MS-150 Best Dam Bike Ride  --  2017

Ride0Our 13th MS-150 Best Dam Bike Ride is behind us now. We had the most enjoyable weekend of riding in near perfect weather, re-acquainted with old friends from years back and made a bunch of new ones. The low temperatures, cloud cover, and especially the very low winds was without question the best weather ride in all of our 13 years.

About 1500 riders attended this year’s event which is put on by the Wis Chapter of the National MS Society. The fundraising goal for this year was 1.5 million. I believe that by the fundraising deadline at the end of September we will have collectively hit our mark. Over the 34 years that the Wisconsin MS-150 Bike Ride has been going on we have raised over 28.5 million in search of a cure for MS. I can tell you that Sara and I are very proud of our achievement in raising nearly $70,000 in our 13 years with the help of all of our family, friends, and business relationships. We could not do it without all of your support, both financially and through the strong friendships we have enjoyed over the years.


Most of you remember last year’s debacle where after a very good first day ride we returned to our hotel only to have Sara slip in the bathroom and proceed to go head-to-head with a handicap grab bar. Unfortunately the grab bar won and we were done right there. Just Ride1another typical day to day with MS. Oh, did I mention that MS-SUCKS? Well this year we set out to re-deem ourselves and I think we did a pretty good job. Again as in years past, we came with a plan. Sara took me to WPS in Madison which is the finish line for the ride on Friday the 4th. There, my bike was loaded onto a big truck crammed full of expensive bikes. The superb volunteers that support the MS Ride each year do a miraculous job wrapping each bike in a thick blanket and carefully assembling them into the most intricate jig-saw puzzle ever. In all my years of doing this, I don’t think my bike has ever gotten even one scratch. Thanks guys!!

After spending the night at the Super 8 in Waukesha busses pick us up in the morning and transport us to the start. First job is to find my bike in the sea of bikes, literally. Each carefully unloaded from the trucks and laid on a couple acres of grass while we slept the night before. Since I ride a recumbent bike I have a big advantage in finding my bike quickly, but many times I see people walking back and forth for many minutes. After a while all the bikes begin to look the same and a person goes stir crazy trying to find theirs. Some are clever and tie bright ribbons on the bike to try to make this task easier. Once the bike is retrieved I head off to the luggage trucks. I grab the least stuff that I need for riding and give my bag to the next group of superb volunteers who tag it and place it in the truck for safe transport to Whitewater. I am told that in 34 years, they have never lost a bag, again… Thanks guys!! Nothing left to do but drain the blatter, fill the water bottle, and air up the tires and I am set to go. My nephew Jake and I plan to ride together and I meet up with him as we ready for the start.

We cheat a little in that we elect to start the ride about 20 minutes before the “official” mass start. It takes about the first 10 to 15 miles before all those bikers get metered out and I do not like to be in the middle of 1500 riders all jockeying for position. It can get downright dangerous. This way we have clear roads and clean sailing all the way to the first rest stop. And as happeneRide2d last year I am logged in as being the first to arrive at the rest stop. We are safely on our way.

The first day is a pretty flat ride, which is good as we all know that Sunday will be a day of many climbs. Jake and I proceed to put some miles between us and Waukesha and our bike computers are slowly showing the progress as we go. At around 38 miles we get to the lunch stop. There we meet up with Sara who has driven there in my truck along with our big recumbent tandem bike. We eat lunch together and catch her up on how we are doing. With the cool weather we are both strong and ready to shove off for the 2nd half of the ride. Sara will drive to the last rest stop which is about 10 miles from the finish. There we will transfer over to the tandem and she and I will ride to the finish line together. Our support crew of Gary and Colleen meet us there as well and will shuttle my truck and my bike from that rest stop to Whitewater for us. Our good friends give up this one weekend for us and we are so grateful for their un-wavering support of Sara.

Sara and I are now on the tandem bike and making our way to the finish line. It seems each time we get on the bike something has changed. Just the fatigue of waiting around all day and moving from one spot to the next has zapped much of Sara’s strength. This makes our journey much harder. Sometimes I have a hard time making the pedals go around as Sara’s legs do not like to follow proper peddling protocol and resist the circular motion relentlessly. Much of my power is used to just make her legs go around. This time however a new problem crops up. Her right leg keeps flopping to the left and hitting the bike computer mount, it gets so bad that she actually knocks the bike computer right off the bike at one point. This is why we ride with our nephew, so he can pick up the piecRide3es that are falling off our bike as we go. Since I can’t see her behind be, I just assume it is not that big of a deal and she tries her best to use her hands to support her flopping leg. Well when we finally stop we can see the damage. Her leg is bleeding and has a large area that looks like road rash. In our training rides we never encountered this problem and now we are. So is MS, each day a new adventure / issue.

We cross the finish line in Whitewater to a crowd of supporters cheering us on and it puts a lump in the throat as always. The satisfaction of crossing that line while knowing you are helping people less fortunate is a very powerful drug… Some might say; addictive. We proceed to meet up with our good friends on the Sonic Streamers (our old team) as Karen Minor requested that we stop by the team tent in Whitewater because she had something she wanted to give Sara. Much to our surprise, she is presented with a beautiful wood and glass case. Inside is a Sonic Streamers jersey mounted in the case and it has been signed by all the Sonic team members. Along with the jersey are photos of Sara’s sister Rosie who tragically passed this last year in February along with some encouraging words and quotes. Sara could not hold back the tears as she remembered her sister and closest friend and the 6 years she rode this ride as a Sonic Streamer to support her. It was a wonderful gesture and we are grateful for the friendship and support the Streamers have given us all these years. Thanks Ken, Karen and all the many Sonic team members who presented us with this wonderful remembrance of Rosie. It will most certainly find a very special place in our home and will be cherished forever.

We visit the medical tent to get some stuff for Sara’s wound and then load up our bikes and bags and make our way to our hotel to get cleaned up for dinner and the Saturday nights program under the big-top. We meet up with Jake and proceed to the chow line to load up on pasta and brats and best of all chocolate milk. It helps with recovery, but to me it just tastes good and satisfying after a hard days ride. The program on Saturday night is always an emotional one for us. Colleen Kalt, the president of the Wisconsin Chapter of the MS Society does her usual great job in motivating the troops. She recognizes individual and team fundraising accomplishments and rallies the “rookies” so that they remain engaged and realize that they are in fact the future drivers of finding a cure for MS. There always comes a time when she asks the crowd of 1500+ to stand if their spouse has MS. This unfRide4ortunately includes me, and as I stand I look across the room to pick out the other husbands who are in a similar position. Then it’s moms and dads, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, friends, aquantences, etc., until the entire crowd is on their feet with a long prolonged applause. The next group recognized will be the ones we are all there to support. She asks that “if able” anyone who has MS come join her on the stage so everyone can put a face to the disease. Men and woman, young and old begin to slowly arrive to the stage. Some walk up just fine. Some come in wheel chairs, some like Sara with a walker. Richer or poorer, better or worse, celebrity or nobody, MS does not discriminate, anyone of us can get MS at any time. This time the standing ovation lasts for what seems like an eternity. I am sure if you think long enough you can find some connection to MS within your family and friends. Consider riding next year and I guarantee that you will feel what it is we all do when we spend a weekend suffering for our loved ones and others we do not know who are less fortunate.

As the evening comes to a close we make our way back to the hotel to assume the all-important horizontal position to sleep and recover so we can get up early and do it all over again. Sunday is a day of many hills – let the suffering begin.

Well day 2 starts off as day 1. Absolutely beautiful weather, cool temps, and best of all forecasted 5 mph winds all day long. We drive from the hotel back to the Whitewater campus to meet up with Jake and get ourselves ready to begin again. We have the same plan for the day. SaRide6ra will meet us at the lunch stop for a bite to eat and then precede to the last rest stop at Goodland Park where we will once again try to finish the day on the tandem. Jake and I are making good time and are greeted by Sara as we arrive at the lunch stop. We are more exhausted this time from all the hills, but the weather is helping to keep us in the game. Jake decides that he will take the 50 mile route which breaks from the 75 after the lunch stop. I have really enjoyed riding with him this year and grateful in his support of his Aunt. At the fork in the road, we part company and I concentrate on conserving my energies for when I get to that last rest stop. Ten miles on the tandem is like 30 on my bike so my day is far from over. Not to mention that from the last rest stop to the finish is mostly all up hill.

At the second from the last rest stop I call Sara to update her on my progress and give her my ETA. We have family and friends that want to be there when we cross the finish line and Sara makes the calls to give everyone the update. I have about 15 miles to Goodland Park and I am starting to get my second wind which is good, I will need it shortly. Sara lets me know that her sister Rosie’s good friend and riding partner Patti is on her way to Goodland Park to meet up with us and ride into the finish line together. We have an important mission that we could not complete last year because of Sara’s fall. Both Patti and Sara have ashes of Rosie and it was her dying wish that we spread those as we crossed the finish line.

Sara’s leg is still pretty bad from the day before but as a trooper taking one for the team she wraps up the leg real good and we get a guy from the medical tent to put moleskin over the computer mount in hopes that is will be softer and smoother if her leg were to hit it again. But wait, MS remember… today we discover a new problem. Usually I have to clip her into the pedals prior to getting onto the bike and pop her feet out of the pedals when we finally stop. But today everything is different again. As soon as we get going and start to climb up the hills I hear and feel this “pop” from behind me. Her right foot just came out of the pedal. We have to stop. We snap her back in and try to start again on the hill now. We go for only a short distance and “pop”, out again. This goes on about 10 times and I am getting very frustrated and wondering if we are ever going to make it to the finish. She is doing her best, but can’t keep that foot in the pedal. Every day is something new. I snap at her and ask; “what the heck are you doing back there”? I have to corral my frustrations because the fact is she is doing nothing but constantly fighting this damn disease and trying her best. Sometimes I need Jethro Gibbs from the show NCIS to cuff me up side the back of my heRide7ad when I take my frustrations out on Sara like that. I struggle with this always and sometimes just want to go outside and scream at the top of my lungs; “how can such a good person get such a cruel disease as MS”? I have cursed God many times about this and want a damn good explanation someday when I meet him face to face. MS–SUCKS, plain and simple. Even with her leg hitting the computer mount again and the foot popping out of the pedal over and over, she keeps telling me; don’t stop, keep going we can make it. I ask her to try to not push on the pedals to help. “Let me take you to the finish” I proclaim and this helps out a bunch. Her feet are staying in and we only have a couple miles left to ride as we can now taste the finish.

We round the very last bend and can see our MS-SUCKS  We Ride for BUCKS fan club. My parents, bother and his wife, Jake, and of course Gary and Colleen our support crew all there in their team shirts rooting us on. We stop for a short time to get hugs and kisses from them but the finish line is still just around the bend. So, Patti and Sara prepare for the most important task and to fulfill the promise made to Rosie. With ashes in hand we head for the finish line. Emotions and the flood of memories overcome us as we let the ashes fly as we cross. We can feel Rosie with us pushing us over the line. We have done it again. We stuck to our plan and completed the journey to fulfill our promise..

When I saw this photo, it looked to me as if an angel crossed the finish line with us, and this time one did.
With all of our love and thanks, we look forward to next year and our 14th MS-150.