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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Posts
    2,617

    A different type of ride report

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    So, a few months ago, I had a brainstorm. I knew that motorcycle crews provide support for many charity events, including the Atlanta Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer 3-Day Walk. What an amazing event. But, it's a walk. I'm a cyclist. How could I contribute to this cause that means so much to me? I realized that if motorcycles could provide support, why couldn't a bicycle? More than a few emails later, the Walk organizers agreed to let bicycles ride along with the Moto Crew. Who knew was I was getting into? And, once I convinced 5 other Sorellas, from my cycling club 'Sorella Cycling' into signing up too, what had I gotten us all into???

    Before the actual event, there was a torrent of emails from the motorcycle crew that we would be working with. It seemed like we were getting involved with a great group who were funny, committed to this cause, and more than happy, if apprehensive, to have us onboard.

    Thursday was Training Day. With our bikes were safely tucked in with the motorcycles, we had safety meetings, health meetings, boring, but essential, I guess. We met the rest of the crew, and they were as kind, warm and funny as we hoped. We had to report for duty at 5:00 am the next day. This is for a good cause, right?

    Alarm went off at 3:45 am. Ouch. We got up, packed and out the door. The Sorella riders were assigned to help with the gear drop. Six lanes of traffic with sleepy women and men trying to figure out where to go and what to do, and it was our job to keep the traffic flowing. Just before 7:00, we were called back to meet up with Moto again. We were given our assignments, and instructions on how we would start the ride. As Moto, our job, throughout the 3-Day, was to help out at intersections, making sure our walkers made it across safely. We weren't supposed to direct traffic, but we could stop them from driving through intersections that our walkers were in, hold up right-on-red turns into our walkers, and work with police who were stopping cars - they controlled the traffic, and we would direct the walkers across. Early intersections were assigned to a few of the Moto Crew, and the rest provided escort for the start of the ride. After the opening ceremonies, the walkers started out, behind a double line of motorcycles and bicycles, making as much noise as we could! We rode in formation for a while, but slowly got ahead of the walkers, heading off to our assignments.

    I was lucky - I had police at mine. As I said, they controlled the cars, but I had to hold up the walkers until I got word, and stop them when we both felt like it was a good time to break it up. They were incredible about letting as many get through as possible. While I was holding up the walkers, I turned into a cheerleader, nutrition/hydration coach, and yoga instructer. "HOW'S EVERYONE DOING???? Give me a thumbs up if you're okay!!! Is everyone drinking??? While we're stopped here, it's a great time to snack on something! Okay, let's stretch!!!!" One of the Moto Crew motorcycle guys was working the other side of the intersection, and he had a great sound system on his bike. Disco classics. So, while we were waiting, we would dance! It really picked up the spirits of the walkers, so we would just dance our way across this six-lane road.

    My instructions were to stay there until the caboose came in. The caboose is a staff-member for the 3-Day. Her job is to ride her bicycle with the very last walker. She spends most of the 20-mile days walking that bike along side of the last person. The reason for the bike is so that if the last person takes a van up to lunch or quits for the day, she needs to ride quickly up to the next to the last person. Personally, I don't know how she does it. Her approach was our signal to leap-frog ahead to the next place that might need help. We would have about 15 intersections assigned in the mornings, and the rest of the day would just unroll as needed. Our crew captain was patrolling the whole course and would radio where help was needed.

    One of our Sorellas did an amazing job at recognizing a potentially dangerous situation when the route went right near a high-pressure gas main break. I think we handled it quite nicely, waiting with the firemen to make sure our route didn’t need to be changed if they had to evacuate the neighborhood we were walking through. There was a section that day that went through a park, and the Sorellas, on our mountain bikes, were the only ones who could patrol that area. As we would leap-frog ahead, we could see how the other Motos would handle their intersections. Some were just doing the job, but most were trying to add as much entertainment as they could. Huge, burly Harley guys would change into pink sneakers, fuzzy pink hats, a jester's hat or Mickey Mouse hands. Music blasting, jokes flying -- anything to lift the spirits and coax a smile from these exhausted, hurting women. Amazingly, it took very little to get a smile. The cornier the joke, the bigger the smile.

    Whenever we were on the road riding along side the walkers, we would try to make as much noise as possible. Keep those spirits up – cheering, ‘woo-hoo-ing’, checking on how they were doing, whatever. If we saw someone sitting down, we waited for a ‘thumbs-up’ signal that they were okay before we moved on, because we had radios to call for help if they needed it. We also made it a point to say hello and checkup on anyone walking alone.

    About 13 hours after we reported for duty that day, we pulled into camp. Camp was just an amazing site. Well over 1,000 blue tents lined up neatly in rows were set up during the day by ‘Tent Angels’, volunteer children who were too young to do the walk but still wanting to help. 3-Day crew set up the big tents – a large circus-like tent that had tables and chairs for 3,000 folks for dinner and breakfast. It had a stage that had speakers, slide shows, and entertainment for walkers in camp, including Karaoke and a disco band. The food was surprisingly good, although a hot meal of any kind would have been good after the long, long day.

    Day 2 dawned COLD – 37 degrees. Actually, we had to be out on the road before the sun rose, so it was even colder. We had our assignments and went out ahead of the walkers to survey the route. My section had the walkers on grass and a bike lane, so Moto and the cars couldn’t really check that section. My mountain bike and I had no problem on the grass, and cruising the bike lane was great to warm up my legs. I settled into my intersection, knowing I would be there for hours. My only problem was there was some road kill right in the middle of the crosswalk. While it was cold, it was okay. As everything warmed up, it became a bit, how shall I say, fragrant. I tried to flag down landscaping trucks to get a shovel, but no luck. Finally, I flagged down a staff car, because the walkers were really not liking the smell. Lo and behold, the official 3-Day Road Kill Guy shows up. Seriously – his job is to scout the route and clean up all the road kill. (Obviously, he doesn’t do a great job, but whatever…) For the only time over the 3 days, I abandoned my post and left it unattended, because it was so nasty I had to go find a bush – didn’t want my walkers seeing me getting sick. Road kill emergency was handled, and I didn’t have to touch it. Yippee!

    As the Caboose came through, the rest of the Sorella crew caught up, and we ran ahead. It was fun to all ride together for a while. We got separated as things came up – I needed to call for a van to pick up a woman who had just started her second round of chemo. Puts my gagging over my road-kill incident back into perspective. We all re-grouped at lunch, and we got the word that we were needed at the last intersection going into camp. Sorellas hit the road. We were on some rather busy roads, but there were six of us. Got into a double paceline, took the lane and headed out onto Peachtree Industrial Parkway. Quite fun.

    Working the last intersections is interesting. Everyone is exhausted, but glad to be done. I was positioned where they would cross P’tree Parkway, and they had to cross catty-corner/diagonally. The walkers are so well-trained in traffic safety that I had to convince them that the traffic cops really wanted them to jaywalk and go diagonally. To make sure they all got it, I escorted them halfway, did a flying high-five to a 3-Day crew member who was positioned on the other side. The cops loved it, because each time we high-fived, we acted like it was the first time we did it to celebrate the walkers making it to camp. I”ve never met this woman – still have no idea her name, but we high-fived like we were best friends! The walkers were really dragging, and I knew some of moto were done, so I radio’ed for someone with music to come help me out. Once we got an upbeat playlist blasting, my job got much easier. It was an awful intersection, and the walkers kept standing out in the road while waiting to cross, so I had to keep herding everyone back off the road, but with music, we had much more fun. Of course, then we could dance across the interestion, lightening the mood of the drivers who weren’t happy with the traffic backup this whole event was causing.

    This time, we were heading right into camp. We waited for the caboose, who came through around 6:45. Yeah, another really, really long day. Our crew captain likes for us all – motorcycles and bicycles – to escort the caboose and last walker into camp. With the noise we make (okay, the noise the motorcycles make) the whole camp starts to cheer for the last walker of the day. It’s quite inspiring to see all of these women, who are exhausted themselves, cheering for the last one in.

    Wake up for Day 3 in pouring, pouring rain with alarms going off at 4:00am, so we can break camp and hit the road by 5:45. At least it’s not as cold as the day before. We begin a transportation/logistical nightmare as the whole operation gets transported to the official start for the day, about 14 miles away from camp. My first assignment is the first big intersection, and luckily, the rain is letting up. We work that for a few hours, and I get word that they need me in Buckhead – Peachtree and Lindbergh to be exact. Me and my mountain bike get to haul it as fast as possible straight down Peachtree Road! Cool! Because the walkers are all on the sidewalk, I just take my chances on the road. Sometimes, someone from moto would ride with me – it’s fun drafting a motorcycle! I worked that intersection for a few hours, and then got word that our captain wanted all the bicycle crew working the intersections closer to the finish, so we would be close by at the end of the day. Back on the road all the way up Peachtree to P-tree and 12th. Not a single close-call at all – the drivers were more than courteous all day.

    Closing ceremonies were in Piedmont Park. Motorcycles aren’t allowed to ride in the park, so the Sorella bike crew had the honor of escorting the caboose in. The roar of the walkers in the holding area was overwhelming. After we got the last walker in, we hustled over to the parking lot to meet up with the rest of the moto crew.

    There is no way I can do this justice. To get to closing ceremonies, the moto crew had to cut through the walker’s holding area. 2,500 women were cheering for us, fighting to high-five us, thank us, cry with us, hug us. These women, who completely humbled and inspired me, were treating us like the heroes and rock stars, while each and everyone of them were MY hero. I just don’t get it. They kept saying that they couldn’t have done it without us. I just did what I could to get through this without collapsing into a puddle of tears – it was so moving. We got through, and the rest of the moto crew were just as moved. One of the biggest guys explained that’s why they all wear sunglasses, so they can hide their tears. Weeks before, someone said that they’ll refund our entry fees if we don’t cry during closing ceremonies, and he’s never yet had to pay up. Record stands. I thought that was that. But, no.

    We lined up to create a long pathway through all of the friends and family who were gathered in the park. Then the walkers were introduced. In bands of eight across, wave after wave walked down the path we created. Arm in arm, holding hands high above their heads, they came. The crowd was going wild cheering for them, seeing their mothers, wives, sisters and friends for the first time in days. They kept coming – thousands of walkers, mostly women, crying, cheering, and beaming with pride of their accomplishment of walking 60 miles.

    The walkers all filed in to fill the area in front of the stage, forming a huge horseshoe shape, open towards the back. One by one, crew departments were introduced as we filled in an inner horseshoe, surrounded by the walkers. Again, they went crazy when route safety (us!) were introduced. There was still two more inner horseshoes. Who’s left?

    The announcer gets quiet, and then introduces the last group. We turn, and see the remaining group of walkers. In long-sleeved pink shirts, the survivors start to come in. These are the bravest, most inspiring group of walkers you can imagine. Ages range from young 20’s to 80’s. Strong and recovered, to barely able to walk. The effects of chemo were obvious on some, distant memories for others. It was impossible to control the tears at this point. Looking at the thousands of other walkers, I see that in respect for all the miles and miles walked, everyone has taken off one shoe and is holding them in the air, because it’s for these women, and all survivors everywhere that we all walked, or worked, all weekend.

    We had missed the opening ceremonies because we were out on the road. During that, a group of survivors walked in, holding hands in a circle. The empty space in the middle of that circle represented the women who had lost their battle with breast cancer. During the closing ceremonies, that same circle of women were the last to enter. This time, the empty circle represents hope. The hope that through the efforts of all of us, we won’t need a walk next year. The hope that there will be no circle representing those that didn’t make it next year. Hope.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Location
    Memphis, TN
    Posts
    1,935
    Neat Report! My club is helping to put on a ride in two weeks. We're also going to be bicycles as Roving SAG's.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Location
    Alaska
    Posts
    2,201
    wow pedal. what an amazing report. you had me in tears. thank you for sharing the story and sharing your time.
    "Forget past mistakes. Forget failures. Forget everything except what you're going to do now and do it." – William C. Durant

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  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Sillycon Valley, California
    Posts
    4,869
    sniff. I've got a lump in my throat! Awesome report Pedal! You are heros, support and crew are the backbones of events like this. Good job!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    Ohio
    Posts
    2,824
    Aw, great report. Thank you for sharing it with us.
    Jennifer

    “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”
    -Mahatma Gandhi

    "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit."
    -Aristotle

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    Orygun
    Posts
    1,197
    Thanks pedal wench for the most inspiring report I've ever read. I was in tears early on. I've got a friend who just had a 2nd diagnosis and her 2nd mastectomy and is doing great. (she's a mammo tech) I'd love to help out at one of these events. I'll be checking it out online to find out more.

    thanks again!

    X.
    Oh, that's gonna bruise...
    Only the suppressed word is dangerous. ~Ludwig Börne

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Posts
    2,617
    Thanks everyone for your kind responses - I just wanted to share what was probably the most interesting weekend I've spent on a bike. The 3-Day ended Sunday night, and that Monday morning I signed on for next year's crew. Although this was the first year they've have bikes in Atlanta, some other cities have used bicycles in the past. It was the most amazing experience I've ever had, and I highly recommend it. www.3-day.org, and register for crew. It's too early to specify the route safety crew, but at least I'm on the list.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Location
    Bridgeport, PA
    Posts
    232
    Great report Pedal!

    Isn't being part of the 3-day amazing? I walked the Philly 3-day in 2005 and crewed in 2006. I was late in registering and the moto team was full so I was assigned to a pit stop. I'm actually walking again this year with 4 awesome women that I bonded with by making @ 100 gallons of gatorade in the cold and rain! We had tough conditions this year...but it's awe inspiring to watch the human spirit persevere. Many people will say that crewing is harder than walking, and I believe there is some truth to that. Do you have any plans for next year to do it again?

    Cindy (and anyone else interested in the 2007 Philadelphia 3-Day): If you would like more information PM me!
    "The bicycle is just as good company as most husbands and, when it gets old and shabby, a woman can dispose of it and get a new one without shocking the entire community." -- Ann Strong, Minneapolis Tribune, 1895

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Posts
    2,617
    Quote Originally Posted by AllezGirl View Post
    Great report Pedal!

    Isn't being part of the 3-day amazing? I walked the Philly 3-day in 2005 and crewed in 2006. I was late in registering and the moto team was full so I was assigned to a pit stop. I'm actually walking again this year with 4 awesome women that I bonded with by making @ 100 gallons of gatorade in the cold and rain! We had tough conditions this year...but it's awe inspiring to watch the human spirit persevere. Many people will say that crewing is harder than walking, and I believe there is some truth to that. Do you have any plans for next year to do it again?

    Cindy (and anyone else interested in the 2007 Philadelphia 3-Day): If you would like more information PM me!
    Allez, I signed up for 2007 the morning after I got back home after the 2006 one! Complete with a note to the crew coordinator BEGGING to get me on the moto crew even though crew assignments don't start until January! A few of our Motos did the Philly event too. They said it was pretty tough this year. Repo and Doc Gary were both there, on motorcycles. Apparently, there were some big traffic problems that had to be sorted out on the fly. That's what moto does. Fix whatever needs fixin'!
    I'm signed up for the 3-day, and was asked by the 2-Day captain to work with the moto crew for that event too. Some of our crew is actually thinking about walking the 2-Day and crewing the 3-Day. Not sure what to do yet. Crewing is SO much work, and it's the best work I can imagine doing. (It took over a week to feel like I was caught up on sleep!)

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Location
    Bridgeport, PA
    Posts
    232
    Sucks you in doesn't it! I was going to pass 2007 up so that I could do the York Tour de Pink instead. (I'm still flirting with the idea of doing both, but both require such large minimum donations; I don't think I have enough resources to raise $$ for both.) But, the women I worked with were so great, I coudn't NOT committ to doing it again! I'm really looking forward to it! The advantage to walking is that between the training and fundraising it really is a year long journey, so when the event actually arrives, there's a greater sense of accomplishment. If you have the chance to do both, I'd go for it!

    You'll have to let me know if any of your crew is in Philly next year!
    "The bicycle is just as good company as most husbands and, when it gets old and shabby, a woman can dispose of it and get a new one without shocking the entire community." -- Ann Strong, Minneapolis Tribune, 1895

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    Marin County CA
    Posts
    5,958
    Wow what an amazing report. Good for you for supporting like that. It sounds like an incredibly moving experience - your report brought tears to my eyes.
    Sarah

    When it's easy, ride hard; when it's hard, ride easy.


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  12. #12
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    Dallas, TX
    Posts
    2,716
    Great report!

    Thanks for sharing!
    "Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather, to skid in broadside thoroughly used-up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming: WOW WHAT A RIDE!!!!"

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Posts
    2,617
    Thanks again everyone. It's a weird thing. One of the other women that I did it with did a ride with me today. We tried to convey what we did, and how it effected us and meant to us to the folks we were riding with. I could tell that they just didn't 'get' it. Thanks for letting me know that I (think) I conveyed the impact that the days had.

    I'm just trying to figure out what other cities I can do this in next year! I'm thinking Arizona. What's the weather like out there in November?

 

 

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