I live in a world full of hope and expectation. I look for the good in people and situations. The glass is usually half full and the sun usually comes out tomorrow. It’s just how I’m wired. So when I left for California last October, you can imagine how high my expectations were for the Death Valley ride. My friends had talked about how amazing their weekend had been in Tucson the year before — how everyone came together and there was a sense of hope and determination in everyone. I was ready to be overwhelmed with goosebumps and walk away inspired.
My grandmother was admitted to the hospital two days before I was to leave and the wind in my sails disappeared. I boarded the plane with a heavy heart, mixed emotions and baggy eyes. The first people I met on the way to the ranch left a less-than-appealing impression on me. I sat next to Jeff and wondered whether we’d made a terrible mistake in coming. My sunshine was dimming and the water in my usually half-full glass was draining.
We stepped off the bus to cheers from Sarah, Ross and a group of strangers. I shared with Sarah my fears and anxieties, and she reminded me it was fine if I didn’t catch the excitement of JDRF rides the way she had. I was disappointed, but agreed with her. The next day, the clouds began to clear as I met faithful riders and other freshmen like me. People shared personal stories of why they rode, and I started to remember why I was there. This ride had nothing to do with me and everything to do with the people in my life. It was about riding for those who couldn’t, for those who’d encouraged me and for those who’d financially supported me. It was about riding for my family back home, gathered around my grandmother.
My “goosebump” moment finally came, but in an unexpected place… It came in the last two miles of the ride, during the toughest part of the course. It was the moment I felt God’s presence in a stranger’s words. It was the moment I knew I’d be a JDRF rider the rest of my life. It was crossing the finish line with my diabetes family waiting for me with open arms. It was the cheers, the hugs and many tears. It was calling my mother so she could tell my family I’d done it, I’d finished. It was the encouragement, the camaraderie, the support. It was about a cause for a cure. It was about finishing.
There are moments in life you know you’ll never forget. Moments that when you stop to remember them years later, the same feelings and emotions rise to the surface. That’s how I feel about Death Valley. My life was changed that weekend and it’s why I’m so passionate about these rides. I want my excitement to be contagious because I’d love my friends to experience that same energy and encouragement. It’s uplifting and overwhelming in the most amazing way. Once you ride, you will always ride. You’ll ride for those who can’t and you’ll fund raise for a cure because of a diabetes connection in your life. But you will finish for yourself and you’ll be better for it.
Today at noon, JDRF opens registration for the 2013 ride season. I’ll be registering for the Nashville ride in September. You can visit ride.jdrf.org to learn about the six rides and decide which course is best for you. I hope you’ll consider joining me in my home state come September. I promise you, from the bottom of my heart, it will be one of the best experiences of your life.
And alas, here’s the link to my 2013 Ride page! Who wants to be first? DONATE HERE.