A Dexter woman is going on a big bike ride for a good cause


Sharon Bouchard and her fellow rider, Kate Begeman. photo courtesy of Sharon Bouchard

Bike the U.S. for MS.

What started as a dream for Dexter resident Sharon Bouchard has turned into the real thing as she helps a good cause. For two months, she will be bicycling across the country to help raise donations to support research for a cure, support treatment, and independence for those living with MS.

The Sun Times News reached out to Bouchard to learn more about her upcoming adventure and challenge.

She along with friend Kate Begeman will be riding their bicycles with some others from San Diego, starting Sept 8, and then ending in St. Augustine, Florida on Oct. 29.

“This route is the Southern Tier, 3070 miles, 100,995 feet of elevation change,” said Bouchard by email. “It is with an organization called "Bike the US for MS."

She said in late July there were 14 participants going on the ride. This group includes five route leaders, who alternate riding days and van driving. They will use two vans.

Bouchard said this journey for her started years ago when she had this dream of riding her bike across the U.S.

“As I started to look at my options, I realized there were some very expensive ones that I could not afford,” she said. “Through an internet search I came across this organization. I figured if I was going to be suffering I might as well do it for a good cause. I knew nothing about MS at the time. I was amazed as to how many people along the way I met who either had MS or knew someone with it. I can honestly say it was a lifetime experience. When I got home I found myself thinking about the trip and the people I met on a daily basis. I have lifetime friends from that trip. A few of which talked about riding again. Hence the 2016 trip. Some of those riders suggested we ride in 2017.”

She’s ridden three previous times with this group. The Trans Am route (Yorktown, VA to San Francisco, CA, 3785 miles, 164,365 feet of elevation change) in 2012. The Northern Tier route (Bar Harbor, ME to Seattle, WA, 4295 miles, 164,365 feet of elevation change) in 2016. And the Pacific Coast (Seattle, WA to San Diego, CA, 1852 miles, 106, 070 feet of elevation change) in 2017.

She said she prepares by just spending a lot of time sitting on her bike seat and putting in the miles.

“I try to ride five times a week,” she said. “If the weather is bad then I ride my spin bike in my basement. You can train all you want, but at some point it becomes a mental challenge. Day after day of riding; sometimes you don't sleep well so your recovery is not as it should be; all these things add up. That's when I really think about the people I have met and the ones I ride for.”

In describing MS, Bike the US for MS said on its website that : Multiple sclerosis (or MS) is a chronic, often disabling disease that attacks the central nervous system (CNS), which is made up of the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves. Symptoms may be mild, such as numbness in the limbs, or severe, such as paralysis or loss of vision. The progress, severity, and specific symptoms of MS are unpredictable and vary from one person to another. Today, new treatments and advances in research are giving hope to people affected by the disease.

Bouchard rides a Specialized Ruby Comp that she’s outfitted with a trunk bag to carry her everyday essentials, like bike tubes, snacks, rain gear, etc.

The plan ahead has the route leader vans doing two specific jobs. 

One pulls a trailer that carries their camping gear, clothing, etc. They each get one cubby in the van that is approximately 29 x 15 x 17 and another much smaller food cubby.

The second van, with no trailer, drives along the route and sets up their rest stops. They have rest days along all of the routes.

On those rest days, the riders do service projects and/or make donations to MS facilities.

Bouchard, on the right in sunglasses, in St Paul, Minnesota on the Northern Tier ride, 2016. She spent the day at the Fairview MS achievement center. Bike the US for MS made a donation to them and had lunch with members.

Bouchard has been a Dexter resident since 2005. She retired in February 2018, after 26 years with the Ann Arbor Fire Department. Prior to that, she worked for a group of Orthopedic Surgeons at a sports medicine clinic. She now works part-time at the Dexter Wellness Center.

Looking ahead, she said she’s excited to again have the opportunity to help support Bike the US for MS, which she calls a great organization. It was started by Don Fraser in 2007, when he made his inaugural trip from Seattle to Maine in honor of his mother Nina who has MS.

Noting that MS is impacting many lives, Bouchard said it’s important that the community know they can help.

All of the riders collect donations. Bouchard’s goal has been raising $10,000. Back in late July, she was just shy of $8,500.

If anyone would like to donate then follow the link below. If you would like to dedicate the donation to someone in particular, you can let Bouchard know the name through the link as well. For motivation, she makes a list of names that she carries with her. She also places an orange ribbon sticker on her helmet in their honor.

Here is the link: https://www.biketheusforms.org/

Bouchard at the start of the Trans Am ride, 2012.
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