Here I am, finding myself again searching for the correct words to describe a life-changing event. This is exactly how I felt with my very first post of the story of my life. As bad as I don’t want to leave something out or neglect to really make you understand, I still must try. So, here is another attempt to accurately explain yet another life-changing event I was blessed to experience.
It was mid-July when a friend of mine I’ve only known a short while via the internet contacted me. Erik lives in Massachusetts and also uses a chair. He is much more knowledgeable than I am on almost all things chair related. He is also the one the introduced me to Jonathon and More Than Walking. I owe a lot to Erik as he has brought multiple opportunities to my lap!
He explained a little about the event and sent me video much like this one. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ilVdyZqT_Dk&t=13s
I saw the video he sent and immediately knew, I had to participate in this race! It was like my own little survivor experience! So I checked for weekend volleyball tournaments and I was in the clear, or so I thought. I found out after I committed I had a game that Thursday I would leave due to the holiday that Monday. Oopsy daisy! My co-workers were team players and covered my game with no questions asked. And the one time I connected to WiFi I did it only to let my mom know I was alive and ask how my girls did and they won!
So let’s get back on track. I talked to Patti, the event organizer, and told her I was in! All that was asked of me was to raise at least 450 dollars. World T.E.AM. bought the plane ticket, arranged airport pick-up and transportation to the campground. We stayed at Rancho Del Rio near Bond Colorado. I was excited about this location because this is one of the areas in Colorado I’ve yet to stay and close to my friend Shannon in Denver.
Those of you that know me, know my sister lived in Colorado for a little over a decade so I’ve done a lot of visiting there. It’s been about five years or so since I’ve been to Colorado because California is the new visit my sister spot. And you guys, I didn’t realize how much I missed Colorado! What an awesome freakin state! Little did I know how cool Rancho Del Rio was gonna be. They literally have everything you need in the middle of the mountains in their own little hide away in nature. It was a beautiful location right along the river. I would recommend everyone to go visit them! And go rafting!
I’m getting ahead of my self here. So backtrack to me committing to the event. I immediately began asking for donations, made an amazon wishlist and started doing a little minor (probably quite useless) working out. I was not prepared for this trip at all. I needed a new wardrobe and gear that was good for biking and rafting in the mountains along with some warmer clothes for Colorado nights at 6 and elevation around 7 thousand feet!
Thankfully, my tribe came to the rescue. My parents basically bought the clothing and gear along with the help of SOAR. My aunts, cousins, co-workers, friends and even a few nearly strangers donated! I was not only able to be overly prepared with gear, but I also raised a little over 1 thousand dollars for World T.E.A.M.!! But after this event and how much it truly changed my life, next year I’m raising over 2k for them. This is a company that has truly changed my life and I owe them the world.
So let’s get to the fun part. What was so spectacular about this trip?! Well, for starters it was the people. As soon as I found them in the airport and their welcome and introductions made it feel like I had been to this event years and years before and we were all just meeting up for another fun year. What I mean by that is, I didn’t feel new. I think I’ll say that again so you understand what that means me for me. I did not feel new. I wasn’t different, I didn’t have the biggest story there was in the room, and the people I was around were just as amazing as I may seem. I was just Carrie. The school teacher from Texas that was joining the party.
Before we ever left the airport I felt like I had 15 new friends. I had also got to finally meet the famous Erik Kondo! He’s not reeeaaally famous per se, but he is to me! Not only did I get to meet him, but he also let me get on his bike to try it out right there in the airport while we were waiting on others to land.
No hesitation or worries when we got to the bus. My team was EXCITED about getting me on it. They wanted to see how easy/hard it was to put me on their packs and pack back me. After all, there would be moments they would need to carry me during the race. So this was perfect practice for us to get acquainted!
On the 3-hour bus ride to the campground, I sat by a guy named Chris. He was carried on by two guys and when they asked him where he wanted to sit he said he didn’t care so they chose to sit him next to me! My first thought was “Of course they would!”. I wasn’t bothered by it all because this means I didn’t have to awkwardly try to have conversations with someone. I had a listening partner! Those of you that know me will understand that, because you know I like to talk a lot! But it just so turns out, that this guy had some cool stuff to talk about, so I didn’t have to say as much as normal. He told me a little bit about himself, he lives in Maine, this was also his first year and didn’t really know any one, buuuut he dabbled in mono skiing in the mountains. So I knew he was a little bit more prepared than me, but oh well! You can’t get better if you never have a first time, right?
The three-hour trip involved lots of conversation. Not just between Chris and I but between multiple people on the bus. People moved around and we had a few new people around us with some new conversation. By the time we got to camp all the fear I had leading up to being around strangers was gone. As soon as we got off the bus I found my team so we could get our tents and set mine up close. I had a home with a new tribe right away.
Whitney, Lindsay, Loretta, Erica and me. And our raft guide jumping in the back, Oscar.
The Pink Savages.
The only all female-group! I may revisit this thought later…
Ken, Loretta’s other half came in clutch! When we got there the wind was blowing horribly and World T.E.A.M. had already put up most the tents they had, but I brought my own tent that had to go up! I wasn’t planning on bringing it but the night before I left I decided to take it. I needed my Big Agnes tent that came with my little room for my chair and luggage. I’m super glad I brought my own. I had no problem with all the rain we had and I had the little room I could roll in and easily change or do whatever I needed to in a little privacy.
Ken and I got the tent up in no time with some sporadic help from others. Then they laid down my mat and moved my luggage in and I was in. It took me a few minutes to get my stuff organized and then it was time to mingle.
Food was ready and hydration was out. We ate tacos for dinner and had some drinks. It was just a time for us to get acquainted with one another and meet other folks from the other teams. For the majority of the people at this event, it was time for them to reconnect with old friends. It seems like once someone goes to this event once time, they keep coming back. I enjoyed some time talking to Erik, the one who got me involved with the event, and I made quick friends when Christina. She was also in a wheelchair and this was her first year as well and she came alone without knowing anyone either. Erik had also told her about it and he had put us into contact via Facebook a little before, so she was another that I kinda felt like I already half-way knew.
The week leading up to the trip I had moments of real nervousness I went through. I felt like I knew my team in a way because we had emailed and texted quite a bit. And then there is Erik. Erik is someone I had quite a few conversations with as well. Christina and Jillian were two girls also in chairs going that I had also had a few conversations with beforehand but still, these were all strangers and I was going camping and hiking with them. At times I asked myself what I was thinking! But that very first night around the fire and among those strangers I felt so relaxed. For starters, I was in Colorado in the mountains. Also, I was going to sleep outside in my tent so I don’t think I would have even cared if I was alone. The good food, fire, and the strangers were all icing on the cake. However, those then strangers I was surrounded by happen to be some of the kindest most welcoming people ever and true bad-asses. I was reminded 100’s of times on this trip why we can’t let fear get in our way and that first night hanging out around the fire was one of those moments indeed. We had a good time and I felt like I was getting to know my new family. I chose to hit the sleeping mat a little earlier than some because I was not used to the elevation and I did NOT want to feel like crap the next day. We had a lot of preparation to complete in the morning and I needed to be well-rested.
The first night I was a little bit cold. I slept decently but not the best in the world. But I would be okay. I was up and ready by 8 so we had about 4 hours to get everything ready. We had tons of stuff to do. My teammate Whitney, who had done this before, had been talking about this push bar for my handcycle. We had to get that attached and I needed to actually find it and get on the thing! It took us I think a good hour to figure out the best way to attach the push bar. It took the help of Gina and Erik as well as Ken and our whole team to figure it out. Thankfully the other teams were willing to help us. We had to find a way to have the bar flush to the bike and our solution, a piece of firewood. It was the one thing we tried that seemed to do the trick.
I recall the first time on my cycle, thinking, “Oh yeah! I can go ANYWHERE on this thing!”. Then as we were going to the beach I came upon a trail that went down and up fairly quick and I knew I couldn’t do it on my own. Whitney said, “You wanna try this? We’ll see stuff worse than this on the trails anyway,”. After seeing that path and knowing I was about to go down it and that wasn’t even the worse of it I immediately thought to myself again, what have I got myself into? Fear, go away. I just had to do it, so I did. They helped and I went down and back up with no accidents. We got this.
We conquered that little trail together as a team. I knew I was capable of conquering a lot with these people next to me. These strangers. These strangers were my new tribe. They will forever be people I hold dear to my heart. When you do something as we did I think you make an unbreakable bond. We were in the wild for hours together with just us doing things some of us didn’t think was possible. And we overcame every obstacle together. The bond between the military would be somewhat comparable to what I experience last weekend with my team. No one would be left behind. Not even me.
With time dwindling down we ate, made sandwiches to put on the raft for later, and we got all our packs ready and water filled up. We were ready to begin the race.
We all lined up at the starting point and waited on them to shoot the gun. Little did I know just what we would accomplish over the next two days. I think it’s safe to say, we all learned a thing or two about ourselves and we also learned that we are bigger baddasses than we every imagined. I apologize for the langauge, but there is just simply no other term to describe the people who who partake in this event.
When you read the follow up blog, I think you’ll understand.