Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Success Re-defined . . .

Hmm. How do you go from defining success as completing a 2500 mile fundraising trip into accepting a reality of calling it good at 250 steps?

The last time I wrote, I reported that I had a clean break in one of the ribs in my back which cancelled the trip. We started heading home while making some RV repairs along the way. I arrived back in Rochester on Thursday evening stopping at my sister's house. We had a nice talk and I decided to spend the night in the RV parked outside her home.

Little did I know how fortunate that decision would become. We will officially credit Gena for saving my life by answering her phone at 1:00 AM. I wasn't exactly sure what was going on, but I presented to ER (after an ambulance ride on railroad tracks - I swear!) with chest pain, stomach bloating and an inability to move in any direction. Apparently, my blood pressure had dropped to 50 over something. They couldn't find a vein to start an IV and had to use ultrasound to locate one. I remember most of what happened as I never lost consciousness. I even signed the consent form (just try and tie that signature to my handwriting, though). I remember the doctor saying we're going to the OR. Somebody responded that it would be ready in 10 minutes. He said FIVE. We don't have ten.

Well, I woke up hours later in the Mayo Clinics, St. Mary's Hospital ICU hooked up to every tube and wire imaginable. I won't go into all the details - probably couldn't do it anyway. I'll just give you a short run-down of what was discovered in surgery.

Four ribs were affected with a total of 6 clean fractures.

I had basically bled-out as they found 5 liters of blood, clots and fluids in my abdomen. Guess that explains a lot. My spleen had been shattered in the accident and had to be removed. Since I had been feeling OK, they believe that the spleen clotted after the accident, but gave way late Thursday night creating the need to dial 911.

They are not sure (still) why my feet have swelled but it could be volume redistribution and with all of the IVs running, I'm full of liquid even now. Hopefully, this will correct itself as I recover.

Recovery could be long. Ribs need healing, the 12+ inch scar down my stomach (looks like they created another belly button too) needs to do it's thing, and then all body functions have to be restored. Eating without becoming nauseous is a goal. Walking a distance exceeding the width of a living room is a goal. Just getting out of bed - and of course, putting on socks are goals.

I've been out of touch. I apologize. I would suspect that it may be a while before I'm back in the swing of things, so I apologize in advance. Have patience with me, please. I've put all thoughts of "what next" on hold. I just need to work through this stuff and reflect on what good will come of it.

This is certainly a time to be thankful. I have family who has dropped everything to be there. They care. They open their homes and take time off work. They drive great distances. They cook and they watch. They encourage and they push. And in all they do, they love. I hope I'm worthy.

It must have been difficult, but the EMT professionals managed to get me somewhat diagnosed and ready for transport in the tight confines of the RV. They manged to get me out the door. No idea how they did that! Thank you.

I was taken to one of the finest medical facilities in the world. And they too - cared. Not many knew what a Segway was, but they do now :-) I really never felt like I was just another patient. They must be very good at their jobs. Thank you!

My brother Bill reminds all of us in his Facebook posts to remember to appreciate family and friends - and tell them. He goes even further reminding us to tell those you know in the medical fields and in the first responding careers that we appreciate what they have chosen to do with their lives. They go to work every day doing what the professionals did for me last week. They save lives. Be proud of them.

There's no reason for the picture. I was just feeling like this post was turning out to be something more down than up. Although it's difficult to make this a humorous update, I don't want to leave you with anything approaching despair. So, looking at the bright side, I may not be looking at palm trees, but it isn't snowing either!

Thanking you all while remembering that every breath is a gift . . .


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Reviewing the Ride . . . Some things worked - some not so much

Do you think it should say "the RIDE is short, enjoy your life"? I took this picture on Day 5. It was a beautiful morning and things were going just fine. At the time, I WAS enjoying the ride and we all know that life IS short. For the past couple of days, I've been considering the reverse. The ride was short - too short and didn't accomplish even a portion of what was expected. But who am I to "expect"? Actually at this moment, I really don't know where this is going to end up. Each day since Sunday has seen great excitement as we ponder "what next". Each day has also seen - "man, I didn't think I'd be seeing signs to Rochester, MN. this soon". Well, I suppose it doesn't matter which way you read the billboard, it can still be considered prophetic.

So what next? Which way do we go? Should we use a bike :-) ?

Well, as we've been coming back to Minnesota, I've been testing the boundaries of pain vs. movement and Brent has been repairing all of the things that the nearly 2 week use of the RV revealed as deficient. The RV is in great shape - and I'm getting somewhat better (depending on when you ask).

When we have the opportunity, we talk about "what next". I've been asked by some to write about these discussions in order to allow all of you to be included in these moving-forward brainstorming sessions. Getting the wind knocked out of me, knocked some (just some, mind you) sense INTO me at the same time. This isn't a "one-man" event - well, it shouldn't be, anyway. So you are certainly invited to submit ideas, suggestions and comments whenever you feel you have something to say. I promise to listen.

Today I will give you a little rundown of what worked and what didn't (in no particular order). I'm doing this as much for me as for you so that I have some way to recall these things. This was a great dress-rehearsal, and we learned quite a bit along the way. This will probably get to be a lengthy blog, but I know you miss my ramblings! Admit it!

Segway Setup
* It is possible to ride a Segway nearly 80 miles per day if you know the route intimately and are traveling on relatively safe roads.
* 6 machines were used and would be the minimum to do this.
* The re-charging generator works while moving down the road.
*The fastening mechanism to keep the Segways secure now works.

Segway Riding - Sidewalks
* Sidewalks work well and are safer but they have more dangers (cracked slabs, tree branches, insufficient curb cuts) than one would expect.
* They are more jarring on the feet because of this and the constant sidewalk to street to sidewalk adjustments are torture on the Achilles tendons.
* Crossing intersections require being extremely careful. The "Look both ways" lesson from Kindergarten is still good advice. (holding hands while crossing the street, however, is mostly impossible)
* Sidewalks take as much active diligence as riding on the road
* Sidewalks slow progress significantly over travel on straight roads.
* Sidewalks are the best place to meet people and introduce the cause.

Segway Riding - Streets
* There are many varieties of street shoulders.
* Some streets have wide paved shoulders. Nice!
* Some streets have wide, class 5 rock shoulders - workable.
* Some streets have narrow paved or rock shoulders - not too nice in traffic
* Some streets have no shoulders and travel is dangerous, especially when curbed.
* Freeway clover-leaf interchanges should be avoided as they are poorly designed for pedestrian traffic. No curb cuts. No shoulders. Drivers do not expect to see pedestrians. Everyone one wants on or off the freeway at freeway-like speeds. It can take 20+ minutes to navigate one of these intersections.
* Re-routing calculations on the fly are time consuming and will always take the rider a mile or two out of the way creating yet again, another delay. New route preparation is required. As boring and time consuming as it is, Google Earth examination of roads is critical to the planning.

* Under the conditions found, were the ride to be similar to the original, no more than 50 or 60 miles should be planned per day. Running late all day is stressful. It also requires that the rider stay on his/her feet much too long.
* Under these conditions, it's a good idea to take more breaks between segments.
* Riding at night is NOT a good idea.
* If the route were to be similar, it is best that the chase vehicle remain within a few miles - bare minimum.
* Preparations for weather (sun, rain) were adequate.
* Within a day or so, anyone is capable of driving the RV
* RV is adequate for 2 individuals, but that would be the limit
* Estimates for gas consumption were adequate
* Parking along the way was adequate, but dump stations and water are difficult to find on back roads. An overnight stay at an RV park is necessary about every 4 days or so.
* People either love Segways or hate them. No matter where you ride, there are those who think you don't belong there. They are usually vocal - sometimes providing gestures.
* Everybody wants to be in front of the RV and they will run a stop light to get there.
* Best advice received: "When riding a Segway, assume you are absolutely invisible to every driver and pedestrian around you. If you DO become visible, assume they are aiming for you."
* Riding a Segway in many locations is dangerous.
* Riding a Segway in some locations is peaceful and beautiful - and I miss that.
* It's a good idea to know a little bit about an RV and its systems before using one. I failed. Brent did not. But I'll pass next time (probably).
* Wear and tear on the rider's feet is significant. Cushioned pads help. Foam shoe inserts help. Nothing works well though. I've heard it called foot narcolepsy. An adequate term, I suppose. Interesting note: 3 days after stopping, feet and ankles swell like Tim Allen becoming Santa Claus. Ho Ho Ho.
* There isn't much jarring on back or wrists. Was over-prepared this time, but that's never a bad thing.
* The sun CAN burn you in the morning. But it's SO nice to ride without the hat.

Tomorrow I'll be back. We discussed a couple of interesting concepts that I need to share. It will be an interesting blog. Plan "C" will allow room for TONS of people to become involved. The new ideas will eliminate many of the "problems" listed above and will make this a much more effective event for having fun while raising funds.

The ride is short. Life is short.
May you enjoy both!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Last Stop

It feels like it's been a long time since writing - feel like that to you? Well I've been avoiding you for the past couple of days. Pretty rude, huh!

Well, here's the latest information for you as best as I can explain it. On Saturday, we parked at the Walmart on North Ave in Chicago. That's where we had the 1st Taste and you already know about that. As we said goodbye to Chris as this week's RV driver, we said hello to Brent who will be driving this week. The changeover went well and we began our journey again on Sunday morning.

Brent and I determined where the first stop would be for exchanging machines and all went well. It was a scorcher, so I filled up with water bottles again and set off. About a mile later I was navigating around sidewalk construction (construction is everywhere). I found a way through to an empty parking lot which I thought would be a good path to take around the construction. Great! On the grass, over a couple of signs and through a couple of concrete bumper stops and I was beginning to accelerate into the lot on my merry way.

I can't breathe!

No, Really! I can't breathe, I can't talk and I'm on my back. What?! There's a guy running toward me asking if I'm ok. I answer yea, I'm ok. But even I can barely hear my response. Apparently, I convinced him though because he went away. As my breath started to return, I moved around a little bit and although I was sore, I was good. Making the phone call to summon Brent, I checked out the Segway (it survived) and just paced a bit before I saw the RV. Explaining what happened didn't take long.

Apparently, as I was speeding up, one of the wheels got caught on a piece of rebar anchored to the asphalt. Construction crews had removed one of the concrete bumpers but didn't remove the rebar and I totally missed it. Wish it missed me! Grabbing one wheel doesn't stop the other wheel so the Segway must have twisted hard enough to throw me off. The Segway stops when it senses that there is no weight on the pads, so as I left the machine for flight, it dropped like a rock. When I landed, I managed to find the handlebars with the left side of my back. Guess THAT would take anyone's breath away!

Assuming that I must have strained muscles and probably inflicted some serious bruising, I was thinking that it would still be better to keep going - keeping things loose by using them, right?

I continued to finish this next leg going another 14 miles or so - a bit painful, but the show must go on.

At the next stop, I went into the RV to rest a bit and wait for the next machine to get setup. Well, I never left the RV. Sharp and shooting pains prevented me from even walking down the stairs. Man - we're a DAY behind now! But I could tell there would be no more Segway today. We got situated and found an RV park. It was crazy. I felt like I was in some kind of jet propelled vehicle as we started down the highway. I haven't gone faster than 12 miles per hour in over a week. Weird!

So, with typical over the counter meds and ice, we sat back and tried to get the swelling down. Brent took the opportunity to look at some of the RV repairs that were definately needed and got to work diagnosing problems and solutions. (leak under the bathroom faucet, low water pressure or none at all, connections to city water, water pump, television install and more.)

Getting out of bed on Monday morning revealed that the sharp pains were not going to go away. I must have done something more than I wanted to admit. We found an urgent care center in Tinley Park and x-rays were taken. The picture shows you where the devestating news was shared. It was the last stop. I apparently had chosen a nice rib in the middle of my back to be my very first broken bone.

The Doctor said it was a clean break and the pieces were lined up well for healing with an estimated completion date of 3 to 6 weeks from now. They will not wrap them as it is important that full breaths can be taken frequently (painfully) in order to discourage pneumonia. Asking about what we could do to continue this event, I was told that to continue would mean: The probability that air would encourage infections, the probability that recovery time would be extended well beyond original estimates and the real possibility that while enduring the continual jarring created by Segway wheels on imperfect roadways, lung puntures. I don't know about you, but that doesn't sound too good. In fact, to continue would be irresponsible.

I've avoided you because to write of the cancellation of this event is (still) emotional. I comfort myself with the idea that it wasn't my choice - that I didn't just 'quit'. I comfort myself with the idea that soon, this project will be resurrected in some form. This trip has provided a significant amount of very worthwhile information regarding things that work, things that don't work and ideas to make the next phase much better. An idea is surfacing that would provide an opportunity for many more people to participate thus creating the ability for this one-man idea to grow into something much bigger than just my desire to do this. I've realized that it isn't about me - it's about the project, and I think that's a pretty healthy attitude!

At the same time, I feel that I am disappointing so many people. There are those who jumped in with both feet and did everything possible to help make this reality. There are those who made donations (it IS a good cause - the donations will be well spent) but I know they "stretched" beyond what they would normally have done - because they know and believed in me. I struggle with this - every minute, and I apologize. Just know that we've reached an impasse for now but we are scouting the work-around and that Plan C will be better than Plan B which was better than Plan A. We're improving.

I have to remind myself that this really hasn't been done like this before. We are pioneering new ground. Perfection can't be expected overnight. And then, of course, I DID ride a Segway from Rochester, MN to Tinley Park, IL (almost Indiana!). That's nice to say - until one of my amazing "followers" points out - - - who would even 'want' to do that?

Appreciating your patience, support and understanding and knowing that you are truly the best of all good people out there, I look forward to continuing this blog in the days to come with some great news!


Saturday, August 8, 2009

1st Taste of the First Taste

Good evening!

Couple of short travel days: one rain and one with a heat index able to melt sidewalks - and the tires that ride on them! whew! What smells?

Ok - back to the agenda: We had our first "Taste of Segway" event tonight and Jess Newman (StandUp For Kids - standing next to Chris Sommers) was there with balloons, decorations and flyers to help out. It's not the most prosperous of areas, but some made the $5.00 donation and had the chance to ride on a Segway. The smiles are there if you look hard enough. That's right, just under that look of terror :-)

We passed out over 100 flyers so although donations were small, exposure was good. And that IS one of the reasons we are here. Letting people KNOW that there are homeless kids - children! And they are living on our streets. Why does this have to be? It doesn't - that's the whole point. We can help. So can you.

High points for today:
* Received the SOS Tour Business cards that I forgot at home!
* Said hello to the new driver for the week, Brent!
* Met Jessica from StandUp for Kids, Chicago and Detroit
* Watched a couple of kids try riding Segways - very, very carefully - and successfully.
* Collected a few five dollar bills and one two dollar donation. The last one? That's what this is all about. Even thought she could not handle the five, she wanted (needed) to do something for someone who has less. Make me cry, why don't you! Really. This was big.
* Got an email from a very classy young lady who has been influenced by this ride. Even though the donation received from her was beautiful, she wants to do more and wishes to volunteer in the outreach program. YAY! She will not only be the one in the story below who's funding is helping to provide the person asking the question, she wants to BE the person asking the question. Amazing.

OK. What am I talking about. There have been just a few people who have received this made-up story. Although its fiction, I imagine it to be SO very real and I don't think it's that far off either, truth be told. Basically, I have used it to help me weather (no pun intended - well, I don't think so anyway) the rough patches. Maybe I should just put it out there.
It goes something like this:
. . . there is a 15 year old girl living maybe not far from where you are right now. Well, “living” might be an exaggeration of sorts. She dumpster dives for breakfast. And lunch. And dinner. She wanders the streets. She does unspeakable things for bare necessities. But maybe today, or tomorrow - someone meets her on the street and asks “If there was just one thing I could do for you today, what would it be?”.
And perhaps she answers, “I could use a pair of underwear. I don’t have any”.
Or “Could I have some clean, cold water?”
Maybe its “Do you know where I could take a shower?”
Or even “I’d like to call my mom – could I do that?”.
And a small tear runs down her cheek. She’s never been asked if someone could do something for her without needing to “return the favor”. She’s never known that someone – a stranger even, could care about --- her! She tries to say thanks, but it’s weak. She looks at her feet because she isn’t even sure she knows how to say thanks.

But I know. And, in her place, I say “Thank you!” Because that person who is asking? Well, that person is there because of you.

I have to go now,

Friday, August 7, 2009

Still Friday - Day 6

Surprise! Yea, one this morning wasn't enough apparently. We were on the road at 12:30 (those of you monitoring the tracking system on this website already know that) and we experienced rain start to finish. It definately goes a little slower with showers. The shoulders are slanted downward in order to carry the runoff from the street and they do a good job. It makes it a little tougher for the Segway because as the shoulders are doing their job, the water collects in puddles of unknown depth. They "say" you can drown in 6" of water you know.

We are finding that some route modifications are necessary on a daily basis now. Being unfamiliar with the cities going forward, we should expect this. In one case, crossing I94 (I really don't like crossing freeways - the bridges are usually narrow with no where to ride) someone had built a beautiful pathway (pavement, fenced and scenery to boot) which made it a snap. On another similar crossing, however, I reached a place where to go forward was to never move forward again! I re-routed with the BlackBerry and went a couple of miles out of the way but still worth it. For one thing, I'm still here. For another, I ended up rolling on some very interesting bike paths. (pictures attached). See? Even in the rain, there are things that can make a person smile.

I also smiled (inside) while cars were going by. The people inside them (some of them taking pictures) were a bit surprised to see a guy (well, they probably didn't know for sure) gliding along soaking wet on a Segway. I'm sure they thought I was totally out of my mind. Ha! if they only knew!

It's Friday and we are scheduled to rest!

But . . . not for long. We're behind nearly 30 miles. So, with a little time off to answer emails and do RV maintenance, we'll be off to "finish" yesterday. Maybe that's OK. We might be encountering a little rain today and it will be our first experience with "wet".

I'm wondering if I was being a little optimistic trying to eat up 80 miles a day. Roads are worse than expected as many have no shoulders or crushed rock shoulders (my apoloties to Iowa -you're not the only one!). That means slower travel or even re-routing as some roads are simply not safe for Segway travel.

Even sidewalks get a little tricky and I'm finding that with years of weather changes, they are many times, in much worse shape than the roads! Some have no curb cuts which means on and off the Segway at every intersection. Speaking of intersections - I'll bet I spend an hour a day waiting for the light to change!

But, the people I meet on those sidewalks are pretty cool. I've had a number of them stop me, ask questions and then donate a couple of bucks. Given the fact that in most cases, I'm by myself on a Segway with no identification to say who I am, it's pretty amazing that people have believed in the cause enough to reach into their pocket. (Writing receipts on a Segway is a pain, though!)

Maybe that's something that I'm personally needing to find on this trip - the open generosity and goodness of people. I get easily disappointed when I don't find it. I know - I just KNOW they're out there!

We're a long way from reaching our goal of $2M. Spread the word about this project where ever you can - please, and . . . . . .

thank you!

(oh,, and the picture? that's from somewhere on the road meant to brighten your day as well as mine!)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Today is over . . .

Hey! I know this really isn't much of a blog. Started late, ended way too late. 12.5 hours is stretching things to the breaking point. Trying to navigate in the dark isn't a good idea. But we're again on schedule after I'm sure a 'bit' more than 100 miles today. I'm thinkin' that won't happen again :-).