Revving for a Cure
B.A.D. ride rallies to stop diabetes
Annette Jones on her Harley.
Annette and Randy Jones blazed a trail from their home in Tulsa, Okla., to Sacramento, Calif., and back, on a cobalt blue and pewter Harley Heritage Softail motorcycle. The 4,000-mile ride last September, a stand-out trip in their riding experience, took them through seven states and included a stay in a cabin at Yosemite National Park and hiking through the redwoods.
But their travels were not as freewheeling as their bandannas and bike made it seem. They had to plan ahead and pack plenty of food. Sometimes they had to stop and dig into a trailer hitched to their bike, where an ice chest kept Annette Jones's insulin cold.
Jones, 49, an accountant and mother of three, was diagnosed with gestational diabetes 12 weeks into her third pregnancy. Then, three months after she gave birth, doctors told her she had type 1. Jones says that managing her diabetes was a challenge at first but that she learned how with help from her family. "When you're struggling with a chronic disease, it's important to have a good support system," she says.
Supporting other people with diabetes was one of the reasons Jones rode 250 miles up to Wichita, Kan., last summer to participate in Rip's B.A.D. (Bikers Against Diabetes) Ride, a fund-raising event for the American Diabetes Association that brings bikers together to stop diabetes. More than 200 riders gathered at a local motorcycle dealership and took part in a five-point poker run, a game in which players ride to five checkpoints and pull a card from a deck at each stop; the biker with the best hand at the end is the winner.
Rip's B.A.D. Ride grew out of a Southern California ride that started with 300 bikers in 1998. Rip Rose, a photojournalist for Easy Rider magazine who had type 2 diabetes, approached the ADA about hosting rides across the country to unite the biker nation in the fight to stop diabetes. Rose died in 2000 from cancer and complications of diabetes, but his event has lived on. This year, riders will descend on Iowa and Arizona as well as California. The original Southern California event now attracts more than 7,500 participants who not only ride but enjoy food, games, and other attractions as well.
True to Rose's mission, Jones looks forward to B.A.D. both as a way to support people with diabetes and a chance to ride with her fellow bikers. "It's a motorcycle event, and that really gets us going," she says. "What shocked me was how many people didn't ride and just came out to support [people with diabetes]. It is a good, overwhelming feeling to know that there were so many people out there who care."
During the event, Jones is reminded why she's there each time she tests her blood glucose. She always makes sure to bring snacks and juice along on her rides. "Sometimes, I'll put my [pump] site on my hip, and it affects the way the insulin is absorbed," she says, adding that all the precautions are worth it: "I feel the best when I'm on the back of my bike."
Jones credits her husband, Randy, with supporting her as she keeps her diabetes in check. "He helps me deal with this every day," she says, by keeping records of her blood glucose levels and going to doctor visits with her. It's the least he can do, he tells her, when she is the one who has to live with diabetes every day. It's a sentiment Rip Rose would have appreciated.