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

Carla, Damon and the Boys (Day Fifty-Four)

  The road that that took us out of Springfield actually took us through a downtown area that had some memorials, statues and parks.  It was offered the bustle of a Monday morning, and it was already hot.  We were still in the land of Lincoln, so there were tributes aplenty.  We saw war memorials, statues of the President, and plaques honoring his parents.

We climbed a few hills and found ourselves in a community that was rural yet suburban.  There were schools and churches and fresh-cut grass.  We passed some teenagers walking their way to football practice.  They were clearly excited about the season getting underway, and they were roughhousing their way down the street.  It was a small town, yes, but in the end no different than any other town.  Its pulse was vibrant and there was great optimism in the air.

The air was a bit less humid than we’d been feeling and it was a cool 88 degrees.  We passed through farmlands that were groomed and well-tended, each one different in its offering.  The curvy hills brought with them some separation and allowed for sudden scenes that smiled and surprised.  It was easy to be reflective, once again, on these beautiful back roads.

We had a SAG stop around mile 25, and it seemed very serene.  We found a shady spot and planned the rest of the route.  We had just one more leg of riding before arriving in Lexington, and while we were excited to arrive, we were savoring the course.  I think I was secretly hoping that it was longer than we’d planned for it to be.  It was at that moment when I realized Kentucky is just a stunning place, period.  The roads are the best we’ve seen, all things considered, for cycling.  The surface of the roads is peerless, but that’s not my point.  It’s more about the senses.  The sounds alone are enough to make it unique; between groaning of the locusts and the whistling of the birds, it’s never quiet, yet never loud.  It just sort of…is.   The feeling in the air is humid, but I have yet to find it oppressive. Instead, it’s a comfortable bath-like sensation.  The views are incredible, as the hills don’t discriminate between fields or forests and both have their own way of sharing shades from lime to Kelly to mossy dark greens.  The smells have a way of creating an echo, if you can imagine it.  They repeat themselves; each different but influenced by the last, communicating with the next.  There is a connection here between these things, no doubt about it.

I was thinking these deep and hypnotizing thoughts when we were pulling through a section that crossed a few rivers before sending us between some high rocky walls.  There was a hairy moment, as we watched Papa Bear pull  ahead of us as someone thought they’d pass him despite a double yellow line.  He passed him, but just barely.  A huge truck (as in, and 18-wheeler) was coming the other way.  If Papa Bear didn’t hit his brakes, the reckless dude would have been a part of the rocky wall, as he wouldn’t have been able to get back over.  I bet he was none too pleased with reckless dude.

Fortunately, that was our sole drama for the day.  The second part of our last leg had us cruising and coasting a light-filtered descent, an enormous drop to our right and a steep hill to our left.  It was like we were on a ledge as we dropped down.  It was an amazing forest, full of life and bright green leaves.

I’d long been looking forward to meeting up with the Brown family.  I’d never met Carla and Damon, but I’d met their sons, Clayton and Sheldon, back in Houston at the Final Four.  The events of the next few days have all been  put into play by this amazing family.  They have provided us with ample opportunity to raise awareness for our cause, and the hospitality and warmth with how they’ve done it has me taking a look at how I have hosted people in the past.  We can all learn from the Browns.

While much more will be written about them, I’d like to just highlight a few things for now:

  1. Damon meeting us about ten miles from our destination; he wanted to take us through the city in a more scenic way than we would have gone.  He met us via bike, as he is an avid and very skilled cyclist.
  2. When Damon showed up to meet us, his wife Carla came as well, though separately.  She brought a huge smile as well as a gift for Mama Bear.  ‘From one mother to another’, I think I heard her say.
  3. Damon took us to a bike shop called Pedal the Planet, and we were shown more hospitality.
  4. We were invited to have a home-cooked meal, and the only thing better than the charcoal-cooked tenderloin was the feeling of family that came from sitting at their table.
  5. Clayton and Sheldon play lacrosse!  In Kentucky!  Who knew?  We had a barefoot backyard catch in the grass while the ‘cue was casting scents we’d not had for months.  I’ll never forget it and I didn’t think about anything but being there the entire time I was there.

Again, there will be much more to say about this family, and I’m sure that much has been said already, from others.  They’re too special for this to be untrue.

We’ll see them next at the resting place of a Marine that lost his life in the same Iraqi province, on the same day, as another Marine that we visited; that soldiers name was Christopher.  This soldiers name was Nich, and the Browns knew him.  Hopefully we can show the same amount of grace as the Browns have shown us.

For the Families of the Fallen…To the Limit,

Care Creates Community,

                                                          Matt Sauri

RideMatt S