Paul Newman’s Cool Hand Luke is a classic story about a rebel who defies the rules. He does things people think are impossible and smiles while he does it. He inspires and leads others and is loved by his friends. The movie has many great scenes that show Luke’s character. He has no problem taking on the much bigger George Kennedy in a prison yard boxing match and he never gives up, even after his foe begs him to stay down… Just to have some fun with the bosses, Luke gets the entire chain gang to make a game of resurfacing a long country road at triple speed and they just laugh while they’re doing it… And the best, of course, is when he bets the entire prison that he can eat 50 eggs in an hour. (Does that sound like a certain quadrapalegic claiming he can ride 3129 miles in 75 days?) “Nobody can eat 50 eggs” says one of the inmates and it’s game on. Luke does…and he takes all of their money.
Tuesday’s 9 hour ride out of Breaux Bridge, LA was a one-day thumbnail sketch of the entire 3129 mile Stephan Challenge – an unscripted adventure full of extremes. The day started with a great plan, but within the hour, we were dealing with a bunch of curveballs and sliders. Things changed in a flash. How Steph responded to the day’s many obstacles is the Cool Hand Steph story. And just like Luke, Steph did not quit. He willed his way across 17 miles of gravel, inspiring his friends and ending with a smile. “24 hours as a metaphor for life” may seem cliche, but that’s the best description for Tuesday’s ride. It’s all about what you do with the cards you are dealt. The day started cool, flat and fast with full expectation that it would be a good 50 mile day. Mike Leonard and his crew were out in front of the riders filming for the Today Show, so there was some extra good excitement and mojo. Just 30 minutes into the day the map called for a turn onto North Henderson Levee Rd. There was never any expectation of riding dirt or gravel roads. What should have been a 2 hour, flat, smooth ride at 8 mph, turned into an 8 hour grind at 2-3 mph. Monsoon rains for hours, impassable mud, and then a decision to continue the ride on a gravel trail that runs along the top of the levee. Chicago people, let me put this in perspective – the 17 miles that Steph trudged through the gravel is the same distance from the Winnetka Elm Street Metra station to the Loop. Because of the gravel, he could only pedal at the speed of walking with at least half of the day in a downpour. Some of just got off of our bikes and walked along side of Steph for a few miles. At the end of the day’s grueling ride, Mike Leonard was waiting to interview Mark and asked how was the day’s ride? And even though he had just used up 2 days worth of energy, Steph replied “Coming from what I’ve been through, what could be better than riding with friends?.” Leonard: “How did you get through it?” Steph: “It was so bizarre and crazy, that all we could do was laugh.”
Cool Hand Steph and his chain gang of Miami, Ohio Beta brothers – Tom, Mark, Mike, and Bobby – got through the hardest day of the Stephan Challenge and finished tired but laughing. So, if you can’t get down to ride with Steph before he rolls into St. Augustine, rent Cool Hand Luke on iTunes.