“A bicycle ride is a flight from sadness.”
James E. Starrs
Last December, my family attended a thank you dinner for our regional AF. At the dinner, we heard the story of Adrienne R. -who rode the California Coast Classic in 2010. If you aren’t familiar with this event, it’s a 525 mile ride over 8 days, spanning from San Fransisco to Santa Monica. Not only did Adrienne ride the entire course last year, but she was one of the top fundraisers. Pretty inspirational to say the least, especially since Adrienne has been legally able to get the senior citizen discount for a few years now (I’m not saying how many and you’d never be able to guess looking at her!!!!)
One weekend in January, without really talking about it, my husband Dave pulled his Dad’s old road bike out of our garage. Since my father-in-law moved to rural Oregon several years ago, where he wouldn’t be riding any longer, he had given the bike to my husband. I never really noticed it, hanging from the rafters of our garage. He went for a short ride one Saturday morning – (if you count 13 miles short.) The next weekend, he did 17 one day and maybe 20 the next. Soon, he was tracking his MPH, and looking into protein supplements to fuel the ride. When I saw the lycra bike shorts, with the gel padded butt, I knew he was pretty serious. So, we started talking about the CCC and whether he was actually considering it.
After we finished Arthritis Walk season, Dave quietly signed up for the ride. I altered our walk video to reflect his ride efforts, and he set about raising money. It was a daunting task, because Dave tried really hard not to ask any of our walk donors for even more money. So, he had to find new people to explain this cause to. But it’s amazing what somebody with passion can do on behalf of a child they love so deeply. And it’s amazing how generous people can be. By early this month, Dave had surpassed his minimum and we had even recorded an interview at one of the hottest local radio stations…. and dad’s bike was back in the rafters in favor of a newer, lighter road bike.
Eight short months after he pulled that bike down from the rafters – here we are. Surrounded by 170 cyclists who are getting ready to embark on an adventure… cycling along the beautiful California coast. It just so happens though, that this adventure is to benefit the Arthritis Foundation – and it is the single largest grossing (and netting) event in the entire country.
What makes this event unique compared to most of the AF events I am familiar with is that many of the new participants really started out as being for just along for the ride. They are cycle enthusiasts that wanted to have this great experience – a great route with great tech support. In order to do so, there was a fundraising minimum – and I think some of them probably considered it the cost of having such a great time.
That is, until they got to the kick-off dinner the night before the ride starts and got to meet Esella’s family. Esella’s mom Katherine made a beautiful, moving video about their experience with juvenile arthritis. As it played, you could hear the sniffling as people reached for napkins. I could hear people saying things like “Can you imagine?” and “It’s almost unbearable”. My own sweet daughter caught me by surprise my crying… and I mean crying HARD. And my kid has seen enough of these stories… heck, this IS her story. It was very moving. And you could feel in the room that “Aha” moment when people really understood how devastating arthritis can be… and that they weren’t just riding on behalf of a bunch of grannies that have had to cut back on their knitting (although that’s not acceptable either 🙂
It was exciting just to be around that group of people. There were many CCC veterans in the room including one who has ridden every year, for 11 years!. You could really see how pumped up everybody was. And even though they all started out training, or signing up, for their own personal reasons – by the time everybody left the dinner – the fact that Arthritis is Unacceptable was perfectly clear. The mission and purpose of their pedaling was clear.
Personally – it was wonderful just to be able to meet so many of those people. And I was very happy to tell them about the people I know…. about Mike M., and Parker, and Emily, and Bean and my own daughter… so that they can feel those strong, definat spirits carrying them down the coast.
I could not be more proud of my husband that he has trained, and focused, and come to this journey. I wish all the riders safe passage, winds at their backs, passion in their hearts, and a piece of my gratitude in their souls.
Caitlin, Esella and Alexa at the opening dinner. These are three of the eight JA honorees along the ride.
Dave, Caitlin, Alexa and her dad Sean. Sean is a veteran rider, but is sidelined by injury this year. That didn’t stop him from raising money, and traveling 350 miles to support the ride…. and the riders.