This is Dan Marques here. Throughout the ride you could probably tell when it was my turn to write the update. Every third day I wrote a very concise, and factual update, I lack some of the creative writing skills my friends (Pete and Joel) possess. In keeping with tradition, I’ll stick to the facts in this last update:
In addition to raising money for the Wounded Warrior Project, I wanted the chance to reconnect with the country I spent so much time and effort defending overseas. Riding my bicycle across the country with two good friends from West Point allowed me to do both. I was pleasantly surprised with much of what I saw in America over the past two months. For example, despite Americans’ backgrounds or political views, they all are genuinely in support of those who join the ranks of the best military in the world. We were received just as favorably in New York City as we were in Wheeling, West Virginia and Wilmington, Delaware. We met so many great people along the way that it’s tough to speak about them individually, and much easier to speak about them as a whole. Americans are good. Americans are compassionate and charitable. Americans care about each other and will rally together to support one another in good times and in bad. Americans are patriots and are proud of what what this country has accomplished in its short history. I came away from this trip with not only a greater appreciation for the sheer beauty of our country, but with a greater respect for the people who call America “home”. If you think I’m just making this stuff up, try showing up in a small mid-western town covered in bike grease, dressed in spandex and in need of some water or directions…..your people won’t let you down (I know from experience).
I’m pretty sure that there’s no way I could have completed this trip without the support of my family. My wife, Kelly, encouraged me to complete this trip from the moment I spoke to her about it (nearly two years ago). After sticking with me through a 15 month deployment to Afghanistan, she somehow found it in her heart to support me through another two month separation. There’s a reason I married her. Actually, there are a thousand reasons I married her. In the interest of saving space in this letter, I won’t list every one. It goes without saying sometimes, but it never hurts to throw it in there once more…I love you, Kelly.
To Paul and Bridget for flying to Salt Lake City to see us only to be disappointed by a last minute route change, to Loro for driving up and down the California coast and letting us destroy your car with my new bike rack, to my grandparents for keeping us honest and punctual with our daily updates from the road, to my folks for having enough beer and steaks on hand in California to feed a small army, to all of my aunts, uncles, cousins and friends who helped us get the word out about this ride…I thank you. Your contributions helped us get through this. I’m lucky to have each of you.
Pete and Joel, well done, fellas. I’ll never forget what we did this Summer. That being said, I won’t even pick up the phone if you try to call me to organize another cross country ride.
I just have one final note. Pete, Joel and I talked quite a bit this Summer about the concept of “paying it forward,” or helping people as early and often as you can in order to improve everyone’s quality of life in the long run. We offered assistance to every person we could this Summer and were constantly on the receiving end of random acts of kindness. Let’s keep helping each other. Let’s keep it going…