Availity End to End 25 days on a motorcycle to help kids

Scott’s Ride to benefit at-risk kids

One Availity rider’s road trip from Key West to the Arctic Circle

James LeatherwoodAvaility is proud to support the countless ways our employees give back to their communities. Some volunteer through Big Brothers Big Sisters, many support their local United Way, and others run or cycle for a cause. Only one (so far) has chosen to ride a motorcycle from Key West to the Arctic Circle to raise awareness and money for Our House, a charity that benefits at-risk youth.

From July 17 through August 11, keep up with Availity employee James Leatherwood for 11,000 miles in the saddle of his Harley Davidson Road King. James is participating in Scott’s Ride, a group of motorcyclists from Columbus, Georgia, riding for charitable causes. These posts are his dispatches from the road.

You can learn more about Scott’s Ride and the men who make the journey at www.scottsride.com.

 

Bridges are longer than they seem

You don’t really think about bridges when you’re in a car. Suspension bridge, drawbridge, covered bridge—it’s just a way to get across a body of water. But on a bike, when the bridge is 5 miles long and the roadway is open metal grating, you begin to really pay attention. We crossed the Mackinac Bridge today—from the Lower Peninsula to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. All 17 of us were in a line, but I think we each saw it from a different perspective. For the other Riders’ crossing stories, go read the blogs on ScottsRide.com—and while you’re there, take a second to share the ride on your Facebook or Twitter or Instachat or Linkedgram page, or whatever.

Mackinac BridgeBut back to the bridge. Five miles long. Two hundred feet in the air. Metal grating as the road surface, and ½-inch wires as guardrails so you can see the water below, and (with luck) avoid falling into it. Look at the palm of your right hand—no, seriously, look at your hand. That 16 square inches is about what we call the “contact patch,” the part of the tire (ok, 16 square inches is BOTH tires) that’s actually touching the road, while we roll along at 60 miles per hour. And when the road is actually metal grating, you’re looking at less than 2 square inches of rubber actually in contact with the only surface between me and 200 feet of air—with 295 feet of water below that.

Keep in mind, a strong gust of wind can push a motorcycle a foot or two toward the guardrail, or toward the oncoming traffic.

James Rainy WindshieldWhen we left the solid earth and started up the world’s fifth-largest suspension bridge, the metal was wet—making it even more slippery. And the rain reduced visibility, and frankly it’s no fun to ride in the rain on regular roads. Fortunately for all of us on two wheels, they've paved the right lane, so once we got off the open grate, it was just another very nice bridge. It took longer than we planned, but eventually all of us made it across the strait that connects Lake Huron to Lake Michigan and safely down the other side to what the locals call the UP. No worse for the wear (but maybe a bit more tired than usual) we pulled into the hotel for the night.

Go check out what the other Riders had to say about the day at ScottsRide.com and tell a friend about what we’re doing. And if you can, make a donation so we can help fix the cracks in the foundation of the Arabella house, so the girls who live there can think about school, and boys, and music—instead of whether or not the stove and bathrooms are working today. Yes, it’s that rough for these kids, and that’s why we’re on this crazy ride.

Check in with you in a day or two.

All the Riders – together again

Today is the official start of Scott’s Ride to the Arctic Circle, and the send-off was, once again, almost surreal. The city of Columbus shows its support in so many ways—from the sponsors’ donations, to people buying t-shirts and other souvenirs, to the city council and mayor joining the executives of Synovis Bank to wish us well and send us on our way.

And, of course, the law enforcement community. There are five or six current or former LEOs in the group, and with the support of the police leadership, we got an escorted ride out of town. Along with a hundred or so other motorcyclists, we rolled away from Columbus without stopping for lights or traffic. And as we hit the highway, our escorts started turning off, until only the 17 Riders and our chase truck were left.

The first official day was everything I expected it to be: long, hot, and mostly interstate. There’s not much more to it than that—from the superslab, pretty much every Midwestern state looks the same, and there are no appreciable differences in the gas stops.

For most of the guys, this is Day One, so there are the usual grunts and groans as 17 50-year-old (plus!) guys get off their bikes at the stops. It’ll take a day or two for the rhythms to settle in, and then another day to get really comfortable. But in the meantime, we’re working out the kinks of riding in such a large group.

While we do, take a few minutes to check out what the other Riders had to say at scottsride.com, and check out the live stream and GPS tracker to see where we are. You should also go visit the Arabella House—the girls’ home we’re supporting with your donations.

Long journeys start with small steps

To quote Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, “The journey of 1,000 miles begins with one step.” Or in my case, 12,000 miles. You wouldn’t believe the preparation that goes into planning something like this before it ever “starts,” but here we are at the southernmost point of the United States. Mile 0 in Key West, Florida. Margaritaville.

There’s just a few of us to start. This Friday we’ll meet up with the rest of the crew in Columbus, Georgia. In Columbus, we’ll hold a press conference and have a law enforcement escort as all 17 Riders—and two guys in a chase truck—ride out of town headed for the Arctic Circle. (I encourage you to tune in and experience the roar of 17 motorcycles rumbling through town.)

I’m not going to kid you – the first day will be brutal: Columbus, Georgia to Cincinnati, Ohio: 646 miles (plus detours) in the Midwestern summer heat. Fortunately, most days won’t be wide-open-throttle rocking down the interstate; they will be riding on scenic two-lane country roads where we’ll average 500 miles a day for 21 days. I’m hopeful that most days won’t be as hard as the first two.

From inclement weather to traffic and construction, from border crossings to wildlife, we have no idea what we’ll face, but we’ll figure it out as we go. One of my favorite phrases for this trip is, “I just follow the guy in front of me.” I don’t plan the route, deal with the headaches, or try to manage 19 motorcycle riders – that’s the job for Mama Cat Karen Cook. I just get on my bike in the morning, ride till it’s time to stop, and then do it again the next day.

It’s AWESOME! Follow us with the live video stream at www.scottsride.com and check our progress on the map that updates every 15 minutes. And please, donate. I could write a check for the cost of gas, hotels, tires, food, and sunscreen – but this ride is for you, too.

Make a difference in Aaron’s life. Donate toward the cost of a decent kitchen, clean clothes, regular meals, and most of all love for the kids in Our House Ministries of the Methodist Church. Go to www.scottsride.com and donate now.

From the road.

James

You’re doing WHAT?

“You’re doing WHAT?” That’s the most common reaction I get when I tell people I’m going to ride a motorcycle from Key West, Florida, to Coldfoot, Alaska—inside the Arctic Circle. The next question is always, “Why would you do that?”

The short answer is, I’m lucky enough to know a bunch of guys who have figured out how to combine two of my passions, riding motorcycles and helping people.

Inspired by the wacky idea of riding from one end of the country to the other, almost a hundred sponsors (including Availity, where I work #LoveMyJob) and untold individual donors were eager to give to the cause. When they heard that all of the donated funds go to benefit at-risk and disadvantaged children through the Our House ministries of the Methodist Church, they began to understand the “Why” behind this crazy ride.

So, here’s the deal: Most of us will be using Twitter and Facebook from the road (#ScottsRide). You should also follow me here, on the Availity “End to End” blog, and get to know the rest of the Riders (and our support team) at www.scottsride.com. While you’re there, you can actually join the trip (when we have cell service) via our live stream from the lead bike (thanks, Verizon!), and track our progress on a map that gets updated every fifteen minutes or so (thanks, Spot!)

For the long story, check out www.scottsride.com.

Russ, Molly & James