The past few years has certainly been full of letdowns for the Bike MS event planners. Tropical storm Gordon caused the cancellation of the 2018 ride, and the second day of the 2019 event was also cancelled due to storms. 2020 was cancelled because of the pandemic. So this year, with the Delta variant surging, the Gateway Area Chapter of the MS Society worked diligently to put a number of safeguards in place, requiring that cyclists, staff and volunteers mask up when not riding, eating or drinking. Which is interesting, because that’s really about all you do on a Bike MS Ride!
This year my cycling partner Harold was unable to ride due to a freak accident earlier this summer. So without a tent mate Friday night, I decided to just get up early Saturday morning and make my way to Lewis & Clark Community College in Godfrey. Donning masks in the campus cafeteria, we had our traditional Chris Cakes for breakfast before making our way to the United By Design team tent. With over 50 riders this year and the #3 team in fundraising, it’s fun to be part of a lively and committed team!
Saturday was a beautiful day, and we rode down into the valley and along the Great River Road for a brief while before turning north at Elsah to head back up into the “high country”, making our way to up to Jerseyville before heading back south for lunch in Godfrey in a big tent on the L&C campus. I really liked the route – it gave you a chance to either call it a 50-mile day or head back out for 75 or 100. Feeling good and strong, I made the decision to tag along with some teammates who’d committed to doing a Century.
This is something I’ve contemplated plenty of times over the past 20 years of riding the MS event, but never made the commitment to complete. It always seemed like when I hit that 50-mile mark, that I chose to be 2/3 of the way done rather than simply half-way. But this year I decided to go for it, and while it felt like I was dragging a dead dog behind me going up the hills the last 20 miles, I made it back before 4:00, and was greeted by cheering volunteers, Harold (who came to help prep food and hang with the team), my UBD teammates and an ice-cold pale ale. And a great massage by our team’s very own masseuse Greg. And a team cellphone charging station!
As afternoon turned into evening, Allan and Sherita unveiled their lovingly prepped feast for the team, and we shared stories of the day and plans for the morrow. The team tent area, usually alive with cyclists from all the major teams, was practically a ghost town by sundown. But the lights were on in the UBD team tent, with the die-hards carrying on the tradition safely and with appropriate vigor. Harold had pitched a tent earlier, and with the dusk completely faded, we made our way to our portable lodging and settled in for the night.
I woke up Sunday to a remarkably dewless morning, with comfortable temperatures and another beautiful sunrise. The same group of riders that I rode the Century with on Saturday were committed to doing a slightly slower-paced half-century on Sunday, and so I made my choice of teammates to saddle up with. The Bike MS ride always falls on my anniversary weekend, and Sunday marked the day that we commemorated 29 years of wedded partnership. So as you can imagine, I was eager to get home and celebrate with my bride!
As it turns out, one of our teammates hit a pothole relatively early in the morning, and had a tough time repairing the flat and getting the replacement tube inflated. He ended up rolling on to the next rest stop (about ½ mile away) on about half the pressure his tire needed, and expected to be able to finish airing up at a bike tent. But that rest stop had no such amenity. So after a little more pumping and a botched attempt to use a CO2 cartridge, we finally got back on the road. This turned out to be the most eventful part of the day.
Just before lunch, half of the team changed their mind and decided to split off and ride the 75-mile route. Perhaps it was because they didn’t want to eat lunch at 10:30 at Bunker Hill, even after being delayed by nearly an hour from the flat tire setback. The rest of us made our way back to the finish before noon. I indulged in a ceremonial beer before showering and hitting the road to celebrate the rest of the day. I love this ride – the time on the bike, the camaraderie of the team, the smell of the country air, the staff, volunteers and other cyclists, and the opportunity to contribute to an important cause. I know a number of people who live with MS, and I ride for them. I appreciate those of you who supported me this year, and encourage others to please contribute if you are so inclined. Thanks!!