I wasn't sure it would happen.
We struggled with this. I knew this is what Don would have wanted. His wife Andrea was also sure of this. Yet emotionally, Diana (Don's little sister and my wife) wasn't sure we were ready. After long talks with Don's family we agreed we would ride. But the misgivings were still there.
I texted Rich, who had bought tickets months ago to fly from California to Dallas to join the ride. He was planning to cancel his ticket and join us later in the trip. I instead, encouraged him to come. And he did. He arrived yesterday afternoon.
I soon regretted this. Diana was now feeling that she wasn't ready and that we should take a pause. I agreed but felt trapped. Rich flew out to join us and now we didn't want to ride.
So we slept on it. Diana told me in the morning that she wanted to ride...in the moment she told herself that she could and would ride, she felt an emotional release and felt Don's support.
Diana had flown to Dallas, as soon as she heard the tragic news of Don, with no intention of riding,and did not bring any biking accessories. Her bike was still in the van, but nothing else. So she came out this morning wearing Don's clothes, helmet and shoes. She had tightened the shoes to their maximum snugness, and hoped that the oversize shoes would not hurt her feet.
And she told us she felt Don surrounding her.
We drove the first miles to Waxahachie to avoid miles that Don often referred to as "junk miles". Junk miles are miles with traffic, stop signs, light after light etc.
The first thing we did in Waxahachie was visit her Uncle Harry and Aunt Flo. Both are doing extremely well and are living independently despite being in their late 80's. Hugs and support abounded. I was so happy to get a chance to see them again.
We then drove to the Wagahachie Dog park and started preparing to ride. It was drizzling. And cold. I was going to say, 'let's just drive' but Diana was already on her bike testing out the fit of her shoes...
getting bikes out..
Diana getting ready to go
So we rode..
I now felt lighter. I needed this. I think deep down I knew this was right for me and right for Diana. I think I had been afraid to give myself permission to do this. Now my only fear was that one of us would get hurt. But I was glad we were doing this.
I mentioned to Diana, "I can feel Don's presence. I think he's in the van laughing at us". We laughed through the rain.
Soon the rain stopped. A beautiful tail wind came up and carried us forward. Don was with us. We flew through Italy, Texas. I looked at Diana riding. Protected in the front by me and in the back by Rich. I was so glad Rich came. Had he not, we would likely have not ridden.
We reached our lunch spot only to find the little quaint cafe we found on Google maps had closed three months ago. We kept looking for a place and finally happened on a small grocery store that looked ready to fall apart. They had a small deli section and we were told they could make sandwiches for us.
We all ate up and had a good talk with the young girl who had made our sandwiches She was fascinated by our story. "I've never been to California or New York. Never left Texas!" She then said, some day she was just going to go out and walk and walk, just like Forest Gump, her favorite movie. Soon she was quoting lines from the movie and Diana and her were singing lines from "Against the wind".
We told her about Don and she expressed " Oh no, how sad". Then without hesitation she said "It's good you're riding." She added, "It's also good thing you didn't eat too much. You won't be able to ride if your tummy's too full!!" She really help lighten the mood.
The rest of the ride was good. It was different than any ride we have done on this journey. I was not riding for Heart Across America. I wasn't riding to prove a point or keep a schedule. I was riding because I needed to ride. For me. For Don. I think the same was true for Diana and Rich. The rhythm of our ride was meditative. It was calming.
It may be true that I'm not facing the hurt and that this will make it hurt deeper and longer. But I'm in no hurry for the hurt to go away.
As we cleaned our bikes I once again felt pangs of regret. Missing Don. It's not the same, Never will be.
But I could still feel the bits of the relief I felt while riding. The intermittent laughter and joy between periods of sorrow and contemplation were still fresh in my mind. I'm glad we did it.