Weston’s MS Ride
by Ed Chasteen
Brian, Kelly, Weston, Mark and I arrive in Lawrence with a couple thousand friends: some by the short, some by the traditional and some by the long route. Some before noon. Some nearing dark. By tandem, recumbent and bicycles of various makes and designs, eye catching helmets and riding attire enlivening every rest stop.
Weston will be 14 tomorrow. Brian and Kelly, my son and daughter-in-law, have chosen the short route for Wes’s first MS Ride. I have brought my folding Bike Friday and my disassembled battery-powered scooter stashed behind the front seat in my red PT Cruiser HateBuster Mobile, license # H8BSTR, OFFICIAL VEHICLE signs showing through the rear windows. I will drive to each rest stop on the short route and greet Wes, Kelly and Brian when they come.
At Garmin Saturday morning, Brian and I park our cars side by side. Brian takes their three bicycles off his car. I take my scooter out. They go to register and turn in their money. I go to greet other members of our Biscari Brothers team. We have not arrived in time for team pictures. But we make our presence known.
Then I drive to Spring Hill, the first rest stop on the short route, take out my scooter and circulate, meeting Steve, Greg, Paul and others from our Saturday Breakfast Rides. Strange! They’re riding the long route. Maybe the routes diverge past the first few stops. They have in the past.
I wait for Brian, Kelly and Wes to come. When they haven’t after longer than I think should be, I ask a volunteer who wanders by what route this is. “Long route.” He says. I take out the post card sized map I picked up at the Start, Day 1 on one side; Day 2 on the other. How could I have been so dumb? Now I see that the green, red and blue lines are more than the aesthetic touch I had thought. I took the blue line to Spring Hill. I should have taken the green line to DeSoto.
On my bike phone I call Brian, already in DeSoto and wondering where I am. I apologize for not reading the map and promise to meet them at the lunch stop. A deputy sheriff waiting at a convenience store counter advises me to backtrack to Olathe and take highway 7.
At lunch a young woman named Sherrie admires my scooter. I take it apart to show her how portable it is. “My husband has a scooter and MS. It’s portable, too. Goes 25 miles an hour. He’ll be at the finish line. I’d like you two to meet. His name is Fred.”
Mark, Brian, Kelly and Wes are gushing with glowing reports of the morning weather and roads, the mandatory ambivalence of hills and wind given a mention. Mark always chooses the long route. We won’t see him again till near dinner time tonight in Lawrence.
The dozen or so teams riding this year’s MS Ride have set up entertainment and feeding stations in South Moreland Park between 13th and 12th on Massachusetts, Lawrence’s main street. Biscari Brothers Bicycles will feed our team with BBQ they have smoked and side dishes brought by team members. I find a free parking spot in a handicapped space along 11th Street, just beside Lawrence’s imposing limestone City Hall.
I have carried luggage for the four of us in my car, sparing Wes, Brian. Kelly and me the need of waiting on the luggage truck to arrive. So about 3 o’clock the four of us walk the one block from the park to my car, retrieve our luggage and walk up Massachusetts to the Eldridge Hotel at 701. Brian booked two rooms for the five of us a year ago, right after last year’s MS Ride.
Dave, Bob and Alex, the three Biscari brothers, set up a repair shop at the lunch rest stop in Eudora today and will be here again tomorrow. The three of them, with helpers Carl and Rick, will feed us royally tonight. But when I first circle the park on my scooter, I can’t find the Biscari tent. I’m looking for Dave’s long BBQ log cabin-like trailer. I don’t see the Biscari green and white sign or the white pick up truck with a stainless steel smoker in the bed.
When time comes to eat about 5:30, Dave tells me to be first in line. While we eat, Bob comes to every table and gives a ticket to every rider. After dinner he calls numbers, and the ticket holder is handed a small gift plucked randomly from a bag by a third person. “Nobody can leave after we finish eating.” Bob says. “We have two special events. If you leave, you can’t come next year.”
Bob invites a member of another team to come introduce our speaker. “For the last several years,” he says, “all the money raised by our team and your team has gone directly to fund a MS researcher. All the way from Seattle, we have invited the researcher we have supported for the last three years to come speak to you tonight.”
If the young woman who comes then to speak to us is anywhere nearly as talented at research as she is bubbly, charismatic and informative, MS will shortly be fully understood and no longer the life-limiting scourge it now is.
As Bob calls numbers and folks come to collect their prizes, I notice Kelly and a few other women at a table just beside him. They are arranging two cakes, one chocolate, one white, on the table. When the researcher has concluded, Bob begins a story. “Years ago a friend of mine had a bike shop in Raytown. He had given a bike to an old man in Liberty. We bought everything in his shop when he closed. He made me promise to take care of this old man for the rest of his life. That old man will be 80 this year. And he’s here tonight. Ed Chasteen, come on up. Ed, this cake is for you. “And your grandson, Weston, will be 14 tomorrow. Weston, come on up. One cake is for you.”
Bob Dinkins owned the Raytown bike shop. The blue bike he gave me is now the trainer Brian rides, the one years earlier my daughter Debbie had when she lived in Macon, Georgia and taught at Mercer University. I’ve lost touch with Bob Dinkins. Dave Biscari, at their Liberty bike shop, keeps my bike road worthy. I love to ride. That’s the extent of all I know about bikes. For every thing, I go to Dave. When he is absent, hunting, fishing, barbecuing, etc., Bob comes from their Kansas City shop to sub. And we never miss a beat.
Saturday morning pancakes in the park fuel us for the short and long routes back to Olathe. Mark rides long. All five of us meet at the first rest stop. We won’t see Mark again. But I promise to meet the other three at rest stop #2 in DeSoto. I linger long in Eudora. No bikers in sight as I leave. Somehow, somewhere I miss the MS arrow. I’m back in Olathe hunting for Garmin when I see bikers coming. I follow them in. I have missed DeSoto again today.
I wind up back in Olathe way early. So I tool around on my scooter, meeting folks I know. And some I don’t. Then I spot a three wheeled scooter unlike any I’ve ever seen, parked near a porta potty. When the owner emerges, I ask, “Is your name Fred?”
It is. “Can you do 25 miles an hour?” He can. As he demonstrates. “Mine comes in three pieces. I put it in my car.” I say. “My steering column folds down. My seat post folds. It just fits in my car.” He says.
Brian, Kelly and Weston pull in to Olathe about 12:30. We wolf down pulled pork and barbeque chicken sandwiches from the food tent.
By about 2 o’clock my scooter is back in my car. All three bikes are back on Brian’s car. We hug each other. I drive home to Liberty. Brian, Kelly and Weston drive home to Lee’s Summit. Mark is still out there on his bike. At rest stops and on the road, his booming laugh and non-stop repartee belie his past as a standup comic. Mark spreads joy.
Good weather, good friends, good food! A FANTISTIC weekend. Calling for an encore. Next year. Same time. Same place.