Last weekend, I rode just shy of 100 miles (160 km) in over two days to create awareness of and raise funds for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS) via the 2014 Bike MS Willamette Valley. Like the rides I enjoyed in 2012 and 2013, this year’s event was festive, fun, and celebratory. And in spite of not having trained properly, which resulted in the rides being more grueling than they needed to be, crossing the finish line on both days was such a rush. Plus, there was free, unlimited Full Sail Brewing beer at the end!

However, those were not the only reasons I ride for the NMSS. I ride for Barbara Kruse, mother of my buddy, Kevin. In the twenty years that I’ve known him, I also knew his mother to be one who was living with MS. Admittedly, I didn’t truly know anything about the disease, save for a bit of a curiosity jolt brought on by the annual fundraising email I would receive from Kevin to which I always, gladly donated.

But it never went beyond that. I wasn’t close enough to the disease to fully understand how debilitating it truly is. It was through Kevin’s active involvement with the NMSS via the MS150 bike rides he did while he was in Utah that I began being inspired. And I finally felt closer to comprehending what I was helping him fight for when I did my first BikeMS in 2012.

Last weekend, I rode for Mrs. Kruse.

Several weeks before the event, during an impromptu lunch gathering with friends, I was fortunate enough to meet Massoud and his son, Nathan. They were a charismatic father-and-son team who kept the table conversations lively and engaging. I noticed when they arrived that Nathan used a cane to walk, and generally leaned on his father to help traverse even the short distance between, say, the table and the restrooms. I didn’t know what ailed Nathan until I casually spoke about my upcoming BikeMS event, and I learned that he’d been diagnosed with the disease two years ago.

Previously, Nathan had been a very active young man, an avid runner, cyclist, an athlete. During our chat, it was painfully clear that he wants to move beyond the disease. I told him of ways that he could possibly participate in BikeMS next year despite his condition, and how inspired he may feel being surrounded by such a positive environment and by being around other individuals who are living with the disease. I hope to help him find a way to be a part of it in 2015.

Last weekend, I rode for Nathan.

Multiple sclerosis is unpredictable, seeming to be random in terms of who and when it strikes. It’s not purely hereditary, genetics aren’t necessarily to blame, and there are no proven environmental causes. More importantly, there is no cure.

Yet. 

It is for that hope that I will continue to ride, hope that I witnessed in everyone at the event, be they the riders, the volunteers, the staff, the supporters, the families. And it is for that hope that I urge you to join the fight to stomp MS. If not by participating in fundraising events like BikeMS, but by your generous donations that go toward research and development for a future cure.

My donation page is still open and I hope to raise at least $1,000 USD by the end of September 2014. A little goes a long way. Thank you!

Monument Valley is awesomesauce!

amadolumbajr:

My tastiest #homemade #MacNCheese creation to date. #yum (at Benson Apartments)

I’ve decided to share my recipe, which yields 4 servings:

JON’S MAC ‘N CHEESE

PREP TIME:  5 min

COOKING TIME: 50 min

INGREDIENTS:

  • Elbow macaroni, uncooked - 3 cups
  • Low Sodium Chicken Stock - 2 cups
  • Half-n-Half - 1 cup
  • Panko Bread Crumbs - 1 cup
  • Cream Cheese, softened - 1 cup
  • Parmesan Cheese, grated - 1 cup
  • Sour Cream - 1/2 cup
  • Sharp Cheddar Cheese, grated - 1/2 cup
  • Monterey Jack Cheese, grated - 1/4 cup
  • Mozzarella Cheese, grated - 1/4 cup
  • Butter, room temperature - 7 Tbsp, divided
  • Flour - 3 Tbsp
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil - 1 Tbsp
  • Mustard Powder - 1 tsp
  • Salt - 1 tsp, divided
  • Garlic Powder - 1/2 tsp
  • Onion Powder - 1/2 tsp
  • Ground Nutmeg - 1/2 tsp
  • Paprika - 1/2 tsp
  • Ground Black Pepper - 1/3 tsp

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400°F and bring pasta water to a boil.

While pasta water is boiling, add extra virgin olive oil and 1/2 tsp salt. Add elbow macaroni to water, and give a quick stir to break up pasta. Cook al dente (approximately 7-to-8 minutes) and strain into a colander. Set aside.

In same pasta water pot, melt 3 Tbsp butter on low heat. Once butter is melted, whisk in 3 Tbsp of flour. Whisk continuously for approximately 2 minutes to create the roux.

Add the chicken stock and half-n-half, and let simmer under medium-low heat for approximately 5 minutes (or until liquid has slightly thickened), stirring constantly to create the white sauce base. Whisk in the mustard powder, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, ground black pepper, ground nutmeg, and remaining salt.

Reduce heat to low, and stir in the cream cheese. After cream cheese is incorporated, add the sharp cheddar cheese, monterey jack cheese, and mozzarella cheese. Stir constantly, allowing all to melt in the sauce (approximately 2 minutes). Remove from heat.

Return the cooked elbow macaroni into the pot, add the sour cream, and fold into the cheese sauce. Portion into four oven-safe ceramic 9.5-oz ramekins (like the ones available from World Market).

Top each serving with a mixture of panko bread crumbs and grated parmesan cheese. Add a tablespoon of room temperature butter on top of the bread crumb/parmesan cheese layer.

Cook in oven for 15-to-20 minutes, or until the cheese topping has melted and/or achieves a light golden brown color.

Remove from oven, and let stand on counter top for approximately 5 minutes prior to enjoying.

THIS IS “COMFORT FOOD”— NOT DIET FOOD!  Each portion contains approximately 1,200 calories, 85 grams of carbohydrates, 78 grams of fat, 44 grams of protein, and 1,000 grams of sodium.  In other words, enjoy this recipe only once in a blue moon and definitely follow it up with a long walk or short run.  Keep yourself balanced!

GLUTEN FREE SUBSTITUTIONS:

Use any brand almond flour or any wheat-free flour

Use any brand gluten-free bread crumbs

"HEALTHIER" SUBSTITUTIONS:

Use any brand low-fat and/or low-calorie versions of any of the dairy products

Use any brand almond milk instead of the half-n-half

 

If you have a vegan version that does this recipe justice, please share!

My tastiest #homemade #MacNCheese creation to date. #yum (at Benson Apartments)

I have to put in a couple of hours of work on my “day off” but at least this is where I’m officing. #comfy #cozy #cafe (at Coffee Time)

People who were glasses (a) will immediately spot what’s wrong with this picture and (b) why I’m really sad right now. #sigh (at Nike - Tiger Woods Center)

Falling slowly

This is the cutest thing that’s happened to coffee mugs. Ever. #puppies #cuteattack (at Nike - Tiger Woods Center)

Whiskey & Coke, specs, and a branded cap #Monday (at Alphabet District)