Please add Scott Bantle to your esteemed list…..he was amazing……and so are you all!
Survivor Riding 42,500 Miles against pancreatic cancer
Please add Scott Bantle to your esteemed list…..he was amazing……and so are you all!
Sorry folks, we hope the technical difficulties are behind us now and we are starting to catch you up as of today. Check out “Road TV – Journals from the road” for our daily blogs. You will get a whole lot of these over the next few days. We are in Houston after some amazing interviews with some of the top pancreatic cancer docs at MD Anderson. So hang in there as we start to get content up. I will be doing daily or every other day video blogs and weekly write-ups as we go. So click on the link above and sometime tonight you will see Jennifer’s 1st Video blog and hear the story of Big Purple and leaving California in her own words. Tomorrow night it’s Billy Bob’s the world’s largest honky-tonk, and over the weekend you will hear about kids giving their allowance for “the cancer”, having a news camera turned on you while you eat for the first time, and other tidbits from the road.
Our first day’s ride: well, it really wasn’t our first day’s ride. Sit down and get a cup of coffee or something stronger–this will be a long first blog. Many of you are wondering what is up with Road 2 A Cure and where we are. So here it goes. It is catch-up time.
Getting Ready for Departure
Saturday morning the 20th of February found me racing to get ready for our departure. Complete pandemonium, with friends and family all trying to pull together to get us on the road. The rain had broken and the sun was out. The whole team worked like mad on very little sleep for weeks to get ready. Special thanks to Sunny, Blanche, Mom, Aunt Alice, Gene from Moto Loco in Santa Barbara, Doug Raggio, Mary Anne and Rich Kendall, Darin Goodman, Troy Siemens, and the many other volunteers that made this event happen. Somehow things were going to work.
The kickoff event was a blast. The Victory and Big Purple looked amazing, thanks to Brandon, Dave and crew at 858 Graphics in San Diego.
The food and beverages were donated by U.S. Growers Cold Storage, Perricone Farms (best juice I have ever had), Jordanos, Sparkletts, Coca Cola, Pacific Beverage Company, GBL, and others. A big thanks to Mark and the staff of Paradise Store for providing the venue and cooking up a storm! Thank you also to Marco and Doghouse, who rocked the house. It was a hard moment as my adopted little brother Marco played the Jonny Cash version of “Hurt” for me as a send-off, a song that for me represents chemo and redemption.
Our volunteers where stellar: Kristen, Jessica, and Steve Bardwil (Team Bardwil: you and Pam are in my heart always!), Sunny Oslin, Doug Raggio, Mary Anne Kendall and Family, Kathy Guidry and Family, Kris Hart and her team of volunteers, Ann Bennett, Steve and Karlene Ledbetter (Mom), Amber Patschull (Little Sister), Mike Healy (Dad), Nora Calaprice (Mom), and all the others that made this happen. Whew, what a mouthful of names! We couldn’t have done this without all of you. And last but definitely not least a huge thanks to all our friends who came out to show us support.
At the end of the kickoff event, as I was making preparations to get on the bike for Leg 1, I was told the truck that makes up the pulling part of “Big Purple” (our truck and toy hauler support vehicle) blew a transmission on the way to our event. Thanks to Doug and Jennifer for keeping this quiet so I could enjoy the day. Good news to my mind, actually. So how is this good news?, you might ask. If something is going to break it is better that it is close to home. Our sponsor, the Automatic Transmission Rebuilders Association (ATRA), got to show their “Peace of Mind” support promise early, and boy did they! They rebuilt our transmission and radiators in two days. I didn’t know billet parts went inside transmissions–I thought people only put that stuff on the outside where it could be seen! Big thanks to ATRA and Donnie Caccamise of DMC Transmissions. They built a bullet-proof transmission for us–and faster than I thought possible. Now we get to start off with a fresh transmission. Andy Madison (my wheelman and videographer) and I stayed an extra day to help my courageous wife Jennifer get things in order a bit more for the departure and start to sort out the truck issues. Apologies to those who wanted to ride to L.A. with us. We left for Las Vegas two days behind schedule. Luckily we had planned some extra days here for just such a contingency! Having had chemotherapy two weeks before departure and working to get on the road on time was tough, and I was tired.
Day 1 on the Bike
Confident that Jennifer and Big Purple where mere days behind us, Andy and I set off before dawn on Tuesday for Vegas knowing there was more to do, but we had miles to go and no way to make the riding season longer. We packed video gear and an old laptop, and a week’s worth of clothes and meds in saddle bags (just in case), and cowboyed up. As we crested San Marcos pass in Santa Barbara, CA, the sun was starting to blush the horizon and the fog parted enough to see the islands and the twinkling lights of sleepy Santa Barbara. This is an especially beautiful spot this time of day. It was going to be an amazing day’s ride. As we neared the coast at Summerland, CA, both the Purple Victory Vision that Victory was kind enough to loan me and Andy’s Bike were running great. We rolled past the coast and we headed out for the desert. Our efforts to get on the road started to tell on us before we reached Victorville, just a couple of hundred miles east. I had to pull over on the side of the road, put my gloves on the ground for a pillow, and lay down in my riding gear in the full desert sun. The price one pays for chemotherapy, I guess.
I only had a minute or two of rest as concerned drivers slowed down to make sure we were OK. The next driver to come along stopped to admire the purple Victory. He was a Victory rider himself. Line Dog, good to meet you, and since you are following our blog now, chime in! I’ll let him comment on our meeting, but it was cool to meet him and swap some stories. The encounter woke me up and got me ready to push on.
We moved out into the desert. Still groggy, I got a couple of Redbulls and fuel in Barstow. We got off the main road onto old Route 66 and rode for a while. It looked like the road would reconnect with the highway way off in the distance. You could see the two lines coming together. But after riding some way on what resembled a collection of potholes connected by 60-year-old asphalt, it came to a dead end. I guess the mother road is too far gone in some places, but it felt good for a while to ride the road less traveled. We stopped in Baker by the big thermometer for some more coffee and Redbull, fueled up, and headed to the state line, where we finally ran out of steam. It had been a long day of not making much distance; but we have a long way to go and need to stay safe, so, only 60 miles outside Las Vegas, we called it a night.
Day 2 on the Bike
We pulled into Arlen Ness Motorcycles, the Victory dealer in Las Vegas that was scheduled to put more parts on the Vision. Jim and the rest of the team there were fantastic. They put some lower wind deflectors, a CB/intercom, fog lights, highway pegs, and checked Andy’s and my bikes for tire pressure and fluid levels. A huge thanks to Arlen Ness Motorcycles of Las Vegas for all the help and support. We hunkered down across the street at a hotel to get some emails and other work done.
Now for the bad news. The F250 just wasn’t going to pull what we needed. Try as we might, we could not lighten the load enough. My brother Joe, a professional truck driver, flew in from Idaho to help Jennifer deal with the issues. They rigged the transmission up with gauges and meters and went for another test run, but a stop at a scale showed there was no way to make it with our current truck for this expedition. So, undaunted, Jennifer set out to find us a new truck. We shot some footage of the bike being prepped, then went to get emails and attend to the business of the tour.
Day 3 on the Bike
We woke up with some trepidation for the state of our moving home and production studio. During the evening we discovered that my venerable laptop was no replacement for the desktop PC we used for editing in the truck. We could not edit or upload our footage, but we could shoot. So shoot we did. Off to Arlen Ness Motorcycles of Las Vegas where their rock-solid Victory technicians had installed even more buttons and switches for this poor old biker to get to know. No seriously, this bike is amazing. So far I have led a 10k run as pace vehicle, run LA freeways, enjoyed curvy mountain roads, and cruised long stretches of straight and seemingly endless deserts on this vehicle. It handles all with ease. The Vision seemed intimidating and huge when I picked it up at the airport, but within minutes it was like an old friend. It has a low center of gravity, a responsive suspension, comfortable riding position, and plenty of power when you need it. It sort of defies every aspect of its large looks. I could not be happier setting out on a 42,000 mile journey than with a Vision under me. We shot an interview with Jim Morris from the Victory dealer, added yet more luggage to our loaded bikes, picked up rain gear that had been shipped to us by Royal Riding in Ventura (thank you, Kris), and headed to our next interview at the home of David and Joan Burge.
David is a two-and-a-half-year survivor of pancreatic cancer. He has an amazing story that I won’t take away from him here since we will be airing the video on Road TV tab of www.road2acure.org. Look for it in a few days under Survivor Stories. But the short version of his story is that after a failed attempt at a Whipple surgery (removal of parts of the pancreas and other organs–these get put back in, by the way), when it was determined that the tumor was to0 dangerous to remove, Dave underwent chemotherapy, which reduced the tumor by an amazing 80%. This made him eligible for the Whipple. Today, after radiation for microcancer cells, David appears to be cancer free. But as this is a long battle, he is far from out of the woods, though his odds for survival are now as good as they get. His condition will have to be monitored and managed, but he is among the lucky few. He credits his success so far to seeking out the best surgeons and oncologists, being treated with more than the usual standard of care, and above all having hope. I can’t wait for you to meet David and Joan by video. Our interview went far longer than we expected, and we all enjoyed it immensely. Heartbreaking, soul healing, laughing at the morbid and scary, it was a conversation I will never forget. As it was late, David and Joan fed Andy and me and put us up for the night. I can’t thank them enough for the hospitality.
Day 4 on the Bike
We awoke at David and Joan’s home and had coffee. Scrambled calls to Jennifer and Joe followed about what to do with the chase truck and we decided it needed to be replaced. Well, we are into this thing past the point of no return. Jennifer and I decided to buy a new truck and loan or lease it to the charity. As Joan said, time to put your big girl panties on and get to work. I hope she was referring to Jennifer because I’m not putting on “Big Girl Panties,” not even for this cause! (Well, maybe …) Joan and David allowed us use of phones and computers to complete my scheduled interview with Lance Orozco/News Director of Station: KCLU/Santa Barbara NPR. The interview went well, I think, but you be the judge. It will air on Tuesday February March 2nd and I will post a link to it when it is provided. So, off to Fry’s to find a laptop that can handle producing video until Big Purple shows up.
Then good news came from Jennifer. She had taken delivery of a new Ford F450 from Barber Ford in Ventura (thank you Gill, Robert, and Jose), and was getting the hitch installed by MCT Trailers of Ventura. We made a mad dash to a notary so she could finish the paper work. In the notary parking lot, as we geared up, a gentleman by the name of Mike looked at the bike and told us that he was just diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. As he was on the table getting ready for surgery, the hospital workers came in and unhooked him, saying his insurance would not cover a Whipple. The Purple Victory had just done its job. We were able to refer him to UCLA, where hopefully his insurance will be accepted, and we let him know that he needed to get into the Social Security office ASAP to get his benefits started. This kind of moving coincidence is what we are doing out here. It reminded me of our true purpose to help give hope and to educate. Mike walked away with hope he did not have before, and I rode away humbled to be able to make a difference in someone’s life. Not a bad exchange by any standard.
Our next stop was to catch up with our mail in Vegas (thanks, Connie). Late, with rain clouds looming, we headed out for a night ride to Phoenix five hours away. The Hoover Dam was amazing at night. Please forgive the point and shoot photos but the bags were too full for the pro cameras. We made it to Kingman, AZ, and figured that, being cold and tired, we should stop for the night.
Day 5 on the Bike
We rode to Phoenix and made it in time to receive delivery of our video editing software at the local UPS store where Jennifer had shipped it to us. And right at 4:30 p.m. we discovered that Andy’s tail and brake lights were out. We called around but all the shop technicians had gone home for the night. So we yanked in at a truck stop, and Andy and I and a friendly RV’r who happened to be an electrician rewired Andy’s rear lights. So we were good to go again. The rain was now threatening and it was late, so another hotel stop was in our future. Not many miles today, but lots of little things falling into place. I spent most of the night loading software so Andy could produce some videos and we could get pics up for these blogs.
Day 6 on the Bike (or off the bike, to be more accurate)
Laundry time, rest, emails, our first relaxed meal, and we caught up on sleep. We sat here and watched it rain buckets, knowing that the high passes of the desert on the way to Albuquerque are now unsafe for motorcycles. The Big Purple 2.0 is now in San Diego at 858 Graphics getting the new truck wrapped. My brother Joe is ironing the bugs out of our toy hauler, and Jennifer is madly trying to get caught up on unfinished business. I don’t know how they have done it, but they have worked miracles to get us on the road. Software loads continued into the night, and so did flyer and Web site designs.
Day 7 on the Bike (or off the bike once again)
OK, finally we are publishing. Yep, this long-overdue saga is coming to you today. The wrap is under way, and Big Purple, barring any further issues, will be on the road in the morning. Here they come! Can’t wait for home-cooked meals and my own bed! Not to mention comforting my overworked and overstressed wife. So there you are, I’m all caught up. We are getting ready to ride to El Paso in the morning. Watch for our video blogs on Road TV Journals from the road, and see you all out there on the Road 2 A Cure.