2012 Ride

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Day 33: Livermore, CA to Pebble Beach, CA

The final day of the ride was uneventful, but beautiful. There were two very big climbs to get over to San Jose from Livermore, then one more climb to get to Monterey. The ride was so pretty that it was hard to think about how tired my legs have been. Along the way today we saw deer, wild turkeys, and other wildlife. I could not have asked for better weather or more beautiful nature.

We rolled into Monterey at around 2:30 p.m., and I had an hour or so to spend at the beach reflecting on the ride before the last 10-mile leg into Pebble. I thought about all of the NPC families and kids who face tremendous challenges every day and persevere through them. I thought a lot about Cindy and Mike Parseghian, and their amazing efforts to fund scientific research to find the cure. They have been such wonderful partners to us all at Notre Dame. I thought about Michael, Marcia and Christa, the Parseghian children. I thought a lot about all of the families and kids I met last year during the ride with Renate, my wife, and all those I have met at the conferences the past few years. I thought about seeing those precious twins, Addi and Cassi, waiting for me on their bikes a few days ago at the State House in Carson City. It has been a real honor to ride for all of these children and families, and I am so happy they have embraced the ride and our scientific efforts at Notre Dame. We are on this journey together, and we will keep supporting each other until we have crossed that finish line. Thank you so much for the inspiration you have been to me on this journey across the country.

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Day 32: Sacramento, CA to Livermore, CA

Today was a tough 92-mile day with heavy headwinds. Yesterday, the temperature reached 100 degrees by the end of the ride, but today, the temperature made it to 60 degrees. Yesterday, dirt roads, which are tough on a road bike, were part of the route. Today, we passed our hotel and rode 17 extra miles because of a GPS glitch. Advice to those preparing routes for bike trips: do not use roads that pass through Windy Cove State Park or through miles and miles of wind farms. There is a reason the word “wind” is in those names.

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Day 31: Lake Tahoe, CA to Elk Grove, CA

The air was chilly this morning when we left Lake Tahoe, but the scenery was just spectacular. It was sunny and beautiful as we crossed up and over Echo Summit, which is over 7,000 feet from sea level. The views were absolutely breath taking. Today, I rode about 110 miles ride to Elk Grove, California, right outside of Sacramento. Scott, a Notre Dame Law alumnus, rode with me for the first 60 miles of today’s journey. We had a lot of fun and made a big cheer right before we crossed the summit.

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Day 30: Fallon, NV to Lake Tahoe, CA

Today was a very, very special day for me. During first part of the day, I biked 65 miles from Fallon to Carson City, NV, where I had to the opportunity to have a very inspirational meeting. I met two special little girls, Cassidy and Addison Hempel. Cassi and Addi are eight year old twins with Niemann-Pick Type C disease. Their parents Chris and Hugh, as well as their grandparents, brought the girls to meet me.

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Day 29: Ely, NV to Fallon, NV

We expected to face strong headwind today, and today was the worst yet with gusts of more than 35 mph. About 20 miles before we reached Fallon, we saw Sand Mountain, which is another remarkable geographic feature like the Bonneville Salt Flats. Sand Mountain is also related to a prehistoric lake, but it’s a singing sand dune, meaning it makes a music-like sound when the wind blows over it. The dune is two miles long and 600 feet high – quite an impressive sight. Andre, an alumnus, organized a get-together tonight that included several alumni and a current science student after we arrived in Fallon. We had a great time.


Day 28: West Wendover, NV to Ely, NV

Today’s ride was long – about 120 miles – which would have been challenge enough, but on top of it we had headwinds that averaged 20 mph with gusts exceeding 30 mph. That’s hard for biking.

On the positive side, we got to set our watches back an hour. We’re now in the Pacific Time Zone, which makes it feel like we’re all that much closer to Pebble Beach. When we were riding in to Ely, which is mostly a casino town, we could see a large forest fire in the mountains to our left.

Tomorrow’s forecast looks like more of the same, hot and windy. Today was pretty uneventful, but that’s OK – yesterday was such a packed set of experiences that it felt like several days’ worth.


Day 27: Park City, UT to West Wendover, NV

Today was a day full of new sights and I felt like a tourist rather than a bicyclist passing through. First we stopped at the Park City Olympic Center, really a neat place where they awarded many of the medals during the 2002 Winter Olympics. We left Park City early on a beautiful hill climb outside of town, and we must have passed several hundred other bicyclists. It is a bicycle heaven out here in Utah.

We descended into Salt Lake City – I mean a really steep descent – and the first stop was “This is the Place” Heritage Park. The park marks the location during the 1847 migration of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints where their leader, Brigham Young, announced that they had arrived at the spot that fulfilled his vision to “make the desert blossom like a rose.” He was riding in the back of a wagon because he was ill with Rocky Mountain spotted fever, but when the Mormon pioneers reached the crest of a small hill, he looked down into the valley and gave the word: “It is enough. This is the right place. Drive on.” Heritage Park is absolutely stunning for its beauty and its history.

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Day 26: Altamont, UT to Park City, UT

Today was an absolutely spectacular ride through the mountains from Altamont to Park City. We stayed on a ranch last night, and it was wonderful. The house was rustic, and Ann cooked us a great meal. The sunrise this morning was unbelievable. We reached about 9,500 feet on our climb through the Wasatch National Forest.

As we descended into Park City, we saw beautiful mountains and lakes everywhere we looked. Wendy from the local television station met up with us to do a story, and while she was filming on the street, a Notre Dame graduate who lives and works in Park City walked up to meet us.

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Day 25: Rangeley, CO to Altamont, UT

This day started out great – warm and no wind – and just kept getting better. The desert scenery was absolutely gorgeous, both in Colorado and in Utah. We saw more Pronghorns, and lots of bunnies ran across the road. This is dinosaur country, too – there’s even a Town of Dinosaur just on the Colorado side of the state line, with big dinosaurs in town. When we got to Vernal, Utah, still in dinosaur country, we had a nice 10-mile downhill. We arrived at the Ranch where we’re staying tonight, and it’s really cool – desert, lakes, totem poles, anything you can think of from the Wild West is here. Overall, this was a wonderful, nearly perfect day!


Day 24: Craig, CO to Rangeley, CO

Today was a wonderful ride, marked by contrast. We started in Craig, where there is still a lot of green, and ended in Rangeley, which is a beautiful desert. I just love the desert landscape. We saw some pronghorns that live out here. We could see them off in the distance moving around, but they never got too close to us.

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Day 23: Granby, CO to Craig, CO

We left Granby at 6:00 this morning and the temperature was 36 degrees. I was wearing so many different layers that it was hard to ride. I am not fond of cold weather and 36 degrees on a bike feels really cold. Despite the low temperature and the high altitude, this was the task for today.

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Day 22: Denver, CO to Granby, CO

Well, I knew today was going to be a tough, tough day. During the first part of the day, Laura, a Notre Dame alumna and member of the Denver Club, rode with us for a few hours. It was a lot of fun talking about Notre Dame and, of course, football. Thank you for riding with us, Laura! After you turned around we hit a rough patch of road with loose stones for about six miles.

Today was all about climbing. First we climbed to about 9,000 feet and then descended into Estes Park, which is a beautiful town. On the way back up to the summit of 12,100, we saw snowplows still sitting out, lots of snow lying around, and some very challenging hills.

As I was riding up the mountain and telling myself what a terrific challenge this was, I could not help thinking about the much more difficult challenges NPC children and their families face – day after day, hour after hour, minute after minute. I am so honored to be able to ride for them and to raise money and awareness. These families and children inspire me. I am so honored to know so many of the families and children and to work with the Parseghians on this cause.


Day 21: Rest day in Denver

Today was our only day off from the ride so we could rest and prepare for what is in store for tomorrow. We will go up and over 12,000 feet.

We had a great alumni club event in Denver tonight at Little Man Ice Cream in the Highlands neighborhood. Everyone was treated to an ice cream and we had some raffles and auctions for autographed Ara footballs and Muffet basketballs, and even a Coach Parseghian Bobblehead. Special thanks to Bob, Kevin, and Marcia from the club. It was a wonderful night. We had lots of little Domers in attendance, and several science students and science graduates showed up. Thank you, Denver, for your hospitality.


Day 20: Yuma, CO to Denver, CO

The rising sun this morning was spectacular. The rays hit the van in a way that lit up the more than 300 gold signatures we’ve collected so far. That sun got hot as the day went on with the temperature reaching nearly 100 degrees in the strong wind. The landscape is vast – miles and miles to the horizon. Four antelope joined us for a few miles of the ride, running in the adjacent field parallel to the road. It was really cool to watch them slow down for a while, then accelerate to catch up with us. They are so fast! A train came by near the road, and the engineer played his version of the Notre Dame fight song for us with whistle toots – not exactly how it goes, but a really nice gesture. Little things like that really make a big difference to me out here.

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Day 19: McCook, NE to Yuma, CO

Today was a more challenging ride – the crosswind was back, and it was blowing at 18 mph with gusts of 28 mph. It looks like we’ll have more of that tomorrow and it will be hotter, but the winds should ease off a bit. That will be nice.

I left very early this morning and the sunrise was spectacular. The sunrise is always one of my favorite parts of the day. The prairies and wheat fields were marvelous and looked beautiful blowing in the wind. As we crossed into Colorado, we probably could see 50 to100 miles in all directions. The train off in the distance, probably a mile long, looked like a toy in the landscape under that big blue sky. We’ll see the Rockies tomorrow as we head toward Denver.

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Day 18: Holdrege, NE to McCook, NE

Today was a perfect day to ride! It was the easiest day by far, complete with a tailwind instead of those headwinds and crosswinds I’ve been battling for some time. It’s really too bad my tri-bike frame broke yesterday (I am still waiting for a solution with the bike store in town); it would have been a perfect day to ride that frame. We did some retrofitting on the road with the other frame. Those Zipp tires from SRAM that Jeff donated are something else! I can really zoom along.

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Day 17: York, NE to Holdrege, NE

Today was another beautiful day – nearly 120 miles on the road, and except for a crosswind, the weather was exceptional. I have been impressed by the large grain fields in Nebraska; they are gigantic. The land is planted as far as the eye can see. A lot of farm equipment passed us on the road today, and a lot of the drivers, as well as a motorcyclist, encouraged us with shouts of, “Go, Irish!”

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Day 16: Omaha (Bellevue), NE to York, NE

Today was just about perfect – sunny, light wind sort of at our backs, and not a cloud in the sky. We had many rolling hills heading west out of Omaha, but then it turned pretty flat. In fact, it is not really flat, although it looks flat, but there seems to be a constant 1% rise in altitude – they say that this will be the case all the way to Denver.

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Day 15: Des Moines, IA to Omaha, NE

Today we enjoyed the last day of the beauty of Iowa; the countryside was just spectacular. It was hot and windy again, and for most of the ride the crosswind was challenging. We crossed the Missouri River late in the day and rolled into Nebraska. Overall, it was a nice day on the road.

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Day 14: Iowa City, IA to Des Moines, IA

Iowa looks flat when you drive through the state in a car, as I have several times, but when you’re on a bike you realize there are a lot of rolling hills.

Rolling hills of Iowa

Today was a pedaling workout, but the weather was gorgeous and a little breezy, nothing like the tough conditions we faced yesterday.

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Day 13: Davenport, IA to Iowa City, IA

The wind was already pretty strong when we left Davenport this morning on some very smooth and beautiful bike trails. About 10 miles out, we committed ourselves to a route where the map indicated a few rocky and dirt roads. We figured the rocks and dirt would be minimal. They weren’t. We found ourselves stuck out in the middle of nowhere on roads that were not made for road bikes. And the crosswind had gotten stronger. And it started to rain. The combination of road and weather made for a difficult biking day.

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Day 12: Mendota, IL to Davenport, IA

Exciting news for the College of Science!

From out here on the Road to Discovery, I am delighted to announce a very special gift that will have a significant, long-lasting impact on the College of Science, the University of Notre Dame, and the lives of countless people suffering from disease.

We are overwhelmed with gratitude at the generous gift from Mike and Liz Gallagher: three endowed professorships to support adult stem cell research at the University of Notre Dame. These three professorships in the College of Science will be called the Elizabeth and Michael Gallagher Family Professorship in Adult Stem Cell Research.

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Day 11: Chicago, IL, to Mendota, IL

Part of an old Irish blessing, “May the wind always be at your back,” is written on the side of our van, and today it certainly came true. It was cold – never much above 50 degrees – and we ran into cold rain for the last 10 miles, but the strong tailwind helped us make great time.

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Day 10: South Bend to Chicago

After a great night’s sleep in my own bed, we left from Granger at 6 a.m. Renate made a fantastic breakfast for us before we took off. We were surprised to see Captain Carter from the University of Notre Dame Naval ROTC stop by the house with his two kids bright and early. The kids had made signs, which I brought with me in the van. I also had the chance to ride my bamboo bike from Zambikes this morning.

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Day 9: Holiday City, OH, to Notre Dame!

Today was a terrific day for riding and reaching home for a visit. Peter, a math professor from Notre Dame, and Tom, a friend from Knollwood Country Club, joined us on the sunny, breezy ride from northwestern Ohio.

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Day 8: Elyria, OH, to Holiday City, OH

This Memorial Day was a day to focus for me – to focus on the biking against probably the strongest crosswind and headwind I’ve ever faced, and to focus on remembering the brave men and women who have gone before us. We had a beautiful start in the early morning with a gorgeous Ohio sunrise, and the sun just kept getting hotter all day. The strong wind was whipping the abundant Memorial Day flags in a way that really got your attention along the whole route, more than 150 miles. The bike ride stopped in Holiday City, a little village in far northwestern Ohio. I drove into Toledo for an interview with ABC News about Niemann-Pick, and why we’re doing this ride.

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Day 7: Meadville, PA, to Elyria, OH

Today we crossed from Pennsylvania into Ohio, the northeast part of the state where I grew up and went to college. We picked up a Notre Dame rider today in Ohio – Tom, a chemistry alumnus, and his 14-year-old son Jamie. They rode with us for 17 miles. Along the way we saw this gigantic Trojan Horse, about 40 feet tall and made of wood, that would have made a USC fan envious.

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Day 3: Salisbury, CT to Walton, NY

Today we had a little bit of everything – rain, including heavy cold rain in the Catskill Mountains, and then beautiful sunshine for the last third of the day. The brightest part was finding out that there really are Irish fans everywhere. Read more »


Day 2: Sturbridge, MA to Salisbury, CT

Last year, when the Notre Dame women’s Irish basketball team played Texas A&M, I saw the Aggie coach doing something I really liked. Right before the game started, Coach Gary Blair walked over to the media bench, picked up a magic marker, and wrote a plus sign on his hand. Someone asked why, and he answered that the symbol reminds him always to be positive. I thought this was a great idea, so I had some yellow bracelets made for myself with lots of ++++++++++ (plus signs) and the words “Be Positive” engraved on them.

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First Day: Boston to Sturbridge, MA

Today was a nice ride – temperatures in the mid-60s and, believe it or not, a tailwind most of the way. We had a little misty rain, but overall the day was very pleasant. This was the shortest leg of the whole ride – only 75 miles. Passing through Boston was a somewhat surreal experience – it was Boston College’s graduation day, and we were zipping through all that traffic with our Notre Dame van and our jerseys on full display. I was a bit nervous, and we did catch some beeps and bleeps, but we made it through Eagle country without incident and rode to Sturbridge, MA, which is right on the Connecticut state line.

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