These words are like birds

Once, when I was little, I was trying to write something, and I couldn’t find the words. My grandfather came up to me and said “Are the words like birds?”  It was the perfect description, and it’s where I’ve found myself for the last few days. No matter how carefully I sneak up to the ideas and stories of what happened on the rally, the words that would let me tell you fly off as soon as I get too close.  I can see them as they swirl around and away, but they take off as soon as I am near to them. I’ve managed to catch a few, but I’m not sure they’re in order.

I was confident about this years rally.  Did I tell you that? Could you tell? It was to be my third, and I knew from the two before what it was going to be like, and I trained and I worked hard, and I packed really smart, and I thought that all that preparation was going to make it the easiest time ever.  Please note that I did not say I thought it would be easy. I don’t think the rally can be easy, but I thought that I was totally prepared, and it would be a challenge that I was ready to meet.

I don’t know how to catch the right words to explain this.  I was wrong. The rally this year was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done. When I said that to a friend a few days ago, he boggled.  “Really? Harder than being a mother? Harder than having a baby?” I nodded.

Let me tell you how it started. We met downtown on Sunday morning, the whole rally. Crew, riders – hundreds of us gathered up, and we took a few pictures, and then we were off.

readysetgo 2014-08-05

Getting a group of riders that size out of the city is a little tricky, so we had a police escort. We’d ride out as a group, with the police blocking and holding intersections so that we could just ride through them. Enthusiasm was high, and Jen and I pushed off and started to ride, excited to be finally underway. Our little balloon deflated a few kilometres later when Jen’s bike made a bad noise, and her seat came loose. We pulled over, and she got out her tools, and we stood there, Jen fixing her bike as fast as she could, the whole rally passing us by.

brokenseat 2014-08-05

By the time she had it fixed (and thank heaven she’s a resourceful woman who knows how to manage her own stuff and had tools)  we were last. Not last by a little – last by a lot. It wasn’t a good start, and we were a little dejected, but resolved to try and catch up. We started to ride again, and were immediately halted by a red light. We weren’t with the police escort anymore, so we had to stop. I signalled the stop – called “Slowing” and started to brake. As I shouted “Slowing!” I heard a voice behind me yell “OH NO YOU’RE NOT!” and a cop sped past me on a bike, and yelled “We’re going to get you caught up – SADDLE UP LADIES!”

That police officer rode like the wind, rushing ahead to every light, blowing her whistle and holding every intersection so that Jen and I could speed through, then charging past us to get to the next one, while we rode like the wind to join the group again. That cop was awesome, and she was funny, and she was kind, and she didn’t have to do that – not at all, and Jen and I were so grateful (and sweaty) and while we didn’t know it in that minute, “SADDLE UP LADIES!’ was to become the attitude that we had to take for the rest of the ride.

We reached camp triumphantly that night, if a little sore from the speeding we’d done earlier, and we pitched our tent and settled in with our team, and had dinner and sat around knitting.

dinnerteam 2014-08-05

Over the course of the evening, the sky darkened, and we all started watching the sky and checking the weather on our phones and it wasn’t long before we heard thunder, and saw lightning, and we all battened the hatches, covered our bins with tarps, and did the best we could to sturdy up against the coming rain.  A few minutes before that rain started, crew from the rally came around and talked to us. The storm was going to be bad, they said. Worse than they’d thought, and could we all please take care to make sure that we were as prepared as possible? There was – they said, a tornado warning, and while a tornado was unlikely, they let us know that if we were worried, we could go to the trucks  and take shelter inside. Then the rain started, and the rally all climbed inside their little tents, and tried to sleep.

Nobody slept. The storm was incredible. Here in Southern Ontario, we have thunderstorms all the time. They’re common, and as torrential as they can be, there’s one thing we know about them – they don’t last. They’re intense and amazing and huge and then they’re gone. I know we all thought the same thing, cowering in our tents… It couldn’t last.

Wrong again. The storm raged all night. The whole thing. Even with your eyes closed you could see the lightning, and the thunder was so loud, and the sound of the rain beating on the tents was incredible and I can tell you it was more than a little scary.  In the morning it was still raining, and not just a little. The rally emerged from their tents into the cold and the wet, and Jen and I discovered we’d been lucky – our tent hadn’t leaked. The same couldn’t be said of Pato’s tent, or of Amanda’s. They’d spent the night sleeping in puddles, with soaked sleeping bags and clothes, and nobody had gotten more than an hour or two of sleep.  We were cold, and worried, and we went to breakfast to find out what was going on.

Not much, was the answer. The generators weren’t working, so there was a cold breakfast, and no hot drinks. (Fear not for the coffee. Jen and I – having been screwed by a non-functioning generator the year before had taken matters into our own hands to guard against just that moment. I’d packed a camp stove, fuel and a pot, and Jen had a french press, and we made pot after pot for anyone who asked.)

makingcoffee 2014-08-05

Usually we pack our bins up and go – but that morning we waited. Road safety was out surveying our route to see if it was safe for us to ride, and we were waiting out the lightning. Cold and wet, we huddled together under the big dining tent, everyone mostly worrying about how this was all going to work. it wasn’t just that we were facing a day of riding in the rain, it’s that we were facing the longest day of the rally – 130km, a challenge at the best of times, and even harder to face in bad weather, with only the prospect of a wet tent and clothes at the end of the day. We waited, and waited, while the rally leadership did an amazing job of trying to figure out what to do.

A long time later (it always seems like a long time in the rain) we had an answer. We had a choice. The riding was going to be hard, but it was safe if we were going to be careful, so if we wanted to, we could ride. The words “wanted to” hung there for me. Wanted to? What other choice was there? There was an answer for that too. For the riders who didn’t feel safe, or were too tired, or too wet, or whose stuff was too wet, there was an alternative. You could get on your bike in the rain and the wind and the cold, OR you could wait, and a bus was coming, and the bus would take you to a community centre where you could dry yourself and your stuff out, and HAVE A HOT SHOWER. That was the choice. Ride, or skip it, and be warm and dry and clean.  I stood there, wet, and cold, and muddy and I took about nine deep breaths.

It is hard for me to explain what went through my mind then. I knew nobody would be hard on anyone who didn’t ride. The conditions were awful, and we were all sleep deprived, and things were horrible, and there was nothing wrong with getting on the bus. Hell – it was probably smart to get on the bus, but I stood there, and all I could think of – really, was you guys. I imagined myself writing this blog post, and I imagined telling you I’d taken the bus, and I imagined all of you being really understanding and supportive and totally getting it, and then I thought of all the money you’d donated, and I knew what I was going to do, and I wanted to cry. I didn’t look at Jen. I knew she was thinking the same thing. I had agreed to ride my bike to Montreal in exchange for donations to PWA. I hadn’t agreed to ride my bike if it was nice, or if it was easy. I’d agreed to ride my bike.  I took a few shaky breaths, and then we had a quick team talk about what to do. In the end, Jen, Ken and I walked to our bikes, and Amanda and Pato decided on the bus – in Amanda’s case, she didn’t feel that she was an experienced enough rider to be safe under these circumstances (boy, did she turn out to be right) and in Pato’s – he had to deal with his stuff. His tent had been such a mess in the night that he’d had to evacuate to a truck, and there was no way he’d be able to ride the next four days if he couldn’t get all of that sorted. We all agreed that this was the right and safe thing for everyone, and we left… along with just half of the riders, the half that thought they could somehow cope, or had stayed dry enough to manage.

The minute I got on my bike I wondered if I had made a mistake. The ride was the trifecta of evil for cyclists. Cold, wet, and a persistent and strong headwind to slow you down.

wet 2014-08-05

No matter how hard we rode, we couldn’t get any speed going on, and we’d just accepted that it was going to be an impossibly long, hard day when we remembered the hills. It was the day of the hills, and my heart just about broke. Somehow, we rode to the first break, and that was when we remembered that on day two of the rally, there’s two breaks before lunch. You ride 40km, and then 30, and then 20, and then you get lunch, and we’d been held back in the morning so long that the combination of the late start and the already late lunch meant that it was going to be 3pm before we got lunch, and that’s a crazy thing if you had breakfast at 6am and have ridden 90km.  I don’t know how we did it. I really don’t. My saddle had started to hurt me badly (screw you – squirrel who ate the old one) and by the time we got to I was starving, cold, wet, and my will to live was being destroyed from the crotch up.

Pato and Amanda and everyone else were already all there (what with the bus and all) and they welcomed Jen and I in, and tried to get us some lunch, and road safety tried to talk to us to see if we were okay, and then they said that if we wanted to – we didn’t have to ride the last 40km.  That if it was too hard, if it was just too much, then we could stop. I didn’t really talk to anyone. I felt like if I opened my mouth to say anything it would all well up and out, and I didn’t want that. I was trying to be tough. I listened to the other riders, and I listened to another big part of them decide that they couldn’t go on, that 90km in those conditions had felt more like 150 already, and that they were going to have to stop. Then I turned around, I went into the porta-potty, and I cried.  I think Jen did too.

When I came out I had something to eat, and that helped. I had a cup of hot coffee and got a little warmed up, and that helped too. Then Jen and I talked it over, and decided that we would try. That there was “only” 40km to go, and it couldn’t be that bad and that we’d invested so much that it was – for us, a hell of a time to get off the ride, and we joked about how the great thing about riding in the rain is that nobody can see you cry, and we decided to do it.  As we were walking back to our bikes, past the glory of the bus, someone on road safety came up to us, and told us that they’d be right with us, driving by often to make sure we were okay, and that if at any point we needed to stop, all we had to do was say the word. Just raise a hand off the bike, signal the crew, and whammo. We’d be in the car and they’d drive us to the end. No shame.

I looked him in the eye, and I felt like crying again. “Don’t say that.” I said.

“What?” he asked, looking at me like I was a crazy person, which by then, I probably was.

“Don’t offer me a way out.” I turned away from him, and I don’t know if he heard what else I said, but it was something like “I”m not strong enough.”

The next two hours were a blur. Hills, and rain, and Jen and I struggling, and road safety driving by, and encouraging us, without, thank wool, offering us a ride again. We went up and down and farther and farther and we finally got to the last set of hills before the Ferry. That’s how that day ends. We take the Glenora ferry across, and then it’s an easy 8km from there. Once you’re on the ferry, you’re pretty much done. I don’t remember those hills really well. I remember thinking that my feet had been in my wet shoes for so long that I was pretty sure I had trench foot, and I remember thinking that they would probably hurt if they weren’t numb from the cold. I remember thinking that there couldn’t possibly be another hill, and I remember being deliberately and carefully cheerful with everyone that I encountered. The world was a fragile and terrible place – it could only help to be as nice as possible. At some point in there we realized we were “being swept.” The sweeps are team leads who are assigned the task of riding slower than the slowest rider. It helps road safety know where the “end of the line” is – when they drive back as far as the sweeps, they know they’re the last riders, and it makes sure nobody gets left behind. When you’re the sweeps, you lag back – hanging behind the slowest riders.  If you’re being swept, you’re the slowest.

I don’t mind telling you, that was demoralizing. Jen and I have trained hard, and worked really hard to be strong riders, and we thought we were – or I’m here to tell you, we sure as *&%^$ wouldn’t have set out that morning. To realize that we were the slowest? Our hearts broke a little, but we kept going. We did the last hill, somehow – and came around the corner to where the queue for the ferry was, and we just about fell off our bikes. The ferry goes every 15 minutes. There were about 25 riders. Jen and I might have been slow, but not by much! A few minutes later, we realized who we were just a bit slower than… Strong riders. Gazelles. People that we know are excellent on a bike, tough as nails and fast as the wind.

strongriders 2014-08-05

I gathered everybody in for a megaselfie. Jen and I couldn’t believe it. We all stood there, on the ferry, and everybody, these fantastic riders talked about how it had been their hardest day ever, that it had really been a challenge, and that they were tired, and it had been really, really tough, and that they’d thought about the bus the whole time, and it was so… great. I wasn’t even the only person who’d cried in a porta-potty. We felt heroic.

The rest of the ride wasn’t easy either. Not that last 8km, nor the four days that came after. It rained four out of the six days, I really did think that I was getting trench foot, and day two wasn’t the only time I cried. I shed a few tears on day five, when it was our turn to sweep, and Jen and I had to do it in a thunderstorm – riding slow and wet, and we would have been so sad, except for a big chunk of our team decided to sweep with us, and we were so impressed with the kind of people that they were that it carried us the whole way. (Sort of. Damn it was cold.) I cried when I was so proud of Amanda and Pato that I could barely breath, amazed that people so young would be willing to do something so hard for other people, and I cried when I wondered if really, they understood that they were making a real difference in the world around them. I cried when Jen and I were complimented on our leadership, because we tried so hard to do a good job, and it was so amazing that the team appreciated it.

reddressteam 2014-08-05

I cried (not in front of her) when I was so proud of Jen, the best co-lead I could have ever asked for. Strong, courageous, brave and cheerful in the face of everything.

teamshot 2014-08-05

I cried (on the inside) when our whole family team was wearing top fundraiser jerseys, because I was so happy that what we were doing had raised enough cash to really make a difference, and because I couldn’t believe the amazing support we’d had from our family, and friends, and knitters everywhere.

topfundraisers 2014-08-05

ridingalong 2014-08-05

I cried tears of joy when Pato and Jen figured out how to carry enough beer for all of us.

beerinjerseys 2014-08-05

I cried when I had not one, but TWO flat tires on the last day.

fixingtire 2014-08-05

Finally, I cried when we arrived in Montreal – because it had been so hard to get there, and I couldn’t believe we all had.

bikeup 2014-08-05

Back to the beginning, when I told you that this was the hardest thing I’d ever done, and my friend couldn’t believe that I didn’t think that childbirth or parenting or crisis had been harder? It’s true. Those things are hard. Crazy hard. Stupid hard, but this beat it all, simply because it was optional. Childbirth might be hard, but really, you don’t have any choice. Once you’re pregnant, there’s only one why that it can end. Somehow, some way, a baby is going to come out of your body, and no matter how it does that, you’re in it. There’s no way out. You can cry and be afraid and it can be hard, but it’s going to happen to you anyway, whether you’re brave or not. Parenting? Illness, crisis? Same deal. You’re in it, and nobody rides by in a car while you’re trying to deal with it all and asks if you’d like a ride past all the hard bits. You’ve got to do it, and you do. We all do, somehow.

That moment, when they said I could choose – I could take the bus, or I could ride, and I chose to ride, will be with me for a long time, and I’d like to thank all of you from the bottom of my heart. If it wasn’t for you, I might have gotten on that bus, and then I wouldn’t feel the way I do now. Proud, and tired, and knowing something new about myself and my friends, and my family.

montrealdone 2014-08-05

Thanks for everything, and see you tomorrow. I’m going to have (another) nap.

326 thoughts on “These words are like birds

  1. My hat is off to you and your excellent team. That is a perfect storm of fear and wet and muck and exhaustion and yet you all managed to persevere. Damn! Congratulations, and I hope you treat yourself to the best yarn you can get your hands on.

  2. I cried reading this. It’s been kind of a bad day – my windshield got broken by a rock from a truck (I think, I never saw it), and it was terrifying when it happened and it’s going to cost a lot of money to replace, and we’re worried about driving the car because the cracks are so big the rest of the windshield might fall in… And none of that compares to what you’ve just done. Not even close. Once again, you’re an inspiration and I am so, so proud to be a knitter and have even the most casual association with you.

    • your car insurance will cover it, even if you only have the most basic coverage. call them and ask. i did not believe it when a friend told me, but i checked with my company just to prove him wrong- and it was true! it is something about how it is not safe to be in a car with a cracked windshield.

  3. WOW! You are such an inspirational group. Thank you for giving me a chance, through my tiny donation, to feel part of something so amazing.

  4. Steph, I have tears in my eyes in my office right now reading this. You have inspired me – reminding me to know that I *can* continue to push forward, that I *can* make a difference, that I *can* turn away the easy way out, because sometimes the hard way is the *only* way to do it right.

    Thank you for the reminder, thank you for the tears falling into my tea. *THANK YOU* for riding those long hard distances.

  5. And now I’m crying! Congrats on gutting it out — that’s an amazing accomplishment for your entire team. Well done!

  6. Wow, so inspiring and such a metaphor for life…”I can do it easy or I can do it hard, who do I want to be?” You are the definition of a hero…a true Canadian hero!

  7. Let me say, “Thank You”. I was getting a bit worried when we hadn’t seen a post. I am sorry it was such a trial this year but am glad that you have pulled the important parts out to examine and learn from once again. Great Job!

  8. Congratulations and thank you! What an amazing story! I even cried at just the thought of how hard it must have been. You, your family, your team, all the riders are so inspiring!

  9. Way to go, Steph! I’m sitting here at my desk trying not to cry too much, over how amazing you and everyone else are for doing this rally, and for persevering through such horrible conditions.

  10. You are such an inspiration in so many ways. Can you believe it wasn’t too many years ago that even riding a couple of hours without falling off was a challenge? Yay you! And yay Jen and Ken and Amanda and Pato and Sam and all the riders who trained so hard. Whether you did the ride or not, or took the bus or not, you should all feel very, very proud.

  11. Good job, Stephanie!! And to your whole team. Bus or no, it sounds like a heck of a ride this year. You make a difference!

  12. I am so very proud of you and your team and all the other riders that didn’t quit you guys are truly inspirational, i hope you are all proud to have made it. You all rock :)

  13. You made me cry. At work. I am so proud to have been allowed to sponsor your team. You rock. Your entire team rocks.

  14. Pingback: These words are like birds | Yarn Buyer

  15. So proud of you and the whole team, Steph. Goddess knows, I couldn’t have done it. You’re all a glorious inspiration.

  16. Well that post had me crying my eyes out. The line, “I went into the port-a-potty and I cried” was the most touching thing. Congratulations on a job well done.

  17. I am crying! What a beautiful piece of writing. I love the “words are like birds” phrase. Yours didn’t fly off, they were present and mighty powerful.

  18. Stephanie, you ARE amazing, and I too am in tears. You hung in there long after I think I would have. It’s so easy to quit (I’ve done it more times than I like to admit) because the alternative seems daunting and the “bus” would be so easy; but you were selfless, and true to your word. Maybe next time I say I will do something I’ll remember what you did this year, and stick it out, knowing the experience will make be a better person in the end.

  19. The most human part of that story for me was you saying “Don’t offer me a way out.” Choosing to go the hard way when the easier way is right there sums up so many of the things I’ve been going through this past year.

    Your word birds seem to have roosted nicely.

  20. As everyone else said, the story is remarkable and a true inspiration. Yes, there are things in this life that once in it, there is no way out but to go through. You got to see what you are truly made of – perseverance. I’m not saying those who took the bus are any less admirable, but to ride in the rain, the wind, the bone-numbing cold and know that you are intentionally facing these demons is an amazing feat of strength. Congratulations! And to your whole team – a job well done.

  21. Your words were just fine. If they flew away when you wanted them, they returned when you needed them.
    You have done an amazing thing, this bike rally. Be proud of your efforts.

  22. Wow, wow, wow, you have every right to be proud. I’m not normally a commenter but you are an inspiration and your writing about it is so vivid, I felt I was watching it through your eyes.
    Congratulations on making it through the ride!!!

  23. Wow, this has me in tears. You are an inspiration to people everywhere. Makes my little bad day look sunny.
    Thank you for sharing your trials, and sharing your heart.

  24. Way to go. Steph. Way to go, Team. Way to put one sodden foot around that pedal once. And again. And again. Through it all.

    Hope you thoroughly enjoy your well-deserved (and I’m assuming blessedly dry) nap.

  25. You’re an inspiration. You’re right, that if you had chosen the bus we would have understood. We would have supported you. But now we can be so very proud of you, that a member of our knitting world went out and did this amazing thing and allowed all of us to be part of it with our donations and support.

    Bless you, Steph. And enjoy your well-earned nap.

  26. Stephanie.

    Kudos to you and your whole team for all that you do for the Rally each year, from fund raising to karma gifts – the fund raising is the cake and karma gifts are just icing. I’ll be donating again next year either way.

    We love you.

    The Knitters

  27. Well, at least you passed the tears around. Well done, both of you lambs. And for a bit here, hard times will be met with a mental “Saddle up, ladies!”

  28. I second everything everyone else said before me, probably a lot more eloquently than I could. I would have been happy to donate to anyone taking the bus as I’ve had my eyes on weather.com all last week, hoping for clearing and better weather. But, no. Not in the cards. You all are the warriors. I’m the worrier.

    I do have to ask one question: Where did you get the energy to get to Quebec, hoist your bicycle over your head, and plant a smile on your face long enough to have your photo taken?

  29. Nobody in their right mind would have thought less of you for taking the bus but I understand how having that option made the situation even harder to deal with. You should be incredibly proud of yourself, I know we all are.

  30. God bless for all that you, and Jen, and Ken, and Amanda, and Pato, and Sam (in spirit) do to make the world a better place for us all.

    Raising a mental glass to you with tears in my eyes – Namaste,

    Bonnie aka Knitsiam

  31. You and your entire team are an inspiration, and I am so very proud of all of you! Well done! You have earned some well-deserved knitting and wine time!

  32. I cried just reading this post. I have read your blog for ages – I came for the knitting and stayed because of your amazing outlook on life. Your strength and bravery and constant gratitude for everyone around you through this have been phenomenal! You are a total inspiration.

  33. I’ve been reading your blog for years and have never commented, which I suppose makes me a lurker. But I can’t help but post now to say that YOU ARE MY HERO! What an amazing feat – both of spirit and body. Absolutely inspiring. Thank you.

  34. OMG! You are amazing. Even though I only donated $5 this year, you made it feel like a million! I am truely humbled by your accomplishment!

  35. Wow. I had to pause reading halfway because the tears in my eyes made it hard to see. What you and your team went through was unbelievable. If ever I feel a pity party coming on because I’m having a crap day, I’m going to read this again. Thank you to you and your team, you’re an inspiration!

  36. Yay for a most epic ride! In a way I am glad that it happened the way it did because the feeling of total awesome that you get after having an experience like that is really Really REALLY amazing. And yes, words fail. Fortunately, those experiences don’t come along everyday. There would be no surviving them. :) Glad you’re home safe!

  37. Wow. What a journey! I am insanely proud of all of you, and you and Jen, Stephanie, for making the choices you did, and Amanda and Pato for making the choices they did, and Sam for making the choice she did. I’m sure glad she wasn’t out there in that cold and rain but home getting better. I’m also glad that you are rightly proud of yourself, Stephanie! I’d be patting you on the back with a skein of something beautiful and woolly if I lived nearby! Well done team. Well done.

  38. I’m sitting here trying to attribute my tears to pregnancy hormones but, in truth, your tenacity and resilience would make me cry even in my most stoic of states!

    Kudos to you and your entire team! You make a difference in the daily lives of all of your readers and now in the lives of people who will never know your level of commitment and endurance.

  39. I teared up about five different times reading this. You are a bad-ass. Jen is a bad-ass. Your entire rally was made up of bad-asses and I am in awe of you all. You are not only my knitting guru, you are my life guru and I can only hope to be as tough and determined as you when a situation calls for it. It is so weird to be so proud of complete strangers, but I am! Off to have a beer in your honor!

  40. I suspect that a lot of tears are being shed while reading this post and will admit that I’m shedding some of them. Amazing, you and Jen and the team and what you all accomplished. Brava!

  41. And now I cried, just reading this. Congratulations Steph. You are an amazing person and I hope the whole world knows it.

  42. This is not the first time I have cried reading your blog, and surely it will not be the last. You inspire me, more often than I could count over all of these years, to be a better person. To do better, to love better, and this post right here, is a shining example of why, when people ask if I have heard of you, or read your books, I say, “Oh, that Steph? She’s one of the best people there is.” You should be so damn proud of yourself, and your family, and Jen and Ken, and your entire team.. and even Joe, for supporting you all throughout the many months of training. There is a quote that says, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear.” ~Ambrose Redmoon. Go have that nap, and then maybe a beer, or two. Well done Steph, well done. <3

  43. I was giggling hysterically at ‘SADDLE UP LADIES’, then I was inspired by the grace with which the remaining challenges were faced. Good on you, and all of your team.

  44. I cried when I read this, for that moment when you and Jen realized that you were the slowest of the *gazelles*. So very, very proud of both of you.

    • Right? I was reading that part thinking ‘holy hell, you got on your bike, not the bus.’ I was even formulating a comment about how that alone meant they weren’t really slow in my head. And then I realized they figured it out all on their own. And cried.

  45. Brava! Magnifique!

    You wrote, “You’ve got to do it, and you do.” And through this post, I could hear Beatles music — With a Little Help From My Friends. And you generously acknowledged that. Your team, the knitters who donated and cheered you on in spirit….

    Well done.

  46. BRAVO! Standing ovation to the whole team! Just a completely amazing accomplishment. Well done.

    I’ve often thought what you wrote so eloquently at the end, that it is easy to be brave when you have no choice and so much harder to be brave when you don’t have to be. Can I be so cheeky as to say I am very proud of you and Jen?

  47. I bragged about you to family members who don’t even knit… It’s epic. You are an inspiration to all knitters (and women. And people). Thanks for letting us be a small part of something so big.

    • I’m on year 2 after a small struggle with DCIS breast cancer…..keep going Holly, you have a community of knitters saying prayers for you.

    • Sleep when you need it, cry when you have to, even crumple onto the floor if you feel like it . . . and then get back up and put one foot in front of the other. It may be the hardest thing you do, but day by day you’ll get through this challenge. The Blog has you in their thoughts.

      An 8 year thriver after breast cancer.

  48. I cried when I read this post. I did something hard today, but not nearly that hard, and not for something nearly so important. You are amazing. You inspire me. You make me proud to be a knitter and a member of the human race. Wow. Just . . . wow.

  49. Well done and thank you, Grand-dad [!], WELL written. I, too, am crying…with pride in you and your cohorts!

    Again, WELL DONE.

  50. <3 Steph
    <3 Jen
    <3 Ken
    <3 Amanda
    <3 Pato
    <3 Sam
    <3<3<3….. all your team members whose names I don't know.

    Way to Saddle Up, Ladies (& Gents), and then some!!

  51. My goodness, I’m so glad I didn’t read this at work cause I’m bawling my eyes out with how proud I am of you and the team. You are my hero, now more than ever. You inspire me to be a better person.

  52. By God, woman, you are the bravest, strongest person I know. Well and truly, YOU WIN! Now excuse me, please, I need to go find a tissue.

  53. Awesome! I started reading your blog because you knit and I could learning knitting stuff from you. Now I read your blog because you and your family are awesome at life and I can learn life stuff from you. Thanks!

  54. I have walked in three Breast Cancer 3-Days, where one walks 60 miles over three days, so I know a little bit about the challenge of these kind of events…and I must say, you are so inspiring and such a trooper, and I’m proud of you, and I’m proud to have contributed to your fundraising. You are truly KICK ASS!

  55. I knew when we didn’t hear from you that it must have been tough, but I had no idea. You and your team are so strong, it brings tears to my eyes. I know I would have never been that strong, I would have given up at the first opportunity.

    You guys are somethin’ else. ;-)

    Get some rest, you deserve all you can get.

  56. Eleanor Roosevelt said, “You must do the thing you cannot do.” I think she also said “Do something each day that scares you.” While I was googling Eleanor Roosevelt quotes to see if I had that right I found this one, which seems to fit best:

    “A woman is like a tea bag – you never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water.”

    Or cold water for you, as it turned out. Bravo. You are good people. Your philanthropic work is an inspiration to all.

  57. Congratulations to you and your whole team! Like others, I read this with tears flowing too. For all you endured and dealt with over the days, I can’t find enough words to commend and congratulate you. You are such an inspiration in so many ways, and need to take a very well deserved rest.

  58. I really don’t have the right words to say what I am feelng right now except to say you all embody the true meaning of charity.
    I’m proud to have been a teensy weensy part of helping you become the best fundraisers in this event. Hugs and kudos to the whole team.

  59. Yup, wow. Just wow. You all did the really hard stuff – we just had to give money. You are all amazing people!

  60. Holy cow…respect. Respect! What an amazing and powerful story. I’ve really enjoyed following the whole training this summer, and I am so impressed and inspired by your strength and perseverance. Way to make a difference, on so many levels, and how wonderful to have such a strong, dedicated friend by your side the whole way.

    I have to share this post with my sister, who is not a knitter, but is a runner and would understand and identify with your endurance, body and soul. :-)

    “Saddle up, ladies!” LOVE it.

  61. You guys – the team, the whole 100s of you, are just incredible! The birds have flown; I have no words.

  62. “Hope is the thing with feathers –
    That perches in the soul –
    And sings the tune without the words –
    And never stops – at all” – Emily Dickenson

    I cried through the whole post – inspired, encouraged, awed, and thankful for people like you (the whole rally) who bring hope to so many

  63. Congratulations!
    Thanks for telling us so eloquently about your very hard trip.
    I am going to tell myself “Saddle up ladies” in future.
    Thanks again doing the ride!

  64. Proud. Of you. Jen. All the riders who rode the bike or the bus. Inspiration to us all. I feel challenged to get off my arse and do something for someone.

  65. I read, I cried tears of pride, knowing how hard it was, I cried hoping you know how proud we are of you, one day you have to fully understand just how much you ROCK Stephanie.

  66. Holy moley – I can’t decide if that took more commitment or insanity. Perhaps both in equal measure. I am so very impressed with all of you.

    And for Amanda and Pato – it takes just as much courage to know where to draw the line as to refuse that bus. You could so easily have little ego, peer pressure or what have you keep you from taking the bus when you needed to. And that would almost have certainly kept you from finishing the rally. I’m very impressed you had the guts to make the right call in the moment so that you could finish out the long haul. Kudos.

  67. Aweful! The way the dictionary defines it.

    I bow to you and Jen for courage and tenacity. You are two incredible ladies, tears and all.

  68. This morning you made me cry. Thank you for making the hard choices. We were around the world thinking about you and sending warm thoughts your way the whole time. Hard things by choice are so much harder for having an option, but you did the hard thing! And, no, we would understand if you ever got on the bus. That’s why it’s there. Love from Thailand and may I suggest some Thai massage to recover from that saddle.

  69. I have never been prouder of a fellow knitter!! It is an amazing accomplishment in your life that you are that strong and courageous and you took on such an incredible challenge!!

  70. Bless you all. Stephanie, your choice was selfless, your courage is outstanding, you have the heart of a true Canadian hero. Thank you, for being you and for having the wordy birdys to share your journey with us so very eloquently.
    Respect,
    Christine

  71. I’m so proud of you Stephanie. You have a heart of the lion, and such integrity and strength. Sleep well my friend, you’ve earned it

  72. You have HUGE bragging rights! In spite of your well written account, I can’t begin to imagine exactly how difficult this really was. What you achieved is so inspiring. My sincerest congratulations!!

  73. I am crying. I started fairly early in your post and then just continued. Hot wet tears collecting into a puddle on my desk. Though you may not feel it, for me you absolutely conveyed just how horrendous and wretched riding in the misery of storming cold rain was… In a way I’m sorry that you felt you couldn’t say “too much for this gal, I need that ride” and felt you had no option but to push yourself. Sometimes going beyond your limits creates all sorts of other problems. We have limits and boundaries because we are human and they are necessary. And yet, in this situation, you were able to find a deeper strength than you knew you had, in a positive way as a human being who also happens to want to ride her bike a hell of a long way to raise money to help people who are sick. Goodness, such an amazing light you are on this planet. Be well. Rest. Recover. Truly, it is alright to give yourself time to recover. You have been through something worse than childbirth, and that you have done three times!

  74. There you’ve gone and done it again – made me cry!!!

    And cry in front of my husband who I was reading your post too. Thankfully he understands me and why I cry. I cry because I’m deeply touched by your words, however they may fly. Your deep descriptive words touched me so hard as to make me cry.

    Thank you for making the choice to stay on your bike. You may not know it, but through your words I was right there with you – all the way!

  75. I am SO proud of you, Stephanie!!! I’m getting ready for another operation on my leg (injured in a collision with a semi when I was seventeen.) After 38 years, I’ve been getting ready for surgery #18–an ankle replacement–and found out last week that #18–before the ankle–will probably have to be a knee replacement on the same leg. I’ve been looking for some courage, and found a lot of it in reading your post. Awesome commitment!!

  76. Wow. Stephanie, beautifully said!! I have been doing this for a number of years and have never read an account so poignant…thank you. If you are ok I would like share the link to this story on my thank you to my sponsors.

    And needless to say, from someone who took the bus Monday, big big kudos for cycling. I initially felt bad being on the bus…but I was not confident enough to do it.

    Peace,
    Renzo

  77. I usually lurk, reading your blog faithfully, but not commenting. I must come out of hiding now to say how very much this post has touched me. You are an inspiration, and I admire your strength and dedication in doing this extremely hard thing to help make the world a better place.

  78. Crying. Wow. I am so glad I donated! Thank you. I am so proud of you! Your ride is truly an inspiration for me to keep going through the hard parts for a good cause, to make a difference. Thank you again. All my other words to describe how I feel about this post, and what you’ve done, are like
    birds too.

  79. You and your team should feel very proud of your accomplishment and thank you for sharing it with all of us. I was touched and have to admit like many others I cried while reading it! I am very proud to be a knitter and to be Canadian. Your entire team are heroes! Way to go! :)

  80. Just for the record, in the trucks would have been the worst place to go in the event of a tornado. Stretched out flat on the ground would have been better. I live in Central Oklahoma, just South of Moore which has been major tornado headquarters the last few years. We know tornadoes here. Truck would have been really, really bad idea.

    Glad you are safe. You have more dogged stubbornness than I do. That’s for sure.

    • Ditto. When I read that I thought, they have no idea what they are talking about! In the truck would have been the worst place for you! Western Kansas Girl…not far from Moore.

  81. You and Jen are amazing! I am so humbled to be even a small part of this whole experience. You are an inspiration to keep going in spite of all the odds. Thank you!!!

  82. I am proud to know you, Stephanie. I will remember what you accomplished the next time someone offers me a “ride on the bus.” May I be as strong as you are the next time I need to be ~

  83. Congratulations to you and to the whole team on one tough ride! I will repeat the story of your ride to the next person that tells me that knitters are old ladies with bad feet.

    However, I would never have questioned you for taking the bus. That is why the Power provided the bus.

  84. You are amazing! Not much more to say. Inspiring and wonderful and amazing. Congratulations!! This will be an accomplishment you will remember always.

  85. You know what? You are amazing, and so inspiring! On so many things, I recognize myself in you (parenting, knitting, housework, travel…), and then there is the rally, and I wonder… Could I ever be able to do something like this? And every year when I read the final post I think… Maybe. Some day. And just that is amazing! I hope I’ll have the courage to do something like that one day.

  86. Oh wow. Stephanie, you and Jen and everyone who chose to do this and finish it, totally rock. I cried just reading this post. For what its worth, I hope that squirrel had really bad tummy rot after eating your saddle.

  87. I’ve zoomed past what must be many wonderful, clever, and perfect comments – I thought I might be too intimidated to post my own, fearing that everything that needed saying had already been said. However, I must speak – that was incredible. Such an inspiration. I don’t know how you did it. Bravo!! Wow! Thank you for what you did, and for taking the time, even though exhausted, to share this experience with us, your humble blog, who sometimes sit like slugs waiting for you to entertain us again. I hope this stays with me for some long time to come! This has helped to fuel my enthusiasm and determination to do what I know can be done in my small circle of influence. Again, thank you. I’d like to make another donation – can it still be done?

  88. Brava, Stephanie! Your courage and Jen’s (and all the others) honors the courage of those for whom you rode. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

  89. Of course you finished. I don’t think any of us doubted you for a moment. :). In the words of Jimmy Dugan, “The HARD is what makes it great”.

  90. Congratulations to you and your team and everyone who participated in the ride! Although I have no idea what it is like to do such a long ride day after day, I did a charity ride that was (only!) 100 miles in one day, and the second 50 miles was in rain. Plus hills. When we got to the end of the route, after riding all day, we learned that the route designers had erred and the route was less than 100 miles. So we turned around and went back down the road to ride the extra distance, because we were there to ride 100 miles, despite the rain. So I absolutely understand turning down that bus ride, and hope that I can be as brave and strong as you and Jen if put to the test.

  91. Stephanie, if you posted that you were going to ride the bus the entire way from Toronto to Montreal to raise funds for this worthy cause, I would donate. You are an amazing person. We are so fortunate that you choose to share your life with us.

  92. You glorious woman, you! Congratulations on struggling through it, not for yourself, but for everyone else.
    I am very glad to know you through this blog- you make me strive to achieve better things (and to knit better, too). Never have I known a bigger source of inspiration than your own adventures.

  93. Thank you, Stephanie. Well done. I know I would have been on the bus, everyday. I’ve done those kind of rides and the rain and bad weather is so demoralizing. You’re a tough one. And a softie as we all know. Nice combination!

  94. Like everyone else I cried too when I read this… I’ve had a tiny taste when I once went on a 100K bike ride and that last 5K was done on pure willpower, refusing the sag wagon’s offer of a lift… but that was just one day, ridden in the bright California sunshine. I’m going to bookmark this day’s blog and read it over every time things get especially hard and think of you choosing to go on… and I’m also going to think of Amanda and Pato and their wisdom in deciding to take the bus for the one day so that they would be able to finish the ride… and figure out which I should do in my circumstances, keep going (even with tears), or realize it would be wiser to stop for a bit so that I’ll be able to go on later. Bless you for doing this ride, and bless you for writing this blog and sharing it with all of us. You make a difference to so very many people.

  95. You are amazing! Your team is also amazing! I have learned so much reading your books and the blog – and now this last post just leaves me teary and ever so proud of you and your team! Be proud of your accomplishment and get a nap or two or three! My needles are raised in salute to you!

  96. I would not have felt cheated one bit if you had taken the bus. But that just is not you. Or Jen. Your team is amazing. I am proud to have been a tiny part of the whole thing; I feel like I have helped someone out there in the world and that is a priceless feeling. You are responsible for making all of us a part of the rally even though you guys had the really wet, nasty part and we got to stay dry but still help out! Thank you to the whole team.

  97. And ooh Lordy…I just cried reading this. Thank you. For being a fierce middle aged lady who can change the world. Serious respect.

  98. Congratulations. You know, reading the posts leading up to the rally, I thought how good you were at painting yourself as a very ordinary person, for whom bike riding was sort of a thing you kind of decided to do but which you weren’t terribly good at and which featured in your life primarily as something that was always frustratingly getting in the way of your knitting. But about a week before the rally, I suddenly realized that this was a total sham, and that you were, in fact, a serious, BAD ASS bike rider. I am glad that, if you didn’t know it before, you know it now.

  99. “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” -Dr. Seuss

    Amen.

  100. I think you caught enough of the birds there Steph. It’s not that we would have thought less of you for taking the bus but that YOU would have thought less of you. There’s nothing like being your own worse critic.

    Congratulations on being the other side of it for another year.

  101. Wow wow wow. You are amazing. I’ve been climbing mountains recently, and I know only too well the feeling of soul-crushing exhaustion when you start crying because it’s all too much and you’re too tired and you just want to be DONE but you keep going.

    But I didn’t have to do that several days in a row, on zero sleep. I’m not sure I could. Amazing. You are amazing. Congratulations.

  102. A big strong hug for you and each member of your team! Thank you for caring about people, for working hard to make a difference and for inspiring all of us to push on a little farther in our quest to be better humans.

  103. Congratulations! To all of you! I am so very very impressed with the stamina and will power it takes to do something like this. I also have to admit that I was worried. I kept checking the weather reports last week for your neck of the woods and I was worried.

    And then on Monday I checked your blog and Tuesday and I was so worried. And now, I cried. I am so glad you are all safe and warm and dry.

    Kudos to all of you.

  104. Is there another good word for “You’re an inspiration?” “You” in this case meaning all of you, your whole little family team. What’s most beautiful to me is that you chose to do this ride, inspiring us to generosity, in turn inspiring you to do the most difficult thing you’ve ever done, in turn inspiring us to…be better people, or do something hard. One step (one pedal), one stitch at a time.

  105. I bought a bicycle last year and started riding around my neighborhood. On my best day I rode 13 miles. Then I crashed and have been afraid to get back into it… I can not even imagine what you went through. Good on you for sticking it out! But please know from somebody who donated to your team I would like you to know, it would have been OK with me if you had taken the bus.

  106. What an experience! Congratulations to all of you! Just reading about it makes me a bit misty-eyed. Thanks for doing the ride, and for sharing your adventure!

  107. Amazing and inspiring! Well done you, Jen and the whole team. That was a very tough one. You have written well about it and from the first paragraph I was reminded of Anne Lamott’s father’s advice: “Bird by bird, buddy.”

  108. I’m crying in my office just reading this. I love that you do this every year and I love how tough and amazing you are. Congratulations on this fantastic accomplishment!

  109. Stephanie, You and Jen are truly my heroes! What an amazing example you and all the good folks you rode with and who supported your truly amazing feat (& feet!) set for your children and all the other people who read about or hear of your humanitarian efforts. Now PLEASE rest, restore, & revive. Your fiber await your creative energy.
    Long distance hugs and love to you,
    Linda B
    NJ, USA

  110. Yeah Stephanie! And everyone else who participated in the rally. Good for you. It is amazing what you learn about yourself during seriously challenging times! Now rest, relax and enjoy the afterglow of your achievement.

  111. The courage you and your fellow riders needed on this journey compliments the courage people with AIDS, and their families, need to face each day.
    You honour their journey with your commitment to them and you honour us with the opportunity to be involved.
    May your body heal quickly because your spirit is in amazing shape!

  112. I too, am lurker, who derives much pleasure from reading about your exploits, but have never dipped my toe in the the sea of comments that you receive. Today I have to comment. The selflessness that you have demonstrated and the grit & determination are traits that we should all aspire to and I stand in awe of your achievement and that of your team.

  113. Oh my, I’ve just cried along with you. Congratulations to all of you! You so deserve all the accolades that come your way. I’m so impressed by your devotion to the cause and your stellar attitude and guts. Remember, crying just relieves the stress of a situation. It, in fact, made you stronger. Well done.

  114. WOW!….That’s all I’ve got…..WOW. Except to say I wish I was as brave and determined as you….you’re my heroine!

  115. Stephanie, you and your team are heroes. I do understand what you mean when you say that optional hard things are harder than obligatory hard things.

    You guys are awesome. Thank you for doing this.

  116. You & the team are amazing. I’ve had the utmost respect for you for a long time, but now I’m in awe of you, Jen & the rest of the gang. Congratulations & enjoy those beers when you wake up from your well deserved naps!

  117. Pingback: How was it? Could I do it? Reflections on the bike rally | Fit Is a Feminist Issue

  118. Wow – your team, and you and Jen in particular, are amazing. I’m tearing up as I write this. You are an inspiration to all of us and during times when we’re a little down (this week was hard for me – my Mom’s mind is failing and I’m moving to Utah help my brother take care of her, leaving my friends and “family” of more than 35 years), your blog reminds me that there are friends and family everywhere. Salt Lake City will be an adventure and they’ve got great knitters there. You rock, Steph – and you’re right, we totally would have understood if you had skipped the hard bits. I admire you so much for blasting through it. Much much love to all of your team and all of the riders.

  119. I sent this to a friend yesterday because she’s going through a difficult time and then I read this blog and it applies perfectly as well:

    “Anyone can give up, it’s the easiest thing in the world to do. But to hold it together when everyone else would understand if you fell apart, that’s true strength.”
    -Unknown Author

    Stephanie and all the other riders – you inspire me, you fill me with gratitude and joy and amazement for all you did. I cannot even comprehend the struggle this must have been to complete. But you did. You guys are incredible!! Love you all. <3

    • YES. That quote is perfect for this post, and resonates with me for so many reasons.
      Stephanie: you’re phenomenal. It’s so much freaking harder to persevere when the chance to collapse is offered; it’s simply force of will, because there’s nothing else left. My deepest respects to you and your whole teamfamily.

  120. Like so many others, this post made me cry and my heart break wide open–to know there are so many good people giving their very best to make the world better for each other and strangers, in the most trying of circumstances.

    You’re a force of good and inspiration (and all the rally members, too). Thank you for sharing your life with us–it’s an honour and a pleasure. Raising my needles and glass to you.

  121. Stephanie: Very well done! As I was reading your post, I couldn’t help but think about the people this event is meant to help. Unfortunately, they don’t have the option ‘to take the bus’. Hats off to everyone on your team. It is an amazing accomplishment!!! The sun is shining a little brighter on your corner of the world.

  122. Thanks. I am proud to have contributed a pittance to your team and I am moved by the selflessness of you sharing your struggles with The Blog. You have reminded me during a time when I’m doubting myself that I am a strong woman and I’ll get through my trying time too. Thanks.

    I am absolutely a fan of your lady bike cop. “Saddle Up Ladies” should be embroidered on everyone’s heart. Bet she’s a knitter; knitters are good at picking up their friends in crisis and helping them stay the course. Maybe a gel-cushioned bike seat would be good for a while?

  123. I’m not even going to say ‘wow’ or ‘congratulations’. There are a few defining moments in our lives when we get to see who we really are, and what we’re really made of, and what we really stand for. You just had one. I hope you enjoy your moment to be proud.

  124. You are an absolute hero! I thought about you all week from England and think you are a total inspiration! Happy knitting! X

  125. You know that all of the difficulty was due to the squirrel, right? He/she threw your mojo off. I hope that the creatures lives an even shorter life than their normal time on this earth……..

    But then again, the squirrel caused the first round of toughening. So maybe he/she did their heinous job well.

    Can we have close-ups again this year of the men in red dresses? This always cracks me up…..

    You looked so healthy and athletic at the end. Not to mention a heavy dose of “I’m a woman. Hear me roar.”

    Congrats! And I feel like I’m a part of the top fundraiser jerseys since I gave!!! They’re pretty and colorful and perfect for knitters.

  126. Holy crap! You, my friend, rock the casbah and then some! That is TOTALLY how you do it! Now have another nap, and yarn, and beer, or coffee.

  127. Stephanie… You have always inspired me and this makes it even more inspiring. I am proud to be your student and friend and supporter. I cried reading it.

  128. “Ride, or skip it, and be warm and dry and clean. I stood there, wet, and cold, and muddy and I took about nine deep breaths.”

    To a confirmed non-athlete like me, it seems that riding one’s bike longer distances than I’d be willing to drive without complaint while camping out in any rain WHATSOEVER is already firmly on the side of insanity, so there’s no point to being reasonable once you’re in it that far. Go take another nap. :-)

  129. A few years ago I did a Susan G. Komen Three-Day in the rain so I have an inkling of what it was like for you. The whole lot of you is just awesome.

  130. Thank You, Stephanie and Jen, for being wonderful and very inspiring role models. You exemplify what it means to have “True Grit.” I am both humbled and awed by your tenacity and perservence.

    Also, I agree with previous commentators that the expression “Saddle up, Ladies” should enter our psyches. I know that the next time I start to think the world is giving me a raw deal, I am going to remember that “Saddle up” is just the beginning, and that to “stay the course” and “finish the route,” I have to keep my butt in the saddle and just keep pedalling. And I will count my blessings that whatever I am up against, it isn’t riding a bike uphill into the wind and cold rain!

  131. Sincere congratulations – - – you are indeed an inspiration! Thank you and thanks to Liz Suh – I’ve sent a note to her for the gorgeous Rowan Truesilk. Now to find an appropriate, deserving pattern! I see a few by Martin Storey……Hmmmm…. :D

  132. As a long-time lurker I had to post to say thank you for sharing such a motivational story. I can’t even begin to imagine how ghastly the ride was despite your extraordinarily descriptive writing, but I do understand the awfulness of the choice of the ride in the bus and having guts to get back on your bike to make sure that the ride was “complete”. SADDLE UP LADIES! will be written on the whiteboard at work as a reminder that sometimes the easy choice is not always the best.

    Huge respect to the whole team

  133. Thanks so much for your posting today. I would have understood if you’d taken the bus. Kudos to your police motorcycle escort (if she’s reading this).

    Your writing was the inspiration I needed to head out the door this morning on my new touring bike. After riding an upright bike for years (due to a neck injury), I bought a touring bike 10 days ago and have been working to increase my neck and thoracic spine posture for progressively longer distances. My planned for today was a bit intimidating and I was procrastinating reading blog posts. Yours inspired me to head out. I’m happy to report today’s ride was a success. Thanks, Stephanie!

  134. The pledging part of this sort of got away from me this year (don’t ask) but the first day of the ride, when I knew it was going to rain/storm, I got it together to pledge. I hate the rain, not to mention storms and my heart was so with you on those torrential days. Now that I’ve read this post I realize that I had no idea how truly awful it was. Thank you so much for riding for the rest of us and thank you so much for writing so eloquently about the massive difficulties. Sleep tight….

  135. Stephanie,
    If you had gotten on the bus, it would have haunted you forever. Congratulations is not enough of a word to express my feelings after reading this blog. You and your team are true heroes.

  136. No words just…wow!
    Now I am off to the gym for a double workout overwhelmed by yesterday’s events but doing today anyway.
    How can I not, after reading your accomplishment?
    Blessings.

  137. I know it’s been said many times in these comments, but you are amazing and fantastic and a hell of an inspiration. And I cried when I read this. Way to go Steph, Jen, and the rest of your team–you guys are amazing!

  138. I haven’t read all these heartfelt comments and just want to say, if it hasn’t already, that if donations aren’t what you need them to be next year…
    Just link something to this post.
    Wow.
    You. Are. Awesome.

  139. Stephanie- I only know you from your books, and your blog, and you would not know me from Eve if we met, but….right now I am so proud of you and your team I could just burst! Eyes are wet, because even though I have not done a ride like yours, your story brings back memories of hard things that I chose to do in my own life. Bravo and well done!!! Enjoy your nap and your knitting.

  140. You made me cry today. I’ve done the long hard rides. I’ve been where the wind is so strong that if you stop pedaling you roll backwards. I’ve tried to sleep through storms that knock tents down. And I’ve had to put on wet clothes and carry wet gear to ride in the rain. Again. Yet none of my rides hold a candle to what you accomplished on that ride! I’m proud to have contributed to your team, and I’m proud of you guys for pushing through and being what we call EFI (Every F-ing Inch) riders. Congratulations!

  141. You caught the birds. And your extraordinary efforts (bird catching, riding, rainy nights in a tent – gawd!, and difficult choices) MATTER. And thank you.

  142. Somewhere in Toronto someone knows someone who knows who that marvelous police woman is. It would be wonderful if she could be identified and thanked personally for her contribution to your amazing journey. At the very least she deserves a pair of hand knit socks…or three…or a gazillion.

  143. If those words were the birds, then no wonder you’re able to rally us all so magnificently when you turn on the eloquence. I’m glad to live in the same world as people that have your and your team’s degree of determination and compassion. You’re one of the brilliant sparks, thanks for bringing us all along for the ride.

  144. That one picture of you and Jen – you are two badass chicks I never want to meet in a dark alley! And then I read the story. You guys OWNED that day and this rally! Congrats!

  145. Have never seen a finer, more lyrical flock of birds…
    I predicted I would cry a few times during the rally, because the last two times you posted during the ride. This time, I worried, I watched for posts, I followed your tweets and Instagrams, but they were so brief… And now, today, I have cried enough for several eloquent posts.
    You are my hero. Your co-captain and your team are also my heroes. I stand in awe and admiration. The next time I am lucky enough to be somewhere that you are, I’ll burble with devotion (again), and there will also be tears in my eyes.

  146. You and your team are simply amazing! Your post brought tears to my eyes and I am still crying as I write this. Well done!

  147. I listened to a podcast about champions today and the first story was about Diana Nyad who swam from Cuba to the US last year. It was her 5th attempt. Her story wasn’t about a champion just being the best at something, it was about not giving up. It was about continuing to try. In anyone’s book, you are a true champion.

  148. I am so humbled by what all of you did for those who so need our help.
    You, Stephanie, are a woman of great courage, I applaud you and admire you.
    Thank you.

  149. Congratulations! You are an inspiration (and for the record, no one would have thought you had taken the easy route by taking the bus)!

  150. I’m so happy for you that you persevered through the ride and finished the journey. I know it sounds all “crazy motivational speaker” but these experiences really do make you stronger, make you believe that much more in yourself and make you take more risks in the future. I say GOOD FOR YOU!! and especially, good for all of the people with aids that you are helping! Brava!!

  151. What an incredible ride. Reading your post, I remembered all those tough times I’ve had in the rain on the bike – it is not easy, and you two are clearly made of tough stuff to stick to the ride. Thanks so much for sharing. One of these days I’d love to do the ride too.

  152. Oh my gosh! That is one of your best stories ever! It’s not even 8 am where I am and I’m crying! You’re a wonderful person and Jen sounds fantastic too! Cheers!

  153. Oh my gosh, I cried, too, to read this. I am so impressed by you all. (Next time, take the bus – you’ll still be awesome and we’ll still donate.)

  154. Well I thought I’d had a bad day yesterday and then I read this and I realised I really hadn’t had a bad day at all. So now when things get to me I will bring up the image of you struggling with the hills in the rain and then the image of you with your cycle over your head and I will believe that everything will be OK

  155. Made me cry too. Congratulations on completing the rally, and giving yourself (and us) an example of strength and courage. Congratulations to the whole family/team/rally as well.

  156. I don’t normally comment and I’m days late on it but this post brought me to tears. Tears of sympathy and pride for you. I don’t have enough words to tell you how amazing you guys are, but thank you for doing so much good!

  157. You are a rock star! Thanks for sharing this wonderful, epic accomplishment with all of the rest of us! Your post made me cry. I’m so happy that you were able to complete your quest safely. You and your team are an inspiration!

  158. Just last week I was reading the essay in your new book about how hard it was learning to ride a bike where you shoes clipped on to the pedals and all the falls you took. Now I read this and (as much as I hate that the phrase came from a cigarette commercial) “You’ve come a long way, baby!” We knitters all know that the most magnificent project happens one simple stitch at a time. This inspiring, amazing bike ride was just like that: one push on the pedal at a time. You rock!

  159. Wow! You ROCK! You all ROCK! This post was so inspiring and, though I know you don’t know me, I’m so darn proud of you! What an amazing experience. Thank you for sharing it with us.

  160. Fierce. In your dedication, perseverance and love.

    Thank you for inspiring others. You chose to do the hard thing to make the world a place where people care for one another, even when it is means it is crazy hard to do so.

    Fierce.

    So glad you are in the world.
    ~Yet Another Jenn

  161. Wow. Just….wow. To all of you for what you do, and to you and Jen for taking on such a day. The words are like birds here as well after reading that.

  162. That is some amazing pain to put up with. Stupid weather. I’m sure I would have bailed (I did bail on a personal cycling challenge this summer from exhaustion/pain/sunburn).

  163. All I can say is that you and your team are AMAZING! The fact that you kept on with all of the horrible weather just shows your dedication. I don’t think any of us would have been disappointed if you had taken that bus. I know that’s what I would have done. Here is a big HORRAY to all of you. You now deserve a big rest!

  164. Could we take a poll and see how many of us were in tears at the end of your blog? I know many of us have mentioned the tears. Tears of joy for your amazing perseverance in life even if it was “just a bike ride”(ha), for showing us that we all can be strong and work for good and each thing we do has an amazing ripple effect. I am proud to be part of your support team and will try to find something to do that makes the world a better place and invites others to do so too. Hugs, massages, hot drinks and dry socks and skies. I toast you and your team. Oh and I loved loved the pic of the beer carryout!

  165. Good on y’all for pushing through it all and being the winners we all know that you are individually, and as a team! Thanks for being such great human beings by putting your pain, fear and frustrations aside to help other human beings that have no choice with a horrific illness.

  166. At our karate dojo, the definition of warrior is “one who serves”. You, Jen, your team and all of the rally riders are definitely warriors.

  167. Tears in my noodles. You, Yarn Harlot, and the people you surround yourself with, are truly an inspiration. And at other times, you’re just another regular person. That’s what makes you all the more special. Thank you for being you, and for sharing all this with us. *Big hugs*

  168. Stephanie, I hope you find some time to read all the comments left for you here. Of all the things you have done to inspire me to be more cheerful, knit more, manage my time better – this has inspired me to all of it, but in a very logarithmic way, more than multiplied, more than exponential. Sometimes I just have to be brave and survive, but now the challenge to be brave when I have the choice to quit . . . thank you. I hope you get your very well-deserved rest.

  169. We’re all so proud of you, Stephanie. Of you, everyone on the team, every last one in the rally. You’re all an inspiration. Thanks for doing it, and for writing about it.

  170. Those words certainly didn’t escape you – you said it all beautifully and had me tearing up several times. I think you did way more than our donations asked you to and I admire your dedication to this cause (and to us, your supporters). You are just the best.

  171. I’ve read about everything you’ve ever written and nothing has moved me quite like this did. Thank you for being so honest in the telling, and thank you for the doing even more. The only reason I didn’t donate was because I didn’t have much and I gave what there was to Doctors Without Borders … Had to do that after some folks here in the US were hateful about those with Ebola being brought here for treatment. The donation was my form of Karmic balancing.

  172. Steph, I am so proud of you and your team. I cycle to work, (only 14 miles one way) and I know the misery of cycling in the rain. Shoes slosh with rain, clothes never dry out between rides. One year we had rain every day in May. My shoes never dried out. Pulling on still-wet riding shorts at the end of the day was the equivalent of pulling on a wet bathing suit , without the promise of a warm pool. Glad Jen was able to fix her seat– mine once actually snapped off from the post. Another time my handle bars snapped off. Fun times! (Not)

  173. eGads, I am crying…and the tears are making the wooly bits stick to me :) Bravo you two – the choosing is all heart. Really…you do reach and grow and reach and grow. Inspirational! Bravo team. Thank you for making a difference.

  174. I have read this post through, entirely, three times. Thank you for being an inspiration. Thank you for your words, your time, & your commitment to humanity. This week your strength has helped me re-gain my own. Knit away, my friend.

  175. Your word-birds have made me cry (again). What an experience! What dedication! Thank you, thank you, for ALL you do. You are an inspiration (and a damn good writer)!

  176. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your account of a grueling ride in the rain. It definitely takes determination to keep going under such extreme conditions. I especially liked your ‘frowning/sad’ selfie contrasted to your ‘happy/smiling’ selfie at the end. I also recognize Samantha B. in the background of your happy photo. We cycled together in the past with the LCW. Thanks for sharing this story. B.

  177. Pingback: a way with words | klhodgkiss

  178. I don’t comment often, but I just had to say… I am so thankful I read this tonight. You see, I’m registered for a 5k tomorrow. It’ll be my 2nd one ever (though I’ve done 2 4miler’s) and there’s a 90% chance of rain tomorrow. I had been thinking if they didn’t cancel it I probably just wouldn’t go. Now I’m praying they don’t cancel it so I can participate even if it’s pouring.
    *hugs to you* You always say the right things :)

  179. Stephanie, you are amazing! Your post has me so… emotional (my birds have left too, I think). I’m so proud of you for choosing the bike and not the bus – I completely understand how that is the hardest choice ever (and the crappy one).

  180. Thank you so much for this story. It made me cry, in the best way possible.
    Congratulations on finishing it. And for being such an amazing bad ass.

  181. Pingback: The Purly Ewe » A Hug to Remember

  182. Wow. This is so inspirational. It should have come with a kleenex warning though as I teared up more than once reading this. Yes, no one offers us a ride through the hard bits of life (although I sure wish they would sometimes…). Good on all of you.. Brilliant!

  183. I’ve read this four, five, six times now and I *still* don’t know how to respond; I’m totally in awe of the whole team. Keep knitting, keep cycling & happy catching up on sleep!

  184. Maybe this is corny but I really need you to know that I really look up to you and admire you for so many reasons. You are amazingly strong in spirit and in your convictions. You seem to be a truly remarkable parent who has managed to raise three truly remarkable girls. You have such a wonderful way of looking at things and at the world. You have an amazing sense of humor and can and are willing to laugh at yourself. You’re a successful writer with several fantastic books to your name. And you are one of the most skilful knitters with the most beautiful projects under you belt. I can’t help but admire you and be very inspired by you. Just… thank you. I can’t even begin to imagine how hard this really is and you did it. You and your team rode in the most horrendous conditions and you did it to benefit people you’ll never meet. Wow.

  185. Reading this late due to being on vacation. I cried reading this post, I was so touched. You and Jen are amazing! Congratulations on the top fundraising and for really riding that rally, in horrible conditions.

  186. Well I just blubbered through that post. Good for you, it’s always inspiring to hear about how people tab their inner reserves to accomplish something amazing.

  187. Pingback: On fundraising, karma and Elfbaby luck | Woolly thoughts (and fuzzy logic)

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