To Live the Impossible Dream

In early November 2018, I had the pleasure of meeting Diana Nyad at a FreeWalkers walking event called the Marathon Walk in Philadelphia. She had flown in with a group of fans and members of her walking group called “Everwalk Nation“. Interestingly, I found out that Diana and her partner Connie had created a pro-walking group, really a “movement”, to get others to walk. In my mind that’s nearly identical to what my organization FreeWalkers is all about and she travelled across the country to support us and promote her own movement. It showed me what an authentic and generous person she was. We hope to have more join walking events together in the near future. Here is my honest appraisal of her fantastic autobiography and motivational book called “Find a Way”.

Find a WayFind a Way by Diana Nyad

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Diana Nyad holds an inexplicable power to push herself beyond personal limits. Whether that was created from innate personal strength or forged from unfortunate personal circumstances, we get to share a bit of what it’s like to live a willful life on the edge. There is a life lesson here for all of us.

I guess I’ve always wondered what drives people to do the impossible. For many like me, Diana’s stories have been heard over the years in short but stunning news blurbs, like swimming around Manhattan or across the English Channel. Diana was always a pioneer in these feats not to mention how she elevated the capability of women each time she broke a new record. These records get broken. But, what remains each time for all of us to ponder is the question “What are our limits?”

The book is a well-written riveting autobiography told around her ultimate personal challenge – completing a 110 mile swim from Cuba to Florida. The bizarre conditions of the sport of open water ocean swimming allows only to provide and protect, but not assist her swim or float in any way, She is adrift for over two days surrounded by a flotilla of boats and staff that can only help guide, manage and protect her.

What is perhaps as remarkable as breaking the record was that she accomplished what many thought impossible on her fifth attempt at the age of 64. In the sport of open ocean swimming Cuba to Florida was the “Everest” to be conquered. It required peak physical and mental conditioning even in her 60’s and a blessing of fortunate natural conditions like warm temperatures, and favorable winds and currents. Sharks could be scared away but swarms of deadly box jellyfish were unpredictable and impossible to avoid. Through many painful experiences and many failed attempts she was able to “Find a Way” to overcome even these obstacles.

The book made me wonder whether it’s the thoughts the person holds dearly or the challenge itself that leverages our capability to go beyond the ordinary. What do we gain by trying and failing and trying again? Certainly, it all starts with a dream and ends with our ability to fight off our demons and believe in ourselves. Diana Nyad’s story is an inspiration to anyone who harbors an impossible dream.

Taken from Goodread Review 1/6/19
View all my reviews

The Physics of Drafting in the Tour de France | WIRED

For those interested in the physics… Of course this did not help me much on my epic bike ride – solo.

Drafting decreases the overall power needed to ride at a constant speed or allows a rider to go slightly faster with the same power.

https://www.wired.com/story/the-physics-of-drafting-in-the-tour-de-france/

 

How the 52 Places Traveler Stays Charged While Chronicling the World – The New York Times

On the subject of tech and power supplies…

I found this article interesting for what to take on a long journey these days. I had a Sony a6000 with a telephoto lense, a cheap chromebook and a multi-port USB recharger which all took up some weight and space. But, considering I had most of that already, did not cost anything. I could plug in each night too. Every day I had to use a power back up unit for my cell phone because I relied heavily on tracking with Google Maps.

We can do better

Robert F. Kennedy’s family held a private memorial service for friends and family at the Amphitheater at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington on Wednesday, June 6, the 50th Anniversary of RFK’s death. For me personally, it was an inspiring moment in my life I will remember forever,

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Preparation for a small ceremonial visit to RFK’s gravesite

I estimated the crowd at 3 to 4 thousand on that beautiful sunny day – fitting for the tone of the ceremony. I and a group of about 10 FreeWalkers members were fortunate to have been invited thanks to the generosity of Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, RFK’s first-born and mother of Kerry Kennedy Townsend, his granddaughter, who completed our Kennedy 50-Mile Walk this past February.

The ceremony was upbeat and inspiring with several choruses and two singers uplifting us with song. Most of the content of the program was many notable individuals reciting of the words of RFK taken from various speeches he gave throughout this life.

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Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and Bill Clinton

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend introduced the program while Congressman Joseph Kennedy III and President Bill Clinton were the primary speakers. Kathleen and Joe spoke of the man, his personality and his love of family. Bill Clinton spoke to RFK as a leader and his legacy.

Clinton went on to quote RFK, “Tis not to late to seek a newer world.” “But, we must speak to everyone with a feeling of love and an outstretched hand.” He summarized the spirit of Bobby with what he probably would have said if he were alive today at the age of 92, “We can do better. And because we can, we must.”

I can’t help but believe that everyone who attended the ceremony was moved to some degree and maybe recommitted to the ideals of RFK. His spirit lives on.

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Here’s some video of the ceremony taken by USA Today:

https://uw-media.usatoday.com/video/embed/35756215?placement=embed


Here’s a link to my Facebook album on the event.

Abraham, Martin, John & Bobby

It’s a bright sunny morning here in Washington D.C. But, there’s a feeling of sadness in the air as I get ready to go to a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery to acknowledge and celebrate a life well lived but snuffed out much too early. Robert F. Kennedy died 50 years ago today in the prime of his life at age 42, leaving a family of a wife and 11 children and a nation so torn apart by meaningless violence from wars and racial strife. It’s sadder still because these things still haunt us today.

To me Bobby’s death was even more tragic as his political skills and awareness were ascending. His opinions changed as he awoke to the injustices around him. He always had enormous strength and energy and was known as someone who could get things done. By then he had cast aside the advice of his president, party and friends and decide that he needed to correct the wrongs on his own.

The only thing left was to convince a wary public that he could bring a fractured nation together. I don’t think anyone thought that it could be done. But, we all felt that if anyone could, it was Bobby. We hoped for the best. Our agony, even today, is that we will never really know the answer. Bobby had just won the big prize of the California primary and seemed destined to lead us out of the muck we were in.

The NY Times today had a piece about Richard Holler who wrote the Dion song “Abraham, Martin & John” in between the time RFK was shot and before he was pronounced dead only hours later.

He freed a lotta people, but it seems the good die young
But I just looked around and he’s gone.
Didn’t you love the things they stood for?
Didn’t they try to find some good for you and me?
And we’ll be free,
Someday soon it’s gonna be one day.
Has anybody here seen my old friend Bobby,
Can you tell me where he’s gone?
I thought I saw him walkin’ up over the hill
With Abraham, Martin and John.

I know we all had that feeling that nothing could be worse than what we have lived through. Or if it could, what would it be?

Having met his first-born, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, this past year and her daughter Kerry, my heart goes out to the entire Kennedy family to have to relive the tragedy again, if for no other reason than to know that we all share the pain and the loss of what might have been.

 

 

Soul Sister

Yesterday, I and a large group of friends, saw Jenn Popper off on her long walking journey from Cranford, New Jersey to Gouldsboro, Maine. I could not help but recall what it felt like for me on my past Epic Bike Ride when I started and what’s ahead for her. There was great joy in hailing the beginning of the journey along with a certain amount of apprehension on what is to come.

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Kickoff of Jenn’s Journey North – Lenape Park, Cranford

To give you the brief background for Jenn’s Journey North, she is determined to channel her positive energy and good deeds to reconcile a bad experience she experienced a couple of years ago in a kayaking accident which took the life of her husband Michael. Among the abundant good will she has created and causes she has helped, is a JustGiving project for Michael Popper which has netted thousands of dollars for two of her favorite – FreeWalkers and East Coast Greenway. It’s a remarkable statement of generosity and empathy that I continue to ponder.

Jenn and Michael were a close couple that anyone could see really enjoyed our FreeWalkers walks and each other. To me, they demonstrated a certain joy in life that is hard to express, yet easy to see. A feeling I think we all desire. That made the accident even more tragic and unimaginable.

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Michael & Jenn

Many people wonder why one needs to walk 800 miles, or in my case, 1600 miles on a bike. Our natural inclination is to consider the goal as the reason for taking on a huge challenge. Her efforts have certainly benefitted others and will earn her bragging rights. But timing is everything. And, then there is the journey itself.

I look back on my long ride, finished just a few weeks ago, and realize that this or any goal could be considered arbitrary. The effort could have been harder or longer (or shorter). Despite my period of bad luck in the beginning, I finished with a unbelievable streak of good luck for most of the journey. The nature of a long journey is its unpredictability.

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A beautiful sunset I witnessed @ Sunset Pier in Key West

What I learned was that the most joy from the journey was being fully in the moment. You have a singular objective – to get to your next location. Things that you cannot control are accepted. It’s how you work with what you have that matters. There’s plenty of time to think and maybe even consider that life is just another similar long journey anyway.

A big hug goes out to Jenn with a mixture of empathy and jealousy that you are taking a great big journey that you will remember for the  rest of your life. Make the most of it. Michael would have wanted it that way.