Saturday, September 13, 2008

Apply for the 2009 Team!

Do you want to join in the battle against cancer by having the experience of a lifetime biking across America?

Click here to apply for the 2009 team, and let you hearts, and legs, make a difference.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Thanks Again!!

Thank you to all our friends, family, and supporters from home and across the country who have made this amazing experience possible!

I've uploaded a final album of pictures that runs through our spectacular arrival ceremony at the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, CA!

All the riders will be sifting through their own photos and the team has organized a way to share them all with each other over the Internet, so ask your rider for the thousands of photos still to come!

Also, every team member will be contributing their own journal entry for our final day into San Francisco, and they will all be posted over the next week or so.

Thanks again!

A Crazy Busy Day - San Rafael, CA (Day 62)

It was a process leaving Stockton this morning, mainly because the hosts were so nice and we decided to play some games before circle-up. One of the community members offered to lead us on his bike out of the city. It is always fun to caravan as a group, but unfortunately by mile 20 we realized we were way behind schedule and would have to begin a shuttling process earlier than expected.

With such time restraints, a team dinner to make that night, and a complicated and important day tomorrow, Meg "da Leg Leader" and I decided to get some work done. We jumped in with Rob's parents at the lunch stop that they set up for us (thanks Mr. and Mrs. Kasten!!!) to go ahead and begin chalking out the 40+ turns for the next day. Though San Rafael is only about 20 miles north of the Golden Gate, the directions were complicated since we had to avoid the California highways.

The project became much more difficult than we had anticipated, and after about 3 hours of driving around getting lost and discovering non-existent bike paths, Meg and I decided to join the rest of the group (which had spent the last few hours shuttling over the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge) at a great team dinner provided by Mrs. Gotimer (again, we love parents!)

Though the chalking and re-routing process went till about 4am, with some vital help from Thomas, Clare and Anna, and though no one on the team had time to shower, the adrenaline-pumped anticipation for our day into San Francisco kept everyone on their toes and ready...


The Brewing Church - Stockton, CA (Day 61)

We finally reached sea-level (well, 15ft) today in Stockton, CA. The ride from Diamond Springs was great, especially because I was part of Team Broadway- we belted it out all morning and afternoon. You would be surprised how well you can sing on the bike with wind blowing in your face. (Note: though I sing a lot, and especially in groups like this, I really, really can't sing - ask the other group members.)

It was so weird knowing we were so close to our goal - the landscape honestly eerily reminded us of something out of Kansas or Nebraska. All we could see for miles was fields of gold, though in California that unfortunately means dried crops. As we got closer to Stockton, however, we came upon some fruit trees and vineyards. Jess took one for the team and picked a bunch of grapes. Though they were very tart and obviously not meant for consumption, they hit it home for us that we were finally in California.

Though we got lost right before we hit Stockton, and I got flat tire (I've lost count of how many of those I've gotten on this trip) it was nice getting there for another great community dinner and homestays. After having some of the church's home-brewed beer, "St. Anne's Ale," Jesse and I settled in with our host, Sarah King, who shared with us the powerful story of her son who lost his battle to leukemia 30 years ago when he was only 20 years old. It is in memory of her son, she told us, that she hosts young men from the 4K every year.

A truly powerful story to have with us tomorrow on our last full day of riding into San Rafael.


Thursday, July 24, 2008

An Incredible New Host - Diamond Springs, CA (Day 60)

Today was finally the day we began our journey back down to that amazing thing we dream about called sea level. Other than two climbs, which were nearly nothing compared to all the climbing we’ve done through Nevada and into Lake Tahoe, it was so glorious and thrilling down hills for most of the day into Diamonds Springs.

The first highlight of the day was Echo Summit, at which we all tried to yell and hear an echo, but to no avail. We yelled enough to make an effective scene, though. As we descended, we saw countless burned out patches of trees, reminding us of the ever-present danger of forest fires in California.

We were excited to meet our hosts in Diamond Springs, anticipating our first real community dinner and interaction in well over a week. Our expectations, however, did nothing to prepare us for the overwhelming hospitality, generosity, and kindness that we found at the Solid Rock Faith Center in Diamond Springs.

In addition to an amazing dinner, the church, along with the gym that provided showers for us, donated $2000 to our cause, which is something well beyond what we expected. Again, our appreciation for this community cannot truly be expressed in words. Pastors Sue and Don Pritchard were incredible.

The community also organized home stays for us, and Ondrej, Rob and I had the pleasure of staying with Mary and Pat Frost at their beautiful home overlooking the California valley. They also provided more hospitality than we could thank them for, and shared the story of their son, a many-time Iron Man and tri-athlete.

Without hesitation, I personally would say Diamond Springs, even as a brand new host for the 4K, was one of the greatest days we have had all summer. Their generosity and understanding of our mission is immeasurable.


California Vacation - South Lake Tahoe, CA (Days 58-59)

On the day out of Fallon, we found that reading road signs is harder than expected. We left Fallon bright and early at 7 am. Like every other day in Nevada, we followed the biggest road we found. This turned out to be route 50 Alt, not route 50, which heads toward Reno instead of Carson City. By the time we realized this at the first water stop 20 miles in, we were at least 15 miles away from our intended destination. Turns out that the van drivers noticed the turn, but followed our route since they saw riders. We were following the route because we saw the vans on it! In any case, this erroneous turn tacked on another 18 miles to our route, turning out already challenging 91 mile day into another 110 mile day.

We really knew we were in Nevada when we passed through Carson City, and saw a sign for marriage licenses down the street. The other interesting feature of Carson City was the towering mountains which we would climb shortly. Compared to the Rockies in Boulder, the Sierras stand nearly 2000 feet higher from base to peak. This made for an impressive display, towering over everything nearby.

As we arrived at our final climb into Tahoe, my bike odometer already showed 98 miles. We watched the Baby Bear/Hubie race begin; a rather uneventful start. We started up the mountain soon afterwards. After 2 months of biking, even the 11% grade did not feel awful. What WAS awful, however, was the 40 mph wind which played with us, occasionally helping along with a tailwind, but mostly destroying our speed as a headwind. After over an hour, I finally arrived at the top of Dagget Summit, 2400 feet higher, and 8 miles closer. The cheering was incredibly intense as each person arrived and joined, but it was indeed an amazing feeling. I can only imagine if the euphoria approached the triumph of successful chemotherapy. After just a few short miles of descent, we were in view of the lake. We arrived at the Lake Tahoe Presbyterian Church extremely late, but very happy.

On our day off the following day, I decided that hanging around was not quite what I wanted to do. Considering the absolutely amazing views just outside the door, I decided to go for a short bike ride to look around. Before I knew it, I was already halfway up the (extremely steep) hill above Emerald Bay. Considering the absolutely amazing view, I decided that I might as well spend the day biking around the entire lake. From reading the placards, I found out that Lake Tahoe is the third biggest lake in North America- 22 miles long and 12 miles wide. At 1600 feet deep, it contains enough water to cover the state of California in 14 inches of water. Its bottom is in fact lower than Carson City. The water is so clear, objects 75 feet deep remain visible. The gorgeous deep blue color is due to the color of the sky; during stormy days, the water is gray or nearly black. Following my extremely long but rewarding day, I finished off with some yummy Chinese food and went to sleep.

-James Gao

Change(s) in Scenery - Fallon, NV (Day 57)

110 miles. Mostly downhill. I thought it would be easy, but I was wrong. This morning we woke at 4am to a lovely mix of songs courtesy of Hubie. You know it’s early when you are already awake and moving about when the rooster crows.

The desert was absolutely beautiful during the sunrise, however, making most of us forger we were running on little sleep. After a few miles, we took a long descent onto the desert floor, and the terrain changed from canyons and shrubs to mostly sand. Anyone on the team will tell you that today was not only filled with many scenery changes, but also some very weird sites.

Our lunch stop was set up under a very large tree. Yet this wasn’t just a tree to provide us with some much needed shade. We dubbed the tree the ‘Shoe Tree’ because hundreds and hundreds of shoes were either hanging from its branches or strewn about underneath. We debated for a while what sort of cult-like activity people out here were up to with this tree, but no consensus was reached.

Following the tree, and after another nice downhill, we again found ourselves biking in the open desert. My group of Yogi, Meg, and myself started noticing some odd warning signs posted on fences lining the road. Meg got curious, stopped her bike in the middle of the road, and decided to walk over and check them out. The signs said something along the lines of “Restricted Area – Keep Out,” so we immediately decided it must be some top secret military nuclear site. Sounds cool, right?

We came upon some really spectacular salt flats near the end of the day, and saw hundreds of messages written out on the sand with rocks along the road. We dubbed it ‘western graffiti.’ A long day, but, as always, some amazing sights along the way.