Well, that was fun.

Tomorrow, for the first time in 31 days, I'll get up in the morning and instead of riding my motorcycle, I'll get behind the wheel of my Ford Escape. Since I left home July 17 headed for Key West, I put just short of 12,000 miles on the Road King, plus 500 miles or so on a rented BMW. 10,202 of those miles meant something (the rest were just for fun), and the bike's getting a little TLC at the shop.

I didn't get much of a post-ride break: After the Welcome Home Friday night, I got up Saturday and rode back to Jacksonville - it was very different riding alone down the highway, knowing that if anything went sideways I'd have to call a stranger, instead of knowing that a brother would let his own bike fall over if I needed help. Sunday, I slept in, and Monday morning was among the first people in the office.

I'm kind of a Big Deal there - or at least it seems that way. Nearly every person greets me with, "How was the ride?" I have a short answer: "It was everything I hoped, and not as bad as I feared." Sometimes, the answer is just, "It was awesome."

How do you describe 22 days on the road with people who, just a couple of years ago, I'd never shared a meal with? What do you say about 5th-grade history lessons and 9th-grade geology and 11th-grade civics classes brought to life by fields of white stones, towering mountains, and the changing dialects of  the locals you meet riding across two countries? Eh?

Unless you've ridden in blinding rain or dense fog, I can't tell you what it feels like to see "Partly cloudy, high 70*" in the daily forecast. Unless you've pushed yourself physically and ridden (or worked) through breakfast and lunch, I can't describe how wonderful a cold Bud Light and a hot slice of pizza can be.

When I saw the video Friday night, it hit home in a brand new way. How can I tell people what the Ride means if they've never had to worry about the ceiling collapsing while they cook, or think about where they put the pot of spaghetti, because of the huge crack in the countertop? How can any of us who were blessed with stable, loving homes, understand the obstacles these young men and women face?

So, how was the ride? It was amazing, but not (only) because of the views, and the experience, and the brotherhood of the road. It was something we can all be proud of because generous people gave $135,000 to help kids most of them we'll never meet. Because the standing room only crowd in Columbus Friday night got to see not just what the Ride looked like on the big screen, but who the Ride was for, and what a difference their donations will make in the life of a single child - or a dozen, or a hundred children.

Thank you to all the supporters, employers, family members, and friends who pitched in to help make a difference. And especially THANK YOU Mama Cat Karen, for keeping us on track, for praying for us, and for working yourself silly handling all the details so we could just ride.

Was it worth it? Hell, yes. Would I do it again? Probably not. But call me in a couple of months and we can talk.

With love and respect,

James Leatherwood

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