2014 Gulf Coast Bike Ride: Team Okinawa

 

2014.png200 miles does not come easy for cyclists; at least not many.  The mere thought of such an endurance event turns off many would-be cyclist who, despite years of experience and physical ability levels, are not prepared for the physical, mental and emotional stress 200 miles invites. It’s difficult to empathize with someone who has spent the last 8-12 hours riding on the blunt end of a metal broomstick while maintaining a revolutionary cycle that equates to over 50,000 strokes per 100 miles covered, while facing a 20 mph headwind.  It’s daunting – not to mention painful- to even think about, but that’s what makes the ride so inviting.  Unlike last year’s 160-miles, this year’s ride proved that a strong heart and even stronger mind can break past the physical barriers to accomplish the mission; the mission to support the families of EOD technicians who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.     

Coast.pngOn 17 October my good friend, Sean Hoebing (non EOD tech) and I set off at 4 a.m. from Camp Courtney on our circuitous route around Okinawa.  Though not an EOD technician, Sean has supported two EOD bike rides with me, including the 2012 ride on his mountain bike.  He is what you may call, an animal, but also a fellow supporter and friend.  Nevertheless, having rode around this island on several occasions we chose a route that would be less “hilly” to ease the burden on our legs.  What we endured for most of the 130 miles on day one, was over 4000 feet of elevation change, a 20-30 mph headwind and a few brushes with death for thinking motorists would stop for cyclists.  Lesson learned; they don’t! With planned stops every 20 miles, our chase vehicle, piloted by Aaron Ross (3rd EOD) and his wife Jessica, carried enough refreshments and snacks to keep us fueled for the entire ride.  What we failed to pack or prepare, the local Family Mart gladly provided.  After all, nothing fuels you up like a steaming pork bun or seaweed-wrapped rice ball.  By 4 p.m. we pulled into our final destination, Okuma beach resort, where our families were waiting.  We celebrated our first day with a frosty Heineken (Sean’s unofficial sponsor), and a craft of Malbec, followed by a few laughs and an ice bath.  

Gulf.pngThe second day came quick with a 6 a.m. departure from camp.  After careful consideration, we modified the route to an out-and-back coastal route, vice the mountainous pass originally planned for.  I admit that our rear ends had the biggest vote in the change.  In the end, we – and our tail ends - were both thankful for the change.  Once more, our planned 20-mile stops were adequate for breaks, but out of necessity and much needed, um…relief, we made a few brief stops to stretch and take a break from the headwind.  It’s one thing to ride in a peloton, or even a large group where as a team member you get a break from the lead every so often.  Unfortunately for us, even with switching lead every five miles, if I wasn’t breaking through the wind, I was catching it behind Sean.  But, don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining.  How can I? After all, we finished day two in fewer than six hours and were blessed with tropical weather and sandy beaches to relax on, as our muscles recovered from the last 12 hours in the saddle.

Ride.pngTo my fellow riders, and the EOD Warrior Foundation, congratulations on your individual rides, fundraising, and teamwork.  It is, as always, a pleasure to support the foundation from overseas in any capacity.  Sadly, this will be my last EOD ride on Okinawa, as I am due to return to the states next summer, but I am looking forward to greener pastures and supporting the next ride, wherever that may be.  

To the families of my fallen EOD technicians, it’s an honor to support you and the sacrifices your loved ones have made.  The 200 miles we endured, regardless of geographical location, terrain, or weather, fails in comparison to the pain you have felt through the loss of a loved one.  If the EOD bike ride is just one way that we, as a community, can continue to show our support and be grateful for the opportunities that we have in life, then consider me indebted to the mission of the EOD Warrior Foundation and a humble supporter for life.  God Bless!

 

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