I am surprised their cheers didn't wake the neighbors. And that is taking into account that the neighbors were not big party people. They were generally very quite, laid back people. Tough as granite and quiet as the grave.
Neighbors can be seen in the background on the left.
My third time through I stopped and told them how much their cheers and enthusiasm were appreciated. They draped my bike with leis. They may have been plastic, but the spirit with which they were given were sincere. They were here to help and motivate and took their jobs seriously. There wouldn't be anyone else like them.
One time, while waiting for a red light to turn green and allow me on my way, a sheriff coming from my left turned left to travel in the direction I was headed, only to turn on his lights, make a u-turn and sit across the intersection from me. The traffic light finally turned green and I started on my way. You may not believe it is possible, but we made eye-contact through two pairs of sunglasses. The connection between us was unbreakable as he pointed two fingers at me. Then flipped his hand over and folded his fingers in a "come here" motion that could not be denied. Mr. Oilburner will find it incredible that someone could summon me in this manner. But I actually did obey. I promptly executed my own u-turn and stopped next to this bastion of enforcement.
I pulled up to another intersection where another sheriff's car was parked. He was out of it and walking towards me when he saw me approach. I pulled up next to him and started to talk. You know how difficult communication can be through a full face helmet, so he was having a little difficulty understanding me and I was having to talk loudly. Then we had a Zsa Zsa Gabor episode where my hand just kinda reached out and slapped him. He was quite gracious during the episode and didn't even reach for his sidearm. Whew! Then he let me just ride away, where I stopped across the intersection and just watched him.
Elsewhere throughout the day I blatantly blew through police blockades. Sometimes I made eye contact. Sometimes I didn't. But they never turned their backs to me.
It was a grand weekend of law breaking, helping and heat exhaustion. The damn weather was so helpful by giving us a grueling weekend of 92+F degree temps (33C) when people were out killing themselves either pedaling bicycles 80 or 100 miles, depending on the route. The marshals were fully clothed in black armor on shiny steeds to save the day when we could. (The sheriffs pointed out that they were in Kevlar vests and polyester...) Our steeds shined and we would have glistened if your eyes could have penetrated the shaded lenses of our helmets. If you looked closely you could see the rivers of sweat flowing down our necks before it disappeared under the collar of our jackets. I expect it might have appeared like sun sparkling on the wavelets in a lake.
The FedEx volunteers manning checkpoint two would have been better at checkpoint five. At checkpoint two cyclists were still fresh and it was early. These enthusiastic volunteers were needed at the end of the day when people were questioning their sanity in attempting to ride a bicycle between Atlanta and Athens in the Georgia Foothills. Especially the damn hill that the riders were calling "The Widow Maker."
I had to agree with one cyclists observation that whenever there was a sign on the course notifying them that the next break point was a mere mile away, there was invariably a ball buster climb in between the sign and destination. It's only noticeable on the motorbike when you see the cyclist walking up the hill or stading on the pedals and still only crawling along at 1 mph. Three cyclists that I spoke with over the course of the weekend were also motorbike pilots. And they all posited that next year they might volunteer to be a motorcycle marshal instead. Yes, we marshals were volunteering to be under these brutal conditions. But these cyclists had to raise money for the privilege of abusing themselves on this course. My deepest admiration to them. There was a time in my life when I would have cycled that course with them. But that time has passed.
In all it was a great weekend. 188 cyclists, the pedal-powered kind, showed up to raise money for Multiple Sclerosis. We averaged 16 motorcycle marshals. Some working all weekend, others coming for Saturday or Sunday work. No marshals were hurt. There was a moderate accident among the cyclists when some no-account resident switched route signs and sent quite a few cyclists down a route that turned to gravel. Accounts differ, but even if the worst account was true the situation only resulted in a broken collarbone.
I came the closest I have come yet to dropping my bike as I tried to coast backward into a sloped driveway. I was trying to get safely off the roadway and course and out of cyclists way before calling a support van for someone too hot to continue. I am particularly grateful to the powers that be that helped me keep the strength in my big toe that allowed me to save the bike (and myself) from a spill that would have turned the bike not just on its side, but absolutely upside down, and tumbled me into a large patch of poison ivy.
This year the course was very long. This year we had the responsibility of patrolling the entire course, both days. Last year our group was only responsible for half. I can say that I saw neighborhoods in downtown Atlanta that I never knew existed. Some of that is good and some is bad. I can't believe the route really went through such down and out neighborhoods and other savagely congested streets. I sincerely thank the cops that stopped traffic for all the cyclists and generally allowed me to scoot behind the bicycles and get through some intersections that I would otherwise still be sitting at.
This year seemed to have better prepared riders on the whole. Last year I gave out tons of bananas and liters of water. This year no one wanted anything but a lift in the support van, and that was also rare.
I feel grateful to have offered a bit of support for people working for a good cause.
And by-the-way, the sheriff that summoned me asked me to contact control since he couldn't get through. A cyclist needed a support vehicle back along the route. And the sheriff that I slapped? He had a large spider crawling on his shoulder. He was grateful that I had spotted and removed it.
Remember, cops are our friends. :)
This weekend occurred May 21 and 22, 2011. I am late in posting, and decided to go ahead without the video. More images can be seen at Flickr for the Multiple Sclerosis weekend.