My birth father lives in Annapolis Maryland.

Yes- retired navy- as is most of his family.

Due to how close Maryland is to DC, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Maine, Every time I have an engagement back east I fly into Baltimore.

This way I can spend a few days before or a few days after with my dad and extended family.

Over the last 15 years that I’ve known him- these have become my most cherished trips (and I’ve been to dozens of countries!)

Coming back east is different somehow.

This is where my dad took me downtown and showed me the building....where I was conceived.

Just an average building for the passerby.

But a building of significance for me. It is where I physically came into existence.

He took me around to each of his siblings homes, introducing aunts, uncles and cousins to me. His friends became my friends. His parents became my grandparents. The list goes on with the expansion of my family lines. My DNA.

My children came with me on various trips. Especially as they became teenagers and young adults.

My daughter participated in plebe week as she explored going to the Navy Academy.

My son chose to live out here with my dad from age 22-23 and worked at the midship store.

Multiple trips, events and connections of the heart have taken place throughout all these years.

I’ve learned deep historical facts about my family. I’ve learned deep historical facts about Annapolis.

Through it all- I gained a deep appreciation for the people, lives and history that took place for the decades prior to my discovery of my roots.

One particular trip stands out however. I enjoy cycling. Knowing this, my dad arranged for his 2 bikes, circa 1960, to get tuned up and ready for riding on one of my trips East with my daughter and her son.

For the first ride- my daughter stayed at home while I went with Tom- one of my dads friends, down the trail that took you out to BWI.

Tom picked me and the bike up and drove us over to a trailhead- he explained that we were picking up a couple adults he goes riding with once a week. These young men live in a group home for Down’s syndrome. They adore Tom. They love biking. They just can’t bike unless they are with a responsible adult. Hence Tom (and now I).

It was a joyous ride. Slow and cautious pedaling with a lot of repetitive conversation, but joyous. I loved seeing the enthusiasm for biking light up their faces- and I loved even more the strong banter between Tom and the boys as they cajoled each other at the stops and if someone got going too fast (again- it was painfully slow due to the boys exercising extreme caution)!!

The next day- itching to get a good “flow” ride in- my daughter and I talked Grampa into watching his great grandson during nap time so she and I could go on a ride.

For this ride- we started from the house so we didn’t have to load up the bikes. We pedaled down Taylor avenue and passed the Navy Academy quickly approaching the Severn River bridge.

And boy was it daunting. It looked like a pretty steep ascent and both my daughter and I looked at each other with that questionable gaze of DOUBT “is this real?” “Does she really expect me to be able to do this?” (Its got a pretty steep looking ascent) While simultaneously expressing a hint of CHALLENGE in the gaze. This challenge came across more as...”if she says she can do this- I’m gonna beat her to the top” and “game on”!

Before either of us could confirm what the other was about to say/do- before one of us even had a chance to disembark from the bike to discuss things, before any doubt could even get voiced, I belted out “race you to the top” while my daughter interjected “don’t hesitate to walk if you can’t make it- I’ll wait for ya”.

We both knew in that instant the challenge was ON.

We pedaled. Furiously. Now remember- our bikes are a good half century old. This was NOT easy climbing. There wasn’t an actual down or up shift ability (broken gears) so we were literally pedaling old school style.

Did I mention it was July?

And there was massive humidity?

And the saddles were (simply put) painful and awful?

We had a lot going against us.

But we also had a lot going WITHIN US.

We had grit.

We had determination.

We had perseverance.


I’ll be the first to admit- it was fairly tough. Not Lotoja tough (a 206 mile one day ride with 3 ascents) but all things considered- it was break-a-sweat-huffing-puffing-I’m gonna-die- tough.

We reached the peak and hopped off to assess ourselves and the damage it felt we had inflicted upon ourselves. In spite of the sweat and heat- we both smiled and high-fived ourselves. “That was brutal!” We both exclaimed.

We took a swig of warm water and repositioned our now Saddle sore bums on the bike and began our descent.

That’s where the exhilaration comes in—-the descent. There is just nothing that compares to the smooth acceleration/wind in the face speed that hits the face, arms and legs after a strenuous climb. Our arms quickly raised in the victory V above our heads for that brief insane “I can ride with no hands” moment. I sped ahead and whipped out my phone and snapped a couple quick (blurry!) shots.

Looking back- and having taken hundreds of rides now- I am keenly aware that the BEST descents always follow the most difficult ascents. And never the other way around.

It’s about the challenge. It’s about the energy and fervor that goes into that challenge.

And dare I say the HEART?

If we don’t have heart/passion when we’re pursuing the challenge- well- let’s just say then that the descent is pretty anticlimactic also. The heart happens in both the challenge AND the win.

Otherwise the challenge is just a frustrating mess. And the win is simply empty.

What are we challenged with in our day to day lives?

How are we held back from enjoying the ‘descent’ or true exhilaration of a good win?