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Can a 48 year old ‘average joe’ with an extensive medical history ride his bike across America to raise awareness and money for pancreas disease???”

That is the question that started a blog post 3 years ago on a personal blog of our co-founder. Mark Light had what at the time seemed like a crazy idea, riding his bike across the country. And not just for the personal reasons you can read about in the entire original post below. Now the crazy idea is becoming a reality.

You can learn more about the reality in this short video.

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“Can a 48 year old ‘average joe’ with an extensive medical history ride his bike across America to raise awareness and money for pancreas disease???”

That is the question.  Just tossing it out there (for now).  For the record, I am the 48 year old “average joe” (or I will be 48 next summer anyway).  And I certainly do have an extensive medical history–that is, if type II diabetes, a bout with bacterial meningitis, no less than 5 separate bouts with acute pancreatitis (including one very serious episode of necrotizing acute pancreatits), exercise induced asthma, and a herniated disk which required a couple minor surgeries thrown in for good measure, counts for “extensive”. So the question is, can I do it?  SHOULD I do it??

About a year ago, the idea of riding my bike across the USA became a pipe dream for me after I hiked the Grand Canyon for the first time–to participate in the Mid American Pancreatic Disease Foundation’s “Ultimate Walkathon”.  Now, It’s become what I can only describe as a bit of an obsession (“bit” defined as what I think about when I first wake up in the morning, the last thing on my mind as I drift off to sleep at night and consumes much of my thought during the time in between).  Technically, I can’t quite call it a goal just yet as I don’t have in place enough of the many parts and people necessary in making a dream like this a reality, but that all could change any day now. Stand by.  What I do have is a strong enough desire.  I also have the “why” firmly in place and just enough of the “when and how” to make me really believe that I could…and really should do this.  I also have started a blog!  Are you kidding? Me?? Start a blog??? No damn way in hell! As I sit and write this, I don’t even really know what blogging IS. But I’ve read that, if you want to get people behind a dream or cause you might have, it’s a good thing to start doing. So here it sit…typing.  Maybe I really am serious about doing this.  I posted on my facebook page on May 17th that I’m not really comfortable with self-promotion but that, I now realized that in order to do some things that I want to accomplish in life, I’d need to start anyway.  Any guesses what I was talking about?

Five years ago, after I helped start the Mid American Pancreatic Disease Foundation (an organization and the details of its tie in to my health history I will discuss further in the near future), I read a quote from J.P. Morgan where he said, “every man has two reasons for doing anything, a GOOD reason and the REAL reason”.  That resonated enough with me that I never made any bones about why I “really” started a charitable organization.  And I will, in the 2nd paragraph of my very first ever blog post spell out THREE REAL REASONS that I now feel like I really should do this:

  1. I just want to experience a bicycle ride across the country. I could go on and on about all of the reasons I want this experience so badly.  But for now, I’ll simply say that anyone who has ever done anything like this…or climbed a big mountain…or hiked the Grand Canyon (as I will have done TWICE by the time you read this)…or completed a marathon… completely understand this desire and where it comes from.  Maybe they’re the only ones who do.  After completing my 2nd Grand Canyon hike (ref. above), this time making it rim-to-rim, it occurs to me that I probably have very little chance of accumulating financial wealth in this lifetime.  And, societal pressure aside, I’m really fine with that.  Experiential wealth is far richer, doesn’t get taxed, can never be taken away, multiplies when shared with others….and I believe CAN be taken with you when you “go”.  I’m going to spend more time pursuing THAT kind of wealth.  If still, none of this makes sense to you, just go watch “City Slickers”.  Maybe that’ll help you understand.
  2. I’ve mentioned that riding my bike across the country is a dream of mine to a number of people that I know. These brief discussions seem to all end the same basic way: with the person with whom I’m discussing said dream saying, “sounds really cool but how could you ever take the time to do something like that?”. I don’t think I’ve ever responded out loud, but EVERY time I hear this I silently respond, “HOW COULD YOU NOT!?!?”.
  3. In mid-May, when the Powerball got up to about $600 million, I heard a bunch of discussion about everyone’s dream of hitting the jackpot & all the stuff people would do and buy. I thought to myself (and said out loud) I have no desire to hit the lottery—hell, I don’t want most of what I already have!!  The thought alone gives me a damn stress headache.  I said, “if I ever hit the lottery, I’d ride my bike from the Pacific Coast all the way to the Atlantic”.  Then it occurred to me, many people’s pipe dreams require them hitting some kind of monetary jackpot…mine does not!!

My “good” reason, if you will, is to raise awareness and money for my charitable organization, two things my board of directors and I have struggled with since we formed.

But I have had this dream just long enough & done just enough research on it to know two things for sure.  First, it will take a whole lot in order to make something like this possible and feasible.  And second, I don’t have a lot of what I will need at this point (including money).  I do have a shiny new Specialized Rubaix and just enough experience with riding and adventures to give me the confidence that I can do something of this magnitude if I prepare properly.  And, the skills, training and necessary knowledge will come easily enough for me over time.  But, like most big things worth doing, it’s gonna take more than just what I can bring to the table.  And that is the thought that makes my head spin and tends to give me that depressed feeling that this will never be more than something that sits there….on my bucket list.  So I can tell you the solution (and the REAL CHALLENGE to living out this dream, or any other dream for that matter). How do I make it so enough other people benefit in some way form an undertaking like this that it actually transforms from possible to feasible?

So….what do you think? Think I can do it?  For now, I should probably start by asking my wife of 24 years what she thinks of all this….

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