It will be the fourth time they’ve attended, riding a tandem bike each day in Arches National Park and on other tours. And, as in the past, they will be among the participants raising money for cancer research and cancer survivorship programs.
Marly was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma six years ago this month. Now she’s fit and strong again, one of several cancer survivors who will take to the roads this weekend.
“It started as a winter cough,” Scott Boyer said, “but it kept on. She went to the doctor thinking she was developing bronchitis. An X-ray found a 10-centimeter cancer mass between her heart and lung. It was terrifying.”
Marly’s sister had been diagnosed with leukemia just four weeks earlier. She did not survive, but Scott Boyer said his wife beat the disease after treatment at the Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City.
“We feel very blessed to have that level of quality care in Utah,” he said.
Since then, Marly has raised more than $12,000 for Huntsman through participation in the Skinny Tire Festival. But that’s not the only reason the couple make the event an annual tradition.
“Moab is a special place,” Scott said, “and [organizers Mark Griffith and Beth Logan] put on a quality event. They’re top notch. We have made friends from around the Western states that ride tandem bikes, and it’s like a family reunion in Moab every year.”
An added advantage is the nice weather. Scott said the Logan area still has lots of snow on the ground and the temperature should be about 20 degrees warmer this weekend in Moab.
The festival features a different ride each day and Griffith, founder and director of the festival, said he anticipates 600 participants this year.
“We choose March to do it because our weather kind of breaks and it’s a good way to start the cycling season,” he said.
Griffith added that the event is held prior to the heaviest tourism period so roads have less vehicle traffic than later in the spring.
“It’s nice to have the roadways to ourselves,” he said.
The festival begins Saturday, March 9, with the longest tour – a 60-mile ride to Dead Horse Point and back. A mass start with police escort is scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. at the Aarchway Inn, 1551 U.S. 191.
At 4 p.m. the same day, cycling greats Scott Mercier and Marty Jemison will make presentations at Aarchway Inn. Top fundraisers also will be announced at that time.
The event continues on Sunday, March 10 with an out-and-back trip along state Route 128; a tour of Arches National Park is slated for Monday, March 11; and a ride past the Portal on state Route 279 to the Intrepid Potash plant and back is scheduled for Tuesday, March 12.
“We get to ride in Arches National Park, which is just a jewel,” said Griffith. “It’s a great feature of the festival as well as Dead Horse Point State Park.”
Participant numbers have ranged from 500 to 1,000 riders over the years, he explained. He said he has talked with cyclists and “they feel that’s a number that preserves a quality cycling experience. They don’t get lost in the crowd, but there is camaraderie.
“You can cycle alone and have a spiritual experience with the redrock or you can catch up to someone and ride together.”
Griffith said he and his wife, Beth, have developed a close relationship with cycling teams and individuals over the years. A major part of the festival is its fundraising ability, both for cancer research in the early years and now for cancer survivorship programs.
Griffith lost his brother to cancer in 2000 and said he wanted a way to channel his emotions.
“Writing a donation check somewhere wasn’t going to heal me,” he said. “Instead, I started this ride. You turn your energy into something positive.”
Just 12 riders took part in 2001, the event’s inaugural year, and $1,800 was raised. In the past 11 years, the festival has raised $3.4 million “and we are cranking on,” Griffith said.
Contributions regularly go to the Moab Regional Hospital cancer treatment and research center, he said. Riders may earmark charities of their choice, Griffith added, and many choose a hospital in their town.
“Everybody has a local need and it’s a way for them to make a difference in their community,” he said.
In addition to raising money for cancer-related causes, several of the riders each year are cancer survivors. “That’s the inspiring part,” Griffith said.
More information about the festival is available at www.skinnytireevents.com.