Thursday, July 11, 2013

Bert Karp Memorial Populaire-A Salute to All Bike Ride Volunteers

Danielle, Shannon, Deborah, and Brenda
sporting the 2013 volunteer's t-shirt
More Photos Here.  

Results Here.

I was in Central Montana-miles from anywhere, 33 hours into the 36 hour 600K brevet that would qualify me for Paris Brest Paris-2011.  It’s been a long ride and I’m cooked.  As I get around a bend in the road, a familiar tan station wagon comes into view parked at a wide spot along the road.  The back hatch pops open and a lawn chair is setup.  As I pull up, I’m greeted by a smiling face and the questions, “How’s it going?  What do you need?”

It’s my mom at the penultimate checkpoint, patiently waiting for me-more than an hour behind the previous rider.  At this point in the ride I’m tired, a little cranky, and I don’t really know what I need except to get off the bicycle for a while.  Mom hands me a coke and a variety of snacks. Pretty soon I’m feeling better and ready to get back on my way.

The above scene played out numerous times over the years.  Mom happily set up out in the middle of nowhere with a trunk full of goodies.  Or mom shuttling club riders back to the finish after a 30 mph crosswind kicked up making it difficult and dangerous to ride.  Or mom running a rest stop for our local bike club’s century ride.  When me and eventually most of my family took up cycling, mom was always out there with us, taking care of us, and watching out for us.  She loved it. 
Mom at a checkpoint on my 2011 600K brevet

Cancer took away our biggest fan and supporter on March 5, 2012.

I had already scheduled my first populaire as a RUSA Regional Brevet Administrator (RBA) for the summer of 2012-so when the family was still together after the funeral I casually mentioned the idea of dedicating that ride to mom’s memory.  That’s all that was needed to be said, as the family were all over it.  Plans were made, volunteers were rounded up, t-shirts were printed, and the first Bert Karp Memorial Populaire was held on July 28, 2012. 

Thirteen riders started and finished that first edition-a modest number, but more than twice as many as any of my previous randonneuring rides that I had hosted.  We were joined by experience randonneurs, local riders, and several family members including my sister Jody and her two boys 18 year old Brian and 14 year old Tyler and my brother Travis who flew to Montana with his bike from Savannah, Georgia for the ride.  The rest of the family, including spouses, grand kids, and in-laws provided excellent support at 3 checkpoints.  It was a fun emotional day, and one we wanted to try again.

The 2012 t-shirt design
For the 2013 and second annual Bert Karp Memorial Populaire, the date was moved up to the 4th of July, where it was hoped we would conflict less with other numerous cycling events that take place in the area.  This time, my brother from Georgia was bringing his entire family with him and his 17 year old son Austin would also be riding.  My youngest brother Clay and his boys Darren and Derek, both 12, challenged themselves to ride the event as well and set about training for it. Jody, Brian and Tyler would also be riding again. 

The out-and-back 109K (68 miles) route, which was the same as 2012, rolls across the floor of the Gallatin Valley in Southwest Montana from Bozeman to Three Forks and back.  The course is mostly downhill on the outbound leg, which gets everybody committed, and then a gradual uphill drag on the way back as the heat of the day catches up to add to the challenge.
The 2013 edition saw 21 riders start and 21 riders finish, including 5 of my nephews ranging in age from 12 to 19. Everyone finished with more than hour to spare.  It was an emotional moment watching the riders come in sweaty, and exhausted, and proud of earning that little populaire pin. I couldn't help but have the feeling that mom was still with us, watching over us, and loving every minute of it.  A big thank you to all those who came out to ride and for riding so well.  The list of riders and their results are posted here. And there's lots of photos posted here.

A special thank you goes out to all the volunteers who helped out.  First and foremost my wife Brenda, who has been there with me since I've become an RBA and has really stepped up in the absence of my mom.  Also, a big thanks to my son Jackson.  Jackson is not a long distance cyclist, but he has proven to be a capable checkpoint staffer.  And the rest of the crew: Shannon Karp, Danielle Karp, Rick Schmidt, Deborah Karp, Jameson Karp, LaVerna Schmidt, Deb Korrison, Chris Stucky and her dad Neville, and my dad and mom in-law Billy and Mindy Horne. Your service to our ride was appreciated so much.

Not only is the Bert Karp Memorial Populaire a tribute to my mom, who loved to take care of people, it is a tribute to all bike ride volunteers.  To those people who handle logistics, paperwork, refreshments, watch over the route, wait for us at rest stops, take pictures, cheer us into the finish line, along with everything else…We Salute You!  Thanks for all you do.

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