DON8 LIFE

California

A Ride Across America

Inspiring People to Donate Life

2004

APR

A Ride Across America

2006 Journal

Saturday April 8, 2006 - Seal Beach, CA
Well, here we are again! We hadn’t planned on doing another ride but after some prodding we decided that maybe we could do it again. So, we began our trip in Seal Beach with family and friends, and set off on another adventure to inspire people to Donate Life. I guess we just couldn’t leave it for one trip.

After so much rain the week before it was hit and miss on whether we would have a sunny send off, but it turned out to be beautiful. Bryan Stewart, Director of Communications for OneLegacy in Southern California, started the festivities and Bishop Gary Marksbury gave the Invocation. The Southern California Blues Society provide some great music and John Parker sang “America the Beautiful”. We found that John is a liver recipient of 10 months, and when he found out what we were doing he just had to come down and join the party.

We left the festivities at approximately 11:00 am with all the equipment on the street and headed up Main St. We stopped just before getting on the

San Diego Freeway to load the equipment and head for the next days departure from San Francisco. It took us a while to load the gear and while we were doing this I got a phone call from my wife Lis who stayed at the pier and said that they were just buzzed by a United States Air Force C-17 transport that circled a couple of times before going south. We had been working with the Air Force Reserve to include Reservists on our team. The plan was to have them provide a relay team of recipients and others who have been affected by donation across the country, changing out riders but there was not enough time to set up that part of the event properly so we’ll concentrate with them on our next ride. We are looking forward to that!! Thanks Captain Higgs and Colonel Deal.

It took about 1 ½ hours to get the quads in the trailer, we kept the motorcycle on the highway and left for San Francisco. It was a long trip, we stopped by the South San Francisco Fire Department and left the truck and trailer there. After checking in and we finally got into bed around 2:30 am.

DAY 1 Sunday April 9, 2006 - San Francisco, CA/Reno, NV
By the time we had everyone in the vehicles and off to Sacramento it was about 9:00 am. We have an appointment at the Firefighter’s Memorial in Capitol Park next to the Capitol Building with the Golden State Donor Network and firefighters. It was fantastic to ride down towards the capitol on quads, not many  people have done that! When we pulled up, they had set up a small tent and had a row of fire fighting trucks lined up and everyone waving. We drove down a “gauntlet” and then had lunch and spoke to everyone. It was an emotional meeting even as we got off the quads, people were coming up to us explaining why they are involved. One individual stands out (I can’t remember his name) but he lost a son to a brain aneurysm and became a donor. He was a proud father, proud that his son was a police officer and proud that he was able to save the lives of four others.

 

This was our first stop and people were so excited with what we were doing. The kids just climbed all over the quads and had their pictures taken. They had a special cake made for us - it had our picture on it! WE ate that for dessert after eating hot dogs off the Fire Departments “Chuck Wagon”. Well, this was a short stop and we had to make way for Reno if we were going to make it there at 4:00 pm for their welcome.

As we drove onto the eastbound I-80 and on the overpass one fire engine company had set up a ladder truck (ladder raised in salute) and the firefighters were lined up on the overpass to wish us well on our journey. How can we not have a safe trip?

About 25 miles later we got pulled over for our first stop. This is No. 1 and yes we have a pool going again! He said that the dispatcher had a caller say that there were ATVs on I-80 doing about 70. The caller said he didn’t know they could go that fast - so they sent a unit out to see what was up. Well, we attracted about 4 different units and they were all surprised that we were on the interstate but wished us well after checking out our paperwork.


Up over the Donner Pass the temperature dropped and we hit a little rain and snow. Luckily it wasn’t much but the temperature indicated 30 degrees. Pretty cold to be outside riding…Actually, the quads did very well as we were ready to pull then off the road at the first sign of any difficulty. We made a pit stop at Truckee to let the riders dry off and warm up, their smiles frozen in place.

We had a great welcoming party at Harrah’s where we were going to be staying. We met more wonderful people and heard great stories. We were ushered inside and taken to a lounge where hors de vours were served and we continued  our conversations. We were able to display the chopper in the lounge as well…pushed it right into the lounge next to the stage. Harrah’s was just great in making our visit comfortable, our thanks to Jaime for helping to make this happen.

Retired to bed around 12:30 am. It’s off to Elko, NV tomorrow at 7:00 am.

DAY 2  Tuesday April 11, 2006 - Elko, NV
I have been having trouble getting a connection to the internet. Seems a lot of the hotels have wireless and I haven’t quite got that down yet with this new laptop. I hope that you have patience and thank you for waiting for this to be posted.

 

Woke up to the threat of rain. It’s cold too. Those on the quads got dressed for the cold/wet weather and off we went. At a lunch stop in Winnemucca, we saw an Arctic Cat dealer at the top of the hill behind the restaurant and took two quads up there to talk with them and take some pictures, they ended up giving us a couple of wind-breakers for the hand grips. The dealer was Snowstorm Sports and Jim White is the owner, real nice guy. The wind-breakers are going to work just fine!

We hit snow again up over Emigrant Pass outside Elko but it didn’t stick to the ground so we were able to keep the quads on the road. We got stopped again by a State Trooper - No. 2. He was driving by on the opposite side and saw the quads on the road, he radioed his dispatch and asked if there was anything on the schedule about ATVs.

When the dispatch said no he asked what he should do. The dispatch said “Well go get ’em!” Just before he got out of his car he was told that we were okay. He told us this and we talked some more and he then wished us well. We got into Elko and stopped by the American Red Cross where we they had a couple of the Elko newspapers. We talked about an hour and then checked into the hotel. A friend of mine, Kent Heaps, his wife Mary Lou and daughter Kimberly, drove from Salt Lake City to greet us and drive with us. It was great having them with us although I don’t know if they liked watching us get fuel, change drivers and so forth all the way to Salt Lake! It was a quite an evening and we got to bed around midnight. Tomorrow it’s off to Salt Lake City.

DAY 3  Tuesday, April 11, 2006 - Salt Lake City, UT
Got up and on the road by 7:00 am. There wasn’t a lot of excitement on the road this morning. Beautiful country. We had to stop by the airport to drop Troy off, he had a meeting that he needed to be at that night so he caught a flight home and would meet up with us on a return flight tomorrow morning. We then went to the Xango office complex in South Jordan where we were met with old friends. Xango is a health drink and a couple of distributors are sponsors of ours - Jeff and Paula Burt, they helped to get this little shindig together and it was great seeing them. We talked with the CBS affiliate there in Salt Lake and they fed us sandwiches while we talked. It was a great evening.

We put Marianne on the quad to the ride to the hotel. We took State Street all the way to downtown and drove right into the Valet Parking at the Hilton where the staff was waiting for us. They had made arrangements to park the truck and trailer right next the front of the hotel and then the other truck and quads we were allowed to leave right there in the drive way up to the hotel! Hilton provided us with very nice rooms at no charge. The staff was wonderful and they made sure we had everything we needed. They said they appreciated what we were doing and were proud to do what they could to help out. Salt Lake Hilton Downtown Central - great place.

DAY 4  Wednesday April 12, 2006, Rawlins, WY
The next morning we met the Intermountain Donor Registry at Library Square and the Donor Memorial there. This is a special place for us. We saw the dedication in 2004 and personally, I have a friend who lost two of his children and who have their names on the wall as ones who have given the Gift of Life - Tanya and Denise.

 

The media came out in full force. Affiliates from Fox and NBC and then the local station KSL. Also showing up was an old friend of our family. His name is Mark and was Elliott’s best friend. Elliott introduced him to his wife Linda, who unfortunately passed away 10 days after Elliott did in 2001. It was great to see him and talk with him, I had not seen him in many years.

We picked up Troy from the airport at about 10:00 am and then it was off to Rawlins, WY our next stop.


The great weather allowed us to put the chopper down on the highway that day. It was turning out to be the first day without rain, snow, wind or fog since we left San Francisco. Brian rode the bike and had a ball. It was an uneventful trip to Rawlins and we got there at sunset with the wind blowing - we were fortunate as it was a tail-wind.

DAY 5  Wednesday April 13, 2006 - Denver, CO
Rawlins was a quiet stop, we fueled the vehicles and were off to Denver at about 7:00 am. Traveling on the highway with the ATVs makes quite an impression on the public. At all stops people ask us about the quads. The most common statement is “I didn’t know they could go so fast!”.  It also presents us with an opening to speak about what we’re doing. It seems as if everyone we talk with has been touched by donation. Those that have not yet been touched are very receptive and agree to discuss it with their family.

 

Our first stop when we got to Denver was to drop off the bikes at Nelson Motor Sports owned by Troy Nelson. We wanted to have the quads serviced so we left all four machines.

We met the Donor Alliance at Children’s Hospital and were allowed to go on one of the floors and visit the children. Toyota/Lexus had donated model cars and stuffed animals for us to hand out to the children. It’s difficult to watch the children, cancer, accident victims, they are all there. We were tremendously moved by those kids and the suffering they are experiencing. It’s great to be able to bring a smile to their faces. One little boy of  4 had been on a feeding tube and when we walked in was eating a jelly sandwich. Although he liked the car we gave him, he was very intent on eating, it was the first solid food he was able to eat in weeks. He looked like he was savoring each and every bite. Like it was manna from heaven - which it is…especially for a little boy.

We spent about 1 ½ hours with children - God bless them, and then we were off to meet some of the folks at the Donor Alliance offices. After that it was off to the hotel. Olympian Chris Klug was scheduled to join us  and spend the next day with us. Chris won the bronze medal in the 2002 Olympics in the Giant Slalom. This was accomplished just 18 months after receiving a liver - and the first American to compete in the Olympics as a recipient. He was looking forward to helping us do some driving and spending time with us and spreading the word on the importance of donation.

We picked up the bikes and Mr. Nelson would not take payment for the work he did stating that this is a good cause. Arctic Cat is really taking care of us. I hope the bikes perform well for them and so far so good!

Chris arrived at 9:00 pm and after a small dinner we went to bed. We needed to get up and on the road early (4:00 am) as we have 600 miles to drive tomorrow - Denver to Kansas City.

DAY 6  Thursday April 14, 2006 - Kansas City, MO
Got up at 4:00 am. It’s cold and have a long day ahead of us. We decide to place all the equipment on the street. With Chris here we have an extra driver so this will be the first time we’ve had all the equipment down at one time. We’ve rotated equipment to make sure we’re placing a equal amount of work on the machines and they have been working great! The last trip, we had one quad that was limited to about 55 mph. On this trip however, we pick up at least 10 mph AND 3 gallons of gas (6.5 gal tank) which makes for longer travel between fuel stops.

 

600 miles in one day is a long way to be on a quad or motorcycle. Chris started out on one of the quads and then switched to the motorcycle. He rode that way all day (quad/motorcycle) with the exception of 2 ½ - 3 hours when he rode in the car and crashed. We’d like to thank Chris for coming along with us. He wished he could spend more time on the road as we all had a good time - tiring - but good. He is going to use some of the footage and stills on the ride to finish up a documentary he’s helping with to show the wonders of transplantation and how it can change lives while also helping those families who lose a son or daughter, husband or wife, to know that their loved one was able to help someone in such a profound way. It IS the greatest gift that can be given.

Thanks Chris.

Stop No. 3 took place about 50 miles outside of Topeka, KS. We talked with the officer a few minutes on the side of the road and then he suggested we move into the Rest Area down the road a mile or so. When we got there, another patrol car pulled up in back and as he was doing that, Tom was off asking the first officer if it was okay to go to the rest room…hmmmmm.

As with the first stops, a discussion and a phone call, then it was “Have a nice trip, sorry to detain you”, and off we went. It took us 18 hours to travel the 600 miles to Kansas City and then 3 miles before getting to the hotel (10:30 pm) we were stopped again! No. 4. My number is looking pretty good right now - 9! After a couple of phone calls, he told us to be safe and off we went. We got to the hotel and in our rooms and jumped right into bed.

We don’t have anything planned for the arrival in St. Louis on Saturday night so we’ll sleep in tomorrow morning. We want to be in St. Louis by dark tomorrow night.

DAY 7  Saturday April 15, 2006 - St. Louis, MO
Refreshed and invigorated, (or at least virgorated!), we were on the road at about 11:30 am. We gassed up the vehicles and left for St. Louis. Tomorrow, Sunday, we have an appointment at the new St. Louis Cardinal Stadium, seems we’re going to be presented to the crowd prior to the game! 40,000 people at once! Hopefully we’ll have our message taken and acted upon by everyone there!

 

Stop No. 5 took place on the way to St. Louis. One officer, how do you dos, one phone call and a “Be safe”. He said that they are getting a lot of phone calls saying there are ATVs are on the highway. He was amazed with “how” we’re getting our message out!

There was also a conversation that took place over the radio between two truckers that we heard on our frequency. We heard them talking about some ATVs on the highway, something about Donate Life. Troy broke in and introduced himself, and the lady asked if there was someway to make a donation. We gave her the web address and said goodbye. I think we’ll have to add a CB to our list for next time. Think of all the conversations we’ll be able to have….

Got to St. Louis about 5:00 pm dinner and now it’s 11:20 pm. It’s Easter Sunday tomorrow. We have been blessed on this trip and pray that our Lord will continue to make it so. The weather reports don’t look good. Severe rain is expected. We’ll just have to wait and see. Good night for now.

DAY 8  Sunday April 16, 2006 - St. Louis, MO
We slept in this morning as we didn’t have to be at the ballpark until 12:15 pm. We took the time to clean up the trailer a little and get to the park early. We met with our Cardinal contact, Marty, who spoke to us about what was going to go on and then we walked into the stadium. Busch Stadium is beautiful! It’s only a week old and the view from home plate to center field is spectacular. Out over the centerfield wall is the arch. The stadium has a very cozy feel to it. It doesn’t look like there’s a bad seat in the house.

 

We walked out behind home plate and they told us where to stand when they introduced us. At this time the Cardinal mascot came and stood in with us. They introduced myself, (living donor) Brian Hensley (liver recipient), Marianne O’Quinn (kidney recipient) and Troy Adams (recipient family member). There was applause and then we unrolled an A Ride Across America banner and took pictures with the Cardinal mascot. Greg and the mascot got in a mock tug-o-war with the banner and we got it on tape, it was pretty funny.

 

Marty tried to get us into meet one of the co-owners of the ball club because he is a kidney recipient. He wasn’t there but it would have been great to meet him. After taking a bunch of pictures we left the stadium, had lunch and then left for Chicago.

We hit rain about 75 miles out of the city and it rained the whole way in. We got to the hotel at about 10:30 pm, checked in then went to bed. We have a big day tomorrow.

DAY 10  Monday  April 17, 2006 - Chicago, ILL
We woke before five as we had to meet with John who works for The Gift of Hope here in Chicago. He loaded us into cabs and took us to the media center downtown. We got on the NBC morning news in Chicago as they talked about donation and what people in Illinois could do to become donors. After the previous night of rain, the wind made the air very cold. The temperature showed 48 degrees but it felt like 32 degrees.

 

We then went to breakfast and then made a visit to Fire Station 3 in downtown. The firefighters were great and showed everyone the equipment - and yes - they had a fire pole and about half the team just had to slide down it! After the station we went to the James Thompson Building. This is a government building and The Gift of Hope was handling an Illinois Donor Registry Event there at which we were asked to come and assist. We got a lot of people to sign up. I’m told that since January 1st when their program was initiated they’ve had 500,000 people sign up!

John, our host then took us upstairs where we met with Secretary of State Jesse White, the Jesse that used to play for the Chicago Cubs! He took us in his office and showed us around, gave us something to drink and gave us all pins. He is a very big supporter of donor awareness and we were so honored to meet him and talk with him a minute. After we left to go downstairs we decided to present one of our extra helmets to Secretary of State White to show our appreciation of the work he does on behalf of donation. John checked to see if we could go upstairs again but he was already very busy and couldn’t see anyone. We gave the helmet to his assistant to give to him as we have to be on the road in the morning.

We got back to the hotel room at about 3:00 pm to rest a spell and then get ready for dinner. The Gift of Hope was taking us out.

We had a great dinner and had a great time with them. Illinois as a whole is very aware of the need for donation. It was very easy to speak with everyone and they signed up willingly. Thanks to The Gift of Hope for such a memorial day. I don’t think they could have squeezed another event in there….

Tomorrow we head to Toledo, Ohio. Another day of travel and talk and hopefully a few decisions to become a donor.

DAY 11  Tuesday April 18, 2006 - Toledo, OH
Awoke at 6:30 and packed up the gear. We have about 30 miles to drive out of the city before we can put the quads down on the any street, when we stop we’ll also eat breakfast. It was uneventful trip to Toledo. When we hit the Indiana/Ohio border we had to get off the interstate and enter the state highway system. This slowed us down a little but it also presents us with an opportunity to see a little more of the countryside.

 

We finally made it to the hotel where we were met by a small contingency of the donor alliance here in Indiana. We met with Greg who has been through two - two - surgeries receiving 9 organs. You would never know it to look at him. He looked as fit as a fiddle. He is still having some problems - God bless him and those who lost love ones that provided him with a second chance.

We stopped by Medical University of Ohio in Toledo and attended a kidney patients’ orientation. These patients (about 60) have been told that they are in kidney failure by their physician and this orientation will provide information to the patients on what to expect next. They asked us here to tell the patients a little about what we are doing and also tell them that they have a lot of people out there like us that care about them and are working to make their transplant easier. It was a very emotional meeting as they are just now beginning to understand just how sick they are and how sick they may become. This is exactly what we are trying to do - trying to get people to register to donate to help shorten the waiting list. Waiting is something they will be doing. The average waiting time for patients in this area is 2 - 2 ½ years. Looking around the room you realize that a percentage of them will die before receiving the Gift of Life. We have a lot of work to do.

Both Marianne and Brian spoke a little about there transplant experience, the transplant coordinator explained the next steps and then there was a question and answer period. Good luck to all…

We’ll get up in the morning and go to one of the Fire Stations. We’re meeting up with a firefighter’s widow in a small ceremony. Her husband, a firefighter, was killed in a motorcycle accident and donated whatever she could to help others. This will be another emotional event.

It’s 10:30 pm. Good night and it’s lights out…

DAY 12  Wednesday April 19, 2006 - Youngstown, OH
Got up early and met everyone for breakfast. As we were loading up the car, Nancy from Life Connections of Ohio, called and said that she got a radio interview for us at the No. 1 country station in Toledo. K100 - Shores and Steele in the Morning. Brian and I went over there and everyone else went to breakfast. We were supposed to meet the Fire Department at Station No. 9 this morning for a short ceremony and then we would be off for Youngstown.

 

Nancy  had been working on this for sometime and Shores and Steele (Gary Shores and Harvey Steele) had been plugging us showing up in Toledo all week long. Harvey is a liver recipient of about 20 years and knows of the need for education. It was great going there and listening to them banter back and forth with each other.  They had joked often (as we were told) about the ATVs on the street and how could an ATV get from Toledo to New York City in 2 days? They had a pretty good time with us (and we with them!) and were on the radio for about 5 minutes. There are great advocates and constantly telling their audience that they need to sign up.

After the radio play and some in-studio pictures, they set the system on automatic and we went outside and had them sit on the quads for pictures. Gary even rode one around the parking lot. He was very familiar with them and really liked ours. Those two were great and it was a pleasure to meet them.

Well, we had to leave to make our next appointment at the Fire Station so we said our goodbyes and off we went. At the station there was about 30 people - most of them firefighters, members of the local Coalition and some press.  The purpose of this meeting was to further honor a firefighter , Mike, who died in an accident. He and his family had spoken about donation and he saved the lives of four others. His wife, Jeanne and son Josh were there as well as his parents and Jeanne’s. It was very emotional and Brian got up to speak on the need to carry on and work to reduce the number on the waiting list. He also said that we were out there doing what we are doing because we care. I think that she was moved by his comments as was everyone.

After the short ceremony, we took pictures and the firefighters gave us each a t-shirt. We said our thanks and goodbyes and made for the road. We stopped a short distance down the road (it was now 11:30 am) and had lunch near a Harley Davidson dealer. We got a couple of parts for the bike and then we were on the road for Youngstown by 1:00 pm.

During lunch we had a very funny episode with  “Doc”. He had ordered some pancakes and when they came he had asked for syrup which the waitress brought. He poured the stuff on liberally and then took a big bite. What he didn’t know was the small container was filled with malt vinegar - which Troy had ordered. It certainly looked like syrup - well, maybe it was a little thin but he gulped it down anyway. He gagged on it but decided that this was the kind of syrup they served in the Midwest and then took ANOTHER bite! We were all in hysterics, we had another good laugh at dinner and I’m sure will in the future.

The trip to Youngstown should have been uneventful but traveling down the road we came to a detour upon which we were forced to take and by the time all was said and done we had driven through Canton (didn’t stop to see the NFL Hall of Fame) and then a good portion of the countryside south of Youngstown before we got there! We took a 5-6 hour trip and made it into a 10 hour ordeal!

We got to the Holiday Inn at 10:30 pm and went straight up to the rooms tired and ready for bed. It’s about 11:45 pm now and tomorrow morning we’re meeting with little Isabelle whom we meet two years ago on our first trip. She was the little girl waiting for a four-organ transplant - which she had - but is now on the waiting list for a kidney. Her family is driving up from near Pittsburgh to Youngstown to have breakfast with us…Tom wants to give here another ride on the quad - something he did in 2004 prior to her transplant. We are looking forward to that for sure.

Well, it’s lights out and another day tomorrow. We can get back on the interstate so we shouldn’t get lost again….of course, maps CAN be wrong you know…we proved that today. Good night and may God bless.

DAY 13  Thursday April 20, 2006 - Stroudsburg, PA
Woke up and started getting the equipment ready. It was about 8:30 am when we found out that Michelle, Isabelle and Maddie were in the lobby of the hotel. We went inside and met them and then sat down for breakfast in the hotel. It was good to see Isabelle and see how much she has grown. She still has a kidney problem and her liver is not functioning as it should but she looked great and a lot bigger than the last time we saw her.

 

After breakfast we went outside to where the quads were. Michelle had said the girls were looking forward to riding the quads and had talked about it the day before and kept asking questions. Well Tom and John got on the quads and then Isabelle and Maddie. They drove around the hotel about 5 times each. It was fantastic. Maddie (Maddie is almost 10) was with John and he let her take control of the quad and operate the gas and steer it. You should have seen her, she was like a pro, running the quad and steering it. We got a lot of good footage! Isabelle liked the horn as that was the only thing that she could operate without sitting right on the tank. They both had a lot of fun and the smiles on their faces showed that. Thanks Michelle for coming up to see us. God bless Dan and you and your family.

We finally had to get on the road as we had about 310 miles to drive that day and we were going to meet John Dean of the Coalition out on I-80. So we got some hugs from the girls and mom thanked us. We hope everyone will be okay. The Christensons have a special place in our hearts.

We set out on the road and John got caught up with us about 100 miles down the road. We stopped once more for gas and continued on. 310 miles is a pretty long haul and as we got closer a highway sign said that the freeway was shutdown due to an accident at mile marker 304! Ugh! 304 is only 4 miles from where we needed to go! I thought that we were going to be on time because the manager of the hotel had a small reception for us planned. Well the traffic started backing up and we decided to get off the highway and take the backroad to the hotel. We knew it was risky and it was! We took a wrong turn off the freeway and had to turn around. After turning around we got caught in the traffic coming off the freeway. As we crept up to where we took a wrong turn the freeway started to move and we decide to risk the last bit of mileage and got BACK on the freeway! It turned out to be a good move as the freeway was opening up and so we made it to the hotel and reception in fine fashion. It was very nice, they had cheese and cold cuts and juice - it really hit the spot. This was the Super 8 Motel in East Stroudsburg. Great place!

We went to dinner and Tom was in fine fashion. It bears repeating here that  “What happens on the road - stays on the road”!

Tomorrow we have our last leg. The press is coming to see us off from the hotel and then it’s off to New York City! We are looking forward to New York and the events there over the weekend.

Good night for now and check in tomorrow!!

DAY 14  Friday April 21, 2006 - New York City, NY
Everyone had a good nights sleep and we were all packed and ready to go before 10:00 am. One of Stroudsburg’s television stations came to get some film of us packing and getting the quads ready to go and to do a couple of interviews. When all was completed we were off! The drive to hotel just outside of New York was about 70 miles and we were looking forward to finishing it up. John Dean, our contact and mentor at the Coalition on Donation in Richmond VA, road the motorcycle in.

About 10 miles into New Jersey we were stopped by the troopers for the 6th time (Troy’s number). We had actually passed this trooper on the interstate as he had someone else pulled over. After clearing everything up (there was three other patrol cars that showed up!) he told us the he saw us go by as he was finishing up writing out a ticket. He radioed in to dispatch and thought “Oh boy, I have a had full right all at once!” Well, we stood on the side of the highway for a time and talked about the quads. He owns a quad but never saw any like ours - he really liked them! So we were off again.

We arrived at the hotel at about 1:00 pm. Beautiful day! Sunny, although they were expecting rain over the weekend. We parked the quads and motorcycle at the entrance to the hotel and unpacked our bags. I wish I could say that from here on out it was a great weekend but it was anything but. As we were all taking our bags to our room, before finding parking for all the equipment, and gone about 20 minutes, someone took the chopper right from the front of the hotel. We couldn’t believe it! Broad daylight, people milling in and out of the hotel and badda bing badda bang - gone.  I had the hotel call the police and they took down all the information but we’ll never find get it back. By the time he was finishing taking information the bike was already in pieces and being shipped to wherever. Welcome to New Jersey.

Well, there wasn’t anything we could do so we packed up the quads into the trailer and were told to park it in the overflow area. This was a couple of blocks away near a Sam’s Club. When we got to the lot, we backed the trailer up against a light post to make sure no one could open the door-ramp. We left it there and walked back to the hotel at about 2:00 pm.

The next morning Troy had to go to the airport to pickup Kirah his girlfriend and well, he thought he would just go and check on the truck and trailer. And well take a wild guess. That’s right - gone. Truck, trailer, all fours quads, most of the gear bags with helmets, boots, gloves, etc., scroll, Bob and Mike, Elliott, Donate Life trinkets, EVERYTHING! They didn’t even leave a paper scrap or a thank you.. I flagged a police officer down and we made another report and he really felt bad.

When Troy got back from the airport, Kirah was already on the phone contacting the media and by the time 7:00 pm came around that day, we had talked with ABC, the WB and WOR television. Each station ran the story of the “Charity Ripoff” twice giving us great coverage in the New York area. The reporter from the WB said that he would contact his counterpart in LA to see if the home station would want to pick it up so we might even make the news back home while still in New York. It’s not how you want to do that but under the circumstances, we’ll take the additional coverage! So the loss of all that equipment did have some good in it - the silver lining. Now reality - how do we replace it? Can we? We have been talking about doing the another time down along a southern route, but now who knows. I’ll talk with my insurance company, Troy has insurance (it was in his trailer), and then I also understand that the hotel’s insurance is also investigating. So many unknowns - it’s not very fun.

We sent 3 team members home early but we’ll try and keep our other appointments. We have a Walk-a-Thon on Sunday the 23rd up a Rockland Lake State Park and a luncheon at The Sharing Network in Jersey on Monday. If all we get out of this is a wider range of coverage to spread the word then so be it.

This is not the way we envisioned ending our trip across the U.S. Another example of how life throws little boulders out in your way just to keep you on your toes.

So we’ve lost the chopper and the chance to give it away. We are deeply grateful to Chino Custom Choppers for this generous donation. The motorcycle really turned heads as we drove it down the highway. We wish we could finish what we started there but we can’t. We’ll send out a letter to all those who bought a chance to win the bike and offer to return their money.

As for the quads, we were all very impressed with the way they handled on the road. We’d definitely want to use Arctic Cat again because of their performance. They really made all the difference - speed, power, gas mileage AND the gas capacity. Hopefully, when we speak with Arctic Cat, we’ll be able to work another deal. Really, the regret is that we don’t have a bike to offer them to break down and study to see how they REALLY stood up to the stress we put them through.

We’d like to thank all of our sponsors and those who helped us along. They all understand what we are trying to do and feel it a worthy cause. More than 91,000 people are suffering and it would only take a few minutes for everyone to agree to help someone and that problem would literally disappear overnight.

Thanks to Chino Custom Choppers - the guys really know how to make a bike, Arctic Cat, ConocoPhillips, Astellas Pharma U.S., Lexus/Toyota, Spec Services Inc.

Thank you to the members of the Coalition who helped set events up - we are really just an extension of them and we are glad that they have used and abused us!

Thanks to all our friends who offered their support and encouragement.

And thanks to our families who let us go off on this little adventure. We missed them terribly and will be glad to return home - the sooner the better.

I’d also like to thank my team members here also. It was a grueling schedule to keep up with, no sleep, crazy eating schedule. We all have grown closer together and had a great time. Hopefully we touched a few lives along the way and helped to make some better. The people we met touched us in ways they will never know.

You all have the power to Donate Life, talk with your family so all understand what everyone’s wishes are.

See you next time.

Kevin Monroe
April 2006