LIVERMORE -- They are seeing the country at 10 miles per hour. And as Tom and Rose Ramos work their way through their 4,200-mile, 11-week cycling trip across the country, they are taking advantage of the opportunity to visit classmates along the way.
Their "Gate to Point" trip began July 20 from the parking lot at the San Francisco Presidio's Officer's Club. From there, they caught a ferry to Vallejo and began to ride toward Winters.
They will ride about 65 miles a day on a route that will take them to Roseville, Nevada City and Truckee before heading into Nevada and along Highway 50. Their route will take them into Bryce Canyon in Utah, Pueblo, Colorado, and eventually Kansas, Kentucky and the Shenandoah Valley before heading up to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. They plan to roll into Camp Buckner at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York, on Oct. 5. They will be escorted into the academy by a group of cycling cadets just in time to attend Tom's Class of 1969 45th class reunion festivities.
The cross-country ride, the second for Rose, is to raise awareness and money for Cause USA, a nonprofit organization that helps America's military wounded. The organization was founded by three West Point graduates from the class of 1967. The inaugural Cause Warrior Ride from Washington state to Washington, D.C. raised more than $100,000.
The West Point Alumni Association of the San Francisco Bay Area will make a $500 donation to Cause USA and presenting it to the group at the start of the ride.
The idea for the trip they are calling "Gate to Point" came up at their last reunion five years ago. At first, Ramos says about 20 to 30 classmates were interested in joining them. Since then, many have had to drop out. Their small group now includes John and Nell McBeth from Lafayette, and three other fellow classmates who will join the trip at various points. John will drive the SAG (support and gear) motor home.
The ride also honors Tom's fellow classmate Paul Ireland, who died recently. Ireland had volunteered to drive the support van for the trip. He had already driven the route and mapped out the course, purchased the trailer and even figured out a way to connect a "kegerator" to the generator for a supply of cold beer along the way. Suffering from nerve damage resulting from exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam, Paul died of a heart attack in April, Tom Ramos said.
Tom is a 67-year old physicist researching and writing a comprehensive history of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's nuclear weapons program. His wife, Rose, 69, retired after 47 years at the lab, where she was the protocol manager. Each has taken part in about a half dozen century rides each year to "inspire us to go," and to train for the long ride, Tom says. These 100-mile treks are well organized and well planned, he added, and have taken them around Lake Tahoe, through Chico, to Gilroy and around the state. This is the second cross-country cycling ride for Rose; in 2005, she rode 3,850 miles from California to Virginia for the Ride Across America benefiting Pleasanton's Hope Hospice Organization.
The Livermore couple met through mutual friends at the lab and, says Tom, "it was love at first sight." Riding together on weekends is "prime time for Rose and I" says Tom. He has three grown children and one grandchild. She has two grown children, two grandchildren and two great grandchildren. He bicycles about 13 miles during his lunch break at the lab, while Rose cycles, does Pilates and works out to stay in shape. Tom tore the ligaments in his big toes in a parachute jump accident while in the Army and years later had to give up running. He took up cycling instead.
He is looking forward to seeing more of the country, connecting with fellow classmates and sharing the message of Cause-USA along the way. The challenge will be the route, which crosses mountain ranges, will likely include 100-plus-degree weather and strong winds in Kansas he predicts will not be at their backs.
Tom says that music will keep him mentally focused. He has filled his iPod with Mozart, Beethoven and Dvorak as well as the classics from the Rolling Stones, the Beatles and Simon and Garfunkel.
The trip will be relaxed and comfortably paced, says Tom. "We will take the time to read the signs and pedal a mile off the road to see a sight. 'Don't be in a rush will be the motto,'" he added. "Rose is better at that than I am."
You can follow Tom's blog "gatetopoint.tumblr.com" where he will be posting comments about the trip along the way. For more information about Cause USA or to make a donation, visit www.cause-USA.org, click on the Cause Warrior Ride and learn more about their work to help wounded warriors.