Guest Blog: Felice recaps a week of SFT travels

Note from Sara: I am lucky enough to have my dear friend Felice along on the SFT for a few weeks through the desert southwest. Please enjoy her tales of life on the road! 

While taking a break from my job working with professional athletes, I have found myself volunteering my time and pedal power to the amazing Sara on her School Food Tour journey.

I spent the past summer surrounded by elite cyclists in my work as a “soigneur” for the Giant Mountain Bike Team and Team USA. My job title means I “care for the athletes”, providing massage and physiological support to elite cyclists at the highest level of competition. This amazing role presents me with numerous challenges and takes me to many beautiful locations across the world. In the last few days, the School Food Tour has presented me with new challenges, adventures and amazing scenery, and I have learned that the task of carrying out the Tour is an equally immense and admirable challenge as competing in world championship competitions.

The first chapter of my School Food Tour experience commenced with a drive from hometown Bend, OR to Joshua Tree National Park, CA with my neighbour and local endurance academy coach, Brenna Warburton. We gained a new appreciation for the impressive distance that Sara had already travelled on the Tour since departing Bend in August when it took us 14 hours of zooming down the highway in my trusty Silver Subaru to find her.

As an Aussie I had never seen a joshua tree before (and didn’t quite comprehend Brenna’s comical description), so it was spectacular to wake up to the cartoon-ish views in the National Park and be re-united with my old roommate for the first time since she commenced her pedal powered journey! Equally spectacular was the serving of whole wheat pancakes cooked up by Truckee, CA Nordic ski coach Ben Grasseschi. The delicious meal and amazing views set the scene and kick-started the School Food Tour proper for Brenna and I.

With our bikes re-constructed and water bottles filled, we set out on Sara’s declared route in the direction of Phoenix. The next 5 days were filled with pedalling, camping under the stars, eating healthy food to fuel our legs, and most importantly, laughing our way across the desert from California and Arizona. Brenna and I swapped up the task of driving ahead to scout for camp sights, gather provisions, and ensure we had enough water before backtracking on bike to meet the crew and finish up the day of pedalling with Sara who was going the whole distance.

This opportunity to provide my friend with logistical and physical support is incredibly rewarding and I am so thankful to have a chance to see parts of this truly amazing country that I would never see if I wasn’t on the School Food Tour. There are far too many highlights to note… so I have picked 5:

  • Seeing saguaro cacti and joshua trees for the first time! So cool – token tourist moments necessary!
  • Lying under the desert sky and counting shooting stars and satellites with great friends.
  • Riding up a big hill and into the head wind for 5 hours (yes, I actually enjoy this kind of thing!)
  • Discovering an unexpected amazing camp spot on the Colorado river (which was later deemed not-so-brilliant when the mosquitoes came to feast!)
  • Finding out how fast I can sprint on a bike when there is a feisty dog in hot pursuit!

The realisation of how far you can actually travel on a bicycle is incredible and I’m having such a blast that I have signed up for the next chapter of the Tour from Arizona to Texas. When are you going to join Sara?

A synchronous encounter in Joshua Tree

So there I was. Pedaling underneath the pink skies of Joshua Tree National Park on a nondescript October evening. Although it was the end of a long 70-mile day that had presented upward of 4,700 feet of climbing, the gorgeous desert scenery kept me smiling as I rode along the last few miles into my campsite.

Car after car of weary rock climbers and sun-drenched tourists waved and whizzed past on their way home from another day of desert adventures. All of  a sudden a red Subaru passes by, just like all the others, but then oddly it slows, pulls into the nearest parking lot, turns around and then waits at the entrance. I could feel the passengers’ eyes on me and so feeling a bit self-conscious, I kept my head down when I pedaled past the idling car. As soon as I cleared the driveway the same little red Subaru pulled up along side of me and the unexpected occurs.

A girl who I had never seen in my life leans her head out of the window and says, “SARA?!”

I glance over with a ‘who in the world are YOU?’ look on my face and affirm that I am, in fact Sara. “HI!!!” she yells. Still befuddled, I say hi timidly and look to her with a questioning expression. “It’s Chris and Justene!!” she says… after a momentary blank stare, finally, it clicks: Chris and Justene are an amazing duo from Bozeman, Montana who I had been corresponding with via email for the past 6 months regarding our similar bicycle and food-driven projects. These two great folks make up the Human Powered Mountaineers – a project started by Chris that combines alpine climbing expeditions, bicycle travel and organic farms into a single sustainable effort.

They  just happened to take a road trip that just happened to be to Joshua Tree, and they just happened to be driving back to camp at the same time I was on the road. They recognized my cycling jersey, thought “No way. Could it be her?” and took a chance on yelling out my name. Once it clicked for all of us we pulled over and Justene jumped out of the car to give me a big hug. After countless exclamations of “How random!” I quickly invited them to my campsite and continued to roll through the park as night time approached. They stopped by later and we spent the evening storytelling and marveling over our fortuitous meeting.

The next morning they came by to see me off and take a few photos. Please be sure to check out their project and read their account of our serendipitous meeting on  The Human Powered Mountaineers blog. 

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