Team Parkinson’s and the STP

I don't know what it was about that Team Parkinson’s STP jersey. It meant so much to me. 

On the Cascade Bicycle Club Flying Wheels ride I came up next to a Team Parkinson’s group at a light and had to tell them right away that I was on the team too, I just didn't have my jersey yet. Was it the sense of belonging that I was after? Was it striving for something to prove that I don’t have Parkinson’s disease? Was it doing something for others through the donations I would raise?

When Team Parkinson’s had their potluck for all the riders, my wife said I was quick to point out to her the people around us that had their jerseys already. Where did they get them? Where is mine? When will they hand them out?

Team Parkinson’s was created by Northwest Parkinson’s Foundation to improve care and enhance wellness for all those living with Parkinson’s and it was a great experience being on the team and getting in a great ride as well.

I started my training in January. I remember riding over the I-90 Bridge to work on a clear, dark and cold morning I could see by the tracks in the frost that I was only one of three other riders over the bridge braving the cold.

Then in May I fell off my bike. It wasn't the Parkinson’s, I swear. It was the edge of the driveway where it meets the street. It was practically the size of a curb and I hit it at too small of an angle. I just got skinned, bruised and a sprained wrist. I was able to start riding again five days later.

I was concerned about having someone to ride the STP with but that worked out great too. I ran into Dave Covey who was so generous and inclusive. He said, “Sure, ride with us. We're doing it as a relay.” It was me and Dave and Ellen McGough, who runs a University of Washington tandem bicycle study that measures the beneficial effects of bicycling on people with Parkinson’s.

We got mixed up the morning of the ride and didn’t start together but lucky for me, unlucky for Dave, he had a flat less than a mile out. That had to be some kind of STP record I figure. I met up with Dave and Ellen and we fixed his flat and we were on our way. We rode together to Spanaway where Dave went off to find his relay. Ellen and I rode on to Centralia. She had to go on to Vader so we went our own ways. I found my family and we drove up to Tumwater for the night. I was feeling pretty good that evening. I just had saddle sores and sore on my hands possibly a remnant from my earlier fall. Strength wise and energy wise I was good.

In the morning, the family shuttled me back to start the ride at about 7:30. I had no one to ride with so my plan was to beat feet and catch up with Ellen and Dave somewhere between Centralia and Lexington. Man, my saddle sores kicked right in after the first mile. At a stop light a fellow rider mentioned the saddle butter. I had never used any before so I had no idea if it would help, let alone how to apply it. I had a sample in my fanny pack and smeared some where the “sun don’t shine.” What a life saver, wow! I knew I could make it now.

I felt stronger on day two. I was passing people and people were passing me. It was great fun: forming and re-forming pace lines going 20 mph. I stopped very little.

I did stop at the Team Parkinson’s food stop, though. The gourmet food they provided was excellent, complete with vegetarian food for me, my favorite electrolyte drinks and camp chairs in the shade. My family was there volunteering and it was all too easy to hang out, eat and take pictures. I had to kick myself and get going. Heck, I had 50 miles to go. I stuffed some gourmet goodies in my pocket, also provided by the team, and was on my way.

I completed in good time, feeling great. Somehow I got there ahead of Ellen and finished before her. I must have passed her in the “land of the pass throughs.” I don’t know if they call it that anymore but south of Longview on the Oregon side you pass through the town of Deer Island and then you pass through the town of St. Helens and then Scappoose, to name a few.

The best part was just past the finish line at the Team Parkinson’s tent and there was Larry Jacobson from Northwest Parkinson’s Foundation. I only met him once before but there he was, grinning from ear to ear and congratulating me and so interested in hearing how I did. Oh and he was handing out the free beer tickets. The Team Parkinson’s experience was really important to me, giving me the motivation to do this event and to improve my Parkinson’s situation. I was told I have Parkinson’s a year and a half ago and I thought my body was going to be on a slow steady decline but I am so grateful to know now that I am getting better and not worse.

I really have to thank the Northwest Parkinson’s Foundation, Team Parkinson’s, Cascade Bicycle Club and all the people that made it happen. It was amazing how they were able to turn a really bad thing, Parkinson’s, into something good.

Keep it up.