I packed up my gear and waited for the arrival of my traveling comrades; Josh and Melissa Clingan and Michelle Bote. Tim Fives would be meeting us in NYC as he had some biz-natch to take care of at his job. Fives did drop off his bike and bags the day before to allow for easier travel. 4 bikes on the Subaru and away we went.
Through some tolls, down some roads and over to 7th street to the Park Central Motel. We check in and get our roommates assigned. Me and Fives, Josh and Melissa, Michelle and Brent! What!? Or at least that’s what the person said behind the desk in a poor accent…Turns out later that Brent was really a Brit. I have never wheeled a gear bag and a road bike through a hotel. I thought they would make us lock them up in a broom closet or something; apparently not. We stuffed them in our rooms and went down the hall to help Michelle’s roomy with her bike assembly. The assembly really was done, there was a small issue with her rear wheel that Josh helped her with. Brit flew all the way from Oregon and was a 21 year old breast cancer survivor, BAM! The trip is already starting to grow that big pink vibe that was around all weekend long. She started road riding last year, did the LiveStrong ride and now this. Cool. I already like this girl’s determination. She hasn’t let breast cancer slow her down at all. Riding for the cause, riding because it’s fun and because there are others on this rock that finds solace in riding as well.
Fives shows up, we do the introductions and head out for some dinner. Tim is the most well traveled guy that I know; Jason Gross is second. Tim kicks into restaurant tour mode and we land a great place with a killer plate of Diablo Shrimp/Angel hair pasta. But first we start off with a man hole cover size plate of Sushi, oh absolute murder! Yum!
The evening forecast is calling for a storm to be moving in tomorrow morning; Day One of the Tour de Pink. G4 Productions loaded up the bikes into the box truck promising to deliver them to us tomorrow for the first day.
Day One of the Tour de Pink.
We board the bus in the morning after having a hearty breakfast. This morning is a testament to how well my body will hold up the next 4 days. I am so OCD with what I eat, when I eat all day long; eating small meals every 3 hours keeps the metabolism high. Ya no kidding Will that’s how come you look like a flamingo on the bike… I chomp on eggs, wheat toast, pancakes wrapped around apples, banana, sausage and coffee…were the hell is my Kashi and Soy Milk, haha!
The bus ride takes us to the Ferry docking location where we sit and await our time slot to load. By now its starting to spit on the windows outside and the idea of a dry start to this event is washing way like cheap scotch. The ferry pulls up, we quickly grab a few photo shots of the group in their pink jerseys sporting the York TDP sponsorship and seek shelter inside the craft. This allowed us time to mingle, stretch, adjust our wet weather plan of action and enjoy the swaying to and fro of the ferry. Josh and I were starting to feel a bit green when departure time came. Fives was a Long Shore man in another life I believe.
We dock in Highlands, NJ. The wind is now kicking; the vibe of the ride is growing as everyone’s commitment for the same cause is making the weather seem more bearable. Misery loves company eh? The gang lines up on their bikes and the first escort motorcycle leaves with us in tow. With a rain jacket on the ride was bad at all. A bit of suffering for those that have suffered more from the disease and its treatments. Aprox 58 miles and 3 rest stops. The stops are well stocked and Melissa was helping with the crew too. Her motherly personality keeps our water logged brains on track, thanks!
We arrive in Trenton, NJ safely, grab a warm shower and find enlightenment by using the bathroom hairdryers to dry out our cycling shoes.
Dinner was buffet style at Kat Man Do. Pasta, tacos, roast beef, choco covered strawberries, whatever you want. Full stomachs equals happy minds. The riders continue that night to get more acquainted with each other; telling their stories of survival, work and families. I leaned back into my chair in disbelief, staring at the partially covered plate of pasta, totally stuffed, Fives whips out his best one liner. “…bet you can’t finish that plate...” You had to be there on that camping trip to understand what he means but this time it didn’t involve a can of Bush’s Baked Beans.
--------------------------------------------Day 2. Trenton, NJ to Valley Forge, Pa
As the crew stretches and gets ready for the ride, we are greeted with overcast skies and a reminder that we are to be traveling 2 hours on a rail trail. A damp wet rail trail that is. The roll out of the city wasn’t bad. We entered the rail trail with a smile. This trail was a narrower than what I have ridden locally in fact about half the width of the one that runs from central York County to Hunt Valley, MD.
Josh, Fives and I made the best of the ride on the rail trail by helping riders change flat tires and then trying to bridge to the other group by doing 18mph on loose wet gravel. I can compare that rally racing WRC style.
Two hours later we hit the tarmac at the rest stop near the Pennsylvania border. After bathroom breaks and fueling up, we head across the Delaware River into Pennsylvania. This part of the event solidified how cool it is to have a motorcycle escort while on the roads. Josh and I roll down the road and immediately notice the change in landscape. Hills! Heavy tree coverage, double canopy-ish. Maybe it was the sound of the motorcycle’s engine (BMW flat 4 cylinder) but we hit the climbs with a pace that I would normally blow up on. 17-20 mph on some sections and feeling great. We wound our way past some beautiful 3 million dollar homes that were nestled into the lush tree coverage, land marked with Range Rovers in the driveways.
I opted not to carry a cue sheet for the ride figuring that I would follow the rest. As long as there were rest to follow right? We made it to Valley Forge. By now I am getting low on horse power and pulling out the reserve fuel, Honey Stinger gel packs. Josh and I hook up with Matt Purdue and a dude from Colorado that rides at 8k feet elevation back home. His parents live in Lancaster so this event was an easy hook up for him. The four of us roll into Valley Forge Park, made a left at the ‘T’ in the trail since that looked like it would take us in the right direction and back out onto the main road. As we approached the King of Prussia area where we were staying, the hills were knarley. Short and steep. Coming up on 68 miles by the end of the ride I was running out of gas. I ate a ton and drank like a fish but the legs were just loosing their wattage by the closing miles. I didn’t have any cramping or lactate burn (thanks heart rate monitor), just no push. We cruise into the parking lot near the mall, chat with the Mavic neutral support and bask in the accomplishment of the day. Up until then I hadn’t been on the bike for four and half hours and 5300ft of vertical climbing, I liked it!
Dinner that night consisted of an obscene sized plate of chicken and fettuccini noodles with red sauce, one beer and 3 tall glasses of water. Goodnight.
Day 3. King of Prussia, Pa to Lancaster, Pa.
Our morning was kicked off with guess what, sunshine! Whoo, hoo! Everyone was giddy to see that and as we rode onto the next stage everyone had a bit of a buzz of happiness. The suns rays felt inviting on our faces as we headed westward towards my home circuit of Lancaster County. That’s pronounce LANKASTER. Try to not use 2 syllables in that, ha!
RT. 23 is one of the main arteries that lead into Lancaster County. We are starting to roll onward southeast of the Reading area. The shoulder on the road is fabulous for most of the way. We hit the first major hill leading us to Morgantown. I am dropped by Josh, some guy on a yellow Kestrel and a woman on a tasty Serotta decked with Campy groupo; thumbs up in my book! I drink and eat a bit and try to get into a rhythm. By now they are at least 250 yard ahead of me. The bike is feeling good as are my legs so I just gauge the acceleration as I roll along. This isn’t a competition event that we are doing but man there are times where you may go a bit toe to toe for some friendly battling; it’s good for the spirit I have been told. By now I am in the big ring and pinning 19 mph on the climb. Past the Serotta, the Kestrel and by Josh. Not thinking of their pace I move onward with the intentions of resting and soft-pedaling for the group at the next plateau. That wasn’t the case as the climb lasted for a bit over 15 minutes. At one point I looked back and saw Josh coming up. As he hauls by me he looks over and says ‘I’m going to hate you for this!” By now I am doing 21 on the climb. He is at 25 as confirmed later. I real him back in on the next climb and we work together to the next rest stop. The whole time this is going on we are being escorted by one of the BMW PCT motorcycles.
The rest stop awaited us with Subway subs, bananas, drinks and other yummy treats. I love the food on this ride and a big thanks to those that helped out with it! As we chomp away on the subs the motorcycle driver comes up to me and says, “Man you guys were cruising up those climbs!” Thank goodness for compact gearing.
Josh’s family was at the rest stop to show support and offer hugs to their boy on his long journey.
The rest of the ride into Lancaster was really smooth and flat. The smells in the air fluctuated from cow patties, warm bread and the usual country air. Our hotel for the night was on Granite Run Drive with cold beer waiting inside. All that was missing was Motley Crue’s ‘Home Sweet Home’ playing as we pulled into the parking lot.
My wife and two children stopped by as well as Tim Five’s family. We changed and went to Chili’s for dinner.
Day 4- Lancaster to Hershey Park, Pa.
The morning came and all riders were greeted with sunshine and a feeling of the great event’s time soon ending. Outside the hotel everyone posed with their new comrades for photos, hugs and some tears.
The group rolled out and pointed it towards Hershey. Riding those same roads with 40 new friends gave me a better appreciation for the routes I pedal weekly. The riders commented on the beautiful views of the landscape, unobstructed by hills, the eyes seeing 25miles straight out. At one point we paralleled a horse boarding farm and 4 of the barn’s tenants galloped playfully as the group rolled past.
As the road rolled by, our one and only rest stop was at a parking area for the State Game Lands. What was remaining of the events a snack was snatched up and tree restroom brakes were made. After the entire group was accounted for we stayed together for the rest of the ride into Hershey Park’s Chocolate world.
We turned onto RT 422 and past all the joyous Hershey workers clapping for our arrival. The entry into the parking lot out front of Chocolate World was littered with our friends and family, media/press and curious onlookers. Hershey Foods donated an additional $250,000.00 as well as another donation from the workers.
I still can’t believe how fast this event went by. I met so many strong survivors, beautiful auras and gained an appreciation of just how delicate our lives really are. My heart goes out to the survivors that I was blessed to ride with and hope to put some more miles on with you in the future.
If you would like to donate on my behalf please visit my site for the York Tour de Pink. I still have a donation committment to achieve. Thanks and be well!