Day 35/67! Officially over halfway completed with our journey. I’m at a mix of emotions right now. Part of me is really excited to know that we only have 31 days left until we arrive in DC but part of me is sad that we’re coming close to our end. We’ve made countless new friends and have endless amounts of stories. Right now our team is in Lincoln, NE. Since my last post we’ve ridden through Fort Morgan and Wray Colorado and have now entered into Nebraska via McCook, Minden, Grand Island and now Lincoln. This post is a bit overdue but as you’ll see, it’s been an eventful week!
Our last day in Denver was capped off with a Push America and Special Olympics of Colorado tradition- Pedals for Pennies. An event where Special Olympians cycle with us around a track and fundraise dollars for every lap they complete. Our team was Mike Walton (Texas Christian Univ), myself, and our new buddy Mark. Mark was tied with the most laps completed at 11. Here’s a photo of us after a long day of cycling.
I also got to meet with a great role model and mentor- T.J. Sullivan. T.J. Is the author of “Motivating the Middle: Fighting Apathy in College Student Organizations“. T.J. is also a brother of Pi Kappa Phi and previously completed Gear Up Florida. I was glad to see him and his awesome son Tim. Here’s a photo of us at the Pedals for Pennies event.
Our ride from Denver to Fort Morgan took place on July 4th. It was a lengthy 98 mile ride but after we got in I managed to squeeze in a quick nap before our dinner with the Elks Lodge of Ft. Morgan. That night we went out by a county fair to watch Independence Day fireworks. It was a great way to spend the 4th of July- surrounded by brothers and singing along to anything and everything.
Ft. Morgan to Wray was about 90 miles. We booked it to make it in to lodging before noon. We stayed at the Wray Rehabilitation and Activities Center (WRAC). We had some free time to crash the water park next door and relax. After some time off we had a dinner hosted by the local Boy Scouts group. We performed our puppet show for them and played some sports. They were the wildest and craziest kids we’ve ever hung out with.
Our project manager, Nick Brady, has his profile photo of the “gladiator” pose in a wheat field so we all thought it’d be hilarious to copy him and take a photo with the same pose.
Wray to McCook, NE was an extremely fun ride. Not only did we cross into Nebraska but the team also took a detour into Kansas to take a photo at the state line. That day me and my paceline partner, Chris Stubel (Georgia Tech) were feeling good and riding as hard and fast as possible. At mile 88/96 we were in the lead and I accidentally went off-roading in the gravel and into the grass. Luckily I didn’t fall or get injured, but unfortunately we lost the lead and I got a flat tire. I rushed to fill it up and jumped back on the bike. I was in such a rush that I didn’t notice a bulge in the tire. I was out of Co2 and tubes and just wanted to finish. The bulge caused my ride to be extremely bumpy. I figured it was only 8 miles so I’d ride through it. Sure enough half a mile out of lodging I got another flat as we turned to ride up a steep hill. I said screw it, I didn’t want to lose our 2nd place finish and stop again so I rode up the hill with a flat tire on a cobblestone road. Writing this post made me realize that it was probably a dumb idea but at the time it was worth it. That night our teammate Stephen Blythe’s (Univ. of Tennessee) parents sponsored a movie for us to watch as a team. We saw Despicable Me 2 and we all absolutely loved it.
McCook to Minden was another 96 mile day. This time I rode with Jeff Watson (Univ. of Colorado). We were on a mission to finish first and no one could stop us. Jeff pushed me to my physical limits to keep up with him at 24 mph. After we took the lead around mile 30 we stayed there until the end. When we stopped for lunch, the closest paceline was 20 minutes behind us. We rode hard and fast and nothing would stop me from finally finishing first this time. We got in to lodging super early and decided to cap off the ride with another 4 miles to make it a century day. We rode over to a Subway and treated ourselves to Ice Cream. The town was extremely small. Only 1 gas station in the whole town and the only places to grab a bite were a Pizza Hut and a Subway. Pizza Hut sponsored our awesome dinner and we got back to lodging early enough to have a 5-on-5 basketball tournament. The tournament was great. We finished 2-2 in a double elimination tournament bracket. I think the most memorable part of the stop over was the water. The pipes were rusted.
Seeing that made me wonder when my last tetanus shot was. All in all, Minden was a great stop (besides the water, of course).
Minden to Grand Island, Nebraska. This was a short 50 mile ride in pure flat land. It’s everything like what I trained for (besides all the corn). We all made it a point to sprint through the ride and finish fast. We rode so quick we got in to town before 10. We had a grand arrival and police escort into lodging. We were greeted by local news channels, newspapers, city council members, and the ARC of Nebraska (a local community organization serving people with disabilities).
In terms of connection with the community, Grand Island, NE was by far one of the most gratifying visits. We spent 2 nights there as we were given the royal treatment from the ladies of Grand Island. It felt like we had more friendship visits than I have fingers and toes. We were fed like kings and given a comfy bed to sleep on at a hotel. The night we arrived we had a dance party with the local community. I probably felt more sore after dancing than I did from the 50 mile ride in.
We were featured on the front cover of the local newspaper! Check it out!
We made a lot of great new friends in Grand Island.
That’s Brad. He’s Grand Island’s arm wrestling extraordinaire. Those bananas were a part of a bet on the guys at his table to eat them all. It was pretty funny to watch.
That’s Craig. He’s Brad’s best friend. Both Brad and Craig spent the whole 2 days with us and were incredibly happy to have us in Grand Island.
Back in the 90’s Push America gave the city of Grand Island a grant to help build an accessible park for people with disabilities. Ever since, the connection between the city and Push has been inseparable. The Build America team in 2008 had a project to help beautify the park and stop in Grand Island every year. The park has a rich Push America and Pi Kappa Phi history and it’s great to see the work older brothers have out in to the town.
The hosts were the people of the Arc of Central Nebraska. The three women in the photo with me below (Sue, Tammy, Andrea) hosted for over 20 + years and turned it over to Brad and Craig’s mothers (Kathy and Julie) three years ago. Their organization has been doing the fundraising, planning and hosting duties for our arrival into Grand Island.
Brad and Craig’s mother’s took great care of our team and made sure we felt right at home. Sue, Tammy, and Andrea also still do an incredible amount of work to host us. We (and previous teams) know them as the lovely ladies of Grand Island.
Here’s some more photos of the awesome people of Grand island.
That’s Shelby, she kind of looks like Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz.
That’s Nia, another great resident of Grand Island!
And that’s Alyssa, Shelby’s sister!
So now we’re here in Lincoln, NE. It was supposed to be a 105 mile day but we had to get racked and moved past a dangerous construction area that cut a chunk of mileage off. We got back on after the construction and rode towards Downtown Lincoln. Raising Cane’s hosted us for a great lunch. It was some of the best fried chicken I’ve ever had. It was one of the most delicious lunches after a ride. We’re going to walk around the University of Nebraska and grab some Red Mango.
Thanks for reading and sorry for any spelling and grammar errors! Again, these posts are done on my cell phone while on the road! Next stop, Omaha!