Worcester, Mass. 
May 28, 2000 

Face of America is all heart

By Lynne Tolman 

  During the launch of the Face of America bike tour in Boston, amid the made-for-the-media sound bites about seeing people's capabilities, not disabilities, one rider joked it was the "In-Your-Face of America" tour. 
  But the message of World TEAM Sports, organizer of the 22-day ride, is more subtle and layered than just pointing out that paraplegics, amputees and blind people can cycle. 
  Two teams, each made up of about 50 cyclists with and without disabilities, set out May 13, one from Boston and one from San Francisco, to meet in St. Louis three weeks later. 
  On the East Coast team's second day, riding from Providence to Hartford on Mother's Day, lasting bonds were being forged in sweat among dozens of riders of all abilities. It quickly became the norm on every hill for the strongest to bike alongside those who were struggling -- or hop off their bikes and run back to them -- and push. 
  The defining image of the day: team leader Ronne Irvine, 43, a Paralympic cyclist from Herndon, Va., his lower left leg a carbon-fiber prosthesis, pedaling uphill while pushing a hard-cranking handcyclist beside him. The sight blurred the lines between the handicapped and the helpers, between individuals and the team as a unit. 
  "After a while, you start to forget who's disabled," Irvine said, nimbly clambering onto the roof of a support van during the lunch break to secure a bike to the roof rack. 
  "I start calling them the hangnails," he said of the nondisabled riders, for their physical complaints that seem trivial compared to missing or useless limbs. "Their butts are sore, they're tired, they're sunburned -- they're feeling disabled. We all have our disabilities." 
  "We ride the same road," summed up another team leader, Diana Nyad of Los Angeles, former world champion swimmer, at the group's after-dinner presentation that evening at prep school Choate Rosemary Hall in Wallingford, Conn. 
  The Face of America represents America's diversity in other ways besides including the handicapped. Riders' ages range from 6 to 77. The teams include immigrants from Mexico, Chile, Trinidad and Tobago, Costa Rica, Brazil, Guinea, Nigeria, Senegal and Vietnam, and two teen-agers who live in an orphanage in Mexico. 
  One hope is that people in other nations will see that America's strength lies in welcoming the contributions of all kinds of people. "Not every country in the world is as hip to the disabled being everything they can possibly be," Nyad said. 


 Rory McCarthy 
Handcyclist Rory McCarthy, 45, an electrical engineer from Bath, Maine, who has muscular atrophy in his legs, was often at the front of the pack on the ride to Hartford. He said World TEAM -- the name stands for The Exceptional Athlete Matters -- is all about connections, "being with some pretty amazing people. I enjoy the physical challenge, and you combine it with the opportunity to show people that with our diversity, you can work as a team." 
  Nondisabled riders got involved for a variety of reasons. 
  Francis Love, 57, of Harvard, joined World TEAM two years ago for the Vietnam Challenge, a 1,600-mile bike tour in Vietnam that included Vietnam War veterans, both American and  Vietnamese. Love, a Vietnam vet, "always wanted to go back," he said. He found the World TEAM experience so powerful at building  bridges between people with 
different  perspectives, he joined Face of America in a heartbeat. 
  Maury Webb, 57, of Orleans, a Norton Co. retiree who used to live in Holden, also found it irresistible. He had planned to ride along for the first day of Face of America only. But, he said, "I liked it so much I called my wife and said, 'I'm staying.' " 
  Besides promoting the value of diversity and the benefits of physical fitness, the Face of America teamed up with the Rails to Trails Conservancy to spotlight recreational trails across the country that are envisioned as links in a coast-to-coast route. About 33 percent of that route is open, said Face of America rider David Burwell, president of Rails to Trails. 
  At times, Face of America participants in-line skated, ran, or rode horseback to highlight multiple-use trails and alternative transportation. The East Coast and West Coast teams will meet under the Gateway Arch in St. Louis on Saturday, which is National Trails Day. 
  Meanwhile, the East Coast Greenway Alliance is coordinating another journey to highlight recreational trails, connecting cities in an envisioned "urban Appalachian Trail" on a north-south route from Florida to Maine. Dubbed the ECG Wave, it's a relay in which muscle-powered travelers -- cyclists, walkers, wheelchair users, in-line skaters and equestrians -- are ferrying a container of water from the Gulf of Mexico from Key West, Fla., to the Canadian border. 
  Next Sunday the Wave will roll from Blackstone to Worcester, in part using on-road segments of the planned Blackstone River Bikeway. To participate that day, or later in the week in the Boston area, or June 10 on the North Shore, contact Steve Winslow (781-397-6893 or The Wave started in February and is scheduled to end June 29 in St. John, New Brunswick. 
  A day-by-day chronicle of the Face of America tour, with pictures, is on the Web at The ECG Wave details are at
  The rock band named bicycle, with a small b, is playing a free concert in the Elizabeth Park Rose Garden, Hartford, from 2 to 5 p.m. tomorrow. If you missed this Seattle-based group at the Lucky Dog Music Hall in Worcester on Thursday, you might want to make the trip south. The four-person band led by Kurt Liebert, along with 15 roadies, travels to their gigs by bike, and they're pedaling in the Hartford Parks Bike Tour today. 
  The band and crew started the current concert tour last weekend in Portland, Maine, pulling trailers on their bikes holding the band's minimized and miniaturized gear: Steinberger guitars, Gallan Kruger amps, and a drum kit consisting of kick, snare, hi-hat and sensitized bike tires turned upside down that trigger samplers from tom-toms. The music has been described as a combination of heavy metal, folk and rap. Their debut record, titled "bicycle," is out on Capricorn Records. 

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