Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Journey's End, Special Olympics Bike Ride

Friday, June 27. Jesse Owens Memorial Coliseum, Columbus. A half-marathon jump onto Ohio State's sprawling Campus. Nice ride through our Capitol. Arriving at the Coliseum around 3:30pm, Pigbike and I had completed our assigned task after 530 miles. I cannot accurately bring words to the feelings that overcome a distance cyclist when they at long last, arrive at their destination. You have to live the moment to understand. This ride was as much an exercise for my spirit and soul as it was for my road weary legs. The day had just begun to get amazing....

Immediately setting up Pigbike for a photo against the Jesse Owens Historical Marker, an OSU Campus Policeman approaches and asks if I would like to have him take some pics of me with the bike. We swapped stories, he helped me locate the Masons tent and informed me that the games were underway, and I should roll inside to enjoy the efforts of the Special Olympians. I stood at the fence and marvelled at kids running the 440. Many of these kids run on pure guts. It is beautiful to witness. Each County's contingent had t-shirt 'uniforms' in all colors, shades and states of tie-dye. Almost two weeks earlier in Grand Rapids, Ohio I had met Special Olympian, Ben Snyder and given him one of the electric green Special Olympic t-shirts. Amidst that sea of t-shirt color I located Ben. He saw me and another magic road moment occurred. Ben led the entire Wood County Team to where Pigbike and I were standing, excited handshakes with the Team and some fabulous digital photo moments. Other Teams walking by also stopped and took pictures with me and the Pig. A fully loaded touring bike just might be the greatest rolling ambassador ever. I got to talk to so many amazing people in the Coliseum and along the way. And then it gets BETTER!!

The Campus Cop had pointed me toward the Masons tents and staging area. I slowly walked Pigbike to their location, not quite certain what sort of welcome, (if any), I would receive. That question was answered as Grand Lodge Member, Mike Cecil saw me coming and rushed to meet me. We did a whirlwind meet and greet with the many Brothers on hand. I could not have felt more welcome. Brother Cecil informed me that Grand Lodge had arranged for an interview for their website and that Grand Master of the State, Ronald Winnett was on his way and was anxious to meet me. Meeting the Grand Master was incredible. We swapped stories for about fifteen minutes and snapped a bunch of photos together. And then it gets EVEN BETTER!!

By 6:30pm, more than 400 Masons had assembled for the Opening Ceremonies March into the Coliseum. Amazing sight to behold. I was asked to ride in behind the Grand Lodge Members, and to kindly not run over the Grand Master as he was recovering from a recently broken tibia. He also asked me to peel off with the Grand Lodge Members at the speaker's podium and to take a seat with the dignitaries in front of the stands packed with 2,600 athletes and hundreds of their parents, family, and coaches. Looking into the electric crowd and watching 400 of my Brothers pass the reviewing stand, I was again awestruck. Brother Winnett was called to the podium, and before the formal presentation of the $200,000.00 check to the Special Olympics, he asked me to stand. He recognized my awareness raising ride to the crowd and my effort was rewarded with a wonderful ovation. I doffed my cap and in the midst of that magical moment, I spotted Ben Snyder again in his electric green shirt. He was bouncing and jumping with unbridled enthusiam. Again, magic. Sheer and utter magic.

Fate intervened once more, as I met Junior Grand Warden, Brad Goebel and his charming wife Kathy. Seems they are from Willoughby, (very close to Grand River), and could arrange transport for Pigbike and I if I wanted a fossil-fueled lift home. Threatening weather and reports of three upcoming days of rain, made my decision easy. Riding in the rain sucks badly. It can be stupidly dangerous and if you don't have to rain-ride...don't. Loading the now stripped down Pigbike into Brother Goebel's van and myself and my bags into Brother Grumpy's Buick, I enjoyed my first car ride in over two weeks. Arrived in Grand River that evening, a mission had been truly accomplished.

Wrapping up, I must send my thanks to my dear friend Cat, who nightly reassured me that at least one person had read my blog, Mission Control at Lakeshore Lodge 307, all my Brother Masons, the Road Angels and to the Divine Powers that kept me safe during my travels. Next year I plan to do a 'Penny-per-Mile' bicycle tour fundraiser around the perimeter of Ohio culminating with an arrival in Columbus to coincide with next year's Special Olympics Opening Ceremonies. We'll have time to plan and hope to raise a pile of dough for these incredible athletes. If you have enjoyed my story this year, please feel free to send a tax deductible donation payable to: 'Ohio Special Olympics' , c/o Lakeshore Lodge 307, P.O. Box 333, Grand River, OH. 44045. (530 miles...Nickel a mile = $26.50...dime a mile = $53...quarter a mile = $132.50...you can do the math. Please help if you can.)
Brother James "Spudd" Sasak signing off and staying tuned. God bless us all.

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