05:30: Damn, it’s still coming down. Cats and Dogs. Do I really want to get up?
I did make a commitment. People sponsored me. $2300. Friends half way around the world gave money because this cause has significance for them.
I get up, but do not put my kit on. Shorts and t-shirt for now. Coffee must be made.
06:00: We gather around the table. A table where we’ve had many meals. I’m at the Bennett’s in Gettysburg with Matt and the extended family. His brother Pat, Pat’s son James, Matt’s cousin Valerie’s husband, Kevin, and Matt’s brother in law, Paul are here. Only Dave and I are not related by blood or marriage. And yet, I am with family.
Truly, I can’t believe that I’m sitting at the table at 408 Heritage Drive. It’s been 22 years since Matt and I graduated from high school and neither of us really ever came back to our childhood homes.
We don’t have wifi. Can’t steal it from the neighbors either. No SSID’s available to even try. Thankfully, AT&T gives us 3G. Weather Underground shows that the storm will clear. We decide to push back the start from 7:30 to 8:00.
08:00: As we roll from Gettysburg College, the rain has slowed, more of a drizzle now than the showers that woke me up. But it’s enough that we’re getting wet and soon our socks are soaked like mops. Five hours later, we’ll take off drenched socks and be thankful to get into sandals. For now, we’re focused on getting through the first ten miles and hoping that the rain will stop.
We arrive at the first rest stop and notice that the sun is peaking through the clouds. A mix of elation and fear sets in. It will be nice if we don’t have to ride in the rain, but our world is about to become a soup of rain, road grit and sweat.
As we leave Fairfield, PA, I am pleased that the hill where I nearly collapsed last year, seems much smaller and more manageable. After we summit the hill, I hit my high speed of the ride at 37.7mph. I’ve never seen that speed on my speedometer before.
The next leg takes us into Emmitsburg, MD. I went to grade school here and Dad worked at the National Fire Academy here. I wish with all my heart that Stavro’s Pizza will be open. But it’s 9:30 and they are not open.
The next rest stop is in Thrumont and we have lunch at the park. It’s not even 10:30. Lunch? Fuel up anyway. PB&J, Utz potato chips. These are the flavors of my youth. I am happy. We make the decision to skip the next rest stop which is only 5 miles away. (Seriously, 5 miles, how did that happen?)
Matt and I ride like hell. We’re hammering and we hit a wall out of nowhere. As I muscle up the last 20 feet, I think of Mr. Grey. “Hulk Smash.” At mile 45 we stop for a rest.
11:30: As we started to roll out of the 45 mile rest stop, Paul suffered a flat. The group split up as a handful chose to ride on knowing that we’d probably catch up before the next stop and a few of us stayed back to wait for Paul. Paul told us he’d catch up. The next 10 miles seem like they are 2. Matt and I crushed them. We regrouped at mile 55.
12:10: Something happened as we rolled out of this final rest stop. My legs felt like stone. I’d overspent my credit. With everything that I had, I struggled into town on the last ten miles of the ride. When I crested the hill on Taneytown Road passing the Gettysburg National Cemetery, I thanked someone that the rest of the ride was downhill and into town.
13:10: I was far from broken, but I was finished. The pizza and beer at the college was the best I’ve ever tasted.
Thanks to the many, many people who sponsored me. Your collective contributions totaled over $2300 for the Central Pennsylvania Chapter of the National MS Society and they will be put to immediate use making the lives of people with MS better.