Cycling across Nebraska for HOPE

May, 2011


The things I do for HOPE (smile).  Actually, it was one of the more enjoyable outings I have had for Operation HOPE in my 19 years as chairman and CEO.  

Recently I traveled to Omaha, Nebraska to visit my partners and friends at the Gallup Organization, as they have a substantial campus headquarters there, which includes all of their backbone operations and Gallup University, amongst other innovations.  I was in town for two-days of deep-dive strategic planning around our broader work and partnership.  

Anyway, as part of the prep and planning for my trip I made the now unforgettable mistake of telling my host and new friend Phil Ruhlman, chief information officer for Gallup, that I was an avid cyclist.  Being the innovative and solutions oriented leader that he is, Phil kindly arranged not only for a quality rental bike for me to ride, but a planned group cycling experience with new friends from the Gallup family and other cyclists from the area.

And this my friends is where everything gets very interesting.  

Phil picks me early on the next morning after my arrival, and we drive for what seems like forever, to the staging area for my morning group ride.  

What became clear after 45 minutes of so, was that we were actually driving not to a park, or local cycling favorite, but to another city; Lincoln, Nebraska to be exact.  The place where my ride would "begin."  

I then discovered that I would be riding 40 plus miles back to my hotel -- over the rugged yet beautiful back-roads of traditional Nebraska.  In short, I rode a bike all the way from Lincoln, Nebraska, to Omaha, Nebraska, and many, many miles of this trip were completely alone.  The only company being my own thoughts, and occasionally an irrational fear or two.  Like, what happens to me, if something happens to me, and literally no one knows?  A black man, stranded on an unmarked back road in Nebraska, thumbing for help.  What a hilarious visual.  

Nearly three hours later (don't tell me ever again that there are no hills in Nebraska, or that somehow Nebraska is "flat," as this would be wholly untrue), I boldly cycled over the Omaha, Nebraska's city line -- the proud owner of several new and valued friendships.

This was a proud addition to both my cycling career, as well as my never boring, ever growing Operation HOPE experience.  I also now know why Nebraskan natives such as Warren Buffett, Jim Clifton and so many other success stories, are so successful in life today.  Nebraska, as breathtaking as the natural beauty of the state may in fact be, is still no place for the faint of heart.  There is simply no faking it in Nebraska.  What is real is obvious, and what is not, simply fades away.  In other words, "either you can ride from Lincoln to Omaha, Nebraska on a bike, or you can't (smile)."

Check out the photos, and as you are looking at the photos, recount this hilarious story of my experience.

All in a day at Operation HOPE. Thanks, my new and amazing Gallup family.

Onward and with HOPE









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