Local joins T.E.A.M. for sea-to-sea ride

Published 8:32 pm Saturday, July 21, 2012

The riders of Sea to Shining Sea, a World T.E.A.M. Sports event, take part in a “wheel dipping” ceremony on the beach at San Francisco Bay. Washingtonian Jeanna Buck is along for the cross-country ride to bring awareness to disabled veterans. (Contributed Photo/Jeanna Buck)

On May 28, 31 people set out from San Francisco, Calif., on a great adventure: a trip from the west coast to east coast that would take them through America’s heartland. They are not traveling by plane, train or automobile. Instead, they ride.
Sea to Shining Sea is a biennial bike ride organized by the nonprofit World T.E.A.M. Sports. From the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic, 16 veterans of wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Bosnia and Vietnam, whose disabilities range from loss of limbs to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, ride to prove a point — that disabled Americans can lead productive lives and accomplish remarkable feats of athleticism.
Along for the ride is Peace College senior and Washington native, Jeanna Buck. It was another Washington native, Van Brinson, chief operating officer of World T.E.A.M. Sports, who invited Buck to join the ride as part of the support crew.
The purpose of the event is to raise awareness — of veterans and people with disabilities — and serve up a healthy of dose of inspiration to the disabled.
“(The ride) encourages a lot of people with disabilities to get off their couches and do it,” said Buck. “There are a lot of people you wouldn’t expect to see biking across the country. It’s an inspiration.”
For the past few weeks, adventure has been just a matter of waking up to the next day’s ride, but Buck said a few events stand out to her: in San Francisco, the 75th anniversary celebration of the Golden Gate Bridge; the beauty of the Colorado Rocky Mountains; a century ride (over 100 miles in a single ride) Buck completed in Kansas on a day when the sun beat down on the asphalt at 115 degrees.
Buck told of the reception the riders have received from town to town, how outside Olney, Ill., a motorcycle escort showed up to lead them the last five miles to town, where residents lined the streets, waving American flags.
“The patriotism and support for these guys in the small towns in the Midwest has been really impressive,” Buck said.
A lot of planning goes into a ride of this magnitude, so much so that Brinson said it would be overwhelming if done annually. Permits have to be filed in each jurisdiction along the route. Nine vehicles make the trip alongside the riders, including three shuttle buses, a cargo truck to carry the bikes and an RV that serves as a food truck. A support crew of 12, along with a ride director, a crew chief and event coordinator back up the 16 riders, making sure the ride goes off without a hitch.
“It’s too big to plan every year,” Brinson said.
For Buck, the camaraderie and teamwork has kept her going, even on a day riding in what she called “the hottest weather I’ve even been in.” Buck finished a challenging 11-hour, 122-mile ride, but not without the help of her friends: “It was the people I was with. They were pushing me, encouraging me,” she said. “Knowing that these guys had come this far — if they came this far, I could too.”
The ride ends in Virginia Beach, Va., on July 28, but Buck said she’s had so much fun she could go on for another two months.
“It’s been so fun — I don’t really want to go back to real life,” she said.
Sea to Shining Sea won’t happen again for two years and Buck is uncertain what her life will look like in 2014, the year after she graduates from college. That doesn’t stop her from hoping she’ll be able to join up for the next cross-country trip.
“This has been a great experience,” she said. “I’d do it again in a heartbeat.”

 Staff Writer Mona Moore contributed to this report.