Friday, April 24, 2020

Riding Bike from Vegas to LA for Veterans' Mental Health - Part II

World's Tallest Thermometer
Baker, CA.

It's not letting up until dark.
Day two of my 300-mile bike ride in three days from Vegas to LA I woke up in the car at 8 am feeling good. I grabbed a sandwich from subway for a little added nourishment, stretched and hit the road. After a quick stop at the World's Tallest Thermometer, I rode on, still into a gentle breeze in my face.

Yermo sign
Yermo Vehicles

Train leaving Yermo
By noon the wind was no longer gentle and had become a 15 - 20 mph headwind pushing against me. I had seen no sign of wind like this when I checked the weather reports prior to my trip. I battled through the wind as I approached an old foe, Yermo & Ft. Irwin CA. For those of you who have been as a member of the military, you know, THIS PLACE SUCKS! For everyone else, it's just an old rundown military town with a 50's dinner by the name of Peggy Sue's that you may stop at on the long drive from Vegas to LA. For most vets, the memories of loading vehicles on and unloading them off the trains, knowing other soldiers have lost their lives doing this simple task is only the tip of the ice berg. Ft. Irwin is a place where you went train for war and sweat your tail off for a month in Iraq like conditions. On the plus side the enemy only has blanks! On the negative side you are cut off from contacting friends and family just like the real thing, only its worse because you know civilization is so close and this is only training so a phone call would not compromise OPSEC.

ARMY Flag in Yermo

Off-ramp to Hell
Sign to God

With the memories on my mind, I pushed through and headed for Barstow CA, as the wind reached 20+ mph. By 5 pm I had had enough of that and resigned to the fact that staying in Barstow for the night was the smart decision, even if it meant not making it to the pier in the 3 days I had set out to do.

Day 2 Map
Day 3 I woke up a little sore but figured, with only 50 of the 140 miles left being uphill, that if I could do the first 45 in four hours I would have a chance to complete the journey on schedule. Along the first 45 miles, I spent a little time on the old route 66 trail which had some pretty neat sights.

                              Route 66 Building


As far as my target of four hours, I came up about 10 minutes short of that time but I wasn't going to let that take my goal off the table. After a short break eating artichokes for the potassium in Hesperia CA, I finished my climb to the Cajon summit. It was darn cold and quite windy up there but I didn't mind as I knew the rest of the journey was downhill.

After a quick Facebook Live, I tightened my helmet and began the most dangerous and exhilarating part, flying down the mountain from Cajon Summit 40+ mph on the shoulder of Interstate 15, almost keeping up with the semis only a couple of feet away from me. Despite a couple of close calls with disaster, including swerving out into traffic to narrowly avoid smashing into the back of an illegally parked work truck taking up the entire shoulder, I raced down into the greater LA area.

LA Sunset
Rancho Cucamonga was a bit rainy which caused some vision problems presenting another obstacle to overcome if was going to make it to the pier that night. As I approached the city of Los Angeles the rain stopped and the clouds became broken. At that point I knew nothing was going to stop me from finishing tonight, even if it was dark. I continued on, watching the sunset behind the buildings of LA. In downtown LA (17th  Figueroa) I met up with Jessica as darkness set in so she could charge my phone in the car while following me with the headlights on and hopefully I wouldn't get run over. When I made it to the boardwalk she returned my phone so I could bring viewers the last mile with me on Facebook Live.

I felt sooo proud of my accomplishment as I dodged sleeping homeless people while others made it a little more difficult by wandering into my path zombie-like out of the darkness. This part of the experience made me a little scared but then the thought struck me "There but for the grace of God (and the love and encouragement of my family, friends and especially my wife wife Jessica) go I." Some of these homeless freaks probably were veterans teetering on the edge of insanity just like I have been at different points. Unfortunately they have had the experience of falling off that cliff, something many of us struggle not to do every day.

As I approached the pier I wanted to finish my video with my thought of the day which had been running through my mind continuously since I realized I was going to finish…
"Fellow vets, yesterday may have been a struggle, but, today is a new day. Lean forward. You've got this..."
It came out of my exhausted mouth slightly different, but I hope you all understand the message. Keep your head up and keep pushing. This too shall pass!

Day 3 Ride Summary

I want to thank all of you for your support not only financially if you donated but for commenting on and sharing my Facebook updates along with the texts I received. Every one of you contributed not only to me achieving my goal but to a few more veterans knowing they can turn to Nation Veterans Foundation and they will be there even when times are rough.  I will still have my account open for a while at or you can donate directly at any time.

The last thank you goes out to Darryn at River Mountains bike shop. Without him and his business, 
none of this would have happened. I met Darryn back in August 2019, when it was over 100 degrees out but I wasn't going to let that stop me from training for BBABAA. When I rode to up to his business looking a wreck as I had no idea how to properly distance cycle and was riding the wrong equipment, he offered me some water, a map of good places to train, advice, and words of encouragement. Since then, Darryn has become a friend and cycling mentor.  Darryn wanted to do what he could to help with my mission to bring awareness to veterans' mental health and lent me a proper bike to train on which ended up being the one I made this 300-mile ride with. Thanks, Darryn!

If any of you live in the Las Vegas area and need a repair or lube, he does great work. If you are in town visiting and need a rental bike to get some exercise and see the nature surrounding Las Vegas, he does that too. If you are a local in need of space to store your boat, trailer, or RV this is the place as well. The River Mountains Loop trail between Henderson and Lake Mead is defiantly a fun and challenging place to ride and the bike shop has all your needs to get you ready to start or for a quick recharge on your route.

Thank you for going on this adventure with me!
My blog is normally all about sports.
With Coronavirus shutting things down I decided to use this platform to tell you about my ride.

NFL draft thoughts will be coming soon...

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Riding Bike from Vegas to LA for Veterans' Mental Health - Part I

BBABAA shirts available at

Since August 15, 2018, I have spent countless hours planning, preparing, and training for a bicycle ride from Major League baseball game to game, from coast to coast, to raise awareness for veterans' mental health. My overall goal was to communicate a couple of messages to other veterans. First, I want everyone to understand your mental health is just as important as your physical health and needs to be maintained the same way. Staying physically active is a vital part of keeping your mind strong. However, even if you are as strong as an ox physically, we all still need to lean on each other for help mentally and that does not make you weak.

In recent weeks it was becoming increasingly clear that all my hard work was going to have to be greatly adjusted or wasted because of the Coronavirus pandemic. In late March President Trump and the major sports executives had a discussion and it was announced baseball with fans in the stands won't happen until at least August. At that point, I knew the stadium to stadium ride was not going to be feasible but I wanted to still get the message out there and hold up my end of the bargain as best I could to those of you who had already contributed.

With my spirits being crushed not only about the ride but in the current state of our country, socially and financially, I knew I can't be the only one who is feeling a bit down and I wanted to change that. Aaron and I had already been planning to partner with National Veterans Foundation for the ride across the country. After talking to them and finding out they were not being deterred by COVID-19 I wanted to get the word out to others that this great organization is still there during these hard times to help any vet who needs it in any way.

A plan came to my head and after speaking to a couple of my biggest supporters I decided to set an example for other vets that there are still ways to get out and exercise while enjoying the fresh air and sunshine all while following social distancing guidelines. Also, I wanted vets who weren't aware to know, if you don’t know where to turn, National Veterans Foundation is always there to help. 
I decided riding 300 miles in three days would be a good challenge for me. After scrambling to put together the needed components I checked the weather and made my mind up to take off Saturday morning April 11, 2020, into a slight breeze which was supposed to turn and be from the north, pushing me by day 2.

Welcome to Las Vegas sign / starting point

My PTSD often manifests itself in the form of anxiety which amongst other things means I get myself far too wound up about matters that don't need to be a big deal which sends my body into fight or flight mode several times daily. By 9 am Saturday I was in well into fight mode with my body tense and my mind racing already as my wife Jessica gave me a ride to meet with the media at the launch point, the welcome to Las Vegas sign. After nervously letting them know that I wanted to do this for other vets and to support National Veterans Foundation and it wouldn't have been possible without the help of Darryn at River Mountains bike shop, I started peddling toward Santa Monica pier at 10 am.
Primm NV

7 Magic Mountains

Old Glory at Jean NV

South view from Nevada / California state line

Coming out of Las Vegas into a slight uphill with a light breeze in my face was a challenge right off the bat but I knew it was nothing compared to the climb I was about to make after I crossed the state line. At noon I stopped at Seven Magic Mountains and took a couple of selfies with the brightly colored oddly stacked rocks in the middle of the desert. Jean and Primm Nevada both provided some motivation in the form of Old Glory which got my blood flowing for the climb. However, all that motivation was no match for this beast. I ended up walking up parts but never gave up.

At 730 pm I reached my planned sleeping point in Baker CA, just after sunset. Knowing the rest wasn't going to be easy either I knew it was important to get some rest. I spent most of the next five hours just laying there in the car nervously going over the details of the next couple days in my head until shortly after 1 am.

Day 1 results

Part 2 coming Saturday April 25, 2020...

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

BBABAA - Revised

BBABAA - Cancelled

(XL BBABBA shirts available - 7)
If you know me or my battle buddy Aaron Peeples, you probably know we have been prepping for something very important to us called BBABAA. The goal was to ride coast to coast while raising awareness for veterans' mental health.

I am very disappointed to announce COVID-19 (Coronavirus) has derailed our plans. I know in the bigger picture of all the plans Coronavirus has canceled, this is rather insignificant, but this was a huge deal to us. We have held out to this point in hopes the ride would still be possible. Now taking into consideration several factors it just isn't feasible to complete it this summer.

First and most importantly, several of you have already offered your assistance in one way or another including a place to stay. We have also become members of the group which is a cycling club who provides a place to other cyclists to sleep as they travel. We were planning to stay with members of the group in places where our personal friends weren't available. At this point, we realize it wouldn't be right or responsible to put anyone in the position of allowing us to stay in your home with medical experts predicting Coronavirus will take all summer to run its course.

(Want one? - For free?)

We want to thank those of you who have made donations. Each one of your contributions means a lot, as our cause is personal to us. In fact, during this time of panic and isolation veterans' mental health becomes even more of an issue. We would like to send a message out to all vets to keep your head up and keep pushing! One thing Coronavirus hasn't taken from us so far is our ability to get out and exercise. If you are a veteran struggling with PTSD don't forget, exercise is a key component in keeping your mind right...

(These will also be given away)

That being said I will be doing what I can to get some exercise and keep my end of the bargain to all of you who have given funds to our cause. On Saturday, April 11th, 2020, I will depart from Las Vegas on a 300-mile ride over 3 days ending up at Santa Monica pier on Monday, April 13th, where we had planned to start the journey. Aaron has been pushing through shoulder issues to try to be able to make the ride this summer, however, it has severely limited his ability to train and therefore he will not be able to make the ride with me at this time. Instead, my lovely wife Jessica Ruch has volunteered her assistance to drive the route with me so I can sleep in our vehicle each night and maintain social distancing protocols.

(Yes - Free while supplies last)

I know economic times are hard right now, but there are still organizations out there supporting struggling veterans through this crisis. We would appreciate any donation you can make to help these loyal charities!

For veterans who may be struggling please contact National Veterans Foundation (NVF) at 1-888-777-4443 and they will help in any way possible or point you to someone who can help if they can't. We have identified them as the organization most of the funds will go to. NVF was going to be our fiscal sponsor and the recipient of the funds raised from our cross country ride. NVF is still functioning through the pandemic as they know right now is when veterans need them the most. As of now, we have raised $1500 for them and we are excited to see that amount grow. A smaller portion of additional funds raised will go to a couple of other charities helping with vets as we want to spread the love around.

(Just make a $10 or greater donation)

When Aaron and I started planning this journey we wanted to get as much attention for the cause as possible. While trying to think up ways to encourage people to donate and share our story with others we purchased a large amount of sports team gear to give out along our route to say thank you. Since we are not making the ride, we have decided to mail it to donors. Everyone who donates $10 or more, and follows or friends us on one or more of our social media platforms, will receive a gift from the collection (while supplies last). We also had t-shirts made to bring awareness to our event and still have seven left, all size XL. The first seven people who donate $20 or more and would like a BBABBA t-shirt please let us know. As you see I have taken 14 pictures of the items we will be sending out. If you want a BBABAA shirt or sports team gear, make sure to let us know who your favorite team is, if there is a particular item you are interested in (if you have questions about sizes let me know) and your address, and we will send a token of our appreciation to you!
GO Cubs GO!

(Let me know which one you want - Free)

(I'll send one to you - No charge!)

This last part is very important….
PLEASE TELL EVERYONE YOU KNOW AND SHARE ON EVERY SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORM YOU HAVE. We would really like to get the word out so we can make as large of a contribution to these veteran helping charities as possible so they can continue to support our nation's warriors!

Social Media:
Twitter - @Jake_Ruch or @LA_Peeples17
Instagram - @Veteran_SportsUpdates or @Aaron.Peeples
Facebook - Jake Ruch

Donations can be made at:
Venmo - @JakeRuch_45
Paypal -
Facebook messenger app - Jake Ruch

Thank you sooo much for your support!
Jake Ruch and Aaron Peeples

(all requests will be considered but cannot be guaranteed due to limited supply)

Riding Bike from Vegas to LA for Veterans' Mental Health - Part II

World's Tallest Thermometer Baker, CA. It's not letting up until dark. Day two of my 300-mile bike ride in three d...