Yesterday, I rode at home with my Babes-on-Bikes friends, the ones who rode with me incessantly while I trained for the Ride to Awareness. Before I met them, I biked from home to a doctor’s appointment to get my body fat and Vitamin D checked since I’ve been working on them for the last eight months. By the way, the tape that used to run in my head about no riding on roads or in cities has finally turned off. After city riding in San Diego, Phoenix, El Paso, Austin, Baton Rouge (at night on a bridge over the Mississippi River), Biloxi (in fog), Pensacola (during rush hour on a narrow bridge), Tallahassee (up hills in pouring rain), Gainesville, and St. Augustine, I’m thoroughly inoculated (but still careful).
It was brisk, crystal clear, sunny, and there was a little wind. Our primary colored jackets shined bright and crisp in the gorgeous weather.
Our general plan was to go to Mt. Vernon, then stop at the National NAMI office on the way back. My friend, Jenn, and I had both made calls the days before to try to make it happen. Jenn was pretty insistent on doing this, though I had my doubts about connecting with NAMI National since Ride to Awareness was not successful at reaching them before or during the ride.
At the end of the ride, Nadine, Jenn, and I were the ones left to proceed on to NAMI in the heart of Arlington, VA. I was all psyched to see how the hill up from the Teddy Roosevelt Island parking lot would feel after doing mountains out west when Jenn invited us to try a route back via the Iwo Jima Memorial. On the way, I finally crossed the George Washington Parkway at that place I always thought cyclists were CRAZY to cross it. We wound our way up, into, and through Arlington, passing Arlington National Cemetery on the way, and got to the NAMI office before 2 PM, where a NAMI staff person greeted us exuberantly outside with, “Wow, you must be the Ride to Awareness riders!” (Clearly, it was a good idea to prime the pump rather than just drop in.) Jenn, Nadine, and I were ushered into the NAMI conference room and were quickly joined by about ten NAMI folks so I told a few tales from the trip, how essential all the training rides with the Babes-on-Bikes were to my successful completion of the ride, and how everywhere we went, as soon as we started talking, folks would tell us about themselves, their siblings, relatives, coworkers, and/or friends who were struggling with mental illness. It was rare to meet someone who had no mental illness connection and one such person who we met in a Florida state campground gave us a $50 check on the spot.
One of the introductions made at NAMI was to Mary Giliberti, the Executive Director of NAMI National. When I heard Mary’s name, I knew it and I knew precisely why I knew it. While pictures were being taken, I turned to Mary and said, “I know a Mary Giliberti.” She replied, “There is only one.” I said, “Did you send your children to MathTree?” (MathTree is the company I started in 1999 and sold in 2014 that offers summer math camps for children.) Do you know what it’s like to see the Aha moment pass over a person’s face? That’s what I witnessed as Mary put it together. Her children had attended my camp! Though we’d known each other for years, we’d never met until yesterday! After 3000 miles, riding an extra 50 got us to the top!