Wounded Warriors Embark on 6-Day Bike Ride

Riders gather on Fort Myer's Whipple Field for day one of the 2010 Ride 2 Recovery Memorial Challenge on May 31, 2010. (Ride 2 Recovery Photo by Dick Brock)

We’ve told you about Ride 2 Recovery before, but this week’s ride is really special.  They began their ride on Memorial Day at Fort Myer’s Whipple Field, these wounded warriors.  And along the 350-mile trek they’re being joined by special guest riders, including Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Gary Roughead, Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. George Casey Jr., and the USO’s own Sloan Gibson.

“I stepped on a land mine in Vietnam,” said Jim Penseyres to News Channel 8.  Jim Penseyres returned from Vietnam without a leg. He transformed himself into an elite ultramarathon cyclist, who for the next several days will steer for Commander Scotty Smiley. “Oh, this is great. This is what I’ve waited 42 years to do,” shared Penseyres.  “It’s a continual recovery process. I think every day we take one foot and step it in front of the other, that we are continuing in that recovery,” said Smiley.

Over the course of six days, the riders will travel through Mt. Vernon, Manassas, Richmond, and end their journey in Virginia Beach on Saturday.  You can follow along at home, and even download GPS maps of their routes, by following Ride 2 Recovery’s Facebook page.  Ride safe and strong, everyone!

We have more pictures below and be sure to check out this video of the ride:

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(L-R) The USO's John Pray, Senior Vice President, Entertainment; Jeffrey Hill, Vice President of U.S. Operations; Sloan Gibson, president and CEO; Richard Bruder, Board of Directors for USO of Illinois; and Brian Coyle, Director of Chartered Center Relations, joined the first day of Ride 2 Recovery's 2010 Memorial Challenge, traveling 48.5 miles from Arlington, Va. to Manassass, Va. (Ride 2 Recovery Photo by Dick Brock)

Riders travel down a Virginia hill on May 31, 2010, for day one of the 6-day Ride 2 Recovery Memorial Challenge, sponsored by United Healthcare and the USO. (Ride 2 Recovery Photo by Dick Brock)

(L-R) Admiral Gary Roughead, chief of US naval operations; Delvin McMillian, a retired airmen who lost his legs and an arm to a virus; General Norton Schwartz, Air Force Chief of Staff; and General George Casey, Army Chief of Staff gather on Fort Myer to kick off the 2010 Ride 2 Recovery Memorial Challenge on May 31. (Ride 2 Recovery Photo by Dick Brock)

Over 200 Wounded Warriors gathered on May 31, 2010, to ride in the 6-day Ride 2 Recovery Memorial Challenge, sponsored by United Healthcare and the USO. (Ride 2 Recovery Photo by Dick Brock)

Ride 2 Recovery Wraps Up the Texas Challenge!

You’ve probably already read about the beginning and middle of Ride 2 Recovery’s “Don’t Mess with Texas” Challenge.  Now read the final chapter on this amazing experience!

The group headed from Fort Hood to Waco on day four.  The support was overwhelming, including a special visit from Maj. Gen. Will Grimsley, deputy commanding general for III Corps and Fort Hood.  “This is really a ride for inspiration for the rest of us,” Grimsley said.

One rider explained how the time together on the road was affecting the cyclists:  “The groups are really starting to solidify and the group camaraderie could not be higher. The wind really helped out. There are so many great stories to tell. One rider…is riding a hand cycle. He has never used a handcycle until this ride and so far has made every mile.

Riders were welcomed by Fort Hood's senior leadership and then cheered on by thousands of motivated troops, who lined the road for 4 1/2 miles on both sides of the road.

Day five the riders were starting to appreciate the finer points of pack riding, mastering skills that even accomplished riders have a hard time with.  Groups of recreational cyclists showed their support by joining the group along the way, the biggest being “Team Texas,” a group led by Tony and Big Ed. They have really helped out and organized he warriors into impressive formations. By riding in the group, the participants are able to stay together and better enjoy the countryside.  Support from the American Legion riders, and the Legion Auxiliary was tremendous.  The dinners were especially appreciated!

The biggest group of recreation cyclists to ride along since the beginning has been the "Team Texas" group led by Tony and Big Ed. They really helped out and organized he warriors into impressive formations. By riding in the group, the participants were able to stay together and better enjoy the countryside.

The final day found the riders on the road from Cleburne to Arlington.  Their final destination was Arlington Ranger’s Ballpark, where special guest Nolan Ryan was waiting to greet the group at the finish ceremony, along with Duane Wagner, a highly decorated Viet Nam Veteran, who would throw out the ceremonial first pitch of the game.

Before arriving at the ballpark, though, it was time for one more special group of cyclists to join along: the Texas Rangers brought ’em home in another R2R first, as the group rode together for the last 20 miles instead of the usual five. Lots of laughter and nostalgia filled the air.

Welcome to Arlington.

As the riders left the town of Cleburne on their way to Arlington, the town in between - Keene - had a special welcome for the riders. They had lined the street with American flags and the Mayor and other civic leaders had a ceremony to welcome the participants.

Ride 2 Recovery Rounds the Final Bend in the Texas Challenge

As you read earlier this week, Ride 2 Recovery cyclists are currently participating in the “Don’t Mess with Texas Challenge,” a six-day, 350-mile ride from Brooke Army Medical Center to Dallas/Ft. Worth.

Day 2 took the cyclists from San Marcos to Austin and one participant share this account of the day: “The day started under cloudy skies and a light rain. With the forecast calling for slight headwinds, it looked like it was going to be a long day. Instead the rain stopped and with the cloudy skies and cool temps, it made for great riding weather with almost no wind.

One of the great parts of the R2R program are the general public riders that take part in the ride. These cyclist raise about $3,000 in order to take part in the ride and 2 of the more colorful riders…The 16 strong group has ridden together since we left CFI and the camaraderie has been amazing. The group has riders from Ft. Bliss and Ft. Hood that are here at R2R for the first time.”

The Texas hill country is known for its sharp but short hills. With a large number of brand new injured veteran riders from the WTU system, it is very important to teach them to ride a good paceline and get them all set up in nice smooth pedaling groups. The simple tasks of riding like shifting and braking become more important with the up and down nature of the terrain.

Day 3 saw the cyclists hitting the pavement on roads leading from Austin to Fort hood.  With clear weather and only a light headwind, the ride went smoothly.  And best of all was the addition of the Chief of the Army, Gen. George Casey, along for the ride!

As one rider explained, “He went out with the moderate group today, which is typically the biggest group on the road. He had never ridden much with a group so it took a little getting used to. Gen Casey came to cycling after ankle surgery left him not able to run without significant pain. He had prepared himself by riding from Fort Meyer to Fort Belvoir.”

Gen. Casey rides along with wounded veterans Nate and Delvin; the General joined the Ride 2 Recovery cyclists on the third day of their ride.

The General was able to keep up just fine and lifted the morale off all the riders.  As they neared Fort Hood, Gen. Will Grimsley – the acting commanding general at Fort Hood – lead the group onto the base and hosted a community reception along with his wife Jill.  Great work, everybody!  Tomorrow’s route takes the group from Cleburne to their final destination: the Arlington Ranger’s Ballpark.  Check out the map below and see if you can cheer them on…

On Sunday, April 11 riders will travel 42 miles from Cleburne to Arlington Ranger's Park.

Ride 2 Recovery Texas Challenge

A group of riders 130 strong set off from the Center for the Intrepid at Brooke Army Medical Center. on our way to San Marcos. They had the Army Band, the UCONN and Stanford cheerleaders (who were in town for the women's Final Four), and American Idol singer Ayla Brown there, too!

The USO is proud to be a partner of Ride 2 Recovery, which is guided by two simple principles:  1. Cycling is an activity that almost all patients with mental and physical disabilities can participate; 2. Participation in the Ride 2 Recovery Program helps speed up the recovery and rehabilitation process.

Wounded veterans of any ability level are welcome – with proper training – to participate in rides like the “Don’t Mess with Texas Challenge,” sponsored by United Healthcare.  The challenge – created by R2R – will take cyclists from Brooke Army Medical Center to Dallas/Ft. Worth, a distance of over 350 miles!

We’re proud of these veterans and look forward to keeping you informed of their progress.  Check out the first batch of photos and be sure to scroll down for Friday and Saturday’s routes.  Come out and say hi if you’re in Texas!

Throughout the day they had great support from the American Legion Riders keeping rider safe and free of traffic. The only time rider hit the brakes all day was for the USO lunch stop! With many different types of ability levels on the ride, many of the more significant injuries need some extra help from 10+ volunteer support drivers also along for the ride.

On Friday, April 9 riders will travel 65 miles from Ft. Hood to Waco.

On Saturday, Apr. 10 riders will travel 72 miles from Waco to Cleburne.