Mama Bear (Day Fifty-Eight)
Karen Sherer knew she’d get it right this time. After all, she’d gotten it right last time, and they would be getting off at the same subway stop as then. All she had to do was visualize the surroundings when they came up above ground. It was a busy Saturday, so it would be a little different than the last time, but everyone else was going to the Giants game as well, so they’d be moving in the same direction. She loved to go to the New York Giants (yes it was back in the day) because baseball was something that they shared and enjoyed together. Even back then, Karen was someone who thrived in having a purpose; she needed to have a task and to always be moving towards it. In this case, she found purpose by keeping statistics, including but not limited to the score, from her Dad. It was for him that she learned to, with sight unseen, be able to describe the surroundings of the urban NY sprawl, before she came up above ground. She needed to know how far the stadium steps were from the entrance, and how far the street corner was from the subway entrance. It was up to her, he’d said, to make sure that they didn’t get lost and that they could be a model of efficiency. Their family was a family of two since Karen’s mother passed away. So, her gravitation towards an embracement of detail was in part due to necessity, and in part due to it rubbing off from her dad. Her father had carried a similar high level of responsibility and an early coming of age. He’d been the man of the house at age 15 and was the oldest of 5 children. So, all of this attention to detail and personal accountability came with good reason; and he was the perfect person to teach her.
Those of us on The Ride are glad that she learned that way; flashing years ahead, the young girl is now mother of four grown children and in fact has six grandchildren. One of her kids is Kevin Mincio, and so Karen Mincio, AKA Mama Bear, watches a reincarnation of her father in her own son. Most importantly for the Team Jesse Ride team, she’s taken the exacting thought process that has shaped her whole life and applied it to the logistics of navigating a small team across the United States. She’s been at the forefront of the details since the beginning, shaping aspects of our path and thinking about potential opportunities and crises before they happen. She doesn’t miss much; her 35 year teaching career got her around the block more than a few times. If something comes up and Kevin and I are scratching our heads about it, Mama Bear is always the first to be asked. Every time. And, chances are very good that she’s already thought of it. In fact, I can’t remember seeing her surprised. Not if any degree of preparation and her own brand of risk mitigation could have helped avoid it. In fact, if something comes up, she had already mentioned the potential of it happening to her son, but his own intensity had drowned it out at the time of the lesson.
As a Ride Team, we have surprised everyone – even our coaches – by being exactly where we said we were going to be at this time. We haven’t had to burn any of our flex days yet, and we’re in Eastern Kentucky. We’ve travelled 3,200 miles, on bikes, and we haven’t missed a single deadline or commitment. Without Mama Bear, there’s simply no way that this would be true. She doesn’t deal in ‘maybes’ and ‘what-if’s; when she needs to know something, trust me when I say that she’s going to get the answer. Day Fifty-Eight brought us into the foothills of the Appalachians. Everything that we’ve heard has led us to believe that this stretch will be the most technically challenging of the entire Ride. While the mountains aren’t nearly the elevation of the Rockies or the Sierras, they’re much, much steeper. The good news is that there’s no way that we’re going to get soft going through this stretch! Climbing and big rollers will define the physical aspects of the next stages, and the humidity is only going to pick up. We’re both ready for it, though, and welcome the challenge.
There is often a misty fog that hovers in the valleys between these green-cloaked peaks. Rich smelling earth is accentuated by the heat and swell of the landscape. The roads rise and drop with a rhythm that can’t be anticipated. Each has its own story, and not all of them are good. Eastern Kentucky is very different, let’s just say, than the Western part of the state. Gone are the manicured horse farms and white-fenced estates. No longer can we expect the same degree of community-engaging kindness. Despite the heat, I must report that there is a noticeable lack of warmth that we’ve felt going through this part of the state. Here in Hazard County, its residents know full well that they’ve been described as the poorest county, per capita, in the nation. We’d been told about this in Lexington, but it’s always hard to understand things until you see them, and until you experience it. Glad to get this one crossed of the list, let me tell ya!
Day Fifty-Eight had someone trying to swerve at Kevin when he was flying downhill at around 30MPH. As in, someone tried to hit him, or at least swung towards him to make him wreck, deliberately. With a car. Yes, we’ll be happy to keep on pedaling and get through to the other side. But…the Appalachians are beautiful, and we’re going to take full advantage of the opportunity to see this part, just like every part along the way. You’ve got to prove it to her every day! Day Fifty-Nine will be a special day. It’s Mama Bear’s birthday and all she wants is to see us get on and off the course safely and on schedule (OK, maybe she’d like us to be ahead of schedule, but so be it). We’re in one of the most depressed areas of the country, so there will be no opportunity for fancy dinners and such; but Mama Bear is more than happy to be right where she is. She’s at the helm of the Team Jesse Ride ship, watching her son fulfill a big part of his destiny. Those who would get in her way should know that this breast-cancer survivor won’t be denied. I just hope that she can enjoy herself and keep being the crackup that she can be. She’s got a great sense of humor, this one, and it’s great be be able to laugh our way through this stretch of road.
Thanks Mama Bear, and Happy Birthday!
For the Families of the Fallen…To the Limit!
Care Creates Community,