By Rob Casalou
The morning of day three at Grand Ledge High School was dark (we get there about 5:30am) and cool. The emotions are running high from both excitement to be on the final leg of our journey… and also a bit of anxiety since the legs are feeling a bit worn from the tough 206 miles it took to get here. But our Team Joe’s riders were ready to go and hit the road before 6:30am. Today’s goal…Hero’s Hurrah at the finish line where family, friends and all our wish families would be gathered to celebrate with us.
The route today was all-new because of the change in venues of our start and finish. Grand Ledge High School was simply awesome and we cannot thank the school and staff for making us feel so welcome and providing an overnight home for us. Eaton Proving Grounds was our finish (replacing MIS Speedway) and words will not do justice in how much we thank Eaton for their generosity and all-out effort in putting on a great beginning on Thursday and a great finish today. Now, in between those two venues was some adventure. Remember, we live in Michigan and the roads ranged from newly paved and perfect, to a hot mess of potholes and cracks. But we saw another day of scenery of our great state and it was great to see the waves and encouragement from people as we passed through their towns – some we had never heard of!
Halfway to the finish line, we welcomed several new riders to our team – the 50-milers! I was so happy to see fresh, smiling faces ready to share our journey to the end. Now, I speak from experience that a 50-mile ride is no joke. If the 300-mile ride seems overwhelming, the 50-mile, one day ride is a great option to support wish kids and test your endurance.
One of our 50-mile cyclists was my dear friend and colleague, Dr. Rosalie Tocco-Bradley. She’s been the light and soul of our WAM rides for the past several years. This summer, however, Ro fought her own battle with breast cancer, but less than two months after surgery, she was back on the bike, riding alongside us and cheering us on. Her unstoppable spirit put surge in our wheels and carried us to the finish line.
Our team broke up into about four or five different groups with some very fast (our Probility team members) to everything in between. But we all ended up at the meeting place inside the grounds at Eaton where we gathered as many members of our team as possible before heading to the Silent Mile and then onto the track for a final lap to the finish.
The Silent Mile is special. It really isn’t a mile but a small grassy hill that is strewn with stars bearing the names and pictures of loved ones lost too soon and in whose memory riders had dedicated their ride. A few members of Team Joe’s had placed stars so it was time to pick them up, pause in reflection and take the star across the finish line. I love this moment. It is sacred and important and I can think of no better way to end our journey.
Watch video of Team Joe’s crossing the finish line –
After the silent mile, we headed out as a team to the final lap and to the finish and it did not disappoint. Hundreds, if not thousands, of well-wishers were cheering loudly as we crossed the finish line. What an accomplishment and a feeling of euphoria came over all of us. It made all those moments of fatigue and pain over the last three days disappear. In fact, shortly after we put our bikes down, most of the team members were committing to next year!
After we finished it was time to meet our wish hero, Emily, that was given to us at the beginning of the ride and we rode every mile with Emily’s name on our wristbands. Unfortunately, Emily was not feeling up to being there today but we had another wish kid, John, who was just great and was so happy to put medals around our neck and patiently pose for pictures. This was a special moment for him and for us.
After seeing our Wish Hero, most of us grabbed something to eat, packed up our stuff and headed home. We hugged, we thanked each other and it felt kind of strange and sad to me that I would not be seeing this great group of people in the morning. I feel a special bond with my colleagues on Team Joe’s both past and present. I can’t wait until next year.
2018 Team Joe’s Roster
Dervla Mellerick Dressler