This is a big shout out to our sponsor of the day: Buckingham Media. We want to take a minute and thank you guys so much for your sponsorship! You are helping make this possible for not only me, but the guest riders too! Thank you!

When I started planning the guest rider part of Phil Across America today is what I envisioned. I had just one amazing day spending time with people I barely knew that wanted to ride with me and having people I know come out and support the ride.  The juxtaposition of these two events is what this summer is all about.  And then I ended the day with teammates sitting around listening to music, having a few beers and making an awesome dinner.  Wrap today and the ride in a gift box and bring it out on the bad days because I know this is what the summer can be.

As many of you know my daughter, Samantha goes to the University of South Carolina and when we go down to Columbia we generally take Route 81 to Route 77.  As part of this we pass Blacksburg, Virginia home to Virginia Tech and my friend Dr. Dini Miller.

The four times I passed through this year Dini and I could not hook up.  For that matter, I never made it to Blacksburg.  Well, after the last three days I know where I will be visiting, Blacksburg, Virginia, home of the Virginia Tech Hokies, home of my four new friends, Molly Stedfast, her boyfriend James Wilson, Brittany Delong and Tim Jordon.  All grad entomology students they joined the ride not knowing what to expect and it is hard to say who got more out of the experience, them or me.  But I vote for myself as they made the last two days memorable beyond compare.

James and Tim are serious bike riders and they can bury me.  Molly is pretty much a natural athlete who does mountain biking but never did was on a road bike before.  And then there is Brittany.  She was convinced by her colleagues to do the ride despite the fact that she is not a mountain biker and never was on a road bike.  Despite the overwhelming odds Britt rode 50 miles, learned how to gear the bike and overcame not fueling her body correctly.  Molly just toughed it up and did the entire 78 miles today, just simply amazing.

But what is so special is the time I got to spend with each of them.  The one on one interaction with these bright, young adults who are the future of the country was great.  We covered so much ground, from family to their current academics to their future careers.  And then they were able to share so much of the geography of this part of Virginia.

And when the day was done and we arrived in Rural Retreat, Virginia, they did not just cut out. Instead they sat around and chatted with other members of the team and with Dylan and I.

So a big shout out to Molly Stedfast for putting getting her friends to do the ride.  I hope to see you out west (oh I forgot to mention that they are trying to come and do more of the ride, that is how much fun they had).

While the Virginia Tech crew was neat my eyes were watery as we started the day.  The Executive Leadership of the New Jersey Pest Management Association (NJPMA) rode their motorcycles all the way from New Jersey to Blacksburg to be with myself and my teammates.  The trio, Ralph Citarellla, current President NJPMA, Garry Milsom, immediate-past President and Bernie Holst, Jr., past president of both NJPMA and the National Pest Management Association rode their Harleys to the start line and met the team.  Joining the trio was Ralph’s friend Ellen. (see picture)

From Left: Gary, Bernie, Ralph and Tim

The bottom line is that they took two days out of their busy schedules to ride over 7 hours to spend about two hours with us. I hope it was as meaningful to them as it was for me.  We shot a bunch of pictures, they got to meet most of the team and they saw the interaction of the bike ride.

Adding to all of this is the amazing luck I continue to have with the ride.  Some of you may know that we have a rest day in Telluride on my 50th birthday.  What most do not realize is that this was not something I planned, it was just they way it turned out as Don Fraser planned the ride.  Well, keep that in mind as we turn to the start of Day 8.  We lucked out getting amazing digs to stay at overnight on Day 6 and Day 7 at Molly Stedfast’s house.  What we did not know was that the ride would lead off right outside Molly’s front door.  So what are the odds that the beginning of the ride for Day 8 would be right where I was staying.  I know someone is looking down on me.

And it does not end there… have to add to the special mix Dini Miller’s husband Tim, also an avid motorcycle enthusiast.  Tim joined the NPMA crew and came out to send us off and to also help guide NJPMA to the rest stop and to join in the fun.  It was so cool seeing everyone interacting and savoring the moments.

So a huge thank you from the bottom of my heart to my friends from NJPMA.  You are the BEST!!!

Today also made me remember the debilitating effects MS can have.  One of my teammates Marlene Callahan suffers from MS.  The leaders of the tour rigged up a special cooler so she can store the drug she needs to inject, Copaxone while we travel the US.  This morning Marlene woke up shortly after her injection to be faced with a fever.  She was confident that it was an MS reaction and instead of riding today she rode with the support team.  I can only imagine the disappointment Marlene must have felt to have MS take away her Day 8 ride.  But, despite this, Marlene remained so positive and it was incredible to just look at Marlene.  Not once did I see anything other than a smile on her face.  Her ability to battle this disease, ride with us across the US and just simply embrace life is so admirable and is to be commended.  You go Marlene!!!!

The day ended on the perfect note.  As I rode into camp I was greeted to an

outstanding RV and trailer setup.  We are at a a camp ground overnight and Dylan outdid himself this time (see picture).  The Virginia Tech group first enjoyed the setup as we had music playing and beer flowing.  They were joined by Dale and Christine Johnson (Dale is our ride leader) and Jack and Ann Dillon, our support.  We threw on some Frank Sinatra (Dylan enjoyed it, go figure) had cheese and crackers and I cooked up a mean pasta dish with all the appropriate nutrients to end the day with.

How much better does it get than this?

So what about the ride?  Well it was tough and was ranked one of the tougher days on the tour.  We rode 84 miles through rolling hills along with some pretty stiff climbs.  We ascended 5221 feet, and once again I rocked it. WOW!!!

Coming off a day of rest, day 7 was an off day, my body was just simply ready for a 78 mile ride. I just keep banging out the miles and I am no worse for the wear.  I am actually surprising myself.

The day was magnificent, temps around 77 degrees, some clouds in the sky and no wind to speak of.  The country side was great as we rode south from Blacksburg to just outside of Wytheville (pronounced With-ville).  I spent most of the day with the VT quartet and took my time.  We left at 7am and rolled into camp at 5 pm  Quite the long day but once again, my body felt great and the knees are just perfect.

Our rest stops were generally in the middle of no where as the parts of Virginia we rode today were generally unpopulated, so there are no really neat pictures.  But, it was just a great day of riding.

Finally, I will try and provide you the recipe of the meal of the day as we move through the ride.  Last nights pasta was a hit, the quantity will feed 10 people….

2 lbs spaghetti

4 lbs ground beef

1 large yellow onion chopped

2 red bell peppers chopped

4 tablespoons minced garlic (jarred)

4 tablespoons dried parsley

4 tablespoons oregano

2 tablespoons salt

2 tablespoons pepper

24 oz spaghetti sauce

32 oz shredded mozzarella cheese

Boil the spaghetti and put aside.  Brown the meat, drain and put aside (reserve 2 tablespoons of the meat juice/grease.  In large frying 2 tbs of olive oil, 1 tbs of reserved meat juice and saute garlic for 2 minutes, add onion and sauté until translucent and put over top of the meat.  In large frying pan add 2 tbs of olive oil and sauté the peppers until soft, put over the meat mixture. In Large Stock pot put the spaghetti, meat mixture with onion, garlic and peppers.  Add Oregano, Parsley, Salt and Pepper and mix.  Add in 1/2 of the spaghetti sauce and mix.  Add in the mozzarella cheese and mix.  Add remaining spaghetti sauce and mix.

There you have it, until Day 9….