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A marriage-inspired cycling trip

On the one-year anniversary of her wedding, Meesa Royster tells the tale of marrying her equally bike-loving partner, Justin, in a bike wedding that dreams are made of. 


A marriage-inspired cycling trip

On the one-year anniversary of her wedding, Meesa Royster tells the tale of marrying her equally bike-loving partner, Justin, in a bike wedding that dreams are made of. 


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What is Gibraltar? For the coffee lover, a “Gibraltar” is an espresso and milk drink popping up at local coffee shops. For the bike-enthusiast in the United States, “Gibraltar” has a double meaning: it’s an iconic 3,400 foot climb that starts at sea level in beautiful Santa Barbara, California. For us, Gibraltar—the road—will always be a reminder of life before and after marriage.

Santa Barbara was our home during a two-year blip while Justin attended university there. As luck would have it, we didn’t realize what we had until we moved away—Santa Barbara is a cyclist’s paradise. Making up for all that we had failed to enjoy, it became a routine stop for riding when visiting home in southern California. Twelve years later, we spent the afternoon  climbing Gibraltar, getting engaged and eating burritos to celebrate. This became the blueprint for our wedding a year after that.

The principal requirement for our wedding was that it had to be simple and unquestionably us, so we planned a bike trip with some marrying in between. We met Kevin through the Rapha Driftless Series, and we knew he would be the right person to organically document the various parts of the weekend, especially the climb up Gibraltar.

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When the big day arrived, fifty of our closest friends and family flew into Santa Barbara to celebrate with us, and a third of them brought their bikes. There will always be something profound about these statistics: neither Justin nor I are originally from the Midwest, so having our bike-loving friends with us in our home state of California was a touching reminder of the community we had built through cycling since leaving home. 

A shake down spin to comb through lingering jitters launched us into our wedding-related festivities. While getting my hair done an hour before the ceremony, Aaron from Stinner Frameworks hand-delivered my dream bike. This build was undoubtedly the only part of wedding planning that Justin had enjoyed. For five months, we worked with Aaron on building a custom titanium Refugio that could handle road, gravel, cyclocross and adventure. The idea of building a Stinner had been a lingering thought for many years. Somewhere in the chaos of the year, we managed to set aside some mental bandwidth to build, as Justin may consider it, my “very perfect, but last, bike.” The bike was designed and built locally in Santa Barbara and with our friends at Velosmith Bicycle Studio coordinating the moving pieces of the build, it arrived just in time for the fun.

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The ceremony was a whirlwind as we eagerly anticipated what followed the formality: our post-wedding ride with friends. As luck would have it, the Santa Barbara sunshine was nowhere to be found the morning of the ride, so we settled for California’s June Gloom. The fog became increasingly dense as we ascended, but smiles uncurled and jackets and jerseys began to unzip as the climb summoned our effort. The limited visibility made it impossible to gauge how far we had climbed, but before we knew it, the fog cleared as we found ourselves well above the clouds.  

All cyclists know that hard climbs are always rewarded. That reward could be a satisfying descent or an extraordinary view, but you only marry once—so we sweetened the deal with a mid-ride taco bar at the summit. (Thanks to my maids of honor, the logistics of hauling a taco buffet up a mountain were taken care of, and we enjoyed the best views in town over lunch.)

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With taco-filled bodies, the group descended towards the old ruins at Knapp’s Castle. When we re-grouped, we were surprised to find a bandana casually wrapped around Justin’s bloody leg and his new jersey ruined. He had crashed on a corner that several of us remembered messing up just seconds before. Notable but not serious, we were mostly relieved that one of us drew blood instead of our friends. If anything, we now had some heroic-looking photos of Justin descending with a bloodied knee to enjoy for a lifetime.

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On the first anniversary of our marriage-inspired cycling trip, we find ourselves living in a far different reality from our celebration in Santa Barbara. Traveling, gathering family and friends, and riding bikes with others—it all seems inconceivable now. This year we’ll settle on  remembering the act of breaking a few traditions and unapologetically doing things our way. But next year and any year after that, we hope to be back on the road with this group again.

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