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Journey of Hope South

Day 61 – Manassas, Virginia

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All good things have to come to an end at some point. Whether it's a hair-raising descent in Arizona, or a 7 course steak dinner in Texas, or the summer of a lifetime biking across the US, everything has its conclusion. This Morning felt like ours.  


When we took off from Long Beach 2 months ago, it seemed like today would never come. I can still remember that first ride to Ontario in what seemed liked 150 degrees wondering how we would ever make it out of those mountains, let alone to DC. And now we're here.  


We woke up at 6:30 and went about our morning routine, but something was different. Last night we had gone through the ritual to become Pi Alphas and it was still fresh on all of our minds. This, along side the fact that many of us had been told the DC ride was very high paced and more of a glorified arrival made this morning feel like the start of our last real ride. It was our last ride with just the boys out on the road. No fancy arrivals. No cheering family waiting. Just us. 


We shuffled outside to Bryan, glowing over the feast that was our last crew breakfast. We binged on WHOLE cups of cereal and even got leftover dessert from the night before. As we ate we made small talk with the Rogers family and thought aloud how big of a day this would be. And then we were off. 


I honestly wish today could have lasted forever. My pace line was torn between getting into lodging in a reasonable time or making the day last as long as possible. 11 miles in we were red flagged to let crew get in place and as soon as every pace lined rolled into Hayden's crew stop someone threw Dixieland delight on the car radio. Looking back that was probably the last time we'll sing that song as a team on the road.  


After 50 miles of storytelling, reminiscing, and the usual JOH Shenanigans we arrived into our final lodging. Each of us said our goodbyes and thank you's to Bruce Rogers for riding along with us. We had our last crew lunch. Then it was off to Trans team's lodging to shower and get ready for tonight's all team dinner. As I write this we're on the way to dinner and I can't believe the summer is almost at its end.  


What I wouldn't give to have one more chance to relive even those miserable rides in the desert with the team. I'm positive that I speak for the entire South Route when I say that this summer was the greatest experience of our lives, and each and every guy on the team is someone that I am incredibly proud to call my brother. 


Nathan Grabner (Purdue University) 

Day 60 – Fredericksburg, Virginia

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A lot of today's ride to Fredericksburg centered around that for myself personally. We had the honor of being joined by the man who helped create this trip, Bruce Rogers, and his family as he prepared to ride along with us in the morning. I couldn't believe I was at this moment in the trip, especially since it has seemed to me that I was just writing my first journal during the first week of the trip. It was also surreal to see and talk to Bruce, who I had heard so much about from previous Pi Alphas and the things I read about him while learning about The Ability Experience. 

It's been an emotional roller coaster for the last week of wanting to never leave the men I have met this summer and desperately waiting to get home to Arizona. I can tell you though that this week has flown by. 

In a week of many lasts, tonight was our last friendship visit on the trip and that was another point that really made it clear that the end is near. That's a huge aspect of the trip that will be sorely missed.

All in all, I can say I have left no regrets in a summer of endless choices and opportunities out on there on the road. I'm extremely proud of my accomplishments even though everyone might not understand. This is best thing I've ever done yet in my life, but this trip has taught me that it can't be the best thing I'll ever do. 

Thank you to all of my boys this summer, I'll love you guys more than you'll ever know. 

Konnor Buscho (Arizona State University) 

Day 59 – Richmond, Virginia

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Today, we had a quick jaunt from Farmville to Richmond. The ride was quick, and took us through some cool wooded roads…almost felt as if we were in a setting out of a fantasy movie. We arrived to lunch, which was provided by a Pi Alpha. The owner of the restaurant was a training triathlete and cyclist, so he shared his experiences of training and races, as well as his delicious food.


Lodging was just down the road, at the local YMCA where we were provided enough time to shower, workout, and make necessary runs to the bike shop or Walmart. Waking up from a nap, we prepared for our dinner and friendship visit with Sportable – an organization that provides adaptive sports opportunities for the local community. Tonight, we would have the opportunity to play wheelchair lacrosse, and meet/play with the local players. It was a unique experience, and one of our favorites, as some of the team had played lacrosse in high school and were itching to try their hand at this version! A mother of one of the players spoke to us about why the sport of wheelchair lacrosse and Sportable means so much to them, and finally we ended the night with a grant donation to Sportable. The director was floored, and told us that with our donation, they would now be able to fund one whole player.


We ended the night hanging out at lodging and sharing stories from this summer, as DC nears. 

Zachary Bryant (Arizona State University)

Day 58 – Farmville, Virginia

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This morning felt very routine for our team. We had a 5:30 wake up call with a 6:30 breakfast at Chick-Fil-A. The sleeping arrangements were rather tight at the YMCA so it was hard to get everyone out on time. We started the 3 mile ride to Chick-Fil-A around 6:45 and started eating around 7:15. The breakfast was originally going to be a crew chief breakfast but we had a last minute sponsor. I can speak for the entire team that we were all super excited for Chick-Fil-A breakfast.


Today was our last century ride with a solid 101 mile ride into FarmVille, Virginia. The day started off a little chilly and extremely foggy, but it let up later in the morning. The day consisted of a lot of rolling hills with the roads being wet for most of the ride. It was overall a great day and all of us had a great time on the bike. I think we were all excited to finish our last century so we enjoyed every second of the day out there. 


We got to lodging around 2:30, which is at Longwood University. We don't get to stay in the dorms so we have another night on the floor. We are all used to sleeping on the floor by now so as long as we have a roof over our heads with AC, we are all happy. Once we got settled in lodging, we all quickly went to the local YMCA and showered before dinner. We also got some quick naps in, which felt great. Naps on long days like today are always nice to get in. 


We had circle up at 5:15 and dinner started at 5:30 at Charley's cafe. We also had a friendship visit at dinner and the organization was called steps incorporated. Amazing people and also amazing food. They had great pasta and salad and a lot of it. We all left super full and that is always a great feeling after a long day. Steps incorporated have been a sponsor for us in FarmVille for 10 years. It's really amazing what they do for us and we were all very thankful for a great night. We got back to lodging around 8:30 and had a long circle up then it was bed time for most of us. Only 3 more rides until the ride into DC and you can just feel it in the room how excited everyone really is. 


Trenton Lee (University of Colorado - Boulder)

Day 57 – Danville, Virginia

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Wake-ups on JOH are generally quite hectic. Hectic and upsetting, especially if you get to wake up in beds. As a team we were sad to leave the cozy beds provided by Victory Junction the night before. Despite the morning blues, we kept it positive and put the day on overdrive. A shorter day of 65 miles brought nothing but blue skies, warm winds and corn fields!

                  Our friendship visit was extremely unique. We had the opportunity to visit the ARC of Southside: a factory that specialized in developing packaging for IKEA furniture! Chick-Fil-A was provided and consumed at spectacular rate! Afterwards we danced, played games, threw Frisbees and had a jolly afternoon.

                  Lodging was at yet another very generous YMCA! The team is always excited for the spinning dryers in locker rooms, negating the ‘oh so miserable’ wet chamois morning. Many lifted some weights in the gym, others napped and swapped stories from the day’s ride. That night we were all excited over the sponsored meal at Golden Corral! They certainly lost money on us that night, we all ate like kings.

                  Another successful day in the books here approaching the end of an incredible journey. As teammates we have grown closer than ever and as cyclists more experienced than any of us could have expected. With less than a week left until DC, the time spent will be cherished more than ever!


Eric Weiss (Oregon State University) 

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