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Whistler to San Fran, the hard way

Bike trip overcomes crash, weather to raise funds for Zero Ceiling

Whistler is located at the crux of any cross-Canada trip, as well as along the corridor that eventually connects Alaska to Argentina, which means that from May to October literally dozens of adventurers pass through town with their bikes, motorcycles, rickshaws, you name it. But sometimes the adventure starts here as well.

In September, a group of locals decided to bike 2,028 kilometres from Whistler to San Francisco, giving themselves about 20 days to do it and still have four or five days to hang out in the Bay Area. While they were riding for personal reasons, they also set out to raise a dollar for every kilometre they travelled to the Whistler-based Zero Ceiling group. Zero Ceiling provides low income kids from Vancouver and First Nations an opportunity to try snowboarding, and gives a few motivated street youth an opportunity to become snowboard instructors.

"We thought it would be nice to try and use the trip to raise money for Charity, and we decided on Zero Ceiling," said Quentin Emeriau, who hails from France but has lived in Whistler the past two years. "I worked with them during the Twestival, and thought it was a cool idea, and it was a charity that was close to our feelings."

It wasn't an easy ride. The group had to contend with rain, fierce headwinds along the coast and, nine days in, an injury to one of their riders.

The ride started at Skiis and Biikes in Whistler, where Emeriau and Emily McCague work. They were joined by a few other riders for the first stage and at the end of the first day they met up with Elysia Petrone and Shannon Gibson near Vancouver. With Bobcat trailers behind them, the ride crossed the border and followed a mix of Interstate and side-roads until they could reach the coast highway that would take them all the way to California.

The goal was to camp along the way, although the group did pay for a few motels. "We had a full day in the rain and we chose to go to a motel, but in Astoria (Oregon) there was a big fish festival and everything was full so we all had to go to sleep soaking wet and the next day we started biking for another 100 kilometres."

That night they got a hotel to shower and dry out their gear, but they were back on the road the next day. In fact, they didn't miss a single day out of 22 they were on the road - even when they lost Elysia Petrone to a crash at around the halfway point.

"She was going down a hill pretty fast, around 50 or 55 kilometres an hour, and broke her shoulder, her sternum, got nine stitches to her elbow and a big bruise on her leg and hip," said Emeriau. "We had to stop and get a car to get her to the hospital and then ride to meet her at the hospital. So we booked a motel again and stayed one night with her until we had a good solution to move again."

She managed to get a ride to the next city on the trip - a helpful driver picked her up while looking for the bus - and the group rode 65km to meet her. Her mom flew out from Ontario to meet her there, and they shadowed the ride in a rented car.

Eventually they all made it to San Francisco together, arriving on Sunday, Oct. 2 - three days later than they predicted, which cut short their stay in the city. They flew back on Wednesday.

Emeriau is proud of the group and what they accomplished.

"It was fun, and really incredible to see how much you can do in a day. We would wake up at 6:30 a.m. or 7 a.m. every day and leave at 9 a.m., and then bike until six or seven o'clock that night. We stayed at State Parks, in a backyard where someone invited us, and even camped in a high school field - it was the only place in one city where we could stay, and we looked pretty funny on the football field."

The goal was to do about 100km per day, but that wasn't going to be possible. Aside fro the rain and injury, they also had the wind in their faces for most of the ride.

"It was tough because we rode 22 days non-stop," said Emeriau. "We didn't take any time off. It was hard to do 100km every day, and it was windy all the way down - and in California we had headwinds the whole way, and were only able to do 80 or 90km. We also met a lot of people coming from Alaska or Argentina on big trips, and they were all taking days off along the way or doing shorter days - or going a bit slower. We pushed hard because we wanted to be able to do all that distance in the timeframe."

Emeriau sent Twitter updates and Facebook updates along the way, and has posted stories and photos from the road on their blog, The group is still accepting donations as well.