The day started way too early. Breakfast was at 7:30, but since Fox news was doing a special on the soldier ride at 8:00 I lucked out since we hung around to see what they said. The news coverage was well done although the focus was mostly on the president rather than on the soldiers. But we got airtime and they posted the WWP URL at the bottom of the screen. By the way, it's www.woundedwarrior.org.
We started the ride at the Baltimore Harbor, probably the nicest part of Baltimore I've ever seen. Another day of riding took us along the Greenway (some of it very nice and other parts going through neighborhoods that were a little questionable). The local Park Rangers and some cops were leading the way, although it wasn't the escort service we had experienced the day before. They did their best and we filled in where needed to to block the road and keep all of our guys together. I again stayed near the back of the pack talking to a Sergeant Major with the National Guard. I have met all kinds of people on these rides and each person has a unique and interesting story. This particular guy travelled regularly and, like me, enjoyed the exposure to other cultures. We compared the places we'd both been and made suggestions to each other about other "must-see" destinations.
We hit our first stop around 11:00 in a beautiful wooded area with a large gazebo. There were people handing out snacks and Gatorade, and it was situated right by an old folks assisted living facility, where the residents had made "Thank you soldiers" signs. A group had congregated outside to wave and cheer as we road past on to our next destination, which was not far down the road. No, really, not far down the road at all. I had practically just clipped into my pedals when we came to another halting stop just down the street. Another community group had prepared a substantial lunch for all of us. It was already our 3rd meal of the day, but we were gracious and ate as much as we could.
The coolest part of this stop was talking to one of the soldiers about his experience in the handcycle. I really hadn't had a chance to try it out before so he let me take his around the parking lot a couple of times after lunch. My arms were burning, my shirt was covered in chain grease, and I swear I still have bruises on my hips where the handles would hit if you tried to turn to hard. It was rather difficult to maneuver, and just as hard to power. I can say that it was definitely a good upper body workout.
After lunch we continued our ride. I gave my arms a break and let my legs do all of the work since they're used to it. I moved up to the front of the group in response to some heckling from the some of the soldiers who seemed to think I was making a poor showing as a triathlete at this event. I was socializing, not racing, but they didn't see it that way. To some people, everything is a competition. So I road up towards the front and hung around these guys, dodging their antics (ie: squirting me with their water bottle and throwing leaves in my face) until I finally dropped back to socialize some more. I finished yet another ride at the back of the pack.
Exhaustion struck when we got to our final stop for the day. It was a nice little park off the highway in Annapolis and it was hard not to lie down and pass out. But we weren't there long and in no time the support staff had loaded up the bikes and we were headed to our hotel downtown. Again, another tempting place to lie down and pass out. My hotel bed was calling my name. Instead, I showered and dressed for the Officers Club, which was hosting the WWP guys that evening.
Although dinner came out really slowly, we passed the time with pitcher after pitcher coming to our table from some of the veterans at the club. It was an appreciated gesture although when the 4th pitcher was set down on our 6 person table we were started to lose interest. Hence, the picture below.
That picture says it all for the rest of the night really!