I’ve been nervous about telling Rich’s story. Words fall short.
The basics seem simple enough: Rich Core, a 62-year-old man with MS, rode his bike more than 3,800 miles in 86 days from Santa Monica Pier (Pacific Ocean) to Buzzards Bay (Atlantic Ocean) in Massachusetts.
But his story is so much more than that. And it’s his story to tell, not me. Except, I’m part of it now – like many others who watched his dotted line weave across a Google map and read his journal entries. (Including a stop in Ottawa, Illinois, where he was a young reporter I hired many years ago.)
His trip ended June 25. He knew his wife, daughter and family were ahead, waiting. But he was not feeling any emotion yet. Then he saw the bay and family waving.
In his journal he wrote: “A lump hit my throat, my chest tightened and I started choking back tears. Wow! Where did this come from?
“... After just a few pedal strokes, I spotted the glint of sunlight off golden balloons. I knew that was my family ahead. It was getting harder to hold back my tears of joy. This was the moment! This is what I had dreamed of!”
After hugs and kisses, Rich pushed his bike to the bay and posed for photos as he dipped his front wheel into the water.
“I’d done it,” he wrote. “I’d reached my goal. I’d made my dream a reality. It was hard to process just what I was feeling. It still is.”
Still processing. Yeah, me, too. I hope he understands the impact he has had on friends and family.
He endured the pain of medical issues, grueling climbs, weather, collapsing fatigue and cars passing inches away. But we watched, with some fear and worry, making us part of his journey.
I relaxed reading his journal. And seeing his photos (sites.google.com/view/richardsride/home).
Seeing his smile – standing next to people he met, family and landmarks – was reassuring.
This ride has been his dream since he was 16. (Again, his story to tell.)
“Before I started this trip I told a few people that one of the most intriguing parts of the experience at that moment was not knowing who I would be ‘on the other side.’
“I expected I would have experiences and face challenges that would bring things out of me I didn’t know existed, and the journey would teach lessons I would benefit from learning.
“But when the ride was finished, who would I be? I still don’t know.”
He also wrote: “What I do know is that I have friends and family who I feel I’ve grown closer to because I’ve been able to share more about who I am and what’s inside me.
“I’ve had moments of tearful joy at night in my hotel rooms and when riding down the road (I’m feeling one coming on now) when I’ve stopped to think of all the support I’ve received in this endeavor.
“How many people get a chance to experience how that feels? I am lucky, fortunate and blessed.”
Rich is often asked, “Why ride across America?” He tries to explain. As I read his journal, I found myself smiling. And that was answer enough for me.
And isn’t that life itself? In the end it’s really about the journey.
So it’s likely Rich’s ride is not really over.
• Lonny Cain, retired managing editor of The Times in Ottawa, also was a reporter for The Herald-News in Joliet in the 1970s. His Paperwork email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Or mail The Times, 110 W. Jefferson St., Ottawa, IL 61350.