Zero Day

We woke up really early again this morning to get Jeff to the airport.  Cousin Jeff, it’s been awesome having you along with us for this stretch of the trip and I hated to see you leave.  Since we were kids Jeff has been a huge source of motivation and adventure in my life from skiing, backpacking, and running x-country to newly invented sports like barn jumping (videos to come).  Jeff is always pushing every sport to the limit excelling at everything he takes on and this energy has pushed me to always test my limits.  A few years ago, Jeff left his job at Xerox to hike the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine.  I was in school at NC State at the time and was able to catch up with him a few times in North Carolina and Virginia.  I was so envious of the freedom and adventure he was experiencing and this was a huge inspiration for this trip.

Jeff on the AT

Exhausted from the fast pace of the last couple weeks, I requested that today be a zero day in Austin, which Jeff introduced us to from from his days on the AT as a relaxation day with zero mileage.  When we got back from the airport I spent most of the rest of the day reading emails, updating the blog, and sleeping.

Zero Day

Later in the evening, we decided to watch a movie in the hotel room.  We all finally agreed on 127 Hours, a true story about a climber hiking by himself out in Utah that gets his arm wedged between two rocks and can’t get free.  After struggling to survive for several days, he finally cuts his arm off in order to escape and survive.  In the movie he states that the rock that broke free by some freak of nature and caught his arm was destined for him.  That rock was put there with the purpose of this obstacle and everything that happened in his life was pointing him toward this.

As I watched this movie I couldn’t help but reflect on my own situation and some of the similar emotions.  Sometimes I think I’m still in shock and haven’t fully grasped what is happening to me.  Is this really what my life comes down to for me?  Is this my fate?  I worked so hard with goals aimed years down the road, and now I’m dieing at the age of 32.  Did I eat a piece of fruit with too much pesticide, catch the sunlight on the wrong day, work with the wrong chemical, or is this my fate?  Was I programmed from the time I was born to get this disease?  Sometimes in the shower or right before bed the gravity of this starts to hit me then goes away.  I’m watching myself die and sometimes its hard to grasp that its me I’m watching.  How can I free myself from this rock?


About bhoefen

Going on a road trip.
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17 Responses to Zero Day

  1. Dad says:

    Several days of levity and then – bam! Your posts strike us particularly deeply every so often. Beautiful tribute to Jeff, profound thoughts from 127 hours. Ironic how the 2 are intertwined – looking down the chasm unleashes the adventure of a lifetime. Hope you understand and take great satisfaction from inspiring so many people just like Jeff inspired you. I’m counting the hours to being back with you.

  2. Gordy Warn says:

    Hi Bret,
    I just learned about what you have been going through. It has been a long time but I remember going snowboarding with you and your brothers at Swain when we were in high school. I enjoyed those times greatly. I just wanted to let you know that you are in my thoughts and prayers. You are an inspiration to all and I wish you the best.
    If you pass by State College, PA in your travels please do not hesitate to stop and visit.

    • JoEllen (Fahy) Schubmehl says:

      Gordy! I know this is off topic, but I was thinking of you the other day and wondering how you are. Drop me a line:

      Are you teaching at Penn State? I have many fond memories of my time in State College. 🙂

  3. Jessica says:

    Bret, I’ll echo your Dad’s comment. You make us laugh, you make us cry, you leave us in awe. Whatever your purpose and destiny, you surely haven’t wasted the trip.

    You keep making wonderful memories and we’ll keep praying for a way to bust up that rock.

    Love you guys!

  4. Danielle says:


    Thank you for your post about Jeff. I’m sure that he is humbled that you included him on your blog. As much inspiration as he has given you, please know that your fight is just as inspirational for him (and me, too). He loved his time with you and talked about it all day today during our car ride to Syracuse. The topic of positive energy came up several times…the energy sent out to you by others and the energy that you carry with you everywhere you go. Jeff also spoke of all the great people you have met on your journey. Just remember that every person you meet is put into your life at that exact moment for a reason and each has a gift to give to you.

    We are so very proud of you, Bret.


  5. Carol burke says:

    Bret, Special people are “Chosen” The courage, grace and insight is a special gift that you have been given which in turn has blessed us. This was the case with Holly also. The Spiritual Essence that is a part of all this can only be given to the Chosen Few.
    Thank you Bret

  6. Debbie says:

    Hello Road Warriors and my apologies for not posting sooner!

    This will be a combo response to sooo many things I’ve just read–which all have been thrilling, thought provoking, humorous and soul stirring.

    First of all–and I’m serious about this–I think you should write a book/review of all the places you have eaten at along the way. Call it-The Stomach Path Less Chosen –or something like that. Its interesting to note that even I comment to friends before I read your blog that I say “I wonder what the Hoefens ate today?”

    P.S. I agree with your grandmother–you need more veggies and roughage in your diet.

    Loved the pics and stories about Grange and Austin–I had no idea that it was such a music mecca city. I applaud Creepy Statue Guy for taking the plunge from that rope swing and into the river. That took some guts! And a little HOLLA for my sister, the new Karate Kid.

    By the way–I’m also totally digging the beard on you, Bret! It suits you.

    Now–to today’s post and my own little side story of inspiration.

    Since your journey began, I have shared your blog and travels with so many of my friends the world over. Some read your blog (and comment to me about it) but they don’t leave a message because they feel shy about it–not knowing you personally. But you cannot imagine when I pick up the phone and it’s from someone in Los Angeles or New York and the first question they ask me—how is Bret and your sister doing?

    The tell ME that they saw you were in New Orleans…or that you went back home for Christmas. And always–always–they tell me how moved and touched they are that you are doing this. How brave, how loving your family is and how supportive.

    The torch you carry with your blog and stories is an inspiration to all the voiceless people who read your blog. They cry, they cheer and they spread the word about you to other so that they can be inspired to–to live life to the fullest, no matter what.

    And without really knowing, as you spend days and days on the road (and in multiple restaurants) that there is gigantic following of well-wishers and those in awe who say ” I wish with all my heart that is something like this happens to me–that I can meet it head on like Bret and his family is doing with the same amount of courage”.

    And each time someone tells me that, I smile at the same time tears leak down my cheek. I agree with them whole heartedly and then say “just keep reading!”

    And they do.

    And as for “your rock?” This is your rock. And with every mile you cross–every pill you take–every time you get up in the morning when your body wants you to go back to bed? That is you..chipping away at that rock. You possess the same kind of spirit and fortitude as that trapped climber.

    So from me…the over verbose sister-in-law..I will say for everyone who is silent and does not leave a message on this blog, we’re proud of you, cheering for you, praying for you and in awe of you.

    Just keeping chipping away at that rock!

    Love you and Shannon so much!


  7. Geoffrey (a.k.a. Cousin Jeff) says:


    Thank you so much for letting me be a part of your incredible journey. I haven’t laughed so hard, so often or had so many amazing moments in a very long time. Each of you amaze me in your strength. I feel so fortunate to have experienced this first hand.

    What the blog doesn’t reveal is that, behind the scenes, this is a well oiled travel machine. With Aunt Betsy as CFO managing the finances, Shannon as director of IT navigating, googling, making reservations, editing videos, etc, etc, etc and Bret as CEO with the frequently exercised 🙂 power to veto proposed plans. It’s a sight to behold! There was talk about initiating daily power point presentations to discuss the pro / cons regarding proposed plans for each day.

    I wanted to make sure and document some of the insights that I learned from my short stint aboard this amazing adventure:
    1) Arby’s in New Orleans after 2am is a great place to make friends.
    2) Turning the wrong way down a one-way street while pulling a trailer is a great way to clear out the sinuses.
    3) If anyone in the south starts talking about football, just nod your head and act like you know exactly what they are talking about.
    4) There is a reason that they don’t sell Tabasco flavored ice cream at wic-a-wic-a-wegmans.
    5) Cajun music is NOT the same as Zydeco.
    6) If you have New York plates, it’s ok to go straight from the left turn lane.
    7) Don’t ever attempt to go head to head with Bret Hoefen eating jalapeno’s (Beignets are ok, use caution with Cajun Oysters).

    Thanks again for an incredible week that went way too fast, but in many ways felt like far more than a week! Bret, you are an unbelievable inspiration! I can’t wait to read about where you go and what you do next. I will be with you in spirit every step of the way. My thoughts and prayers are with you always.

    Tacos to you later!

    Cousin Jeff

  8. Nannette says:

    We all need a zero day from time to time to recharge our batteries. Thanks for the reminder we need occasionally. I’ll call those kind of days the zero mileage days too.

    Sadly, sometimes we can think of our lives like the caterpillar that turns brown and silent, hibernating in a cocoon. You on the other hand is way past that stage, you’ve figured out that being like a butterfly is a better way to live. So full of life, color and adventure. Sharing your daily experiences in pictures and beautifully written words is truly a gift to those of us who have been following the way you are living life – so free and full like a butterfly….with loved ones around you. So on this snowy Rochester Saturday, we send you good thoughts and wishes.

  9. Colleen Rousell says:

    You do not know me but you worked with my husband Mike. I want to thank you for your inspiration. You have touched the lives so many people you do not even know.

    I agree that this blog would be the most amazing book.

    Always keeping you and your family in our thoughts and prayers every day.

    Colleen Rousell

  10. Jill St. George Forsythe says:

    I think it is fate. Which you are handling beautifully while teaching many of us to “make every day our best day'” I actually posted that in my class room. The kids don’t understand how every day can be better than the one before. All in due time.

    Without sounding really flakey I believe that people enter and exit your life with a purpose. They each bring something to your life that makes you grow whether in the immediate or in time. For example: Your mother was put in my path years ago. I thought it was to model how to be a better person and teacher but I realize now it was infinitely larger than that. It was to allow me to learn from you as well. God knows you have had a profound impact on how I look at things in the present. Every day is a precious gift. A great sense of humor, positive atitude and love are crucial to the quality of our lives. Obviously, you have it all. I am sure you realize how important this blog is but the magnitude of what you are teaching us is beyond comprehension. I now can call days like today what they really are a zero day!

    You are all incredible.

  11. Michelle, Mario, and Simona says:

    I think everyone already took our words, but as you can clearly see you are a true inspiration to all those who you cross paths with. I am learning more about you then I ever knew through this blog and feel so truly blessed to be part of your family.
    I dont know if any of us know our fate in this life, and I guess all we can do is enjoy every moment, every experience, and every journey that we take, and make it as special as we can. Something which you are clearly doing.

    We love you,
    Michelle, Mario, and Simona

  12. Aunt Sharon and Uncle Lee says:

    Dear Bret,

    I was emotionally overwhelmed after reading this post and your reflective thoughts. I have not seen the movie 127 hours but am familiar with the story and saw the hiker interviewed on TV after his amazing ordeal. Not only did he survive this unimaginable incident by finally severing his arm but he also acknowledges growing in so many positive ways because of the experience.
    None of us knows our destiny in this life or how life changing circumstances will affect us. I can only imagine the feelings that you are forced to deal with at times. However, you hvae been giving an amazing positive attitude, a zestful love for life, and an adventursome yet gentle spirit, and a heart full of love, goodwill, and gratitude. You have been forced to deal with your own kind of rock in this disease and you are doing so with courage and grace. In the process, you have inspired, strengthened, and been a blessing to so many and to all of us, your family. I truly believe that we are strengthened through faith when we go through exceptionally challenging circumstances in our lives, especially when most difficult or painful.
    Your courage and determination so like that of the hiker, ignite the power of the human spirit. Add a generous sprinkling of faith to all the love and prayers of so many and you will be continually strengthened. Believe, my dear Bret, you will be guided to be freed from your rock.
    We Love You.
    Uncle Lee & Aunt Sharon

  13. Shannon Reynolds says:

    Bret- Your blog was brought to my attention by a fellow CCS friend, Mike Gratz.

    “The torch you carry with your blog and stories is an inspiration to all the voiceless people who read your blog. They cry, they cheer and they spread the word about you to other so that they can be inspired to–to live life to the fullest, no matter what.”

    Sissy, I couldn’t have said it better myself!!! I have thought about leaving a post MANY times, but felt that I would be intruding in some sort of way.
    Just wanted to let you know that I follow your journey daily, and have taken soo much away from your posts!!! Most of all, you have taught me about the true definition of COURAGE and STRENGTH!!!

    I look forward to hearing about your future adventures!!!


  14. Michelle Lindsey Piedmonte says:

    It sounds like Zero day might have been tougher than some of those long and tiring travel days.
    I agree with others, you seem to be chipping away at your rock each time you do something amazing (even those you haven’t included in your blog for us all to share) that a dude with cancer shouldn’t be able to do.
    I’m sure you know-but it’s a statement worth repeating-we are ALL thinking of and praying for you….just trying to help free a big chunk of that boulder.

  15. carol hasler says:

    I am Kevin Simpson’s first cousin and neighbor.
    I am so inspired by your blog and so glad your family can be with you. We pray (along with our prayer chain at church) for a miraculous recovery and a safe journey for all of you.
    We have traveled alot and realize that time away from all the requirements of life at home gives you quality time to think about our lives and appreciate what we have experienced. The country has such a variety of scenery and I’m glad you and your family and friends are able to experience it together. I’m so glad Jeff was able to come down too.

  16. Pingback: Giving the Journey Heart and Soul | Bret Hoefen – My CCS Story

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