August – September 2023
by Joseph Redmond

“I flew from Baton Rouge to Chicago and stayed in the famous Palmer House in downtown Chicago. Then, I traveled by train from Chicago to Seattle. I boarded a coach from Seattle to Vancouver, B.C.” -Joe Redmond, interviewed by Nola.com

I will begin this by stating: an arrow can only be shot by pulling it backward. So when life is dragging you back with difficulties, it means that it’s going to launch you into something great. So, just focus, and keep aiming.

That’s what I did, and overall, my life is the better for it!

There have been A LOT of changes to my life since I was diagnosed. One of the POSITIVE changes was when I got connected to Team Gleason.

It had been on my “bucket-list,” for quite a while, to travel across the U.S. on a train in a “sleeper-car,” to take a glacier cruise to Alaska AND to see the “Northern Lights.”

Now, with their assistance, I’m doing ALL THREE in one trip!

I flew from Baton Rouge (LA) to Chicago (IL). Stayed in the famous Palmer House in downtown Chicago. Then, traveled by train across America from Chicago to Seattle (WA). Then, boarded a coach from Seattle to Vancouver, BC. I spent a full day exploring Vancouver via a “Hop-On/Hop-off” bus tour, although, there wasn’t any “hopping!” Then, I boarded a cruise ship to Alaska through Glacier Bay National Park on Norwegian Cruise Lines.

I re-boarded a train in Seward (AK) to Anchorage (AK) then continued to Denali National Park. I stayed IN the park and took the Tundra Wilderness Tour which included an amazing view of Denali from base to summit. From Denali, I continued via train to Fairbanks (AK). Two nights in Fairbanks allowed a spectacular chance to view The Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis).

I then flew back to Baton Rouge (LA) after a vacation of a lifetime!

Team Gleason even hooked me up with a powered travel-wheelchair. They also sent me a GoPro video camera. Bear in mind, I’ve NEVER owned/borrowed/had/used one before, so, I had a fear that most of the videos would be of my face and me saying, “Is this thing on? Is this thing recording?”

Time and health are two precious assets that we don’t recognize and appreciate until they have been depleted.

So, while I have the health do it, and with Team Gleason’s assistance, and with No White Flags, I set off!  But, happiness doesn’t look perfect. It looks a bit disheveled – a little wild – out of sorts in all the right ways. So, if your goal is a happy life – don’t plan on “perfect.” The good stuff happens when you are willing to make a mess!

So, WHATEVER this trip brings will make me happy! I will CHOOSE to find the JOY in the journey before me!

So, I’ve heard it said, “A TOURIST wants to ESCAPE life, a TRAVELER wants to EXPERIENCE it.”

You never know how long life is gonna be, so, why waste it on an escape? Spend it on experiencing it, instead!

People talk about “knowing their limitations.” Well, stop limiting yourself! That’s what I’m doing on this trip.  When you open yourself up to new possibilities, you’d be surprised where life can take you. In MY case, all the way to Alaska, eventually!

NOTHING in nature lives for itself, rivers don’t drink their own water, trees don’t eat their own fruit, flowers don’t spread their fragrance for themselves. SEE? Living for others is the rule of nature! So, GIVE of yourself!

A simple smile can make someone’s day, a hug may give them the connection with others they’ve been longing for, refill someone’s cup of happiness!  You’ve seen my smile, right?  Well, I can’t do MUCH, but, I CAN smile and enjoy and be enthralled, and all this was made a reality for me by Team Gleason!  So, THANK YOU TEAM GLEASON, you put a smile on my face!

I like to laugh even MORE, I love to bring others humor!  Yes, this adventure is magical, but, my day-to-day pleasure is to bring others happiness!  At the end of the day, I want to be the reason you look down at your phone and smile, then walk into a pole!

If you’re one who brings humor and joy and happiness into MY life…thank you! I truly appreciate and love you!

I’ve learned that the secret to moving forward in life is really not a secret!  Focus your energy not on fixing and fighting the old, but on building and growing something new.  Reset and step forward. There is nothing about your present circumstances that prevent you from making progress. ONE. TINY. STEP. AT. A. TIME.

Look at me! I’m taking my adventure at 60! (and I have ALS!) C’mon! LIVE!

For some people, their glass is half-empty. For others, THEIR glass is half-full. Remember, that either way, IT’S REFILLABLE! I’m just thankful I HAVE a cup!  Fill your glass EVERYDAY with experiences and people that bring you joy! And YOU be joy to others!

I may feel miserable, at times, but, that’s no reason to make those AROUND ME feel miserable. Or chances are they won’t be around me for long! Instead, emit joy! We all get a choice – choose happiness! It’s all perspective. LOOK FOR the silver-lining in every situation!

Don’t start your day with the broken pieces of yesterday. Every day is a fresh start. Each day is a new beginning. Every morning we wake up is the first day of our new life.

A secret to happiness is letting every situation be what it is instead of what you think it should be.  That said…”it is what it is.” Life will happen whether we’re ready or not. Our “mission” is to adapt and adjust to it…regardless of what “it” is.  Then, CHOOSE to be happy about it! (Yes, it’s an ongoing theme for me! “Choose happy!” It’s how I survive each day.)

I am so happy I don’t have a fake image to maintain. What you see is what you get.

Some days I feel I’m amazing, other days I’m a wreck and leave my house keys in my freezer, but everyday I’m ME.  I never pretend to be something I am not, well, sane. Sometimes I pretend to be SANE!

I don’t like being the center of attention. I prefer to shine the spotlight on others. I am genuinely a happy person, so, I don’t take any offense at my insignificance to others! An observation: the hardest arithmetic to master is that which enables us to count our blessings. (Thankfully, I can do THAT math and it’s a VERY LARGE number! And it grows larger EVERY DAY!)

Well, my ORIGINAL plan to view The Northern Lights was just to wait until dark…and look up! THAT didn’t work so well. I even had LOTS of caffeine to stay awake and go out at all hours. I FINALLY gave up and went to bed about 3am.

Oh! We went to a lodge out in the middle of nowhere in the Alaska wilderness outside of Fairbanks for the Aurora Borealis Viewing. The owner’s partner died of ALS! We had a long and involved talk about the dis-ease, Steve Gleason, feeding-tubes, tracheostomies, “The Ice Bucket Challenge,” etc.! Small world, huh?

I have enjoyed my solo journey. IMMENSELY!. HOWEVER, I cannot express strongly enough that you should have a travel companion!

There have been a number of times that I wanted to turn to someone and comment on a sight. A moment SHARED is indeed a much richer experience! So, travel with a Spouse, a Significant-other, a Family-member, a Friend, a Caregiver. SOMEONE! ANYONE! with whom to share the moment!

I’M HOME! THANK YOU, TEAM GLEASON! We’ve come full-circle.  On my trip, I saw Snow-capped Mountains, Whales, Glaciers, Dall Sheep (ewes AND rams), a Momma Grizzly Bear and her cubs, and more. Some pictures, some videos, some neither…just enjoyed SEEING them!  No matter what life brings, next, I will ALWAYS have the memories of the train rides and the cruise and the spectacular landscapes!

Were there difficulties?  Some, but, they were very minor compared to splendor I saw!  Because of the movement, I didn’t attempt walking between cars on the train. When it rained on the cruise, I didn’t take the shore visit and excursions, for fear of slipping and falling. Not EVERY room was an A.D.A. compliant room. I brought MY OWN (suction-cup) Grab-bar handles, and I had a bungee-cord on my walker to control my suitcase.

Would I do it, again?  IN A HEARTBEAT!  I’m ready for my next adventure! And STILL NO WHITE FLAGS!