Quincy resident Steve McQueen has seen his fair share of challenges. He's an ex-Marine who also served in the U.S. Army.
At one time, Steve would have been described as one tough hombre.
Make no mistake about it, he's still tough, but he's also more appreciative than at anytime in his life.
Steve is a cancer survivor who's in remission after confronting Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Just a little more than two years removed from his first chemotherapy treatments, Steve is riding a bicycle this week -- across Iowa. He's one of about 10,000 riders taking part in the annual RAGBRAI event, a 430-mile pilgrimage that will end Saturday in Keokuk. RAGBRAI, an acronym for the (Des Moines) Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, dates to 1973.
"It's incredible, unbelievable," Steve said in a phone interview this week. "I am having a blast."
Actually, Steve is having a blast with life. He's also keeping us all up to date with his RAGBRAI progress via Facebook. A mutual friend clued me in about his posts, and when I saw what Steve was doing I called him.
"At 53 years old the physical challenges after chemo have had more impact than I usually care to admit," he told his readers. "Due to damage to my heart ... I am not the athlete I once was. I have more limitations, but my drive is exponentially higher. A year ago I couldn't complete the four-mile bike course in the Moonlight Ride for Hunger in Quincy. Today I can ride 60 to 70 miles with only a few stops."
Steve, who grew up in Hannibal, Mo., retired from the military in 2005 and is a plant manager for the J.H. Huber Corp. He thinks he is riding for something far more important than that old Marine machismo.
"God could have taken me, and at times I thought He would, but I am here," he said. "I am truly blessed to have a wonderful family, and I am deeply thankful for every day that we spend together. I have truly felt hopeless at times, but God always brings me back to his reality. If you are fighting a disease, family issues, addiction or anything that takes the happiness from your life, keep pushing.
"Life is too short to quit."
So Steve pushes on, and this week he is pushing on with RABBRAI teammates and friends Craig Stone and Eric O'Neill.
RAGBRAI is guaranteed to leave its mark on those 10,000 who try and conquer the Iowa countryside.
"This is my first time (experiencing RAGBRAI), and there are aches and pains," Steve said. "I have learned that Iowa is not a flat state."
RAGBRAI often attracts a wide range of media coverage, both regionally and nationally. In 2005, Sports Illustrated named RAGBRAI one of the "25 Summer Essentials," things that "absolutely must be done before Labor Day."
RAGBRAI also has been featured numerous times on ESPN's SportsCenter and various programming outlets on NBC, ABC and Fox.
After his RAGBRAI adventure ends in a couple of days, Steve is uncertain what mountain will be his ensuing challenge.
"I don't know what's next," he admits.
Steve is simply grateful he will have an opportunity to find out.