|As the sun was rising early Saturday morning, about a dozen Mountain View residents gathered at Castro Elementary School, eager to see off three cyclists as they began a 140-mile ride in protest of steep cuts to the state's education budget.
The three riders -- Superintendent Maurice Ghysels; Bruce Barsi, former police officer and board president of the Community Health Awareness Council; and district parent Nelson Iwai -- were riding to call attention to the plight those cuts would cause for local schools, particularly for Ghysels' Mountain View Whisman School District. They carried with them a letter addressed to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, which they hoped to deliver on the Capitol steps.
"California already has some of the most overcrowded classrooms and the greatest shortages of librarians, counselors and other critical support staff in the nation," the letter read. "In the greatest state and country in the world, your budget proposal places California toward the bottom of national rankings."
The cuts would particularly hurt the Mountain View Whisman School District, educators say, which receives the majority of its funding from the state. Under the most recent proposal, the district faces at least a $400,000 reduction in funding and a $2 million deficit.
So, after months of crunching numbers, the district's educators thought a more dramatic statement was in order. The trio departed just before 7 a.m., taking highways 84 and 160, and arriving on the Capitol steps nearly 12 hours later. Neither Schwarzenegger nor any of his staff members were there to greet them.
The next day, however, a group of local parents and teachers met the bikers in Sacramento to celebrate their accomplishment.
Despite not meeting the governor, the bikers say their ride was worth it because it helped call attention to the issue. Local news outlets covered the ride, and family members, teachers and students cheered the bikers along the way. Barsi said he has been receiving e-mails from acquaintances outraged by the cuts.
If he didn't work directly with the schools, he said, "I would not know how hard they are being hit by the budget."
As for the ride itself, it went faster than planned -- although there were some tight spots along the way.
Barsi and Ghysels, who normally bike around 40 miles on the weekend, said they had not anticipated making it in one day. Barsi's wife drove alongside the trio, providing liquids to keep them from being dehydrated -- Barsi said they drank 10 gallons of Gatorade that day.
A DAY ON THE ROAD:
The Voice periodically checked in with Ghysels as he and his fellow riders cycled over one-lane bridges and stopped to fix the occasional flat tire. Here is an abbreviated log of their journey.
5:50 a.m.: A handful of supporters wait at Castro School to greet the cyclists before they set off on their 140-mile ride.
6: 30 a.m.: Ghysels and Barsi read aloud their letter to the governor as supporters clap and cheer. "Please, let's not gamble with the future of our Golden State," they say.
7 a.m.: Ghysels, Barsi and Iwai ride off toward Sacramento, with a few parents joining them for the first few miles of the trip.
9:40 a.m.: The bikers arrive at their first stop, in Pleasanton, where Ghysels has family. They fuel up on carbohydrates and liquids. It's already 85 degrees out, but despite the heat, Ghysels says the cyclists are "on track."
12:34 p.m.: They bike 73 miles to Brentwood, and despite a quick stop to fix a flat tire on Iwai's bike, the ride is going well. Some of the roads are not as bike friendly as the trio anticipated, Ghysels says: "We took a detour that was scary. There was no shoulder, and cars were going fast. It wasn't made for bikes." He adds that "It wasn't nearly as scary though as the governor's budget for public education."
3:57 p.m.: The bikers travel 100 more miles, putting them past Highway 160, the most difficult leg of the journey.
7:34 p.m.: "We did it, we are here," Ghysels says. "We are so stoked -- and absolutely on fumes."
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