Monday, June 25, 2012

Hope Rides (& kicks some butt!) on 2 Wheels

So- as unlikely as it sounds.....I'm sitting in a bagel shop and screwin' around w/ my iPad dealie & trying to decompress from a pretty intense weekend.

Wanna hear about it?..........jump in the van w/ me...........

Background- the Hope on 2 Wheels Ride is the brainchild of Scott Kasper of Mt. Laurel NJ. I met him last year @ the Tahoe Ride, which was his 1st Ride to Cure. His mom and 2 of his 3 sons have T1D so he was pretty primed for a great big dose of the kool-aid and...well...he got it! Enough so that within 3 weeks of returning home from Tahoe he had become the Coach of the South Jersey Chapter and had cooked up this other crazy idea. Namely that 24 riders and a support caravan really needed to ride from NYC to Washington DC (252 miles) non-stop to try and raise awareness of both JDRF's mission and the need for more research in search of a cure in general. The plan was to ride "relay style", employing the same basic technique used by Team Type 1 while winning the Race Across America- separate teams leap-frogging each other to keep the pace up & the effort manageable. Needless to say when he invited me I was ALL about it! And that brings us back to the past 5 days.......

WEDNESDAY- I hit the road for NJ early. My 1st job is to get to Scott's place in Mt Laurel & assemble any bikes that team members shipped. I loaded Lin's car w/ bikes and tools and drove the 760 miles to Scott's, arriving in time to catch up and crash.

THURSDAY- As it turned out there were only 5 bikes that needed to be assembled so I talked Scott into a ride "before it got too hot." ( we rolled about 9:30- it was only 95 when we finished 20 miles later!) By the way- that part of NJ is why the license plates all say "The Garden State", it's bee-YOO-ti-ful! Quiet country roads, dead flat (hear that Cindy!?!), bunch a cool lil' towns, fields of everything from soybeans to blueberries to bamboo! Yup- bamboo! I know- weird, right? Anyway, after the ride we met Scott's co-coach Mike and Mike's little brother for lunch and after that I cranked bikes together while they ran errands.

FRIDAY- Scott and I got the last things on the list crossed off (find moving blankets, buy bananas & bagels for Sat AM, etc) then we met the ever-growing team of riders and crew and loaded up the vans for the drive down to NYC. (here's the thing- I SAY "down" but I basically had ZERO idea where I was the whole time I was there. for all I know we drove "down", "over" or all of the above!) Regardless- a couple of hours later & Mrs Clark's Favorite Son had his first bite of the Big Apple!

  ( Irony Alert- Those words were typed while I sit IN a Big Apple Bagel!!!)

Team HQ was a hotel right next to the site of the still-in-progress World Trade Center Memorial- the same swank joint that JDRF uses for visiting BigWigs & Other Important Types- so that was kinda cool in an intense sort of way. As we unloaded the vans who do ya think might've come sauntering up the sidewalk? None other than West Michigan's own Queen of BikeFace Patti Bills! Now- I knew she was there for her studies, this was a planned encounter but still.....kinda cool, huh?

Pea and I ditched the squad for a whirlwind 4 hour tour o' the city.....some pizza, a surly cabbie, Times Square, Central Park, Broadway, some KILLER gelato and a subway ride back to the hotel.

 (I figure I pretty much know everything the is to know about NYC now, thanks Pea!)

Dinner that night was in the restaurant on the 20th floor of our hotel....yep, the one w/ the huge deck overlooking the city and the WTC site. It was sponsored by Sanofi- who has a way cool new iPhone blood sugar app dealie they're pretty excited about. During dinner Patti got word that her flight was cancelled so on the spot she decided to hang out, crew for the ride and drive back w/ me. After introductions, a few well-chosen words from Scott & Mike it was time to try and get some sleep.....our 5:00 am roll out time was gonna come early!

Yup, sure did!

I was up @ 4:00, fed and kitted up by 4:30 and on my bike by 4:45. All 24 of us rode through the empty streets of Manhattan over to JDRF's Headquaters. We were met there by a young man that goes by the name of "The Diabetes Dude". His entire family had driven down from Boston to see us off & wish us well. From there's we rode to the Staten Island Ferry dock and after a 25 minute wait ( and a through inspection from one of New York's finest K9 security officers we rolled onto the ferry. It blasted off, took us right past that famous statue of the chick w/ the robe and huge cigarette lighter and then.....Staten Island! Okay! Let's rock and roll! We have 248 miles to go!

Yeah.....about that.....Staten Island is home to 1.5 million displace Italians and by all appearances they have a traffic problem. The solution they've gone w/is to put a traffic light on EVERY freaking corner and make sure that they're utterly out of sync.


As it turned out...the time we lost on that first leg across Staten Island would have significant consequences 18 hours and 200+ miles later..... After a further 35 minute delay waiting for our escort vehicles from the Port Authority to escort us across the bridge and into NJ (TOTALLY worth the wait in awesome though!) we got to the first stop. The plan here was to divide into 3 teams, cleverly labeled "A", "B", guessed it...."C". This was also 23 miles into the ride and most of you know the significance of that # within the JDRF Ride community. Jesse's mom Michelle was on our team so we spent a few minutes there remembering him as well as everyone else that we've lost.....while a bagpiper played "Amazing Grace". (dammit- it's too cold in here for goosebumps!!!)

And with that the A Team took our 1st shift. Our 8 riders included Tim & Erin from Team Type 1, your reporter, 2 other Mikes (one an MC!) 2 Matts & big Josh from MN. 20ish miles later we pulled into the stop and the B team took over. Josh and Erin decided the B group was more to their liking so we pressed on w/ 6 of us for the next 2 shifts, then we were 5 for the rest of the ride.

Our "assignment" was to hammer in a effort to keep the timetable (which was tight to begin with) from getting too screwed up. At one point we took a double pull 'cuz the next team was stuck in construction traffic.

And so passed the day....and the miles. In a blur of chamois cream, re-filling bottles, energy bars, sweaty helmets and brief frenzied " which way do we turn?!?!?!?!" sessions.

Mid-Jersey is as industrial as South Jersey is bucolic, Delaware is barely there (still flat though!) and Maryland is lovely.....if awfully roll-y for the last state on a four state ride!

Despite everyone's efforts sundown found us still a good 60+ miles from the finish line, a couple hours behind schedule. My group was prepping for our last blast.....18 hilly, winding miles to the last stop, from which the plan was to get all 24 riders back on 2 wheels for the last 20 miles. Alas- word came from a support vehicle that the C Team was stalled...the road was pitch black, the traffic heavy (lots of deer too) & their lights either dead or inadequate. The call was made for safety's sake to go pick them up and sag them ahead to the final stop.

In the meantime my 4 compadres and I clipped in and fired up the lights. With a van on our tail for safely we blasted over that last 18 miles at what felt to my weary legs to be full-on race pace.

 (Despite being a member of the 2008 TT1 RAAM team, Tim had made no secret of the fact that he'd had quite enough chamois time for the day thank you and sure seemed to be in a rush to get this last leg over with!

In other words I clung to his wheel like a desperate slobbering fool with my eyes crossed and my tongue in my front wheel. I will say that we DID get there in a hurry though!

Once we got the entire team in one place for the first time since Mile 23 over 15 hours ago it was pow wow time. 20 more hilly miles w/ minimal street lights. Half the team w/ no working lights. 10:30pm at that point. Scott and Mike made the right call in the time-honored JDRF "Safe, Sound & Smiling" tradition.....we piled into the vans, drove into Bethesda and unloaded about 2 miles from the finish.

We rode in en masse.....24 strong behind a phalanx of Harleys & followed by all 6 support vehicles. Waiting at the finish line- despite the late hour- was a bevy of family and well-wishers.

'Twas quite a scene to be sure! We rolled in @ 11:59 by the way.....a long day! An hour later we were still feasting on BBQ, pizza, beer and ice cream. It was a lot like being back in high school!

SUNDAY- The team scattered to the 4 winds.....back to MN, Atlanta, New England, wherever. After breakfast a few of us loaded up the van and headed back to NJ. There Patti and I re-packed the bikes, grabbed some lunch, said our good byes and hit the road. By 7:00 this morning we were back in the the whole thing was just a massive dream!


I didn't actually count or inquire, but my impression is at at least 50% of the riders were Type 1.

The support crew was awesome- all 8 (9? 10?) of 'em. There were 3 flats, 2 minor crashes and one IV administered for cramps. (he rode the rest of the way w/ the needle still in his arm....said it was " gonna come in handy @ the bar".)

Did I mention that Maryland is hilly?

Tony Luke (of Philly Cheesesteak fame)is a jerk. He promised sandwiches and other lunch stuff, stiffed us and wouldn't answer the phone all day. I'm not gonna wear my tee shirt 'till I draw a big red circle w/ a slash through their logo!

This was a huge project - it's consumed Scott's life for the last 9 months. It was an even bigger success. We made some noise, brought some new folks into the JDRF community and......well.......brought some awareness and hope!

It was one of the Top Five Days on a Bike for me easily! Maybe Top Three. (m-a-y-b-e, just maybe.....Best Day Ever. Except you guys weren't there)


Chris R said...

Thanks Mike! I appreciate the enthusiasm and dedication you show for helping raise awareness and ultimately a cure for Type 1. I enjoy sharing in the joy of biking and commraderie with the world's coolest bike team!

Kirsten said...

Wow, way friggin' cool. I wish I could have witnessed that in some small way!

Linda TP said...

awesome...pure and simple

Linda TP said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tim Powell said...

Great summary, Mike. Sorry about the last leg misery, I was tired, but I really enjoyed having you in my group all day.