The Diabetic "Stuff" for pedaling across the USA

This post originally appeared on my blog, It is a companion piece to my wife Lucia’s story and motivation to do this trip. Again, apologies for any formatting errors (i’m really new to this!)

Once again, here’s the #1 FAQ and Mike’s response to it …

"Why do you want to ride across the USA?"

Like Lucia said, "One question with so many answers." Unlike Lucia, I will be a smart-aleck and say, "It's complicated ..."

But, here's the short answer for those of you Type A personalities:

Because I can!

The whole “because I can” concept for me is an offshoot of the “tape measure of life” concept, which might be where the “Do it Now!” concept came from, but it’s probably older than that too.

Here’s the refresher - Take a tape measure, no not mentally, actually take a tape measure and pull out the tape to 85 inches (if you are on the metric system, pull it out to 85 cm). Now, put your finger on your current age, then take a look at the distance from the beginning of the tape to your finger, and then the distance from your finger to 85 whatevers. Now reflect and come back here when you’re done …

[caption id=“attachment_421” align=“aligncenter” width=“300”]85 on the tape 85 on the tape[/caption]

… okay, you’re back!?! Wow, that was shorter than I thought it would be, but now that you’re done reflecting, let’s get back to me. I’m now 62, here’s how the tape measure thing looks for me:

[caption id=“attachment_420” align=“aligncenter” width=“300”]62 on the tape 62 on the tape[/caption]

[caption id=“attachment_422” align=“alignright” width=“201”]What's left What’s left[/caption]

Now I’m leaving out all of the “tape” leading up to 62 and I’m just going to talk about the relatively small bit remaining. Ummmmm, that’s just 23 years left – I immediately start to think about how I want to spend those remaining inches while constantly mixing metaphors with reality. Bottom line: Sooner is better than later, so I’m going pedaling while I still can, okay?

Overall, I’m in pretty good shape for having been on this rock for 62 trips around the sun. However, I do have a serious chronic condition called Type 1 Diabetes (T1D), formerly called juvenile diabetes. The really high-level, banal view of T1D means I have to take insulin every day, many times a day, while monitoring my blood glucose levels many times each day. In other words, I have to “manage” my chronic condition (24/7, btw with no days off). It’s not an “illness” that will go away with any sort of medical treatment/diet/exercise, except maybe a pancreas transplant - but then you’re really getting complicated …

If you’re interested, here is an excellent T1D, Diabetes 101 Explainer written by a guy named Mike Stebbins (thanks Mike!). He is developing his very own artificial pancreas (aka - using lots of existing technology, plus his own and others open source programming skills, to build a machine, linked to the cloud to control his diabetes) - “Dear Machines: You Can Take This Job”.

The upshot of all this is that I have my own collection of technology that includes an insulin pump, a glucose meter (aka a finger-stick meter, because I have to poke my finger and get some blood for it to provide me with blood glucose data), and a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) that uses an under the skin sensor to also provide me with even more blood glucose data. The pump and CGM sensor are worn 24/7.

[caption id=“attachment_465” align=“aligncenter” width=“225”]Glucose Meter - aka finger-stick meter Glucose Meter - aka finger-stick meter[/caption]

[caption id=“attachment_464” align=“aligncenter” width=“300”]Dexcom G4 CGM alongside insulin and a newly filled pump cartridge Dexcom G4 CGM alongside insulin and a newly filled pump cartridge[/caption]

I not only get the privilege of managing all the data, programming the pump, and making dosing decisions, but I also have to make sure that I have all the supplies needed to make everything work, including:

  • Insulin in vials (needs to stay out of direct heat); 2 vials/month (one as a back-up)
    • A special evaporative cooling pouch to prevent overheating, called a Frio pouch
  • Insulin pump
    • Water-proof/resistant
    • Frio pump "wallet" to keep the insulin in the pump from overheating
  • Back-up insulin pump
  • Insulin needles as a back-up to the back-up insulin pump
  • Insulin cartridges for the pump (a new one every 7 - 10 days)
  • Infusion sets for the pump (gets the insulin from the pump into my body)
    • Sets get changed every 1 - 3 days, roughly 20/month; sweat is an enemy (but not the only one)
  • Batteries and/or chargers for pump, meter and CGM
  • Blood glucose meter
    • Not water-proof/resistant
  • Spare blood glucose meter
  • Testing strips for the meter (6 - 12 or more times/day, roughly 300 strips/month)
  • Sensors for the CGM
    • The sensor gets changed every 7 days, but sometimes can last 2 - 3 weeks; sweat is the enemy here as well, meaning a sensor might last for less than a day.
  • Sensor transmitter - sends a wireless signal to the CGM receiver every 5 minutes
  • CGM receiver - provides a visual display of blood glucose values, along with valuable alarms when my BG gets out of range (too high or too low)
    • Not water-proof/resistant
  • Spare O-ringed battery caps for the pump
  • Proprietary tool to open the pump's battery compartment
  • Glucose tablets/gel/powder to rapidly raise dangerously low blood glucose levels; exercise can be an enemy here
Since I can't carry four months worth of all these supplies, my wonderful friends, Steve and Rachel will send me a care package every month to a Post Office along the way. The insulin and maybe the test strips will be purchased as we go along from local pharmacies.

[caption id=“attachment_466” align=“aligncenter” width=“300”]Care packages on the assembly line Care packages on the assembly line[/caption]


[caption id=“attachment_467” align=“aligncenter” width=“300”]Care package "stuff" - literally and figuratively Care package “stuff” - literally and figuratively[/caption]

So, after all of this, the answer to "Why?" remains

Because I can!

Keep on rolling!

You are a true inspiration to others, whether or not they have diabetes. I’m looking forward to following your adventure!

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What an adventure. Heres to steady blood sugars as you roll down the winding road!!

(I’d be curious to know you average daily insulin total pre-trip and once you been rolling for a month or so.)

We did an eight-day ride here in Florida, back in April. I had one day where we rode around 82 miles. My TDD for that day was 13.6U, an all-time low for me, with just under 30U/day as my non-exercising standard.

Overall, I am finding that my TDD runs @ roughly 30% less, but obviously there’s some significant variability.

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You’ve provided great insight to the level of complexity for you ride that diabetes adds. It’s not simple but is doable! Congrats on your thoughtful and deliberate analysis of your remaining life-span and what you want to do with it. I’m very much in the same mindset and am about one year older than you. I’m embarking on a similar adventure as I transition from a full-time boat live-aboard lifestyle to a full-time RV lifestyle.

I love recumbent bicycles. Once I rode one, I wondered what took me so long to discover this style bike. Does your tricycle have two wheels in front or back?

Good luck. I look forward to reading about your trip. I may or may not be in Portland as you cycle through. I’m not returning home until June 28. I’d love to meet you and share a cup of coffee if it could work.

By the way, the maritime museum in Astoria is a worthwhile stop. It’s right on the Columbia River.

My wife and I have nearly identical tadpole trikes (2 in front, 1 in back).

Sadly for meeting up with you in Portland, we had to drop Portland from our itinerary. From Astoria, we make our way to Seaside, then we will ride down the coast to Neskowin before turning to the east.

I had also hoped to be able to meet you and maybe @Judith_in_Portland, but maybe next year :slight_smile:

We will definitely look into the Maritime Museum, thanks!

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I hope you have a marvellous trip, it will be just wonderful for you and your wife.

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I haven’t been to Astoria in ages and I can’t recall whether I’ve ever taken my younger daughter there. When do you expect to be in Astoria? Perhaps we can touch bases with you and your wife and enjoy a protein bar together as you cycle by…

That would be cool! We are currently scheduled to ride about 56 miles from Longview, WA to Astoria, OR on Saturday, 6/25, then we have a “leisurely” 32 mile ride the next day out of Astoria to a campground in Cannon Beach. We are hoping the shorter day will give us a few brief moments to explore Astoria.

I think we will pour some Pacific Ocean on our trikes in Seaside, but I don’t have the route in front of me right now.

Bravo!..And many blessings…Judith

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