Monday, August 30, 2010

Alzheimer's Breakthrough Ride: Kansas City to St. Louis

Thursday morning, August 26th, 2010, started off in a wonderful way. Unlike the last 8 weeks in St. Louis and the rest of Missouri where the high temperatures were averaging 95-100 with similar humidity, it was an absolutely perfect day for riding. After a nice breakfast with our wonderful crew of Evan, Melanie, and Glen, we started with a signing event in the state capital of Missouri, Jefferson City. It was well attended by staff from the local Alzheimer’s Association as well as some press.

Our secretary of state, Robin Carnahan, made August 26th, “Breakthrough for Alzheimer’s disease day” in the State of Missouri and encouraged all Missourians to support Alzheimer’s disease research. We were presented with a nice plaque from her office and the proclamation was read out loud. This moment was particularly poignant for me, as I have been doing research on Alzheimer’s disease now for 20 years as well as diagnosing and treating patients and their families.

I was very motivated by Bruce Lamb’s idea to raise awareness with Congress, but also to honor my father who has suffered with Alzheimer’s disease for the last 10 years and passed away exactly 2 weeks to the day before my ride. Brad Racette, a Professor of Neurology at Washington University and a Parkinson’s disease researcher, and I then began our ride along the Missouri river in Jefferson City. It was an amazing scene as there was fog coating the river and yet you could see the dome of the Missouri capital sticking out over the fog at our start. While Brad is well known for his epidemiological research on Parkinson’s, he is better known in Missouri as one of the best bikers in the state. So, having biked with Brad the weekend before, we teamed up for the first 20 miles of completely flat road by “drafting”. Brad, being a stronger rider, mostly led but we switched a few times. By doing this, we did the first 20 miles in one hour. While that felt great, the next 60 miles were predominantly hills.

While Missouri isn’t known for “mountains,” the southern half is known as the Ozarks, a word derived from the French, “aux arcs,” meaning “in the hills.” While the hills were challenging, it was really fun and we both finished feeling great. We had wonderful rest stops to keep hydrated and fueled up with the help of Evan, Melanie, and Glen. My wife Tracy and our dog Chai joined us at the rest stops and offered great moral support (Evan wanted to take Chai along for the rest of the Breakthrough ride). The scenery was beautiful as we crossed to the south side of the Missouri river into Hermann, Missouri.

Set on bluffs overlooking the river, this area was settled by Germans in the early to mid 1800’s and they started making wine. It is a very popular spot to go on an autumn afternoon and enjoy the Hermann wineries and listen to music. Look out Napa Valley!

The second 40 miles from Hermann to Washington Missouri remained challenging with rolling hills and a little more traffic, but with our crew shielding us from behind with their cars, we were in good hands. I want to personally thank all the riders representing team “Mo-Kan throwdown” from Washington University and its ADRC (John Cirrito, Howard Palmer, Jessica Restivo, Brad Racette, Tim Miller, Arun Varadhachary), Tim West (C2N Diagnostics), the University of Kansas (Jeff Burns), Missouri State (Ben Timson), the Alzheimer’s Association (David Oliver), and last but not least, our rider organizer (Krista Moulder from Wash U/ADRC).

-David Holtzman, MD, Professor and Chair of Neurology, Washington University School of Medicine

Alzheimer's Breakthrough Ride Journal: Wichita to Kansas City

My Breakthrough ride started in Saint Louis Airport where I rented the car that would take me and my bike to Kansas City to Pick up Jeff Burns and then take the two of us to Wichita, KS. Driving to Kansas City, I went through two big storm systems and as I pulled in, the rain started pouring there also. I was hoping this would not be a sign of things to come. After picking up Jeff, we made it into Wichita before 5 and were lucky enough to meet up with Tom and Jerrah (the previous riders) and Evan, Melanie and Glen (the road crew). We all went for dinner and we got to listen to some of the road stories and get an idea of the logistics of breakthrough riding and learned the most important rule: go to bed early.

Wichita - Emporia (84 miles)

After breakfast, which was kindly served early by the nice people at the hotel, we rolled out of Wichita. There were a couple of other early bird cyclists out enjoying the Saturday morning. The great thing about starting early is that the temperature is not scorching yet and the wind had not had a chance to pick up. Unusual for Kansas, the wind was not coming from the west so as the day progressed we did end up with a good head wind, especially after mile 40 when we started going north. This is my first experience riding VIP style. Having an attentive road crew made riding on 55 mph roads much safer and it was great to have ice cold drinks and great company at the rest stops. In the afternoon we rode through the flint hills of Kansas - a very scenic area with wild prairie and rolling hills. The cicadas were as loud as lawn mowers and the streets mostly deserted. Around noon we stopped at the Hitching Post - a small burger joint in Matfield Green - a town of about 50 people. We stocked up on drinks and I had my first PBFO (peanut butter fold over) which was shared with a stray cat. In the afternoon the hills and the wind slowed us down and it was great to have Jeff to pull in the strong winds. We got into Emporia, and after showering (yay!), had sandwiches in the Pony followed by napping and an early dinner. No problems falling asleep at 9 PM.

Emporia-Lawrence (71 miles)

We got up early and the nice people at the hotel had once again prepared early breakfast for us so we were able to start early. We were driven out of Emporia in the support cars to get to the starting point of today's ride. As we got out of Emporia we were cloaked in heavy fog. When Melanie (driving front support car) got 40 feet out, her car would almost disappear in the fog. It was a beautiful and very wet ride with the sun coming through the fog and eventually dispersing it around the time of the first rest stop. The stop was at an old Skelly gas station which we thought was abandoned - but as we chugged gatorade the niece of the owner came by in her PJs to see what was going on. Turns out that one of her friends wrote a memory book about her mom's Alzheimers disease. Also turned out that the gas station was still fully functioning so Glen was able to get some gas. The ride continued uneventfully until we hit some construction that had popped up overnight so we loaded the bikes up on the cars and were dropped back on course. Today ended in Lawrence and although I had already eaten lunch I was not able to make it until dinner - Lawrence is a college town so I figured that they must have a Chipotle - and I was right. Jeff's wife came down from KC and we all had a great dinner.

Lawrence-Kansas City (44 miles)

Since we had a shorter distance today we started a little later than usual. The media frenzy was set to start in Kansas City at around 1 pm so we had to pace ourselves so we could ride in around that time. Leaving a little later put us in the morning rush hour of Lawrence but the pace cars did a great job of keeping us safe. We stopped around 12 miles outside KC in the parking lot of a country club and had lunch on their lawn where we were greeted by the club marshal and several other interested people in golf carts - it turned out that they were having a senior golf tournament that day so they were happy to meet us and had many encouraging words. After lunch we rode the last 10 miles to KC and found that KC is on top of a hill. The road into KC goes up a bridge that is usually 4 lanes but there was construction on two lanes so we took up a full lane as we struggled up the hill. We got lots of cheers from the people working on the other two lanes, which was a small taste of what waited on top of the hill. As we rode into the plaza, the local Alzheimer's Association had gathered and cheered us on. This was a great way to end a short day of riding! It was great to meet the local chapter and there were even people who had driven from Des Moines, Iowa to come cheer us on. It was amazing!

Thank you to the Alzheimer's Association for wonderful days of riding. The support along the road from random people, local chapters, and from the amazing road crew has made this a truly once in a life time experience. I would do this again in a heartbeat.

- Tim West, Ph.D., is Director of Laboratory Operations at C2N Diagnostics, a biotechnology service company located at the Center for Emerging Technology in St. Louis.

Alzheimer's Breakthrough Ride Journal: St. Louis to Springfield

This past weekend, I began my segment of the Alzheimer’s Breakthrough Ride, a one-day journey from St. Louis, Miss. to Springfield, Ill. As the president of U.S. financial products at Genworth Financial, I can say that we are proud to be a Champion of the Alzheimer’s Early Detection Alliance, helping to increase awareness of the impact of Alzheimer’s disease. As an avid cyclist, the Alzheimer's Breakthrough Ride was a wonderful opportunity to combine my interests: I could simultaneously raise awareness of Alzheimer’s and enjoy a few days in the saddle.

What an awesome experience! 103 miles of nice flat blacktop through the cornfields of my home state - starting with a morning sunrise looking back at the arch in St. Louis as we crossed the "Mighty Mississippi". Met a great team from Boston - (hey guys, hope the wind was at your back the last 60 miles), the support team was terrific, the weather was spectacular...and we got plenty of attention from folks along the way. I would like to share what an honor it is to be riding alongside these researchers, who commit themselves so tirelessly to unlocking the mysteries of Alzheimer’s on a daily basis: Cindy Lemere, Sarah Matousek, Oliver Holmes and Stephanie Soscia. Thanks for your positive attitude and camaraderie along the road!

If you read this and you haven’t already, please visit to sign the petition. It’s a small act that has the potential to make a very large impact. Thanks for the opportunity to participate, I look forward to this ride making a difference in Washington!

-Buck Stinson President of Insurance Products and Retirement and Protection Genworth Financial, a Memory Walk National Team

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Alzheimer's Breakthrough Ride Journal: Segment 10, Day 1

Oklahoma City to Tonkawa

Alzheimer's Breakthrough Ride: Researcher Jerrah Holth

5:45 AM on August 18th marked the beginning of my long anticipated ride from Oklahoma City to Wichita, Kansas and also the midpoint of the Breakthrough Ride. I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the signing event in Oklahoma City the previous day, where I was further inspired for my ride by the volunteers and the many people willing to sign the petition and recognize the importance of Alzheimer’s disease at a national level. Here I also met my riding partner, Tom Kukars, and we were passed the baton brain that would ride on my handlebars for the next 2 days.

After our briefing and a wonderful breakfast with the support crew, who were to be our heroes for the next two days, we headed out to the starting point. The ride along Oklahoma’s sunny back highways was beautiful; we wound around rivers and through the hills. Throughout the day we passed fields of red tilled earth, grassy rolling hills, and cattle, who often seemed very concerned by our presence and occasionally would run away as fast as they could to hide in the trees. This was my first trip to Oklahoma and I admit I was surprised by the number of hills, some quite steep, that Tom and I climbed on our way to the Kansas border. With the rolling hills and the heat, which topped out at 108 degrees, our support crew became our saving grace. As each rest stop drew near we could see the pony waiting and Evan always with a smile, encouragement, cold water, and towels. When we needed to cool down between scheduled stops, Melanie in our lead car would scope out some shade, and she and Glen, our caboose, made sure our water and Gatorade was full and as cold as possible. We were very spoiled to have such wonderful support throughout the ride, both in planning and execution, who also made it impossible not to have a great time. During the final leg of our journey into Tonkawa the hills receded and we were lucky to have a little tailwind at times. I could feel my body tiring, but knew I would not stop. The millions of people suffering from and caring for people with AD can never stop, so neither would I. We completed our day in Tonkawa and had a lovely dinner at a local home-style diner near our comfy hotel in Blackwell. It was here that Tom and I received our official nicknames from the pony support staff: pickles and puddin’. Previously in the day I was dubbed Ripley, and if the bugs I fought off riding that afternoon were aliens the name might have stuck, however it was pickles that I would answer to for the rest of the ride.

That evening when I recalled the events from the day, I felt that I had accomplished something much more than this single day on my bike or a day in the laboratory. I am honored to be part of the Breakthrough Ride, an event that can actually change the way this nation addresses Alzheimer’s disease. I was unable to help my grandmother and grandfather as Alzheimer’s disease slowly took them from my family, but on this day I felt that together with all the riders, researchers, volunteers, and people signing our petition, I was helping to defeat this disease. I dedicate this day, the longest day of my ride, to my family, those we lost and those who worked tirelessly as caretakers for so many years.

-Jerrah Holth is a molecular and human genetics doctoral candidate at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.Holth’s segment of the ride began on August 19 in Oklahoma City and ended on August 20 in Wichita, Kansas.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Alzheimer's Breakthrough Ride Journal: Segment 9

Alzheimer's Breakthrough Ride: Rider/Researcher Joachim Herz

Joachim Herz, M.D., is a professor at the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Southwestern Medical School in Dallas. Dr. Herz’s research has identified several fundamental molecular mechanisms that are common to both Alzheimer’s disease and atherosclerosis.

This summer, he is participating in the Alzheimer’s Breakthrough Ride to raise awareness and make Alzheimer’s disease a national priority. Dr. Herz’s segment of the ride began on August 16 in Dallas and ended on August 18 in Oklahoma City.

You can follow Dr. Herz's Alzheimer's Breakthrough Ride exploits from Dallas to Oklahoma City by clicking here.

Click here to sign the petition to make Alzheimer's disease a national priority.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Alzheimer's Breakthrough Ride Journal: Segment 9, Day 1

Dallas to Whitesboro, TX

As my plane was about to land in Dallas on Sunday, the pilot announced that the temperature was 102. On Sunday evening the meteorologist on a local TV station described Monday as a cooler day, his forecast: temperature 101, heat index 110.

Monday morning, at 5:45 I met Joachim Herz, the researcher-rider on this segment, and Melanie Katz, the “ride mother”, in the lobby of the Courtyard on I-35. After a quick breakfast and ride briefing at Denny’s, we headed for the petition signing event at Pegasus Plaza in downtown Dallas. Just before the event, I stepped into a car to do an interview with Rick Hadley from WBAP radio. Gerry Sampson, Vice-Chairman of our National Board, who attended the event with his Dallas Chapter volunteer and staff colleagues, tells me that the interview ran all day. Thanks to Rick and WBAP for helping us to advance our mission.

The Breakthrough Ride, of course, is aimed at advancing our mission by moving our federal leaders to take action on Alzheimer’s the way they have on cancer, heart disease and HIV/AIDS. Those investments have worked and many, many lives have been saved. The research investments in Alzheimer’s are very low by comparison. We have no treatment that slows or stops the progress of the disease and no national plan to address the burgeoning crisis. Our job is to change all of that.

As Joachim and I rode through the early morning on shaded bike paths, along the tree lined streets of some very nice Dallas neighborhoods and under the Live Oak canopy on the campus of SMU, we knew we faced the meteorologist’s forecast later in the day. In the metaphor that is this ride, we were experiencing the enjoyable years of life that too many of us too often take for granted.

By the second scheduled rest stop the heat had increased, but we enjoyed a picnic-style lunch in the welcome shadow of a homeowner’s tall wooden privacy fence. After that stop, little shade graced our path to the end of the day’s ride.

The collaboration that the Alzheimer’s Association and the research community have demonstrated in the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative and in so many other ways, served as a model for us as riders. We took turns leading into the headwind that faced us almost continuously, and we alternatively rode side by side on the lane-width shoulders of Texas rural highways to break the effects of the oppressive heat, the unrelenting headwind and the paved but sometimes bone-shaking roads.

At rest stops we’d douse ourselves in water as our last act before departing and within minutes in the intense sun and steady wind, after covering only a mile or two, we were dry. As we rode on, I thought about the very real day-to-day challenges faced by individuals who have Alzheimer’s and their caregivers. My mother had it. Right now, as many as 5.3 million mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, spouses and friends have it. Ten million baby boomers will have it. We have to stop it.

The courage and endurance demonstrated by those who are facing this disease and by those who are speaking out about facing it inspire me daily. So, even at my most over-heated and fatigued moments, for the small contribution it might add, I had to finish the 80 plus miles of today’s route from Dallas to Whitesboro to advance our cause in a different way than I have the chance to do in my daily role. I am proud of the work of the Alzheimer’s Association. I am proud to be a Breakthrough Rider.

-Harry Johns is the President and CEO of the Alzheimer's Association

Friday, August 13, 2010

Alzheimer's Breakthrough Ride Journal: Segment 8, Day 3

Aspermont, TX to Abilene, TX – 68 miles

Today was the last leg of my Texas journey. After a decent sleep in the Bates Motel of Aspermont (really it was called the Hickman Motel and wasn’t all that bad), we were up at 5:00. After a morning gear check, filling up my bottles, and a quick breakfast in the Pony with Evan and Melanie, I was off at 6:30 AM to complete my ride. At that hour it is still pretty dark with some light on the eastern horizon. The good thing about getting out that early is that it was relatively comfortable without the sun beating down. I was racing the clock a bit here as my flight was out of Abilene at 1:30. So I pedaled away with Melanie behind me again to ward off all the semis doing 80 mph.

The ride was pretty uneventful with, unfortunately, the same nondescript scenery along the empty roads. I did see my first armadillo, although the poor bugger was lying along the side the road expired after succumbing to a bad outcome with traffic. Just cruised along with quick stops to fill my drink bottles. The roads were largely the “Texas rattle roads” again, although our course took us off the main strip for the last 25 miles onto what was the worst road surface of the trek. I think the idea was to stay on less traveled roads but it was horrible. It was like riding bad cobblestones, and I thought the “rattle roads” were bad! Finally this stretch ended when I descended onto the outskirts of Abilene. It was so weird pedaling into Abilene in that you felt like you were coming back to civilization. There were now typical shopping and food stores we are accustomed to. It was only two days earlier that I left Amarillo but it seemed much longer. We were all joking that one day out in the back roads and tiny towns feels like a week. It is kind of like the “Inception” thing for those of you who saw the movie. Anyway got to the hotel, quickly broke down and packed up my bike and a fast shower. After a heartfelt goodbye to Evan and Melanie, my wonderful support crew, it was off the airport and on my way back to New York.

I owe much thanks to Evan and Melanie for providing their very much appreciated support. Every stop, Evan was there quickly to bring me ice and water for me to mix my drinks and fill my bottles. Without Evan I would have surely melted away into the pavement. Melanie was my guardian angel, protecting my rear from generally courteous, but some obnoxious, 18 wheelers. Thanks for keeping me safe on those very hot and sometimes too narrow roadways and so that I did not become a statistic.

I truly hope this ride does some good and Congress acts to pass this pending bill to increase Alzheimer’s disease research funding. Every stop we made, people came up to us to say they had a grandfather, a mother, an aunt, or someone that was affected with this disease. Every family is affected at some level. Having my own father succumb to this horrible disease last year without any effective treatments is a difficult thing to accept. During my ride, I would check in online and people would post comments wishing me and the other riders’ safety while biking and success with getting this bill passed and our research. I found one comment last night that really struck home for me. The person wrote in “Hundreds of thousands of people have survived cancer, heart disease, and strokes. Yet not one person has survived Alzheimer’s disease”. What else needs to be said. The continuous efforts by our labs and, importantly, the workers in our labs keep us moving towards this goal.

Lastly, I want to applaud my fellow grunts, before me and after me, that have or will toil on the narrow, hot, humid, and dusty back roads. While out on the road melting away in the middle of nowhere, with not a person to be seen for miles and miles, I was thinking it would be so cool to pedal into a big city with a big signing event. But that is not what my leg from Amarillo to Abilene was about. Our role as grunts is to keep this show moving on its way to Washington. I hope that I, and the rest of you, have the opportunity to go down to Washington for that last leg of the ride to pedal in with the rest of the group to deliver these signatures to Congress. You have all earned it! Safety and perseverance to the continuing riders and our dedicated support crew. CU in DC!

-Dr. William Van Nostrand

Alzheimer's Breakthrough Ride Journal: Segment 8, Day 2

Matador, TX to Aspermont, TX – 94 miles

I had a good night’s sleep at the B&B in Matador, although another hour or two would have been nice. The owner of the B&B got up in the dark to prepare us our breakfast to start the day. After this meal with my support crew Evan, Melanie and I hit the road at 7:30 for the day’s ride. The first couple of hours were tolerable with the heat, but the humidity was definitely up from yesterday. After one hour I was dripping already! Then at about 9:30, with the sun higher, the mercury shot up. It was 102 today, and with the higher humidity it felt wonderful (extreme sarcasm). Even after our dinner that night at 6 PM, it was still 100 out. At least the winds were calmer this day. When out on the road, be grateful for any small gift from Mother Nature.

The first 25-30 miles were to the small town of Paducah. This was the most interesting part of the ride as the terrain changed from largely flat to steady rolling hills. Despite the increase in climbing, the abatement of the wind allowed me to pedal several miles per hour faster. That was some steady wind yesterday. There were lots of cows again and interesting looking ravines and vegetation. As with yesterday, after I passed any cows they would look and just start running after me. Maybe they have never seen someone form New York before! It again was so fun to watch and nearly the only thing that broke up the grind. Once I hit Paducah it was a right turn (only turn of the day) then heading due south to Aspermont. Besides Paducah, the only other town (if you call it that) I passed through was Gutherie before coming into Aspermont. At this point it became extremely tedious again with not much to look at. Even the cows must have known better and disappeared. I had one 8 mile stretch of smooth road. After chattering all morning on the pavement it was equivalent to skating on freshly groomed ice. Of course this treat was short lived and I was back on what I affectionately called “Texas rattle road”. One particular section the stones were not quite pushed in that deep and it was really bumpy. This 60+ mile stretch of the ride was quite intense, the sun was scorching and humidity was up. These conditions really take it out of you. I went through 15 bottles of water and my electrolyte drinks and was taking one electrolyte pill every 20-30 minutes. The fluids just kept sweating out of me. Hours later I was still trying to replace the fluids I lost during the day.

With the boredom of the ride and intense heat, I tried to find ways to keep my sanity and mind busy. I would ride the painted white line in the road as long as I could since this was the smoothest part I could find. I would look for a cloud on the horizon and imagined rain would be coming. Never happened, although we did see a big thunderstorm off in the distance. Then I would try to avoid all the very large grasshoppers sitting in the road. I know insects aren’t the smartest creatures but grasshoppers are sure stupid. First, why are they sitting on black asphalt in the middle of the day under scorching sun? Second, they see me coming, they get up their legs like they are ready to spring, and then just sit there. I had to swerve constantly to avoid them. It was like pedaling the gauntlet. Some weren’t so lucky….crunch….as my tires engaged them. Anyway it was very tough outside and I was glad to finish my 94 miles today and get in my air conditioned hotel room. Charming like the B&B of last night in Matador it was not, but it was cool and out of the sun. Remember, small gifts on the road are cherished.

Highlights of this day were again my silly cow friends along the way in the morning, Evan waiting with ice, water, lunch and the air conditioning on in the Pony, and learning about the 6666 ranch at breakfast in Matador. Apparently the 6666 ranch is the, or one of the, largest ranches in Texas. The heiress of the ranch is one of the wealthiest people in Texas we were told. It is ENORMOUS. I cycled around just one corner of it and it goes on and on and on for miles. The interesting story about the ranch is that it was won in a poker game several generations ago. The winning hand, as you may guess was four of a kind…6666….hence the name. Pretty cool story.

-Dr. William Van Nostrand

Alzheimer's Breakthrough Ride Journal: Segment 8, Day 1

Amarillo, TX to Matador, TX – 120 miles

After a good nights sleep in Amarillo I was up at 5 AM to get ready and meet the support crew (Evan, Melanie, and Celeste) for breakfast and to go over the day ahead. The first thing that struck me was how dark it was at 6 AM here. It did not start getting light until well after 6:30. So much for trying to get out early to beat the heat! The support crew is great. Evan driving the Pony and Melanie driving the small SUV following me most of the time. It was very good having her following me with her flashing light and blinkers on as I was out in the right lane most of the time pedaling and this avoided me getting squashed by some big semi barreling by. We started off with a bang (literally). Two miles into the ride I blew a flat. Changed out the tube and then that one blew as well. Turns out I had a bad tire I put on before leaving home and it would not sit properly on the rim. After replacing the tube for the third time and a new tire I was finally on my way.

I found this first day of the ride very challenging both physically and mentally. Although I have done rides similar to this length in my training and racing this just seemed tough today. The terrain was pretty flat but I had to face a very stiff headwind for almost the entire day. That constant fight with the wind, the soaring temperatures, and being alone in the middle of nowhere most of the day started to take its toll. I was very overheated and my legs were tightening up so miles 80-100 were brutal. Although I found the roads in Texas to be very clean with no trash or debris, the surface of them leaves more to be desired. It was pressed gravel leading to my bike chattering almost the entire ride. Even with a carbon frame, that constant rattling takes its toll on your body. I had to check the fillings in my teeth when I finished. At mile 100, we changed directions just a bit and wind went from head on to a bit of a crosswind. Although still not great, I found this a relished treat for the final twenty miles and I had my best stretch of pace at the end. In any case it was good to be finished at 120 miles with Evan waiting in the Pony.

We came into the very small town of Matador, which is literally a half a block long. We all looked at each other like “where are we sleeping?” However, we stayed in a very nice B&B called the Matador Hotel. It was quite charming and comfortable. Dinner was another story. There was only one little place to eat in town serving only fried foods with no veggies to be found! Not exactly what I was looking for or needed in my body, but you got to do what you got to do. I had chicken fried chicken (isn’t that redundant?) for dinner. It didn’t matter that much, as I was ready for sleep.

The highlights of the first day were the ranch animals. The horses and cows were so funny. They must have never seen anyone on a bike before. Whenever I passed them they all stopped doing what they were doing and ran up to fence where I was. One set of three horses was out in a pasture and they galloped up to see me and ran along the fence following me. All these animals had expressions that were unique, really (or maybe it was sunstroke). Melanie and I got such a laugh to see them react. They all did it every time I would pass them. I must have indeed been a rare sight, because a road crew guy saw me coming up the road. I had to stop a minute to wait for some construction to clear. He came up to me and said he thought he was seeing a mirage and then realized it was some guy on a bike. He couldn’t believe I was out there in the middle of nowhere in the heat. So I guess the horses and cows weren’t the only ones!

-Dr. William Van Nostrand

Alzheimer's Breakthrough Ride Journal: Segment 7, Day 1

Followers of the Alzheimer's Breakthrough Ride may have noticed that segment seven's journal has thus far recorded only days two through four. It is with great pleasure that we now provide the much-anticipated lost scroll of Captain Blowout, detailing Dr. Steven Barger's epic account of his exodus from Albuquerque.

Call me Captain Blowout-- Kyle does. Seriously, I can't believe that two flat tires is any sort of record or anything. Even for the Albuquerque-to-Amarillo leg that I will be riding singlehandedly (but, for the most part, doublewheeledly). So, I would prefer to be known by the name my parents gave me: Steve Barger. I'm a researcher at the Reynold Institute on Aging at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. Yes, Arkansas does indeed have a med school, believe it or not. And internal combustion engines. So riding a bicycle is a choice for me.

Riding a bicycle on this trip has turned out to be a very GOOD choice already! Among other things, the weather has been delightful! I remember when I first communicated with Bruce Lamb about participating. Because the planned route did not pass through my home state, I told him I'd be willing to ride any leg of the journey. He said that there was a paucity of riders signing up for the desert states, "understandably." I told him I would jump at the chance to get out of Arkansas's heat and humidity! One at a time is fair fight-- divide and conquer, right? But together, the ol' H-n-H is a brutal combination. It's funny to me that so many people have a fear of the weather in the desert southwest. When I told the folks back home what I was doing, the response was almost invariably, "Goodness-- New Mexico? In AUGUST? Won't that be HOT?!" They continued to say this during the week preceding my departure while Arkansas was suffering repeated days that exceeded 105 degrees F! With 80-90% humidity! For those of you who haven't experienced this particular form of anguish, it may surprise you to learn that it's easier to dehydrate in such a clime. In such humidity, perspiration doesn't evaporate. It just soaks your clothes and pours down on your bike components to corrode them like acid rain. And because it's not cooling you, your body responds in the only way it can: sweating MORE! It's not uncommon for me to finish a ride 8 lbs. lighter than I started. This after drinking almost 8 lbs. of liquids during the trip! The biggest nuisance about riding through The Land of Enchantment that I've encountered is that I have to stop for bathroom breaks. It's hard to adjust to the fact that I have so much spare liquid that it can be simply cast off as waste. So, 300 some-odd miles from Albuquerque to Amarillo...? Quite the luxury.

Bruce was at the hotel in Albuquerque this morning, along with the other riders from the preceding leg, to see me off. What with my briefing on road rules and the route by Melanie and Kyle, the company made for quite a gregarious breakfast to a guy who's accustomed to morning conversation that rarely gets beyond "snap, crackle, and pop." There was even a bleary-eyed appearance by Evan, who had the day off but nevertheless got up early out of homage to the passing of the torch. (Or the BRAIN, rather. One rider on each leg is carring a little foam brain talisman zip-tied to his/her handlebar stem. Just wouldn't be a relay without that, ya know.) It was fun to hear my predecessors tell stories from the road embellished with metaphors from the lab-- this is indeed quite a unique event. Melanie wondered aloud whether cyclists are over-represented among researchers. Conventional wisdom says that scientists are geeks, not jocks, right? Tell that to Bill Van Nostrand, Ironman triathlete and (I'm told) a top finisher in a recent open-water ocean swim off of Long Island. Bill's so hardcore that he requested that his 4-day Breakthrough leg from Amarillo to Abilene be shortened to 3 days so that he could "get a good workout"! Maybe he'll get lucky and have a 15-20 mph headwind too. I had such joy for much of today. That, combined with the 1000-ft climb to traverse the Sandia range and the inevitable delays of urban riding, made the first 15 miles out of Albuquerque a bit sluggish. But I managed to catch up with another cyclist who was out for a morning ride. When I told him about the purpose of my trip, he replied that his mother is currently suffering from Alzheimer's. We rode along together for four or five miles, talking about the progression of the disease, risk factors, and the state of current research. It was gratifying to have, so early in my leg, a personal demonstration of how our mission could affect the lives of others.

I can't close this entry without expressing my thanks to everyone involved: to Bruce for having the idea, to the Alzheimer's Association for committing to it, to the other riders for their dedication both in their labs and on their bikes, AND... to our wonderful support crew! Eric was very helpful and informative on the eve of my embarkment. And along with the nice weather, Melanie and Kyle have made the miles on the road some of the most enjoyable I've had in a long time. They are always quick with an uplifting joke for the weary, a tire pump for the flat-prone, and water-- even for a guy who thinks he needs none. (ESPECIALLY, for that guy!)

-Steven Barger, Ph.D., is a Professor in the Departments of Geriatrics, Neurobiology & Developmental Sciences, and Internal Medicine at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) in Little Rock. He is also a Research Health Scientist in the Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Center at the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Alzheimer's Breakthrough Ride Journal: Segment 7, Day 4

Vega to Amarillo

New day, new nickname: “Prairie Dog.” Pretty obvious—we are on the Great Plains, doggin’ it through stiff winds and tall grass. (The shoulders are quite nonexistent on many of these rural highways.) No need for sunscreen or food today. The trip would be just 48 miles that began at the first little crack of dawn. It was difficult to drag Evan away from the remarkable oil paintings at the Day’s Inn in Vega, but we all wanted breakfast, and what they were serving at the point of origin hardly qualified. So off we set for Amarillo and… civilization! (cough)

Celeste had mapped out a bit of loop that had us heading south, then east, then north, then east again along the access road for I-40. Though there was good light, I played it safe with a headlamp and activated my taillight. At the nine-mile mark, these were no longer necessary, and I summoned Evan up beside me to take the headlamp and its weighty battery pack in a handoff on-the-fly (thus satisfying one of his stated goals for the trip). Knowing that I would be stopping only under extraordinary circumstances, Kyle remained stationed at The Pony’s steering wheel as he waited at the appointed rest stops. At each, my “thumbs up” was answered with a jaunty salute from the Irish Cap’n, and we rolled on unimpeded by tumbleweeds, armadillos, or real prairie dogs. I suppose they either stayed out too late on Saturday night or were busy readying themselves for church on this pretty Sunday morning. I did catch a glimpse of the iconic installation of half-buried Cadillacs a few miles from the Amarillo city limits, but it seemed rather unremarkable at 24 mph.

Arriving at the Amarillo Marriott Courtyard, I finally had an opportunity to meet the mythical Celeste. She had kept herself a day ahead of us, scouting out the route and making last-minute revisions for the namby-pampy rider who was afraid to ride on I-40 per se. Evan, Kyle and I had breakfast at the hotel that included some hearty omelets. Then I retired to shower and wash my Breakthrough Ride jersey in anticipation of a small petition-signing event organized by Tracy Sommers of the Amarillo chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, who singlehandedly serves as president, v.p., secretary/treasurer...but she did a bang-up job of setting up awnings, brochures, refreshments, local TV coverage, and-- of course-- the petition. It was difficult to attract interest from passersby at 2:00 in the afternoon, but we did get a few curious parties, all of whom signed and wished us luck in our endeavor.

It’s been an absolutely wonderful experience participating in this momentous event! I bequeath the brain “baton” to Bill Van Nostrand in absentia-- he will not arrive until after I’ve left tomorrow. But I’m sure he will carry on valiantly. As will Celeste, Melanie, and Evan, doubtlessly. (Kyle is leaving the tour, at least for the time being.) They have been the funnest, most capable crew anyone could ask for. Thanks again to everyone involved, and… SEE YA IN D.C.!!!

-Steven Barger, Ph.D., is a Professor in the Departments of Geriatrics, Neurobiology & Developmental Sciences, and Internal Medicine at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) in Little Rock. He is also a Research Health Scientist in the Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Center at the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System.

Alzheimer's Breakthrough Ride Journal: Segment 7, Day 3

Tucumcari to Vega

Got a new nickname today: “Petite Rack.” (Don’t ask-- you’d be disappointed by the answer.) Made it to a new state, as well. The day was otherwise uneventful. Decent roads and a paucity of anything resembling a hill translated into a 20-mph average for this 58-mile ride. So the biggest challenge for Kyle, Melanie, and me was finding something to do for the two hours till lunch. By unanimous decision, we opted to double back (by car) to Adrian, Texas. Here rests a charming café that marks the precise midpoint of the old Route 66. Because we hadn’t yet had a chance to check in at the hotel, I hadn’t had a chance to shower and change. I tried to imagine what was going through the minds of the staff and patrons when two normal-looking tourists walked in with a guy who was dressed like he’d just challenged Contador on the ride into Paris. (That’d be Guss Contador and Paris, Texas, of course). I did have the common courtesy to remove my hat, however; something that can’t be said for the drug-store cowboy who sat right through his lunch under a souvenir Stetson.

If the day was relatively uneventful, the evening was anything but! We stumbled upon what may be the best-kept secret in the Texas panhandle. Just a few hundred yards from I-40, tucked in the sleepy burg of Vega, is a restaurant that the road crew all agreed was the best of the entire trip yet. The story is that a woman from “off” (either L.A. or New Jersey; the data were ambiguous) was sentenced to several weeks in Vega for the amusement of reality-TV audiences. “Please don’t throw me in that there br'er patch!” she might have pleaded, because herein lay her bliss. She fell in love with a local rancher and opened up a restaurant. A couple of years and several culinary accolades later, “Boot Hill Saloon and Grill” stands as a monument to right turns on the wrong side of town. Melanie and Kyle entered with some trepidation, justified, I suppose, by the “dualie” farm trucks sitting in the parking lot with their diesel engines idling. While this made me feel right at home, I must confess I didn’t have high hopes that the menu would deviate from the TexMex/spaghetti/steak/stir-fry amalgam we’d encountered in a half-dozen diners along the route. We were all in for a surprise.

Once inside, the décor was New York bistro de-minimalized by velvet drapery and swinging doors. We were assigned Miss Terri Lynette, and as the evening wore on, we became more and more pleased with our fate. Without so much as a smirk, Terri insisted that the “Bucket o’ Crap” was the most unique appetizer we’d find in the entire panhandle. And I think I can speak for all of us when I say that it did not disappoint! The three of us had delectable entrées that were well on their way to hitting the spot when Evan (trailing behind on this, his second day off in this segment) finally made it to town and sniffed us out. Not wishing to deny this noble road warrior the same treat we had enjoyed, we all stayed to watch him scarf down his “Billy the Kid,” an open-faced barbeque sandwich topped with pickles and onions. Through it all, we seemed to enjoy the experience more than any of the other customers. Perhaps they take it for granted that every town with a population as high as 968 has a four-star restaurant run by a master chef from the coast (whichever coast that may be). Terri remained as bubbly as the beer and as sweet as the bread pudding that capped off the evening. When Evan asked if we could take a picture with her, she said, “Well shore, honey-britches. Let’s go in the back room.” The rest of us traded anxious glances, concerned that she might have gotten the wrong idea. But an enthusiastic, “C’mon, y’all!” signalled that Terri intended this to be a family photo. And family is what we felt like when she walked us out and gave us each a heartfelt hug.

-Steven Barger, Ph.D., is a Professor in the Departments of Geriatrics, Neurobiology & Developmental Sciences, and Internal Medicine at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) in Little Rock. He is also a Research Health Scientist in the Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Center at the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System.

Alzheimer's Breakthrough Ride Journal: Segment 7, Day 2 Santa Rosa to Tucumcari

Santa Rosa to Tucumcari

I came out of yesterday with a brand-new plan. I’d forgotten till then how rotten it makes me feel to get off the bike for more than ten minutes and then try to ride again. Something in one’s physiology changes during rest; your body decides it’s time to stop working and start recovering, I suppose. So today’s plan was to shoot for Tucumcari before lunch.

There was some skepticism about this plan, arising primarily from the fact that this leg would be 84 miles. The good news is that a stretch of about five miles of gravel road was inserted into the first third of the route, making it difficult to meet the pony anywhere shy of the 30-mile mark. No water stops, faster progress. The BAD news is that a stretch of about five miles of gravel road was inserted into the first third of the route! It made for some slow going, to be sure…especially once we hit the mud.

Summer thunderstorms are not unheard of in eastern New Mexico, but the gully-washer that came through last night was something special. Just ask Evan; he remained back in Albuquerque long enough to see the flash floods that plagued that town. The same system gave a thorough soaking to a few spots on the ranch road that Evan followed me down today. The first one took me by surprise, as the ground had started to dry out on top. When I felt the tires sink in, I felt my stomach sink farther. Muddy clay and pea gravel coated the tires and rims, then accumulated in the brake housings of both wheels. I had an unpleasant flashback to an hour of misery that visited me during an adventure race in the Arkansas delta, when the mud became thick enough to halt the progress of a durable and tenacious mountain bike. I wasn’t on a mountain bike today; all I could do was stop, remove a critical mass of the concrete-in-progress, and hope this would be the last of the mud. It wasn’t.

The second soft spot came just past a cattle guard (the third of six we would cross in this stretch). But I spotted this one in time to dismount and engage in a little “hike-a-bike.” It just so happened that this occurred at the peak of rush hour on the ranch. The guy driving the truck we met must have thought I was loco, carrying on my shoulder a vehicle clearly built for carrying ME-- with a companion following in a perfectly good SUV! The cattle I passed on the ranch seemed less amused. Most bolted when they saw me, whether on the bike or off. This came as a considerable disappointment; I was hoping to solicit a few hoofprints on the petition. There are more cattle than people in this region of the country, making them an important constituency for our Congressional audience. My dream of extending the meaning of the term “polled hereford” was not to be realized today, however.

The road dried out thereafter, and we came to a fairly long downhill. If you’ve never ridden 27 mph on a road bike on gravel, let me tell you: it’s quite a trip! We encountered pavement, or a rough facsimile thereof, at the bottom of this grade; not a moment too soon. A few miles of solid asphalt were eaten up quickly as I hurried to meet The Pony (once again piloted ably by Kyle) and replenish my water bottle; it had been emptied on the front brake housing in an attempt to dislodge the petra-pea soup that was hardening mere millimeters from my tire. We cleaned out considerably more mud at the 30-mile stop, and progress was steady as we arced north/northeast toward the Conchas Dam. The lake it forms must be a popular recreation spot for Tucumcarians, because the car traffic picked up considerably after we passed the dam and turned east for the last 30 miles into town. Several motorists gave demonstratively vigorous waves as they passed, and I wondered if they were “in the know”; folks who had seen our press and were lending encouragement to our mission, perhaps. I wished for a bumper sticker that read “Honk if you hate Alzheimer’s disease!”, but then I realized I didn’t have a bumper. There were a few annoying climbs on this stretch, however, so my butt was out of the saddle often enough that it might have made a good spot for signage.

One more water stop at The Pony, and then it was just nine more miles into “The Lookout Place.” We made it to the hotel just a shade past noon. And in New Mexico in August, I’ll take all the shade I can get.

-Steven Barger, Ph.D., is a Professor in the Departments of Geriatrics, Neurobiology & Developmental Sciences, and Internal Medicine at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) in Little Rock. He is also a Research Health Scientist in the Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Center at the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Make August Count for Alzheimer’s!

Alzheimer’s champions in Congress are close to pushing the National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA) through in the remaining months of this year, and now they need your help. They have the momentum, but they will only finish the job if their colleagues – your Senators and your Representatives – hear from you, your family and your friends.

Some members of Congress have told us they haven’t heard from constituents about why the passage of NAPA is a national priority. We have to stop the excuses for inaction and leave no doubt on Capitol Hill where the Alzheimer’s community stands. Congress is back at home throughout August we’re asking Alzheimer advocates to meet with every member of Congress over the next month to send a clear message - ignoring the Alzheimer’s crisis is simply unacceptable to the millions of Americans determined to overcome this disease. We can’t wait. Alzheimer’s disease is the public health crisis of the 21st century and we need a national strategic plan this year.

What can you do right now? Join us as an Alzheimer’s advocate today, and tell Congress it’s time to act. Then, to participate with us this August in your hometown, contact your local chapter and find out how you can join in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease. Just a few hours of your time this month can help our country change the course of this disease.

Thanks for joining us,
Robert Egge
Vice President of Public Policy
Alzheimer’s Association

Alzheimer's Breakthrough Ride Journal: Segment 6, Day 4

Grants, NM to Albuquerque, NM

Alzheimer's Breakthrough Ride: Albuquerque Signing Event

Today was the last day of segment 6. We left at about 7 in the morning, aiming to arrive in Albuquerque at around 1. The different thing about today than the other three days was that the Pony was not with us. It had gone ahead to the signing event at the Civic Plaza in Albuquerque. Also Celeste was driving the caboose instead of Kyle. The first 20 miles of the ride was mostly downhill, so we quickly reached the first rest stop. It was a Mustang gas station where we were met by two large, cautious long-haired dogs. My dad and I quickly left the gas station hoping to reach the next rest stop by 9 AM. We wanted to listen to a program about Alzheimer's disease on National Public Radio. We ended up calling into the show and my Dad (Bruce Lamb) was able to talk a little about the Breakthrough Ride! At thirty miles, we had to travel in the cars for a while as the only way to travel was on the Interstate (I-40), which was not safe for us to bike on.

After the car ride, we were dropped at the bottom of a very large hill. Unfortunately, Lee had stiffened up during the rest stop and car and decided that the stopping and starting was too much for her, so she rode in the car for a little while. The hill was very difficult (5% grade), but Cathy, my Dad and I finally made it to the top (I thought it was never going to end...)! After that, it was all downhill into Albuquerque. But, right at the top of the hill my front tire went flat and I had to repair it. As it was only a couple of miles to the next rest stop, we decided to put my bike on the back of Melanie's car and ride into town. We stopped in a parking lot outside a K-Mart to eat lunch and rest a bit, as we were ahead of schedule. We also put our bikes on the cars for a short transport, as the next mile of road was very busy and had no bike lanes.

When we were driving to the drop point, we saw a photographer from the Albuquerque Journal, who was waiting to take our picture as we biked by. Sadly he was disappointed because we were in the cars and we had a good laugh that the photographer would see us riding in the cars after traveling over 225 miles on our bikes. Finally, we reached the Civic Plaza where the Signing Event was taking place and everybody was cheering and clapping as we arrived. I almost felt like a celebrity! Water bottles were rushed to us, our bikes were hustled away and we began talking to the volunteers, supporters and reporters (particularly my Dad and Lee). I felt like everyone knew me, even though I had never met them. A number of people with Alzheimer's disease attended the event as well and participated in the Signing Event. We met them and spent some time talking to them and we all found it very inspiring. We also took a picture with all of them. Overall, I thought it was a very successful day and segment of the ride.

-Raza Lamb is Bruce Lamb's son, and rode segment six of the Alzheimer's Breakthrough Ride

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Alzheimer's Breakthrough Ride Journal: Segment 6, Day 3

Ramah, NM to Grants, NM.

Day three of our ride started out with a shocking time change, so instead of our regular wake-up time of 5am it was actually 4am. We crawled out of the hotel and onto our bikes, but not until we had met with a group of 20 elementary school children in Ramah, NM. We talked about the brain, and Alzheimer's disease, and why we're riding. The children had made a big sign saying "YOU CAN DO IT" to send us on our way. I must admit they had more enthusiasm for today's ride than I did. The first two hours were brutal -- sleep deprived, upset stomach, tired legs -- and another 1,000 ft elevation gain. But the reward was the summit at the Continental Divide, elevation 8,000, which is the highest point on the entire ride. We all took pictures and acted silly, and then started our long descent. Bliss is descending on a 5% grade after two full days of uphill at speeds reaching 35 miles per hour. We're now in Grants, New Mexico, and feeling great. Such beautiful sweeping countryside, this is truly heaven on earth. Ready and excited for the final 75 miles tomorrow into Albuquerque.

I just visited the Breakthrough Ride website and posted a note there, and read through the many comments that have been added over the past few days. It is so moving to read the comments from people all over the country who have shared their stories about family and friends dealing with this terrible disease. They are stories of sorrow, but also of courage and fortitude, shout-outs of hope and encouragement in this fight. I am honored to be a part of this adventure. To those of you who have written in, thank you. I study Alzheimer's in the laboratory, I teach undergraduates and graduate students (the researchers of tomorrow) about Alzheimer's disease, and I have many opportunities to speak to community groups about aging, memory, and AD. But I know that the real experts out there are you -- the people dealing every day with this disease, either yourself, or by caring for someone with AD. You know this disease as no one else ever will. And make no mistake -- we're doing this for you.

On to a cure!

Lee Ryan, Ph.D.
Associate Professor Psychology, University of Arizona

Alzheimer's Breakthrough Ride Journal: Segment 6, Day 2

Holbrook, AZ to Ramah, NM

Today's ride was long (close to 80 miles) at altitudes up to 7,000 feet, and all uphill -- at least it seemed that way to me. Nothing very steep, but nothing downhill either. That definitely got old. We were all tired from yesterday's 58 mile ride, and it wasn't pretty at times but everyone did great in the end. The long slog was made worthwhile by the incredible scenery along the way. We rode across the Colorado Plateau leaving Arizona for New Mexico, winding our way through pinon pine forests (with antelope and hawks checking us out), then through the red mesas and cliffs of the Zuni tribal lands. There is water everywhere here right now. All the arroyos are flowing which gets us Arizonans very excited, but we had to explain the significance of this to Bruce and Raza who are from Ohio. A few running streams didn't have much meaning for them.

Bruce undoubtedly had the worst day -- two flat tires, he and Raza got slammed with a huge spray of rainwater from a passing car, and Bruce's bike was almost STOLEN at a gas station while he used the facilities! (I'm probably not supposed to tell you that last part.)

At our finish line today, we were greeted by cheers from a group of teachers and school children from the local elementary school. It was such a great ending to a long and beautiful ride. Some of the teachers talked to us about their own experiences with family members who have struggled with Alzheimer's disease. Every story is different, but every one of them is inspiring, and I am always amazed at the strength of families who deal with this terrible illness on a daily basis.

Tomorrow we head further east, more uphill for the first 20 miles until we cross the Continental Divide at our peak altitude of 7,950 feet where we will begin the long, long descent towards Cubero, New Mexico. Then another day's ride to Albuquerque. It's been a blast so far. I can't say that my butt thinks the same thing, and we'll see how well it does after another 5 hours in the saddle tomorrow. But this ride has been more than worth it.

Lee Ryan, Ph.D.
Associate Professor Psychology, University of Arizona

Alzheimer's Breakthrough Ride Journal: Segment 6, Day 1

Holbrook, AZ to St. Johns, AZ

It was a cloudy morning in Holbrook as myself (Bruce Lamb), Raza Lamb (my 15 year old son), Lee Ryan (an Alzheimer's disease researcher from the University of Arizona) and Cathy Wasmann (a friend of Lee's and cycling buddy) met to receive our daily briefing for our upcoming ride. It was going to be a 58 mile ride to St. Johns, with a total of about 550 feet elevation gain. After introductions (including a new crew member, Kyle McLaughlin, who was to be the "caboose", a driver who would follow the riders), breakfast and packing our stuff on the Pony, we were ready to start our day. However, we quickly realized that a new ritual had been initiated as part of the bike ride thanks to Michael Sierks. Not the passing of a baton or a torch, but rather the passing of the brain (a foam, squishy brain) that we received from the rider of the previous segment, Matt Huentleman.

The first few miles were spent becoming acquainted with one another, and getting a feel for our legs. Suddenly both Lee and Cathy exclaimed in joy! Raza and I looked around trying to figure out what was the object of their attention. After some time we realized that it was water in a stream bed. While for us Ohioans this was not a striking sight, the sight of a storm swollen river bed was all together different in the desert Southwest! A bit further into the ride, both Cathy and Raza got their bikes trapped in some mud that had been strewn onto the road, but both escaped unharmed. At the first rest stop, Lee decided to connect the squishy brain baton onto her bike, so after some quick brain surgery by Kyle and Lee, the brain now occupied front and center of Lee's bike.

The ride continued past fairly flat, desolate, yet beautiful scenery, skirting the edge of the National Petrified Forest, which appeared almost other worldly. Through the next section of ride, however, we climbed through part of the Zuni Reservation, which had more bushes, trees and small mesas. As we descended from the top of the climb, a light rain began to fall. Thankfully, however, we did not encounter the heavy rains and lightning associated with the monsoon storms that frequent the Southwest this time of year. Finally, we arrived somewhat soggy in the tiny, desolate ranching town of St. Johns. After cleaning ourselves and our bikes, we welcomed dinner at Iggy's (at which we were also joined by two stray dogs that wandered in from the street), the only restaurant in town, and settled in for a well deserved rest at the only hotel in town.

-Bruce T. Lamb, Ph.D., is an Associate Staff Scientist in the Department of Neurosciences at the Lerner Research Institute of the Cleveland Clinic, as well as Associate Professor in the Department of Molecular Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine and in the Departments of Neurosciences and Genetics at Case Western Reserve University.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Alzheimer's Breakthrough Ride Journal: Segment 5, Phoenix, AZ to Holbrook, AZ

July 29 (DAY 1) – Phoenix, AZ to Payson, AZ

I arrived at the hotel the night before with a bit of anxiety for the day ahead of me. On paper it looked like a pretty tough day on the bike, but sometimes the paper is wrong. The next morning at breakfast, I met Melanie and Evan in the lobby of the hotel. These two would be my guardian angels for the next three days – a combination of companion, cheerleader, and chef. The ultimate “road warriors,” and with all due respect and by their own admission, “road moms.” Steve Yozwiak, TGen’s Senior Science Writer, was there to help send me off, as were Ernie Otto and Cathy Griner from the Desert Southwest Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. Ernie and Cathy helped me kick off my fundraising efforts on my rider donation page. Thanks again for the support!

Before I knew it, we were off. Day one started at the beginning of the Beeline Highway. At the first brief rest stop, Mike Sierks was there to help provide some additional motivation and to share some wisdom as to how to keep sane when riding solo on the desert roads. Back-to-back solo riders… actually, I can’t believe Melanie and Evan are still sane. The next several hours were absolutely beautiful. Nicer than expected weather, amazing scenery, and some tough back-to-back-to-back climbs. To make things more interesting, the last couple of climbs had a thin layer of sand in the shoulder – it felt like I was trying to go uphill…on the beach. In the end, the day proved to be truly epic as predicted on paper. The statistics: approximately 6.5 hours on the bike making for around a 9 hour day in total, 74 miles, 6,500 feet of climbing (!), and an estimated 5,250 calories burned. One of my toughest, and yet most inspirational, days on the bike.

After an hour or so of resting in Payson we were off to a great dinner at a local Mexican restaurant. About halfway through dinner my efforts from the day caught up to me and it took my total concentration just to stay conscious and upright at the dinner table. Melanie faked some ill effects of the elevation as well to make me feel better (totally busted). It was a pretty weird sensation. For the rest of the night it was all about sleeping and, when awake, eating as much as possible to help replenish those spent calories. What would tomorrow hold? Especially if I can’t recover from my efforts today. Finally, how many lives did Melanie save today? We may never know. She stopped to help at least three stranded motorists who had broken down on the uphill sections. Me, I didn’t want to stop for fear of not getting started again so I just tried to encourage them to get on-line and sign the petition once they were home safely.

My ride today is dedicated to my wife and son. Luke, I am doing this to help ensure that you don’t have to “lose” your grandparents to this devastating disease. Heather, I look forward to growing old with you and I don’t want to worry that our time together might be cut short by Alzheimer’s disease. I hope that others reading this blog can relate to these feelings. If so, please sign the petition for the Breakthrough Act and tell your friends and family members to do the same. This is an important step in our fight against this devastating disease.

July 30 (DAY 2) – Payson, AZ to Heber, AZ

Up early for a great breakfast at the Beehive. Still overcast outside but looking a little more threatening this morning. I am still not feeling like myself – still in calorie debt I assume. But, once I am back on the bike I feel fine, in fact I feel a lot stronger than I expected to feel on day two. Unfortunately, I spend a lot of time in and out of the follow car during the first part of the day – a combination of weather, hairy looking shoulders, and heavy traffic. All is clear for the Mogollon Rim climb though, and what a climb it was (~1,300 foot elevation gain in under 5 miles). About halfway up I was rewarded with a brief rest break as I had to change a flat tire. From there the rest of the climb was great and at the top we all jumped in the “Pony” for some re-fueling and celebration that most of my climbing for my entire leg was pretty much complete. Just as we are about to hit the road again, we were absolutely inundated with over an hour of classic Arizona monsoon rain accompanied by a nice double digit drop in temperature. It was impressive, refreshing, and “boot worthy”.

We pulled into Heber much earlier than expected which left us all some additional relaxing recovery time. At 5:30 we were meeting for dinner and we were met by my wife and son as a surprise. They drove up from Phoenix to join me for the final leg of my segment – it was a great surprise and such a wonderful gift.

Today I would like to dedicate my ride to the research teams out there working tirelessly to fight this disease. Earlier in the day I rode by Christopher Creek. Just last year, our entire Neurogenomics Division spent two nights there at our scientific retreat. I am honored to work with such a dedicated group of scientists who are not only awesome at what they do, but are really a lot of fun just to hang out with. It brought a smile to my face, as I was slowly riding by, to think that just off the road here our entire research team had been sitting around a fire ring discussing our scientific aspirations for the coming year and specifically addressing what we would like to accomplish regarding Alzheimer’s disease.

July 31 (DAY 3) – Heber, AZ to Holbrook, AZ

Day three started with a hearty breakfast. Awesome food and even better hairdos – well, at least Evan and I enjoyed the hairdo display. I was ready to roll – finally feeling like myself again and looking forward to a fast day on the bike. It was an absolutely perfect day. Most of the time was spent in the big ring just flying down the road as quickly as my legs would take me. Overcast again for most of the day. It seemed like we were in Holbrook in no time at all. Along the way we met Stan at one of our rest stops – in the middle of nowhere living the good life, it seemed. Three miles from the hotel I broke a spoke on my rear wheel. Thankfully I could just nurse the bike home to the hotel from there.

What an amazing feeling it was to finish up my segment of this ride. Those short three days seemed like an eternity – Melanie and Evan must feel as if they have been on the road for several years at this point (don’t tell them, but they are really just getting started). I was also greeted by my wife and son at the hotel with our little one carrying a congratulatory sign for his dad. Dinner that night was with Celeste – my other guardian angel who is typically one day ahead of us scouting out the route and noting any hazards. Just as we were finishing, in the door walked Lee and Bruce – the two riders who will be taking up the reins tomorrow (along with some special guests).

I would like to dedicate my ride today to all of the caregivers out there. You guys are an amazing bunch. Thank you for all that you do. The statue in front of our hotel for the evening was titled “Winged Messenger”. I thought that was rather fitting for what we are trying to do with this ride. So, even as I was ending my time on the road, I was inspired to keep battling on against this disease. I look forward to seeing everyone again in D.C. Thanks for reading.

- Matthew Huentelman, Ph.D., is an Investigator in the Neurogenomics Division at the non-profit Translational Genomics Research Institute in Phoenix. Dr. Huentelman’s research is primarily focused on the molecular profiling of neurological traits and disease. Specifically, his laboratory focuses on the study of Alzheimer’s disease, aging and autism.

Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States

The Alzheimer’s Association is the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer care, support and research. Our mission is to eliminate Alzheimer's disease through the advancement of research; to provide and enhance care and support for all affected; and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health.

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