Sunday, July 21, 2013

Credit to Vic Albiero

A special post to Vic Albiero who died over the weekend. What many don't know is Vic was one of the driving forces behind the recent Ride 2 Remember bicycle tour in Alaska.

About a year before the tour, while it was still in the planning phase, I stopped by Vic's apartment at Cedar Ridge to consult him about how to start a 501c3 non-profit organization and strategies to rally corporate support for a tour I was thinking about.

Vic did the fatherly thing, he reached in his back pocket for his wallet. That was NOT what I was after.

We had a good conversation, Vic just kept telling me to trust my judgement and move forward. A couple days later I got a hand-written letter in the mail from Vic and it contained a $100 donation to start my ride.

Vic had trust, faith, confidence and a go-getter spirit!  I feel privileged he passed that along to me and gave me the push I needed to get moving on a ride that taught me to use my skills to help others through hard work, humor, and dedication.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Aaaaaaaaand....HELLO, WEST BEND!

This feels comfortable....

Many thanks to:

  • Sponsors
  • Supporters
  • Donators
  • Cedar Community, who gave me this wonderful opportunity
  • Special thanks to my hard-working editor, Ginny; I couldn't have done it without your help (Editor's  Note: Awwww, shucks! It weren't nuthin'...)

By the's 46 miles from Mitchell Airport to West Bend!

Milwaukee to West Bend.... Yes, I'm biking it.

Homeward bound.

Steve McQueen, an Alaskan legacy?

One of the best photos at the Alaskan State Trooper Museum in Anchorage; actor Steve McQueen arrested in 1972 for reckless driving.  Love how he has a busted nose and is giving the peace sign in his mug shot....

Friday, July 19, 2013

Alaskan Pipeline Art

Cut from a piece of Trans-Alaskan pipeline; artist, Chad Dietz

Final hours in Alaska spent at Harley Davidson dealership on Spenard Road in Anchorage.

The Lucky Wishbone

Final day in Alaska and having lunch at the oldest diner in Anchorage - the Lucky Wishbone.

Established in 1955 by George and Peg Brown, who packed up the kids and dog and moved from WISCONSIN to Anchorage.  The couple bought land at the edge of town (2 miles out of town at that time; his friends said he was crazy - nobody would drive that far) - 5th and Karluk St. and built the restaurant - t's been there ever since.  The restaurant has dine-in and a drive-thru, and is known for it's fresh chicken, lean hamburgers and long-term staff.

The initial restaurant was small; there was inside seating and a drive-thru.  

George said he hated the drive-thru.  "When I bought out my partner, I was going to close it up, but then I looked at the books...well, as you can see, I kept it."

George has heavy square glasses that are tinted yellow.  It's a look that hearkens to his days in the Army Air Corps.  There's a vintage photo of George in uniform on one side of an old grandfather clock (see below) behind the waitress station.  On the other side is a 1950's photo of his wife, Peg.

Peg (L) and George (R) Brown
Owners of the Lucky Wishbone Restaurant
Originally from Wisconsin

"When I met her, I was smitten, " said George. "She died five years ago and on her headstone it says 'Beloved mother and a hell of a partner.'" The pair had been married 67 years.

George Brown (age 91)
"Came here from the small town of Hager City, Wisconsin; it's across from Red Wing, Minnesota," said George.  A green and white Hager City sign hangs on the wall across from the table where George sat, talked, was interrupted, and talked some more.  "Put the wife, kids, and dog in the car and came up the Alaskan Highway because I needed to make some money," he said.

WWII pilot Bill Brooks (97) was eating at the restaurant.

The inside of the diner is filled with memorabilia from local pilots and the neighboring Merrill Field.  George flew P-40's in WWII.  "Transport planes in the China, Burma, India theater," yelled George above the growing din.  All the tables at the Wishbone are now full.  There's a pickup in the drive-thru and a party of four waiting at the door. "Here's my good friend," said George, jumping out of his seat to greet Bill Brooks (see picture above) - a pilot in WWII.  His buddy, George, pays tribute to him with a much younger photo which he pointed out on the back wall.  Brooks is dressed in pilot leather with a white scarf in the photo, looking very Errol Flynn.

Famous Chicken from Lucky Wishbone restaurant

Made it! Over 850 miles logged! Flying home tonight....

Made it to Anchorage!  Ride2Remember has been a total of over 850 miles on bike in the great state of Alaska!

These are some of the flowers I saw along the way.

 Busy day as I pack my gear and fly back home....    THANKS to all who followed along!  Hope you had as much fun as I did!

I leave tonight, land in Denver and hit Milwaukee on Saturday afternoon, then trying to pedal home.

I'll keep you posted.  C'mon back!

Final Leg...Anchorage Bound!

View from "the office" yesterday....

Wasilla to Anchorage - the final frontier

Road construction? Piece of cake!

Backtracking a bit.  On my way to Wasilla, even on the bike, I ran into construction.  Rode 7 miles in the pilot car with Amanda.  She was a hoot juggling 4 radios and 3 coffee cups.  "No, move that one - now wait, let me see.....yeah, get rid of that one, there's dirt in it," she said.  These construction jobs are lucrative.  "Made $90,000 one year, but you work yourself to death for five months."  Sometimes Amanda didn't even go home.  "NO, we don't want them hiring more people, because that would cut into our overtime!"  

She dropped me within 5 miles outside of Wasilla.

Amanda, my pilot-car construction escort.

Raspy voice and raw sense of humor.  She could chat it up with those construction guys - even make some of them cross their legs!  She talked a LOT about the high bear population in the area.  "There's a grizzly out here big as a Volkswagen."

When I left the vehicle, she told me not to be "bearanoid."  

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Anyone Want to Claim "Spike?"

Outside the Valley Hotel and Coffee Shop in Palmer.

FOUND:  6-foot tall Velociraptor.
Brown, green and scaly.
Not nice.  Bites hard.
Answers to the name of "Spike."

On a brighter note....

Dr. Bill Mitchell

Had lunch at the Valley Hotel and Coffee Shop with Dr. Bill Mitchell.  

He ordered a piece of strawberry-rhubarb pie....and waited.  Another waitress finally brought him a piece. Half-way through the original piece, the waitress said she was warming his pie, and she brought over a whole new piece!  Bill laughed, and took it in stride.

I listened to his stories about how he took up running at 52.  Shook Bill's hand when I left and he hung onto it and grabbed my tab.  

What great hospitality as I wind down my tour of Alaska!

Wasilla Radio Station - Country Legends 100.9 "Well, Hello Dolly!"

Yep, that's me!

Stopped at Country Legends 100.9 in Wasilla on my way to Palmer.

Palmer Historical Society....A Taste of Wisconsin, and Rice Lake!

Palmer Historical Society 

House built in 1936, restored to its original appearance.
(Palmer originated as part of President Roosevelt's New Deal Resettlement Project that relocated 204 families to establish a farming community in the Matanuska Valley.)
Tin reads "Rice Lake Swiss Cheese Factory, Rice Lake, WI"

Vintage wind-up tin motorcycle toy and wooden TinkerToys!

Teddy bear and teapot in children's room

Sewing book in woman's bedroom

Woman's Art Deco mint green vanity set

Metal sign on wall in hallway.

Heading into the Home Stretch

Willow to Wasilla.....

Made it 32 miles from Willow to Wasilla on Wednesday 
and finally found the "Welcome" sign.

Heading to Palmer today, and then Anchorage.  Fly out Friday!

Wasilla Farmer's Market

Stopped at a mid-week farmer's market in Wasilla and bought a couple of cookies from Marissa (12), who was raising money to go to softball camp. "I know they don't look that good, but it's for a good cause," she said.

Other vendors were selling Alaskan fireweed honey, homemade crafts, jams and jellies.  Followed the market for 2 blocks, which ended at the Wasilla Historic Museum.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

And they call it...PUPPY LOVE

Uh oh.  Free puppy holding at the Iditarod Headquarters.....

Can You Say "Scooby Snack?"

I would totally sleep in here.

(Just outside Wasilla, AK)

On the road to Wasilla and..What's That I Hear?

Sunny and mid-70s as I make my way to Wasilla and the famed Iditarod Museum.

Yup - Houston, Alaska.

Betcha didn't know that.

Had to climb up a hill through tall grass to get to the sign.  
Thought nothing of the rough path, but now with branches breaking in the nearby woods, I'm rethinking the warning sign for moose and I'm outta h.................................................

Letters on the Road...

Received this email today and was greatly encouraged!

"Hi Judy...Attached is a photo of my grandma, Stella Ligino Malcolm, 12 years ago with my son Joe.  She was 92 and still taking care of her home and garden on her own.  She's now 104 (or will be in August), has severe dementia and lives in a nursing home in Illinois.  She's still sassy, but I miss the mischievous sparkle in her eyes.  At age 3, she came over on a ship with her mother and big sister from Yugoslavia to meet up with her father.  (In a rush, the trunk holding their valuable possessions got left behind on a train between New York and Chicago - can you imagine?!)  Eventually there were 7 more siblings and 8 cousins living next door.  I grew up knowing them and credit that experience with my love of geriatric nursing.  Although I'm now a "full-time mom", I miss the patients and might like to return to that field one day.  Who knows...maybe at Cedar Community!  Thanks for fund-raising for a noble cause.  I love reading about your biking adventures...and your column in general (=.  Enjoy Alaska!"


Hats off to Cedar Community in West Bend, WI!

Yesterday I received a great donation in honor of all the wonderful caregivers at Cedar Community in West Bend, WI.   I can attest to the fact that they are, indeed. GREAT!  Thanks for all you do....and today, I'm riding in tribute to ALL of you!

ALL proceeds from this benefit - Ride2Remember - go to Cedar Community's programs that assist Alzheimer's residents, allowing them to attain the highest quality of life.  Read more HERE!

It's not too late to donate....just click HERE for more information.  Every dollar is a great encouragement to me as I ride in honor of those who suffer from Alzheimer's, as well as their families and caregivers.

Fun with Bob and Jayne (and a little inspiration, too!)

I was resting comfortably at 6 p.m. at a church Sunday in Cantwell, AK when a man came in and offered to take me home. It was Bob Hempstead. "You'll be more comfortable at my house and my wife Jayne is making dinner; you're welcome to join us."

Bob Hempstead

Bob, 56, was an elder at the church; the pastor explained to me that Bob and his wife often adopted travelers.

I had heard about Bob while in Fairbanks. Someone at Fred Meyer grocery mentioned I should look him up because he participated in the Iditarod sled-dog race.

"That was in 2000 and I came in 56th," said Bob, acknowledging he finished toward the back of the pack. "Lack of sleep is probably the toughest part of the 1,049-mile race. You're trying to sleep and people are stepping over you and talking."

Bob, it turns out, had quite the Alaskan resume. He summitted Mount McKinley. "I made it to the top on my third try," he said. The first expedition he was called back because of a family emergency. "The second time we ran out of food ,and this last time I made it. Actually, I've completed seven summits," he said, having returned a couple weeks ago from summiting Mt. Everest in Nepal.

Bob was fit; a high-energy wood chopper kinda guy disguised behind a very mild-mannered demeanor. Unique to his summits - he did rope tricks when he got to the top.

Originally from Nebraska, Bob relocated while in the Army and stayed in Alaska. For the past 23 years he's worked on the slope in Prudhoe Bay for BP as an instrument technician.

"So you race sled dogs, climb mountains, work for BP and run the vet clinic," I asked referencing the sign, Cantwell VeterinaryService, at the entrance to the driveway.

"No, Jayne is the doctor - that's her clinic," said Bob.

Jayne was originally from West Virginia. She graduated from the University of Georgia, lived in Soldotna, Alaska but fell in love with Cantwell and built a home.

"I'm going to apologize for the size of our bathroom - when we were designing the home I didn't realize it would be this big but I love it," she said.

Jayne had short reddish hair and a homesteaders efficiency that was on display as she made dinner, got me settled, and contacted a friend so I'd have a place to stop for water and a rest the next day.

My comfortable upstairs bedroom was filled with books on Alaska and posters commemorating past Iditarod races.

"Bob never wanted sled dogs," said Jayne, standing in a perched yoga position with the sole of her right foot resting against her left knee . "He said it would be like having dairy cattle with the commitment and amount of work.".

However, looking outside my bedroom window the lot in back was full of 13 dogs; huskies all chained to their individual raised sleeping quarters.

 Home Sweet Home (nap time!)

Luke was Jayne's special dog. A hearty white-and-black husky that liked to nuzzle. (more below)

(Me, Luke and Jayne)

"If you're up before me just hit the coffee button, and then, if you want, you can ride along while I run the dogs," said Bob.

Early the next morning, dressed in insulated overalls, a winter jacket, knee-high rubber boots and a red knit hat, I watched Jayne and Bob perform a well-rehearsed dance getting nine dogs ready for their daily exercise.

The two managed a cat's cradle of ropes and harnesses, hitches and clasps. The dogs eagerly cooperated, answered to their names and showing their personalities... nudging, jumping and squirming to be picked as the lead.

Howl = Let's get going!

Jayne's dog, Luke, stayed behind.

We climbed aboard an ATV, the dogs were already tugging and lunging at the line. Jayne fired up the engine and we were off down a rocky trail through the woods. The dogs were in their element.

Loving it!

They pulled and ran and loved it; following a familiar 5-mile trail that led us over hills and through streams. Jayne killed the engine as the dogs laid down and lapped at the water.

"If we don't stop, they'll overheat," she said adding, "This was the area where Sean Penn shot that movie "Into the Wild."

Jayne said they had a replica of the Magic Bus just up the road. "Only a couple businesses really made out financially - many Alaskans didn't actually like how the main character was framed because he just didn't know enough to live through a winter in Alaska."

We chatted a bit more about the movie and then I asked about Luke.

Jayne said she got a call one night from the State Troopers to come euthanize a dog that had been tied to the back bumper of a pickup with a yellow tow rope.

"The guy was drunk and I'm sure he just forgot he was back there," she said.

"The guy never made it home; wrecked his pickup. The troopers said the dog had been dragged 17 miles."

Jayne went to look at the animal but was adamant with the troopers. "I didn't even want to see the owner," she said, with a tone that still carried back to that horrible day.

"That poor dog. I drafted papers to put him down and had to wait a day before anyone got back to me. I couldn't believe that dog was still alive the next day and I just thought - he's tough, and he's fighting to live so I'm going to help him."

Jayne's coworkers thought she was nuts. "He needed tons of medical attention. He was recovering for three months and in that time withered to just 35 pounds."

Today, Luke is like a gentle giant. He has icy-blue eyes and can't get close enough for Jayne's affectionate pats and soothing words.

Upon our return, Bob helps untether the team and gives them food and water. Jayne quickly whips up breakfast which is when I learn she has her pilots license, has run a marathon, a triathlon, and run the Alaskan Seward Mountain Marathon eight times.

"That one makes you feel like a kid,"' said Jayne about the 4,600-foot climb overlooking Resurrection Bay. The "up" takes more than an hour; the descent is completed in 10 minutes.

Jayne also summitted mountains and she's a familiar face each March caring for the dogs at the Iditarod.

We were just finishing breakfast at 7:34 a.m. when the dogs started howling. I sat up and took notice, but for Bob and Jayne it was a regular song, like the opening hymn at morning Mass.
Dogs waiting excitedly for an exercise run.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Shooting for Wasilla

 View this morning as I hit the road in Trapper Creek...

Midway point...17 miles in.  Should easily make it to Wasilla today.

Gerard - another kind of hero

This is Gerard, a veteran and an athlete competing in a handcycling bike race in Fairbanks.

Met him during a rest stop this morning outside of Talkeetna.  He served from 1995-1999 and was injured when he was run over by a boat. Gerard was very quiet-spoken, had beefy arms and was missing his right leg.  Our meeting was brief, but it was an honor.

Veteran's Memorial

Very surprised to find this awesome tribute in the middle of my 98-mile scenic stretch.  All five branches represented - Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard.  Nice rest stop.

Sunny day with temps in the mid 70's. Great biking day!