Posted by: morrowsl | May 9, 2018

We Know Some Things, Because We’ve Seen Some Things

Three years ago, my niece convinced me to take a volunteer gig with a group supporting the MS150 ride.  For the uneducated, MS150 is a bicycle “ride”, not race, that covers 150 miles, takes two days to complete, and raises money and awareness for multiple sclerosis.  We were going to be working a rest stop at the end of the route on the second day.  I wrote about that experience here, You Wanna Fight?, so I’ll just add that, in the years since that first rest stop, much has changed.  With the group, the ride, and me.

Perhaps the biggest change from that first day is the addition of my daughter, Sheli, as a rider.  Thankfully, she doesn’t have MS.  Her interest comes in part from her need to find a fun and efficient way to exercise.  Cycling is one of, if not the, most efficient exercises there is.  However, all things being equal, I convinced her to volunteer after I got into it and the hook set deep.  As much as she enjoys being on the tent side of the event, she wanted to be out on the road with the biggest bike gang in the neighborhood.
Who could blame her?  Meat Fight has grown from a small group of cyclists, captained by a freshly diagnosed young man at the prime of his life, to a tsunami of cyclists, stretching across the nation, populated by folks with MS or riding for people with MS.  The current team numbers over two hundred strong.  Roughly half of them were at the start last Saturday.  It was my first time to be present for the beginning.  I’m usually at the end.

Another big change was the addition of my grandson, sign in hand, cheering his mom.

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Sheli’s cheering section

Their incredible fund-raising skills earned the Meat Fight team the spot at the front of the pack.  The size of the team earned them the opportunity to leave the start as one group, ahead of the rest of the riders.  Watching them riding by was a huge rush.  Unfortunately, at the same moment my daughter passed in front of my camera, a woman stepped in front of me and my lens autofocused on her!  Sheli was moving too fast for me to correct in time to get a shot of her face.

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Sheli Wright, rider #1304

I needed to get across town to the first day finish line.  And I would need to drop my grandson off with my husband before that.  I had about two hours.  And I wanted another chance to catch Sheli early in the ride.  Nothing to do but jump in the car and chase the pack!

In the years to come, I will be a lot smarter about getting out of the start area and beyond the pack.  As we were flying down the tollway, high above, the riders were flying down the service road, down below.  Each time we’d spy a large group, we’d both scan the crowd for a bright yellow bike.  It’s a lot harder than it sounds.  But we did manage a gazillion WOWs.

The first rest stop comes up some ten or so miles from the start.  I knew the intersection just south of it well, it being just north of where I exit often on my way to events including my granddaughters.  Being a ride start-day novice, I simply assumed I would be well ahead of the pack and have no problem getting where I needed to be.

WRONG!!

Each tollway exit as we moved north was closed by a police roadblock.  In the time it had taken us to get into the car and out of the start area, the pack had managed to move a lot farther over the route than I’d ever anticipated.  But surely they wouldn’t be close enough for the exit I needed to be blocked already.

Would they?

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Two Meat Fight riders coming up fast in my side mirror.

They would!

We sat in traffic for a what seemed like forever before the police took pity and stopped the cyclists to let the bottleneck clear.  I debated just going on and meeting Mike.  But I really wanted to try to catch Sheli again.  I crossed over 380 instead of turning right and drove on toward Rest Stop #1.
Then second-guessed myself and took a hard left at the cut-off.  Luckily, the road allows a wide spot for emergency stopping.  I parked, grabbed my camera, told my grandson to sit tight, and hoofed it to the intersection.

We’ve had a tremendous amount of rain lately which gave us a wonderfully cool morning with blankets of fog lying over the fields surrounding the rest stop.  My location put me shooting into the rising sun, which is never my strong suit.
The riders were moving up the little two-lane blacktop road to the sounds of birds calling and volunteers hollering, “Rest stop to the right!”  Try as I might, I wasn’t able to see jerseys well enough to know which were the ones I wanted.  And there are many yellow bikes!

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Lone cyclist leaving Rest Stop 1 in the morning fog

I returned to the van a bit disappointed.  Then I checked my phone.  There was a message from Sheli that she’d made the rest stop.  She was there!  I called, hoping she wasn’t already moving and the ringing phone would cause her to wreck.  Luckily, they were just getting ready to pull out again.  I told her we were across the intersection and would be watching for her.  We jumped out and took off for the safety of the parked squad car to wait.
Lots of riders passed.  Many not turning in.  I worried she’d be in a group that would meld into the oncoming riders and be lost to our eyes.  When I did see her, I knew there was no way to get a face shot, with the distance and the sun, so I took a series of the group and hoped I’d get at least a couple.  In the end, only my cell phone image caught her.  Even then, she was just behind the trees.

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Meat Fight group leaving Rest Stop 1

And then, they were gone.

We returned to the car and made our way toward town and breakfast for the boy and his Papa.  I grabbed a breakfast sandwich and a large coffee and headed to the lake.

Once at the team tent, things moved along at a clip.  We set up the remaining tables and set out food to be iced down and/or cooked.  This year we’d thrown in with another team from Richardson Bike Mart so our “village” was sizable.  Unlike years past, there would be tons of shade and chairs for the riders to relax and recover.  There was brisket and brats and burgers.  There were margaritas.  And plain water.  And ice cream sandwiches and popsicles.  And a vibe that permeates the entire village that just makes you happy to be there.

Throughout the day, the team members found their way to the tent.  Some with bandages.  Most with smiles.  All with stories from the road.  We welcomed them and fed them and listened to them telling tales.  It was like a family reunion, but you got to choose who was in the family!
At the end of the day, the National MS Society recognized and rewarded the team’s fund raising efforts.  We are a million dollar team!  Much like the ring of honor at Jerry World, only so much better, a framed Meat Fight jersey now hangs in the MS offices.

And next year, we’ll add another one!


Responses

  1. Love hearing this experience from your side. It’s such a privilege to be a part of this team with you. Also, that rear view mirror shot is aces!

    • Merritt, I am always so amazed and humbled by you guys! It is a pleasure being there to do whatever y’all need done.
      And I KNEW, as soon as I realized the riders would be coming up behind me, that I needed to get that shot. The lady in the truck behind me wasn’t all that thrilled about it, but whatever. LOL.


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