How it began. First of all let me say that "Where in the World is Dave O’Leary" (“WITWIDO”) was never meant to be a solo activity. It was recognition that this was a unique year/summer. A year that included some already scheduled international family travel, some probable European travel with Connor racing, quite a bit of domestic travel for races around the country during Connor’s last year as a Jr., our last summer with Connor at home and his graduation from High School (anticipate a Mission in June 2010), and release from my duties as Bishop of our local LDS ward. The primary means of accomplishing this journey was the View, our 23 foot Winnebago Motor Home which I enjoy immensely, despite the idiosyncrasies and oddball problems associated with driving your house. All along the idea was to have people join me on as much of this travel as possible and the invitation was extended first to my loving and supportive wife. She gently made it clear that she had no desire to drive around the country in a motor home, even if we would see some great things, but would allow me to hit the road and would even join me on a few legs where she could fly in to meet me. I welcome anyone who wants to tie in for a leg of the journey.
February – PHOENIX/GRAND CANYON - The 2009 World Tour of WITWIDO began in February with a trip to Phoenix for The Valley of The Sun Stage Race along with Julie, Connor and our Arizona companion, Winston Hawkins (Winston is the only one who kept me company as I drove into the night and early in the morning). It is always nice to leave the winter blahs and head for the Sun in February. Usually we have driven straight through each way, however on this trip we took the opportunity to return via the Grand Canyon. Unbelievable that we have all this natural beauty so close to us any yet prior to a few years ago I had never seen Zion, Bryce, Moab, Torrey, Capitol Reef, etc. Recognizing how much there was to see, also contributed to initiating WITWIDO. The Grand Canyon was beautiful in winter and based on the number of parking places much quieter than it would be in the summer.
April 15th – 31st – BELGIUM - Our next leg was our last minute decision to go to Belgium and watch Connor race with the US Jr. National Team. We were able to secure frequent flyer tickets, use some Marriott points for some of the hotels, and find a cheap rental car (so cheap in fact that the company went out of business while we had the car, which made returning it a little problematic) which made the trip affordable/possible. I was also able to take my Christmas present, a Ritchey Break Away bike the fits in its own suitcase and checks like luggage. Belgium is a gem. As you can see from postings to the blog, we had a great time, ate like tourists, watched some great bicycle racing, saw some incredibly beautiful sites, met very nice people, had wonderful weather and I even got to ride most days. If it wasn’t so darn expensive and fattening, I would probably travel there regularly.
APRIL – MONTEREAY, CA - 17 MILE DRIVE/BIG SUR - Next on tap, the day after we returned from Europe was to hop in the View and head for Monterey, CA for The Sea Otter Classic. Connor and I were joined by our good friend Nate Sorenson, who had recently received his mission call to Paraguay. The journey was like most trips in the View; I drive, everyone else sleeps, eats and watches movies and then miraculously we arrive at our destination and they can’t believe how quickly we got there. While in Monterey we had the chance to spend some time with my brother Steve, his wife Suah and son Stevie, which was great. I couldn’t remember the last time I had seen them but it was at least 10 years before. Between races, Connor, Nate and I were able to ride the famous 17 mile drive through Carmel along the Pacific Coast. It was spectacular and certainly one of the desired destinations of WITWIDO. Later that day, after a small mishap with the View in a parking lot, where we almost ripped the door off a truck parked next to us when the driver decided to open his door, between the back of our vehicle and the trailer hitch bike rack (even though our noisy diesel was started and he had to know we were going to pull out). After that mishap and the application of some packing tape to put the View back together it was off to drive to Big Sur, another spectacular site. The races were exciting and Connor placed 7th in the Circuit race (he had a mechanical problem that would not allow the bike to stay in the gear he needed). He fared better in the Road Race and in fact we thought he had it won and someone sprinted by him at the finish so he wound up second by a few 10th’s of a second. Probably the most memorable part of the trip was riding to see the road race out in the hilly countryside, where I decided to take a break along the side of the course. I sat under the shade of an oak tree and then noticed that there were oak bushes all around me. It was then that I recalled one of the only things I may have learned on my journey to Weblo Cub Scout (as far as I made it) and that was “leaves of three, let it be”. I even said to Nate, “does this look like poison oak?” Needless to say, it was and a few days later I broke out with a miserable case of poison oak that made me very uncomfortable for 2 weeks and even carried into our next leg of the Journey.
May 3rd – 12th – GRAND CAYMAN BRITISH WEST INDIES – This was supposed to be Mexico where I had rented and paid for a house for this trip over a year ago, secured frequent flyer tickets for all my children and spouses (ten of us) and arranged and paid for a smattering of other vacation activities. What are the odds that the week I am being released as Bishop and scheduled to leave on this wonderful trip, the SWINE FLU breaks out in Mexico City and the World is on the verge of a PIG FLU PANDEMIC. People panicked, Julie bought masks to wear on the plane, and the decision to go was on again, off again. After a sleepless night we ultimately elected to change the trip. Fortunately we were able to use our Frequent Flyer tickets, the house in Mexico gave us credit for a future rental (which means another vacation next winter) and we were able to find a suitable house on Grand Cayman three days before we were to depart. All was arranged and the night before we were to leave on this trip, I swelled up in various places with HIVES. I have never had hives before and when I they started to invade places I would rather not talk about, Julie and I decided I had better go to the emergency room. We did so and they were a little concerned that whatever was causing me to react, could impact my breathing so they started me on some IV medication to get the condition under control. After about 2 ½ hours the swelling began to subside, they gave me some prescriptions including steroids (which I was already on for the poison oak – see Monterey) and sent us on our way. The next day, all seemed fine until about 5:30 when I began to break out in hives again. We treated it with the new medication and were lucky enough to have Dr. Sara Rimington call and take action. She got me some EPI Pens to take on the trip just in case I swelled up on the plane and was unable to breathe, which was highly unlikely but still a little unsettling. Fortunately I have not had to stick myself with an EPI Pen but I have had a couple of outbreaks while on our trip. This was certainly a first for me as I have never been allergic to anything in my life. We are trying to narrow it down, but nuts seem the most likely source of this problem. I am pretty upset with that because I really enjoy peanut butter. In fact if I were on death row, my last meal request would be tomato soup, crackers and a peanut butter sandwich. Well the trip to Grand Cayman has been overall a success. I spent money on a fly fishing guide to hunt for bone fish (0 success) and also chartered a boat for a reef fishing trip to catch lots of edible fish (3 inedible bone fish and a sting ray), then made the decision to up the ante and the cost and go out deep sea fishing for some Mahi Mahi. It’s a big ocean, but we had an able captain, great equipment and the right attitude and caught a whopping 0 fish after chasing a bird around for 2 hours with the captain yelling that they were feeding right ahead of us. I have made a vow never to pay a fishing guide again, as I can go by myself and catch nothing and based on what I spent on this portion of the trip we could have gone out to dinner every night and had a wonderful fresh fish dinner at a really nice restaurant. Other than the fishing, my bout with Hives and my reaction to the steroids I was taking, the trip has been fabulous. Wonderful to be with Julie and the kids in a beautiful, warm place. We are all excited for our next trip to Mexico, provided there is not an outbreak of the CAT FLU.