Greg’s Wild West Adventures
Well, that was an amazing Wild West trip and the fastest two weeks of my life. With over 23 hours of driving, tons of car karaoke, lots of Jean Durso checking in on her son, countless times being that guy with a GoPro (Jerry status), so many dropped calls, crazy beautiful scenery, one speeding ticket, a pitch black bathroom where I threw TP rolls to try to trigger the motion sensor, one bear sighting, lots of good food and incredible new friends, I actually made it on my grand tour. Let’s break it down for you one part at a time:
Part 1 – Chicago & Denver Rehab Hospital Visits
It all started in the Windy City, a city I had never been to yet. This stop was also related to my next stop in Denver. You see, KBF is working on a very important resource and we’re partnering with four of the best rehab hospitals in the country to bring it to life. These are; Shirley Ryan AbilityLab in Chicago, Craig Hospital in Denver, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston and Shepherd Center in Atlanta. Sooo…back to the Windy City where I got an incredible tour of the AbilityLab, which is quite the state-of-the-art facility, and gave my presentation. Talk about great views from the rehab gym! After, I treated myself to a nice steak dinner overlooking the river and then my Uber driver almost made me miss my flight because he wanted me to GoPro the city sights. 24 hours in Chicago, check. Next, I made it Denver safely only to be duped by Avis. They got me all excited by pulling up in a brand-new Tahoe which they kept saying had hand controls in it. I got in, took my chair apart, hooked up my tunes, did a great VLOG, went to pull away and….no hand controls…DAGGER. I called them up from two feet away and they got me a red Ford Flex instead (I named it Clifford), the most annoyingly perfect car for a wheelchair user. Any who, I made it to Craig Hospital and again had such a great experience. I get so excited to see how these rehab facilities work and what an incredible job they do when someone has a life changing injury.
Part 2 – Crested Butte Adventures
After a four- and half-hour drive from Denver I arrived in Crested Butte, CO. I have visited a lot of ski towns in my life but CB is definitely up there in the coolest and prettiest category. My mission here was to pick up my brand-new adaptive mountain bike from Jake O’Connor who runs Reactive Adaptations and then compete in the Off Road Handcycle World Championships hosted by the Adaptive Sports Center (Crested Butte’s adaptive program). Jake did an incredible job with my bike, it’s definitely a game changer on the trails. ASC’s new building was also stunning! It’s right on the mountain and they have endless adaptive equipment, a climbing wall, lodging, a rooftop deck and of course an amazing crew of staff and volunteers. Long story short (I feel like I will be saying a lot of that) the championships were a two-day Enduro style race with over 20 competitors. ASC crushed it putting the event on and I got to meet some awesome adaptive riders and see some old friends, including Dave Poole (the last time I saw him I tomahawked past him all the way down Liberty Bowl at Big Sky). This second leg was a huge success, finally getting to ride my bike and learning and competing against some great athletes.
Part 3 – Colorado and Utah Driving, Biking, and Partner Meet n’ Greets
Whoa, this stage of the trip was jammed packed with a lot of everything: 13 hours and 46 minutes of driving, the same amount of singing and one speeding ticket. I started in Vail where I met with some generous KBF supporters and we went downhilling on the mountain on Radio Flyer. From there I traveled to Carbondale, CO for some more meet and greets, to Palisade, CO to visit with a potential grant recipient, and then to Park City, UT to see KBF grant recipient and fellow Ironman finisher Ben Hulin. Ben and I had a sweet mountain bike ride together! While in Park City I stayed at the National Ability Center, an adaptive program we partner with through our Path 2 Active program. I had the privilege to ride with Alex Mendelson and Steph Myer who showed me the ropes and keep pushing the boundaries with their adaptive mountain biking programing. I also had the opportunity to meet another partner of ours on the ski racing safety side, the US Ski and Snowboard Team whose office happens to be just down the road from the NAC. I got a great tour of the building, met a lot of their staff, including KBF Board Member, Ellen Adams, and was in utter awe of the training facility (would kill to work out there!). I also got some really great swag—thanks US Ski and Snowboard Team for hooking me up! My next stop was at Common Ground Outdoor Adventures in Utah. They are a recipient of our new Inspire the KBF programming grant. I got to personally hand them a check for $3,000 to help them create an accessible campground at their Beaver Mountain location. After meeting Common Ground’s Executive Director, Sammie Macfarlane I headed over to Beaver Mountain to see where they are going to construct the campsites and followed that up with an ATV ride up to the top of mountain courtesy of Jodi Flickenger (the Adaptive Center Manager at Beaver Mountain). I even did some consulting work on their mountain bike trails to show them the accessibility needed. Jodi and Sammy were such great hosts and couldn’t have had a better time! Thanks Colorado and Utah – I could go on forever, but onto my final leg.
Part 4 – Whydaho Gathering!
A quick 3-hour drive to Grand Targhee, WY and quick lunch break in Jackson, WY put me at the Whydaho Rendezvous Teton Mountain Bike Festival. Long story short (only the second time I said it), this was the event my trip was originally planned to be for, before it morphed into this two-week road trip. Here, six adaptive sports programs; Teton Adaptive Sports, National Ability Center, Higher Ground, Dream Adaptive, Wasatch Adaptive and University of Utah TRAILS Program; three foundations; Kelly Brush Foundation, Challenged Athletes Foundation, and Joe Stone Foundation; and two organizations; Disabled Sports USA and Reactive Adaptations, put on quite the show. I have never seen so many adaptive bikes in one place! There were over 30 adaptive participants (seeing all the empty wheelchairs was also amazing) taking part in two days of cross country and downhill clinics for all levels, led by fantastic instructors. It honestly felt like more adaptive riders were on the mountain then able-bodied riders. We also had our own camping area—a big shout out to Higher Ground for hooking me up with a mansion of a tent and cot… could of sworn when looking at it for the first time that is was 3,000sf with an indoor pool and tennis court in the back. One camping lesson learned: if ever stuck in a bathroom stall and the automatic lights turn off so its pitch black, throwing balls of toilet paper to generate some kind of motion for the lights to turn on doesn’t work, so note to self, bring a head lamp (I’m sure you wanted to know that). Anyway, Whydaho was all-around awesome. I got to ride and hang out with KBF grant recipients Anna Soens, Joe Stone, RJ Wagner, Channing Cash, and Alina Garbuzov. It was such an incredible experience to hear their stories and how the KBF helped shape and change their lives after their injury.
And that wrapped up my amazing two-week Wild West adventure where I met and rode with so many KBF supporters and partners. It’s really exciting to talk with others who are as passionate about the KBF mission as I am!
PS I got to see my first bear, which was the icing on the cake.