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Seeing Southcentral Texas by bicycle
Newspaper editors pedal 150 miles for MS. Why do they do it?
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer

CORPUS CHRISTI–When I started telling people three weeks ago I was going to ride a bike 150 miles to support the National Muscular Sclerosis Society, people either admired me or thought I was crazy. I didn’t find anyone who said, “Wow, sounds great! Can I do it too?”
This made me wonder if I was really that far outside the norm.
But when I lined up at the AT&T Center in San Antonio last Saturday with 3,000 other “crazies” on bicycles – some tall, some short, some overweight (like me), some so skinny I wondered if they had enough muscle to ride a bike that far, some far older than me (50) and some only 9 or 10 – well, I felt right at home. These were my kind of people.
We all started with every intention of pedaling the entire way to Corpus Christi without killing ourselves.
Both days, at the start and finish line, a radio announcer mingled among the cluster of bicycle spokes and handlebars to ask riders why they were doing this, and we heard many touching stories about loved ones who suffer from MS.
One father and 10-year-old daughter rode on a tandem bicycle for their wife and mother.
I saw at least two people riding bicycles powered by their arms, because their legs were paralyzed or missing. Others rode who had artificial legs, and still others with knee braces or bandages. What compelled them to participate in this grueling event?
The question has reverberated in my brain, seeking an answer.
Why did I do it?
Why did I make my body conform to two wheels for hours and hours, fighting a 30 mph headwind and going up one hill after another? Why did I endure a sore backside, risk taking a spill and stand in long lines for port-a-potties and showers?
What motivated me to ask my co-workers, friends and associates to cough up a donation so I could present $500 to the MS Society at sign-in?
Like many, I know someone who suffered with MS, Jan Lee.
She was an older woman who guided me through my first years of marriage and later as a new mother. She mentored me through the emotional ups and downs of growing up.
Her husband was in the military, and we have lost touch over the years. I loved her and would see her free of MS, but I don’t think she’s the real reason.
No, I think it was the challenge – like the mountain climber who attempts Mount Everest because it’s there.
Attempting 150 miles by bicycle is a test of mind and body.
It also holds a great appeal for two great opposing needs – feeling self-reliant and independent, and at the same time seeking the safety and security provided by an organization.
When you’re on the road for longer than an hour, it’s the strength of mind and will that keep you on that bicycle. This is the lonely, independent part of the event – about 15 hours worth.
It’s also the opportunity to build your self-esteem, courage/character, endurance, patience and the satisfaction of striving for a lofty goal.
It’s not completely lonely, because you can see your fellow sufferers – although it mostly looks like they aren’t suffering as much as you. But because they persevere, so do you.
You do more than your mind can conceive, because others are doing it, and the interchange builds a fellowship of endurance.
Goals, called break points, are what the cyclist lives for. At the break point, there is water or Powerade, air for your tires, a mechanic, a respite from sitting on a narrow bicycle seat, a snack, a port-a-potty and the hope of meeting your other teammates or friends.
There’s also the chance of getting a van ride to the next break point – that’s the safety and security part. However, after 10 minutes or so, you must once again screw your courage to the sticking point and remount for another seven- to 13-mile ride to the next break point.
The logistics of providing for 3,000 cyclists and their bikes over 150 miles boggles the mind, but the volunteer organizers, who plan for this event all year long, do it well.
There are route marshals on both bicycles and motorcycles. There are 20 full-size vans, called SAG wagons, to give cyclists a welcome rest when needed.
Sheriff, constable, police and medical vehicles along the route take care of traffic lights, medical emergencies and spills.
The first day, I completed 52 miles of the 90-mile leg between San Antonio and Beeville’s college campus, where a tent city had been erected.
Team sponsors and family members prepared the campsites, and trucks transported overnight bags, sleeping bags and air mattresses to the site.
As I closed in on my 52nd mile, I began to experience shivers in the 90-degree heat, a sure sign of dehydration. So when a SAG wagon came alongside as I trudged up yet another hill, and offered me a ride, it was easy to say “sure.”
But, had I known a welcome finish line awaited me where people cheered you across by name, I would have insisted on being let out for the last mile or so.
I don’t know what it is about cheering and hearing your name over a loudspeaker that infuses a sense of well-being and pride. But perhaps it’s the rigor of the effort that makes the accolade so sweet.
That night, a pasta dinner (or barbecue or buffet, depending on the sponsor) was prepared while sweaty, salt-crusted cyclists formed up lines for showers at the gym and portable units. A lively band kept the air festive, and massage therapists and reflexologists offered their healing touch.
As for me, as soon as our Pure Protein Team gathered for the team photo, I was ready for bed – I didn’t care that it was only 7:45 p.m. Since no one else in my tent was ready to turn in, I laid out my bed under the stars and slept like a rock.
Other team members, much younger than I, stayed up most the night in the celebratory atmosphere.
“Reveille” sounded at 5:15 a.m., and nearby, I heard Malakoff News editor Mike Hannigan say “Note to self – no alarm clock needed.” (An alarm clock was among the items we were asked to bring.)
Meanwhile, my body sent urgent messages to my brain, “Don’t you even think about it. I’m done.”
During a breakfast of raisin bran, juice, milk, yogurt and pigs in a blanket, along with Starbucks Coffee (a team sponsor), I was amazed at the cheerfulness at my table.
“What have you got to be cheerful about?” I growled.
“Is this your first time?”
“No, this is my last time,” came my retort.
As I became the object of their encouragement, I did start feeling a bit better. And after breakfast and another big glass of water, they assured me if I drank much more than yesterday, and got back on my bike, I’d find that after the first 10 minutes, my backside and legs would warm up and feel a lot better.
Needless to say, I believed them and found myself back on my bike in the midst of the pack, awaiting the start.
We were released in waves, with those who brought in the most donations in the first wave. When you are one of 3,000, first is good, believe me.
The first 10 miles under misty, cool conditions reminded me of why I enjoy riding a bike so much. I saw a hawk, crossed a sparkling river and took in the cool scents of early morning. My spirits rose.
The second 10 miles, I started looking for a church – thoughts of a hard wooden pew and listening to a lengthy sermon began to hold some real appeal, but no such structure came into view. The end of the next 10 miles brought us through a town, but by now, churches would be letting out.
Clearing the town, the wind picked up in earnest, and I decided it was time to pray and keep my head down. That got me through to the lunch stop and halfway through the last day’s mileage.
At lunch, two other women of my generation, whom I had met in the SAG wagon the first day, joined me at the lunch table. The conversation was all about the wind.
I told them my strategy, but they agreed that it sounded much too much like work, especially on your shoulders and arms.
Terry told me to get behind a big guy on a big bike and draft behind him. The only trick would be keeping up with him. Those big guys generally are traveling on light bikes built for speed, not sturdy, heavy bikes like mine.
Once I got my courage up to remount my bike, I couldn’t find a likely mark. So it was me against the wind. But not long afterwards, a whole line of riders on the same team – called The Brat Pack out of San Antonio – streamed past me, and I pulled in behind the last guy.
This was much easier. Now I was cruising at 9 to 10 mph without busting a sweat. Of course I was only inches from his back tire, and it was tricky to maintain that short distance.
The line of a dozen riders started slowing down, but I didn’t sense it, and the decision to crash into the back of the line or fall over was on me in an instant. I fell over, tumbled, scraped my knee and elbow, and jumped right back up like a bouncing ball to remount my bike.
I was embarrassed to see a medical vehicle closing in on me, and the last guy in the line stopped, full of concern for my hurts. I reassured him I was fine and could I still travel along with them.
Now, I wasn’t an interloper but a companion, and riding with them got me through the next 10 miles to the break point. We flew along just like a flock of geese in formation. But then, their team packed their bikes on a trailer and two vehicles and everyone piled in to sag to the next stop before the finish line.
Could I impose on their hospitality one more time? Yes! They accepted me and I made the friendliest conversation with them over the next 10 miles.
They were a bunch of friends and family members without a corporate sponsor, but didn’t seem to need one, with Mom and Dad doing the driving, camping and passing out Gatorade and bananas. I really liked them and learned the lesson of teamwork from riding with them.
As we drove into Portland High School, we passed a Valero station that advertised gas at $2.92 a gallon. Valero was the major corporate sponsor of the event.
We were on the last leg, and like a horse sensing the barn is near, the leaders took off at a fast pace. I kept up until we came to a field of sunflowers and cotton side by side. I had to stop and get a photo.
I had to remind myself that before I was a member of the Brat Pack, it was just me against the wind. I prevailed then, and could again. I stopped a second time when I came to the Remember Pearl Harbor Memorial Parkway, crossing a mile of causeway.
The sign brought tears to my eyes, knowing that people in far-flung Texas still remembered and cared about what happened in Hawaii. Pearl Harbor speaks of home to me and I was deeply touched. Photos of other cyclists and pelicans in flight followed, and then I got my first glimpse of The Bridge.
New to this year’s event, crossing the Harbor Bridge in Corpus Christi was included as an added bonus.
From the looks of it, the drawbridge rises more than a half mile at a 40-degree angle – not the kind of obstacle you feel like tackling after having biked 50 to 60 miles. But there it loomed, the final challenge to mind and body.
I used all 21 gears on my bike to get to the top and reminded myself of all past challenges I have conquered in my life to shrink this particular one down into perspective. My mantra became “The view is better at the top.” And it was.
From the top, one could see the finish line a short distance away, alongside Whataburger Field, a baseball stadium. And the long coast down from its peak was marvelous.
Just before crossing the finish, volunteers stood nearby to hand riders a patch signifying the crossing of the Harbor Bridge.
As I approached the finish line, an announcer directed the waiting crowd to “Give it up for Pearl Cantrell a finisher in the MS-150!”
The thrill of that moment still reverberates within me. Maybe I’ll do this again next year.
Note: Donations to the MS Society are still being collected by Michael Hannigan and Pearl Cantrell at The Monitor and Malakoff News offices.


Monitor Photo/Pearl Cantrell
Malakoff News editor Michael Hannigan and Team
Pure Protein captain Bob Morton are all smiles as
they prepare to start from the AT&T Center in San
Antonio Oct. 4 with a goal of ending up 150 miles later
in Corpus Christi on Oct. 5.


Monitor Photo/Pearl Cantrell
The Brat Pack made me an honorary member and drafting at the tail end got
me through my battle with the wind.


Monitor Photo/Pearl Cantrell
The final challenge to mind and body – the Harbor Bridge looms in the distance.

Athens police night academy
graduates 36 peace officers

Monitor Staff Reports
ATHENS–The East Texas Police Academy Athens Night Class graduated 36 new peace officers during a ceremony held at the Trinity Valley Community College Auditorium Oct. 3.
Class president Jim McKee gave a short speech thanking all those who supported their efforts through the seven-month course.
That course of study was so challenging, overwhelming and at times mystifying that McKee warned family members that its graduates “will never be the same.”
Class officers were McKee, Arther McKenzie, Melanie Bird and Samuel Sahimi.
The class also included Jeremy C. Nash of Log Cabin, Toni Lee Nichols of Seven Points, Lupe Garza of Mabank, Daryl Landrum of Gun Barrel City and Jimmy Council of Kemp.
The course coordinator was Brownsboro Police Chief Ronald E. Shields.
Shields’ overshadowing guidance, strict adherence to protocol and discipline and ability to also be a compassionate friend and defender of the weak won the hearts of everyone in the class, McKee said.
Shields, along with his wife Lois, was one of several individuals McKee singled out for receive praise and gratitude.
Wednesday, class officers also presented plaques to individuals in the community for their help and support during the last seven months – Harold Holyfield of the Ole West Bean & Burger, Dameon Milton of NAPA Auto Parts and Larry and Randy Teague of Teague Chevrolet.
Others in the graduating class were Laura Alexander, Stuart Alexander, Tommy Beddingfield, Clayton Bekker, Alex Caddell, Rick Dunklin, Brodrick Evans, Lisa D. Fox, Janet L. Freeman, Brenda Hardin, Donny Henson, Darlyne Lee, Eric Lowry, James R. McDowell, Darrell Meissner, Chris Rainer and John Riley.
Also, David A. Robertson, Sherry Michelle Rotan, India Samuels, Cornelius E. Smith, Ray Adam Smith, Robert H. Steely, Troy W. Tucker, Eric Whitaker, Michael Ryan Wilcox and Blane D. Williams.
Van Zandt County Sheriff R.P. “Pat” Burnett gave the keynote address to inspire and congratulate this year’s cadets.


Monitor Photo/Kerry Yancey
New police academy graduates Lupe Garza (left) and Melanie Bird (second from
left), along with Jim McKee (far right) present plaques of appreciation to Dameon
Milton of NAPA Auto Parts, Larry Teague of Teague Enterprises and Randy Teague
of Teague Chevrolet for their help and support.

Come Adopt Us At
The Humane Society of Cedar Creek Lake

My name is Nelson. I am a beautiful male Dachshund. I was brought to the shelter by animal control, so I have no history. So far, I seem pretty laid back and gentle. I am a wonderful boy looking for my new forever home.

My name is Oreo. I am a beautiful female black Lab. I was brought to the shelter by animal control, so I have no history. I seem to get along with other dogs. I need help with leash training. I have been started on my shots and need to be fixed. I am a beautiful girl looking for my new home.

We are a whole litter of Shepherd mix babies. We were brought to the shelter by animal control, so we have no history. We have been started on our first set of shots. We are good kids looking for our new forever homes.

I am a beautiful Border Collie, who is four months old, or so. I was brought to the shelter by animal control, so I have no history. I have not been at the shelter long, so not much is known about me. I am a beautiful kid looking for a new home.

Pictured are just a few animals at the Humane Society of Cedar Creek Lake in Seven Points in dire need of a good home. Please call or stop by the Humane Society today and rescue one of these forgotten animals. The Humane Society of Cedar Creek Lake is located on 10220 County Road 2403 in
Seven Points. For more information, please call (903) 432-3422 after 11 a.m.
We are closed on Wednesday and Sunday.

For further information visit our website at petfinder.com


 


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