3rd week – Key West to Ocala

Apologies for the tardiness of this blog.  Here were the highlights of the 3rd week.

Monday – Mar 18 – Key West to Tavenier – a long ride over a lot of water, no shoulders, brilliant sunshine, a 7-mile bridge and a strong headwind, glad to be getting close to the mainland.

Tuesday – Mar 19 – Tavenier t0 Tamiami (Miccosukee Casino) – moving from urban area to completely flat terrain, dull overcast morning burning off to a warm bright day.  Finding the Casino was a godsend!  All you could eat buffet was very welcomed.

Wednesday – Mar 20 – Tamiami to Clewiston – moving north about 80 miles with only one gas station along the way.  Key lesson learned:  carry a minimum of 4 quarts of water/sports drinks if you go over 40 miles!  Had a super Cuban supper in Clewiston.

Thursday – Mar 21 – Clewiston t0 Sebring – another hot day going up the center of Florida.  Sebring was a welcome stop at about 2:00 pm – having an early supper listening to the senior citizens at the local diner was the evening’s entertainment.

Friday – Mar 22 – Sebring to Minneola – 89 miles!  Long day made longer by an hour & 15 minutes delay in check in due to computer glitches, but it was countered by eating at the Honey Hive restaurant – all you could eat fish supper.

Sat – Mar 23 – Minneola to Ocala – made it into Ocala by midday, sat in the hotel lobby until the room was ready, then walking down to the local Winn Dixie for provisions.  Rest day – Sunday – was also in Ocala.

 

2nd week – Davie, FL

I’m finding that as I’m on this journey, particular things tend to dominate:  the weather, the terrain, the scenery, the desire to get as far as possible as quickly as possible, the destination, and so on.

But with the 2nd week of my journey, it’s the people of Davie, FL.  All of these folks are unique in their own right, with specific talents & gifts, but the folks that I want to focus on are the people that are making the LCpl Janos V Lutz Live To Tell Foundation a positive force to save and transform people’s lives.

Janos Lutz was a Marine Lance Corporal who served his country in both Iraq and Afghanistan, suffered from Post Traumatic Stress, and took his own life on January 12, 2013.

If I had suffered devastating turn of events, I would have difficulty in coping with day to day events for a very, very long time.  However, his mother, Janine Lutz, possesses the positive grit & determination to transform this deeply personal tragedy into a inclusive, life-affirming force to help others in similar situations.

Although Janine and her Foundation have several goals, two particularly resonated with me.

The first is about PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).  Janine immediately points out that it is important to drop the word ‘Disorder’ from this phrase, and with good reason.  It helps no one to keep reiterating and internalizing a ‘disorder’; it actually furthers to stigmatize and disempower the person with the condition.  Janine prefers to use the term, Post Traumatic Stress Growth, which I think is a true game changer, which focuses on growth.  The key is to grow through all experiences (both positive & negative) and emerge a stronger, more resilient individual than before.  What a great concept!

The second objective is to stop veteran suicide.  Not reduce, not decrease – TO STOP.  Wow!  Talk about a SMART goal.  By SMART I mean (Stupendous, Momentous, Awesome, Revolutionary, & Transformational).  It sets a high standard and this standard deserves to be set at this level.  If there has ever been a goal worthy of a “zero-defect”, this has to be one of them.

Janine & her team are using a Buddy Up Program to identify veterans from Iraq & Afghanistan and pair them up with other veterans that have similar experiences with tools and assistance that can be downloaded from her website, http://lcpllutzlivetotell.org/

Not only did Janine open her house to me for three days, she and her team also planned, prepared, and conducted a deeply emotional & touching memorial  ceremony at the town hall of Davie on March 14 that I will remember for a very long time, with the Mayor, Council Members, the Leathernecks, and local citizens – in a phrase – very, very moving.

Then, as icing on the cake, arranging to be hosted at a VIP suite at the Florida Panthers Ice Hockey Game that night where I was honored and humbled to be recognized for what we are all trying to do – Giving Back To Those Who Have Served.

So to Janine and her Team – Andrew, Angel, Collos, Rene, Shep, & Terry, my thanks to you all – ordinary people doing extraordinary things and in the process, thus becoming extraordinary in their own right.

North to Alaska!

 

 

 

Lutz Live to Tell, Davie, FL – Guest Blogger Michelle Coleman

22+ Veterans are losing their lives as a result of Post-Traumatic Stress every day.  More are lost here at home than on the battlefield and the worst part is that it is preventable.   Every day here at the LCpl Janos V Lutz Live To Tell Foundation, Inc.  we are posed with the question “Well, what can I do to help?”  Our immediate reply is “Spread the word!” Some pass out flyers, others share our post on social media, and then there is Tom Von Kaenel with Sea2Sea Inc.Chase Vehicle

Tom is riding 6600 miles from South Carolina down to the Florida Keys, and all the back up to Alaska to raise awareness for fallen servicemen & women.  His Florida trail has been dedicated to raising awareness to those lost from Post-Traumatic Stress and what can be done to prevent this epidemic from spreading.  The Lutz Live To Tell Foundation had the pleasure of trailing Tom from St. Augustine, FL to Davie, Fl where he was met with a welcome reception courtesy of the Mayor Judy Paul & the Town of Davie, FL.

Here Tom performed a wonderfully moving Remember, Recognize, & Rejoice Ceremony.  Tom Speech 3Local media outlets covering the event were so impressed by Tom’s ceremony that they published the cover story & photos less than 2 hours after the event.  Immediately following the Davie reception Tom was whisked away to the Florida Panther’s game where he was requested by Rick Case Automotive to be honored on the ice for the work he is doing across the nation.  Everyone that has met Tom and learned of his 2014 challenge have wanted nothing more but to help and contribute to his cause.


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The local Leathernecks motorcycle chapter attended the Davie reception and just had to be involved.  Leathernecks check presentThey are going to be making contact with Tom across the nation in various cities to help where needed. What shocked people the most is that Tom does not take any money for his awareness campaign.  Facial expressions tuned to admiration as he said that he just welcomes a hot meal and a place to sleep.  Which in turn inspired those listening to want to help more.

That night and well into the next morning the Lutz Live To Tell Foundation’s social media sites were on fire with excitement.  Tom & Sea2Sea have provided the opportunity to spread the word about the LCpl Janos V Lutz Live To Tell Foundation’s efforts to turn Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS) into Post-Traumatic Growth in order to save our veteran’s lives.

@PTSDride – Twitter

Lutz Live to Tell Facebook Page – LCplLutzLiveToTell

Our Lutz Live To Tell Buddy Up program is offered for FREE on our website www.LCplLutzLiveToTell.org and provides an outline on how to locate and pair up veterans in your local community so Live To Tellthat they can have each other’s backs here at home like they did on the battlefield.  Included, is a family system that assist family members in dealing with returning veterans managing their PTS.

The Lutz Live To Tell Foundation is honored to have met and worked with Tom & Sea2Sea these past few days.  We encourage everyone to follow Tom for the next few months as he travels across the nation up to Alaska.  We look forward to seeing where he will set his next anchor and the amazing feats he will reach.

Good Travels Tom & don’t hesitate to contact us if you need anything!

Michelle Coleman

LCpl Janos V Lutz Live To Tell Foundation

Live To TellIt is not possible to tell all the stories on the road, but one that needs to be broadcast is the story about the LCpl Janos V Lutz Live To Tell Foundation.

Janos (or Johnny as he is called by his mother Janine) was a Marine from Davie, Florida, deployed to Iraq & Afghanistan, returned home, and after being diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), took his own life on Jan 12, 2013.

This devastating tragedy (being replayed at, on the average of one suicide per hour every day) would effectively end any hope of happiness that I would have for my life, but Janine has transformed this into a life-affirming program of suicide prevention by de-stigmatizing Post Traumatic Stress turning into from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder into Post Traumatic Growth.

What Janine and her small core of volunteers have done in such a short period of time is nothing short of remarkable and awe-inspiring.  Visit their website at http://lcpllutzlivetotell.org/ for practical information to prevent veteran suicide and how to implement best practices for your local communities.

I also strongly recommend going to their Facebook page to see how a vibrant form of social media can be effective and empowering (‘Like’ them also).

It is estimated that PTS affects over 600,000 personnel since 9/11 and Janine’s 501(c)3 charity, LCpl Janos V Lutz Live To Tell Foundation is taking concrete steps to ensure that those at risk are identified and supported through a Buddy Up Program.

The town of Davie, Florida has embraced this charity with a proclamation naming Jan 12, 2013 The LCpl Janos V Lutz Live To Tell Day and sponsoring the PTS Awareness Day on that day.  They have also donated the use of the Davie Women’s Club Facility one day per month for the Buddy Up program.

During our Remember, Recognize, & Rejoice Ceremony last Friday (Mar 14) at Davie Town Hall, I was particularly impressed by Mayor Judy Paul’s commitment & support of this and other veteran’s initiative.  Mayor Paul’s actions show the model that other towns can follow to address this devastating problem.

Although many times we are reminded of what is wrong or lacking in the US, it is more important to realize the positive effect that two people can have in turning a tragedy into what will ultimately be a triumph.

 

So Janine & Judy, you have my sincere admiration and thanks for Giving Back to Those Who Served.

Pedaling with Pride Down Memory Lane, Guest Blogger: Greg Bauld

Guest Blogger, Greg Bauld

greg bauldOne of the best things about growing older is you get extra chances to do things you love with people you love.

That just happened to me this week as I got the opportunity to cycle thru the state I love with one of my very best friends. When Thomas told me that I should ride with him to Columbia, I was really intrigued. Initially excited, that excitement turned to trepidation after my training started!!

I quickly realized that I’m not as young as I thought I was. But with his encouragement, I set off with my great friend Saturday morning from Tillman Hall in Clemson, SC. Little did I know that I was about to embark on 2 of the very best days of my life.

As we left Clemson University that morning, I was reminded how much I love that university. Then we pedaled thru my present town of Pendleton right by my house where the most important person in my life, my wife Denise, was waving and encouraging us.

From there we set out on a journey that allowed me to enjoy my friend but also the beautiful landscape of the state that I love. As we moved on down the back roads of South Carolina, I was reminded of the many blessings that God has given me. As we moved thru Pelzer, I was so excited to see one of my very dearest friends Verna Ballinger who drove 30 miles to cheer us on.

How cool is that??

We continued on til we got to Newberry where Tom led a very emotional Memorial honoring the men and women who have given the ultimate sacrifice for their country and their families and friends who are left to pick up the pieces after the loss of their loved ones. I can’t thank Thomas enough for allowing me to join in that Memorial.

The next morning we headed to our capital city of Columbia where I knew my beautiful daughter Katie and her husband Bobby would be waiting for us along with Denise and her friend Yvette from Senator Lindsey Grahams office. As we pedaled up Main Street in Columbia on Sunday morning, a sense of pride, accomplishment and gratitude totally engulfed me.

I was and always will be so proud that my friend Thomas Von Kaenel shared these 2 days with me. I urge everyone who is reading this blog, go dust off your old bicycle. Look on Sea2Sea.org and find out when Tom is coming thru your area.

Take the time to reconnect with the great feeling of doing something for your body and your mind. Remind yourself how important friends and family are to you. Ride, even if only a mile or two, through the state that you love and be reminded of our fallen heroes who have allowed us to enjoy all these blessings.

Godspeed to you Thomas!! My prayers will be with you and an ice cold adult beverage will await you on your safe return!!   ~ greg

One of Sea2Sea’s Oldest Supporters

Tom's mom

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Here is a wonderful photo of one of Sea2Sea’s older supporters, Sallie, born on Aug 16, 1924, one of thirteen children to ‘Bub’ & Minnie Lee Jameson, farmers in upstate SC.  Seven sons and a daughter served in the US Military, six during World War II and one was killed in a bombing raid over Austria.

Her husband saw combat as an infantryman in World War II & Korea, and she has four sons, all who served in the military.

What makes her special to me is that she’s my Mom.  So to my dear Mother as I pedal away today, I’ll promise not to bicycle on the interstate if you promise me to go to all your doctors’ appointments.  See you in July.  Love, Thomas.

How Do You Cram Your Worldly Possessions into Two Panniers (Saddlebags)?

Very carefully, of course.

As you may be aware (and I now know) – going on a self-supporting bicycle trip requires meticulous planning and a certain amount of ruthlessness to determine what goes in the panniers and what stays at home.

‘Must haves’ become ‘nice to haves’ in a day or so & then change into ‘THROW IT AWAY!) after a week. Jeff at Mainstreet Cycles in Clemson has a good rule of thumb, ‘Pare down everything you want to bring & lay it out before you pack it. Then throw half of it away.’

Here is the current layout for the trip (note – the cat is optional)

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Fully loaded, the two panniers weigh about 25 lbs. With me on the bike, it’s about 235 lbs.

I’ll take another photo one month into the ride to see what has been thrown away.

That’s only one aspect of the ride. The other aspect is the fit of the bike fit and the gearing ratio. That will be in a future blog.

Pitfalls of a New Blogger

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Having been reluctant to embrace social media and being of the mind that once you are 58, you really don’t care who ‘LIKES’ or ‘COMMENTS’ about you, unless it is to tell you that there is a bit of ketchup or mustard on the side of your mouth, or your shirt is inside out or your zipper is unzipped, I find myself trying to strike a balance, between telling people what’s going on or simply getting on the bike & riding to the next destination.

And it is a bit narcissistic, when I notice that my first blog has six comments and succumb to looking at them, only to find all except one are ads (speed dating in Bethesda, and Celebrex printable coupons among the more unusual).  And the one related to the ride, is my friend, Greg, who is joining me to Columbia (Thanks, Greg!)

I guess for the purposes of the trip it is finding the balance being between ‘online’ or ‘on the road’.  Being ‘online’ won’t get us where we want to go, & just being ‘on the road’ won’t publicize our cause the way social media can.  Maybe a good mantra to have is ‘If I’m online, I’m in danger of being off track.’

So my commitment to you is to make these blogs, short, positive & hopefully insightful.  Happy for you to comment (especially if I have a bit of food on my face or if my zipper is unzipped).

Prepping for the journey

Hello from the foothills at the Blue Ridge Mountains! Tom here, getting ready for the 2nd Sea2Sea journey.  I depart from Clemson, SC on Mar 1st, will bicycle down to Key West, FL, then across the US up to Washington State, through Canada, to arrive at Juneau, AK by July 4.  This will be about 6600 miles and will be self supporting (I’ll be carrying my own ‘stuff’).

It has been called ambitious & daunting, but no less so than the challenges that hundreds of thousands veterans and their families face on a daily basis.

I promise not to be so serious in the other blogs, but want to emphasize why we’re doing this again:

We have two goals:

1) To remember those who are no longer with us. It is our vision to establish a long range program to establish an Iraq/Afghanistan War Memorial in each US State listing the names of those who gave their lives for us in these conflicts, with the eventual goal of a national Iraq/Afghanistan War Memorial in Washington, DC.

We feel that it is that it is important to list the names at a memorial in each US State so that we have an enduring memorial of their sacrifice. We are starting this program in each state that we are cycling through during this trip and will continue with trips through all the States until completed.

In short the goal is simple – Never forget.

2) To continue to help those that they left behind. Partnering with selected 501(c)3 organizations across the country (for example, Purple Heart Homes, Wounded Warrior Project, Augusta Warrior Project), we will continue to highlight the challenges that service members, veterans, and their families face and how all of us can help.

The ride is different from two years ago in two respects:

1. I am currently cycling, self-supporting the entire distance alone, relying on knowledge and assistance from local communities and cycling clubs and those that wish or are able to cycle any part of the distance.

2. There is no dedicated vehicle for support or overnight accommodation – this is a self-supporting journey (I’m carrying all my stuff with me). Therefore I welcome local churches, civic halls, or families that could host me overnight as I cycle from city to city/town to town.

Also different from last time, instead of asking for corporate sponsorships and donations, we are encouraging all these kinds of donations and sponsorships be given to the local military charities (501(c)3 organizations) throughout the route.

I’ll be adding a short blog very frequently as well as Facebook & Twitter. The intent is to capture the faces and places of this great country of ours. Despite our challenges, we are blessed to here in America and to have the world’s best military defending our country.

Our challenge as citizens is to provide the military and their families with the best support during their service and when they transition back to the local communities across the US. They have raised their game to keep us safe, and now is the time to ensure that we respond in kind by raising our game to give back in the way that works best for them and the local community.

I’ll provide a route overview and how I’ve prepared for the trip in a future blog.

Til then, when you next see a veteran or his/her family, consider adding three words to the phrase that they often hear and appreciate. ‘Thank you for your service’. Those three words are: How can I thank you for your service.

Take care, be safe, God Bless,

Tom