ESCONDIDO, Calif. >> June Clark has led an adventurous life. She has camped, hiked, canoed and traveled the world. But never in her 86 years did she have the opportunity to ride a bicycle. That changed recently, when she took her first-ever spin on the back of a tandem bike at Escondido’s Kit Carson Park.
Zipping past a group of delighted family members and friends shooting video and photos, she waved her hand to the group and shouted, “Woooonderful!”
Clark is the latest recipient of the Dreams Do Come True program at Cypress Court retirement community in Escondido. Wellness director Judy Lucous came up with the program five years ago when a woman on hospice at the center asked for some help fulfilling the final wish on her bucket list: to go shopping.
Lucous was able to take the woman to the mall before she died. Since then Cypress Court has granted many more wishes, including excursions on a biplane, a wheelchair-modified catamaran, a motorcycle and a tethered hot-air balloon. The most recent wish was for a resident on hospice who wished to dine out at his favorite restaurant, Red Lobster. He was too sick to go out, so instead they brought the meal to him. She’s now working on two wishes: for a man who wants to go fishing and a woman who wants a horse carriage ride.
“I get as much joy out of this as the residents,” Lucous said. “After they get their wish, they’re always so excited about sharing their experience that their positive energy goes through the whole community.”
Clark was born June Licalsi on June 4, 1933, in Greeley, Colo., and raised in the Northern California city of Hayward, where her father grew fruits and vegetables. Times were hard. It was the Great Depression, her parents divorced and both of her brothers were stricken with polio.
“The opportunity to ride a bicycle just never happened,” she said. “There was no money. No time. I always wanted to, but the time went by and I moved on. But I never forgot about it.”
In the mid-1950s she married her husband, Leo Clark, a Navy veteran of the Korean War and an engineer who worked in the space program in L.A. In the early 1960s they moved to Escondido with their four children: Rebecca, Vicky, Dennis and Jeff.
Clark’s eldest daughter, Rebecca Clark of Valley Center, was on hand for the recent bike ride, along with her son Dennis, his wife, Sharon, and their son, Thomas, all of Escondido. The siblings described their parents, who were married for more than 50 years, as “outdoorsy” types who loved doing things together and with their children. Leo Clark died in 2010, and his widow moved into Cypress Court two years later.
June Clark’s wish was granted with the help of Rancho Penasquitos resident Dave White, founder and director of the Blind Stokers Club. Founded in 2007 by White, a retired engineer, it’s the largest and most active tandem club for blind riders in the country.
The 140-member club pairs sighted pilots with blind and visually impaired “stokers” (the term for the rider on the back seat) for about 24 rides each year of 25 to 60 miles. The club also does special events for blind students in the San Diego schools and, as in Clark’s case, fulfills special requests. Clark is the second Cypress Court resident White has taken on a bike ride since 2017.
White brought along a biking jersey, helmet and gloves for Clark and spent 10 minutes going over safety instructions with her before they pedaled away on the bike trail near the lake at Kit Carson Park. Over the next 25 minutes, they looped twice around the trail, covering 3.2 miles. As they traveled together, Clark’s confidence, the bike’s speed and her smile grew.
“Time just flew by,” she said afterward. “I loved the rush of the air as we moved. I’m sorry I didn’t do it sooner. I can’t wait to ride again.”
White described Clark as a “natural stoker” in how quickly she picked up the tandem riding skill, kept her balance and stayed in communication with her pilot.
“As much fun as she had, I had the same amount of fun,” White said.
White said creating new riding experiences for people like Clark is why he started the organization. Recently he signed up with Airbnb to donate his services offering tandem rides to blind and disabled riders visiting San Diego. He has also launched a new travel group for fixed-income stokers, BSC Adventures, that just hosted a trip to Borrego Springs on Nov. 8-10.
Although her wish was meant to include a free restaurant lunch with Lucous, Clark said her legs were too tired and her bottom too sore after her ride, so she planned instead to rest at home that afternoon. But the experience has whetted her appetite for more.
“I’m ready to go canoeing now,” she said.