William Thomas Damron Memorial Ride, October-November 2014
NBW members Jay Freitas and Bladimir Rodriguez will ride 1,915 miles from Rhode Island to Louisiana in honor of William Thomas Damron
(see this file for Jay's memorial tribute to Tom, and details of the route). Support vehicle driver/mechanic: Merlyn Townley. This blog will contain Bladi and Jay's daily reports and photos. Click on photos for larger images. Details on how you can support Project Hero can be found at the end of this blog and on the file linked above.

Oct 22

October 22: Delayed start this morning. Merlyn arrived feeling ill, so Bladi ended up driving today and it was later than the scheduled 7 AM start when they rolled out in a slight drizzle, heading for Pawtucket. Two friends rode with Jay today - Dave Fraley and Kevin Dubois. At a stop sign in Pawtucket there was a slight contretemps on wet pavement as Jay ran into Kevin; noone was hurt. Riders made it through morning rush hour in Pawtucket, heading to the bike path in Cranston. Bladi and the van met them in Coventry at Rt.3, where Kevin left to ride home and Jay and Dave carried on. Bladi said it was a bit windy - tail/side wind, but around 80 miles the rain became very heavy and the temperature was dropping, so it was suggested that Dave, who rides a recumbent, get in the van. Jay pressed on and completed the target of 92 miles to Guilford, CT. It's hoped that tomorrow Merlyn will have recovered enough to drive and Bladi will ride.

Oct 23

October 23: Much better riding weather today, Bladi reports. Just a sprinkle of rain, nothing major. A lot of wind, but some of it was a tailwind. Only 62 miles were on the schedule today, which got cut by about 14 because they ran Dave and bike to the New Haven railway station and he's headed home now. Merlyn is now driving, and Bladi is riding. He and Jay rode to Stanford, CT, then drove through New York City in the van before riding again, ending up in North Brunswick, NJ for the night. When Bladi called with today's report they were cleaning the bikes ready for tomorrow, when they will head for Philadelphia (or maybe Newcastle, Delaware). As you can see from the photo, they are keeping a tally of their miles ridden on the back of the van. I forgot to tell you in yesterday's report that Bladi says he's riding a new cyclo-cross bike, with his Colnago as spare. Must ask him what Jay is riding.

Oct 24

October 24: After a little cloud in the morning it turned out to be a beautiful day for riding - sunny and 70 degrees - and Bladi and Jay have reached Newcastle, Delaware. They ended up riding 65 miles of the route because Rt.1 on a Friday was such a dangerous, unsafe road they prudently rode the worst parts in the van. Pretty flat roads, however, with no hills since RI and CT (and those were nothing major). Merlyn turns out to be a very good support driver and bike mechanic. Bikes: Bladi's loving his new Ridley cyclo-cross bike, which he reports is riding smoothly and comfortably. Jay rides a Lapierre carbon bike. Tonight Bladi is resorting to a room of his own because of snoring (Bladi's snoring, that is).

Oct 25

October 25: Riders are in Harrington, Delaware, riding 55 miles today in perfect weather--mild and sunny. Some wind, but Bladi says they expected that in this section. Jay's nephew, Peter, joined the ride today. Start was a little late, Bladi says to allow Jay a bit more sleep and recuperation, but they're on schedule. They hit traffic construction and a detour early, but no major traffic like yesterday and Bladi says they've pretty much left all the traffic behind and it should be easier going from here on. They're on Rt. 13 now, which is a nice road, with wide shoulders; they'll be on Rt. 13 again tomorrow. One flat tire, but otherwise the bikes are riding smoothly. Bladi says their destination tomorrow will depend on where they will meet up with a group they want to ride with on Monday; they were communicating with the group about that tonight.

Oct 26

October 26: Sunday was a great day - 93 miles covered (Bladi says he was aiming for 97 but they had difficulty getting a hotel so had to cut 4 miles ;-( They are in Onancock, VA, 45 miles from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. Weather was cool, sunny and windy (some tail, some side). Tomorrow they'll be on the other side of the bridge and hope to meet up with a special group to accompany them; Jay is still working on that. Once across the bridge it will take some time to navigate through the Chesapeake area, heading towards the Outer Banks, where they will be riding on Wednesday (Tuesday is a rest day). So tomorrow they'll shoot for Barco, NC, which is just before going onto the Outer Banks.

October 27: Jay and Bladi rode 72 miles today and are now in Kitty Hawk, NC. Bladi reports it was a beautiful day with not a cloud in the sky as they crossed over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. They were not able to link up with the group they were hoping to ride with, so pressed on, coming south on Rt 168 and Rt 158 (no hills, but long drags) and they ended up riding further than their original target and getting in the van over to the Outer Banks and Kitty Hawk. Bladi says it's a nice place to be for their rest day tomorrow, and they'll do laundry in the morning, but he thinks they might - if they feel good - end up doing some miles tomorrow to move ahead and get a cushion in case of future problems. Bladi says Jay is riding good, in fact feeling better than he is. Bladi says the Outher Banks roads are flat and pretty good; they'll be on Rt 1 and Rt 12 and there'll be a ferry to the mainland involved. However, that's a day or so ahead. In the meantime, they're settled nicely by the beach in Kitty Hawk. An aside note: today they were chased by a car and an interested driver who gave them his card and said his son might join their ride at some point. People are taking notice!

Oct 28 - Kitty Hawk, Wright Brothers Monument

October 28: Rest day in Kitty Hawk, NC. Bladi says they're all feeling good and were going to ride 50 or so miles today but as they would have to wait for the ferry anyway there was no reason to do that. So they did a little sightseeing, laundry and generally relaxing; Merlyn was busy servicing the bikes (Bladi says they get a "new" bike everyday, thanks to Merlyn. Tomorrow they'll head for Buxton, NC, but may go beyond that if the riding goes well. They will aim to get the ferry from Ocracoke to Cedar Island (on the mainland). There are a couple of "breaks" on the Outer Banks; the first one has a small ferry (free because it's part of the road); the second ferry is the one to Cedar Island and has a toll.

Oct 29

October 29: Can't tell you where they're staying tonight because when Bladi called me about 7 pm they still hadn't found a hotel! Today they had what Bladi called "a punishing ride"--72 miles with a headwind all the way. See these great photos above that Merlyn took--there's nowhere to hide on the Outer Banks. The bridge is somewhere between Kitty Hawk and Frisco. They took a ferry to Ocracoke and then to Cedar Island on the mainland. Bladi says there's nowhere to stay in the Cedar Island area, which is pretty isolated, so they were in the van ... searching ... when Bladi called. Hope they don't have to stay tonight in the van! Tomorrow they plan to be in the outskirts of Wilmington, NC.

October 30: Last night they found a hotel in Morehead City, NC, Bladi said. Today was an excellent day--tailwind for most of the 72 miles they rode. They were flying, Bladi said ... too fast for photos! Because of heavy traffic on Rt 24 they had to get in the van for about 12 miles. Tonight they are in Wilmington, NC. Bladi said they felt so good they could have ridden further, which surprised him because he thought they'd be tired after the hard ride yesterday. And Bladi has a cold, but he says his breathing is OK. Tomorrow the plan is to be in Myrtle Beach, SC, which will be a ride of about 75 miles.

Oct 31
Photos: Merlyn Townley

October 31: Spider Man rides in Myrtle Beach (actually, that's Jay!) They are in Georgetown, SC tonight, about 25 miles south of Myrtle Beach. Bladi reports that on this beautiful day, with a tailwind, they actually rode about 6 miles before deciding that Rt 17 had too much traffic and was too dangerous. So they treated today much like a rest day and got in the van. Tomorrow they are scheduled to ride 30 miles south before meeting up with Jay's friend Susan, who will ride with them into Charleston, SC, where they will stay at her house. So, a long day tomorrow, but shorter than scheduled since they're already south of Myrtle Beach.

Nov 1

November 1: Bladi said they were punished for not riding yesterday--today they battled cold rain and a strong headwind all the way. They rode 62 miles in cold, bad conditions. But they made it to Charleston, SC. Jay's friend Sue Davis met them about 35 miles out and led them into Charleston and they're staying at her house. They decided to take a rest day tomorrow to recover, as there are 100-plus mile days coming up. Bladi sends greetings to his NBW friends, who are at their Annual Meeting/Banquet tonight. In fact, your scribe is putting down her pen now and going off to the event and will post any photos they send upon her return ;-)

Nov 2

November 2: Rest day in Charleston, SC; the weather changed very much for the better after yesterday and it was cool but sunny today. Jay's friend, Pat "Doc" Walters, drove from Georgia to meet him, bringing along some photos and memories. Bladi said that Pat was a medic who was with Tom Damron when he was killed. After lunch with Pat, Sue took them on a city tour of Charleston. Tomorrow they head to Savannah, GA. Bladi says the ride could be 95 miles, but there's a stretch of road that could present problems, so they'll have to decide what to do when they get there.

November 3: Bladi reports an interesting day, as the group encountered poor roads for bike riding on their way south from Charleston. Rt 17 had too much traffic, also Rt 21 and Rt 170 - all were far too busy for safety, he said. So they ended up riding only 22 miles before deciding to get into the van. They are now 75 miles SW of Savannah, GA, in a place called Hinesville.

This blog is now continued by Jay, as Bladi has left the ride ...

Nov 4
Photos: Merlyn Townley

November 4: email from Jay --Today we reached the 1,205 mile mark on our 1,915 mile journey. We have 710 miles to go. Merlyn plotted a great route with very little traffic through some picturesque peanut, pecan, and cotton farms. Today I rode 107 miles of great, safe roads. The people on these roads are very supportive. Many blew their horns and gave us a thumbs up, a far cry from what we have been experiencing on the previous highways.

November 5: email from Jay -- Woke up this morning with some sort of stomach flu or food poisoning. So we took a rest day today in Tallahassee. Going to bed early and hope to be back on my bike in the morning.

Nov 6
Photo: Merlyn Townley

November 6: email from Jay -- We journeyed from Tallahassee to Niceville FL today. Having dealt with some sort of stomach virus or food poisoning yesterday, I tapered my ride today to 71 miles. We had an interesting surprise, riding up on a huge bald eagle feasting on a deer leg in the road. It was majestic to see this 2 1/2 to 3 foot tall eagle fly off directly in front of us. The route was relatively flat, only 1,362 feet of climb and straight as an arrow, with a bike lane or wide shoulder the whole way. Merlyn has selected some beautiful and interesting routes!

Tonight we will be joined by Dovi Goren, a native Floridian and friend from the Ride2Recovery Boston to New York Minuteman Challenge ride that passed through Providence last September and my recent Ride2Recovery California Challenge (San Francisco to Los Angeles) earlier this month. Dovi will complete the trip to Centerville, Louisiana with us. David Fraley will also join us in New Orleans until the completion of the ride and gravesite ceremony.

Nov 7

November 7: email from Jay -- Last night we were joined by Dovi Goren, a Ride2Recovery friend from Kissimmee FL. We departed from Niceville FL this morning and discovered that Dovi needed a new seat post. After a short ride we decided to correct the problem and went on a search for the seat post, which ended up taking us into Pensacola FL. We got a hotel for the night, took a coffee break and will push through Alabama tomorrow. We are still ahead of schedule.

Nov 8

November 8: email from Jay -- Today was fairly productive, finishing off Florida and Alabama to Biloxi, Mississippi! We rode our bikes 51 miles today and took a ferry from Fort Walton, Alabama to the mainland, then rode our bikes again to Biloxi 'til sundown. We were escorted by seagulls, pelicans, dolphins and blue heron as we cruised by oil drilling platforms on the ferry. The ride was amazing, with a bike lane most of the way. We were able to make great time, but lost some waiting for the ferry.

I spoke with Tommy Damron's brother and we have a nice gravesite ceremony planned for 1:00 pm on the 14th. Tomorrow we hope to reach New Orleans, which puts us well ahead of schedule and will allow us to enjoy New Orleans for a few days. I also hope to make an advanced trip to Tommy's grave before the ceremony on the 14th.

Nov 9

November 8: email from Jay --Today was probably the best ride we've ever done! We rode 38 miles along a bike path that ran parallel to the Gulf. The beaches were pristine, with sugar white sand. There were numerous old mansions and colorful beach houses all along the route. We crossed a large bridge over the Gulf and had a casual, fun ride for a change. When the road became too narrow and unsafe, we jumped into the van and began looking for a hotel for the night. We had dinner with a Ride2Recovery friend and one of her associates. Just before we continued our second leg of the ride we stopped in a little town that was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. The town is slowly returning to normal. In the center of town was a tree sculpture (above).

Tomorrow we will take a rest day and bring Dovi back to his car to return home to Kissimmee FL. We will then clean up the van, and prepare to visit Tommy's grave on Tuesday.

Numerous members of the Damron family, friends and parish members will be arriving for the November 14 graveside ceremony over the next several days. David Fraley will also fly in to join us on November 12th.

November 12: email from Jay -- We spent the last few days outside of New Orleans and are on our way to Franklin LA, next to Centerville. Merlyn is picking up some people in New Orleans. We will ride to Tom's grave tomorrow morning and celebrate his life with his family and friends on the 14th.

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