Since I haven't seen much of you this week, as you can tell, I've got a lot to say.
Actually, this is an interview and I promise you all, you will love it. So get yourself a tasty beverage, sit down and dig in.
This week, my blog spotlight is shining on some pretty cool people I know.
Today, I'd like to tell you about a friend of mine, a friend who has undertaken something herculean to make a difference in the world and that, is just about as cool as it gets.
Joseph Husslein has been a mentor, a Big Brother in the Big Brothers Big Sisters Foundation. It's a cause dear to his heart, a cause so dear, he decided he wanted to do some fundraising for this fine organization.
And what he came up with is an endeavor very few mortal men could accomplish.
Joseph Husslein is bicycling across the country, a 3,240 mile trek from the Pacific Coast of California all the way to the Grand Dame of southern cities, Charleston, South Carolina.
And he's doing it in 41 days.
Not years, people, days. Because this? would take me 41 years. I'd have to stop at all kinds of convenience stores for Gatorade and since I was already in there, I'd have to grab some Bit O Honeys and People magazines, (I'd have to keep up with what was going on in the world, you know) and I'd have to make pit stops at wine shops for good wine because last time I checked, convenience stores only sold their wine in a box and of course, there would be the hospital stop for the portable oxygen tank. And I would cry, like a lot.
But Joseph is riding his bike across the country in 41 days. It's called the Little Big Ride and Big is certainly an apt description. Joseph will travel through 11 states: California, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina.
And if you look at that list, you'll see The Pacific Coast Highway, The Rockies, The Ozarks, The Great Smokies, The Mojave Desert, national forests, the rim of The Grand Canyon—truly some of the most rugged terrain our country has to offer.
Joseph has already raised over $50,000 in donations through individual pledges and corporate sponsorships. 100% of the proceeds raised will go to the Big Brothers Big Sisters Foundation.
He kicks off this incredible ride of his life on September 12th.
Today, I have the pleasure of talking with Joseph about this magnanimous fundraiser of his.
And maybe about a few other things, too.
Oh, did I forget to mention Joseph Husslein was my high school boyfriend?
This might just get a little interesting.
Joe's answers are in blue. My comments to his answers are in pink.
First things first, Joseph—I'm having a little trouble calling you that. To me, you're Joe. So if I slip up, will you forgive me?
Of course you're forgiven Joann—in the end, regardless of challenges and accomplishments, I'm just a regular "Joe". However, I do feel some explanation regarding the "name change" is appropriate. Joseph is my proper given name. Having matured a bit since high school—a point which some may argue especially given I'm still riding a bike—I felt that my proper name complemented such growth. In addition, having resided in the Asia-Pacific area for the last 20 years and the never ending "Hey Joe"—an apparent remnant from the war days and the name given to any "GI Joe"—use of my given name greatly tempered my reaction to such greetings as well as reduced neck strain from my continuous turning to see who would possibly know me in this or that Asia country.
Now, this is a plausible explanation, but I think it goes deeper. See, growing up in my house, I was always Jo. I still am, actually. Maybe Joe was kind of creeped out by the thought of dating another Jo. I know my Hubby told me when we were first dating that there was no way he could call me Jo because it would make him feel like he was dating a dude. Maybe Joe not only felt like he was dating a dude, but dating a dude that was himself! It's quite possible you know, because it always comes back around to me, folks. I told my Hubby Joseph's story and then my theory. He said Joseph's made sense. I won't tell you what he said about mine. Hmmmph.
Tell me the inspiration behind your Little Big Ride. What made you dream this big? Because this? is big, my friend.
I like, no thrive, on challenges. Whether it's a race, a classic mountain climb or an endurance event such as cycling across the USA—I love the preparation and satisfaction of such challenges. When the movie, The Bucket List, came out, it caused me to think about my own "bucket list"—things I want to ensure I accomplish before "kicking the bucket". Being an avid cyclist, doing a ride across the USA just seemed natural. Doing it to raise awareness and funds for Big Brothers and Big Sisters also played into my high achievement need.
I'd say he thrives on challenges, he dated me!
Obviously, you're a very accomplished cyclist to undertake such an endeavor. Can you give us the background of your cycling history?
As with any kid from my generation, I grew up with a bike—it was my escape and primary form of transportation. I recall spending countless summer days riding all over the place with one of my best friends as well as using my bike to ride over to your house to pay a visit—as the time got longer and pushed against my curfew, I had to ride faster to make it back on time. With such a solid, if not motivating, foundation, I soon found myself entered in my first bike race, taking first place and being approached by two different local cycling teams to ride for them. From that point on, I was hooked. Shortly after completing school, I moved to Dallas, Texas when cycling was really seeing a marked increase in popularity and found myself caught up in the area racing scene. I still compete in races today, however, I find myself more drawn to endurance and charity rides mostly—especially if there is climbing involved. I've done most of the epic climbs in Europe—the ones you see in the Tour De France as well as a lot of the "best in the world" climbs in the US.
Ok, first of all, just so you know, Internet, Joseph had a car when we dated. I wasn't going out with a guy all perched astride his handlebars. I just wanted to make that clear. And Joe did bike from his side of town to mine every once and awhile. But I think the most important sentence in this whole interview, really, is when he said he had to bike faster to make it back for curfew, thus starting the beginnings of his cycling life. So, do you see the incredible parallel here? The reason he was always running a little late was . . . Well, let's just say we had long drawn-out goodbyes and being a teenage guy, it was quite difficult for him to think about curfews and such when he was telling his girl goodbye. And so, here we go again, it comes back to me, full circle. He was making out with me, lost track of time and was forced to ride really, really fast. Making out with me=becoming a champion cyclist. It's awesome how that works, isn't it?
What sort of training regimen do you have in order to prepare for The Little Big Ride?
Primarily, time in the saddle. Before the Little Big Ride, a 2-3 hour ride or 250 miles a week was about average for me. Getting prepared for Little Big Ride, I'm doing about 4-6 hours for a ride with a weekly mileage of about 350-500 depending where I'm at training-wise and geographically speaking as I find myself in various places aside from Guam, Hawaii, North Carolina and California. I keep a bike and equipment at each location.
I'm having trouble breathing just thinking about your "regular ride". Joe trains in his residences in North Carolina, Hawaii and Guam.
I know you're a man of many lands and one of those lands is Guam. Tell me how did a guy from a small, southern town end up in Guam?
I was in Dallas at the time and facing some life issues. It was at that point that a 9-month old project opened up on Saipan, an island just north of Guam and I decided to take it. As soon as I landed, I knew I wasn't going back—Saipan possesses a natural lagoon perfect for catamaran sailing and racing, which is another lifelong passion of mine and a healthy yacht club. And, as you may recall from our high school days, I always had a soft spot for exotic places.
I can vouch for his love of sailing. He had his own catamaran when we were dating. I was a lucky girl to have a boyfriend with a boat, a car and of course, a bike with which to ride me around on his handlebars. And Joe certainly did have an affinity for exotic places. That's all I'm going to say about that.
What will an average day be like on your Little Big Ride?
Breakfast at 6:30 a.m., luggage out the door by 7:30 a.m., on the bike by 8 a.m. Ride the day's route. Shower. Eat. Upload pictures and video from the day's ride and blog (any tips?) so it can be posted on the Little Big Ride website. Eat some more. (I burn about 4,000-5,000 calories a ride.) Sleep. Do it all over the next day. Some days depending on the city or town, I will be meeting with the local Big Brother Big Sister Organization as well as interacting with "Little's". Each day's ride will pose some variety given the terrain, geographic and weather variations.
5,000 calories! Seriously? I would be eating chocolate and French cheese and hot fudge sundaes all the live-long day!
And as for the blogging, here's my best tip: Write like you ride. Write hard. Write what you know. Write about the sights you see. Write about the thoughts you have in those last hours of the day when you're wearing thin. Write about the Littles you meet along the way and their stories. Write about the triumph that comes over you when you get to the top of those climbs you love. Write the truth in your heart and it will always have a good ending.
How can people learn more about the Little Big Ride and more importantly, how can they help?
The best way is to simply visit the Little Big Ride website, littlebigride.org, from there you can read about the ride across the USA, the positive impacts of mentoring children, follow progress on Facebook and Twitter as well as make a donation.
Aside from making a donation—100% of which goes to Big Brothers Big Sisters—your readers can also help by spreading the word and encouraging their family and friends to take part in the Little Big Ride.
100% means this ride is coming from the heart with all of the profits going to one of the most noble mentoring programs in the world. You can join Little Big Ride on their Facebook Fan page. Follow on Twitter, you crazy Twitter folks. And of course, there is the donation and every single cent of your donation goes to Big Brothers Big Sisters. Tell everyone you know that there's a guy riding a bike across the country who needs our help. There are Littles who are counting on us. Making a difference—in the end, isn't that all that matters?
And now I'd like to ask you a few questions of my own, Joseph. (I can hear you groaning through the computer, you know.)
Your Little Big Ride kicks off September 12th. Did you pick that certain date for a reason, perhaps a subconscious reason? Because Sept. 12th is my birthday. Did you remember and plan it that way on purpose? Hmmm? Tell the truth!
Pure coincidence. Now that I know it's your birthday, I'll be sure to give you a special "tweet" that day when I start out.
Um, I'm hoping that special tweet has something to do with Twitter? Juuuuust kidding. I am well aware of all you Twittering people because every day I have about 1,004 of you asking me to join your Twitter cult. I simply cannot do it, you Twitter freaks. I mean, I love you guys, but if I joined you there would be nothing left of me in the real world.
And that's very nice of you Joe to tweet me on my birthday, but let's face the facts. You are a man, first of all and men don't remember things like birthdays very well. No offense. AND you will be getting ready to ride your bike on that day, the first day of your 41 day bike trek across our country, so I'll forgive you if your forget my birthday. Cause I'm nice like that.
What is your stance on the wearing of bicycle shorts when not bicycling? Are you in favor of that or do you find it a little icky?
The only time you'll catch me in cycling shorts when not actually cycling is if I"m grabbing a coffee or drink with friends during or after a ride or if I'm awaiting atop some mountain stage finish at a pro cycling tour event. Other than that, I prefer to be in casual wear—I spend enough time in cycling shorts.
Wait a minute, Cowboy! Did you say you get your drink on with friends when you ride? So, where do I sign up for this cycle/drinking, because that kind of sport I could handle.
Do you know Lance Armstrong? I'm sure you know a lot of famous cyclists, but the only one I've heard of is Lance Armstrong. Please feel free to mention all the famous cyclists you know, because I have a few cyclists who read my blog. (I don't think Lance Armstrong is one of them, but you never know. He could have been googling about how laundry hurts his feelings one day and stumbled across me.) Anyway, the cyclists who may or may not be Lance Armstrong that read my blog would be quite impressed, I'm sure, by the people you know. So, do tell.
When I was on the racing scene in Dallas, I recall some races when Lance would show up. We'd all moan because already then he had a reputation. I am fortunate to have a friendship with Marty Jemison who is a former US Pro Champion (1999) and rode 6 years for the US Postal Service pro cycling team—with Lance Armstrong and many other famous cyclists—and has completed 2 Tour De France events, 1 of 30 Americans to do so. Through Marty, I've been able to meet and in some cases ride with some of cycling's top riders such as Levi Leipheimer, George Hincaple and Chris Homer to name a few, as well as gain a deeper appreciation for the training, discipline and challenges required at this level of cycling.
So, are you saying Lance and your friend Marty, not only raced but delivered the mail while on their bikes? Wow! He really is Superman!
You know those people when you're out there cycling who are traipsing along at just a modicum of your speed and they're not really looking where they're going and you have to shout (kind of rudely), "ON YOUR LEFT'? Well, did you know I am one of those people? If you've ever come across anyone in a flowy dress with a wicker basket meandering along, probably coming very close to sideswiping you, that Joseph, was me. Do my people annoy you?
Oh, that was you? I'm not annoyed. For me, I'm just glad to see somebody out riding their bike, regardless of bike and speed.
That makes me feel less uncoordinated, so thanks.
OK, almost done because I know you're super important and super busy riding your bike all over Guam. I'm going to say a phrase and I'd like your instant reaction. Ready? Red Volkswagen Bug.
It was actually orange and my first car.
Oops. Yeah, that's not awkward. Hey, at least I knew it was a Bug.
Here's something weird. Did you know my husband had a red Volkswagen Bug when I met him? And that he's also the CEO of his corporate-benefits insurance company? Very strange, I think. He is not, for the record, a cyclist, but he does collect wine. How about you?
I'm the CEO of a privately-held insurance company along with medical and dental clinics as well as a medical travel company. I love wine and have about 300 bottles in my collection. My preference is champagne and reds with an affinity for French Bordeaux and Rioja from Spain.
I wonder if both of you men had this innate sense of your profession even as young dudes without a clue in life and maybe I had some weird ability to see that aura around both of you and I was drawn to you, because of that. Wait, forget that. That would mean I was attracted to health insurance and that would be extremely bizarre. Maybe I'm just attracted to highly motivated dudes who love good wine. We have a collection ourselves. You should make it over from Guam sometime. You and my Hubby could talk about . . . whatever it is is, you big cheese insurance guys talk about and we could drink some gorgeous Bordeaux and even lovelier French champagne we've got stowed in our cellar.
I looked back in my box of high school mementos and I couldn't find a single picture of you and me. I know I had some, but they may or may not have been torn up in a moment of heartbreak. I'm really not too sure. But in order to give my readers a mental snapshot of us in those days, I thought I'd give you a few images from teen movies and you pick the one that most represents us.
Was it this:
And I really hope you say no to this one, because if you think this represents us, in essence, you're saying I remind you of a prostitute and that would make me kind of mad.
Or perhaps even this:
You may recall, I don't "kiss and tell" however, if pressed to choose one, I'd go with 16 Candles.
Ummm . . . I'm hoping you mean the birthday cake photo and not this bottom one here. Because if you're saying the bottom photo, I did not, for the record, ever drink Old Style. And Joe never had a mouth contraption like that. Nor was he a geek. He was cute and super cool and a track dude.
So, Joe can you share a memory you have of me? I'll start with the sharing. Before we'd started dating, I was walking down the hallway at school one day with a group of my girlfriends. The halls were swarming with kids who were in between classes. One of your track buddies stopped in the dead middle of the hallway and crowed at the top of his lungs, "Joe Husslein is in love with Joann Cleveland."
Amongst the giggles of my girlfriends, my mouth dropped open. I searched for you, knowing your buddy was trying his best to mortify you for life and then I spotted you. You had you head in your locker and the only part I could see, the length of your neck, was flushed beet red. You called me later that night and that, was when we began.
And I just want you to know, in my book of memories that was a great moment. It was a moment when a 16-year-old skinny little girl felt beautiful. Every girl should have those kinds of memories in her teenage years and in throughout her life, many of those moments actually. You gave me one of those moments and I just want to thank you for that. So, what say you about that?
You're welcome? I hadn't realized it left such an impact but I'm glad you recall that so fondly and positively.
This is just killing you, isn't it? Here I am just a-blaa-blaa-blaaing away about our teenage love life on my blog. You really should make your way to our place and have some wine with my Hubby. I just have this weird feeling, you guys could probably find a LOT to talk about other than insurance benefits.
So, now I'm going to make you squirm even harder. Your turn for a memory. Ready, Go!
Searching you out and serenading you between classes.
Yes, I am definitely killing you. I see that now. I don't remember any serenading, but Joe did used to carry my books to class which was very gentlemanly of him. And in that same gentleman fashion, I'm thinking, he's keeping his lip buttoned up on this one.
Here's one more and I promise it won't make you rue the day you ever met me. Every time I heard a Jimmy Buffett song, I would think of you—of how much you loved the Gulf and how passionate you were about sailing. Every time I heard "Son Of A Sailor", I would think of you and smile. But then the worst thing happened. I went to a Jimmy Buffett concert with my Hubby and our best friends. And we made the mistake of having a lovely dinner beforehand with some good wine and a few laughs. We did not party all day with the Parrotheads. And I don't know if you know this or not, but there seems to be a prerequisite for Jimmy Buffett concerts: You have to be drunk off your ass in order to attend. We were not and so our night got a little gross, to say the least.
I felt like I was back at college, but the falling down drunk sorority girls were driving minivans and wearing mom jeans, throwing up in the row behind us. And that's not even the unfortunate part. This is: The drunken man sitting next to my girlfriend who kept insisting he paid top dollar for his seat as he drank out of his brown paper bag was beyond inebriated. At one point, my friend hissed at me that the dude was peeing right there in his expensive seat and the pee was hitting her leg. I leaned over and verified that yes, this was the case and then shouted as ladylike as I could at him to stop peeing on my friend's leg.
And so, I am sorry to say you have been replaced by a drunk peeing on my friend's leg, when I hear a Jimmy Buffett song. So my questions are: Do you still like Jimmy Buffett? And are you still sailing?
Yes, I am still an avid Jimmy Buffett fan—we call ourselves "Parrotheads" as we know every word to all their songs. Having been to many Buffett concerts I am always amazed at the diverse cast of characters in attendance—usually consisting of three generations from all walks of life for what really is one large beach (or pool) party. It's a release from the usual hum-drum of life. Unfortunately, some take the imbibing too far.
About the only form of sailing I really do these days is usually an occasional cruise.
Peeing on someone's leg while sitting in your top-dollar seat is definitely taking it too far. And I'm kidding. I still think of you when I hear a Jimmy Buffett song. And my favorite Jimmy Buffett songs are the always classic, "A Pirate Looks At 40" and Jimmy's version of "Stars Fell On Alabama".
And I hope you get to spend more of your days on the water.
And that just about wraps up my hard-hitting interview. Joseph, I thank you very much for being such a good sport. And I'm so sorry for making you squirm.
And thank you, too Joe, for riding, riding for all the Littles out there, who with the help of your Little Big Ride will prosper and find their own wings to soar. It is a righteous undertaking, to make a difference in just one child's life, one child without a firm foundation, one child who needs an extra boost up, one child whose dreams can grow brighter with someone in their corner. The measure of good one can bring to a child's life is an extraordinary thing. My good wishes, prayers and blessings go with you on your journey. Be safe. Be strong. And ride like the wind, my friend.
To find our more or to donate to the Little Big Ride go to littlebigride.org.
Today's Definite Download: Of course, Jimmy Buffett, "Pacing The Cage".
Joe sent me this song when I asked him about a favorite one. I'd never heard it before. Listening to it, I thought it was extraordinarily lovely, quiet and introspective, so different from the standard Jimmy Buffett songs.
Bruce Cockburn wrote this song and the lyrics are painfully beautiful, a song about that restless spirit that resides in every heart—some feel it constantly, others only in the quietest of moments. I'm not sure which one is better—the restless, for their hunger or the contented souls, for their peace.
Me, I'll take restless any day. It's what brings me the words.
"Pacing the Cage" for restless hearts everywhere and for Joe. Thank you for granting me an interview and being so gracious, no matter how awful I made it for you. And thank you, for your Little Big Ride. Keep pacing that cage.
Sunset is an angel weeping
Holding out a bloody sword
No matter how I squint I cannot
Make out what it's pointing toward
Sometimes you feel like you've lived too long
The days drip slowly on the page
And you catch yourself
Pacing the cage.
I've proved who I am too many times,
The magnetic strips' worn thin
And each time I was someone else
And everyone was taken in.
Powers chatter in high places
Stir up eddies in the dust of rage
Set me to pacing the cage.
I never knew what you all wanted
So I gave you everything
All that I could pillage
All the spells that I could sing
It's as if the thing were written
In the constitution of the age
Sooner or later you'll wind up
Pacing the cage
Sometimes the best map will not guide you
You can't see what's round the bend.
Sometimes the road leads through the dark places
Sometimes the darkness is your friend.
Today these eyes scan bleached-out land,
For the coming of the outbound stage
Pacing the cage . . .