Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Freelance Life

I've finally gotten settled back in Boulder after all the excitement of MS Global, and spent the week easing into a regular freelance schedule. This involves things like applying for part-time work from home that would allow me the flexibility to still pursue writing assignments, generating lists of article ideas and potential places to publish them, doing research on article topics, and sending queries to magazines about those article ideas. This week, my biggest accomplishments involved making an Excel spread sheet of article ideas and potential places to sell them, applying for an exciting part-time-from-home position with a non-profit that advocates for women in the outdoor recreation industry, securing some contract work doing sessions at an upcoming Denver Head Start inservice, sending a query for an article on some of the folks with me at MS Global (keep your fingers crossed that the magazine will want it!), and -- thanks to Lindsey! -- securing two new assignments at The Daily Camera. One is an advertorial that I'll complete tonight, and the other is the biggest assignment I've received to date from them: I'll be writing and editing the copy for a large advertising insert that REI has bought for a grand re-opening of their store here. I've got tons of literature to go over tonight, and will meet with folks from marketing at the paper tomorrow morning to go over all the details. Pretty exciting stuff.

I've been working all morning on the advertorial, and am taking a breather to load some more pics of MS Global here. I know...I've done lots of entries and pics on it already, but others from the trip have begun loading their pics on a smugmug site ( for everyone to see. There are some amazing shots of some of the roads, scenery, and people from more talented photogs than mwah, so I wanted to put a few of them up here.

Stage 1, that first cold day riding out of Canazei up Ronde Sella. Ride leader Jon Heideman leads us here; Michael (France and Merck Serono) is behind him, and I'm the next one visible.

Pat Perry (Houston) took this gorgeous shot from the Ronde Sella (I think....).

I think this is a shot on the way up the Passo Fedaia on stage 2...the hardest climb ever.

I didn't mention that there were a few mishaps on the of the participants went over a ledge on the descent down Passo Nigra on Stage 3 on our way to Bolzano. Ok, I'm just kidding. This was a "photo op" set up by Tyler and, I think, Dick Tapply, to simulate a mishap. Funny, huh?!

A view from partway up "The Wall" on stage 4.

And after climbing "The Wall" and Passo Palade AND Passo Mendola, I got some much needed back massage from soigneur Nilas (Denmark) before descending the Mendola. 'lil Hudie was on hand to capture this flattering moment on film.

One of the bazillion (ok, just 48) switchbacks on Passo Stelvio on stage 5. I think this is ride leader Erik (CA) leading Pat (TX) up, but am not sure. We all kinda look the same from this distance, you know?! Ok, maybe even close up in our cycling gear.

Me and Jack (CO) are being escorted here up the last few meters of Passo Fedaia on Stage 2 by Mike (CA), the infamous bell guy. He is such a hammer that he finished the climb and then came back SEVEN times to ride the last bit with those like us who hadn't finished yet.

Ok, I know that Michelle and I saw mountain goats toward the bottom of the climb up Stelvio -- this is not one of them. We also saw llamas somewhere along the way, but I don't for the life of me remember where or when. But someone captured this friendly guy (or gal) on film.

This is a shot of our much beloved ride leaders and staff on the last night. Truly, you'll be hard-pressed to find a better group of people anywhere. Back, from l to r: Nilas (Denmark), Haven (CO), Margaret (American living in Italy), Christina (Spain), Ahmad (CO); middle row, l to r: Larry (MA), Tyler (CO), Jon (CO), Claus (Denmark); and front row, l to r: Bacon (in the witness protection program since he was saved from sure death on a farm), Mark (CO), and Erik (CA).

And finally...MS Global 2007.

Ya gotta love 'em...I know I do!!!

Friday, September 14, 2007

MS Global 2007 -- Parting Thoughts and Pics

I'm back stateside and MS Global 2007 has come to a close. I can't believe it's over already, and like last year, am experiencing some withdrawals. MS Global really is a family, and after spending such a physically and emotionally intense week with all of them in the beautiful surroundings of the Italian Dolomites, it's bittersweet to return home and settle back into normal life.

Since the internet connections in Italy were so slow, I didn't always upload all the pictures I would have liked to, so I've selected some more to share here and wrap things up. They're from stages 1 through 4 -- since I did my stage 5 and 6 posts from stateside, I loaded all those pics. So, here's a final few glimpses into the faces and places of MS Global 2007 from my perspective.

A cafe on Ronde Sella, the first climb on that freezing Stage 1.
I can't say enough about the staff that supported us -- they're amazing. This is Nilas (Denmark), a soigneur, offering various Clif products at the top of Ronde Sella.
Because we were in the Dolomites, we rode by and through many ski resorts -- world class ones, from what I hear. This was a sign at one of them, indicating they like cyclists, too!
A couple maps of a couple of those ski resorts.
The first night, Deirdre gave Karen and Patti the assignment of wishing Jim and Vivian Turner (California alumni) a happy wedding anniversary, complete with bride and groom hats.
This pink pig, reportedly named "Bacon," was spotted in the bed of a certain ride leader in Canazei. You gotta keep warm somehow.
The hotel in Canazei -- Hotel Astoria.
Headed toward Passo Pellegrino, Jack Irving (Ft. Collins) does some stretching. He is the one I rode to the top of Passo Fedaia with, and one of the rookies I feel honored to call new friend.
More new friends: Mike (San Francisco and the "bell guy") and Tammy (Ft. Collins and my roommate) pose with me at the top of Passo San Pellegrino.
Posing with the man himself, Tyler Hamilton, at a village during the descent from San Pellegrino. No matter your strengths, Ty is incredibly supportive of all the riders on Global, and makes everyone feel a part of something bigger and special.
I didn't say much about these (didn't want to scare my mom while I was still in Italy), but we went through a lot of tunnels. Some were lit better than others, and we had little blinky bike lights to make us visible to cars. Most were fun, though a few on the descent from Stelvio were pretty scary, as they were pitch black and had tight corners in them. This one was on the way to Passo Fedaia on Stage 2.
A friend from MS Global 2006, Michael Moniez (France) who works for Merck Serono in Geneva. This is at the top of the Fedaia.
On the night Pat and I crowned the birthday royal family, we inadvertantly forgot Ahmad, one of our ride leaders from Denver, whose birthday is also in September. Here, we let him wear Karen's crown as consolation, but, as you can see, he's still 'dissin' us.
Christine, one of our soigneurs who is from Spain, always brings cards to MS Global, and initiates a variety of card games in the bars after dinner. This is a shot from a particularly lively game of "Bullshit" on the last night in Canazei. Oh, and I also haven't mentioned Margaret, who is in the foreground here. She is an American living in Italy who works for Thompson Tours, the company who organized the route and lodging for us along the way. She fit in quite well with the Global crowd, and did a fantastic job. We're pretty sure she won't ever enjoy tours with any other groups again....Once you've gone Global, you really can't go back.
I had trouble sleeping the entire week -- jet lag, I guess -- and our last morning in Canazei, I decided to quit fighting it. I simply got out of bed a few hours before everyone else, and took a walk around the village. These are a few of the things I saw.
The sunrise was spectacular.
Just moments prior to taking this picture, there had been an old Italian woman sipping her morning coffee on the top balcony. I really wanted to take her picture, but figured that was a bit much, so waited until my trip back by when she had gone inside.
I thought this road sign would have been fitting in the bar the night before...
On our lightest day when we rode from Canazei to our next hotel in Bolzano, we had cappuccino on the descent from Passo Costalunga. Since that tends to be a Global theme, I thought this artsy shot there was appropriate.
At the same cappuccino stop, our man Jimmy D. made quite an impression on the Italian waitress...
And leaving that same stop, soigneur Nilas (Denmark) made sure we knew which way to turn.
The first night in Bolzano, we went out into the streets for a festival. In this Austrian- and German-influenced part of Italy, this is apparently a pre-Oktoberfest celebration introducing many new beers. Ride leader Erik Schmidt (California) stepped a bit out of character and did an Italian Stallion impression on our way.
More new friends: Kelly and Tom from Denver, at our hotel in Bolzano the morning we took our group photo.
Of course, we weren't the only cyclists in the Dolomites. On Passo Palade (Stage 4) at our lunch stop, we saw this gentleman. We tried to convince our ride leaders to wear similarly cut shorts, but they would have none of it.
Though not a flattering pic of me (my face temporarily stuck this way after seeing shorts guy above), I wanted to post a shot of Christine, the soigneur from Spain who got me back on the bike last year after I had back spasms. This year, she also worked on my back after a few rides, though I luckily didn't have any spasms.
This is Bill Hamilton, Tyler's dad, cresting the top of Passo Palade. He is 67 years young, started riding at 60, and did ALL the climbs with us. He has committed to doing MS Global as long as he can get on his bike. Quite an inspiration.
This was at the top of Passo Mendola...I have no idea if it truly has anything to do with the game of golf, but since my dad is an avid golfer, thought I'd include it.
A few of our ride leaders -- Tyler, Jon, and Erik -- figuring out how to get us to Bolzano from the top of Passo Mendola. The ride leaders really do a terrific job, and do a ton of hard work for us.

If you've been looking at photos of me carefully, you've noticed that I have a bandage on my right hand when riding and a brace when not riding. Back in June, I tore or pulled some ligaments in my right thumb on a stuck tailgate when I was moving to Colorado, and after weeks and weeks of pain and swelling that wouldn't go down, finally saw a doc a few weeks before MS Global. It's almost healed, but was pretty visible here when ride leader Larry accidentally snapped a shot of Michelle and me on Passo Mendola before I was quite ready.
We thought these round menus were pretty cool at the microbrewery we went to in Bolzano. Me and 'lil Hudie pose here with one.
And you remember that big "Happy Rustic" dinner that Patti, Paul, and I shared at the same place? All six of us also shared three big desserts, and Patti poses here with the remains.
On the walk back from dinner that same night, we came across some rather interesting window displays in some shops. Here, a mannequin surrounded by potatoes and beans...huh?!
Can you say "phallic"?...
And, no, we didn't go to a strip club...this was also a mannequin in a display. Hmmmm....
And though I've put this shot up already on another post, I don't want to end with this mannequin, so here's the group again, at dinner in Bormio.
MS Global 2007
Pedalin' for Lisa
472 kilometers / 11,070 meters elevation gained / 11 epic passes
(which converts to)
293 miles / 36,318 feet elevation gained / amazing memories + a really sore back
Even with all the pics and sorry attempts at putting this experience into words, I simply can't express how full my heart is after this week of challenging riding with such terrific people.
It was all for Lisa, Sean, Aidan, and Tanner, and they were all on my heart
each and every kilometer.
MS Global really is a metaphor for what it must be like to live with MS:
new challenges every day, not knowing what is coming next,
feeling doubtful that one has enough strength one moment,
and elated at cresting a peak the next.
Thank you to everyone who coordinates MS Global and makes it possible,
to my new and old Global friends,
and especially to all of you who have donated to make all this possible.
I came home to even more donations, and at last count, have raised $6020.

MS Global -- Stage 6

Tuesday, September 11 -- Our last day (and my big brother Bill's birthday! Happy B-Day, Bill!)

Today for our last ride, we did 52 kilometers from the hotel -- 26 up the Passo Gavia and 26 back down to Bormio. The weather was a bit cooler than it had been, but we still had blue sky and beautiful views. Below, my group gathered in front of our hotel.

On the way up, I turned to see Patti riding in front of this beautiful rainbow. Pretty fitting for our last day.

One of the many great views on the way up some switchbacks. Patti and I stopped here to take these pics, and I fumbled her camera...and broke it! Thankfully, her pics were saved since they were on the memory card, but boy did I feel bad. She won't let me buy her a new camera, but will be coming to Boulder to stay with me and do some riding...and she thinks that's payback!

Almost to the top now and above treeline, we saw this amazing glacier. Wow.

This monument was in front of the glacier. The plaque on it was in Italian so we couldn't read it, but it must be for something special. What a desolate and beautiful location.

A little further along, we rode by this lake; the water was a beautiful green and blue, and the crucifix was very moving.

Our last summit sign. Passo Gavia. Patti and I take the traditional picture.

There was a cafe here at the top, and we all regrouped inside in a small room with a fireplace -- much needed warmth. While the climb was long and hard, I think we all were feeling sad that it was our last climb of this amazing trip. Here, Christina (Brazil, Merck Serono/Switzerland) and Dick Tapply (USA) share a warm hug.

Bill Hamilton (Boston, Tyler's dad) and Pat (Texas) soak up the warmth of the fire.

We then made a long, cold descent back to the hotel in Bormio. First on our list of "to-do's" back at the hotel was packing up our bikes. Here, 'lil Hudie and Pat show their bike grease-d hands after packing both of their bikes in one box for their return to Houston.

We now had a few hours before dinner, and while I could have done my blog entry, I felt a bit selfish, and decided to walk around Bormio with Pat, Karen, and Tammy. It was so relaxing and fun to walk the beautiful little streets of this ski village. We ate gelato (I had Limoncella flavored -- yum!), did some shopping in quaint little shops, passed other MS Global-ites along the streets, and even stopped in a little deli-type store to buy some snacks. After riding, it's typical to crave salty snacks, so we got some big bags of potato chips and they were amazingly delicious. And Tammy, my roommate, craved some pickles...yes, we all wondered, too, but she's not pregnant! Below are a few of the sites we saw along the way.

Finally, we came full circle back to the hotel in time for our last pre-dinner meeting. Karen, Tammy, and Pat pose by a little river that ran in front of the hotel.At our last pre-dinner meeting, the ride leaders crowned Tyler and Haven king and queen of MS Global 2007. This was the 5th year for MS Global, and it was the first time Tyler was able to stay the entire week and it was the first time Haven was able to come at all. It was great to have them here, and they helped us make great memories.

After the meeting, we had enough time to get a drink in the bar, and then headed into our last dinner together. Here, Michelle, me, and Karen enjoy yet another Stelvio beer. This is a fitting shot of a great new friend made at this year's MS Global, Michelle, and a great friend made at last year's MS Global, Pat. The friendships truly are one of the most precious parts of this experience.
At dinner, Tyler asked each of us to wear the crown and share a highlight of the week with everyone. Of course, the stories shared had us going back and forth between laughing hysterically and trying to hold back tears. The stories were moving and special, and though roughly 40 of us present told them, the time just flew. Of course, the hotel restaurant staff who were waiting to serve us dessert don't think it went by so fast....Here, Pat takes her turn in the crown.
After dinner, it might surprise you, but we all made our way to the bar, and relished in each other's company as long as we could. There was a piano player with a karaoke-type set-up, so Bill Hamilton and a few others took turns singing with him all night. Everyone had to shuttle out the next morning to Milan, some of us earlier than others. I was scheduled for the first shuttle at crack-of-dawnish 4:30, so I toyed with the idea of simply staying up all night. But, by 2:30, I couldn't keep my eyes open anymore, so retired for all of an hour before getting up again to shower and get the shuttle. Some folks, though, chose to stay up all night, and one was Mark, a rookie from Boston. Here he is finally taking a snooze while he waits for the shuttle to leave in the morning...
And here's my final pic of MS Global 2007...the bartender (far right) was up all night, too, and had coffee and pastries available for us before we left. Here, a group hug with some of the folks who stayed in the bar all night and some of the folks who slept in order to catch the early shuttle: Jimmy D., Jack, a new Italian friend, Tammy, Bill Hamilton, and the bartender.
Our last ride:
52 kilometers / 1400 meters elevation gain / 1 final pass
Can't believe it's over...I'll do one more post with some wrap-up thoughts and pics.