Another Bike MS event has come and gone, not without some adventure, but still a success in my book. The weather may have been damp, but approximately 1100 riders still showed up and local amateur radio operators, including several from BARC, were there to support them.
Saturday morning I arrived at the convention center for the early morning ham meeting in a light drizzle. The hams received some last-minute clarifications, made sure that they had the correct frequencies, and the BARC members posed for selfies for the Facebook page. By the time the meeting was over, the drizzle had stopped. I was stationed at a rest stop, so I went to get settled in. I was planning to work the event with my HT so I didn’t have much to set up, although I do like to have a table or surface on which to take notes or flip through the route maps to keep track of information. I typically station myself with the medical person and take over a corner of that table. I was working the 30 mile loop and the traffic was mostly directed to the SAGs (Safety And Gear, mobile hams) for routine flat tires or checking in on which rider was the final one, so the morning was pretty quiet for me. As the 30 milers finished their ride, the rest stop closed and I was moved to my next rest stop.
My afternoon rest stop was on the 75 and 100 mile loop. At this point in the day, there had been a consistent drizzle. The roads were wet and slippery, and route markings were being smudged or disintegrating in other ways. A few signs had to be replaced and riders had to be sent back to the correct route. However this was being taken care of by SAG drivers and I was still just monitoring most of the time. This was a crowded rest stop, with two nurses, two hams, and three other volunteers sharing the shelter. At one point the rain really started coming down and was blowing in. I was glad to just have the HT and not a larger rig to keep dry. The medical supply box and pizza boxes left over from lunch were getting soaked. There was nowhere we could stand where all of us could stay dry. I had a raincoat in the car, which I got just to have a place to tuck my radio to keep it out of the rain. All the chairs were wet too, and the rain had blown in on our legs, so my pant legs and feet were pretty wet for the rest of the afternoon. Finally, the last rider came through and we could close up the rest stop and head home.
On Sunday, I was again at a rest stop, and the day started with beautiful sun. It was a busy rest stop as it was used twice, at the middle point of a loop that crossed itself. It was also on the course for all three of the long distance rides, 50, 75, and 100 miles. Most of the traffic was about finding the bike mechanic, and noting when riders started to head in large numbers to the next rest stop. But around 11:00 I started hearing weather advisories between Net Control and some of the rest stops further to the west. A storm was heading our way and was starting to threaten the most western part of the route. Lightning was moving closer and closer and the furthest lying rest stop was advised to hold the riders there and not let them back onto the course. Riders were still trickling past me from the east, while rain and lightning were coming in from the west and soon, the race* was canceled. However, there were still riders that had to be swept into rest stops, and then transported back to the convention center. Additionally, the rest stops where the riders were held really didn’t have enough shelter for the large numbers of people that needed it, so evacuating them speedily was a priority. There was a flurry of net traffic about finding all the riders, making sure that they were gathered at the rest stops to get a count, and sending for the super-SAG vehicles to move the large groups. Our net was hopping. Information was flying to and from net control and they did an excellent job of coordinating the SAGs to locate and then transport the riders and their bikes, sometimes in different vehicles, to be reunited back at the convention center. I was able to take the last two riders from rest stop 2, drive to rest stop 4 and pick up six more, then transport them all back to the convention center. I was then dispatched to rest stop 5 to pick up more. By the time I arrived at the rest stop, the last riders had been picked up and I was cleared to go home. It was an eventful end to the day, but it got us home earlier than usual, and I was thankful for that.
Notes for next year: I was glad to have headphones, my HT, snacks, and my raincoat. Next year, I might try to find a small folding table to bring along for when there are two medical support staff, or two hams, and just not enough room at the table provided. Also, we needed paper towels to dry off some things, but ran out quickly this year. I have been sharing the shelter provided by the event coordinators, but the space is tight and I might consider bringing my own. Sometimes there is not room in the area, but it is something to bring and use if space allows.
*It is not really a race, it’s a fundraising event, but I keep accidentally calling it a race.
Submitted by Beth KN4FZB