Monroe, LA to Vicksburg, MS
Today the roads flattened out and gave us a really, really easy 80 miles. The stereotypical Louisiana roads smoothed out about 10 miles in, and from then on, it was ‘smooth sailin’. On a day like today, when the ride is nice and easy, there are several things we tend to do to pass the time, and you probably guessed it, crazy challenges. My pace line and I did some things that I definitely would not let my unborn child do, mainly because of the safety issues; however, our young age and average time spent per day on a bike has made us somewhat invincible. For example, I took a picture of a couple of the guys rehydrating each other going down the road, and at some crew stops others got involved in a new hobby, called corn diving. This comprised of riding your bike into a corn field and jumping off, letting the corn stalks softly catch you. I did not partake in this sport, but definitely got a good laugh out of it.
As we neared the end of our ride, we stopped just before the Mississippi river to sign some release waivers to cross a bridge. Signing anything of legal importance scared the team a little bit because we weren’t sure how safe this bridge was going to be. The bridge we would be riding across is usually closed to the public and no cars are allowed to drive on it. We gained special permission for our group, but the support vans would not be following us. We were expecting to ride over a condemned bridge struggling to stay intact, but it actually wasn’t that bad. We’re not sure why the bridge doesn’t operate normally, but we could tell the width was just wide enough for about 1 1/2 cars. Something about crossing the bridge and the Mississippi River brought back memories of San Francisco and crossing the Golden Gate. I couldn’t believe I had made it this far, and thinking back to that cold morning to kick off the trip seemed like ages ago.
Our short 55-mile trek to Jackson, MS was another walk in the park. We are really getting in the Deep South, the south that I’m used to seeing. Over farm roads and country bridges we rode, enjoying and taking in the scenery. A lot of the northern guys were really impressed with what they saw. Some commented: “This is why I chose to do South route”. It felt good to hear those words and to see that they liked the area.
One cool part of the day was when a crop dusting airplane buzzed right over us at about 150 feet. It was so cool getting to see a plane fly that close. As we were refilling on water at a crew stop, the plane came by and landed to refuel itself. It literally landed on a mowed down strip of grass that shouldered the road we were cycling on! About 30 min. later we heard the engine roar above us and we all looked up to see it fly right by and continue dusting the crops to our right.
The arrival into the state’s capitol was amazing, possibly the best arrival so far. The city was celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) and we were part of the huge reception. As we rode closer and closer to the capitol building I started to get chills down my arms and spine because it felt like I was riding into Washington D.C. The police sirens sounded off to let the awaiting audience know we were close and you could hear the people shouting and cheering from the distance. With about 100 people in attendance, we rolled in and lined up behind the guest speakers to hear the mayor’s proclamation.
It’s always a great feeling to hear the words being read from a proclamation recognizing the efforts and goals of Push America and what we as cyclists and crew are trying to advocate. I really felt blessed to be part of something that means so much to some people and the fact that 90 college-aged men can raise empathy and over $500,000 for people with disabilities.
After the reception we headed over to a big fair with a moon bounce, live music, and lots of arts and crafts for the event. There, I got to meet a lot of people about my age who have disabilities and also very dynamic and surprising personalities. The highlight of my day was one a teenage girl asked me if I would bounce her around in the moon bounce. I was almost shocked because she was a perfectly normal looking girl, who just happened to be in a wheelchair, and her request was the last thing I expected. It never occurred to me beforehand that people in wheelchairs don’t get an opportunity to have that kind of feeling, and without hesitation I hopped in and bounced her as high as we could. I admired her courage, and something so simple as bouncing around made an impact on me. I think I take the freedom of walking, running, and jumping around for granted, and even though I feel like I’m getting closer to understanding people with disabilities, this experience was something new for me.
Tonight we’re staying at a First Baptist Church – one that features a gym and bunks for summer programs. It’s a little shady though because the complex is located in a bad neighborhood and is constantly watched over by an armed security guard. It’s a little nerve-racking for some of the guys but I think we’ll make it through the night.