Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Experience of a Lifetime

The entire weekend, from the time we arrived in San Francisco, to the time we arrived back in Knoxville was truly a memory of a lifetime. When Jessica and I set out on this trek back in February we knew it would be tough but we didn't know truly how challenging, time consuming, yet rewarding that it would be. The entire journey was much like many diseases, including diabetes, in that you have good days, bad days, and from time to time, a learning experience.

We arrived in Sonoma County in a Chevy HHR rental car. It was a cross between a flintstone car, a Pontiac Aztec, and something out of a Bugs Bunny cartoon. Quite the site. We didn't make it up to Santa Rosa until around 3:30pm PT. We immediately checked in with the hotel and with JDRF, took our bags to the room, and took a quick dip in the pool. At 6:30pm we had a welcome reception and dinner. However, our first day in wine country would not be complete without a wine tasting of course! After dinner we hit up the frosty freeze in Santa Rosa for two milk shakes and then our favorite grocery store, Safeway, for lots of bottled water and snacks for the weekend. We were in bed by 9:30pm that night....a long day of traveling.

Friday morning started with breakfast, a mandatory safety meeting with the entire Sonoma Ride team and then a tune-up ride. The tune-up ride was only about 2 miles but was crucial for us to work out the kinks with our bikes since they had been FedExed over 2500 miles in a cardboard box. I must say that the staff in the bike room from Velo Cycles was incredible! The rest of Friday was free to explore the area until dinner time. We went into Healdsburg, a great little town north of Santa Rosa. We had lunch at Zin and enjoyed the best fried green beans imaginable! We "pushed our lunch down" with a little organic yogurt from a place on the Healdsburg Square called Snowbunny. Excellent!

When we got back from being out for the afternoon, there was a motivating "thank you" package in front of our hotel room door from diabetic children in the local JDRF chapter. That package certainly helped put things in perspective. Friday closed out with a pre-ride celebration dinner full of carbs and a few awards. The main award of the night went to a woman who is the mother of a diabetic and is also an aerobics instructor. She was the top fundraiser for the event and personally raised over $120,000. Truly awesome. We tried to relax after dinner, continue to hydrate, and then quiet our nerves in preparation for the next day's ride.

Saturday morning came really early as we were up at 'em by 5:30am. Breakfast happened for us at 6:00am although we were not very hungry since we were so nervous for the day ahead. At 6:20am we headed back to the hotel room to gear up and then we were at the start line in time for the National Anthem at 6:50am. By 7:05am, we had crossed the start line and were on the road. The day ahead really could not be put into words. Every single person on the ride was there for one reason, to help the cause to find a cure for diabetes and its complications.

The ride was tough, really tough. It was full of blood, sweat, and tears, literally. There was the time at 50 miles when we didn't know if we could make it another mile and that is when we met two guys who carried us for the duration of the day. Thomas Anderson and David Nestvold are the reason that we were able to continue the ride. David is a JDRF Ride coach (diabetic himself) who works for Boeing in Seattle. Thomas is the father of a diabetic and is a bank executive in Cleveland, OH. From around the 50 mile mark that day, The Shafer Ten Year Team doubled in size.

The four of us pushed each other the rest of Saturday afternoon. The hills were steep, the temperatures reached over 100 degrees, and the terrain was desolate. We both drank gallons of water, Gatorade, and heed. We ate pounds of fruit, sandwiches, pretzels, and pickles. Finally, around 5:30pm, we crossed the finish line. It was a very trying day for both Jessica and me. Jessica unfortunately started to dehydrate around 95 miles but we were able to cross the finish line together. We had come a long way that day but more importantly, I hope that we made a difference in the fight for a cure.

Saturday night, I could not have been prouder as Jessica received one of the red polka dot (see pictures) ride jerseys as one of the "spirit award" winners. Our coach, David Nestvold, awarded Jessica with the jersey for her perseverance on ride day but also for her love that she showed over the last few months by training with me for this ride. However, the biggest note that David emphasized was that as a diabetic, he knows how much his wife puts into their relationship through care for him on a daily basis. I cannot think of a better winner for the red polka dot "spirit" jersey than Jessica because she is certainly the most supportive wife of a diabetic that I could imagine.

On February 12th, Jessica and I registered for a program that we knew very little about. In fact, Jessica didn't even have a bike! We have come a long way in 5 months with our cycling knowledge but the ride weekend in Sonoma will never be forgotten. I mentioned earlier that David and Thomas joined our Shafer Ten Year Team on Saturday and our team doubled. However, the truth is, everyone who donated, gave us words of encouragement, or even asked how diabetes is treating us is all part of our team. We are all in this together. In ten years, I am very hopeful that we will have a cure. When we do, we will all celebrate. You have all made a significant impact on this diabetic and the lives of all 171+ million diabetics worldwide. Thank you.



  1. " ... you have good days, bad days, and from time to time, a learning experience."

    So true. I seem to have lots of learning experiences.

  2. What an experience! COngrats! Thanks for sharing.