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San Diego Family April 2010 : Page 18

The Ride Across California Empowering kids to go beyond! T wo decades ago, fifth grade teacher, Dennis Bueker found himself staring at a book, Hey Mom, Can I Ride My Bike Across America?: Five Kids Meet Their Country by John S. Boettner, an idea slowly evolving in his head. He called his friend, Mike Fickel, then-principal of Deer Canyon Elementary School in Rancho Peñasquitos. Together they sat and charted out a plan for fifth grade kids to do a bike ride across California. The RAC or Ride Across California was born. Both Bueker and Fickel had a great belief in the power of children, their ability to establish a target, plot their course and achieve a goal. Today, Gary Rossi, who has coordinated the RAC for the past eight years along with Jesse Pazdernik from the YMCA, continue the effort with an organized structure and a highly motivated team of volunteers and alumni. 18 • SanDiegoFamily.com • April 2010 Gary Rossi with RAC riders. Geeta Shreedar Another name for the RAC is From River to Riptide, because it commences with the back wheel of the bicycle starting at the Colorado River and ends with the front wheel at the Pacific Ocean. The philosophy behind the ride is to enable kids to create their goal, follow through with their plan with dedication and accomplish it. This year marks the RAC’s 20th anniversary. With 20 years of military experience, Rossi supervises the food, drink, bike stops, the route and ensures that every child follows the right path, maintains bike logs and all the logistics that go into making this tour successful. Every year brings in a new learning experience. Ride Across California To learn more or sign up, contact Gary Rossi: 858-538-7988 or Jesse Pazdernik: 858-484-8788 www.rancho.ymca.org/test/bike-club-rac.html Ride Across California (RAC) River To Riptide is on Facebook!

The Ride Across california

Empowering kids to go beyond!<br /> <br /> Two decades ago, fifth grade teacher, Dennis Bueker found himself staring at a book, Hey Mom, Can I Ride My Bike Across America?: Five Kids Meet Their Country by John S. Boettner, an idea slowly evolving in his head. He called his friend, Mike Fickel, then-principal of Deer Canyon Elementary School in Rancho Peñasquitos. Together they sat and charted out a plan for fifth grade kids to do a bike ride across California. The RAC or Ride Across California was born.<br /> <br /> Both Bueker and Fickel had a great belief in the power of children, their ability to establish a target, plot their course and achieve a goal. Today, Gary Rossi, who has coordinated the RAC for the past eight years along with Jesse Pazdernik from the YMCA, continue the effort with an organized structure and a highly motivated team of volunteers and alumni.<br /> <br /> Another name for the RAC is From River to Riptide, because it commences with the back wheel of the bicycle starting at the Colorado River and ends with the front wheel at the Pacific Ocean. The philosophy behind the ride is to enable kids to create their goal, follow through with their plan with dedication and accomplish it.<br /> <br /> This year marks the RAC’s 20th anniversary. With 20 years of military experience, Rossi supervises the food, drink, bike stops, the route and ensures that every child follows the right path, maintains bike logs and all the logistics that go into making this tour successful. Every year brings in a new learning experience.<br /> <br /> Rossi says, “This ride cannot be managed without the volunteer parents and chase riders. They are the key to its success!” <br /> <br /> What is the RAC?<br /> <br /> The RAC begins at the border of California, Arizona and Mexico and ends in Carlsbad. It is approximately a 270-mile trail over a span of seven days. It takes place during the April spring break every year. This year’s ride takes place April 5–11. The trail consists of hills, desert and headwinds. Weather ranges from desert heat to freezing temperatures in Julian. Each night, the group stops at a school where tents are set up for camping overnight. Organizers and sponsors provide all food, snacks and drinks for the week.<br /> <br /> The route: Day 1 – Colorado River to Gold Rock Ranch, Winterhaven: 20 miles Day 2 – Gold Rock Ranch, across the Dunes, to Pine School: 55 miles Day 3 – Pine School to the El Centro pool, to Westside School: 34 miles Day 4 – Westside School, through Plaster City, to Vallecito Camp Ground: 50 miles Day 5 – Vallecito, up Banner Grade, to Julian and Spencer Valley School: 35 miles Day 6 – Spencer Valley School, through Black Canyon, to San Pasqual School: 46 miles Day 7 – San Pasqual to Carlsbad, the Pacific Ocean: 30 miles <br /> <br /> Who Can Ride the RAC?<br /> <br /> The RAC is open to all fifth graders and accompanying parents. Siblings are welcome but if younger, must ride with a parent. Alumni can also ride again. A prerequisite is that every rider must join the Bike Club at Rancho Family YMCA at Rancho Peñasquitos. Planning and training for the ride starts in September, beginning gradually and moving towards more challenging and difficult training rides. Riders must log a minimum of 200 miles prior to the RAC. This gives riders experience using the brakes and learning how and when to shift gears. To a great extent, this eliminates and mitigates the opportunity for accidents and injuries. The Bike Club provides adequate training rides that account for almost 500 miles of biking. A mandatory requirement is two Escondido rides of about 36 miles each.<br /> <br /> According to Rossi, “If kids can do these two rides, they can do the RAC. This ride gets their legs into shape for the tour.” <br /> <br /> No Quitting <br /> <br /> “We have a policy,” says Rossi, “that allows no child to quit in the middle of the ride, unless they are seriously injured.” <br /> <br /> There are instances of kids getting hurt, of low morale and exhaustion. It is a long and tedious ride with many anxious moments of “will it ever end?” There are times when Rossi or Pazdernik have had to deliver motivational talks to children to encourage them to reach their goals.<br /> <br /> Rossi says, “The hardest part of the RAC can be when headwinds of about 20 mph from El Centro hit out and can be absolutely devastating for kids.”<br /> <br /> If riders have bike problems, most learn how to fix them quickly, thanks to the meetings designed to teach the basics. However if a spoke breaks or it’s something major, there are a couple of spare bikes that the rider can use to complete the ride. Meanwhile, a hunt for a local bike repair shop could remedy the problem. This year, a bike mechanic will accompany the tour.<br /> <br /> A Grand Tour of California <br /> <br /> This tour showcases breathtaking scenery that kids have probably never seen before. There are undulating hills, expansive desert views, wildlife, the mighty ocean, roads less traveled, with an opportunity to feel and experience nature at her best while camping with new friends and great food! Families see the breadth and depth of the diversity in this wonderful state, and the ride never ceases to amaze kids who get a few first-hand pointers on what California is really like.<br /> <br /> Rossi says, “Dennis and Mike started with an idea and it has lasted for 20 years. It has affected so many kids in a positive way, there is nothing they cannot do if they put their minds to it … if there’s any self-doubt, I remind them about the RAC!” <br /> <br /> So another year goes by with children geared to tackle some of the toughest challenges of their young lives, to overcome obstacles greater than themselves and to attain the unimaginable, pedal by pedal!

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