|Ready to ride -- Undefeated EOD Ride, Day 2|
This ride pushed me well out of my comfort zone. It was on the other side of the country, I didn't know a soul, and had no clue of the terrain. The ride was smaller than others I've done before, (only 96 riders), and very few women. And, it wasn't marked at all, (and given my lack of directional sense, I very easily could have been dropped or lost). I had a few concerns. Ay yi yi.
So much could have gone wrong for me -- but nothing did -- and the credit goes entirely to the people I met. I think what made this ride stand out to me, above all others, were the folks I met who made it so much more than just another ride.
From the very beginning, there were friendly smiles and genuine warmth along the way -- from ride coordinator Kathy Myers who welcomed me to California; to Ted Lucas and his fabulous dad who I enjoyed very much; and Christine Rayl, who I exchanged emails with prior to arriving; and Chelsea Null who made every task seem effortless -- everyone I met was exceptional. (And my concerns that my bike wouldn't make it to the start were erased when Matt Myers personally walked me over to the van that held my bike nestled inside.) All was good.
Heading up to Los Angeles by bus, I had the fortune of sitting next to Tim Brown, one of the wounded EOD techs riding that weekend. Tim had participated in the EOD ride before, and described the route to me, taking the time to point out various points along the way. (The coast line, Camp Pendelton, etc...) He was so nice, and easy to talk to, and I liked him immediately. Tim rides a lot, and had recently participated in the Race Across America (RAAM) in good time with a custom handcycle. I felt confident that I could keep up with his pace, (or at least give it a shot), and asked if I could ride with him -- and he immediately said "sure".
He mentioned he was planning to ride with three others, including Richard Schrekengaust, (aka ("Schreck"), who ironically is the boyfriend of Christina Bologna -- another rider I'd been in touch with prior to the ride. (Christina is in Sicily -- or Italy? -- this year, and rode a Worldwide EOD Ride there. She rode in California last year and gave me great advice leading up to my ride.) I had meant to get in touch with Rich when I arrived in San Diego... so it's funny how things just worked out.
The morning of the ride, I joined Tim and Rich, and their friends Jim and Julia Woods. Julia was really fun and terrific and I instantly felt comfortable with her. Her husband, Jim, was equally warm and endearing, and I'm sure I'll know them both forever. (Love them.) I didn't chat with Schreck as much -- as he lead the way ahead of me for much of the weekend -- but I really liked him a ton and he was very easygoing. The five of us rode together all day, with Tim setting the quick pace, and Schreck and Jim assisting on many of the tougher climbs. They were strong! What a great team.
On Sunday, with a slightly longer day ahead of us, and a more challenging terrain, four additional riders joined our group of five -- Shane, Morgan, Brad R. and Jason. The added muscle gave Schreck and Jim some relief, (as they did a lot of pushing the day before, assisting Tim on the hills). Rock star Julia also joined in to help push Tim's bike on Sunday... I was the only one who couldn't quite manage it... something to work on for next year!
Everyone I met was wonderful... Fred, Jimmy and Brad B., Christine and Matt R.,.. and even those I met only briefly. They truly made the ride special. (More later).