Out of Nowhere is on life support. I haven’t posted in a long time, which means any following I had (all 12 of you) is long gone by now.

So sue me. I said in my very first post, this blog is for me. God bless you if you’ve missed me. God bless you if you haven’t, which is much more likely.

Anyway, I just popped in to say life is good. My marriage is happy and going on 36 years. I have all my hair (‘cept for a tiny little patch in the very, very back of my head). At 55 I rode my bike 84 miles on Sunday. My kids are grown and moving fast — one in a doctoral program, one finishing his BS, and another about to start her masters work in England.

And when the kids give us back our empty nest, we’ll still have a kitten, a cat and a one-year old golden retriever in the house — and our daughter’s rabbit, Lillian. Recipes welcome (Erin, this is just a literary jape, much as Shakespeare used).

I’m happier in my job than I’ve been in more than 15 years. Good friends all around me. People who love me, including my parents, who are still living, healthy and on their own in their 80s.

Life hasn’t always been this good. It won’t be this good always. That’s why I just popped in. To say that it is right now.


If there are second chances in life, Ted Williams should be the poster boy. The homeless man with the baseball moniker has skyrocketed into national prominence as “the beggar with the voice.”

I think I may have driven past Williams once or twice at the I-71/Hudson Street exit in Columbus. If I did, I paid him no more mind than any other panhandler who stands on the corner with a sign “please give me something.”

You see, I’m jaded about the whole panhandling thing. I worked in downtown Columbus for 11 years, and there was hardly a day that went by when I wasn’t approached by someone who had an elaborate hard-luck story. In one case, the same man who days earlier had asked for money to get home to his mom in Akron walked up with a flimsy tool belt and asked for money to call a locksmith — seems he’d locked his equipment in his car. When I mentioned that his story had changed from one week to the next, he denied it and walked away cursing.

Then there’s the fellow who walks up and down High Street across from the Ohio State campus before concerts at local rock venues, making his living on change and well wishes. While many others probably know his name, I don’t. It’s a career for him, and I’m no employer.

I’m jaded, but not ignorant. I know there are those who are in real need. But how to tell the difference? Every story is a good one, and I don’t have the luxury of peeling off wads of bills when I don’t know where it’s going.

Had Columbus Dispatch videographer Doral Chenoweth III taken my attitude, Ted Williams would never have become famous. And he may never have gotten a second chance. The Red Sox namesake would be forever retiring at the end of the day to a tent behind some God-forsaken gas station. But Chenoweth shot some video of Williams and asked him to do something in a radio voice.

By God, the guy is good! And the video went viral.

Now, broadcast agents, radio stations and television networks around the nation have taken an interest in Columbus, Ohio’s, Ted Williams. The question is what will happen next?

Word has it that he has been so overwhelmed by the attention, that he snuck off a plane in New York this morning to avoid the crowds. I say, good for him.

While Williams has his second chance, now’s no time to blow it. Take it easy, take it slow. Moving from a street corner to a steady job will not come easily to someone who has lived the life he has led. Claiming to be clean and sober now for at least two years, Williams is now faced with decisions he could never have imagined.

I’m happy for him. Today he reunited with his mother in New York, an emotional reunion for both. I hope his final chapter is the feel-good story we all want it to be.

The proof of the pudding will be this: When the media storm dies down, and when steady work finally comes — the Dispatch reports that he already has signed a contract with Kraft as the voice in a commercial airing on ESPN during the Fight Hunger Bowl on Sunday — will he be able to transition? Or will the same things that dragged him down before screw him up again?

Williams says he has found God, and that’s what has turned his life around.  If true, every person of faith should take it as a life lesson in how the impossible can become possible.

I know one thing. I will never look at a beggar the same way again.

We already had a dog, and had no desire for another, when Higgins suddenly came into our lives.

He was an Adopt-A-Pet dog, the result of one last visit to the shelter where our daughter had volunteered all summer.

“Can’t we just go say goodbye to him?” she asked, in the way a teenage girl asks her father.

Her soft-hearted, addle-brained dad gave in. Just to say goodbye. That day, we came home with a bowlegged, playful, good-natured and loving eight-month old mix.

Today, we said goodbye to him for good, his spleen enlarged to the brink of rupture and newly-discovered disc disease wracking his back. He had been in pain for longer than we knew, but almost unresponsive to his favorite things for the last four days. We had him x-rayed, and the bad news was there in black and white. There were options, of course, but only to prolong the inevitable.

So this morning, we took him on a last trip to the vet. Like the good dog he was, he climbed up on the scale to be weighed. But there was no need for that today.

And then, just like that, he was gone.

He was a goofy mutt who ran like Scooby Doo, his back legs always trying to outrun his front ones. If dogs can smile, he always had one. He didn’t drink or smoke, and his only vice was that he loved to bark when anyone came through the door, or — if he could see them from the window — down the sidewalk.

Higgins leaves behind five people whose hearts he won the moment they laid eyes on him. He leaves behind some good memories, too. The early times, when going for a walk was not an exhausting endeavor, but a treat to be savored. The old days, when he would chase — and bring back a ball — without getting winded. The days before arthritis in his hips — and later his spine — made it impossible to get in or out of the car on his own.

Now, there’s a hole in the house where Higgins used to be. I know we did the right thing today. But  it’s hard as hell to say goodbye.

It’s been a tough couple of months. I agreed to do a second publication awhile back — this one an online educational pub that highlights the successes of the Ohio STEM Learning Network. The added workload has kept me pinned to my desk most of the time.

Somehow, in the midst of all the clutter that’s my life, I found time to train for, and ride in, Pelotonia 2010. That’s the fundraiser started last year to benefit the James Cancer Hospital and the Solove Research Institute, both here in Columbus.

The cool thing about this bike ride is that 100 percent of every penny raised goes to research into fighting — and, ultimately curing — cancer.

I wrote about this event in April, when Sherri and I made the commitment to raise $1,000 each for the privilege of riding 43 miles through the country with, what turned out to be, 4,200 of our closest friends. It may sound trite, but I do consider them friends now, though I met few of them.

We are friends because we’ve all lost someone to cancer, stood by as someone fought with cancer, or fought cancer ourselves and lived to ride again.

Since April, both of us have found time to put in the miles needed to ride further than we’d ever ridden before. It was a little easier for me, I think. I’ve been a runner all my life, and even been on the bike off and on for the last two years. Sherri had done little riding before this year, and that makes her effort even more impressive. She finished that 43 miles in good shape, even getting up and down the hills that begin to pop up about 10 miles from Amanda, our destination this year. Riding her brand new Giant Avail, she came to the finish, looked around for me, and catching my eye gave a great big smile. I smiled too.

The organizers expect to raise $8 million this year for the James. Maybe our effort, and those of others who rode — some who made our effort look puny by riding 100 and 180 miles — will make a difference. The fact is, I have never done anything that makes me feel as good as this event does.

Even now, three days later, I can’t stop thinking about that day on the bike. The people who lined up along country roads and in little towns, ringing cow bells and holding signs thanking us.

I am forever grateful to Sherri for urging me to participate. To my family, friends and congregation, who put me well over my goal and have pledged to keep those dollars coming in.

I’m thankful for American Electric Power Company, for whom Sherri works and who welcomed me in as part of their Peloton.

And I’m thankful for Michelle Kazlausky, who lost her life when a pickup truck went through a police stop, striking her on the road to Athens. Her commitment both to the cancer patients to whom she attended as a medical technician at University Hospitals East and to raising money to help them in their fight will live on, as public donations continue to pour into her account posthumously.

Next year, I’m going to ride to Athens. The hills we encountered in Fairfield County just short of this year’s finish, pale in comparison. But I will be ready.

And I’m no longer afraid of the financial commitment. I’ve learned that cancer touches us all, making it easy to ask for money — and even easier to give.

If you’re reading this and are just now learning about Pelotonia, know that it’s not too late. It’s never too late.

Guns are easy to shoot, and even easier (if you can find the safety) when you’ve had a few too many. That’s why Shannon Jones is wrong.

Jones, a Republican state Senator from District 7 in southwestern Ohio, is sponsor of Senate Bill 239, which would allow Ohioans to carry firearms into bars.

Shannon Jones

She told Joe Hallett, a columnist for the Columbus Dispatch, that “Ohio gun owners, law-abiding gun owners, have shown themselves to be as prudent as gun owners in 42 other states. … I think law-abiding gun owners who choose to go through the rigorous training and licensing process should be able to do like people in 42 other states do.”

Look, the Constitution guarantees the right of Americans to bear arms. It says so on parchment — every citizen needs the ability to band into an effective militia. It doesn’t exactly draw the line between a tank and a slingshot, and that’s why I’ve landed somewhere in the middle with a sharpened machete next to my dresser.

But let’s use some common sense.

Jones says there’s no reason a law-abiding citizen shouldn’t be able to carry a licensed gun into a nice restaurant while having a glass of wine with dinner. But thwarting an assault while eating prime rib with a glass of Cabernet is an absurd example. Nice restaurants aren’t where the problems lie.

The problems lie in places where the primary object is to drink.

Even gun-rights activists acknowledge that booze and guns don’t mix. From the International Hunter Education Association:

“Hunting while intoxicated is extremely dangerous to yourself and others. Alcohol affects your body’s mental and physical abilities and impairs your sense of judgement (sic). It also increases your risk of exposure while in the outdoors.”

And from the National Rifle Association:

“Never use alcohol or over-the-counter, prescription or other drugs before or while shooting. Alcohol, as well as any other substance likely to impair normal mental or physical bodily functions, must not be used before or while handling or shooting guns.”

Jones’ bill prohibits gun carriers who enter establishments serving alcohol from imbibing. I say that few people go into a bar not intending to drink. And that’s the biggest problem with this bill.

Somebody will want to cite me statistics about how crime goes down when licensed gun carriers step into the fray. Someone will want to cite me statistics about how those 42 other states have had nothing but good fortune since gun-toting citizens entered places like The Third Base Tavern (last stop before home).

Here’s the statistic I’m most interested in: the number of shootings that occur by someone who’s been drinking.

It’s a treasure hunt. Report back here.

It’s been one of the hardest and most stressful weeks for me since — hmm, I don’t know — the week I broke my little toe on the lawnmower and it stuck out of the side of my foot like a thumb. Note to readers: don’t walk barefoot in the garage.

Two online mags now, both with back-to-back deadline schedules and unpredictable sources. So, starting on Saturday, I’ve had 3-, 8-, 13-, 21-, 12- and 10-hour days.

Somehow, I found time to monitor a simple Facebook question that I asked on May 10 that turned into as good a discussion as people can have responding to a wall post. My question concerned Arizona’s new immigration law.

The Arizona law is a predictable outcome to the problems that state has, and yet I also feel it’s unfortunate and will end badly. Here is the discussion as it unfolded — note how it ended: not with a “screw you, buddy,” but an “I disagree, but I love you, man.”

Seems to me that this is what our often-misinterpreted Founding Fathers intended.

Gene Monteith Arizona immigration law — thumbs up or thumbs down, and why? Be specific.

May 10 at 10:46pm · · ·

Jeff Lint

Jeff Lint

Thumbs down. This law is wrong for many reasons. I have not yet heard anyone explain what happens when a police officer asks a US born citizen to prove that they are legal. US citizens are not required to carry proof of citizenship nor should we be. What does a police officer do when someone they suspect is illegal says that they were born here, but don’t have their birth certificate with them?
May 11 at 1:49pm ·
Gene Monteith

Gene Monteith

I thought Andrei Codrescu nailed it on NPR the other day:http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=126480169

May 11 at 1:52pm ·
Tim Miller

Tim Miller

Big Thumbs down! Reminds me of the “Sundown Towns” that sprouted in the Midwest in the 40s and 50s…
May 11 at 9:57pm ·
Tom Mills

Tom Mills

I’ll go thumbs up. I have to note that proof of citizenship is not required, proof of being in the country legally is. Those with green cards, etc., have always had to carry that proof with them at all times. If Arizona makes people prove residence/citizenship to get a drivers license, then that is what would have to be shown. For any number of… See More reasons the Federal government has abdicated its responsibility to control the borders. Arizona is being adversely impacted and has the right to try to stem the flow. The claims of racism are ridiculous. I have yet to hear a better idea from those making that claim. I think if we took the time to actually read the law we woud no doubt find it is not as onerous as is being portrayed by those who have agendas of their own.
May 11 at 11:43pm ·
Gene Monteith

Gene Monteith

I agree that a citizen of another country who is here illegally should be prosecuted or deported. As I understand it, the main argument against the Arizona law isn’t that it improperly targets illegal aliens. The fear is that, because one out of every three people in Arizona is Hispanic, and because police can now stop anyone they have a “… See Morereasonable suspicion” of being an illegal immigrant, millions of U.S. citizens who look “suspicious” could be asked to prove they are here legally. That’s why some worry it could become racist in practice. (Under the old law, people could be asked for proof only if suspected of another crime.) Of course, it will all come down to how police exercise the new law.
May 12 at 12:47am ·
Sally Kurtz Thompson

Sally Kurtz Thompson

Geez, a slip of the finger on the keyboard could hang you! What I was trying to say is theimmigration law seems over the top, but I feel pretty strongly about the English language and how it’s taught in our schools.
May 13 at 6:48pm ·
Lee Lowry

Lee Lowry

Gene I love ya man but you need to read the bill.a person can not be detained on suspicion that they my be an illegal it is only after arrest or detention for a violation of the law can this be brought into question. here in Indiana while booking someone I have learned they are here illegally have called INS and they have refused to take custody of… See More them. The Arizona law mirrors the Federal statute but it is needed because the Feds will not enforce it. By the way, from experience first hand, most will tell you first hand if asked that they are here illegally.
May 13 at 8:26pm ·
Gene Monteith

Gene Monteith

Lee, if what you’re saying is the case, it sure sounds like the old Arizona law. Maybe you can explain what the difference in the new law is.
May 14 at 10:19pm ·
Lee Lowry

Lee Lowry

the old law requires to have the help of the federal goverment to act against thiese criminals for this particular infraction/the new law gives that power to the state to make the final determination to someones status and take action with out federall help or interference. it gives the power back to the state where it should be.This country fought… See More a war over states rilghts. The scarist thing is to have someone show up and say I am from the federal goverment and i am here to help!!!!! The bottom line is there is a law in existence and it is a federal law, a new one should not be needed, but instead enforce what laws he already have. The feds need to do there job. Unfortunately, when the problem is so big, it is far too easy to throw up your hands and give up and that is what our federal goverment has done in this case and now that someone steps up to take action the feds stand up and say hold on, thats our job! sorry for the spelling errors, it s early and i have fat fingers LOL! any way I am not an expert, this is just how it looks to me. Thanks Gene for getting people talking about things like this. All Americans should be invovled and concerned about what goes on in our world . People like you provide help fuel our desire to do so , keep up the good work brother.
May 15 at 7:33am ·
Jeff Lint

Jeff Lint

Lee, Should American citizens be required to carry proof of citizenship at all times?
May 15 at 1:07pm ·
Lee Lowry

Lee Lowry

yes its called a driver licensde or State ID should be enough because in Indiana you have to provide so much documentation to get the ID should be no question and yes I know they can be counterfitted not a perfect world.The main thing is when some one is caught and the feds notified then they should do their job. I must add that INS around here is… See More doing a better job lately.Recently they spent 2 weeks at our jail going through records to identify illegals. It is important that illegals come from a variety of countries, not just Mexico. Here we have our share of mexicans and Middle Easterners and Russians, just for starters. Identification of these folks isnt really the problem, it is getting action once they identified. To be taken serious is all the problem really needs and is all that the federal goverment needs to do to make most Americans feel better and safer. Those with their hidden agendas are really not worth our time. But we must protect and serve all so the ones who need us most are safe. yes there are some bad folks wearing badges and give us good ones black eyes. but please acknowledge there are those who serve to protect and allow them to do their jobs. the should be expected to do their jobs.after all that is why we pay them.
May 15 at 2:47pm ·
Gene Monteith

Gene Monteith

Neither a drivers license or a state ID are proof of citizenship. You’d have to produce a birth certificate or a passport, neither of which I carry in my glovebox. But I’m not sure that the Arizona law requires you to prove citizenship — only that you are here legally. The point is that the proof is on the “suspicious” person being apprehended. … See MoreAgain, foreigners who break our laws should be held liable — and if that means paying a fine, or going to jail or going back home, that’s fine with me. The problem I foresee is when everybody who looks like a foreigner becomes suspect and forced to prove themselves.
May 15 at 2:57pm ·
Lee Lowry

Lee Lowry

I agree that would be wrong and there will be those who will abuse it however when abuse are found then that individual should be prosecuted as well. I understand your concern and it is valid. I have a son iin law who is from mexico and one that is from Peru…i love them both. One of the grandkids looks Hispanic, I do understand your concers … See Morereally. but amnesty is not the way to go. when someone is identified as illegal lets send them home, we dont need to hold them in jail any longer than it takes for INS to come and get them. Because some one looks different is not and should never be a reason to be hassled but a little know fact is that more Americans in the United States , of all races, are killed every month by illegals than died on one day in the trade towers. it is out of control and something needs to be done.You know every one wants to blame Arizona, but the blame belongs on the Federal Goverment who has not donethere job in this area for well over 25 years.We do not need new laws or debate, they simply need to do their job and enforce the statute that already exist. It always galls me how much money is spent on committees that acomplish nothing, mean while we have people who go with out mediciine food and housing. all thee money that goes over seas to goverments who hate America,(i am not against helpiing people of other nations just dont give the money to goverment) Rather spend the money here to help our citizens live and feel safe. Secure our boarders. Stop doing things that clearly dont work. It really isnt that hard to do whats right. we all no matter our political view should demand that from our goverment.
May 15 at 3:10pm ·
Lee Lowry

Lee Lowry

Jeff I would be interested in viewing some of your work can you tell me how or where? sounds like you do some very interesting work.
May 15 at 3:11pm ·
Jeff Lint

Jeff Lint

Lee, Given your apparent views on the government and freedom I am surprised that you would say that an American citizen should be required to carry papers to prove their citizenship. Do you really think I should have to carry proof of citizenship if I walk down to the corner store?I think you have misinterpreted the Arizona law. My … See Moreunderstanding is that the law was changed from allowing the questioning of a person’s status in a situation of “lawful contact” to “lawful stop, detention or arrest”. A person does not have to be under arrest or detained. “Lawful stop” is a broad term that can cover such situations as a person being a possible witness to a crime, playing your radio too loud in public or being with someone who is stopped for any reason. Obviously this gives the police a lot of leeway and don’t forget that the new law does not “allow” police officers to question someone’s status. It “requires” police officers to check someone’s status if they have reasonable cause to suspect them of being illegal. And I have not heard anyone explain what would constitute reasonable cause except for a guy who said you can tell illegals by the way they are dressed.

To me the big problem with the Arizona law is how it affects US born citizens. I have yet to hear anyone explain what happens when a police officer asks for proof of legal status form a person born in the US. That person cannot be required to present immigration papers because they’re not immigrants. And if they’re American citizens they cannot be required to prove it. If they’re not driving they don’t have to have a driver’s license. The police officer must take their word that they are an American citizen. This seems to me to be a huge loophole in the law.

Anyway, this has gone too long, but just one more point. Don’t assume that those of us who oppose the Arizona law are against any attempts to deal with immigration problems or that those problems don’t exist. We just want humane, practical and constitutional solutions to problems such as this.

May 16 at 3:03pm ·
Tom Mills

Tom Mills

The revised law now clarifies that a “lawful stop, detention or arrest” in the enforcement of another law, etc. must occur before immigration status can be checked. If that is racist, or the beginning of Nazi rule in Arizona, I’m missing something.The law also states: The person’s immigration status shall be verified with the federal … See Moregovernment pursuant to 8 United States code section 1373(c). Does the federal government know my immigration status, presumably yes b/c I have a passport. What about those who don’t? I can’t even begin to pretend to know the information available to the federal government, but presumably it can access things like birth records. To that the next argument will be what about those born at home who don’t have a birth certificate? My response is there is no law that is perfect in its writing or its application. To argue that nothing s/b done because something bad might happen to someone, while instead calling for an undefined more humane approach is sophistry.

The way around the Arizona law is for the federal government to enforce existing laws, (which require legal immigrants to carry proof of their status at all times) but it does not. Of course if it did, the protests against the AZ law would simply be relabled. There is no pleasing some folks. I for one would like to at least wait and see how the law is actually enforced before I cancel my next trip to Arizona.

May 16 at 11:48pm ·
Lee Lowry

Lee Lowry

thank you Tom but i am afraid this will fall on deaf ears
Monday at 6:21am ·
Jeff Lint

Jeff Lint

Lee, Sorry, I didn’t mean to imply that you were making that argument, that if someone is against this particular solution they don’t think there is a problem or don’t want to do something about it. I just hear that argument a lot particularly on this issue. I didn’t intend to imply that you were saying that.We do hear that argument a lot, from… See More both sides on a variety of issues. It’s the old if you don’t believe in A then you must believe in B. Two examples that we’ve heard in the last few years: “If you’re against harsh interrogation of terror suspects you want to give them tea and cookies or just let them go.” “If you’re against health care reform you want poor sick people to just drop dead.” Clearly, these are bogus arguments whichever side they come from. Again, I apologize if you felt I was accusing you of making this argument.

Monday at 10:59am via Email Reply ·
Jeff Lint

Jeff Lint

Tom. Remember that “lawful stop” is a very vague term and can cover almost any contact between a police officer and an individual. The real question is what constitutes “reasonable suspicion” that a person may be illegal? Surely you don’t think that you or I would be required to prove our status. Latinos will be required to show their papers not… See More Anglos like you and me. That is profiling.I still haven’t heard anyone explain what happens when the police question a native born US citizen who doesn’t have immigration papers. What if a citizen isn’t carrying a drivers license (which doesn’t really prove citizenship anyway)? Americans are not required to carry proof of citizenship at all times, nor should we be.

Monday at 11:34am ·

Lee Lowry

Lee Lowry

ya its ok jeff i understand it is a tough world with complex issues not like when we were kids for sure. we can agree to disagree. i dont have all the answers but i sure have plenty of opinions LOL. its all good brother no matter what, I love u and gene like family.

Monday at 4:03pm ·

She didn’t want to march in with the thousands of others in caps and gowns. She didn’t know these people, nor those in the stands cheering. In her view, attending the morning English Department ceremony was enough to mark her five years of hard work and study.

It wasn’t enough for me. Not by a long shot.

I seldom try push her into things she does not want to do, because she has never been easily pushed. But this time I pushed hard.

You see, I remember her when she was a tiny little thing whose first full sentence was “I did not do it.” I remember her as the youngest of three who knew where the buttons were in each of her brothers’ psyches and became accomplished at pushing them at all the right times — meaning all the wrong times.

I remember her in “The Mouse that Roared,” as a Girl Scout helping to rehab a cabin, as a 15-year-old volunteer at Adopt-a-Pet, as a camp counselor, as a member of her marching band, as an experienced backpacker accompanying me to Isle Royale on my first such trip. And then I remember sending her off to college, first out of state and then overseas. I have watched her and prayed for her and celebrated with her and grieved for her, especially after that first painful year away from all her friends and what she had come to know of life in Ohio.

So when she said she wanted to sit with us in the seats instead of with the rest of this spring’s Indiana University graduates, I stiffened and said too many words that ended with “do it for me.” The request came out sounding self-serving and petty. I didn’t know how to express both the pride I felt and the claim every parent who has agonized over his or her child should, this one time, be allowed to cash.

Enter her mother, who is more tactful than I and always knows what to say. The two had a private word. They returned and I didn’t ask what had been said. But Erin walked. She didn’t tell me this, but she told her mother later that she was glad she did. And that Saturday evening, celebrating with family and friends, she directed toward me a smile or two, and even a pat on the arm.

I tried to think how to put into words what this weekend meant to me. The last of our brood reaching that first fork in the road. The years flown by and through our fingers.

I have been looking backward this weekend, but poet Ross Gay, a faculty member at Indiana University, who read at my daughter’s English Department ceremony, reminds me in “Poem to my child if ever he shall be” what it was like before children, looking forward to an unknown time when something from the two of us would spring forth as wholly his or her own. Gay didn’t read this poem on Saturday — I found it later when looking for him online — and yet it seems appropriate to share it here.

Ross Gay reads "Poem to my child if ever he shall be"

Sherri and I have officially signed up to ride Pelotonia, 2010. By doing so, we will help raise money for one of the leading cancer hospitals and research centers in the world.

Cancer continues to disrupt, disable, and dispatch more than half a million Americans every year. People like my grandma, who never smoked a single cigarette, as far as I know, but who I watched die a painful death in her 80s of  lung cancer. People like our church friend Marjorie, who battled cancer for 30 years before it finally killed her.

Neither Sherri nor I are seasoned riders; Sherri will be riding on a mid- ’90s Giant hybrid; I will be riding on a Trek 660 that I bought from a friend for $300. I love being on that bike, which was a pretty fair machine in 1988. It’s far from high tech now, but it has quality parts, gives a smooth ride and makes me feel faster than I really am. As a longtime runner, I took slowly to the bike. But as I ride more, it’s starting to feel more like part of me.

But, to paraphrase Lance Armstrong, who spoke and rode at last year’s event, it’s not about the bikes.

It’s about raising money to fight cancer. And, unlike many fundraisers around the country, all the money the riders raise goes 100 percent for research.

Now comes the hard part. Raising $1,000 each. Sherri’s employer, American Electric Power Company will help us get the word out, but I fear it won’t be enough. As someone who couldn’t even sell Christmas cards as a kid — and who struggles to promote my own professional skills — I worry that I won’t live up to my commitment.

Here’s the commitment and here’s the cause:  The James Cancer Hospital and the Solove Research Institute here in Columbus, Ohio. If there are any readers out there who have been touched by cancer, I ask you to help by going here.

An interesting graphic concerning the environmental aspects of the Iceland volcano. Found on James Fallows‘ blog today.

It’s worth reading Fallows’ post on this subject, which has further info on ashfall patterns around the world.

In the morning, Stewart rose late and moved slowly. He had little appetite, but knew he had better eat. Once before, in the Porkies during a torrential rainstorm, Stewart had broken camp without breakfast and two hours later, exhausted, had made a mistake and walked two miles down the wrong trail. He had never skipped breakfast since.

He cooked in front of the tent this time, not bothering to take the food elsewhere. He would not be here tonight anyway and ─ he convinced himself ─ neither would anyone else. By the time the camp was used again those food smells would be long gone.

Today the oatmeal tasted pasty and the coffee bitter, even when he added brown sugar to both. He felt physically drained and slightly sick, as if a little wet rag sat in the bottom of his stomach.

The trail continued to ascend from the campsite, and a half-hour into the day’s hike Stewart noticed that he was walking over an abandoned railroad track, the rotting ties grown up with moss and weeds.  The last few miles of Tumbling Rock, the guide book had advised, followed old train tracks that once carried coal from the mountains to the towns below. Here was Stewart’s first proof that he was on the right trail after all and that the cairns in this wilderness were indeed trustworthy.

He marveled that any train could ever have operated over terrain like this.

Stewart eventually stopped at a level place and dropped his pack to catch his breath. As soon as he did, he noticed a man trailing him a hundred yards or so away. As the figure grew near, Stewart could see that he was wearing an orange cap emblazoned on the front with the head of a full-antlered buck.  He carried a pack and a rifle.

“Morning!” he called as he approached.

“Morning,” Stewart answered.

The man stopped in front of Stewart. “Are you here to hunt or just hang out?”

“I’m just backpacking. Not much of a hunter. You?”

The man was tall — six-foot, five, Stewart guessed, but not particularly muscular. The lines in his face, accented with several days growth of beard, hinted of a life spent in the mines or on a logging crew. He looked tired.

“Originally here for bear, but now I’ve got a big problem. My wife and son are out here somewhere by themselves and I’ve got to find them. I don’t suppose you’ve seen them – little boy’s about this big.”

The man indicated the boy’s height with his hand, keeping it level with chest.

Stewart almost said, “yes, I may have seen them the other night,” but he didn’t.

“You’re the first person I’ve seen in two days. What are they doing out here alone?”

The man frowned, glanced at his feet and then looked back at Stewart.

“Brought them out here four days ago, fun family time you know?  I went out the next morning to hunt and when I come back they’d taken their tent, packed up most of their stuff and run out on me.”

Stewart looked at him quizzically.

“It’s a private matter, mister. But that don’t change the fact I’m worried about them. They didn’t take enough food to last two days, much less a week out here.”

The man looked away, then back at Stewart. “She is CRAZY, a real crazy bitch. If you see them, tell them I’m looking for them, OK?”

Stewart nodded.

The man started up the trail, then turned around.

“You’ll need to be careful,” the hunter said and pointed in the direction he’d been traveling. “On the other side of that ridge you’re going to find a lot of folks hunting bear. You got any orange?”

Stewart did have orange, a fluorescent stocking cap that his wife had made him bring along “just in case.” He thought perhaps he’d better put it on.

“I thought Cranberry Wilderness was a bear sanctuary,” Stewart said. “I didn’t know you could hunt them here.”

“Yes sir, but there’s such a shitload of ’em this year they opened it up all this week for hunting.”

Stewart nodded.

“Well sir, if you see Donna and Danny, you tell ’em I’m looking for ’em, OK?”

Stewart watched him walk up the trail and disappear over the crest of the ridge. He wondered how a person could ever get a 400-pound black bear over these trails and back to his truck.

Stewart wasn’t sure how long he’d been walking. Four hours? Five? He’d forgotten to look at the time when he broke camp, but surely he’d been hiking that long.

He’d turned left at Tumbling Rock’s junction with the North-South Trail then turned right when he came to the Laurally Trail, which he planned to take down to the Middle Fork and make camp for the night in the first place that looked reasonably hospitable.

But the Laurally was longer and harder than he had expected, and after lunch he decided he might need to revise his plans and shorten his day. There was plenty of time to see the wilderness, and continuing on with spent legs would be stupid and dangerous.

Stewart stepped down a side path near a rocky overlook to take a leak. As he moved quietly into the large clearing and began to unzip, he caught something out of the corner of his eye.

He turned to look.

Ten yards away, an orange hunter’s cap lay on the ground, a proud buck staring up at Stewart from above the brim. Another 15 yards away lay a little boy with blond hair, face-up and bloody, eyes open and staring. No more than five feet away from the little boy lay a brown-haired woman, facedown, her light-blue shirt soaked a reddish black from her shoulders to her hips.

Their packs sat together, unopened.

Two vultures, which had been pecking at their feet, didn’t notice Stewart until he vomited. Then, startled, they flapped away from the bodies and into the open air beyond the overlook.

Stewart’s head flooded with confusion.  He thought maybe he should get closer so he could describe the details to the police. Maybe he should even get a picture, in case he couldn’t remember.

He thought all of this. But his instinct was to back away.

And as he backed away, he suddenly bumped against what felt like a man who, without even seeing him, Stewart guessed to be about six-foot, five and not particularly muscular.