Bang Salon – Tandem Riding with EyeCycle Colorado
Teaming up with EyeCycle Colorado was all part of the Bang Salon Cares initiative that Rodger and Lisa Garcia started in 2016. Sticking with their brand mission of “fostering positive relationships to improve the community in which we live and work,” Bang Salon encourages corporate social responsibility to their employees during work hours (and after work hours when possible). They provide in-kind, skills-based volunteer services to guests, nonprofits and other projects within our community.
For this event, Bang Salon connected with EyeCycle Colorado through Lisa's cousin Chad, who became blind in his late twenties due to a genetic disorder. After recently moving to Colorado, Chad, who loves to continually challenge himself and experience the outdoors despite his handicap, discovered EyeCycle Colorado. The non-profit teams up sighted (captains) and blind cyclists (stokers) on tandem bikes for the ride of a lifetime! Chad was familiar with Bang Salon's mission and Rodger and Lisa's passion for cycling, and thought it would be a match. "As soon as Chad told me about EyeCycle Colorado, I knew we would be a good fit," Lisa said. She explained that the first ride was challenging to learn how to maneuver a tandem bicycle with someone who couldn't see what was happening. However, the stokers were the ones who were helping the sighted people figure it out! Riders rode a mix of bike paths and roads to Bang Salons shop in Denver, enjoyed a hosted taco bar lunch, and then rode back for a total of almost 25 miles. "It was such a great feeling to be able to give them the rush we feel when we are riding our bikes,” said Lisa,”we can't wait to do it again!"
A “Rehl-ly” Epic Ride
This summer John Rehl, co-founder (along with his wife, Lesia) of the Village Idiots, embarked on a grand and ambitious biking adventure, riding from San Francisco, CA to Carbondale, a distance of 1,472 miles, with over 78,000 feet of climbing. He was accompanied by high school buddy Kevin Young for a journey that included 23 days of riding and camping. The longest distance riding day was 113 miles, and the largest single day elevation gain was 6,749 feet. Considering that John and Kevin were on an unsupported ride, carrying everything they needed for the entire journey on their bikes, and each bike and gear weighed 75-85 pounds depending on how much water was needed to make it to the next water stop, that’s some seriously impressive riding!
The journey included memorable moments such as the time in the middle of the night when a bear tore up Kevin’s saddlebag just a few feet from where John and Kevin were snoozing away in their tent. There was also a day when they were pulled over by the Utah State Police for help finding some “lost boys.” It turned out that Kevin had not checked in with his eighty-something mom for a few days due to a poor satellite signal, so his mom called the cops to make sure he was ok!
John’s description of his favorite experience on the ride will give you a sense of the physical, emotional – even spiritual - immersion that can happen at certain special times on a long ride. It might even give you goosebumps:
“The biggest climbing day of 6749 feet was while riding 66 miles from Escalante, UT to Torrey, UT. It also happens to be one of the most memorable days of cycling in my life. We pulled out of Escalante at 5:30 am, an hour before the sunrise, with our bike lights trained on the pavement ahead. The air was perfectly still, the desert was tranquil, and just as the sun was about to come up over the horizon, a scenic pullout on the highway to watch the reawakening. What a glorious sphere of energy...bringing a new day to painted rocks and canyons. Getting back on my bike, the sweeping two mile stretch below, with perfect pavement took me left and right, over and over again, turning through sandstone bowls of reds, oranges, and beiges that were being illuminated with the first light of the day, springing to life ....it is why I am alive, and who I am. Like surfing perfectly smooth pavement, fresh and glassy ...it must be what a surfer imagines as he turns a tight turn in a walled bowl of water in front of his face. A moment in time to treasure.”
Shannon Downs – AIDS Lifecycle Ride from San Francisco to LA
What was it like to Ride AIDS Lifecycle?
I hadn’t trained nearly as much as I felt I needed to, training really is more time consuming than I had imagined and all of life’s obligations seemed to leave little time to get out and ride. I was so stressed over the question of whether I could physically ride 545 miles on my bicycle that I didn’t consider much else. On June 2, 2018 my Uber dropped me off at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, it was the day before the ride. I literally almost got back in the car, thinking with so many butterflies what have I done, what were you thinking you can’t do this, you don’t belong here. That faded away when I saw my team from Colorado, an incredibly loving and supportive bunch of the happiest and most positive people I have ever met. As they hugged and greeted old friends, I felt like I was going to be okay. The week ended up being more than okay, it was really a life changing experience.
The ride was the most beautiful ride I have ever been on, going from San Francisco inland through farms and wineries, then out to the coast down to Los Angeles. My Colorado lungs really prepared me well for all the miles, in regards to cycling it wasn’t as difficult as I had predicted. We slept in tents in the cool California summer air each night. We all came together as we waited in lines to eat and use showers. All the food was prepared on site and the showers were in big shower trucks. There was even massage and acupuncture for those who needed it. Everything was run by volunteers that always had a smile on their face. We woke up at 4:30 each morning and packed up our tents, then got some food and were on our bikes at 6:30. Our gear was transported in trucks to the next camp as we rode. The days‘ rides were between 60-109 miles long, with a total elevation of 25k+ feet. About every 15 miles there were themed rest stops, which were more like little parties that were fun to look forward to- talent shows, dancing, etc., and all the food you could eat. People came from all over the country to ride, some riders had been cycling for years, and some just got a bike the week before. Some people had nice carbon road bikes, some had mountain bikes borrowed from friends. There were recumbents, tandems, and there was even a team who rode fixies (a bike with only one gear). Some people raced through the day, but most enjoyed the ride and the company, rolling into camp between 2-4pm. There was dinner, then a group event each night that would have inspirational speakers, movies, etc. to remind us why the ride was so important.
It is just so hard to articulate the emotion and inspiration experienced on this ride. Along the way I learned about why others were riding. Some rode because they lost a loved one to AIDS, some rode because they are in or support HIV high-risk groups, and some rode because they have HIV/AIDS. Yes, I said that some rode who have HIV/AIDs, and anytime my legs would be tired I would think of how difficult this must be for them. It used to be a death sentence, but now it is possible to live a long life with the disease, but with ups and downs and lots of medicines and doctor visits, it is a struggle. The money raised from the ride will provide prevention, treatment and research to hopefully in my lifetime, end HIV/AIDS. There were 2,300 cyclists who raised $16.6 Million dollars, including my $4000 effort.
The riders called this week the ‘love bubble’, and that is because it is a week of what I called ‘explosive positivity’. No one ever complained about anything or anyone, everyone happily pitched in and helped. Everyone always had wonderful things to say, to and about, everyone else. The whole week I kept wondering why real life can’t be like this? I feel like everyone deserves a week of this type of positivity in their life. It is hard to describe without experiencing it. If anyone is looking for an amazing ride and an amazing way to spend a week on their bike, this is it. And if you do want to give it a try, check out Team Colorado on Facebook, they will welcome you with open arms as they did me.