Sunday, July 26, 2009

2009 Keystone Country MS 150

This weekend we completed the Keystone Country MS 150. It's really a beautiful event in a lot of senses. The ride is gorgeous. The ride meanders through both sides of the valley between Hollidaysburg and State College PA. This is a little known area of the state that is reminiscent of Vermont. The back roads go along the Juniata River and through little towns. The hills are deep with green trees and roads cut by farms. The ride overnights in State College, a very nice college town.

The event is also beautiful because it brings family and friends together to support a very worthy cause. It also brings strangers together, who otherwise never cross paths. Motorcycle enthusiasts control traffic at the intersections to make sure the riders cross safely and make the right turns. Volunteers in small towns and villages are working rest stops making sure that the riders are nourished with food and drinks. The residents of these small towns stand on their porches and yards cheering the riders as if it was a stage of the Tour d' France.

There were a few challenges:
* The Hampton Inn in Altoona where our team, Lou's Crew, stayed on Friday night failed to give us our wake up calls, making us the last team to start.
* One of our riders fell off his bike after a downhill flat tire, cracked his helmet, got a concussion and overnighted in the Altoona hospital
* A young team member got lost and did a lot of unnecessary first day miles
* One of our teammates was involved in a paceline crash and ran his bike over the the accident

The highlights far exceeded the challenges. I will have lasting memories of the ride. The dinner the first night was highlighted by a presentation from an MS patient who demonstrated his MS guide dog. The dog did amazing things. He kept his owner from falling and could help him up if he was on the ground, she could pick items as small as dime, operate handicap doors, and even use a swipe key so her owner could access the secured work entry. The owner said that if it wasn't for money raised from the event, he wouldn't have his dog.

It was great to see Lou all weekend and share the happiness that the event brought to him. It also was impressive to see what an important figure he is to the MS Society. Also I loved how his family was participating and how his brother-in-law Gregg kept everything working like clockwork. Gregg took care of everything: meals, busses, t-shirts etc, and never asked for any thanks.

43 riders of all levels came together to be part of Lou's Crew for the weekend. A smaller core group gets together every Sunday at Coffee Tree in Squirrel Hill. Some of us were old friends, others had no prior relationship with the other team members. Still others hadn't seen each other in decades and renewed and strengthened friendships. We have all become very close friends because of Lou's Crew. We have fun every Sunday, do something healthy and become better riders. On this weekend we remembered our real purpose for training. One rider in particular really stood out. Beth, not knowing anyone in the group, started riding with us in the Spring. She had never tried anything like riding 150 miles in two days, but she wanted to do it. Every week she became a stronger and more confident rider. Although she was nervous about the event she rode it quickly and easily. I think she actually amazed herself.

I personally had a great time. This is the first time my wife joined me for the weekend. She didn't ride, but she was there to support me and the group. It was really nice to share the experience with her and I appreciated that she took the time to join me. The first day I struggled. I got cramps in both hamstrings and couldn't keep up with my group during the last section. It really didn't matter. The day was beautiful. Other riders in my group had a great day. The second day I felt like bounced back. No cramps and I felt stronger at the end than the beginning.


Lenny said...

I read your Bio and couldn't get over how similiar it is to mine.My grandparents, on my mothers side, also came to Pittsburgh around 1900, from Russia,(Ukraine) to escape religious persecution.I also moved to Pittsburgh when I was 3 years old and lived here for 53 years.I'm also an avid bike rider.I wonder if I know you.My name is Lenny Simon and live in Squirrel Hill.What's your name and where in Pittsburgh are you from??Do you ever ride with the Western Pa. Wheelmen??

Pittsburgh Guy said...

I ride with Lou's Crew. We ride every Sunday morning, normally at 8 in the summer and leave from Coffee Tree. Feel free to join us, although I will be out of town this Sunday. There will be group riding.