My Ride the Rockies ExperienceBy Steve Hovey
First of all, I must thank you again for your support of the Davis Phinney Foundation. The seven-day event (6 days on the bike), was such an amazing experience that I feel compelled to share some of it with you. So grab a cup of coffee, glass of wine or bowl of ice cream (3 of my favorite indulgences). This is going to take a while!
I am blessed with tremendous friends and family. You keep me strong and positive. I know when I solicit your financial support for this wonderful Parkinson’s foundation you are probably doing it for me. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate that. However, what you need to know is how much your support is touching the lives of so many other folks affected by this progressive disease. In addition to raising over $33,000 for the Davis Phinney Foundation (DPF) during the Ride the Rockies (RTR) event, we were able to touch the lives of countless people diagnosed with PD, or have family members dealing with the disease. From the very beginning of the ride we were all blown away by the well wishes, thanks and support received from the other RTR cyclists who knew what we were doing for the Parkinson’s community (we all wore DPF jersey’s, so we were easy to spot) . At the end of the 2nd day of riding, in the host town of Carbondale, a local newspaper reporter interviewed me, along with the DPF Executive Director , Polly Dawkins. The next day there was a great article in the paper that addressed the mission of the DPF, as well as my story with PD and connection with the DPF.
Every evening the host town threw a bit of a party for the riders. There was always a band, food court and beer garden (very tempting after a long day on the bike). The DPF had an information tent at each festival area so people could stop by to see what we were all about. The booth always had a steady stream of visitors and was a great way to get the word out. Personally, I had the opportunity to speak with folks dealing with PD, or have a friend or family member afflicted with the disease. As you can see, the amount of exposure we can generate through an event like this is tremendous. The Phinney family cycling legacy only enhances the effectiveness. From start to finish the DPF was rewarded with excellent awareness and publicity.
Medicine addresses the symptoms, but it does not address ways to improve a patient’s attitude and ability to live a happy, healthy life style. That is what the Davis Phinney Foundation is all about. Trust me when I tell you I have met way too many folks with PD who believe their best years are behind them. Many of them are depressed. We need to help these people. That is my mission and the mission of the Davis Phinney Foundation.
Our team consisted of 14 people riding for the Davis Phinney Foundation. It’s easy for me to get behind this cause. I have PD and obviously have a vested interest in what the Foundation does. There was another rider on the team, Doug Bahniuk who also has PD. Doug is a great guy and was an inspiration to all of us. What impressed me, and what I am so grateful for, is my other teammates who raised money for our cause and pedaled the 442 miles for the DPF. These folks do not have PD, but felt it was important enough to support this great cause. My sincere gratitude goes out to Polly (DPF Exec. Director), Sheri, Nadine, Amanda, Carol, Alissa, Shane, Rick, Scott, Ray, Larry and Hutch. Not only have they become very special friends, but man can they ride! I had the pleasure of riding with all of them at some point over the course of the ride and enjoyed every minute of it.
Lastly. I don’t know what we would have done without Lauren Hunt and Tim Carpenter of the DFP, along with Shane’s “Pop”, Jerry Stutzman. These folks supported us every mile of the trip with smiles, cheers & support when we needed it most, turkey sandwiches and P&J’s when we were hungry and clean clothes when we were too tired to do it ourselves. They made a great trip even greater!Part of the team: Front row: Sheri, Lauren and me. Back row: Carol, Larry, Rick, Shane, Polly, Tim and Nadine. Picture taken on the top of Freemont Pass.
The beauty of Colorado is no secret. Having been there many times before I knew the ride would be special, however, I don’t think any of us realized the incredible beauty and diversity of terrain we would cover. Starting in Gunnison, we rode through the high plains with beautiful rivers and lakes and views of the distant mountains. As we worked our way up into Carbondale, Leadville, Granby and Estes, we were in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. We rode by gorgeous rivers, gorges, mountain passes, through beautiful state parks and over snow-capped peaks. The Trail Ridge Road that leads to the top of Estes Park, over 12,000 in elevation, was the most spectacular road I’ve ever cycled. As I think about it, I loved every 400+ miles I traveled. We were blessed with perfect weather and safe, courteous riders all the way. It simply could not have been a more memorable week.Rick and Larry and me at the Gore Range overlook – elevation 12,200 ft. A 26 mile, 4,500 foot decent into Estes followed after this picture was taken. What a blast that was!
The most surprising outcome of the ride for me personally, had to do with what I learned about myself. I’ve debated as to whether I should keep this to myself, but with Nancy’s encouragement I’d like to share it with you. I try not to think of the Parkinson’s. In my mind (my inner ego), I still think of myself as being like everyone else. I like to think that I can still ski as well as I did, hike mountains as well as always, ride my bike as fast as I always could, etc. Truth is, none of this is the case. I’ve lost my sense of balance, my right hand shakes; I walk funny and can never quite figure out what the heck to do with my right arm. I’m not in denial of the disease. I am reminded of it constantly, yet I refuse to let it get the best of me. As I posted on Twitter and my Facebook page during the ride, I began to shake so violently during the last mile of Independence Pass (12,200 ft elevation), that I had to stop riding. It was the first time the Parkinson’s stopped me from doing something I desperately wanted to accomplish. I was humiliated and felt very defeated. After all, in my mind I am a good, strong cyclist. Cyclists all around me were making it to the top, but I could not. It took me the afternoon to get over what had happened; however, the encouragement I received from my teammates was overwhelming. I immediately stopped feeling sorry for myself and was psyched for the next day.
As the week went on more people came to realize I was a rider with PD. I received high fives, hugs and encouraging words from folks I had never met before. It was very touching and at times had me on the edge of tears. People saying I was an inspiration left me feeling uncomfortable. I kept asking myself “am I that different?” I struggled with the comment at first and have come to not only accept it, but also be humbled by it. I have PD and refuse to let it get in the way of living life on my terms. If that is an inspiration to others then that is a good thing.
As someone who’s passion is cycling; this was a “bucket list” event. Not only was the ride totally spectacular from start to finish, I made incredible friends. The event was also a total success for the Davis Phinney Foundation from a fund raising and exposure standpoint. As I mentioned above, I had to deal with my own limitations that come with having Parkinson’s. Though, this was an unexpected by-product of the overall experience, in the end it was a good thing for me to mentally sort through. Having the encouragement of good friends all around me made it a lot better.
Thanks again for your support for me and the Davis Phinney Foundation. I said it before and I mean it; I am blessed to have such wonderful friends and family.
Thank you all!