Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Bagleys' 2008 ride: a look back

Norb and Ann Bagley are preparing for their “Miracle Ride” across the United States this fall, but it isn’t the first time they’ve traversed the nation to benefit CMN. Below is the piece that appeared in CoxHealth Connection after their first ride in 2008. Will their second trip generate as many friends and adventures as their last? We’re betting so:

When most people think of a bike ride, they’re picturing an afternoon trip along a Greenways trail. And when they think of charity, they’re imagining a payroll deduction for a cause.

Former Chief Operating Officer Norb Bagley and his wife, Ann, tend to think on a larger scale.

Both longtime cyclists, Norb and Ann had always wanted to put their athletic skills to the test by riding across the United States. This spring, they decided to make the journey and help others at the same time by raising money for Children‘s Miracle Network.

After sending out a fundraising notice to their friends and family, the couple headed for their starting point, Anacortes, Wash., in May. Over the next three months, the Bagleys rode across the northern tier of the United States. Along the way, they raised funds and awareness, tested their athletic stamina and got to see America the way few people ever will: one mile at a time.

“Seeing new things every day, it’s a real treat as far as I’m concerned,” Ann says.

The ride

When Connection first spoke with Norb and Ann in mid-July, they were near Palmyra, N.Y., where they were riding along the path next to the Erie Canal. It was day 71: 3,282 miles down, 565 to go.

“It’s been a great experience and we’ve absolutely enjoyed it,” Norb says. “There’s a tremendous feeling of freedom out on a bike.”

The Bagleys’ had been riding on a loose schedule of six days on the road followed by one day of rest. They covered anywhere from 50-100 miles each day.

The weather was a constant, and sometimes unwelcome, companion: A spate of tornadoes had cut one day short to 25 miles and winds in North Dakota had them making a 75-mile ride with 25-30 mph headwinds.

Norb says they were pleasantly surprised to find out that they are better mechanics than they expected. Along the trek, their roadside repairs included replacing flat tires and one broken chain.

They were also surprised to learn that riding six days a week means you can eat vast quantities of almost anything.

“Some days it feels like you can’t get enough to eat,” Norb says. “We’re eating foods we never eat – fries, chips, grilled cheese. If it’s high in calories, we’re wolfing it down.”

This phenomenon made the Continental breakfast at hotels a fantastic deal. Norb recalls one meal of cereal, waffles, bagels, pancakes and English muffins that drew the stares of a couple at the next table.

Ann says the extra attention is all part of the territory when you’re on a nationwide trip.

“Certain people look at you with a question in their eyes,” Ann says, adding, with a laugh: “Some people stop you and ask about the trip, and some just look.”

The people

Along the way, the people who did stop and ask became fast friends of the Bagleys. Norb says if they had chatted at length with everyone who was kind enough to offer a word of encouragement, “we’d still be in Montana.”

“Everywhere we went, we’ve seen the kindness and wonderful spirit of people,” Ann says.

Norb and Ann recall Bernice and Larry, a couple who were working on their Michigan farm when the Bagleys rode by. They stopped to talk and what followed was typical of the hospitality they experienced throughout the trip.

“We wound up in their house visiting for two hours,” Norb says. “We have met so many just super, super people.”

They also met plenty of people who wanted to support the cause.

“A guy in a bar in Wisconsin gave us $10 for CMN,” Norb says. “He told us he had some experience biking when his license was revoked.”

Norb says spending three months on the road is a pleasant mental break from the daily routine. At home, he’d watch cable news and soak up the news about the latest scandals in the political, business and entertainment worlds.

“You can develop the idea that things are going to hell in a handbasket,” he says. “But when you get away from all of it, you find people aren’t like that. There are a lot of great people out there.

“And the diversity of the people we met, this is a real melting pot,” Norb says. “We met people from Pakistan, India, Germany, Scotland – they’ve all come here for an opportunity to make a better life for themselves and their families.”

The fundraising

While the Bagleys were on the road, back in Springfield their efforts were helping make things better for families aided by CMN.

As the months rolled by, donations came in – envelopes from Michigan and Washington state and the occasional cash donation in Canadian dollars.

Heather Fesperman, director of CMN kept everyone at Cox in touch by distributing regular updates with the latest notes faxed in by Ann and Norb.

“I’ve had employees tell me they’ve started riding bikes or they’ve started walking because of Norb and Ann,” she says. “It’s been really great, I think they’ve inspired the hospital.”

Several employees in the Wellness program formed walking teams and walked the same distance Norb and Ann rode. By the end, they had raised $1,700 for the cause.

In all, the trip raised $15,000 for CMN, far beyond the $10,000 goal Norb and Ann had set.

The return

Near the end of the ride, the Bagleys encountered days of rain in Vermont. They had originally planned to finish in Maine, but a soggy forecast inspired them to finish in Massachusetts. Their last few miles were spent in downtown Boston during rush hour.

The pair rode to the ocean, dipped their tires in and then headed for the train station, where the bikes would be boxed for the two-day journey to Missouri.

“There were some real mixed feelings when we boxed the bikes up,” Norb says. “When we went back to the hotel, not having the bikes in the room seemed really strange.”

Back in Springfield, the Bagleys adjusted to waking up at home instead of in a hotel. Norb says it’s been hard to get out of the habit of waking up, consulting a map and then wondering “does this place have Continental breakfast?”

They shared the experiences from their 3,847-mile journey at a CMN-hosted reception for employees, family and friends.

“We were awed by the lakes, rivers, forests and farms. This was a great way to experience it,” Norb says. “We owe a big thank you to our friends and family at Cox who followed along and made contributions to CMN.”

Fesperman says the Bagleys’ efforts are key to providing hope for children and their families.

“A lot of our kids can’t ride a bike, but, as Norb said to me, maybe we can get them better so they can someday,” Fesperman says. “To see these two people who have gone to these great lengths for our kids is really inspiring. Hopefully it will encourage more people to get involved and do something.”


nethbar said...

How do you it?! Wow, what a trip!

Norb and Ann said...

We haven't done it yet....stay tuned!