Last November I was lucky enough to get a spot—the last spot—on Clif Bar’s cycling team. It’s awesome to be among a squad of strong riders and have sponsorship from a company with social interests compatible to Patagonia’s. Plus, Clif makes the yummiest energy food around! Last weekend we went to our team training camp to get a leg up so-to-speak, on the upcoming season. Meeting in Northern Cal, we got gear, rode hours, and discussed the racing season. But our first order of business was to build houses.
Day one: Habitat for Humanity, Alameda, CA
Dylan, our team director, arranged for the team to work on building a home in Alameda, just outside Berkeley. So we hooked up with Habitat for Humanity East Bay (HEB), a non-profit that aims to revitalize neighborhoods by building homes, among other things, for the underprivileged. HEB is also a leader in building affordable homes with environmentally friendly materials. On the site we worked on, one of the homes had been selected to meet the strict eco-friendly standards of LEEDS certification. So for a day, a group of eight scrawny cyclists managed to install the sub floor and walls of the initial home on the eight-home work site.
[Team Clif 2008. Photo: Paul McKenzie]
Day two: Guerneville/Santa Rosa, CA
From Alameda, it was off to Santa Rosa for a weekend of riding and team meetings. The King’s Ridge loop, where we went on Saturday, is arguably California’s most beautiful place to ride. My teammate David and I cruised ahead of the team, making a wrong turn in the process. The error added additional miles along the coast and resulted in our bypassing the specific area of King’s Ridge, which boasts spectacular views of the ocean. But no matter. The extra time gave me a chance to chat with my new teammate and discover his fascinating work. He lives in Norway, but does his lab work at UC Berkeley during the cycling season as an employee of the Norwegian government. I learned from him that in Norway, genetically modified foods are prohibited. Talking to him made me think, a bit more than I usually do, about how unappetizing genetically modified foods are. Imagine, for instance, a tomato that is mold-resistant because it has the genes of a peanut or chicken. That’s just freaky! Plus, what if I were allergic to peanuts?! Anyway, after more than a hundred miles of riding, five Clif Bars, five Clif Shot Gels, a package of Bloks and a Mojo Bar (yes, that was my personal 2,000 calorie allocation), I returned to our cabin in Guerneville.
Day three: Santa Rosa, CA
Sunday started with our team meeting to discuss goals and responsibilities, which includes offsetting all of our travel with carbon credits. Though some of us ride as much as 10,000 miles a year on the bike, we travel just as much to get to races. I alone will produce about 3.5 tons of carbon dioxide just from traveling to races. You will see a "Start Global Cooling" logo on our jerseys to remind us of the environmental impact that we are responsible for, ironically, to enjoy the great outdoors, and live as we do. The team vigorously encourages car pooling, and our team vehicles can run off biodiesel.
Training camp ended with a relatively brief ride along the Northern California coast. My soul was full.
[Photos: Paul McKenzie (top 4) & Mark Shimahara (bottom 3)]