Ride, Ride, Ride…Hitchin’ a Ride

So, I have been noticeably absent in my blog posts for the past…5 months??? Oh boy. In my Happy Anniversary post about Jingles, I mentioned some of my new pastimes – running and tandem biking – and now I have three favorite causes: Guiding Eyes for the Blind, Achilles International, and InTandem.

Today, I’d like to share with you a little about InTandem. As you all are well aware of now, I didn’t grow up as “the blind girl.” I loved doing all sorts of visual things – one of those being riding my bike. My family and I used to ride for miles on the Rails to Trails (converted railroad tracks turned biking / walking paths). I loved feeling the wind hitting my face, whizzing through the countryside through small towns, and watching the miles rack up.

Then, I began losing more vision. The last time I tried to ride a bike; I was around 20 with some college friends. After riding a few hundred yards, I realized how little I could see, and the cliff to my right seemed precariously close. I walked the rest of the way. And that was the last time I picked up a bike.

Until InTandem. This past spring I discovered an amazing organization that makes riding a bike accessible to people like me through tandem bike rides. . Enthusiastically, I signed up for my first ride, and Jingles and I headed to Central Park early one Saturday morning. And, did we ride! Wow, I couldn’t believe the amazing feeling, whizzing through the park, getting to know the person in the front seat. I smiled the entire time, and couldn’t wait for the next ride.

Even more fantastic – the opportunities to ride are completely free. To put it into perspective, a 1-hour tandem ride through the park will put you out a good $50 bucks, which is basically out of my price range for a leisurely hobby. But InTandem provides FREE rides on their own tandem bikes. The bikes are captained (steered) by kindhearted volunteers, and there are even people who give up their time to watch the guide dogs.

I’ve met great people, had great rides, and worked some muscles. Now, I’m going to ride 43 miles in the Gran Fondo NJ on September 13. I am doing this to raise money for this fantastic organization. I may not be able to move for a week afterward, but it will be totally worth it.

So, if you would like to help make my trip a triumph, please give a visit to my Crowdrise page and make a donation. If you can’t donate, I’d love some happy thoughts on race day: DDDD

Team InTandem Crowdrise | Rebekah Cross
THANKS!!!!

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Happy Anniversary Jingles!

One year ago today, I received one of the greatest gifts of my life. I knew I was getting a guide dog as I sat nervously with my classmates in the lecture hall at Guiding Eyes for the Blind, but little did I know I would receive so much more. That day, I received a gift, which held many other gifts. I received independence, self-confidence, adventure, laughter, acceptance, and an unconditionally loving best friend. All these gifts came wrapped in a ball of yellow fur, brown eyes, and a black nose with a little pink in the center. My little yellow lab, just over 50 pounds, a little doll with a big job.

Ah my Jingle-Belle. During those first few weeks of having Jingles attached to me at all times, trying to learn all the commands, and wrap my mind around my sudden doubling in width, I had no idea just how much she would bring to my life. I don’t think it’s possible to understand what having a guide dog can truly mean until getting one and going through the process of bonding. Jingles and I have had so many adventures over the past year – from mundane (to most) activities like going to the hairdresser or visiting a coffee shop to taking up running and tandem biking to discovering new places in the city and traveling alone. We’ve laughed together (if a dog could laugh) when I do something embarrassing or after she very proudly shows me she’s found what I was looking for by wagging her tail until she nearly hops off the ground. We’ve cried together (at least I cried) over frustrations, confusions, and life in general. We’ve overcome challenges – from Jingles’ and Muffin’s (cat) less than amiable relationship for the first several months to sniffing episodes when presented with the boatloads of trash and doggie smells that come with the territory of living in Brooklyn to walking on ice for a solid month in -5 degree temperatures last winter. We’ve shared plenty of love and kisses, and every day I am truly amazed at her intelligence.

As I reflect on the last year, I realize how much I have changed. The Rebekah of August 2014 is completely different than the Rebekah of now. I was still going through the stages of grief regarding losing my much cherished sight. Halfway in denial, I would wander in and out of anger, bargaining, and depression. I’m not saying I was a miserable mess, but I certainly wasn’t in the place I am now. Today, I feel like I really have moved into acceptance. I rarely find myself angry at my condition, and only feel a twinge of sadness occasionally. Now, I even make jokes about myself, and laugh about the challenges I face and the peculiarities I exhibit as a result of my own journey through blindness. I know it was Jingles who helped me over this seemingly never ending hump. Having her by my side, guiding me through the obstacles of daily life inadvertently guided me through the emotional obstacles of grappling with the physical condition I never wanted to accept. She restored my confidence and made me more like, well, me.

Last Sunday, I was lounging on the bed petting Jingles when Adam remarked “that dog is your favorite thing in the world.” He pretty much hit the nail on the head. While I love Muffin from the bottom of my heart, there is just something extra special about the relationship one shares with their guide dog.

Happy Anniversary Jingles! Here’s hoping we have many, many more!