Roger has spent his entire life helping others. Team Gleason was thrilled to help on his ALS journey with a whirl-wind cross country train Adventure. Starting in Chicago, swinging by the Grand Canyon, cruising up the west coast, swimming in the cold waters of Icicle Creek, and across the badlands, Roger found that the people he met were the true highlight of the trip.
“I mean, surprisingly, it was me and the people on the train,” said Roger. “It was just neat how you met people and there was just a commonality and you just kind of clicked.” Roger was able to cruise the rails in a Roomette, a cabin with two chairs that converted to bunk beds. For meals, Roger and his wife, Valerie, would sit across from new people every night. The most memorable meeting did get off to a rough start.
“There was interest in what we were doing, yeah, especially when I wore my shirt that said, ‘I’m not drunk. I have a ALS.’ That’s a great conversation starter. In fact, there’s one guy at the table and he has a big attitude. He says, ‘I was offended by that shirt. I did not think you had ALS, so I’m really really glad that we had a chance to visit.’ And he says, ‘You’ve really helped me open my eyes.’”
The first big stop was at the Grand Canyon, where they watched storms sweep through the iconic landmark.
“You know it’s just, it’s very peaceful. It’s kind of haunting for some reason, but yet you don’t feel small.”
Of course, it’s not an Adventure until something goes wrong. When leaving the Grand Canyon, somehow their luggage got left behind. Their entire trip up the west coast, they were trying to figure out how to get it back. With the dedication of Amtrak staff and one amazing shuttle driver, they were reunited with clean clothes in San Francisco. Passengers rallied around them, but fortunately they didn’t have to take up someone’s offer of their husband’s underwear.
From Icicle Creek, they spent the last few days of their trip back on Amtrak, watching the west go past them together.
When applying, Roger made it very clear what he wanted to achieve: “I believe Amtrak Adventure will push my limits but not overpower them. I wish to pilot this trip. I wish to share this trip with other pALS to enlist a desire to participate in life without the disappointments of ‘what might have been.’”
Along the way he pushed himself, met amazing people, and was able to continue to grow.
“I’ve always been on the other end, to help with other people. And it’s so hard to accept from others. But it’s a discipline I’m learning. And it’s good for me. And I thank you for that too. It makes me a better person. Thank you so much for sending us on this trip.”