MRF Announces 2010 Research Grants

In its Spring 2010 Newsletter, the Melanoma Research Foundation announced the recipients of its annual research grants, including:

Dr. SubbaRao Madhunapantula – Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine (Hershey, PA)
Targeting Kinases to Treat Melanomas
Award in memory of Doug Gillespie, Karl J. Nelson, Linda K. Snyder, George Madzia, Nancy Fox, Scarlet Lawrence Akins, and Kent McCullough

Wine Tasting Dinner and Fundraiser

Date: Saturday, September 12, 2009

Location: The Black Sheep Vineyard, Adena, Ohio

For a ticket price of $25 per person, guests were treated to a dinner of chicken, baked potato, salad, wine cake, and a glass of wine, plus soft drinks and coffee. A Chinese raffle with donated prizes, and a 50-50 raffle were also held.

A total of $3,327.00 was raised, all for The Melanoma Research Foundation.

Thank you to everyone who helped make this event a success, and a fun time!

MRF Announces 2009 Research Grants

In its Spring 2009 Newsletter, the Melanoma Research Foundation announced the recipients of the annual research grants, including:

Dr. Soheil Dadras – Stanford University (Standford, CA)
Investigating the Role of Small Ribonucleic Acids (RNAs) in the Progression of Cutaneous Melanoma
Award in honor of Miles 4 Melanoma Pan-American Bike Ride (in memory of George Madzia), Kelly’s Dream, Wine Country Golf Classic (in memory of Joe Falso and Joe Roth) and Jessica Scruggs

We are home

During our second day in Guatemala City on Oct. 16, I packed up my things, took my bike apart, and prepared to fly home to Cleveland. Ray continued riding until Costa Rica, and is also home as of Nov. 3.

I started considering coming home during the difficult days of riding in the Chiapas Highlands. I gave myself a few more days to think it over; I didn’t want my decision to be driven by just having bad days on the bike, as I knew from the beginning that there would be many days like that. During the next few days, I enjoyed the riding a lot more, but still had feeling that I was ready to pack it in, so that told me that it was the right decision.

I’m not sure that I can really articulate the reason why I decided to come home before completing the ride. The reasons that anyone decides to start a journey like this are complicated, and the reasons why you would decide to end it are just as complicated. I suppose I might sort it out after having caught up on completing this blog, or maybe some day in a book. Either way, if I come up with any enlightening information, you’ll be able to find it here.

Our second day in Guatemala City was relaxing and enjoyable. We explored the upscale Zone 14 neighborhood where the apartment was located. We found a shopping plaza nearby, with a bagel shop where we got breakfast, and a Subway where we later got lunch. There was a dry cleaning/laundry service there, too, so Ray took his clothes to give them a good cleaning again.

I looked into getting my bike shipped home, but FedEx quoted almost $800US. So, I stripped off all of the good parts, everything that I could save and fit into my checked bags to get home. I left the frame and fork (including the bottom bracket cups and headset), fenders, handlebar, wheels, and cargo racks.

We further explored the neighborhood that evening, and ended up at Friend’s, and American music-themed restaurant and bar, and enjoyed a good dinner.

The next morning, Juan took us out to breakfast, and we said our good-byes as Ray continued on his ride, and Juan dropped me off at the airport.

I got checked in without any problems. I had a layover in Houston, where I got through customs without any hassles, and later arrived on-time at 10:38pm in Cleveland on Friday, October 17, 2008.

Day 53: Chimaltenango, GT to Guatemala City, GT

With a short mileage day to get to Guatemala City, we took our time this morning, walking back into the main part of town for breakfast. We found and enjoyed a typical local place, with eggs, beans, good tortillas, and good coffee.

The road was somewhat hilly, but not too strenuous, but there was a lot of traffic, being close to a major city. Another recommended side stop that we had to miss was the nearby historic colonial city of Antigua. On the highway near the exit for Antigua, we came across “La Casa del Waffle” (The Waffle House). I’m sure the name was inspired by the American chain, but it was no official relation. It obviously catered American tourists; the parking lot had signs like “Jeff Gordon Fans Parking Only” and “Dale Jr. Fans Parking Only.” The inside was decorated with posters and pictures from Three Stooges films. We wondered if the owner had a particular fondness for the Three Stooges, or if he assumed that all Americans did. The food was good American breakfast fare, but with just enough of a south-of-the-border twist that we didn’t feel like we were totally selling out.

There was a scenic overlook for the Guatemala City just as the highway began its descent into the city. The traffic got especially heavy from here on in. We stopped in the suburb if Mixco, where we found a Sherwin-Williams store, and took a break to call Juan, our contact in the city. Juan gave us directions to meet him at El Obolisco, an easily-recognizable landmark near the city center. We dodged traffic for a few more miles until we finally reached El Obolisco and waited until Juan arrived to lead us in his car to the apartment he arranged for us to use for a few days.

We settled in at the apartment, which was in a very nice neighborhood of the city. We never ended up venturing out to explore yet this evening, though. After getting organized and catching up on other things in the apartment, we got tired and it got late, so we just sent out for pizza.

Day 52: 4 Caminos, GT to Chimaltenango, GT

Among the noise and smog of 4 Caminos, the breakfast options weren’t looking too good at first, but after looking at and ruling out a couple of places, we poked our heads inside another, and once inside, it was actually a pretty nice and cozy place. The coffee and eggs were good and fresh, and as usual, made all the better by those thick Guatemalan tortillas.

There were more hills to climb and descend today. We ran into some road construction, and had to make our way dodging past some boulders that were being pushed off a cliff by a bulldozer from a temporary roadway up above.

After riding 20km up, 10km down, the 10km up again, we stopped for some lunch of fresh fried pork rinds. We learned there that Chimaltenango was another 80km to go, with more of the same road conditions. So we decided to catch a ride from the general store across the road. We had inquired about getting a small van or pickup truck, similar to what we had taken in Mexico, and it sounded like that’s what we were getting, but soon a big converted school bus pulled up, and we were motioned to get ready to get on board. We unhooked our panniers from our bikes, and help lift them up to the top of the bus, where they were just placed without any straps or rope to hold them in place at all.

It was a tough squeeze working our way into the mostly-full bus seats, with a very narrow aisle to accommodate ourselves and all the bags we carried. Room was made for us in two separate rows, though, about halfway back. The ride was quite an adventure; imagine your stereotypical third-world bus ride scenario from “Romancing the Stone” or another such movie. The road made the same climbs, descents, twists, and turns that we’ve gotten used to on the bikes. There was more construction, sometimes with the road reduced to one lane, or gravel or dirt surface. The bus driver took all this in stride and at full speed. Just when you thought he would not dare try to pass on that blind turn or into oncoming traffic in the left lane, sure enough, he would. All the while, vendors stood at the front of the bus, reciting their sales pitches (or preaching from The Bible), trying to peddle their goods to their captive audience.

We passed a popular tourist and resort area that was recommended to us, Lake Atitlan. It is surrounded by volcanoes, and is reputed to be one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. There looked to be lots of good lodging options, and it would have been a bike-able distance, but since we had somebody expecting us in Guatemala City within the next couple of days, we unfortunately had to abide by our self-imposed timetable.

When we boarded the bus, Ray had told the driver to just let us off in the city of Chimaltenango wherever it was convenient for them, near the center if possible, since were weren’t familiar with the city anyway. When we finally got to the city, they dropped us off, and hoisted our bikes off the roof. They appeared to be in one piece and in working order, thankfully; we were amazed that they had arrived at all. As we loaded our panniers back onto our racks, Ray happened to notice where we had ended up being dropped off and gave me a nudge. It was right in front of a Sherwin-Williams store! So we stopped in and got a picture.

We rode around the main plaza area to try to find a hotel, but ended up a few blocks away before finding a place. It was very reasonably priced, but probably the most secure establishment I have ever stayed in. To access it from outside, there was a large steel gate that was kept locked. Once inside, the courtyard/parking area and the rooms were very well kept.

After getting cleaned up and relaxing in the room for a while, we walked back into the center of town to explore. Ray got a much-needed haircut; I probably could have used one, but decided to pass. This seemed like a fairly working-class city, but oddly enough, we saw the first signs of a recreational bike culture here for the first time since leaving the US. From the bus on the way into town, we saw three guys on high-end mountain bikes riding up the road, wearing spandex and helmets and the whole deal. While in town, we saw one of these same guys hanging out in the street talking to a guy on a nice road bike.

For dinner, we decided on a local pizza place. After eating, we still felt kind of hungry, so we went to the Domino’s up the street and got two more pizzas (another two-for-the-price-of-one deal), then headed back to the hotel.

Day 51: Chimusinique, GT to 4 Caminos, GT

After breakfast at the Hotel Pino Montana, there were many ups and down in store for us in the road today. First there was a 10km ride uphill, then 10km downhill. Then 45km uphill, 15km downhill. We made a couple of stops along the way, for snacks, water, lunch, and to ask how much longer we’d be riding uphill. It seems like the answer was the same every time–“Oh, you’ve just got this little bit more of uphill, then it’s all pretty flat from there.” And then we’d continue going up, up, and up.

We ordered hamburgers at the lunch stop, and they ended up being these tiny one-and-a-half-inch patties on huge buns. We were hungry and were tempted to get seconds, but I didn’t want to reward their providing a bad product by getting more of that product. But I did feel kind of bad; when we first pulled up, the man of the house yelled to his wife to come out to serve us. As we were eating, though, he was heading out, and looked back at us and said “Thank you” in English; I felt he was being very sincere and grateful. The whole experience made me think that we were the only customers they had in weeks.

Our destination for the day was Quetzaltenango, but the town of 4 Caminos was on the way. We were told that Quetzaltenango was a nice place to visit, but it was another 15 kilometers off of the highway, and we would have had to ride that 15 extra kilometers back the next morning, so we decide to just stay in 4 Caminos. The name means just “4 roads,” and that’s all the town was, a crossroads that it seemed nobody came to unless on the way to somewhere else. There was endless traffic streaming through the one traffic light, mostly school buses converted to passenger buses, taxis, and semi-trucks, all blowing their horns endlessly. As we sat at a Chinese place for dinner, the constant din coming from outside was almost comical.

The hotel was decent, though, and they had cable TV, on which we were able to enjoy the Cleveland Browns beat the New York Giants on Monday Night Football.

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