Biking to Florida

“Wow Barry, what happened to you?  You look different!”  That was Libby’s reaction in the fall of 1972 as we both began our freshman year of high school. Apparently, I had changed since leaving Chattanooga Valley Junior High three months earlier thanks, in part, to a short growth spurt and a long bike ride.

When the 3:15 bell rang on our last day of class in Junior High my mom drove me to Nashville, Tennessee where I met up with a group of guys to begin a seventeen day, 1000 mile bicycle ride to Miami Beach, Florida.  For a year I had been planning, exercising, and raising money for a trip that I was scheduled to take with these guys who had come from various churches throughout the United States. The forty bicyclist represented twenty-five different states and we were scheduled to be at the Church of the Nazarene General Assembly which was being held in just over two weeks at the Miami Beach Convention Center.

Collectively our bicycling group was called “The Spokesmen” and along the way we sang, spoke and stayed in churches as we biked through Tennessee, Georgia and down the coastline of Florida to Miami. In addition to bicycles, our caravan had a portable kitchen, motorcycle escorts, vans and mechanics traveling with us as we pedaled our “state of the art” Schwinn Continental ten speed bicycles between 65 and 110 miles each day.

During that summer in Florida between Junior High and High School I grew 4 inches and added 25 pounds to my skinny  5″-9″ and 120 pound frame which may explain why Libby claimed that she barely recognized me when she asked the question, ” Wow what happened to you?”

After the bike ride I stayed several more weeks in Florida with family friends where we spent most days water skiing or surfing. Besides the physical changes that came with an adolescent growth spurt, 1000 miles of biking, lots of time in the water and copious amounts of food; looking back now, I realize how much confidence, self-discipline and perseverance that I gained as well.

Six years later when Libby and I were engaged to be married, she saved up her money from her Red Food Store cashier job and purchased an expensive Italian-made Bianchi bicycle as birthday gift for me, encouraging me to continue riding.  I would often tease her and say that just because my physique was radically changed by a bike ride when I was 14, doesn’t mean it will happen again. Libby’s response was always the same, “Barry, that’s not the reason I bought the bike for you.  I bought the bike because I love you;   Of course if you ride enough…???…who knows???”

I did make lots of bicycling trips in the next 30 years, including one memorable ride on a tandem bicycle with my niece Samantha Gilley where we went from Chattanooga to Memphis, TN to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

After Libby’s breast cancer diagnosis, chemo and radiation treatments, we were all looking for a little distraction from all of the doctor visits, so we decided to put together a bicycling trip. I made the following two posts to the Caring Bridge website during that time; one during our trip and one shortly afterward we arrived back home:

Aug 19, 2009 7:24pm

Greetings from Troy, Alabama!  Libby is acting as our support vehicle this week while Nathan and I ride our bicycles from our house to Destin, Florida.  We have 290 miles behind us and about 130 miles remaining, dodging storms and high winds from tropical depressions while Libby is driving her car, reading her books and supplying us with water, ice, Gatorade and encouragement.  Jerod is working this week but will meet us in Destin tomorrow night and we will relax a few days on the beach before riding back home (everybody in cars this time).

The MRI that was originally scheduled a few weeks ago, was canceled as the doctor wanted to give it a few more days without the drug.  Libby has now been almost a month without the estrogen suppressant drug and the headaches and some dizziness are still persistent. Libby called her oncologist yesterday and he has re-scheduled the MRI for Tuesday August 25th at 10:15 AM.

We are praying that we can find the cause of the headaches and find a way to treat them.  Thanks for taking the time to keep up with Libby and for keeping her in your prayers.

 By Aug 26, 2009 7:19am

Dr. Schlabaugh’s office called late yesterday to say that the head MRI showed no signs of cancer!  GREAT NEWS!

As Libby and I drove back home following our Florida bike trip we listened to some CD’s on marriage and communication.  One of the lessons stated that to be a good communicator one should tell the audience what you want them to know and then briefly summarize it to make sure you are being understood.  So I am going to apply some of the knowledge I have learned about communication by summarizing the first part of this entry to make sure all of you understand:

“Libby had a brain scan MRI on Tuesday at Erlanger Hospital and they couldn’t find anything at all”.

I think those CD’s are really working!



DSC03607 DSC03622 DSC03668

One thought on “Biking to Florida

  1. Sandy Martin

    Barry, I’m just beginning to realize that one of the reasons Libby was so special was because she was married to a special guy! Seriously! Thanks again for sharing your heart with us!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s