Chris Downey Takes On the LightHouse Blind Cycle Challenge

On Sunday, October 23rd LightHouse Board member Chris Downey, with the help of two of his friends, rode tandem from LightHouse San Francisco Headquarters to the lighthouse at Point Reyes to raise funds for our programs and services. Donations are still coming in, but so far he has raised over $6000.00 towards his $10,000 goal. Here’s what Chris experienced on his ride, in his own words.

If you’d like to donate towards Chris’ goal, just click here to see his dedicated page: Thank you!

Chris Downey and Hans Bogdanos on the Golden Gate Bridge


The “LightHouse Blind Cycle Challenge” on Sunday, October 23 lived up to its name as my captains and I rode 64 miles (100km) from the door of the LightHouse in San Francisco to the lighthouse at the southern tip of Point Reyes. Not only did the name celebrate the lighthouse at either end of the ride but it also captured the challenge that played out between the two points – especially the final 15 miles!

To our delight, the day was sunny and warm from start to finish. Heading out of the LightHouse on Van Ness at 8 a.m., we went for a majestic start loop around City Hall before cutting over to Folsom Street to head east to the Embarcadero. We made it around the waterfront before the locals hit the Ferry Building and before the tourists had a chance to descend upon Fisherman’s Wharf. Even the ride across the Golden Gate Bridge was sunny, clear and warm without the powerful gusts of wind that so commonly encircle the towers.

From there we continued north through Sausalito, along a string of bike trails, then rode through the towns of Larkspur, Ross, San Anselmo and Fairfax before clearing the hustle and bustle of Sunday morning Marin coffee traffic. We made quick work of White’s Hill before dropping into the San Geronimo Valley and then riding north to Nicasio. After a brief stretch and an energy bar, we continued around the Nicasio Reservoir, and out to Point Reyes Station where we met my wife and son, Rosa and Renzo. Thinking we had sufficiently “tamed the beast”, we feasted on hearty lunches. We slipped into a premature sense of success, thinking that the end was just around Tomales Bay and beyond Inverness, on the Point Reyes Seashore. Little did we know, the real challenge was about to begin.

Cresting over the hills west of Inverness we heard the sounds of the roaring coastline and felt a false sense of achievement. We began our proud descent down the narrow road that we thought would take us right to the lighthouse. A quick glance at the odometers at the base of the descent was our wake-up call that something else was in store for us: there were 15 miles to go! We spent those next 15 miles traversing the ups and downs of undulating country roads between wind-swept pastures. Cyclists affectionately call these “rollers”.  At this point in our ride, we could think of a few other things to call them.

Our final half-mile was a rather steep ascent up to the cliffs above the lighthouse. We slowed to a pitiful 3.5 mile per hour pace. At times like this, it’s beneficial not to see the climb ahead. There’s no chance to be defeated or demoralized by the sight, so you just hunker down and get into an easy sustainable spin.  At the end, despite fears of the usual cold and windy fog that typifies the Point Reyes peninsula, the sun graced us warmly as we crossed the finish line.

My captains Mike Brown and Hans Bogdanos did a great job piloting the tandem from start to finish with a tag team trade-off between a solo bike and my tandem. These two treasured friends have been riding with me since only four months after I unexpectedly lost all sight, just over three and a half years ago. In particular Mike, an old riding partner of mine, confidently declared (while I was still in the hospital, having lost all sight just days before) that we would start riding tandem together as soon as I was out. Riding with these guys and for the LightHouse made for a most spectacular and memorable ride. There was so much karma in the air that the sun had to glow from start to finish.

Thanks to all who supported the ride, and it’s not too late for those that would still like to take the opportunity to contribute through the first ever LightHouse Blind Cycle Challenge. Together we can reach the goal of $10,000 in support of this wonderful organization that has been and continues to be so critical to Bay Area children, adults and seniors – and even an architect like me, to build or re-build a meaningful, successful and exciting life without sight.

Donate towards Chris’ goal by clicking here: Thank you!