“One day I will not be able to (blank), but today will not be that day” – Author unknown. This was a quote that was repeated by a cancer survivor, struggling everyday to find the will to live. Everyday she filled in the blank with a different word or phrase, the challenge of that day. One day she was unable to get out of her hospital bed, legs numb from days of being bounded to her bed. She filled in the blank, “One day I will not be able to walk, but today will not be that day”. Using every ounce of strength, she was determined not to make that day the day she would cease walking. In other times of despair, she would use the quote to take nothing for granted. “One day I will not be able to hug my daughter, but today will not be that day”, thus cherishing every moment spent with her daughter.
September 11, 2007, the day I understood the meaning of this quote. Driving home on an autumn evening in Elk Grove, CA exhausted from a grueling training session, all I could think about was getting into a hot shower. As I turned the corner onto my street, I saw my garage door open between the golden orange leaves of the tree in my front yard. As I passed the uniformity of my suburb street, with redwood trees in every yard, I noticed a figure in the garage. I made out the shadowed figure as my dad’s, by the pep in his step when he walked, caused by a certain joy he possessed about life. He was working on organizing the garage for it seemed like the hundredth time, due to abundant supply of sporting equipment we had. This time he was searching for old cleats we had worn in previous years, to hand down to a friend’s son, whom had never played baseball before. As determined as he was, it was an impossible task, to search through the unorganized, yet neatly stacked, green storage totes, three racks high. As I pull into the driveway, he stops to welcome me home. I open my car door and verbally greet my father, “Hey dad, what are you doing?” “Hey son, I’m looking for your guys’ old cleats. Have you seen them anywhere?” I let out a chuckle, for I knew how big of a challenge it was to locate anything in my garage. “No, but I’ll help you look real quick.” I struggle to lift myself from my leather seat, my drenched shirt stuck to the seat, peels off with the sound of Velcro. I spent all of ten minutes searching for the cleats with him before he looks over with a concerned look on his face, sweat running down his round face originating from his thick moustache, fogging up his glasses, begging me to take a shower. “Son, you stink.” As a kid, my father would always tease me and my younger brother when we notated that there was a foul odor with a smile and this response, “Maybe it’s your upper lip.” At that moment, I recalled the phrase in my head, but didn’t utter it, for my sense of humor had evolved over the years since being five years old. I laughed in remembrance of that phrase and because it was true, I did stink. I headed inside to let the hot shower water massage my body.
After an abnormally short shower, I dried off and headed to the living room. I remember thinking that it was a brief shower, for something was on my mind but I couldn’t pin point it. I had to get out of the shower. As I enter my living room, I see my mother and father sitting side by side, on a brand new brown leather couch, which replaced an old red, green and blue plad couch, with the yellow memory foam visible in multiple areas. This was an odd occurrence for two reasons: One, my father never sat down on the couch, for he was always doing something to better the household, his family or his business. And two, although happily married, after 20 years of marriage, it was a rarity to see my parents sitting together. At that very moment, I witnessed my father pass away of a sudden cardiac arrest. Forty-seven years old and ten pounds under the average weight for his age. Although he was a slender man, he certainly enjoyed life and all it had to offer, including the food and beverages. The next day, I remembered the quote of the cancer survivor, but it had changed for me. “One day I will not be able to search through the organized rubble in my garage with my father, and today is that day.”
This is what is motivating me everyday of my life, and the decisions I make within those days. And it is for my father, for whom I ride for. Initially, I was going to ride for the American Heart Association, but then started thinking. My father’s health problems didn’t start, but ended, with an unhealthy heart. They started for as long as he could recall, with a poor diet and not exercising regularly. And riding my bicycle for ways to improve an unhealthy heart would be a temporary solution to the problem at hand, unhealthy lifestyles. Thus, I will be riding 11,000 miles, to over 20 major cities, to raise awareness on childhood obesity, educate parents on how to set the standards on leading healthy lifestyles to avoid health issues later in life, and motivate kids to get out and actively chase their dreams. And as demonstrated by my father, we understand that obesity is not an unhealthy size, but an unhealthy lifestyle.
Growing up in Elk Grove, CA, I was privileged to have the sporting facilities and community involvement to play on an athletic team year around. I played baseball, football and basketball, with baseball being my favorite sport. My involvement on these teams, directly influence the way I led my lifestyle, and the development of the person I have become. Across America for Childhood Obesity has three focal points, in which I will be actively fulfilling every mile of my 11,000 mile roundtrip. Firstly, to create these same athletic opportunities and extend them to the younger generation within the inner-city communities, where space, resources and participation are major challenges. Through these organized physical activity outlets, the community will be able to set the example of leading a healthy lifestyle. Secondly, to reach out to youth through any outlet possible, speaking at assemblies, schools, sporting events, to motivate, encourage and demonstrate to the youth that anything is possible. Last year, I was honored when invited to speak at my high school, Laguna Creek, on motivating the students to perform to their best ability on a California standardized test. It was through this speech, when I discovered my passion for reaching out to the youth of my community. Since then, I have been a frequent speaker at local elementary and middle schools, and look forward to reaching out to the schools throughout our great nation. And lastly, Across America for Childhood Obesity will actively support, promote, organize events and volunteer at locally based organizations with common goals, creating lifelong partnerships, further projecting our message on a larger scale.
You have to understand, I am not a professional bicyclist. I haven’t trained for years to get my legs into the conditioning necessary to caring me through this endeavor without complications. I will get tired, I will get injured, and I will come across days where the last thing I want to do is sit on my bike, let alone ride a hundred miles to my next checkpoint. But when I am unable to lift my legs, that is when my heart will do the pedaling. The most frequent phrase running through my campaign, Across America for Childhood Obesity, is “One (blank) at a time.” Whenever I feel overwhelmed by any obstacle, I take a step back and break down the obstacle to the simplest form. Think about your biggest challenge of the day and follow me through the paragraph. In the near future, the biggest challenge I face is an 11,000 mile bicycle ride, roundtrip through the United States of America, to over twenty major cities. Sounds impossible, but I am not going to be doing it all at once. If you break it down, that’s twenty-one stages from city to city averaging five hundred and twenty-three point eight miles a stage. Doesn’t sound as impossible as before, but still highly unobtainable. Simplify even further, 11,000 stages of one mile, riding one mile at a time. Even further, to the simplest form, and we arrive to “One pedal at a time”. There it is. It is only a series of one pedal after one pedal and you don’t need to accomplish anything more than one pedal. For I am not fighting one big battle, of an 11,000 mile bicycle ride, but many small, highly obtainable battles of a single pedal. And when you add up all of those little victories, before you know it I will be in New York City, Atlanta, Galveston, and ultimately returning to my hometown of Elk Grove, CA. And I am telling you right now, whether you believe or not, I do, if you can ride a bicycle and win the battle of one pedal, you can ride 11,000 miles. True story. And that is what I want the youth of our great nation to understand. Anything in life that may seem impossible, isn’t.
I will be departing Elk Grove, CA, initiating a ten month roundtrip to accomplish the mission of Across America for Childhood Obesity. I will ride through the northern states during the summer, down the east coast through the fall, and returning to California through the southern states in the winter. Every week or two, I will reach a check point with a family member or friend, where I will pick up supplies, nutritional supplements, and bicycle parts shipped to me by my local sponsor Kinetic Cycles, here in Elk Grove, CA. I will stay in contact via my Facebook page (Teddy Herrera), my Facebook fan page (Across America for Childhood Obesity), my Twitter account (@onepedalatatime), my blog (acrossamericaforchildhoodobesity.wordpress.com), email (firstname.lastname@example.org), mobile phone (916-479-3865) and video blogs posted on YouTube. I will be relying on partnered bicycle clubs and bicycle shops in each community to map out the best routes to my next destination. Although I drafted an itinerary of arrival dates, I will have a better idea of my estimated time of arrival as I near your community, and will have an exact date of arrival a month in advance.
The days are counting down and the training sessions are becoming more strenuous with each day. With the tremendous support from friends and family, I will stroke my first pedal on Saturday, June 5th, winning the first battle of many to come. I am excited to reach out to youth and touch as many lives as possible on my journey. As well as see our vast country along side my father in my side car, invisible side car of course. I thank you for your support, and words of encouragement. And I look forward to my arrival into your community, making an impact on how our youth lead their lives. “One day I will not be able to make a difference, but today will not be that day!”