Bicycling for a cause
Bicycles have been my go to means of transportation ever since I survived the crash and burn school of bike riding, the method endorsed by my big brother. Soon I was begging my uncle for a real bike from his hardware store. That Huffy three speed went where few three speeds dare to roll with camping trips from Denver into the mountains. A few years later, I was bicycling through Europe solo on a five speed.
A move to New York in my 20s left me bereft of my lovely Mercier with its delicate sewn tires. They were wonderful for traversing the hilly roads of Northern New Hampshire, but hardly suitable for the rough and trash strewn streets of Brooklyn. And so a Raleigh with a mixtie frame entered my life, carrying me around town - until pregnancies and motherhood all but put a stop to regular bicycling.
A job change got me rethinking my mode of travel. Parking was a headache. The bus was slow and unreliable. But lo and behold! Much of my trip could be done in bike lanes.
So now you are wondering what all this has to do with the title of my article. Patience dear reader. I'm getting there.
One ride lead to another with the 5BBT, NY Century and other distance rides. I realized the bike that was great for commuting to work and social rides didn't quite do it for distance rides. And even though I trekked my way up the mountains of Alceste Lorraine on a five speed, I wasn't seventeen anymore. So in true N+1 tradition, I bought a second bike. This one was a flatbar Cannondale road bike.
And then came the charity ride.
But wait. I must digress and share a bicycle love story.
Two of my daughters went to Nevada to participate in America's Most Beautiful Ride with Team Lifeline. Several groups join in this breath taking ride around Lake Tahoe as part of various fundraisers.
Team Lifeline members participate in marathons all over the world and as well as this one bicycle ride to raise money for children and the families of children with cancer and other life threatening illnesses. The families get help with meals at home and in the hospital, medical expenses, social services and other support to ease the strain. These very ill children receive toys and entertainment from Chai Lifeline volunteers trained to maintain guidelines to prevent transmitting infections to kids undergoing chemo, bone marrow transplants and all the other medical big guns that comprise cancer treatment. Even the siblings get in on the action with volunteers coming to the home and lavishing them with toys, treats and attention.
So back to the love story.
My daughter Yaffa, and Anshie met while bicycling around Lake Tahoe for Chai Lifeline. It wasn't exactly love at first sight, at least not for my daughter. But six months later they spotted each other in the line up for the NY Century and decided to do the ride together. The following May they were under the Chuppah (wedding canopy).
A few weeks later we were Team Cyclopaths celebrating the newly weds and riding as a group at Lake Tahoe, for Chai Lifeline. It was while there that I read about a some men who had gotten together to bicycle from Connecticut to Camp Simcha in Glen Spey, NY. Camp Simcha is the very special camp run by Chai Lifeline. All children attend for free and have two weeks of incredible Summer fun with their own dedicated counselor and a fully staffed medical facility. The money these men raised went primarily to the support the camp. Bike4Chai grew from a half dozen men who took it on themselves to what is now 500 men bicycling 180 miles through NJ, Pennsylvania, and NY where they end the ride at the camp.
So why only men? I wondered. As it turns out, some other women thought that as well so in 2012 a group of about 43 women started Tour De Simcha. I joined the fun in 2014. Women who have never ridden a bicycle have learned to ride so they could participate. We have training rides including a trip from Rockland State Park to the top of Bear Mountain and back, rides on the Belt Parkway loop and endless hill repeats at Prospect Park or what ever is near by. Our ride now has 265 women! They live all over the US and Canada as well as other countries.
In 2016 there was a prize for the first 100 Tour De Simcha registrants. I got off a train in Japan to connect with WiFi and register. A week later I came home to devastating news. My 17 month old grandson had been diagnosed with Leukemia. We became a different kind of Chai Lifeline family. We were now on the receiving end. That year I gathered a group including my youngest daughter who is a 2 time Lake Tahoe rider, and two other women. Together we rode as Team Eitan.
The training, the parties, and the night gathering at a hotel in NJ is followed by a ride of 75 miles with rolling hills and some big climbs. For many, reaching the Hawks Nest on Rt 92 is a milestone. But the real highlight is the culmination of the ride when we roll into Camp Simcha and are greeted by children, many in wheel chairs, living with conditions we can barely imagine. Many are missing limbs, have trach tubes in their necks or rely on oxygen tanks. But the joy and enthusiasm are overwhelming. They know we rode for them. When the heat and the hills get to us we remind ourselves of the challenges these children face daily. And that inspires us.
To learn more about Tour De Simcha Click here
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