It’s been two weeks since the ride, and a very busy time since then. A 25th wedding anniversary cannot be celebrated in a single day, you know, and though the U2 concert in St. Louis was cancelled, the Cardinals played on, as did Billy Joel. Suffice it to say, there was hardly an evening on the calendar (or time on the weekend for that matter) to sit down and compose my musings about the MS Bike Ride until now.
My primary takeaway was that the weather was spectacularly glorious! We couldn’t have had better weather – the temperatures were comfortable, no precipitation whatsoever (not even dew on the grass in the morning!) and the wind was either at our back or gently blowing toward us. Over the years, we’ve had merciless heat, thrashing wind & rain, and uncomfortably cold riding weather (practically everything but snow!) In my recollection, this was the most beautiful weekend yet.
Gordon & Angela, who’ve ridden on our team for the last several years, had to bow out this year in the final week prior to the ride due to other commitments. Chad & Bree actually had their first baby (welcome Sierra Patuzzi!) on the weekend before the ride, so they were unable to join us again this year. So it was left to my faithful friend Harold Anderson to join me in this year’s tour.
As always, we met Friday afternoon to set up camp for the weekend. This year’s event was again held at Lewis & Clark Community College, which has been a perfect hosting place for the tour. It gives people the option to camp in tents or RVs, stay at a local or nearby hotel, or make the drive from their home in the St. Louis area each day. There has been some musing that this has contributed to an overall smaller gathering of people in the evenings, as riders are able to more easily come and go home. I consent that there’s merit to that, and yet I like the closer proximity to home and the flexibility that it allows.
Friday night we joined up with Team BJC, many of whom Harold works with, at the Old Bakery Beer Company in Alton. Before dinner, their team captain Ann led a team-building exercise to help everyone remember other team members’ names. Each person identified themselves with an alliterative adjective, and then recited each of the preceding team members’ freshly coined name. Adventurous Ann started the game, and then the circle of 30-40 people each took their turns reciting an increasingly long list of names, often with the helpful hints of others. Honorable Harold and Sustainable Steve were among the last in line, and it was quite the feat to list off the names of the 30-some-odd people before us, but we each dutifully completed the exercise. It was fun to acknowledge riders by their chosen name throughout the weekend!
Saturday morning was easy, with only my tent-mate to keep track of before lining up to leave. We were graciously granted access to power from a neighboring RV to charge our electronics Friday night, so I was able to start out with a fully-charged battery and keep track of the route using GPS all day. It was fun to see the latest updates at our third stop at the Twistee Treat Diner in Staunton, IL. You may remember the brunette bombshell in the alley from last year’s ride; it was a pleasure to see her as a fine, upstanding and fully-clothed waitress welcoming us into the diner! There were a variety of other sculptures scattered about, including a white elephant protruding from the second floor of the building, and a crude flying-saucer of a spaceship in the yard. I smile with appreciation for the owner’s artistic creativity!
On Saturday’s 75-mile route, we had the option to ride the roads all day, or take an alternate route that ran on the Madison County Transit trails part of the day. We decided that the shade and break from impatient drivers would be the better option, but got mixed up somewhere along the way, and ultimately rode 84 miles that day. It was a great ride, and I felt strong riding into the finish. Thankfully the VIP tent was still open when we arrived around 3:30 Saturday afternoon, and it was an unusual surprise to have to choose either a Bud Light or a Johnny Walker Green Label as my post-ride refreshment. Those of you who’ve had a drink with me lately will immediately guess which one I chose!
After another nicely catered meal at the Commons, we meandered among the team tents of friends, including Team Christner, BJC and United by Design. There is an enviable camaraderie on these teams, and the amenities that come with a larger team certainly have us considering the thought of abandoning our little boat and enjoying the cruise on a bigger ship!
Sunday I’d intended to ride the 50-mile loop, but Harold was leaning toward the 25 so I decided to hang with him and get an earlier start on my afternoon at home. It was a little quieter given the fewer number of people on the shorter route, but still a great ride and made for a total of 110 miles for the weekend. I’ve done this ride enough times that I no longer feel the need to prove anything!
Thanks to all of you who have supported me along the way. My goal is to raise $4,000 this year, which will put me dangerously close to $40K over the 17 years. If you would like to contribute, please go to https://main.nationalmssociety.org/goto/sro2017 to make your donation!