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

Misty Mountain Hop (Day Sixty-Three)

Long, long ago, when I was a young man, I had a friend with an exceptional charm.  This person had a very vibrant personality, and one always knew when this person was around.  My friend was full of life, with a sparkle in the eye yet a classy aura abounded.  On top of that, my friend was athletic and downright beautiful.  Her name was Virginia, and I’m pretty sure that she was named after the state that we’re enjoying right now.  It would make sense, as the characteristics that I’ve mentioned are just like what it feels like in the state of Virginia.

Day Sixty-Three brought the very kindest weather that we’ve had yet to experience on The Ride.  It was sunny and pleasant, with the temps in the mid-eighties, humidity very low and a pleasant breeze all day, it was noticeably comfortable.  I think it’s fair to say that we were due for something like this, after the heat wave that lasted for weeks.

We have some guest riders for a few days; a longtime friend of Kevin’s, Denise Tappen, has arrived after planning this trip for several months.  She is the sister of Darren Tappen, a big part of Kevin’s life and someone you heard about from our Telluride stop.  Denise brought with her a girlfriend; Sandy Hall is her riding partner.

Perhaps the mist in the air contributed to the cool weather; it was once again hanging in the valleys as we made our way through the gentle hills.  There were ranches amongst the groves and huge oak trees.  It was a very natural setting, and I’m sure parts of it must have been painted time and time again.  I know that I painted it in my head a few times while riding through.  It was a setting that had a certain timelessness about it; for some reason, I feel like it had a Medieval feel about it, though I don’t mean this in a sense to suggest that it was crude or cruel; just that it seemed very old, and that it hadn’t changed in ages and ages.  From what I understand, the Appalachians are amongst the oldest mountains in North America, so it might make sense.

We began by winding through the hills, crossing rivers and streams all the while.  Then, we bagan to climb.  And Climb.  We were prepared; we knew the day would start with steep hill that would take us to the top of a pass.  We knew that it was going to be a nonstop climb that would boast grades of 11-16%.  So, the theory held true: a) identify the challenge, b) consider the desired outcome, c) commit yourself to the actions necessary and d) execute the actions.  Simple, right?  If only it always was so simple.  Fortunately, on Day Sixty-Three, it actually was.  While the climb itself had everyone working hard, we kept pace and enjoyed the scenery as we worked hard to accomplish the goal.  As we summited that first one, we had climbed almost 1,000 feet in four miles.  Much of the plant life and vegetation reminded me of growing up, as we were definitely on the east coast at this point.  Mainly, vivid memories of family trips to the Poconos and a specific trip with my brother to these same Appalachians were bringing themselves to mind.  Pretty sure that Kevin is having the same experience, as we’ve talked about some of the aspects of this territory that are unique and also unassumingly wonderful.  Probably lots more of this to come, and we’re going to make sure that we allow ourselves the opportunity for these random memories to be given some meaning.

Once again, that which goes up must come down.  I can easily say that the initial descent on Sixty-Three was a top-three of the trip.  It might even be numero uno.  In fact, I was thinking while riding it that it rivaled some of the best ski runs I’ve ever had the pleasure of taking.  It was an all-out adrenaline rush, as the turns kept coming as we spun down the switchbacks on that cool, sunny morning.  These curves were right on top of each other, too!  Some of these hairpins were only 50 yards apart, while others allowed for ‘long’ stretches of 150 years.  And they just kept coming.  And coming.  And going.  If I had to guess, I would say the average curve was over 100 degrees.  Average.  We flew down, showing teeth all the way the entire time.  It took at least 8-10 minutes to get down, which is a good long time, all things considered.  Suffice to say that the quality and length of descent made the climb well worth it.

Later in the day, and on a much more tame (yet still scenic) part of the trip, I got to catch up with Denise.  She has some interesting perspective on our mutual friend, as she’s known him for 20 years.  In our conversation, we began to discuss Kevin in his pre-enlistment period.  I’d asked her if she was surprised to hear that he’d resigned his position at Goldman and enlisted; she told me that no, she was not surprised.  Not really.  But, she mentioned that everyone was concerned and that they knew that he would commit himself fully to doing what he set out to do, and that this would likely take him into harm’s way.  It was interesting getting her perspective on the turn of events in that stage of Kevin’s life.  We agreed that most things Kevin sets out to do, he does very well.

But, I can give you an example of a time that he didn’t read so good (or is it ‘goodly’)?  It happened on our last rest day, or actually it was the day we got into Lebanon, VA and had a rest day the following day.  We were driving around, doing errands, when Kevin said excitedly, ‘Look Matty!  Right there…a saloon!’  You see, we were looking to go shoot some pool or just blow off some steam in general, and we’d been told that there were no such facilities in town.  Imagine his disappointment when I pointed out that it was actually a salon, and then suggested he could get his nails done instead. J

We finished Sixty-Three and immediately learned that the foundation had received the biggest single donation to date.  It was an extremely generous donation, and it took us a bit to track down its origin.  When we did, we learned that it was tied to a lacrosse connection, and in fact, tied to a member of the original Team Jesse lacrosse team that was formed in 2007.   Thanks KO and AO for your continued support. The striking thing is that, three days into a huge financial scare, this individual went ahead and did what he did.  Thank you, sir.

 It really is all about the people.

 For the Families of the Fallen…To the Limit!

Care Creates Community,

Matt Sauri

RideMatt S