On Riding in the MS 150, Again
First, I would like to congratulate myself. This is the tenth year that I’ve ridden in the MS 150, one of the largest fundraising efforts by the New England (formerly Maine) Chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis Society. And I can prove it:
Can you read that? It’s got my name on it. Well, one of my names. And it says “10 Year Cyclist.” Of course, my partner in crime for this adventure, my way-cool sister Susan, got her 10-year plaque last year…but she’s older, and she’s always got to do things before I did (but that’s another story for another time).
In any case, this year the Saturday routes were all changed. In former years, we’ve all ridden out of St. Joseph’s College in Standish in a pack, heading off into the wilds of North Gorham, then winding towards Limington and various other places…but apparently the complaint was that the route was boring and traveled over some heavily-trafficked roads, making crossing and sometimes just plain riding difficult and dangerous. This year we went the other way: rather than turning to the southeast, we turned northeast and headed into places like Gray and Cumberland, and for those on the longer routes, into Pownal and all the way over to Auburn before circling back. This year, on the Saturday, a century route was designed, for those bike riders who really believe in hurting themselves.
(I can’t quite see the instance when I’ll feel up to riding a century. Susie, maybe. But when my knees start complaining at 50 miles or so, and my butt hurts, and I know exactly how old I am to the second…I just don’t see that plan working out for me.) The rest stops, too, were international–the Italian one, for instance, and the Swedish one: I knew I was riding a long way…just not that long.
There were fewer heavily-trafficked roads on the new route, I must say. There were also some killer hills, and I am not a good hill rider; I just kept waving Susie on and telling her I’d meet her at the top some year. Mountain Road out of Falmouth? If I ever see that road again, I swear I’ll cry, all the way up. On the upside, many of the roads were newly paved, and the riding on new tar is always lovely: you can hear the bike’s slicks hum. I don’t know if the scenery was any better, but it surely was different; of course, nine years on the same course will numb a person up somewhat, too (I don’t remember, in the past couple of years, that I even had to think to get from the start to the finish). It was also hotter than expected, and, when, coming up past the reservoir in North Gorham, a lady watering her garden sprayed us with her hose, I was grateful.
Sadly, the same newly-paved roads which made Saturday’s riding so nice were what put the kibosh on Sunday’s: rain overnight, and rain off and on all morning caused ponding and otherwise dangerous conditions on the roads, and the ride organizers, after reconnaissance in cars, called the day off. That’s only happened one other time in the past ten years, and I’ve gotten to the point where, when it happened, I was really sorry. There’s something inherently affirming in going out there on the route, riding until you’re pretty certain you never want to see a bike again, and then coming into the spray tent at the finish line anyway, where all the volunteers are cheering and ringing more cowbells than a commercial herd. Sure, it hurts. But then idiots like me immediately turn around and pass in our early-bird registrations for next year, even before the celebratory lobster dinner under the big tent.
This year I rode with a sparkly homemade tiara wired to my bike helmet (for design and construction
help, I must thank my niece Katie Fusselman, a first-grade teacher who knows all about glue and rhinestones and things of that nature). It honors the coolest assistance dog I’ve ever met, Luke, who helps fight MS with his person, my friend Denise. I’d hoped Denise would be able to join us this year on her new recumbent bike, but that didn’t happen. The tiara was a challenge. Luke appears to have appreciated it, from what I’ve heard.
Once again, Susie whupped my butt fundraising, but between us, we still managed to come close to $1500 for the MS Society. Thanks to all who gave, and especially all the folks at CHS who partook of my bagel fundraising breakfast. Luke thanks you, too.