Before I explain why I am thanking folks, I want to ensure a proper thank you. Thank you Mr. Art Illman for the photos and permissions. Thank you Ms. Jeannette Hinkle for writing it all up, doing a great job, and getting permissions as well. Thank you Metro West Daily News for publishing it. The article can be found on: https://www.metrowestdailynews.com/ news/20201003/this-framingham-veteran-has-pedaled-hundreds-of- miles-on-her-handcycle-since-pandemic-began-heres-why.
Many of you know that I have been handcycling this Spring and Summer. Because of C-19, any Challenges or Races that I was to take part in, of course, were cancelled. But where there is a will, there is always a way to make things happen. I started riding in early March to start training for the National Veterans Wheelchair Games (NVWG) that would have been held in Portland, Oregon. The handcycle/recumbent race was changed this year from a 10K to a 20K. Again, because of Covid, the VA and its partner PVA went virtual. NVWG at Home with a very different cycle event. It would be 31 days and start June 15th and end July 15th.
Because of Covid, all other physical activities were on hold until further notice. So, I went online to see what other Challenges there were and signed up for several. However, The New England Road Map Challenge would give runners/hikers/walkers the opportunity to choose 7 different routes – going from one state capitol to the next or doing all six New England Capitals. I chose the big one – 716 miles. I asked if I could participate using a handcycle. The sponsors of the Challenge were really great and added a wheelchair division to sign in. Doing the 716 would start Aug 10 and run through Dec 31. Mike Guilbault is also doing the Challenge but from Montpelier, VT to Augusta, ME – 180 miles. While he started well after I did, he will finish before the end of October.
Because of where I live, I can cross the street, ride a half mile or so and I am in Cushing Memorial Park (former home of one of the original VAMCs) that housed spinal cord injured WWII veterans. The rules of the park are bikes are allowed, but no racing. I call this my New York City Block because staying on the perimeter, it is just over 2 miles around. I worked my way up to doing 8 times around which gets me 20 miles give or take in less than 2.5 hours.
On or about the 21 of September, (one year to the day of my new back injury) I was riding down Dudley Road heading towards Dr. Harvey Cushing Rd. Riding this way requires that I either make a sharp right to stay on to the sidewalk or go across Harvey Cushing heading towards my street. There is a stop sign and cross walk on Harvey Cushing but most folks roll through the crosswalk. On one of my rounds, heading down Dudley Road, there was a small SUV coming towards the stop sign. The driver was slowing down so I cut across Harvey Cushing and wave and say thanks. The driver puts down his window and at first I thought he wanted to know where the MWDN office was. No! He, Mr. Art Illman is a photojournalist with the MWDN. He asked if he could take a few photos. Hey, why not. It was a beautiful day. We went back to the parking lot. Mr. Illman said he had just come from the park but it was pretty quiet until I come “out of nowhere!”
After several photos, he thanked me for my time and went on his way. The MWDN publishes photos with just captions, so I figured that is what would happen. I sent Mr. Illman an email later that day if he wanted to include some of what I wrote in the caption. We do get the Metro West Daily News in paper so I checked every day, no photo. The following Monday, I received a call from Ms. Jeannette Hinkle, a reporter for the MWDN. They wanted to do more than just a photo and caption. I bent that poor woman’s ear for over 2 hours. She is a great listener. Mr. Illman came back for a few more photos for the paper and said he thought the article would come out in Sunday’s paper 10.4.2020.
And so it did: Riding Away the Pain and a photo were on the lower front page of the October 4th paper. To our great surprise, opening to page 6, it was almost an entire page. See, I told you I bent that poor woman’s ear! Ms. Hinkle and Mr. Illman did a truly great job. Not only does it promote handcycling for those who cannot ride a regular bike. It also promotes PVA Racing!
Finally, as other avenues of exercise were and still are closed to me, riding allows me to remain active, social distance from others, and it really does “Ride Away the Pain!