Monday, March 16, 2009

Soldier Ride 2009 - Texas

I had recently been "introduced" to Toby Nunn by CJ, since Toby calls the Austin area his home-base. Earlier this week, I found out Toby was actually back in town, and that he would be participating in the Wounded Warrior Project's Soldier Ride here in Texas. The first leg of that was to be here in Austin Thursday morning. As it turned out, I was able to take the time to go downtown to Mellow Johnny's Bike Shop, a local sponsor of the ride, and finally meet Toby in person, chat with him, and witness the "opening ceremony" and start of the ride.

Unfortunately for Toby and the rest of the riders, the weather turned cold and wet on Wednesday. I had to be up and out of the house early on Wednesday, and we had reached our high of 72 before 8am, and the temperatures were on the way down. I was up late Wednesday night and heard a particularly heavy line of rain storms come through, sounding as if someone was pouring buckets of water from the rooftop. All I could think of was the weather the riders would have to deal with in the morning, with secondary thought going to how I would attire myself to keep warm, and if necessary, dry.

Thursday morning, on my way to Mellow Johnny's, the local radio weather report said it was about 42 degrees, which was about 20 degrees cooler than normal for us for this time of year. Traffic was slow-moving on the wet city streets.

I found Mellow Johnny's Bike Shop easy enough, but it took a few trips around the block before I was able to locate a spot to park. There's a reason I dislike having to go anywhere in downtown Austin - most parking is pay parking. However, after my decision to turn into an alley, I spotted a back entrance to parking exclusively for Mellow Johnny's, and, low and behold, there was one empty space, so I took it.

I got there a little after 9am, which was the time indicated for the ride preparations to begin. I went inside Mellow Johnny's, found someone that looked like they were in some position of authority with Soldier Ride and asked if he knew where I might find Toby. The gentleman asked what he looked like, but not having seen him except for pictures on the internet, I wasn't really able to describe him, and he said he'd met about 100 people the night before. He asked someone who was decked out in cycling gear if he knew where Toby Nunn was, that I was looking for him. He asked around and found out that he was changing into his cold weather gear for the ride.

I wasn't leaving, so I waited around until I saw a guy in a Voodoo 7 sweatshirt, so I made the guess that was who I wanted to meet, so when he came up the stairs outside the bike shop, I decided to approach him: Toby? Yup. We chatted, and he also introduced me to one of the riders, Anthony Mulheron, a Wounded Warrior Marine veteran and the assistant ride coordinator the assistant ride coordinator in Corpus Christi. We were sort of at the back of the pack of the riders that would be heading out. I snapped a picture of Toby and told him I'd email it to him. Since I took it with my digital camera, I was able to let him see it (and decide it was acceptable). I was still standing back with Toby and Anthony when it was time for the National Anthem:

Standing in the back, the riders on the recumbant cycles weren't really visible, so I wished Toby & Anthony luck on their ride and excused myself to get around to the front side of the group.

From my new location, I heard some of the dignitaries speak: someone from the Travis County Sheriff's Department, a Colonel (but I didn't catch which unit he's with, and he was wearing his winter parka, so no unit insignia was visible), and Mrs. Dallas, Courtney Bobb-Meilinger, whose cousin was killed in Iraq.

While it was still cold (I was very glad I had my gloves), it was not raining when the ride got underway:

I had planned on sticking around while the ride was going on. I grabbed my book and my purse out of the car and went inside the bike shop to get something hot to drink at the little coffee bar inside and sat down at one of the table. I noticed that Mrs. Dallas was also in the coffee bar, at a table by the outside window. When the table next to mine cleared out, she changed tables. We eventually started up a conversation. Courtney regretted that she had decided not to participate in the ride itself, and said she would like to do it next year. Also, she is very much interested in using her position as Mrs. Dallas to try to bring more attention to troop support organizations. She was, of course, aware of The Wounded Warrior Project, but I also shared with her about Soldiers' Angels. When the riders returned, I introduced her to Toby, Anthony and some of the other riders. I shared with them her interest in trying to bring troop support projects to the Dallas area, and one of the gentleman (not sure if he was a vet) was from that area, and gave her his card.

I stepped inside for a bit, and when I came back outside, Courtney was chatting with one of the Wounded Warriors, Nathan Hunt. I joined in on the conversation. Small talk about his kids going to school, the kinds of things people would send in care packages, just normal kind of stuff. Nathan may have lost both legs in service to his country, but he's still just a guy with a wife and kids. From the little bit I listened to what he had to say, I don't think he is letting his injuries define who he is. The rest of us could learn so much from men like him, who are overcoming tremendous challenges to live fulfilling lives. He, and the rest of the riders with physical challenges did something this past weekend that I, as an ablebodied person, is currently unable to do.

The Soldier Ride continued in San Antonio Friday morning, starting at the Center for the Intrepid, right next door to Brooke Army Medical Center, and concluded on Saturday in Corpus Christi, starting out at Whatburger Field (home of the Corpus Christi Hooks, and owned by Ryan-Sanders Baseball, who has always been good about recognizing those who server our nation). From what Toby has told me, the weather just got worse each day. Looking at the picture from the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, that ride took place in a cold rain... Unfortunately, I have been unable to locate any coverage from the San Antonio ride.

Local Austin coverage:

News 8 Austin interview with Major Dave Underwood
Transcript of News 8 Austin interview with Major Dave Underwood Fit City coverage by Pamela LeBlanc (who participated in the ride)

Local Corpus Christi coverage:

Corpus Christi Caller-Times: Bike ride benefits injured troops (3/11/09)
Corpus Christi Caller-Times: Riders do bike tour of duty for wounded vets (3/14/09)
Corpus Christi Caller-Times: Soldier Ride photo gallery (3/14/09)


Greta Perry said...

I think it was just wonderful you were able to attend. Thank you for being there on behalf of all of us Angels who could not! Hooah!

Miss Ladybug said...

I was glad to be there. Today, I went to a screening of The Way We Get By, and I'll post about that as soon as I can. I got an invite to the American Legion Post for tonight, so I might not get that done today...

Soldiers Angels said...

Thank you so much for your love and care!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for coming out and supporting the event. One correction. Anthony Mulheron is a Marine veteran but not a wounded warrior. He is not on WWP staff but he is one of the local organizers in Corpus Christi and he made the trip up to ride with the wounded warriors.
Best regards,
Woody Groton
Soldier Ride National Tour Director
Wounded Warrior Project

David Hill said...

I was privileged to ride in all three Soldier Ride Lone Star State Challenge events this year (and last year).

My little group, RollAid (, rode from the Dallas VA hospital to link up with the WWP group, then rode on to the next events. In all we logged close to 500 bike miles in 6 days by way of showing the men and women involved in the project that they are remembered and cherished.

Thanks so much for sharing in the support of these fine veterans.