RAAM...the mention of this great event brings back a flood of memories--and as time moves on, the memories are all good and the few disappoints are all but forgotten. The race has been one of honor for me. It's been an honor to do my best with good teammates and a great crew and even better competitors. I've been so lucky to have seen a view of America by bike and race van that few people ever experience. I've met some of the best people in the world. I've seen these people, team and crew, do things that they NEVER thought they could accomplish. It has brought the best, and sometimes the worst, out in people, yet in the end, just about everyone I've seen has walked away from the Race Across America a better person for their efforts and hard work. Here are some of the good memories that I can still see, feel, hear, and
touch with my spirit...

Like the memorable battle between the Kern Wheelmen and Team Brazil in the 1995 RAAM. What an effort of garra! Both teams fighting on the uphill grade going into Prescott, Arizona on the first night. Sid Sr., Brazil's team manager, screaming encouragement as he was hanging out of the window of the crazy motorhome. We Gringos could not believe those screaming Brazilians! They were so involved in the race and emotions of what was going on, but we learned to love them by the end. Myself attacking into the blind corners peril knowing that my van driver would be there right before the blackness of the night plunged me off the road into the canyon below--I enjoy remembering this kind of confidence and control. I learned a great deal about respect in 1995--respect for my crew and my competitors of honor from Brazil.

In 1996, the memories are of pain...but it's all good. We were chasing Action Sports in Oklahoma on the third day I think...Action was 15 minutes ahead...PacifiCare was racing up behind us only five minutes back--we were fighting for our lives. Strategically, we knew that if we were overtaken by the Texans, it would hurt our spirits and shift our focus from racing for the lead and victory to just getting out of third place. Big Joe Petersen and John Frey were on their long rest breaks and could not be reached by the radios or phones--only myself and teammate Jim Warsa were left to fight off the four behind. The pain was miserable. We were taking 15 minute pulls at max effort. We held them to the five minute gap for what must have been over one hour before the other guys returned. Three days of racing our hearts out and only 15 minutes separated the top three teams; I will never forget that cherished memory of competition.

 


Another 96 memory is the Snider's van with bike shop owner Jim Snider and ace mechanic Jay Hager--those guys always working, driving, and working some more. Jay never even had time to change his clothes all week! I don't think anyone could understand that except those who have been there--the team race truly moves that fast.

You don't even have time to go the bathroom and the simplest "non race" task can seem ominous because you are so focused on things that only apply to the race. I still enjoy the memories of Savannah, Georgia. The hot and humid southern air...the sounds of the street celebrations and tourists...the cheering crew and team supporters waiting...the feeling of total exhaustion and relief that it was over and yet the realization that the finish line was not the best moment of the race. The best moments were out on the course--fighting with the pain, racing in weather designed in the pits of hell itself reaching 115 degrees...the frustrations on the road and the adjustments in strategy to get us to Savannah--those are the best parts of the race I think.

Marc Jones
Ron pedals some tension away during RAAM 1997.
Ron and Alicia Jones

And then there is 1997 and Team Coke Brazil--what an event in my life. We worked on this team for over one year. We did not win. I will not lie; third place was a disappointment for all of us on the American crew and Brazilians alike; however, this effort was one I will cherish forever. Many of the Brazil crew were incredible. Danny from PedalPower--the bike mechanic who never stopped working. Iggy the photographer was everywhere at the right time and always knew what to do with the utmost of control and rationale. Marcos Paulo, the trainer and RV driver who communicated with me through emotions of garra and not words. I've never had a better understanding with a person that I could not speak words with than Marcos Paulo; he is a good man. I remember my friend and team member João Paulo, a man of financial means and social status, enjoying the peace of race simplicity without big city worries--he was just one of the guys and had to do whatever it took to get us to Savannah. JP had good garra. My memory of him is that he tried his best and that's all a good man can do in my opinion although he was a crazy driver by the time we got to Tennessee! The horrific mosquito invasion during the night in Tennessee--oh my God! The air conditioning was broken in my van, Bob our massage therapist was hiding in the back under a blanket, and I was driving 80 MPH trying to blow the killer mosquitos out of the van. My brother Marc--Danny called him "McGyver" because he had so many of the special tools...always working with what we love, that thing the RAAM family calls "the fever!" Ahhh... "the fever" ...RAAM fever is like no other. So what is this thing people call the fever? It's working with high intensity doing things that you could never do in "normal" life--but who said RAAM was normal. It's racing down a mountainside at 40-60 MPH in the dark with no fear. It's working for 76 hours straight with no sleep like I did in the 97 RAAM--because I wanted to--because I had "the fever!" It's for one week--experiencing life on a true edge of pain and pleasure and pushing all of your limits in ways. It's being part of the RAAM tribe for life and smiling years later about those crazy moments when people seemed possessed with this insane race we know and love called RAAM.

Ron and Secco, RAAM 1997 finish.

 

Then there is the absolute best memory of all my RAAM experiences--better than the two victories, better than the course record in 1996, better than anything money could buy--my knowing and assisting Jose Carlos Secco of Team Brazil. Secco...my words could never do justice to what I watched this man do in 1997, but I will at least try. Secco loved the event and loved the competition. No matter what the gap or placing--make no mistake--he was racing for victory. He never gave up even at the end. In Oklahoma he approached me in a state of collapse totally exhausted yet not complaining. He needed some special attention to restore his tired body and mind. I rallied the appropriate crew. Bob Hurst came in for a rejuvenating massage. My brother Marc rode with us taking care of all the business so we could focus on bring Secco "back to life" from the living dead. Hours later, he arose smiling yet again and racing stronger than ever before. Perhaps the oddest thing in RAAM records were two photographs that I took that year of Secco. In sequence, I had one shot of Secco that...well...he looked dead and totally depleted. The rebirth of Secco took hours so my camera was put away. The very next frame showed Secco smiling from ear to ear at the dead of night--but he was totally alive. When I saw the proofs and realized they were taken in sequence it was emotional to the point of bringing tears to my eyes. To me and three years of RAAM, these two photos say more about this race than any words could ever explain. The lowest of the low to your greatest feelings of joy--all can be within hours, minutes, and even seconds in RAAM. Those are my memories and experiences of Team RAAM--truly some of the best in my life so far...and some of the best I will ever have. I wouldn't trade them or my RAAM friends for anything. These are just a few of my memories and feelings as I write tonight. It's truly been the ride of my life...

In health & spirit,
Ron Jones

Photos Copyright © Ignacio Aronovich

RAAM | Events & Competitions | OUTDOOR | LOST ART