Hangin’ with the team | SierraSun.com

Hangin’ with the team

Sierra Sun Staff reports

Ryan Salm/Sierra SunJake Spero, front, helps Biking for a Better World team members John Witherspoon, left, and Sam Skrocke hang up their Alaska to Argentina sign outside the Velo Rouge Cafe in San Francisco on Saturday. The cyclists were joined by friends and supporters, many from the Tahoe area, for the weekend party.

Biking for a Better World spent this past weekend relaxing in San Francisco as a break from its fundraising cycling journey from Alaskas Prudhoe Bay to Argentinas Tierra del Fuego.The four-member team arrived at the Olema Ranch campground in Point Reyes on Friday, where a group of about 30 friends and supporters many of whom made the trip down from the Tahoe area met up to hang out for the evening. Saturday morning, about half of the group took part in a 40-mile ride over the Golden Gate Bridge to the Velo Rouge Cafe in San Francisco.The Sierra Suns Rachel Costello and friend Jill Sherman were among the 15 or so who made the trip into the city with the team. Once at the Velo Rouge Cafe, they had a chance to sit down with all four members for a Q & A.

SS: Where do you sleep at night?Spero: Mostly looking for a spot avoiding campgrounds and hotels. We usually try to find a spot where were a little bit hidden, where we wont have anyone keeping us up at night. A lot of times around dark were settling in, so its kind of easy to hide a little bit. Well go behind a hill or down on the coast a lot. Since weve been in America weve been down on the beach a lot; weve done a lot of beach camping.SS: You mentioned mosquitoes were bad early on. How bad were they?Spero: Mosquitos are a natural phenomenon to be reckoned with. I have to say theyre worse than I ever thought they could be. I could have never imagined how bad the mosquitoes are. They control your life. They control your thoughts, your mind you cant think, you cant eat, you cant rest. You cant do anything but think about mosquitoes. And all we did was talk about mosquitoes the whole time. … It was to the point where we couldnt get off our bikes and relax. The mosquitoes owned you.SS: Do you feel like you are physically stronger than when you started?Spero: Yes, I feel like my legs have gotten used to the daily routine (which includes waking up and knocking out 25 to 30 miles, then another 20 miles before taking a lunch break, which is the longest break of the day). And my body has just kind of gotten used to knowing whats expected.

SS: So you climbed Mount McKinley. How long did that take?Skrocke: It took us eight days to climb it and two days to get off of it, so 10 days total.SS: What was your reasoning behind starting a 16,000-mile bike ride by climbing the highest peak in North America?Skrocke: Well, its obvious, isnt it? The highest peak in North America is in Alaska and the highest peak in South America is in Argentina, and were biking from Alaska to Argentina, so it only makes sense, right?SS: Are there any spots in particular that youre most excited to see, or are you just sort of taking it day by day?Skrocke: No, no, no, of course. I have been really looking forward to riding my bike in Patagonia since the beginning of the trip. That is the one place that Im excited to be pedaling. Ive done Patagonia before climbing, and one of the things I remember most is the wind down there, and just how intense it can be. The locals say that it is where the broom of God sweeps across the land, and theyre not kidding. If you get caught in it you just get knocked flat on your face if youre trying to walk or climb through it. To be on a bike in conditions like that is gonna be wild absolutely wild, and I just cant wait to get there.SS: I know youre an avid rock climber as well as runner there are probably other things that you do, maybe hike, everything outdoors, I can imagine. Is it hard being strictly a bike rider these days?Skrocke: Yeah, its been really difficult, actually. I thought I would have a chance to do more running. I thought Id have a chance to do a little more climbing. But unfortunately the biking has kind of consumed everything now. I still get out climbing maybe once every two weeks, and running maybe once a week. But Im just not doing it as much as I thought I would, and thats hard. And I knew it would be, but I can only just look ahead and think about Aconcagua (the highest peak in the Western Hemisphere at 22,834, which he intends to summit) and some of the other places well be going through, and just kind of keep that in the back of my head not so much as something to look forward to, but just to know that lifes not over with because Ive been on my bike.

SS: How mentally draining is it for you? Are there times when you want to quit just because of the solitude?Witherspoon: No, the big issue that really creates a mental drain is, like, finding a camp site at night, finding where youre going to eat in an affordable way. And the way it kind of goes in the group dynamics is that youve got to have a meeting. All four of us have to agree on everything. And so we end up taking turns calling out ideas, and so then you pitch an idea and then you have to support it. Its like a debate all the time. Its like, I think we should stay over there because … and then someone else will say, I think we should stay over there because of these things. And then you weigh it all out. … That to me seemed most draining.SS: Have most people you met been pretty responsive to your goal?Witherspoon: Most people have been really, really nice. You go into some towns and you see a group around you, and then you go to other towns and they just ignore you.SS: What has been the friendliest town?Witherspoon: Arcata, California, was really friendly. People were really cool there. People were coming up left and right asking questions and wanting to know about things. Up North, Haines Junction in the Yukon had really nice people and White Horse, Yukon, was super cool, too. We actually stayed in the dirtiest little motel ever, and everyone was so drunk there they didnt even charge us for the second night.SS: Do you consider Biking for a Better World an efficient team?Witherspoon: Yeah, we definitely have got the dynamics, and its kind of naturally played itself out. Sam is a 140-pound pit bull. Hes kind of our advanced scout. We wanted him to be our lead guy in the train, to break the wind for us, but he couldnt really deal with that. Hes more of a Han Solo. He goes off on his own, and by the time we get to a new town Sammys got the joint cased. … By the time we get to town hes talked to 10 people. And Ive been the mechanic. And Duncan has shown himself to be more or less the cook. And Jake is kind of like our PR guy whos on the computer taking care of the behind the scenes.

SS: What has been the highlight of the trip thus far?Sisson: Probably finishing the first leg in Alaska, making our first 500 miles.SS: What was the most challenging part?Sisson: Id say the rain in the morning. Just getting out of bed it was kind of tough to get motivated on those overcast days.SS: Have you met people along the way, and do they think youre crazy when you explain your mission?Sisson: Yeah, with some people weve gotten a little bit of disbelief. At this point, now that were farther along, we tell people we came from Alaska and they say, Yeah right.

Biking for a Better World is a non-profit organization formed with the goal of raising $18,000 to help fund the construction of a school in Nicaragua. To raise the funds, the four teammates have embarked on a 16,000-mile bike ride from Alaska to Argentina to promote their cause. To learn more about Biking for a Better World, visit http://www.bikingforabetterworld.org.