peter birckhead

Peter Birckhead and the MS150
By Peter

Thanks to all you who donated to MS. With your help I have now completed my 4th MS 150 Bike Ride from Houston to Austin, TX. With our tough economy I am privileged to have such a supportive group of family and friends. I especially want to thank those of you that have supported me all four years I have done this ride. Without you I can not reach my annual fund raising goal and the cure for MS would be that much farther away. When it is all said and done (June 1 final deadline) I will probably be, for the 4th year in a row, one of the top raisers on the Shell Team of 300+ riders and in the top 300 of all 13,500 riders. Again many thanks for helping me make this possible!

The ride this year was one of change and differences. The first being, Bob, my 4 year riding companion decided he was only going to ride Day #1 from Houston to LaGrange, site of our over night stop. While riding only Day #1 and 100 miles is nothing to turn your noise up to, it is not the same as riding 100 miles on Day #1 followed by riding 90 miles on Day #2. Secondly, Bob had not feeling to well for the past two weeks so instead of taking turns drafting off each other like we have done in past I had do to all of the pulling (first rider breaking wind pulling all riders behind them). So in other words I had to drag Bob?s ass about 70 miles of the 100 miles to LaGrange. Actually it wasn?t that bad and I should be more thankful he decided to ride at all. Sorry Bob for the harsh words. You know I appreciate you joining me! At mile 70 I told Bob I would see him in LaGrange and I started to ride faster.

Now to begin the story about the ride. Bob and I in the dark at 5:30 AM at the Shell compound parking lot in West Houston getting ready to hit the road with 300 + other Shell Team riders and over 13,500+ other riders in Houston. It had been raining most the night before so the streets were slick and precautionary warnings we out. Another change and due to construction our normal staging area for our start had to be move this year so we ended waiting in line to be released in waves with 5 other large corporate teams. By the time we got on the road it was after 7 AM, a full 30 minutes later than prior years. While we started out in a very light drizzle the weather was starting to clear and it turned out to be a mostly cloudy day with little wind and temperatures in the mid to high 70?s In other words good riding weather. This year instead of blasting our way toward La Grange Bob and I, with other Shell riders, took our time and were more cautious due to slick roads and lots of people having flats. Yes, another major difference this year, a lot more flat tires. When roads are wet bike tires tend to pick up small pieces of trash which sticks to the tire and eventually works it way through the tire to cause flats. It seemed like someone was experiencing a flat every 2 to 3 miles down the road. With this occurring riders were slowing down and pulling off the road all over the place. With slick roads and crowed conditions this is a receipt for accidents.

Once out of Houston city limits we made our way to Belleville, site of lunch for Day #1. While in Belleville we stopped by the Shell tent and were greeted by Shell volunteers. We had our lunch and headed to La Grange, another 50 miles or so.

On the way to LaGrange we encountered our first bad accident. Again more differences in this years ride. This was the first time I had seen the aftermath of a really bad accident where multiple riders were involved and one rider had to be taken to a hospital on a stretcher. Apparently rider #1 stopped due to a flat, did not get out of the way in time, and was struck by two or three riders behind her. Although most riders go through safety training classes these types of accidents occur when you have so many riders in a concentrated area.

Luckily neither Bob nor I had any flats or were involved in any accidents as we completed our way to LaGrange. However just outside of LaGrange one of the riders on the Shell Team was struck by a police car traveling at a high speed on the wrong side of the road. Luckily the rider was only grazed and walked away with torn up bike shorts and a mild cut on his arm. There was so much crazy stuff going you couldn?t even count on the police to be safe!

Since I had left Bob behind at mile 70 I arrived in LaGrange earlier then he did. Once there I got my stuff and secured my place in the corporate Shell tent for the night. In the past I have always stayed in the conference center on the fair grounds but because I got into LaGrange a lot later this year the conference center had ?no room at the Inn?. Gwen, who dropped Bob and me off at the start in Houston, drove to LaGrange to meet us and give Bob a ride to Austin. Before Bob and Gwen headed to Austin I treated them to snacks and ice cream at the Club 300 Social that was held in the new Czech Heritage Museum. Each year the MS Society hosts a special social gathering of all Club 300 members in LaGrange. After the social Bob and Gwen headed out to Austin and I returned to the Shell tent to rest and socialize. That evening, I was able to wear my ?Tour d? France? tee shirt. This was given to me by my good friend and supporter Ron Morgan who picked it up while vacationing in Paris last year. Thanks again Ron as this is the perfect T shirt for this event.

Early and dark the next morning, Sunday, I headed out with other Club 300 members to our special starting area. One of the best perks of being in Club 300 (top fund raisers) is being able to leave the LaGrange County Fair Grounds first and ahead of 13,500 other riders trying to get on a two lane road. Since Bob was no longer riding me with and I had somewhat of a competition going with Afif (Shell Team Captain and probably 10 years younger than me) as to you could reach Austin first I decided to ride like the wind and go non stop 90 miles to Austin except for one photo stop and one water bottle fill up.

There were 5 official MS ?Break Points? between LaGrange and Austin. I passed all of them by except for one just before Bushnell State Park to take a picture. The 15 miles through Bushnell State Park are the best and some of the toughest 15 miles of the ride due to step inclines and descents one after the other. Once leaving the state park area I made it to Bastrop, Texas in record time. Bastrop is only 32 miles outside of Austin. So with a little over 30 miles to go to reach the finish line at the Texas State Capital Building I blasted out of Bastrop and never looked back. I continued to pass riders the entire way. I was feeling good and calculated I could get to Austin by 12:45 or a full 30 minutes faster than my best time.

I arrived in Austin at 12:43, a record for me, but 10 minutes behind Afif. I proceed to the Shell tent where I was greeted by Bob and Gwen. I got cleaned up at the portable shower facilities and we headed to another Club 300 social being held at the Bob Bullock Museum with balconies overlooking the ride finish. We enjoyed some great food, said hello to fellow Club 300 members and headed out to Houston.

This year instead of heading directly back to Houston we made a detour and stopped by Bob?s son?s John?s, chicken farm in Rosanky, Texas, about 30 miles outside of Austin. John sells eggs from organically fed layer chickens. Based on my discussions with John and rough calculations John is striving to sell 3.5 million eggs a year some day!!!

We finally arrived back in Houston around 8 PM. I proceed to clean my bike and get some sleep.

Like I said in the beginning it was all about change and differences this year but as with my last 3 rides I once again had the time of my life and can?t wait until next year. So be looking for my email next year as I hope you will all support me again in this great cause.


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