Looking for an Oscar this year

The video of this year’s Team BrAvery Challenge of biking between six national parks in five days has just been released and it’s already a huge hit! OK, maybe it won’t garner any Oscar awards, but Mark has done an awesome job of capturing the fun, sweat & cheers of the true team effort it took to pull this one off. We think it’s awesome!

This video is also our way of saying “Thank You” to all the generous donors that gave to the Fanconi Anemia Research Fund this year. Although our family & friends have fun organizing and doing these Challenges, the whole point is to help find a cure for this genetic disease. As a family with an FA child, we absolutely believe that this cure will be found and that it will be the result of the funding by the Fanconi Anemia Research Fund to the scientists and doctors that are doing the research.

For those of you that followed us on the GPS, this video adds the views that we got to see and even some views that only the drone could capture……..

Check it out by clicking <here>


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Supporting the Team

As Hollywood, Wingman, Keya and I first began discussing this National Parks Challenge, we initially thought we could do it as a simple bike packing trip. We would just strap tents, food, etc. on our bikes and start peddling. But once we took a look at the needed logistics, we knew we were going to need a lot of help! As you can imagine, these Challenges are a little hard to explain for the first time and getting someone to take off from work and family was a concern.

Amazingly, though, we soon had volunteers Mark Lafargue and Erik Karanik, both of St. Louis and both had little idea of what they were signing up for! And they wouldn’t meet each other until they got on the same flight to Utah.

Mark is an old friend of Keya’s and had put together a swell video from cell phone videos and photos of our Maah Daah Hey run but knew nothing of Fanconi Anemia or even our family’s involvement. But his hobby is videography and he was certain he would see some great scenery and get us better videos.

Erik is a very good friend of Hollywood’s, has had some familiarity with our connection to Fanconi Anemia, and has been a significant contributor to FARF for many years. He had not camped out before and had no experience with supporting an event like ours. This was an opportunity to get some camping skills and he knew he could provide us with better meals. (What he didn’t expect was 3 nights of sleeping outside under the stars.)

Each made arrangements with work & family to spend several days with Team BrAvery and were given advice on gear, clothing, etc.. From what I understand, their first-ever meeting at the airport for their Utah flight was a classic! They arrived late Friday night after we had biked to Zion and they joined up with us for the start of the bike to Bryce. That Saturday morning, we were now a 7 person Team BrAvery.

Mark getting photos at Bryce Canyon

Erik & Mark had a 4 wheel drive pickup and were willing and able to provide much needed support along the route for the next 4 days. This would also give Mark plenty of opportunities to get photos, videos, and drone footage. As we discovered along the way, this support was critical to the success of the Challenge!

Erik preparing another incredible meal

All in our group enjoyed watching them bond as a “team within the team”. Almost immediately, they were a terrific pairing and their support was flawless. Team BrAvery greatly benefitted from their efforts and appreciates their time and efforts for the Challenge and FARF.

Erik assisting Mark with equipment setup
Erik driving, Mark videoing bikers
Erik & Mark

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Arches & Canyonlands – The Finish Line

After spending a very warm night at the Green River Campground, we got an early start for the final leg of the 6 National Parks in 5 Days Challenge. The scouting of the route the evening before had us eliminate a short section of rugged dry wash that would have brought the bikes into the top of Arches N.P. with a huge downhill ride through the park. Instead, we stuck to the road, documented the official park sign, and headed south to Cayonlands N.P.

Meanwhile, at Arches, biking through the park would have probably been a nightmare. They had reached full capacity early that morning and there is no bike lane. Keya earned his Master Navigator’s card with that reroute, IMHO.

I biked with Keya, Hollywood & Wingman for the 43 miles from Green River to Arches. There, I handed off to Mark Quinlan and would shuttle his car towards Canyonlands. Our volunteer videographer, Mark, had to take off for the Salt Lake City airport to catch his flight to St. Louis, leaving Erik and me with support duties. We hauled the water and food to keep the bikers as light as possible for the ascent.

It was a 27 mile, very steep, uphill bike grind for Hollywood, Keya, Wingman & Mark Q. They were also joined by Shaman.

About halfway up, Shaman was asked by some very distraught parents if he would bike some water down a trail to their hiking kids that had cell called for help. Shaman did what Shaman does and left the road to help them!

Meanwhile the heat and uphill grind had convinced Mark Q that it was time to accept a ride in our “sag wagon”. The 3 steadfast bikers pressed on up towards the Island in the Sky of Canyonlands.

After another hour or so and as they neared the park entrance, Shaman had returned from his impromptu search & rescue mission so Mark and I jumped on our bikes for a six-abreast photo at the final stop in the Challenge. The temperature at that point was over 100 and the last 70 mile ride was in the books!

Wingman,Buzz,Shaman,Mark,Hollywood, Keya

It was now time for all to celebrate a bit and we did the tourist thing while on top of Canyonlands N.P.

Topside view of Canyonlands

Next Post – some recaps

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A Team BrAvery Member Gets Named!

Troy Couture has been a great friend of mine since 2004 when we met on the roof of a fellow adventure racer after hurricane Charley nailed Port Charlotte. We raced together until he moved out to Pagosa Springs, Colorado.

Troy joined our 2014 MR340 Team BrAvery Challenge when four of us paddled two tandem kayaks down the Missouri River from Kansas City and 340 miles to St. Louis. This was after he had joined us for 340 miles of trail biking from St. Louis to Kansas City.

As soon as we had decided to make Utah our base for this year’s Challenge, I called Troy to see if he was interested in joining us in biking 6 national parks in 5 days. The quick answer was ….NO.

But Troy added that he was more than willing to support us with his truck and camper – perfect! He would then be available to ride some trails of his own while Team BrAvery did their thing.

Troy is an avid mountain biker and his local knowledge was invaluable to this year’s successful Challenge. He did support, rode with us, and was generous with his truck & camper. Truly a member of Team BrAvery, again.

It was time to give him a nickname to match his contribution to Team BrAvery.

With each naming, there is an explanation of the new name…..

In 1776, the same year the Declaration of Independence was signed, a group of Spanish explorers entered present-day Utah Valley. Led by two Franciscan friars named Silvestre Velez de Escalante and Francisco Dominguez, the expedition was launched to find a northern path from New Mexico to one of Spain’s newest colonies, California.

Escalante rediscovered the Grand Canyon (Arizona). He explored what is now western Colorado and made the first Spanish penetration of what is now Utah (in which he recommended colonization), before returning, unsuccessful in his route search, to Santa Fe.

Utah is named after the Ute people that lived in the areas of now Utah & Colorado.

Ute as a term was applied to the group by Spanish explorers, being derived from the term quasuatas, used by the Spanish at the time to refer to all tribes north of the Pueblo peoples and up to the Shoshone peoples.

The Utes believe in the God Senawahv(sen-a-wav) who created the land, animals, plants, food, and the people of the Utes themselves. They believe in this Great Spirit as the creator of the existing world. It is a common practice of reverence to the nature as the reflection of the Great Spirit. The application of the religious belief is a matter of the individual practice.

Cultural Utes practice the religion of Shamanism, which is based on a belief of healing and nature.

A shaman is able to see what other cannot. They can walk beyond the realm of logic that transcends space and time. Shamans believe that man is very privileged and has the power to change and shape the world.

Team BrAvery will forevermore call him SHAMAN.

This name is well deserved and descriptive of Shaman’s true talents!

Next Post – the very successful final day of the Challenge

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Finally! Cell Phone Works!

Later, I may go into the details of the travel logistics for each Team BrAvery member of this year’s Challenge. But they are all sitting here tonight along the banks of the Green River as we get ready for the final leg of the Challenge – the ride to Arches and then Canyonlands.

Keya drove us in his RV from St. Louis to Pagosa Springs, Colorado to meet up with Troy. We spent one night sleeping in a noisy truck stop. At Pagosa Springs, we moved our gear into Troy’s camper, grabbed a dinner and quick sleep before heading out to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Fairly direct route but through some remote country right past the Four Corners monument where Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico meet.

We pretty much lost cell coverage after we left Pagosa Springs but did start on time Friday morning at 6 a.m. and arrived at Zion late in the day. About 100 miles of biking, a mix of trails and roads, with temps over 100. I bonked at 96 miles from the heat and eventually settled for a ride from Troy to the finish line while Keya, Hollywood, and Wingman finished strong. Disappointing for me but best for the other guys.

Zion to Bryce was the toughes route, so far. The trail sections turned out to be steep, narrow, rocky, and there was a lot of hike-a-bike. Only 60 miles but definitely the toughest and most demanding. Temps still over 100, too. Because of the heat and elevation of 9,000 feet, I rode only the first 40 miles and jumped in the truck with Troy to help shuttle the camper to Bryce. That was never the plan but the high elevations had turned out to be my Achilles heel. The other three, however, put in an amazing effort to ride, push, pull their bikes through brush and terrain up a ton of hills!

That next trail segment ended up taking them hours longer than expected and they ran out of water. Having dropped the trailer at the Bryce campsite, Troy & I figured they had run into problems, so we biked backwards on the trail with lots of water, then completed the last few miles with them. It was another terrific effort by Hollywood, Keya & Wingman!

We were also joined that day by Mark & Eric of St. Louis. Mark was there to capture video for us and Eric was there to make sure we got some great camp food. They would also now be able to provide support for the bikers since they had a 4 wheel drive truck.

The planned route from Bryce to Capitol Reef also had tough terrain and was about 90 miles and 108 degrees. But there were high winds that kept it “comfortable”. There was a 12 mile segment of gravel road over the pass in the middle of the route that was going to be very tough. After giving the Team my best effort for the first 40 miles, I climbed into the support truck as we followed them up the mountains. Again, not planned but I would rejoin as they approached the high point. After riding and pushing their bikes up 2,000 feet over 12 miles of rough dirt road, they had reached 9,284′ and we became 4, again towards the finish for the day at Capitol Reef campground.

Capitol Reef to Green River was yesterday’s bike ride and Team BrAvery was joined by Mark Quinlan, Executive Director of the Fanconi Anemia Research Fund. All road, 96 miles, with temps at 115 inside some of the canyons. I put in 37 miles before we met up with Quinlan in Hanksville. After meeting the rest if the Team, he took off with Wingman, Keya & Hollywood. I dropped my bike in the back of his pickup to shuttle it to Green River. Mark & Eric continued double duties of filming and support.

Tomorrow, we bike to Arches and Canyonland. Our original route was 86 miles and the heat remains a significant concern. Keya and Troy went out last evening, driving as much of the route as possible to verify trail conditions. One of the intended trails is only a dry wash and the Team decided to reroute to avoid a very slow section that would put us out in the highest heat. The high today is supposed to be 107.

We start biking in 8 minutes….

We have five bikers today, with Quinlan joining at Arches for the final, long hill climb into Canyonlands.

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Smokey Hill Trail

Once we crossed the Missouri River at Kansas City, our I-70 route paralleled the original pioneer Smokey Hill Trail. Most utilized during the gold rush years at Pike’s Peak, that trail paralleled the Smokey Hill River. When crossing the plains, a water source was crucial and all good trails tended to follow rivers. The travel would also be less hilly along rivers.

That trail soon became the route for the Union Pacific Railroad as they raced across the country to connect east with west.

Highway 40 would follow along the rails as cars came into use. That highway eventually became most of the route for I-70.

We’ve just left the Interstate to follow Hwy 40 as it continues along the Smokey River. This will soon put us into southern Colorado. It’s all small farming communities for the next 7 hours.

Just crossing the Smokey Hill River


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Krossing Kansas

Wingman and I made it to St. Louis, his Yukon stuffed to the gills with our bikes & gear. We had about an hour to transfer it all to Keya’s RV, which was packed to the gills with his & Hollywood’s gear! Right on schedule, we hit the 5pm rush hour traffic as we motored to west on I-70.

We reached Salinas, Ks around 1 in the morning where we stopped at a truck stop to sleep for about 5 hours. We gassed up, coffeed-up, and are back on the road now at 7 am. Next stop is Troy’s in Pagosa Springs, Colorado, about ten hours away. There we will transfer everything to Troy’s trailer that is set up for backcountry camping.

Team BrAvery obviously trains many hours for these Challenges, but the logistics of map making and gear hauling is just as important. And just as time consuming!

Now, as Keya is driving along the massive wheat fields of Kansas, Hollywood is working on Facebook videos, Wingman is drafting a followup email for the fundraising, and I tap this quick post. Mobile hot spots don’t leave us any excuse for not staying in touch! In between, each of us also have our real job tasks come up several times a day. It really makes us look forward to Friday morning when we actually start biking and get out of touch with technology!

If you received one of our fundraising letters, please consider sharing it with your family and friends. We don’t maintain any mass lists of people to simply send out fundraising emails – we write our own letters and then select our friends who we send them out to. And the whole point of doing these Challenges is to raise awareness of Fanconi anemia and raise funds for the Fanconi Anemia Research Fund. Sure, we have fun doing them, but we could do that with a lot less effort!

From somewhere in the middle of OZ,


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Next Friday Morning, Team BrAvery Aims for Mukuntuweap

It was 1909 when Mukuntuweap was officially designated as a National Monument. The place has often been described as “Yosemite with better colors”. President Teddy Roosevelt signed the Antiquities Act into law in 1906 and immediately began having public lands set aside to protect their history and artifacts. This first was Devil’s Tower in 1906 and more soon followed. It was President Taft that designated Mukuntuweap.

But prior to becoming a National Monument, Mukuntuweap was featured at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, with paintings done by Frederick Dellenbaugh. This is the same World’s Fair that had the Teddy Roosevelt cabin from Medora, N. Dakota and held the strangest Olympic Marathon of all time – both have been the topic of my earlier blog posts. This “World’s Fair” was officially named the Louisiana Purchase Exposition and originated from an idea to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Lewis & Clark expedition – also a topic on many prior blog posts and observed in several Team BrAvery Challenges.

And those paintings by Dellenbaugh really brought Mukuntuweap to the public’s attention and probably had something to do with the area being declared a National Monument in 1909. Eventually, in 1918, the name was officially changed to Zion and in 1919, the area was given National Park status by the U.S. Congress.

Team BrAvery starts biking on June 11th from the lodge at the north rim of Grand Canyon N.P.. You will be able to track us on our SPOT page at https://maps.findmespot.com/s/KT6M

The first day has us on a lot of forest roads as we head almost due north to Mukuntuweap (aka Zion N.P.). The forest roads will slow us down, it’s 71 miles before our first available water stop (and pavement), and it will likely be the hottest day of the whole Challenge. But our legs are fresh after a four day drive out there and we hope to have shade in most of the forest. You can also follow us on our Facebook page by clicking <here>.

Of course, the whole point of the Team BrAvery Challenges is to raise awareness of the very rare genetic disease, Fanconi anemia, and to raise funds for the Fanconi Anemia Research Fund (FARF). We plan, train, and commit the time for the Challenges as our way of inviting our friends to contribute to FARF. If you are interested in contributing to this great organization, just click <here> and it takes you to our page at the Fanconi Anemia Research Fund, where your contribution goes directly to them.


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Who’s Going to Utah?

I think we are close to getting our final roster for the Challenge in Utah. All from last year’s Challenge in North Dakota have been “IN” from the start. That means Keya is joining Wingman, Hollywood & Buzz for a second time around (guy ain’t got no sense!). But we are also picking up another old friend – Troy Couture. Troy joined us for the Missouri Challenge in 2014.

After biking across Missouri and surviving a night at the “Bates No-Tell Motel”
Wingman, Troy, Hollywood & Buzz were all smiles

That Challenge had us bike from St. Louis to Kansas City, then we later kayaked back to St. Louis on the Missouri River as part of the MR340 Race. Troy loves mountain biking and moved from Sarasota and out to Pagosa Springs, Colorado a bit after the Missouri Challenge. He has biked many of the areas we will be at in Utah and was “ALL IN” as soon as he heard we were heading out his way. Troy will be biking much of the route with us and also shuttling the camper & gear between campgrounds. His experience with local trails has been a help to Keya while designing the routes between parks.

We will also be joined by Mark Lafargue of St. Louis. A good friend of Keya’s, Mark is also known as Kram Films, his favorite pastime & hobby. Mark put together the video for Team BrAvery of last year’s run on the Maah Daah Hey Trail in North Dakota. He arrives the night of our first day on the Challenge and will be joining us for three or four days to gather digital footage that he will use to put together another video of this year’s Challenge. Here is the link to what he was able to do with what we brought back last year – <click here>

Erik Karanik, a good St. Louis friend of Hollywood’s, will be joining us, as well. Erik has been a great supporter of the Fanconi Anemia Research Fund over the years and plans on bringing his culinary skills to Utah. He believes that Napoleon was correct and a Team “marches on it’s stomach”. Erik’s travel plans are for him to arrive with Mark on Friday night and hang around with us until Wednesday. (I’m pretty certain it will be easy to please the bikers’ appetites at the end of each day.)

For the first time, ever, Team BrAvery will be joined by someone from the Fanconi Anemia Research Fund! The Executive Director, Mark Quinlan, has been with FARF since 2017 and arrived with a wealth of experience of guiding non-profit organizations. But he is also an avid biker and we welcome him as an addition for a couple days of biking with us. Wingman is aiding his scheduling so he can join us, probably during the Arches & Canyonlands segments.

The remaining family members will be staying at home this time, but will be tracking us on the satellite SPOT, and providing updates to the Facebook and Instagram accounts.

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A Perspective on Training

For me, my training program is all about getting comfortable that I am up to the task for the upcoming event. Along the way, I’m sure I develop better muscles and perhaps improved efficiency but all I really want to do is feel like I am ready as can be and can go the distance. I don’t weigh myself often, I don’t concentrate on any particular diet, and I certainly don’t calculate stuff like BMI or VO2max. It’s about confidence on my abilities and for my bike.

This is mostly due to my “age disability” – I am a bit past the peak where I could gobble up the competition and finish ahead of the midpack, at least. I like to say now that distance is my friend and my enemy is the clock. I figure that if I can go the distance, I can still hang with the survivors, and maybe land between midpack and the front runners if I’m having a good day. But the Team BrAvery Challenges are definitely not a race! We have all been training and each one of us just wants to do our very best. We bike together during the Challenge and nobody wants to be a drag on the group and we need to support each other – it’s a Challenge of teamwork! This will be a 500 mile bike ride over five days and each of us is going to be challenged at some point – hurting, sore, tired, out of gas. The rest of us have to pull that team member through that point.

Achieving confidence was the goal for the design of my training program. I climbed on the bike in late March and aimed for biking as many miles that I could fit into my schedule. And it had to involve some fun or I wouldn’t be able to get myself up and out early enough to get in all those miles. I came up with routes that were interesting and tried to enjoy myself as much as possible while perched on that bike seat for hours on end. One morning’s ride started at 2:15 a.m..

Before I even started to train, I had to rebuild a noisy front hub

Exactly two months later, I had racked up over 1,000 miles, ridden for over 80 hours, and burned up almost 37,000 calories. The miles and hours have been fun and worthwhile (but I think I found a way to replenish almost all those calories). When I started the training, I hadn’t been on my bike for nearly a year but I now feel that my bike and I are as ready can be for the Challenge.

Fun breakfast during a stop on a long ride south to Stump Pass

My routes on the bike ranged from 20 to 100 miles. Some days were meant to be easy and on days when I felt strong, I would push harder. Every day had a set goal, though.

There were lots of beach stops before the sun came up – this is Caspersen beach under a full moon. I also biked to beaches at Stump Pass, Manasota, Turtle, Siesta, Lido, Longboat, and Holmes Beach.
Also lots of rides on trails in the boonies before the sun came up – this is deep in Carlton Reserve

After two months, I had nearly worn out a new pair of tires, and did need to install a new chain and rear cassette. Getting parts has been a little difficult, too. I did end up swapping out that rebuilt front wheel, though, for one with a better hub bearing (fortunately, I have two nearly identical Cannondale F1000’s). I think the tires still have enough life in them for the Challenge but will have spares just in case. Just FYI, both Cannondale bikes are from the mid-1990’s, so I’ve gotten lots of practice installing parts over the years!

Noisy, stretched chain on worn out cassette gears and “vintage” Shimano Deore XT rear derailleur

Bottom line is that I am confident in me, have faith in my bike, and looking forward to giving this Challenge and Team BrAvery the best I’ve got.


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