Sunday, May 07, 2006

2006 Tour de Cure – Napa Valley, 26 miles with CJ

Thanks to all of you for supporting CJ and me and the American Diabetes Association in this fundraiser.

Sunday morning I got the bikes loaded onto the old Infiniti by 6 o’clock. Claudia and I had some oatmeal, got dressed, and packed our stuff that we laid out the night before. We were on the road at 6:30 for an 8 o’clock check in. Traffic was lighter than expected and we arrived at the Yountville Veteran’s Home about 7:30 which gave us lots of time to eat the free bagels and drink the coffee and juice. We got checked in and received our event T-shirts and met up with some of the other people on Team Brown and Caldwell – most of whom I didn’t know. Some were from other offices and others were from companies that we partner with like Verizon Business Systems. Our ride was supposed to start at 8:30 but they delayed us until 9:30 because the rest stop wasn’t ready so we wound up spending a lot of time in the start area and enjoying the atmosphere and refreshments.

I really wanted Claudia to have a positive experience on her first organized ride so I had talked her through all the things that would happen ahead of time. I told her we could stop and rest if she got tired or sore, that this wasn’t a race (even though we were the fastest), I explained what charities do with the money we raise, and I also tried to explain how diabetes affects people, and that we’re helping them and having fun at the same time.

She really liked identifying herself as part of a team that all had the same jerseys. There was one couple on a regular tandem (Wendy from our Sacramento office and her husband Richard) and our team captain Jeff was on another tandem with his son Ian. Everyone else was on single bikes and there was quite a range of cycling skills and experience in the group. There were also some trailer cycle riders that weren’t on our team but they must have been doing the 10 mile ride because we didn’t see them again after the start. It was pretty chilly but Claudia said she wouldn’t need her jacket and it was supposed to warm up quickly so we left it in the car.

All of us assembled at the start line and got a little pep talk and safety lecture and then our journey was begun! Here's the route sheet.

The first few miles were through residential areas and farm land. We saw some wild turkeys in a vineyard just outside of town including one big tom strutting around like he was really something special. We also saw some cows with the biggest horns I’ve seen outside of Texas. When we got to Highway 29 we stopped to regroup and Richard hopped off the back of his tandem, opened up his saddle bag, pulled out a glucose monitoring kit and tested his blood sugar right there! I didn’t know he had diabetes until just then and I explained to Claudia what he was doing. He was doing just fine and didn’t require any medications so we all turned north together.

Now we were on a wide shoulder with the wind at our backs but there was more traffic so we didn’t bother passing too many people. We just rode at a comfortable pace and enjoyed the company and the views of the beautiful Napa Valley.

At Rutherford we made a right turn to go east across the valley floor and here there was no traffic at all. CJ said she felt great so we decided to burn a few matches and we raced Jeff and Ian to the other side. Everyone we passed cheered us on and it was a lot of fun.

Next we turned south on the Silverado Trail but Jeff got a flat tire and didn’t have a pump so we stopped to help him. It was only another couple miles to the rest stop so he just got enough air in there to make it that far and we didn’t have to wait too long. It was a good chance for the rest of our team to catch up to us though. Both tandems, us with our Halfwheeler, and another half dozen BC members pulled into the rest stop at the same time.

The rest stop was staffed with great volunteers and they had lots of good drinks and snacks. It was definitely getting warm now so sitting in the shade really felt good. I realized here that a lot of these folks don’t really ride too much because after only 12 miles some of them were really in pain! People were groaning and asking for ibuprofen and complaining about how far they still had to go. It was sort of funny but it was also nice to see people who were challenging themselves physically for a cause they believed in.

One thing the organizers could have done better – more porta potties… the line was about 30 people long. Seems to be a common shortfall on events like this.

Jeff got his tires checked and topped up by the mechanic volunteers and then we all started off again. Claudia was still doing terrific but I kept the pace comfortable until I was sure she could handle some more speed. We had some rolling hills here going south until we got to Oak Knoll Avenue where we turned west and headed back to the other side of the valley. Now there was only about 8 miles to go and I knew she was having fun so I asked her if she was ready for some “megapower” and she responded in the affirmative so we poured on the velocity and passed riders by the dozens. There were a lot more riders on the 25 mile ride than on the longer rides so it was pretty much a steady stream of cyclists the entire route. We gave them all a friendly greeting with my bike bell and Claudia’s parrot horn – most of them didn’t seem to mind our passing them at all and most shouted out cheers for us. There was one group though that all had matching jerseys with no identifiable team affiliation that I called “Team Roadhog” – they were all over the road, not paying attention, and not getting out of our way! We got away from them as quickly as we could.

Then we saw the signs for the event photographer – I told CJ what was up ahead and we practiced our waves so we would have the perfect photo. We practiced three times and then she said “I got it Daddy”. When we got to the site though – there were FOUR cameras so we weren’t sure which one to look at. They wound up taking five photos of us and we’re not looking the same direction in any of them.

So now with about 4 miles to go we were back to our relaxed pace and were approaching Highway 29 where there was a stoplight. I noticed the group of cyclists accumulated at the intersection was pretty big so I figured the light was about to turn green and I skillfully maneuvered our long rig up to the front and timed it perfectly. We passed about 25 riders in one quick jump and were all alone out in front on the frontage road headed north back to Yountville. CJ said she had lots of energy left so we hammered all the way back to the Veteran’s Home and up the long hill to the finish line where we got a big hero’s welcome.

They had a bouncy house for kids set up there and Claudia played in that for about 20 minutes before we decided to go through the lunch line. The volunteers here were really well organized so even though the line was long it went very quickly. They had Portobello mushroom sandwiches for us and some noodles and cole slaw too so it was a very nice après ride meal. There were about ten Team BC people at the same picnic table so we swapped stories and congratulated each other while we ate.

I was so proud of how well Claudia did, and I was so happy that she really enjoyed it. Her arthritic knee didn’t give her any problems at all and she probably could have done another 15 miles… the best possible way to finish an epic ride.

Now when I say that I raised over a thousand dollars for the American Diabetes Association, what I really mean is that all of you donated your money on our behalf and I really can’t tell you how honored I am that you do this. We had a lot of fun on this ride but I never forget why we’re doing it or who makes it possible.

Warm regards,
Scott and Claudia.

OK, here’s the best part. On the way home it got kind of hot in the car and Claudia said she would like a Slurpee. So I suggested riding bikes to the Slurpee store after we got home and she said “YEAH!”

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