Hubby and I are on the last night of our Caribbean cruise, so this is a re-post of one of my favorite stories about one of my favorite cyclists, Larry. I hope to be back live and in person tomorrow night, glowing with wonderful memories of our cruise.
Every time I go to the casino, I play video poker exactly once. It's not my favorite game, and I do it for someone I never met.
Let me explain.
I have an awesome cycling buddy named Larry. I met him the first time I did RAGBRAI in 2004. I cannot describe to you what a kick-ass cyclist he is. On top of that, he is F-I-N-E in a way that makes my teeth sweat. But he's also just a nice guy. On a weekend ride one time, he talked me into a much longer ride than I wanted to do, and he stayed with me. All day. At a much slower pace than he is used to. I said to him, "Larry, you're such a gentleman to stay with me." And he replied, "Well damn, I was just about to say I was going to go on." But then he HAD to stay with me, which was fortuitous, since he changed my flat tire just a few miles from the end.
I never met Larry's wife. Not even his CLOSE cycling friends met her. She struggled with some form of mental illness that may have been agoraphobia, I'm not sure. She didn't leave the house unless she had to, including going to doctors when she wasn't feeling well. Larry finally talked her into going on a cruise, but just before they were to leave, she was forced to go to the doctor. That's when they discovered she had Stage 4 liver cancer, and she died three months later.
One place that she DID love to go, however, was to casinos. No, I can't figure it out either. Larry told an adorable story about one time when they went to the casino, and he took his bike along. When it was time to leave, he left on his bike, giving his wife a meeting location and approximate time he would get there. This was before Larry could be bothered to carry a cell phone on his bike.
He took off on his bike, and when he reached the meeting point and his wife wasn't there, he probably thought he had ridden better than he had anticipated. Or maybe he thought there was a tailwind. At any rate, he knew she would be along sooner or later, so he kept riding.
Until he reached their home.
He had ridden his bike 126 miles. All the way home.
Shortly after he got home, the phone rang. It was his wife.
"Oh good, you're home. I started winning."
Every time we go to the casino, we pass through Larry's hometown. When I asked him once which game his wife liked to play, he said video poker.
From then on, I started playing video poker one time every time I go, in memory of a person I never met.
Week before last, just before our trip to Mississippi, I received a letter from Larry, one I get every year. He rides in a bike ride called "Ride of Love," and proceeds from it go to Camp Smile-a-Mile, a camp for children with cancer. I usually send him a donation; he sends one when I do the ride for diabetes. His letter was once again asking for donations, and I put it aside to do when we got back.
At the casino, I put $20 in the video poker machine. Then I put another $20.
Then I hit four of a kind.
The payoff was just over $100. I cashed it in, put that Benjamin Franklin in a separate spot from the rest of my money so I couldn't lose it, and I sent it to Larry this morning for his bike ride.
I thought it was so cool that I could make a donation from money I won playing video poker in memory of his late wife.