On Friday, October 20, 2017, I embarked on my first ever self-supported century bike ride. It was sort of scary to think about doing, I’ve always had someone to ride with on such a long ride and the route would take me through almost all new territory. I went into that part of it kind of blindly on purpose. The ride was intended to in be in honor and memory of three cycling-influential people in my life that had passed away in the last 14 months of time, the most recent being my mom. The plan was to ride from doorstep to doorstep - from my house to my dad’s house, 110 miles away in a day.
My day would take me from 35 degree temps in the morning to 77 degree temps at their peak in the afternoon. I would travel on rail trails, through the city, into the countryside on various paved and gravel roads. Exploring. Thinking. I would stop randomly as I needed rest or refreshment - I didn’t pre-plan any of those stops. I just wanted mostly to take a day of time to hear nothing but my tires, the wind and my own thoughts - maybe also the lost spirits talking to me and encouraging me along the way. To leave the outside world behind for just a day. It was exactly that, and I needed that day to myself in a bad way. I couldn’t help but to think all three of them were watching me that day. That made me happy.
Let’s first talk about the three souls.
First off is Pastor Robert Eckert. He was a genuine leader of our church, the first in a really long time that my wife and I really connected with and wanted to make a better future for our church with. He was inspiring, wise, caring, relatable but most of all, real. You knew where he stood and what his foundations were. He encouraged me to start up “Miles for Smiles” which was my first attempt at a church-based mission. The goal was to get congregation members to walk, run or ride bikes in collection of donations or pledge money. The money would be used to buy shoes and bikes for kids. (we raised $1800!) Not only did he help me refine the strategy and plan for M4S, but also began riding his bike from the parsonage to the church for work instead of taking his car. That overweight old guy said he was loving it, I wasn’t quite sure he was, but I think he was doing it more for me that he was himself, which was just like himself. He suddenly passed away in September 2016 after a month-long battle with cancer. It came on fast and quick and like that, he was gone. Pastor Robert, always giving and supportive, I will never forget him for that.
(Aunt) Dianne Dodds was my mom’s sister. As kids, mom would take us kids to go visit her in Brookfield, a Chicago Suburb, once or twice a summer - always taking our bikes with. She would pack us lunches usually ham and cheese sandwiches with lettuce and real mayo. A different (and delicious) sandwich that we wouldn't get normally at home. Aunt Dianne would have made plans to travel various places on our bikes - whether that was garage sales, their local rail trail bike path or to local parks to play on equipment. In between those times, my brother and I would spend countless hours riding around her block - real “city” riding we’d think of it as. She still had dirt in her alley, which was our first love. She would let us stop at local bike shops to buy accessories and stuff. I even bought my first mountain bike near there - a Specialized Hard Rock complete with index shifters. It was red (of course) and I remember test riding it in the back parking lot. I bet I could drive to it today. She always showed us new things and took us new places, taking the trains and buses of Chicago to get places. She died in January 2017 from a long stretch of battles with cancer and a brain injury which damaged her perception of the world around her. I miss her a lot, and I wish I could give her one more hug for all those shared times. I still remember us visiting her for the last time at the memory care facility she was living at. They closed the window-pane doors behind us, I saw her and waved through the windows as she turned and walked back to her room. She didn’t know she was getting transferred out of state so another family member could help take care of her. It was our last goodbye, but only mom and I knew that.
Last but not least, my mom. She passed away in February 2017, almost one month to the day from her sister. Mom survived a 2 year battle of lung cancer which she had been defeating, but it had already metastasized to her spine, liver and brain. She could feel her memory going that Thanksgiving and I think she sensed things were going to wind down soon. Her dream was to take us and her grandkids to Disney World together. We were able to do that just two weeks before she ended up passing away in February. Mom was always taking us places with our bikes. She taught us how to properly hoist them up on the trunk rack and pack old rags and velcro between bikes to keep them from rubbing during transit. She encouraged me to ride my bike to soccer practice in the summers. (Always wear your helmet!) We were always on bikes. We had our share of funny moments too, mom putting her helmet on backwards accidentally, her running stop signs (don’t do that) and her crashing under strange circumstances. She always had some sort of injury or grease on her leg from a bike ride it seemed. Mom was always interested in my rides as an adult and was watchful of the friends I had made. She would read this blog and we’d talk about it afterwards. I think she would be proud of where I am in my life and I work every day to continue to make her proud. Not one day has gone by that I don’t think of her since her passing.
My love of riding bikes wouldn’t be what it is without the influence of these three people.
Since this post is about a bike ride, I suppose I should talk a little about that. Although, there wasn’t really much notable that happened, so this is all you’ll get plus some pictures below. The thoughts and talks that I had with the “Three Souls” during my ride are just for me. Just know, that I felt all of their presence that day and reliving this one year later, makes me wish I was out there riding right at this very instant.
My Garmin says I burned 7000+ calories that day. So that is something I guess. But what is really something is that I did it and I did it with a smile - in memory of those that had left to do greater things for a greater purpose somewhere else. I am forever thankful for what these Three Souls gave me and inspired me to love.
Me and Mom on what would be our last bike ride together.
Much of what I saw this day was corn. Great day for a fall ride, unbelievably lucky really.
My most favorite of all street signs.
I love gravel.
This was my view and lunch I purchased around Gun Lake.
Pastor Robert had a way of making every month's communion special and unique. On one Sunday he handed these out, bread he made specially to last long periods of time. (I forget the story behind it.) It was given to us to enjoy at a time we felt we needed in this little mini-cup cake wrapper. I had been carrying it around with me for a year on my bike rides and finally chose to consume it. I needed it that day and spoke some emotional words to him as I ate it. It was delicious and I wished I had more.
Just me being dorky showing off my local-town spirit in jersey choice.
Ahh..southern Michigan. Where you can ride bikes behind slow moving Amish buggies. Watch out for poop!
Mission Complete. Almost 111 miles. It was a good time. I will have to do it again.
Done and arrived at Dad's. He said he was proud of me for doing this. I needed to hear that from him. It was a good day. I was tired and REALLY hungry. We later went to Indiana and got Italian Beef sandwiches. I'm not sure I tasted mine, it was gone so fast and I was tempted to order another one. What a day.