Two CA Firefighters midway through a nine-day, 940-mile journey
Got to give these guys props and support. Its a big job and very warm down there right now...Bou
Two firefighters midway through a nine-day, 940-mile journey
By SARAH BURGE
Two Cal Fire/Riverside County firefighters are on a nine-day, 940-mile quest.
Their goal is to visit every county fire station by bicycle or on foot. And as of Tuesday morning, Mark Grasso, 33, of Winchester, and Sean McChesney, 27, of Murrieta, had covered 462 miles, wearing their fire helmets all the way.
The "expedition," organized by the county firefighters union, will benefit the firefighters' benevolent fund and pay for a firefighters' ball. Union officials hope to raise about $10,000.
The pair are riding and running from station to station collecting money. Firefighters at each of the department's 89 staffed stations have pitched in, as have a few local businesses.
The first day, April 14, was the hardest, Grasso said. They rode 123 miles from Blythe at the eastern edge of Riverside County to Desert Center, through Box Canyon to Mecca and up to Coachella, eating peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches as they went.
They started at 9:30 a.m., pedaling into a 20-mph headwind. Sandy roads not conducive to mountain biking compelled them to re-route along Interstate 10. They got lost in Mecca and were chased by "dingos," McChesney said with a laugh. A dust storm hit when they reached Coachella, forcing them to "bunker down" under a bush for an hour. They finally reached their destination about 8 p.m.
Story continues below
William Wilson Lewis III / The Press-Enterprise
Riverside County firefighters Mark Grasso, left, and Sean McChesney, with help from firefighter paramedic Scott Henderson are on a 940-mile biking and running "expedition" that will visit every county fire station. They are collecting money raised by firefighters.
"Nothing else will compare to that first day," Grasso said. "I really didn't take into account that it's a constant climb for about 70 miles from Blythe to Chiriaco Summit."
"It was pretty miserable," McChesney agreed.
Grasso and McChesney continued their trek through Friday, with other department staff members joining them here and there. They had to take a few days off - to work - at Station 88 in Indio, but were back at it Tuesday, picking up at the Moreno Beach Station in Moreno Valley.
In order to finish the expedition in time for the grand finale and barbecue scheduled for April 25 in Old Town Temecula, Grasso and McChesney had to back off somewhat from their original goal. They split up Tuesday, with Grasso heading for the Jurupa area and McChesney, joined by fellow firefighter paramedic Scott Henderson, 29, of Murrieta, wending their way through Moreno Valley.
Grasso said he only has himself to blame for the grueling route. The station-to-station expedition was his idea.
"I definitely bit off more than I could chew," he said.
His legs gave out biking up Highway 74 into the mountains, Grasso confessed, and he had to switch places with their chase-vehicle driver.
"Sean made it all the way up," Grasso said. "He was singing 'Eye of the Tiger' all the way."
Reach Sarah Burge at 951-375-3736 or sburge@PE.com
To make a donation to the Cal Fire/Riverside County Firefighters union Expedition for a Cause, contact Mark Grasso at 951-473-6850.