Get Up and Cycle!
For our first discussion, we were joined by Michael Robertson, founder of Shared Vision Quest and an avid cyclist who is visually impaired. He shared his story about biking cross country. Then the group asked questions and shared their biking tips and experiences.
May 16, 2019
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Get Up and Go: Get Up and Cycle!
Presented by Steve Kelley and Elyse Heinrich
May 16, 2019
Steve Kelley: Welcome to the first Get Up and Go Hadley Discussion Group. My name is Steve Kelley with Hadley, and I've been a vision rehab therapist for 12 years, and I'm also an avid cyclist. Our goal here is to provide a forum for the community to share ideas and resources for recreational activities at all levels, and I think that that's important. Want to make sure beginners and experts are welcome and share here. We'll meet the third Thursday of every month at 2:30 P.M. Central Time.
And now I'd like to introduce our co-host Elyse Heinrich. Elyse.
Elyse Heinrich: Hello, everyone, my name is Elyse Heinrich and I'm on the Hadley team and happy to work with Steve. Both of us are fellow new co-workers to Hadley and we're here to co-facilitate this group and to work with you. I am really excited for our first session to talk about recreation topics, sports, leisure activities and all ideas in between. Personally, I love to sing, being outside in nature and swim, either whether that's a pool, a lake, and especially in the oceans. So thank you again for joining us today. I will send it over to Steve.
Steve Kelley: And we all know that physical activity and staying active can help in our lives on a daily basis. We learn from each other and we encourage you to add into the community.
Well, if you didn't know, May is National Bicycling Month.
I am just so delighted to have with us today Michael Robertson. And Michael has started a non-profit called Shared Vision Quest a couple of years ago and did a cross-country trip from Washington back to his home state in Maine. And Michael, he completed that with a riding partner, Hans Breaux, and Michael is a low vision cyclist. So without any further ado, I'm going to just turn it over to Michael and he can share a little bit about his adventures. And it sounds like, Michael, you're open to questions being asked as we go along. So you'll let us know when to unmute everyone and when you're ready to field questions. So Michael, jump right in.
Michael R.: Good. So thank you and thank you everybody for coming into the call. Like Steve said, my name is Michael Robertson and I am a low sighted person and I use sight because I do have great visions, visions of expertise, visions of grandeur almost. I think life is to be lived and not to sit back and watch it fly by you. So I did a cross-country bike trip and there was a lot of obstacles involved with that, as you can imagine there's a lot of obstacles in a cross-country bike trip. Alone, never mind being low sight or low vision. So I was asked by Steve to come on the call and talk to you folks about some of the obstacles, some of the ways we overcame them, a little bit about my past, and maybe get into some plans for the future. And I'm going to keep my kind of speech here or talk as short as I can because I don't really like talking about myself, and I am much more interested in hearing what you folks have to say and answering your direct questions. So if you have questions, please jot them down and there will be time at the end to hopefully get to them all.
So a little bit about me. I am 48 years young and I live in rural Maine, right on the coast, and it is just absolutely gorgeous today. And I have been an avid cyclist my entire life. I, when I was young, would ride bikes just to escape and get away from the taunting and the bullying of being low vision. And I would get on my bike and ride 20, 30, 40, 50 miles. Go to a new town, explore new adventures, new places. And there's just something about the wind in your hair, climbing that next hill and putting yourself to the challenge of you're only competing against yourself, unlike some certain team sports.
So as I got a little bit older we get married, we had families, we all do that sort of thing, and the cycling got put back burner a little bit, but it was always there. And I got back on the bike in my probably mid-late 20s and rode for about a year and a half and then got into quite a severe accident due to my low sight and hit a car and broadsided him, went over the entire roof of the car and landed on my head. Put my helmet in about six pieces. It wasn't good. I was beaten and battered pretty severely and I didn't get back on a bike for 20 plus years. And one of my dreams was to always ride across the country, or to ride from Maine to Florida down the distance of Route One.
So I connected with a couple guys here in my community who are cyclists, and there's an event up here in Maine called the Trek Across Maine. It's a three-day, 180 mile ride from the mountains to the coast to benefit the American Lung Association. And I had always wanted to do that as well. So I connected with some guys, we figured out a way that we could adapt my bike to be able to follow them and follow them closely. So we had to put on some really high end hydraulic disk brakes for that quick stopping power, and we put some rattles and noisemakers on the back of their bike so I could hear them, as well as stay within six inches of his rear tire for 180 miles across the state.
So year one we did that. Year two we did the Trek Across Maine again, and year three we did the Trek Across Maine and we were getting a little bored with it. So we wanted to do something bigger and we wanted to start advocating for low vision people and let them know that with a little ingenuity and a little will and a little know-how you can make almost anything possible.
So we sat down and we created the name Shared Vision Quest, which you can find us on Facebook: Shared Vision Quest Maine and Sharedvisionquest.org. Excuse me. And so we started thinking well, let's do a Belfast, Maine to Boston trip. Take three days, ride up through New Hampshire and Massachusetts, we'll go up around Connecticut, visit some schools for the blind. And we thought, you know, that's not big enough. Let's do the distance of Route One, Fort Kent, Maine to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. That's a good trip. Let's plan it around July, it'll be nice weather. And then we realized nobody really wants to be riding a bicycle south of Washington D.C. in July and August, especially Florida and Georgia. It's just a little too warm.
So we thought, what can we do? Well, let's go cross-country. So that's what we planned. We planned out riding out from Ozette, Washington, which is the furthest township west in the contiguous United States, back to Lubec, Maine, which is the furthest point east in the United States. Made the plan, we adapted the bikes. We bought two-way radios with push to talk on the handlebar so he could, Hans Breaux and I, could stay in constant communication. He would tell me obstacles on the road. He would say things like pothole, stay right. Left, stay left, and things like that. Traffic, slow down. Slowing, stopping, all of that. So it was more a verbal communication.
So we bought the plane tickets, we got the bikes, we get everything set up and we flew out to Washington and then we rented a van. We took a ferry ride, we took a train ride, and we got to Ozette, spent the night and we said well, it's another 100 miles, let's just keep going to Cape Flattery, which is the absolute furthest point west. There's no town there it's just a tip. So we ended up riding from tip to tip, Cape Flattery, Washington back to Maine.
And that was a pretty epic adventure. Four thousand plus miles. We had a great time. Rode through a lot of beautiful states. 13 states we went through. Met a ton of amazing people and talked to press. We talked to the media, newspapers, TV station, Lions Clubs, Rotary clubs, anybody that would listen to try to educate people around low vision and the things that people can do with low vision instead of focusing on what they can't do. And how not just the low vision people, how they are capable, but how other people, like Hans, can assist low vision people in fulfilling their dreams. If it wasn't for Hans I never ever would have been able to make that journey. And I strongly feel like that sighted people or partially sighted people can really step out of their comfort zone and help organizations and agencies and people who work with the low vision fulfill their bucket list dreams. And of course my bucket list dream was travel across country on a bicycle.
So that's what we did. Plans for the future: I am currently in talks with an organization to digitalize my bike to put lidar cameras and radar cameras on it, and we're negotiating how I can possibly do a solo trip across country. Solo as in doing my own navigation using the technology. It's not solo as in I would probably need somebody to carry all of my gear, unlike the trip that we did. We had the bags on the bikes and we carried all of our gear. We camped. My bike would be so heavy this trip with electronics and batteries and solar chargers that I would have to have somebody carrying the gear. But all logistics that need to be worked out and I'm here to tell you to live life. Life is to be lived. And I think I'm done, so it's back to you, Steve.
Steve Kelley: Thanks, Mike. I appreciate that. And it sounds like you're probably open for questions. And do you mind if I just jump in real quick with one first before we open it up?
Michael R.: Absolutely.
Steve Kelley: I'm curious. So how did you originally find a riding partner for the Trek and for the cross-country trip, because I think there might be a lot of folks out there who are wondering this sounds really great, but how do I find somebody who will ride with me or maybe captain a tandem or something? How did you find Hans?
Michael R.: Well, Hans actually came through another friend that I had rode with the first year in the Trek. So when I started looking at doing the Trek Across Maine, I realized that I was going to have to be able to follow somebody. And I started looking in my community for teams. Trek Across Maine has a website, you can join teams, and the Belfast Co-op, which is a cooperative store here, has a team and I know some of the folks that were at the Co-op and I ended up connecting with a guy named Mike Scott. And he has a small team for the Co-op of about five people. We did some practice rides together and we went up to Sunday River, one of the ski resorts here in the state where the Trek Across Maine starts, and Hans was in southern Maine where Steve lives, and he ended up coming up. And that's how I met Hans, is through Mike.
And from my experience, if you connect with people who have common interests, they are more than willing to go out of their way to help because it benefits them as well. Mike liked to ride bikes, he didn't like to ride bikes alone, so we trained together. So it was a win-win. Hans always wanted to do a cross-country bike trip as well so we got to do it together. And he got to fulfill his dreams as well as assisting me in fulfilling mine.
Steve Kelley: I'm not hearing that there was much resistance to you being a cyclist with low vision then.
Michael R.: No, not at all. We had to get over the initial safety concerns and how we were going to do things, but with practice and a little bit of trial and error we were very successful at it.
Steve Kelley: Elyse, do you see anyone with their hands up? And again, if you would like to put your hands up, star nine will do it from your phone.
Elyse Heinrich: Yes, we have a few. So I'll start calling on people. Let's go to Marty.
Marty: Well I just wanted to say to Michael thanks for doing this and sharing because it sounds like we have parallel lives in certain ways. I also grew up biking quite regularly. As all my friends got cars and driver's licenses they kind of left me in the dust, so instead of buying a new car I went and bought a new bike and rode all over my small town. I guess one of my questions would be how much training did you do to do the cross-country trip and where did you get the funding to buy your equipment and your bike? Did you have sponsors or how'd that work?
Michael: That's a great question, Marty. Thank you for that. I was in the same situation. When all my friends were getting driver's licenses I was still stuck on a 10 mile an hour bicycle. But we make due with what's given to us and we have fun with it.
Training. Oh my gosh. I spent all winter long with my bike locked into a trainer in my living room and I rode that two to three hours a day. Once the weather warmed up here in Maine enough to get outside and ride, I did as much training as I could without riding partners around my block and on very, very familiar streets that I knew there was no traffic and no dogs coming out and potholes and things like that. But ultimately there's really no substitute for time in the saddle and I thought we were ready. I had dropped about 15 pounds before we... We left in the end of June and by the beginning of June I had dropped about 15 to 18 pounds. And then by the end of June I had gained it all back because I wanted to have those reserves for those long desert sections of Montana.
I think we went west-east, and if I had to do it over again we definitely would have, but I would have spent more time practicing around here on our mountains. Because when you go west-east, the first thing you hit are the Cascade Mountain range and then you hit the Rocky Mountain range, and then you hit not a lot, but the first thousand miles was all uphill, it felt like. So I would have probably spent more time going up and down mountains here. Washington Mountain, Cadillac Mountain, places like that. But great question. Thank you.
Elyse Heinrich: Thank you. We have another hand raised. The last numbers of the phone are 042. I will unmute you, number 042.
Carol: This is Carol Farnsworth. I just wanted to touch a little bit on being a tandem person with no vision, that my partner and I have tandemed for 21 years and we've gone through three bikes, just wore them out. And unlike you, we don't do the cross-country thing, but we try to get on the bike and do errands. And with doing that we end up doing between two and three thousand miles a year. And I just wanted people to know if they're going well, where can we find somebody who will tandem, I think every state has tandem teams. And if you google it, your state, you'll come up with a group of people that have tandems and a lot of them haven't even thought about helping the blind. But that would be a place to start if you want to try tandeming. Over.
Elyse Heinrich: Thank you very much.
Steve Kelley: May I ask a question of Carol.
Steve Kelley: Carol, how did you originally find your partner, the pilot of your bike?
Carol: He's my husband. He couldn't get away if he tried.
Steve Kelley: Very good. Well thank you, Carol.
Michael R.: So Steve, I'd like to, if I could, just finish up on a point that the first gentlemen asked that didn't get to, and that was finance.
Steve Kelley: Funding. Thank you.
Michael R.: Funding. So, what I thought of that. We were actually connected with Boston with Massachusetts Eye and Ear and we set up a GoFundMe page with them, helping to raise money for retinal disease research. We combined the trip with the educational and advocacy component. So Mass Eye and Ear assisted us with setting up our own kind of a CrowdRise page and we raised a little bit of money through that, but mostly it was self-financed. The bike purchase, purchase of the bike, all of the adaptive equipment and electronics that we had to connect to it. We did get some good deals and we worked with a company here in Maine called Bath, Ski and Cycle where they do custom built bikes out of titanium. They built me an amazing titanium bike and it was just bulletproof the entire trip.
And as for all the gear, I had camping gear, I had sleeping bags, and I had a lot of stuff like that. And then once I loaded it onto the bike I realized I needed all new gear because it was all extremely heavy and wanted my bike to be under 75 pounds fully loaded. And I think when I started the bike was laying about 120. So when you're traveling 100 to 130 miles a day, weight is everything, especially climbing the mountains. So we had to scrimp, save, put a lot on credit cards and buy all ultra-lightweight, basically backpacking gear so we weren't carrying a ton of weight. But hope that answers your question.
Steve Kelley: Michael, did you make the 75 pound goal before you left?
Michael R.: My bike was 73 pounds without water. So, yes.
Steve Kelley: And do you mind saying one more time who built the bike? It was a main custom made bike, correct?
Michael R.: Yeah, it was Bath, Ski and Cycle. The Carver's, they have their own brand, Carver Bikes. C-A-R-V-E-R.
Steve Kelley: We're just trying to give them a little plug because we're both Mainers here.
Michael R.: They are really a really good group of guys. And it just seemed like everybody that we had talked to and told them what we were doing and why we were doing it, they just got behind us as much as they could.
Steve Kelley: Elyse, do we have another question?
Elyse Heinrich: We sure do. This is a phone number ending in 628. I will unmute you.
Kirsten: Hi, this is Kirsten Smith from Rochester, New York.
Elyse Heinrich: Hello. Go ahead, Kristen.
Steve Kelley: Hello.
Kirsten: Hi. I actually grew up in Rochester, New Hampshire, not far from Maine so some of those places sounded familiar. I wanted to share, I run an organization here in Rochester called the Rochester Area Blind Athletes. It's sprouted from beep baseball but we've gotten into kayaking, cycling, yoga, and downhill skiing and a few other things, self-defense. But one of the things that we've found when we run our 5Ks is we've just gone to Facebook to whatever local running stores there are and they almost always have a Facebook page, a closed Facebook group, that you can join. And we put up there that we're looking for sighted guides to run with us and we've had a great deal of success with that. I've not tried it with cycling but I would be very willing to bet that that would be another great place to start looking for a riding partner.
My husband and I, I had low vision for many years and now I have no sight left, but as my vision deteriorated we found ourselves a fantastic tandem on eBay, I'm sorry, Craigslist, right here in town. It was a divorce situation and they were two sighted people, but it's been really working beautifully for us. So I wanted to share that.
The second woman who spoke talked about doing errands in town, and that is one of the things we struggle with is we're great on country roads and where there isn't traffic. We have the Erie Canal path here, but we're very tentative about taking it through neighborhoods and city streets and I'd love to hear about strategies with that.
Steve Kelley: What a great tip. Thank you so much.
Michael R.: Thank you, Kristen.
Kirsten: Thank you.
Michael R.: And I've found, from my experience with looking for tandem partners is that can be a little more difficult than finding a sighted guide for running, because with tandem bicycles, you're probably aware, typically the heavier person needs to be on the backside of that bike, or I'm sorry, the front of the bike. So somebody like me, I'm six foot one and I'm right now about 225 pounds. I couldn't ride tandem with a sighted person who was only 180 pounds on back. So there's a balance thing on the tandem bikes that have to be accommodated for. It's not impossible but I think it might be a little more challenging than finding the sighted guide for running. And thank you for mentioning the Erie Canal path because we rode down that. And what a beautiful state.
Kirsten: Thank you.
Elyse Heinrich: Wonderful. [crosstalk 00:28:36].
Kirsten: Thank you. I wasn't sure if I was muted. Yes, we do love it. We went to school in Ithaca where there were lots of hills, but as we're getting older we're enjoying the canal path a little more. And that's a really great... the weight distribution. Fortunately that works really well in my marriage, but it is something definitely to consider.
Michael R.: And I guess as far as strategies that I would recommend riding in the cities is just own the lane. If you're in town and the speed limits are at that 25 mile an hour mark a cyclist has just as much right to be on that roadway as anyone else. If you find a safe spot to pull over if you have a line of traffic behind you. Move over, let them by, be courteous. But otherwise I just say own the lane. I typically will not ride to the far right of the road if there's a lot of parked cars there because inevitably you will get car doored. Somebody will open a door, catch you off guard, then you're hurt. So center of the road, right down the middle of it. You're visible, the cars will see you, and there's a lot less risk of getting injured. You might make a few people mad, but you have just as much right to that roadway as they do.
Kirsten: Great. Thank you.
Michael R.: You're welcome.
Elyse Heinrich: Thank you. We go down the list here. The name is Sunshine 89. I will unmute you.
Jim: My name is Jim Thoune. I've been all over the country. I currently live in Bowling Green, Kentucky. And biking, when I saw the topic I had to jump in. I came in 10 minutes late. I apologize for that. I was outside doing yard work. A couple of things. Whatever your passion- biking, running, paddling, canoeing, kayaking, that kind of thing, in a lot of areas, if you google peddlers or paddlers or road runners, you're very likely to come up with a group, and if they're not in your immediate area they will be able to put you in touch with someone who is more into your immediate area.
And by the way, thanks, I think it was Steve who talked about the tandem issue. I'm totally blind. My wife is fully sighted. We've done a good amount of tandem riding. We've done the, it's called Bike to the Beach in San Antonio. It's 145 miles to Corpus Christi. You do it in a two-day ride. We've done that a couple times. But I learned that biking in the rain is actually more fun than biking in hot sunshine. We did it one year and it was 90 plus, and we did it another year and it was rainy the whole way and I much more enjoyed the second one. Just that sun can take it out of you.
Another quick place to mention, and it'll be small potatoes compared to what you've done, Mike, but it's called the Katy Trail. That I know of, it's in Missouri, but I'm pretty sure it goes more than that. They use river silt from the Missouri River to silt in the railroad bed. Used to be the Kansas to Texas railway. And it's a fantastic ride. We went from I think it's Sedalia, Missouri to Hermann. It was like 150 miles. We did a three-day out and took a day at the winery there in Hermann and then a three-day back.
And the most incredible, share this... There's one point where you have to go across the Missouri River, and it's a very steep upgrade to the bridge and it's heavy traffic. What we discovered was that because there are a lot of bicyclists who do this, the townspeople are completely amenable to... One lady, for example, she was driving a big SUV or something, big jeep or something, I forget what, but anyway, she put her flashers on and let us peddle our tandem up over this bridge behind her. Followed her across the bridge at 10 miles an hour and we didn't get yelled at, to my knowledge, by anybody, at least not that we heard. So if you get out there and do it, you'll find that there are people who are very amenable.
And thanks, Mike. I think you said that it's Carver Bikes is the brand. My wife is five feet tall. I ride in back, obviously because I'm total. She rides in front on a tandem, which means that most off the shelf tandems aren't going to work for us. Since our tandem was stolen in Oregon, we've been looking around for a tandem, and maybe Carver Bikes will be a place to look. Over.
Michael R.: Thanks, Jim. Carver, like I said they're a really, really great group of guys there. It's a family run organization. They're a small town but they're big visions. And they actually, a couple of years ago when they built my bike, were working on a bike that somebody was going to ride from Canada all the way straight to the North Pole. So they had built this massive fat tire bike with four wheels and double disk brakes that would handle the elements of the arctic. They love to be creative.
And I agree that there are some amazing trails out there that states and communities are really starting to get behind the cycling movement. Some of the best riding that we did on our trip were on old rail beds that, I'm thinking Minnesota as an example. We did 153 miles or something like that in one day and it was all just on these beautifully paved, flat rail beds across the state. I mean it was just beautiful. The Erie Canal trail, Washington state has some amazing trails. I think anywhere, almost any state you go, you can probably find these old rail beds that have been paved over or graveled over and find some good, safe riding conditions.
Steve Kelley: Michael, are you familiar with the website for searching that? I'm thinking it's Railtrails.org. I know that there's a website out there where you can actually search the trails that have been converted from the rail beds.
Michael R.: I'm not familiar with that website.
Elyse Heinrich: Great. We have another hand up. The number ends in 937. I will go ahead unmute you.
Sally: Hi, this is Sally calling from just outside of Boston. Most of what I was going to mention people have actually already mentioned. But to reiterate a point that maybe hasn't been hammered quite as much, especially with distance and endurance sports, I'm coming from a running perspective but it sounds similar in cycling, when you're having to put in long hours of training, many people are very happy for company. And depending on your level of vision or your comfort or where you're actually doing your training, again, the rail trails are great, it is a place where even no sight you can go with just an auditory cue. A lot of times working with somebody they don't necessarily have to have special skill. It's not much of a burden to them to just say, hey, we're coming up to a crossing or big crack in the pavement.
So to encourage people not to be too shy because in the longer distance training you are in a mutual situation. The person is benefiting from your company, it's another source of accountability to make sure you actually get out and train. Even if you're starting small, sometimes you may find groups that are oriented towards longer distances more receptive and certainly supportive as you start your training. So if you happen to have a bad experience, I know within the running community some of the shorter, faster races people are a little more internal. There's a lot about being fast and that doesn't always work well with being generous. But when you get into distance the mentality shifts and so if you've had bad luck or you're nervous, sometimes going for those endurance communities will be better, even if you're not up to the endurance yet.
Steve Kelley: Great tip, Sally. Thank you.
Elyse Heinrich: Thank you. Here's another-
Sally: My pleasure.
Elyse Heinrich: I'm going to mispronounce this, but I apologize, Jesh with the letter A last name. I will unmute you.
Speaker 9: Hi, I'm Jijish from India. So first of all-
Elyse Heinrich: Jijish, thank you.
Speaker 9: ... Jijish. First of all, I appreciate Hadley's wonderful effort to promote sports activities for the blind for all over the world. And I appreciate the [inaudible 00:38:46] also for your substantial contribution. Actually, I am the managing director of my organization called [inaudible 00:38:57] Institute for Adaptive Services. We are serving blind and partially sighted. So I would like to contribute the sports to the community. So I am wondering where can I get the valuable information for bike riding for the blind, because this is new information to me. I am first to the program. I am a refresher in this area.
Elyse Heinrich: Thank you. We will be posting after the call a resource list for all of these names and different groups and websites that we've been sharing. Will be posted on Hadley.edu/discussiongroups where you'll be able to access and see all of these links and the information for biking. Steve, do you have other things to add?
Speaker 9: No, will you be posting the URL in the email? Will you be sending the link to the all participants who have already registered in the program, or do I have to note it separately?
Steve Kelley: I think they will be posted to the show notes on the page for this discussion group. So if you go to the discussion groups and then click on the page you will find the show notes there. I might also add I did a quick search at one point, just putting in blind cycling and I came up with a lot of resources, particularly in the United States. But enough of them were generic that they might be appropriate for you. I also noticed that when I went to the Visionaware.org website I put in tandem cycling and came up with quite a bit of information about tandem cycling. So that might be a good place for you to start as well. I hope that helps.
Speaker 9: Thank you very much, sir. I appreciate your substantial contribution.
Steve Kelley: Certainly. Thank you.
Speaker 9: Welcome.
Steve Kelley: Mike, do you have any particular websites that you used as a resource that might also be an answer to that question?
Michael R.: Steve, I think we used Adventure Cycling. That's just a big organization here in Maine. Maine, in the United States. We focused primarily on the endurance aspect of the trip and the equipment that we would need and less on just the cycling itself and being visually impaired itself. So I don't really have a lot of great resources for that other than if you're interested in cycling at any level Adventure Cycling is a great resource.
Steve Kelley: Excellent. Thank you.
Elyse Heinrich: Great. We have another hand raised. The number's ending in 510. I will unmute you.
Dee: Thank you. My name is Dee Char and I'm calling from Ohio. I just wanted, first of all to thank Hadley for starting this group about getting people active. It's a great passion of mine. I'm a visionally impaired athlete and I do have quite a number of resources for people if they are interested in blind cycling.
Number one, there is an organization called Blind Stokers Club, and that is run by a gentleman named Dave White. And that is out in California. And they hold a database to connect pilots with stokers. So you can sign up with them if you're interested in finding a tandem pilot or if you're interested in being a tandem pilot for someone else.
There's also an organization in Tennessee that I raced last September with Tennessee Paracycling Open. That's a complete paracycling race, all types of disabilities are in that event. Also, the United States Association of Blind Athletes is a great resource for anyone wanting to do any type of athletic activity that is blind.
So I just wanted to thank Michael for sharing his experience, and it sounds like you've reached out to a lot of your local resources, which is, like a lot of other people have mentioned, a great place to start. Just looking in your local community and just asking questions and reaching out. I found personally, I've been a cyclist, a triathlete, an ultra-endurance trail runner and other types of sports, so I find that reaching out locally is always a great place to start. And there's a multitude of Facebook groups for blind athletes that have been starting to develop over the last five or six years.
Steve Kelley: Thank you, Dee. That's great. That's great information.
Elyse Heinrich: Great. We have a person that it just says iPhone, so I will unmute you. My computer doesn't seem to want to unmute you. There it goes.
Christina: Hi, now. There we go. Sorry about that.
Steve Kelley: Hello.
Elyse Heinrich: There you are. Thank you.
Christina: This is Christina. I am with a newly organized group called Tri-State Adaptive Sports in Memphis. And so we are a fairly urban area. But we have three tandem bike cycles. And as we begin to build that program, while we are inclusive of all types of disabilities, we know that these will probably only be used by people with vision loss of varying degrees. In an urban area, in terms of setting up that program, we have, of course, people at all different levels of biking. What would be some of the suggestions that you would maybe give us in terms of working with them and maybe building that program, if that's a good question?
Steve Kelley: Michael, do you have tips that you might toss out for somebody... I guess what I heard, and correct me if I'm wrong, is that maybe you're new to working with folks who might have a vision loss?
Michael, any thoughts on that?
Michael R.: Sorry, I had my phone muted.
Steve Kelley: No worries.
Michael R.: When you're looking at cycling, I think it's just get out there and do it. Encourage them and keep safety in mind. You want to do that no matter who you're working with, whether they're visually impaired or have other issues. And especially with cycling and any sort of endurance revolving around cycling, hydration, hydration, hydration. I actually ended up in clinic in Libby, Montana and took three bags of IV fluids because I wasn't hydrating enough. Running, you feel yourself sweat all of the time, you know you're losing fluids. Cycling, you're moving 10, 15 miles an hour and that evaporates off of you pretty quickly. So that would be one of the key safety factors that I would have to emphasize.
I actually sit on the board of directors here in Maine for an organization called MOBALE: Maine Organization for Blind Athletic Leadership Education. And we run a winter and summer sports education camp for youth with visual impairment. And it's just finding them in rural Maine, encouraging them to participate, and once you get them through the door, so to speak, they just have such a great time learning, competing, participating in sports that they can't or won't generally do in their schools.
So step one you have to find the community. Step two you have to get them in the door.
Christina: We appreciate it, thanks.
Michael R.: Sure. And I also find that especially when you're working with kids, the kids want to go. The kids want to do the stuff. They want to climb the tree, they want to ride the bike. They don't care if they get hurt. It's the parents that are the barriers, or the caregivers.
Elyse Heinrich: We have another hand raised. And Robert Young, I will unmute you.
Robert Young: I guess I have to press something. Can you hear me okay?
Elyse Heinrich: Yes, there you are. Hi, Robert.
Robert Young: I actually have two quick questions. Number one, what type of bike did you have? Was it thin tire, fat tire, 28 width or say 38 width for the tires?
Michael R.: The tires were, I think, a 31 width and they were Armadillos. So they were pretty heavy and pretty rugged. And believe it or not I went over four thousand miles without one single flat tire.
Robert Young: And about a standard road bike style or mountain bike style?
Michael R.: It was a road bike style tire.
Robert Young: And second, what did you use for route planning and did you stick to your route?
Michael R.: We did not stick to our route. We used Adventure Cycling's maps to start, and then we veered from there to certain places that we really wanted to see. We had some people, we had a nice guy named Steve that you might have heard of, who was actually reaching out to communities and Lions Clubs and media sources that were two or three days ahead of us so we could veer our trip to them to communicate the mission of the trip. And we used Google a lot because Google has the, you can drive, walk or cycle, so we used Google Cycling and saw some pretty amazing things that we probably wouldn't have seen without.
Robert Young: Cool, thanks.
Elyse Heinrich: Thank you, Robert. Going to go down the list. We have about 10 minutes left. This is wonderful. Marty, I'll unmute you.
Elyse Heinrich: There you are.
Marty: I'm back again. This is Marty. People are sharing their organizations on here so I have to put a word in for BOLD, the Blind Outdoor Leisure Development here in southeastern Wisconsin. It was an organization started by the Lions Club in 1974. Primarily it was a downhill ski program but it has since evolved into all sorts of stuff. And Elyse is familiar with this. We do tandem biking. In fact, we're starting our first tandem biking ride this Saturday and we do the third Saturday of every month through the summer. We go on different trails throughout southeastern Wisconsin.
And I wanted to ask Michael if he rode the Elroy Sparta Trail as he was coming across. Did you come across Wisconsin?
Michael R.: We did come across Wisconsin. We ended up dipping south. We were going to go up around the UP, and because of time constraints we ended up dipping south into Milwaukee and then took the Lake Express Ferry across Lake Michigan. But Wisconsin was actually one of my favorite states because it reminded me of Maine. It was like we were home.
Marty: You might have rode the Glacial Drumlin Trail then through Waukesha and Wales.
Michael R.: Yeah, we came down through Waukesha.
Marty: I'll be on that trail in July. I love biking.
Michael R.: [crosstalk 00:51:25] getting through.
Marty: I'll bet it was. I think you and I could probably talk for hours about this stuff because I just love biking and I wish I was in good enough shape to do a cross-country trip. I read a book a while back called Life is a Wheel and I forgot who it was written by, but it was a memoir that a guy wrote as he rode across country. He was not blind, of course, but it was pretty enlightening.
Michael R.: Well, people put a lot of limitations in front of them. I'm not fit enough, I'm not young enough, I'm not this enough, I have too much responsibility, too many kids. We met a couple out on the road who were living on their bikes. They had four kids. They had two triple bikes. Mom and dad and four kids and they were just traveling the country, homeschooling. They had been out there for two years. They go north in the summer, south in the winter. And they're just loving life. And I can only imagine the education that those four kids are getting.
Marty: Oh my.
Michael R.: The only barrier to what you want to do, typically, is you.
Marty: Well the website for-
Michael R.: [crosstalk 00:52:40].
Marty: ... I guess the thing that would hold me back probably is primarily the cost and how you get all the sponsors and get the bike and all that stuff together. But gee, I'd love to do some long-distance riding.
Michael R.: It's a lot of fun. It's a lot of sore hands and sore legs and sore back and shoulders, and let's not forget the butt.
Marty: I know. I get that after three hours on a bike let alone a whole day. But hopefully I'll get back into shape here this summer. But the website for Wisconsin BOLD is it's just that's what it is Wisconsinbold.com. All one word. Wisconsin BOLD, if anyone wants to check it out and learn about what we do.
Michael R.: Thank you for sharing.
Elyse Heinrich: Great, we'll add that to our list and we'll go to phone number ending in 758. I will unmute you.
Curtis: [inaudible 00:53:39]. Hello?
Elyse Heinrich: Hi.
Curtis: This is Curtis Tillman with Tri-State Adaptive Sports Association from Memphis, Tennessee. I have a couple questions and just trying to get some advice. The majority of our members are in their, I would say, mid-40s up until the age 80. So many of them haven't been on any type of bicycle for decades. We have three tandem cycles. A question: do you recommend that stationary cycling may be beneficial to at least prime muscle memory? And what type of general exercise you think will be beneficial just so that some of our members will be able to get into a little better physical condition to help it to be a little easier to transition to the tandem cycling?
Michael R.: Boy. Follow up question to that is this short distance cycling or medium or long distance? Are we talking a couple miles or 10 or 20 miles or 100 miles?
Curtis: I would say due to the physical condition and haven't been on a cycle in decades, I would say starting off with short and then just developing, and eventually advancing to long distance cycling.
Michael R.: So what I would do is probably recommend you take a trip to your local bike shop and explain the situation to them. I don't know, but I'm sure that there is a bike trainer that you can lock onto a tandem bike and people can actually, instead of just being on a stationary like gym style bike you can actually be on the tandem bike. They can become familiar with how it feels, the fit, the feel. The having the person in front of you or the person behind you. And spend some time doing that. I've found that hugely helpful. Once I got my new bike built and got it home first thing I did was lock it in the trainer and I put about probably 500 miles on it in my living room before I even took it out on the road because I just wanted to get the feel of the bike.
Second, if they just wanted to do general exercises, I would say have them just stand two feet away from the wall and lean into it. So you're building a little bit of upper body strength. You don't need a ton but a little bit. And climb stairs if they're capable of climbing stairs. Because those are the same muscles that you use for pushing a pedal.
Curtis: Sure. Thank you.
Michael R.: And it's simple and anybody can find stairs. You're welcome.
Curtis: That's true. Thank you very much.
Elyse Heinrich: Wonderful, Steve I am just close to 3:30. I know we have some more hands raised so do we want to transition and save some of those, give out our emails?
Steve Kelley: Yeah, I think what we should do at this point is just wrap up so that we can stick to our schedule. And for the folks who have their hands raised who have not been able to ask a question, a couple things. At the bottom of the screen you probably see a chat button and you can go ahead and type your question into the chat. We won't be able to answer it this time but we can research it and answer it in a future time. And also give you my email address. It's Steven K, S-T-E-V-E-N-K, @hadley.edu. And we really do look forward to hearing your questions. And just a reminder, this is going to be archived so you'll be able to find it on the discussion group's page.
And Elyse would you share your contact information? And Michael, I don't want to put you on the spot but if you're willing, feel free to share any contact information you have as well.
Michael R.: Excellent. Thank you, Steve. And if any questions are pertaining to me specifically or the trip, you are more than welcome to shoot that email to Steve and he will certainly get it to me and then I would reply, or you can email me directly at J, the letter J, Michaelrobertson, the number one, @gmail.com. Jmichaelrobertson1@gmail. Or you can check us out on Facebook, Shared Vision Quest Maine. And you can see some amazing photos, you can see the bike, some great mountain shots and great desert shots. If you want to see more about what we did there's some good stories there. There's some great links to articles that were written and TV articles, the news crews. And I just want to thank everybody for all your great questions and attending. And thank you Steve and Elyse for inviting me.
Elyse Heinrich: Thank you so much for coming on. And my email is E-L-Y-S-E-H@hadley.edu. We really hope that you learned something from us and from our group discussion today as I have definitely learned from you and have been jotting down great information about biking all in a different way, being resilient with your determination to try, and hopefully encourage some of you to maybe start biking for the first time. So we thank you for calling in. We love your participation and interaction. And again, feel free to email Steve or myself anything follow up.
And we'd like to end just with a little pick-me-up poem. And it goes like this, do more than exist, live. Do more than touch, feel. Do more than look, observe. Do more than listen, understand. Do more than think, ponder. Do more than talk, say something. Do more than sit, get up and go.
Steve Kelley: Awesome. Michael, thank you so much for coming and sharing your story with us today. It was great. I could listen to that story again and again, so thanks again. Have a great afternoon everybody.
Michael R.: Thank you, Steve.