the last day

we went to bed excited with the prospect of finishing, it has been a long trip. lincoln was ready to go as usual, the rest of us were hearding cats. the morning was perfect, we even had a tailwind. we all drove out to the start, everything was ready, the last of sunblock applied and link and maria braced me up for the last time. wayne our leader for the last few days made a route adjustment and with a 2 motorcycle police escort we began rolling. the pace was easy, single file, i spoke with my friends paul, peter and margaret as they took turns behind me. we made a left at a1a and began the last 5 miles to the finish in the state park.
the police escort was great as we sailed through intersections, as we got closer, i rode as hard as i could.
it was as free as i have felt in a long time. we sailed into the parking lot, i saw our rv, my dad, my in laws and complete strangers supporting our group. my friend paul pushed me up the sand to where tents were set up and we celebrated the challenge. it was over.
there are many people to thank but i start with my wife who without her support i never would have been able to do the challenge. maria who watched me like her own child as we hit so many issues. lincoln baker who never meet a problem he couldn’t solve. he always had my back, he is one of the worlds greatest wingman. i am lucky to have him lead our team. my thanks to you all for following us and supporting the RIC.
be well,

42 thoughts on “the last day

  1. Amen brother ! A great team achievement ! What a universe of family and friends you have. As much as we marveled at your physical accomplishment, we were just as impressed with the strong “gravitational pull” you have on good people. We are forever grateful to be a part of the Steph “solar system.” Keep on rolling ! The world needs you !

    Chuck & Lynne

  2. congratulations to you and for what you are doing for RIC. A fabulous accomplishment. What an inspiration you are.
    I am still sore. ………Wade

  3. Bravo Mark!! Very proud of the SC Team and your victory!! You all have made a statement on what CAN be done in this adventure that we call life!

  4. I am Jeff’s and Steve’s mom. I have followed your blogs from the day you left the rehab center upright, climbed the Sears tower, and crossed the country on this remarkable journey. My tears are flowing on the completion of this challenge. Congratulations to you, your family, your supportive friends, your unbeatable crew, and all of those who met and supported you in any way during these two-plus months. RIC and you have worked together to achieve unbelievable accomplishments, an inspiration to anyone who is familiar with your story. Best of luck to you for a great future which you, of course, will make happen.

  5. I am Jeff’s and Steve’s mom. I have followed your blogs from the day you left the rehab center upright, climbed the Sears tower, and crossed the country on this remarkable journey. My tears are flowing on the completion of this challenge. Congratulations to you, your family, your supportive friends, and your unbeatable crew, and all of those who met and supported you in any way during these two-plus months. RIC and you have worked together to achieve unbelievable accomplishments, an inspiration to anyone who is familiar with your story. Best of luck to you for a great future which you, of course, will make happen.

  6. Steph – when my father told me at age 6 that we could do anything that we imagined, I believed him. But now that you’ve proven it to me at age 45 with all that you’ve accomplished, possibilities are even more endless. Congrats, Mark, forever in our prayers.

  7. So better late than never I suppose!

    What an acheivement. Just brilliant, well done Mark.

    You think you had it tough. The girls arrived in Chicago about 90 minutes ago and are probably nervously opening Ted’s refrigerator as we speak. They bring best wishes from a whole lot of followers and donors in Australia. Fantastic.


  9. We could not be happier for you, Mark
    Barrett’s (with a B) Facebook posting of what you accomplished over the past five years says it all. God bless.

  10. Congratulations don’t begin to do your accomplishment of crossing the Country justice. We are all so very proud of you and inspired by you. Well done Mark Stephan.

  11. Cheers to your monumental accomplishment!!! We are awestruck. You (and Margaret) are our heroes as you inspire and challenge all around you to live their lives with greater commitment and passion. We applaud not only what you have done but who you are. B and J

  12. There wasn’t one half-second where I thought you wouldn’t make it! It was a GIVEN to me that you’d finish this challenge! You are the most amazing, inspired man I know … and love! Congrats Mark and team on this accomplishment and for the possibilities it represents to others with spinal cord injuries! The BIGGEST hugs ever!

  13. Way to go Mark!! I really enjoyed following you on your adventure. You had a special team and wonderful friends to help you make your dream to bike accross the USA come true! Welcome Home and enjoy some R & R.. You are STEPHSTRONG!!

  14. Congratulations! What a feat of mental endurance. Thank you to Margaret and the Stephan family for giving Mark the support to accomplish the journey. Cannot wait to see you when you get back.

  15. Mark, we couldn’t be happier for you, now that you’ve successfully accomplished the Challenge. Congratulations on setting and accomplishing such an amazing goal. Also, thank you for doing what you’ve done for the RIC, for your friends, and for those in the world that battle physical limitations. Well done!!!! Arthur & Betsy

  16. To Steph, Margaret, family, the SC Team, and all of those who have taken part in this nearly insurmountable journey. You are now truly Champions! Each of you received a “special calling” to participate. Your lives will never be the same.

    As you return to your normal daily routines, I imagine you will view life and any future challenges facing you with a new “yes I can attitude” . Furthermore, the words “cannot succeed” have been eliminated from your vocabulary.

    Steph, I feel your next calling will be to go out into the world and help, inspire, coach and lead others who are in need. You are a true Ambassador of our world.

    A hearty congratulations to all. I am in awe of your accomplishments.

    Ron Ongaro

    • Like Paul, I think Ronny O said it best.
      I, too, am in awe.
      Steph – remember that CID team building dinner where we had an astronaut speak to inspire us? (GS was quite flush with the fund then). He was so compelling because he did something none of us would ever do – he faced this incredibly scary situation with grace and machine like perseverence.
      He’s got nothing on you. Go spread the gospel. Tell me how i can help.

  17. Congratulations Mark and the whole Stephan Challenge Team. You all are an inspiration. Never good bye……just until we meet again to form another pace line.
    Thank you for making an impact on my family and I. Please consider speaking about the rewards of personal and American dreams, goals and persistence.
    Again, Thank you Stephan Challenge Team,
    Jerry Sanford and Family

  18. Mark,

    You are unbelievable and yet believable. A source of inspiration for all of us about what can be accomplished. Your sheer determination combined with your silver lining mindset is a thing to behold. If TIME was looking for a real Man of the Year – it would be you. Well done, congratulations and thanks for taking us all along for the ride of our lives. JB

  19. Amazing. I think everyone had doubts. No one doubted whether YOU could do it, if they did, they were nuts. Whether your body would be on the same page was the question. You proved once again that you will get EVERYTHING out of your body it has, and when it tells you to quit, you tell it otherwise!


  20. As I sat here paying bills and doing my daily stuff, I wondered “did they make it?” Yep (yesterday!) and what a reminder to stop and relish this amazingly special moment. Thank you from one of many “with you in spirit” travelers!

  21. Steph,

    It’s hard to put into words what we all think and feel (although some have done a pretty dang good job of it – above and throughout your challenge)! Needless to say – you have impacted so MANY lives already – and there will be many more to come. Your life has gone beyond success… to one of significance, and very few people are in that category. You truly are a man among men. -kai-


  22. Mark,
    Congratulations to you, your family and team! An amazing accomplishment! It was an incredible experience to ride with you in TX, witnessing first hand your tenacity and strength. You’re an inspiration to all –

  23. Thanks for ending your long and successful ride in St Augustine. It was a joy to greet you and meet your family and an inspiration to share in the moment of your journey’s completion. WOW! We appreciate our friends we share in common, Sue & Dale Pelletier, for including Terry and me in this extraordinary feat. Blessings to you and yours always, the Bartows

  24. Congrats mark and team steph! We knew you would do it! What a feat, what a great achievement… Just happy u can rest now!!! Safe travels back home. Can’t wait for the full film version. Way to go!

  25. Congratulations on an incredible accomplishment Mark!
    You are an inspiration for us all and a wonderful example of a champion character.

  26. Congratulations, Steph, on a huge accomplishment! I’m blown away and in awe of the strength of your convictions, stamina, enthusiasm, and spirit! Hats off to your family for all their support these past few years. I echo Ronnie O’s words. I’d love to get you out to tell the story to my team and to audiences across Minneapolis. I admire you and hope we can get together soon!

  27. Mark,

    Thank you letting me a very small part of your very, very big journey. I hope to see you the next time I come through Chicago. You are more of an inspiration than you know.

    Jim J.

  28. Steph – Congratulations to you, your family, and team for this incredible accomplishment. I never doubted for a moment that you would meet this goal! You have certainly shown by your attitude and actions that anything is possible if you set your mind to do it. It’s certainly an amazing example and encouragement for us all. I hope you are recovering well from your adventures and enjoying reflecting on all you have accomplished.


  29. Your story has given me hope, Last year I ended up paralized from the chest down and with not having any help with my medical bills I had but given up, until a friend showed me some articals on you, I am a 35yr old father of 6 and thought the best I had for the rest of my life was laying in bed being alive well thats not enough for me anymore I want to live and work towards getting well again , THanks for all you have done to inspire people like me

  30. Steph,

    The email you received from Matthew Storm absolutely validates all of your tireless and painful rehab over the past five years is beginning to turn your life around. Furthermore, your life’s compass is getting closer to True North. You have helped another human being in his time of need. Take a moment and absorb Matthew’s email.

    In my humble opinion, there is simply nothing more powerful nor worthy, or rewarding than providing positive impact on another human being in their times of need. This life changing “hell” you and your family are experiencing happened for some reason. Steph, this is a game changer. For that matter it can be a positive life changer for you and so many other people who are in your shoes. Consider moving forward and helping thousands of other people like Matthew and yourself.

    If there is any person on this planet who can make positive and definable contributions to the lives of others, hands down, it is Mark Stephan. This can be your legacy.

    Keep on peddling, keep on peddling….



  31. Welcome home! Enjoy, relax, reflect – though I imagine it’s all the rest of us who will really be doing the reflecting….. Go Steph Go!

  32. Dear Mark,

    I really respect what you have accomplished so far. Today I would like to introduce another quadriplegic man who is taking 40 day cross country trip. He is marine physist and paralyzed neck down after a catastrophic car accident in California. He is visiting Chicago on 23rd July and would like to meet up you if possible. If you want to know more about him please check the link as belows. Thanks – Andrew

    his accesstrip website!/accesstrip
    Twitter @Sang_Mook

  33. Hello Mark. I hope you are doing well, 4 years later. Someone posted your story in Growing Up in the Real Winnetka Facebook group. I believe I was meant to read it. I was a triathlete my entire adult life, until I had an accident. Six surgeries and 3 years later, I am mentally “disabled.” The downfall was just too hard on me. I have gained 50 lbs., and have 5 children, all before the surgeries. I was in tip top shape even after all the kids. My question to you is: how did you overcome the mental block of ‘I can’t do this anymore?” The finality of it all. I can’t seem to get myself to train anymore, and I have considered myself an athlete since I can remember. My father was a champion swimmer in his youth, my mother a tennis senior champion, and they are still running strong. It’s in my genes to be back in the pool, bike and on the pavement, and I just can’t do it. I now tag along with me bouts of anxiety and depression, but have that pretty well under control. Those are the only things I can think of that would be keeping me from my life’s dream….doing triathlons to my death bed!!! I know all the other comments were congratulatory in nature, but I could not resist to reach out. If you have the time, and feel so inclined, I would love to get some tips from you. May God continue to bless you with strength, great health and a happy family life. Beatriz

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