Papa Bear (Day Forty One)
“Let me see…1/4 cooler of fresh ice; better beat that family down in 115 to the ice machine. Nuun electrolyte tabs – check. Oranges – check. Wait! They took down more than half of them yesterday, so that only leaves a third of the multi-day allotment. Get oranges! So…today, we have 80 miles. Why does Kevin want to have no stops in the first 30 miles? It’s supposed to be over 100 by 10:30! I’ll meet them by that second intersection; they can just waive me through if they don’t need anything. How much roast beef do I have? I’m going to remind Matt to use extra sunscreen today. It’s supposed to be hot! THE ICE! Get the ICE!”
With that, Ronald Anthony Mincio gets out of bed and begins his day. He is a SAG chief for The Team Jesse Foundation Ride team, and he is the first one up, with the possible exception of his son, who doesn’t sleep. Even if he had been tired, though, he’d be up and at ‘em. It’s just who he is. Ron (AKA Papa Bear, AKA Kevin Mincio’s father) is a man who understands the meaning of opportunity. When his son went away to Iraq after volunteering for the most dangerous assignment that he could find, there was a distinct possibility that he would not return. It was a very dangerous time in the conflict in Iraq, and Kevin had chosen to get into the ‘belly of the beat’. I believe that part of Papa Bear’s drive is around the fact that each day that he can spend with his son is a gift. But…that’s only part of the story.
What I’ve noticed about Papa Bear is that he, more so than perhaps anyone I’ve ever met, just wants to help. He wants to jump in and cause positive result. He isn’t looking for awards, or to be noticed; he’s not even really looking to hear the words that he deserves to hear: thank you. He just needs to be an asset, and ask anyone who has seen our Team this summer – and an asset, he is! Papa Bear is the definition of dependability. He is the standard of selflessness. These truths fit when thinking about his preparation, as well as his execution, and even more difficult to do consistently, his manner of being human. Don’t look for crazy mood swings from Papa bear. You’ll be waiting a long time. If he isn’t front and center at the SAG vehicle, it’s because he has anticipated an upcoming need, and he has partnered with the equally dependable Mama Bear to make sure that the need is met. He thinks of everything, and you should see this guy pack the car! He adds to that stereotype of the mad-dad car packer, the one that has a place for everything and you better not mess with his system. In fact, if you go near the car, he’ll as you what you need. Thing about Ron is that he doesn’t ask so that you don’t mess things up; he asks because he can get it faster than you can, and then he can put things back in a way that agrees with his system.
When you see Papa Bear coming, you’ll notice the walk of a determined man; he has purpose, and he’s a man of action. There are many reasons for this, but none are self-serving. He’s got things to do, and for him, disgrace is to be unprepared. He told me once one of his mantras: ‘to be carefree is not an excuse to be irresponsible’. I’m sure that he was just giving an example, though, and not speaking to me…right?
When you hear Papa Bear laugh, you’ll hear a genuine, sincere laugh that puts others at ease. It’s a great sound.
To sum it up, and to steal a phrase from my friend Justin Smith, who spent a few days with Papa Bear, “Ron Mincio is a very good man with a great heart and an amazing family”. I, for one, wish that there were more like him in the world. If and when I ever grow up, I would like to steal several pages out of his playbook.
Day Forty-One’s course was around seventy-five miles, and this was the most jarring day on the Katy Trail. It was, in several places, not unlike a mountain-biking trail. Big ruts carved into the ground in places, creating a set of speed bumps that you just had to fight through. In other places, the crushed rock surface seemed more like sand, and both of us almost got a wheel stuck again. Luckily, it seems that we’d learned our lesson, as all accidents were diverted.
It bordered the Missouri again for much of it, so occasionally there were some views of the lush banks on the far side of the fast-moving river. We crossed about ten bridges that sent us over creeks and ravines, each telling a different story. There were a few places in which the canopy of trees was so thick that it was like riding in the dark, and it was challenge to get your eyes to adjust from one situation to the other. On one side of the trail, 80-foot dolomite rock walls held back thick bushes and shrubs, providing a sanctuary for the many species of birds. Speaking of birds, there is a constant report coming from the trail; I know that the birds have been a recent theme, but you’ll have to blame them for this, not me. They’re the ones making all the noise! Yesterday we saw about 6 or 7 cardinals (no wonder two sports teams in this state are named after the bright red bird), countless sparrows, several hawks and some bright yellow and orange hummingbirds. My favorite birds might be any bird that feeds on mosquitos, though. Once I find out which ones they are, I may to do some fundraising for research to help them breed more efficiently and…just breed more, period. Damn mosquitos almost carried me off when I stopped to take a photo at around mile 45.
Only one more day left of the Katy Trail. It’s been really enlightening in so many ways. There is a lot of history on this trail; the old train depots give a real sense to what it must have been like to be part of the commerce system built on this key artery of western growth. Yesterday we passed a settlement that, when Lewis and Clark had reached it, was the furthest settlement to the west. Pretty amazing indeed.
Day Forty-Two will see us ‘graduate’ from the trial and pull into St Louis, where we have some amazing things planned. It’s a major city filled with culture and they know that we’re coming. It’s an area with a population that understands our cause. They know all too well about the pain that comes from losing a loved one serving overseas, and many families don’t have the opportunity the Mincio family has. We’re going to help settle the score, or at least do all we can to try.
After all, we have Papa Bear.
For the Families of the Fallen…To the Limit.
Care Creates Community,