Friday, April 24, 2020

Riding Bike from Vegas to LA for Veterans' Mental Health - Part II

World's Tallest Thermometer
Baker, CA.

It's not letting up until dark.
Day two of my 300-mile bike ride in three days from Vegas to LA I woke up in the car at 8 am feeling good. I grabbed a sandwich from subway for a little added nourishment, stretched and hit the road. After a quick stop at the World's Tallest Thermometer, I rode on, still into a gentle breeze in my face.

Yermo sign
Yermo Vehicles

Train leaving Yermo
By noon the wind was no longer gentle and had become a 15 - 20 mph headwind pushing against me. I had seen no sign of wind like this when I checked the weather reports prior to my trip. I battled through the wind as I approached an old foe, Yermo & Ft. Irwin CA. For those of you who have been as a member of the military, you know, THIS PLACE SUCKS! For everyone else, it's just an old rundown military town with a 50's dinner by the name of Peggy Sue's that you may stop at on the long drive from Vegas to LA. For most vets, the memories of loading vehicles on and unloading them off the trains, knowing other soldiers have lost their lives doing this simple task is only the tip of the ice berg. Ft. Irwin is a place where you went train for war and sweat your tail off for a month in Iraq like conditions. On the plus side the enemy only has blanks! On the negative side you are cut off from contacting friends and family just like the real thing, only its worse because you know civilization is so close and this is only training so a phone call would not compromise OPSEC.

ARMY Flag in Yermo

Off-ramp to Hell
Sign to God

With the memories on my mind, I pushed through and headed for Barstow CA, as the wind reached 20+ mph. By 5 pm I had had enough of that and resigned to the fact that staying in Barstow for the night was the smart decision, even if it meant not making it to the pier in the 3 days I had set out to do.

Day 2 Map
Day 3 I woke up a little sore but figured, with only 50 of the 140 miles left being uphill, that if I could do the first 45 in four hours I would have a chance to complete the journey on schedule. Along the first 45 miles, I spent a little time on the old route 66 trail which had some pretty neat sights.

                              Route 66 Building


As far as my target of four hours, I came up about 10 minutes short of that time but I wasn't going to let that take my goal off the table. After a short break eating artichokes for the potassium in Hesperia CA, I finished my climb to the Cajon summit. It was darn cold and quite windy up there but I didn't mind as I knew the rest of the journey was downhill.

After a quick Facebook Live, I tightened my helmet and began the most dangerous and exhilarating part, flying down the mountain from Cajon Summit 40+ mph on the shoulder of Interstate 15, almost keeping up with the semis only a couple of feet away from me. Despite a couple of close calls with disaster, including swerving out into traffic to narrowly avoid smashing into the back of an illegally parked work truck taking up the entire shoulder, I raced down into the greater LA area.

LA Sunset
Rancho Cucamonga was a bit rainy which caused some vision problems presenting another obstacle to overcome if was going to make it to the pier that night. As I approached the city of Los Angeles the rain stopped and the clouds became broken. At that point I knew nothing was going to stop me from finishing tonight, even if it was dark. I continued on, watching the sunset behind the buildings of LA. In downtown LA (17th  Figueroa) I met up with Jessica as darkness set in so she could charge my phone in the car while following me with the headlights on and hopefully I wouldn't get run over. When I made it to the boardwalk she returned my phone so I could bring viewers the last mile with me on Facebook Live.

I felt sooo proud of my accomplishment as I dodged sleeping homeless people while others made it a little more difficult by wandering into my path zombie-like out of the darkness. This part of the experience made me a little scared but then the thought struck me "There but for the grace of God (and the love and encouragement of my family, friends and especially my wife wife Jessica) go I." Some of these homeless freaks probably were veterans teetering on the edge of insanity just like I have been at different points. Unfortunately they have had the experience of falling off that cliff, something many of us struggle not to do every day.

As I approached the pier I wanted to finish my video with my thought of the day which had been running through my mind continuously since I realized I was going to finish…
"Fellow vets, yesterday may have been a struggle, but, today is a new day. Lean forward. You've got this..."
It came out of my exhausted mouth slightly different, but I hope you all understand the message. Keep your head up and keep pushing. This too shall pass!

Day 3 Ride Summary

I want to thank all of you for your support not only financially if you donated but for commenting on and sharing my Facebook updates along with the texts I received. Every one of you contributed not only to me achieving my goal but to a few more veterans knowing they can turn to Nation Veterans Foundation and they will be there even when times are rough.  I will still have my account open for a while at or you can donate directly at any time.

The last thank you goes out to Darryn at River Mountains bike shop. Without him and his business, 
none of this would have happened. I met Darryn back in August 2019, when it was over 100 degrees out but I wasn't going to let that stop me from training for BBABAA. When I rode to up to his business looking a wreck as I had no idea how to properly distance cycle and was riding the wrong equipment, he offered me some water, a map of good places to train, advice, and words of encouragement. Since then, Darryn has become a friend and cycling mentor.  Darryn wanted to do what he could to help with my mission to bring awareness to veterans' mental health and lent me a proper bike to train on which ended up being the one I made this 300-mile ride with. Thanks, Darryn!

If any of you live in the Las Vegas area and need a repair or lube, he does great work. If you are in town visiting and need a rental bike to get some exercise and see the nature surrounding Las Vegas, he does that too. If you are a local in need of space to store your boat, trailer, or RV this is the place as well. The River Mountains Loop trail between Henderson and Lake Mead is defiantly a fun and challenging place to ride and the bike shop has all your needs to get you ready to start or for a quick recharge on your route.

Thank you for going on this adventure with me!
My blog is normally all about sports.
With Coronavirus shutting things down I decided to use this platform to tell you about my ride.

NFL draft thoughts will be coming soon...

1 comment:

  1. I couldn't imagine you riding downhill on I-15. REALLY glad I didn't know you were doing that until it was over! Great account of the last day, Jake!!


Riding Bike from Vegas to LA for Veterans' Mental Health - Part II

World's Tallest Thermometer Baker, CA. It's not letting up until dark. Day two of my 300-mile bike ride in three d...