I just got back from my trip and had such a great time I am going to wow all you readers by blogging again just 4 days later. I could go on and on about how much fun I had and how great it was but I will try and pick my favorite moments so you don't feel like you are reading a novel.
First and most importantly, the people on the ride. You get a bunch of wounded vets together and there is an instant connection. I met new wounded vets, re- connected with ones from a few years ago and was overly impressed by the attitudes and determination of them all. The ride was dedicated to the wife of a SGT Hart who was KIA in Iraq. She was along for the ride and to have her there with us made it that much more special. With her company, the number of other vets, all the people who make the event happen (Woody, Sean, Jb to name a few) and my incredibly awesome roommate and Sadlers companion, Susan Katz, I had a fantastic trip.
We started out in Santa Barbara where I met up with my CTS coach, Mike Durner and another rider Saul. I could write a whole new blog entry on Saul but to avoid another novel I am just going to pass along his website and urge you all to take a look at it. He is incredible. http://www.saulraisin.com
Mike, Saul and I spent the first day up in Buellton, CA where we did a 24 mile ride and then met with some of the other CTS coaches and riders. CTS was hosting a camp and a number of riders had gone out to ride for the week in Buellton. We then drove back to Santa Barbara where we met up with Soldier Ride. Coach Mike and Saul both joined us for the full Soldier Ride.
On Thurs we rode around Santa Barbara for about 15 miles and cut the ride short so we could drive up and see the ending of stage 5 of the Tour de CA. I have never been to a professional cycling race and the anticipation of waiting for the peleton to whoosh by at 40mph is exhilirating. It goes by in an instant but what an instant it was. After the race we got a meet and greet with Team Astana which is Lance Armstrong's team. We didn't meet Lance but we got to hold his bike and meet some of his teammates. A great, nice in a lifetime experience and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.
Fri was my favorite day. The night before we rode the bus down to Santa Monica and put up in a hotel right by the Santa Monica pier. In the morning we rode on the paved beach path right along the water, through Venice beach, in the gorgeous CA weather. The police escorts allowed us to set the pace and Katz and I were up in the front pushing ourselves to go faster. After the 20 mile ride, Coach Mike, Katz and I continued a but further and did some interval work that was VERY tough. 1 min on, 30 sec off 8 times. It was tough but Katz and I encouraged eachother and were motivated by the scenery and did great although Mike kicked my butt. A great workout it was.
We got to enjoy some of the Santa Monica nightlife that evening and got to meet the one armed Def Leppard drummer, Rick Allen. It was slightly embarrassing as I overheard him mentioning to someone he played the drums. So I turn to him and say, "Oh, you play music?" And he says, "Yes, I play for a small group know as Def Leppard". Yes, embarrassing it was. But he and his wife were extremely nice and supportive to join us for the evening.
Yesterday we started out at Balboa Navy hospital and took the ferry over to Coronado for a ride around the island. A teammate from the Greatest Relay team ever, Malcom, joined us for a bit and I was honored that he came. Thanks Malcom!
We ended the ride last night with a dinner hosted by some retired FDNY personnel. Always a pleasure to be in their company and they spoiled us with bagpipes, lots of food and free fat tire beer. Can't get much better than that.
Katz and I both had an early flight this AM so after a short 4 hour 'nap' we headed to the airport. I, of course, slept the whole way home.
One other piece of exciting news is that Woody, the head of Soldier Ride, is allowing me to borrow a hand cycle from now through Alaska. I have one already but it is much older and after riding this new one all weekend I realized how great it was. So he was generous enough to let me bring it back to Chicago with me and it's already set up and ready to go on my trainer.
I was worried about being gone from home for 4 whole days but as suspected, they went by fast. I was honored to be surrounded by the other riders there and can honestly say it was the best SR I have ever been on. Not to mention almost 80 miles of good training for Alaska.
I am now home for only a few days and I head down to Jacksonville, FL for the WWP board meeting. More warm weather. Yeah!