My fraternity

Hey readers!

Since my last post we’ve made it from Omaha, Nebraska and now into Iowa through Griswold and Des Moines.

Before I get into how my last few days were, I want to share a poem that was read by our Project Manager, Nick Brady, last night in Griswold.

MY FRATERNITY

(Remarks to the 2004 Journey of Hope Arrival Banquet, by T.J. Sullivan)

For some, fraternity is a house. A structure of walls and rooms where men live and pass time.

But my fraternity has no walls, except perhaps the rock walls of Loveland Pass at the Continental Divide, or the walls of corn in Iowa, the skyscrapers in Chicago, the orange girders of the Golden Gate Bridge, the relentless climb of Kirkwood.

For some men, fraternity is a collection of photos on a wall.

But for me, it’s the photos taken by the disposable camera I keep in my back jersey pocket. It’s the photos taken in front of the welcome signs as we cross state borders. It’s the countless snapshots taken with clients with smiles so wide you can see every tooth and most of the gums.

It’s the fireworks on the Fourth of July in a corner of America I’ve never seen before.

It’s the stories in the newspapers, and answering the same reporter’s question, “Tell me what you guys are doing exactly?” for the hundredth time.

It’s shaving EVERY DAY, remembering to zip up my jersey, remove my sunglasses, tuck in my shirt, and smile for the photos that will hang in homes and offices for years after I leave this place.

For some men, fraternity is in the parties or in a cup of beer.

For me, it’s in the gallons and gallons of water that sustain me. It’s in spotting the support vehicle every five miles or so, where I can always count on a word of encouragement. It’s in the songs that play over and over on the FM radio stations that become the soundtrack of my summer.

It’s in the faces of the kids who talk to puppets like they are real people. It’s in preparing meals or shopping in different grocery stores every day so that my guys will stay healthy enough to ride tomorrow. It’s in the children asking for autographs, and kind, incredible strangers who reach out to thank me for coming, when really, they are the ones who should be thanked.

It’s in the cry of excitement I hear from the girl in the wheelchair as I ride up for the picnic.

For some men, fraternity is the pin on the shirt or the trophies in the case.

But my fraternity is in the proclamations in the dozens of small towns celebrating our arrival. It’s in the trucks that move one lane to the left and honk their horns to say hello. It’s in the spaghetti dinner prepared by people I’ve never met, or the grease mark that just won’t scrub off my leg. It’s in the gym floors where I sleep and the lump in my throat of the volunteer who says goodbye and “see you next summer.”

It’s maintaining my place in the pace line, making my way to the front, where the wind is stronger.

For some men, fraternity is in the party that ends in the early hours of the morning.

For my fraternity, it’s in the sunrises. It’s in those quiet hours in the Nevada desert or through the Ohio farmland when the world is asleep, and all you hear is the sound of a dog barking some distance away.

It’s in my t-shirt that desperately needed a wash two days ago, and now is simply disgusting. It’s in smiling my way through my second or third flat tire of the day.

For some men, fraternity is about impressing sororities.

But for me, it’s in the cards and packages that wait for me at the next mail drop, especially the ones with the stickers and magic marker hearts all over them. It’s about the volunteer in Nebraska who hugs me like she’s always known me. It’s about getting our butts kicked in wheelchair basketball. It’s in anticipating the look on my mom’s face as I ride on the grounds of the Capitol, and the pride in my dad’s voice while he waits patiently for mom to let go.

For some men, fraternity is about getting another event t-shirt.

But for me, fraternity is forgetting that I’m standing in front of a few thousand people in a baseball stadium, wearing Spandex. It’s riding next to Bruce Rogers into Denver, pinching myself because I’m riding next to the guy who started it all.

It’s in the phone calls from my girlfriend who understood how important this was to me. Or, in the admiration of my chapter brothers, and my real-life brother who thinks I’m cool.

It’s dancing with the young woman with the walker who makes me blush when she shamelessly hits on me.

For some men, fraternity is about pledge class unity, or leadership positions.

But for me, it’s glancing in my left rear view mirror for the first cyclist to appear as I wait alone on a roadside. It’s that moment when I realize that these guys riding beside me have become my family, and that soon this incredible journey will be a memory.

It’s about those times when we get off the bikes and just look out at a piece of scenery so breathtaking that no one says a word. Then, one guy turns away to wipe his eyes with his forearm and says, “Let’s get back on the bikes, fellas.

It’s about arriving at the end and wanting in some small way to turn around and do it again. Or in the relief in the eyes of the staff members and crew who have prayed every night for my safe return.

For some men, fraternity is about four years.

But my fraternity goes for miles and miles on two thin wheels.

I’m a Pi Kappa Phi, and I have learned the true meaning of fraternity.

I am a Pi Alpha.

A lot of my friends and family have asked me about the summer and my experiences so far. It’s been really tough putting it to words. Although we’re not there yet, I think this poem really does this experience justice.

So back to my last few days!

Lincoln, Nebraska. We hadn’t yet visited our friendship visit when I uploaded my last post so here’s what it was like. It was a real, real long day on the bike. ~105 minus a chunk due to construction. We were all exhausted and could barely stay awake. We managed to dig deep and make it to dinner with the Sertoma Club and then dance our hearts off at a friendship visit. We were dancing until about 9 pm and probably would’ve stayed longer if we could. Here’s a photo of my dancing buddy.

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We also managed to squeeze in a few minutes to visit the Mu chapter of Pi Kappa Phi (Nebraska) and tour their house. A group if us made it out to their football stadium and managed to get a photo. Here’s Jason Milliken (Univ of Miami at Ohio), Austin Shepard (FSU), myself, and Kyle Marpe (Purdue) at the stadium.

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Lincoln > Omaha ~55 miles. The ride was a fairly pleasant one (besides the 2 flat tires). (Side note- I need more inner tubes and there’s 2 more mail drops! Lol). We had a grand arrival into the city. We were greeted by Nia (our friend from Grand Island) and the Spina Bifida/Willis of Nebraska for a Carnival. The carnival was a great time and we got to learn a lot about Spina Bifida. The carnival went great and I got to meet a new friend, Rory.

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After the carnival we went to a luau themed friendship visit. We played limbo for a while and danced for god knows how long.

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That’s Michael Walton (TCU) and I. I tried to collect the most lei’s but obviously got beat by my project manager (below).

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Iowa (pronounced ‘eye-whaa’). Only way I can describe this state so far is hills and more hills. You look to the left and there’s corn and you look to the right and there’s more corn.

Omaha, NE > Griswold, IA. ~58 miles. We made it to lodging at a retreat cabin and managed to get a little rest before heading to the swimming hole/quarry and dinner at Dave Addicks (ΠΑ 00,01,03) parents’ home. The quarry was great. Had some time off to lounge around in the water and mess around on the rope swing.

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While in Griswold we decided to sit and do a “Pass the Polar Bottle” (our version of the ‘Pass the gavel’ ritual) and reflected on our experiences so far. We all spoke about cherishing the moment and these relationships. We noted that time has flown since we left San Francisco and it will only continue to speed by. We all can attest that the men who left SF are not the men we are today. This trip has made us grow physically, emotionally, and mentally and we have all become greater men from it. This is where our PM recited that poem to us. I know we were all taken back for a moment and truly felt connected with T.J. Sullivan’s words. That night the cabin wasn’t air conditioned and was probably 100 degrees inside. A dozen of us decided to sleep outside underneath the stars in the field by the cabin. There’s nothing quite like the stars on a dark night hundreds of miles away from any city lights.

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Griswold > Des Moines ~96 miles. Wow what a ride. After countless hills and 6 hours on the saddle we made it in to lodging. The ride was pretty neat. We passed by the birthplace of John Wayne and snapped a photo with a statue. Here’s myself, Chris Stubel (Georgia Tech), and Saurabh Mehta (Univ of Miami At Ohio) with the John Wayne statue.

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Lastly here’s a photo of Chris Stubel again as we were zipping down a hill. Thought I’d snap a photo of the terrain.

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Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed the post! If you haven’t donated already, please please please donate!

‘Til next time!

Sanjeev

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One thought on “My fraternity

  1. Sanjeev,
    I am SO proud of you and your team. It makes me tear up to think of all of the lives you are changing. I sincerely hope this helps “normal” people to view disabilities in a different light. They are people too and they deserve the effort, care, empathy, and thoughtfulness that you guys care conveying throughout the country. It’s truly something to admire. Keep it up! You guys are almost there!!! :’)

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