Take Up The Challenge

Rex Saffer the AstroDoc
5 min readJul 10, 2022

The Great Cycle Challenge, that is!

This year, I will for the second time participate in the Great Cycle Challenge. What is GCC? I’ll summarize the detailed information given at this page below.

Last summer, my good friend Michael McIntyre helped me move into my current apartment after I sold my home. He asked me to take this picture of him posing with my own bicycle and to share it:

Let’s Bike With Mike

Then he asked me to join him in the GCC. What is it, you ask?

Each year, people of all ages, abilities and from every state across the country set themselves a personal riding goal and challenge themselves to pedal to fight pediatric cancer. This year the challenge will take place throughout the month of September.

Riders have a personal GCC web page on which we log the miles we ride and ask anyone with the desire and the means to help to donate as generously as possible to the cause. Here is my own page:


Here is My Story at the top of my page:

Right now, cancer is the biggest killer of children from disease in the United States. Over 15,700 children are diagnosed every year, and sadly, 38 children die of cancer every week. One of these was my 3–year old step–grandson Brayden John Chandler, who died of Wilms’ Tumor, the most common form of childhood kidney cancer. Most kids with Wilms that get an early diagnosis go on to survive and lead normal lives. Brayden never got that chance.

Brayden John Chandler, Age 3, RIP

The National Cancer Institute will fund $6.9 billion in 2022 cancer research, a $353 million increase over 2021. But did you know that only 4% of that will be earmarked for pediatric cancer research? This is an abomination. Please support me by making a generous donation to support research and give these kids the brighter futures they deserve. Kids should be living their lives, not fighting for them.

I have just started riding again after de–mothballing my bicycle from its winter cocoon. Two weeks ago I made my first ride along the Schuykill River Trail (Schyukill is Dutch for “Hidden River”). From the Schuylkill River Greenways website,

Welcome to the Schuylkill River Trail, a multi-use path that will extend 120 miles from Frackville in Schuylkill County, through Montgomery, Chester and Berks Counties to Philadelphia. It travels through the historically rich region of southeastern Pennsylvania. The trail passes through rural, agricultural, suburban, urban, and industrial landscapes.

During 6 weeks in September and October of last year, I pedaled 271 miles and raised $125 for the cause. My mileage exceeded my initial goal of 150 miles, but my donations fell short. This year I am aiming to ride 300 miles during the month of September and raise a dollar a mile, for a total of, what else?, $300.

At the end of last year’s campaign, I was routinely logging 20 to 25 miles per ride at an average speed of 12.5 mi/hr. I recorded my first ride this year on a smartphone app called Strava. Here is that ride:


I thought I could pick right up with a leisurely ride from the West Conshohocken Trailhead at the bottom of Harry St., to the Betzwood Trailhead at the Northeast corner of Valley Forge National Historic Park, at the intersection of State Road 23 and the US 422 freeway, a round–trip distance of “only” 18.3 miles. You’d think that by now I would understand the meaning of the word “hubris”, having given myself the gift of so many self–inflicted, painful lessons due to it. Haha, au contraire mon frere, by its very nature, hubris’ lessons are never learned, rather, its crimes against self are only perpetuated, and so it was this time.

The Trail is largely flat, flat, flat, and I thought it would be a nice tuneup for the more strenuous outings to come. But the ride took me 2 hours and 15 minutes at a pathetic average speed of only 10.2 mi/hr. This is because I ground to a wheezing halt several times and had to dismount to get my SAT (blood oxygen saturation level) back up to a point where it would sustain my life. I rode last three miles in agony, having to coast between each set of 15–20 pedal rotations to allow my cramping muscles to unclench. On the car trip back home, I repeatedly fought off the urge to puke. When I got home I slammed some Ibuprofen, then some Acetaminophen on top of that, and about an hour and a half later, I became hopeful I would survive the night.

Anyway, I’m going to play some bridge today, and after that I’m headed for the Betzwood Trailhead for a less ambitious ride up to the Main Street Trailhead in Phoenixville and back, “only” 14 miles round–trip. I’ll adopt a much more leisurely pace and hope to improve upon my last experience. Yeah right.

Although I have begun riding and recording the miles, my official GCC total will not begin accumulating until the 1st of September. I’ve already begun my fundraising with a $50 donation of my own, kinda like a bad band at a pub seeding the tip jar before playing. So again, if you are interested and able to contribute to the cause of research to defeat pediatric cancers, please visit my page at https://greatcyclechallenge.com/Riders/RexSaffer and make a donation. Much like baseball’s All Star voting, you can participate early and often. Better yet, take up the Great Cycle Challenge yourself! If you do, get in touch with me, and we can plan some joint rides. Like pleasure, pain is ever so much more rewarding when shared.

Not to scare you off, but I’ll leave you with a pic of me in the riding jersey I bought last year.

Jersey, Left — Sausage Boy, Right

At left, the marketing photo for the jersey. Enticing, eh? At right, what I looked like in it last year. At the time, I remarked that I felt like ten pounds of sausage stuffed into a five pound case, hence the melodramatic frown. I don’t have to take a new selfie, because nothing has changed since then. My life–long battle to achieve weight loss never ends, clearly not in success, but not in ultimate failure either, since as the Eric Bogle lyric advises, “If wishes were fishes, we’d all cast nets in the sea.” As long as I keep casting, I’m not defeated. If a fat, old geezer like me can do this, how much more so you!

All the best,
From Broomall, PA on Sunday, July 10 at 10 AM,



Rex Saffer the AstroDoc

Retired Physics Professor, Motorcyclist, Bridge Player, Voracious Reader, Philosopher, Essayist, Science/Culture Utility Infielder