Thursday, May 7
Another day and more dogs! The last thing I was thinking of when we planned this trip was to beware of dogs. But, you have to watch out for them. Just as we entered Texas, a pit bull came flying out of nowhere from behind me. It scared me like you wouldn’t believe. Fortunately I was holding pepper spray and got him to back down.
Last night we did a radio and TV show with some coaches from McNeese State. They were great. We then went to dinner at a restaurant in Lake Charles called The Seafood Palace. The waitress was a big Bills fan. She grew up in Buffalo (Grand Island). The owner, Dave Papania, brought out more food than you could possibly imagine. Then, he picked up our tab. Add to that, he donated $200 to our cause. Thanks Dave!
Dick Comar, who was a coach at Michigan State and with the Buffalo Bills, is driving the school bus we’re delivering to the orphanage. He’s also our Mr. Fixit. He’s been repairing our bikes. In fact, he’s working on one right now. We couldn’t make this trip without him.
We rode well over 100 miles today along the back roads of Louisiana and Texas. We made it to Beaumont, Texas. That’s where Bubba Smith and George Webster were from. Those were the guys that made John, Eljay and I want to go to Michigan State.
Bubba’s dad was a high school coach down here and knew Duffy Daugherty, our coach with the Spartans. So, Duffy used to recruit this area a lot.
Tomorrow we’re riding to Houston and going to take in an Astros game.
5/7/09, 4:45 p.m.
Wednesday, May 6
We had an interesting day today. We rode from Baton Rouge to De Ridder, Louisiana which is about 120 miles. We took all back roads. It’s a route a lot of bikers take.
All three of us got chased by dogs today. Mine was real big like a Chihuahua. Actually, it was a mid-sized dog that came out after me. I grabbed my pepper spray and shot it toward him. I didn’t think the stuff works but it really does. You don’t even spray the dog directly just the smell of it makes them stop. He stopped right in his tracks!
A word of advice to anyone reading this blog, if you ever use pepper spray, don’t rub your eyes afterwards. I had some on my hands and it ended up getting on me. I was a bit uncomfortable there for awhile.
I guess a bunch of dogs were abandoned during Hurricane Katrina and these ones came running out of the woods at us. Pretty scary. We also saw a lot of black and red snakes along the way – a bunch that were hit by cars. I hear they’re pretty poisonous. So, to say the least, we tried to stay on the road and not end up in a ditch along the way today! Then, when we got off our bikes, there were tons of red ants everywhere.
We rode by crawfish farms. It was really interesting, just miles and miles of crawfish farms. You don’t find those in East Lansing, Michigan.
We came across this little shack of a general store. A husband and wife have owned it for 50 years. He told me that they get bikers from all over the country who pass by and stop at the store. I asked him where the restroom was and he pointed me outside to the back of building, literally!
It is amazing when we look at a map and see how far we’ve come. To think that we were at Michigan State less than two weeks ago and tomorrow our goal is Beaumont, Texas.
All in all, we had lot of fun today. We shared lots of laughs. Hey, between the snakes, dogs and red ants, what other motivation do we need to keep biking!
5/6/09, 6:10 p.m.
Tuesday, May 5
When we woke up today and went to check out, the owner of the hotel didn’t charge us. His name is Virgil Jackson and his place is great, the Comfort Suites overlooking the Mississippi River. What a great gesture. I can’t thank Virgil enough for his kindness. Then, when we’re leaving the hotel, a guy who is a big Buffalo Bills fan came up and gave us money for the orphanage. Here’s a working guy who is just busting his butt and here he is giving us a donation. Wow.
We were in a groove today. We actually biked 36 miles past Baton Rouge and then had to drive back because we’re spending the night there. It’s the first time on the trip that we had to back track to where we’re staying. At times today, we were actually moving faster than traffic because of tie-ups on the road.
It’s really amazing what a human being can do when they put their minds to it. Until three months ago, I had never really bicycled much. There are a lot of lessons learned from sports. The three of us are just so determined. We’re doing 12-15 mile increments and there’s no way that any of us would cut our leg of the trip short. We really work hard to push ourselves and each other.
I get a lot of time to think as I’m pedaling away. Today, I thought a lot about Elvin Bethea’s wife. Elvin and I were inducted together in 2003 and have become really good friends. Elvin’s wife had surgery yesterday and she’s doing really well. My thoughts and prayers are going out to her. The Betheas will be flying east in August and then we’ll drive together to Canton for the Enshrinement.
I’m thankful every day for what I have. I think how great it is to be a part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. That has afforded me the opportunity to not have to work every day and can do something like this ride and help raise awareness and money for the orphanage.
And, without the Hall of Fame, Elvin and I would not have become such great friends.
5/5/09, 5:10 p.m.
Monday, May 4
We just finished the Natchez Trace Parkway – 440 miles. To think four days ago, we were in Nashville and now I’m sitting in my room overlooking the Mississippi River. It’s just amazing how fast we did the trail!
I think the “travel gods” were looking over us. We rode through a stretch today that looked like a tornado hit it. Trees were down everywhere. We would have been in real trouble had we rode through here yesterday.
We made it to Vidalia, Louisiana, just across the state line from Mississippi. When we checked in the hotel, the attendant knew I was a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He instantly asked me if I knew Billy Shaw. Billy’s from across the river in Natchez, Mississippi and is legend in this area.
A trip like this continues to remind me how great football is for teaching teamwork. Day in and day out, Eljay, John and I work to help each other keep moving forward. It’s such a good lesson for life.
Well, we’re going to go do some sightseeing tonight and learn a little history.
5/4/09, 4:45 p.m.
Sunday, May 3
Today was kind of a melancholy day. I woke up and heard the news that Jack Kemp passed away. It makes you start thinking of all connections in Buffalo. And, to have just lost Coach Lou Saban, it makes me think of some of past teammates like Jim Braxton and Bob Chandler. I think of how lucky I am.
I’ve been wearing this football helmet on the ride just to make a statement perhaps for some who can’t make it. And I’m wanting the young kids to be aware that there’s really good equipment out there that’s just so much better than what we had during my day.
It rained like you wouldn’t believe today. To tell you the truth, we haven’t had a really great day yet. But, we did more today than we expected. We rode about 140 miles and ended up in Jackson, Mississippi.
We’re halfway there now that we’ve finished Day 9! I’m feeling pretty good.
Photo: John Shinksy and pose along the Natchez Trace Parkway.
5/3/09, 5:20 p.m.
Saturday, May 2
It was a perfect day. For the first time all trip, we beat the storms. The weather was great. We went about 110 miles today.
We continued along the Natchez Trace Parkway and it is just so scenic. It’s ranked among the top ten parks in the country. We rode over the Tennessee River and it was just incredible. We also rode by some Indian Mounds from 21 A.D! They were nine football fields longs.
We made it to West Point, Mississippi which is just about 12 miles from the Mississippi State campus.
I went to a laundromat and washed our clothes and then went to Mass. Now we’re sitting down for a nice dinner at a local place called Oby’s.
That’s about it from today. We’re feeling great! It’s hard to believe that just last Saturday we were in East Lansing.
5/2/09, 8:00 p.m.
Friday, May 1
We had another unbelievable day on the road. We finished up going through some bad thunderstorms.
Wayne Coffey of the New York Daily News rode with us yesterday and started out with us again today for the story he’s writing about our trip. He said it was one of the coolest things to cover. There’s just so much to do with it. He’s really gotten to know John, who’s got an amazing story.
I went on Sirius NFL Radio’s show about the Hall of Fame. It’s a segment called “Countdown to Canton” each Friday where one of us Hall of Famers go on the air with them. Former 49er Randy Cross (NFL.com: Historical Players) was the host. I know Randy really well and he was great. He knew all the right questions to ask and it was really nice that he was so familiar with what I’m doing.
Going back to John, and Eljay. They’re just extremely smart guys. I’ve played with a lot of tough players and they remind me of a guy like Dick Ambrose (NFL.com: Historical Players) who was so tough and smart. John has his PhD and Eljay was the head of the Secret Service. But aside from being smart, they’re really, really tough. This is a tough thing to do. They have 23 surgeries between the two of them! Eljay had a knee replacement in his early 30s and John is a cancer survivor. I have a whole new respect for them. I’ve always respected them but I have whole new appreciation. I’m in awe of the sacrifice they’re making.
|With football fans in Dover, TN. They're third generation of owners at Barrett Tire.
Today, we’re making our way along the Natchez Trace Parkway that spans 500 miles. It’s absolutely gorgeous. And, we’re seeing pretty much every type of wild animal you can imagine – wild turkeys, bald eagles, coyotes, deer, just all sorts of animals.
Well, I feel fantastic. I trained hard and the body feels good. I feel like 18 even though the guy in the mirror doesn’t look 18! I’m really becoming a bike enthusiast.
Lastly, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the phone calls I’m getting from former players and teammates. They’re calling to encourage me to keep going. It’s really great.
5/1/09, 5:40 p.m.
Thursday, April 30
We rode 120 miles today through a nice parkway and the some back roads of Tennessee. Eljay got chased by dogs a couple of times.
Everywhere we stop, it’s been fun. We’re learning a lot of history. People are just amazed that guys our age are doing this. We’re having a ball. We’re all feeling pretty good.
It’s been rather interesting today. A reporter from the New York Daily News flew down and rode with us for a story he’s writing. We’re really getting a lot of publicity.
I’ve been wearing a football helmet on the ride to make a statement about how vital it is to protect the head. It’s been so important all the research that has been done to protect players from concussions. So, anyway, at the end of each day, since I’m wearing this helmet, John hits me as hard as he can! It’s kind of becoming our end-of-day ritual.
Thanks to Eljay’s career with the Secret Service, we’ve been receiving updates from the State Department regarding the swine flu. As of now, we plan on continuing into Mexico at the end. But, we’ll obviously be smart about it.
We’re spending the night in Waverly, Tennessee and we’ll be ready to go in the morning.
4/30/09, 4:55 p.m.
Wednesday, April 29
Got up early and hit the road at 6:30 this morning. We made it to Madisonville, Kentucky today and beat the rain.
I also have to point out that the one thing the guys have determined today is that I’m quirky. They told me that this is the last trip that they will go on with me unless I bring my wife Geri!
Seriously now, last night was an incredible experience. We ate at a restaurant in Evansville, Indiana that was literally a log cabin. Abraham Lincoln actually ate there. We were eating dinner when a father and his special needs child walked in for dinner. After he inquired about what we were doing, he gave us a check for $1,000. Then, people sitting around us also gave us money.
It’s been really incredible. People are really behind us. We had a guy stop us a gas station and ask about the orphanage and then gave us $20. As we passed through Terre Haute, a guy who read about the trip in this Hall of Fame blog drove the route to find us. It ends up he went to grade school with Shinsky and just wanted to congratulate him for doing this.
I have to think all the time, it’s not easy but it’s worth it. When we get in at night, it feels like we just finished the fourth quarter and we won the game.
Back to news