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Why ride the PMC

Why ride the PMC

It is hard to believe that our 2 month adventure has come to an end.  There are still so many things I still want to write down about the cross country ride and I will try as the days go on.  But right now I am going through the post PMC blues.  It is such an exciting, fun and motivating weekend that always leaves me ready to ride again.  There are many reasons I ride and things that make the weekend special and that is what I wanted to write about now.

The PMC weekend has so many facets.  When we arrive in Sturbridge the chaos of registration is the first thing we need to go through.  A large room filled with bikers from all over the world checking in, meeting friends and trying on their new biking jersey.  Every few minutes a cheer goes around the room as a new rider checks in.  Loud yelling, cow bells ringing and cheers from all over the room to celebrate a new member of the PMC riding community.  The bikes are parked in the lot and Landry’s is out there making the last minute repairs.

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Next is the start of the weekend of food.  The menu for the first night is filled with pasta, rubbery chicken, salads of all types and a great assortment of desserts.  We sat and ate a course of dinner, dessert, some more dinner and then of course another dessert.  And we never forget to get the hydration going with one of the many water bottles we will drink over the next few days.

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We finish the evening with the opening ceremonies.  It is usually a fun time with music, comedy and the beach balls come out along with the inspiring videos and stories about why groups, families or individuals are riding.  Some find it more exciting than others.  We get to hear from Dr. Ed Benz, the President and CEO of Dana Farber, on how the the money raised is used to help in their battles with finding the cures and making the treatments of their patients better.     The temporary tattoos are on and we leave ready to ride.

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The Spectators- We begin the first day at 5:30 am with the singing of the National Anthem and that last reminder not to “clip in” our bike cleats until you clear the mass of 3500 riders leaving the staging area.  Riding down Route 20 in Sturbridge the crowds are up and cheering and the sun is just trying to come up in the east.  It never ceases to amaze me the number of people that are out on the road at 5:00 am to 5:00 pm.  They are there with signs, cow bells, balloons, music and their voices. They offer bottles of water, a pump for our tires and words of encouragement.  They cheer, they wave and they thank us for riding.  They have their reasons for being there also.  Friends and family with cancer have brought them out.

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The Volunteers- What an amazing group.  They are there at every point in the ride.  From registration to food to medical to bike maintence (thank you Landry’s Bike for your presence all weekend) to massage to more food to water stops…  At all hours (the second picture was taken at 4:00 am ) they are makng the ride easier for those of us riding.  It is nice to know that after I register I will be able to find everything I need because of the volunteer’s non- stop efforts.

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The Water Stops- There are 8 different water stops along the route.  Each one has its own personality and an endless stream of water, fruits and peanut butter/fluff products.  Some of the stops have themes such as the Nickerson Rock and Roll Stop which includes posting trivia questions on the porta potties to give you something to think about while you are standing in line.  One of the best is the Lakeville Stop dedicated to the Pedal Partners.  The Pedal Partners are the children who are currently receiving treatment (or finished with treatment!) at Dana Farber Cancer Institute.  Each are sponsored by teams riding in honor of them.  Many of the children are present at the Lakeville Stop and poster-sized pictures of them line the road on the way into the stop.  It carries a very powerful and emotional message and gives a needed boost for the final 40 miles of the day.

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The reason others ride- There are so many groups/teams/individuals that ride the PMC.  Everyone has their reason for making the trek across the state.  Some are riding for people they know and some ride for a particular cause/cure/type of cancer/pedal partner but everyone has their own reason to ride.  Teams have their names such as Brielle’s Brigade- Miles for Mary- Annie’s Angels- Patriot Platelet Pedalers and they come with their mottos on the team jerseys – like “making cancer our bitch”, “cancer sucks” and “lick cancer”.

Why I ride-  Every day for the last two months I have had this picture of my parents on my riding jersey.  They have been an inspiration for my riding the PMC as both passed away due to cancer.

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But every year there is at least one thing that makes me want to return and ride the PMC.  This year, like the last several years, I have seen one young boy who stands near the Nickerson Park water stop holding a sign.  ”Thanks to you I’m”… with the last 6 years crossed out.  I stopped and briefly talked with him this year.  He seemed to be surprised when I thanked him for being out here every year.  He is why I ride.

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The Final Leg

It is time we start our final leg of this incredible adbventure. In just a few minutes Eric Heller, Bill Collins, John Varner and I will be making our way to Sturbridge for the start of the 2013 PMC. It has been a wonderful few day at home letting my legs recover and enjoying my own bed for a change. However I seen to have a sore neck from my bed and not from all those hotel boards I slept on.
The entry into Amherst was a joy. We were greeted so warmly by our sponsors along route 9. Thank you VOmax, Valley Bike and Ski Werks and Sunraise Printing for your help with our trek. The greeting by the employees at the Donohue Institute was amazing and thank you Lauren Heller and the Drum Major Camp at UMass for the gauntlet of cheers. When I arrived at my house there was a beautiful bouquet of flowers from Greg and Nancy Schwartz and balloons from the Dixon family. Thank you as they made it a warm return to the house.
Now we venture to the whole reason we began our cross country ride. The Pan Mass Challenge is one of my favorite weekends of the year. 5000+ riders and 3000 volunteers getting together over 192 miles to help solve a problem. Getting money into the hands of the researchers and doctors who can truly make a difference in our quest to eradicate cancer. Finding a cure and helping those who are going through the treatments. While I am one of many riding, it is the spectacle of the entire weekend that makes me know I am helping.
While we may not be able to post much this weekend we will be following up with more stories and post to wrap up our ride. Thank you for following along. You all have been a great source of energy and encouragement along the route.

A Brief (and Somewhat Surreal) Hiatus… and Tomorrow We’re Back At It

There is no lack of explanations for the silence of the past few days: being at home with all the welcome distractions; pure exhaustion finally able to really catch up with me; places to go, things to do, bikes to maintain, bags to repack, etc., etc., etc. And on top of that, as fate would have it, there’s the incredible misfortune of having contracted a virus on my laptop at our very last motel. Imagine – 2 months of hooking on to unprotected wifi networks at any number of sketchy motels and inns across America, and only on the very last night, in Pittsfield, MA, does it finally catch up with me and bite me in the digital derriere. Quality Inn? I don’t think so. No worries, though. Brendan the Magnificent, tech support guru extraordinaire at the UMass Donahue Institute, came through as he always does. My laptop is back in business, without so much as a sniffle remaining from the deadly virus. Brendan: U Da Best!

The 24 hours that began with our rain-drenched arrival in Pittsfield on Sunday can only be described as a whirlwind of surreal joy, excitement, and amazement. That evening, we were joined in Pittsfield by a merry band of our close friends, led by none other than our SAG wagon goddess from Phase 1 (Seaside, OR to Bismark, MT) – my wife and best friend, Yehudit. Along with our friends Stephen and Moira, and Tom and Candi, we celebrated our Massachusetts homecoming with a great dinner.

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Stephen and Tom stayed with us overnight, and joined us for our ride home to Amherst the next morning. Two other friends, John and Bill, joined us along the route as well. Riding from the Berkshires towards the Pioneer Valley, on familiar roads and past familiar places for the first time in 2 months and in the company of great friends was, to put it simply, an absolute thrill!

 

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As planned and discussed numerous times over the course of our journey (when Bob and I occasionally transgressed and allowed ourselves to look beyond the next 24 hours), we made our way home through a series of visits with some of our key sponsors. First stop was the Northampton industrial park and our great friends at VOMax, who manufactured the very professional nd very comfortable, now famous C2C2C2 bike jerseys (so beautifully designed by our graphic design and all things social media guru, Madeline Newcomb!) The folks at VOMax, as promised back in May before we left, were waiting for us with cold beer, as well as gifts, PMC donations,  and all in all one heck of a great, emotional welcome, one I know I’ll never forget.

 

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From there, it was on to lunch at one of our favorite local eateries in Hadley, Essalon (where they have never heard of iceberg lettuce, by the way!) After lunch, a short sprint further down route 9 brought us to Valley Bike and Ski Werks, the shop that so generously supported us with spare parts, pre-departure tune-ups (and now, post-arrival repairs and tender loving care), maintenance supplies, etc.

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A little further down the road we caught up with our friends at Sunraise printing, who so generously donated the printing of our team t-shirts and business cards, and did such a great job printing the signs that decorated Perky, the SAG wagon, that captured the attention of so many people across the country talking, who know are still talking about it!

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We had 2 more very special and emotional stops after that. Around the corner from Sunraise is my office, and sure enough, the entire great Donahue Institute team was waiting and cheering for us in the parking lot. Their reception was overwhelming, and I am still trying to find the right words to capture the emotions I felt seeing them all. Guys – I wish I could have greeted every one of you individually, but I was really too overwhelmed to focus. But there will be time for that when I am back for good, and I promise to catch up with all of you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for the support and incredible greeting!

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Our last stop was at the UMass campus, at the request of my niece Lauren, who every summer helps run the George Parks Drum Major Academy. I had a feeling she had something planned, but nothing could have prepared us for the reception the campers had waiting for us: the entrance to the campus was lined with campers on either side, with banners unfurling as we biked through. I don’t have a picture, but you can see a video of this reception (courtesy of Lauren’s fiance Tom) here: ”https://www.facebook.com/video/embed?video_id=10151769841467674

 

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And then, to complete this surreal day, we headed home, just as we do at the end of any of our rides. We all rode together to the center of town, said goodbye first to John, then Tom, and then Stephen as we reached their turn off points, and then Bill and I accompanied Bob home, and continued on our way. Finally, when it was time for me to turn off into my neighborhood, I said goodbye to Bill just as I have done countless other times at the end of rides over the years, and rode the last mile home by myself. Just the typical end of a typical ride. Except that this one began 2 months ago, on the other side of the United States, nearly 3,700 miles away. Typical – yeah, right.

(By the way, a nice article about our ride appeared in our local daily newspaper on Tuesday:

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And now the final act is just about to begin. Tomorrow morning we’ll bicycle from Amherst to Sturbridge for the start of the Pan Mass Challenge (stopping, of course, for breakfast along the way – Bob and I are feeling very lost and disoriented having not shared any meal on the road in the last 72 hours!). On Saturday we’ll join 5000+ of the greatest people in the world riding to Bourne by the Cape Cod Canal, and then on Sunday we’ll complete our journey by riding the length of Cape Cod to its tip in Provincetown. It’s hard to believe we made it this far and that we are about to finish what we set out to do. My mind spins as I try to makes sense of it all - maybe somewhere along the 192 miles of the PMC I’ll be able to sort it all out. And maybe not.  Either way, I’ll be back here afterwards to tell you all about it and let you know what I’ve come up with.

Goodnight from Amherst, MA, where for the 4th straight night, I am not sleeping in a less than luxurious motel after not having eaten out in a less than terrific local diner. Ahhh, the good life. The really good life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Picture Truly Worth a Thousand Words

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It was a wet welcome, a VERY wet welcome, but it was still the best welcome of them all. And nothing was going to dampen our spirits on this day.

Tomorrow, accompanied by some great friends who have come up here to join us on the ride, we reach home, regardless of the weather. A very goodnight from good old Pittsfield, a mere 50 miles (and a few good hills) from home!