From Flagstaff, AZ, to Santa Monica, CA … Day 67!

Well, it is Day 67 and officially our last rest day! Time has flown by like crazy, and we are on our last state! Before I start talking about the whole coast to coast thing, let me tell you about the last several days.

The day we left Flagstaff was crazy. Our destination was Prescott, AZ, and the hills we had were absolutely crazy. We started the day at 7000 feet, descended to around 4000 in 20 miles, then climbed back up to 7000, then back down to about 5000 over the course of the day. The first picture you see below is going down the mountains in Sedona, AZ. It is just outside Flagstaff, and we were cruising down these at a good 25 to 30 mph. Very exciting! However, going down also comes with going up. Later in the day, the heat hit us hard as we started to climb what was called Mount Mingus. The second picture you see below is of the town, Jerome on the side of this mountain. It was about a 20 mile climb with consistent 7% to 8% grade hills, but I climbed those hills at the fastest speed I have climbed in my life. It was probably the hardest I pushed myself this trip, and me and another friend cruised up the mountain at a consistent 10 to 11 mph. We got to the top, and it was one of the most rewarding feelings being back up at 7000 feet again, after starting even lower than 3000 feet. However, the weather also took a turn. The temperature dropped to the point of me needing a jacket, and as we were going back down the mountain, rains hit us near the bottom, which turned into a thunderstorm forcing us to stop at a church along the way. We eventually waited the storm out and made it to Prescott, but the climbs and weather that day threw everyone for a spin. Luckily, we had a great host and food at Prescott Life Church, and even met the Pastor there whose son attends school in South Dakota! It’s really a small world.

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Leaving Prescott, we made our way to Wickenburg, AZ. I was actually in the food van that day, but the descent we made was crazy! We dropped to an elevation of about 2000, and here is one pic of us descending a mountain in our van:

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It was a really cool view. The weather also started getting really hot here. We knew we had to start preparing for the blistering heat in the next few days. We stayed at a church in Wickenburg as well, called “The Place Christian Church.” We had a very hospitable host who provided us with both lunch and dinner, and we got mail here too! I received this wonderful card from my brother, Alex, which really made my day:

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The next day, wake up call was at 3:45 AM. We needed to beat the heat, which meant leaving at sunrise (5:30 AM). It was a 115 mile day, and the high that day reached 115 degrees (heat index)! It was honestly pretty miserable. Or the most miserable day as far as weather goes. Once the temperature hit 102 degrees at about 11:15, we knew we were in for some trouble. Many got in the van to avoid heat exhaustion, but many others who were in better shape decided to endure the ride. I luckily was hydrating and energizing well that day, so I stayed on the road. We made water stops shorter and shorter distances until they were just 6 miles apart at the end of the day. It felt like we were really in an oven. And, considering preheat starts at 115 degrees in an oven, this was actually pretty accurate. Part of what made me endure the ride was my dedication for that day, George Ransom.

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He is the father of one of my brother’s friends who is struggling with cancer, and after hearing about his story and seeing how much my brother’s friend was appreciative of me, I knew I could finish, especially for a person who couldn’t cop out of this cancer situation.

So, we finished the day, and we made it to the beautiful town of Parker, AZ! It was right on the Colorado River, and the sights we saw as we finished that day made our ride worth it as well. The next day, we had a rest day, and we went to Lake Havasu. This is a beautiful lake where we were able to relax for the day:

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Later in the day, we actually went cliff jumping at a place called Crystal Cliffs in Lake Havasu. It was very enjoyable, with cliffs as high as 100 or more feet (which nobody on our team jumped off of). However, one friend jumped off a 60 foot cliff and actually lost his GoPro in his effort to take a video of his own jump! We searched around for it and asked the locals to keep an eye out, but his loss is very unfortunate since he is the most active GoPro user on the team and has many great photos on his SD card. However, he posted his loss to Reddit, got more than 700 upvotes, and has a group of people saying they will search for it with scuba gear. Maybe it will turn up!

From Parker, we made our way into our last state, California! This is me in front of a sign that wasn’t the state sign, but told us we were in Cali (since we were on an Indian reservation):

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Our first city on the list was Blythe. The route that day rode right along the Colorado River, and for some reason, some people in our group were pressed on tubing down the river to get to our host. We would find a good spot to get in, blow up some inner tubes that we eventually bought, put our bikes on two of them, then float down. It would work so well, right?? Thing is, floating 20 miles down a river will take no less than 20 hours. That was simply time we did not have. So, we bought tubes, but did not use them for that. Anyway, that night, my parents graciously donated dinner to the whole team! We stayed at a hotel that night, since we did not have a host, and the restaurant we ate at was literally a 15 second walk from there. It was a very filling meal. Here’s the group I ate with:

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The next morning, we left to Brawley, CA. This is a picture of the town, with Jackie, my teammate that day, riding into it. It is a rather small town, but we had a great home stay there! We stayed with a wonderful family that hosted the team last year too. We got great meals, all of our laundry was done (so grateful for that), and had some great conversations with the hosts as well.

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After Brawley, we went to Palm Springs. This would be the first city that would look more California-like! However, our group barely missed the most terrible storm in the past 6 years (for real). Yet, other groups actually got caught in a terrible flood! One group even had to hitchhike to the host! It was a crazy day, but when we arrived, we got free Starbucks, then a half-off movie ticket to Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, then free Coldstone! It was a great night. This is a characteristic pic of our ride that day:

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We also passed through Coachella (the location of the infamous music festival) that day:

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The next day, we rode into Rancho Cucamonga. The beginning of the trip was tough. The wind was right in our face and we were going uphill for the first 20 miles. Then, I broke my first spoke of the trip, and we were held up at the first water stop for a good 20 extra minutes! But oh well. My riding group was good that day, the last half was pretty much downhill, and we made it to a great host that was situated right in front of the mountains.

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That night, we went to a house that was owned by a family friend of one of my team members. She was such a nice person, provided us with great showers, shampoo, a pool, and what seemed like endless fruit, crackers, and cheese. Here is her backyard:

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Her husband was also a prostate cancer survivor! It was so nice being at a home and meeting wonderful people.

I also dedicated this day to Syria. For peace there, for the safety of family there, and for an end to such a terrible, destructive conflict.

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I love the country, and I want to be able to go back. I know it isn’t related to cancer, but it is something I am keeping in my thoughts and prayers.

The next morning, we set out to Santa Monica! This is a suburb of LA. It was all city riding. We also went downhill the whole day. This was honestly a great ride. I had a great riding group, saw some great sights, and had a great time on my bike! Here are some pictures:

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It was a beautiful ride on a beautiful day, and was only about 55 miles. We arrived at Santa Monica Catholic Church in the afternoon, napped, then went to look at the Pacific Ocean, which was just a few blocks from where we were staying. I realized once we got there, that the coast to coast adventure was essentially complete! We started in the Atlantic on June 1, and I was staring at the Pacific Ocean on August 6. Time flew by, and even though we are not quite done with the trip, it was so amazing to see the Pacific Ocean. Here is a picture I took:

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That night, we explored Santa Monica a bit. We went down to the pier:

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which we walked to on Ocean Avenue:

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I don’t know if you guys know the song “Ocean Avenue” by Yellowcard, but that street was definitely it. So cool!

I also wanted to mention another dedication I had during this stretch. I dedicated a day to my dad’s uncle, Abboud, who is a cancer survivor. Throughout the course of this trip, I have learned of people close to me who have struggled and fought with the disease, and I am so happy and inspired to be riding for such strong people!

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Finally, today we had our last service day of the trip, and it was at USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center. We talked to outpatients receiving chemo therapy about our trip and cause in small groups, and it was so inspiring to hear such amazing people speaking with us. The patients were so much more joyful than I thought, and one even donated $40 to me from his bed! It was great to see how cheerful and appreciative they were, and how they made the best of their situations. Later, we went around to some shops, and then took an evening bike ride near the shore (and also witnessed a teammate get the first 4K tattoo of the trip!). I honestly love this place, and am so glad we are here as a team. It is going to be sad to part ways in the end, but the journey was life-changing. Anyway, I’ll save that stuff for the last blog post from San Diego or some time around then. Stay tuned and thanks for reading!

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