What have you done to inspire today?
This has been a daily question posed to those participating in the second-ever Sea 2 Shining Sea bike ride currently taking place. The ride covers over 4,000 miles from San Francisco to Virginia Beach and will take a little over two months to complete. But, this isn't your normal, everyday bike-a-thon.
The participants? Former veterans of the military who have seen their careers cut short due to some form of disability. However, they don't view their situations as a negative life-changing event.
An event that began in 2010, the S2SS bike ride was first assembled by World T.E.A.M Sports, which specializes in putting together athletic events for individuals that have a disability. Whether it's a missing leg or lost vision, athletes who still have the desire to compete can find an outlet through T.E.A.M Sports.
Beginning in San Francisco on Memorial Day, the S2SS kicked off their second attempt at the cross-country bike ride. While most of the events within T.E.A.M Sports or open to everybody, journeys like the S2SS are open to former military veterans only, a way to say thanks for their service and spread awareness that disabilities aren't a death sentence.
Stopping in the old west
With multiple stops along the way, the S2SS participants will be making a two-day stop in Dodge City on June 26-28, where the riders will get a chance to experience a bit of the old west.
"Dodge City is just one of those towns that people talk about being the wild west and a historic town," said Kimberly Warpinski, senior event coordinator with World T.E.A.M Sports. "It's a location that I'm really interested in visiting and seeing."
When the event first took off in 2010, the route taken by the riders took them north of Kansas and into Nebraska, leading them around the southern state. But with a new route in hand, the courageous veterans will get a small taste of what many Dodge City residents take for granted every day.
Once the riders get close to the city, there are already a multitude of events lined up for them to welcome them with open arms into our town.
"We have some different activities ready for them, including a welcoming line, a couple of dinners, and other events," said Kari Casterline, Convention Sales Coordinator with the Dodge City Conventions and Visitors Bureau. "We've partnered up with sponsors from State Farm, Cargill, Bluestar Mothers, and the VFW to sponsor some different activities, such as trolly rides and admission into Boot Hill Museum."
Killing the stereotype
As for the actual participants, there are 16 riders with 16 different backgrounds. Each one has a different story about what brought them to want to bike across America.
Page 2 of 3 - But despite those different reasons, they all share one thing in common — a desire to kill the stereotypes that just because someone is labeled disabled, that they are just as capable of accomplishing enormous feats.
For rider First Sergeant Glen Goulet, a native of Calgary, Canada, the journey has been one that has shown him the true inner strength he always knew he had, but wasn't sure if it was still there.
A member of the U.S. Army since a young age, Goulet is currently battling lung cancer and Valley Fever, a condition contracted while stationed in California, and has undergone five back surgeries. While the idea of fighting lung cancer while biking across country seemed like a daunting task from the beginning, Goulet has been amazed by what he has accomplished so far.
"For me, I've actually been gappy and feeling very blessed," he said. "I was afraid that I may be riding in a van throughout all of the hills we take, but somebody has been watching out for me overhead. I've been able to compete the entire trip and the condition hasn't effected me too much."
And while spreading the word that people with disabilites can go above and beyond limitations, Goulet also says that one of the reasons he joined this ride was a chance to take in the sights. On Friday night, the group stopped in Colorado Springs, which offered up Goulet a chance to take in one of his favorite events — bull riding.
Every since he was a teenage, Goulet has been infused with rodeo blood. He competed in different bull and bronc riding events and it has been something that has stuck with him throughout his enrollment with the Army.
"I've been involved with the rodeo since I was 14 with family members and continued on throughout my time in the military in California," Goulet said. "I'm looking forward to hitting up these rodeos at stops along the West."
Goulet mentioned that he was surprised that he wasn't the only veteran on the ride fighting cancer, as two other participants also have the disease. Along with those brave individuals, there are also two blind riders who are being directed by two "pilots" along the route.
Despite the ammenties provided along the way, Goulet and his fellow veterans know that the ultimate goal of this mission is to open some eyes. And if they can inspire just one person to become a better individual, than they've done their job along the way.
"The main thing is to bring awareness that if someone has some type of physical challenge, that there are ways to overcome that," Goulet said. "Whether they want to get out and bike or just take a walk around the corner, they can do it."
Page 3 of 3 - Welcome to Dodge
On June 26, there will be a welcome line held from 3-6 p.m. on Highway 400 for the arrival of the wounded warriors. And for those who don't know what to expect when they make that last push toward the city limits, it might be best to bring something heavy so you aren't blown away.
"All of these participants have been so physically active in the past, given their career path in the military, that they've all been hit with these huge life-changing events," Warpinski said. "It's the fact we have this group of individuals that have gone through such hard times, that they still want these challenges in their life. They want to inspire other people and shatter the pre-conceived notion that people with disabilities can't overcome."