"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

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Wallis Independence Ride

This past weekend TC & I hooked up with Steve Danyluk and Independence Fund for the third annual Wallis Independence Ride in Wallis, Texas. I began preparing for the ride on Tuesday by cleaning & checking the trikes. Friday morning I got up and put together all of the gear we would need and spent the rest of the day pacing around excited about taking my wife with me on a bike ride. TC arrived home from work at the usual 1500hrs and while she freshened up and changed clothes, Mick & I loaded the trikes and gear. We departed our residence at 1535hrs and headed for the Galleria in Houston.

I made a quick stop at Specs for a little something for my buddy, Benson. Friday, 13NOV2009 was Benson's "Alive Day" anniversary; it was four years ago that Benson was blown up by an IED outside of Mosul, Iraq. After a brief cruise down the whiskey isle I settled on a nice bottle of Knob Creek small batch Kentucky Bourbon. I then made a pass by the humidor and picked up a box-pressed Java Estate Robusto Maduro; a fine cigar to which Benson & I have taken a liking.

TC & I then joined in with the mass of people who all happened to be going north on IH45 at the same time as we headed for the Embassy Suites at the Galleria. After a couple of bottlenecks we made it to the hotel around 1645... 15 minutes prior to the designated meet-up time. We got checked in and dropped off our bags then headed right back downstairs to catch the van to dinner. We enjoyed the ride to dinner where we sat behind our new friends Kate & Fran from where else but New York City! We had a real gas talking & cutting-up with Fran & Kate.

Our dinner was courtesy of Boudreaux's and Schlumberger Cycling Club, who organized the ride, and took place at the Schlumberger facilities. We enjoyed visiting as well as slide shows and presentations by and for all the folks who made the ride possible, including Veterans Group Ironwood who provided us with $10k. The amazing thing about this donation is where the money came from and how it was raised. Veterans Group Ironwood is a collection of Veterans who are incarcerated in the Ironwood Prison, California Penal System. They raised the money by selling pizza in their chow hall and by recycling cans and bottles. Amazing! These guys raised that kind of money from inside prison... imagine how much could be raised outside of those walls. Thanks guys! Best of Luck to you all.

At dinner I also got to hook up with my friend Charlie again. I hadn't seen Charlie since Soldier Ride this past March. Charlie is still in the Army and serving at Ft. Benning, Georgia even though he has a major TBI and significant damage to his arm and hand after being blown up by an IED in Iraq. It was nice to visit with Charlie and I wish him all the best.

After our nice dinner we headed back to the hotel where we enjoyed a nightcap and some more visiting before we tottered off to bed around 2200hrs. The room was comfortable and it wasn't long before I was sawing logs.

My alarm deployed its irritating little beep at 0445hrs. We donned our bike clothes, packed & headed downstairs to grab some breakfast and check out. Because of the time our breakfast was a brown bag containing the bike riders ever-present banana, a muffin, a granola bar & a juice. Much like eating MRE's in the field, everybody sat around trading various pieces until they had the flavor they liked and then began eating. Unfortunately for coffee drinkers there was no fresh coffee out at 0530hrs on a Saturday morning. Typical of Military folks, a couple of trusted and industrious individuals set off to resolve this issue and quickly returned from the employee break room with steaming cups of fresh coffee.

We then loaded up and drove the 44 miles over to the Knights of Columbus hall in Wallis where we unloaded & fitted bikes. All of the Veterans then lined up with the Marine Corps Color Guard and some sponsors for a few pictures. We then lined up for the National Anthem and the ride start. There were about 800 riders total. The weather was perfect for a bike ride too. It was about 65 degrees with a light breeze and clear skies. Since we hadn't been riding very much lately, TC, Latseen, Jessica & I decided that we would ride the short route, 23 miles, and call it a day. TC & Jessica decided that they would at least ride to the first banana!

We found the first banana about 5.5 miles down the road where we made the first rest stop without a hitch. The Boy Scouts had the rest stop manned and were serving some really good gatorade as compared to the usually watered down stuff. We topped off our bottles & headed down the road. It was really fun riding along and talking with folks. There were folks of all abilities and skills enjoying the ride and showing their support for our Country's Veterans. It was a good feeling to see such an outpouring of support. I am glad that we have turned a page from the aberrant way in which our Country welcomed home Its Vietnam Veterans. I looked around at my fellow Veterans and could immediately see that they too were very much enjoying the ride and the day... made that much better by the many cheers, thumbs up, hand shakes and back pats. I am honored to share the company of such great men and women as those who serve(d) our Great Country.

Latseen had seemed a little disappointed that we were riding the 23-mile route when there were longer routes available for a challenge. Still, I had agreed with TC to ride the 23 and I wasn't going to ride on without her. At the point where the short route peeled off Benson was about a quarter of a mile ahead of me and, after a little half-hearted partial turn, he continued down the road of the 42-mile route. Jessica, TC & I took a right and headed on down the road content to be riding the 23 miler. Poor Jessica hadn't ridden since the BPms150 in April and she was riding a standard framed bike... she didn't complain a bit but when I asked her she said she was experiencing pain in her wrist, left foot and her butt. I'm really glad that she came out to ride though as it's always more fun with more people, especially those you like! I also have to tell you how proud I am of my beautiful wife. She is truly my everything. I don't know where I would be without her. She jumped on her new Catrike Expedition and peddled like a pro! She rode better than I have ever seen her previously ride. She visited with folks and her smile was infectious.

The short route simply turned back around the block so-to-say and ended up back at the same rest stop. We wheeled in and took another short break. After some more of that delicious gatorade we started to head back down the road. Thinking I was behind them, Jessica & TC took off for the finish line. I had stopped to talk to some folks who were asking about my trike when one of the fellas said, "you better get going. looks like your wife has done left without you." I looked up to see TC's little orange flag flapping along about a half of a mile down the road. Here's how I know TC was riding so well. After 20 miles she was cooking right along and I was having a hard time closing the gap... even on a bridge! Good job, Honey! It took me several miles to finally catch her. I think it was the chip-seal in the construction area that slowed her down enough for me.

We rolled across the finish line right behind Jessica to cheers and posters. It was really nice. Thank you for all of the support! TC & I loaded up the trikes and went to check on Jessica. Turns out that Latseen had the keys for their truck with him so she would have to wait for him to finish the 42-mile route before being able to load her bike and change clothes. Meanwhile, we went inside and ate a nice lunch courtesy of the Knights of Columbus, along with some live music. It was a nice way to wind down and visit for a while. We then headed outside and waited for Latseen. When he came in we joined the folks cheering! We got him loaded up and then went back inside so he could eat some lunch.

That wrapped up our day and, after well wishes, we all headed for home. TC & I took the scenic route home and after having gotten up at oh-dark-thirty we went straight for a nap!

On Sunday, "Love Your Spouse Day", we watched a really bad scifi show on t.v. then went for lunch at McAlister's. After lunch we went to the theater and saw "Fourth Kind." It was a really weird show. Then we went for a drive along the shoreline of Galveston Bay stopping at several parks to just sit and watch. After discovering that we would have no children to worry about for the evening we stopped by What A Burger and then went home. Ending the day by watching the Colts upset the Patriots in a last minute drive on Sunday Night Football.

In all, it was an awesome weekend!

Ride On!