Robb and I pedaled 758 miles total in 5 ½ days of cycling to bring awareness to a child’s fundamental right to be loved, guided, nurtured and educated by both fit and willing parents. This bicycle trek was also designed to bring awareness to an equal parenting bill in Michigan – Michigan House Bill 4564. I was told a couple months prior to the start of the Equal Parenting Bike Trek that I had suffered from a minor heart attack and this was confirmed by a cardiologist. I told very few people about this. Oddly enough and to my relief I was given a green light on attempting this incredible journey which would test me both physically and mentally. Would this be a success? Would I ever do it again? What made me dive into this in the first place? Why would anyone put themselves through this much pain? Would we be recognized in some fashion for our sacrifices?
Looking back at those 5 days I realize that there is nothing you can do to totally prepare for the hell Robb and I put our bodies through. We experienced several accidents which we have the scars to prove, but worse of all I suffered a heat stroke which was a horrible experience to say the least. It was so bad that several members of the Equal Parenting Bike Trek Chase Vehicle Crew debated over calling an ambulance. A couple of the accidents, if they would have gone differently, could have killed Robb and I. We reached a maximum speed of 54 mph on bicycles in the mountains of Pennsylvania! You can view a video of us reaching 43 mph and after watching it imagine adding another 11 mph to what you see. Hitting a single piece of road debris at this speed would have thrown us from the bicycle and most likely killed us instantly. An example of this would be the accident in the 1995 Tour de France which killed the Olympic gold medal champion Fabio Casartelli.
I slept only one hour the night before one of the most difficult tasks I had ever undertaken both physically and mentally. I had so many thoughts running through my mind which made it essentially impossible for me to sleep. The promotion efforts leading up to the start of the Equal Parenting Bike Trek left me exhausted before I had the chance to even pedal a single stroke on August 11th 2007. The amount of media that this generated was so overwhelming that I felt tired of doing media related interviews even though I knew their incredible value to our cause. I will never forget finishing up a phone interview with Sondra Gunderman of Christ’s News Service while News 8 Wood TV was waiting inside my house to start their interview for the evening newscast. I enjoyed the interview with Channel 3 TV News WWMT the most!
The extent of media coverage was also helped by the fact that on Father’s day I found out that I had won runner-up in Best Life Magazine’s National Hero Dad Contest. It shocked me that a mainstream magazine with 3 million readers nationwide would pick a non-custodial father as their runner-up winner in a nationwide contest. Apparently I was nominated by several people and through the selection process, which included the input of the National Fatherhood Initiative, I passed up numerous qualified candidates and won runner up! This was a pleasant Father’s day surprise when I heard the news. I viewed this not as a win for me but for all of those in the movement who were trying so hard to end the current state of madness within the family court systems.
The media coverage which I was most proud of was when I received a phone call from Phyllis Schlafly. She read me the portion of her commentary article which included me in it and I was thrilled. I have always admired her work and accomplishments. This was truly a great honor and I am still rather shocked upon reflection. Her list of accomplishments in affecting society in a positive way, by her courage and intellect, could fill a thick book.
I had put together an incredible crew to follow Robb and I in a chase vehicle the entire 700 plus miles! My pregnant wife, Angela, supported this effort and she never complained once. I have always admired: 1) Her intelligence 2) As a step-mother to my two children from another marriage 3) Her unconditional love 4) Her profession as a Registered Nurse 5) Her ability to make me happy by nothing more than her smile. I have always viewed her as an angel and looked at our coming together as divine intervention.
Carol Rhodes, author of “Friend of the Court Enemy of the Family”, agreed to the long commitment of being a part of the chase vehicle crew. I admired Carol very much based on my past experiences with her. I felt relieved when she agreed to make this tremendous commitment. We also had the help of Delete and this put me at ease because he had helped Robb last year when he rode by himself.
I was lucky and grew up with both of my parents in the house along with three incredible brothers which I am still close with to this day. I have an amazing amount of respect and admiration for my parents for far too many reasons to list here. They were always there for me in life and once again they stood by their son. My parents arrived the night before the start of the bike trek and slept for probably two hours tops that night. The fact that they drove from South Bend, IN to make sure they were in Lansing, Michigan when Robb and I departed meant the world to me.
The night before I left for the Equal Parenting Bike Trek I attempted to call my son and daughter a total of four times with no contact. My children are young and the phone is not in their control. All I wanted to do that night was to tell them how much I loved them and that I would call them every night while I was gone. My son, at the age of 4 ½, wanted to come with me and was excited about what I was doing. He asked me several times why I was doing this and my only response each time was that I was pedaling to Washington, D.C. on a bicycle “because I wanted to tell the world how much I loved him and his sister”.
We arrived at 6am the morning of August 11th at the Lansing Capitol for the departure. I was thrilled to first see Murray Davis, of the National Family Justice Foundation, there to greet us so early in the morning. Robb and I were both so thankful for all of those who showed up so early and drove to Lansing, MI to see us depart. I watched how Robb interacted with his daughter and I saw so many similarities between them. I could tell she admired him. I immediately knew why Robb still fights to just get a few more days a year to spend with her. After numerous pictures near the Lansing Capitol, Robb and I departed at 7am for our long journey to Washington, D.C. The last thing I saw was the concerned look on my wife’s face.
I knew I was in for the ride of my life when I saw Robb and his quads were massive and all muscle. He had an incredible set of lungs that probably, in each breath, exchanged three times the amount of air as mine. Robb was a big guy…not obese big but NFL football player big to put things in proportion. I had a tremendous amount of respect for Robb because of his effort in doing this last year with no other cyclist to join him. I was one of the few that helped to promote his solo trip in 2006 and I made this You Tube Video for him.
Robb and I started this 700 plus mile journey as friends and ended it as life-long friends with mutual admiration for one another. Through conversations prior to the departure we learned that we were born on the same day and both of us were born on Easter. We became the type of friends which I have found do not come along that often in life. We had to trust each others cycling as well, because one wrong move during a descent could potentially wipe us both off of this earth.
As Robb and I were pedaling in the streets of Lansing we crossed over a set of railroad tracks and then shortly afterwords we heard an explosion. It was so loud that it made people on the side walk jump! I was going roughly 25 mph and nearly killed myself. I picked up a small piece of metal road debris when crossing the tracks and it sliced my tube and tire to the point where they came completely off of my wheel. I then saw sparks flying everywhere as I was rolling down the street with my rear bare metal wheel. I came very close to colliding with Robb as I attempted to stop without killing myself. Six hundred dollars later I had a new set of wheels and tires. I did not want to spend that money but I had no choice if I was to pedal all the way to Washington, D.C. I could not quit! I looked forward to the police escort and welcome party we anticipated in Adrian Michigan.
Below are the comments that Carol Rhodes posted in our guestbook. I thought they were worth posting because so many people worked hard to make this a reality. Thank you Carol for all that you did to make this 700 mile bicycle trek a success! Please feel free to submit your own comments in the Equal Parenting Bike Trek guestbook.
Here are Carol's comments:
Dan-The Man-Diebolt was the brilliance and wisdom behind the camera and computer along the trek. Every cause needs a genius.
Robert Pedersen was the man of action that could grab the media attention with all the skill and charisma of a future politician. He will be famous and powerful one day very soon.
Angela Pedersen is half Angel and half Princess. There isn't anything that she can't do -flawlessly!
Robb Mackenzie is the man of steel who is truly a machine. He eats pain for breakfast and kept us laughing ALL the way!
Carol Rhodes knows the camp of the enemy inside and out and loves to cheer our heroes on! We were [and are] truly a team -stronger together!
PS - Ron Smith has my vote for the next US President. Jim Semerad is a gentleman and a scholar who kept our wheels rolling. Pat McElligott is truly my inspiration. Jay Fedewa is one class act we all admire. Dr. Michael Ross rocks! And the list goes on...! These are just a few of the talented players from Michigan working together to make a difference. Lets ride the momentum until we make something important happen.
Watch Robert Pedersen and Robb MacKenzie during their 700 mile trek to bring awareness to a child's fundamental right to equal time with both fit and willing parents after a divorce.
View their trek via GPS!!! View frequently uploaded videos and pictures!!! This will be the start of something that year after year will become massive in scope! Already the media and blogger coverage has been outstanding!