Friday, April 3, 2009

Cast of Characters

As with most other aspects of this blog you will be getting this from Alan’s point of view. Others have been invited to contribute and eventually I imagine someone else will add their two cents worth.
I’m going to begin with the most important and work my way down from there.
Donna Jackson. Donna is the matriarch of the family and without her this adventure would definitely be different (or non-existent). Most everyone reading this already knows that she and I have been married going on twelve years. Similarly you probably know that she spent the first 39 years of her life living in or near Hemlock, Michigan. Some of you have a long enough history of Donna that you remember her when she was daring and adventurous. This bicycle trip will surely push the limits of how much adventure a 51 year old woman can stand. Before I came into her life she had already jumped out of a perfectly good airplane, twice! Donna was married previously to an electrician named Ron. It seems the attraction that lead to this union was the fact that they were both tall for their gender. Donna tops out at 5 foot 12 inches (she likes to joke). Ron was a whopping 6 foot 6 inches tall. I’ve been told that he was big enough to hold her by the ankles and not bang her head on the ground! That impressed the heck out of me. Fortunately for me the physical height of the both of them was not enough to cement their marriage permanently. They were together for about 4 years. After the dissolution of their union Donna did some of those adventurous things. She went on an Outward Bound (OB) expedition in the Sierra Nevadas with a mixed group. There she did rappelling, mountain climbing, and other survival type things you might do in the mountains. I didn’t know her at this point. Another adventure that she is proud of is a cross country solo car camping trip. She went to visit Kim in Portland Oregon, a friend she met during the Outward Bound thing. Donna credits the OB experience with her initiation into the running community. She began running to get into shape for OB. Since that first jog to get into shape, Donna has made running an integral part of her life. While she's no longer concerned about getting faster or going farther, she still holds dear to her heart the memories of all the races she has been a part of including a couple of half marathons. She joined a local bike club in Michigan (TriCity Cylists) and became involved enough to get on the board of the group. This was when Donna's and my paths crossed for the first time.
Most of you are aware that Donna grew up on the Wardin Brothers dairy farm in Hemlock. She is the fifth of seven children that Carl and Bonnie Wardin had. Many of you are also aware of the fact that Carl was stricken with Polio back in the early 1950’s and spent the remainder of his life in a wheelchair. Donna was born in 1957. She grew up on the farm and would have loved to spend her entire life riding and taking care of horses. Unfortunately there is not much of a demand for that unless you happen to know rich people with horses. Donna excelled in all of her art classes while attending High School. This convinced her to pursue Graphic Arts as a career. She attended Ferris State College in Michigan and ended up with an Associates degree. Donna’s working career began as a child when she was a hoer. No, not a child prosititue! She used to get paid to hoe the weeds out of the bean fields. She excelled during this phase of her professional life and was 'outstanding in her field'! Donna had a couple waitressing jobs during college. Eventually though, the hardwork and dedication paid off and she began working at an advertising agency in Saginaw. She spent nearly 15 years as an underpaid but very much appreciated graphic artist at Princing and Ewend. She made a switch for more money and joined another agency in Midland. I came into the picture at about the time she left Princing and Ewend.
Donnas spiritual journey began as the dutiful daughter of a proud Lutheran family. She attended the Lutheran parochial school where her sister Carla teaches today. Donna followed the doctrine and was a good Lutheran. She began to question the traditions that had been the cornerstone of her faith since childhood. This was after she had moved away from the family farm and was on her own. At the suggestion of a friend she began attending the Unity Church in Saginaw where I likewise had only recently started attending. This is where I believe higher powers took over and as they say “the rest is history”. But for those who might not be familiar with the rest of the history, here goes:
Donna left her new higher paying job at AM PM and packed up all of her essential camping and outdoor equipment and drove away from Michigan looking for greener pastures. I happened to be accompanying her. She placed her home on the market before she left and spent the next four months with me camping and bicycling and backpacking and hiking and exploring a big section of the western United States as well a big chunk of Canada to boot. It was during this time that I convinced her that we should become a team, united for time immemorial to battle whatever came our way. On September 6th, 1997 we officially, according to all the laws and tenets of the State of Nevada and the city of LasVegas became husband and wife. Donna married me at the same Chapel that Michael Jordan once used for the same purpose! With her house having sold while she was away, a new place to live became a priority for Donna and her new husband. During the 4 months of travelling and exploring Donna chose Colorado as her favorite place to be. I was leaning towards the Rockies of Montana. We compromised and decided to settle in Spokane Washington. Donna almost immediately picked up where she left off as a graphic artist at a small ad agency in Spokane. The Wendt agency took a chance and gave her the opportunity to do what she does best. While she was earning considerably less than she had in Michigan, she was living in an outdoors lovers paradise. With ample opportunities to bike, hike, ski, and run, it was a veritable playground. Donna made new friends and acquaintances during this time in her life. It was also during this time that she came to realize that she was getting older. This was highlighted by an unpleasant stiff neck that ended up not allowing her to lift her chin off her chest and causing numbness in her extremities. Donna visited a neurosurgeon and after having two of her vertebraes surgically fused together with a chunk of bone from her hip, she recovered. Donna returned to work and her everyday life. Donna’s new husband (me) was not as fortunate at finding a job suitable to his previous experience. After working and living and playing in Spokane for just over a year, Donna decided to follow her new husband out to the western side of Washington where he had found a part time job as a chemist. She went on several interviews while living in an apartment in Olympia but never found a replacement job. When her husband decided to buy some land near Olympia and build a house, Donna once again had a job! This is when Donna the adventurer and her husband decided to take a short bike tour before tackling the project that lay ahead of them. They pedaled 350 miles around the Olympic Peninsula in 7 days. When they returned from the bike ride they were prepared to move all their belongings into storage with the exception of their camping gear. The tent pitched on her own property would become the next home for Donna until she could get a house built. Unbeknownst to Donna, fate had once again conspired to enter the picture. The short bike tour that happened without incident ended up being one of the most life altering events to ever happen to her. It wasn’t apparent until later but an unbridled moment of passion during this ride resulted in her 'being with child'. Donna and her husband moved out of their apartment following the bike ride. On the first of July of 1998 Donna set up household in a tent. Primitive camping describes what she endured. She was responsible for her own bodily needs so that would make her a sanitation engineer when she was digging holes in which to deposit her bodily wastes. Another position she held was as the security guard at the building site while her husband was away at work. The project that began in July saw Donna working as general laborer, plumbers assistant, electricians helper, wheelbarrow mechanic, roofers mate, and at least a half dozen other positions. With the help of several friends and co-workers, Donna and her husband were able to complete the project. The sympathy factor was extremely beneficial in lining up a volunteer work force. Poor Donna! There she is pregnant, 42 years old and having to live in a tent while performing strenuous tasks that are part of building a house! The structure was deemed complete by the local building officials and she was granted permission to occupy barely 2 weeks before Donna with child became Donna and child. She didn’t stay in the tent for the entire 7 months. After only 3 months of living in a tent, a good Samaritan dropped off a popup trailer in which she lived in relative luxury (as compared to the tent). The trailer actually had a working toilet and a microscopic shower. In December the trailer was hauled away and Donna took up residence inside the garage of the building. This was like the Taj Mahal compared to her first days in the tent. The garage held all of the full size appliances that would eventually be used in the living space. Donna had come a long ways in a very short time.
The child that Donna carried for nine months and 2 weeks came to be known as Lewis. With the addition of Lewis, her life took a different direction. Donna made the decision to continue to stay at home with her child. It was strongly encouraged by her husband who was willing to make sacrifices to insure that strangers were not responsible for the upbringing of their child. Donna’s life has not changed a lot since then. She began attending elementary school once Lewis was enrolled there too. Donna has been a fixture at the Evergreen Elementary School since that first day of kindergarten. She has been the driving force in reinstating a running program at Lewis’ school. Twice a week she inspires children to walk, run or jog during their freetime after lunch. Recording and rewarding participation has earned her the title (through the children’s eyes) as ‘my running teacher at Evergreen’ even though she is an unpaid volunteer.
Donna continues to question just why she agreed to this bike ride. I think the adventurous aspect of it still has some appeal to her. But she isn’t the same adventurous girl who once and twice jumped out of a perfectly good airplane!

Lewis:Yep, she's my mom!

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