Day 1: Arrival at Legoland (July 1st, 2006)
Our first full day in Denmark was largely occupied by travel and logistics. We took a train from Copenhagen to Vejle where we first met our outstanding bus driver Jens. Also on the bus were Guy and Nigel, a father and son team from New Zealand. It seems Guy and Nigel had a more arduous journey to Vejle than we had, getting separated at different stations and having to meet up at Vejle sometime later. The two were some of the most fascinating we met on the trip- Guy had developed Ewing’s Sarcoma at the age of 17 and had his tibia removed during treatment. Cycling was a part of his therapy and his father – a dairy farmer – had taken up the sport as well. We drove with Guy and Nigel from Vejle to the airport in Billund already bonding and sharing stories.
At the Billund Airport we met our guide for the trip, Henrik, who represented Fyntour, the local travel planning organization that handled the daunting logistics of our trip. Later, after checking into our hotels, we met to set up our bikes. Dinner that night was held at the impressive Hotel Legoland and was our first opportunity to meet some of the other participants in the Team Sarcoma 2006 Bike Tour. The group was large and varied, but conversation was easy because we all shared a common reason for being there. Everyone on the trip had a story to tell about how sarcoma had affected their lives and in our first opportunity to hear these stories; we were struck by the toughness and perseverance of so many who suffer from the disease. We retired to our hotels exhausted from a long day of travel and eager to start riding our bikes.
Day 2: Legoland to Middelfart (July 2nd, 2006)
Legoland was an impressive display of building-block ingenuity, with many famous buildings and monuments from around the world recreated in Lego blocks. Certainly a unique experience, Legoland was a perfect kick-off to the trip a great pump-up for our cycling odyssey. After a short bus ride back to Vejle, we departed for Middelfart and promptly headed in the wrong direction. After some experimenting with various routes (including one very incorrect dirt trail), we finally met up with some other members of the tour and got back on the correct route. Willie and Catherine, a jovial and entertaining couple from Ireland who are avid cyclists, were our companions through most of the trip and soon became good friends. They had two close friends diagnosed with sarcoma.
After a short pit stop picnic, we continued on to Middelfart. Funny names aside, the Middelfart area was quite nice, with hills rolling down to a perfect blue sea. We dined that night in the Hindsgavl castle and experienced a powerful evening of sharing our stories. Again, it was moving to hear the sadness and the pain that many of our fellow riders had experienced in the past and were currently living with. It was a unique opportunity for her children to talk about Lee Ann Lamb’s story and all the selfless work of many people at GIST Support International. The evening was sobering, yet empowering to know that so many of our peers were facing difficulties far greater than the numerous bergs and constant wind we faced on our bikes each day.
Day 3: Middelfart to Faaborg (July 3rd, 2006)
One of our longest days on the bike, July 3rd was an early reminder that our trip was to be one of significant physical accomplishment. While sharing stories and tears is a powerful emotional learning experience, our real solidarity and camaraderie was gained during long hours in the saddle. Our long day on the bike was neat because we were afforded the chance to ride with many different people, whom all shared unique stories. One couple that we quickly became friends with was Joe and Cathy Jo Linn from Seattle who were friends of Liddy Shriver, in whose honor the ride was organized. Many of Liddy’s friends and family members were present on the ride and it was fascinating to learn of her love for cycling and unfettered determination to battle the sarcoma which eventually claimed her life.
The scenery was beautiful throughout the trip but stands out this day simply because we saw so much of it! We were also treated to a guided tour in the evening of the amicable seaside town of Faaborg. Faaborg was a quaint town and it was unfortunate that our hotel was a few kilometers outside of town and thus inaccessible for an after dinner stroll.
Day 4: Faaborg to Svendborg (July 4th, 2006)
July 4th was a welcome short day on the bike, and the scene for an outstanding stay in the town of Svendborg. We started our ride with a short trip to the beach where large numbers of jellyfish – not unbearably cold water as one might think- kept most people at edge of the Baltic Sea. Misunderstanding the motto “To spread the message of GSI across the seven seas,” team member Jonathan went for a dip while the rest of the team was anxious to keep pedaling (Jonathan later found out that the Baltic isn’t even one of the aforementioned seas).
After another afternoon of rolling seaside farmland, we arrived in the beautiful port city of Svendborg. Svenborg was a highlight of the trip in every sense. The town itself was fantastic, with shop-lined cobblestone streets rolling down to a port lined with tall wooden sailing ships. More importantly, the people of Svendborg were outstandingly welcoming and cared genuinely about the message of the Liddy Shriver Sarcoma Initiative and Team GSI. Our trip included a sailing excursion which was of note for two reasons to Team GSI. First and foremost, the team was joined by Dr. Anette Duensing of the University of Pittsburg and her husband Stefan.
Dr. Duensing is one of the two GIST researchers benefiting from the fundraising efforts of Team GSI. The sailing trip proved to be an ideal opportunity for Dr. Duensing to speak to many participants of the bike tour about her work with GIST research. Of secondary importance but perhaps equal excitement, Team GSI member Rob participated in securing some of the ships rigging out on the bowsprit and thankfully managed to not fall in.
After watching Italy scrape out a narrow victory over Germany in the World Cup semifinals, we retired rejuvenated from an exciting evening in Svendborg.
Day 5: Svendbog to Marielyst (July 5th, 2006)
Our ride on July 5th was scheduled to be a short transitional ride but instead will be remembered as a mad dash to catch our ferry followed by a moving luminary service in Marielyst.
We departed Svendborg the usual three, plus Team GSI member Dr. Duensing. The day started easy enough but some mechanical problems and a later-than-planned lunch quickly put Team GSI as well as most of the other Sarcoma riders in jeopardy of missing a very essential ferry departure. And so a short easy ride turned into a race against the clock with a few wrong turns and one very high bridge thrown in as additional obstacles. With Dr. Duensing leading the charge, we all arrived in time to board the ferry before it left.
After a long bus ride, we regrouped in Marielyst and prepared for an evening luminary service on the beach. Each member of our group made one or several luminaries representing loved ones or other personal connections to sarcoma. The service was emotional and extremely moving as the sun set and showcased the luminaries arranged in the sand. A particularly neat part of this service involved a group of Danish teens whose beach party was interrupted by our solemn ceremony. The group respectfully listened to all who chose to speak and then took the time to read each and every luminary on the beach. On their own initiative, they requested more information about sarcoma and even bought several “Sarcoma Knows No Borders” bracelets.
Day 6: Maryielest to Mareylilest (July 6th, 2006)
A very long bike ride, some amazing Danish hospitality, and stunning geological features were the highlight of Day 6, our last day before riding into Copenhagen.
We said goodbye to Dr. Duensing and started bright and early for what was to be our longest day of riding on the trip. Quite a few wrong turns later, we found ourselves on a quiet, wooded coastal path that snaked its way along the wild coast. We arrived in a small town and took a tiny ferry across the bay and began the second leg of the day. Despite beautiful scenery and weather, we were starting to feel the effects of so many days on the bike. We stopped at a small rural café for water and met a charming old man who provided us with water and a homemade brewed beverage that he produced on his own farm. As we went to leave, one of our group members had a mechanical problem and we decided to reward our new friend for his hospitality by staying for lunch while we waited for Jens, the bus driver, to come pick us up. Team GSI member Megan was the only of our group who really wanted to ride the remaining 15 miles or so and she scolded Rob and Jonathan using the word “wimp” quite a few times. The bus took us to a beautiful natural formation called the chalk cliffs of Møns Klint. After a steep hike down (and back up) we were tired and ready to retreat back to Marielyst to prepare for our final day of riding.
Day 7: Copenhagen (July 7th, 2006)
Our last day with the Liddy Shriver Sarcoma Initiative bike tour was a short bike ride, but a powerful experience, riding into a large European capital representing a meaningful global cause. We took the bus into the outskirts of Copenhagen and rode slowly over the few short kilometers into the city center. The entire Team Sarcoma 2006 set up in the middle of Copenhagen’s central square speaking to passersby and distributing literature. We met up as a group one last time in the evening for a long dinner and some shared reminiscing of our weeklong adventure.
Our experiences representing Team GSI on the Liddy Shriver Sarcoma Initiative Bike Tour were unforgettable and extremely empowering. We were happy to do the work of GSI, both in raising awareness and helping to raise funds for GIST specific research. Please accept our sincerest thanks to all those who contributed to our fundraising, participated in virtual Sarcoma walks, thought/prayed for us, or helped out in any other way.