On Saturday, Nicasio’s Summit Skywalker Ranch will be the venue for the Best Buddies Challenge, a 38- to 72-mile charity bike ride. I’ll do my best to pedal the shorter course as some of the fastest athletes in the sport whiz past me.
I am perfectly willing to endure physical pain and personal humiliation for what has become the flagship fundraising event in a movement to bring people with intellectual and developmental disabilities into society’s mainstream. Marin County can be proud of being this year’s home course.
Twenty years ago, Anthony Shriver brought the event to California as the Hearst Castle Challenge, and it quickly became an economic staple of the organization that he pioneered to give voice and normalcy to a historically marginalized population. But with the closure of the Pacific Coast Highway route, a new course was needed, and George Lucas’ ranch and former production studio fit the bill.
Professional cyclists at this year’s Challenge include triathlete Andrew Talansky, California racing cyclist Alison Tetrick, Australian endurance athlete Cam Wurf and British cyclist Thomas Pidcock. Celebrity guests include Bobby Shriver and singer Lisa Loeb.
The loop will pass Hicks Mountain to the north and head west on Tomales-Petaluma Road, then south on Shoreline Highway past Nick’s Cove and Tomales Bay. At Point Reyes, the riders will head east on Pt. Reyes-Petaluma Road through Samuel P. Taylor State Park, then cut north on Nicasio Valley Road on the return to Lucas’ compound.
The Saturday morning ride will offer plenty of natural beauty amidst Marin’s green hills and rugged coastline, along with proximity to the Bay Area cycling enthusiasts who’ve donated and raised money for Best Buddies’ important work.
Some participants will miss the muddy backroads to the Hearst Ranch, swan dives into the castle’s gold tiled pools and zebras on the hillsides. The migration of the Best Buddies Challenge to the Bay Area is a natural evolution, and hopefully Marin will be its home for years to come.
Dan Pulcrano is CEO and executive editor of the ‘Pacific Sun,’ ‘North Bay Bohemian’ and their sibling publications.