Various people support ‘RTR’ cyclists on road
Marisa “Sis” Cabe, center, of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians served water to “Remember the Removal” cyclists on June 14 during their trek from Georgia to Oklahoma. Support staff members take care of various tasks such as driving vehicles and preparing food and water. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee Nation citizen Sherry Johnson serves as a support person for the 2018 “Remember the Removal” bicycle ride. Support staff members care for tasks such as applying sunscreen to cyclists before they ride like Johnson is doing here for CN citizen Autumn Lawless. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH – It may not be well known that “Remember the Removal” cyclists are supported by a staff of drivers, navigators, medics and Cherokee Nation marshals.
Marisa “Sis” Cabe of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians said she serves as support staff because she did the ride in 2016 and “it was such a moving and life-changing experience” for her. This year she drove a vehicle and performed tasks to ensure the cyclists’ nutritional needs were met and they were well enough to ride daily.
“I’ve always wanted to give back to the program. I try to be as active as I can and continued to ride with 2017’s riders, not as their trainer, but to go along and help out in any way that I could,” she said. “This year I took on the job of training the 2018 riders for the Eastern Band, and have become very close to and attached to my team members. I just really wanted to be here to help take care of them and to make sure they can experience it (the ride) to their fullest abilities.”
Her tasks involved getting up early to ready drinking water and snacks, as well as to help riders load the bicycle trailer with luggage and other items. Once cyclists were on the road, she helped drive the vehicle pulling the trailer and rode behind or in front of the cyclists as directed by the marshals who drove behind the cyclists.
“If need be, we go ahead and set up water breaks, food breaks and lunch to make sure they are staying hydrated and have enough calories in their bodies to keep their bodies going for this grueling ride,” she said. “Once that’s done, we get them checked in to their hotels and give them time to take their showers, and then we may load them back up and go to dinner.”
In the evenings, Cabe sometimes had “rolling parties” where she rolled out cyclists’ leg muscles using what looks like a bread roller, and sometimes bread rollers were used, to work out soreness.
“They’ve actually been calling it ‘Sis’s House of Horrors’ or the ‘Torture Chamber,’ but it helps them with soreness and stiffness to be able to ride better the next day,” she said.
Support staff also made sure ice was available for water coolers and ice chests for the next day’s ride and pre-packaged snack packs in zip lock bags. The pre-packaged items were given to cyclists during breaks.
Sandy Long, a CN Management Resources special projects manager, said she always wanted to take part in the ride and went this year as a support person. She drove the lead vehicle and helped prepare water and food.
“I’ve always wanted to go on the ride and to see these young kids so involved with learning more about the past and looking into their future. And I love to help people,” she said. “It was an experience I can’t explain without tears in my eyes. I learned so much from the kids, like how to never give up no matter what’s in your path.”
Sherry Johnson, CN Management Resources special projects coordinator, said her experience is an asset to serve as a support person. She also drove a vehicle and prepared food and water and handled projects to help keep the group moving through Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma.
“I went three years ago (as support staff), and it’s not just to go somewhere or to do something, it was to learn about my history because I’ve been told my great-great-grandparents were supposed to have traveled the Trail of Tears. I wanted to see some of the places that they had been, that they had walked and to see where they came from,” she said. “It is a very emotional thing. Not only do you learn, but also you bond with the kids and the adults that are on the team. You give them (cyclists) support and cheer them on. Seeing them grow is something to watch. It’s amazing. It’s like watching one of your own grow up.”
Johnson said she’s still in contact with many cyclists from the 2015 ride, and it’s like a family reunion when she sees one of them.
“We catch up with what’s going and what’s been happening in their lives,” she said. “It’s just amazing to get to know them and see the many things that there is to see out here and learn about our people.”