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

Telluride, Darren and Mike (Day Nineteen)

The day started in Dolores, CO our first stop in the colorful state that we are happy to be in after a week in the desert. Our route called for 64 miles and about 5000ft of climbing into Telluride. This is a destination that has been on our mind for months given Matt and I have never been and all the great things I have heard about it over the years. After covering nearly 450 miles climbing 29000 ft the previous 5 days, we were looking forward to what we considered a relatively easy ride – from an effort perspective.

Telluride has been on the map given 2 of my best friends Darren Tappen and Mike Groh, who combined I have known for almost 40 years were waiting in Telluride for us. Darren drove from Phoenix, AZ and Mike came from Tuscaloosa, Alabama where he coaches football – Roll Tide!

The route took us along a river, gradually gaining elevation. With mountains to the left and the river to the right, Matt and I just took it all in and enjoyed every pedal stroke.

Then we entered the town of Rico, about 30 miles outside of Telluride. Standing in the road were Mike and Darren. It was an emotional experience to be greeted by 2 individuals that I love like brothers. The scene quickly turned humorous, as things typically do when Darren, Mike and I get together, when I saw 2 mountain bikes on the roof of a car Darren had borrowed. They informed us they would be riding the final 15 miles from Lizard Head Pass, elevation 10,222 ft about 13 miles up the road. So while Matt and I pedaled up hill, Darren and Mike got grilled cheeses and then drove and met us at the top.

Along the way we met up with Jesse and Jake Mctigue, who were also helping prepare for our arrival in town. Jesse wrote an article in the local Telluride paper (see In the news on our Ride site) about the Foundation and The Ride. So the 4 of us pedaled to the top where Darren and Mike were waiting as promised. I gave them a couple dirty Ride jerseys that they wore proudly and we even got Darren to stuff himself into a pair of our Ride bibs!

The grade was steep and we cruised downhill at speeds topping 45 mph (not kidding). I was happy to have everyone arrive safely into town. I was even happier to see a fire truck waiting for us, arranged by Jake and Jesse. We received an escort into town where we gathered in the center of town and spoke to members of the community who greeted us kindly.

From there we got cleaned up and gathered for drinks by the gondola in the middle of town and then went for a tremendous steak dinner, our best by far on the Ride. Thanks to one of my friends (who would not want to be mentioned by name) for generously picking up the tab for this celebration of success to date and friendship. We laughed we hours as we ate (and drank). This will surely be one of the highlights of the Ride for me. There is nothing like quality time with friends like Darren and Mike who mean the world to me. The night ended (for me) at a bar where we played pool (poorly) for hours. As usual, we put some $ on the line to up the stakes and yours truly won the tournament of bad pool for the evening. I do promise to give my $200 winnings to our cause – all going to Families of the Fallen!

That’s all I know as of now. I left the crew about midnight and walked back to our quarters with Heather. We have a busy day today with the usual bike maintenance, laundry and massage treatments that we get on off days when we can. We also have some meetings with members on the community and a small fundraising event.

Once again, Telluride is a beautiful place. It is a great town with mountains in the backdrop. Add in Darren and Mike as well as all the support from people like Jesse, Jake and their friends and family and its no wonder I am smiling here.

To the limit,