Again, I wish I could have blogged more regularly, but things just got too busy and entertaining. This post is all about California and is coming from the van on my way back to Notre Dame. I’m just happy that I remember all the details. Anyways, here is all that information!
After leaving Parker, AZ, I was disappointed to learn that we still had several days before leaving the desert. My vision of California would not be realized until we got closer to the coast. Meanwhile, I was getting mentally ready for more blistering heat. Thankfully, the day was rather overcast, and we were blessed to not have to deal with the scorching sun. That is not to say it wasn’t hot, but it certainly wasn’t anything like the past several days. Our ride that day brought us to Blythe, CA. It still blows my mind that I rode my bike to California from Maryland. We were almost done, and that’s crazy. Anyway, I rode with Kirk, Kevin, Danny, and Max. Overall, it was a pretty enjoyable ride, helped in part by the fact that it was a rather short mileage day. Because we were following the river, my group even stopped to buy inner tubes, and we were going to try tubing all the way to Blythe. Unfortunately, such a trek would have taken hours. So we just cruised to Blythe. After arriving, we actually went back to Crystal Cliffs to look for a GoPro that Simon had lost. Unfortunately, we were not able to find it. We did what we could, though, and I hope it turns up. After heading back to Blythe, Danny’s mother donated a great meal for us at a restaurant near the hotel where we were staying. It was a great meal. We were staying at a hotel to avoid camping in the heat, and we were lucky to get it discounted. I thoroughly enjoyed sleeping in a bed.
We were supposedly still not done with the heat, so I was getting prepared for a miserable ride into Brawley, CA. However, we lucked out again, and the heat really wasn’t too bad. What wasn’t fun, however, were the roads. For most of the day we had to deal with bumpy roads. It could be worse, but those are never fun to ride on. I rode that day with Heather, Bri, Tyler, Brad, and Taylor. We passed most of the day by just joking around and enjoying the ride. We even passed through some more sand dunes, but they were not nearly as impressive as the ones in Alamosa, CO. That day we had a great homestay with the Harveys, who hosted the team last year. They treated us to a great lunch, dinner, and breakfast, which was wonderful. It was great to stay in a house, and they even did our laundry! That evening, we went to get some things at Walmart and then got some ice cream. Overall, it was a good day.
I was in the van for the ride into Palm Springs, CA. Supposedly, this would be the last hard day of riding and the last day of heat. Once again, the group got lucky, and the day wasn’t too unbearably hot. Eric and I just headed directly to Palm Springs to try and get food donations. It was a decent sized town, so there were a lot of options. After getting shut down from quite a few places, we were able to secure some donuts, Chipotle, and some fruit from Trader Joe’s. I’d say we were pretty successful. He and I also spent much of the day talking about the Navy and his brother in the SEALS, which I thought was awesome. After dropping the bags off at the host, we discovered that several groups were caught in a torrential downpour. It was the only like that Palm Springs had seen in 6 years. Of course, it happened on the day we were riding into Palm Springs. Typical 4K experience. That evening, we were able to get cheap tickets to see Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and got free Coldstone! I’d call that a pretty good evening.
I was anxious to get back on the bike for our ride into Rancho Cucamonga. Supposedly, it was the day we finally leave the heat and the hard riding days were behind us. For the most part, it was true. We did have a pretty brutal headwind for the beginning of the ride, but it could have been a lot worse. I rode with Danny, Heather, Lisa, and Simon. It was honestly one of the most fun days I have had on the saddle. We spent the whole day just joking around and enjoying each other’s company. Rancho Cucamonga was also a pretty beautiful community, and I enjoyed riding into it. That night, Lisa’s family friend allowed us to come over, eat, and swim for awhile. It was a lot of fun. After that, some of us left and went to go rock climbing at a climbing gym that donated tickets to us! I had never been truly climbing before, so it was a lot of fun!
I was very excited for the next day because we were officially riding to the Pacific Coast, through Los Angeles, and to some pretty beautiful areas. The day was only about 60 miles, and it was through some beautiful areas. I also loved riding through Los Angeles. We saw some pretty cool areas and rode right through Beverly Hills, which was great! We stayed at a Catholic Church right on the ocean in Santa Monica. It was honestly the perfect location. After eating some lunch and taking a nap, Shawna and I headed right to the ocean. I loved swimming in the Pacific and just enjoying the atmosphere. In my mind, we made it. We had gone coast to coast, and now we just had to get to San Diego. That night, we had a wonderful dinner at the host, and then explored Santa Monica and the pier. Some friends and I also tried to each eat 25 hot wings at Hooters late at night. I failed. The next day we had a rest day. We started out by meeting with cancer patients at the USC Medical Center. That was an unbelievable experience. I was amazed by their positive attitudes and outlook despite everything that happened. It was incredibly refreshing, and I loved the experience. The rest of the day was spent further exploring Santa Monica, and we rode on the beach all the way to Venice Beach. I can comfortably say that this area had some of the most interesting characters, and I loved it. The area was so beautiful and comfortable. It would be hard to leave California.
The next couple days only confirmed my love for the California coast. Our ride into Huntington Beach was only about 50 miles, so my group of Eric, Kenny, Kirk, Kevin, and Max took our sweet time in getting there. We opted to take the beach ride the whole way there and go unsupported. It was a great decision. We got to ride along the ocean the whole way there. We also stopped at a great coffee shop in the morning, rode slowly, and met Wee-Man at his taco shop. It was pretty cool running into a celebrity! Our host that night was also great. We stayed in the homes of people that Taylor and Tyler knew from Maryland. They provided us with a great dinner, beer, and a pool to swim and relax in. After dinner, Kirsten treated us to spotlights of each member of the team. She called me ruggedly wise, which was an…interesting compliment. It was great to hear all the great things she had to say about everyone. I slept on a mattress they had in a camper, and it was incredibly comfortable.
The next day was our last real ride of the summer. That was an incredibly surreal realization for me. We rode with the groups we had on the very first day, and it was crazy to see how far we’ve come since Baltimore. I rode with Erika, Kenny, and Lisa. We spent the day riding through some beautiful beach towns. I’ve never seen more nice cars such as Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Mazerattis, and more. It was crazy how nice all the towns, such as Laguna Beach, were. My group also did some fun things like riding without shoes and switching bikes for awhile. We also rode with some local cyclists who took us through some cool areas of the coast such as Camp Pendleton. I really loved the ride even though it was 70 miles. That night, we stayed at a high school in Solana Beach that grilled out for us. Stephen also was there since it was our last night, and he let me and Kevin go for a ride in a Dodge Challenger! It was awesome! I really loved just hanging out and spending one last night with my team. We just hung out in the church, and I could not think of a better way to spend the final night with my incredible team.
The next morning was filled with all sorts of excitement. It was the final day of the 4K and we were not allowed to arrive at Mission Beach until noon. So we slept in until about 7:30, which was amazing. We then had everyone sign our Team San Diego jerseys and got all our stuff together for our last ride. I plan to frame my jersey at some point. The whole morning was incredibly emotional. We had our final dedication circle and the loudest and best cheer of the whole summer. It was also crazy because our last ride was only 17 miles, and it felt like nothing. Everyone was cheering and chanting the whole way there. Eventually, we arrived at Mission Beach, and most were greeted by many family members and friends. We had officially made it. We biked across America. All of it. Coast to coast. That blew my mind. After reuniting with family for a bit, we all gathered for some final words. Stephen gave a short speech, and we all said something nice about one person on the team. We each received a flag, a diploma, and an alumni wristband. After that, we did our cheer one last time, and it was by far the best one we have ever done. It was incredible. We concluded the summer by running our bikes into the Pacific Ocean. Surreal and incredible are both understatements. That night, we went out for Heather’s 21st birthday, and we enjoyed one last gathering with the team to conclude the summer.
To say this has been the most incredible thing I’ve ever done doesn’t even begin to cover this summer. I’ve met some amazing people who I can call friends for life, proved to myself what I can accomplish, and saw some pretty amazing places. Thanks to everyone who donated to make this possible and to all those who have been following my journey. It has been quite a ride (pun intended). Until my next adventure, that’s it for now!