0 marker somewhere in Georgetown.  That is where we ended our ride.  And it was a good ending to the ride as we were able to find our way down to the mall in D.C. that evening and see the monuments and Washington at night.  A good way to cap the B.A.R.R.

But it was what happened earlier that day that makes this story.  But before I get to that, I have to do some back story.  You see, the GAP ride is actually 2 rides in one.  There is the GAP and there is the canal.  The GAP portion runs from Pittsburgh to Cumberland, Maryland.  The Canal runs from Cumberland to D.C.   The Gap is mainly crushed limestone path that runs beside a railroad with a uphill grade that averages about 1 to 1 1/2% grade.  Not to bad but still uphill until you get to the Continental Divide.  Then you are blessed with a very nice downhill into Cumberland.

The canal, by contrast, is the towpath used to haul the canal boats up and down the canal.  The week before we did the ride, a hurricane had passed over the area.  As a result, the towpath was basically a mud-path which was at times barely wider than a foot.  As we traveled the path, we always had the canal on our left and the Potomac River to our right.  This made the path basically a sliver of a land mass that divided the canal from the swiftness of the river.  A precarious ride at time to be sure as one wrong move  traversing the mud and you could find yourself in the river or the canal.   I am happy to report that none of us suffered that fate, but the danger was real.

It was during our first full day on the canal that I first met Larry Hill.  We had started the day in Little Orleans, Maryland.  We planned to stop in Hancock, Maryland for lunch.  I was riding ahead of the others for most of the morning leading into Hancock.  I pulled off the trail when I arrived in the town covered in mud and dirt.  There was a bike shop that was located right of the trail so I naturally headed straight for the shop.

I put my bike along a rail and started to walk into the shop to ask where there was a place to eat.  Sitting on a bench outside the shop was Larry Hill although I wouldn’t learn his name until that last day on the canal.  He looked at me with bug out eyes and asked,  “Are you riding the canal?” to which I replied in the affirmative.  It was then that I noticed he was clean.  And the bike beside him was clean as well.  I also noticed that the bike was stacked high with stuff.  I immediately knew that the bike was overloaded.   You see, Larry Hill is a very big man.  And his bike was very heavily loaded.  There was no way he was going to make it through the mud.  And I proceeded to tell him that.  I described my day to him so far and what the trail was like.  And I basically wished him luck, but in my opinion, he wasn’t going to make it.  I then walked into the shop for directions to the restaurants.

As I walked backed out of the shop, I noticed that my riding companions were working their way to the shop from the trail.  I also noticed that Larry was off to the side on his phone.  I waved goodbye to him and joined my friends and rode on to lunch.  I never thought I would see Larry again.

But I did.  Now we are back to the last day of the ride.

We had spent the night near Brunswick, Maryland and rode our bikes into Virginia to get some breakfast at a gas station, then back on canal for the last day.  We were rolling along when Tedd had his first flat.  We were all together at the moment so we all stopped as Tedd fixed his flat.

At that moment, a rider came upon us and who was it?  None other than Larry Hill.  He was now muddy, as we all were, but his bike was much less packed. When he saw me and recognized me from the bike shop, his face lit up.

“Thank you so much!” was his first remark.  It took me a second to realize he was talking to me.   “Hmmn, you’re welcome.”  I responded.

“You saved me, thank you!”  He went on to tell us that after meeting me in Hancock, he had called a family member who was local and got rid of some of his equipment.  He then told us of how he was on a bucket list ride (the GAP) and he didn’t think he would have made it without my warning.  He thanked me profusely.

He introduced himself to us (Hence, Larry Hill) and that this ride was a part of his finding God.  I have his story in a pamphlet if you ever want to read it.  So, inspired by God, I asked him to say a prayer for our safe passage, since Tedd was changing a flat, which he gladly did.  I now know a prayer for the fixing of a flat tire!!

So imagine this.  We are in the middle of a muddy trail, changing a flat tire, among our friends and newly acquainted, praying.  You really have to love the cycling community.  You just never know who you are going to meet or what is going to happen.

After Larry left us, I looked at Tedd and Sandy and commented that you just never know how you are going to effect someone you meet.  When I met Larry in Hancock, he was just another cyclist on a ride.  But I changed his entire ride and according to him, saved his ride.

That really was the last I saw of Larry although Tedd would spend some more time with him after suffering another flat.  But meeting him, praying with him, I will now always remember him.





History Of The B.A.R.R.

For those who that know me, you know that I cycle.  I ride a bike.  A lot.  I ride for causes.  I ride for adventure.  I ride for sanity.  It is my passion.  For all of these reasons, The B.A.R.R. as we know it today came into being.

The B.A.R.R., Big Audacious Research Ride came into being in the early spring of 2015 created by my good friend  John Hoctor.  As I know the story, John, who works for the American Cancer Society, was in Atlanta meeting with colleagues when they decided to go out and have a few adult beverages (research) after a day of meetings.

Conversation started about the PA Hope Ride an ACS event of which both John and I have participated in for 2 years.  For the 2015 edition of the ride, John boasted that he would ride his bike from Columbus to Hershey, PA and then complete the PA Hope Ride that went from Hershey to Philadelphia.

Someone called his bluff.  That someone is Jean Nagy, and she basically double dog dared John to do that ride.   And all of us fans of “The Christmas Story” know that you can not back down from a double dog dare.  So John is now compelled to do this ride.  Jean was nice about it though.  So volunteered to support the ride as SAG and also volunteered her husband, Chris,  to ride with John from Pittsburgh on.  To this day I do not know when Chris found out about his “volunteerism.”

It was a week or so that John posted on Facebook about what he was planning to do.  When I saw it, well, you know, I wanted to go.

A quick sidebar.   There is a quick way to find out if someone enjoys the same hobby or passion as you do.  In this example, those that like to cycle.   When you tell someone you are going to cycle from Columbus to Philadelphia and they cycle, they remark “How cool, that sound like an epic ride.”  If they do not cycle they will remark, “What?  Are you out of your mind?  I don’t even driving that far, let alone biking that far!”

We all know what I said when I saw John’s post.  I quickly texted him that I would love to join him on this adventure and he just as quickly said hell yeah.  And after a few rides together and quite a few “planning” meetings (research), we had come up with a name for the ride.  And then we were off on the grand adventure that was the 1st B.A.R.R.  We went through rain, wind, dogs, the Amish and the Alleghenies to meet John’s boast to ride from Columbus to Philly.  Many legends were made during that ride.

Unfortunately, that was the only B.A.R.R. that John or Chris ever participated in to date.  But I unabashedly stole John’s idea of an epic ride and been a part of one every year since.  With the help and planning of many good friends, there has been a B.A.R.R. every year since 2015.  I am fortunate to be a part of each one.  Each year has brought a new adventure and new and broadening experiences.

The first year was Columbus to Philly.  The second was a bucket list item of mine.  I wanted to ride around Lake Erie.  So with much help From Sandy, her husband Tedd, Paul, Sandy’s dad Bob, whom provided support and myself, pedaled 9 days, over 850 miles, 4 states and 2 countries for B.A.R.R. 2016.  Lake Erie is very impressive from the saddle of a bike!

B.A.R.R. #3 was an entirely different ride.  I was joined on this version of the ride by Phil, Gregg and returning for more punishment, Tedd.  This ride took us on the Northern Tier or part of it.  There are three “tiers” that cyclists us to cross the country.  Guess where this one is.  Anyway, Phil was doing cross-country, just a section of the tier at a time and this year he wanted to go from Fargo, N.D. to Muscatine, Iowa. Another 8 day 830ish mile adventure.  The twist this time is that we were self carry.  No support.  We carried every thing we needed.  And there were hills.  And rain. And cold.  But the Mississippi river basin…absolutely beautiful.

B.A.R.R. #4.  Again a totally different adventure.   This took Tedd, myself, Sandy and Pat over the Greater Allegheny Passage and also the Chesapeake and Ohio Towpath that goes from Pittsburgh to Washington D.C.  It is a mecca ride for cyclist and was a must on Sandy’s bucket list.  This ride was different bikes, camping and mosquitoes.  Also a lot of mud.  More stories on this forthcoming as we just ended the ride.

So that it is so far.  I would like you to know that there is a B.A.R.R. #5 on the horizon.  Maybe even some off shoots of the B.A.R.R. as we all go off and find our own stories and adventures.  But that is for a later post.

The most important part of all of this that even though we are small in nature on these rides, all of our friends are with us as we ride, just like flat Emily.

John and Chris will always be apart of this ride regardless of if they ride or not.  Sandy is always with me as is all of my friends.  Another reason of why I do these rides.  To take you along.


A New Way

Back in March of this year, Facebook changed their privacy policies which no longer allowed many things such as WordPress and Garmin to share your information and blog posts to the site.  However, there is a new way to do this.

So, tada!  The World According To Toph now has it’s own Facebook page.  So I hope you like the page.  I am new at this so bear with me.

I also have some exciting news that I will be sharing with you soon (I know, shameless teaser.) that will make following the page worthwhile.

I also have some stories from this years installment of the BARR to share.

Thanks for bearing with me through the bout of writer’s block and through all of the changes.

It’s Just A Little Wet!!

Well, here we are. Just a week away from my 10th Pan Ohio Hope Ride. You all know me. I live to ride. I also ride to live. 15 years ago, I dedicated part of my life to riding a bike and fighting cancer.

During this journey and fight, I have seen my share of victories, but sadly, that is always tempered by defeat. I have lost many to this disease and I have seen many of my friends and loved one’s suffer the same as I.

The one thing I have never seen is a loss of hope. Of courage. Of “I got this shit and I am going to win.”

My journey over the last 15 years has been one of eye opening truth’s and heart warming success stories. It has also brought me into a beautiful community where we all have common goals and believe’s. I love the cycling community.

I have been asked repeatedly over the past week if I ever ride in the rain. The reason being is that many know I am going on a bike ride and they wonder. It’s okay. I would ask the same question if I were in their shoes.

Answer: Yes. I ride in the rain. I ride in the wind . I ride. Why?
Because to not ride would be a bail out on what I fight for. Those with cancer can not choose to ride or not, so why should I get that luxury? Think about it.

So given the choice…I choose the rain. FYI, one of my favorite R.E.M. songs…

If you feel like joining the fight, you can donate here::

Enjoy one of my favorite bands and songs!

Let’s Climb!!

Well, Flat Emily and I will be heading East to Hershey, Pennsylvania to ride in the 6th Annual PA Hope Ride.  The ride may include a hill or two, maybe even a mountain or two.  So it is a climbing weekend.  This is the 6th time I have participated in this ride.

I embrace the philosophy of just get to the top of the climb, dumb ass.  That means I climb slow.  I’m not in a race, but I get to each and every top of the mountain.

So when I saw this video, I thought, ‘Yep.  I’ve said this, thought this and now it’s verified.’


Just A Day

Every now and again, you just need to take a day off.  You have been burning the candle at both ends.  You have been working hard, playing hard.  Whew…time for a breath.

That is what I am doing today.  I know I should be out riding.  Or doing at least something since the weather is finally warm.  But I just can’t get motivated.

It is Memorial week, meaning I will be working my ass off this week.  We (meaning my job, you know, cooking for folks) cater for the staff and volunteers at the Memorial Golf Tournament next week.  It is a lot of folks to feed.  We are talking 5-6 hundred per day starting Monday.  Bottom line…a lot of food.

Then there is the stress of food ordering.  Did I order enough?  Did I order the right stuff?  If I didn’t, where can I find it if I need it?

So, that is my world right now.  I think I will take today and chill.  Tomorrow I will ride, because that is what I do.  And Monday I will jump into the shit, because I also do that.

Let’s just mark it up to the joys of chefdom.

Thank You Ohio Lottery

In the kitchen where I work, we listen to Pandora on the radio for our musical pleasure.  It offers a wide variety of genres and we can normally find a common ground between all of those that work in the kitchen and their listening preferences.  But since we are too cheap to pay for premium Pandora, we must endure a few advertisements during the day.  One the ads caught my attention recently.  It was an ad for the Ohio Lottery.

The advertisement started by saying how everyone should start playing instant tickets and was suggesting how easy it was to win hundreds if not thousands of dollars if you do.  I’m okay with this so far.  I have played instant tickets before.

As a matter of fact, a former co-worker and I used to play multiple tickets every week while we worked together.  And for the record, we did normally break even while playing.  So as you can see, I am not opposed to playing the lottery.  I will even play when the mega millions and those type of lotteries get up into the millions of dollars.  And for the record, I am not breaking even on this front.

Anyway, the ad that caught my attention did go on to say that we could all win and now it is even easier to play instant tickets because you can now purchase game tickets, that could win you hundreds if not thousands of dollars, by using your credit or debit card.  The lottery made easy.  The advertisement then ends by saying please gamble responsibly.

I am going to let this sink in for a moment.

So be sure to gamble responsibly.  Use your credit card to buy lottery tickets.  That is the way to go.  Put yourself in more debt to gamble so you might win hundreds or maybe even thousands of dollars.

“Honey!  Let’s retire and play the lottery!  We can put it on the credit card and not have to pay for it for at least a month…or more if we want to pay interest on it, but it is responsible gambling!  We could win hundreds or even thousands!”

Am I the only one seeing the irony of this logic?

I’m not a big gambler.  Will I gamble?  Yes. Do I feel the need to visit the local casino?  Nope, not really.  Will I gamble if I have to use my credit card?  Probably not.  I get that carrying cash is not that popular anymore.  Everyone uses a credit card for just about everything.  It is a convenience thing, I get that.  Call me old school, or just old, but to encourage debt in order to play the lottery just might not be responsible gambling.

Anyone know any lucky numbers?




Slow Down and Meander

There are times that you just need to slow down. Just meander down the road.  I’ll stop short of saying “smell the roses” (okay, I guess I just did it anyway).  This can mean when you are at work. It could mean when you are in a relationship. It can mean just walking. Seriously. The Zombies have slowed walking way down. I have often meandered walking with a limp just like Hollywood portrays the walking dead.  I often wonder if they copied me with that walk after seeing me after a few 12 hour shifts in the kitchen!

This also applies to biking. Sometimes, slow is good. There are times when it is best to beat hell on a bike and just go as fast as you can. There are also times when you just need to say “Whoa, back off cowboy, take a look around!”

This past weekend was an example of that. I went on a ride with the usual suspects, (Tedd and Sandy) and we just meandered.  It had just rained about 2 inches in the surrounding area.

The amount of water that we encountered was amazing.  We did not encounter any road blockage, but the evidence of the amount of rain was everywhere.

I was also packing my good camera, so we would stop and take pictures where it seemed the scenery seemed to be good.  I took about 50 pictures.  Two were good, or at least in my eye.  I’m posting both here so you can tell me they both sucked.  I’m okay with that.

None the less, it was a good February jaunt across flooded plains of Delaware County.  And being slow is not bad.  Being aware of the surrounding beauty is a gift and sharing that with friends is priceless.

A Bittersweet Day

Valentine’s Day has never been a favorite holiday of mine. And a few years ago, it became a bittersweet holiday at best. I lost a family member to suicide. Yes, a very tragic event that shook the entire family.

But because of this tragedy, our family drew closer. I was able to re-establish ties with family members that I had lost years before.  I was able to form new bonds with my brothers and sister and also renew a kinship with a family that had been lost to me.  So while I lost a family member, I regained a family.

I have posted this song every year since we lost Ben.  It is a great way for me to remember him.