I didn’t know exactly what I had signed up for. I knew I was riding 110 miles over two days with injured U.S. veterans. But I didn’t understand why a bike ride was called “Face of America.” Nor did I understand why was I raising money for something as frivolous as a cycling event when soldiers who had lost limbs for our nation needed help with activities for daily life. Now I understand.
Last weekend, about 600 of us pedaled from Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia to the battlefields of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania -- 130 injured veterans riding recumbents, many pedaling with their hands, were among us. Many of the other cyclists were also veterans, and we had the privilege of offering to push the injured vets up a hill when they struggled.
A pole is strapped to the back of each injured vet's cycle. On long steep hills, cyclists grab the pole and push. A team of three riders would sometimes line up and push each other, one holding the back of the other till they make it over the top. Teams formed spontaneously.
A couple of hand-cyciists rode with their prosthetic legs stored in a rear compartment and stencilesd in iridescent orange, letters across the inside knee of each black prosthetic were the words: “FLESH WOUND.” The man in front of me lost his legs in swerving our nation and he and was making a joke of it. Unlike other injured vets, this guy did not have a pole coming from the back of his bike. This guy was saying he'd beat whatever came at him. I saw that guy riding up hills! He was perhaps the bravest man I’ll ever see.
I learned that inclusive cycling is a thing. It’s when people with injuries get out on the road for a day and challenge themselves. People with limbs get out for an amazing day or two.
More importantly, I learned — yet again — that when you do something good, you end up being the one to benefit most. It’s a natural law of the univers, or it ought to be. For example, I made this video to tell you about my two days of riding with heroes and with hundreds of incrediblly good people participating. Of course, making the video has taught me how to make music videos -- a cool new skill I can profit from in making advisor client portals.
Supporting 130 injured vets on recumbent cycles adapted to amputees for 110-miles as well as 470 other cyclists isn’t easy. You need planning, permits, local police assistance, a motorcycle entourage, hotel rooms, and medical and mechanical experts of all kinds as well as food and drinks every 10 or 15 miles, depending on the hills. And you need cheerleaders. That’s right.
Cheerleaders in towns whose names I don’t know shook their pom-poms for me. That never happened before. I was totally ashamed. I was not a veteran. I was not worthy.
People on street corners, in front of churches, and firemen waved us on at times, and outbursts of applause marked our journey. It renewed my optimism about , America, humanity, and the future.
At one of the big hills on the second day of the ride, a crane that must have been six stories tall held a 50 foot long American flag overhead. The flag was blowing 10-feet above my head as I rode up the hill, where 150 men and women applauded us as we rode past.