It’s doubtful many people remember Maria Massei-Rosato and her bicycle trip through Shelby nearly a quarter of a century ago. But she remembers Shelby. Since her first trip biking cross-country through Montana, she has authored a book and screenplay, “Lost in Control.”
She wrote the book after her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s as a follow-up to a bike trip she and her husband, Tony, made to raise awareness about the disease 24 years ago.
An article featuring the duo appeared in the Promoter back in 1995. Massei-Rosato reached out to the Promoter to share her screenplay, which was recently selected for the Beverly Hills Film Festival this year.
“Meeting the woman that put us in touch with an editor at the Shelby Promoter was a highlight,” said Massei-Rosato. “We had just cycled into town and my husband and I were arguing over whether to stop in Shelby for lunch. I wanted to stop, he didn’t. I left to find a restroom and when I returned he was talking with this smartly dressed older woman. When we told her we were raising awareness for Alzheimer’s, she said, ‘I know an editor at the Shelby Promoter. I’ll make a phone call.’”
Massei-Rosato continued, “We ended up eating lunch at a Shelby cafe while the reporter interviewed us and the kind woman ate lunch a few tables over with her local friends.”
The trip began in Seattle, Wash., and extended over 3,000 miles as they rode cross-country back home to Brooklyn, N.Y. It was a seven and a half week adventure that not only spread awareness for Alzheimer’s, but was full of life lessons and making memories that have stuck with Massei-Rosato.
“In the moment it is difficult to articulate the magnitude of such a journey,” said Massei-Rosato. “For sure I understood that the bike journey was one of mental fortitude, not physical ability, which is what I had thought before we left Brooklyn. And it was my first inkling that I couldn’t control everything, up until that point in my life I thought I did a fairly good job of that.”
She continued, “What I truly learned and applied to caring for my mom is that life requires strength in the face of adversity, patience when confronting a challenge and faith when all seems lost. I apply this in all aspects of my life from work, to motherhood, to even getting my book and screenplay out there, which I’ve been working towards for the past 15 years. Well, the book 15 years, the screenplay the last four years.”
Massei-Rosato finished her screenplay in its current form last March and submitted it to the Art of Brooklyn Film Festival. This was her very first submission and her screenplay placed in the Top 10.
“That’s when I knew I was onto something,” she said. “So far I’ve placed in five festivals since June and Beverly Hills is one of the more prestigious. The awards ceremony is at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel and the best part is that my family and friends will join me, we make a total of 10.”
Massei-Rosato shared, “Almost every day I kept upping the number of seats I needed and emailing the staff with questions. The festival founder, Nino Simone, joked with his staff ‘Hey, I want to sit with them... sounds like a fun party.’ I’m also excited about this film festival because for several years I’ve believed that Rhea Perlman is the perfect actress to play my mom: a short, spunky Italian American from Brooklyn, so I’m hoping she’s attending the festival this year as she has attended in years past.”
Massei-Rosato’s mom was the inspiration for her trek across the country 20 odd years ago, after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. During her cross country ride she and her husband received the attention of local press in seven states. And while she is uncertain of the impact it may have had on more funding for research, she feels those who read the newspaper articles were.
“I believe the readers of publications like the Shelby Promoter learned more about the disease and if they were a caregiver, perhaps they felt a little less alone on their journey to care for their loved one,” said Massei-Rosato.
“I have not been an advocate in a public sense. I felt I needed to distance myself from the disease after my mom’s death in 2003. But I talk openly about my experience and have been there for family, friends and acquaintances in the capacity of sharing a caregiver’s point of view and advising on respite options, like arranging for friendly visits before health-aide visits are needed, ” she explained.
When asked if she would ever embark on an adventure similar to this one again she responded, “Absolutely!”
“I have a 20-year-old son and almost 13-year-old daughter, going on 30,” she smiled. “I once thought I would take the bike trip again with them. Perhaps one day we will. But I am confident that when the screenplay is picked up and produced and/or I obtain a publisher for the book, I will embark on a cross-country trip and stop in the towns that are imprinted in my memories, like Shelby. Just not sure it will be by bicycle again.”
For those considering following in the biking trail to raise awareness, regardless of the cause, Massei-Rosato encourages them to do it. As she learned from her own experience, it is a life changing event, one that will stick with you for years to come. And the added bonus, with social media being what it is now, raising awareness for a cause is much easier.
The Beverly Hills Film Festival and awards ceremony is slated for April 7 and Massei-Rosato will be there, along with her family and friends, celebrating the success of a screenplay that would have never been written if she had not bravely climbed onto that bike 24 years ago with a mission.
Whatever awards her story may receive, none can outshine the reward of the experience and lessons learned, about herself and life, along the way.