I met Steph and his team Thursday evening (June 28) in Alachua and participated in three days of
riding before seeing Mark cross the finish line of his epic journey on Sunday, July 1. The first morning
of my trip (Friday), I remember watching Mark walk 20 yards across the hotel parking lot towards his
recumbent bike. I remember thinking to myself “how can a person who can barely walk across the
parking lot possibly ride a bike across the country?” Over the next three days, I found my answer: sheer
determination. That Friday morning, I also witnessed a meeting between Mark and a young boy named
Luke, who has never been able to walk because of a spinal cord disease. Steph has been an inspiration
to so many people, but seeing him raise that boy’s spirits was certainly a highlight of my trip. Later that
day, we came to an impasse where the road we were traveling was completely flooded by tropical storm
Debby. The only way to stay the course was by boat and we didn’t have one, so Mark’s team quickly
found an alternate route. That alternate route would, of course, take Steph out of his way, forcing
him to pedal additional miles that he didn’t count on traveling. This obstacle was one of many that
he found along the way, but he faced it with complete resolve and without voicing a single complaint.
Traveling with Mark was like being part of a rock star’s entourage. Everyone was there because of
their connection to Mark. The trip was a great way for me to reconnect with some old friends and to
make new ones (friends I hope to see again somewhere down the road). The trip also reminded me
that biking is a terrific way to see America. A number of memories come to mind, but one in particular
I found especially amusing. We were riding through St. Augustine in the scorching heat (high 90s) with
two police escorts on motorcycles. An old man was standing on the sidewalk watching the caravan
go by and, despite the heat, he was wearing a long-sleeved sweatshirt that had the words “Romney
and Palin: 2012” written on the front. When he saw Margaret ride by, he shouted out in his southern
drawl, “I see we have some Palin power here!” What a slice of America. Thanks again, Steph, for the
inspiration and the memories. And thanks again to your family and crew for helping make this event
possible. See you down the road.


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