So I must admit, I have fallen behind in my blog. I have missed days and I find myself writing about the days that have already passed. But in a way, I am proud of this. I started this blog in some small way for myself, so I would never forget what I experienced on this trip. But instead of recording all my memories, I am busy making memories. I missed writing in my blog because I gave it my 110% effort in the 100 mile ride from Grand Island to Lincoln. I missed writing in my blog because I was trying things that I have never tried before and making memories with people I never thought I would meet. I missed writing in my blog because I met a man named Jim who was in a wheelchair and loved Kid Rock. I missed writing in my blog because I just wanted to be a friend to Jim. I wanted to wheel him around the dance and make him feel as much as a part of the dance as you and me. I asked the DJ if he could play Kid Rock one more time even though he had already told Jim that he didn’t have any Kid Rock. I missed writing in my blog because I met some amazing people in Omaha with Spina Bifida. I met a young lady named Nia who has interacted with the Journey of Hope since she was 4. This same young lady now planned an amazing make shift carnival for the Omaha, Nebraska Spina Bifida Center and the Journey of Hope. I missed writing in my blog because I was performing a puppet show educating youngsters about what it is like to be in a wheelchair and have Cerebral Palsy. I missed writing in my blog so for a moment I wasn’t Kyle Marpe, I was a puppet, Mark Riley, who according to the wide eyes of the children Mark spoke to, was a real person. I missed writing in my blog because Mark Riley was busy giving high fives to young children with Spina Bifida one minute and the next minute Kyle Marpe was dancing in a circle with people in wheelchairs to try to win a cake. I missed writing in my blog because I made a new friend. Her name was Chava and she had Spina Bifida and we ran from the zombie and hide in a make believe house. I missed writing in my blog because I walked into my fourth dance of the week and still had the strength to pull out new and exciting dance moves, find the joy in those around me, and sing the songs of the band not with the lyrics of the song, but with a repeated “Ohhhh yeahhhhhh” or “Wooooo”. I missed writing in my blog because I went to Quarry with the team and participated in team activities and meals that countless Pi Alphas have participated in before me. I missed writing in my blog because I was cherishing each moment with my teammates because I know the moments are limited. I realized that less than a month stands between myself and the “JOH Blues” and for that my teammates and I slept side to side outside just to put another memory of each other in our memory banks. I missed writing in my blog because I enjoyed every minute of a hilly ride into Des Moines, Iowa. The only thought that kept me positive was knowing that the miles we have left are limited. I missed writing in my blog because I took great pleasure in meeting the families of my teammates as I deeply missed my own family, but for now their family would give me the warm feeling in my heart that I needed. I enjoyed sharing stories with men who have completed the Journey of Hope before talking about favorites, differences, and everything else. I missed writing in my blog because I spent the day in the water park with my team and then met with the Arc of Marshalltown, Iowa for a bowling event. I missed writing in my blog because I was busy celebrating everytime someone bowled 9 pins instead of 10 with Jeremy and Colton and Ashley. I missed writing in my blog because I talked to Ashley about her trip to the Zoo, who no matter what she was talking about always seemed to have a smile on her face. I missed writing in my blog because I was spending time with people who had a true appreciation for myself and what I was doing this summer. Even though the true appreciation should be credited to those that we ride for as they overcome challenges and adversity every single day. The appreciation goes to Nia for showing so much appreciation and dedication to the Journey of Hope. The appreciation goes to the Adicke’s family who treated the team to three different meals that were all delicious. The appreciation goes to Jim and everyone at the dance in Lincoln, Nebraska for bringing me true joy, for putting a smile on my face that will last a long time. The appreciation goes to Ashley and Colton and Jeremy and Rosie and everyone else I have met along the way. The appreciation goes to all the moments, places, activities, events, and people that made me too busy for my blog. The only thing more important than recording memories is making them. I apologize for not having a more detailed description of each day. But I can sum up the past few days quite simply, the past few days were amazing, I cannot thank each and everyone involved in the past few days enough, and the past few days are some I will NEVER forget. That is all you really need to know followers who read my blog, and as for the next 27 days of the time? They will be unforgettable as well, hopefully I have enough time to blog about the next memories and moments for everyone I know to join in on my happiness. This is Journey of Hope. And it still continues to amaze me every single day.
The Grand Island Cup and Much More Inspiring Things
Yesterday and Today were great great days. Probably some of my favorite days of the trip. I will be covering two days in this journal entry for our two days in Grand Island. Our ride yesterday was only 50 miles and my friend Blake and I decided the night before to make a race out of it. The day started with a coin flip which Blake won, so his team got to depart first. My team was involved in two challenges which I was scared were going to slow us down. Luke Millen chugged a 2 liter before he started riding and Derek Dedeker had two 5 hour engery shots before he started riding. I thought for sure with the odds against me we were going to lose. So we started riding at a good pace but Team Blake was no where in sight. But the next thing you know, I saw Blake on the side of the rode with a flat tire. Flat tires really slow you down, so Team Marpe passed him and we took a serious lead. With 15 miles out, Team Marpe took a break at a crew stop and we were eating some donuts when a paceline began to approach the crew stop. It looked like Blake, but I thought there could be no way. Sure enough it was Team Blake. I told Team Marpe that we have to go, we have to catch them, so we shoved donuts in my mouth and we were off. Team Marpe then did a rotating pace line at 25 mph to catch up to them. We then paced ourselves behind them for the next 10 miles waiting for the finish. Then we saw the finish and it was a dead on sprint to the finish. Sure enough, Team Marpe had won the First Annual Grand Island Cup. The prize was a pack of Pokemon cards not to be opened until the 25th annual Grand Island Cup and it will tradition every year for a Purdue guy to challenge a TCU guy to a race into Grand Island every JOH North Route, with the prize being the pack of Pokemon Cards.
After the Grand Island Cup, we had our Grand Island arrival, this was absolutely incredible. It was just the start to an incredible two days in Grand Island. All the people I met in Grand Island were absolute saints, and I will never forget them. The arrival was also the first time I met Brad and Craig, my new inspirations. I cannot truly explain how awesome Brad and Craig were. They both had disabilities. Everyone that does JOH says they have a moment sometime during the trip. I am not too sure, but I think Brad was that person that changed my life. Brad was the sweetest, most loving, most innocent, and fun loving person I have ever met. Brad loved to arm wrestle, in fact this morning I had to eat 5 bananas because I lost arm wrestling to Brad and those were the odds of the match. Brad would always say I love you to all of the JOH guys, and it always sounded so sweet and sincere. Today, we performed a puppet show for people with disabilities, and Brad loved the puppets so much. Brad looked into the eyes of the puppets like they were real people, called them by their real name, and said with the most sincere emotion, “I love you, Mark.” I cannot even truly describe the situation. I also loved when Brad would say “Albertoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo Nocci”. That was priceless humor. Brad was so sweet, and innocent, and just knowing that Brad faces challenges in society, in life, in school, etc. just made me very sad. Why? This man was incredible, but some people just don’t understand and give him trouble. I want nothing more in life than for Brad to be happy, because he deserves it. I am truly going to miss Brad and all of the Grand Island people. Brad was just a small part of my visit in Grand Island. I will remember the trip for a long long time, afterall I think this is the place of the moment that changed my life.
The Day I decided to do a Triatholon
So today I rode with Saraubh Meta and Travis Turner. Travis Turner does a lot of Triatholons and today is when I decided to do Triatholons. Today I decided that I have never really pushed myself physically, I now that I am I find it kind of fun. 28.1 miles used to seem so far, but after riding it on a bike, a million different times, it’s not that bad at all. One day, I want to run a marathon. And while I’m at it why not try a triatholon. I love to swim, and I miss swimming. I think it would be cool to push myself in running. I guess what I am getting at is that I am changing. I am finding joy in new things, like pushing my limits. And it doesn’t stop their. I find joy in all sorts of things that I didn’t used to. I find joy in waking up early and getting the most out of my day, and other stuff that I can’t quite put my finger on right now. It’s weird I am a changed man from when I started this journey. A better me. It’s all crazy.
Other happenings, my front spoke on my wheel broke again. Two days in a row. However, when we got to lodging I went back out on the road borrowing one of my teammates wheels to finish the 30 miles I missed. I went back out on the road. I am learning to get by with my disability. Broken wheels are not going to stop me. I guess this is another thing I learned, if one way doesn’t work, don’t give up. Overcome challenges, overcome obstacles. Set your mind on a goal and make it at all cost.
The day also consisted of a Pizza Hut tournament and a basketball dinner. Oops I messed that one up, but I am going to keep it because I think it is funny. At night, for some reason I got a little home sick and I missed all my friends at Purdue and in New Jersey. For that, tomorrow I ride for all my friends and family. I miss you all and cannot wait to tell you about my amazing journey!
The Streak has Ended L
Bad news. I broke another spoke again today. I know it stinks missing so many miles for bike issues, but it is now just a part of who I am. It’s my disability in a weird way. In life we can’t be good at everything, which means that there are somethings that we are just not good at. But that doesn’t mean you quit. For me, my bike wheels are a little broken. And as long as I try my best to make the situation work, and I do everything I can to not make my disability power me, then I cannot be mad at myself, my bike, or the world. It’s just the way things are. My bike could break everyday from now until D.C. and I will overcome the issues! It’s my disability. One way or another I will make up the miles I miss, it is not many at this point. And I will get in every mile I can. That is what this journey is all about. Not letting disabilities power ourselves and this world. I only missed 10 miles of the ride today and I will be sure to make up those miles the first chance I have because I have the blessing to rack my bike when I can’t go any farther, however those with disabilities do not rack they preserve. Perseverance we all can learn from. This journey is about raising awareness and after all the struggles I have had on the bike, I can truly say that I am more and more aware of the struggles people with disabilities face everyday, and they inspire me that much more every single day with their perseverance.
McCook is a small town, but bigger than most towns we have been to in the past. This town has a Walmart which usually means it is a legit town for JOH standards. The team also got to see a movie tonight which was a great change of pace for the team. Despicable Me 2, what a great movie! We were hosted by some great ladies of McCook and that about sums up McCook. If I learned one thing today, it is that perseverance is one thing I thought I understood in life, but until now…I was wrong. Today is the day I truly understand perseverance. Today is the day I understand.
Push it Real Good
Today…we rode fast! The whole team did! And so did my friend Alex Eplan and I! At the end of the day the computer said we averaged 18.6 mph, but it felt more like we averaged 20 mph. We finished 85 miles before lunch! Never in a million years did I think I could do that! But hey, I guess that is what this trip is all about! When I first started this trip I thought it would be about learning the abilities of those that have disabilities, but I have learned a lot about my own abilities on this trip. Riding 85 miles before lunch begins? I can do that. I am ten times more able of doing amazing things then I have ever imagined! I cannot wait to see how this new mindset helps me in my everyday life. Everyone always says that attitude is a big factor in life, well this trip is giving me a great outlook on life. I wonder if my life will change after this. I think quite often that this trip teaches me how to live life. Get the most out of every moment of life.
After lunch we went to a small water park with most of the guys on the team. This was incredible! I felt like I was in the movie the Sandlot. The water park had a diving board and a slide and that is all us college boys needed for a good time. Soaking up the heat and having fun in the sun with your best friends, that is what summer is all about! At night we had dinner served to us by the local boy scouts and then we performed the puppet show for them, which I enjoy performing EVERY time for the record. And then we got to hang out with the boy scouts and other guests. Being a kid again and just playing around is awesome! This trip is absolutely amazing and every day gets better and better. I love more each day. I live more each day. I learn more each day. I know I don’t have a job this summer or an internship, but I am getting paid in something worth so much more than money. Memories. Every day holds a new lesson, a new memory, a new experience that there is no dollar amount for. That is what is so great about this trip. That is how I feel at this moment right here, right now. For the first time in a long time, my life is priceless.
Fourth of July
Today was a great ride to Fort Morgan! It was the fourth day in a row that my bike and I have finished! Finishing is such an amazing feeling, no matter how far or short the ride is and I don’t think it will ever get old! The team celebrated the ride by having fun all day in celebration of the fourth of july! We had a pretty relaxing day with sloppy joes for dinner.
The most memorable part of my day and my lesson for the day came at night when most of the team went to watch fireworks together. We all sat in the back of our team truck and joked and laughed and took pictures and had a good time and all I could say to myself was, “ This is life.” Just chilling with your best friends, laughing, and having a good time. Tonight I learned the true value of friends. Tonight I was in the middle of Nowhere, Colorado in a small small town and I still had the time of my life. That is the power of friends. Friends made the holiday worth while. Friends made this small town seem like the best place ever. Friends are what make this trip so enjoyable. I say it a lot, but the guys on this trip are absolutely amazing. The experiences we share and the laughs we share bring us together to a friendship I will never forget. So on this July 4th I would like to dedicate to all the great friends I have made on this trip, here is to America and here is to all of you, Journey of Hope North Route 2013…let’s make an impact on this world!
Day 22 – Empire to Denver
So here is my two day stay in Denver in a nutshell. Basically, our team was spoiled and we got a bunch of amazing experiences that inspired me to be rich and do amazing things. We had a short ride into Denver. Then we got to tour Sports Authority field where the Denver Broncos play. Then we had an arrival into the Capital Building where lots of people cheered us on and got me so excited for our Washington D.C. arrival where I get to see all my friends and family! Then at night we went to see a Colorado Rockies game where I made it my goal to get on the Jumbotron, but failed. Then the next day we had breakfast at KRG Capital HQ and got to pick the brain of Bruce Rogers, the man who started the Journey of Hope and did the first Journey of Hope all on his own. Bruce Rogers is an incredible guy and I cannot praise and admire him enough for what he has done and continues to do. He is someone I will look up to and be inspired by for a long long time. The rest of the day was filled with seeing some great guys and friends from my good ol college, Purdue. It was a relaxing day off. At night we went to an event called Pedal for Pennies where people with disabilities rode laps around a lake to raise money for Special Olympics Colorado. This was an amazing event where I met Becky the amazing dancer, Jonathan who I danced the night away with, and Emily who had love and passion that outnumbers anyone I know. These people are incredible. The night ended with an inspirational and memorable speech from a Special Olympian and a fun dance! And finally after a jam packed day I am just preparing to get back on the bike tomorrow. Believe it or not, I sort of miss the bike.