Monday, August 24, 2009

Congratulations Team! $40K and counting....

A team of a dozen cyclists -- including a blind U.S. Paralympics track cycling national champion -- pedaled 442 miles across Iowa as part of RAGBRAI to raise awareness of and funds for Project 3000. The team raised nearly $40,000 in support of the University of Iowa-based effort that is seeking a cure for rare childhood blinding eye diseases.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Thank You!

"We are closing in on effective treatments for LCA, and the support created through this RAGBRAI cycling team will bring us even closer," said Dr. Edwin Stone, director of the UI Carver Family Center for Macular Degeneration and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. "Paul Rosenthal's efforts to bring our team together, and Clark Rachfal's involvement, are both greatly appreciated."

For more information on LCA and Project 3000, visit

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

RAGBRAI 2009: Ulterior Motives

Paul Rosenthal, who we met in the previous post, is the leader of the Team Project 3000 pack. He's serious about the mission of Project 3000 and he's serious about raising funds and awareness on behalf of families living with Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA).

We LOVE the fact that during his week long journey, he took the time to share with us the highlights of his trip. His sister-in-law trusted him enough to give him room on her blog, I never signed up for this..., to chronicle his trip. In so doing, Paul has shared some great stories, some really fun photos, and consequently we now know that as serious as he is about Project 3000, he is equally serious about... pie...

Photo description: Not sure what Paul is sitting on, but he's sitting at the end of a table (outdoors), bicycle helmet still on, tasting one of 10 pieces of pie in front of him.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

First to finish!

4 members of Team Project 3000 finish together.

End in Sight

Paul riding his bike to the finish line.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Brain drops keep falling in my head

Paul Rosenthal on July 25th, 2009

Let me get a couple of things out of the way quickly: pie number 25 yesterday was of the pumpkin variety. I am done with pie for a long time.

I don’t feel I have thanked enough people enough. Chris in Ottumwa was a gem. The Kremers today and last night were very nice. I know that if I try to name everyone, I will leave people out. I will stop now and just make some general thank yous to the many people in Iowa who showed great kindness and to our host families who opened their homes to total strangers. And, I can’t say enough about my teammates, many of whom looked after me in ways big and small. Trust me, I noticed.

When I left the computer last night and headed to my tent, a light rain began to fall. A cow who was separated from her calf mooed for her child. As I lay in the tent, I actually enjoyed the experience. Listening to the rain was calming, and I thought about the days and nights that came before. I woke at around 4:30 am to go to the porta-potty that our very generous hosts had rented for the occasion. By then the sky was perfectly clear, and the stars sparkled above. My assistant and friend, Karen, earlier in the day called me the luckiest man on Earth, and I knew she was right. I hadn’t signed up for the camping experience, but I was glad to have it anyway. It made the week complete.

The evening’s festivities ended prematurely because of the storm threat, so the team didn’t have a chance to have our nightly talk and hand out awards. The abrupt ending to the evening caused several of us to sense a lack of closure. We did our best, though, to say our goodbyes in our bleary-eyed fashion around 6 am. I needed to leave early, so Mitch, Eric and Erin set off with me, while the others would leave later.

My legs felt really good and I had lots of energy. We averaged about 20 mph on the flat section of our approximately 40 mile route. What a nice way to end the ride!

I hope Mitch doesn’t mind me writing this, but as he dropped me off at the airport, he thanked me for changing his life. I didn’t ask him for an explanation. I knew what he meant, because he and the other members of the team did the same for me. I won’t go into all of the reasons why. Apart from a decision to swear off pie, breakfast burritos and anything eaten on a stick, an obvious feeling that I know we shared is a great sense of personal accomplishment. I am not just talking about the physical challenge involved, nor am I diminishing it. Clearly, completing the ride makes us feel we can meet other challenges. And, the sense of accomplishment of doing something worthwhile for people with blinding eye disease is major.

We managed to raise about $40,000 for Project 3000 ( it’s not too late to contribute). We also generated some good publicity:

Blind cycling champion to lead UI’s Project 3000 RAGBRAI team

A team of a dozen cyclists — including a blind U.S. Paralympics track cycling national champion — will pedal across Iowa next week to raise awareness of and funds for Project 3000, a University of Iowa-based effort seeking a cure for a rare childhood blinding eye disease.

This generated several news stories across the state.

Yet, another life changing part of the ride was the relationships that were either reinforced or formed. A group of diverse people came together and bonded in what I think was an extraordinary fashion. There was no bickering, no visible anger–only obvious warmth and affection–and, did I mention fun? The glow may not last forever, but I am certain that relationships that were formed during this experience will endure.

People have already asked me whether I will do RAGBRAI next year. I don’t know. It will be hard to replicate the experience I just had. All of my team members, of course, are welcome to stay at my house when they visit Washington. I will make sure that I have a tent available when they arrive :)

Now I am in Chicago meeting Carla and Darryle, whose blog I hijacked for a week. I am turning it back to Darryle now, as I must resume my job as a lawyer for a great, metropolitan law firm. I hope you enjoyed the ride as much as I did.


Friday, July 24, 2009

They shoot horses, don’t they?

Paul Rosenthal on July 24th, 2009

“When the lightning lightninged and the thunder thundered, the old men would sidle up to me and say, ‘Do you know what that is kid?’ And I would say, ‘Yes. That’s Rip Van Winkle bowling with the little people.’ And the old guys would laugh like loons and say, ‘No, you idiot. That’s thunder!!’” (Jack Douglas in “My Brother Was an Only Child” [The quote may be off a little since I read the book in junior high school.])

At around 5 am this morning, the thunder thundered and most of us were dreading going outside and being drenched within the first five minutes of riding. When we emerged from our eye clinic (known to some as the Bat Cave) where we stayed overnight, the storm front was gone. Good news. No need to wear that treacherous rain jacket.

In a feat of willpower heretofore unseen, I rode past the breakfast burrito place. In fact, no place looked good early on, and it was a while before I finally had a healthy breakfast of frozen fruit cup, a pork sandwich and a ground beef sandwich. Also, I managed to down two very little homemade donuts. But at least there was no breakfast burrito!

The problem was that I ate too late. I needed more food in my system sooner. By mile 30 I was beginning to drag. Today was planned for 77 miles. There was an option for riders who wanted to complete a century ride to cycle an extra 25 miles. If you rode that loop, you could get a patch that indicated that you completed the 100 miles. As far as I was concerned, you had to be a complete idiot to seek out another 25 miles of riding. “We don’t need no stupid patches!” So, as we set out to ride, I told my teammates, some of whom were planning to do the century, that I would decline this “great opportunity.”

Around mile 33, I got a call from Mitch who was waiting around mile 36 or so, where the extra loop for the century was located. Since Mitch had to drive the support truck to the midway point, he was relatively fresh. I was in super slow, Beaky Buzzard mode, so it took me a long time to get to Mitch who had been waiting patiently. I thought it would be bad form if I told him that I was not going to ride with him after all, so I decided to do the loop and the century. After all, what’s 25 miles between friends? Just shoot me.

We traversed the loop, which included some beautiful spots. Here is a very pretty lake.

Mitch was convinced it was the Atlantic Ocean. I told him to wait until I got back or until they Queen Mary docked–whichever came first. I was unable to make a fast getaway, however, as Mitch realized after several minutes that the Queen Mary was no longer in service and was docked in Long Beach, California. We soldiered on, passing the Sag Wagon where someone called out “patches” which Mitch and I thought was a tire repair spot.
It was only later when we were told by Val, and his friend Tom Rugh (who joined the ride yesterday), that we missed the opportunity to obtain the coveted patch. Later, in a tear-soaked ceremony, Tom offered me his patch–which I promised to display prominently on my monogrammed French-cuffed shirts, which I will certainly wear when dining on the Queen Mary.

Although the weather was great throughout the day, about 10 miles out of town, the sky grew ominous. Black clouds formed in the distance and the wind began to gust.

The skies opened up before we got to our host home. We were drenched but we made it. Thirty minutes later the sun was out. We hung out on the front porch, which happened to be on the main bicycling route, and played with the neighborhood kids.

We were a little bored in the evening so I introduced the kids to a new game.

The Long Hard Journey into night

Paul Rosenthal on July 24th, 2009

First, I want to start with some clarifications from yesterday’s blog. Yes, I am still of sound mind. And, the last 35 miles yesterday were not bad. Second, I have written waivers from the kid in the last picture.

Now that the formalities are out of the way, it is time to introduce you to the remaining members of the team.

The real cyclists and Ed

Shortly after I decided to ride RAGBRAI, I had lunch with Joanna McIntosh, a former colleague and long-time friend. When I mentioned my plan to do the ride, she told me that she and two of her colleagues at Verizon, Ed Senn and Clark Rachfal, had done the ride twice before. Of particular note, Clark is partially blind and rides on a tandem. Indeed, he and his riding partner Dave, the pilot, have won cyclying awards as a team. So, Joanna, Ed, Clark and Dave have been a part of the team. Unfortunately, Joanna broke her foot shortly before the ride began. She remains a team member, though. Clark’s presence on the team has generated a great deal of publicity for the CFCMD and Project 3000. When I am in a better position to do so, I will send you some links to the wonderful stories that have been done on Clark and Dave and the Project 3000 effort.

Today’s ride was not exactly what we expected. We knew it would be long. And, it clocked in at just under 80 miles. But, it was supposed to be flatter and easier than previous days. For the first part of the ride, we did have mostly flat roads (except for getting out of our overnight town).

We were in good spirits, and we were sporting a new appendage to our helmets–an eye, made out of styrofoam and other materials. Our resident pastor and spiritual advisor, Sherami (rhymes with bury me), apparently has some arts and crafts background. She devised the idea of putting eyes on our helmet so we could be recognizable as a team and generate focus on our cause. It worked. Many people asked us about the eyes on our helmets and we were able to spread the word about Project 3000. Sherami (rhymes with tsunami) knows something about spreading the word.

Anyway, the second half of the ride turned out to be tougher than expected. We rode into a stiff headwind, with more hills than predicted. It was hot. Not even a stop at the homemade ice cream stand was enough to assuage the inner demons. We made it, though, and are staying at a beautiful farm outside of Mt. Pleasant. We had a swimming pool and a pond and lots of amenities. Once again, we have been treated royally–or as I like to think–appropriately. Just kidding. Kelly, our host of hosts, even offered me a couch, although the house was packed with guests. I politely declined, saying that on this last night, I would sleep with my peeps.

While thunderstorms threatened, we had a gorgeous night.

People are a little tired and perhaps a little sad to see it end. Tomorrow is a relatively quick 44 mile ride and then I have to hustle to the airport in Cedar Rapids.

Off to my tent.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Hip Bone is Connected to the Pork Chop

Paul Rosenthal on July 23rd, 2009

A couple of days ago, I decided that it wasn’t a good idea to mention each of the host families, in order to protect the innocent. I will break my rule one time to mention that if I move to Indianola, Iowa, I hope I get adopted by Elodie and Sandy Opstad.

Before describing today’s events, such as they were, I thought I would introduce some of the team members. One of the fascinating aspects of the team is how it came together. Not everyone works for the University of Iowa or its Carver Family Center for Macular Degeneration. The team grew organically–kind of like compost, except better smelling (in the mornings only).

Meet the Jetsons:Val Sheffield is one of the senior scientists at the CFCMD. He is too modest to say this, but he is one of the leading scientists in his field (and it is not a corn field), a genuinely nice guy, almost my age and a very strong cyclist. I hate him. Just kidding. His son, Abe, is just like him, an underachiever who managed to somehow be in an MD/Phd program. His one weakness: he can’t hold his pie.

Tyson Kinnick is a post-doctoral research scholar at the CFCMD and an experienced cyclist. I’ve managed to teach him a lot about cycling in the four short days we have been together. Tyson is from Arizona, and invited his cycling friend and eye disease researcher from Tucson, Brett Stanton, who is joined by Lynn, who is a nurse. Brett and Lynn were in the SWILS picture.

Remember Mitch? We’re sick of him in the blogosphere aren’t we? Besides, the brains behind Mitch is Shannon Thomas, who is in the middle of the picture below.
Shannon works for Mitch, and is one of the key organizers of the ride. I have to be nice to her for a few more days, or I will be back in a tent instantaneously. Her friend on the right side of the picture is Sherami (rhymes with Jeremy) Hinders who works for the campus Christian Fellowship. Sherami is Shannon’s roommate. She is appalled by me, quite justifiably. On the other side of the picture is Sarah (rhymes with Sarah), who works with Sherami. Sarah is appalled by Sherami. Not really. I am just trying to shake up the team dynamics so we can get our own reality TV show.

Eric and Erin are the last people tonight. Erin Butler is a friend of Shannon, and is a very good cyclist. For some reason, she invited her boyfriend Eric Bockelman, who is not only a terrific cyclist but makes me laugh about every other utterance. I don’t know what she sees in him.

There are some other team members who will be introduced in a later blog.

Bored yet? You should be. The day was even more boring. Perfect, sunny day. No blowouts. “Only” about 48 miles, with under 3,000 feet of climbing. My legs felt better as the day went along.

We are staying indoors tonight in an eye clinic. It may not sound like much, but it is a good spot. We feel lucky again.

I reached the 20 pie threshold tonight, thanks once again to my team. They want me to continue my pie quest. I’ll think about it. One thing I do know. I will not have a Farm Boys breakfast burrito tomorrow. Four days in a row is enough. Even for me.

I forgot to mention one story from the ride over to Council Bluffs. We stopped at a fast food place and I ordered the special sandwich/salad combo, which came with a drink. I wasn’t paying close attention to the transaction, so when I noticed an empty plastic cup in front of the register, I figured people don’t tip much in Iowa. I thought I would show my generosity by putting my change in the cup. When I did that, the girl at the counter laughed and said, “Mister, that cup is for your pop.” I slinked over to the drink dispenser trying discreetly to empty the change before filling up my plastic cup. Ok. So, maybe those lawyers from Washington, DC aren’t so smart. At least she didn’t call ME pop.

Pie consumption:


Apple Cranberry


Chocolate (the worst pie of the trip. Sacrilege!)

Cooling off

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Where’s the rest of me?

Paul Rosenthal on July 22nd, 2009

“The sea was angry that day, My Friend. Kind of like an old man sending back soup at a deli.” George Costanza in “Seinfeld.

I suppose the weather wasn’t THAT bad. The day started out a raw again. Rain, cold and wind. Most people were suited up in rain jackets and since this was another almost 80 mile day with about 4,500 feet of climbing, a lot of riders were beginning to feel a little leg weary or have other symptoms of riding long distances.

Now that we are moving from some of the remote areas of Western Iowa, the cell phone/wireless signals are getting more reliable. And, after more than 150 miles in the last two days, I am hoping for regular signals from the area below my waist known as the Netherlands–or as my frjavascript:void(0)iends from Holland call it, “down there.” Good news. The signals are returning.

Because of technical difficulties, I couldn’t send you the picture of the 900 pound boar I met yesterday.
Don't like the picture? Soo me.

We stopped in E. Peru today. I summoned up my best Spanish to ask, “Donde esta el banyo?” They just looked at me funny and said go pee in the cornfield like everyone else, Gringo. (Ok. So maybe that part didn’t happen.)

I am going to postpone further discussion of my teammates for a few reasons. First, I don’t have all of the pictures I want/need to introduce them better. More important, I think I may be better off being outside of the jurisdiction for legal reasons. Seriously, they are so nice and supportive–even though they have taken up a new sport: making fun of me. Tonight we are staying with a fabulous host family in Indianola, Iowa. They are letting the ENTIRE team stay inside their house. Not everyone has a bed (I do), but this is paradise in just about every way. The family could not be nicer or more welcoming.

The main reason to postpone discussion of the team, though, was that this was a more eventful ride than the others.

As the day wore on, the sun came out and the temperature rose. I wrapped my jacket around my waist and was traveling at a good pace in order to get to the host home in time for a conference call with clients. About 4 miles outside of town, I heard a screeching sound, then a pop and looked down to see my tire was flat. I did my best to keep the front wheel straight and stopped abruptly. Fortunately, I didn’t fall or crash into anyone. I had seen a rider crash hitting a crack in the road a little early, so I felt extremely lucky that I came through intact. As it turned out, my jacket had gotten caught in my back wheel, which caused the wheel to jam. The tire was not fixable.

As I was waiting by the side of the road, my conference call came in. While many riders offered assistance, no one had an extra tire. After about 30 minutes, a pickup truck came by. The driver was not only kind enough to give me a ride to town, he made sure he dropped my off where I had to go. Given all of the bicycle traffic, and that he was going out of his way, it was an extraordinary gesture. The man, Joe, is pictured below.

Today’s Pies:

Forest delight
Caramel Apple

Total so far: 16

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

There is No “I” in Team

Paul Rosenthal on July 21st, 2009

Today (Monday) was harder in several ways than yesterday. The ride was longer (about 77 miles on the odometer), steeper climb (about 5,000 feet of climbing, instead of yesterday’s 3,700), and it rained for most of the afternoon. But, don’t cry for me, Argentina, or any other foreign countries. I have a Cry America policy.

While a little rain did fall into my life, I did sign up for it. So, no complaints from me. So many good things happened today.

I saw the banana man briefly--before he had to split.

Then I got to hang out with the largest bull in Iowa. 1,050 pounds.

Don't get me started on the caption possibilities.

But the highlight of the day was the team pie-eating effort. After being shut out for most of the day, we alighted upon Prescott, Iowa, and a tent with an incredible array of home made pies. If I were by myself, like the day before, I would have been unable to maximize the opportunity. Today, my teammates were there to share the load.

We were the very model of teamwork. And, we kicked molasses.

10 pie varieties:











There is no “I” in team, but there is an “I” in pie. And a team in Iowa. More on my team tomorrow.

P.S. Last night I got a last minute reprieve and got to sleep in a bed at the home of our wonderful hosts, after all. Tonight, I think my luck has run out. It’s ok. No complaints.

Day 2

The toughest day of climbing by far, the team was phenomenal and had great stamina. Paul, our fearless leader, led them in a unified effort to try 9 different types of pie.

It started to rain, fortunately after our tents had been set up. We're off in search of food and then the Nadas concert.

Everyone's backsides are hurting but our host stays have been GREAT; today's includes cookies and a padded toilet seat. The hospitality and kindness Iowans have shown is overwhelming. Yesterday Shannon even had someone push her up a hill; literally. We have been blown away and have loved the conversations we've been able to have to share the reason we're riding.

Thanks to all for the support! 2 days down. 5 to go.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The World is not Flat

Paul Rosenthal on July 20th, 2009

The day started off beautifully, as the fog filled the valley behind our hosts’ home. We drove to the start, which for us was the Nebraska side of the Missouri River. Here Mitch and I get ready to cross the bridge to … Iowa.

After about seven miles we stopped for breakfast at Farm Boys. Great breakfast burritos. We later met up with some other team members.

Just kidding. Horny Island? Nah.But those pointy things made me a little nervous. I wasn’t numb YET.

The RAGBRAI website made it clear that this year’s route was somewhat hilly. It promised about 3,000 feet of climb. That’s not exactly the mountains of Colorado, but there were plenty of hills. It was no picnic. No, it was a PARTY.

By the time we reached the first town, Minneola, about 17 miles down the road, it was 10 a.m. People were partying. Music blared. Beer was everywhere. The tiny street was jammed with traffic. So, THIS is how it is going to be.
Shortly after Minneola, the team spread out. I was supposed to meet some of my team members in the town of Henderson, but apparently I blinked when I went by and missed it. So, I was without my team. Then I spotted an oasis.

As I got closer, I realized I was not seeing a mirage, it was the pink bus that contained Mr. Pork, the famous purveyor of $6 pork chops. I jammed on my brakes and got in a long line. As long-time counsel to the National Pork Producers Council, I felt it was my duty to support my clients.

After wolfing down my chop, I was in no condition to run wee wee wee all the way home. And while I am mixing children’s tales, I did take advantage–as numerous others have done–to relieve myself in a corn field. (Note to self: don’t eat yellow corn).

As I ambled back to the little patch of humanity that would have called itself civilization, if it were on speaking terms with itself, I spied the Kerry’s pies stand. Eureka! By missing Henderson, I was falling behind on my pie goals (please pronounce the hard G, if you are reading this aloud). I had calculated I needed to taste 3.14 pies per day, if I were to meet my objectives. Kerry was offering large pieces of pie for $3. I asked the girl whether I could buy 5 small pieces instead. She looked at me as if I were from … someplace else. Anyway, I bought 2 pieces. But, contrary to Darryle’s comment yesterday, I did not eat all of each piece. Instead, I was waiting for my team to ride by when a woman noticed some abandoned pies near me. I told her that she could have them–and I only asked one thing: that she go on this blog and confirm that I didn’t eat the pies myself. (She also stood next to Mr. Pork Chops bus with me. But she didn’t have any of my pork chop.)

When I rejoined Brett and Lynn from Tuscon and the rest of my team, I chastised them for not being around when I needed them to help me share the pies. They reminded me I was the only team member to make two wrong turns before finishing an entire can of beer. To get in the proper frame of mind, we bought some beer at the Southwest Iowa Liquour Store (SWILS). Trust me. I looked at the wine “selection.” The name fits.

We are staying with another wonderful host family, who again, are incredibly hospitable. They have guests staying with them, so “a camping I will go.”

Did I mention “I never signed up for this?”

Pie Totals to date: 2 (before dinner)

strawberry rhubarb—1

berry supreme–1

Day 1

Apparently we were all fooled by the fun and cause of riding that we forgot about the actual biking. But, we made it through some killer climbs to the mecca of all meccas: the Farm Brothers breakfast burritos.

The team was able to meet Clark Rachfal and two rider friends of his. Clark has LCA and is a paralympic athlete. After dinner with the team and a recounting of the day's funny memories, we hit the hay in preparation for a long day in the saddle

View from our Council Bluffs host home

Photo description: beautiful green pastures with trees, barn and pond in the distance

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Corny Island

Paul Rosenthal on July 19th, 2009

I have a feeling I’m not in Kansas anymore. Of course, I never was. I made it to Iowa after my plane was delayed getting out of Washington, DC. I had to sprint (still less than 8 mph) to make my connection at O’Hare for Cedar Rapids. For those of you who know Iowa geography like the back of your foot, Cedar Rapids is in the Eastern part of the state. After meeting the team last night, we met this morning to drive to Council Bluffs, which is on the Western border. The ride is designed to start at the Missouri River and end at the Mississippi River, at Burlington, Iowa.

The team met to load the truck and van to begin our trek Westward.
Not all of the team members are pictured.

While I have been to Iowa City for CFCMD Advisory Board Meetings, I have not seen much of the state. During our drive, I saw many windmills and learned from my teammate, and de-facto honcho of the effort, Mitch Beckman, that Iowa is second only to Texas in windpower generation.

Mitch also mentioned that Iowa grows some corn. LOTS of corn. The conversation was good, but the scenery was a little monotonous. At our lunch break, I was forced to entertain myself by making a roll finger puppet.

By the way, we wouldn’t be on this ride if it weren’t for Mitch. When I sat next to Mitch after a CFCMD meeting at Boston Garden in late January, I leaned over to him and said, “I would be willing to try to do a RAGBRAI fundraiser for the CFCMD if you guarantee me that I won’t have to sleep on the ground.” Mitch, who is only slightly more positive than the Kenneth character on “30 Rock,” said, “Of course” or something like that. There was alcohol involved.

Here is a picture of Mitch and me in front of my tent.

Mitch didn’t lie exactly. Overpromise, perhaps. And technically I will be on an air mattress. Seriously, Mitch is the one guy you want in a foxhole with you. He will get the job done no matter what.

Most of the RAGBRAI riders stay in what amounts to big tent cities, near schools and other venues with large parking lots. Their showers are spartan, at best.

CFCMD team is incredibly lucky, however. University of Iowa supporters have kindly allowed our team to camp out in their yards, use their showers and bathrooms and otherwise opened their homes to us. Today we arrived at the home of Alan and Cordie Fischer. The setting is beautiful.

And the hospitality is even better. Cordie has been incredibly gracious. -We barbequed on her porch overlooking the gorgeous setting.

Oh, Cordie just mentioned that they have an extra bed, if I would like to use it. Mitch is redeemed—but tonight he’s sleeping in the foxhole without me. I love Iowa.

Mitch and his Huffy. He may be at the end of the pack.

Mitch & Huffy

Photo: Mitch is loading his bike, a Huffy, into the truck. He's leaning on his bike and is grinning at the photographer. (Mitch Beckman, Executive Director of Development, UI Carver College of Medicine and University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

It’s Not About the Bike

Paul Rosenthal on July 18th, 2009

I hope Lance Armstrong doesn’t mind me sharing the title of his book for this blog entry. After all, he and I have a few things in common. For example, we will be riding our bikes on the same day and in the same easterly direction.

Alas, I was never a competitive cyclist. And, Darryle was too kind to point out that I used to need store-bought pads to fill out that football jersey.

Did I mention I love chocolate? And wine? And food generally?

So, my goals are different for this ride–and it is a ride, not a race.

I am looking forward to meeting my teammates on the CFCMD team. Prior to the ride, the team members were asked to provide bios that included something about their athletic backgrounds/training. Here is an excerpt from mine:

Growing up, athletics, not academics, was my life. I was captain of my high school football team (we sucked) and played on the baseball team (we were very good). I got the scholar/athlete award only because most of my teammates were spending most of their time at Miami Jai-alai and other Pari-mutuel havens. My claim to athletic fame, though, is entirely reflected: my high school baseball coach, Skip Bertman, became head coach at LSU where he won 5 national championships (and supervised one last week). Skip once said of me, “Paul could have been a major league baseball player if it were not for a tragic….lack of ability.”

My bio goes on to say that I have done a marathon, a triathlon and a couple of bicycle century (100 mile) rides. But I haven’t ridden many rides over 50 miles.

That said, I HAVE pursued other challenges as I have gotten older.

For example, about 12 years ago, a few friends of mine from our softball team decided to fly to Cleveland to see one of the last baseball games played at Municipal Stadium, before the Indians moved to Jacobs field. We flew in on Friday afternoon in time for the 4 pm start of a double-header against the Yankees. Having heard that the food at the stadium was pretty good, I decided to try to eat “for the cycle.” In baseball, hitting “for the cycle” means that a batter gets one of every type of hit (single, double, triple, home run) in one game. I was determined to eat one of every type of food served during the course of the evening. In general, whenever I would return to our seats with food, I would share it with my friends. One time, though, I purchased a chicken breast that was absolutely tiny. Paltry poultry indeed. I decided that it was too small to share and disposed of it in a couple of bites. One of my friends asked another, “What is Rosey eating?” My friend, Scott, replied, “I don’t know. It went by so fast, I couldn’t draw a bead on it.” Anyway, we left at midnight. Eight hours. Much food. Mission accomplished.

Even more recently (I guess I should be embarrassed to admit), I devised a new challenge for myself. At Halloween, I decided that for every bite-sized chocolate bar that I gave to the trick-or-treaters, I would eat one myself. There were lots of kids in the neighborhood, and I went to the door frequently that night…Let’s just say that the evening didn’t end well.

The RAGBRAI is famous for the food that is offered along the route. Community organizations and schools, churches, etc. use the event as fundraisers as they sell pork chops, baked goods and other essentials to the riders who pass through. 475 miles? Piece of cake.

But it is the pie that I want. RAGBRAI is famous for its pies. In fact, on the website, the official mug this year lists 20 different kinds of pies that are traditionally offered. So, there is my challenge: have a taste of every type of pie. For dietary reasons, I won’t eat the whole pie. It’s all about the bite.

Friday, July 17, 2009

A site for sore thighs

Paul Rosenthal on July 17th, 2009

This is me and my girlfriend, Carla, in Berkeley, circa 1970, with my first 10 speed. The bike weighed more than her. Because of the wind resistance caused by my hair, and the weight of the bike, top speed was about 8 mph.

This is me many years later, belying the notion that cyclists are svelte. No, I didn’t eat the original 10 speed. Less hair, lighter bike. Top speed still about 8 mph.

If you are reading this because you are a regular reader of Darryle’s blog, you are in for a surprise: there is someone else who loves chocolate more than she does. In a way, my love for chocolate, and the people who make it, helps to explain why Darryle is letting me use her blog to communicate with my friends who want to follow (in a fashion) my impending bicycle ride across Iowa.

I have been fortunate to represent the international cocoa and chocolate industry in an effort to combat the worst forms of child labor in the cultivation of cocoa beans in West Africa. This unprecedented industry effort was initiated by Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa and Cong. Elliott Engel of New York, and involves a collaboration with governments and non-governmental organizations around the world. The activities have included many hours of meetings in Senator Harkin’s conference rooms. While paying rapt attention during those meetings, I couldn’t help but notice the posters adorning the walls. The posters were for the Des Moines Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI).

I love bicycling almost as much as I love eating chocolate. For several years, I contemplated doing the RAGBRAI. Riding the 475 miles or so across Iowa wasn’t so daunting, but taking the time to do so - and camp out on the ground every evening - were deterrents, to put it mildly.

What could inspire me to forego the Four Seasons and sleep on an air mattress for a week? Some of the most inspirational people I know: the scientists, other professionals and Advisory Board members of the University of Iowa’s Carver Family Center For Macular Degeneration (CFCMD). I won’t spend much time now telling you about the CFCMD. Go to the website. Now close your eyes and keep them shut for a while. You can open them now. Or now. Anyway, imagine being blind. Then imagine a highly talented, motivated and wonderful group of people whose mission it is to cure blindness. That’s the CFCMD. If you go to the website I have created,, you will learn more about the inspirational people at the CFCMD and why I am doing this ride.

Helen Keller said, “It is for us to pray not for tasks equal to our powers, but for powers equal to our tasks, to go forward with a great desire forever beating at the door of our hearts as we travel toward our distant goal.” The CFCMD has a distant goal. My near term goal is to get across Iowa this coming week. More tomorrow as I approach the starting line.

Blind cycling champion to lead UI's Project 3000 RAGBRAI team

University of Iowa News Release

July 17, 2009

Blind cycling champion to lead UI's Project 3000 RAGBRAI team

071709highrezbike A team of a dozen cyclists -- including a blind U.S. Paralympics track cycling national champion -- will pedal across Iowa next week to raise awareness of and funds for Project 3000, a University of Iowa-based effort seeking a cure for a rare childhood blinding eye disease.

Team Project 3000 will ride 442 miles, from Council Bluffs to Burlington, as part of the Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI). The team's inspirational leader is Clark Rachfal, a U.S. national medalist in track cycling who has been losing his sight since childhood and who has Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA), one of the blinding eye diseases that Project 3000 seeks to cure. Rachfal, whose competitive cycling activities have been supported by the Verizon Foundation and by generous colleagues at Verizon, rides a tandem bicycle with a sighted partner.

The mission of Project 3000 at the UI is to find and offer genetic testing to the estimated 3,000 Americans with Leber congenital amaurosis, which causes severe vision loss or blindness and typically strikes during early childhood.

Genetic testing helps confirm the diagnosis, discover the genes responsible and lead to treatments and a cure. UI ophthalmology researchers are committed to this approach to finding the causes, cures and eventual prevention of LCA and -- through what they learn during Project 3000 -- other blinding eye diseases. Key partners in Project 3000 include Chicago Cubs star Derrek Lee and Boston Celtics CEO and co-owner Wyc Grousbeck, both of whom share a desire to find treatments and a cure for LCA.

The idea to form a RAGBRAI team to support Project 3000 originated with Paul Rosenthal, a Washington, D.C., attorney who is chair and a founding member of an advisory board to the UI Carver Family Center for Macular Degeneration, of which Project 3000 is a part. The center is a unit of the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences in the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine.

"I have had the privilege over the years of dealing professionally with numerous Iowa businesses and government officials, and as a result I have developed a great respect for this wonderful state," said Rosenthal, who manages the Washington, D.C., office of the law firm Kelley Drye and Warren. "One of Iowa's, and indeed the nation's, great treasures is the Carver Family Center for Macular Degeneration at the University of Iowa. Because I have seen first-hand the enormous talent and dedication of the center's scientists and staff to their mission to find the causes, treatments, cures and preventions for inherited eye diseases, it is only natural for me to want to express my appreciation and gratitude by riding across the state on RAGBRAI."

As of July 17, Team Project 3000 had raised $35,000 in gifts for the LCA research and treatment effort. Each team member set up a personal online giving page to collect gifts from family, friends and colleagues via the University of Iowa Foundation's Web site,

Overall, more than $1.5 million in gifts has been raised through the UI Foundation for Project 3000 since the project's inception in 2006.

"We are closing in on effective treatments for LCA, and the support created through this RAGBRAI cycling team will bring us even closer," said Edwin Stone, M.D., Ph.D., director of the UI Carver Family Center for Macular Degeneration and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. "Paul Rosenthal's efforts to bring our team together, and Clark Rachfal's involvement, are both greatly appreciated."

For more information on the Team Project 3000 effort, or to make a gift, visit To learn more about Project 3000, visit Those interested may also follow the team's progress on Twitter at Twitter@Project3000.

The UI acknowledges the UI Foundation as the preferred channel for private contributions that benefit all areas of the university. For more information about the UI Foundation, visit its web

STORY SOURCE: UI Foundation, P.O. Box 4550, Iowa City, Iowa 52244-4550

CONTACTS: Mitch Beckman, UI Foundation, 319-467-3402,; or Joseph Schmidt, UI Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at UI Hospitals and Clinics, 319-384-8529,

PHOTOS: A high-resolution of Clark Rachfal and his tandem bike partner, Dave Swanson, is available at:

A web-quality image also is available:

PHOTO CUTLINE: U.S. Paralympic national track cycling champion Clark Rachfal (left), who is blind, and riding partner Dave Swanson, will ride across Iowa July 19-25 as part of Team Project 3000, which is raising awareness and funds for a University of Iowa effort to cure Leber congenital amaurosis, an inherited blinding eye disease.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Our own "Team Project 3000" riding in RAGBRAI

Dear Friends of the Carver Lab:

We are excited to let you know that members of our Lab, along with friends and supporters of Project 3000, will be hitting the road to raise awareness for Project 3000 and research of blinding eye diseases!

A group of individuals will be cycling in one of the biggest annual events in Iowa! On July 19-25, “Team Project 3000” will be riding 472 miles across Iowa as part of the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa, or RAGBRAI. The event is the longest, largest and oldest touring bicycle ride in the world.

The team includes U.S. Paralympics Track Cycling Champion, Clark Rachfal. Clark has been legally blind for most of his life and was recently diagnosed with Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA). He is excited about riding with the team to raise awareness for the research that is taking place at the University of Iowa and elsewhere.

Team Project 3000 has raised nearly $30,000 in donations in support so far! If you are interested in supporting the Team, please visit

The team will be “tweeting” from the road, as well as posting pictures and video on-line, so friends and family can keep up to date on the conversations and money that is raised along the way. Follow the team's progress during RAGBRAI on Twitter@Project3000 or via any RSS feed via

Please feel free to share this email with friends and family. Together we can work as a TEAM to help spread the word on behalf of these riders dedicated to Project 3000.


The John and Marcia Carver Nonprofit Genetic Testing Laboratory
University of Iowa

Photo: RAGBRAI Team Project 3000, or at least part of it, has gathered together to stand behind the Budget rental truck that will accompany them during the week.

Meet Team Rider/Leader: Paul Rosenthal

Photo: Paul being interviewed by KCCI. He made the evening news!

Paul Rosenthal interview

University of Iowa News Release...The idea to form a RAGBRAI team to support Project 3000 originated with Paul Rosenthal, a Washington, D.C., attorney who is chair and a founding member of an advisory board to the UI Carver Family Center for Macular Degeneration, of which Project 3000 is a part. The center is a unit of the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences in the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine.

"I have had the privilege over the years of dealing professionally with numerous Iowa businesses and government officials, and as a result I have developed a great respect for this wonderful state," said Rosenthal, who manages the Washington, D.C., office of the law firm Kelley Drye and Warren. "One of Iowa's, and indeed the nation's, great treasures is the Carver Family Center for Macular Degeneration at the University of Iowa. Because I have seen first-hand the enormous talent and dedication of the center's scientists and staff to their mission to find the causes, treatments, cures and preventions for inherited eye diseases, it is only natural for me to want to express my appreciation and gratitude by riding across the state on RAGBRAI."

You can help find a cure for blinding eye diseases in children!

UI Foundation > UI Carver College of Medicine >

Team Project 3000

You can help find a cure for blinding eye diseases in children!

A group of cyclists will be riding 450 miles across the state of Iowa July 19-25, as part of RAGBRAI (the Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa) in an effort to raise funds and awareness for Project 3000.

Riders include representatives of the University of Iowa Carver Family Center for Macular Degeneration, as well as several other friends and supporters of Project 3000.

Project 3000 represents a partnership between Chicago Cubs star Derrek Lee and Boston Celtics CEO and co-owner Wyc Grousbeck with the John and Marcia Carver Nonprofit Genetic Testing Laboratory at The University of Iowa. The effort seeks to eradicate an inherited form of blindness that strikes during childhood known as Leber congenital amaurosis, or LCA. A central goal of Project 3000 is to find every man, woman, and child affected with LCA in the United States -- about 3,000 people -- and offer genetic testing that will help lead to effective treatments and a cure for LCA.

To give some additional meaning and purpose to a ride that is sure to be fun, the cyclists on "Team Project 3000" invite you to support the crucial work of Project 3000 at The University of Iowa.