Monday, March 23, 2015

Heart Across America Day 1

6:58am, still asleep but random thoughts trickle through my mind in a dream: my wife's up so I can pull some more covers my way, it's cold, why did I have that third glass of wine last night, bike ride today ...BIKE RIDE TODAY!  Little adrenaline shot.  Okay, time to get up.

I'm skipping the ceremonial prologue from Intel headquarters to Palo Alto City Hall, so I've slept in unlike many other riders.  Nice.  I like to sleep.  Possibly more than your average person.  I scroll through a dozen emails from well-wishers while eating my Cheerios.  I've got one email from a friend asking about arterial ultrasounds.  How timely.  My wife leaves for the Oakland Half-Marathon.  She does half-marathons as often as I do half-centuries; okay, maybe not.  My Eddington number is 55 (and will be 56 tomorrow).
I had packed most everything already, but I pull it out and repack it.  I check my packing list and find things I had forgotten.  Now the pack weights 9.8 pounds.

My wife texts me from BART: rain in Castro Valley.  The forecast says a chance of rain, but the radar is clear.  Doesn't matter.  It's not raining on our parade, today.  The first time I met Sean Maloney, we did a ride up Old La Honda road and were heading to the coast when it started to rain - pouring rain.  I was shivering so badly down Hwy 84 that my front wheel was wobbling out of control.  I had to quit.  Sean didn't want to quit.  He said it's going to rain during the Heart Across America ride and he'll have to ride anyway.  He's tough.

Derek Campbell and I drove to Palo Alto and ride over to City Hall to meet up with the ride. The street was closed off and full of sponsors' booths. Sean was giving a speech whipping the crowd up We had a few photo ops and a "Let's Ride" cheer. Then they rolled out for a 3-mile, police-escorted ride to H-P headquarters ...I think. I stayed back to help Donna with a flat tire.

Donna's brother-in-law died in 2013 of a heart attack. Victoria Dupuy, his wife, runs "No More Broken Hearts" a partner on this ride. Donna was on a borrowed bike and hoping that the tube someone gave her would hold air. It wouldn't. She was okay, but it broke my heart that she couldn't ride.

I had volunteered to be "the sweeper" on the ride - stay behind the slowest riders and help anyone who needed it. That made this a much different experience than I had anticipated. Instead of a big group ride in the comfort of people I know well and have logged hundreds ( thousands) of miles with, I met strangers and somehow, again, became an ambassador for the Heart Across America group.

After Donna, I rode alone to H-P in time to see the first people leaving. I waited for the last stragglers, most of whom were turning back for home. I came across a couple on a tandem, fixing a flat so I stopped and chatted. They had seen our peloton roll by but couldn't read anything but "Heart" on their jerseys due to the speed. How appropriate. I spent twenty minutes with them talking to the wife while the husband changed the tube. They were from Ohio and I'm from Michigan ...small world.

When I turned on to Sand Hill Road, it started to sprinkle and I saw the first Hearts Across America rider coming down from Skyline. I was way behind but happily in no hurry.

Then I rolled up toward Old La Honda and saw a man and his son resting. They were fine and had the navigation on their iPhone. The son, maybe 12 years old, was riding a fixie. "Are you riding up the hill on that?", I asked. "I made it this far", he said. All right then, I guess he'll make it with that attitude! So I went on to Old La Honda by myself.

I stopped at the bridge to ponder all those who ride up this skinny, twisty road. For a moment, I thought, hey, I'm free to attack this hill ...but not today. I was trying to remember what Eric Heiden's address was - George Mount had told me (how's that for gratuitous name-dropping?). Steady tempo, easy, beautiful ride.  I passed a few people and tried to guess if they were on the ride with us. I found a pack of HAA jerseys, a couple guys and a guy about 10 years old maybe.

I rode with them to the top. Some guy from the Netherlands. The dad of the son taking him up Old La Honda for the first time - I was privileged to be a part of it. I picked up the pace so I could take a photo when the reached the mail boxes at the top. Cool.

Most of the people at the top were heading back down from there. But the guy from the Netherlands, Martin, seemed to want to continue without his friends. So we rode together. First through some twisty downhill section that connects to Hwy 84. It was slow enough to talk. Martin was on his fourth bike ride! He was inspired to ride by Sean's determination. See, Martin is Sean's neurologist. Small world. Then we (I) almost got taken out by a Fiat 500 screaming up the hill and cutting the apex when I was riding in the middle. I yelled "sorry" as if I was Canadian instead of the stream of expletives boiling underneath. Without missing a beat, Martin said "so you were saying how you met Sean..."

Once on the flatter roads I entered commuter mode, about 20 mph, pointing out road hazards, forgetting Martin was a relative rookie. Every time I looked he was right up behind me. Impressive!

Martin and I rolled into San Gregorio to find a dozen Heart Across America riders finishing a break. Perfect. From there on Martin is shepherded by the pack and I drift to the back again. I take a few photos to let some slower riders catch up. 

Steve, from Northern England
I spent time off and on again with Steve. He's from Northern England and looks to be in his seventies. Great guy. Friends of his will pick up the ride in Chicago. Of course he's been touched br heart disease - not himself but friends and relatives; some who died too soon. He's riding a classic old steel bike, 30 years old he said. We pulled into Davenport together.

After a beer or two with my commute buddies, people start to scatter. Some go home. Some go to Santa Cruz to other hotels. Those who stay adjourn to dinner. It's like warriors after battle, Thanksgiving with your crazy cousins, and old home week all rolled into one. 

For me, it was a day with a lot of solo riding mixed with strangers who now feel like friends. It was unbelievably beautiful, and diverse, and inspiring. It was a day to talk about the cause, since that's what we had in common.

The author, Dave and Rich - fraternity brothers

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