Monday, November 1, 2010

A Final Word

We just flew over the shore line of California out over the lovely ocean as we turned and headed north to home. I doubt Julia will ever want to travel with me again, as true to (my) pattern, we cut it a little close; after a little run-walk through the terminal, and hearing a page for “anyone holding boarding passes to SLC, come to the gate immediately,” we scanned our boarding passes and they closed the door behind us. (I must say here that we still had a good 10 minutes before scheduled departure, in fact we were even in the air before we were supposed to leave… I think they were just trying to scare us). Just a word to any of you contemplating ever traveling with a bike; it is a BOTHER! I can see now why all of the riders who came into town via plane all chose to borrow bikes from Giant rather than bring their own (something I didn’t even know was possible, but will seriously consider in the future). After a quick little Mexican lunch at a hole-in-the-wall near the car rental return, we returned our car, jumped on the waiting shuttle and dashed off at terminal 1. The check-in line was quite long, and I got my hand slapped for leaving my bike box at the end of the line to pick up later when I came around. My checked luggage was also a few pounds too heavy (this is where the love/hate relationship of the goodie bag comes in) and she charged me an extra $50, on top of the bike $50 fee. Late or no, I was going to have none of that. I opened the bag, grabbed my goodie bag stuff and re-weighed. I think it still may have been a pound or two over, but she let me go. Off to security to find another long line, where I had to ditch a couple of energy drinks (formerly of the checked baggage lot) in order to get through. Once in our seats, Julia turned to me and incredulously asked, “So this is how you travel ALL the time?” I had to admit that it was this way, most of the time, which gave me a perfect opportunity to recount the infamous Pisa departure story. Like I said, next time, I bet she will choose to travel on her own and meet me there.

My post-event feelings are much akin to the day after Christmas, a tinge of sadness that it is already over, but more predominant are the feelings of satisfaction of having accomplished a goal, amazement at our toughness, and joy for the opportunity to participate in such a meaningful cause so close to our hearts and to meet others who share the same passion. Most everyone who rode this year said that they are planning on riding next year, and Julia and I are saying the same thing. We found out that all of the funds we raised in order to participate go directly to support YSC, who then in turn spend it to help young women with breast cancer. All funds for the hotels/meals/support we received along the way were donated by various sponsors.

This year was especially poignant for riders on the west coast, as a Giant employee, Michelle Weiser recently passed away from breast cancer. On day one, we rode with her fiancĂ© Dustin, for a good portion on the way, who later that night after dinner stood and told us all a little about her. It is one thing to talk about finding a cure, or raise funds for “the cause”…worthy euphemisms for what we are all really about...fighting for life; it is another to then see up close the impact of losing a loved one to cancer. I tried to imagine being in his shoes, and it is simply heartbreaking. As one rider said, often times fund-raising for an event tied to a cause is seen as more of a support for someone’s hobby rather than a support for the cause, and I suppose that there is some truth to that in some cases. But these events also personalize all one’s efforts; you see how beneficial both emotional and monetary support is to real people. Additionally, all of you who so generously contributed to my fund-raising efforts have forever changed the way I view donating to cause-events. I was astonished by your generosity; you have broadened my vision of the good that can come from supporting these types of events.

This morning I woke to thoughts of how wonderful it would be to have a whole slew of friends and family participating; I thought how much our weekend riding buddies would have enjoyed our route, how non-riding friends and family would have enjoyed volunteering, it was such a great experience in a most lovely part of the country. The fundraising is indeed daunting; all along I viewed it somewhat as a necessary evil in order for me to ride and have the experience. In the end though, I realized that the money is really the important part and the experience is really a side benefit. While not very touchy-feely, money is what will help save people’s lives, whether it be for research, or paying hospital expenses, or a ride on the bus home from treatment. This event was really a win in so many ways; you all supported the cause via your monetary donations. Julia and I had the great pleasure of getting involved in cycling with friends old and new....all to our great enjoyment and health. It turned out that this experience exceeded all of our expectations. Thank you all for your support, we couldn't have done it without you!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Day 3 Santa Barbara to Point Mugu

Today some people were dressed up for Halloween, one girl was riding with a pink wig underneath of the helmet, two women were wearing the bunny years, some had face painting.
Right before the start of the ride, the survivors were invited to lined up at the front raw for the group picture and to lead the last ride of the Tour.

Everybody looked very cheerful and happy - we were promised no more hills (little that we know...).

Gretchen choose not ride today because of the church, so I had to find some other riders to tag along. After the first rest stop, I went with a small group - a couple from Hershey company and the guy from Giant Bicycle Inc., the "Ghost Rider", who was chosen by his coworkers to ride in honor of Michelle Weiser, the employee of Giant who was a big supporter of Tour de Pink. Michelle passed away this summer after a battle with breast cancer.

The bike route took us right on the US-101 Freeway. Although the bike lane was surprisingly wide, it was a little bit unnerving...

The weather was gorgeous, the view breathtaking. Today's 50 miles were the least noticeable.

We arrived to Point Mugu State Park around 1:00 pm. Gretchen and Janice were already there taking pictures and cheering for us among the bunch of other people.


Saturday, October 30, 2010

Day 2 Santa Barbara Out and Back

Last night we were warned that we might be waking up to some rain, so the start time was variable, 8 if it wasn't raining, 9 or 1o if it was. While it apparently thundered and deluged through the night, by the time we went for breakfast, it was clear-ish. So we were out and ready to go by around 8:15. However, Evan said that he would put my new pink tape on my handlebars...quickly before we headed out. Unfortunately, it took him a little longer (bless his heart...he had to deal with especially thick tape) and by the time he finished, the group had started without me. I was confident though, that I could catch up with them, as I got instructions as to which direction they started, and I was off. Julia went with the group, having heard that I was in the first group out, so she thought she was trying to catch up with me.

Out I went, pedaling hard, following the arrows on the road, until I ran out of arrows all together. I kept going thinking that I would catch up with the group sometime soon, but I never saw a soul. I thought perhaps I had missed a turn, so after climbing a hill, i turned around and went back, searching for the missing arrows. Alas, after going back up and down the street a couple of times, there were none to be found, and I ended up stopping at a salon in a strip mall and borrowing their phone to call the emergency contact number printed on my number. After two attempts, and no one picking up the phone, I decided my only option was to return to the hotel. Additionally, I didn't have my cell phone with me, nor the cue I was totally and completely lost. When I pulled into the hotel though, I met one of the organizers and she and her husband kindly took me to the first rest stop where I met back up with the group.
Come to find out when I had left the hotel, I had turned left (as instructed by the SAG guys) and I should have turned right. NO WONDER I was never able to catch up with the group, and no wonder the arrows ended (come to find out those arrows were for a running race recently staged). Sigh...

However, in hind site it was probably a good thing that I didn't follow the group, as my knee was still really hurting from the day before, and the first leg of the day was filled with hills, which really puts a lot of stress on the joint. After the first rest stop, we wound our way through UCSB, how fun it would have been to go to college there...right on the beach.
We then made our way into the canyons and once again went up and down hills.
I had hoped that my knee would start to feel better once I warmed it up, but it never eased up on the pain. At one point, half way up a long hill, I had to cry uncle and get in the SAG wagon to the top. Then I was out for the REALLY fun downhill as we wound through the canyon.

We did pass some famous people's homes, two of which we knew about...Steve Martin and Oprah...we didn't really see her house, but heard that we were in the area. I had to climb in the van one more time when the knives started going through my knee again, but I was able to get out for the last 6 miles or so and finish with the group, happy with the thought that I would not be getting back on the bike tomorrow...according to plan.

We hit the hot tub today, which was a really good idea before we went to dinner. Dinner was a yummy Italian affair and we heard from a survivor and her of the many amazing ones we are hearing through these days.

Tomorrow Julia will head out with the group down PCH 101 while Janice and I attend church in Carpenteria. Afterwards, we will drive the route and join back up with the group at Point Magu, the end stop of the tour. Tomorrow is sure to bring further adventures...

Overheard and Observed:
  • Look, there's Steve Martin's house
  • On the way back from dinner, Janice, unknowingly, started walking like she was sore out of pure empathy before she realized that she wasn't sore, and resumed normal walking
  • Huge eucalyptus trees, creating an amazing canopy to ride under
  • Beautiful Hope Ranch (most saw this, one missed this)
  • Bad roads (read akin to cobblestones) along with fallen palm fronds through the UCSB campus
  • Having to stop at EVERY ONE of the stop lights on the UCSB campus (Julia thanks Sid for the loosening of her pedals so she could unclip easily)
  • The local Motos (guys on motorcycles) freaking us out at lunch time by saying that locals never ride the route we were riding because of all the hills.
  • Curtis (not Judd) who had only ridden once for 7 miles, along with one spin class made it completely around the course
  • Some of the support guys getting out and running behind some struggling riders (not us :)) by pushing them up the hill
  • Julia telling Janice that "Gretchen's in an ambulance" and sending Janice into a fit looking for me. (meanwhile, I was riding in the car to the first rest stop)
  • We did not opt for the shortcut back to the hotel, but rather finished the entire loop for the full mileage.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Day 1 Newbury Park to Santa Barbara

The day started out early by riding first to Giant's headquarters about 2 miles from the hotel. There people met us and cheered, we heard from all kinds of sponsors, fueled up with water and bananas and were on our way. We had been warned about a "technical descent" at mile 6, a warning which kept Julia from having a descent night's sleep, but in the end, was no worse than some of our descents coming out of our UT mountains. The ride was divided in fours by 2 breaks and one lunch break and then the final destination. The first portion of the ride found us riding in the "bread basket" of the nation, past fields of cabbages, sunflowers, strawberries, cilantro, and many other crops we couldn't identify as we sped by.
The first rest stop proved to be a bit of a tire hazard for many of us...the goat heads were out in full force. i had two in my back tire, so before exiting the rest stop i had to stop at the SAG wagon to get the repair. By the by, having the SAG wagon really makes you feel like a could get really used to such treatment :) We were then on our way, and about a half mile later I was down in the back wheel again. Julia had a flat too, so after changing them out again we were on our way, riding our little hearts out to catch up with the rest of the group. Evan suggested that we should jump in the van to catch up with the other riders, but we said we would like to try to catch up with them first...and we eventually did.

We made it to the lunch stop on the Buena Ventura beach...sandwiches and snacks. Janice had met us at the first rest stop as well as the lunch stop. It was so wonderful to have her there and cheering and taking pictures.
"She joined the following vehicles through the rest of the ride, and it was wonderful to have her along. The beach was beautiful, and it was hard to leave it and get back on the bike.

Next up, UP being the operative word, we made our way to lake Casitas...a lovely lake in the foothills/mountains above Ventura. We had our share of climbing, but it was nice to have had a lot of climbing time in SLC at higher altitudes, it made climbing the hills here much easier. Julia got yet another flat, and that put us towards the back of the pack again. We made it to the third rest stop...the last stop before the REALLY big climb up over the hills. We were met by lovely views on our climb. I had my chain come off on the uphill climb, and had to have the SAG guy help me get it back on the was so jammed that he had to take the chain apart in order to get it off and back on the bike. That would be our last time SAG would have to help us out for the day, but we have become good buddies with Evan and crew, and I am sure over the next couple of days, that friendship will continue.

The climbs and descents through the Casitas area were lovely, with yummy whiffs of eucalyptus throughout. We made our way to Santa Barbara and were met with HOARDS of trick or treaters all dressed up and collecting candy from local shops along the main drag. I almost hit a few, but Julia seemed to be able to dodge them with great success. We kept thinking that we were close, and then we would be met with yet ANOTHER hill. At one point, I said to Janice, "REALLY....ANOTHER HILL???????" I had to stop and mentally gear up to go up yet again. By the way, Julia treated the hills as though they were nothing. As I was sucking air, she seemed to be out on a Sunday ride and barely broke a sweat.

We finally arrived at our destination, the Fess Parker DoubleTree really is a lovely property right on the beach.

We were thrilled to finally be off our bikes and have a shower waiting. We had dinner at 7 and then it was back to the room for an early-ish night.

Overheard and Observed:
  • Julia wished the last 10 miles were cut out of the ride
  • Dustin announced he got "chicked" by Julia and me today
  • Record 2 flats in less than a mile
  • Fresh strawberries and raspberries direct from the fields
  • Sun shining on the ocean...the ocean folks, that's where we are :)
  • I wish I could trade my painful feet in for some new ones, I may have to settle for new cleats
  • Julia was shocked that picking strawberries involved complete manual labor
  • Waving to the field workers as we zoomed by
  • Janice loved watching the lame bird on the beach
  • Huge appetites during lunch and dinner (hey we burned a LOT of calories)
  • I learned what kind of tool you need to take a chain apart (after I got mine jammed while going up a hill)
  • 4 Flat tires between Julia and me
  • Taking pictures of SAG support guys with black underwear
  • Janice's friendly "tapping" honks scaring the riders
  • Nearing the end of the ride, stopping and waiting for Julia to catch up. Waiting and waiting, and then thinking that she had another flat tire, doubling back (up a hill) to find her. Making it all the way back to the roundabout thinking she must be lost. Figuring out that MY roundabout exit was the wrong one, and that I was the lost one.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Arrival in Newbury Park

A quick note before turning off the lights for a refreshing sleep. Tomorrow starts early with breakfast around 6:30, baggage has to be dropped off to the burly baggage boys by 7:00, and then it is off to Giant Bicycle headquarters for a little meet and greet. Around 9:00 we head down the hill to the ocean and will continue over dale to Santa Barbara.

After nearly giving Julia a heart attack by just making it to our meeting point by the appointed time, and THEN requesting that we make a short stop at Costco to pick up a prescription, we made it to the airport and checked in the BIGGEST luggage I have yet traveled with, the bike carriers. I borrowed mine from Dave Evans, and Julia found one on KSL. they are big and bulky, but they do have wheels and are relatively light. Fortunately, we encountered no lines either at check-in or security and made our way to the gate with plenty of time to spare...with even enough time to catch a quick lunch. The flight was relatively empty and we had the middle seat open and stretched out. After arriving, we decided that I should go and get the car and that Julia should stay with the mountain of luggage so we didn't have to haul it on and off the shuttle bus. I came back to get her about an hour later in a shiny black Jeep Grand Cherokee, which contained our mountainous baggage quite well, thank you. (to be fair, Julia is travelling with one little rollerboard in addition to her bike, while I have the big bag, the laptop wheely bag and the bike)

After getting a bag full of really cool goodies (hardly anywhere to sleep once they were dumped out on my bed) we were so excited for what turned out to be a big bonus in the form of Evan the Giant bike mechanic. He was still set up in his parking lot-tent-fix-it-shop when we arrived and graciously stayed beyond his scheduled hours to reassemble our bikes. We were so grateful, as we imagined that had we had to do it ourselves, it would have taken a lot of time...we might have missed dinner!

We are approximately 35 riders for this "inaugural west coast" ride, with about a third of the people having participated in the east coast version of the ride in previous years. I think by the end of 3 days we will have gotten to know most folks fairly well...which an exciting prospect.

Tonight at dinner we sat with two couples who do a lot of charity rides across the country. When I asked them what motivated them, they said, "Diseases, we are not discriminatory." It sounds like the wives take their time, and the husbands forge ahead a bit, but they have seen some amazing country and have raised money for a lot of good causes. We also met Lisa Frank, one of the organizers of YSC and one who facilitated our bike gifts from Giant. We will look forward to meeting the rest of the crew over the following days. So far, as expected, everyone has been ready to be an instant friend to us. I think we are in for a great experience...if we survive the "technical descent" at mile 6 tomorrow...the road from the top of the hill to the beach. They have given us plenty of warning, and if we decide that we don't want to do it, we can ride in the SAG wagon. It promises to be an adventure! It will be fun to have Janice along to take pictures and to cheer us on, she just arrived at the airport and has so kindly volunteered to sherpa for us in any way we need. Let the good times roll!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

On the Eve of Departure

The training is officially over, as tomorrow we clamber aboard our flight to LAX. I haven't been able to get in any rides during this busy work week spent at Park City amidst the first snow of the season. This is supposed to be a tapering period anyway, right? I have to say, overall, we have had some spectacular fall weather; the combination of the perfect temperatures and the stunning fall colors in the canyons has made it a great time for cycling.

Two weeks ago, our Saturday long ride was a real treat. Julia, Radomir, Terry and I met Curtis in his home town of Wanship (just east of Park City) for a wonderful rural ride to Coalville and up Chalk Creek canyon.
Though the temperature was on the cool, crisp side, the sky was clear and cloudless, and we saw more cows and sheep than people along the was refreshing in every way. Terry and Curtis got their heart rates to soar a little more than the rest of us as they did some side hill climbs for fun...really, you call that fun? While the guys out-paced us, they were kind and watchful and came back to escort us to our destination. On the way home, I stopped at the Pearl Izumi outlet store in Park City to pick up some cold weather gear, which ended up being very timely, because...

Last Saturday, Julia and friend Anja and I rode the loop through Lehi. Rain was in the forecast, but we hoped that with our early start we might be able outrun it...and we did, until we crested the point of the mountain hill on the way home. As Julia pointed out, it was good to get some "rain experience" under our belt in case we run into rain in California. By the time we reached my house, we were soaked. I squished in my shoes and socks. In fact, I waited until Monday to pack the biking shoes, as they were still drying out. The new rain jacket worked like a charm though, and the new full-finger gloves were a definite asset.

Today I packed up my bike, along with a lot of help from Sid and Dave (owner of the bike travel case) and stowed it in my car. After a couple of meetings tomorrow on the final day of our customer conference, I will dash down the canyon and meet Julia and her friend, who will take us and our large luggage to the airport. We are flying on Southwest, as they have the cheapest bike fee ($50), and will then pick up our rental car (SUV to hold the bikes) and then drive on to Thousand Oaks for dinner/orientation/packet pick-up. Friend and co-worker Janice McReaken is also flying out tomorrow eve and will be our personal photographer, cheerer-on-er and vehicle transporter.

Once again, as I reflect on the road leading me to this moment I am in awe. I am humbled by the generous hearts and outpouring of pocket-contents in support of my fund-raising efforts. My body and mind have been strengthened and toughened during rides organized by friends willing to spend Saturday mornings and after-work evenings dragging me along behind them as I tried to make up for lost summer training time. I am thrilled that the shattered shoulder healed enough for me to get back on my bike, even though as late as mid-August I was doubtful that I would be able to participate. While I have put forth a comparatively small smidgen of effort towards this task, it has really been the support and encouragement of family and friends and the grace of God which have delivered me on the doorstep of this eve of departure.

Thanks to you all in advance...the words of encouragement, the loan of a bike carrier, the continued tuning-up of the bike, the prayers for health and safety (my arm thanks you), the memorable training rides, the trip to CA to cheer and have all been amazing. Most of all, beyond my gratitude for what you have done for me individually, I thank you for what you have done in the fight against breast cancer in young women. I am sure in the next few days that I will find myself tearful, grateful, mournful, and joyful as I meet folks and hear their stories. I am looking forward to adding more pink threads to the tapestry of my life. I am like a kid on Christmas eve, anticipating an event which I believe will be life-changing and enriching. I can't wait to share it with you. gf

Monday, October 11, 2010

Emigration Canyon

Saturday morning dawned early following a somewhat sleepless night (due in part I think to a little nervousness at the 65 mile ride ahead). I pulled into Jack's driveway at 7:00am to find a distressed Dorothy, Jack's wife telling me that he had just been taken to the hospital via ambulance! As he was getting ready for the ride that morning, he became dizzy and nauseated, his legs wouldn't support him and his eyes darted back and forth. I followed Dorothy to the hospital where he had a full workup of various tests. When we arrived, the Doc came in to talk about his first supposition; severe vertigo. Nevertheless, he spent the better part of the day undergoing numerous tests, with vertigo remaining the verdict. Come to find out, another co-worker, Cindy, experienced much of the same symptoms 2 years ago, and her diagnosis was the same; vertigo caused by the inner-ear crystals falling out of place. We hope to see Jack back at work soon, and walking with balance.

After spending an hour or so in the ER, I left Jack and Dorothy and met up with the 3 other riders of the day, Julia, Radomir and Terry. They had decided to bike up Emigration Canyon in lieu of the long loop. While they had started at our work location, I met them at Hogle Zoo at the mouth of the canyon. What a gorgeous, if somewhat chilly, fall day in the canyon! I had never ridden it before, but of all the local canyons, it is by far the easiest. Nonetheless, it still felt like quite an accomplishment to make it to the summit. After a little breezy and chilly break at the top, with an amazing view, it was back down the hill. I think that canyon gets more cyclist traffic than car traffic, which is wonderful!

While we didn't yet do the metric century, we are all hoping and praying that Jack will be back in full form soon and we'll be following in his tracks around the valley in celebration of his birthday today.