It's Wednesday, March 17th and we have just finished our ride from Sarasota to Clearwater. After a century ride to Sarasota, we did not expect for the 65 mile trip to be too difficult. The ride to lunch was relaxing and exciting. We stopped at a local restaurant named Smiley's and enjoyed fresh oranges and wraps. After, we hit the private beach to relax and enjoy the water before finishing our ride to the friendship visit. However, with a decent amount of head wind, steady inclines, and the beating sun, the post lunch ride proved more difficult than expected. Nonetheless we prevailed. Finally, I enjoyed the opportunity to ride with the two other cyclists from Virginia Tech, Sam Schmidt and Kobi Hancz.
The friendship visit was with the Disability Achievement Center (DAC). The DAC works with people with disabilities to train them to enlist in the workforce. They participate in many training sessions where the clients learn life skills such as budgeting, cooking, and many more normal day activities. The DAC is celebrating its 25th year anniversary and is excited to introduce a few new improvements. Most recently, they applied for a grant to recreate a hotel suite at their office building. They hope to use this hotel room to train people with disabilities so that they can potentially get jobs in hotels as housekeeping. After a short presentation, I spent most of my time getting to know one of the speakers, Jody Armstrong. Jody is the head of grants and community outreach for the DAC. Additionally, Jody has been paralyzed since the age of 2 after a car accident. My conversation with Jody reminded me with conversations that I had with my recent great grandmother, who had polio since a young age. It was amazing to listen to her accomplishments and all that she had done. Jody was inspirational in her speech and I enjoyed my conversation with her.
Finally, we arrived at lodging at a local yacht club and enjoyed a delicious dinner at Marina Cantina. So far, I have really enjoyed my Gear Up Florida experience and I am excited to see what other adventures I have along the trip. I want to give a special thank you to all the people that gave me donations and all of the GUF sponsors. This trip would not have been possible without your help!
- Ned Quill (Virginia Tech)