Posted by: morrowsl | May 10, 2019

On Doing A Thing

By now, anyone who knows me knows I make a big deal about my Meat Fight family and the MS Ride in Dallas every May. The “Ride” is a two-day cycling event that covers 130 miles between Frisco and Ft Worth, TX.  There is an additional route that adds 24 miles, known as the “Century” route. The focus of the event is to raise awareness of, and funding for research for, Multiple Sclerosis. There are currently sixty-two rides nationwide.

I got involved with the ride as a Meat Fight volunteer four years ago and I’ve tried to be there every year since. It is truly a rewarding experience.

This year was different. In many ways. For me and for Meat Fight as well. Lots of firsts.

Not long after I got involved, my oldest daughter started volunteering as well. Almost immediately, she was bitten by the cycling bug. Before I knew it, she was talking about buying a bike and joining the team.
Last year was her first time to be on the Start Line with Team Meat Fight. Her son and I were there to see her take off and to cheer her on. It was incredible to be there and experience the hum of energy that moves through the crowd. Once they were on the road, we followed them to the first rest stop and watched as they rolled away again. It’s a big deal to watch your non-athletic kid find a sport that offers a chance for so much. Cycling is one of the best exercises available. Plus, it offers a chance for team and individual involvement as well as indoor training when the weather is disagreeable. It often leads to additional sports. More than a handful of Meat Fight cyclists now participate in marathons and even the Iron Man events.
Last year, Sheli took a nasty fall and called it a day much earlier than she wanted. But she was determined to be back this year to ride more and fall less.

For the first time, I took a video of the start and no photos. My camera was in the car.

Another first this year was having my cousin, Ebby, in the ride with Team Meat Fight. Her mom and I are first cousins and grew up practically in each others pockets. I knew of Karen’s daughters and saw them when we all managed to make a family reunion.

Or attend a family funeral.

Those limited opportunities don’t usually allow enough time for getting to know a first cousin, once removed. When I read that Ebby had been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, I started sending Karen information on Meat Fight’s Meat Bike program. I knew she would qualify. I wanted her to have every chance to kick MS curbside.

Not only did she qualify, she and her mom came to Frisco for the ride this year and she rode with her second cousin!
Another first, since they’d never met in person until this weekend.

Historically, Meat Fight sets up a team tent at the Day One Finish Line. I usually volunteer to help with set up and take down, and to do whatever needs doing in between. Usually, we also manage the final Rest Stop on Day Two, which is where it all started for me initially. This year, for the first time, we managed the Lunch Stop instead.

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Our first rider wheeled in at 9:08am.

I volunteered to help at the lunch tent with plans to be at the start and finish lines before and after lunch. Contrary to most years, there just wasn’t a lot to do. The food was donated by Fred’s Texas Cafe, which is amazing and a must visit if you find yourself in the area. The tents were set up prior to our arrival. There were MS Society volunteers everywhere, setting up chairs and snacks and drinks. Instead of the big Ryder truck driven by a Meat Fight volunteer being greeted by a hoard of other Meat Fight volunteers, there were half a dozen or so of us with only the one tent and table to tend. We had a smoker on stand-by for hot dogs. Other people were manning the hydration tent.

There are always riders that hit the stops well ahead of the pack. Our first cyclist made the turn-in a good hour earlier than expected. Luckily, he wasn’t interested in eating!
All the same, Paul and company fired up the smoker and started throwing the add-on hot dogs on the coals. By the time the bulk of the riders arrived, there were more than enough people under the tent to serve so, for the first time, I spent my time out in the sunshine greeting riders, holding bikes, and answering questions. It was a beautiful “blue bird” day with just enough cloud cover to offer shade, just enough sunshine to warm your back, and just enough cool breeze to keep you comfortable.

By the time Sheli rolled in, lunch was about done, so I ferried her and another rider to the team tent. Another first. I normally stay where I start and volunteer for the day. The tent was well attended and didn’t seem to need an extra person. Lunch would finish long before the last rider, called the “turtle” would be announced at the Day One Finish Line.

Thanks to the torrential rain we’ve been having, the entire grounds around the finish line were marshy, so my camera stayed tucked into its spot in the car.
The team tent was already beginning to dwindle by the time we arrived. Most of the riders were heading back to their overnight accommodations to an early bed followed by an insanely early wake up call on Sunday. We hung around a couple of hours, served a couple dozen margaritas, and tried to make sure we weren’t bailing out on clean up.

Still, it felt foreign to be leaving before the truck was loaded and pointed homeward.

Day Two came much earlier than I expected!

Since we wouldn’t be managing a Rest Stop this year, I had the opportunity to be at the Finish Line in Sundance Square. Yet another first.

A small group of riders, admittedly slower and somewhat unwilling to attempt the full day two route, had decided to meet up and depart from the last rest stop instead. The group would meet a couple of blocks from the rest stop and ride in.
Along the drive from home to Michelle’s Express Stop, we passed so many riders! It hits home, when you are driving the same route with cyclists an arm’s length from you, just how dangerous this thing can be. There are ride marshals and motorcycle cops scattered along the route, hopefully stopping traffic at red lights and protecting riders in trouble. But still, when it is all boiled down, it’s just a person on a bike versus a car on those roads. We topped a hill to find a fallen rider scrambling to clear their body from the roadside before another, much worse, accident could happen. It was chilling to see.

Then too, we passed a good number of team members and it was truly exciting and totally gratifying to roll down the windows and scream “MEAT FIGHT” at them!

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L to R: Sheli, Eduardo, Stacey, Lynne, Michelle, Ali, Caroleigh, Brandon, Ebby, Katie. Ready to depart Michelle’s Express Stop.

The group leaving Michelle’s were relaxed and laughing, as I imagined they might be before a practice ride. Once at the rest stop, this smaller band would join the larger group departing for the finish and make their own pace to the end.

I am used to seeing riders at the rest stop where many wrestle with the idea of not only another eleven miles to ride, but making it up “That Hill” and across the Main Street Bridge over the Trinity River. We would do our best to rally and encourage them with visual images of rolling onto the bricks into Sundance Square to the cheers of the crowd. Until this year, I was talking out my ass. I have no idea what either feels like. After this year, I have a much clearer understanding. And so much more respect for those who cross both.

As luck would have it, I missed the chance to photograph Sheli as she passed under the Finish banner. It was hard to know exactly where to be. Next year, I’ll make up for my ignorance. I did catch her celebrating with her core group.

And it was incredible to see her so happy!

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Ali, Sheli, Sheli, and Stacey

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Ali (57), Sheli (180), and Stacey (138)

I missed seeing Ebby cross the finish as well. I did finally spot her and got a chance to celebrate with her and her mom.

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Ebby

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Ebby and Karen

Once they were done, they were still not done. As much as it means to cross the finish and get the medal, it means so much more to be congratulated by team members and to ride that high with friends who share the experience.


Likewise, there’s always one story that stands out. Always one act of kindness that resonates. Always someone in need and someone willing to help.

This year was no exception.

KJ has been struggling this past year. But she refused to let MS stop her from being in the ride. Jake is a new team member but, for evermore, he will be KJ’s hero. And pretty much everyone else’s too. When it came time to take the hill, Jake handed off his bike, donned his runner’s shoes, and followed KJ up the hill. He said she asked him not to help her unless she asked. She didn’t. Neither did he. He had her back all the way.

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KJ and Jake

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Kim, Stacey, KJ, Ali, Caroleigh, Jake, and Sheli

Another Bike MS is history. This one though, is historical for me. I wasn’t as involved as a volunteer as I usually am.

Even so, being a spectator has its rewards.

I have a greater appreciation for the planning and logistics that go into an event of this magnitude.
I have a better understanding of the mental awareness it takes to be a rider. And the sheer terror that likely rides with each of these cyclists as they pedal alongside traffic.
I made new friends. I reinforced old friendships. I renewed a family bond.

And I have a HUGE amount of respect for the ride marshals, especially those on motorcycles. Yet another first for this year, I knew three of those personally. I didn’t get photos of all of them, but that’s just one goal of many for next year.

These guys are invaluable. And appreciated far more than words can ever say.

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Ride Marshal Mike Buran

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Ride Marshal Anthony Perry, aka Capt Neighbor Boy


Responses

  1. ~ ❤ ~


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