GUEST BLOG—PETE FAWCETT

I met Steph and his team Thursday evening (June 28) in Alachua and participated in three days of
riding before seeing Mark cross the finish line of his epic journey on Sunday, July 1. The first morning
of my trip (Friday), I remember watching Mark walk 20 yards across the hotel parking lot towards his
recumbent bike. I remember thinking to myself “how can a person who can barely walk across the
parking lot possibly ride a bike across the country?” Over the next three days, I found my answer: sheer
determination. That Friday morning, I also witnessed a meeting between Mark and a young boy named
Luke, who has never been able to walk because of a spinal cord disease. Steph has been an inspiration
to so many people, but seeing him raise that boy’s spirits was certainly a highlight of my trip. Later that
day, we came to an impasse where the road we were traveling was completely flooded by tropical storm
Debby. The only way to stay the course was by boat and we didn’t have one, so Mark’s team quickly
found an alternate route. That alternate route would, of course, take Steph out of his way, forcing
him to pedal additional miles that he didn’t count on traveling. This obstacle was one of many that
he found along the way, but he faced it with complete resolve and without voicing a single complaint.
Traveling with Mark was like being part of a rock star’s entourage. Everyone was there because of
their connection to Mark. The trip was a great way for me to reconnect with some old friends and to
make new ones (friends I hope to see again somewhere down the road). The trip also reminded me
that biking is a terrific way to see America. A number of memories come to mind, but one in particular
I found especially amusing. We were riding through St. Augustine in the scorching heat (high 90s) with
two police escorts on motorcycles. An old man was standing on the sidewalk watching the caravan
go by and, despite the heat, he was wearing a long-sleeved sweatshirt that had the words “Romney
and Palin: 2012” written on the front. When he saw Margaret ride by, he shouted out in his southern
drawl, “I see we have some Palin power here!” What a slice of America. Thanks again, Steph, for the
inspiration and the memories. And thanks again to your family and crew for helping make this event
possible. See you down the road.

Joel Press-Guest Blogger

Louisiana to Mississippi to Alabama to (almost) Florida

As I sit here at the airport in Pensacola after spending the last five days riding
with Steph (and a host of other wonderful people) I am trying to figure out how to
describe the journey. Maybe a better way is just to use words to describe Steph.

Strength. Willpower. Determination. Dedication. Steadfast. Extraordinary.
Bravery. Fearlessness. Tenacity. Grit. Mettle. Resolve. Fortitude. Genuine. Gracious.
Perseverance. Lots of Determination. Energetic. Relentless. Single-Mindedness. Did

Courage.

I mention Courage? Focused. Driven. Committed. Persistence. Resilient. Tireless.

Driven. Incredible Determination. Tremendous Courage. Devoted. Hard working.
Sharing. Engaging. Warm. Friendly. Stephstrong. ( I think that is a word now.)
Funny. My hero.

Somehow, words just don’t say enough.

JP
June 20, 2012

GUEST BLOGGER-HODGEMAN/ JIM COLLEY

Churches, “Our President” and the Wonder of a Two Lane Road

Steph’s ride has been emotional for me as I am sure that it has been for those reading this.
When Steph went down in 2007, I was terrified I might lose a friend forever and I was certain
that I had lost my riding partner with whom I had logged so many of the most pleasurable hours
of my life. I do not consider myself much of a blogger, but, I have enjoyed reading the posts
of others throughout the entirety of the Stephan Challenge. Thanks to all of those that have
brought the Challenge to life. Here is my small, though lengthy, contribution.

On Wednesday past, I completed my second leg of the Challenge. I fortuitously have ridden
in five states and was a bridge out and a ferry schedule away from a sixth. I provide some
observations and anecdotes.

I OBSERVED, first hand, that no operation as fluid as the Challenge succeeds without a strong
and steady helmsman like Lincoln and a cheerful and diligent crew like Maria, Antonio, Aggie,
and Shane. I LEARNED to appreciate the simple pleasure of a perfect spot for a picnic lunch
and a family fishing pond. I was REMINDED of the simple pleasure of a sugar cookie and plain
potato chips.

I OBSERVED that Pecan groves are flooded by elaborate irrigation systems and then allowed to
slowly dry out in the hot Texas sun. I learned that Cinco de Mayo is a major holiday in El Paso
and that waving to a camera while cleated to a pedal can be a recipe for a spill.

I LEARNED that Poplarville is the Blueberry Capital of Mississippi, and for that matter, that
blueberries grow in Mississippi. I LEARNED that Bayou du Batre is the FRESH seafood capital
of Alabama. MY mind wandered for several miles wondering if there was a FROZEN seafood
capital of Alabama. I LEARNED that some people still refer to Jefferson Davis as “our president”
and that some of those people refer to armadillos as possums on a half shell.

I OCCUPIED myself trying to come up with the perfect country singer stage name. Each of the
side roads along the Challenge route are named for the person that lives on it. Compare those
names to the combination of your middle name and the street you grew up on and voila…Hodge
Fairfax!

I MET a real swamp person and marveled at the fact that he makes a living working crawfish
pots and catching bullfrogs. Further, I was fascinated by the fact that he goes “fishin” on his
day off! I MET a man that claimed to be a reality show star. When queried as to which one, he
responded “Swamp People and Swamp Bride”. He had a penchant for tall tales and long jokes.

I OBSERVED that prickly pear cactus can grow twenty feet from a Mississippi bayou and that
people in the deep south have an affinity for attack Dachshunds, miniature horses and longhorn
cattle. I even learned how those that are interested can determine the commercial value of a
prize bull! I ENJOYED seeing the stands of Longleaf Pine and a quick respite from the sun

under a massive Live Oak.

I WITNESSED countless small churches along four days-worth of two lane roads. I IMAGINED
the parishoners for whom the modest but impeccably maintained churches serve as the
backdrop for their entire social life. It was a calming backdrop to the sound of endless pickups
gunning their engines to pass the Challenge riders.

I was REMINDED of how peaceful a ride on a two lane road with friends can be and how quickly
life can change as I WITNESSED one of the young Challenge riders hit a pot hole, careen into
a passing pick-up truck, taco the front wheel, and land hard on the macadam. I SMILED as she
shook herself off and pressed on.

I was REMINDED of Steph’s incredible capacity for good conversation, humor, friendship and
fidelity; what some of us refer to as Beta spirit. It is the spirit to take a quick break to adjust a
brace and stretch a weary leg, and then without a word, ride on down the road. It is the spirit
to refer to a headwind as a cooling breeze. It is the spirit to spend a quarter mile on an uphill
grade pushing the gear shifter to eke out the last and biggest cog on the chain wheel when
there is a friend three feet behind that could easily assist. It is the spirit to encounter a bridge
out and cheerfully turn around in search of a detour. It is the spirit to stare down a ten mile
causeway leading to a steep bridge and slowly but surely crest the top and the natural smile that
comes with every challenging climb; a breathtaking glide to the bottom.

I WITNESSED the singular focus of a man on a mission. Each day for Steph comes with a
goal; be it another state, a certain number of miles “under our belts”, or a certain geographical
landmark. He is conscious of the schedules of the many Challenge riders despite his broken
brace, pressure sores, dehydration, sunburn, not to mention a body that constantly battles with
a stronger mind to press on. I WITNESSED the focus of a man determined not just to complete
his journey but to do it on schedule.

Finally, I was REMINDED of the reason that the Challenge exists. For Steph, I believe, it is
much more than completing a cross country ride, a dream that I know he has had for a very
long time. Beyond that, my few days on the ride REMINDED me that Steph is riding to pay
tribute to the RIC, an institution without which our friend Steph could bluntly be just a memory.
Witnessing Steph ride up the road, I can CONFIRM that miracles happen when world class
facilities, dedicated professionals, and a man that refuses to say “can’t” come together. In
honor of our friend, support the RIC!

Finally, to parrot Lincoln Baker, “It’s all good!” and Steph, “Be well.”

Best…Hodge

Words of Experience on the Ride…..Scott Wallace

Note to all about riding with Steph:

If you are planning to ride, or even thinking about riding with Steph, take a hint from the Nike slogan: JUST DO IT! After spending two fantastic days this weekend with Steph I can confidently report that it is an experience not to be missed. Great friends, awesome scenery, oddball roadside encounters (like Paul and the guy with the baseball bat), and the chance to witness an epic journey…..what’s not to like?

But there are some things you should know about planning your trip.

First of all, the trip schedule on the website is only APPROXIMATE. While the ride as of now is more or less on schedule, be prepared for some ambiguity on locations, times, and places to stay. Steph usually rides about 8 hrs a day. So if his time on the bike is fixed, that means that distance traveled is a variable. Expect that the ride will only have some degree of certainty on location about 48 hrs out. So the best thing to do is pick a date you can travel, book flights relatively close to your travel date, keep an eye on the blog, and prepare to travel either east or west from where you land to be able to meet the ride. For a hotel, book only at the last minute, and for many of these small towns, you usually can just show up at the motel 6 sans reservation.

Second, from your landing city, if at all possible, call the guys from The Parking Spot (details on the website) for transportation to meet the ride, and for a ride back to the airport. They have been amazingly helpful.

Third, keep in mind this ride is a big production and Steph’s team -Lincoln, Maria and Alex- are really busy pretty much all the time. They are there for him, so try to be as self sufficient as possible and pitch in to help as much as possible.

Fourth, you don’t really need much gear. Cycling clothes (leave the cold weather gear behind), helmet, bike shoes and pedals are optional, casual clothes for dinner and that’ s it. There are bikes in the trailer to ride, so no need to worry about bringing your own.

Finally, the riding day is early to bed, early to rise. Prepare to eat breakfast at 6:30 ish, and roll around 7 or 7:30. Ride until 4:30 or 5 ish, followed by beer, shower, quick dinner, and lights out early.

Call me if you have questions.

What a great day–John Mclinden

What a great day.  We gathered at 8 am in the parking lot the “Little Church of Hope” in Hope, AZ, population 37.  Home to one RV park, a shuttered gas station and restaurant and a 9 hole golf course all owned and operated by Doug, the local entrepreneur of 80 plus years.  We packed in 45 miles from Hope to AZ mile marker 95, about 15 miles east of Wittenburg.  The temperature peaked out at 94 degrees today which was a welcome change from the past several days.  The real challenge of the day was the 10 to 15 MPH headwind.   The elevation increased throughout the day as we climbed through a magnificent valley flanked by two mountain ranges to the north and south.  Mark was joined today by his old friend Jake Hurwitz, Rob Donley and John McLinden.  Lincoln, Alex and Marie helped us throughout the day.  We told stories, philosophized and laughed.  Mark has now ridden for 9 straight days so tomorrow is a rest day.  For any of you who are following the Stephan Challenge but have not committed to participating my advice is simple—just do it.  Do it for Mark or do it for yourself, but just do it.

Steph 1, Heat and Sun 1 (victory for Steph), by Jake Hurwitz

What a day on the road it was today. We began east of Blythe, where yesterday’s ride ended. After a few gentle miles Steph easily climbed a 7-9 mile stretch of I-10 up a steady grade and into the early morning blazing desert sun. Everything about those miles typified the day. Heat, good road surface, long gentle climbs and a remarkably hot sun. Was it actually 119 as Steph’s Garmin indicated, or merely 100-105? Does it matter? It barely mattered to the Man, who crushed the headwinds, the blazing sun and the steady climbs. I wish you all could have seen the look of determination, concentration and intent on Steph’s face. In fact, I really hope you all make the chance for yourselves to do just that. Steph needs your support. Not just well-wishes from afar. On the road. Alongside him. Protecting him from the wind, telling him stories, whatever. Please make the time. You won’t believe how good it feels.

We covered 40 miles today. Steph hit his goal, exhausted but with a huge smile on his face. We ended our ride in the town of Hope, Arizona. How poetic.

Day 3_On the ROAD!

 

On the ROAD!! I finally have time to share a little bit about the first few days. We are loving life on the road! We had a huge and amazing turnout for the send off on
Sunday from Dog Beach.

We are now clawing our way through the challenging but satisfying coastal mountains that lie between the Pacific and the desert. A solid challenge for Mark right off the bat. We had a fantastic day of rolling hills yesterday and capped off the day with some appropriate Corona beers as we lie only a mile or two from the Mexican border. Mark has a smile ear to ear and you can see that he is happy as heck to be on the road and heading east.

We have had a massive amount of help thus far with Margaret Ann, Maria, Jimmy Black, Big Pauly P from NJ, Courtney, my mom, Alex aka “the Solution”, Jason C, and the Wisconsin contingency as well.  Katie and Zusanna are filming up a storm and adding immense value to our journey.

On a personal note this is by far one of the most amazing things I have ever been a part of and I am reaching out to all of you to please come and join for some time.  CALLING ALL OF MARKS FRIENDS-This is an immense journey and hands on the deck are needed to make it happen.

Jammin on the Trike

Project Director Lincoln Baker here with an update after the beginning of a new year! We are in full swing here in 2012! Marks’ power and fitness are increasing on the bike and things are moving forward. Mark continues to push himself in training both at home and at the world class facility at Vision Quest in Highland Park, Il. I am off tomorrow to Yosemite National Park to complete a 180 hour Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician course to be up on the latest medical
protocols to prepare for any issues we may have along the route. Happy New Year everyone. Please pass this story on to anyone that you feel would love to hear about it. We want to get the momentum jammin’!