The Team Jesse Foundation
Mission: To provide education and support for families of fallen soldiers in honor of SSG Jesse Williams


Mission: To provide education and support to families of fallen soldiers in honor of SSG Jesse Williams

Rest is Dynamic (Day Six)

Well, if I’ve learned anything about life through the beginning of this trip, it’s that one can’t necessarily depend on the day to go as planned.  A twenty-four stretch is not a day, but instead 1,440 minutes, and lots can happen.  While it would be nice to count on positive momentum to pull you through if you’ve gotten off to a good start, it just can’t be counted on the same way as in real life.  Just too many variables.  By the same token, you don’t always have to stay in a rut if that’s where you started.  You, as the User of the Game of Life, have a hand in how it washes out.  For example, you could be having a heads down, chore filled (yawn) ‘rest day’ when all of the sudden some one-in-five million thing happens that no one can quite believe.  Sounds like my day.

We had earned our first rest day!  So…naturally, it’s time to catch up on real life, with some check-in calls, laundry and any general maintenance-related chores that need to be done.  So, there was no sense in sleeping in.  After checking in to get some amazing status updates from Kevin Higman at Wimmer Solutions and Jack Knellinger and the rest of the board of Human Doings (, a non-profit that a few fellow EO members started while in Cape Town, SA last November), I was fired up and couldn’t sit still.  So much for ‘rest’!  So, after a few more calls, these related to the Team Jesse Foundation and all of them involving Team Jesse’s MFIC Matt Corry (who dominates, btw), I decided that I felt too good to just sit around.  I wanted to go get the blood pumping a little bit.  So, I thought I’d go do some wellness.  Stretch ‘er out and maybe lift some free weights.  Anything except ride a bike.  So, imagine my reaction when I used my Best Western room key to open the door to their ‘Fitness Center’: in the closet-sized room, and squarely in the middle of the floor, was a single, solitary stationary bike.  I laughed out loud.  So, I went to the front desk and asked for directions to a local gym, and they gave me two addresses to check out.  Before leaving via bike (my only transportation since the support vehicle was being used at the time), I, on a whim, changed into a Team Jesse Foundation T-shirt rather than the Wimmer Solutions lacrosse jersey I’d been bumming around the hotel in.  In military lingo (tough to not pick up some of it hanging around Mince), this turned out to be a ‘Golf Charlie’, or Game-Changer.

I walked into a place called The Body Shop, dragging my bike in behind me.  It was right then and there that something extraordinary happened.  “I can’t believe this – I’ve been looking for you for the last two days”, exclaimed the muscle-bound, bright eyed fella who was literally the first human being that I’d been in contact with (besides hotel and Team Jesse staff) since leaving Carson City.   I asked him what he meant, and he asked if I was one of the riders with Team Jesse; he’d gathered that, from the T-shirt and bike, he’d gotten really fortunate, given the futility of his two-day search effort.  You see, this guy grew up in Santa Rosa, and he and his sister knew the late Jesse Williams. His sister who lived in a neighboring town of Fallon (hundreds of miles from Santa Rosa, mind you) was a good friend of Jesse’s in high school, and she and her brother (who was suddenly standing in front of me because I had walked into his gym on my rest day wearing a Team Jesse shirt) had been following our story and desperately trying to track us down, but to no avail.  They’d called all of the area hotels and done everything that they could to find us, but it just wasn’t meant to be.  Not until when it was meant to be, that is.  I couldn’t wrap my head around his story until, out of his pocket he produced a camera that had pictures of Jesse’s gravesite less than two months prior, where they had visited to place flowers while visiting their former hometown of Santa Rosa.  We later estimated that it was, conservatively, a one-in-a-million chance that this meeting would happen.

So, the guy’s name is John O’Donnell, and he joined us for dinner that same evening, and brought his sister with him.  Their paths had actually crossed years ago at Jesse’s memorial service, where Kevin spoke in remembrance of his friend.  It was pretty emotional to see, as they talked about Jesse and put some small-world details together.   Heather and I sat there listening and we were very much reminded of what we need to do this summer.  Here were these people that had sought us out; they saw what we were doing and simply wanted to opportunity to be involved, partly because of a personal connection, but also because of what it meant.  They asked about Amaya and how she was.

John has an ownership interest in the gym where we met, and is the hands-on partner when it comes to running it.  His other job, though, is as a professional MMA fighter.  So, it was interesting watching him and Mincio talk shop and have a little fun.  One of our film crew, Harvey (short for ‘Harvard’, a nickname that somebody gave him early on due to his attendance at the Cambridge, Mass school) regrettably volunteered to be a prop as John and Kevin were dropping knowledge on each other.  He was a good sport, that kid.  He’s a crack up and I’m sure you’ll hear more about him this summer.  Attached is a pic of him and Kevin.  (NOTE – neither film crew nor Ivy League Alums were harmed in the filming of this tomfoolery)

So, also at dinner, Coach Sharon Cowdery showed up, as planned.   She is a world-class rider that we’ve trained with in Seattle.  She had her bike shipped out to Reno, where she flew in, grabbed a car and drove out to Fallon.  She’s going to ride for two days (Fallon > Austin and Austin > Eureka), then drive back to Reno and fly out. Is that commitment or what?  She wanted the opportunity to see how training had turned out, and what adjustments we might need to make five days into the ride. As a rider, she’s as smart as she is strong, and every time I’m around her, I learn something.   I have no idea what tomorrow will bring, but it’s sure to involve some excellence out of the Pink Ride Princess (she rides a pink Trek Madone).  I’m lucky to have had the opportunity to work with her and also the opportunity to get her thoughts on how I can improve.

At dinner, our new friend John declared that he was going to ride with us to Austin.  Mince asked him about his cycling experience.  He didn’t have a lot.  In fact, he had none.  Closest thing he’s done is race motorbikes professionally, and that was before his MMA career.  His plan was to borrow a bike from a friend and do the 110 mile ride with us.  Again, he just wanted the opportunity, and he was willing to put himself out there to do it.  We quickly conferred, and we decided that he was fit enough to do it, and if he was crazy enough as well, then so be it.  After all, he’d been looking for us…he’d been to Jesse’s gravesite…he was too connected for us to say no.  Plus, he was a solid guy and there was something grand about his soul.  With Sharon’s added support, we’re going to make a go of it.

110 miles…5,000 feet of climb…hot as Hades.  Versus…a couple of driven, type-A people on a mission.  Intangilbes of the human spirit abound, and as unrelenting as nature can be, it’s anyone’s call as to how this one will play out.  To this crew, it’s an opportunity to succeed. 

For the Families of the Fallen…To the Limit.

Care Creates Community,

Matt Sauri

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