CHARLESTON — A year ago Easley native Ridgley Beckett wasn’t sure if she would ride a bicycle again much less complete the 252-mile 2104 Ride to Remember in an effort to battle Alzheimer’s or that there would be another reason to ride beyond finishing.
Beckett suffered a serious crash in the final six miles of 2013’s ride and was unable to finish, but that wasn’t her only motivation to return for 2014, participating in some capacity with the event over the last three years with her boyfriend, Will Joyner, who has ridden in the last four rides.
“The first year Will rode and I worked supply and gear (SAG), helping with drinks or whatever needed to be done,” Beckett said. “Will had ridden the year before and I wanted to go along and help. Last year was my first time actually riding and if it wasn’t for the friends and family I made riding I would have been in serious trouble.”
With six miles remaining, Beckett approached the Ashley River Bridge when things went terribly wrong.
“As me and a few other riders I hadn’t even known six hours earlier go to the bridge, which is grated metal, the sky opened up,” Beckett said. “My back tire fishtailed and I crashed right there, rolling into and out of traffic. When I looked down all I could see was a bunch of skin was gone and had no idea how bad it was.”
That’s when her fellow riders came to her side and reached medical help, family, and Joyner, making sure Beckett was safely cared for. In the end the surgeon stopped counting the stitches at 50 and photos of her injuries are not for the faint of heart.
“Those people I didn’t know were my lifeline and we’ve been close ever since,” Beckett said. “We all came back this year, even after them having to basically sew me up like a football.”
So why was it important to Beckett to come back?
“Will and I rode a tandem bike this year and when I first decided to come back I wanted to finish all 252 miles,” she explained. “But this year was different because of Will’s grandmother.”
Joyner’s grandmother, Betsy Williams, passed away from Alzheimer’s July 14 just days before the ride was scheduled to begin.
In the end it made things different for Joyner as well.
“My grandmother was actually kind of lucky because she didn’t get the worst type of Alzheimer’s,” Joyner said. “She still remembered her husband, just not that he was her husband. And she never got mean like the more severe cases cause. This year we rode for her.”
Beckett and Joyner openly talked about what inspiration Williams provided for the two of them.
“Every time we would hit a hill and I would get tired or want to quit I could hear Ridgley right behind me, telling me, ‘This is for Betsy, this is for Betsy,’” Joyner said. “And she would get us past it every time. I couldn’t help but think I can’t bail because she wouldn’t have bailed.”
As the tandem bike passed over the Ravenel Bridge, Beckett and Joyner paused and took a photograph, taking a moment to remember Betsy Williams before the downhill ride the last mile to the finish.
“It didn’t really hit me until we actually finished,” Joyner said. “This year we rode for Betsy, my grandmother and it was an inspiration.”
Beckett and Joyner completed the entire 252 mile course, forever making the marathoners in the parlance of the event’s cyclists, and honoring Joyner’s grandmother forever as well.