“I wanted to participate and do something to contribute…and raise money for LACBC,” explains Harvey. “I came up with this independent challenge, and decided to bring the dogs along to make it a little extra challenging and fun. I have always thought it would be fun to take the dogs on a camping bike tour. I also felt like if I was going to do something like this and ask for donations every year, I needed to give my donors and contacts something new and challenging to get inspired by.”
This was Ricky’s and the dogs’ first bicycle tour. Training for a multi-day cycling event with 16,000 feet of elevation gain requires a lot of determination and strength. Even more so, a self-supported bicycle tour means that the cyclists, Ricky and Harvey, carry everything they need on their bikes. This includes, food, water, tent, sleeping bags, stove, and in this case–their four dogs and a large amount of dog food! Harvey and Ricky spent months training, adding more miles and more weight on every training ride. The dogs also had some training to do before this big adventure. Although all four fit in the bike trailer, dubbed the “Woof Wagon,” the dogs had to learn how to ride in it for hours at a time.
Traveling with four dogs isn’t easy. Harvey explains, “We stop each hour for stretching, water, and play time. It is kind of the same as a humans-only ride, but the pace is a little slower and the water breaks are a little longer” (“Team LACBC Members Embark on the California Woof Ride,” blog post).
Besides training rides, creating and preparing for an independent challenge like this takes a lot of forethought and planning. Harvey shared with us a couple insights about how to make a successful event.
“First, you have to plan a ride that will inspire people you know to be supportive and either follow you on your journey, make a donation, or hopefully both. It’s kind of like you are earning their support with sweat, innovation, and a little bit of crazy and fun. The ride also needs to be personally fulfilling…
“Second, you have to plan out all the logistics, gear and tools. With the dogs coming along, this part becomes extra challenging and fun.
“Third, you have to be physically ready for the ride. Besides training, we have been following a super clean, energy efficient diet so that we can exchange some body weight for cargo weight.”
“It’s kind of like being an astronaut, but less complicated.”
Similar to the hills that they climbed and descended, this six-day journey was full of triumph, kindness from strangers, challenge and trepidation. Harvey shared that the hardest part of their Independent Challenge was “the wind!”
Harvey notes, “The trailer that we used to transport the dogs can work with you, or against you. It is not exactly aerodynamic. If the wind is at your back, it makes for a wonderful wind sail that helps you along. If the wind is against you, it does the exact opposite and actually creates a wind resistant drag on you.” On one particularly windy day, Harvey remarked that even in their lowest gears they were barely moving.
“To make matters worse, we were in an agricultural area with miles of cauliflower and kale fields, with trucks and tractors coming and going. This produced lots of dust blowing in our faces… At one point, I thought we would have to set up a road side camp and give up. But then, I realized that we still had about four hours left in the day. So, I told myself to let the day play out and see what happens.”
The wind eventually subsided and with a rear flat tire to wrap up their trying day, they finally arrived at their destination that day, dog-tired.
Despite the physical and mental difficulty of that windy day, Harvey insists the glass was really half-full. “What I did learn is that time is always your friend, and, you have the ability to steer your mindset. You can psyche yourself out and give up, or you can use the time you have available, shift in to low gear, and insist on a better turnout. I have a favorite mantra I use on days like that:
“Shift into a low gear and make like a Zen turtle.”
Later on in their journey, Harvey described his most inspiring moment when Ricky remarked, “Wow, I can’t believe I am doing this. This is awesome.”
Harvey explained, “Ricky hadn’t ridden much before this ride, and he trained with me very patiently for a few months. I was concerned about that unknown ‘can we do this?’ that you have when you do a new challenge. The moment Ricky made that statement, I knew we were actually going to make it.”
“Seeing the beautiful scenery, feeling the wind on our faces, and knowing this, along with whatever music was playing on my little bluetooth speaker, made for more than one occasion of inspiration,” reflected Harvey.
Over 300 miles, 16,000 feet of elevation gain, and six days later, Ricky, Harvey, Max, Little Foot, Chiquita and Carlos are now happily and safely at their home in Los Angeles. Although the adventure is over (for now), their effort to raise awareness and support for the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coaliton is not. Harvey’s goal is to raise $4,000 to support safer and better cycling in L.A. County. At the time of this writing, his fundraising is only $450 away from his goal, so throw these dogs a bone and donate today!