Monday, August 9, 2010

What I Did on My Summer Vacation, Chapter 10: Reconnected with MS Global-ites

In 2006, I did my first MS Global, a week-long bicycle ride in the Alps of France, Italy, and Switzerland to raise money for MS, sponsored by the Tyler Hamilton Foundation. I did it again in 2007, and that year we spent the entire week in the Dolomites in Italy. While there were too many amazing things about these experiences to ever completely cover in writing, one of the greatest perks was the lifelong friends I've made. And I was lucky enough to see a few of them this summer!

Michelle Leighton and her boyfriend, Dave, came by and had dinner with me at Rhino's last week before taking off on a 5-day backpacking trip from Leavitt Meadows. Michelle had done the 2005 MS Global, and I met her on a THF domestic ride before I did the 2006 Global.

And then last Thursday, Patti and Paul Columbus met me in Lee Vining so Patti and I could ride the June Lake Loop. She and husband Paul were in Mammoth for a few days, and it was so great to catch up with them again, too. Patti rode in both Globals, and Paul came along for support.

I didn't get pics of their visits, really, but it was so fun reminiscing with them that I thought I'd relive some Global memories here and put up a few of my fave pics...these don't even scratch the surface, so if you want to see more, you can scroll back to 2007 in my blog to find more of that second year. I didn't have a blog yet in 2006....!

First, though, it's important to note who I started doing MS rides of my best friends from grad school, Lisa. This is her with her oldest son, Aidan. She was diagnosed shortly after I left Tennessee, and though the disease has been steadily progressive, she is truly one of the strongest people I know. Love her and am absolutely honored to ride for her.

Our first year, we spent some time in a part of Italy that used to be Austria. On one of the nights, a few of us girls went to a Hofbrau, and had AMAZING food! Well...and beer.

This is Patti, and she and I both got a meal called something like "The Barbarian's Feast." And no...we didn't split one. We EACH had one of our own. Hey...we were putting in a lot of tough miles!

On each Global, we had an incredible support staff -- mainly volunteers -- who led our rides, worked on our bikes, gave us massages, loaded and unloaded our luggage each day, and even brought us espresso at some of our rest stops! Natalie is doing that here -- she's married to John, one of the riders, and went on the first Global with us.

The first night in Switzerland in 2006, Pat, Karen (or lil Hudie), Patti, and I were given crowns for being top fundraisers. Larry, one of our ride leaders, just wanted in a shot with beautiful biker chicks.

On one of our first rides in Switzerland, we came across a yard full of what seemed like zillions of lawn gnomes. This one, though, caught my attention.

One of the most amazing aspects of the rides is that we always had riders with us who actually have MS. In Italy the second year, these were all those riders -- Pat, Jimmy D, lil Hudie, and a great guy whose name I have forgotten -- my bad!

Also in the second year, Michelle joined us -- at the time, she was Larry's girlfriend, and they've since gotten married. I LOVED riding with her, and hope we get to ride again at some point. Here, Larry was taking a pic of us, and as you can see, we were having a little too much fun.

We finally got serious. My hand was bandaged on this whole trip because I had an injured thumb.

While we did a LOT of challenging rides (mileage and elevation gained are noted in my original blog posts), this day was the hardest. This was the second year in Italy, and we climbed Passo San Pellegrino (yes, the home of the sparkling water)in the morning, and Passo Fedaia in the afternoon -- with a hellacious headwind the majority of the way. Here, I posed for a triumphant shot at the top of Fedaia with Colorado friend, Jack Irving.

Of course, there were infinite breathtaking views along the way each year, and this was the view that we were rewarded with on the descent down the other side of Fedaia.

Posed for this picture with Tyler on one of our rides in Italy the second year. We were in a beautiful little mountain village...the village was small...not the mountain.

The climbing highlight of the Dolomite year was climbing Passo Stelvio -- 48 switchbacks! Each was marked, starting with 48 at the bottom...this way, you knew exactly how much torture was to come.

Just one of the steep switchbacks on Stelvio. At the top, ride leader John Heidemann had two baseball mits and a baseball. He had told his 4-year-old daughter that he'd bring her back a ball that he'd played catch with up cool is that? And even cooler...I got to play catch after finishing, too!

And what better way to celebrate a successful ascent of Stelvio than sharing some Stelvio beers?

And though it's certainly hard to choose, this is one of my favorite shots -- I didn't take it, but stole it from another participant! It was taken on our first day in the Dolomites that second year, and the weather was frigid, but we still had a blast. The weather the rest of the time was fantastic.

Damn good times. And it was fabulous to see Patti, Paul, and Michelle again, here in my hometown neighborhood, this summer.

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