A retired fire captain-paramedic from Shingle Springs completed his cross-country bicycle ride on May 5.
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John Beaver, who started riding his trip, dubbed the Hopes and Dreams Benefit Ride, in San Diego on March 9 with 11 other riders and two team leaders, and arrived in St. Augustine, Fla., at 10:55 a.m. EST on May 5. He waited for the rest of the riders to arrive at the beach before they all dipped the front wheels of their bikes into the Atlantic Ocean, a mirror of dipping the back wheel into the Pacific at the start of the ride.
“It went wonderfully,” Beaver said. “We had great weather.” For the most part, at least. One morning in Florida, he said, around 4:30 a.m., he and and a number of other people were forced to huddle into a brick bathroom during a tornado warning. Between April 29 and May 2, there was “severe lightning” with thunder almost immediately following. “It made a lot of us nervous.”
The lightning was accompanied by rain coming down in sheets, he said, “the heaviest rain I’ve ever been in.” The rain lasted about five days and the group stayed about a day ahead of major flooding on roads they were using. He wasn’t sure if a group they met going the opposite direction was able to get through.
On the opposite side, he said, earlier in the trip, in Arizona, the group rode through temperatures of 95 degrees, on a day where they rode for 95 miles with 19 mph headwinds for 70 miles. He said there were no buildings to shield them and their top speed that day was about 8 mph on flat land and 12 or 14 mph downhill. The day saw a total of 5,000 feet of ascent. “That was the most grueling day we had,” he said.
He suffered nine flat tires — including two in the same day — had to change out a tire once, and, on his Facebook page, noted he had to replace a “chain, bottom bracket, cassette (and) chain rings.”
The first part of the ride was the most physically demanding, he said, but the group got into a groove. Whereas in the beginning, a 65-mile day was seen as hard, the end of the trip led to comments of only having to ride 75 miles in a day.
Beaver credited his training with helping him finish the ride. Most helpful, he said, was training with weights on the bike. He “would have trained with more miles (in a day) if I changed anything.”
Louisiana was his favorite stop he said, due to the generosity of locals. While the group was supposed to camp outside a church, the church opened up for them, allowing them to sleep inside and providing breakfast and dinner. Though they had expected no showers as the church had none, locals would take the group in pairs to their houses for a quick shower. “It was just amazing,” Beaver said. “I’ve never seen such generosity. It touched my heart that we were so well-received, so cared for by strangers.”
This was balanced out by a day in Mississippi where dogs chased the group nearly all day. But, he said, the entire trip was a highlight.
In all, he rode about 3,180 miles over 57 days with a total ascent of 74,000 feet. He wasn’t sure exactly how long he rode, but said he “spent a lot of time in the saddle.”
The ride itself was a fundraiser for the Firefighters Burn Institute, which helps children and adult burn victims and their families with expenses for recovery and rehabilitation. The Little Heroes program benefits pre-schoolers; Kids Camp and a Youth Fire Center benefits older children victims; an adult retreat helps adult victims with emotional and physical pain; and a UC Davis support group helps victims and their families.
Next, he said, could be walks, runs or rides for multiple sclerosis, as a someone close to him was just diagnosed. Other members of his ride group also invited him to France, where plans are being made to follow Tour de France routes. He stressed it is still in the planning stages and a year or two out. He said he also “wouldn’t mind” another trans-America ride.
He suggests such a ride for any bicyclist. “If you can do it, do it.”
The Facebook page for the Hopes and Dreams Ride can be found at www.facebook.com/HopesAndDreamsBenefitRide.
For more information or to make a tax-deductible donation to the Firefighters Burn Institute, visit ffburn.org.