Into the Mountains

This post has been a long time coming; there’s been a lot going on.

We left Kansas and entered the high plains of southwest Nebraska with its vast expanses of farmland and cattle grazing. There were long distances between towns, frequently 30 miles with nothing but open farmland. Planning the day’s ride became challenging, often forcing us to choose between a somewhat short day or a prohibitively long one. We generally chose the former.

Incarceration is big business.
Sunset in Nebraska

Then came the Pawnee Grasslands in eastern Colorado — another sparsely populated area. The wind made beautiful waves through the vast sea of grass. Pronghorn Antelope were a common sight and the farmers in overalls morphed into cowboys with boots and hats. As we continued west the signs of civilization increased – more amenities, more traffic.  We were happy to get into the cool town of Fort Collins, with its incredible array of restaurants, stores, and activities. We had great food and beer, something that had been missing for quite some time — Kansas City to be precise. We have now reached the halfway mark of our trip! A couple of days off the bikes to rest and recharge our energy was in order. We will then begin the long climb up the Poudre Canyon to Cameron Pass at 10,249 feet and head north from Walden into Wyoming.

A long road in Eastern Colorado, with a headwind, of course!
A scenic campsite

Or so we thought. The climb up the Poudre Canyon was beautiful despite getting caught in a brief hailstorm. We stayed in a nice little cabin in the very small town of Rustic, Colorado. The next day we continued climbing. As we approached 8,000 feet, it become apparent that the elevation was a problem for me. I had been having headaches and difficulty breathing the previous week or so; 5,000 feet seemed to be the threshold. At 8,000 feet, I was lightheaded, had a pounding headache and was gasping like a fish out of water.  There was nothing I could do but ride back down the hill and rent that nice little cabin in Rustic for another night while we considered our options.

Bill’s work colleagues tracking his progress. Where in the world is Bill Christy?
Cute little cabin in Rustic, CO
Colorado Mountains

We thought about hitching a ride over the pass but realized that wouldn’t solve our problem given that much of the remainder of the trip was at high altitude with numerous mountain passes.  I was also worried that my headaches and shortness of breath might be caused by cancer progression, rather than altitude.  My oncologist concurred that a chest and brain scan were prudent given the circumstances.

After a hot day, an afternoon thunderstorm brought in this hail.

As difficult as it was to end the trip here, it was clear that my body was not going to cooperate. As my wife, Lissa, wisely said “Sometimes it takes more courage to call it a day than to try to continue.”  While both Bill and I were disappointed, we reminisced about what a special experience the trip has been for us. We rode 2,200 miles and climbed 67,000 feet, much of it through the heartland of America — through floods, tornadoes and everything in between. We have memories and lessons that will live with us forever. I thank Bill for the sacrifices he made to take this time away from his work and family. He is a true friend that I am fortunate to have. I am also grateful for all of you that have followed along on this journey for your support. This trip epitomized the saying “it’s not the destination it’s the journey”.

I am happy to report that the brain MRI was negative. The CT of the chest showed some very slow enlargement of several nodules. This slow growth is not alarming, however, I will be adding Keytruda, an immunotherapy drug, to my regimen.  The journey continues.