We got up on Saturday eager and ready to get this thing going! We got all our bikes and gear loaded up, had last minute meetings, and headed down to the starting line at Oceanside Pier. We took pictures and met teams and met up with friends and family that showed up. Ben’s wife, Nancy, was there along with Jane’s niece Katie, and Jeannie’s friend Tammy showed up from San Diego. There was great fanfare as each team was announced and charities highlighted and stars pointed out. It was an absolutely perfect San Diego/Oceanside day with warm sun and a cool breeze.
Finally it was time for the Georgia Chain Gang, and we rolled across the start to horns, cowbells, and cheers. It was all incredibly exciting – worthy of goosebumps – and within a few yards it was totally silent and we were on our own. Six team members peeled off to their respective vehicles and Ben and Dave Payne took off on the bike path. They rode the first 23 miles together because it’s the only part of the course where there is no follow vehicle and if there’s a problem, you are out of luck. But they had no problems and came rolling to the first transition looking strong.
The next group was waiting with another team of young riders raising money for experimental Leukemia drugs. They were very impressive. Jeannie took over and headed straight up hill. About 2/3 of the way up the 7-mile climb it felt like she was on the Tour de France when she was greeted and cheered by the ginger bread man. After her climb Ben took over and the regular rotation began: Ben, Dave Gluck, Dave Payne, Jeannie. When Dave Gluck took over on another brutal climb, there was great sympathy from his son, Max, exclaiming “awww look, he’s struggling!”
After a few more hot rides we got to the top of the glass elevator. Dave Payne took over and headed down. Pretty quickly the next shift realized they had to chase Dave Payne down the steep, windy, treacherous hairpin turns at top speed if they had any hopes of catching him by the bottom for the next transfer. Dave is our fearless descender, and even he said 50+ mph descent with 30+ mph cross winds were “sketchy”!
And then we were in the desert. And it was hot hot hot and windy windy windy! Luckily for Jeannie it was a tailwind. She ran out of gears going 38+ on a totally flat course. The desert rides continued with mostly tailwinds with a few forced to take the headwind. Several rides were averaging up close to 30 mph. Dave Gluck was giggling each time he got back in the van! As sun set, the exchanges and rides continued into the darkness. The tailwind persisted as we blew past our 12 hour goal in Blythe, CA about two hours early! We waved to the other shift as we passed their hotel.
A successful shift change occurred just past the Arizona border, and the new unit took over. All in all a very successful, exhilarating, and exhausting day. Navigators and drivers did a fantastic job keeping us on course and Jane kept us aware of all the little details. So now we head to our hotel with lots of smelly laundry and tired bodies to recharge and get ready to do it all over again. Many of us are thinking about our dads and what we learned growing up that led us to this point in our lives where we are willing to try something so crazy as this to try and make a difference. We all say “Happy Father’s Day, Dad!” Signing off until tomorrow!