Sean McMinn is a journalism junior and Mustang Daily contributing writer.
Some rode by themselves, while some relied on their companion’s help. Some peddled with their legs, while others used their arms. But for all, it was a cheerful and humbling scene Wednesday afternoon as more than 200 veterans biked through Cal Poly’s campus in a week-long ride to aid veteran rehabilitation, awareness and fundraising.
The injured soldiers began the annual tour Sunday in San Francisco and plan to finish the 450-mile ride Saturday at the Santa Monica Pier near Los Angeles.
Local project coordinator Jim DeCecco was among those who gathered to support the riders. He began working with Ride 2 Recovery, the nonprofit organization that sponsors the tour, during its inaugural year in 2008. Since then, the elementary school teacher from Oceano has taken his class out to watch the veterans ride each time it comes down the Central Coast. But Wednesday was the first time the riders came through Cal Poly’s campus, something DeCecco said he was excited for.
“The veterans are awesome,” DeCecco said as he waited for the riders to come down U.S. Highway 1. “It’s such a humbling experience being around these guys. They appreciate everything.”
Retired Army Staff Sgt. Nick Mikulsky rode on several different legs of the tour in past years, before coming to study kinesiology at Cal Poly this fall. Mikulsky, 29, said he would like to be riding again if school did not conflict with the tour’s schedule.
“It’s a blast,” he said just minutes before the first wave of cyclists arrived. “There’s 200 guys trying to get everybody through the ride. At any given spot, you can find someone out there trying to help someone else.”
After serving two tours in Afghanistan and two more in Iraq, Mikulsky switched to the Army reserve, where he was deployed to a base in Texas. With more than seven years of military experience, he came to Wednesday’s ride to cheer on the veterans biking down the coast.
“It’s a phenomenal thing,” he said, “to get them out of their comfort level and get involved with something like this.”