Saturday, May 21, 2005
By Ed Chasteen
Ethan McMenemy and Judy Vaughn are gentle on my mind this glorious day. Ethan’s dad, Seth, designed the map for day’s ride. Such a map! Shows all three routes in precise and colorful detail that Rand McNally would envy. Ethan was to have been born today. But he came a few days early and Seth has come with pictures. Judy was my student secretary at William Jewell in the early 80s. She was diagnosed with MS some five years later. Had to take disability. Volunteers with older folks now. Loves it. Hates not being able to work. Walks with a cane. Beautiful and cheerful.
These two are not physically present as riders gather in the rising sun on this cloudless day. In spirit, though, they envelope us all. From hours away some have come by car to ride with us from Biscari Brothers Bicycles in Liberty. Dave and Bob Biscari have brought other family members, friends and employees. Before the sun is up, they have set up tents, positioned an exhibit of new cars and trucks from Heartland Chevrolet and brought donated food from nearby Price Chopper and McDonald’s. Cocoa & Beans opens two hours early with free coffee for riders and workers.
Richard Mark is a Saturday Rider and captain of our United We Ride MS-150 Bike Team. He has recruited riders for our Greater Liberty Ride and arranged with Heartland Chevrolet to enhance the festive ambiance of our gathering place with a dazzling display of their vehicles.
Your Image owner and former student of mine at William Jewell, Daryn Ross, gave us 200 T-shirts for this Third Annual Greater Liberty Ride for MS. More than 100 riders have pre registered. The first two years we had about as many walk ups as registrants; that’s what we’re expecting this year. Helen Ford has been our registrar each year. Her careful and comprehensive record keeping serves us well. Long before our 7 AM start time, the parking lot fills with cars, bikes on the back. Buoyant and upbeat beyond any artificial stimulant, we ready ourselves for exhilaration and exhaustion. Precisely at 7, we’re off.
Our three routes all begin by taking us over to Mill Street. The 35 milers and the 70 milers ride together on H Highway to the Hall of Waters in Excelsior Springs and our first full service rest stop. Sharon Hanson had stopped her sag about five miles out at Liberty Hills Country Club for anyone in need. The 70 milers ride on from Excelsior Springs on Highway 10 to Richmond. David Fuller mans a sag at Elkhorn School. Then Jerry McCarter and the Richmond Chamber of Commerce greet us on their town square with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, bananas, bagels, banana bread and cold water.
Back through Rayville to Excelsior Springs where the Hall of Waters is again a stop. Then about six miles from Liberty to Ann Dahl’s house. A regular Saturday Rider, Ann has just moved into her house on 112th, just off Stockdale Road. And here we have our final rest stop.
The 8-mile Family Fun Ride leaves Biscari’s at 8 AM. They follow the same route through town until they come to the entrance to William Jewell College. Where the two earlier rides bore left to H Highway, here they bear right and pedal about a mile to Lafrenz Road. Turn right and follow Lafrenz until it makes a 90-degree left turn and then a quarter mile another 90-degree right turn to Stockdale Park entrance a half-mile ahead. A rest stop cares for the children and their parents here.
I got in the habit of riding with rear panniers when I was teaching at Jewell and needed to carry books and papers. Food, tools, spare clothing and things to give away to folks I meet! These, too, have their assigned places in my panniers. And they look heavy, giving me an obvious reason for being slow. Not that I need one. When my high school newspaper, The Huntsville Hornet, wrote my senior bio, they said: “If the race between the hare and the tortoise were run, Edgar Chasten would be the tortoise.” (NOTE: No friend of mine today calls me Edgar. My name is ED.)
But even if I weren’t naturally slow, I would choose to ride last. I had asked Gary Smith to organize SAG support. From knowing him just a little at church, I had been impressed. When he said yes, I expected a good job. But perfection was more than I bargained for. From our weekly Tuesday planning meetings, though, I knew it was coming. Gary recruited Don Post and his ham radio operators. Don is confined to a wheelchair, but there is no confining his contagious spirit, agile mind and wide-ranging volunteering. Now, today, we have motorcycles and vans and cars and trucks to go with us and care for our every need. Rob Laracco, Ray Kesner and David Fuller are members with me at Second Baptist Church. David is also brother-in-law to Easel Roberts, one of our Saturday Riders. David says yes when Easel asks him to help.
But I have to ride sweep. I have to ride every mile of the route that appears on our map, the route that Rich Groves, Dale Ahle, Steve Hanson, Brian Harvey and I marked with orange road paint and arrows stapled to posts yesterday afternoon. Scores of people have worked long and hard to make this ride a success. Local businesses have signed on as sponsors: Lisa Essig, owner of McDonald’s in Liberty and Excelsior Springs; Pour Boys owner, Dennis Carter; Lou DeMarco, Manager of Liberty Price Chopper; Cecilia Lee, owner of Liberty’s UPS Store; Cheri McCullough, owner of Wabash BBQ in Excelsior Springs; Evelyn Cowsert, owner of Mill Inn in Excelsior Springs. Not one penny have we had to spend. The $25.00 each rider has paid to ride and all the money donated by our supporters goes totally to help those who suffer from MS.
Leading from Last Place. That’s how I describe to myself what I see happening here. I’m awed and amazed that this ride happens at all. Only the willingness, no that’s not quite right, the eagerness, of my friends makes it happen. I’m old and slow, soft spoken and easy going. But something deep inside keeps me talking to anyone who seems the least bit interested about my dreams of ridin’ bikes and bustin’ hate and living in a world where we all like each other and look out for one another.
Lots of hills on today’s ride. And I linger long at every rest stop, wanting to speak to everyone I see and thank them for their help. I know before the day begins that I likely will be the last one in. A part of me wishes to be back at our starting point to welcome every single rider as she/he returns. I want almost more than anything to do that. But the one thing I want more today is to come last, so that I know first hand that no rider has been left behind.
Gary DeWitt’s camera was crushed some weeks back when he was thrown from his bike and broke his shoulder. He mended fast and bought another camera. He’s our cameraman today. He has four CDs in hand as he comes up to me at ride’s end. “Here are our pictures,” he says. He has already burned CDs while I’ve been on my bike.
Dale Ahle designed and maintains our Greater Liberty web site: http://www.greaterliberty.org. Dale fired up his grill almost as soon as the first riders left this morning. By 9:30, he’s serving up hot dogs and hamburgers, assisted by daughter, Stephanie. He’s fresh out of burgers by the time I make it back at 2:30. From past times, I know that Dale’s grill work is worth waiting for. Soon another batch of hamburger is fetched from Price Chopper. And I have my burger.
Each rider today got one of our Brian Harvey designed Greater Liberty T-shirts. Brian and his wife, Cindy, are two of our regular Saturday Riders. The shirts are works of art. And when 200 folks are seen wearing these shirts over the next year, we will have to plan even bigger for next year’s Fourth Annual Greater Liberty Ride for MS.
The Mid-America Chapter of the National MS Society loaned us tents, first aid kits, coolers, road markers and yellow warning signs. They gave us MS wristbands to give out. Steve Hanson picked up these things and will return them. Steve and his wife, Sharon, are Saturday Riders. They have made eye catching rest stop signs for today.
Rich Groves, Michael Calabria and I are the Three Amigos whose weekly rides spawned our Saturday Riders. Way more than a hundred have ridden with us at least once; 20 to 30 on a regular basis. Rich has been our Greater Liberty record keeper and task manager. He is one of the most organized persons I know. Michael puts to good use his years working in sports marketing. He designed our sponsorship packets and our Greater Liberty letterhead.
Today’s ride reminds me again of what life, as I see it, is all about. Each of us is born into a world of strangers. At birth we’re all like little Ethan McMenemy. We don’t know anyone. And our purpose in life is to make as many friends as possible. Some of the friends I’ve made, made this day happen.
THANK YOU, DEAR ONES. You make my life grand beyond any words I know to use. You rode with me today on our Third Annual Greater Liberty Ride for MS. Please come next year on Saturday, May 20, 2006 for our Fourth Annual Greater Liberty Ride. These signature rides that take place every May launch, for me, what becomes a yearlong Greater Liberty Ride. I live a good part of my life on my bicycle. Bike riding is the medicine I take for my MS. If I ride, I can run. If I don’t, I can’t walk. So today’s miles were the first of more to come, as I ride other Greater Liberty miles in other Greater Liberty places. To the thousands of dollars we raised today for MS, I hope to add other thousands. All of those who rode with me today will ride with me in spirit every day in every place. We ride to set at liberty those who live with limitations imposed by MS.
LONG MAY WE RIDE.