This one is going to be a little tough. It's already taken two or three days so just come along for the ride. Well see where it goes...This may take a while, hence the Part I.
After months and months of planning sessions, phone calls, meetings, emails and anguish, this year's Tour de Cure is in the books for my team and I. It's been a long haul, especially at the end as you'll see, but a good ride nonetheless. We ended up with the biggest team we've ever had, made more money than ever for the American Diabetes Association and all in all, just done good. Where do I even start to describe it?
Well, here's a link to the map anyway...that might be a good place to begin. We'll just wander along from there.
In case anyone noticed, I've pretty much dropped off the blog world for the last month and a half because for a while, I quite honestly couldn't keep up with it all. Beyond my wildest expectations, the team just kept growing and growing. People came from the most unlikely places to sign up and be part of this thing. People from far-away states and right next door. I'm still dazzled. Fifty seven in all finally ended up on the roster including a couple who signed up at the last minute, rode and left without me ever even meeting them which is great in one way, less so in another.
I very much miss being there to see everyone at our team tent before they ride out but since I do the Century, I leave early and get back late. Many of the team come and go while I'm lost in the Amish country somewhere. I've debated even not riding at all so I could be at the starting line when each loop blasts off but that 100 miles is sort of my one reward to myself. To actually see it work and make it all the way around puts the icing on the cake that we've been baking all year. My first-ever Century was on a Tour de Cure and it's become kind of a tradition with me. Simple things...
I do really wish I could put all of the team in a single room for a few hours though so we could all get to know each other. That's one thing about the big team that I have a hard time with...I don't get to meet everyone. If this keeps up, we'll need a convention. Something else in my to-do basket someday. Not that I'm complaining!
But on to the ride itself. It actually begins right after last August but the run-up kicks into high gear about Wednesday before the event. I burned up all my remaining vacation days and a couple of personals to paint red arrows on roads all over upstate NY, grocery shop for the team cookout and try to get my truck loaded on Friday night. Success on the paint, fail on the truck but things were moving along fairly well until my cell rang about mid-afternoon on Friday. Suddenly, all was not so right with the world.
Some of our troops went out that morning volunteering for the Tour by putting up direction signs along the routes. It's another sort of informal tradition that the NS team comes out of the woodwork to help set up the ride so five of them; Angie, Charlie, Seana, Chris and John were roaming in a couple of cars signing the 65 and 100 mile loops. While they were still in a caravan together, out of nowhere John suddenly collapsed in the seat. Chris started CPR and kept him going until the paramedics arrived but Angie called me from the hospital to break the news that despite all efforts, one of our own had passed away in the emergency room. I just fell into a chair in shock. Of all the things we do to get ready, nothing got us ready for this.
I'd only met John a week ago. He and his wife Lori came to my place for our last pre-Tour team ride on Sunday. A big, tower of a man laughing as he tried to wiggle into a team jersey and she promising to come pick him up afterwards like he was a kid at soccer practice. He rode in the lead third of the group all day and ate 45 miles for lunch. I liked him already.
But then he was gone and I didn't know what to do. There just wasn't enough time to process it. I didn't even dare let the team know lest some stray email find it's way to someone in John's family who hadn't heard yet. It was awful...and yet out of it came inspiration.
After all that, the signing crew went back out and finished. They did first-aid, figured out a 911 call to get the ambulance to a place they didn't know, rode with John to the ER and stayed with him, waited for Lori and the family to arrive, did all they could to help her, pulled it all together and then after all of it, went back out and finished. The routes got marked and Saturday was a success because of them and again, I didn't know what to say.
How do you tell people how much what they've done means? They could have packed up and headed home and no one could say they weren't justified after what had happened. But they didn't. They grabbed some lunch to recharge and worked the rest of the afternoon and into the evening. They said John would have wanted them to. I wish everyone who rode out Saturday morning knew what went into those simple road signs stuck in the grass along the way.
What do you say to people who just do what needs to be done in spite of it all? They'd be mad if I called them heroes but in truth, they fit the definition. So it's not a battlefield or a natural disaster that will be remembered for years? Does it have to be big to be good? Maybe it was a small thing in the grand scheme of the world. Maybe it wasn't even a blip in the local news. But people do wonderful things in ways that never make CNN and it still matters. In our little corner of the world, it matters very much.
In my book anyway, they deserve the title of heroes but I know they'll yell like they just hit their thumb with a hammer if I ever call them that. So how about I call them my friends? I think that might just work.
And how about I call John and Lori my friends too? For inspiring us and spending a little time with us, the team and I will always be grateful. That's what friend do. Something good will come of this. I don't know much, but I do know that.
We lost a teammate last Friday but I think a little of the soul in what we do came back. That's the inspiration John gave us. We started doing this thing for people. Not donations, not numbers, not ADA or NS, but for people. John didn't have diabetes but he was out doing for other people anyway. At the end of the day, that's really all that matters. Real heroes know that.