Lori Brockelbank’s Tour des Trees Adventure Continues

NYSUFC Treasurer Lori Brockelbank is preparing for her second year in the STIHL Tour des Trees, a weeklong cycling event which benefits the TREE (Tree Research and Education Endowment) Fund. This year, riders will traverse Wisconsin from July 27-August 2 and will stop in Madison, Door County, Green Bay, and at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, among other places. 

Each full-Tour cyclist commits to raising $3,500 for the TREE Fund. Since 1992, the Tour has raised more than $6.6 million for tree research and education programs, making possible more than 400 TREE Fund research grants focused on arboriculture and urban forestry and the safety of the tree care workforce since 1976, along with scholarships for college students across the country.

Lori group Tour des Trees
Lori Brockelbank (second from left) with fellow Tour des Trees riders. Photo by R. Jeanette Martin

toronto islands
Setting out from Toronto! Photo by R. Jeanette Martin

Featured in Forbes, the Huffington Post, and CNN, recent Tours have cycled through Canada, New York, Virginia and Oregon, educating the public about the importance of urban trees and planting dozens more along the way. Lori blogged about her experience last year going around Lake Ontario on The Arborist Gypsy, and here we’ve excerpted some of her posts from her first year on the Tour.

DAY 1 Wow, what a day it has been. First of all I have to start by saying, I DID IT!!! I rode my first centurion on my bicycle. To tell the truth, I did not think I had it in me, but lo and behold, I did. As my son Johnathon told me last night as he grasped my face with both of his hands, “You got this mom; you can do it.” I can’t tell you how many times I have told him those same words, but it sounds so sweet hearing it from him and seeing his belief in me through his eyes.

Niagara Falls, OntarioSTIHL Tour des Trees 2013
Lori and her sons sing one of the three ceremonial songs the Tour des Trees community uses to encourage newly planted trees. This was the first tree planted on the 2013 tour, in Niagara Falls, Canada. Photo by R. Jeanette Martin

I have been told the STIHL Tour des Trees is not all about the bike ride—it really embodies a fellowship amongst fellow tree lovers. I must say I have never experienced such an open-armed welcome from everyone I met. This is a tree family that has many branches but we are all connected by one central stem, the love of trees. I rode with a variety of people today of all different levels and from all parts of the country. Even if you were not up to their level, they would not leave you behind; no one really rides alone.

I must say a big huge thank you to all the support along the way, especially my children and husband. They were there at every rest stop and at the lunch to share their support and to keep telling me I can do it. Towards the end they were on the side of road continuously cheering not only me on, but all the riders that passed them, which made a big difference not only to me, but also to my fellow riders. Seeing my family at the day’s finish line was incredible.

I also want to say thank you to all the moral support from the rest area attendees and fellow riders. It was wonderful seeing fellow arborists along the way from the NYSUFC and the NYS ISA chapter, but it was also great meeting new friends. I also need to say thank you to the support vehicles. They would drive by you, cheering you on and making sure you were okay. God forbid I should have a breakdown, be it emotional or technical, but knowing they will be along certainly does help.

Support Team
Photo by R. Jeanette Martin

Today I learned and thought about all the support in my life, not only here on the tour but also in my daily life. I am complimented on the outstanding behavior and citizenship of my boys very frequently, but they are not that way by chance; it really takes a village to raise great boys. So thank you to everyone who has helped me and them along the way.

DAY 2  Today was an epic day for me. I rode another 100 miles today, but it was only 100 of the 124 that were scheduled. I am proud that I knew when to say when and I pulled out. Typically I would just suck it up and keep going, but not today—too many body parts were sore and starting to hurt. I never knew my body could hurt this bad, from the calves on up to the neck, but it’s a good kind of hurt. There is one cyclist, a guy in his 80s, who can put me to shame all day long. He gives me so much inspiration to continue cycling.

Today at a rest area, one of the support crew members noticed I carried an inhaler in my bag. I have had asthma most of my life, but I do not approach it as a limitation; it is a challenge and every challenge can be conquered. Asthma is a weakness of the lungs and what better way to make them stronger than cycling and pushing yourself. I took two hits on my inhaler yesterday but today, not a single one. So I must be getting stronger!

tired bikers
Tired Tour des Trees riders taking a rest.
Photo by R. Jeanette Martin

DAY 3  Ahhh how the days are blending together, I am not even sure what day of the week it is or where I am anymore. Today was a tough day for sure. We rode from Syracuse to Watertown, not too far of a jaunt, but long enough for my tired legs and sore bottom. Towards the end I was not sure if I could do it—every muscle in my body was screaming at me, I felt incredibly dehydrated, my belly was rejecting food, and I was just spent.

DAY 4  Today was a re-coop day, and it is much appreciated. We had a short 28-mile ride to the US-Canada border crossing, then we rode a ferry across Lake Ontario. As we rode into Kingston, Ontario, people honked at us, rang bells or just stood on the sidewalk and waved or clapped for us. It was such an incredible warm welcome. Today we had no other schedule—what a wonderful feeling that was, to be able to do whatever you want, and Kingston is a beautiful city in which to have a free day.

My intention for today was to go sit at the park and read or write, but instead I enjoyed a Guinness with some new friends and ended the day having ice cream with other new friends. All in all, I would say it was a great day.

DAYS 5 & 6 Every now and then we are pushed to our extreme limits by circumstances or choice. In my case, this week has been by choice. I am loving this Tour des Trees experience because it has taught me how to challenge myself and it is making me stronger both physically and mentally.

 

energy left to dance!
Seemingly inexhaustible riders celebrate the end of the tour with a dance party. Photo by R. Jeanette Martin

 

biking in the rain
Cycling in the rain was one of the biggest challenges for Lori and others. Photo by R. Jeanette Martin

The last two days have been very difficult to say the least. This has been my first time riding in the rain, and I will say it: I hate riding in the rain. But with it I have learned some new lessons, such as do not use the back brake to stop at red lights, because you will fishtail and hydroplane like nobody’s business. Do wear a good rain coat—those rain drops are painful when they hit you while pedaling. Do wear a shower curtain on your helmet in the rain, as it keeps the rain from dripping down into your eyes. Do have a blinky light on your bike so that motorists can see you better. Don’t go fast down a hill, as you will hydroplane.  Do have fun, because no matter what, the weather is going to do what it wants.

There have been so many lessons this week that I hope I never forget them all. But the greatest thing I want to remember is this: you are the only one who can determine what your limitations are in life. You can either embrace them and make yourself better, or curl up along the side of the road and wait for help to come along. I choose to embrace and be stronger in the long run.  Which road will you choose?

Post-Script

I will never forget my experience with the STIHL Tour des Trees; how could I ever think of forgetting all of the wonderful memories associated with it? I play out those memories often in my sleep and in quiet reflection, I think, could I have been faster? Yes. Could I have observed more? Yes. Will I do it again? Hell yes. From the first peddle to the last peddle, it was monumental.

hands in the air
Singing and miming well-wishes to a newly planted tree. Photo by R. Jeanette Martin

My boys often tell me how proud they are of me; that in itself makes me proud that I accomplished the ride, but every now and then I hear of how someone read my blog nightly and how I brought them along with me. I am very thankful for that, and for those readers who followed me, stay tuned—lots of adventures are just waiting to happen.

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