Thursday, November 8, 2007

MS Great 8 -- Vegas or Bust

Las Vegas.
I drove there last weekend to meet up with friends for an MS 150 -- a 150 mile bike ride to benefit the National Mulitiple Sclerosis Society. As always, I rode in honor of Lisa, but also rode to celebrate the culmination of the
MS Great 8.
Friends Mike Zimits and Catherine (Cat) Tsigakos, both of New York,
put together this campaign to benefit NMSS chapters across the country.
They rode in one MS 150 each month
in a different state since April. Wow.
The Gambler's Classic
in Las Vegas was their 8th and final one.
(You can learn more about their adventures -- and see what's planned for next year -- at
So, to help them celebrate, friends Natalie and John Payne (from Denver), Duncan Harper (from London), and I met them in Vegas to ride those last 150 miles.
And what a ride it was....
We started bright and early on Saturday morning at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
This is John, Nat, and Cat waiting to start.
And this is Mike rarin' to go, too. I don't have pics of it, but we got to do a lap around the speedway before heading out on the road, and Mike, Duncan, and John rode around on the upper edge of the speedway. I only rode a little way up the "banked wall" before getting freaked out and returning to the bottom where the road is perpendicular to my bike....the whole wall thing was too crazy for me, but the guys loved it.
At one of the first rest stops (and there were a TON of rest stops), we posed for a group shot.
(back to front, left to right) John, Mike, Cat, Nat, Duncan, and me.
The majority of this first day, we rode on Interstate 15 -- yes, on the Interstate, and there'll be more about that later -- but we eventually turned off and rode toward the Valley of Fire. This was a rest stop on the way there, with three signs leading us in:
"Passion for the Cause"
"Strength for the Ride"
"Hope for the Cure"
At the same rest stop in front of a "Together we will find a cure" sign, Cat calls back home to New York to check on her family. She rides for her brother, Peter, who was diagnosed with MS 19 years ago. As a child, she never learned to ride a bike, but after Peter, and then his friend, Mike (the other MS Great 8 organizer) were diagnosed with MS, Cat learned how to ride a bike so she could do MS rides. True story!!!
John models our team jersey.
One of the great views in the Valley of Fire. The photos don't even begin to capture the beauty of these dark orange rock formations out in the middle of the desert.
Lady Liberty greeted us at a rest stop in the Valley of Fire. New York girl that she is, Cat had to pose with her!
Not too often that you see rest stops against a backdrop like this.
Oh, yah...and we spent some time on the Interstate. A LOT of time on the Interstate. This was still on the first day, when we'd left the Valley of the Fire and were riding the last 20 miles or so into Mesquite, our destination. On the way up this hill, Duncan was stopping to check his rear tire, as he was riding tubeless tires and had a bit of a leak. He "MacGyver'ed" it both days by Supergluing it over and over.
Cat and Nat congratulated each other at each rest stop. Nat has recently started riding, and this was to be her longest ride. Since it was scheduled to be 93 miles, we'd agreed that we'd ride around a bit more once we got to Mesquite so she could log 100 miles -- her first century. So, we all looked forward to that with her all day. the last rest stop, just about 11 miles out of Mesquite, we were told suddenly that we'd have to put our bikes in the sag wagon for the last few miles. Apparently, the organizers had a permit for us to ride on the Interstate, and it expired at 4:00. This was news to us, and given the fact that this ride was the culmination of 8 months of MS 150s for Cat and Mike, and Nat's first century, you can imagine that we weren't too happy that we hadn't been informed of this earlier. We had been taking our time all day, chatting it up at all the rest stops since we'd come together from Colorado, New York and England to ride together, and could have easily made it in time. Though we protested, we were made to leave the course....
But, alas, being Vegas, we were saved by a vanload of, well,
Cheetah's is a topless club in Vegas, and they had some girls at the rest stops. The club manager, Dianna, was at the last one when we were made to give up our bikes, and she offered to sag us into Mesquite so we wouldn't have to wait for the ride organizers to do so. We happily took her up on her offer, but managed to pose for pics with the billboard truck that carried our bikes before departing. The boys hated every minute of it.
Our favorite strippers pose for a goodbye pic once we arrived in Mesquite. After giving each of us Cheetah's t-shirts, of course.
Day 2
John and Nat cuddle a bit in anticipation of the 68 miles we're about to do almost entirely on Interstate 15 to get back to Vegas.
(And, yes, Nat did get her 100 miles the day before, despite our getting sagged. Once we got to town, John and Mike rode around with her until they turned 100!)
Duncan's "McGyver'ed" rear tire. The Superglue held out all the way back to Vegas. I'm pretty sure that he could sign them on to sponsor the next MS Great 8.
Our team at one of the last rest stops.
We rode about 60 miles on the was crazy scary. Between debris on the road, small to gigantic vehicles zipping by at 75+ miles per hour, and trying to get across all the off-ramps without getting creamed, our nerves were shot. Nat and I killed time for awhile by asking each other crazy questions that can't be printed here. We also all counted semi-trucks that passed us, and ended up with 381. Trust me....we felt each one.
Finally, with just about 8 miles to go, we got to exit the Interstate for the last time, and rode the rest of the way on a service road -- it felt like heaven. Just after leaving the last rest stop, though, there was a terrific explosion, like gunfire, and we all thought Duncan's tire had finally blown. Surprisingly, his was intact, but Cat had rolled over something huge and sharp, and had blown a nice huge hole in her rear tire.
Duncan "McGyver" Harper came to the rescue again, and superglued a $5 bill inside her tire to cover the gash, we replaced the tube, and Mike volunteered to switch tires with her so she wouldn't have to worry about it blowing out again. And we were off for the final miles.
Yet one more adventure to be had, though. There was a great descent into the speedway at the end, and Mike encouraged me, Cat, and Nat to lead the way down. We were riding parallel to each other with the guys behind us, doing close to 30 miles per hour, when suddenly a truck blasted past us and, in a great show of support, threw a full large cup of coke out the window, hitting me in the side, and succeeding in scaring the living shit out of all of us, and soaking me and Nat. John, Mike, and Duncan, being the tough spandex-clad biker dudes they are, took off after the truck, but they didn't catch them.

Thankfully, when I got hit, none of us broke our line, so we stayed upright, and kept riding until the guys came back to us, made sure we were alright, and we all shook it off and rode the last miles into the speedway. Viva Las Vegas.

Me, Nat, and Cat at the end of the ride...
ecstatic to be alive and off the Interstate!
So, the ride itself was a bit mentally challenging, but riding with good friends for such a great cause, well, to borrow a phrase...
And we were all there for this. Can't beat that.


Denise said...

WOW! It looks nice'n warm in Vegas.....I should be there. It's cold (55 degrees) and foggy. I am sure you do not miss the Fresno fog, eh?

patricia.perry said...

What a adventure! But it always is when you get a group of MS Global folks together. Sorry to miss it. Sounds like you had a great time considering the course.