Yesterday was a big day for me. I made a commitment to the Palmetto Peloton Project's Challenge to Conquer Cancer team to raise $5000 (before mid- October!!!) to benefit the Lance Armstrong Foundation and the Oncology Department of the Greenville Hospital System. I almost didn't do it, but when I arrived to meet up with the riders on the Challenge to Conquer Cancer team, I let it slip that I was considering joining them.
As Jeni said "it was like ants swarming to a dropped morsel at a picnic!" I was immediately inundated with encouragement from the rest of the team members. I expressed my concern about the requirement to raise the money. They convinced me it is not as difficult as I think. OK then I'm in. now, let's ride!
One question I have been thinking about was actually posed by Jeni after yesterday's ride. She asked me what my link to cancer is? Honestly, It's hard for me to say I have a direct link to someone who is suffering the effects of cancer - or the effects of the treatment. So, why then, do I want to participate in this event?
In order to make some sense of my answer, it is necessary that this next part is all about me - and what I'm learning as I get older. I need to step back a few years to really tell my own story (which has nothing to do with cancer), but bear with me, I'll get to the point eventually.
At the tender age of 18, I had a life changing experience. I joined the US Army and became a triple volunteer. That means I volunteered for the Army, I volunteered for Parachute duty, and I volunteered for one of the more difficult training programs the army has to offer - I volunteered to join a Ranger unit. I could ramble on for a while about this subject, but suffice it to say - my high school friends never looked at me the same after that four years I spent with the 2nd Ranger Battalion. I truly did become a different person during that experience - the boy who left Clovis, New Mexico was completely different (in mostly good ways) than the man who returned.
After my honorable discharge, I set off on a series of grand adventures. The first being a motorcycle trip from the Pacific Northwest, down the Pacific coast to L.A, across through Arizona, New Mexico (where the man made his return to the sleepy town of Clovis), Texas and all the way east to Florida. I flew up to the Northeast for a few weeks before returning to Florida and jumping on my motorcycle for the ride back to Clovis. All this on a 1986 Suzuki GSXR750 - not exactly a touring bike!
The next grand adventure had me lacing up my hiking boots to join two of my Ranger buddies for a little hike from Mexico to Canada along the Pacific Crest Trail. This was a fantastic experience of which I still have fond remembrances. Now and then, I'll pull out one of the journals I wrote back then to see what I was thinking - sometimes it cracks me up, sometimes it makes me miss our excellent adventure.
A few years down the road, I loaded up my Yamaha FJ1200 for a little ride from Los Angeles to the last frontier. No, the FJ is not a space ship, it's a motorcycle and the last frontier is Alaska, not space! I spent the entire summer of 1993 working the fishing industry and travelling around Alaska on my motorcycle. What an excellent time I had. The ride home took me through some of the most beautiful country I have seen.
There have been many (many) smaller adventures in between, but the grand adventures were slowed down when I actually became a member of Corporate America. I say slowed down, because for each week of Vacation, I debarked for another smaller adventure. Hiking a section of the Appalachain Trail, rock crawling with my Jeep in SE Utah, Whitewater kayaking, mountain biking, rock climbing - lots of those smaller adventures over the years. Every one of those adventures, regardless of it's relative 'grand' - ness, was all about me. What do I want to do, what is going to make me happy?.
This year, I had planned to take two weeks in September for another adventure. I was going to load my mountain bike, my road bike, biking and camping gear into my little car and head west. I wanted to hit the great mountain biking destinations I missed while living in Utah (doh!) - Moab, Fruita - even a little place called Gallup, New Mexico. I wanted to challenge myself on some epic road climbs in the Rockies. All in all, it was intended to give me a chance to unwind and have some real relaxation.
A strange thing has occurred as the departure date approaches. You would think my excitement level would be increasing right about now - but it hasn't. I've done some soul searching to understand what is happening, and here's what I think. Part of me has really enjoyed the camaraderie of the Tuesday night rides at Donaldson and the numerous group rides I have done this year. The enjoyment of sharing the experience with others makes these experiences that much more satisfying. My trip out west was to be solo. Sure I'd find people to ride with out there - but would it really be that satisfying? It sounds like just one more 'grand' adventure that would be all about me and satisfying myself. Why don't I feel any of that satisfaction simply in the planning of it?
So, I spent a little more time thinking about it. I mean, what's not to like - a custom made vacation where I'm the star? Who doesn't like having an experience that is 'all about me'? Well, perhaps I'm getting old, or maybe 'mature' is a better word. Satisfying myself in these vacations shouldn't make me feel guilty, but I need to find some balance. I need to give something back as I have been very fortunate to live the life I've had. Maybe in the giving back, I'll find that satisfaction that seems to be missing from my 'all about me' adventures lately.
I've met people and read stories about people who have challenges that I fear would knock me down. They tackle those challenges head on - they may not be the fastest or strongest - but damn, they are out there and they are kicking ass and taking names. I have an immense amount of respect for these people. It might be an amputee who rides a bike (strongly I should add), or it might be an 8 year old kid with a brain tumor (thankfully benign) whose Mom tells me "He's such a tough kid".
As strong as these people are, perhaps what makes them strongest is their knowledge that although they will fight the good fight, they can't do it alone. That's where the Palmetto Peloton Project (and many organizations like it) come in. The Palmetto Peloton Project's mission is "to promote the advancement of cancer research and advocacy efforts locally, regionally and nationally through fund-raising fitness events." (quoted from the P3 website)
The fund raising fitness event for which I have volunteered this year is a team relay from Greenville, SC to Austin, Tx. The ride is not for me or about me. The ride is to raise awareness of the devastation caused by cancer - to communities, to families, to individuals. The funds I have pledged to raise will benefit cancer research and survivorship programs locally and nationally.
If you're reading this, you probably know me, but it's a public blog, so maybe you don't. Please help me raise these funds to aid those who show such strength in the face of such challenges. You can donate under my name (John Davidson) at the donation page for the Palmetto Peloton Project.
Please don't think you have to donate big money to make a difference. I ask only that you donate what you can spare in this very difficult economy. $1, $5, $10 - yes, these amounts can make a difference. Just think, if every one of my family, friends co-workers and acquaintances donated just $5 to this cause, I feel very confident our combined contribution would blow my goal out of the water.
3 years ago