In early 2015 I knew the 100 year anniversary of the Armenian Genocide was coming up. I knew about the March for Justice that would take place on April 24, 2015. I really wanted to do more than the March for Justice but what could I do?
Video credit: Kevin Mardirossian
In late February my friend Roobik Asadorian sent an email to me along with a few other friends. He told us about the LA2DC ride and said he was considering doing the entire two week ride. The ride would start from the March for Justice in Los Angeles and go to Washington D.C. Could this be the something more I was looking for? I thought about it for a couple of days and then made the commitment.
In December 2014 I found myself burned out on riding. Work had been really busy too so I decided to take all of January off the bike. Now I wondered if that decision would hurt me becomes I only had 7 weeks to train for LA2DC. I had not been on the road bike since August when Roobik and I along with a few other friends rode from San Francisco to L.A.
Except for the January break I had been been mountain biking and mountain unicycling so I was fit however, the geometry of the road bike is different so if I jump into big rides to soon my knees will suffer. I eased into it slowly increasing riding time and distance with each ride until we were doing big mountain century’s. My knees did hurt at times but I worked through it.
The three weeks prior to the start of LA2DC Roobik and I were both logging close to 300 miles per week with a lot of elevation gain. I was feeling good and Roobik was untouchable!
The crash on day two injuring Roobik’s shoulder was devastating to both of us! It was such a let down that he would not be able to complete LA2DC! Not to mention that he has to deal with the pain of the injuries and he can’t ride at all for 8 weeks!
One question that would come up often during LA2DC when people would hear my name is are you Armenian? I am 50% Armenian from my Mothers side. My Father was Irish, German, Scandinavian and maybe Italian or Greek. Roobik joked at the start of LA2DC that I was now 100% Armenian! By the end of LA2DC I felt like I was 150% Armenian! The fact is I always felt more Armenian because we have a big family on my Mom’s side. My Dad was an orphan and I never had any family on his side to relate to. Also he passed away when I was just 10 years old.
I wanted to do this ride to honor my Grandparents, Aunts and Uncle from Diyarbekir who survived the genocide. I also wanted to raise awareness and hope to help stop future genocides so other people don’t have to endure what my family went through. My family left our ancestral home of Diyarbekir in 1923 and went to France. They did not feel welcome in France and my Grandfather eventually wanted to get the family to the States. At the time they could not immigrate into the States so they went to Havana, Cuba where my Mom was born in 1929. She would immigrate to the U.S. In 1944. She first lived in New Jersey then came to live in Los Angeles in what is now Little Armenia.
When I first signed up for the LA2DC ride I figured I would ride three days have a day off and then repeat. I never intended on riding everyday. The biggest ride I had done before this was 10 years ago when I rode 520 miles with a group of four friends from San Francisco to L.A. We did this ride in five days. I remember that ride being very tough to ride that many miles each day and how tired I was at the end!
After a few days of hearing other peoples family’s stories of their lives during and after the genocide and thinking about what my family had lived through I knew I could not stop! I had to ride each day! In the past even with my Armenian friends we rarely talked about our families history during the genocide. Talking about it with the other riders during this event as well as with news crews and our documentary film crew certainly brought on many emotions for me. I also felt a bond with the other riders that was deeper than just our shared ethnicity. We were also bonded by these tragedies that our families and our people had suffered through.
Each day was a challenge to keep all the riders together. A support vehicle followed behind to support us and keep us safe. If the group was to spread apart then it was a challenge for the support vehicles to support us. It was also nice to stick together to show unity. Some riders were slower and some were faster, some were fresh and some had many miles on their legs or injuries slowing them down. Sometimes we would have the Jack Rabbit. Thats the guy that gets to the front of the pace line and sprints ahead dropping everyone. Then there were the guys that were excited and would go out so fast and strong for the first half of the Leg and then struggle to complete the second half.
Before the event began I thought I would ride the first leg and then drive to the hotel and have time to see some points of interest. That rarely happened. By the time we finished riding each afternoon then a 2-3 hour drive to the end of the second leg, shower, stretch, eat, wash clothes, prep for the next day, team meeting and some socializing it was time for sleep! Most days I was getting to sleep around 11:00 and waking up around 4:00-5:00. Some nights I barely slept due to the pain from crashing or just all the excitement and emotions!
This ride would not only be a test of my physical strength but also my patience, and mental strength! As well as an emotional journey. Spending that much time riding on the road with motorists that don’t usually look out for riders or feel that we don’t belong on the road is a real mental game, especially after having crashed twice during the event. I always thought that L.A. motorists were bad drivers. During this event I found out that there are inconsiderate and crazy drivers everywhere!
I can’t say enough about the people I met on this journey. They are all incredible people! I know I now have many new lifetime friends after this incredible journey! I am looking forward to getting together for rides with them in the future! Unfortunately not all of them live in the Los Angeles area.
We were lucky to have fairly good weather along the way. Sure we had our rainy days, cold days, hot humid days and it was windy most of the time but we did not have any major storms to deal with.
As we traveled across the country we would stop and talk to people when we had the chance to tell them about our mission. I found that many people I spoke with had not heard of the Armenian Genocide. Some people like the two guys I spoke with in New Mexico had their own problems. It was a beautiful place to live but jobs were hard to come by. They were mad about all the tax payer dollars going to fight wars and help other countries when there are many people here in the States who can’t find jobs.
We saw so many abandoned homes and building along the way. Miles of rough road in desperate need of repair. It seemed there could be so many jobs fixing these roads and buildings. I guess it was an eye opener for me to see how many people are living in poverty here in the land of opportunity!
We encountered many roads along the route that were not at all bike friendly. Some roads had shoulders but they were so full of potholes, debri and road kill that they were not safe for riding. Most roads had no shoulder and the edge of the road would often be cracked and have potholes so we were forced to ride towards the center of the road. Most of the motorists were friendly. They would give us a friendly short beeb followed by a wave or thumbs up. Then there were those that would give us the long drawn out honk and sometimes another digit of the hand up. Often I would worry about the support vehicles traveling at slow speeds behind us to protect us while we were on busy roads while cars and trucks jammed past!
I have always been the guy that organizes all the trips and events that I have been on. Not having to plan or worry about the details of the trip was a new experience for me. I must say it was pretty cool! The organizers did a wonderful job! Our director Sabra was awesome even with hardly any sleep most of the trip! All of our support staff was so helpful and professional! It truly was amazing that everything went so well for this being the first time doing such a huge, intricate event such as this!
I feel forever changed by this event. It truly was the best experience of my life! I find myself thinking how can I ever top this, I don’t think I ever can!
I feel as though this was an awaking for me. I find myself wondering what more can I do? Grigor has an idea about building trails in Armenia. I am a professional trail builder so I will be looking into ways I can help.
My Total Ride Stats:
14 days of riding. 9 of those days were well over 100 miles.
56,998′ Elevation gain
Click here to view my photo album I hope to add more photos from other riders soon.
On Wednesday, May 20, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) spoke on the floor of the House of Representatives to honor those who took part in the cross-country LA2DC bike ride and run to raise awareness of the Armenian Genocide, and remember those lost.
Thank you Congressman Adam Schiff!