Pull out your Websters Dictionary, blow the dust off the cover, open it up, and look up the word “epic”. Is there an example of the word being used while describing the Tour de France? Or a picture of Lance Armstrong and Eddy Merckx? Yeah, there isn’t in my dictionary either. But there should be.
In it’s 96th running, the Tour de France has finished the 9th stage, 21 in all, with Lance Armstrong sitting comfortably in 3rd, 8 seconds behind the leader. This race has captivated my attention and interest for a long time. The history, passion, rivalry, fans, scenery, and variation of the stages. I love watching the climbs through the Alps, where thousands of fans line the streets to cheer on the riders. Here is a bold statement, but I believe that the most crazy and intense fans are those of the Tour de France. I’d say soccer fans come in a close second. With no guard rail or fence, fans from across the world come to dress up, wave huge flags, draw all over the roads, and risk their lives to cheer on their favorite riders and countrymen. Even after camping out for days on the side of the road, fans will risk their lives by running alongside riders and through auto traffic. They’re nuts. But I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to do the same.
Like vinegar moving into oil, the riders are engulfed by fans as onlookers move out of the way at the last second. So much passion, so much emotion, the dedication and devotion that these fans pour out as they support the cyclists.
As I’ve been running, I’ve dreamed of these moments. Where somewhere between here and there, hundreds of people will stumble out of the pines along the road and start cheering. Close in around us as we run, enough to high five us and yell cheers. Lead and follow vehicles capture us with cameras as a hellicopter hovers overhead to stream live video around the world. I mean, they don’t have to have air horns, flags, signs, or be in full body paint. Okay maybe a few Zac and Paul flags and an air horn or two, but only to welcome and cheer us on. Is that too much to ask for? But I open my eyes and all I see is an empty road that stretches up hills and around corners. Cars zoom past and the familiar smell of Christmas looms in the air with countless pines surrounding the pavement. Where the only thing lining the road is trees, thick brush, mile markers, fallen branches, leaves, and road kill.
In that crowd, the ones who line the road for us, I don’t see Europeans that resemble the die hard fans of the Tour de France. I see my family. My friends, old and new. I see my relatives and people that I didn’t even know knew about my journey. I see the families that have opened up their doors, homes, and hearts to us. All of them, lining our path single file smiling. Each one holding a story of how we have touched and inspired them. I see all of our supporters and people we have met along the way. There’s the lady who worked at the storage facility. The guy riding for dog cancer research. The hippies who offered us a free 6 pack. The surfer who invented the word gnarcore. The European tourists who take photos of us from their cars. And so many others. I see you.
The point is that sometimes we all focus on how much is still ahead of us in life, and in our case our journey. And how hopeless the future may seem while going into the unknown. How lonley it feels. A seemingly empty path can become disheartening. But looking to where we have come from, where all of us have started and those that are for us, and were there with us along the way, makes where we are going so much more worth the fight to get there. Thanks for cheering for us and standing along the road as our fans.
Oregon has been an amazing chapter in our run so far. In Brookings with the Browns, our rest day was spent making armor, shields, swords, helmets, and anything else medieval out of cardboard with the kids. We even got to swim in the river where us Arizonians stool out like a sore thumb. Bobbing up and down trying to avoid the cold waters, as if we could. When we had enough, the warm sun dried us as we skipped rocks until a black lab started springing into the water each time to receive the rock and bring it back. The owners didn’t like this. We ended off our day on the coast searching tide pools for sea creatures as the sun dipped below the ocean.
Sometimes it’s hard to see the true impact we have on people or who we have impacted. Maybe at times its just to share moments and time with them. Making the people we encounter welcomed and loved. But on the beach that night, Jordin, who is 10, created a large message in the sand that really encouraged me. A seemingly small guesture spoke greatly. “I Hope Zac Walberer Comes Again”. It was so fun getting to play with and love on those kids.
Further up the coast we had other opportunities to spread our message and experience Oregon. We even got the chance to be interviewed for the Curry County Reporter in Gold Beach. Thanks Mike! Our hosts in Port Orford took us to the Curry Countyn Fair where we had a lot of fun people watching and meeting some interesting individuals. As I tried to befriend a mute ninja, Paul got the chance to play
a rhythm instrumet with a Scottish band. To top off the evening, back at the house, we had taquitos made from bear. Tastes like… well… bear.