I was going to start with an apology intended for those that have no interest in reading about this particular event – but I changed my mind. Because, frankly, I’m too dang proud of my husband and the other 190 riders joining him in the 2014 California Coast Classic – biking 520 miles down the coast and raising $1 million along the way. Also – I’m too moved and inspired by the stories I hear and the people I meet not to share with you.
So, the ride started Saturday in San Francisco. It’s Dave’s 4th year riding as Team Princess Parade – and our great friend Dan’s second year riding. Dan’s wife Michelle, their two kids, and my two sons and I drove up on Friday (after school) so we could be there Saturday morning to see them off. It was a beautiful morning – just a slight chill in the air as the morning fog burned off, as the riders gathered at Fisherman’s Wharf for breakfast and a kick-off ceremony.
The ceremony was dedicated to Christiana Powery, who passed away in 2005 from Juvenile Dermatomyositis. Her parents, Dwight and Maria, ride every year, and they have a large team called Also Touch. This is actually their 8th year, and their team raised over $30K this year. Over all of their efforts, they have raised more than $275K. In remembrance of Christiana, all of the riders have a SpongeBob sticker on their name tags and bike tags- because that was her favorite character. In my mind, it feels like just yesterday that I learned about Christiana’s passing. For reasons I don’t need to explain to you (because you understand), it was particularly devastating. She was only 10 years old- Caitlin was 7 at the time – and the thought that such a young life could be taken so quickly, so dramatically, due to a disease similar to what my daughter had…. well. Can’t really spend too much time there, can we?
When I saw a sign later that day with the years of her life written on it – I was stopped with such a mix of gratitude and disbelief. So thankful for my own daughter – (who was not even with us because she was enjoying 2 nights of One Direction concerts!) and so filled with wondering about what Christiana would be like this year – as a 19-year-old young woman- had she lived. I don’t suppose there could be a better mission moment for why this ride is so very important. I didn’t seek out Dwight and Maria that morning. But to be quite honest – I sometimes have a hard time talking to them. Not for the reasons you would imagine. It’s not because I pity them, or even out of empathy – or because there are no words, even after 9 years, to say to parents who have been what they have been through. Really, I am sort of in awe of them for their strength, resiliency, tenacity and GRACE. They have so much grace that sometimes, I feel like I can’t be too close to it- because it’s like it shines so very bright you can’t get too close. Sorry if that seems really weird – but it’s true. So, I will just finish by telling you that they are extraordinary – and that if you can do it, you should visit their website to learn about Christiana and their story.
After the riders took off, and we had checked out of our hotel, our motley crew headed to rest stop #2 to ring cowbells and thank riders as they stopped for rehydration and snacks.
Then we moved on to stop number 3. There we met up with the honoree of the day, Mia. Mia’s folks are repeat riders in her honor, with their Team Sluggy. It’s always a treat to see kids that you know from previous events – because of how much they have grown! Mia is 11, diagnosed with pauci (Oligoarthritis) at age 6. But it is a small part of who she is – an active runner and gymnast and Taylor Swift fan, who will accomplish whatever she dreams.
Along the way, we rang bells as we passed riders on the road. I worried that having a loud bell suddenly in your ear as you pedaled on a 6″ shoulder of a very busy highway might be dangerous, but we started ringing well behind the riders and they smiled and gave us a thumbs up.
The 87 mile day ended in Santa Cruz, where the riders set up their tents on the football field. My husband loves this part of the trip – the camping every night. Even though hotels are an option, and several riders do that – Dave loves the whole tent condo experience. I have to say, I was tired at the end of that day – and I traveled the course in my minivan – so I can only imagine what kind of reserve it would take to finish that ride – and THEN set up a tent and all your gear. Just another reason these riders are magnificent:)
Dave and Dan wisely chose spots on the edge of the field, near the track – just in case there was a repeat of the previous year when the sprinklers went off. Turns out it was for very good reason – as Dave found himself stomping his size 12’s on the sprinkle head to hold the water at bay while he yelled at Dan to drag the tents to the track – at 12:30am! There is a rumor that perhaps the high school football team played a part in this, because I know very well that the staff did everything they could to prevent this…. but the riders were quick to react and fortunately, most escaped without a solid drenching.
Day 2 was a much shorter day that brought the riders to Monterey. Most riders were in by lunchtime, which afforded the opportunity to go into town to catch some football and some fried artichokes. Yes… a local specialty!
It was also team jersey day – so the guys were sporting their great Princess Parade jerseys. Mark J is also on the team this year – and not pictured is Laura – riding this year as a princess:)
Today, the riders are headed to Big Sur – which is one of the favorite stops on this tour. Dave says the coast has been a bit foggy – so he didn’t get great photos. However, they did see a pod of dolphins and a bunch of sea otters – so it has been a great day for coastal sites.
There – they will soak in the river and enjoy some local food and drink before heading to camp.
I always ask Dave if he has ever met any new and interesting riders. He texted me about Glenn from New Jersey. Glenn has serious osteoarthritis and has already undergone knee and hip replacement. He was looking online for a new riding jacket online and stumbled upon a CCC jacket. Intrigued, he investigated further – and in a spontaneous bucket list cross-off, he signed up for the ride. Dave says Glenn has been a tinkerer with bikes, but upgraded this year – and has been a tremendously strong rider every day. Kudos to Glenn and to all those like him who take a leap of faith on an adventure like this!
Every year, I am struck by what an incomparable event this is. And even though the kids and I follow along where we can, and ring cowbells and give high-fives – there clearly is a special bond that exists only among the riders, staff and volunteers that spend this week and this journey together. Someday, I hope that I can follow the whole week – and meet every rider. I can make a mean peanut-butter and jelly sandwich too! Alas – with three kids in school and activities, it will need to wait. Hopefully, Dave will still be riding in 2027 when our youngest graduates!!!
If you are a bike rider (notice I purposely did not say cyclist?) – and you have spirit – I hope you will consider this event for 2015. I promise I will be there, somewhere, and some day, to cheer you on!
Until then – please send up your prayers, positive thoughts and good vibes- that these riders will be safe in their travels and their efforts to get us closer to a cure.