Ride to Conquer Cancer

Ride to Conquer Cancer – who thought insurance would play a role in the ride

The ‘Ride” (as it is called) took place on Aug 27th and 28th  2016. Some 1700 riders would peddle over 240 km’s over 2 days. My wife Debbie was doing her 4th Ride which starts at the Cloverdale fairgrounds (7:00am) and ends at Renton just outside Seattle some two days later. My wife Debbie is easy to spot as she has a plethora of ribbons pinned all over her jersey. Each ribbon is the name of someone who has passed from or is currently fighting cancer. She always says she is riding with angels on her shoulders as her own dad and sister’s names sit on her shoulders.  (see photo)

The ride raised over $7.1 million this year for cancer research. Debbie has raised close to $12,000 over the past 4 years she has ridden. The team she is on is called the Brainiacs which was started 8 years ago by a group of fellows who had all had brain cancer and survived. Two of them were riding this weekend. The Brainiac team as a whole has raised over $1.6 million over 8 years.

This was my second year participating as a sweep driver. (those that peddle do, those that have big soft asses drive). I get to drive along the route helping with flat tires, words of encouragement and driving the occasional rider to the next pit stop if they are running out of gas or have bike problems.

The weather was much better this year as last year the ride was on the weekend of the big storm that hit from Seattle to Prince George as downed trees and powerlines made for an interesting ride. On this day I didn’t have to wait long to have to whip out my trusty tire pump as the first flat tire happened 50 ft from parking lot driveway I was sitting in as the drivers went by. Record time.

I helped several flats along the way and about 1030 I came across Michael Geilen who was having some serious problems with his 3 wheeled bicycle just on the other side of the Blaine National Park. Michael is an interesting fellow. He is permanently disabled yet here he was on his 7th Ride to Conquer Cancer. In espousing my story later to my wife she informed me that everyone on the ride knows Michael. I found out later in chatting with another rider that Michaels bicycle was originally provided to him by team ICBC years earlier.

So the problem was that the shaft on his axle had a large crack in it. So with the help of some mobile mechanics on the route we loaded his bike into our Kia and headed to the next pit stop where there are mechanics fixing riders bicycles. The mechanics weren’t equipped to fix the axle and they suggested a quick weld job at a muffler place was in order. So off we went in search of a muffler shop to assist us. Three muffler shops and two bicycle shops later we looked like we were done like toast. Being the US of A suing is big business. Being an insurance broker I could empathise as none of the muffler places were insured to work on bicycles and none of the bike shops wanted to weld the shaft as it could break again and cause an accident. Being the mechanical genius that I am, as a last resort I came up with the idea of stopping by Napa and buying a muffler clamp so as to try and squeeze everything back together for the time being. Don’t ask my wife about the mechanical genius part.

Two hours from when I first picked Michael we had his bike out in the pit stop parking lot and started working on it. Steve Overlander, a volunteer mechanic of Obsession Bicycles from North Van, spent the next half hour working his magic to get Michael back on the road. No small feat.   (see photos). I wished Michael well and headed back out on the road after lunch.

The day went pretty much as expected as I helped pump up various tires and loaded the odd bike onto our bike rack to transport some of the drivers. What did catch my eye and grab my heart was a sign I saw as I was traveling back and forth on one part of the route. All along the route are lots of residents as well as supporters of the riders lining the streets to cheer on the riders as they go by. On one quiet road I found a father and two of his younger children standing all alone in front of their house cheering the riders on. What caught my eye was a sign standing beside them that said “ you ride for our 15 year old daughter”. Talk about tugging on your heart strings.

I stopped for a moment to exchange pleasantries and thank him for their support. They were truly appreciative of the efforts of the riders as his daughter Betty was battling cancer. I wished them well and went on my way.  (see photo)

At about the half way point the riders stop for the night and camp out at the Skagit fairgrounds in Mount Vernon.  There is a big dinner, lots of beer and wine (purely for medicinal purposes) and they parade most of the 500 volunteers supporting the riders through the main tent. (see photo)  Later a very young lady agreed to have her hair shorn off as a donation for children’s wigs and helped raised $1300 in donations from the riders on site for her ride next year. Well done. Later that night most of the riders pile into two man tents to sleep for the night. (deb has a photo?)   We went to a hotel (see comment above about soft ass) as camping out for me is sleeping in a motel. So a quick dip in the hot tub and off to bed as 500am comes early.

Day 2 was more of the same except I did more sweeping of riders as there were some serious hills going on. I was able to chat with a wide variety of men and women, both young and mature (like me). There were first time riders and many who had been doing it for years. I picked up some corporate executives and business owners as well as a lot of average people doing the ride. In most cases they had lost someone, a friend, a colleague or a family member.

The one lady of note that I swept up some hills had a yellow flag on her bike. There were too many of the yellow flags on bicycles all along the route as they denote cancer survivors. Or that was what I was led to believe. In talking to Marilynn she told me that she was riding as she had been recently diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She was waiting to have some surgery done in the near future but it didn’t deter her from riding 240 km’s to raise money to fight this scourge of a disease. She felt fortunate as she had caught it early. Only 25% of women with ovarian cancer survive. The reason is because a lot of women aren’t diagnosed until it is late stage cancer as the symptoms are fairly benign. Apparently one feels bloated and then your waistline starts to grow as time goes on.  Not exactly unusual symptoms for 40 year old women (or 58 year old men for that matter) to have in the normal course of their lives so I can see how it can be overlooked.

All in all it was a humbling experience to be able to talk to people who are fighting cancer or like Paul, one of the original members of the Brainiac, who has beaten cancer. It is inspiring to see all these people pulling (and peddling) together to make the “Ride to Conquer Cancer” an ongoing success. I just hope it doesn’t rain next year.