I’m a writer, a lover of words. I use the written language to share stories so strangers might have a glimpse of someone else’s reality. But when I sit down to share what a handful of people did for me in California, I find words hard to come by. The kindness I saw in California was beyond description.
I’ve shared a glimpse at how Dan impacted me on this ride. But there were more — so many more who — who left a lasting imprint on my heart. I can never repay the people who showed me kindness throughout this ride. Renea and Elizabeth were my family. Sarah found them Thursday night before I arrived, and the friendship was instant. Most of the day, we rode together and they consistently waited for me when I kept a slower pace. Renea encouraged me and cheered for me. She lifted me up and was my personal cheerleader for most of the ride. I slowed their pace, yet they stayed with me. We checked our blood sugar together and kept tabs on how one another was handling the heat and the exercise. I would have given up without these two. I hope to see them at a future ride, but I know there’s a possibility I may never cross their path in person again. But I also know that our friendship will always remain. We shared an incredible journey in Death Valley, and we share diabetes.
Ross and Sarah. Oh there’s not a good place to start. For years, these two — Sarah especially — have been dear friends. They are the reason I signed up for this in the first place. Sarah and I have joked for a couple of years about being each other’s arms. She’s my right, and I’m her left. We can finish each other’s thoughts where local advocacy efforts are concerned. We are a great duo, and we’ve helped each other see a new perspective of type 1 diabetes management. Plus, the daughter of these two is one of the most precious and inspiring kids I know. Last year, she rode 110 miles over six months before Ross rode the same in Tucson, Ariz. This year, she rode 105 over four months before Ross did the same in Death Valley, Calif. She is going to move mountains one day, and I am so proud of her! But take diabetes out of the equation, and there are few words to share how much this friendship means to me. I am so grateful for this family — both for what they meant to me in the desert and for what they mean to me at home.
And then there’s Jeff. We had so much fun hanging out together. It seemed everyone in Death Valley, Calif., already had their groups. Those of us who didn’t yet belong were sort of left on the fringe. Jeff was my perfect pal in the desert. I first met Jeff and his wife Lisa last October during Simonpalooza. What a wonderful couple these two are! When Jeff agreed to ride in California, my excitement immediately hit a new level. For the eight months that followed, he was one of my biggest cheerleaders! He and Lisa made a generous donation toward my ride even though they were fundraising for Jeff’s trek. We shared so many laughs that weekend, and Jeff helped take my mind off of where my heart wanted to be. We walked through Vegas taking in the sights and laughing about the many odd things we saw. He was so patient and willing to take my photo in front of all the perfectly cheesy spots, and he even shared amazing Paris stories as we climbed the fake Eiffel Tower on the strip. He made fun of me for wanting to see Donnie and Marie, and he laughed when I drooled over a Hermes bag through a window. We shared toasts of soy sauce and explored parts of Death Valley National Park together. He was the best friend I could’ve asked for, especially that weekend. Of all the people I’ve met in this beautiful online community, Jeff is one of my very favorites. I’m so excited about the idea of him and Lisa joining us in Nashville next year! (Peer pressure extends beyond Facebook, Jeff).
Those are a handful, only a small glimpse of the people who touched my soul through this ride! To everyone who donated and sent countless “you can do this” notes, to my family who flooded me with texts Saturday morning. To Aly for being so compassionate and her willingness to be there for my family. To the coaches who pushed me along and to the countless volunteers at the rest stops. To the woman who was riding after having a hysterectomy; the woman riding for her late sister. To those riding for friends and loved ones and to those riding for themselves. To Moira for riding for hundreds and to my roommate for the many airport runs. To my friends locally who helped coach me and trained with me, and to Matt for always knowing how to fix my bike.
To all my new friends from the desert — I don’t have enough words. I am humbled. Thank you to everyone. Each of you played a significant role in this ride for me. My verse throughout this ride process proved to be a true testament. We didn’t do this alone, we did it with the abilities and talents He gifted us with; we did it with the love and support of so many around us.
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” -2 Corinthians 4:7