On September 13th and 14th Karen and I rode the Bike MS Historic Bike Tour out of New Bern, NC to raise money for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. We rode a total of 175 miles – 100 on Saturday and 75 on Sunday. For both of us Saturday was our first “century” (100 mile) ride so it was an extra special occasion. We also both raised over $1000 (over $1350 for me) for MS thanks to the generous help of our friends. This is the third year that Karen has done this event and my second year. Last year I was moved to tears at the start of the event – over 2000 riders massed together at the start at the waterfront park in New Bern, all the volunteers cheering – so many of them living with MS themselves, the sidewalks lined with well wishers. It was last year’s ride that made me aware of the scope of this disease. Almost all of you who donated wrote back to tell me of friends or family members who had been diagnosed with MS. Realizing that so many of the volunteers working the rest stops for the ride also had MS was a big shock to me. It turns out that I knew some of those people. This year I started noticing the number of riders who also had MS. Many riders wore a sign on the back of their jersey listing the names of the people they were riding for. On some of those signs I saw that the rider had also listed him/herself. It also turns out that one of the guys we ride with almost every Tuesday night has MS. I just always assumed this middle-aged slightly overweight person who is usually the slowest rider in the group was just trying to get back into shape. He’s riding to save his life.
Most of us know someone with cancer or AIDS or some other life threatening or debilitating disease. There are so many opportunities to volunteer or raise money for worthy causes. I like doing this ride because 60% of the money we raise, that you donate, stays here to directly fund services, programs, and advocacy for the 4,300 people living with MS right here in Eastern North Carolina. The rest of the money supports national research to find the cause and cure of MS. And I benefit, too. Getting to the point where I can ride a bicycle 100 miles has made me so much healthier and happier. It’s a wonderful form of exercise and I’ve seen more of our beautiful part of the state in 2 years of cycling than I ever did in 25 years of driving around in a car. I’ve also met a lot of great folks and so many of them participate in these fund raising rides. You could do this, too! There are MS rides all over the country and the one we do out of New Bern has added a 30 mile course for those of you frightened by the idea of peddling a bike 75 or 100 miles in a day. 30 miles still sound scary to you? Really, it’s not bad and it’s FLAT in New Bern (well, there are those bridges to go over….). A little bit of training over the summer and you could join us next Fall.
The weather for the ride this year was great though a bit hot. On Saturday there were over 2100 riders at the start. As you can imagine the first 10 miles or so things are a little thick but the group stretches out pretty quickly. Four of us more or less rode together – Karen, myself, Karen’s brother in-law Rich, and our friend Joanne. Sometimes we’d be four or sometimes we’d be two in various combinations. You could go for miles and not see another rider once the group got spread out. The rest stops, of course, were teaming with people. Lots of food, water, and the life saver on this ride – Gatorade. There are rest stops every 15 miles or so and I think we stopped at all of them. The lunch stop on Saturday even had a band. There are church ladies with home-made desserts, various companies sponsor some of the stops, and there are even some impromptu things like the woman on Sunday with a sign in her front yard thanking all the riders and her standing out by the road with a garden hose spraying anybody who needed cooling off. Sunday was very hot and, sadly, we lost Joanne 11 miles from the finish. She had been feeling bad and at the previous rest stop sat in a van with the air conditioning running for a while until she felt better but I was riding with her a few miles down the road when she just veered off into a shady place, got off her bike and lay down in the grass. She was cramping so bad she couldn’t move at all. We called for help and eventually a van took her to the civic center in New Bern to rest but they promptly sent her on to the hospital where she spent the evening getting fluids to bring her electrolyte balance back up. Other than that it was a pretty uneventful ride but oh so satisfying. That’s us in the picture at the start on Sunday. From left to right – Robbie, Karen, Joanne, Rich. You ever wonder about that spandex stuff that cyclists wear? It’s all about the padding. Those shorts are very padded on the seat and I can’t tell you what a huge difference that makes on a 100 mile ride. The jerseys are all about being seen on the road – some motorists are not very observant. Bright, obnoxious colors keep you safe. Just so you know – I’m not into fashion – it’s about comfort and staying alive.
Thanks again for your support. A whole lot of people appreciate it!