My road trip with the Stephan Challenge by Maria Estonilo

When Mark first mentioned to me about his cross-country challenge, I seriously doubted myself whether or not I was up for the challenge myself. For one, I have never biked even in my own neighborhood, let alone cross-country. Though Mark made it clear that I would not have to ride the bike, the thought of a cross-country road trip seemed daunting for me.  It does not help that I have never been away from my family for more than a week, and this project required at least 70 days away from them.  That said, it was a surprise to see myself on April 13, 2012 as part of Mark’s crew with the distinction of being the least outdoorsy person in the team. For these reasons, Mark’s Stephan Challenge necessarily became Maria’s Challenge as well.  The challenge to contribute for the benefit of the team even by the simple act of getting up excited for another day of road trip, came with a wealth of discoveries that I would never have learned if I were not doing this Stephan Challenge.

First, Stephan Challenge made me appreciate the full extent of Mark’s fighting spirit. This is a man who tries to keep things under wraps so he does not call attention to himself.  Sometimes to a fault he would keep to himself discomforts he is experiencing. We are about to conclude this challenge and already I congratulate Mark for over-coming the challenges handed to him.  Of course, his victory came not without toll on his body.  With aching bones, sore muscles, blisters and all, Mark’s triumph gives us the argument that no flesh can be that weak if the spirit is that strong. I am honored to have worked for you especially on this once-in-a lifetime endeavor.

Second, this undertaking made me realize the wonders of what moral support can do. Mark is very lucky to have friends who are very supportive of him. The stream of visitors who cheered and helped Mark and the rest of us in every way make this cross-country less of a hurdle but more like am unforgettable road trip, at least for me. I would not have made it as well without Margaret’s constant assurance that she is there to help me or see if I need anything.  Mark is very lucky to have a wife who has great eye for detail. She can anticipate problems that may arise before anyone else does.

Because I did not know what to expect from this project, I was of course shocked to find myself enjoying working with very interesting people who are Mark’s friends. I am grateful to Alex for being patient with me when he taught me how to drive the RV. Visiting crew like Russ, Melissa, Johnny, Antonio, Aggie, and Shane- you guys are great!  Thanks also to the lovely man Paul Pomfret. I also enjoyed Dale Pellitier tale of cross-country biking circa 1979. Thank you by the way for cleaning the RV in Louisiana. Chuck and Lynn Gibbons, thanks a lot for all the goodies.  Many thanks also to Courtney whom I enjoyed immensely her company especially during lunches. Of course I should thank Katy for constantly borrowing my helmet, thus emphasizing the importance of wearing one. I don’t think I would be here doing this “essay” if not for that helmet that saved my neck from that close shave in Texas.

Finally, I like to thank someone for reminding me not to take myself seriously, to laugh at myself. This barrel of man has the infectious child-like attitude of finding what could be funny with the world. Yes I am talking to you, Lincoln Baker. I thank you for inspiring me to work harder and for all the laughter I enjoyed for almost 75 days. We even made ourselves as Mr. & Mrs . Beckman just to make our tandem work. I will miss you all…..!



9 thoughts on “My road trip with the Stephan Challenge by Maria Estonilo

  1. BEAUTFUL WORDS FROM A BEAUTFUL PERSON.. Behind every great man is a greater women. Mark is bless he has two!! Margert and you Maria Thank you for all your love , support and for taking such good care of our friend Mark.. I Miss you already…

  2. LOVE this post. So sorry I missed meeting Maria, but I wholeheartedly agree with her assessments of the trip, the people and the man (Mark).

  3. Maria

    I loved reading this. You are the best. I so enjoyed meeting you and observing your hard work, love and dedication . I left the ride telling everyone about the wonderful Saint-like Maria. It was so great meeting you. You are a very special person. Mark could not have done it without yo and all of the crew and special crew you mentioned.

    all the best,

    Joe Dooley

  4. Way to go Maria. Well done and well said. Mark’s spirit is contagious and so many of us were lucky enought to reap those benefits.

  5. Mrs Beckman

    Well said. I’m so happy that Steph (and we) got your spirit and expertise during the challenge. This was a team sport and the entire team handled all the things thrown at it. Everyone deserves to be happy and proud. Enjoy the accomplishment. God bless and Be Well.

    Chuck & Lynne

  6. Beautiful essay Maria!! You are an amazing person and I had a lot of fun laughing with you and Lincoln and seeing you get on the bike for the first time! Great job on making it to St augustine Steph and inspiring so many along the way! Lincoln Baker, you are such a champion (love you brother!)

  7. Awesome effort Maria and Lincoln! You guys are the BEST! I have the most hysterical camera video of Mr. Beckman teaching you how to ride a bike! It shows the fond working relationship that developed. See you all soon!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *