I know that I'm a bit longwinded. We just cracked 15,000 views so I think people are interested in what we have to say. I just posted this on our website. I hope you like.
This post is going to be a little different than all the rest. This isn't about team updates or upcoming fund raising events. Rather, I feel like I should share some team related 'checkpoints' I've recognized along our journey to the November starting line.
I think it's important for the team to be viewed as regular people and not just mindless moto-riding robots who want your donations. I want people to be able to connect with us on a personal level. I want people to want us to finish the race. If the readers can relate to us on a personal level, I think they will be more inclined to share our story and our cause with other people.
I'm going to share some personal beliefs that you may disagree with. By all means, please feel free to disagree…no one is going to chop your head off for having a different view point. Go USA! It's through my life experience that I've arrived at these beliefs. I will admit, however, that I don't have everything figured out but then again - does anyone?
The title of this thread is called "checkpoints". A checkpoint is a marker or gate on a race course that you pass through which lets you know you're on the right track. This post isn't regarding motocross checkpoints. Rather, it's about checkpoints in life. I do believe there are checkpoints in life that let you know that you're on the right track. But you just need to have the ability to recognize them for what they are.
When we're presented with a choice, there's a right and a wrong path. Most of the time the right and wrong choice isn't obvious at all. This is deeper than, "should I turn left or right.". It's more along the lines, "Should I leave my secure mediocre job in Hawaii to start contracting in Afghanistan?" The 'right' and 'wrong' will become evident much later in life in the form of regrets.
The first time I became aware of these checkpoints was a few years ago while I was passing through DC on my way back to Afghanistan. I'll tell you the story of my first realization of life's checkpoints then tell you three checkpoints that I've recognized along the way to the starting line in Ensenada.
Seeing my friend Dale in DC:*
I had a full day to see some of the Washington DC sights before I was to deploy for work again. I was pretty excited because I haven't seen the monuments since I was a kid with my uncle Pete.I had a list of specific sights I want to check out. I wanted to see the Vietnam War Memorial Wall, Arlington Cemetery, The Abe Lincoln Memorial, The Washington Monument, and if there was time, the White House. I had a full day ahead of me. A lot of walking to do and I was kinda glad I was alone.
First on my agenda was the Vietnam War Memorial Wall. Well, I got lost and ended up at Arlington Cemetery. It's like the car just wanted to go there first. "No problem", I'm thinking. "I'll just do this now."
I spent 4 years in Ranger Battalion and completed multiple tours to Afghanistan and Iraq. In all of our deployments, our company (Attack Company) was fortunate to of only lost 2 Rangers. Rest in peace brothers Blessing and Pat. I wasn't terribly close to either of them but losing a Ranger is like losing a brother.
Shortly after I got out of the Army in 2005, two of my very best friends were killed pretty violently in Iraq. This was a hard time in my life. So many questions were racing through my head. Naturally, I felt like I should of been there to watch their backs. But, I'm sure I'd be buried along side them in Arlington if I entered and cleared that room with them that night. Rick Barraza and Dale Brehm.
So here I am at Arlington Cemetery on my way to visit one of my best friends for the first time since he's been laid to rest. It's already hard to breathe and I'm tearing up…and I'm just walking through the parking lot. This was going to be difficult. Deep breaths.
I'm wearing sun glasses and I don't make eye contact with anyone. I feel like everyone knows why I'm there and is staring at me. Why else would a lone man visit Arlington…but to visit his dead friends. I was uncomfortable in the main lobby…my sun glasses were securely on my face. I looked at no one.
I entered Dale's name in the electronic locator kiosk and it printed out a little map to my friend's final resting place. I didn't talk to anyone. I tear off the print-out and get stuck behind a large group of 8th graders all trying to squeeze through the double exit doors. I just needed to get out of that building. I felt like I was suffocating
Finally I'm free and taking deep breaths. I'm walking to see my friend. I miss him. It's a very long walk through headstones as far as the eye can see. The rows of perfectly aligned head stones are quite shocking to me. So many young lives gone. So many families destroyed. As I'm walking to see Dale, I start to read the rest of the text on the print out I was carrying. In my rush*to get out of the building I didn't bother to read any of it.
The print out had some personal information like his home town, his wife's name, unit served with, and his Killed In Action (KIA) date. It was 100+ degrees that day but shivers ran down my spine when I saw it. The breath was stolen out of my lungs. I stopped in my tracks and had to sit down. I was there on the 5 year anniversary of his death. I had no idea. I didn't realize the date.
I consider myself to be tougher than average man. I do like all men should do…ball up my emotions and keep them locked up inside. But all of my strength couldn't hold back the tears. I was sobbing like a baby my myself on a bench on that bright sunny day in Arlington Cemetery. I was embarrassed but the people passing by were polite enough to ignore me.
What were the odds I was there on his 5 year anniversary of his death? 5 years to the day I lost one of my brothers. It couldn't be a coincidence*that I was there on his 5 year anniversary. "What was happening", I thought. "This means something". It has to.
I composed myself and finished my walk to his headstone. While walking to see Dale, this is where I first recognized life's 'checkpoints'. I've literally made millions of life decisions since deciding to leave the Army. But any choice other than the choices I made would not of put me standing in front of my friend's tombstone on his 5 year anniversary.
Seeing Dale was extremely difficult but I took something positive from the experience. Every action I've taken and every choice I've made since leaving the Army was immediately validated. Any 'wrong' choice wouldn't of put me in front of Dale's tombstone on his 5 year anniversary. Checkpoint competed. I'm on the right course so far.
I was very reluctant to share that story. It's a wildly intimate view into my personal world. Generally, I'm very private regarding my service. Most vets who've done anything are. Only a very select few people have heard that story. But I feel that it's a solid example of life's 'checkpoints' and so very fitting to what we're trying to accomplish with our race.
I'm passionate about what were doing for wounded vets and I think we're on the right track. Sponsors are rolling in and we're approaching $10,000 in donations to the Wounded Warrior Project. We've met some amazing people along the way but we've also encountered some strange coincidences…that I don't think they are coincidences at all. It's a checkpoint!!
Brett and I started this endeavor last January. By March (I think), our website was up and running. First up on the site was our "meet the team" biographies. We each received professional style e-mail handles. firstname.lastname@example.org
Cool…donations started to trickle in. We're actually a 'thing' now!!
[Our] Brett Robinson received an e-mail from [other] Bret Robinson in his race e-mail inbox. Other Bret Robinson did a Google search of his name and found our Brett Robinson. Other Bret served in Iraq and was discharged for injuries sustained in combat operations. He was taking a break from helping plan his wedding and decided to Google his own name.
What are the odds of this? Two Brett Robinsons who were also both disabled vets. How could this happen? This couldn't be a coincidence. It was just too weird. This was a checkpoint!
We all talked about it for days. I had Terry mail other Bret some free Team TCB t-shirts as a wedding gift for him and his new wife.
It's official - we were on the right track!
I already mentioned this encounter in my 'Day 1' ride report. But I didn't comment on the significance of the event. Brett and I were road tripping from his house in Georgia to Mexico for our 5 day shake-down ride in Baja.
We stop at a gas station in Baird, Texas to fill up and grab some Red Bulls. Brett and I wore our team shirts (with brown tiger stripe camo sleeves) all the way from Georgia to California. As you know, we have the "Team TCB" logo on the front of our shirts.
Some dude's car was broken down and he asked us if he could borrow some tools. He saw our bikes and figured we'd have tools handy. Brett is under the hood with this guy turning a wrench and I'm goofing around on my iPhone wishing they'd hurry up.
I look up and see it. Boom…this guy had our logo tattooed on his arm! TCB! I'm thinking, "Am I really seeing this?"
TCB with the lightning bolt underneath was Elvis Presley unofficial logo. Elvis blasted that logo everywhere. If you don't already know, TCB stands for "Taking Care of Business".
Anyway, I point it out and the dude says it's his family's motto. Said he got that tattoo "with his daddy when he was 14". He was shocked to see it on our shirt
Another checkpoint maybe? What are the odds that we'd meet this guy in the middle of Nowhere, Texas. Surely this can't be a coincidence. Checkpoint completed!ts. He gave me permission to use his face in the blog and here it is.
This checkpoint is just eerie. While Brett and I were driving across the country on our way to Mexico, we shared a lot of stories. Mostly about stupid or funny things we've done in the past. *It's amazing either one of us is still alive. Brett told me all about this high school buddy (Donnie) who would ride motorcycles with Brett. They'd get into all kinds of shenanigans.
Brett told me that they lost track of each other years and years ago. Brett wondered what he was up to. It was left a that.
While we're on our way back from Mexico to Georgia, Brett gets an e-mail from guess who…Donnie!! We were just talking about him! It's been like 25 years since Brett's even uttered his name.
Here's how Donnie found Brett. Donnie was reading a book about JFK…the book talks about Lee Harvey Oswald…Brett's middle name is Lee…Donnie thought, "huh, I wonder what my old friend is up to."…Donnie Googled Brett's name…found a picture of Brett with Vera…which led him to our website…then he found Brett's race e-mail address. That's just too weird.
And it turns out that Donnie works at a motorcycle shop. He immediately bought two t-shirts.
This is just too strange to be a coincidence. To me, this is a checkpoint telling us that all the money and time we've invested in this race is what what we're supposed to be doing.
Maybe I'm just trying too hard to justify all the money and time I've spent on this race. Or maybe I was just trying to make sense and cope with losing a friend in combat. Or just maybe, there's something to what I'm saying. I'd like to think there is. Either way, I'm (mostly) happy with where my life is headed. *I'm on the right path!