It's Sunday evening as I write about our finish to this years adventure yesterday. While our first year down the coast riding and camping out was one to remember for, "What were you thinking!", to 2014 with the largest number of riders (42), 4 father son combos, 7 cancer survivors and some of the best cooperative riding seen in years. On Friday nite, Ventura County Fire Department hosted our group for dinner at FS50 which is located at the Camarillo Airport. Station 50 holds a Airport Crash rig, Engine Company, Paramedic Squad and a Hazardous Materials Squad. Our cyclists, support team and a few family friends were treated to a great dinner catered by Octavio's Italian restaurant. Special thanks to VCFD rider Steve Winter for coordinating our "final supper". No one left hungry and it confirmed to me that I'm not having another pasta dinner for at least a month! We were close enough to home to "touch it", but we had 44 miles to go. Everyone was in a celebratory mood and what was a "Who are these folks I'm riding with", one week ago in Sausalito was now solid new friendships born of more similarities than differences when it came to work, family and the impact of cancer in all our lives.
Saturday morning we gathered for our ride to the finish at the Santa Monica Pier. Club President Jim Berklite gave us our last rider's safety briefing reminding us that we had come too far to mar the event by a last minute accident so close to home. Rider's spoke of a family member or friends cancer status and Wade Little delivered our last morning prayer with a big AMEN from all of us. As is often the case, we had an escort from VCFD down Las Posas to PCH and into the "County Line"
Just past Neptune's Net, we re-grouped at VCFD station for water and bathroom break. We were ahead of schedule and everyone was eager to bring it home. As we passed LACoFD Station 71, I saw construction was underway for a new station. The irony of that was as a new firefighter in 1979, assigned to battalion 5, the department said they would be building a new 71's. I guess 35 years later they made good on their word! Our next to final stop was at LACoFD Station 88's for one final "watering". Patrol 70 with FF Andy Gosser arrived to provide a rear escort for us. At this point on PCH with 42 riders, it is impossible to use the shoulder for our travel so we took up the #2 lane which is now legal under California law. It was quite a sight as we received a lot of horn honking and well wisher waves from cars traveling in both directions. Off in the distance we could see the Santa Monica skyline of Ocean Blvd. and within a few minutes we arrived at parking lot #8. There to meet us was Santa Monica FD BC Jeff Furrows and a SMFD Engine with Medical Cart. SMFD has provided our final escort up the "California Incline" every year since we began. A good bunch of folks and we'd like to have some of their cyclists join us next year. It's 11:55 a.m. and our time to make that final climb up the hill, down Ocean Blvd. and turn onto to the world famous Santa Monica Pier where friends, family and people just visiting the pier greeted us with cowbells, whistles, hugs and kisses. We were safely home!
Pat Sullivan, Mike Connerty, Wade Little
Some interesting figures from this years ride. This is one sampling from a rider's Garmin device and can vary depending on a rider's physical input of age, weight and height as it relates to calories.
472.2 total miles - 32 hours 48 minutes ride time - 19,072 feet of climbing - 28,844 calories expended. On behalf of the riders, I want to thank the following folks who made this ride a success. Our support team - Ben, Roberto, Dinah, Mallori, Cindy & Chris for getting us down the coast with food, water, clean clothes and spare parts. Carol Fidani for setting up our food at the finish. Apologies if I left out anyone. Special thank you to our fire departments who hosted us - Sausalito, Half Moon Bay, Watsonville, Morro Bay, Santa Barbara City, Ventura County, Santa Monica.
Thanks to Acting Deputy Luke Claus for stopping by 88's to greet the riders and BC Bob Haskell for arranging the patrol escort. Mickey Gallagher passed the torch to Capt. Erik Albertson of LACoFD Lifeguard Division who made it work as it has every year. Congrats to newly promoted Section Chief Chris Linkletter. Using the pier would be an impossible task if not for the help of Officer Christopher Camp, Santa Monica Harbor Patrol. When I set up my fundraising program, my goal was to raise $3,000., as of today I can report $3,725. was generously donated by my many friends, family and co-workers. Thanks so much!! Finally, all of the riders want to thank their families for their support as they put in the many hours of riding in preparation for this difficult ride. Just as it was during our Academy days, we could not have made it through without that same level of support and commitment from our families.
Be safe, Be healthy, keep riding, I'll see you down the road!
Day 6 is like the day before graduation from the fire academy. Early to rise, bags to the support trailer, then grab some quick breakfast and ready the bike for a loooong ride. As with all of our daily rides, we return to the host station for a group picture with the on-duty firefighters, a briefing of the day's ride, a rider's request for a positive thought for a friend or family member with cancer, a remembrance of someone lost to one of our riders and finally a moment of prayer closing with the word, AMEN!
The weather was cool as we made the 12 mile climb up out on Highway 1 towards our first SAG stop Gaviota. The hill country in the area lacks the green lushness of past years as the drought seems to have touched every inch of California. Once onto Highway 101 and moving towards Santa Barbara we encountered glass and other debris for several miles. This resulted in at least 11 flat tires including one rider with 3. vIt's nice to finally make it to the Goleta - Santa Barbara area. Civilization with stop lights every few blocks makes the passage seem longer than it really is. It was all worth it as we stopped in at Santa Barbara City FD Station 5 for a hosted lunch once again.
Engineer Kevin Corbett, SBFD and dad Dennis Corbett were able to stop by and make connections with this years riders, 7 of them are cancer survivors. Kevin is currently undergoing treatment for cancer and I hope their words of encouragement made a difference.
Kevin Corbett on right
Refueled and eager to get through the day, riders headed out of Santa Barbara towards Carpinteria as the afternoon heated up for the first time this week. Road construction south of Carpinteria altered our route as we travelled southbound on the northbound side of 101. Into Ventura we picked up a tailwind which was so welcome as we neared the 90 mile mark for the day. Off the Ventura Pier, the kite surfers were as thick as thieves. Finally, through the marina area and into the ag/industrial area of Oxnard riders were like cows heading to the barn for the evening. 101 miles and in time for 5'oclock refreshments. It was almost time for graduation.
Fire Velo - Vice President
Morro Bay FD hosted a morning continental breakfast before departure. We've invited some of their cyclists to join us one of these years on our annual journey.
With the Mountain Stage" out of the way, it was a relatively easy 70 miles from Morro Bay to Lompoc with a stop over in Pismo Beach for their famous cinnamon rolls.
Everyone looks forward to a sugary roll and a cup of coffee, but we only travelled a few miles before stopping at Five Cities Station for a hosted luncheon. Five Cities has a special meaning to us because one of their members Tracey Ferguson is a retired Arson Investigator and a cancer survivor whom we met 3 years ago as she was under going cancer treatment. The next year she joined us and completed the ride despite having a very limited lung capacity. Her finish at Santa Monica was very emotional for all of us. This year, Tracy is once again with us and doing wonderfully. Her kids welcomed her with hugs today when we pulled into the station for lunch.
With our bellies once again full, we left Oceano and continued south through Guadalupe and into more farm country. There was but one hill left to climb before Lompoc, the infamous "Harris Grade". Once at the top of the grade, a fast downhill to town and a cold beverage.
Lompoc FD was our host for tonight with a great spaghetti dinner with all the trimmings.
Were almost home. Tomorrow it's a short 105 miles to Camarillo.
Off to bed for me. Good night and thanks for listening.