By KATHRYN G. MCCARTY
Rick Perez is on a mission. This past summer, the longtime Orinda resident pedaled thousands of miles in his third cross-country trek to fundraise for the Lazarex Cancer Foundation in honor of his friend Laura Barton who lost her battle with breast cancer in 2015. Perez, who has had a law office in Orinda for two decades, said he hopes his rides “play a small part in increasing awareness of breast cancer so that people can take appropriate preventative measures, including early detection when feasible and possible.”
Perez’s first fundraising event in 2016, a ride from Santa Monica, CA, to St. Augustine, FL, raised over $20,000. Perez followed up in 2017 with a 3,600-mile course from Sunset Beach, Oregon to Portsmouth, New Jersey, raising more than $8,000. After that event ride, Perez had his bike repainted and had a map of the USA put on it with lines showing the two west to east cross country rides together with the words, “Twice Across.” When considering a third trip, “the thought of being able to add a “+” after “Twice Across” and a line running from Quebec City to Key West became increasingly appealing to me.”
Though he had doubts about doing a 2018 ride, the 71-year-old bicyclist rode his Formigli One Bike an average of 65 miles a day, racking up 2,400 miles from Quebec City, Canada, to a pier in Key West, FL. He pedaled from June 29 to Aug. 18 and raised $8,540, although he hopes to raise more.
Perez had completed destination rides before he began Laura’s rides. “Obviously, none were of the scope of a cross country ride. The thought of seeing lots of small-town America was also of interest,” said Perez, who added the main factor inspiring him to ride “was the challenge aspect.”
Perez’s friend Nick Bloisa joined him on the first ride in 2016. When they began the cross-country tour, the pair decided they had only two options: “we would either complete the ride or we would return in an ambulance.”
Perez explained how the challenges of the Southern Route through the Mojave Desert, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas had almost deterred him from another ride. “The summer with temperatures that weren’t meant to be ridden in, not to mention the humidity of Alabama, Louisiana and Florida. The extreme heat – we rode some days in 110+ temperatures – and endless miles of nothingness of the first ride had me saying that that would be my last such ride,” said Perez.
When they returned home, Bloisa declared that “once was enough,” but Perez was tempted to go out on the road again and has completed two other rides flying solo. “There was the added challenge of riding all those days and miles by myself.”
For his subsequent rides, Perez mapped a flatter, Northern Route.
Perez’s solo ride had a support team, including Alejandra (Ale) Garcia Aragon who was Perez’s driver on his last excursion, and his life partner Sandra (Sandi) Eng, who fundraises for Laura’s Rides and maintains social media pages for the events.
When Perez feels the fatigue and discomfort of riding for long miles, he often questions his motivation to continue the fundraisers. “With time, the pain becomes only a memory. For the two months, the process and the goal of finishing the ride, pretty much constitutes my universe. There is something liberating about that.” Perez said.
“The satisfaction of helping to raise money for a very worthwhile cause helped cast what otherwise might be a bit crazy idea in a more reasonable light. The rides have now raised almost $40,000 for late stage breast cancer victims through the Lazarex Cancer Foundation. According to Perez, helping breast cancer victims gives the rides “their real worth.”
Perez is often asked if he will do another Laura’s Ride. Perez ponders, “The thought of riding the West Coast from the Canadian border to the Mexican border has already crossed my mind….”
For more information on how to donate, visit Laurasride.org. One hundred percent of all donations go to benefit breast cancer victims through the Lazarex Cancer Foundation.