Turning 60, The Journey Begins!
Wow, 60 years old, what a milestone! As I approached this “milestone” birthday, I have to say I experienced more stress than any other birthday. I have tried to pinpoint the reason, but can’t put my finger on it. As I thought about it, I took myself back to when I was a kid, and thinking about my own grandparents at the age of 60, and how at the time, they seemed quite “old.” I always considered 60 as being “old.” As I got older and closer to 60, I realized that it really isn’t that old, in fact 60 is the new 40, right?. People are living longer and staying active longer. I think of my own father who was still running at 80, and here I am, planning a cross-country bicycle ride for later this year. I would have never pictured my grandparents doing a cross country bike ride, in fact I really don’t recall them doing any type of outdoor activity other than work. So, where did my stress come from? I think it came from the expectations I have put on myself. I had pledged to ride 60 miles to celebrate my 60 years, and here I am planning a cross-country ride that would be better accomplished by someone who is actually 40! I hadn’t ridden farther than 40 miles in years, so was I going to be able to complete 60 miles? Riding cross country for over 3,000 miles is tough for anyone let alone a 60 year old who has to wear a brace to walk. Yes, due to a bad surgery while on active duty, I have now lost the full use of my left leg. I used to love to run, but with the rigid brace, makes it very difficult and uncomfortable, but on my bike, I can shed the brace, snap into my pedals, and ride. It gives that sense of freedom that I can’t have anymore while walking, running, hiking, etc. But still, I am nervous about this adventure, but I am also determined.
As I woke up yesterday and was lying in bed in that state somewhere between being awake and aware, and drowsiness, I heard 4 voices come to me. The first one was a voice and an image. The voice said to me “Happy birthday Steets.” Only one person called me that, my Grandpa Jake, and sure enough, there he was sitting on a chair, leaning forward on a cane and sporting a pair of suspenders. Was I dreaming? Then my fathers voice, and 2 others, and although I am not completely sure who the other two were, I do believe one was my Uncle Vern. This was a message that it was all good, get up and kick that 60 miles butt, and by the way, you’ve got this 3,000 miles. Some of you will say this was all in my head, or I was dreaming, but it sounded so real, and looked so real, and I choose to believe that my loved ones came to me from spirit to lift me up, and it worked.
So, today is the real beginning of my journey, a journey that won’t be easy, but a journey that I am determined to tackle and complete head on! Very thankful to have a wife, Deborah, who is supportive of this journey and will be their with me as my support crew along the way. My primary motivation for this ride is to serve as an inspiration and possible motivator for anyone out there who is facing some sort of obstacle. That obstacle might be physical or mental, but we all have them. I have them! What I hope is that if people see me, as a 60 year old with a bad leg, taking on the challenge of riding cross-country, perhaps they might believe that they can take action to face, and find a way, to overcome their own barrier. I am not saying people need to get up and ride cross-country, but it can be as simple as taking a couple extra steps, doing some sort of exercise when you feel you can’t, using positive talk to convince yourself you can overcome. I want people to get rid of words like can’t and replace it with can! Stop saying I’m too old, I have a bad back, I have pain in my leg, or my arm, or my neck, or any other condition; so do I! I am not downplaying anyone’s pain or discomfort, but I choose to control my “disabilities” not let them control me, as life is too short in the grand scheme of things, so I choose to not give in, not give up! We choose our reaction to things that happen to us and I want people to beat back those negatives! Join me on this journey, follow my ride and find some inspiration. As part of my journey, I am looking for others along my route to talk to who have overcome something to not only be resilient, but are now thriving within their new life. If you know anyone who might meet that description, please let me know by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org, as I will be doing video interviews. All of these interviews will be designed to inspire others facing similar situations. This series will be called “Ordinary People, Extraoridnary Grit.” On 22 October 2018, I am promoting “I Ride With Steve” day, a day when people will take that first step to overcome. You can walk, push, run, hike, ride, or really anything that you previously said you “can’t do.” Please join me!
The second part of my ride is not just serving as an inspiration, but continuing my history of being able to help others. I have done lots of things for charities and causes over the years; Special Olympics, cancer/childhood cancer, lung disease, veteran issues, and more. This is a great opportunity for me to continue this legacy, so I chose 3 veteran charities to join me on this journey, 3 organizations that I hope I can earn some money and recognition for. First, I chose the Air Force Enlisted Village in Shalimar, FL, www.afev.us/. A few years ago, I was talking with CMSAF Jim Binnicker, and we had talked about me doing a bike ride for the AFEV. We had even begun preliminary planning. About 2 months after we had spoken, Chief Binnicker’s cancer had returned, and sadly, it wasn’t long before we lost a great man and leader, and a man that had put so much into the goals and mission of the Air Force Enlisted Village. I wanted to follow through with my pledge to Chief Binnicker. My second choice was the Travis Mills Foundation, www.travismills.org/foundation/. SSG Travis Mills was one of five quadruple amputees to survive his injuries, and has now opened a wonderful retreat for disabled veterans and their families in Maine. They bring these veterans and their families from all over the country at no cost to the veteran. This is a truly amazing facility, and Travis is a truly amazing man! He has become an inspiration to me on a daily basis. When I begin feeling sorry for myself when I have to strap on my brace and deal with the pain and discomfort I often have, I only need to think of Travis and what he has overcome, and think of his positive attitude that is so contagious! My third charity is Project Hero, www.projecthero.org/ . Through their cycling programs and support of PTSD and mental health issues, I see an organization that supports veterans dealing with issues that are near to me. My family has been touched by PTSD, and I have seen first hand the struggles associated with it. Also, cycling has been such a great therapy for me to be able to continue being active, so the fact that their programs revolve around cycling, it was an easy choice.
Today, all the real planning and preparation begin, and I ask you to join me on my journey! Please follow me on facebook, www.facebook.com/iridewithsteve. As I get my fundraising geared up, check out ways you can help either by supporting the logistics of my ride, to supporting the charities, to hosting an “I Ride With Steve” event on 22 Oct., or riding a few miles or a few days with me! Please contact me if you have any suggestions, or want to offer any assistance. Thanks!