Day Four: Tuesday, May 31, 2016
Here we are, another morning, a different camp site. It's Tuesday morning. Today it's Pfeiffer State Park, a beautiful camp site situated right in the middle of Carmel mountain and the Big Sur climb. We had a short day yesterday, a great night of needed rest, hot showers and washing clothes. This morning it's another slow wake; fire, making coffee, packing, eating leftover burritos and food we scavenged from days before, silence...we've been here before. By now there is definitely a routine and a rhythm among the group. Things are also becoming much easier for me, too. My body is now getting used to and adapting to this new routine.
Everyone has been riding strong and the dynamics of the group seems closer than day one. Communication is something that naturally develops as days pass and everyone does it differently. This year we have 8 cyclists plus myself and Jason. In any group situations or relationships communication or lack thereof can be you're greatest aid to success or greatest demise and it's something we learn while out on the road. Being adaptable and flexible is number one to making it through challenges in life.
Van Interviews today are Wyatt and Andy. Wyatt is completely new to Bike for Kam, cycling and bike touring in general. We met through mutual friends not to long ago and despite not knowing me super well he was up for this epic challenge. Wyatt is athletic in general, always participating in physical challenges like crossfit, rowing, kayaking and the like so this was just another challenge to add to his list. But like with any activity not all activities are equal, no matter how fit you are there is a learning curve for each one but he has been adapting nicely to the grueling and constant demand.
Andy has been riding with Bike for Kam for three years and this his fourth. Andy was brought into the group by some of the original riders from 2011. Many of them have been lifelong friends and have known each other since high school but until Bike for Kam, Andy didn't know me and yet he treats me like someone he's known all his life. I have been able to get to know Andy better during this ride. Andy has a very warm fatherly vibe about him. He is sensitive, always looking out for everyone and while every one of my friends really wanted me to join and experience what they do, Andy has been the most vocal about really wanting me to see certain parts of the ride. This was very important to him and doing this final ride was really important to him. As soon as I announced the official date of this ride he made sure he would be able to do it no matter what.
Wyatt: "I've driven through big Sur twice and camped once. But it's always felt bigger than what I'm experiencing at the time. When I was driving it the vastness is just breathtaking... windy hills, bluffs and the coast.
When I would camp in Big Sur I got a closer look at water falls and the hiking terrain but never really got a good feel for Big Sur because I either zipped through or only hiked small portions of it. So I really didn't know what to expect from a bike.
This being my first time and listening to others talk about the climb left me not really knowing how I would do with all the climbs...especially after the 100 mile day prior. So I was uncertain. But I just did 100 miles so how bad could it be? Fast forward to the climb...it was great and I enjoyed the climbs and there was definitely no shortage of climbs. To help through the difficulty I tuned out the fatigue, pain and soreness no matter how many hills there were or how steep the climb. I tried to enjoy just being there which made it flow consistently. During the climb I improved on my rider technique because prior I was recreational rider and not privy to technique or efficiency. So I focused on the rhythm to the climbing. Climb, slide, turn, climb, slide, turn. The rhythm compared to prior days was different. Two days ago it was was windy, flat but with Big Sur there was a rhythm and flow to it. The experience was much better than I could ever imagine. The biking, camping with an unpredictable group of people has been fun and seeing Kam having a good time in the rig is rewarding and the definite highlight."
Andy: "I think I was preparing for something big. You know how your imagination flies? I don't really remember all of the 2012 ride so I didn't know what to expect. Mentally I was prepared to take on a huge challenge so I was surprised and excited that I was able to finish it again. I felt accomplished like I was moving a mountain. For me it was alot of mental preparation and prayer.
During climbs like these you have a lot of alone time. I know how bad Kam wants to do things like this in her life and I wished I could bring her through all of it. We soon realized we couldn't pull all her 500 miles and still make in time for the finish line but I am happy she can see parts of it.
When I reached Ragged Point at the bottom of the Big Sur climb alot of emotions unexpectedly came over me. When you are in Big Sur it's not really about team work. Everyone is at different physicality and experience level which inevitably means you have more alone time. That's what makes this climb unique because you actually want people to finish it alone because that means they accomplished it alone. The ride from Ragged Point to San Simeon now that was a group thing. We were together during the last leg and it was all about celebrating and good times as we rode into San Simeon camp.
The ride is so different with Kam and Jason here. We can personally experience it together, they can see our highs and lows and someone is there cheering you on and that is really nice. We all need cheerleaders.
The climb was difficult, there was even some group frustration but by the time we came together at the end of the day it all just felt right.
As you know I'm expecting my first child in November. My wife is pregnant so I am nearing my next chapter in my life. I want my child to be able to do and accomplish things like this. I want to raise them to do good things for others, their friends and family. That is important to me. On the ride I thought about my wife and how I want to bring them to things like this.
During the climb I did alot of mentally preparing for the next challenge in my life. I was thinking over my strengths and weaknesses as a person. Especially in challenging situations I think about where can I be stronger in life and where I can turn my weaknesses into strengths. A lot of time was spent on thoughts of growing myself and that made me emotional. It also hit me that this is the last time I'll be on this ride and my last time climbing Big Sur which was also very emotional to me. When people hear that I'm doing this ride they tell me what a good person I am, but it's not about that for me. Good deeds shouldn't be about you. I feel I'm the one being rewarded here with this once in a lifetime opportunity, this journey has had a major impact on my life. This project and trip affects me because I want Kam to be able to do these things too and I want to do it for her...some things just aren't fair.
Big Sur felt like closing of a chapter and an opening of another."
After everyone hit Ragged Point we took a break, had some food and recharged before heading off to the last stretch of our day's ride. The final destination would be San Simeone, a route that was a favorite in previous years. We hooked up the rig and Viet would lead us into the camp site 15 miles or so away.
This part of the ride ended up being one of my favorite moments. The hwy 1 was literally right next to the ocean. We passed golden fields, , ocean waves and California farmland as we coasted through some great climbs and downhills. At one point clocking at 32 mph during one of the dives. The weather was brisk and cold but I was having too much fun to care. The stretch was very quiet with few cars which allowed us all to overtake the road as we biked through while sun setted behind us. We implemented the usual routine of people assisting the puller by pushing from behind and giving momentum up the climbs.
This sort of scene, whether on the road or in a suburb, always makes it seem like we are kids again. Having all my friends bike around, laughing and joking was a highlight and these kinds of moments always remind me of my childhood. I grew up with 3 brothers and a lot of boys around me and I remember riding our bicycles in the middle of the street and playing until sunset forced us back inside. It's a similar feeling.
It's moments like these that I also feel like I'm able to catch a glimpse of my friends from 2011 and 2012 biking around and when I look off into the far distant fields I can almost see them and see what they experienced when they were out here all alone.
Bike for Kam is about fundraising and spreading awareness but one of the aspects I love the most about Bike for Kam is how it affects those who experience it. Maybe it's just my perception but when everyone gathers they become like kids again. There's no work, no stress of the daily grind, no pressure of what you're supposed to do and be for your life...just the freedom to have fun, the freedom to be silly and inappropriate (as our group is), the freedom to make mistakes, the freedom to challenge yourself and the freedom to do the things you really want instead of what you're supposed to do. I don't think we do enough of that in life and limitations doesn't only present itself in the form of a disability, stifled freedom comes in many forms. Sometimes I feel we are far too caught up in the trappings of "success" and adulthood and less in life experiences.
It was a great moment.