Saturday September 7 was a picture-perfect day for a bike ride. Probably the best day weather-wise since my first ride in 2001. We’ve had nice days, but this was just beautiful – mildly warm with a mildly cool breeze to keep things comfortable. But Sunday showed another side of September that we’ve all seen before.
Friday afternoon I arrived at the Lewis & Clark Community College campus a little after 4, and went to a now-familiar spot where we have camped since the MS Chapter moved the ride from Columbia MO to Godfrey IL in 2015. My long-time riding partner Harold Anderson was relaxing in the shade, satisfied at having erected our tent on his own, and only slightly annoyed that someone came in and pitched their tent a mere two feet from the side of ours. “That’s just like life in the City!” he said. It would just have to do.
I then discovered that the EV charging station at L&C was on the blink, so I had to forgo the charge that would get me back home on their clean, renewable solar energy. But then I realized that I’d forgotten a critical component that can’t be purchased at the local Walmart: my registration packet. So I called my lovely bride and interrupted her happy hour with a friend. “Can you help me out? I have a problem.”
You see, the day before the event I opened a password-protected attachment to an email reply from a colleague, and when I saw “translate to Russian?” in the prompt, I feared the worst. After a little more than 24 hours of anywhere from pessimism to panic, I confirmed that my antivirus software contained the attack. But I was not myself, and I did not pack with a plan (using a checklist that resides on the laptop.) The episode took quite a bit of mental bandwidth, which didn’t help.
So, after Maria agreed to bring me my event registration materials, I sheepishly asked her to bring some additional items I’d forgotten: 1) a lawn chair, 2) sheet & pillows to go with the mattress & MS blanket I did remember, 3) my headlamp that’s great for bedtime prep, and 4) my contribution to the team’s potluck. I decided that we could get a pass on #4 to eliminate a stop along the way.
While they have free Wi-Fi all over campus, the cell signal at L&C is marginal at best. So when Maria arrived she was unable to get a call to me to find out our exact location. But the boldly lit team tent was a beacon on the campus, and Maria found her way. It was a great opportunity for her to meet a bunch of cyclists on Team United By Design.
A little earlier that evening I’d gotten a call from my IT support team with the news that my laptop was indeed virus-free, so the good news gave me all the more reason to celebrate and enjoy a fun evening. The potluck was indeed plentiful, with great contributions that were both homemade and store-bought. John Nohava grilled up steaks to everyone’s delight, and there was more than enough to satiate the team’s appetite. After dinner, I helped set up the professional-grade LED lighting, and enjoyed some of the draft beers donated by sponsor Ferguson Brewing Company, including their Pecan Brown and St. Louis Pale Ale. Since the ride was cancelled last year and we had so many team rides cancelled this year due to rain and flooding, it was fun to get to spend time with my new team (who happens to be #3 on the top fundraising teams!)
After kissing Maria goodbye and enjoying one more round, we headed back to the tent for a good night sleep. As I prepared for our early morning routine, I realized more item that I forgot: bandanas and a bath towel! With Walmart closed, I decided I could make do on Saturday’s ride without the bandanas and pick up a towel after the ride.
We rose early Saturday morning to a pre-dawn sky, but the campus was relatively well lit. When we got down to breakfast at 6 AM, there was a considerable line waiting for the Chris Cakes pancakes. It’s been two years since I’ve had these – delicious but nutritionally limited. I was afraid there might be a riot when the single container of coffee ran out, but the gracious cyclists made do until the replenishments arrived.
We then headed up for the team photo. With 72 team members, you can imagine the cat-herding that went on to get everyone on the same set of stairs. See if you can find your favorite Waldo in this picture!
After the team photo, I had a few minutes to hustle back to the tent for a few last-minute preparations, and then hurry back to get in line to be released onto the ride. You see, they allow the top fundraising teams to be the first to hit the road (as some people still think this is some kind of race!) Being herded like cattle into a corral, we patiently waited through the festivities, including an incredible rendition of Hendrix’s Star Spangled Banner on a violin!
The 75- & 100-mile routes gave cyclists a nice view of the Mississippi River on the Great River Road, and we all enjoyed our first rest stop at the Piasa Harbor. What goes up must come down, and vice-versa, so when we turned north at Grafton to climb out of the river valley, we all experienced in different ways what we were warned about: a nearly 400 foot climb up a half-mile of hill! While this left many riders to abandon the pedals for slower steps, I managed a steady 4 mph climb to beat this bully of a hill!
Shortly after hitting the peak, we hit our second rest stop where riders could rest and rant about the wicked climb. The rest of the morning included rolling hills and long stretches of flat pavement, with a lunch stop back at our starting point. This was a first – and it enabled some people to either regroup on their gear, or in other cases decide that the morning was enough! The afternoon included a couple more rest stops, with the most clever offering a Dr. Seuss theme and a picture booth along with some healthy snacks. It’s hard to see the cats’ hats against the red background, but I give ’em credit for their creativity!
We made it back to the L&C campus around 3:00, and enjoyed the camaraderie of the team as they arrived. UBD’s in-house catering duo Allan & Sherita Gober oversaw another spread of food, and we celebrated into the evening listening to live music and stories of the day. As we looked at the weather forecast later in the evening, it became clear that the morning was going to be very wet and potentially stormy. Having been through this before, Harold and I decided to break camp late Saturday evening and spend the night at home. We made the right call – the rain poured all morning and the MS Chapter leadership announced at 8:30 Sunday morning that the Day 2 ride was cancelled.
Incidentally, you may have noticed the picture of the blanket I posted as my Facebook cover photo, and on the Bike MS fundraising page. Project Repat creates quilts out of old t-shirts, enabling you to clear out your drawers and turning your memories into a themed blanket. Maria did a baseball-themed blanket a couple years ago, and I decided to take 18 years of Bike MS (and MS 150!) t-shirts to create a comfortable blanket full of memories. The blankets are carefully crafted by designers, cutters, and sewers earning a fair and living wage in the United States, and the PolarTec fleece backing is made from recycled plastic bottles. (Each square yard is comprised of 23 plastic bottles that might otherwise end up in a landfill!) Declutter your drawers and make a memory!
Thanks for reading, and for your continued support! If you haven’t yet donated, here’s the link!