Pedal to the Point 2011: Thanks for riding for us!

My cycling glasses were being pummeled by cold rain drops as I pushed forward through a downpour on the final miles of the 2011 Bike MS Pedal to the Point. Only a few hours earlier, the rain had started as I left the mid-ride lunch break on my 75 mile journey to Cleveland. I was assuring myself that it was just a passing shower. That assessment turned out to be wrong as I battled rain on the remainder of the day’s ride.

Realizing that my rain-spotted glasses were useless, I pulled them off as I approached a rural crossroads near Valley City. Through the rain stinging at my face and the drops rolling off my helmet, I spotted something on the left side of the road. As I got closer, I made out four figures sitting huddled beneath umbrellas in a desolate church parking lot. It was definitely not what I was expecting in the country on a rainy Sunday afternoon. In unison they yelled, “Thanks for riding for us!” as I passed and looked their way.

An uphill grade and the past hour of heavy rain had my spirits in the dumpster. This single group of four people made my day and lifted me to new heights. I was more determined to push on to the finish of my 150 mile ride. I am pretty certain the lives of these four kind brave people have been touched by the pain of Multiple Sclerosis. Riding a bicycle for 150 miles is not everyone’s cup or tea or in their abilities. These people chose to spend the afternoon in the cold rain doing their part for the cause. Their words, “Thanks for riding for us!” were just what I and many others needed at this point of the ride.

Words do make a difference. At lunch I was pondering if I should take the bus the 35 miles back to Cleveland. It would have been so easy, so dry and so comfortable. As I waited for the rain to subside, I spotted this sign planted in the lawn, “You can throw in the towel, or you can use it to wipe the sweat off of your face.” Those were the words that egged me on to finish the ride on the bike saddle rather than on a school bus seat.

This was my second Bike MS Pedal to the Point. I find these to be memorable events that allow me to raise funds for a very worthwhile charity. The cost of research and treatment development is high for Multiple Sclerosis. This bike ride attracts about 3,000 riders who form a community for a weekend united in a single cause. There are heads-down road cyclists who glide with ease into Sandusky and back. There are leisure riders who cycle bike paths on a weekend afternoon working hard; determined to make their way to the finish points. There are families, coworkers and friends of MS patients who ride for love and support. What a wonderful mix of people of all shapes and sizes!

I would be amiss if I did not thank the multitude of volunteers who toil behind and in front of the scenes to pull this event off so smoothly. The large number of SAG, medical, and motorcycle escort teams make up the best safety team I have ever seen for any cycling event. Rest areas and lunch stop volunteers are so friendly and welcoming, often circulating among the cyclists with food and drink. In Sandusky, the logistics of moving 1,000s people to and from the high school, hotels and amusement parks runs smoothly in an efficient manner.

Pedal to the Point has become a signature event for me. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society speaks to me. After becoming a healthier person over the past few years, I have discovered that I can help people through my cycling. I was given a new lease on life that I am determined to use for the better. I am sure I will be back for many Pedal to the Points in the years to come. On my summer New England vacation, I saw posters for the Bike MS Cape Cod Getaway, a 150 mile ride from Boston to Provincetown. This ride is definitely on my to-do list of bike rides.

Here’s my trip report for this year’s ride. Saturday was a perfect cycling day with temps in the 70s-80s and sunny skies. I was riding my new Fuji Newest 1.0 road bike and anticipated making better time than my 2010 ride. Unfortunately my partner Brett had a series of mechanical problems that slowed our progress. We still made it to Sandusky, arriving around 4:30 p.m. We got at early start at 6:45 a.m. on Sunday morning hoping to beat the rain. We made speedy progress and beat the rain into lunch. Brett’s tire problems had been solved with no repair stops to slow us down. Rain followed us into Cleveland after lunch. We were pretty happy averaging around 14 mph, not too bad for two causal cyclists. Despite the rain and mechanical problems, we had a wonderful ride.

Whether you were a cyclist, SAG or support volunteer, lunch or rest stop volunteer, or a person working behind the scenes, your efforts deserve a standing ovation. I also commend the people who sit on their porch clapping, the children high fiving riders as they pass, and the cheering people huddled under umbrellas in the rain. The message is clear, “Thanks for riding for us!”

Visit Tom’s Bike MS Pedal to the Point 2011 page @ http://bit.ly/pVCpjg.

Heading south from Berlin Hts.

Throw in the towel

Heading back to Cleveland

Tom at Milan rest stop on Sunday

Brett at Milan rest stop on Sunday

Storing bikes in Sandusky

Brett and Tom at the ewnd of day 1

Rurl view heading to Sandusky

Tom on Saturday morning

Flat northern Ohio countryside

Brett changing a tire... again

Sharing the road with SAG and Med

Rest stop #2 on Saturday is always the nicest

The line for Gatorade and snacks

Tom and Brett at rest stop #1 on Saturday

Riders ready to cycle on Saturday morning!

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