Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 13, 1999

ANNA MONICA / L’Observateur / October 13, 1999

The route changes a little sometimes because of road problems. But farmlandsare still there, open pastures, cattle and ponds are everywhere, the hills roll on, and, for the most part, the scenery doesn’t change. What changes the most eachyear, probably, is the number and names of the bicycle riders making the annual Tour for Cure ride which benefits the fight against multiple sclerosis.

For the 16th year since the 150-mile bike ride began, riders left Southeastern Louisiana University on the first weekend in October, as always, for the 75- mile trek to Percy Quinn State Park in Miss. The tour ended at Southeastern thenext day after peddling through another 75 miles of challenging terrain. Theweather this year was rather warm, but very good for riding.

One thing that never changes is the desire to challenge oneself, and with the MS Tour this can be done by spending time on the bicycle while doing plenty of good for others. This year the tour had about 1,200 riders and raised approximately$430,000 so far. A larger number had registered, but circumstances alwayschanges the numbers.

Luling resident Darby Berthelot heads up the tour and the mammoth preparations for it each year. Darby has relatives all over our parish, some being Becnels andBourgeois, and is a very popular, tireless leader among the riders and volunteers.

Speaking of volunteers, that is where I came in this year. For 10 years I had”been there, done that” for the MS Tour. This year, I got to experience the tourfrom a different perspective by joining the volunteers. As Darby says, “Ourformer riders don’t die off, they just become volunteers.” That is true. Once youget involved in the cause for a cure for MS, you want to continue to contribute in some way. Many of the volunteers return year after year and Darby pretty muchknows who he can count on.

One tireless volunteer is LaPlace’s “Mr. Charlie.” Charles Watkins can repair abicycle in a flash with a thoroughness and caring that is somewhat unusual. Hisred trailer is familiar along the route each year, but I did tell Charlie it seems time to replace the two well-worn American flags he displays on each side of his pickup. Charlie was undaunted. “They’re tradition,” he said. That’s true! Askany rider along the way.

My 10 years of riding were consecutive. So has been Reserve’s Mickey Warner’s12 years. Mickey is a year-round cyclist with a good story to tell and his son,Nicholas, joined his dad for the third year. Cycling enthusiast, Dale Louque ofLutcher, was making his 11th run and other riders from LaPlace included Al Poche ,whose first sport is cycling, Aaron Lions, Chris Everidge, Marlon Warner, Shawn Warner, Dr. Ron Aslett, Dr. Dominic Arcuri, Wade Rico, Heather Douglasand Kyle Casson.

Husband and wife teams included Ron and Jeanie Dufrene of LaPlace and Tracy and Monica Trepagnier of Norco. Timmy Cancienne of Reserve was a rider and sowas River Parishes health worker Marci Lake. The locals were very cooperativeabout taking a picture, but it was almost impossible to gather them all at the same time.

Za Maurin was there and usually doesn’t miss a chance to promote good community relations with fellow riders. I also met Brian Smith of Thibodaux,who sought Charlie’s help with his bicycle. It was interesting because Brian wonthe LaPlace Duathon (run, cycle, run) when it took place as well as the Pelican Run. Za probably knows him well.Another interesting and heart-warming aspect of the ride was at the lunch stop in St. Helena Parish where we used the property of Ruth Venable, a former long-time volunteer for the MS Tour. Now ill, she lets the MS group use her propertyand was looking forward to seeing the group gather there again this year.

Darby’s group had set up a large cloth and asked everyone to sign it before presenting it to the gracious lady. There wasn’t a whole lot of room left when Isigned.

Back at Southeastern on Sunday afternoon,everyone had his or her own brand of satisfaction for whatever part they played in the event. Friends from the team Iused to ride with signed up that day for next year. Can you believe it? Somepeople really do that! It’s a great experience for a great cause. Think about doingit next year.

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