About Me

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Missoula, Montana, United States
On August 13th 2010

Monday, December 17, 2012

5,000 Thanks


I would first like to say, Thank You Kelly Brush Foundation!  I recently applied for a grant to get some help with the racing hand cycle that I need to start training for triathlons.  They gave me a call last week to tell me the great news.  I was told that I qualified for a $5,000 grant to put towards the hand cycle.  This is an absolutely amazing foundation.

As some of you may know life is very expensive if you live with a disability.  A lot of people would love to get the equipment needed to be able to get out and enjoy life again.  Unfortunately the gear is so expensive that it is out of reach for a lot of people.  To give you an example, the hand cycle I am ordering is $6,800.  That doesn’t include the $3,000 set of wheels I will need in the near future.  I’m sure you can see how prices like this are very challenging for the average person to afford. 

The Kelly Brush Foundation is helping solve this problem by raising money to give back to the spinal cord injury community.  This year they were able to give out $100,000 in individual adaptive grants and $30,000 in ski club safety grants.  They are truly changing lives in a very positive way.  If you have a few extra dollars this holiday season please donate to the Kelly Brush Foundation.   Your donation will go directly towards raising the quality of life of someone with a spinal cord injury.  



Monday, December 3, 2012

Let the Good Times Roll!

It has been a while since I last posted, but I figured that today would be a great one to get back at it.  A lot has happened since my last post and I can't wait to share everything with all of you, but so much has happened that it will take some time to get everyone caught up.  In the near future expect to see updates about:

- The nonprofit we are starting here in Missoula, MT that will provide outdoor adventure for people with disabilities.
- 2013 summer spinal cord injury outdoor adventure camp in Montana!
- "Wings to Wheels" a full length documentary about my fight back to life.
- Public motivational speaking.
- Various other video projects that will be designed to help boost the quality of life for those with disabilities.
- and much more!

For now I thought I would leave you with a quick update.  Amy and I have finally moved back to Missoula, Montana!  This is where I had my accident, after I woke up from my coma we had to move back to Minnesota for support from family and friends.  We worked extremely hard over the last two years and we finally made it back! We couldn't be more excited about it.

Since we moved back there has been some exciting news about one of my new film projects.  Over last summer I carried my GoPro camera with me on all my adventures.  I put together a short film and have received an overwhelming amount of support from it.  I entered it into a national film competition  called Driven Creativity sponsored by G-Technology.  I actually ended up winning the GoPro category.  G-Technology is helping support my film career by gifting me with a two terabyte G-Drive and a new GoPro camera.  Thanks again G-Technology for all your support!

Last but not least I had an amazing morning today.  My video was selected by GoPro for their video of the day.  It has been a long time dream of mine to someday be recognized by GoPro for something I was doing in outdoor adventure.  Today that happened, and I'm on cloud nine.  Thank you GoPro!  If you haven't seen it yet here it is.  Joe Stone's 2012 Adaptive Adventures.

http://gopro.com/videos/video-of-the-day/2012/12/3/



Thank you so much to everyone that has been there to support me!






Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Spinal Cord Injury Awareness

As many of you may know, recently there has been a lot in the media about spinal cord injuries (SCI's).  Two Minnesota Hockey players were recently injured in their hockey games that resulted in spinal cord damage. One of which was much more severe than the other.

 Jack Jablonski was checked from behind in the middle of a game which sent him head first into the boards. The outcome was damage to the spinal cord at the c5 level, leaving him a quadriplegic.  Because of this accident there has been a huge evert to make sports safer, and injuries less common.  About a week ago I had the pleasure of teaming up with three other guys that had suffered injuries similar to mine.  We shared our stories with the Wayzata Bantam B1 boys hockey team to spread awareness about SCI's.

We told them all about how life was before our accidents, how it affected us, and how we live our lives today.  We allowed the team, coaches, and their parents to ask any questions that came to their minds.  It's really interesting how little people know about SCI's, how curious they are about them, but how nervous they are to ask questions.  I used to be the same way before my accident, but now I really enjoy when people ask questions about my situation, and I'm not as nervous to ask others about theirs.  Most people don't know what it really takes to live with a SCI.  There is a lot more than just the lack of mobility below the injury line.  In my mind, not being able to move my legs is actually one of the easiest parts to having a SCI.

All in all it was a great afternoon sharing our stories and meeting new people. I truly believe that everybody that came to listen had an amazing experience, I know that I did.  If you would like to read more about what they are trying to do to make sports more safe, you can check out the article that was in the Access Press.  Here is the link below.

http://www.accesspress.org/2012/02/hockey-safety-promoted-in-the-wake-of-serious-accidents/

Friday, January 20, 2012

Updates on the Documentary

So I thought it was about time that I update everyone about the documentary we are creating.  As you may know, we were filming our journey back to Montana.  We also filmed some of my training that I did for the big ride, some rehab, and a lot of other things I have been involved with after my accident.  We have decided to call this film "Wings to Wheels".

In the end we ended up with about 65 hours of footage.  I personally captured each tape one by one, and am now in the process of sorting through all of the film.  I spent about 150 hours in front my computer capturing and watching the amazing footage that everybody filmed.  We have a lot to work with, and our goal is to create a full length feature film.

On top of all the editing that will need to be done, I have spent a lot of time trying to figure out what type of music to use in the film.  Finally one day it hit me, why not get some people together that have disabilities, that also play music.  I have met a few people now that do just that, and the plan is to have all the music in the film be created and played by those with physical or mental disabilities.  What better way to show a film about a disabled man, than have the music played by those in a similar situation.

On top of everything that has to be done for the film, I am also trying to get a nonprofit set up called "Project Life Flight".  The mission will be to raise money for people that have become disabled so that they can afford recreational equipment, and get back to a higher quality of life.  It is truly a shame how expensive life gets once you have to use a wheelchair.  For example, for an able bodied person to get into running, it cost about $100 for a nice pair of shoes.  For someone that uses a chair, it cost about $5,000.  So I'm sure you can see why most people can't afford this kind of equipment.  So I want to help.

The first thing that I want to do is have my documentary go through the nonprofit.  It is taking longer than I thought to get things set up, which is why the film is on hold.  Once "Project Life Flight" is up and going, we will be posting the official trailer for the film on kickstarter.com.  Our hope will be to raise enough money for the production of the film.  If all goes well it shouldn't be that long before "Wings to Wheels" is ready for its premier.

Until then I put together a little edit of the ride in Glacier National Park and some white water rafting.  It will give you a little taste of how amazing some of the footage is that we shot.  Check it out!  The link is below.

http://vimeo.com/35450614





Tuesday, January 10, 2012

WCCO News Story

WCCO interviewed Amy and I a while back and they just aired it last night.  Lindsey and Tony did an amazing job telling our story.  It really pushes me further to see more and more people noticing our story.  Here is the link if you did not see it yet.

http://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2012/01/10/after-paralyzing-fall-minn-man-flies-again/

Monday, December 5, 2011

My First Summer Post Spinal Cord Injury!

Over this past summer I have been using my Go Pro helmet camera to film the different recreational activities I have been able to get into.  I have spent the last five days hunched over my computer trying to put this together and it truly has been a ton of fun.

Making edits like this has been something that I have wanted to do for a very long time.  I heard this song while I was still in the hospital, and I remember thinking that it could make a very cool edit for speed flying.  Sadly though I assumed that I would never be able to do something exciting enough to put it to this song, due to the spinal cord injury.

In the end I think I did a pretty good job of proving that thought wrong.   This is a look at what is possible just one short year after a life changing accident.  I can only imagine what the following years have to bring.  Enjoy!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d1QwDLG-JIc

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Last Push for Independence

This Thanks Giving was unlike any I have ever shared before.  Last year at this time I was still wearing a back and neck brace, which was more like a constricting turtle shell.  I was also still living in the hospital and fully dependent on everyone around me.  This year I have finally made that final push to independence!

I recently had the hand controls installed in my car so that I am able to drive it.  It is an amazing feeling to finally be able to get up and go without having to ask someone to help me.  The word "independent" has a very powerful meaning.  You don't really know what it means until it is stripped away.  The crazy thing about it is, it only take one second for everything in your life to completely change.  So this holiday season take a second to appreciate everything you have around you.  Thanks everyone that has been following my story, your support has kept me going.  Happy Holidays!!

Here is a video I made showing how I go about driving now.  Enjoy!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bLHceCNR6aI

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Murderball

A little over a month ago I was invited to an adaptive recreation expo.  They asked if I would be willing to bring my hand cycle and talk to others about what hand cycling has done for me.  Of course I was more than willing to do this.  What I didn’t realize was how awesome this event was going to be.  While I was outside talking to people I saw a couple of guys rolling up with there quad rugby chairs. 

I asked a friend of mine if he could hold down the fort while I go inside to check out what rugby had to offer.  I went inside and introduced myself to a few guys, and before I knew it I was in a rugby chair.  Sitting in this beefed up chair gave me a new perspective on what you could do from a wheelchair.  I have never been one for team sports but I must admit, Murderball is a really fun game. 

Since they had a chair that I could barrow for the season I decided that I wanted to start practicing with the Minnesota North Stars.  We practice twice a week at the Courage Center for three to four hours each time.  Pushing around a forty to fifty pound chair all night sure is a tough work out, and it’s just what I’m looking for.

October 22nd, 2011 marked the first tournament for the Minnesota North Stars.  Not only was it the first tournament of the season, it was also my own personal first tournament.  I am only fifteen months post injury and I had the least amount of time in a chair.  As you could imagine, it seems that everyday brings something new to the table.  Some are good, and some are not so good, but getting into Murderball has been nothing short of amazing.  I have to admit though, I was quite nervous rolling into Green Central Gym Saturday morning. 

The first thing that I noticed was the enormous amount of motivation in the air.  I could instantly tell that every person playing rugby was the type of person that was not going to allow their disability to slow them down.  I then realized that every person playing was also not going to allow me slow them down either.  That’s when it hit me just how competitive this tournament was going to be, and the nervousness came right back in full force. 

Our first game was against the Milwaukee Iron.  As I sat on the sideline, I witnessed my first tip off, and the game was on.  I couldn’t believe how fast paced everything was.  There was definitely a different vibe on the court than what I felt in practice.   Part of me didn’t want to go in the game, but the other part of me knew that I needed to get these first game jitters out of my system. 

Ryan approached me and said that I am going in next.  He also told me that I would be the in-bounder.  I thought to myself “I got this, I’ve done it a hundred times in practice”.  Well, it turned out I was wrong.  I went to throw my first ball ten feet to a teammate. The ball hit the bottom of his chair, and then rolled out of bounds.  I was so nervous that I felt like I only had 50% of the power in my arms that I was used to.  Lucky for me the rest of the team knew what they were doing, so they pulled everything together so that we could take the win.  The final score was 53 to 40. 

As the rest of the tournament continued I slowly got more comfortable and even a bit more confident.  I realized that although everyone played on a different team, they all seemed to get along very well.  I could tell that some of the players had quite the history from playing rugby for many years.  I really got the feeling that this was a great community of athletes, which is something that I had been missing for a while. 

As the games continued, the North Stars continued to win each game.  Before I knew it the final game was starting and the North Stars where playing the St. Louis Rams.  I had been told all weekend that St. Louis was the best team at the tournament.  So I knew that as a team we had our work cut out for us.  I told myself that if I get a chance to play that there would be no room for errors. 

As the tip off was thrown in the air the clock started.  We’ve got four 8 minute quarters to play as hard as we can.  You could tell that both teams were pretty evenly matched but some how St. Louis was able to keep a 6 to 10 point lead.  Slowly I watched our starting players continue to get more and more tired.  They were keeping things together but I had a sneaking suspicion that I may be going in. 

I was told it was my turn to play.  My head was in a much different place entering the court this time.  I was focused and had a game plan.  Although I made plenty of mistakes, there was a lot less than before.  I actually assisted in one goal and scored two of my own.  When the game was over we had lost 40 to 44, but I had a sense of personal victory. I felt like I had come a long way from Saturday morning.  In the end St. Louis took 1st, Minnesota took 2nd, and Denver took 3rd.


I think that everybody that plays rugby understands the rush of mixed emotions that were flowing through my body this weekend, and how much I appreciate being a part of rugby.  On behalf of the Minnesota North Stars I would like to thank all of the sponsors and volunteers for making this tournament possible.  If we didn’t have the support that we do, we would not be able to have the memories that we do.
                                     My first goal!

Team North Stars

Inspiration Award!

On September 22, 2011 Sister Kenny Rehabilitation Institute presented me with an Inspiration Award.  I was extremely honored to be recognized for my efforts since my accident.  It was great to see all the people that have helped me so much throughout my journey. It turned out to be quite an emotional thank you.  Here is the link to the article that they wrote about me. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Peter McClellan Show

Today I had the pleasure of speaking on the Perter McClellan Show.  I spoke about the last year of my life and my plans for the future.  Also Peter presented me with a Braveheart Award!

http://thinkonangus.podomatic.com/player/web/2011-09-20T08_43_27-07_00

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Meeting the people that saved my life.

I knew that when Amy and I were in Missoula I would finally be meeting and thanking those who saved my life.  I knew that it would be an intense and emotional part of our journey.  I also knew that I would be listening to stories about an entire month of my life that I don’t remember.  What I didn’t know was what all of this truly meant.

I have known for a year now that I almost died, but it was much different hearing it from the nurses and doctors that witnessed everything.  One of the people that I met was Karl, who was one of my respiratory therapists.  Karl told me how serious the issues with my lungs really were.  He told me that he didn’t think that I was going to make it, and then went on to say why.

He explained that the average room has about 21% oxygen, and the average healthy person takes in at least 90% of the oxygen their body needs.  I was on 100% oxygen and was only able to absorb about 51% of the oxygen that I needed.  Then he went on to explain that even if I had made it through the trauma, he was scared that I would have major brain damage due to the low amounts of oxygen over a long period of time. It was at this moment that I realized just how close I was, and how lucky I am.
            Karl helping me after I woke up from the coma


One person that played a key role in what I do remember was Nurse John.  When I woke up from my coma I had an instant connection with John.  I was told that when he would enter my room he would direct most of his conversation towards me.  Although I was in a coma, he would tell me stories about what was going on in his life.  My brain must have been taking in his stories even though I was in a coma.  It was a strange but extremely strong connection. 

I had been waiting almost a year to not only meet John, but to be able to tell him all of this face to face.  That moment was everything and more than I ever expected.  John was the only person at that time that I trusted with my medical needs.  Everyone else either made me nervous, or completely scared me due to the drugs that I was coming off of.  So you could imagine how great it was for me to finally tell this man thanks for everything that he did.
              John and I shaking hands before I left Missoula                   
                 Amy and I with John during our return

One afternoon Amy and I had the pleasure of going up onto the life flight deck and meeting the men who were on the helicopter that day.  We got to go out onto the roof with the life flight helicopter and talk about what they remembered.  Because we were able to see Mt.Jumbo, they were able to point out exactly where I crashed as they explained everything they had to do to get me off the mountain.  They also went on to explain that my crash prompted collaborative training sessions that involved the life flight team, fire department, and ambulance service.  They have since set up a mock paraglider crash higher up the mountain from where I crashed.  All of them worked together on getting up to the paraglider and safely getting him down in a timely fashion.  They also scouted out all the possible places to land the helicopter on Jumbo, and also on the other mountains facing Missoula.  It made me really happy to know that my accident played a part in better preparing them if there ever is a next time.
 
Life Flight, firedepartment, and ambulance service loading me into the helicopter
                  Life Flight nurse Larry checking up on me       
                                   

Amy and I with Larry during our visit


As we continued meeting new people and hearing different sides of the story, I suddenly began to understand
just what it was that I was doing.  I was investigating my own accident.  I knew my families and Amy’s side of
 the story, but there was still a lot missing.  It wasn’t until I met William Babington that everything felt complete.

William was the man that saved my life.  If he wasn’t on the mountain that day I never would have survived the crash.  So when we found out that he was no longer in Missoula we felt the need to travel his direction.  He told Amy that he was living in Lovell, Wyoming, so we decided to re-route our trip so I could meet him. 

As we made our way closer to Lovell, I began to get more and more nervous.  I have never felt anxiety like this.  Preparing to meet the man that not only saved my life, but was the only eye witness that I knew of proved to be more intense than I ever imagined. 

We met William outside of his local gas station and followed him to his house.  As if he hadn’t already done enough, he offered up his room to Amy and me so that we didn’t have to set up our tent in the middle of the night.  We woke up in the morning and made our way over to a beautiful overlook, where we were going to do an interview with William for the documentary. 

After we got the cameras rolling, I began asking about the day that I crashed.  William went on to tell me about what he saw.  He said that when he first saw me everything was going just fine.  He even thought to himself that speed flying was something that he should get into.  As he reached into his pocket to grab his phone to film my flight, things started to go wrong.

He told me that my canopy was no longer fully inflated and was twisted around.  At that point I was no longer in control, the canopy decided where I was going.  As I made my way down to the earth at about 40 mph, he began running in my direction.  Although William didn’t see me hit the ground, he said that he was able to hear the impact.

William had already called for a life flight before he reached me.  When he got to the scene he said I was lying on my back.  As he quickly assessed my situation he heard gurgling coming from my mouth.  This told him that there may be something blocking my airway.  His friend made her way to me as well and he had her pull my full face helmet off while he kept my head and neck stable.  This allowed William to have access to my airway to keep it clear. 

Moments later the life flight team, fire department, and ambulance service were all making their way up the mountain towards me.  Once they were on the scene, it was a group effort to get me down to the helicopter and over to the hospital.  The life flight nurse told me that William did not stop stabilizing my neck until he was certain that someone else was ready to take over the responsibility.  If it wasn’t for Williams’s quick thinking, and knowledge on traumatic injuries, my life would be completely different, or even worse, it would be over. 

William Babington checking up on me
Amy and I with William Babington during our visit

                                                                                                    

William Babington

Hearing all of this finally gave me a picture of what actually happened that day.  It was the missing piece of the puzzle, and now everything finally felt complete.  Due to lack of time, Amy and I were forced to say good bye sooner than we wanted so that we could make the long journey back to Minnesota.  

As we drove away I realized that our trip was now officially over.  I sat in the passenger seat and reflected on everything that I learned about that month in Montana that I don't remember.  I finally had a true understanding of what happened to me.  Going through the process of obtaining all of this information finally brought closure to one of the biggest chapters of my life.  I can’t explain how amazing this felt. 

Thank you so much to everyone at St.Patricks hospital, the Life Flight team, fire department, ambulance service, and William Babington for allowing me to have the life that I live today.  If it wasn’t for your efforts, my life’s journey would have ended 8/13/2010.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart.


Friday, September 9, 2011

White Water Rafting

One of the things that I love about Montana is how easy it is to get out and play.  Some of our friends had organized a day on the river to do a little whitewater rafting.  With two rafts, two inflatable duckies, and a solid crew of people, we were off.

Although I was very excited about a sunny day on the river, I must admit I was very nervous as well.  This would be my first time whitewater rafting since my spinal cord injury.  I had no idea what it would be like if I got dumped out of the boat in the middle of rapids, but there was only one way to find out. 

We decided that the best way for me to go would be to team up with my buddy Ryan in a tandem ducky.  A ducky is like an inflatable kayak that has a back rest for both people in the boat.  Although it is easier to tip a ducky compared to a raft, the ducky provided the trunk support that I would need.  Ryan is also a kayaker, so I knew that I could trust his judgment on the water.  So after putting our life vests on and getting the boats down to the river, we were headed down stream.

With all four boats filled with smiles, we began to make our way through each section of rapids.  It’s amazing how much bigger the rapids are when you are right down in the water.  As we crashed into each set of waves I began to get more confident with the stability of the ducky.  Ryan informed me that we had one section to worry about and its name is tumbleweed.

He began to explain that if we stayed to the left we would probably make it through, and if we went to the right we had about a fifty fifty chance of staying in the boat.  As we both contemplated what would be the better route, we decided that attacking from the right would be a lot more fun. 

With the Go Pro camera in hand, we entered tumbleweed.  I remember looking down into the massive wave and thinking, “There is no way I am going to stay in the boat”.  Sure enough, we crashed into the wave and in I went. 

The current took me under and all I could do was keep a firm grip on my camera and hold my breath.  I tumbled under the water over and over again and couldn’t believe how long it was taking for me to reach the surface.  Without the use of my legs I felt pretty hopeless. Thankfully I had a good life vest on that brought me back up to get a breath of air.   

I was so disoriented that I didn’t know up from down.  As I made my way through the rest of the rapids I’m pretty sure I choked down about a gallon of water.  Things finally started to calm down when I saw one of the rafts just downstream waiting to grab me out of the water.   

They pulled me onto their boat and I could finally catch my breath.  I haven’t been this scared since before my accident and I have to say, it felt amazing.  These types of outdoor adventures are what I lived for, now I’m back in Montana doing the same old thing.  It doesn’t get any better.

This was one of my favorite days in Montana.  We had good weather, great friends, and solid thrills.  There wasn’t a bad mood in sight.  I would like to say thanks to everyone that was involved.  This day would not have been possible without everyones help.  I will definitely remember this day forever.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=38WwWQvFWRY  -  This is a link for the video of Ryan and I rafting and getting dumped into the rapids.



                                         


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Trip of a Life Time

We arrived in Kalispell, Montana on the 9th of August.  With the windows down, we pulled into our good friend Kevin’s dark driveway and were greeted by friends, good beer and the warm smell of the bonfire.  I hadn’t seen Kevin since Christmas time and the excitement on his face was the best part of the arrival. 

As I lifted my body out of the car and into my wheelchair, Kevin informed Amy and I that there was no need to for us to set up camp.  Connie, the owner of the property, offered her rental cabin to Amy and I.  This log cabin had an enormous amount of history behind it, along with everything else on the property.  Way back in the day Connie’s cabin used to be a one room school house, and the place we were staying was the teacher’s cabin.  This was the most unique and beautiful place that Amy and I have ever shared.


After an amazing nights sleep in the cool mountain air, we woke up early to get ready for our travel into Glacier National Park.  While sitting on my new modification to my chair that acted as my toilet seat I heard a crack.  Before I knew it the entire piece had broken and I almost fell through the frame of my chair to the floor.  As I hung on to the bed waiting for Amy’s help, I started to get very concerned.  This piece on my chair was my answer to the common issue people with spinal cord injuries have to deal with.  Without it I would not be able to camp in Glacier.

Its amazing how one little hiccup like this can make everything stop on a dime.  As I calmed myself down, I began trying to troubleshoot this new problem of mine.  Greg and I began brainstorming for the best and fastest solution so we could get on with our trip.  We decided that using a strong cloth material instead of plastic would be the best way to go; now all we need is someone to sew my new prototype together.

We hit the town in search of a seamstress that would be kind enough to help us out.  The first lady that we met didn’t have the time to sew the seat for me but she did donate a piece of material that would be strong enough to support my body weight.  Although she was too busy to put it together, she took the time to call around and find someone that could help us.  After reaching one of her friends that had some time we were off to the next shop. 

We arrived at her shop and started to explain what I needed.  In no time at all she broke out her tape measurer and took the project into her hands.  A couple of hours later she called to let us know she was finished.  This new seat couldn’t have been any better.  In fact it was the way it should have been made in the first place.  I guess everything happens for a reason.  I feel like every trick in the book has tried to stop me from riding, but I truly believe that this was the last chapter.   Now I know there is nothing that can get in my way of accomplishing my goal.

As Amy and I drove into Glacier National Park, I was quickly reminded of the incredible beauty of this land.  Amy was seeing all of this for the first time, and I could see the excitement in her eyes.  We rolled into camp after the sun had set, which seemed to be a trend of ours, to find everyone was there and pumped that the crew was now complete.  Now all we had left to do for the day was set up camp and get some shut eye for the long day ahead of us.

We woke up to the sun rising and quickly packed up so we could make the long journey up and over Logan Pass and on to Many Glacier where the ride would start.  This was the first time I had seen the entire road and I knew I had a lot of work ahead of me.  As my nerves were rattling and my adrenalin was pumping, we finally got to the start of the ride.

After some filming for the intro to the ride and some team cheering, we were off.  I couldn’t believe that this ride had started.  I spent many months confidently planning and training for this, now the road stared back, almost taunting me.  I was nervous at the start of the day, but I knew I would complete the first day of riding.  The whole team cruised through the rolling hills along Lake Sherburne and everyone was smiling.  In less than a year we were all back together do what we loved the most, outdoor adventures. 

As a team, we made our way out of the park to Highway 89 to head south for twelve miles to arrive at the Going to the Sun Road.  The high noon sun was blazing down on us, and due to my heat issues we made quite a few stops so I could pour some water over my head to cool down.  This section proved to be harder than I thought.  There were head winds and hot sun the entire time. 

Finally, there it was: Going to the Sun Road.  Only six more miles and we can rest for the night.  We were still fighting head winds, but the wind was now being cooled as it flowed across St.Mary’s Lake.  This was a tough six miles.  Not because of the terrain, but because I knew once this part of the ride was over, it would be time to sleep and wake up for the biggest challenge of my life. 

We rolled into camp just after five and our amazing support crew was set up and ready to start cooking dinner.  Amy and Alena prepared a delicious batch of beef stroganoff which had all the carbs and calories needed for the big day ahead of us.  As a cool rain fell over the mountains, I looked out of my tent and saw the final member of the team.


Tim made his way over to our tent with rain dripping off of his hood.  He reached out for a solid hand shake that seemed to say without words, it’s great to see you back in Montana.  As he greeted Amy he seemed to give her a hand shake that said, thanks for taking such good care of this young man.  It felt great to have the team complete, but now we all needed to get a good nights sleep for the 4:30 am wake up.

I had no trouble waking up.  When my alarm went off my eyes shot open and I felt like I already had my morning fix of coffee.  Finally, the day I’ve been training, stressing, organizing and dreaming about was here. Going about my morning routine, I was almost shaking, thinking: this is the biggest day of my life.   I have never put this much focus and energy towards anything.  As I shoved the last of my breakfast into my mouth I began to saddle up on the bike.

I placed my legs in the foot rest, attached my seatbelt, and strapped in my bum hand.  The sun was below the mountains summits and I was the first to start the ride.  Starting alone seemed very fitting.  I rode my hand cycle almost 900 miles while training for this, almost all of which were solo missions.  These moments alone were some of the most therapeutic moments in my recovery.  As I cranked toward the sun rise I realized that this was much bigger than I ever thought. 

I can’t believe that I am doing this.  Only one year ago I was broken down to almost nothing, I drug myself up from what seemed to be a bottomless pit.  Now all that I have to do is make it to the top. That which seemed impossible at first was now happening right in front of my face.  I had twelve miles of painful climbing ahead of me so it was time to get into the zone and crank. 

Slowly but surely the rest of the team showed up, we were now all riding together.  I was traveling anywhere from 1 to 3 mph, so you could imagine how slow time was passing by.  I found myself only focusing on Logan Pass, which was way out of reach at this point.  I started thinking about the book “No Short Cuts to the Top”, about a man trying to climb the worlds’ fourteen highest peaks.  He said that because the climbing was so slow and the summit was so far, he would set small goals for himself.  He would focus on a rock a hundred feet away and nothing else.  Once he reached that point he would then focus on a new landmark and make his way toward that one.

I began practicing his method, and over and over I would spot a landmark and focus only on making it to that point.  This seemed to help the time pass and not make the climb feel so overwhelming.  As I painstakingly cranked away I rounded the final corner and there it was, Logan Pass.  It felt unreal that I was almost there.  I had to calm myself down though, since I still had a couple of miles to go and this was the steepest section. 

As I traveled at about 1 mph I knew that I had about an hour and a half left with the rest stops I would need.  Crank by crank I inched closer to the pass.  Once I had about a mile left we bumped into the journalist from the Flathead Beacon.  He was writing about my journey over the last year.  As he interviewed the others riders I continued my slow climb.

The final push was here, I was only about 100 feet away from the top. We waited for a member of the film crew to arrive so they could document us reaching the pass.  I struggled through my final cranks and then, I had the pleasure of making the last turn into the parking lot for Logan Pass.  I made it.

I parked my bike and we all celebrated with high fives and cold beer.  What a great moment, when there was no longer a question if I could make it up the pass or not.  It was done and I did it: I hand cycled to the top of Logan Pass in less than one year after my accident.  Words can’t describe a moment like this.  Kevin even rewarded me with a Going to the Sun Road cycling jersey.  The amount of positive energy in the air as we shared lunch was unlike anything else I have ever felt.  All breaks had to come to an end and it was time to enjoy our reward, the descent. 


                                                     
                               Relaxing at Logan Pass

We cruised down the curvy mountain road at high speeds.  This was the best part of the ride.  All the boys back together, laughing and yelling about how much fun they are having.  I was having so much fun that my disability disappeared; I was so focused in on high speeds and a curvy road that I didn’t have time to think about how I was doing it differently.

As we made our way down to the bottom I realized that the work was far from over.  We still had about 24 miles to ride that would be a mix of flat, up, and downhill.  This proved to be the hardest part of the ride but I knew that I couldn’t give up.  All I wanted to do was make it to Fish Creek Campground.  Mile by mile we slowly made our way to the next check point.

While we cranked away Kevin was informing me about the day that I had ahead of me.  I didn’t realize how tough of a day I had set up for myself.  It would have been a harder ride than what we were already doing.  By the time we reached Fish Creek Campground it had turned into a fourteen hour day of pure exhaustion.  I decided to call off the last day of riding.

I had accomplished the main goal and that was to make it up and over Logan Pass.  As I thought about how much hard work the support and film crew had put in, I thought it would be great to celebrate the anniversary of my accident by truly enjoying Glacier.  I loved the idea of all of us hanging out together by Bowman Lake. 

When I woke up after one of the deepest sleeps I have ever had, I got really excited about a day to just relax.  As we made our way to our final destination we all made a nice pit stop at the Polebridge Mercantile.  We grabbed a little lunch and of course one of there famous huckleberry bear claws.  What a lunch, sitting down and relaxing before we make the last jaunt over to Bowman Lake.

We set up camp and switched out my bikes tires from slicks to knobby tires. Now the Lasher looks like it is ready to tackle just about anything.  We made our way down the dirt to the lake where the others were already playing in the water.  With paddle boards and canoes everyone was have a fun day instead of a work day, just what I wanted to see.  I even rode the Lasher with no hands down a hill right into the water.  With nothing but smiles some of us headed back to Polebridge to meet Alena’s mom for a nice dinner.

This dinner turned into much more.  I sat around with the support and camera crew and couldn’t help but think, none of this would have been possible without their dedication. With glasses in the air we made many toasts and celebrated as the time passed 8 pm.  One year ago at about this time I had crashed on the side of the mountain and almost died.  Now I am in Glacier National Park with my closest friends after accomplishing my biggest goal. Life couldn’t get any better. 

When we got back to the campground we all gathered around the campfire to talk about our favorite parts of the trip and say one word to describe the journey.  Everybody had amazing things to say and they all brought tears to my eyes.  I talked about how none of this would have been possible with all of the support that I have had throughout my recovery.  I don’t know if anyone truly understand the meaning of support until they go through something like I have.  I can’t thank everyone that has played a part in my recovery enough.  It has brought me to where I am today.  My word to describe the weekend was “support”.

We capped off the night with a canoe ride on the lake under a full moon.  This was my first time back in a canoe and it felt wonderful.  This weekend was filled with positive energy that was on a level like I had never felt before.  It was everything and much more than I expected.  Thanks again to everyone who played a part in our journey. 
                       Support Crew  -  Amy and Alena
                             Production Crew - Greg
                       Production Crew - Katie and Jason

                Riders - PJ, Tyler, Brian, Tim, and Joe
                               Riders - Kevin and Joe
                                                                

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