The Story of
25 Mile Bike Ride: Saturday, June
Previously I reported that my
daughter Sam, 21, was about to embark on the journey of a
lifetime (see my story titled Texas
From June all the way to the first week in August, Sam and
will be riding their bikes
from Houston all the way to Alaska.
of this year's ride took place on
Saturday, June 1st. That is
when Texas 4000 held a kick-off event in Lampasas, an
attractive town north of Austin. Parents
of the riders, friends and alumni
from the previous 9 rides were invited to join in a
community bike ride followed by a giant picnic at a
were three rides to choose from: 75 miles, 50 miles, and 25
miles. Sam asked me to consider joining her for the 25 mile
ride. Considering the longest bike ride I have been on in
the past 50 years is about a mile, this would be a bit of a
stretch for me to begin with. Furthermore, at age 63, I am
certainly no longer an athlete.
other hand, I admire my daughter so much for becoming a part
of this adventure, I said yes without hesitation. This
would be my way of saying in a meaningful way that I am with
her in this experience.
said, I have been dreading this trip for months now. When
you are retired, money no longer grows on trees. I just
couldn't see wasting $200 on a motel room for the night. So
I reluctantly steeled myself to the 4 hour drive up, the
marathon bike ride and the 4 hour drive back on the same
day. Mind you, Marla and Sam were both worried about me;
that made three of us.
is over an hour north of Austin. Consequently I had to be
on the road at 5 pm. Sam had a really good idea. She
talked her best friend Nadia into giving me a ride once I
got to Austin. This kind gesture on Nadia's part was the
edge I needed. After my 3 hour drive to Austin, Nadia took
me the rest of the way. This gave me a much-needed hours
rest before the main event.
It was so
interesting to watch Nadia in action. This young lady kept
one eye on the road and one eye on her cell phone road map
for entire hour and a half trip. Meanwhile I had my "State
of Texas" road map with me. While Nadia focused on the
"Little Picture", I had the "Big Picture" in front of me at
all times. I offered to navigate for her, but Nadia was
perfectly content to do it her way. I marveled at this
clear distinction between how the two generations approach a
end, Nadia got us there on time and without headache. Her
way worked just fine. Therefore it is not my place to say
which system is better. I will say Nadia had a clear
advantage once we reached Lampasas. The small roads she
used were not on my State of Texas map.
mile bike ride took place in the beautiful Texas Hill
Country. Unfortunately I got off to a bad start. Sam had
been asked to assist with the start of the 50 and 75 mile
rides. Because everyone on all three rides is supposed to
finish about the same time, the longer rides start earlier
and from different locations than mine.
Consequently Sam didn't make it to my spot until shortly
before the ride began. Just as the leader was giving
instructions at the start of the ride, Sam noticed my front
tire had no air in it. You would think in a sea of bicycles
that bike pumps would be everywhere, but such was not the
case. It took 10 minutes to locate a pump and solve the
problem. I fumed - I hate being the very last person!! I
was already the oldest person in the race and now everyone
else had a ten minute head start. Darn.
her friend Isaac rode with me. Isaac was the person who
handled my flat tire. Isaac is a fellow Texas 4000 rider
this summer. Hailing from the tiny town of Elsa down in the
valley, Isaac is one of my heroes for several reasons.
all, Isaac is the first member of his family to attend
college. He did it with the help of scholarships which is a
testament to his hard work in high school.
rider has to raise $4,500 to participate in this program. I
have not yet pointed this out, but the purpose of the
program is to raise money for cancer research. In other
words, Texas 4000 is a charitable organization.
Raising $4,500 for a poor kid like Isaac is not easy. It is
in fact an overwhelming goal. In the case of my own
daughter, Marla and I got her off to a big start with a
$1,000 grant. Isaac, on the other hand, had to spend much
of the summer of 2012 panhandling in the Texas heat down in
the town of McAllen, Texas. According to his blog, Isaac
spent two entire weeks begging for money on street corners
before he finally reached $1,000. That is about the purest
example of the difference between privilege and poverty you
will ever see. If you are curious, Isaac wrote a humorous
and quite touching
about his experience.
panhandling does not sound like fun. In fact, it sounds
dreadful. I thought I had it really tough when I was
growing up, but when I learned about what Isaac had to go
through to make it to college and to make it onto the bike
team, that put everything into perspective for me. No
matter how bad you think things were, there is always
someone out there who struggled even more. Now you see why
Isaac is one of my heroes which explains why I asked him to
ride with me for a while.
desperate to catch up with all the riders ahead of me, but
Sam told me to hold my horses. Now what? Sam handed me a
helmet. I had never worn a bike helmet in my life and
rolled her eyes, "Just put it on, Dad, and don't argue."
I hate it
when she talks to me like that, but I meekly obeyed
nevertheless. Helmet, bah humbug. Kids are so soft these
days. Back when I was a kid, I rode my bike to school 2
miles every day for five straight years. I never wore a
helmet, I never stopped for stop signs, and I never paid a
bit of attention to any rules for the road.
things never change. For example, we soon got stuck behind
a string of cars at a highway stop sign. Hey, I'm on a
bike; why not cut in line like I did as a kid?
a string of ten cars just sat there waiting their turn, I
rode my bike to the head of the line. Good move. I saved
five minutes of waiting. When Sam caught up with me, she
immediately scolded me for taking the shortcut.
please don't do that again. That's why motorists hate us.
They see us breaking the rules and begin to resent the fact
that we act like we are special."
Hmm. Okay, I had to admit Sam had a point. Nevertheless,
don't you hate it when the kid becomes the parent?
passed the busy streets and proceeded to an obscure country
farm road that would serve as the main drag for the ride.
arrived at our first big hill of the day. Hmm. I saw a
young man walking beside his mother. The hill was too tough
for her to climb it on her bike. Instantly I vowed that I
would do everything in my power never to walk up a hill that
day... a decision I regretted for the next two hours.
comes to climbing a hill on a bike, there is suffering
involved. My legs burned and burned. My heart went huffing
and puffing as I struggled mightily. I hurt so bad.
explained how to switch gears. I was constantly
downshifting trying to get any advantage I could. Suddenly
the gear shift wouldn't take me to the next easiest level.
I panicked. Oh no, did I break the darn thing? Why
wouldn't it shift?
a look at my bike and calmly explained I was in the lowest
possible gear already.
would be full of one humiliating moment like this after
complained bitterly to Sam about how much I hurt to climb
the hills. I never knew before how much I could hate
hills. Sam shrugged her shoulders. She pointed out these
hills were nothing compared to some of the hills her team
would be constantly facing on the ride.
Now I was
curious. I told Sam I wanted to see her in action. I asked
her to ride up this hill as fast as she could. To my
astonishment, Sam shot up the hill in a straight line
without any hesitation. I was aghast. How did she do
immediately overcome by a very painful revelation which I
shared with Sam once I got to the top of the hill. I told
Sam that in every parent-child relationship, there comes a
time when the child has clearly surpassed the parent. I
said that today was that moment.
enough, as recently as last summer, I was in better shape
than Sam was. We jogged at Memorial Park and I did better
than she did. That was last summer.
program insists that their riders train for this event. And
train she did. Sam logged over 500 miles in preparation for
this summer's ordeal. Now she is in the best shape of her
parent, I am thrilled. My daughter has never shown much
interest in physical fitness. Now through constant
interaction with many of her fellow riders who are fitness
advocates, Sam has turned into a jock for the first time in
her life. And I can tell she is proud of herself. It has
been tough and there has been tears and frustration, but Sam
will tell you it was worth it.
new-found fitness is just one way this program has helped my
daughter grow. Sam has discovered she can tackle a huge
task and master it. Furthermore, I can sense the confidence
her success has given her. As a father, I could not be more
add I imagine Isaac's father is proud of him as well. Isaac
had no idea he could ever raise all that money. And yet he
did it... and probably gained a world of confidence in the
begin to see why the parents of the riders are so
enthusiastic about this program. It used to be you had to
send your kid off to the Marines to make them this tough.
What a joy it is to see a more peaceful alternative.
there was a rest stop up ahead. Looking at the mileage
indicator on her bike, Sam concluded this would be the
halfway point. This was good news because I was getting
Sam what our time was. She indicated we were on pace to
finish between 2 ½ and 3 hours. I frowned a little. I had
hoped to finish in 2 ½ hours. Somewhere I wanted to find a
way to accelerate a little.
stop was situated atop a hill. Fortunately the degree of
incline wasn't too bad, but the hill was long long long. I
was exhausted when we finally made it to the top. I frowned
as I noted Sam wasn't even breathing hard.
the rest stop thoroughly. They had shady tents with pretty
college girls handing out goodies. I was delighted to find
my favorite foods waiting for me - peaches, bananas, and
small peanut butter sandwiches. Yum!
had a bizarre drink to share - pickle juice. Pickle juice?
I don't like pickles. They make me wince and pucker up.
Sam called me a sissy. Darn her anyway.
tried the pickle juice. I immediately began to wince. Oh
yuck. How ridiculous! This stuff is awful. OMG, these
cyclists really know how to suffer. I have always had a
Spartan aspect to my personality, but I can't say I have
deliberately ever gone out of my way to suffer. Somehow
pickle juice seemed like overkill. The hills were all the
challenge I needed today. I decided to stick to water
surprise, the peanut butter really did the trick. I
immediately felt much better. In fact, I felt refreshed and
even a bit energetic.
that everyone seemed quite happy to stay at the rest stand
for as long as humanly possible, I saw a chance to get a
head start on the pack for the second half of the trip. As
for me, I wanted to get this over with. I was ready to
roll. So I hollered, "Let's head out, Sam!"
without waiting I got on my bike. I was thrilled to see a
long downhill awaiting me. Wheee! As I coasted the long
downhill, I actually felt young again... a wonderful exotic
feeling that stayed with me for all of two minutes until the
next hill came along. Then I felt old again.
top of the new hill, I noticed the descent was quite steep.
Sam took off and I took off after her. I immediately
disliked how fast I was going. My bike was going way faster
than I felt comfortable with and I felt out of control. I
openly admit I was frightened. Thank goodness I had spent
my entire childhood on a bicycle; otherwise I would have
probably hurt myself. This was way too fast for me.
bottom of the hill, Sam smiled. "Now you know why we are
expected to wear helmets."
was turning into a real pain in the butt, literally and
figuratively. Speaking of butts, my butt hurt so bad I
quietly wondered if I would be able to walk tomorrow, much
less dance. For the record, I can assure you I was indeed
able to walk and dance, but every movement was an effort. I
hurt like h...l the next day.
about riding a bike is you have lots of time to think. The
number 25 kept rolling around in my mind. There was
something about that number that bothered me. Then it
dawned on me. A marathon is 26 miles. We were traveling a
distance today just one mile less than a marathon. Wow.
impressed with myself for about a minute when suddenly a
very disturbing thought crossed my mind. It seemed to me
like the most recent winner of the Houston Marathon finished
with a time around 2 hours, 10 minutes. I was on pace to
finish a shorter distance in 3 hours. I was astonished. I
had just realized there are human beings who can run 26
miles in a faster time than I can ride the same distance on
a bike. I felt truly humbled by this realization. That is
about this time that Sam began to explain that cycling is
exploding in popularity. It is fast becoming one of
America's favorite new forms of recreation.
I did not
reply, but I do remember thinking that anyone who takes up
cycling for the fun of it must be out of their mind. The
pain involved from these constant hill climbs was kicking my
you-know-what. I was glad I was here and I was glad I was
sharing this time with Sam, but there was nothing about this
event that remotely made me want to do it again.
life of me, I could not imagine riding my bike for two hours
on a Saturday morning "for the fun of it". Of course, maybe
my crummy attitude has something to do with being 63.
continued to mull my pain and my predicament, my mind turned
to jogging. I run for 12 straight minutes every day. I
hate every minute of it, but I do it anyway because it is
good for my health. I could see myself doing a modest
amount cycling as a form of exercise, but to ride for the
fun of it? No way.
playing half-court basketball which cuts down on the
running. Fun is skiing. A chair lift takes me to the top
of the mountain; gravity takes me down the mountain.
One-way kayaking is fun. The current carries me down the
stream; a cell phone calls someone to come get me. Biking
on the other hand is crazy. Until they install T-Bars for
uphill climbs, I'll pass. Anyone who says they cycle for
fun must be out of their minds.
my daughter was signed up for 4,000 miles of cycling.
Thanks to the little riding I had done today, I could not
even conceive of the amount of suffering this young woman
will be facing for the rest of this summer. I openly admit I
admire Sam for what she is doing.
judging from the looks on the faces of the other parents,
they are equally proud of their own children. We are not
talking about "summer camp" here. We are talking about a
definite ordeal. I am fully convinced of that.
ended in a semi-funny way. Back when I was young, I was a
pretty good athlete. I might as well admit that I still
have a little pride left. I didn't expect to "win" this
ride, but I wanted very badly to at least beat someone to
the finish line.
I was tickled pink to discover Sam and I were way ahead of
the pack. When we left the Rest Station, not one person was
ahead of us. They were all too busy enjoying themselves.
So I believed that we were ahead of a lot of people.
Furthermore in the past 40 minutes, not one rider had caught
up to us. Wow. Sam and I were doing really well... which
is another way of saying I was doing really well. I smiled
as I concluded that the other parents couldn't catch me.
Not bad for an old man.
got to a highway that crossed our farm road. Sam
immediately began to frown. Maybe it was the sign that said
"El Paso 200 miles" that got her attention.
Yes, I am
teasing. It didn't say El Paso. What it did say was that
Oakalla was 16 miles away and Bertram was 12 miles away.
Sam was unhappy because both towns were significantly in the
wrong direction from Lampasas. We should be getting closer
to Lampasas, not further.
continued to study her little map on the I Phone. We tried
one new direction, but Sam's heart wasn't in it. We went
200 hundreds only to have Sam stop and turn around. She
took us back to the road we had been on. Now we went 200
hundred yards on our previous road and Sam stopped again.
Her mind told her something was wrong, very wrong.
she gave up and called Isaac. To her dismay, Sam discovered
our route was not a loop as she had been led to believe, but
rather a trek to the Halfway Point and back. In other
words, we had just ridden our bikes eight miles past the
turnaround point. Even though we had traveled 20 miles at
this point, we were not five miles from the finish line...
we were twenty miles from our destination.
groaned. Oh no. The thought of retracing our steps was
more than I could bear. I had secretly hoped that it was
mostly downhill on the final five miles. Sometimes it does
better not to know what you are up against. Recalling all
the hills I would have climb again, I felt miserable.
Fortunately we got lucky. Tom, a volunteer for Texas 4000,
drove past us in a minivan. He was en route to pick up a
woman who had been overcome with leg cramps. Sensing we
were lost, he stopped to make sure we were okay. Sam and I
swallowed our pride and admitted our mstake.
heart, Tom offered us a ride. We did not even hesitate to
completed my day's ride in the minivan. I didn't even make
it to 25 miles.
Furthermore I was embarrassed. I had just spent the past
eight miles telling myself what an amazing old warrior I was
because no one could catch us. It isn't really much of an
accomplishment to stay ahead of the pack when no one is
felt kind of sad. I had just been given undeniable proof
that my genetic predisposition for getting lost had been
genetically passed on to my child.
little doubt Sam would refer to it as a "recessive gene".
my day didn't end in glory. Nevertheless the afternoon
picnic was fun. I got to meet some of the other parents and
some of the other riders. I also spent the most time with
my daughter since she left for college four years ago.
me so proud to see that her years at college have helped her
grow into a very special person. I quietly noted throughout
the day that Sam paid close attention to how I was doing.
Sam has reached the point in life where she has become a
caregiver. This is a good step for her.
always been one of those people who openly wonders how she
can make the world a better place. I noticed that Isaac has
a similar attitude. He has this quote on his Texas 4000
is before you and you need not take it or leave it as it was
when you came in."¯ James Baldwin
There is something special taking place in every single one
of the riders. I credit the Texas 4000 experience for
giving these young adults the chance to discover and to
grow. Considering how far they have come already, I cannot
imagine the changes that await them as they travel the
United States on their way to Alaska. I am excited to
June 07, 2014