Day Six: Hear Me

Day Six: Thursday, June 2, 2016

Pismo Beach. PC: Markham

Pismo Beach. PC: Markham

Woke up to another beautiful but overcast morning at Pismo Beach. I feel like most of our ride has been overcast. While everyone was packing Jason and I went and picked up some cinnamon rolls and coffee for the group…it was a nice break from bananas and oatmeal.

We haven't had tire flats this entire week but as we were about to roll out our first flat came and Ben was the victim, which meant another 20 minutes of stalling to leave. As the ride goes on it seems our morning departures get later and later...because everyone is more tired and sore since the previous day. Today our destination is Gaviota Beach…home is closer. 

On our way through we have met a lot of people who had seen our news piece and one lady even handed us $200 to our cause. It's amazing the kind people you meet along the way and we thank every one of these giving strangers :). Being on the road allows you to witness the kindness of strangers which is much different than what we see on the news or social media. People do care.

On the way to Lompoc we stopped in small town Guadalupe to pick up a couple of good friends of mine, Andres and Ted. I worked with Andres and Ted back when I worked for the toy industry. They were some of my first friends I made when I moved to California and  did our first and second year ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles. They weren't able to take a whole week off of work so they drove up from Los Angeles to do the last leg of the ride. Some of this year's riders like Viet, Ben and Andrew did the ride with these guys back in the day so naturally they were able to immediately recall old Bike for Kam memories.  It was a nice little reunion and nice revamp to our 10 person crew. 

Today the big story was going through Lompoc, an area with a couple big climbs. As we made our way through farmland we approached the first big hill. Today was the first day we experienced 90 degree heat which obviously makes climbs much more challenging but everyone made it to the top. We then hooked up the rig for the big Harris Grade Road downhill run. 

While we waited for the guys to bike up, Jason and I had drove ahead and checked out the Harris Grade downhill. It seemed really steep and windy so at first we weren't sure if was a good idea. But I trust my friends and employ the philosophy that sometimes you have to take a chance. You can't live in fear. Markham pulled me and we took off before anyone else did. I'm not even sure if anyone really saw the descend and I didn't even record it because I was so focused on holding on but it was SO SO fun. I can tell that I have gotten more used to going downhill in the rig because all I want is more and faster. Jason was worried but by now he knows me by now and is supportive of any new thing I want to try and I love that he's like that.

After the windy, steep descend I looked up Harris Grade Road and apparently it's a legendary road in Lompoc. It's known as haunted due to the many fatalities…ooops. Don't worry, we were safe…except for they almost forgot to put the harness on ;).

After Harris Rd we ate lunch in Lompoc where two more friends met up with us. Meet Mikey and Jimmy! Both of them have done previous Bike for Kam rides and wanted to join up for the last leg. Our little boy/girl band is getting bigger by the day and again, it's just nice having some of the original crew join up throughout the ride, especially since this is the last year. I wasn't able to be on the road with them when Bike for Kam began so it was nice experiencing at least some of it with some of the original riders. They brought us a ton of snacks and food and Jimmy ended up being a great relief after a long week of SAGing.

It was time to tackle one last climb for the day. The good thing about climbs is there is always a fun downhill and this one was the longest downhill of the week. This downhill went right into our campground destination and I think one of the guys reached 45 mph downhill speed.

Right when we arrived at Gaviota Beach Ben had achieved his second flat on the downhill and CP had a flat earlier. 3 tire flats in one day, we were definitely making up for a week with zero flats. Jason and I went back to give him a tire and we headed back to camp for a huge spread that Jimmy had brought us. Hamburgers, hotdogs, sides, beers, snacks…it was all very generous and appreciated.

I really liked camping at Gaviota Beach. It was such a weird night in terms of weather with so many transitions. Our bellies were full, campfire was going and to me it was the  clearest skies we had so far. Stars visible for miles with the ocean waves right next to us. At first it was cold but then the most warmest and pleasant ocean wind blew through the campsite, one of the warmest moments of night camping we had had. But then it got cold and eerily foggy…it was strange (maybe it was the whiskey) but wonderful, and camping with my friends are some of the best parts of the trip. I think everyone feels the same. 

I have been doing these "Warm Van Interviews" which have been fun. I know this is the first year I joined the ride and people are curious how the experience is from my eyes, especially riding in a rig, but I didn't want to write all these blogs from my perspective alone. So these van interviews have been a nice way to sit down with my friends and get some one-on-one time. 

My friend CP joined us this year. He was my aquatic therapy instructor from a few years back and after I told him about Bike for Kam he immediately joined the LA to San Diego ride from 2014. CP is the ultimate spiritual explorer and I was really happy he could join us for our final year. The interesting thing about CP is he is deaf yet lives life more than most. I'm not surprised but people who see "disabilities" often are surprised when we are out there living life. 

I had slight concern that hanging with a group of speaking individuals who don't sign would make CP feel left out. I also wondered how 8 days would feel.Obviously, CP is an adult and goes through it all the time but I just didn't want our group to make him feel that way and even if it's not on purpose it's realistic that it could happen. I felt bad and embarrassed that I didn't or rather couldn't sign. Even signing "good morning" was a chore. I had problems lifting my arms and articulating my fingers precisely. But I think if HIBM didn't affect my arms and hands I would be inspired by CP to learn sign language. It's really a beautiful and very expressive language. Everyone signs different and the way they sign assigns character to that person. Like we have inflections in our voice, they have "inflections" in their hand movements and face expressions.

With limitations comes resourcefulness and creativity.

CP and I both have a perceived disability but like myself he don't see himself as "disabled". To be "disabled" by society's standards is void of abilities which just isn't true. Most of our work is trying to live in a world that doesn't understand or want to understand and sometimes we have to work extra hard to include ourselves or make other people comfortable with our differences. Though our spectrums are different - I can't go on a bike ride like CP and he can't hear talking conversations like me - I feel we have a similar understanding and connection of what it's like being different. I asked him some specific questions about being deaf and the deaf community so maybe some others could learn and "listen", here is what he had to say.

Van Interview: CP

"Everyone has their own limitations, just like I do. Even as a strong rider, it's not always easy. But I enjoy the challenge of pushing myself to the end and testing my abilities to go above and beyond my limitations to see where it will lead me. Once I find my rhythm, I use that rhythm to keep me in the zone. Where I live, there are various hills in my backyard and I did cycling sessions to prepare myself. Every time I approach the uphills, I love tackling them because they are so rewarding for me and at the other end the downhills are just as rewarding.

For me, I prefer riding in front at my own pace majority but I know, I had to constantly remind myself to stay with my group. I like being in the front because I know what lies ahead instead of being behind riders because I can't see anything. As a Deaf person, I have the natural need to see my surrounding environments. With this, it’s tough being in the front because I don’t know when to exit nor do I have a phone with me in case the other riders needed to contact me or I needed to contact them.

It's within my habits when I go camping or attend other events to survey the area. Mainly because I like to know my surrounding environment but also because I'm an avid explorer and dislike limiting myself to one small area. I like to know where the safe and comfortable zones are and just because I'm curious, I like seeing all area. It's a habit I’ve developed to understand the area before I settle down.

Being in a group who does not sign for 8 days is tough since they rarely involved me into their conversation and I’m usually the last person to know what is going on. And to be honest, I'm used to it and I expected it to occur when it comes to a hearing group who knows little to no sign...such as basic signing and alphabet.  However, I do admire them always signing, " thank you", "good morning", “bathroom” and “water”. I appreciate and commend those whom ask me how to sign certain words/sentences and they teach others as well. Another form of communication method we used was through texting in our mobile notepads. 8 days wasn't too bad, though but one month is different story. Other than that everyone was super friendly and eager to learn.

The greatest misconception about Deaf community is society thinks Deaf people are incapable of functioning on their own.  This is not limited to the capabilities we possess but acquiring the ability to navigate in a society whereas having the ability to hear is the societal norm. Deaf people are everywhere and people fail to recognize them. Deaf people currently work in various professional fields such as Deaf business owner, chefs, MMA fighter, lawyers, government officials, professional motor cross, actor/actress, artists, scholars, teachers, and so much more. But sadly, Deaf individuals rarely receive the same opportunities as our hearing counterparts. What’s problematic about this issue is the myth of misguided information, communication barriers, competent capabilities and many more. Because hearing is the societal norm, society has adopted the framework of normalizing our deafness. We as Deaf people wholeheartedly and safeguard our Deaf culture, Deaf communities and most importantly, Sign Language. All we ask for is an equitable opportunity to which we worked hard for but are usually ignored. We can do anything except hear. The problem is not because Deaf people can’t hear but hearing society doesn’t listen.

I love the ride so far. As a week tour it's challenging but a new experience and exhilarating. During the ride I like to clear my head and enjoy the beauty of nature while focusing on the purpose of this journey. My favorite part of this journey so far was the beautiful scenery of Big Sur and riding through the forests and creeks. What added more to my experience was the birds circling above us which in my mind, I thought for a moment, they were wishing us "good luck". I’m more attuned to nature and wildlife as opposed to being with people. This ride is not just a  physical obstacle but a mental challenge as well. But I was mentally focused on fulfilling a commitment to a greater purpose like Kam, who is the heart and engine that keeps us going.

This adventure was different because my journey was on wheels as opposed to my feet. The journey itself made me realize how much people walk on a daily basis. Most of my adventure, I normally solo venture with my dog, Koko but this adventure was different as I was with a group of people and not my dog.  I love and admire the team’s dynamic and team work. They all took turns to help push Kam’s rig uphill which made the ride easier for the front who was pulling Kam uphill. And then the rest of us would all make sure cars were aware of our presence. Hats off to Markham for building the rig because having Kam ride along with us created many valuable and enjoyable memories.

If you come across someone who is deaf or different don't assume and ask questions. What I learned over time is don’t be afraid to ask. There is that saying, if you ask a stupid question, you will feel like a fool for 5 minutes. If you don’t have a question, you will feel like a fool forever. Do not make an assumption or judgment, just ask us and we won’t bite."

Embrace all differences. The worst that could happen is you will learn something new and broaden your horizons.