Dedicating Our Rides

As Joy mentioned in her post: Our Inspiration , we are cycling across the US to honor and remember Warren Thornthwaite, who lived a wonderful life until it was cut short by Glioblastoma Multiform (GBM), a terrible brain cancer.

But Warren wasn’t the only friend or family member who has been struck down prematurely or suffered a debilitating health issue while still in the prime of their lives. To honor those who have lost their battle and to send positive energy to those who are continuing their battles, we will be dedicating portions of our ride to those folks. We’ve tackled some pretty grueling days and we have plenty more ahead of us. Over the next weeks and months we’ll periodically dedicate rides to these folks. Thanks to our friend, Naomi Dushay for inspiring this idea.

We start these dedications retroactively (for the climb up the Sierras which started on Tuesday and which we expect to finish Monday morning) with introducing you to  Elizabeth Plageman and her husband, Michael Olson. They are a charming couple in their late thirties who should be focused on starting a family but are instead focused on Elizabeth’s ongoing battle against cancer. Only a few months ago they went from a couple who enjoyed drinking coffee and strolling along the Santa Cruz beach to a couple facing the most personally challenging of situations. Since late Fall Elizabeth has undergone chemotherapy sessions, a series of very difficult hospital stays, a few operations, and faces at least one more operation on the near horizon. On top of all these personal health issues, Elizabeth lost her father to cancer a few weeks ago. When she wasn’t hospitalized herself, Michael would drive her from Santa Cruz to Oakland to visit her hospitalized father.

I had the pleasure of working with Michael at Stanford University Libraries for more than four years. Michael is a warm, generous, patient and polite colleague. (Not surprisingly, he’s Canadian.) In our few interactions with Elizabeth I found her to be smart, witty, and vibrant. Although Elizabeth did her undergraduate work at the wrong school (that would be Berkeley) she redeemed herself by earning her law degree from Stanford University. She works for Apple and is somehow associated with licensing and the Apple Developer community but I never got a really good sense of what she does because, well, lawyers are like that. Elizabeth apparently excels in negotiation and according to Michael, you really don’t want to be on the other side of the negotiating table from her. Since Michael is Canadian, they are a good match for each other. Based on comments Michael has made, my sense is that while she publicly claims to not like dogs, I think she’s softie at heart when it comes to four-legged companions.
I am attaching a watercolor that Elizabeth recently created while passing the time during chemo sessions, or more accurately, being “infused” which is a very painful process. As Michael commented:
I am astounded at the beauty that she was able to create while throwing up in a bucket. She is a talented woman beyond my reckoning. I am thrilled to have her in my life.
Painting by Elizabeth Plageman created while being infused during cancer treatment

(Note that all image rights are reserved by the creator and any other legalese that will keep Elizabeth from suing me for including an image of her artwork in a post.

So, to Elizabeth and Michael, as we strain, and groan, and swear at the unfair steepness of the mountains, and too hot sun, and sometimes think of throwing up ourselves, we’ll keep in perspective that all our pain is self-inflicted and temporary and nothing compared to what you two are going through.We wish you all the best.

3 thoughts on “Dedicating Our Rides

  1. To be fair, the idea of dedicating a day’s ride came from Dave Dornan, an amazing guy who was my realtor in Fort Collins, Colorado. Dave bicycled across the country, Portland, OR to Portland, ME last summer as a retirement present to himself. He sent us emails after most days, and dedicated nearly every day’s ride to a loved one.


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