What will I remember when I look back at the summer of 2012 and my Bike the US for MS experience? As I prepared to write my final blog about the ride I made an outline and the outline alone was one and a half pages long, that is how many things occurred. But when [...]
Tanya was the teammate that I spent the most time with on the ride and shared so much with. Tanya is the sister I never had and she was there for me all summer. Affectionately known throughout the team as TransAm Tanya, our friendship started in Virginia when, in my opinion, she was not [...]
While my ride across America is over, my passion for helping those affected by MS and finding a cure remains. And, thus Phil Across America will live on with more ongoing events. If you are a cyclist then I hope you join me on September 29 & 30 as part of TEAM COOPER in the [...]
What will I remember when I look back at the summer of 2012 and my Bike the US for MS experience? As I prepared to write my final blog about the ride I made an outline and the outline alone was one and a half pages long, that is how many things occurred. But when you are singularly focused for 62 days it really should not come as a surprise. Thus, the ultimate prize of this trip, celebrating my 50th birthday is exactly what my wife Laura predicted before I left, she simply said, “Phil, it will be life altering” and it was in so many ways.
We go around once in this life and I suppose many of us never really experience the adventure that life has to offer. I thought I knew myself before this ride began and I shocked myself as I broke boundaries that were imagined and some that were real. I breached the physical and mental barriers in front of me to redefine myself. While defining a new Phil Cooper, I had a chance to learn and appreciate our USA in a way I had not before while at the same time marveling at how vast and often vacant our country is. The diversity of the people amazed me and their compassion and caring never wavered. » Read more..
Tanya was the teammate that I spent the most time with on the ride and shared so much with. Tanya is the sister I never had and she was there for me all summer.
Affectionately known throughout the team as TransAm Tanya, our friendship started in Virginia when, in my opinion, she was not eating correctly and it was affecting her performance. She struggled to swallow a GU packet and I gave her a bunch of crap as she complained about it going down. It was the beginning of a friendship that I am certain will last a lifetime. » Read more..
While my ride across America is over, my passion for helping those affected by MS and finding a cure remains. And, thus Phil Across America will live on with more ongoing events.
If you are a cyclist then I hope you join me on September 29 & 30 as part of TEAM COOPER in the MS150 City to Shore Ride, from Cherry Hill, NJ to Ocean City, NJ.
What is also really neat about this ride is that you can be an avid cyclist to a novice and there is a way for you to participate. From 25 mile options to a full century on day 1 followed by 75 miles on day 2 there is a ride for everyone.
With over 7,000 riders, this fully supported ride is the biggest and best of its kind on the East Coast.
So, I hope you join us this year as part of TEAM COOPER. There is a fundraising minimum of $300, but within your circle of friends and family this can be easily raised.
As part of TEAM COOPER you will also have the opportunity to purchase a team jersey for $30 (it is an $90 value). Once you register, we will be in touch to see if you want a jersey(s) and what style and size you desire.
To register for Team Cooper do the following:
- Go to http://bikepae.nationalmssociety.org/site/PageServer?pagename=BIKE_PAE_register and click on JOIN A TEAM
- Our Team Name is TEAM SPIN/COOPER PEST
- Registration Fee is $45
If you have any questions please send an email to:
Hope to see you on the City to Shore Ride —-Phil
As I start to wind down it is actually now Day 63. I have so much yet to do, pictures to be added to Day 59 and Day 60, completion of the Day 61 blog, writing yesterday’s blog and doing a recap (which is something you will really enjoy if you have been following this summer). But first before the catch-up and wind-down we will explore the final day in my journey as Bike the US for MS arrived in San Francisco.
The day was for sure emotional and I will put it right there with my wedding, the birth of our kids, speeches at our kids Bat and Bar Mitzvahs, and my words at my dad’s funeral. In each of those events, my emotions were put to the test and yesterday was no exception. The only thing that saved me was the San Francisco cold.
Once again, my highlights were interactions during the day with people I know and complete strangers and just as we started our ride in Yorktown we ended our day in San Francisco—disjointed.
One of my lasting and fondest memories of our team is that we NEVER did things the way we set out. In almost every situation, what we planned on doing would change, this was a very impulsive group that easily changed its mind. That was our MO from the day one right to the end.
Just to keep things in perspective, on Day 1, we were supposed to leave Yorktown, I believe at 9am. And if you go back to the Day 1 blog you will find that I was not up front with the team, rather I was with some guest riders and family about 500 feet back when 15 minutes before the appointed time, everyone started to leave. I quickly got in my cleats, panicking that I was going to be left behind and never really got to say goodbye to my family.
So, wouldn’t it be totally appropriate for the same thing to happen at the end with a different twist. As our day wound down we all trekked through San Francisco on the way to Chrissy Field where we would dip our tires and be part of a wonderful celebration put on by Clark Pest Control. The party was planned between the Bike the US for MS team and the crack team at Clark. I had coordinated through my friend and amazing industry leader Robert Baker and his marketing maven Nicole Kirwan-Keefe and the event coordinator Emily Hill. What no one planned on was the temperatures dropping and our team riding through a frigid San Francisco.
As we arrived to San Francisco Bay, the team was chilled to the bone as we moved our bikes to the water. The team gathered for photos and you could see everyone just wanted to the pictures to be done. I quickly told everyone where to go for the reception which was about 1000 feet to the right. We already were confused as the RV was supposed to be at the reception but somehow ended up in another part of the park. I took off to be with my friends from Clark and soon realized that the group had decided that the cold was too much. They still had to ride back to the trailer to unload their cubbies, a trailer that was about 2.5 miles away, with dark descending, fog rolling in and the cold increasing. Actually, it was hard to blame them for bolting the scene.
Braving the conditions were about 15 people from Clark, our fearless leader Don Fraser, our Team Leader Dale Johnson and his wife Christine, our crack support team of Jack and Ann Dillon, Sherry and Jim Dire, Tanya and Joe Conover and Liane Lau. The rest of our team was high tailing it back to the trailer to get out of the cold and check into their rooms.
I never had the proper goodbyes and I never had the chance to say special words to my teammates I so greatly valued. In a way it was good because I know I would have cried my eyes out. And while I was frustrated at the situation, all of the hard work put in by the Clark team and a bit of embarrassment that my team never appeared it was the Hollywood script, so predictable for our team and really so appropriate, in a good way not bad.
As disjointed as the day began we actually stuck together as a team for 99% of the day which was way out of character for us. We have grown common bonds so when we do things as an entire team it becomes very special. It is not that we do not like to do things together, we actually like it a lot. But we are all so different, with different schedules, different tastes, different agendas. This was one of the hardest things for our guest riders to understand as they would come in. I guess the expectation was that we would ride as a team ,do things as team well just be a team.
As we woke on Day 61, it was quiet around the campsite as everyone packed up for the last time. You could see everyone wearing their emotions a little differently. I had made arrangements to ride out one last time with Jennifer and Sharon and had alerted my guest riders, Dave, Brad and Terri to be ready by 7:15a with an intended departure at 8am, but to be on their toes to leave with about 60 seconds notice from 7:15a on. Good thing I did this, for as expected somewhere around 7:40, Jen and Sharon were ready to leave. Actually, I am not sure they were going to leave at 8a, I thought Tanya was riding out with them and she said 8a and I never checked with them. But, Terri and Brad were ready, Dave was not so I left him behind knowing he would catch up at the first stop. I thought we might ride out of the camp site as a team but we did not and my guess was that we would be this way the entire day.
The first segment of our ride was about 22 miles and it was simply awesome. We had wonderful rolling hills, first through pasture land, then through some orchards and finally into the vineyards. At about mile 8 we rolled into suburbia, actually the town of Fairfield full of homes, condos and retail stores and my gut was this would be the rest of the ride. Not to be…about 3 miles later we were back to farms and vineyards, fresh produce stands and just great country; not to mention making a wrong turn. We went right instead of left and realized our error about 2 miles down the road. But not to worry because we actually took a short cut to our destination of Rockville.
Our rest stops are some of my favorite times on this trip as I have conveyed in the past. We get a chance to see so many of our teamamtes, we break bread with each other as people roll in and we spend a lot of time at the stops simply because we like being around each other. Day 61 was no exception but we had tons of time to kill. The five of us rolled in around 9:00a and we only had 22 miles to go for the ride to the ferry but we did not have to be there until 2:30p. That meant we had five and a half hours to kill with an approximately 1.5 hour ride ahead. So, we just hung out.
Around 10a I realized the van was missing and Dale was not sure where Matt and Drew had gone off to. Well, in short order the van returned and Jim Omans popped out telling us that his bike was stolen. All of us thought he was pulling our leg but that ended within 1 minute when Matt and Drew confirmed the assertion and gave some details. Jim was riding Phil Across America Bike #7 when he stopped at Safeway in Fairfield. When he came back out, the bike was gone along with other things he had attached to the bike. What a bummer. Fortunately, my crack staff back at Cooper had taken photos of the bikes, the numbers and the serial numbers so they were able to quickly send this over to Jim for the police report. So, our day was beginning with drama.
Jim, got on his third bike of the trip. His bike was broken, his replacement bike was stolen so he would now have to ride Matt’s bike (I think it was Matt’s) into the finish.
But what happened next was just again Hollywood. Because there was so much time to kill the whole team had arrived at the rest stop and somehow it was decided that we would ride out as a team. I asked Dale during the ride to Vallejo, where we would catch the ferry, if this happened on his last ride in 2010. The answer, NO, they rode in separately as we had done everyday except when we rode into Pittsburg, Kansas. The difference, Pittsburg was planned and this was impromptu.
Kaitlyn Smith and Mike Anderson were the only ones not riding with us as they needed to leave early since Kaitlyn was riding with one good leg and one leg with a blown ACL. Once again, hats off to her for gutting out the final day and providing herself with a lasting memory.
Our journey as a team from Winters to Vallejo would test our metal as a team but we shined. First, Brian Sink would have a flat and the team stopped and waited as he changed his tire. This was again out of character for us as the last time we rode as a team, Robert Beger had a flat as we pulled out and we left him in the dust. This time, we corrected our mistake and waited for Brian. Down the road a bit, the bike path had a “Y”, to the left was a large downhill to the right a flat. Four of our riders went left instead of right and we were now separated again as they needed to climb back up the hill. Once again, the team stuck together and let them catch up. 22 miles after Rockville, we rolled into Vallejo as a team and it was just wonderful and we still had hours to kill.
So what happened next was what happens every day on this ride. Lunch was done and two ladies who were sitting nearby asked if I could take a moment to answer a couple of questions. I guess they overheard some of our conversations and they saw our Bike the US for MS jerseys. Betty Heise and Kimberly Carey, were so intrigued and touched by our story of giving and perseverance. It was such a joy to spend 30 minutes with them talking about the US, the highlights, geography, culture, technology, our team and all of our passions for raising money to help those afflicted with MS and helping to find a cure. It was a joy to talk with them and share my memories.
The interaction was so appropriate for the day and that it would be the first of many interactions we would have as our journey wound down. As I left, they both promised to spread the word about Bike the US for MS and I hope they are reading this blog entry and passing it on to others.
As a team we once again gathered for the ferry ride from Vallejo to Pier 1 in San Francisco. The ferry ride was filled with everyone hanging out with one another, knowing our journey was coming to an end but that we had two more events in front of us. A reception held by TEVA Neuroscience and our tire dip and party with Clark Pest.
Trying to get the team out of Pier 1 was like heading kittens but we successfully managed to ride as a team to the Boudine’s Bakery and our reception. I was certain I would be with the team again shortly and their families at the tire dip so I waited to say what I wanted to say to my teammates. Instead, I spent time talking to them one on one, sharing food and some quick stories. In attendance at the reception were many MS patients who had come to have dinner and also here a guest speaker. The formal part of our gathering was an introduction of our team to the MS patients and an eloquent speech by our very own Alex Soloman who described our service projects along the ride. Alex was superb as he detailed the three projects and what they meant to us as a team.
By now the hour approached 6:15p and we walked as a team back to the Radisson Hotel to gather our bikes. Earlier, when we had arrived at the bakery we realized there was no place to put the bikes and we were not in the mood to have another theft. Don Fraser had quickly put a new plan into affect and we took the bikes back to our host hotel for safe storage. But as we walked back to the hotel to retrieve them the cold started to set in and after a fifteen minute wait we finally got the bikes.
The ride through San Francisco was simply not fun. Cold winds were whipping, we had hills to climb and the life was being sucked out of us. Then we could not figure out where to go for our tire dip. Normally, the team just goes to the water dips the tires and then heads back to the hotel. But with the Clark reception it was more planned with an exact location and I know as we traversed looking for where to go it just got colder and more frustrating for everyone.
So…as we got to Chrissy Field and our final destination, everyone hit the wall. We did the tire dip but without the hugs and kisses it could have been. Instead, we were shivering and I was trying to get my team to do one last team thing at our reception.
Hollywood is there for a reason and today Hollywood would intervene. We left Yorktown a bit disjointed and we left San Franscisco disjointed; it was our Modus Operandi from day one, a fitting end to my most amazing journey, a life altering experience with 17 other riders I am proud to call my extended family.
We rode for MS this summer, I promise to ride for MS until it is cured.