By Richard Rhinehart
Holbrook, New York, October 8, 2012: The determination of a dedicated Army Lieutenant Colonel who crossed a continent by bicycle only three years after extensive cancer treatments changed Parker Feierbach’s life.
Serving as the official photographer for World T.E.A.M. Sports’ Sea to Shining Sea cross-country ride with disabled veterans, Feierbach reports he “was pretty blown away” by LTC Henry Riley’s fortitude. “I’ve never seen determination like that,” Feierbach recalled of Riley. “Throughout the journey, he got happier and happier, and I know this is because day to day, he knew that he was going to make it across the entire country.”
“The ride up to Austin, Nevada was a clarifying moment of his determination,” Feierbach reported. “We were in the last few miles of our first century, and I was privileged enough to ride SAG behind Henry as he biked, as no matter the speed, toward our final destination. We came up on the last turn, a hundred-and-some foot climb up to the endpoint, and there was the staff, encouraging him up the road. More surprising was his apparent frustration (it would be a shame to call it anger, I don't think that he's capable of that) with the aid, because he wanted to bike it on his own.”
A May 2012 graduate from the University of Georgia with a degree in anthropology, Feierbach reports he “is pretty restless and tends to travel often as a result.” Following his graduation, he drove to his parents’ home in northern Virginia, dropped his belongings and took off to join the student interns who were staffing the cross-country bicycle ride with World T.E.A.M. Sports.
For the next two months, Feierbach joined the interns, staff and riders as they traveled east from San Francisco, across the deserts of Nevada and Utah, the Rockies of Colorado, the Great Plains and the small towns and communities of the American Midwest. “I think that all of the places we visited, I will always remember Olney, Illinois and the first rain storm we experienced the whole trip. There are no words to describe the feeling of that rain coming down. There is no vocabulary in any language that is extensive enough to describe the momentousness of that day.”
In his role as the ride’s primary photographer, feeding digital images to media and to World T.E.A.M. Sports for websites and social media postings on a regular basis, Feierbach sometimes experienced challenges in meeting his duties. “It was pretty frustrating,” Feierbach said, noting that some colleagues did not understand the importance of fully documenting the trip.
“I learned diligence, respect, and pride on that ride,” Feierbach recalls, two months after the Sea to Shining Sea ride’s conclusion in Virginia Beach. “The good kind of pride, the kind where you know that what you're doing is the right thing and that even if you don't see the results of your efforts, the efforts are worth it. There were so many people that I met on that trip that have affected me so strongly, but the mistake I've made (up until now) is to have forgotten what that impact was. I had people who told me that I was worth something, that I was valuable and that I could actually help them. They acted as though there was a reason for me to be there, and that was the most tremendous reward. I realize that people should be capable of generating their own form of self-gratitude but that sensation of being valuable to others is almost indescribable. It fills a person with purpose, and it reconfirmed to me that I want to work with people.”
In November, Feierbach will be heading to South America to work with aide organizations in helping people. “I want to be there and take photos that are capable of making a difference in the world, but only to such an extent that I'm really and truly working hands-on with the people of whom I take pictures. I believe this to be the only way that you can get close to an 'honest' image, something that doesn't belie the truth.”
Yet, it is the determination of LTC Riley that drives Feierbach today. “I am planning on using my experience from this ride to construct leadership opportunities for myself and others that I meet in my future, attempting to improve the world as I interact with it. I want sincerely to good in the world, and this trip showed me one of many ways to do that.”
For a gallery of Sea to Shining Sea photographic images, featuring a large number of images from Parker Feierbach, visit World T.E.A.M. Sports' Sea to Shining Sea Flickr gallery.