Day 3- The Rockies – Done

June 15, 2010

Tuesday 5:00 pm – the plains of Eastern Colorado

The Rockies are beautiful but we are glad to say good-bye to all that climbing. We crossed 3 major passes in the last 24 hours – two of them in the middle of the night with temps in the 30’s. The climbs were tough enough, the descents left us all numb and shivering. This part of race seems to be harder than last year – race organizers must’ve gone out of their way to pick the hardest route through southern Colorado. Still, we saw some spectacular scenery at unusual times and places that we will all remember for a long time.

Our crew is doing a fantastic job. They are in constant motion doing the endless chores necessary to house and feed a continuously moving caravan of three vehicles which are always in different place, except for rendezvous of just a few minutes every 6 hours. AND these rendezvous points are all determined on the fly based on the riders progress. We are making extensive use of the skills of an and ex-Marine, cycling coach and retired elite rider, Delta pilot and many others. Most importantly we are relying on the resourcefulness and good humor of these folks to get us safely and swiftly to the finish line. This is not only a team of 4 it is a team of 14. And that includes our beloved Warren, crew chief back in Atlanta, who is following our every move on the web and with regular phone calls.

We are 1230 miles through the race with the plains of Kansas ahead. Jerome and Tony should make it about halfway through Kansas during Tuesday night, and Dave and Frank should finish the other half Wed.

Many thanks to all of you who are emailing encouragement and posting comments to our individual and team Facebook pages. You have been very generous with your donations, bringing us close to $100,000 at this point!

Day 2 – 830 Miles!

June 14, 2010

Monday 5:00pm – just west of Durango CO

After leaving Prescott AZ in the afternoon Sunday, Jerome and Tony rode on to Flagstaff, passing through beautiful Sedona, and up Oak Creek Canyon. Then it was on to the Navajo Indian reservation in NE AZ. This is a long and desolate section of the route and the boys passed through entirely at night. We saw many teams on the road that night.

The standings are starting to sort themselves out. This RAAM has the biggest field ever ant there are some very good teams here. There are several we seem be near a lot, passing them and later getting passed by them. We hope to put at least one of these teams behind us for good.

Frank and Dave came back in the line-up early in the morning, while still in Arizona. The temp was in the low 40s at that point and it made for some cold riding. but after about 3 hours dawn broke and we found ourselves entering Monument Valley just over the border in Utah. It spectacular landscape and a great way to see the dawn. 

Our crew chief at home base in Atlanta, Warren Bruno, has been checking in regularly with all the team and crew, anxious for the latest update and to see how everyone is holding up. During one of his calls, Mark was able to patch him into our PA system so Warren could speak directly to Jerome while he was on the bike. It surprised Jerome so much he started talking back. Yes – we are experiencing some sleep deprivation.

Just short of Cortez CO, at the 48 hour mark, we were 820 miles into the race. We can all use some more sleep, but the riders are all doing well. Our Master Massage Therapists, Stephanie and Matthew, are doing a great job keeping our muscles smooth and loose and working out the kinks.

Tony and Jerome took over in Cortez and started on one of the hardest sections of the race, including a climb up and over the continental divide at Wolf Creek Pass – a long steep climb to 11,000 feet, in the dark. The temps will likely be the lowest we see this week.

First 24 Hours Done – 443 Miles!

June 13, 2010

5:00 pm EDT in Prescott AZ

When Frank pulled into the Wal-Mart in Prescott Arizona the Chain Gang had been riding for 24 hours. Jerome and Tony took the first 12 hour shift, alternating 2 hours each on the bike. They rode through the entire width of Southern California – 230 miles by 2am (Pacific Time), after a 2pm start from Oceanside. Dave and Frank took over from there, starting with 1.5 hour pulls during the first hours of darkness. Later in the day as the temps went up in Arizona and we started climbing, we switched to one hours pulls. We ended the day with a 15 mile climb from 3000′ to 6000′ and on into Prescott, a beautiful town a mile above sea level with an amazingly cool climate for what you might expect for Arizona

On our first day on the road day we all got to experience one of the most beautiful aspects of the ride – night riding through the desert. Even with the follow van behind us it is still quiet enough to hear the telephone lines singing in the wind. Occasionally a bat will wing its way down in front of you before disappearing again into the night. Night riding is also very safe, with almost no traffic and the follow van close behind at all times illuminating the road ahead. And best of all it is cool

Just a note about the amazing team work of our crew. I’ve already mentioned how the riders split up into 2 teams and each team takes a 12 hour shift (Jerome and Tony 5pm – 5am EDT, Frank and Dave 5am-5pm EDT). Our crew is divided into 3 teams. Dave Payne, Dave Laws and David Gluck drive the follow vehicle from 11pm to 11am, then Jane Eastham, Mark Engemann and Marshall Siler take over the follow van from 11am to 11pm. When not driving, each team finds their way to motel rooms to rest up. We are very thankful to Holiday Inn for donating one million points to the team that we can use at any of their hotels along the way

We have a 3rd team made up of David Rossetti, Tammy Addison and our 2 massage therapists – Matthew Corrigan and Stephanie Grant. These folks man the RV where the riders rest eat and sleep when they are off-shift. Besides tending to the riders these folks have to keep the RV running and maintained. The crew must coordinate the movement of these vehicles around the bikes moving at a continuous 18-20 mph speed. Our rider and crew changes started out as barely organize mayhem, but by the end of the first day these folks were performing like a NASCAR pit crew.

Race Day for Georgia Chain Gang is Finally Here!

June 12, 2010

Saturday, noon – Oceanside CA

Race day is finally here and we have a few hours to get ready and give you and update on the last couple of days.

Thursday night – our last chance to party hard before the race as we will all be going to bed early on Friday. We of course hit our “base camp” from last year – the Haunted Head Saloon, where the crowd tends to be a mix of Marines, surfers, bikers (the Harley kind), all with a lot of tattoos, but not many of the shaved leg and spandex crowd. After a few rounds of Jagermeister, beer and fussball we managed to fit right in. You will see some Haunted Head t-shirts back in Atlanta.

Friday – it all came together: photo sessions, paperwork, jersey fittings, official meetings, team meeting, even a chance to go for a warm up ride…

It’s fun to see the teams from all over the world. At the registration and team meetings you catch them eyeing each other, sizing up the competition. It is most intense among the under 50 teams, but even the old guys are pretty competitive. There are even 2 teams in the 60-69 age group. We;ve talked a good bit with Charlie, crew chief for team Equipe Schwarz from Germany. They are entered in our 50-59 bracket. Jerome is worried that his spying on us, but we sold him a GCG jersey so we are happy to share what expertise we have. Charlie told Jerome he bought him a special t-shirt – one with tombstones on it. Jerome replied that we’ll be waiting for him at the finish to receive it.

Co-chief Dave Payne has done an amazing job tuning up the bikes. They are all in top shape. He even managed to get Dave Armento’s machines looking almost new. From what we can tell neither had been cleaned since RAAM 2009. 

Tony of course is obsessing over every detail. He and Jerome built out the Follow Van with a sleeping platform, speaker system that can plug into any iPod, full wiring for the lighting system and plugs for the many devices we have to charge and keep running along the way. It is amazing how many electronic devices we seem to need these days – iPod, iPhones, iPads, Blackberry’s, cell phones, laptops, GPS devices, bike computers

By Friday at 5pm we finally had all our crew together with the team for the first time – ever. We attended the full teams meeting down at the Pier and then held our first all hands meeting while eating around the pool in the evening. We riders are extremely lucky to have such a skilled and dedicated crew. Many thanks to Warren, Jane and Dave Payne for pulling these folks together. Besides being incredibly committed to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and its mission, they each bring unique skills to the team – computer and navigation experts, two massage therapists, bike mechanics, vehicle mainenance, and most of all, a willingness to take on what has been called the “most horrible job you’ll ever love.” They don’t know it yet, but they are in for one of the great adventures of their lives.

The Race starts on Saturday – 5:00pm EDT!

June 9, 2010

Atlanta GA

After a year of planning, training and fundraising we are now only a few days away from the start. Vehicles, supplies and people are starting to make their way to San Diego. The RV, loaded with equipment, supplies and 8 bikes, and driven by Dave Rossetti and his road trip buddies, should arrive shortly. Jerome and Tony are already in Oceanside, building out the Follow Van. Rumor is that they are also getting reacquainted with the Haunted Head drinking establishment in town. 

One of the fun things we do in preparation is to walk the race route mile-by-mile in the course book and using our mapping software. A major change in the route this year means we will not go through New Mexico at all. We will be traversing the Rockies entirely in Utah and Colorado. There is a lot of high altitude riding and mountain climbing in this section. We ascend through 4 passes above 9000′ and cross the Continental Divide at Wolf Creek Pass at 10,857 ft.

In spite of the excitement as we approach race day, the team is also sad to report that one of our crew chiefs will not be joining us during the race. Crew Chief Warren Bruno has been the driving force behind our team this year, taking the lead in organizing us and in our fundraising. He hosted our very successful silent auction at his new restaurant, Ormsbys. We all looked forward to leadership during the race, but for the past 2 weeks Warren has been in the hospital fighting a serious infection. His ongoing battle with Lymphoma, and the treatment that goes with it, has weakened his immune system. He just got out of the hospital and is now back at home resting, but isn’t strong enough right now to join us on the race. While he will not be joining us on road he will be cheering us on from Atlanta every mile of the way.

Warren is one of the reasons we are doing this and we are are more dedicated than ever to our cause.

A HUGE thank you goes out to all of you who have so generously supported this endeavor with your encouragement, labor, in-kind donations and money. Many of you have ridden with us on weekends as we trained. None of this would be possible without your support. Your donations do make a difference and will increase the odds of survival for all cancer patients. This is the last update from Atlanta. The next time you hear from us we will all be in California. Once the race starts we will try to send a newsletter update out daily. Riders and crew will also be making updates to the GCG Facebook page, to our individual pages, and of course Twittering away.