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Thursday, May 28, 2015

"Ride for Life" cycling event supports Mid-South Transplant Foundation's organ and tissue donation efforts

“Ride for Life” cycling event supports Mid-South Transplant Foundation’s organ and tissue donation efforts
By:  Michael Lander

The "Ride for Life" starts and finishes at Memorial
Park.  Memorial Park Funeral Home and Cemetery
is one of the major sponsors for this Mid-South
Transplant Foundation event.  (Photo:
Courtesy of MSTF)

Life is a gift and the Mid-South Transplant Foundation, Inc. would like to bring that gift of life to all those who desperately need it.

On Sunday, June 14, 2015, the Mid-South Transplant Foundation (MSTF) will be hosting its fourth annual “Ride for Life” cycling event. 

There will be a one mile fun ride for children and a 25 mile ride for everyone else and the event will take place at Memorial Park at Poplar and I-240, (5668 Poplar Ave.).  It will begin at 7 a.m. 

Click on this link to register.

The ride is one of the primary fundraising events for MSTF.

“We do have other events through the year, but this is one of our main ones,” Randa Lipman said. 

Lipman is the Community Outreach Manager for MSTF in Cordova, Tenn.

“We’ve had an average of about 100 cyclists on each of the previous rides, but we are hopeful we will attract even more this year,” Lipman said.

The "Ride for Life" event offers a family fun one mile
ride for children and a very scenic and fully
supported 25 mile ride with a lead and a SAG
vehicle and two rest stops along the way.
(Photo:  Courtesy of MSTF)


MSTF recently had a lot of people attend and support a “Linking Hands for Life” event in April, which was National Donate Life Month (NDLM), and she is hopeful that the momentum will continue through the “Ride for Life” event in June.

The primary mission of the Mid-South Transplant Foundation is to save lives and it does this as a federally designated Organ Procurement Organization (OPO) for western Tennessee, Arkansas, and northern Mississippi. 

The foundation works directly with health care professionals and with people in our community to help raise awareness and to encourage them to offer the gift of life to others through organ and tissue donation.  Their role is to also ensure that patients who are in the most need for an organ and tissue transplant receive them.

“Because there are so many myths and misconceptions that prevent people from registering to be an organ and tissue donor, our staff tries to educate the public about the facts so that people can make informed decisions.  We then encourage them to tell their families,” Lipman said.

Part of the fun for the "Ride for Life" is the
ride, the other part is just enjoying the
moment, which might include a good
laugh or even an impromptu dance.
(Photo:  Courtesy of MSTF)

Click on this link to learn more about some of the
myths and misconceptions of organ and tissue donation.

Memorial Park is one of the major sponsors of the “Ride for Life” event and it is the location where the ride begins and ends.

“Throughout the years, we at Memorial Park have seen firsthand the tremendous benefits that are derived from the gift of organ and tissue donation…. and we want to promote the ideals of the Mid-South Transplant Foundation and encourage folks to consider giving a gift that will outlast their lifetime,” Memorial Park Funeral Director, Hannah Moore said.

The idea for doing the ride originated with Dr. James B. Latta of Memphis.  He suggested the event as an affirmation of life and an opportunity to promote organ and tissue donation.

“I wanted all of us to create an event to celebrate the gift of life and transplantation,” Latta said.

“The Mid-South Transplantation Foundation itself was founded in 1976 by Dr. Louis Britt who was a transplant surgeon who performed the first kidney transplant here in Memphis in 1970,” Lipman said.

The "Ride for Life" is fun, but crossing the
finish line is often a welcomed sight for
some of the cyclists who participate.
(Photo:  Courtesy of MSTF)

Click on this link for
a complete history of MSTF.

Over the years, there have been thousands of people who have received a lifesaving transplant through MSTF, and Erskine Gillespie is one of them.

Gillespie received a liver transplant 20 years ago and today he is the Community Development Coordinator for MSTF who oversees the “Ride for Life” ride.  In July 2014, he participated and won the bronze medal in cycling at the Transplant Games in Houston, Texas.

“My initial thought was that I’d done everything on this earth that God wanted me to do and all that was left was for me to die,” Gillespie said.

Fortunately, for Gillespie, that was not the end of his story.

“I think it’s phenomenal to show the restorative power that comes through the process of organ and tissue donation.  Each morning that I wake up I remember that I’m only here because of the wonderful gift from a stranger.  It’s a gift you take pride in and really strive to make sure you get the max benefit from and I let everyone know I’m happy to have this second chance,” Gillespie said.

Cycling events could not happen without the
support of volunteers and many of those who
work the "Ride for Life" are either transplant
recipients or they are their friends and/or
family.  (Photo:  Courtesy of MSTF)

“When Dean Williams’ wife said ‘yes’ to organ donation, she gave me a second chance…. and I got to see the dawning of a new life.  This story is uniquely mine, but it is not unique only to me because there are others who have had that same journey.  Others have also gone from being on death’s door to having a vital life, too,” Gillespie added.

“There are currently more than 123,000 on the national waiting list, waiting for a lifesaving transplant.  One person can donate up to eight solid organs and help another 50 people with tissue donation.  Why would you not want you or your loved one’s legacy to live on by helping so many others?  You can register to be an organ and tissue donor by visiting
www.midsouthtransplant.org,” Lipman said.

The “Ride for Life” is a great a way to help those like Erskine Gillespie who are alive today thanks to MSTF.

Many transplant recipients and their friends and/or their families volunteer and support events like the “Ride for Life.”

Erskine Gillespie received a liver transplant 20 years
ago and in July 2014 he won the bronze medal at
the Transplant Games in Houston, Texas.  (Photo:
Courtesy of MSTF)

The MSTF’s ride will have a lead vehicle and a SAG vehicle and all turns will be marked with blue bike turn signs.  A que sheet will also be provided to those doing the 25 mile route.  Click here to view the route.

All riders will be required to wear a helmet and all children 12 and under must be accompanied by an adult.

There will be a post ride breakfast by the CrepeMaker and medals will be given to all participants after the ride.

To read additional information about organ and tissue donation visit http://www.organdonor.gov/index.html and http://donatelife.net/.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Hernando Bicycle Club's Ride of Silence honors and raises awareness for all cyclists injured and killed

Hernando Bicycle Club’s Ride of Silence honors and raises awareness for all cyclists injured and killed
By:  Michael Lander

The 2015 Ride of Silence began in front of the
Hernando Courthouse.  It is the fifth such ride
that the Hernando Bicycle Club has hosted.
(Photo:  Courtesy of Bo McAninch)

Sometimes, there is nothing that is more powerful than the sound of silence.

The
Hernando Bicycle Club hosted their fifth Ride of Silence in and around their DeSoto County, northern Mississippi town of Hernando, Miss. on Wednesday, May 20, 2015.

The Ride of Silence is an eight mile, slow-paced ride in which cyclists take to the roads in a silent procession to show respect and to honor those who have been injured or killed while cycling on our public roadways. 

They are also done to raise awareness of the presence of cyclists and to remind everyone of the need to exercise caution, and to share the road with those who ride, because these cyclists could be any of our friends, neighbors, and even members of our own families.

The Ride of Silence travels in and around Hernando
on an eight mile trek and finishes up back in
Hernando, Miss.  (Photo: Courtesy of Bo
McAninch)

These rides, like the one in Hernando, take place in hundreds of locations around the world and they began in 2003 by Chris Phelan after an endurance cyclist,
Larry Schwartz, was struck by a bus and was killed.

“Some of us from Hernando rode in a Ride of Silence in
Memphis several years ago.  After that, a couple of years passed and no one organized another one in Memphis so we decided that, as a bike club, we should organize one ourselves, which we did,” Bo McAninch said.

McAninch is the co-founder of the Hernando Bicycle Club who helped start the club in 2007.

There were 36 cyclists who participated in
this year's Ride of Silence event in
Hernando, Miss.  (Photo:  Courtesy of
Bo McAninch)

“We are very proud to be a part of the Ride of Silence now and we feel it is our duty to do our part,” McAninch said.

There was a threat of bad weather on this year’s ride, but the skies cleared, the sun came out, and the conditions were ideal by the time that the ride started at 7 p.m.

“For this year’s ride we had 36 riders, including two Hernando Police Bike Patrol Officers, three patrol vehicles, and a sweep vehicle equipped with a bike rack in case someone couldn’t finish the ride,” McAninch said.

Because the ride is slow-paced and the route is only eight miles long, it is a ride that most people, even those who do not ride very often, are able to do.

The Ride of Silence is a slow-paced, eight mile ride
that honors those who have been injured or
killed while cycling.  (Photo:  Courtesy of
Bo McAninch)

“We met at the courthouse in Hernando, and after a few brief words by me and
Sgt. Steve Tow of the Hernando Police Dept., DeSoto County Supervisor, Mark Gardner started the ride by playing ‘Taps.’  We were then led out by the Hernando Police Dept.  We took an eight mile route that brought us around the biggest part of our town, and the last leg brought us right through the center and busiest part of it to give us the highest visibility,” McAninch said.

The visibility part of the ride is something that was especially important to Sgt. Steve Tow of the Hernando Police Dept.

“I really wanted people to stop and take notice when they saw this,” Tow said.

The cyclists in the Ride of Silence represent
those cyclists who can no longer ride and
who have been silenced for eternity.
(Photo:  Courtesy of Bo McAninch)

“This can be a very moving experience for those who participate and those who witness this and in many ways it is like a funeral procession that honors cyclists who have been hurt or who have died while riding.  There may be no better way to get people’s attention and to remind them to share the road than by doing this ride,” Tow added.

Over the last year, there have been three deaths in the Memphis and surrounding areas with one cyclist (
Ian Edward Gerrard) killed on U.S. Hwy 61 and Star Landing Rd in DeSoto County in Mississippi and two others (Zachary Walls and Eric Taylor) killed in Memphis in February and March 2015.

Several members of the Hernando Bicycle Club
led the way on this year's Ride of Silence.
(Photo:  Courtesy of Bo McAninch)

According to the most recent National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data, there were 726 fatalities of cyclists in the U.S. in 2012.  The average age of those injured, over the last 10 years, was 30 and the average age of those killed, over that same period of time, was 40.

The Ride of Silence, hosted by the Hernando Bicycle Club, is a poignant reminder of the dangers that cyclists continue to face on our nation’s roadways and those who participate in this event represent those who can no longer ride and who have been forever silenced.

For those interested in joining the Hernando Bicycle Club on this annual ride, or on some of their other rides, you can learn more about them on their
website and on their facebook page.  They have no membership fees and all are welcome to join them.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Dinner and Bikes Traveling Roadshow delivers on food, fun, films, and more

Dinner and Bikes Traveling Roadshow delivers on food, fun, films, and more
By:  Michael Lander

Joe Biel and Elly Blue greeted an audience of about
70 people on their Dinner & Bikes Roadshow Tour
in Memphis, which was held at the Revolutions
Bicycle CoOp on Wednesday, May 25, 2015.

Entertaining, enlightening, and inspiring may be just a few of the words to describe the
Dinner and Bikes Traveling Roadshow that rolled into Memphis on May 20, 2015.

The cyclist-centered roadshow troupe crisscross the country telling stories and showing movies about bicycles and the culture surrounding it.  They also serve up
gourmet vegan food along with a healthy portion of some very thought-provoking topics for their audience to digest.

The Dinner and Bikes Traveling Roadshow is made up author and filmmaker -
Joe Biel, author - Elly Blue, writer, radio host and blogger – Aaron Cynic, and Chef Joshua Ploeg.  The four of them are currently on a West-Midwest tour of the U.S.

Their Memphis event took place at the
Revolutions Bicycle CoOp, located at the First Congregational Church on 1000 S. Cooper St. with about 75 people in attendance.

The Dinner & Bikes Roadshow Tour with Joe Biel
and Elly Blue is often very enlightening and
informative, but it can be just as entertaining
for those who attend their two hour event.

Like in other cities that they visit, Biel and Blue led the Memphis audience in a thoughtful and interactive discussion that covered a wide range of issues and topics that impact bicyclists today. 

In addition to the discussion, Biel and Blue also presented eight short films that the two directed and produced, which highlighted people and groups who, through cycling, have brought people together to improve their neighborhoods.

Through the discussion and films, Biel and Blue seek to inspire and encourage bicycle activism in neighborhoods everywhere and to promote the development of a strong and supportive cycling community across the U.S.

“We don’t see ourselves as promoting cycling as much as promoting a bicycling community,” Biel said.

“We have found that in most places the communities are separated by social isolation, differing ideas, or slightly different areas of interest within cycling and we find that over and over our events unite these groups into the same room for the first time,” Biel added.

John Paul Shaffer of Livable Memphis and Wendy Wider-
Burroughs of the Shelby Farms Conservancy spoke
briefly with the audience, some of whom were
still eating their buffet style gourmet vegan meals
that were prepared by Chef Ploeg.

The need for those in the cycling community to coalesce and to support one another may be especially important when they run up against those who do not share same the values as they do about cycling.

“It comes down to finding your community, finding support in them, and moving forward together.  Without that, it’s hard to maintain excitement against a monolithic culture that destroys everything in its path,” Biel said.

For Biel, one of the biggest threats to cycling comes not only from those who oppose cycling, but from those who want to spend all their time arguing with others about it.

“Getting lost in endless debates or arguments like those involving
vehicular cycling verses building infrastructure…. are nothing but divisive, keeping us from moving forward together as a community,” Biel said.

Even with the negatives that cyclists and their communities face, Biel finds many reasons to be optimistic, especially with the individual gains that have been happening all over the world, including places like Memphis.

Throughout the two hour event, Joe Biel and Elly Blue
pose questions and lead audience members into a
discussion as they explore ways in which cycling
could be a solution for problems in a city, where
it can enhance accessibility, interaction, and how
it can help bring a community together.

“I am really impressed by where Memphis is at.  When I visited in the 1990’s through 2004, it felt like there was something of a black cloud of despair hanging over the city, but that doesn’t seem to exist anymore.  It feels like things are moving forward in the right direction in Memphis and it’s doing a much better job of moving forward without leaving people behind than most cities, especially cities of its size.  The gains in bicycling are truly inspiring and I don’t know of any other urban area with that kind of ridership growth,” Biel said.

In other places around the country, Biel has also seen a positive impact that people-powered, grassroots bicycle movements have had on helping to reshape and redefine communities.

Audience members in Memphis were shown eight
short films that were directed and produced by Joe Biel
and Elly Blue.  Much of the discussion for the event
centered on issues that were presented in each of these
films.

“In almost all of the places that we’ve visited, we’ve seen social change come from
groundswell – people who are passionate about bicycling (who) create grassroots, street-level activist movements that allow advocates to ask for a bit more and push city leaders to enact the world that we want to see and live in,” Biel said.

Over the years, Biel has been to many cities across the U.S. and has been touring with his books, music, and films since 1995.  Blue joined him on the tours in 2010 and they have working together ever since.   Biel jokingly said that after they found themselves getting hungry on their tour, that is when they decided to start bringing Chef Ploeg along with them.

“Between conferences, festivals, a one month tour in the summer, and various other events that people ask us to do, we are generally on the road for more of the year than we are at home,” Biel said.

Some of the films that were presented to the Memphis
audience were inspiring, like the one man who, with
his hand-cranked tricycle, has not let his disability to
stop him and others who have shown that cycling
knows no boundaries or barriers and it can be done
and enjoyed by everyone.

When touring with the roadshow, life for Biel, and the others fall into a familiar pattern and routine.

“While we are on tour, we wake up around 7 a.m. and Elly, Aaron, and Joshua go jogging, while I catch up on my email.  We eat breakfast around 8 a.m., hit the road by 9 a.m., and we usually arrive at our destination by 1 p.m.  We immediately go grocery shopping and Joshua is cooking by 2 p.m.  Later, we set up the venue for that night, perform from 7 to 9 p.m., and try to get in bed by 10:30 p.m. and the next day we repeat the cycle all over again,” Biel said.

One of the best parts of traveling the country, for Biel, is meeting people and laughing about some of the funny experiences that he, Blue, Cynic, and Ploeg have had over the years.

Joe Biel and Elly Blue are naturals in front of a crowd
and they are extremely talented and gifted writers
who tirelessly promote and advocate cycling and
cycling communities throughout the U.S.

“In Austin, in 2012, our car’s electrical system caught fire and we came back to horrible smells and smoke.  When we opened the full trunk, mysteriously, the only things that were destroyed were our t-shirts that proclaim ‘Every Car a Murderer, Every Bike a Love Affair.’  Fortunately, our audiences were twice as excited to buy the ones with the fire damage,” Biel said.

Other than having a good time and a lot of laughs, Biel and Blue have both enjoyed literary success.  Blue has written “Everyday Bicycling,” “Manpressions,” and “Bikenomics.”  Biel has written “Make a Zine,” “CIA Makes Science Fiction Unexciting,” “Beyond the Music,” and “Bamboozled.”

Together, they manage
Microcosm Publishing, which is a mid-list publishing company that has published over 350 books over the last 20 years.  In addition to this, Biel has produced and directed five feature-length films with “Aftermass” being the most recent one.

Sylvia Crum is the executive director for the
Revolutions Bicycle CoOp, which promotes
cycling and it provides cycling services and
materials to the indigent community of
Memphis and was the host for the Dinner
& Bikes Roadshow Tour.

Biel and Blue are both avid cyclists and, for Biel, the bicycle was an escape for from a less-than-ideal home life.  After realizing the cost of how much a car was costing him, and following two near-fatal car accidents, he became car-free at the age of 20.

“Today, I own half a dozen bikes, including a Brompton folder, a homemade front-loading Tom’s Cargo Bike, a chopper, a single-speed track bike, and a pair of drop road bikes,” Biel said.

Blue owns an Xtracycle cargo bike, a Brompton folder, and a yellow Schwinn cruiser.

To learn more about the Dinner and Bikes Traveling Roadshow, you can visit
http://dinnerandbikes.com/ and http://www.therivardreport.com/dinner-bikes-food-film-and-bike-activism/.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Outreach ministry on bicycles in Memphis feeds and cares for those in need

Outreach ministry on bicycles in Memphis feeds and cares for those in need
By:  Michael Lander

There are usually two dozen or more cyclists who
voluntarily deliver meals for the Urban Bicycle Food
Ministry on Wednesday evenings.  They usually
have between 300 - 400 burritos to hand out to
the homeless and hungry of Memphis.

Bicycles can serve all kinds of different purposes for many different people whether they are ridden for fun, exercise, for competition, or as a way of getting around town.  In 2012, they also became an integral part of an innovative and faith-filled outreach ministry for some of the homeless and hungry in
Memphis.

This bicycle-driven outreach ministry in our city literally puts faith into action and volunteers into motion through its ecumenical, (multi-denominational), non-profit organization known as the
Urban Bicycle Food Ministry, (UBFM).

Volunteers come together at
First Church United Methodist on 204 N. Second St. every Wednesday evening and on Saturday morning where a handful of them prepare food and where a dozen to two dozen or more cyclists then span out in all different directions to distribute hundreds of warm meals, (often consisting of burritos), to those who are hungry and who live on our Memphis City streets.

Before they hit the streets, the volunteers are given
some last minutes information and instructions by
Frank Rouse, which is followed by a prayer.

Cycling enthusiast,
Rev. Tommy Clark, is the founder of UBFM. 

Clark, who graduated from
Memphis Theological Seminary in 2013, was inspired to begin this outreach ministry after taking a class in the summer of 2012.

“I took this class that was based around creating churches and ministries that are built on the foundation of facing outward and not inward.  Some people call it ‘a church without walls,’” Clark said.

The idea behind “a church without walls” is that churches are not so much about a building as they are about people and, in a broader sense, it can extend into the community or it can even encompass an entire city and beyond. 

Since cycling was a big part of his life, both competitively and as a means of transportation for him, Clark was especially interested in finding a way that he could take that and to somehow use it in an outreach ministry.

Cyclists travel in groups with some going a shorter
distance by covering the downtown area while
others go much further and ride toward midtown.

“I wanted to bring some of my friends together and deliver food to people on the streets while creating friendships and developing relationships and I wanted to do this via a bicycle,” Clark said.

After he conceived of the idea of doing this, he decided to go out and try this one Wednesday night by himself just to see how it would go.

“I made about 15 burritos, loaded them into my messenger bag, and rode around midtown and downtown in search of anyone in need.  It was probably the most spiritually moving experience of my life.  The response was amazing.  People hugged me, high-fived me, prayed with me, and one guy even tried to offer me all the change in his pocket,” Clark said.

From that experience, Clark knew he had found a way to reach out to his neighbors on the streets, to meet them, provide food and essential supplies, and to show them that they are loved, cared for, and being prayed for.

It takes volunteers like Amy Chadwick and Brent David,
on the left, and Jason Hill and David Corum, on the
right, well over an hour to prepare the meals, which
is often burritos, each Wednesday evening.

“The next day, I went to work, and told my friends about it, and they insisted that we do it again the following Wednesday.  We haven’t missed a Wednesday ride ever since.  Regardless of the weather, we ride.”

The ministry has grown since that first ride in 2012 and within months they were distributing 200 to 300 burritos along with a plethora of other necessities.  In early 2013, UBFM became a 501(c)3 non-profit charity and by the end of that year it found a home at First United Methodist Church.

UFBM is one of three ministries housed in an adjacent building, known as “
The Carpenter’s House,” which was purchased by the church in 2013.

In the summer of 2014, Clark was offered a church position in Columbia, Tenn., which he accepted only if he could return every other week to help out with UBFM operations.

After Clark’s departure, Frank Rouse took on more of a leadership role and it is one that he readily accepted.

Frank Rouse oversees many of the UBFM operations and
is one of those who delivers meals throughout
Memphis.

“The mission of our ministry is all about helping our fellow brothers and sisters who are in need and we have received a lot of support from individuals either through donations (
via PayPal at UBFM.net) or by people becoming directly involved themselves by volunteering to help prepare the food or by delivering it on a bicycle,” Rouse said.

“We have also gotten a lot of support from cycling groups like
901 Racing and businesses that have donated like Central BBQ, Los Compadres Mexican Restaurant, Associated Wholesale Grocers, Monogram Foods, and Nikki Schroders Hot Chips,” Rouse added.

Reginald “Reggie” McGregor, Sr., who is known throughout Memphis as "The Bike Man,” is one of the many volunteers who ride for UBFM and he recently has had his dog, Santana, accompanying him on his Wednesday evening rides.

Jason Hill is a Memphis Area Transit Authority
(MATA) employee during the day who
routinely volunteers to help UBFM with
preparing the meals on Wednesday
evening.

“By day, I am a fabricator and welder at Action Ornamental Iron, but in my off-time, I try to help and mentor others.  I have been involved with the Urban Bicycle Food Ministry for about six to seven months.  I like being a part of this because I am very blessed, myself, and I just want to give something back,” McGregor said.

For anyone interested in volunteering either in the kitchen or in delivering the food, they can learn more about UBFM by going to their website at
http://ubfm.net/. 

Cyclists who ride for UBFM will be asked to sign a waiver and, for their own safety, they should wear a helmet and have lights on the front and back of their bicycle.  They will also want to have something that they can carry food in.

The food preparation starts about 6 p.m. on Wednesday night and after some instructions and a prayer, the cyclists are put into groups and they leave the church at around 7:30 p.m.  From there, they span out, seeking the hungry and homeless, with some riding toward downtown and others going up various streets like Poplar and Madison Ave. toward midtown. 

Reginald McGregor, Sr., who is also known as "The
Bike Man," volunteers for various different
organizations like The Boys Club of Memphis.
He has helped with delivering meals for UBFM
for about six to seven months.

In almost three years since it began, UBFM has delivered thousands of meals, and some other necessities, to those who are homeless and hungry in our city.  While there have been many of those in need who have benefited from all this, those who have volunteered may have received just as much in return because of it, themselves.

“Helping those in need can be just as good for them and their souls as it is for ours,” Rouse said.

If a testament of one’s faith and compassion is evident in their actions, one might easily see it reflected in the efforts of those who prepare and deliver the food on a bicycle for UBFM and from that, the lives of our neighbors on our city streets, and our small part of the world here in Memphis, has been made all the better because of it.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

The 2015 Meritan Midnight Classic Bike Tour is one of the events in Memphis you don't want to miss

The 2015 Meritan Midnight Classic Bike Tour is one of the events in Memphis you don’t want to miss
By:  Michael Lander

The Meritan Midnight Classic Bike Tour & Lunar Festival
could not have a better location than Tiger Lane with
the Liberty Bowl as a backdrop for the start and finish
of the ever-popular event.  (Photo:  Courtesy of
Meritan, Inc.)

Anyone who thinks that nothing good ever happens after midnight doesn’t know anything about the
Meritan Midnight Classic Bike Tour in Memphis.

For thousands of people in and around our city, the midnight ride, and the Lunar Festival, which begins two hours before that, is an event that they look forward to for months. 

In many ways, and for many people, it has become a Memphis tradition.

The midnight ride itself is one of the biggest and most popular cycling events in Memphis and it’s fun for people of all ages and skill levels, bringing together all kinds of different people, and helping to support a great cause that benefits so many in need in our community.

This will be the 16th year of the Meritan Midnight Classic Bike Tour and it will take place at
Tiger Lane on Saturday, August 29, 2015.

“This is our signature community event in the Mid-South,” Elise Bone said.  She is the Director of Marketing for
Meritan, Inc.

“All ages enjoy a 17-mile, non-competitive, police escorted,
bike tour route along some of Memphis’ landmarks, and they get to experience the thrill of a night bike ride on the town.  There’s really nothing else like it!  Last year, almost 2,000 riders rode the streets of Memphis and that included children and their families, and individuals, some of whom represented various businesses, corporations, and even the armed forces,” Bone said.

The contests to determine who does the best of blinging
themselves and their bikes are a part of the fun at the
Lunar Festival.

In addition to the ride, a big draw for the participants is the Lunar Festival that begins at 10 p.m.

“During the festival, cyclists can listen to a live band, get a free bike check-up by local bike shops, along with a demonstration by local cyclists who perform some amazing tricks,” Bone said.

There are also contests with prizes awarded to those who do the best job of blinging and decorating themselves and those who do the same with their bikes, which often involves adorning them with colorful lights.

A new category for contestants to compete for this year will involve the use glow paints, which can be applied to ones clothes and/or their skin.

Many of those who come and participate in the Lunar Festival and the midnight ride are from Memphis, but the appeal often does extend beyond the Memphis City limits.

Steve Dodd, who is a Southaven, Miss. resident, is one of the many who travel to Memphis to be a part of the fun.  He found out about the event from a former co-worker who has ridden it nearly every year since it began.

“I have ridden in the Meritan Midnight Classic for the past five years myself and I am planning on doing the ride again this year,” Dodd said.

The lights on many of the bikes at the Meritan Midnight
Classic Tour can almost make some think that the
holiday season has come early.  (Photo:  Courtesy of
Meritan, Inc.)

For Dodd and others, the pre-ride Lunar Festival party builds the excitement to a crescendo as spectators and thousands of cyclists, some of whom are decked out in costumes and others on brightly lit bikes, descend on to Tiger Lane, near the Liberty Bowl.   

As midnight nears, the cyclists begin lining up for the 17-mile ride around the city.

“There are a lot of things that I like about the ride.  Meritan does an excellent job of setting the route up, which is mostly flat, and it seems to be designed to accommodate all skill levels, and they make sure that there are volunteers to help direct you so that you don’t get off course,” Dodd said.

“The ride itself is also very enjoyable…. and I like that it takes place late at night so it is much cooler, with not as much traffic on the roads, and the route covers some very scenic parts of Memphis,” Dodd added.   

Since its inception, the midnight ride has really evolved and grown over the years.

“The ride began in 1998 and it started and finished in Overton Square.  We had been looking for a unique fundraising event and…. and we loosely patterned ours after the
Moonlight Ramble in St. Louis and Moonlight Classic in Denver.  We had between 500 to 600 riders that first year,” Elise Bone said.

A big part of the excitement of the Lunar
Festival is the music, the party atmosphere,
and seeing what people come dressed like.
(Photo:  Courtesy of Meritan, Inc.)

As the event grew in popularity, Meritan had to move the location of the event to other places that could handle the size of the crowd and where there was enough parking for the participants. 

“We moved from Overton Square to Chickasaw Oaks Plaza and then to Popular Plaza, and, as of 2013, we are now we are at Tiger Lane,” Bone said.

The Meritan ride is their largest fundraising event, which it likes to refer to as a friend-raising event.  Many people learn about Meritan from doing this ride.

“Meritan is a nationally-accredited private, not-for-profit organization that’s been serving…. people of special needs for over 50 years.  It has more than 300 employees, board members, and volunteers who assist over 5,000 individuals across four states," Bone said.

"The programs that we provide include in-home care for frail seniors, specialized foster care for medically and emotionally fragile children, employment training, and job placement for seniors 55 and older, home health care, and services for the intellectually and developmentally disabled,” Bone added.

Registration begins at 10 p.m. on Saturday, August 29, 2015.  There are discounts for college students and military personnel. 
Click on this link to register early.

To ensure the safety of all participants, and to better accommodate the sheer volume of those who will be riding, event organizers will stagger how many cyclists will go out after the ride begins at midnight.

The Meritan Midnight Classic Bike Tour is a 17-mile ride
that is a big draw for many in the Memphis area.  There
were approximately 2,000 cyclists in the 2014 event.
(Photo:  Courtesy of Meritan, Inc.)

Before the ride actually begins, cyclists who ride faster, (at 17+ mph), should line up toward the front of the start line.  Those interested in going at a slower, more leisurely pace should move toward the back.

For their own safety, participants must wear helmets and they should consider installing lights on the front and back of their bicycle and wearing bright colors so that they will be more visible. 
Click on this link for additional safety tips.

After finishing the ride, participants are invited to kick back and relax for a while and have a drink and a snack before they head back home.

To read more about the Meritan bike ride, click on this link -
http://memphiscyclist.blogspot.com/2014/08/meritan-midnight-classic-bike-tour.html or click here to watch a video of the 2014 midnight ride.  For those who would like to follow news on the Meritan Midnight Classic Bike Tour on facebook, go to https://www.facebook.com/MeritanMidnightClassic.