Well, we did it. Traci, Tessa, Kristi, and I biked all 300 miles from Carmel to Santa Barbara to raise funds for No Kid Hungry through Chefs Cycle. (Read my first post.)What an incredible experience. Not to be missed, never to be forgotten. Great people, superb scenery, lots of laughs, too many great stories.
The four of us rode at our own paces. Day 1 began foggy at the start in Monterey but broke into a hot day with temperatures in the high 90s by mid-day. Day 2, which was hotter still down toward Templeton, proved the toughest for me, while Traci found the hills towards the coast on Day 3 made for her toughest ride of the three days.
Start times were early — 7 am each day so to try and beat some of the day’s heat. The Chefs Cycle crew offered tremendous support and had multiple pit stops to let everyone fill their water bottles and stretch a bit before rolling on. All told we would ride for about six-plus hours with a 30-minute break for lunch and short stops for liquids and snacks. No rest for the weary here. We had to pace ourselves from the start, find a group to ride with, and conserve our energies.
Bon Appétit Nutrition Project Manager Sarah Gold (MS, RDN, LDN) worked up a great two-pager (PDF) for me and the other riders about what to eat and how much to drink. Hydration is a biggie, especially in heat. As you dehydrate, your body’s ability to generate power diminishes. You have to drink more than seems physically possible. One woman had a timer on her phone going off every 12 minutes, which was not a bad idea. I went through 6 to 8 bottles of 20-ounce liquids each day at a minimum.
Forcing yourself to eat on the ride or during breaks was key — you have to keep the tank topped off. During the rides I mostly ate bananas or bars; maybe a gel or two for short bursts of energy. Lunch included fruit, a sandwich, and more liquids. Each day meant burning through 5,000 to 6,000 kcal of energy. It’s hard to even imagine eating that much on any normal day. But we did for sure, thanks to some wonderful meals provided by the Chefs Cycle team and one of the rider’s own cooking crew.
Once we got south of Salinas going down to Kings City and beyond, we were riding through ag country. It was fun to be chatting with the other chefs as we rode — “what are they growing there? Look over there!” We saw fields of celery, which was cool, not something you often see, and fields of onions, some new and others that were fully mature that had flowered out and were curing in the ground. Lots of brassicas being grown in many fields. The colors were vibrant in the sun. Big trucks loaded with massive crates of cabbages passed us by. Plus I got to see stuff that I don’t often think about. There were farmworkers everywhere — some harvesting, some cultivating. We could see the conditions they work in, bending over and moving fast out there in the incredibly hot sun.
Despite the heat, hills, sore behinds, and the exhausting three days, it was all worth it when we crossed the finish line and high-fived the several hundred kids waiting and cheering as they greeted us. That part was just awesome and erased the fatigue and sweat.
Our team almost doubled our goal, raising more than $39,000 — and the whole event brought in over $1 million! That will go a long way to helping feed hungry kids when school is out. Thanks to all who contributed! Let’s see a show of hands willing to ride with us next year, to make it better still and work to end childhood hunger in America?
—Thom Fox, Bon Appétit executive chef and Well-Being Indicator Program Culinary Facilitator