More than 200 injured veterans and their supporters will set off Sunday on the UnitedHealthcare Ride 2 Recovery California Challenge, a seven-day, 465-mile bicycle ride from VA Palo Alto Health Care System -- the birthplace of Ride 2 Recovery -- to VA West Los Angeles Medical Center.
Following a kickoff ceremony at 8 a.m., California Challenge cyclists will begin their journey at 8:30 a.m., riding from Palo Alto to to Gilroy and then traveling the iconic Pacific Coast Highway along the state's scenic coastline with overnight stops in Carmel, San Simeon, Pismo Beach, Solvang and Ventura. The ride will conclude Oct. 11 in Los Angeles.
Highlights of the week-long ride include comedian Dennis Miller welcoming the riders in Solvang on Thursday, Oct. 9, and performing for them during a dinner reception. On Saturday, Oct. 11, 94-year-old Tuskegee airman Lt. Col. Robert Friend will join the cyclists for the last several miles of the ride and across the finish line at VA West Los Angeles Medical Center.
Ride 2 Recovery had its genesis in Palo Alto. In 2008, John Wordin, the Founder and President of Ride 2 Recovery, was invited to ride with the Poly Trauma rehab program by Gil Ramirez, a recreational therapist at the Palo Alto Veterans Administration. Wordin and Ramirez both believed in the healing powers of cycling as a therapy in rehabilitation programs for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI), as well as physical injuries for injured veterans.
Each year, Ramirez brings a group of injured veterans who are receiving care at the Menlo Park division of the VA Palo-Alto Health Care System to ride the UnitedHealthcare Ride 2 Recovery California Challenge.
"The journey is a game-changer, providing both a physical and mental challenge that leaves them stronger and ready to tackle other challenges in their lives," said Wordin. "Riding with these other injured veterans provides them with a sense of belonging, a camaraderie that they have been missing since leaving the military."
The public is encouraged to gather along the daily ride routes or at the hotels to support the cyclists at any juncture along the route. To see daily stops and events along the route, or to sign up for the California Challenge, visit to register.
Ride 2 Recovery supports physical and psychological rehabilitation programs for injured veterans, featuring cycling as the core activity. From indoor spinning training at military installations to multi-day, long-distance rides, Ride 2 Recovery helps injured veterans heal through the challenge of cycling long distances using hand cycles, recumbents, tandems and traditional road bikes.
"In the UnitedHealthcare Challenge Series, about 60 percent of the participating injured veterans come through our feeder program, Project HERO," said Wordin. "There are 43 Project HERO programs at military bases and VA facilities across the country. Our medical personnel and R2R onsite coordinators help prepare these healing heroes for the week-long challenge of riding a bike hundreds of miles. For these men and women, cycling becomes a life-changing addition to their physical and mental rehabilitation."
This is the fifth year UnitedHealthcare, a UnitedHealth Group company, is serving as Ride 2 Recovery's title sponsor, providing financial, in-kind and volunteer support to help America's injured veterans.