Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Why of it All

I used to wonder sometimes about the string of co-incidences that led me to the Tour de Cure. At first glance, it looked like an easy, low pressure local ride and not much else. The cause was secondary to the attraction of the chance to ride my first Century and entering my first organized event since I took up biking again. I hadn’t really thought about the implications of diabetes and what the Tour meant much beyond that 100-mile goal of mine.

As happens, one thing led to another and a glance at the Tour website found that my employer had corporate teams riding in Virginia and Georgia. A spur-of-the-moment Sunday email to the COO soon had us off and running as the northern-most branch of Team NS Thoroughbreds and suddenly there was more to this than I originally bargained for.

We fumbled our way through the first year without much of a clue as to what we were doing but wound up having a ball and actually raising enough in donations to come in third in fundraising. A week later, I was planning for the next team.

Still, the real reason for it all remained a little hazy. I knew what we were doing was important in a distant sort of way but the ride and the team were the big focus. The disease and the goals stayed in the background of my thinking. Now it’s another year and now at last, it’s all starting to fall together, the how and more importantly, the why of Team Thoroughbreds and the Tour de Cure. I owe it to Leanne and Donnie.

Leanne is the daughter of my good friends Donnie and Sandy Cardone. ‘Cardie’ as I soon came to know him, was the first real live railroader I ever met when I was first kicking around the idea of taking up the profession. He pretty much talked me into it and has been my sounding board and advisor in a pinch for almost 14 years ever since. Luck had it that at one point, I could even hold an engineer spot on his job for a while. I learned more working with him than anywhere else since engine school and amazingly, we managed to have a good time doing it. Even after he retired and left ‘The Lakeshore Express’ for good, we kept in touch and got together once in a while to do what railroaders do best; drink coffee, gripe about the railroad and catch up on who’s doing what and where.

I knew Donnie had diabetes from watching his struggles when we worked that all-night local together and I knew Leanne had had it since she was young as well. I only actually met her once but felt like I knew her through her Dad. You find out just about everything when you spend 12 hours in a locomotive cab with someone night after night for months.

He told me in bits and pieces about Leanne’s long battle with diabetes; the hospital stays, endless tests, medications, late-night crisis’, setbacks and victories. All the while, he managed his own illness and worked a demanding job to maintain the medical coverage they both needed. I looked up to Donnie and often wondered if I could do as well.

A few days ago, I heard the sad news that Leanne had lost her fight and passed away suddenly at the young age of 41. The day before her memorial, I saddled up and rode over to see Cardie and Sandy. I can’t imagine losing one of my kids so I really didn’t know what I was going to say. I shouldn’t have worried. Donnie was just coming out the door when I rolled up and in his usual way; he smiled and shook my hand. He looked tired as well he should but through it all, he still had that smile. I knew right then why I’m doing this. It took a while but now I know.

It’s for Leanne, for Donnie and Sandy, for everyone who fights this thing every day and still manages somehow to smile. For everyone who’s had to say goodbye too soon. For everyone who’s said to me, “Hey, I have diabetes too” or “I know someone who has diabetes.”

For all of them and all of us.

I knew without a doubt right then that the Finger Lakes NS Thoroughbreds would be riding in memory of Leanne Cardone. When Donnie shook my hand, I knew that her struggle against diabetes would be our motivation.

Something good will come of this. When we head out as Team NS Thoroughbreds on the Tour de Cure this August, we’ll carry another name with us. When we ride, we’ll ride for someone we lost along the way. A friend most of us never knew and a family whose fight against diabetes is an inspiration. Cardie and Sandy are coming to see us off and I know he’ll still have that smile. When we ride, we’ll ride

For Leanne

Sunday, April 3, 2011


Well, I popped open my dashboard (on the blog...not my truck) and noticed that this will be my 100th post...if I ever finish it.  Sometimes these things take days to get off my keyboard and out into blog-space.  This one is shaping up that way but in time, it will become my Century Post.  Big deal?  Not really but it's a landmark of sorts and hence worth at least a passing nod.

100 of anything is one of those milestones that everybody strives for or at least notes when it sails by.  100 years old is worth shooting for isn't it?  Hell, speaking of sailing by, I'd settle for 100 bucks in spending cash right about now after the only 10 I had left flew from my clip, spent on coffee and crummy diner food to get me through my last 'round trip.  Face it...100 is a magic number.

I should know.  Just for example, my first Century bicycle ride was a pretty major event.  100 miles is a stiff investment in effort and time for an old guy like me so I was ecstatic when I finally cranked off enough practice rides to go the whole way.   If I live long enough, like over 100...I might make 100 100's and that would be a real Guinness moment (the record book...not the beer).  One Zero Zero was the benchmark I spent years building up to and now that I made it, it's on to bigger and better things but that first one will always be THE FIRST.

Then just by chance, I swung by my Book of Face page and found that the last person who be-friended my ethereal self brought my tally of electronic acquaintances to an even 100.  What are the odds?  More to the point, what are the odds that 100 people actually have enough interest in what I'm about that they drop in?  Keep this up and I'll have 100 questions.

Maybe I should have played all 100s on the Mega ticket I so foolishly wasted 100 cents on.  Then again...7 was the lucky number for the people who bought into that office pool in Albany.  They now have the tough decision of whether it's worth it to work another day or maybe thinking it's better to just shack up with their post-tax millions and call it a career.  Me, I'd keep working.  You never know when 19 million might run out.  That's too many hundreds to even think about.

Anyway, 100 just seems like a cool number for some reason.  So I'll finally finish my Century Post and call it a day like any other except that a milestone has passed and there'll never be another one like it.  Important?  Not really, just a note and a nod on the Wayward Home.