In my 20th year of riding for MS, we continue to define new “firsts.” In 2018, the entire event was cancelled due to a projected deluge from Tropical Storm Gordon. Last year, after a spectacularly beautiful day on Saturday, we were again hit with another storm that forced the staff to cancel Day 2. This year, the event organizers wisely chose to cancel the event again, but this time due to the pandemic. If you’ve ever seen the crowds at these events, from the starting queue to the rest stops, team tents and queue lines for food, it’s hard to imagine trying to keep thousands of riders safe under these conditions.
So the National MS Society made an unprecedented move to combine all of the Bike MS rides into a single virtual event – allowing participants to do their own ride either inside (on a stationary bike) or out (in a safe and socially distant manner.) Rather than being organized by the local chapter, the national office pulled “celebrities” from around the country to do a series of live streaming videos during the day. So while our chapter’s Gateway Getaway is always held the weekend after Labor Day, it was pushed back a couple weeks to sync up with this new nationwide event.
Team United by Design usually organizes regular team rides all throughout the summer leading up the ride, but this year everyone was pretty much on their own to train for whatever ride they wanted to do on the day. This past week, there was very little consensus about any kind of team event, with our captain being understandably reluctant to jeopardize anyone’s health by organizing something formal. Harold and I considered several options, and decided to return to the Madison County Transit trail system, and lobbied our team leaders Mike Alsup and Brian Frick to join us for a ~30 mile ride.
We all met at the trail head at the Metro East Parks & Recreation District in time to tune into the first live streaming, but due to technical difficulties we bagged the hoopla and rolled out. The morning was crisp and clear – perfect riding weather. Mike and Brian chose to cut out the extension from downtown Glen Carbon up to Edwardsville. The trails are paved and largely shaded, and Nature Trail from south of Edwardsville down to Horseshoe Lake has a number of wooden bridges over creeks and through the woods. So it was cool and scenic.
As Harold and I drifted apart in choice of riding speed and the crosstalk slowed, I donned a pair of ear buds to cancel out the wind noise and let YouTube Music choose my “endless personalized music” mix. The ride felt good as I cranked the pedals a bit and stretched out on the trail, enjoying the scenery and the solitude of riding with limited traffic. As I passed Horseshoe Lake on the Schoolhouse Trail, it was only a few more miles to go before enjoying a cold beer with my teammates on the parking lot.
When I arrived back at the trailhead to find Mike and Brian chatting with a stranger, I was aghast to note that I’d failed to zip up my bag from which I pulled my ear buds out. I looked in the bag, grateful to find my $$$ hearing aids, but sickened to realize that my key fob was gone. I texted and called my beloved wife to rescue me with the spare fob at home, and when she asked if I thought there was any chance of finding the lost one, I pessimistically scoffed at the chance of finding such a small item that would have fallen from a moving speed of 15 MPH on a trail that is only 8-10’ wide. It would likely be lost in the vegetation along the trail.
When Harold arrived to learn the news, I was elated to hear him say that he’d actually seen a key fob on the trail! Unfortunately he wasn’t able to pinpoint exactly where he’d seen it, but his description of what he saw was a good match for the black fob with silver carabiner that I’d lost. We quickly came up with a plan to drive to a point close enough to where Harold thought he might have seen the fob, and Brian went one way while Harold and I rode the opposite way. As I approached Horseshoe Lake I knew I’d passed out of the target area, so I turned around and headed the opposite direction. All told, I rode another 30 miles at a relatively slow speed searching and praying to find what Harold had seen. When I rode past the point where I opened the bag, I rode all the way back, hoping the different angle might yield a better result.
I’m so grateful to my teammates who helped me in the search, especially Brian, who drove me and my bike to the midpoint of the target area and waited patiently as I searched. And of course, for my dear Maria who drove 30+ miles to rescue me! I remain marginally optimistic that someone might have picked up the fob and turned it in to authorities in the hopes that somehow that would be the best thing to do.
So while the idyllic scene at the end of the trail enjoying a beer with teammates failed to happen, I remain grateful for a great day and the relatively minor loss. I’m also grateful to the many people who’ve supported me with donations to my fundraising campaign. At this point, I’ve raised almost 2/3 of my $5,000 goal, and appreciate any additional contributions to help Team UBD hit their $35,000 goal and the National MS Society’s goal of $8M. With your help, we’re changing lives. And one step closer to a world without MS!
Here’s the link to donate! https://mssociety.donordrive.com/participant/sro2020