Two weeks ago today, we were standing sleepy-eyed in the early morning light in Annapolis, MD waiting for the 8 man team from Walter Reed Bethesda Cycling Team to cross the RAAM finish line. LS&G had rolled across the same finish line one day prior and even though we had a need for rest and uninterrupted sleep, we dragged ourselves from the first soft, warm, CLEAN bed that we had occupied in a week to watch a group of true to life heroes finish what, to us, was a huge accomplishment but was, for them, another day at the office. This team consisted of 8 veterans all of whom had some sort of war related injury from missing one limb to missing several limbs to paralysis to PTSD. When asked how they were affected by the desert heat, one hero stated “This is not the first desert I have been in.”
It seems the first question I am asked when I talk to people about RAAM is whether I will do it again. I think to answer that question; I have to answer why I did it two consecutive years in the first place. I felt that I had reached a point in life when I began to wonder if there would be anything left to discover about myself. In childhood, adolescence, college years, early adulthood, even full-out grown-upedness, I knew things were going to happen. I was evolving, life was fluid, and there were surprises. And although I am nowhere near the end of the tunnel (I don’t think), I sometimes wonder not so much where I will go from here but what is inside still lurking that will amaze me. I can say that, for me, there has not been thus far an experience even close to RAAM. Something that fully engages my soul, my body, and my mind for 24 hours a day for as long as it takes to haul my tired tush across the country. Tiredness is a given and yet, all the senses need to be sharp and tuned in. All muscles are working. All brain power is focused. All doubts are conquered. All mysteries solved (there is a rational explanation for undocumented shadowy creatures in the night). This is not even mentioning the people I met along the way this year. The 2 person team from France, The Flying Frenchies, we became Facebook friends and communicated in sort of French-ish/English with the help of Google Translate and danged if we didn’t meet in Oceanside. The Allied Forces Team, the Walter Reed Team, the Pedals, Power and Ponytails Team, the extraordinary Boethling family, George Thomas – 2 weeks post shoulder re-repair – not to mention Micky Dymond and the entire Riding the Line production team, the list goes on and on and on and – yes, on.
And our crew. Talk about amazing. Twelve selfless people concentrating on . . . . US (or, in my mind, ME)! Where is the route, where are the changes, where is the rain, the wind, the smoke, where the heck is the RV (smiling here, just so you know)? That week, for them, was spent virtually shower free, restroom free, exercise free, in a caffeinated heightened haze watching, calculating, driving, navigating, cooking, serving, emptying, smiling, and whatever else-ing. I did spy a couple of them brushing their teeth, coffee cups in hand on the side of some unnamed road – slackers. It might sound repetitive but RAAM could not be conquered without an astute and outstanding crew. None is better than ours.
So, two weeks post-RAAM and it almost feels as if the experience didn’t happen. RAAM exists in a sort of time warp. While racing, everything is focused on the race. Suddenly, it is over and time to pick up the pieces of life that had happened in my absence. The RV has been returned. I freed my garage of all the assorted RAAM crap – amazing what was stored and squished in a 32 foot RV and two vehicles. All supplies have been sorted, boxed, and stored in a corner of my basement for . . . what? For next time? What? WHAT? All that remains unclaimed are a couple of lonely hot beverage mugs and those are the proof that it did, truly happen.
Yes, I am amazed. I am amazed how much more there is inside to discover. How many people, heroes and regular folks who do heroic things (like make milkshakes to die for in some remote general store in West Virginia), there are left to meet, how many experiences are left to be shared and how great life actually is. On a bike or off. Inside and out. Let the wonderment continue to bloom, blossom and grow.