Six Kennedys put their mettle to the pedal at this year’s 21st annual bike tour in support of family and millions who have arthritis.
What has more than 500 wheels and legs, covers 525 miles in eight days and raises more than $1 million for arthritis? It’s the award-winning Arthritis Foundation’s California Coast Classic Bike Tour, presented by Amgen! This year’s 21st annual ride — along California’s iconic Pacific Coast Highway (California Highway 1) from San Francisco to Los Angeles — includes six members of one family. “Team Chrissie” members are four brothers and two sons — Philip, David, John, Charles, and David’s sons, Kiel and Brandon Kennedy. They are riding to honor John’s wife, Christine “Chrissie” Parker-Kennedy, who has lived with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) for 30 years, and Charles’ wife, Malia, who has had two knees replaced due to osteoarthritis. They also ride to raise awareness and funds to support vital resources and research for their extended family and the more than 54 million other Americans living with the daily challenges of arthritis.
We recently caught up with Team Chrissie during their ride prep to find out what keeps their wheels spinning.
Q: What are your top three reasons for riding the California Coast Classic (CCC)?
David, an 8-year CCC veteran: Thirteen years back, I was interested in a supported ride down the coast. I found the CCC, and I haven’t looked back. 1) It is a spectacular ride with fabulous support. 2) The cause. Supporting the Arthritis Foundation is so worthy. One of the programs that truly touched me was the summer camping program for children with arthritis, regardless of their level of abilities. 3) The people — folks do this ride for a variety of reasons. Many have some type of arthritis. The level of commitment and camaraderie is heart-warming. Every ride, I make new friends and renew old friendships.
Philip, team captain: I agree. Supporting the cause and my brother’s wife, Chris Parker-Kennedy, make it all the more meaningful.
“Having lived with RA for 30 years now, I am well aware of the need for research into this disease. Much progress has been made and the Arthritis Foundation has been unwaveringly supportive and encouraging. The fact that my brothers-in-law, my nephews and my husband are taking on this incredible commitment to ride in my name is about as heartwarming as it can get. Thank you. “
— Christine Parker-Kennedy
Q: What made you all want to ride together?
Brandon: The extended Kennedy family is a close-knit bunch. I’m only surprised more didn’t join in!
Philip: We are a very close family and wouldn’t consider doing it any other way.
Charles: And it just seems like a great way to spend some quality time with my brothers and nephews. Plus, John and David can be quite pushy! [John has ridden the CCC three times.]
Q: How much training have you done to prepare for the ride?
Brandon: Riding three to five times a week, varying in intensity.
Kiel: I’ve been running daily for about a year, but no bike riding. Recently, my girlfriend and I joined “the cult” of Peloton, though, so I’ll be putting some hard miles in on that thing!
Q: What have you found to be most successful when it comes to fundraising for the CCC?
Kiel: Just putting it on Facebook got me a fair amount of donations right out of the gate. People want to help out. It’s nice.
Q: What about the ride are you looking forward to most?
John: The start of the daily ride!
Brandon: I’m looking forward to the entire event! Really, what I’m looking forward to most is the simplicity of the experience. Wake up, ride, sleep. Rinse, repeat. Having the opportunity to do just that over hundreds of miles with people I love supporting a cause I care about is going to be a real highlight.
Kiel: Hanging with my fam.
David: Well, this year is incredibly special. Riding with two of my sons, together with three of my brothers, is insane. Doesn’t get any better.
Charles: The camaraderie with my brothers and nephews.
Q: If you’ve ridden the CCC in the past, what have you gained from the experience?
David: Riding the CCC affirms to me the goodness of people. When we are raising money for the Foundation, people truly like the idea of supporting the Foundation. And I see examples of the goodness every day on the ride, too.
Q: What makes the CCC so special?
John: Highway 1!
David: The route. The route. And the route. It’s incomparable.
Q: What’s the funniest or craziest thing that has happened during the CCC or one of your training rides?
David: Brother John and I were riding together in Butte County. John rides a tricycle, with two wheels in front and a large drive wheel in the back. We were coming down a country road, when John made a left turn and unintentionally rode up on an opossum literally walking across the road. The opossum was as startled as John, and it took off running as fast as it could — between the front wheels. It kept this up for the time it took John to bring his trike to a stop, at which time the opossum was able to make its escape. Have you ever seen an opossum gallop?
Brandon: Craziest thing for me has just been the general realization that I’m physically capable of using my own human power to travel for hundreds of miles.
Q: What advice would you offer to anyone considering doing the in-person or remote ride?
Philip: Just commit, start fundraising and allow others to hold you accountable not only to your monetary goal but also your training goal.
Charles: Just stick to it! Riding with a buddy or finding a local club would no doubt help with the motivation factor.
John: Just do it!
Get the California Coast Classic Experience
Whether you’re a beginner, riding an electronic bike, or an experienced roadie who likes to race, you, too, can get the California Coast Classic experience. This year it will take place Sept. 18 to 25. And you now have options — ride the fully supported tour in California or the RR X CCC, a remote ride of your choosing done at your leisure. Ride your local roads, on a trainer, at your vacation spot or down a mountain — all at your own pace. Cycle 525 miles or any distance and log each ride via a fitness app while connecting with a vibrant ride community for support, tips, motivation, rewards and lots of fun. Register now or learn more about the California Coast Classic (CCC) and watch the official CCC video. Got questions? Check out the FAQ page. If volunteering is more your speed, visit the CCC volunteers page.