Brothers (Day Seventy-Five)
The course was short – the shortest that we’d seen on any day of the entire saga. We stretched it out to the best of our abilities, making the most of back roads and choosing the ‘long way’ whenever possible. Even with these efforts, though, the course was still a short one; in the end, you can only do so much to ask the roads to keep going. Despite the brevity, it was an unforgettable day and huge milestones were achieved.
We had our guest riders still; Michael Sauri and Adam Hughes were the first up and ready to go, bright eyed and bushy tailed, as the saying goes. Both of the fellas were excited for another day on the trail, and I don’t blame them. There haven’t been any guest riders that have been happy to be finished, and it’s probably not our charismatic personalities that are causing this sense of appeal. Our purpose is an important one, and one that’s to be proud to support. Doing so in a sacrificial way is an opportunity to bring optimism to a tough situation; it’s also an opportunity to speak up for those who can no longer speak for themselves, as they’ve paid a price too high to do so. They call this place ‘the land of the free, and the home of the brave’. None are braver than those who paid, and I’m grateful to all of our guest riders – past, present and future – for joining us in honoring them.
Seventy-Five offered another gorgeous day, Mother Nature no doubt still graciously atoning for her cruelty as we pedaled through the Midwest region. It was sunny and pleasant as we set out, and still even a little cool from the previous day’s showers. Our course led us through the outskirts of Alexandria, VA and into the heart of Olde Town. The scenery quickly changed, as the much of the region’s defining characteristics are the gated and protected infrastructure-related agencies that make our nation the superpower that it is. Not a ‘soft area’ Northern Virginia. Still, though, there were plenty of bike paths, neighborhoods and bustling population to remind us of what was at stake, and the reasons for these gated, guarded compounds.
It would be unjust to describe the day as one with optimism; to do so would imply a hanging sense of doubt in the first place, or some need for uplifting feelings. Instead, I’d describe it as gleeful. We were just thrilled to be out there, and doing it together. Hughes was back to wearing proper attire (sort of; it’s a long story) and Michael was making the most of his last day on the course. Both guys were clearly affected by the gravity of our cause, and Michael would later tell his wife that he would never be able to pass a soldier, not the resting place of one, ever again without remembering this day, our cause, and what it all means. Hanging out with Mincio will do that to a guy, I think.
I was beyond grateful to have this time with my brother. Made me think about what it means to have siblings; I have only one of them, and cannot imagine the pain that would come from losing him. With the backdrop of our mission playing into it, I allowed myself to wander into a space of wondering about such loss. I didn’t stay long, because it was way too harsh for me to bear. Instead I chose to enjoy the opportunity I’d been given to spend the time with him, and allow for him to grow. To those who have lost brothers and sisters, I mourn with you and humbly acknowledge that I can’t begin to understand your pain.
So much of this journey is coming together in rapid fashion; again, it’s a stark contrast to the endless miles of open spaces that we pedaled, with nothing in sight and no sound but the thoughts in our heads. As we reached our nation’s capital, I can’t help but think about how perfect everything is, and how poised we are to finish well. It’s great to have the Media Crew back to capture it all. Brett has come back from his editing hiatus refreshed and alive with purpose; our film will be something to see, for sure.
It was quite a milestone riding into Alexandria; we had reached the closest suburb to Washington, DC. It really hit home that we’d done something special, and Mince and I were all teeth. Having spent so much time in the area growing up, I’d have to say that it felt surreal to be riding down the street on a bike that I’d ridden from California. At one point, I wondered if I was allowed to be out riding around, unsupervised; then I remembered that I’m sort of an adult now, and I don’t need permission anymore. Yes, it was odd being in Old Town. On the rest days, we will be doing many relevant and meaningful things; at the top of the list is a visit to Arlington National Cemetery, where we will visit the resting places of two of the very finest soldiers the country has even known. We are meeting their families onsite, and it’s a tremendous honor to do so. Both of the brave souls have left siblings behind, and it’s not at all lost on me that the pain is still fresh, and probably always will be. Again, time spent with my own brother has made me think, and think much, about how much it means to have family. Our upcoming trip to Arlington has been, without a doubt, the most anticipated stop on our journey thus far. Now it means even more, at least to me. I should mention that I know a few of the siblings who grieve these fallen soldiers, and their pain will be very real to me when we step on the hallowed ground where they lay resting. One of these families have adopted a mantra: ‘honor the fallen by challenging the living’. It’s geared to push the surviving members of a family to live fuller lives as a final request from those who lost theirs. I will abide by this, starting with enjoying the opportunity to know and appreciate my own brother. And, in keeping with the challenge, I’ll continue to beat him, handily, every chance I get at every sport I can.
For the Families of the Fallen…To the Limit!
Care Creates Community,