A Livin' Life blog that I'm making up as I go. Postings include: my experiences, stories, interviews, cooking/recipes, my snapshots, and other eclectic interesting stuff. "My4Sense" connotes my 4 cents worth, and for-sense, in honor of uncommon sense.
Cofrin Nature Park
Friday, January 18, 2013
RAGBRAI: The Tandem Bike Team Adventure: Bio's of the Teammates
My friend, Chuck
Miller, has taken on another challenge: he has been chosen to ride in RAGBRAI
this July, as part of a team of disabled riders. Chuck is blind. He will ride
tandem with his Captain, Cheryl Ann Smith.
At Chuck’s request, I’ll be
documenting Chuck and Cheryl’s journey as they prepare for the bike ride
adventure. Let their adventure inspire you to find yours!
(And please, leave your inspiring story or comments below, in the Comments section! Thank you!)
This post begins the
documenting by introducing the participants with a bio that they have written about themselves.
But first, a
brief explanation about RAGBRAI:
RAGBRAI is the
acronym for"The Register’s Annual Great
Bicycle Ride Across Iowa.” RAGBRAI is an annual 7 day bicycle ride across the state of
Iowa. It is a
touring ride, not a race. The route is
about 468 miles and goes from The Missouri River to the Mississippi
River. The route changes each year. The new route is announced in
January. Riders are selected through a
lottery system and compete for 8,500 spots!
Riders camp along the way.
Profits from RAGBRAI go to
local charities supporting families and the communities of central Iowa.
My goal is to ride
in RAGBRAI in July 2013 and have the journey documented. I intend that my story
be an inspiration to others who are experiencing a difficult challenge or
situation in their life. I would like my story to provide those struggling, with
the attitude that they have the power to overcome overwhelming situations. We
all have within ourselves the ability to be a bright shining star when we
overcome our obstacles—especially the ones that we place in front of ourselves.
the past 11 years, I have lived in a home I own in Northwest Gainesville, Florida.
I share that home with my 14-year-old son, of whom I have custody.
I am an Army Veteran. I served in the U.S.
Army for 28 years in various capacities. I also worked as a civilian for a
major teaching hospital group (Northwest Florida.)
My position in the healthcare organization was cut in October 2010. In both my
military and civilian careers, I worked in support services management.
I am legally blind due to retinitis
pigmentosa, an eye disease. I was diagnosed with this disease in 1984 but did
not fully notice its effects until 2006.
Since 2006, I have had to make many life
changes in order to continue an independent lifestyle. For example, I attended
my first blind rehab center in 2010 at the blind VA facility in Birmingham, Alabama.
Prior to attending blind rehab, I had refused to admit my disability.
The opportunities available at the VA profoundly
impacted my life. I was able to "see" all the possibilities that
their education afforded me. I openly embraced each and every learning
opportunity offered me.
In 2010, I attended a second blind rehab
program at the West Palm Beach VA Hospital in Florida. In addition, I have sought out the
aid of the blind rehab personnel assigned to the Gainesville area. I have taken many orientation
and mobility classes that have enabled me to travel independently. The blind
rehab teacher continues to instruct me in Braille, JAWS (a software program for
the blind that reads the computer screen’s contents out loud), and other activities
that impact my daily living. I have also attended counseling sessions and many
other meetings to improve my understanding of blindness.
One major challenge that I needed to
overcome was the feeling of loss and depression, as my eyesight diminished. In
my mind, it looked as though my life had ended, because I was disabled and
could no longer function in society. I became a couch potato and gained weight.
My health began to falter.
In January 2012, I weighed over 300 pounds
and had both high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. I pleaded with my doctor for
a solution. He explained that I was the only person who could really reverse my
life-threatening health issues. After hearing that, I decided to go to the gym
and change my eating habits.
I completed a workout study that yielded
weight loss and increased muscle. That progress began my road to
I went to Birmingham a second time, for additional
blind training. While there, the
recreational therapist told me about the sports program the VA offered
involving biking. I became interested in riding a Tandem Bicycle that would
allow me to enjoy a former favorite pastime.
In the fall of 2012, I ran into a former
co-worker that told me about an annual Iowa
bicycle ride called RAGBRAI (Registers Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa.) I looked into it and was hooked. I contacted
the organizers and discussed my desire to ride. They told me about an
organization in Iowa
that sponsored group ridership. I contacted Adaptive Sports Iowa and discussed
RAGBRAI and my desire to ride. The director agreed to sponsor me and my Captain
(the person riding in the front seat of the tandem bike.)
My next step was to start a training
program. I chose Spin Classes at the gym. I have been taking classes 3-4 days
per week. I also do weight lifting on the X-Force machines.
Spin classes reignited a passion for riding
that I had forgotten. The freedom that I experience while on that bike is
nothing short of euphoria. I cannot wait
to get a tandem bike and ride the trails of Florida with my best friend, Ann Marie! (Sorry,
Ann Marie, you've been recruited!)
Enter Cheryl Ann Smith:
I am cleverly disguised as a
hard-working, licensed clinical social worker, however I am really a nature
born and raised, corn-fed girl.
I was born to Roger and Rose
Marie Shaw in the early 1950’s. We lived on a 400 acre farm in MillsCounty,
Southwest Iowa. My sister, brother and I were
a typical Midwest family that raised livestock
and crops. We participated in 4-H, school and church activities.
After primary school, I
attended NishnaValleyCommunitySchool. I went on to
receive a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from IowaStateUniversity.
I have lived in the Gainesville area since
1979. I have worked at Shands Healthcare since 2000, as a licensed clinical
social worker. I work with the Department of Patient and Family Resources with
intensive care patients.
I also have a small private
therapy practice, serving Gilchrist, Levy and DixieCounties.
I have advanced training in Critical Incident Stress Management, and provide
support to individuals and organizations that have experienced a traumatic
I live on a one-acre ranch
home just outside Trenton
with my daughter, Megan, and my granddaughter – of whom I am extremely proud).
My mother and brother still
live in Iowa and my sister lives in Nebraska.
Iowa has always been called home. Each trip is cherished
and tears flow when it’s time to return to my Florida family, which also includes my son
and his wife who told me to “go for it,” when I told them about RAGBRAI.
RAGBRAI has been on my
“bucket list” for quite awhile. It was really just a fanciful thought, an “Oh,
right. I will probably never get to that.”
Then I had lunch with my
friend, Chuck Miller. Chuck said enthusiastically, “I would like to do
that!” We decided that an older woman
and a visually-impaired veteran really could do this—and the adventure began.
Committing to Chuck and RAGBRAI
in July means that I must get back in the gym and restore some physical fitness.
I am proud of my rural Iowa heritage, with its
beautiful homesteads, acres and acres of corn and soybeans, and a compassionate
community spirit. I’m proud of how that heritage has developed me into a person
who loves people, the environment and life.
I am looking forward to
sharing an appreciation for a ride that will not only present a physical
challenge, but will allow great fellowship with good friends old and new.