Pat - 5,897 miles, 219 hours
First, a quick story of a story. Zack and I were at his parent's party in Seattle this past weekend, and speaking with one of the party-goers about long bike rides. He had done quite a few all over North America and Europe, and was telling us a story that took place during his ride from British Columbia to Arizona.
Towards the end of the ride he and his friend hit a stretch of road in Arizona that was barren for miles and miles. After riding for over 100 miles with little food and water, they finally arrived at a small town that consisted of only one intersection, with a bar on one corner, and a gas station on the other.
They pulled into the bar, two skinny white dudes head-to-toe in cycling gear. Placing their helmets on the bar and as they went to sit down, they noticed a big, burly group of cowboys seated near the fireplace. Before they could even order a beer, one of the cowboys headed their way, picked up one of their plastic helmets, and dropkicked it into the fire pit.
Making your way as an outsider into a new town can be a daunting experience at times, especially when you may be looked at as different. Thankfully for me I've been greeted with nothing but warm welcomes and open arms while on my trip, and I've found that to be particularly true here at The Treehouse Organization in Seattle.
During my first week here, I've already had the chance to work with so many different areas of the organization in order to get an amazing picture of their vision. Their exact mission is to give foster care kids a childhood and a future, and their main goal is to see foster care youth in Seattle graduate at the same rate as their peers with a plan for the future. They set this goal in 2012 after they found that the programs they were administering were not generating as significant of an increase in graduation equity as they had hoped. Since the onset of the Graduation Success program five years ago, they have not only seen the graduation rate of foster care youth in Seattle increase, but it has actually surpassed that of their peers when looking at 5-year high school graduation rates.
The program and results of Graduation Success are truly remarkable, and it's only one of the many programs they have to offer. They also have The Wearhouse, which is an amazing store that foster care youth can come to get clothing and other household items, and Little Wishes which helps provide funding to foster care youth to be able to participate in childhood activities such as athletics, art and music programs, summer camp, and cultural celebration events. In my first week I was able to volunteer in The Wearhouse checking out families, and also prepare gifts for their Holiday Magic program that delivers Christmas presents to nearly half of the foster care youth in Washington. Coming from such a close-knit family it truly warms my heart to see the work Treehouse is doing for those kids who likely do not have as strong of a family support system.
It's been amazing to volunteer and work more closely with some of the key programs here at Treehouse, but I'm also ecstatic about my main project in their IT department. I'll be helping them come up with a strategy to change operating systems and handle any future OS upgrades for their staff. Their IT shop realistically consists of only one person and the majority of their workforce is remote and mobile across the state, so it's shaping up to be a tricky but fun problem to solve in just a few weeks. It is a bit odd to be back behind a desk 8 hours a day again, but I think I can manage for a month.
After the cowboy punted the bike helmet into the fire, he went on to ask our friend what they were doing in town. The biker told them they were on a ride down from Canada, and that they had just ridden all day for over 100 miles. The tension in the room suddenly seemed to lift, and another one of the cowboys picked up the helmet and brought it back over in some sort of a peace offering. Both groups of men went on to drink late into the night, and even shared a winnebago together. Turns out the rough-and-tough cowboys lightened up a bit after hearing that cyclists can sometimes be macho as well - just bigger thighs and smaller arms.
I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on biking that you recently posted, and I was happy I could help with your fundraising effort for Chicago Parks. As my dad has often said to me throughout my life, "You're a good man Charlie Brown."
Keep forging a path for everyone coming up behind you Pat. I look forward to continuing to follow your adventures - where ever they may take you.