2017 Day 5 - Santa Rosa, NM to Holbrook, AZ

by Jon Heie

Today we traveled from Santa Rosa, NM to Holbrook, AZ. We traveled a bunch of interstate and some cool stretches of old Route 66. The “Mother Road” paralleled I-40 for long stretches, leaving her side every once in a while, to meander through old towns, barely populated anymore. The dilapidated old gas stations and garages were probably something to behold back in the day, like some of us riders. The petrified forest national park reminded me of the Badlands of South Dakota, although the colors were more on the red side. I could have spent half a day stopping at every scenic overlook, taking pictures and trying to figure out, in my mind, how all this came to be. One of the highlights of the day was lunch. We stopped in Gallup, NM where Mike found us a short list of dining options. We decided on Mexican, a small local joint with 4.6 stars and 128 recommendations on FB, Jerry’s Cafe. I know, not the name of your typical Mexican restaurant. We arrived shortly after 1:00 and found the place packed. The smells coming from the front door convinced us to wait the 10 minutes for a larger booth. A young native woman came outside to check on the size of our group before we even hit the door. I gave her my name and we waited on the sidewalk where several locals checked out the rider’s bikes, exchanging ride stories and inquiring as to our cause. A short while later we were escorted inside to our corner booth where our host handled our drink orders and wise cracks with style and grace. She took care of us like we were family. As I ate, possibly the best combo burrito I have ever eaten, I looked around the place at the mostly Navajo patrons, sharing the small, packed diner with a motley crew of Siouxland bikers. The customers continued to pile in, well into the 2 o’clock hour. A local community, supporting a local business, sharing their little secret with us. There is obvious support for this diner. The community fills this place to overflowing every day of the week. There are regulars who are treated like family who keep this place in business. We as a CMN family should aspire to as much. Dave is snoring now, it must be bedtime. Good night.

2017 Day 4 - Oklahoma City, OK to Santa Rosa, NM

By Mike Unger

   When you ride your motorcycle from dawn to dusk your mind has many moments to wonder. As The Miracle Riders pulled into Santa Rosa, New Mexico this evening, my thoughts meandered backward in time to the hospital in Joplin, Missouri and the four babies we saw in the NICU.  We had the opportunity to witness four very young children fighting for their lives. We also were able to talk with a distraught mother as she couldn't help but wonder if everything was going to turn out OK.  We tried our best to console her.

   Then, almost instantly, my thoughts switched to the southwestern scenery off in the distance with its bright red soil and high flat top plateaus lined with Cedar and Pine. I mused myself as I did many times as a child wondering what it was like to live in the old wild west. 

   As a child growing up with TV shows like Gunsmoke and Rawhide, I day dreamed about riding horses and shooting Colts and Winchesters. Now, as a senior citizen I thought of the Native American mother going off into the wilderness by herself to deliver her baby hopefully under the shade of a tree and close to a cool stream. Think how she might have felt? Think how many babies probably did not make it back to the camp alive?

   Thank you God for UnityPoint St. Luke's and the Children’s Miracle Network for everything they do for children's health and safety. It feels good to helping them with their MISSION.

   Today is a good day! Thank you God for guiding me to this place.

2017 Day 3 - Rolla, MO to Oklahoma City, OK

By Dave Drew

"To me there are three things everyone should do every day. Number one is laugh. Number two is think -- spend some time time in thought. Number three, you should have your emotions move you to tears. If you laugh, think and cry, that's a heck of a day."

Jim Valvano

Wow. What a day! Today we visited Freeman Health Systems in Joplin, Missouri. Seven Miracle Riders experienced the full emotions of what Coach Valvano spoke of. Early this morning we saddled up from Rolla, Missouri proceeded to Joplin's Children's Miracle Network office. There we met the great staff who make a difference in children’s and families lives in Joplin. There I was fitted with my special cape to meet the moms and kids. Special thanks to Heather and Erin who showed us around Freeman Health Systems NICU department.

Well, back to that Coach Valvano's quote, that your emotions should move you to tears. We all tried to be brave, but were overcome with emotions, sick babies fighting so hard for life, and mom holding them or watching over their child in a giraffe bed. Moms told us the ups and downs of premature babies and all the emotions that they experience. After the Neonatal unit we ventured to the Pediatric unit, where we met Jace a two year old pediatric patient. Jace lit the room up! He was so excited to see us, the real joy and pleasure was being with him. Jace truly lifted our spirits.

Lastly, the most important people, the great staff that work in Neonatal unit and Pediatric unit. Phenomenal compassion and caring people. A nurse shared that hospitals have budgets and provide as much as budgets allow. The good news is this is where Children's Miracle Network step in. Providing items that aren't budgeted by hospitals that allow for quality care for children and families. Things like the Angel Eyes Live Viewing camera for the NICU.  This is a camera that is mounted above the beds of the premature babies that allows parents, grandparents, big brothers and sisters and other family members to see the progress of their loved little one growing and getting healthy, preparing to go home.

Resilience best describes all involved. God Bless those who make a difference in the precious lives of these true gifts from God!

Don’t forget, you can help our local kids and their families by donating to CMN to help with the equipment and services that they need to help them get home with their family.  Please visit our website at www.miracleriders.com to see how you can donate.

2017 Day 2 - Chicago, IL to Rolla, MO

By Steve Panzer

Well all it's my turn to write the story for today's ride! We started out this morning with a little fog but pretty mild temps. Pretty exciting so far huh? We headed out of the Chi town area with all that hustle and bustle and crazy drivers. Everybody had a lot of excitement and energy, even though there was some creaks and groans as they threw a leg over their bikes. We headed south in search of Route 66, we found the Gemini giant by the old Launching Pad restaurant which happens to be closed and for sale if your interested. Then we headed down the 1.4 mile stretch of the old, original paver stone road which is a historic part of Rt 66! Oh and by now it's a cool 90 degrees! Then we headed to a little hole in the wall called Fanning Missouri where we seen the world's largest rocking chair which was pretty cool. 

Overall today folks it was an awesome day. Every place we stopped we were asked what we were doing and why, and we would tell our story.  Their eyes would light up and compliment us for taking time out of our lives and away from our families to help the kids! So as all of you out there please take a moment look at our donation page and help us help the kids of Siouxland! Lastly folks I wanna give a huge shout out to all of our sponsors with out you this wouldn't be possible! 

-Steve Panzer, Miracle Rider

2017 Day 1 - Sioux City to Chicago

Well, here we are again, Year 2 of the Ride for Miracles and Day 1 is in the books!  We rode almost 600 miles through a little rain and a lot of traffic.  Things started off rainy in Iowa, so if you were awesome enough to be at the send-off this morning, you got to see our very attractive rain gear, for those of you that weren’t there, I am totally lying, rain gear is not attractive...at all!!  But, as we worked towards Chicago, the day lightened up and the sun came out, so we had clear views of Chicago driving in.  I will tell you one thing though, after driving through Chicago at 6:00pm, I will never complain about Sioux City traffic again!  

I was just in awe of the send-off this year, even though it was overcast and cold and misty, we had more people than last year, and it was amazing to see all that support. Kamden came down to send us off and Florie was selling lemonade. We had quite a few of the corporate sponsors as well as friends, family and a whole lot of supporters from UnityPoint, it was absolutely amazing!!

Saying goodbye was harder this year, I couldn’t put my finger on it this morning, but reflecting back on it during the ride today, it was because we had experienced that before, and knew from last year how much of a challenge it is to be away from family.  But really, it's those feelings that remind us why we are riding and what we do this for.  We do it for those kids that are at the hospital that can't be home with their families.  We do it so their stay is more comfortable, less stressful, and as easy as possible.  We do it to get the equipment and services needed to get those kids out of the hospital and home with their family as fast and as healthy as possibility.  We may seem tough for doing this, but really, it’s nothing compared to what those kids and their families go through every day, fighting to get healthy and fighting to get home, that is true strength, true bravery, true toughness! 

Well, it was a late day and I’m off to make the video for the day.  And this year, we are changing things up a bit, all of the riders are going to be doing blogs posts, so you won’t just hear from me (I see you cheering, stop that!!), so make sure to stop back and check the blogs out everyday and hear things from different viewpoints.  

Also, don't forget to visit www.miracleriders.com there you can watch our videos, see our photos, read all those blog posts and follow us live with our Spot Tracker and use the link to go to our Live Feed through YouTube.

Day 12 - Des Moines, IA to HOME!!

Day 12, the final day of the Ride for Miracles for Children’s Miracle Network started in Des Moines and had us heading home!  We made a stop in Ames to eat at Hickory Parks, got to meet and talk with the owner, David Wheelock, who after lunch surprised us with a check for $100.  I know I have mentioned this in other blogs, but I am amazed everyday on the trip of the generosity of people.  It seemed like every person we met and talked to have had a loved one that has been touched by CMN.  We heard as many stories as we shared and were able to connect and bond with strangers thousands of miles away, because we all cared, because we all knew what it was like to have a child in our life that needed a little extra help. 

As tough as it has been to ride for 4,000 miles and 12 days through 2 countries, 9 states, one tense night in moose crossing territory, 5 different rainstorms and one thunderstorm, I think the hardest challenge of the journey, was missing my family.  I had a picture taped to the dash of the bike, and it helped me in a lot of different days. It reminded me of why I am riding, to help families that just want their kids to be healthy so they can be home with them.  It helped me when I missed them, I always had a happy picture to help cheer me up.  And it kept me safe and focused, reminding me that I have people at home that love me and want me to get back safe. 

I gotta say, the last day was an emotional day, so happy to be heading home, but sad that the journey is over.  Absolutely ecstatic to see our families, but sad to say goodbye to our friends, no, not just friends, our brothers. We all had expanded our families the last two weeks, the riders had new brothers, the wives and girlfriends all had new sisters.  Speaking of our wives and girlfriends, if it wasn’t for their support at home, if it wasn’t for their strength to take care of the kids and everything else while missing us, we wouldn’t have been able to have the strength to stay out there and focus on our goal.  So I just want to say a huge thank you to them, they did an awesome job and deserve as much credit for the success of the ride as we do.

As for us guys out on the road, the brotherhood, the camaraderie, the bond that us riders formed on the ride will last forever.  We struggled through some dangerous night driving, got soaked in a rainstorm together, and had white knuckle drives through Chicago traffic in a thunderstorm. But, at the end of the day, we made it through safe, with each other's support and help.  We took care of each other, we joked with each other, we laughed at each other and we were all thankful to make it through safe.

We all had different reasons for why we rode, what drove us, what got us through the tough times, but we all had the same end goal, share the stories of our CMN kids and raise money to buy equipment to help them fight for their health and their lives.  We cannot fight those battles for them, but we can sure try and give them an upper hand in that fight, be their guy in the corner supporting them and giving them the equipment they need to make that fight easier for them, and get them home with their families as soon as possible.

The return home ceremony was amazing, what a feeling to ride in and see all that support waiting to welcome us home.  We got through the ride safely and made it home, we also raised over $22,000 on our first year of the ride.  That is all thanks to our sponsors and everyone that donated, everyone that bought a shirt, or a bracelet, anyone that stopped down to the Guest Bartender Nights, anyone that started a raffle for us or even just shared our posts.  I am just completely astonished by the support of everyone in Siouxland, it is truly heartwarming to see everyone come together to support this great cause.

Well, hopefully you all enjoyed following our journey, I know we all can’t wait for next year.  Keep checking back to the website, we will make some announcements throughout the year, I will probably post up a few blogs, some pictures here and there.  So keep your eyes peeled and keep watching the St. Luke’s CMN Facebook and Twitter pages for updates.  We will also be announcing our 2017 route and dates sometime in early November.

Don’t forget, we are still closing out the 2016 Ride for Miracles, so if you forgot to donate earlier, you can still go the website to donate.  If you or your employer would like to be a sponsor for 2017, please let us know, we are always looking for more companies that want to support CMN.

Thank you again for following along and putting up with my daily ramblings, we will see you all next year!

Day 11 - St. Joseph, MI to Des Moines, IA

Day 11 of the Ride for Miracles for Children’s Miracle Network started in Benton Harbor, Michigan amidst a band of thunderstorms.  The ride for the first few hours was rainy, like an “are we crazy!?” heavy amount of rain, with wind.  One toll booth guy looked at me with this really concerned look, I think he was contemplating calling for the padded wagon to come get all four of us!  And to make it worse, we had to swing around the south side of Lake Michigan around through Gary Indiana and Chicago, on the interstate, in constructions zones, with wind, surrounded by huge semi-trailers, in stop and go traffic.  This was probably the second most stressful and white knuckled part of the ride, only the 2 hour drive through the dark in Canada with the “Night Danger” Moose signs was worse…gulp!  But…ALAS!  We made it safely into Des Moines! 

We made a stop by Antique Archeology today, home of the American Pickers Mike and Frank.  They have a neat shop in Le Claire Iowa.  We were hoping to see one or both of them to sign Jim’s fender, but they were off picking today.  Still, it was neat to see all the stuff they had and take some cool pictures, as well as get a picture with an antique football for Brae! 

It was also a little bitter sweet today, it is really nice to be so close to home, we are all missing our families a ton, but those feelings are what keeps us focused on why we are doing this, for all the kids, brothers, sisters, moms and dads that may not get to see each other every day or not know how many days until they will get to be healthy and at home.  We also started to realize that we only have one more day riding with each other.  We have all become like a second family to each other. 

So our normal daily routine includes waking up at 6:00am (which is normally only a few hours after I go to bed!) getting all our gear loaded up, unplugging all the charging devices (GoPro, Live Feed, Wifi Jetpack, headset, cameras, phones, etc.) eating breakfast, loading our bikes, getting rain or cold gear on, saying our prayer, gassing up and then getting on the road.  Then each night, we do the same thing in reverse, pull into the parking lot of the hotel, unload the bikes, take all the electronics off the bike, take it all to the room, take off all our gear, and after rain days, use hair dryers and hangers to dry everything out, plug all the electronics in to charge, call our families (which sometimes ends up with a few tears) and then upload photos, make the video, type the best blog in the world (I have had like at least 2 people tell me that, so it must be true!) and then go to bed.  Today was the last time we will do all that, and in some way, we will all miss that, we will miss the open road, we will miss all the challenges and great feeling at the end of the day when we conquered another day. 

Tomorrow’s trip will be the last day of the trip, we will begin our trip back home!  We are all very excited to see our families, we can’t wait to hug those we love.  Please stop down and see us Friday night at 7:30pm at Firehouse Bar in Sioux City.  We will have a ton of stories to share and I may even let you buy me a beer if you want!

And also, please please please please go to www.miracleriders.com and donate if you are able to.  I know we have not yet reached our goal, and need all your help, even if it is just $5, everything helps.  We will still have the site up and selling Miracle Rider Swag for a few weeks after we get done, because even though our journey may be done, there are still kids fighting their own daily challenges to be healthier. 

Day 10 - Mackinaw, MI to St. Joseph, MI

Day 10 of the Ride for Miracles for Children’s Miracle Network started in Mackinaw Bay, Michigan and we headed down the east shore of Lake Michigan down to St. Joseph, MI.  The ride started off cool, but we lucked out with no rain.  Our goal for the day was to try and hit the Tunnel of Trees in the northwestern corner of the Michigan peninsula.  The road to get there from the highway was a rough and poorly maintained road with lots of bumps and dips.  But, enduring all the bumps and pains in the road led to one of the most beautiful rides in Michigan.  The Tunnel of Trees was about 30 minutes of riding through windy and curvy roads with a beautiful canopy of trees and a view of the lake off to one side.  Please go check out the videos of the day to see this amazing area.

When we got done with the ride, I told Ronnie it kind of reminded of what the kids fighting for their health go through every day.  The road that day may be bumpy and rough, and it may take a tool on them, but they keep fighting through it, and when they are done, they have a beautiful path in front of them the rest of the day.

We got into St. Joseph and skirted just between two thunderstorm cells and just got a little rain, overall, nothing to complain about.  We decided to head downtown to celebrate Steve Panzer’s birthday and visit the beach of Lake Michigan to collect some rocks and have Steve stand in the lake!  The sand along the beach was very fine sand, and it blew and drifted just like snow. 

Tomorrow’s trip will have us heading down around the bottom of Lake Michigan and South of Chicago as we begin our trip back home.  We will get into Des Moines Thursday night, and then head back home to Sioux City on Friday. 

Please go to www.miracleriders.com and donate if you are able to.  We are still looking to make our goal, and need all your help, even if it is just $5, everything helps.

Day 9 - Saginaw, MI to Mackinaw Bay/St. Ignace, MI

Day 9 of the Ride for Miracles for Children’s Miracle Network started in Saginaw, Michigan and we trekked up north to the beautiful Mackinaw Bay area.  Today’s ride started off cold, but not raining!  We road up the west coast of Lake Huron, and had some beautiful scenery along the way. We did get some rain during the last half of the trip, but were still able to get some good pictures and videos, as well as finding two different lighthouses and getting a picture with a boat captain to fulfil two scavenger hunt ideas.  We are hoping to get a few more for tomorrow, so keep those coming!!

We got into Mackinaw Bay/St. Ignace and decided to take the Ferry across Lake Huron to Mackinac Island (pronounced Mackinaw actually, learned something new today!) The island is very beautiful, and there do not allow any motorized vehicles on the island, so you can walk, ride a bicycle, or take a horse drawn carriage (we walked because we prefer our two-wheeled transportation to have MOTORS!!)  We stopped at the Yankee Rebel Restaurant for dinner and got to share our story with a few people and met someone from Serbia!  We also got to meet the captain of our ferry boat and get a picture for the Scavenger Hunt, he was happy to help and enjoyed hearing our stories of our journey and why we are riding.

Tomorrow’s trip will have us heading down the east shore of Lake Michigan into St. Joseph.  It is also Steve Panzer’s birthday tomorrow, so we will be celebrating that as well! 

Also, please go to www.miracleriders.com and donate if you are able to.  We are still looking to make our goal, and need all your help, even if it is just $5, everything helps.

Day 8 - Avon, OH to Saginaw, MI

Day 8 of the Ride for Miracles for Children’s Miracle Network started in Avon, Ohio, which is a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, and we headed up to Saginaw, Michigan. Today was a very challenging day on the ride, windy, heavy rains and even some mechanical issues.  Riding in heavy rains on the interstate next to semi’s with wind makes for a stressful and nerve racking ride.  You end up wet, cold and tired after a short amount of driving.  We had to stop at a dealer for a new tire and some work on a bike that wasn’t quite running right.  Today was a day where we all were reminded that every day there are kids that are struggling to ride through their own storms.  They fight, and struggle and at the end of the day they are tired, and the more we can give them to help them through it, the stronger and faster they can overcome their struggles.

We also had one rider head back home today, Sheriff Mike Jolley had to head back home solo today, and we will miss him.  He always led our daily bike prayers, and was always there to try and lighten our moods and was always sharing stories with everyone he met.  It was on honor having him on the ride with us, and we are pleased to know he is home safe tonight.  We will have Ronnie Wilson with us still, and he will be there with us till we get to Sioux City.  Ronnie has been a rock for us as well, such a great man that has such a passion for CMN and kids its helps.  We hear more and more stories from him, and I am amazed by all the great things he has done.  We have been honored to have such great people joining us on our ride, and I am honored to be a part of this group. 

We also talked tonight about the comradery and the brotherhood we have with each other.  I have been blessed to have such a great Sioux City Posse with me as well.  Jim and Steve are amazing individuals, and love what they are doing and are passionate about helping our CMN kids, for sharing their stories, and raising the money to help them fight their battles.  They have huge hearts and determination and fortitude to ride through the tough days for these kids.  I couldn’t have asked for a better group of guys to be on the road with.  We also talked about the sisterhood building back home with Amy, Renea, and Tammy as well.  They are there for each other, helping to take care of things back home while we are out on the road.  If it wasn’t for their extra efforts, for them picking up our slack while we are gone, we wouldn’t be able to be out doing this.  They always say, behind every great man is a great woman, and we have some of the greatest!  They are doing so much behind the scenes, they are our support team, they help keep us going!!

While out eating dinner tonight, we were able to meet some great people.  A gentleman heard us talking about our ride at dinner and asked me more about it.  I shared the stories of our journey and of the kids we are raising money for, and why we ride, why it is important for us.  He then told me he was in Sioux City just a few weeks ago on business, not only that, he also told us that earlier that day, he actually passed by us on the interstate and told me at the time he was thinking, “WOW, those guys are dedicated!”  He also then told me his grandchildren were born premature, at a little over 1 pound.  He then asked if we take donations, and handed me $20.  Just goes to show you how small the world is, we traveled over 2,000 miles to get to Saginaw, MI, end up running into someone that was in our town just a few weeks ago, that also saw us earlier in the day.  And then he felt so moved, he helped out and donated, to kids in a town he didn’t live in, just because he cared.  There are good people out in the world, sometimes you just need to stop and talk to people to find out who they are!

There were others sitting next to him that listened to the story, and told me they too knew family members that had children that spent time in CMN Hospitals, and thanked us for what we were doing.  Every time we share our stories, we learn new stories from other people. It just amazes me every day that we meet new people, and everyone we end up meeting knows someone that has been helped or touched by CMN.

Tomorrow’s trip will have us heading up St. Ignace near Mackinaw Bay, Michigan.  It might be another rainy day, but we will be heading up the west coast of Lake Huron, so it should be a beautiful ride.  Remember, send us scavenger hunt ideas so we can try and get those for you!!

Also, please go to www.miracleriders.com and donate if you are able to.  We are still looking to make our goal, and need allyour help, even if it is just $5, everything helps.

Day 7 - Niagara Falls, NY to Avon, OH

Day 7 of the Ride for Miracles for Children’s Miracle Network started in Niagara Falls, NY at a balmy 45 degrees, and headed off to Avon, Ohio, which is a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. The day started off with our ride prayer, like we do every morning, but today we had Jim with us, it was a good day!

The weather was wonderful, and the views of Lake Erie were amazing!  The road along the lake was a lower speed highway, at 45 – 50 mph, so we didn’t cover a lot of miles, but hit 3 different states (New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio), we had quite a few hours in the seat (6 hours total) and had some great views.  We also had some “unplanned route deviations” (as the boys from Georgia call them) when we came across the Grape Festival parade in Geneva Ohio, which shut down a state highway.  We stopped and watched it for a few minutes and talked to a few of the spectators.  We then had to find an alternate route around the parade which sent us down our first dirt road for the trip.  All along the trip today we got to see glimpses of Lake Erie, and even got to stop and a park and meet a toddler who was more than happy to play on the teeter-totter with Sheriff. 

Tomorrow’s trip will have us heading up around Toledo, OH and Detroit, MI and up into Saginaw, Michigan.  It will be a rainy day, and for the most part, not very scenic, but we will try and get as many interesting pictures as possible.  Remember, send us scavenger hunt ideas so we can try and get those for you!!

Don't forget to keep checking the website www.miracleriders.com for our daily photos, videos and our blog.  Don’t forget to  St. Luke’s Children’s Miracle Network Facebook page.

Day 6 - Bayfield, Ontario Canada to Niagara Falls, New York

Day 6 of the Ride for Miracles for Children’s Miracle Network started in Bayfield, Ontario with about 45 degree weather.  Our journey today took us back into the United States at Niagara Falls.  We had to make a quick pit stop at the Kitchener Harley Davidson today for an oil change and tire.  While there we got to speak a lot with the staff and also were able to help donate some money for a local child fighting their own battle.                                                       

We made it to the Ontario side of the Niagara Falls first today.  What an amazing sight, the river, the falls, all of it is just to massive and spectacular, it is truly a sight to see.  While there, we found out that 150,000 gallons of water per second goes over the falls, that is 9 million gallons per minute. At that rate, it would drain West Lake Okoboji in under just one hour!

We also met back up with Jim today in Niagara Falls on the American side, it is great to have him back with the group!  Tomorrow we head out to Avon, Ohio, just West of Cleveland.  We also have our live feed back up and going now that we are back on American Cellular towers!

Don't forget to keep checking the website www.miracleriders.com for our daily photos, videos and our blog.  We are always on the lookout for scavenger hunt ideas, so talk to your kids and find out what they would like to see the Miracle Riders do, just send us a tweet or post a comment to St. Luke’s Children’s Miracle Network Facebook page.

Day 5 - Espanola, Ontario to Bayfield, Ontario

Day 5 of the Ride for Miracles for Children’s Miracle Network begins in Espanola, Ontario, kicking off early again at about 7:30am, and headed out in some cool 50 degree weather.  The journey covered just about every different landscape of Canada.  We started off in the rocky hills, went through some lake and stream areas, drove through some farm land that reminded me of home, and then ended on the rocky shores of the east bank of Huron Lake.  We have now seen and touched two of the five great lakes; Lake Superior and Lake Huron.  We will check Lake Ontario off the list tomorrow and get Lake Erie on Sunday. 

We again got to meet quite a few awesome Canadian people.  We had dinner in Bayfield at The Albion Restaurant and talked with a few different servers and Mike “Sheriff” Jolley had the opportunity to meet the kitchen staff and the owner.  We also ran into a group of Canadian bikers that came into town from a few hours away.  As we got to talking with the group, we once again found out that just about everyone you run into knows someone touched by CMN.  Our server who also works as a nanny, told us that one of the kids she watches over was a premature baby.

Tomorrow's journey has us heading across Ontario over to the Niagara Falls area. We will be taking video and pictures from both the Canada side and the American side of the Falls.  We have had a lot of kids asking to see the Niagara Falls, and want to make sure we get to show them as much of it as possible.  We will even be going on the Maid of Mist boat down near the bottom of the falls. We should cross back over the border about 2 PM and at that time, we should have our live feed back up and going again for our Maid of the Mist boat tour at Niagara Falls, so keep your fingers crossed!

Don't forget to keep checking the website www.miracleriders.com for our daily photos, videos and our blog.  We are always on the lookout for scavenger hunt ideas, so talk to your kids and find out what they would like to see the Miracle Riders do, just send us a tweet or post a comment to St. Luke’s Children’s Miracle Network Facebook page.

Day 4 - Terrace Bay, Ontario Canada to Espanola, Ontario Canada

Day 4 of the Ride for Miracles for Children’s Miracle Network starts us off bright and early in Terrace Bay, Ontario Canada. We got on the road early about 7:30am, and headed out in some very cold, wet and drizzly weather.  The day started to warm up and the sun came out a little once we hit Pancake Bay.  We stopped for a quick lunch made up of jerky, smoked trout and a trout pate on crackers (tastes way better than it sounds!)  We then continued on with our journey, and as we did the road start to get dark and rainy again.  We all got a little wet, but made it safe and sound into Espanola Ontario.  Again today I was reminded about the journey the kids at St. Luke’s have to go through.  Every day could start off sunny or cloudy and dreary, it may brighten up and become sunny, or it could get dark and rainy again.  We ride to help provide them with equipment to help make the dreary and dark times less, and the sunny times more frequent!

We also were able to meet a lot of amazing people today and share our adventure and the stories of the kids.  We even had an interesting meeting at dinner.  We were eating at the hotel restaurant, and saw a gentleman with a Georgia shirt on, so Sheriff Mike Jolley (one of the Original Posse Georgia Riders that came up to join us on our ride) went over to talk to them, and finds out they are from a town only a couple hours from him. At the end of the day, more than 2,000 miles away from home, he ended up running into someone that lived only two hours from him.  He also found out, that two of the people in the group has had their lives touched by CMN, as they had grandchildren who spent time in the NICU in Hamilton Ontario.

Each day on the ride, we talk to more and more people about CMN and the kids that they have helped.  And every time we have talked to someone, they have had someone in their lives touched by CMN, grandchildren, a son, a daughter, a niece, a nephew, someone they know and love.  Every time we hear people tell us stories about how CMN has helped someone they know, it makes the journey we are taking mean so much more for us.

Tomorrow we leave Espanola and head towards Bayside Ontario on Lake Huron, we are still having technical difficulties with the spotty cell service up in Canada, so we may not be able to get the live feed up and going right away, but we are keeping our fingers crossed we might have a solution by lunchtime.  If not, please check out our spot map and see where were at and check back to the website for our daily videos to catch up on what you missed on the live feed.  And I promise, we will have the live feed going again once we cross back over to USA on Saturday.

Don't forget to keep checking the website www.miracleriders.com, and also don't forget we're always on the lookout for scavenger hunt ideas, so talk to your kids and find out what they would like to see the Miracle Riders do, just send us a tweet or post a comment to St. Luke’s Children’s Miracle Network Facebook page.

Day 3 - Duluth, MN to Terrace Bay, Ontario Canada

Day 3 of the Ride for Miracles for Children’s Miracle Network was a long one on the road. We started off at Duluth, Minnesota and headed up for the border to visit our friends up in Canada Eh!  Day 3 was a lot time in the seat, we ended up not getting into the cottages until 10:00pm.  We crossed the border about lunchtime and headed up into Thunder Bay. First thing we did, stop by the Harley Davidson store in Thunder Bay so our Harley Miracle Riders could pick up some souvenirs.   While there we met a couple from Duluth who asked us about the ride.  We were able to talk about St. Luke’s CMN and share some stories with them, they also told us a story about their grandchildren and how their lives were touched by CMN.

After the Harley Davidson store, we then headed off to Kakabeka Falls West of Thunder Bay, for more information on the falls go to (https://www.ontarioparks.com/park/kakabekafalls)  to and also check the website for the pictures we took while there!

We ended up getting lost a few times trying to navigate Thunder Bay, okay, not we so much, as just me, the rest were just politely following me along!  With some of those unplanned detours and the a couple planned route deviations, we end up riding pretty dark into the night. We had about 2-1/2 hours of Canadian roads to navigate at night, which can be dangerous with moose and deer possibly running out from the forest and ditches along the road.  These were new roads for us, and we didn't know what to expect.  While driving along in the dark, I couldn’t help but think about how the kids at the hospital must feel like that all the time.  On a dark and scary and dark scary path, with no idea of what is in front of them or what may come out of nowhere and knock them down.  Again, just another reminder on the road of why we are doing this, with the Giraffe Omni Bed and the Cub Crib, we are helping to make the path these kids take a little easier, a little brighter and a little safer. 

On Day 4 we will Leave Terrace, Bay and head out towards Espanola Ontario.  We will get to see a lot more scenic Canadian driving and hopefully get to meet some new people be our share the message and the stories of our CMN kids.

Don't forget to keep checking the website www.miracleriders.com, we have been adding photos and a daily video under the PHOTOS page.

Lastly, send us your scavenger hunt ideas, talk to your kids and find out what they would like to see the Miracle Riders do, just send us a tweet or post a comment to St. Luke’s Children’s Miracle Network Facebook page.

Day 2 Eau Claire, WI to Duluth, MN

Day 2 of the ride for miracles for Children’s Miracle Network was another great day on the road. We started off bright and early at Eau Claire Wisconsin today and headed out to our first hospital stop at Ministry St. Joseph's Children's Hospital in Marshfield, Wisconsin. We are able to meet the CMN staff as well as the nurses on the floor, the child life services specialist and even got to meet (and badly sing along to Sweet Home Alabama with) the music therapist.  We toured the unit and got to see their wall art, specialty rooms and their Child Life Services area, which included special wheelchairs to take the kids from their rooms into surgeries or procedures, as well as play rooms and an outdoor play area.  They also had a movie kiosk where the parents or the kids could go check out DVD’s or video games to take back to their room. Their music therapist had a musical instrument cart that she would take around to the kids for them to play music or for her to play song for them to help them with their recovery. We were introduced to a very interesting program they had called PALS, which stands for Pacifier Activated Lullaby System.  Sometimes when a baby is born very young, they don’t have the natural instinct for the sucking motion, so the pacifiers promote newborns to learn that on their own by playing lullaby music while they are sucking on the pacifier.

We also stopped down and viewed some of their pediatric rehab areas.  They had an area called Independent Square, which was a unit meant to help children and adults re-learn basic life skills.  They had obstacles such as curbs, stairs, rough walking surfaces as well as things such as grocery stores, bank tellers, and even a car to help re-learn the skills needed for everyday life in a safe and monitored environment.  Our last stop at the hospital was to their Snoezelen Room, which helps with sensory rehabilitation and learning.  This room was amazing, and had different types of stimulis for all the senses.  The rooms help with kids with autism and other sensory developmental challenges.  You can see photos from our visit at www.miracleriders.com under the Photos page, and you can find more information about Snoezelen rooms at http://www.snoezelen.info/

As for the physical ride today, it went well, we had less detours (both planned and un-planned due to navigator error) but we did get our first drop of rain up in northern Wisconsin.  The group stopped for lunch at a great little family owned café named Ambers Colby Café, in Colby Wisconsin.  We happened by this completely by happenstance.  The staff was so friendly, asking about our trip, and the food was amazing, it was good the Georgia boys had to call up and Scott and rub it in a little bit!  Overall it was a long day and we are all tired but excited for our trip into Canada tomorrow, EH!  We will head out about 8:00am and hit the border just before lunch.  The drive from Duluth to Thunder Bay Ontario is going to be a beautiful ride, so don’t forget to check the live feed in the morning.  We will end our Wednesday in Terrace Bay Ontario at Jack Fish Cottages.  We will probably lose live feed once we get east of Thunder Bay a little ways, and may or may not get it back by the time we hit Jack Fish Cottage.  But you can still follow us on the SPOT map, even if the live feed goes down.

Don't forget to keep checking the website www.miracleriders.com, we have been adding photos everyday under the PHOTOS page, and as of today, we will start adding in videos each day as well now that we have the movie software working properly.

Also don't forget we're looking for scavenger hunt ideas, so talk to your kids and find out what they would like to see the Miracle Riders do, just send us a tweet or post a comment to St. Luke’s Children’s Miracle Network Facebook page.

Day 1 - Sioux City to Eau Claire

Ride for Miracles - Day 1

Well...Day 1 of the Inaugural Ride for Miracles for St. Luke's Children's Miracle Network is in the books! It was a roller coaster of a day, starting off with the sendoff ceremony which had sad moments of the riders and their families saying goodbye to heartwarming moments of Florie giving all the riders a handmade thank you card to keep us going, then the joy and excitement of getting on the ride and then the overwhelming feeling of gratitude of all the community support the riders and their families received today.

The journey will be tough, and that many miles in the seat will be physically challenging, but our most difficult struggle as riders will be missing our families. And it is that reason why we do this, because as much as we will miss them, we know we will get to see them again in 12 days. There are fathers and mothers out there with kids fighting for their health, their lives, and they don't have that comfort, they don't know if they have days or years or a lifetime with them. We want to do whatever we can do to help those kids win those battles and give their families that time with their kids.

So out on the road, Day 1 went as well as could be expected, we had a couple missed turns, a few technical difficulties with the electronics, and even ended up traveling down a couple “ATV Roads” to detour around some road construction, but overall it was a beautiful ride, and went through some very beautiful parts of the country. We also got to meet a lot of great people today, met other people from Iowa, also met a great establishment in Eau Claire, Milwaukee Burger Company, who donated some money and signed the fender of Jim’s bike.  Always nice out on the road to meet great people like that that are willing to help support our cause.

Day 2 will start tomorrow at 8:00am, leaving Eau Claire, Wisconsin heading to Wausau, Wisconsin to visit Ministry Saint Joseph’s Hospital. After that will be heading north to intersect Lake Superior and head over to Duluth, Minnesota, which we should be in about 5:30pm.

Don't forget to keep checking the website www.miracleriders.com, to watch our live feed, which hopefully we will have all the bugs worked out of tomorrow, and keep track of us on the SPOT map to see where we are at any point in time.

Also don't forget we're looking for scavenger hunt ideas, so talk to your kids and find out what they would like to see the Miracle Riders do, knowing the group of guys we got on the ride, no request will be to silly or out of the ordinary.

Why I Ride

Here it is my first blog for the first annual UnityPoint St. Luke’s Ride for Miracles. Just to warn you, I am a construction manager by trade. I know planning, I know construction, and although I find myself very funny, I have been told by others that maybe I overestimate my own humorous abilities (mostly my son, who says all my jokes are dad jokes, ha!) So, let’s get into how I got involved with CMN and why I am riding for miracles.

I have been involved with CMN since about 2004 while I was working on construction of the new Neo Natal Intensive Care unit at St. Luke’s. Part of the planning process was to get to know the units surrounding the new NICU location. One of those units was the existing NICU on the floor below. I was able to tour the unit and got to learn a lot about what happens in the NICU. I learned about the equipment, the incredible (possibly superhuman) nurses and doctors and the precious lives they cared for. The babies in that unit were very small and delicate, sensitive to their environment around them, and all of them fighting every day, every minute for their lives.

When we were getting close to completing the project, I got to meet the staff of St. Luke’s Children’s Miracle Network (also possible superheroes, I think they have quite a lot of those at St. Luke’s.) I got to see what it was they did for the babies in the NICU, the kids in the Pediatric unit and for their families. They helped provide equipment and support for those delicate little lives, to help them fight for their health. They help support the families of those kids to help them through the difficult times. I was fortunate to have had two boys of my own at St. Luke’s, and knew how blessed me and my wife were that they were born healthy. After hearing and seeing what they do at CMN, and having two boys of my own that mean the world to me, I knew I wanted to be a part of CMN and help in any way I could.

A year and a half ago, Anne Holmes at CMN asks me to meet to discuss an exciting new idea. She shows me some photos of a bunch bikers from Georgia in dusters visiting the St. Luke’s NICU. They were a group (actually more like a family) called Scott’s Ride, they rode for 7 years and raised over a million dollars for their CMN hospital in Georgia. They would get on their bikes and ride for 3 weeks across the U.S., stopping at CMN hospitals along the way, spreading the stories of their CMN kids, and raising money to help those kids.

Anne met Scott while she was in Georgia and they became friends. When Anne moved back to Siouxland she and Scott talked about starting a ride at St. Luke’s. She knew that I rode and asked what I thought about St. Luke’s doing a ride, about me joining on to do the ride. I thought it was a great idea, I loved it, but I just didn’t think I could take 3 weeks off work, take 3 weeks away from my family. With 2 little boys at home, I just didn’t think I would be able to take that much time away from them. But, I told her that we should definitely move forward with this, this needed to happen.

We met a few times after that, thinking of ways to make the ride our own. We had many different ideas, different routes, different possibilities. Anne then showed me an idea of taking 2 weeks and traveling around the Great Lakes, and I loved it! It was about that time that Scott Ressmeyer and Ronnie Wilson came up from Georgia to Sioux City. I got to meet these amazing guys that did such amazing things for the kids in their community. I got to hear the stories of their CMN kids, of the ride, and of the things they were able to do for them. They were such an inspiration to listen to, to talk to. I went home that night after meeting them and was telling my wife Amy about all the things I heard earlier, about these two bikers from Georgia I met, and all the other amazing bikers they ride with. Told her about the amazing things they did. She looked at me, and told me, “you know you have to this, you will regret it if you are sitting here at home watching it and not being there.” And, you know what, she was right (she always is, but shhh, don’t tell her I said that!)

The next day, I stopped up to see Anne, and told her, I’m in! I wanted to ride to share the stories of our CMN kids. Ride to help raise money to buy equipment to help make the daily struggles of those kids in the NICU or in Pediatrics just a little easier. And you know what, once we started talking to others, I wasn’t the only one. We had three more generous riders that wanted to do the same. Jim Symons, Steve Panzer and Jon Heie all joined up to help ride for miracles, to help the kids in our community. I have been blessed to have met these 3 fellow riders, they are incredible guys with huge hearts. All of the Miracle Riders have made the commitment to make sure that every cent raised goes directly to help sick kids in the Siouxland community. All of the riders are paying for all of our own trip expenses, things like hotels, gas, tolls, maintenance/repairs, maple syrup (because you know, you can’t go to Canada and NOT have some fresh maple syrup!) So you know that whatever money you give to help, it all goes to help those kids, you can help the kids in their daily struggles to get healthy.

So, hopefully you are all still with me at this point and didn’t run off to YouTube to watch cat videos, and hopefully you will keep stopping back to www.MiracleRiders.com to follow us along on our journey and read more as we post blogs and photos of our experiences along the ride. Also, don’t forget to stop in and watch our live feeds during the trip, we will have a couple different cameras live streaming along the ride, so it’s like you are riding on the handlebars right along with us, only a little safer than actually riding on the handlebars!