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

On the road again (Day Sixty-Nine)

Pulling out of our hotel was quite the victory; Act III had begun, and with it came a renewed clarity around what we’d set out to do. With the SAG change, it seemed like we were a very light crew. Mama and Papa Bear were gone, and Stevie Boy was now the sole support person for the next two weeks; the Media Crew would soon return, but for a short stretch it was just the three of us. It felt like I’d lost my right arm.

After a quick ride back through a sunny UVA campus to get sustenance (power at our hotel had been out for 30 hours due to the storm, so we had to go out to eat), we went on our way. It would be a short course on Sixty-Nine, but still a very significant milestone due to its purpose. We left and were immediately thrown into a situation that was much different than what we’d seen in recent times; we were on a busy set of freeways that coursed into and around the city. There was no other way out, and it was strikingly different than the serene back roads that brought us into Charlottesville. It was a fitting beginning to our third and final leg, a journey known as Act III. As we travel the densely-populated East Coast on our trek to Ground Zero, the challenges have morphed; we no longer have to negotiate mountains or high deserts. Danger can come in many forms, though, and it was sobering to see the shape that Act III had taken where treachery is concerned. While there was an overwhelming sense of hospitality in Charlottesville, busy roads are busy roads, and people are people. Not a lot of room on the shoulders and when people are in a hurry, they’re not exactly looking out for the more vulnerable cyclists. At one point, someone was ‘sitting on us’; meaning, a car was just lingering behind us and not passing us. This can be very nerve-wracking, as it can show a sense of hesitation or reluctance in a driver. It’s usually more appreciated for a driver to confidently pass a rider, making it quick and giving enough room for everyone to succeed while driving in a non-swerving fashion. But instead, on this curved four-lane highway, this guy was just lurking behind us as we approached an off-ramp and saw its corresponding on-ramp just ahead. He just kept sitting there! This was no way to start the day, so I tried to wave him past. Nope. He just sat there, and it was almost creepy. Then, I turned around (to wave him past again, and I saw the reason he was sitting on us. It was Stevie Boy, and he was not lurking for the sake of it, but instead he was blocking cars from taking the off-ramp, just like he’d speed ahead moments later to block cars coming onto the freeway. It was a veteran move, and I’ll always remember it as the first defining act of Sierra Bravo’s (AKA Stevie Boy’s) SAG tenure. After about seven miles of acquaintance with speeding traffic on the highway, we took Route 22, which was much more familiar. We were back in rural areas again, at least for the remainder of Sixty-Nine. It was as if we had been given some things to think about with the crowded highways before being pulled off of them to ponder our safe arrival into NYC. Just a taste of what was coming up so that we could prepare for it. It happened on the opening stages of Act III, and allowed us to safely ponder our purpose and remind us of our focus while giving us a glimpse of how we’d have to take action to stay safe and finish this thing.

Kevin was brooding a bit as we cruised the initial back roads. He was just being quiet and sort of staring at the pavement as we rode. I asked him what was on his mind, and he didn’t really answer. I just let him be; after riding with him for over two months straight, I’ve learned to just let him go when he’s in that zone. He always comes back around. This time was no exception, and when we started talking, it was all business. He was hyper-focused on Act III and how we’d be remembered. We arrived at the conclusion that, while we’ve had a very successful opening of The Ride, it’s really how we finish it that will tell the story. There was no more time for hypothetical analyses; it’s go time. Right now.

We were still getting honks and waves from most people we saw; the media engagements in C’Ville had been frequent and thorough. Once, when we were stopped to refill our water bottles, a gentleman came running out of his building to thank us for what we were doing. Since the SAG vehicle was with us, he also gave us a bottle of locally crafted sparkling wine, which we agreed to save until The Ride was finished. I can say without exaggeration that, by the time we’d left, nearly everyone had heard our story. We checked into our hotel and I immediately noticed (again) the changed dynamic. Having the Mincio family intact and present was a heartwarming affair, and it was starkly different to have them gone. The warmth generated from their closeness was a beautiful thing to behold; there’s not a lot of ‘beating around the bush’ with that family, as their Italian flavor, by way of Long Island, doesn’t require it, or tolerate it, for that matter. It’s great. The good news is that we’ll see them in NY at our finale event, and it’s also great to know that M&P Bear had the opportunity to spend so much time with their son; Kevin had the opportunity to reconnect with the people that brought him into this world.

Jesse Williams will never have this particular opportunity, and neither will Amaya. So, we ride. We do whatever we can do to create opportunities, to do anything we can, even though it can never, ever be enough, to even the score. Just a little bit, yet as much as we possibly can.

For the Families of the Fallen…To the Limit!

Care Creates Community,

Matt Sauri