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Soldier Ride Nashville 2009 – In honor of MSG James ‘Tre’ Ponder

 

soldierrideThis past Saturday I had the honor of participating in Soldier Ride Nashville 2009. After a week that saw flooding of many areas in the Southeast including Nashville, approximately 20 Night Stalkers linked up at the Park and Ride just off Exit 11 ready to participate as part of “Team Tre” in honor of our Fallen Comrade MSG Tre Ponder.  It was an early morning, not an uncommon time for the men of that group (I can’t speak for the young lady in attendance).  It was also a wet morning, but nothing like what awaited us as we departed for Nashville.

As our convoy departed Clarksville heading East down I-24, the rain slowly intensified.  By the time we reached Edwin Warner Park, we were met with a steady rain that showed no signs of stopping.  My first thought was that our participation in the Soldier Ride was going to be cut short due to the rain,  which would be disappointing to say the least.  As we staged our bikes and gear in a dry spot under a nearby pavilion, the vehicles just kept coming.  Walking to the registration area I quickly realized that we were not alone;  the rain had not dampened the spirits of the hundreds who turned out to ride with some of our Wounded Heroes.

After the National Anthem, Chaplain Glazner gave a blessing over the Ride, our soldiers and their families. We headed off into the rain.  The route selected by the Wounded Warrior Project Team simply could not have been more beautiful.  We rode through the neighborhood where many of the Country Music stars reside, and were periodically met by folks standing at the end of their drives paying their respects to our Wounded Heroes who led the way on this wet day.

The first leg of the ride took us to the fair city of Franklin Tennessee, where we were met by a large crowd and the Franklin Fire and Police Department.  Tears welled up in my eyes as this showed that America still does care; even though our media has done their level best in this Country to make it seem as if America no longer supported the war, or our Soldiers.

After a break of approximately 20 minutes,  and with many of us starting to get chilled, we  “saddled up,” and peddled off into the sunset rain.  Most of the riders decided to finish the 25 mile trek with some of our Wounded Heroes.  A few of us took a left and headed out to complete 52.71 mile trek.  I had thought of only doing 25 miles and struggled with whether to finish with our Wounded Heroes; or to take that left.  Since I had made a promise to those who had contributed to my 50+ mile ride, I felt that I had an obligation to finish the route regardless of the weather (I must admit there were times that I wondered just what had I been thinking).

The 50 mile route took us through the Natchez Trace, which was again some of the most beautiful country I had seen.  It was also some of the hilliest country in Tennessee that I had ridden on (not a good thing for a novice cyclist doing his longest ride yet).  Somehow I must have missed the note about the hills on the route.  Now folks, I can hold my own and believe myself to be in pretty good shape for 40 years of age, but these hills put the wood to me (country folks the meaning of this phrase).  There was one particular hill during the ride that I am sure has a name, I called it many which can’t be repeated here! I certainly thought that it would never end, and everyone, regardless of their level of cycling was out of the saddle and spinning for all they were worth.  I still don’t know how I managed to make it without getting off the bike, or passing out.

After conquering the hill from hell, I felt no other hill could ever match that one.  We stopped for a quick break at a small country store in Leapers Fork, and were again greeted by members of the local community.  I asked them about the remainder of the route, and a couple of them smiled to my dismay and stated, “‘oh there is only one more hill like that one.” NOOOOOOO!!!  Surely they were just joshing me! But at this point it was too late to cry over spilled milk, so we cycled on!  The hill that was still out there weighed on the three of us in my group, all of us dreaded facing another challenge such as the one we had already faced.  At the sight of any new incline, we wondered “Is this the hill?”

We never did figure out which hill was “the one,” on the back side of the route.  Possibly it was there, and we were just too focused,  or perhaps we were in a daze,  to realize that we had gone up it.  Possibly it was one that Kurt’s two flat tire stops  had given us the legs we otherwise would not have had to make it up “the hill.” Whatever, we never experienced another hill like the first.

Our ride was not a record shattering event, quite the contrary we were near the last in. Mainly due to mechanical failures that simply could not be avoided.  It does not matter though, we finished!  For that we were all proud both as individuals, and as a team.  Two of us had never ridden that distance on a in one day, and being that it was done in honor of our friend and comrade MSG James ‘Tre’ Ponder, that made the experience much more than these simple words can describe.

Special thanks to all of those who made the Soldier Ride Nashville 2009 possible.  While I do not know many of you, I know the vast amount of work makes events such as this come together.  To Leslie and the Girls – Tre’s memory lives on ladies.  Thank you for making the day ever so special by gracing us with your presence, It was great seeing you!

Thanks, to Tim Moore, the owner/operator of Bikes and Moore in Hopkinsville Kentucky. He is an avid supporter of the Wounded Warrior Project and the Soldier Ride.  Without Tim’s volunteer efforts to ensure that every cyclist with a mechanical issue was taken care of, many of the riders would not have been able to complete the ride.  Tim goes around the country to support, and ride in Wounded Warrior Bike Rides.

I am planning on training for some of the longer rides in the coming year.  Hopefully I can join Tim and others in Soldier Rides in other parts in the South, as it is such a worthy cause.  It is also a great opportunity to share with those who have overcame the adversity of  a life changing injury.  The ultimate goal will be a seven day ride spanning four states, in a couple of years!

I hope to see you all at next year’s Soldier Ride Nashville 2010.  I can guarantee you that you will never forget the ride, nor those who you will meet along the route.  To all who contributed to this worthy cause I say thank you. God bless our Soldiers, their Families and our Great Nation!


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