Immortal Bird Postscript

Doron Weber on Immortal Bird Aftermath

Archive for the month “August, 2012”

Big Ride Update: Day 48–Crossing the Finish Line

–Saturday we biked 41 miles from Poolesville, Maryland to Washington, DC and officially completed our 48-day, 3300-mile Big Ride Across America. We biked through leafy, rolling horse country in the early morning, enjoying the mist along winding roads with names like Edwards Ferry, West Offut, Mt. Nebo before joining Maryland State Route 190, also known as River Road because it parallels the Potomac River. We had our first and only checkpoint near Great Falls Road with most of us stopping at a French pastry shop and then continued along Route 190 through suburban Maryland to the Capital Crescent Trail, a shaded, 11-mile shared use rail trail that extends from Silver Springs Maryland to Georgetown in Washington DC and runs over a bridge, under a tunnel, past a reservoir, an aqueduct, and the Potomac River. The trail terminated for us under a viaduct that turned Into K street and then we rode past the Watergate building and the Kennedy Center and along the National Mall past the Lincoln and Washington memorials to the Old Post Office Pavilion on Pennsylvania Avenue. We all gathered there for a big lunch at the Greek Taverna courtesy of 1998 Big Rider Costas Pappas before riding in pairs up Pennsylvania Avenue to the Freedom Plaza where we received our medals and cheers from the enthusiastic crowd. Representatives from the American Lung Association praised our achievement and our contributions and a handful of us did radio interviews. Earlier in the day the local NBC station apparently ran a nice piece on the 17 Big Riders who traversed the country on two wheels over a 7-week period.


The daily morning ritual of forming a line and loading all the bags onto the truck, here performed pre-dawn for the final time.


Starting on Whites Ferry Road with a thick fog hovering over the landscape


A little sun breaks through the fog on Edwards Ferry Road


Cycling near the discovery site for planetary radio emissions made in 1955 by Bernard Burke and Kenneth Franklin which revolutionized the field of radio astronomy and our understanding of the solar system


Saints Peter and Paul Antiochian Orthodox Church in suburban Maryland


A French pastry shop at out first checkpoint near Great Falls Road


The popular Capital Crescent Trail, used by one million joggers, cyclists, rollerbladers and pedestrians every year.


Canal along the Capital Crescent Trail


Riding past the Lincoln Memorial, which took on new meaning after our recent visit to Gettysburg


Reaching the Washington Monument, very close to the finish line.


The Old Post Office Pavilion, where our ride ends.



The two Big Riders who arrive at the Post Office with me– Jeffrey and Todd.


Big Riders having lunch at the Greek Taverna in the Post Office


All 17 Big Riders line up and wait to be called in pairs — except for one threesome–so they can ride up Pennsylvania Avenue for their medals.


One minute before the finish line, Todd gets a flat tire– but he manages to repair it in record time and does not miss in the queue.


One Big Rider flashes a thumbs up as he receives his finisher’s medal.


Big Riders pose for a group shot with their medals


The imposing new Dr. Martin Luther King Memorial.


One of Dr. King’s famous quotes inscribed on the memorial wall: If we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional; our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective.


Big Ride Update: Day 47

–Friday we biked 63 miles from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania to Poolesville, Maryland, entering our twelfth and final state. It was a gently rolling ride with a mix of horses and farms and fields and historic towns like Taneytown and Frederick and a nice stretch along Francis Scott Key Highway. Although Maryland, which has the highest median family income in the country, is largely services oriented–defense/aerospace, biotechnology, government, education, medicine–we rode through many rural, agricultural sections. We are camping in a field behind Poolesville High School and were given access to Western County Outdoor Pool. We had dinner at Bassett’s resturant courtesy of the American Lung Association which sent the Pacific Coast representative for the Big Ride, Laura Sanford, to celebrate with us. Tomorrow we bike to the finish line in Washington DC.


Big Riders depart Gettysburg in the morning and ride along the battleground


Early morning fog and a near-full moon create a ghostly atmosphere over the historic battlefield


If you turn round on leaving Pennsylvania for Maryland you get the welcome sign we never saw when we entered Pennsylvania from Ohio.


And here is the welcome to Maryland stone marker. The stone is one of more than a dozen positioned along the Maryland-Pennsylvania border denoting where the Mason-Dixon line is located. The stones were originally placed along the line 245 years ago by surveyors Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon, who were assigned the task of denoting where the state border between Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania existed to stave off a dispute.


Fog-bound sun over a field in Maryland, a small border state sometimes called “America in miniature”


Biking along fields on Harney Road


A curious 9/11 memorial in Taneytown where General Meade established his temporary h.q. to stop Robert E. Lee’s army from attacking Baltimore or Washington


Cows in a field


Grazing horse. We went through a good bit of horse country


A field of sunflowers near New Midland


The Monocacy River in Frederick, the largest tributary of the Potomac in Maryland. It empties into the Atlantic Ocean via Chesapeake Bay


Another bend in the Monocacy River where we ate lunch


A farm on the road to Dickerson


Cornfield with a smokestack in the bg


The wonderful Western County Outdoor Pool where we frolicked in the water and were allowed to use the showers.


Laura Sanford, Pacific Coast rep for the American Lung Association who was our key liaison for the Big Ride, congratulates the Big Riders at Bassett’s restaurant in Poolesville.


Gene Nash, our indispensable mechanic, gets an award plaque for “keeping the wheels rolling.”


Big Rider Steve Lindbeck gets a plaque for his stellar fundraising effort.


Ride directors Charlton DuRant and Lynn Petrotti receive a well-deserved award for their outstanding leadership of the Big Ride

Immortal Bird Article, Reader Letter on Physician Training & Big Ride Update: Days 45 & 46

–The July/ August issue of Brown Alumni Magazine has a nice article about Immortal Bird with a photo of Damon, “A Father’s Story.”
–I continue to get wonderful reader letters but have been so preoccupied with the Big Ride that I have not posted any. Here is one that addresses the core issue of how we train physicians:

Dear Mr. Weber: I apologize if this is intrusive to communicate through your “work” email, but I wanted to tell you how deeply moving and beautiful I found your book Immortal Bird to be. I am myself a cardiologist, and also a mother of two young adult children. It made me feel such shame to read about the behaviors of the transplant cardiology physicians at Columbia. I am sure that you have read Abraham Verghese’s various writings about how doctors forget to even notice the patient in the bed, and his family standing at the bedside, because they are so enmeshed in the culture of health care teams , shift work, and computer-based medical records. Your experience just adds to my conviction that they are not training good doctors anywhere. I actually was a medical student at Columbia in the 1970’s, and I learned to care for patients the old fashioned way, to become “married” to medicine in a way that provided continuity of care to patients clinically, and emotionally. While it is a hard thing to be available to your patients when you do not know what is wrong, or do not know how to change the course of their illness, it is the most important thing you can offer as a physician. I wonder if your justly deserved feelings of outrage and betrayal wouldn’t have been tempered by their willingness to be present and available even when things were going badly, and to admit that they may have made mistakes. It is much easier, I have learned, to avoid patients and their families rather than admit that you cannot cure them.

I think your book should be required reading for medical students or residents, just as The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, by Ann Fadiman. Thank you for writing it.

Elizabeth Ascher, M.D.

–Wednesday, we biked 102 miles from Bedford to Gettysburg and although it was billed as a huge day on the bike with several big climbs and treacherous descents, most of us enjoyed the ride. It wasn’t too hot and we passed several state and national parks and there was an excellent bike route for 80+ miles, “S” Penn DOT, apparently thanks to former Governor Tom Ridge, an avid cyclist. The long climbs all repaid us with exhilarating descents and we had a great lunch prepared by a 2008 Big Rider, Tony, and his son, a cyclist in training. We passed several historic places like Burnt Cabins and Fort Lyttleton and also crossed the Appalachian Trail, which runs from Maine to Georgia. There was a brief shower just before Gettysburg and a view of the famous battlefield on the ride in. We are staying in Gettysburg College.
— Thursday was a rest day, our last day off on the Big Ride. After six straight days of riding there was an accumulation of laundry. We washed and lubed bikes and a couple of us cycled out to the battlefield and wandered around the site of America’s bloodiest Civil War battle and the Soldier’s National Cemetery, where Lincoln delivered his famous Gettysburg address. We also enjoyed beer and food and Olympic coverage at the Irish pub, breakfast at the Lincoln Diner, dinner at Classic Thai and a bistro and ice cream and milk shakes at Cannon Ball Malt Shop which has the original 3-inch shell fired by the Confederates still embedded in its second story window.


Leaving Bedford, once an important frontier military post and famous for its medicinal springs


Passing a gravel pit on Ashcom Road


Big Rider Todd gets a flat tire. More bikes seem to be breaking down as we near the end and more riders are having falls.


A stream near the town of Mench, Pennsylvania


Biking through cornfields. Pennsylvania ranks fourth in corn for silage.


Route 30 where we had our first checkpoint by a Starbucks


Buchanan State Forest near Cove Gap, donated by Harriet Lane, the niece of our fifteenth president, James Buchanan.


The valley en route toward Hustontown with the Tuscarora Mountains in the bg.


The village of Burnt Cabins, Native American land where 11 early squatter cabins were burnt down by the provincial government in 1750 to keep the peace and show Native Americans their ownership would be respected. By 1763, European settlement had begun. The grist mill was built in 1830 and still produces flour.


2008 Big Rider Tony and his son, who prepared us a great feast for lunch at Cowans State Park.


Biking through rolling farmland


Crossing the famous Appalachian National Scenic Trail, 2100 miles of wilderness that runs through 14 states from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine.


Entering Gettysburg on Lincoln Avenue, one passes markers of the famous battle


A famous life-like statue of Abraham Lincoln in the town square


A statue of General George Meade, who defeated Robert E. Lee at the Battle of Gettysburg despite being appointed only 3 days earlier to lead the Army of the Potomac.


A view of the battlefield from the Union side on Cemetery Hill.


Sharpshooters or snipers from both sides played a key role in the battle


Artillery also played a key role. Cannon could reach as far as two miles.


Little Round Top, control of which would have given the Confederates a big advantage. Union troops reached the hill ten minutes earlier and mustered a successful defense that may have been the key turning point in the Battle of Gettysburg.


The memorial for Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg address at the Soldier’s National Cemetery, delivered 4 months after the Battle of Gettysburg. Few yet understood that the battle was decisive since the war went on for two more years, just as few knew that Lincoln’s two-minute speech–it was so brief the official photographer never got a shot–would become one of the most important speeches in American history.


3100 Union troops and 4700 Confederate troops died in the battle of Gettysburg. There were over 50,000 casualties.


Big Rider Rob Wilson is joined by his wife Beth and two daughters in Gettysburg.


The Cannon Ball Malt Shop off the town square, which has a 3-inch
Hotchkiss shell fired by the Confederate side lodged in the second story wall. Only one civilian died, from a stray bullet, during the bloody 3- day battle.

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Doron Weber on Immortal Bird Aftermath

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