fire service tribute ride

A cross-country bike ride to respect, remember and honor all fallen firefighters

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Update from Rock Springs, WY


Hello from Rock Springs station 1!  The past few days have gone really well.  I left Salt Lake City on July 25, and the crew there was very nice to me on my last night.  It was another firefighter’s birthday on shift, so we got to have cake.  Otherwise everyone was very interested in and supportive of the bike trip.

I’ve gotta say though, I had one heck of a time getting out of Utah.  The first forty miles were not terrible.  There were two major climbs, but the wind was with me and the weather was cool.  The second forty was kind of wild.  I think I biked on gravel and dirt more than the road!

Google maps has been pretty good to me on the trip thus far, but for yesterday’s ride it had routed me onto some gravel paths.  The route didn’t look too good, and it went straight into the mountain side.  I had been following a highway frontage road thus far, so I opted to keep following the frontage road and then eventually merge onto the interstate, I-80.  Though I wanted to spend the least amount of time possible on the interstate.  To make a long story short, the frontage road started out paved, then turned into gravel, and finally into a barely recognizable path of rocks, sand and dirt.  The bike was fishtailing every 10 seconds or so, and I was constantly veering left and right to avoid holes and puddles.  I eventually had to commit to walking the bike along a railroad track.  After a mile or so the gravel frontage road started up again, and I met up with a railroad worker.

He set me up with water (thanks!) and gave me some great advice about the upcoming path.  The good thing was that I was almost to the interstate, the bad part was that the path went through private property, and the lady living on the property did not like visitors.  I told the worker there was no way I was going back on the “road” that I had just travelled around.  So he gave me some advice.  “Ok,” he said.  “You’re gonna have to go forward, and open the gate and go through.  You’ll head straight for about a mile or so, and then you’ll reach a fork.  When you hit the fork, GO LEFT.  The right branch goes right by the woman’s house.  When you go left you’ll pass by a bunch of cars and other items.  Don’t look.  Don’t stop.  Just keep pedaling!”  Sure enough, the guy was exactly right.  When I got close enough to see the house I darted left, and sure enough I was surrounded by hundreds of cars in the lot.  I travelled as fast as I could.  Finally, I made it to the final fence, threw my bags and lifted my bike over, and then I was back on the interstate!  I was so glad to be travelling on pavement again.  Sometimes the littlest things can seem like big adventures.

I rode the last 15 miles into Evanston on the interstate, and once in town I stopped to visit the local fire station.  There were four or five volunteers firefighters there, as they had responded to the station for a reported car accident.  Everyone was extremely helpful to me, and of course when I told them what I was doing they asked if I was alright in the head.  The firefighters helped me fill air into my tires, and then showed me their rigs.  On the back of every fire truck is an image dedicated in memory of two Evanston firefighters that died in the line-of-duty in 2005.  The firefighters told me that there was a structure fire with a report of children inside, and that initially the crew thought it was an attic fire because of a minimal amount of smoke on the first floors.  A smoke explosion occurred, and both firefighters lost their lives.  Following the incident the Evanston Fire Department created an honor guard for firefighter ceremonies, funerals and other events, and they constructed a monument honoring their department’s fallen firefighters outside of their station.  I was very impressed to see how the Evanston Fire Department took positive action to honor those lost in a tragedy.

I am currently writing this post from the Rock Springs Fire Department station 1, and I sure do have a bunch to write about that happened today.  The captain and I just finished up some much needed bike maintenance and cleaning.  But, it is pretty late, so I will save that information for another post.  Have a good night, and once again thank you to everyone who is supporting me throughout this trip.  It means so much. 



Update from Salt Lake City, UT

The trip has been going just as well as before, and I have now made it to Salt Lake City, UT.  This has been an exciting stop because it is one of the first larger cities I have hit on the trip, and I get to rest for a bit as well.  So far I have biked for 12 days, and covered somewhere over 950 miles.  A lot of the kinks and aches that were going on during the first week have subsided, so that makes riding much easier.

My last post was in Eureka, NV, and from there I headed to Ely, NV.  Nevada has been very rural, and for this day of riding there was a gap of 80 miles between towns with nothing in between.  There have been a lot of summits in Nevada; usually there were 3 – 4 passes a day.  Luckily though, the heat in Nevada was not nearly as bad as when I first started in the state.  Most temperatures were somewhere in 90s.

Ely was one of the larger towns in Nevada, and so I managed to grab a few bike items at the local sports shop.  I was told that this was the only bike shop for 200 miles each way!  Earlier on in the trip, while stopping for lunch, I began to notice that I was having difficulties grabbing utensils and cups of water.  I was fumbling everything.  At first I thought it was just fatigue, but as the trip has progressed I noticed the issue more and more, and my fingers began to go numb after gripping the bike handlebars for such long hours.  So, in Ely I ended up double-wrapping the handlebars with tape.  I think that did the trick, as the finger numbness has subsided considerably.  My dad and I stayed in the historic Hotel Nevada for that night, though we did visit the local firehouse and talk with Chief and another firefighter for a bit.

Once we departed Ely we were off the NV/UT border!  This was my favorite day of Nevada riding.  it is incredible how you can notice the terrain transitioning as your ride through it.  I noticed larger mountain ridges that were more rocky rather than the brown desert images in western Nevada.  Highway 50 also sort of winds with the mountains in Eastern Nevada, rather than straight through them as I had experienced before.  For about 30 miles I got to ride alongside this giant mountain ridge – it was incredible.  When I made it to the summit I could see for miles, and a giant thundercloud loomed in the distance.  I could actually see the sheets of rain falling down miles away, and I spotted three different lightning strikes over the mountain top.

We stayed at at the Border Inn motel on the state line, and I talked to a couple of motorcyclists from Reno about the trip.  They were pretty interested and very supportive.  Following that stay was a 90 mile ride into Nevada, with two summits at the beginning.  Right around here I got to ride through my favorite pass thus far, a place called King’s Canyon.  During the descent I was literally surrounded by these giant skyscraper mountains that shoot up right at the side of the road.  I loved it.  After that things got really flat, which was a huge relief.

The Delta City Fire Department escorted me into their town with an engine and chief’s car.  These firefighters were great, and truly just want to genuinely help other people out.  My mom had called ahead of time to let them know about my dad’s birthday the day prior, so when we arrived at the station they had ice cream and cake all ready to go!  After that we toured their station, and everyone was very proud to show off the rigs.  I was impressed with their 4000 gallon truck that was designed and fabricated by the firefighters themselves, as well as their specially constructed military off-road vehicle that was converted into a brush truck.  There were three different axles on that thing.

The Delta City firefighters were super kind too, and they even secured us a stay at the local motel free of charge.  Thank you.  Following that I biked to Santaquin, UT, and with the help of a terrific tail wind I was there in no time. 

Santaquin has been another great stay.  The fire chief is a career firefighter in metropolitan Salt Lake City, and works in Santaquin during his off-days as chief.  He was there to greet me upon arrival, and had originally planned for a meal at the firehouse.  A few minutes after I arrived though, he said “there’s been a change of plans”.  Instead of eating at the station, he invited me to come over and eat with his family!  It was great.  There were nine of us, including the chief, his wife, his parents (his dad is an assistant chief on the department) and his four children.  All of the kids were very fun and energetic, and the meal was great too – pasta!  After talking a bit about the fire service and the different aspects of life in Utah and by the mountains, I headed back to the station.  But first the family invited me over for breakfast again in the morning, and I gladly accepted.

I thought the rest of the evening would be pretty quiet in Santaquin, but it certainly wasn’t.  One of the on-duty police officers is an avid cyclist, and I talked to him for a while about my trip plans and preparations.  He says he has plans to do a cross-country tour upon his retirement from the police department.  I was glad to talk to him about my trip, and it made me realize again how many people have helped me out in planning this thing, especially regarding the logistics behind the actual bike and gear.  I am so grateful for these friends and family members who have assisted me in preparing for this trip.  Even something as simple as advice about a bike part or map route has proven to be so helpful.

Following that the engine (or truck – I don’t know what to call it and you will have to ask me to tell you the story about it in person for me to explain) caught a call for a car fire.  The chief invited me to join, so I hopped on!  The rest of the night was spent talking with more firefighters, and I went to bed around 10 pm or so.  I was the only in the fire station, and they set me up with an air mattress and cot in the department training room.  However, a city janitor came by at 4:30 am to clean the place, and it must’ve shocked him a bit to find me sleeping in the room!  When he woke me up and asked me what I was doing, I told him I had permission to stay from the fire chief, and he said I could stay the morning meeting at 7 am.  Haha that was pretty funny.

Chief Olson in Santaquin set me up with a great route into Salt Lake City, and for that day of riding I also had a good tail wind.  For the last 30 miles I caught a city bike trail along the Jordan River, which connects the Utah Lake and the Great Salt Lake.  It was a fun route, but rather slow because it was always weaving along the river path.  This was great though, and I took a rather leisurely pace.  I ended the night staying at Salt Lake City fire station 1, and the crew there was helpful in setting me up with a place to rest.

I’ll try to send out more posts soon, and I appreciate all the supportive messages, emails, texts and snapchats that anyone has sent me over that past few weeks.  They are great!  I do apologize I don’t have as many photos on this site.  I’ll probably stick to posting the photos via facebook, as that is a lot easier to do from my phone. 


Update from Eureka, NV

Hi!  I do apologize that I am now writing the first post about the bike trip six days into the trip.  Things have been great, but busy, but I am glad to now have some time to write an update about the bike trip.  I have been keeping a notebook journal as well, but this is the first time I have been able to sit down in front of a computer.

I arrived in San Francisco on July 8, and departed on a bicycle on July 10.  In between those days I enjoyed visiting the city, its different neighborhood districts and area parks.  I got to spend some time with a great group of people, and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience in San Francisco.  I would like to especially thank Kristen for housing me the first two nights, and for being so helpful with different details and advice about public transportation, places to check out, roads to use and all of those other things strangers in a new city often struggle with.  I was also fortunate enough to watch a dance performance put on by a dance company that she is involved with, and that was a real fun way to end my last night in the city.

On July 10 I departed with Nick, a good Michigan friend of mine who recently just moved to Palo Alto.  Kristen and her roommate Boo were there for the early morning send-off, and after that Nick and I headed for the Golden Gate Bridge.  The hilly streets in San Francisco are no joke, but we made it there alright, and the ride across the bridge was great.  Having never been to the west coast I was so impressed with the views of the Pacific, and cluster of houses within the city miles behind us.  Nick returned home after crossing the bridge, but it really meant a lot to me to have him there at the start.  I’m learning more and more how fortunate I am to have such a great and supportive group of friends.

Napa fire station 4 was my home for the first night, and the crew there was terrific.  As soon as I arrived they got to work on a giant meal, and they did everything they could to make me feel welcome.  I enjoyed talking about different fire and EMS topics with them, and as usual there was of course some fire service joking.  When I accidentally said the word “mountains” to describe my trip through Marin County, there were quick to point out – “kid, you haven’t seen any mountains yet!”  Not only did they take care of me in Napa, but they made sure I was ready to go for the next day, setting me up with breakfast and gatorades to go.  They covered the costs of everything.  Thanks guys!

My next stop was Sacramento, and after biking 75 miles (while stopping to check out the bicycle capitol of the USA which is Davis, CA) I made it to firehouse 2.  This is the downtown station for the Sacramento Fire Department, and the station houses a lot of people.  There is a truck, engine, medic and chief’s car.  The crew at station 2 that day was extremely friendly and welcoming, and I also got the chance to ride along on some calls with the engine.  We even drove around the downtown district for a while, and the captain and driver pointed out all the interesting buildings and histories.  We also stopped to check out California State Capitol and State Firefighter’s Memorial.  The most interesting part about the stay in Sacramento was meeting up with one of the firefighters who was originally from Michigan.  We both went to the same fire academy and EMT basic school in metro Detroit, and got to bond over our matching Schoolcraft college fire academy PT shorts.  What a small world.  At dinner time we celebrated the birthdays of two firefighters with cake and pie, and by singing happy birthday.

Truck 2 and Engine 2 escorted me all the way out of Sacramento, blocking the lane for me for probably five miles or so.  They were with me all the way until the city boundary.  That was great.  In Sacramento I also had the chance to share the story about the trip with a local newscaster, and it certainly helped spread the word as some firefighters in the nearby city of Rescue noticed me traveling the next day, and were quick to offer lunch at their fire station.  The fire service is all about helping others, and I’m learning that more and more throughout this trip.

On day three I pedaled to the Camino CAL FIRE headquarters.  This has been the most interesting fire station of the trip, because on the grounds there are many different buildings that support different functions of CAL FIRE.  In the middle of the area is giant 150 foot lookout tower that was previously used to spot wildfires.  Surrounding this tower is an apparatus bay, administrative office, mess hall, dispatch center and sleeping quarters.  The firefighters let me climb up the tower to watch the sunset over the treeline and mountain ridges, and it was beautiful.  Something I will never forget.  One guy at the bottom shouted up to me “Look, you can see where you’ve come from, and where you are going!” 

I had the chance to talk with some different dispatchers and learn more about CAL FIRE in general, and to sum it up briefly it is a GIANT fire department.  They have thousands of personnel, engines, helicopters, planes etc.  Everyone I met there was extremely informative and supportive of the trip.  I’d also like to say a big thank you to them for route advice through the Sierras, which kept me safe on the roads as I biked the next day.

Like the earlier fire stations, CAL FIRE set me up for the next day of touring with two bags of snacks and fruit.  One of the firefighters lugged a giant box of items they’ve collected from different lunches handed out for wildland fires, and generously invited me to take whatever I’d like.  Thank you CAL FIRE. 

Biking though the Sierras was a memorable trip.  The views are stunning, and trees and mountains just surround you.  In the Midwest I’ve never really worried much about different elevations, but along the path through the Sierras I would see the different signs naming each mountain pass or summit.  On the sign is the name of the pass and its elevation, and its always a relief to get there because you know you have a long descent down.  The highest pass I reached (I believe) was Carson Pass at about 8600 feet.  I mentioned that the views of nature were spectacular, but I really got a kick out of seeing one mountain top that still had snow on it.  Here I am, its 85 degrees and the middle of July, and there is still snow on the mountain tip.  that was just so foreign to me that I found it really interesting.

The stay in South Lake Tahoe was great, and the crew there treated my father and I well.  My dad is driving a support car for the Nevada leg of the trip, and he arrived in South Lake Tahoe on July 13.  He has been great, and I’m very grateful to have his support, especially here in rural Nevada.  I have never experienced a place so rural before in my life.  The road I am riding, highway 50, is called the Loneliest Road in America.  It’s no joke.  I have also been learning that Nevada is full of mountain ranges.  There have been many passes to go through every day of riding thus far through this state, and I have a few more to get through before Utah.

The descent out of Tahoe into Carson City was fantastic.  I don’t think I pedaled for twenty minutes straight.  That’s something you never get to do riding in the Midwest!  There was a pretty distinct different once over the mountain between California in Nevada.  Once in Nevada I was blasted with a wave of heat, and the tall trees I once was surrounded with were transformed into shorter bushes and brush. 

Carson City Fire Department did a great job to support this ride.  Alex, one of the firefighters, rode with me around the city, showing me to the Nevada State Capitol and State Firefighters Memorial.  At the memorial we were greeted by an Assistant Chief and engine and medic crews from station 1.  We got a chance to remember Nevada’s fallen firefighters at the memorial, and then headed to station 51 were all of the on-duty firefighters came over for lunch.  There is great camaraderie in the fire department in Carson City.

Alex and I rode out of Carson City with a third person, Tim, who is an NDOT worker.  Tim has been an extremely helpful resource to me for the route planning parts of the trip, and I was so excited to not only meet him, but have him ride with us.  Tim set up media coverage with the newspaper for the ride, and after that we all headed out together in the 100 degree heat.

Finishing up the 100 mile day we made it to Fallon, NV.  This was the first volunteer fire department to house me for the trip.  They were fantastic.  The minute we walked I was greeted by different firefighters, as well as their spouses and children, all cheering and asking about the ride so far.  Fallon is the first all-volunteer fire department in the nation to receive an ISO 1 rating, and I was very impressed with their organization.  Different fire memorabilia, articles and photographs all surround their station walls, and all of the firefighters I met were extremely proud of their department.  It was a great opportunity to stay in their firehouse, and I am so grateful that they were able to support me for this leg of the trip.  Hats off to Chris at Fallon for doing such a great job organizing the dinner and other arrangements. 

I left at 5 am the next morning with some more riding companions – Chris’s wife and a friend of hers.  It’s so nice riding with other people, especially riders who are familiar with the area.  We had a great start, but the rest of the day was rough.  115 miles.  In the end my father and I made it to Austin, NV, and I am glad that day is done.  That was yesterday.  It ended sort of funny though.  There were no rooms open at any town motels, so luckily the fire department chief let us sleep on the floor of the firehouse.  We didn’t have any blankets or pillows, but we found a few boxes of clothing that must have been used for a children’s Christmas pageant.  There were shepherd’s robes and sheep costumes, and they all made for a great bed!  It was like our own little nativity scene.  There was no room in the inn for us either, and so we had to sleep on the shepherd’s robes in the floor of the firehouse!

I appreciate all of the text messages, emails and phone calls that people have been sending to me as I bike.  It means so much, and it is very encouraging and supportive.  Thank you all so much! 

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Testing 4, 5, 6

Here is another test post just to figure out the final kinks of the website and Facebook.  The plane leaves tomorrow morning, and after some prep work in San Francisco I plan on departing the Golden Gate Bridge the morning of Thursday, July 10.  Thank you to everyone who has supported me so far, it means so much.  Stay tuned for more details as the real trip is just about to start!

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Testing 1, 2, 3

Hey!  Here is a test post.  I am excited to begin this bike trip, and more details will be coming soon, but I am planning on departing the west coast the first week of July.  Please stay tuned.  I’ve gotta graduate from the University first and then we’ll be good to go.

Bike Trip 2013 4