Rolling on the Shoulders of Giants

In 2002, a ten-year-old Kenny Shaevel stumbled upon the Academy Awards while channel surfing. Fascinated by the rewarding of talent, I watched with scintillation. When Halle Berry won the Oscar for Best Actress, she spoke with extreme emotion about how she stands on the shoulders of all the African-American actresses who came before her. For a child, this idea was novel: so much of what was great about the world I lived in, I realized, I owed to the progress of someone who came before me.

As our trip comes to a close, my mind is forced to reflect on the past 74 days, and I find that I often wander back to this idea. The very bike I’m riding on, from the handlebar tape to the drive set, is the culmination of thousands of engineers’ work; the paved roads on which we roll are made of materials whose composition has been refined over decades of driving; the 2012 Illini 4000 ride was based largely on the efforts of the five previous rides. I am proud of all that I’ve accomplished on this trip, but I have to give credit where credit is due. I am rolling on the shoulders of giants who came before me.

And yet, this goes both ways. I am (well, we all are) a giant in the making, and this very thought makes me smile. Countless people’s work went into making this summer’s ride even happen, and countless more made it a success. The main purpose of this ride is to fundraise money for cancer research. We are fighting cancer, and this ride is a step in the battle; we are moving us all one step closer to finding a cure. We may be rolling on the shoulders of giants, but we are becoming giants ourselves.

Comments (5)
  • Bob Shaevel says:

    Well said, Kenny. And you — all of you — are your own “giants.” With each amazing step you take you are at the same time doing the deeds you do and positioning yourselves for the next, even more giant stride in your personal journies. I am so looking forward to seeing that happen!
    Love, Dad
    p.s. In 2002, that was well past your bedtime mister! You are in TROUBLE! ;-)

  • mmarek Maggie Marek says:

    Kenny, first of all congratulations on making it to San Francisco! And secondly I just wanted to thank you for such an inspiring post- great memory by the way! As a 2011 rider I can’t believe that it has been over a year since I was in San Francisco crossing that bridge, and soon you will be looking back on the experience you had this summer in awe at how fast time can pass. Truly the cycle of life.

  • Evelyn Shaevel says:

    Kenny,
    A beautiful post that puts the ride and how it is all possible into perspective. It did take a team to accomplish the ride and raise the money but it took an entire village (some giants and some somewhat shorter)–all of you the on the 2012 team, those who have gone before you and those who support you now– to help you make it to the finish line. I am so proud of what you have accomplished and look forward to what is yet to be!!
    Aunt Peachy

    Love, Aunt Peachy
    Love, Aunt Peachy

  • Kenny, I am going to miss checking out where you “guys” are every day or two…since my Grand son rode the ride to Portland in 2009….I have a feeling of what you have attempted, conquered and survived,although I am sure you have thought there were days “I cannot do this one more mile”….but you did…so sending you congratulations for a job more than well done…..

    Always chase the wind…..
    Aileen Huffman Taylor
    Grand Mother of Justin Patric Taylor
    class of 2010 from the U. of ILL.
    and a former 4000 mile rider….

  • ccanaday Conor Canaday says:

    Kenny,
    Such an insightful post! It’s been great following you and the team this summer as you’ve undergone such an amazing and tranformative experience, and writing about such a realization as yours is just the beginning. I’ve heard from many alumni riders that they haven’t been the same since they completed this journey and I hope the same is true for you. Regardless, thank you for sharing this wisdom and many congratulations for your accomplishment!
    -Conor

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