Sunday was the day that I had been looking forward to since May 17th, the day that I left Fort Worth and flew out to Seattle to begin my summer. Come to think of it, it was that day I had been looking forward to since the moment I found out I would be Project Manager for the North Route. It was the pinnacle of the entire trip that every cyclist and crew member dreams of when they sign up for Journey of Hope. As I sit here in the van on the way back to Charlotte for crew debrief, it is hard not to get emotional when thinking about all the amazing times our team had on North Route 2012.
Sunday morning came early as I woke up to get prepared for the big arrival at our Nation’s Capitol. I woke up, showered, and put on my Mountain Khakis and crew polo for the last time. I started getting my van ready for all the cyclists to load their bags up for the last time as well. I knew one thing I would not miss is unloading those bags every day! I looked at the white board that I had prepared and the words that it said that I prepared the night before. Day: 68. Date: August 5, 2012. City: Washington D.C. Rack Point: 4,000 miles by 8/5/12. Had we really come that far? It was so surreal to me. Our team had cycled and driven (the crew at least) from the prominent landmark on the West Coast to the most prominent landmark on the East Coast. That morning we were graced with the presence of a few men that had made everything possible. These are the men who we learn the names of while associates of the fraternity. Bruce Rodgers, Jim Karlovec, Thomas Sayre, Durward Owen, and Ken Kaiser were all with us during our last circle up to ride those last ten miles with us into DC. It was an emotional circle up, to say the least. It was more than likely the last time I would ever be with that group of men in the same setting again.
As we concluded our prayer that morning, led by cyclists Chris Cooke from Virginia Tech, the crew starting heading to mark their turns so the cyclists could get on the road to stage up. I loaded up my van and got on the road so I could make it to stage up in time to head over to the hotel to drop off the bags. When I made it to the hotel, some of the staff were there to help unload everything and take it up to the meeting room. After that was all said and done, I headed back to stage up to prepare for the big arrival.
At 10:45 A.M. sharp, the cyclists kicked off the ground and clipped in for the last time as we headed toward the Capitol via police escort. My crew van with all of my crew followed behind the cyclists as we made our way down the streets of D.C. honking, yelling, and waving to everyone as they snapped pictures of us. If there was ever a time that I have felt like a celebrity, that was it. After a few miles we passed the Washington Monuement on our left, then made the right turn onto Constitution Ave. There it was. The United State Capitol was directly ahead of us, staring us in the face. Everything our team had worked for, all the fundraising they did, all the training (or lack thereof), all of the people we had met, all the hard work we put in came down to that last mile into the Capitol. We made our way up through a crowd of cheering people, 1500 I believe it was, and parked our van as the cyclists made their way with their bikes through the cheers and yelling of all our supporters. They posted up in team picture formation for the last time and waited patiently as the ceremony began with Chad Coltrane congratulating all the teams. Jim Karlovec, the first project manager for the journey who mapped out a route from his dorm room at Bowling Green State University, addressed the audience as well. Then it was my turn. For some reason, I wasn’t nervous that day as I addressed a crowd bigger than I ever have and probably ever will. Here is what I had to say:
Wow. It seems like it was just yesterday that I was stepping on a plane getting ready to start my summer off. It seems like just yesterday that these 30 men were kicking off their summer, cycling across the Golden Gate Bridge on a cool, early June morning. I told them that morning that the journey they were about to embark on was going to change their lives. It would be a tough journey with many tests, but with it would come great reward. I want you to take a good look at them now, because these men aren’t the same person as they were two months ago. They built relationships with each other and broke through barriers. They showed true empathy for people with disabilities and spread awareness for them all along the way. This team was absolutely exceptional during friendship visits and changed lives while their lives were being changed simultaneously. We met some great people along the way, and I’m sure they are so eager to share with all of you some of their experiences.
There are so many people I want to thank. First off I want to thank my team of cyclists who worked hard every day on and off the bike to make this journey an unforgettable one. I want to thank my crew for keeping the men safe on the road, and working behind the scenes to ensure everything went smoothly. Without them, none of this would be possible. I want to thank Wes Clarkson, the Director of Logistics for helping me along the way and providing me with the necessary information I needed to get these men here. I want to thank Andrew Matznick and Kyle Rutledge for helping with North team orientation, as well as Dave Knavel for leading the PM and Crew Chief training in Seattle. I want to thank Chad Coltrane for showing me what passion is in his love for the organization. I want to thank my chapter brothers who are here today who came out to support me, Will Jung, and our archon Garrett Lucas. I want to thank everyone from the North route in 2010 who came out to support me as well.
When I rode the journey in 2010, I had an incredible role model to look up to in my Project Manager, Drayton Perkins. Drayton has always been a resource to me in life, and inspired me to come back and be a project manager. His love and passion for Push America is contagious, and I have so much respect for you and everything you have showed me. Thank you, Drayton.
I remember almost three years ago when I first joined Pi Kappa Phi and heard about Journey of Hope. My big in the fraternity, Dalton Goodier, had just gotten back from riding the South route in 2009, and could not stop talking about. That is when I knew that I wanted to do something as great as this. One evening at dinner with my parents, I told them about the trip and that I wanted to do it. They were all for it. My parents have been my biggest supporters in my endeavors. Thank you so much for always supporting me in doing what I love, because when it comes down to it, that is what is most important. Thank you to all my family, Mom and Dad, Brian, Chris and Megan, for coming here to today and showing your support of me.
I’m sure there are many more people I could think of to thank, but I don’t want to take all day and only have a short time up here. So thank you to everyone, including all of our wonderful sponsors that supported us along the way.
I won’t ever forget my experiences with Journey of Hope. They have taught me so many things that I take back home with me and use every day in life. I won’t ever forget the cold wind blowing off the Golden Gate Bridge. I won’t ever forget the day these men conquered Kirkwood, cycling from sun up to sun down. I won’t ever forget the long morning in Nevada with nothing but hundreds of miles ahead of you on the lonliest road in America. I won’t ever forget the climb up Loveland Pass, or the walls of corn in Nebraska and Iowa. I won’t ever forget our stop in Grand Island and the rich history it has with Push America. I could go on and on about what I will remember, but most importantly, I want ever forget the things that Push America has given me and the people I have met through it. Pi Kappa Phi has given me more opportunities than I could ever hope for or imagine.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful and committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
4,000 miles. 68 days. 13 states. 55 cities. Countless lives touched. The journey goes on forever.
After the other project managers spoke and many pictures were taken, the cyclists were allowed to go meet with friends and family that had come out to support them that day. I was blessed to have so many people out their supporting me that day. My mom and dad, brothers, and sister-in-law all came out and it was great to see them for the first time in almost three months. I found my PM from 2010, Drayton Perkins, and had an emotional moment as we saw each other for the first time in two years. I spent some time there just in awe of the great sight it was. I took pictures with my teammates, as well as a picture with the guys who came out from 2010 North route. It was an incredible moment.
That afternoon the team spent time with their families until we met up again in one of the ballrooms at the JW Marriot for a congratulations from the new National President. He congratulated all the team members and also gave his inaugural address to us and the members of the 53rd Supreme Chapter who were in attendance. Afterwards we all headed into the grand ballroom for the Arrival Banquet and Anniversary Celebration. I was privileged to hand out the Bruce Rogers Award that night to the leader of our team and most influential person on our route. Nick Brady, from Arizona State University was given the Bruce Rogers Award for his outstanding attitude and contagious personality that molded our team together. He was someone that I could always go to for advice and someone I knew always had my back no matter what. Thank you, Nick. More awards were given out, then TJ Sullivan came up for a special presentation to all the Pi Alphas. TJ wrote a Pi Alpha creed that we all recited for the very first time. It was a great moment that I will never when hundreds of Pi Alphas from all different years recited something that bounded us together in unity for Push America and Pi Alpha. The banquet ended shortly after, and that was it. The journey that seemed like it had just begun had come to a conclusion.
I look back on my two summers spent with Journey of Hope and can not be more thankful for all the things it has taught me and opportunities it has given me. I have met some of the most incredible people through it who show me what having a passion for something is all about. To anyone who is reading this, if you have the chance to participate in the Journey of Hope in ANY way, I want to encourage you to do so. To my team, I want you to never forget everything you have learned this summer and the incredible people you have met. It has been a privilege serving you this summer, gentlemen.
You see, I am a Pi Alpha, and I have learned the true meaning of fraternity.