BC professor organizes ride for charity

Gregory D. Cook
February 16, 2011
Filed under Features

Vision quest is the name given, in many Native American tribes, to a difficult rite of passage designed to test the limits of endurance, and it usually represents a turning point in a person’s life. It’s also what Bakersfield College English professor Scott Wayland has taken to calling his annual 13-day, 425-mile cycling tour of the eastern Sierras.

Wayland is a self-proclaimed adventure junkie. “I’ve been really lucky to live an adventurous life,” he said. “I’ve been a rock climber and mountaineer for over thirty years.” The walls of his office in the Humanities building are decorated with photos of his exploits scaling the faces of El Capitan, Half Dome and other peaks in the United States and Canada.

He is also an avid, long-distance cyclist who routinely rides the 45 miles from his home in Tehachapi to BC to teach classes. In 2007, he rode across the United States, starting in Maine and finishing in Ventura, Calif. on his recumbent bicycle, a bicycle that places the rider in seated position with their legs out in front of them.

Wayland feels it is important to share his passion for cycling with young people. “One day I was just bombing along, thinking how much I enjoy this and what a great experience it is,” he said. “And I thought ‘you know, a lot of kids don’t have access or any kind of introduction to this kind of activity.’”

He began visiting the local high school, recruiting anyone with the “motivation and adventurous spirit to try these kinds of rides.”

This will be the third Vision Quest Tour and it will take place over the summer break. It will have participants starting in Bishop, Calif. and riding over 12 mountain passes in the eastern Sierras before returning to Bishop 13 days later.

The ride is not for the faint of heart. Riders carry all of their own gear and camp each night of the ride. “The camping is a mix of Forest Service campgrounds and a couple of nights of just wild camping,” said Wayland.

To make sure his riders are up to the challenge, Wayland organizes regular training rides for people that are interested in undertaking the Vision Quest Tour. “We’ve got a series of training rides and one significant test ride that’s 40 miles, and about 4,000 feet of climbing,” said Wayland. “If the riders can finish that and not die, then physically, they’re ready.”

Wayland is using this year’s Vision Quest Tour as a fund raiser for the Wounded Warrior Project, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to honoring and empowering wounded veterans.

“I see a lot of veterans come through my classes,” said Wayland. “And I read a couple of books that kind of pushed me over the edge and I decided I had to do something more concrete than just think about it and be sympathetic.”

One of the books Wayland credits with bringing the plight of the nations war-wounded to his attention was “War”, by Sebastian Junger. “I just started thinking about the kind of sacrifice and commitments these guys go through,” he said. “And that we, as a country, often don’t even think about them because it’s a volunteer military.”

Wayland hopes to raise $5,000 for the charity through donations from riders and others who may become aware of the organization through his activities. “The one thing I want you to do if you’re going to join the tour is I want you to raise a few bucks for the soldiers,” he says.

The 2011 Vision Quest Tour is open for anyone, provided they pass the test ride. For more information, visit www2.bakersfieldcollege.edu/swayland.

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