On the morning of the 15th, the teams 4th day of the trip officially started. With a friendship visit in the afternoon as well as a sponsored lunch beforehand the team was up and at it at 5 am packing up and getting ready to leave the Frank G. Berlin YMCA. A crew sponsored breakfast put everyone in the right mood to begin the days ride towards Clearwater. As the team got on the road a little before 7 am the city of Sarasota quickly made way to much more scenic riding than the team had been accustomed to with the previous rides. A sunny Florida day greeted the team as we began riding with views of the water and nice coastal towns. Our first real views of the Gulf of Mexico provided us with the motivation to continue to push through tiring legs. Multiple bridges and waterways proved just how beautiful the sunshine state can really be. A sponsored lunch by Jason Jackson (01’ JOH cyclist) at the undertow provided the team with a well-deserved rest from the heat of the day. After some quick food the team was free to hang around and explore the beach which was a great time with the white sands and light blue water. Following lunch we set off to ride towards our friendship visit with the Disability Achievement Center.
Following a warm welcome from the Disabilities Achievement Center, the team was invited inside to listen to a few guest speakers as well as some time to meet some of the people there. First the team got to listen to Ms. Wheelchair Florida tell her inspiring story of how she got to win that title and the work she does to support and advocate for people with disabilities. It was awesome to see someone with a platform really advocate for people with disabilities and show that all it takes is a voice and a passion to make a difference in the world. She embodies the ideals of the Ability Experience and the team couldn’t get enough of listening to what she had to say as well as questions about all sorts of topics. The next guest speaker to address the team was named Carla. Carla has trouble speaking as well as controlling her muscles, yet she was able to get in front of the group and give a moving speech she wrote herself. Carla spoke about how thankful she was for the Gear up Florida’s trip every year and also how much her own personal coach was able to help her get to the point where she had the courage to put herself in front of a large group and speak about herself and her feelings. This was a personal favorite of mine as I was brought to tears as I watched her coach get emotional as Carla provided an amazing speech to the team. Following the guest speakers the team spent time talking with members of the DAC as well as got to take a tour and see the wall they have dedicated to the teams that have visited them in the past as well as a warehouse where thy collect equipment for disabled people and are able to redistribute the equipment to people unable to purchase their own yet need it to be able to function in their daily lives.
Following the teams visit with the Disability Achievement Center, the team headed to our lodging for the night, Clearwater Community Sailing center which Rich White was able to sponsor us with. The sailing center was right on the water and gave us an amazing view!
Dinner was sponsored by frank Chivas at Salt Cracker Fish Camp. I can’t praise them enough for the amazing meal Frank and the restaurant provided the team with: steak, crab cakes, Spanish corn and more. The team headed back to the sailing center following dinner to enjoy some nice relaxation time before the following days ride.
All in all I believe that this day’s trip really embodied what Gear Up Florida is all about and provided the team with some revitalization from the long tedious biking days through the middle of the state.