Well, the 2012 Big Ride is over and I believe all of our riders have made it home safely. So, I will try to set down a couple of thoughts about the ride while they are still in my memory banks.
This ride was awesome. I know I have said that before, but it really is true. We would get up at the crack of dawn, pack up, get a bite to eat, and then take off across the North American continent to a brand new destination that almost none of us had ever been to. We would decamp in a new place, find new places to eat, exchange new stories of what happened to us out on "the road" and then go to bed, only to get up and do it all over again. America is truly a beautiful place, and getting onto those back country roads, away from the strip malls and the Interstates is the only way to see it. Our Big Ride organizers deserve a hearty "Thank You" for setting this all up.
There are lots of people to Thank about this ride, and I am going to take the risk of missing someone, in order that I can Thank the people that I can remember. Yes, I should have taken notes, but I neglected to, so this is just about all from my memory.
When we got to Easton on that first night, we had Noel and Daria from previous rides, going along with us, and then got a great meal on a very cold and wet night, from the Seattle area alums. Great pasta, a warm campfire, and some cold beer capped off a hard day of riding. In Missoula, we connected with Cam's friends Leslie and Matt, and they invited the Team over to their home for a great meal, and showed some of us a bar that could only sell 3 beers to a customer on a night. ( Never heard of that before ! ).
Way out in Harlowton, we all got invited to Todd & Liberty King's home for a great meal. They are operating Cafe Chinook in Harlowton, and it will be yummy ! We rode on into South Dakota, and in a little place called Highmore, we were treated again to a great lunch stop from Sharon's Uncle Leo and family. PB&J had begun to wear thin, and here was a bunch of deli meats and pastry to lunch on. That's a key to a long distance cyclist ! And the Meyers family in Dakota, that was a great morning !
When we got to Viroqua, we were camped out on the fairgrounds in the sun with close to 100 deg temps, and Pastor Jeff of the Viroqua Church of Christ, invited us to come over and sleep in his Church. The air conditioning made all the difference in the world as Rob and Liz and I fell asleep in the nursery room at sundown while the congregation was still doing some children's services.
Jim Andresen put on a great SAG stop for us, way out in the Illinois cornfields, with ice cream, and came to our camp in Grand Prairie with more ice cream and some Mike's Hard Lemonades. We got another great meal when Liz's mom fed us home made pizzas and Ohio peaches and fresh fruit at our SAG stop on the way into Cleveland. Fred Husak from the 2000 Big Ride put on a great lunch stop on the day that we rode to Confluence, along the banks of the Yough River. Then Tony Cerrone brought his grill all the way from Allentown, and he and his son cooked burgers for us at Cowan State Park on the way to Gettysburg. Tony came to Gettysburg College with ice cream and peaches and made sundaes for us. And for all of that, the city of Gettysburg put a parking ticket on his windshield.
Alfred and Laverne fed us more pastry way out in Tracy, MN, and showed some of us a few facts about corn. That was the morning that we jumped into the little yellow train like a bunch of kids.
At the Flight 93 Memorial, I met Wanda. She welcomed and thanked us for riding out to the Memorial on our bicycles to see the Pennsylvania countryside and the Memorial. Wanda was at the bombing of Pearl Harbor when she was a little girl.
We were treated to free entrances to the Cedar Point Park due to the efforts of James Lynne, who also provided the Team with a BIG box of batteries and other goodies to use on our trip. And the Cedar Point staff escorted a group of riders onto one of the rides when we first got into the park.
And then there is Charleton and his wonderful wife Lynne who guided us across this big country and tried to keep us well watered and safe along the way. What an amazing job they did. Thank You Both. And Gene Nash drove his own car "Blue Thunder" along the way and helped out every cyclist, hauling several of them long miles to the nearest bike shop to get broken things fixed. With a repertoire of jokes and training as a paramedic, Gene is an awesome asset to have on a big bike ride.
And then my wife, Susan, who had to stay at home and keep the household running while I was off about the country. I Love You, and Thank You for putting up with my being gone for 7 weeks.
So there were a lot of people helping out along the way, making us feel pretty darn special, and it was really appreciated by all of the riders.
Well, how about me ? How do I feel ?
There was a great sign up at the Whiskey Off Road event that I went to back in the spring. It said something like "Mildly Nervous, But I Think I Can Do This". I believe that was my thought going into the Big Ride. I knew I could do it, but was nervous about how I would hold up after many consecutive days of riding and of sleeping in tents. And when we went outside, into the rain, that morning in Seattle, I started feeling a bit exposed by the whole concept... maybe I had bitten off too much. But then, it was apparent that everyone else felt pretty similar, so we shrugged our inner selves and got on our bikes and rode off. That's kinda the way life is, I don't really know what is coming around the bend, but the best thing is to just ride off towards it and see what happens, rather than sitting around fretting about it. So, if there is an "epiphany for the ride", then that is probably it for me, and that's not too bad.
Thanks to all of you for reading my Blog, and many, many, many Thanks to all those who contributed financially to support the American Lung Association in my name. You really made it all possible, and your support helps ALA fight smoking and lung diseases and supports the Clean Air Act and all of those other things that go to make for a healthier America. Thank You One and All.
8 August, 2012