Well, chalk one up for the cause because I really should have been in the office today due to a whole bunch of big stuff coming down at work, but Jim’s stuff is a big deal too so I had to re-prioritize, delegate and negotiate to justify the decision in which the padded shorts won out over the neck tie. So there I was at 7am on a morning with weather that only Jim Jaggers can deliver, in a parking lot in Arkansas, gearing up in my colorful Go Jim Go, Channel 3 super suit, getting ready for the ride scheduled today from Forrest City to Wynne and back, feeling a twinge of guilt for neglected work, but mostly giddy because, dang, this was going to be a great day to ride.
Already present and working the phones for every unspent dollar in the county was Le Bonheur’s Angel of Arkansas, the man in the boots, Mr. Steve Roberts.
For those of you who don’t know him, Steve Roberts is the man who works in the agriculture industry in east Arkansas and started off his involvement with Go Jim Go back in 2007 with a road side donation of $40. Every year since has increased that number by shocking proportions. Last year he collected over $80,000! We’ll see what kind of financial fireworks Steve has in store for us today.
Roll out right on time to the tunes of DJ Sara Burnette. First song today from Foster the People and kinda appropriate because the nice guys from that band paid a visit to the Le Bonheur inpatients a few months back. Wow, did Sara have a wild playlist locked and loaded for us today.
Le Bonheur’s own Chaplin Jack Conrad sends the greatest motivational emails to the associates at the hospital throughout the week titled “Light Moments”. They are always introspective stories and quotes about the importance of on occasion, taking pause in our full speed lives and investing a bit of awareness into all the beauty and good around us. Though I am often tempted to quickly delete due to my never ending, futile fight to clear my email Inbox, I’ll always stop and read Chaplin Jack’s messages, his stories and insights are always an encouragement to look at life and situations from a perspective of grace, understanding and gratitude. Today’s ride in eastern Arkansas was simply full of Jack Conrad style Light Moments. Enough to fulfill a month of emails and certainly a blog. Here’s one now…
Today we stopped at the Country Store on Highway 284. We have stopped there every year that I can recall. Today at the store we met a Mr. Danny Linley. He shared with us his Le Bonheur story. When his daughter was fourteen she suffered several seizures. He explained that he had been to several doctors and even another children’s hospital with no positive results. Finally, a physician recommended that he take her to Le Bonheur. He shared with us how he called and the response that he got he remembers to this day. He said, “They didn’t ask if I had money or insurance. They simply said how soon can you get her here?” And straight to Le Bonheur he went. His daughter Rhonda is doing fine now and according to him, “Mean as ever.” Then he produced a money bag and counted out to Jim $371 for Le Bonheur. It was a special moment for all of us on the side of an Arkansas highway on a golden morning.
So down the road we continued. Bright sunshine across the road in patterns and stripes of bright white as the sun climbed higher and flooded through the tree lined highway. A peleton of nine riders of old and new friends in a perfect double paceline surrounded by our generous support crew. Gears buzzing and clicking, skinny tires humming along on the blurred, smooth asphalt, yellow road paint to the left, white line to the right. No finish line, podium or race winnings at stake, no attacks or breakaways to be concerned about. No hurry, no worry. As John Denver’s Country Roads plays on our sound system and echos down the country road you are riding on, take a big, deep hit of that fresh Arkansas morning air. This be what cycling dreams are made of and a mental moment of respite and appreciation to remember and cherish.
Correction: There was one city limit sign sprint to be concerned about as Wayne and I have an ongoing road battle throughout Go Jim Go as we we try to best each other to be the first one to cross over the official city corp limit road marker for all the the towns we visit. Hate to beat up on my buddy so bad, but I had him thinking I was going to attack him from his left. I saw him checking left over his shoulder, checking left, checking left so I attacked on the right and handily skunked him. I think that makes the tally…
BR: 4, WL: sadly, zero. It has to be my cleaner bike Waynerd!
As always, our traditional lunch stop at Kelly’s in Wynne is a delight. Great country cooking and moan worthy good cobbler with a self-serve, soft-serve vanilla ice cream station. Oh heavens, be still my heart! Temptation stop! I have 30 more miles to ride! Guest rider today Brian Flax won the Blake’s Blog Most Interesting Desert Photo Contest:
Following our big carb reload, our laid back schedule today afforded us an extended lunch break and we created our own outdoor patio experience in the Kelly’s parking lot.
I’ll share another one of those special moments I mentioned earlier. After lunch, as I was sitting at our table talking to Sara, A gentleman walks over from another table and introduces himself as Mr. Tony Bull. Mr. Bull graciously thanks us for what we were doing and tells us a story about his now grown son and how Le Bonheur had helped his son through some difficult health issues years ago. Mr. Bull then gestures towards the check for lunch on the table in front of Sara and asks, “Is that your check for lunch?” Mind you this is a ticket for almost twenty people.
“Yes, sir.” Sara replied.
“Let me have it. I appreciate what you are doing and I’d like to buy everyone’s lunch today.”
Wow! the kindness of strangers and another example for us all of how Le Bonheur has positively impacted the lives and memories of so many people over it’s sixty plus years of service. Thank you Mr. Bull. Jack Conrad loves this stuff!
After lunch we rolled over to our first school stop of the day and a brand new Go Jim Go school and our first school ever in this town, Wynne Intermediate. The little Yellowjackets knocked us out with a wild reception and then proceeded to blow our minds with a $9,100 contribution! THANK YOU JACKETS!
Our roll continued on the Wynne High School, another Go Jim Go first and then back out onto the open road for more super stellar road riding. Our mobile pedal party treated us to musical gems like the aforementioned John Denver, Bing Crosby, East bound and Down (Smokey and the Bandit Theme) and even the smooth stylings of the Arkansas Razorbacks fight song?
The thrills kept coming because it ain’t everyday that you experience this on your ride:
WOW! A huge thank you to the Colt, Arkansas Blue Angels! Next year please consider spraying Jim down with a hairy leg defoliant.
A smooth, pleasurable roll back to Forrest City under a blue sky and early fall colored countryside.
Though I mostly “blogginate” about how awesome our rides are, today we had a frightening reminder of of how important safety awareness is paramount at all times. Even though we have our support vehicles protecting us and allowing us to ride where no unprotected cyclist would ever dare we are still vulnerable. As we were rolling back into Forrest City we came to a right turn at a red light. The pace car, Wayne and Brian rolled through and I was about to go as well when out of habit I checked left to see a giant black semi rolling straight at the intersection at a speed that would have been impossible to stop. It must have been Cledus behind the wheel. I screamed loud and hit the brakes hard. Jim who was right behind me on my wheel grabbed his brakes hard too, but lost his balance and went down onto the curb. I felt so bad for Jim as we helped him up, but I can’t even think of what could have happened. Something like this would be a devastating blow to an incredible day and endanger the entire event. Thank heavens Skittles was OK and shed no blood. A few expletives later, I won’t say said by who, we were safely rolling again.
Last stop of the day had us headed down to Marianna, Arkansas and to the small school with a huge heart, Lee Academy.
And in an absolute end of the day stunner, Lee Academy knocked us straight on to our padded shorts with the biggest school check contribution we have ever seen! $13,000!
I really am so humbled and awed by what the citizens of our community do for our children’s hospital. I say “our” because Le Bonheur does belong to us all and I appreciate how so many people come together to keep us strong. On behalf of Chaplin Jack and everyone at Le Bonheur and WREG, thank you Cougars, Jackets and to everyone in East Arkansas who made our day a phenomenal success. Especially this guy. He’s not revealing any information yet. We’ll have to wait for the telethon. So whatever you got up your sleeve, in your envelops and in those boots. Thank you Steve Roberts! We’ll see you in Memphis on Wednesday.
P.S. Happy Birthday Mom!