Thursday, July 22, 2010

Iowa's Gift.............

This past March I posted about Kel On Wheels, a fundraiser/bike ride in a little town in northeast Iowa. What I didn't post was my secret desire to show up at the ride and witness the efforts, firsthand, of friends and family members as they raised money to fund research on CBGD.

As the date approached for the July 17th event, I became more resolute that I was going to make the trip to Decorah, Iowa and go alone. Superwoman didn't much like the idea but she had another commitment.
I began to check maps, price flights, and even visit the little town via Google Street. I emailed Kel and Karla (fellow CBGD patient and his wife) to test the waters about whether I would be welcome and they responded with open arms. I booked flights to St. Paul, MN, rental car, and the best room the Super 8 Motel had to offer. My little adventure was taking shape.
I will not bore you with trip details (like the good fortune of sitting next to skinny people on over-booked flights) but I took my time and some of the little things were my favorites.

Iowa is known for its corn and coming from cotton country I know how pretty fields can be. But I was not prepared the hundreds of square miles of the greenest rolling hills I had ever seen. As the sun set, the fireflies twinkled from the tops of what seemed to be every corn stalk. I parked by the side of the road, stood outside my rental car, and marveled at a sight I had never imagined. Millions of them forming an earthbound universe of what appeared to be twinkling stars.

The following morning I drove to the park where the ride was to begin. I was nervous knowing I was going to meet so many new people. Then as my GPS directed me along the town's main street, things began to look familiar. I was looking at the shops I had visited (virtually) on Google Street. It gave me an odd sense of Deja Vu.

Seeing the cyclists preparing their bikes as I parked my car across from the small park, brought up all sorts of emotions. This was the first time I had been to an organized ride since being forced to quit riding. I was jealous.

I spotted Kel and Karla, recognizing them from photos posted on the ride's web site. I was greeted with enthusiasm and heartfelt friendliness. I self-consciously stumbled with my words but no one cared. I was standing in the middle of a group of people that radiated love for each other. It was a joy to witness.

While I had not planned to photograph a lot, I didn't see anyone really working at recording the riders, so I picked a spot out on the course and began snapping shots. I took over 130 photos of almost always smiling riders.

There were festivities in the afternoon and evening that I was honored to attend, but finally my body reminded me of my limitations and I unceremoniously (though emotionally) slipped away and retired.

Back when I was cycling long miles alone, I wore an identification tag that had my emergency phone numbers engraved on one side. On the other was a quote from Steve Prefontaine (Pre) that read, "To give anything less than your best, is to sacrifice the gift." I used that quote to inspire me on long hard rides. I thought the "gift" was my physical ability and to not work hard was wasting the gift. I was wrong.

Before I left for Iowa, since I was traveling alone, I slipped the ID chain around my neck in case of an emergency, the phone numbers would be there. I took it off only to shower. As fate would dictate, as I sat alone in that little hotel room in Iowa, a glint of light reflected off the ID tag. I picked it up and read the quote. "To give anything less than your best, is to sacrifice the gift." I pondered the gift that I had lost and realized that wasn't the only gift I had.

I had spent the day watching people give of their gift. In doing so, they opened my eyes. They changed me.

Thank you Iowa, for restoring my faith in the gift of love.



  1. That was wonderful! I, too just returned home from a trip to Illinois/Iowa/Missouri area - my old, green stomping grounds. I'm so glad the area is kind to you and that you felt the love.
    Life is good to the last drop.

  2. WOW CW!!! That makes me want to go to Iowa! I'm so glad that trip helped you to realize another one of your gifts! Now, you get to share it with 'Superwoman'!! :)
    Oh... and don't overlook your gift to express your innermost thoughts and feelings! Your writing is very encouraging! I check your page often to see if you've written anything new!
    Thank you for making the effort!

  3. PENolan,
    Thanks. I really had trouble putting this one into words. I still don't think I got it right.

    The northeast corner of Iowa was particularly hilly. That really surprised me.

    I DO have good days. They are becoming the exception though. It is what it is.

  4. Bob.
    It was an absolute pleasure to meet you!! Your being there truly helped many of us strengthen our understanding of "gifts". My husband and I so wanted to make the trip to be there for Kel and Karla (my dear brother-in-law- and amazing sister), but didn't know for certain that the logistics would fall in place. Thankfully, they did. I am from Decorah and am very proud of my little hometown! This event was a true showing of love, loyalty, and compassion! Thank you for taking so many pictures! I love "reliving" the event. I have some I will forward to you after we make it through my husband's retirement ceremony. He has served 26+ years in the United States Navy! If you are ever in Virginia Beach, please look us up!

  5. Lea,
    It was truly my pleasure to be there.

    Congrats to your hubby! My Dad was career Navy and I did my 4 years in the early 70's.

    Please DO email me your photos.

  6. Bob, it was a pleasure to meet you and I'm so glad you made it out to Iowa. You're absolutely right, the love truly could be felt. Take care and thanks again for coming.

    K2 (Kel and Karla's son)

  7. Bob, it was an honor to meet YOU. The whole family was very excited when we heard the news that you were travelling so very far to attend our dear Kel's event. To say the least, it meant a lot to everyone.

    You are a very special individual. You have an incredible warmth that is communicated from your eyes. You also have a great gift in communicating through words. I truly enjoy reading your posts. Your insight is so very helpful for me to understand what your challenges are. In spite of your challenges, I see the gifts that you possess.

    Also, thank you so very much for taking photos from the event. What a gift that was! As Lea said, it is fun to relive it over and over again.

    I hope to see you again.


  8. Bob, as you can imagine i am still catching up with things, and just read your blog. It just had me crying. I can't put into words how I felt that you came to Iowa. The pics are just great and we are all appreciative to have them to recapture the moments. I will write more but just had to let you know i read your blog and it touched me. Thank you , Karla

  9. from one of the "porch golf girlfriends". Bob I could have spent the entire evening talking and listening to you, and now since I have your blog site I guess I can. You are a very loving lovly man, I feel blessed to have the oportunity to have met you. You have a beautiful gift and the drive to share it. God bless you and thank you.

  10. K2,
    Sorry I ran out without a proper goodbye. You were busy and I was afraid the Elk's lodge was going to collapse. :)

    Thanks so much. The pleasure was all mine.

    You are a gem. Don't let the future change you.

    It's funny how I felt so comfortable talking to you guys. It was cathartic.

  11. What a awesome blog. You are a wonderful writer and your blog is so informative.

    Thank you for showing your support and coming out to Iowa. I know the Koenig's and their family really felt honored to have you at the Kel on Wheels.


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