Sea-to-sea cyclists splash down in support Westport charity
Published 5:40 pm, Thursday, October 6, 2011
There were smiles all around as Fairfielders Lucas Gubinski and Joe Ruscito came bicycling up the boat ramp at Penfield Beach into the welcoming arms of friends and family, completing a 60-day, 4,168 mile cross-country journey from San Francisco.
The 23-year-old graduates of Fairfield Ludlowe High School and lifelong Fairfield residents set off Aug. 7 from San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, briefly dipping the rear wheels of their Surly Long Haul Trucker bicycles in the Pacific Ocean.
About 1 p.m. Wednesday, they completed their journey, dipping their front wheels in Long Island Sound waters at Penfield Beach. The trek was not only a tremendous accomplishment for the young men but a way to raise funds for Simply Smiles, a Westport-based charity organization that works to provide bright futures for impoverished children. During the journey, nearly $3,000 in contributions were made to the cyclists through a link on a travel blog they maintained.
"This is overwhelming, and hard to imagine we're home," said a grinning Ruscito. As they approached familiar sights during the last stretch to Penfield Beach, their excitement built. "It started to hit home at Devil's Den (in Weston), then coming down Redding Road, seeing friends' houses, Mercato Deli. Things were a blur from there."
Added Gubinski, "We went by my house on Lalley Boulevard. My mom and sister were already here at the beach and my dad had met us in Danbury to join us for the ride down."
Ruscito's younger brother Paul met the cyclists in Redding, too, to support his sibling's efforts.
Among the group greeting the cyclists at Penfield Beach was Ruscito's mother, Vicci. "I'm really excited and appreciate that they're home safe," she said. "I appreciate all the people they met, too -- their generosity, putting them up at their homes, the resources they provided, warm meals, showers. This is a journey that will always stay with them. And it helped a great cause, which we've been a part of and experienced first hand in Mexico. We're all helping give back to people that don't have anything."
Like any mom who wants the best for her children, Vicci added, "Now I'm concerned about them going forward. It was a fun situation, now they need a plan."
There was no lack of family love on display at the finish line, and though the cyclists had met with a few relatives several times on the road, it didn't compare to seeing them back home.
"It's different seeing them here," said Ruscito.
Tony Ruscito was sure glad to see his son safe and sound. "I hadn't seen Joe since mid-July," he said. "I was happy to find out they were skirting Death Valley. When they hit a desert area in Utah, it was so hot the little water they had left became too hot to drink. Some people riding by brought them a whole bunch of ice water. Towns were very hospitable and even opened up their bike trails to them."
Gubinski's dad, Vic, said Lucas has long been an outdoors type. "As a family, we always did outdoor activities -- hiking, camping," he said. "I got both Lucas and Joe kitesurfing and now Joe's a pro. Regarding cycling, Lucas has been doing it for a couple of years, but Joe had just started a couple of weeks before their trip."
To that, Joe said, "When Lucas thought of the idea, I rented a bike, to see if it was a good time. Then I flew out west, got hooked up with Bay Area Bikes in Oakland and rode around for two weeks getting used to it."
Lucas said the duo averaged 80 miles a day and, over the entire trip, took only three rest days. In all, they had 15 tire changes combined and Lucas' bike chain broke once. They suffered no injuries, fortunately, or health issues, and conducted one or two interviews with media on the road. He said his favorite experience was riding into Telluride, Colo. "The town is at 10,000 feet," he said. "It felt like being on top of the world."
For Ruscito, Utah was most impressive. "Amazing canyons and pillars, unlike anything else I've seen. Added Gubinski, "It was cool being so far from everything."
Reflecting on the experience, Gubinksi said, "It was totally amazing. It gives you a new outlook on everything." Ruscito figured, "I might bike a little more. It's a cool way to see places."