The Skywriter

Biking for climate down the California coast

1
Oct

Biking for climate down the California coast

If you have been paying attention to 1Sky's Twitter or Facebook feed in the last weeks, you'll recall hearing about the great event that is the Brita Climate Ride. If you don't know what Climate Ride is, here's the short version: two incredible women whose day jobs involve showing others the world on bicycles decided to help make a difference on climate change. In 2008, they started a five-day bike ride from New York to Washington, D.C. to raise money and awareness about climate and clean energy groups. Climate Ride has now grown into a bi-annual action with hundreds of riders. This year, 1Sky was chosen as a beneficiary and I was able to take part in this epic event down the coast of Northern California.

 

Overall, the trip was inspiring – from the amazing landscapes, the steel-willed riders, and the incredible ride staff. The week officially started when we all met in the small town of Fortuna, CA during a beautiful sunset before we were to set off. The room was full of more than 100 riders, Climate Ride staff, and a few family members. I knew that this was a room of people who cared about fighting climate change, but it wasn't until later in the week that I realized what incredible company I was in. That night ended with the riders being invited to write messages to President Obama on pre-addressed postcards about why we were doing Climate Ride and what the issue means to us.

Day one was through the most perfect setting imaginable for such a ride. After the morning safety talk (and me shoving a triple-decker peanut butter and jelly sandwich down my face – energy food, clearly), we set off and soon found ourselves riding through the redwood forests of Northern California. They don't call it the Avenue of the Giants for nothing. Living in D.C., I can sometimes forget just how breathtaking nature can be. This day reminded me of that very quickly.

As the 1Sky representative, I'd been asked to speak on the policy landscape for climate change and the state of the movement. That night I followed Professor Peter Lehman, one of the leading researchers in hydrogen fuel, and was followed by Keegan Eisenstadt, President and CEO of ClearSky Climate Solutions. I may know what I'm talking about on this climate policy business, but clearly I was among some heavy hitters. My personal take-away from that first night of talks was a clear impression of how smart and passionate my fellow riders were. The questions asked of all speakers revealed that they were not just here for good bike riding, to say the least.

Day two was, as one my fellow riders aptly noted, humbling. We had our biggest two "hills" of the ride. For those not familiar, Northern California "hills" are very much like East Coast "mountains" I've ridden over. We were rewarded for climbing those hills not only by the accomplishment of a great challenge, but by riding out of the woods and onto the Pacific coastline. Going from dense woods to wide-open ocean like that is something I'll never forget. We sat on the cliffs during lunch that day in awe of the open blue.

I left the view a bit early to set up at the final water stop that day. With help from David, a veteran Climate Rider, I helped others call their senators and representatives in Congress. Raising money and awareness is fantastic, but their ability to use the event to speak up for climate action is huge as well. After a few hours, we had driven more than 50 calls into Congress. The riders told their Congressional leaders' offices about the ride and why they felt it was important. Some of the riders were new to calling their Congressional offices, while other riders were literally on a first name-basis with their reps.

The third day was our "century" – the 100-mile day. We continued down the Pacific coastline starting nice and early as the sun was really just getting started as well. Unfortunately, this particular rider had a bit of an accident during the day. While I wasn't hurt irreparably, I was put out of commission for the ride and reminded well to take things nice and slow. C'est la vie.

The Climate Ride staff and one special volunteer were very helpful and on day four I was back in action, riding along with the awesome mechanics. While I wasn't biking myself anymore, this did give me a chance to see other riders. This was the hottest day so far and no longer on the breezy coast. Nevertheless, I saw incredibly determined riders fight through multiple flat tires and serious hills. The water stop next to a locally owned ice cream parlor definitely helped and I made sure to test some of the ice cream out myself as well.

Being the last night, we heard our final four speakers. This group featured some seriously smart people giving pretty technical talks, but the Climate Riders ate it up and came back with lots of questions. It was especially cool for me, as a full-time climate advocate, to be in the company of all these people who were knowledgeable, curious, and truly valued protecting the global climate.

Photo courtesy of Climate Ride, rights reserved

The last day brought us into San Francisco. It was shorter, but not without challenges, and I'd guess we were all feeling bittersweet about finishing the ride. Getting back to your own bed is great, but some experiences you don't want to end.

There's so much more I could write about: hanging out with the amazing Roz Savage; eating locally-grown, organic food every day; and, most of all, being completely re-energized for my work back at 1Sky. Being in the central office, we don't get nearly as much face-to-face interaction with all of you out across the country working to make a difference locally as we'd like. Climate Ride gave me that opportunity and for that, as much as for the donations raised, I am grateful.

Photo courtesy of Climate Ride, Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial - Share Alike

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