My Story of Our Greater Liberty Rides
(first of three stories)
2012 by Ed Chasteen
For ten years we've been coming together once a week, starting in early March and running through mid-May, our last meeting coming four or five days before our Saturday ride, scheduled every year for the weekend before Memorial Day weekend.
This year we met on Monday evenings at 6 o'clock at Biscari Brothers Bicycles, our sponsoring shop. Bob, Dave and Alex, the Biscari brothers, order pizza. Alex Toye has typed our agenda and brings us to business. Sharon and Steve Hanson, David Eaton, Greg Snodgrass, Ed Chasteen, the Biscari brothers, Duane Haverty and Gary Dewitt, long-time members of this planning team, are joined this year by Terry Sharp and Brian Chasteen. Each member of the team brings a unique set of skills.
More than 120 time over these past ten years we have come together to plan these ten bike rides we call the Greater Liberty Ride for MS. We met the first few years on Tuesday evenings, the last several on Monday. We have met in several local restaurants and in homes, but for years now at the bike shop, though the shop itself recently moved.
Duane spends winters in south Texas. Until his April return we keep him up to date by email and cell phone as he plans our SAG support. Gary, our photographer, always has CDs made of each ride before the ride is finished and on our website soon after. Sharon does our bookwork, secures volunteers and keeps us on task. Steve maps the route; the two together design our brochure. Greg distributes them throughout the metro at bike shops and rides. David gives us a Facebook and Twitter presence and coordinates our effort with those of the MS Society. Brian brings his Metropolitan Community College contacts. Terry helps with route planning and marking. All the other countless tasks that must be done are shared by the team and the friends we bring to almost every meeting.
I'm not the only one on our team who has MS. So I am grateful that top-center of our brochure it says: "Friends of Ed Chasteen present the 10th Annual Greater Liberty Ride for MS". I also feel responsible to these dear folk who plan our ride and the hundreds who come to ride. I must put words to the music we make together. Inadequate as they are, these are those words.
Bike riding is the only medicine I take for my MS. No doctor ever prescribed this medicine, and I don't recommend it to others. Each of us is unique enough as a person that treatment prescribed for patients in general may not meet our individual needs, and might possibly even do harm. Knowing, though, that for me, bike riding is the necessary and sufficient treatment, my friends have done all they possibly can to ensure that the medicine goes down in the most delightful way.
Every Saturday morning of the year they ride with me to breakfast in some nearby town 15-25 miles away. And now for ten years running, these friends have planned what we call The Greater Liberty Ride for MS. Because we start in Liberty, it might seem that the name refers to our location. And it is true that the mayor of Liberty always comes to say a few words of support as we begin our ride. And the Liberty police provide assistance through intersections as we ride through town. And Liberty businesses support us with supplies and monetary donations. But it is a principle more than a place that we seek to highlight by calling our ride Greater Liberty The principle is this: We all have Greater Liberty than we know to live above and beyond the ordinary limitations of mind, body and soul that other folks expect of us and we too easily assume for ourselves, the limitations of race, religion, gender, age, physical condition, social class, nationality.
The team has planned three routes for today's ride: a 21, a 38 and a 70. I don't plan to ride any. Few of our planning team plan to ride. Duties will occupy us for the next several hours. I will be the greeter. The cheerleader. From 6-7, we register, look at the map, printed for us free of charge by our Liberty UPS , purchase raffle tickets, wander into the bike shop, greet friends, meet new folks.
Mayor Canuteson speaks. The choir from Liberty North High School sings our National Anthem. And we're off. The 200 riders have not been gone long, when Dave Biscari comes to say, "Ed, there's a disabled man here. He says he talked to you on the phone and you said you would ride 10 miles with him."
I find the man sitting in his van. He's pulling a trailer. In red while and blue, these words:
National Wheelchair Games Competitor
(with more than a dozen athletic events listed)
"You said on the phone that we could ride ten miles," Rene says to me. "I'm a little late. I have a hand-powered racing chair in the trailer." As I'm thinking, I hear Rene speak to the woman in the passenger's seat. "Mom, we can do this."
"Follow me," I say. "We'll drive to Fountain Bluff Sports Complex out on old 210, then ride to the first rest stop. It's a flat road. And it's five miles to the rest stop. I'll ride with you."
At Fountain Bluff, Rene maneuvers from the driver's seat into his motorized wheelchair, the ramp comes down and he exits the van. Goes to the trailer. Mom opens it and pulls Rene's racing chair out. Rene is paralyzed from the waist down. He pulls his motorized chair beside the racing chair. Mom helps him switch.
As we ride, Rene tells me his story. The woman with him is his caregiver. Not his mother. The little dog he calls Ladybug is his service dog. He served in the army in Desert Storm in 1991. He was paralyzed in a car wreck in 2006 when his car rolled five times. Broke his neck and his back. He had been a train engineer. Now on disability, his income is a fourth of what it was. He has to choose each month which bills to pay.
The first rest stop is staffed by a family Brian recruited from Penn Valley, where he and they work. A dog lies in the dirt, sound asleep. An anxious biker has called the sheriff's office to ask that they come see about the dog. As Rene and I eat and talk, a deputy sheriff arrives. The biker explains her concern. "That looks like Helen Jones dog," the deputy says. "The railroad runs straight as a shot from Missouri City to here. Pro'bly came that way."
A second deputy has driven up as we talk. The first deputy instructs the second to drive to Missouri City to see if Helen's dog is missing. "I'm impressed that you know the local dogs and their owners," I say to the deputy. Rene and I must leave before the second deputy returns. I'll never know the dog's fate.
Back at Fountain Bluff, Rene and Mom reverse the process. Rene shows me the interior of his van and the accommodations that have been made so he can drive without use of his legs. He's driving to St. Louis tomorrow for a competition. And flying later this summer to San Diego for a national event.
Back at the bike shop, Rene and Mom meet and greet folks for a couple of hours. I take his picture holding our four foot tall 10th Annual Greater Liberty Ride for MS trophy. Mike Jones, owner of Personal Touch Engraving here in Liberty, created the trophy and donated it to us.
Rene tells me he needs a website where he can put all of his information on line. But he doesn't know how and doesn't have money to hire someone. I tell him I may know someone who can help. (If you're reading these words and you know website design, you may be that person.)
One thing I don't tell Rene is that I'm not the person he talked to on the phone. I'm not the one who promised to ride with him. I suspect this may not even be the event he was planning to attend. There is another event, a run-walk, being held today at the Liberty community center.
Pulled pork sandwiches and homemade chocolate chip cookies under a welcome white tent with screened in sides and comfortable chairs at long tables and cheerful cheering volunteers: All in place to greet returning riders.
The Chamber of Commerce in Richmond, Van Till Winery in Rayville and Willow Spring Mercantile in Excelsior Springs had set up rest stops, each with a special treat to offer. And we had interspersed three other rest stops along the route with water and energy foods. Duane and his SAG drivers patrolled the route to provide help as needed. Through the six McDonald's they own, Lisa and David Essig have provided supplies for our rest stops from our first MS ride and do so again this year.
The day goes well. The last rider is in a half-hour before our official 2 o'clock closing time. Anticipation we felt as the sun came up and we set up. Now with all riders back and everyone fed, it's satisfaction we feel as we take down. Soon all of us, planners, volunteers, riders and those who came to showcase their wares and services, scatter to the places near and far that we know as home.
Just before we do, and precisely at 2 o'clock as promised, we draw names* from the raffle jug to see who will win the new Raleigh bicycle, the gift certificates from Biscari Brothers and dinners for two at some of the small town cafes we ride to each Saturday morning.