The Day it Starts

It’s early in the morning.  About 5:30, when I started typing this.  I’m sitting at my desk drinking coffee, and in a few minutes I’ll go and put on my official bike rally jersey, and my ridiculous spandex shorts, and fill them full of the cream that’s supposed to prevent soreness, and I’ll strap on my cycling shoes, and I’ll head out the door and ride to Queen’s Park. That’s where the rally starts. 

I think I’ve done everything I’m supposed to do. I feel like I trained a lot, I feel like I know my bike better – and I think that’s obvious because I’m not a walking scab like I was last year. Overall, I feel more prepared and more ready and that’s why I’m surprised to feel the knot of fear at the bottom of my tummy.  I thought that knowing what it was like would make me less nervous, not more, but here you have it.

Jen and I were talking the other night about how the thing with the rally is that it’s expensive. Not just expensive financially – although it really is that. The bike, the shoes, the shorts… there’s a ton of stuff you have to pay for. Then there’s the time. If you work for someone else, the bike rally is a week of vacation time that you’re giving up, and if you’re self-employed it’s a week you have to save for, and that doesn’t even count all those mornings that Jen and I went riding for hours before work, and it doesn’t count all the weekends where one, or even both of the days went to riding.  It doesn’t count the meetings, and it doesn’t count the time spent fundraising, and it doesn’t count the time soaking in an epsom salt bath because you’re 45 and this is crazy.

Then there’s how it’s expensive in terms of family.  This is all time away from our families, away from our responsibilities, away from our children and spouses,  and those job and relationships don’t just disappear. My Joe and Jen’s Jason have stepped up to the plate in amazing ways, supporting us, covering for us and doing some of our jobs (and for the next week – all of them) so that Jen and I can do this. We’ve done our best to make it up to them, but… well. It’s expensive. 

I’m not even ready to talk about how expensive it is physically and emotionally and spiritually, because on no level is this much riding comfortable. Let’s leave it there. Last year I remember crying in my tent at night a few times, and once or twice on my bike, and when it was over last year I collapsed for two days and wasn’t right for a week. 

At some point, while a woman is sitting at her desk, drinking coffee and getting ready to wrestle herself into a sports bra and spandex to ride 660km – all while pondering how expensive its been and is going to be, you have to wonder why she’s doing it.

That part is easy, I think.  I’m doing it because I believe in the cause, because I believe in real, decent help for people with AIDS that’s delivered with respect, and I think that PWA does that better than anyone else. I can tell you that I think that it’s good for my daughters to see their mum engaged in a big thing, and putting her effort (and money) where her mouth is. I’m doing it because I’ve seen what can happen when we engage the most powerful community that anyone has ever seen, and that’s you, and I’m so grateful, and I’m so amazed every time I see what you all can accomplish, and I’m just so unbelievably proud of our community of knitters. Every time knitters come through this way, I love how it shocks people, forces them to break down their stereotypes and think of us in another way, and really… is there anything more appropriate for a ride like this?

I can admit, too, that I do this because I am a sucker for an epic. There is something amazing, wondrous and stunning about watching a lot of people come together to make something happen, and tomorrow I’ll leave Toronto with more than 400 other people, and we’ll all sweat and strain our way to Montreal, and we’ll be so dirty, and so tired and so proud of each other, but it will be something not many people get to accomplish, and that’s worth it in a way all its own. 

I am 45 years old. I am not an athlete, I am not remarkable in very many ways that my friends, family and peers are not.  I am a writer, and a mother, and a knitter, and tomorrow, I am going to start doing something amazing, and the only reason that it counts for anything is because you guys got behind me.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Me riding my bike to Montreal does nothing to get money to PWA. Nothing. You guys are the heroes here, and I’m so impressed that I can’t tell you.
Right now,  my fundraiser tally comes in as the 2nd highest of all time.  The only person who has ever beaten me, was me – last year, and today I explained to about seventy people that it’s not me.  It’s you.

It’s not my fundraising. It’s ours, and you guys are amazing. Knitters are amazing, and what we do when we pull together is something people can’t ignore, and it changes the world.  Thank you for everything.  I’m going go try and earn the faith you’ve put in me.

A little housekeeping.

– I haven’t forgotten about prizes, there are still a ton to give away, but I can’t do it until I come back.  I’m sorry. I ran out of time when I tried to do 30 hours of things in only 24.  I won’t forget.

– I know one of you will ask – last year my tally by the end was $60 000.  I started riding with $50 000 in the can, and you guys blew me away all week. My goal for this year was $50k, and we’re there. Everything from here is gravy, although gravy for a good cause, and wouldn’t it be nice to beat last years? Just saying – although I’m grateful, fulfilled and thrilled.  My goal is totally met.  None of that stops you from sending the link to your friends though, and besides, it’s just so much fun to watch the bike rally leaders try to figure it all out.
Donate here.

– Yup. Yarn on my bike. Yarn on Jen’s bike too.

– A few of you have asked about our route. Details are here and YES PLEASE, to coming out to cheer us on.  Be aware that we can’t often stop, but the signs by the side of the road and random knitter sightings last year blew me away and one particularly difficult afternoon, was just about all that kept me on my bike. 

– I’ve set up my phone so that I can blog from the road, if I can. I’m on Instagram too and twitter,  if you want to follow me there.  Sometimes that’s the easiest way for me to  update quickly.

– I love all of you. I mean that, and I’m not just saying it because I’m scared.

138 thoughts on “The Day it Starts

  1. We’re with you all the way, Steph!!! Admiring, cheering, sending you support and love and thanks for giving us the ability to contribute to such a good cause. I’m a few thousand miles away on the other side of the Atlantic, but I’m whooping and waving the first of pair of raspberry red handspun fingerless gloves at you to cheer you on!!
    Go girl!!!!!

  2. It’s not just good for your daughters. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again; you make us all better people because of the example you set.
    I love you too.
    Don’t forget the ibuprofen.

  3. Just wanted to say that you and Jen are in my thoughts this week, as you do this amazing thing with that group of amazing people. GO YOU GO!!!

  4. You ROCK!! And I will be knitting in your honor this week – something I haven’t been able to find the time for lately – but you won’t see it b/c I am in Florida! Have a great ride!!

  5. Bon voyage! Wishing you great weather and as little discomfort as possible in achieving your sheroic feat.

  6. You are an inspiration to us all. Ride hard and stay safe both to you and Jen.

  7. Wishing you the best possible weather, you are an inspiration to me and many others!

  8. You are truly amazing and so hard working! Congratulations on all the funds you’ve raised and all the blood, sweat, and tears you’ve put into such a good cause. Ride hard and stay safe!

  9. While we’re tallying,Toots, let the record show that your tally is really spread over four people. You encourage us to support the others, letting us know if another rider’s tally is lagging, and most of that’s money that would be under your name otherwise. (Mine went in Jen’s bucket this year, for example.) The total given by people because they read your blog is way, way over 50,000.
    So that’s one point. The other, which I hope you know in your darkest secret heart, is that this money doesn’t come in because we’re knitters. The money comes in because you are such a good writer that we can’t help liking you and caring about what you care about. That’s part you, part writing skill. So while you may not win the Booker this year, that’s a %50,000 writing prize you’re looking at, there.
    Ride Hard. Live Free.

  10. Good luck. Wishing you the very best for your ride. Do you know about Natalie Fergie and her p/hop efforts. Knitters are brilliant aen’t they? Imagine what it would be like if knitters were in charge…. You and Jen and the others are every kind of awesome. Go ride.

  11. We all may be amazing, but you are a person who has given us way to come together, so you can keep a bit of the amazing for yourself.
    Bon voyage – good weather – may your capacity to connect with others sustain you.

  12. Good luck from New Jersey! I have to say I’ve been reading you for many many years and thus is ny first comment. This is something huge you’re doing and you’ve definitely given Mr the coourage to try harder to be part of my community, not just live in it. Thank you

  13. Exactly what Rams said – she put it SO well. We may have come to your blog because we are knitters, but we stayed because you write so well. Good luck with the ride!

  14. And we are so proud of you, and your team. Ride like the wind. And knitters, let’s dig a little deeper. The cause and the people it supports are so worthy. And Steph’s doing the hard part!

  15. And Rams is right, about us supporting your team through you. I supported Paco this year. Ride Strong!! (She’s also right about the writing. You are an eloquent and talented wordsmith, and we are all looking forward to your next book.)

  16. We knitters are all extremely proud of you, Stephanie. Ride well, rest when you can, and know we are all cheering you on, even if we can’t be at the sidelines doing it for real. Bon chance!

  17. were all rooting for you all, climb the hills steadily, pace yourself and keep breathing. were all thinking of you

  18. You often make me laugh out loud, but rarely to you make me cry. You did today. Congrats Steph, good luck and may your butt be comfy in your seat all week!

  19. Hi there, good luck and as always…enjoy the ride!
    Just as an aside and I’m sure you’ve taken this into account…while your personal donation page isn’t quite what it was last year (and not for a second is what you’ve done this year small potatoes!) the amount some of us donated to your comrads in arms to help them attain their goals need to be acknowledged as part of your success also. How does your Team fair in the fundraising hierarchy?
    I envy your will, tenacity and support form your loved ones to take this venture on and make it happen once more.
    We’ll be watching for updates and may all your days be sunny and nights be warm and dry.
    You and Jen are amazing!
    {O.K. Just went up to confirm the spelling of Jen and read Rams note. Ditto.}

  20. Best wishes for the ride. And thank you for the opportunity to support this fine cause.

  21. “- Yup. Yarn on my bike. Yarn on Jen’s bike too. ”
    What!? No pictures? Hoping there are pictures of that before the rally is over.
    Some other benefits of this endeavor of yours are:
    you are more fit – lots of health benefits there. And you can eat more yummy things without gaining weight, at least during training time and rally time.
    Best of luck. And: have a great time!

  22. As so many others have said, I came to you for the knitting. I stayed partly for the writing, but most of all because I admire and respect the person your writing reveals.
    Ride well; stay safe. I’ll be thinking of and praying for you and all the other amazing people making this ride.
    We know you can do it!

  23. Go, Lady, go! It will be fine, fabulous and although I’m not in a position this year to donate, I’m still silently cheering you on 🙂

  24. May Smooth Roads and Tail Winds speed all of you to Montreal! Best Wishes for a safe and fun ride.

  25. Good Luck! Best wishes for good weather and strong legs. We are all behind you Steph, you are out there for all of us. Godspeed

  26. congrats on determination and the fund raising total. I did not donate to you However i do a monthly donation to Steven Lewis foundation for use in care of families, primarily grandmothers supporting children who’s parents and sometimes siblings have been lost to AIDS. Please count my donation in spirit to your fundraising. The main thing is that we are all doing what we can to try and make the world a better place. with Aids – we may have just turned a corner we hope but we need to go ever on.

  27. Good luck, you guys!! I just posted a donation on Ken’s page, as it looks like the rest of you have made it to goal – hooray! I will be watching on twitter 😉

  28. Good luck! Thank you for all you’ve done and are doing!! It IS great for children to see their parents fight for a cause, and knitters truly are amazing!!

  29. Good luck with avoiding the soreness! Wish I was there to see you off. I’m thinking of volunteering for the AIDS Saint John programs in my own city and seeing stuff like this is great encouragement. 🙂

  30. Better late than never.. donated today! Have a wonderful ride, take it all in. When it gets hard, look around at all the people, and remember all the knitters that believe in you!!!

  31. So much luck Stephanie! Once you’re on the road, I hope it feels easier than last year…then you can relax a little and enjoy it more!

  32. Good Luck! Our thoughts are with you. And I agree with Rams, too 🙂

  33. “Every time knitters come through this way, I love how it shocks people, forces them to break down their stereotypes and think of us in another way, and really… is there anything more appropriate for a ride like this?” … although i believe deeply in your cause, i don’t have a ton of money, and so my charity donations usually all go to my favorite cause. but just now, when i read that sentence you wrote, i knew i had to send the little that i can afford to you and your cause. because the money is important and powerful and it matters so much – but maybe – just maybe – getting even one person to think about things differently? just change their mindset about the world a degree or two – maybe that is just as important and powerful as all the money. hence, my donation is on its way. may the force be with you! i’ll be following you all the way and cheering you on from vermont. thank you.

  34. Good luck and Godspeed to you all. I work for a company in Yonkers that provides services for people living with HIV and AIDS (among other things) so I know just how important this is. P.S. I just donated to Ken’s page.

  35. Wishing you and Jen a safe journey to my home town of Montreal. I am now living 600 miles east. Have a fantastic trip – thinking of you and Jen. You are my Hero!

  36. Good luck to you Steph (and team)!!! What you’re doing is amazing and it’s pleasure to help a great cause and cheer you on. As someone who has literally just discovered you, your blog, and your books–well, you’re an inspiration!
    Because of your willingness to share your triumphs and failures, as well as your willingness to go for Epic, I have cast on my first cardigan in yarn, taught two new knitters (though, I’m a grasshopper knitter), and set some personal Epic goals.
    Thank you, and as always, I wish you and yours the very best!

  37. Oh Steph, you are amazing in ways you don’t understand. Good luck to you both! I will be watching and cheering you from Seattle!

  38. Safety, Peace, and Health on the road. I’m putting it “out there” how wonderful and glitch-less your ride will be; monkey butt powder, good eats at the beginning and someone to bath your feet, rub your legs, bring you a beer,and scratch your back where your bra strap has rubbed all day.Perhaps not in that order. ((((((((hugs))))))))

  39. Just want to say that I understand about crying at night in the tent and on the road. I used to be a bike courier, and I remember coming home from work on my first day and crying. I wish I could donate, but I really can’t afford it. I would if I could. I hope the rally goes well. You can do it!

  40. You can do this, Steph! You are so awesome for doing this and for sharing this with all of us. All the best to you, Jen, Ken, and Pato!

  41. Go, team Harlot! (I know that’s not your team’s official name but I can’t remember the real one.) Remember, there’s very little crying in knitting. Not none, but not a ton, either. Y’all are soooo impressive!

  42. You are the most amazing, talented, 45-year old, regular person that I have ever known about. You go girl!

  43. Way to go Steph! As I was riding today (trying not to whine about the monster hill), I told my hub about your ride. He was impressed too.
    Left you a small something in the bucket in honor of day 1.
    Go Rock the Ride and be proud!

  44. Too bad there isn’t a band of us from the States to line your route at one of the toughest spots. The effect of us in ill-fitting spandex would be outdone by the gorgeous knitting that we hold high above our heads! Go, go. go!!

  45. Bravo, Stephanie! I just checked the schedule and I think I will be back from Montana in time for Day 5 so I’ll be across the river from Morrisburg waving. Yiu guys are doing a great thing. And remember not to worry about the spandex. Glad you only need water shoes for bathing, not for stream crossings.

  46. Happy to be a little part of the fundraising. Fewer tears and blisters than last year, right? Go for it!!!

  47. You are amazing. Just a selfish note- Donated to Pato’s fundraising. Does that put me in the draw for prizes? Not important, just curious.
    Our thoughts are with you on many levels.

  48. You’ve got this! Keeping you and your team in my thoughts this week. May the sun rise up to greet you and the wind be always at your back.

  49. We are all truly behind you, honey! You are doing something I could never do and and deeply admire your strength and power. Hitting keys to make a donation is the easy part. You are the one doing all the hard work. Stay safe. We love you!

  50. Good luck! Saw that Ken hasn’t made his goal yet, so just made a donation on his page.

  51. Good luck! Thanks for all the inspiration: to knit everywhere all the time, and to live with humour and integrity 🙂

  52. Cheering you on from the bottom of the world (New Zealand). I’ve donated to more this year than ever before and it was your cause that got the first donation; you make me a better person.

  53. Anyone doing an epic ride like this is an athlete. I have done a ride like this for AIDS from Mpls to Chicago and even tho I did it only once, I am an athlete! Congrats on doing something extraordinary!

  54. We’re riding with you. True, it’s not us who are truly suffering, but we would all happily massage that knot out of your muscles, or say something encouraging. We’re the wind at your back.

  55. Good luck and safe riding! Long time reader, first time comment, I made a donation to Ken, wish it could have been more.

  56. How I wish I could set up my club chair and yarn along the course… I live in Florida and have that life you mentioned, so I can’t. But, I’ll be there in spirit.

  57. Best of luck!
    Also echoing what rams said. I donated to one of your other team members ’cause I figured you’d make goal for sure. Plus, this year my brother isn’t riding the SF-LA ride so I didn’t have a prior comittment. He has a red tutu now from last time. 😀

  58. What Rams (and many others) said. Remember that you are the honey that has drawn all us flies together, but you have encouraged us to spread the love. Wishing you smooth roads and dry skies (perhaps cloudy so it’s not so hot). I’m off to Ken’s page to nudge him up to his goal.

  59. You said: I’m doing it because I believe in the cause, because I believe in real, decent help for people with AIDS that’s delivered with respect. . . AND. . . I think that it’s good for my daughters to see their mum engaged in a big thing, and putting her effort (and money) where her mouth is.
    You go, Stephanie. When the pain seems overwhelming, always remember the gain. I just returned from a two-week trip to England, ministering at a rehab facility for drug and alcohol addicts. Unlike American facilities, this one keeps people until they are ready to go back into society – not when the insurance runs out or a deadline passes.
    And I totally agree with you that it’s better for our children to see us doing for others than it is to tell them that’s what they should do.
    May God greatly reward you for what you are doing.

  60. It’s like running marathons. The first is scary because you don’t know. All subsequent ones are scary because you do know. They’ll all be different, but you’ll make it through because already know you’ve made it before. Like Harry and his patronus.
    Good luck! Ride good! You are awesome!
    P.s. As a novel cyclist (my road bike is 2 weeks old) I’m interested in how that cream works. Maybe you could explain and save me the embarrassment of asking about it at the bike store…
    P.p.s. None of this “I’m not an athlete” nonsense. What would YOU call any other woman who rides a bike 660 km?

  61. Best of luck on your ride! I just made a donation – your post was just so moving and I have been lagging behind on taking any action…

  62. Gah! I hate this. I am scared for you! Good luck! Can’t wait until it is over so I can stop being nervous about an event that is taking place in another country. 😉 Heheheh.

  63. You are so inspiring Steph! Have a safe trip! I hope my small donation will help speed you on your bike all the better! 😉

  64. well, first day over. thinking of you and muscles and state of mind. here’s to the glory of people helping people.

  65. Your post was very moving, and like several others.. made me cry. As Rams said, your writing is what brings us back and what engages us with what you care about. I’d already donated to you, and saw Ken hadn’t reached his target yet, so have topped him up a bit.. Good luck with the rides, and thank you for caring.

  66. Steph, you inspire me to be a better person. I may have come here originally for the knitting, but your
    kind heart and your witty humor is what kept me coming back all of these years. You are the epitome of grace and kindheartedness and when you are faced with something and are wondering “what would the blog thing about this”, I often hear of big issues and think, “what does Steph” have to say about this? My thought are with you and your whole team this week. Godspeed.

  67. Have a safe, and if possible, fun ride. I can’t wait to see a photo of Pato in his red dress.
    Go team knit!

  68. Safe travels to all of you. My goal for next year is to save up and donate for all members of your team. Thank you for riding in our place and for all who desperately need this support.

  69. You go girl! I am so proud of you and the girls at my work are sick of hearing about it, but I don’t care. You pull us all up and I for one am proud to be part of it.

  70. Donated again, just because I think it’s fun to confound the muggles 😀
    Ride on!

  71. Saw you this morning with Jenn Valentyne on Breakfast Television (another thing we have in common – she interviewed me as well at a Live Eye – all I was doing was riding the Leviathan at Wonderland…)
    You bring tears to my eyes. I have a close family memeber living with AIDS, and the support she gets is unbelievable. If donating money is all I can do to support the group of selfless and wonderful heroes, then I’ll do it every year.
    Best to you, Jen, Ken, Pato and the rest of the riders and volunteers and behind the scenes family people.

  72. Hey, Ken’s still about $3000 under his goal! Let’s go team, make sure SPM’s team is fully funded!

  73. You are my HERO!!! My day is not complete until I read your post, I laugh with you, cry with you, and someday, I hope to knit with you, until then, I will keep plugging away. All the best this week as you fulfill another goal. You set the bar high, thank you.

  74. As I tell my girls, you’ve got this. So proud of you and the fundraising power of the knitting collective.

  75. Cheers! I will be praying for you all week! I hope you have many knitter sitings, I wish I could be one of them.

  76. We love you, too, Steph – Onward and upward and pedal to the asphalt or something witty like that!!

  77. Good luck and godspeed! I wish I was closer so I could knit, yell my head off and ring a cowbell in support.

  78. There’s a last minute donation from me. It’s not much but every little helps 🙂
    Go for it Stephanie!

  79. You ride, girl!
    You ride for those that can’t. And you ride for yourself because it is a more interesting way to keep fit than to say “Oh, I will ride X miles a day.”
    And the menfolk should step up…because I am guessing that you and Jen have kept home and hearth together plenty of times when they are out doing “men things”…

  80. Just added another tiny wee mite to advance the total — only $2,032 to go!!!!
    Don’t ever think you’ve done ‘nothing’ or ‘too little’, Stephanie — YOU are the catalyst for what knitters can accomplish!

  81. I hate to tell you this, but you are actually an athlete now! There’s no getting out of it. Maybe if you had stopped at one bike rally you could have said you weren’t, but two?
    Nope, you’re totally an athlete now! You’re totally amazing!! Rubber Side Down!!

  82. It is You that units us though. Thank you for that and good luck!!

  83. I am 50 years old. I am not an athlete. I have done the Weekend to End Women’s Cancers 10 years in a row in Toronto (year 11 this year)- a 60 km walk over 2 days in Toronto to raise funds to fight women’s cancers. I am tired and sore,but exhilarated every year with the high I get from training for and doing this amazing event. People are freaking awesome!! I am a nurse, a mother and a knitter. I am also named Stephanie!
    You go girl! Take care and great work!

  84. Be Safe and ride strong. What Rams said!! Come for the knitting – stay for the awesome woman behind it all. We love you.

  85. Best of luck to all! I don’t mean to disagree with what you have said but I feel I have to on one point. No matter how the rally turns out, you, my dear, ARE an athlete! And an incredible inspiration. You ROCK!

  86. As others have, I have to disagree: Any person who writes as well as you, knits as fast as you, has raised three exceptional young adults, and is cycling from Toronto to Montreal for the SECOND time simply IS remarkable!
    Best wishes for you and your entire team on the ride. May the trip be safe and enjoyable, and may you have gale-force winds at your backs the entire time. Wish I could be somewhere along the route with an encouraging sign and knitting!

  87. Knitters all over the world are thinking of you – sending thoughts of positive encouragement and strong legs your way. Your participation in the bike rally amazes me – as it requires such a strong body as well as a strong mind ! Ride ON !

  88. My tally shows over $89,000 for the team, in total. Can we get them up to $100,000? Go knitters, go Steph!

  89. Thank you so much for doing what you’re doing, Stephanie and Jen and Ken and Pato and all the other riders. One of my dearest college friends was one of the earliest victims of the AIDS epidemic, and I think of him often. It’s good people like you who give hope for the future and help ensure that everyone with HIV/AIDS can live the fullest life possible. You are a true inspiration!

  90. Good luck and have fun! (And now I won’t feel bad when I completely collapse after my first half-marathon in October that I’m already training for….)

  91. Ok. You got me. I can’t not let you beat last years total, so even if money is tight, screw it. I’m giving to the cause anyway! 🙂 You go girl!

  92. I hate to disagree with you, but if you bicycle 660km, you’re an athlete. It’s not about speed. It’s about doing it. 😉

  93. “I’m not an athlete. I’m not remarkable”.
    With all due respect, Stephanie:
    You are awesome. Thank you for being a force for good.

  94. Blog to Stephanie! Blog to Stephanie! Are you there??
    You aren’t still pedaling your way to Winnipeg (or wherever the finish line is, are you?
    We want to hear all about the trip!
    The book’s done, the training ride’s are done… time to blog …

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