2 Months Until Blastoff

Dear Fine Folk,

I remember learning how to ride my first bicycle at 2nd street park in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin on a warm sunny day. I remember feeling scared of falling because I was learning on the concrete basketball court and didn’t want to get hurt. However, I didn’t let my fears stop me. The elation I felt as my father let go of me and I was doing it all on my own is something I can’t put into words. There I was, little toddler Joey, trying to stay on the basketball court so he has to make a left turn and the inevitable happens. I fall, exactly what I feared. But I got up, my happiness and excitement at my accomplishment towered over my fear of falling, so I got back on my bicycle and started making those turns.

At the end of 2011 my arthritis got the best of me (I was diagnosed with Systemic Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis at the age of 3) and I took the biggest fall of my life. I went from working in the outdoors of the Montana wilderness building trails to being holed up on my mothers couch in recovery mode due to a full body flare. I had to quit a job in Arizona building trails that was waiting for me come the beginning of 2012. I went from 165 lbs, down to 142 lbs. in 6 weeks. But, just like little 3 year old Joey, I didn’t let this fall stop me. I used the only tool I physical could, my brain, and started planning a cross country bicycle tour for the summer of 2012. Come June of 2012, I stood tall before I sat down on my bicycle in Oceanside, California, with 3 friends, as we began the biggest adventure of our lives. Through a sequence of bike rides, we cycled 4,000 miles in 87 days across 15 states, raised $6,700 for the Arthritis Foundation and raised awareness that “Kids get arthritis too”!

At the time I had no idea what to expect from a bicycle tour. I just figured I could do it and that it would be a great adventure and a good thing to do for an organization I care for, the Arthritis Foundation. I had no idea of the profound impact it would have on my life. How it has made me want to live a life of adventure, but more importantly a life that motivates and inspires others. My first bicycle tour was a changing point, it created a doorway which I have stepped into and plan to stay for awhile. A doorway that I hope makes even just one inhabitant of this tiny planet smile a little bit bigger.

Now here I am, 2015, sitting at my mothers house in Wisconsin recovering from a year long flare and planning a Trans-European bicycle tour! Little toddler Joey had no idea what getting back on that bicycle meant, but grown up me has figured out how his bicycle has become a form of expression. It is not just two wheels, handle bars, a seat post, a frame, gears and a chain. It’s a tool, a symbol for my goals. The handle bars I hold onto for life and sometimes its a bumpy ride I just have to know that if I hold on, I can pull through. The wheels are the adventurers. They mean to take things day by day and if I get a flat, I just have to take it one step at a time and not worry about tomorrow or what the future may bring. My brakes are my control. If I am going to fast in life, sometimes I just have to put the brakes on and slow it down, listen to what my body is saying and regain some control. Sometimes, though, life does come fast and you have to shift gears. My gears are my adapters, they are my flexibility in situations and allow me pace myself through tough times or let loose when its easy rolling. My shoes and pedals I would say are exactly what I am doing, my connectors. They keep me connected to the world, allowing me to share my ideas and my journeys via a blog. So please, read on and take a walk in my shoes. The most important part is my chain and drive train. They are you. They are my inspirations and motivations. They are what drives me forward and pushes me up mountains. They are your stories and struggles which is my fuel for what I would like to give back. All I want is an equal trade, fire for fire. You all inspire and motivate me, and I just want to inspire and motivate YOU!

We all fall down in life. As cliche as it sounds, it’s about how you pick yourself up and continue wayward. Every fall is a lesson learned. Know that mistakes made today are goals set for tomorrow. Know what you want in life and take chances because its better to fail then to never have tried at all.


Joey Michels

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