A ride to remember | November 28, 2008 | Danville Express | DanvilleSanRamon.com |


Danville Express

Cover Story - November 28, 2008

A ride to remember

Danville Scout troop bikes down California coast to Disneyland

by Geoff Gillette

When most kids get to go to the Magic Kingdom and see Mickey Mouse and the other beloved Disney characters they travel in a car or a jet.

That would have been a bit too easy for the young men of Boy Scout Troop 36.

Twenty-two scouts, ranging in age from 12 to 17, along with 11 adult chaperones, hopped on bikes and rode 380 miles down the California coastline with Disneyland as their destination.

The trip was the brainchild of Dave Dotzler, Assistant Scoutmaster for Troop 36. He also serves as the group's High Adventure Coordinator.

"We do a big high adventure outing every year," he said. "We went to Alaska to hike in the back country. We try to do something different every year."

The Scouts have also journeyed to Sea Base, a facility deep in the Florida Keys where Scouts can undertake sailing, snorkeling and scuba adventures.

Dotzler, a long time mountain biker, said that for years he and Scoutmaster Steve Krome have been trying to get the boys to go on a cycling trip as their high adventure.

"We've been trying to get them to augment the hiking, backpacking regimen of their high adventure trips but there had never been enough interest." That changed when Krome came up with an idea to make the trip a bit more palatable.

"We asked if anyone would be interested and there were one or two hands up. Then Steve (Krome) said, 'And we'll finish in Disneyland' and wham! all the hands were in the air," Dotzler recalled.

Once it was decided that this would be the trip for the year, the planning and preparation phases began. Dotzler said he handed those duties off to the Scouts themselves.

"In the Scouts we really try to teach the kids self reliance," he explained. "So they planned all our meals, bought all the food. They really did it all."

Two of the scouts who handled the behind-the-scenes planning of the event were Senior Patrol Leader Trevor Willis, a 16-year-old junior at Monte Vista High School, and Assistant Patrol Leader Bryan Dotzler, a 14-year-old freshman at San Ramon Valley High School.

"We bought all of the food and made the meal plans," Bryan. "We wanted to make sure everybody had plenty to eat at the end of the day."

Trevor echoed the sentiment, adding, "There were theme nights, things like that. Bryan really did a nice job."

Dave Dotzler praised his son's planning and meal preparation skills: "We ate very well every night."

The major part of the planning was in getting the Scouts and adult chaperones out on bikes for training.

"You can't just hop on a bike and ride 40-70 miles a day for a week. You have to train for it. We trained for eight months prior to leaving on the ride," Dotzler explained.

In order to be allowed to go, each Scout and adult had to participate in a minimum of six training rides. At least one of those rides had to be in excess of 50 miles.

Dotzler said the training was structured to be progressive with distance, level of difficulty, and elevation gain increasing with each ride so that by the time July rolled around they would be well prepared for the physical toll of being in the saddle all day every day for a week.

"In the six months preceding the trek, the adult leaders and I hosted 35 training rides that totaled nearly 1,000 miles of riding and over 20,000 feet of climbing," he noted.

In addition the Scouts were being trained in rudimentary bicycle maintenance and repair, just in case of a mechanical problem while out on the road.

"We did have sag vehicles but we wanted the kids to be able to handle any problems themselves," Dotzler said.

Even with such a grueling training regimen the Scouts saw little attrition among their ranks. Bryan said the training was hard, with the most difficult ride being a trip up Mount Diablo. Dotzler said they took 11 Scouts to the top of Diablo, a ride with 3,200 feet of climbing.

"The idea behind all of this training," he explained, "was to make sure that they were ready for this, not just physically but mentally."

Finally, on July 24, a group of 22 scouts and 11 adults mounted up for the first time at San Gregorio State Beach, about 10 miles south of Half Moon Bay. The plan was for the Scouts to ride Highway 1 to Ventura. The group detoured inland around Solvang and Santa Ynez in order to spend a night at Lake Cachuma.

"I'm not sure why they wanted to stay there but it was something they wanted to do so we went inland," Dotzler said.

Seven other adults followed in automobiles as support. They also hauled along a 17-foot trailer that held all of the camping gear as well as the duffle bags for all 40 participants.

Since riding in such a large group would be unwieldy, they split into three "crews" of 11 with Trevor, Bryan and a third assistant patrol leader taking charge of each crew.

Trevor said the first day on the road was amazing. "It was great. After we got over that first hill. That was the most beautiful day."

Dotzler said the excitement over just getting on the road made the first day in the saddle a really great experience for the Scouts. "It was just gorgeous. After planning for nine months, training for eight months, just the anticipation to get going was incredible."

Of course the ride was not without its fits and stumbles. "We didn't even get an hour into the ride and one kid went over his handlebars and cracked his helmet," Dotzler said. Fortunately the Scout was not injured in the incident. In another mishap a Scout hit a pine cone on the roadway and crashed, again with just a few scrapes.

Bryan said he and his crew got an object lesson on staying out of the way of the cars along Highway 1. "One of our guys kicked his water bottle out of his cage - his whole crew got to watch it explode when a pickup ran over it."

Both Dotzler and Krome said incidents like that were few and far between, something they credited to the long months of training prior to the ride.

At the end of each day's ride, the Scouts would care for their bikes, then unload the trailer with all their gear, set up camp and make dinner. They camped on the beach most nights, and when the sun came up they took down the camp, loaded the truck and started back out again.

Bryan said after a while the daily regimen became rote. "By Day 4 you're kind of in a daze, just following the guy ahead of you."

That didn't mean there weren't some interesting detours along the way. "Our crew sort of ate their way down the coast. We called it the 'Tour de Graze.' We'd leave camp right after eating breakfast and 15 miles later we'd be at a Mexican restaurant eating enchiladas. It was good," he said.

And as if making and breaking camp and riding their bikes weren't enough, the Scouts took time out on their trip to do a one-hour service project along their route.

"The relevance of the service project," Dotzler said, "is that when we do a high adventure trip we try to incorporate a service project into it. It's usually something with conservation."

Trevor said the project they undertook on their ride was a cleanup of San Simeon State Beach. "When we were doing the planning for the trip we called and asked what we could do and they suggested the cleanup."

None of the cyclists experienced much in the way of mechanical difficulties, except for Dotzler himself. "Coming out from a picture stop, my chain got pulled into the derailleur. It ripped the derailleur into the spokes."

The vehicle that had provided Dotzler with many comfortable miles now had all the mobility of a paperweight. "The worst of it was we were 50 miles north of anything and 50 miles south of anything."

Bryan added, "And we were in hills so it was hard to radio the sags that we needed help."

Eventually they were able to get the bike loaded into a car and a repair shop was found. An impatient Dotzler said he was ready to be back on the road. Rather than drive on to the next campsite to meet up with the Scouts, he asked to be let out on the road so he could keep riding. "I just wanted to get a few more miles in."

After seven days of riding, the crews all pulled in to McGrath State Beach, just south of Ventura. This would be their final campsite of the journey. "With the heavy traffic in L.A. we decided to have the boys ride a bus to Disney," Dotzler said.

Even though it was the final day of the ride, the Scouts' work was far from over. In addition to setting up camp, they had to take apart their bikes for the return journey. The bikes were then stored in bike boxes for the trip back north.

Because they wanted to get an early start on their day at Disneyland, they didn't set up the tents - they just slept beneath the stars.

The following day the Scouts spent 15 hours touring the sights and enjoying the rides of Disneyland and, far too soon, the trip was winding down to its close. The Scouts, weary but triumphant, boarded an Amtrak train heading home.

The trip back paralleled much of the route the Scouts took down, so they could see just what they'd accomplished.

"It was a spectacular thing," Trevor said. "It's certainly something I would never have done."

Dotzler said that is exactly the purpose of trips like this one. "The object of the high adventure trips is to get these kids out and have them do something they've never done before. Something they'll remember for a lifetime."


Like this comment
Posted by Dave
a resident of Danville
on Dec 1, 2008 at 12:09 pm

Scout, Cameron Parsons, didn't receive a personal mention in the article but played a critical role in the trip as both an Assistant Senior Patrol Leader and a Cycling Crew Leader. Cameron was responsible for planning and executing the trip in conjunction with two other scouts, Senior Patrol Leader Trevor Willis and Asst. Senior Patrol Leader Bryan Dotzler.