Sometimes S#&! Happens!
So last Friday was our Century Bicycle Ride to raise awareness and funds for Church Beyond Walls, a street ministry in downtown Providence, which ministers to peoples’ physical and spiritual needs. My friend , Eveling Vasquez, and I got this idea to do a 100 mile bicycle ride for CBW. Well, the good news is, we both completed a 100 mile bicycle ride, and raised thousands of dollars for CBW.
The bad news is, some S#&! happened along the way. Eveling and I began our 100 mile ride at 8:30 am from my church, First Lutheran Church of East Greenwich. The first leg of the ride was picture perfect.
At two and a half hours, around 11:00 AM, we were making record time, and at 43 miles had almost reached our halfway mark! We were on Route 1, at the far end of Charlestown. I looked down and gasped! My front tire was nearly flat!
Miraculously, we were almost directly across from Saint Andrew’s Lutheran Church. Eveling had planned ahead and had come equipped with a small hand pump. But when I tried to fill my tire, it only released the little air that was left in it. Some men working at the church offered their air compressor. I love church men: always there when you need. them. Unfortunately, not one of their various attachments fit my funky specialized bicycle valve. But I too had planned ahead. I had asked my husband, Ted, who, with my daughter Juliana, had previously done my first century ride with me, if he wanted to do it again. “Hell, no!” was his response. “But…I will be your back-up support if you get a flat or anything.” I called Ted. But by the time we got my tire fixed, we had lost about two and a half hours. I had encouraged Eveling to go ahead on her own, but it was still early, so she said no. Tire pumped up, we headed out from Saint Andrews at around 1:30 PM.
We completed our first half. Our turning point was Ocean House in Watch Hill, Westerly.
We headed back for the return half of the ride. Again, I was feeling great: powerful, energized, excited to be back on the bike, and wondering if I could even break my own record riding time. But alas, after completing another twenty miles, 63 miles total, my front tire was almost flat again! No worries this time. I now had the necessary pump. We quickly got off our bikes, and began inflating my tire. “Oh, S#&!” we exclaimed as the entire valve stem broke off in my hand. There was no pumping up that tire anymore. Plus, it was already 4PM. It would be getting dark in just a few hours, and we still had 37 miles to go. This time, I insisted Eveling ride ahead, so at least one of us would complete the ride before dark. She reluctantly headed out on her own.
I called my husband Ted again. He brought his bicycle as our second back up plan. I rode his bike for ten miles, when his bike frapped out and became unrideable! What was going on? I was deeply disappointed, and on the verge of tears. I had ridden 73 miles, had two bicycles with me, and neither one was rideable. I had a brief pity party. Then I turned my hope and my concern to Eveling. Old enough to be her mother, I told my husband we needed to follow her in our car, to see if she needed support, especially especially as it grew dark.
Ted and I drove the route until we found her. Since the last seven miles of her ride were in total darkness on dangerous Post Road, where there is essentially no bike lane, we rode beside her for the final leg with our flashers on, to keep her safe.
I love Eveling’s spirit. Eveling does not give up. As grueling as the last part of the ride was, she kept pedaling! My fierce, mother lion love filled me with tears and pride, as I watched her finish the ride!
This is the thing. This is the amazing thing that every parent knows: when your child accomplishes something you are not able to, it feels strangely even better than if you had done it yourself. Although Eveling is not literally my child, to see her smile, to know the confidence she will always have because of this accomplishment, filled me with a deep joy for her, for us.
We celebrated! We went out for Mexican food and a margarita for me and a mojito for her!
But…the next morning, I got to the bike shop literally as the guy was unlocking the front door. I told him I was upset, because my bike had NOT been fixed after as he had assured me, so I had NOT been able to finish my century. He examined every inch of that tire, rim, tube, etc. He replaced the tube with a more expensive, thorn-resistant tube at no cost. Why hadn’t he told me about those tubes before the ride? Then, in rain and fierce winds, legs tired from the 73 miles the day before, I finished the damned ride!!! Like Eveling, I am not a quitter.
But I have learned from this. I have learned that some things are within our control, but some things are not. When the things that are not within our control go sour, all we can do is choose how we respond to them. As a person of my word, as a person of integrity, I needed to finish that ride, not just to be true to those sponsors who had pledged $1 a mile for 100 miles, but to be true to myself.
When I announced to my sponsors what had happened, I was moved to tears by their applause. Ted said, “There was no doubt in my mind that you would do the right thing and finish somehow.”
Remember the Jamaican bobsled team? When their bobsled broke down, they got out, picked it up, and carried it across the finish line. The way they handled defeat was more inspirational to me than the way many other Olympic athletes handled victory.
I have not yet shared my saga with the folks at Church Beyond Walls, but I sense that when I do, they will remind me of the prayer we all say together at every CBW worship service, which is known as the Serenity Prayer:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
the courage to change the things I can;
and the wisdom to know the difference.
This day may you see God in all you encounter,
and may you reflect God to all you encounter.
Pastor Linda Forsberg, Copyright October 7, 2014
P.S. I did bet my riding time record!
Photos: Eveling Vasquez and Linda Forsberg, at First Lutheran Church of East Greenwich; Eveling Vasquez and Linda Forsberg after the first leg at the Towers, Narragansett; Eveling Vasquez and Linda Forsberg at Ocean House, Watch Hill, Westerly; Ted Gibbons, my husband and rescuer; Eveling Vasquez at the finish line: First Lutheran Church of East Greenwich (this photo thanks to Catherine Thenault, fellow cyclist, and supporter from CBW); Linda Forsberg, after completing the final 27 miles of my century for CBW; Altar at Church Beyond Walls, featuring the Serenity Prayer