"Freedom and responsibility we speak of easily, nearly always without recognition of the iron courage required to make them effective in our lives." j. glenn gray
Saturday, September 5, 2009
Friday, September 4, 2009
Yeah, I know "Troutville"... I expect the town to be full of people who resemble, well, trout! It's like a Douglass Adams story... so long and thanks for all the fish... so sad it's come to all of this... Whew! Guess I need some more sleep.
Anyway, it's roughly 60 miles and this time I stick to the route that I reconnoitered for over 10 weeks via street maps, topographic maps and satellite photography. Mr. Garmin Edge 705 can just sit back and take notes. We are getting into some serious hill country now; the Texas Hill Country and Austin ain't got nothin' on the New River Basin. We're still off of the most dreadful climb up the Blueridge Parkway. When I was a teenager I used to ride over Trans Mountain Highway in El Paso, TX. It started at roughly 3800 feet and rose to a little over 5200 feet at the summit. We did this for fun! We would ride up, eat lunch, hike up to the springs and hang out at the old caves then coast back down. We did it on fixed gear BMX and early versions of mountain bikes. Now I've got one of the most technically advanced drivetrains on the market with 27 speeds and a low gear of 10 inches and I'm worried. Guess I shouldn't be. Guess I'll take it one pedal at a time. Kind of like the old question, "how do you eat an elephant?" The answer being, "one bite at a time." Much like our Veterans coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan with grievous injuries like Traumatic Brain Injuries, Missing Limbs and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. They have to take it one step at a time... one day at a time. Speaking from experience, though I am not a combat Veteran I can speak of rehabilitation after a grievous injury, I know how tough it is and how long it takes. It takes years and years. And even after 20 years there are still good days and bad days. Having a third party organization to help navigate the bureaucracy and pitfalls inherent in the Military and Veterans Affairs Administration so that you can focus on your recovery instead of having additional stresses put upon you is absolutely invaluable. The Wounded Warrior Project was founded on a simple idea and has blossomed into an organization that makes huge differences in our Troopers lives on a daily basis. Please take a few minutes out of your busy day to learn more about the organization and the benefits they provide every day for our Troops. If you can't take those few moments then, instead of purchasing a little magnet for your car, show your support for our Troops by donating online directly to the Wounded Warrior Project by clicking HERE. Your support does make a difference when put in the capable hands of an organization like Wounded Warrior Project. Thank you for your support.
Enjoy the Ride!
Well, it started out such a beautiful day that I let my guard down and ended up 36 miles in deficit for the day. First I underestimated the ride profile as at first glance Christiansburg is at a lower elevation than Wythville making it look like it's all down hill... not. There are still quite a few hard climbs between the two cities and the way that the mountains are formed, I am climbing the steep side and coasting down the long side, which makes the climbing much, much slower.
Second, figuring it was only a 50-mile day I thought I would simply plug my final destination into the Garmin Edge 705 and see what route it would run. It turns out that the Garmin had me crisscrossing IH81 in an all out effort to find every single mountain pass between the two cities! I began to think that some little French dude was doing the route selection to pay us back for Lance kicking their butts for seven years! The Garmin also routed me up the "New River Trail" a Rails-To-Trails project that runs from the Carolinas to Ohio. At first I was a little leery as I had never been on such a trail. I should have listened to my gut feeling but, I figured on two things (1) railroads are relatively flat so no more big climbs and (2) no vehicular traffic zooming passed my left shoulder. What I didn't count on was that there are trail heads only every so often and, obviously, the Garmin didn't figure on that either. About 2.5 miles down the trail I crossed HWY11, again, and the Garmin says "turn right you idiot" to which I responded "hmmm, you turn right off of a 70-foot-high train trestle!"
At that point I began to seriously doubt my successful completion of the days ride and my morale began to fade quite readily. I looked and looked for a route off of the trail that was not 8 miles out of my way. I found a little dead-end road adjacent to the trail which would take me up (yes, remember, everything in Virginia is... up hill!) through a little neighborhood and deposit me onto VA91. I had to disassemble and drag the TerraTrike, B.O.B. and all of my gear up an embankment then reassemble it all before continuing up the hill. At what I thought to be the top I met and old man and his boy working on some projects and was accosted by a little female chihuahua. While paying some obviously much needed attention to the dog that found its way into my lap I listened to the old man and his boy discuss the best route to Christiansburg. The longer they discussed it the more deflated I got. I think the dog could tell because she kept trying to console me. Bottom line was that there was no way I was gonna make Christiansburg "on that contraption" by dark as it takes over 45 minutes to drive with all the hills and traffic... I thanked the gentlemen for their advice, deposited the chihuahua upon the pavement and began pedaling around the corner where, you guessed it, the pavement became horizontally challenged again.
The climb was about a mile long and I found myself on a typical two-lane Virginia alley of death with no shoulder and the sun had gone down behind the mountain range thus casting long shadows over the roadway. Usually running just my large taillight, I rethought the situation and turned on all of my lights and put on my jacket with reflective patches. By my best guess there is usually a c-store or even perhaps a motel near highway intersections so I turned left and pedaled toward IH81 instead of right and to the town of Pulaski. It was a good guess as I didn't have to climb more than a mile and a half when I found an Exxon Station. It must have been Virginia lottery day as the line was about 20 deep and the station was the only thing around for as far as I could see. I grabbed a pepsi and just sat & watched the people watching me (for some reason most Virginians like to just stare blankly at you when you wave or say hello... so much for Southern Hospitality). After the line dropped off I paid for my empty soda and the nice lady told me I could have a free refill for having to wait so long.
When I departed the store there were about 5 people gathered around the TerraTrike just amazing over this and amazing over that. After a few questions all but one left and we discussed the route to Christiansburg, he agreeing that the Garmin had taken the absolutely longest route possible and adding about 17 miles on to the day. He said if he had his truck he would give me a lift and then he had an epiphany. He was going to the Moose Lodge and would wrangle up somebody with a truck to ferry me and my gear to Christiansburg in an effort to keep me on schedule. At this point I pictured some rendition of a Mel Brooks movie as this fella went to round up a posse... I managed to keep my fits of laughter inside until he departed. At that time I found a picnic table out in the sun and just plopped down and watched people come & go.
After about a 20 minute break I grabbed up my trusty little PDA and dialed up the internet searching for hotel/motel in Pulaski. Much to my amazement the Pulaski Motel, formerly the Days Inn at Pulaski, was only 0.65 miles away. I called and the nice young lady on the other end of the phone listened politely to my story. She got me a room and had the key ready when I got there so that I could go straight to a shower and bed. Now that is Southern Hospitality... see what happens when your morale goes out the window, you begin to doubt everything.
I mounted up and began to head for the motel. My only problem was myself... I did not want to cooperate. My legs were all wobbly. My heart was palpitating. I was seeing spots. I couldn't hardly think straight. I slowly pedaled over the highway and around the corner to the motel. Amanda, as I found out to be her name, did exactly as she had said and simply handed me the key. I had a hard time moving and simply leaned on the counter for a bit telling her my tale. I got motivated and asked about a place to get some food delivered and Amanda suggested the local Chinese. I tottered off to my room, unloaded all the gear and put the TerraTrike and B.O.B. inside. I then called the Chinese place only to find they had a minimum delivery order requirement and the menu happened to be really cheap (orange chicken to feed a fire team was only $7). So, I asked Amanda if she wanted anything and that made the delivery worthwhile for Chuang Hua. While I ate I talked to TC about my day and afterward felt quite a bit better. I then hit the shower and the bed going to sleep thinking about what tomorrow would bring.
Tomorrow arrived and after about 3.5 seconds of thought, I killed the alarm and went back to sleep for a much, much needed rest day. I awoke around 0930hrs to a beautiful Virginia day. I met the day staff and housekeeping and enjoyed our visit. One of the housekeepers, Verna, even took the TerraTrike for a spin around the parking lot! We all had some laughs and I told them all my story. The clerk, Kayla, explained that her brother and his wife had just returned from Iraq, both were MP's. Verna explained that she has nephews, one in Iraq & one in Afghanistan right now. Kayla called the motel proprietor, the Patels, and received permission to offer me the room for another night on the house. Thank you very much!
I spent the day mostly uploading pictures and videos for y'all, but I also managed to do my laundry, jettison some more extemporaneous gear and take a nap! The nap was totally awesome! I ordered a pizza from dominos and had them throw in a sandwich and a 2 liter bottle of Mello Yello in order to make their minimum delivery order requirement. This time I ate most of it myself saving only some of the pizza for breakfast. My legs are still quite sore and I'm going to go soak in a hot bath then massage them and then put ice on them. Hopefully another quiet evening and I'll be ready for tomorrow's ride. Taking this rest day was very necessary but now I don't think I'll get to rest in DC. Oh, well, there's always next year.
Please keep all of our Troopers in your hearts and thoughts.
Enjoy the Ride!
Thursday, September 3, 2009
The road into Wytheville (Wythe pronounced like Smith... old english) last night and with some 5 or so miles left to KOA and it being 1930hrs already it didn't take much twisting to get me to pop my head into the Travel Lite motel to ask about a room. Jay was super nice and she let me have the room for $33. The room is clean and comfortable and convenient to restaurant, pharmacy and c-stores. I showered and walked across the street for dinner at the Log House Restaurant. The log house was built in 1776 and its latest addition completed in 1889. The food was awesome and I thoroughly enjoy my Virgina ham, stuffed yellow squash, parsley potatoes, garden salad and fresh bread with fresh churned butter. Afterwards I was stuffed, sore and tired and ready for some much needed sleep.
The ride to Wytheville was very long at over 70 miles. I've learned that there are no straight roads in Virginia and everything is up hill! You want a c-store...up hill. You want a motel...up hill. You want food...up hill. And so on and so forth... U.S. Hwy 11 in Virginia is not quite the same as it was in Tennessee. It is definitely not constructed with bicycle travel on the blue prints. In fact, where ever the road had been repaired or resurfaced, only the driving lanes were completed leaving the shoulders, or what little of them there were, in very, very poor condition. Still, I got to see some beautiful countryside and meet some neat folks.
Awoke this a.m. with very sore back and legs. Slept in until 0730hrs and took hot shower to loosen up. I'm not feeling too bad now. It is actually cold outside by Texas coastal standards and some pants or legwarmers will be needed to keep my knees warm enough to work without getting torn up. Going to make short ride, ~50 miles, to Christiansburg where I will rest at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains. I suppose the mountains and I will have a little stare down but hopefully we won't end up in a Mexican stand off as I'm sure that Theresa would not want to have to pack up and move to Christiansburg now that school has started! ;o)
So, here's what I want everybody to do today... go to the bookstore or amazon or wherever you purchase your books from and pick up a copy of "Faces of Freedom, Profiles of America's Fallen Heroes: Iraq and Afghanistan" by Rebecca Pepin. Read it. Think about it. Then take that book and donate it to your local school library of choice. At one point Ms. Pepin donated ALL proceeds from this book to Wounded Warrior Project. I'm not certain if that still holds true but, the book itself is a must read to give everyone a better understanding of our Troops' experiences in the Middle East conflicts. Nobody can ever completely understand a combat Veteran except another combat Veteran but maybe these stories will help you to understand just a little bit more. OK, you have your orders... MOVE OUT! :o)
Here is today's route map. The "Map My Ride" software is very powerful and easy to use. I like the "Show Elevation" feature as it gives me a good idea of what I'm going to get into today much better that a topographic map. Check it out!
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Thanks for your service, Brother. It's been a great ride so far and I've even met a few other Desert Storm Veterans. The B.O.B. is working out perfectly! It pulls so nice I can't even tell it's back there... until it starts pushing me down a mountain pass at 35 mph! Wish you were here. Maybe next year.
Looks like 365 miles to Washington, DC and another 215 miles to New York, NY. That's about 8 days and I've got 10 including today. The weather is supposed to remain clear, cool and dry over the next week. Looks like I'll be in good shape for the next leg of the mission.
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Wow! Day 20 already... here it is the 1st of September.
This evening I am alone. Sharon & Chuck headed back for Texas this afternoon. Many thanks to the both of them for supporting me this far; they were supposed to head back when we got to Chattanooga but I guess we were just having too much fun... and then the money ran out! I will miss their company and, contrary to Sharon's beliefs, I did enjoy having them both with me on this mission. It is always more fun when you can share what you are doing. We rode some tough roads and some easy roads. We saw some incredibly beautiful countryside as well as some unique urban environments, though the ultimate urban experience lies a few more days to my east where our great Nation has its beginning. I wish you both a safe and enjoyable journey home.
Today was a great day to ride. The weather was cool and overcast with a light ESE breeze. The Great State of Tennessee provided a bike lane along HWY11 that was really awesome. It was about four feet wide with another three foot buffer lane to the lane of traffic. For the most part it was free of debris although I managed to pick up a piece of glass in my rear tire and had to fix a flat near Kingsport by the U.S. Army Ammunition Depot. The hills were much more enjoyable today as they were long rollers and didn't have the leg-ripping inclines of the back roads we have been traveling.
Chuck & I made pretty good time this morning and stopped in Kingsport for a snickers & a pepsi before rolling on to meet Sharon on the south side of Bristol, TN/VA. To give you an idea of how cool it was today, I filled up my camelbak and bottle with ice this morning and at Kingsport I added a bottle of gatorade to my bottle... I just now pulled out the gatorade and there is still ice in the bottle!
When we stopped to meet Sharon I had a polish sausage, some chips & a Mt. Dew for lunch. My body cooled off quite a bit and it was tough trying to get going again. My quads were sore and stiffened up pretty quick. When Sharon & I rolled out onto HWY11 for the second leg of the day I was actually chilled when riding down the hills. I stopped & donned my Sugoi Helium jacket and was fine until we hit Bristol proper and started climbing up & down the city streets. I stripped off the jacket and we kept on pedaling.
Also at lunch I tried to call the Travelers Inn in Glade Springs, VA for a room but the call got routed through some overseas switchboard and it turned into a frustrating and unsuccessful attempt. According to whatever-his-name-was all the hotels in that area were booked solid...must have been a glade convention or something. He kept insisting on booking me a hotel in some other town and had a hard time comprehending that I was traveling by bicycle and 20 miles to the next town was not gonna happen. He kept insisting and I actually had to be rude to the guy by saying thankyouverymuchbutnothankyougoodbye...click! I hate having to do that. So, rather than risk getting 20 miles down the road and ending up with no place to stay I opted to get a hotel in Bristol. Turns out it was a pretty good idea. I got a room at the Microtel on 11 & 81 and they've got some pretty nice digs here. I was really stoked when I saw the hot tub out the door at the end of the hallway! We got Sharon & Chuck loaded and after a round of hugs and good wishes they departed around 1530hrs. I got my gear secured and made a bee-line for the hot tub and enjoyed soaking a bit then jumping into the pool, although the pool was heated too so I didn't get the full WOW THAT'S COLD effect that chases all the bad blood full of lactic acid out of your muscles so new blood can restore nutrients and oxygen but it was nice just the same. I spent about 45 minutes splashing around then I went for a shower and did my laundry in the bath tub! It's hanging over the HVAC right now and appears to be just about dry.
After getting cleaned up I walked across the street and grabbed an omelet from the Perkins. Satisfactorily stuffed I walked up the block to Home Depot where I purchased a 5x7 tarp and some clips (in the event that it rains when I'm out in the middle of nowhere I can pull the tarp over me & the trike and shelter in place). Then I walked back to the hotel via the Dollar General where I picked up some more zip bags, a tube of neosporin and a couple of bar towels so I can lube my chain. Now I'm going to wrap things up for the day and actually get to bed before midnight!
"I am not a morning person" doesn't even come close to covering how I function at the start of the day and to boot, I'm still running on Central Time! It takes me a long time to get my back and legs and brain to engage simultaneously in the morning. After some drugs, some orange juice, a Mt. Dew and an hour or so I can usually fake it enough to look like I'm OK. It usually take 2 to 3 hours to really get going. Given that, I'm actually going to try and leave a little early each morning. The 0900 to 1600 thing just isn't working. Sometimes I need a rest after each large climb and sometimes I need a little more time at lunch to stretch and eat and hydrate. We've been getting in as late as 1900hrs the last few nights and riding during evening traffic really bites. So, I'm going to try getting to bed a little earlier tonight and getting up a little earlier tomorrow. I'd like to be on the road by NLT 0800hrs and see how that works out.
Also, I need to figure up some mileages for the next 10 days. I'm not certain of the remaining distances now as the original schedule went out the window somewhere early on in Alabama. I'll check the maps in the morning and see where I'm at so I can better figure on scheduling for everybody in DC, Baltimore, Philly, Trenton and NYC. Ah, many, many thanks to Woody Groton at Wounded Warrior Project for hooking me up with accommodations on the Eastern Seaboard as well as a UHaul van so I can "IHaul" myself and my gear back to Texas.
So far it's been a really great ride. This afternoon I was starting to drag a little bit, well, OK a lotta bit when a car went by and the occupants all rolled down their windows and began cheering and clapping. This started a chain reaction in the intersection and I felt like I was in a parade as I pedaled passed cheering motorists. It was a great pick-me-up and I was able to complete the remaining 17 or 19 miles in much better spirits. I certainly hope that the remaining few days are as awesome as this ride has been so far. Let us just see what tomorrow brings...
Enjoy the Ride!
Monday, August 31, 2009
We got a bit of a late start this morning as I tried to get my legs to cooperate. They seemed to have a mind of their own this morning and it didn't include pedalling for 67 miles across Eastern Tennessee... We ended up pulling out of Trentville around 1000hrs. The road turned out to be pretty decent as Tennessee widened the shoulder on HWY11 and designated it as a bike route. The first leg of the ride consisted of low rolling hills with lots of traffic on the 4-lane though we got to see some pretty countryside and the weather was absolutely spot on. It was sunny and cool with a light breeze quartering away.
Chuck pedaled along for a while and then he says "I got this guilty feeling going on." To which I replied, "guilty? 'bout what?" And that's when he cut loose with a big ole grin and says, "well, riding a bike isn't supposed to be this comfortable... I feel guilty for not suffering enough." And there it was, Chuck really, really enjoys his new catrike. Thanks, Art! You did a great job of setting Chuck up with a ride that he will enjoy for many miles to come.
We rode through Jeffersonville around noon and wheeled into the KFC just before riding out of town. I ran in and used the facilities and got us a snack to hold us over to Russelville, which was another 20 or so miles down the road. We met a fella there named Jim who had been a truck driver. Jim was pretty amazed at our success thus far and provided some info on the upcoming roadways. Then Sharon called and seemed a bit disturbed that we had only gotten 17 miles down the road... so, we laid the coals to her and made Russelville in about an hour and a half! Somewhere around Morristown the State of Tennessee ran out of extra asphalt and we lost the nice wide shoulder. We also managed to lose 2 lanes without a decrease in the amount of traffic. Things were pretty exciting from there to Russelville where we pedaled into a c-store and grabbed some ice and a Mt. Dew. Sharon & Chuck swapped out and Sharon & I continued on with the second leg of the day.
We didn't get more than a couple miles down the road when my front left tire began to thump. The belt had separated and my spare was in the truck. We called Chuck, who had just passed us, and had him return to our location. While we were waiting I pulled off the tire and when Chuck arrived spent only a few minutes mounting the new tire. I stashed another spare on the B.O.B. and we were under way in short order. Within the 30 or so minutes we were in Russelville we were passed by 3 ambulance running code... not a good sign. I couldn't believe the amount of traffic for the middle of the afternoon in a small, rural town.
From Russelville we headed up the "short cut" via St. Clair Rd and HWY113, both of which are narrow, 2-lane country roads running through once lush and productive farmland. What we found though was a constant stream of cars and house upon house encroaching upon the old farm fields. The constant flow of traffic on the narrow, winding and hilly road was rather trying but we managed to make it to HWY66, which cuts across the river and ties HWY11E with HWY11W. We stopped at the river crossing and ate a piece of really good pizza and I had a Mt. Dew while Sharon stuck with the Gatorade. Immediately across the river the entire scene changed. It was the most surreal thing I've experienced on this ride. We hung a right on McKinney Chapel Rd and followed the river for several miles. It was peaceful and lush with walls of limestone to our left and the beautiful river to our right. Traffic was very sparse and it almost felt like we were back on the Natchez Trace. Unfortunately, the fun didn't last too long and we had to hang a left on Old Stage Rd and start climbing out of the river bottom... and we climbed and climbed and climbed... up & down & up & down. It was like a roller coaster ride. We passed beautiful expanses of farmland with barns full of drying tobacco leaves and the sweet smell of fresh cut hay lazed in the air. There were cattle & horses & sheep and we saw a huge flock of wild turkey cruising along a hillside just out of the woods. We saw huge old barns and beautiful historic old homes of local limestone construction as well as some really awesome plank and mud homes that were right out of a Daniel Boone movie from the 1950's. The small communities along the way were friendly and we got lots of smiles and waves as we passed through, completely different from the welcome we received in Jeffersonville and Morristown and Russelville where we were met with blank stares and irritated drivers.
We arrived at the Econolodge in Church Hill a little after 1900hrs. We met Jerry, the manager, and learned that she was from San Antonio. Jerry has the cutest little Yorkie that took quite a liking to Sharon & I. We talked for nearly an hour and I enjoyed Jerry's company. Turns out she also has had back surgery and has some hardware in her back as well so, we had some things in common. Jerry comp'd the room for me as support for our efforts in helping the Wounded Warrior Project... THANKS JERRY! The rooms are nice, clean and very comfortable. The shower was awesome and I think I'm well passed time for some shut eye. There are some dark clouds creeping in to the North & East but we'll worry about that tomorrow. Right now I need some sleep.
Tomorrow we will be riding into Virginia. I think we've got roughly 450 miles to get to DC and are just over a thousand miles from home (great Joe Ely song... "I'm a Thousand Miles From Home"). I think I'm about 3 days behind where I would like to be but, with these mountains some days are just not going to be 60+ miles; those days are more like 40-mile days. Chuck and Sharon have decided that they will depart the ride and return to Texas on Wednesday at noon leaving me to fend for myself for a while. I will miss their company and the luxury of having a vehicle nearby in case I need it. I'm figuring 6 days to cross Virginia leaving me 5 days to get from DC to New York, which is possible given the fact that I can ride from Houston to Austin in just 2 days, albeit without carrying any gear. I am a little leery of the Blue Ridge Mountains but, having climbed over the mountains in Alabama and Tennessee I think I'll be OK even though it will be slow going. So, keep the good vibes coming and, with a little luck and some good weather we'll see this mission through to it's successful end.
Thanks again for all the support. It was nice to talk with Benson on the phone last night and it gave me a little boost to cover some more miles. I'm now off to bed and will post tomorrow's ride map in the morning. Let us see what tomorrow brings...
Sunday, August 30, 2009
On Saturday when we were scrambling around getting ready to depart the Hagood's Art was happily singing Tennessee Whiskey, an old George Jones song. Here it is two days later and I'm still singing Tennessee Whiskey... thanks, Art! Oh, well, it is a good song and we are in Tennessee.
Today was pretty uneventful. I fumbled around this morning and we ended up not leaving the KOA until after 1000hrs. I had an interesting conversation with a lady from Detroit though. I had stated that here it is coming up on 9 years that we have been at war in the Middle East and in the Global War On Terror and folks seem to be loosing site of the fact that we still have Troops on the ground, on the sea and in the air that are in harm's way everyday protecting our way of life. She admitted that when we were first engaging in this conflict she was attending prayer groups and spending her energy in other ways to show her support but recently she said it only comes to her mind on occasion. She said, though, that she was happy to have seen us as it has refreshed her drive to keep our Troops in the forefront of her thoughts. We had a very nice conversation and I left feeling that I was accomplishing what I had set out to do when I pedaled out of Houston. She took some photos and said she would pass them along to her friends and relatives. Now, perhaps it will spread a little further like ripples in a pond.
On 10 June 2007 my friend Matt Lammers, a Seargent with 10th Mountain Division, was injured when his vehicle was hit by an IED while on patrol in a Baghdad neighborhood. Matt was hit really bad. He lost both of his legs above the knees and his right arm above the elbow. He has spent the last two years working really, really hard to overcome many obstacles and now he has learned how to walk using prosthetic legs and can drink a can of soda with his prosthetic arm. He recently married Mary, another OIF Veteran, and they are expecting a child in January. I met Matt on the Wounded Warrior Project's Soldier Ride in Texas in 2008. We rode modified bicycles provided by WWP from Brooke Army Medical Center at Ft. Sam Houston, San Antonio to Naval Air Station Corpus Christi. Matt rode a handcycle and I remember that we could not get his "training" prosthetic arm to stay on the crank so we, like all good Soldiers, resolved the problem with some trusty old speed tape! Matt hand pedaled his bike for 78 miles in 3 separate rides that week with one arm and a stump! Within a few miles the stress and sweat being dealt to his prosthetic arm rendered it inoperable. I was super impressed with Matt's determination and so very, very happy for him. I also remember that it was hot. And I mean Texas hot, which was unusual for early March. Matt was sweating buckets and he couldn't wipe the sweat or take a drink of water because he had the use of only his left hand. At no time, ever, during the entire ride did the smile fade from Matt's face. He was an inspiration to many, many people that week including myself.
On 13 November 2005 while on patrol near Mosul, Iraq my friend Latseen Benson, a Seargent with the 101st Airborne Division, was hit by an IED and lost his left leg below the knee and his right leg above the knee. He also sustained damage to his right hand, back and suffered internal injuries. I met Benson and his wife, Jessica, on Wounded Warrior Project's Soldier Ride Texas in 2009. We started talking and then realized that we only lived about 10 miles apart in League City, Texas. This year's Soldier Ride started at Mellow Johnnies Bike Shop in Austin, Texas and continued to BAMC then on to NASCCAD. Unlike last year's ride this one was a total opposite weather wise; it rained the entire time and the temperature never got over 45 degrees. Even with the rain and cold we managed to have a really great time and Benson, not being one to smile at much of anything managed to crack a grin here and there. In Corpus we started the Lone Star Challenge from Minutemaid Park. When we got there it was raining and cold and nobody was really prepared as far as proper clothing and there were a lot of shivering Soldiers standing around in groups under the few available canopies. I seriously considered staying on the bus in the heat but Benson psyched me into wanting to ride. Then, when I got geared up and ready to go I was amazed to see every single Soldier we brought out there on bikes, in the cold rain ready to ride. There were Soldiers missing limbs, Soldiers covered with 3rd degree burn scars, Soldiers with traumatic brain injury scars and not one of them sat on the bus. To the man they lined up for the start. Benson and I rode together and managed to complete the ride even with the nasty weather. After returning home Benson & I have continued to ride together and have grown to be very good friends. One day there was a knock upon my door and when I opened it there stood Benson on his new prosthetic legs! I said, "dang, I don't remember you being that tall!"
Soldier Ride is only one of the many programs offered by Wounded Warrior Project. While I consider Matt & Benson my close friends now, I met a bunch of truly great Heroes while on Soldier Ride; all of whom have benefited from this great program. Please keep our Troops in your thoughts and support them by donating to WWP by clicking the button on the to left of this page.
Let us see what tomorrow brings...
Enjoy the Ride!