After leaving the Badlands and spending a wonderful night with the Hartman's in MN and seeing my friend Chris who now lives in Roseville of all places we headed to Chicago to surprise our die-hard White Sox fan of a son with Yankee tickets at Cellular field (notice I am still taking lessons from Switzerland and staying neutral though a B/W pinstripe sticker did end up on my car). We had a blast at the game. This park was smaller than the NY counterpart, and much more accessible with LOTS of interactive stuff to do. My only beef is that 5th tier seating does not allow you to access any of it. We slept in that night after the game and left Chicago at 11AM. We arrived in Saratoga at 1:30AM but we did stop a number of times. Dinner was in Mentor, OH just outside of Cleveland in a little place called Lakeshore Eatery. The pot roast and breaded pork chops were wonderful. I had perch, which was good, but fried fish is fried fish. In any case if you find yourself between NY and Cleveland on route 90 its worth the short 3 mile trip out of the way. Its not on the lake though, despite what the name implies.
Friday morning came early. We were up at 9 repacking and out the door by 11 to get me to Sturbridge to check in for the PMC by 1 and Chris to the Martha's Vineyard ferry by 4:30. Everything worked out well. I met up with my team and a the surprise of a former student and aspiring photo journalist/environmental scientist at dinner. It was such a joy to see Leslie and a few current students from NCHS that came along to cheer on her dad who was riding as well. Although, at the time, in my head I was thinking that despite training for this, I wasn't sure that ending a cross country rode trip with a 192 mile bike ride was sensible. Then I saw Deklan at the opening ceremonies and I knew I had to figure it out.
PMC 2011 Opening Ceremonies at Sturbridge from David Hellman on Vimeo.
Deklan in a pedal partner with Team Kermit. He was diagnosed with a very rare form of brain cancer when he was 15 months old. He is alive today because the Jimmy Fund at Dana Farber did not think that diagnosing 32 children per year with his type of brian tumor was too little to research and treat.
On Saturday morning (before dawn was even a thought) I made my way to breakfast, ready to join Lance Armstrong, Sen. Kerry, Sen. Brown, the Bruins, the wives of the BosSox, 55 team Kermit members, and about 5,000 other people in a 192 mile journey across the state of MA.
I began my journey of 111 miles with a very large vintage Kermit perched upon my head. At first I couldn't figure out why my helmet adjustment was off, then I hit the first down hill and thought this is never going to work. Then it started to get really, really heavy! I remember this guy going buy saying to me thats a really big frog on your head, your neck is going to hurt by the end of the day. As much as I hated the guy for that comment I knew he was right, but I wanted to be a team player. At the first rest stop I used a bit of ingenuity and strapped him to my handlebars, where he sat perfectly as if he were meant to be there. I left that pitstop with Ellen, and rode the whole way with her taking pictures when we wanted, taking our time, enjoying the ride. The 111 mile day went fast despite all of that. My back did act up at around 80 miles, probably from sitting all week in the car? Tylenol and delegating one water bottle to ice which I stuck in the center back pocket did the trick. I was amazed at how much spectator support there was. There seemed to be as many as the TdF at times, three/four deep, lots of cow bell and horns. It was enlightening. I was so glad I was wearing glasses because it allowed me to get choked up without people knowing it. I was riding with Ellen, a friend who lost her son to cancer. I have learned so much from her. She helped me so much last spring when my mom was sick. I know that the PMC must be hard for her as they used to volunteer as a family when her son was sick, now they ride it as an annual memorial. "One day the PMC will be a party rejoicing in a cure for this horrible disease"
We arrived at MMA to Steve and Adam waiting to fetch our bikes for us, help us get our gear situated and get some food. We sat there with the rest of team Kermit who despite eating already joined us at the table to keep us company. We washed down dinner with some Harpoon, went off to take our team picture, grab a shower, listen to music, drink another IPA and head to bed.
MMA is situated on the Cape Cod canal. It reminds me of Jamestown and Newport Harbor. The wind picked up that night and with the windows in the dorm open it completed the memory of the CYC in Jamestown and the days when we used to get together up there. On my way into MMA there was a support sign that said go Skip Gorman, you got this. Was it possible that my friend Chris's brother was one of the 5,000 riders? I have had my friend Chris in my prayers for a bit as he waits to find out his prognosis. The experience at MMA made me wonder if he felt my prayers, or maybe it was just Helen was listening from Heaven?
I woke up at 3:45 AM to howling winds and heavy rain. It was ominous. We had another 82 miles in front of us. After a great breakfast I went to fetch my bike and panicked, it was gone, moved... apparently the rack of bikes had collapsed and Steve had moved my bike to a very obvious spot, but I completely missed it until he gave me a hint on where to find it. With that solved we headed out at 5:45 over the Bourne Bridge and onto the Canal Path. It was funny being in that park under the bridge. I used to hang out there with my friend Tim and his brother Kevin. We would sit, listen to music and watch the boats and the cars crossing the bridge. There was this one time I remember vividly, Annette was there. We blasted "The Who". As I rode all I could think about was "Behind Blue Eyes".
The route on the cape was similar to what I am used to riding here, big rollers. Lots of up and down. It was much less taxing then the fairly flat second half of the century yesterday. It was wet and with wet clothing comes friction. By mile 46 I had had it. I bailed on my efforts. It hurt to sit. It hurt to stand on my pedals. Hurt it not a good description, excruciating is more like it. The 50/50 mix of bag balm and 2.5% cortisone was doing nothing for me. It was the wet shorts that kept the issue compounded. I had a keen reminder of what acute diaper rash must feel like to a baby! I wanted to cry despite my high tolerance for pain. It sucked in a way because my legs were fine. I could have ridden another 100 on them but at what cost? Not to worry my adventure did not end here just my ride.
In the sag wagon I sat with three other people, a woman with the flu (Roberta I hope you feel better), Brescia a newbee cyclist who got behind THE CURVE from the lack of experience and guidance. Hats off to her, she managed 156 miles after training on her own with no one to teach her what was important. And then there was a man, I forgot his name, who had crashed on the vinyl striping on the side of the road. He was pretty banged up but refused care because he wanted to go to Brigham and Women's instead. (great hospital) He was quite an interesting guy, 75 years old, his 17 time doing this ride, and had raised a ton of funds each and every one of those years. He did not look a day over 60. I only hope I have another 30 years of this sport! Later on the trip another cyclist joined us, he wanted to get a lift to a spot 5 miles from the finish. He was too exhausted to finish the last 20. Then there was Steve, the driver and volunteer. He was incredibly nice and very encouraging, not to mention funny. All of the volunteers were extremely helpful except the old woman who was at the medical tent in Nickerson. She was cute but clueless but she meant well. I just went away for a few minutes and came back to talk to someone else.
After arriving in Province Town and rescuing my bike from a near shipping error (quite the ordeal) I got a shower, shared some food with one of my team mates and his family, and headed to the ferry dock in torrential rain, wind and chilly temps. The seas were so rough that our ferry was 50 minutes late and there was no shelter of any speakable significance to wait at. Waiting on line we even lost a rider to hypothermia, sad they got him into an ambulance just as we were boarding the ferry. As we boarded the boat the cabin was transformed immediately into a changing room. The heat was cranked up and then just as the cabin became stuffy and warm we were warned about the extremely rough seas. A comment was made about the barf bags being placed on the counter. At that point my eyes were closed, my head was down, I was meditating and knew I could really use one to have one of those bags on hand but also knew I would be doomed if I got up to get it so I worked within my abilities to cope. Then things started to unravel, first someone started blasting some music, which made focusing on my breath really difficult, then one of my team mates gave rise to the mantra, "its not easy being green" by tossing his lunch onto my foot, then it was ALL over for me. I tried to contain myself but it just wasn't going to happen. We cleared our side of the boat, I was surprised it wasn't listing afterwards. After a very rough 2 hours we finally landed in Boston Harbor, where Kenny fetched me shivering, crying, incredibly wet and cold. I changed into the only dry clothes I had right in the middle of the street (my newly issued PMC jersey was still in its plastic bag and a pair of gym shorts that was at the bottom of a bag of laundry), got into the car and headed home. Poor Kenny, he had to pull over for several more episodes of hurling in the course of the 3 hour trip. We even stopped to get me a warm biscuit and some coke. It helped enough to let me sleep the rest of the ride home. Though I was up a few times during the night too. I slept most of the day today, or at the very least didn't move much from the couch. The cat who was so happy to see me last night, gave me the cold shoulder this morning, eventually spent the rest of the day blobbing with me on the couch.
As I look back on this incredible weekend, between the support of the spectators, the diligence of the volunteers, the courage of the riders, the diversity of the riders, and overall comradery of the group I find it hard not to have a smile come to my face. It was that incredible. Now, I just have to finish raising the funds I promised to raise. If you have already made a donation, thank you. If you can find it in your hearts to contribute now thank you. Just know that you will be a part of a Cancer Center that is going to no end to find a cure. The weekend's mantra, "commit and you'll figure it out" says it all. Cancer touches everyone. Lets strive to make that a historical statement rather than a present reality. Let's commit to figure it out. You can donate online or send me a check made out to the PMC/Jimmy fund (48 Entrance Way, Purdys NY 10578) or you can even text a donation PMC LF0085 to 20222. Thanks so much for all of your support!