Immediately following my trip in Wine Country, I flew back to Salt Lake City to meet the fleet of 28 ft Penske trucks I would be driving across the country to Richmond, Virginia. Let me explain why.
Every year, DaVita (a kidney dialysis company) puts on a charity ride to raise money for kidney dialysis. Being a long bike ride, and a camping trip at that, DaVita partners with Backroads every year to provide all the bike and camping equipment and provide support on both those counts. That means that each year, 67 Backroads employees make the journey to the tour and work together for a week. The Penskes I drove were filled with all 350 tents, 600 bikes and various other equipment we needed for the week.
For the 4 day drive out east, we had a scavenger hunt to keep us busy on 10 hour drive days. My driving partner, Lauren, was as competitive and into it as I was, which made the frequent stops to see silly roadside attractions an easy decision. We saw the world’s largest sausage roll, a toilet art installation and plenty of roadkill. Ultimately, we came in second place – the lucky winners of a pack of pickle bandages.
So if you pay attention to current events, you might think to yourself “Oh Virginia is pretty close to the site of the US’s latest hurricane. And you would be right. And we felt it – as well as the storm aftershocks. After setting up 350 tents, thankfully with no rain, the following day was a constant onslaught of wet and by the end of the first day of riding, everyone’s stuff was soaked. We were all uncomfortable, but we could work with it.
Move day, however, was a different story. That morning we woke up before dawn and began the process of taking down all 350 tents and moving them to the next campsite. We got to the next site – still no rain, we were sitting pretty. Got all the tents set up and thought we were off for the day. How wrong we were.
I wandered over to Bike Welcome to get some food and see who was around and it wasn’t long before the unceasing downpour started. Thinking I was done for the day, I grabbed a beer and sat back to watch the riders come in after completing their century ride. As one rider came in, I noticed a member of the DaVita Tour Team pull her aside and ask her to check on her tent, as some were flooding. Suffice it to say, we spent the next couple of hours (into the night) moving half of the tents, as a river seemed to have formed through the middle of tent city.
One thing about Backroads that I love is our ability to have fun no matter the circumstances. Despite all this madness and discomfort, we still had something fun to focus on – our performance for the last night. The riders are divided into teams and perform cheers throughout the tour, and Backroads does one of our own. Set to Everybody by The Backstreet Boys, we practiced and practiced our dance and singing routine. On the last night of the tour, we ran on stage to thunderous applause and performed our hearts off. As we finished, the standing ovation had me feeling like Taylor Swift.
To end the week, we had a Backroads-only rockstar themed party with open bar where we all drank a little too much and stayed in a hotel where we finally got dry for the first time in days.