Thursday, June 30, 2011

Scare Tactics

Post by Tony Wilcox:

Part of the fun we had on the Race Across America involved COUNTLESS practical jokes. Necessities due to the monotonous routine of RIDING, EATING, SLEEPING?, RIDING, EATING, SLEEPING?, ETC. Once in a while, a fellow teammate or crew member needs a good scare or prank.  It's just the way we roll.

So here are just a few of the pranks that were carried out during the race...


So it's early one morning during the rider rotation, maybe 2:30 or 3:00 a.m.  In the car are myself (Tony Wilcox), Dave Roadruck, Doug Richards and Bob Roach.  It's cold outside and we're all tired and its quiet while we wait for the rider to come in so we can make a transition.  So I ask Bob (he's 25+ years with El Monte PD), "So have you ever fired your gun in the line of duty?" 

"Actually, I have.  It was the most dramatic, intense night of my life. It changed me forever."

At this point, he has our COMPLETE attention and the car is deathly silent as he asks, "So, do you want to hear about it?"

"Heck yes!" we reply, almost all in unison.

Bob uses his most deadpan, "ghost story" tone to his tale..."It was a very dark night."

Now he has TOTALLY sucked us into his trap.  "My partner and I were on a domestic dispute call.  We pulled up to the house out on this lonely, dark road and my partner gets out of the car.  As soon as he closes the car door behind him, this huge pitbull comes charging at him.  So I jump out of the car, pull my weapon and I shot the dog."

The car is absolutely silent for a moment and we're all just staring at him and I ask...

"So that's it?  You shot the dog?"

"Yep.  I shot the dog.  That was the only time I've ever had to fire my weapon."

"Booooooooo!  That story sucks!  We were waiting for the intense, bloody gunfight!  We thought you had to shoot a BAD GUY, not a DOG!  Please!"

So the joke the rest of that shift was, "It was a VERY DARK NIGHT..."  At least BOB thought it was funny - we didn't.


Because of the heavy doses of sleep deprivation, everyone pretty much learned how to grab a quick catnap in the back seat for 10 or 15 minutes after the first few days, but this turned out to be pretty dangerous, especially at night.

Crew member Brandon Duggan fell asleep in the back of the follow car early one morning (3 or 4 am) with his headphones on.  We were out in the middle of nowhere on some dark road and decided it would be a great place to scare the heck out of him.  So the video cameras started rolling and we rolled down all the windows in the car and circled around him.  On the count of three, three riders and two crew members started screaming at the top of our lungs.  The look of terror on Duggan's face lasted for almost 10 seconds while he tried to process what was happening to him as he was coming out of a deep REM sleep.  Classic scare tactic!  He didn't fall asleep again the rest of his shift!

A similar scare happened to Craig Roach when he fell asleep in the back of the rider shuttle late one night.  Teammates Scott Francis and Tony Wilcox couldn't resist the temptation to take advantage of young Craig (16 years old).  Craig had brought a black ski mask on the trip which we "borrowed" for our gag.  I (Tony) wore the mask while Scott videod the event with his iPhone.  I stuck my masked face right in Craig's face and both Scott and I started screaming and banging on empty water jugs.  Craig went through the same terrified awakening and took several seconds to figure out what was happening to him as Duggan did.  Another one bites the dust!  The BAD news?  Scott FORGOT to push the RECORD button on his iPhone!!!!  Arrrrggghhhh!

I took advantage of this same scare tactic and used it to my own advantage one afternoon.  Knowing my buddy Bob Roach is a sucker for a video moment, I set him up with the help of team Captain, Doug Richards.  Bob was outside the rider shuttle and I was in the front passenger seat, Doug in the back alone.  I told Doug, "Hey, tell Bob I'm snoring and have him get the video camera on me.  I'm going to scare him."  With Doug enlisted in my cause, I leaned back in the seat, pulled my hat over my face and feigned a deep sleep with loud snoring.  Doug tells Bob, "Hey, get the video camera!  Tony is snoring!"  Bob takes the bait and gets his camera out and puts it right up near my face, recording my snoring.  He's snickering to himself, thinking he's getting some great footage when out of the blue I go..."BOOOOOOO!!" right into the camera and Bob's face!  He jumped backwards and almost dropped the camera I scared him so bad!  Score another one for me!


But probably the BEST scare of all was done TO ME.  It was a very dark, really!  It was!  And I was riding alone about 2 miles outside of the famed Gettysburg battlefield.  The only sounds were that of my bike rolling along the asphalt and the early morning crickets at about 3 a.m.  I was thinking about all of the dead soldiers up ahead in Gettysburg, the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Bigfoot, etc.  It was a pretty scary vibe.  On my right, I was approaching an old, dark cemetary just off the roadside.  As I got even with the cemetary, all of the sudden, four "GHOULS" came running out from behind the tombstones along the road and started screaming at me!  It almost scared me right off the bike and the burst of adrenaline shot me forward at breakneck speed!  WOW!  What a scare!  My fellow teammates win the prize for the best scare of the RAAM in my book.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Life Lessons from The RAAM

7 days, 18 hours, 16 minutes. 2989.5 miles from Oceanside, CA to Annapolis, MD. Approximately 317845 collective calories burned (we won’t go into the amount of calories consumed!). 3 flat tires (1 on the Yukon, two on the motor homes). Countless practical jokes. Almost $95,000 raised for Special Education. These are the numbers of Team Learning4Life’s epic completion of the Race Across America. 

But this method of quantifying our experience is almost completely incapable of really capturing what happened on the road, to our bodies and most importantly, in our hearts. For me (Tony Wilcox), it was such a momentous, life-changing experience that words seem incapable of adequately explaining it. Maybe there’s a song to be written here!

I hope more of us will contribute to this blog for many days to come now that the race is over as we process our experience and try to put our thoughts and feelings into words. During the long, lonely hours on the bike in an event like this, you have time to process, pray, listen…and then process some more. And that is what I did.

The Lord taught us all many lessons during this past week. It was amazing how he would orchestrate a certain situation that would cause each one of us, riders and crew, to be challenged to the point that we were tested as human beings – each of us in a different way based on what HE wanted us to learn or experience. His hand was so evident that many times it was simply overwhelming and humbling. I don’t feel like I will be able to adequately explain, but I’ll do my best. I will probably work through several of these lessons over time and write about them in the blog over the 

coming days and weeks, so keep checking back. Here's my first installment...


“Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” - Ecclesiastes 4:12

One of the quickest ways to experience spiritual attack is to attempt something honorable for God like Team Learning4Life is doing. I think one of the best lessons I saw lived out during the RAAM was in regard to our enemy, the devil, and how he opposes such efforts. Not far into our race, it became very apparent that we were participants in a great spiritual battle, a mighty war. We were all engaged in an honorable undertaking that would benefit our Christian school and the children that God loves there. The battlefield was the race course across the United States and the enemy was out in force to try and stop us.

A common tactic that the enemy used against us was to launch a single attack on one of us by feeding lies into a situation to get that rider to believe that the team was somehow against him, not looking out for his best interest or not watching his back. He sought to divide our team like this several times. Feed a lie into a situation where men are fatigued, sleep deprived, hungry and in unfamiliar geography and division can be achieved pretty quickly – even to the point that some of us would want to scrap the entire effort and just go home.

We had one situation where a rider was going out from a transition and specifically told the team, “I only want to do about three miles and if there is any steep climbing, get me out before that.” He was fatigued from being on his second 6-hour shift and we had just been through a particularly hilly area with a lot of steep climbs. He rode off ahead of the shuttle vehicle. Once the team had loaded the previous rider’s bike and got moving in the shuttle again, two of the riders announced that they needed to go to the bathroom (this happens A LOT because we are constantly burning calories on the bike, refueling and rehydrating) so they all agreed to stop at a McDonald’s to do their business quickly and then
 get back on the road to relieve the rider that was out on the road. While the two were in the bathroom, one rider remained in the car (probably sleeping) and the other went in and ordered a bunch of egg mcmuffins for the entire team in the rotation. The two racers emerged from the bathroom within a just a few minutes, but the food wasn’t ready. The staff at this McDonald’s was extremely unorganized and just plain slow. It took about 10 minutes to finally get the food and get back into the shuttle. By the time the team caught up with the rider on the road, he was at the TOP of a LONG, STEEP climb and about 3.5 miles out from where he started. As you can imagine, he was VERY FRUSTRATED. No, strike that…he was PISSED! 

The rider expressed his frustration and tried to be diplomatic, but you have to remember…these are guys that are all tired, ragged and hungry “A” type personalities. The expression of his frustration ended with him slamming his helmet against the Yukon and tempers flaring on behalf of several of the riders in response to his outburst.

“I told you guys I only wanted three miles and less if there was a steep climb!”

“We couldn’t help it. The food took longer than we expected and these guys had to go to the bathroom!”

“So I’m out on the road climbing the hill and you guys are making a McDonald’s run?! You guys abandoned me and I’m dying out here!”

“Look, you need to calm down! We didn’t do it on purpose. We’re sorry!”

And so it went, for about another 20 miles. Tense, tough words between teammates that culminated with one rider relenting in pure frustration, “I don’t deserve to be treated like this! If there was a way to just go home right now, I’d get in the car and start driving!”

Wow. It wasn’t until that moment that one of us realized the gravity of the situation and called everyone together to pray. Others at home had already been praying because one of the riders had sent a text message back to the crew that things weren’t going well out on the road. So all of these angry, frustrated men gathered in a circle, allowed humility to reign and we prayed. We prayed AGAINST the enemy, his subjects, their works and effects. We prayed AGAINST doubt, fear, anger, anxiety, pride and selfishness. We prayed FOR unity, peace, forgiveness, understanding and love.

What happened over the next few miles was simply miraculous. God’s grace was showered upon the team, humility was embraced and forgiveness reigned amongst the 5 men on that rotation. You would have had to be there to fully understand what happened, but it was amazing. Within 20 or 30 minutes, there was a beautiful spirit of camaraderie, grace and unity back amongst us, even up ahead amongst the other riders and the crew. Miraculous.A similar event happened to me when I was riding somewhere out in Indiana or Illinois, I can’t really remember where. I had told the guys that I felt like I was going to have to go to the bathroom (I think there is a pattern developing here). Think about it for a minute: there aren’t ALWAYS bathrooms available out on the open road! I thought I was feeling well enough to make it through the next 7 mile leg, so I started riding and the shuttle drove to wait for me 7 miles ahead.

At about mile 3, I was having a serious problem. I told the navigator in the “follow vehicle” (this is the vehicle that drives very slowly behind the rider to protect them from traffic and to navigate the route) to call up to the team ahead and tell them to take me out at 4 or 5 miles because I was in distress. I could barely move the bike 5 mph and was suffering tremendous discomfort. I felt miserable and was in serious trouble out in the middle of nowhere. They made the call, but somehow the message wasn’t communicated with enough urgency, passion or seriousness to the team. They responded by saying something to the effect of “Tell him to hold it. We’re too far up the road and there’s nowhere to do a good transition between here and there.”

That was the WRONG answer. It set off a chain of lies I started believing and telling myself like…

“This isn’t a team. This is a group of individual cowboys.”

“They don’t have my back.”

“They don’t care about me.”

“I don’t need them.”

"They are LAZY and SELFISH!"

“Screw them! I’ll just ride the rest of the way to Annapolis by myself!”

I ended up making it to a gas station with a restroom at mile 5 just in time and did my business. When I got back on the bike, I rode hard, fast and ANGRILY to the transition at mile 7 and just blew right by them without a word. I rode another 3 miles before I had cooled off enough to even be in their presence. They had leap-frogged me ahead and so I decided I better stop to do the transition. I got back in the shuttle and rode in silence, not speaking with any of them for the next half hour or so. With the things I was thinking and wanting to say, I decided it was better to just keep my mouth shut until I could sort through my feelings. They had no idea what was wrong.

I prayed for God's wisdom and words and peace before I finally was able to talk to a couple of the guys and expressed my feelings as delicately as I could. Apologies were made, forgiveness was asked for and given. Relationships were reconciled, but not without some banged up feelings and tough, honest talk.

 I saw through both of these examples and many others why the Lord admonished us to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” and how important this is in keeping relationships strong and intact. By holding onto Christ’s example of humility, grace and forgiveness, each time we encountered a situation like this, we were able to solve it, STAY UNITED AS A TEAM and move forward. Because we were unified we were not able to be broken by the enemy and we each learned an important lesson about how we rely on each other in a race like this and in life. Truly, a cord of three strands cannot be broken…and a cord of 5 strands is even better.

This is just ONE of MANY lessons learned during the course of our 7 and ½ days in the RAAM. I am SO GLAD I chose to participate and SO THANKFUL for the wonders that God revealed to us all during this time. He made me a better person, a better husband, a better father, a better Christ-follower and a better man through this amazing event. He deepened and forged friendships with other men (and women) that I will value until my dying day. May HE receive the glory for what we have accomplished and may HIS name be praised forever.

Tony Wilcox
Team Learning4Life RACER
Proud 2011 Race Across America FINISHER

Saturday, June 25, 2011

"Man oh man you're my best friend I'll scream it to the nothingness,
There ain't nothin' that I need...

Moats and boats and waterfalls, alleyways, and pay-phone calls,
I've been everywhere with you, that's true

Home, let me come home
Home is wherever I'm with you."

It's Lauren again!
With a light breeze carrying us through Indiana and Ohio, Jim said it best, "This is what true America is to me."
Small towns. Front porches. Green fields. Curb-side cheers. Lightening bugs.
It's too idyllic for words. Some of the riders even ask for more miles before switching out because going through here is so nice. 

Smiles from Doug and Scott.

Always grins from Bob.

Dr. Dave riding into the moonlight.

Tony Coulson enjoys a nice dinner of "RAAM Surprise" and soft serve ice cream.  

Fireflies in a water bottle.

My new pet!! She's nicer and cuddlier than she looks, promise!

Notes for today:
Celeste and I played a trick on Carl
We battled Brazilians for leads
Rolling hills, red barns, and rendezvous with deer
Country so scenic and towns so quaint The Music Man could have been filmed anywhere.
I got the water turned off on me during a shower
Brandon Duggan turns 20 at midnight! 

Moms, kids, wives and family have started the flights over (they've taken the easy route), which gives me hope that we actually might finish this crazy adventure.

We've had our share of ups and downs, but this little family is not stopping. With 600 some odd miles to go, Annapolis better be ready. 

Craig rides in to a new transition.
Our team has made a home on the road. 
Taking our turns, playing tricks, finding ticks, solving differences... it's amazing to see our team turn from roaming vagabonds to a community seeking adventure together. 

Home is wherever I'm with you. 

Lyrics: Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Home

Friday, June 24, 2011

Illinois, Indiana & Ohio

     Yesterday we crossed the Mississippi River and entered the state of Illinois.  As we drove past our team on the bridge they were all smiles.  They were actually really surprised to see us.  We had spoken on the phone and the RV's were quite a bit behind them, so we didn't expect to see them.  We just "happened" to be crossing the bridge at the same time (God is good)!!!  We were all excited to watch them make the crossing together.  Go Team Learning 4 Life.....they are the endurance troopers!  You would be so proud of them!

When we arrived at our exchange, the cooks and crew began to prepare for our riders to arrive.  We noticed that our 3 sleeping riders had disappeared.........hmmmmmm where could they have gone?  Lauren and I went to investigate because dinner was almost ready.  I was not surprised to find them hiding in a gas station parking lot slamming two large pizzas down.  Bob looked very guilty.  Apparently they weren't interested in our healthy salmon burgers.  I guess that is what happens when you are riding 24-7......:-).  We would all agree that they deserved a hearty dinner.  Notice the look on Carl's face, he is quite proud of himself.  They were actually all quite proud that they were able to sneak away without detection.  Boys will be boys no matter their age.

     So, Kansas likes to use old cars as decorative adornments for the front yard and Indiana prefers saving their old tractors and displaying them with pride.  Indiana is more beautiful than I could have ever imagined!  Green and lush.  

     We just had our first sprinkles.  We have been incredibly blessed with great weather.  It was obviously cold over the rockies, but it never got below freezing and we have not hit temperatures over 100.  In the 2008 RAAM, our guys experienced temperatures ranging from 20-120 degrees.  God has been merciful to us!

     We have about 700 miles to go.  Whenever anyone's (especially the riders)  sleep cycle comes up, we are always ready to fall asleep.  It doesn't matter how bumpy the motorhomes get, we hardly even notice.  
     We will enter Ohio in the next few hours. 
     Annapolis here we come! We are all anxious to experience a soft bed (that isn't moving) and a hot shower!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Missouri welcomes us with lightning..........

      Missouri welcomes us with lightning, but the kind of lightning that doesn't affect our cyclists........Lightning Bugs.  We had so much fun last night running around a park chasing the lightning bugs.  We felt like we had walked into the Pirates of Caribbean.  Even our cook, Elizabeth couldn't resist God's beautiful handiwork!  It was a magical evening.
Her smile says it all!
Robby showing off his bottle full of
lightning bugs

      Last night was a long night for our boys and drivers.  They were TIRED!!!!  For me (Celeste) last night was the first night that my sleep cycle was actually in the evening.  That was so nice.  I awoke with a start this morning due to another team screaming and exchanging words with each other.  Things can really get intense out here when people aren't sleeping and making careless mistakes.

    We made a quick stop at the Capitol, where the boys took a dip in the fountain........the cold water felt good on their sore legs.

Crossing the Missouri 

Today was beautiful through the hills of Missouri.  We followed the Lewis and Clark Trail.  The boys were loving the scenery and the tail wind.  Scott at one point got out of the shuttle and rode along side Bob, he apparently just wanted to ride and not miss anything.

     On my Facebook today I received an encouragement from our Special Education teacher at Redlands Christian School.  She wanted to remind us of some memories and why we want to continue a special education program at ACA:

     2006 - Students from Special Education attend an all school Chapel - Christ's body was complete!
                Everyday students enjoy lunch and activities with their same age peers.
     2007 - First student from the Special Education Center attended our Middle School Retreat.
     2008 - First student from Special Education to travel to Washington D.C. with his class.  That spring, the same student was invited by his peers to attend the Magic Mountain trip.  
                 June of 2008, while Team Learning 4 Life was headed for RAAM, the first graduate received his diploma with a standing ovation, there wasn't a dry eye in the crowd.  
     2008 - Brenna Richards played on the basketball team and while her team guarded the players, she shot and she scored!!!  
     2007 - our superhero came to our school.  In 2009, when he underwent transplant surgery the entire school rallied and raised funds for our superhero and his family.  In 1 Corinthians, Paul talks about the body of Christ and how each part is indispensable, RCS is living out his word but none of this would be possible without 8 determined riders to carry out his plan.  
     I know the riders and crew are tired, so I wanted to share a few of the memories from RCS!  Thank you fo planting the seed so in the fall of 2011 new memories will be made at ACA!  

Love, Mrs. Slayman