Friday, July 5, 2013

Hope on 2 Wheels........take 2

Okay....so I'm back in the 616 after another trip out East to do the Hope Ride. Once again I'm still blown away, inspired, humbled and awestruck from the events of the 5 days and I kinda wanted to share it w/ y'all...since you couldn't all be there.

Background for those of you what needs it: The Ho2W Ride is the brainchild of JDRF coach and father of 2 boys w/ T1D Scott Kasper. Along w/ his fellow S. Jersey Coach Mike Chadwick they created this relay-style marathon ride to draw attention to JDRF and T1D research. (You can hide a post on 2012's ride in the blog archives if yawanna). This year's ride started @ Camp Joselin, a camp for T1D kids in Western MA and ended @ Camp Nejeta in Northern NJ. The total distance was 216 miles w/ about 14K of climbing.

Friday - Dr Professor Patti "Pea" Bills and I hit the road in the AM. It's 740 miles, 3 tanks of gas and $60 in tolls 'tween here and there. We arrived @ Scott's house in Mt Laurel NJ and hit the hay.

Saturday - After a diner breakfast we got to work. 'Twas our job (Pea and I) to unpack and assemble any bikes shipped in by team members. Truth be told - not a lotta heavy lifting - only 9 to get ready. That afternoon we did a nice lil' ride w/ the few other members of the squad that had arrived. Afterwards we hung out, talked logistics and ate way too many brats from Scott's grill.

Sunday - Kind of a crazy day. The logistics of getting 29 riders from literally all across the US of A, about 10 crew, 6 vans, 2 motorcycles, 29 bikes and alla the other crap we needed up to MA is no small task! Our van headed North via Newark Airport where we grabbed up 5 other riders. The others went via NYC (dodging the Gay Pride Parade which was blocking access to the original rendezvous point) and then North. Then there were the folks that had flown into Boston...or were local.

In a word.....craziness!

Regardless....we somehow all found our way to Camp Joselin for dinner. The kids there were excited to have visitors (that's a huge understatement!)and we feasted on lasagna, salad and garlic bread whilst being "entertained" by the kids. (My ears are still ringing). After we did our lil' presentation...telling the campers that we were riding to remind them that T1D doesn't haft ahold you back (about 2/3s of the riders are T1  - including 13 year old white jersey winner from Tucson Ethan Ericksen of Salt Lake City) and a brief team meeting we piled back in the vans for the brief drive to our hotel. Final sorting of gear and efforts to be hydrated ensued - interrupted for some by near-compulsive weather report checking. (It wasn't looking good but - strangely - looking at it every 5 minutes didn't change that. Weird huh?) Bed time came soon enough...a 4am wake up call will do that.

Monday - Ride Day. Finally. We kitted up (there's something kinda weird about pulling on a pair of bibs @ 4:00am knowing that you're gonna be in them until at least midnight) and headed to the lobby for breakfast. The plan was to drive back to the camp for a 6am roll out. We actually almost made it. After the mandatory flurry of tire-pumping, bottle-filling and last second adjustments we were off.....following 2 Harleys and bound for NJ and hope.

The route was broken up into roughly 20-25 mile "stages" - w/ all 3 teams rotating. Unlike last year where we had "A", "B" and "C" teams based on riding ability this time we were "1", "2" and "3" and the effort was made to mix the stronger and weaker riders evenly so all the teams would benefit from the experience of the more experienced riders. I was "road captain" of Team 1)
Just like last year all 29 of us did the 1st stage, then our team kept rolling while the others climbing into their respective vans to leapfrog ahead. Pea and I rode my tandem for that initial 50 miles.

It was wet....a steady drizzle combined w/ wet roads ensured that we were soaked and grimy pretty much right away. (It became a running joke all day that Team 2 stayed suspiciously clean all day...they missed almost alla the rain). During our transfer up to the transition point where we'd get back on the road after "taking the baton" from Team 3 the skies darkened up and then opened up! Thunder, lightning, flooded roads, low-visibility...the whole enchilada! Kinda ugly, actually. We waited in the van and they trickled in in small groups (and a few in the van). Some were visibly shaken by the challenge of negotiating  long fast descents on narrow roads in those conditions. (I don't blame them).

We hung out for a few, giving the worst of it a chance to move through, then saddled up. Our leg started w/ a 4 mile climb - kinda rude on cold legs I thought! After that we got it together (Pea and I were on single bikes now) and made good time. Our team rode together really well all day I thought)

Soon enough we were rolling into lunch (after a slight "directional snafu") - 109 miles in and w/ the weather starting to co-operate. Lunch was courtesy of the local JDRF Chapter and was pretty dang awesome. Then we loaded up and off we went.

For our next stage we were joined by last year's team mate Annie S. She's Scott's sis-in-law and was signed up for this year before a family tragedy derailed those plans. She met us for 1 stage and rode w/ me on the tandem and had a blast. The highlight of this leg was crossing the Hudson River into NY on a cool old bridge about 1.5 miles long and about 300' above the water. The bike lane was metal plate and mesh.....awesome!

A couple hours later we were pulling into the final transition area - 23 miles from the finish line @ Camp Nejeta. The plan was for all of us to ride together from here. The other 2 teams finally pulled in (Team 2 in their vans and still oddly crisp kits) and Team 3 rolling in - once again kinda shattered. Their leg had some serious hills (they all did!) and a few of their number were feeling it. Ethan was low......way low and it showed on his usually beaming face. There was talk of leap-frogging a few riders ahead Ride to Cure style but he wasn't into that at ALL. I offered up the tandem and that proved to be the perfect solution..

By now 'twas about 8:00pm - we had almost 2 hours of riding to do (& lots more climbing - including the steepest bit by far) so we fitted up the lights and rolled out. As daylight waned the fireflies and headlights kept us company as we rolled - as one - towards the camp. After a final stop @ the outskirts of the camp to re-group we rolled in to a thunderous welcome. There was a last sharp left and steep climb into the camp proper (and you HAD to make in in front of alla those people!) and up top we found the campers from Cabin #7 waiting to greet us. We wasted no time parking our bikes and heading into the dining hall where a veritable feast of BBQ chicken, pulled pork, ribs, mac-n-cheese and cornbread was quickly decimated.

Then back in the vans and off to the hotel.....desperate by now for a shower and to get that kit off!

1:00am found many of us - w/ glazed eyes and wet hair (ok - I said "most") hanging around the lobby...completely spent but unwilling/able to let the day end.

But end it did.

Tuesday - came soon enough, since we were expected back @ the camp for breakfast. Once again the kids entertained us w/ songs, we did our thing, posed for pics and sharing many hugs, handshakes and high fives. All to soon it was time......time to load up and commence the involved process of wrappin' it up. I found myself offering to drive a van back so after a stop @ the Newark Airport Pea and I headed back to Mt Laurel. We got there about 1:30, grabbed some lunch, re-packed the bikes, loaded the van and headed this-a-way about 7pm, arriving back in the 616 about 8am Wed.

This whole experience was an exercise in love & hope & dreams...and as such was essentially a small scale JDRF Ride. I have other stories to tell and yarns to spin but Imma gonna save 'em for the next ride, okay?

I sure hope to ride w/ you soon......we got T1D ass to kick!

3 comments:

patti bills said...

I have to say, Coach MC said it all quite well here.

I will add that I was also blessed with having my birthday land on ride day (Monday) and was honored by serenades all day by teammates and crew. On a day when everyone had so many other (more important) things to think about (Uh... T1D, and their own health needs), I was humbled that they helped me celebrate all dang day. After more than several opportunities to try it out, the "happy birthday" song became my hill climbing mantra. (Try it sometime. It really works!)

Needless to say, I am humbled and inspired as well, and hugely honored to have been asked to be a part of the team this year.

I was also proud to have the opportunity to offer my skills as a mechanic - as meager as they may be - to contribute in some small way to the riders and the event in general.

It was an event I'll never forget. And I was more than proud to say that I was from the West Michigan Team.

There was MUCH bikeface, I assure you!

Tom Scheidel said...

Mike,
Only you would call 216 miles a "small scale ride".

Tom Scheidel said...

Mike,
Only you would call 216 miles a "small scale ride".