Day Seven: Coming to an End

Day Seven: Friday, June 3, 2016

This morning we woke up in Gaviota Beach, another foggy and overcast wake-up. Right away I could tell our group was bigger than previous mornings had been…we hadJimmy, Mikey and Andres to add to our morning crew. Having new people join puts a nice spin on the group dynamics and changes things up. Last night was great…lots of food (thanks to Jimmy) and talks, and at midnight someone may have even jumped into the cold ocean butt naked. Who knows. What happens in Bike for Kam stays in Bike for Kam?

Tonight is the last night of camping together and that has been on my mind. It's not just the last night of our 8 day tour but the final Bike for Kam campout in general. The first couple days of this tour felt like they would never end and now I wished the days would slow down a little. The last 3 days have moved so fast and everything feels like a massive blur. It feels like a lot of moments have been smashed together in some quick trailer video and I just can't believe this tour and this entire project is coming to an end.

If you think about it, a normal week consists of the routine of going to work, coming home, eating supper with some TV or the like, and going to bed until another day of the same begins. Maybe we sneak in a couple nights of dinner out with friends but in general our week doesn't consist of much so experiencing this much in a week feels like sensory overload at times. The first couple years of 'Bike for Kam' my friends would tell me how weird the week-long tour felt. So much happened in a short time span and by the end you think "What just happened?". This especially happened after the first year when post tour some of the guys called me up to explain how rejoining "society" felt so strange. And, the tone was almost a regrettable tone. 'Glad to be back home but wishing we were back on the road' kind of tone. I thought I understood what this strange sense of time they spoke of felt like, but not really until this year. It really does feel strange and tomorrow we will be rejoining all the responsibilities, monotony and silliness that society tells us to be. In 31 hours we will be back home.

This morning I "Warm Van Interviewed" Viet and Ben. I interviewed them last because they both completed all five 'Bike for Kam' rides and so I wanted to close the blogs with them. Them doing all five rides is something I truly appreciate. I know they didn't necessarily want to do all the rides but I know they were dedicated to it for me. Having familiar faces show up every year made me feel supported and that is something I really needed to keep my own momentum and positive energy up because there were many times I myself didn't want to do 'Bike for Kam'. Many times it felt like too much work for one person as well as the emotional reminder of having to put myself out there and tell my story and ask for money…something I just hate doing. No one wants to ask for money and most of us don't want to remind the public we're "disabled" in fear of pity and preconceived packages of what a disabled person is, whether it be from strangers and even family and friends. But having some regulars show up every year to support gave me a sense of comfort, encouragement and consistent cheerleaders in my corner. 

Viet: 

"The biggest difference this year is our SAG van and support crew. In previous years we were out on the road all alone. There are different dynamics with having a SAG, not necessarily negative because the SAG has carried us along and it's been helpful to new riders. Having a SAG has also helped us document trip a lot better than previous rides.

But having a SAG does impact the trip a lot. The ride is definitely a more organized ride this year. Kam is disabled and on the ride and so that organization is needed. In 2011 and even 2012 there was no organization and typically that is my preferred style but there are aspects I like about both. I'm a big fan of no plans because there are no expectations and there is less pressure on group to be in certain places by certain times. But with no plans your stress comes in different way, like the stress from not knowing.

But this year worked out pretty well and it worked nice with a group like this to roll into place and know you have a designated campsite to sleep in, unlike the first and second year when we didn't always have that luxury. Having goals is also morale booster, such as last Tuesday. Schedule wise on Tuesday we needed to hit 100 miles and we did. Hitting those 100 miles was a huge sense of accomplishment.

Having done this ride twice before I forget people are new to this and want to stop and take pictures and experience the same wonderment I had on my first ride. It's been different and it has definitely varied my experiences from previous years. 

Having Mikey, Ted, Andres and Jimmy join us bought back a lot of memories as well. A lot of carefree joking and comradery happened at camp last night and both bike groups kind of all came together. Seeing the friends we've collected throughout all the years of doing this in the same space was really nice.

It's really cool to see such different personalities all in one group who have to spend 8 days together, and yet we all have the same intentions and that's what makes us the same. This commonality intensifies the group to push through and achieve that same goal and I think bicycles is something that helps bring people together…that and a friend.

The biggest difference this year is taking Kam along and having the rig. Even though we haven't been able to tow her all the way because of time or safety, there have been many cool areas we were able to tow her through. And no matter how tired we (the puller) are, everyone is working together to help to pull and push. Afterwards if you ask the guy who just pulled their response is, "it wasn't that difficult". They forget about the pain and we are running off of adrenaline and just the general spirit of the group. And Kam gets to experience that working together vibe from the road and I like that she gets to. 

It feels like this year is going by much faster. Previous years you were alone and 7 days felt like months, like time slowed down. I miss that and that is something I'm not really experiencing on this ride. It feels like it's flying by fast, too fast. We just left the Golden Gate bridge a few days ago and now we are already here. I'm definitely going to miss it and knowing this is the last one makes it even more sentimental.

Every time I hear one of the songs Kam has used in her compilation videos from previous years I have vivid flashbacks of that particular ride. Or if I'm biking near home or on my motorcycle something simple can trigger it and I immediately think of a Bike for Kam ride. When we are in more desolate areas I think of all the laughter and joking from years ago. I'm going to miss it.

With Kam on the road documenting us and constantly notifying supporters of our progress, there has been a lot of social media impact, much more than years prior. The whole Bike for Kam project did accomplish something, it did spread awareness for HIBM/GNE Myopathy and I'm happy with that. Seeing all your friends and family back home sharing and getting excited through our struggles and triumphs is really wonderful. It motivates us.

My favorite moment of this ride is towing Kam through San Simeon during sunset. I wish there were sections I could have towed Kam more in. I think in previous years I was in better shape so I didn't experience the leg pain I'm having this year and I wasn't expecting that. 

My friends said how great it was going to be to bring Kam along, but we didn't anticipate Kam would experience moments of sadness. Because she witnessed what we were physically doing it at times made her melancholy and I didn't see that coming. There is no way we can understand what she is going through, we can know why but to understand the intimacies is nearly impossible because she's the one that has to experience that, not us. All we can do is imagine what it's like to be in her position…

It's cool to see how we started this 6 years ago with no real expectations. I sparked the fuel but really Kam kept it going and led it to where it is today. I'll never forget it."

Ben:

"Every ride is going to be different. A few of us have done it before and we have seen different things. Different people have different chemistry and it's an interesting social experiment to see how that gels throughout the tour. Having my girlfriend along makes it different but I like seeing the maturation of it all. In 2011 we started out as this rag tag boy group and nothing was organized, in terms of on-the-road logistics. But seeing how it has matured and the teamwork that naturally reveals itself in the group, especially when we are pulling Kam, that is what has been really cool and unique about this year. It's about having a group of folks that don't hang around all the time but through the experience you become good friends. That is special. We may not see each other all the time but when we do we have a common bond and that is happening this year too with the new riders...

My favorite memory is the descent out of Ragged Point into San Simeon. Just riding that section of the route in general has been my favorite among all the years. But the added bonus of having Kam with us this year trumps every year before. The rolling hills, the sunset, wide open road…in that moment everyone's hearts were super full especially after the difficult ride through Big Sur. You come off this amazing ride and into the sunset and you feel like a cowboy. It's just about that moment and riding into the sunset…you can't top that.

Today is Friday. Having Ted, Andres, Mikey and Jimmy from year one and two meet up with us last night was great, it brought about a lot of memories. Ted said it best when he said, "First and second day it feels like they will never end but by fourth or fifth day you just don't want it to end". Thoughts of going back home aren't great because you want to keep riding and camping with your friends. But having Mel (my girlfriend) along changes that, too because with her here I don't miss home as much. By fourth or fifth day the group begins to bond really well, right when the ride is coming to an end and that part is always bittersweet, but I'm also optimistic I'll see these guys again and do different projects with them.

I'm super glad Kam has got to experience all the aspects of the stories we used to tell. Being a part of the comradery and all the people from the ride and how strangers connect to us and talk to us on the road has truly been an original experience. 

Having Kam along also made all the challenges she faces much more apparent. In every day life we may only see her a couple hours at a time but seeing her 24/7 for 8 days elevates the seriousness and severity of what she's goes through. Seeing Jason help her with literally everything says a lot about the disease and also about him/them. We don't see her going to bed, brushing teeth, shower etc., all the typical daily routine things we take for granted. But seeing that changes everything you think about the disease, about her and what she goes through on a daily basis."

After I did the van interviews we packed up and headed to Santa Barbara downtown. We ended up doing lunch in downtown SB State Street and it was the first time I really recognized an area. We were definitely back to civilization and in a way it felt weird. Everything about familiar life already felt foreign and weird and in a way I wanted to go back to some of the earlier parts of the ride. Nevertheless, we had a great lunch and proceeded to the campsite. For this stretch Andres pulled me.

Life changes so you don't always get to see your friends as frequent as you would like. I don't get to see Andres much anymore so it was nice having him pull and experience some of what the guy's experienced during the week. The thing that is always great about Bike for Kam is I may not get to see my friends who have done the ride all the time, but when we do see each other everything seems to pick up where we left off. I think that is a true testament to friendship. It's not always what you do for each other, nor a scorecard of how often you see each other, yet how familiar you feel when you reunite and I feel that way with all my friends in Bike for Kam. 

Anyways, we biked toward Emmawood State Beach and the weather was again so eery, foggy and misty. It was cold but the mood was so unique and so different than if I was passing through in a car. That experience alone was worth the cold. There was however this small sliver of time when the sun peaked through and it was just so beautiful. Everything looked crisp, clean and reborn…like after a great summer rain storm. It was great.

Most of this last stretch was on a bike trail literally right next to the ocean and it quickly connected with this more desolate, wide open road next to the train tracks and as we rode along it reconnected ocean-side where all the RV's park and camp. In our blue shirts with Andy leading the way we biked down this RV lined path through thick fog with people waiving at us and cheering at times. Seeing your environment shift and change and take shape right before your eyes is also something you can only truly experience from a bike and particularly long distance biking where you pass many kinds of terrain. That is how you judge time. Time is literally passing by. 

We reached our campsite and for the seventh and last time we set up camp. 

*I apologize for the delay in these blog posts and our final video. A lot of work and projects popped up after we crossed the finish line but this is the last of the blog posts and next week I will post the final video of our ride. xo