Home at last (Day Seventy-Eight)
It would have been difficult to be unchanged after the visit to Arlington. As Kevin mentioned in the previous post, it was humbling to be in such a place, and an honor to be afforded the opportunity. For me, meeting Maureen Looney and seeing her interact with Janet Manion was an unforgettable experience, and it shed light on the greatness of their children, fallen heroes Brendan Looney and Travis Manion. It was quite a charge to do so, and to be able to tell them, in person, about how their sons had helped us through the toughest of days. Day Seventy-Eight started in Alexandria, and we were going to be seeing rain later in the day. The practices of the previous Seventy-Seven were ignored; we were not going to try to outrun the storm. We had to take our time seeing a certain city, a place of legend that was unique in its tribute and history. No amount of rainfall would keep us from fulfilling this part of our purpose while on The Ride.
Washington DC did not disappoint; we were very fortunate in being able to cycle through (literally) all of the sights and sites that we’d come to see, and we were able to do it before the rain fell. For the four-person Ride Team, it was surreal and vivid at the same time. ‘Those who have gone before us’ seemed to be the theme of the day, and our appreciation was at times filled with wonder, and at other times quiet appreciation and respect. We paid tribute at the Lincoln Memorial as well as the Korean War, Vietnam War and WWII Memorials. I’d been to the area before, multiple times while growing up. But, this time it seemed different. The whole area was staggeringly well-maintained, and the perspective was anew after pedaling 3,800 miles and absorbing the greatness that these monuments and tributes stood for. It all made sense in a way that it hadn’t before. Highly recommend it, even if you can’t do the 3,800-mile bike ride part. After taking our time meandering through the well-kept stone-adorned streets, we rode in silence to the path that would take us to Annapolis. I had grown up there, and had left almost exactly 19 years before with a heavy heart and intact conscience. While I had been back to visit before, this was going to be a very different homecoming altogether. This time I came by bicycle. From the west coast. The present company was not lost on me, and I was very proud to be flanked by Mincio, Hughes and a new guest rider, Kevin Collins. KC, Team Jesse's Chief Routemaster, has been a friend of Mincio’s for over 30 years; they grew up together as the best of friends, and through a twist of fate, both of them wound up in the Pacific Northwest. Kevin Collins is a guy who gets it. He shows up; he answers the call. Literally, actually. KC designed the entire route of The Ride. He is an award-winning engineer whose focus has been in cross-country rail design. It’s one of those coincidences, really, that makes you almost laugh. Mince’s best friend just happens to be one of the most qualified people that could be found, anywhere, to think through routes and logistics, to include grades and weather, for our cross-country cause. In doing so, he was thorough and up-front. You know what they say about ‘the best-laid plans’, though, right? Nothing goes as planned, so it’s been a real tribute to Kevin that, as things have come up as obstacles, he’s been a phone call away, and helps us get through it. Day or night, weekday or weekend, he answers the call, and usually on the first ring. He then defers any credit, telling us that we’re doing the hard part by riding. This guy is a comrade, and it would be hard to think of anyone who has earned the right to be a guest rider more than Kevin Collins. We headed out of the ubiquitous downtown area of Washington DC and quickly found ourselves in some rougher areas; bike paths led us through parks where groups gathered. Many of them weren’t places that you’d want to hang around, and we definitely wanted to stick together through these parts. We were in the hood, and it was well-advised to keep pedaling. Then, as predicted, we heard the grumble of thunder. We were about twenty-five miles from our destination, so there was no way to avoid it: we were going to get soaked. Looking back on the day, I’m glad that we did. This voyage is about sacrifice; in many ways it’s about adversity and adapting in order to overcome. Seventy-Eight was no different, and we viewed it as an opportunity to succeed. So, in sideways rain, we rode.
Stevie-Boy was on his final SAG shift, as we’ll see a crew change next time we pedal. Sierra Bravo, as we call him, went out with a bang, too. He was unapologetically blocking us like never before. The course was unique in terms of its traffic volume, lack of shoulder and pouring rain. Visibility was dismal, and it was comforting to have the veteran of two Iraq tours bring his level-headed cool demeanor to our aid. We made our way into Anne Arundel County and eventually, across the Annapolis city line. The amount of realizations that came to me can’t be measured, and the nature of them can’t even be described. It was raining cats and dogs as we pedaled the final stretch.
In Annapolis, we’ve got some great opportunities to promote our cause. We are going to look at this stand as an opportunity to succeed. If The Ride has taught us anything, it’s that you can’t predict much, and planning, while necessary, doesn’t always go….well…as planned. We have said all along that, come hell or high water, we were going to make it to Ground Zero on September 11th. We were fortunate to have had the opportunity to succeed in the hellish temperatures of the Midwest. Now it seems as though we’ll have the opportunity to beat the high water. I hear it’s supposed to rain.
For the Families of the Fallen…To the Limit!
Care Creates Community,