Coast to Canyon: A Guest Blog From Ultra-Endurance Cyclist Colin Stokes
“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”.
A mission statement for life, but often a difficult path to navigate. Having recently passed 50 I still feel very much like an apprentice seeking that elusive wisdom to know the difference.
As an endurance junkie and ultra-distance cyclist I seldom do things the easy way. I find myself on do-it-yourself 200 mile ‘training’ rides, and regularly signing up for 500 mile bike races – sober. Last November I raced non-stop for 1,000 miles in Texas because, let’s face it, what middle-aged man wouldn’t want a tee-shirt from an event called ‘No Country for Old Men’!
I ride my bike more miles in a year than many drive their car; I climbed a million feet in 12 months, and on this coming summer solstice aim to ride 40,000’ in a day (and night). I do these things not so much because I choose to; it’s more a case of I have to. An addiction that must be satiated. Once the idea starts germinating in my head, there is only way to expunge it – give into the inevitable pain, and occasional ecstasy!
So on May 20th 2016 I will leave the pier at Oceanside CA and pedal eastwards – arriving at the Grand Canyon 3 days and some 700 miles later.
But this time it's not just about my own addiction. As a toddler growing up in the UK, my Mum transported me everywhere by bike, and later chaperoned me as I powered myself on two-wheels. I was 40 before I broke her cycling distance record for a day. It is her genes that power my passion for the bike; and to follow the bike on a never-ending geographical, physical and emotional journey.
Mum lived in the tightening grip of Parkinson’s disease for more than 15 years until she passed this last Christmas. She is the reason why I ride, so I'm making this epic little adventure to raise awareness and funds for the National Parkinson Foundation, Parkinson’s UK, and Parkinson Canada. It seems only fitting that I use a bicycle to raise money on her behalf.
I know what I'm getting into, sort of. In 2013 I competed in the solo division of the 860 mile Race Across the West (RAW) from Oceanside CA to Durango CO; following the same desert and mountain roads as the mother-of-all endurance races, the 3,000 mile Race Across America (RAAM). RAW* was an epic struggle through 125 degree temperatures in the Sonoran desert, sand blasting in the Navajo Nation, and frigid night-time temperatures across the high desert.
*If you want the full story, you can read my feature, ‘ Chasing the Golden Fleece’, published in Conquista Magazine.
The bottom line is that I had so much fun that I'm retracing my steps! Three years on from the original desert sojourn, a little older, and hopefully a little wiser, I am bringing along some friends to share the wind. This time instead of continuing east from Flagstaff on the RAAM/RAW course, I will branch north, to intersect the south rim of the Grand Canyon.
As yet another sign that I am clearly going soft, there will be no more collapsing in a fetal position on the bed of the mini-van to grab a few hours shut-eye. This time, riders and crew will be luxuriating in hotels for a few hours quality sleep each night. That said, this won’t be a picnic either. At 700 miles with almost 40,000’ of climbing we plan on approximately 65 hours coast to canyon - riding 300 miles the first day, and then 200 the next two days.
A plan is just a plan: If ultra-racing has taught me anything over the years, it is to expect the unexpected, and to roll with the dice that Mother Nature and the road throws in your direction. It is reassuring to know on this particular adventure I will have a heavenly VIP watching my back.
Parkinson’s is a terrible disease that insidiously robs a person's mobility, confidence, and ultimately mind. I am proud to support the National Parkinson Foundation (NPF) and their mission to focus on what people with Parkinson’s need today. To fund research, & help people live their best lives now until there is a tomorrow without Parkinson’s. We have raised over $11,000 of our target $15,000 goal. Help us make each of those 700 miles count. Please donate today.
Donations can be made direct to the National Parkinson Foundation viahttp://www.parkinson.org/teamhope/coast-to-canyon
For the old school folks who prefer snail mail: Checks can be made payable to the National Parkinson Foundation and mailed to:
Sara Teeter, National Parkinson Foundation, 200 SE 1st Street, Suite 800, Miami FL 33131 (inc Joan Stokes in check memo section)
We are who we are. A product of nature and nurture. We cannot escape our genes, and why would I want to? Pedaling for a cause with an amazing support community at my back just makes the adventure that much sweeter!
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