Bicycle Race (Day Forty-Six)
Being back amongst the hydrated and healthy felt great. The best part about being sick is that the body recovers in such a way that you can, and often do, come back stronger. Being able to eat is a good thing too. So, renewed replenished and refreshed, Day Forty-Six began with great optimism.
It was a muggy day, to say the least. On one hand, were wondering if the heat wave would ever end, and on the other we had just accepted it. So, we knew the drill. Still, though, this was a particularly humid day. Niether Mince nor I can remember sweating so much in our entire lives. At one point, Kevin just had a steady stream pouring off of his jersey, and by noon it looked like I was wearing a tie-dye because of all the salt marks I was sweating out of my newly rehabilitated body.
We had an appearance to make, so we didn’t have too much time to dilly-dally on the trail. We just sort of jammed through it, and enjoyed the serenity that country roads can bring. Rolling hills are what I’ll remember most about the actual Ride on Day Forty Six. Pretty sure that our bikes were merely transportation that day. We had places to go and a very important person to see.
We arrived at our first event at around 2:30. It was a Bicycle Race called the Great Egyptian Omnium, and it happened to be about ten miles from our hotel. Matty Corry, Team Jesse Foundation’s MFIC, had heard about the event and was in touch with the event’s chairman and committee. They wanted us to come and set up a booth to tell people about what we were doing. They wanted to rally community – in the case the cycling community – around our cause. Due to a very important engagement that began promptly after the event, we declined to break out our event tent. It would be a stroke of luck that this was the case…
So, instead, we were invited to get shade in the best seating at the venue; we were with the emcee, who was also part of the committee. He had been expecting us and was gracious beyond belief. The first time that he announced our presence was in between some races, and he gave us perhaps one of the most emphatic introductions that we’ve been given in the last two months. ‘Arrow’ was the name of the gentleman, and he was not shy about reaching out to his cycling community, of which he had clearly been part for a good long time. He told us, over loadspeaker, that our money was no good anywhere on the premises and that people should come up and greet us. He mentioned our website and the ease of donating at least six times and reminded the community, riders and fans alike, that without people like Jesse Williams and Kevin Mincio, there will be no Sunday bike races in the park. At the end of Arrow’s initial speech, I looked around and didn’t see anyone who wasn’t clapping. Kevin got the mike from Arrow and thanked everyone for their support and got to recap a few words about his friend, SSG Jesse Williams. It would not be the last time he’d get to talk about his friend that day.
The race was exciting to watch; lots of lead changes and strategy that I didn’t realize went on with Omnium stage. Then, out of nowhere, some clouds came in, headed dead-towards the park. It was like we were back in the mountains again; this thing came into sunny skies, and in less than 10 minutes of warning, tents were flying and winds picked up to around 50 knots. Debris was flying and people started running for their cars as thunder pounded our ears. Luckily for the riders, their race was in the final lap when the may lay began; I’m certain that the final race was cancelled. The lucky part for us was that we didn’t set up a tent; if we had, we would have been scrambling around, haggling it in like the rest of the people, most of whom lived in the general (within 200 miles) area and were equally caught off guard. On the way back in the car, we had the opportunity to see a true, unafraid Midwest thunderstorm. I thought that they were worthy on the east coast, but this was definitely bigger. We arrived back at the hotel to find that the power was out. Having a power outage does nothing to reduce the work ability of this Mincio clan though, let me tell ya! Once the power returned, I found myself anxious and focused for the last part of the day, which was by far the most important.
Patty Williams Blaylock was close with her brother despite the 13 year age difference. She told us that at one point, during their childhood, they’d had to share a room. Kevin and Patty had a good laugh over Jesse’s housekeeping habits and it was unclear as to which of them (between Kevin and Patty) had gotten the short end of the stick in drawing these particular rooming assignments; Kevin had to do pushups for his roommates’ grievances, yet Patty had to share a room with Jesse Williams when he was a young boisterous lad and she a teenage girl. Either way, it was great to see them laughing and celebrating parts of who Jesse was. Minutes before, it was a bit different as Kevin was showing Patty the footage that had been captured in St. Louis. She showed her pride in her brother as she fought back the tears. She smiled as they finally fell from her face as Kevin, on camera, described the courage and character of the young man from Santa Rosa. Patty’s husband, Chris stood supportive and equally moved as they had the opportunity to see the legacy of a loved one live on.
At dinner, Chris told stories about teaching Jesse to drive and Kevin told stories about his time in Iraq with him. He was able to lighten the mood by talking about some of their stateside adventures. It was when Patty was excitedly talking about an upcoming opportunity that they were going to have to see Amaya, I realized why she looked so familiar: in terms of resemblance, they could easily be sisters. The most uncanny resemblance was all that I could focus on for a time after making the connection. It definitely deepened the connection for me, and drove a renewed sense of responsibility into me. As I settled into that feeling, I was relieved to see it accompanied by another. I’d have to describe it as relieved. I was happy that Amaya and Patty had each other, and though they didn’t get to see each other often, the relationship was very strong, and it was there. I’m sure that Jesse was smiling as he watched his sister and Kevin talk about his beloved daughter.
I’m happy to have had the opportunity to witness the recreation involved with riding a bike when I was at the Great Egyptian Omnium. Because, next time I get on my bike, it’ll be an opportunity to do so much more. And it won’t be a game.
For the Families of the Fallen…To the Limit!
Care Creates Community,