This year seemed to be an opportunity to return to some semblance of normal, with Covid feeling like it is largely in our rear-view mirrors. While I didn’t do nearly as much riding this summer, I felt relatively good and ready to ride.
My long-time cycling partner Harold was in much better shape, having ridden the infamous RAGBRAI earlier this summer. But I just bought a new (used) Diamondback road bike with a carbon-fiber frame. While it is about 15% lighter than the Le Monde that I bought in 2008, that reduced weight is quadrupled by the extra baggage I’m carrying around my waist! In any case, it’s a great bike and much more mechanically sound, and made the ride feel a bit easier.
We met up at what has become our go-to camp site near the Lewis & Clark Community College soccer field, and after unloading my gear made my way to the United By Design team tent, where we all teamed up to enjoy a wonderful pot-luck dinner, nicely prepared by Allan & Sherita Gober, Dan Hinkebein and John Nohava. There were desserts galore, with three different kegs of beer courtesy of Ferguson Brewing. We all shared stories of our summer rides, plans for the following day, and life in general before H & I headed back to prepare our nest before the sun went down.
As I began organizing my gear back at the tent, my panic slowly increased as I realized that I’d left one of my carefully packed bags back on the chair in my office at home. Maria asked me several times on my way out the door if I had everything, and I confidently assured her that I checked my list several times and confirmed that everything was packed. So, while I wasn’t particularly happy about making a 90-minute round trip to retrieve these essentials, I did delight in catching up with a friend who was also traveling that night, enjoying each other’s company on our solo drives.
By the time I got back, it was relatively late, and so I quietly made my final preparations, checked in with my sweetheart who’d just gotten home from a Dogs of Society concert, and did our Wordle together before retiring for the night. All was well.
The next morning we were greeted with a beautiful moonset in the west, along with a budding sunset to our east. We made our way through the dew-soaked grass to our traditional breakfast of Chris Cakes before rushing up to make the team photo. The logistics were challenging with my bike in the team tent, some of my gear in my car and the rest in the tent, but I pulled it all together in time to make the 7:15 start, with Team UBD honored as 3rd place in fundraising.
The ride that day was relatively comfortable and enjoyable, with rest stops appropriately placed and well stocked with healthy and nutritious snacks to keep us energized. We rode from Godfrey down to the Great River Road, then up out of the river valley at Elsah and made our way up to Jerseyville, then to Brighton for lunch. After lunch we headed south and then east to Bethalto for another rest stop before heading north and then back west to Godfrey. Unfortunately the route took us in a circle, and we misread the signs on the route directing us south again when we should have continued west. It was a few miles before I realized that we weren’t headed toward Godfrey, and so we tacked on about six extra miles to finish at about 84 miles for the day. I have to tell you, those were not exactly happy miles!
The cold beer in the team tent and the understanding nods that we weren’t the only ones that misread the signs gave us all the comfort we needed. I indulged in a well-deserved massage from our team masseuse, and enjoyed another smorgasbord of food prepared by our team chefs. We celebrated the triumphs of the day and the company of team members riding for a common cause.
What became increasingly apparent was the forecasted storm that evening. Now, if you’ve been supporting me for a while and faithfully reading my annual accounts of these rides, you’ll recall that the Bike MS Ride has been plagued by rain events coupled with Covid over the past five years. We do this to raise money and awareness for MS, not to suffer the cruelties of climate. So we chose to break camp and call it a weekend, given the expectations that additional rain would greet us again in the morning and throughout the ride on Sunday.
As it turns out, we definitely made the right call. The Facebook posts I saw confirmed some struggles, and I heeded the call for help from our team co-captains to assist in packing up the team tent contents. My third drive to Godfrey in three days was getting more familiar. and when I arrived I met up with a small subset of dedicated team members who braved the weather that morning. The team tent area looked like a ghost-town, and we shared more stories of the weekend as we cheered in the occasional rider who completed an abbreviated 25- or 50-mile course.
After packing up all the gear, we met in the cafeteria to share an abundance of leftover food resulting from the lack of cyclist participation. The staff was able to donate most of the leftover food to needy organizations, but we were encouraged to take fresh fruit and Subway sandwiches home with us.
So all told, it was a good weekend. Thank you for your continued support of this worthy cause. If you’d still like to contribute, you can donate online at https://mssociety.donordrive.com/participant/sro22.