Jardine: Tour de south

May 5, 2009 

BR Teen Challenge Ride 01

Former San Francisco 49ers football player turned veterinarian Jimmy Webb, 57, will be riding his bicycle 3,000 miles from Huntington Beach, Calif. to St. Augustine, Fla. to raise money for the Teen Challenge drug rehabilitation program in Turlock, Calif. May 4, 2009. (BRIAN RAMSAY / bramsay@modbee.com)

BRIAN RAMSAY — Modesto Bee

Jimmy Webb has dropped about 15 pounds since his days as a San Francisco 49ers' defensive tackle.

You've got to figure the 57-year-old Turlock veterinarian will lose a few more as he rides his bicycle from Southern California to St. Augustine, Fla., in the heat of the summer.

Webb's loss will be the Teen Challenge's gain. He's riding to raise money for the drug rehabilitation program at Faith Home Ranch near Turlock.

The faith-based Teen Challenge is a national organization is open to men 18 and over dealing with drug and alcohol addictions. Its use, among other elements, personal responsibility to overcome their addictions. They must be involved in projects and jobs supervised, in many cases, by graduates of the program. There are 48 men currently in Teen Challenge's recovery, restoration and re-entry programs. The organization refuses to accept government money, and relies on fund-raising events such as Webb's ride, along with donations from churches and other private contributions.

Webb is on the organization's board. He and wife Cindy are funding the trip themselves, using none of the sponsorship money he generates.

"All the funds raised will go directly to our local Teen Challenge," said Webb, who became the 49ers' first-round draft pick out of Mississippi State in 1975. He played five seasons with the 49ers before finishing his NFL career with the San Diego Chargers in 1981.

Folks routinely turn physical activity into fund-raisers for good causes. You'll see tens of thousands of people run or walk for breast cancer, leukemia and other forms cancers. They'll walk for diabetes and other conditions, finding power -- and big money -- in numbers.

Webb, however, will go it alone -- the only rider on this private tour de south. I suspect that at some point the route will make the worst of those three-a-day 49ers training camp workouts he used the endure seem pretty mild by comparison.

He plans to leave Huntington Beach on July 2, pedaling the Santa Ana River trail for about 45 miles as he heads out into the desert toward Palm Springs with wife Cindy trailing in their pickup.

"She'll have my spare bike, parts, and I'll have her there to assist me all the way," he said.

Food and water -- lots, of it -- too.

"I just bought my camelback," he said, referring to a strap-on water container that allows him to constantly rehydrate while riding.

They'll visit with son Josh and his family in Indio. Josh and twin brother Micah were standout linemen at Turlock High who both went on to play at UCLA.

Enjoy the air conditioning before returning to the open road. The average high temperature in Indio is 107 degrees. Then, it's onto Blythe and east toward Phoenix -- neither of which can be mistaken for Siberia.

Next, he'll ride into the mountains in New Mexico and eventually head south to El Paso, Texas. In fact, his ride will take him entirely across Texas, to the Gulf Coast into Louisiana before heading through Alabama, Georgia and into Florida.

The 3,000-miles-plus ride will be, oh, about 2,550 miles longer than anything he's ever done before.

"A few years ago, when I turned 50, I cycled from Nashville (Tenn.) to Natchez, Mississippi," Webb said. "It was my first long-term thing, and I went totally solo."

He's been training for his Teen Challenge ride by taking long excursions in the Sierra.

One recent 115-mile trip began at Kennedy Meadows, where it snowed six inches that day -- pretty much the opposite of what he's going to handle this summer, but good for expanding his lung capacity.

"Altitude training," he said. "I'm trying to build up. I try to get in multiple 100-mile days -- when I can get the days to train."

Webb, though, still has his business to run. He specializes in embryo transfers in cattle, dealing with the highest-pedigreed animals.

But for 30 days or so this summer, he'll be on the road for the Teen Challenge.

"We don't have a goal," Webb said, regarding his fund-raising ride. "People can pledge so much a mile."

Or perhaps by the number of pounds he loses along the way. Webb played defensive tackle at 250 pounds -- the weight of many inside linebackers now in the NFL -- and weighs about 235 now.

"Maybe I'll be a little less," he said. "I look at the (competition cyclists) and they worry about grams, not pounds. I'll just be hoping there aren't a lot of headwinds."

Columnist Jeff Jardine can be reached at 578-2383 or jjardine@modbee.com.

To sponsor Webb's ride, call Roger Williams, development director of the Teen Challenge at Faith Home Ranch at 238-0216 or visit www.tcranch.org.

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