Yes, I was once again in attendance at the area "Rah Rah MS Ride"...that's how I usually refer to it. It used to be called the MS 150, but somehow that must have confused the less than logical riders, so it's now just called the Bike MS Ride. The National MS Society sponsors a gazillion of these rides across the United States each year and the Greater Washington MS Society Chapter holds their version of the ride in September every year, rain or shine. I've been to 3 of these events...you may recall, the FIRST two involved an incredible amount of beauching and moaning from the CHEESE as she had somehow found herself in a less than glamorous cabinet position as the "tent czar" for Dr. She Who Will Not Be Named team. It was hella work.
THIS year, I finally came to my senses and decided it was time to give some other poor and undeserving individual the "tent czar" title (and to take care of the Higher Maintenance Dr. SWWNBN!) The planning took too much of my time and energy away from me in the past...and I just thought it was someone else' *turn*. Thank goodness another willing participant took up the cause (and she's on the list for my left kidney, should she ever need it)! So, I was free to simply become what I call "tent bling" at the event this year and actually ENJOY myself for the day (watching other worker ants do what I used to do).
It was a *bootiful* and warm, late summer day here in the typically-raining-Puget-Sound area on Saturday...I had a pleasant hour or so drive to Mount Vernon, Washington, singing my guts out with the car stereo and appearing like a mad woman darting down the freeway. I arrived on site (but not on time) to a warm hug and greeting from our local MS celebrity, Trevis Gleason, over at Every Day Health...it's OK...I've "outted" him before and I think he's used to my shenanigans. :-)
Trevis is one of MANY old friends, who I tend to see only once a year at the Bike MS event (probably because he usually sees ME first and runs to hide!)...the event becomes something of an OLD HOME week (or homecoming week, for those of you not in the know about southern colloquialisms) as I catch up with the news and the lives of several people, all bound together by those two initials: MS.
The Bike MS Ride can be a bit of a downer for me sometimes. Mostly because there are SOOO many people there WITH MS, the disease gets thrown up in my face like a drunken date (wait...I think I was the one who used to throw up on my dates?). Everywhere I look, there's MS. Everything ABOUT the event is MS. Everyone is focused on "riding for a cure" and "fundraising", neither of which I can honestly say (in my humble opinion, of course) will ever happen in my lifetime OR be enough money to assist.
The majority of the riders are those *healthy* people...you know...the one's WITHOUT MS. There are always a percentage of MSer's riding, too...those that are functioning well enough to pedal. There are two-wheeled bikes, tandem bikes, unicycles, three-wheeled bikes, and a sea of riders all out riding for their own, individual reasons. They leave before Dawn's Crack (or shortly after she shows it), heading out to PROVE something, if only for themselves. And eventually, they all trickle back in to base camp...exhausted and physically spent...some barely able to walk (or sit!) once they dismount their wheels.
This is when the tent becomes a handy gathering place...each team is assigned one (tent, that is), and each team carries on their OWN festivities for the remaining hours or minutes of sunlight left in the day. Each team talks about their fundraising, their awards received (for best jerseys, best team spirit, etc.), and everyone catches up with each other...those people who only see each other once a year for this event.
There is an evening "Rah Rah MS" program also, where Trevis is generally a guest speaker (and you DO still owe me two beers, my man, for NOT doing the *sign* during your speech!). Teams gather in a huge crowd and our disease's favorite cheerleader and spokesperson talks about how we have to end the devastation of Multiple Sclerosis NOW (I have to admit, the man CAN give an inspiring speech that usually brings a tear or two to my eyes!). The crowd is filled with energy, even though the majority of the participants are beyond exhaustion from their ride. THEY are there for us...THEY are there for me...THEY are there because it is something THEY can do, if only for a weekend. THEY are there pedaling and riding because it is the one thing THEY CAN do, because THEY either know someone who's life has been affected by MS or they are carrying the disease with them in their own bodies/hearts...those two, simple letters: MS.
I have to admit something to you now...there is nothing more humbling or more INSPIRING than to see 60 - 80 cyclists wearing MY NAME (no, not BrainCheese...the name my mother gave me!) on the back of their riding jersey. That's right. The CHEESE somehow finds her name in the jersey design each year, along with the names of 10 - 20 other MSer's the team rides for (although, now that I've relieved myself of the "tent czar" title, Dr. SWWNBN probably will no longer remember how to SPELL my name in year's to come. LOL). THEY ride for me...THEY ride symbolically for you...wherever YOU are, living with MS.
I returned home late in the evening last night, still singing loudly in my car to Gloria Gayner's "I Will Survive" (but hopefully after dark, looking less like a lunatic), and wearing the fabulous T-shirt I received from the firemen on the team...long story, but maybe one I'll get around to sharing later...suffice it to say, I SLEPT in that T-shirt because I didn't want to take it off!
I crawled into the comfort of my own bed last night as the tears made damp spots on my pillow...but they were the tears of a peaceful kind. They were tears I don't often shed because I have little reason to feel them most of the time or, more often, I make little time to ALLOW them. They were tears of inspiration and *hope* (dare I use that word?). They were tears that wash the soul, leaving only the purest of shine on the heart. MS has brought many things into my life, much of which, I would gladly give BACK to the disease to keep. But, I would never, ever trade the feeling of inspiration I get being in the company of MS on this particular weekend.
THANK YOU to all who ride, wherever you ride, in the name of MS...you are my hope and inspiration...