By John Ramos

PALO ALTO (KPIX 5) — A group of veterans took off Sunday in part of a 500 mile bike ride from the Bay Area to Southern California in part of their roads to recovery.

Some might have seen Sunday’s rain as a spoiler for a good bike ride, but a group of intrepid souls have a different word for it.

READ MORE: Vietnam Airlines Launches First Non-Stop Service From SFO To Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

“It’s a mental challenge and it’s a physical challenge,” Sheri Goldberg, Media Director for the Ride To Recovery said.

That’s what the “California Challenge” is all about. The trek for wounded warriors beginning at the Veterans Hospital in Palo Alto on the trip ending up in Santa Monica seven days later.  A group called Ride 2 Recovery created the annual event nine years ago to help physically and emotionally disabled veterans by getting them out on the road.

“When they get out on a bike, they have freedom.  They’re out in the open.  They feel good. The depression leaves them,” Goldberg said.

Carlos Vera of San Jose is battling PTSD with the help of his wife and service dog.  But he says the first time he did the ride he was feeling alone in his suffering.

READ MORE: Gov. Newsom Enlists California Highway Patrol To Help Stop Smash And Grab Retail Robberies

“And once you share stories you kind of want to embrace each other and be, like, I got you, you got me, just a bond you can’t break,” Vera said.

“I was in a really dark place when I got out, it was really difficult to readjust.  And, when I started riding with this group it just made all the difference in the world,” Iraq veteran Jen Goodbody said.

And with that, the band of brothers – and sisters – began the challenge of their long-distance adventure.  But, they probably would have preferred a little drier weather, especially those travelling closest to the pavement.

“I’m freezing and I was just getting pummeled with rain from the road and wheels of the bikes in front of me.  But, it’s OK. I understand the rest of week is going to be beautiful.  So, I’m not really worried about one rain day,” Veteran Josh Sharpe said. Sharpe was riding a hand-driven bike.

MORE NEWS: COVID: Omicron Variant Has Some Bay Area Families Revising Holiday Travel Plans