The weekend started for me as usual on the Friday before the ride. I drove one of the PMC support vehicles out to Sturbridge with my friends Dave and Joel. We arrived around 1:00 lucky to have survived the drive as the van I had was in less than good condition. This ended up being a van that got taken out of the event before it started as the front end and brakes on it were gone. The thought of being on a bike with that van on the same road was not a comforting thought. Good thing the PMC had many support vans and could deal with having one fail.
Friday was a very hot and humid day. It was in the upper 90s. A bunch of people I know feel compelled to do a "true Pan Mass" ride every year. This means starting from the New York border and riding to the start at Sturbridge adding 100 miles to an already tough ride. These guys have tried to convince me to join them for years. Most of you that know me are probably surprised I used common sense and said "no thank you, 2 days and 192 miles is more than enough for me". This year more than any I was glad I passed. They arrived in Sturbridge late afternoon and were completely drained.
We were lucky enough to get our favorite masseuse to come down to Sturbridge from Killington Vermont for Friday afternoon pre-ride massages. Paula used to work for the US Postal Cycling Team so we're honored to have her work on us. This definitely helps loosen us up for the following day's ride. It was sad to learn that she's moving to North Carolina and this will be the last year she'll be able to come out for us.
All massaged it was time to check-in, grab a beer (carbo loading), and spend time reuniting with old friends. Friday is always a fun time. A lot of these people I only get to see a couple days a year so it's great catching up. Hard to believe some of us have been at this 17 years or more. I used to think people my age were old when I started this ride. Amazing how time changes your perspective…
The B-Stee mobile (our team car) was towed to Sturbridge this year. The owner and keeper of the car was busy with his cancer battle and didn't get to register it. He figured it was cheaper to tow it to the Host than register it, get it ready, and drive it there. Few people saw it towed in. It didn't matter to those that showed up to hang out. We still hosted the pre-party, had the tattoos, and all that is B-Czar B-Stee that people come to enjoy and expect from the guys. For newcomers to the PMC the sight of a bright yellow hearse with close to $50,000 in bikes on the roof racks, working beer taps on the sides, and the custom paint job the car is a trip. My friend Mike's son Sam saw the car and said "dad, look at that cool car. That's an ambulance right? Can we go for a ride in it?"
(Ilana and Sam in front of Mr. Forbes, B-Czar B-Stee Team Car)
Dinner was served buffet style under a tent setup along the lake behind the Sturbridge Host. Well, to be precise, dinner was under one tent and the dinner tables were under another tent. The storm hit and it was raging. We lost power and to top that off the rain was coming down so hard that nobody wanted to go out from the dining tent to get food. Next year we need a bridge constructed between the two tents because while is hardly ever rains on the PMC ride it ALWAYS rains the evening before the ride in Sturbridge.
(Notice the rain coming off the tent)
(This is what the parking lot looked like after the rain stopped)
Anticipation was high this year that Lance Armstrong would grace us with his presence at the opening ceremonies. So much so that people got to their seats up to an hour before it started to get a close-up glimpse of the legend. While we were waiting the fire alarm went off due to the storm raging outside. Now if this happened at any other place we would have left the building. Nobody was getting up. Ten minutes passed, alarm still going, MC Billy Starr on stage waiting to get started and finally the fire department came in to tell us A-there is no fire and B-we don't know how to turn it off. This was 20 minutes before going live on NECN with the opening ceremony show. The fire department managed to stop the alarms minutes before we went live and the show was on.
Opening ceremonies were fairly uneventful. Senator John Kerry was riding again this year since he was not as busy as he was last year. His opening statement, "Well, I'd rather be some place else" was misunderstood by a lot of the people. He meant he'd rather have been elected President and unable to ride the PMC this year. Wonder if his lack of speaking skills and public charisma had anything to do with Bush winning…
The ceremonies ended with the Red Sox trophy being brought out. That thing has shown up more places than Elvis. They let us take pictures with it after the show was over so I finally got to take my picture with it. I think I was the last person in the state that hadn't taken a picture with it. Now the trophy can stop touring…
(Bill and Marc with the World Series trophy, last 2 people in the state to pose with it)
Where do you go after posing with the Red Sox World Series Trophy? To the bar for a drink and then off to bed. Wake-up call was at 4:15am.
Day 1 - Sturbridge to Bourne
The wake-up call came in way too early. It wasn't hard to get up though. This is the day we train for and look forward to. Dressed and ready it was over to the starting line to put my bike up front in my usual starting spot by 5am. Off to a quick breakfast, fill the water bottles and outside to wait for the 6am start. The weather was perfect. This is what you dream of and hope for but rarely get. The starting line fills up quickly with the 2300 cyclists starting in Sturbridge. It's quite an incredible site to see. The starting gun is fired at 6am sharp and we're off…
(Dave, Bill, Eric, and Wayne at the Sturbridge start)
Stage 1, Day 1 - Sturbridge
(Eric Hedman, Dave Winthrop, Marc Mann, Wayne Johnson, and Bill Snapper)
This is the first part of the journey on day one and one of the two hilliest 20 mile stretches along the way. It takes us from the Sturbridge start to the first water stop in Sutton. You start out on a relatively flat stretch of route 20 that quickly changes to hills and the climb begins. Somehow we managed to average 20mph over this stretch of road. This is very hard to explain since I never ride that fast in the hills. I chalk it up to the adrenaline and overall "PMC magic" that manages to power me over the course of the two days. This was actually slower than in year's past and that was intentional as I made a conscious effort to pace myself so the final 30 miles of the day would not be painful as in years past.
20 miles down, 92 left to go for the day...
Stage 2, Day 1 - Sutton to Franklin
- approx 24 Miles
(Eric Hedman, Dave Winthrop, Marc Mann, and Bill Snapper)
Somehow we managed to lose Wayne at this water stop so then there were four in our core group. The biggest climb of the day hits about a mile out of the Sutton water stop. This is the climb to the aptly named "Purgatory Chasm". Lots of people end up getting off the bike and walking up the hill leading to the chasm, we rode it and rode it well. Once up the hill we were on our way through Purgatory. The nice thing about going up that high is that you get to come down the other side. This is a 40Mph descent that's a pure adrenaline rush. Two bikes up in front of me hit a patch of sand while descending at 40 plus miles per hour. I saw the rear wheel of one bike slide out and I thought the bike was going down and I would have crashed right into it. Within a split second of the first bike losing control the bike directly in front of me lost it too. I'm thinking that this is the end of my ride and I'd soon be on my way to the hospital. Miraculously both cyclists managed to regain control and nobody crashed. All of this took place in what was probably less than 5 seconds but when it's happening it's like you're seeing it in slow motion and it feels like an eternity. We exited the chasm and continued to crank over the rest of this stage and into Franklin, the second water stop at mile 44. Total elapsed time to there was 2 hours, 20 minutes. Very good considering we all felt great, had been riding slightly slower than we were capable of as planned which would pay off later in the day. We arrived in Franklin at the second water stop to the cheers of the crowd. Our pedal partner Ethan and his parents Brian and Carolyn were setup there to greet us.
(Bill and Eric climbing into Purgatory)
The Franklin stop is a special one for me because I had a lot of family working there as volunteers. My wife Nancy, son Eric, daughter Nicole, mother in-law Judy, Cousins Len, Elaine, and Michelle were all there. They had been preparing sandwiches and drinks for us since about 5:30 (yes, AM). They all seemed to be enjoying themselves. The volunteers make it possible for us to do what we do. There's no way we could ride like that without them. To me they're a huge integral part of the overall success of the event and I can't thank them enough. Having my family out there and into the event is just incredible and means more to me than I can say. Unfortunately I can't stay long at the stop or muscles will stiffen up so we're in and out of there in under 10 minutes (long for a water stop for me) and on our way.
(Michelle, Elaine, Nicole, Judy, Nancy, and Eric in Franklin)
(The 'Rossidudes', our Phat Tuesday Pedal Partners)
Stage 3, Day 1 - Franklin to Dighton-Rehobeth, lunch - approx 24 Miles
Our crew (me, Dave, Marc, and Eric) left Franklin and started the next stage. The Franklin stop is also special as it's sort of our (Team Phat Tuesday) home turf. This section of the ride covers a good part of our weekly Tuesday night ride. In other words, we're in "Phat country". We were joined on this section by Jen, a friend I've known through the PMC for a bunch of years due to my affiliation with my other team, "The B-Czar B-Stees". Jen's a great cyclist. We were riding when she started telling me that she was just six weeks out of radiation treatment after having some cancerous lymph nodes removed. She said it very matter of fact like you would talk about getting a cavity filled. I was amazed that she had the energy to be out on the ride at all after going through the tour of treatment she went through. She had just completed over 40 miles of the toughest terrain the event has to offer and she was cranking along with us at close to a 20mph average speed with ease.
Shortly after leaving the Franklin stop we turn onto Cherry St. This is a sight to see and a favorite street to all that ride the Sturbridge route. Why? The residents of Cherry St. go all out when it comes to welcoming the PMC. There's balloons, people lining the street with cowbells, whistles, musical instruments, costumes, food, drink, cheers, welcome signs, signs reading "I'm a survivor, Thank You", and more. It's one of those rare sights that words can't do justice to. We pass a couple young teens playing Hendrix on drum and electric guitar and just having a blast. A little way up the road there's a man playing bagpipes dressed the part. All I can say is Cherry Street residents have to be some of the best PMC cheerleaders there are. We love them all.
(Images from Cherry Street in Wrentham)
We pulled into the lunch stop at Dighton-Rehobeth around 10:00. Dave was greeted there by his in-laws. They came over and joined us for lunch. This is our long rest stop. The plan was to stay 15-20 minutes max. We did ok and ended up staying for 25 and then back on the road with the crew of Dave, Eric, Marc, Jen, and me. It was on to Apponequet HS in Lakeville.
Stage 4, Day 1
- Dighton-Rehobeth to Lakeville - approx 24 Miles
This is a fairly flat stage and we took it easy but covered it quickly. We were through it, in and out of the water stop so fast we barely remember it. On to Wareham, the final water stop of the day.
Stage 5, Day 1 - Lakeville to Wareham - approx 16 Miles
We pulled into the final water stop around 12:30. We were still going strong and about a half mile before the stop I all of a sudden had this feeling of my body talking to me saying "man, I'm tired". No surprise, we'd covered about 100 miles already for the day. I'm thinking that this could be a painful final 10 miles. Well, lucky for me all I needed was a little food, something to drink and within a few minutes I felt great again. Amazing the power a peanut butter sandwich, a banana, and some watermelon have. Onward to the final destination of the Mass Maritime Academy in Bourne!
Stage 6, Day 1 - Wareham to Bourne - approx 10 Miles
The final stretch of the day can be painful. You've already done over 100 miles and if you're not careful and did not eat and drink well enough all along the way and pace yourself you could be in for a world of hurt. I know as I've been there many times over the 17 years doing this event. Pacing and the weather were key to how well the ride went for me. We had dropped the pace to an average of 18+Mph and it seemed effortless. The towns of Wareham and Onset have not greeted us well in some years but they have come to embrace the event as people were lining the route to cheer us on. Once in Onset center you see the ocean. You know that across the bay lies the Mass Maritime Academy, our final destination for the day. We ride through Onset and before coming out onto the main road (old route 25) for our final push of the day we can see the Maritime Academy across the water. Everyone I was with stepped it up and started to crank. We covered the final miles in no time and pulled into MMA at 1:15 physically exhausted and ready for a shower, massage, food, and drink and an afternoon of fun.
Afternoon Somehow no matter what the weather we've had for riding on Saturday we have always had a beautiful sunny day at the Mass Maritime Academy for the 17 years I've done this event. This year was no exception. It was another picture perfect day for hanging out by the water at MMA. Everyone has their priorities when they arrive. For me it's making that massage appointment before doing anything. Getting in when we do gives you the privilege of an early appointment as less than 10% of the people have come in by this time as evidenced by the amount of bikes in the following picture.
(Marc, Bill, Dave, and Eric arrive at MMA @ 1:15. Notice the empty racks)
(MMA a couple hours after we arrive.)
I managed to get a 2:00 appointment which meant I had a little more than 30 minutes to get to my room in the dorms, take my shower, dress and come down for some food and drink before the massage. Well, this year there was a little wrinkle. My bag was not delivered to my room as it was supposed to be. I was slightly annoyed as the last thing I wanted to do was spend one more minute than I had to in the bike clothes I've worn all day let alone have to wear them all weekend. Calmness prevailed as I ran into my friend Eric while walking from room to room looking for my bag. It seemed his was also misplaced. Luck must have been on my side as I walked one floor up and located my bag. This was incredibly lucky as there are many places ranging from multi floor dorm buildings to the ship where people are housed at MMA that my luggage could have been. Eric's luggage was also within the same building. If this is the worst thing that happens to you during an event like this you're very lucky.
All showered, bike clothes in a sealed bag, it was off to the massage tent. I made my appointment with barely a minute to spare. Good thing as my shoulders, back, and legs did not want to miss their massage. This is an incredibly necessary perk that is part of the event.
All "put back together" it was time to enjoy the afternoon with friends. There were bands playing in the quad, legal seafood clam chowder flowing, pizza, chicken, hamburgers, hot dogs, chili, and fresh beer served and supplied by Harpoon. The afternoon passed quickly and as usual I made my way over to "The Beachmoor" with my long time team "The B-Czar B-Stees". We were greeted like royalty as usual. The staff there loves it when we come to town with the PMC. They line up to get our team tattoos, prepare special foods we love courtesy of the owner, Rita, and couldn't do enough for us to make sure we had a great time. We've been going there so long that we not only have repeat staff members taking care of us but repeat patrons that come by to welcome us. It's hard to describe the scene other to say that we're treated like we cured cancer as opposed to just doing a bike ride to raise some money.
(A repeat tattoo customer from last year.)
(Our littlest fan and her mom show off their tattoos)
This year one of our team members could not ride as her battle with cancer just didn't let her train as she wanted to. She did drive down all the way from Spencer with her friend, Gary Doak, ex Boston Bruin from the 1970 Stanley Cup champion team.
I'm embarrassed to say I didn't recognize the name at first. Then when one of the guys told me who he was it all came back. He was great to talk with and had lots of stories he wanted to tell (as I guess I do) so we took them all in. I noticed his watch was a Bruins watch and commented on it when he said, "here, check this out" and he handed me the ring he got when the team won the cup. It was pretty impressive yet simple. It was a gold ring with his name engraved on it, the bruins logo, the Stanley Cup champion words and the year. It was quite a bit humbler than the rings the Patriots and Red Sox get these days. We did manage to convince him to ride next year and he promised he will bring Terry Oreilly back with him. Terry as some of my long time sponsors recall rode with us a couple of years. He had a was not able to ride this year but plans to join us again next year.
Dinner ended around 8:00, we said our goodbyes, and headed back to MMA to get some sleep. Yes, it's an early night after a day like this with revile coming at 4:00am.
(Sunset over "tent city" on the Mass Maritime Campus)
Day 2 - Bill, Dave,
Tony, Wayne, Spiderman - All the way from Bourne to P-Town
Bourne to Barnstable - approximately 22 miles
Day 2 started at 4am waking up in the steamy hot dorms at MMA. Up, dressed, take our luggage to the trucks for transportation to Provincetown, and down to breakfast. A hearty breakfast of biker-buns (egg, cheese, bacon on an English muffin), juice, and coffee. This will all process quickly over the next 20 miles. We gather at the bikes at 5:15 and are on the road by 5:30. Everyone is moving a little slow in the beginning but all warm up quickly as we approach the Bourne bridge. Over the bridge and onto the flat canal road for a 5 mile warm-up at a 20mph plus pace. This is always good to flush the legs out. We exit the canal road and enter the service road, known as "the rollers" to the riders, that parallels route 6. The entry is a little bit of a climb but once there we just crank. It's a section of road that most people don't really know exists on the cape. It was where I learned that the cape was not flat contrary to popular belief. However, once you've done this you learn that with good momentum going you can fly through this section at 25-30 mph. We did just that and covered the 20 miles in just 1 hour.
We got in and out of the water stop quickly.
Barnstable to Nickerson State Park in Dennis - approximately 18 miles
This is usually the fastest section of the day as it is the flattest. We formed a paceline and hammered this section at 25mph average. Our line started with the five of us but quickly grew to about 25 as people jumped on as we passed them. The five of us did the bulk of the work and the rest came along for the ride. The miles go by very quick when you're riding like this. It's a lot of fun. Just before the water stop we come to one of our favorite parts of the day which is riding by the Cape Cod Sea Camp. This is a kids summer camp set along the ocean with a large hedge of shrubs that separate the camp from the road. The entire camp is out there with signs, balloons, whistles, etc and are all screaming their heads off cheering as we come by. It literally lifts you off the seat of your bike. This happens about a mile before the water stop and without fail we always pick our pace up after the cheering rush we get from the camp. We rolled into Nickerson around 8:00. This water stop has a circus theme to it. It's a very festive stop.
Past sponsors will recall the little boy holding the sign years ago that read, "I'm 4 because of you. Thank you, Jack". Well, Jack is 9 now and the sign has changed accordingly. Jack is there to thank everyone for riding, cheers us all on, takes pictures with us, and gives us gifts he's made over the year. He's a great little kid.
(me and Jack)
We were in and out of this stop very fast and left with two more members to our line, Donna and Marc, two of my Phat Tuesday teammates and friends. Donna was a little apprehensive to come out with us as she heard how fast we were moving and she was worried that the pace would be too much. We promised her we'd slow it down.
Nickerson State Park to Wellfleet, the final water stop - approximately 20 miles
This is one of the hillier sections of the cape and we usually slow our pace down as a result of it just being much harder. I said "usually" because this time we somehow managed to speed our pace up. We were all just feeling very strong. Donna kept up with us without any problem too. One of the final climbs before the Wellfleet water stop takes us up the beautiful coast road past the famous Beach Comer bar. It's tempting to stop for Bloody Mary's on the deck overlooking the ocean but we still have work to do so we pass on by and continue on to the Wellfleet stop.
This water stop has a cool party theme to it. There's always great music playing when we come in (as there is at most of the stops actually). There's a table with plastic martini glasses filled with Gatorade. The best part of this stop is the "ice couch". They actually stack up bags of ice in the shape of a big couch, cover them with some cloth, and voila, you have the coolest couch you'll ever sit on. We sat down for a bit and it felt very good. It was refreshing but we still had the final 20 plus miles to push to get into Provincetown to the finish line so like the rest of the stops we were in and out of there in about 10 minutes.
(me and Marc on the Ice Couch. Yes, those are bags of ice under the cloth)
Wellfleet to P-Town - The finish line - Approximately 20 miles
The final leg of the ride is always the toughest. Not just because you've already ridden about 170 miles but the terrain is very hilly. Compound that with a long stretch on route 6 with heavy winds coming off the ocean and you have a real challenge. We were up to it though and as the other sections that day we just kept on cranking. The final push of the day includes about 5 miles through what is known as "race point" in P-town. It's one of the prettiest sections of the ride. It goes through the dunes with some long hills and these are usually the toughest. After this type of distance your muscles are usually ready to cramp up with the slightest extra effort. Not this day though. Consistent with the day we just kept on cranking and somehow managed to go from a pace of 17 when we entered race point to over 20 through it and on to the finish line. Donna and Marc dropped off our line when we entered race point to wait for the rest of the Phat Tuesday team. The other five of us didn't want to stop we just wanted to finish so we kept on going. We crossed the finish line together at 10:28 with an average speed of 18.6 mph for the day and just over 4 hours total riding time for the 80 plus mile journey. It was a great feeling to finish with these guys. The finish is incredibly emotional after this ride. The streets are lined with people cheering you on that final mile. People with signs saying "thank you for riding", "I'm a survivor, thank you", etc. It's just another time that reminds you what you rode for.
The ride was over and it was time to cleanup and begin eating and drinking. The BBQ at the finish is always good. Hamburgers, hot dogs, deli, legal seafood clam chowder, and Harpoon Ale generously poured and prepared for us. The big difference with Sunday is we didn't have to be to concerned with getting up and riding again on Monday. Though I did need to wakeup, pack and get to the airport. Oh, don't feel bad for me. I wasn't going on a business trip. I was heading to two weeks in Hawaii with Nancy and the kids.
Anyway, we all hung out under the tent in P-Town till it was time to head down to the ferry for the party ride home. Some people eat and some people sleep while waiting to leave. Some do both…
(My friend Joel napping in the food tent after a job well done)
We head into town to make our way to the Ferry. Tradition has us stopping in at the Governor Bradford pub to catch up with some friends. Sometimes this is the only time over the course of the weekend when we run into some of these people. From the Governor it's on to the Pizza place for a couple of slices before the journey back. You might ask whether they have food and drink on the ferry. Well, yes and no. Yes they do but the food is not that great and, well we are re-hydrating so we need to make sure we get the fluid levels back to normal.
The ferry ride back was great as usual. It's a party that's hard to describe. You'd think that people would be so exhausted after riding two days that they would sleep all the way home. Well, some do.
And some party the whole way back on the 3 hour ride.
The ferry was greeted by the Boston Fire Boat as it is every year as we get close to Boston. It's such a great sight to see. It's sad at the same time as this means we're near home and the weekend will be coming to an end.
(Greeted by the Boston Fireboat as usual as we enter Boston Harbor)
The ferry docks and we say our goodbyes. Another year over and another year well done.
So, why do I ride? I believe we are making a difference with the PMC in helping to end cancer. As an example, Leukemia was essentially fatal not long before the PMC started. There is now an 80 - 90 percent survival rate. That's amazing. The PMC amounts to more than 50 percent of all funds that make up the Jimmy Fund and that money goes to the researchers that are helping to find a cure and ways to treat this deadly disease. This year the goal is 21 million dollars. 97% of the amount raised will go directly to the Jimmy Fund. We are all making a difference. Whether you ride, volunteer, contribute money, donate goods or services to the PMC you all make a difference. Thank you all.
Thank you again for letting me ride on your behalf. It was an honor as always. Number 18 coming up next year…
- Bill Snapper