Oh.. What a ride: The Bike Ride from a Riders Perspective
Oh what a ride…
I was the designated last rider for the 25 mile ride and was excited about the position as I haven’t been riding a lot and it would give me the chance to ride slow and steady. I started late as I was talking to one of our warriors and one of the speakers for the upcoming gala. The first 5 miles were fairly uneventful. Caught some folks struggling up the first climbs, so I stopped midway and cheered them on. At the top of one of the climbs about mile 7 several folks asked about the turnaround point for the 10 mile ride. We were told by one of the NAM Knights (thanks David), that they had missed the turn around. At least three folks turned back, but there was one gentlemen who I would later finish the ride with that said his son was riding the 25 miles and he was going to keep going.
Little did I know then, what an impact Michael would have on my ride. So we all started up again. I caught the group on the next hill and stopped halfway to encourage them. Michael and I were riding together and he said he was getting cramps. He stayed on his bike until mile 13 when we stopped to stretch for the first time. We made it to the rest stop and refueled with bananas and water. At mile 17 we stopped again and Michael was really suffering. I asked if he wanted me to call the SAG and his answer was a quiet yes. As I called SAG, his shoulders dropped a little and he looked a little deflated. I have been there. DNF, is a hard pill to swallow. In my case it also included a 7 hour bus ride back to the start, but those letters (DNF) never really leave you. After a few minutes Michael said he wanted to ride a little to see how he felt. He didn’t want to give up. I said OK and off we went. He looked good and was riding strong. I called SAG and told them we were riding and I would call back if they were needed. They were amazing and kept checking in with our progress. THANK YOU! We stopped at mile 18. This is where we met the full NAM Knights team that would escort us to the finish. David, Lisa and the others were amazing. They took great care of Michael and made sure he had everything he needed and offered to lighten his load so he could finish.
We walked a little and got back on our bikes. This is when I learned Michael worked for COMCAST as a maintenance technician and had spent 20 years in the Army and was stationed at both Hawaii and Alaska. He learned about the ride through COMCAST and he and his son had signed up to ride. At about mile 19.5 Michael stopped and was really suffering. We stopped in the driveway of a Middle Eastern family that were out talking to the motorcyclists. What a great testament to the American spirit. I didn’t get the family’s name, but they were so gracious.
As we started to walk up the hill, one of NAMs Knights walked in the road to block oncoming traffic since there was no real shoulder. I didn’t get his name, but THANK YOU. We got on the bike and had 2.9 miles to go. At 2 miles to go, I pulled up beside Michael and told him “2 miles”. I have been in his shoes where 2 miles might as well be 200. But he wasn’t going to quit. At 1.5 to go, I did the same thing, there was a little more determination on his face. At 1 mile to go he said his legs were starting to cramp. I knew if he got off the bike he wouldn’t get back on, so I stayed with him and talked him through the first half mile. I told him we were going to finish this ride on our bikes and his shoulders straightened and his pace increased. He knew he could do it. When we saw the brewery banners he was over the moon.
The NAM Knights stayed with us the entire 2.9 miles and when we saw the banner, they revved their engines and we had a great finish. The folks at the finish cheered as Michael finished. Michael’s son met us and I was able to get a picture with Michael and Lisa. I was so amazed at his determination and honored to be able to share this ride with him. Why is this important? We as the event team (sweep rider, NAM Knights, SAG crew) did not leave a rider alone on the road. A potential experience of isolation and frustration was turned into a victory and that is the story he will share with others. It is the small details that matter. Thank you for the opportunity to be a part of a great event!
Lisa Martinez, SOWW Bike Ride Committee and Road Marshall